IEA has mixed view on Danish energy

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Feb. 22 (UPI) — Denmark is a leader in policies aimed at improving its energy sector but there’s room for improvement and more investment, the IEA said.

Denmark last year outlined a series of energy policies meant to make the country independent of fossil fuels by 2050. The International Energy Agency said some of Denmark’s policies are “well-designed” for a green economy.

“The IEA commends Denmark and its people for the scope of their vision and their many successes in adopting sustainable energy policies,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said.

Short-term initiatives focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy while long-term strategies outline a green transportation sector and the use of so-called smart grids.

Van der Hoeven warned, however, that Denmark’s electricity network needs a major overhaul that would require substantial investments.

“The radical transformation of the energy sector will not be cheap,” the IEA said. The agency estimates it would cost Denmark around $1 billion to transition to a green economy and called on Danish consumers to ensure they’re paying for “optimal policy outcomes.”

Van der Hoeven said that even with Denmark’s “exemplary record” there is “room for further enhancement if Denmark is to remain at the top of the class.”

GOP blames Obama for high gas prices

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) — Republican lawmakers blamed energy policies from the Obama administration for the recent rise in gasoline prices.

Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed a bill last week that called for more domestic oil and natural gas production. It would also transfer U.S. President Barack Obama’s authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, in a message on his Web site, blamed Obama’s energy policy for high gasoline prices, unemployment and slow economic recovery.

Gasoline prices in the United States are averaging around $3.56 per gallon, though drivers along the West Coast are reportedly paying as much as $5 per gallon. In general, analysts blame saber rattling with Iran for higher energy prices.

Hastings said the Obama administration had placed roadblocks to domestic energy production. The U.S. Interior Department, which oversees some aspects of domestic energy, said Obama’s “blueprint for energy security” is focused on developing oil and natural gas reserves responsibly.

Iran claims new oil deal with Ukraine

TEHRAN, Feb. 22 (UPI) — Iranian and Ukrainian entities are investing around $800 million to develop three oil fields in Iranian territory, an Iranian energy official said.

Ahmad Qalebani, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Co., said a consortium of Iranian and Ukrainian oil companies signed a deal to develop the Kouhmond, Kouhkaki and Boushkan oil fields in Iran, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reports.

Combined, the three oil fields hold an estimated 2.1 billion barrels of oil, the report said. The first phase of operations could produce around 11,000 bpd but would double after the second phase is completed. The report didn’t provide a timeline for operations.

Iran has some of the largest oil and natural gas deposits in the world though major energy companies are reluctant to work in the country because of pressure from Western economic sanctions.

Tehran has brushed off most of the economic pressure by saying it would have no problems finding alternative customers. Some countries are seeking exemptions from the aspects of economic sanctions targeting financial transactions with Iran.

Pine bark found to prevent inflammation

Pine bark found to prevent inflammation According to new research, the extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree appears to have inflammation-fighting properties and relieve pain.

Scientists from the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition in Rome found the antioxidant compound, called Pycnogenol, inhibits the generation of COX-2 and 5-LOX, which are naturally occurring mediators associated with inflammatory responses.

The researchers tested volunteers aged 35-50, who took Pycnogenol pills for five consecutive mornings before breakfast. Blood sample analysis before and after supplementation showed that while the participants’ immune cells rapidly initiated production of COX-2 and 5-LOX in response to pro-inflammatory stimulation, taking Pycnogenol almost entirely suppressed them in the immune cells.

Study author Dr. Raffaella Canali explained that common NSAID medications lower the pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins by COX enzymes.

"In contrast, Pycnogenol turns to the root of the problem, completely stopping the production of COX-2 in inflammation. Thus far, the compound seems to be a unique tool for modulating inflammatory processes," she adds.

Natural Health Science, a supplements distributor, says Pycnogenol is available in more than 700 nutritional supplements worldwide.
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Proper nutrition may help you survive the flu season

Proper nutrition may help you survive the flu season While hand-washing and cough-covering is very important, experts are saying there is a range of flu-fighting foods that may help vulnerable individuals get throughout the difficult season.

"[While it is] important to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups throughout the year, adding flu-fighting [items] like yogurt, garlic, citrus and chicken to your diet [during flu season] can boost your body’s immune system and help you to avoid getting sick," stresses Andrea Garen, a registered dietitian.

She says yogurt and other cultured milk products contain probiotics – beneficial bacterial strains that have been shown to boost the immune system and promote digestive health.

