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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.
GS

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list


FRIDAY, August 31, 2012




THURSDAY, August 30, 2012

Think about it
Father-Daughter Talk

This is one of the very best emails I have EVER received where it gently explains the difference in thinking between people with opposite outlooks.

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very liberal, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, "How is your friend Audrey doing?"

She replied, "Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over."

Her wise father asked his daughter, "Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA."

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, "That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!"

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, "Welcome to the conservative side of the fence."

If you ever wondered what side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test!

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels. Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and Jesus silenced.

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.


MONDAY through TUESDAY, August 23 through 29, 2012

I don't think you can make this up. Remember what I labeled Obama during the 2008 Presidential campaign?  "The Manchurian Candidate".  Look it up on my Rapid Response section of my web site.

GS





SUNDAY through WEDNESDAY, August 19 through 22, 2012

Unfortunately, a clear call-out to many "Republicans". 
If the Republican Party can't stand against Abortion, it can't stand for anything. 
What hysteria!

GS

Article published Aug 22, 2012
Akin's comments bring abortion to campaign

The outrageous, ignorant comments of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, were a reminder that the right of women to decide in private consultation with doctors whether to continue with a pregnancy is under greater threat than anytime since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

While national Republican leaders are expressing shock at Rep. Akin's comments, made on a local television news show, the uncomfortable truth for the GOP is that Akin's core beliefs on the issue of abortion are in line with a large portion of the party's base and its leadership. And in particular they line up with the policies pursued by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the party's presumptive vice presidential nominee.

During his interview Rep. Akin, when asked whether he would outlaw abortion even for rape victims, repeated a myth that has made the rounds in the anti-abortion movement for years, a twisted fairy tale that suggests pregnancy from rape just doesn't happen, or at least extremely rarely.

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," said Rep. Akin. Conversely, if a woman does get pregnant, it suggests perhaps the rape was not "legitimate," but something she really wanted, or so would seem to go Rep. Akin's bizarre logic. No doesn't always mean no, right?

Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, aptly characterized Rep. Akin's suggestion that women cannot get pregnant during rape as "just nuts."

A 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimated that about 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year and placed the national rape-related pregnancy rate at 5 percent among women ages 12 to 45.

It would be easy to dismiss Rep. Akin's comments as coming from some lunatic fringe, and certainly the Republican establishment wants him to quit and go away, except that he doesn't represent the fringe.

Rep. Ryan, the party's VP candidate, and Rep. Akin were among the co-sponsors of the 2011 "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" that in its original form would have prohibited federal funding unless "the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape …"

In this context "forcible" and "legitimate" rape are arguably one in the same, both suggesting that some rapes aren't really rapes. The Hyde Amendment already bans federal abortion funding except for "an act of rape or incest."

The bigger context, however, is the Republican drive to outlaw abortions.

The soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has given every indication that given the opportunity he would further strengthen the Supreme Court's conservative majority and bring it closer to the possibility of reversing Roe v Wade. Across the country Republican state legislatures have approved a variety of restrictions on access to abortion, including requiring invasive procedures to discourage women. Any of these could become a test case. The Republican-controlled House has also taken up several measures aimed at limiting access to abortion.

This is an election about more than jobs and the economy. Large and vocal sections of the electorate want to return to a time when abortion was illegal. CNN reported that the Republican Party's draft platform includes a plank to "support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."

If extended to fetuses, the amendment's due process clause prohibiting state and local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property would seemingly trump state laws and state constitutional pro-choice protections and allow no exceptions for rape or incest. The draft platform also includes a "salute" to state efforts to restrict access to abortions.

The trouble for Mr. Romney is not that Rep. Akins views are so far outside the Republican mainstream, but that they are so close.


SATURDAY, August 18, 2012

"STUPIDO, STUPIDO, STUPIDO."  (aka SSS)

If there ever was a quote that caught the tenor of these times, this is it (remember "A Fish Called Wanda"?
And, after this introduction, you are looking for tempered remarks..."fuggedaboudet".  The following are gleaned from just one edition of The Day (www.theday.com), August  17, 2012.

Finally, some good news, still in the same newspaper edition, despite the negative spin given to the piece by the headline writer of this Left-leaning newspaper:

"Romney's The Present, But Ryan's The Future", by Charles Krauthammer.  Folks, there's real HOPE...but it all depends on what you do on November 6, 2012.  Will it be "SSS" all over again, or not?  Your choice.


FRIDAY, August 17, 2012

Another example of my observation: THERE ARE THREE KINDS OF LIARS: LIARS; DAMNED LIARS; AND THE GOVERNMENT, IN THIS CASE THE "WORLD GOVERNMENT" AS WELL AS OUR OWN.

GS

Disability Rights Treaty Loses U.S. Support Over Abortion

by Wendy Wright | LifeNews.com | 8/16/12 6:19 PM

Washington, DC (CFAM/LifeNews) — U.S. ratification of a UN treaty is stumbling due to a problem that has hounded the treaty since its beginning: does “sexual and reproductive health” include abortion?

