Today, Kevin contemplates the idea of running for office. What do you think? Help Kevin make the decision that could change America!
Why Organic Milk Is Better For You
Missing DNA Promote Obesity
Where Have The Good Men Gone?
Men Report Sexual Impairment After Using Common Hair Loss Drug
Your PC, TV or Cell Phone May Be To Blame For Lack of Sleep
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
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March 21st, 2011
Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and other body parts.
But RA can be tough to diagnose. Symptoms can mimic other illnesses, or they may flare, then fade, only to flare again somewhere else. Lab tests aren’t perfect-you can test negative for RA factors and still have it. And X-rays don’t show signs until later on.
Here are some tricky rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and hints that they’re due to RA and not some other condition.
Hard to heal injuries
It’s possible to think you have an injury-such as a sprained ankle that doesn’t seem to heal-when the symptoms are actually due to RA.
This is more common in younger people, says Lisa A. Mandl, MD, MPH, assistant attending rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
One day a patient is playing soccer and the next day her knee is swollen, she says. “I have seen people who have had two arthroscopic surgeries and extensive physical therapy in their knee and they have rheumatoid arthritis.”
Numbness or tingling in the hands
One symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is marked by tingling in the wrist and hands. Dr. Mandl says the sensation is similar to the feeling you get when you hit your funny bone.
What happens is that the swelling in the arm compresses the nerves going into the hands. The sensation is often worse at night.
If you go to a doctor with these symptoms and don’t have (or tell him or her about) other RA symptoms, you may be diagnosed only with carpal tunnel syndrome.
One area in which people often have RA-related pain or inflammation is the forefoot.
Women often stop wearing heels and head to a podiatrist due to the pain.
Some people with RA may also develop pain in the heel because of plantar fasciitis, a common foot disorder caused by swelling of the tissue at the bottom of the foot, near the heel.
March 21st, 2011
By: Ken and Daria Dolan
If you needed any more proof that our state, local and federal budget spending is out of control, here it is. In an effort to get out from under record deficits and support their spending habits, politicians from Seattle to New York and everywhere in between have cooked up some outrageous taxes.
Some of these taxes are already on the books, some are just up for debate, but all show you just how far politicians will go to put a little moreta of your money in their pockets.
Let’s start with so-called “sin taxes,” which have always been popular with politicians. Taxing items seen as vices–such as smoking, drinking and gambling — is seen as an easy way to raise tax revenue. But the definition of “sin” seems to be expanding…
Here’s proof that some politicians are a few cards short of a full deck. Anyone who purchases a deck of cards in the state of Alabama must pay a “card tax” of 10 cents. However, the law claims that the tax must be levied on the purchase of any deck containing “no more than 54 cards” so if you are lucky enough to find a deck with 55 cards, you’re home free! Really, how much money can this possibly raise?!
In Utah, any businesses where “nude or partially nude individuals perform any service” have to pay a 10% sales and use tax. This tax is applied to all revenue from admission fees as well as merchandise, food, drink and “services” sales.
As part of the controversial Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (better known as healthcare reform), there is now a 10% excise tax on using a tanning salon. This tax is expected to raise a surprising $2.7 billion dollars over 10 years.
Be careful what you eat in Kentucky or it can cost you. There is now a sales tax on any food classified as candy. But the definition of candy is controverisal — under Kentucky’s definition, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is candy, but a Milky Way is not. Huh?
The tax is also snaring some seemingly healthy foods. If a breakfast bar contains natural or artificial sweeteners along with fruits, nuts or other healthy ingredients, but has no flour and doesn’t need refrigeration, it’s considered candy and is subject to sales tax. But breakfast cereals with exactly the same ingredients are not considered candy and are not taxed.
After 20 years of living, working and raising a family in New York City, nothing surprises us. But the city certainly has cooked up some outrageous new taxes. We doubt any of these will do much to help them dig out of their massive budget deficit, but let’s take a look…
In January, the New York City Fire Department proposed a new “crash tax.” The proposal, which stirred up a very heated debate, calls for a $500 fine for anyone in an accident requiring emergency response vehicles at the scene.
Haunted House Tax
Here’s a new tax that would scare any reasonable person. If a haunted house includes music and the admission charge is more than 10 cents, then sales tax applies. Yet New York, the home of one of the greatest theater arts communities in the world, doesn’t tax musical comedies, operas or chamber music shows. Go figure.
New York is cracking down on enforcing the tax on prepared food. One of their targets: the beloved bagel. If you buy a whole bagel and take it home with you, it’s tax free. But, if you purchase a bagel to eat at the bagel shop, you’ll have to pay sales tax.
