“From a business perspective, health reform could not be more critical. Premiums are expected to rise by 20 percent in less than four years, according to research by professors at Harvard University—costing 3.5 million workers their jobs, and cutting insured workers’ average annual incomes by $1,700.
We are entering a critical time during which all of us who will be asked to pay for health-care reform will have to make a choice on whether to support the legislation. This choice will require employer to consider the trade off of agreeing to a coverage mandate and additional taxes versus the promise of reduced health-care cost increases.”—
The Pentagon is considering how it might ease the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law requiring gays to keep quiet about their sexual identity or face expulsion from the military, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
“One of the things we’re looking at is, is there flexibility in how we apply this law,” Gates told reporters aboard a military plane.
The Pentagon boss said he discussed the issue last week with US President Barack Obama and that there also has been discussion among senior military and legal counsel about possible changes in how they apply the law, which he described as “very restrictive.”
“We’re talking about how do we move forward on this, achieve this objective which is changing the policy.”
Gates added: “What I discovered when I got into it was it’s a very restrictive law. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination, or a lot of flexibility.”
The defense secretary said one possible modification might be consider the circumstances under which a service member is “outed” in determining whether or not he or she must leave the military.
Gates offered as an example “when we’re given information from someone with vengeance in mind or blackmail, somebody who has been jilted.
“If somebody is outed by a third party, does that force us to take action?” he said.
“That’s the kind of thing we’re looking at — seeing if there’s a more humane way to apply the law until it gets changed.”
Important to note he says “until it gets changed.” implying that it will be changed, and letting members of Congress know that it should be changed and that he will be on board.
Starting Wednesday, the federal Education Departmentwill begin offering a repayment plan that lets graduates reduce their loan payments, based on their income.
“We know today’s borrowers are concerned about their ability to repay student loans in the current economic environment,” Arne Duncan, the education secretary, said in a statement. “This new plan addresses the issue head-on by giving them the option of a reduced monthly payment tied to their annual income.”
Also on Wednesday, the interest rate on new federal Stafford loans, the most widely used federally guaranteed student loan, will drop to 5.6 percent, from 6 percent. By 2012, the rate will fall to 3.4 percent, under a schedule mandated by Congress.
I worked on passing this legislation when I was in law school, lobbying for the American Bar Association. Check out www.ibrinfo.org for more information.
“Can I complain about the media overload?… Is it unusual to see a story where the analysis and insight of Quincy Jones is given equal weight to that of Corey Feldman?”—Jon Stewart, re: media coverage of Michael Jackson’s death, on The Daily Show (via inothernews)
“Everyone is still in shock over the passing of Michael Jackson, a musical genius whose work will live on for generations. Certainly I’ll always remember where I was… the first 20 times I heard the news.”—Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report (via inothernews)
“Election Night brought what McCain aides saw as the final indignity. Palin decided she would make her own speech at the ticket’s farewell to the faithful, at the Arizona Biltmore, in Phoenix. When aides went to load McCain’s concession speech into the teleprompter, they found a concession speech for Palin—written by Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully, who had also been the principal drafter of her convention speech—already on the system. Schmidt and Salter told Palin that there was no tradition of Election Night speeches by running mates, and that she wouldn’t be giving one. Palin was insistent. “Are those John’s wishes?” she asked. They were, she was told. But Palin took the issue to McCain himself, raising it on the walk from his suite to the outdoor rally. Again the answer was no.”—Todd S. Purdum on Sarah Palin | vanityfair.com (via apsies)
“The data, comprising 1.3 million images, come from a collaboration between the US space agency Nasa and the Japanese trade ministry. The images were taken by Japan’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (Aster) aboard the Terra satellite. The resulting Global Digital Elevation Map covers 99% of the Earth’s surface, and will be free to download and use. The Terra satellite, dedicated to Earth monitoring missions, has shed light on issues ranging from algal blooms to volcano eruptions. For the Aster measurements, local elevation was mapped with each point just 30m apart.”
