Sunday, February 28, 2010

video - UCSB Students Chase Off Karl Rove

"Bernanke Warned Congress Wed US may face Debt Crisis One In Greece"

The myth that conservative welfare reform worked--Part 2

Cable News Channels Continues To Reveal Corporate Ties Of Guests

Since 2007, at least 75 registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials have appeared on cable news broadcasts "with no disclosure of the corporate interests that paid them," according to a report in the March 1 issue of The Nation magazine.

Many of these people are "paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests," writes the magazine's Sebastian Jones, a freelance reporter after a four-month-long probe.

"Many have been regulars on more than one of the cable networks, turning in dozens—and in some cases hundreds—of appearances," Jones reports.

For example, Tom Ridge, identified as the former governor of Pennsylvania, appeared on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews urging the White House to "create nuclear power plants." What viewers were not told, though, is that Ridge since 2005 has pocketed $530,659 in executive compensation for serving on the board of Exelon, the nation's biggest nuclear power company, Jones writes.

On the same day, last Dec. 4th, retired general Barry McCaffrey, told MSNBC viewers the war in Afghanistan would require a three-to-10-year effort and "a lot of money." Unmentioned, Jones says, was the fact DynCorp paid McCaffrey $182,309 in 2009 alone and that DynCorp has a five-year, $5.9 billion deal to aid U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

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@glennbeck CPAC speech made it clear the once-principled conservative movement has become a mob

Tea Party Out - Coffee Party In! to promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse


Despite Running A Health Industry ‘Trade Association,’ Gingrich Says He Will Not Register As A Lobbyist

Dear Congress: If You’re Serious About NASA Going to Mars, it will Require a Serious Budget

“Fiscally Conservative” Marco Rubio Double-Billed Taxpayers for Personal Expenses, Spends $133 on Haircuts


Would you pay $133 for this haircut?

"First Senator from the Tea Party" Marco Rubio got hammered last week when it came out that he ran up large personal expenses on the Florida GOP's credit card — and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio admitted Friday that he double-billed state taxpayers and the Republican Party of Florida for eight plane tickets when he was speaker of the Florida House. Calling the billing "a mistake," Rubio said in a written statement that he will personally repay the party about $3,000 to cover the flights because the trips in 2007 were for state business, not politics.

And Rubio still isn't coming clean.

His campaign said Friday it had not identified any additional expenses that need to be repaid. The credit card records, however, indicate that at least some of Rubio's personal expenses were covered by the party. [...] Rubio's campaign would not provide a list of all the personal expenses he repaid.

And here's why. One tidbit that has emerged is that Rubio spends an embarassing amount of money on his hair.

Needless to say, Charlie Crist is having a lot of fun with that.

"What's up with getting a $133 haircut? What is he a model? I don't understand this kind of behavior and this is the guy that says he is going to spend less money? I spend $11 on a haircut," said Crist.

George Will praised Rubio for his "spending restraint." Guess that didn't apply to his hair care.

Rep. Tom Perriello Tells ‘Spineless’ Senate To Get ‘Its Head Out Of Its Rear End’ And Confront Climate Crisis

GOP Rep. Trent Franks (R) of Arizona - Blacks Were Better Off Under Slavery

CBS Billboards: Anti-Abortion Yes; Marijuana Legalization No

1.2 Million to Lose Unemployment Benefits Today from Calculated Risk by CalculatedRisk

Just a reminder ...

From John Schmid at the Journal Sentinel: Unemployment benefits for 1.2 million Americans could expire Sunday
Nearly 1.2 million unemployed Americans ... face an imminent cutoff of government unemployment checks if Congress cannot pass emergency legislation to extend federal benefits before funding expires Sunday.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a report in early February showing:
1.2 million jobless workers will become ineligible for federal unemployment benefits in March unless Congress extends the unemployment safety net programs from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). By June, this number will swell to nearly 5 million unemployed workers nationally who will be left without any jobless benefits.
Currently, 5.6 million people are accessing one of the federal extensions (34-53 weeks of Emergency Unemployment Compensation; 13-20 weeks of Extended Benefits, a program normally funded 50 percent by the states).

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The 6 Worst Homophobes In The House of Representatives @virginiafoxx

The Dirty Half Dozen-- The 6 Worst Homophobes In The House of Representatives


Federal spending in the budget has grown by over 100% during Rick Perry's time as Texas governor

Whole Foods Market @wholefoods "organic" food made in China

GOP revives the "Starve the Beast" amendment

"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years," Reagan Revolutionary Grover Norquist boasted, "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Now, a generation after Norquist launched his crusade, Republican White House hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty are leading a new charge to "starve the beast." Even as these Republicans call for new Treasury-draining tax cuts, they are resurrecting a bad idea whose time never came: a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.

While conveniently ignoring the supply-side snake oil which tripled the national debt under Ronald Reagan and doubled it again under George W. Bush, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned that "Washington's total disregard for fiscal discipline has jeopardized America's moral, political and economic authority within the world community." His solution to save the "foundation of personal and economic liberty upon which our nation is built" is the balanced budget amendment:

Since members of Congress has given no indication that they intend to alter their behavior, reject unbridled spending and return to the traditions of fiscal restraint, we believe that there is little likelihood that they will propose an amendment. As a result, the American people must act. Let us begin by calling upon every member of Congress and every candidate seeking office to commit to voting for a Federal Balanced Budget Amendment immediately. By raising a united voice in every district in every state in America, we can build the political will for Congress to act.

If Gingrich's litmus test for candidates sounds familiar, it should.

In 1992 and again in 1995, Republicans in the House and Senate narrowly failed in their first effort to drown government in a bathtub through a balanced budget amendment. Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, no wild-eyed liberal by any stretch of the imagination, warned Congress that the GOP gambit would be ''a terrible mistake'' that would pose ''unacceptable economic risks to the nation.'' As the New York Times recalled in 1997:

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Best one minute summary of health care summit available

Dick Armey And FreedomWorks Commanding And Controlling The Tea Party

Unlikely Activist Who Got to the Tea Party Early

SEATTLE — Keli Carender has a pierced nose, performs improv on weekends and lives here in a neighborhood with more Mexican grocers than coffeehouses. You might mistake her for the kind of young person whose vote powered President Obama to the White House. You probably would not think of her as a Tea Party type.

