Oil From Gulf Disaster Found In Food Chain

CAMBRIDGE, Md. (UPI) — Oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster entered the food chain in the Gulf of Mexico through zooplankton, the tiniest of organisms, researchers say.

Zooplankton serves as food for baby fish and shrimp, and acts as a conduit for the movement of oil contamination and pollutants into the food chain, they said.

“Traces of oil in the zooplankton prove that they had contact with the oil and the likelihood that oil compounds may be working their way up the food chain,” Michael Roman of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science said.

A study published in the journal Geographical Research Letters confirms that not only did oil affect the ecosystem in the gulf during BP’s world record marine oil spill but was still entering the food web after the blown-out well was capped.

The fingerprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill could be found in some zooplankton as much as a month after the leaking wellhead was capped, the researchers said.


Mild Winter = ‘Perfect Storm’ Of Pollen

CHICAGO (UPI) — The mild winter resulted in a “perfect storm” of pollen in many parts of the United States on the first day of spring, U.S. allergists said.

“The recent rains followed by warm, sunny, summer-like temperatures have created a dangerously high tree pollen count and allergy sufferers should stay indoors, keep the windows closed, use their air conditioners and take their allergy medications,” said Dr. Joseph Leija, an allergist at Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital near Chicago certified by the National Allergy Bureau to perform the daily official allergy count for the Midwest. “Chicago’s tree pollen count is dangerously high and the city is officially on alert for poor air quality — ragweed in March is unheard of in the Midwest; I have never seen an allergy count so unusual.”

Allergist Dr. Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said in the Atlanta area Tuesday’s 9,369 particles of pollen per cubic meter of air is 55 percent higher than the old record prior to this week of 6,013, set April 12, 1999.

Anything more than 1,500 is considered “extremely high,” and last year, the highest pollen count measured in the Atlanta area was 3,939 March 24.

Dr. Donald J. Leopold of State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse has studied woody and herbaceous native and non-native plants for 27 years. He said he had never seen these species bloom on campus before April 1.

This warm weather might be really pleasant,” Leopold said. “But when the weather is really altered from typical conditions, there are always winners and losers among all types of both plants and animals.”

Obese Kids Had Lower Vitamin D Levels

DALLAS (UPI) — U.S. researchers found compared to normal weight children, obese children have lower vitamin D levels.

Dr. Michele Hutchison is at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas U.S. teenagers had lower vitamin D levels than younger children, partly because they often skipped breakfast and drank more soda.

“Those children with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood were also the children that seemed to be at the highest risk of having prediabetes, as measured by a marker for insulin resistance,” Hutchison said in a statement.

Prediabetes is a condition in which someone is thought to be at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes — most often associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities.

About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents, especially among African-American, Mexican-American, and

Pacific-Islander youth.

When type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but for unknown reasons the body cannot use the insulin effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. After several years, insulin production decreases. The result is the same as for type 1 diabetes — glucose builds up in the blood and the body cannot make efficient cient use of its main source of fuel.

The study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Daily Aspirin May Reduce Cancer Risk

OXFORD, England (UPI) — Taking low-dose aspirin daily might prevent several cancers and stop cancer from spreading, researchers in Britain said.

Dr. Peter Rothwell of Oxford University and the John Radcliffe hospital, and colleagues, said it is time to add prevention of cancer into the analysis of the balance of risk and benefits of aspirin. So far, all the guidelines have just been based on the prevention of strokes and heart attacks.

“This research really shows that the cancer benefit is as large, if not larger, than the benefit in terms of preventing heart attacks and strokes,” he told the Guardian. “It does change the equation quite drastically.”

All the data for the studies came from 51 trials giving low-dose aspirin to people at risk of a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin thins the blood, making it less likely to clot.

The first study showed a daily low-dose pill for three years could reduce risk of cancer by 23 percent for men and 25 percent for women. The risk of dying of cancer was cut by 15 percent, but the risk was reduced to 37 percent for those who take aspirin for longer than five years.

The second study found aspirin helped prevent the spread of cancer — metastasis — to other organs by 48 percent.

