Democratic debate: Clinton and Sanders prepare for meaningful engagement

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders head into the Democratic debate tonight with just 14 days to go before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Little did anyone predict that the polls in Iowa would be so close between the two as they prepare to share the stage in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sanders enters the debate seeking to sustain his recent momentum, and hoping to convince democrats that he is a viable candidate once the campaigns move away from the predominately white audiences of Iowa and New Hampshire to more diverse states like South Carolina. Meanwhile, Clinton needs to follow up her recent advertising offensive against Sanders, with an effective showing in the debate.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders will be defending against criticism of thee financial basis of his health care proposal and his stance on gun control (e.g., his past support for manufacturers immunity, Charleston Loophole). Note: The Sanders campaign has just released his health care plan.

Clinton has been dogged by the increasingly disturbing email scandal. Sanders has avoided the topic in the past, but moderators or Martin O’Malley may revisit the issue. Clinton will also seek to avoid criticism about her close relationships with Wall Street or the publicity of Benghazi from the movie “13 hours”.

Hillary Clinton

With election polls showing a narrowing gap between the two candidates, both will be looking to gain an edge. Clinton will look to throw some scrutiny on Sanders without belying desperation or overreach, whereas, Sanders will attempt to convince the audience of his viability in the general election.


Obama highlights links between climate change and public health

President Barack Obama, at at Howard University, participated in a roundtable discussion examining the impacts of climate change on human health.  The group explored the role of increased airborne particulates,shifts in insect-borne diseases and heat waves on respiratory distress, illness and heat stroke in Americans.

The administration also released an array of data that details links between climate change and public health. Google and Microsoft are now using that data to help inform communities about imminent climate-related threats.

In addition, the inter-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program is also drafting a Climate and Health Assessment report to describe human health impacts emerging from changes in extreme weather events, air quality and insect-borne diseases.

EPA announces new limits on greenhouse gas emissions

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations designed to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants by 30% by the year 2030. The Clean Power Plan, expected to be enacted by 2015 is an effort to curtail power plant emissions, which account for 40% of total US emissions.

The new regulations follow on the heels of the EPA’s report, Climate Change Indicators in the United States that documents increased sea level rise, tropical storms and large wildfires.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, an analysis of approaches is summarized in their article, The Cap Matters Most in Cap-And-Trade Markets.

The federal plan is also hoped to motivate countries such as China and India to enact similar regulations. Whereas US power plant emissions have been in decline, China’s emission have risen 52% since 2005. Today’s announcement may be part of negotiations to occur at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, slated to meet in Paris in 2015.

As Democrats push Paycheck Fairness Act, Republicans decline

President Obama issued an executive order to prevent federal contractors from taking action against employees who discuss their salaries.  The President also used his weekly address to underscore the need for equal pay between men and women in the same professions.

In the Senate, Democrats voted on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was defeated by the Republicans. Senate hopeful Terry Lynn Land (R) stated that she opposed the bill “that would require that businesses have to post the pay of each individual so it was public”. The problem is that the bill contains no language about posting salaries. Women, however, would be able to ask employers for salary information about male workers.

Late night comedians Jimmy Fallon (Tonight Show) and Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live) took turns poking fun at the Republicans.

Affordable Care Act is now real for 7.1 million Americans

With the closing of the first open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act, the President defiantly stated, “The debate over repealing this law is over”. Flanked by Joe Biden in the Rose Garden, Obama announced that 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private health coverage.

The number is remarkable given the disastrous roll-out of the website last fall. With a concerted effort to enroll people in the final week, however, the Administration reached its goal in the most unlikely manner possible. Celebrities such as Lebron JamesZach Galifianakis, and  Ellen DeGeneres all helped the President raise awareness about open enrollment. With a flood of applicants in the final hours, however, the healthcare website once again crashed.

Daughter of slain Newtown principal confronts Senator Ayotte in New Hampshire


Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire faced withering criticism from her constituents at a town hall meeting. Ayotte voted against the compromise proposal reached by Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa that called for limited background checks.


Amongst the crowd, Erica Lafferty, the daughter the principal killed at Sandy Hook Elementary leveled stern questions to the Senator,

“You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t more important than that,”.

Ayotte countered that efforts should address mental health to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the mentally ill. She continued, “…we have fallen down on actually prosecuting gun crimes and violations of our current background check system.”