But leaders of the Tea Party movement credit her with being the first.

A year ago, frustrated that every time she called her senators to urge them to vote against the $787 billion stimulus bill their mailboxes were full, and tired of wearing out the ear of her Obama-voting fiancé, Ms. Carender decided to hold a protest against what she called the "porkulus."

"I basically thought to myself: 'I have two courses. I can give up, go home, crawl into bed and be really depressed and let it happen,' " she said this month while driving home from a protest at the State Capitol in Olympia. "Or I can do something different, and I can find a new avenue to have my voice get out."

This weekend, as Tea Party members observe the anniversary of the first mass protests nationwide, Ms. Carender's path to activism offers a lens into how the movement has grown, taking many people who were not politically active — it is not uncommon to meet Tea Party advocates who say they have never voted — and turning them into a force that is rattling both parties as they look toward the midterm elections in the fall.

Ms. Carender's first rally drew only 120 people. A week later, she had 300, and six weeks later, 1,200 people gathered for a Tax Day Tea Party. Last month, she was among about 60 Tea Party leaders flown to Washington to be trained in election activism by FreedomWorks, the conservative advocacy organization led by Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader.

This month, a year to the day of her first protest, Ms. Carender stood among a crowd of about 600 on the steps of the State Capitol, acknowledging the thanks from a speaker who cited her as the original Tea Party advocate. Around her were the now-familiar signs: "Can you hear us now?" "Is it 2012 yet?" "Tea Party: the party of now."

Jenny Beth Martin, a national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella organization of local groups that Ms. Carender has joined, calls her an unlikely avatar of the movement but an ideal one. She puts a fresh, idealistic face on a movement often dismissed as a bunch of angry extremists.

"She's not your typical conservative," she said. "She's an actress. She's got a nose ring. I think it's the thing that's so amazing about our movement."

The daughter of Democrats who became disaffected in the Clinton years, Ms. Carender, 30, began paying attention to politics during the 2008 campaign, but none of the candidates appealed to her. She had studied math at Western Washington University before earning a teaching certificate at Oxford — she teaches basic math to adult learners — and began reading more on economics, particularly the writings of Thomas Sowell, the libertarian economist, and National Review.

Reading about the stimulus, she said, "it didn't make any sense to me to be spending all this money when we don't have it."

"It seems more logical to me that we create an atmosphere where private industry can start to grow again and create jobs," she said.

Her fiancé, Conor McNassar, urged her to channel her complaints into a blog, which she called Liberty Belle.

"He didn't mind hearing it," she said. "He just couldn't hear it all the time."

It was not enough.

So she called the city parks department, which suggested a location and gave her a permit. She still did not know if any other protesters would show up.

She put out the word to some friends from the Young Republicans, which she had joined in late 2008, but it was not a big group. She called Michael Medved, the Seattle-based conservative radio host, but he did not put her on the air. She scanned a list of economics professors who had signed a Cato Institute letter opposing the stimulus and found two locally, but they could not make it.

She also called someone she had met at an election results watch party, who agreed to spread the word among Republicans. She called a conservative local radio host, who put in a plug. And she sent an e-mail message to the conservative writer Michelle Malkin, who agreed to announce the protest on her blog and even sent some pulled pork to feed the crowd.

The porkulus protest did not draw enough people to finish the pulled pork, which Ms. Carender took to a homeless shelter. But she collected e-mail addresses, remembering that Senator Barack Obama had done that at events as he prepared to run for president.

The "tea party" label came three days later, from a rant the CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli delivered from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and the nationwide protests followed.

Six weeks later, Ms. Carender's e-mail list had grown to 1,000 — it is now 1,500 — allowing her to summon protesters on short notice and making her the model child of the Tea Party Patriots, which has since become a driving force for advocates nationwide with its weekly conference calls to coordinate Tea Party activity.

In her activism, Ms. Carender has also drawn on her theatrical experience. Discovering that advocates of a health care overhaul were marching in the city last summer, she staged a "funeral for health care," with protesters wearing black and bagpipers playing. For her first Tea Party event, she dressed as Liberty Belle (newspaper accounts mistook her for Little Bo Peep).

In a video viewed 68,000 times on YouTube, she confronted Representative Norm Dicks, Democrat of Washington, at a town-hall-style meeting on health care. "If you believe that it is absolutely moral to take my money and give it to someone else based on their supposed needs," she said, waving a $20 bill to boos and cheers, "then you come and take this $20 and use it as a down payment on this health care plan."

Ms. Carender is less certain when it comes to explaining, for instance, how to cut the deficit without cutting Medicaid and Medicare.

"Well," she said, thinking for a long time and then sighing. "Let's see. Some days I'm very Randian. I feel like there shouldn't be any of those programs, that it should all be charitable organizations. Sometimes I think, well, maybe it really should be just state, and there should be no federal part in it at all. I bounce around in my solutions to the problem."

She, like many Tea Party members, resists the idea of a Tea Party leader — "there are a thousand leaders," she says.

Glenn Beck? "He can be a Tea Partier, but it's not like the movement bends to him."

Sarah Palin? She will have to campaign on Tea Party ideas if she wants Tea Party support, Ms. Carender said, adding, "And if she were elected, she'd have to govern on those principles or be fired."

Ms. Carender herself has become a Tea Party leader, even a celebrity.

At the Olympia rally, she did a television interview and accepted a hug from Kirby Wilbur, the radio host who first publicized her porkulus protest. "This is the future of the conservative movement!" he declared upon seeing her.

Her biggest goal now, Ms. Carender said, is replacing Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat elected three times by wide margins, in November.

So Ms. Carender held a small anniversary rally on Saturday at a local mall. But her focus is on vetting candidates and using the contacts she has established over the last year to get out the vote.

"There is no way we will out-fund-raise the liberals," she said. "The only weapon we have is energy and time."

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1 in 10 bank loans have made is to a troubled borrower. (NYTimes)

Visitation for Dawn Brancheau SeaWorld trainer killed Wednesday is today on Chicago's South Side


Visitation for Dawn Brancheau, the trainer at SeaWorld Orlando who was killed by a killer whale during a performance Wednesday, is this afternoon on Chicago's South Side.

