Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Partial solar eclipse starts Thursday, ends Wednesday


updated 2 hours 54 minutes ago

Wednesday brings a partial solar eclipse to parts of Asia and North America, but it comes with an odd twist: At one point, the eclipse will be occurring at "midnight" between the two days this week.

During the eclipse, the outer shadow of the moon (called the penumbra) will first fall on northeast Asia as the eclipse begins, and then work its way east across the International Date Line. Because of that timing, this eclipse will have the quirky circumstance of beginning on the morning of Thursday (June 2) and ending on the evening of Wednesday (June 1).

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For the North Americans, we might call this the "Alcan Eclipse" since it will be visible primarily from Alaska and northern Canada.

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Is someone snooping your health records? New rule will tell you who


45 minutes ago

Ever wonder if someone at the doctor’s office or hospital has been snooping through your health care records? A new federal health care rule could tell you.

Health care patients will have a broad new tool to keep their personal information under wraps if a proposed Department of Health and Human Services rule is adopted. The update to federal health care privacy laws proposed on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services would give patients the right to see the name of any person who accessed their electronic health records, and what he or she did with them. The so-called "access report" would be available from some health care providers as soon as Jan. 1, 2013. It would function much like a free credit report -- consumers would have the right to ask for one such report for free every year.

The change comes as scrutiny over hackers and data leaks is at an all-time high, following high-profile electronic attacks on Lockheed Martin, Sony and the security firm RSA.

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House GOP Goes After Tax Overpayments To Low-Income Families, Lets Tax-Dodging Corporations Off The Hook


By Pat Garofalo on May 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

In a hearing this morning, the House Ways and Means Committee examined “improper payments” made in the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which distributed $64 billion in refundable tax credits last year to low-income families during the worst recession in 70 years. “Refundable tax credits not only reduce an individual’s tax liability, they can also result in payments from the government when the credits exceed one’s tax liability; meaning that millions of Americans have been able to eliminate any income tax liability and even get a check back from the government via refundable credits,” said oversight subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA).

So instead of going after tax scofflaws that effectively rob the national treasury of hundreds of billions a year, House Republicans have decided to target one of the country’s largest anti-poverty programs, one that Ronald Reagan called “the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.”

Of course, the IRS and Congress must be vigilant about all errors — and some overpayments undeniably occur with the EITC — but policymakers who are serious about reducing the deficit could focus on far larger examples of waste in our federal tax system. For example, the government loses $100 billion every year in revenue to offshore tax havens. It loses another $90 billion when multinational corporations shift their profits out of the country. While low- and middle-income families sacrifice to pay their share, dozens of profitable U.S. corporations like Exxon Mobil and Boeing manipulate loopholes to dodge federal taxes altogether.

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Santorum: Extended Unemployment Benefits Create ‘Too Big Of A Social Safety Net’


By Pat Garofalo on May 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm

In response to the Great Recession and the continuing high unemployment that has followed in its wake, Congress wisely extended unemployment benefits beyond the traditional 27 weeks, with unemployed workers in the hardest hit states eligible for up to 99 weeks of benefits. These extended benefits were put in place over the strong objections of Republicans, who first filibustered an extension on the Senate floor, and then only agreed to approve the extension if it were paired with tax cuts for the wealthy.

Proving that the GOP is not through picking on those who lost their jobs during the recession, GOP 2012 hopeful Rick Santorum appeared on CNBC this morning where he claimed that extended unemployment benefits have created “too big of a social safety net”:

I’m talking about success from the standpoint of traditional capitalist success, in investing, in innovating, in succeeding, and not saying, well, we’re going to tax you more, we’re going to regulate you more because you’re successful. No. And by the way 99 weeks of unemployment — I always use the example, in Pennsylvania we have one of our big, favored companies is Hershey. I remind people that Milton Hershey, the person who started the Hershey chocolate company, went bankrupt four times. Now imagine if back in the late 1800′s you’d had a program of 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Would there ever have been a Hershey chocolate company? And probably the answer is no! So we’re not doing favors by creating too big of a safety net, nor are we doing any favors by hammering businesses who are successful.

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You could also find plenty of examples of people who have committed suicide or crimes because they couldn't find a job.

And there have been riots in other countries recently because of unemployment.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Scott Walker Gives Wisconsin Nursing Homes a Virtual Green Light to Abuse Granny and Grandpa


Submitted by mark karlin on Thu, 05/26/2011 - 11:10am.

Apparently, Scott Walker doesn't care much about stopping granny or grandpa from being abused in nursing homes.

BuzzFlash at Truthout is not kidding.

Walker recently signed the euphemistically named, "The Wisconsin Omnibus Tort Reform Act." Provisions in the law would prohibit lawyers from using state investigations of abuse in legal cases. According to Lu Dubose of the Washington Spectator, Walker is also protecting nursing homes from being criminally charged:

Incident reports have also been placed beyond the reach of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which conducts criminal investigations and prosecutions of nursing homes and assisted living centers.

"This is payback time," Bremer Muggli said. "The governor is settling the score with trial lawyers who didn't support him. And he's taking care of his donors, the for-profit nursing home operators, especially the big ones like Kindred." (Kindred Healthcare is a Fortune 500 company that operates almost 700 health-care facilities across the United States.)

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Added song to Reverbnation

I finally got my song "Spirit, Draw Near" to Reverbnation.

David Leonard, who produced my songs "Waffle House Blues" and "The Oneness of Being" converted it into a form (sample rate and bit rate) Reverbnation would accept.

David did all performing on Waffle House Blues, including voice.
He performed all instrumentals on "The Oneness of Being"
His web site is

Besides being a great music producer, he also does forensic audio enhancement of sound recordings to be used as evidence in legal proceedings!

He is a both very talented and very nice.

"Spirit, Draw Near" was recorded at a performance by the Georgia Gospelites, with Ernie Richmond singing.
I wondered why he sang the first verse twice, instead of doing the 2nd verse. Turned out somehow he didn't have the 2nd verse. I hope sometime to get a recording with the 2nd verse included.


More than 100 Libyan army members defect from Gadhafi

These people are true patriots, as well as decent human being.
I hope for the well-being of the Libyan people.


updated 1 hour 36 minutes ago

ROME — Eight Libyan army officers appeared in Rome on Monday, saying they were part of a group of as many as 120 military officials and soldiers who defected from Moammar Gadhafi's side in recent days.

The eight officers — five generals, two colonels and a major — spoke at a news conference organized by the Italian government, which is one of a handful of countries that has recognized the Libyan rebel movement fighting Gaddafi as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Libyan U.N. ambassador Abdurrahman Shalgam, who has also defected from Gadhafi, said all 120 of the military personnel were outside Libya now but he did not say where they were.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cops shoot Latino marine 71 times deny him care in Arizona


An Arizona SWAT team shot 26 year-old José Guerena, 26, 71 times, wounding him about 60, as they executed a search warrant on his home. The former Marine who served two tours in Iraq was killed when he saw men with guns advancing on his home. Police accidentally shot a gun; the resulting confusion lead to Guerena bleeding out and dying in his own home. Police refused to allow medical personnel in to help save his life. The Daily Mail reported:

An ambulance reportedly arrived in a few minutes, but medical personnel were not allowed inside to see Mr Guerena for an hour and 14 minutes, the family’s attorney, Chris Scileppi, told ABC News affiliate KGUN.

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We're in Dire Straits When the Only Employment Sector Catching Fire Is in Unpaid Internships


May 20, 2011 |

Here's a particularly nasty sign that the economy is still weaker than Donald Trump's presidential run was: The United States still counts a depressing 24 million unemployed currently hunting for a full-time job, and the only employment sector really catching fire is unpaid jobs and internships, which have steadily increased to fill the undignified void. Whether you're a new college graduate or an unemployed veteran of the pre-recession employment landscape, you're now either fighting for a shrinking pool of new low-paying positions or plenty of gratis gigs where you won't ever see a dime for your earnest blood, sweat and tears.

