You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2008.

Taking a look at the health care stats in the Bush era, it’s clear that most Americans have seen a decline in their health care at the same time that health insurance companies have reaped tremendous gains:

– Since 2000, the ranks of the uninsured have grown by 7.2 million.

Health care premiums have doubled under Bush. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have risen from $5,791 in 1999 to $12,680 in 2008.

– The fastest growing component of health care is health insurers’ administrative costs.

Enrollment in Medicare private plans doubled. Through such plans, insurers “have increased the cost and complexity of the program without any evidence of improving care.”

– The combined profits of the nation’s largest insurance companies and their subsidiaries increased by over 170 percent between 2003 and 2007.

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The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job.

The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

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Low Food supplies opens doors to bioengineered crops

Surging costs, population growth, and drought and other setbacks linked to global climate change are pressuring world food supplies, while soaring prices on the street have triggered riots and raised the number of people going hungry to more than 923 million, according to U.N. estimates.

With food demand forecast to increase by half by 2030, the incentive to use genetic engineering to boost harvests and protect precious crops from insects and other damage has never been greater.

Bioengineered crops are widely grown in Canada, Argentina and the U.S., where nearly all soybeans, most cotton and a growing proportion of corn are designed for tolerance to herbicides or resistance to insects.

Monsanto, a global agricultural conglomerate known for creating such poisons as DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, saccharin, aspartame, polystyrene and Bovine Growth Hormone, is a world leader in producing genetically modified foods.

The forced use of genetically modified cotton seeds in India by Monsanto and Cargill has led to thousands of suicides by farmers not able to afford new seeds every year.  Monsanto recently had laws passed in Iraq officially recognizing their patent rights to modifies foods, presumably to set up the same forced scenario in Iraq.

Are we ready for this?

Here is why we are in this mess

The present U.S. energy policy is not written down, at least in publicly available sources. The clearest statement/description of what it is currently is to be found in the notes/reports of the meetings of the Cheney Secret Energy Task Force. It is known to have started meeting right after the 2000 election. Since Cheney made it clear from the time that word of the first meeting or two leaked out that no records of the meeting(s) would be released and was obviously very unhappy that there was any public knowledge that the meeting(s) had even occurred, it is left to speculation as to whether there were further meetings. Since the subject is highly complex, it is highly likely that there were. One thing is certain. The known and unknown records of any and all such meetings will have either been destroyed or removed to an undisclosed location safer than Yucca Flats by the time the Obama Administration takes office.

Nevertheless, its basic components are clearly discernable by looking at the history of energy production and use in the Untied States.

Modern U.S. energy policy stems from the time in 1859 when oil was discovered in Northwestern Pennsylvania. In the beginning there were many small, independent producers. By the mid-1880s, there was one major one: John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust. By the early 1900s, JDR had earned the tile of the “most hated man in America,” both for the way he dealt with competitors and the way he dealt with his customers. Interestingly enough, the direct descendant of his original Standard Oil Trust is ExxonMobil. By the 1920s, major U.S. oil production had moved to Texas. Modern U.S. energy policy dates back to World War II when the far-sighted of the oil barons foresaw that easily accessible domestic oil would run out in the relatively near future and that it was the gigantic reserves that had been found in the Middle East, at that time principally in Saudi Arabia, that would be the central focus of ongoing oil company profits. Middle East policy since that time has had its central focus determined by that fact. Then further they had to ensure that the central focus of U.S. energy policy domestically would be on petroleum. And so was that policy developed.

In the immediate post-war era, the first step that was taken was to convert the power source for the railroads from coal to oil (converting from steam locomotives to diesel and cutting back wherever possible on electrified lines, like the only transcontinental electrified line, The Milwaukee Road). This accomplished the double purpose of vastly boosting oil consumption while over time putting out of business one of most powerful unions in the Untied States, the militant United Mine Workers. Next was the matter, in the 1950s, of creating an immense public subsidy for the automobile and truck companies, and the trucking industry too, otherwise known as the Interstate Highway System. Passenger rail traffic was allowed to decline precipitously while freight traffic dropped significantly. Conveniently, the railroad workers’ unions (never one, as with the mine workers, but known to join together in alliances for particular purposes and militant on occasion) were replaced by the Teamsters, notoriously corrupt and politically right-wing.

