Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We have a Selection for Minnesota!

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered that Democrat Al Franken be certified as the winner of the state's long-running Senate race.


The high court rejected a legal challenge from Republican Norm Coleman, whose options for regaining the Senate seat are dwindling.

If Franken takes the seat, Democrats in the Senate will likely have a big enough majority to overcome Republican filibusters.

Relive the Adventures of Apollo 11 this July! Be a kid again!

To the Moon

Apollo 11


July is the 40th Year since we landed on the Moon

Viewers have only ever seen such poor quality footage because the original analogue tapes containing the pictures beamed direct from the lunar surface were lost almost as soon as they were recorded.

Instead, a poor quality copy made from a 16mm camera pointing at a heavily compressed image on a black and white TV screen has been the only record of the event:

ECSTATIC space officials at Nasa could be about to unveil one of their most stunning discoveries for 40 years — new and amazingly clear footage of the first moon landing.

The release of the new images next month could be one of the most talked about events of the summer.The television images the world has been used to seeing of the historic moment when Neil Armstrong descended down a ladder onto the moon’s surface in 1969 is grainy, blurry and dark.

The following scenes, in which the astronauts move around the lunar lander, are so murky it is difficult to make out exactly what is going on, causing conspiracy theorists to claim the entire Apollo 11 mission was an elaborate fraud.

However, viewers have only ever seen such poor quality footage because the original analogue tapes containing the pictures beamed direct from the lunar surface were lost almost as soon as they were recorded.Instead, a poor quality copy made from a 16mm camera pointing at a heavily compressed image on a black and white TV screen has been the only record of the event.

The Sunday Express can now reveal that the missing tapes containing the original high quality images have been found. If the visual data can be retrieved, Nasa is set to reveal them to the world as a key plank of celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the landings next month.The tapes show in much more detail than almost anyone has previously seen the surface of the moon beneath the patriotic symbol of the US flag.

Crucially, they could once and for all dispel 40 years of wild conspiracy theories.The low grade, dark and grainy television pictures that were beamed around the world on July 21 1969 were intended to give Americans just a glimpse of their country’s greatest exploratory achievement.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Wall Street Journal has several interesting articles this weekend....

Sex Americana:
Infidelity is no longer a career-killer for politicians. But weirdness, mendacity and ineptitude just might be.

Familiar as it was in its essential plot, the agony of Mark Sanford this week was curiously singular in its theatrical detail.
Sex has upended so many political careers in the last few years that we have become dully inured to the tableau of staged contrition by which the fault is confessed to the world. Whether the backdrop is Washington or Trenton, Boise or Albany, the script is always the same.
But in Columbia, S.C., last Wednesday, a week of surreal small-state misadventure was fittingly capped with a press conference that might have been scripted by David Lynch, with its mysterious, murmuring stream-of-consciousness observations about life and love.
There was, for once, no adoring wife, standing by her man, gazing dewy-eyed at the flawed hero. There was no attempt by the sinner to explain his sin in artfully phrased self-exonerations; no references to some inner demon, an abusive father, an addictive personality or the indescribable pressures of working so hard for the good of the American people.
There were instead some cringe-making, if honest, excursions through the cheap literary landscape of forbidden love (“the odyssey that we’re all on in life is with regard to heart”); a little homespun moral theology, (“God’s law indeed is there to protect you from yourself”), and, with its hemispheric wild-goose-chase subplot, from Appalachia to Argentina, an inescapable sense of borderline insanity about the entire event.
For all the talk of yet another politician dragged down by an uncontrollable libido, it may well be the sheer strangeness of Mr. Sanford’s behavior, rather than his original sin, that will do him the most political harm. MORE AT THE LINK ABOVE

The digital media is now more powerful than a pen and ink on paper... Children are the subject, so let's not forget that in the storm out of Alaska ..

A week after a high-profile uproar with comedian David Letterman over the late-night host's joke about her younger daughter having intercourse with a black baseball player, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is again sharply responding to the appearance of her children in the public sphere.

Palin's latest response comes after liberal Alaskan Blogger Linda Kellen Biegel doctored a photograph of the former Republican vice presidential candidate with her 1-year-old son Trig, who suffers from Down Syndrome.

The Celtic Diva

Let's correct that misinformation out there about the "Palin photoshopping"**UPDATE**..
by: Celtic Diva

Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 10:57:52 AM AKDT
Is Linda Kellen Biegel a "Democratic Operative"?
No, I am not. The Democratic National Convention Committee selected 56 blogs as "State Blogs" to represent their states (and territories, and ex-patriots) at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008. That was it!

Other info: I'm a wife, mother of a beautiful daughter and a disabled person myself. Any other biographical information can be found on the left-hand column of the blog.

What exactly is the story behind how the "photoshopped" picture came to be?
I was doing a fundraiser to gather the exhorbitant monies needed for the release of public records from the Governor's Office ($5,552.64) -- a State of Alaska Record's Request.

Some of these emails involve Palin-worshipping talk-show-host Eddie Burke and Anchorage Daily News Gossip Columnist and Editor Sheila Toomey.

I had already started so I really couldn't use any of the "thermometer" programs out there (tracks donations and creates a graph) because I had no idea how to make it count the money already in the Paypal account.

So, one of my readers offered to photoshop "thermometers" each day for me so the donors could have a visual of how we were doing. He came up with a nice version of the State of Alaska for the second day (we skipped the first...I just put the total up without a thermometer).
I wanted to "take that image back" because Conservatives4Palin, a completely non-Alaskan blog, used it for their web-a-thon. On the third day, he sent me the same graphic with the updated percentage, which I put on the blog. Later, he sent the one in question which showed in a humorous way (we thought) the relationship between Palin and Burke. He thought I should have a different one for every day. I didn't have a chance to use it then (I already had the other one up and was away from home) but I told him to do it again for the new percentage tomorrow. He did and, well, you know the rest.

Here are all of the "thermometers" (click each one to enlarge): SEE ABOVE THE HEAD LINE

We were both absolutely floored that anyone would take it for anything than what it was...poking fun at the Governor and Eddie Burke. We also realized that because of my "digging" and writing about the questionable activities of Governor Palin, they were just looking for anything they could twist to try and discredit me.

Why did you take the image down Wednesday night? Was it because of pressure?
Absolutely not! Dr. Chill (the reader in question) was sending me a new "thermometer image" each night after I sent him the total for the day. So, there was no way that image was going to be up beyond Wednesday night anyway because it had the wrong percentage on it. We weren't going to use that same image again, especially when Dr. Chill got the idea to use Burke in his controversial red t-shirt. Besides, there really wasn't any pressure on Wednesday...it was just faux-outrage whining from a bunch of Palin-worshipping bloggers. It didn't really get interesting until Meg Stapleton put her foot in it on Thursday.

Have you apologized to anyone? Do you intend to apologize?

We have nothing to apologize for...it's Conservatives4Palin, Meg Stapleton and the Governor who should be apologizing. Blue Oasis is an Alaska blog with a mostly Alaska audience. (It fluctuates but it's usually about 65% as I've periodically tracked it. That may have changed after this week.) Alaskans "got it" completely because that's who we were targeting. It was the faux outrage and the lies about the posting generated by Conservatives4Palin (run and read by mostly outsiders) and then kicked into the national media by Meg "the mouth" Stapleton at the behest of the Governor. Any misunderstandings were the result of their collective thirst for tabloid fame and desire to twist any truth to discredit a critic. Those who may have been offended were people who NEVER would have seen the picture otherwise and who were not the intended audience.

Was part of your response to Meg Stapleton really "You fail at life?"

