On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that will decide whether cops should be allowed to force people they arrest to give a DNA sample. Since the early 1990s, 26 states have passed laws requiring DNA to be collected upon arrest for a serious offense, and loaded into a national database, where it can help match offenders to unsolved crimes. This is the first time the Supreme Court has reviewed this practice, and the case promises to produce one of the most significant Fourth Amendment rulings in years.
The case at hand, Maryland v. King, centers around Alonzo King, who was arrested in 2009 after he was accused of pointing a gun at a group of people in Maryland. The police took his fingerprints and swabbed the inside of his cheek for DNA. King was convicted on assault charges and sentenced to four years in jail, but when his DNA profile was found to match evidence from an unsolved 2003 rape case, he was charged with that crime and sentenced to life in prison. King appealed his sentence, arguing that because the police took his genetic info without his consent, the DNA sampling violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The Maryland supreme court agreed, and the state appealed to the highest court in the land.
When Congress agreed on automatic slash-and-burn spending cuts in 2011—if no big bipartisan deficit reduction package could be achieved—the cuts were designed to be so unpalatable that Republicans and Democrats would feel compelled to concoct a better deal to replace them. President Barack Obama says avoiding the deep cuts, called sequestration in DC-speak, should be a "no-brainer." But Republicans are increasingly saying the sequester won't be so bad. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Thursday that the $85 billion in cuts "would really help a long way and get us on a sustainable fiscal path."
One problem is that many poor Americans rely on services the government provides. The White House released a report Sunday emphasizing the ways in which the cuts will hurt the middle class, but although important entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, and food stamps are exempt from sequestration, many programs for low-income families are on the chopping block. Here are 12 of them:
Public housing subsidies:$1.9 billion in cuts would affect 125,000 low-income people who would lose access to vouchers to help them with their rent.
Foreclosure prevention:75,000 fewer people would receive foreclosure prevention, rental, and homeless counseling services.
Educational programs: Learning programs for poor kids would see a total of $2.7 billion in cuts. The $400 million slashed from Head Start, the preschool program for poor children, would result in reduced services for some 70,000 kids.
Title I Funding: The Department of Education's Title I program, the biggest federal education program in the country, subsidizes schools that serve more than a million disadvantaged students. It would see $725 million in cuts.
Rural rental assistance: Cuts to the Department of Agriculture would result in the elimination of rental assistance for 10,000 very low-income rural people, most of whom are single women, elderly, or disabled.
Social Security: Although Social Security payments themselves won't be scaled back, cuts to the program would result in a massive backlogging of disability claims.
Unemployment benefits: More than 3.8 million people getting long-term unemployment benefits would see their monthly payments reduced by as much as 9.4 percent, and would lose an average of $400 in benefits over their period of joblessness.
Veterans services: The Transition Assistance Program would be forced to cut back some of the job search and career transition services it provides to 150,000 vets a year.
Nutritional Assistance for Women & Children: The government's main food stamp program is exempt from cuts, but other food programs would take a hit. Some 600,000 women and children would be cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides nutrition assistance and education.
Special education:$978 million* in cuts would affect 30.7 million children.For example, the scaling back of federal grants to states for students with disabilities would mean that cash-strapped states and districts would have to come up with the salaries for thousands of teachers, aides, and staff that serve special needs kids.
Job training programs:$37 million would be slashed from a job retraining and placement program called Employment Services, and $83 million would be cut from Job Corps, which provides low-income kids with jobs and education.
*Correction: This originally read "$978 billion"; "million" is correct.
It took December's Newtown massacre to renew the debate around mental health policy in America. In the wake of the shooting, President Obama took close to two dozen executive actions on gun control, several of which deal with providing better services to the mentally ill, and recent Congressional hearings have focused on the issue. This week, the Obama administration issued a long-awaited set of Obamacare regulations that will require health insurers to cover mental health services for tens of millions of people for the first time.
In his state of the union address Tuesday, President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, and on Wednesday, he took his pitch on the road to a factory in North Carolina. There's no guarantee that GOP opposition will be overcome, but if Congress does grant his wish, this income bump would most dramatically impact women and their families, according to a new study.
Last year, 64 percent of workers who earned the minimum wage or less were women, according to the report, put out Wednesday by the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress. CAP found that if wages were upped from $7.25 to $9 an hour, as Obama proposed, nearly 9 million women who are paid hourly wages would see their earnings directly increased. Another 4.2 million women would get a wage hike because of a "spillover effect," in which companies boost wages for higher earners as well in order to maintain the same pay hierarchy in the firm.
Center for American Progress
"Raising the minimum wage would be a step in the right direction to ensuring that women are properly compensated for their work, as it would disproportionately help low-wage female workers," write the report's authors.
And since the workers that would be affected are largely adults, a higher minimum wage would help whole families in a big way. Seventy-nine percent of minimum wage earners are over 20 years old, according to the report. Nine dollars an hour would mean more money for macaroni and cheese, gas, diapers, and shoes.
President Barack Obama's state of the union address Tuesday night will be a "Hitlerian screed attacking Republicans, Conservatives, The Tea Party, and anyone who dares to disagree with him," Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, warned in an essay posted to the group's website Tuesday. "Liberals," he argued, "are the new Nazis."
Phillips is also known for inflammatory comments: in 2011, he said that "the Left" had "killed a billion people in the last century." He has also argued that the Founding Fathers' original plan to only allow property owners to vote "makes a lot of sense." And in calling for the ouster of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) a couple of years ago, Phillips cited Ellison's Muslim faith: "There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year," he wrote in a post picked up by the Maddow blog, "but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of congress."
Tuesday, Phillips said the Boy Scouts are an example of how liberals are like Nazis:
The Boy Scouts are... [a] good example of what happens to groups that dare to defy the liberal orthodoxy. The Boy Scouts, for very good reasons, exclude gays as scoutmasters and volunteers. For two decades the left has been engaged in a full frontal assault against the Boy Scouts for their position of not allowing homosexual scoutmasters...
This is the tyranny of the left. There is no room for disagreement. If liberals disagree with the Boy Scouts' policy they could start their own group. They could create the gay scouts or the diversity scouts or what ever else they wanted to call it.
But no, liberals do not want to do that. They want to destroy anyone or anything that dares to offer a contrary opinion.
Tea Party Nation is the only tea party group listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.