When the Middle Eastern countries nationalized their oil in the 1970s, the U.S. giants didn’t miss a beat. They no longer owned the oil, but they still made large profits buying from the owners and re-selling in the U.S. To keep consumption up, they supported the U.S. auto industry in its policy of keeping Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards as low as possible and doing as poorly in small car design, sales, and marketing as they possibly could, which were major factors in leading to the U.S. domestic auto industry crisis of today.

The U.S. oil industry elected its own President for the first time in 1980. One of the progressive measures undertaken by President Carter was the creation of a Federal fund to support research and development in alternative fuels and energy. One of the first acts, taken on January 21, 1981, by that first oil industry President, Ronald Reagan, was to shut that operation down, cold. If it had been allowed to continue and develop, it is highly likely a) that the U.S. would not be in the energy pickle that it is now in and b) that we would be the world leader in alternative fuels/energy technology and production.

Beginning in the 1990s, of course, the oil industry began its propaganda campaign against the understanding of global warming, the role of carbon dioxide production by humans in its galloping advance, and the massive threats it has created for the future of civilization as we know it. Borrowing from the tactics used by the cigarette companies in fighting the truth about the relationship between smoking and ill-health, the oil industry still had many shills putting forth the lie, that Limbaugh and his clones are still doing that “global warming is a hoax.” And so it goes, right up to and including the abandonment of Kyoto, the Administration’s own counterclaims on global warming, the War on Iraq for oil and bases, and so on and so forth.

Yes indeed, the U.S. does have an energy policy. It is to make us as oil-dependant as possible, thereby producing the largest possible profits for the oil companies. Those profits are almost entirely dependent on the use of foreign oil, because there is so little left here (unless the state of Colorado is totally destroyed by oil shale mining, as parts of Western Canada are being currently, of course). And so, the President-elect has announced a policy to make the U.S. independent of foreign oil in 10 years (without raping Colorado and blowing the tops off every coal mountain that that gentle industry can find). And you think that the oil industry, and their other extractive-industry relatives, coal and natural gas, are going to take this lying down? Well my friend, you’ve got another think coming

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

MADRID, Spain (AP) — A new kind of silent hero has joined the fight against climate change.

Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a gritty, working-class town outside Barcelona, has placed a sea of solar panels atop mausoleums at its cemetery, transforming a place of perpetual rest into one buzzing with renewable energy.

Flat, open and sun-drenched land is so scarce in Santa Coloma that the graveyard was just about the only viable spot to move ahead with its solar energy program.

The power the 462 panels produces — equivalent to the yearly use by 60 homes — flows into the local energy grid for normal consumption and is one community’s odd nod to the fight against global warming.

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Even President-elect Barack Obama’s least enthusiastic supporters seem willing to cut him slack in solving the nation’s problems.That is one conclusion of a focus group conducted Nov. 22 by pollster Peter Hart among Virginia voters who might not have been expected to vote for Obama. Eight of the 12 voted for George Bush in 2004, nine considered backing John McCain. The focus group session, conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center, will air Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. on C-SPAN.

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Many pediatricians polled in a recent survey say they’re more likely to admit a medical error to the family of a child only if the error is obvious, according to a study published this month in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. About 200 pediatricians in St. Louis and Seattle were surveyed about whether and how they would disclose medical errors to kids or their families. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said they would definitely disclose errors. About 26 percent indicated they would apologize for errors, HealthDay reports.

“The findings very much fell in line with what we had seen in other specialties that have been surveyed, internal medicine physicians and surgeons specifically,” David Loren, author of the study stated.

