Court forces governor to accept bailout money

Court forces governor to accept bailout money The Supreme Court of South Carolina ruled yesterday that Governor Mark Sanford must accept the $700 million in federal stimulus money that was set aside for his state.

The court said the state’s legislature – which has already passed a budget including the funds – has the power to accept or reject the money, not the governor.

Media reports have suggested the Republican governor’s efforts were based on his belief that increased spending would bring a crushing debt burden on future generations.

"This decision is terrible news for every taxpayer in South Carolina, and even more so for future taxpayers who will ultimately bear the responsibility of paying for this so-called ‘stimulus’ without seeing any benefit from it," he commented.

However, the decision was hailed by state educators who feared teachers could lose their jobs and colleges be forced to increase tuition without the funds.

"It was so unnecessary and took so long to do what 49 other states figured out how to do a long time ago," said state Education Superintendent Jim Rex.

"It will allow districts to immediately begin to reconstitute programs and fill positions they didn’t think they could fill," he added.

In February, Congress passed the economic stimulus package worth $787 billion in an effort to jump start the economy.

According to the Associated Press, in April South Carolina had the third-highest unemployment rate in the country at 11.5 percent.

How to survive a hurricane

How to survive a hurricaneThe Atlantic hurricane season started three days ago, and it may be useful to review some suggestions for staying safe during a violent storm.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 36 million people living in the coastal areas from North Carolina to Texas are threatened by Atlantic hurricanes. reports Joe Bastardi, chief long-range forecaster for, predicts the season that will be milder than 2008 but still more "active" than the long-term average.

To minimize the stress surrounding hurricane evacuation, advises the National Hurricane Survival Initiative, start gathering supplies and preparing your home and family as early as possible.

That includes locating important documents, reviewing evacuation and reunion plans as well as putting aside ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables as well as water in plastic containers to prepare for survival in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

It suggests keeping at least a three-day supply of water per person (one gallon per person per day).

It is also a good idea to protect your house from damage by boarding windows and doors, sandbagging around the premises and trimming bushes to avoid exterior damage.

At the first announcement of a hurricane warning, the organization says, you should prepare to leave to a designated shelter or family or friends who live in areas free from surge and flooding.

Battery-powered radios are a key tool that enables residents of threatened areas to stay abreast of storm developments and follow evacuation guidelines.

The north Atlantic hurricane season lasts through the end of November.

State amnesty better than federal offer in offshore cases, experts say

State amnesty better than federal offer in offshore cases, experts say Much has been said about the Washington-announced amnesty for holders of undeclared offshore assets, but one expert says the states’ offers may be more attractive.

Following the example of the federal government, many U.S. states have recently adopted voluntary disclosure programs for taxpayers with undeclared offshore accounts.

However, the benefits of a state tax amnesty can be even more advantageous than the current IRS policy, say lawyers from Caplin & Drysdale, a company specializing in tax and legal services to companies and individuals.

They add some state programs can include full penalty abatement, immunity from state criminal prosecution and a limit on the number of years of tax returns that need to be amended.

However, "To qualify for most of the state voluntary disclosure programs, the taxpayer must make an application directly to the state taxing authority [so] simply filing amended state tax returns is not sufficient," says Jim Mastracchio, a partner with the firm.

The U.S. government’s crackdown on what it sees as tax havens was prompted by the financial crisis and the costly stimulus bill as well as several rounds of corporate bailouts that need to be paid for.

It gathered steam after the G20 summit in London earlier this year where global leaders pledged cooperation in pursuing the matter.

Tai chi helps manage arthritis pain, researchers say

Tai chi helps manage arthritis pain, researchers sayAccording to a study conducted by Australian scientists, the Chinese meditative exercise known as tai chi may relieve joint pain in arthritis sufferers.

Tai chi consists of a series of 19 movements and one pose and has long been believed to bring about physical and spiritual health benefits.

