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The new administration has moved quickly to reverse or delay Bush policy on drilling and pollution.

Los Angeles

Less than a month into his administration, President Obama is making good on campaign promises to move toward a comprehensive approach to US energy and to broaden environmental protections. The administration has moved over the past few weeks to undo many of Bush’s last-minute drilling and environmental decisions, including putting the brakes Tuesday on a plan to open up vast new areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to offshore drilling.

In swift succession, the Obama administration has:

• Ordered the Environmental Protection Authority to reconsider its decision to deny California permission to set standards controlling greenhouse-gas emissions from motor vehicles – if permitted, this would allow 13 more states to follow suit.

• Abandoned a Bush administration legal appeal in a major air pollution case – signaling it will allow tougher rules to cut mercury emissions from power plants.

• Canceled 77 Bush-era oil and gas leases over 100,000 acres of public land near national parks in Utah.

• Announced an intent to develop an offshore energy plan that includes renewable resources, giving states and the federal government more time to study and assess the future of offshore energy planning.

Its about time……..

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Partially cut:

• $3.5 billion for energy-efficient federal buildings (original bill $7 billion)

• $75 million from Smithsonian (original bill $150 million)

• $200 million from Environmental Protection Agency Superfund (original bill $800 million)

• $100 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (original bill $427 million)

• $100 million from law enforcement wireless (original bill $200 million)

• $300 million from federal fleet of hybrid vehicles (original bill $600 million)

• $100 million from FBI construction (original bill $400 million)

Fully eliminated

• $55 million for historic preservation

• $122 million for Coast Guard polar icebreaker/cutters

• $100 million for Farm Service Agency modernization

• $50 million for Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service

• $65 million for watershed rehabilitation

• $100 million for distance learning

• $98 million for school nutrition

• $50 million for aquaculture

• $2 billion for broadband

• $100 million for National Institute of Standards and Technology

• $50 million for detention trustee

• $25 million for Marshalls Construction

• $300 million for federal prisons

• $300 million for BYRNE Formula grant program

• $140 million for BYRNE Competitive grant program

• $10 million state and local law enforcement

• $50 million for NASA

• $50 million for aeronautics

• $50 million for exploration

• $50 million for Cross Agency Support

• $200 million for National Science Foundation

• $100 million for science

• $1 billion for Energy Loan Guarantees

• $4.5 billion for General Services Administration

• $89 million General Services Administration operations

• $50 million from Department of Homeland Security

• $200 million Transportation Security Administration

• $122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use

• $25 million for Fish and Wildlife

• $55 million for historic preservation

• $20 million for working capital fund

• $165 million for Forest Service capital improvement

• $90 million for State and Private Wildlife Fire Management

• $1 billion for Head Start/Early Start

• $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity

• $2 billion for Health Information Technology Grants

• $600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)

• $16 billion for school construction

• $3.5 billion for higher education construction

• $1.25 billion for project based rental

• $2.25 billion for Neighborhood Stabilization

• $1.2 billion for retrofitting Project 8 housing

• $40 billion for state fiscal stabilization (includes $7.5 billion of state incentive grants)

Bruce Falconer of Mother Jones-Get ready. There’s a battle brewing in Virginia over gun rights, and if the comments to my recent piece on assault weapons are any indication, it’s not going to be pretty. After years of trying, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee last week voted 8-7 to pass legislation closing the so-called “gun-show loophole.”

While commercial sellers are already required to perform instant background checks before completing a sale, small-time, amateur dealers (who, according to the Washington Post, make up an estimated 35 percent of sellers are Virginia gun shows) are not. The fear is that this opens an opportunity for the mentally insane or criminally minded to bypass safeguards meant to keep weapons out of their hands.

The bill’s provisions are modest at best. It does nothing more than extend the intent of the law to cover all gun transactions. Gun show operators would be required to ensure that all dealers, including amateurs, have the ability to conduct instant checks. In practice, this would amount to the small inconvenience of strolling across the aisle to use computers already maintained by professional dealers.

The law would not apply to black powder or antique weapons, nor would it affect buyers with permits to carry concealed firearms.

The bill must now pass the full Senate, before moving on to the House of Delegates, where Republicans are expected to fight fiercely to defeat it.

