Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fla. Governor Picks Friend to Fill Senate Seat

"Bypassing better-known Republicans, Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday instead chose his friend and top political adviser, George LeMieux, to fill the Senate seat given up this month by Mel Martinez."

"Mr. Crist announced in May that rather than seek re-election, he would run for the Senate seat himself next year. Mr. LeMieux, 40, made it clear on Friday that he had no ambitions beyond the next 16 months, noting that “my time in Washington will be brief.”

"Mr. Crist chose Mr. LeMieux, who once worked as his chief of staff and managed his 2006 campaign, over a list of other contenders, including former members of Congress, a former United States attorney and one of the state legislators who led the battle to keep Terri Schiavo alive."

FTC bans robocalls

"The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday banned unsolicited, prerecorded, commercial telemarketing calls - better known as robocalls - just because they are annoying."

"American consumers have made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "Starting September 1, this bombardment of prerecorded pitches, senseless solicitations and malicious marketing will be illegal."

"Telemarketing firms that want to continue to use robocalls must first receive written permission from the person receiving the phone call. Under the previous rule, consumers had to "opt out" of robocalls by joining do-not-call lists."

"In the likely event they don't receive permission, telemarketers face fines up to $16,000 per call."

"The ban does contain some major exceptions. For example, prerecorded messages that aren't trying to sell something still will be permitted."

Jacksonville City Council panel cuts Veterans Day Parade, 18 other events

"To save $562,300, the panel agreed to eliminate funding for 19 of 26 special events planned for the next fiscal year."

"Money remains for only the biggest city-sponsored events - those drawing crowds of at least 50,000. That means the Jacksonville Jazz Festival and World of Nations Celebration, which had been initially on the chopping block as well, survive so far."

GDP declines 1 percent, better than expected

"The economy shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent in the spring, a better-than-expected showing and more evidence that the recession is drawing to a close"

"The 1 percent rate of decline in the April-June quarter followed decreases of 6.4 percent in the first quarter and 5.4 percent in the final three months of 2008, the sharpest back-to-back declines in a half-century. The four straight quarterly declines in GDP, which measures the country’s total output of goods and services, mark the first time that has occurred on government records that date to 1947."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Poll: 66% of workers lack proper savings

"Indeed, 34 percent of U.S. workers said they have less than a week’s worth of savings to cover living expenses if they were to be laid off from work, according to the survey from Maynard, Mass.-based"

"Another 16 percent of respondents said they have between two and four weeks of savings and another 16 percent said they have between one to two months of savings."

"About 20 percent of the respondents said they have savings that would last them six months or longer, according to the poll."

Florida driver's license fee rising to $48 on Sept. 1

"The cost of renewing a license goes from $20 to $48. A first-time license will also cost $48, up from $27. Registering a car for the first time will be $225. Now, it's $100."

"Despite the unanimous objections of House Democrats, the Legislature approved these and other fee increases this year as part of an effort to balance the state's budget. Lawmakers raised the fees on 21 types of driver's licenses and raised the fees on 74 separate motor vehicle registration fees."

"The fee increases are expected to generate an extra $800 million in revenue in fiscal 2010, and $1 billion more in fiscal year 2011, Nucatola said. The department collects $1.5 billion in total revenue now and will collect $2.5 billion a year when the fee increases go through."

Obama approves interrogation unit

"Barack Obama, the US president, has approved the formation of a White House-supervised unit that will interrogate terrorism suspects, a senior aide has announced."

"The president ... did put in place a new group, the High Value Interrogation Group, which will be housed at the FBI," Bill Burton, the deputy White House spokesman, said on Monday."

"The interrogation unit, which will answer to the National Security Council, will adhere to guidelines on questioning terrorism suspects based on the US army field manual – a break with the policies of the Bush administration."

"The US Central Intelligence Agency will no longer handle the questioning of people suspected of planning or carrying out attacks, Burton confirmed."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Parents pay college costs amid recession: study

"More than half of U.S. parents use their current income to pay all or part of college costs for their children and are confident they can continue to support them amid the country's recession, a Gallup poll found."

"The poll, which was commissioned by student loan provider Sallie Mae and released on Wednesday, found 55 percent of the 800 parents surveyed paid on average $7,175 for the 2008-2009 academic year from their current income."

