Friday, August 31, 2012

GOP Budget Cuts Would Devastate Hurricane And Weather Forecasting

By Scott Lilly on Aug 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

It’s late August. The Republicans are having their national convention. A huge tropical storm is bearing down on the U.S. Gulf Coast. So what’s new? We have had major hurricanes bearing down on the United States during four of the past six Republican conventions: Andrew in 1992, Frances in 2004, Gustav in 2008, and this year, Isaac.

But the Republican problem with hurricanes seems to go well beyond convention timing. A number of hurricanes have erupted into huge political issues, and it has almost always been at the expense of Republican candidates. This is not a coincidence: Republicans seem determined to underfund, undermanage, and understaff the government agencies that respond to hurricanes, putting lives and property at risk, as well as their political careers.


The final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency were marked by a major controversy over budget cuts at the National Hurricane Center, a dispute that eventually cost the center’s director his job. But those controversies did not end with the conclusion of the Bush administration. When Republicans retook the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, they made deep cuts in the President Barack Obama’s 2011 request for the Polar Joint Satellite System, a system of new satellites needed to replace the old ones, which currently provide 85 percent of the data used in hurricane forecasting. House Republicans proposed further deep cuts in the program in fiscal year 2012.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Director Jane Lubchenco called the cuts “insanity.” She said that failure to fund the satellites would create a significant gap between the time the existing satellites failed and the new system became serviceable. Lubchenco said that the gap would be like “going backwards in 20 years’ time” in hurricane forecasting.


While the final conference agreement for this past year’s appropriation bills restored a portion of the funds, the satellites were still funded at about $150 billion below the request. Following that restoration, the General Accountability Office confirmed the damage to the satellite development schedule, saying that, “there will likely be a gap in satellite data lasting 17 to 53 months from the time NPP (the existing system) is projected to cease operations and the first JPSS satellite begins to operate.”


As GOP Looks To Cut Food Safety Budget, Tainted Mangoes Sicken 100 Americans

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Aug 30, 2012

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 103 people have been sickened by a salmonella outbreak linked to tainted mangoes that were grown in Mexico and circulated by a California-based company:

Illnesses were first confirmed July 1, and the majority of victims are in California, the CDC said.


Outbreaks such as this one would be much harder to detect and contain if House Republicans get their way. The Obama administration requested $4.5 billion for the Food and Drug Administration for 2013, since the agency is implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, the most comprehensive update of America’s food safety laws in years. The House Republican budget, however, provides $3.8 billion, continuing the GOP’s attempts to undermine the new law. The Office of Management and Budget called the GOP’s level of funding “harmful” to food safety regulations.

These cuts would come as foodborne illness rates are on the rise. Of five key pathogens tracked by the CDC, just one saw a decrease in infections between 2007 and 2011. Each year, one out of six Americans suffer from a foodborne illness, with 128,000 resulting in hospitalization and 3,000 resulting in death.

Bush Administration Praised Closure Of Auto Plant That Ryan Now Blames On Obama

By Zack Beauchamp posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Aug 30, 2012

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed during his convention speech Wednesday that President Obama is responsible for the closure of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. However, as many media outlets have noted, GM announced plans to close the plant in June ’08 — long before Obama was even elected — and it ceased major operations in December of that year.

For proof, just ask one of the more prominent supporters of the Janesville plant shutdown — the George W. Bush Administration. After all, the closure was part of a broader GM restructuring initiative that the then-President supported. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino even praised it as evidence of GM “adapting well:”

The White House called the announcement a sign that the auto giant was “adapting well” to market shifts.

“It’s a sign that Detroit continues to adapt and evolve and address the change in consumer tastes and attitudes. And I think that they’re adapting well,” spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

“And they’ll make these changes, and hopefully be able to pull themselves up out of what has been a rough several years,” she said. …

World’s Richest Woman Says People Are Poor Because They’re Lazy Drunks

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Aug 30, 2012

According to the world’s richest woman, low-income people are only poor because they don’t work hard enough, and because the government has coddled them with a minimum wage that is too high. Australian Gina Rinehart, who inherited her $30 billion fortune, said, “If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself — spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working”:


Rinehart blamed what she described as “socialist”, anti-business policies for the plight of Australia’s poor, urging the government to lower the minimum wage, as well as taxes, ......

7 Facts About Mitt Romney’s Economic Plan He Doesn’t Want You To Know

By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Aug 30, 2012

Mitt Romney will officially accept the Republican nomination for president at the party’s national convention tonight, and in his speech, he will undoubtedly talk about the economy and his supposed plan to spur growth and speed up the recovery. Romney’s plan is notorious for its lack of specifics, but through the few details he has provided, ThinkProgress compiled seven facts about his economic policies that he likely won’t mention in his speech tonight:

1) It gives the rich and corporations a massive tax cut. Romney’s proposal to give every American a tax cut is a giveaway to the rich that is four-times larger than the Bush tax cuts. Half the benefit would go to the richest five percent of Americans, and each member of the top 0.1 percent would get at least a $264,000 cut. .....

2) It raises taxes on the middle class. A Tax Policy Center analysis found that Romney’s plan would raise taxes on middle class families by up to $2,000 if he were to keep his promise to maintain the current level of revenue. .....

3) It won’t balance the budget. Romney’s tax plan would add more than $10 trillion to the national debt if he doesn’t balance it with tax increases on the middle class or with spending cuts that are too impossibly large to fathom. .....

4) It won’t lead to economic growth. The last Republican president promised that supply-side policies like tax cuts for the rich would boost the economy and lead to job growth. They didn’t. Romney is trying the same policies (Bush, “just updated,” as one RNC official put it), despite overwhelming evidence that they don’t work.

5) It will make it easier for corporations to dodge taxes and outsource jobs: Romney’s plan to switch to a territorial tax system will make it easier for corporations to stash their profits in off-shore tax havens. It would also make it easier for corporations to outsource American jobs. In all, economists estimate the plan could cost America 800,000 jobs.

6) It would put bankers between you and your student loans. Obamacare included a provision in the law that removed bankers from the federal student loan process, eliminating a middle-man and allowing borrowers to deal directly with the government. That reduced costs, saving students $100 billion. .....

7) It won’t address the housing crisis. Romney’s economic plan had 59 points, but it failed to detail a plan to help America’s struggling homeowners. Instead, Romney says we should let the housing market “run its course and hit the bottom,” and that America shouldn’t “try to stop the foreclosure process.” .....

Media Ignore Romney's Double Standard On Business Experience


In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney suggested that Barack Obama was unqualified to be president because he didn't have enough experience working in a business. In reporting this claim, media outlets have not noted that Romney selected a vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who has worked almost exclusively in the public sector.

What kind of government do we get?

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.-Edward R. Murrow

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mitt Romney tells at least 533 lies in 30 weeks

August 29, 2012 By Fred Clark

I’ve written about or linked to a great deal here “chronicling Mitt’s mendacity” — to borrow Steven Benen’s phrase.

Mitt Romney says many, many things that are not true. He says this despite being in possession of the correct facts of the matter.Which is to say that Mitt Romney lies. A lot. He lies more than any other national candidate for office in my lifetime. And I was born before the Nixon administration.

This is documented. Proven. Validated, verified, demonstrated, catalogued and quantified. Mitt Romney lies.

Here are 30 — 30! — of Benen’s weekly “chronicling” posts. These are all backed up and sourced. These are not assertions, interpretations or allegations. These are facts, actual instances.