The visitation is 3 to 9 p.m. today at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel, 7740 S. Western Ave., Chicago. Funeral mass is 11 a.m. Monday at the same location. She will be buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip.

Brancheau, 40, whose maiden name was LoVerde, grew up in Cedar Lake, Ind., about 47 miles south of downtown Chicago in northwest Indiana. She was a 1987 graduate of Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., and later graduated from the University of South Carolina.

She took a job at SeaWorld in February 1994 and met her future husband, Scott Brancheau, there before the two were married in 1996 in Chicago.

Working at SeaWorld was a dream job for Brancheau, who was inspired by a Shamu show she had seen as a child. "When she landed the job at Sea World, it was the happiest day of her life," her sister, Diane Gross of Schererville, Ind., told the Gary Post-Tribune.

A memorial service will be held in Orlando at a future date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dawn Brancheau Memorial Fund, c/o US Bank, P.O. Box 809231, Chicago 60680-9231. The complete obituary is here

-- Staff report

@billgates: Lower World Population with Vaccines?



During his recent TED talk, Bill Gates said that the world population is headed to 9 billion people. Then he said, "Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services—we could lower that perhaps ten or fifteen percent."

I'm not sure what the nothing-to-see-here explanation is for Bill Gates' theory that "new vaccines" can help lower the population of the world, but I thought about the incidents from the 1990s where the World Health Organization was providing a "tetanus vaccine" to poor girls and women (and just poor girls and women) that contained human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). For those who don't want to delve into that, in short, it was a World Health Organization experiment; a test of a vaccine against pregnancy.

Via: TED:

At TED2010, Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world's energy future, describing the need for "miracles" to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he's backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.

Rush @Limbaugh mocks the uninsured: Let them eat applesauce


What's that saying? "Out of the mouths of babes?"

Media Matters:

Limbaugh: "What's wrong with using a dead person's teeth? Aren't the Democrats big into recycling?" Responding to Slaughter's account, which he called the "sob story of the day, Limbaugh stated:

LIMBAUGH: You know I'm getting so many people -- this Louise Slaughter comment on the dentures? I'm getting so many people -- this is big. I mean, that gets a one-time mention for a laugh, but there are people out there that think this is huge because it's so stupid. I mean, for example, well, what's wrong with using a dead person's teeth? Aren't the Democrats big into recycling? Save the planet? And so what? So if you don't have any teeth, so what? What's applesauce for? Isn't that why they make applesauce?

Limbaugh previously told a caller who could not afford the $6,000 it would cost to treat a broken wrist that he "shouldn't have broken [his] wrist."

As Alan Grayson proclaimed: Don't get sick.

[deuchbag] Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) defends Bunning blocking unemployment benefits

jimbunning Kyl  defends Bunning blocking unemployment benefitsOn the morning of the day unemployment benefits are set to expire across America, one Republican senator defended the ideology of another.

"All Senator Bunning was saying quite correctly is it ought to be paid for," Sen. Jon Kyl told Fox News' Chris Wallace.

Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) explained Sunday why Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) was justified in blocking another extension of unemployment benefits.

"Congress just passed the so-called pay-go legislation which is supposed to require that we find offsets or other savings if we are going to spend money. So what's the first thing we do? We exempt this bill from it," he complained.

But Kyl does believe the extension of benefits will eventually pass because they are temporary. "It will pass, though, because it's a temporary extension. The question for the longer term extension is a different issue because that's well over $100 billion," he added.

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@GLENNBECK 's eliminationist attacks on progressives: How long before someone acts on this violent rhetoric?

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David Sirota observes in his column this week the really ugly nature of Glenn Beck's express hatred of progressives, embodied in his CPAC speech:

To wild applause, he labeled this alleged tumor of "community" the supposedly evil "progressivism" -- and he told disciples to "eradicate it" from the nation.

The lesson was eminently clear, coming in no less than the keynote address to one of America's most important political conventions. Beck taught us that a once-principled conservative movement of reasoned activists has turned into a mob -- one that does not engage in civilized battles of ideas. Instead, these torch-carriers, gun-brandishers and tea partiers follow an anti-government terrorist attack by cheering a demagogue's demand for the physical annihilation of those with whom he disagrees -- namely anyone, but particularly progressives, who value "community."

No doubt, some conservatives will parse, insisting Beck was only endorsing the "eradication" of progressivism but not of progressives. These same willful ignoramuses will also likely say that the Nazis' beef was with Judaism but not Jews, and that white supremacists dislike African-American culture but have no problem with black people.

Other conservatives will surely depict Beck's "eradication" line as just the jest of a self-described "rodeo clown" -- merely the "fusion of entertainment and enlightenment," as his radio motto intones. But if Beck is half as smart as he incessantly tells listeners he is, then he knows it's no joke.

What he's describing, of course, is the very subject of my last book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right:

What motivates this kind of talk and behavior is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—are claims that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.

Eliminationism is often voiced as crude "jokes," a sense of humor inevitably predicated on venomous hatred. And such rhetoric—we know as surely as we know that night follows day—eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.

Beck actually has been engaging in eliminationist rhetoric in attacking progressives since June of last year, though he's been recently ratcheting it down to new depths.

I compiled the video above with a sampling from the past nine months. In it, you can see Beck call progressives a "cancer" (multiple times), "the disease that's killing us," a "virus," a "parasite," "vampires" who will "suck the life out" of the Democratic Party, and claim that progressives intend the "destruction of the Constitution" and will strike it a "death blow".

As Sirota notes, Beck is taking us down a certain path with this kind of rhetoric, and it always, as Beck himself puts it, "ends badly."

Bill Kristol @kristol_love: ‘I Didn’t Watch’ The Health Care Summit, But I’ll Comment On It As If I Did

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable this morning, the panelists discussed President Obama's health care summit. NPR's Mara Liasson said that while it may have been "political theater," it was also "very clarifying" because it "laid bare exactly where the two parties stand."

Host Chris Wallace asked Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, "Have you been clarified?" — leading to this candid acknowledgement from Kristol:

KRISTOL: No, but I didn't watch it, so — (laughter). I have a life. (laughter)

Everyone on the panel, particularly Wallace, appeared to find Kristol's admission quite hilarious. More disturbing, however, was that Kristol continued to opine on the health care summit as if he did indeed watch it:

KRISTOL: You compared it at the beginning of the hour to a dog-and-pony show, and I thought to myself, that's really an insult to dog-and-pony shows. I like the dog shows there on the Animal Planet. … Many people were impressive. The President showed his usual professorial ability to sort of say certain things and highlight certain facts, or alleged facts.

