Daily Archive: 01/26/2013

Jan 26 2013

Random Japan

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Chinese Colonel Explains His Hatred of Japan With Weird Animal Metaphor

Chinese Senior Colonel Liu Mingfu must have just finished watching a nature documentary as he answered questions about China’s territorial disputes, attempting to convey his hatred of Japan through strange animal metaphors.

”America is the global tiger and Japan is Asia’s wolf and both are now madly biting China,” Colonel Liu said, ”Of all the animals, Chinese people hate the wolf the most.”

We’re pretty sure Chinese people don’t have some inexplicable national hatred of wolves. He most likely would have professed his countrymen’s abhorrence of baby pandas if they happened to represent Japan in the metaphor.

Jan 26 2013

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Celery as the Main Event

Pan Cooked Celery with Tomato and Parsley

You always see celery listed as an ingredient in tonic juices and blender drinks. It has long been used in Chinese medicine to help control high blood pressure, which makes sense because it contains phytochemicals called phthalides that reduce stress hormones and work to relax the muscle walls in arteries, increasing blood flow. The vegetable is an excellent source of Vitamins K and C, and a very good source of potassium, folate, dietary fiber, molybdenum, manganese, and Vitamin B6. Another bonus attribute – it is very low in calories. However, it is on the high side as far as sodium goes.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Pan-Cooked Celery With Tomatoes and Parsley

A way to serve celery as a side dish, or as a topping for grains or pasta.

Lentil, Celery and Tomato Minestrone

With extra celery, traditional minestrone soup takes on a whole new layer of flavor.

Celery and Radish Salad With Gorgonzola

Use the delicate hearts of celery for this light and delicious salad.

Celery Risotto With Dandelion Greens or Kale

Celery contrasts nicely with the rice in this aromatic risott

Puréed Broccoli and Celery Soup

A broccoli soup with an added dimension of flavor.

Jan 26 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Robert Reich: The Myth of Living Beyond Our Means

Brace yourself. In coming weeks you’ll hear there’s no serious alternative to cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on middle class, and decimating what’s left of the federal government’s discretionary spending on everything from education and job training to highways and basic research.

We” must make these sacrifices, it will be said, in order to deal with our mushrooming budget deficit and cumulative debt.

But most of the people who are making this argument are very wealthy or are sponsored by the very wealthy: Wall Street moguls like Pete Peterson and his “Fix the Debt” brigade, the Business Roundtable, well-appointed think tanks and policy centers along the Potomac, members of the Simpson-Bowles commission.

Seth Korman: Democrats: Even When They Win, They Don’t Win

There is something both honorable and maddeningly infuriating with the current incarnation of the Democratic Party. Even as it seems to represent the policy preferences a growing majority of Americans, it remains unable to translate this authority into real, political power.

How is it that the increasingly popular Democrats refuse to wield the political cudgel that the voters have placed in their hand, while the increasingly unpopular Republicans have no qualms about pushing radical reforms to maintain a toehold on power?

Margaret Flowers: Top CEOs plan to loot US social programmes

A top CEO plan to curb social programmes will be bad for everyone – except them.

The new recommendations for Social Security and Medicare released by the Business Round Table are beyond belief. It’s as if the people who wrote them never gaze outside of the tinted windows in their limousines.

As I wrote earlier in “Stop Obama’s Grand Charade“, the newest tactic to impose more austerity measures in the US comes from a group of over 80 CEOs who are starting with $60 million to spend on a campaign called “Fix the Debt “. They plan to convince people in the US that not only are cuts to vital programmes necessary, but that such cuts will strengthen them when exactly the opposite is true.

