Nugent: Guns Save Lives

Nugent: Guns save livesRocker Ted Nugent might be best known for his 1977 hit single “Cat Scratch Fever,” but nowadays the outspoken guitarist has struck a chord with gun-rights advocates.

Appearing on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight on May 18, Nugent said that “more guns equals less crime.” When Morgan mentioned that 80 Americans die each day from gunshot wounds, the musician argued that most of those victims are prisoners who are freed by “corrupt judges and prosecutors.”

Nugent claimed that the areas of the country with the highest number of armed citizens have the lowest crime rates, while the places with the strictest gun control have the highest levels of violence.

“Anybody that wants to make me unarmed and helpless, people that want to literally create places where more innocents are killed called gun-free zones, we’re going to beat you,” said Nugent. “We’re going to vote you out of office or suck on my machine gun.”

Earlier this month, Nugent provided the closing speech at the annual National Rifle Association conference in Pittsburgh. According to Reuters, he urged 2nd Amendment advocates to bolster their public relations campaign and spread the pro-gun message.

GOP: Mr. President, Would You Kindly Follow The Law?

Six Republican senators wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday, asking whether the President plans to act in compliance with the War Powers Act, with regard to the Unites States’ military campaign in Libya. The resolution requires the President to receive approval from Congress for military action lasting longer than 60 days.

“Friday is the final day of the statutory 60-day period for you to terminate the use of the United States Armed Forces in Libya under the War Powers Resolution. Last week, some in your Administration indicated use of the United States Armed Forces will continue indefinitely, while others said you would act in a manner consistent with the War Powers Resolution,” the letter read, according to a political blog on CNN.com http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/18/republican-senators-press-president-on-war-powers-deadline/.

“Therefore, we are writing to ask whether you intend to comply with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. We await your response.”

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) signed the letter.

The Senators also said they believe the President is technically already in violation of the part of the War Powers Act “which says the President’s Constitutional powers allow him to only deploy troops into ‘hostilities’ with a declaration of war, specific authorization from Congress or a national emergency caused by an attack on the U.S.,” according to CNN.

Census Bureau: Marriages Lasting Longer

According to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau, more married Americans are staying together for longer amounts of time.

An article on WashingtonPost.com read: “Three in four couples who married after 1990 celebrated a 10-year anniversary, according to census statistics reported Wednesday. That was a rise of 3 percentage points compared with couples who married in the early 1980s, when the nation’s divorce rate was at its highest.”

“Marriage has become a much more selective institution in today’s society,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, in an interview with The Post. “People who are college-educated, more affluent or more religious are more likely to get married and stay married. People who are not are less likely to get married in the first place, and if they do marry, they’re more likely to divorce.”

The report shows about one in four marriages ends in divorce, which is down from the 1980s zenith. However, fewer Americans are choosing to get married in the first place.

“Nearly a third of adults never marry at all. That number has marched upward in every age group over the past decade and a half,” the article read.

 

 

White House Bars Newspaper From Press Pool, Alleges Bias

The White House Press Office snubbed the Boston Herald on Wednesday, denying the paper full access to President Barack Obama’s fundraiser in Boston. The Press Office told the paper via email that press pool reporters are chosen by their ability to “fairly” cover the news.

An article on BostonHerald.com discusses the rejection, which came after the paper ran a Mitt Romney opinion piece on the front page — more than a month before the President’s visit.

“My point about the op-ed was not that you ran it but that it was the full front page, which excluded any coverage of the visit of a sitting U.S. President to Boston,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told the Herald. “I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the President’s visits.”

The article also quotes Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, who defended the March 8 piece, saying: “That op-ed was about jobs, which apparently is a sensitive subject for the thin-skinned people around the President. The White House may be able to manipulate pool coverage, but they can’t manipulate the fact that millions of Americans are out of work because of President Obama’s failure to create jobs and get our economy moving.”

Daring Scientists Challenge Widely Held Beliefs About Extinction Rates

A Chinese/American joint study suggests species may not be going extinct at the high rates that have previously been estimated.

An article for FoxNews.com discusses the study, which was published in the May 19 issue of the scientific journal Nature.

The article explained: “We don’t even know how many species actually exist, though it is known that biodiversity is declining drastically. But previously estimated extinction rates — some experts thought half the world’s plant and animal species would be gone by 2000 — haven’t matched what’s actually been observed.”