The research was led by Amanda Hall of the George Institute in Sydney and focused on the effectiveness of tai chi in decreasing pain and disability and improving physical function and quality of life in people with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

It was based on a review of seven trials that used tai chi as the main intervention for patients with arthritis-associated pain. The results suggested the technique not only decreased pain but also improved overall physical health, lowered tension levels and boosted participants’ satisfaction with their health situation.

The study was published in the June issue of Arthritis Care & Research where the authors wrote that "[t]he fact that tai chi is inexpensive, convenient and enjoyable, and conveys other psychological and social benefits, supports the use this type of intervention for pain conditions such as arthritis."

As healthcare costs escalate in the U.S, it has also been reported that another Chinese medicine technique, known as medical tai chi or quiqong, is emerging as a major health resource to help to boost immunity.

A Justice With Empathy

Let me say it right at the outset: Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a long way from being the sort of strict constructionist I’d like to see on the U.S. Supreme Court. I want someone who respects the U.S. Constitution to the point of revering it.

I want someone who believes the courts should apply the law based on 200 years of legal precedent — not make law, based on the whims of the day or the theories of sociologists.

In other words, I want someone who will follow in the footsteps of the great jurists of the past. I believe several members of the present court meet that standard — most emphatically including that most maligned of all justices, Clarence Thomas.

But it doesn’t matter what I think. I’m not the President of the United States. Barack Obama is. And he thinks "empathy" is more important than a strict adherence to some tired, outdated, musty old laws.

Thus his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a proud Latina lady with a long list of impressive accomplishments. And also some very unfortunate missteps.

Let’s begin with the missteps. As anyone who has paid even a moment’s attention knows by now, in a speech at the University of California, Berkeley eight years ago, Judge Sotomayor told the assembled audience,

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."

When the excerpt came to light, many conservatives were quick to attack. Caustic commentator Pat Buchanan put the shoe on a different foot and asked,

"Imagine if Sam Alito had said at Bob Jones University, ‘I would hope that a wise white male with the richness of his life experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Hispanic woman, who hasn’t lived that life.’"

The Presidential advisor (and two-time candidate himself) concluded bluntly, "Alito would have been toast. No explanation, no apology would have spared him. He would have been branded for life a white bigot."

The comparison may be odious. But is it accurate? The powers that be, in Washington and in the national media, certainly don’t think so. But what do you say?

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker and the House and one of the most prominent spokesmen from the right was even blunter. He Twittered his 344,000 subscribers that "new racism is no better than old racism." He explained, "Imagine a judicial nominee said, ‘My experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman.’" A few moments later, he expanded on the point by Twittering, "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

Newt’s argument was echoed by many others on the right, most notably talk-show host behemoth Rush Limbaugh, who said the remarks proved the judge was a racist. He then qualified his remarks by adding, "You might want to soften that and you might want to say a reverse racist."

Well, of course no one on either side wanted to soften the controversy. Bloggers and Twitterers around the world had the red, juicy meat they’d been hoping for. While many condemned the former speaker for his remarks, more than 1,000 liked what they heard enough to sign up for his electronic broadcasts.

Then the feathers really began to fly. Newt and Rush were attacked by voices from the far left to the near right. So much so that Newt was forced to back-peddle a bit. In a column in Human Events, the conservative Washington news-weekly, he wrote:

"My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.

"With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word ‘racist’ should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted)."

Faced with this firestorm of controversy, what should Republicans do? The silliest argument I’ve heard thus far comes from a fund-raising outfit calling itself The Center for Individual Freedom. In a widespread eblast, it wrote,

"Contrary to what you may be hearing from the liberal media, stopping this nomination does not have to be a ‘long shot.’ It would only take a handful of Republicans who have the courage and the backbone to do the right thing."

Who are those "handful of Republicans"? And what are they being asked to do? The Center’s plan is to persuade all seven Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee to refuse to let Sotomayor’s nomination come out of committee.

Yes, you’re reading that right. The group says that if all seven Republicans stonewall the judge’s nomination ("Please send us more money to make this happen"), the full Senate will never have a chance to vote on her nomination.