NO...ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! I was NEVER asked for a response to Stapleton's diatribe nor did I post one on the blog. The national media took a quote from an angry article posted 24 HOURS BEFORE STAPLETON'S STATEMENT WAS EVEN RELEASED that was completely directed at Conservatives4Palin and their frenzied smear campaign!!! (The proof...look at the post date.) It was blogger-to-blogger! No matter how much I may disagree with Governor Palin or Stapleton, that would never be part of any response to them.
Will your blog continue to feature satire and satirical images?
You betcha! Celtic Diva

THE BLOG--HISTORY"Blue Oasis" began in 2005 in its Blogger format (now an archive) and became possibly the first Alaska Blog on Progressive Politics. At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis was honored to represent Alaska as the state blog. Transition--Community Blog In September 2008, Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis moved to a Soapblox Community Blog format. Readers can become full participants by registering on the blog to comment and write "diaries." Diary titles appear on the right sidebar for folks to read and provide comments. Blog editors may choose to move some of these diaries to the front page. While this Community was formed specifically with Alaska in mind, all "friends of Alaska" are welcome as members! **Note about registering** Scroll down the right side until you find the link to register. Then, just follow the instructions! **Note about comments** To comment on a story, click on the heading and then look for the "comment bar" at the bottom (it's light grey, I can't seem to change it). I believe the font color NOW permits you to see the "post comment" text.
YOUR BLOGMISTRESSMy name is Linda Kellen Biegel and I am a former 15-year Federal employee. Thirteen of those years were spent working for the US Army Corps of Engineers. I am also semi-retired from the Alaska music scene (singer, sound tech, stage manager, logistics). When the blog was chosen to represent Alaska in the DNCC State Blogger Pool at the Denver Convention, I attended with the help of Alaska Real blogmistress, Writing Raven and my daughter Morrigan. On August 29th, one day after Barack Obama's inspiring speech at Invesco Field , my life took another turn as it did for all Alaska bloggers when Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen to be John McCain's VP running mate. Since then, I've either assisted or have been interviewed by media from the UK, Italy, Australia and Germany as well as national media outlets such as Wall Street Journal, NY Times, ABC Good Morning America's Kate Snow, National Journal, Dallas Morning News, LA Times, and NPR. Presently, I work full-time as a freelance writer, PR, event coordinator, community organizer, wife to computer programmer Josh and mother to 11-year-old Morrigan. Our family especially enjoys our summers in Alaska where we get to subsistence set-net fish Sockeye salmon as well as halibut fish/whalewatch in the family's homemade aluminum boat, "The Neverdone" (when it's working). We reside in Anchorage, Alaska.

Interesting WSJ Article on what my Father called "You die when your plumping fails..."

The 'Rare' Disease That Isn't
Often Undiagnosed, FMD May Afflict Up to 5% of Americans
It took an autopsy to determine why 10-year-old Haley McWhorter didn't wake up one morning last May. While asleep, Haley went into cardiac arrest, stopped breathing and never started again, concluded the medical examiner in Ft. Myers, Fla. The examiner found that a thickened artery wall had blocked blood flow to Haley's heart. The odd growth of the artery wall suggested the presence of a disease called FMD, or fibromuscular dysplasia, the examiner concluded.

FMD, a condition in which artery walls expand into and obstruct the arterial channel, is largely unknown to the public and even to the majority of doctors. When discussed in medical schools -- if discussed at all -- FMD is typically described as an obscure and rare disease.

Yet a tantalizing body of evidence has begun to emerge that suggests FMD isn't rare at all: It simply isn't looked for, so it is seldom diagnosed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

If you like a Good Fit Now and Then.....

Spitzer, Ensign, Sanford, another WWWWW&W day & the hits keep comin'
If it's Wednesday it must be Wretched Wrepublican Wandering Weenie Wrevelation & Wresignation Day.
(God help me, how schadenfreude tempts me.)
This makes TWO Wednesdays in a row that a Repuglican boy in high places had to fall on his sword. For unauthorized swordplay.
Click on the WWWWW&W for the rest of her fit.

National Healthcare: REFORM is the watch word! My money is on Romney for 2012!


*** In Obama We Trust? Maybe now we understand why the RNC was so fired up about last night's town hall. President Obama, while peppered with tough questions about the issue, got an hour on national TV to make the case that he can be trusted to reform the health-care system.

Remember, it's not about winning the debate on whether his way is RIGHT; it's about securing the TRUST of skeptical Americans that he'll take their concerns and go about this with care. And on that score, this is where we probably get why so many of the president's opponents were upset. This format was in the president's wheelhouse. Whether you agree with him or not, it's obvious he has a deep grasp of the issue, and no doubt he only helped his cause. Of course, we don't yet know how many folks watched. But the perception that he got into the details most likely is only a help to him, even if those details become unpopular. By the way, it doesn't appear the president committed any news, though some noted that he continued to leave open the door for supporting a tax on some health-care benefits. Also health care remains in today's news as liberals and progressives rally for reform on Capitol Hill at 11:30 am ET.

*** Social Conservatism Hits Rock Bottom? These certainly haven't been the best of times for social conservatives. Democrats control the White House and Congress. The problems at home and abroad have drowned out social issues (with congressional Republicans deciding to focus their fire on the economy). And now here's perhaps the biggest embarrassment: In less than two weeks, two of their own -- John Ensign and Mark Sanford -- have admitted to committing adultery.

Just five years after it helped re-elect George W. Bush, has social conservatism in American politics hit rock bottom? If so, what does that mean for a political party that has largely tied its fortunes to this movement? As we've said before, infidelity is a bipartisan affair, but Republicans tend to receive more criticism because they more often portray themselves as the party protecting family values and marriage. Yet what happens when one can make the argument that the highest-profile example of family values and marriage -- right now -- isn't a Republican or social conservative, but rather the man who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? The issue for the GOP at this point is convincing grassroots social conservatives not to lose faith. As one of the leading social conservative voices in the party lamented to the New York Times, "I think there is somewhat of an identity crisis in the Republican Party," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, "Are they going to be a party that attracts values voters, and are they going to be the party that lives by those values?"

*** More On Sanford And 2012: Sticking with Sanford and his troubles, there's lots of analysis this morning focusing on the bad six months the GOP has had -- particularly for Republicans who have tested the 2012 waters (see yesterday's First Read).

A few things to watch for: One, who will pick up the mantle of the pure economic conservative/free market libertarian? Two, will grassroots social conservatives start expressing publicly their outrage over Sanford and Ensign and others and become harder to galvanize for the Republican Party as a whole? Three, do folks like Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour end up getting a big perception bump going into 2012 as the establishment looks for grownups who have been around the national political block before? Speaking of Barbour, he was in New Hampshire yesterday, and today he'll be in Des Moines, IA for a GOP dinner. He's an extraordinary fundraiser and helped lead the GOP's comeback to power in 1994, when he served as RNC chairman. On the other hand, he's a former lobbyist and Washington insider, as well as an older white male from the Deep South. By the way, thanks to the Sanford resignation, Barbour now has more excuses to travel nationally as he's now chair of the Republican Governors Association.
First Read with NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, every weekday on MSNBC-TV at 9 a.m. ET.
For more: The latest edition of First Read is available now at
http://www.FirstRead.MSNBC.com !

Finally, WE are the RIGHT SIDE of the Science

In a triumph for President Obama, the Democratic-controlled House has narrowly passed sweeping legislation calling for the nation's first-ever limits on pollution linked to global warming.
The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days ofintense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, saying it would cost jobs in the midst of a recession.

Is Summer and nature's creatures are hard at work, building and constructing their nests...

SUBJECT: DEQ File No.97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec 20; Lycoming County

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:
Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.
A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department's files shows that no permits have been issued Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.
The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2007.
Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.. We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.
Sincerely, David L. Price District Representative and Water Management Division.

Here is the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries:
Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Lycoming County

Dear Mr.Price,

Your certified letter dated 12/17/06 has been handed to me to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane , Trout Run, Pennsylvania .
A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood 'debris' dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of nature's building materials 'debris.'
I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.
These are the beavers/contractors you are seeking. As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.
My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or (2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?
If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. (Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.)
I have several dam concerns. My first dam concern is, aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation -- so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.
The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names.
If you want the damed stream 'restored' to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers -- but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English..
In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers' Dams).
So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now.. Why wait until 1/31/2007? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice by then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them.
In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your dam step! The bears are not careful where they dump!
Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.


Product of Thailand - Farm Raised Swai

What the heck is ‘swai’?


Like many people interested in healthful eating, I strive to incorporate more fish into my diet, especially varieties like salmon and herring, which contain plenty of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Problem is, fresh seafood costs a bundle. When I visited my local fish monger here in Yonkers, N.Y., recently, I couldn’t believe my eyes: nearly $20 a pound for swordfish, halibut, sole, and $9 for trout, which in the past had always been tasty and less costly alternative.
Ever since prices started climbing, I’ve seen an influx of alien species -- alien to me, at least -- particularly at my neighborhood supermarkets, which cater to customers who, frankly, can’t afford to plunk down $20 a pound for fish.

One economical option popping up at many stores is swai, which is native to Southeast Asia – Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia -- and sells locally for around $3.99 a pound. Since I knew nothing about swai, I asked Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, for a primer.

