Among the few bright spots in the current economy are some tax breaks that homeowners may want to keep in mind during this tax filing season.
In addition to real estate tax benefits that can be applied to 2008 income tax returns there are also benefits that will be available for 2009, according to Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, an industry insider.
"Homeowners want to make sure that when they visit with the tax preparer, they bring along all pertinent home-related documents," says Mark Steber, vice president of tax resources at Jackson Hewitt.
"Knowledgeable tax preparers will not only walk [them] through the credits and deductions they may qualify for this year, but also alert them to the documents that will be important [in 2009]."
This year’s benefits include an additional standard deduction for homeowners who are not eligible to itemize deductions. For 2008, they can increase their standard deduction amount by the lesser of either the real estate taxes paid in 2008 or $500 ($1,000 if married and filing jointly).
A first-time homebuyers credit of $7,500 is also available this year.
For 2009, there are new benefits to those who want to make improvements to their homes.
They include an energy credit whereby homeowners can claim 30 percent of the cost for energy-saving improvements to their main home.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 67 percent of U.S. residents owned homes at the end of 2008.
AstraZeneca and the FDA are facing criticism over antipsychotic drug Seroquel which numerous lawsuits allege causes metabolic disorders.
A case against the company will be heard in Delaware state court beginning June 29. It alleges that Seroquel has caused schizophrenic patients to develop diabetes, excessive weight gain and other metabolic conditions, according to Aboutlawsuits.com.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has reported that a trial known as Study 15 was conducted in late 1990s, but its results were never disclosed to practicing physicians.
Instead, the drug gained an FDA approval, and has earned AstraZeneca nearly $12 billion in the past three years.
The findings have prompted some psychiatrists to chastise practitioners in the field as well as academics for allowing themselves to be influenced by the drug industry.
"The resources available for the care of our patients depend upon the public perception of the integrity of our profession," wrote the editor-in-chief and his colleagues in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
"The subsidy that each of us has been receiving is part of what has fueled the excesses that are currently under investigation," they added.
An AstraZeneca spokesman defended the company saying it has disclosed the drug’s risks on its labels, and its attorneys have argued the reports submitted by medical experts are scientifically and legally insufficient to justify the claims, as reported by Forbes.com.
However, the Washington Post says there is a growing expert consensus that newer antipsychotic drugs, which are 10 times as expensive, offer little advantage over older ones.
"I am… for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents."
This statement by founding father and President Thomas Jefferson echoes the sentiment of our nation’s founders. And freedom of the press and of speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, precisely to give citizens a venue to oppose the agents of a government with which they disagree.
But those agents of the government are hard at work chipping away at this freedom. To wit:
- An Oklahoma City police officer stopped Chip Harrison and confiscated a sign on Harrison’s vehicle that read, “Abort Obama, not the unborn.” A police captain later apologized and returned the sign to Harrison, but before Harrison got home he received a call from Secret Service agents who were at his home requesting to search it. Harrison complied, and after a search and an interview that lasted about 30 minutes, the agents left.
- Numerous congressmen are calling for re-institution of the “Fairness Doctrine”, a long-abolished policy that would require broadcasters to provide opposing viewpoints on controversial issues, in an effort to stifle talk radio pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz and Sean Hannity.
- During the presidential campaign President Barack Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer warned TV stations against airing a TV ad that was embarrassing to Barack Obama. The commercial focused on the longtime relationship between Obama and Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Bauer sent letters to the Justice Department imploring the agency to pursue criminal action against those behind the ads.
- The Obama campaign also sent out an email encouraging his supporters to protest and harass Chicago radio station WGN by flooding the station with angry phone calls and emails. Activists screamed insults to call-in screeners. Why? The station had the temerity to interview Ethics and Public Policy Center watchdog Stanley Kurtz, who had uncovered university records that documented a much closer relationship between Obama and Ayers than the presidential candidate had previously disclosed.
- After Joe “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher achieved fame for his innocuous question that prompted Obama to admit he wanted “to spread the wealth around”, his tax records, voter registration, marital history and professional licensing records were searched and media members tried to slime him.