Kristol of course couldn't comment on what "certain things" or "certain facts" were particularly insightful, since he "didn't watch it." Being knowledgeable on the subject matter apparently isn't a requirement to be a Fox News pundit. Watch it:

Introducing the panel, host Wallace asked Liz Cheney how her father was recovering from his mild heart attack. "He's doing well," she said, noting that he was "probably watching" Fox News this morning. "We'll try to do nothing to upset him," Wallace responded.

McCain on military’s gay ban: ‘I believe that it’s working’ - @senjohnmccain is changing his tune

John McCain on Meet the  PressSen. John McCain once said that he would trust the opinion of military leaders to decide when it was time to end the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Now that the Congress is considering repealing the policy, and he is facing a primary challenge, McCain is changing his tune.

In 2006, McCain told MSNBC's Chris Matthews, "The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to."

In past weeks, military leaders have come forward to do just that. Admiral Mike Mullen told Congress that repealing the ban and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be "the right thing to do."

Gen. David Petraeus told NBC's David Gregory that troops probably don't care if fellow soldiers are gay or lesbian.

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REAL Bottom-Up Job Creation Ideas @BARACKOBAMA @whitehouse

This article originally appeared on

Obama and his misguided collection of Goldman Sachs Economics Experts have either been miserable failures or brutally betrayed American workers, when it comes to helping American workers and main street.

Here are some genuine bottom up ideas that Obama and congress could implement which would start giving people jobs and help.

    1-offer to provide 80% of pay as a subsidy to small businesses-- really small businesses-- under 50 employees. Provide medicare to those employees. This will do a few things. First, it will create actual jobs. The money will be requisitioned by employers but paid to employees. Employers will get workers for a pittance and will be able to take some risks to grow their businesses. The employees, many of whom will have had no health insurance, will have a huge burden lifted.

    2-Offer employers who participate in the pay subsidy program more funds if they buy selected items that are predominantly manufactured in the U.S. This will support U.S. industries.

    3- Resurrect the conservation corps. It gave my father a job back in the 30s. Use the workers to do infrastructure improvements-- bridge building, national park maintenance, urban cleanup, even refurbishing gutted inner city homes.

If $40 billion is spent on each of these, at least four million jobs will be created, maybe five or six million. We're talking $120 billion. That's so much less than what the Fed, TARP and the bailout have spent. In addition, these investments will bear fruit. Those employees will pay taxes and buy goods, hold onto homes at risk and that will mean even more jobs-- probably another million jobs.

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Senators Fighting NASA Outsourcing - Obama wants to outsource payload transportation to private firms

Hidden under the headlines dominated by the health care debate in Congress, a line has been drawn in the sand by several Senators who hope to block second portions of President Obama's spending and budgetary plans.

Foremost among these is his plan to cease NASA spaceflight operations and outsource payload transportation to private firms.

According to Andy Pasztor, writing for The Wall Street Journal, representatives from "space states" are vowing to block this plan and keep precious funding flowing to their constituents. The primary opposition is coming from Florida and Alabama, but Texas has been thrown in the mix too. As was the case when President Obama took on the F-22 fighter program, everyone with their hand already in the cookie jar is out to prove that their funding is absolutely essential to the nation.

Pasztor writes that many regard the Obama space budget to be a "radical" departure from established American precedents. To many, this opens the door to dominance by Russia, China, Japan and the European Union.

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Bernanke delivers blunt warning on U.S. debt

Stage is set in U.S. for a Greek tragedy

With uncharacteristic bluntness, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke warned Congress on Wednesday that the United States could soon face a debt crisis like the one in Greece, and declared that the central bank will not help legislators by printing money to pay for the ballooning federal debt.

Recent events in Europe, where Greece and other nations with large, unsustainable deficits like the United States are having increasing trouble selling their debt to investors, show that the U.S. is vulnerable to a sudden reversal of fortunes that would force taxpayers to pay higher interest rates on the debt, Mr. Bernanke said.

"It's not something that is 10 years away. It affects the markets currently," he told the House Financial Services Committee. "It is possible that bond markets will become worried about the sustainability [of yearly deficits over $1 trillion], and we may find ourselves facing higher interest rates even today."

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Buffett: Execs should pay price for risky bets

"In my view a board of directors of a huge financial institution is derelict if it does not insist that its CEO bear full responsibility for risk control," Buffett wrote. "If he's incapable of handling that job, he should look for other employment. And if he fails at it — with the government thereupon required to step in with funds or guarantees — the financial consequences for him and his board should be severe."

Billionaire Warren Buffett, in his annual letter to shareholders, sternly urged companies to develop harsh penalties for executives who get into trouble with risky investments.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. delivered a 61 percent jump in net income because the value of its investments and derivatives rose sharply in 2009 after taking a beating the year before. But its businesses' exposure to housing construction helped keep it from outperforming the S&P 500 for the first time since 2004.

Buffett used most of his letter, released Saturday, to reiterate the business basics that have made his company a juggernaut. But it did include a section about how corporations should manage risk. Buffett said CEOs and the boards that hired them should pay a steep price if their companies get into trouble with risky investments.

Buffett lamented that shareholders, not CEOs and directors, have borne most of the burden of company failures during the economic crisis.

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Medicare payments to doctors cut 21 percent Monday unless Congress acts

Physicians left their practices Friday frustrated at their elected leaders in Washington for failing to reverse a 21 percent Medicare payment reduction that will now take effect Monday.

The fallout is physicians may scale back on the number of Medicare patients they treat and some may drop out of the Medicare program entirely.

The payment cut likewise applies to members of the military on the federal government's TRICARE insurance.

Physicians have been on pins and needles for sometime over the Medicare payment cut and they didn't expect it would go through because of extensive lobbying and historically, Congress has reversed the cut in prior years.

"This weekend you will see a lot of them sweating," said Dr. Joseph Gauta, president of the Collier County Medical Society. "Nobody thought this would take effect. They thought it would be fixed."

