Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movers And Sheriff’s Deputies Refuse Bank’s Order To Evict 103-Year-Old Atlanta Woman

There is also a link to a TV news report at this following link:

By Zaid Jilani on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:15 am

Yesterday, a Deutsche Bank branch in Atlanta had requested the eviction of Vita Lee, a 103-year-old Atlanta woman, and her 83-year-old daughter. Both were terrified of being removed from their home of 53 years and had no idea where they’d go next.

But when the movers hired by the bank and police were dispatched to evict the two women, they had a change of heart. In a huge victory for the 99 Percent, the movers “took one look at” Lee and decided not to go through with it.

The stress of the possible eviction made Lee’s daughter ill; she was rushed to the hospital the same day. Lee had one message for Deutsche Bank: “Please don’t come in and disturb me no more. When I’m gone you all can come back and do whatever they want to.”


Kentucky church takes stand against interracial couples

Are we in a time warp.?

By Bill Estep —

Posted: 12:00am on Nov 30, 2011; Modified: 3:55am on Nov 30, 2011

A small Pike County church has voted not to accept interracial couples as members or let them take part in some worship activities.

The decision has caused sharp reaction and disapproval in the Eastern Kentucky county.

"It's not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form," Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, said of the vote.

The issue came up at the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, said Dean Harville, a longtime member who serves as church secretary and clerk.

Attendance is usually around 40 people for a Sunday service at the church in the Johns Creek area, Harville said.

Harville said his daughter Stella Harville, who is pursuing a master's degree in optical engineering at a school in Indiana, brought her fiancé, Ticha Chikuni, to church in June and played the piano as he sang.

The couple performed I Surrender All, said Stella Harville, who is 24.

Chikuni, 29, who works at Georgetown College, is black. He is a native of Zimbabwe.

Stella Harville grew up in the church and was baptized there, but she is not a member, Dean Harville said.

Dean Harville said Melvin Thompson, who had been pastor for many years, told him in August that his daughter and her fiancé couldn't sing at the church again.

Thompson stepped down as pastor in August, citing health issues, but he refused Harville's requests to drop the issue, Harville said.

The new pastor, Stacy Stepp, said the couple could sing at the church if they wanted, Harville said.

Read more:

In early November, Thompson proposed the church go on record saying that while all people were welcome to attend public worship services there, the church did not condone interracial marriage, according to a copy of the recommendation supplied by the Harvilles.

The proposal also said "parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services" or other church functions, with the exception of funerals.

The recommendation "is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve," the copy supplied to the Herald-Leader read.

Members at a business meeting decided to put the matter before the whole church. Last Sunday, nine people voted for the proposal and six voted against it, Harville said.

There were more people in attendance, but some didn't want to take a stand, he said.

Harville said the resolution was motivated by racism and has given the church, the community, the county and even God a black eye.

"It sure ain't Christian. It ain't nothing but the old devil working," Harville said.

Read more:



Warming-Enhanced Texas Drought Is Once in “500 or 1,000 Years … Basically Off the Charts,”

By Stephen Lacey on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm

From October of 2010 through this September 2011, Texas saw its driest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But these historic dry conditions stretch back even further than that.

After examining tree-ring data going back to 1550, researchers at Columbia University found that this year’s drought was only rivaled once in the last 461 years. According to the Palmer Drought Severity Index, a system for measuring wet and dry conditions, the last time Texas experienced a drought this bad was in 1789.

The state’s climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, explained the historical significance of the ongoing drought in an interview with CBS:

“This is basically off the charts. Based on past history, you wouldn’t expect to see this happening in maybe 500 or 1,000 years. One more year and we’re already talking about a drought more severe than anything we’ve ever had. And this will become for them, the drought of record.”

The drought, which Nielsen-Gammon says could stretch over a number of years, has devastated cotton crops, livestock, pumpkin crops, and, as the below CBS story points out, Christmas trees.


As Texas climatologist Katherine Kayhoe put it in an email to Climate Progress, dumping ever-increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is setting the conditions for turning extreme-weather events into history-setting catastrophes:

We often try to pigeonhole an event, such as a drought, storm, or heatwave into one category: either human or natural, but not both. What we have to realise is that our natural variability is now occurring on top of, and interacting with, background conditions that have already been altered by long-term climate change.

As our atmosphere becomes warmer, it can hold more water vapor. Atmospheric circulation patterns shift, bringing more rain to some places and less to others. For example, when a storm comes, in many cases there is more water available in the atmosphere and rainfall is heavier. When a drought comes, often temperatures are already higher than they would have been 50 years ago and so the effects of the drought are magnified by higher evaporation rates.


Although the drought is linked to La Nina, it is also exacerbated by climate warming, Trenberth adds. Human climate change adds “about a 1 percent to 2 percent effect every day in terms of more energy. So after a month or two this mounts up and helps dry things out. At that point all the heat goes into raising temperatures. So it mounts up to a point that once again records get broken. The extent of the extremes would not have occurred without human climate change.”Although the drought is linked to La Nina, it is also exacerbated by climate warming, Trenberth adds. Human climate change adds “about a 1 percent to 2 percent effect every day in terms of more energy. So after a month or two this mounts up and helps dry things out. At that point all the heat goes into raising temperatures. So it mounts up to a point that once again records get broken. The extent of the extremes would not have occurred without human climate change.



Locking Up Children For Life In The US

November 30, 2011 at 11:11 AM

While their peers are finding dates for prom, submitting college applications, and starting families, over 2,500 prisoners sit behind bars in the US without the possibility of parole. What makes these prisoners unique is that they were all sentenced for crimes committed while they were children.

The US is the only country in the world that pursues life imprisonment without parole against children – and it does so regularly. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child expressly prohibits life imprisonment without the possibility of release committed by people under 18 years old. All countries except the USA and Somalia have ratified the Convention.

Americans under the age of 18 are barred from many activities including voting, buying alcohol, gambling, or consenting to most forms of medical treatment, yet children as young as 11 at the time of the crime have faced life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This needs to change.


In the USA, life without parole can be imposed on juvenile offenders as a mandatory punishment – without consideration of mitigating factors such as history of abuse or trauma, degree of involvement in the crime, mental health status or amenability to rehabilitation. A 2005 study found that nearly two-thirds of males and three-quarters of females in the juvenile justice system meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders.

For most of these juvenile offenders life without parole was their first-ever criminal conviction.

Juvenile offenders suffer greatly in adult prisons. One study found that juveniles had the highest rate of suicide among inmates. The study also found that in 2005, 21 percent of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence cases were committed against juveniles who only make up about 1 percent of the prison population. Another study found that juveniles are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than in juvenile facilities.

Racial biases are pervasive throughout our justice system and juvenile sentencing is not immune. In fact, black youth receive life without parole sentences an estimated ten times more than white youth.


While crimes committed by juvenile offenders should not go without repercussions, the law should reflect children’s behavioral malleability and capacity for positive change. It is clear that the US criminal justice system is in dire need of reform. We cannot continue to claim we espouse freedom, equality, and integrity while we sentence children to decades of abuse and inevitable death behind bars.


Senate Votes To Let Military Detain Americans Indefinitely, White House Threatens Veto

by Michael McAuliff & Jennifer Bendery
First Posted: 11/29/11 06:35 PM ET Updated: 11/30/11 12:05 AM ET

The Senate voted Tuesday to keep a controversial provision to let the military detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial -- prompting White House officials to reissue a veto threat.

The measure, part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, was also opposed by civil libertarians on the left and right. But 16 Democrats and an independent joined with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would have killed the provision, voting it down with 61 against, and 37 for it.

"I'm very, very, concerned about having U.S. citizens sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the Senate's most conservative members.

Paul's top complaint is that a terrorism suspect would get just one hearing where the military could assert that the person is a suspected terrorist -- and then they could be locked up for life, without ever formally being charged. The only safety valve is a waiver from the secretary of defense.


Both FBI Director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper backed up the White House with letters sent to congressional leaders. Clapper echoed the charge that the measure creates uncertainty and added that it could prevent intelligence operatives from getting critical information from suspects.

And although the measure allows the secretary of defense to waive it, both Mueller and Clapper said that could prove unworkable in the real world.

Mueller added that it could even stop the FBI from investigating individuals who fall under the definitions of suspected terrorist in the measure.



