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This week's column was intended to focus on a primer for tomorrow's (Nov. 7) off-year elections. The election preview is below. But I wanted to get something out of the way first.

There still seems to be an idea out there that somehow Vice President Joe Biden is going to leave the 2012 Democratic ticket — by his own choice or otherwise — and be replaced by Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state who has long said she will depart the Cabinet after President Obama's first term.

Part 1 of a four-part series, Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities

The system Congress set up 21 years ago to clean up toxic air pollution still leaves many communities exposed to risky concentrations of benzene, formaldehyde, mercury and many other hazardous chemicals.

Part 2 of a four-part series, Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities

Karen Howe couldn't believe her luck. As a single mom working a minimum-wage job and living with two kids in a crowded one-bedroom apartment in Ponca City, Okla., she was desperate for a three-bedroom house and a lawn.

Howe, a member of the Ponca tribe, was offered tribal housing in a small, tree-lined subdivision of 11 homes on the southern, rural edge of the city.

Thousands of demonstrators ringed the White House on Sunday afternoon, demanding that President Obama deny permission for a proposed pipeline to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in Texas.

Business and labor groups support the Keystone XL project; many environmentalists oppose it. But deliberations in Nebraska may play a decisive role.

Voters in San Francisco will use a system called ranked-choice voting, or instant runoff, to elect a mayor on Tuesday.

The city is one of many around the country, including Portland, Maine, and Telluride, Colo., using the system, which allows voters to rank their favorite candidates; the winner is determined using a complicated mathematical formula. Ranked-choice voting, which eliminates the need for primary elections, will be put to the test in San Francisco, where 16 candidates are on the ballot.

Congress' so-called deficit reduction "supercommittee" is down to the final weeks of deliberations in its efforts to come up with $1.2 trillion in budget savings. And one proposal that keeps cropping up is the idea of raising the eligibility age for Medicare.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney became just the latest to propose it in his speech to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation on Friday.

Babies have been crying and spitting up since time immemorial. But these days many parents ask: Isn't there a drug for that?

"Parents come in often demanding medication," says Eric Hassall, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a half-dozen years ago that preteen girls be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, two things happened.

A lot of parents and some conservative groups were jarred by the idea of immunizing young girls against a sexually transmitted virus. And uptake of the vaccine has been poor — only about a third of 13- to 17-year-old girls have gotten the full three-shot series.

The U.S. Supreme Court steps into a test of the president's foreign policy powers on Monday. It is a test that combines the Middle East conflict with the dueling roles of Congress and the executive branch, plus an added dash of interest over presidential signing statements. At issue in the case is whether Congress can force the executive branch to list Israel as the birthplace for United States citizens born in Jerusalem.

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