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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Univision\'s Nightly News, a Plea for Presidential Debate on Latino Issues


Univision will use its nightly news broadcast on Wednesday to plead with both presidential campaigns to accommodate an additional debate, on Univision, directed at the issues of concern to Latino viewers.

The hosts of “Noticiero Univision,” Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas, will directly urge Mitt Romney and President Obama to participate in a debate or forum for its Hispanic viewers, according to the network.

Their efforts come hours after the Commission on Presidential Debates denied Univision's request to host a forum with the candidates that would emphasize issues like immigration and health care that rank high on Hispanic voters' list of concerns.

“We recognize there are many organizations and individuals who wish they had been included in our moderator selection,” Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, told Politico Wednesday afternoon. “Debate arithmetic mean s that it is impossible to accommodate all of them.”

That response came after Univision's chief executive, Randy Falco, issued a letter to the debate commission expressing his “disappointment on behalf of the millions of Hispanics who do not have a voice in the upcoming presidential debates.” He asked Ms. Brown to consider adding a Hispanic-targeted “forum” with bilingual moderators, Mr. Ramos and Ms. Salinas.

“Since you have already made your decision on moderators for the debates and have neglected to have someone speak credibly to the concerns of Hispanics in America, Univision would be willing to create a forum,” Mr. Falco wrote.

Many political experts consider the Hispanic vote to be critical in this election cycle because of its pivotal role in states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Mr. Falco said Hispanics nationwide made up 8.7 percent of all voters and 16.5 percent in Florida.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have Spanish-langua ge ads on the air in key states and have appeared on Mr. Ramos's Sunday morning current affairs talk show “Al Punto.”

Amy Chozick is The Times's corporate media reporter. Follow @amychozick on Twitter.

Wells Fargo Offers E-Receipts to Branch Customers


Lots of retailers - the online kind and the brick-and-mortar version - have begun offering electronic receipts for purchases to help cut down on paper clutter in your wallet. So why shouldn't banks get into the act, too?

Wells Fargo & Company, which has been offering e-mail receipts at its A.T.M.'s for two years, is now offering the option to its online customers who visit its bank branches to make deposits or withdrawals with the help of a teller.

Currently, about 12 percent of all A.T.M. transactions generate an e-receipt, a bank spokeswoman, Richele Messick, said. The bank has about 12,000 A.T.M.'s and 6,000 branches. She said she wasn't aware of any other banks that offer the option.

The electronic receipt feature is available to online banking customers, who may have the receipt sent to their online banking inbox or to another personal e-mail account they designate. (The service will probably be made available eventually to all customers, even if they don't use online banking, Ms. Messick said.) When customers log into their inbox, they see an e-mail message from Wells Fargo Online titled, “Your Wells Fargo Receipt.” The message includes an electronic version of the receipt.

The bank says electronic receipts offer an added convenience for customers and helps conserve paper. “People more and more are managing their finances online, and they want to have things in one place,” Ms. Messick said.

Do you use electronic receipts? Do you find them helpful or are they hard to manage, too?

Ryan Meets With Adelson, and They Talk Budget


LAS VEGAS - At a private gathering with Representative Paul D. Ryan, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner and Republican super-donor, offered no public remarks and, somewhat surprisingly, his pet cause of Israel was not part of the conversation, according to an attendee.

Mr. Adelson, who has pledged up to $100 million to defeat President Obama, invited about three dozen wealthy potential donors to a meeting with Mr. Ryan in a luxury suite with a guarded elevator at his Venetian hotel here on Tuesday evening. Outside, several hundred members of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. chanted and waved signs reading “Paul Ryan: Hustling for the 1 percent.”

Mr. Adelson is a longtime contributor to Republicans, especially those who are staunch supporters of Israel, though he appears not to have contributed before to Mr. Ryan's Congressional races or political action committee. He kept any personal advocacy on behalf of Mr. Ryan very quiet on Wednesday.

“I saw no dialogue between the two of them,'' said the attendee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because guests were told not to discuss details of the meeting.