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More Money, Better Health?


ScienceDaily (May 27, 2011) — A new study from George Mason University and the Urban Institute reveals that greater spending on medical services means better overall health for Medicare participants.

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Previous reports showed that Medicare spending varies greatly by geographic area, but with little to show for it-the health outcomes for people who live in expensive geographic areas are not necessarily better than those who live in less expensive geographic areas. As a result, policymakers have considered limiting Medicare payments in high-cost areas.

But, as described in their recent study, "Medical Spending and the Health of the Elderly," the research team found that spending more on Medicare medical expenses actually resulted in greater survival and a better overall health score, using an index that measures perceived health and activity limitations

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"Over this three-year period-controlling for people's health when they first come into the survey and new diagnoses they may have had over the course of the three years-what was their health like at the end of the observation period? And did that vary with how much medical care they received as individuals?" Hadley asks.

The statistical analysis indicates that the individuals' health did vary with their medical care spending. Over a three-year span, for a 10 percent increase in medical spending, there was 1.9 percent increase in the patient's health score, called the Health and Activity Limitations Index and a 1.5 percent greater survival probability.

The researchers classify this finding as a "modest effect" but stress that "the key thing is that we did find a positive relationship as opposed to other studies which have suggested that there's no relationship between how much care a person receives and what their health outcomes are.

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Flavor-boosting MSG linked to unexplained weight gain


pdated 5/27/2011 4:52:38 PM ET

Share Print Font:
The flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), most often associated with Chinese food and after-dinner headaches, may also be enhancing waistlines, a new study finds.

Researchers found that people who eat more MSG are more likely to be overweight or obese. And the increased risk wasn't simply because people were stuffing themselves with MSG-rich foods. The link between high MSG intake and being overweight held even after accounting for the total number of calories people ate.

Ka He, a nutrition expert at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who led the study, said that although the risk of weight gain attributable to MSG was modest, the implications for public health are substantial. "Everybody eats it," He told Reuters Health.

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Misconceptions and Realities About Who Pays Taxes


By Chuck Marr and Brian Highsmith
May 26, 2011

A recent finding by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation that 51 percent of households owed no federal income tax in 2009 [1] is being used to advance the argument that low- and moderate-income families do not pay sufficient taxes. Apart from the fact that most of those who make this argument also call for maintaining or increasing all of the tax cuts of recent years for people at the top of the income scale, the 51 percent figure, its significance, and its policy implications are widely misunderstood.

The 51 percent figure is an anomaly that reflects the unique circumstances of 2009, when the recession greatly swelled the number of Americans with low incomes and when temporary tax cuts created by the 2009 Recovery Act — including the “Making Work Pay” tax credit and an exclusion from tax of the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits — were in effect. Together, these developments removed millions of Americans from the federal income tax rolls. Both of these temporary tax measures have since expired.

In a more typical year, 35 percent to 40 percent of households owe no federal income tax. In 2007, the figure was 37.9 percent. [2]

The 51 percent figure covers only the federal income tax and ignores the substantial amounts of other federal taxes — especially the payroll tax — that many of these households pay . As a result, it greatly overstates the share of households that do not pay any federal taxes. Data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center show only about 14 percent of households paid neither federal income tax nor payroll tax in 2009, despite the high unemployment and temporary tax cuts that marked that year.[3]

This percentage would be even lower if federal excise taxes on gasoline and other items were taken into account.

Most of the people who pay neither federal income tax nor payroll taxes are low-income people who are elderly, unable to work due to a serious disability, or students, most of whom subsequently become taxpayers. (In a year like 2009, this group also includes a significant number of people who have been unemployed the entire year and cannot find work.)

Moreover, low-income households as a whole do, in fact, pay federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data show that the poorest fifth of households as a group paid an average of 4 percent of their incomes in federal taxes in 2007 (the latest year for which these data are available), not an insignificant amount given how modest these households’ incomes are — the poorest fifth of households had average income of $18,400 in 2007. [4] The next-to-the bottom fifth — those with incomes between $20,500 and $34,300 in 2007 — paid an average of 10 percent of their incomes in federal taxes.

Even these figures understate low-income households’ total tax burden, because these households also pay substantial state and local taxes. Data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy show that the poorest fifth of households paid a stunning 12.3 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes in 2010.[5]

When all federal, state, and local taxes are taken into account,the bottom fifth of households paid 16.3 percent of their incomes in taxes, on average, in 2010. The second-poorest fifth paid 20.7 percent. [6]

It also is important to consider who the people are who don’t owe federal income tax in a given year.

Some 70 percent of people who owe no federal income tax in a given year are low-income working households. These people do pay payroll taxes, as well as federal excise taxes (and, as noted, state and local taxes). Most of these working households also pay federal income tax in other years, when their incomes are higher — which can be seen by looking at the low-income working households that receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (see next bullet).

The majority of EITC recipients receive the credit for only one or two years at a time, such as when their incomes drop due to a temporary layoff; they pay federal income tax in other years. In fact, EITC recipients pay much more in federal income taxes over time than they receive in EITC benefits. A leading study of this issue found that taxpayers who claimed the EITC at least once during an 18-year period paid a net $473 billion in federal income tax over that period (in 2006 dollars). [7] This finding shows that — while in any single year some taxpayers will receive refundable tax credits whose value may exceed their payroll tax liability — EITC recipients as a group pay significant federal income taxes over time in addition to the payroll and state and local taxes they pay each year.

The fact that most people who do not pay federal income tax in a given year do pay substantial amounts of other taxes, and also are net federal income taxpayers over time, belies the claim that households that don’t owe income tax will form bad policy judgments because they ostensibly “don’t have any skin in the game.”

The federal tax system is progressive overall, but state and local tax systems are regressive and undo a significant share of that progressivity. There is nothing wrong with having one part of the overall tax system shield low- and moderate-income households, who pay substantial amounts of other taxes and who generally pay federal income tax as well in other years.
To significantly increase the share of households that owe federal income tax, policymakers would have to take such steps as lowering the personal exemption or standard deduction — which would tax many low-income working families into, or deeper into, poverty; weakening the EITC or Child Tax Credit, which would significantly increase child poverty while reducing incentives for work over welfare; or paring back the tax exclusion for Social Security benefits, which would subject more seniors with small, fixed incomes to the income tax.
This analysis now explores these issues in more detail.

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Health Reform Essential to Young Adults in U.S.: Nearly Half Can't Afford Needed Health Care


ScienceDaily (May 26, 2011) — Young adults ages 19-29 are struggling to get the health care they need more than almost any other age group, demonstrating the need for Affordable Care Act provisions, some already in place, that will expand health insurance and make it more affordable, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The report found that in 2010, 45 percent of young adults couldn't afford the care they needed, meaning they didn't fill a prescription, didn't go to the doctor when they were sick, or skipped a test, treatment, or follow-up visit, up from 32 percent who went without needed care because of cost in 2001.

The Affordable Care Act is already making a difference for young adults. Early reports by five national insurance carriers indicate that more than 600,000 young adults have obtained new insurance coverage since a key provision allowing them to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26 went into effect in 2010. The authors say that number is certain to climb through the summer as young adults graduate from high school and college and more employers open enrollment to this age group. Young adults will see the biggest benefits from health reform in 2014 when expanded Medicaid coverage begins and health insurance exchanges with premium subsidies for private plans are launched, providing nearly universal coverage for the nearly 15 million 19- to 29-year-olds who are uninsured

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Scientists Generates Hydrogen as an Energy Source from Ethanol and Sunlight


ScienceDaily (May 26, 2011) — A team of researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) and the University of Auckland (New Zealand) uses ethanol and sunlight to generate hydrogen as an energy source.