REPORT: GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Democratic Lawmakers 2 To 1 In Stimulus Debate On Cable News»

graph_correctedAs Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were “in power.”

It appears that old habits die hard. Even though President Obama and his team are in control of the executive branch and Democrats are in the majority in Congress, the cable networks are still turning more often to Republicans and allowing them to set the agenda on major issues, most recently on the debate over the economic recovery package.

On Sunday, conservatives began an all-out assault on President Obama’s economic recovery plan, with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both announcing that they would vote against the plan as it stood. Despite Obama’s efforts at good faith outreach, congressional conservatives have continued to attack the stimulus plan with a series of false and disingenuous arguments.

The media have been aiding their efforts. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week:

Tim Craig-RICHMOND, Jan. 23 — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran vowed Thursday to fight a proposal to build a coal-fired power plant in southern Virginia, breaking with political leaders who have tried to shore up the once-powerful mining industry.

In a news conference near the state Capitol, Moran said the proposed plant in Surry County would contribute to global warming, worsen air quality in Richmond and Hampton Roads, and contribute to nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

“The approval of this plant will occur under the watch of Virginia’s next governor. I think it is important for Virginians to know where their governor stands on this issue,” Moran said. “We should be investing and developing clean sources of energy. We need to harness the energy of wind and solar.”

THANKS  Del.  MORAN FOR MAKING THE “CORRECT CHOICE FOR VIRGINIA”

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They don’t have the sex appeal of windmills or the cool factor of solar panels but cost a fraction of the price. In fact, their methods can be as low-tech as plugging a leaky air duct.

Governments and utility companies across the Washington region are starting to roll out new “energy-efficiency” campaigns with the potential to lower bills, carbon emissions and the area’s dependence on foreign oil without building a single coal or nuclear plant. Energy experts say that they can reap large benefits by encouraging people to retrofit homes with changes as simple as new shower heads, light bulbs and refrigerators.

Efficiency programs were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s but receded to the background during the more recent era of GOP deregulation.

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U.S. News recently consulted RetirementJobs.com to determine the best cities for retirement-age job seekers. The analysis took into account employment growth, the unemployment rate, housing costs, the cost of living, and proximity to high-quality healthcare. Other factors: the prevalence of job opportunities in industries that tend to welcome older workers, such as healthcare, higher education, government, and service-industry jobs.

Cities with well-diversified economies are thriving despite the recession. More than 145 companies are headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., including well-known names like Expedia, T-Mobile, Microsoft, and drugstore.com. The area, which includes nearby cities Seattle and Tacoma, added 19,900 jobs in the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Oklahoma City, Okla., earned bragging rights in November 2008 when it tied with Washington, D.C., as the city with the lowest jobless rate in the country. But the cost of living is far lower in Oklahoma than in D.C., making it a better spot for retirees looking to cut expenses. Although it was founded as an oil town, Oklahoma City today boasts an economy that also includes information technology, healthcare services, and the restaurant chain Sonic.

Many of the best places to find enjoyable work in retirement are college towns like Lubbock, Texas, and Charlottesville, Va., both of which have major universities and hospitals that provide plenty of jobs.

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A new study shows that some of the most vulnerable babies are exposed to high levels of the chemical bisphenol A before they even leave the hospital.

Many manufacturers have taken BPA out of plastic baby bottles in the past year because of concerns that the estrogen-like chemical could harm young children. Studies have linked high levels in adults to heart disease and diabetes.

CDC researchers had detected BPA in more than 90% of Americans tested (read the pdf report).

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Study shows Wal-Mart’s Negative Impact on Small Business. Kenneth Stone, an emeritus professor of economics at Iowa State University, first coined the term “Wal-Mart phenomenon” in his 1995 study, “Competing with the Discount Mass Merchants.” Stone found that when Wal-Mart came to a town, stores selling different products than Wal-Mart were fine, but those selling the same products struggled. Further, Stone found that the stores that bore the brunt of Wal-Mart’s competition were in towns with populations of less than 5,000 within 20 miles of a Wal-Mart. [Jackson Citizen-Patriot, 7/11/08]

  • Iowa State University and Mississippi State University professors found grocery stores in Mississippi saw sales decline anywhere from 10 to 20% when a Wal-Mart moved in: stores in multiple other categories saw sales declines as well.
  • University of California, 1999, studied grocery stores in California and found “The full economic impact of those lost wages and benefits throughout southern California could approach $2.8 billion per year.”
  • A 2005 report from the AFL-CIO finds that as Wal-Mart’s increasing reliance on imported goods has meant fewer jobs in communities around the country.