See the links in the original article for lies told in each of the consecutive 30 weeks

A few from week 30:

By Steve Benen - Fri Aug 17, 2012

1. At an impromptu event in South Carolina yesterday, Romney said on Medicare policy, "Our plan [has] no change for current seniors and those 55 and older."

That's plainly false. Romney's plan eliminates all new benefits for seniors under the Affordable Care Act, which necessarily means higher prescription drug costs for seniors, and more expensive preventive care.

2. At the same event, Romney argued, "Under the president's plan, [Medicare] goes bankrupt... Under the plan I propose, it is solvent."

That's the exact opposite of reality. Obama's policy strengthens Medicare's finances, and under Romney's plan, the system would be closer to insolvency faster.

3. In Chillicothe, Ohio, Romney said that under Obama, "We've got lower economic growth."

Actually, we got higher economic growth.

4. In the same speech, Romney said that under Obama, "We've got higher unemployment."

Actually, we got lower unemployment.


Some Ryan lies

Five glaring lies told by Paul Ryan at the Convention:
Here is a list of five lies that Paul Ryan told when he gave his speech at the Republican National Convention last night. Every single news outlet should report on these lies.

1. Lie: President Obama is the "greatest threat" to Medicare.

Truth: Obama didn't make any cuts to Medicare benefits; he made cuts to provider reimbursements, to improve cost efficiency and extend the fiscal security of Medicare by eight years. According to the Medicare actuary, "[Obama's] Affordable Care Act makes important changes to the Medicare program and substantially improves its financial outlook."1

But Ryan actually does want to cut benefits. He proposed dismantling Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system, leaving millions of seniors to come up with more money to pay for care out of pocket.

2. Lie: President Obama didn't save a General Motors plant in Wisconsin.

Truth: First, Obama wasn't even in office when the GM plant closed. Second, Obama never made a promise to save it.

3. Lie: President Obama ignored recommendations of a bipartisan debt commission.

Truth: Paul Ryan actually sat on that commission. And he led Republicans in voting down the commission's own recommendation. So the commission never gave a report to Obama, because Ryan himself voted to kill the report before it could.

4. Lie: President Obama is responsible for the downgrading of the U.S. Credit Rating

Truth: House Republicans, including Paul Ryan, held the full faith and credit of the United States hostage to try to ransom it for trillions of dollars in cuts to social programs without increasing taxes on the wealthy one dime. Standard & Poors said specifically, "We have changed our assumption on [revenue] because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues." That's why our nation's credit rating was downgraded.

5. Lie: Ryan wants to protect the "weak."

Truth: Ryan's biggest feat in his political career was proposing a budget with dramatic cuts to programs benefiting the poor. He'd cut Medicaid by one third, take away health care insurance from 30 million Americans, and cut Pell Grants for 1 million students. All so that he could give more tax breaks to the rich


Commenting on Ryan's speech at the Republican convention

By Sally Kohn, a Fox News contributor and writer.

Published August 30, 2012

1. Dazzling .....

2. Deceiving

On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.

The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.

Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn't what the president said. Period.

Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.

Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.

3. Distracting

And then there’s what Ryan didn’t talk about.

Ryan didn’t mention his extremist stance on banning all abortions with no exception for rape or incest, a stance that is out of touch with 75% of American voters.

Ryan didn’t mention his previous plan to hand over Social Security to Wall Street.

Ryan didn’t mention his numerous votes to raise spending and balloon the deficit when George W. Bush was president.

Ryan didn’t mention how his budget would eviscerate programs that help the poor and raise taxes on 95% of Americans in order to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires even further and increase — yes, increase —the deficit.


Storm psychology: Why do some people stay behind? - updated 8/31/2012

In a newspaper article, some people said they didn't expect it would be too bad, because it was just a category 1 hurricane. They didn't realize there would be so much rain. Because of global warming, the air has more moisture, and when it meets cooler air, we are getting more precipitation.

8/30/2012 By Melissa Dahl

It’s the question so many of us have while watching news coverage of a hurricane or tropical storm like Isaac: Who are these people who don’t leave home even as an angry storm is advancing – and what are they thinking?!

The short answer: For some, the up-and-leaving idea isn’t as easy as it sounds to those of us watching from a safe and dry distance. Actually, a 2009 article published in the journal Psychological Science sought to examine the reasons some people won’t evacuate, despite the urging or even mandates of city and state officials, by asking a group who would know: Hurricane Katrina survivors who weathered the storm at home.

“It seems like asking ‘Why didn't people leave?’ presumes that that's the best option for everyone to make,” says Hilary Bergsieker, who worked with Nicole Stephens, now of Northwestern University, on the study. The fact is, many people lack the resources to escape. Having no money, no mode of transportation and no friends or family in safe places means no choice but to weather the storm.

In the case of Katrina, those who evacuated before the storm hit were mostly white, mostly middle class; on the other hand, those who stayed were mostly black, mostly working class. The “leavers,” as the Psychological Science paper terms those who fled before the storm, had privileges that they probably took for granted: more education, more money, reliable access to transportation, social networks that extended farther away from the hurricane-hit area, and more access to news reports to warn them of the storm’s severity.


“There's sort of the physical resources factor, but there's also the psychological factors. That's your world; that's all you know,” says Bergsieker, who is now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. And, as the thinking goes, if your neighbor tells you he’s staying, then you might stay, too – after all, if something happened to him, who would be there to take care of him if you leave? Some of the 79 Katrina survivors interviewed in the 2009 study did have the resources to go, but they didn’t have the heart to leave.


Obese and overweight women face increased risk of recurrence of most common type of breast cancer

Public release date: 27-Aug-2012
Contact: Amy Molnar

Extra pounds—even within the overweight but not obese range—are linked to a higher risk of recurrence of the most common type of breast cancer despite optimal cancer treatment, according to a new study published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. The study's results suggest that extra body fat causes hormonal changes and inflammation that may drive some cases of breast cancer to spread and recur despite treatment.


The researchers found that increasing body mass index—a measure of the body's fat content—significantly increased women's risk of cancer recurrence and death, despite optimal treatment including chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. There was a stepwise relationship between increasing body mass index and poor outcomes only in women with hormone receptor–positive breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer that accounts for approximately two-thirds of all breast cancer cases in the United States and worldwide.

"We found that obesity at diagnosis of breast cancer is associated with about a 30 percent higher risk of recurrence and a nearly 50 percent higher risk of death despite optimal treatment," said Dr. Sparano.

Breast milk promotes a different gut flora growth than infant formulas

Public release date: 27-Aug-2012
Contact: Sarah Avery
Duke University Medical Center

DURHAM, N.C. – The benefits of breast milk have long been appreciated, but now scientists at Duke University Medical Center have described a unique property that makes mother's milk better than infant formula in protecting infants from infections and illnesses.

The finding, published in the August issue of the journal Current Nutrition & Food Science, explains how breast milk, but not infant formula, fosters colonies of microbiotic flora in a newborn's intestinal tract that aid nutrient absorption and immune system development.

People of Normal Weight With Belly Fat at Highest Death Risk, Mayo Clinic Study Finds

Monday, August 27, 2012

ROCHESTER, Minn. — People who are of normal weight but have fat concentrated in their bellies have a higher death risk than those who are obese, according to Mayo Clinic research presented today at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich. Those studied who had a normal body mass index but central obesity — a high waist-to-hip ratio — had the highest cardiovascular death risk and the highest death risk from all causes, the analysis found.