A New Kind of Death Tax
As of January 1, 2011 it costs money to die in Seattle. King County, which includes Seattle, has instituted a $50 fee for reporting a death to the Medical Examiner’s Office. If you don’t pay, you don’t get the permission and paperwork needed in order to be buried.
There is now an annual tax on brand name pharmaceutical companies. This is a tax on corporations, not individual taxpayers, that’s expected to generate $2.5 billion in 2011. But you better believe the cost of this new tax will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for the brand name drugs we buy.
New FSA Tax
If you use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that lets you pay for medical expenses with pre-tax money, brace yourself for new restrictions. New Flexible Spending Account (FSA) rules will limit the amount you can set aside tax-free to just $2,500 starting in 2013. That amounts to a tax increase on anyone who currently uses an FSA to pay for healthcare costs over that $2,500 cap.
With budget deficits reaching a crisis point, we think you’ll see plenty of new and outrageous taxes coming your way. We should all pay our fair share, but make sure you’re not paying one penny more! Take every tax deduction you’re entitled to and make those tax deductions airtight!
March 21st, 2011
Wall Street Journal
By: Kay S. Hymowitz
Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This “pre-adulthood” has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it’s time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn’t bring out the best in men.
“We are sick of hooking up with guys,” writes the comedian Julie Klausner, author of a touchingly funny 2010 book, “I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I’ve Dated.” What Ms. Klausner means by “guys” is males who are not boys or men but something in between. “Guys talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age; a guy’s idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends…. They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.” One female reviewer of Ms. Kausner’s book wrote, “I had to stop several times while reading and think: Wait, did I date this same guy?”
For most of us, the cultural habitat of pre-adulthood no longer seems noteworthy. After all, popular culture has been crowded with pre-adults for almost two decades. Hollywood started the affair in the early 1990s with movies like “Singles,” “Reality Bites,” “Single White Female” and “Swingers.” Television soon deepened the relationship, giving us the agreeable company of Monica, Joey, Rachel and Ross; Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer; Carrie, Miranda, et al.
But for all its familiarity, pre-adulthood represents a momentous sociological development. It’s no exaggeration to say that having large numbers of single young men and women living independently, while also having enough disposable income to avoid ever messing up their kitchens, is something entirely new in human experience. Yes, at other points in Western history young people have waited well into their 20s to marry, and yes, office girls and bachelor lawyers have been working and finding amusement in cities for more than a century. But their numbers and their money supply were always relatively small. Today’s pre-adults are a different matter. They are a major demographic event.
What also makes pre-adulthood something new is its radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy. Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor’s degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.
Still, for these women, one key question won’t go away: Where have the good men gone? Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers—a gender gap neatly crystallized by the director Judd Apatow in his hit 2007 movie “Knocked Up.” The story’s hero is 23-year-old Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), who has a drunken fling with Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) and gets her pregnant. Ben lives in a Los Angeles crash pad with a group of grubby friends who spend their days playing videogames, smoking pot and unsuccessfully planning to launch a porn website. Allison, by contrast, is on her way up as a television reporter and lives in a neatly kept apartment with what appear to be clean sheets and towels. Once she decides to have the baby, she figures out what needs to be done and does it. Ben can only stumble his way toward being a responsible grownup.
March 21st, 2011
By: Catherine Donaldson-Evans
Men who have taken a popular pill for baldness say they’ve experienced persistent sexual dysfunction for months, or even years, after stopping the drug.
The new study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that men who take finasteride, sold under the brand names Propecia and Proscar, may develop an ongoing loss of libido and orgasm, even after they go off the medication.
In some cases, they could have other lasting sexual side effects, including premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction, according to lead researcher Dr. Michael Irwig of George Washington University’s medical school.
“It’s obviously having some effect on the brain,” Irwig told AOL Health. “It’s messing up different hormonal pathways. Some of these pathways are important for things like libido and sexual function.”
Finasteride, the most common hair-loss pill, has previously been linked to “reversible” sexual impairment, as noted on the drug’s label, said Irwig. But “this is the first series to find that symptoms persisted for at least three months despite stopping finasteride,” he added.
“Three months was the minimum, but some of these guys had sexual symptoms for years, some … for five to 10 years after,” he told AOL Health. “These were young guys with no medical problems, no psychiatric problems, who happened to develop these side effects.”
