Goodbye Global

It is a bittersweet time here at the CQ Researcher, as we have just put the finishing touches on the last CQ Global Researcher (“Booming Africa”). For the past five years, in 94 reports, the Global Researcher covered topics that often go unexamined by inside-the Beltway pack journalists or foreign correspondents who parachute into a country to cover breaking news story on a one-off basis. CQGR reporters took a planet-wide lens to view such issues as gay rights, land ownership, piracy, child soldiers and wildlife smuggling.

It was not unusual for a reporter working on one of our stories to call and ask in amazement, “Can you believe that this is happening?”  Such as:

•    About 160 million Asian babies have been aborted or killed over the last 30 years — just because they were female, leading to a gender imbalance that over the next 20 years will leave 30-50 million Chinese men able to find wives. (“Gendercide Crisis,” Oct. 4, 2011)
•    “Transplant tourism” is thriving in developing countries. But the patients who travel from wealthy countries to obtain a new kidney or other organ at a fraction of the cost at home often don’t know the organ has been harvested from a poor laborer, often to pay off a debt, or worse, from a condemned prisoner whose organs were harvested without his consent after his death. (“Organ Trafficking,” July 19, 2011)
•    Of the 100 million tons of plastic waste generated worldwide each year, less than 5 percent is recycled. Much of the rest ends up in the world's sewers, oceans and rivers, where it chokes or contaminates animals, fish and shorelines. (“Plastic Pollution,” July 1, 2010)
•    The world’s large predatory marine species — such as sharks, tuna, grouper, cod, swordfish and marlin — are being decimated so rapidly that some scientists say the oceans are returning to an evolutionary time when they were dominated by algae and jellyfish.  (“Oceans in Crisis,” Oct. 1, 2007)
•    Laos is the most bombed nation on Earth. From 1966 to 1975, during its so-called Secret War, the United States dropped more bombs on Laos than were dropped on Europe by all combatants during World War II — the equivalent of a B-52 bomb load every eight minutes for nearly 10 years. Millions of unexploded bombs have left a third of the country uninhabitable -- a problem faced by more than 70 countries crippled by the deadly remnants of war. (“Dangerous War Debris,” March 1, 2010)

But long after such reportage has faded from memory, our readers will remember the haunting, stunning and inspiring photos that accompanied Global Researcher reports, showing people facing unimaginable adversity with dignity and resilience: the Chinese father weeping as he is reunited with his toddler rescued from human traffickers; two Pakistani women – their faces disfigured by acid attacks by spurned suitors -- staring bravely into the camera; and the tiny war-displaced Somali boy, standing beside his temporary desert home, a hut made of twigs covered by piece of cloth. Indeed, reading the Global gave one a whole new perspective on everyday “struggles.” Flat tires and leaky roofs become opportunities for gratefulness. At least we have cars, with tires -- and roofs on our houses. 

A terrific group of seasoned, talented journalists gave Global Researcher its credibility and impact, notably Brian Beary, Roland Flamini, Sarah Glazer, Reed Karaim, Rob Kiener, Jina Moore and Jennifer Weeks, among others.  Here are thoughts from some of the writers and others who have supported the Global Researcher:

          “In a world where well-researched, acutely edited international reporting is an increasingly rare commodity, the CQ Global Researcher offered its readers an invaluable window into a mind-boggling array of topics. From the latest political developments in Myanmar to an examination of the Euro crisis to recent developments in Islamic sectarianism, these reports offered readers the chance to explore foreign issues first-hand, complete with a multitude of international voices. And, for a writer, these global reports were an unparalleled opportunity to report and cover international issues with the backing of a talented, experienced editorial team.”
--Rob Kiener

          “Writing for CQ Global Researcher really stretched the writer, not just because of the length of the reports -- which in these days of journalism-lite was probably unique -- but also because each publication required a sound, real-time knowledge of the issues or country, a thoughtful approach and a clear way of expressing it. Nothing else passed editorial muster.”
--Roland Flamini

          “I always think about the very first description I read of Global -- I don't know who wrote this sentence – but it was something like, "Global will ask not what will happen if Iran gets the bomb, but rather should Iran get the bomb." That really captured the essence of the publication and its globalist -- as opposed to U.S.-centered -- perspective, which I felt made it a unique and valuable publication.”
--Brian Beary

          "For more than five years the CQ Global Researcher has been an amazing journalistic enterprise, extending the format and reach of the acclaimed CQ Researcher to international issues and perspectives. There hardly seems to be any corner of the globe (or of Space!) that the Global Researcher has not gone to bring its rare and exceptional long-form stories. In an age where American students have begun to peer beyond the borders of the USA to engage a wider world, the topics covered in the Global Researcher always been both ahead of the news cycle and yet more thorough and authoritative than any competing source. That's a neat trick! How did they do that?

          "Kudos to the dedicated and fiercely independent editorial team that produced, and the journalists who penned, these stories. I have had the pleasure to interact with many of them as they produced this body of work. I know what a hard yet passionate labor it was. Well done!"
--Doug Goldenberg-Hart, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Reference, CQ Press

Sincere thanks to all.

--Kathy Koch, Managing Editor
CQ Global Researcher

This Week’s Report: “Euro Crisis”

As Europe’s beleaguered eurozone struggles to keep the region’s spiraling debt crisis from dragging the global economy into recession, some analysts are asking whether the United States should help rescue the European economy, perhaps by pledging more money to the International Monetary Fund.

But others say that after years of reckless borrowing and profligate spending by such nations as Greece and Spain, Europe must solve its own problems. A rescue effort, they argue, is not in the United States’ economic interest.

One thing is clear, as London-based writer Christopher Hack explains in this important and timely report: In an “increasingly globalized world…, the economies of Europe and the United States are often said to be joined at the hip.”