Indigenous Leaders Will Hand Obama Emergency Mother Earth Accord

Posted: 11/30/11 12:45 PM ET

In the ongoing fight to keep tarsands oil in the ground, no group has been more vocal, more consistent, and more effective than native and indigenous groups on both sides of the border.

When I think back on the year's campaign -- which has at least temporarily halted construction of the pipeline -- many of the faces I see in my mind's eye come from native communities: Melina Laboucan-Massimo in tears describing the death of family and friends from the strange cancers now common across the tarsands territory, or Gitz Crazyboy showing pictures of the wrecked landscape where he grew up. The Indigenous Environmental Network, small and underfunded, was just as key in this fight as the biggest of the Washington green groups.

This Friday, tribal leaders from across the continent will meet for their third summit with the president in Washington, and one of the prime items on the agenda will be the fight against the Keystone Pipeline. They'll talk about the way both the pipeline and the process of approving it have violated treaties, and they'll present the president with a copy of the Mother Earth Accord adopted in a special meeting at the Rosebud reservation a few weeks ago. It's a strong document, full of details about the impacts of tar sands mining and pipeline leaks and carbon emissions -- but it also speaks with the real power of the people who've lived longest and best on this continent. Indeed, it begins by affirming that "the earth is our true mother, our grandmother who gives birth to us and maintains all life."


The next round of tarsands pipelines are slated to go west from the Alberta deposits to the Pacific coast of British Columbia, there to be shipped via tanker to China.



Pepper-Spray Creator Decries Use of Chemical Agent on Peaceful Occupy Wall Street Protesters - Democracy Now! speaks with Kamran Loghman, the expert who developed weapons-grade pepper-spray, who says he was shocked at how police have used the chemical agent on non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide -- including students at University of California, Davis, female protesters in New York City, and an 84-year old activist in Seattle. "I saw it and the first thing that came to my mind wasn't police or students, it was my own children sitting down having an opinion and they're being shot and forced by chemical agents," says Loghman, who in the 1980s helped the FBI develop weapons-grade pepper -spray, and collaborated with police departments to develop guidelines for its use. "The use was just absolutely out of the ordinary and it was not in accordance with any training or policy of any department that I know of. I personally certified 4,000 police officers in the early '80s and '90s and I have never seen this before. That's why I was shocked... I feel is my civic duty to explain to the public that this is not what pepper spray was developed for."

tags: police brutality

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wal-Mart, push for more 'rage-free' packaging

A very good idea!

Nov. 29, 2011
By Roland Jones and Wal-Mart are pushing more manufacturers to change their packaging to cut waste and ease shoppers’ “wrap rage” — the frustration felt when a product is difficult to open, Bloomberg News reports.

The nation’s largest online store and the world’s biggest retailer are asking large vendors like Procter & Gamble and headset maker Plantronics to do away with unnecessary and cumbersome packing materials, the report said.


Citing data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the story also notes that “as much as a third of all consumer trash sent to landfills is estimated to be packaging,” amounting to “more than 800 pounds of packaging waste each year per U.S. consumer.”

“The problem becomes especially acute during the holidays,” Bloomberg added, pointing to EPA data that shows from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste in the U.S. increases by 25 percent.


Frequent 'heading' in soccer can lead to brain injury and cognitive impairment

Public release date: 29-Nov-2011
Contact: Kim Newman
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Frequent 'heading' in soccer can lead to brain injury and cognitive impairment
Einstein Montefiore research suggests frequency threshold for injury that could lead to safety guidelines

November 29, 2011 – (BRONX, NY) – Using advanced imaging techniques and cognitive tests, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center , the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, have shown that repeatedly heading a soccer ball increases the risk for brain injury and cognitive impairment. The imaging portion of the findings was presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago.



Norwegian study finds opening bars longer increases violence

Public release date: 29-Nov-2011
Contact: Jean O'Reilly
Norwegian study finds opening bars longer increases violence

A new study published today in the international journal Addiction demonstrates that even small changes in pub and bar closing hours seem to affect the number of violent incidents. The findings suggest that a one-hour extension of bar closing hours led to an increase of an average of 20 violent cases at night on weekends per 100,000 people per year. This represents an increase in violence of approximately 16 percent.

The results suggest that the effect occurs both ways. In other words, reducing trading hours by one hour leads to a decrease in violence of the same magnitude as the increase in violence seen if closing hours are increased by one hour.

Lead author Professor Ingeborg Rossow said "These findings echo the results from studies from around the world that you see more violence in cities when you extend trading hours."



Affordable Care Act shrinks ‘doughnut hole’ for seniors


November 29, 2011 9:25 AM
By Steve Benen

Most of the Affordable Care Act won’t take effect for a few years — and if court rulings and the 2012 elections go a certain way, it may not take effect at all — but there’s already evidence that the reform law is having a positive effect.

Access to coverage for young adults between 19 and 25, for example, is quickly improving, and the law is also having a positive impact on slowing the growth in Medicare spending — a priority Republicans pretend to care about — as hospitals transition to a greater focus on value and efficiency, required under the ACA.

And this week, we’re learning that seniors are now better able to afford their prescription medications. (thanks to reader N.G. for the tip)

Medicare’s prescription coverage gap is getting noticeably smaller and easier to manage this year for millions of older and disabled people with high drug costs.

The “doughnut hole,” an anxiety-inducing catch in an otherwise popular benefit, will shrink about 40 percent for those unlucky enough to land in it, according to new Medicare figures provided in response to a request from The Associated Press.

The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901, according to Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which handles economic estimates.

A 50 percent discount that the law secured from pharmaceutical companies on brand name drugs yielded an average savings of $581. Medicare also picked up more of the cost of generic drugs, saving an additional $22.

This isn’t just some fluke — the reduced costs for seniors are deliberate consequence of the Affordable Care Act. It’s one of the reasons the AARP supported the law so enthusiastically.

It’s worth noting, of course, that if Republicans repeal the law, seniors will go back to paying more for their medicine, among the many other drastic punishments American families will face. Whether older voters will be aware of this, and whether they might base their votes accordingly, remains unclear.



former Northern Ireland secretary's computer may have been hacked by Murdoch's company

News International is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns News Corps and Fox "News"

Patrick Wintour and Dan Sabbagh, Monday 28 November 2011 16.11 EST

The former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain has been told by the Metropolitan police that they are investigating evidence that his computer, and those of senior Northern Ireland civil servants and intelligence agents, may have been hacked by private detectives working for News International.

The suggestion that the minister's computers, containing sensitive intelligence material, may have been compromised is the most serious sign yet that newspaper malpractice extended far beyond the hacking of mobile phone voicemail, into the realm of other electronic data.

The investigation into computer hacking is being carried out by detectives from Scotland Yard's specialist crime directorate. It is separate, but related to the phone hacking investigation.

Officers from Operation Tuleta are looking at the activities of individuals who were paid by News International, including a firm of private detectives allegedly offering "ethical hacking". They are also looking at allegations about the detectives' connections within News International.

A spokesman for Hain would not directly comment on the news of recent contacts between him and the police but said: "This is a matter of national security and subject to a police investigation so it would not be appropriate to comment."

News International has declined to comment, but said on Monday night that Operation Tuleta was looking at a number of newspapers.



High blood sugar levels in older women linked to colorectal cancer

Public release date: 29-Nov-2011
Contact: Kim Newman
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
High blood sugar levels in older women linked to colorectal cancer

BRONX, NY -- Elevated blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to a study led by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The findings, observed in nearly 5,000 postmenopausal women, appear in the Nov. 29 online edition of the British Journal of Cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S.


Obesity—usually accompanied by elevated blood levels of insulin and glucose—is a known risk factor for colorectal cancer. Researchers have long suspected that obesity's influence on colorectal cancer risk stems from the elevated insulin levels it causes. But the Einstein study suggests that obesity's impact on this cancer may be due to elevated glucose levels, or to some factor correlated with elevated glucose levels.


Industrialization weakens important carbon sink Diminishing nature's carbon storage

Maybe one of the reasons climate change has consistently been worse than scientists predicted.

Public release date: 29-Nov-2011
Contact: Rhea Kressman
Industrialization weakens important carbon sink
Diminishing nature's carbon storage

Australian scientists have reconstructed the past six thousand years in estuary sedimentation records to look for changes in plant and algae abundance. Their findings, published in Global Change Biology, show an increase in microalgae relative to seagrass in the past 60 years. This shift could diminish the ability of estuaries, which are natural global carbon sinks, to mitigate climate change.

