Researchers: Obamacare Will Lead To Increased Employment Discrimination

Obamacare has already begun to affect the American workforce as many employers move to lay off employees in a bid to avoid forced compliance with expensive new healthcare mandates. Legal researchers at the University of Illinois found recently that American workers will likely feel negative effects from the healthcare overhaul long after the initial pain of its implementation, as some of the mandates encourage employers to discriminate against job candidates.

The researchers discovered that language in the healthcare law gives employers the incentive to harass or retaliate against employees seeking health coverage in order to avoid the financial penalties.

“The Affordable Care Act incentivizes employers and employees to push in essentially opposite directions,” said Peter Molk, an expert in insurance law. “There are safeguards that have been enacted as part of the law, and some already exist to protect employees from what employers might do. But we’ve identified other areas of the law where it looks like employees aren’t as protected as we would want them to be.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which takes full effect in January 2015, requires qualified employers — that is, employers with 50 or more full-time employees — to provide healthcare coverage to workers or face fines. Employees must make an effort to obtain coverage or pay a penalty.

“For employers, there are three different options: They can provide adequate coverage, inadequate coverage or no coverage at all,” said Suja A. Thomas, an expert in employment discrimination. “In terms of loopholes, they could offer adequate insurance but could ask job applicants about their coverage in an attempt not to hire people who may seek coverage. They could offer inadequate insurance, but threaten employees not to elect coverage through the health exchanges, because then the employers would have to pay a fine. Or employers could offer no coverage at all and pay the fines, which do increase over time; it might be worth it if they calculate that they come out ahead monetarily by not offering coverage.”

The problem, the researchers contend, is that Obamacare creates a conflict as employees seek coverage and employers seek ways to cut the cost of providing it — both attempting to avoid government fines.

“Employers obviously would like to minimize costs as well as avoid any and all penalties, and one way of doing so is offering inadequate coverage and trying to get employees to avoid buying subsidized coverage through the individual exchanges,” Molk said. “In this circumstance, what’s not currently protected is the way that some employers could pressure employees or tell employees, ‘Look, if too many of you go out and buy insurance this way, then we’re going to have to fire people or cut wages.’ That’s not protected, and that’s something that we think should be protected in appropriate circumstances.”

As Expected, Obama Has It All Wrong

Barack Obama, the undocumented usurper currently defiling the people’s House, spoke for 67 minutes last Wednesday outlining his latest pivot — the 19th by some counts — to jobs and the economy. He indicated with his policy pronouncements that he intends to perpetuate the current misery through the end of his term, and further destroy the middle class.

Since February 2009, 9.5 million people have dropped out of the workforce. As CNSNews.com reports, that means that 1.3 Americans have dropped out of the workforce for every job the regime claims it has created.

“We’ve created over 7.2 million private sector jobs,” Presidential spokespuppet Jay Carney claimed at a recent press briefing. The regime’s propagandists in the mainstream media didn’t correct Carney on one important point. Government does not create jobs without killing a job or jobs somewhere else.

Government creates nothing but misery and heartache. For to “create” a job, government has to steal money from someone in the private sector — either through inflation (money printing) or taxation — and give it to someone else.

Irrationally exuberant government “stimulus” spending began under George W. Bush’s regime as he sought to “save the free market system” by “abandon[ing] free market principles.” But almost five years and trillions of dollars later, here’s what we have:

  • Almost 90 million Americans not working.
  • 15 million more Americans on food stamps today than in January 2009. That’s two Americans on food stamps for every job “created” by the regime.
  • Almost 11 million Americans receiving disability payments — 1.6 million more than in February 2009.
    American has fallen to No. 27 in middle-class wealth.
  • Real occupational wages are down almost 3 percent.
  • Thanks to the threat of Obamacare, most new jobs being “created” are part-time jobs. American is becoming a part-time society.

In his speech, Obama decried the growing inequality between the haves and have-nots.

“This growing inequality, it’s not just morally wrong, it’s bad economics,” he said. “Because when middle-class families have less to spend, guess what? Businesses have fewer consumers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther and farther apart, it undermines the very essence of America, that idea that if you work hard, you can make it here.”