“The European Union is the second-largest purchaser of American exports, and many U.S. banks do a large portion of their business either in Europe or in conjunction with European banks,” Hack writes. “The problems in Europe already have hit U.S. export income and forced banks to retrench.… Many economists worry that Europe’s problems could undermine Americans’ fragile confidence in the U.S. economic recovery.”

Along with graphics and several sidebars on the euro crisis, the report includes a map showing the status of countries in the European Union and eurozone, plus a lively pro-con debate on whether the United States should bail out Europe’s financial system.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

This Week’s Report: “Supreme Court Controversies”

As the Supreme Court opens its new term on Monday, Oct. 1, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will be starting his eighth year presiding over a high court sharply divided on legal and judicial philosophies. That division was evident in the court’s landmark ruling in June upholding President Obama’s controversial health care law, and it could well play out this fall as the justices take up the hot-potato issue of affirmative action in university admission policies.

As Associate Editor Kenneth Jost writes in this comprehensive overview of the Roberts court, “Roberts joins four other justices appointed by Republican presidents to form a conservative majority on some of the most closely divided issues. Four justices appointed by Democratic presidents… form a liberal bloc that winds up in dissent in most of the court’s 5-4 decisions.”

Even so, Roberts surprised – and disappointed – conservatives by siding with the liberal bloc in affirming the health care law, notes Jost, author of CQ Press’ Supreme Court Yearbook and The Supreme Court from A to Z. Meanwhile, liberal activists decry what they see as the court’s right-leaning slant in a wide range of decisions, including those on gender pay equity and campaign finance.

Jost’s piece provides both a thorough preview of the court’s new term and deeply reported background on the Roberts court’s judicial legacy. The report includes profiles of the court’s nine justices, summaries of its key decisions and 2012-2013 cases, a sidebar on the   affirmative action case and a pro-con debate by outside experts on whether the court should prohibit racial preferences in university admissions.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

This Week’s Report: Assessing the New Health Care Law

When a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in June, the decision hardly spelled the end of controversy over President Obama’s signature health care law. Conservative politicians, including Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, vow to repeal the measure, while the ACA’s supporters say doing so would drive up medical costs and leave millions of Americans uninsured.

As veteran health care reporter and CQ Researcher staff writer Marcia Clemmitt explains in this important contribution to the law’s journalistic coverage, little is known yet how the ACA will affect medical costs and insurance coverage. “With implementation of the law’s major provisions more than a year away, much of the debate is still driven by theories rather than data,” she notes. But Clemmitt explores those theories and the underlying economic and legal principles in depth, offering a comprehensive examination of one of the most important pieces of legislation in a generation or more.

This report is ideal for classes and papers in law, health policy, political science and American government and is important reading for faculty and researchers seeking to understand the new health care law’s far-reaching implications.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor 

This Week’s Report: Solitary Confinement

Tens of thousands of U.S. prison inmates are locked in solitary confinement for months or years at a stretch, a practice that some prison officials defend as necessary but that critics charge is rarely justified.   

“Accounts of bizarre and self-destructive behavior by prisoners have multiplied as long-term solitary confinement has become commonplace in the U.S. prison system over the past two decades,” veteran journalist Peter Katel writes. And “questions about psychological effects are part of a larger debate in criminal-justice and human-rights circles over whether confining anyone for long periods in strict isolation is humane and whether isolation is effective in keeping order” in prisons.    

But supporters of solitary confinement and special “supermax” prisons say prisoner isolation is “essential for public safety and management of potentially explosive prison populations,” Katel continues. “Strict solitary keeps highly dangerous inmates in conditions in which they’re less able to harm prison staff or other inmates or induce other prisoners to commit violent acts.” 

This report is ideal for classes and papers on criminal justice, human rights, public safety,   psychology, mental health and general public policy.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

This Week’s Report: Re-examining the Constitution

As Americans prepare to mark the U.S. Constitution’s 225th anniversary on Sept. 17, many are questioning whether the nation’s founding document remains right for the times. Some wonder whether the Constitution, with its intricate system of checks and balances and separation of powers, is an adequate guide for dealing with contemporary issues such as gun control, abortion and political gridlock. Others argue that the document’s structural features, such as the Electoral College, are outmoded.

Associate Editor Kenneth Jost provides a compelling and thorough examination of the issues and controversies surrounding the Constitution and offers a layman’s guide to the document’s most important parts. A separate pro/con debate in Jost’s report deals with the question of whether a constitutional convention should be called to amend the document.

“Americans appear more ambivalent or divided about the Constitution than they were 25 years ago,” Jost writes.  As David Bodenhamer, a history professor at Indiana University, told Jost, “We’re very much divided as a nation about what we see as the appropriate role of the government. We’re forced to think once again about what those fundamental assumptions of the relationship of the government to the individual are.”

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 9/4/2012

Prying Open the Ultimate Cold Case
David Carr, The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2012

Synopsis:  A book by filmmaker Errol Morris takes a new look at the controversial case of Jeffrey MacDonald, an Army doctor and Green Beret, who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters in 1970.

Takeaway:  Carr writes that Morris’s book may not have proved MacDonald’s innocence, “but it makes a forceful argument that his conviction was riddled with shortcomings.”

For background see the CQ Researcher report “Wrongful Convictions,” 4/17/2009, updated June 14, 2012.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

Weekly Roundup 8/20/2012

Richard K. Morse, Foreign Affairs, July/Aug. 2012

Synopsis: Coal contributes nearly as much total energy to the global economy as every other source – oil, natural gas and alternatives – combined. Increased use over the past decade has come mostly from the developing world, where it remains the cheapest and most reliable source of electricity. The rock that once fueled the Industrial Revolution is now remaking the global energy landscape. As the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, however, it is also remaking the climate.

Takeaway: Instead of pursuing visions of a coal-free world, policymakers should support new technologies that reduce how much carbon coal emits.

