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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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EU Proposal Seeks To Regulate Internet, Ban 'All Pornography In The Media'

A report that will be voted on in the European Union parliament March 12 could lay the groundwork for laws banning pornography across all media -- including the Internet -- and could potentially restrict civil liberties, free speech advocates claim.

The broader aim of the sweeping proposal, which was introduced by left-leaning parliamentarian Kartika Liotard of the Netherlands, is to foster gender equality in the EU by combatting gender stereotypes on many fronts. To that end, the opinion recommends a "ban all forms of pornography in the media," including what it calls "the digital field."

It also calls for the establishment of regulatory agencies with "a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls."

Although the vote on the report is not legally binding, if passed, the proposal could end up influencing EU law. According to Wired UK, the chances of an EU-wide pornography ban are slim, but free speech critics are nonetheless concerned about the report's vague language.


The star of the Morning Joe vs Paul Krugman showdown is...Jeffrey Sachs.

I really really like what he has to say. For the first time I am hearing someone who knows what we need to do and has the outline of a vision.


In A Speech That Almost Everyone Missed, Bernanke Explained Real Reason US Interest Rates Are So Low

Ben Bernanke gave a great speech last week called "Long Term Interest Rates" but hardly anyone paid attention to it, because he gave the speech on Friday night and everyone missed it.

It's worth going over, because he spends a lot of time riffing on a big question: What's the real reason that long-term interest rates are so low?

He concluded this section of the speech thusly:

Let's recap. Long-term interest rates are the sum of expected inflation, expected real short-term interest rates, and a term premium. Expected inflation has been low and stable, reflecting central bank mandates and credibility as well as considerable resource slack in the major industrial economies. Real interest rates are expected to remain low, reflecting the weakness of the recovery in advanced economies (and possibly some downgrading of longer-term growth prospects as well). This weakness, all else being equal, dictates that monetary policy must remain accommodative if it is to support the recovery and reduce disinflationary risks. Put another way, at the present time the major industrial economies apparently cannot sustain significantly higher real rates of return; in that respect, central banks--so long as they are meeting their price stability mandates--have little choice but to take actions that keep nominal long-term rates relatively low, as suggested by the similarity in the levels of the rates shown in chart 1. Finally, term premiums are low or negative, reflecting a host of factors, including central bank actions in support of economic recovery. Thus, while the current constellation of long-term rates across many advanced countries has few precedents, it is not puzzling: It follows naturally from the economic circumstances of these countries and the implications of these circumstances for the policies of their central banks.


Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urges funding for prescription tracking

Calling prescription drug abuse an urgent public health problem, California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is pushing lawmakers to fund an effort to identify physicians who recklessly prescribe addictive medications.

Harris said in an interview that she wanted to use a state database of prescriptions, known as CURES, to draw a bead on doctors who abuse their prescribing powers, a controversial step discussed for years but never adopted.

CURES, diminished by years of budget cuts, is now used mostly to identify "doctor-shopping" addicts, who feed their habit by obtaining multiple prescriptions from different doctors. Even that type of identification is done on a very limited basis because of the system's technical shortcomings and bare-bones budget.

Harris, whose office operates CURES, called for upgrading the database and establishing two criminal enforcement teams to investigate suspicious patterns of prescribing. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) have introduced legislation to carry out the changes, which would cost an estimated $9.6 million.


Samsung's Galaxy S4 Will Track Your Eyes

Samsung's next smartphone, the Galaxy S IV, will have eye-tracking technology to help with web browsing, Brian X. Chen at The New York Times reports:

The phone will track a userís eyes to determine where to scroll, said a Samsung employee who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. For example, when users read articles and their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next paragraphs of text.

In addition to technology that can detect your eyes, Samsung's next smartphone will reportedly feature touch less gestures. The gestures will allow you to do things like unlock your phone without touching it.


The Fed Is Starting To Prepare For A Future PR Nightmare

One of the big issues the central bank faces is the inevitable loss it will have to take when interest rates rise and the value of the Fed's bond portfolio declines.

Although not an economic problem ó as "losses" for a central bank are more of an accounting issue ó there could be a PR problem when the Fed stops making payments to the Treasury from the interest income it receives on its bond portfolio.

Deutsche Bank strategist Stephen Abrahams recently explained why this could be such a nightmare:

The possibility of suspending remittances and carrying unrealized losses could complicate the Fedís relationships with the rest of Washington and the public. While remittances help the federal government pay down debt, any shortfall in operating income leading to a suspension of remittances would require the Fed to borrow from Treasury.

And while unrealized losses have no effect on Fed operations because of the way government accounts for them, they would leave a private company technically insolvent. It is unclear how Washington and the public might react to these circumstances and whether the Fedís independence might be challenged.


Insight: Community colleges' cash crunch threatens Obama's retraining plan

When President Barack Obama called for 5 million more community-college graduates by the end of the decade to boost U.S. competitiveness, this commuter school 30 miles northwest of Chicago figured out it would need to produce 10,604 additional graduates to do its part.

It won't be able to count on much government help.

Even as Harper and many of the nation's 1,200 other two-year community colleges try to deliver on Obama's vision of a revitalized manufacturing sector and a better-skilled work force, support from the federal and state governments is eroding.

"I've been in this business for 42 years. I've never seen anything like this - the pressure on the business model, the pressure on the whole institution of higher education," Harper College President Ken Ender said in an interview.


Americansí reaction to sequestration might change course of politics

Already, a decade of budget deficits run up in war and economic crisis has saddled the government with a $16 trillion debt, a bill that will force the country to come to grips with how much government it wants and how much it wants to pay for it at the very time the aging baby boomers put new strains on the budget through such vast programs as Medicare and Social Security.

Now the government is about to start cutting spending in some programs, offering a first look at how the American people will react.

If people feel the sting of the so-called sequestration with fewer teachers at their schools, more time in airport security lines and smaller checks for people without jobs, they might rise up and send a clear signal that the country really wants to keep all of the government it now gets and perhaps feed a demand that the government charge more in the form of higher taxes.

If, however, the majority of Americans donít feel any pain from the cuts, if they either donít see an impact or donít empathize with federal employees enduring unpaid furloughs, theyíd likely invite more moves to cut spending. That would bolster the Republicans.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/03/01/184621/americans-reaction-to-sequestration.html#storylink=cpy

Obama plans to nominate Walmart Foundation head Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the White House OMB


WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama plans to nominate Walmart Foundation head Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the White House Office of Management and Budget on Monday, sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

Burwell, 47, is a veteran of Bill Clinton's White House and has helped steer philanthropic efforts while at Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Burwell would replace Jeffrey Zients, who has been serving as acting director at the White House budget office, known by the acronym OMB.

The move will reunite her with another Clinton White House veteran, Jack Lew, who was Clinton's OMB director for a time and was recently confirmed as Obama's treasury secretary.

7-year-old suspended for allegedly shaping pastry like a gun

A seven-year-old has been suspended from school for two days for shaping a breakfast pastry into a form a teacher identified as a gun. Josh Welch, of Baltimore, says he wanted to shape his strawberry tart into a mountain, but "it didnít look like a mountain really." (We appreciate the creativity but play with broccoli, Josh! Pastries are delicious!) A sharp-eyed teacher reportedly got "visibly mad" and sent Josh home for two days, saving the other students from absolutely no threat whatsoever.

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