Friday, March 30, 2012

Air Pollution from Trucks and Low-Quality Heating Oil May Explain Childhood Asthma Hot Spots

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2012) — Where a child lives can greatly affect his or her risk for asthma. According to a new study by scientists at Columbia University, neighborhood differences in rates of childhood asthma may be explained by varying levels of air pollution from trucks and residential heating oil.



West Antarctic Ice Shelves Tearing Apart at the Seams

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2012) — A new study examining nearly 40 years of satellite imagery has revealed that the floating ice shelves of a critical portion of West Antarctica are steadily losing their grip on adjacent bay walls, potentially amplifying an already accelerating loss of ice to the sea.


Reporting in the Journal of Glaciology, the UTIG team found that the extent of ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea Embayment changed substantially between the beginning of the Landsat satellite record in 1972 and late 2011. These changes were especially rapid during the past decade. The affected ice shelves include the floating extensions of the rapidly thinning Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers.


Some Flame Retardants Make Fires More Deadly

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2012) — Some of the flame retardants added to carpets, furniture upholstery, plastics, crib mattresses, car and airline seats and other products to suppress the visible flames in fires are actually increasing the danger of invisible toxic gases that are the No. 1 cause of death in fires. That was the finding of a new study presented in San Diego on March 27 at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. Anna A. Stec, Ph.D., led the research, which focused on the most widely-used category of flame retardants, which contain the chemical element bromine. Scientists term these "halogen-based" flame retardants because bromine is in a group of elements called halogens.

"Halogen-based flame retardants are effective in reducing the ignitability of materials," Stec said. "We found, however, that flame retardants have the undesirable effect of increasing the amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide released during combustion. These gases, not the thermal effects of burns on the body, are the No. 1 cause of fire deaths."


The scientists tested brominated flame retardants with antimony synergists, mineral-based flame retardants and so-called intumescent agents, which swell when heated, forming a barrier that flames cannot penetrate.

Unlike the halogen-based retardants, mineral-based fire retardants have little effect on fire toxicity. Most intumescent fire retardants reduce the amount of potentially toxic gases released in a fire.


Changes in Testosterone

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2012) — It's a rough life for the Tsimane, an isolated indigenous group in Bolivia. They make a living by hunting and foraging in forests, fishing in streams and clearing land by hand to grow crops. Their rugged lifestyle might imply that Tsimane men have elevated testosterone to maintain the physical activity required to survive each day.

But new research shows that Tsimane ("chi-MAH-nay") men have a third less baseline testosterone compared with men living in the United States, where life is less physically demanding. And unlike men in the U.S., the Bolivian foragers-farmers do not show declines in testosterone with age.

"Maintaining high levels of testosterone compromises the immune system, so it makes sense to keep it low in environments where parasites and pathogens are rampant, as they are where the Tsimane live," said Ben Trumble, an anthropology graduate student at the University of Washington.


Trumble also pointed out that whereas men in the U.S. show a decline in testosterone as they age, and testosterone drops serve as a sentinel for age-related disease, Tsimane men maintain a stable amount of testosterone across their lifespans and show little incidence of obesity, heart disease and other illnesses linked with older age.

Despite lower circulating levels of testosterone under normal conditions, the forager-farmers do have something in common with U.S. men: short-term spikes of testosterone during competition.

Trumble and his co-authors organized a soccer tournament for eight Tsimane teams. The researchers found that Tsimane men had a 30 percent increase in testosterone immediately after a soccer game. An hour after the game, testosterone was still 15 percent higher than under normal conditions. Similar percent increases have been shown in men living in the U.S. or other industrialized nations following sports competitions.

The study suggests that competition-linked bursts of testosterone are a fundamental aspect of human biology that persists even if it increases risk for sickness or infection.



Thyme May Be Better for Acne Than Prescription Creams

Clearasil used to work for me :)

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2012) — Herbal preparations of thyme could be more effective at treating skin acne than prescription creams, according to research recently presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin. Further clinical testing could lead to an effective, gentler treatment for the skin condition.



Stopping Statin Therapy Increases Risk of Death for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

ScienceDaily (Mar. 28, 2012) — Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who discontinue use of statin therapy are at increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes. According to the findings of a population-based study now available in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), RA patients should be advised of the importance of compliance to their statin therapy to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality risk.



FDA rejects petition to ban BPA in food packaging

Well, if we are willing to destroy our environment in other ways, why worry about this? [sarcastic cynicism]

March 30, 2012 4:14 PM

(CBS/AP) BPA, the chemical found in food packaging that has been tied to all sorts of health risks, appears to be here to stay.

The Food and Drug Administration has rejected a petition from environmentalists that would have banned the plastic-hardening chemical all food and drink packaging, including plastic bottles and canned food.

The agency said Friday that petitioners did not present compelling scientific evidence to justify new restrictions on the oft-debated chemical, though federal scientists will continue to study the issue.


About 90 percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies, mainly because it leaches out of bottles, canned food and other food containers.

A study last November found people who eat a serving of canned soup for five consecutive days could raise their urinary BPA levels by a whopping 1,000 percent.

Some scientists believe exposure to BPA can harm the reproductive and nervous systems, particularly in babies and small children, potentially leading to cancer and other diseases. They point to results from dozens of BPA studies in rodents and other animals.


"While evidence from some studies have raised questions as to whether BPA may be associated with a variety of health effects, there remain serious questions about these studies, particularly as they relate to humans," the agency said in its response.

The agency's official position is that there is "some concern" about BPA's effects on young children. The government is spending $30 million to conduct additional studies on the chemical's impact on humans. Several federal studies published in the last two years suggest that even human embryos retain far less BPA than other animals.

Last October, a study of pregnant women found BPA exposure while in the womb may disrupt fetal brain development, leading to behavior problems in young girls.

Many companies have already responded to consumer demand by removing BPA from their products. In 2008, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Toys "R" Us said they began phasing out bottles, sippy cups and other children's items containing BPA. By the end of 2009, the six leading makers of baby bottles in the U.S. went BPA-free. Earlier this month Campbell's Soup said it would begin removing BPA from its most popular soups, though it did not set a time frame.

But the vast majority of canned goods in the U.S. are still sealed with resin that contains BPA to prevent contamination and spoiling. Canned food manufacturers have used the chemicals since the 1950s, and the practice is approved by the FDA. The chemical industry says BPA is the safest, most effective sealant.

Some manufacturers have begun switching to alternatives. Heinz reportedly uses BPA-free coatings for its Nurture baby formula cans, and ConAgra and General Mills say they have switched to alternative sealants for some canned tomatoes.


While older children and adults quickly eliminate the chemical through their kidneys, newborns and infants can retain it for longer. Scientists pushing for a ban on the chemical argue that BPA mimics the effects of the hormone estrogen, interfering with growth.


Make a difference

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Count not your footsteps but be sure to measure their depth.
~ Regina


Lack of consistency

I notice that those who are against using contraceptives, saying God will decide how many children a couple will have, don't sit around waiting for God to arrange for someone to bring them food. They don't go naked; but if God wanted us to be clothed, why don't we have fur? Most don't go w/o medical care when it's needed. Etc, etc, etc.

For most of human history, we didn't have the kind of medical care we have today. We are adapted to a lifestyle where most babies never grew to adulthood. Eg., there was a lack of clean drinking water. It doesn't make sense to embrace modern scientific benefits in most areas, but not in reproduction.


Benefits of Taking Your Dog to Work May Not Be Far-Fetched

ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2012) — Man's best friend may make a positive difference in the workplace by reducing stress and making the job more satisfying for other employees, according to a Virginia Commonwealth University study.



Link Between Fast Food and Depression Confirmed

ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2012) — A new study along the same lines as its predecessors shows how eating fast food is linked to a greater risk of suffering from depression. This study has been published in the Public Health Nutrition journal

According to a recent study headed by scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada, eating commercial baked goods (fairy cakes, croissants, doughnuts, etc.) and fast food (hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza) is linked to depression.