These CEOs are members of the Business Round Table, an elite corporate club that claims to create 7.3 trillion in annual revenues. That gives them a lot of political clout. The real reason for their push to cut spending on important programmes like Social Security and Medicare is so corporate tax rates can be cut further. Of course, they don’t say that. They say things like Social Security and Medicare are running out of money and we must preserve and strengthen them (preserve and strengthen sound eerily like the language we used in 2010 when we were fighting cuts by the Deficit Commission). This push for corporate tax cuts comes although corporate profits have grown by 171 percent during the Obama presidency alone, the highest growth in profits since 1900.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Senator’s Denial of News Story Reflects Deep Resistance to ‘Chained-CPI’ Social Security Cut

Here’s an “Washington insider” story that could affect every family in the country. Congressional newspaper The Hill reported today that Sen. Chuck Schumer was considering using a special parliamentary maneuver to pass a budget deal.  

But this wasn’t just another “inside baseball”story, the kind that fascinates policy wonks and bores all other living beings. This story included an explosive paragraph which seemed to suggest that Schumer, the Senate’s #3 Democrat, was interested in a deal that included the “chained-CPI” cut to Social Security benefits. It also included cryptic language about “Medicare reform,” words that are often used as Beltway code for raising the eligibility age or other drastic benefit reductions to that program. [..]

This is partly the story of a poorly-worded paragraph on a volatile topic. But it’s primarily an economic and political story, not a media one. The fiery response from House progressives and outside groups demonstrates that there is growing and organized resistance to the chained-CPI.The prompt clarification from Schumer’s office, as reported in The Hill, shows that an increasing awareness among leading Democrats that the idea is politically toxic.

David Sirota: The President of Perpetual War

Four years into his presidency, Barack Obama’s political formula should be obvious. He gives fabulous speeches teeming with popular liberal ideas, often refuses to take the actions necessary to realize those ideas and then banks on most voters, activists, reporters and pundits never bothering to notice-or care about-his sleight of hand.

Whether railing on financial crime and then refusing to prosecute Wall Street executives or berating health insurance companies and then passing a health care bill bailing out those same companies, Obama embodies a cynical ploy-one that relies on a celebrity-entranced electorate focusing more on TV-packaged rhetoric than on legislative reality.

Jessica Valenti: Why Ending the Ban on Women in Combat Is Good for All Women

Responding to the news that the Pentagon will lift the ban on women in combat, lawyer and former Marine Ryan Smith made an impassioned argument in The Wall Street Journal for why this new policy is such a bad idea: “It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.” And here I thought those in combat would have bigger concerns than who will see you go number two. [..]

The truth is that women are already dying in service to their country and are already on the frontlines, despite the existing policy.

What lifting the ban on women in combat will really mean is more opportunity for career advancement. The ACLU points out that women will now be eligible for tens of thousands of jobs that were once only available to men.

But perhaps even more importantly, it will start to chip away at the benevolent sexism that clouds our culture and suggests that inequality is just another form of chivalry.

Jan 26 2013

On This Day In History January 26

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 26 is the 26th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 339 days remaining until the end of the year (340 in leap years).

On this day in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip guides a fleet of 11 British ships carrying convicts to the colony of New South Wales, effectively founding Australia. After overcoming a period of hardship, the fledgling colony began to celebrate the anniversary of this date with great fanfare.

Australia Day (previously known as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, and ANA Day) is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland.

Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818. It is presently an official public holiday in every state and territory of Australia and is marked by inductions into the Order of Australia and presentations of the Australian of the Year awards, along with an address from the governor-general and prime minister.

The date is controversial to some Australians, particularly those of Indigenous heritage, leading to the use of alternate names, such as Invasion Day and Survival Day. Proposals have been made to change the date of Australia Day, but these have failed to gain widespread public support.

Arrival of the First Fleet

On 13 May 1787, a fleet of 11 ships, which came to be known as the First Fleet, was sent by the British Admiralty from England to Australia. Under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, the fleet sought to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay on the coast of New South Wales, which had been explored and claimed by Captain James Cook in 1770. The settlement was seen as necessary because of the loss of the colonies in North America. The Fleet arrived between 18 and 20 January 1788, but it was immediately apparent that Botany Bay was unsuitable.

