Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eclise of the sun in southern hemisphere Nov. 13/14 2012

Possible Voter Supression in Washington State

Just discovered this election watchdog site:

Eleanor Munro of the Metropolitan Democratic Club read an email message at the request of MDC Director Joan Burton. Ms Burton’s daughter received a phone call from the "Washington State Democratic Voter Identification Committee" (which does not exist) noting that because of printer errors she should not vote until she received a new ballot.

Ms. Burton wants to warn people of this effort to suppress Democratic voting.

FBI Voter Intimidation Hotline: 202-514-1888

The race for governor is close in Washington State.

FBI Voter Intimidation Hotline: 202-514-1888}

New Cat Breed, Selkirk Rex, Genetically Different from Other Curly-Haired Cats


it should come as no surprise that pet owners and animal breeders are frequently attracted by curly-haired animals. Indeed, three curly-haired varieties of cat are already recognized and have been developed into competitive breeds. Serina Filler at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna now shows that a fourth curly-haired breed, Selkirk Rex, is genetically distinct from previously known breeds and presents a genetic analysis of the new cats.

Her results are published in the current issue of the Journal of Heredity.

In 1987, a domestic cat rescued from a shelter in Montana, USA surprisingly gave birth to a curly-haired kitten. The kitten ended up mating with a Persian male and giving birth to a mixture of curly-haired and normal-haired kittens, which strongly suggested that the mutation in the rescued cat was dominant in nature: its presence on one of the two copies of the gene involved is sufficient to cause cats to have curly hair. The curly-haired kittens were attractive and were soon recognized as a new breed: the Selkirk Rex.


Filler's results confirm that the Selkirk Rex breed arose from a spontaneous mutation in a single cat around 25 years ago. As the mutation is dominant it has been comparatively easy to retain and the breed appears to have a healthy level of genetic diversity because of the number of crosses with other breeds.

Empathy Represses Analytic Thought, and Vice Versa

Of course, one can use their analytical ability to solve problems they care about because of empathy. Eg., how to construct the study to find out things like this!

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2012) — New research shows a simple reason why even the most intelligent, complex brains can be taken by a swindler's story -- one that upon a second look offers clues it was false.

When the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis, a pivotal study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows.

How could a CEO be so blind to the public relations fiasco his cost-cutting decision has made?

When the analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed.

At rest, our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks. But when presented with a task, healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway, the researchers found.

The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.

The finding has bearings on a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, from anxiety, depression and ADHD to schizophrenia -- all of which are characterized by social dysfunction of some sort, Jack said. "Treatment needs to target a balance between these two networks. At present most rehabilitation, and more broadly most educational efforts of any sort, focus on tuning up the analytic network. Yet, we found more cortex dedicated to the social network."

Perhaps most clearly, the theory makes sense in regards to developmental disabilities such as autism and Williams syndrome. Autism is often characterized by a strong ability to solve visuospatial problems, such as mentally manipulating two and three-dimensional figures, but poor social skills. People with Williams syndrome are very warm and friendly, but perform poorly on visuospatial tests.

But, even healthy adults can rely too much on one network, Jack said. A look at newspaper business pages offers some examples.

"You want the CEO of a company to be highly analytical in order to run a company efficiently, otherwise it will go out of business," he said. "But, you can lose your moral compass if you get stuck in an analytic way of thinking."

"You'll never get by without both networks," Jack continued. "You don't want to favor one, but cycle efficiently between them, and employ the right network at the right time."

Republicans Want To Abolish FEMA So They Can Profit From Natural Disasters

Posted by Stephen D. Foster Jr.

It looks like we finally know the reason why Republicans are refusing to fund FEMA, the federal agency that responds to natural disasters.

Former Republican Governor Jeb Bush is set to lead a newly formed FOR-PROFIT natural disaster response company. According to the Maritime Executive, Bush’s newly created firm, Old Rhodes Holding LLC, joined forces with O’Brien’s Response Management, a subsidiary of SEACOR Holdings, to form a for-profit disaster response company.

“We are pleased to enter into this partnership with one of the leading response organizations in the United States, backed by SEACOR’s global network,” Bush said. “Together we look forward to helping a broader array of organizations and communities become more resilient through preparation, response, communication and recovery.”

Of course, this response team only helps people for a price. Rather than come to the aid of people affected by a natural disaster out of the kindness of their hearts, like FEMA and other organizations do, the response team led by the former Florida Governor will respond to disasters if the price is right. In other words, they’ll profit off of death and destruction.

All of this comes as House Republicans continue their assault against FEMA, an organization that helps people at no charge beyond the taxes paid to the United States Government by the American people. This is all too coincidental to not be connected in some way. If FEMA is non-existent, people, cities, and states would have to hire disaster response companies to come to their aid which is a recipe for fraud, as these companies could hold disaster areas hostage until they get the price they demand. Worse, these response companies could hold individual disaster victims hostage until the company gets the price it wants or ignore helpless victims altogether if they don’t pay the fee. Remember the home in Tennessee a couple years ago that was allowed to burn down by the local for-profit fire house because the residents failed to pay the fee? Well, you can bet that same scenario will play out across the country and on a more sickening scale.

This is precisely why we pay local, state, and federal taxes to fund our emergency services. Private companies only care about their bottom line and thus don’t care about the human lives at risk of dying in the aftermath of disaster. Their first priority would be money and they would fleece the people in their most desperate time of need. It’s a blood profit that each of us should find morally unacceptable.

Paul Ryan’ & GOP Would Slash Hurricane Prediction Capabilities

Paul Ryan’s Budget And GOP Sequesteration Plan Would Slash Hurricane Prediction Capabilities

By Climate Guest Blogger on Oct 30, 2012
by Michael Conathan

As Hurricane Sandy spins its way north across the eastern Great Lakes and into Canada, the northeast coast woke up today to find at least 25 people dead, almost 10 million without power, and monetary damages likely to approach the $20 billion mark. Wall Street is dark, coastal icons like the Atlantic City boardwalk have sustained heavy damage, and homes are flooded from Maine to the Carolinas.

First of all, we should all take a moment to thank the brilliant and tireless forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service. Without their remarkably accurate and timely forecasting capabilities, these numbers could have been so much worse. Unfortunately, if Congressional Republicans and Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan get their way, next time they will be worse.

Our nation’s environmental satellites are aging, and replacements have been slow to come online. When Congress passed last year’s spending bills, cutting more than $150 million from President Obama’s request for the satellite program, the Government Accountability Office predicted that “there will likely be a gap in satellite data lasting 17 to 53 months” between the time the old satellite shuts down and when its replacement can come online.

In his proposed budget, GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan recommended further cuts to environmental programs—14.6 percent across the board. If these cuts were distributed equally, NOAA’s satellite program would lose more than $250 million from its 2012 funded levels.

And according to multiple sources, including the Washington Post, Palm Beach Sentinel, and the Center for American Progress’ Senior Fellow Scott Lilly, the sequestration process looming over Congress’ lame duck session would cost the program an additional $182 million.

So what does this gap in service mean for our prediction capabilities? NOAA ran an analysis in 2011 that found without data from the satellite closest to the end of its shelf life, the accuracy of its forecasts for major storms like blizzards and hurricanes would decrease by approximately 50 percent. This means more uncertainty about the storm’s intensity and direction.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Romney’s lax regulation may have fueled meningitis outbreak

Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012 07:45 AM EDT
by Craig Unger

The fatal meningitis epidemic sweeping the United States can now be traced to the failure of then-Gov. Mitt Romney to adequately regulate the Massachusetts pharmaceutical company that is being blamed for the deaths.

At least 344 people in 18 states have been infected by the growing public health crisis and 25 have died so far.

But the epidemic may also play a role in the presidential campaign, now that state records reveal that a Massachusetts regulatory agency found that the New England Compounding Co., the pharmaceutical company tied to the epidemic, repeatedly failed to meet accepted standards in 2004 — but a reprimand was withdrawn by the Romney administration in apparent deference to the company’s business interests.