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Pelosi: GOP ‘orchestrated’ some tea parties

pelosielected  Pelosi: GOP orchestrated some tea partiesThe Republican Party is pulling the strings behind the tea parties but protesters still have some things in common with Democrats, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"The Republican Party directs a lot of what the tea party does, but not everybody in the tea party takes direction from the Republican Party. And so there was a lot of, shall we say, astroturf, as opposed to grassroots," Pelosi told ABC's Elizabeth Vargas Sunday.

"We share some of the views of the tea partiers in terms of the role of special interests in Washington, D.C," Pelosi continued.

"So, common ground with Nancy Pelosi and tea party movement?" asked Vargas.

"Well, no, there are some. There are some because they, again, some of it is orchestrated from the Republican headquarters," she replied. "Some of it is hijacking the good intentions of lots of people who share some of our concerns that we have about the role of special interests."

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President Obama’s Good Idea For Regulating Swaps from Firedoglake by masaccio

Without better regulation, it's all just an expensive game. (photo: tamaki via Flickr)

President Obama recently called for specific changes to regulation of the finance business. One of these proposals is an especially good idea.

The President also announced a new proposal to limit the consolidation of our financial sector. The President's proposal will place broader limits on the excessive growth of the market share of liabilities at the largest financial firms, to supplement existing caps on the market share of deposits.

There doesn't seem to be a written proposal. The New York Times reported the following:

The administration wants to expand that cap to include all liabilities, to limit the concentration of too much risk in any single bank. Officials said the measure would prevent banks at or near the threshold from making acquisitions but would not require them to shrink their business or stop growing on their own.

The Obama administration said the new proposals were in the "spirit of Glass-Steagall" — a reference to the Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking, which was repealed in 1999.

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Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) : Using Reconciliation To Pass Health Care Reform Would ‘End The Senate’

Today, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) appeared on ABC's This Week to discuss last week's bipartisan health care reform summit. During the summit, Alexander urged the President and Congressional Democrats to "renounce" the idea of using budget reconciliation to pass health care reform. Alexender went even further today, saying that the use of reconciliation would be "the end of the Senate":

The reconciliation procedure is a little-used legislative procedure — 19 times, it's been used. It's for the purpose of taxing, spending, and reducing deficits. But the difference here is, that there's never been anything of this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way. There are a lot of technical problems with it, which we could discuss. It would turn the Senate, it would really be the end of the Senate as a protector of minority rights, the place where you have to get consensus, instead of just a partisan majority.

Watch it:

If using reconciliation were really "the end of the Senate," the Senate would have died a long time ago, and Lamar Alexander would have been complicit in its death.

Reconciliation has been used to pass at least 19 bills, including major pieces of health care reform legislation like the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Medicare Advantage Program. Fourteen of the times reconciliation was employed it was used to advance Republican interests.

Furthermore, Alexander himself has personally voted for reconciliation at least four times, as Igor Volsky pointed out:

– 2003 Bush Tax Cuts: The Congressional Budget office, Bush's tax cuts for the rich increased budget deficits by $60 billion in 2003 and by $340 billion by 2008. The bill had a cost of about a trillion dollars. [Alexander voted yes.]

– 2005 Deficit Reduction Act of 2005: The bill cut approximately $4.8 billion over five years and $26.1 billion over the next ten years from Medicaid spending. [Alexander voted yes.]

– 2005 Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005: The bill extended tax cuts on capital gains and dividends and the alternative minimum tax. [Alexander voted yes.]

– 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act: The bill forgave all remaining student loan debt after 10 years of public service. [Alexander voted yes]

In the end, Alexander's mere presence on television this morning seems to indicate that using reconciliation does not, in fact, end the Senate.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

White House/Pharma Deal Didn't Get Us Health Care but Did Help White House Advisers

The White House was responsible for the initial marketing of the health care reform effort—and they botched it. Despite the pharmaceutical industry funding an ad campaign produced by a firm with ties to David Axelrod and David Plouffe!

If we may take you back to the Spring of 2009, White House and Senate Democratic aides sat down with representatives from PhRMA, the AMA, AARP, SEIU, and others. These groups joined together to form some nonprofits that would run the marketing campaign for the Democratic health care reform effort.

PhRMA ponied up nearly all the cash for the television advertisements. And, oddly, the coalitions contracted AKPD Message and Media, a marketing firm founded by Obama campaign guru and senior advisor David Axelrod. AKPD also employs one of Axelrod's sons, and they owe him $2 million. And other Obama campaign guru David Plouffe is a partner at AKPD.

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how FDIC Helps Banks Turn Profit

Want to see how the FDIC works with banks to help them turn a nifty profit on short sales and foreclosures? The folks at Think Big, Work Small detail how it happens.

Check out the video:

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AIG, still in need of more Taxpayer Aid:After $165 million in bonuses last march AIG Reports $8.9 Billion Quarterly Loss

Ben Nelson Now Angling to Kill New Health Insurance Rating Authority


Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)

Ben Nelson (D-NE), living up to his role as the great defender of the health insurance industry, is now leading the fight against the new Health Insurance Rating Authority that Obama proposed as part of his health care reform package (PDF). From Politico:

Nelson quietly urged Democratic leaders to reject Feinstein's effort to include in the Senate health care bill a proposal empowering federal authorities to block high rate increases by health insurers, POLITICO has learned. And that irked Feinstein, who swallowed her pride and voted for the Senate bill even though she felt it shortchanged her state of California in some areas.

While I might be mistaken, from my studies of reconciliation and the Byrd rule, I've believe that this new Health Insurance Rating Authority would violate the Byrd rule because it is unlikely to be seen as affecting the budget.

If that is the case, having it survive in any reconciliation bill it would either require some hardball from Joe Biden or a vote of 60 senators to waive the Byrd rule. If Ben Nelson is a "no," it is hard to imagine two Republican senators voting to protect the new federal agency.

Nelson's opposition to the idea re-enforces my belief that Obama added it to his proposal for cynical political (and not policy) reasons. Knowing that it would never become law, the president surmised that the proposal would force Republicans to take a potentially difficult vote, but its likely exclusion from budget reconciliation would ensure that private health insurance companies were spared oversight by a new agency. If Obama is serious about keeping the insurance industry honest, he would push for mechanisms that would not violate the Byrd rule, ones that could pass with a simple majority as part of reconciliation, like a public option or Medicare buy-in.