"We knew from previous research that central obesity is bad, but what is new in this research is that the distribution of the fat is very important even in people with a normal weight," says senior author Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "This group has the highest death rate, even higher than those who are considered obese based on body mass index. From a public health perspective, this is a significant finding."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney

By Tim Dickinson
August 29, 2012

Mitt Romney likes to say he won't "apologize" for his success in business. But what he never says is "thank you" – to the American people – for the federal bailout of Bain & Company that made so much of his outsize wealth possible.

According to the candidate's mythology, Romney took leave of his duties at the private equity firm Bain Capital in 1990 and rode in on a white horse to lead a swift restructuring of Bain & Company, preventing the collapse of the consulting firm where his career began. When The Boston Globe reported on the rescue at the time of his Senate run against Ted Kennedy, campaign aides spun Romney as the wizard behind a "long-shot miracle," bragging that he had "saved bank depositors all over the country $30 million when he saved Bain & Company."

In fact, government documents on the bailout obtained by Rolling Stone show that the legend crafted by Romney is basically a lie. The federal records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Romney's initial rescue attempt at Bain & Company was actually a disaster – leaving the firm so financially strapped that it had "no value as a going concern." Even worse, the federal bailout ultimately engineered by Romney screwed the FDIC – the bank insurance system backed by taxpayers – out of at least $10 million. And in an added insult, Romney rewarded top executives at Bain with hefty bonuses at the very moment that he was demanding his handout from the feds.

Senior Poverty: Food Insecurity Rising Among Older Americans

August 29, 2012
Laura Rowley

Charlotte Wahlstrom, 74, lives in a trailer in a small town in Michigan. She volunteers at the library, goes to the senior center for free yoga classes and brings her mutt Otis to the local dog park where she chats with friends. And after a lifetime of working and saving, she relies on $140 in food stamps to get by.

This wasn’t part of her retirement plan. After her divorce in 1976, Wahlstrom continued to work as an administrative assistant and went back for her college degree, later landing a solid job at a university. Growing up on a small farm in Minnesota, Wahlstrom learned to stretch a dollar, and by her late 50s she had accumulated roughly six figures in her retirement account. Unfortunately, it was mostly invested in stock mutual funds.

“When the banks went under and the stock market went way down … I lost [most] of it,” she said.

Wahlstrom is part of a group experts call "the hidden hungry.” In 2010, 8.3 million Americans over 60 faced the threat of hunger -- up 78 percent from a decade earlier, according to a 2012 report. The proportion of the seniors affected has grown to one in seven in 2010 from one in nine in 2005 -- even as the hunger risk for the population as a whole declined slightly, the report found.

The rise in food insecurity is being seen primarily among Americans earning less than $30,000 –- or one to two times the poverty level –- as well as people between the ages of 60 and 69, said Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois, who co-authored the report with James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky.

“We were surprised that young seniors were more likely to be food insecure than older seniors,” said Gundersen, who pointed to layoffs during the recession and reduced salaries for those who do find work as the primary culprits. “Most of them can’t rely on Social Security income, and can’t receive Medicare until they are 65.”


The biggest jump in poverty rates was among people 50 to 64 in the period studied, but poverty levels are highest for people 85 and older, Banerjee noted, citing medical expenses as the most significant factor. “In all the other categories –- housing, entertainment, food, clothing –- spending goes down with age," he said. "But medical expenses are higher, and for these people, it takes about one-fifth of their budget.”


The causality works both ways: Being poor can make you sick, and being sick can make you poor.


One in five women over 65 lived in poverty in 2009.

Wahlstrom is one of those women. Her monthly income includes $900 a month in Social Security, $200 from a small annuity and $140 in food stamps. “It’s cutting it close, but it’s still enough,” she said.


funding for emergency food assistance programs has declined in recent years

Bruce Gilbert

I know several people in the Atlanta metro area who good enough performers and/or songwriters that they should be on the radio, instead of the what we currently get, which is mostly simultaneously boring and irritating

One of the best is Bruce Gilbert
He should definitely be a big hit on the radio

Adolescent pot use leaves lasting mental deficits

Public release date: 27-Aug-2012
Contact: Karl Leif Bates
Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. -- The persistent, dependent use of marijuana before age 18 has been shown to cause lasting harm to a person's intelligence, attention and memory, according to an international research team.

Among a long-range study cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared. Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either, said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University. The results appear online Aug. 27 in PNAS.

The key variable in this is the age of onset for marijuana use and the brain's development, Meier said. Study subjects who didn't take up pot until they were adults with fully-formed brains did not show similar mental declines. Before age 18, however, the brain is still being organized and remodeled to become more efficient, she said, and may be more vulnerable to damage from drugs.

"Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents," said Meier, who produced this finding from the long term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. The study has followed a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38 and is led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, psychologists who hold dual appointments at Duke and the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.

About 5 percent of the study group were considered marijuana-dependent, or were using more than once a week before age 18. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems.

Johns Hopkins team finds ICU misdiagnoses may account for as many annual deaths as breast cancer

Public release date: 27-Aug-2012
Contact: Shannon Swiger
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Armstrong Institute researchers discover missed medical conditions in more than 1 in 4 critically ill adults

Each year as many as 40,500 critically ill U.S. hospital patients die with an unknown medical condition that may have caused or contributed to their death, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts report in a recent study.

Smoking after stroke increases death risk by 3-fold

Public release date: 28-Aug-2012
Contact: European Society of Cardiology
European Society of Cardiology

Munich, Germany – August 28 2012: Patients who resume smoking after a stroke increase their risk of death by three-fold, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2012 by Professor Furio Colivicchi from San Filippo Neri Hospital. The researchers also found that the earlier patients resume smoking, the greater their risk of death with one year.

"It is well established that smoking increases the risk of having a stroke," said Professor Colivicchi. "Quitting smoking after an acute ischemic stroke may be more effective than any medication in reducing the risk of further adverse events. However, on the other hand, our study shows that stroke patients resuming active smoking after leaving the hospital can raise their risk of dying by as much as three-fold."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Assault on the Middle Class

By Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
Sunday, August 5th, 2012

This is the first of three excerpts from the "Betrayal of the American Dream," being co-published by the Investigative Reporting Workshop and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"The Betrayal of the American Dream" is the story of how a small number of people in power have deliberately put in place policies that have enriched themselves while cutting the ground out from underneath America’s greatest asset — its middle class.

Their actions, going back more than three decades, have relegated untold numbers of American men and women to the economic scrap heap — to lives of reduced earnings, chronic job insecurity and a retirement with fewer and fewer benefits. Millions have lost their jobs. Others have lost their homes. Nearly all face an uncertain future.

Astonishingly, this has been carried out in what is considered the world’s greatest democracy, where the will of the people is supposed to prevail. It no longer does. America is now ruled by the few — the wealthy and the powerful who have become this country’s ruling class.

This book tells how this has happened, who engineered the policies that are crippling the middle class, what the consequences will be if we fail to reverse course and what must be done to restore the promise of the American dream.


And the worst is yet to come, as the privileged and their associates in Congress prepare to initiate slash-and-burn policies, beginning in 2013, to balance the budget — largely on the backs of the working middle class. That’s when people will learn that they are expected to work until at least the age of 70, assuming that they can find employers willing to hire them at that age and that they are healthy enough to handle full-time employment. At the same time that the government is requiring people to work until they are 70 before retirement benefits are available to them, for most working people, 50 is all too often the new 65 when it comes to employment opportunities for anyone who wants to do anything other than become a greeter at Walmart.