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An economical process based on renewable resources Until now, solar-generated hydrogen techniques have largely relied on water. However, despite water being cheap and abundant, these techniques have garnered poor results and the materials they require are expensive. As an alternative, the researchers suggest using ethanol, a renewable and economical resource that is easily obtained from agricultural and forest waste (100 grams of glucose generate approximately 50 grams of ethanol).

The photocatalyst is also much cheaper and simpler to use than the materials employed in techniques with water as it uses very small gold particles, ranging in size from 2 to 12 nanometres (1 metre = 1 million nanometres). These nanoparticles capture the free electrons generated when titanium oxide -- used as a support base -- comes into contact with sunlight

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Nearly One in Five Young Adults Has High Blood Pressure, Study Shows


ScienceDaily (May 25, 2011) — The number of young adults in the United States with high blood pressure may be much higher than previously reported, according to a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 14,000 men and women between 24 and 32 years old in 2008 from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, known as Add Health, funded by the National Institutes of Health. They found 19 percent had elevated blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension. Only about half of the participants with elevated blood pressure had ever been told by a health-care provider that they had the condition.

"The findings are significant because they indicate that many young adults are at risk of developing heart disease, but are unaware that they have hypertension," said Quynh Nguyen, a doctoral student at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health and the study's lead author. Hypertension is a strong risk factor for stroke and coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death for adults in the U.S.

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Music Therapy Relieves Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Improves Patients’ Quality of Life


ScienceDaily (May 26, 2011) — University of Granada researchers have shown that music therapy combined with other relaxation techniques based on guided imagery significantly reduces pain, depression and anxiety, and improves sleep among patients suffering from fibromyalgia. Thus, this therapy enhances patients' quality of life. This experimental study has shown that these two techniques enhance the well-being and personal power of patients with fibromyalgia.

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Adequate Sleep and Less Stress May Help With Weight Loss


ScienceDaily (May 26, 2011) — If you want to increase your chances of losing weight, reduce your stress level and get adequate sleep. A new Kaiser Permanente study found that people trying to lose at least 10 pounds were more likely to reach that goal if they had lower stress levels and slept more than six hours but not more than eight hours a night.

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High Risk of Parkinson's Disease for People Exposed to Pesticides Near Workplace: Pesticide Ziram Implicated as Possible Cause for Disease


ScienceDaily (May 26, 2011) — In April 2009, researchers at UCLA announced they had discovered a link between Parkinson's disease and two chemicals commonly sprayed on crops to fight pests.

That epidemiological study didn't examine farmers who constantly work with pesticides but people who simply lived near where farm fields were sprayed with the fungicide maneb and the herbicide paraquat. It found that the risk for Parkinson's disease for these people increased by 75 percent

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They found that the combined exposure to ziram, maneb and paraquat near any workplace increased the risk of Parkinson's disease (PD) threefold, while combined exposure to ziram and paraquat alone was associated with an 80 percent increase in risk. The results appear in the current online edition of the European Journal of Epidemiology

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Children Who Sleep Less Are More Likely to Be Overweight


ScienceDaily (May 26, 2011) — Young children who do not get enough sleep are at increased risk of becoming overweight, even after taking account of lifestyle factors, finds a study published online in the British Medical Journal.

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The Impact of Pollution on Worker Productivity


Joshua S. Graff Zivin, Matthew J. Neidell
NBER Working Paper No. 17004
Issued in April 2011

Environmental protection is typically cast as a tax on the labor market and the economy in general. Since a large body of evidence links pollution with poor health, and health is an important part of human capital, efforts to reduce pollution could plausibly be viewed as an investment in human capital and thus a tool for promoting economic growth. While a handful of studies have documented the impacts of pollution on labor supply, this paper is the first to rigorously assess the less visible but likely more pervasive impacts on worker productivity. In particular, we exploit a novel panel dataset of daily farm worker output as recorded under piece rate contracts merged with data on environmental conditions to relate the plausibly exogenous daily variations in ozone with worker productivity. We find robust evidence that ozone levels well below federal air quality standards have a significant impact on productivity: a 10 ppb decrease in ozone concentrations increases worker productivity by 4.2 percent.

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Stress May Increase Risk for Alzheimer's Disease


ScienceDaily (May 26, 2011) — Protein deposits in nerve cells are a typical feature of Alzheimer's disease: the excessive alteration of the tau protein through the addition of phosphate groups -- a process known as hyperphosphorylation -- causes the protein in the cells to aggregate into clumps. As a result, nerve cells die, particularly in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays an important role in learning and memory, as well as in the prefrontal cortex which regulates higher cognitive functions.

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Study Confirms Link Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and COPD


ScienceDaily (May 27, 2011) — Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are two times more likely to have concurrent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than healthy controls -- an association which was sustained even when variables such as age, gender, smoking and obesity were controlled for, according to a study presented at the EULAR 2011 Annual Congress.

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Joplin Humane Society need help

web site for the Joplin, Mo Humane Society.
It was hit Sunday by the deadliest twister to hit the U.S. since 1947.


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Song still not uploaded

I still couldn't upload my new song to

I'll have to try later.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Senate Republicans Vote Overwhelmingly To End Medicare


Brian Beutler | May 25, 2011, 5:52PM

The GOP continued its bloody walk into the Medicare buzzsaw Wednesday, when 40 out of 47 Senate Republicans voted for the House GOP budget, and its plan to phase out and privatize the popular entitlement program.

The budget failed by a vote of 57-40. But the roll call illustrates that Medicare privatization -- along with deep cuts to Medicaid and other social services -- remains the consensus position of the GOP despite the growing political backlash against them.

Voting with all of the Democrats were Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) -- both 2012 incumbents -- along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against it because it wasn't radical enough.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) did not vote.

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Bacteria Use Caffeine as Food Source


ScienceDaily (May 25, 2011) — A new bacterium that uses caffeine for food has been discovered by a doctoral student at the University of Iowa. The bacterium uses newly discovered digestive enzymes to break down the caffeine, which allows it to live and grow.

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Slow posting

I'm not getting as much posted today, because I'm trying to upload another song to reverbnation.com/patriciashannon

It seems to be hanging up.
It's possible I'll have to spend some time dealing with it tomorrow.


Women Who Start Prenatal Vitamins Early Are Less Likely to Have Children With Autism


ScienceDaily (May 24, 2011) — Women who reported not taking a daily prenatal vitamin immediately before and during the first month of pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder as women who did take the supplements -- and the associated risk rose to seven times as great when combined with a high-risk genetic make-up, a study by researchers at the UC Davis MIND Institute has found.

"Mothers of children with autism were significantly less likely than those of typically developing children to report having taken prenatal vitamins during the three months before and the first month of pregnancy," said Rebecca J. Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine and the study's lead author.

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Cantor wasn’t kidding about Missouri disaster aid

Since it is very likely that global warming/climate change is making natural disasters worse,Discouraging the production of fuel-efficient vehicles is really dumb.


May 25, 2011 10:00 AM
By Steve Benen

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced yesterday that congressional Republicans would like to help the victims of the brutal tornado in Joplin, Missouri, but emergency aid wouldn’t be automatic. The community would get its federal disaster relief, just as soon as the GOP received a ransom: off-setting spending cuts.

He wasn’t kidding. When Tom DeLay was the House Majority Leader, Republican agreed that emergency disaster relief should be immediate. But by 2011 standards, Tom DeLay was a moderate.

And sure enough, House Republicans yesterday approved a $1 billion aid package, right after they got their payoff.

