Friday, May 31, 2013

Japan Cancels GMO Wheat Order After Concerns Over U.S. Grain Developed By Monsanto

By Naveen Thukral and Risa Maed

SINGAPORE/TOKYO, May 30 (Reuters) - A strain of genetically modified wheat found in the United States fuelled concerns over food supplies across Asia on Thursday, with major importer Japan cancelling a tender offer to buy U.S. grain.

Other top Asian wheat importers South Korea, China and the Philippines said they were closely monitoring the situation after the U.S. government found genetically engineered wheat sprouting on a farm in the state of Oregon.

The strain was never approved for sale or consumption.

Asian consumers are keenly sensitive to gene-altered food, with few countries allowing imports of such cereals for human consumption. However, most of the corn and soybean shipped from the U.S. and South America for animal feed is genetically modified.
"We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today," Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading, told Reuters.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday said the wheat variety was developed years ago by biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. It was never put into use because of worldwide opposition to genetically engineered wheat.

Wheat, long known as the staff of life, is the world's largest traded food commodity and it is used in making breads, pastries, cookies, breakfast cereal and noodles.

Asia imports more than 40 million tonnes of wheat annually, almost a third of the global trade of 140-150 million tonnes. The bulk of the region's supplies come from the United States, the world's biggest exporter, and Australia, the No. 2 supplier.

The USDA said there was no sign that genetically engineered wheat had entered the commercial market, but grain traders warned the discovery could hurt export prospects for U.S. wheat.

"Asian consumers are jittery about genetically modified food," said Abah Ofon, an analyst at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. "This is adding to concerns that already exist on quality and availability of food wheat globally."

In 2006, a large part of the U.S. long-grain rice crop was contaminated by an experimental strain from Bayer CropScience, prompting import bans in Europe and Japan and sharply lowering market prices. The company agreed in court in 2011 to pay $750 million to growers as compensation.

BUYERS CAUTIOUS, SEEK DETAILS

A major flour miller in China, which has been stocking U.S. wheat in recent months, said importers will tread carefully.

China has emerged as a key buyer of U.S. wheat this year, taking around 1.5 million tonnes in the past two months. Chinese purchases in the year to June 2014 are estimated to rise 21 percent to 3.5 million tonnes, according to the USDA, with most shipments coming from the United States, Australia and Canada.

Japan's Hisadome said the government has asked U.S. authorities to provide more details of their investigation and Japan will stop buying the wheat concerned, at least until a test kit is developed to identify genetically modified produce.

There is no U.S.-approved test kit to identify genetically engineered wheat. The USDA has said it is working on a "rapid test" kit.

The Philippines, which buys about 4 million tonnes of wheat a year and relies mainly on U.S. supplies, is waiting for more details from the USDA before acting, an industry official in Manila said.

An agriculture ministry source in South Korea said the government is reviewing the discovery, adding the country thoroughly inspects products from the United States as part of safety checks.

"I won't be surprised if other countries start cancelling or reducing their purchases of U.S. wheat, particularly Asian countries, putting pressure on wheat demand," said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

The benchmark Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures eased half a percent on Thursday after rallying in the previous session.

Genetically modified crops cannot be grown legally in the United States unless the government approves them after a review to ensure they pose no threat to the environment or to people.

Monsanto entered four strains of glyphosate-resistant wheat for U.S. approval in the 1990s but there was no final decision by regulators because the company decided there was no market.

The St. Louis-based firm downplayed the incident in a statement posted on its website. "While USDA's results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited," it said.

Still, importers are not in a position to shun wheat from the United States, which accounts for about a fifth of the global supplies, analysts and industry officials said. (Additional reporting by Karl Plume in CHICAGO, Niu Shuping in Beijing, Erik dela Cruz in MANILA, Jane Chung in SEOUL and Yayat Supriatna in JAKARTA; Editing by Amran Abocar and Richard Pullin)

Also on HuffPost

**Another warning for Americans.  Other countries do not buy our meat and other products because they are genetically modified, shot full of steroids… Frankenfood, yet most Americans don’t even realize that this is what they are eating, the possible side effects and that they are being fed my Monsanto, not America’s family farms.

Related:

Obama appoints Monsanto's vice president Michael Taylor as senior adviser to the commissioner at the FDA...

Would you vote for a food bill Monsanto supports?

Frankenfood, Coming Soon to a Store Near You?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Oldest Vet At 107 To Enjoy Memorial Day With Cigars And Whiskey

From-Visiting-The-WWII-Memorial-To-Smoking-Cigars-Richard-Overton-Is-Ready-For-Memorial-Day[1]

[Image via Scott D. Welch]

Inquisitr: Richard Arvine Overton is the oldest vet at 107-years-old, and he is spending his Memorial Day relaxing at home, though he may enjoy himself a little bit in the process. The World War II veteran plans on enjoying a few cigars and possibly even diving into some whiskey to remember the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Overton told FoxNews.com over the phone that he’ll more than likely spend the day on his porch in Austin, Texas, while enjoying a nice cigar.

“I don’t know, some people might do something for me, but I’ll be glad just to sit down and rest,” Overton said during his phone interview with FoxNews.com. “I’m no young man no more.”

Overton was recently recognized by the city of Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell on May 9th and he even made a stop in Washington, D.C., on May 19th to visit the memorial sites with Honor Flight, a non-profit organization that transports veterans across the nation to visit specific memorials.

This was Overton’s first time in the nation’s capital, and though he served the United States proudly throughout his time in the armed forces, America’s oldest vet at 107 believes the wait was well worth it.

“I was really honored when I got there,” Overton said about visiting the World War II Memorial a week ago. “There were so many people, it was up in the thousands. And we danced and we jumped … them people tickled me to death. It made me happy as can be.”