“To prove a species is extinct… one has to find the last remaining example of that animal. And (the study scientists) explain that the amount of habitat needed to find the last individual is much larger than the amount needed to find the first,” the article read. “In fact, the researchers mathematically prove in their paper that the habitat loss required for extinction is always larger, usually much larger — up to 160 percent — than the area required for discovery of a species.”

The scientists, who include Fangliang He of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, and Stephen Hubbell of the University of California at Los Angeles, argue in their paper for a new method of estimating species and habitat loss, called the “endemics-area relationship.”

“This is welcome news in the sense that we have bought a little time for saving species,” Hubbell said in the Fox News article. “But it’s unwelcome news in one sense, because we have to redo a whole lot of research that was done incorrectly as a result of the incorrect method.”

If It’s On A T-Shirt, It Must Be True

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign unveiled T-shirts that mock the Birther movement.

A political blog on ABCNews.com described the shirts. They feature Obama’s face and the slogan “Made in the USA” on the front, with a picture of the President’s recently- released long-form birth certificate on the back. One can receive this “limited edition” shirt by donating $25 to Obama’s campaign.

The shirt’s message seems at odds with statements the President made in April when releasing his latest birth certificate: “We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do.”

“Selling products featuring the long-form birth certificate might be a risk for the campaign,” The ABC News blog said. “Merchandise featuring the birth certificate could be seen as trivializing those concerns, or even crassly exploiting them to raise campaign cash.”

A campaign official told ABC News, the blog reports, that the T-shirts are at least partially a reaction to this week’s publication of conservative author Jerome Corsi’s book “Where’s the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President.”

Bipartisan Poll Shows Obama’s Strong Position Heading Into Election Cycle

Obama holds advantage over leading GOP candidates heading into election periodThe next presidential election may be 18 months away, but the political world is abuzz as a diverse group of candidates on the Republican side is vying for the party’s nomination.

Yet, as the media’s full attention has been focused on those who are running, hinting at running or bowing out, President Barack Obama appears to have built up significant political capital, according to a survey jointly conducted last week by Republican and Democratic pollsters.

Politico.com revealed the results of a Battleground 2012 poll, which found that nearly 60 percent of respondents would either vote or consider voting for President Obama.

The current President also easily won when matched up against two of the leading contenders for the GOP nomination. Specifically, a total of 40 percent of the voters said they would vote for Obama if he ran against former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (25 percent).

In a hypothetical race against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the President won by 40 to 27 percent.

On top of this, Obama’s approval ratings have soared in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s assassination. Politico‘s poll suggests the Commander in Chief enjoys 52 percent approval, although a Gallup poll puts his ratings at only 48 percent.

Savannah’s Vile Visitors

During my older brother’s college years, the Ku Klux Klan planned a march through the sleepy Southern town in which his school tended the delicate young minds in its charge. As the fateful day approached, the college administrators wrung their hands over the best approach to dealing with the potentially explosive mixture of goose-stepping knot heads and a couple thousand college students drunk on school spirit and youthful vigor. The students ultimately formulated a plan to hold a giant picnic on the intramural fields located on the far side of campus from the Klan’s planned steel-toed strut. The residents of the town were all personally invited, and nearly all attended. The Klan marched through a town empty of all but the ghosts of their sad delusions.

I think the picnic idea was nothing short of brilliant, if for no other reason than that loosing my brother and his friends on the Pinhead Pageant would have generated a bigger crowd of shrieking lunatics in white dresses than the half-off sale at a Manhattan bridal superstore. Where better than college to learn that even soft-underbelly-of-society types like Klansmen have the right to hoot, holler and wear the laundry? Where better than college to learn the value of ignoring them?

But the Klan is easy to ignore. Not that its particular brand of hate isn’t noteworthy; I just can’t get that worked up about a bunch of clowns who have trouble spelling multisyllabic words but know more about thread count than a Beverly Hills madam.

This weekend in Savannah — a city that has endured my presence for years — another group of more virulently venomous villains will be smearing this lovely town with filth. Fred Phelps and his twisted minions of the Westboro Baptist Church have delivered to Savannah the dubious honor of being the latest locale to suffer their foolishness. Unlike a Klan march in a sleepy college town, the Westboro sideshow in a city of more than 250,000 is likely as difficult to ignore as a palmetto bug in your grits.