For decades, Washington and Wall Street have been systematically rewriting the rules of the American economy to benefit the few at the expense of the many — putting in place policies that have steadily dismantled the foundation of America’s middle class.

The financial deregulation that enriched Wall Street and triggered the Great Recession was just the latest in a long series of moves by the economic elite to consolidate their control of the American economy. They have:

• Created a tax system that is heavily weighted against the middle class

• Deregulated sectors of the economy, and in so doing, killed jobs or lowered wages for employees across entire industries, such as airlines and trucking

• Ignited in the financial sector a wildly speculative run-up in mortgage-backed securities of little value that imploded in the 2008–2009 recession

• Encouraged corporations to transfer jobs abroad and eliminate jobs in this country to bolster the value of stock, increase dividends and boost executive compensation

• Enabled companies to eliminate positions and replace permanent employees with contract workers at lower pay and with no benefits

• Allowed multinational corporations to shelter profits overseas and avoid paying taxes on earnings that could be used to help stimulate jobs at home

• Forced 11 million people with mortgages that exceed the value of their homes to make monthly payments to the banks that caused the housing collapse — a debt they will never be able to pay off

• Refused to support the growth of new industries that could generate jobs for the future


These figures will take on new meaning in 2013, when Congress begins to mindlessly — and needlessly — wield a meat axe to government spending. Not that spending should be allowed to continue unchecked. There are many areas where it should be reduced. But the spending that should be curbed won’t be. Rather, lawmakers will pretend, as they have for several years, that spending must be slashed to bring down the deficit. Even Social Security will be on the chopping block. So, too, health care. What they really mean is the ruling class is getting ready to squeeze working people even more.

Midlife fitness staves off chronic disease at end of life

DALLAS – Aug. 27, 2012 – Being physically fit during your 30s, 40s, and 50s not only helps extend lifespan, but it also increases the chances of aging healthily, free from chronic illness, investigators at UT Southwestern Medical Center and The Cooper Institute have found.

Lack of sleep found to be a new risk factor for aggressive breast cancers

Public release date: 27-Aug-2012
Contact: George Stamatis
University Hospitals Case Medical Center
First-of-its-kind study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

Lack of sleep is linked to more aggressive breast cancers, according to new findings published in the August issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment by physician-scientists from University Hospitals Case Medical Center's Seidman Cancer Center and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University.


All patients were recruited at diagnosis and asked about the average sleep duration in the last two years. Researchers found that women who reported six hours or less of sleep per night on average before breast cancer diagnosis had higher Oncotype DX tumor recurrence scores. The Oncotype DX test assigns a tumor a recurrence score based on the expression level of a combination of 21 genes.

"This is the first study to suggest that women who routinely sleep fewer hours may develop more aggressive breast cancers compared with women who sleep longer hours," said Dr. Thompson, who is Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and lead author. "We found a strong correlation between fewer hours of sleep per night and worse recurrence scores, specifically in post-menopausal breast cancer patients. This suggests that lack of sufficient sleep may cause more aggressive tumors, but more research will need to be done to verify this finding and understand the causes of this association."

The authors point out that while the correlation of sleep duration and recurrence score was strong in post-menopausal women, there was no correlation in pre-menopausal women. It is well known that there are different mechanisms underlying pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancers. The data suggest that sleep may affect carcinogenic pathway(s) specifically involved in the development of post-menopausal breast cancer, but not pre-menopausal cancer.

"Short sleep duration is a public health hazard leading not only to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but also cancer," said Li Li, MD, PhD, a study co-author and family medicine physician in the Department of Family Medicine at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "Effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for reducing the risk of developing more aggressive breast cancers and recurrence."


The effects of discrimination could last a lifetime

27 August 2012

Given the well-documented relationship between low birth weight and the increased risk of health problems throughout one’s lifespan, it is vital to reduce any potential contributors to low birth weight. A new study by Valerie Earnshaw and her colleagues from Yale University sheds light on one possible causal factor. Their findings, published online in Springer's journal, the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, suggest that chronic, everyday instances of discrimination against pregnant, urban women of color may play a significant role in contributing to low birth weight babies.
Twice as many black women give birth to low birth weight babies than white or Latina women in the U.S. Reasons for this disparity are, as yet, unclear. But initial evidence suggests a link may exist between discrimination experienced while pregnant and the incidence of low birth weight. In addition, experiences of discrimination have also been linked to depression, which causes physiological changes that can have a negative effect on a pregnancy.

Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks To New Low In Satellite Era

Aug. 26, 2012

The extent of the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean has shrunk. According to scientists from NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colo., the amount is the smallest size ever observed in the three decades since consistent satellite observations of the polar cap began.

The extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, as measured by the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager on the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft and analyzed by NASA and NSIDC scientists, was 1.58 million square miles (4.1 million square kilometers), or 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) below the Sept. 18, 2007, daily extent of 1.61 million square miles (4.17 million square kilometers).

The sea ice cap naturally grows during the cold Arctic winters and shrinks when temperatures climb in the spring and summer. But over the last three decades, satellites have observed a 13 percent decline per decade in the minimum summertime extent of the sea ice. The thickness of the sea ice cover also continues to decline.

"The persistent loss of perennial ice cover -- ice that survives the melt season -- led to this year's record summertime retreat," said Joey Comiso, senior research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Unlike 2007, temperatures were not unusually warm in the Arctic this summer."

The new record was reached before the end of the melt season in the Arctic, which usually takes place in mid- to late-September. Scientists expect to see an even larger loss of sea ice in the coming weeks.


"By itself it's just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set," NSIDC research scientist Walt Meier said about the new record. "But in the context of what's happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it's an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing."

Mayo study: Exercise can help cancer patients, but few oncologists suggest it

Public release date: 28-Aug-2012
Contact: Bryan Anderson
Mayo Clinic

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Numerous studies have shown the powerful effect that exercise can have on cancer care and recovery. For patients who have gone through breast or colon cancer treatment, regular exercise has been found to reduce recurrence of the disease by up to 50 percent. But many cancer patients are reluctant to exercise, and few discuss it with their oncologists, according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

"As doctors, we often tell patients that exercise is important, but to this point, nobody had studied what patients know about exercise, how they feel about it and what tends to get in the way," says lead author Andrea Cheville, M.D., of Mayo Clinic's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The study is part of a series of investigations looking at exercise habits among cancer patients. Researchers found that patients who exercised regularly before their diagnosis were more likely to exercise than those who had not. Many patients considered daily activities, such as gardening, sufficient exercise.

"There was a real sense of 'What I do every day, that's my exercise,'" says Dr. Cheville, noting that most patients didn't realize daily activities tend to require minimal effort. "Most were not aware that inactivity can contribute to weakening of the body and greater vulnerability to problems, including symptoms of cancer."

In addition, researchers found that patients took exercise advice most seriously when it came directly from their oncologists, but none of those studied had discussed it with them.

"Generally, patients are not being given concrete advice about exercise to help them maintain functionality and to improve their outcomes," Dr. Cheville says.

Exercise can improve patients' mobility, enable them to enjoy activities and keep them from becoming isolated in their homes. It can contribute to overall feelings of strength and physical safety, ease cancer-related fatigue and improve sleep. The researchers plan to investigate how to make the message about exercise meaningful to patients to optimize symptom relief and enhance recovery.

