Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Solar Panels, Loans and a Turf War

The Obama administration is devoting $150 million in stimulus money for programs that help homeowners install solar panels and other energy improvements, which they pay for over time on their property tax bills.

At the same time, the two government-chartered agencies that buy and resell most home mortgages are threatening to derail the effort by warning that they might not accept loans for homes that take advantage of the special financing.

The mixed messages have alarmed state officials and prompted many local governments to freeze their programs, which have been hailed as an innovative way to help homeowners afford the retrofitting of a house with solar panels, which can cost $30,000 or more before incentives.

“The thing that is maddening is that this is having a real-life impact with companies laying off people and homeowners in limbo as all these projects are stalled,” said Clifford Rechtschaffen, a special assistant attorney general in California.

Under the financing programs, a local government borrows money through bonds or other means, and then uses it to make loans to homeowners to cover the upfront costs of solar installations or other energy improvements. Each owner repays the loan over 20 years through a special property tax assessment, which stays with the home even if it is sold.

The technique, known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, was pioneered by Berkeley, Calif., in 2008, and 22 states have authorized such programs, which are intended to make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to invest in energy efficiency. So far, only a few thousand people have used them.

But the Energy Department wants to promote the programs — and give an economic boost to companies that install energy systems — through the $150 million in stimulus funds, which are intended to help communities cover setup and administrative costs.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government entities that guarantee more than half of the residential mortgages in the United States, have different priorities. They are worried that taxpayers will end up as losers if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage on a home that uses such creative financing. Typically, property taxes must be paid first from any proceeds on a foreclosed home.

In letters sent to mortgage lenders on May 5, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stated that energy-efficiency liens could not take priority over a mortgage. “The purpose of this industry letter is to remind seller/servicers that an energy-related lien may not be senior to any mortgage delivered to Freddie Mac,” wrote Patricia J. McClung, a Freddie Mac executive.

However, the agencies did not offer guidance to mortgage lenders on how to handle properties that carry the energy liens. Backers of the programs fear that mortgage lenders, who depend on Fannie and Freddie to buy their home loans, will now start demanding that the entire lien be paid off before issuing a new loan.

That is what happened to Deke DeKay of Healdsburg, Calif., when he sold a house in nearby Geyserville in May. Mr. DeKay, who had purchased the foreclosed home as an investment, put in new insulation and heating and cooling systems, financed by $11,000 from Sonoma County’s program.

“We thought this would be an interesting way of upgrading the home’s energy efficiency without adding to the purchase price,” Mr. DeKay said. “Then right before the close of escrow, the bank discovered this stuff Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae put out and refused to approve the loan without the assessment being paid off first.”

Now Mr. DeKay is worried about his own home, which carries a $25,500 lien for a five-kilowatt solar array installed last year. “If we ever want to refinance the house, it will be impossible for us to do that,” he said.

State and local officials, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, and some members of Congress have jumped into the fray, pressing the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, for clarification of its position on the financing programs.

“The letters have had a devastating impact on PACE programs in California, placing at risk hundreds of millions of dollars of federal stimulus funding, hundreds of millions of dollars of state, local and private funding, and impacting California’s efforts to promote green jobs and greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” Ken Alex, a senior assistant attorney general in California, wrote in a June 22 letter to the housing agency.   Read Full story in    NYTIMES

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hurricane Alex Disrupting Cleanup of BP Oil-Spill

 Tropical Storm Alex , now is a hurricane and is bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico.

There is tremendous concern regarding the effect the storm could have on the oil spill's cleanup efforts. Also, as is always the case when natural disasters hit, there are huge worries about potential damage and loss of life.                     

The Gulf oil spill disaster has reached day 72, with environmental and economic costs to tourism, wildlife, fishing and other industries still mounting and the future of BP, the London-based energy giant, far from clear.

Local residents are braced for heavy rains and flooding from Alex, which strengthened into a hurricane late on Tuesday. The storm was on track to make landfall near the Texas-Mexico border late on Wednesday or early Thursday.
 With high winds, large waves and flooding rains on the way, controlled burns of oil on the ocean, flights spraying dispersant chemicals and booming operations are on hold for now, officials said.

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Obama Plans Immigration Speech This Thursday

President Obama will give a speech on immigration on Thursday, but it is unlikely to include any new policy initiatives and will not be preceded by an announcement on a Justice Department lawsuit in Arizona, officials said.
The appearance will take place at American University's School of International Service at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, the White House said.

Officials in Arizona and Texas are clamoring for more National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that their share of a planned new deployment won't be enough to make a dent in illegal immigration.

After a meeting Monday with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, officials with the Obama administration announced that Arizona would receive a sizable share of the 1,200 planned new troops, 524. That is more than double the number allocated to any of the other three border states, even though Arizona abuts only about 19% of the U.S.-Mexican border.

By comparison, Texas is set to receive 250 guard troops, even though it has 60% of the 2,000-mile border. California will receive 224 and New Mexico 72, the administration announced. The remaining troops would report to a national liaison office.

