The Morning Flap: February 21, 2013

Posted Posted in Pinboard Links, The Morning Flap

brill.pill9.indd

These are my news headlines for February 21st:

  • Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us | TIME.com – 1. Routine Care, Unforgettable Bills
    When Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old from Lancaster, Ohio, was told last March that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his wife Stephanie knew she had to get him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Stephanie’s father had been treated there 10 years earlier, and she and her family credited the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson with extending his life by at least eight years.Because Stephanie and her husband had recently started their own small technology business, they were unable to buy comprehensive health insurance. For $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, they had been able to get only a policy that covered just $2,000 per day of any hospital costs. “We don’t take that kind of discount insurance,” said the woman at MD Anderson when Stephanie called to make an appointment for Sean.
  • GOP Has Trouble Settling on Candidates Who Can Win – One of the interesting things about recent elections is that Republicans have tended to do better the farther you go down the ballot.They’ve lost the presidency twice in a row, and in four of the last six contests. They’ve failed to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, something they accomplished in five election cycles between 1994 and 2006.But they have won control of the House of Representatives in the last two elections, and in eight of the last 10 cycles.And they’ve been doing better in elections to state legislatures than at any time since the 1920s.

    One reason for this is that, as I have written, Democratic voters are clustered in large metropolitan areas, which helps them in the Electoral College but hurts in legislatures with equal-population districts.

    But there’s another reason, which has been particularly glaring in races for the U.S. Senate: candidate quality.