“It goes all the way up to Mitt Romney,” said Alyson Oliver, a Michigan attorney representing victims of the outbreak. According to Oliver, on at least six occasions, NECC was cited by authorities for failure to meet regulatory standards and almost subjected to a three-year probation. “It goes directly to the heart of what Romney says about regulation, ‘Hands off. Let the companies do their thing.’”

“When the person who is supposed to be in charge of oversight does not believe oversight is necessary, this is what happens,” Oliver added.

“The philosophy of the Romney administration was to have lax regulations across the board,” Philip Johnston, a former secretary of health and human services in Massachusetts before the Romney administration, told Salon. “It speaks volumes about the tragic outcome of Romney’s view on regulatory issues. There are two dozen people who died needlessly. It was clearly the responsibility of the company to protect them, but it was also the responsibility of the government at various levels, and, as far as I’m concerned, they failed.”


The owners of NECC have made campaign donations both to Romney and to Massachusetts Republican senatorial candidate Scott Brown, Salon has learned.


WCVB-TV in Boston has reported that NEC president Greg Coniglario hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Scott Brown, bringing in $37,000 for the Brown campaign against Elizabeth Warren. Conigliaro and members of his family have reportedly given $10,000 of their own money to Brown.

In July, Brown was one of 10 senators to sign a letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency arguing that regulations on the compounding industry should be loosened.

Conigliaro also contributed $2,500 to the Romney for president campaign.

2012 Directory of Least-Toxid Pest Control Products

Nasty campaign tactics: Phony voting instructions


MIAMI (AP) - With a week to go until Election Day, the nasty campaign tactics are coming out.

People in Florida, Virginia and Indiana have gotten calls falsely telling them they can vote early by phone and don't need to go to a polling place. In suburban Broward County, Fla., a handful of elderly voters who requested absentee ballots say they were visited by unknown people claiming to be authorized to collect the ballots.

And there's a mysterious DVD popping up in mailboxes that purports to be a documentary raising questions about the true identity of President Barack Obama's father.

It's one more indication of just how close this presidential election is. Voting rights advocates say reports of political deception and underhandedness are on the rise.

"Unfortunately it seems like the shadowy individuals that want to prevent people from voting are doing things earlier," said Eric Marshall, legal mobilization manager at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The organization is part of a coalition called Election Protection that is monitoring voting access and rights nationwide, including a toll-free hotline set up to take complaints.


In the Broward County, Fla., case, elderly voters "were told, 'I'm an official and I'm here to pick up your absentee ballot,'" said Alma Gonzalez, a senior Florida Democratic Party official working on voter protection efforts. "There is no official who picks up your ballot."


Another mysterious batch of mailings to voters in at least 23 Florida counties is being investigated by the FBI and state officials. These anonymous letters, which were postmarked from Seattle, raise questions about the voter's citizenship and provide a form that supposedly must immediately be filled out and returned to elections officials. Otherwise, the letter says, the voter's name will be purged from the rolls.

"A nonregistered voter who casts a vote in the State of Florida may be subject to arrest, imprisonment, and/or other criminal sanctions," warns one of the official-looking letters complete with eagle-and-flag logo, which appear to have been aimed mainly at registered Republicans.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has asked all of the state's supervisors of elections to report any similar letters. There could also be federal charges against those responsible.

Voting rights advocates also say there have been scattered complaints of bosses ordering employees to support a particular presidential candidate or face job repercussions. And in the past, students and other groups have been the targets of robocalls falsely saying they can vote on the day after Election Day if the lines are too long.

Marshall said such misinformation tactics surface election after election because it's not illegal in most states to deceive someone about the timing or place of an election, or to lie about a candidate's political affiliation. Most laws, he said, are more geared toward preventing voter intimidation and ensuring physical access to polling places. Those who do get caught in deception usually claim it was all a big misunderstanding.

"It's very difficult to stop," he said. "The tactics have evolved but the law hasn't."

ConEd prepped for big storm, got even bigger 1 Email this Story

Oct 30, 8:24 PM (ET)


NEW YORK (AP) - Blame a very high tide driven by a full moon, the worst storm surge in nearly 200 years, and the placement of underground electrical equipment in flood-prone areas for the most extensive power outage in New York City's history.

It's like what happened at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan last year - without the radiation. At a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan's East Village, a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and expectations, swamped underground electrical equipment, and left about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers without power.

Last year, the surge from Hurricane Irene reached 9.5 feet at the substation. ConEd figured it had that covered.

The utility also figured the infrastructure could handle a repeat of the highest surge on record for the area - 11 feet during a hurricane in 1821, according to the National Weather Service. After all, the substation was designed to withstand a surge of 12.5 feet.

With all the planning, and all the predictions, planning big was not big enough. Superstorm Sandy went bigger - a surge of 14 feet.

"Nobody predicted it would be that high," said ConEd spokesman Allan Drury.

At one point, nearly 1 million ConEd customers lost electricity in and near the city - a record number for the utility. But the signature event came when a surge of water pushed forward by the storm's winds poured over the banks of the East River near the substation on 13th Street.

As water poured into the substation Monday night, the blinding flash of an explosion lit the most famous skyline in the world. A huge section of the city that never sleeps fell into darkness.


The most densely populated parts of the city, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, are served by underground transmission wires. These offer protection from wind and falling tree limbs that plague overhead wires and make the suburbs far more vulnerable to outages.

But underground wires can flood and be more difficult to repair, especially in low-lying areas. It can be harder for workers to get to the wires because manholes flood. When water recedes, it can be harder to find problems, pull out wires and equipment, dry them, fix them, and slide them back into place.

Pay Satisfaction Key Driver of Work-Family Conflict

ScienceDaily (Oct. 29, 2012) — Employees who are more satisfied with their pay report lower levels of work-family conflict, a study by a University of Illinois labor and employment relations professor shows.

A worker's actual salary is as important as pay satisfaction in determining a worker's happiness, according to the research by professor Amit Kramer.

"Pay, as you might expect, is a relative thing," Kramer said. "I think most people would agree that a certain level of pay that allows you to meet your needs is critical. However, beyond that level, relative pay becomes an issue and with it, perception of pay or pay satisfaction."

A worker's actual salary is as important as pay satisfaction in determining a worker's happiness, according to the research by professor Amit Kramer.

"Pay, as you might expect, is a relative thing," Kramer said. "I think most people would agree that a certain level of pay that allows you to meet your needs is critical. However, beyond that level, relative pay becomes an issue and with it, perception of pay or pay satisfaction."


With Americans among the world leaders in hours worked and worker productivity, Kramer says the research speaks to the need for more family- and life-friendly policies in the workplace.


Republican Senator endorses President Barack Obama for re-election

October 9, 2012
By: Lou Colagiovanni

The great Republican legislator Larry Pressler, who served South Dakota in the U.S. House and Senate for a span of 22 years, has written an article describing why he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and why he will be voting for the president's re-election in November.

Pressler says:

This decision is not easy for any lifelong Republican.

He cites his party's dramatic changes:

Drifting toward a dangerous path that put extreme party ideology above national interest. Mitt Romney heads a party remaining on that dangerous path, proving the emptiness of their praise as they abandon our service members, veterans and military families along the way.

Senator Pressler is one of thousands of Republicans that are part of a mass exodus to the Democratic party. The Republican party has become infested with those who are uninterested in morality and civic duty, and only in corporate profits. Pressler elaborates:


Unlike many others who politically pontificate Larry Pressler is one of a handful of people on the planet who knows the United States budget's intricate detail. He once served as Chairman of the Commerce Committee, and was a member of both the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He is a man who leaves little room for argument when he so directly says in his article posted by The Huffington Post:

Let's be clear, Romney and Ryan would be disastrous for America's service members, veterans and military families.

Pressler closes by reaffirming his support for President Obama:

As a life-long Republican, I stand by him as he stands by all of us, putting national allegiance ahead of party affiliation. I endorse President Obama for re-election in 2012.