Previous studies suggest that certain nutrients have a preventative role. These include group B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil. Furthermore, a healthy diet such as that enjoyed in the Mediterranean has been linked to a lower risk of developing depression.


ADHD Is Over-Diagnosed, Experts Say

ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2012) — What experts and the public have already long suspected is now supported by representative data collected by researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and University of Basel: ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is over-diagnosed. The study showed that child and adolescent psychotherapists and psychiatrists tend to give a diagnosis based on heuristics, unclear rules of thumb, rather than adhering to recognized diagnostic criteria. Boys in particular are substantially more often misdiagnosed compared to girls.



Crocodiles Trump T. Rex as Heavyweight Bite-Force Champions

ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2012) — Paul M. Gignac, Ph.D., Instructor of Research, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and colleagues at Florida State University and in California and Australia, found in a study of all 23 living crocodilian species that crocodiles can kill with the strongest bite force measured for any living animal. The study also revealed that the bite forces of the largest extinct crocodilians exceeded 23,000 pounds, a force two-times greater than the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.



Paul Ryan's anarchist budget plan

Dean Baker.
Co-Director of CEPR; Author, ‘The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive’

The Paul Ryan Rorschach Test

Posted: 03/26/2012 5:08 pm
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan did a great public service when he released his budget last week. By throwing a piece of total garbage on the table and pretending it is a real budget plan, he allowed us to see who in Washington is serious about the budget and who just says things that will push their agenda.

It is easy to see that Ryan himself could not possibly be serious about the document he put out as a “Path to Prosperity.” The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan, which was prepared under Representative Ryan’s direction, shows that all categories of government spending outside of health care and Social Security will shrink to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050.

This 3.75 percent of GDP includes defense spending, which is currently close to 4.0 percent of GDP, not including the cost of the war in Afghanistan. Representative Ryan said that he wants to keep defense spending close to its current level. This means that we have no money left to pay for the Justice Department, the State Department, support for education, roads and other infrastructure, the Park Service, the National Institutes of Health and all the other things that we expect the federal government to do. Essentially Paul Ryan is an anarchist who is proposing to shut down the federal government.

This cannot be a misrepresentation of Representative Ryan’s agenda. He put out essentially the same budget last year at which point many people pointed out the fact that he shrank most categories of government spending to zero. If that was a mistake (albeit an incredibly foolish one) he has now had a full year to reflect on his error and redesign a budget to reflect his real priorities.

Instead, he doubled down. In Representative Ryan’s 2012 Path there is no room for federal funding for all the services that even conservatives expect the government to provide. Does the Republican right now want to shut down federal prisons and end border patrols as Representative Ryan’s budget implies.



Senators Who Voted To Protect Oil Tax Breaks Received $23,582,500 From Big Oil

By Rebecca Leber posted from ThinkProgress Green on Mar 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm

In a 51-47 vote, 43 Senate Republicans and four Democrats filibustered to protect $24 billion in tax breaks for Big Oil. Although a majority voted for Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-NJ) bill, it fell short of the 60 needed. The only two Republicans to break rank were Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

A Think Progress Green analysis shows how oil and gas companies have funneled cash to the same senators who protected its handouts:

– The 47 senators voting against the bill have received $23,582,500 in career contributions from oil and gas. The 51 senators voting to repeal oil tax breaks have received $5,873,600.

– The senators who voted for Big Oil’s handouts received on average over four times as much career oil cash as those who voted to end them.

– Overall, Senate Republicans have taken $23.2 million in oil and gas contributions. Democrats received $6.66 million.

– Since 2011, Senate Republicans have voted seven times for pro-Big Oil interests and against clean energy three times.

Democrats who joined the Republicans in defeating the bill include Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Jim Webb (D-VA). Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) broke ranks and voted to cut the tax breaks. Two senators, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) didn’t vote.

Republicans have taken an overwhelming 88 percent of oil and gas contributions this election cycle. While showering politicans with cash, the oil industry also spent over $146,000,000 on lobbying last year.


tags: corruption

Meditation Improves Emotional Behaviors in Teachers

ScienceDaily (Mar. 28, 2012) — Schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed -- and more compassionate and aware of others' feelings, according to a UCSF-led study that blended ancient meditation practices with the most current scientific methods for regulating emotions.



Current Chemical Testing Missing Low-Dosage Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) -- such as BPA -- can show tangible effects on health endpoints at high dosage levels, yet those effects do not predict how EDCs will affect the endocrine system at low doses, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Endocrine Reviews. Study authors say current definitions of low-dosage as used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do not fully take into account the unique influence that low doses of EDCs have on disease development in humans.


"Low-dose effects are remarkably common in studies of natural hormones and EDCs," said Vandenberg. "We recommend greatly expanded and generalized safety testing and surveillance to detect potential adverse effects of this broad class of chemicals. Before new chemicals are developed, a wider range of doses, extending into the low-dose range, should be fully tested."


Forest-Destroying Avalanches On the Rise Due to Clear-Cut Logging

Cutting down trees to build houses can have the same results.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — Scientists with the UBC Avalanche Research Group have been studying the impact of clear-cut logging on avalanche terrain in British Columbia. Understanding avalanche behavior and its destructive potential is an important factor in assessing risk of clear-cut logging of mature forest timber. An article just published in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal presents data collected from locations where avalanches have been released due to clear-cut logging; these data demonstrate the adverse effects of poor logging practices.



Weakness Can Be an Advantage in Surviving Deadly Parasites, a New Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — When battling an epidemic of a deadly parasite, less resistance can sometimes be better than more, a new study suggests.

A freshwater zooplankton species known as Daphnia dentifera endures periodic epidemics of a virulent yeast parasite that can infect more than 60 percent of the Daphnia population. During these epidemics, the Daphnia population evolves quickly, balancing infection resistance and reproduction.


The study shows that lakes with high nutrient concentrations and lower predation levels exhibit large epidemics and Daphnia that become more resistant to infection by the yeast Metschnikowia bicuspidata. However, in lakes with fewer resources and high predation, epidemics remain small and Daphnia evolve increased susceptibility to the parasite.



Massive Visa and Mastercard credit card data theft

By Bob Sullivan March 30, 2012

Law enforcement officials are investigating what appears to be a massive theft of U.S. consumers' credit card data, MasterCard confirmed Friday. The computer security expert who first reported the theft said it might involve 10 million MasterCard and Visa accounts, making it one of the largest credit card heists in recent memory.


Gartner security expert Avivah Litan said she's been told that the stolen data is already being used on the street by identity thieves.



How Bees Are Harmed by Common Crop Pesticides

Since bees are insects, it is hardly surprising that they are harmed by insecticides.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — A widely used insecticide can threaten the health of bumblebee colonies and interfere with the homing abilities of honeybees, according to a pair of new studies. The reports, one by a U.K. team and one by a French team, were published 29 March at the Science Express Web site of the journal Science.



Carbon Dioxide Was Hidden in the Ocean During Last Ice Age

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — Why did the atmosphere contain so little carbon dioxide (CO2) during the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago?

Around 20,000 years ago, the atmospheric CO2 concentration during the last Ice Age was distinctly lower than in the following warm period. Measurements from Antarctic ice cores showed this already two decades ago. An international team of glaciologists thereafter looked even further back in time. The climate researchers found that this close connection between carbon dioxide and temperature has existed over the past 800,000 years: with low CO2 concentrations during the Ice Ages and higher CO2 values during warm periods. Now they tried to answer also the question as to where the carbon dioxide was hidden during the Ice Ages and how it got back into the atmosphere at their ends.