  • The future of free-market healthcare – Over nearly a century, progressives have pressed for a national, single-payer healthcare system. When it comes to health reform, what have conservatives stood for?For far too long, conservatives have failed to coalesce around a long-term vision of what a free-market healthcare system should look like. Republican attention to healthcare, in turn, has only arisen sporadically, in response to Democratic initiatives.Obamacare is the logical byproduct of this conservative policy neglect. President Barack Obama’s re-election was a strategic victory for his signature healthcare law. Once the bulk of the program begins to be implemented in 2014 — especially its trillions of dollars in new health-insurance subsidies — it will become politically impossible to repeal. And as the baby boomers retire and Obamacare is fully operational, government health spending will reach unsustainable levels.The great irony of Obama’s triumph, however, is that it can pave the way for Republicans to adopt a comprehensive, market-oriented healthcare agenda.  The market-oriented prescription drug program in Medicare has controlled the growth of government health spending. Similarly, conservatives can use Obamacare’s important concession to the private sector — its establishment of subsidized insurance marketplaces — as a vehicle for broader entitlement reforms.
  • The Pro-Growth Sequester – The Obama administration is whipping up hysteria over the sequester budget cuts and their impact on the economy, the military, first providers, and so forth and so on. Armageddon. But if you climb into the Congressional Budget Office numbers for 2013, you see a much lighter and easier picture than all the worst-case scenarios being conjured up by the administration.For example, the $85 billion so-called spending cut is actually budget authority, not budget outlays. According to the CBO, budget outlays will come down by $44 billion, or one quarter of 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP is $15.8 trillion). What’s more, that $44 billion outlay reduction is only 1.25 percent of the $3.6 trillion government budget.
  • Ted Cruz knocks Obama on immigration – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says President Barack Obama wants to “scuttle” immigration reform by injecting a path to citizenship into the debate so Democrats can keep the issue alive for political gain.“The president has been focusing on amnesty — a path to citizenship that skips ahead of the line,” the freshman tea party senator said Wednesday at a speech in Dallas, according to The Dallas Morning News. “That, he knows, is a position not supported by a great many Americans and not a position that will achieve bipartisan cooperation. It’s designed to scuttle the bill.”
  • Foreign Buyers Hop on Rental Trend – US Masters, a real-estate investment trust that has raised $276 million, primarily from Australian retirees, is one of a handful of foreign firms that are betting on the U.S. housing recovery by buying houses at discount prices.The business of buying-and-renting houses, long dominated by local mom-and-pop investors, has morphed over the past two years into one of the hottest investments on Wall Street. Dozens of pension investors and private-equity firms, such as Blackstone Group LP BX -2.19% and Colony Capital LLC, are clamoring to buy homes in beaten-up markets, sometimes using money from foreign co-investors.
  • Majority of U.S. citizens say illegal immigrants should be deported – More than half of U.S. citizens believe that most or all of the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday that highlights the difficulties facing lawmakers trying to reform the U.S. immigration system.The online survey shows resistance to easing immigration laws despite the biggest push for reform in Congress since 2007.
  • Missile Defense Tests Successful, but Future of Program in Doubt – The unanswered question is whether the Missile Defense Agency will be permitted to advance this space-based missile defense capability—whether through the STSS program or the PTSS program—to a deployed constellation at all. There should be little doubt that arms control advocates, both inside the Administration and out, are livid that this test took place at all, let alone that it was successful. This is because a space-based missile defense capability is incompatible with the Administration’s arms control agenda.
  • Gov. Scott agrees to expand Florida Medicaid program – Gov. Rick Scott announced plans Wednesday to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 900,000 more people under the federal health overhaul, a surprise decision from the vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s plan.Scott said he will ask the Legislature to expand the program under a bill that would expire in three years, after which it would require renewed legislative support. He’s the seventh Republican governor so far to propose expanding the taxpayer-funded health insurance program.
  • Tea Party and Republican groups launch Hispanic outreach – Tea Party and Republican groups launch Hispanic outreach #tcot
  • How former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Spent His Campaign Funds – Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) pleaded guilty today “to a conspiracy to siphon about $750,000 in federal campaign funds for their personal use,” the Chicago Tribune reports.”About 3,100 personal purchases were made on campaign credit cards, totaling $582,772.58… Prosecutors said $60,000 was spent on restaurants, nightclubs and lounges; $31,700 on personal airfare; $16,000 on sports clubs and lounges; $17,000 on tobacco shops; $5,800 on alcohol; $14,500 on dry cleaning; $8,000 on grocery stores and $6,000 at drug stores.””In one of the more exotic purchases, Jackson used campaign funds in the spring of 2011 to pay a taxidermist in Montana $7,058 for two mounted elk heads to be shipped to his office in Washington. This was the beginning of an FBI sting, according to court documents.”
  • California Dept. of Transportation: ‘Be Sure to Black Out the ‘United States’ and [the] Motto’ | The Weekly Standard – California Dept. of Transportation: ‘Be Sure to Black Out the ‘United States’ and [the] Motto’
  • Pentagon informs Congress of plans to furlough 800K civilians – Pentagon informs Congress of plans to furlough 800K civilians #tcot
  • The sequester blame game – Much depends on the timing of any economic turndown. If it occurs this year, but is followed by improvement in 2014, the political consequences are not likely to be significant. If the economy is in trouble in mid-2014, then all bets are off. For this reason, among others, Republicans should reject out of hand the president’s efforts to postpone the sequester for a year. In any event, the sequester would make the Republicans a full partner with Obama when it comes to the state of the economy.In the end, though, Republicans are committed, as they should be, to cutting government spending. This is never a politically risk-free proposition. But it’s better to get a head start now, when blame might well be shared, than to save all the work for when (if) Republicans gain control of the government and will absorb all of the blame.JOHN adds: My own view is that Republicans should happily take credit for the spending cuts represented by the sequester. They aren’t anywhere near enough, but they are the most substantial spending cuts, I believe, in my lifetime. I think 75% of the population will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Congress is actually capable of cutting spending.
  • The GOP’s astonishingly bad message on sequester cuts – None of which addresses the Republican problem on the sequester. If the problem is one of substance — that is, if GOP leaders truly believe the cuts threaten national security but are nevertheless supporting them — then Republicans have put themselves into an untenable situation. If, as is more likely, the problem is one of message — that is, if Republicans believe the cuts are not only manageable without threatening national security but are also desirable as a first step toward controlling spending — then the Boehner article is sending all the wrong signals.
  • Video: John McCain Gets Testy With Arizona Voter Questioning Immigration Amnesty – Flap’s Blog – Video: John McCain Gets Testy With Arizona Voter Questioning Immigration Amnesty #tcot
  • Mistake in First California Carbon Auction Raises Questions About Secrecy | KQED News Fix – Mistake in First California Carbon Auction Raises Questions About Secrecy
  • Second cap and trade auction needs big bucks | news10.net – Second cap and trade California auction needs big bucks
  • We predicted there was no tax ‘windfall’ | CalWatchDog – We predicted there was no California tax ‘windfall’
  • The Morning Flap: February 20, 2013 – Flap’s Blog – The Morning Flap: February 20, 2013 #tcot
  • A Mighty Wind by Ben Boychuk – City Journal – A Mighty Wind – California Flatulence Jokes