According to Dr. Peter Macreadie, University of Technology, Sydney Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow, "We have effectively gone back in time and monitored carbon capture and storage by coastal ecosystems, finding a 100-fold weakening in the ability of coastal ecosystems to sequester carbon since the time of European settlement. This severely hampered the ability of nature to reset the planet's thermostat."



Tall Fescue Helps Protect Peach Trees from Nematodes

By Sharon Durham
November 29, 2011

Planting tall fescue grass as a ground cover in peach orchards helps protect peach trees from nematodes that attack tree roots, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

In a study published in the Journal of Nematology in 2010, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologists Andy Nyczepir at the Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Ga., and Susan Meyer at the Nematology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., tested several tall fescue varieties to find out if they could thwart four troublesome root-knot nematode species-Meloidogyne incognita, M. hapla, M. javanica, and M. arenaria.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and the research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

In the study, Nyczepir and Meyer found that a commercial tall fescue, MaxQ, prevented M. incognita and M. hapla from reproducing. M. javanica has a low level of reproduction on MaxQ, but M. arenaria can reproduce on it.

Traditionally, growers have fumigated peach orchard soils prior to planting and then used a nematode-resistant rootstock. But in recent years, growers have faced tough times that have made it difficult to afford preplant fumigants, such as Telone II or Vapam. Many growers also have difficulty fumigating at the recommended time of year because of conflicts with managing other crops.

In Georgia, rotation with coastal Bermuda grass, which can also be harvested for hay, is recommended for control of root-knot nematode. According to Nyczepir, their studies show that MaxQ may have potential as a preplant control strategy for M. incognita and M. hapla in southeastern and northeastern areas of the United States. Using this tall fescue as a preplant cover crop treatment may allow growers to reduce the use of chemical nematicides.

Preliminary data from the team's field trials using MaxQ as a preplant cover crop have so far found that peach trees planted after the cover crop are larger than those planted in soil that is not fumigated.

Read more about this research in the November/December 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.


Want To Defeat A Proposed Public Policy? Just Label Supporters As “EXTREME”

New research shows how support for a generally liked policy can be significantly lowered, simply by associating it with a group seen as “radical” or “extreme.”

In one experiment, researchers found that people expressed higher levels of support for a gender equality policy when the supporters were not specified than when the exact same policy was attributed to “radical feminist” supporters.

These findings show why attacking political opponents as “extremists” is so popular – and so effective, said Thomas Nelson, co-author of the study and associate professor of political science at Ohio State University.

“The beauty of using this ‘extremism’ tactic is that you don’t have to attack a popular value that you know most people support,” Nelson said.

“You just have to say that, in this particular case, the supporters are going too far or are too extreme.”


Environmental values, for example, may sometimes conflict with economic values if clean air or clean water laws make it more difficult for companies to earn a profit.

“If you want to fight against a proposed environmental law, you can’t publicly say you’re against protecting the environment, because that puts you in the position of fighting a popular value,” Nelson said.

“So instead, you say that proponents of the proposed law are going to extremes, and are taking the value too far.”

One problem with this tactic for society, though, is that it can hurt support of the underlying values, as well as the specific policy.

“If you use this extremism language, it can make people place less of a priority on the underlying value. People may become less likely to think environmentalism or gender equality are important values.”


Global Warming Hates The Ohio State Buckeyes

By Brad Johnson on Nov 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

This Saturday’s Crankshaft cartoon took on global warming, noting that climate change is threatening Ohio’s iconic buckeye trees, the namesake of the Ohio State Buckeyes. “Once it starts to affect football, they’ll get moving on climate change,” one character says:

As greenhouse pollution from oil and coal continues to build, the Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) is on its way out of the Buckeye State. Between 1990 and 2006, United States hardiness zones shifted northward, putting Ohio closer to the southern end of buckeye viability. That trend will accelerate. A 2007 study by Daniel W. McKenney and other forest scientists of the effect of climate pollution increases on 130 tree species projects major changes in North American tree populations, as practically all of the southern and western United States grow too warm and arid for nearly all species. The Ohio buckeye’s range, now centered on Ohio and Indiana, is projected to shrink and shift drastically under business-as-usual scenarios:

Importantly, the destruction of the Ohio buckeye’s traditional range is not just a long-term phenomenon. Several of the scenarios modeled by the researchers find major shifts during the 2011-2040 period.

A simpler 2005 study that modeled the expected shift in range over 100 years due to a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations found that the Ohio buckeye range would decline by 12 to 51 percent this century. At current rates, carbon dioxide concentrations are on track to quadruple.



GOP Willing To Raise Payroll Taxes On 113 Million Households To Spare 345,000 Millionaires From Tiny Surtax

By Pat Garofalo on Nov 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Senate Democrats yesterday introduced legislation — as they’ve been promising to — that would extend a soon-to-expire payroll tax cut, and pay for it by implementing a surtax on income above $1 million. Republicans, of course, are opposing the plan, reviving their false claims that taxing the very wealthiest Americans will hit small businesses and job creators.

In essence, the GOP is saying that it’s willing to allow higher taxes on middle- and lower-income Americans in order to prevent tax increases on the very wealthy. According to an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, provided to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, the surtax would affect exceedingly few taxpayers, while a payroll tax cut expiration would wallop more than 100 million households:

The surtax would impact around 345,000 taxpayers, roughly 0.2 percent of taxpayers, or one in 500 of them. Those people would pay on average an additional 2.1 percent of their overall income, or just over 1/50th of that overall income, in taxes.

In a majority of states, only one-tenth of one percent, or one in 1,000 taxpayers, would pay this surtax.

And how many people would benefit from the payroll tax cut? According to the group, around 113 million tax filing units — either single workers or families that include more than one worker — would see their payroll tax cut extended. That’s a lot of people — well over 113 million workers, in fact.

Allowing the payroll tax cut to expire at the end of the year would hit middle-class families with a $1,000 tax increase, providing a substantial drag on the economy. In fact, according to Macroeconomic Advisers, allowing the payroll tax cut to lapse “would reduce GDP growth by 0.5 percent and cost the economy 400,000 jobs.” Other estimates are even worse, with Barclays’s estimating that a payroll tax increase could say 1.5 percent off of GDP growth.

The GOP has, time and again, blocked any legislation that would increase taxes by the slightest amount on the ultra-wealthy, even with tax revenue at a 60 year low, taxes on the rich the lowest they’ve been in a generation, and income inequality out of control. Instead, Republicans would prefer to raise taxes on the middle-class, knocking the economy where it can least afford it.


Low Staffing and Poor Quality of Care at Nation’s For-Profit Nursing Homes

Source: Elizabeth Fernandez
November 29, 2011

The nation’s largest for-profit nursing homes deliver significantly lower quality of care because they typically have fewer staff nurses than non-profit and government-owned nursing homes.

That’s the finding of a new UCSF-led analysis of quality of care at nursing homes around the country. It is the first-ever study focusing solely on staffing and quality at the 10 largest for-profit chains.
Charlene Harrington, RN, PhD, FAAN

Charlene Harrington, RN, PhD, FAAN

The article is published online in advance of print publication in Health Services Research.

“Poor quality of care is endemic in many nursing homes, but we found that the most serious problems occur in the largest for-profit chains,” said first author Charlene Harrington, RN, PhD, professor emeritus of sociology and nursing at the UCSF School of Nursing. Harrington also is director of the UCSF National Center for Personal Assistance Services.

“The top 10 chains have a strategy of keeping labor costs low to increase profits,” Harrington said. “They are not making quality a priority.”

Low nurse staffing levels are considered the strongest predictor of poor nursing home quality.

The 10 largest for-profit chains operate about 2,000 nursing homes in the United States, controlling approximately 13 percent of the country’s nursing home beds.


Recent Medicare cuts in payment rates for nursing home residents – by 11 percent in October, 2011 – may further jeopardize the health and safety of residents if the chains respond by reducing staffing and wages, Harrington said.

The 10 largest for-profit chains in 2008 were HCR Manor Care, Golden Living, Life Care Centers of America, Kindred Healthcare, Genesis HealthCare Corporation, Sun Health Care Group, Inc., SavaSeniorCare LLC, Extendicare Health Services, Inc., National Health Care Corporation, and Skilled HealthCare, LLC.