"We have now been able to identify processes in the ocean which are connected to the observed rise in CO2," says Dr. Jochen Schmitt, lead author of the recently published study and researcher at the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern. According to Schmitt, during the Ice Age more and more carbon dioxide accumulated in the deep ocean, causing the concentration of atmospheric CO2 to drop. Only at the end of the Ice Age this stored CO2 was transported back to the sea surface through changing ocean circulation and thus emitted back into the atmosphere, write the scientists in the scientific journal "Science."


the CO2 content in the atmosphere has never been anywhere near as high over the past 800,000 years as today, says the climate researcher.


Autism More Common Than Previously Thought: CDC Report Shows One in 54 Boys Identified

At least part of this increase is due to better diagnosis. But there may also be actual increases due to rising levels of pollution.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 children in the United States has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study released March 29 that looked at data from 14 communities. Autism spectrum disorders are almost five times more common among boys than girls -- with 1 in 54 boys identified.

The number of children identified with ASDs ranged from 1 in 210 children in Alabama to 1 in 47 children in Utah. The largest increases were among Hispanic and black children.


The study also shows more children are being diagnosed by age 3, an increase from 12 percent for children born in 1994 to 18 percent for children born in 2000. "Unfortunately, 40 percent of the children in this study aren't getting a diagnosis until after age 4. We are working hard to change that," said Boyle.


Electricity and Carbon Dioxide Used to Generate Alternative Fuel

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — Imagine being able to use electricity to power your car -- even if it's not an electric vehicle. Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have for the first time demonstrated a method for converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuel isobutanol using electricity.


The current way to store electricity is with lithium ion batteries, in which the density is low, but when you store it in liquid fuel, the density could actually be very high," Liao said. "In addition, we have the potential to use electricity as transportation fuel without needing to change current infrastructure."



Emerging Fungal Infection in South West U.S. Mimics Cancer

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2012) — An emerging fungal infection of the gastrointestinal tract that mimics cancer and inflammatory bowel disease appears to be emerging in the Southwestern United States and other desert regions, according to Mayo Clinic researchers in Arizona investigating the disease. The invasive fungus, Basidiobolus ranarum, is typically found in the soil, decaying organic matter and the gastrointestinal tracts of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and bats.



Alan Lomax's Massive Archive Goes Online

March 28, 2012

Folklorist Alan Lomax spent his career documenting folk music traditions from around the world. Now thousands of the songs and interviews he recorded are available for free online, many for the first time. It's part of what Lomax envisioned for the collection — long before the age of the Internet.



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Republicans kill plan to block employers from demanding Facebook passwords from job applicants

Friday, Mar 30 2012

House Republicans have rejected a measure to prevent employers from forcing job applicants to disclose their Facebook passwords.

Democratic Congressman Ed Perrlmutter presented legislation on Tuesday that would have empowered the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit the practice.

The down vote comes after Facebook said it has 'seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people's Facebook profiles or private information,' making it a violation to do so.

The reform effort was blocked with a partisan 184 to 236 vote. Only one Republican sided with the measure. Two Democrats voted against it.



Bank Of America CEO Gets $7.5 Million Pay Package After The Bank Lost More Than Half Its Stock Value

How to get very rich.

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Mar 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm

The Wall Street Journal noted this week that that CEO pay lagged behind profits and productivity last year, mirroring a trend that has been occurring with workers’ wages for decades. But even that slight modicum of moderation regarding executive compensation evidently didn’t extend to Bank of America, which gave CEO Brian Moynihan a $7.5 million pay package — six times as much as he made in 2010 — following a year in which the company’s stock plummeted:

Bank of America gave its CEO a pay package worth $7.5 million last year, six times as large as the year before. It happened while the company’s stock lost more than half its value and the bank lost its claim as the biggest in the country.

The package for CEO Brian Moynihan included a salary of $950,000, a $6.1 million stock award and about $420,000 worth of use of company aircraft and tax and financial advice.

For those keeping score, Bank of America’s stock dropped 58 percent in 2011 and the bank surrendered its title as the nation’s largest to JP Morgan Chase. A good chunk of the stock award was actually given to Moynihan for the bank’s 2010 performance, when it lost money.

In addition to seeing its stock tank, Bank of America has also been, according to a whistleblower suit, intentionally blocking troubled homeowners from receiving mortgage aid. The whistleblower alleges that BofA misled borrowers about their eligibility for federal mortgage aid programs and that “the bank and its agents routinely pretended to have lost homeowners’ documents.” (But remember, Bank of America will modify your mortgage as long as you erase all the mean things you’ve been saying about it on Twitter.)

BofA has also been tied up in the foreclosure fraud scandal, and just a few months ago paid $335 million to settle charges that its subsidiary discriminated against minorities in its lending. If this is how much Moynihan gets after that sort of year, what will he receive if the bank actually has a good one?

Senate Republicans Protect Big Oil Subsidies As Gasoline Profits Soar

I inserted a clarifying clause (in brackets & italics) since at first I mis-read the meaning, since others might have the same problem.

By a nearly party-line vote of 51-47, the U.S. Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to eliminate $24 billion in taxpayer subsidies for the five richest oil companies. The Republicans filibustered legislation by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) which would have cut the subsidies [and used the savings] to pay for investment in wind power and energy efficiency. Democrats who joined the Republicans included Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Jim Webb (D-VA). Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) broke ranks and voted to cut the tax breaks.


A Message From A Republican Meteorologist On Climate Change

by Paul Douglas, via neorenaissance on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:47 am

’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real.

I am a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment, and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern. To complicate matters, I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up, long-term. It’s ironic.

The root of the word conservative is “conserve.” A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly “global warming alarmists” are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.

These are the Dog Days of March. Ham Weather reports 6,895 records in the last week – some towns 30 to 45 degrees warmer than average; off-the-scale, freakishly warm. 13,393 daily records for heat since March 1 – 16 times more warm records than cold records. The scope, intensity and duration of this early heat wave are historic and unprecedented.

And yes, climate change is probably spiking our weather.

“Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.” 129,404 weather records in one year? You can’t point to any one weather extreme and say “that’s climate change”. But a warmer atmosphere loads the dice, increasing the potential for historic spikes in temperature and more frequent and bizarre weather extremes. You can’t prove that any one of Barry Bond’s 762 home runs was sparked by (alleged) steroid use. But it did increase his “base state,” raising the overall odds of hitting a home run. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, more fuel for floods, while increased evaporation pushes other regions into drought.


Access to pill boosts women's earnings - study

By Linda Carroll, contributor March 29, 2012

A new study may add tinder to the debate over whether the federal government ought to require health insurance plans to pay for contraception. New research shows that access to birth control pills over the past 50 years has translated into higher pay and better careers for women.

After scrutinizing data from a multidecade survey, University of Michigan researchers determined that women who had access to birth control pills when they were in their late teens and early 20s tended to be better educated and better paid 20 years later compared to women who couldn’t get oral contraceptives. Women who had early access to the pill were making 8 percent more than those who didn’t.


So the researchers were able to compare the career trajectories and salaries of women who could get the pill at 18 versus those who had to wait until they were 21.


The women who benefited the most from early access to the pill were those who came from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

“One thing I think is important to point out is that we didn’t see a change in the number of children these women had, but we did see changes in when they decided to have them,” Bailey said. “That slight delay in the birth of their first child translated into some pretty big gains in terms of lifetime earnings.”


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Congressman’s Complaint Puts Tim DeChristopher Into Isolated Confinement

Imprisoned climate activist Tim DeChristopher has been placed into confined quarters, because “an unidentified congressman had called from Washington DC, complaining of an email that Tim had sent,” according to Peaceful Uprising. DeChristopher was prosecuted by the Obama administration and sentenced to two years in federal prison for disrupting a last-minute Bush oil lease auction in Utah that was found to be improper and was withdrawn. Last month, the Department of Justice fined two companies $550,000 for conspiring on the bidding for a similar oil and gas auction. There were no criminal prosecutions of this federal felony. One of the companies involved, Oxbow Corporation, is owned by top pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC contributor William Koch, brother to David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries.