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from the Washington Post-Some of the largest investment firms on Wall Street are gone. The country’s auto industry is on the verge of collapse. Banks are shedding jobs. But in these doom-and-gloom times, there is someone who’s hiring: your local military recruiter.

The economic downturn and rising unemployment rate are making the military a more attractive option, Pentagon officials say. In some cases, the peace of mind that comes with good benefits and a regular paycheck is overcoming concerns about the wars in Iraq…

This time it’s tragic as a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a moronic, over-consumeristic mob that essentially decided that the $10 that they would save on a flat panel TV was more important than that of a human life. 

This is what America has become…..this is what Christmas has become.

Details have emerged about two of the Americans who have been killed in the Mumbai terrorist shootings. Alan and Naomi Scherr were visiting Mumbai on a spiritual trip with a group from a community called the Synchronicity Foundation, which promotes a type of meditation. Several others from the organization were injured during the attacks.

Bailout costs more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war, and NASA’s lifetime budget — *combined!

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

Chia seeds (yes, the very same ones of chia pet fame), also known as the running food, has been used as a high energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs. It was said the Aztec warriors subsisted on the Chia seed during the conquests. The Indians of the south west would eat as little as a teaspoon full when going on a 24hr. forced march.  What did they know, that we are now learning?

Here are  a few benefits, a few ounces of chia seeds contain:

  • 6 times more calcium than milk , that’s 2-1/2 cups of whole milk…and no lactose!
  • 20 grams of heart protecting Omega 3 fatty acids.  About as much as 1-3/4 lbs of salmon!
  • 21 grams of protein, as much as a whole bag of soy!
  • 35 grams of fiber equal to 1-3/4 cups of bran cereal and more than flaxseed.
  • 380mg of magnesium, the equivalent of 3lbs of broccoli.
  • 560mg of vitamin C which is about 4 full sized oranges.
  • 3 times as many antioxidants as fresh blueberries.

And since it has no flavor you can add it to anything, including salads, burgers and casseroles.  You can even use it a fat substitute in brownies and cookies.

The race’s DNA is changing faster than ever; what it means for our descendants

If you judge the progress of humanity by Homer Simpson, Paris Hilton, neoconservative republican beliefs, and Girls Gone Wild videos, you might conclude that our evolution has stalled—or even shifted into reverse. Not so, scientists say. Humans are evolving faster than ever before, picking up new genetic traits and talents that may help us survive a turbulent future.

Much remodeling has gone on since the dawn of agriculture about 10 millenniums ago. “People who lived 10,000 years ago were much more like Neanderthals than we are like those people,” says John Hawks, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin. “We’ve changed.”

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Michael Vick pleaded guilty today to a state dogfighting-related charge and was sentenced to a suspended jail term.

The resolution of the state charges against Vick, the quarterback who is serving a 23-month federal prison sentence and is on indefinite suspension by the NFL, potentially could speed his prospective return to football. With no further charges pending against him, Vick becomes eligible to serve the final portion of his federal prison sentence in a halfway house.

“I want to apologize to the court, my family and to all the kids who looked up to me as a role model,” Vick told the judge during today’s hearing, according to the Associated Press.

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The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards recognize those leaders in the Commonwealth who have made an outstanding contribution towards protecting and conserving the Commonwealth’s environment, and whose actions have benefited the health and welfare of Virginia’s communities and the state as a whole. The Awards are supported by Virginia’s Governor, the Secretary of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Virginia Manufacturers Association’s Outreach. The Governor especially seeks to recognize efforts that demonstrate results, innovation, originality, and support of Virginia’s environmental priorities.

There are four categories of awards:

  • Environmental Program
  • Environmental Project
  • Land Conservation Program
  • Land Conservation Project.

Within each category, applicants are evaluated against entities of a similar type/size (i.e., Large Businesses, Small Businesses, Government, Partnerships, etc.). A gold, silver, and bronze award may be allocated for each type/size entity within the four categories.

Applications for the 2009 awards program are due on Friday, January 9th, 2009.

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