Gibbons explained that swai, along with basa and tra, two related varieties also appearing at more and more stores, belong to what’s called the Pangasius family and they’re similar in character to catfish.

In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, which has an authoritative site that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the fish that end up on our dinner plates, describes swai as a river-farmed catfish, sometimes simply referred to in the U.S. only as catfish (be sure to look for country of origin labeling at the fish counter to determine whether your catfish is from the Mekong Delta or the Mississippi Delta).

Swai is a white-flesh fish (typically available in fillet form) with a sweet mild, taste and light flaky texture that can be broiled, grilled, or coating with bread crumbs and fried, according to experts. It can be prepared simply, but also takes well to sauces. A 3.5-ounce serving of plain fish contains around 90 calories, 4 grams of fat (1.5 saturated), 45 grams of cholesterol and 50 milligrams of sodium. Not bad.

I’m planning to cook up a few fillets one of these days and give them a try. If you do the same, let me know what you think. Write to cro dot consumer dot org. For complete Ratings and recommendations on appliances, cars & trucks, electronic gear, and much more, subscribe today and have access to all of ConsumerReports.org.


Better Tasting
Savored for their sweet, mild flavor and light, flaky texture, Basa and Swai have been compared to cod, sole and flounder, and are great for everyday use. Whether baked, broiled, grilled or fried, these versatile fish are mild enough to work with any white fish recipe yet flavorful enough to shine on their own. Try one of our recipes, use one of your old favorites, or submit a recipe of your own! Any way you cook them, Australis Basa and Swai fillets are sure to become a favorite in your kitchen!

Better For You
Naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol, Basa and Swai are excellent source of lean protein. They also provide omega 3 fatty acids which are known offer significant health benefits. Our hand-cut fillets are processed within hours of harvest, locking in their natural flavor and freshness.
As with all Australis products, our Basa and Swai are laboratory tested to assure they are free of hormones, antibiotics, mercury and other contaminants, and are guaranteed to meet the FDA’s strict import standards. They are also processed under the
supervision of the US Department of Commerce’s Seafood Inspection Program to ensure food safety and purity.

Better For Our Environment
Leading U.S. environmental groups rate Basa/Swai a “Good Alternative” for sustainability. Farmed in earthen ponds by small, family-owned growers, our fish are harvested from pristine waters that are regularly drained, tilled, limed and sun baked to conform with Australis’ natural and sustainable management practice.
Basa and Swai eat a largely vegetarian diet, which helps take pressure off wild fisheries. Recycling of the cuttings from our processing facility make new fish meal which is used to feed shrimp and other fish. This results in a net increase in fish biomass. Now that’s doing fish farming right.

About Basa and Swai

The name ‘Basa’ is commonly used to refer to two species of fish that are native to the famous Mekong Delta river in Vietnam. Both Authentic Basa and Swai have exploded in popularity around the world, particularly in Europe where they are enjoyed as sustainable alternatives to declining wild stocks of cod, flounder, sole and haddock.
Farmers in southern Vietnam have been growing Basa and Swai using traditional methods for more than 30 years. Abundant natural waters provide an ideal growing environment, and stringent quality control guarantees consistency and quality. Authentic Basa is considered somewhat superior to Swai, with slightly thicker fillets and a finer texture. Both fish there are called by different names in various parts of the world, including Tra, Panga and Vietnamese Catfish (even though they’re not the same species as US catfish).

One very happy scientist and one very sexed German Cockroach....

The sexual chemistry of the German cockroach has baffled scientists for years. Meanwhile the insect, which is one of the most serious food and residential pests worldwide, has been busily fouling up the planet essentially unhindered. Blattella germanica plagues humans in homes, apartments, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals and any buildings where food is stored, prepared or served. The cockroach is notoriously resilient and difficult to control.

But homeland security for the pesky cockroach has just become a thing of the past. A team of entomologists working at Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and North Carolina State University have succeeded in isolating, characterizing and synthesizing the sex pheromone of the female German cockroach, thus providing an important new tool for the control and management of the pest. The study was reported in Science earlier this month.

"We expect this pheromone to provide the basis for powerful new tools to eliminate populations of this insidious pest," said Wendell L. Roelofs, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Insect Biochemistry at Cornell. The pheromone, gentisyl quinone isovalerate, or "blattellaquinone," as the scientists call it, has proven to be a highly effective lure in field trapping tests.
"Understanding this new chemical structure should prove invaluable in monitoring and control," said Roelofs.

What was the attraction in Argentine? What is that smell? Don't worry, son, you will know it, when you smell it.

After disappearing from the public eye for nearly a week, Gov. Mark Sanford, 49, admitted to having an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman.

In the long and seemingly futile quest to build a better roach trap, researchers identified the come-hither chemical of the female German cockroach a

The German cockroach is originally from Asia and very common in Russia, not in Germany. It is very closely related to the Asian cockroach, and to the casual observer they appear nearly identical and may be mistaken for the other. This cockroach can be seen in the day occasionally, especially if there is a large population or if they have been disturbed. However, sightings are most commonly reported in the evening hours as they are most active at night.

HIStory: Michael Jackson Leads USa into the Four of July Weekend

today's papers

By Daniel PolitiPosted Friday, June 26, 2009, at 6:35 AM ET
The New York Times leads with a look at how Iraq's government is celebrating the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from its cities by June 30, which, contrary to what many expected, appears to be moving along right on schedule. The Wall Street Journal leads its worldwide newsbox with Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi vowing to keep on contesting the official results from the presidential election, despite facing strong pressure to keep quiet. The Washington Post leads with the Supreme Court's ruling that a strip-search of a 13-year-old girl by school officials who thought she was hiding ibuprofen was unconstitutional. In an 8-1 decision, the justices said the school officials went too far, particularly considering that the evidence against the student was weak and the medication posed no real danger to students. While they may have been justified to search her outer clothes and backpack, the school officials had no reason to carry out an "embarrassing, frightening and humiliating search," as Justice David Souter wrote in what may be his final opinion for the court.

The real big news of the day though, is, of course, the death of Michael Jackson. The Los Angeles Times banners the news and devotes three-quarters of its front page to the King of Pop. USA Today hands over practically all of its Page One real estate to a huge picture of the icon. Jackson was 50, and had been in the public limelight for at least 40 of those years, when the Jackson 5 released their first hit I Want You Back. Jackson died yesterday afternoon, shortly after going into cardiac arrest at his rented home in Los Angeles, where he was preparing for 50 sold-out concerts at London's O2 Arena. When paramedics arrived at his home, Jackson's personal physician was performing CPR. They treated him for almost 45 minutes at his house but was in a coma when he arrived at the UCLA Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m. The Los Angeles Police Department said it would launch an investigation into the death, but cautioned that this is simply standard procedure for someone who was so famous and they have no reason to believe any foul play was involved. An autopsy is expected to be performed today.
To continue reading, click here.Daniel Politi writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com.

Chuck Todd presents Politics with a Michael Jackson Theme


*** Don't Stop Til You Get Enough: As anyone who has turned on a television set in the past 12-15 hours has noticed, Michael Jackson's passing will overshadow any political news today -- and perhaps throughout the weekend. Of course, that's probably welcome news to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, as well as to a Republican Party that was going to have to endure more "What's wrong with the GOP?" stories. Also, the Jackson news, plus the fact that it's the Friday before Congress leaves for its July 4 break, makes it a ripe opportunity for a bad news dump. So what/who will it be? Still, politics doesn't stop.

President Obama meets in the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 10:30 am ET, and the two hold a joint press conference an hour later. Obviously, much of the coverage of today's bilateral will focus on some of the tension between the two world leaders, particularly over fiscal policy (Merkel has questioned the U.S. spending, while the Obama administration has wondered why Germany isn't doing more to counteract the global recession). But do note that this is the THIRD personal meeting between the two since Obama became president. The biggest news that Merkel and Obama could make would be on the issue of Iran.

*** Pick Your Title -- Human Nature, PYT, The Lady In My Life, The Way You Make Me Feel, She's Out Of My Life, The Girl Is Mine: Mark Sanford tries to return to some normalcy today, when he holds a cabinet meeting at 12:30 pm. But the calls for him to resign are getting louder now that he's admitted to visiting his Argentine girlfriend while on a taxpayer-funded trip. "While the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with," Sanford said in a statement yesterday. "That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip." That's not satisfying some South Carolina Republicans, however.