House Republicans, who require spending cuts whenever new spending is proposed, said the FEMA funds would be paid by cutting $1.5 billion from an Energy Department loan program for the production of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Yes, of course. Discouraging the production of fuel-efficient vehicles when gas is $4 a gallon, in order to help a decimated American community, certainly makes sense, doesn’t it?

Did voters elect congressional Republicans or comic-book villains?

Or as Oliver Willis put it, “Let me repeat: Republicans say that the gods of spending cuts must be appeased before we assist our fellow Americans in a time of disaster…. The Republican party has so far gone around the bend, it’s beginning to resemble an actual monster.”

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) of Missouri was on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” last night, and the segment is well worth watching.

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Brisk Walking May Help Men With Prostate Cancer


ScienceDaily (May 24, 2011) — A study of 1,455 U.S. men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer has found a link between brisk walking and lowered risk of prostate cancer progression, according to scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The scientists found that men who walked briskly -- at least three miles per hour -- for at least three hours per week after diagnosis were nearly 60 percent less likely to develop biochemical markers of cancer recurrence or need a second round of treatment for prostate cancer.

"The important point was the intensity of the activity -- the walking had to be brisk for men to experience a benefit," said Erin Richman, ScD, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF who is the first author on the study, published in the journal Cancer Research

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Rob Woodall Won't Give Up Government Health Care 'Because It's Free' (VIDEO)

It's not free to the taxpayers.


First Posted: 05/25/11 01:23 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Moments after preaching extreme self-reliance to one of his constituents, a Georgia Republican told a gathering in his district that he will continue to rely on government-subsidized health care "because it's free."

Freshman Rep. Rob Woodall, who served as chief of staff to his predecessor, made national news earlier this week for comments he made, captured on video by Patch.com, to a retired constituent who told him her company does not provide retiree benefits.

"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"

The exchange continued. In video provided to HuffPost by another constituent, Woodall was asked why -- if he believes in such self reliance -- he doesn't forgo his government health care plan.

"I have a question about taking care of you. You have government subsidized health care, but you are not obligated to take that if you don't want to. Why aren't you going out on the fee market in the state where you're a resident and buy your own health care? Be an example," said a constituent in the new video.

"Your question is," Woodall responded, "my government's willing to give me lots and lots of stuff for free and why don't I take it?" [patriotism?]

The woman followed up. "Why aren't you leading by example, and go and get it in a single-subscriber plan, like you want everybody else to have, because you want to end employer-sponsored health plans and government-sponsored health plans. You said so in a letter to me, that your goal is to get rid of the employer-sponsored health care [system]. So why aren't you leading by example and go out yourself, decline the government health plan and go to Blue Cross/Blue Shield or whoever, and get one for yourself and see how tough it is," she said. "You don't have any pre-existing conditions, I guess, you haven't had any life-threatening illnesses like I had last year."

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see also

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Florida pushing new fees for most Medicaid recipients

I looked at the state of Florida requirements for getting Medicaid, and it appears only families with children, or elderly or disabled adults are eligible for Medicaid in Florida. So a poor, non-elderly single person is out of luck already.


By Phil Galewitz | Kaiser Health News

Florida wants to be the first state in the nation to charge most of its Medicaid recipients a monthly premium as well as $100 for using the ER for routine care. But even supporters acknowledge that the new fees, which the state legislature passed recently as part of a sweeping Medicaid measure, face long odds of getting federal approval.

Today, four states — Illinois, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin — have Medicaid premiums. But those fees, in accordance with federal law, apply only to people who make more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level — $16,335 annually for an individual or $33,525 for a family of four.

Florida, however, wants to impose the $10 monthly premium on all Medicaid enrollees who aren't in nursing homes. At least two-thirds of Medicaid recipients in Florida, and in the U.S. as a whole, have incomes of less than 150 percent of the poverty level, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is a program of the foundation.)

About a dozen states charge Medicaid co-pays for routine care in emergency rooms, but none has fees higher than $20 for people who earn less than the poverty level. Seven of these states charge the fee only for recipients who make above 150 percent of the poverty level.

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How 'Reckless' Greed Contributed To Financial Crisis

I notice that the NPR description singles out the managers of Fannie Mae, but an excerpt from the book itself is not so one-sided.


May 24, 2011

[NPR's interpretation]

Gretchen Morgenson, who covers world financial markets for The New York Times, has been untangling the complex foreclosure mess and efforts to reform government regulations on Wall Street for several years.

Now Morgenson and co-author Joshua Rosner have written a book about the origins of the financial meltdown. In Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, Morgenson and Rosner describe how regulators failed to control greed and recklessness on Wall Street.

Morgenson focuses on the managers of Fannie Mae, the government-supported mortgage giant. She writes that CEO James Johnson built Fannie Mae "into the largest and most powerful financial institution in the world."

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[Excerpt from book]

Recognizing that a disaster this large could not have occurred overnight, Josh and I set out to detail who did it, how, and why. We found that this was a crisis that crept up, building almost imperceptibly over the past two decades. More disturbing, it was the result of actions taken by people at the height of power in both the public and the private sectors, people who continue, even now, to hold sway in the corridors of Washington and Wall Street.

Reckless Endangerment is a story of what happens when unfettered risk taking, with an eye to huge personal paydays, gains the upper hand in corporate executive suites and on Wall Street trading floors. It is a story of the consequences of regulators who are captured by the institutions they are charged with regulating. And it is a story of what happens when Washington decides, in its infinite wisdom, that every living, breathing citizen should own a home.

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Before and after picture of Joplin intersection


This is a pair of photos of the same intersection in Joplin MO, before and after the tornado hit. Devastation. They got the before picture from Google


Safety Net Fraying for the Very Poorest


May 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I recently described a new study finding that public programs keep tens of millions of Americans out of poverty. The same study illustrates that after policymakers weakened certain elements of the safety net, deep poverty — that is, the share of the population with incomes below half the poverty line — rose sharply.

The study, which goes beyond traditional poverty data in a number of ways (such as by counting non-cash public benefits like food stamps and tax provisions like the Earned Income Tax Credit), finds that poverty fell over the past two decades but deep poverty rose.

The poverty rate declined from 15.3 percent in 1984 to 13.5 percent in 2004. (In 2004, the poverty line for a family of four was $19,307 a year or $1,609 a month; the study uses monthly rather than annual poverty data.)
Yet the deep poverty rate rose by nearly half during this period, from 4.5 percent to 6.6 percent.
Key to the rise in deep poverty was a weakening of the safety net for the most vulnerable. The average value of government assistance to people with virtually no other income plummeted between 1984 and 2004, falling by 38 percent for single parents and by 41 percent for families experiencing joblessness, after adjusting for inflation.

Those losses were part of a broad shift in the safety net. “Over time,” the study states, “we find that [public] expenditures have shifted toward the disabled and the elderly, and away from those with the lowest incomes and toward those with higher incomes.” Put another way, “there has been a double redistribution of expenditure in the U.S. . . . from the very poor to the less poor and near poor and, across groups . . . to the elderly and disabled.”

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Joplin tornado toll at 116; dangerous tornado outbreak expected today

Latest news I saw was 117 dead.


