Friday, March 23, 2012

Two years of Obamacare and ‘We're still trying to find out what's in it.’

By John Vinci
As originally published at
Today is the second anniversary of the passage of Obamacare. And by our count there are now over one hundred Obamacare regulatory implementation documents that span over 10,000 pages and contain nearly 2.5 million words.[1] You'd think that 2.5 million words would be enough to tell us exactly how Obamacare will work and operate.

Not so, says Governor Gary Herbert of Utah.

We still don’t know
Utah was proud of the market-based healthcare reforms it had made prior to Obamacare. It was one of two states to have implemented an insurance exchange before Obamacare.

But now Utah is working hard to figure out how their reforms will work within the context of Obamacare.

Last fall, Gov. Herbert's administration sent a 58-page document to the Obama Administration outlining questions that Utah still has about how Obamacare will be implemented at the state level. Herbert said that even the Obama Administration’s newly released 1,039 pages of regulations within the prior week, "still don't answer the questions we've been asking."[2]

For Governor Herbert, these regulations only "add to the confusion and uncertainty in the marketplace which inhibits our ability to [act on] healthcare reform."[3]

And these regulations are just the beginning.
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Hunting for scapegoats won’t lower pump prices

By Paul Driessen

When President Obama took office, regular gasoline cost $1.85 a gallon. Now it’s hit $4.00 per gallon in many cities, and some analysts predict it could reach $5.00 or more this summer. Filling your tank could soon slam you for $75-$90.

Winter was warm. Our economy remains weak. People are driving less, in cars that get better mileage, even with mandatory 10 percent low-mileage ethanol. Gasoline is plentiful.

Misinformed politicians and pundits say prices should be falling. Our pain at the pump is due to greedy speculators, they claim, and greedier oil companies that are exporting oil and refined products.

Their explanation is superficially plausible — but wrong.
Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show that 76 percent of what we pay for gasoline is determined by world crude oil prices; 12 percent is federal and state taxes; 6 percent is refining; and 6 percent is marketing and distribution. The price that refiners pay for crude is set by global markets.
World prices are driven by supply and demand, and unstable global politics. That means today’s prices are significantly affected by expectations and fears about tomorrow.

A major factor is Asia’s growing appetite for oil — coupled with America’s refusal to produce more of its own petroleum. Prices are also whipsawed by uncertainty over potential supply disruptions, due to drilling accidents and warfare in Nigeria; disputes over Syria, Yemen and Israeli-Palestinian territories; erroneous reports of a pipeline explosion in Saudi Arabia; concern about attacks on Middle East oil pipelines and processing centers; and new Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and the mullahs’ threats to close the Straits of Hormuz.

Moreover, oil is priced in U.S. dollars, and the Federal Reserve’s easy money, low interest policies – combined with massive U.S. indebtedness — have weakened the dollar’s value. It now costs refineries more dollars to buy a barrel of crude than it did three years ago.

Amid this uncertainty and unrest, speculators try to forecast future prices and price shocks, pay less today for crude oil that could cost more four weeks hence, and get the best possible price for clients who need reliable supplies. When they’re wrong, speculators end up buying high, selling low and losing money.
Oil speculators play a vital role, just as they do in corn and other commodities futures markets.
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Ryan budget balanced in 2040 too austere?

By Robert Romano

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, and to be voted on by the House of Representatives, would be balanced by 2040.

By his own numbers, the only time the budget would even be cut is in 2013 and 2014, and then by $94 billion and $54 billion. After that, spending would increase every single year under a new baseline.
A rather modest proposal, considering the current fiscal predicament the nation is in, where the $15.57 trillion national debt is now larger than the entire economy.

That has not prevented critics from blasting the Ryan proposal as being too austere. For example the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein charges that his deficit reduction plan targets the poor.

Klein complains about cuts to so-called “mandatory” programs, which under Ryan’s budget are reduced by $100 billion — less than 3 percent of the total present budget — over the next five years.

That’s really not that much. One could find more cuts than that in those types of programs without looking too hard.

For example, returning to just 26 weeks of unemployment benefits would save $80 billion. Going back to 2008 spending levels on Medicaid and food stamps would save $75 billion and $40 billion respectively. Eliminating the earned income and making work pay tax credits would save another $64 billion.

All together, that’s over $260 billion of cuts that could be enacted in a single year without severely disrupting much of anything. These were, after all, spending levels everyone was comfortable with just 3 years ago.
In fact, one could go even further to address the seemingly insurmountable fiscal situation we face. But to do so, we muster the political will that presently is sorely lacking — and may remain so until we face a severe crisis.

