Report: Incentives, Bush Cuts Limit Number Of Americans Who Pay Federal Taxes

eport: Incentives, Bush cuts limit number of Americans who pay Federal taxesNearly half of American households did not pay a Federal income tax this year, according to the Tax Policy Center.

According to the report, the proliferation of tax credits has increased the number of Americans who paid no income taxes or received refunds from the government. In addition, the extension of the George W. Bush-era tax breaks allowed citizens of all income brackets to save money.

For example, a family that earns between $50,000 and $75,000 saved, on average, approximately $2,000, the report concluded. Many experts believe that these extra savings will help stimulate the economy and boost consumer confidence.

Last month, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spoke out against the plethora of tax credits that have been approved by President Barack Obama's administration.

“As a matter of fairness, wouldn’t it make more sense if all citizens paid at least something in income taxes?” asked Orrin Hatch, the top Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee, quoted by Bloomberg. “I am convinced that it would help us in our fight against excessive federal spending."

Democratic lawmakers have lobbied for higher taxes on wealthy Americans, which they say will help reduce the national deficit. Economist Bruce Bartlett told the media outlet that, politically speaking, it is easier to ask for more money from people who are already paying taxes, rather than requesting it from Americans who owe nothing. 

Tea Party Movement Gains Steam In Beantown

Tea Party movement gains steam in BeantownSeveral hundred Tea Party supporters gathered on the Boston Common on April 15 to send a message to the Federal government: Don't tread on me.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a likely candidate for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination, headlined the third annual event hosted by the Greater Boston Tea Party. Although the rally failed to draw the same numbers as last year, when former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin delivered the keynote speech, the Tea Party movement appears to be picking up momentum as next year's general election approaches.

Boston is traditionally a hotbed of liberal politics, but last week's tax day event provided a rare opportunity for conservative Bay State residents to publicly air their grievances with President Barack Obama's administration.

"What the government is doing is undermining our entire value system and our way of life," Mark Swan, a Boston-area construction worker, told Agence France-Presse. "The only way we can change that is if we get conservatives elected into positions of authority."

Pawlenty, who has a relatively low profile compared to some of the other rumored Republican candidates for President, won over some Bay State voters by blasting Obama for failing to rein in government spending.

Donna Luke, a lawyer from Middleborough, Mass., told The Boston Globe that she does not know much about Pawlenty, but added: "what I've seen, I like." 

America’s Radioactive Risks From Japanese Nuclear Disaster

What a month it’s been. On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit with a series of severe life-changing natural disasters. An earthquake at Fukushima created a tsunami that caused vast destruction of lives, land, homes and businesses. And if that weren’t enough, it caused a nuclear plant disaster so severe it’s difficult for one to wrap his head around its scope.

As a former resident of Japan myself, with dozens of friends and some family members still living in the country, this disaster is especially close to me. Every day I receive multiple emails and Facebook messages from my friends there telling me what’s going on and offering insight into how what they see and hear on the news in Japan regarding the long-term health effects of the radiation differs from what they get from non-Japanese media sources.

According to Kyodo News, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stated, "The possibility that the situation at the nuclear plant will deteriorate and lead to new leakage of massive radioactive materials is becoming significantly smaller."[1] Yet Japan just raised its nuclear crisis from a Level 5 to a Level 7. This is the highest severity on the international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And this raise in number would be an indicator to many that the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster is at the same level as Russia’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

One can easily see how confusing these statements can be. Yet The Associated Press reported that the Japanese plant was not worsening; the number increase “rather reflected concern about long-term health risks as it continues to spew into the air, soil and seawater. Most radiation exposures around the region haven’t been high enough yet to raise significant health concerns.”[2] In fact, Fukushima has “only” emitted about 10 percent of the amount of radiation as did Chernobyl—yet that 10 percent is a staggering 10-times the level needed to reach the 7 scale.

Generations of lives already killed during the disaster are but a shadow of the extended deaths that will directly be caused by its aftermath. And those deaths may not be limited to Japan alone. Leading radiation health expert Dr. Chris Busby estimates that close to half-a-million people in Japan alone may die from cancer caused by these events.[3]

It’s been more than a month since the nuclear power plant disaster and residents of the United States are fearful that their health and even their lives may also be at risk. They fear radiation will travel across the Pacific by wind and into the Atlantic by water. Updated information on the possible negative health affects in the United States is available on the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) website.[4] Here are four key points offered by UCS relating to the negative effects of radiation.