Cantor’s ‘Small Business’ Jobs Bill Gives Millionaires An Average Tax Cut Of $45,000

by Seth Hanlon Mar 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Earlier today ThinkProgress reported that the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to approve a proposal by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that is misleadingly entitled the Small Business Tax Cut Act.

People who have read the bill and not just its title, however, have noted that it is extremely poorly targeted at small businesses. It is, in fact, just another tax cut for rich people. Among the biggest beneficiaries would be the owners of extremely profitable businesses like Oprah Winfrey’s production company and professional sports teams like the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, as well as highly paid professionals like lawyers, lobbyists, doctors, and consultants.

The Tax Policy Center has now estimated who benefits from Cantor’s bill. Among TPC’s findings:

– The top 1 percent would receive an average tax cut that is 1000 times bigger than the average tax cut for people in the middle quintile ($23 vs. $23,000). The top 0.1 percent would receive an average tax cut of more than $130,000.

– Half of the tax benefits would go to millionaires, who comprise less than one-half of one percent of all taxpayers and only 4 percent of actual small business owners according to a recent Treasury study. Millionaires, on average, would get a tax cut of $45,000 — almost as much as median household income in 2010.

– Business owners with annual income of $200,000 or less — who comprise more than 75 percent of small business owners — would receive only 16 percent of the benefit from Cantor’s bill.



Earth Hour Mar. 31, 2012 Sat 8:30pm

This Earth Hour 2012: 8.30pm, Saturday 31 March, celebrate your action for the planet with the people of world by switching off your lights for an hour, then go beyond the hour. Help energize a commitment to work together for the sake of our world.


Alan Lomax's Massive Archive Goes Online

by Joel Rose March 28, 2012

Folklorist Alan Lomax spent his career documenting folk music traditions from around the world. Now thousands of the songs and interviews he recorded are available for free online, many for the first time. It's part of what Lomax envisioned for the collection — long before the age of the Internet.

Lomax recorded a staggering amount of folk music. He worked from the 1930s to the '90s, and traveled from the Deep South to the mountains of West Virginia, all the way to Europe, the Caribbean and Asia.



Romney: Uninsured with preexisting conditions should be denied coverage

Insurance companies have been known to drop people from coverage when they get sick, and/or raise the premiums so much people can't afford the.

And fewer jobs have medical insurance now. And if it is available, people might not be able to afford it. At Waffle House, insurance is available, but people can't afford it unless they have a working spouse.

By David Edwards Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:23 EDT

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday insisted that President Barack Obama’s health care reform law should be overturned and that people with preexisting conditions should be denied coverage if they had never had insurance before.

During an appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show, host Jay Leno told Romney that he knew people that had never been able to get insurance before “Obamacare” was passed.

“It seems to me like children and people with preexisting conditions should be covered,” Leno noted.

“People with preexisting conditions — as long as they’ve been insured before, they’re going to continue to have insurance,” Romney explained.

“Suppose they were never insured?” Leno asked.

“Well, if they’re 45 years old, and they show up, and they say, I want insurance, because I’ve got a heart disease, it’s like, `Hey guys, we can’t play the game like that. You’ve got to get insurance when you’re well, and if you get ill, then you’re going to be covered,’” Romney replied.

“I know guys that work in the auto industry and they’re just not covered because they work in brake dust,” Leno pressed. “And then they get to be 30, 35, and were never able to get insurance before. Now they have it. That seems like a good thing.”



Missouri Republicans Propose Budget That Takes Away Aid to the Blind

March 27, 2012
By Stephen D. Foster Jr.

Republicans have moved to strip funding of women’s health services, services that help the poor, services that aid minorities, and services that help children. But that’s apparently not enough for Republicans.

In Missouri, House Republicans are proposing a $24 billion dollar budget, which is a lot of money. But the GOP has spotted one group of people that they haven’t yet bullied: blind people.

According to the Kansas City Star,

“The Supplemental Aid to the Blind program pays for medical care for about 2,800 people who earn more than $9,495 a year — and therefore don’t qualify for Medicaid — but also receive monthly payments from the state’s blind pension fund. They cannot have more than $20,000 in assets and cannot have sighted spouses who work. But in the $24 billion budget passed Thursday by the Missouri House, the $28 million health care program for the blind was eliminated. The money instead was used to avoid another year of cuts to higher education.”


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gray whale rescued from discarded fishing net off California coast

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 20:16 EDT

Rescuers over the weekend spent seven hours trying to carefully free a gray whale that became entangled in a discarded fishing net off the coast of California.

“It was getting very frightening towards the end of the day because we were running out of time,” Dave Anderson, who works with and helped rescue the whale, said.

The whale was probably dragging the nearly 50 feet of fishing wire for nearly a week, according to the rescue crew. The net was filled with dead sea animals.

“We had a sea lion, we had several sharks, it was the whole ecosystem, you know, was in that netting,” Anderson said.

Anderson said about a thousand dolphins and whales die in fishing nets each year.

Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, at the link above



Microsoft co-founder Allen has identity stolen

In the last half year, I know of two friends who had their identity stolen and their bank accounts cleared out, in one case by someone gambling at Las Vegas. They got their money back, but it was a hassle. ane this must be contributing to the cost of checking accounts and credit cards.

By RANDY PENNELL Mar. 27, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — An AWOL soldier's simple scheme to defraud one of the richest men in the world has landed him in federal custody, according to a criminal complaint.

In the complaint unsealed Monday, federal investigators allege Brandon Lee Price changed the address on a bank account held by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, then had a debit card sent to his Pittsburgh home so he could use it for payments on a delinquent Armed Forces Bank account and personal expenses.


Just under 280,000 cases of identity theft were reported in 2011, according to the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. That includes complaints through the Better Business Bureau and state attorney general offices and other law enforcement agencies.


Obscene Lifestyles Choices of America's 1% Elite

This was somewhat disappointing. I didn't see some of the worst behaviour, like paying African guides to capture endangered animals like tigers, so that a rich person could shoot them in safety and claim them as trophies. Or the ones who travel to countries where they can use child prostitutes.

by David Sirota March 21, 2012

As the unemployment rate still sits above 8 percent, and one in three Americans struggles to afford medical bills, even the filthiest of filthy rich presidential candidates is at least pretending to empathize with the average American. Granted, they sometimes slip up and expose just how wealthy they are — but at least they are trying.

The same cannot be said of some of these candidates’ cronies in the 1 percent. Whether complaining about having to do their own dishes, or bragging about their car garages costing more than the average American makes in a lifetime, the 1 percenters are all but screaming “let them eat cake” from the ramparts. Here are 10 particularly egregious examples from the last few months.

1. Bankers Struggle at Washing Dishes


In the Bloomberg piece, Andrew Schiff, who makes $350,000 a year, complains that after renting a second Connecticut vacation house for a full month every year and shelling out $32,000 a year on his child’s elite private school, he now “only” gets to “bring home less than $200,000 after taxes, health-insurance and 401(k) contributions.”

“I can’t imagine what I’m going to do,” he says. “I’m crammed into 1,200 square feet. I don’t have a dishwasher. We do all our dishes by hand.”

2. Penthouse Parking


In the apartment building the Times profiles, domiciles go for $7 million a year, including a 300-square-foot “en suite sky garage” that “would be valued at more than $800,000 if priced at the same rate per square foot as the rest of the apartment.


5. The Oil Baron Who Hiked Tuition

Bruce Benson is a wealthy man. He currently serves as the president of Colorado’s university system. The state should have known better, however, than to put a former oilman and Republican Party chairman in charge of its students’ well-being. Recently, he tried to quietly pass a 15 percent tuition increase in expedited fashion so as to avoid media scrutiny. He was in a rush because he knew such attention would uncover his decision to use last year’s massive tuition hike to finance huge bonuses to CU administrators already making big money. He gave one administrator making $340,000 a year a one-year raise of $49,000. In all, Benson devoted a whopping 29 percent of the tuition increase to raises.


