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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Heads Up: Morning headlines for Jan. 2

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 8:21 AM

Welcome to 2013. You'll be happy to hear that a majority of Congress -- including all of Pennsylvania's representatives -- voted in favor of a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff." Which means that all of this debate over spending is resolved forever. Or for two months. Whichever comes first. Is this a good deal? Hard to say, but I'm guessing the answer is "not really." On the one hand, the deal includes no spending cuts, and an increase in taxes for the very VERY wealthy. On the other hand, Democrats gained those concessions largely by frittering away the leverage they had to raise taxes on the wealthy even more. And the stage is set for another debt-ceiling fight in just a couple months. The GOP will certainly be looking for payback, and Dems no longer have the cudgel they once did.

The Post-Gazette's Jon Silver turns up a federal draft report panning UPMC's employee-protection procedures at Western Psych. Apparently, UPMC itself had never seen the report, which faults the healthcare giant for being more worried about protecting patients than employees. Interesting wrinkle: The report's author, Jane Lipscomb, is married to the national occupational health and safety director of the SEIU, which represents workers at the facility and is trying to organize them at other UPMC operations.

Just when you thought we'd turned the corner on suburban sprawl ... now even the murderers are headed to the suburbs, or so reports KDKA. Actually, the story's lead-in is more than a bit misleading: The "suburbs" in question aren't, like, Bethel Park or Pine Township -- they are economically distressed inner-ring communities like McKeesport and Wilkinsburg. These are communities with big-city problems of poverty and crime, but without the big-city resources to address them.

Some 16,000 Pennsylvania homes are going into the heart of winter without utility service, says the state Public Utility Commission. That's nearly a 10 percent increase over last year, and it means more residents trying to heat their homes with ovens, space heaters, and other equipment more likely to cause a fire.

But hey, Gov. Tom Corbett hasn't forgotten who the real victims are here. He's apparently planning to sue the NCAA over its Sandusky-related sanctions of Penn State. The suit, which is apparently being initiated without the consent of Penn State itself, seems likely to object to the fact that the NCAA planned to use $60 million in fines to combat child-abuse nationwide: Some state politicians have demanded that all the money protect only Pennsylvania kids. (Seems like a healthy response to the Sandusky outrage, doesn't it? If kids in Ohio want protection from abuse, maybe Ohio State can get its own high-profile sexual predator.) Can't help wondering whether this is a way for Corbett to simultaneously strike a blow at the NCAA while simultaneously standing up for abused Pennsylvania children -- so he can have it both ways on a sex scandal that might otherwise harm his 2014 re-election prospects. But I'm probably just cynical.

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