- Obama supporters in Missouri, who happened to be law enforcement officers, responded to an Obama campaign request that they form a truth squad. They threatened to prosecute anyone, including media outlets, that printed or broadcasted material they deemed to be inaccurate about Obama.
- Obama contributors in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights section (headed by $2,000 Obama donor and former ACLU attorney Mark Kappelhof) urged preemptive prosecution of individuals the Obama campaign believed might disrupt the November election. A cited example of anticipated disruption was to send mailings of a non-violent nature addressing voting issues unfavorable to Obama.
- In the final days of the campaign, three newspapers that had endorsed McCain were booted from the Obama campaign bus. The New York Post, Dallas Morning News and Washington Times were removed, according to Obama campaign officials, to make room for more important media outlets: Jet and Ebony entertainment magazines.
- An Iowa state trooper was suspended after forwarding an email showing mug shots of people wearing Obama t-shirts. Sgt. Rodney Hicok was at home and off-duty when he forwarded the emails which made disparaging remarks about 15 people in the photos and referred to Obama as having “quite a fan base.”
These are just a few of many such examples of a strong-armed government working to silence the dissenters. Unfortunately, much of the fawning mass media seem blind to the consequences.
A look at history, however, will reveal that stifling dissent is among the first steps toward a socialist government.
In Germany, on Feb. 27, 1933, after the burning of the Reichstag, Hitler issued an emergency declaration that stated, "Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed." There followed a roundup of dissenters who were imprisoned and murdered.
A look at current socialist/communist regimes such as Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, China and North Korea reveals there is no dissent allowed, in the media or otherwise. Dissenters are imprisoned, gunned down or simply disappear. Even in Russia, now a quasi-democracy, press freedoms have been greatly curtailed.
This is where our once-great country is headed, and it seems the First Amendment no longer matters.
In these uncertain times many families may be looking for ways to keep themselves safe, and one website provides a comprehensive guide to the most recent wilderness and urban survival equipment.
Launched by a former Marine and veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, it responds to the needs of those interested in disaster preparedness by offering first aid kits, water filter systems, colloidal silver and Meals Ready to Eat (MRE).
"Rescue personnel can’t respond instantaneously to everyone who needs help," says Tom Sciacca, president of JHL Supply which runs CampingSurvival.com. "An emergency survival kit or ‘go bag’ provides essential items individuals or families should have in the event of a disaster."
He adds that people should choose survival kits with items that are likely to be most useful given their geographic location and living environment.
This and many other resources are particularly important in the current environment when the economic crisis threatens families across America with losing their jobs and houses.
Moreover, those living in the Southeast of the U.S. may be well advised to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season that starts on June 1.
In reaction to the bill that imposes a tax on bailed-out companies’ bonus recipients, a Republican congressman has said the move may be ‘legally questionable.’
On Thursday the House overwhelmingly approved the legislation that will impose 90 percent surtax on any bonus paid after Dec. 31, 2008, by a company that received $5 billion or more in taxpayer money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Any current or former employee whose family income exceeds $250,000 will be subject to the tax.
"The Democratic bill is constitutionally questionable," said Representative Mike Pence (Indiana), quoted by newsmax.com, adding that the Obama administration is trying to deflect attention from the fact that it had allowed the bonuses to be paid in the first place.
Earlier this week New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed that AIG, which received $170 billion in bailout funds, paid $165 million in bonuses and compensation, including to traders at its financial products division whose activities contributed to the near-collapse of the financial system.
This prompted the White House and many members of Congress to call for an excise tax on the bonuses, a reaction that culminated in Thursday’s vote.
In the meantime, however, it became clear that clauses included in the bailout deals allowed for pre-existing bonus contracts to be honored.
As a result, Republicans have been calling for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to step down.
Most seniors (in fact most people) are dehydrated. Our thirst mechanism begins to fade with age. Even people who are seriously dehydrated will not drink water placed near them. I have to consciously drink water myself, and you will, too.