Posted by: JeffMasters, 1:50 PM GMT on May 24, 2011
Severe weather is expected again today in storm-torn Joplin, Missouri, as rescuers sift through the rubble of their town that was devastated by the deadliest U.S. tornado since at least 1947. A violent high-end EF-4 tornado with winds of 190 – 198 mph carved a 7-mile long, ¾ to one mile-wide path of near-total destruction through Joplin beginning at 5:41pm CDT Sunday evening. In nine terrifying minutes, the tornado killed at least 116 people, injured 500 more, and obliterated huge sections of the town. Damage from the tornado is so severe that pavement was ripped from the ground, and the level of damage is so extreme that this is likely to surpass last month's Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado as the costliest tornado of all-time.

ccording to our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt in his post, The World's Deadliest Tornadoes, the death toll of 116 from the Joplin tornado ranks as the deadliest U.S. tornado since at least 1947, when a violent F-5 tornado hit Woodward, Oklahoma, killing 181. However, it is now thought that the Woodward tornado was actually one of a series of tornadoes, and the tornado that hit Woodward killed 107 people. If that is true, we have to back all the way to 1936 to find the last U.S. tornado that killed more people than 2011's Joplin tornado. In 1936, violent tornadoes a day apart hit Tupelo Mississippi (216 killed), and Gainesville, Georgia (203 killed.) NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) rates this year's Joplin tornado as the 9th deadliest U.S. tornado of all-time.

This year's tornado death toll now stands at 482, making it the deadliest year for tornadoes in the U.S. since 1953, when 519 people died. That year, three heavily populated cities received direct hits by violent tornadoes. Waco, Texas (114 killed), Flint, Michigan (115 killed), and Worcester, Massachusetts (89 – 94 killed) all were hit by violent F-4 or F-5 tornadoes. A similar bad tornado year occurred in 1936, when violent tornadoes hit Tupelo Mississippi (216 killed), and Gainesville, Georgia (203 killed.)

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Posted on June 4th, 2009 by Jason Rosenbaum in Profits Before People

Medical bills are behind more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday in a report they said demonstrates that healthcare reform is on the wrong track.

More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine.

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Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, on Medicare

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, made a vigorous ideological defense of ending Medicare as it currently exists, telling seniors at a local town hall that they ought not look to the government to provide health care for the elderly just because their private employer doesn't offer health benefits for retirees.

A Woodall constituent raised a practical obstacle to obtaining coverage in the private market within the confines of an employer-based health insurance system: What happens when you retire?

"The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees," the woman told the congressman in video captured a local Patch reporter in Dacula, Ga.

"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"

Large portions of the crowd responded enthusiastically to the congressman's barb, with some giving him a standing ovation, underscoring the fierce divisions within the electorate.

William Robert Woodall III, who goes by "Rob," doesn't appear to have been referring literally to himself, but rather speaking figuratively. It's a good thing, because financial records show the 41-year-old congressman has done very little to take care of himself in his retirement. Woodall's 2009 financial disclosure forms, filed with the House of Representatives, show that his two largest IRAs have between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of assets, hardly the type of nest egg that would be able to cover the health care costs associated with aging absent government health care.

Woodall was chief of staff to former Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), a job taxpayers shelled out more than $100,000 a year for in 2002, rising to more than $150,000 in 2009, plus gold-plated health and retirement benefits. Woodall, who has taken his former boss's seat, now makes $174,000 a year with generous benefits.

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More Solid Proof That Obamacare Is Working


May. 23 2011 - 1:17 pm

Recent data provided by the nation’s largest health insurance companies reveals that a provision of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – is bringing big numbers of the uninsured into the health care insurance system.

And they are precisely the uninsured that we want– the young people who tend not to get sick.

The provision of the law that permits young adults under 26, long the largest uninsured demographic in the country, to remain on their parents’ health insurance program resulted in at least 600,000 newly insured Americans during the first quarter of 2011.

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This is very good news – particularly for those in the individual and small group markets that tend not to ‘self-insure’ as the larger corporations tend to do.

It is also very good news for those of us who write a large check every month for our health coverage.

For starters, every one of the young immortals we add to the rolls of the insured is one less young adult who will turn to the emergency room to fix a broken leg and then find themselves unable to pay the bill – leaving it to the rest of us to pay the tab.

Because the under 26 crowd tends not to get sick, adding them to the insurance pools helps bring the very balance that was intended by the new law. The more healthy people available to pay for those in the pool who are ill (translation- the older people), the better the system works and the lower our premium charges should go.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Wildlife in Trouble from Oil Palm Plantations

Palm Plantations are increasing due to the use of palm oil in bio-fuel.


ScienceDaily (May 22, 2011) — Forest fragmentation driven by demand for palm oil is having a catastrophic effect on multiple levels of biodiversity, scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered.

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Ulcer Bacteria May Contribute to Development of Parkinson's Disease


ScienceDaily (May 23, 2011) — The stomach bacteria responsible for ulcers could also play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease according to research presented May 22 at the 111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"Infection of late middle-aged mice with a particular strain of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori results in development of Parkinson's disease symptoms after 3-5 months," says Traci Testerman of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, who presented the research. "Our findings suggest that H. pylori infection could play a signficant role in the development of Parkinson's disease in humans."

Physicians have noted a correlation between stomach ulcers and Parkinson's disease as far back as the 1960s, before it was even known that H. pylori was the cause of ulcers. More recently, a number of studies found that people with Parkinson's disease were more likely to be infected with the bacterium, and that Parkinson's patients who were treated and cured of infection showed slight improvement compared to controls that continued to deteriorate.

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Is Fear Deficit a Harbinger of Future Psychopaths?


ScienceDaily (May 21, 2011) — Psychopaths are charming, but they often get themselves and others in big trouble; their willingness to break social norms and lack of remorse means they are often at risk for crimes and other irresponsible behaviors.

One hypothesis on how psychopathy works is that it has to do with a fear deficit. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that children with a particular risk factor for psychopathy don't register fear as quickly as healthy children.

The hypothesis that psychopaths don't feel or recognize fear dates back to the 1950s, says the study's primary author Patrick D. Sylvers, of the University of Washington. "What happens is you're born without that fear, so when your parents try to socialize you, you don't really respond appropriately because you're not scared." By the same token, if you hurt a peer and they give you a fearful look, "most of us would learn from that and back off," but a child with developing psychopathy would keep tormenting their classmate.

Some recent research has suggested that the problem is attention; that people with psychopathy just don't pay attention to fearful faces. That would mean you might be able to help troubled children recognize fear by training them to look into people's eyes, for example. Some studies have suggested that might help

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The researchers were most interested in "callous unemotionality" -- a lack of regard for others' feelings. Children who rank high on callous unemotionality are at risk of developing psychopathy later

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he researchers also found that children in the study tended to respond more slowly to faces showing disgust, another threatening emotion -- in this case, one that suggests something is toxic or otherwise wrong. Sylvers says psychological scientists should consider that psychopathy may not be related just to fearlessness, but to a more general problem with processing threats


Epstein-Barr Virus Could Be Risk Factor for Multiple Sclerosis


ScienceDaily (May 22, 2011) — At present, while there is no cause known for multiple sclerosis, patients with MS seem to have genetic vulnerability to certain environmental factors that could trigger this condition, such as the Epstein-Barr virus. Scientists at the University of Granada have found a link between the Epstein-Barr virus -- which belongs to the herpes viruses family –- and the development of this condition.

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Why You Shouldn't Trust Speaker Boehner's "150 Economists"


May 20, 2011 3:07 pm ET

Over the last three months, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has repeatedly touted a letter he sent to President Obama in February signed by 150 American economists opposed to the administration's economic policies. The list of economists seems to suggest that experts in the field agree with Boehner. But a closer inspection reveals that many have made baseless predictions in the past, some endorse fringe economic ideas, many are employed by entities that receive funding from the Koch brothers, and others have used extreme partisan rhetoric to attack President Obama and other Democrats. Worse, 43 of the 150 economists previously signed a letter stating President Bush's tax cuts were "fiscally responsible." Boehner was hoping for credibility, but many of these economists are just not credible, even by the standards of conservative economics.