Aspirin also reduced the risk of being diagnosed with a solid cancer that had already spread by 31 percent, the third study said.

The findings are scheduled to be published Wednesday in The Lancet and Lancet Oncology.


Medications May Raise Blood Pressure

TEL AVIV, Israel (UPI) — Painkillers such as ibuprofen can raise blood pressure and other medications can interfere with anti-hypertensive medications, researchers in Israel said.

Professor Ehud Grossman of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center said many common over-the-counter and prescription medications are underlying causes of hypertension, which is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack and aneurysms.

Oral contraceptive, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory pills to control pain and antibiotics to treat bacteria could cause drug-induced hypertension, but both patients and doctors remain dangerously uninformed, Grossman said.

Although high-blood pressure is a known side effect of many of these medications, doctors do not always account for them in their treatment plans, and they don’t inform patients of the potential risks associated with these medications, Grossman explained.

“It’s ultimately the doctor’s responsibility to weigh treatment options and present the best course for their patient should issues of hypertension arise,” Grossman said in a statement. “Many physicians don’t account for this, and some don’t even know about it. It’s their responsibility to be informed and make sure that their patients are aware that this is a possibility.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Medicine.

Art May Change Brain, Help Stroke Recovery

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (UPI) — Survivors of stroke who liked the arts had a significantly higher quality-of-life than those who do not, researchers in Italy suggested.

Lead author Dr. Ercole Vellone, assistant professor in nursing science at the School of Nursing, University Tor Vergata in Rome, said the study involved 192 stroke survivors — average age 70 — who were asked whether they liked art, music, painting and theater. Quality of life was compared for 105 patients interested in art and 87 patients not interested in art.

The researchers found patients interested in art had better general health, found it easier to walk and had more energy after the stroke.

They were also happier, less anxious or depressed, felt calmer, had better memory and were superior communicators, Vellone said.

“Stroke survivors who saw art as an integrated part of their former lifestyle, by expressing appreciation towards music, painting and theatre, showed better recovery skills than those who did not,” Vellone said in a statement. “In our study the ‘art’ group of patients showed a comparable clinical picture to the ‘no art’ group. This is important because it means that patients belonging to the ‘art’ group had a better quality of life independently from the gravity of stroke. The results suggest that art may make long-term changes to the brain which help it recover when things go wrong.”

The findings were presented at the 12th annual spring meeting on cardiovascular nursing in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Work Gaps? Employers Say They Understand

CHICAGO (UPI) — A majority of U.S. employers in a national poll indicated they understand the recent recession disrupted normal career paths.

It is fairly standard for job seekers to worry a gap in their employment record makes them appear unemployable or lazy — or both. In addition, many worry taking a job with lesser pay than a previous job is a traditional red flag — a sign that something has gone wrong.

In a recent nationwide CareerBuilder survey conducted by Harris Interactive, however, a large majority of employers polled — 85 percent — indicated they are more empathic to a job candidate’s work gaps.

An even larger share — 94 percent — indicated they would not think poorly of a job candidate who took a lower-level position to get through the recession.

The Nov. 9 to Dec. 5 survey included 3,023 responses with an error margin of 2 percentage points.

Higher Rates Slow Mortgage Activity

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Mortgage Bankers Association said U.S. mortgage activity fell 7.4 percent in the week ending Friday, as interest rates rose.

Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate conforming mortgages climbed from 4.39 percent to 4.49 percent with average points rising from 0.43 to 0.47.

Rates for 15-year, fixed-rate contracts rose from 3.36 percent to 3.47 percent. Points for 15-year loans rose from 0.34 to 0.4.

Along with the MBA’s Mortgage Index, the Refinancing Index also decreased, dropping 9.3 percent compared with the previous week.

U.S. Retail Gets Another Boost From Weather

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. retail sales rose 0.9 percent in the week ending Saturday with clothing and department stores showing strong gains, a trade association said.

The International Council of Shopping Centers said sales rose 0.9 percent from the previous week and 3.3 percent from the same week of 2011.

Factory outlet stores also showed gains as weekly receipts showed the strongest year-to-year gains since early February.