How to lose weight after menopause

By Maggie Fox, NBC News Aug. 28, 2012


Herman sounds like thousands of women across the country who are slowly tipping over the point from being normal weight to overweight, or from being overweight to obese. A study published on Tuesday sheds a little light on what may work and why some approaches that help women shed a few pounds in the short term aren’t helping them keep the weight off long-term.


As expected, more of the women who got specific diet and nutrition counseling lost weight. But Gibbs and colleagues wanted to know what worked for any of the women who managed to lose weight, regardless of which group they were in.

Early on, some of the more obvious diet strategies worked -- eating less fried food, staying away from restaurants, avoiding sweets and eating more fish. But these approaches didn’t work for the women in the long term, Gibbs reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

What we found at four years is that the women who changed their eating behaviors to eat more fruits and vegetables, who ate less desserts, less sugar-sweetened beverages and less meats and cheeses were more likely to have greater weight loss or less weight gain long term,” says Gibbs, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity.

“But on the other hand, something like eating more fruits and vegetables did not predict weight change at six months but was one of the most important predictors for long-term weight change.”


Coal miners say they were forced to attend Romney event and donate

By David Edwards
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A group of coal miners in Ohio feel they would have been fired if they did not attend an Aug. 14 event with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and contribute to his campaign — and to make matters worse, they lost of day of pay for their trouble.

In phone calls and emails to WWVA radio host David Blomquist, employees at the Century Mine in Ohio said they feared retaliation if they did not attend the Romney event.

“Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time,” the employees told Blomquist. “Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events.”


“We do not appreciate being intimidated into exchanging our time for nothing. I heard one of your callers saying that Murray employees are well aware of what they are getting into upon hire, or that they are informed that a percentage of their income will go to political donations. I can not speak for that caller, but this is news for me. We merely find out how things work by experience.”


At the time, conservative blogs and websites like The Daily Caller, The Gateway Pundit and Townhall trumpeted the fact that “hundreds of Ohio coal miners attended” the event. Even though the mine was closed on Aug. 14, soot-covered miners were staged behind the GOP hopeful as he spoke.


Pro-life or pro-birth?

From Facebook:

Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, had this to say on Bill Moyers' show in November of 2004:

"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is."


And you're not pro-life if you are not an environmentalist.

From Facebook:

People Aren't Smart Enough for Democracy to Flourish, Scientists Say

But the alternative is even worse.

Natalie Wolchover, Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer
Date: 28 February 2012

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, "very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is," Dunning told Life's Little Mysteries.

He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people's ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as "above average" — even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile

We're just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. "To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people,"


Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, recently implemented Dunning and Kruger's theories by computer-simulating a democratic election. In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters' own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve — some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre — and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.

Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they "effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders."

Monday, August 27, 2012

US solders at Fort Stewart accused of murder in anti-government plot

The rhetoric of the Republicans and Tea Baggers has encouraged these nuts.

Associated Press in Ludowici, Georgia, Monday 27 August 2012

Four army soldiers killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.

Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group composed of active duty and former US military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components. They planned a series of attacks, aimed ultimately at overthrowing the government and assassinating the president.

Two people – former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend Tiffany York – were shot in the woods last December in order to keep the group's plans secret.

"This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk," prosecutor Isabel Pauley told a superior court judge. "Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans."


The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state's apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia's goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.

Britain's NHS among developed world’s most efficient health systems, says study

Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor, Sunday 7 August 2011

The NHS [Britain's universal health system] is one of the most cost-effective health systems in the developed world, according to a study (pdf) published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

The "surprising" findings show the NHS saving more lives for each pound spent as a proportion of national wealth than any other country apart from Ireland over 25 years. Among the 17 countries considered, the United States healthcare system was among the least efficient and effective.


Using the latest data from the World Health Organisation, the paper shows that although Labour's tax-and-spend strategy for the NHS saw health spending rise to a record 9.3% of GDP, this was less than Germany with 10.7% or the US with 15%.

Not only was the UK cheaper, says the paper, it saved more lives. The NHS reduced the number of adult deaths a million of the population by 3,951 a year – far better than the nearest comparable European countries. France managed 2,779 lives a year and Germany 2,395.


The paper says the US suffers from a "relatively huge bureaucratic burden needed to monitor the costs, behaviour and risks of customers, as well as the immense legal costs required to control payment".

Looking at elderly patients, the difference was even more stark with the best performers – Ireland, the UK and New Zealand – having health systems that were three times more effective and efficient than the worst – Switzerland, Portugal and the US


Pritchard points out that even Adam Smith, the Scottish economist and father of market-based ideology, thought the state was "probably better" at health and education.

Four ways the Ohio GOP is already stealing the 2012 election

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
August 25, 2012
The Ohio Republican Party has moved four ways to steal America's 2012 election. The Buckeye State is almost certain to emerge as a decider in this year's presidential election, and the GOP is moving fast to ensure victory, no matter what it takes.

The strategy reflects much of what was done by the Republicans in 2000 and 2004 to steal those presidential elections for George W. Bush, as we report in the newly published WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA'S 2012 ELECTION? (now at and at

If they get away with it, the Ohio GOP could make it virtually impossible for Barack Obama to carry Ohio this November. In the years since Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, the Democratic Party has made little headway in reforming our electoral system to make such thefts impossible:

1. Since 2009, the Ohio GOP has purged roughly a million citizens from the state's voter rolls. This accounts for some 15% of the roughly 5.2 million votes counted for president in the state in 2008. The purge focusses on counties that are predominantly urban and Democratic.

2. Electronic voting machines have been installed throughout the state which are owned, operated, programmed and maintained -- and will be tallied -- by Republican-connected firms.

3. The GOP controls both houses of the Ohio Legislature, the governorship, the Secretary of State's office, and the state Supreme Court. Soon after the 2008 election, it imposed a draconian photo ID law designed to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of suspected Democrats, as is being done throughout the US.


4. In 2004, 10.6% of the votes cast in Ohio were so-called "early votes" via absentee ballots. A voter had to be absent from the county to vote absentee. In-person Election Day voters at the 42 predominantly black inner-city precincts in Columbus waited between 3-7 hours to vote.

In 2005, Ohio election law was modified so absentees could vote without actually being absent from their home county. When Ohio went for Barack Obama with 52% of the vote, early voting nearly tripled to 29.7%. This included voters able to vote in person at locations all over the state for 35 days prior to Election Day, including on weekends.

This summer the Ohio GOP attempted to allow Republican counties to use weekend voting, while denying the right to counties that are predominantly Democratic.


Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman's new WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA'S 2012 ELECTION?, introduced by Greg Palast, is a $4.99 e-book now at and at

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Study Claims to Reveal Human Drive for Fair Play

They must not have heard of the 2nd study.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2012) — People will reject an offer of water, even when they are severely thirsty, if they perceive the offer to be unfair, according to a new study funded by the Wellcome Trust. The findings have important implications for understanding how humans make decisions that must balance fairness and self-interest.

It's been known for some time that when humans bargain for money they have a tendency to reject unfair offers, preferring to let both parties walk away with nothing rather than accept a low offer in the knowledge that their counterpart is taking home more cash.

In contrast, when bargaining for food, our closes relatives chimpanzees will almost always accept an offer regardless of any subjective idea of 'fairness'.

Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL wanted to see whether humans would similarly accept unfair offers if they were bargaining for a basic physiological need, such as food, water or sex.


The team found that, unlike chimpanzees, the human participants tended to reject the highly unequal offer, and here that was the case even if they were severely thirsty. The participants' choices were not influenced by how thirsty they actually were, as measured objectively from the blood sample. However, they were more likely to accept the offer if they subjectively felt that they were thirsty.