Republican Senate Candidate’s Company Collected Millions In State Subsidies While Laying Off Workers

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Oct 29, 2012

On her campaign website, Republican senate candidate Linda McMahon (CT) rails against “reckless” and “out of control” government spending. She calls for the institution of a Balanced Budget Amendment (despite the widespread economic damage such an amendment could cause), and specifically singles out earmarks, claiming that they displace private sector job creation. McMahon has also called for “an end to corporate welfare.”

However, at the CT Post reported, McMahon was all too happy to accept government subsidies for her company, World Wrestling Entertainment, even when the company was laying off workers:

The Stamford-based WWE empire received about $37 million in state tax credits for staging and recording its wrestling spectacles dating back to July of 2009, state officials reported Friday.

The state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), in response to a request by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, indicated that the WWE has received 20 separate tax credits totaling $36.7 million.

Three of the 20 credits, awarded as part of state legislation aimed at fostering film, TV and digital production in the state, totaled more than $5 million each in 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to a summary released under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Jim Watson, spokesman for the DECD, said Friday that the credits were granted, without strings, based on how much money the WWE had spent in Connecticut on producing its events.

“There are no job creation or retention requirements for them to earn the credits,” Watson said. “The credits are awarded based on qualified expenditures made in the state.”

In 2009, WWE collected $9 million in subsidies after announcing plans to lay off 60 workers.

Most states in the U.S. provide tax credits for movie and television production, despite the dubious effect they have promoting job creation. In 2007, Connecticut’s own Department of Community and Economic Development found that its film production credits were not worth the cost.

How Economic Inequality Makes Hurricanes More Deadly

By Zack Beauchamp posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Oct 29, 2012

While the Eastern seaboard braces for Hurricane Sandy, 65 people have already been killed by the storm in the Caribbean. The tragic death toll and accompanying widespread property damage are caused in part by poor infrastructure and poverty — problems that aren’t limited to the Caribbean. Indeed, America’s inequality problem is a key reason why natural disasters wreak such havoc inside the United States.

That our stratified society makes storms more deadly is nearly universally believed by disaster experts. According to a paper by three experts at the University of South Carolina (Cutter et al.), “[t]here is a general consensus within the social science community” that some key causes of vulnerability to storms include “lack of access to resources (including information, knowledge, and technology); limited access to political power and representation; social capital, including social networks and connections; beliefs and customs; building stock and age; frail and physically limited individuals; and type and density of infrastructure and lifelines.” Inequality was, the researchers found, the single most important predictor of vulnerability to storm damage — variation in the wealth of individual counties alone explained 12.4 percent of the differences in the impact of natural disasters between counties.

The reasons for this are fairly clear — poorer communities have less resources to evacuate and prepare for storms, and also live in housing that’s less likely to be build to withstand nature’s wrath.

House GOP Voted To Cut Disaster Relief In Order To Preserve Military Spending

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Oct 29, 2012

As part of their bill to void the military spending cuts included in the Budget Control Act — which was passed as a result of 2011′s GOP inspired debt ceiling standoff — House Republicans proposed eliminating a program that helps states and localities respond to disasters like hurricanes.

The House Republicans’ Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, which was passed without a single Democratic vote, called for zeroing out funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), a program that provides funding to state and local governments to aid needy children, adults, and the disabled. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities noted, the SSBG also offers assistance for disaster relief:

The SSBG has served as a conduit for emergency appropriations to help residents and communities respond to the additional social service and health needs resulting from natural disasters, such as floods, wildfires, and hurricanes.

For example, in response to the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes — including Hurricane Katrina —Congress provided an additional $550 million in emergency funding to states via SSBG for use by public, non-profit, and private entities to repair, renovate, or construct health care facilities, among other purposes. The funds were disbursed promptly — within two monthsa — and SSBG’s flexibility allowed states to streamline eligibility for services funded by the emergency appropriations. Eliminating SSBG could make it harder to provide this sort of flexible human services funding in the face of emergencies.

President Obama’s budget proposed maintaining the SSBG’s annual funding of $1.7 billion; it has had that funding level since 2001. As CBPP noted, “Although the SSBG has received bipartisan support from governors and members of Congress, it has lost 77 percent of its value since 1981, due to inflation, funding freezes, and budget cuts.”

Republicans last year held disaster relief funding hostage several times, demanding offsetting budget cuts. They also attempted to slash disaster funding in a 2011 continuing resolution. The Budget Control Act itself, meanwhile, cuts $900 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Parsing the meaning of 'campaign event'

By Steve Benen
Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:47 AM EDT

The Romney/Ryan campaign won some plaudits yesterday for agreeing to scrap its scheduled events as Hurricane Sandy battered the East coast. It turns out, however, there may have been some fine print.

Yesterday, the Republican team said it had canceled today's campaign event in Ohio. Mitt Romney was set to headline a "victory rally" at a specific venue in Dayton, alongside specific celebrity guests, but out of sensitivity, the event was scrapped.

Instead, Romney will appear at the exact same venue at the exact same time with the exact same celebrity guests, but it will be billed as a "storm relief event." What about yesterday's promise about cancellations? A Republican official said Romney/Ryan hadn't broken its word because, technically, this is "not a campaign event per se."

Hmm. The badge for today's "storm relief event" says "victory rally"; the sign on the door described the event as a "campaign rally"; they're playing the campaign warm-up songs for the audience; and before the "storm relief event" could begin, campaign officials showed the official campaign video on Romney's awesomeness.

But don't worry, it's "not a campaign event per se."

Those who praised Romney/Ryan for their restraint in the face of a national disaster yesterday may want to rethink the acclaim.

Romney campaign “hindering” and “impeding” Hurricane Sandy relief

Romney is old enough that he should already know this. So he is either too ignorant to be president or is just doing this to get votes.
I never designate a donation to a specific disaster because one like this that gets a lot of media attention often gets more than is needed, while subsequent ones get less than needed, esp. if they come soon after another disaster.

10/29/2012 7:00am by John Aravosis

Yesterday we learned via ABC’s Emily Friedman that Romney campaign was pitching in and gathering supplies to donate for hurricane relief:

All well and good except, of course, that it’s the opposite of what disaster relief experts advise you to do. In fact, they warn that such efforts actually “hinder” relief. Had the Romney campaign bothered reading the Red Cross Web site to see WHAT was needed, or even simply asked someone at the Red Cross,they’d have known this.

And I quote from the Red Cross Web site:

Unfortunately, due to logistical constraints the Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items. Items such as collected food, used clothing and shoes must be sorted, cleaned, repackaged and transported which impedes the valuable resources of money, time, and personnel.

It “impedes” relief efforts, it doesn’t help. The Red Cross prefers money because it’s far easier to handle, and can be spent where it’s most needed and on what is most needed.

Anti-abortion Tea Party congressman demands mistress get an abortion

October 10, 2012
By: Lou Colagiovanni

Tea Party Congressman Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee is facing national scrutiny because damning evidence has surfaced which implicates him in adultery and shows him negotiating with his sexual partner outside of his marriage to have an abortion.

DesJarlais was swept into office along with many other Tea Party candidates in the 2010 Midterm elections. The congressman ran on a platform of being anti-abortion, pro-god, and pro-morality. Now it seems that DesJarlais, a registered physician, is at odds with his own political platform.

This story was originally broken by The Huffington Post. The unknown female in question was actually a patient of the good doctor


Top Bank of England director admits Occupy movement had a point

Richard Hall Author Biography
Monday 29 October 2012

The Occupy movement received vindication from unlikely source tonight, as a senior executive at the Bank of England credited it with stirring a “reformation of finance”.

In a glowing appraisal of the movement’s achievements, Andrew Haldane, executive director of financial stability, said Occupy protesters had been “both loud and persuasive”, and had attracted public support because “they are right”.

“Some have suggested … that Occupy’s voice has been loud but vague, long on problems, short on solutions. Others have argued that the fault-lines in the global financial system, which chasmed during the crisis, are essentially unaltered, that reform has failed,” Mr Haldane said in a speech tonight.

“I wish to argue that both are wrong – that Occupy’s voice has been both loud and persuasive and that policymakers have listened and are acting in ways which will close those fault-lines. In fact, I want to argue that we are in the early stages of a reformation of finance, a reformation which Occupy has helped stir.”

