Sunday, April 10, 2011
LIVE nesting eagle cam - KLTV 7 News Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville Stay tuned along with millions of viewers — more than 30 million views as of this weekend — watching as a bald eagle family emerges in a northeast Iowa nest under the watchful eye of a web cam that's capturing the activity live at the Decorah Fish Hatchery. From the smorgsbord of food items… fish, bunnies, ducks … the adult eagles tend to feed the most food to the most aggressive chicks — a bit of survival of the fittest at work. The oldest eaglet often crawls over the top of the weaker eaglet to get its fill, and has been observed picking on the little one. On Sunday the youngest chick was hanging in there. I watched a feeding at 11:15 a.m. and it looked like the littlest chick was getting its fill! The family will do fine with just two eaglets, but the chat indicates that viewers are hopeful and anxious.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Paul Ryan's plan would modernize a program stuck in 1965..Liberals seem delighted that Paul Ryan and the GOP have decided to charge the fixed bayonets of Medicare reform, denouncing the new House budget as a crime against seniors, humanity, and so on. Republicans are taking a huge political risk, but they are now setting the reform agenda, and their honesty may even oblige a national debate about the future of an entitlement state that can't survive in its current form.
Mr. Ryan's core insight is that Medicare needs to be modernized if it is to survive. The federal insurance program for the elderly has barely changed since 1965, several health-care revolutions and trillions of misspent tax dollars ago. The GOP plan—known as premium support—would rationalize Medicare's burden on taxpayers, while introducing market competition to control costs.
As Democrats build their re-election bids around Mediscare demagoguery, they're pretending that the choice is between "privatization" and a free lunch. Mr. Ryan has done a service in exposing this illusion. Nothing will sooner finish off "Medicare as we know it" than to continue its present march into insolvency. His is the first credible plan endorsed by either party for preserving the safety net.
Today traditional Medicare is the largest buyer of health care in America. It is also the worst buyer. The government sets prices for thousands of services, then pays nearly any doctor or hospital that a patient visits. The same arbitrary fee schedule applies to the best hospital and the worst hospital, regardless of the quality or value of the care delivered, and the bills are sent to taxpayers.
This deliberate suppression of the price mechanism has helped to turbocharge U.S. health costs. Providers who find ways to deliver better medicine at a lower cost aren't rewarded, as they would be in any other industry. Medicare spending is growing at a 7.2% annual clip, far faster than the economy. Spending is due to double over the next decade, feeding on more and more of the federal fisc and national wealth. (See the nearby chart.)
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The 45 million Medicare beneficiaries enjoy the security of "free" health care and its no-questions-asked payments. Still, the entitlement is stuck in a Great Society time warp. It offers no protection against catastrophic expenses, the most basic function of insurance. Coverage doesn't keep up with medical progress; prescription drugs weren't added until 2003. Seniors are docked a $1,000 deductible for a single hospital stay, though nine of 10 buy medigap coverage to backfill these and other holes. Where else do people buy insurance for their insurance?
Under the Ryan premium support model, seniors would instead choose from a menu of guaranteed private insurance options of the kind younger, private-sector workers have come to expect. These plans would be subsidized by a "defined contribution," roughly equal to what the government now spends per person. This subsidy, about $15,000, would grow over time with consumer prices, but seniors who wanted more expensive plans would pay the difference out of pocket.
Premium support would create a market reward for the services that consumers value. Because seniors would be chipping in at the margin, only above the fixed-dollar subsidy, most would favor lower premiums. Insurers would compete to supply them, and providers in turn would have a reason to innovate in health-care delivery and improve what has been their negative productivity rate.
Premium support would not cure all of America's health ailments, and missing in action in the House budget is a comparable reform for the rest of the market. But Medicare is so big that if it doesn't change, nothing else can. Simply unwinding Medicare's price controls would be an historic achievement.
That said, Granny will not be turned loose unsupervised into the market wilds. The subsidies will flow through Medicare, only to regulated insurers and government-approved plans. It does not go as far as Mr. Ryan's previous "roadmap," which offered direct cash vouchers for individuals who preferred to buy insurance themselves. The subsidies are means-tested, so the poor would receive more support, as will sicker and chronically ill patients. They wouldn't kick in until 2022, more than enough time for people to adapt and exempting everyone older than 55 if they wished.
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.Mr. Ryan moderated his ambitions not merely because the fiscal crisis is so urgent, but because reforms of this order are so unusual. Seniors and other voters may be unnerved, especially when AARP and politicians beat the Mediscare drums. As they inspect the details, however, seniors may be surprised to learn that premium support is not an untested idea. It is even routine in parts of Medicare itself.
