Monday, September 26, 2011

Week starting 9/26/11

1. Sweet!

Pay-by-race bake sale at UC Berkeley still on, student Republican group says

By Holly Yan, CNN
updated 8:25 AM EST, Mon September 26, 2011
(CNN) -- It's meant to be racist, and it's meant to be discriminatory. And the controversial "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" hosted by the Berkeley College Republicans is still on, the club's president said, despite "grossly misguided comments" and threats aimed toward supporters of the University of California Berkeley student group. During the sale, scheduled for Tuesday, baked goods will be sold to white men for $2, Asian men for $1.50, Latino men for $1, black men for $0.75 and Native American men for $0.25. All women will get $0.25 off those prices. The bake sale is meant to draw attention to pending legislation that would allow California universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity and national origin during the admissions process.

     "We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point," BCR President Shawn Lewis wrote in response to upheaval over the bake sale. "It is no more racist than giving an individual an advantage in college admissions based solely on their race (or) gender." Lewis said the bake sale was unanimously agreed upon by the club, whose leadership positions include Asian and Hispanic students and whose membership represent a "wide variety of ethnic backgrounds." "More than half of the voices were female," he added.
     Berkeley's student government, the Associated Students of the University of California, held an emergency Senate meeting late Sunday to discuss the issue and passed a resolution that, in part, "condemns the use of discrimination whether it is in satire or in seriousness by any student group."
"I completely support the idea of BCR -- or any students on campus -- (having) political discussion," ASUC President Vishalli Loomba said. "I think student members of BCR have a full right to express their feelings, but I don't necessarily think this tactic is constructive. I strongly encourage them to engage in this dialogue in a more constructive manner, such as a forum or a town hall meeting.'
     But the bake sale is intended to be a direct, "physical counterpoint" to an ASUC-sponsored phone bank -- also scheduled for Tuesday -- where students will be encouraged to call Gov. Jerry Brown's office to support the legislation, Lewis said. The ASUC has endorsed SB 185. Lewis said supporters of the bake sale have received threats, including people who said they will "stop by the table only to knock it over" or "buy a cupcake just to throw it at (us)." "Some of the threats online have gotten more specific, but we're hoping that's just emotion," he said.
     While the initial feedback to the planned sale was largely in heated opposition, responses have "plateaued" and include the support of self-described Democrats, Lewis said. Loomba, the student government president, said she is concerned about students potentially feeling ostracized due to the bake sale. "I have heard that from numerous students who have said this makes students feel unwelcome on campus," she said. "For that reason alone, we should think about what events we have on campus." Loomba described the situation as a "campus climate issue."  "UC Berkeley stands for a place where everyone -- regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation -- should feel inclusive," she said. "I think they should be able to express their opinion, but keep that value in mind."
      As for where the bake sale proceeds will go, Lewis said the College Republicans are considering several charities. But "because of all this controversy, we don't want to advertise the organization," he said. "We don't want to cause them problems."

2. It doesn't matter if you can't breathe.....

OTC inhalers to be phased out to protect ozone layer

Asthma patients will need to switch to prescription-only alternatives by Dec. 31 as part of US efforts to protect environment 

updated 9/22/2011 12:32:55 PM ET
Asthma patients who rely on over-the-counter inhalers will need to switch to prescription-only alternatives as part of the federal government's latest attempt to protect the Earth's atmosphere. 
     The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday patients who use the epinephrine inhalers to treat mild asthma will need to switch by Dec. 31 to other types that do not contain chlorofluorocarbons, an aerosol substance once found in a variety of spray products.
     The action is part of an agreement signed by the U.S. and other nations to stop using substances that deplete the ozone layer, a region in the atmosphere that helps block harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun.
But the switch to a greener inhaler will cost consumers more. Epinephrine inhalers are available via online retailers for around $20, whereas the alternatives, which contain the drug albuterol, range from $30 to $60.
     The FDA finalized plans to phase out the products in 2008 and currently only Armstrong Pharmaceutical's Primatene mist is available in the U.S. Other manufacturers have switched to an environmentally-friendly propellant called hydrofluoroalkane. Both types of inhalers offer quick-relief to symptoms like shortness of breath and chest tightness, but the environmentally-friendly inhalers are only available via prescription.
"If you rely on an over-the-counter inhaler to relieve your asthma symptoms, it is important that you contact a health care professional to talk about switching to a different medicine to treat your asthma," said Badrul Chowdhury, FDA's director of pulmonary drug division.
      Chowdhury told reporters and doctors via teleconference that "in the worst case scenario we are looking at 1 to 2 million people using" Primatene, adding that most of those patients likely use multiple medications to treat their asthma.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

