Wednesday, September 30, 2009

State, local revenues soared until 2007: census

"Before the U.S. recession delivered a one-two punch to state and local economies, most cities and states experienced five years of rapid revenue and spending growth, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report."

"From 2002 to 2007, state and local government revenue increased 69.6 percent to $3.1 trillion, while expenditures rose 29.5 percent to $2.7 trillion, according to the Census Bureau report released on Wednesday."

"Over a third of 2007 revenue came from taxes, the report found. Property tax revenue totaled $383.14 billion in 2007, up by 37.2 percent from 2002, and equal to 30 percent of overall tax revenue, according to the Census."

Obama awards $5 billion for medical research

"President Barack Obama has announced $5 billion in government grant money to help pay for research into cures for cancer and other diseases."

"The president said "we know that that the work you do would not get done if left solely to the private sector." He said he is making a "historic commitment" to new research to save and enrich the lives of people. Obama said the money from the $787 billion economic stimulus law represents the "single largest boost" to biomedical research."

Senate Cap & Trade Bill

"Here is a summary of the new Cap and Trade bill introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. John Kerry. The Democratic plan tracks a bill approved by the House earlier this year, weighing in at 821 pages in all."

"If you want to read the actual bill text that relates to these sections, you can download it from Sen. Kerry's website at ."

Jacksonville loses 23,000 jobs

"Jacksonville lost 23,000 jobs, down 3 percent in August."

Jacksonville City Council passes rare tax hike

"With only minor dissent, the Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday night approved a billion-dollar 2009-10 budget balanced with the help of a rare property tax rate hike. The 9 percent rate increase, to 9.27 mills, boosts the average homeowner’s tax bill about $75 a year."

"City Council members Daniel Davis and John Crescimbeni opposed the tax increase, while Davis went further, casting the lone dissenting vote against the compromise budget."

"In the end, after several private meetings between Mayor John Peyton and Clark, a compromise agreement was reached that restored everything but the 3 percent cuts. A $10 million contingency fund was set aside in case union negotiations fall short of the desired salary rollbacks."

"To avoid some of the pitfalls experienced this year, Clark wants to begin working on the 2010-11 budget as soon as possible."

1. Iran: "New Site Is Part of Our Rights"

"Iran said Tuesday it would soon give international nuclear inspectors a timetable to visit the country's newly disclosed uranium enrichment facility. Meanwhile, the country also insisted that the plant is "part of our rights and there is no need to discuss" the plant at talks Thursday with with U.N. Security Council in Geneva."

"The facility, which was revealed to the international community last Friday by Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain and France, is thought to be capable of producing nuclear material for one weapon each year once it is completed, but Iran maintains that the enrichment program is meant only for energy production."

More cities are putting social services under one roof

"Many cities facing an increase in demand for social services are turning to a one-stop, centralized office to handle the challenge."

"The idea behind Neighborhood Place is to centralize resources such as health care, education, employment and juvenile justice."

"Other cities that have looked at Louisville's model include Atlanta, Milwaukee, Jacksonville, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., Miller says. "We want everyone to be able to access these services without anything getting in their way."

Recession pushes income gap between rich, poor to record

"The wealthiest 10% of Americans — those making more than $138,000 a year — earned 11.4 times the $12,000 or so made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008, according to newly released census figures. That ratio is an increase from 11.2 in 2007 and the previous high o11.22 in 2003."

"Household income declined across all groups, but more sharply for middle-income and poor Americans. Median income fell last year from $52,163 to $50,303, wiping out a decade's worth of gains to hit the lowest level since 1997. the median is the midpoint — half of households made more, half less."

Few Eating Enough Fruits, Veggies

"Only 14% of U.S. adults and 9.5% of U.S. teens meet the government's goals for eating enough fruits and vegetables, according to a new CDC report."

"30. Florida and Oregon: 15.6%"

JEA Rate Increase Might Not Mean Higher Bill

"The base rate for electricity, water, and sewage is going up on the first of October. JEA's Gerri Boyce said the average costumer will see an increase in those utilities."

"And then their base rate will go up about 6 dollars, a little over six dollars, and water and sewer will go up a little bit," Boyce said."

"She said despite that, the average fuel charge will drop about 13 dollars. That is decreasing because it costs less to by the fuel to power the plants that produce the energy.
"And when all is said and done, their rates will be a $1.85 less," Boyce said."

Poverty increasing in Florida, survey finds

"New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show poverty is increasing in Florida, revealing the recession’s impact even before the most massive layoffs began."

"The American Community Survey found that 13.2 percent of people in Florida were living in poverty in 2008, up from 12.1 percent the previous year. Only one other state — California — saw a bigger increase."

"Poverty guidelines are based on family size. The threshold for a family of four is about $22,000 per year or less."

"The Florida Department of Children and Families reported that the number of people receiving food stamp assistance in August 2008 was 1.6 million, up 23 percent from the same month in 2007. In the judicial circuit that consists of Nassau, Clay and Duval counties, that number was 102,737, up 22 percent. To qualify for food stamps, family income must be no higher than 130 percent of poverty before taxes."

"Last month, the number of people on food stamps was up 40 percent in Northeast Florida and 41 percent statewide compared to August 2008."

Wall Street money rains on Chuck Schumer

"Wall Street has showered nearly $11 million on the Senate since the beginning of the year, and more than 15 percent of it has gone to a single senator: Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York."

"Schumer’s $1.65 million take from the financial services industry is nearly twice that of any other senator's — and more than five times what the industry gave to any single Republican senator."

"Of the $10.6 million the industry has given to sitting senators this year, more than $7.7 million has gone to Democrats. Schumer got his $1.65 million; his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand took in $886,000; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada received $814,000; Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd of Connecticut scored $603,000; Colorado freshman Michael Bennet got $401,000; and Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas— who will have a big say on the derivatives portion of regulatory reform — got $336,000."