"Despite tough economic times, 67 percent of parents said they were confident in their ability to meet the cost of education, while 13 percent had little or no confidence."

"Parents paid 45 percent of the total costs of college in the 2008/09 academic year using income, savings and borrowing, similar to the previous year."

"The second largest source of college funding was scholarships and grants, covering 25 percent of total costs, while students contributed 24 percent, using a mix of income, savings and borrowing. A small amount came from sources such as relatives and friends."

Government Will End Clunker Program Early

"The government will end its popular “cash for clunkers” program on Monday, more than two months early, because it is already running out of money."

"The program, formally known as the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, gives consumers a credit of up to $4,500 toward the price of a new car or truck if they turn in an older vehicle with lower gas mileage. It has generated more than 457,000 sales since July 24, prompting G.M., the Ford Motor Company and other automakers to increase factory output and call back some idled workers."

“It has been successful beyond anybody’s imagination,” President Obama said on Thursday in a radio interview with the syndicated talk show host Michael Smerconish. “And we’re now slightly victims of success because the thing happened so quick, there was so much more demand than anybody expected, that dealers were overwhelmed with applications.”

"As of Thursday, the Transportation Department had repaid dealers just $145 million, or 7 percent of the $1.9 billion that they had requested, leaving many squeezed and prompting some to withdraw from the program early. The government is tripling the size of the work force assigned to handle the applications."

"In many cases, the administration says incomplete forms or errors in the information submitted by dealers are slowing the process. Workers have reviewed about 40 percent of the applications filed, and many have been rejected and then returned to the dealer for possible resubmission."

City Council Committee Nixes Buying Jaguars Tickets

"The perk enjoyed by the Mayor's Office and the City Council of having access to Jaguars football tickets at taxpayer expense could be history."

"The council's Finance Committee voted that the $43,000 expense is something taxpayers can no longer afford."

"In spirited debate, members voiced the pros and cons of the city no longer buying 40 tickets for the skybox at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium."

Friday, August 21, 2009

What Would an Anti-Federalist Say About Health Care Reform?

"It is natural for men, who wish to hasten the adoption of a measure, to tell us, now is the crisis - now is the critical moment which must be seized, or all will be lost: and to shut the door against free enquiry, whenever conscious the thing presented has defects in it, which time and investigation will probably discover. This has been the custom of tyrants and their dependants in all ages" - The Federal Farmer (8 October 1787).

Apply this quote, made by an Anti-Federalist in response to the brand new US Constitution, to the present health care reform process...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Author: Steig Larsson.
Year: 2008.
Type: Fiction.
Genre: Mystery.

Review: A good suspenseful mystery novel. Well worth the long read.

Grade: B.

53 Duval teachers replaced at 'F' schools

"Fifty-three teachers from six Duval County "F" schools are being replaced with higher performing teachers to help the schools improve next school year."

"The replacement teachers were selected because they have a history of generating learning gains among their students and are part of the district's efforts to get the schools off the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test's F list."

"Most of the high school teachers being replaced were transferred to middle schools, with a handful going to other high schools. None were fired, Willis said, because they all had satisfactory evaluations but just weren't the best fit for their previous school."

"They might perform better in another school setting with fewer challenges or at another school level," she said. "Just because a teacher's student gains are below average does not mean the teacher should be dismissed."

States get tough on driving menaces

"States are trying to put the brakes on bad driving by targeting "super speeders," lane hogs and those guilty of multiple moving violations."

"Florida is leading the way with a new law that sends its worst drivers back to driving school. A driver found at fault in three crashes in three years will have to pass a driver education course and a driving test, just like novice drivers."

"These people have proven themselves to be chronically bad drivers. You have to try everything you can to change their behavior," says Electra Theodorides-Bustle, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The cost for additional training will be passed on to violators, she says."

"The moves come as a growing body of evidence suggests that aggressive driving — including speeding, tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, ignoring traffic signals and weaving in and out of traffic — is deadlier than drunken driving. An April study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that aggressive driving was a factor in 56% of all fatal U.S. crashes from 2003 through 2007."

"Florida's new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, is unlikely to eradicate bad driving in the Sunshine State: Highway safety officials have identified 3,200 people — out of about 15.5 million licensed drivers — who would currently fall under the new law."

DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated, Scientists Show

"Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases."

"The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person."