In addition to live cultures, dairy products are also rich in vitamin D, which has similar immune benefits, and recent research has found many Americans are deficient in the vitamin, which may be linked to a seasonal increase in colds and flu and a higher incidence of respiratory infections.

Crushing garlic cloves before adding them to food to release the garlic juice will also allow one to reap the immune-enhancing benefits of that herb.

Finally, any immunity-boosting diet should include citrus fruits that are rich in vitamin C as well as chicken, meat and peanuts that contain zinc.

For those who are too busy to regularly consume immunity-enhancing foods there are nutritional supplements with vitamins C and D that can lower the risk of getting the flu.

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Organization lists tax hikes proposed in healthcare reform plan

Organization lists tax hikes proposed in healthcare reform plan Only two days have passed since the Senate Finance Committee unveiled its healthcare bill proposal, and Americans for Tax Reform (ATF), an organization that opposes all tax increases, has prepared a list of tax hikes that could be enforced if the bill passes.

Because the plan includes a mandate for all Americans to obtain insurance coverage, ATF says workers who do not sign up will have to pay a tax of between $750 and $3,500 depending on their status and income.

In addition, employers will be taxed at the rate of $400 per employee if they do not offer health coverage.

The plan also provides for a 35 percent excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans, meaning those whose premiums exceed $21,000 for families and $8,000 for singles. Moreover, it would eliminate tax breaks such as the deduction for employer-provided retirement prescription drug coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D.

In recent months, ATF has been focusing on exposing President Obama’s apparent failure to keep his campaign promise not to raise any taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 a year.
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Diet may prevent Alzheimer’s disease, study finds

Diet may prevent Alzheimer's disease, study finds A Mediterranean-style diet may become a new weapon for those who would like to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as a new study has found that when combined with physical fitness, it lowers the odds of developing neurodegenerative conditions.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center studied two groups of 1,880 elderly New Yorkers without dementia at the start of the study, measured their dietary habits and physical activity and then followed up with them for an average of 5.4 years. During that period, a total of 282 people developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The scientists found statistical evidence that both physical activity and a Mediterranean diet adherence were significantly associated with AD incidence, the research report says.

In a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association the scientists wrote that compared with control individuals, high physical activity plus high diet adherence was associated with a 35 percent to 44 percent relative risk reduction.

The research also concurs with a recent study conducted in France that found that the diet was associated with slower cognitive decline.
The hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet include high consumption of fresh produce, especially fruits, vegetables and legumes, as well as cereal and fish, and low intake of red meat and poultry.
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NIA criticizes Tea Party protest for neglecting inflation

NIA criticizes Tea Party protest for neglecting inflation Last weekend, tens of thousands or, by some estimates, more than a million people descended on Washington to protest against high spending and the federal government’s expansion, but the National Inflation Association says few participants called on Washington to address the threat of inflation.

The protesters marched to the Capitol chanting slogans and waving posters that voiced a range of grievances against the government and some of its leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama.

Organizations involved in sponsoring the march included the National Taxpayers Union, GrassFire.org, Tea Party Patriots, the Campaign for Liberty and FreedomWorks. The latter, a conservative organization led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, organized several groups from across the country.

FoxNews quoted one protester, a 57-year-old Vietnam War veteran and former Teamster, who said that although healthcare reform is needed, Obama’s approach was not the way to go.

"My grandkids are going to be paying for this. It’s going to cost too much money that we don’t have," he said.

Echoing his sentiments, NIA said it was disappointed none of the speakers at the rally mentioned the monetary inflation that is taking place and that it is says threatens to destroy the wealth of most Americans.

"We need to wake up America and help everybody become aware of how we will pay for and feel the consequences of the government’s destructive actions, and it will be through hyperinflation," it says.
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Healthcare bill proposal draws bipartisan criticism

Healthcare bill proposal draws bipartisan criticism The newly unveiled Senate Finance Committee healthcare bill proposal was designed to help garner bipartisan support for the reform, but instead it appears both parties are united in criticizing it.

The draft presented by the committee chairman, Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana, scraps the public option in favor of nonprofit healthcare cooperatives that would negotiate collective insurance coverage for members. It also mandates coverage for all Americans and includes provisions for greater regulation of private insurance companies, barring them from denying or dropping coverage of sick individuals or imposing lifetime limits on benefits.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the plan will cost $774 billion -significantly lower than some other proposals – and would save $49 billion between 2010 and 2019.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not been thrilled with the proposal, and while she acknowledged it includes some key provisions of the House bill, such as sweeping insurance reforms and consumer protections, she said including a government-run health insurance option would be the best way to achieve greater affordability, increased coverage and lower costs.