The gathering was hastily arranged by phone rather than written invitations, and guests were not asked for contributions. One Republican strategist in Las Vegas described it as a “donor maintenance” event to introduce Mr. Ryan to potential backers.

The meeting was in the Paiza Club, a private casino and dining room on the hotel's 36th floor, built primarily for Asian high-rollers with six- and seven-figure credit lines.

The 30 to 40 guests spoke with Mr. Ryan individually and in groups, cocktail-party style. The chief focus was his budget blueprint that the House has passed and that would effectively shift Medicare toward an entitlement program, lower tax rates and deeply cut many social programs, in an effort to balance the federal checkbook.

“He's full of energy, he's very smart, he is a wizard on the budget,'' said the attendee. “Most of us care very deeply about the position America is in right now as far as economic health, and he is very good at having specific answers.''

Although Mr. Ryan may be willing to discuss budget specifics behind closed doors, since being named the vice-presidential nominee he has avoided any public mention of his budget plan â€" an aggressive road map that was the reason many commentators called Mr. Romney's selection of him as his running mate bold and potentially risky. Mr. Obama is seeking to use the Ryan budget plan against the Republican ticket in the battle for independent voters.

Mr. Romney, who has endorsed the Ryan budget, seemed to back away Wednesday from one provision - a cut of about $700 billion from the future growth of Medicare, which is similar to cuts in the health care law Mr. Obama signed in 2010.

“The president's cuts of $716 billion to Medicare, those cuts are going to be restored if I become president and Paul Ryan becomes vice president,” Mr. Romney told CBS News.

Asked if he was running on Mr. Ryan's budget or his own, Mr. Romney said: “My budget, of course. I'm the one running for president.”

Veterinarian Surprises Florida\'s Stearns in Republican Primary


A huge cash advantage and a shift to the ideological right were not enough to secure a primary victory for Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, who lost his bid for a 13th term to a Tea Party-backed veterinarian who has never held public office.

Mr. Stearns conceded the race on Wednesday to his rival, Ted Yoho, a self-described “Christian and conservative Republican,” after it became clear that uncounted ballots would not be enough to turn the race in his favor.

“Based upon the results from last night, it would appear that there are not enough provisional ballots to make up the difference for me to win this primary election,” Mr. Stearns said in a statement, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Therefore, I am conceding the election to Ted Yoho, and I talked with him, wishing him the best in his effort to represent the wonderful people of north central Florida.”

Complete but unofficial results from Tuesday's Republican primary in the Third Congressional District showed Mr. Stearns lagging behind Mr. Yoho 34.4 percent to 33.1 percent with 829 votes between them.

Mr. Yoho will face J.R. Gaillot, a political consultant who is running as a Democrat, in the general election.

Mr. Yoho, 57, had already claimed victory in the race on Tuesday night.

“I'm going to thank God,” Mr. Yoho told the Tampa Bay Times. “I'm going to do a Tebow right here,” he said, referring to the New York Jets quarterback who kneels on one knee and says a short prayer after scoring a touchdown.

Mr. Yoho's victory is a stunning upset for Mr. Stearns, who enjoyed a huge cash advantage and had not been considered endangered, even after redistricting forced him to run in a newly drawn Gainesville-area district that was more conservative.

Campaign finance reports show Mr. Stearns's campaign coffers stuffed with more than $2 million as of July 25, compared with the less than $130, 000 in Mr. Yoho's account at the same time. He also benefited from endorsements from Tea Party heartthrobs like Representatives Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and Allen West of Florida.

But he suffered some missteps in his campaign. In March, he was recorded at a town-hall-style meeting expressing doubts about the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate. He had focused much of his energy on another rival, State Senator Steve Olerich, instead of Mr. Yoho.

Mr. Stearns, 71, is the chairman of the investigations subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In that capacity, he emerged as a top antagonist to Democrats and liberal groups as he steered investigations into the Obama administration's dealings with the failed solar energy company Solyndra and an inquiry into whether Planned Parenthood had used federal funds to provide abortions.