"Among Republicans, the biggest recipient of financial-industry money so far this year is Richard Shelby of Alabama. But although he’s the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee — ground zero for the regulatory reform bill in the Senate — he’s received just $313,000 from the industry this year."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Year: 1945
Type: Fiction
Genre: Drama

Review: This was a quick read. It reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld, not really about anything, but yet very amusing. I was a little disappointed about the ending, however, I just felt a little let down as nothing really happened.

Grade: B+

U.S. Department of Labor awards nearly $59 million to eliminate exploitive child labor in 19 countries

"Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced nearly $59 million in grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor in fiscal year 2009 to combat exploitive child labor in 19 countries. The grants will help rescue more than 85,000 children from exploitive labor, and offer them hope for the future through education and training. The grants will also help improve collection and analysis of child labor data and support for the development and implementation of national action plans to address the problem."

"Since 1995, Congress has appropriated approximately $720 million to the Labor Department to support efforts to combat exploitive child labor internationally. As a result of that funding, the department has rescued approximately 1.3 million children from exploitive child labor. "

French arms exports rise 13%

"Deals with countries including Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Morocco have pushed French arms sales up to their highest level since 2000."

"The increase of 13 per cent on last year's sales follows a drive by Nicolas Sarkozy, the country's president, to support defence export companies. The government argues that the industry provides 50,000 jobs in France."

"French companies took new orders worth $9.7bn, meaning they have about seven per cent of the world's arms market, according to the defence ministry's annual report released on Monday."

Key Vote: Making appropriations for the Legislative Branch FY 2010

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2010
- Vote Passed (217-190, 25 Not Voting)

The House approved this $4.66 billion bill that funds the legislative branch for Fiscal Year 2010. The bill also includes a continuing resolution to fund government operations after the current fiscal year ends on September 30, as this is the only one of the 12 annual appropriations bills to have been completed.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted NO......send e-mail
or see bio

Key Vote: Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009

Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009
- Vote Passed (331-83, 18 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill that would extend by 13 weeks unemployment benefits in states with a jobless rate over 8.5%.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES......send e-mail
or see bio

Key Vote: Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010
- Vote Passed (77-21, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate approved this $32.1 billion bill funding the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and related programs for the next fiscal year.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES......send e-mail
or see bio

Sen. George LeMieux voted NO......send e-mail
or see bio

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cash-strapped sell their kidneys to pay off debts

"Nearly 7,000 people in the UK are waiting for kidney transplants and 300 died last year while on the waiting list."

City Program Pays for JSO Officers to Get in Shape

"The goal is for them to do this, make that lifestyle change and make that long term change on their own," says HIT Center owner Aaron Marsten."

"The HIT Center trains both JSO officers and JFRD firefighters as part of their new contract with the city, which is worth $442,000 a year. The city pays the entire bill for an eight week training program and nutrition classes for any first responder that shows they have a heart related health problem, including hypertension and obesity."

"Only a small group of 100 has gone through the program so far but there are 480 JSO officers on the waiting list, all of them with a qualified heart condition."

"But he says the city has seen a 700 percent increase in four years in heart related insurance claims from first responders, which is much more expensive than the prevention. Spencer says the cost to treat one first responder hospitalized for a heart attack is $200,000."

Federal Government Spends Stimulus Money Faster Than Expected

"The government has already paid out around $48 billion of the $49 billion that was expected to go to states and localities in the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, putting the rate of spending slightly ahead of schedule, according to the report, which was issued by the Government Accountability Office. The vast majority of the money spent so far — 84 percent — was provided in the form of extra Medicaid and education money to keep states afloat during the downturn; about 4 percent of it was for highway construction."

"When direct federal spending to contractors and other parties, as well as tax relief, are included in the tally, more than $150 billion worth of stimulus money has been pumped into the economy so far, the White House stated. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a statement that the report had confirmed that the stimulus “is working to jump-start critical infrastructure projects, cushion the impact of record state budget deficits and provide new job opportunities for hard-hit communities.”

Veterans Report G.I. Bill Fund Delays

"The new benefit enticed more than 277,000 veterans and their eligible relatives to apply for assistance. Such a flood of claims had been expected, but the veterans department, with its antiquated technology, has struggled to keep up with it."

"This week, the department reported that it had made tuition payments to colleges on just 20,000 of those applications, and had made an additional 13,000 payments directly to veterans for various expenses. The department said that it was taking an average of 35 days to process claims but that the wait could stretch to eight weeks and possibly longer."

“Taking into account the complexity of this bill, we’ve done about as well as could have been done,” said Keith Wilson, the department’s education service director. “That doesn’t alleviate our concern that we’re not meeting everybody’s expectations.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Carmakers favor U.S. ban on texting while driving

"Automakers backed calls to ban drivers on U.S. roads from text messaging with cell phones and other hand-held devices, an issue gaining attention from the Obama administration and Congress."

"The auto alliance represents General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler as well as Toyota Motor Co, Volkswagen and other overseas carmakers."

"The wireless industry -- including cellphone manufacturers, carriers, and some Internet companies represented by the CTIA-Wireless Association -- also believes texting "is incompatible with safe driving."

Florida the fifth most biz-friendly state

"Florida has the fifth most business-friendly tax system in the union, according to the Tax Foundation’s 2010 State Business Tax Climate Index released Tuesday."

T"he Index measures the competitiveness of the 50 states’ tax systems and ranks them based on the taxes that matter most to businesses and business investment: corporate income, individual income, sales, property and unemployment insurance taxes."

"The states are scored on these taxes, and the scores are weighted based on the relative importance or impact of the tax to a business. The Index measures how well a state’s tax system encourages investment by maintaining a broad tax base and low rates."