Ever since word filtered out that the Westboro crazy caravan was headed this way, all Savannah has been abuzz with plans to assemble to demonstrate against Westboro, prank them or simply gawk at the goings-on. There are Facebook groups dedicated to organizing peaceful counter protests, and there are other groups that have more “energetic” responses planned. I will be among neither the former nor the latter.

I am man enough to admit I lack the compunction to stand within range of reprobates like the Westboro flock. If one of them shoved one of those “God Hates Fags” signs in my face, I would make him eat it. (Just in case my mom is reading this, I would be polite about it. I’d offer him some sweet tea to wash it down.) One of my more spiritual friends recently reminded me that Jesus would not only tolerate Phelps and his herd, He would likely love them in accordance with Scripture. My response was a fairly colorful version of: “Do we think there’s a great deal of confusion over which one’s Jesus and which one’s Ben?” I will eschew a visit with Phelps, because I suspect writing “Outside the Asylum” while inside the big house would be fairly difficult.

Allow me to offer the inevitable caveat: As long as Phelps and his accomplices abide by local ordinances (which they seem maddeningly willing to do), they are — and they should be — allowed to make absolute buffoons of themselves. Those of us with crania larger than Georgia white shrimp are allowed likewise to either point out observable buffoonery or pointedly ignore Westboro’s cavalcade of crazy.

Whether it’s Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam or “Creepy McStalkerston” and the Montana chapter of the Moody Loners’ Militia, America endures even its most aggressively stupid children. At the very least, their presence reminds us how blessed we are to know better than cheer the deaths of men and women in uniform, 9-year-old girls and/or Ronnie James Dio.

This weekend, while the Westboro Baptist Church slithers into my neighborhood to offer its high-decibel condemnations of military heroes, children and former Monsters of Rock mid-carders, I will be playing in my flag football league’s playoffs. It’s not that I don’t have some choice words for Phelps, it’s just that I would rather sweat, wheeze and limp for three or four days than find a way to make bail.

Cornstarch An Effective Vehicle For Vitamins

Cornstarch proven an effective vehicle for vitaminsSometimes, when an individual takes a nutritional supplement, the vitamins it contains are destroyed by acid in the stomach.

Penn State researchers have discovered oil-soluble vitamins encapsulated in a cornstarch pocket can pass through the dangers within the stomach to the small intestine, where the vitamins can be absorbed into the body.

The researchers said that when cornstarch is mixed with fatty acid esters, it creates a barrier that is both hydrophobic and hydrophilic. The balance between these two properties is essential for a good delivery vehicle for the vitamins, the authors said. Additionally, cornstarch can accommodate molecules of various sizes, as opposed to current complexes that can carry only small molecules.

The scientists said that cornstarch is not only an ideal vehicle, but is easily digested, readily available and inexpensive.

In addition to its uses in the pharmaceutical and food industries, cornstarch may also be useful in cosmetics, optic devices and electronic equipment, study authors said.

“We have more work and research to do,” said co-author Gregory Ziegler. “The trick is how can we set this up so we can do it simply.”

GOP Senators Block Repeal Of Oil Subsidies

GOP Senators block repeal of oil subsidiesSenate Republicans have blocked a bill that aimed to eliminate tax subsidies for the five biggest oil companies in the United States.

On May 17, the Democratic-led chamber voted 52-48 in favor of the legislation, which is called the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act. However, the law — which was heavily endorsed by President Barack Obama — fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure.

Nearly all GOP Senators and three Democrats voted against the bill, which was designed to repeal $21 billion in tax subsidies for the top five U.S. oil companies over the next 10 years, according to The Washington Post. Many Democrats have claimed that profitable oil companies must make sacrifices to help reduce the national deficit, while GOP lawmakers argued that the bill would hinder job growth in the oil industry. They also refuted claims that the tax subsidies would somehow lower the prices at the gas pumps.

"This is not an energy strategy, this is a public relations strategy, this is a 'how do I get re-elected' strategy," said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) of the Democrat-backed bill, quoted by The Associated Press. "It does not solve the problem or the pain that Americans are feeling at the pump."

Responding to the legislation proposal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called it "misguided, unwarranted and ultimately counterproductive," according to the news provider. 