On 21 January, Philip and a few officers travelled to Port Jackson, 12 kilometres to the north, to see if it would be a better location for a settlement. They stayed there until 23 January; Philip named the site of their landing Sydney Cove, after the Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. They also had some contact with the local aborigines.

They returned to Botany Bay on the evening of 23 January, when Philip gave orders to move the fleet to Sydney Cove the next morning, 24 January. That day, there was a huge gale blowing, making it impossible to leave Botany Bay, so they decided to wait till the next day, 25 January. However, during 24 January, they spotted the ships Astrolabe and Boussole, flying the French flag, at the entrance to Botany Bay; they were having as much trouble getting into the bay as the First Fleet was having getting out.

On 25 January, the gale was still blowing; the fleet tried to leave Botany Bay, but only the HMS Supply made it out, carrying Arthur Philip, Philip Gidley King, some marines and about 40 convicts; they anchored in Sydney Cove in the afternoon.

On 26 January, early in the morning, Philip along with a few dozen marines, officers and oarsmen, rowed ashore and took possession of the land in the name of King George III. The remainder of the ship’s company and the convicts watched from onboard the Supply.

Meanwhile, back at Botany Bay, Captain John Hunter of the HMS Sirius made contact with the French ships, and he and the commander, Captain de Clonard, exchanged greetings. Clonard advised Hunter that the fleet commander was Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de La Perouse. The Sirius successfully cleared Botany Bay, but the other ships were in great difficulty. The Charlotte was blown dangerously close to rocks; the Friendship and the Prince of Wales became entangled, both ship losing booms or sails; the Charlotte and the Friendship actually collided; and the Lady Penrhyn nearly ran aground. Despite these difficulties, all the remaining ships finally managed to clear Botany Bay and sail to Sydney Cove on 26 January. The last ship anchored there at about 3 pm.

Note that the formal establishment of the Colony of New South Wales did not occur on 26 January, as is commonly assumed. That did not occur until 7 February 1788, when the formal proclamation of the colony and of Arthur Phillip’s governorship were read out. The vesting of all land in the reigning monarch George III also dates from 7 February 1788.

Jan 26 2013

ROTFLMAO: Tax the Banks to Punish Obama

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Dave Camp Bank Tax Bill Would Punish Obama-Friendly CEOs

by Zach Carter and Ryan Grim, The Huffington Poat

WASHINGTON — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is considering legislation that would significantly increase taxes for the nation’s largest banks while providing tax breaks to struggling homeowners. [..]

The bill would significantly strengthen the Volcker Rule, which bans banks from speculating in securities markets with taxpayer money. The Volcker Rule’s implementation has been delayed as bank lobbyists have flooded regulatory agencies in Washington, pillorying the ban with loopholes. Hefty tax burdens for proprietary trading would reduce bank incentives to engage in the risky activity.

Camp’s legislation also would permanently establish a homeowner aid plan advocated by former Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), who retired this month. When banks grant homeowners mortgage relief, the IRS considers the debt-reduction taxable income. As a result, struggling homeowners can face an unmanageable tax burden. A $50,000 debt reduction can spark an $18,000 tax bill — money that borrowers struggling to avoid foreclosure simply do not have. Miller successfully lobbied to include a one-year fix on the tax policy in the fiscal cliff deal. Camp’s legislation would permanently end the tax policy.

Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog aptly notes that “hell hath no fury like a House Ways and Means committee chairman scorned” but points out Camp’s “big deal” won’t impress the bank lobby:

Camp sent an angry letter to the Business Roundtable a month ago, and now Republicans are saying if there must be new revenue, it should be “on their backs.”

How big a deal is Camp’s bill? I think it’s safe to say the bank lobby won’t be impressed.