The Obesity Paradox: Weigh More and Live Longer

Posted Posted in Health

Person weighing themselves on scale

The health blogosphere is awash with the new study that says overweight people may indeed live longer.

But, wait.

The counterintuitive findings that people who are overweight live longer, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, couldn’t have been more perfectly timed, coming as it has right when people are resolving to be healthier — which involves, for many, losing weight.

In many places where this story has been picked up, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Time, the implication seems to be that the push to get people down to a “healthy” weight has been overblown.

But that being overweight is associated with increased lifespan isn’t new. It’s called the “obesity paradox,” and studies documenting it have lead to widespread speculation about the potential “protective benefits” of excess body fat.

For some health advocates, the implication is downright offensive. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, lost his cool this morning on NPR, declaring, “This study is really a pile of rubbish and no one should waste their time reading it.”

But the study’s author, Katherine Flegal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mounted a solid defense: “It’s statistically significant.” Those three words carry weight — if an association has been found to be significant, it tells us that if nothing else, we need to acknowledge that the results are in some way legitimate and warrant our attention.

The findings are without doubt interesting, which on its own makes the study worth reading. The problem is that despite the grandness of the meta-analysis — it takes into account over 3 million people! — it still has an extremely limited scope. It looks at BMI, and only BMI, in relation to death, regardless of cause. It’s impossible to report on its baseline conclusion without taking into account substantial caveats.

Just remember your weight is only one metric to your overall health.

It is very important, and do not think you can slack because of this study. But, do keep the context in mind.

American Smoking Sinks to One in Five – Tied for All-Time Low

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Health, Smoking

Gallup Poll on American Smoking frequencyAccording to the latest Gallup poll.

The prevalence of smoking in the U.S. is currently tied for the all-time low in Gallup trends dating from 1944, after a long, slow decline in smoking rates since the 1970s. Currently, 20% of adults say they smoked a cigarette “in the past week,” down from 22% last year but matching the 2009 level.

Gallup recorded the sharpest decline in smoking between the early 1970s and late 1980s, with the rate dropping roughly 15 percentage points during this period. Smoking leveled off at about 25% for much of the 1990s, but has since descended slowly, if unevenly, to 20%. The latest results are from Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll, conducted July 9-12, and are in line with the smoking rate the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index finds in daily surveys of Americans.

According to an analysis of Gallup trends since 2001 — combining data from Gallup’s Consumption Habits polls into three periods, 2001-2005, 2006-2010, and 2011-2012 — the most recent decline in smoking has not occurred across the board, but is seen mainly among certain groups. Smoking rates have fallen particularly sharply among young adults — those 18 to 29 — as well as among college non-graduates and those living in the East and West.

Great news as I am reminded what my parents told me over fifty years ago.

Smoking is a dirty, nasty habit – don’t ever start because it will be hard to quit.

Face it smoking is “unhealthy” and “addictive” behavior.

In the next decades, let’s hope the numbers of Americans who smoke drop even further.