From 2003 to 2008, these chains had fewer nurse “staffing hours” than non-profit and government nursing homes when controlling for other factors. Together, these companies had the sickest residents, but their total nursing hours were 30 percent lower than non-profit and government nursing homes. Moreover, the top chains were well below the national average for RN and total nurse staffing, and below the minimum nurse staffing recommended by experts.

The 10 largest for-profit chains were cited for 36 percent more deficiencies and 41 percent more serious deficiencies than the best facilities. Deficiencies include failure to prevent pressure sores, resident weight loss, falls, infections, resident mistreatment, poor sanitary conditions, and other problems that could seriously harm residents.

The study also found that the four largest for-profit nursing home chains purchased by private equity companies between 2003 and 2008 had more deficiencies after being acquired. The study is the first to make the connection between worse care following acquisition by private equity companies.



Study demonstrates a connection between a common chemical and Parkinson's disease

What I think is crazy is that many couples will paint a room for a new baby when a woman is pregnant.

Public release date: 29-Nov-2011
Contact: Allison Elliott
Study demonstrates a connection between a common chemical and Parkinson's disease

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A University of Kentucky faculty member is a contributing author on a new study demonstrating a connection between a common solvent chemical and Parkinson's disease. Dr. Franca Cambi of the UK Kentucky Neuroscience Institute collaborated with researchers from across the U.S. on a paper recently published in the Annals of Neurology. The novel study looked at a cohort of human twins wherein one twin had been occupationally exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE) and other chemicals believed to be linked to development of Parkinson's.

TCE has been previously linked to Parkinson's disease through prior research by University of Kentucky authors and others, including the 2008 paper "Trichloroethylene: Parkinsonism and complex 1 mitochondrial neurotoxicity", and the 2010 paper "Trichloroethylene induces dopaminergic neurodegeneration in Fisher 344 rats". The 2008 paper was based upon a study of factory workers in a facility using chemicals that have been linked to development of Parkinson's disease.

In the most recent paper, the authors demonstrated that in addition to TCE, increase in Parkinson's disease risk is also associated with exposure to percholorethylene (PERC) and carbon tetrachloride (CCI4).

The current epidemiological study, led by Drs. Samuel Goldman and Caroline Tanner of The Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, Ca., investigated exposure to TCE, PERC and CCI4 as they related to risk of developing Parkinson's disease. The team interviewed 99 twin pairs from the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council World War II Veteran Twins Cohort in which one twin had Parkinson's and one didn't, inquiring about lifetime occupations and hobbies. Lifetime exposures to six specific solvents previously linked to Parkinson's in medical literature -- n-hexane, xylene, toluene, CCl4, TCE and PERC -- were inferred for each job or hobby typically involving exposure to the chemicals.

While prior research has indicated a link between TCE exposure and Parkinson's disease, the current findings are the first to report a statistically significant association -- a more than six-fold increased risk. Researchers also found that exposure to PERC and CCI4 tended toward significant risk of developing the disease.

This study focused on occupational exposures, but the solvents under investigation are pervasive in the environment. Lead author Goldman concluded: "Our findings, as well as prior case reports, suggest a lag time of up to 40 years between TCE exposure and onset of Parkinson's, providing a critical window of opportunity to potentially slow the disease process before clinical symptoms appear."

Occupational or environmental exposure to TCE, PERC and CCI4 is common due to the extensive use of the chemicals in dry-cleaning solutions, adhesives, paints, and carpet cleaners. Despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banning the use of TCE as a general anesthetic, skin disinfectant, and coffee decaffeinating agent in 1977, it is still widely used today as a degreasing agent. In the U.S., millions of pounds of TCE are still released into the environment each year and it is the most common organic contaminant found in ground water, detected in up to 30 percent of drinking water supplies in the country.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimates that as many as 500,000 Americans have Parkinson's disease and more than 50,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. While there is much debate regarding the causes of Parkinson's disease, studies suggest that genetic and environmental factors likely trigger the disease - which is characterized by symptoms such as limb tremors, slowed movement, muscle stiffness, and speech impairment. Several studies have reported that exposure to solvents may increase risk of Parkinson's, but research assessing specific agents is limited.


Crash Experts Find Car Seats Protect Overweight Kids, Too

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Injury Research and Prevention studied nearly 1,000 1- to 8-year-old children involved in crashes and found no evidence of increased injury risk for children across a broad weight range. All of the children included in the study were properly restrained in the correct child safety seat or booster seat for their height and weight. The research also suggests that the current range of child safety seats and booster seats available today sufficiently accommodates a broad spectrum of children's body sizes, including children with higher weights. The results are published online in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Given that nearly 32 percent of children in the United States are categorized as overweight or obese, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for all children, we wanted to better understand how these two threats to children's health interact," explained lead author Mark Zonfrillo, MD, MSCE, an attending emergency physician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "This research should reassure parents that their only concern when it comes to car seat safety should be to follow the most recent guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics."

Current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines, revised earlier this year, say that children should remain rear-facing until at least age 2 or until they reach the rear-facing height and weight limit for the car seat. Once forward-facing, children should stay in a five-point harness until they reach the manufacturer's height and weight limit for that seat. They should then move to a belt-positioning booster seat, where they should remain until they are 4'9" tall, usually between ages 8 and 12.

"A good time to re-evaluate child safety seat needs is during your child's routine medical visits. Compare your child's weight and height measurements to the manufacturer's acceptable ranges on the seat's labels or instructions," says Zonfrillo, who is the father of a toddler. "There's no 'one-size-fits-all.' If your older child moved to a booster seat at age 5, don't necessarily assume it will be the same for his or her younger siblings."

The authors also note the important role pediatricians and family physicians play in making sure their patients are well-protected in the car. During each visit where height and weight are evaluated, they should counsel parents to check their child's measurements against their child's safety seat. "Physicians should feel comfortable referring patient families with more complex questions to their local child passenger safety technicians, who are trained and certified experts," says Zonfrillo.

For more information on keeping children safe in the car at every age, visit



Abstinence-only education does not lead to abstinent behavior

November 29, 2011

Athens, Ga. - States that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs, researchers from the University of Georgia have determined.

The researchers looked at teen pregnancy and birth data from 48 U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of those states' approaches to sex education, as prescribed by local laws and policies.

"Our analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence indicating that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen pregnancy rates," said Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.



Fixed MagicScore page

I fixed the MagicScore page.
In the document I copied, I used arrow brackets for special keys (eg., Ctrl), and when I copied them to blogger, they were interpreted as HTML tags.

Just occurred to me I should have tried the copy in the Compose mode, I might not have needed to change them to square brackets. When I have time to spare, I'll have to try that.

I hope to get some illustrations added later.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Created MagicScore page

For people who use one of the MagicScore program to create sheet music, I've added my notes to a page on this blog. I use the Notes version, the cheapest.


Herbicide spurs reproductive problems in many animals

11/28/2011 | Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor

An international team of researchers has reviewed the evidence linking exposure to atrazine – an herbicide widely used in the U.S. and more than 60 other nations – to reproductive problems in animals. The team found consistent patterns of reproductive dysfunction in amphibians, fish, reptiles and mammals exposed to the chemical.

Atrazine is the second-most widely used herbicide in the U.S. More than 75 million pounds of it are applied to corn and other crops, and it is the most commonly detected pesticide contaminant of groundwater, surface water and rain in the U.S.


“I hope this will stimulate policymakers to look at the totality of the data and ask very broad questions,” Hayes said. “Do we want this stuff in our environment? Do we want – knowing what we know – our children to drink this stuff? I would think the answer would be no.”



Last updated 11/28/11

Men may think about sex more often than women do, but a new study suggests that men also think about other biological needs, such as eating and sleep, more frequently than women do, as well.

And the research discredits the persistent stereotype that men think about sex every seven seconds, which would amount to more than 8,000 thoughts about sex in 16 waking hours. In the study, the median number of young men’s thought about sex stood at almost 19 times per day. Young women in the study reported a median of nearly 10 thoughts about sex per day.

As a group, the men also thought about food almost 18 times per day and sleep almost 11 times per day, compared to women’s median number of thoughts about eating and sleep, at nearly 15 times and about 8 1/2 times, respectively.


