UPS Buying TNT Express For $6.77 Billion

ATLANTA (UPI) — United Parcel Service Inc. has agreed to buy European rival TNT Express NV for $6.77 billion in an all-cash offer, the firms announced Monday.

The deal for the Dutch logistics company will extend the presence of Atlanta’s UPS in China and in Latin America. It will also create a mega-firm with $60 billion in annual revenues “and an enhanced, integrated global network,” the companies said in a statement.

Currently, UPS derives 26 percent of its revenue outside of the United States. After the merger, that is expected to rise to 36 percent, the firms said.

Most of the overlap in services is in Europe.

The price of the deal represents a 53.7 percent premium over the unaffected share price of TNT Express on Feb. 16, the day before discussions of the deal became public.

TNT employs 77,000 people worldwide and includes a fleet of 30,000 vehicles. It delivers 1 million parcels on a daily basis.

United Parcel Service has its headquarters in Atlanta and operates in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.

The companies expect to save as much as $725 million per year in operating costs. The firms said, “All employee rights, covenants, and benefits under current ownership will be respected.”

They also said, “Throughout integration, the selection and appointment of staff for any function within the newly combined entity, will be subject to applicable laws, and be based on the ‘best person for the job’ principle.”

“In case of potential consequences for employees of the combination, the principle of fairness will be applied as to the impact of redundancies on TNT Express and UPS staff,” the companies said without naming a specific number of expected layoffs.

TaxMasters Files For Bankruptcy

HOUSTON (UPI) — Nationally advertised income tax consulting firm TaxMasters Inc., which is under suspicion of fraud in Texas, has filed for bankruptcy, court papers show.

The company, which is based in Houston, is the defendant in a multi-count civil case filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot.

Abbott has charged the firm with misleading sales practices. ABC News reported Monday that a spokesman for Abbott’s office said he was unaware of the bankruptcy filing.

Minnesota’s attorney general’s office is also considering filing charges. “This is a company which is taking advantage of people, and unfortunately, when people see it on TV, they do believe in it, Attorney General Lori Swanson said.

At the heart of the controversy are $2,000 to $8,000 fees customers are charged upfront. “When you pay these upfront, advanced fees, now you’re signed up, you’re stuck, and the promised [tax] help doesn’t materialize,” Swanson said.

In a taped sales pitch, a company representative says, “You’re owing 19,000 … I mean we can basically get you down to basically next to nothing.” The tape also says, “We’re 97 percent successful.”

Court papers say TaxMasters has between $1 million and $10 million in liabilities.

The company, which has been publicly traded since 2010, had revenues of $45.7 million in 2011.

 

Women Can Have Orgasm Exercising

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., March 20 (UPI) — U.S. researchers confirmed anecdotal evidence that some women experience sexual pleasure or even an orgasm while exercising.

Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, conducted an online survey that found 124 women who reported experiencing exercise-induced orgasms and 246 women who experienced exercise-induced sexual pleasure.

The women ranged in age from 18 to 63. Most were in a relationship or married and about 69 percent identified themselves as heterosexual.

“The most common exercises associated with exercise-induced orgasm were abdominal exercises, climbing poles or ropes, biking/spinning and weight lifting,” Herbenick said in a statement. “These data are interesting because they suggest that orgasm is not necessarily a sexual event, and they may also teach us more about the bodily processes underlying women’s experiences of orgasm.”

The study, published in a special issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, found 51 percent reported experiencing an orgasm during abdominal exercises within the previous 90 days. Twenty-seven percent reported orgasm while weightlifting, 20 percent during yoga, 16 percent while bicycling, 13 percent while running and 10 percent while walking/hiking.

Most women reporting exercise-induced orgasms said they were not fantasizing sexually or thinking about anyone they were attracted to during their experiences, Herbenick said.

 

U.S. ADHD Diagnoses Rocket Upward

CHICAGO (UPI) — From 2000 to 2010, U.S. children and teens diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder jumped from 6.2 million to 10.4 million, researchers say.

Dr. Craig Garfield of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital said the 66 percent increase in physician-diagnosed ADHD cases in the past decade means it is now “a common diagnosis among children and teens.” The 2010 Census found there are about 75 million Americans under age 18.

“The magnitude and speed of this shift in one decade is likely due to an increased awareness of ADHD, which may have caused more physicians to recognize symptoms and diagnose the disorder,” Garfield, the first author of the study, said in a statement.