Speaking at an Occupy Economics event in central London, Mr Haldane said that Occupy had been “successful in its efforts to popularise the problems of the global financial system for one very simple reason: they are right.” He added that protesters who camped out near St Paul’s Catherdal in London and dozens of other cities including New York,“touched a moral nerve in pointing to growing inequities in the allocation of wealth”.

Mr Haldane ended with a direct appeal to activists to continue putting pressure on governments and regulators. He said: “You have put the arguments. You have helped win the debate. And policymakers, like me, will need your continuing support in delivering that radical change.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Romney Avoids Taxes for 15 years via Loophole

Note this is from the conservative Bloomberg company.

By Jesse Drucker - Oct 29, 2012

In 1997, Congress cracked down on a popular tax shelter that allowed rich people to take advantage of the exempt status of charities without actually giving away much money.

Individuals who had already set up these vehicles were allowed to keep them. That included Mitt Romney, then the chief executive officer of Bain Capital, who had just established such an arrangement in June 1996.

The charitable remainder unitrust, as it is known, is one of several strategies Romney has adopted over his career to reduce his tax bill. While Romney’s tax avoidance is legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become an issue in the campaign. President Barack Obama attacked him in their second debate for paying “lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less.”

In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity -- the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing -- to defer taxes for more than 15 years. At the same time he is benefitting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In general, charities don’t owe capital gains taxes when they sell assets for a profit. Trusts like Romney’s permit funders to benefit from that tax-free treatment, said Jonathan Blattmachr, a trusts and estates lawyer who set up hundreds of such vehicles in the 1990s.

“The main benefit from a charitable remainder trust is the renting from your favorite charity of its exemption from taxation,” Blattmachr said. Despite the name, giving a gift or getting a charitable deduction “is just a throwaway,” he said. “I used to structure them so the value dedicated to charity was as close to zero as possible without being zero.”

When individuals fund a charitable remainder unitrust, or “CRUT,” they defer capital gains taxes on any profit from the sale of the assets, and receive a small upfront charitable deduction and a stream of yearly cash payments. Like an individual retirement account, the trust allows money to grow tax deferred, while like an annuity it also pays Romney a steady income. After the funder’s death, the trust’s remaining assets go to a designated charity.

Romney’s CRUT, which is only a small part of the $250 million that Romney’s campaign cites as his net worth, has been paying him 8 percent of its assets each year. As the Romneys have received these payments, the money that will potentially be left for charity has declined from at least $750,000 in 2001 to $421,203 at the end of 2011.


Giant Marble Harvests Energy from Sun and Moon

Note that light from the moon is reflected sunlight.

Analysis by Tracy Staedter
Tue Sep 18, 2012

It looks like a giant, glass marble. But this globe is no game. It's a sun-tracking, solar energy concentrator created by Barcelona-based architects and, according to the designers, is able to collect not just sunlight but moonlight as well.

The Rawlemon project revolves around a weatherproof sphere that's designed to rotate and follow the sun across the sky. It's so sensitive to light that at night, it can even harvest moonlight and convert it into electricity.

Andre Broessel, the architect and designer, says his spherical, sun-tracking glass globe is able to concentrate sunlight and moonlight up to 10,000 times and that the system is 35 percent more efficient than photovoltaic designs that track the sun. One of Rawlemon's idea is to build these globes into the exterior walls of buildings and use them to generate electricity.

Hurricane Sandy’s Transition to a Post-Tropical Cyclone

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues advisories, forecasts, and warnings on tropical cyclones – the generic term for hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions. Sometime prior to making landfall, Hurricane Sandy is expected to lose its characteristics as a tropical cyclone and take on the structure of a wintertime low-pressure area. Because the National Hurricane Center only issues advisories on tropical cyclones, there will be changes in the flow of information coming out of the NWS when this transition occurs.

The primary difference between a tropical cyclone and a wintertime cyclone is the energy source. Tropical cyclones extract heat from the ocean and grow by releasing that heat in the atmosphere near the storm center. Wintertime cyclones (also called extratropical or frontal lows), on the other hand, get most of their energy from temperature contrasts in the atmosphere, and this energy usually gets distributed over larger areas. Because of these differences, tropical cyclones tend to have more compact wind fields, tend to be more symmetric, and have a well-defined inner core of strong winds. Wintertime lows have strong temperature contrasts or fronts attached to them, have a broader wind field, and more complex distributions of rain or snow.

The official NWS term for a tropical cyclone that has evolved into something else is “Posttropical cyclone”, where the post in post-tropical simply means after. Thus, once Sandy loses its tropical cyclone status it will be known as “Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy” in NWS products. Some aspects of this transition are already occurring, and NWS forecasts of storm impacts are based on this expected evolution. Regardless of when this transition formally occurs, Sandy is expected to bring significant wind, surge, rainfall and inland flooding hazards over an extremely large area, and snowfall to more limited areas.

Because Sandy is expected to make this transition before reaching the coast, the NWS has been using non-tropical wind watches and warnings, issued by local NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), to communicate the wind threat posed by Sandy in the Mid-Atlantic States and New England. (This is why NHC’s tropical storm warnings extend only into North Carolina.) The NWS plans to continue using non-tropical watches and warnings issued by local offices in the Mid-Atlantic States and northward throughout this event. By using non-tropical warnings in these areas from the start, we avoid or minimize the significant confusion that could occur if the warning suite changed from tropical to non-tropical in the middle of the event.



see the above link for more info about how the storm will be reported.

The National Weather Service (NWS) web site is

Info on Sandy is at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) site

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dietary Supplements Can Cause Liver Injury

ScienceDaily (Oct. 26, 2012) — Niacin, comfrey, Kava and even green tea in high doses can cause liver injury. A Loyola liver specialist praises the new LiverTox free online database of drugs and explains acetaminophen is just one of many drugs taken that negatively impacts liver health.

Dose-dependent (acetaminophen) and idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, responsible for approximately 50 percent of all reported cases. "Awareness of the dangers of acetaminophen has risen but many consumers and even many health care professionals are not aware that certain popular herbal and dietary supplements can also cause liver damage," says Steven Scaglione, MD, hepatology, Loyola University Health System (LUHS) and the Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM). "Kava, comfrey, valerian, vitamin A, niacin and even green tea, when consumed in high doses, have been linked to liver disease."


Acetaminophen is one of the most widely used over-the-counter pain relievers and more than 25 billion doses are sold yearly. "Therapeutic doses of acetaminophen have been associated with liver toxicity," says Scaglione, who cares for liver patients at Loyola. Acetaminophen is also a basic component in many over-the-counter cold and flu remedies for adults and children.


Hurricane Sandy: State by state impact forecasts

The following link has forecasts for impacts by hurricane Sandy.
See the link for more state info.

Posted by: Angela Fritz, 11:43 PM GMT on October 28, 2012


• Storm tide and surge: Up to 4 feet of storm surge on top of tides, with a 10-20% chance of surge exceeding 5 feet.

Storm tide forecast for Buzzards Bay, MA is 7-8 feet.
Storm tide forecast for Woods Hole, MA is 6-7 feet.
Storm tide forecast for Nantucket, MA is 6-7 feet.

• Wind: 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. The strongest winds will occur Monday afternoon and evening
• Rain: Widespread totals from 1.5 to 3 inches, with isolated amounts up to 5 inches
• Inland Flooding: Significant urban and small stream flooding is possible, which could linger into Tuesday.
• Power outages: Spotty power outages are possible as wind takes down branches and trees

Rhode Island



Sandy and storm surge pose 'worst case scenario'
Email this Story

Oct 28, 4:47 PM (ET)

AP writer Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this story.

KENSINGTON, Md. (AP) - The projected storm surge from Hurricane Sandy is a "worst case scenario" with devastating waves and tides predicted for the highly populated New York City metro area, government forecasters said Sunday.

The more they observe it, the more the experts worry about the water - which usually kills and does more damage than winds in hurricanes.