Traditional Medicare would look a lot like Medicare Advantage, which gives almost one of four seniors today private alternatives. Premium support forms the architecture of the Medicare drug benefit too, and as a result it has cost 30% less than almost anyone predicted.
The same concept governs the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which insures everyone from postal workers to Members of Congress. The same is true for several large university systems and Calpers, the benefits program for public workers in California. None are known as incubators for the pitiless ideology that Democrats impute to Mr. Ryan.
Despite this experience, one common criticism is that the subsidies wouldn't keep pace with the rising health costs that Medicare now promotes. But medicine has always proven adept at reorganizing itself when the incentives change, and costs would fall over time if more patients were demanding their money's worth.
Health care's lack of accountability to consumers helps explain why Medicare's unfunded liabilities over the next 75 years are about $31 trillion. That number is beyond human comprehension and among the reasons that creating one more new entitlement in ObamaCare was so reckless. Keeping Medicare's generational promise—that children assent to be taxed to pay for their grandparents' health care so that their grandkids can one day pay for theirs—would mean under current trends that every income tax rate, in every bracket, would need to more than double.
The brutal arithmetic is that total federal health spending is about 10% of GDP today and on pace to hit 15% in 20 years. The liberal response is more central planning and eventually the political rationing of care, even as taxes continue to climb. The alternative that Mr. Ryan has offered, including an ObamaCare repeal and a conversion of Medicaid into block grants to states, would bring that share down to 6% as premium support began to limit Medicare's open-ended spending.
The reality that Mr. Ryan has recognized is that Medicare can't be fixed with nips and tucks. Premium support is easily as important an advance as the shift from defined-benefit pensions to 401(k)s, and the transition could be as smooth. Major changes to the social compact must be grounded in some rough public consensus, and Republicans now have an obligation to persuade the country that their reform is the only one with a chance of saving Medicare for future generations.
Four-buck gasoline is a reality again for some American motorists. Only this time, unlike 2008, the price spike follows years of deep national recession and its aftermath, including rampant job loss and home foreclosures.
That means many households' battered budgets are less able to absorb gas price hikes, especially when the costs of such necessities as food and clothing are rising fast too.
Paying $4 per gallon would mean a household spends $4,800 on gasoline in a year, assuming two vehicles getting 25 miles to the gallon and traveling 15,000 miles. There's a one-in-four chance that the average price of gas nationwide this summer will exceed $4 per gallon, according to a forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
For consumers, a long-term solution to higher gas prices is to drive less or drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle. But in the short term it matters more "how" you drive than "what" you drive.
Here are suggestions for saving money on gasoline, with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, Consumer Reports, Alliance to Save Energy and Edmunds.com.
Don't spill the coffee. The biggest savings will come from avoiding aggressive driving. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.
Not sure what less-aggressive driving is? Imagine a lidless cup of coffee in your car's cupholder. Drive like you don't want to spill it. That means gradual acceleration and gentle braking.
Potential savings vary widely but are significant when you curb aggressive driving. At $4 per gallon, gas savings could range from 20 cents to $1.32 per gallon, based on Energy Department figures. That's a savings of $240 to $1,584 per year for that two-car household described earlier.
Speed kills. Each 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional 27 cents per gallon for gas. Consumer Reports found that slowing from 75 to 55 mph boosted gas mileage 33 percent in testing performed on a family sedan and a large SUV.
American idle. Idling yields zero mpg. Don't bother warming up your car or keeping it running while waiting for passengers. The rule of thumb is to turn off your car if you know you'll be stopped for more than 30 seconds, Consumer Reports says. Cars with larger engines typically waste more gas idling than those with small engines.
Trunk junk. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your gas mileage by up to 2 percent, or about 8 cents per gallon. Roof junk — carrying large items on the roof of the vehicle — creates drag that can cut gas mileage 5 percent.
Use cruise. Cruise control is steadier on the accelerator pedal than you are. You might try it on lower-speed suburban roads. Edmunds.com called it a "surprisingly effective way to save gas."
Find cheaper gas. Compare gasoline prices at gasbuddy.com, gaspricewatch.com and gasprices.mapquest.com. Of course, you don't want to drive far out of your way to save a few pennies. Savings will be lost traveling to a distant service station.
Billshrink.com will send you an email alerting you to the lowest-price gas on your commute. Gas price information also is available via smart phone apps, such as Gas Buddy and AAA's TripTik Mobile.
Use GPS. Computerized travel directions from GPS devices or smart phones can help find efficient routes, even among multiple destinations. That can save time, hassle and gas. If you don't have a device, use a computer site, such as mapquest.com/routeplanner.