Symptoms of ADHD, such as trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviors and being overly active, can affect children and teens both academically and socially, Garfield said.

Garfield and his team quantified ADHD diagnosis and treatment for those age 18 and under using the IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index via a nationally representative sample of office-based visits and included 4,300 office-based physicians in 2010.

They found that more diagnoses are being made by specialists rather than primary doctors.

They also learned psychostimulants were used in 96 percent of treatments in 2000 and 87 percent in 2010. Garfield said the exact reason for the decrease is unclear.

The researchers’ findings are to be published in the March/April issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics.

 

Fracking Emissions May Affect Health

AURORA, Colo. (UPI) — Air pollution due to hydraulic fracturing might add to acute or chronic health issues for those living near natural gas drilling sites, U.S. researchers said.

Lead author Lisa McKenzie of Colorado School of Public Health said the findings, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons — including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, heptane, octane and diethylbenzene — in the air near wells.

Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen, McKenzie said.

“Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing,” McKenzie said in a statement. “Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells. The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period.”

The researchers calculated there were elevated cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further away, the report said. However, benzene was the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios.

 

Low-Income Moms Risk Obesity To Feed Kids

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., March 19 (UPI) — Low-income U.S. mothers who struggle to provide food for their families are often at risk for obesity while trying to feed their children, researchers say.

Molly Martin, assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University, and Adam Lippert, a graduate student, said low-income mothers — who are often the food managers in the household — might skip meals and eat cheaper but less nutritious foods, to ensure their children are fed.

The sociologists found food-insecure mothers were more likely than fathers who face food shortages, as well as food-insecure, childless women and men, to be obese or overweight.

The researchers analyzed data of 7,931 participants in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics — data on weight and food insecurity in 1999.

The study, published in Social Science and Medicine, found food-insecure mothers gain more weight over time, compared to all food-insecure men and food-insecure women not caring for children.

“To make sure mothers can provide for their children, they may eat only once a day, for example, or they may eat erratically, which are all behaviors that are obesity risks,” Lippert said in a statement.

Besides causing weight gain, irregular eating can also cause a metabolic response that retains fat, the researchers said.

Women who have given birth tend to gain weight, but the researchers determined having children did not explain the weight gain for the food-insecure mothers.

Children Will Lose Weight If Parents Do

SAN DIEGO (UPI) — U.S. researchers said if a parent is worried about the weight of their child, the parents should lose weight themselves and their children will too.

Kerri N. Boutelle, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at University of California, San Diego, and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, and colleagues said 31 percent of U.S. children were overweight or obese — between 4 and 5 million children.

“We looked at things such as parenting skills and styles, or changing the home food environment, and how they impacted a child’s weight,” Boutelle said in a statement. “The No. 1 way in which parents can help an obese child lose weight? Lose weight themselves. In this study, it was the most important predictor of child weight loss.”

The study involved 80 parent-child groups with an overweight obese child ages 8-12, who participated in a parent-only or parent plus child treatment program for five months.

The study focused on evaluating the impact of three types of parenting skills taught in family-based behavioral treatment for childhood obesity: The parent modeling behaviors to promote their own weight loss, changes in home food environment and parenting style and techniques — for example, a parent’s ability to help limit the child’s eating behavior, encouraging the child and participating in program activities.

The study published in the journal Obesity found, consistent with previously published research, parent body mass index change was the only significant predictor of child’s weight loss.

Poll: Teens Text More Than They Call

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Texting is the dominant mode of daily communication between teens and all those with whom they communicate, a U.S. poll indicates.

The volume of texting among teens has risen from 50 texts a day in 2009 to 60 texts while frequency of teens’ voice calls has fallen, the poll released Monday by the Pew Internet & American Life project indicates.

Among the teens surveyed, 63 percent said they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives.

Texting is the most common choice of daily communication, teens reported, surpassing phone calling by cell phone, 39 percent; face-to-face socializing outside of school, 35 percent; social network site messaging, 29 percent; instant messaging, 22 percent; talking on landlines, 19 percent, and e-mailing, 6 percent.

More and more teenagers have smartphones, the survey found, with 23 percent of all those ages 12-17 saying they have a smartphone.

Ownership is highest among older teens: 31 percent of those ages 14-17 have a smartphone, compared to just 8 percent of youth ages 12-13.