Overton’s service ended in October of 1945, and he’s been living a simple life ever since, though he credits his longevity to taking aspirin daily while maintaining a stress-free lifestyle. As he approaches another Memorial Day, Overton has decided to enjoy the finer things in life, and maybe a little whiskey to liven things up a bit.

“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” he added. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”

Richard Overton is truly an unsung hero that represents the hard work and dedication it takes to serve the country, and there aren’t many people out there who have a spirit like the oldest vet. At 107-year-old, whiskey and a few cigars may just be the perfect way to kick back and relax on Memorial Day while remembering all the courageous men and women he served with.

Related:

The Touching Feature on a WWII Vet Who Spent 47 Hours Floating in Shark-Infested Water

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

The Price of Freedom

Senator Ted Cruz: Honoring Our Heroes this Memorial Day

Palins at Indy 500 Checkered-Flag Festivities

Memorial Day Weekend Entertainment – 2013

Tech Industry Writer: What Veterans Day Means To Me

1st national monument for war dogs honors four-legged pup soldiers of World War II and beyond

Patriotic Memorial Day Pet Photos

Alzheimer’s: Tips to make holidays more enjoyable

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Alzheimer's: Tips to make holidays more enjoyable

Holidays can be bittersweet for families affected by Alzheimer's. Try these simple tips to make the holidays less disruptive and more pleasant for everyone.

By Mayo Clinic staff

If you're like many who are caring for a loved one with dementia, the holiday season may not feel so merry. Memories of better times may surface as reminders of what you've lost or what has changed. At a time when you believe you should be happy, you may instead find that stress, disappointment and sadness prevail.

At the same time, you may think that you should live up to expectations of family traditions and how things ought to be. As a caregiver, it isn't realistic to think that you will have the time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did.

Yet, by adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions, you can still find meaning and joy for you and your family. Here are some ideas.

Keep it simple at home

If you're caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer's at home:

  • Make preparations together. If you bake, your loved one may be able to participate by measuring flour, stirring batter or rolling dough. You may find it meaningful to open holiday cards or wrap gifts together. Remember to concentrate on the process, rather than the result.
  • Tone down your decorations. Blinking lights and large decorative displays can cause disorientation. Avoid lighted candles and other safety hazards, as well as decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats — such as artificial fruits.
  • Host quiet, slow-paced gatherings. Music, conversation and meal preparation all add to the noise and stimulation of an event. Yet for a person who has Alzheimer's, a calm and quiet environment usually is best. Keep daily routines in place as much as possible and, as needed, provide your loved one a place to rest during family get-togethers.

Be practical away from home

If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other facility:

  • Celebrate in the most familiar setting. For many people who have Alzheimer's, a change of environment — even a visit home — can cause anxiety. Instead of creating that disruption, consider holding a small family celebration at the facility. You might also participate in holiday activities planned for the residents.
  • Minimize visitor traffic. Arrange for a few family members to drop in on different days. Even if your loved one isn't sure who's who, two or three familiar faces are likely to be welcome, while nine or 10 people may be overwhelming.
  • Schedule visits at your loved one's best time of day. People who have Alzheimer's tire easily, especially as the disease progresses. Your loved one may appreciate morning and lunchtime visitors more than those in the afternoon or evening.

Care for yourself

Consider your needs, as well as those of your loved one. To manage your expectations of yourself:

  • Pick and choose. Decide which holiday activities and traditions are most important, and focus on those you enjoy. Remember that you can't do it all.
  • Simplify. Bake fewer cookies. Buy fewer gifts. Don't feel pressured to display all of your holiday decorations or include a handwritten note with each holiday card. Ask others to provide portions of holiday meals.
  • Delegate. Remember family members and friends who've offered their assistance. Let them help with cleaning, addressing cards and shopping for gifts. Ask if one of your children or a close friend could stay with your loved one while you go to a holiday party.

Trust your instincts

As a caregiver, you know your loved one's abilities best. You also know what's most likely to agitate or upset your loved one. Resist pressure to celebrate the way others may expect you to. Remember, you can't control the progress of Alzheimer's or protect your loved one from all distress — but by planning and setting firm boundaries, you can avoid needless holiday stress and enjoy the warmth of the season.

Related:

Part One: Researchers race to beat scourge of aging

Part Three: Burden of illness often heaviest for caregivers

Diagnosis & Treatment of Mild to Moderate Alzheimer's Disease

UCLA on Alzheimer's Disease - young or old should read

Alzheimer’s Disease - Caregiver Tips

Final Stages of Alzheimer’s

Advances for Alzheimer's, Outside the Lab

Warning Signs: A New Test to Predict Alzheimer's

Super Spice Secrets: Can This Miracle Spice Stop Cancer, Alzheimer's and Arthritis?

Drinking Coffee Slashes Risk of Alzheimer’s

Stop Using 'Natural' Deodorants Until You Read This

Alzheimer’s Disease and Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Pet Therapy

Animals Helping the Ailing, the Elderly, and the Young

Pets are way better than Therapy!

Low-Carb Diet May Slow Alzheimer’s Disease

Final Stages of Alzheimer’s

Activities for Alzheimer’s Patients

7 Alzheimer's Triggers by Dr. Blaylock – definitely worth listening to!!

Find Dementia Care

Games for Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's Homes

Buttered Popcorn Flavoring Linked to Alzheimer’s

Stop Using 'Natural' Deodorants Until You Read This

Warning Signs: A New Test to Predict Alzheimer's

Super Spice Secrets: Can This Miracle Spice Stop Cancer, Alzheimer's and Arthritis?

