Obama proposes further tax hikes

Obama proposes further tax hikesIn his quest to finance the upcoming healthcare reform, President Obama has said he will propose some $58 billion in new taxes on securities dealers, life insurance products and Americans with valuable estates.

The announcement follows earlier plans to raise as much as $1 trillion in tax revenues over the next decade, the administration’s pledge to go after individuals who may shelter their income in offshore tax havens and to close loopholes allowing U.S. corporations to avoid paying some of their taxes.

Predictably, insiders who represent industries which may be affected by the latest move have expressed their disapproval.

"Seventy-five million American families rely on the products offered by life insurers for their financial and retirement security," said Frank Keating, president of the Washington-based American Council of Life Insurers and the former Republican governor of Oklahoma.

"This is absolutely the wrong time to make it more expensive for families to obtain the security and peace of mind our products provide," he added.

Other recent tax proposals which provoked much criticism include the planned increase in taxes paid by Americans making more than $250,000 which some say will negatively impact the philanthropy sector.


Natural remedies that combat sinus problems

Natural remedies that combat sinus problems As the allergy season continues, many sufferers will be reminded that sinus problems not only affect their quality of daily life, but they may also be difficult to treat. However, some practitioners have recommended natural therapies as a good alternative.

Herbal remedies for sinusitis that have been long known to provide relief of congestion, breathing problems and coughing include pineapple extract called bromelain which is considered to be a natural anti-inflammatory agent.

Other popular remedies include grapefruit seed extract, potassium supplements that dry up mucous and apple cider vinegar diluted in water that is believed to thin mucous layers, according to EarthClinic.com.

Chinese medicine practitioners have also recommended head acupressure -pressing points located on either side of the neck in a depression at the base of the skull – or hand acupressure involving the point located about 1.5 inches in from the edge of the webbing between the index finger and thumb.

According to Dr. Mark Pitstick, a health commentator writing for the Chillicothe Gazette, those suffering from sinus problems should consider using a saline sinus rinse kit to flush particles from the sinuses painlessly.

He says some people have also benefitted from herbal supplements such as Sinupret, which contains a blend of five herbs, including European elder, common sorrel, cowslip, European vervain and gentian.

How to Buy Gold

Twenty months ago the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both hit historic highs—14,198.10 for the Dow and 1,576.09 for S&P.

Then the bubble burst and stocks on the two indices lost more than half their value. The slide seemed to end on March 6, 2009, and since then stocks are up some. Some investment experts say we’ve hit bottom and the recovery may be beginning. Others say of the recent little run-up, it’s but a bear market bounce.

Regardless, America’s economy remains troubled. And with the Federal Reserve throwing new money out the door to fund bailouts, stimulus programs and expanded government services, inflation is bound to follow. And once it starts it’s going to get ugly.

If you need proof, look to the Weimar Republic in Germany. In 1918 the government of Germany began printing money at a dizzying rate, setting off hyperinflation. Prices were rising so fast that workers receiving their pay would immediately run to the store to buy foodstuffs before prices climbed again. Business and industry were paying their employees with wheelbarrow-loads of cash.

In trying to keep up with the falling currency rate, Reichsbank printed a 1,000-billion Mark note that was so worthless that when it was spent few bothered to collect the change. By 1923, with one U.S. dollar equal to one trillion Marks and inflation at 30,000 percent, the collapse of German currency was complete.

Germany is not alone in experiencing hyperinflation. Economic collapse under similar circumstances also occurred in this century in Zimbabwe (last year), Turkey, Romania, Argentina and Russia.

In the U.S., our government tried to spend its way out of a recession in the 1970s. The inflation rate increased by 500 percent—from a 70-year average of 2.5 percent per year to a high of 13.5 percent in 1979.

But government spending in the 1970s is practically zero when compared to what the U.S. government is spending today. Don’t be surprised if you’re soon wishing the inflation rate was only 13.5 percent.

Are you looking for a hedge against inflation? You should look at buying gold and silver. By the way; gold in early October 2007 was selling for $750 an ounce. As the stock market dropped gold took a little ride and is now selling for $936 an ounce.

But you may be like most people who have never considered buying precious metals and don’t know how. It’s not as difficult as you might think.

The simplest and most obvious way to buy gold is in its physical or bullion form. Bullion refers to the metal cast in bars or minted into coins with the weights marked on them.

Actual coins we recommend are the American Gold Eagle, Canadian Maple Leaf, African Krugerrand or the Australian Kangaroo. We prefer these because they are stamped in English, have their gold content stamped on them, come in convenient, well-known sizes (1 oz., ½ oz., ¼ oz. and 1/10 oz.) and sell at small premiums over the value of their gold content.

If you can’t make up your mind which to buy you should probably give more consideration to the American Gold Eagle, which the U.S. mint still lists as legal tender.

For silver we recommend buying pre-1965 U.S silver coins. They were minted using 90 percent silver. They are still legal tender and are worth more than their face value (proving the devaluation of the dollar) because of their silver content.