The weather continued to push sales of spring items as the average temperature was 7.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the same week a year earlier.

While the weather was encouraging, gasoline prices gained 3.8 cents in the week, cutting deeper into consumers’ discretionary funds.

The national average price of gasoline was $3.867 Saturday, 8.6 percent higher than the same week a year earlier, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

Existing Home Sales Down Month-To-Month

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Existing U.S. home sales fell 0.9 percent in February month-to-month, but rose over the past 12 months, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

The trade group said sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops rose 8.8 percent from a year earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in the month.

The mixed data shows, “The market is trending up unevenly, with record high consumer buying power and sustained job gains giving buyers the confidence they need to get into the market,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

“Although relatively unusual, there will be rising demand for both rental space and homeownership this year. The great suppression in household formation during the past four years was unsustainable, and a pent-up demand could burst forth from the improving economy,” he said.

NAR said sales of existing homes fell 3.3 percent in the Northeast, but rose 1 percent in the Midwest. In the South, sales rose 0.6 percent, while in the West sales fell 3.2 percent.

The average median price for an existing home was $157,100 in the month, 0.1 percent above February 2011.

The trade group said at the end of February inventory rose 4.3 percent to 2.43 million existing homes on the market, which is a 6.4 month supply at the current rate of sales — an increase from the 6-month supply at the end of January.

Clinton Touts Steps To Isolate Iran

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday 11 countries have become the first to “significantly reduce” imports of oil from Iran.

“I am pleased to announce that an initial group of 11 countries has significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran,” she said.

Clinton said Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom were the first to join the United States in an effort to isolate Iran economically in an effort to pressure Tehran to abandon an alleged nuclear weapons program.

The European Union has agreed to comply with the sanctions but allowed its members until July 1 to phase out existing contracts with Iranian suppliers.

“The actions taken by these countries were not easy,” Clinton said. “They had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil, which many had been reliant on for their energy needs.”

Although not an oil importer, Saudi Arabia said this week it would act unilaterally or in cooperation with members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to keep oil supplies intact and oil prices stable while the supply from Iran diminishes.

Woman, 101, Becomes Oldest Paraglider

OGDEN, Utah (UPI) — Guinness World Records announced a 101-year-old Utah woman has been named the Oldest Female to Paraglide Tandem.

The record-keeping organization said Mary Allen Hardison of Ogden, went tandem paragliding with a Cloud 9 Paragliding Company instructor as part of her 101st birthday celebration on Sept. 1.

Hardison, a great-great grandmother, said she was inspired by her son, Allen, 75, who had recently taken up paragliding as a hobby.

“I feel very humble in setting a new Guinness World Record. My desire is for the elderly to keep on going, do things as long as you are physically able. Be positive. Friends don’t like a grumpy person,” Hardison said.

Arrested Man Lists Self As ‘Drug Dealer’

HOLIDAY, Fla. (UPI) — Police said a man who allegedly stabbed another man and lists his occupation as “drug dealer” was arrested on a probation violation.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said Deaundre Barnes, 22, allegedly stabbed Thomas Grippo, 23, at a home in Holiday during a fight sparked when Barnes told Grippo and his girlfriend to “shut up” early Sunday morning, the Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., reported Wednesday.

Grippo told police he didn’t realize he’d been stabbed until he arrived home and discovered he was bleeding.

Police said Barnes was sentenced to five years of drug offender probation in June and is listed by the Florida Department of Corrections as an “absconder/fugitive.”

Barnes was taken to the Pasco jail and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and violating his probation.

Bird-Like Wings Carry Man 330 Feet

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, March 21 (UPI) — A Dutch man said he completed a flight of about 330 feet using homemade wings based on those of a bird.

Jarno Smeets, 31, an engineer, said he controlled the 55-foot wings using two Nintendo Wii controllers, the accelerometers from an HTC Wildfire S smartphone and Turnigy motors when he took off Sunday at a park in The Hague and flew for about a minute.

“Ever since I was a little boy I have been inspired by pioneers like Otto Lilienthal, Leonardo da Vinci and also my own grandfather,” Smeets said.