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

FL Population Drops for First Time Since 1946

"Florida's population has declined for the first time in 63 years, state researchers said Monday as they blamed the recession for plunging tax revenues and a steep drop in new residents."

"The decline -- 58,000 people over the past year -- is the first since large numbers of military personnel left the state in 1946 after World War II."

"There have been booms and busts over the time, but this is the first time it has declined," said Stan Smith, director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research."

"Florida's unemployment rate was 10.6 percent in June, the highest level since 1975. The state has lost 392,800 jobs during the past year, continuing a decline that began in 2007, the Agency for Workforce Innovation said."

Auto Dealers Paid for Just 2 Percent of 'Clunkers' Claims, Congressman Says

"The federal government has only reimbursed auto dealers for 2 percent of the claims they've submitted through the popular "cash for clunkers" program, a Pennsylvania congressman said, calling on the Obama administration to help speed up the process. "

"Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., called for "immediate action" to address the problem in a statement Sunday, after writing a letter to President Obama Saturday expressing his concerns. "

"In the letter, Sestak said only 2 percent of claims have been paid and that four of every five applications have been "rejected for minor oversight."

"In recent days, auto dealers across the country have been complaining that the reimbursement payments are slow to process. And they said some of their applications were being rejected because of apparent procedural issues. The statistics Sestak cited suggest those complaints are not based on isolated incidents. "

Why We Need Health Care Reform

"There are four main ways the reform we’re proposing will provide more stability and security to every American."

"First, if you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family — coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job."

"Second, reform will finally bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, which will mean real savings for families, businesses and our government. We’ll cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits."

"Third, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. This will not only help provide today’s seniors with the benefits they’ve been promised; it will also ensure the long-term health of Medicare for tomorrow’s seniors. And our reforms will also reduce the amount our seniors pay for their prescription drugs."

"Lastly, reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable. A 2007 national survey actually shows that insurance companies discriminated against more than 12 million Americans in the previous three years because they had a pre-existing illness or condition. The companies either refused to cover the person, refused to cover a specific illness or condition or charged a higher premium."

"We will put an end to these practices. Our reform will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of your medical history. Nor will they be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. No one in America should go broke because they get sick."

"Most important, we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups, preventive care and screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. It makes sense, it saves lives and it can also save money."

"In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book Review: The Brass Verdict

Title: The Brass Verdict.
Author: Michael Connelly.
Year: 2008.
Type: Fiction.
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Law.

Review: Pretty good Connelly book. Remember, he is my favorite mystery/crime author at the moment. A quick and entertaining read. It was not classic Connelly, however. I sure do miss Bosch...

Grade: B.

Book Review: In Defense of Food

Title: In Defense of Food.
Author: Michael Pollan.
Year: 2008.
Type: Non-Fiction.
Genre: Health.

Review: Why was this rated so well on Amazon (with 4 1/2 stars)? It was good but it basically said the same idea over and over again. Could have easily been an article in a newspaper or magazine. It was, however, worth the read - especially falling under 200 pages. Informative, although common sense material.

Grade: C+

Book Review: A Reliable Wife

Title: A Reliable Wife.
Author: Robert Goolrick.
Year: 2009.
Type: Fiction.
Genre: Drama.

Review: I only read about 100 pages until I had to finally realize how much time I just wasted on reading this boring book. It repeats words and sentences over and over again. It also reads like a soap opera - a genre of books (as well as movies/tv) that I am not a fan of. Definitely better out there...

Grade: D-

JEDC OKs incentives for Saft America

"The Jacksonville Economic Development Commission has approved a $20.2 million incentive package for Saft America Inc. to build a lithium ion battery plant at Cecil Commerce Center that will employ at least 279."

"The incentive package approved Aug. 13 includes $5.3 million worth of city incentives and $14.9 million worth of state incentives."

"Headquartered in Bagnolet, France, Saft manufactures batteries for military vehicles, aviation, smart grid support, broadband back-up power and renewable energy storage. The company employs about 4,000 worldwide."

"The city’s portion of the incentive package includes a $3.3 million Recaptured Enhanced Value Grant; a total of $1 million from the Countywide Economic Development Fund divided into $700,000 for site development and $300,000 for job creation; $550,000 for a five-year public service tax exemption; and the remaining funds for being a qualified targeted industry, a brownfield bonus and an enterprise zone bonus."