Gingrich Backs Off His Criticism Of Ryan Budget, Reaches Out To Tea Party

Gingrich backs off his criticism of Ryan budget, reaches out to Tea PartyNewt Gingrich has begun backpedaling following his verbal attack on Representative Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget proposal, which calls for significant Medicare reform.

The former House Speaker fielded harsh criticism from Tea Party leaders after he described Ryan's plan as "right-wing social engineering" during his May 15 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. In addition, Gingrich, who is vying for the GOP Presidential nomination, publicly backed the individual mandate in Barack Obama's healthcare law during his television appearance.

According to media reports, Gingrich has admitted he made a mistake, saying that he apologized to Ryan during a phone conversation on May 17. Rick Tyler, Gingrich's press secretary and longtime aide, told Politico.com that the former House Speaker also held two conference calls with Tea Party leaders to explain what he meant on Meet the Press.

The Huffington Post reported that Gingrich is expected to denounce the individual mandate provision of Obamacare despite his track record of supporting the controversial measure.

William Temple, the chairman of the Tea Party Founding Fathers, slammed Gingrich during a speech in Kansas City, Kan. on May 17.

"Like President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Mitt Romney, Mr. Gingrich also favors forcing mandatory health insurance upon American citizens," said Temple. "They all quibble about whether States or the Federal government should do the imposing, but they would all use the power of government to force Americans to buy a product they may not wish to buy." 

Precious Metals And Commodities: What’s Their Real Value Today?

A lot has been written about commodities and precious metals in the recent past. While some investors believe that we are in the middle of a super cycle for commodities and precious metals, others think that there is already too much speculation built into current prices — that we are in a speculative bubble that will have to burst eventually.

Since discussions about commodity and precious metals prices are often conducted with a great deal of emotion, I hope this article serves the purpose of rationally analyzing what is going on in these markets, what the fair value of precious metals and commodities is today and what the risks and opportunities are going forward.

The investment case for commodities and precious metals is a bit more complex than it looks at first, so let’s start with a brief review of the underlying drivers of these asset classes.

First, I would like to point out that I am not a “gold bug,” but looking to invest money in commodities and precious metals is part of our job, and we think that holding investment exposures in commodities and precious metals should be part of a well- and globally diversified investment portfolio.

In an ideal world, our allocation to precious metals would be very moderate. Unfortunately, we are living in a world that is far from ideal. With the economic and political changes we are facing today, I think we have to deal with a number of very big challenges in coming years. These challenges might be even greater than what we have seen in the last decade.

Ten years ago, precious metals were not a big investment theme. Gold prices had been falling for the most part of the 80s and 90s when central banks were selling huge quantities of gold. This pushed the price down to about U.S.$250 per ounce.

Today, this has changed completely. Central banks have become net buyers again, especially Asian central banks. This, together with investors’ growing concerns about government deficits and money printing policies, has resulted in an almost perfect investment case for precious metals.

The ongoing rally of precious metals prices in the recent past is showing us that there is growing concern among investors worldwide about the health and stability of the financial system and that there is also a lack of trust in central banks and governments. Investors worldwide are worried about future inflation and forced money devaluation. The chart below shows how much gold and silver have gone up in the past 10 years (please note that the blue line is showing the relative performance of silver) as a reaction to those concerns.

 

In order to protect and preserve capital, investors are looking for a safe and stable storage of value, which has led to the strong demand for precious metals.

The reasons behind the strong increase of commodity prices in the past two years are different, but to some extent they are related to the precious metal boom. The strong rally in commodity prices has been equally impressive, as the following chart shows.

Remember, despite the strong recovery of equity prices in the past two years, Western equity markets have been flat for the past decade, as you can see from the chart below.

 

So considering the disappointing performance of equity markets and the very low yields in fixed-income markets, investors have been looking to put money into alternative investments such as commodities. Here, rising prices are driven by rapidly expanding demand, while supply is only growing at very moderate levels.

 

The growing number of people on our planet, especially the rise of Chindia (China and India), is creating the increased demand for a broad range of commodities. Let’s not forget that despite slow economic growth in the West, world gross domestic product is still expected to grow at about 4.5 percent this year. Emerging markets, and especially the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, contribute almost 80 percent of global GDP growth this year. Investors not only expect a good long-term profit on their commodity investments, they also hope to get at least some hedge against future inflation.