“I am disappointed that I won't be able to contin ue my investigations of the Obama administration such as the risky loan guarantee to Solyndra and holding Planned Parenthood accountable to the taxpayers,” he said in his concession statement. “There is so much left to do in conducting oversight over the White House and the president's growing expansion of government into our lives.”

Mr. Yoho fed off conservative activists' anti-incumbent sentiment, labeling his opponent a career politician. His first campaign ad featured actors dressed as politicians eating from a pig trough.

“Career politicians got us in this mess, but all they do is throw mud at each other,” Mr. Yoho said in the ad. He promised to leave office after four terms.

On Medicare, Obama Plays Offense


DUBUQUE, Iowa - With Mitt Romney on the attack over Medicare, President Obama entered the fight on Wednesday, catapulting the popular entitlements program to the top of the presidential campaign.

The president, his aides said, will use the last day of his three-day bus tour of Iowa Wednesday to go on the offense against Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Mr. Obama “will lay out the choice between his plan and the Romney-Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it,” Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman, told reporters while traveling to Dubuque.

Mr. Ryan wrote two budgets approved by the House that would alter the Medicare program for future retirees.

That Mr. Obama would personally join the melee was a foregone conclusion when Mr. Romney picked Mr. Ryan as his running mate, ensuring that Democrats would try to take advantage of an issue that has long been viewed as a political vulnerability for Republicans.

In recent days, Mr. Romney has been trying to turn that vulnerability into an asset. The Republicans released a television commercial on Tuesday asserting that the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan was better for older Americans. “Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for ‘Obamacare.' So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that's not for you,” the ad says.

What the ad doesn't say is that the $716 billion in cuts don't affect the benefits that seniors are guaranteed under the program.

Mr. Obama will be making that clear on Wednesday, aides said. The Republican proposals, Ms. Psaki said, would leave new retirees “with nothing but a voucher in place of the guaranteed benefits they rely on today.” Actually, the newest iteration of Mr. Ryan's plan would leave seniors the choice of staying in the traditional program or g etting a subsidy to buy private insurance.

Mr. Obama will be joined by Michelle Obama, the first lady, at two campaign stops Wednesday before heading back to Washington.

From the Magazine: Roseland, Where Obama the Politician Was Born

Antonio Bolfo/Reportage for The New York Times

A street in Roseland, the struggling Chicago neighborhood where a young Barack Obama worked as a community organizer. More Photos '

From the back seat of Steve Gates's white Pontiac, Monique Robbins spotted Jasmine Coleman walking home from school alone. It was an icy December afternoon on Chicago's South Side, and Jasmine's only protection against the wind was a thin purple jacket. She looked cold. Gates pulled the car over to the curb, and Robbins hollered at Jasmine to get in.

Jasmine was 16, and Robbins and Gates, who were both in their 30s, were her neighbors. All three of them lived in or around Roseland, a patch of distinctly subprime Chicago real estate that stretches from 89th Street to 115th Street, way down past the last stop on the El. Fifty years ago, Roseland was a prosperous part of Chicago, home to thousands of blue-collar workers, most of them white, employed by the South Side's many steel and manufacturing plants. But the plants closed long ago, the white residents all moved away and Roseland has become one of the worst-off parts of the city by just about every measure you can think of: unemployment rate, dropout rate, murder rate or just the barren, empty feel of the streets.

Looking out for Jasmine and young people like her in Roseland and other blighted sections of Chicago was Gates's full-time job. He worked for an organization called Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), acting as a mentor to the students in public high schools who were deemed most “at risk.” I met Gates, who is a laid-back, burly guy with tight dreadlocks and penetrating pale gray eyes, in the fall of 2010, and for several months he let me watch him at work, becoming, in the process, my unofficial guide to Roseland.

Gates pulled the car up in front of Jasmine's house on Lafayette Avenue, and Jasmine ran in to fetch her brother, Damien, who was also enrolled in YAP. Their house looked small and battered. The metal gate guarding the front door was torn off its hinges, and there was a fist-size hole in the front window. Damien, a handsome 17-year-old, sauntered out to the car behind Jasmine, and the two of them piled in the back while Gates kept the car running for warmth.