Dr Nick Wright, who led the study, explains: "Whether or not fairness is a uniquely human motivation has been a source of controversy. These findings show that humans, unlike even our closest relatives chimpanzees, reject an unfair offer of a primary reward like food or water -- and will do that even when severely thirsty. However, we also show this fairness motivation is traded-off against self-interest, and that this self-interest is not determined by how their objective need for water but instead by their subjective perception of thirst. These findings are interesting for understanding how subjective feelings of fairness and self-interested need impact on everyday decisions, for example in the labour market."

Chimpanzees Prefer Fair Play To Reaping An Unjust Reward
Posted by EMJ on April 22, 2010

According to research due to be published in the journal Animal Behaviour, fairness is not only essential to the human social contract, it also plays an important role in the lives of nonhuman primates more generally. Sarah F. Brosnan and colleagues conducted a series of behavioral tests with a colony of chimpanzees housed at the University of Texas in order to find out how they would respond when faced with an unfair distribution of resources. A previous study in the journal Nature by Brosnan and Frans de Waal found that capuchin monkeys would refuse a food item when they saw that another member of their group had received a more desired item at the same time (a grape instead of a slice of cucumber). Some individuals not only rejected the food, they even threw it back into the researchers face. The monkeys seemed to recognize that something was unfair and they responded accordingly. This raised the provocative question: can the basis of the social contract be found in our evolutionary cousins?


Perhaps unsurprisingly, chimpanzees behaved the same way that capuchins did and objected if they only received a carrot when their group mate was given a delicious grape for the same price. Out of 76 trials the chimpanzees were significantly more likely to refuse a carrot in these tests compared to times where both received the same low-value food reward (p = 0.004). Likewise, when both individuals received a carrot after first being shown a grape, they were significantly more likely to refuse than in cases where no expectation of a better reward had been presented. The bottom line was that if things weren’t fair a tantrum would ensue.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Non-Smokers Benefit Most from Smoking Ban

"myocardial infarction" is a heart attack
ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2012) — Many European countries have passed anti-smoking legislation which bans smoking from restaurants, bars and public buildings. After implementation of such a smoking ban on 1 January 2008 in the metropolitan area of Bremen in northwest Germany (800,000 inhabitants) a 16% decline in ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) was observed. STEMI is the severest form of myocardial infarction.


For the total population in 2006 and 2007, before the smoking ban was passed, averages of 65 STEMIs were registered per month. In 2008 to 2010, after the smoking ban was passed, the number fell by 16% to an average of 55 STEMIs per month. "This confirms that the smoking ban had a positive impact on the population as a whole by decreasing the number of STEMIs," said Dr Schmucker.


In non-smokers there was a 26% decrease in STEMIs, from an average of 39 STEMIs per month in 2006-2007 to an average of 29 STEMIs per month in 2008-2010. The steepest decline in the non-smoking group was detected in young non-smokers; in this group the average number of STEMIs per month was 31% lower in 2008-2010 compared to 2006-2007.

Passive Smoking Increases Platelet Activation in Healthy People

Of course, passive smoking might be harmful to the heart from more than one mechanism.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2012) — "It is well known that passive smoking is harmful for cardiovascular health, but the mechanism has not yet been discovered," said Dr Kaya. "We investigated the effects of passive smoking on the levels of three parameters -- mean platelet volume (MPV), carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) and lactate -- in an effort to further understand this mechanism. We also looked at the correlation between the three parameters."


"We have shown that 1 hour exposure to passive smoking increases platelet activation, which could be the mechanism by which it contributes to increased risk of thrombotic events in healthy people. It is likely that prolonged exposure to passive smoking could have even greater effects. Healthy people should avoid exposure to passive smoking so that they do not increase their risk of thrombotic events."

Romney Invested In Company That Is Outsourcing Jobs, Forcing Workers To Train Their Chinese Replacements

By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Aug 24, 2012

Workers at Sensata Technologies, a business based in Freeport, Illinois, have been protesting Mitt Romney’s campaign stops across the country all summer because the company, which is owned by Bain Capital, is laying off workers in order to hire employees in China. Bain took control of Sensata in 2006; last year, it took over the Freeport plant and announced that it would layoff 165 workers and close it.

Some of the workers, according to Sensata employees, have been forced to train their Chinese replacements, adding insult to the injury that was their looming job loss.

Bain’s role in the layoffs hasn’t been a secret. But given that it took control of Sensata and the plant well after Romney’s departure from the firm, the candidate has thus far steered clear of the controversy, only drawing protests from the workers who want him to step in and stop the plant’s closure. But according to documents detailing Romney’s finances obtained and published yesterday by Gawker, his connection to Sensata is much more direct.

Romney held a direct investment in Sensata through one fund titled “Bain Capital Fund IX, L.P.,” dated December 31, 2009, meaning he has likely financially benefited from Bain’s ownership of the company in the past, and could benefit from the plant’s closure and the outsourcing of the jobs to China. According to his 2011 personal financial disclosure, Romney still holds the Bain Capital fund that contains the Sensata investment.

Romney has a history of outsourcing jobs as the chief executive of Bain Capital. The Washington Post reported in June that under Romney’s leadership Bain “invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.” Other companies in which the firm invested sent jobs to Mexico and other low-wage countries around the world.

While that history might be politically toxic, Romney’s proposals wouldn’t stop the outsourcing of American jobs. In fact, his plan to reform the corporate tax code by instituting a territorial tax system would make it easier for American companies to outsource jobs, while at the same time encouraging them to store even more money in offshore tax havens.

GOP Federal Election Commissioners: Corporations Can Compel Employees To Campaign For Political Candidates

In the comments to the article, someone clarified that the ruling was about employees, not members, of unions

And of course, there are many more employers than are , so it can help Republicans far more.

By Igor Volsky posted from ThinkProgress Election on Aug 25, 2012

Three Republican Federal Election Commissioners have found that unions or corporations can compel employees to campaign for political candidates in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

In a Statement of Reasons memorandum signed on August 21, 2012, the commissioners contend that the United Public Workers union (UPW) was within its legal right to require employees to “provide support for Hawaii Fist Congressional District candidate Colleen Hanabusa’s candidacy in a special congressional election on May 22, 2010.” The case stemmed from a complaint in wich two employees alleged that they were fired after refusing “to comply with a UPW request to sign-wave, phone bank, canvass, and contribute to Hanabusa’s campaign.” The GOP commissioners found that current law and regulations do not prohibit employers from requiring participation:

UPW’s independent use of its paid workforce to campaign for a federal candidate post-Citizen’s United was not contemplated by Congress and, consequently, is not prohibited by either the Act or Commission regulations…. Requiring employees to work on independent expenditures for either the union or a non-connected political committee is not a violation of the Act or Commission regulations.

The Commission ultimately found that UPW “failed to report independent expenditures” which resulted from the employee participation in Hanabusa’s campaign, but concluded that the union did not coerce employees to make contributions. UPW has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,500 for “failing to report independent expenditures in support of a federal candidate.”

In a separate Statement of Reasons memorandum, the three Democratic FEC commissioners argued that UPW did in fact coerce “employees to participate in the union’s political activities” in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. “After Citizens United, UPW had every right to expressly advocate for its chosen candidate and against her opponent,” they wrote. “Nothing in Citizens United suggests, however, that the Court intended to expand the rights of corporations and unions at the expense of their employees’ longstanding rights to be free from coercion and to express or to decline to express their own political views.”