"I think he's gone, it's over," said state Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler Jr., per the New York Times. "Leaving aside his personal life, when you use taxpayer dollars, that's what Republicans are all about - spending tax dollars wisely. This was not spending tax dollars wisely." [It is not the SEX. It is the Money.]

The next three weeks are huge for Sanford. If there's a drip-drip of more allegations, then he probably can't hang on. But he's got two things going for him now: 1) Michael Jackson's death, and 2) the July 4th holiday. Both could be disruptions that keep him out of the public eye a tad.

*** Thriller (on Capitol Hill): Perhaps the biggest drama in politics today will be in the House of Representatives, where Democrats are trying to bring to the floor -- and then pass -- the energy/climate change/cap-and-trade legislation. Per NBC's Mike Viqueira, Democrats last night didn't think they had the votes to pass the bill. And if they don't have the votes, they aren't going to bring it to the floor. Viq adds that the legislation is up in the air as of this morning. Right now, House Democrats plan to move forward with the bill first thing today. But it's not in the bag. Speaker Pelosi was seen stalking the floor yesterday during votes to button-hole wavering Democrats. Of course, today's drama sparks this question: If the energy bill is THIS heavy of a lift in the Democratic-controlled House, then how the heck is the White House gong to get this bill out of the Senate?
First Read with NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, every weekday on MSNBC-TV at 9 a.m. ET.
For more: The latest edition of First Read is available now athttp://www.FirstRead.MSNBC.com !

Stuck in Time....RIP

Back at You, Mr. Ahmadinejad!

Mr Ahmadinejad told Mr Obama to avoid "interfering in Iran's affairs". "Our question is why he fell into this trap and said things that previously [former US President George W] Bush used to say," Mr Ahmadinejad was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying. Iran's President Ahmadinejad denies claims the election was rigged.

President Obama on Tuesday made his strongest comments yet on the "unjust" violence used against the protesters in Iran. "The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days," he said.
But despite the increasingly pointed rhetoric, the substance of the Obama policy remains towards Iran unchanged, the US regards its main priority as addressing Iran's nuclear programme and its support for militant groups, and Mr Obama has made clear repeatedly that the offer of talks with Tehran is still on the table.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tunguska Catastrophe Caused by Comet

In 1927 Professor Leonid Kulik took the first photographs of the massive destruction of the taiga forest after the Tunguska catastrophe. (Credit: Professor Leonid Kulik)


The research, accepted for publication (June 24, 2009) by the journal Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union, connects the two events by what followed each about a day later: brilliant, night-visible clouds, or noctilucent clouds, that are made up of ice particles and only form at very high altitudes and in extremely cold temperatures.

"It's almost like putting together a 100-year-old murder mystery," said Michael Kelley, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Cornell who led the research team. "The evidence is pretty strong that the Earth was hit by a comet in 1908." Previous speculation had ranged from comets to meteors.

Nude Hiking in Argentina ... and the source of the quote.

"Argentina: Yatan Rumi (Cordoba):Hike or climb through 2000 acres of a nude reserve high in the sierras near Cordoba, Argentina. Highlights include several waterfalls as well as sightings of condors and wild grey foxes…Read more about Yatan Rumi "

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We should take our politicians seriously, but they are acting more like they are baseball players....

Wife's question: "Honey, where have you been the past couple of days?"

Husband's answer: "I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Don't Buy It
If It is Made in China
at Walmart
This Summer.

He had one about clowning around...but then, he is a politician.

.*** Sanford's Tango: Well, it turns out that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) wasn't hiking the Appalachian Trail after all. Instead he was in -- get this -- Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here's South Carolina's State newspaper: "Gov. Mark Sanford arrived in the Hartsville-Jackson International Airport Wednesday morning, having wrapped up a seven-day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina." Sanford "said he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over how to spend federal stimulus money. Sanford said he was alone on the trip. He declined to give any additional details about what he did other than to say he drove along the coastline. When asked why his staff said he was on the Appalachian Trail, Sanford replied, 'I don't know.'" But "Sanford later said 'in fairness to his staff,' he had told them he might go hiking on the Appalachian Trial. It was a long session and I needed a break.'" Our question: Who goes to one of the world's most romantic cities in the world alone? That's going to be the question that nags at many folks following the Sanford story. And since there have been misleading statements for the last three days on this issue, who is going to believe the full story from Sanford now? Don't cry for me, Argentina.

*** A 2012 Curse? Here's a quick quiz. Who has had the tougher last five months: A) President Obama, B) congressional Republicans, or C) GOPers who might be considering a White House bid in 2012? If you're answer is C), you're probably right. Let's start with Mark Sanford, who has inspired a new phrase -- "I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail" -- to describe any kind of mysterious disappearance. (Wife's question: "Honey, where have you been the past couple of days?" Husband's answer: "I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail.") Of course, that probably will change now that Sanford was in Buenos Aires. Next, there's Sarah Palin, who has had a rough last several months; after all, when your spat with a late-night comedian has been the highlight of your 2009, you've had a tough year. Then there's Bobby Jindal, who has since stepped back from the spotlight after his dreadful response to Obama's address to Congress. John Ensign dipped his toes in the Iowa waters, but then confessed last week to having an affair. And Newt Gingrich got in trouble -- and didn't do himself any favors among Latino voters -- when he called Sonia Sotomayor a racist. Even the person who was supposed to be the moderate in the 2012 field, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, has gone to work for . the Obama administration.
*** Lesson -- Don't Act Like You're Running: By process of elimination, the potential 2012 candidate who has probably had the best five months is Mitt Romney, who has delivered a few hard-hitting speeches at Obama but has largely stayed out of the spotlight. And that very well could be the lesson to this story. After all, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did their best to stay away from the presidential buzz in 2005-2006. We didn't even know Obama was thinking about a presidential bid until right before the midterms, and Clinton didn't set foot in Iowa and New Hampshire until after she announced she was running for president in January 2007. On the other hand, John Edwards was running for president as soon as the 2004 contest ended, and that didn't work out so great for him.
First Read with NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, every weekday on MSNBC-TV at 9 a.m. ET.
For more: The latest edition of First Read is available now athttp://www.FirstRead.MSNBC.com !

I liked the Pig Story better...

News Alert from The Wall Street Journal

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted that he has had an extramarital affair and apologized to his wife and children. He held a press conference to explain a five-day trip to Argentina during which his staff and family said they did not know his whereabouts.
During his absence, his staff had said he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail to relax after a stressful legislative session, and his wife said he was away writing.

Little Texas Hold'em ... listening to Ole Abe Obama tell one ... "hiking on the Appalachian Trail."

FLASH! BREAKING NEWS! SC Gov. Nude on Beach NOT on Trail....

News Bulletin from The Wall Street Journal!
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was in Buenos Aires during his five-day absence, not hiking along the Appalachian Trail, he said in an interview with a South Carolina newspaper. In the interview with the State newspaper, Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail. "But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford said. "... It's a great city." He said he traveled alone and drove along the Argentina coast, but declined to provide other details.

Interesting background piece on this guy:

Obama Changes Tone on Iran is a better descriptive of what is going on....

He appeared piqued, however, when pressed by reporters if he was reversing foreign policy as a result of pressure from Republicans, and, in particular, his opponent in the presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain. "What do you think?" he shot back at a CBS News reporter. Mr. Obama said his rhetoric was consistent with previous comments.

Some of his critics disagreed. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who on Sunday accused the president of being "timid and passive," congratulated Mr. Obama for a new tack Tuesday that he said "challenged the Iranian regime more than at any point since the saga began."