Irwig and his team interviewed 71 men aged 21 to 46 who had taken Propecia or Proscar and reported new sexual side effects after they started the drugs. None of the participants had a history of sexual dysfunction or other conditions that might have contributed, Irwig said — and some had only been on finasteride for a few days.
Ninety-four percent said they’d experienced low sexual desire, 92 percent reported a dip in sexual arousal and 69 percent had trouble with orgasm, according to the findings. Another 92 percent said they developed erectile dysfunction after taking finasteride.
On average, participants had been on the baldness drug for 28 months and had chronic sexual problems for an average of 40 months, the research showed.
But 10 percent of those studied had used finasteride for less than a month, Irwig told AOL Health.
“It’s scary,” he said. “For the lack of orgasm and libido, there is no treatment.”
Other reported adverse side effects of finasteride are depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety. Merck is currently fighting a number of lawsuits involving the drug, including one in Canada and another in Connecticut.
The company does not warn of possible psychological or persistent sexual problems in information about finasteride on its website, nor does it mention those symptoms on its U.S. labeling. Irwig said the drug does carry warning labels in the U.K. and Sweden about ongoing sexual impairment.
“Be aware that this is a potential sexual side effect,” he cautioned. “If somebody chooses to take this medicine, there is that risk. They have to make the decision that it’s a risk they’re willing to take.”
March 21st, 2011
Inflation spooked the nation in the early 1980s. It surged and kept rising until it topped 13 percent.
These days, inflation is much lower. Yet to many Americans, it feels worse now. And for a good reason: Their income has been even flatter than inflation.
Back in the ’80s, the money people made typically more than made up for high inflation. In 1981, banks would pay nearly 16 percent on a six-month CD. And workers typically got pay raises to match their higher living costs.
Wages not keeping up
Over the 12 months that ended in February, consumer prices increased just 2.1 percent. Yet wages for many people have risen even less — if they’re not actually frozen.
Social Security recipients have gone two straight years with no increase in benefits. Money market rates? You need a magnifying glass to find them.
That’s why even moderate inflation hurts more now. And it’s why if food and gas prices lift inflation even slightly above current rates, consumer spending could weaken and slow the economy.
“It feels far more painful now than in the ’80s,” says Judy Bates, who lives near Birmingham, Ala. “Money in the bank was growing like crazy because interest rates were high. My husband had a union job at a steel company and was getting cost-of-living raises and working overtime galore.”
Bates, 58, makes her living writing and speaking about how people can stretch their dollars. Her husband, 61, is retired. They’ve paid off their mortgage and have no car payments. But they’re facing higher prices for food, gas, utilities, insurance and health care, while fetching measly returns on their savings.
“You want to weep,” Bates says.
Consumer inflation did pick up in February, rising 0.5 percent, because of costlier food and gas. Still, looked at over the past 12 months, price increases have remained low. Problem is, these days any inflation tends to hurt.
An uneven effect
Not that everyone has been squeezed the same. It depends on personal circumstances. Some families with low expenses or generous pay increases have been little affected.
Others who are heavy users of items whose prices have jumped — tuition, medical care, gasoline — have been hurt badly. But almost everyone is being pinched because nationally, income has stagnated.
The median U.S. inflation-adjusted household income — wages and investment income — fell to $49,777 in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available, the Census Bureau says. That was 0.7 percent less than in 2008.
Incomes probably dipped last year to $49,650, estimates Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and a board member of the National Association for Business Economics. That would mark a 0.3 percent drop from 2009. And incomes are likely to fall again this year — to $49,300, she says.
Significant pay raises are rare during periods of high unemployment because workers have little bargaining power to demand them.
They surely aren’t making it up at the bank. Last year, the average nationwide rate on a six-month CD was 0.44 percent. The rate on a money market account was even lower: 0.21 percent.
Now go back three decades, a time of galloping inflation, interest rates and bond yields. When Paul Volcker took over the Federal Reserve in 1979, consumer inflation was 13.3 percent, the highest since 1946. To shrink inflation, Volcker raised interest rates to levels not seen since the Civil War.
As interest rates soared, CD and money-market rates did, too. The average rate on money market accounts topped 9 percent. Treasury yields surged, pushing up rates on consumer and business loans. The 10-year Treasury note yielded more than 13 percent; today, it’s 3.5 percent.
By 1984, consumers were enjoying a sweet spot: Lower prices but rising incomes and still-historically high rates on CDs and other savings investments. Consumer inflation had slid to 3.9 percent. Yet you could still get 10.7 percent on a six-month CD.