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is encountering resistance from senators, congressmen and groups who fear it will undermine national sovereignty, that its vagueness will harm those it ought to protect like disabled pre-born babies, and intrude on established rights, such as those of parents.

A letter of opposition circulating among the leading American pro-life groups is expected to be delivered in the coming days to the U.S. Senate.

The letter explains how UN officials and advocates misuse UN documents to expand rights and pressure countries on abortion – despite an unambiguous record of UN member states rejecting abortion during the negotiations and adoption of these documents.

While the Disabilities Treaty is the first hard law treaty to include the term “sexual and reproductive health,” there is plenty of evidence that the drafters do not consider abortion a part of the definition. First, the term is used in the document only as a category of non-discrimination. Additionally, negotiators gave repeated assurances throughout the negotiations and adoption that the treaty does not include a right to abortion.

The Chairman of the negotiations called concerns over UN committees taking advantage of the phrase to mean abortion “invalid” because the delegates did not intend to create any new human rights. At another point the chairman polled the room, asking if anyone believed the proposed treaty created any new rights. No country said yes.

The chairman also stressed that the traveaux preparatoire (legislative history) would guide future interpretations of the treaty. A footnote was added to that text stating, “The Ad Hoc Committee notes that the use of the phrase ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ would not constitute recognition of any new international law obligations or human rights.”

When the UN General Assembly adopted the CRPD in 2006, fifteen nations stated that abortion is excluded from “sexual and reproductive health” or that the treaty does not create new rights. No nation contradicted this.

However concerns remain. Neither the legislative history nor the footnotes are actually in the document and therefore can easily be ignored.

What’s more, since the treaty came into force abortion advocates maintain the term includes abortion and that the treaty created a new right.

In 2010, UNFPA’s Thoraya Obaid told an audience that ”reproductive health” is a “right” that was most recently enshrined in the Disabilities treaty, which includes the phrase “sexual and reproductive health.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) trumpets the “(Disability Rights Convention) is the first comprehensive international human rights instrument to specifically identify the right to reproductive and sexual health as a human right.” CRR believes reproductive rights and health encompass abortion.

At UNFPA and CRR briefings with UN treaty committees, the agenda listed “denial of reproductive healthcare services, including abortion” among “reproductive rights violations.”

Attempts to “evolve” the definition prompted diplomats to reject “reproductive rights” at the Rio+20 summit because it has come to be “a code at the UN for abortion.”

This conflict was reflected at a U.S. Senate hearing in July on the disability treaty. Pro-abortion senators gutted an amendment clarifying the treaty is abortion-neutral, stating it was unnecessary. It is expected the U.S. Senate will vote on ratification sometime this Fall.

LifeNews Note: Wendy Wright writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax and is used with permission.


TUESDAY through THURSDAY, August 14 through 16, 2012

DAMNABLE.  BUT, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, SAYETH THE LORD. I SHALL REPAY".

GS

Physicians reaffirm status of fetus
Life begins at birth, say MDs concerned about renewal of abortion debate
By Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News

The organization representing Canada's doctors says life begins when a baby emerges from its mother's womb.
 
Delegates to the Canadian Medical Association's annual general council meeting Wednesday supported keeping a section of the Criminal Code that declares a child becomes a human being at the moment of birth.
 
Their move comes after concerns a private member's motion in Parliament could be a back door to criminalizing abortion and the doctors who perform it.
 
Conservative MP Stephen Wood-worth tabled his motion this spring. It has been regarded as a move to reopen the abortion debate.
 
The motion seeks to create a House of Commons committee to review the Criminal Code section that declares a child becomes a human being "when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother."
 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has continually said his government will not bring forward abortion legislation. With some top Conservative cabinet ministers saying they will vote against Woodworth's motion, it appears assured a death in the Commons when debate resumes in the fall.
 
"This attempt to modify the definition of a human being could legally recognize the fetus, which would give the fetus rights," said Montreal physician Dr. Genevieve Desbiens. "This constitutes a recriminalization, not only of abortion, but any form of contraception.
 
"We must ensure women seeking to terminate pregnancy and the doctors who support them and want to help them are not criminalized."
 
She said it's urgent for doctors to exert pressure on the government "so this motion has no chance of being passed and the debate is not reopened.
 
"I'm not asking if you are for or against abortion. I'm asking for you to recognize that women must retain their full and complete rights," she said to applause.
 
Ontario physician Dr. John Ludwig warned the group against "unintended consequences." He said the criminal code is "ancient and needs to be revised."
 
"If an assailant plunged a knife in the 38-week gestational belly of your spouse, we would all consider that murder. But the Criminal Code says that, because that fetus did not leave the body alive, it doesn't have any rights.
 