"The top 10 most business friendly states were South Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, Florida, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware, Washington, and Utah. The 10 least friendly are New Jersey, New York, California, Ohio, Iowa, Maryland, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Vermont."

New Teen Club Donated by Local Organizations

"A new Rent-A-Center room for teens is being dedicated today at the Laurence F. Lee Boys & Girls Club."

"The Boys & Girls Club of America joined with Rent-A-Center with the hopes the new Teen Center at the Club will give teens a safe place to hang out and call their own. Rent-A-Center recently furnished the new club with computers, an HDTV, computer games, sound system, sofa, loveseat, chair, dining set and lamps."

Couldn't we fix the health care system by paying doctors less?

"There's no question that doctors in the United States make a lot of money, especially compared with their counterparts abroad. American doctors make, on average, four times what French doctors earn. And it's not just because everyone in America makes more money: The gap between doctors' incomes and those of professionals is far bigger in the United States than elsewhere. In the 1990s, the ratio of the average American doctor's income to the average American employee's income was about 5.5. In Germany, it was 3.4; Canada, 3.2; Australia, 2.2; Switzerland, 2.1; France, 1.9; Sweden, 1.5; the United Kingdom, 1.4."

"American doctors' salaries are high for several reasons. The first is the cost of education. In France and Great Britain, students go directly to medical school after high school, and their entire educations are free. In the United States, students must first get a bachelor's degree before attending medical school, and the average medical student's debt is $155,000. Then come at least three years of residency, which usually pays less than $50,000 a year. After all that, it's no wonder doctors feel entitled to six-figure salaries. Another reason U.S. doctors get paid a lot is market forces: In a single-payer system like Britain's, the government can bargain down the prices of treatments, which leads to lower income for doctors. No such entity exists in the United States—Medicare is big, but not that big."

"But none of this really matters, because doctors' salaries aren't a large enough chunk of health care spending in the United States to make a difference. According to Reinhardt, doctors' net take-home pay (that is, income minus expenses) amounts to only about 10 percent of overall health care spending.* So if you cut that by 10 percent in the name of cost savings, you'd only save about $26 billion. That's a drop in the ocean compared with overhead for insurance companies, billing expenses for doctors' offices, and advertising for drug companies. The real savings in health care will come from these expenses."

"That said, it appears that health care reform will have some leveling effect on doctors' salaries. Primary-care doctors, for example, make significantly less than specialists. While the median salary of a family doctor is $137,000, the median anesthesiologist makes $260,000. The House bill would boost Medicare payments to primary-care physicians by about 10 percent. The theory is that rejiggering payment incentives will attract more primary-care doctors—which would promote prevention and front-end treatment—and reduce the flow of patients to specialists."

The machine that's ruining health care

"According to the latest data, the United States has just over one MRI scanner for every 40,000 people. That number that may not sound high, but it means that we have more than three times as many devices per person as you will find in the United Kingdom or France, and almost four times as many as in Canada. Only Japan, an MRI-happy outlier, has more."

"Obviously, the MRI is an extremely useful tool, giving doctors an ability to see inside the body and diagnose conditions that would otherwise require them to probe and cut into their patients' bodies. It is also expensive to buy -- at about $2 million -- and expensive to operate. Worse, the machine is used aggressively for tests such as breast-cancer screening and yields a high rate of false positives that lead, in turn, to unnecessary surgeries"

Book Review: Don't Think of an Elephant!

Title: Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
Author: George Lakoff
Year: 2004
Type: Non-Fiction
Genre: Politics

Review: This book is basically an introduction to progressive liberalism in America. In addition, Lakoff argues that "framing" (using a word to make an idea sound better) should be used to propel progressive ideas. It was worth the read (it only took an hour) though it was often repetitive. I suggest reading his book and then a Glenn Beck book or something of that nature to make it more fun.

Grade: C

US High School Graduation Rates 2005-06

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review: The New Deal

Title: The New Deal
Author: Paul Conkin
Year: 1967
Type: Non-Fiction
Genre: History

Review: I had to read this book for a class. It is absolutely horrible. Although short (which is a plus) it contains few facts in regards to the New Deal. It talks about FDR though told from the author's point of view (far from objective). I am sure there are better books dealing with this time frame out there. Do not read.

Grade: D

Book Review: The Camp of Saints

Title: The Camp of Saints .
Author: Jean Raspail.
Year: 1973.
Type: Fiction.
Genre: Social Issues/Political

Review: Started slow but finished fast. This is a good "thinking" type of book in regards to immigration and racism in the modern world. It is well worth the time.

Grade: B-

Monday, September 21, 2009

WHO: H1N1 Vaccine Production Falling Short

"WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said the production will be "substantially less" than the goal of 94 million doses a week, because some manufacturers are still working on vaccines for seasonal flu."

"The WHO also announced Friday that deaths from the H1N1 influenza virus have reached 3,486."

"The United States has on order 195 million doses of the swine flu vaccine, which is due to start arriving early next month."

"Vaccine makers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Pasteur have also pledged 120 million doses to the WHO."

Smoking bans reduce heart attacks by a third

"Smoking bans in public places can reduce the number of heart attacks by as much as 36 percent, offering fresh proof that the restrictions work, U.S. researchers said on Monday."

"The team pooled data from 13 studies of smoking bans in communities in the United States, Canada and Europe."

"They said heart attack rates fall immediately after smoking bans are put in place, dropping by 17 percent in the first year and by as much as 36 percent after three years."

"Secondhand smoke kills an estimated 46,000 Americans every year from heart disease alone, the CDC and Heart Association say. Smoking also causes several types of cancer, stroke and emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

Obama: Legalize illegals to get them health care

"President Obama said this week that his health care plan won't cover illegal immigrants, but argued that's all the more reason to legalize them and ensure they eventually do get coverage."