  1. Radioactive materials decay, releasing particles that can damage living tissue and lead to cancer. Some elements have different forms, called isotopes, which differ in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.
  2. The radioactive isotopes of greatest concern in a nuclear power accident are iodine-131 and cesium-137. Iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, meaning half of it will have decayed after 8 days, and half of that in another 8 days, etc. Therefore, it is of greatest concern in the days and weeks following an accident. It is also volatile so it will spread easily.
  3. To guard against the absorption of iodione-131, people can proactively take potassium iodine pills so the thyroid becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine and is not able to absorb any iodine-131.
  4. Cesium-137 has a half-life of about 30 years, so will take more than a century to decay by a significant amount. Living organisms treat cesium-137 as if it were potassium, and it becomes part of the fluid electrolytes and is eventually excreted. It can cause many different types of cancer.

But is there a real threat to Americans? Well, Russell Blaylock, M.D., seems to think there is. According to Blaylock, if a radiation plume from Japan hit the U.S. west coast it could pose a threat to the nation’s crops and the people that eat them. As we know, levels of radiation in milk in three states have been recorded at much higher levels than normal, causing some to believe that the radiation has indeed hit the U.S. food supply.[2]

That sounds reasonable, and frightening. Yet, controversy looms. According to the UCS scientific community, wind patterns are likely to carry the plume eastward from Japan and the radioactive material will diffuse before reaching Hawaii, Alaska or the West Coast. Therefore, UCS thinks the threat is unlikely. In any case, UCS is quick to point out that even minute exposure to radiation poses life-threatening risks over time. The ‘good news’ is that the negative effects of radiation directly inhaled via such a radiation plume can be prevented or greatly reduced by taking potassium iodide (KI) pills.

Conversely, radioactive iodine could affect Americans through our food. According to Erin N. Marcus, M.D., associate professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: “Radioactive iodine could be ingested by dairy cows, for example, and then would be concentrated in milk. Potassium iodide, however, would not be effective in that situation.”[5] Since Federal and State authorities are testing for contamination, such affected products should be pulled from shelves in time to prevent harm.

News has surfaced that radioactive iodine has been found in East Coast water supplies. While this certainly gives reason for worry, Dr. Lyman of the UCS asserts that at this time there is no need for concern. However, he is quick to interject, “no level of radiation is safe, because the scientific consensus is that there’s no threshold to the carcinogenic effect of radiation, but the risk is proportional to dose, and the dilution that’s experienced as a plume travels many thousands of miles is highly significant.”[5]

Like I said in the opening of this article, the scope of this event and it continuing destruction is difficult for me to wrap my head around. The best advice I can give is to keep your eyes and ears open to all news sources that are verifiable.

Some quarters looking to push an agenda will either play up safety or present doom and gloom. Like anything else, things do not happen in a vacuum and everything can change in a second. The lessons from Fukushima show this clearly. While we don’t have control of much of this, here are a few things you do have control over:

  1. Do your best to check the food you eat if you suspect it may be contaminated
  2. Take KI pills to protect yourself if you live in an at-risk area of the country
  3. Boost your immunity by reducing stress, sleeping well, eating whole fruits and vegetables, and supplementing with antioxidants.
  4. Keep abreast of the situation through news sources from all parts of the globe.

And if you know something as an insider, please post it here in our discussion forum to keep the conversation going.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

References:
[1] http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/radiation-risk-much-smaller-says-japan/story-e6frfku0-1226037306363#ixzz1JUkju548

[2] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110412/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake

[3] http://theintelhub.com/2011/04/13/real-experts-speak-japanese-radiation-risk-in-us-400000-to-develop-cancer-in-japan/

[4] http://www.ucsusa.org/

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erin-n-marcus-md/japan-radiation-risks-_b_842128.html

Study Finds Widespread Contamination Of Meat In U.S. Grocery Stores

Study finds widespread contamination of meat in U.S. grocery storesVegetarians and locavores — people who eat only locally-produced food — now have a new argument to support their lifestyle. The Translational Genomics Research Institute recently found that about half of the beef, pork and poultry found in grocery stores is contaminated with an antibiotic-resistant form of bacteria.

Staphylococcus aureus is associated with a compendium of human illnesses, and the majority of the strains that the researchers found in the meat appeared to be resistant to at least three varieties of antibiotics.

"The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today," said lead author Lance B. Price, Ph.D.

The researchers said the antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria may leave doctors with few options for treatment if a human becomes infected. Additionally, they noted that the crowded industrial facilities that the animals are kept in while being regularly fed antibiotics are likely the cause of the contamination.