For background see the CQ Researcher reports “Mine Safety,” June 24, 2011, and “Coal’s Comeback,” Oct. 5, 2007.

--Darrell Dela Rosa, Assistant Editor


Afghan Attacks Prompt NATO To Shift Policy 
Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Graham Bowley, The New York Times, Aug. 19, 2012

Synopsis: The escalating number of American and NATO troops killed by the Afghan forces serving with them has prompted a reappraisal of the war-fighting effort.

Takeaway: New policies include requiring American and NATO troops to carry loaded weapons, and assigning one or two soldiers to monitor Afghans during every mission.

For background see the CQ Researcher report “America at War,” Aug. 13, 2010.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week’s Report: “Farm Policy”

As this year’s devastating drought in the Midwestern corn and soybean belt has shown, farmers can never count on success until their crops are harvested and safely stored or sold. Weather, insects, the global economy and consumer demand all help shape farmers’ destiny. Add to that list: politics.

This summer Congress has been wrestling with passage of a sprawling new farm bill that, over the next decade, will determine nearly $1 trillion in federal spending  for subsidies for farmers, food aid for the needy, land conservation, rural development and agriculture imports and exports. As writer Jennifer Weeks explains, conservatives argue that Washington spends too much on crop insurance and other agricultural subsidies and on food programs for the poor. Liberals oppose cuts to food aid for the needy and advocate more federal support for small family farms and for production of healthy crops such as fruits and vegetables.

Farm policy is extraordinarily complex and spans everything from biofuel production and cotton-farm subsidies to export policy and food stamps for the poor. Weeks’ report deconstructs the complexities and includes a spirited pro/con debate on whether U.S. farm policy promotes unhealthy eating.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 8/6/2012

Huffington Post, Aug. 1, 2012

Synopsis: Some school districts are using charter schools, many run by for-profit school-management companies, to replace public schools that haven't been able to pull up their lagging test scores. But one school in Minneapolis has reneged on a promise to accept special-needs students, casting doubt on whether the charter could succeed if it served the same student population the old public school did.

Takeaway: Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University who once supported charter schools and now questions them, says it's clear that the school is ousting the students to improve its test scores. "Is this what 'no child left behind' means? Does it mean pushing out the most vulnerable children to inflate the school’s scores?" she asks.

For related material, see our April 29, 2011, report “School Reform” and our Dec. 20, 2002, report on “Charter Schools”.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer

Interview with Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations. Aug. 2, 2012

Synopsis:  The drought affecting about 80 percent of the U.S. corn crop and more than 10 percent of the soybean crop could trigger a rise in global food prices and political instability in developing countries, Coleman says. Emerging middle classes across the globe are increasingly demanding meat and protein in their diets, but meat producers in those countries have become dependent on "relatively inexpensive” corn and soybean feed stocks from the United States, she explains.

Takeaway: "When you see a crop failure of the magnitude you have seen this summer, it flows through the whole food chain," says Coleman. She recommends rescinding Congress’ mandate that corn-based ethanol make up at least 10 percent of U.S. transportation fuel and building "more resilience into the global food system."

For background, see CQ Global Researcher’s coverage in “Rising Food Prices,” Oct. 18, 2011, and “Farm Subsidies,” May 1, 2012.

--Kathy Koch, Managing Editor, CQ Global Researcher

Weekly Roundup 7/31/12

6 Ways Big Banks Screwed Grandma in the Price-Fixing Scandal That's Rocking the World
Alexander Arapoglou and Jerri-Lynn Scofield, Alternet, July 26, 2012

Synopsis: When British banks tampered with interest rates, the result was sharply lowered earnings for bank CDs and pension-fund investments. That harmed ordinary people, especially the elderly.

Takeaway: Why, with interest rates declining, did so many elderly people lose their homes? One reason: while returns on fixed income investments plummeted, reducing the income the elderly have to pay their bills, many were locked into fixed-rate mortgages. “Since Grandma has probably left the workforce and therefore lacks a salary, she’s unlikely to be able to refinance her house."

For related material, see the following CQ Researcher reports: Financial Misconduct (Jan. 20, 2012), Financial Industry Overhaul (July 30, 2010), Financial Bailout (Oct. 24, 2008; updated July 30, 2010), and Mortgage Crisis (Nov. 2, 2007; updated Aug. 9, 2010).

-- Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Hope in the Wreckage
Suzy Hansen, The New York Times Magazine, July 29, 2012

Synopsis:  An Iranian approach to health care is being used in impoverished rural Mississippi, and it seems to be saving lives.

Takeaway: The HealthConnect network in the Mississippi Delta, where there are few if any doctors, runs “health houses” modeled after an Iranian approach. Health aides at small health centers advise local residents on nutrition and family planning; take blood pressure, monitor environmental conditions like water quality and keep track of prenatal care needs. People who become very sick are referred to a district hospital.

For related reading, see the CQ Researcher report Health-Care Reform (June 11, 2010, updated May 24, 2011).

-- Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

Weekly Roundup 7/23/2012

Mark Edmundson, The New York Times, July 19, 2012
Synopsis: Online education doesn't allow the kind of teacher-student or student-student interaction that makes learning come alive, argues a University of Virginia professor of English.

Takeaway: "We tend to think that the spellbinding lecturers we had in college survey classes were gifted actors.... But I think that the best of those lecturers are highly adept at reading their audiences...They feel it when the class is engaged, and when it slips off. And they do something about it....The Internet teacher, even one who responds to students via e-mail, can never have the immediacy of contact that the teacher on the scene can.”

For more, see our reports on Digital Education (Dec. 2, 2011) and Career Colleges (Jan. 7, 2011).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer

By Scott Anderson, The New York Times Magazine, July 22, 2012

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Greg Ousley shot and killed his parents at home in Indiana. He has been in an adult prison for 19 years and says he is sorry for the crime and rehabilitated. He wants his freedom.