The Morning Flap: April 26, 2012

Posted Posted in Pinboard Links, The Morning Flap

These are my links for April 25th through April 26th:

The Morning Flap: April 25, 2012

Posted Posted in Pinboard Links, The Morning Flap

These are my links for April 24th through April 25th:

Newt Gingrich will officially end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and formally express his support for Mitt Romney next week, two sources close to Gingrich tell CNN.

While details are still being worked out, Gingrich is likely to hold his final campaign event Tuesday in Washington, DC where he will make the announcement surrounded by his family and supporters.

It is not surprising that Gingrich is suspending his campaign for the White House as he has all but acknowledged it is winding down and Romney is the presumptive GOP nominee.

“When he says he is transitioning, what he means is that he is trying to determine as a citizen how he will pro-actively help Mitt Romney become president and the Republican Party win back the Senate and help (House Speaker) John Boehner keep his majority in the House,” said one of the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It appears that Gingrich’s focus will be much broader than the presidential campaign, as the former speaker, who made his name and career in the House, plans to be actively involved in helping the GOP take back control of both sides of Capitol Hill.

  • The Arizona Faceoff – The Administration Tries to Nullify a State Immigration Statute – The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday in that other major case that has the political class on edge—Arizona’s immigration law. As with health care’s individual mandate, the Obama Administration is again making claims about the scope of federal power that upset the Constitution’s federalist structure—in this case, to unilaterally nullify state laws that the President happens to oppose.The Justice Department sued Arizona for its 2010 law that requires police to enforce federal immigration statutes. Justice charged that Republican Governor Jan Brewer violated the Supremacy Clause that says federal laws pre-empt state laws. And ordinarily the Administration lawyers would have a point, since the Constitution expressly tells Congress to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” and the courts have long interpreted that to mean that Congress has plenary power over immigration policy.
  • 5 Ways to Jumpstart Cancer Prevention – Know most cancers are preventable. Cancer isn’t all genetics or bad luck. Research confirms more than half of cancer in the U.S. is preventable. The top preventable causes of cancer are lifestyle choices: smoking, obesity, diet, and lack of physical activity (PDF). In 2011, there were 572,000 deaths from cancer. That’s at least 286,000 people that could be alive today had they modified just one of those risk factors. We as a society need to make changes in the way we live and shift our thinking about cancer prevention and wellness.
  • PokerStars Reaches Agreement to Buy Full Tilt, Settle with DOJ – PokerStars has reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice, pokerfuse can reveal. Part of the deal involves the purchase of Full Tilt Poker and full repayment of all players.The specifics of the deal are not yet known, and no statement has yet come from any parties involved.

    Rumors that PokerStars has reached a deal with the DOJ to purchase Full Tilt Poker began swirling early Tuesday morning on poker forum 2+2. Sources have corroborated the story with Pokerfuse that a deal has indeed been reached but could not confirm any specific details.

    Alex Dreyfus, CEO of Chili Gaming, stated on twitter that PokerStars has paid $750m to acquire Full Tilt and settle its outstanding legal issues with the DOJ. A reported $330m of that price will go to repay Full Tilt account holders with the remainder believed to be in settlement of outstanding charges against PokerStars.

  • Flap’s Blog – FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » Lawsuit Seeks Drug Protocol Change to Resume Executions in California – Lawsuit Seeks Drug Protocol Change to Resume Executions in California
  • How a British Marathoner’s Death Inspired Over $825,000 in Online Donations – The death of a British runner during Sunday’s London Marathon has inspired over $825,000 in online donations for Samaritans, the charity she was was supporting.Claire Squires, 30, a hairdresser from Leicestershire, England, was just one mile away from the finish line when she collapsed. Squires was pronounced dead on the scene, and investigations into the cause of her death are expected in the coming days.

    Squires’ death has sparked an outpouring of donations to her JustGiving page, which states, “I’m running the london (sic) marathon for Samaritans because they continuously support others.” As of writing, more than 45,000 individual donations have accumulated, and the number continues to grow.

    Samaritans is the world’s oldest and largest suicide prevention network. According to the Daily Telegraph, Squires’ brother died from an overdose in 2001 at the age of 25. Her mother has also volunteered for the charity for more than 20 years.