The political crisis inside Iran is playing into a tight diplomatic time frame that the U.S. and its European allies have established to assess Tehran's position on its nuclear program. Mr. Obama said last month that he should know Tehran's intentions by year-end. U.S. and European diplomats cite a late September meeting of the United Nations Security Council as a more pressing date for the international community to reach consensus.
Below is a transcript of President Obama's March 24, 2009, press conference, as released by the White House:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. Please have a seat. Good evening. Before I take questions from the correspondents I want to give everyone who’s watching tonight an update on the steps we’re taking to move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity. It’s important to remember that this crisis didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t result from any one action or decision. It took many years and many failures to lead us here, and it will take many months and many different solutions to lead us out. There are no quick fixes, and there are no silver bullets. That's why we’ve put in place a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all fronts. It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to restart lending, and to grow our economy over the long term. And we're beginning to see signs of progress. The first step we took was to pass a recovery plan to jumpstart job creation and put money in people’s pockets. This plan has already saved the jobs of teachers and police officers. It's creating construction jobs to rebuild roads and bridges, and yesterday I met with a man whose company is reopening a factory outside of Pittsburgh that’s rehiring workers to build some of the most energy-efficient windows in the world. And this plan will provide a tax cut to 95 percent of all working families that will appear in people’s paychecks by April 1st. The second step we took was to launch a plan to stabilize the housing market and help responsible homeowners stay in their homes. This plan is one reason that mortgage interest rates are now at near-historic lows. We've already seen a jump in refinancing of some mortgages, as homeowners take advantage of lower rates, and every American should know that up to 40 percent of all mortgages are now eligible for refinancing. This is the equivalent of another tax cut. And we're also beginning to see signs of increased sales and stabilizing home prices for the first time in a very long time. The third part of our strategy is to restart the flow of credit to families and businesses. To that end, we've launched a program designed to support the market for more affordable auto loans, student loans, and small business loans -- a program that's already securitized more of this lending in the last week than in the last four months combined. Yesterday, Secretary Geithner announced a new plan that will partner government resources with private investment to buy up the assets that are preventing our banks from lending money. And we will continue to do whatever is necessary in the weeks ahead to ensure the banks Americans depend on have the money they need to lend even if the economy gets worse. Finally, the most critical part of our strategy is to ensure that we do not return to an economic cycle of bubble and bust in this country. We know that an economy built on reckless speculation, inflated home prices, and maxed-out credit cards does not create lasting wealth. It creates the illusion of prosperity, and it's endangered us all. The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation, so that we don't face another crisis like this 10 or 20 years from now. We invest in the renewable sources of energy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and less dependence on foreign oil. We invest in our schools and our teachers so that our children have the skills they need to compete with any workers in the world. We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses and our government. And in this budget, we have -- we have to make the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term -- even under the most pessimistic estimates. At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It’s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest. And that’s why [sic] clean energy jobs and businesses will do all across America. That’s what a highly skilled workforce can do all across America. That’s what an efficient health care system that controls costs and entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid will do. That’s why this budget is inseparable from this recovery -- because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity. The road to that prosperity is still long, and we will hit our share of bumps and setbacks before it ends. But we must remember that we can get there if we travel that road as one nation -- as one people. You know, there was a lot of outrage and finger-pointing last week, and much of it is understandable. I’m as angry as anybody about those bonuses that went to some of the very same individuals who brought our financial system to its knees -- partly because it's yet another symptom of the culture that led us to this point. But one of the most important lessons to learn from this crisis is that our economy only works if we recognize that we’re all in this together -- that we all have responsibilities to each other and to our country. Bankers and executives on Wall Street need to realize that enriching themselves on the taxpayers’ dime is inexcusable; that the days of outsized rewards and reckless speculation that puts us all at risk have to be over. At the same time, the rest of us can't afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit. That drive is what has always fueled our prosperity, and it is what will ultimately get these banks lending and our economy moving once more. We'll recover from this recession, but it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interest to the wider set of obligations we have towards each other -- that's when we succeed; that's when we prosper. And that's what is needed right now. So let's look towards the future with a renewed sense of common purpose, a renewed determination, and most importantly, a renewed confidence that a better day will come. All right, with that, let me take some questions. And I've got a list here.
Let's start off with Jennifer Loven, AP.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Your Treasury Secretary and the Fed Chairman were on Capitol Hill today asking for this new authority that you want to regulate big, complex financial institutions. But given the problems that the financial bailout program has had so far -- banks not wanting to talk about how they're spending the money, the AIG bonuses that you mentioned -- why do you think the public should sign on for another new, sweeping authority for the government to take over companies, essentially?
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that it is precisely because of the lack of this authority that the AIG situation has gotten worse. Understand that AIG is not a bank, it's an insurance company. If it were a bank and it had effectively collapsed, then the FDIC could step in, as it does with a whole host of banks, as it did with IndyMac, and in a structured way, renegotiate contracts, get rid of bad assets, strengthen capital requirements, resell it on the private marketplace. So we've got a regular mechanism whereby we deal with FDIC-insured banks. We don't have that same capacity with an institution like AIG. And that's part of the reason why it has proved so problematic. I think a lot of people, understandably, say, well, if we're putting all this money in there, and if it's such a big systemic risk to allow AIG to liquidate, why is it that we can't restructure some of these contracts; why can't we do some of the things that need to be done in a more orderly way? And the reason is, is because we have not obtained this authority. We should have obtained it much earlier so that any institution that poses a systemic risk that could bring down the financial system, we can handle, and we can do it in an orderly fashion that quarantines it from other institutions. We don't have that power right now. That's what Secretary Geithner was talking about. And I think that there's going to be strong support from the American people and from Congress to provide that authority so that we don't find ourselves in a situation where we've got to choose between either allowing an enormous institution like AIG -- which is not just insuring other banks but is also insuring pension funds, potentially putting people's 401(k)s at risk if it goes under -- that's one choice. And then the other choice is just to allow them to take taxpayer money without the kind of conditions that we'd like to see on it. So that's why I think the authority is so important.
Q: Why should the public trust the government to handle that authority well?
OBAMA: Well, as I said before, if you look at how the FDIC has handled a situation like Indy Bank, for example, it actually does these kinds of resolutions effectively when it's got the tools to do it. We don't have the tools right now. Okay, Chuck Todd.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Some have compared this financial crisis to a war, and in times of war past Presidents have called for some form of sacrifice. Some of your programs, whether for Main Street or Wall Street, have actually cushioned the blow for those that were irresponsible during this -- during this economic period of prosperity, or supposed prosperity that you were talking about. Why, given this new era of responsibility that you're asking for, why haven't you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?
OBAMA: Well, let me -- let me take that question in a couple of phases. First of all, it's not true that we have not asked sacrifice from people who are getting taxpayer money. We have imposed some very stiff conditions. The only problem that we've had so far are contracts that were put in place before we took over. But moving forward, anybody -- any bank, for example, that is receiving capital from the taxpayers is going to have to have some very strict conditions in terms of how it pays out its executives, how it pays out dividends, how it's reporting its lending practices. So we want to make sure that there's some stiff conditions in place. With respect to the American people, I think folks are sacrificing left and right. You've got a lot of parents who are cutting back on everything to make sure that their kids can still go to college. You've got workers who are deciding to cut an entire day -- and entire day's worth of pay -- so that their fellow coworkers aren't laid off. I think that across the board people are making adjustments, large and small, to accommodate the fact that we're in very difficult times right now. What I've said here in Washington is that we've got to make some tough choices. We got to make some tough budgetary choices. What we can't do, though, is sacrifice long-term growth, investments that are critical to the future. And that's why my budget focuses on health care, energy, education -- the kinds of things that can build a foundation for long-term economic growth, as opposed to the fleeting prosperity that we've seen over the last several years. I mean, when you have an economy in which the majority of growth is coming from the financial sector, when AIG selling a derivative is counted as an increase in the Gross Domestic Product, then that's not a model for sustainable economic growth. And what we have to do is invest in those things that will allow the American people's capacity for ingenuity and innovation, their ability to take risks but make sure that those risks are grounded in good products and good services that they believe they can market to the rest of the country -- that those models of economic growth are what we're promoting. And that's what I think our budget does.