Unintentional dehydration is a plague on the world. Orthodox medicine’s focus is on the solute (solid) body, completely ignoring the solvent (water). Our brain and body consist of 85 percent water. Water is a nutrient and it possesses a dominant metabolic role in all physiological functions of the body.
Most of us are not sick. We are thirsty. The “water cure” is not something the medical establishment is interested in. It is too simple, costs nothing and is available to the whole population. Dehydration is a primary cause of disease but completely overlooked. Or is it just ignored?
Drinking more water—six to eight glasses a day—can do miracles for seniors, and people of all ages.
- Water suppresses the appetite and helps the body metabolize stored fat.
- Drinking enough water is the best therapy for fluid retention. To get rid of excess water, drink more water.
- Overweight people need more water than thin people.
- Water helps maintain muscle tone and helps to prevent sagging skin.
- Water helps rid the body of waste. Many seniors are constipated.
And don’t forget to take 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt daily unless you suffer from malignant hypertension. In that case, see your doctor.
You should read Obesity, Cancer and Depression by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., and access the Water Cure website. (www.watercure.com)
Representative Luis Gutierrez (Democrat-Illinois) will visit 16 cities in the next few weeks to promote amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.
Gutierrez has said his Family Unity Immigration Outreach Tour aims to draw attention to the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.
However, FAIR, the country’s largest immigration reform group, has pointed out the consequences for American workers and American economy of a widespread amnesty, in particular in the climate of rising unemployment which has reached 8.1 percent last month.
The organization stresses that as 12 million Americans look for jobs, the Pew Hispanic Center has estimated that 7.7 million jobs are currently held by illegal immigrants.
FAIR has therefore warned that Gutierrez’s initiative would reward those who break the law, encourage more illegal immigration, and lead to a further deterioration of an already weak labor market.
"Lawmakers should be evaluating how U.S. immigration policy impacts the American worker, not parading around the country trying to lay the groundwork for mass amnesty," says Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
"We cannot keep our heads in the sand and ignore the impact illegal immigration has on wages and jobs," he adds. "It is a fiscal necessity and moral imperative to protect the American worker."
According to Stein, in Texas alone the illegal alien population has grown to 1.7 million, a 16 percent increase since 2005, costing the state about $5.9 billion annually.
Despite serious doubts about its safety, rivaroxaban is still being considered for approval by the FDA.
Rivaroxaban, a once-a-day pill for the prevention of blood clots in hip or knee replacement surgery patients, is also marketed as Xarelto by Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson.
However, an FDA review has found evidence that the drug causes excessive bleeding and other cardiovascular events at a rate that is twice as high as the existing alternatives, according to a Reuters report.
In addition to the bleeding problem, the agency has also found evidence of an increase in a liver enzyme that may be indicative of liver damage.
The reviewers noted that studies were under way that should provide information regarding liver safety.
Reuters says that the studies are funded by the two drug companies.
FDA’s approval board is expected to make a decision today, after hearing from a panel of outside experts.
The shares of Bayer and Johnson & Johnson’s fell by 10 and 1 percent, respectively, when the documents were released on Tuesday.
A new study suggests that peanut elimination or antihistamine drugs may soon be unnecessary because an alternative approach to treating peanut allergies has been showing promising results.
Doctors from Duke University Medical Center and Arkansas Children’s Hospital took a homeopathic-like approach a few years ago when they started the experiments leading to the results recently reported at the American Academy of Asthma and Immunology meeting in Washington, DC.
They administered a carefully controlled daily dose of peanuts to allergic children, starting with as little as 1/1000 of a peanut. After several months, the children were able to consume up to 15 peanuts per day before an adverse reaction began.
The children continued on that daily therapy for several years and are still monitored closely.
Specifically, the researchers looked at the levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a protein the body makes in response to peanut allergens.
Children in the study typically had IgE levels greater than 25 but they declined to less than 2 by the end of the study, according to Dr. Wesley Burks, chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke.
Despite these promising results, the doctors caution that more research needs to be done to ensure that the changes resulted from a true immune response and that the children did not simply outgrow their allergies.
The spring transition marks the height of the flu season but a few dietary adjustments can make a big difference.