845 years - Sholam Weiss, 2000 Crime: Wire fraud and money laundering, which led to failure of National Heritage Life Insurance company. Also fled the country but was apprehended. He was convicted of 78 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. Amount: $450 million
740 years - Keith Pound, 2000 Crime: Weiss’ right hand man in the scheme to defraud National Heritage Life Insurance. Amount: $450 million
330 years - Normal Schmidt, 2008 Crime: Led fraudulent high yield investment scheme but actually used the money to buy a castle and eight NASCAR race cars. Amount: $40 million
150 years - Bernie Madoff, 2009 Crime: Led a Ponzi scheme that was the largest investor fraud ever run. Convicted of 11 criminal charges including money laundering and fraud. Amount: $65 billion
100 years - Will Hoover, 2005 Crime: Fraudulent financial advisor. Convicted of 44 counts of racketeering, securities fraud, and theft. Amount: $15.4 million
~10 years - Charles Ponzi, 1922 Crime: The original Ponzi scheme. Charged with larceny by the state of Massachusetts for which he received 3.5 years of prison, was released, and then charged with 86 counts of mail fraud by the Supreme Court. Then he appealed, was freed, started a new scam, and was indicted again, appealed, was feed, started a new scam, and was caught again, finally returning to Massachusetts to serve out his time. Amount: millions
“I believe Don’t Ask Don’t Tell doesn’t contribute to our national security. In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security.”—President Obama (via notthatkindagay)
“It’s just a little fucked up that the asshole who swindled rich people gets 150 years, but most of the assholes who swindled poor people haven’t even lost their jobs. And that’s to say nothing of the assholes staffed by the regulatory bodies whose enormous incompetence enabled Madoff’s crimes, no less members of the administration under whose watch the economy collapsed.”—Melissa McEwan (via ohfortheloveofdog) (via robot-heart-politics)
ezra says: A few weeks ago, Barack Obama’s Organizing for America put out a call for health-care stories from its members. Thousands flooded in. Now they’re online. This one, from Tristan, is particularly brutal:
I had health insurance through my employer after I graduated from college. I was having problems with my stomach, I vomited blood at least once a week. I went to a doctor to get checked out, but was told my insurance did not cover my treatment unless I had a primary care physician approve me for specialized stomach treatment. I tried to find a primary care physician, but the earliest available appointment for any PCP in my town was 8 months away. I never got the appointment, I never got the treatment (remember, I just wanted to be checked out).
I currently live in Japan and am eligible for the National Health Insurance plan here. It costs me approximately $100 a year. I went to get my stomach checked out, and learned that I have Barret’s Esophagus. Though the doctors cannot be sure, there is a chance that if I had been consulted on things I could do myself (diet changes) or given some sort of acid-reducing medicine then my stomach problems could have been controlled before they caused Barret’s Esophagus. Now, I have to live with the understanding that I have one of the leading symptoms for esophageal cancer (10% per patient-year or greater), one of the most deadly cancers known. I’m 27, and now my wife and I are questioning if we should have kids soon. I can’t help but think, “am I going to live to see my kids grow…” I love my home country, but my anger towards what its health care system has done to me is sometimes beyond control.
Stories like this one infuriate me. The senator I work for receives letters like this and it is heartbreaking. We have to do something…
“And after watching a series of scandals unfold, I’ve come to the conclusion that the liberal reaction — that the hypocrisy of the moralizers undermines their cause — just doesn’t come to grips with the conservative worldview. From their point of view the cause, the need to police what people do in bed, is, by definition, right, because it’s literally God-given. So the fact that some of those trying to police what other people do in bed are themselves doing nasty things does not reflect on the cause itself — on the contrary, it shows just how necessary more bed-snooping is. It’s also notable that conservatives are, in practice, more forgiving of their politicians’ sins than liberals. John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer ended their political careers; Ensign and Vitter are still in the Senate, and Newt Gingrich is out there on the Sunday shows, speaking for the GOP. Why? Because where liberals see gross hypocrisy, conservatives see men doing the Lord’s work — which partially excuses their own failings. Liberals think that a man who has an affair is worse if he preaches moral values; conservatives think he’s better. You might say that as they see it, if he interferes with what enough other people do in bed, it doesn’t matter what he does himself.”—Paul Krugman (via azspotrobot-heart-politics)
“I think President Obama has one of the most disciplined minds and styles I’ve ever seen. And I think of my – I exercise every day. I’ve been doing it for umpteen years. I read a book, one every three weeks, I think I’m personally pretty disciplined. This guy is incredibly disciplined. And not only, structured, but his mind is unbelievably disciplined. He goes into a meeting and he’ll have read the brief the night before, and have the crux of his argument written down that he wants to drive that discussion to basic points. And he goes right to either the assumptions, the presumptions of the case. Now, I mean, I loved, as you know, working for President Clinton, who had an unbelievably creative mind. And I think was, for a host of reasons, was a very significant president. I was honored to work for him. Their contexts are different, so while every president has a domestic issue and an international issue, etc., I mean, President Obama has what President Clinton had, but, I don’t want to say, it’s not appropriate to say on steroids, but by a quotient of 10.”—Rahm Emanuel comparing President Obama and President Clinton (via apsies)
Is Richard Dawkins really breeding atheists? Of course, he isn’t. But some writers have slanted their recent reports about the UK kids’ camp to give that impression.