The poll was conducted by telephone with a sample of 799 teens ages 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in the continental United States. The margin of error was 4.8 percentage points.

Mobile Apps With Ads Called Security Risk

RALEIGH, N.C. (UPI) — Mobile applications that contain ads may be creating privacy and security risks for cellphone users, U.S. researchers say.

In a study of 100,000 apps in the official Google Play market, researchers at North Carolina State University reported more than half contained so-called ad libraries, and hundreds of the apps included aggressive ad libraries that could download and run code from remote servers.

“Running code downloaded from the Internet is problematic because the code could be anything,” computer scientist Xuxian Jiang said. “For example, it could potentially launch a ‘root exploit’ attack to take control of your phone — as demonstrated in a recently discovered piece of Android malware called RootSmart.”

To generate revenue, many free apps incorporate “in-app ad libraries” provided by Google, Apple or other third-parties that retrieve advertisements from remote servers and run the ads on a user’s smartphone. Every time an ad runs, the app developer receives a payment.

The problem arises because ad libraries receive the same permissions the user granted to the app itself when it was installed, regardless of whether the user was aware of granting permissions to the library.

Jiang said some apps use libraries “that made use of an unsafe mechanism to fetch and run code from the Internet — a behavior that is not necessary for their mission, yet has troubling privacy and security implications.”

Hackers could use the libraries to bypass existing Android security efforts, he said, since the app itself may be harmless and won’t trigger any security concerns — but its ad library may download harmful or invasive code after installation.

Einstein Goes Digital

JERUSALEM (UPI) — Hebrew University in Jerusalem has unveiled a free of charge online digital archive with more than 80,000 documents chronicling the life of Albert Einstein.

Marking 133 years since Einstein’s birth, the university revealed the digital archives Monday. Thousands of documents, including images and translations of letters, diagrams and photographs, can be accessed. Additional documents are to be translated, processed and added, The Jerusalem Post said.

The archive team is led by university staff as well as the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Princeton University Press in New Jersey, the paper said.

“We have invested considerable effort to advance this project and are happy to make the world of this great scientist and person accessible to the interested general public,” Hebrew University Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson said, noting the project reveals different academic disciplines, including the history of science and physics. Other documents include letters and postcards to Einstein’s mother and his mistress.

Dr. Roni Grosz, the archive’s curator in Jerusalem, said some two-thirds of the documents appear in German and others are in English and other languages, the paper said. Those wishing to view the archive can log on to www.alberteinstein.info, the Post said.

 

Warm Weather Bringing Early Blooms

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (UPI) — Unseasonably high temperatures and an early spring have trees and other plants developing flowers two to three weeks earlier than usual, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at the State University of New York say the result could be a long and intense allergy season.

There is also concern about fruit crops if the early budding fruit were to experience late spring frosts typical of the eastern United States, they said.

“This warm weather might be really pleasant and some people might find it comforting,” biologist Donald J. Leopold said in a SUNY release Monday.

“But when the weather is really altered from typical conditions, there are always winners and losers among all types of both plants and animals. With the many plant and animal species in the East, some will benefit and some will be adversely impacted with these unusually warm conditions.”

In his 27 years at SUNY, Leopold said, he has never seen woody and herbaceous plants blooming on the Syracuse campus before April 1.

With temperatures for Tuesday and Wednesday predicted to be in the 70s or even 80s the early blooming cycle will continue, he said.

“Things are really going to pop this week.”

Problem Of Pesticide Drift Studied

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UPI) — Chemicals that help sprayed agricultural pesticides stick to crops can form smaller “satellite” droplets that can drift into other areas, U.S. scientists say.

“When we spray liquids, we have what we call main drops, which are drops of the desired size, and we can also have smaller satellite drops,” Purdue University professor of food science Carlos Corvalan said. “The smaller drops move easily by wind and travel long distances.”

Drifting of agricultural pesticides not only increases waste and cost for farmers, but also can cause health, environmental and property damage, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

Pesticides often contain chemical additives such as surfactants and polymeric additives, which help pesticides flow more easily and adhere to plant surfaces.

“Each additive is designed to improve the characteristics of the main drops,” Corvalan said. “But there is a side effect.”

The researchers found the additives can affect each other and lead to the smaller, drifting droplets.