Even after accounting for inflation, the median income rose 3.1 percent from 1983 to 1984. At the time, workers were demanding — and receiving — higher wages.
More than 20 percent of U.S. workers belonged to a union in 1983. Labor contracts typically provided cost-of-living adjustments tied to inflation. And competition for workers meant those union pay increases helped push up income for non-union workers, too.
March 21st, 2011
By: Dave Roberts
The Assembly Higher Education Committee approved two bills on Tuesday allowing college students who are in the state illegally to receive financial aid. Dubbed the California Dream Act, AB130 allows illegal immigrants to receive privately funded college scholarships, and AB131 allows them to receive taxpayer-funded financial aid such as Cal Grants.
Currently, illegal students who spend at least three years in California high schools pay only the in-state tuition rate — a significant cost savings over legal citizens from other states who are attending California colleges. That benefit was provided by AB540, which passed in 2001.
The AB130/131 sponsor, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, told the committee that while AB540 was a good first step, it does little good for undocumented students who can’t afford the lower rate.
“AB130 puts forth the proposition that we should recognize that there are young men and women in our universities and community colleges that were brought here through no choice of their own,” said Cedillo. “Young men and women who have learned our language, embraced our cultures, our values and made one choice: to work hard, play by the rules and be the best they can be. We are obligated to educate these young men and women. There is no law in this state and nation that says we should punish the children for the acts of the parents.
“The greatness of this nation is that you can come from very challenging circumstances, and within one generation you can transform your life through public education. It’s the great equalizer. California leads the nation in many areas of public policy, AB32 comes to mind. We have a chance to be very progressive about recognizing the immigrant history of this state and nation. Most importantly, to recognize a vision and dream that began with our founding fathers. This is a nation of immigrants. That is the dream and why we are here today.”
Cedillo was backed by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who said that in-state tuition and housing is about $31,000 per year, adding, “UC Berkeley students are some of California’s best and brightest. This includes undocumented students who need our help. This will ensure they can attend UC Berkeley.”
UCLA Vice Chancellor Scott Waugh said that these students have it tougher than other students: “Many overcome everyday obstacles, some have long bus commutes, others sleep on friends’ couches. Despite this, they thrive at UCLA. We strongly believe they will be future leaders of California and our nation if we give them the opportunity.”
One of those students is Anna Gomez, who graduated UC Berkeley with a 3.7 grade point average. She told the committee that she has had to put on hold her plan to attend law school “because of financial difficulties. [Financial aid] would make such a huge difference in the lives of so many people and stop so many people from living a life of despair, and give them a chance to study and hope that they can attend university.”
More than a hundred people voiced support for the bills. But only one, Rowena Donnelly, the granddaughter of a farm worker who legally immigrated to this country, stood up in opposition. She is also the wife of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly R-Twin Peaks, a self-described minuteman who cast one of the two votes against the bills.
Donnelly, who is the Assembly seatmate and a friend of Cedillo, argued against the legislation’s unfairness for California’s beleaguered taxpayers, for those who chose to come here legally and for American citizens in other states who have to pay much higher tuition to attend California colleges.
“You talked about us being a nation of immigrants — you left out that we are also a nation of laws,” said Donnelly to Cedillo. “The problem with AB130 is you are looking to set a precedent that will become an incentive for more people to come here illegally. I’m a huge proponent of legal immigration. With the budget cuts, we are shrinking the number of spots available (in state colleges). The cuts haven’t even started yet – we have $5.5 billion worth of cuts. That means (openings) won’t be available for citizens or members of the military. Using taxpayer funds to essentially cheat citizens of an opportunity at the colleges at a time when that is most needed — people need to be trained for new jobs — I don’t see how this is an appropriate use of funds. Even though the cause may tug at our heart strings.”
The other vote against the bills was cast by Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, who was born in Lebanon to Armenian parents. He legally emigrated to the United States, “where through hard work and perseverance he was able to pursue the American Dream,” he states on his Web site. At Tuesday’s hearing, Achadjian argued that it will do little good for illegal students to graduate from college if they are not legally allowed to get a job afterwards. The focus should instead be on providing citizenship for college graduates, he said.
Addressing Gomez and another student who testified on behalf of the bills, Achadjian said, “If I want to make this country my home, I want to knock on every door to make sure somebody gives me an opportunity. We want you to be a part of our community. I can look at you with all sincerity, but that question does not leave me alone: Why aren’t you trying to become U.S. citizens?” The students were offered an opportunity to respond but declined.