No question, the basic investment case for precious metals and commodities is as good as it can possibly get, BUT have prices gone up too far too quickly?

No matter how good an investment case looks long-term, investors have to realize that market prices can go down dramatically within a short period of time. When short-term capital flows go against the long-term investment case, investors can experience huge losses. Therefore, you always have to know where market prices are and what can influence them.

Let’s look for example at energy prices, in 2008 when oil was trading at U.S.$140 per barrel and people thought it would be at U.S.$200 per barrel soon. A very severe correction followed and prices fell to U.S.$40 per barrel within a few months:

 

Commodity prices (especially energy) have unique supply and demand curves which are steeper than normal. This means small shifts in supply and demand can cause very large price swings.

The increasing amount of investment and speculative money has made that problem even worse in recent years. While we think the days of “cheap” oil are probably behind us, we have no doubt that oil prices could easily drop U.S.$30-$40 per barrel again should we see increasing evidence that demand is slowing. This could be caused by lower growth in emerging markets, for example. On the other hand, should global growth be stronger than expected in coming years, prices of U.S.$200 per barrel are possible as well.

So what is the true value of commodities and precious metals today and what is the impact of increasing amounts of investment money that has been moving to these asset classes in recent years? Let’s try to answer these questions by looking at historical prices and pricing relationships with other assets.

One of my favorite charts you can see below. It shows the pricing relationship between hard assets (such as precious metals) and soft assets (for example, the stock market).

What is very obvious is that hard assets have become more expensive relative to paper assets after reaching a bottom in early 2000. This relationship had been falling for almost two decades starting in the early 80s, and it shows that these trends can continue for a long period of time.

The period between the early 80s and the year 2000 was also a time when globalization of trade and production resulted in strong deflationary forces, which brought interest rates to the low levels we are seeing today. However, there is increasing evidence that the days of record low interest rates in many parts of the world are over.

Actually, rates have started to go up in some parts of the world, including Europe, despite the sovereign debt crisis in a number of European countries. The Federal Reserve in the U.S. has not done anything yet. Actually, it is trying to keep rates at very low levels.

Rates are being kept low by ongoing monetization of debt, which means that the Federal Reserve is buying a lot of bonds that are issued by the Treasury Department. This has resulted in a mind-blowing expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet.

The investment community often refers to this mechanism as money printing. While rates could be kept low, this strategy has been the main driver behind the recent devaluation of the U.S. dollar.

The chart above makes it obvious that the pricing relationships between precious metals, commodities and “paper” money can experience large swings over time, and investors should always know about these relationships because it contains valuable information for investing. Today, gold is trading at about U.S.$1,500 per ounce and has had a very impressive rally in the past few years. It is a clear indication that investors globally are worried about the health of the international money system and currencies worldwide.

The expansionary monetary policies of most central banks are clearly lowering the faith of investors in fiat currencies. Therefore, investors have a real need for assets that are preserving the purchasing power of their assets, and gold and other precious metals are seen as the ideal solution.

The price of gold has gone up from about U.S.$300 per ounce to today’s price of about U.S.$1,500 ounce. That’s a very impressive rally. But is gold now overpriced or still too cheap considering all the money printing that is going on?

One way to answer that question is to look at the Fear Index, invented by James Turk of GoldMoney. This index compares the price of gold, multiplied by the quantity of gold a country owns, divided by the country’s money supply (M3). This index hit a 16-year high last year, but still stands way below its all-time high reached in the early 80s.

Gold also doesn’t look overpriced when compared to the stock market. The Dow/gold ratio, which compares the value of gold against the value of the Dow Jones Industrial index, currently stands at 8.3. That’s only slightly higher than the low reached in 2009, which was 7.1.

The conclusion is that precious metals and commodities have been a great investment in recent years and, considering today’s problems and challenges, the long-term outlook remains positive. But, investors have to be very careful as significant short-term price corrections are very likely in the future, no matter how good the long-term investment case for both might be.

The long-term investment case for commodities and precious metals remains positive, but investors should be careful and only make such investments as part of an overall, well-diversified investment portfolio.