Carefully controlling the strength and concentrations of the additives can mitigate or eliminate the formation of unwanted satellite droplets.

“Now that we know better how additives influence the formation of satellite droplets, we can control their formation,” Corvalan said.

Indiana Smoking Ban Signed Into Law

INDIANAPOLIS (UPI) — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a statewide smoking ban, barring smoking in certain establishments, businesses and institutions, officials say.

The ban, which goes into effect July 1, covers nursing facilities, mental health facilities and restaurants. However, bars, casinos, private clubs and fraternal organizations are exempt. Some exempt businesses have, however, elected to be smoke free of their own accord, the Indianapolis Star reported.

After signing it into law Monday, Daniels called the smoking ban “a huge step forward.”

Tennessee Law Would Allow Debate On Evolution

NASHVILLE (UPI) — A bill allowing teachers to have classroom debate about scientific theories, including creationism and evolution, has passed the Tennessee Senate.

The upper house voted 24-8 Monday in favor of the measure, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported. The Assembly approved a similar bill nearly a year ago and must now vote on the Senate’s amended version, which bars teachers from bringing up their own religious views in the classroom.

“The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory,” sponsor Republican state Sen. Bo Watson said.

Critics charge the bill is designed to provide cover for teachers to introduce intelligent design and creationist theories in class. Several courts around the country have held that those are religious beliefs, not scientific ones.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has not said if he plans to sign the bill. He told reporters Monday he wants to discuss it with the state board of education before making a decision.

Some opponents also said passing the law would revive old memories of the Scopes Trial, when science teacher John Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution.

 

 

Life Without Parole For Children Debated

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument Tuesday on whether someone who committed murder as a child can be sentenced to life without parole.

The case involves Evan Miller, who beat a man with a baseball bat, robbed him and left him to burn to death in a blazing trailer nearly 10 years ago in Lawrence County, Ala. Miller was 14 at the time.

Attorney Bryan Stevenson reminded the Supreme Court that in 2010’s Graham vs. Florida, a high court majority “recognized that children are inherently characterized by internal attributes and external circumstances” that would “preclude a finding of a degree of culpability … [to] make a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole constitutionally permissible under the court’s Eighth Amendment excessiveness analysis.”

The Eighth Amendment bans cruel and unusual punishments. The Graham case involved non-lethal offenses.

“While the issue in Graham involved juveniles that were convicted of non-homicide offenses,” Stevenson said, “these deficits in maturity and judgment and decision-making are not crime-specific. All children are encumbered with the same barriers that this court has found to be constitutionally relevant before imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty.”

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the court’s liberals, pointed out that in 2005’s Roper vs. Simmons, which banned execution of those who committed murder before age 18, a court majority said, “To the extent the juvenile death penalty might have residual deterrent effect, it is worth noting that the punishment of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is itself a severe sanction.”

“So, the court in Roper seemed to be anticipating this case and suggesting that … it was all right, it was constitutional” to impose life without parole on those who committed murder before 18, Ginsburg said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected a contention that legislatures were not fully informed of what they were doing when they enacted such sentences into law.

“The statistics show there are [U.S.] 2,300 prisoners now under sentence of … life without parole for juvenile murders… that were committed under 18. Twenty-three hundred nationwide,” Kennedy told Stevenson. “So, it’s very difficult to assess your answer to Justice [Samuel] Alito that, oh, the legislatures don’t know about this.”

Also Tuesday, the justices heard the Arkansas case of a defendant who also was sentenced to life without parole for a homicide committed at age 14. But in that case, the teenager did not do the killing, only part of a robbery that ended in a killing by someone else.

Decisions in both cases should come within several months.

Al-Qaida Leader’s Brother To Be Released

CAIRO (UPI) — Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s brother, Mohamed, will be released from prison after 13 years, Egyptian officials said.

An Egyptian military court acquitted him Monday, and he was set to be released Tuesday, CNN reported.

Zawahiri was extradited from the United Arab Emirates after being accused of having ties to the 1981 assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. While he was acquitted of assassination charges, he was later accused of conspiring against the government. He was released briefly with several other political prisoners last year, but arrested again shortly after.

Mohamed’s son, Ahmed, said officials persecuted his father because he was the bother of the al-Qaida leader. “He paid a high price for being Ayman’s brother and he has denounced any sort of violent ideologies now that his main enemy, the Mubarak regime, has been removed,” he said.