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Wealth, Income, and Power

I recommend reading the whole article. A lot of good information


by G. William Domhoff
September 2005 (updated January 2011)

This document presents details on the wealth and income distributions in the United States, and explains how we use these two distributions as power indicators.

Some of the information may come as a surprise to many people. In fact, I know it will be a surprise and then some, because of a recent study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) showing that most Americans (high income or low income, female or male, young or old, Republican or Democrat) have no idea just how concentrated the wealth distribution actually is. More on that a bit later.

As far as the income distribution, the most amazing numbers on income inequality will come last, showing the dramatic change in the ratio of the average CEO's paycheck to that of the average factory worker over the past 40 years.

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So far there are only tentative projections -- based on the price of housing and stock in July 2009 -- on the effects of the Great Recession on the wealth distribution. They suggest that average Americans have been hit much harder than wealthy Americans. Edward Wolff, the economist we draw upon the most in this document, concludes that there has been an "astounding" 36.1% drop in the wealth (marketable assets) of the median household since the peak of the housing bubble in 2007. By contrast, the wealth of the top 1% of households dropped by far less: just 11.1%. So as of April 2010, it looks like the wealth distribution is even more unequal than it was in 2007. (See Wolff, 2010 for more details.)

One final general point before turning to the specifics. People who have looked at this document in the past often asked whether progressive taxation reduces some of the income inequality that exists before taxes are paid. The answer: not by much, if we count all of the taxes that people pay, from sales taxes to property taxes to payroll taxes (in other words, not just income taxes). And the top 1% of income earners, who average over $1 million a year, actually pay a smaller percentage of their incomes to taxes than the 9% just below them. These findings are discussed in detail near the end of this document.

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%.

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Actually, ultra-conservatives and their wealthy financial backers may not have to bother to eliminate what remains of inheritance taxes at the federal level. The rich already have a new way to avoid inheritance taxes forever -- for generations and generations -- thanks to bankers. After Congress passed a reform in 1986 making it impossible for a "trust" to skip a generation before paying inheritance taxes, bankers convinced legislatures in many states to eliminate their "rules against perpetuities," which means that trust funds set up in those states can exist in perpetuity, thereby allowing the trust funds to own new businesses, houses, and much else for descendants of rich people, and even to allow the beneficiaries to avoid payments to creditors when in personal debt or sued for causing accidents and injuries. About $100 billion in trust funds has flowed into those states so far.

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A remarkable study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) reveals that Americans have no idea that the wealth distribution (defined for them in terms of "net worth") is as concentrated as it is. When shown three pie charts representing possible wealth distributions, 90% or more of the 5,522 respondents -- whatever their gender, age, income level, or party affiliation -- thought that the American wealth distribution most resembled one in which the top 20% has about 60% of the wealth. In fact, of course, the top 20% control about 85% of the wealth (refer back to Table 1 and Figure 1 in this document for a more detailed breakdown of the numbers).

Even more striking, they did not come close on the amount of wealth held by the bottom 40% of the population. It's a number I haven't even mentioned so far, and it's shocking: the lowest two quintiles hold just 0.3% of the wealth in the United States. Most people in the survey guessed the figure to be between 8% and 10%, and two dozen academic economists got it wrong too, by guessing about 2% -- seven times too high. Those surveyed did have it about right for what the 20% in the middle have; it's at the top and the bottom that they don't have any idea of what's going on.

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Here are some dramatic facts that sum up how the wealth distribution became even more concentrated between 1983 and 2004, in good part due to the tax cuts for the wealthy and the defeat of labor unions: Of all the new financial wealth created by the American economy in that 21-year-period, fully 42% of it went to the top 1%. A whopping 94% went to the top 20%, which of course means that the bottom 80% received only 6% of all the new financial wealth generated in the United States during the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s

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the top 10% of the world's adults control about 85% of global household wealth -- defined very broadly as all assets (not just financial assets), minus debts. That compares with a figure of 69.8% for the top 10% for the United States. The only industrialized democracy with a higher concentration of wealth in the top 10% than the United States is Switzerland at 71.3%

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As of 2007, income inequality in the United States was at an all-time high for the past 95 years, with the top 0.01% -- that's one-hundredth of one percent -- receiving 6% of all U.S. wages, which is double what it was for that tiny slice in 2000; the top 10% received 49.7%, the highest since 1917 (Saez, 2009). However, in an analysis of 2008 tax returns for the top 0.2% -- that is, those whose income tax returns reported $1,000,000 or more in income (mostly from individuals, but nearly a third from couples) -- it was found that they received 13% of all income, down slightly from 16.1% in 2007 due to the decline in payoffs from financial assets (Norris, 2010).

And the rate of increase is even higher for the very richest of the rich: the top 400 income earners in the United States. According to another analysis by Johnston (2010a), the average income of the top 400 tripled during the Clinton Administration and doubled during the first seven years of the Bush Administration. So by 2007, the top 400 averaged $344.8 million per person, up 31% from an average of $263.3 million just one year earlier.

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We also can look at this information on income and taxes in another way by asking what percentage of all taxes various income levels pay. (This is not the same as the previous question, which asked what percentage of their incomes went to taxes for people at various income levels.) And the answer to this new question can be found in Figure 7. For example, the top 20% receives 59.1% of all income and pays 64.3% of all the taxes, so they aren't carrying a huge extra burden. At the other end, the bottom 20%, which receives 3.5% of all income, pays 1.9% of all taxes.

So the best estimates that can be put together from official government numbers show a little bit of progressivity. But the details on those who earn millions of dollars each year are very hard to come by, because they can stash a large part of their wealth in off-shore tax havens in the Caribbean and little countries in Europe, starting with Switzerland. And there are many loopholes and gimmicks they can use, as summarized with striking examples in Free Lunch and Perfectly Legal, the books by Johnston that were mentioned earlier. For example, Johnston explains the ways in which high earners can hide their money and delay on paying taxes, and then invest for a profit what normally would be paid in taxes.

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The ratio of CEO pay to factory worker pay rose from 42:1 in 1960 to as high as 531:1 in 2000, at the height of the stock market bubble, when CEOs were cashing in big stock options. It was at 411:1 in 2005 and 344:1 in 2007

t's even more revealing to compare the actual rates of increase of the salaries of CEOs and ordinary workers; from 1990 to 2005, CEOs' pay increased almost 300% (adjusted for inflation), while production workers gained a scant 4.3%. The purchasing power of the federal minimum wage actually declined by 9.3%, when inflation is taken into account.

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The process has been explained in detail by a retired CEO of DuPont, Edgar S. Woolard, Jr., who is now chair of the New York Stock Exchange's executive compensation committee. His experience suggests that he knows whereof he speaks, and he speaks because he's concerned that corporate leaders are losing respect in the public mind. He says that the business page chatter about CEO salaries being set by the competition for their services in the executive labor market is "bull." As to the claim that CEOs deserve ever higher salaries because they "create wealth," he describes that rationale as a "joke," says the New York Times (Morgenson, 2005, Section 3, p. 1).

Here's how it works, according to Woolard:

The compensation committee [of the board of directors] talks to an outside consultant who has surveys you could drive a truck through and pay anything you want to pay, to be perfectly honest. The outside consultant talks to the human resources vice president, who talks to the CEO. The CEO says what he'd like to receive. It gets to the human resources person who tells the outside consultant. And it pretty well works out that the CEO gets what he's implied he thinks he deserves, so he will be respected by his peers.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

PG&E can’t show you the money


Steven Weissman, associate director of the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment | 5/18/11

The Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the utility whose natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, California exploded several months ago, failed to spend $183 million on pipeline safety that it had been authorized to collect between 1987 and 1999. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Representative Jackie Speier wants to know what PG&E did with the money. There is one thing that is absolutely clear: she will never find out.