Prepare For Vehicular Emergencies

I recently returned from a trip to a mountainous part of the Pacific Northwest where I spent a good part of my time driving off the beaten path on forest service and other remote roads. A recent news story about a woman who was found alive in her van after being stranded for seven weeks on a remote road in a Nevada wilderness brought to mind the countless survivor stories I uncovered while researching my book Getting Out Alive. Though the scenarios I explored included a broad spectrum of environments such as deserts, open sea, jungle and mountains, the recurring theme in so many of these stories was that of an individual, couple or family venturing out in some kind of motorized vehicle or boat to a remote place they would not normally be willing or able to walk into (or back out of). Trusting fully in technology to get them there and back, they strike out with little in the way of extra gear or supplies, fully expecting to return to the comfort of civilization after their brief foray into the wild.

The trouble begins when the vehicle either breaks down or gets stuck or somehow disabled. Imagine being 20 miles from the nearest paved road in the desert with only a couple bottles of water, or stranded on a snowy mountain pass with no means of starting a fire and no sleeping bag or adequate warm clothing for the extreme-low temperatures of the nighttime hours. Such scenarios unfold time and time again, no matter how many stories are published or make the evening news — all because people put too much trust in technology and fail to take the “what-ifs” into consideration.

To be fully prepared to go into a remote place, you have to imagine what you would do without the vehicle that takes you there and what you would need if circumstances extended your stay much longer than expected. A lifetime of hiking with a backpack, riding into remote places on motorcycles and mountain bikes and traveling by sea kayak, canoe and sailboat has reinforced this idea in my consciousness time and time again. As a result, I always have extra food and water, even for the shortest excursions. And a sleeping bag, Therm-a-Rest® pad, tarp, machete, fire-starting tools and other essentials are as much a part of my vehicle’s equipment as a spare tire and jack. There have been times when having these extras has saved me from great discomfort. If you travel off the beaten path enough, there will come a time when you will need them, too.

County Keeps Funding For Viagra In Budget — Despite $300 Million Shortfall

The Montgomery County, Md. County Council has decided it’s not going to let budget problems stand in the way of its employees’ bedroom activities and has decided to continue paying for their little blue pills.

The County Council is keeping funding for Viagra off the chopping block, despite the jurisdiction’s $300 million budget shortfall, according to an article on WashingtonExaminer.com.

“County Executive Ike Leggett proposed eliminating taxpayer-funded coverage for erectile dysfunction drugs in Montgomery’s employee health insurance program,” read the article. “However, the council has stepped in on behalf of those needing a little help in the bedroom. Under a new council blueprint, county employees would be eligible for six doses of such drugs a month. Previously, employees had no limits on the number they could get.”

“This should not be trivialized,” Councilman Marc Elrich, Democrat-at large, told the Examiner. “I know it’s an easy headline. But this is a quality-of-life issue. This can affect relationships.”

A spokesman for Leggett told the newspaper, “It doesn’t belong in the budget; we thought it wasn’t justified,” adding that not covering the drugs would have saved the County $400,000 annually.

Data Show Possible Link Between Atmospheric Activity And Earthquakes

The recent Great Tohoku earthquake that destroyed so much in Japan on March 11 is providing large amounts of data to scientists, and not just geologists.

Thursday’s Physics blog for MIT’s TechnologyReview.com, discusses how scientists at NASA are releasing findings on atmospheric data from Japan’s earthquake and others, with startling results.

“They say that before the M9 earthquake, the total electron content of the ionosphere increased dramatically over the epicenter, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck,” the blog said. “At the same time, satellite observations showed a big increase in infrared emissions from above the epicenter, which peaked in the hours before the quake. In other words, the atmosphere was heating up.”

There is an idea that is consistent with these findings, called the Lithosphere-Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling mechanism, which suggests that “in the days before an earthquake, the great stresses in a fault as it is about to give… releases (sic) large amounts of radon.”

Ultimately, if scientists could gather enough atmospheric data from past earthquakes, they may be able to more quickly warn citizens of an impending earthquake.

Obama Getting Rich Off U.S. Debt

Recently, the White House released the financial disclosure forms for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The form shows that large portion of the President’s wealth is seated in Federal debt.

CNN’s White House blog reported, “The President and first lady Michelle Obama had assets valued between $2.8 million and $11.8 million in 2010. And between $2 million and $10 million of their assets are invested in super-safe U.S. Treasury securities, according to the disclosure form. That’s up from $1.5 million to $6 million reported invested in Treasury notes and bills in 2009.”