  • The Long Stall – California’s jobs engine broke down well before the financial crisis. – Everybody knows that California’s economy has struggled mightily since the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession. The state’s current unemployment rate, 12.1 percent, is a full 3 percentage points above the national rate. Liberal pundits and politicians tend to blame this dismal performance entirely on the Great Recession; as Jerry Brown put it while campaigning (successfully) for governor last year, “I’ve seen recessions. They come, they go. California always comes back.”But a study commissioned by City Journal using the National Establishment Time Series database, which has tracked job creation and migration from 1992 through 2008 (so far) in a way that government statistics can’t, reveals the disturbing truth. California’s economy during the second half of that period—2000 through 2008—was far less vibrant and diverse than it had been during the first. Well before the crisis struck, then, the Golden State was setting itself up for a big fall.
  • Flap’s Dentistry Blog: The Daily Extraction: April 24, 2012 – The Daily Extraction: April 24, 2012
  • AD-38: Scott Wilk and Rep Tom McClintock Event Details Finalized » Flap’s California Blog – AD-38: Scott Wilk and Rep Tom McClintock Event Details Finalized via @flap
  • California’s population growth is slowing dramatically, study finds – California’s population will grow much more slowly in the next few decades — and that is good news for the state’s still-struggling economy, according to new population projections by USC.The report by USC researchers John Pitkin and Dowell Myers says that through 2050, at least, the state’s population growth will not reach the boom rates of recent decades, especially the 1980s. But California’s population, now about 37 million, will still grow at “manageable” rate for years to come, Myers said.

    The report, the third in a series of population projections by the Population Dynamics Research Group in USC’s public policy school, says the slowdown is mainly the result of a dramatic drop in immigration to the state, part of a nationwide trend.

    The report expects the California population to grow at less than 10% for each of the next several decades. By comparison, the population surged 26% — more than 6 million people — in the 1980s, a decade the researchers now say was an anomaly. The growth rate was 14% in the 1990s and 10% in the decade just ended.

  • Flap’s Blog – FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » The Morning Flap: April 24, 2012 – The Morning Flap: April 24, 2012
  • Google boosts Docs storage to 5GB; today could be Google Drive day – latimes.com – RT @latimes: Google boosts Docs storage to 5GB; today could be Google Drive day

The Morning Flap: April 24, 2012

Posted Posted in Pinboard Links, The Morning Flap

A US Border vehicle drives along the US and Mexico border fence in Naco, Arizona, Photo: Reuters

These are my links for April 23rd through April 24th:

  • For first time since Depression, more Mexicans leave U.S. than enter – A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans appear to be leaving the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.

    It looks to be the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say that a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent.

  • Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less | – The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries.

    The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.

    The report is based on the Center’s analysis of data from five different Mexican government sources and four U.S. government sources. The Mexican data come from the Mexican Decennial Censuses (Censos de Población y Vivienda), the Mexican Population Counts (Conteos de Población y Vivienda), the National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (Encuesta Nacional de la Dinámica Demográfica or ENADID), the National Survey of Occupation and Employment (Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo or ENOE), and the Survey on Migration at the Northern Border of Mexico (Encuesta sobre Migración en la Frontera Norte de México or EMIF-Norte). The U.S. data come from the 2010 Census, the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

  • California’s Demographic Revolution by Heather Mac Donald – California is in the middle of a far-reaching demographic shift: Hispanics, who already constitute a majority of the state’s schoolchildren, will be a majority of its workforce and of its population in a few decades. This is an even more momentous development than it seems. Unless Hispanics’ upward mobility improves, the state risks becoming more polarized economically and more reliant on a large government safety net. And as California goes, so goes the nation, whose own Hispanic population shift is just a generation or two behind.