Michael Steele Calls the Health Care Summit a "Death Panel for the Democrats This Fall"

AIG Still Hemorrhaging

U.S. Secret Service Uses 1980s Mainframe

Obama Asks Sen Barrasso If He Would Feel the Same Way About Catastrophic Care if He Made $40,000 a Year

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President Obama took Sen. John Barrasso to school during the Health Care Summit on why health savings accounts won't work for those who are not wealthy enough already to put some savings aside. From TPM -- Obama Takes Dr. Barrasso To Medical School:

"Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic care--you think we'd be better health care purchasers?" Obama asked Barrasso. "I mean, is that a change you think we should make?"

"I think actually we would," Barrasso responded. "We'd really focus on it. We'd have more, as you say, skin in the game. And especially if they had a savings account--a health savings account--they could put their money into that, and they'd be spending the money out of that."

Obama's retort left Barrasso speechless:

"Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000. Or if that was your income. Because that's the reality for a lot of folks," Obama said.

As usual, the Republicans' great ideas for health care "reform" is for everyone to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, even if those bootstraps are nonexistent. Families USA has a great list of articles as to why these health savings accounts are a really bad idea for anyone who is not already wealthy.

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Right Wingers Mock Louise Slaughter at the Health Care Summit

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Isn't this lovely? Rep. Louise Slaughter relayed this story at the Health Care Summit:

I even have one constituent -- you will not believe this, and I know you won't, it's true. Her sister died, this poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit. Do you believe that in America that that's where we would be?

And here's the reaction from the right as documented by our friends at Media Matters. They don't feel -- or care about -- your pain:

  • On Twitter, Michelle Malkin wrote: "We need trillion-$ Demcare cuz someone had to wear their sister's dentures! O: "Terrific conversation""
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Obama gives Patriot Act another year with no privacy protections

barackobama20080821 b Obama gives Patriot Act another year with no privacy protectionsIf the Patriot Act hadn't been approved for another year, Sunday would have looked much different.

Sunday could have meant the government was no longer given permission to wiretap the phones of Americans and seize their records and property.

But since the bill was approved by Congressional Democrats earlier this week and signed into law by President Obama on Saturday, this Sunday is just another Sunday for Americans living with the Patriot Act.

To be fair, many Democrats asked for additional protections for the privacy rights of American citizens.

But Republicans said that would detract from the ability of the country's intelligence agencies to track down terrorists. Lacking a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate to pass the bill with the extra provisions, Democrats left them out.

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Blackwater likely to receive contract in Afghanistan

Former officials familiar with the deal say that Blackwater is likely to get a Defense Department-issued contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to train and mentor Afghan police.

The police training contract is supposed to be decided next month, and the company has not been officially notified that it's getting it. But the only competing bid for the contract, submitted by Northrop with MPRI, has been disqualified, a former official knowledgeable about the contract said.

"We have no knowledge that the contract will be awarded to us," Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Blackwater, now known as Xe, told POLITICO Thursday.

Lockheed, meanwhile, is quite likely to be awarded an associated logistics contract to support the Afghanistan police training effort (a contract known as TORP 166), for which Blackwater also bid, the former officials said.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Let them eat applesauce: Right-wing media mock the uninsured @limbaugh @glennbeck @foxnews

Media Matters for America

Right-wing media figures have mocked Democrats' descriptions of hardships faced by their constituents who lack health insurance, including a story Rep. Louise Slaughter told about a woman who wore dentures that previously belonged to her dead sister. For example, Rush Limbaugh said, "So if you don't have any teeth, so what? What's applesauce for?"

Media conservatives ridicule the uninsured

Limbaugh: "What's wrong with using a dead person's teeth? Aren't the Democrats big into recycling?" Responding to Slaughter's account, which he called the "sob story of the day, Limbaugh stated:

LIMBAUGH: You know I'm getting so many people -- this Louise Slaughter comment on the dentures? I'm getting so many people -- this is big. I mean, that gets a one-time mention for a laugh, but there are people out there that think this is huge because it's so stupid. I mean, for example, well, what's wrong with using a dead person's teeth? Aren't the Democrats big into recycling? Save the planet? And so what? So if you don't have any teeth, so what? What's applesauce for? Isn't that why they make applesauce?

Limbaugh previously told a caller who could not afford the $6,000 it would cost to treat a broken wrist that he "shouldn't have broken [his] wrist."

Beck mocks Slaughter's story: "I've read the Constitution ... I didn't see that you had a right to teeth." On his February 26 radio show, Glenn Beck played an audio clip of Slaughter's account then said, "I am wearing George Washington's dentures right now. I'm wearing his teeth right now." He later added, "I just like wearing dead people's teeth. But in America -- I'm sorry, I didn't know that that was -- I've read the Constitution before. I didn't see that you had a right to teeth." Echoing Limbaugh's remarks the previous day, Beck stated, "The environmentalists should be all over Slaughter. 'How dare you say that?' My gosh, they're just recycling. They're just reusing."

Beck sidekick uses baby voice to mock letters Obama receives. On Beck's February 25 radio show, co-host Steve "Stu" Burguiere stated that Obama "gets 10 letters, Glenn, every night." Co-host Pat Gray asked, "From 2-year-old girls?" Then, one of the co-hosts started speaking in a baby's voice: "I have no health care, Mr. Pwesident, and I have no feet and no tonsils because doctors took 'em out."

Conservative blogger Pamela Geller linked to an audio clip of the segment, which she wrote was "[d]a best! the funniest thang evuh!"

Gateway Pundit attacks Slaughter's "sappy lib sob story of the day, hands down." On his Gateway Pundit blog, Jim Hoft linked to a video clip of Slaughter telling the story about the dentures under the headline, "Horror! Lib Dem Claims Her Constituent Wore Dead Sister's Teeth (Video)." After declaring the account the "sappy lib sob story of the day, hands down," Hoft wrote: "Will Obamacare buy me glasses and contacts? Will Obamacare buy me a gold tooth in the front of my mouth with a little heart on it?"