"He also staked out a position that anyone in the country legally should be covered - a major break with the 1996 welfare reform bill, which limited most federal public assistance programs only to citizens and longtime immigrants."

"Even though I do not believe we can extend coverage to those who are here illegally, I also don't simply believe we can simply ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken," Mr. Obama said Wednesday evening in a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. "That's why I strongly support making sure folks who are here legally have access to affordable, quality health insurance under this plan, just like everybody else."

"Mr. Obama added, "If anything, this debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country once and for all."

City Council Greenlights Property Tax Rate Hike

"Jacksonville's first property tax rate hike in nearly two decades is earning strong support from City Council. All but one lawmaker backed a tentative spending plan that calls for a nine percent millage rate increase."

"I thought we could still cut some more," Clay Yarborough said after casting the lone 'nay' vote on setting the millage rate at 9.27 mills, the highest rate allowed. "The Metro Park improvements and Northbank Riverwalk enhancements, that's almost 26 million dollars we don't need to be spending right now."

"Wednesday, City Council leaders and the Mayor's office announced a budget compromise, setting the millage rate at 9.27 mills, cutting more than $60 million dollars in spending and establishing a near $10 million budget stabalization fund to help cover unexpected costs."

Harvard study: 45,000 deaths linked to lack of insurance

"Nearly 45,000 people die each year due to a lack of health insurance, with 3,925 of those deaths occurring in Florida, according to a study published on Thursday in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health."

"The study, carried out by Harvard researchers and funded by a research grant, found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from 25 percent in 1993."

"The study was released by Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization that favors a single-payer system. It takes into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health. The bottom line is that the uninsured are more likely to go without the kind of care that can save their life."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

U.S. employers will defray health reform costs: study

"If U.S. health reform efforts lead to higher costs for employers, employees may end up bearing the brunt, according to a new survey."

"Employers will not absorb higher costs, choosing instead either to reduce benefits, lower salaries or cut jobs, the survey from professional services firm Towers Perrin said on Thursday."

"Eighty-seven percent of employers said they were very likely or likely to cut benefits if reform leads to higher costs. Only 11 percent said they would accept lower profits."

Homebuyer credit used by 1.4 million taxpayers: IRS

"U.S. tax authorities on Thursday said that 1.4 million taxpayers have used an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit so far and reminded homebuyers they need to close on a purchase before the December 1 deadline to qualify."

"Sales of previously-owned homes rose in July for the fourth straight month, hitting an annual rate of 5.24 million units, the highest since August 2007, the National Association of Realtors said last month."

"The group estimates the credit will spur about 350,000 first time purchases that would not have occurred without it this year."

Obama scraps Bush-era Europe missile shield

"President Barack Obama on Thursday scrapped the Bush-era plan for a missile shield to defend Eastern Europe, prompting some Republicans to immediately accuse the White House of going soft."

"Obama promised a redesigned defensive system, saying it would be cheaper, quicker and more effective against the threat from Iranian missiles. The Bush-era plan had complicated ties with Russia, which objected to where the shield installations would be built. "

"The New York Times, quoting people familiar with the matter, reported that the revised plan would call for the deployment of smaller SM-3 missiles, initially aboard ships and later likely in Turkey or southern Europe."

Florida #1 in Adoptions from Foster Care

"Florida is being rewarded for being the best state in the nation when it comes to adopting children from foster care."

"As a reward for leading the way, the state is receiving $9.75 million from the federal government in bonus funds, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. That money is a huge chunk of the total amount the government is paying out, which is $35 million over 38 states and Puerto Rico."

"The DCF reports 3,777 children adopted from foster care in the most recent fiscal year, breaking the record set the year before of 3,674."

Obama seeks Patriot Act extensions

"The Obama administration has asked Congress to extend three contentious provisions of the USA Patriot Act - a bill once described by President Obama as "shoddy" - and urged an appeals court to deny access to U.S. courts for detainees at a military prison in Afghanistan."

"The Obama administration has asked Congress to extend three contentious provisions of the USA Patriot Act - a bill once described by President Obama as "shoddy" - and urged an appeals court to deny access to U.S. courts for detainees at a military prison in Afghanistan."

Lawmaker's 'You lie' outburst draws House rebuke

"Bitterly divided along party lines, the House formally rebuked Republican Rep. Joe Wilson Tuesday for shouting "You lie" at President Barack Obama during last week's nationally televised speech to Congress."

"The rare resolution of disapproval was pushed through by Democrats insisting that Wilson, a South Carolina lawmaker, had violated basic rules of decorum and civility in his outburst. Republicans dismissed the vote as a political "witch hunt" and a waste of precious time and taxpayers' money."

"Wilson had called the White House to apologize shortly after the incident, and he said at the time that the president "graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over." Republicans agreed, but several Democrats pressed the issue."

"The final tally late Tuesday was 240-179, generally but not entirely along party lines. It was 233 Democrats and seven Republicans voting to chastise Wilson, 167 Republicans and 12 Democrats opposing the measure and five Democrats merely voting "present."

U.N. Finds Evidence of War Crimes in Gaza Fighting

"Now, a strongly worded U.N. report on the Israeli campaign in Gaza."

"The report focuses on last December's 32-day air and ground campaign in Gaza. The Israeli military offensive followed years of rocket attacks launched into southern Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian militants."

"Different accounts place the number of Palestinian casualties at or around 1,400, including an undetermined number of civilians. The Israeli government reported 13 Israelis killed during the three weeks of fighting, 10 of them soldiers."

"The report concludes that Israeli deliberately targeted civilians by launching military operations against homes, factories, schools and hospitals in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force."

"The 574-page report focuses primarily on what it calls grave breaches by Israeli forces, including willful killing, torture, or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction of property."