Takeaway: Does it make sense to keep Greg in prison? Many people who know Greg, including the warden and his caseworker, say he is a changed person, and some but not all his family members favor his release. “Greg’s case is a telling one in the national debate over just what is accomplished by sentencing juveniles to long prison sentences. In the case of juvenile parricide, there is an added paradox. Because it is among the most target-specific of crimes, criminologists believe that an abused juvenile who killed a parent is likely to be at low risk of future criminality if he gets treatment and has a strong social support system when he is released.”

For background see Youth Violence, March 5, 2010 and Downsizing Prisons, March 11, 2011.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

Weekly Roundup 7/17/2012

Crooked Bankers Are Corrupting Government: The Real LIBOR Story
Richard Eskow, Huffington Post, July 11, 2012

Synopsis: The truly alarming financial news is not that banks manipulate the LIBOR  -- the interest rate banks charge other banks -- says Eskow, a writer for a liberal advocacy group. The big story is that politicians, regulators and financial journalists ignored the immoral and damaging practice.

Takeaway: "Reports say that the Fed knew about Barclays' deception back in 2007" but nevertheless "rescued Barclays and its executives with nearly a trillion dollars in publicly backed loans,” Eskow writes. “That means that Barclays probably made billions off the reduced interest rate alone, courtesy of the American people...after [the Fed] learned that the bank was lying."

For more, see our reports on "Financial Misconduct," Jan. 20, 2012, and "Financial Industry Overhaul," July 30, 2010.

-- Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Amid Reports of Ineptitude, Concerns Over Security at London Olympics
John F. Burns, The New York Times, July 15, 2012, p. 10

Synopsis: Two weeks before the start of the London Summer Olympics, security experts, whistleblowers and even government officials say security plans are in complete disarray.

Takeaway: The problems go far beyond the shortfall in private security guards, which will now be filled by Britain’s armed forces. For example, recruits repeatedly failed to spot fake bombs and grenades during X-ray training, and cleared people through security without spotting hidden weapons.

For background see “Hosting the Olympics,” CQ Global Researcher, July 3, 2012.

-- Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week’s Report: “Privatizing the Military”

Over the past decade, the United States has hired tens of thousands of private security contractors to support its military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, alleviating some of the pressure on American service personnel but raising significant questions about the role of soldiers-for-hire in U.S. foreign policy, according to this week’s Researcher.

As staff writer Marcia Clemmitt notes, politicians and military leaders long resisted sending large numbers of private contractors into war zones. But that thinking changed in the past two decades. “The government has increasingly turned to security companies … to assist in armed and unarmed military operations and help other government agencies working abroad,” Clemmitt writes. The trend originally was driven by military downsizing in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in the early 1990s, but “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have fueled it, as has increased public acceptance of privatization as a way to increase quality and efficiency while reducing the number of jobs handled by government.”

While most contractors perform mundane duties, such as running food-service operations on military bases or building temporary structures, a growing number have taken on “delicate, mission-critical jobs” that analysts say “skate perilously close to duties that should be performed only by military personnel,” Clemmitt writes.  That expanded role has led to charges that using contractors for dangerous or questionable military activities gives policymakers too much latitude to take military action without citizens’ support or lawmakers’ consent.

This important report is ideal for those studying foreign policy, political science, military policy and history, the growing trend of privatization in both the public and private sectors and the application of human-rights law to international business.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor  

Weekly Roundup 7/9/2012

Verizon: Net Neutrality Violates Our Free Speech Rights
Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, July 3, 2012

Synopsis: As debate continues over "net neutrality," Verizon argues that requiring Internet providers to treat all content equally would violate its free-speech rights as the Internet's owner and publisher.

Takeaway: "Broadband networks are the modern-day microphone by which their owners [e.g. Verizon] engage in First Amendment speech,” Verizon writes. Verizon believes that it's entitled to the same kind of control over the content that flows through its network as newspaper editors exercise over what appears in their papers. That includes the right to prioritize its own content, or those of its partners, over other Internet traffic."

For more, see our report on "Internet Regulation," April 13, 2012.

-- Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


The Drone Zone
Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times Magazine, July 9, 2012

Synopsis: Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico is the Air Force’s primary training center for Predator and Reaper pilots, who can become certified in less than two years. But problems with flying planes from the ground remain.

Takeaway: Much is known about the government’s drone program, but much remains under wraps. The Pentagon, which is increasing its drone fleet by 30 percent, has acknowledged its drone operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But programs run by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command remain classified.

For background see the CQ Researcher report "Drone Warfare," Aug. 6, 2010, updated April 27, 2012.

-- Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week's Report: Whale Hunting

Once hunted aggressively for their oil, blubber and other byproducts, whales and other marine mammals are widely viewed today as intelligent creatures in need of protection. But despite a voluntary moratorium on commercial whaling in place since 1986, Japan, Norway and Iceland still hunt whales, and Japan continues to slaughter dolphins for their meat.

As this week’s compelling report details, hunting of whales, dolphins and porpoises continues to spark bitter disputes between animal-welfare activists and countries that defend whaling as legitimate. Meanwhile, other forces are also threatening marine life. They include climate change, entanglement in commercial-fishing gear and ocean noise pollution.

This report includes sidebars on a rare dolphin species in China that has gone extinct and on links between underwater sonar testing and the death of marine mammals. The report is ideal for classes on environmental policy, animal rights and international politics.

-- Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 7/2/2012

Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program: Data Collection Summary
U.S. Department of Education, June 2012

Homeless Students Top 1 Million, U.S. Says, Leaving Advocates 'Horrified'
Saki Knafo and Joy Resmovits, Huffington Post, June 28, 2012

Synopsis: In the 2010-11 school year, over a million homeless children and teens were enrolled in U.S. schools, up 57 percent from 2007.