Meanwhile on the GOP side, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is reported to be against mandating coverage for all Americans and against requiring large companies to offer it, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. He also opposes taxing high-cost insurance plans, something the Baucus plan makes provisions for in order to help pay for the reform.

None of the three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have backed the proposal.
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Study: Oriental techniques work to improve work-related stress

Oriental techniques work to improve work-related stress, study says New research suggests that as little as 20 minutes of workplace meditation and yoga can lower the level of stress and contribute to greater productivity and better work performance.

Researchers from Ohio State University arrived at this conclusion after using a modified version of the so-called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), originally developed in 1979 to help hospital patients in Massachusetts assist in their own healing.

Participants in the study attended one-hour weekly group meetings held during lunchtime and practiced 20 minutes of meditation and yoga per day at their desks. After six weeks, they reported greater awareness of external stressors, felt lower stress levels and fell asleep more easily, compared to the control group.

Maryanna Klatt, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Ohio State, says many studies have linked persistent stress to chronic disease so she decided to focus on how to reduce stress before it has a chance to contribute to health issues.

She further explains that this natural approach may benefit businesses and the healthcare system as it can help employees avoid missing work days due to illness and reduce doctor’s visits, thus lowering overall healthcare costs.
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Experts stress debt reduction before retirement

Experts stress debt reduction before retirementAs the value of investment portfolios has shrunk during the financial crisis, many Americans who are nearing their retirement age may benefit from the tips provided by veteran financial advisors.

Scott Hanson and Pat McClain have more than 20 years of experience working with employees of telecommunications and utilities companies, and they say many people are reexamining their priorities these days.

"Some are intentionally choosing to simplify – to live in smaller homes, collect less stuff and drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars," says Hanson.

"As a financial advisor, I’m pleased to see this trend," he adds.

They further stress the importance of trying to eliminate as much debt as possible, especially when approaching retirement age.

A competent advisor is also important, especially one that can offer a holistic approach to creating a sound financial and investment plan.

"Clients and their financial needs come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s essential that they receive customized advice," says McClain, adding, "one-size-fits-all may be okay for some things, but it’s a seriously flawed approach to financial planning."

The two experts add that the trend towards staying on the job past the retirement age is only partially motivated by financial reasons. Just as important is the growing desire to remain active, productive and contributing members of society.

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ATF: Obama breaks another campaign promise

Obama breaks another campaign promise, says ATF The anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform (ATF) has said that by placing a new tariff on tire imports from China, President Obama has broken his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 a year.

It also alleged that bowing to pressure from labor unions, the president has put additional burden on already cash-strapped American families.

Grover Norquist, president of ATF, says a tariff is a tax on consumers. "This decision will drive up the cost of tires, increasing the economic burden on families already struggling with the high cost of transportation," he stresses.

The organization adds that because the tariffs will be applied to low-end tires (costing $50-$60), low-income families and individuals will be the most affected.

Last week, President Obama authorized a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tire imports in an effort to stem a surge of foreign-made tires on the U.S. market, which some have said cost 7,000 jobs here in America, according to Asia Times.

United Steelworkers president Leo W. Gerard praised the decision saying the president has "made [it] clear that he will enforce America’s trade laws and stand with American workers."

However, the move attracted criticism from free-trade and free-market supporters who expressed concerns it could spark a trade war of retaliatory tariffs and spur a protectionist trend in U.S. trade policy.
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Study: Compounds in fruit seeds may protect against food-borne diseases

Compounds in fruit seeds may protect against food-borne diseases, study saysThere may soon be a reason to recycle mango seeds as new research suggests they contain compounds that may turn them into a natural food preservative and become a new resource in the fight to prevent deadly food infections.

The work was conducted by a graduate student working on her thesis in agricultural, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta in Canada. She discovered that tannins – which are compounds extracted from fruit kernels, including mango and grapes – have inhibitory effects against various strains of bacteria such as Listeria.

The latter causes Listeriosis, a potentially deadly digestive system disease, which was responsible for the deaths of 21 people in Canada last year when it was found in some packaged meats.