What are the chances of this happening? Somewhere between nil and zero. I’ve fought some lonely battles in my day — Get the U.S. out of the UN, Impeach Earl Warren, Keep the Panama Canal (well, okay, that one had a lot of allies; just not enough). But I can’t remember when I’ve heard of one as unlikely to succeed — or more likely to bring us disrepute — than this one.

But what if, through some parliamentary trickery, opponents did manage to keep the Senate from voting on Obama’s nominee? Do you think there is any reasonable person anywhere who would applaud what was done?

Let me be perfectly clear, as someone used to say. I believe there are very legitimate grounds to question Judge Sotomayor’s record, including some of her more intemperate remarks.

Frankly, I hope Senate Republicans follow the advice of conservative commentator Charles Kruthammer, who said the first witness they should call at the hearings is Frank Ricci.

In case you’ve never heard of him, Ricci has been a firefighter from New Haven, Connecticut, for several years. He also happens to suffer from a severe case of dyslexia. When an opportunity for promotion came up, he quit his second job, so he could spend as much time as possible studying for the exam. He spent $1,000 on books and hired a tutor to read them to him.

His hard work and determination paid off. He finished sixth on the exam to become a lieutenant. It just so happened, however, that not a single black applicant scored high enough on the test to qualify for advancement. So the politically correct leaders of New Haven tossed out the results and denied advancement to everyone.

Ricci and 19 other firefighters sued the city council to get the promotions they were promised. The case reached the august councils of Judge Sonia Sotomayor and two other members of the Second Court of Appeals. Judge Sotomayor had no "empathy" for Ricci and his colleagues. She voted to side with the city and dismiss the suit.

Even worse, Judge Sotomayor then tried to suppress news of the verdict. She buried it in a single, dismissive, unpublished paragraph. Had a reporter not learned of it, Frank Ricci and his fellow plaintiffs would not have been able to get a hearing before the Supreme Court.

Stuart Taylor, a columnist for the National Journal, and a former Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, accused Sotomayor of "a process so peculiar as to fan suspicions that some or all of the judges were embarrassed by the ugliness of the actions."

Now there’s a line of questioning the Judiciary Committee should pursue. Here’s another:

In a speech at Duke University four years ago, the Judge told an appreciative crowd, "(The) Court of Appeals is where policy is made. I know this is on tape, and I should never say that, because we don’t make law, I know." The audience appreciated her wink and smile and laughed uproariously.

I know Sonia Sotomayor is being hailed as "a brilliant legal scholar." But her ill-conceived and intemperate public remarks make me wonder. Is it possible she’s not too terribly bright? (There are whispers that some fellow jurists who have actually read her verdicts wonder the same thing.)

Back when she was first appointed to a federal court, Sonia Sotomayor took the following oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States, so help me God."

Does Judge Sotomayor agree with the oath she took? Does she even understand it? Or does she think it’s more important to be "a wise Latina woman" who has "empathy" for the plaintiffs who come before her — as long as they’re not a white firefighter — no matter how hard-working or how deserving.

Let’s hope Republicans in the Senate ask these hard questions. And that enough of our fellow citizens pay close attention to the answers.

Gay Marriage Divides GOP

Gay marriage divides GOP A major personality in the Republican Party has once again broken ranks on the issue of same-sex marriage stirring more conflict within the already divided GOP.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said earlier this week he supports gays’ rights to marry and that states, not the federal government, should make the decision on whether to allow it.

"Freedom means freedom for everyone," Cheney said, adding, "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish."

His views drew predictable criticism from the leadership of the Republican Party, with RNC chairman Michael Steele reiterating his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Stressing that Cheney brings a personal perspective to the debate, Steele said in his view marriage is between a man and a woman, which is "very much in line with what [President Obama] has said."

The GOP position has also been that marriage should be regulated at the federal level, although currently the issue of homosexual marriages is being decided on a state-by-state basis.

Currently, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa allow same-sex marriages, and three more states have passed appropriate legislation which will come into effect later this year.

