Midday Scan: Tacoma's fall from grace; the faulty titles of politicians; and poverty's latest drug

Tacoma has resorted to taxing non-profit, health-care providers to cover its budget shortfall; presidential candidates cling to former titles; and sugar addiction leads to depression and other health problems.

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Rick Santorum speaking in Florida (2011).

Tacoma has resorted to taxing non-profit, health-care providers to cover its budget shortfall; presidential candidates cling to former titles; and sugar addiction leads to depression and other health problems.

The crown jewel of Pierce County is, as all other cities to some extent are, tarnished. On Tuesday the Tacoma City Council unanimously voted to tax non-profit, health-care providers, aiming their metaphorical budget rifles at two of the city's biggest employers, MultiCare and Franciscan Health Systems.

According to News Tribune staff writer, Sean Robinson, the move is the latest in a series of desperate measures taken in an attempt to close the city's remaining $12.7 million budget shortfall. The struggle with the deficit began in October, with the city's $33 million shortfall — a result of "overly rosy" financial projections, writes Robinson. By cutting the tax exemption for non-profit, health-care providers from 100 percent to 75 percent, the city expects to take in $538,000. The effect this will have on MultiCare and Fransiscan remains to be seen, but the non-profits claim that either services or jobs will be lost. 

Thankfully, a last minute amendment provided an exemption for smaller non-profits, whose taxation would have produced the kind of spare change that would make Tacoma City Council look like a lunchroom bully. Still, the council did not approve the measure without reluctance. As wizened sage Councilman, Marty Campbell said, "This sucks. None of us want to be here."

The NBA Basketball team that got away: the Kings. It looks like Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star, Kevin Johnson might be keeping his team in Sacramento after all. As the Sacramento Bee's Tony Bizjak reports this morning, the owners of the team have agreed to make a substantial contribution to Sacramento's planned $387 million new arena, in hopes that a new arena will save the team.

Of course, this is bad news for the NBA-starved Seattle, where basketball fans were eyeing the Kings to become the new SuperSonics. So, while the proposal for a new arena pushes forward, the key ingredient for bringing hoops back to the city is still missing: an NBA team.

Presidential candidates are often slapped with labels, whether they like it or not. Dan Savage redefined "Santorum," Stephen Colbert likened Newt Gingrich to the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a Communist. More subtly though, public perception is also affected by the titles with which candidates are addressed, writes UW Election Eye 2012 contributor, Lindsey Meeks.

Meeks' point: The titles used by three of the four remaining candidates aren't actually held by them anymore. "Governor Mitt Romney" and "Senator Rick Santorum" both relinquished their positions in 2007, and "Speaker Newt Gingrich" hasn't been Speaker of the House for over a decade. Only Congressman Ron Paul currently holds his title's position.

Yet the former three still hold onto their previous titles. Why? "On the campaign trail, and especially at the beginning of the election, using a candidate’s previous official title is a way of quickly identifying the person and signaling respect for her or his credentials," Meeks writes.

A candidate's name can be equally revealing of their campaign strategy. One need only think of Hillary Rodham Clinton dropping her maiden name (Rodham) — possibly to pander to married women,  Meeks writes.

The Elks are so retro, they're hip again. The 150-year old club, which until recently seemed to be seeing its sunset, is being revitalized by young adults in their 20s and 30s, reports Seattle Times staff reporter, Jennifer Sullivan.

What do young people see in these clubs, where members frequently partake in bingo? Something that appeals to everyone, of course: cheap drinks, good views of Elliott Bay and the Space Needle, and gym facilities.

Another draw for socially-conscious youngsters: The Elks devotion to charity work. The group plans chili cook-offs, potlucks and group leaps into Puget Sound in the dead of winter to raise money for various causes.

Winnie the Pooh seemed to have it right with his simple life of honey scavenging. But what the lovable stuffed bear probably didn't realize is that his honey habit was more than likely an addiction. According to Atlantic contributor, Robert Lustic, sugar is a drug that activates the pleasure centers of the brain and, ultimately, leaves one feeling empty and depressed. Lustic is also a pediatric neuroendocrinologist, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, and former chairman of the obesity task force of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society. (With a title like that, who's to argue with him?)

Lustic claims that sugar is especially dangerous to the poor, who can't afford many of the high-faluting addictions enjoyed by the wealthy — money, power, gambling, and cocaine. Cheap, highly processed, and completely satisfying junk food, however, is readily available, along with their negative health effects.

"As our obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and dementia rates continue to skyrocket due to our sugar over-consumption," Lustic writes, "the idea that a bottle of Coke holds the key to happiness is nothing short of pulp propaganda."

News Tribune, "MultiCare, Franciscan health systems no longer shielded from business tax"

The Sacramento Bee, "Stern: Kings will make substantial financial contribution to arena deal"

UW Election Eye 2012, "What do you call a presidential candidate? Names, titles, and the art of political name-calling"

Seattle Times, "Elk lodges are hot again in Seattle"

The Atlantic, "The Most Unhappy of Pleasures: This Is Your Brain on Sugar"


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