“Man, it's critical in our house,” Damien said with a little laugh.

“It's cold!” Jasmine said. “You go in there, you think you still outside.”

Damien and Jasmine's mother had been fighting a long, losing battle with the gas company. The previous summer, after she failed to pay the heating bill, the company shut off the gas line. Now there was no heat at all, winter had arrived in force and that hole in the living-room window let in a steady stream of frigid air all night long.

Gates still lives in the house he grew up in, just a few blocks away from Damien and Jasmine's home. Things in Roseland were pretty bad when he was growing up, Gates told me, but they are much worse today, and the web of poverty that he saw kids like Damien and Jasmine caught up in, a paralyzing mix of unforgiving economic conditions, destructive social influences and shortsighted personal decisions, seemed almost impossible for them to escape. Some days, it seemed to Gates that he was making progress with the kids in YAP, but often the job felt hopeless and depressing, an unbroken cycle of hospital visits, school-expulsion hearings, court dates and funerals. It was taking a toll on his mood and his health, he told me. He and his girlfriend of 15 years had just broken up. He was smoking way too many Newports. He couldn't sleep.

One reason Gates's job was so daunting was the simple fact of the multitude of problems the students were facing. One had just been sent to boot camp for stealing a car. Jasmine's ex-boyfriend was shot and killed one night while sitting in a car in a snowstorm. A girl in YAP told me she was so angry at her mother for not protecting her from the sexual predations of a relative that she used to come to school just to find somebody to fight. “Just when you think it can't get worse, it gets worse,” Gates said.

Ann Romney Refuses to Release More Tax Returns


In an interview scheduled to be broadcast Thursday evening on NBC's “Rock Center,” Ann Romney, the wife of the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, found herself facing some of the same questions that have dogged her husband's campaign in recent weeks - namely, about the Romney family's tax returns.

“There's nothing we're hiding,” Mrs. Romney told Natalie Morales, a correspondent for the show.

In a video clip released in advance of the show, Ms. Morales broached the subject of the Romneys' finances and tax returns by acknowledging that it's “not a question that's welcome,” before asking, “Why not be transparent?”

“Have you seen how we're attacked?” Mrs. Romney said, leaning for ward in her chair. “Have you seen what's happened?”

Mr. Romney has agreed to release just two years of his tax returns - from 2011, and an estimate from 2012 - but when pressed by Ms. Morales, Mrs. Romney stood her ground, echoing some of her husband's talking points.

“We have been very transparent to what's legally required of us,” she said. “But the more we release, the more we get attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed. And so we have done what's legally required, and there's going to be no more tax releases given.”

Mrs. Romney added that her husband had released financial disclosures during his time as governor of Massachusetts, and voters and reporters were welcome to look through those forms.

“Mitt is honest. His integrity is just golden,” she said. “Beyond paying our taxes, we also give 10 percent of our income to charity.” (Mrs. Romney was referring to the 10 percent of their income that the family tit hes to the Mormon Church, in accordance with church tradition).

Explaining the couple's reticence to release more information, she added, “It will just give them more ammunition.”

When Ms. Morales mentioned that some voters were worried about tax shelters and overseas accounts in her and Mr. Romney's name, Mrs. Romney reiterated her initial point that the couple was following the rule of the law.

“There's nothing we're hiding,” she said. “We've had a blind trust for how many years. We don't even know what's in there.”
She joked: “I'll be curious to see what's in there, too.”

Senate Democrats Shift Strategy on Ryan


The Democrats' war on Representative Paul D. Ryan has moved into the Upper Chamber, and it is extending beyond the battle over Medicare.

House Republicans have already told their members to embrace Mr. Ryan and the Medicare fight he represents, because it is one they think they can win while Democrats, who are seeking to retake the House, assert that Mr. Ryan is a liability. Senate Democrats will now try to extend the fight to other policy areas.