    The scale and speed of the Golden State’s ethnic transformation are unprecedented. In the 1960s, Los Angeles was the most Anglo-Saxon of the nation’s ten largest cities; today, Latinos make up nearly half of the county’s residents and one-third of its voting-age population. A full 55 percent of Los Angeles County’s child population has immigrant parents. California’s schools have the nation’s largest concentration of “English learners,” students from homes where a language other than English is regularly spoken. From 2000 to 2010, the state’s Hispanic population grew 28 percent, to reach 37.6 percent of all residents, almost equal to the shrinking white population’s 40 percent. Nearly half of all California births today are Hispanic. The signs of the change are everywhere—from the commercial strips throughout the state catering to Spanish-speaking customers, to the flea markets and illegal vendors in such areas as MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, to the growing reach of the Spanish-language media.

  • Are Hispanics moving up or down the social scale? – Arguably, Hispanics received the most benefit and the most harm from subprime lending during the Housing Bubble.

    A 2005 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York of 75,744 minority subprime loan borrowers found the largest percentage was Hispanic (15,647 loans or 20.7 percent). This study found no evidence of adverse pricing of subprime loans by race or ethnicity and minority borrowers paid lower rates.

    A 2008 study by the U.S. Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. found Southern California was the hot spot for the most subprime loans in all of the United States in 2005. And out of the top 10 cities with the most subprime loans, six were in California (percent of Hispanic population in parentheses): Riverside (45 percent), Bakersfield (45.5 percent), Stockton (37.6 percent), Modesto (35.5 percent), Fresno (50.3 percent) and Visalia (46.0 percent). Where Hispanics got into trouble had more to do with home equity loans than primary home purchase loans.

    Hispanics were hit hardest with foreclosures after the Housing Bubble popped.

    If the Housing Bubble demonstrated anything, it is that Hispanics suffered not from too little, but too much, upward mobility by government-induced home ownership policies.

  • Boston Qualifying Rate Drops by a Third – Some interesting data-crunching from Ray Charbonneau, who blogs at Y42K?: If you compare the 2011 and 2012 fields of some major marathons, you’ll find the Boston qualifying rate on average has dropped by about a third. Charbonneau excludes the results from this year’s Houston Marathon—where qualifying rates actually went up—assuming that the Olympic Marathon Trials helped attract some higher-caliber athletes than the 2011 race. He also excludes results from this year’s exceptionally warm Boston Marathon and National Marathon in Washington, D.C., where qualifying rates dropped even more than a third. The stricter qualifying standards the B.A.A. put into place for the 2013 Boston Marathon (which went into effect last September) lowered qualifying times across all age groups by five minutes and 59 seconds. Based on Charbonneau’s results, this drop should eliminate about a third of all previous qualifiers.
  • Rethinking the Hispanic Vote – For Republicans, the illegal immigration litmus test, forcing conservative candidates to toe a hardline on the issue, could very well recede in the near future. A January Pew poll showed the number of Republicans considering illegal immigration as a top issue has plummeted, dropping from 69 percent in 2007 to 48 percent at the beginning of this year. The future Republican positioning on immigration could very well be closer to the policy views of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio than that of hardliners like Iowa Rep. Steve King.

    The long-term political implications are equally significant. Democrats have counted Hispanics as a pivotal part of their coalition, but there’s no guarantee that as first-generation immigrants assimilate, they will remain reliable partisan voters. Indeed, a complementary Pew Hispanic Center study, released last month, showed immigrants becoming more Republican the longer they’ve been in this country — a similar narrative to other first-generation ethnic groups.

  • Protest by Catholic activists may hamper Obama reelection bid – President Obama has seen his standing among Catholic voters, a crucial segment of the electorate, slip in recent weeks, and a looming confrontation with Catholic activists could make it worse.

    Democrats want voters this year to focus on what they have branded a war on women, but the flip side of the debate — the so-called war on religion — is not going away anytime soon.

    Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for two weeks of public protest in June and July against what it sees as growing government encroachment on religious freedom.

    The protests are expected to include priests and nuns and thousands of Catholic parishioners. Some activists expect civil disobedience, which could lead to powerful images of priests and nuns being led away in hand restraints.