While the government typically screens meat for drug-resistant bacteria, inspectors do not currently look for S. aureus.  

McCain, Kerry Back Online ‘Bill Of Rights’

McCain, Kerry back online 'bill of rights'Two former Presidential candidates have teamed up to champion legislation promoting consumer privacy on the Internet.

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act 2011 on April 12 and revealed its provisions during a news conference in Washington, DC. The bill is designed to protect online users by forcing companies to explain how they gather consumer information and what they do with it, according to The Washington Post.

If approved by lawmakers, the bill would require online companies such as Facebook and Google to receive user consent before acquiring personal information, including names, email addresses and credit card numbers. McCain and Kerry said that they have taken into account some of the feedback they garnered from lobbyists from Microsoft and Yahoo, who have warned that government intrusion could stifle business growth.

"Consumers want to shop, browse and share information in an environment that is respectful of their personal information," said McCain, quoted by the media outlet. "Our legislation sets forth a framework for companies to create such an environment and allows businesses to continue to market and advertise to all consumers, including potential customers."

Some consumer groups have expressed their displeasure with the bill, saying that it should include a "do not track" mechanism, which is similar to the "do not call" option that blocks telemarketers from calling residents.

Furthermore, TelecomTV.com reports that the legislation contains a loophole for data collectors, which says that information can be retained "for a reasonable amount of time" if it used for "research and development" purposes.

Glaucoma, The Silent Threat

The eye disease glaucoma is known as a silent threat because if you don’t undergo regular eye exams, you could fall victim and end up blind if not treated properly! One important factor is finding a doctor you trust. A respectful and open relationship with your physician can help you both examine the best course of treatment as your eye health progresses. But it requires homework on your part, too. Try to eat whole foods and vegetables loaded with vision-protecting nutrients like lycopene, lutein, carotene and vitamins A and E.

Hundreds Of Tornadoes Ravage Southern States

Hundreds of tornadoes ravage Southern StatesA total of 241 tornadoes swept across 14 States this past week, killing at least 45 people, and injuring hundreds.

According to FOX News, approximately 62 twisters touched down in North Carolina alone, producing the worst spring storms in the Tar Heel State in the last 20 years. In Bertie County, 11 people have been confirmed dead. In the capital city of Raleigh, three family members died in a mobile home park.

The University of Arkansas (UA) Department of Agriculture advises residents against staying in their vehicles or mobile homes during a tornado because they offer little protection from flying debris. Falling trees, airborne objects, collapsing power lines and broken glass are likely in the event of a severe windstorm, and mobile homes are typically not equipped to withstand those elements.

Ideally, individuals should find a below-ground location if a tornado is imminent. However, some natural disasters can hit without warning, so it is best to find an interior room, such as a laundry room or bathroom, that does not have windows, the college suggests.

Even after a twister passes, survivors should remain alert because tornadoes can reverse direction. If a residence still has electrical power, UA's Department of Agriculture says that it's best to utilize a radio or television to receive updates about the status of the storm.

Because We Say So

From time to time your kids “wander off the reservation.”  They do things which you verbally deplore, but laugh about with your friends: “back when we did (whatever you just grounded your brat for), we didn’t get caught.”

On occasion, your children will do things which actually appall, enrage or just plain terrify you. On those occasions, you likely mete out more severe discipline; but share no giggles afterwards. And on still OTHER occasions, your little monsters step over the line between the children you want them to be, and the adults you wish they’d never become.

From what I’ve observed—including observing from the “defendant’s chair”—the latter incidents often produce that all-time great kid-logic: “Why not?  YOU do it!”  And the parental response almost ends up being some version of “because I said so.” 

I remember from my childhood days that phrase also tended to work well on me; if only because if my old man fired that one off, the next step was the dreaded “fingerpoke of doom.”  Parents deploy “because I said so” because they can. And kids accept it because they must—Mom and Dad outrank them. Plus, Mom controls the dinner menu; and Dad has that fingerpoke thing. 

While you were willing to accept that kind of parental precept, there is no way you’d endure such guff from an employee. And yet, we all take it from President Barack Obama as often as your kids test your patience. Whether it’s an in between golf getaways command for more taxpayer belt-tightening; or another of those “Michelle-is-in-Majorca-and-I’m-dining-with-Oprah-but-the-rich-don’t-pay-their-fair-share” accusations, Barack boasts archetypical “because I said so” bombast.