Ingraham: "Louise Slaughter won the Olympics of sob stories." On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, radio host Laura Ingraham said she "liked the dueling sob stories, OK? One Democrat was trying to outdo the next on the sob story about how rotten our health care system is. Louise Slaughter won the Olympics of sob stories by saying one of her constituents had to wear her sister's dentures. OK? It got so bad with the health care system." She later added, "You had Harry Reid on the cleft palate with his -- I mean, the whole thing was ridiculous."

Fox Nation labels anecdote "Summit Insanity." From The Fox Nation, accessed February 25:

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Utah Has Now Made Miscarriage A Criminal Offense

I've mentioned before that I had a miscarriage several years ago. Emotionally, the scars lasted for years and years. My poor sister, pregnant again after two recent miscarriages, is holding her breath, hoping that this pregnancy goes all the way to term. For someone hoping for a child, a miscarriage can be a devastating thing.

And now in Utah, un-fricking-believably, it can now be a criminal thing too.

Utah is not a state known for its legislative sanity. This, after all, is a state that recently made headlines for proposing to honor gun manufacturers on Martin Luther King Day and for considering the elimination of 12th grade to cut back on education spending.

Well, it just got a whole lot worse.

Utah just became the first state in the U.S. to criminalize miscarriage and punish women for having or seeking an illegal abortion. Utah's "Criminal Miscarriage" law:

  • expands the definition of illegal abortion to include miscarriages
  • removes immunity protections for women who have or seek illegal abortions
  • treats women as presumptive criminals and leaves them open to criminal prosecution

But even among states that punish illegal abortions, this "Criminal Miscarriage" law is unique. It not only punishes individuals who perform illegal procedures; it punishes women.

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Sen.Richard Durbin: If you think it’s a socialist plot, then please drop out of the federal employees health program.


How Big Banks' Greek-Style Schemes Are Bankrupting States Across the US


Just when you thought Wall Street couldn't get any more clever in their attempts at predatory lending, they have.

Big Banks have created an exotic financial instrument that is the equivalent of a payday loan for cash-strapped state and local governments. innocently labeled an "interest rate swap."

In the United States, states and local governments cannot run deficits. This year states face a $357 billion budget shortfall and local governments are facing an additional $82 billion budget shortfall. States have begun cutting basic services like snow removal, reduced garbage pickup, and in Colorado Springs they went to the pawn shop – selling police helicopters on the Internet.

In a desperate effort to meet budget needs, states and local governments over the last decade have gone to the big banks to ask for exotic instruments known as interest rate swaps. These desperate state and local governments were taken advantage of in the same way that Greece was by Goldman Sachs. Likewise, these swaps are threatening the economic health of local cities and states.

These interest rate swaps have cost American taxpayers $28 billion alone in fees and excessive interest. The money which could have been used for badly needed basic services instead goes to help the big banks develop more sophisticated practices to steal money off of regular Americans. Big banks led by Goldman Sachs used deceptive marketing to get states and local governments to buy these swaps.

How do they work? State and local governments take out variable rate bonds to pay for infrastructure projects. In the typical deal, these governments agreed to "swap" interest rates on variable-rate bonds. The government would pay the bank a fixed rate in exchange for a variable payment that would track the interest actually due on the bonds. Make much sense to you? Me neither, at first. That's why banks loved these things.

They sound like easy money to broke states and municipalities, but it's really easy profits for the banks. Basically a bank would peg the interest of a bond at a fixed rate in exchange for the interest rate of the bond that was set by larger macroeconomic forces, such as the Federal Reserve. According to the sales pitch, each party to the transaction might occasionally pay more than the other, but the payments would likely balance out over the life of the contract. Slick-tongued bankers assured the governments that in the end they would end up with something like a low-cost, fixed rate bonds.

Part-time municipal council members all over America desperate to fund infrastructure projects during the Bush economy signed up without understanding that these swaps were worse than most payday loans. On the other hand, many of the people involved in these transactions knew they were losing propositions. According to Economist Susan Ozawa of the New School:

The markets were pricing in serious falls in the prime interest rate…. So it would have been clear that this was not going to be a good deal over the life of the contracts. So the states and municipalities were entering into these long maturity swaps out of necessity. They were desperate, if not naive, and couldn't look to the Federal Government or Congress and had to turn themselves over to the banks.

Like payday loans, the states and local government taking out these interest rate swaps knew they were bad deals, but had to take them anyway. They had no other way of getting money.

As almost all reasoned economists had predicted in the wake of a deepening recession, the federal government aggressively drove down interest rates to save the big banks. This created opportunity for banks – whose variable payments on the derivative deals were tied to interest rates set largely by the Federal Reserve and Government – to profit excessively at the expense of state and local governments. While banks are still collecting fixed rates of from 4 percent to 6 percent, they are now regularly paying state and local governments as a little as a tenth of one percent on the outstanding bonds – with no end to the low rates in sight.

Banks and states were supposed to be paying equal rates. However, with the fed lowering interest rates, which was anticipated, now states and local governments are paying about 50 times what the banks are paying. Talk about a windfall profit the banks are making off of the suffering of local economies.

To make matters worse, these state and local governments have no way of getting out these deals. Banks are demanding that state and local governments pay tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in fees to exit these deals. In some cases, banks are forcing termination of the deals against the will of state and local governments, using obscure contract provisions written in the fine print. As Business Week points out, Detroit signed a similar deal that seemed too good to be true:

A few years ago, Detroit struck a derivatives deal with UBS (UBS) and other banks that allowed it to save more than $2 million a year in interest on $800 million worth of bonds. But the fine print carried a potentially devastating condition. If the city's credit rating dropped, the banks could opt out of the deal and demand a sizable breakup fee. That's precisely what happened in January: After years of fiscal trouble, Detroit saw its credit rating slashed to junk. Suddenly the sputtering Motor City was on the hook for a $400 million tab.

The banks were responsible for the ruined economy and weakening credit market. And the sad part is the banks that are responsible for the crisis are profiting off of their ruin and projected to collect $28 billions. They wouldn't be able to receive these kind of profits unless the economy crashed. In essence, banks designed a clever manipulative way to bail themselves out on the back of American taxpayers at the state and local level that most of us can barely understand. Except this time, the banks might not get away with it.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the California, Florida, and Connecticut attorneys general are currently investigating the fact that it appears that nearly every major bank was involved in a nationwide conspiracy to rig bids and drive up the fixed rates state and local governments pay in these exotic loans. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. John Lewis have introduced legislation which would impose a 100% tax on derivative termination fees to keep banks from seeking to collect on these deals, but banks cannot wait to act.