Mohamed is a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, classified by the United States as a terrorist group, which merged with al-Qaida in 2001.

Pakistan Demands U.S. Apology

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI) — Pakistan says it wants an apology from the United States before it reopens access to supply routes to Afghanistan.

Ties between the United States and Pakistan were severely strained last year after a NATO strike mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in a region near the border with Afghanistan.

A Pakistani parliamentary committee conducting a full review of the terms of cooperation with the United States and the NATO coalition in Afghanistan has demanded an end to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

The government panel said it wants an unconditional apology for the NATO attack, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.

The committee is also calling for notification and approval before use of Pakistani airspace or bases, and compensation for use of Pakistan’s ports and roads.

Pakistan said those held responsible for airstrikes last November in the Mohmand tribal area should be brought to justice and Pakistan should be given assurances that any acts impinging on Pakistan’s sovereignty will not happen again, the newspaper said.

Report Measures State Corruptibility

A recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International ranks States by corruptibility.

Judging from organizations involved in conducting the report, many conservatives likely assume it’s biased beyond use, but the corruption-risk report cards provided through the State Integrity Investigation have some practical value for political junkies. The index, to the surprise of many Americans, ranked New Jersey the least easily corruptible State in the Union; the most easily corruptible was Georgia.

Each State received a corruptibility report card graded by the following criteria on a 100 percent scale (100 being least corrupt):

  • Public access to information
  • Executive accountability
  • Judicial accountability
  • State civil service management
  • Internal auditing
  • State pension fund management
  • State insurance commissions
  • Political financing
  • Legislative accountability
  • State budget processes
  • Procurement
  • Lobbying disclosure
  • Ethics enforcement agencies
  • Redistricting

New Jersey scored 87 percent, a B+, and took first place as the least corruptible State. Georgia, on the other hand, scored only 49 percent, an F, after failing in nine of the 14 above-mentioned categories.

The State Integrity Investigation, according to its sponsors, does not measure good or morality within States, but rather tests “the structure that governs the government, documenting the laws on the books and investigating the actions that enforce those laws.”

The report explains:

The No. 1 ranking in the State Integrity Investigation does not make New Jersey the least corrupt state in the country, in the same way that seatbelts and airbags don’t prevent car accidents.

So, how did New Jersey win? The state finished first overall in Executive Accountability, Civil Service Management, State Pension Fund Management, and Ethics Enforcement. New Jersey didn’t have a bad category, ranking above the median in 13 of 14 categories. The state also benefitted from weak competition, as evidenced by the fact that its B+ grade was good enough for first place.

To see how your home State did, visit the State Integrity Investigation website.

Are You An Organ Donor?

If you’ve marked the donor box on your driver’s license you have done more than just give up your organs. You’ve given up your right to informed consent.

Doctors don’t have to tell you or your relatives what will happen to your body during an organ-harvest operation. Your rights are gone because you’re dead. Or are you?

The 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act made brain death a legal form of death in all 50 States. But the examination doctors use to determine brain death doesn’t involve scanning for brain activity. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The exam for brain death is simple. A doctor splashes ice water in your ears (to look for shivering in the eyes), pokes your eyes with a cotton swab and checks for any gag reflex, among other rudimentary tests. It takes less time than a standard eye exam. Finally, in what’s called the apnea test, the ventilator is disconnected to see if you can breathe unassisted. If not, you are brain dead. (Some or all of the above tests are repeated hours later for confirmation.)

Here’s the weird part. If you fail the apnea test, your respirator is reconnected. You will begin to breathe again, your heart pumping blood, keeping the organs fresh. Doctors like to say that, at this point, the “person” has departed the body. You will now be called a BHC, or beating-heart cadaver.

Still, you will have more in common biologically with a living person than with a person whose heart has stopped. Your vital organs will function, you’ll maintain your body temperature, and your wounds will continue to heal. You can still get bedsores, have heart attacks and get fever from infections.

“I like my dead people cold, stiff, gray and not breathing,” says Dr. Michael A. DeVita of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “The brain dead are warm, pink and breathing.”

Studies have shown that some patients determined by these tests to be brain dead were still showing signs of brain activity. In one study, 17 of 503 patients declared brain dead showed brain activity in an EEG.