Takeaway: "Only 52 percent of the homeless students who took standardized tests were deemed to be proficient in reading, and only 51 percent passed math tests. 'It sets you far behind. It's socially and emotionally disruptive,'” said Barbara Duffield, policy director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth."

For more, see our reports on "Fixing Urban Schools" (April 27, 2007 - updated June 5, 2012) and "Child Poverty" (Oct. 28, 2011).

-- Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


A Snitch’s Dilemma
Ted Conover, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, July 1, 2012

Synopsis: This fascinating in-depth report on the life of police informant Alex White is better than any TV police drama – and twice as shocking.

Takeaway: White was making good money helping the police make drug cases, but his life turned upside down when “dirty” cops asked him to help them cover up an illegal shooting.

For background see the CQ Researcher report "Police Misconduct" (April 6, 2012).

-- Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

Supreme Court Blurred Ideological Line in Momentous Term

By Kenneth Jost
Supreme Court Editor, CQ Press

The Supreme Court ended its 2011-2012 term by defying conventional wisdom and its own predominantly conservative orientation with rulings that gave President Obama important victories on health care and immigration. Even before the final week, however, the court’s record for the term gave liberals as much to like in some respects as conservatives, if not more.

Liberal justices were in the majority in all but one of the cases selected by CQ Press as the 10 most important of the term. The exception was a 5-4 ruling split along the usual conservative-liberal fault line that permits jails to strip search minor offenders. (See table below.)

Civil liberties and criminal defense groups are counting victories in half a dozen significant rulings that strengthened constitutional protections in police investigations and criminal trials and potentially lowered sentences for some offenders. Among those decisions was the 5-4 ruling in the court’s final week that barred states from imposing mandatory life imprisonment without possibility of parole on juvenile murderers.

First Amendment advocates counted a win with the 6-3 ruling on the court’s final decision day that struck down the federal Stolen Valor Act, which had made it a crime to lie about having received the Medal of Honor. Earlier, the court had blocked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from sanctioning the Fox and ABC television networks for programs that included brief vulgarities or adult nudity.

The court did not change its ideological spots completely. In its final week, the court summarily struck down a Montana law banning independent campaign expenditures by corporations. The 5-4 decision turned aside a plea by liberal justices to reconsider the 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that gave corporations and unions a First Amendment right to spend money in political campaigns.

The term’s litigation-related rulings also continued the court’s general trend under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. of narrowing remedies for plaintiffs for injuries from violations of federal or state laws. Two five-vote decisions divided along conservative-liberal lines prohibited damage suits against state governments for violating the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and barred recovery for emotional or mental distress for violations of the confidentiality provisions of the federal Privacy Act. 

Roberts, a Republican now completing his seventh court term as chief justice, cast the decisive vote in the two most important rulings of the court’s final week. His vote with the four liberal justices to save Obama’s health-care reform law elated Democrats and left many Republicans and conservatives spitting mad. He joined three liberals and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the more usual swing vote on the court, in striking down on federal preemption grounds major parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law known as S.B. 1070.

The health-care and immigration decisions were qualified victories for Democrats and liberals. Roberts’ pivotal opinion in the health care ruling, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, rejected the administration’s principal argument for upholding the individual health insurance mandate; he voted with the liberals, however, to uphold the provision not as Commerce Clause regulation but as a tax. In the immigration decision, Arizona v. United States, the court unanimously upheld the so-called “Show Me Your Papers” provision requiring police to verify a suspect’s immigration status if they reasonably believe someone stopped or arrested is in the country illegally.

The criminal law rulings also included some significant qualifications, but overall they represented substantial gains for suspects and defendants. The 5-4 ruling on juvenile murderers stopped short of a categorical ban on life-without-parole sentences. Writing for the majority, however, Justice Elena Kagan suggested that such sentences should rarely be imposed.

Kennedy provided the critical fifth vote for the liberal bloc in the juvenile sentencing case and in three other closely divided criminal law rulings. Two of the decisions strengthened the right-to-counsel requirement for defendants during plea bargaining; the third reduced prison terms for crack cocaine defendants sentenced after Congress lowered penalties in 2010. Roberts and fellow conservatives Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

The justices divided 6-3 across ideological lines in a late June ruling that requires juries, not judges, to make factual findings needed to raise criminal fines. Roberts was in the majority in the ruling, which set aside an $18 million fine for a corporate polluter; the dissenters were Kennedy, Alito and liberal Stephen G. Breyer.

Earlier, the justices were unanimous in a decision in a major drug case that limits the ability of police to use GPS tracking to surveil suspects.  The eventual impact is unclear, however, because the justices divided 5-4 across ideological lines on the legal basis for the ruling.

The impact of the ruling on the FCC indecency policy is also unclear. The decision rejected the FCC’s appeal to reinstate the sanctions against the two networks but without ruling on the constitutionality of the policy. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg urged the FCC to rethink the policy, but in a separate case Roberts later said the FCC’s power to censure networks for “fleeting expletives” or “fleeting images” of nudity is “clear.”

Similarly, the 6-3 ruling striking down the Stolen Valor Act left it up to Congress to consider rewriting a narrower law. Kennedy wrote the main opinion, but in a significant alignment for future First Amendment cases Breyer and Kagan joined on narrower grounds.

In a significant freedom-of-religion case, the court unanimously ruled that churches or other religious organizations are exempt from anti-discrimination laws in the hiring of clergy or anyone who performs ministerial functions. The decision turned aside a disability-rights case brought by a teacher at a religious school in Minnesota.

Paralleling Roberts’ occasional breaks with the conservatives, the court’s newest justices – Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – parted company with the senior liberals Ginsburg and Breyer in some cases. But several observers remarked on the surprising number of unanimous decisions, some in significant cases. As one example, the court unanimously allowed property owners to challenge an Environmental Protection Agency compliance order in court before enforcement.