This statement demonstrates either Obama is profoundly ignorant of economic theory or he’s deliberately misrepresenting the business cycle to Americans. But none of his policy proposals — he promised to invest billions of dollars to build new infrastructure, improve education, create jobs programs and increase the minimum wage — have historically done anything to improve the economy. In fact, they have been shown to have deleterious effects. And all require a redistribution of wealth to accomplish.

Americans are already overtaxed. There is no more blood to be squeezed form the turnip. That’s not to say that Obama won’t propose more taxes to “pay” for his new policies.

The government/banker system is wide open, devaluing the dollar with the unlimited printing of money. This is economic war, pure and simple; and Americans don’t seem to care one way or the other.

When the money printers print bales of paper money, the dollars already in circulation become worthless. Anybody should understand this debauching of the currency translates to widespread impoverishment. Those who have now will soon be have-nots. No politician or government bureaucrat will reveal this to the American people.

Money printing is a gangrenous rot on society that steals wealth slowly but surely, as gangrene steals life from the patient. But the Federal Reserve is locked into a policy of quantitative easing to infinity. Any hint that the Fed is going to back off the money printing sends the market into convulsions.

But quantitative easing is as much responsible for the current economic malaise as the stimulus spending.

In his book When the Money Runs Out, Stephen D. King, chief economist of HSBC Holdings, writes:

The benefits of QE have a nasty habit of being channeled to precisely those parts of the economy that are unlikely to respond in a positive way. If, for example, lowering bond yields leads to a rally in stock prices, it will be easier for big, blue-chip companies to raise funds.

Small and medium-sized companies that have little or no access to capital markets and, instead, remain dependent on bank lending, have however derived little or no benefit.

The elected class loves the illusion of wealth created by money printing. A propped-up market is often cited as evidence of a growing economy. But it is merely an illusion, a bubble ripe for bursting.

The elected class loves the illusion of action created by wealth redistribution and “investment” in their pet industries and crony projects.

But neither of these “policies” benefits the middle class. They continue to get squeezed in the vise of taxation and inflation, their wealth pilfered from day by day.

Dodging Fees

Dear Bob,

You say to take possession of your stock certificates. When I tried to do this they wanted to charge me $500 for each certificate. Is there a way around this fee?

Thanks,
David S.

Dear David,

This is outrageous. I didn’t pay anything for mine a long time ago.

Maybe you can transfer them to a broker and ask for the certificates. Maybe you can transfer them all direct to the transfer agent and then take possession. This cuts the broker out. It’s a safer position for the transfer agent to hold the stocks. Ask your broker who the transfer agent is on your stocks.

Best wishes,
Bob

Report: Government Secretly Asks For Americans’ Individual Passwords, Account Access

Two sources within the computing industry have told CNET that the U.S. government frequently demands major online service providers to hand over their individual users’ passwords in order to access their private information or to impersonate account holders.

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo all declined to say whether they had received such requests from the Feds. But then, they all but revealed that they do, telling CNET that they don’t provide that kind of information whenever they’ve been approached with orders to do so in the past. Of course, nearly all of the Nation’s major email and online service providers similarly — and, it turned out, falsely — denied that the National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped into their servers under the so-called PRISM program.

It’s not that these companies are eager to work with the government to undermine privacy. The profit motive offers a good incentive to keep the confidence of their millions of users.

But the government has been demonstrated to operate much of its surveillance, even at the service provider level, in secret. Or it obscures what it’s really going after by requesting batch data dumps and using a different body of terminology when dealing with computer companies than that which it uses internally, as Edward Snowden’s leaked documents demonstrate.

Too, the incredibly esoteric tech involved in decrypting password information has been a big boon to the NSA. The fact that almost no one outside the tech world understands how a company can legally divulge “password information” without revealing a user’s actual password has created an immense grey area in which transgressing or abiding by the spirit of standing laws may be easy to discern, but stretching the meaning of — while still adhering to — the letter of the law is anything but.

According to CNET:

Some details remain unclear, including when the requests began and whether the government demands are always targeted at individuals or seek entire password database dumps. The Patriot Act has been used to demand entire database dumps of phone call logs, and critics have suggested its use is broader.

