Sotomayor nomination continues to stoke controversy

Sotomayor nomination continues to stoke controversy In the days since President Obama has announced Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, a variety of conservative groups have expressed their reservations.

Calling her "a radical pick," Americans United for Life has criticized the judge’s allegedly activist record and expressed concern that her appointment will perpetuate what it calls the Supreme Court’s role as a "national abortion control board."

"This appointment would provide a pedestal for an avowed judicial activist to impose her personal policy and beliefs onto others … at a time when the courts are at a crossroad and critical abortion regulations like partial-birth abortion and informed consent laws lie in the balance," it said.

Meanwhile, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has said the nomination validates the concerns of millions of American citizens who fear their Second Amendment rights are in jeopardy under the current administration.

It has pointed to the fact that Sotomayor was part of a Second Circuit Court panel that ruled in Maloney v. Cuomo in January that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states, which is in conflict with a Ninth Circuit opinion this spring in Nordyke v. King that it is incorporated to the states, and therefore places limits on their ability to regulate the right to bear arms.

Commentators across the board are expecting partisan confirmation hearings for the 54-year-old Sotomayor.

Industry insiders offer tips on debt management

Industry insiders offer tips on debt management The Illinois CPA Society has provided advice on how to stay out of debt during challenging economic times.

It has issued its 10 Strokes to Stay Afloat to help Americans navigate through the turbulent economic waters. They include common sense advice such as the need to tread carefully with spending and creating a budget to ensure that it does not exceed disposable income.

The Society also stresses the importance of taking care of big savings projects such as retirement or college.

Even those who sustained serious losses due to the stock market collapse may recover by making well-considered decisions or consulting a trusted financial advisor to devise a strategy based on how close the individual is to retirement.

Meanwhile, parents of college-bound children should not worry if they have not saved enough to cover the expenses, the Society says.

There is a plethora of tuition assistance options, starting from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form that should be submitted on time to open doors to government funding.

Moreover, it is wise to explore local or national private grants and scholarships which can save families thousands of dollars in educational expenses.

The Illinois CPA Society also reminds readers that with record low mortgage rates, large inventories of unsold homes and an $8,000 new homebuyer’s credit for 2009 now is a great time to buy or refinance a house.

Preterm birth risk appears to fall with folic acid supplementation

Preterm birth risk appears to fall with folic acid supplementation A new study has suggested women who take folic acid for at least one year before they become pregnant may reduce their risk of having a premature baby by half.

The results are significant given the serious human and economic costs of premature births as preemies are at an increased risk of complications such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease and blindness.

The study, conducted by scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston analyzed folate supplementation of 38,033 participants in an earlier trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The effect holds regardless of age, race or other health factors, they say.

Dr. Alan R. Fleischman, senior vice president and medical director of the March of Dimes, says it has been known for a long time that folic acid supplementation beginning before pregnancy and continuing into the first trimester helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

"[The new] research reinforces our message that every woman of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily," he adds.

The study was published online in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Louisiana schools oppose college gun laws

Louisiana schools oppose college gun laws As Texas lawmakers passed a bill which allows concealed weapons on state college campuses, a coalition of Louisiana higher education institutions has vowed to push back against similar laws in their state.

Seven Louisiana state universities, including Louisiana Tech University, University of Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern University A&M College, have signed resolutions opposing efforts to arm students.

"America’s college campuses are among the safest environments for students because they do not permit guns on their premises," says Andy Pelosi, president of, which launched the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus last December.

"If the gun [lobby succeeds] our universities will become less safe and prone to more violence. And if lawmakers truly believe in creating a safe learning environment for students, they will oppose [their] extremist legislation," he adds.

Anti-gun groups have also accused the gun lobby of using the Virginia tech tragedy as a cover to promote their agenda of pushing guns "into every nook and cranny of our society, including our schools," in the words of John Johnson, outreach coordinator for the campaign.

In Louisiana legislature, the pending House Bill 27 would allow students, professors and staff who have weapons licenses to carry hidden and loaded handguns onto campuses as well as in classrooms and at sporting events.

IRS zeros in on wealthy individuals, companies

IRS zeros in on wealthy individuals, companiesThe Internal Revenue Service has said it is expanding its audit efforts among rich individuals and companies with foreign operations in an effort to enhance its enforcement.

According to Reuters, the statement came in response to one congressmen citing data which suggests the IRS audit rate for millionaires fell 19 percent between 2007 and 2008, while for big corporations it allegedly declined by 9 percent from 2005 to 2008.

"Our long-term investment is to have a trend where wealthy individuals, large corporations, [and all those] who have benefited from being in the U.S. … pay their taxes," said IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, quoted by the news source.

Shulman has also urged House lawmakers to enact President Obama’s proposals to fight offshore tax evasion, which include a $400 million increase in the IRS enforcement budget over fiscal year 2009 funding levels.

Earlier this year, the IRS announced a six-month amnesty program to encourage individuals and companies holding assets in offshore accounts to voluntarily declare them in exchange for lower penalties and avoidance of criminal prosecution as long as the assets were acquired legally.