In this case, seas will be amped up by giant waves and full-moon-powered high tides. That will combine with drenching rains, triggering inland flooding as the hurricane merges with a winter storm system that will worsen it and hold it in place for days.

Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that given Sandy's due east-to-west track into New Jersey, that puts the worst of the storm surge just north in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey. "Yes, this is the worst case scenario," he said.

In a measurement of pure kinetic energy, NOAA's hurricane research division on Sunday ranked the surge and wave "destruction potential" for Sandy - just the hurricane, not the hybrid storm it will eventually become - at 5.8 on a 0 to 6 scale. The damage expected from winds will be far less, experts said. Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters says that surge destruction potential number is a record and it's due to the storm's massive size.

"You have a lot of wind acting over a long distance of water for hundreds of miles" and that piles the storm surge up when it finally comes ashore, Masters said. Even though it doesn't pack much power in maximum wind speed, the tremendous size of Sandy - more than 1,000 miles across with tropical storm force winds - adds to the pummelling power when it comes ashore, he said.

The storm surge energy numbers are bigger than the deadly 2005 Hurricane Katrina, but that can be misleading. Katrina's destruction was concentrated in a small area, making it much worse, Masters said. Sandy's storm surge energy is spread over a wider area. Also, Katrina hit a city that is below sea level and had problems with levees.


The good news about inland flooding is that the rivers and ground aren't as saturated as they were last year when Hurricane Irene struck, causing nearly $16 billion in damage, much of it from inland flooding in places like Vermont, Uccellini and Masters said.

The storm, which threatens roughly 50 million in the eastern third of the country, began as three systems. Two of those - an Arctic blast from the north and a normal winter storm front with a low-pressure trough- have combined. Hurricane Sandy will meld with those once it comes ashore, creating a hybrid storm with some of the nastier characteristics of a hurricane and a nor'easter, experts have said.

Family sold everything to move cross country to a non-existent job, now stranded

September 10, 2012
By: Lou Colagiovanni

The Alberts family was unemployed, struggling, and looking for a lifeline when Erinn Alberts, mother of three, received word that she had been selected for a new job as a Production Accountant at a prestigious firm. The caveat? The job was located in Florida, and the family lived in New Hampshire. After being promised employment Erinn and her husband, also named Aaron, seized the opportunity and quickly sold their possessions for traveling money. Within a week they hit the road with their three young children to start a new better life for their family. Except when they arrived in Florida the job that was promised no longer existed and the family is now stranded with little money, and no employment leads.

The company in question is "Digital Domain Media Group" which specializes in CG animation, effects, and digital production for the entertainment and advertising industries.

Aaron Alberts went on the record with local news station and said:

"We were about five minutes before the exit to get here, and we got this phone call from our relocation specialist, the lady who helped us find this apartment for the next 29 days," said Aaron. "She goes, 'Have you talked to HR yet?' I'm like, 'No, why?' thinking, is this going to be bad, is this going to be bad?"

That is when they received the news - Digital Domain was shuttering its Florida offices and issued a press release to that end on the very day the Alberts family came 1,400 miles for a job. 280 other employees also lost their jobs because Digital Domain defaulted on a $35 million loan.

There has been no response yet from Digital Domain if they are aware of the situation, or if they are willing to offer relief to this family that is now in turmoil.

The CEO of Digital Domain, John Textor, resigned on the same day as the Florida office closing. It is a matter of public record that Textor donated over $20,000 to Republican candidates in 2011.

Aaron Alberts, while surely troubled, has more immediate problems such as keeping his family fed and sheltered. He is seeking employment of any kind. Please contact

Who Stole the American Dream?

By Frederick R. Lynch, Published: October 27, 2012

Saving the middle class has become a battle cry in the 2012 presidential campaign — and it’s no wonder. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the percentage of Americans considered middle class has dwindled to 51 percent from 61 percent in 1971. But the Pew report does not explain the political and economic forces behind this decline. That’s a task Hedrick Smith sets for himself in his new book, “Who Stole the American Dream?”

Long before most reporters and social scientists took note, Smith had established himself as television journalism’s foremost expert on the forces eroding the ranks of the middle class. In a series of penetrating “Frontline” documentaries over more than a decade, he chronicled the rise of a new buccaneer brand of global capitalism that relentlessly undermined the middle-class dream of “a steady job with decent pay and health benefits, rising living standards, a home of your own, secure retirement, and the hope that your children would enjoy a better future.” Now in a sober, self-described reporter’s book, Smith deepens his analysis using the latest data.


In Smith’s telling, America’s corporate plutocracy has largely abandoned even the pretense of stewardship, loyalty or patriotism. It has imported cheap foreign workers to replace millions of Americans in an increasingly wide range of occupations: from agricultural and construction labor to high-tech and banking professionals. Corporate chieftains also moved offshore many of the nation’s once-unionized, blue-collar jobs and low-level white-collar jobs, such as working in call centers. (Smith cites Thomas Jefferson’s prescient warning: “Merchants have no country.”)


“Who Stole the American Dream?” provides a grim panorama of the real-world consequences of these power shifts: concentration of financial assets and higher incomes in fewer hands; race-to-the-bottom wage and sales dynamics (epitomized by the rise of Wal-Mart) that pit American producers against Asian sweatshop factories and result in massive sales of imported, cheap merchandise that, in turn, eviscerates small, local retailers; efforts by America’s highly admired high-tech moguls (from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates) to transfer overseas much of our knowledge-based economy;the evolution of a Washington-Wall Street “symbiosis” that dominates White House and congressional policymaking and thrives on political gridlock.


Students Demand Fossil Fuel Divestment

Air Date: Week of October 26, 2012

Some 25 yrs ago, students demanded their universities pull investments out of South Africa to fight Apartheid. Now, activists want to fight climate change emissions using the same tactic. Host Steve Curwood talks to Harvard students who are asking the college to pull investment from all fossil fuel stocks.

CURWOOD: A new battle-line has formed in the wider push to rein in fossil fuel use – on college campuses. Students at some 18 colleges and universities just held a National Day of Action to pressure their administrations to divest their endowment holdings from fossil fuel stocks, a move already taken by Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts.

Among the institutions involved - Cornell, Amherst, Bryn Mawr, Boston University – and the university with the fattest endowment of all – Harvard. Down in Harvard Yard I met one of the organizers of the protest, sophomore Alli Welton.

Harvard student Alli Welton (Photo: Annie Sneed)

WELTON: I think students feel very scared and worried about climate change because this issue will really determine the sort of planet that we live on and the society in which we have our lives. And I think it’s particularly strong to students because we see our entire lives spread out ahead of us.

Also, we’re trying to raise awareness among the members of our administration that the impacts of climate change are already happening right now, and they’re already taking a serious toll – if you look at the drought in the Midwest this summer, the wildfires in Colorado…– we just feel that it’s a really important issue that needs some action right now.


Georgia State School Superintendent Against the Charter School Amendment

October 23, 2012

State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge released the following statement today about the constitutional amendment on charter schools:

“I fully support the continued creation of high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, but after careful consideration of what is best for all of Georgia’s students, I have decided to take a position in opposition to the constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts – much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes).

I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education. What’s more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases).

I trust our local school districts will continue to approve only high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, and I am committed to working with all of our school districts to ensure that high quality applicants are not denied locally – including mediating between high quality charter school applicants and any local districts that are reluctant to approve them, as provided by existing Georgia law.”

Remember When Mitt Romney Called Disaster Relief Immoral and Wanted to Privatize It?

By: Sarah JonesOctober 28th, 2012

As Sandy bears down with a potentially life-threatening storm, we flash back to the 2011 primaries when Mitt Romney called the debt resulting from disaster relief ‘immoral’ and wanted to privatize it. Asked about federal spending on disaster relief in the context of the tornadoes and flooding hitting many states at the time, Romney claimed we can’t keep spending money on disaster relief and putting our children in debt.


Mitt Romney also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be privatized — you know, so it would be for profit, which has proven to be a disastrous idea in and of itself. See, corporations whose only responsibility is to make a profit tend to not want to pay up when disaster strikes. It’s expensive to pay up, so they try to find ways to duck and dodge doing so.

