August 5, 2010
The number of Americans who are receiving food stamps rose to a record 40.8 million in May as the jobless rate hovered near a 27-year high, the government reported yesterday.
Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases jumped 19 percent from a year earlier and increased 0.9 percent from April, the US Department of Agriculture said in a statement on its website.
Participation has set records for 18 straight months.
Unemployment in July may have reached 9.6 percent, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts in advance of the Aug. 6 release of last month’s rate. Unemployment was 9.5 percent in June, near levels last seen in 1983.
An average of 40.5 million people, more than an eighth of the population, will get food stamps each month in the year that began Oct. 1, according to White House estimates.
The figure is projected to rise to 43.3 million in 2011.
August 5, 2010
By: Paul McDougall
Despite President Obama’s pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $36 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia.
Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent’s low labor costs.
Under director Rajiv Shah, the United States Agency for International Development will partner with private outsourcers in Sri Lanka to teach workers there advanced IT skills like Enterprise Java (Java EE) programming, as well as skills in business process outsourcing and call center support. USAID will also help the trainees brush up on their English language proficiency. USAID is contributing about $10 million to the effort, while its private partners are investing roughly $26 million.
“To help fill workforce gaps in BPO and IT, USAID is teaming up with leading BPO and IT/English language training companies to establish professional IT and English skills development training centers,” the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, said in a statement posted Friday on its Web site.
“Courses in Business Process Outsourcing, Enterprise Java, and English Language Skills will be offered at no charge to over 3,000 under- and unemployed students who will then participate in on-the-job training schemes with private firms,” the embassy said.
USAID is also partnering with Sri Lankan companies in other industries, including construction and garment manufacturing, to help create 10,000 new jobs in the country, which is still recovering from a 30-year civil war that ended in 2009.
But it’s the outsourcing program that’s sure to draw the most fire from critics. While Obama acknowledged that occupations such as garment making don’t add much value to the U.S. economy, he argued relentlessly during his presidential run that lawmakers needed to do more to keep hi-tech jobs in IT, biological sciences, and green energy in the country.
He also accused the Bush administration of creating tax loopholes that made it easier for U.S. companies to place work offshore in low-cost countries.
As recently as Monday, Obama, speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Atlanta, boasted about his efforts to reduce offshoring. The President said he’s implemented “a plan that’s focused on making our middle class more secure and our country more competitive in the long run — so that the jobs and industries of the future aren’t all going to China and India, but are being created right here in the United States of America.”
Obama in January tapped Shah to head USAID. At the time of his appointment, Shah—whose experience in the development community included senior positions at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—said the organization needed to focus more on helping developing nations build technology-based economies. “We need to develop new capabilities to pursue innovation, science, and technology,” said Shah, during his swearing in ceremony.
Sri Lanka’s outsourcing industry is nascent, but growing as it begins to scoop up work from neighboring India.
In addition to homegrown firms, it’s attracting investment from Indian outsourcers looking to expand beyond increasingly expensive tech hubs like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. In 2007, consultants at A.T. Kearney listed the country as 29th on their list of the top 50 global outsourcing destinations.
July 14, 2010
By: Gary Stoller
Opposition to new full-body imaging machines to screen passengers and the government’s deployment of them at most major airports is growing.
Many frequent fliers complain they’re time-consuming or invade their privacy. The world’s airlines say they shouldn’t be used for primary security screening. And questions are being raised about possible effects on passengers’ health.
“The system takes three to five times as long as walking through a metal detector,” says Phil Bush of Atlanta, one of many fliers on USA TODAY’s Road Warriors panel who oppose the machines. “This looks to be yet another disaster waiting to happen.”
The machines — dubbed by some fliers as virtual strip searches — were installed at many airports in March after a Christmas Day airline bombing attempt. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has spent more than $80 million for about 500 machines, including 133 now at airports. It plans to install about 1,000 by the end of next year.
The machines are running into complaints and questions here and overseas:
•The International Air Transport Association, which represents 250 of the world’s airlines, including major U.S. carriers, says the TSA lacks “a strategy and a vision” of how the machines fit into a comprehensive checkpoint security plan. “The TSA is putting the cart before the horse,” association spokesman Steve Lott says.
•Security officials in Dubai said this month they wouldn’t use the machines because they violate “personal privacy,” and information about their “side effects” on health isn’t known.
•Last month, the European Commission said in a report that “a rigorous scientific assessment” of potential health risks is needed before machines are deployed there. It also said screening methods besides the new machines should be used on pregnant women, babies, children and people with disabilities.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office said in October that the TSA was deploying the machines without fully testing them and assessing whether they could detect “threat items” concealed on various parts of the body. And in March, the office said it “remains unclear” whether they would have detected the explosives that police allege Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate on a jet bound for Detroit on Christmas.
TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee says the agency completed testing at the end of last year and is “highly confident” in the machines’ detection capability. She also says their use hasn’t slowed screening at airports and that the agency has taken steps to ensure privacy and safety.
The TSA is deploying two types of machines that can see underneath clothing. One uses a high-speed X-ray beam, and the other bounces electromagnetic waves off a passenger’s body.
Passengers can refuse screening by the machines and receive a pat-down search by a security officer, screening by a metal detector, or both, the TSA says.
July 8, 2010
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called the United States a global dictator and lashed out at Israel after arriving in Nigeria to meet fellow Muslim leaders at a summit.
“They are the self-proclaimed leaders and everybody should know that self-proclaimed leadership is dictatorship,” Ahmadinejad, referring to the United States, told an audience of hundreds at the Iranian embassy in Abuja.