Q: But you don't think there should be a specific call to action -- I mean, this is -- you've described this as a economic crisis like nothing we have seen since the Great Depression.
OBAMA: Well, as I said, the American people are making a host of sacrifices in their individual lives. We are going through an extraordinary crisis, but we believe that taken -- if you take the steps that we've already taken with respect to housing, with respect to small businesses, if you look at what we're doing in terms of increasing liquidity in the financial system, that the steps that we're taking can actually stabilize the economy and get it moving again. What I'm looking from the American people to do is that they are going to be doing what they've always done, which is working hard, looking after their families, making sure that despite the economic hard times, that they're still contributing to their community, that they're still participating in volunteer activities, that they are paying attention to the debates that are going on in Washington; and the budgets that we're putting forward and some of the decisions that we're having to make are going to be tough decisions and we're going to need the support of the American people. And that's part of why -- what I've tried to do is to be out front as much as possible explaining in very clear terms exactly what we're doing. Jake.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Right now on Capitol Hill Senate Democrats are writing a budget and, according to press accounts and their own statements, they're not including the middle-class tax cut that you include in the stimulus; they're talking about phasing that out. They're not including the cap and trade that you have in your budget, and they're not including other measures. I know when you outlined your four priorities over the weekend, a number of these things were not in there. Will you sign a budget if it does not contain a middle-class tax cut, does not contain cap and trade?
OBAMA: Well, I've emphasized repeatedly what I expect out of this budget. I expect that there's serious efforts at health care reform and that we are driving down costs for families and businesses and ultimately for the federal and state governments that are going to be broke if we continue on the current path. I've said that we've got to have a serious energy policy that frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We've got to invest in education, K-12 and beyond, to upgrade the skills of the American worker so we can compete in the international economy. And I've said that we've got to start driving our deficit numbers down. Now, we never expected when we printed out our budget that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume that it has to go through the legislative process. I have not yet seen the final product coming out of the Senate or the House and we're in constant conversations with them. I am confident that the budget we put forward will have those principles in place. When it comes to the middle-class tax cut, we already had that in the recovery. We know that that's going to be in place for at least the next two years. We had identified a specific way to pay for it. If Congress has better ideas in terms of how to pay for it, then we're happy to listen. When it comes to cap and trade, the broader principle is that we've got to move to a new energy era, and that means moving away from polluting energy sources towards cleaner energy sources. That is a potential engine for economic growth. I think cap and trade is the best way, from my perspective, to achieve some of those gains because what it does is it starts pricing the pollution that's being sent into the atmosphere. The way it's structured has to take into account regional differences; it has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices. So there are a lot of technical issues that are going to have to be sorted through. Our point in the budget is let's get started now, we can't wait. And my expectation is that the energy committees or other relevant committees in both the House and the Senate are going to be moving forward a strong energy package. It will be authorized, we'll get it done and I will sign it.
Q: So is that a "yes," sir? You're willing to sign a budget that doesn't have those two provisions?
OBAMA: No, I -- what I said was I haven't seen yet what provisions are in there. The bottom line is, is that I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit. And there are going to be a lot of details that are still being worked out, but I have confidence that we're going to be able to get a budget done that's reflective of what needs to happen in order to make sure that America grows. Chip Reid.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. At both of your town hall meetings in California last week you said, "I didn't run for President to pass on our problems to the next generation." But under your budget the debt will increase $7 trillion over the next 10 years; the Congressional Budget Office says $9.3 trillion. And today on Capitol Hill some Republicans called your budget, with all the spending on health care, education and the environment, the most irresponsible budget in American history. Isn't that kind of debt exactly what you were talking about when you said "passing on our problems to the next generation"?
OBAMA: First of all, I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory, because as I recall I'm inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, from them. That would be point number one. Point number two: Both under our estimates and under the CBO estimates, both the most conservative estimates out there, we drive down the deficit over the first five years of our budget. The deficit is cut in half. And folks aren't disputing that. Where the dispute comes in is what happens in a whole bunch of out-years. And the main difference between the budget that we presented and the budget that came out of Congressional Budget Office is assumptions about growth. They're assuming a growth rate of 2.2 [percent]. We're assuming a growth rate of 2.6 [percent]. Those small differences end up adding up to a lot of money. Our assumptions are perfectly consistent with what blue-chip forecasters out there are saying. Now, none of us know exactly what's going to happen six or eight or 10 years from now. Here's what I do know: If we don't tackle energy, if we don't improve our education system, if we don't drive down the costs of health care, if we're not making serious investments in science and technology and our infrastructure, then we won't grow 2.6 percent, we won't grow 2.2 percent. We won't grow. And so what we've said is let's make the investments that ensure that we meet our growth targets that put us on a pathway to growth, as opposed to a situation in which we're not making those investments and we still have trillion-dollar deficits. And there's an interesting reason why some of these critics haven't put out their own budget. We haven't seen an alternative budget out of them. And the reason is because they know that in fact the biggest driver of long-term deficits are the huge health care costs that we've got out here that we're going to have to tackle, and that if we don't deal with some of the structural problems in our deficit, ones that were here long before I got here, then we're going to continue to see some of the problems in those out-years. And so, what we're trying to emphasize is, let's make sure that we're making the investments that we need to grow, to meet those growth targets; at the same time we're still reducing the deficit by a couple of trillion dollars; we are cutting out wasteful spending in areas like Medicare; we're changing procurement practices when it comes to the Pentagon budget; we are looking at social service programs and education programs that don't work, and eliminate them. And we will continue to go line by line through this budget, and where we find programs that don't work we will eliminate them. But it is -- it is going to be a impossible task for us to balance our budget if we're not taking on rising health care costs. And it's going to be an impossible task to balance our budget, or even approximate it, if we are not boosting our growth rates. And that's why our budget focuses on the investments we need to make that happen.
Q: But even under your budget, as you said, over the next four or five years, you're going to cut the deficit in half. Then after that, six years in a row, it goes up, up, up. If you're making all these long-term structural cuts, why does it continue to go up in the out-years?
OBAMA: Well, look, it is going to take a whole host of adjustments -- and we couldn't reflect all of those adjustments in this budget. Let me give you an example. There's been a lot of talk about entitlements and Medicare and Medicaid. The biggest problem we have long term is Medicare and Medicaid, but whatever reforms we initiative on that front -- and we're very serious about working on a bipartisan basis to reduce those deficits, or reduce those costs -- you're not going to see those savings reflected until much later. And so a budget is a snapshot of what we can get done right now, understanding that eight, 10 years from now we will have had a whole series of new budgets -- and we're going to have to make additional adjustments. And once we get out of this current economic crisis, then it's going to be absolutely important for us to take another look and say, are we growing as fast as we need to grow? Are there further cuts that we need to make? What other adjustments is it going to take for us to have a sustainable budget level? But keep in mind, just to give one other example -- as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, we are reducing non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level since the '60s -- lower than it was under Reagan, lower than it was under Clinton, lower than it was under Bush -- or both Bushes. And so if we're growing, if we are doing what's necessary to create new businesses and to expand the economy, and we are making sure that we're eliminating some of these programs that aren't working, then over time that gap can close. But I'm -- look, I'm not going to lie to you, it is tough, as I said. That's why the critics tend to criticize, but they don't offer an alternative budget. Because even if we were not doing health care, we were not doing energy, we were not doing education, they'd still have a whole bunch of problems in those out-years, according to CBO projections. The only difference is that we will not have invested in what's necessary to make this economy grow. Is Lurdes here -- from Univision?
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Today your administration presented a plan to help curb the violence in Mexico, and also to control any, or prevent any spillover of the violence into the United States. Do you consider the situation now a national security threat? And do you believe that it could require sending national troops to the border? Governor Perry of Texas has said that you still need more troops and more agents. How do you respond to that?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, let's focus on what we did today. It's very significant. We are sending millions of dollars in additional equipment to provide more effective surveillance. We are providing hundreds of additional personnel that can help control the border, deal with customs issues. We are coordinating very effectively with the Mexican government and President Calderón, who has taken on a extraordinarily difficult task of dealing with these drug cartels that have gotten completely out of hand. And so the steps that we've taken are designed to make sure that the border communities in the United States are protected and you're not seeing a spillover of violence, and that we are helping the Mexican government deal with a very challenging situation. Now, we are going to continue to monitor the situation. And if the steps we've taken do not get the job done, then we will do more. One last point that I want to make about this. As I said, President Calderón has been very courageous in taking on these drug cartels. We've got to also take some steps. Even as he is doing more to deal with the drug cartels sending drugs into the United States, we need to do more to make sure that illegal guns and cash aren't flowing back to these cartels. That's part of what's financing their operations, that's part of what's arming them, that's what makes them so dangerous. And this is something that we take very seriously and we're going to continue to work on diligently in the months to come. Kevin Baron, Stars and Stripes. Is Kevin here? There you go.