As employees fall through the Wal-Mart safety net, taxpayers catch them — and end up with the bill:

Letting Workers and Families Rely on Public Programs. A memo written by Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Executive Vice President for Benefits, for the Wal-Mart Board of Directors, said: “We also have a significant number of Associates and their children who receive health insurance through public-assistance programs. Five percent of our Associates are on Medicaid compared to an average for national employers of 4 percent. Twenty-seven percent of Associates’ children are on such programs, compared to a national average of 22 percent (Exhibit 5). In total, 46 percent of Associates’ children are either on Medicaid or are uninsured.” Chambers wrote, “Wal-Mart’s critics can easily exploit some aspects of our benefits offering to make their case; in other words, our critics are correct in some of their observations. Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance.” [Susan Chambers Memo to the Wal-Mart Board of Directors; New York Times, 10/26/05]

 Topping State Rankings of Employees on Public Care. In 21 states, Wal-Mart leads the list of companies with the most employees and dependents enrolled in state-funded health care programs. In all states that have released such data — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin — Wal-Mart tops the list. In Arkansas, where Wal-Mart’s own headquarters is located, 3,971 of Wal-Mart’s 45,106 employees are on public assistance. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/17/05; Federal Register Source; Associated Press, 3/3/05; St. Petersburg Times, 3/25/05; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/27/04; Associated Press, 3/4/05; Great Falls Tribune, 6/26/05; Omaha World-Herald, 10/19/05; Associated Press, 5/12/05; Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/2/06; Chattanooga Times Free Press, 1/20/05; Salt Lake Tribune, 2/5/06; Vermont Guardian, 4/18/05; Seattle Times, 1/24/06; Charleston Gazette, 12/26/04; The Capital Times, 11/4/04; Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 5/24/05; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/17/05]

Forcing Higher Medicaid Spending. Michael Hicks, an economist at the Air Force Institute of Technology at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, conducted a study analyzing state Medicaid data from 1978 to 2003 and found that Wal-Mart causes an increase in state Medicaid spending by as much as $898 per person. [Business Week, 10/26/05]

  • In 2007, a Wall Street Journal story exposed Wal-Mart’s questionable practice of exploiting tax loopholes to dodge property taxes in several states.
  • An AFL-CIO 2006 report shows Wal-Mart consistently tops state Medicaid rosters, as the company’s health plan remains inaccessible to thousands of its employees.
  • A Good Jobs First report showed that Wal-Mart consistently appeals property tax assessments
  • I recently posted this on my blog,

    I don’t know about you but I’m tired….tired of the hate, the doom and gloom, and the constant anger that had become our country, this is not what I want for my chlidren nor what I expect of this great country..  I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to multiple cultures and have traveled all over this world from dozens of trips to the Caribbean and Central/South America, to the far reaches of the Middle East, Muslim nations and even Communist ones.  Arrogantly we think that they suffer because they don’t live in America, the land of  pepsi, KFC and McDonalds. But I can tell you NO ONE in those countries are as uptight and scared as the imploding and cowardly US. 

    Sadly, Although the US government and media play a big role in constantly reminding us of our perceived dismal future, (control technique?) , I happen to know better,from experience, and the ability to look beyond the corporate media as if they are the only window to the world.  Did you know that Americans only take about 10 days of vacation each year while Europe takes 6-7 WEEKS as an average!  Which would you rather do? Are you surprised that they have a longer life expectancy? Oh, and by the way they don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars a years on paying back student loans or health care. Hmm.