  • Capitol Alert: Measure to repeal death penalty in California qualifies for ballot – Capitol Alert: Measure to repeal death penalty in California qualifies for ballot
  • Pew: immigration from Mexico drops to net zero – Immigration from Mexico has reached a net zero, with as many Mexicans moving back to Mexico as are entering the United States, according to the Pew Research Center’s Jeffrey Passel, a highly regarded demographer who used data from both countries.

    The report released Wednesday cited several possible reasons, including, “the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.”

  • California prisons detail plan to downsize, cut costs – The California prison system on Monday unveiled an extensive plan to cut spending by billions of dollars, close a prison and return inmates being housed out of state — all while meeting court-ordered benchmarks on medical care and overcrowding.

    In three years, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is expected to be 7.5% of the state’s total budget, down from an estimated 9.4% in the upcoming fiscal year. This is largely because of realignment, the process of sending low-level offenders to local jails instead of state prisons to comply with a court order to reduce chronic overcrowding.

    “California is finally getting its prison costs under control and taking the necessary steps to meet federal court mandates,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.

    Some parts of the state’s plan will require consent from the Legislature, and its success also hinges in part on court approval. Although the court ordered California to reduce its inmate population to 137.5% of prison capacity, the state expects to fall slightly short, at 141% — a difference of up to 6,000 inmates — by the June 2013 deadline.

    Corrections Secretary Matt Cate said the state will ask the court to raise its benchmark next year.

  • Measure to repeal death penalty in California qualifies for ballot – Californians voters going to the polls in November will again decide the fate of the death penalty.

    A measure to abolish the death penalty and replace it with a maximum sentence of life behind bars without parole has qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot, the Secretary of State confirmed today. The measure, backed by a coalition that includes the American Civil Liberties Union and some law enforcement and victims rights groups, would apply to inmates currently on death row.

    Supporters say capital punishment, which voters added to the state’s books in 1978, costs California more than $100 million a year while leading to very few executions because of the time it takes to go through the appeals process.

  • The politics of death penalty heads to November ballot – Almost 34 years to the day California voters decided that the state’s worst crimes should be punished by execution, the repeal of that same punishment will be back on the statewide ballot.

    State elections officials confirmed late Monday that an initiative to abolish capital punishment in California has qualified for the November ballot, with supporters having gathered more than enough voter signatures to call the question.

    The initiative would not only repeal the death penalty but would also convert the sentences of all 724 inmates currently on Death Row to life without the possibility of parole. It would further commit $30 million a year for three years to local law enforcement efforts on unsolved murder and rape crimes.

  • Medscape: Medscape Access – Medscape: Medscape Access
  • Poll: Obama ahead in battleground New Hampshire – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs – RT @PoliticalTicker: Poll: Obama ahead in battleground New Hampshire –
  • Doctors say teens go to hospitals after drinking hand sanitizer – Doctors are warning parents about a dangerous new trend after six teenagers drank hand sanitizer and ended up in San Fernando Valley emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning.

    Teenagers are using salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, doctors said.

    “It’s essentially a shot of hard liquor,” said Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the Los Angeles County public health department and a medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager.”

    Although there have been only a few cases, Rangan said the practice could easily become a larger problem. Bottles of hand sanitizers are inexpensive and accessible and teens can find instructions on distillation on the Internet.

  • Medscape: Medscape Access – Unexplained Infant Deaths Often Linked to Bed Sharing
  • Medscape: Medscape Access – Big Tobacco Groups Fear Spread of Plain Packaging
  • Humor / Not the ol’ bag over the head trick…. – Not the ol’ bag over the head trick….
  • Unexplained Infant Deaths Often Linked to Bed Sharing – Among infants who have died suddenly and unexpectedly, most were sharing a sleep surface with another child or adult, and only one fourth were sleeping in a crib or on their back when found, according to a new report.

    Results were published in the American Journal of Public Health online April 19. The study was conducted by Patricia G. Schnitzer, PhD, from the Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri, Columbia, and colleagues.