Rep. Joe Wilson Resolution

"Here is the text of a resolution in the House that disapproves of the "You lie!" outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson during last week's speech by President Obama to a Joint Session of Congress."

Raising a question of the privileges of the House.


Raising a question of the privileges of the House.

Whereas on September 9, 2009, during the joint session of Congress convened pursuant to House Concurrent Resolution 179, the President of the United States, speaking at the invitation of the House and Senate, had his remarks interrupted by the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson;

and Whereas the conduct of the Representative from South Carolina was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House: Now, therefore, be it Resolved,

That the House of Representatives disapproves of the behavior of the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress held on September 9, 2009."

Is war on drugs worth it? Maybe not, new FBI data suggest.

"Every 18 seconds, an American is busted for drug possession, according to Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) crime statistics released Monday."

"The new statistics point to a continued emphasis on drug interdiction – otherwise known as the "war on drugs" – that more and more law enforcement officers are now questioning. While many experts hold the anti-drug campaign to be the key reason for the decline in the crime rate in the US, especially violent crime, since the 1990s, these police officers, as well as current and retired judges and prosecutors see, instead, thousands of American lives ruined for small drug infractions in a costly and possibly unwinnable "war."

"Not only do these officers see the terrible results that their work has had on individuals' lives, but a lot of what I hear from beat officers and undercover narcotics agents is they've seen colleagues die in the line of fire trying to enforce laws that have no positive impacts," says Tom Angell, a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in Washington. "For a lot of them, this is about trying to keep good cops alive by repealing stupid prohibition laws."

"According to the latest FBI figures, 82.3 percent of all drug arrests in 2008 were for possession, and 44.3 percent of these for possession of marijuana. Arrests totalled more than 1.7 million."

More Americans living paycheck to paycheck

"The number of Americans living paycheck to paycheck is on the rise, with 61 percent reporting they are just eking by."

"That’s up from 49 percent last year and 43 percent in 2007, according to a new nationwide survey by CareerBuilder."

"And, it’s not just minimum wage workers who are struggling. The survey also found that 30 percent of workers with salaries of $100,000 or more report that they, too, live paycheck to paycheck, up from 21 percent in 2008."

No Layoffs For JSO But Millage Rate May Increase

"The city's top cop, Sheriff John Rutherford, said no officers will receive pink slips because of the city's budget. The news comes after weeks of heated debate between Rutherford and city council members over budget cuts."

"He made the decision not to cut 92 community service officers after Mayor John Petyon and city council members met on Monday to review the city's spending plan. JSO will keep money that was on the chopping block, but that means property taxes in Duval County could go up for the first time in nearly 20 years. "

"Rutherford said the department is now leaner than ever. He pointed out that he's already making $12.6 million in cuts by trimming things like salaries and about a dozen office staff."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

U.S. workers' health costs soaring, studies show

"The Kaiser Family Foundation said the average premium for a company-provided family health insurance plan rose from $5,791 in 1999 to $13,375, a 131 percent jump."

"Separately, the Business Roundtable, an organization that represents large U.S. corporations, said per-employee costs will jump to $28,530 in 2019 from $10,743 currently if nothing is done."

"The Kaiser study said the portion of costs born by employees grew from $1,543 on average a decade ago to $3,515 this year. Employer saw their costs shoot up too, from $4,247 in contributions in 1999 to $9,860 in 2009 on average."

"About 60 percent of companies offer health-care coverage in the United States, insuring 159 million non-elderly people, according to Kaiser."

"Among those companies still offering health plans, 21 percent said they had reduced benefits or asked workers to pay additional costs while 15 percent said they had increased workers' share of the insurance premium."

"For 2010, companies said they also would shift more costs to workers, with 42 percent saying they would increase employees' premiums and 39 percent saying employees would pay more for doctor visits. Thirty-seven percent said workers would have to pay more for prescription medicines."

Myths and Facts About The H1N1 Flu

"H1N1 Fact and Fiction

1. H1N1 is worse than seasonal flu.
So far, there is no data to back up this statement. What worries health officials is that it's a strain of the flu that has never been seen before.
However, the number of deaths from H1N1 in the U.S. is above 300 or about 1 percent of those who have been infected with the virus. This is far lower than the 36,000 people who die annually in the U.S. from seasonal flu. H1N1 does, however, appear to be harder on pregnant women than seasonal flu and health experts are encouraging women who are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant to get vaccinated once the H1N1 immunization becomes available.

2. I'm healthy so I don't need to worry about swine flu.
Wrong. Swine flu, like seasonal flu, can infect anyone. What's worse is that teens, young adults and pregnant women, who are not usually at high risk for developing complications from the regular flu, appear to be at risk for hospitalization and even death from swine flu.
With swine flu, there are certain groups with worse outcomes, including pregnant women, who may think they're healthy but are being negatively impacted. People with underlying heart and lung disease, even mild asthmatics, appear to be prone to more negative outcomes.

3. The swine flu vaccine will give me the flu.
This is the same myth that haunts doctors each year when the seasonal flu vaccine becomes available.
The flu vaccine we are creating is done using egg-based technology containing particles of dead virus, so there is no way to transmit influenza from an influenza vaccine. The reason people feel that they've gotten the flu from the flu vaccine is because flu season occurs at the same time as cold season and they've confused the common cold with the flu. Also, the low fever that some people experience after they're inoculated is not a symptom of the flu, but a symptom of a healthy immune system fighting off an insult that has been introduced into the body.

4. Wearing a mask will protect me from swine flu.
Wrong again. The recommendation is not to wear a face mask. First of all, they're only good for a short amount of time and as soon as they get moist, which is pretty quickly, they become ineffective. The best advice is that if you're sick, stay home. Also stay away from folks who are sick and make sure your hands are clean, and practice good cough etiquette.