8. The Sears CEO's New Versailles

While Sears downsizes and lays off employees, company chairman Edward Lampert is buying a sprawling estate on a semi-private island.

The billionaire hedge fund manager and chairman of Sears Holdings Corp. is reportedly set to close on a $40 million estate with seven bedrooms and Versailles-style reflection pools on Indian Creek Island, north of Miami. Meanwhile Sears is selling off 1,200 stores and closing 100 to 120 for good, with Florida seeing the most closings of any state.



The Horrors of an Ayn Rand World

Too bad we don't have some way of marking these people, so we would know not to help them when they need help. I think this is the reason all large societies have eventually fallen. In small society, where everybody knows each other, you can't get away with always being a taker, because people will find out. In a large society, if you cut someone off in traffic, you are anonymous, and people who let others into traffic will let you in just as readily as anybody else.

March 26, 2012 |

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Ayn Rand Nation: the Hidden Struggle for America's Soul, by Gary Weiss.
Click here to buy

The shape of a future Objectivist world has been a matter of public record for the past half century, since Ayn Rand, the Brandens, Alan Greenspan, and other Objectivist theoreticians began to set down their views in Objectivist newsletters. When he casually defended repeal of child labor laws in the debate with Miles Rapoport, Yaron Brook [President of the Ayn Rand Institute] was merely repeating long- established Objectivist doctrine, summarized by Leonard Peikoff as “Government is inherently negative.” It is a worldview that has been static through the decades, its tenets reiterated endlessly by Rand and her apostles:

No government except the police, courts of law, and the armed services.
No regulation of anything by any government.

No Medicare or Medicaid.
No Social Security.
No public schools.
No public hospitals.
No public anything, in fact. Just individuals, each looking out for himself, not asking for help or giving help to anyone.


When Alan Greenspan spoke out against building codes, he knew perfectly well what a lack of adequate building and fire codes would mean. Fifteen years before his birth, 146 people, mostly young women, were burned alive or leaped to their death from the fire at the Triangle Waist Factory just east of Washington Square Park in New York City. There was no requirement for employers to provide a safe workplace, so none was provided. Triangle’s owners crammed their employees into crowded workspaces without proper exits, and inadequate fire codes meant that the fire stairways were insufficient. The result was that dozens of workers’ corpses piled on the sidewalk on March 25, 1911. Anywhere in the world where building codes are inadequate or absent, the result is always the same: Dead people.

In an Objectivist world, the reset button would be pushed on government services that we take for granted. They would not be cut back, not reduced -- they would vanish. In an Objectivist world, roads would go unplowed in the snows of winter, and bridges would fall as the government withdrew from the business of maintaining them -- unless some private citizen would find it in his rational self-interest to voluntarily take up the slack by scraping off the rust and replacing frayed cables. Public parks and land, from the tiniest vest-pocket patch of green to vast expanses of the West, would be sold off to the newly liberated megacorporations. Airplane traffic would be grounded unless a profit-making capitalist found it in his own selfish interests to fund the air traffic control system. If it could be made profitable, fine. If not, tough luck. The market had spoken. The Coast Guard would stay in port while storm- tossed mariners drown lustily as they did in days of yore. Fires would rage in the remnants of silent forests, vegetation and wildlife no longer protected by rangers and coercive environmental laws, swept clean of timber, their streams polluted in a rational, self-interested manner by bold, imaginative entrepreneurs.


Such is the Ayn Rand vision of paradise: an America that would resemble the lands from which our ancestors emigrated, altruism confined to ignored, fringe texts, grinding poverty and starvation coexisting alongside the opulence of the wealthy. Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York would become like Cairo and Calcutta, with walled enclaves protecting the wealthy from the malnourished, uneducated masses outside.



Hackers turn credit report websites against consumers

By Bob Sullivan Mar. 26, 2012

The most important tool consumers have to fight against ID theft has been turned against them by hackers, has learned. Websites that offer consumers a chance to see their credit reports are being brazenly used by hackers to steal victims' information.

The prices of the reports rise and fall depending on the credit score of the victim. For consumers with credit scores in the 750s, report data might fetch $80; reports from victims with scores in the low 600s sell for about half that, according to "for sale" pages viewed by

"It shows how people with good credit and a net worth now have a bull’s-eye on their backs," said Dan Clements, who operates the Internet security firm Clements gave a virtual tour of the marketplaces, which he has been observing for months.



Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible

March 26, 2012
By Nina Chestney

The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius (11 degress Fahrenheit) by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.

As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.

"This is the critical decade. If we don't get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines," said Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University's climate change institute, speaking at a conference in London.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Obama Administration To Establish Strong Carbon Pollution Limits For New Power Plants

By Brad Johnson on Mar 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm

In one of the most significant reversals of Bush-era policy, the Obama administration plans tomorrow to issue greenhouse pollution limits for new power plants, a major step in the fight against global warming. The new rule — which will go into effect in 2013 — confirms the end of the era of dirty coal-fired power plants:

The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits between 800 and 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

Since the late 1990s, “natural gas has been the fuel of choice for the majority of new generating units,” and in the 2000s, wind power generation also grew significantly. With the high cost of its toxic pollution from mine to plant, coal has been losing out to cleaner sources of fuel in the electric utility sector. Although few new coal plants have been built in the last twenty years, aging plants — some built in the 1930s — still produce about 40 percent of U.S. electricity, and about 80 percent of carbon pollution from the power sector.

In March 2001, newly elected President George W. Bush reversed a campaign pledge to limit greenhouse pollution from power plants, the source of 40 percent of United States global warming pollution. In 2008, Bush White House officials refused to open an email sent by its own Environmental Protection Agency which called for action against man-made climate change.

“This is the third major executive action launched by the Obama administration to reduce carbon pollution,” writes Center for American Progress senior fellow Daniel Weiss. “With growing evidence that the serious impacts of climate change are already here, President Obama deserves credit for this new standard. We must urgently adopt and implement these new pollution reduction standards for power plants.”

This is the third major executive action launched by the Obama administration to reduce carbon pollution. The first two established two rounds of carbon pollution reductions from vehicle tailpipes, and will “eliminate 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.”


Wall Street overwhelmingly supports Republicans

y Evan Mackinder on March 23, 2012 6:20 PM

Let there be no doubt where Wall Street's political loyalties lie: Of all the money the securities and investment industry has poured into the 2012 presidential contest so far -- to the candidates and the super PACs behind them -- an unambiguous 92 percent has gone to the GOP, according to a new Center for Responsive Politics analysis.

And in so doing, the securities and investment industry is betting hard on the candidacy of one of its own: Mitt Romney.

Between his campaign committee and a monster super PAC supporting his candidacy, Romney has benefited from about 72% percent of the near $33 million Wall Street has contributed through February.

The former Bain executive has received $7.3 million from industry-affiliated individuals and political action committees. That means securities and investment accounts for about 10 percent of the more than $74.8 million Romney has raised.

The sheer amount of cash Wall Street has sent Romney represents an extremely lopsided giving pattern. No other presidential candidate, including President Barack Obama, comes close to tapping the motherlode of industry riches.


Wall Street seems to have found an even more welcoming receptacle for its largesse in Restore Our Future, a super PAC founded by a manager of Romney's 2008 presidential campaign, which is spending millions in an auxiliary effort to propel Romney to the Republican presidential nomination and eventually into the White House.

Wealthy executives and corporations in securities and investment have contributed about $16.5 million to Restore Our Future -- more than twice the amount they have sent to his campaign. Such donors are taking advantage of a new political landscape that was reshaped by recent federal court decisions, such as the 2010 Supreme Court-decided Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which allows more money from more sources to fund hard-hitting political advertisements.