Like the rest of conventional medicine, there is big money in organ transplantation. When you check the box to make yourself an organ donor, you sign away your humanity and your rights and make it possible for doctors to choose expediency and profit over compassion. Your organs can be harvested from you before your loved ones have a chance to ensure you are dead and that there’s no hope for recovery.

Breitbart ‘Vetting’ Continues, Targets Holder

The death of new-media mogul Andrew Breitbart has not derailed his promise to provide voters a thorough “vetting” of President Barack Obama and his Administration in the months leading up to the 2012 Presidential election.

The latest installment of the “vetting” from Breitbart.com examines Attorney General Eric Holder, his past and the fatally flawed Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Fast and Furious gunwalking campaign. The conservative news outlet published on Sunday a video of Holder that originally aired on CSPAN 2 circa 1995, wherein the future Attorney General calls for a plan to “really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.”

A portion of the clip can be viewed below:
 

 
Following the release of the video, the news outlet — in its signature publishing style — released Holder’s vetting in segments, using the Attorney General’s 1995 remarks to make the case that Fast and Furious had nothing to do with curbing violence in Mexico and everything to do with creating carnage to make Americans favor tougher gun laws.

Breitbart.com says of the video: “The video reveals Attorney General Holder’s early, consistent, and strident enthusiasm for gun control legislation. He wanted schools to talk about anti-gun propaganda ‘every day, every school, and every level.’ Operation Fast and Furious—in which Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) smuggled guns illegally to Mexican drug cartels— could finally have provided Holder the material for that anti-gun curriculum.”

The Democrats’ Dead Horse

I’m fairly surprised the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke/Bill Maher/Democrat hypocrisy “scandal” still has legs. Not that I expected the Democrats were any more likely to give up on this Cirque de la Stupidité, but getting Democrats to understand their own folly is a fool’s errand, like wresting a bone away from my dog. I take that back. My dog has done nothing to deserve that kind of insult.

Considering the definitive and diverse opinions regarding this topic addressed by my fellow Personal Liberty Digest™ writers and me, combined with the global reach of Personal Liberty Digest™ (one of the top 10 libertarian sites on the planet), I would have thought Fluke would have been consigned to sorting Post-it notes in the basement of the Prince George’s County Health Department (or wherever the Democrats send their female sock puppets when they’re done with them. Has anyone seen Cindy Sheehan lately?)

Let’s see this for what it is. As I said last week, what Limbaugh said was artless and crude. What Maher, Chris Matthews, Ted Rall, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, that freak at Wonkette (no, I am not going to learn his/her/its name), the O’Donnells (Lawrence, the crazy one, and Rosie, the crazy fat one), the Schultzes (Ed, the fat one, and Debbie, the Wasserman- one), Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, Mike Malloy and any random handful of ACORN (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) volunteers say on a regular basis is artless and crude. Judging from some of the email Bob Livingston receives from some of you, what I say is artless and crude. Some of us are right. Others are — well — less so. I’ll have you know that I am an artiste rhétorique — especially when I’ve gotten into the scotch while I’m writing.

But there is no gain in trying to expose the liberal hypocrisy that once again has reared its misshapen head. Liberalism is defined by hypocrisy, yet there are plenty of liberals. Identifying their hypocrisy for them would be as useful as the aforementioned attempts to steal a bone from my dog. Even if you abscond with it, the dog won’t understand. Even if you put the hypocrisy of the liberal elite on display (again), liberals won’t understand; they’ll simply continue to hate you. They already hate you, so why bother? More importantly, conservatives can’t reap any benefit by wallowing in the pen with the liberal pigs; they’re playing a home game.

Arguing about Maher’s public displays of what are clearly some very serious mommy issues works entirely in the Democrats’ favor. What do you think they’d rather discuss: Barack Obama’s appalling ineptitude or Maher’s appalling misogyny? One threatens the very fabric of our society. The other threatens… Ann Coulter (or at least, he’d like to). Would they rather examine Obama’s shocking disregard for liberty or Olbermann’s shocking woman-hating rage? One could enslave us all. The other won’t come out of the bathroom unless everyone in the newsroom stops making fun of him. Would they rather converse on the topic of Attorney General Eric Holder’s potentially criminal acts during and after the disastrous Operation Fast and Furious or Rhodes’ desire to forcibly remove the reproductive organs of pro-life women? One carries a body count. The other — well — I doubt Rhodes would mind. Would they rather ruminate on Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu admitting that the Administration doesn’t care about lowering fuel prices or Maddow’s penchant for slander? One is squeezing the economic life out of the middle class. The other was (I think) brought to life in Phil Griffin’s evil laboratory.