That’s the way of utility ratemaking. A company asks today for money to spend tomorrow, and has to justify its request based on the expenses it expects to undergo. But once rates are approved, the utility can spend the money just about any way it wants. And anything that’s left over can be divvied up among shareholders, or tucked under a mattress. Any effort to track the dollars that were not sent on pipeline inspections and replacement is meaningless.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything interesting to say about the matter. The Chronicle reports that most of the under-spending happened between 1987 and 1995. That is the period of time when PG&E and other utilities were anticipating and preparing for the introduction of competition in the electric generation business. PG&E established first one unregulated affiliate to build power plants around the world and then another to buy up existing plants around the country. Over the course of several years, PG&E shifted billions of dollars from the regulated to the unregulated side of the house. And when the new competitive markets began to collapse in 2000-2001, PG&E took steps to shield those shifted funds from its utility creditors. PG&E did not fare so well in the competitive marketplace, and much of that money was ultimately lost.

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Reducing water use to save energy

Several years ago, when I told a college-educated friend that wasting water was bad for the environment, she was surprised. She thought you just turned on the faucet, and the water came out. And she wasn't joking.


Ethan Elkind, climate change research fellow at the School of Law | 5/21/11

In California, we’re always talking about conserving water, usually because of a drought, and increasingly because of our growing population and likely future of water shortages due to climate change. But research shows another compelling reason: conserving water means conserving energy.

Pumping and treating water is energy-intensive — the state water project, with its big pumps to get water over the Tehachapi Mountains to Southern California, is the state’s single biggest user of electricity. And the energy associated with water use — such as from dishwashers, hot water heaters, and laundry machines — adds up to a lot of pollution and waste. The California Energy Commission estimates that twenty percent of our electricity is associated with water use, mostly by urban customers.

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Proposed GOP budget cuts target tsunami warning centers


March 11, 2011 4:17 PM
Posted by Lucy Madison

The GOP budget plan that passed through the House last month aimed to cut funding for a tsunami warning center that issued a slew of warnings around Japan's devastating earthquake.
Complete Coverage: Earthquake in Japan

The budget, which proposed about $60 billion in budget cuts, would slash funding for the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That would potentially cripple the effectiveness of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, which issued a series of warnings over the past several days regarding the situation in Japan, where an 8.9 magnitude earthquake triggered a massive tsunami along the nation's east coast. (The PTWC is a part of the National Weather Service, which falls under the umbrella of NOAA - the organization responsible for providing tsunami warnings in the U.S.)

The Republican's proposed "continuing resolution" to fund the government, which was defeated in the Senate this week, aimed to cut $1.2 billion - or 21 percent - of President Obama's proposed budget for NOAA, ClimateProgress.org reports.

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Zeroed out: NOAA Climate Service funding axed in budget CR


Posted on April 12, 2011 by Ryan Maue

From the House Appropriations Committee: Summary — Final Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution: PDF

Page 2: Commerce, Justice, Science: “This section of the CR also prohibits funding for: the establishment of a Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.“

Here is the dream website of the NOAA Climate Service.

Now, NOAA can get back to essential services like severe weather warnings, hurricane hunting, and fisheries.

Hopefully people won’t die, as Bill Hopkins, the NWS Employees Organization vice president predicted last month (WUWT post link) if the House’s original budget cuts were implemented:

Bill Hopkins, vice president of the NWS Employees Organization, said the public may be in real danger a [Republican] House bill is passed that would slash The National Weather Service’s budget by $126 million.”It could potentially lead to a loss of lives, not necessarily in San Antonio, but it could in other parts of the county,” Hopkins said.Local NWS offices would likely deal with rolling closures and furloughs, leaving the Corpus Christi NWS office to take over issuing warnings for the San Antonio area.”Not only will they be watching your area, but they will also be watching their area, and there will be no increase in personnel to do this,” Hopkins said.The national NWS office said President Obama has opposed to such harsh cuts. Hopkins said the cuts would significantly affect those along the Gulf Coast.”The National Hurricane Center would be reduced to 32 hours a week,” Hopkins said.There would also be far fewer hurricane hunter flights, which are often vital parts of hurricane forecasts.According to Hopkins, large amounts of weather data would be lost.”Can you imagine flying into an airport and they lose all their surface data? There’s really drastic impacts in this cut,” Hopkins said.


see also:


102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes



So, you’re a Republican that hates taxes? Well, since you do not like taxes or government, please kindly do the following.

1. Do not use Medicare.
2. Do not use Social Security
3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
9. Do not use public restrooms.
10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
13. Do not drink clean water.
14. Do not visit National Parks.
15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.
17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
21. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.
22. Do not apply for food stamps when you can’t feed your children.
23. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.
24. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.
25. Do not apply for any Pell Grants.
26. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal dollars.
27. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.
28. Do not use any product that can trace its development back to NASA.
29. Do not watch the weather provided by the National Weather Service.
30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service.
31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.
32. Do not apply for federal housing.
33. Do not use the internet, which was developed by the military.
34. Do not swim in clean rivers.
35. Do not allow your child to eat school lunches or breakfasts.
36. Do not ask for FEMA assistance when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.
37. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion.
38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.
39. Do not buy firearms that wouldn’t have been developed without the support of the US Government and military. That includes most of them.
40. Do not eat USDA inspected produce and meat.
41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.
42. Do not apply to win a government contract.
43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.
44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons, toxins, etc…by the Consumer Protection Agency.
45. Do not save your money in a bank that is FDIC insured.
46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.
47. Do not use the G.I. Bill to go to college.
48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.
49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Department of Energy.
50. Do not live in homes that are built to code.
51. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.
52. Do not ask for help from the FBI, S.W.A.T, the bomb squad, Homeland Security, State troopers, etc…
53. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever as all state and federal employees are paid with tax dollars.
54. Do not use public libraries.
55. Do not use the US Postal Service.
56. Do not visit the National Archives.
57. Do not visit Presidential Libraries.
58. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.
59. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is FDIC insured.
60. Do not ask the government to help you clean up after a tornado.
61. Do not ask the Department of Agriculture to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.
62. Do not take walks in National Forests.
63. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your oil company.
64. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.
65. Do not seek medical care from places that use federal dollars.
66. Do not use Medicaid.
67. Do not use WIC.
68. Do not use electricity generated by Hoover Dam.
69. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
70. Do not ask the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild levees when they break.
71. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes at sea.
72. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.
73. Do not visit historic landmarks.
74. Do not visit fisheries.
75. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.
76. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.
77. Do not hunt or camp on federal land.
78. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.
79. Do not use public transportation.
80. Do not drink water from public water fountains.
81. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own. Government enforces copyright laws.
82. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.
83. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.
84. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.
85. Do not seek help from the US Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.
86. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside of the United States.
87. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.
88. Do not adopt a child through your local, state, or federal governments.
89.Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or state safety regulators.
90. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the USGS.
91. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.
92. Do not move to any other developed nation, because the taxes are much higher.
93. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the state.
94. Do not use money printed by the US Treasury.
95. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.
96. Do not attend a state university.
97. Do not see any doctor that is licensed through the state.
98. Do not use any water from municipal water systems.
99. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the US government and CDC, reach your house.
100. Do not work for any company that is required to pay its workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
101. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days. Government provides voting booths, election day officials, and voting machines which are paid for with taxes.
102. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.