Exxon Mobil’s Tax Rate Drops To 13 Percent, After Making 35 Percent More Profits On Rising Gas Prices In 2011

By Rebecca Leber on Mar 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Exxon Mobil, the most profitable of the big five oil companies, made $41.1 billion in profits last year. Although Exxon made 35 percent more profits since 2010, its estimated effective tax rate actually dropped. Citizens for Tax Justice reported Exxon paid only 17.6 percent taxes in 2010, lower than the average American, and a Reuters analysis using the same criteria estimates that Exxon will pay only 13 percent in effective taxes for 2011. Exxon paid zero taxes to the federal government in 2009.

Reuters compares the 45 percent tax rate Exxon claims it pays to the effective rate estimated by Citizens for Tax Justice — a rate that’s even lower than Mitt Romney’s tax rate. Chevron, which made $26.9 billion profit in 2011, paid 19 percent:

Citizens for Tax Justice considers U.S. profits and U.S. taxes paid only. By that measure, Exxon Mobil paid 13 percent of its U.S. income in taxes after deductions and benefits in 2011, according to a Reuters calculation of securities filings.



Brushing Teeth: New 'Massage Method' Quadruples Protection Against Tooth Decay, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2012) — Do you really want to avoid cavities in your teeth? Try massaging them with a high-fluoride toothpaste after lunch. "Rubbing toothpaste onto your teeth increases the fluoride protection by 400%," says Anna Nordström, dentist, PhD and researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.



Genetics of Flu Susceptibility: Why the Flu Is Life-Threatening for Some, and Quite Mild for Others

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2012) — A genetic finding could help explain why influenza becomes a life-threating disease to some people while it has only mild effects in others. New research led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has identified for the first time a human gene that influences how we respond to influenza infection.



Extreme Weather of Last Decade Part of Larger Pattern Linked to Global Warming

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2012) — The past decade has been one of unprecedented weather extremes. Scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany argue that the high incidence of extremes is not merely accidental. From the many single events a pattern emerges. At least for extreme rainfall and heat waves the link with human-caused global warming is clear, the scientists show in a new analysis of scientific evidence in the journal Nature Climate Change. Less clear is the link between warming and storms, despite the observed increase in the intensity of hurricanes.

In 2011 alone, the US was hit by 14 extreme weather events which caused damages exceeding one billion dollars each -- in several states the months of January to October were the wettest ever recorded. Japan also registered record rainfalls, while the Yangtze river basin in China suffered a record drought. Similar record-breaking events occurred also in previous years. In 2010, Western Russia experienced the hottest summer in centuries, while in Pakistan and Australia record-breaking amounts of rain fell. 2003 saw Europe´s hottest summer in at least half a millennium. And in 2002, the weather station of Zinnwald-Georgenfeld measured more rain in one day than ever before recorded anywhere in Germany -- what followed was the worst flooding of the Elbe river for centuries.



Sleeping Too Much or Too Little Can Be Bad for Your Heart

Part of this might be that something like congestive heart failure, which does not bring enough oxygen to the body, might increase the need for sleep? Or sleep apnea might cause both the need for increased sleep and heart problems.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2012) — Getting too little sleep -- or even too much -- appears to spell trouble for the heart. New data reveal that adults who get less than six hours of sleep a night are at significantly greater risk of stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure. Even those who reportedly sleep more than eight hours a night have a higher prevalence of heart problems, namely chest pain (angina) and coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart, according to research presented March 25 at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session. The Scientific Session, the premier cardiovascular medical meeting, brings cardiovascular professionals together to further advances in the field.



Facebook warns employers: don't ask for passwords


By Geoff Duncan | Digital Trends – Fri, Mar 23, 2012

Amid an upsurge in reports that employers are increasingly asking job applicants to hand over passwords to their Facebook and other social media accounts as part of the hiring process, word comes down from Facebook: don’t do it.

Facebook has two lines of reasoning. For users, surrendering a password not only compromises a user’s privacy, but the privacy of all their Facebook friends as well. Not to mention, sharing a password violates Facebook’s terms of service and could be grounds for account termination.

For employers, the consequences might be even more expensive: employers could be setting themselves up for lawsuits if they fail to treat information gleaned from prospective employees’ Facebook accounts as confidential. Furthermore, employers could expose themselves to job discrimination claims if they fail to hire (or even fire) employees based on details like age, sexual orientation, ethnic identity, medical information, or other details gleaned from an account.

“We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges,” wrote Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin Egan. “While we will continue to do our part, it is important that everyone on Facebook understands they have a right to keep their password to themselves, and we will do our best to protect that right.”


Privacy laws and regulations vary from country to country and place to place. United States federal law allows employers to use publicly-available material on social media sites as part of a background check, so long as the employer doesn’t obtain the information through duplicity or use it in as a basis for hiring discrimination. Although turning over an account password violates Facebook’s terms of service, those terms have never been tested in court and, as such, are essentially only backed by contract law, rather than criminal law. Entering a social networking site in violation of terms of service is a federal crime; however, the Justice Department recently indicated in Congressional testimony it has no intention of pursuing violations.

tags business ethics, privacy

Rep. Johnson highlights benefits of Affordable Care Act in Fourth District

March 23, 2012

Congressman on House floor: ‘To a man, Republicans want insurance companies to keep gender discrimination’

Today, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) announced that a new analysis shows that hundreds of thousands of people in his district are already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. The second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act is March 23.

360,000 people are now protected from insurance companies from dropping them is they get sick.

► 200,000 residents are protected from insurance companies putting lifetime limits on coverage. In the past, in some cases, lifetime limits on coverage have forced some families to declare personal bankruptcy.

► 6,100 young adults now have health insurance because the law requires health insurers to permit parents to retain coverage for their children until their 26th birthday.

► 4,300 seniors have lower drug costs because the law provides a 50 percent discount for brand-name drugs for seniors in the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ coverage gap.

► 43,000 seniors have received free preventive Medicare services such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and annual wellness visits.

► $7 million in public health grants for our community health centers.

► Up to 43,000 children with pre-existing conditions are now protected against insurer denials.

► Nearly 500 small businesses have received tax credits to help maintain or expand health care coverage for their employees.



Top 5 Health Care Benefits for Women in the Health Care Law

1. Being a woman is no longer a "pre-existing condition." ... Women will no longer be denied care2 for pre-existing conditions.

2. Insurance companies can't charge you more for being a woman either. Before the Affordable Care Act was law, women were sometimes charged up to 150% more than men of the same age. The health care law makes gender discrimination illegal.3

3. Having a pap smear still sucks, but at least you don't have to shell out a co-pay for it. ... whole bunch of other preventive care measures must be covered by insurance companies.4

4. You also don't need a co-pay for birth control anymore.5 And when 1 in 3 women in our country can't afford it, that's a big deal.

5. Have kids? Or want to? The law helps with that too. If you have kids, they can stay on your health insurance until they're 26 years old--regardless of whether they live with you or are married or not.6 And if you want to have kids, the law will help you get pre-natal care and counseling and help with breast feeding and supplies too.7



ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures - added more links

I suggest reading the whole article.

I was talking to a friend a few days ago who used to work for state government, and they used to get xeroxed ALEC model legislation. Now they get e-mails.

ALEC was founded in 1973. I am better informed about such things than most, and I never heard of them until recently. So much for the "liberal press".
Posted on 17 May 2011

Originally posted on Right Wing Watch

When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, who helped build a nationwide right-wing political infrastructure following the reelection of Richard Nixon. In the same year, he helped establish the Heritage Foundation, now one of the most prominent right-wing policy institutes in the country. One year later, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the predecessor of the Free Congress Foundation. In 1979, he co-founded and coined the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, and in 1981 he helped establish the ultraconservative Council on National Policy.

ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation). These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.