    I’m tired of busting my butt just to have someone like GBW piss it away…just because he can, and because he and his rich advisors has no concept of “middle class.”  I want better for me, my wife and my kids.  I grew up believing that the US was the greates place on Earth and that there was this concept of the “American Dream.”  Well reality has struck, truth be  told the dream is a myth to keep us spending so that the wealthy can have THEIR dream of unlimited greed and wealth.  Its time for american’s to wake up, stand up, and stop rationalizing their pathetic, over stressed existence.   More importantly, understand that better lives exist (gasp!) elsewhere.  There is a reason why American emmigration is at an all time high! I still love America and want so desperately to restore it to the glory days, but corporate america and lobbyists have destroyed that.  My parents, grandparents and immigrant great-grandparents would roll over in their grave if they knew that this is what has become of their beloved country.

    To this end I’m in the process of becoming an American ex-patriot.  I’ve spent weeks, even months,  researching other countries to move to.  I think Central America is the place to go.  Surprisingly Panama is the fastest growing american ex-pat country.  I’m looking at the Bahamas and Costa Rica.  I’ve fould a GOURGEOUS 7,000sqf estate on a mountain overlooking the pristine waters (with a master bath with floor to ceiling windows with this view…its breathtaking), complete with maid and gardener for less than $800,000 US.  For another $100,000 I’ll have the boat of my dreams. The cost of living is so low that we can get by  this house, and pay for all our bills, for about $1,500/month.  Can you do that here in the US?

    My kids can sail, scuba, fish and surf every day!  There is an American School for them to go to, and their degree will get them into any College in the US.  Did I mention that the health care is top notch AND free? No more spending 20-30 thousand dollars on medical insurance. Life for them will be as it was for me as a child. No more buy, buy, buy.  No more Nintendo and reality shows.  Reality for them will be fresh fruit, running on an endless beach, diving a wreck, and exploring the rain firests.   I grew up loving and respecting  the ocean and the planet, Sadly most of today’s Americans don’t respect either. I can’t think of a better environment to raise my children than Costa Rica.  Its time for me to practice what I preach and not just rationalize my temporary existence in Harrisonburg where people want to discuss the relevence of…well…nothing…. truly important.  I want better for my family and to teach them the really important things in life.  And I’m blessed that I can do that.  I truly feel sad for those who are so tied to this part of the SV, or too scared to consider otherwise, the beauty and righteousness of other places in the world.

    So, as a proud expatriot to-be within the next 5 years, I say to you enjoy your stress, enjoy your hate, your simple minded angry blogs and pettiness, your heart disease, ludicrous health care system, your debt, and your decreasing life expectancy, I’m finally at some sort of peace.  If however you want to experience the world as I perceive God intended, then let me know.  You can leave the smog & congestion, high gas prices, political irrelevence, Paris Hilton, Hollywood, and the anal-retentive BS behind. I’ll have a cold marguarita, a Jimmy Buffet tune, fresh grilled fish dinner with local herbs, and the most gorgeous sunset waiting……….peace.

     

    Remember Lee  Iacocca, the man who rescued Chrysler Corporation from its death throes?  He’s now 82 years old and has a new book, ‘Where Have All The Leaders Gone?’.

     

    Lee Iacocca Says: 

    ‘Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’

     

    Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned, ‘Titanic’. I’ll give you a sound bite: ‘Throw all the bums out!’

     

    You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

    The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in  Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving ‘pom-poms’ instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of the ‘America’ my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

     

    I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have. The Biggest ‘C’ is Crisis! (Iacocca elaborates on nine C’s of leadership, with crisis being the first.)

     

    Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

     

    On September 11, 2001, we needed a  strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A hell of a mess, so here’s where we stand.

     

    We’re immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. 

    We’re running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.

     

    We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia,

     

     while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. 

    Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy.

     Our schools are in trouble. 

    Our borders are like sieves. 

     

    The middle class is being squeezed every which way.

     

    These are times that cry out for leadership

    .

    But when you look around, you’ve got to ask: ‘Where have all the leaders gone?’ Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense?

     

     I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the  point.

    Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

     

    We’ve spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

     

    Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. 

     

    Everyone’s hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn’t happen again. Now, that’s just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you’re going to do the next time.

     

    Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when ‘The Big Three’ referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

    Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

     

    I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn’t elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of?

     

    That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don’t you guys show some spine for a change?

