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Thursday, May 26th

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'Earmarks' to nowhere: States losing billions

Earmarks to nowhere: states lose billionsAlmost 13 years ago, Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., directed $375,000 in federal funding "to improve State Road 31" in Columbus, Ind., a city at the edge of his district.

The McIntosh "earmark" seemed routine at the time, like almost 2,000 other congressional pet projects that lawmakers inserted into the 1998 highway bill. But there was a problem: "There is no State Road 31 that travels through Columbus, only U.S. 31," says Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

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So Much for "Impartial" Justice: Antonin Scalia Attends Michele Bachmann's Tea Party

Justice: Antonin ScaliaThe decision by Justice Antonin Scalia to serve as a featured speaker in an event on January 5 organized by far-right Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's Tea Party-oriented "Constitutional Conservative Caucus," is just the latest in a series of actions and statements by the Justice that threaten the integrity of the federal judiciary.

A cornerstone of the American legal system is the notion that judges and justices interpret the law fairly and impartially. This fundamental principle of our democracy is undermined when Supreme Court justices serve as willing agents of a transparently political entity like the Tea Party movement, which has an aggressive legislative and judicial agenda that is directed, in part, at the Court itself.

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Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions

Scott Walker, governor of WisconsinFaced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.

State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. On Wednesday, for example, New York’s new Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is expected to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers, a move that would save $200 million to $400 million and challenge labor’s traditional clout in Albany.

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In Isolated Utah City, New Clubs for Gay Students

Gay Center in conservative Utah citySome disapproving classmates called members of the new club “Satanists.” Another asked one of the girls involved, “Do you have a disease?” But at three local high schools here this fall, dozens of gay students and their supporters finally convened the first Gay-Straight Alliances in the history of this conservative, largely Mormon city.

It was a turning point here and for the state, where administrators, teachers and even the Legislature have tried for years to block support groups for gay youths, calling them everything from inappropriate to immoral.

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Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies and, Along With it, Reason and Justice

Arizona bans ethnic studiesWhile much condemnation has rightly been expressed toward Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, a less-reported and potentially more sinister measure is set to take effect on January 1, 2011.

This new law, which was passed by the conservative state legislature at the behest of then-School Superintendent (and now Attorney General-elect) Tom Horne, is designated HB 2281 and is colloquially referred to as a measure to ban ethnic studies programs in the state. As with SB 1070, the implications of this law are problematic, wide-ranging and decidedly hate filled.

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Colfax pilot who posted S.F. airport security video steps forward

Chris Liu, Colfax PilotThe pilot who posted a cell phone video on YouTube revealing potential loopholes in airport security identified himself Monday and said he is "pretty shocked" by the national uproar he has caused.

Chris Liu, a 50-year-old Colfax resident and 27-year veteran pilot, said in an interview with a Sacramento television station that he never imagined his "little video" of what he felt were lax procedures at San Francisco International Airport would get much attention.

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NYC Gallery Patrons Ejected Over Gaza Flotilla T-Shirts

US Gallery rejects patrons with Gaza Flotilla tee shirtsFour activists were forced to leave an art gallery in New York this month for wearing T-shirts promoting an effort to include an American boat in the next blockade-challenging Gaza flotilla.

The incident came on the final day of an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery called “Next Year in Jerusalem,” featuring pieces by the German artist Anselm Kiefer on the subject of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

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