NIA continues to educate about dangers of hyperinflation

NIA continues to educate about dangers of hyperinflationThe National Inflation Association has issued new warnings about an impending rise in inflation and provided more suggestions about protecting families and assets in difficult times.

For a long time, the organization has been encouraging Americans to invest in gold and avoid holding their assets in U.S. dollars.

Now it also suggests moving away from major cities and into a less densely populated area may be a good idea because when prices start spiraling out of control, leading to food scarcity and a law and order breakdown, there will likely be a massive exodus from cities.

"With food prices likely to soar most during hyperinflation, agriculture will be the best business to be in for decades to come," the organization predicts.

"Consider going to a farming school, or at least practicing how to plant a garden," it adds, suggesting moreover that skills such as sewing to make own clothes may be very useful during hyperinflation.

Moreover, learning to be frugal – which may include cutting out coupons and saving energy by switching off the lights when leaving a room – may also prepare families for future privations.

On the positive side, NIA sees investment opportunities in precious metals or agricultural products companies.

Stressing that gold is on its way to break the $1,000 per ounce level, it advises that, "the mainstream media won’t begin recommending the investment into gold until it reaches $2,000 per ounce, at which time a mania will begin that will be bigger than the dot-com and real estate booms combined."


Cottonseed extract may help treat brain cancer

Cottonseed extract may help treat brain cancer Researchers have announced a new naturally-derived drug has shown promise in treating a highly malignant form of brain tumor known as glioblastoma multiforme.

The discovery was made at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where researchers have concluded a Phase II clinical trial of AT-101, a pill produced from a compound found in cottonseed that appears to overcome the abnormal growth patterns of tumor cells.

They obtained encouraging results after administering the drug to 56 patients who were largely unresponsive to traditional treatments for glioblastoma which include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

After about three weeks taking the pill, many of the patients experienced a significant slowdown in the growth of their tumors, the scientists reported.

"After getting this drug some of these patients went many months without any new growth in their tumors," says Dr John Fiveash, an associate professor in the UAB Department of Radiation Oncology and the lead researcher on the study.

"We are able to do that with a well-tolerated oral medication, and that is a major benefit," he adds.

Fiveash also says AT-101 would likely work best in combination with radiation and chemotherapy to boost the cancer-fighting properties of those treatments.

Absurd Vaccine Marketing—Cervical Cancer Vaccinations for Boys

Can anyone imagine a drug company marketing a drug for boys designed for a body part they do not have? This can’t be anything but profit motivated—and a new low in pharmaceutical amorality.

A cervical cancer vaccination for girls is a hoax, let alone for boys. This really sounds like a joke and it really is—except that millions of people will do it.

Immunization? Why do they call it immunization when one out of every 100 children vaccinated develops autism, one in six is learning disabled and one in nine gets vaccination-related asthma?

Twenty-eight states including Florida, Massachusetts and New York allow parents to opt out of required vaccinations for medical or religious reasons. Twenty others, such as California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio, also permit parents to give personal or philosophical reasons. Mississippi and West Virginia allow exemptions only for medical reasons, according to the Associated Press.

Survey: Majority of workers remain on the job past retirement age

Majority of workers remain on the job past retirement age, survey saysA new survey of government managers has indicated the bad economy is altering retirement plans among state and local government employees as a vast majority of those eligible to retire stay on the job.

The poll conducted by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, has found that 49 percent of the managers surveyed said 20 percent or more of their workers are eligible to retire in the next five years.

However, nearly 85 percent said employees are delaying retirements, while only 9 percent said they are accelerating their retirements to avoid changes that will reduce benefits and 7 percent said workers are taking incentives for early retirement.

"When the economy recovers, there will be a spike in the number of retirements as the large number of baby boomers leave," says Neil E. Reichenberg, executive director of IPMA-HR.

"Human resource departments need to lead workforce planning efforts, so that the public sector will be well positioned when the economy recovers," he adds.

The poll also found that 60 percent of respondents said their state governments are instituting layoffs, with 39 of those saying layoffs based solely on seniority, while 42 percent said their local governments are laying off employees, with 43 percent of the layoffs based on seniority.