"We need a new policy that somewhat more balances the rights for women to have a therapeutic abortion when they wish, up to 20 weeks, and then protects the life of that child from 20 weeks on, once it's able to live on its own upon delivery from the womb."
 
Dr. Carole Williams, of Victoria, said the private member's motion "is a back door way for government to reopen Roe versus Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
 
"It's inappropriate to have government intervention into control of our-selves, our bodies and our children."
 
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun


MONDAY, August 13, 2012

THIS WEEK, FEAST...NO FAMINE IN THE NEWS.  The following observations relate mainly to news stories found in the Sunday August 12 edition of the New York Times.  (Yes, I do read it...on Sundays).

ENOUGH, ALREADY.

GS


SUNDAY, August 12, 2012

More Maxine


SATURDAY, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan for Vice President... NOW, THAT WILL HELP.
Baseball games can sometimes be won by playing "little-ball".  But this 2012 national election is a time for swinging for the bleachers.  Too much is at stake. 
In that regard, the Editorial of the WSJ on Thursday, August 9, at least one day before word of this selection had begun to get out, was either prescient or previewed to the WSJ ("Why Not Paul Ryan?", Opinion, pA10).  It's a good read.
On the central topic of "...the Economy, stupid", three sources are suggested:

Folks, if you are too anxious and depressed to think clearly about yourselves at this critical time in our nation's history, think about your children and their grandchildren.

GS


FRIDAY, August 10, 2012

America and the Muslim World Cauldron.

Afghanistan. Pakistan. Iran. Iraq. Syria. Lebanon. Egypt. African nations.  All volcanoes in various stages of eruption.  And why? Sunni vs Shia. Old vs Young. Despotism vs democratic impulses. Men vs Women.  Clerics vs Seculars.  And all fighting while bound at the waist by a Religion subject to many interpretations and by Sharia Law incapable of accommodating to changes in the world over the last 500 years.
 
Periodically during the last century,  America has entered that world, mainly out of self-interest and more recently out of more altruistic motives; ie."nation-building".  Each time we have see our efforts wasted...except when we have supported secular despots.
We have ostensibly given up that strategy; and we have suffered dearly for it. 

What to do?  The Muslim volcano must and will erupt.  We must make sure not to be Pompey.  How? Disengage.  Keep our distance.  Notify everyone that "pre-emptive self-defense" is alive and well and will be implemented with abandon against any enemy or supporter of our enemy, without or within our borders.  And Watch...and Wait. 

This is not Isolationism.  It is Realism.  This is a battle that must be waged by Muslims for themselves.  The alternative is a decades-long un-holy world war between Muslims and the rest of the world, a war that will be fought, not in distant theaters of action, but on every street-corner in every nation.  And the only "winners" will be the dead.

GS

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MONETARY COMPENSATION OF PRACTICING PHYSICIANS.

Now I've got your attention.  So please read the article in the WSJ entitled "Doctor Pay and Social Priorities" by John Schnapp, Friday July 20, 2012, Opinion, pA11. 

And now, let's do a little arithmetic.
A primary care physician, internist or pediatrician works between 60-80 hours per week.  He nets, after professional expenses and before taxes, between $150,000. and $200,000 per year, including a two week vacation if he or she can afford it. 
That comes to $50. per hour. 
Do you think that's too much for his professional and personal care of you and yours?

GS

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE FOLLOWING BOOK SUGGESTION IS DEFINITELY NOT BEDSIDE READING.  TOO INFURIATING.  GS

BAILOUT: An Inside Account Of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street", by Neil Barofsky, Free Press / Simon And Shuster, 2012.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MOVIE REVIEW - AND MEDICAL CRITIQUE.

Having been turned off by the preview of "HOPE SPRINGS", I had to give two great actors like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones another chance. 
Result: If you accept the basic premise at face value, it's a great movie with great acting by both.  And that should be enough for any adult to see it, understanding that it is loaded with "adult themes". 

But I'm not "any adult".  My diagnosis of the husband includes one or more of the following maladies:

The first three are easily diagnosed and treated.  The last is in the nature of PTSD and would require long-term "talk therapy".  

My recommendation for the wife: THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE. 

GS

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This is very serious.  It also may be a cynical ploy by our Government to counter Senator Blumenthal's recent strong objection to the GSA proposed plan to sell Plum Island, a great 800 acre site for human visitation and other species' habitation, to the highest privte bidder.
Sounds Machiavellian.  You're darn right! 
There are three kinds of liars; Liars; Damned Liars; and The Government!


GS

Attorney General Fights Proposed Plum Island Lab That Would Study Deadliest Animal And Human Diseases

August 14, 2008

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced that his office is preparing formal comments to fight a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal to develop a Level 4 research lab -- involving the study of some of the deadliest biological threats to humans -- on Plum Island.

The DHS acknowledges in its own draft environmental impact statement that the proposed Level 4 facility would deal with "microorganisms that pose a high risk of life-threatening disease and for which there is no known vaccine or therapy."