Table 1-1: Major Cases: U.S. Supreme Court, 2011—2012 Term

CQ Press each term selects the major cases for the Supreme Court’s term. The selection is based on such factors as the rulings' practical impact; their significance as legal precedent; the degree of division on the Court; and the level of attention among interest groups, experts, and news media.
Name of Case
National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius
Upholds Affordable Care Act; narrows enforcement of Medicaid expansion
Arizona v. United States
Strikes three parts of state immigration law; allows immigration status checks (8-0)
Miller v. Alabama
Bars mandatory life-without-parole sentence for juvenile murderers
Lafler v. Cooper; Missouri v. Frye
Strengthens effective-assistance-of-counsel requirement at plea bargaining stage
United States v. Jones
Defines extended GPS tracking of suspect’s vehicle as search for Fourth Amendment purposes
Southern Union Co. v. United States
Requires jury finding beyond reasonable doubt of facts needed to raise criminal fine
United States v. Alvarez
Strikes down federal Stolen Valor Act on free-speech grounds
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC
Exempts religious organizations from anti-discrimination laws in hiring of clergy
Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington County
Allows jails to strip-search minor offenders
FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc.
Sets aside FCC order against TV networks for fleeting expletives, adult nudity
Here are some other especially noteworthy cases: American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock (strikes down state law banning independent campaign expenditures by corporations); Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland (bars damage suits against state government for violating Family and Medical Leave Act); Dorsey v. United States (applies lower sentences for crack cocaine to anyone sentenced after change in law); FAA v. Cooper (bars damages for mental/emotional distress for violations of federal Privacy Act); Knox v. Service Employees International Union (limits public sector union imposition of special assessment or agency shop fee increase); National Meat Ass’n v. Harris (strikes down California slaughterhouse-regulation law on preemption grounds); Perry v. New Hampshire (limits rules against use of suggestive eyewitness identification in criminal trials); Sackett v. EPA (allows pre-enforcement challenge of EPA compliance order); Williams v. Illinois (eases rule on DNA profile evidence in criminal trials).

Health Care Law Upheld in Fractured Court Ruling

By Kenneth Jost
Supreme Court Editor, CQ Press

President Obama’s health care overhaul survived a Supreme Court showdown largely intact on Thursday even as a majority of justices rejected the rationale for its central provision, the individual health insurance mandate.

By separate 5-4 votes, the court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate as a tax provision even as a different majority declared that Congress exceeded its Commerce Clause power by requiring individuals to buy health insurance if they did not want to do so.

In a separate, also fractured, ruling, the court upheld the act’s major expansion of the joint federal-state Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, but limited the possible penalty for states that decide not to go along with the change.

A seven-justice majority said the act’s provision withholding all Medicaid funding from any state that did not agree was unconstitutionally coercive on the states. But five justices ruled that the Medicaid expansion could go forward if non-participating states forfeited only the additional federal funds for covering individuals with incomes up to one-third above the federal poverty line.

The court’s ruling gave Obama a victory of sorts on a law whose most controversial provision — the individual mandate — is not set to take effect until 2014. Some popular provisions, such as family coverage for children up to age 26, have taken effect. Congress gave the bill final approval in March 2010 on the strength of a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate; Republicans gained control of the House in November 2010 in part by capitalizing on opposition to the mandate and vowing to try to repeal the law in its entirety.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered the decision in the court’s final session of the term in an opinion that no other justice joined in toto. Four conservative justices led by Anthony M. Kennedy joined Roberts in rejecting the individual mandate as a way to regulate how to pay for health care. But the conservative bloc dissented from the decision calling the provision a tax penalty and upholding it on that ground. Four liberal justices led by Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that the individual mandate was constitutional as an exercise of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce but went along with Roberts in upholding the provision as an exercise of Congress’s taxing power.

Both Kennedy and Ginsburg read major portions of their dissents from the bench, an occasional step for a justice to emphasize his or her disagreement. The courtroom was silent for virtually the entire 50-minute session even as hundreds of noisy demonstrators massed outside the Supreme Court plaza carrying placards either supporting or opposing the health care law.

The court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, available here, challenged understanding as Roberts announced it. The law appeared to be doomed as Roberts described the individual mandate as an unprecedented requirement to force individuals “to become active in commerce” in order to regulate their conduct. But in what Kennedy aptly described as “a pivot,” Roberts went on to rule that the act’s enforcement provision – section 5000a – was within Congress’s power as “in effect a tax on those who do not have insurance.”

Roberts similarly seemed set to dispose of the Medicaid expansion after describing the threatened withdrawal of all funds from non-participating states as “a gun to the head.” But he reversed direction to say that the expansion is valid if the penalty is limited to the loss of new funds. The government pays 100 percent of the expanded coverage, with its portion declining to 90 percent by 2020.

The dissenters — in an opinion listed as jointly authored by Kennedy and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — said they would have ruled the law invalid in its entirety. Kennedy mocked the majority’s decision to uphold the mandate on terms that both Congress and Obama repeatedly disclaimed. “What Congress calls a penalty the Court calls a tax,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy similarly criticized the majority’s rewriting of the Medicaid provision. The ruling, he said, “leaves states with no reasonable choice but to” agree to the expansion of the program.

Ginsburg spoke for herself and the other three liberal justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — in arguing for upholding the mandate as economic regulation. The provision, she said, amounted to a requirement to “prepay for medical care through insurance.”
The liberal justices split on the penalty provision of the Medicaid expansion. Breyer and Kagan joined Roberts and the conservatives in striking down the penalty for non-participating states as too severe. Ginsburg and Sotomayor said they would have upheld the law as written but voted with Roberts, Breyer and Kagan to save it after narrowing the penalty for states that do not go along.
Unless repealed, the penalty for not buying health insurance is now set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, starting at $95 or 1 percent of taxable income. The penalty would rise to $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income in 2016, subject to cost-of-living adjustments in later years. The law exempts, among others, people with financial hardships or with incomes below the federal income tax threshold.