Last Thursday, Obama, who chose to announce his re-election bid in the midst of his party’s near-submarining their beloved government, was at it again. During a fundraiser in Chicago, Obama proffered another of his “do as I say, not as I do” pontifications. What struck me was not his smartest-guy-in-the-room act; mostly because I can see right through it.

For all Obama’s efforts to avoid any sort of transparency, he’s paper-thin. His play-acting at gravitas is belied by the fact that he can’t order a Happy Meal without a teleprompter. Moreover—if you’ll pardon the expression—he sucks at his job. 

What kills me is that he delivered yet another smug sermon about tough times requiring tough sacrifices—and by the way, Republicans are evil—while standing in a restaurant which would bar the door at the sight of the very people about whom Obama professes to care so very deeply. N9ne is a part of a group owned by the billionaire Maloof family—the same folks who own the trendy Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. Enjoy one of the steaks for which N9ne is famous, and be ready to set yourself back about 50 bucks—presuming you drink water and skip dessert.

During Obama’s royal repast, he regaled his sycophants with the usual spiel:

“Right now, there are folks in the Chicago-land area who are… trying to figure out “…how am I going to fill up my gas tank?”  And all the tax cuts that we provided to help working-class families… they’re worried about those tax breaks being entirely eaten up by $4 a gallon gas.”

Really, Mr. President?  Did you consider asking your devoted acolytes—not one of whom likely arrived in a used car—to skip the $50 steak, order the chicken and give the difference to those “working-class families?” 

To be fair, I will stipulate that all Presidents—even the ones who are NOT the darlings of the effete NPR listener set—attend 5-star cash grabs like the one which Obama headlined the other night. (I suspect President George W. Bush never enjoyed them. For all Obama’s laughably stilted “man-of-the-people” posing, W. always seemed more comfortable in the sorts of places where eating with your hands is the norm; whereas Obama looks as out of place in such downscale diners as Rahm Emanuel in direct sunlight.)

Mr. President, your 2008 campaign haul was a record even before you broke your promise to stay within the bounds of public financing. The way you and your Democrat accomplices have performed of late, you’re going to need every nickel. 

Quit lecturing us, you supercilious twit. You’ve never met a payroll, never sweated the end of the month because you’re short on rent, and never had to choke down the kind of food they don’t serve in the places in which you and Oprah dine. For that matter—we’re the taxpaying citizens of the United States. Stop talking at us like we work for you, and not the other way around. 

Why? Because we said so.

Virginia AG: Right To Carry Gun In Church Protected By Constitution

Virginia AG: Right to carry gun in church protected by ConstitutionVirginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has clarified a State law regarding gun possession in places of worship, saying that the 2nd Amendment grants citizens the right to carry a firearm for personal protection.

In his statement on April 8, Cuccinelli noted that churches, synagogues and other houses of worship have the right to ban weapons on private property, but not the State, The Associated Press reported. His opinion was issued in response to a query from Delegate Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania).

Cole was confused about a law that makes it a misdemeanor to carry a "deadly weapon" into a worship service "without good and sufficient reason."

"The current State code is very poorly written, to the point of whether it’s even enforceable," Cole told the media outlet. "Why would you even write code like that?"

Cuccinelli said that carrying a firearm for self-protection is a "good and sufficient reason." However, citizens must abide by the rights of private property owners to ban weapons from their facilities.

Meanwhile, the Arizona House of Representatives has approved a gun-rights bill that would allow people to carry guns in most public buildings, including colleges and universities. According to The Huffington Post, if Republican Governor Jan Brewer signs the legislation, Arizona would become the second State to force public colleges to allow guns on campus.

Cardiovascular Health May Predict Future Cognitive Ability

Cardiovascular Health May Predict Future Cognitive AbilityIndividuals at risk for stroke also appear to have an increased chance of developing age-related cognitive decline, according to researchers from the University of California.

The team of scientists examined the health of 73 older individuals who had not experienced a stroke or signs of cognitive impairment. While analyzing the data of the participants over a 10-year period, a correlation between physical and mental health was discovered.

"The findings reveal that if you control for age, education and gender, participants with higher risk for stroke perform significantly more poorly in verbal fluency and inhibition, even when controlling for a history of stroke and dementia," said the lead author of the study, Jonathan Gooblar.

As the country grapples with a growing prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and a lack of a cure for the disorder, the findings may provide hope that controlling cardiovascular risks may help stave off dementia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a balanced diet and physical exercise as well as avoiding smoking and excess alcohol consumption for a healthy heart.