One of the best ways to buy these is in bags with a thousand dollars face value of dimes, quarters, half-dollars and silver dollars. A bag contains 715 oz. of coins and currently costs between $10,000 and $11,000. You can also buy American Silver Eagles.

There are many places you can go to buy gold and silver coins, both locally and over the internet. Local dealers give you the confidence that you are shopping with a legitimate business—particularly if they have been around a while—and the ability to actually see and hold what you are about to buy. You can make your purchases with cash, if you choose, which will help you remain under the Government radar. Finding a local dealer is as simple as looking in your telephone directory’s yellow pages.

You can also buy gold from Comex, the commodity division of the New York Mercantile Exchange on which gold, silver, copper and aluminum are traded. This is where futures contracts of gold and silver are traded, and it is here where you can buy gold and/or silver futures or actual gold and/or silver bars.

If you want to own larger quantities of gold bullion but have storage issues, look to the Perth Mint, a 100-year-old mint owned by the government of western Australia. In the Perth Mint Certificate Program bullion can be purchased at the mint’s spot market ask price with no markup. There is a service fee and administrative fee, but storage is free. Safety is assured because the metals remain on site and cannot be lent out.

Another option is GoldMoney, available at www.goldmoney.com. Through GoldMoney you can open a free account and buy as much gold or silver as you want, as often as you want. You own the actual metal and it is stored in vaults in London and Zurich. The wealth in your account is readily accessible by electronic transfer.

However you chose to buy it you should use any dips in the price of gold and silver to grab more. Gold bugs predict gold will at least double in price. And silver is predicted to do even better.

Remember, he—or she—who hesitates is lost.

Harvard scientists probe link between vitamin D and asthma

Harvard scientists probe link between vitamin D and asthmaNew research appears to suggest that children with vitamin D insufficiency may be at an increased risk of severe asthma attacks.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School travelled to Costa Rica where they studied 616 children with the respiratory condition. They assessed each participant for allergic markers, lung function and circulating vitamin D levels.

What they found was that children with lower vitamin D levels were significantly more likely to have been hospitalized for asthma in the previous year and were likely to have used more inhaled corticosteroids than those with normal levels of the vitamin.

In addition to that, their airways tended to show increased hyperreactivity, and the children were also significantly more likely to be allergic to dust mites.

According to Drs. Juan Celedon and Augusto Litonjua, who were among the study’s authors, these results provide epidemiological support for what scientist have already suspected, namely that vitamin D deficiency may worsen asthma and allergy severity.

"[W]e suspect that giving vitamin D supplements to patients who are deficient may help with their asthma control," they conclude.

This is only the latest contribution to uncovering the extensive health benefits of
vitamin D.

Previous studies have found that insufficient levels of the vitamin are not only associated with rickets and other bone problems in children, but they may be linked to mature-age disorders such as heart disease and certain types of cancer.


Administration, Democrats back Pelosi as torture fallout continues

Administration, Democrats back Pelosi as torture fallout continuesAs the row over the extent of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s knowledge of the use of waterboarding by the Bush administration continues unabated, congressional Democrats and President Obama have stepped in to say they "stand behind her."

Some have called the ongoing controversy a distraction from the work of pushing through healthcare and energy reforms, and stressed the issue has not registered as important with constituents across the country.

Others have tried to redirect the issue back to the question of who authorized the use of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

"I think a lot of people have lost focus on [those] who put those torture policies in place in the first place," said Representative Baron Hill, an Indiana Democrat, quoted by CNN.com.

"Nancy didn’t do anything wrong, in terms of the legalities, that I’m aware of. I don’t know what she was told. I’m not here to cast judgment on her at all," he added.

Last week Pelosi suggested the CIA misled her during a 2002 briefing by allegedly saying waterboarding had been deemed legal but it was not being used.

The agency’s bosses vigorously denied any attempts to mislead lawmakers, and Republicans have called for Pelosi to come forward with evidence that she was misled by the intelligence community, according to Bloomberg.

Consumer Watchdog raises questions about healthcare plan

Consumer Watchdog raises questions about healthcare planConsumer Watchdog (CW), a non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy organization, has issued an appeal to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee to answer questions about how its plan to require all Americans to show proof of insurance or face tax penalties will provide affordable healthcare.

The organization has also criticized the committee for having met behind closed doors last week and for excluding the public from this very important policy debate.

"Americans should not be locked out of any discussion about healthcare reform," it said in a statement.

"Mandatory purchases of private insurance policies without offering a public alternative to the private market is nothing other than a bailout for HMOs whose greed, waste and indifference to our health have created the current mess," it added.

Among the questions the organization addressed to the chairman of the committee Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, was the role of insurance industry lobbyist in the proposed reform, tax penalties, the issue of limits (or a lack thereof) on what insurance companies can charge for coverage as well as protection against junk insurance and against escalating out-of-pocket expenses.