Smeets has been chronicling his progress on the Human Bird Wings project on YouTube.

Police Van ‘Planking’ In R.I. Investigated

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (UPI) — Police in Rhode Island said they are investigating after pictures were posted online of two women “planking” on a police van.

Providence police said an internal investigation was opened after photos appeared on Facebook of two women “planking,” a posing trend involving a person lying on their stomach with their bodies rigid like a wooden plank, on a city police van, WPRI-TV, Providence, reported Wednesday.

“The incident took place several months ago. The officers operating the police van identified themselves and the administration will take necessary action,” police spokesman Steven Pare said.

A witness said the women were drunk and one of them appeared to fall off the van while taking the pictures.

Pink Hair Suspension Overturned In Delaware

NEWARK, Del. (UPI) — Officials in a Delaware school district said a girl who was suspended last week for dyeing her hair pink is being allowed to return to class.

Brianna Moore, 12, a sixth-grader at Shue-Medill Middle School in Newark, was allowed to dye her hair pink as a reward for good grades last week, and she was suspended Thursday for violating a school policy banning “excessive hair colors, red, blue, green etc.,” the Wilmington News Journal reported Wednesday.

Christina School District spokeswoman Wendy Lapham said the suspension was overturned and Moore was allowed to return to class Tuesday. She said the middle school is the only school in the district with a hair color policy and officials are likely to review the rule.

The reversal came after negotiations between the district’s lawyer and the ACLU of Delaware, which took up the Moore family’s case.

“Every hour a child spends out of school affects their education,” said Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware. “I wish the schools would think twice before they do that.”

How The Devil Has Won

Many Americans likely remember the iconic voice and lively commentaries of conservative radioman Paul Harvey who broadcast for more than 60 years until his death in 2009. On Tuesday, Harvey’s familiar voice surfaced once again as one of his more prophetic commentaries made its way through the viral waves of the blogosphere.

The monologue, entitled “If I Were The Devil,” is attributed to Harvey and has been circulated in various forms via the Internet since around 1999. Harvey’s original version dates back to 1964, according to Snopes.

Harvey’s monologue, in each of the slightly altered forms it has taken over the years, tells how if he were the devil he would set about to take over the world by first inducing moral decline in its most powerful Nation. Listen to a version Harvey reportedly broadcast on ABC Radio on April 3, 1965 below:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJc8Mzg0C-c&w=420&h=315]

With so many distractions from an always-on 24-hour news cycle and the constant creation of new information thanks to the Internet, how is it possible that a 47-year old broadcast from a dead conservative radio host went viral this week? Perhaps Americans are concerned and Harvey’s words are more striking than ever before as the Nation continues to slide into a condition that many conservatives would say is decidedly not American at all.

Below is a transcript of a different form of Harvey’s monologue published on the FOX Nation website Tuesday. Throughout the text, links to recent news stories have been included as examples of how the moral decline discussed in the commentary is rampant in the United States today:

If I were the Devil . . . I mean, if I were the Prince of Darkness, I would of course, want to engulf the whole earth in darkness. I would have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree, so I should set about however necessary to take over the United States. I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” “Do as you please.”   To the young, I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square.” In the ears of the young marrieds, I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be extreme in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct. And the old, I would teach to pray. I would teach them to say after me: “Our Father, which art in Washington”…

If I were the devil, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull an uninteresting. I’d threaten T.V. with dirtier movies and vice versa. And then, if I were the devil, I’d get organized. I’d infiltrate unions and urge more loafing and less work, because idle hands usually work for me. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. And I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions . . . let those run wild. I would designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts in the land and I would get preachers to say “she’s right.” With flattery and promises of power, I could get the courts to rule what I construe as against God and in favor of pornography, and thus, I would evict God from the courthouse, and then from the school house, and then from the houses of Congress and then, in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and I would deify science because that way men would become smart enough to create super weapons but not wise enough to control them.

If I were Satan, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg, and the symbol of Christmas, a bottle. If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And then, my police state would force everybody back to work. Then, I could separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines, and objectors in slave camps. In other words, if I were Satan, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing.