In raw numbers, male participants recorded between one and 388 daily thoughts about sex, compared to the range of female thoughts about sex of between one and 140 times per day.


Proving the 99% right

November 27, 2011 11:30 AM
Proving the 99% right
By Steve Benen

When it comes to the circumstances that help drive the Occupy protests, Floyd Norris shines a light on a dynamic that speaks volumes. To put it simply, this just won’t do.

In the eight decades before the recent recession, there was never a period when as much as 9 percent of American gross domestic product went to companies in the form of after-tax profits. Now the figure is over 10 percent.

During the same period, there never was a quarter when wage and salary income amounted to less than 45 percent of the economy. Now the figure is below 44 percent.

For companies, these are boom times. For workers, the opposite is true.


The previous record for corporate profits as a share of GDP was 8.98% — set in 1929. Last year, it was over 9.5%. This year, it’s over 10%.

tags: redistribution

Men's honest overconfidence may lead to male domination in the C-suite

Men's honest overconfidence may lead to male domination in the C-suite

Public release date: 28-Nov-2011
Contact: Sona Rai
Columbia Business School
Men's honest overconfidence may lead to male domination in the C-suite
Study finds that gender differences in overconfidence concerning individual past performance explains a significant proportion of the lack of female leadership in organizations

NEW YORK – November 28, 2011 – A study conducted by Columbia Business School's Prof. Ernesto Reuben, Assistant Professor, Management, alongside Pedro Rey-Biel, Associate Professor, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Paola Sapienza, Associate Professor, Professor of Finance, Northwestern University, and Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, finds men's honest overconfidence — not overt discrimination — may play an important role in male domination of the C-suite. The research was recently featured in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization and Columbia Business School's Ideas at Work. While part of the persistent gender gap in leadership at firms can be attributed to discrimination, the researchers sought to determine if the underlying causes of such selection issues may go beyond simple conscious discrimination. The study discovers how the differences in the way men and women think of themselves and react to incentives may be creating gender differences that lead to leadership gaps, rather than the gap being caused solely by discrimination in the selection process. Specifically men's tendency to exhibit natural overconfidence in their past performances may attribute to the lack of greater female representation in upper management and executive positions.

The experimental design allowed the researchers to isolate the effect of gender differences on women leadership. The experiment consisted of two parts. The study first asked MBA students to complete a set of math problems; both men and women performed about the same. One year later, the researchers brought back the same students, asking them to recall their previous years' performance. The researchers found that when they compared actual with recalled performance, most participants overestimated their performance — a tendency documented in different forms in different studies. The major difference was that men consistently rated their past performance about 30 percent higher than it really was. Women, on the other hand, consistently rated their past performance only about 15 percent higher than it actually was.


The study suggests an important takeaway for firms: recruiters should consider overconfidence when considering male candidates' claims about past performance. Employers who are not aware of the tendency for men to unconsciously inflate their performance could mistake that overconfidence for true performance, and overlook better female candidates. Furthermore, the researchers find this aspect of gender difference is hard to correct. Columbia Business School Professor Ernesto Reuben explains, "It's not just a matter of telling men not to lie — because they honestly believe their performance is 30 percent better than it really is. Similarly, it's not as if you can simply tell women they should inflate their own sense of overconfidence to be on par with that of men."


Your abusive boss may not be good for your marriage

Public release date: 28-Nov-2011
Contact: Frank Raczkiewicz
Baylor University
Your abusive boss may not be good for your marriage, according to Baylor University study

Having an abusive boss not only causes problems at work but can lead to strained relationships at home, according to a Baylor University study published online in journal, Personnel Psychology. The study found that stress and tension caused by an abusive boss have an impact on the employee's partner, which affects the marital relationship and subsequently the employee's entire family.

The study also found that more children at home meant greater family satisfaction for the employee, and the longer the partner's relationship, the less impact the abusive boss had on the family.

"These findings have important implications for organizations and their managers. The evidence highlights the need for organizations to send an unequivocal message to those in supervisory positions that these hostile and harmful behaviors will not be tolerated," said Dawn Carlson, Ph.D., study author, professor of management and H. R. Gibson Chair of Organizational Development at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, Waco.

A supervisor's abuse may include tantrums, rudeness, public criticism and inconsiderate action.



Australian Politician: Murdoch's Son Present At Bribe Lunch

Rupert Murdoch owns the Fox "News" channel in the U.S.

November 28, 2011 10:57 am ET by Eric Boehlert

Amplifying his claim that a high-ranking executive for Rupert Murdoch once offered to orchestrate friendly news coverage for a politician in exchange for a "no" vote in Parliament, a former Australian senator now claims Murdoch's oldest son was present at the lunch where the bribe was first offered.

The Australian Federal Police are currently investigating the bribery allegations, at a time when authorities in Europe and North America continue to examine allegations of criminal conduct by Murdoch's news empire.

Last week, former senator Bill O'Chee claimed that in 1998 when a bill proposing the creation of digital television in Australia was nearing a vote, an unnamed News executive, along with a lobbyist, invited O'Chee to lunch to try to get him to vote against the bill. (Murdoch's company stood to benefit financially if the bill failed.)

In exchange for his support, the Murdoch executive promised a "special relationship" between Murdoch newspapers and the politician, and that he could rely on political support from Murdoch media; that his Australian newspapers would "take care" of the conservative legislator. (O'Chee soon voted yes; the bill passed.)

In a subsequent interview with the Associated Press, O'Chee claimed Murdoch's oldest son, Lachlan, was present during portions of the lunch at which the quid pro quo were discussed. Lachlan at the time was a senior executive in Murdoch's News Corp. empire. (The son resigned his executive position in 2005.)



Killer Floods Strike Durban At Start Of Climate Talks

Warmer air holds more water vapor, and water evaporates faster. Because of the increasing air and water temperatures, there has been an increase in the amount of moisture in the air. When this warmer air comes in contact with cooler air, it results in heavier rain and snow falls.

By Brad Johnson on Nov 28, 2011 at 10:57 am

Highlighting the threat of global warming pollution, killer floods have struck Durban, South Africa, as international climate talks begin there. Ten people along South Africa’s east coast were killed, 700 houses destroyed, and thousands left homeless following torrential rains on Sunday:

According to the South Africa Weather Bureau, 2.5 inches of rain fell last night in Durban, which had already recorded 8.2 inches for November, almost double its average.

Some beach-related activities of the United Nations climate conference have been delayed by a day.

This record-setting killer flooding is part of a long-term trend of climate change. Over a decade ago, climate scientists had already measured a significant increase in extreme rainfall on South Africa’s eastern coast, finding “increases of over 50% in the intensity of 10-year high rainfall events” from 1930 to 1990. A 2006 analysis found that global warming pollution will continue to increase overall precipitation and extreme rainfall events during the South African summer (December through February).

Heavy rains are expected to continue for the rest of the week.


“How high needs the water to get in this conference center before negotiators start deciding?” asked Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Union’s lead negotiator, referring to the deadly floods.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Concrete Tests Faked Again, Officials Charge

Published: August 4, 2011

In 2008, a company hired to test the strength of the concrete used at major public works projects in New York, including the Second Avenue subway and the new Yankee Stadium, falsified results, prosecutors concluded, and construction executives scrambled to find a replacement.

On Thursday, the company they selected, its owner and five employees were arraigned on charges of doing the very same thing on those two projects and hundreds of others.

In fact, none of the nearly 3,000 test reports that investigators seized from the replacement company, American Standard Testing and Consulting Laboratories, contained legitimate test results, according to one person briefed on the inquiry that led to the charges.

“The volume of fabricated tests is egregious,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said in announcing the charges. “It was systemic; it was pervasive.”

In addition to Yankee Stadium and the Second Avenue subway, the projects for which test results were allegedly falsified represented a remarkable array of familiar places, both old and new: work on the Lincoln Tunnel, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s huge new Fulton Transit Center and East Side Access project, the new air-traffic control tower at La Guardia Airport, a building at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Medical College, Columbia University and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Investigators initially found cracks in the concrete at the airport and at the Javits Center, but officials said they did not represent serious structural threats. A spokeswoman for the district attorney said the fissures were fixed.