On Wednesday, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Democrats' message man, sent a memo to all of his Democratic colleagues urging them to use the August recess to move beyond the slogan that Mr. Ryan would “end Medicare as we know it” and to make the case that Mr. Ryan is disingenuous in his positions on deficit reduction.

“The case for Paul Ryan goes something like this: Even if you disagree with his policy ideas, his proposals at least represent a good-faith appeal for deficit reduction that is both serious and statesmanlike,” the memo said.

“This appears to be the message Mitt Romney hopes to sell with his risky selection of Ryan as his running mate. But it is an utter myth. In Ryan's budget, the savings achieved by his plan to privatize Medicare and gut investments in the middle class do not go toward reducing the deficit, but rather to pay for further tax cuts for the wealthy. Ryan is a nice man, but a deficit hawk he is not,” it continued.

Pushing the fiscal argument will, Mr. Schumer added, “increase the likelihood that Romney's choice of Ryan will backfire.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, has warned his members that this sort of attack was coming in House races, no matter the vice-presidential nominee. In a conference call with his Republican colleagues Tuesday night, Mr. Boehner emphasized the importance of being on the offensive on the Medicare issue, arguing that at the end of the day it will cut to their party's favor because they have an actual plan to tout.

“The pundits are buzzing that with Paul on the ticket, the Democrats are going to attack us on Medicare. Well, here's a news flash: they were gonna do that anyway. The best defense on Medicare is a good offense. And Paul Ryan gives us the ability to play offense,” Mr. Boehner told his colleagues, according to aides.

Just as Mr. Schumer wants to pivot to the deficit discussion, so too do Republicans have their own message agenda which focuses on the continued high unemployment rate. “Where are the jobs,” is a catch phrase Mr. Ryan has adopted for the trail.

Mr. Schumer and other Democrats clearly think the Medicare issue is a winner for them. “As familiar as these points may seem by now, we must keep repeating them - for two reasons,” he said. “First, many general election voters are only now turning their attention to the particulars of the political debate. Second, since choosing Ryan, Romney is rather absurdly seeking to distance himself from the most controversial aspects of Ryan's plan. We must do our part to make Romney own the Ryan plan in its entirety.”

Mr. Schumer said pointing out Mr. Ryan's support for Medicare Part D, an expensive entitlement program addition, and his vote against the Simpson-Bowles framework on deficit reduction are other good things to point out.

Checking Account Fees Rising, Analysis Finds


Feel as if you're paying more for your checking account? You probably are.

A semiannual study by MoneyRates.com found that checking account fees of all sorts climbed in the first half of the year.

Previous studies have shown varied results, with some fees rising and others falling. But the latest review shows a “comprehensive trend toward checking accounts becoming more expensive,” MoneyRates found.

The analysis is based on banks that are included in the MoneyRates Index, which includes the 50 largest banks by deposits and an equal number of midsize institutions.

In part, banks are raising other fees to make up for lower revenue from debit-card swipe fees, which are now limited, said Richard Barrington, senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com. More regulation and a slower lending environment are also helping to crimp bank revenue, he said, so banks are trying to make it up in other ways.

Among banks that charge a monthly fee, the average crept up to $12.08 from $11.28. That totals roughly $145 a year, unless you can avoid the fee by keeping a minimum required balance.

Overdraft fees climbed, too, to an average of nearly $30 from about $29.

The study found that online banks and smaller banks are offering lower fees than their larger counterparts. So if you are unhappy with your bank's fees, you may find a better deal by shopping around. Checking accounts with no monthly fee were offered by more than two-thirds of the online banks in the survey, compared with roughly a third of traditional banks.

Among traditional banks, nearly half of smaller banks (those with less than $5 billion in deposits) offere d checking accounts with no monthly fee, while only 21 percent of the accounts offered at larger banks (those with more than $25 billion in deposits) offered them.

The average monthly maintenance fee was just under $14 at large banks, while it was less than $10 at small banks.