3.I guess TSA scans weren't enough...

Obamacare HHS rule would give government everybody’s health records

It’s been said a thousand times: Congress had to pass President Obama’s  health care law in order to find out what’s in it. But, despite the repetitiveness, the level of shock from each new discovery never seems to recede.

This time, America is learning about the federal government’s plan to collect and aggregate confidential patient records for every one of us.

In a proposed rule from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal government is demanding insurance companies submit detailed health care information about their patients.

(See Proposed Rule:  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Standards Related to Reinsurance, Risk Corridors and Risk Adjustment, Volume 76, page 41930. Proposed rule docket ID is HHS-OS-2011-0022

The HHS has proposed the federal government pursue one of three paths to obtain this sensitive information: A “centralized approach” wherein insurers’ data go directly to Washington; an “intermediate state-level approach” in which insurers give the information to the 50 states; or a “distributed approach” in which health insurance companies crunch the numbers according to federal bureaucrat edict.

It’s par for the course with the federal government, but abstract terms are used to distract from the real objectives of this idea: no matter which “option” is chosen, government bureaucrats would have access to the health records of every American - including you. 

There are major problems with any one of these three “options.” First is the obvious breach of patient confidentiality. The federal government does not exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to managing private information about its citizens.

Why should we trust that the federal government would somehow keep all patient records confidential? In one case, a government employee’s laptop containing information about 26.5 million veterans and their spouses was stolen from the employee’s home.

There's also the HHS contractor who lost a laptop containing medical information about nearly 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries. And, we cannot forget when the USDA's computer system was compromised and information and photos of 26,000 employees, contractors, and retirees potentially accessed.

The second concern is the government compulsion to seize details about private business practices. Certainly many health insurance companies defended and advocated for the president’s health care law, but they likely did not know this was part of the bargain.

They are being asked to provide proprietary information to governments for purposes that will undermine their competitiveness. Obama and Sebelius made such a big deal about Americans being able to keep the coverage they have under ObamaCare; with these provisions, such private insurance may cease to exist if insurers are required to divulge their business models.

Certainly businesses have lost confidential data like the federal government has, but the power of the market can punish the private sector. A victim can fire a health insurance company; he cannot fire a bureaucrat.

What happens to the federal government if it loses a laptop full of patient data or business information? What recourse do individual citizens have against an inept bureaucrat who leaves the computer unlocked? Imagine a Wikileaks-sized disclosure of every Americans’ health histories. The results could be devastating - embarrassing - even Orwellian.

With its extensive rule-making decrees, ObamaCare has been an exercise in creating authority out of thin air at the expense of individuals’ rights, freedoms, and liberties.

The ability of the federal government to spy on, review, and approve individuals’ private patient-doctor interactions is an excessive power-grab.

Like other discoveries that have occurred since the law’s passage, this one leaves us scratching our heads as to the necessity not just of this provision, but the entire law.

The HHS attempts to justify its proposal on the grounds that it has to be able to compare performance. No matter what the explanation is, however, this type of data collection is an egregious violation of patient-doctor confidentiality and business privacy. It is like J. Edgar Hoover in a lab coat.

And, no matter what assurances Obama, Sebelius and their unelected and unaccountable HHS bureaucrats make about protections and safeguards of data, too many people already know what can result when their confidential information gets into the wrong hands, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Republican Tim Huelskamp represents the first congressional district of Kansas.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

4. "Please come to Boston in the Springtime...."