Because the form uses broad ranges to report the President’s income (a result of each asset being reported individually), it is impossible to tell exactly how much the President is profiting from the United States’ debt.

The President and first lady, however, are not in debt.

The forms are a requirement of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which requires Federal officials in the upper echelons to publicly disclose their personal financial interests, to prevent conflicts of interest.

Liberal Billionaire Sways Media

Billionaire George Soros has spent $48 million funding media properties, including media-industry organizations, journalism schools and investigative journalism.

The left-leaning Soros, No. 46 on the Forbes list of The World’s Billionaires, has devoted his life to taking over American media, according to a report from FoxNews.com.

Through various philanthropic organizations, Soros has ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets — including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Associated Press, NBC and ABC. Soros’ reach extends to training new journalists: He has provided funding for Columbia University’s School of Journalism (the President of which sits on the Pulitzer Prize committee, which recently awarded Soros-backed ProPublica its second Pulitzer).

As Fox put it, “Imagine if conservative media punching bags David and Charles Koch had this many connections to journalists. Even if the Kochs could find journalists willing to support conservative media (doubtful), they would be skewered by the left.”

Representative Ron Paul Suggests Selling Fort Knox Gold To Pay U.S. Debts

As the debate over raising the Federal debt limit rages, policy groups have suggested selling off Federal assets to pay debts. One Presidential contender, Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), said the United States should sell the gold in Fort Knox — that is, if Fort Knox has any gold to sell.

Paul called for an audit of the Federal government’s gold reserves in August 2010, but was voted down. He said, “If there was no question, you’d think they would be very anxious to prove to us that the gold is there.”

Now, Paul recently told The Sun that choosing to sell the gold reserves is “a good and moral decision. An individual would have to do the same.”

However, an unnamed senior administration official told The Washington Post, “Selling off the gold is just one level of crazy away from selling Mount Rushmore.”

Experts agree with Paul, though. An analyst at the Heritage Foundation, Ron Utt, told The Washington Post, “Given the high price (gold) is now, and the tremendous debt problem we now have, by all means, sell at the peak.”

The Sun estimates, “at recent prices of $1,500 an ounce, (the U.S.’s gold bullion) would be worth about many tens of billions of dollars.”

Schools May Hold The Key To Improved Pediatric Health

Schools may hold the key to improved pediatric healthWhen students in Ann Arbor, Mich. were provided with nutritious food options in the cafeteria, more physical education classes and lessons on making healthy lifestyle choices, they had the added benefits of lowering their cholesterol levels and improving their resting heart rates, according to University of Michigan researchers.

The team of scientists conducted the four-year intervention study of more than 590 students in order to measure the long-term outcome of such efforts.

Authors of the study said that the improvements that the kids made in their health could mean a lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Moreover, the interventions appeared to have a lasting impact.

“Results of the wellness survey indicate that, after four years, students continued to make health-conscious decisions,” said co-author Elizabeth A. Jackson.

On average, the students lowered their cholesterol levels by about 18 points. Also, the average resting heart rate of a child was 81.3 beats per minute (BPM) before the intervention, but was reduced to 78.3 BPM at the end of the four years.

Huckabee, Trump Duck Out Of Presidential Race

Huckabee, Trump duck out of Presidential raceThe field of candidates for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination thinned out this past weekend, as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and business mogul Donald Trump removed themselves from consideration.

During his weekly FOX News program on May 14, Huckabee announced that he would not seek the Republican nomination to avoid “brutal” and “savage” attacks on his family. He was considered a favorite in the current field of potential candidates, but pundits have stated that Huckabee had little personal or financial motivation to run for President.

On May 16, Trump revealed that he would prefer to remain in the private sector, rather than run for public office. Although the reality TV star’s rumored candidacy was viewed as a publicity stunt by many political observers, he garnered ample support in a number of national polls. Trump also played a big role in the “birther movement,” prompting the White House to release a copy of President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate last month.

The two announcements have further opened up a field that was already considered unpredictable. On May 15, Mike Campbell, who was Huckabee’s campaign chairman in South Carolina during the 2008 race, announced that he has joined forces with Jon Huntsman, the former United States ambassador to China and Governor of Utah.

Huntsman has already enlisted the services of former political advisors to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who won the GOP nomination in 2008, The Boston Globe reported.