If Romney had his way, those same folks who ignored Katrina victims would be in charge of preparing for disaster.

By Brad Johnson on Jun 14, 2011

Asked about federal disaster relief for recent tornado and flood victims at last night’s GOP debate, candidate Mitt Romney called the spending “immoral” and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be privatized. With greenhouse pollution on the rise, the United States has been struck by a “punishing series of billion-dollar disasters.”

Embracing a radical anti-government ideology from the most extreme elements of the Tea Party, Romney said that the victims in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and other communities hit by tornadoes and flooding should not receive governmental assistance. He argued it is “simply immoral” for there to be deficit spending that could harm future generations:

The Scourge of High School Concussions

October 28, 2012 11:06 AM

While we’re on the topic of football, some news from the darker side of the sport. A brand new survey out of Massachusetts, prompted by a 2010 state law, found that 3,000 youth athletes from 164 schools suffered concussions last year. (A revelation that comes on the heels of a five-concussion peewee football game in central Mass.) Over 500 schools didn’t respond to the survey. Scaled-up, this study implies 600,000 youth concussions occur yearly in the US, about double the 300,000 commonly estimated.


But at least in football, none of that will matter much. As Jonah Lehrer rightly noted in (what appears to be a well-sourced and plagiarism-free) article on high school concussions, there’s almost nothing we can do to prevent brain injury in football, short of say, eliminating tackling. The only shield we have against concussions, the helmet, doesn’t actually protect the brain.

If the head isn’t shielded from the strongest physical impacts — and this is best done with soft, pliable materials — then it can break and bleed. But the very act of protecting players from those severe collisions means that the head will bounce around the cushioned helmet, thus allowing the brain to move within its bony cage.

This is, of course, a problem in the professional ranks as well, but it’s worse for high school kids. Not only are their brain cells still developing, but 99 percent of them don’t have a professional future in the sport, making their efforts especially worthless. Recently, as Lehrer noted, a BU neuropathologist found the earliest-ever recorded evidence of irreversible CTE—a brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s—in the brain of a deceased 18 year-old who suffered multiple concussions playing high-school football.


No Place like Home


There is no Planet B

Colin Powell’s former white chief of staff: ‘My party [Republican] is full of racists’

Jillian Rayfield
9:09 pm on 10/26/2012

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff during his time as secretary of state, decried John Sununu’s comment that Powell only endorsed Barack Obama because they are both black. “To say that Colin Powell would endorse President Obama because of his skin color is like saying Mother Teresa worked for profit,” Wilkerson told Ed Schultz.

Wilkerson said on The Ed Show that though he respects Sununu, a top Romney adviser and surrogate, “I don’t have any respect for the integrity of the position that he seemed to codify. Look at me, Ed, I’m white. I’m not black. Colin Powell picked me because of the content of my character and my competence.”

He added that he thinks Sununu’s remark was an “unfortunate slip of words,” but that it speaks to larger problem in the Republican party.

“My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people, not all of them, but most of them, who are still basing their decision on race,” Wilkerson said. “Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists. And the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.”

In an interview with radio host Michael Smerconish Friday, the president brushed off Sununu’s remarks, saying he will let Powell’s statement and support “speak for itself.”

“I don’t think that there are many people in America who would question Gen. Powell’s credibility, his patriotism, his willingness to tell it straight,” Obama said. “So any suggestion that Gen. Powell would make such a profound statement in such an important election based on anything other than what he thought would be best for America doesn’t make much sense.”

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem

By Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, Published: April 27

Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.

It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.


Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.


And seven Republican co-sponsors of a Senate resolution to create a debt-reduction panel voted in January 2010 against their own resolution, solely to keep it from getting to the 60-vote threshold Republicans demanded and thus denying the president a seeming victory.


Democrats are hardly blameless, and they have their own extreme wing and their own predilection for hardball politics. But these tendencies do not routinely veer outside the normal bounds of robust politics. If anything, under the presidencies of Clinton and Obama, the Democrats have become more of a status-quo party. They are centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.

No doubt, Democrats were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward George W. Bush during his presidency. But recall that they worked hand in glove with the Republican president on the No Child Left Behind Act, provided crucial votes in the Senate for his tax cuts, joined with Republicans for all the steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and supplied the key votes for the Bush administration’s financial bailout at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. The difference is striking.

The GOP’s evolution has become too much for some longtime Republicans. Former senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraskacalled his party “irresponsible” in an interview with the Financial Times in August, at the height of the debt-ceiling battle. “I think the Republican Party is captive to political movements that are very ideological, that are very narrow,” he said. “I’ve never seen so much intolerance as I see today in American politics.”

And Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican congressional staffer, wrote an anguished diatribe last year about why he was ending his career on the Hill after nearly three decades. “The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe,” he wrote on the Truthout Web site.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Higher Speed Limits Cost Lives, Researchers Find

ScienceDaily (July 18, 2009) — The repeal of the federal speed control law in 1995 has resulted in an increase in road fatalities and injuries, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

The research is published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health. It is the first long-term study to evaluate the impact of repealing the National Maximum Speed Law on road fatalities and injuries in fatal crashes between 1995 and 2005.

The law, which restricted the maximum speed limit to 55 mph on all interstate roads in the United States, was initiated in 1974 in response to the oil embargo and had an immediate impact.

"During the first year there was a drop of almost 17 percent in fatalities after the speed laws were reduced to 55 miles per hour," said Lee Friedman, assistant research professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at UIC and lead author of the study.

The law was modified in 1987 and allowed states to raise the legal speed limits to 65 mph on some interstates. In 1995, the federally mandated 55 mph speed law was revoked, allowing states to set their own speed laws.

"The primary finding of our study was that over the 10-year period following the repeal of National Maximum Speed Law, there were approximately 12,500 deaths due to the increased speed limits across the U.S.," said Friedman.

America's Media Just Made Vote-Rigging Easier

Friday, 19 October 2012 10:15 By Victoria Collier, Truthout

The news that America's mainstream media has cancelled exit polling in 19 states, means that insider election theft this November is now even harder to track, and therefore easier to get away with - something that scarcely seemed possible.

As I've written in the November issue of Harper's Magazine ("How to Rig an Election"), our voting system is already privatized, corporatized, computerized and arguably less secure than Vegas slot machines. It's also controlled by a shadowy cartel of right-wing affiliated companies that keep merging and changing their names, perhaps - and almost certainly in the case of Diebold - to avoid association with the record of white-collar criminal charges and convictions that trail them from state to state.

Precious few methods now remain for verifying results generated by these corporate "black box" touch-screen voting machines and optical scanners, which have been proven (ad nauseam) by experts to be vulnerable to insider rigging and outsider hacking. This evidence remains long unreported by the mainstream media, which ignore the kind of stories now broken weekly at the Brad Blog, like the latest White Hat hack of Diebold voting machines: In September, 2011, the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Labs gained controlling access to the electronic votes within the machines using $20 in parts and the equivalent of an 8th grade science education.


To make the case that we've got to toss these corporate Trojan Horse voting machines into the scrap heap (as was just done by Ireland), the EI movement has heavily relied on public opinion polls, tracking polls and exit polls for election forensics: comparing polling data to the "trust us" numbers spit from the secret innards of the voting machines.

Election forensics has turned up some very serious discrepancies in elections spanning the past few decades, and even led to the coining of a new term: The Red Shift.

The Red Shift has been detected in both state and federal American elections, where computerized vote totals have consistently "shifted" - often by a 5 percent to 7 percent margin disparity (sometimes less, but sometimes much greater) - in comparison to hand-counts and polling data. This mysterious seismic lurch invariably pushes votes to the right, and when the dust settles, it has inordinately benefitted GOP candidates and ballot issues.

To conceal these unnerving discrepancies that strongly suggest computerized vote rigging, exit pollsters began "adjusting" their final reported numbers - literally forcing polls at the end of Election Day to better align with the voting machine results.

Surprisingly, this is not a criminal or even covert act, but common knowledge amongst pollsters (though certainly not the American public) and accepted practice.