Paul Harvey, Good Day.

This is only a small selection of available recent reports that coincide with the Harvey monologue, so maybe it is no surprise it went viral. It appears to be quite relevant to worried conservatives.

The Militarization Of America

America is a declining empire trying to resurrect itself through military intervention and armed occupation.

The more than $1 trillion decade with Iraq has finally ended. But neocon dreams of democracy for Iraq did not pan out. Iraq has a corrupt, shaky and ineffective government. Thousands of people continue to die in sectarian violence as Iraq wallows in a bloody civil war.

As for Afghanistan, most of the original terrorists in al-Qaida who planned 9/11 are either dead, in prison, on the run or holed up in Pakistan. Washington tells us that Pakistan is our most trusted Muslim ally, ignoring Peter Bergen’s 2011 New York Times bestseller The Longest War: The enduring conflict between America and al-Qaeda. Bergen writes that Pakistan has consistently been found to be “one of the most anti-American countries in the world.”

It seems obvious that the continued occupation of Afghanistan — a country that has defeated the armies of the Russian tsars, the British Empire and the Soviet Union — is doomed to fail.

We Need Cronkite

What makes news today are celebrity overdoses, dirt on Presidential candidates and the best new reality series. But consider what Walter Cronkite said on Feb. 27, 1968, following the Tet Offensive: “It seems now more certain than ever, that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past.”

Cronkite made this statement four years into that war. America is into its second decade of fighting in Afghanistan, and even a stalemate now seems impossible.

If the goals of victory were the killing of Osama bin Laden and the almost complete destruction of al-Qaida within Afghanistan, then victory has been achieved. But if the neoconservatives still believe we can institute a democratic government in Kabul, they are either naïve or initiating wars simply for the sake of war.

For decades, our government has been arrogant in imposing Western principals and ideals. Washington cannot understand that Afghanistan, a tribal and Muslim country, will not accept Western ideals any more than we would accept a prescript declared on us by a foreign power.

Imposing On Others

I am a peaceful fellow who is past middle age. I always tried to either walk or, better yet, run away from a real conflict. But if armed Chinese soldiers occupied and patrolled the streets of my city, I would clean the barrel on my hunting rifle. I am willing to bet that a great many of you would do the same to resist foreign occupation.

Yet Washington thinks American ideals should be welcomed with outstretched arms. Some of this has to do with the experience of World War II and how Europeans welcomed the United States as a liberator.

Here is the catch: The period 1925 to 1945 was an aberration — 20 years of dictators. Consider that before Francisco Franco, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, much of Europe had thrived for decades with democracy. The United States helped restore that political order (except in Spain, which suffered with Franco until his death in 1975).

While the United States left scores of military bases in Europe to protect the West from a possible Soviet invasion, there was no occupation. The boys were back home months after victory in Europe. The Nazis had occupied Europe. Because of that, the murderous will of the French, Polish and Dutch resistance was visited upon German troops.

On this subject I was struck last year while re-watching Ken Burns’ PBS series, The Civil War, first broadcast in 1990.

In one segment the documentary tells of how Union cavalry surrounded a lone Confederate soldier who had no horse and whose clothes were dirty and tattered. A Union officer said to him that it was obvious that he had no wealth and not the means to own slaves. The officer asked: “Why are you fighting this war?”

The Confederate answered: “Because you are here.”

The Washington establishment fails to consider this universal truth in human nature. Senator John McCain continues to advocate the bombing of both Syria and Iran. And with the courageous exception of Ron Paul, the contenders for the GOP Presidential nomination strongly favor using the military over diplomacy and oppose any reductions in defense spending.

Exactly who is this enemy that America must outgun? Nobody has a good answer.

Neoconservatives always call upon the lesson the world learned when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler. How much better the world would have been, they argue, if Britain had stood up to Germany.

But is that the only lesson of the past 100 years? What of President John Kennedy’s refusal to launch a military strike during the Cuban Missile Crisis? It can be argued that America’s diplomacy-first gambit saved the human race.

