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Cats sailed with Vikings to conquer the world, genetic study reveals

Thousands of years before cats took up residence in 37 percent of American households, and managed to outnumber dogs by roughly 75 million across the globe, they were hopping continents with farmers, ancient mariners, and even Vikings, scientists have found.

The first large-scale study of ancient feline DNA has finally been completed, and the results reveal how our inscrutable friends were domesticated in the Near East and Egypt some 15,000 years ago, before spreading across the globe and into our hearts.

The study was presented at the International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology in Oxford, UK last week, and sequenced DNA from 209 cats that lived between 15,000 and 3,700 years ago - so from just before the advent of agriculture right up to the 18th century.

Found in more than 30 archaeological sites in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, these ancient feline specimens are helping researchers to finally piece together the beginnings of an animal that we share our beds with, but know surprisingly little about.

Read more: http://www.sciencealert.com/cats-sailed-with-vikings-to-conquer-the-world-genetic-study-reveals

Economists Say Extending Tax Credits to Puerto Rico Would Stimulate Economy

Puerto Rico does not have equal access to tax credits designed to support low income working families, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. While extending these credits to Puerto Rico has been proposed many times over the years, PROMESA and the renewed commitment of the United States to enhance Puerto Rico’s economic growth mean that the concept is being considered again before Congress, and with greater seriousness.

Economists Arthur MacEwan and J. Tomas Hexner have published research proving that that extending the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit to Puerto Rico would not only assist individuals and families, but it would also stimulate Puerto Rico’s economy.

The Earned Income Tax Credit(EITC) is available to low-income working parents in the States when they file their income tax returns. Residents of Puerto Rico generally are not required to file income tax returns, and this has been given as a reason that Puerto Rico should not be eligible for the EITC. However, EITC payments are made to low-income families in the States, whether the workers in those families owe any taxes or not. In fact, only $10 billion of the $73 billion paid out in tax refunds in 2015 was actually a refund of taxes paid, according to government figures. The remaining $63 billion was payments to people who paid no taxes — just like the residents of Puerto Rico.

MacEwan and Hexner further point out that the EITC was intended to make up for payroll taxes, which residents of Puerto Rico pay at the same rates as residents of the States. It is, they say, an essential unfairness to make tax credits available to people in the States who do not pay income tax, but not to make it available in Puerto Rico. The goal of the EITC is to help lift families out of poverty, and Puerto Rico has a higher poverty rate than any of the States. Some of those who argue against extending the EITC say that people who are helped by this tax credit in Oklahoma or Delaware might at some point end up paying income taxes. The EITC is therefore an investment in their future prosperity, which they will share with the federal government. Since there are now more Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland than on the Island, it is equally reasonable to suggest that families which are helped in Puerto Rico may one day pay income taxes in the States.

Read more: http://www.puertoricoreport.com/economists-say-extending-tax-credits-puerto-rico-stimulate-economy/

Policy Center Says Medicaid Funding Critical to Remedying Puerto Rico’s Budgetary and Economic ...

Policy Center Says Medicaid Funding Critical to Remedying Puerto Rico’s Budgetary and Economic Problems.

Puerto Rico receives much less federal healthcare assistance as a territory than it would as a state. Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner and other members of the legislature have been expressing concern about this inequality for some time. Fixing the inequity has been part of a number of proposals as the federal government looks for ways to improve Puerto Rico’s economic position without creating hardship for the people living on the Island.

Especially with the rise of Zika and the continuing exodus of doctors from the territory, helping with Puerto Rico’s healthcare problems is increasingly seen as an important humanitarian effort.

But repair of the Medicaid situation in Puerto Rico may also help get Puerto Rico’s economy back on track. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has recently issued a report concluding that the funding issues played a big part in causing the financial problems that Puerto Rico faces now. Fixing them will be essential going forward.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia pay part of the cost of Medicaid. The part the federal government pays is known as the federal Medicaid matching rate or FMAP. The average FMAP for the States is 57%; the specific amount depends on the average income in each State. Since Puerto Rico has a lower per capita income than any state, it may be surprising that the federal government covers just 55% — only slightly more than the average. If the FMAP were calculated for Puerto Rico as it is for States, the CBPP says, federal funds would cover 83% of the costs.

Read more: http://www.puertoricoreport.com/policy-center-says-medicaid-funding-critical-remedying-puerto-ricos-budgetary-economic-problems/

With No Infusion Of Cash, Virgin Islands Retirement System May Decrease Annuities By 30% In 2017

ST. CROIX — At a pre-summit event held at the Government Employees’ Retirement System here on Monday (the GERS full summit was held on Tuesday), where senators and GERS officials gathered, GERS Board of Trustees, along with the pension system’s actuary, Rocky Joyner of Segal Consulting, raised a list of actions that must be taken to salvage the system — which is set to collapse in seven years or less, according to the actuary and board members — if an infusion of cash of either $600 million, $1.4 billion or $1.7 billion is not implemented before year’s end. G.E.R.S.’s unfunded liability is $1.7 billion.

One of the main considerations of the board is a reduction in tier benefits of persons not yet retired, and the annuities of those already retired, by a staggering 30 percent in 2017. In layman’s terms, if you are currently receiving a pension of, say $2,000 monthly from G.E.R.S., that amount would decrease by $600 next year, bringing your pension down to $1,400 monthly. The same goes for government employees not yet retired.