Therefore - and here's the rub - only the early, "unadjusted" exit polls numbers can provide evidence of the "red shift." But this smoking-gun data has been increasingly guarded by the pollsters, and withheld from release to EI analysts.

Nevertheless, the "red shift' reports we do have are beginning to attract attention, thanks to the tenacity of EI activists spreading them on the Internet. Could this be why the media consortium that controls the exit polls is shutting them down in 19 states?

David Moore, former Vice President of the Gallup poll for 13 years, agreed in an interview with me that the killing of the exit polls in 19 states is a "disaster" for the Election Integrity movement, "because you don't have the kind of polling data to help you determine whether polls and vote statistics are in accordance with each other."

The non-exit poll states in 2012 will be Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.


In 2004, for example, "unadjusted" exit polls showed John Kerry winning the Presidency by what many considered an insurmountable margin, until Ohio's votes surged for George W. Bush late on election night. The unexpected windfall that handed Bush Ohio's electoral votes - and therefore the White House - was reported on the web site controlled by the Republican Ohio Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, a fundamentalist Christian, and - yes, it's true - Honorary Co-Chair of the Committee to Re-elect George W. Bush.

Blackwell's web site was programmed by two companies deep under the sheets with the GOP - GovTech and SMARTech - and operations were coordinated behind the scenes by campaign manager, Karl Rove.

Which brings us back, full circle, to the problem of this new blackout of exit polls.

"The problem," writes Jonathan Simon, "is that Karl Rove now has 19 states to mine votes to cover a Romney popular vote loss (undermining and casting suspicion upon his easily arranged Electoral College 'win'), without the remotest trace of the theft, not even the telltale 'red shift.' This was done in 2004 for Bush, and it showed up in the 'red shift' in states like Alaska and New York, as millions of votes were shifted in non-competitive states where there was little forensic vigilance. And if it turns out that they need even more votes for Romney, with the public now 100 percent blind to these 19 states, they'll have them by the millions."

The same threat hangs over competitive Senate races across the country, which will determine the balance of Congress, and the courts, for years to come.

Now more than ever, if we suspect our vote is stolen, we couldn't prove it if we tried.

Yes, You Should Still Vote: But That's Not All

Remember, low voter-turn out makes it easier to rig elections. Don't kill your own vote by not casting it. Cast a ballot, but do it with your eyes wide open to the reality of the changes that need to be made in our vote counting system, then get busy organizing to make those changes happen before the next election.

Join the Election Integrity movement. If there's not a group in your area, start one. Educate, organize and help us restore transparent, publicly observable hand-counted paper ballot elections in communities across America.

Democracy is quite literally in our hands.

Consistent exercise associated with lower risk of colon cancer death

Public release date: 30-Dec-2010
Contact: Jim Dryden
Washington University School of Medicine

Consistent exercise is associated with a lower risk of dying from colon cancer, according to a new study led by researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. The study is among the first to show that physical activity can make the disease less deadly.


"People who were consistently active over the course of their adulthood had a lower risk of death from colon cancer than those who were sedentary," says first author Kathleen Y. Wolin, ScD. "People often wonder around the start of a new year whether exercise really will help them stay healthy or whether it's already too late. It's never too late to start exercising, but it's also never too early to start being active. That's the message we hope people will take away from this study."

Wolin, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Public Health Sciences, says the benefits of starting an exercise program include not just preventing colon cancer and death from the disease, but also reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and other cancers.

She says the greatest benefits seem to accrue in those who have exercised for the largest percentage of their lives. But it isn't necessary to run marathons or to work out for many hours every day.

"You get enormous 'bang for the buck,'" she says. "You go for a 30-minute walk every day, and you're going to reduce your risk of a number of diseases. And in addition, our research has also shown that you feel better, physically and mentally, so you're able to function better."

And physical activity even can be beneficial after a cancer diagnosis already has been made.

"There is evidence that being physically active can reduce the risk of recurrence and death following a cancer diagnosis," Wolin says. "So even those who haven't been physically active can begin exercising after their diagnosis and see some real benefits as well."

Confirmation that vitamin D acts as a protective agent against the advance of colon cancer

Public release date: 16-Aug-2011
Contact: Amanda Wren
Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology

A study conducted by VHIO researchers confirms that a lack of vitamin D increases the aggressiveness of colon cancer

The indication that vitamin D and its derivatives have a protective effect against various types of cancer is not new. In the field of colon cancer, numerous experimental and epidemiological studies show that vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol) and some of its derivatives inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Researchers at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), in collaboration with the Alberto Sols Institute of Biomedical Research (CSIC-UAB), have confirmed the pivotal role of vitamin D, specifically its receptor (VDR), in slowing down the action of a key protein in the carcinogenic transformation process of colon cancer cells. These results are being published in the journal PLoS One.


In light of these findings, chronic vitamin D deficiency represents a risk factor in the development of more aggressive colon tumours. Patients in the initial stages of colon cancer, the time when the VDR still has a substantial presence in the cells, could benefit from being treated with vitamin D3. However, this would not be useful in the advanced stages of the disease when the presence of the VDR is very much reduced.

The study data support the development of anti-tumour medicines based on the structure of vitamin D, although their use in patients will require further research in the next few years.

The body not only obtains vitamin D from food, especially milk and fish oils, but also manufactures it from exposure to sunlight. Prolonged exposure is not necessary; just 10 minutes in the sun every day when it is not at its peak is sufficient to stimulate its production. During the summer, when we are more likely to sunbathe, it is important to use the appropriate protective measures against sunburn to avoid future sun damage. Use high-factor solar protection products and do not expose the skin to the sun in the middle of the day to protect against skin cancers.

Traumatic consequences long after fall of the Berlin Wall

Public release date: 25-Oct-2012
Contact: Prof. Andreas Maercker
University of Zurich

Previously, there had been a lack of reliable data in Germany on the long-term psychological consequences of political imprisonment in the GDR. Professor Andreas Maercker, Head of the Department of Psychopathology and Clinical Intervention at the University of Zurich, and private lecturer Dr. Matthias Schützwohl, Group Leader at the Clinic and Polyclinic of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Dresden University of Technology, interviewed 146 former political prisoners in the mid-1990s. 15 years later, they studied the majority of those concerned (78 men and 15 women) again.

"To our surprise, post-traumatic stress disorder is still present in a third of the people studied," says Professor Maercker, summing up the results. "While some have recovered compared to 15 years ago, in others the stress disorder has only manifested itself in recent years." In all, such a delayed or recurrent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was apparent in 15 percent. We know from studies from other countries – mostly on prisoners of war or other victims of violence – that delayed or recurrent PTSD exists, albeit to a lesser extent. Maercker and Schützwohl's study is the first to demonstrate this for former political prisoners. It appears in the journal Nervenarzt and additional analyses are to be published in the English-language journal Torture.

Decline in dependency on addictive substances

Other psychological disorders that former GDR prisoners suffered from decreased during the 15 years. Specific phobias such as claustrophobia were less common, for instance. The number of people addicted to alcohol and medication also fell. However, the number with acute depression quadrupled to 41 percent of those studied last year. At both time points, a more or less equal number suffered from anxiety disorders such as panic disorder (24 percent last year).

"We made another key discovery: Those affected tend to rate their own psychological condition after their release too poorly in retrospect but their current state more realistically," says PD Schützwohl. From this, the authors conclude that there is no distortion of memory for the purposes of a current desire for compensation, for instance, but rather that psychological factors play a role in the tendency towards a negative life evaluation.

Genetic tradeoff: Harmful genes are widespread in yeast but hold hidden benefits

Public release date: 25-Oct-2012
Contact: Jim Erickson
University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR— The genes responsible for inherited diseases are clearly bad for us, so why hasn't evolution, over time, weeded them out and eliminated them from the human genome altogether? Part of the reason seems to be that genes that can harm us at one stage of our lives are necessary and beneficial to us at other points in our development.

The idea that the same gene can be both beneficial and harmful, depending on the situation, is called antagonistic pleiotropy. The theory has been around since the 1950s and has been used to explain aging, cancer and genetic diseases.