If you don’t like the Kennedy example, consider World War I. Because some crackpot shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, war erupted. That war cost 20 million lives. Diplomacy could have prevented that war and, as a result, prevented the rise of Hitler and, thus, World War II.

I can only scratch my head when I listen to leaders like McCain. Have any of them read history?

Wars Serve A Purpose

Why war trumps diplomacy is explained by Stephen Glain in his new book, State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire. Glain concludes:

U.S. relations with the world, and increasingly America’s security policy at home, have become thoroughly and all but irreparably militarized. The culprits are not the nation’s military leaders, though they can be aggressive and cunning interagency operators, but civilian elites who have seen to it that the nation is engaged in a self-perpetuating cycle of low-grade conflict. They have been hiding in plain sight, hyping threats and exaggerating the capabilities and resources of adversaries. They have convinced a plurality of citizens that their best guarantee of security is not peace but war, and they did so with the help of a supine or complicit Congress. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. presidents have ordered troops into battle twenty-two times, compared with fourteen times during the Cold War. Not once did they appeal to lawmakers for a declaration of war.

I am not saying we should never use force. I believe America has enemies, and those enemies should be dealt with in a swift and deadly manner. I also believe that only if another nation is a real and “legitimate threat” to the United States should we initiate war.

America should be using the best special forces in the world with surgical strikes on those that would do us harm. America should use the RQ-1 Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles on terrorist groups and even possible terrorist groups. I am prepared to live with some collateral damage that will result from such strikes. This will be less deadly to foreign civilians and will save the lives of our young men and women in uniform, while helping to restore America’s standing in the world.

Compare this strategy to the armed occupation of Afghanistan. It is a non sequitur, and the real powers who run this country know it.

They know, and they just don’t care.

Yours in good times and bad,

–John Myers
Editor, Myers’ Energy & Gold Report

Editor’s note: It’s time to make your submissions for this month’s You Sound Off! feature, which will run March 28. Get your submission in by March 26. It should be no more than 750 words (if they are longer, we probably won’t read them). We will select the one or two we think are the best of the week to publish. We reserve the right to edit for grammar and style but will try not to alter the meaning.

Send your submissions to yousoundoff@personalliberty.com. Please include your name, address and telephone number (only your name will be published) so we can contact you if we need to clarify something. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.–BL

Cyberbullying Laws Could Lead To Internet Censorship

Because protecting copyright holders did not seem reason enough for American citizens to go along with total government censorship of the Internet with bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act, lawmakers have chosen a new vehicle for censorship: protecting children.

As many as five States — Delaware, Kentucky, Indiana, Maine and New York — are working to implement cyberbullying laws that critics say could make surfing the Web a legal minefield.

According to USA Today, the legislation is aimed at “bringing our laws into the digital age and the 21st century,” said Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-N.Y.) who sponsored a bill to criminalize cyberbullying. “When I was growing up, you had a tangible bully and a fight after school. Now you have hordes of bullies who are terrorizing over the Internet or other forms of social media.”

Some examples of the State laws:

  • In Indiana, a proposed bill would give schools more authority to punish students for off-campus activities such as cyberbullying from a computer not owned by the school.
  • In Maine, a proposal would define bullying and cyberbullying, specify responsibilities for reporting incidents of bullying and require schools to adopt a policy to address bullying.
  • In Delaware, meetings are under way to decide how a new cyberbullying policy would regulate off-campus behavior.

Critics say that the new legislative trend toes the line of infringing upon free speech. Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told USA Today the movement in the legislatures and the courts is focusing on the disciplinary system and is shortsighted, saying: “You’re not going to be able to punish people into being more tolerant.”

Internet censorship in the name of protecting children was also proposed by SOPA author Lamar Smith (R-Texas) recently. Through the Protect Our Children From Online Pornographers Act (PCFIPA), Smith proposes some of the same measures included in his previous wildly unpopular attempt at Internet censorship.

Expanded Conventions Raise Security Issues

TAMPA, Fla. (UPI) — Events at off-site venues will raise the cost of Secret Service protection at the Republican and Democratic national conventions, a U.S. House panel learned.

The Secret Service’s top official recently told Congressional members the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., included possible activities at locations other than the main sites, creating cost issues for providing protection, The Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Fla., reported Monday.