Plum Island, located about eight miles off the Connecticut shore, now operates as a Level 3 facility involving the study of only animal to animal pathogens. A Level 4 designation, the most secure, would allow scientists to study more deadly diseases that can be passed on to humans.

The DHS has identified Plum Island as one of six potential sites for the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

"I will fight this proposed Plum Island expansion -- involving insidious and deadly diseases that have no known cures, nearly eight miles off Connecticut's shore in the midst of environmentally precious and highly populated areas," Blumenthal said. "This vastly heightened risk level poses unacceptable costs and dangers. The cost of police and fire safety may be borne by local governments. Dire public health dangers of leaks or terrorist attacks make this site clearly and completely unacceptable. A Level 4 facility would make Plum Island, and surrounding areas on both sides of the Sound, a prime terrorist target.

"Connecticut has close and personal experience with pernicious diseases transmitted by animals to humans such as anthrax and Lyme -- all the more reason to challenge this proposed vast expansion.

"Both sides of the Sound should join forces, as we did with Broadwater, in fighting this environmental and security threat. Our next step will be to file formal comments on the draft environmental impact statement, urging that it be sited elsewhere."


THURSDAY, August 9, 2012

Folks, the taxes are real.  The "benefits" are not. For details, please refer to my earlier guest column in The Day...and to 35 years of my similar commentary on my web site.

GS

Health care law's tax hikes are coming: Who pays?

By CONNIE CASS | Associated PressThu, Aug 9, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Who gets thumped by higher taxes in President Barack Obama's health care law? The wealthiest 2 percent of Americans will take the biggest hit, starting next year. And the pain will be shared by some who aren't so well off — people swept up in a hodgepodge of smaller tax changes that will help finance health coverage for millions in need.

For the vast majority of people, however, the health care law won't mean sending more money to the IRS.

And roughly 20 million people eventually will benefit from tax credits that start in 2014 to help them pay insurance premiums.

The tax increases — plus a mandate that nearly everyone have health coverage — are helping make the law an election-year scorcher. Obama is campaigning on the benefits for the uninsured, women and young adults. His rival, Mitt Romney, and Republican lawmakers are vowing to repeal "Obamacare," saying some health care reforms are needed but not at this cost.

Lots of the noise is about the financial consequences for people who decline to get coverage and businesses that don't offer their workers an adequate health plan. Some 4 million individuals without insurance are expected to pay about $55 billion over eight years, according to the Congressional Budget Office's estimates. Employers could be dinged an estimated $106 billion for failing to meet the mandate, which starts in 2014.

But that mandate money, whether it's called taxes or penalties, is overwhelmed by other taxes, fees and shrunken tax breaks in the law. These other levies could top $675 billion over the next 10 years, under the CBO's projections of how much revenue the government would lose if the law were repealed.

The biggest chunk is in new taxes on the nation's top 2 percent of earners — some $318 billion over a decade.

Other major taxes are aimed at the health care industry, and some of that cost is sure to be passed along to consumers as higher prices.

A rundown of the most significant tax changes — and who pays:

___

THE 2 PERCENT

Who pays: About 2.5 million households — individuals making more than $200,000 per year, couples $250,000.

How much: A 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above those threshold amounts; an additional 3.8 percent tax on investment income. Should raise $318 billion over 10 years.

The lowdown: Together these are the biggest tax increase in the health care law.

For those wealthy enough to owe it, the 3.8 percent investment tax comes on top of the existing 15 percent capital gains rate, which is set to rise to 20 percent next year unless Congress acts.

Over the years, more and more people will be caught by the new taxes, because the adjusted gross income level that triggers them doesn't rise with inflation.

But fears that the investment tax will land on most folks' home sales seem overblown — few sellers will be affected. A couple's profit — not sales price — of up to $500,000 from the house they've been living in is exempt from taxes; only gains above that amount are taxed.

When: 2013

___

ARTIFICIAL-SUN WORSHIPPERS

Who pays: The 28 million people who visit tanning booths and beds each year — most of them women under 30, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

How much: A 10 percent tax on the price of tanning. Expected to raise $1.5 billion over 10 years.

The lowdown: Tanning salons were singled out because of wide agreement among medical experts that baking under ultraviolet lights increases the risk of skin cancer.

When: Took effect in 2010.

___

THE "CADILLACS" OF COVERAGE

Who pays: Insurance companies or businesses that provide plans with premiums of more than $10,200 per person or $27,500 per family, not including dental or vision coverage. Employees covered by these so-called "Cadillac" benefits probably will feel the pinch.

How much: 40 percent excise tax on any amount of premium that exceeds the threshold. Expected to raise $111 billion over five years.