5. Using hand sanitizer isn't as effective as washing your hands.
Hand sanitizers have been shown to be very effective in killing the swine flu virus and should be used not only by people trying to prevent catching the virus, but also by people who have the virus to keep from spreading it to others.

6. I'm canceling my child's trip to a petting zoo because it has piglets and I'm afraid he'll catch swine flu.
There is no evidence that the virus is being spread from pig to person, and there is no reason to cancel a trip to a petting zoo for fear of H1N1. Ray said children should be sure to clean their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer after touching any farm animal, not only pigs, especially before eating.

7. I should stop shaking hands with people.
People can still shake hands with each other as long as they are not symptomatic. Again, the swine flu takes a respiratory root of transmission through coughing and sneezing and landing on a susceptible host.
Doctors recommend that after shaking hands, people should wash them or use hand sanitizer before they touch their mouths, noses or eyes.

8. I have a sore throat and have been coughing and sneezing, so I have swine flu.
Really for both seasonal influenza and H1N1, the symptoms are a high-grade fever - typically above 101 degrees - headache, body aches, coughing, and occasionally, more so with swine flu than seasonal flu, there is some nausea and vomiting.

Source: Duval County Health Department"

Board Approves New Method for Grading High Schools

"In its never-ending quest to improve student performance, the State Board of Education has approved a new method for grading high schools."

"Coming up with a plan they describe as one of the most comprehensive in the country, the Board has added criteria to a school's grade that reduce the impact of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)."

"The changes were begun by the passage of a bill through the Senate in the 2008 session, and mean schools will now be graded on graduation rate, participation and performance on advanced coursework (AP, IB, Dual Enrollment, etc.), and the preparedness of students to go to college or the workforce, as measured by the SAT, ACT or College Placement Test."

"The breakdown for a high school grade will now be 50% FCAT, 50% the above criteria."

Violent Crime Fell in 2008, F.B.I. Report Says

"The F.B.I. figures show that nearly as many black people as white were homicide victims in 2008, even though 80 percent of Americans are white, compared with 13 percent who are black, according to Census Bureau figures."

"Of the nearly 17,000 homicide victims last year, 6,782 were black and 6,838 were white, the F.B.I. said, with men several times more likely to be victims than women. Several hundred other victims were classified as belonging to other races or as race unknown."

"Of the more than 16,000 people arrested for homicide in the United States in 2008, 5,943 were black and 5,334 white, with several thousand other suspects classified as belonging to other races or as race unknown."

"For both whites and blacks, men ages 17 to 30 were the most “typical” victims and killers. Over all, men were several times more likely than women to be the victims and the killers."

"The F.B.I. data released Monday showed that 23.3 percent of murder victims were slain by family members, and 54.7 percent were killed by acquaintances, while only 22 percent were murdered by strangers. Of last year’s homicides, 9,484 involved firearms, 6,755 of which were handguns, the F.B.I. said."

"In each of the four violent crime offenses, the 2008 rates were down from 2007. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter dropped 3.9 percent; aggravated assault declined 2.5 percent; forcible rape declined 1.6 percent; and robbery was down 0.7 percent. The figures are based on offenses per 100,000 people."

"Burglaries rose 2 percent in 2008, and larceny-thefts went up three-tenths of 1 percent. But motor vehicle theft dropped 12.7 percent."

Bullying still a problem, parents, advocates say

"Recent student suicides have parents and advocates complaining that anti-bullying laws enacted in nearly every state are not being enforced and do not go far enough to identify and rid schools of chronic tormentors."

"Forty-four states expressly ban bullying, a legislative legacy of a rash of school shootings in the late '90s, yet few if any of those measures have identified children who excessively pick on their peers, an Associated Press review has found. And few offer any method for ensuring the policies are enforced, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures."

"Only six states — Montana, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, North Dakota and South Dakota — and the District of Columbia lack specific laws targeting school bullying, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most states require school districts to adopt open-ended policies to prohibit bullying and harassment."

"In 2007, nearly a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied during the school year, according to data on more than 55 million students compiled annually by the National Center for Education Statistics. That's up from as few as 1 in 10 students in the '90s, though bullying experts point out the rising numbers may reflect more reports of bullying, not necessarily more incidents."

"Many children reported teasing, spreading rumors and threats, all harder to spot and manage, school leaders say."

"One of the questions is how do you quantify bullying? It could even be as simple as a rolling of the eyes," said Dale Davis, a spokesman for schools in DeKalb County, Ga., where Herrera committed suicide."

Yet More on Young College Grads

"You can see that in the 1990s, pay for young college grads rose at basically the same rate as college costs."

"But since 2000, the two lines have moved in opposite directions. In real terms, college costs are up by 23% since 2000. But real pay for young college grads is down 11% over the same period. "

A post regarding health care:

"This chart shows the average annual change in per capita spending on health between 1990 and 2007 (the last available year for most countries). The U.S. shows up almost exactly in the middle of the pack. This is not an artifact of the years picked--it's true for 1997-2007 and 2000-2007 as well."

Political Phone Calls Have Voters Fed Up

"The Federal Trade Commission banned robocalls earlier this month, but political robocalls are excluded from the ban."

Book Review: Relentless

Title: Relentless.
Author: Dean Koontz
Year: 2009.
Type: Fiction.
Genre: Mystery/Science Fiction.

Review: Koontz is the Science Fiction version of Patterson. At first his books were good but now they have been just a waste of time. The story was absolutely awful though intriguing at times - at least enough to make me want to finish it. Do not read!

Grade: D+

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Review: Meltdown

Title: Meltdown - A Free Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed.
Author: Thomas E. Woods Jr.
Year: 2009.
Type: Non-Fiction.
Genre: Finance .

