Early this week when the television commentariat went into overdrive with observations about the largely white and male Obama second term cabinet that appears to be taking shape, there was lots of talk about the fact that Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor and one of the highest ranking Latinas in the federal government, Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to lead the Justice Department, and others would likely remain in place. On Wednesday, the prognosticators were proved at least partially wrong. Solis announced plans to step down.
Make no mistake, the Supreme Court has a full slate of important cases this year. Rulings are expected on gay marriage, affirmative action in higher education and the heart of the Voting Rights Act. But after an election in which it became clear just how willing Republican-controlled legislators are to restrain and restrict the ability of citizens to vote, any move to strike down the provision of the Voting Rights Act requiring local and state governments in communities with a history of voter suppression to seek federal approval for changes in voting law or procedure could be downright scary, according to Slate. Pay close attention.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a new set of rules for mortgages today that will ban temporary low teaser rates, put an end to no document, so called "liar's loans," require lenders to look more closely at a borrower's ability to repay the loan and create new limit for interest-only loans and those in which the amount a borrow owes can grow over time. Advocates for the changes say the measures might have prevented the foreclosure crisis and will protect homebuyers from the kind of risky, heavily-marketed mortgages that helped to create the housing bubble. Consumer groups have expressed some concern that the rules will require potential homebuyers to come to the table with larger down payments and will therefore delay homeownership for many families, particularly blacks and Latinos. Of course, one of the reasons that black and Latino homeowners disproportiantely lost thier homes to foreclosure is that many were sold mortgage loans at higher interest rates, more difficult to manage changing interest rate terms and other features while white borrowers with similiar creidt scores were sold lower-cost loans with better terms.
Mexico has named a new ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Medina-Mora. He will replace the outspoken Arturo Sarukhán, a multi-lingual ambassador willing to speak openly about the United State's role in funding, fueling and arming Mexico's drug cartels. Sarukhán, who also seems to channel Mark Twain on Twitter, was no shrinking violet. Medina-Mora has worked with U.S. officials before through his involvement in the Mérida Initiative, "the U.S. aid program that hopes to restore Mexican government authority in areas challenged by drug traffickers," Fox News Latino reported.
Vice President Joe Biden is talking tough on gun control, making it clear that the White House plans reforms with or without Congress. Could gun control turn out to be the Affordable Care Act of Obama's second term -- the policy initiative that takes up lots of time, saves lives but becomes so fractious that Obama gets little credit? Nearly 48 percent of those expected to gain health insurance coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act are black or Latino, making it a major policy boon for minority health in the United States. But, so-called Obamacare is almost never described that way.
Never one to miss an opportunity to engage in the controversial, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that at least 59 armed volunteers have stepped forward to guard and protect Pheonix-area schools.
The reviews of MTV's "Washington Heights" have started. Some of the criticisms will seem familiar.
The trillion-dollar coin issue sparked a design contest over at Slate that you should check out if in need of comic relief. Please take note of Obama's pinky position.
Finally, a friendly reminder to wash those hands and make friends with hand sanitizer. This flu and cold season is shaping up to be a bad one.