The fact is, we pay for the lifestyle we expect. Without taxes, our lifestyles would be totally different and much harder. America would be a third world country. The less we pay, the less we get in return. Americans pay less taxes today since 1958 and is ranked 32nd out of 34 of the top tax paying countries. Chile and Mexico are 33rd and 34th. The Republicans are lying when they say that we pay the highest taxes in the world. They are only attacking taxes to reward corporations and the wealthy and to weaken our infrastructure and way of life. So next time you object to paying taxes or fight to abolish taxes for corporations and the wealthy, keep this quote in mind…

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes


Of course, not all government spending is good. But w/o any, we would be back to the days of old people starving to death, and starving children begging in the streets.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

When Prophecy Fails

If the rapture happened, it hasn't taken anybody around here.


by Vaughan Bell
Posted Friday, May 20, 2011, at 3:32 PM ET

Preacher and evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping has announced that Jesus Christ will return to Earth this Saturday, May 21, and many of his followers are traveling the country in preparation for the weekend Rapture. They're undeterred, it seems, by Mr. Camping's dodgy track record with end-of-the-world predictions. (Years ago, he argued at length that the reckoning would come in 1994.) We've yet to learn what motivates people like him to predict (and predict again) the end of the world, but there's a long and unexpected psychological literature on how the faithful make sense of missed appointments with the apocalypse.

The most famous study into doomsday mix-ups was published in a 1956 book by renowned psychologist Leon Festinger and his colleagues called When Prophecy Fails.

[It was out of print for awhile, but is back in print]

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What Festinger failed to understand is that prophecies, per se, almost never fail. They are instead component parts of a complex and interwoven belief system which tends to be very resilient to challenge from outsiders. While the rest of us might focus on the accuracy of an isolated claim as a test of a group's legitimacy, those who are part of that group—and already accept its whole theology—may not be troubled by what seems to them like a minor mismatch. A few people might abandon the group, typically the newest or least-committed adherents, but the vast majority experience little cognitive dissonance and so make only minor adjustments to their beliefs. They carry on, often feeling more spiritually enriched as a result.

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The “Careers” of College Graduates


May 20, 2011 03:48 PM
by Daniel Luzer

In an update, of sorts, to the recent post about the influence of the Recession on current college graduates, Ezra Klein over at the Washington Post is letting us know that it’s actually even worse. Two charts explain it:

[see article for graph]

Leaving aside the salaries (not so surprising that engineering majors make more than education or humanities majors) it’s importantly to look pretty seriously at those light green bars. That represents people who went to college and are now employed in jobs that don’t require them to have gone to college. That’s 22 percent of employed people under age 25. They’re earning less than $16,000 a year on average. That’s depressing. Those are people who have jobs. There are a lot of college graduates out there who don’t have jobs and are not included in this chart.

As Klein puts it:

The implication is clear: If you’re going to college to get a job after college, you’re better off in a major that lends itself to an obvious job after college. Engineering, say, or teaching. A humanities or communications degree turns out to be a much tougher sell.
That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t major in the humanities, of course, but it’s important to be realistic about these things as the recession continues.


So part of the reason the unemployment rates are so much higher for people w/o college is that many of the jobs they could get are being filled by college graduates.
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Delta Gave Georgia GOP Lawmakers Platinum Upgrades, Then Received $30 Million Tax Break


By Zaid Jilani on May 20th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Three weeks ago, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed into law a major tax break for Delta Airlines — the world’s largest commercial airline — that would enable it to purchase jet fuel at a lower rate. The tax break blew a $30 million hole in the state’s budget, and was given to the company at a time when its profits are topping $1 billion:

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a hefty tax break for Delta Air Lines Inc. The bill Deal signed into law on Wednesday will save the Georgia-based airline up to $30 million on jet fuel taxes over two years.

Supporters say the state must work to keep Delta in the state because it brings in millions of dollars in economic development. Opponents said when the tax break on jet fuel originated several years ago, the company was facing bankruptcy but it reported more than $1 billion in profits last year and doesn’t need the help now.

Many wondered why Deal and his GOP allies in the state legislature were so eager to reduce the flow of revenue to the state’s coffers at a time when budget cuts are forcing thousands of elderly Georgians to go without home-delivered meals and cutting deeply into the education system.

Now, a new investigation by Atlanta’s WSB-TV finds one possible answer why the state’s top GOP lawmakers gave Delta such a treasured tax break. The station found that Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R) and five Republican leaders in the legislature were given free “upgrades to platinum or gold frequent flyer status,” which include access to special security lines, far more frequent flyer miles, and free upgrades to first class in some circumstances.

While the company did register the upgrades as campaign contributions, the station argues that the company undervalued them. Delta said the upgrades were worth $1,600-$2,400, but renowned consumer reporter Clark Howard said the actual value of the upgrades was closer to $10,000-$15,000 a year, and that they should be registered as gifts from lobbyists, not simple contributions. Watch WSB’s report about the upgrades:

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Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse


The following was originally posted on CDC Public Health Matters Blog on May 16th, 2011 by Ali S. Khan.

There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.

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So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored). Below are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page.

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Sharing Information Corrupts Wisdom of Crowds


By Brandon Keim May 16, 2011 | 6:30 pm

When people can learn what others think, the wisdom of crowds may veer towards ignorance.

In a new study of crowd wisdom — the statistical phenomenon by which individual biases cancel each other out, distilling hundreds or thousands of individual guesses into uncannily accurate average answers — researchers told test participants about their peers’ guesses. As a result, their group insight went awry.

“Although groups are initially ‘wise,’ knowledge about estimates of others narrows the diversity of opinions to such an extent that it undermines” collective wisdom, wrote researchers led by mathematician Jan Lorenz and sociologist Heiko Rahut of Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 16. “Even mild social influence can undermine the wisdom of crowd effect.”

The effect — perhaps better described as the accuracy of crowds, since it best applies to questions involving quantifiable estimates — has been described for decades, beginning with Francis Galton’s 1907 account of fairgoers guessing an ox’s weight. It reached mainstream prominence with economist James Surowiecki’s 2004 bestseller, The Wisdom of Crowds.

As Surowiecki explained, certain conditions must be met for crowd wisdom to emerge. Members of the crowd ought to have a variety of opinions, and to arrive at those opinions independently.

Take those away, and crowd intelligence fails, as evidenced in some market bubbles. Computer modeling of crowd behavior also hints at dynamics underlying crowd breakdowns, with he balance between information flow and diverse opinions becoming skewed.

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Exacerbating it all was the “confidence effect,” in which students became more certain about their guesses.

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Psychopaths in high places

They could also have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


May 21, 2011

Some psychologists have a theory that many of the world's ills can be blamed on psychopaths in high places.

"Robert Hare, the eminent Canadian psychologist who invented the psychopath checklist, ... recently announced that you're four times more likely to find a psychopath at the top of the corporate ladder than you are walking around in the janitor's office," journalist Jon Ronson tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

Ronson is the author of a new book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. The titular test is called the PCL-R. Invented by Hare, it's a checklist of characteristics common to psychopaths: things like glib and superficial charm, grandiosity, manipulative behavior and lack of remorse.

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Bush is being well compensated for taking care of the ultra-rich while he was in office.


DailyBeast, Friday, May 20, 2011, 3:41am (PDT)
By Peter H. Stone, for The Daily Beast

When George W. Bush declined President Obama's invitation to a ceremony at New York's ground zero after Osama bin Laden was killed, the former president cited his desire to keep a low public profile.

But Bush has been raising his profile in a different, and lucrative, way: He has raked in millions of dollars since leaving office by making scores of speeches that typically earn him six figures a pop.

In the week after Obama's May 5 ground zero event, the 43rd president made time for three separate speeches to hedge-fund executives, a Swiss bank sanctioned for keeping secret bank accounts, and a pro golf event underwritten by the accounting firm involved in the Tyco International financial scandal.

Bush's standard speaking fee is reportedly between $100,000 and $150,000.

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Sherzer notes Bush has made a commitment to speak pro bono at an event at ground zero this upcoming September 11, the 10th anniversary of the deadly al Qaeda attacks.

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