A recent study found that 23 percent of U.S. adults are worried that they do not get the proper amount of nutrients from their regular diet.
"It’s important that we maintain a healthy diet year round but this is especially true this time of year when we are exposed to a variety of illnesses," says Dr. Claire Wheeler, traditional and integrative physician and instructor at Portland State University’s School of Community Health.
She has provided simple guidelines for making the most of the nutritional value of available food.
Immunity-boosting vitamin C can be found in bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cantaloupes, while carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes and winter squash are a good source of vitamin A, also an antioxidant.
There is plenty of Vitamin E in sunflower seeds, and almonds, while flax seeds and walnuts are sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Garlic has also been shown to be protective against viral infections.
When it comes to meats, cold water fish like salmon are sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and oysters Alaskan king crab and pork shoulder contain zinc, which can help support a healthy immune system.
In some cases, these simple nutritional steps may be all that is necessary to avoid a bad cold and the necessity to take medications.
Experts have pointed out that federal guidelines regarding proper nutritional intake are not justified medically and protect the interests of the food industry.
Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, two nutritional researchers Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. claim that a significant number of health problems among Americans stem from the quality and quantity of food they consume.
Their key assertion is that a whole-foods plant-based diet can prevent conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, but the federal nutritional guidelines are surprisingly scant when it comes to these foods.
Rather, the Food and Nutrition Board’s 2002 report suggests that the consumption of up to 35 percent of calories as fat is acceptable as a way to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, a level the experts dismiss as too high.
"[T]he scientific findings on diet and disease are marginalized by the political power of huge, mutually reinforcing commercial interests – meat, dairy, sugar, drugs and surgery," they state.
In their view, the special interests are determined to convince lawmakers that solving the health care crisis should rely on increasing access to drugs and medical procedures instead of focusing on expanding access to safe and nutritional foods sources.
Campbell is a professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, and Esselstyn is a former president of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons and a preventive medicine consultant at the Cleveland Clinic.
In an editorial, Newt Gingrich and Rick Tyler blasted President Obama for rescinding the previous administration’s regulations in the area of medical practice.
They singled out his reversal of the regulation which enforces legal protections against discrimination of healthcare professionals who refuse to participate in medical procedures by invoking conscience for particular criticism.
"[The current administration] is signaling that it intends to ignore the law and refuse to protect the civil liberties of healthcare professionals based upon religious or moral conscience," they wrote on newsmax.com.
They noted other policy changes, including the reversal of the ban on federal funding for embroyonic stem cell research and the nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services, as dangerous from the point of view of conscience-rights protection.
Gingrich and Tyler also ascertained that "the most hostile assault against the civil liberties in the medical profession may be yet to come" in the form a promised signing OF the Freedom of Choice Act which would lift federal and state restrictions on abortion.
Newt Gingrich is a former speaker of the House and currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Rick Tyler serves as Gingrich’s spokesman and is the founding director of Renewing American Leadership.
From Royal Lee, M.D.,: “Eat potatoes instead of bread.” It is good advice for the overweight who are constantly engaged in the battle of the calories. Pound for pound, potatoes furnish about one-third less calories than bread—so we may eat three times as much on a caloric basis. (There are about 100 calories per medium-sized raw potato, which is much less than a serving of spaghetti, pie or cake.) In addition, its superior digestibility and food value as a source of protein, vitamins and minerals make it ideal for reducing the caloric intake without sacrifice of many essential food factors.
The dilemma, now a crisis of obesity, according to Lee, is processed foods. Processed foods are foods we buy prepared and foods that we cook. These are actually incomplete foods because most of what we eat are dead foods that cannot support life in a healthy state.
Virtually the only reliable source of complete food complexes today is found in raw foods. Raw apples, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, raw meats, eggs, unpasteurized raw milk, cream and butter—all are foods which, under present-day circumstances, are as complete as it is possible to obtain. If obesity were attacked with raw foods, not only would the problem be obliterated, but the condition of our nation would improve to the point where we, instead of being the sickest nation on earth, would be the healthiest.