…If the government can subsequently determine the password, “there’s a concern that the provider is enabling unauthorized access to the user’s account if they do that,” [Stanford professor Jennifer] Granick said. That could, she said, raise legal issues under the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The Justice Department has argued in court proceedings before that it has broad legal authority to obtain passwords.

Watch for a new round of test-case lawsuits from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) or the American Civil Liberties Union to suss out just how far the government can go in obtaining any level of an individual’s private account information without a warrant. The EFF already is suing the NSA over the agency’s interpretation of what’s permitted by the surveillance warrants it obtains from the secret, unConstitutional Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

What It Means to Be Self-Reliant… And Why We’re Hated for It

What does it mean to be self-reliant?

It means different things to different people. Some homeowners have taken the huge step of freeing themselves from a very vulnerable U.S. electrical grid and are now generating their own electricity with solar panels and wind turbines. They feel empowered by this independence because not only does it allow them to save money, but they can also keep their homes lit and either warm or cool when power outages occur.

Other people have achieved a level of self-reliance by growing their own vegetables and fruits using open-pollinated, non-genetically modified, heirloom seeds. Growing food in the warmer months, storing some of it for colder months and re-using seeds they’ve harvested from last year’s crops make them feel confident that even when food prices soar or food shortages occur, they and their families will be able to enjoy good-tasting, nutritious and inexpensive food.

For others, independence comes in the form of privacy. They’ve taken a number of important steps to keep their identities safe from thieves, their Internet browsing free from observation and their email accounts safe from hacking. They’ve also done their best to maintain privacy in their consumer, medical and financial affairs. They feel confident that they are unlikely to become victims of many of the privacy intrusions that have plagued those who are less careful.

To some, self-reliance takes the form of gun ownership. These people follow the local laws regarding their weapons and gain the necessary training. They learn how to load, use and clean their guns; and they store them properly and safely, out of the reach of children and hidden from potential intruders. They choose appropriate places to keep their guns out of sight yet easily accessible in case they ever need them in a hurry.

Of course, some people generate their own electricity and grow their own food and secure their family’s privacy and own guns to protect themselves and their families. They’re probably the most self-reliant people of all.

Think for just a moment how much self-reliant people contribute to our society. They take pressure off the overtaxed and unreliable electrical grid. They free up more food for people who can’t or don’t wish to grow their own. They reduce identity theft. They protect law-abiding citizens from lawbreakers. If the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would be handing out medals to self-reliant people because that’s the spirit that made this country great.

But what’s happening instead? Self-reliant people are scorned and held up to ridicule. They’re portrayed as dangerous wackos. They’re mistrusted. They’re watched closely by various government agencies. Why? What possible reason could anyone have to persecute people who consistently pull themselves up by their bootstraps and take care of their own needs and the needs of their families instead of sponging off society?

There’s only one explanation for why law-abiding citizens who contribute so much to society are the subjects of harassment. And that reason is control. Some people just aren’t happy unless they can control those who want nothing more than to live in peace. Unfortunately, those obsessed with controlling others often wind up in positions of authority, where they frequently choose to make life miserable for others, just because they can. They can’t stand it when they see people who are happily making it on their own.

Consider this. When people are dependent on the electrical grid, they can be controlled by an on/off switch. When people don’t grow their own food, they can be controlled by those who produce and sell food to them. When people don’t protect their privacy, they can be controlled by those who spy on them. And when people don’t own guns, they can be controlled by those who do, including criminals.

Self-reliant people, on the other hand, are much more difficult to control. They don’t need or ask for government handouts. They don’t flock to Federal Emergency Management Agency centers when their power goes out. They don’t need food stamps when food prices soar. They don’t back down from defending their families and property, meekly handing over their guns to criminals and those who wish to rob them of their 2nd Amendment rights.

There are a growing number of patriots in North America who understand that we are headed in the wrong direction as a country. We sigh in disgust as our society teaches people to rely on everyone but themselves. We cringe when we see how ill-prepared most people are to handle even the slightest of emergencies. We shake our heads in disbelief as we hear politicians claim that stricter gun control laws will save lives when we know that the exact opposite is true.