The 29-count indictment filed in the case against American Standard accused the six men of a money-making scheme that included falsifying the results of tests required by law to measure the strength and quality of concrete poured on projects in New York City and Westchester County and on Long Island. The defendants and the company are charged under the state’s racketeering law.

The decade-long reputed scheme also included falsifying documents to get city licenses and manipulating government programs to obtain jobs for which they were not entitled, according to the charges.

The owner of the company, Alan Fortich, 44; his brother, Alvaro Fortich Jr., 32, who worked there as an inspector; and the four other defendants surrendered on Thursday at the district attorney’s office.


tags: business ethics

Judges free 2 men in N.C. innocence review

By Jon Ostendorff, USA TODAY
Updated 9/23/2011 5:45 AM

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Two men who spent a decade in prison on murder charges were set free Thursday after a panel of judges in North Carolina ruled they were not guilty.

The three-judge panel made its decision after seven days of testimony in the case against Kenneth Kagonyera, 31, and Robert Wilcoxson, 32.

Wilcoxson was the first to be released. He hugged his 10-year-old daughter, Taneea, and his father as he walked out of jail hours after the hearing. He left quickly, saying only that his plans for his first night as a free man in nearly a decade were simple. "Pray," he said.

Kagonyera left jail hours later to applause and hugs and kisses from his mother and grandmother.

"It was a blessing," he said. Kagonyera said he had prepared himself for the panel to rule against his claim though he tried not to dwell on the prospect of going back to prison. He said his plans are to "get a job, move on and put this behind me."

"I am just so happy I don't know what to say," said Charlene Holmes, Kagonyera's mother.

The hearing came after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in April found enough evidence to indicate the men were not guilty, including the confession of another man and DNA testing that pointed to other suspects.

The men had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the slaying of Walter Bowman in 2000, though they repeatedly claimed they were innocent. Their attorneys at the hearing said the men admitted to the murder to avoid life sentences.


North Carolina is among a growing number of states taking steps to prevent and address wrongful convictions and grant greater access to biological evidence. It has the nation's only investigative innocence commission.

Until recently, that was largely the purview of the privately funded Innocence Project, which has been involved in 154 DNA exonerations in the USA since 1989, according to the group's research director, Emily West.

The North Carolina commission has heard three other cases, one of which resulted in the release of a man who served almost 17 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. A three-judge panel found Greg Taylor innocent in February 2010.

Twenty-eight percent of exonerations nationally have involved defendants who pleaded guilty, falsely confessed or made incriminating statements to police, according to the Innocence Project.




South Korea: Tear Gas Fired In Parliament

Well, it makes U.S. politics look less bad!

HYUNG-JIN KIM 11/22/11 04:45 PM ET AP

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's ruling party forced a long-stalled free trade deal with the United States through parliament Tuesday, enraging opposition lawmakers who blasted their political rivals with tear gas.

South Korean lawmakers voted 151 to 7 in favor of ratifying the landmark trade agreement in a surprise legislative session called by the ruling Grand National Party, parliamentary officials said.

Shouts and screams filled the National Assembly as ruling party lawmakers forced their way onto the parliamentary floor. Amid the scuffling, one opposition lawmaker doused rivals with tear gas.

Security guards hustled him out of the chamber as he shouted and tried to resist. Outside the National Assembly building, opponents of the deal scuffled with police mobilized to maintain order.

The pact is America's biggest free-trade agreement since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Two-way trade between the United States and South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, totaled about $90 billion last year, according to the South Korean government.

After the deal was approved less than an hour after the tussle began, dozens of opposition lawmakers and aides – who fought hard to prevent passage of an agreement they say favors U.S. over South Korean workers – sat slumped around the chamber podium. One legislator leaned her head against the shoulder of another as they both stared at the floor in silence.

Such chaotic scenes are not uncommon in South Korea's parliament, where rival parties have a history of resorting to physical confrontation over highly charged issues. In 2008, opposition lawmakers used a sledgehammer to try and force their way into a barricaded committee room to stop the ruling party from introducing a debate on the U.S. trade deal.

President Lee Myung-bak's ruling party commands a majority in South Korea's single-chamber, 295-seat parliament but hadn't forced the deal through earlier, apparently out of worry over a public backlash ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

The presidential Blue House welcomed the deal's passage, pledging in a statement to use it as a chance to boost the economy and create jobs. The main opposition Democratic Party said it would boycott all other parliamentary sessions in protest and demanded that top ruling party leaders resign.

Lawmakers have been wrangling over ratification of the free trade deal since the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama approved the deal last month after years of debate.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk welcomed the legislative approval in Seoul.

"This is a win-win agreement that will provide significant economic and strategic benefits to both countries," he said. "We look forward to working closely with the government of Korea to bring the agreement into force as soon as possible."

In South Korea, a key sticking point was a provision that opponents say would allow investors to take disputes falling under the agreement's jurisdiction to a U.S.-influenced international arbitration panel. The opposition calls for removal of the provision.

President Lee offered to seek re-negotiation of the provision if the opponents in parliament vote for ratification. The Democratic Party, however, rebuffed Lee's proposal, saying negotiations should take place first.

Debate over the deal has been heated, with nearly daily protests outside the National Assembly and opposition lawmakers camping out in a committee room for weeks to block the vote.

Earlier this month, South Korean police fired water cannons to disperse more than 2,000 protesters trying to break into the National Assembly during a debate.

There were concerns the demonstrations might mirror those in 2008, when South Korea's move to lift a ban on U.S. beef triggered weeks of massive street protests over worries about the meat's safety and criticism that Seoul had made too many concessions to Washington.

Economist Jung Tae-in said the trade deal would widen the gap between haves and have-nots. "South Korea will falter in the early stages of the implementation of the deal because the United States is economically more powerful," he said.

But Kim Jung-sik, an economics professor at Seoul's Yonsei University, said fears about damage to South Korea's economy are overblown. "Free trade still works to South Korea's advantage because the country is so reliant on exports."

South Korea, a major exporter of industrial goods such as automobiles and consumer electronics, has aggressively sought free trade agreements and already has several in effect, including with Chile, India, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement Tuesday that it will work to get the trade deal to take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office said Washington would make "best efforts" to bring the trade agreement into force as quickly as possible in 2012.


A Family’s Billions, Artfully Sheltered

Many of the "charitable" contributions by the rich are to art museums, which help to maintain the value of their own art collections, by maintaining a market for them.

I recommend reading the whole article at the link above. Interesting & informative

Published: November 26, 2011

As he stood in the opulent marble foyer of a Fifth Avenue mansion late last month, greeting the coterie of prominent guests arriving at his private art gallery, Ronald S. Lauder was doing more than just being a gracious host.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Neue Galerie, Mr. Lauder’s museum of Austrian and German art, he exhibited many of the treasures of a personal collection valued at more than $1 billion, including works by Van Gogh, Cézanne and Matisse, and a Klimt portrait he bought five years ago for $135 million.

Yet for Mr. Lauder, an heir to the Estée Lauder fortune whose net worth is estimated at more than $3.1 billion, the evening went beyond social and cultural significance. As is often the case with his activities, just beneath the surface was a shrewd use of the United States tax code. By donating his art to his private foundation, Mr. Lauder has qualified for deductions worth tens of millions of dollars in federal income taxes over the years, savings that help defray the hundreds of millions he has spent creating one of New York City’s cultural gems.

The charitable deductions generated by Mr. Lauder — whose donations have aided causes as varied as hospitals and efforts to rebuild Jewish identity in Eastern Europe — are just one facet of a sophisticated tax strategy used to preserve a fortune that Forbes magazine says makes him the world’s 362nd wealthiest person. From offshore havens to a tax-sheltering stock deal so audacious that Congress later enacted a law forbidding the tactic, Mr. Lauder has for decades aggressively taken advantage of tax breaks that are useful only for the most affluent.

The debate over whether to reduce tax shelters and preferences for the rich is one of the most volatile in Washington and will move to the presidential campaign, now that repeated attempts in Congress to strike a grand bargain over spending cuts and an overhaul of the tax code have failed.

A handful of billionaires like Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates have joined Democrats in calling for an elimination of the breaks, saying that the current system adds to the budget deficit, contributes to the widening income gap between the richest and the rest of society, and shifts the tax burden onto small businesses and the middle class. Republicans have resisted, saying the tax increases on the wealthy would harm the economy and cost jobs.