Obesity is a disease of civilization, or better stated, uncivilization. It is the primitive races that are civilized. They eat whole raw foods and they do not have obesity, cancer, diabetes, hardening of the arteries or tooth decay. And they don’t have parasites like the medical establishment and the FDA bothering them. In the so-called civilized world, the system debauches our health and then the “medical establishment” profits from sickness.
Compounds that can be found in green tea have been shown to reduce the inflammation associated with periodontal disease, according to a new study.
Scientists from Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, investigated the impact of green tea consumption on male participants aged 49-59 with varying levels of periodontal disease.
They observed that for every one cup of green tea consumed per day, there was a decrease in three symptoms of the condition, including periodontal pocket depth, clinical attachment loss of gum tissue and bleeding on probing of the gum tissue.
The most likely explanation for the beneficial effects of green tea is the presence of the antioxidant catechin.
Antioxidants have the ability to reduce inflammation in the body, and by interfering with the body’s inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria, green tea may help promote periodontal health, and prevent further disease.
"Periodontists believe that maintaining healthy gums is absolutely critical to maintaining a healthy body," says Dr. David Cochran, chair of the Department of Periodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center.
"That is why it is so important to find simple ways to boost periodontal health, such as regularly drinking green tea – something already known to possess certain health-related benefits."
The study was published in the Journal of Periodontology and adds to a growing body of evidence regarding the benefits of drinking green tea, especially in weight loss and control, heart health and cancer prevention.
Former vice president Dick Cheney said the new administration’s approach to the prosecution of the war on terrorism is exposing America to an attack.
Appearing on Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union Cheney defended key aspects of the Bush administration foreign and domestic counterterrorism policies, including some of the controversial interrogation techniques, stressing they helped to keep America safe after 9/11.
"I think that’s a great success story," he said, adding, "It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles."
He also repeated that the fight against terrorism is a war, and the Obama administration’s insistence on treating it as a matter of law enforcement will likely shift its focus away from the real threats.
Shortly after taking office on January 20, President Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and prohibit the use of torture.
Since then, four human and civil rights organizations have written a letter to the president demanding full access to the detainees at Guantanamo to review the conditions of confinement and make recommendations for revising U.S. policies.
News that the troubled insurance giant AIG has paid multimillion dollar bonuses to its staff as the company was being bailed out by taxpayers has prompted calls for an investigation.
According to newly released information by New York Attorney General Drew Cuomo, AIG paid 73 employees bonuses of more than $1 million. The largest bonus paid was $6.4 million and seven more people received more than $4 million each.
In total, the company paid $165 million in bonuses and compensation, including to traders at its financial products division whose activates contributed to the near-collapse of the financial system.
In the last few days, Congress and President Obama have been firing a barrage of criticism at the AIG management and publicly discussing ways of blocking the bonuses.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that he will propose a tax on the money so that the "recipients of those bonuses will not be able to keep all their money – and that’s an understatement," according to CNN.
To date, American taxpayers have provided some $170 billion dollars in bailout funds to keep the company from collapsing. AIG also received an $85 billion loan from the Federal Reserve.
AIG lost $62 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2008 while holding more than 74 million insurance policies in 130 countries, which suggests the possibly catastrophic impact of the company’s troubles for the financial security of its customers and the economy at large
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) has set out to systematically expose the Obama administration’s failure to live up to his campaign promises on taxation.
It pointed out that although the president had promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year, on February 4 he signed into law a 156 percent increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco, a hike of 61 cents per pack, to take effect April 1.
Furthermore, on February 26 the White House released its draft budget outline which raises taxes on individuals, capital gains, dividends, and foreign source profits of corporations while eliminating several energy tax credits.
In particular, the group estimated that two-thirds of small business will see a higher tax burden.
The coalition also blasted the administration for maintaining that the $787 billion stimulus package does not contain any "pork barrel" spending provisions.
Finally, the organization noted the tax problems of many of the new administration’s officials or nominees, in particular Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who was confirmed despite having failed to pay over $30,000 in taxes.
ATR is a non-partisan coalition of taxpayers and taxpayer groups who oppose all federal, state and local tax increases