Members of ALEC’s board represent major corporations such as Altria, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft, PhRMA, Wal-Mart, Peabody Energy, and State Farm. Such corporations represent just a fraction of ALEC’s approximately three hundred corporate partners. According to the American Association for Justice, over eighty percent of ALEC’s finances come from corporate contributions.


ALEC serves as a means for corporations to advise, lobby and sway legislators. By paying hefty dues and sponsorship fees, corporations are able to participate in ALEC ventures, forums and legislative advocacy work and also underwrite conferences, task forces and meetings with politicians. Corporations use ALEC to formulate, present and promote model legislation to elected officials who are ALEC members and sometimes hold leadership roles in the organization.


ALEC propagates a wide range of “model legislation” that seeks to make it more difficult for people to hold corporations accountable in court; gut the rights and protections of workers and consumers; encumber health care reform; privatize and weaken the public education system; provide business tax cuts and corporate welfare; privatize and cut public services; erode regulations and environmental laws; create unnecessary voter ID requirements; endorse Citizens United; diminish campaign finance reformand permit greater corporate influence in elections.


According to ALEC, in 2009, of the 826 “model bills” that were introduced in state legislatures, 115 of those bills were enacted into law. That number is sure to grow following the major Republican gains in the 2010 elections.


What Does ALEC Lobby For?:

Undercutting Health Care Reform

ALEC works fervently to promote laws that would shield corporations from legal action and allow them to limit the rights of workers.

As states face challenging budget deficits, ALEC wants to make it more difficult to generate revenue in order to close shortfalls.

Private School Vouchers

ALEC is directly tied to the emerging trend among state legislatures to consider voter ID laws. Using false allegations of “voter fraud,” right-wing politicians are pursuing policies that disenfranchise students and other at-risk voters,--including the elderly and the poor--who are unlikely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of photo ID. By suppressing the vote of such groups, ALEC’s model “Voter ID Act” grants an electoral advantage to Republicans while undermining the right to vote.

At the bidding of its major donors like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, ALEC is behind state-level legislation that would hinder the ability of government to regulate and curb polluters.

See also the following:


Ga. Legislature shows little regard for free speech

An example of ALEC's work.

2:19 pm March 26, 2012, by Jay

Georgia Republicans like to talk about honoring and protecting the U.S. Constitution. But they are about to pass a law that blatantly violates one of its most important protections, the freedom of speech.

I’m not a fan of picketing or demonstrations at private residences; as a matter of policy and decency, family homes ought to be off-limits. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Frisby v. Schultz, agreed, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writing the majority opinion upholding a ban on demonstrations enacted by Brookfield, Wisc.:


However, Senate Bill 469 is a very different animal. Sponsored by state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Gwinnett, the bill attempts to use O’Connor’s argument to justify a limited ban on picketing of private homes that “interfere(s) with the resident’s right of peaceful quiet enjoyment.” It’s that “limited” part that so clearly violates the Constitution.

Under SB 469, you see, the only people or groups that are banned from protesting outside private residences in Georgia are labor unions and union members.

As the bill’s sponsors have made very clear, SB 469 would still allow anti-abortion protesters to demonstrate outside the home of a physician or hospital executive. Environmental groups would still be able to protest outside the homes of company executives. Church groups could still protest outside the homes of strip-club operators.

Labor unions — and only labor unions — would be prevented from expressing their opinions in such a manner. And only company executives who might be targeted by such protests would be protected by the law. Everybody else is on their own.

Because that provision so blatantly discriminates against a particular point of view and against a particular group of people, it is also blatantly unconstitutional.


The bill has already passed the Senate. This morning, in a surprise 9 a.m. committee meeting that wasn’t publicly announced until after 8 a.m., it was also approved by the House Industrial Relations Committee by an 8-1 vote. Democrats on the committee weren’t warned of the meeting beforehand, so only one managed to make the vote. (Another bill significantly cutting unemployment benefits for jobless Georgians was approved at the same time.)


Introverts run the world -- quietly

By Susan Cain, Special to CNN
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Sun March 18, 2012

The theory of evolution. The theory of relativity. The Cat in the Hat. All were brought to you by introverts.

Our culture is biased against quiet and reserved people, but introverts are responsible for some of humanity's greatest achievements -- from Steve Wozniak's invention of the Apple computer to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. And these introverts did what they did not in spite of their temperaments -- but because of them.

As the science journalist Winifred Gallagher writes: "The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Neither E=mc2 nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal."


But many of us recognize ourselves as one or the other. And culturally we need a better balance of yin and yang between the two types. In fact, we often seek out this balance instinctively. That's why we see so many introvert-extrovert couples (I'm an introvert happily married to an extrovert) and the most effective work teams have been found to be a mix of the two types.


if you listen to the insights of contemporary psychology. It turns out that you can't be in a group without instinctively mimicking others' opinions -- even about personal, visceral things like who you're physically attracted to. We ape other people's beliefs without even realizing we're doing it.

Groups also tend to follow the most dominant person in the room even though there's zero correlation between good ideas and being a good talker. The best talker might have the best ideas, but she might not. So it's much better to send people off to generate ideas by themselves, freed from the distortion of group dynamics, and only then come together as a team.




Bread for the World

‎"... An immature prayer asks God to remake the world in our image for our convenience, and a mature prayer asks God to make us in God’s image so that we may respond to the world." --Nancy Neal



Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.-Chief Seattle


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Senators Ask Feds to Probe Requests for Passwords

Note that if you log onto your account on a company computer, the employer might be able to capture your password.

By MANUEL VALDES Associated Press
SEATTLE March 25, 2012 (AP)

Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.

Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they are calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.


On Friday, Facebook warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords to the site so they can poke around on their profiles. The company threatened legal action against applications that violate its long-standing policy against sharing passwords.

A Facebook executive cautioned that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may be vulnerable to claims of discrimination if it doesn't hire that person.


Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk.


In California, Democratic Sen. Leland Yee introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from asking current employees or job applicants for their social media user names or passwords. That state measure also would bar employers from requiring access to employees' and applicants' social media content, to prevent employers from requiring logins or printouts of that content for their review.

In Massachusetts, state Democratic Rep. Cheryl Coakly-Rivera also filed a similar bill Friday that also expands to include personal email. Her measure also bars employers from "friending" a job applicant to view protected Facebook profiles or using similar methods for other protected social media websites.


Strength in numbers

From Facebook, I don't know where it originated:

Alone we are like one drop,

united we are like an ocean.


Republican Congressman Advises Women To Donate To Candidates who support them

by Robin Marty March 24, 2012 10:00 pm

A Republican Congressman has some interesting advice for women: if they plan to give money to a candidate this year, they should probably give it to a Democrat.

New York Representative Richard Hanna was quite candid as he spoke at a D.C. rally for the Equal Rights Amendment. “I think these are very precarious times for women, it seems,” reports Huffington Post. “So many of your rights are under assault. I’ll tell you this: Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side — my side — has a lot of it. And you need to send your own message. You need to remind people that you vote, you matter, and that they can’t succeed without your help.”

Hanna called the current political climate a “fist fight” and reminded women that they are in fact that majority and can control this election if they really try. “Tell the other women, the other 51 percent of the population, to kick in a few of their bucks. Make it matter, get out there, get on TV, advertise, talk about this.


Hanna told women at the rally that “these are very precarious times for women” and “many of your rights are under assault,” according to the website The Huffington Post. He suggested they contribute money and support candidates who speak on their behalf, the website reported.

The congressman said he wanted his own party and ERA supporters to know that Republicans like him support their cause.



Profiteering for Jesus

By: Hrafnkell HaraldssonMarch 25, 2012

And Jesus so loved the rich he gave his life for them. Or so you’d think. Jesus’ evolution into a plutocratic champion of the ultra-wealthy beggars belief. That is certainly the outlook of prosperity gospel, the idea that Jesus will make you rich. It does make some people rich – the people sending the message, that is. And it’s the fools who believe this gospel who make them rich.