Richard Dawkins is reportedly helping to subsidize a UK version of Camp Quest, designed for children of parents of no faith or any faith. The purpose of the camp is to offer an alternative to religious summer camps where children can learn how to think rather than what to think. It will teach children about evolution and the like. Richard isn’t trying to create atheists - his goal, as he makes abundantly clear all the time, is to raise consciousness and give children the tools to be critical thinkers.
One report, titled “Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists,” leads in with, “Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life.” A bit further in it says “Budding atheists will be given lessons to arm themselves in the ways of rational scepticism.”
Now, anyone who knows anything about Richard Dawkins’ stance on labeling children according to their parents’ religion or lack thereof or political affiliation and the like, knows how insulting and slanted these statements really are. Richard has made it clear in print and video that he abhors the notion of children being identified in such ways.
“I thought, ‘There is nowhere else in the universe I would rather be at this moment. I could count the places I would not rather be. I’ve always wanted to see New Zealand, but I’d rather be here. The majestic ruins of Machu Picchu? I’d rather be here. A hillside in Cuenca, Spain, sipping coffee and watching leaves fall? Not even close. There is nowhere else I could imagine wanting to be besides here in this car, with this girl, on this road, listening to this song. If she breaks my heart, no matter what hell she puts me through, I can say it was worth it, just because of right now. Out the window is a blur and all I can really hear is this girl’s hair flapping in the wind, and maybe if we drive fast enough the universe will lose track of us and forget to stick us somewhere else.’”—
Among the many internet casualties yesterday following news of Michael Jackson’s death was AOL’s Instant Messenger, which suffered forty minutes of outage due to unprecedented levels of traffic. AOL released this statment in response:
Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth. Historically, celebrity news prompts a worldwide outpouring with several key consumer behaviors – searching, sharing and reacting to the news followed by online tributes has become the modern way to mourn. Princess Diana was the first notable Internet example. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett are the latest.
That’s a healthy dose of hyperbole, no doubt, but I think they’re onto something. Consider these other downright staggering statistics:
Google’s architecture had its automatic CAPTCHA security system triggered because the intense traffic spike resembled a distributed denial of service attack
Akamai recorded a 50% increase in internet traffic by 6:30pm
The internet on the whole, if viewed from a baseline of 100% availability, fell to an 86% level of availability
The last time the internet suffered such a massive blow was on Sept. 11, an event which differed from yesterday’s news by virtue of the fact that core components of the underlying network infrastructure were actually damaged in the attack.
What is more striking, though, is that news of the attacks took some time to spread; the entire world didn’t find out at once as it did yesterday. I remember that it wasn’t for a solid hour after the first plane struck that my parents had to panic about their son’s safety. My sister, on her honeymoon at the time, didn’t face that same dread until later in the afternoon. This is despite the fact that in the case of Sept. 11 an actual event took place with actual eyewitnesses and tangible evidence, as compared to yesterday’s unverifiable scoop on TMZ.com.
And I think this is why AOL was actually quite on point with their hyperbole: the entire world learned about Jackson’s death at exactly the same moment. In terms of communication, information, knowledge, and shared experiences, the event which occured yesterday at 5:40pm unfolded with a higher degree of instantaneity than has ever been witnessed before in human history. Time and space have never been more fully compressed.
While I should probably find this all very heartwarming and launch into some congratulatory thesis about the “information revolution” bringing us all closer together, I’m afraid it all just strikes me as deeply unsettling. Humanity decided yesterday, in the most cooperative, collaborative, and collective decision that it has ever made, that Michael Jackson was the figure who would sit at the center of this “seminal moment in history”.
As horror looks you right between the eyes, indeed.
“The reason we generally like markets is that the profit incentive spurs useful innovations. But in some markets, that’s not the case. We don’t allow a bustling market in heroin, for instance, because we don’t want a lot of innovation in heroin creation, packaging and advertising. Are we really sure we want a bustling market in how to cleverly revoke the insurance of people who prove to be sickly?”—Ezra Klein - The Truth About the Insurance Industry (via sexartandpolitics)
The rest of the world is about to kick this country right where it counts when it decides to go off the dollar as the reserve currency, and you want to spend five minutes over the fact that Sanford was cheating on his wife?