The lowdown: The majority of health plans aren't affected because they don't cost enough: Workplace family coverage now averages about $15,000, including the portion paid by the employer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's survey. But some middle-class workers, especially those with strong union contracts, have health plans that exceed the threshold. Also hit are corporate bigwigs whose employer-paid plans cover virtually all expenses and lots of perks, akin to tax-free income.

Some employees will pay more for their share of insurance costs because the tax will get passed along to them. In other cases, businesses will trim benefits to bring their plans under the tax cutoff. Economists predict that many of the affected workers will get higher pay as a trade-off — but those raises would be subject to income tax.

The tax will affect more workers as time goes by. It's indexed for inflation, but rising health care prices will probably outpace that.

When: 2018

___

BUSINESSES SET TO BOOM

Who pays: Insurers, drug companies, medical device makers. And some of their customers.

How much: More than $165 billion over 10 years

The lowdown: New taxes and fees target businesses expected to profit as more Americans get insurance. The companies will pass along these expenses as higher prices when they can. Companies that make or import brand-name prescription drugs paid a total of $2.5 billion in 2011, the first year for their fees.

Insurance companies will share in paying an annual fee that starts at $8 billion for the first year.

Companies that make medical equipment sold chiefly through doctors and hospitals, such as pacemakers, artificial hips and coronary stents, will pay a 2.3 percent excise tax on their sales, expected to total $1.7 billion in its first year. The device makers are lobbying for repeal, arguing that some small companies will have to lay off workers and reduce research spending.

When: Began last year for drug companies; starts in 2013 for device makers, 2014 for insurance companies.

___

THRIFTY SAVERS

Who pays: People who set aside tax-free savings to pay for health care.

How much: About $33 billion over 10 years

The lowdown: The law limits annual contributions to medical Flexible Spending Accounts to $2,500; there was no government limit before. Many employers had allowed $5,000 in the accounts, and some even more. But the average contribution was only $1,400 per year, so relatively few workers will be affected. Four in 10 employees have jobs that give them the chance to sign up for these accounts.

Last year, people with FSAs and similar accounts lost the ability to spend the money on over-the-counter medicines not prescribed by doctors.

Also, the penalty increased from 10 percent to 20 percent for money withdrawn for non-medical reasons from Health Savings Accounts, which people use to help pay high insurance deductibles.

When: Contribution limit begins in 2013.

___

TAXPAYERS WHO TAKE WRITE-OFFS

Who pays: People with big medical or dental bills who itemize deductions.

How much: Almost $19 billion over 10 years. Currently, taxpayers have to spend more than 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income on medical care to qualify for a deduction. The threshold will rise to 10 percent. So a household with income of $50,000 would have to spend $5,000 on health care before deducting amounts above that.

The lowdown: Most Americans don't have enough out-of-pocket expenses, those not paid by insurance, to meet even the lower threshold.

When: 2013 (delayed until 2017 for taxpayers age 65 or over)

___

Follow Connie Cass on Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/ConnieCass


MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, August 6 through 8, 2012

THE ARROGANCE OF THIS GANG IS BREATHTAKING.  THROW THE BUMS OUT IN NOVEMBER$!

GS

==================================================
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency
==================================================

Cardinal: Congress Needs to Be Quick in Response to Sterilization Mandate

Head of US Bishops' Pro-Life Activities Says HHS Rule is 'Misguided' Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called on Congress to address the crisis in health care sparked by the Obama administration’s contraceptive/sterilization coverage mandate.


In an Aug. 3 letter to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, he said the mandate would forbid Americans to provide or purchase health coverage unless it includes female surgical sterilizations, all FDA-approved prescription drugs and devices for preventing pregnancy – including drugs and devices which can destroy a human life at its earliest stages – and ‘counseling and education’ to promote these to all women and girls of childbearing age.”

Cardinal DiNardo called the mandate “unprecedented and misguided federal policy.” He added that “most of those who initiate or renew employee health plans as well as student plans at educational institutions after August 1 must comply with this mandate, notwithstanding their moral or religious objections, or drop their health coverage altogether as some colleges have now begun to do.”

“For our part, the Catholic bishops of the United States continue to advocate for life-affirming health care for all, especially for poor and vulnerable people.We do not see this policy as a step in that direction,” he said. “Despite widespread opposition to this coercive policy by religious organizations, lawmakers and the general public, Congress has still taken no action to counter it. The time for such action is, to say the least, overdue.” 

The American prelate stressed the importance of the issue of religious freedom at stake, saying that it demanded “a timely congressional response.” 

“Through this mandate, the Administration is promoting an approach to religious freedom that is more grudging and arbitrary than any yet seen in federal law,” he said. 

He added that a minority of religious employers – those which, among other things, engage primarily in prayer and preaching – are said to be exempt from the mandate. “By contrast, religious organizations which live out their faith by reaching out to all in need with health care and other humanitarian services are deemed ‘not religious enough’ for the exemption.  Many, though not all, of these organizations will qualify for a one-year delay in enforcement, after which partial control of their health plans will be handed over by the government to others willing to implement the mandate.”