Massachusetts Supreme Court upholds policy of charging $70 fee to innocent motorists 

Posted Sep 24th 2011 8:01PM

Getting a ticket can ruin even the best of days, but at least American motorists have the ability to fight moving violations in court. Challenging a ticket at least gives drivers a shot at avoiding or reducing fines and/or points charged to their records.

In Massachusetts, however, a new state Supreme Court ruling means drivers have to pay, win or lose. The Newspaper details the case of Ralph Sullivan, who was charged $70 in non-refundable fees even after he successfully fought a lane violation ticket ($20 for appealing the summons to a clerk, then another $50 to get the case in front of a district court judge). Sullivan argued to the Massachusetts Supreme Court that the policy violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, as motorists are saddled with fees that offenders in more serious cases are not required to pay. The court disagreed and ruled against Sullivan.

In the ruling, Justice Ralph D. Gants writes, "Where the legislature provides greater process that imposes greater demands on the resources of the District Court, it is rational for the legislature to impose filing fees, waivable where a litigant is indigent, to offset part of the additional cost of these judicial proceedings."

Yeah, we get it. The courts are busy and they're expensive to run, so the $3,678,620 Massachusetts courts received as a result of fines in 2010 is needed to keep the doors open. We're of the opinion that anyone found not guilty should never have been pulled over in the first place, so the fine is levied as punishment for no crime committed. Isn't wasting half a day in court punishment enough?

 5. We don't need no stinkin' elections...

North Carolina Governor Calls On Congress To Suspend Elections

Doug Mataconis   ·   Tuesday, September 27, 2011   ·   
North Carolina Bev Purdue (D) has come up with what may be both the most ridiculous and the most outrageous idea ever:

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (D) proposed suspending congressional elections for a cycle so legislators could focus on fixing the economy.
“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue said Tuesday, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”
According to the North Carolina newspaper, it’s unclear whether Perdue was serious, although her tone did not suggest a joke.

One could only hope she was joking.

6. Watch where you drop those empties...

IgNobel Prize WINNER: The beetle and the beer bottle, a tragic love story.

I promised I’d cover all the winners, and here we go! Beginning with this year’s IgNobel prize in Biology, which goes to a study on the Australian Jewel Beetle. Poor Australian Jewel Beetle. For his is a tragic story of mistaken identities and forbidden lust.
“Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females(Coleoptera),” D.T. Gwynne, and D.C.F. Rentz, Journal of the Australian Entomological Society, vol. 22, 1983, pp. 79-80.
Additional source: Hawkeswood, TJ. “Review of the biology and host plants of the Australian jewel beetle Julodimorpha bakewelli.” Calodema, 2005.

The Australian Jewel Beetle is native to South Australia. The males fly, the females are ground bound. They spend their babyhood (the larval stage) on eucallyptus plants, and their adulthood hanging around acacias. During mating season every year, the males fly around, searching for the shiny brown backs of the females crawling on the ground. When they find a likely lady, they hop on, evert their genetalia, and go to town. All’s going great in South Australia…
…and then the humans came. With their stuff. Most particularly, with their BEER BOTTLES.
See, female jewel beetles are a very nice shiny color of yellow brown. Something else that is a nice shiny yellow brown is the Australian beer bottle known as a “stubby”. I’m not entirely sure what a “stubby” is, whether it’s particular to a specific Australian brand, or whether it’s just your basic brown beer bottle a la Bud Lite (which I suspect). No matter what, the male jewel beetles find those stubbies a simply irresistible attraction, leaving the poor female jewel beetles lonesome and looking in the mirror, wondering how a guy could possibly choose a beer bottle like THAT over a fine specimen like HER.
And two scientists, Gwynne and Rentz, noticed the jewel beetles flying around during mating season within 1-2 meters of the ground (bets that they noticed due to being smacked in the face with one??). And they noticed the male beetles landing on the beer bottles. Curious, they drank a bunch of beer, and some wine (ok, maybe they poured it out, but they are scientists and I doubt it), laid the bottles out on the ground, and waited. Sure enough, within 30 minutes the beetles were all over the stubbies, but the wine bottles which were a different color of brown got no beetles. The authors hypothesize that the stubbies act as a “supernormal releaser” for male mating behavior, resembling a really nice plump healthy female, much more brown and shiny than they would find in real life. No one has yet studied is this is a problem for the beetle population in Southern Australia (are the beetles wasting their sperm and killing off the beetle population with their forbidden lust?!), but it’s definitely a cool and interesting observable phenomena!