Q: Mr. President, where do you plan to find savings in the Defense and Veterans Administrations' budgets when so many items that seem destined for the chopping block are politically untenable, perhaps?
OBAMA: I'm sorry, so many?
Q: When so many items that may be destined for the chopping block seem politically untenable -- from major weapons systems, as you mentioned, procurement, to wounded warrior care costs, or increased operations in Afghanistan, or the size of the military itself.
OBAMA: Well, a couple of -- a couple of points I want to make. The budget that we put forward reflects the largest increase in veterans funding in 30 years. That's the right thing to do. Chuck asked earlier about sacrifices. I don't think anybody doubts the extraordinary sacrifices that men and women in uniform have already made. And when they come home, then they have earned the benefits that they receive, and, unfortunately, over the last several years all too often the VA has been under-resourced when it comes to dealing with things like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, dealing with some of the backlogs in admission to VA hospitals. So there are a whole host of veterans issues that I think every American wants to see properly funded, and that's what's reflected in our budget. Where the savings should come in -- and I've been working with Secretary Gates on this and will be detailing it more in the weeks to come -- is how do we reform our procurement system so that it keeps America safe, and we're not wasting taxpayer dollars. And there is uniform acknowledgement that the procurement system right now doesn't work. That's not just my opinion, that's John McCain's opinion; that's Carl Levin's opinion. There are a whole host of people who are students of the procurement process that will say if you've got a whole range of billion-dollar -- multibillion-dollar systems that are -- where we're seeing cost overruns at 30 percent or 40 percent or 50 percent, and then still don't perform the way they're supposed to, or are providing our troops with the kinds of tools that they need to succeed on their missions, then we've got a problem. Now, I think everybody in this town knows that the politics of changing procurement is tough because lobbyists are very active in this area, contractors are very good at dispersing the jobs and plants in the Defense Department widely. And so what we have to do is to go through this process very carefully, be more disciplined than we've been in the last several years. As I've said, we've already identified potentially $40 billion in savings just by some of the procurement reforms that are pretty apparent to a lot of critics out there. And we are going to continue to find savings in a way that allows us to put the resources where they're needed, but to make sure that we're not simply fattening defense contractors. One last point. In order for us to get a handle on these costs, it's also important that we are honest in what these costs are. And that's why it was so important for us to acknowledge the true costs of the Iraq war and the Afghan war, because if those costs are somehow off the books and we're not thinking about them, then it's hard for us to make some of the tough choices that need to be made. Ed Henry. Where's Ed?
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You spoke again at the top about your anger about AIG. You've been saying that for days now. But why is it that it seems Andrew Cuomo seems to be in New York getting more actual action on it? And when you and Secretary Geithner first learned about this 10 days, two weeks ago, you didn't go public immediately with that that outrage -- you waited a few days, and then you went public after you realized Secretary Geithner really had no legal avenue to stop it. And more broadly -- I just want to follow up on Chip and Jake -- you've been very critical of President Bush doubling the national debt. And to be fair, it's not just Republicans hitting you -- Democrat Kent Conrad, as you know, said, "When I look at this budget, I see the debt doubling again." You keep saying that you've inherited a big fiscal mess. Do you worry, though, that your daughters -- not to mention the next President -- will be inheriting an even bigger fiscal mess if the spending goes out of control?
OBAMA: Of course I do, Ed, which is why we're doing everything we can to reduce that deficit. Look, if this were easy, then we would have already had it done, and the budget would have been voted on and everybody could go home. This is hard. And the reason it's hard is because we've accumulated a structural deficit that's going to take a long time, and we're not going to be able to do it next year or the year after or three years form now. What we have to do is bend the curve on these deficit projections. And the best way for us to do that is to reduce health care costs. That's not just my opinion; that's the opinion of almost every single person who has looked at our long-term fiscal situation. Now, how do we -- how are we going to reduce health care costs -- because the problem is not just in government-run programs; the problem is in the private sector, as well. It's experienced by families, it's experienced by businesses. And so what we've said is, look, let's invest in health information technologies; let's invest in preventive care; let's invest in mechanisms that look at who's doing a better job controlling costs while producing good quality outcomes in various states, and let's reimburse on the basis of improved quality, as opposed to simply how many procedures you're doing. Let's do a whole host of things, some of which cost money on the front end but offer the prospect of reducing costs on the back end. Now, the alternative is to stand pat and to simply say we are just going to not invest in health care, we're not going to take on energy; we'll wait until the next time that gas gets to $4 a gallon; we will not improve our schools, and we'll allow China or India or other countries to lap our young people in terms of their performance; we will settle on lower growth rates; and we will continue to contract, both as an economy and our ability to provide a better life for our kids. That I don't think is the better option. Now, have -- am I completely satisfied with all the work that needs to be done on deficits? No. That's why I convened a fiscal responsibility summit, started in this room, to start looking at entitlements and to start looking at the big drivers of costs over the long term. Not all of those are reflected in our budget, partly because the savings we anticipate would be coming in years outside of the 10-year budget cycle that we're talking about. Okay?
Q: On AIG, why did you wait -- why did you wait days to come out and express that outrage? It seems like the action is coming out of New York and the Attorney General's Office. It took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say, look, we're outraged. Why did it take so long?
OBAMA: It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak, you know? (Laughter.) Major.
Q: Good evening, Mr. President. Thank you. Taking this economic debate a bit globally, senior Chinese officials have publically expressed an interest in international currency. This is described by Chinese specialists as a sign that they are less confident than they used to be in the value and the reliability of the U.S. dollar. European countries have resisted your calls to spend more on economic stimulus. I wonder, sir, as a candidate who ran concerned about the image of the United States globally, how comfortable you are with the Chinese government, run by Communists, less confident than they used to be in the U.S. dollar, and European governments, some of them center-left, some of them Socialist, who say you're asking them to spend too much.
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I haven't asked them to do anything. What I've suggested is, is that all of us are going to have to take steps in order to lift the economy. We don't want a situation in which some countries are making extraordinary efforts, and other countries aren't, with the hope that somehow the countries that are making those important steps lift everybody up. And so somebody has got to take leadership. It's not just me, by the way. I was with Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia, today, who was very forceful in suggesting that countries around the world, those with the capacity to do so, take the steps that are needed to fill this enormous hole in global demand. Gordon Brown, when he came to visit me, said the exact same thing. So the goal at the G20 summit, I think, is to do a couple of things: Number one, say to all countries, let's do what's necessary in order to create jobs and to get the economy moving again. Let's avoid steps that could result in protectionism that would further contract global trade. Let's focus on how are we going to move our regulatory process forward in order that we do not see the kinds of systemic breakdowns that we've already seen. And that requires -- that means not just dealing with banks, but also some of the other financial flows that are out here that are currently unregulated. We've got to update regulations that date back to the 1930s, and we're going to have to do some coordination with other countries in order to accomplish that. As far as confidence in the U.S. economy or the dollar, I would just point out that the dollar is extraordinarily strong right now. And the reason the dollar is strong right now is because investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world, with the most stable political system in the world. So you don't have to take my word for it. I think that there is a great deal of confidence that ultimately, although we are going through a rough patch, that the prospects for the world economy are very, very strong. And last point I would make in terms of changing America's image in the world, Garrett, I -- you know, I haven't looked at the latest polling around the world, but I think -- I think it's fair to say that the response that people have had to our administration and the steps that we've taken are ones that are restoring a sense of confidence and the ability of the United States to assert global leadership. That will just strengthen.
Q: And the need for a global --
OBAMA: Excuse me?
Q: -- the need for a global currency?
OBAMA: I don't believe that there's a need for a global currency. Mike Allen, Politico. Hi, Mike.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Are you reconsidering your plan to cut the interest rate deduction for mortgages and for charities? And do you regret having proposed that in the first place?