Review: A very good common sense approach to the current economic crisis. Woods is a Austrian Economics writer who suggests that the current crisis began because of the role of the Federal Reserve.

Grade: B- .

NAACP urges standards for police use of force

"The NAACP is renewing a push for federal standards on police use of force after the shooting of an unarmed black man by two white police officers inside a church while day care children watched."

"Both sides do agree, however, that Mr. Barmore fled when officers approached him in the church parking lot. "

Brown expresses support for health care overhaul

"The Democratic-led Congress should push forward with plans to overhaul America's $2.4 trillion health care system even if it means doing so without a single supporting Republican House vote, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., said Thursday."

"That's just how it is. I wish it was different," said the veteran congresswoman from Jacksonville during a "tele-town hall" with constituents. "I just know my colleagues."

Last Year’s Poverty Rate Was Highest in 12 Years

"In the recession, the nation’s poverty rate climbed to 13.2 percent last year, up from 12.5 percent in 2007, according to an annual report released Thursday by the Census Bureau. The report also documented a decline in employer-provided health insurance and in coverage for adults."

"The bureau said 39.8 million residents last year lived below the poverty line, defined as an income of $22,025 for a family of four."

"In another sign of both the recession and the long-term stagnation of middle-class wages, median family incomes in 2008 fell to $50,300, compared with $52,200 the year before. This wiped out the income gains of the previous three years, the report said. "

Local Group Removes Tons of Litter from Downtown

"Downtown Vision Inc. (DVI), the group behind the First Wednesday Art Walk and Eat Up Downtown, says they've been working to clean up dozens of blocks of downtown Jacksonville."

"In their report covering the first half of the year, DVI says they have pulled weeds from sidewalks along more than 65 blocks and more than 500 tree beds. They also put mulch in the tree beds."

"But here's the biggie: DVI says they have picked up more than 7,000 pounds of litter from Downtown -- 3.5 tons!"

"The pair work seven days a week, six hours a day, picking up the the bits and pieces of trash that city crews can't get to."

Obama Gets High Marks in Europe, but U.S. Foreign Policy Is Less Popular

"Barack Obama's popularity has been shrinking in opinion polls in the U.S. since his election, but Europeans still give the American president high marks, according to an annual public-opinion survey in the European Union, the U.S. and Turkey."

"The report, released Wednesday by the German Marshall Fund, showed 77% of Europeans approve of Mr. Obama's handling of international affairs—a record for a U.S. president—compared with 19% support for former President George W. Bush a year ago. In Germany, Europe's biggest country, the jump was 80 percentage points to 92%, the biggest increase in any category in the seven-year history of the survey."

Swiss topple U.S. as most competitive economy: WEF

"Switzerland knocked the United States off the position as the world's most competitive economy as the crash of the U.S. banking system left it more exposed to some long-standing weaknesses, a report said on Tuesday."

"The World Economic Forum's global competitiveness report 2009/2010 showed economies with a large focus on financial services such as the U.S., Britain or Iceland were the losers of the crisis."

"The U.S. as the world's largest economy lost last year's strong lead, slipping to number two for the first time since the introduction of the index in its current form in 2004."

"Trust in Swiss banks also declined. But in the assessment of banks' soundness, the Alpine country still ranked 44th. U.S. banks fell to 108 -- right behind Tanzania -- and British banks to 126 in the ranking, now topped by Canada's banks."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fed: Consumers cut debt by record $21.6B

"The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumers ratcheted back their credit by a larger-than-anticipated $21.6 billion from June, the most on records dating to 1943. Economists expected credit to drop by $4 billion."

"Demand for nonrevolving credit used to finance cars, vacations, education and other things fell by $15.4 billion, also a record decline. That 11.7 percent pace was on top of an 8 percent annualized decline in June."

"Consumers' appetite for revolving credit, primarily credit cards, declined by $6.1 billion in July, an annualized rate of 8 percent that followed a 6.4 percent drop in June. "

"July's retreat translated into an annualized decline of 10.4 percent. That followed a cut of $15.5 billion in June, or a 7.4 percent annualized drop, and the most since a 16.3 percent decline in June 1975."

"The latest cut left total consumer credit at $2.47 trillion."

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Back to School Event

The speech given to students on 8 September 2009:

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

U.S. leads world in foreign weapons sales: report

"The United States accounted for more than two-thirds of foreign weapons sales in 2008, a year in which global sales were at a three-year low, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Citing a congressional study released on Friday, the Times said the United States was involved in 68.4 percent of the global sales of arms."

"U.S. weapons sales jumped nearly 50 percent in 2008 despite the global economic recession to $37.8 billion from $25.4 billion the year before. The jump defied worldwide trends as global arms sales fell 7.6 percent to $55.2 billion in 2008, the report said. Global weapons agreements were at their lowest level since 2005."

"Italy, the second ranked country, amassed only $3.7 billion in arms sales, while Russia ranked third with sales falling to $3.5 billion in 2008, down from $10.8 billion in 2007."

"Such deals with the developing world included a $6.5 billion air defense system for the United Arab Emirates, a $2.1 billion jet fighter for Morocco and a $2 billion attack helicopter for Taiwan."

"India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Korea and Brazil also reached weapons deals with the United States, the Times said. The report revealed the United Arab Emirates was the top buyer of arms in the developing world with $9.7 billion in arms purchases in 2008."

"Saudi Arabia ranked second with $8.7 billion in weapons agreements, and Morocco was third with $5.4 billion in deals."

Florida Cigarette Sales Down After Price Hike

"The latest state figures show a 28 percent drop in the sale of cigarette packs in July versus the same month a year earlier. From June to July, sales were sales were down 17 percent."

"Florida's previous 34-cents a pack cigarette tax was among the nation's lowest. It went up to $1.34 July 1."