Last November the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the legality of AB540, overturning a lower court ruling. The plaintiffs seeking to overturn AB540 argued that federal immigration law banning post-secondary education benefits for illegal aliens preempts it.
“By making illegal aliens who possess no lawful domicile in the state of California eligible for in-state tuition rates, while denying this benefit to U.S. citizens whose lawful domicile is outside California, the state of California has denigrated U.S. citizenship and placed U.S. citizen plaintiffs in a legally disfavored position compared to that of illegal aliens,” is the way the lower court summed up the anti-AB540 argument.
The California Supreme Court disagreed, ruling, “It cannot be the case that states may never give a benefit to unlawful aliens without giving the same benefit to all American citizens.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who argued the anti-AB540 case, may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In an op-ed he wrote, “It makes no sense to hand this valuable subsidy to illegal aliens when so many U.S. citizens can’t afford to attend college — even at the in-state rates. If we are going to subsidize anyone’s tuition, let’s help out our own citizens before we reward aliens who are breaking federal law by remaining in this country.”
AB130 and AB131 will next go for review by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Cedillo co-authored AB540 and has sponsored numerous unsuccessful bills to allow illegal aliens to have driver’s licenses.
March 21st, 2011
By: Ben Nuckols
Hundreds rallied outside a Virginia Marine Corps base to protest the treatment of an imprisoned Army private suspected of providing classified data to Wikileaks.
About 30 people were arrested today at the rally protesting the pretrial detention of Pfc. Bradley Manning. About two-dozen rallies were held around the world.
Manning is being held in solitary confinement at the Quantico base’s brig. He’s confined to his cell 23 hours a day and forced to strip naked before bed. The military says the conditions of his detention are justified.
Protesters chanted “Free Bradley Manning” and confronted dozens of police officers in riot gear outside the entrance to the base. A short scuffle ensued. The arrests were made after protesters refused to vacate the intersection at the base entrance.
March 21st, 2011
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The U.S. government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001.
News reports in December 2005 first revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been intercepting Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications. Those news reports, plus a USA Today story in May 2006 and the statements of several members of Congress, revealed that the NSA is also receiving wholesale copies of their telephone and other communications records. All of these surveillance activities are in violation of the privacy safeguards established by Congress and the U.S. Constitution.
The evidence also shows that the government did not act alone. EFF has obtained whistleblower evidence [PDF] from former AT&T technician Mark Klein showing that AT&T is cooperating with the illegal surveillance. The undisputed documents show that AT&T installed a fiberoptic splitter at its facility at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco that makes copies of all emails, web browsing, and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers, and provides those copies to the NSA. This copying includes both domestic and international Internet activities of AT&T customers. As one expert observed, “this isn’t a wiretap, it’s a country-tap.”
EFF is fighting these illegal activities on multiple fronts. In Hepting v. AT&T, EFF filed the first case against a telecom for violating its customers’ privacy. In addition, EFF is representing victims of the illegal surveillance program in Jewel v. NSA, a lawsuit filed in September 2008 against the government seeking to stop the warrantless wiretapping and hold the government officials behind the program accountable.
EFF is not alone in this fight. There are multiple cases challenging various parts of the illegal surveillance against both the telecoms and the government. This page collects information on EFF’s cases as well as cases brought by individuals, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and of Illinois, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and others.
March 21st, 2011
By: Kristine Hansen
Fans of organic milk now have a compelling argument for their choice: New evidence says it’s better for you.
There are more unsaturated fats in organic milk than in conventional milk, according to a research team at Newcastle University in Northern England. In addition to containing omega-3 acids, organic milk’s conjugated linoleic acid (also called CLA) has anti-cancer properties and is believed to have many health benefits for the heart. The results of this study were published in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Dairy Science.
The lead author on the study, Gillian Butler, urges Americans to stand up and pay attention because our most of us don’t get nearly enough essential fatty acids. Switching over to organic milk — which is now available at most supermarkets around the country, whether it’s from a local creamery or a larger dairy like Horizon Organic or Organic Valley — could increase your average CLA intake by as much as 40 percent.
And if you have a connection to your local creamery, don’t be afraid to ask when the milk is harvested — the study also found that milk harvested in summer tends to be richer in essential fatty acids. That’s because the cows are eating more fresh grass. In climates like Marin County, where Straus Family Creamery is based, that might not matter so much because snow will never blanket the ground anyway. But if you reside in a region where green grass covers the soil only part of the year, try to find milk harvested during that period for even more of these essential fatty acids.
Was there ever a better reason to go organic?