     

    Had Enough? Hey, I’m not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here.  I’m trying to light a fire. I’m speaking out because I have hope – I believe in America. In my lifetime, I’ve had the privilege of living through some of  America ‘s greatest moments. I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises: The ‘Great Depression,’ ‘World War  II,’ the ‘Korean War,’ the ‘Kennedy Assassination,’ the ‘Vietnam War,’ the 1970’s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.

     

    If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: ‘You don’t get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That’s the challenge I’m raising in this book. It’s a “Call to Action” for people who, like me, believe in America’. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty close. So let’s shake off the crap and go to work. Let’s tell ’em all we’ve had ‘enough.’

     

    Make your own contribution by sending this to everyone you know and care about. It’s our country, folks, and it’s our future. Our future is at stake!!

     

    AMEN!

    Virginia Naturally provides citizens with “one-stop” shopping to programs and information to learn about Virginia ’s environment. At this gateway site, you’ll find links to more than 800 organizations which provide environmental education programs and services in Virginia including volunteer and funding opportunities, teacher workshops and lesson plans, conferences, and community events to name a few. You can also find out what your ecological footprint is based on your lifestyle and what you can do to help reduce your impact on the environment. 

    Adopted in 2000 as the official environmental education initiative of the Commonwealth, Virginia Naturally also recognizes schools and communities that are making extraordinary efforts to help citizens of all ages understand our world and lessen the negative impact on Virginia’s natural and historic resources.

    VaNaturally is all about Partners and Networking
    Public and private organizations and agencies are the heart of this initiative to link people to Virginia’s natural and historic resources. Anyone interested in education can become a partner and participate in a statewide network and join others to build knowledge and skills and an appreciation for life-long learning and personal responsibility to conservation. Partners can advertise their programs and events on this website and share their success stories. They can also receive free materials, a monthly newsletter, educational kits and participate in professional development. VaNaturally staff can help your organization find collaborators in your community.

    Interested in signing up as a VaN partner? It’s quick, easy and FREE! Just email your contact information. 

    Whether you need information or want to help others find it, Virginia Naturally is your gateway to information and resources about Virginia ’s environment.

    * If you would like your events posted on the Virginia Naturally website, email the name, location, date, a short description and a contact for your event.

    Individuals, homeowners

    If you break a fluorescent light bulb (including compact fluorescent lights), you can minimize any risks by following cleanup and disposal recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    The following information includes tips on how to manage burned out compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) appropriately:

    • Two retailers – Home Depot and Ikea – currently take back CFLs from homeowners. Take your burned out CFL to any Home Depot orange box store returns desk and hand it to an associate who will recycle it for you. Ikea has a collection area in its stores where customers can place fluorescent light bulbs including CFLs to be recycled. 
    • You can purchase boxes online or in retail stores and mail your used CFLs to be recycled: Mail-in programs for CFLs
    • Check directly with your local waste management agency on the recycling options and disposal guidelines in your community: Local government recycling contacts  
    • If your community has a household hazardous waste drop-off center or offers household hazardous waste collection events, check to see if CFLs are accepted. Please contact your local government for more information on these events: Hazardous household waste contacts.
    • If recycling is not an option where you live, simply place the CFL bulb in a plastic bag and seal it before putting it in your trash. However, you should not dispose of CFLs or any mercury-containing device in your trash if it is destined for a waste incinerator as this increases the risk of mercury emissions to the environment. Ask your local waste management agency for specific guidance in this situation.

    Businesses

    Businesses are required by Virginia’s laws and regulations to recycle fluorescent lights or handle them as hazardous wastes. Additional information is available on DEQ’s waste and pollution prevention websites.

    The highest teen birth rates are in the South and Southwest; Mississippi is highest with 68.4 per 1,000, followed by New Mexico, with a rate of 64.1 and Texas, with 63.1. The lowest rates are in the Northeast. New Hampshire had the fewest teen births with 18.7 per 1,000. Vermont, with 20.8 per 1,000, and Massachusetts, with 21.3 per 1,000, were also low. Decreases were noted in New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.

    Gee, what a shocker….

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    Partner Website www.wewillrockdem.com
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    "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -- WOW-- What a Ride!"
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