Cardinal DiNardo highlighted the plight of employers who may have moral or religious objections to some or all of the mandated services, people who are “devout individuals and families who own and operate businesses, who without any word of protest from employees have been offering health coverage that does not violate their moral convictions.” With the mandate “their longtime practice will be contrary to federal law, punished by a tax of $100 a day per employee and other penalties,” he said. 

The cardinal pointed out the current administration’s stance that companies that are “for profit” are secular and therefore, have no claim on religious freedom. “The validity of the religious freedom claim against the contraceptive mandate is clearer than ever – even for those supposedly ‘secular’ companies whose rights are completely ignored under that mandate,” he said. 


Due to the lengthy judicial process of many companies that have filed lawsuits against the mandate, Cardinal DiNardo concluded his letter urging the U.S. Congress to act. The Catholic bishops of the United States, he said, “fervently hope Congress will address this urgent and fundamental issue before it completes its business this year.”


SUNDAY, August 5, 2012

"PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM".

As already noted in this section, selective reading of main media reports can be dangerous to your political health.  Dr. Charles Krauthammer makes the exact points in his latest column that I made to a group of medical colleagues at lunch earlier in the week.  (See "Romney's Excellent Foreign Policy Trip", in The Day Saturday August 4, 2012, Opinion, pA6). 
The Liberal Media are either Stupid, or Whores, or Both. 
Meanwhile, cross-read regularly among several news outlets - including the WSJ - for facts and Truth.  If Americans don't get this coming election right, we're in for a world of hurt.

GS

- - - - -

"ON THE ONE HAND...ON THE OTHER HAND".
War is Terrible.  Avoid it if at all possible.  If not possible: finish it quickly!

GS

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ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
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A Soldier's View of Torture, Just War Principles

Britain's Most Senior Ranking General Considers the Evils of War

By Edward Pentin 


ROME, AUG. 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- My view is absolutely clear: torture is wrong and shouldn't be allowed, and people who torture should be apprehended, with the full force of law applied. 


Speaking from his residence in London on July 20, Britain's most senior ranking general, Field Marshal the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, believes any use of torture is very damaging and does more harm than good. 


He also believes people tend to tell you what you want to hear when being tortured and it can seriously damage the reputation of countries such as the United States who pride themselves on upholding human rights.


The subject of torture was just one of several topics addressed by the 73-year-old veteran soldier who is a convert to Catholicism and a member of the Knights of Malta. 


Before retiring in 2001, Lord Guthrie had served as a soldier in places such as Malaysia, Borneo, Yemen, Oman, Kenya and Northern Ireland. He was head of the British army during the Balkans War and then made head of Britain's armed forces between 1997 until 2001. He also served as a troop commander in Britain's special forces, the SAS, and headed the elite regiment from 2000 to 2009, before being raised to the rank of Field Marshal by Queen Elizabeth II in June of this year. 


But throughout his distinguished military career, faith was always important and hugely helpful to him. It gave you a spiritual, moral, and ethical background, and maybe a confidence which you may not have had otherwise, he explains. But being in the military is not easy because you do have to make some terrible decisions sometimes. 


Raised an Anglican, he married a Catholic but he wasn't received into the Church until he was in his 40s, relatively late because he wanted to be absolutely sure he was doing it for the right reasons. 


My father had become a Catholic when he was 68, and we were always that way inclined, he tells me. We went to Church and all that, and it seemed to me that I would probably end up there. He was also influenced by friends who were priests and army chaplains, as well as a monk from the English Benedictine Abbey at Ampleforth.


Justice


Turning to just war tradition, a subject on which he wrote a book (Just War - The Just War Tradition: Ethics in Modern Warfare by Charles Guthrie and Michael Quinlan – published by Bloomsbury 2007), Lord Guthrie says Christians came slightly late to it, because, he suspects, most were probably pacifists, and outside the structures of the Roman Empire until Emperor Constantine became a Christian. From then on, they were forced to take responsibilities. Suddenly we found we had to make decisions, and that wasn't easy, he says, but the philosophers and thinkers of the day had to wrestle with these problems. 


But he is grateful for the Christian just war tradition as he is a firm believer in the need for principles in war. People do behave very badly in armed conflict sometimes, but it does seem to me to be absolutely right that you have a moral compass which sets standards, he says. There are certain parts of the tradition you really do have to think very, very carefully about before you move away from them.


He is particularly keen that military commanders have very good reasons to go to war, and that they be fully prepared for the consequences. It's not good enough just because you want to punish somebody or revenge, he says. You've got to actually think: what are the consequences going to be? Are you going to make things better? 


Of course, war is evil, he continues. War is a horrible thing, a disastrous thing, but sometimes there are things which are even worse, like genocide, the completely uncontrolled killing of innocent women and children. Moreover, he dismisses talk of martyrdom as a credible form of defense and resistance. 


