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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 38,284

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

O-Care premiums to skyrocket?

Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.

The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.

The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past.

“The increases are far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act,” the secretary said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Her comment baffled insurance officials, who said it runs counter to the industry’s consensus about next year.

“It’s pretty shortsighted because I think everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out … is going to lead to higher costs,” said one senior insurance executive who requested anonymity.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/201136-obamacare-premiums-are-about-to-skyrocket

Kansas Bill Seeks to Legalize Police Retaliation

The Kansas House Standing Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice has introduced a bill that will require private citizens who file complaints against police officers to sign an affidavit, acknowledging that if their allegations are proven false, they can be charged with perjury, which is a felony charge.

Furthermore, this bill prohibits a Kansas law enforcement agency from opening an investigation into a complaint if another law enforcement agency has already investigated the complaint and found in favor of the officer.

In other words, this bill would allow police departments to arrest the people who file complaints against police officers. In Wichita, Kansas, complaints are almost always dismissed, by the Wichita Police Department, so, according to this bill and its vague wording, the WPD, could now go arrest the people who file complaints against their officers.



Republican House Candidate Who Said Autism Was the Result of God’s Anger Just Won her Primary

Susanne Atanus, the 55-year-old Republican who told a local newspaper that God put autism and dementia on Earth as punishment for marriage equality and abortion, just won her primary for a seat in the House of representatives. She will face off against incumbent Democrat Rep. Jan Schakowsky this November:

Voters in the Republican primary will have two very different candidates to choose from in the 9th Congressional District, as David Earl Williams III and Susanne Atanus vie for the right to face Rep. Jan Schakowsky in the fall…

“I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first,” Atanus said. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions.

Party leaders in the state urged her to drop out of the race, but she didn’t. Worked out for her (and maybe the rest of us, too); she came away with a narrow victory over her opponent David Earl Williams III


The Chris Christie Scandal Just Got Worse


When there is still snow on the ground past St. Patrick’s Day, thoughts turn longingly to the beach. Say, the Jersey Shore. Which in turn brings to mind the extreme yet comically ham-handed efforts of Governor Chris Christie’s administration to keep secret the process that led to the controversial selection exactly one year ago of a firm to run a $25 million ad campaign for last summer’s tourist season touting the Shore’s comeback from Superstorm Sandy.

As you may recall, Christie came under criticism during his reelection campaign last summer for having inserted himself and his family into the rousing “Stronger than the Storm” ads encouraging tourists to come back to the Jersey Shore. The ads had been funded by federal Sandy recovery aid, and it seemed eyebrow-raising, at the least, for them to feature beaming pictures of a governor in the middle of a reelection campaign, rather than just your average smiling New Jerseyans. The eyebrows shot up quite a bit further when it emerged that the firm that had gotten the job after proposing to feature Christie in its ads, public relations giant MWW, had bid at a much higher price—$4.7 million versus $2.5 million—than a well-regarded New Jersey ad firm that had proposed ads that did not feature the governor. Making matters even more interesting was that the award had been made by a selection committee led by Christie’s very close longtime aide, Michele Brown, whom Christie appointed to run the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, a $225,000 post. Also noteworthy was that MWW had hired just a few months earlier the former executive director of the influential Burlington County Republican Party. (It was also hard not to notice that MWW's founder and CEO, Michael Kempner, who is normally a loyal Democratic donor, was not writing any big checks to Barbara Buono, Christie's opponent, last year.) New Jersey congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat, in January asked the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to audit the awarding of the job to make sure federal contracting rules were followed.

Further raising the intrigue around the “Stronger than the Storm” ads has been the lengths to which the Christie administration has gone to keep secret the relevant documentation. When Shannon Morris, the president of the New Jersey company, Sigma Group, that came in second to MWW, last summer requested the state’s evaluations of the proposals to better understand why her firm had lost, she received almost nothing in response. “Typically when you have a state-run bid like that you have…it fully transparent, it’s all posted online,” Morris told me. “There was nothing like that in this case.” When Asbury Park Press reporter Bob Jordan made an open-records request for the scoresheets that the selection committee members filled out to rank the ad proposals, the state returned to him in January the scoresheets—with the names of the committee members redacted.

Knowing this, I was heartened to find that my own request for the scoresheets was returned to me later in January with the names of the committee members fully disclosed. I planned to include details from the scoresheets in a cover story on Christie that I was in the process of writing, but the piece’s main thrust veered away from the Sandy ads, and I decided to revisit that issue later. This week, when I went to do just that, I discovered that the Internet link the Economic Development Authority had given me for the reams of documents I had requested was no longer operable. I asked that the documents be resent. They were, and lo, this time the names of the committee members were redacted from the scoresheets. When I asked the authority’s legal officer, Shane McDougall, about the discrepancy, he replied that “if the original documents had been disseminated without these redactions, it was done inadvertently.” He added that the redaction of names was done “on the basis of the advisory, consultative, and deliberative privilege, the expectation of privacy and the protection of the competitive bidding process.”