But until now, no one has been able to determine just how common antagonistic pleiotropy is -- on a genome-wide scale -- in any organism. In a paper to be published online Oct. 25 in the journal Cell Reports, Jianzhi "George" Zhang of the University of Michigan and his coworkers report that antagonistic pleiotropy is very common in yeast, a single-celled organism used by scientists to provide insights about genetics and cell biology.

Zhang and his colleagues say the findings have broad biomedical and evolutionary implications.

"In any given environment, yeast expresses hundreds of genes that harm rather than benefit the organism, demonstrating widespread antagonistic pleiotropy. The surprising finding is the sheer number of such genes in the yeast genome that have such properties," said Zhang, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

"From our yeast data we can predict that humans should have even more antagonistic pleiotropy than yeast," he said. "This suggests that special cautions are needed when treating inherited diseases, because a treatment that removes a disease-causing genetic effect may lead to adverse effects in other aspects of life."


Lonely older adults face more health risks

Public release date: 25-Oct-2012
Contact: Clea Desjardins
Concordia University

Adopting a positive attitude later in life positively alters body functions, Concordia study shows

Montreal, October 25, 2012 – Always look on the bright side of life. Thanks to a new study from Concordia University, this catchy refrain offers a prescription for staying healthy during one's golden years.

Research has shown that lonely older adults are at greater risk of developing health problems but a new study by Carsten Wrosch, a professor in Concordia's Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development, offers hope. In a forthcoming article in Psychosomatic Medicine, Wrosch proves that older adults who approach life with a positive outlook can reverse the negative health issues associated with a lonely life.

"Our aim was to see whether using self-protective strategies, such as thinking positively and avoiding self-blame in the context of common age-related threats could prevent lonely older adults from exhibiting increases in stress hormones and inflammatory biomarkers," explains Wrosch, who co-authored the article with Concordia's PhD graduate, Rebecca Rueggeberg, and colleagues Gregory Miller from the University of British Columbia and Thomas McDade from Northwestern University in Illinois.


Their findings showed that, among lonely older adults, the use of positive thinking helped protect against an increase in cortisol secretion. Four years down the road, further tests showed the participants' CRP levels had improved. In essence, lonely older adults who reframe problematic health circumstances positively and do not blame themselves for negative health issues can decrease health threats associated with stress and inflammation. For those older adults who did not report feelings of loneliness, this type of thinking had no effect – supposedly because their social networks may help them deal with age-related problems.

Sanders to CEOs: Look in the Mirror

October 25, 2012

Sen. Bernie Sanders said corporate leaders should look in the mirror before lecturing the American people on ways to tackle the deficit. After the heads of more than 80 big companies issued a statement Thursday on deficit reduction, Sanders released a report detailing how many of the companies headed by the same CEOs have avoided taxes, sent American jobs overseas and took taxpayer bailouts. "There really is no shame," Sanders said. "The Wall Street leaders whose recklessness and illegal behavior caused this terrible recession are now lecturing the American people on the need for courage to deal with the nation's finances and deficit crisis. Before telling us why we should cut Social Security, Medicare and other vitally important programs, these CEOs might want to take a hard look at their responsibility for causing the deficit and this terrible recession."

"Our Wall Street friends might also want to show some courage of their own by suggesting that the wealthiest people in this country, like them, start paying their fair share of taxes. They might work to end the outrageous corporate loopholes, tax havens and outsourcing provisions that their lobbyists have littered throughout the tax code - contributing greatly to our deficit," Sanders added.

Many of the CEOs who signed the deficit-reduction letter run corporations that, in total, evaded at least $34.5 billion in taxes by setting up more than 600 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens since 2008. As a result, at least a dozen of the companies avoided paying any federal income taxes in recent years, and even received more than $6.4 billion in tax refunds from the IRS since 2008.

Several of the companies received a total taxpayer bailout of more than $2.5 trillion from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.

Many of the companies also have outsourced hundreds of thousands of American jobs to China and other low wage countries, forcing their workers to rely on unemployment insurance and other federal benefits.

"In other words," Sanders said, "these are some of the same people who have significantly caused the deficit to explode over the last four years."

Omega-3 Intake Heightens Working Memory in Healthy Young Adults

October 25, 2012

While Omega-3 essential fatty acids—found in foods like wild fish and grass-fed livestock—are necessary for human body functioning, their effects on the working memory of healthy young adults have not been studied until now.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have determined that healthy young adults ages 18-25 can improve their working memory even further by increasing their Omega-3 fatty acid intake. Their findings have been published online in PLOS One.

“Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best,” said Bita Moghaddam, project investigator and professor of neuroscience. “We found that members of this population can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game.”

Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity

Public release date: 26-Oct-2012
Contact: Phyllis Brown
University of California - Davis Health System

Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity in children as young as 18 months

An intensive early intervention therapy that is effective for improving cognition and language skills among very young children with autism also normalizes their brain activity, decreases their autism symptoms and improves their social skills, a nationwide study has found. The researchers said the study is the first to demonstrate that an autism early intervention program can normalize brain activity.

"We know that infant brains are quite malleable and previously demonstrated that this therapy capitalizes on the potential of learning that an infant brain has in order to limit autism's deleterious effects," said study author Sally Rogers, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute.

"The findings on improved behavioral outcomes and the ability to normalize brain activity associated with social activities signify that there is tremendous potential for the brains of children with autism to develop and grow more normally," Rogers said.

Published online today in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the randomized, case-controlled, multi-centered study titled "Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized brain activity in young children with autism," found that the children who received the intervention exhibited greater brain activation when viewing faces rather than objects, a response that was typical of the normal children in the study, and the opposite of the children with autism who received other intervention.


Named the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), the intervention method was developed by Rogers and Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the research and advocacy organization Autism Speaks. The therapy fuses a play-based, developmental, relationship-based approach and the teaching methods of applied behavioral analysis.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Follow The Money: Why Romney Wants A Bigger Navy

No surprise, just what I expected. The only surprise would have been if Romney and/or one or more of his supporters didn't benefit from increased ship-building.

By Annie-Rose Strasser on Oct 25, 2012

The airwaves of three key battleground states — Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire — were hit this morning with advertisements from the Romney campaign about the size of the American navy. “Our navy is smaller now than any time since 1917,” Romney warns in the radio spots. A narrator adds, “As commander in chief, Mitt Romney… will invest in our military.”

Expanding the Navy has become a theme of the campaign; during Monday’s debate Romney used the same line, and Obama responded with a now-famous zinger about “horses and bayonets.” But new information discovered by Wired casts a new light on Romney’s push to beef up ship building: One of his top military advisers is in the ship building business.

John Lehman was Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, but is now an investment banker with stakes in several ship building companies:

Romney Criticizes 3rd Quarter GDP Growth of 2%; Doesn’t Mention He Never Hit 2% As Governor

This is a chart highlighting the GDP growth of the U.S. economy from the start of the recession in December of 2007 to the end of September 2012. The economy beat expectations and hit 2% GDP growth in the third quarter of 2012 fueled by consumer spending, autos and housing. The report isn’t AWESOME but it’s solid.
So – today … Mitt Romney gave a statement on the economic #’s – he said:

Today, we received the latest round of discouraging economic news: Last quarter, our economy grew at only two percent, less than half the 4.3% rate the White House projected after passing the stimulus bill. Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay. This is what four years of President Obama’s policies have produced.

So … it’s DISCOURAGING according to Mitt. But as Salon points out HERE … Mitt Romney never even hit 2% GDP growth in Massachusetts when he was governor:

By the way, how fast did the economy grow when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts? According to data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, average real GDP growth was 1.5 percent per year in Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006. For each of the years Romney was in office, the economy grew 1.49 percent, 1.86 percent, 1.14 percent and 1.43 percent, respectively.

And how did Romney assess the economic growth of the state under his leadership? “When we took office, the state economy was in a tailspin. Today, jobs are being created by the thousands and our economy is stronger,” he said in early 2006, his last year in office. So less than 2 percent was good then, but 2 percent is bad now.