Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News

  • Many Sandy victims hit with steep flood insurance bills

    STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - Jean Laurie isn’t taking any more chances.

    Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy swept through her close-knit neighborhood, destroying 22 houses and killing two of her neighbors, she’s finally getting ready to rebuild the home where she lived for years with her husband and their rescue dog.

    The Lauries got about $30,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to rebuild their waterlogged home. But they decided to knock it down and build a new one, rather than try to repair what looked unfixable.

    Jean Laurie holds a photo of a rendering of what her new home will look like in Staten Island. (Photo by Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)

    But that rebuilding comes with a catch. New flood maps drawn up by FEMA, along with reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) enacted in 2012, meant that many residents, including the Lauries, must lift up their homes or face dramatically higher flood insurance rates.

    So the Lauries hoisted their house 13 feet off the ground, so they never have to worry about flooding — or the skyrocketing insurance rates — again.

    Few homes on Staten Island — one of the

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  • Activists chain themselves to ‘deportation bus’ in Tucson, ask Obama to halt all deportations

    More than 20 people were arrested in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday after they chained themselves to buses holding immigration detainees at a federal courthouse.

    Those arrested were among about 100 activists protesting Operation Streamline, a program run by the Department of Homeland Security that prosecutes people suspected of illegally crossing the border into the U.S. from Mexico. Activists say they succeeded in delaying the court proceedings for the day, meaning the approximately 70 detainees on the buses the activists chained themselves to were not prosecuted.

    “We delivered a very strong message both to Operation Streamline and also to the president,” said Marisa Franco, an organizer of the protest.

    Protesters frustrated by the lack of progress on immigration reform have sometimes resorted to more drastic tactics, such as Friday's protest and another incident in Tucson earlier this week when activists surrounded Border Patrol agents who were attempting to arrest two men stopped for a

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  • Teachers union launches TV ad blaming GOP for shutdown

    The nation's largest teachers union has made a six-figure TV and online ad buy blaming "tea party Republicans" for the federal government shutdown that's lasted nearly two weeks.

    The National Education Association's ads, which will run in Washington and four states, single out Reps. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Tom Latham of Iowa and Chris Collins of New York. The ads accuse Republicans of playing a political "game" that's resulting in crippling cuts to education, pointing out that tens of thousands of students have been unable to attend Head Start preschool classes because of the shutdown.

    The advertising effort by an outside, left-leaning group is not the first on the issue. The advocacy group Americans United for Change recently announced a six-figure ad buy targeting 10 Republicans. A recent WSJ/NBC News poll found that voters blame Republicans over Democrats for the shutdown by a 20-point margin. The poll also found that only 24 percent of Americans had a

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  • Anti-abortion activists mobilize against Wendy Davis in Texas

    Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis became a national political star by standing up for abortion rights last summer — and conservative Texans in the anti-abortion movement say they won’t let her forget it.

    The 50-year-old Fort Worth lawyer blocked a bill that banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in a dramatic, 11-hour filibuster at the state Capitol that attracted national attention and the adulation of abortion rights advocates in June. Despite Davis’ pink-sneakered filibuster, the bill eventually passed and was signed into law by outgoing Gov. Rick Perry. (The law shaves off four weeks from the amount of time a woman can legally access an abortion and might result in the closure of a third of Texas' abortion clinics because it requires providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.)

    But when Davis announced her intention to run for governor in her hometown of Haltom City last week, the topic of reproductive rights did not pass her lips. Instead, Davis focused on

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  • 6 things you might not know about Justice Scalia

    The court's conservative firebrand, Antonin Scalia, gave an extensive interview to New York Magazine that reveals a few surprising things about him, from his love of "Seinfeld" to his hatred of social media. Here are six things you may not know about the Ronald Reagan-appointed, originalist justice.

    1. He thinks he has gay friends

    Scalia famously wrote the dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 decision that prohibited states from criminalizing anal sex. Scalia argued that states should be allowed to outlaw a "lifestyle" that they consider to be immoral and skewered the majority opinion that ruled gay people have "the right to choose to enter upon relationships in the confines of their homes … and still retain their dignity as free persons."

    But he told New York Magazine he personally has gay friends and does not hate gay people. "I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does," Scalia said, but added that none of them had told him he or she was gay. "I

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  • Supreme Court to decide whether affirmative action can be left up to state voters

    Just 10 years after the Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan’s use of race in admissions as a necessary step to foster campus diversity, the justices are set to decide whether that state’s voters are allowed to ban affirmative action in admissions entirely.

    The case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, is one of several controversial cases on the docket in the 2013-14 term, which began Monday.

    The justices are also set to decide cases concerning campaign finance, prayer at legislative meetings and abortion rights.

    If the justices decide in Michigan voters’ favor, it could lead to a spate of states banning affirmative action through ballot initiatives and would almost certainly result in declining enrollments of minority students in public colleges around the country.

    In 2006, Michigan voters approved a measure to amend the state Constitution to prohibit the government from “discriminat[ing] against, or grant[ing] preferential treatment to, any individual or

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  • Glitch-ridden Obamacare website going down for maintenance over weekend

    The government website where uninsured people in 36 states are expected to sign up for health insurance is going down during "off-peak" hours this weekend to correct a variety of glitches, the Obama administration announced late Friday afternoon. opened for business Tuesday morning but was plagued by glitches that prevented many users from purchasing insurance. President Barack Obama and his deputies pleaded for patience, saying the site would be improved soon and that its problems stemmed from a large number of visitors flooding the site. The site has logged 8.5 million unique visitors since Tuesday, and the 24/7 call support center fielded 406,000 calls over the same period.

    But the Obama administration won't say how many people actually purchased insurance in the exchange's first week. The Congressional Budget Office estimated 7 million people would sign up on the exchanges during its six-month enrollment period that ends March 31, and millions of them must be young

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  • International teachers’ unions to politicians: Invest in education

    Leaders of America’s largest teachers’ unions are joining teachers in 170 countries to urge political leaders to invest more in K-12 education around the world.

    The campaign is organized by Education International, an umbrella group of unions representing 30 million teachers, and will be announced Friday in New York with United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. 

    “The whole premise is that every single child ought to have access to a free, universal, quality education,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union. “There's not a country in the world where that's happening right now, including the United States.”

    Van Roekel told Yahoo News the federal shutdown over the budget — which has resulted in 57,000 low-income children being taken out of Head Start pre-K programs — shows that the United States is far from reaching the goal of providing free high-quality education to all of its children. Randi

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  • Can immigration reform survive the shutdown?

    Advocates of immigration reform just can’t catch a break. First it was Syria. Now the entire federal government is shut down. And an all but inevitable fight over the debt ceiling in two weeks is likely to push reform plans even further out of the spotlight.

    So in an attempt to recapture some of the momentum and urgency the issue attracted after the 2012 election — when GOP leaders conceded they needed to fix the nation’s immigration system in part to attract badly needed Hispanic voters — House Democrats this week released their own version of an immigration reform bill.

    The bill would legalize most of the country’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants and largely mirrors the legislation crafted in part by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York that passed out of the Senate this summer, minus an amendment that set aside $38 billion in border security.  

    House Republicans have already rejected the Senate comprehensive reform bill, saying they

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