Independent schools score far more A and A* grades at GCSE

"About two thirds of GCSE exams taken at independent schools this year gained at least an A grade, compared with only one in five in the state sector."

"The IGCSE contains no coursework element and is similar to a traditional O level. It is favoured by all of this year’s Top Ten independent schools but is still not recognised by the Government. Dr Spurr said the GCSE syllabus for some subjects, particularly science, is not challenging enough for pupils at the £19,000-a-year school. "

"Almost 60 per cent of GCSEs and IGCSEs taken by independent pupils were awarded A or A* this year compared with 21.6 per cent of those taken in state schools. Admissions tutors at top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have indicated that they value the IGCSE most highly. "

Watchdog: SEC Screwed Up on Madoff

"In a stinging new report, the inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)reveals how the agency's "inexperienced" attorneys missed Bernard L. Madoff's colossal scam and believed Madoff's answers to their questions even when they were "seemingly implausible." Yet Inspector General David Kotz did not find any evidence of corruption at the agency - citing incompetence instead. "

"Kotz concludes that the agency's repeated investigations and clearing of Madoff served to increase Madoff's credibility with investors who believed that if the SEC had found no wrongdoing then Madoff's business had to be clean. "

"The report describes how Madoff tightly controlled who spoke to SEC investigators. In one meeting, a Madoff employee was yanked out of the room because she was "urgently needed." Later Madoff told SEC investigators the woman had to go to lunch."

"The report also notes that Madoff repeatedly intimidated SEC attorneys noting his relationships with the higher-ups at the agency even going so far as to say "that Madoff himself 'was on the short list' to be the next Chairman of the SEC." However, when SEC attorneys reported Madoff's repeated pushbacks to their superiors "they received no support."

"The inspector general notes that "at no time did the SEC ever verify Madoff's trading through an independent third-party." The report also notes that SEC attorneys investigated too narrowly and never "seemed to have considered the possibility that Madoff could have taken the money."

"The SEC investigated Madoff five times over 16 years and failed to detect the Ponzi scheme. Notably, even when SEC enforcement attorneys were handed a step by step roadmap of the Madoff scam by securities expert Harry Markopolos, they did not uncover the fraud that left thousands bankrupt overnight. "

Sink cuts wireless ties to save taxpayer dollars

"Alex Sink, who is hoping to win the seat now held by Gov. Charlie Crist, said her department has instituted cost-cutting measures that will result in savings of some $210,000 a year in wireless costs — a 37 percent reduction, according to a media release issued by her office."

"Some of those cuts are coming as a result of disconnecting 116 BlackBerrys, 56 cell phones and 40 air cards that Sink's office determined did not meet newly established criteria. The rest is coming from lowering monthly costs for services and reducing unused services."

"Less than a year ago, Sink, who is running a campaign on a platform of fiscal responsibility, announced plans to consolidate her department’s 11 consumer call centers into two call centers. The consolidation, which took effect Feb. 1, has saved nearly $727,000, with $2.25 million projected in annual recurring savings, according to the release."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Food stamp list soars past 35 million: USDA

"More than 35 million Americans received food stamps in June, up 22 percent from June 2008 and a new record as the country continued to grapple with the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s."

Jax lost nearly 25K jobs in last year

"The nation’s three biggest labor markets were also its three largest losers in employment during the past 12 months, and Jacksonville posted job declines of 4 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics."

"The Los Angeles area lost 240,100 jobs between July 2008 and the same month this year, the biggest decline in raw numbers anywhere in America. The Chicago and New York City markets were the runners-up with losses of 206,200 and 157,900 jobs, respectively."

"Jacksonville notched a year-over-year decline of 24,800 jobs, making it the 36th-worst of the top 100 markets in the country in terms of number of jobs lost."

Contractors Outnumber U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

"Civilian contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan not only outnumber the uniformed troops, according to a report by a Congressional research group, but also form the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States."

"As of March this year, contractors made up 57 percent of the Pentagon’s force in Afghanistan, and if the figure is averaged over the past two years, it is 65 percent, according to the report by the Congressional Research Service."

"The 68,197 contractors — many of them Afghans — handle a variety of jobs, including cooking for the troops, serving as interpreters and even providing security, the report says."

"Congress appropriated at least $106 billion for Pentagon contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 through the first half of the 2008 fiscal year, the report says."

Case Shows Limits of Sex Offender Alert Programs

"Mr. Garrido, who had been convicted of kidnapping and rape in the 1970s, was listed, as required, on California’s sex-offender registry (complete with a description of the surgical scar on his abdomen and his 196-pound weight) and had dutifully checked in with the local authorities each year for the past decade — all while, officials say, his victim and the two children he is accused of fathering with her were living in his backyard."

"Sex offender lists have made far more information readily available to the public and the police than before, but experts say little research is available to suggest that the registries have actually discouraged offenders from committing new crimes."

"And some experts say that the lists may lead people to presume that anyone registered must also be elaborately monitored, when, in truth, monitoring ranges enormously from place to place and state to state. In some cases, it amounts to little more than an offender mailing a postcard with his address to a police department once a year."

"The sheer numbers of sex offenders on the registries in all 50 states — an estimated 674,000 across the country — are overwhelming to local police departments and, at times, to the public, who may not easily distinguish between those who must register because they have repeatedly raped children and those convicted of nonviolent or less serious crimes, like exposing themselves in public."

FCC looks to block sex, violence from kids

"The Federal Communications Commission will open an inquiry to examine the various technologies to block children from watching programs with sex and violence, the agency's chief said on Monday."

"Parents must have access to control technologies that can appropriately limit their children's exposure to unsuitable material," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in releasing an agency report detailing the technologies available to parents."

"The report concluded that no single parental control technology works across all the media platforms, such as over-the-air, cable and satellite television; wireless services and the Internet."