“The era of dictatorship is over,” he added through an official translator.
The Iranian leader, whose country was recently hit with new sanctions by Western nations over its nuclear programme, said “the occupiers … should dismantle their evil forces from the face of earth.”
Ahmadinejad’s appearance in the West African country, where Muslims make up an estimated half of the 150 million population, drew a rapturous welcome from the crowd, which chanted “Nigerians support Iran.”
“We are going to put an end to the suffering of the people of Palestine,” he said. “The Palestinian refugees will return to their homeland … soon we are going to celebrate our victory.”
New UN sanctions were slapped on Iran last month, and both the United States and the European Union later took additional measures against Tehran unilaterally.
Western governments suspect Iran’s nuclear programme is cover for a weapons drive, something Tehran has repeatedly denied, insisting it is aimed solely at power generation and medical research.
Ahmadinejad was in Nigeria to attend a one-day summit of the Developing Eight (D-8) group on Thursday in Abuja.
The Istanbul-based D-8 groups Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, with a total population of 930 million people.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul also arrived in Abuja Wednesday for the summit, raising the possibility that damaged relations between Turkey and Israel following a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships will be examined.
The D-8 was established in 1997 to promote economic ties and solidarity among member states.
June 30, 2010
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Doctors from Cambridge University are testing a technique that they believe may functionally cure people who suffer from inconvenient and dangerous peanut allergies, researcher Andrew Clark announced at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.
Clark and colleagues have had success in a pilot study of their technique, which involves giving children slowly increasing doses of peanut flour. They emphasized that trials are only in an early stage, however, and that people should not try the technique at home without the supervision of a doctor.
More than 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from peanut or other tree nut allergies, and the number appears to be rising. These allergies can be so severe that exposure to even trace amounts can send some sufferers into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, in which their air passages close up and make it impossible to breathe.
June 17, 2010
Spending on biking and walking projects rose from less than $600 million (£407 million) in 2008, according to the Federal Highway Administraion. Twenty years ago, the federal government was spending only $6 million a year on such projects.
The spending on biking and walking projects was scheduled to rise last year anyway, but the administration boosted it with $400 million in funds set aside under the economic recovery program.
The new focus on biking and walking represents a turnaround from the administration of President George W Bush. Mary Peters, transportation secretary under Bush, dismissed biking paths and trails as projects that “really are not transportation,” saying they had no place in federal transportation policy.
June 17, 2010
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Antidepressant use more than doubled in the United States between 1996 and 2005, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Columbia and University of Pennsylvania and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“Significant increases in antidepressant use were evident across all sociodemographic groups examined, except African Americans,” the researchers wrote. “Not only are more U.S. residents being treated with antidepressants, but also those who are being treated are receiving more antidepressant prescriptions.”
The number of people being treated with antidepressants increased from 13 million in 1996 to 27 million in 2005, rising from 6 percent to 10 percent of the population. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were given out in 2008, generating $9.8 billion for pharmaceutical companies.
June 10, 2010
By S.L. Baker
(NaturalNews) Of the 35 million Americans who are age 65 or older, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) claims about 7 million of them suffer from clinical depression — and millions are on the prescription antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro and Zoloft. Hyped by Big Pharma as the way to solve depression problems in all age groups, these medications come with a litany of serious side effects, including some that are particularly dangerous for elders.
For example, a University of Minnesota study found SSRIs increase the rate of bone loss in older men and women. And now there’s even more reason for seniors to be wary of taking SSRIs. New research just published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, concludes taking these antidepressants substantially raises the risk of sight-threatening cataracts.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. In fact, as cataracts progress, they can cause enough deterioration of eyesight that surgery is needed to remove them. Although cataracts are common in older people, there are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of actually developing the eye problem, including exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and heavy alcohol consumption. And now you can add taking SSRIs to that list.
May 27, 2010
My Fox New York
MYFOXNY.COM – New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is reportedly pitching a plan for an increased “millionaire’s tax” aimed at 75-85 thousand New Yorkers making $1 million or more a year.
Political columnist Fred Dicker , who appeared on Wednesday’s Good Day New York, says Silver secretly proposed a $1 billion tax hike on the highest income earners to Gov. Paterson.
May 27, 2010
By Alyssa Giacobbe
(May 25) — In January, when a magnitude-7.0 earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 Haitians and left more than a million others homeless, Hollywood shed a collective, well-choreographed tear, then banded together like a Christopher Guest cast to help put the country back together. The tabloids kept track of the most generous celebrities, noting that Brangelina and Sandra Bullock each donated $1 million, while others, like Sean Penn, decamped to Haiti to work directly on refugee efforts. In perhaps the most visible celebrity relief effort, George Clooney hosted a star-studded telethon that featured performances by Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and, obviously, Bono.
Yet as hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil continue to leak into and spread out across the Gulf of Mexico each day, Hollywood has seemed largely unmoved by the BP oil spill, which is creating its own long list of need: Eleven workers died in the accident that led to the leak, and scientists have so far tallied an animal fatality count of 23 birds, 156 sea turtles and 12 dolphins, numbers that are expected to rise (countless more will simply sink to the ocean floor, undiscovered). Thousands of fishermen are abruptly out of work, and it may take decades for the gulf ecosystem to recover. All in all, most experts say the damage here will eclipse that of 1989′s catastrophic Exxon Valdez spill, which dumped 11 million gallons into Alaska’s Prince William Sound and cost the company nearly $4 billion.
So what gives? Where are the photos of Lady Gaga in waders? Does Clooney have something against tuna?