Senator Kurt Vialet, lamenting the broad-stroke language used by G.E.R.S., said a better solution would be to use a benefits-based system, whereby the percentage decrease would be reliant on how much a person receives. He said that taking away 30 percent of someone who receives only $1,000 pension monthly — leaving said person with only $700 — could lead to the destruction of livelihoods.

The decrease was the most serious of many considerations discussed at the pre-summit, with other ideas including a flat tax specifically for the pension system, and a mix of raising employer contribution and an infusion of cash — raised by Senator Clifford Graham — being the best-case scenario. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Government of the Virgin Islands is be able to secure the amount of funds G.E.R.S. says is needed to save the beleaguered system.

Read more: http://viconsortium.com/government-2/no-infusion-cash-gers-may-decrease-annuities-30-percent-2017/

With Virgin Islands' Bonds At Junk Status, Mapp Administration Seeks $430 Million In New Debt

ST. THOMAS — The Mapp administration’s finance team sat before senators at the Earl B. Ottley Legislative Hall on Wednesday to make its case for $430 million in new borrowing, while introducing a new five-year plan that it says is aimed at stimulating the economy.

Finance Commissioner Valdemier Collens broke down the new bonds, to be secured by the matching revenue funds and gross receipt tax, as $250 million in capital projects through Bill No. 31-0447, $150 million in working capital, and $30 million to finance what Mr. Collens said were past due costs mandated under existing consent decrees with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice — namely the Bovoni and Anguilla landfill consent decrees.

But the borrowing comes at a time when the territory’s bond ratings are at junk status, which in turn increases interest rates on new bonds being floated.

Mr. Collens said the downgrades forced the Mapp administration to exclude debt restructuring, which he has said wouldn’t be prudent because the new interest rate would be higher than what the government is currently paying. Instead, the administration saw the floating of new bonds for what Mr. Collens says are working capital and essential capital projects, as the best route in stimulating the economy.

Read more: http://viconsortium.com/breaking-news/with-territorys-bonds-at-junk-status-mapp-administration-seeks-430-million-in-new-debt/

Virgin Islands Governor Mapp Declares State Of Emergency In Mental Health Care

ST. THOMAS — A state of emergency in mental health care has been declared by Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp, Government House announced late Friday.

Noting the need to facilitate immediate emergency delivery of acute and chronic mental health services throughout the territory, the governor is suspending temporarily statutory and contractual limitations on conditions of employment and compensation for retired psychiatric physicians. This will allow the Schneider Regional Medical Center, the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital, and the Department of Health to increase the now inadequate number of psychiatrists by rehiring retirees or by recruiting from other jurisdictions, and will permit a competitive level of compensation.

Mr. Mapp’s order declaring a state of emergency in mental health care also requests through the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services the immediate deployment of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, or other Federal Deployment Programs, to assist in providing acute and chronic mental health services at the territory’s two hospitals and in the V.I. Department of Health.

The mental health emergency declaration takes effect immediately, and unless modified sooner, will expire only after confirmation by the hospitals and health department that are enough providers of psychiatric care in the territory, or 30 days following the effective date unless renewed by the governor, according to Government House.


Bath Iron Works to cut 160 positions in engineering, support services

Bath Iron Works announced Friday it will lay off 30 workers.

The company will eliminate a total of 160 positions in its engineering and support organizations “as part of ongoing efforts to be more affordable,” according to a statement Friday.

In addition to the 30 layoffs, the remaining reductions will come through retirements, transfers, resignations and canceled job postings.

“We regret the impact this will have on employees and their families,” the company said in the statement.

Read more: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/23/bath-iron-works-to-cut-160-positions/

Maine could face up to $12 million in fines over welfare-to-work rules

AUGUSTA — Maine is getting a clearer picture of how much it may have to pay of a maximum $29 million fine for failing to meet federal welfare-to-work standards from 2007 through 2014.

The state is looking at as much as $12 million in penalties for the years 2008 through 2010 because it recently failed to meet a corrective action plan that could have eliminated penalties for that period, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Patrick Fisher said in an email this week.

Such penalties would mean lost federal dollars for Maine’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program next year, which Maine would have to make up in new or existing state funds.

The federal agency has not officially informed the state that it hasn’t met the corrective action plan, and federal officials are still considering whether to reduce the figure, Fisher said. DHHS also has not decided Maine’s challenge of penalties for 2007 and other years, leaving the final financial hit unclear.

Read more: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/23/maine-could-face-up-to-12-million-in-fines-over-welfare-to-work-rules/

LePage says state agency underbid on $19 million contract to refurbish MBTA buses

The Maine Military Authority, a state-owned operation in Limestone that specializes in refurbishing vehicles, underbid a $19 million contract, putting at risk as many as 50 jobs and raising the possibility that losses could be passed on to taxpayers, Gov. Paul LePage said late Friday.

LePage provided few details, but said he recently learned that the MMA underestimated how much it would cost to refurbish 32 articulated buses under its contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

LePage said more information on the problems with the contract would be coming and Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Farnham, the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard and commissioner of the state Department of Defense, suggested in LePage’s news release that state would try to renegotiate the contract, although it’s not clear what incentive the Boston-area transit authority would have to pay more for the work.

“The MMA has not notified the MBTA of any action related to the contract,” Jeo Pesaturo, a spokesman for the MBTA said by email Friday night.

Read more: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/23/lepage-state-agency-underbid-19-million-contract-to-refurbish-mbta-buses/
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