The list of crimes and misdemeanors committed by the Democrats under Obama’s regime is longer than I can possibly do justice in a scant few hundred words. Almost all of them are deserving of close scrutiny. And the Democrats are well aware of the fact that such scrutiny would cost them dearly this fall. Imagine a scenario in which not only do the voters send Obama packing for his Presidential museum, but they dispatch the current Democratic majority in the Senate along for the ride — permanently.

No wonder they’re trying so hard to steer the conversation away from their own failures and toward debates that are nearly as relevant to the state of our union as Fluke is to intelligent political discourse.

–Ben Crystal

Brookings Institute: Syria Intervention Will Be Costly

U.S. military intervention in Syria could require between 200,000 and 300,000 U.S. troops on the ground at a cost of up to $300 billion per year to American taxpayers, says a new report  from the Bookings Institution Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Though there has been no talk of a strategy involving invasion of the country yet, the organization points out the difficulties associated with President Barack Obama’s goal of removing Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

The report discusses invasion as one of six ways that Obama’s goal could be met, including:

1. Removing the regime via diplomacy,

2. Coercing the regime via sanctions and diplomatic isolation,

3. Arming the Syrian opposition to overthrow the regime,

4. Engaging in a Libya-like air campaign to help an opposition army gain victory,

5. Invading Syria with U.S.-led forces and toppling the regime directly,

6. Participating in a multilateral, NATO-led effort to oust Assad and rebuild Syria.

The report contends that no matter which course of action were followed the cost to the United States would likely be great and that the options that would come at a lesser cost to the United States are also those most likely to fail.

“At the end of the day, however, removing Assad may not be doable at a price the United States is willing to pay,” the report states. “Although the Obama administration has for months called for Assad to go, every policy option to remove him is flawed, and some could even make the situation worse — seemingly a recipe for inaction.”

The Oil Conundrum Explained

Oil as a commodity has always been a highly valuable early warning indicator of economic instability. Every conceivable element of our financial system depends on the price of energy, from fabrication to production to shipping to the consumer’s very ability to travel and make purchases. High energy prices derail healthy economies and completely decimate systems already on the verge of collapse. Oil affects everything.

This is why oil markets also tend to be the most misrepresented in the mainstream financial media. With so much at stake over the price of petroleum, and the cost steadily climbing over the past year returning to disastrous levels last seen in 2008, the American public will soon be looking for someone to blame. You can bet the MSM will do its utmost to ensure that blame is focused in the wrong direction. While there are, indeed, multiple reasons for the current high costs of oil, the primary culprits are obscured by considerable disinformation.

The most prominent but false conclusions on the expanding value of oil are centered on assertions that supply is decreasing dramatically, while demand is increasing dramatically. Neither of these claims is true.

The supply side of the oil equation is the absolute last factor that we should be worried about at this point. In fact, global oil use since the credit crisis of 2008 has tumbled dramatically. This decline accelerated at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 all while oil prices rose.

In its February Oil Market Report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast a reduction in the growth of demand into the spring of 2012, despite reports from the MSM that oil prices were spiking due to “recovery” and “high demand.” Simultaneously, the IEA reported that petroleum inventories rose to the highest levels since October 2008.

The Baltic Dry Index (BDI), which measures global shipping rates and the demand for freight in general, has fallen off a cliff in recent months, hovering near historic lows and signaling a sharp decline in world demand for raw materials used in production. On multiple occasions in the past, a fall in the BDI has been a predictive indicator of stock market chaos, including that which struck in 2008 and 2009. A sharply lower BDI means low global demand, which should, traditionally, mean decreasing prices.

So, supply is high across the board, inventories are stocked and demand is weak. By all common market logic, gasoline prices should be plummeting, and far more Americans should be smiling at the pump. Of course, this is not the case. Prices continue to rise despite deflationary elements, meaning there must be some other factors at work that are causing inflation in prices.

Ironically, stock market activity in the Dow Jones industrial average has now come under threat from this inflationary trend in oil. Rising energy costs have essentially put a cap on the epic explosion of equities, and many mainstream analysts now lament over this catch-22. The problem is that these investors and pundits are operating on the assumption that the Dow bull market is legitimate, and that the rally in oil is somehow an extension of a “healthier economy.” This version of reality, I’m afraid, is about as far from the truth as one can stretch.