An examination of public documents involving Mr. Lauder’s companies, investments and charities offers a glimpse of the wide array of legal options for the world’s wealthiest citizens to avoid taxes both at home and abroad.


The tax burden on the nation’s superelite has steadily declined in recent decades, according to a sliver of data released annually by the I.R.S. The effective federal income tax rate for the 400 wealthiest taxpayers, representing the top 0.000258 percent, fell from about 30 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2008, the most recent data available.


“There’s real truth to the idea that the tax code for the 1 percent is different from the tax code for the 99 percent,” said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado. “Any taxpayer lucky enough to have appreciated property is usually put to a choice: cash out and pay some tax, or hold the property and risk the vagaries of the market. Only the truly rich can use derivatives to get the best of both worlds — lots of cash and very little risk.”


United States tax law allows taxpayers to deduct mortgage interest on one’s homes up to $1.1 million in debt. Households with more than $1 million in income claimed more than $27 billion in such deductions from 2006 to ’09, according to a report this month by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who said some wealthy taxpayers even deducted mortgage interest on their yachts.

And there is no limit on the amount of property taxes that can be deducted from federal income. So Mr. Lauder is entitled to deduct the $400,000 he pays annually on his Palm Beach mansion as well as what he pays on his home on Park Avenue and his holdings in the Hamptons. [I don't know that I have a problem with this.]

“This welfare for the well-off — costing billions of dollars a year — is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and i.o.u.’s to be paid off by future generations,” said Senator Coburn, a Republican, who has called for limits on tax breaks for high earners.


As all art collectors may, Mr. Lauder is entitled to deduct the full market value of artworks donated to museums. (For years, Mr. Lauder availed himself of a quirk in the tax code that allowed donors to take a deduction for donating a portion of an artwork, without actually turning over the art. That break, known as fractional donation, was eliminated in 2006.) The tax code also allows artwork in offices to be deducted as a business expense.

Unlike some wealthy collectors who are criticized for using tax breaks to underwrite private collections that offer little access to the public, Mr. Lauder is widely praised for making his artwork a community asset.

The Neue Galerie, created by Mr. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky, who died in 1996, in a mansion once owned by Cornelia Vanderbilt, offers public viewing of an exquisite collection, worth more than $200 million even before Mr. Lauder added dozens of pieces for its 10th anniversary.

Sheldon Cohen, a former I.R.S. commissioner, said that when used as intended, the tax code’s breaks for art collectors balance private interests with the public good.

“If an art collector makes significant contributions, and the public actually gets access to the works they are donating, then the major thing the collector gets is prestige and social status,” said Mr. Cohen, now a lawyer in Washington.


tags: tax shelters, tax abuse, wealth inequality

Paul Douglas Sanner Hey friends ~ I am hosting a NEW weekly Monday night (11/28) Open Mic at the American Classic Tavern (8-11pm) and I need your help getting it rolling please :) Address: 909 Parkside Walk Lane, Lawrenceville, GA. They have a GREAT stage and use this Open Mic to audition bands for paid gigs! PDS

November 27, 2011 07:00 AM
By Susie Madrak

It's really interesting that so little in-depth attention is given by the corporate media to the many, many problems with privatizing our school systems. It's especially interesting that Diane Ravitch is so widely ignored, considering her former role in the Bush Administration and subsequent recanting of those policies:

Education historian Diane Ravitch blasted the education-reform movement as a "well-funded, well-coordinated campaign to privatize as many schools as possible" during a sold-out speech in Seattle on Thursday night.

During an hourlong appearance, Ravitch criticized teacher-evaluation systems as "crazy," called the No Child Left Behind Act "the death star of American education" and argued charter schools "divide communities."

"American public education is under attack," Ravitch said. "False claims are made about achievement. False claims are made about teachers. False claims are made about what's needed to improve the schools."

Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education for President George H.W. Bush and an early champion of education reform, eventually concluded the reform movement was misguided and led by corporations.



Saturday, November 26, 2011

California chef feeds hungry children

updated 3:34 PM EST, Thu November 24, 2011

Since 2005, Bruno Serato has been serving up free pasta dinners to children, many of whom are poor and live in motels with their families.

Serato is an Italian chef and the founder of Caterina's Club, a nonprofit that provides dinner seven days a week to more than 300 children at the Boys & Girls Club in Anaheim, California. CNN asked Serato for his thoughts on being chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011.

CNN: Where were you when you got the call that you'd been selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Bruno Serato: I was home, getting ready to go to work after talking to my mom in Italy over Skype.

I can't express the feelings I had at that moment. I was so happy. I was in tears. I wanted to scream like Tarzan! It was amazing news.

CNN: What do you hope this recognition will mean to Caterina's Club?

Serato: This gives me hope that I can make Caterina's Club a leader in resolving children's hunger in America.

I do believe that, all together, we can make a big difference. If restaurants and chefs across America worked with their local Boys & Girls Clubs and followed our program, we could feed millions of children.

I feel like I'm a voice on this Earth and my mission is to tell people: "Let's step forward. Don't just talk about it. Do something about it." We can make this a better place to be and fight the poverty in our country.

CNN: How will you use the $50,000 award that you receive for being selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Serato: It will help me to keep doing what I do and serve more children in need. I also hope to travel to promote the program and make more people aware of our national "motel kids" problem.

CNN: What do you want people to know most about your work?

Serato: In America, in our own backyards, we have kids who go to bed hungry. If we do something about it, we will have no hungry children in America.

If you give up one cup of coffee a day, you can feed 10 kids. One bag of pasta costs a few dollars, and that can serve 10 kids.

If I can feed more than 300 kids alone, all together we can feed millions.


Grandfather injured, arrested in Walmart brawl

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 12:34 AM EST, Sat November 26, 2011

An Arizona man lay handcuffed and non-responsive on the floor of a Walmart on Black Friday, as his emotional grandson stood nearby.

Jerald Newman, 54, spent Friday night in a Maricopa County jail hours after being arrested for allegedly resisting arrest and shoplifting, according to the county sheriff's department.

But the suspect's family members, as well as at least one witness, said the man is innocent and that the treatment was unnecessary.

Newman's daughter said that she, her father and other family members were in the packed Buckeye, Arizona, store soon after it opened late Thursday night.

"They were just letting people in; there was nowhere to walk," Berneta Sanchez told CNN. "And teenagers and adults were fighting for these games, taking them away from little kids and away from my father."

The grandson, Nicholas Nava, told CNN affiliate KNXV that Newman had grabbed one video game and put it under his shirt so that others jostling for the game didn't take it from him. One person alerted a police officer, who then approached Newman.

David Chadd, a CNN iReporter from Las Vegas, was among those shopping for video games set up in the Walmart's grocery section in a mass of people. He said Newman "was not resisting" arrest as he was led away from the crowd by a police officer.

The officer, Chadd said, then suddenly hooked the suspect around the leg, grabbed him and "slammed him face first into the ground."

"It was like a bowling ball hitting the ground, that's how bad it was," he said.

That was around when Sanchez said she heard of the altercation from across the store and ran toward her father.

"I was fuming," she recalled upon seeing her father on the floor. "They wouldn't let me near him at all, they were telling me to stay back."

Video, recorded by Chadd and later posted on CNN's iReport, shows an apparently unconscious Newman head-down on the floor in a pool of blood. As he's turned over, Buckeye police officers appear to attempt to revive him -- at which point his face, covered mostly in blood, is revealed.

Several voices, apparently those of fellow shoppers, are heard saying, "Why would you throw him down so hard? All he did was shoplifting and you threw him down like that?" Another person says, "They threw him down. He wasn't doing anything wrong."

Two citizens then appear to come to Newman's aid by applying paper towels to the man's nose. Chadd estimated that Newman was knocked out for about 10 minutes, all the while gushing blood and handcuffed.


Members of the Buckeye Police Department did not immediately respond to CNN calls Friday for comment. Assistant Chief Larry Hall told KNXV that Newman struggled after getting hurt, saying he was aggressive and escalated the situation.

[Wouldn't it be unnatural not to struggle if we were being hurt?]



A travel nightmare: Man stands throughout 7-hour flight

By Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN
updated 12:45 PM EST, Sat November 26, 2011

Air travelers usually are prepared for the occasional hectic and overcrowded flight. But all are hoping they'll at least be able to sit down.