"The city is investing a little more than $19,000 per job, higher than its typical range of between $600 and $12,000, but JEDC Business Development Chief Lindsey Ballas said the additional funding is necessary for this project because of the competition from other cities and because it will help develop Cecil Field."

"Although some of the 279 jobs to be filled by the end of 2016 will be filled by employees transferred from other plants, most will be hired locally, Alcide said. The jobs will have an average annual wage of $44,807 plus a $17,000 benefits package and, company executives said, more jobs will likely be created. Alcide said the company is already actively recruiting in Jacksonville."

Seven Falsehoods About Health Care

From Newsweek:

"In this article we offer a run-down of seven falsehoods we've taken on recently, with some additional updating and research thrown in."

"False: Government Will Decide What Care I Get (a.k.a. they won't give grandma a hip replacement)

False: The Bill Is Paid For

False: Private Insurance Will Be Illegal

False: The House Bill Requires Suicide Counseling

False: Families Will Save $2,500

False: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed

False: Illegal Immigrants Will Be Covered "

U.S. food companies seek easier sugar quotas

This proves that we do not have a truly free market in the United States:

"Large U.S. food companies have been pushing the Obama administration to ease sugar import curbs, citing forecasts for unprecedented sugar shortages that could result in higher retail prices and possible job losses."

Bankruptcy filings surge in first-half 2009

"U.S. bankruptcy filings rose 38 percent in April-June from a year ago, according to court data released Thursday, as consumers and business were hit by rising unemployment and a lack of credit."

"Overall, 381,073 bankruptcies were filed in the second quarter, up 15 percent from the first three months of the year and up 38 percent from a year ago, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts."

"More than 16,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy in the quarter, the highest in the three-month period since 1993, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute."

Sales up, prices down for Jacksonville homes

"Existing single family and condominium sales continued to rebound in Jacksonville during the second quarter, climbing 7 percent and 12 percent, respectively, according to the Florida Association of Realtors."

"Median home prices were down 16 percent in Jacksonville, from $191,700 to $160,300. Condo prices were down from $159,700 to $124,900."

"Statewide home sales were up 23 percent to 43,125 and the median price was down 29 percent to $143,600. Statewide condo sales were up 29 percent to 14,742 and the median sales price was down 38 percent to $111,100."

Health Care Research

This link goes to a blog post which has links for all the current health reform bills proposed in Congress.

Nuclear Plant Given Green Light

"The Governor and state cabinet have approved plans to build the first nuclear power plant in Florida since 1976."

"Progress Energy will own the plant and says it will help Florida skirt a future energy shortage and reduce coal use."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review: Falling Through the Earth

Title: Falling Through the Earth.
Author: Danielle Trussoni.
Year: 2006.
Type: Non-Fiction.
Genre: Memoir.

Review: This was pretty good autobiography about a girl and her father (a crazy Vietnam vet). It was written very well, mixing both the present and the past together in an interesting way. Worth the read, though not a new story or anything special.

Grade: B-

Book Review: Born Standing Up

Title: Born Standing Up.
Author: Steve Martin.
Year: 2007.
Type: Non-Fiction.
Genre: Autobiography.

Review: I really don't understand why it has 4 1/2 stars on Amazon for this book. Maybe you just have to been around when Martin was most famous. I really don't understand his type of humor which makes it even worse. It was a short read, however, I was able to read it in an hour or so.

Grade: D+

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review: Dragon Sim 13

Title: Dragon Sim 13.
Author: Bob Mayer.
Year: 1992.
Type: Fiction.
Genre: War, Action.

Review: A decent special operations type of novel. It started a bit slow and picked up a little in the middle. It reminded me of a Stephen Coonts novel.

Grade: C+

Facts about Health Care Reform (by the White House)

The above link contains "facts" regarding health care reform as seen by President Obama.

I have a few questions/comments in regards to this website:

1) Who pays for this, as well as all the other .gov websites, that the President has set up in the past few months? The costs of servers and maintenance must be substantial.

2) What is considered a "fact"? For example, how can the government promise, by claiming it as fact, that the new reform will not lead to "rationing"? How do they know what will happen in the future?

3) Regarding the President's numerous townhall meetings: Once again, who pays for this? Why are we paying a President (mind you I just started paying attention to politics thus I have little to say in regards to President Bush) to travel around the United States to push his agenda? I just do not understand this...