Christina Engles, the researcher in the study, says that in addition to discovering a natural way of preventing food-born illnesses her work also has a commercial dimension since by processing the kernels to extract tannins businesses will be able to utilize all fruit parts and therefore increase their profits.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
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Obama to Wall Street: ‘Do not block regulation’

Obama to Wall Street: 'Do not block regulation'In a speech delivered in New York on Monday, and coinciding with the first anniversary of the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, President Obama said regulation was urgently needed and he cautioned financial industry representatives not to try to block it.

Obama also struck a warning tone when he exhorted bankers from using the recovery to engage in "reckless behavior" that could lead to another financial meltdown, saying taxpayers were getting tired of bailouts.

"It is neither right nor responsible after you’ve recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system and a more broadly shared prosperity," Obama said, quoted by the Associated Press.

The president wants the financial sector reform bill ready by the end of the year, but industry groups as well as some Republicans have expressed worry about what regulation might bring.

"We must be wary of the reality that – in an attempt to address yesterday’s failures – Congress will put in place regulatory schemes which will fundamentally undermine risk taking," says Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and sent shockwaves through the financial system. It subsequently transpired that a number of financial organizations, including Citibank, Merrill Lynch and AIG, were on the brink of bankruptcy due to their exposure to the subprime mortgage market.

Ultimately, several rounds of multimillion dollar bailouts saved them from following in Lehman’s footsteps, but did not prevent the economy from falling into a deep recession.
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Research sheds light on benefits of selenium

Research sheds light on benefits of selenium The molecular basis of the metabolism of selenium – a trace element that is key to human health – has been discovered and detailed in a new article.

The study described in a recent issue of the journal Science explains selenium is believed to offer protection from conditions such as mood swings, cardiovascular disease, viral infections and cancer.

Researchers from Yale University and University of Illinois at Chicago have shown how selenocysteine – the most bioactive metabolite of selenium – is created on a super-sized tRNA molecule. The other 20 amino acids and their associated tRNAs use the same protein vehicle for transport to the ribosome, but selenocystine appears to have its own large tRNA that does so.

Michael Bender of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences says the compound is a critical component of enzymes involved in a number of physiological and pathological processes.

"This study could ultimately have an impact on many aspects of human health, including the immune response, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease and cancer," he stresses.

The study may prompt some people to complement their diet with selenium supplements.
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Research uncovers rejuvenating properties of white tea

Research uncovers rejuvenating properties of white tea Tea lovers may be happy to learn that their favorite drink has just been found to be like a fountain of youth.

According to researchers, white tea may offer significant protection from an array of health and aging problems, from lowering the risk of cancer to preventing wrinkles.

In particular, a team of British scientists and natural health experts tested 21 plant and herb extracts for their medicinal properties and found that white tea consistently outperformed them all. They explain the effects are mainly due to high levels of antioxidants as well as compounds that block the enzymes which breakdown elastin and collagen in the skin which can lead to wrinkles.

Professor Declan Naughton, from the School of Life Sciences at Kingston University in the UK, says there are indicators white tea reduces the risk of inflammation which is a factor in aging as well as a characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.

Those looking for ways to preserve a youthful appearance and maintain good health can find an array of remedies in natural health stores, including bladderwrack as well as supplements containing extracts of cleavers, rose, green tea, angelica, anise and pomegranate.
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Survival plan should include finances, experts say

Survival plan should include finances, experts say According to the American Financial Services Association Education Foundation (AFSAEF), readying one’s finances for emergencies such as natural disasters is a critical yet often-overlooked part of the preparation process.

It says that next to stacking up on non-perishable food, water, batteries and charged mobile phones, care should be taken to put all important papers, including insurance policies, checking and savings account information and backups of computer files, in a safe location that is likely to withstand damage.

"Taking time to collect financial information before a disaster strikes can save precious time in the aftermath of one," says Susie Irvine, president and CEO of AFSAEF.

"The more information you have about your finances – including contact phone numbers – the more likely you will get help promptly," she adds.

AFSAEF further say that setting aside money in a checking or savings account for easy withdrawal in an emergency can also save valuable time.

In the aftermath of floods, hurricanes and other disasters, insurance and other type of financial fraud frequently proliferates, so care should be taken to research companies offering help before assistance is accepted.

AFSAEF is based in Washington, DC and provides tips on responsible money management. It is affiliated with the American Financial Services Association, the national trade association for the consumer credit industry.

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts through November 1.
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Despite massive deficit, earmarks increase in 2009

Despite massive deficit, earmarks increase in 2009 Media reports suggest excessive government spending has not ended with the bailouts of financial companies and the stimulus bill, as estimates suggests earmarks have grown from last year.