I think it's crazy, he says. If you had Attila the Hun coming and you had a country of 100,000 people, do you think it's a good idea to stand by and watch 100,000 people killed? That doesn't make any sense at all in the real world. I'm very suspicious of that, it just doesn't work, never has worked and I don't see why it should. But you don't want to go to war; you want to think very, very carefully about what it actually means.


Some military theorists, most notably the 19th century Prussian tactician Carl von Clausewitz, have argued that to win a war, maximum force, or absolute war, must be used. That being the case, can a war ever be just if such a tactic is used? You want to get the war over as quickly as possible, Lord Guthrie answers. You don't want to kill any more people than you have to, and you want to protect people who are not actively engaged in the war, like women and children and non-combatants. But what is a non-combatant? Is, for instance, somebody working in a munitions factory? … You get into very difficult areas; these things aren't black and white at all.


Asked if the allied bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, in which thousands of civilians were killed, was just, he answers: Dresden will always be very controversial. I think nowadays more and more of us think it wasn't right because we were winning the war anyhow. But if you had been involved, you might take a rather different view and I think it would be very wrong of us to condemn everybody who was involved. He also points out that London was indiscriminately bombed as well, resulting in the loss of over 40,000 lives. 


Questions today


Turning to topical issues, the Field Marshal believes a pre-emptive strike on Iran to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons would be completely wrong at the moment because it would make the situation worse. Similarly, he is firmly opposed to military intervention in Syria at the current time, believing it would further destabilise a country in a very dangerous region.


Regarding the war in Afghanistan, the veteran soldier says he has a problem with the military operation as people didn't really think of the consequences. But he believes the initial reasons for the intervention – to allow UK and US special forces to destroy the Al Qaeda camps -- were perfectly lawful and morally right. 


I think that was achieved brilliantly, he said. I would then question – and we come to unforeseen consequences again – should we not have just come home then?


He frequently mentions the problem of unpredictability in war, and especially the difficulty of preparing for the aftermath of a conflict. You've got to think: what are the consequences of what I'm going to do, and have a plan, he says. It is difficult because soldiers are quite good at winning battles, but who is actually going to pick up the pieces? Soldiers aren't ideally trained to be policemen, civil lawyers, prison officers. Why should they be able to do it, really? And yet they're the only people around. 


He says this was particularly true of the 1991 Iraq War when many argued the coalition forces should have marched onto Baghdad and ousted Saddam Hussein's regime. It would have caused logistic problems … which I dare say could have been got round. But I think there were people in the United States who really didn't want to go on, and I can see why, he says. 


But of course by not going on, the second Iraq War became more likely.


* * *


Edward Pentin is a freelance journalist and can be reached at pentinzenit@gmail.com


SATURDAY, August 4, 2012

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ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
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Sexual Content in the Movies

Risky Behavior, Pregnancy and Diseases

ROME, AUG. 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The media really does influence adolescents' behavior and early exposure to sexual content in the movies leads them to commence sexual activity at an earlier age and to take more risks.


This was the conclusion of a study just published in the journal Psychological Science, titled Greater Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk Taking.

It started by noting how it is documented that the media influences adolescent behavior in such areas as alcohol and tobacco use, but that less is known about its impact on sexual behavior.

Starting sexual activity at an earlier age is associated with a greater number of partners and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. More than 9 million new cases of sexual diseases occur annually among adolescents in the United States, the paper observed.

Popular movies provide adolescents with a wealth of sexual exposure, much of which may promote risk behaviors, the authors commented.

They cited a survey that looked at movies released from 1950 to 2006. It showed that more than 84% contained some sexual content. In addition the survey found that the level of sexual explicitness of PG-13 and R-rated movies has increased in the past decade.

Not only are adolescents influenced by what they see, but one survey found that 57% of those aged 14-16 use the media as a primary source of sexual information.

The study published in Psychological Science looked at movie sexual exposure (MVE) in those aged under 16. A longitudinal study was carried out over the period June 2003 to October 2009.

It consisted in a random telephone survey of 6,522 adolescents, aged 10 to 14. After the initial contact they were followed up three subsequent times.

They found that higher exposure to explicit sexual content was an accurate predictor of riskier sexual behavior. The authors said that this study confirms previous ones and also found that this exposure, has a lasting influence on risky sexual behaviors in adulthood.

Reducing adolescent’s viewing of sexually explicit content would delay their sexual debut and also reduce their engagement in risky sexual behaviors later in life, they concluded.


THURSDAY and FRIDAY, August 2 and 3, 2012

What follows is another edition of Potpourri, including some pleasant scents - and some awful smells. 

"And that's all I have to say about that"...for now.

GS


WEDNESDAY,  August 1, 2012

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ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
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A Government Cannot Oblige Religions To Go Against Their Convictions (Part 2)

Interview with the Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico on the HHS Mandate

By Jose Antonio Varela Vidal


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, JULY 30, 2012 (Zenit.org).- We offer our readers the final part of the interview with Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, OFM, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who is very clear on the position of the Church and the role that all Catholics must play in the measure that the current U.S. administration is committed to having the HHS mandate observed.