Scientists to collaborate on herbal remedies for swine flu

Scientists to collaborate on herbal remedies for swine flu A partnership that has been announced between scientific research centers from Mexico and China aims to explore a role of herbal medicines in containing the outbreak of the H1N1 flu.

The agreement between Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) and China Medical University in Beijing is expected to be signed in July, according to Xinhua News Agency.

It quoted Javier Grandini Gonzalez, director of the IPN’s National Medicine and Homeopathy School, as praising both countries’ "excellent" record in herbal medicine study.

Herbal therapies, along with acupuncture, exercise Qi Gong and massage have been the cornerstones of Chinese medicine dating back more than 2,000 years.

"We are seeking to find in the herbal traditions [of the two countries] plants that serve as anti-virals," said Guillermo Perez Ishiwara, the IPN’s head of postgraduate studies and research, quoted by the agency.

"Some of the components of herbal formulas may stimulate the immune response, which means they could become an alternative in preventing any outbreak that may come in winter," he added.

The current outbreak of the H1N1 influenza, also known as the swine flu, originated in Mexico in early April of this year. To date, it has killed more than 100 while infecting some 4,500 people in the country.

Texas approves gun bill

Texas approves gun bill Despite protests of anti-gun activists, Texas legislature has voted to allow college students and employees to carry concealed handguns on campus.

According to Houston Chronicle, the bill allows students who are at least 21 years old and licensed to carry concealed handguns to bring those weapons into state campus buildings, although private institutions will be able to opt out.

Only university hospitals and athletic facilities will remain off limits to guns, it says.

"I would feel personally guilty if I woke up one morning and read that something similar had occurred on a Texas campus," said State Senator Jeff Wentworth, a Republican, who introduced the bill after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, quoted by the newspaper.

However, his Democratic counterpart Rodney Ellis expressed concern that the situation could confuse police, who will not know if a person carrying a gun on campus is violating the law or not.

"When there is an alcohol-related tragedy on campus, you don’t hear claims that giving students a 12-pack is the solution," he was quoted as saying. "Yet, when it comes to gun-related incidents, we seem to think that putting more guns in the mix will lead to a good, rather than bloody outcome."

Despite the developments in Texas, seven Louisiana state universities have recently signed resolutions opposing legislation to permit the carrying of loaded guns on college campuses.

California upholds ban on same-sex marriage

California upholds ban on same-sex marriage Ratifying the results of last year’s popular vote, the California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-gender marriages yesterday, sparking fierce debate between critics and supporters of the move.

The ruling is based on the passage last November of Proposition 8 which sought to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has praised the court’s decision.

"California’s constitution gives its citizens the right of self-governance and we are pleased that the court resisted demands to strip the right of the people to amend the state constitution," he stated.

"Even this widely-recognized liberal court understands that overturning Proposition 8 would represent a repudiation of the state constitution it is sworn to uphold," Perkins added.

Meanwhile, supporters of gay marriage, who called the decision a sad day for freedom and fairness, have said the civil rights struggle this case represents has not yet ended.

"Across the state, community gatherings will demonstrate the continuing support for marriage equality … and prepare for taking the necessary next steps forward toward securing civil marriage equality at the state and federal levels," LA Gay & Lesbian Center said in a statement.

Yesterday’s decision preserves the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed last year between the justices’ ruling in May that same-sex marriage was constitutional and the passage of Proposition 8.


Experts stress role of exercise in chronic disease management

Experts stress role of exercise in chronic disease management Although emphasizing it is not a magic bullet, experts are using the Exercise is Medicine Month to focus attention on the benefits of physical activity for overall health.

In particular, they say there is growing evidence exercise may help prevent or manage the symptoms of diabetes, arthritis as well as heart disease.

"We know exercise is a great preventative for chronic illnesses, but it should be included in the treatment planning of these illnesses, as well,"says Dr. Andrea Boyd, assistant professor of physiological and technological nursing in the Medical College of Georgia School of Nursing.

"Whether you’re healthy or not, exercise has the potential to improve quality of life and make you feel better, and this is a great time to get started," she adds.

However, she cautions physical activity is not a one-size-fits-all prescription, and before embarking on any routine it is important to explore which exercises benefit patients with heart failure, and which are best suited for hypertension or other conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $76 billion in annual direct medical costs can be attributed to physical inactivity which has been associated not only with obesity and diabetes but also cancer, depression and osteoporosis.

Obama Supreme Court nominee touted as “moderate liberal”

President Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a current federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

In making the announcement, the president called Sotomayor "an inspiring woman" and said, "[She] has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice."

However, critics have been quick to stress her "activist" record as exemplified by her 2008 opinion supporting the city of New Haven’s decision to annul the results of a firefighter promotion exam because almost no minorities qualified for promotions.

While promising a "fair" treatment during the confirmation process, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said, "[we] will thoroughly examine [Sotomayor's] record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law evenhandedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences."

If confirmed – as is highly likely given the Democrat-dominated Senate – Sotomayor, 54, will be the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court justice and the third woman to serve on the high court.