The fiscal year ends on September 30, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing for appropriations bills to be passed and signed into law on time, something which has not happened since the mid-1990s.

At the same time, it has transpired that in addition to the $787 billion stimulus package and the $410 billion omnibus spending bill passed earlier this year, total earmarks have increased from $18.3 billion in 2008 to $19.9 billion in 2009, according to TheHill.com.

Earmarks are spending measures inserted into appropriations bills at the request of individual lawmakers and typically benefit projects in their home states. They are, according to Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, "part and parcel of the pay-to-play system that permeates Washington."

Democrats in both Houses are among those who have pushed for most pork barrel spending this fiscal year, with Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia leading the pack at $349.6 million (95 earmarks) and Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania who has won 46 of them at the cost to taxpayers of $120.5 million, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Meanwhile, a recent White House budget office estimate put the federal deficit at $9 trillion for the 2010-2019 time period.
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U.S. pensions inch higher in August

U.S. pensions inch higher in August As global stock markets have rallied in recent weeks, the funding status of the typical U.S. corporate pension plan has increased, according to an asset management company.

The estimates from The Bank of New York Mellon Asset Management suggest that the funding of the typical plan improved by 0.5 percentage points to 79.7 percent at end of August, up from 79.2 percent at the end of July.

"Six straight months of improving stock markets have bolstered the assets of these plans, which is good news given the corresponding decline in Aa corporate bond yields," says Peter Austin, executive director of BNY Mellon Pension Services.

He further added that the stabilization of the markets combined with attractive corporate bond nominal yields have resulted in greater demand for high quality bonds, much of it generated by corporate pension plan sponsors seeking to better manage risk and reduce volatility.

The report also found that assets for the typical moderate risk portfolio increased 2.7 percent during the month, while the liabilities rose by only 2.1 percent. For the year through August 31, the funding ratio for the typical plan was up 5.8 percentage points.

The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation is a financial services company operating in 34 countries. It has $20.2 trillion in assets under custody and administration, $928 billion in assets under management, services more than $11 trillion in outstanding debt and processes global payments averaging $1.8 trillion per day.
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In speech to Congress Obama touts ‘cost saving’ public option

In speech to Congress Obama touts 'cost saving' public option In an eagerly awaited speech delivered before Congress on Wednesday, President Obama failed to rule out a government-run health insurance option as part of healthcare reform.

With the public growing increasingly skeptical about his plans to overhaul the ailing healthcare system, the President appeared in front of lawmakers to restate his case and reconfirm his administration’s commitment to ensuring that Americans will no longer have to fear bankruptcy caused by medical bills.

Stressing the U.S. is the only wealthy democracy that "allows such hardships for millions of its people," Obama sought to convince his listeners that his proposals would reduce costs, expand coverage, improve care and regulate the insurance market so that sick people are no longer denied coverage.

At the same time, he pledged he will not sign any bill that would increase the deficit, saying his proposal would cost $900 billion over 10 years.

Obama further warned special interests that he will not tolerate "the same old tactics," designed to block the reform.

"If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out," he stressed, adding, "I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now."

The Republican response to the speech came from Representative Charles Boustany of Louisiana who criticized Obama for pushing an expansive package that fails to benefit families and small businesses. He also expressed his party’s disappointment with the President’s unwillingness to drop the public option idea, according to Politico.com.

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Study stresses benefits of repealing estate tax

Study stresses benefits of repealing estate taxOpponents of estate tax may have received new ammunition with the publication of a study which says the provision’s repeal will contribute to economic growth and enhance government revenue.

The work is detailed in the report published jointly by the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Business Foundation and suggests eliminating the tax could create more than 1.5 million jobs.

"[Estate tax] kills jobs, family prosperity and necessary federal revenues," says FRC president Tony Perkins.

"It is regressive, punitive taxation at its worst, and shows how Washington’s impulse to redistribute wealth only produces less growth and greater economic inequity," he adds.

The study stresses the tax affects mainly small businesses, which it calls America’s "main economic engine," responsible for creating 60 to 80 percent of new jobs in the last decade. It estimates that raising the rate to 55 percent with only a $1 million exemption would eliminate 500,000 jobs.

The estate tax is imposed on the transfer of the taxable estate of a deceased person, and according to the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the applicable exemption increases to $3.5 million in 2009, the tax will be repealed in 2010, but in 2011 it is scheduled to return with the exemption of only $1 million.
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