Of course, plotting a route by hand works, too, using a folding map or road atlas. Several devices and websites also alert you to traffic jams, a gas-mileage killer.
Seek discounts. Be on the lookout for promotions and sales that allow you to acquire gasoline station gift cards for free or at a discount. For example, you might be able to redeem credit card rewards points for a gas card. And Choice Hotels, which owns such properties as Comfort Inn and Clarion, is offering a $50 gas card when you book two stays before May 4.
Make radical changes. Change your work hours to avoid rush-hour traffic, use carpools and ride-sharing programs, take public transportation, walk or bike to work, or work from home.
Shop online. If you spend evenings or weekends running errands to various stores, consider ordering products online and let someone else pay for the gas. That's doable if you can find free shipping online or lower product prices to compensate for shipping fees. Free shipping often comes in the form of a coupon code used at online checkout. Use a search engine with keywords "coupon code" and the retailer's name.
Do the math. Make gas mileage a criterion as you select your next vehicle. The difference between choosing a vehicle that gets 20 mpg and 30 mpg is huge. Assuming $4-per-gallon gas, you would save $1,000 a year per car. Over the typical five years of ownership, that's $10,000 saved for a two-car family.
Stay cool: Don't sweat the argument over staying cool with air conditioning versus lowering the windows. Edmunds.com testing found neither made a huge difference to gas mileage.
Inflate tires: The U.S. Energy Department says underinflated tires can increase fuel consumption more than 3 percent. However, a test by Edmunds.com couldn't find much effect on gas mileage, although properly inflated tires are important for safety and to reduce tire wear. Find the proper inflation level on the driver's side door jamb or in the owner's manual, not the maximum pressure embossed on the tire sidewall. Similar is the usual advice to replace air filters to save gas. On modern cars, replacing a filter will improve acceleration performance but not gas mileage.
Gas additives: Advertisements for gasoline additives that supposedly deliver better mileage are exaggerations or outright lies, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has tested more than 100 of them. Consumer Reports' tests of some gas-saving products that promise better fuel economy showed none worked, including Fuel Doctor and Fuel Genie. "Simply put: Don't waste your money," Consumer Reports says. Some "gas-saving" products may damage a car's engine or cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions, according to the EPA.
Here's how to calculate gas mileage:
Fill your gas tank and reset the trip odometer.
Next time you need gas, fill the tank again. Note the number of gallons you bought.
Divide the number of miles showing on the odometer by the number of gallons showing on the pump. The result is miles per gallon. Most mobile phones have a calculator function that can help with the math.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The GOP Path to Prosperity
Our budget cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president's budget over the next 10 years and puts the nation on track to pay off our national debt.
By PAUL D. RYAN
Congress is currently embroiled in a funding fight over how much to spend on less than one-fifth of the federal budget for the next six months. Whether we cut $33 billion or $61 billion—that is, whether we shave 2% or 4% off of this year's deficit—is important. It's a sign that the election did in fact change the debate in Washington from how much we should spend to how much spending we should cut. But this morning the new House Republican majority will introduce a budget that moves the debate from billions in spending cuts to trillions. America is facing a defining moment. The threat posed by our monumental debt will damage our country in profound ways, unless we act.
No one person or party is responsible for the looming crisis.
Yet the facts are clear: Since President Obama took office, our problems have gotten worse. Major spending increases have failed to deliver promised jobs. The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams. Government health and retirement programs are growing at unsustainable rates. The new health-care law is a fiscal train wreck. And a complex, inefficient tax code is holding back American families and businesses. The president's recent budget proposal would accelerate America's descent into a debt crisis. It doubles debt held by the public by the end of his first term and triples it by 2021. It imposes $1.5 trillion in new taxes, with spending that never falls below 23% of the economy. His budget permanently enlarges the size of government. It offers no reforms to save government health and retirement programs, and no leadership.
Our budget, which we call The Path to Prosperity, is very different.
For starters, it cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president's budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt. Our proposal brings federal spending to below 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), consistent with the postwar average, and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion. A study just released by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis projects that The Path to Prosperity will help create nearly one million new private-sector jobs next year, bring the unemployment rate down to 4% by 2015, and result in 2.5 million additional private-sector jobs in the last year of the decade. It spurs economic growth, with $1.5 trillion in additional real GDP over the decade. According to Heritage's analysis, it would result in $1.1 trillion in higher wages and an average of $1,000 in additional family income each year.
Here are its major components:
• Reducing spending: This budget proposes to bring spending on domestic government agencies to below 2008 levels, and it freezes this category of spending for five years. The savings proposals are numerous, and include reforming agricultural subsidies, shrinking the federal work force through a sensible attrition policy, and accepting Defense Secretary Robert Gates's plan to target inefficiencies at the Pentagon.