American patriots realize that the time is eventually going to come when only those who have learned to be self-reliant will survive. But that’s assuming we’re able to maintain our independence in the face of a society and a government that is increasingly hostile toward us. If you’re not self-reliant, start working on getting there. If you’re halfway there, get all the way there. If you’re all the way there, help others get there.

Here’s my advice. Get off the electrical grid as much as possible by generating your own power. Grow your own food if you can, and stockpile food and water for emergencies. Do whatever you can to maintain your privacy. And figure out a way to protect what is yours from those that want to take it from you. That’s self-reliance, and that’s what will carry us through when times are tough.

–Frank Bates

A Lobbyist’s Dream: Senate Guaranteed 50 Years’ Secrecy On Tax Reform Ideas

Senate leaders have collaborated to secure a supposedly airtight 50-year guarantee of secrecy from the Finance Committee not to publicly disclose tax reform proposals from all 100 Senators, nor reveal the lobbying pressures influencing many of their suggestions, ahead of major tax reform legislation to be written this fall.

The agreement, forged by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), “assured lawmakers that any submission they receive will be kept under lock and key by the committee and the National Archives until the end of 2064,” according to The Hill.

In other words, the American public can find out all the ways the government defrauded them to protect politically active corporations after everyone in the Senate is dead.

Baucus and Hatch will co-sponsor tax reform later this year. Ostensibly, their vow of secrecy is intended to ensure all members of the Senate feel equally free to involve themselves in what could be a ground-up rewrite of the tax code. If it has the side effect of concealing the Senators’ true motives for positing changes in the way the Nation’s wealth is being redistributed, well, that’s unintentional.

From The Hill:

The lengths Baucus and Hatch have gone to reassure their colleagues underscores the importance the tax writers are placing on the blank-slate plan, and it shows they are working hard to ensure that all 100 senators engage in the process.

Baucus told The Hill he fully expects more senators to participate in writing because of the secrecy guarantee.

…It also illustrates the enormous pressure being brought to bear by K Street lobbyists, who are working furiously to protect their clients and the tax provisions that benefit them.

Only 10 staffers will be authorized to review Senators’ suggestions, each of which is to be assigned a unique ID number and stored on password-protected computers servers on both the Democrat and Republican sides. Hard copies are to be kept in locked safes.

That’s a lot of skullduggery just to make sure Americans have a tough time figuring out the obscure connections that link Senators in landlocked rural States with lobby-backed proposals — to envision just one relatively benign example — to offer major breaks to coastal industries far from their constituent base. With one less way of monitoring backroom agreements between government and private influence, expect the Nation’s tax code to fester into an even uglier, more confusing, more inequitable mess. Outrageously, the Senate is doing its best to make sure there won’t be anywhere to lay the blame.

Electronic Communications Fuel Marital Infidelity, Just Ask Anthony Weiner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (UPI) — Electronic communication has had pervasive and pernicious effects on initiating and perpetuating affairs during the past decade, a U.S. expert says.

Dr. Scott Haltzman — a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, former clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University and the author of “The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity” — said electronic communication from social media to text messaging is the biggest change that has occurred in extra-marital infidelity.

“Hidden electronic communication allows a new relationship to begin and permits a relationship to flourish,” Haltzman said in a statement. “In past decades those relationships would have fizzled because of the near impossibility of being able to sustain communication.”

“One of the hallmarks of infidelity is opportunity, and more than any invention since paper and pen, the Internet has provided a template for affairs to soar,” Haltzman said. “I began by defining an electronic communication as either email, instant messaging or text messaging, but excluded one-way pornography or simple cellphone use without texting.”

Haltzman said input to an online research tool he operated for the past 10 years illustrated the expanded role on electronic communication in infidelity.

He said three of the 45 infidelity-oriented contributions to the site from 2000 to 2002 — about 6.6 percent — specifically described affairs that involved some form of electronic communication, while 21 of 43 contributions from 2006 to 2011 — nearly 50 percent — included specific comments on electronic communication’s role in an affair.