According to CW, Senator Baucus has received more campaign contributions from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries than any other current Democratic member of the House or Senate.


Airport Body Scanners Too Revealing

Is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) looking for hidden weapons or making pornographic movies? After looking at images from the naked body scanners being deployed in U.S. airports nationwide later this summer the answer is not so clear.

What is clear is that these scanners reveal far more than hidden weapons. They reveal every curve, nook and cranny in the human body and throw that image up on a computer screen for a TSA agent to view.

Called millimeter wave scans, the devices are set to replace the traditional metal detectors that passengers must go through to get from the ticketing to the boarding area of the airport.

The technology was first implemented a couple of years ago as a trial in the airport in Phoenix, Ariz. Similar machines were later put into operation in New York and Los Angeles.

When the TSA first began pushing the new technology it did so saying it would be used on a voluntary basis by those who didn’t want to have a more invasive physical pat down during a secondary screening.

In other words, those suspicious-looking white-haired grandmothers who didn’t want a TSA agent touching and feeling them all over would step into the machine so a TSA agent could instead ogle their image.

But now it’s not just the white-haired ladies, it’s everyone—children, teenagers, 20-somethings, middle agers and old-timers—going through the image scanners. There remains an option for those too squeamish to have their image made. You can step off to the side and a TSA agent can pat you down.

TSA says that the scanners will blur faces so no one will know whose body is being revealed. And TSA assures you the image is deleted the instant the passenger is cleared through the checkpoint. It also says only male TSA agents will view the males and only female agents will view the females.

Well that’s encouraging. We know there’s never been a man or woman who got their jollies from looking at naked members of his own sex.

Besides, the idea that the TSA is going to go to the trouble of separating the males and females into special lines once the checkpoints get backed up during peak travel times is unbelievable. And, in a news report demonstrating the working technology at an airport there was but one computer terminal in the room and the female agent was viewing a male scan. Later in the report a male agent was viewing a female image.

While news articles about the technology showed mixed reactions to the scanners by passengers, the very idea that one would have to submit to a virtual strip search just to travel on an airline should throw up all kinds of red flags. Big brother government already has too much data on your finances, medical records and shopping habits. This will give them a digital photo to go with it.

Thankfully the American Civil Liberties Union is considering filing a lawsuit against the TSA. Hopefully they’ll follow through.

If not, expect to have to reveal your naked body at every public venue in the near future because, coming soon to a subway station, stadium, concert hall and shopping mall near you, enhanced body scanners for the viewing pleasure of government agents.

Statistics: U.S. population becoming more racially, ethnically diverse

Report shows country is becoming more diverseIn a prelude to the 2010 census, the U.S. Census Bureau has released national population estimates that show America is becoming more diverse.

Among the key findings of this preliminary report is that fact that the overall minority population has grown to 104.6 million as of July 1, 2008, and now represents 34 percent of the total population.

Moreover, some 47 percent of the nation’s children under the age of five were a minority in 2008, including 25 percent Hispanics.

The estimates also suggest the largest and fastest-growing minority group are Hispanics, numbering 46.9 million in 2008, up by 3.2 percent from 2007. They are followed by Asians at 15.5 million, an increase of 2.7 percent.

According to CNN.com, Ken Gronbach, author of The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Growing Demographic Trend, believes this is a welcome trend from the economic point of view.

"Latinos have saved our country," he said, quoted by the news source.
"They represent 14 percent of the population but 25 percent of the live births," he added. "The U.S is the only western industrialized nation with a fertility rate above the 2.2 percent replacement rate."

Others point to the immigration implications of these trends as minority groups tend to have relatives living abroad, and the majority of new immigrants come from Central and South America.

This situation, they say, will make it even more imperative to conduct a comprehensive immigration reform.ADNFCR-1961-ID-19173175-ADNFCR

Question marks multiply as Pelosi denies knowledge of waterboarding

Pelosi continues to deny knowledge of waterboardingHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing increasing pressure to reveal the extent of her knowledge of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used by the former administration as evidence has come to light she may have been aware of their implementation.

When the issue of the use of waterboarding and other controversial techniques to interrogate terrorism suspects first surfaced, Pelosi said she did not know about it.

However, GOP officials produced an unclassified CIA document which suggested Pelosi attended a briefing session in September 2002 on the issue when she was a member of the House Intelligence Committee, according to the Associated Press.

In response, the Speaker said the CIA had informed her techniques such as waterboarding had been deemed legal but were not actively implemented.

Her statements have been widely interpreted as suggesting the intelligence agency misled her.

The CIA, however, seems to reject this suggestion, with the agency’s spokesman George Little saying, "It is not the policy of this agency to mislead the United States Congress."

A recently released Justice Department memo says the CIA used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 in the interrogation of a suspected al Qaeda leader imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.ADNFCR-1961-ID-19173173-ADNFCR