Survey Finds High Fees Common in Medical Care

"A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure. In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation that Medicare pays $584 for. And a New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629."

"The group said it had used Medicare payments for comparison because Medicare was so familiar and payments are, on average, about 80 percent of what private insurers pay."

Councilwoman Says $11-Million Wasted On Bureaucracy

"Jacksonville City Councilman Glorious Johnson says people are calling her home, and calling her cell phone, saying they can't keep up with city taxes and fees anymore."

"Now, Johnson wants to completely dismantle the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. Saying taxpayers spend about $11 million a year on the J.E.D.C., Johnson claims their function could be better handled by other agencies."

"I would like to utilize services of the (Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce) and the Planning Department, when it comes to bringing businesses and jobs to the community," said Johnson."

"Johnson said she has wanted to go after the J.E.D.C since 2003. But this budget year is special, and Johnson said eliminating the Commission would go a long way towards preserving essential services like police and fire. "We don't need another bureaucracy," said Johnson."

Changes Coming to School Bus Routes

"There are fewer bus stops, and more children will be walking to school as Duval County is implementing some major changes in bus transportation."

"On Tuesday, the district's call center began fielding questions from parents about bus routes and bus stops."

"This year the major change is the elimination of bus stops. Now transportation is provided only if a child lives more than two miles from their school. In the past, the district's cutoff was 1.5 miles."

"The district says the elimination of some bus stops this year will impact about 7,000 children. Transportation changes are expected to save taxpayers $5 million a year."

What is the status of the U.S. nuclear industry?

"There are currently 104 commercial nuclear reactors at 65 nuclear power plants in 31 States. Since 1990, the share of the Nation’s total electricity supply provided by nuclear power generation has averaged about 20%, with the level of nuclear generation growing at roughly the same rate as overall electricity use. Between 1985 and 1996, 34 new reactors were placed in service. In addition, nuclear generation has increased as a result of higher utilization of existing capacity and from technical modifications to increase nuclear plant capacity (expressed in megawatts)."

"In 2008, the nuclear share of electricity generation at 20% nearly matched the natural gas share at 21%."

"Nuclear power generation itself does not contribute to airborne emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, although related activities such as the production of nuclear fuel for reactors do result in CO2 emissions. "

"By the end of February 2009, the NRC had received applications for a total of 26 newly designed reactors. It is uncertain how many of these reactors will eventually be built, but the NRC estimates 42 months to complete the review of all the applications prior to a final decision."

'Un-American' attacks can't derail health care debate

"These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades."

"Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts."

"The first fact is that health insurance reform will mean more patient choice. It will allow every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it. And it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies."

"Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class. Never again will medical bills drive Americans into bankruptcy; never again will Americans be in danger of losing coverage if they lose their jobs or if they become sick; never again will insurance companies be allowed to deny patients coverage because of pre-existing conditions."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Review: The Chris Farley Show

Title: The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts.
Author: Tom Farley Jr.
Year: 2008.
Genre: Biography, Comedy.

Review: This was an excellent biography of a very funny man. I especially liked the way the story was told - by his many friends. If you enjoy Tommy Boy or Farley SNL skits, I would recommend reading this quick read.

Grade: B

Banks make $38bn from overdraft fees

"US banks stand to collect a record $38.5bn in fees for customer overdrafts this year, with the bulk of the revenue coming from the most financially stretched consumers amid the deepest recession since the 1930s, according to research. The fees are nearly double those reported in 2000."

"The median bank overdraft fee has this year rose from $25 to $26, according to Moebs, the first time it has gone up in a recession for more than 40 years."

Fla. inmates make, sell own hot sauce

"A group of Tampa inmates is offering a taste of what it's like jail - no locks, bars or handcuffs required. But you'd better have an tough stomach to use more than a dash of their "Jailhouse Fire Hot Sauce."

"Minimum-security Hillsborough County Jail inmates offer it in "Original," "Smoke" and "No Escape" varieties, all made from their jail-grown peppers."

"They came up with the recipe and started selling it in 2005. Since then, horticulture instructor Allen Boatman estimates they've made $10,000 on the sauce. Each bottle is $7. The income is used to keep up the greenhouse and buy basic supplies."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Book Review: Little Bee

Title: Little Bee: A Novel
Author: Chris Cleave
Year: 2008
Genre: Drama

Review: Very interesting novel. Bit of insight into the horrible institution of immigration (specifically deportation, etc.). I enjoyed how it was told from two different viewpoints. Very good book, though the ending was a bit of a disappointment (it just ended without a really good conclusion).