ZENIT: If the result is the opposite of what is expected, is it possible that the Church’s health centers will be against distributing contraceptive methods, calling for civil disobedience? What would be the implications?


Archbishop Gonzalez. I would like to begin my answer with the quotation from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles: “”We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church points out, in regard to the right of conscientious objection, that: “The citizen is not bound in conscience to follow the prescriptions of the civil authorities if the latter are contrary to the exigencies of the moral order, to people’s fundamental rights or to the teachings of the Gospel. Unjust laws place the morally upright person before dramatic problems of conscience: when they are called to collaborate in morally illicit actions; they have the obligation to refuse.” (n. 399). As can be deduced, it is not optional to disobey an unjust law, it is a moral imperative. That is, it is immoral to obey it.


The Church cannot collaborate with such practices which, although they are permitted by positive law, are contrary to divine law. The Church cannot preach one thing and do another. She cannot say that the use of contraceptives is contrary to the moral law and then back medical plans that include coverage for contraceptives and sterilization services. To disobey a law, although it is unjust, can expose us to sanctions. Hopefully not, but if there is no other remedy, they are welcome. It will be an historic opportunity to give witness of our faith. Perhaps human courts will again become modern “Roman Circuses,” to which Christians will be taken to shed their blood and mix it with Our Lord’s. As in olden times, this would become the illustrious sign of credibility of the sons and daughters of the Church.


ZENIT: Do we know if the government is able to reconsider the HHS mandate?


Archbishop Gonzalez: The Obama Administration is firm in its position that private health plans must include in their coverage the sterilization of women, contraceptive pills approved by the FDA, including abortifacient pills, and that advice and education must be given to promote these badly called rights of women and adolescents.


ZENIT: What actions will the Church in the U.S. now take in this regard?


Archbishop Gonzalez: The Permanent Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States is pronouncing itself on the matter as the moment calls for it. By way of example, recently Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the Pro-Life Activities Commission of the Conference of Bishops, sent a letter to the House of Representatives supporting the two measures mentioned earlier, Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) and Respect for Right of Conscience, for the consideration of the House in relation to this matter.


ZENIT: What must be reinforced in the new generation of family education in the United States?


Archbishop Gonzalez: I think the situation of the family in the United States is akin to that of many societies around the world where the institution of the family is suffering a great identity crisis  and a crisis of values as a consequence of many social, cultural, economic, and technological factors, among others. We must reinforce all that which we see has been weakened. By way of example, the practice of the faith and the importance of family life have been weakened. The family is the privileged place to live, celebrate, learn and transmit faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. The family is born, is constituted and is sustained by faith. Without faith, the family is reduced to its minimal expression and exposed to cultural blows and the personal problems of its members. Faith reinforces the family and immunizes it against the attacks of relativism and individualism, and discovers for it the original design of the Creator. Verified in it are all the aspects and dimensions of h
uman love elevated by God: nuptial, filial, fraternal love, friendship, and all this within and outside itself.


That is why the vocation of the family is essential for the true and full realization of the human race. The family cannot be regarded as a corporation where the only end is the profit of its members and the acquisition of material goods that increase its patrimony. The only thing that matters with this theory is the material, even to sacrificing the transcendental. The family is above all the place of love, of communion, of solidarity; it is experience of life, it is a school of faith. Perhaps the most important and urgent challenge for the Catholic Church, in the perspective of the New Evangelization, is how to maintain a living, ardent and transforming faith in Christ in the present and future generations.


ZENIT: What is your message to the American readers of ZENIT at this critical moment?


Archbishop Gonzalez: Catholics in the United States must support continuously and actively the initiatives of their bishops who, faithful to the truth and in communion with the Pope, promote the Catholic faith received from the Apostles. The bishops are defending religious liberty in the United States. In carrying out this defense, they take recourse to prayer, to education and to peaceful public actions, especially a respectful dialogue with the executive and legislative branches of the government. Religious liberty is among the few liberties protected constitutionally. In fact, religious liberty is a right recognized universally. The HHS ruling is one more step to bring down the wall that not only separates the Church from the State but that protects her from it.


The HHS regulation is an evil presage for the Catholic Church in the United States. Not only is this mandate a coercion to the liberty of conscience, but it is an undue interference of the State in the affairs of the Church, to the point that it attempts to redefine what religious institutions are and which of its employees occupy religious posts. It does so in such a way, that the universities, schools, hospitals  and charity centers are obliged to comply with this mandate. It pretends to have the Church act in two different ways: according to her morality with her religious employees and in an immoral way with her employees in non-religious posts, according to how this mandate redefines them. This is dangerous for the faith, for human dignity, for religious liberty and, above all, for democracy.



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