Arthur Berkowitz, 57, stood for the length of his US Airways flight in July after a fellow passenger occupied half of his seat. The non-stop flight from Anchorage to Philadelphia lasted seven hours.

"I didn't fly from Alaska to Philadelphia," Berkowitz said on consumer advocate Christopher Elliott's blog, "I stood."


He initially had an empty seat next to him on Flight 901, but a late passenger sat there and took more space than he paid for.

"His size required both armrests to be raised up and allowed for his body to cover half of my seat," Berkowitz said.

The man was very polite and expressed regret over the situation, said Berkowitz, who notified the flight crew that he was unable to fasten his seat belt and asked if he could move to business class.

As the flight was filled to capacity, and as passengers are not permitted to sit in the flight attendants' jump seats, Berkowitz found himself strolling through the cabin for hours. Flight attendants apparently asked him to remain seated and fasten his seat belt, but he said the co-passenger was seated on his seat belt fastener, making this impossible.

That meant that, though he did manage to wedge himself into his seat for the takeoff and landing, he was unable to comply with the requirement that his seat belt be fastened at those times.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told CNN that it also is against regulations to stand for an entire flight and that passengers are always encouraged to remain in their seats.


Although US Airways expresses regret over the situation, the airline does feel the matter has been resolved and that Berkowitz's concerns have been noted.

"We have attempted to address this customer's service concerns, but offering increasing amounts of compensation based on a threat of a safety violation isn't really fair -- especially when the passenger himself said he didn't follow the crew members' instructions and fasten his seat belt," US Airways said in a written statement.

[What kind of thinking is this? If the crew couldn't arrange it so that he could fasten his seat belt, why in the world is the passenger to blame? What warped thinking.]



Alleged pepper-spraying Walmart shopper surrenders

Where they playing loud, booming music at these stores, making people hyper-irritable, or what?

Nov. 26, 2011

A shopper who allegedly fired pepper spray at other customers during a Black Friday sale for Xbox video games has surrendered to authorities, Los Angeles police said Saturday.

Police Sgt. Jose Valle told the Associated Press that the woman who allegedly caused minor injuries to 20 shoppers, including children, at a Los Angeles-area Walmart had turned herself in Friday night.

She was released pending further investigation after she refused to discuss the incident, police said Saturday.

The woman's identity was not released.

The alleged attack took place about 10:20 p.m. Thursday, shortly after doors opened for the sale. Employees brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players, and a crowd formed to wait for the unwrapping. Valle said the woman began spraying people in order to get an advantage.

Wal-Mart officials called it "an unfortunate situation."



Shoppers unfazed as man dies at Target

Nov. 26, 2011

Family and friends were stunned by the loss of a West Virginia man who died while shopping on Black Friday as fellow bargain hunters reportedly walked around — and even over — the man’s body.

Family members told WSAZ-TV that 61-year-old Walter Vance of Logan County, W. Va., had become ill and collapsed while shopping for Christmas decorations inside Target in South Charleston. He later died after being taken to the hospital, family said.

Witnesses told the NBC News affiliate in Charleston, W. Wa., that shoppers walked around and even over Vance’s body.

"Where is the good Samaritan side of people?” Vance’s co-worker and friend Sue Compton told WSAZ. “How could you not notice someone was in trouble? I just don't understand if people didn't help what their reason was, other than greed because of a sale."


An E.R. nurse who also happened to be shopping at the store tried to administer CPR. She and an off-duty paramedic tried to help Vance while he was on the floor.



Thinking green

Developing the habit of thinking of how to live green exercises the mind, which might discourage development of dementia.


Common pesticide may reduce fertility in women

Public release date: 12-Sep-2005
Contact: Karen N. Peart
Yale University
Common pesticide may reduce fertility in women
Methoxychlor (MXC), a common insect pesticide used on food crops, may interfere with proper development and function of the reproductive tract, leading to reduced fertility in women, researchers at Yale School of Medicine write in the August issue of Endocrinology.

The researchers found that MXC, which was manufactured as a safer replacement for the now-banned DDT, alters the estrogen-regulated gene Hoxa10 in the reproductive tract and reduces the ability of the uterus to support embryo implantation. The researchers used mice and then human cell lines to confirm their findings.

MXC is a man-made pesticide used to kill flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and other insects, and is applied directly to food crops, livestock, home gardens and pets. It is one of a large number of chemicals that can mimic the action of hormones and in some instances interfere with endocrine function.

Some of these endocrine disruptors bind estrogen receptors and adversely affect reproductive tract development, which is heavily influenced by estrogen. MXC and other chemicals like DDT have been shown in other studies to induce abnormalities in tissue development and function in the female reproductive tract.

"MXC has an adverse effect on these mice similar to that of DES, a synthetic estrogen," said senior author Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. "Female offspring of women exposed to DES were more likely to have an abnormally shaped cervix, were more prone to cancer of the vagina, miscarriages, early labor and other complications."

Other authors on the study included Xiaolan Fei and Hajin Chung


Public release date: 13-Mar-2000
Contact: Sandra Waldman
Population Council
Common pesticide product reduces testosterone levels

The chemical HPTE, a metabolite of the common pesticide methoxychlor, reduces testosterone production and could be a contributory factor in male infertility, Population Council scientists report in the March 2000 issue of Biology of Reproduction*. Methoxychlor-a pesticide in the DDT family-gained popularity after DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.

Matt Hardy and Benson Akingbemi have been investigating endocrine disruptors and their effects on the reproductive system. They examined the effect of HPTE on testosterone production in developing (progenitor and immature) and adult Leydig cells. The researchers found that the more HPTE that Leydig cells were exposed to, the less testosterone the cells produced. HPTE inhibited testosterone production in developing Leydig cells after ten hours of treatment, and in adult Leydig cells after 18 hours. Inhibition of Leydig cells was due to the down regulation of one of four enzymes that catalyze the reactions that occur during androgen biosynthesis.



Where the Money Is

A nice thing about Economists View is that I can keep up with Paul Krugman w/o using up my free New York Times on-line links :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011
"A Share of the Burden"

A little less than two weeks ago, I said:

This trick is used again and again to oppose raising taxes on one interest group or another, but the fact that raising taxes on a particular group won't fully solve the debt problem does not imply that the change in taxes for that group should be zero."

Here's Paul Krugman making the same point -- more forcefully with numbers -- and he shows that raising taxes on the wealthy makes a contribution to deficit reduction that is far from trivial. But even if the numbers were smaller, it still wouldn't imply that the change in these taxes should be zero. Even then, the wealthy "should be bearing a share of the burden" whatever that share might be:

Where The Money Is, by Paul Krugman:

I’ve been getting the predictable hysterical reactions to today’s column. ...

But one thing actually worth reacting to is the assertion I keep getting that this is all a distraction, that even if we seized all the money of the top 0.1% it would make no difference to the fiscal outlook. Here’s a piece of advice nobody will take: before you make assertions about numbers, look at the numbers.

So, what we learn from IRS data is that in 2007, before the Great Recession depressed everyone’s income, the top 0.1% had around $1 trillion in taxable income. Now, even confiscating that whole sum wouldn’t eliminate our current deficit, especially since the top 0.1% already paid something like a third of that total in taxes. But then, no single action would close our current budget gap — not even the complete elimination of Social Security or Medicare.

What you want to ask is how much higher taxes on the super-elite might contribute to deficit reduction, as compared with the kinds of things politicians are actually proposing.

So let’s suppose that it was possible to collect an additional 10 percent of that super-elite’s income in taxes, to the tune of $100 billion a year. How would this stack up against the kinds of things on the table right now?

Well, consider the idea of raising the Medicare eligibility age — a move that would create vast hardship. According to the Congressional Budget Office (big pdf), when fully phased in this would save … $42 billion a year.

I could multiply comparisons, but the point is that higher taxes on the very rich could make a significant contribution to deficit reduction. They couldn’t eliminate the deficit on their own, but what could? There’s real money up there, and those making it should be bearing a share of the burden.


A comment to the post at Economist's View:

Let's say my friend is $1,000 in debt. He sits down and comes up with a plan that will cut his expenses by $900. Is the proper advice is, "You owe $1,000 and this is only $900, so you shouldn't do it." Of course not! But that's what the majority of conservative commentators are trying to convince the rest of us to believe.