OBAMA: No, I think it's -- I think it's the right thing to do, where we've got to make some difficult choices. Here's what we did with respect to tax policy. What we said was, that over the last decade, the average worker, the average family have seen their wages and incomes flat. Even at times where supposedly we were in the middle of an economic boom, as a practical matter, their incomes didn't go up. And so what we said, let's give them a tax cut, let's give them some relief, some help -- 95 percent of American families. Now, for the top 5 percent, they're the ones who typically saw huge gains in their income. I fall in that category. And what we've said is for those folks, let's not renew the Bush tax cuts, so let's go back to the rates that existed back in -- during the Clinton era when wealthy people were still wealthy and doing just fine; and let's look at the level in which people can itemize their deductions. And what we've said is let's go back to the rate that existed under Ronald Reagan. People are still going to be able to make charitable contributions. It just means, if you give $100 and you're in this tax bracket, at a certain point, instead of being able write off 36 or 39 percent, you're writing off 28 percent. Now, if it's really a charitable contribution, I'm assuming that that shouldn't be a determining factor as to whether you're given that $100 to the homeless shelter down the street. And so this provision would affect about 1 percent of the American people. They would still get deductions. It's just that they wouldn't be able to write off 39 percent. In that sense, what it would do is it would equalize -- when I give $100, I'd get the same amount of deduction as when some -- a bus driver, who's making $50,000 a year, or $40,000 a year gives that same $100. Right now he gets 28 percent -- he gets to write off 28 percent; I get to write off 39 percent. I don't think that's fair. So I think this was a good idea. I think it is a realistic way for us to raise some revenue from people who benefited enormously over the last several years. It's not going to cripple them; they'll still be well-to-do. And ultimately, if we're going to tackle the serious problems that we've got, then in some cases those who are more fortunate are going to have to pay a little bit more.
Q: But it's not the well-to-do people, it's the charities. Given what you just said, are you confident the charities are wrong when they contend that this would discourage giving?
OBAMA: Yes, I am. I mean, if you look at the evidence, there's very little evidence that this has a significant impact on charitable giving. I'll tell you what has a significant impact on charitable giving, is a financial crisis in an economy that's contracting. And so the most important thing that I can do for charitable giving is to fix the economy; to get banks lending again, to get businesses opening their doors again, and to get people back to work again. Then I think charities will do just fine. Kevin Chappell. Hi, Kevin.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. A recent report found that as a result of the economic downturn, one in 50 children are now homeless in America. With shelters at full capacity, tent cities are sprouting up across the country. In passing your stimulus package, you said that help was on the way. But what would you say to these families, especially children, who are sleeping under bridges in tents across the country?
OBAMA: Well, the first thing I'd say is that I'm heartbroken that any child in America is homeless. And the most important thing that I can do on their behalf is to make sure their parents have a job. And that's why the recovery package said as a first priority how we're going to save or create 3.5 million jobs; how can we prevent layoffs for teachers and police officers; how can we make sure that we are investing in the infrastructure for the future -- they can put people back to work right away; how do we make sure that when people do lose their jobs, that their unemployment insurance is extended, that they can keep their health care. So there are a whole host of steps that we've done to provide a cushion for folks who have fallen on very hard times and to try to spur immediate projects that can put people back to work. Now, in the meantime, we've got to work very closely with the states to monitor and to help people who are still falling through the cracks. And the homeless problem was bad even when the economy was good. Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours. And so we're going to be initiating a range of programs, as well, to deal with homelessness. One area in particular I want to focus on is the issue of veterans. The rate of homelessness among veterans is much, much higher than for non-veteran populations. And so we've got -- a number of the increases that we're looking for in our budget on veterans funding directly addresses the issue of homeless veterans.
That, I think, can provide some real help. Ann Compton. Hey, Ann.
Q: Sir -- hey. (Laughter.)
OBAMA: You sound surprised. (Laughter.)
Q: I am surprised. Could I ask you about race?
OBAMA: You may.
Q: Yours is a rather historic presidency. And I'm just wondering whether in any of the policy debates that you've had within the White House, the issue of race has come up, or whether it has in the way you feel you've been perceived by other leaders or by the American people. Or has the last 64 days been a relatively colorblind time?
OBAMA: I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we're going to fix the economy. And that's -- affects black, brown and white. And, you know, obviously at the inauguration I think that there was justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination in this country. But that lasted about a day -- (laughter) -- and, you know, right now the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged, and that is are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to reopen, keep America safe. And that's what I've been spending my time thinking about. Jon Ward, Washington Times. Where's Jon?
Q: Right here, sir.
OBAMA: There you go.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President.
OBAMA: Sure.
Q: In your remarks on stem cell research earlier this month, you talked about a majority consensus in determining whether or not this is the right thing to do, to federally fund embryonic stem cell research. I'm just wondering, though, how much you, personally, wrestled with the morality or ethics of federally funding this kind of research, especially given the fact that science so far has shown a lot of progress with adult stem cells, but not a lot with embryonic.
OBAMA: Okay. I think it's a legitimate question. I wrestle with these issues every day, as I mentioned to -- I think in an interview a couple of days ago. By the time an issue reaches my desk, it's a hard issue. If it was an easy issue, somebody else would have solved it and it wouldn't have reached me. Look, I believe that it is very important for us to have strong moral guidelines, ethical guidelines when it comes to stem cell research or anything that touches on, you know, the issues of possible cloning or issues related to, you know, the human life sciences. I think those issues are all critical, and I've said so before. I wrestle with it on stem cell, I wrestle with it on issues like abortion. I think that the guidelines that we provided meet that ethical test. What we have said is that for embryos that are typically about to be discarded, for us to be able to use those in order to find cures for Parkinson's or for Alzheimer's or, you know, all sorts of other debilitating diseases -- juvenile diabetes -- that it is the right thing to do. And that's not just my opinion; that is the opinion of a number of people who are also against abortion. Now, I am glad to see progress is being made in adult stem cells. And if the science determines that we can completely avoid a set of ethical questions or political disputes, then that's great. I have -- I have no investment in causing controversy. I'm happy to avoid it, if that's where the science leads us. But what I don't want to do is predetermine this based on a very rigid, ideological approach, and that's what I think is reflected in the executive order that I signed.
Q: I meant to ask a follow-up, though. Do you think that scientific consensus is enough to tell us what we can and cannot do?
OBAMA: No. I think there's always an ethical and a moral element that has to be -- be a part of this. And so as I said, I don't take decisions like this lightly. They're ones that I take seriously. And I respect people who have different opinions on this issue. But I think that this was the right thing to do and the ethical thing to do. And as I said before, my hope is, is that we can find a mechanism ultimately to cure these diseases in a way that gains 100 percent consensus. And we certainly haven't achieved that yet, but I think on balance this was the right step to take. Stephen Collinson, AFP.
Q: Mr. President, you came into office pledging to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. How realistic do you think those hopes are now, given the likelihood of a Prime Minister who's not fully signed up to a two-state solution and a Foreign Minister who has been accused of insulting Arabs?
OBAMA: It's not easier than it was, but I think it's just as necessary. We don't yet know what the Israeli government is going to look like and we don't yet know what the future shape of Palestinian leadership is going to be comprised of. What we do know is this: that the status quo is unsustainable; that it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security. And by assigning George Mitchell the task of working as Special Envoy, what we've signaled is that we're going to be serious from day one in trying to move the parties in a direction that acknowledges that reality. How effective these negotiations may be, I think we're going to have to wait and see. But, you know, we were here for St. Patrick's Day and you'll recall that we had what had been previously sworn enemies celebrating here in this very room -- you know, leaders from the two sides in Northern Ireland that, you know, a couple of decades ago or even a decade ago, people would have said could never achieve peace. And here they were, jointly appearing and talking about their commitment even in the face of violent provocation.
And what that tells me is that if you stick to it, if you are persistent, then -- then these problems can be dealt with. That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I'm going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come, as long as I'm in this office. I'm a big believer in persistence. I think that when it comes to domestic affairs, if we keep on working at it, if we acknowledge that we make mistakes sometimes and that we don't always have the right answer and we're inheriting very knotty problems, that we can pass health care, we can find better solutions to our energy challenges, we can teach our children more effectively, we can deal with a very real budget crisis -- that is not fully dealt with in my budget at this point, but makes progress. I think when it comes to the banking system, you know, it was just a few days ago or weeks ago where people were certain that Secretary Geithner couldn't deliver a plan. Today the headlines all look like, well, all right, there's a plan. And I'm sure there will be more criticism and we'll have to make more adjustments, but we're moving in the right direction. When it comes to Iran, you know, we did a video sending a message to the Iranian people and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And some people said, well, they did not immediately say that we're eliminating nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorism. Well, we didn't expect that. We expect that we're going to make steady progress on this front. We haven't immediately eliminated the influence of lobbyists in Washington. We have not immediately eliminated wasteful pork projects. And we're not immediately going to get Middle East peace.
We've been in office now a little over 60 days. What I am confident about is that we're moving in the right direction and that the decisions we're making are based on how are we going to get this economy moving, how are we going to put Americans back to work, how are we going to make sure that our people are safe, and how are we going to create not just prosperity here but work with other countries for global peace and prosperity. And we are going to stay with it as long as I'm in this office, and I think that you look back four years from now, I think hopefully people will judge that body of work and say, this is a big ocean liner -- it's not a speedboat; it doesn't turn around immediately -- but we're in a better -- better place because of the decisions that we make.
All right. Thank you, everybody.