In the candy-coated world of Obamanomics, high-priced stocks are a valid signal of economic growth, and oil is rising due to demand that extends from this growth. In the real world, stock values are completely fabricated, especially in light of record low trade volume over the past several months.

Low trade volume means very few investors are currently participating in active trade. This lack of investment interest in the markets allows big players (such as international bankers) to use their massive capital to swing stocks whichever way they choose, even to the point of creating false market rallies. Throw in the fact that the private Federal Reserve (along with the helpful hands-off approach by our government) has been constantly infusing these banks with fiat money printed from thin air, and one can hardly take the current ascension of the Dow or Standard & Poor’s 500 index very seriously.

Another issue that should be stressed is renewed tension in the Mideast — namely, the very distinct possibility of an Israeli or U.S. strike in Iran, and the possibility of NATO involvement in Syria (which has extensive ties to Russia and Iran). Certainly, this is a tangible danger that would have unimaginable consequences in global oil markets. However, the threat of growing war in the Mideast is in no way a new one, and has been ever present for the past decade. It hardly explains why, despite hollow demand and extreme supply, the price per barrel of oil has been an unstoppable rising tide.

This schizophrenic disconnection between the stock market, oil, and true supply and demand is a symptom of one very disturbing illness lurking in the backwaters of the U.S. fiscal bloodstream: dollar devaluation.

We all understand that the Federal Reserve has been engaged in nonstop quantitative easing measures in one form or another since 2008. We don’t know exactly how much fiat money the Fed has printed in that time, and we won’t know until a full and comprehensive audit is finally enacted. But we do know that the amount is at the very least in the tens of trillions of dollars. (Be sure to check out page 131 of this GAO report to find their breakdown of Fed QE activities. This is just the money printing that has been admitted to, in excess of $16 trillion.)

The dollar is being thoroughly squashed. Why is this not showing in the foreign exchange (FOREX)? The way the dollar is represented in FOREX is yet another example of a useless market indicator, because it measures dollar value relative to a basket of world fiat currencies, all of which also happen to be in decline. That is to say, the dollar appears to be vibrant, as long as you compare it to similarly worthless paper currencies that are being degraded in tandem with the greenback. Once you begin to compare the dollar to commodities, however, it soon shows its inherent weakness.

The dollar’s only saving graces have long been its status as the world reserve currency and its use as the primary trade mechanism for oil. This, however, is changing.

Bilateral trade agreements between China, Russia, Japan, India and other countries — especially those within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations trading bloc — are slowly but surely removing the dollar from the game as these nations begin to replace trade using other currencies, including the Yuan. I believe commodities, especially oil, have been reflecting this trend for quite some time. Even after the release of strategic oil reserves in the summer of 2011 in an effort to dilute prices, and the announcement of an even larger possible release of reserves this month, oil has not strayed far from the $100-per-barrel mark. High Brent crude prices have held for years, even after numerous promises from government and media entities admonishing what they called “speculation” and promises of a return to lower energy costs. Not long ago, $100 per barrel oil was an outlandish premise. Today, it is commonplace, and some people even consider it “affordable” compared to what we may be facing in the near future — all thanks to the steady deconstruction of the last pillar of the U.S. economy, the dollar, and its world reserve label.

Ultimately, no matter how manipulated and overindulged the stock market becomes and no matter how many fiat dollars are injected to prop up our failing system, the price of oil is the great game changer. As inflation is reflected in its price and energy costs burn out of control, the Dow will begin to fall, regardless of any low volume or quantitative easing. In all likelihood, this conundrum will be blamed on as many scapegoats as are available at the moment, including Iran, China, Russia, Japan, etc. All Americans, especially those involved in tracking the economy, will have to remind themselves and the public that the Federal Reserve created the conditions by which we suffer, including currency devaluation and high oil prices — not some foreign enemy.

The one positive element of this entire disaster (if one can call anything “positive” in this mess) is the manner in which the high price of oil tends to dash away the illusions of the common citizen. It is an issue they simply cannot ignore, because it affects every aspect of their lives in minute detail. Costly energy awakens otherwise ignorant people and forces them to see the many dangers lurking on the horizon. Hopefully, this awakening will not be too little too late.

–Brandon Smith