“Both the RNC and DNC have added events to their schedule that will be located some distance from the convention site and will attract large numbers of people,” Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said in written testimony submitted this month to a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee.

Sullivan said, “[The] addition of these venues will likely require more protective site personnel and equipment” as dignitaries, delegates and the public “move from one secure zone to the next.”

The changes could impact the agency’s original cost projections and “will require close monitoring,” he said.

The Secret Service secures the venues for national political conventions in a variety of ways, including uniformed officers, Transportation Security Administration personnel, metal detectors, canine explosive detection teams, as well as its counter-assault and counter-sniper personnel.

The matter hasn’t been raised as a potential problem in discussions with local officials, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Tampa police Chief Jane Castor all told the Times.

Foster told the Times he hadn’t “heard a thing” about plans to pay for security at a possible pre-convention welcome party at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Asked whether Tampa’s $50 million Federal grant for security could cover some of St. Petersburg’s costs, Castor said, “Whether it can or it can’t, we’re going to make sure it’s a safe event.”

Ryan: Budget For Real Spending Discipline

House Republicans introduced an ambitious, if risky during an election year, budget plan to restructure the way government operates and set the Nation on a course to eliminate its deficits by 2040.

The proposal, authored by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would reduce debt by reshaping Medicare and Medicaid while deeply cutting other domestic spending and reshaping the tax code to give Americans lower tax rates.

The plan will be rejected by the Democratic Senate, though The Washington Post  reports that it is likely less intensive than most Tea Party conservatives would consider ideal. Ryan’s plan, which he drafted with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (Ore.), would turn Medicaid spending into a block grant program and cut food stamps and other social welfare programs. The plan, like past GOP budget proposals, also calls for offering seniors retiring in future years payments with which to buy private health insurance coverage along with a traditional fee-for-service option to alleviate Democratic concerns over the restructuring. Many of the budget plan proposals have proven to be anathema to most Democratic lawmakers in the past.

In a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street JournalRyan defends his proposals, “Our budget’s Medicare reforms make no changes for those in or near retirement. For those who will retire a decade from now, our plan provides guaranteed coverage options financed by a premium-support payment. And this year, our budget adds even more choices for seniors, including a traditional fee-for-service Medicare option.”

The timing of the plan’s release is expected to make Republican willingness to make deep cuts and change the way healthcare funding is handled a key issue for Democrats in 2012.

Ryan also reiterates the GOP’s desire to simplify the tax code with the plan similar to those offered by both GOP Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. It replaces the current six brackets of the tax system with just two tax levels: a 10 percent marginal tax for low-wage earners and 25 percent for those with higher incomes. Corporate taxes would also be slashed from 35 percent to 25 percent, and corporate taxes for overseas profits mostly would be eliminated under the Ryan proposal.

To offset the lower tax rates, which Republicans contend will spur economic growth, the budget proposal allocates $1.028 trillion in Federal spending for fiscal year 2013; the spending allocation will also likely raise a stink among Democrats at $19 billion less than the cap imposed after last summer’s contentious debt ceiling negotiations.

Paul, however, says his plan is the only way to turn around the U.S. economy without making dangerous sacrifices, “Like last year, our budget delivers real spending discipline. It does this not through indiscriminate cuts that endanger our military, but by ending the epidemic of crony politics and government overreach that has weakened confidence in the nation’s institutions and its economy. And it strengthens the safety net by returning power to the states, which are in the best position to tailor assistance to their specific populations.”

Democratic critics say the Ryan plan is a surefire way to make Congressional budget negotiations the same tedious embarrassment that they were last year.

Editor’s note: It’s time to make your submissions for this month’s You Sound Off! feature, which will run March 28. Get your submission in by March 26. It should be no more than 750 words (if they are longer, we probably won’t read them). We will select the one or two we think are the best of the week to publish. We reserve the right to edit for grammar and style but will try not to alter the meaning.

Send your submissions to yousoundoff@personalliberty.com. Please include your name, address and telephone number (only your name will be published) so we can contact you if we need to clarify something. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.–BL