Secondhand Smoke Impairs Vital Cough Reflex in Kids

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — New research from the Monell Center reveals that exposure to secondhand smoke decreases sensitivity to cough-eliciting respiratory irritants in otherwise healthy children and adolescents. The findings may help to explain why children of smokers are more likely to develop pneumonia, bronchitis and other diseases and also are more likely to experiment with smoking during adolescence.

"Cough protects our lungs from potentially damaging environmental threats, such as chemicals and dust. Living with a parent who smokes weakens this reflex, one of the most vital of the human body," said Julie Mennella, Ph.D., a developmental biologist at Monell who co-directed the study with Monell sensory scientist Paul Wise, Ph.D.

Children are exposed to more secondhand smoke than nonsmoking adults, with 60 percent of U.S. children aged 3-11 years and 18 million youth aged 12-19 years exposed to tobacco smoke on a regular basis.


The findings highlight a previously unrecognized public health risk from exposure to secondhand smoke. An insensitive cough reflex could make exposed children less able to cope with environmental threats, which could in turn play a role in their increased risk for developing respiratory illness.

"This study suggests that even if an exposed child is not coughing, his or her respiratory health may still be affected by secondhand smoke," said Wise.

It is also possible that an insensitive cough reflex could increase the risk of adolescents acquiring a smoking habit by making experimentation with smoking less unpleasant.

Cause of Death of Photoreceptor Cells in Retinitis Pigmentosa Elucidated

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — Research conducted at the Angiogenesis Laboratory at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, has for the first time, identified the mode of death of cone photoreceptor cells in an animal model of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). This groundbreaking study, led by Demetrios G. Vavvas, M.D., Ph.D., (pictured, right) and including Joan W. Miller, M.D., Mass. Eye and Ear/Mass General Hospital Chief of Ophthalmology and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, has further identified the receptor interacting protein (RIP) kinase pathway as a potential target for developing treatment for vision loss in patients with retinitis pigmentosa.


Research conducted by Eliot L. Berson, M.D., of the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations at Mass. Eye and Ear, has shown that Vitamin A supplementation and an omega-3 rich diet can slow visual decline resulting from RP; they do not completely stop disease progression, however. For most patients, RP results in irreversible vision loss.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Convicted Defendants Left Uninformed of Forensic Flaws

Apr 17, 2012
By Spencer S. Hsu
Staff researcher Jennifer Jenkins and database editor Ted Mellnik contributed to this report.

Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Officials started reviewing the cases in the 1990s after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. Instead of releasing those findings, they made them available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases, according to documents and interviews with dozens of officials.

In addition, the Justice Department reviewed only a limited number of cases and focused on the work of one scientist at the FBI lab, despite warnings that problems were far more widespread and could affect potentially thousands of cases in federal, state and local courts.

As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects.

In one Texas case, Benjamin Herbert Boyle was executed in 1997, more than a year after the Justice Department began its review. Boyle would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI’s flawed work, according to a prosecutor’s memo.


The Post found that while many prosecutors made swift and full disclosures, many others did so incompletely, years late or not at all.


In 2002, the FBI found after it analyzed DNA in 80 selected hair cases that its agents had reported false matches more than 11 percent of the time. “I don’t believe forensic science truly understood the significance of microscopic hair comparison, and it wasn’t until [DNA] that we learned that 11 percent of the time, two hairs can be microscopically similar yet come from different people,” said Dwight E. Adams, who directed the FBI lab from 2002 to 2006.

Yet a Post review of the small fraction of cases in which an appeals court opinion describes FBI hair testimony shows that several FBI agents gave improper testimony, asserting the remote odds of a false match or invoking bogus statistics in the absence of data.


Avis E. Buchanan, director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, said her agency must be “a full participant” in the review, which it has sought for two years, and that it should extend nationwide. “Surely the District of Columbia is not the only place where such flawed evidence was used to convict the innocent,” she said.

Romney's taxes

In regards to Romney's claim of how much taxes he paid.

(1) Why in the world would anybody believe someone who has lied so much?

(2) Maybe he doesn't want people to see how much he claimed in deductions and exemptions, to reduce his taxable income. Is the percentage he is claiming (13% I think) the percentage of the taxable income, greatly reduced by things like his horse?

Prominent scientists sign declaration that animals have conscious awareness, just like us

Even things like cockroaches can feel pain. I expect they enjoy eating.

George Dvorsky Aug 24, 2012

An international group of prominent scientists has signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they are proclaiming their support for the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus. But will this make us stop treating these animals in totally inhumane ways?

While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many nonhuman animals possess conscious states, it's the open acknowledgement that's the big news here. The body of scientific evidence is increasingly showing that most animals are conscious in the same way that we are, and it's no longer something we can ignore.

What's also very interesting about the declaration is the group's acknowledgement that consciousness can emerge in those animals that are very much unlike humans, including those that evolved along different evolutionary tracks, namely birds and some cephalopods.

"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states," they write, "Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors."

Spirituality Correlates to Better Mental Health Regardless of Religion, Say Researchers

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — Despite differences in rituals and beliefs among the world's major religions, spirituality often enhances health regardless of a person's faith, according to University of Missouri researchers.


"In many ways, the results of our study support the idea that spirituality functions as a personality trait," said Dan Cohen, assistant teaching professor of religious studies at MU and one of the co-authors of the study. "With increased spirituality people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe. What was interesting was that frequency of participation in religious activities or the perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality, religion and health."

Sex and the Female Brain: Protein in Semen Acts On Female Brain to Prompt Ovulation

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — An international team of scientists led by Gregg Adams at the University of Saskatchewan has discovered that a protein in semen acts on the female brain to prompt ovulation, and is the same molecule that regulates the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells.


While OIF/NGF may function differently from animal to animal, it is present in all mammals studied so far, from llamas, cattle and koalas to pigs, rabbits, mice, and humans. This implies an important role in reproduction in all mammals.


OIF/NGF in the semen acts as a hormonal signal, working through the hypothalamus of the female brain and the pituitary gland. This triggers the release of other hormones that signal the ovaries to release an egg (or eggs, depending on the species).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romney Plan Would Raise Taxes On Middle Class To Finance Massive Corporate Tax Cut

By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Aug 23, 2012

A recent analysis based on the loose outlines of Mitt Romney’s proposed tax plan — which would disproportionately benefit the wealthy and corporations — found that to remain revenue neutral, as Romney insists it will, it would have to raise taxes on middle- and lower-class families. The result, the Tax Policy Center concluded, is that middle class families would see a $2,000 tax hike, and that is based on the most generous assumptions, since Romney has yet to provide specific details of the plan.

In its analysis, TPC assumed Romney would pay for the corporate tax cuts by closing loopholes in the corporate tax code, but this week, the Romney campaign said that was not the case. Instead, the campaign told TPC that “cuts in corporate tax preferences were not meant to finance the initial rate cut to 25 percent but instead would pay for a subsequent revenue-neutral set of proposals that would reduce corporate rates further and enact a territorial system.”

By taking the corporate loopholes off the table, Romney is ensuring that middle class families will see an even larger tax hike than TPC previously assumed, as Center for American Progress Action Fund Director for Fiscal Reform Seth Hanlon noted in a column published today:

The TPC authors confirm that accounting for Romney’s unpaid-for corporate tax cuts would necessitate “even larger cuts to tax expenditures [i.e. tax breaks], and correspondingly larger increases in taxes on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers,” than their original study found.