Have you noticed fees creeping up at your bank? Are you considering switching to a smaller bank, or an online-only bank? Or are you trying to maintain the minimum required balance in your account?

For Romney, a New Running Mate May Mean a New, Less Elliptical, Workout, Too


COLUMBUS, Ohio - Mitt Romney is a man of steady and immutable habits. He drinks Cherry Coke Zero. He eats peanut butter and honey sandwiches. And he works out on an elliptical machine.

Day, after day, after day.

But as the bromance between Mr. Romney and his vice-presidential choice, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, blossoms into new territory, even the candidate's most treasured rituals are open to tinkering at the hands of his younger (and fitter) running mate.

Mr. Romney said on Wednesday that, after years of arm-and-leg swooshing elliptical monotony (he occasionally hops on a treadmill, too), he is willing to experiment with Mr. Ryan's sweat-inducing and muscle-confusing exercis e routine, known as P90X, which involves weights, rubber bands and scary-sounding exertions like “ab ripper X.”

“I might have him show me how to do it someday,” he told the hosts of CBS's “This Morning” during an interview here, confessing “I have never tried that.”

In what seemed like a case of workout envy, Mr. Romney observed “That workout of his, he's in pretty good shape.”

When the interview wrapped up, Mr. Romney headed to - where else? - the gym of a hotel in downtown Columbus. True to tradition, he jumped on StarTrac elliptical machine and swooshed back-and-forth for 45 minutes.

Pennsylvania Judge Upholds Voter ID Law


A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday refused to grant an injunction on a new voter identification law that Democrats say could harm President Obama's re-election chances by unfairly targeting minorities, college students and others in a key swing state.

The decision by Robert Simpson, a commonwealth court judge, clears the way for Pennsylvania to require voters in the Nov. 6 general election to produce photo identification before they are allowed to cast ballots.

Opponents, who had challenged the law's constitutionality, had asked Judge Simpson to delay the law's imposition until after the election. Supporters say the law, variations of which have been passed in other states in recent years, is necessary to prevent voting fraud.

The Pennsylvania law was approved earlier this year by the state Legislature along party lines and signed into law in March by Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican.

The American Civi l Liberties Union is expected to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. A tie would affirm the law.

Wednesday Reading: Strategies for Hot-Weather Exercise


A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.

The Early Word: Influences


Today's Times

  • Duke Energy, the nation's largest utility company, emerged as a lead cheerleader for the Democratic convention to be held in Charlotte. Jim Rutenberg writes that the company's financial future stands to be greatly influenced by the Obama administration's environmental proposals.
  • Medicare has been abruptly thrust into the top tier of Congressional campaign issues since the selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Carl Hulse writes. Congressional Democrats and other analysts say this development could transform the fight for control of Congress.
  • With the votes of Medicare's 50 million beneficiaries up for grabs, the brawl over Medicare also continued in the presidential race Tuesday. Robert Pear looks at the battle between presidential candidates over how to rein in Medicare costs without hurting beneficiaries.
  • President Obama was in Iowa again Tuesday, hoping to reignite the flame that kicked off his first presidential bid, Helene Cooper reports.
  • Four days after his selection as Mitt Romney's running mate, Mr. Ryan was in Las Vegas for a sit-down with Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul, Trip Gabriel and Nicholas Confessore report. The meeting shows that Mr. Ryan not only helps bring ideological ballast to the Republican ticket, he is expected to have major appeal to donors as well.

Around the Web

  • Three Democratic lawmakers are trying to ban all questions related to the Simpson-Bowles budget plan from being asked in the first presidential debate, Politico reports.
  • Mr. Ryan spoke from one in Iowa on Monday, and now Slate magazine delves into the history of politicians' love affairs with the soapbox.

Happenings in Washington

  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will meet with Susan E. Rice , ambassador to the United Nations, at the State Department.
  • Kathleen Turner, Academy Award winner and Tony Award nominee, will host a program about the legendary newspaper columnist Molly Ivins at the Newseum.