Poor male jewel beetle. Doomed to lust forever after a stubby that’s never going to care about him. So if you live in Southern Australia, make sure you recycle your beer bottles and don’t litter. Every stubby you leave on the ground may be breaking some poor beetle’s heart!
Gwynne, D., & Rentz, D. (1983). BEETLES ON THE BOTTLE: MALE BUPRESTIDS MISTAKE STUBBIES FOR FEMALES (COLEOPTERA) Australian Journal of Entomology, 22 (1), 79-80 DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-6055.1983.tb01846.x

ScicuriousAbout the Author: Scicurious is a PhD in Physiology, and is currently a postdoc in biomedical research. She loves the brain. And so should you. Follow on Twitter  @Scicurious.

7. Neeeexxxxt!

After demise of ‘don’t ask,’ activists call for end to military ban on transgenders

     With homosexuals now able to serve openly in the military, the gay rights movement’s next battleground is to persuade the Obama administration to end the armed forces’ ban on “transgenders,” a group that includes transsexuals and cross-dressers.
      “Our position is that the military should re-examine the policy, the medical regulations, so as to allow open service for transgender people,” said Vincent Paolo Villano, spokesman for the 6,000-member Center for Transgender Equality.
     The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which pushed to end the military’s gay ban, is urging President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on “gender identity.”
It had wanted the order to happen on Sept. 20, the official date “don’t ask, don’t tell,” as the gay ban was called, ended via repeal legislation signed by Mr. Obama.
     SLDN’s goal is contained on a Web page with the headline, “Working toward transgender military service.” The page states that a decision to remove the ban must be made at the Pentagon. “Relationships between transgender organizations, medical associations, and military allies will be crucial for advancing this issue,” it says.
     “SLDN will continue to urge President Obama to issue an executive order to prohibit discrimination and harassment in the military based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, and we will work closely with our allies to educate and create greater awareness of this inequity,” SLDN spokesman Zeke Stokes said.
“SLDN supports the revision of medical regulations to ensure that transgender Americans may serve.”
SLDN has raised the possibility of filing lawsuits to attain its goals, which include housing and other benefits for the partners of gay military members.
     A White House spokesman declined to provide Mr. Obama’s position on transgenders in the military, referring a reporter to the Pentagon.
“Transgender and transsexual individuals are not permitted to join the military services,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez. “The repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will have no effect on these policies.”
The SLDN says “transgender” is commonly identified as an umbrella term for “transsexuals, cross-dressers, gender-queer people, intersex people, and other gender-variant individuals.”
     Transgenders are not banned by law, but rather by a Defense Department instruction, “Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment or Induction in the Military Service.”
It lists scores of medical conditions that make one ineligible, including: “Current or history of psycho-sexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias.”
     The instruction was last updated by the Obama administration. Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, signed the new 52-page version in April 2010. If the administration did desire to lift the ban, it could have done it then, in theory.
SLDN has set up a website on for a petition asking Mr. Obama to issue a nondiscrimination order on transgenders.
     In a letter to Mr. Obama, SLDN Director Aubrey Sarvis wrote: “We … call on you to show the leadership President Truman did when he issued an Executive Order banning racial discrimination in the armed services and to issue an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination in the armed services based on sexual orientation and gender identity to be effective on the date of repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and Marine Corps combat veteran, said: “At some point, the administration will need to decide where this ranks among the military’s priorities. But it should send the message now that a line has been drawn, and it won’t get caught up in these discussions. I hope the administration has enough sense to see this for the unneeded distraction it is.”


More to come as I find it.....

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