Weekly Roundup 6/25/2012

The Six Possible Supreme Court ‘Obamacare’ Outcomes
Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo, June 25, 2012

Synopsis: For its highly anticipated ruling on the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act, the Court has several options, including “punt,” since the fee that the law imposes on those who decline to buy insurance – which is arguably a tax -- has not yet taken effect. A seldom mentioned but potentially highly troublesome option would be for the Court to strike down the requirement that states expand Medicaid – using mostly federal funds – to cover everyone with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line.

Takeaway: Beutler writes: “If the Court determines that the mandate [to buy insurance] violates the Constitution, it can ‘sever’ the mandate from the rest of the law….This outcome would leave it up to Congress and the states to deal with the ‘adverse selection’ problem — without a mandate…young and healthy people would avoid purchasing insurance until stricken by illness or injury, leaving older, sicker people in the risk pool. Premiums would spike and the market could ultimately collapse….[L]awmakers would be under intense pressure from the insurance industry to forestall the potential calamity.”

For more, see our reports on “Health Care Reform” (Aug. 28, 2009, and June 11, 2010 – updated May 24, 2011), “Universal Coverage” (March. 30, 2007) and “Rising Health Costs” (April. 7, 2006).

-- Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Generation Gap Is Back
“Old vs. Young,” by David Leonhardt, “Sunday Review,” The New York Times, June 24, 2012

Synopsis: The Washington bureau chief of the Times argues that the economic and political generation gap between the young and those over 65 is growing.  Since about 2004, older voters began moving right, he writes, while younger voters shifted left. The young favor gay marriage and school funding more strongly than their elders, and they also are less religious, more positive toward immigrants, less hostile to Social Security cuts and military cuts and more optimistic about the country’s future.

Takeaway:  Younger Americans’ optimism is especially striking in view of the fact that the economic slump of the last decade has taken a much higher toll on the young, who are less  established in their working lives and are struggling both to get hired and to hold on to jobs. And the wealth gap between households headed by those over 65 and those under 35 is wider than at any point since the Federal Reserve Board began keeping consistent data in 1989.

For background see “The Partisan Divide” April 30, 2004.

--Kathy Koch, Managing Editor, CQ Global Researcher


A Madman in Our Midst
Jeneen Interlandi, The New York Times Magazine, June 22, 2012

Synopsis: The author recounts her father’s tragic spiral through emergency rooms, psych wards and eventually jail as severe bipolar disease robbed him of his mental health.

Takeaway: In the end, her father’s mania begins to subside, and with the help of a defense attorney and an understanding judge, he returns to normalcy -- and to his wife and family. “And with therapy and medication, the final traces of his mania finally dissolved,” the author writes.

For background, see “Prison Health Care,” Jan. 5, 2007.

-- Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week’s Report: U.S. Oil Dependence

As drivers take to the road this summer, many may wonder why gasoline prices remain in the neighborhood of $3.50 a gallon when gas consumption is down nationally and the United States is producing more oil today than in more than a decade.

In this week’s report, veteran energy writer Jennifer Weeks examines the complex dynamics of oil production and pricing and addresses the question of whether the United States can break its dependence on foreign oil.

“Most mainstream economists say production decisions in the United States cannot affect world oil prices,” Weeks writes. Because oil is traded worldwide, geopolitical developments steer prices, and experts say “volatile energy costs are inescapable as long as America relies heavily on oil.”

Weeks’ report includes analysis of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project, which would carry oil from so-called tar sand deposits in western Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Advocates say the pipeline would generate jobs and make more oil available from a friendly ally. But environmentalists strongly oppose the project, arguing that it would consume huge amounts of water, create toxic waste and greenhouse gas emissions and damage Canadian forests and rivers.

This report is ideal for classes and papers in such disciplines as environmental science, energy policy, business, economics, geopolitics and consumer affairs.
--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 6/18/2012

How Curt Schilling Dinged Rhode Island
Matthew Yglesias, Slate, June 13, 2012

Synopsis: Rhode Island lawmakers awarded retired Red Sox pitching star Curt Shilling a $75-million loan guarantee to move his fledgling computer-game company to Providence. Less than two years late the company is broke, and Rhode Islanders are on the hook for the cash.

Takeaway: "It looks an awful lot like a toxic interaction between stupidity, desperation, and Red Sox fandom. In 2010, Rhode Island created a $50 million Job Creation Guarantee Program to offer state-backed loans to entrepreneurs...[E]xpanding it to benefit just one firm was crazy."

For more on state schemes to lure jobs and business, see our March 2 report, “Attracting Jobs"

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Rajat Gupta Convicted of Insider Trading by Peter Lattman and Azad Ahmed
Peter Lattman and Ahzam Ahmed, The New York Times, June 15, 2012

Synopsis: Rajat Gupta, who reached the pinnacle of corporate America as managing partner of McKinsey & Co. and director at Goldman Sachs, was found guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud for leaking boardroom secrets to billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. The case caps a wave of successful insider trading prosecutions over the last three years that penetrated some of Wall Street’s most vaunted hedge funds and reached into America’s most prestigious corporate boardrooms.

Takeaway: The case demonstrated that successful insider trading prosecutions could be largely built on circumstantial evidence like phone records and trading logs. Previous convictions, including the trial of  Rajaratnam, have relied more heavily on wiretaps.

For background see the CQ Researcher report “Financial Misconduct” (Jan. 20, 2012).

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week’s Report: “Gambling in America”

Casinos, state-sponsored lotteries and other gambling operations provide not only entertainment for millions of Americans but billions of dollars for cash-strapped state and local governments.