From 2011 to April 2013, 63 percent specifically alluded to electronic communications, Haltzman said.

Some of these people did not meet each other online, but they communicated surreptitiously using electronic media.

The NSA’s 51 Percent; Halliburton Ain’t Hurtin'; Classified Enemies; Burr Opposes ‘Dumb’ Government Shutdown Over Healthcare Reform: Personal Liberty Digest ™ P.M. Edition 7-26-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

Leave Numbers-Based Suspicion To Vegas – Not The NSA, FBI and DOJ

What does it mean to be “51 percent” certain that something is true? When the NSA queries its massive computer databases for specific “non-U.S. persons,” all it needs is a 51 percent suspicion that the person they’re about to secretly track online isn’t an American citizen. Read More…

ProPublica: Who Are We at War With? That’s Classified

In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.” So who exactly are those associated forces? It’s a secret. Read More… 

Halliburton Destroyed Evidence In BP Spill; Pays $200,000 Fine

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to accept a guilty plea from Halliburton Company to a charge of destroying evidence in the aftermath of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Read More…

Senator Burr Opposes Government Shutdown To Fight ACA

Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., says the idea of shutting down the U.S. government to block healthcare reform implementation is “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Read More…

Watch: Obama Says ‘Islam Has Contributed To The Character Of Our Country’

“Throughout our history, Islam has contributed to the character of our country,” President Obama said at a dinner celebrating Ramadan this week. Watch The Video… 

Smoking During Pregnancy Linked To Child Conduct Problems

LEICESTER, England (UPI) — There is a significant association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring conduct problems, researchers in Britain say.

Professor Gordon Harold and Dr. Darya Gaysina, of the University of Leicester in England, and colleagues in the United States and New Zealand, examined the relationship between maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring conduct problems among children raised by genetically related mothers and genetically unrelated mothers.

In the meta-analysis, the researchers used three studies: the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a longitudinal study that includes biological and adopted children; the Early Growth and Development Study, a longitudinal adoption-at-birth study; and the Cardiff In Vitro Fertilization Study, an adoption-at-conception study among genetically related families and genetically unrelated families.

Maternal smoking during pregnancy was measured as the average number of cigarettes per day smoked during pregnancy.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, found smoking during pregnancy appeared to be a prenatal risk factor associated with conduct problems in children.

“Our findings suggest an association between pregnancy smoking and child conduct problems that is unlikely to be fully explained by post-natal environmental factors such as parenting practices even when the post-natal passive genotype-environment correlation has been removed,” the authors concluded.

Birthday Ritual: Singing, Candles, Cake Cutting = Tastier Cake

MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — The birthday ritual of off-key singing, wishing while blowing out candles and the ceremonial cake cutting may improve the cake’s taste, U.S. researchers say.

Professor Kathleen Vohs of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota Vohs and colleagues conducted four experiments to investigate if ritualistic behaviors might influence perception and consumption of various foods.

In the first experiment, some participants were asked to eat a piece of chocolate following a detailed set of instructions: “Without unwrapping the chocolate bar, break it in half. Unwrap half of the bar and eat it. Then, unwrap the other half and eat it.”

The other participants were simply instructed to relax for a short amount of time and then eat the chocolate bar in whatever fashion they wished.

The “ritual” group rated the chocolate more highly, savored it more, and were willing to pay more for the chocolate than the other group. The findings suggest that a short, fabricated ritual can produce real effects, Vohs said.

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

Watch: Obama Says ‘Islam Has Contributed To The Character Of Our Country’


 

“Throughout our history, Islam has contributed to the character of our country, and Muslim-Americans, and their good works, have helped to build our nation – and we’ve seen the results. We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities,” President Obama said at a dinner celebrating Ramadan this week.

“Every day, Muslim Americans are helping to shape the way that we think and the way that we work and the way that we do business. And that’s the spirit that we celebrate tonight – the dreamers, the creators whose ideas are pioneering new industries, creating new jobs and unleashing new opportunities for all of us,” Obama said.

What, no thanks for the Muslim extremists who have given the Federal government an excuse to build a massive police/surveillance state and fight illegal wars in the years since 9/11?