How big? The original TPC study found that in a single year, 2015, Romney’s plan would shift at least $86 billion of the tax burden from households with incomes over $200,000 to households with incomes below that level. TPC estimates that in the same year, Romney’s unpaid-for corporate tax cuts would cost $96 billion. Therefore, the tax increases on the middle class that TPC originally estimated – at least $2,000 for families and $500 for all taxpayers with incomes under $200,000 – would likely be around twice as much if Romney’s unpaid-for corporate tax cuts are taken into account.

That’s right: according to the TPC analysis — which, again, uses the most generous assumptions to fill in the blanks Romney left in the plan — the Romney plan would raise the average middle class family’s tax rate by as much as $4,000 to finance trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

Massachusetts Butterflies Move North as Climate Warms

ScienceDaily (Aug. 19, 2012) — The authors of a Harvard study published August 19 in Nature Climate Change gathered their data from an unlikely source -- the trip accounts of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club. During the past 19 years, the amateur naturalist group has logged species counts on nearly 20,000 expeditions throughout Massachusetts. Their records fill a crucial gap in the scientific record.

Once analyzed, the data show a clear trend. "Over the past 19 years, a warming climate has been reshaping Massachusetts butterfly communities," notes Greg Breed, lead author on the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Forest in Petersham.

Subtropical and warm-climate species such as the giant swallowtail and zabulon skipper -- many of which were rare or absent in Massachusetts as recently as the late 1980s -- show the sharpest increases. At the same time, more than three-quarters of northerly species (species with a range centered north of Boston) are now declining in Massachusetts, many of them rapidly. Most impacted are the species that overwinter as eggs or small larvae, indicating that these overwintering stages may be much more sensitive to drought or lack of snow cover.

The study creates new questions for managing threatened species. "For most butterfly species, climate change seems to be a stronger change-agent than habitat loss," says Breed. "Protecting habitat remains a key management strategy, and that may help some butterfly species. However, for many others, habitat protection will not mitigate the impacts of warming."

Extreme Weather Linked to Global Warming, Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist Says

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — New scientific analysis strengthens the view that record-breaking summer heat, crop-withering drought and other extreme weather events in recent years do, indeed, result from human activity and global warming, Nobel Laureate Mario J. Molina, Ph.D., said at a conference in Philadelphia on August 20.


"People may not be aware that important changes have occurred in the scientific understanding of the extreme weather events that are in the headlines," Molina said. "They are now more clearly connected to human activities, such as the release of carbon dioxide ― the main greenhouse gas ― from burning coal and other fossil fuels."

Molina emphasized that there is no "absolute certainty" that global warming is causing extreme weather events. But he said that scientific insights during the last year or so strengthen the link. Even if the scientific evidence continues to fall short of the absolute certainly measure, the heat, drought, severe storms and other weather extremes may prove beneficial in making the public more aware of global warming and the need for action, said Molina.

"It's important that people are doing more than just hearing about global warming," he said. "People may be feeling it, experiencing the impact on food prices, getting a glimpse of what everyday life may be like in the future, unless we as a society take action."

Stop Grilling Dinner: Specific Toxic Byproduct of Heat-Processed Food Leads to Increased Body Weight and Diabetes, Mouse Study Finds

Studies have already shown that human consumption of grilled foods is linked to an increase in health risks, including cancer. This appears to explain at least part of the reason.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have identified a common compound in the modern diet that could play a major role in the development of abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. The findings are published in the August 20, 2012 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team, led by Helen Vlassara, MD, Professor and Director of the Division of Experimental Diabetes and Aging, found that mice with sustained exposure to the compound, methyl-glyoxal (MG), developed significant abdominal weight gain, early insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. MG is a type of advanced glycation endproduct (AGEs), which is produced when food is cooked with dry heat. AGEs have been found to lower the body's protective mechanisms that control inflammation.


Recent clinical research by Dr. Vlassara's team demonstrated that a modest cut in foods high in AGEs improved insulin resistance in adults with type 2 diabetes, without reducing fat or carbohydrate consumption.


The research team recommends that clinical guidelines be revised to eliminate foods cooked using dry heat and replace them with methods that use lower heat or lots of moisture (water) as in stewing, poaching or steaming. Examples from the AGE-less diet include stewed beef, chicken and fish instead of grilled meats.

Distressing Life Events and Poverty Behind Many Abortions in U.S., Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — Most women accessing abortion services in the US have faced a major life stressor, such as job loss or separation, in the preceding year, finds research published online in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.


The disruptive events included job loss, separation, falling behind on rental/mortgage payments, death of a close friend, a serious health problem, a partner being sent to prison and becoming a victim of crime.

Poverty in the US is defined as an annual income before tax of $17,500 for a family of three: in 2008, 13% of US residents met this criterion.


Women said that the fall-out from one disruptive event could set up a chain reaction. For example, one woman's grief following the death of her mother kept her from leaving an abusive partner.

A higher proportion of women living in poverty (63%) had experienced at least one such event over the previous year than had affluent women (49%).


About half of the women were using contraception in the month they became pregnant, but the in-depth interviews showed that nearly half of these women said that disruptive events interfered with contraceptive use.

World's Sea Life Is 'Facing Major Shock', Marine Scientists Warn

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — Life in the world's oceans faces far greater change and risk of large-scale extinctions than at any previous time in human history, a team of the world's leading marine scientists has warned.

The researchers from Australia, the US, Canada, Germany, Panama, Norway and the UK have compared events which drove massive extinctions of sea life in the past with what is observed to be taking place in the seas and oceans globally today.

Three of the five largest extinctions of the past 500 million years were associated with global warming and acidification of the oceans -- trends which also apply today, the scientists say in a new article in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Other extinctions were driven by loss of oxygen from seawaters, pollution, habitat loss and pressure from human hunting and fishing -- or a combination of these factors.

"Currently, the Earth is again in a period of increased extinctions and extinction risks, this time mainly caused by human factors," the scientists stated. While the data is harder to collect at sea than on land, the evidence points strongly to similar pressures now being felt by sea life as for land animals and plants.


He adds "The situation is not hopeless. If fact we have seen clear evidence both from the past and the present that sea life can bounce back, given a chance to do so.

"For example, in Australia we have clear evidence of that good management of coral reefs can lead to recovery of both corals and fish numbers.

"So, rather, our paper is an appeal to humanity to give the oceans a chance.

"In effect, it says we need to stop releasing the CO2 that drives these massive extinction events, curb the polluted and nutrient-rich runoff from the land that is causing ocean 'dead zones' manage our fisheries more sustainably and protect their habitat better.

"All these things are possible, but people need to understand why they are essential. That is the first step in taking effective action to prevent extinctions."

Forest Razing by Ancient Maya Worsened Droughts, Says Study

ScienceDaily (Aug. 21, 2012) — For six centuries, the ancient Maya flourished, with more than a hundred city-states scattered across what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America. Then, in A.D. 695, the collapse of several cities in present day Guatemala marked the start of the Classic Maya's slow decline. Prolonged drought is thought to have played a role, but a study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters adds a new twist: The Maya may have made the droughts worse by clearing away forests for cities and crops, making a naturally drying climate drier.

"We're not saying deforestation explains the entire drought, but it does explain a substantial portion of the overall drying that is thought to have occurred," said the study's lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate modeler at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.


Archeologists attribute a variety of factors to the collapse of the Classic Maya, whose ancestors are still living today in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. In addition to a drying climate in several regions, the city-states struggled with overpopulation, changing trade routes, war and peasant revolts.