The Secret; Care Givers are the ‘Silent’ Boss

The Hoax at the Bottom of Autism and Alzheimer’s

Remember 'The Girls' - Views by Ann Hood

Alzheimer's patients follow different paths to a final debilitation

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend Health Safety Tip Reminders

watermelon lion

watermelon lion

For many families, picnics and backyard barbecues top the list for planned activities on Memorial Day weekend. While enjoying your outdoor festivities here are some tips:

Practice safe grilling habits by keeping charcoal lighter fluid out of young children's reach, as swallowing lighter fluid can lead to serious poisoning for toddlers. When finished using lighter fluid, immediately return it to a storage space that is up high, out of sight and out of reach – preferably in a locked cabinet. If a child swallows lighter fluid, immediately wipe off any fluid on the exposed skin. Do not make the child vomit. Ipecac syrup should never be used for this type of poisoning emergency. Immediately call the Poison Control Center. Charcoal lighter fluid can cause serious or potentially life-threatening chemical pneumonia. The substance can enter the lungs when the child tries to swallow or vomit. If an adult or child has difficulty breathing after swallowing any poison, especially charcoal lighter fluid, call 911 immediately.

While picnicking, keep such perishable foods as ham, potato or macaroni salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, lunch meat, cooked beef or chicken, deviled eggs, and custard or cream pies in an ice chest. Put leftovers back in the ice chest as soon as you finish eating. When possible, store the ice chest in the passenger area of the car during the trip, as it stays cooler than when in the trunk.

When hiking or camping, be aware of your surroundings; many areas have poisonous snakes and spiders. Most snake bites occur when people handle snakes or when they stick their hands down holes or under logs and unknowingly touch a snake.

If you are in an isolated area when bitten by a snake, proceed slowly to a vehicle. Moving slowly will keep the heart rate low and help prevent the venom from spreading. Drive to the nearest hospital. If you are alone and unable to drive, call 911 or have someone else call 911 and let that person drive you to the hospital. If bitten by a spider, call the Poison Control Center right away.

Using insect repellents can help deal with such uninvited guests as mosquitoes and ticks. However, it is very important to follow the label's directions. Repellents containing a 10 to 30 percent concentration of DEET are safe for use on children 3 months of age and older. Spray the repellent on your hands and then apply it to the exposed areas on your child. Be careful not to apply the repellent around the eyes or mouth.

For bee stings, remove the bee's stinger by scraping it out with the edge of a plastic card or blunt instrument. Do not squeeze the stung area; it can cause the stinger to release more venom. Wash the area with soap and water. Immediately apply ice wrapped in a cloth for 10 to 15 minutes. Remember that ice applied directly to skin can cause damage to sensitive tissue. If a person is having difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, swelling or itching eyes, or other symptoms of an allergic reaction, call 911 immediately.

If taking pets, also be aware of added stress on animals on busy and holiday types of weekends. See: Holiday Weekend Pet Safety.

Have a safe Memorial Day Weekend and safe summer season!!~

image

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Obamacare Produces Pain and Chaos by Design

EIB/Rush: BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Here's Denise in Trenton, Michigan, as we head back to the phones.  Welcome to the Rush Limbaugh program.  Hi.

CALLER:  Hey, Rush.  My question is pretty simple, but I also want to ask, you talked to somebody on Tuesday, it was a guy, I know you'll remember him, he worked two part-time jobs and he had a one-year-old and he talked about how he can't get benefits. And you had told him that you had hope to give him, and you talked about a time where there were people in like their fifties and stuff, and they had to go back and they basically lost their jobs, and they did what they really wanted to do.

RUSH:  Right.

CALLER:  And I just hope he's listening today, 'cause I was on the phone with you on hold saying, "Please take my call so I can tell him."  It was true then, and it's true now.  That's what we're doing.  That's what our family is doing, 'cause of course thanks to Obama and his infinite wisdom, I went through the same thing and lost two of my jobs, and I'm back in school and I'm gonna do what I want to do.  And I just want your guy -- I hope he hears this because anybody can do it, and you are who you are not because of who they let you be, but because of you.  He has to do what you said and follow his passion, because --

RUSH:  That's a good point.  It really is.  Just to recap, I remember the guy.  He was working two jobs because he had been downsized because of Obamacare.  He'd been reduced in both jobs to part-time status, so he'd lost his benefits. Even though with two jobs he had the equivalent of a full-time job, he didn't have any benefits, and health care, particularly, was gone.  He didn't know what he was gonna do.  He was from Asheville, North Carolina, and I told him, "You know, even true today, most of the limitations that people face are self-imposed."  And I asked him, "Are you willing to move to pursue your dream?"  He said, "Yeah."

Okay, well, that's the big one.  Once you're willing to move you're really over a hump, but if you're not gonna leave Asheville, then you have to realize your potential is dictated by what Asheville has, what there is to do there job-wise, career-wise, or what have you.  But the point that I made that you recounted here that's really worth it, all these guys in the nineties laid off in their middle ages, fifties, white-collar guys, could not get rehired at the salaries that they were earning.  So what they did late in life was start businesses with the things they really loved and always wanted to do but had never done.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Now, one thing from our last caller.  The caller she was talking about was Andy from Asheville, North Carolina.  This is worth repeating.  He was downsized in two jobs, so he had a full-time workweek with two jobs. So he was part time in two jobs, did not have any benefits as a result. He was been downsized in both jobs because of health care. The companies where he worked converted him to part-time status so that they would not have to provide him health care coverage, and that's common and it's happening with greater frequency and will increase its occurrences as more companies realize what they have to do to be complicit with Obamacare.

If they want to stay in business they're gonna have to let people go.  If they want to stay in business they're gonna have to convert people to part time.  They're gonna have to reduce their hours and they're gonna have to reduce their benefits.  No, that's not the spirit of Obamacare at all.  In fact, Obamacare officials are shocked and stunned that this is happening.  Actual people in the government can't believe this.  They thought that the health care experience in America would be, as they said, enriched because of Obamacare.  They're just a bunch of political lug heads who accept the flawed premise and promises of liberalism.  And because they're good people and because they've put the program together, it's magically gonna work.  Never does.