Women Sensing A Woman Moving In On Her Man Flash Gucci, Fendi

MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — Women often seek expensive, luxury clothes, shoes and handbags to show off to the same sex in order to protect their turf and their man, U.S. researchers say.

Professor Vladas Griskevicius and doctoral student Yajin Wang at the University of Minnesota discovered how women’s luxury products often function as a signaling system directed at other women who pose a threat to their romantic relationships.

“It might seem irrational that each year U.S. shoppers spend more than $250 billion on women’s luxury products with an average woman acquiring three new handbags a year, but conspicuous consumption is actually smart for women who want to protect their relationship,” Griskevicius said in a statement. “When a woman is flaunting designer products, it says to other women ‘back off my man.'”

The researchers conducted a series of five experiments featuring 649 women of varying ages and relationship status and found a woman who is wearing luxury items and designer brands is perceived to have a more devoted partner and as a result other women are less likely to flirt with her partner, Wang said.

“Regardless of who actually purchased the items, other women inferred that the man had something to do with it and is thus more devoted to her,” Wang said.

“The feeling that a relationship is being threatened by another woman automatically triggers women to want to flash Gucci, Chanel and Fendi to other women.”

The study, “Conspicuous Consumption, Relationships, and Rivals: Women’s Luxury Products as Signals to Other Women,” is in press at the Journal of Consumer Research.

NYC Has Largest Farmers’ Market Food Stamp Incentive Program

NEW YORK (UPI) — New York City has the largest municipal farmers’ market food stamp incentive program making fruit and vegetables more affordable, officials say.

“Health Bucks are at the heart of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — helping New Yorkers in need supplement their diet with the foods that will benefit them the most,” Robert Doar of the Human Resources Administration said in a statement.

“With Health Bucks and SNAP nutrition education programs, including our healthy eating and cost comparison Cut the Junk initiative, HRA continues its efforts to promote good nutrition habits among more families at the same time it ensures that they will have greater opportunities to get nutritious food with their benefits.”

New York City Food Policy Coordinator Kim Kessler said by expanding the Health Bucks program — which provides $2 coupons for fresh produce at farmers’ markets — Health Bucks would make more than $560,000 worth of fruits and vegetables available to low-income New Yorkers — an increase of 32 percent over the previous season.

The Health Department’s Stellar Farmers’ Markets program provides free cooking and nutrition classes for adults at select farmers’ markets across New York City.

Last year, the program reached more than 40,000 SNAP-eligible New Yorkers, Kessler said.

Experiment Shows Dogs Can See Colors, Not Just Black And White

MOSCOW (UPI) — Russian scientists say they’ve shown dogs can differentiate colors, contradicting a long-held assumption they’re only able to see in black and white.

For much of history, it has been believed dogs’ ability to differentiate between different colored objects was actually due to differences in brightness, not the actual color.

Recent research showing dogs have two types of cones in their eyes led scientists at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems of the Russia Academy of Sciences to suspect they could distinguish colors.

Humans have three kinds of cones, which allows for seeing all three primary colors.

With only two, dogs should be able to see some colors, but not others, the researchers thought — blues, greens and yellows, for example, but not reds or oranges — and they designed an experiment to test that.

First they trained several dogs to respond to one of four different colored pieces of paper, light or dark yellow and light or dark blue, by putting paper pairs in front of feed boxes that contained meat.

The dogs soon learned that certain colors meant a treat.

Next, the researchers placed pieces of paper with the color the dogs had been taught to respond to in front of a feed box, along with another piece of paper that was brighter, but of a different color, to see if a dog trained to respond to light blue would respond to dark blue instead of light yellow.

A majority of the dogs went for the color identifier rather than brightness identifier most of the time, the scientists said, proving they were able to distinguish color and were not relying on brightness difference to find their food treat.

The research was reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

FDA Proposes Tighter Safety Rules For Food Importers

SILVER SPRING, Md. (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday proposed rules to increase safety of imported food, with one FDA commissioner calling it a “big step.”

“This is a big step. It’s part of the transformation effort of the U.S. food system toward prevention,” said Commissioner Michael Taylor, who backed the new rules.