    According to the researchers, more than 4000 infants without prior known illness or injury die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the United States.

    The researchers found that only about one fourth of infants were sleeping in a crib or on their back when found, but 70% were on a surface not intended for infant sleep, such as an adult bed. Of note, 64% of infants were sharing a sleep surface, and of those, nearly half were sleeping with an adult.

    One study limitation, among others, is the possible lack of generalizability because the data were as drawn from only 9 states.

    “Infants whose deaths were classified as suffocation or undetermined cause were significantly more likely than were infants whose deaths were classified as SIDS to be found on a surface not intended for infant sleep and to be sharing that sleep surface,” Dr. Schnitzer and colleagues note.

  • Big Tobacco Groups Fear Spread of Plain Packaging – The world’s top tobacco groups fear if new rules on plain packaging take hold in Australia and Britain they may spread to higher-growth and potentially more lucrative emerging markets and put a curb on their future profits growth.

    Health campaigners are pushing for tobacco companies to package their cigarettes in plain packs displaying the product name in a standard typeface and with graphic health warnings as a way of discouraging youngsters from taking up smoking.

    Australia aims to become the first nation in the world to force tobacco groups to sell cigarettes in these plain, brand-free packets by December this year, while Britain this week launched a three-month consultation over the issue.

  • Smoking Cessation Worth It Despite Dim Outcomes – Drugs and counseling to help patients stop smoking typically double the odds of success relative to solo cold-turkey attempts, but success rates still seldom exceed 20%, a researcher said here.

    The bottom-line message: “Keep trying,” said Michael K. Ong, MD, PhD, of the University of California Los Angeles, in a presentation at the American College of Physicians’ annual meeting.

    Existing approaches to smoking cessation will remain the best available for the foreseeable future, Ong suggested, and even though their effectiveness is modest at best, they are better than letting patients fend for themselves.

    He noted that clinicians are often reluctant to assist patients with these problems. A recent CDC survey found that only about half of smokers who saw a health professional in the previous year reported being advised to quit.

    An earlier survey identified a series of reasons that physicians had for not offering to help with smoking cessation, such as they’re too busy; the services are not billable; it’s a futile effort; and patients may be scared away.

  • Flap’s Blog – FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » Video: Rudy Giuliani Finally Endorses Mitt Romney on Eve of New York Primary Election – Video: Rudy Giuliani Finally Endorses Mitt Romney on Eve of New York Primary Election
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  • Flap’s Blog – FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » CA-Sen: Conservative California Republican Assembly Endorses Al Ramirez for U.S. Senate – RE:  No, I don’t see much support out there for Dr. Orly.

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  • AT&T wields enormous power in Sacramento – As the sun set behind Monterey Bay on a cool night last year, dozens of the state’s top lawmakers and lobbyists ambled onto the 17th fairway at Pebble Beach for a round of glow-in-the-dark golf.

    With luminescent balls soaring into the sky, the annual fundraiser known as the Speaker’s Cup was in full swing.

    Lawmakers, labor-union champions and lobbyists gather each year at the storied course to schmooze, show their skill on the links and rejuvenate at a 22,000-square-foot spa. The affair, which typically raises more than $1 million for California Democrats, has been sponsored for more than a decade by telecommunications giant AT&T.

    At the 2010 event, AT&T’s president and the state Assembly speaker toured Pebble Beach together in a golf cart, shaking hands with every lawmaker, lobbyist and other VIP in attendance.

    The Speaker’s Cup is the centerpiece of a corporate lobbying strategy so comprehensive and successful that it has rewritten the special-interest playbook in Sacramento. When it comes to state government, AT&T spends more money, in more places, than any other company.

  • Flap’s Blog – FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » CA-Sen: Conservative California Republican Assembly Endorses Al Ramirez for U.S. Senate – CA-Sen: Conservative California Republican Assembly Endorses Al Ramirez for U.S. Senate
  • Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 23, 2012 » Flap’s California Blog – Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 23, 2012 via @flap