Grade: B

Note: Anything higher than a C+ is recommended reading.

Book Review: The Whole Truth

Title: The Whole Truth
Author: David Baldacci
Year: 2008
Genre: Spy Thriller, Action

Review: I used to like this guy but he is turning into another James Patterson. It is a quick read, however, though I still would not recommend it. Would this stuff really happen? And would it always end so perfectly?

Grade: C-

Book Review: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Author: David Sedaris
Year: 2008
Genre: Drama, Comedy

Review: Started out a little slow but it eventually became highly addicting near the end. The best short story was in regards to quitting smoking in Tokyo. Lots of chuckles. I still really do not understand the point of the story though.

Grade: B+

Teens Taking Opioids to Relax, Get High

"American teens are using prescription opioids -- such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, and codeine -- without a doctor's orders at an alarmingly high rate. And they are more likely to use the drugs to relieve stress or get high rather than for pain relief."

"Those findings come from a new study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, that is based on questionnaires filled out by high school students in the spring of their senior year. A total of 12,441 students from more than 100 private and public high schools participated between 2002 and 2006."

"More than one in 10 high school seniors (12.3%) reported ever having taken prescription opioids for a nonmedical reason. That included 8% who reported having done so within the past year."

Obama sends stimulus aid to foreign firms

"Nearly half of the $2.4 billion in federal grant money awarded Wednesday to stimulate the U.S. economy and boost the production of hybrid and electric vehicles went to six companies with ties to places as far away as Russia, China, South Korea and France."

"President Obama announced the grants during a visit to Indiana and said the funds would create domestic jobs and instigate more "green" manufacturing in the United States. But because so few American companies have the necessary technology, much of the money will initially go toward manufacturing electric vehicle batteries overseas."

"Three grants went to General Motors Corp., one for $105.9 million to help produce high-volume battery packs for the GM Volt automobile. But cells for the packs will be built in South Korea and by "other cell providers to be named."

"Of the grants awarded for 48 projects, the lion's share -- $1.07 billion -- went to the six companies with foreign ties and are meant to produce advanced battery and electric drive projects."

High Flying Congress

"Congress is poised to spend $200 million to buy the Air Force three of the highest performing passenger jets in the world, including two planes that will be used for members of Congress and other government VIPs."

Antidepressant Use Nearly Doubles

''Ten percent of the population is being treated with an antidepressant during the course of a year," he says. That compares to 5.8% in 1996, he found."

"The rate of antidepressant treatment increased from 5.84% to 10.12 % -- or from 13 million people to about 27 million, the researchers found."

"One exception to the trend involved African-Americans. "African-Americans really did stand out as one group that didn't experience a significant increase in antidepressant use," Olfson says. In 1996, 3.6% of African-Americans surveyed were on antidepressants and 4.5% in 2005."

"Major depression is more common. Two surveys found the prevalence of major depression in adults rose from 3.3% in 1991-1992 to 7.1% in 2001-2002."

AP ENTERPRISE: Federal tax revenues plummeting

"The numbers could hardly be more stark: Tax receipts are on pace to drop 18 percent this year, the biggest single-year decline since the Great Depression, while the federal deficit balloons to a record $1.8 trillion."

"Other figures in an Associated Press analysis underscore the recession's impact: Individual income tax receipts are down 22 percent from a year ago. Corporate income taxes are down 57 percent. Social Security tax receipts could drop for only the second time since 1940, and Medicare taxes are on pace to drop for only the third time ever."

Council Sets up Email Suggestion Box for Budget Ideas

"The general public and the business community have been tightening their belts and squeezing down expenses for more than a year now," said Council President Richard Clark, "and perhaps now they can help us with ideas and strategies that have work for them that might be applied to the City budget as well."

"The e-mailbox will be open starting Monday, August 3."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Book Review: The Soloist

Title: The Soloist.
Author: Steve Lopez.
Year: 2008
Genre: Memoir, Drama.

Review: I don't really understand what the big hype is for this book. Maybe you have to be from LA or something. It was a quick read though, which is always good for me. I would not recommend it, however.

Grade: C