The new rules are subject to a 120-day comment period and could be changed or delayed due to comments received.

But the rules are already long-delayed, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The rules were part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in January 2011.

Until now, the rules stalled, however, at the White House Office of Management and Budget, which did not respond to requests for comment on why processing the rules became delayed, the Journal said.

The rules require importers to meet the same safety standards as domestic food distributors.

Importers, who will be audited to see if they are complying with the rules, will have to monitor their suppliers to see what they are doing to cut down on food risks.

Imported foods have been blamed for numerous disease outbreaks, including sushi from India that sickened 400 people in 2012 and an incident in which 16 people became sick this after eating tahini, a sesame paste, from Turkey.

Both of those outbreaks were caused by salmonella bacteria.

Erik Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the government, currently, is able to check only about 2 percent of the food imports for safety concerns.

“This is a big deal in our view,” Olson said.

Eurozone Leading Indicators Rose In June

BRUSSELS (UPI) — The Leading Economic Index for the 17 nations that share the euro as currency rose 0.5 percent in June, the Conference Board said Friday.

The index climbed after gaining 0.1 percent in April and 0.4 percent in May, the economic research firm said.

The index is a comparison to the average monthly index in 2004, which was assigned an index value of 100. For the eurozone, the index now stands at 107.5.

For the region, the index has made gains in five of the past six months.

“June saw the Leading Economic Index for the eurozone rise for the third straight month, increasing the odds for a recovery in the second half of 2013,” said Bert Colijn, economist for Europe at The Conference Board.

“Even as business and consumer confidence grows, however, continued financial stability in the Euro Area remains vital for economic growth. Any renewed uncertainty would be a large setback for a recovery,” Colijn said.

Gas In The City Averaged $3.63 Per Gallon In June

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Gasoline prices topped $4 per gallon in handful of U.S. cities in June and averaged $3.63 around the country’s metropolitan areas, the government said Friday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said prices topped $4 per gallon in Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit, as well as in Gary, Ind., Kenosha, Wis., Ann Arbor and Flint, Mich., and Riverside, Calif.

The bureau said the lowest prices in cities around the country were in the South region, where prices averaged $3.37 per gallon, the lowest price out of four regions.

Prices in cities in the Northeast averaged $3.59 per gallon while prices in the Midwest averaged $3.84.

The highest prices among U.S. cities were in the West where the average West urban price was $3.86 in June.

Study Says Women Genetically Prefer Funny Men

STANFORD, Calif. (UPI) — Women are genetically equipped to appreciate men who can make them laugh, researchers at California’s Stanford University School of Medicine say.

The researchers said they scanned the brains of 22 males and females between the ages of 6 and 13 while the study subjects viewed humorous videos, such as people falling down and animals performing tricks, the Daily Mail reported Friday.

The subjects were also shown “positive” clips, such as dancers and snowboarders, and “neutral” clips of nature and children riding bikes.

MRI scanning of the children’s brains discovered the girls’ brains showed more heightened activity during the humorous videos, indicating they were feeling stronger mirth and positive feelings than the boys.

“Our data for the first time disclose that sex differences in humor appreciation already exist in young children,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers said their findings suggest women are genetically predisposed to prefer men who can make them laugh “because the female brain, and particularly the reward circuit, is biologically better prepared to respond accordingly.”

The study is published in the journal Social Neuroscience.

Leave Numbers-Based Suspicion To Vegas – Not The NSA, FBI and DOJ

What does it mean to be “51 percent” certain that something is true? It means you’re more certain than not – but certainly not certain. It might mean you’re fine with admitting you’d been wrong, if it turns out the other 49 percent in that simplistic ratio proved correct.

When the National Security Agency (NSA) or a Federal law enforcement entity – whether it’s the Department of Justice, FBI or Department of homeland Security – starts querying its massive computer databases for specific “non-U.S. persons” as defined by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), all they need is a 51 percent suspicion that the person they’re about to secretly track online isn’t an American citizen.

From the original Washington Post story that revealed details about the NSA’s PRISM internet spy program:

Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade, Md., key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by The Post instruct new analysts to make quarterly reports of any accidental collection of U.S. content, but add that “it’s nothing to worry about.”