   Camp’s new bill would harvest government revenues from complex financial transactions involving derivatives, some of which figured prominently in the 2008 banking collapse. Although the 2010 financial reform legislation would curb some excesses in the derivatives market, the legislation isn’t yet fully implemented, and leaves much of the market unregulated. Financial reform advocates have urged new taxes on derivatives to deter excessive risk-taking by big banks. […]

   Camp’s bill would establish a new tax regime for derivatives, requiring banks to declare the fair market value of the products at the end of each year. Any increase in value would be considered corporate income, subject to taxation. It’s a more aggressive tax treatment than Wall Street enjoys for either derivatives or for trading in more traditional securities. […]

   The bill would significantly strengthen the Volcker Rule, which bans banks from speculating in securities markets with taxpayer money. The Volcker Rule’s implementation has been delayed as bank lobbyists have flooded regulatory agencies in Washington, pillorying the ban with loopholes. Hefty tax burdens for proprietary trading would reduce bank incentives to engage in the risky activity.

How serious is Camp about this? It’s hard to say at this point, though I suspect it’s mostly about posturing and political chest-thumping. Camp wants to send a message that he’s displeased and see this as a vehicle. Even if the committee chair got serious about this, I imagine other Republicans would intervene to stop its progress.

Benen thinks that in the aftermath of Pres. Obama’s reelection the business community see him as “a leader who is going nowhere” but “is reaching out to them.” At the same time they view the Republicans as untrustworthy and increasingly reckless.

But seriously, folks, the Republicans are threatening to tax the banks and help stressed homeowners as a “payback” for supporting Pres. Obama. Oh, please, let them.

ROTFLMAO

Jan 26 2013

A Half Billion Dollar Tax Gift to BioTech Company

Unbeknownst to most of the legislators and public, tucked very neatly in section 632 (pdf) of the “fiscal cliff” bill, was provision that gave the world’s largest biotechnology firm, Amgen, a drug maker that sells a variety of medications, a half billion dollar gift that allows the company to evade Medicare cost-cutting controls by delaying price restraints on a class of drugs used by kidney dialysis patients for two years. Meanwhile in December, Amgen had been fined  $762 million in civil and criminal penalties for illegal marketing of one of its other drugs. This pricing break would wipe out two thirds of those fines.

This undercover handout of taxpayer’s dollars during a so-called “fiscal crisis” was reported in depth by The New York Times investigative reporters, Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack, who also revealed the “architects” of this giveaway, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and that committee’s ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch.

Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.

It also has worked hard to build close ties with the Obama administration, with its lobbyists showing up more than a dozen times since 2009 on logs of visits to the White House, although a company official said Saturday that it had not appealed to the administration during the debate over the fiscal legislation.

The measure flies in the face of attempts to curb the enormous expense of dialysis for the Medicare program by reversing incentives to over-prescribe medication. But that didn’t deter the “three amigos” from sneaking in the provision to their generous benefactor:

Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee’s ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns.

What distinguishes the company’s efforts in Washington is the diversity and intensity of its public policy campaigns. Amgen and its foundation have directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions to influential groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and to lesser-known groups like the Utah Families Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Hatch and brings the senator positive coverage in his state’s news media.

Amgen has sent large donations to Glacier PAC, sponsored by Mr. Baucus in Montana, and OrrinPAC, a political action committee controlled by Mr. Hatch in Utah.

Not surprisingly when the news of this giveaway hit the paper, it enraged a bipartisan group of legislators to repeal this section.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) filed legislation this week to eliminate the exemption for a class of drugs, including Amgen’s Sensipar, that are used by kidney dialysis patients. [..]

“Amgen managed to get a $500-million paragraph in the fiscal-cliff bill and virtually no one in Congress was aware of it,” Welch said. “It’s a taxpayer ripoff and comes at a really bad time when we’re trying to control healthcare costs. Amgen should not be allowed to turn Medicare into a profit center.” [..]

Other co-sponsors of the bill seeking repeal include House Republican Richard Hanna of New York and two House Democrats, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Bruce Braley of Iowa.

Rep. Welch sat down with Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company to discuss Amgen’s “sweetheart deal”



The transcript can be read here

“When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Bill. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.”