Witness Pat and Jan Crouch, who run the Trinity Broadcasting Network, “the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel.” Faith in the almighty dollar that is. Fundamentalists accuse liberals of worshiping material things, of putting those material things above god and therefore engaging in idolatry.

That would be a sin, it would seem, endorsed by the Crouches, who raked in $92 million in donations in 2010, according to the Telegraph. All that money seems to have gone into fueling an outlandishly wealthy 1 percent-style existence, which included “private jets, mansions and a $100,000 motor home for their pet dogs.”

While Americans struggle. While Americans and people all around the world starve and die from disease. While Americans are homeless. A luxury motor home for dogs.


The Crouches are hardly the first to live like millionaires. As CBS News reported in 2009, the Copeland’s of the Kenneth Copeland Ministries enjoyed “a lavish lakefront home, all 18,000 square feet of it, and a fleet of private planes – all paid for by the ministry.” Most folks don’t own $20 million dollar jets, let alone the four owned by the Copelands.

It is with good reason that Cathleen Falsani wrote in the Washington Post that the prosperity gospel as one of the “worst ideas of the decade” and labeled it an “insipid heresy.”


If this obsession with wealth is not idolatry it is difficult to imagine what is.


Whatever happened to the gospel Jesus actually preached? Here is a poor illiterate – at best semi-literate Galilean who says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the message being sent is a worldly and egocentric one, the very powers Jesus preached against 2000 years ago. Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money, but apparently Christians have found a way to do just that. [But they are not serving God, they are serving themselves.]



End of Democracy

The end of democracy and the defeat of the American revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations-Thomas Jefferson, 1816

How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song?

You can also listen to the radio program at the following link:

June 30, 2011

Getting a song on the pop charts takes big money.

Def Jam started paying for Rihanna's recent single, "Man Down," more than a year ago. In March of 2010, the label held a writing camp in L.A. to create the songs for Rihanna's album, Loud.

At a writing camp, a record label hires the best music writers in the country and drops them into the nicest recording studios in town for about two weeks. It's a temporary version of the old music-industry hit factories, where writers and producers cranked out pop songs.

"It's like an all-star game," says Ray Daniels, who was at the writing camp for Rihanna.

Daniels manages a songwriting team of two brothers, Timothy and Theron Thomas, who work under the name Rock City. "You got all the best people, you're gonna make the best records," he says.


Her new album has 11 songs on it. So figure that the writing camp cost about $18,000 per song.

The songwriter and the producer each got a fee for their services. Rock City got $15,000 for Man Down, and the producer got around $20,000, according to Daniels.

That's about $53,000.00 spent on the song so far— before Rihanna even steps into the studio with her vocal producer.


Riddick's fee starts at $10,000 to $15,000 per song, she says.

The last step is mixing and mastering the song, which costs another $10,000 to $15,000, according to Daniels.

So, our rough tally to create one pop song comes to:

The cost of the writing camp, plus fees for the songwriter, producer, vocal producer and the mix comes to $78,000.

But it's not a hit until everybody hears it. How much does that cost?

About $1 million, according to Daniels, Riddick and other industry insiders.


In any case, to return to our approximate tally: After $78,000 to make the song, and another $1 million to roll it out, Rihanna's "Man Down" gets added to radio playlists across the country, gets a banner ad on iTunes ... and may still not be a hit.

As it happens, "Man Down" has not sold that well, and radio play has been minimal.

But Def Jam makes up the shortfall by releasing other singles. And only then— if the label recoups what it spent on the album — will Rihanna herself get paid.


A Colossal Mistake of Historic Proportions: The “JOBS” bill

links to:

Posted on March 19, 2012 by Simon Johnson

From the 1970s until recently, Congress allowed and encouraged a great deal of financial market deregulation – allowing big banks to become larger, to expand their scope, and to take on more risks. This legislative agenda was largely bipartisan, up to and including the effective repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act at the end of the 1990s. After due legislative consideration, the way was cleared for megabanks to combine commercial and investment banking on a complex global scale. The scene was set for the 2008 financial crisis – and the awful recession from which we are only now beginning to emerge.

With the so-called JOBS bill, on which the Senate is due to vote Tuesday, Congress is about to make the same kind of mistake again – this time abandoning much of the 1930s-era securities legislation that both served investors well and helped make the US one of the best places in the world to raise capital. We find ourselves again on a bipartisan route to disaster.


The idea behind the JOBS bill is that our existing securities laws – requiring a great deal of disclosure – are significantly holding back the economy.

The bill, HR3606, received bipartisan support in the House (only 23 Democrats voted against). The bill’s title is JumpStart Our Business Startup Act, a clever slogan – but also a complete misrepresentation.

The premise is that the economy and startups are being held back by regulation, a favorite theme of House Republicans for the past 3 ½ years – ignoring completely the banking crisis that caused the recession. Which regulations are supposedly to blame?

The bill’s proponents point out that Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) of stock are way down. That is true – but that is also exactly what you should expect when the economy teeters on the brink of an economic depression and then struggles to recover because households’ still have a great deal of debt. And the longer term trends over the past decade are global – and much more about the declining profitability of small business, rather than the specifics of regulation in the US (see this testimony by Jay Ritter).

Professor Ritter, a leading expert on IPOs, put it this way:

“I do not think that the bills being considered will result in a flood of companies going public. I do not think that these bills will result in noticeably higher economic growth and job creation.”

In fact, he also argued that the measures under consideration “might be to reduce capital formation.”


In other words, you will be ripped off more. Knowing this, any smart investor will want to be better compensated for investing in a particular firm – this raises, not lowers, the cost of capital. The effect on job creation is likely to be negative, not positive.

Sensible securities laws protect everyone – including entrepreneurs who can raise capital more cheaply. The only people who lose out are those who prefer to run scams of various kinds.

Investor protection is good for growth and essential for sustaining capital markets. Experiments involving doing without such protections – as in the Czech Republic in the early 1990s, for example, have not gone well. There might be a temporary frenzy, but the subsequent fall to earth will be painful – and again hard to recover from.

Perhaps the worst parts of the bill are those provisions that would allow “crowd-financing” exempt from the usual Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure requirements. A new venture could raise up to $1-2 million through internet solicitations, as long as no investor puts in more than $10,000 (section 301 of HR3606). The level of disclosure would be minimal and there would be no real penalties for outright lying. There would also be no effective oversight of such stock promotion – returning us precisely to the situation that prevailed in the 1920s.

This might well pump up the value of particular stocks – that was the experience of the 1920s, after all. But ephemeral stock market bubbles are not without real consequences. The crash of 1929 was made possible by the lack of constraints on what stock promoters could say and do. Combined with excessive leverage, this led directly to the Great Depression.


The Dumbest 'Bipartisan' Move Since Repealing Glass-Steagall
Posted: 03/22/2012 11:35 pm


Now we have the "JOBS" Act, which undoes Sarbanes-Oxley's key provisions. In a typically cynical move, the corrupt dealmakers of DC have appropriated two good ideas -- "crowdfunding" by individuals, as is done on Kickstarter, and the need to find investment capital for small and medium-sized businesses that are the engines of job growth.

But this bill will actually hurt both those efforts. Kickstarter finances creative projects, where it's fairly easy for investors to decide whether they feel a project has artistic merit. But this bill will unleash a torrent of unscrupulous scam artists onto the public, leaving them unable to decide which project has merit and which doesn't. Since these ventures won't be required to provide some basic financial data, many of them will bilk their investors -- drying up the pool of available capital for truly worthwhile startups.

Besides, why have we been pumping capital into the nation's banks through the Fed? Wasn't the purpose of all that support -- including TARP -- to prop them up so that they would lend to American businesses?

Worse, the bill is designed so that even billion-dollar corporations can be considered "startups," leaving the door open for a dozen Enrons of tomorrow to shaft the unwary.