Those of you who gamble: if an oddsmaker told you to bet your fortune because he was “51 percent sure” that your sports team would cover the spread, would you flinch when he told you the 49 percent of doubt was “nothing to worry about?”

When and if Congress revises the bevy of laws governing what the NSA, DOJ, FBI and DHS can and can’t do, it needs to leave numeric-based probability to the Vegas bookies – and leave it out of the burgeoning U.S. surveillance state.

Black Bear Walks Into A Colorado Bar

ESTES PARK, Colo. (UPI) — A black bear wandered into a Colorado bar recently, sniffed around and left without the human patrons even noticing, video shows.

The bruin, estimated at about 350 pounds and about 6 feet tall when standing on its hind legs, entered a back door of Lonigans Saloon Nightclub and Grill about 9:15 p.m. July 18 and nosed around for a time before exiting the way he came in, the Estes Park Trail-Gazette reported earlier this week.

The bear’s visit would have gone unreported if not for a man walking by outside who saw it and security camera footage that captured it for posterity.

Passerby Daniel Lyell said he spotted the bear going from garbage bin to garbage bin in the parking lot.

“I wanted a photo, and before I knew it, he was headed into Lonigans,” Lyell said. “I went in after him and tried to alert the patrons by yelling ‘bear’ but no one noticed. I called for the bear when he was just about to enter the middle bar area. He hesitated and then listened to me the second time. He turned around and went out the door behind me.”

“Nobody even knew it was there,” Lonigans owner David Callahan told the newspaper. “I just missed seeing it. I was cleaning up and had just taken out the trash.”

Callahan said his bartender also just missed running into the bear after she had gone to the rear of the saloon.

The owner said it’s the second time a bear has come into his establishment, the last time four or five years ago, the newspaper said.

“I almost bopped him on the nose,” Callahan said in recalling the first incident, adding it is probably time to make some changes to that door.

ProPublica: Who Are We at War With? That’s Classified

This article, written by Cora Currier, was originally published by ProPublica,  July 26, 2013, 10:13 a.m.

In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.”

So who exactly are those associated forces? It’s a secret.

At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded 2013 but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”

“Because elements that might be considered 2018associated forces’ can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list,” said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. “We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks.”

It’s not an abstract question: U.S. drone strikes and other actions frequently target “associated forces,” as has been the case with dozens of strikes against an Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.

During the May hearing, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said he was “not sure there is a list per se.” Describing terrorist groups as “murky” and “shifting,” he said, “it would be difficult for the Congress to get involved in trying to track the designation of which are the affiliate forces” of Al Qaeda.

Sheehan said that by the Pentagon’s standard, “sympathy is not enough2026. it has to be an organized group and that group has to be in co-belligerent status with Al Qaeda operating against the United States.”

The White House tied Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and “elements” of Al Shabaab in Somalia to Al Qaeda in a recent report to Congress on military actions. But the report also included a classified annex.

Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has written on this question at length, told ProPublica that the Pentagon’s reasoning for keeping the affiliates secret seems weak. “If the organizations are 2018inflated’ enough to be targeted with military force, why cannot they be mentioned publicly?” Goldsmith said. He added that there is “a countervailing very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name.”

The law underpinning the U.S. war against Al Qaeda is known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, and it was passed one week after the 9/11 attacks. It doesn’t actually include the words “associated forces,” though courts and Congress have endorsed the phrase.

As we explained earlier this year, the emergence of new or more loosely-aligned terrorist groups has legal scholars wondering how effectively the U.S. will be able to “shoehorn” them into the AUMF. During the May hearing, many lawmakers expressed concern about the Pentagon’s capacious reading of the law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described it as a “carte blanche.”

Obama, in his May speech, said he looked forward “to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” But he didn’t give a timeframe. On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., introduced an amendment that would sunset the law at the end of 2014, to coincide with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was voted down the same day, 185 to 236.

The AUMF isn’t the only thing the government relies on to take military action. In speeches and interviews Obama administration officials also bring up the president’s constitutional power to defend the country, even without congressional authorization.