We must not wait for a debt apocalypse to act. Presently, the sustainability of our fiscal trajectory depends almost entirely on the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency, and our central bank’s ability to monetize the debt.
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'Runaway planets’ hurled from galaxies at 30 million mph ‘Runaway planets’ hurled from galaxies at 30

Now that’s a wild ride!
Astronomers have discovered that the incredible gravitational strength of supermassive black holes can tear planets away from their star systems and hurl them through space at incredible speeds — as fast as 30 million mph.

They noted that this is “a few percent” of the speed of light, a theoretical constant of 186,000 miles per second or about 670 million mph.

Called hypervelocity planets, the speedy worlds vastly outrace runaway stars that scientists found flying out of our galaxy seven years ago at the tortoise-like pace of just 1.5 million miles per hour.
“These warp-speed planets would be some of the fastest objects in our Galaxy. If you lived on one of them, you’d be in for a wild ride from the center of the galaxy to the Universe at large,” said astrophysicist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“You’d be in for a wild ride from the center of the galaxy to the Universe at large.”
- Astrophysicist Avi Loeb

For this study, the researchers simulated a double-star system that wanders too close to the supermassive black hole at the galactic center. They had already known that the black hole’s gravitational forces could rip the stars apart — sending one away at high speed while the other is captured into orbit around the black hole.

But what would happen if each star had a planet or two orbiting nearby?

The researchers found that the star ejected outward could carry its planets along for the ride. The second star, as it’s captured by the black hole, could have its planets torn away and flung into the icy blackness of interstellar space at tremendous speeds.

A typical hypervelocity planet would slingshot outward at 7 to 10 million miles per hour. However, a small fraction of them could gain much higher speeds under ideal conditions.

“Other than subatomic particles, I don’t know of anything leaving our galaxy as fast as these runaway planets,” added lead author Idan Ginsburg of Dartmouth College.

Current instruments can’t detect a lone hypervelocity planet since they are dim, distant, and very rare. However, astronomers could spot a planet orbiting a hypervelocity star by watching for the star to dim slightly when the planet crosses its face in a transit.

For a hypervelocity star to carry a planet with it, that planet would have to be in a tight orbit. Therefore, the chances of seeing a transit would be relatively high, around 50 percent.

“With one-in-two odds of seeing a transit, if a hypervelocity star had a planet, it makes a lot of sense to watch for them,” said Ginsburg.

Eventually, such worlds will escape the Milky Way and travel through the intergalactic void.
“Travel agencies advertising journeys on hypervelocity planets might appeal to particularly adventurous individuals,” added Loeb.
Article source: Rover

U.S. soldier to face 17 counts of murder in Afghan case

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U.S. army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder, assault and a string of other offences in the massacre of Afghan villagers as they slept, a U.S. official says.

The charges signed against Bales include 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault as well as dereliction of duty and other violations of military law, the official said on condition of anonymity because the charges had not been announced.

The 38-year-old soldier and father of two who lives in Lake Tapps, Wash., is charged with going on a shooting rampage in two villages near his southern Afghanistan military post in the early hours of March 11, gunning down nine Afghan children and eight adults and burning some of the victims’ bodies.
The charges are to be read to Bales on Friday. He is being held in a military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and faces trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The killings were yet another blow to U.S.-Afghan relations, following a series of missteps, including the accidental burning of Qur’ans, which prompted violent protests and revenge killings American troops in the war zone.

Accused was on 4th tour of duty

The brutal shooting rampage also prompted renewed debate in the United States about health care for the troops, who have experienced record suicide rates and high rates of post-traumatic stress and brain injuries during repeated deployments over a decade of the

Obama: My son would look like Trayvon

Obama says soul-searching needed in Trayvon Martin death NEW: President Obama calls for thorough investigation of Trayvon Martin shooting NEW: Nation must do some soul-searching over shooting, Obama says The black teenager was not armed when he was killed last month More than 1.3 million people have signed petition seeking justice in the case For more on the investigation into the Florida teen’s shooting death, watch “Trayvon Martin Killing” at 7 ET Saturday night on CNN. Sanford, Florida (CNN) — President Barack Obama waded into the growing national controversy of the killing of an unarmed black teenager in Florida, saying the nation should do some “soul-searching to figure out how something like this happens.” “I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.” Obama said Trayvon Martin’s death particularly resonated with him as an African-American parent. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said in brief remarks outside the White House

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