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Eugene Robinson:
More than a week since the chemical spill in Charleston, the state capital, contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people, there has been little solid information about the danger to human health — and little outrage from officials in Washington, who seem to expect West Virginians to take the whole thing in stride. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if this had happened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or in one of the wealthier Zip codes of Southern California.

Imagine living for a week without tap water for drinking, cooking, bathing, even washing clothes. Imagine restaurants having to shut down, hotels putting sinks and showers off-limits, nursing homes trying to care for patients with only bottled water at their disposal. Imagine learning that there was essentially no information on the long-term health effects of a chemical you could smell everywhere you went.

Michael Hiltzik at the LA Times looks at "creative bankruptcy" in West Virginia:
As predictably as night follows day, it was clear that the onslaught of lawsuits over the chemical poisoning of virtually the entire water supply of Charleston, W.Va., would be followed by a bankruptcy filing by the chemical company at the center of the incident.
That shoe dropped on Friday, with the filing of a petition for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy law by Freedom Industries Inc. The key document in the filing is here. The filing states that more than 20 lawsuits had been filed as of Thursday, the day before. [...] The Charleston case is also a reminder of the imbalance in bankruptcy rights created by the bankruptcy "reform" of 2005, when Congress harshly tightened the rights of individual debtors (under pressure from the creditor lobby), while leaving the riles for corporate bankruptcies in place, or even liberalizing them. The result for the individual victims of the Charleston spill may well be, from Freedom's standpoint, heads we win, tails you lose.
More on the day's top stories below the fold:

Thomas Beaumont at the Associated Press:

The Republican Party's image has changed little in the year since GOP Chairman Reince Priebus published his prescription for broadening the party's appeal despite its investment in outreach to the racial minorities, women and gay voters who backed Democrats decisively in 2012. [...]
Robert Schlesinger adds his take:
The tea party faction has fielded candidates in most or all of the competitive Senate races and the establishment, led by the Chamber of Commerce, has vowed to fight them this time around rather than acceding to another set of Christine O'Donnells and Todd Akins. The newest potential star in the mold is a North Carolina Senate candidate name Greg Brannon, who, Mother Jones revealed this week, thinks that food stamps are comparable to slavery and has said that, "all 10 of Marx's planks of communism are law in our land today."

But arguably the most interesting development of the week was the news that former lobbyist Ed Gillespie jumped into the Virginia Senate race against popular incumbent Mark Warner. As a corporate lobbyist and former Republican National Committee chairman with impeccable ties to the George W. Bush administration, Gillespie is the very definition of the sort of establishment conservative the fringe loathes. But he's favored to win the GOP nomination in the commonwealth and is likely to become the face of the establishment's striking back against the tea party fringe – meaning that once again Virginia is about to become a civil war epicenter.

Kevin Bogardus at The Hill previews today's big case before the Supreme Court:
On Tuesday, the high court will hear oral arguments in Harris V. Quinn, a case that could upend agreements with state governments that allow taxpayer-funded home-care workers to unionize.

Those deals have helped boost public sector unions in several states at a time when overall union membership is declining.

Business and conservative-leaning groups are pushing the Supreme Court to overturn the deals, arguing they violate the Constitution by requiring workers to punch a union card.

Labor unions see the legal challenge as another attempt to weaken their influence and warn the disabled and elderly could pay a heavy price,

Mosche Z. Marvit:
States have allowed home-care workers to form unions because it helps make the system work. Over the next 36 years, the number of Americans 65 and older is expected to more than double to 88.5 million. Home-care workers allow elderly and disabled individuals to remain at home, a cheaper alternative that most Americans prefer, rather than be placed in long-term care facilities. The home-care workforce has historically had extremely low wages, high rates of injuries and unpredictable hours, resulting in a shortage of qualified workers willing to undertake this important service. According to a 2007 survey by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, 97 percent of states reported “serious” or “very serious” shortages in their direct-care workforce .

Taking away home health-care workers’ collective bargaining rights would destroy the careful balance at least seven states have created to deal with aging populations and increased health-care costs, as well as to ensure an adequate and well-trained home-care workforce. The system of collective bargaining in this case is responsive to home-care workers’ needs, creates safer working conditions for both the workers and their clients and ensures a skilled and stable workforce. In Illinois, home-care workers with the right to collective bargaining will almost double their pay to $13 per hour by the end of the year, receive health benefits and gain access to hygenic gloves at work. As a result, the state is able to attract and retain qualified individuals to take care of a rapidly aging population.

Elizabeth B. Wydra:
This time of year, while the rest of us are vowing to get to the gym more often or eat more kale, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court should focus on one simple resolution for 2014: follow the Constitution.

The first case the court heard in 2014 was the National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, in which the justices were faced with an unprecedented argument that would narrow the president’s constitutional authority to make “recess appointments” to fill executive and judicial branch positions when the Senate is unavailable to give its “advice and consent” to nominations.

The argument pressed in Canning, seeking to invalidate two of President Barack Obama’s nominations to the National Labor Relations Board, would go against constitutional practice that dates back to our nation’s first president, George Washington, and accepted understanding of the Constitution’s text.


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