(interruption)

I was just asked if they just discount all the articles that point out how it's not being implemented as it was designed.  'Cause it isn't a surprise.  It isn't a surprise that business is doing this.  Everybody that paid any attention, had any smarts at all, knew exactly what businesses were gonna have to do in order to stay in business once this thing started to be implemented.  And so the question is, don't these guys in government -- how do they not know this?  Don't they read these stories?  I don't know.  Maybe they don't read them.  But more likely they do and just discount what they're reading.  They do.  They think it's all right-wing propaganda, no matter where it runs.

All of these forecasts, Obamacare not working, all of these stories of companies downsizing, they just think that's evil business profit-taking.  These people in the government who really thought that Obamacare and even do still think Obamacare is gonna lower costs and expand coverage, and when it doesn't happen, what do they think?  They think that evil CEOs are being greedy and they're just laying people off using the excuse of Obamacare, but all they're doing is hoarding money and building bigger houses for themselves and buying nicer cars while they're firing or laying people off.  That's what they think.  They think that all of this is right wing conspiratorial activity designed to harm Obama.  When they read these stories -- look, try this one.  This is from the Washington Examiner but this is just a repeat of an LA Times story.

"UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest private insurer, will not participate in California’s Obamacare health exchange, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. Health insurance giants Aetna and Cigna will also opt out of Covered California, the state agency charged with implementing Obamacare. All three insurers will still provide health insurance through large employers in the state," but they're not going to participate in the Obamacare exchanges.

"Kaiser Permanente, the largest health insurer in California, will work with Covered California, as will Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California. Together, these two companies already control 87 percent of the state’s individual health insurance market. That number will only go up as UnitedHealth, Aetna and Cigna drop out of the individual market entirely. Market consolidation and decreased consumer choice is exactly what some supporters of Obamcare hoped would happen all along."

This is my point.  As UnitedHealth pulls out, as Cigna pulls out, as Aetna pull out, what does that mean?  It means consumers have fewer choices.  That's the design.  The people that really thought about this at the government, the Obamacare people, the people that really put this together with their ultimate aim in mind, intended all of this.  They intended for it to be too big, too unworkable, and too expensive.  They intended for all of these companies, be they businesses or insurance companies, to pull out, to not insure people, they intended this.  That's why the fines for not having insurance in the first couple years are very cheap.

The fines for not having a policy cost much less than having a policy. They want people to not have the policy. They want people to pay the fine. They want to upset the market and create a mess -- and, then to clean up the mess, they want everybody just to finally say, "You know what? You know what would fix this? Single payer! Just have the government do it. To hell with Aetna, to hell with Cigna, to hell with United Health, to hell with private insurance. Just have the government do it."

That will be the solution.

It's not me saying so. Obama said this in 2007 in a speech to the Service Employees International Union. We've played the audio of that speech on this program I don't know how many times where he said to 'em, "I know you want single payer. I want single payer, too. But we can't get there overnight. It's gonna take 10, maybe 15 years. People are going to have  to be slowly conditioned to it and ultimately it's going to have to be the only option available. That's how we'll get it done."

Because people don't want that. Obama knows it. He knew it in 2007; he knows it today. He's governing against the will of the people. People do not want single-payer, government-run health care. They don't want Obamacare. Still, the numbers are 60%. But the people in the regime who believe in this, who think that all of this is the perfect solution to our health care problems, they'll read a story here. They'll read this LA Times story: United Health, Aetna, Cigna pulling out.

They will tell themselves that the people running these companies are just a bunch of greedy Republicans trying to screw Obama. Everything is political to them, and there is no legitimacy in capitalism, and therefore no capitalistic entity is legitimate. They're all cheats, liars. They're all frauds. "Capitalism is unfair. Capitalism is what the 1% use to stay the 1%, and they got to be the 1% by taking everything from everybody else!"

So if you start out from the standpoint that there's nothing legitimate about free markets, if there's nothing legitimate in capitalism, and you read a story like this (and you know how mean and nasty Republicans are), well, you're just gonna assume that the people running these companies are Republicans and hate Obama and they're trying to screw up his grand plan. Then, at some point, they realize what's going on. That's when you get the stories, "Yeah, we really thought it was gonna lower costs!

"We really thought it was going to enrich health care experience for people." The cookie-cutter liberal, the standard operating procedure liberal is really a giant ignoramus. I mean that seriously. They're really ignorant. They are so politically oriented, and they are so arrogant and condescending -- and they have such solid boundaries built around themselves -- that the truth of anything doesn't permeate. The only truth is what they believe and what they think, including all of their biases and all of their prejudices.

Those things are truth. Anything outside their believability system, outside the cocoon, is a conspiracy designed to undercut them or destroy Obama -- or it's just a bunch of right-wing kooks. That's the challenge. That's why there's no working with these people. There isn't any point in bipartisanship. There is no area of commonality. We don't have anything in common with these people. That's why, in my mind, politically they're to be defeated. The problem is we usually do. They are a minority.

We're just being governed by a minority. It's made to look like the majority because of their never-ending media support. I mentioned yesterday that even the union for the people who are going to enforce Obamacare, the IRS, is begging out of it. It's the National Treasury Employees Union, which runs the IRS. That's the union that all IRS workers are members of. They want to be exempted from it. Their job is to make sure you sign up. Their job is to make sure you are assessed a fine if you don't get insurance under the terms of Obamacare.

They want an exemption. That is liberalism for you. They set up two sets of rules: One set for everybody else, and another set for them. They never have to live by the rules that they set up for everybody else. 'Cause they're special! They're better. They're more important. The rules set up for everybody else are to handle "the masses," the bourgeois -- you know, the slow-witted, dim-witted, mindless people that are incapable of taking care of themselves.

So they set up rules for them, and then another set for themselves, and that's how it works. United Health, Aetna, and Cigna opt out of the California Obamacare exchange -- and they're going to continue to offer insurance policies to employers. Eventually what is designed to happen, and therefore will, is that the policies are going to be so much more expensive than what will be found at the exchanges, private insurance will end.

END TRANSCRIPT

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The IRS, Obamacare and Abuse of Political Power: An Issue

Liberty’s Spirit - Cross posted at Raising Asperger’s Kids:

There are new controversies surrounding Obamacare now that the IRS is mired in a political scandal. These emerging issues surround federal government control of medical/healthcare rights/information and the abuse of political power. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting insight into the problem (unfortunately the WSJ article has been pulled since this was written):

Even as the politicized tax enforcement scandal expands, the Internal Revenue Service continues to expand its political powers thanks to the Affordable Care Act. A larger government always creates more openings for abuse, as Americans will learn when the IRS starts auditing their health care in addition to their 1040 next year.

Over the last decade or so the tax agency has stretched its portfolio and become an enforcer and decision-maker for government benefits and programs. Three years ago, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who operates within the IRS, presciently noted that ObamaCare is “the most extensive social benefit program the IRS has been asked to implement in recent history.

This March the IRS Inspector General reiterated that ObamaCare’s 47 major changes to the revenue code “represent the largest set of tax law changes the IRS has had to implement in more than 20 years.” Thus the IRS is playing Thelma to the Health and Human Service Department’s Louise. The tax agency has requested funding for 1,954 full-time equivalent employees for its Affordable Care Act office in 2014.

These are issues that need to be vigorously debated. If a Presidential Administration can use the power of the IRS to harass and malign its political opponents, then what does the IRS and HHS having life and death rights over these same political opponents mean?

What if you object to the government’s handling of a controversy and the first issue asked is not “how is your health” but “do you belong to the right political party?” This is how life was in the Soviet Union and still is  in totalitarian/oligarchical  nations.  Think this is a hysterical approach? Ask the people harassed by the IRS because they belong to conservative political groups or to pro-Israel groups that didn’t follow in-lock-step with the President’s view of the Middle East, or taught about the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights (it seems under these criteria my entire family is up the creek without a paddle) and then tell me it can’t happen here.

Furthermore, an additional aspect of the controversy appeared yesterday. Apparently the IRS gave private tax information of conservatives to politically left-leaning groups during the Presidential campaign. The powers that be continually tell us that under Obamacare our health documents would be sacrosanct. After the recent revelations about IRS conduct, it is apparent that the inherent potential for abuse dangerously exists.

Read the rest HERE.

Sebelius’ Controversial Fundraising Efforts Raise Concerns, Allegedly Chase Away Potential Donors

Sebelius’ Controversial Fundraising Efforts Raise Concerns, Allegedly Chase Away Potential Donors

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (Getty Images)

TheBlaze: Potential donors to a nonprofit group committed to promoting the Affordable Care Act are supposedly second-guessing whether they want to associate their money with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ “scandalous” fundraising efforts.

“Would-be givers are ‘gun-shy’ after reports that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called on private industry executives to contribute to Enroll America, a nonprofit that is encouraging Americans to sign up for health care markets tied to the Affordable Care Act,” the Washington Times reports.

It’s true: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this month asked companies in an industry that she has an enormous amount of influence over to donate money to help implement Obamacare.

The Washington Post reports:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.

Her unusual fundraising push comes after Congress repeatedly rejected the Obama administration’s requests for additional funds to set up the Affordable Care Act, leaving HHS to implement the president’s signature legislative accomplishment on what officials have described as a shoestring budget.

Over the past three months, Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law, according to an HHS official and an industry person familiar with the secretary’s activities. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about private discussions.

Considering Sebelius’ power and sway over the health care industry, her fundraising efforts have raised a few eyebrows.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) told TheBlaze that the house energy and commerce committee will be looking into the allegations that HHS Secretary is raising funds from companies she also regulates.

“She should not be out asking for contributions from people they regulate and oversee and that she’s going to be regulating through this Obamacare process,” she said.

Blackburn said many people have made comparisons to the Iran-Contra affair, in which an end-run around Congress was made. “It sounds worse to me,” she said of the current allegations.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) also expressed concern that the HHS secretary might be raising funds from people she regulates and passing that on to a private entity in an end-run around Congress, similar to the Iran-Contra affair.

Enroll America “to do what Congress refused to do.” Alexander said he and several other senators have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the details and provide facts.

Sen. Alexander said it sounds like the secretary is “doing what Congress refused to do” by using private donations and a non-government entity, Enroll America.

“If Congress says no and you go ahead and do it anyway, then that’s illegal,” he added.

Meanwhile, a few bloggers have voiced their concerns in — less diplomatic terms.

“I’m sure people who decline her generous invitation to pay up won’t suffer and negative consequences,” the Ace of Spades HQ blog notes.

It’s not like the Obama administration “used the IRS to target conservatives. Oh, right. And naturally there won’t be a little something extra in the regulations for those that pony up,” the site adds.

Still, despite the backlash against Sebelius’ behavior, the department stands by her efforts, “noting aspects of the Public Health Service Act allow the secretary to engage with nonprofits to promote the president’s agenda,” the Times reports

Sebelius Fundraising Raises Eyebrows, Reportedly Chases Away Donors

Friday, May 17, 2013

Watching Obamacare Unravel

Defining Ideas: by Richard A. Epstein (Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow and member of the Property Rights, Freedom, and Prosperity Task Force)

The “Affordable Care Act” is becoming an unsustainable mess. It’s time to scrap it entirely.


On Friday, May 10, President Obama ventured into Ohio to give a Mother’s Day defense of the sagging fortunes of his signal achievement, the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law, the President assures us, “is here to stay”—a comment that is best regarded as a threat and not a promise. His conclusion was not coincidental; support for the ACA has dropped from 42 percent to 35 percent between November 2012 and April 2013.

epstein
Illustration by Barbara Kelley

This recent drop in popularity is not a function of some detailed analysis of the ACA’s key provisions. Rather, the public seems to feel that the sheer complexity of the program makes it highly unlikely that it will be able to take effect in any form by its ostensible January 1, 2014 start date. The most obvious difficulty in implementation stems from the unwillingness of many states to participate in its two gargantuan initiatives, even with heavy federal support: the private exchanges (now called “marketplaces”) for individuals, and the Medicaid extension to additional individuals.

Growing Pains for the ACA

The most up-to-date report from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals extensive resistance on both fronts. The ACA’s new marketplaces are said to allow ordinary individuals to shop for their own policies. This modest goal sounds easy, but it is not. As the current rules demand, all enrollment must be possible online, in person, by phone, fax, and mail. In addition to a website, the exchanges must provide “culturally and linguistically appropriate assistance,” along with a navigator program to promote public awareness. They must offer seamless linkage with other public initiatives, and accurate information on premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies, all under a program whose key provisions are not yet fully worked out. Already, HHS has distributed over $3.6 billion to states for implementation, with more to come.

Yet for all of these Herculean efforts, at present, only 18 states have opted to create their own exchanges, and seven are planning for a partnership exchange in cooperation with the federal government. A whopping 26 states have defaulted on their option, leaving the feds to pick up the pieces. Similarly, only 29 states have opted into the ACA’s Medicaid extension program, even though it promises substantial federal support early on. Twenty states have already opted out of the program and two are weighing their options.

At this point, the total administrative burden on the federal government has massively increased. Yet neither the federal government nor the states have the human or financial resources to discharge these tasks in a timely fashion, making it highly unlikely that these exchanges will be up and running by January 1, 2014. To achieve that goal, the various private participants on the exchanges must design and post their policies by October 1, 2013.

Unfortunately, these private insurers cannot do their part unless they have enough information to accurately price the “essential minimum conditions” required under the ACA. At present, it is estimated that only around 2 percent of the current plans meet the ACA’s outsized legislative ambitions. Nor can the federal government set up, all at once, the federal exchanges that are needed to make this system work. Similarly, the tepid reception to the Medicaid extension program only stretches scarce government resources. With each passing day, it becomes clearer that the entire process is backing up.

Then there is the matter of the initial 21-page enrollment form that the Department of Health and Human Services first released to the public. The President’s speech crowed that HHS has compressed that form to 3 pages, making it shorter, analogous to private enrollment forms. Yet like everything else about the ACA, his point is a public relationships ruse that has already backfired. As Grace-Marie Turner has pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, much of the reduction in form length comes from shrinking the font, or from relegating key parts of the basic application to separate forms. Needless to say, HHS has just announced a $150 million grant for its navigation program to help people work their way through the now abbreviated form.

The ACA’s Grim Cost Estimates

The President’s Mother’s Day offensive touts the ACA’s benefits while making only a passing reference to the current implementation difficulties. Most disturbingly, the speech reveals that the President cannot grasp that no insurance program can work unless it can bring its revenues and payouts into line with each other. The President avoids these budgetary issues by putting, as is his wont, the matter in personal terms, by insisting, for example, that all people get coverage for preexisting conditions at standard rates. In speaking of cancer survivor Natoma Canfield, he said:

A few years ago, her insurance company charged her over $6,000 in premiums, paid for only $900 worth of care, told her they'd jack up her rates another 40 percent anyway—even though she'd been cancer-free for more than a decade. Despite her desire to keep her health insurance—despite her fears that she would get sick again—she finally just had to surrender her coverage. Couldn't afford it. Hung her fortunes on chance. And just a few weeks later, she fell ill, and was diagnosed with leukemia. Just days before health care reform became a reality.

His compassion for Ms. Canfield’s woeful situation is to be commended. But two key blunders reveal the President’s naivetĂ©. First, it is incorrect to suggest that Ms. Canfield got a raw insurance deal because she only received $900 worth of care for her $6,000 of insurance payments. The only way any insurance system can work is for some policy holders to receive less than their premium dollars to free up funds to care for the sick. Second, the refusal of the insurer to renew the policy at older rates doesn’t look unjust when the cancer reoccurred just as it had feared.

No one can say in the abstract whether 40 percent was the right markup. But the President has precipitated a budgetary crisis now that “companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive, or drop your coverage if you get sick, or discriminate against children with preexisting conditions.” If these individuals are to receive insurance at bargain rates, the program must be able to find added revenues from other individuals to cover the financial short-fall lest the entire program go belly up, leaving everyone worse off.

Getting Health Insurance: A Civic Duty?

This last point has not escaped Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the key drafters of the ACA. In his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Emanuel pleaded with the “young invincibles” to enroll in the healthcare program from, as he notes, “a menu of subsidized options.” But why should they? As noted, the entire system of exchanges operates on the view that the young and the healthy should be required to contribute enough to cover not only their own costs, but those of the groups who get low rates, lifetime coverage, and protection for preexisting conditions. This prompts Emanuel to suggest, “Every commencement address by an administration official should encourage young graduates to get health insurance.”

Emanuel’s expansive view of civic duty plays the game both ways when he accuses individuals who don’t purchase health insurance of “freeriding” on the public. But their purchase of insurance will allow the preferred plan recipients to free ride on them. Let young people buy their own coverage at market rates, and both forms of freeriding will vanish without the public relations campaign.

The gravity of this financial hit remains, for there is no place for anyone, young or old, to hide themselves from a tide of red ink. The President misleadingly has said that right now the 85 percent of Americans who have private coverage do not have to trouble themselves with doing a thing, because their protections are already built into the ACA “with a wide array of new benefits, tough new consumer protections, stronger cost control measures than existed before the law passed.”

But this glittering array of benefits does not come cheap. The current statutory definition of essential minimum benefits is so lavish that no one knows whether that coverage can be afforded at reasonable rates through the private sector. Right now, our collective generosity will mean that the cost of individual coverages in the United States on the exchanges could move up by about 32 percent, in light of the new coverage requirements based on best actuarial estimates.

Unfortunately, what the President neglected to mention is that there is no assurance that employers will decide to keep that coverage once the costs are brought home. It turns out that the penalties for employers will be in the range of $2,000 to $3,000 to dump their coverage, which is far less than the $16,000 or so that it costs them to maintain the existing coverage. It takes little imagination, therefore, for employers to announce to their employees that they will divide the gains from dropping their current coverage through a salary increase of say $7,000, which makes it likely that the public exchanges will be inundated with new applications for coverages even at the higher rates now predicted for the bloated ACA coverage. That cost could be in the hundreds of billions if even 10 percent of the roughly 157 million individuals now covered through employee plans find that their coverage has been terminated. Ordinary people are hurt both ways.

Deregulate Now

In this sorry state of the world, the only short-term mechanism that could stop the general blood-letting is a much-needed reversal that pushes back all the key dates for running the plan. The respite in question should not be used only to iron out the difficulties in securing the needed coverage. It should be used to update the information base to decide whether the ACA, on which billions have already been squandered, is so unsustainable that it should be scrapped in its entirety.

As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily. Do none of these things, and we can be treated to yet another round of presidential anecdotes that ignore the systemic social costs caused by these initiatives.


Richard A. Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. His areas of expertise include constitutional law, intellectual property, and property rights. His most recent books are Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law (2011), The Case against the Employee Free Choice Act (Hoover Press, 2009) and Supreme Neglect: How to Revive the Constitutional Protection for Private Property (Oxford Press, 2008).

Related:

Sebelius Spends Your Taxes On Community Organizations

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Incredible: The Official in Charge of the IRS Office Responsible for Targeting Conservative Groups Now Heads the Agency’s Obamacare Office

SarahHallIngram1

Incredible… It Just Keeps Getting Worse: The Official in Charge of the IRS Office Responsible for Targeting  Conservative Groups Now Heads the Agency’s Obamacare Office

TheBlaze/TV:

Well, this can’t be good.

It appears that the official who oversaw the Internal Revenue Service office responsible for targeting conservative groups has moved on from that post and now heads the agency’s Obamacare division.

Sarah Hall Ingram Used to Head IRS Office Responsible for Conservative Targeting, Now Heads Agencys Obamacare Office

From ABC News:

The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.

Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.

Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.

Grant said Thursday he would resign as commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division on June 3, TheBlaze reported. He was appointed to the post just eight days ago.

Here’s a May 8 press release announcing his extremely short-lived promotion.

Grant, Kay Named to IRS Leadership Posts

But here’s something ​really ​interesting: Ingram received more than $100,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2012, slightly before and well after her office started targeting conservatives, the Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott reports.

“Ingram received a $7,000 bonus in 2009,” the Examiner report adds, “then a $34,440 bonus in 2010, $35,400 in 2011 and $26,550 last year for a total of $103,390. Her annual salary went from $172,500 to $177,000 during the same period.”

News that the IRS official heading the agency’s Obamacare office used to run the division responsible for conservative discrimination comes on the heels of House Speaker John Boehner calling for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“Fully repealing ObamaCare will help us build a stronger, healthier economy, and will clear the way for patient-centered reforms that lower health care costs and protect jobs,” Boehner said shortly after the House passed a “repeal Obamacare” measure.

“Obamacare empowers the agency that just violated the public’s trust by secretly targeting conservative groups,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-In.) added. “Even by Washington’s standards, that’s unacceptable.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell summed up his reaction to the Ingram revelation: “stunning, just stunning.”

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image C-SPAN. This post has been updated.

Related:

IRS official who oversaw unit targeting Tea Party now heads ObamaCare office

IRS official in charge during tea party targeting is now directing the agency's health care unit

‘Scandalous Hat Trick’: Sarah Palin Shreds Obama & His Scandal-Embroiled White House

The President's Non-Answer on IRS

Obama Fires IRS Commissioner as Scandal Grows

The President’s Non-Answer is an Admission that the White House Knew What the IRS was Doing

Confused by Obama’s Incredibly Brief IRS Statement? Here’s Krauthammer’s Take

Pelosi on IRS: It’s Bush’s Fault – Really??

Obama Administration Under Siege From 3 Huge Scandals: Here’s Why It Could All Come Crashing Down

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Mocks Obama Team’s “I Know Nothing” Response to Scandals with “Sgt. Schultz” Clip!

IRS, Benghazi, and the AP: What do all three scandals have in common?

Why the IRS Scandal Should Lead to Obama’s Impeachment

IRS apologizes for targeting tea party groups

Obama is Putin or Chavez, Not Nixon

Benghazi, IRS Create Perfect Storm Threatening Obama's Credibility

Beck Ties Together Benghazi, IRS, & AP Scandals: ‘Fundamental Transformation’

Will Progressives Underwrite Obama’s Impeachment… You Be the Judge

You Cannot Love and Honor What You Don’t Know or Miss

Philadelphia DA calls abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell a 'monster' after he cuts deal for life in prison without parole or right to appeal

"Any doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is a murderer and a monster."  - Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams

Abortion Clinic Deaths

PHILADELPHIA (TheBlaze/AP) — A Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of killing three babies who were born alive in his grimy clinic agreed Tuesday to give up his right to an appeal and faces life in prison but will be spared a death sentence. The news comes just one day after Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of the babies who were delivered alive and killed with scissors.

In a case that became a flashpoint in the nation’s abortion debate, former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit, that he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants dispatched the newborns by “snipping” their spines, as he referred to it (read TheBlaze’s full coverage here, including information on the victims).

Prosecutors agreed to two life sentences without parole or appeals, and Gosnell was to be sentenced Wednesday in the death of the third baby, an involuntary manslaughter conviction in the death of a patient and hundreds of lesser counts including infanticide, racketeering and more than 200 counts of violating Pennsylvania’s abortion laws by performing third-term abortions or failing to counsel women 24 hours in advance.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty because Gosnell killed more than one person, and his victims were especially vulnerable given their age. But Gosnell’s own advanced age had made it unlikely he would ever be executed before his appeals ran out.

Gosnell has said he considered himself a pioneering inner-city doctor who helped desperate women get late-term abortions. Defense lawyer Jack McMahon said before the sentencing deal that his client’s bid for acquittal was a battle.

Philadelphia DA calls abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell a 'monster'

FOX NEWS/PHILADELPHIA: – The Philadelphia abortion doctor was sentenced Wednesday to a third life term for killing an aborted baby that he described as so big it could "walk to the bus."

Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted earlier this week of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive, then stabbed with scissors. He was given two life sentences Tuesday in a deal with prosecutors that spared him a potential death sentence, and the third sentence was handed down Wednesday.

"Any doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is a murderer and a monster."  - Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams

The Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams released a statement Wednesday afternoon calling the case "arguably the most gruesome" he's seen.

"I will not mince words, Kermit Gosnell is a monster. Any doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is a murderer and a monster."

Gosnell was also sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison for the 2009 overdose death of a patient. The sentences are consecutive, meaning Gosnell, 72, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The case has made Gosnell a flashpoint in the nation's bitter debate over legalized abortion.

Prosecutors argued that Gosnell savagely killed late-term babies born alive by severing their spines, and taught several staff members the technique. Nine former clinic workers were convicted in the case, and four others pleaded guilty to murder.

Despite the notoriety of the case, Gosnell has seemed oddly serene in court during the two-month trial, and apparently sees himself as a medical pioneer and tireless advocate for inner-city patients.

"I wanted to be an effective, positive force in the minority community," Gosnell told The Philadelphia Daily News in a 2010 interview, when he predicted he would be "vindicated" of the allegations in a harrowing grand jury report. He chose not to address the judge during Wednesday's sentencing.

But prosecutors said he grew increasingly reckless as he accumulated millions of dollars from his rogue clinic, which was described as a "pill mill" for addicts by day and an "abortion mill" by night.

The jury spent 10 days deliberating before finding that Gosnell had killed babies or had them killed. And the jury found him complicit in the death of the 41-year-old patient, a Virginia woman who was repeatedly sedated by his untrained medical assistants.

Gosnell was also convicted of hundreds of abortion law violations for performing illegal, third-term abortions or failing to counsel women and teens. Gosnell was acquitted in the deaths of four other infants.

Prosecutors have declined to comment on the verdict, citing a gag order that was expected to be lifted Wednesday when Gosnell's sentence is finalized.

Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty because Gosnell killed more than one person and his victims were especially vulnerable given their age. But Gosnell's own advanced age had made it unlikely he would ever be executed before his appeals ran out.

Gosnell did not testify, and called no witnesses in his defense. But McMahon branded prosecutors “elitist” and “racist” for pursuing his client, who is black and whose patients were mostly poor minorities.

Gosnell's lawyer, Jack McMahon, said his client accepts the verdict and isn't sorry he went to trial. He said Gosnell gave up a somewhat better deal early on but wanted to air the issues in court and is satisfied that he did so.

"He wanted this case aired out in a courtroom and it got aired out in a courtroom in a fair way. And now he's accepting what will happen. He's an intelligent guy," said McMahon, who said Gosnell would now plead to federal drug charges that are still pending.

The sentencing deal, reached after hours of terse negotiations Tuesday, spares Gosnell's family the task of pleading for his life in court, McMahon said. Gosnell has six children, the youngest of them a teenager born to his third wife, who has also pleaded guilty in the case.

"He's a proud man. To bring his young family into court was something he did not want to do," McMahon said.

A 2011 grand jury investigation into Gosnell's alleged prescription drug trafficking led to the gruesome findings about his abortion clinic. During an FBI raid, authorities found 47 aborted fetuses stored in clinic freezers, jars of tiny severed feet, bloodstained furniture and dirty medical instruments, along with cats roaming the premises.

Prosecution experts said the Delaware teen carrying Baby A, whose death Gosnell was sentenced in Wednesday, was nearly 30 weeks pregnant when Gosnell aborted her fetus. A second baby was said to be alive for about 20 minutes before a clinic worker snipped the neck. A third was born in a toilet and was moving before another clinic employee severed the spinal cord, according to testimony.

A fourth baby let out a whimper before Gosnell cut the neck, prosecutors alleged. Gosnell was acquitted in that baby's death, the only one of the four in which no one testified to seeing the baby killed.

McMahon has argued that none of the fetuses was born alive and that any movements were posthumous twitching or spasms.

However, the gruesome details of Gosnell’s operation came out more than two years ago during a grand jury investigation of prescription drug trafficking. Authorities raiding Gosnell’s clinic for drugs instead found bags and bottles of fetuses, including jars of severed feet, along with bloodstained furniture, dirty medical instruments and cats roaming the premises.

Partisans on both sides of the nation’s polarized abortion debate were quick to weigh in after the verdict. Abortion foes said the case helped to illustrate the disturbing reality of abortion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Related:

America’s Warning

VERDICT: Jury decides fate of Gosnell