Snowden's TED Talk

Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. "Your rights matter,” he say, "because you never know when you're going to need them." Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.

video at link


Why Isn't the Fourth Amendment Classified as Top Secret?


Notice how much the Fourth Amendment tells our enemies. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated," it states, "and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The Framers are usually considered patriots. Yet they gave traitors and criminals in their midst such powerful knowledge about concealing evidence of skullduggery! Today every terrorist with access to a pocket Constitution is privy to the same text. And thanks to the Supreme Court's practice of publishing its opinions, al-Qaeda need only have an Internet connection to gain a very nuanced, specific understanding of how the Fourth Amendment is applied in individual cases, how it constrains law enforcement, and how to exploit those limits.

Such were my thoughts Friday at UCLA Law School, where Stewart Baker, an attorney who worked in the Department of Homeland Security during the Bush Administration, participated in a debate about Edward Snowden. Some of his remarks focused on the NSA whistleblower's professed desire to trigger a debate among Americans, many of whom think it's their right to weigh in on all policy controversies.

Baker disagrees.

"You can't debate our intelligence capabilities and how to control them in the public without disclosing all of the things that you're discussing to the very people you're trying to gather intelligence about," he said. "Your targets are listening to the debates." In fact, he continued, they're listening particularly closely. For that reason, publicly debating intelligence techniques, targets and limits is foolish. As soon as targets figure out the limits of what authorities can touch, they'll change their tactics accordingly. In his view, limits should be set in secret. A class of overseers with security clearances can make the necessary judgment calls.



Tom Toles- The Slammer


Everyone can imagine vividly the sound of a jail door closing. The slightly vibratoed deep clang of a heavy steel door swinging into a heavy steel frame has been featured in so many films that description is hardly necessary.

But the door that’s closing now is the one of economic justice. Not the distribution of economic-benefits justice, which by the way is also closing. More like the door to economic-legality justice, which is closing with a ka-lang. Or maybe just a whimper. I return from time to time here to one of the themes I started this Blog with: that it was clear that the financial crisis could not have occurred without some laws, (at the very least laws about fair representation), having been broken at high levels of large financial institutions. And that the book could not fairly be closed on this disgraceful and calamitous chapter in US economic history without bringing charges against people in high places who did wrong, and putting some of them in jail. But it looks like that pretty much isn’t going to happen.

Big surprise. But we pause here to showcase the obvious quote: “The report fits a pattern that is scary for a democracy, that there really are two levels of justice in this country, one for the people with power and money and one for everyone else.” We return you now to your standard news feed and its regularly scheduled narrative.


Paul Krugman Blog- High Fallutin’ Nazis

Here comes another billionaire who thinks that anyone who talks about income inequality is a Nazi; this time it’s Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. I don’t have anything useful to say about this, other than the observation that there must be a lot of these guys. I mean, there aren’t that many billionaires, so that coming up with multiple examples of the genus who not only believe that progressives are just like Hitler but are willing to say so in public must indicate that a substantial proportion of our billionaires share this belief, but more privately. Luckily, great wealth doesn’t bring great political influence in modern America — does it?

But Jonathan Cohn’s report on Langone brought to mind an earlier rant by the same guy, in which he denounced yours truly and my “high-fallutin’ thoughts and ideas.” And I think, now that I remember that, that this rant (and others like it) gives a partial clue to the mystery of the continuing popularity of the Wall Street macro canon, despite its total failure in practice.

For what, after all, was Langone raging against? Well, me, of course. But not, presumably, against “high-fallutin” ideas in general: Langone can’t really be a stupid man, and I’m sure that when it comes to, say, information systems for inventory management hes’ quite willing to accept the idea that some things are technical and require some knowledge.

No, what I think he’s really raging against are two things. First is the idea that understanding economics, as opposed to other issues, might involve some kind of special expertise. This is an all too common problem with the wealthy, and maybe especially among self-made men: they think that their personal financial success means that they understand the economic system, and bristle at the notion that macroeconomics may be more than the sum of individual business strategies.



Drone flies into Volcano


I don't know how that thing survives some of the explosions....

Meet Mercury, the solar system's incredibly shrinking planet

The smallest planet in our solar system is getting even smaller.

Mercury, the first scorched rock from the Sun, has contracted into itself even more than previously thought over the past 4 billion years, according to new research using images from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft.

The proof is in its stretch marks.

Looking at tectonic features like wrinkle edges and rounded cliffs (similar to wrinkles on our skin), researcher determined Mercury has shrunk up to 8.6 miles in diameter over the course of several millennia.

The shrinkage is a result of the huge temperature difference between Mercury's core and its surface.


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