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FARMERS FEAR EVEN GREATER LABOR SHORTAGE UNDER OBAMA POLICY

Farmers already scrambling to find workers in California the nation's leading grower of fruits, vegetables and nuts fear an even greater labor shortage under President Barack Obama's executive action to block some 5 million people from deportation. Thousands of the state's farmworkers, who make up a significant portion of those who will benefit, may choose to leave the uncertainty of their seasonal jobs for steady, year-around work building homes, cooking in restaurants and cleaning hotel rooms.

"This action isn't going to bring new workers to agriculture," said Jason Resnick, vice president and general counsel of the powerful trade association Western Growers. "It's possible that because of this action, agriculture will lose workers without any mechanism to bring in new workers."

Although details of the president's immigration policy have yet to be worked out, Resnick said the agricultural workforce has been declining for a decade. Today, the association estimates there is a 15 to 20 percent shortage of farmworkers, which is driving the industry to call for substantial immigration reform from Congress, such as a sound guest worker program. "Hopefully there will be the opportunity for comprehensive immigration reform," said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. "That's the right thing to do for this country." California's 330,000 farmworkers account for the largest share of the 2.1 million nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas comes in a distant second with less than half of California's farmworkers. Once Obama's executive action starts going into effect next year, it will protect the parents of legal U.S. residents from deportation and expand a 2012 program that shields from deportation people brought into the U.S. illegally as children.

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AMERICANS APPEAR COMFORTABLE WITH POLITICAL DYNASTIES

Again? Really? There are more than 300 million people in America, yet the same two families keep popping up when it comes to picking a president. The possibility of a Bush-Clinton matchup in 2016 is increasingly plausible. After months of hints and speculation, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he's actively exploring a bid for the Republican nomination. And while Hillary Rodham Clinton hasn't revealed her intentions, she's seen as the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Between them, the two potential rivals have three presidents and a U.S. senator in the branches of their family trees. And three governors, as well. Why are these two families so dominant in modern politics? It turns out that even though Americans profess to reject dynasties, in politics they're quite comfortable with familiar names. And a famous name can bring a candidate instant brand recognition, important fund-raising connections and a ready network of political contacts. It may also suggest competence at a time of dysfunction like now.

"Power begets power," says Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan. "Dynasties can self-perpetuate." A political pedigree can have its negatives, though. A prominent surname sometimes carries unsavory associations and the risk of a fatigue factor. Both sides of that equation were evident after Bush, 61, the son and brother of a president and the grandson of a senator, made his announcement. Party activists said the Bush name would help Jeb attract early money, talent and supporters around the country. But Bush's brother, George W. Bush, was hugely unpopular at the end of his presidency six years ago. And while people seem to think more of him now, the recent release of a Senate report on Bush-era torture practices was a ready reminder of past controversies.

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CHRISTIE HAS A WALL ST. ROADBLOCK ON HIS PATH TO THE W. H.

Yesterday I appeared on WNYCs Brian Lehrer Show to discuss several issues related to the New Jersey state pension system, including pay-to-play allegations and the recent resignation of investment chief Bob Grady. Near the end of the interview, Lehrer asked if I agreed with my fellow guest David Sirota of the International Business Times that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may have difficulty raising presidential campaign donations from Wall Street investment firms and their executives (assuming, of course, that he decides to run).

I said that I did, based on Securities and Exchange Commission pay-to-play rules. Lehrer then tweeted out: Some listeners emailed to ask why this would be the case, given that presidential campaign contributions would go to a federally-focused political committee, as opposed to the state-focused committee where Christie could have influence over pension investments. Moreover, the contributions would, in effect, be aimed at relocating Christie from Trenton to Washington, D.C.

The answer can be found in a lengthy document published by the SEC, which foresaw such a scenario. It says:  Under our rule, as proposed, a candidate for federal office could be an official under the rule not because of the office he or she is running for, but as a result of an office he or she currently holds.150 So long as an official has influence over the hiring of investment advisers as a function of his or her current office, contributions by an adviser could have the same effect, regardless to which of the officials campaigns the adviser contributes. For that reason, we are not persuaded that an incumbent state or local official should be excluded from the definition solely because he or she is running for federal office.

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POLL: REPUBLICANS LIKE MITT ROMNEY AND JEB BUSH IN 2016

A new poll released Wednesday morning found Republican voters are still inclined to back some familiar names in the 2016 presidential race. Two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney led the crowded field with 19% support, the Quinnipiac University survey found. The runner-up was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), the brother and son of two recent presidents, with 11%. Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Dr. Ben Carson, a prominent conservative activist, each had 8% support in the poll. No other Republican candidate topped 6%.

Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll, said his firm's survey indicates Republicans are still backing "more moderate," establishment candidates over outspoken conservatives.  "Remember Mitt? Republicans still have Gov. Mitt Romney top of mind and top of the heap in the potential race for the top job," Malloy said in a statement. "But Jeb Bush looms large in second place. With New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie also in the mix, it looks like Republican voters are favoring more moderate choices for 2016."

Romney has repeatedly insisted he will not launch a third bid for the White House, but some of his public statements have left his supporters hopeful he'll change his mind. Meanwhile, Bush has been quietly building the framework for a potential campaign while maintaining he has yet to decide whether or not to run. Quinnipiac also polled the general election and found Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton narrowly leading all of the Republican candidates except Romney, who holds a 45% to 44% lead in the hypothetical matchup. "Hillary Clinton has no real rival from her own party, but there are challengers galore in the Republican lineup, with Romney and Christie looking especially strong against her," Malloy said.

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SARAH PALIN TRIES TO WOO AMERICA WITH CHRISTMAS GUIDE
The former vice-presidential candidate has written a book, Good Tidings and Great Joy, about the real meaning of Christmas. We read it so you don't have to.

Sarah Palin has had a busy week. She has been taking shots at Chris Christie, a potential front-runner for the White House in 2016. She has called the pope "liberal". And as well as all that, she is promoting her new book, Good Tidings and Great Joy Protecting the Heart of Christmas. She launched the book in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, wearing a bespoke sweatshirt that said: "It's OK to wish me a Merry Christmas!" Palin's book is a classic of the "interspersed with" genre. It is a polemic against those seeking to deprive Christians of the right to celebrate Christmas; interspersed with snapshots from the Palin family Christmas album, recipes from the Palin family Christmas recipe book and reminders about why its author would make a great president.

To spare you 256 pages of your life, here's how to "get your Christmas on" (she really says that) the Palin way.

First, find a saw. A tree is best felled if you do it yourself, preferably from your neighbour's plot or your own. If you do have to buy a commercial tree, watch out for the ones sold as "holiday", "pine" or "fir" trees. These are not Christmas trees, and Christmas is all about Christmas! Keep the saw handy: after Christmas you can chop up the tree for your burner.

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