• Welfare reform: This budget will build upon the historic welfare reforms of the late 1990s by converting the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant that lets states create a range of options and gives Medicaid patients access to better care. It proposes similar reforms to the food-stamp program, ending the flawed incentive structure that rewards states for adding to the rolls. Finally, this budget recognizes that the best welfare program is one that ends with a job—it consolidates dozens of duplicative job-training programs into more accessible, accountable career scholarships that will better serve people looking for work. As we strengthen and improve welfare programs for those who need them, we eliminate welfare for those who don't.
Our budget targets corporate welfare, starting by ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that is costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. It gets rid of the permanent Wall Street bailout authority that Congress created last year. And it rolls back expensive handouts for uncompetitive sources of energy, calling instead for a free and open marketplace for energy development, innovation and exploration.
• Health and retirement security: This budget's reforms will protect health and retirement security. This starts with saving Medicare. The open-ended, blank-check nature of the Medicare subsidy threatens the solvency of this critical program and creates inexcusable levels of waste. This budget takes action where others have ducked. But because government should not force people to reorganize their lives, its reforms will not affect those in or near retirement in any way. Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy. Future Medicare recipients will be able to choose a plan that works best for them from a list of guaranteed coverage options. This is not a voucher program but rather a premium-support model. A Medicare premium-support payment would be paid, by Medicare, to the plan chosen by the beneficiary, subsidizing its cost. In addition, Medicare will provide increased assistance for lower- income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks. Reform that empowers individuals—with more help for the poor and the sick—will guarantee that Medicare can fulfill the promise of health security for America's seniors.
We must also reform Social Security to prevent severe cuts to future benefits. This budget forces policy makers to work together to enact common-sense reforms. The goal of this proposal is to save Social Security for current retirees and strengthen it for future generations by building upon ideas offered by the president's bipartisan fiscal commission.
• Budget enforcement: This budget recognizes that it is not enough to change how much government spends. We must also change how government spends. It proposes budget-process reforms—including real, enforceable caps on spending—to make sure government spends and taxes only as much as it needs to fulfill its constitutionally prescribed roles.
• Tax reform: This budget would focus on growth by reforming the nation's outdated tax code, consolidating brackets, lowering tax rates, and assuming top individual and corporate rates of 25%. It maintains a revenue-neutral approach by clearing out a burdensome tangle of deductions and loopholes that distort economic activity and leave some corporations paying no income taxes at all.
This is America's moment to advance a plan for prosperity.
Our budget offers the nation a model of government that is guided by the timeless principles of the American idea: free-market democracy, open competition, a robust private sector bound by rules of honesty and fairness, a secure safety net, and equal opportunity for all under a limited constitutional government of popular consent. We can reform government so that people don't have to reorient their lives for less. We can grow our economy, promote opportunity, and encourage upward mobility.
This budget is the new House majority's answer to history's call. It is now up to all of us to keep America exceptional.
Mr. Ryan, a Republican, represents Wisconsin's first congressional district and serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Some animal rights activists and animal lovers are outraged at GoDaddy.com CEO Bob Parsons after he posted online a video of himself hunting and killing an elephant, MyFoxPhoenix.com reports. The “vacation video” shows Parsons in Zimbabwe criticizing the “damage” elephants cause to farmers’ crops, a common complaint in the region. “Unless elephants are stopped entire crop may be lost,” reads a video caption. “When crops are lost subsistence farmers risk starvation.”
How to Invite a Lawsuit over YOUR Blog Posted on April 1, 2011 by debmcalister As the number of blogs has exploded, and more and more businesses add blogs to their corporate communications toolkit, a number of “experts” in social media and search engine optimization have sprung up to advise clients about the best blogging techniques. Unfortunately, few of them are lawyers, and even fewer have bothered to do their own original research on the legal issues that are unique to blogs – or even the legal issues common to journalists and writers in all fields. I’d not a lawyer, either — but I’ve paid for some of the best legal advice available over many years. One thing that’s become clear to me is that much of what bloggers think they know about their rights and responsibilities is quite simply wrong. Already, law firms are springing up to take advantage of this new revenue stream, and bloggers are finding themselves targeted increasingly for copyright infringement, privacy infringement, defamation, and the release of confidential information . Bloggers have lost their jobs, been subjected to arrest, had their computers seized, and been harassed and even physically assaulted by those who disagree with their point of view. Here are the five primary areas where myths are causing legal problems for bloggers: READ MORE ON THE LINK BELOW: https://debmcalister.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/how-to-invite-a-lawsuit-over-your-blog/