As CQ Researcher Associate Editor Kenneth Jost writes in this week’s report, principled   objections to gambling in past decades have given way to liberalized social and cultural mores and a desire by politicians to find new sources of revenue.

“In the past, the love of gambling -- along with the hope of a winning number or a winning hand – was kept in check by other social forces, including moral or religious objections and fear of the social costs for gamblers and their families as well as society at large,” Jost writes. But that resistance has receded. “The critical reason for gambling’s increased acceptance … has been its role in providing revenue for state governments. . . . For lawmakers and governors, gambling offers a revenue source more politically palatable than new taxes.”

Jost’s deeply researched report traces the spread of lotteries and commercial and tribal casinos through most of the country, discusses the social and psychological pitfalls of gambling and features a robust pro-con debate by two outside experts on whether lotteries take advantage of the poor.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 6/11/2012

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post, June 9, 2012 (print edition: June 10)

Synopsis: The scandal that forced the only presidential resignation in U.S. history was more far reaching and more sinister than recognized at the time. That is the conclusion of the two reporters who broke open the scandal, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in: June 17, 1972. Far from a “third-rate burglary,” Watergate was actually one part of five wars that President Richard M. Nixon waged against the antiwar movement, against justice, against the news media, against the Democrats and, ultimately, against history.

Takeaway: Despite efforts by some to minimize the scandal, Woodward and Bernstein say the historical record now shows that Watergate was “a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, on the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.”

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Why We Don't Believe in Science   
Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker blogs, June 7, 2012

Synopsis: Learning science is even harder than we thought. Brain researchers say that before we learn many scientific facts and concepts we first have to unlearn intuitions that come naturally to us -- but contradict the facts. Our brains, for instance, take naturally to the notion that the sun revolves around the Earth.

Takeaway: Psychology and brain-imaging studies confirm why learning, especially scientific learning, is so tough: "Even after we internalize a scientific concept-—the vast majority of adults now acknowledge the Copernican truth that the earth is not the center of the universe—that primal belief lingers in the mind. We never fully unlearn our mistaken intuitions about the world. We just learn to ignore them."

For related reading, see our reports on Science in America (Jan. 11, 2008), Intelligent Design (July 29, 2005) and Teaching Math and Science (Sept. 6, 2002).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Amos Kamil, The New York Times Magazine, June 10, 2012
Synthesis:  Widespread sexual abuse of both boys by teachers and coaches occurred for decades at one of New York City’s elite private schools, Horace Mann, according to a lengthy report by a former student.

Takeaway:  Even before the story was printed, numerous former students posted blogs online alleging they too had been abused. The school would not comment about the accusations, only saying that there are now policies in place for people to report incidents of sexual abuse; a former Board of Trustees member told the author, "No one will talk to you. They are all lawyering up."

For background see “Sex Scandals,” Jan. 22, 2010, and “Sex Offenders,” Sept. 8, 2006.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week’s Report: “Alcohol Abuse”

Binge drinking and other forms of excessive alcohol use kill 80,000 Americans a year and drain more than $220 billion from the economy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet, while alcohol abuse is down overall in American society,  that is not the case among college students, who drink more alcohol and binge drink more often than non-students of similar ages.

And this week’s Researcher points to another disturbing trend: the rising popularity of flavored alcoholic beverages such as Four Loko, Blast and Tilt. One expert calls Four Loko, with its 12 percent alcohol content and 23.5-ounce containers, “a binge in a can,” with the effect of up to five beers. Some researchers say the increased sale of such products contributes to girls now drinking as much or more than boys.

This compelling report includes a discussion on lowering the legal drinking age, a sidebar on a university’s efforts to control excessive drinking and a lively debate on whether raising alcohol taxes would reduce abusive drinking.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 6/4/2012

Liz Clarke, The Washington Post, June 2, 2012 (print edition: June 3, 2012)

Synopsis: The United States’ future as an Olympic power is being threatened as college athletic departments struggle to support sports such as gymnastics, swimming and wrestling that are important to the quadrennial games but do not make money for colleges. Major universities continue to invest in the two major revenue-generating sports, basketball and football, but are cutting support for other sports. The University of Maryland, for example, recently eliminated eight of its 27 varsity teams, including track, swimming, diving and tennis.

Takeaway: College sports are in effect the “farm system” for many U.S. Olympians. “It’s not a good thing,” says the head of the wrestling coaches association, “for our farm system . . . to be eroding.”

For background, see my report “College Football,” Nov. 18, 2011.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Andrea Wulf, Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2012

Synopsis: Sky watchers around the world this week will be able to observe a rare and significant event:  the planet Venus silhouetted against the Sun as its orbit passes between Sun and Earth. Such rare, but ultimately predictable events, meticulously observed over thousands of years, allowed ancient astronomers to unravel the workings of the solar system.

Takeaway: In the 1760s, even during wars, astronomers traveled to exotic and dangerous places, “at great peril and against heavy odds in many cases — because they believed that the transit held the key to one of the most pressing quests of the age: the distance between Earth and the sun and, by extension, the size of the solar system.”

For related material, see the CQ Researcher reports Space Program (Feb. 24, 2012) and Science in America (Jan. 11, 2008) and the CQ Global Researcher report, Globalizing Science (Feb. 1, 2011).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times, June 3, 2012

Synopsis:  A steady stream of evidence in the last few years indicates that annual physical examinations and many of the screening tests that accompany them are pointless and even potentially dangerous.

Takeaway: Routine screening tests and medical procedures that research has indicated are unnecessary annually include EKGs, pap smears, blood work, cholesterol tests and bone scans to detect osteoporosis for women under 65.

For background see “Patient Safety,” CQ Researcher, Feb. 10, 2012.
--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor