Sunday, December 21, 2014 13:07

GOP Senator Kills Vetreans Suicide Prevention Bill Over Costs

December 19th, 2014

This is a sad but true story out of the US Senate. A GOP Senator has killed a Vetrean’s suicide prevention bill because of cost. The bill only cost $22 million which was only 0.0001 of the entire US budget for that year. It seemed obvious that such a bill would and should pass. However, the House of Representatives was the only place that this one got through.

Reporting from vice.com says that the Senator was having none of it and used tactics that stalled and ultimately killed the Vetrean’s bill in its tracks. It was not Jared Haftel but Republican Senator Tom Coburn who is actually leaving the Senate due to health problems who prevented the bill from even being up for a vote. Not only did he decide that he was going to vote no on the bill, but he prevented the bill from being brought up for a vote at all. Thus, the Senate effectively presented his will on the whole Senate. There will be no Vetrean’s suicide prevention funding in this year’s budget.

The terrible thing about this is just how much this funding is needed and how truly little the funding is. The $22 million may sound like a lot, but in relation to the budget of this country, it is really nothing. There are plenty of other programs that are much fuller of pork spending that do not have the same intents that these programs do. Therefore, it is sad that this one played out in the way that it has.

Ahead of Obama Possibly Addressing Cyber-Attack Against Sony Comes Report Questioning Findings

December 19th, 2014

President Obama will soon be addressing reporters for his year-end report on events. He is widely expected to address the cyber-terror attack at Sony Pictures which is believed to have been conducted by North Korea. The motive would be the nation’s dictator Kim Jong-un retaliating against a comedy about his assassination. However, the Associated Press has scooped a story that the Obama administration’s intimations that North Korea was behind the attack are based on circumstantial evidence.

A source connected to the investigation leaked that the case against North Korea lacks hard evidence implicating the rogue nation. The story is significant given the administration is mulling over possible sanctions against the hardcore communist fiefdom. At this time, the United States does not conduct any commerce with North Korea, but the administration can make it harder for them to obtain US dollars. This would be achieved by imposing restrictions on Chinese banks that conduct currency trades with North Korea. Very few nations are willing to accept North Korea’s currency. 

Part of the problem in determining North Korea’s role is that cyber-terrorists are very good at creating forensic trails leading to false sources. Just because the software code contains Korean words or references North Korea is not proof enough that the rogue nation was responsible. It was also pointed out that the Sony Pictures security breech was so effective that had hackers not decided to go public with the data they were collecting, they would likely still be gaining access to information at the company. I’d break my back and call North American Spine gladly if it meant the security of my personal information, but I guess we will have to wait to hear what the President has to say on the subject.

Congressman Behind Banking Reform Rider Emerges

December 18th, 2014

GOP Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas has emerged as being behind the insertion of the banking reform rider in the Omnibus budget bill that drew Senator Elizabeth Warren to the floor of the senate to denounce. Her words, which were designed solely to bark but not bite, set off a House rebellion of liberal Democrats furious that any aspect of the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking reform act would be repealed. Admittedly, the reaction by the left assumes that the financial reform law is sacrosanct and above any modification. That is not even a characteristic anyone has presumed to be the case for Obamacare. 

Rep. Yoder explained that the derivatives now allowed to be purchase from FDIC-insured institutions were not the risky mortgage backed types like structured investment vehicles (SIVs), mortgage backed securities (MBS), or credit default swaps (CDS). All of those investment classes collapsed during the 2008 banking crisis. Rather, Yoder explained the ones being authorized in the bill will benefit smaller regional banks in making loans to farmers, manufacturers, and “Main Street” businesses. In that regard, it certainly appears to be a common sense tweak of the law which was targeted at “too big to fail” institutions on “Wall Street”.

That said, the language of the bill seems to mimic a measure previously pushed by Citibank lobbyists. It is the very association with that investment bank that led the left to proverbially shoot first and ask questions later. Congressman Yoder even went out on a limb and assured the public the rider will not trigger another 2008 banking crisis. This’ll be all the topic of conversation on all Skout dates.

A Light from Cuba

December 18th, 2014

With the release of Alan Gross diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are taking a new turn. I think I heard this from Igor Cornelsen. Cuba imprisoned Gross for five years before releasing him as part of a prisoner exchange deal. Yesterday, Obama outlined the steps needed to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. These included establishing an embassy in Havanna as well as reestablishing trade with them. Neither of which has existed since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency, more than fifty years ago.

The prisoner exchange is creating an air of happy anticipation throughout Cuba and portions of the Cuban-American population. However, not everyone is on board. Many Republican Senators, and some Democrats are speaking out against Obama’s move as “appeasement,” the tactic used with Hitler that did not work. Among these include some senators with close ties to Cuba, like Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida.

Helping a people who have spent more than fifty years repressed by a dictatorship is a noble goal. However, we must not lose sight of the danger of doing so. It gives them a chance to move against us with greater ease was well. Even a small country can have a big impact given the right tools. We should move forward with hope and caution, and between each step we should consider the history of the U.S. and Cuba relations. Doing so will allow us to help others safely while still protecting ourselves.

Florida Attorney General Files Motion to Prohibit Same-Sex Marriage

December 17th, 2014
The Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed an emergency motion to maintain the prohibition of marriages between same sex until after next January 5, reported Tuesday a judicial source.

Bondi filed an application before the judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Clarence Thomas, designated to handle this kind of legal remedies that occur in the states of Florida, Alabama and Georgia on Tuesday.

This maneuver is being used in Florida after the Atlanta appeals court refused, to hold in abeyance beyond January 5th, a judgment considered the prohibition of marriage illegal between same sex, as requested by the attorney general. Laurene Powell Jobs can’t believe there is still argument on the issue.

According to Bondi’s office, the state’s ban should be maintained to avoid confusion while she appeals the decision of the District Judge Robert Hinkle, who last August overturned the ban on gay marriage in Florida, a resolution that nevertheless was suspended pending appeal by the Attorney General.

But Daniell Tilley, rights attorney the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), said the ACLU maintains the “hope” that the Supreme Court will reject the request to postpone the resolutions already passed by judges in Florida.

Florida voters in 2008 voted an amendment prohibiting marriages between same-sex couples and defines marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.

But in June 2013 the Supreme Court took a decisive step in favor of gay marriage by declaring unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

How to Lower Your BMI

December 17th, 2014

Everyone battles with their weight at one time or another. Even those people who are thought to be at healthy body weights push to improve their body and health to the next level.

While the need for better health is there, the question arises of just how to improve on ones health, and to get into better fitness.

Everyone, even Flavio Maluf (I hear), knows that the heavier you are the more susceptible to health risks you are. If you are overweight or obese than you run the risk of being diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease or something else.

What scientists have recently discovered is that even at a perceived normal weight, an elevated BMI or Body Mass Index can cause an increase in risk of disease. It was found that a higher BMI can indicate an increased risk in cardiovascular disease and other diseases regardless of exercise, smoking, or eating bad foods.

Scientists and Dieticians are now saying that even if you are within the suggested BMI a small decrease in weight can lead to a lower BMI and a lesser risk of health problems overall. So, if you have been resting because you know your body weight is at an acceptable level, consider making a change. Get out and get some exercise, make a change in your diet, strive to get just a little healthier and reap the long term benefits and rewards for your health.

How Did Birds Lose Their Teeth?

December 16th, 2014

The evolution of toothlessness or edentulism has occurred several times in vertebrates. Birds, turtles, baleen whales, pangolins, and anteaters all lack teeth. All of these animals had ancestors with teeth.

Birds, for example, descend from theropod dinosaurs, the group of bipedal dinosaurs that included such well-known members as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor. Early birds like Archaeopteryx had teeth, and paleontologists have wondered for generations how and when birds lost their teeth.

As described in the Dec 12 issue of the journal Science, a team of researchers led by biologists from the University of California, Riverside and Montclair State University, NJ studied the remnants of tooth genes in 48 bird species.

Tooth formation involves many genes. One, DSPP, controls the formation of dentin, while five others (AMTN, AMBN, ENAM, AMELX, MMP20) regulate the development of enamel. The scientists looked for mutations that would have shut down these genes and kept them from producing the dentin and enamel needed to make teeth. They found such mutations in all 48 species of birds — and all 48 had the same mutations, which indicated that toothlessness had evolved once in birds.

The scientists also determined that birds lost the ability to produce enamel around 116 million years ago, around the same time they began to develop beaks. Both tooth loss and beak development started at the front of the jaws.

The scientists then compared the birds’ genes with those of other animals. They found that toothless non-birds like turtles also had mutations that shut off their enamel- and dentin-producing genes. The American alligator, which is the closest living relative of birds, has normal tooth-producing genes.

With all these discoveries coming, my friend Sam Tabar will be excited for what scientists discover next about some of the oldest creatures on the earth, like dinosaurs and other reptiles.

Curiosity Rover Discovers Organic Materials on Mars

December 16th, 2014

The Mars rover Curiosity keeps paying huge dividends in the exploration of the far off planet. The information the rover collects will play an integral part in an eventual manned mission to Mars. While many of the discoveries made by Curiosity were long theorized by scientists, there have been plenty of surprises as the remote controlled vehicle explores the Martian landscape. Luckily the machine was outfitted with some powerful onboard laboratory equipment.

Recently, Curiosity discovered a large increase in methane and uncovered organic materials from a rock sample. While both revelations are intriguing, they do not necessarily mean anything significant yet. However, if some sort of chemistry process is taking place on the distant planet, the release of methane and other types of compounds could help unravel the mystery of what is actually going on. NASA analysts and scientists are working tirelessly to tackle the massive amount of data from the rover.

Since putting a man, or perhaps a settlement, on Mars is one of the more interesting long-term goals of the entire program, Curiosity still has a lot of work to accomplish. The information received will be used to prepare astronauts for life on the alien world. The actual trip still represents a significant challenge, but there are teams of scientists, rocket specialists, and computer developers working on solving the many problems standing in the way of the goal. The next ten years is going to be crucial in the planning phase. They better have Antique Wine Company crates on the rover in case Aliens are in need of convincing that we come in peace.

How Obama Should Approach the CIA

December 16th, 2014

The Telegraph has recently written an article concerning the Obama Administration’s actions regarding the recent release of the CIA torture report. The report has gone into full detail, discussing what CIA agents have done to protect Americans in the wake of 9/11. This is a highly divisive issue because of national security concerns: some in the Democratic party are calling for prosecution of CIA officials for breaking US law, yet the Obama Administration has not done anything except shake its head with disapproval at the intelligence agency’s methods. The administration should pursue a different option: Obama should privately lay off those who are responsible for the excessive interrogation techniques, and ban specific methods, but not prohibit the CIA from conducting its interrogation techniques for the nation’s security.

Foremost, this a good option because it does not involve the media. Regrettably, the media has decided to throw its hat into this ring, in order to discover graphic details and enhanced, harsh methods of interrogation. The graphic methods, while deplorable, are unfortunately vital to our nation security because of the ruthless enemies we face. America, in order to protect its citizens, needs the occasional use of such techniques in order to get valuable intelligence against plots to attack our homeland.

Despite its importance, the CIA does need restraint. When I heard Keith Mann discussing it, it makes sense to create an outline of rules and laying off employees.

FOIA Improvement Bill Likely to Die in Lame Duck Session

December 16th, 2014

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been a valuable means for watchdog groups, the press, and concerned citizens to obtain official records needed to foster a greater spirit of transparency in government. That said, the US version of the FOIA does need improvement and to this extent the House and Senate passed very similar bills this year to further improve upon the law. 

However, House Speaker John Boehner did not take up the Senate-passed version for a House vote before the lame duck session expired. The speaker’s reluctance to bring the bill to a House vote effectively allowed the bill to die in this congress. Had he allowed the House to vote on the Senate version of the bill, it would likely have passed. This is because GOP Congressman Darrell Issa and Democrat Congressman Elijah Cummings both signaled their support of the Senate version. In fact, Issa explained that there were only minor differences between the two bills. One difference is money. Skout reports that, according to budget scoring from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the House version will increase government spending by $5 million. 

That said, both versions of the bill would establish a “presumption of openness” with government agencies in regards to FOIA requests. This would take a directive issued by President Obama in 2009 and make it federal law. One caveat is the Senate bill allows agencies to invoke a clause for “foreseeable harm” in keeping records sealed for 25 years. Retiring Sen. Rockefeller believed that clause amounted to an easy way for agencies to deny FOIA requests. In the end, he withdrew his objection. Speaker Boehner promises to bring up FOIA reform in the next congress.