On Tuesday, the Service employees International Union launched a major action in Los Angeles to get that city to terminate such toxic loans and demand their money back. SEIU, in conjunction with a variety of union and community groups, are launching campaigns to get back the money that states invested in these toxic deals.

However, let us not forget the bigger point of this story: States shouldn't have to pay $28 billion a year to Wall Street in order to balance their budgets. The states, which unlike Wall Street didn't wreck the economy, shouldn't suffer the consequences of Wall Street's irresponsible behavior. The states and local government should have been bailed out by the federal government long before Wall Street.

However, during stimulus negotiations last year, Republicans in Congress demanded that hundreds of billions of dollars of money for the states and local government be cut from the stimulus. As a result, states and local government are now facing a $469 billion budget shortfall. In order for state and local governments to balance their budget, it's expected that they are going to cut 900,000 teachers, firefighters, highway workers, nurses and other public employees. This will only further slow our economic recovery.

In December, the House passed a version of their Jobs Bill where they took $75 billion of unused TARP Funds and gave it in aid to the states. This was a step in the right direction.

However, Senate Republicans vowed to filibuster any attempt to use TARP money for anything other than making Wall Street bonuses the largest on record. They refused to allow that $75 billion to be used to help states maintain basic services. The Republicans would hate to see the profits of their friend on Wall Street. They would see rather see local economies falter, bridges collapse, and garbage go uncollected than hurt the profits of their friend on Wall Street.

So that means it's time for us as citizens to fight to clean up Wall Street. It's time we prohibit these kind of risky financial instruments as well as predatory lending. Furthermore, we need to take the last $75 billion slated to be given to Wall Street and instead given to the states and local governments that the banks bankrupted in the first place.

This article was also published at HuffingtonPost.

McCain @SENJohnMcCain bill threatens access to vitamins and supplements

(NaturalNews) Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has introduced a new bill called The Dietary Supplement Safety Act (DSSA) of 2010 (S. 3002), that, if enacted, would severely curtail free access to dietary supplements. Cosponsored by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the bill would essentially give the FDA full control over the supplement industry.

Most of the industrialized world has incredibly restrictive laws governing supplements. People worldwide often purchase supplements from the U.S. because they are freely available at low costs.

All of this could change, however, if DSSA passes. DSSA would change key sections of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C), undoing protections in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, effectively eliminating free access to supplements.

The importance of DSHEA
The passage of DSHEA resulted from millions of Americans who worked hard to reinforce their freedom to buy and sell supplements. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was alleging that nutrients like CoQ10 and selenium were dangerous and should be pulled from the market.

Though weak in some areas, DSHEA established a foundation upon which free access to dietary supplements would be protected from attacks by drug companies and the FDA.

What prompted DSSA?
McCain's DSSA bill emerged in response to illegal steroid use among Major League Baseball players. Likely instigated by pharmaceutical interests, the bill is being posited as necessary to prevent supplement adulteration.

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human brain is a big believer in equality & (Caltech) and Trinity College have images to prove it

The human brain is a big believer in equality - and a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, has become the first to gather the images to prove it.

Specifically, the team found that the reward centers in the human brain respond more strongly when a poor person receives a financial reward than when a rich person does. The surprising thing? This activity pattern holds true even if the brain being looked at is in the rich person's head, rather than the poor person's.

These conclusions, and the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that led to them, are described in the February 25 issue of the journal Nature.

"This is the latest picture in our gallery of human nature," says Colin Camerer, the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics at Caltech and one of the paper's coauthors. "It's an exciting area of research; we now have so many tools with which to study how the brain is reacting."

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California AG Investigating 7 Insurance Companies For Illegal Rate Hikes from Consumerist

The showdown over skyrocketing insurance rates in California got even nastier yesterday. The state's Attorney General's office announced that it has subpoenaed financial documents and launched an investigation into allegations of illegal premium hikes and wrongfully denied claims by seven separate health insurance providers.

The insurance companies under the AG's microscope:
• Anthem Blue Cross
• Aetna Health
• Blue Shield of California
• Cigna
• Health Net
• Kaiser Permanente
• PacifiCare

The state is also putting Anthem's controversial, proposed rate increase.

"We have been looking at these companies for a number of months and are very concerned that some of them are unjustly raising premiums and denying payment of legitimate claims," Attorney General Jerry Brown said about the investigation. "Not only are the rate increases devastating to Californians strapped by the economy, but in some cases, they are possibly illegal."

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Green City Market to hold Kids Write to Eat campaign - writing letters to their legislators.

Public awareness of the dismal quality of our nation's school lunches has grown immensely in the last decade. Yet despite modest improvements, and the admirable efforts of many, the National School Lunch Program is still in dire need of reform. Currently school districts are reimbursed $2.68 for each meal served to a child who qualifies for free lunch. After addressing overhead costs, schools are left with $1 per meal to feed a child. Due to lack of resources, the likes of processed chicken-part patties are a frequent menu item and fried potatoes in the form of tater tots continue to hold "vegetable" status. Sad but true.

This Saturday, Green City Market is teaming up with Slow Food Chicago, to hold the Kids Write to Eat campaign. Kids will be empowered to take an active role in improving the quality of their lunches by writing letters to their legislators.

We asked Lyle Allen, Executive Direct of Green City Market, why they partnered with Slow Food Chicago to support this program:

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party of mean - Repub Senator Jim Bunning blocked passage of extension of unemployment benefits


In the midst of the worst economy in decades, Republican U.S. Senator Jim Bunning last night again took to the floor of the United States Senate to block passage of legislation that would extend unemployment benefits to out-of-work Americans -- and his party is doing nothing to stop him.

It's worth watching his mean-spirited obstructionism -- and Harry Reid's and Dick Durbin's attempts to cajole him into supporting the legislation -- to get a sense of just how committed some Republicans are to doing the wrong thing for America:

Bunning is the poster-child of the most callous, heartless political party in modern American history, and they are proud of it. If they get their way, this coming Sunday, unemployment benefits will expire for countless out-of-work Americans because a handful of extremist ideologues decided to tie the U.S. Senate up in knots.