Texas and Arizona, both led by Republican governors, immediately complained about their allocations. "Obviously, that is not sufficient to secure the border," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "We're going to continue to urge the federal government to provide the resources we need."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer expressed similar concern and said that the 524 troops were not what she had hoped she would receive.

Tensions have already been high between Ms. Brewer and the Obama administration after the governor signed a law requiring police who are enforcing other laws to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. The Obama administration has threatened to sue Arizona over the law.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to complaints from the governors by saying the administration's effort to secure the border has been extraordinary. "The president has made a big commitment to securing the border," he said Tuesday. President Obama is expected to make a speech on immigration laws Thursday.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, struck more conciliatory tones. Mr. Schwarzenegger, in a statement, applauded President Obama for sending the additional troops. However, he too said he would "continue to urge the federal government to provide more National Guard personnel for our border.

" Mr. Richardson's office called the Obama administration announcement a good first step.
Texas and Arizona say that crime is high along their borders and there is an imminent need for amped-up security.

The sector of the border that includes Tucson, Ariz., had more arrests of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border than any other sector, with 241,000 in 2009, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The next closest was the San Diego sector with 119,000 arrests.
Still, the arrests in the Tucson sector in 2009 were down 36% from 2007.

Federal legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, would bring 6,000 National Guard troops to the four border states. Arizona has requested 3,000 of those.

"Those numbers are more in line with what is usually estimated as needed to secure the border," said Fred Burton, a former special agent with the state department and a vice president of intelligence at Stratfor, a global intelligence company.     Source-Wall St Journal

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A High Tech Fix for Your iPhone

Simple as using scotch tape  


just use Scotch tape. That's right. Anyone who has been having reception problems with their new iPhone 4 due to the external antenna design can turn to the trusty clear tape. Cost: less than 1 cent.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Frustrated by boycott, station owners want BP help

Tension is mounting between BP and the neighborhood retailers that sell its gasoline.

As more Americans shun BP gasoline as a form of protest over the Gulf oil spill, station owners are insisting BP do more to help them convince motorists that such boycotts mostly hurt independently owned businesses, not the British oil giant.

To win back customers, they'd like the company's help in reducing the price at the pump.  

BP owns just a fraction of the more than 11,000 stations across the U.S. that sell its fuel under the BP, Amoco and ARCO banners. Most are owned by local businessmen whose primary connection to the oil company is the logo and a contract to buy gasoline.

In recent weeks, some station owners from Georgia to Illinois say sales have declined as much as 10 percent to 40 percent. 

Station owners and BP gas distributors told BP officials last week they need a break on the cost of the gas they buy, and they want help paying for more advertising aimed at motorists, according to John Kleine, executive director of the independent BP Amoco Marketers Association.

The station owners, who earn more from sales of soda and snacks than on gasoline, also want more frequent meetings with BP officials.

"They have got to be more competitive on their fuel costs to the retailers so we can be competitive on the street ... and bring back customers that we've lost," says Bob Juckniess, who has seen sales drop 20 percent at some of his 10 BP-branded stations in the Chicago area.

Owners and distributors put forth their demands at a meeting in Chicago with BP marketing officials. BP's reply could come as early as this week, says Kleine, whose group represents hundreds of distributors.

Station owners are locked into contracts that can last seven to 10 years in some cases. So, switching to a competing brand if BP refuses to help may not be an option.

BP spokesman Scott Dean declined to offer specifics about the discussions when contacted by The Associated Press.

"BP is in daily contact with its independent distributors and franchisees and helping them manage the impacts the oil spill is having on their businesses," he said.

Gasoline retailing trade groups say the boycott's impact isn't only evident in southern states such as Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, but also in places further from the spill like southern Pennsylvania.

Jim Smith, president and CEO of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said BP has given some station owners a one-cent-per-gallon discount, which "doesn't amount to much."

Kleine told AP the discount appears   Read Full AP story

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Friday, June 25, 2010

People Become Vegetarians for Different Reasons

People become vegetarians for different reasons. Most people become vegetarian because they love animals. But today, more and more people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle not just for ethical reasons but also for the health benefits. The ethical, health and environmental reasons for being vegetarian are all connected.

A Vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, including pork, chicken, beef and fish. And some Vegetarians  choose to not eat any animal products such as dairy, eggs and gelatin (from pork or fish).

Many of the foods in the typical American diet are major sources of harmful toxic chemical exposures such as phthalates.  Phthalates have been linked to kidney and liver damage in animal studies and labeled a possible carcinogen.

A recent pilot study found that people who followed a vegetarian diet for only five days were able to reduce the level of phthalates and antibiotic levels in their bodies.

There are many benefits to becoming a vegetarian. 
Here are a few:
  • Vegetarians have a 28 percent lower death rate from heart disease than meat eaters.
  • The obesity rate among vegetarians is only about 6 percent compared to 30 percent of the American population. 
  • Women who eat red meat once a day, have a 250 percent increased chance of getting colon cancer compared with women who eat it less than once a month.
  • Because they are not consuming high amounts of saturated fat, vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol.
  • The saturated fat and cholesterol in beef, pork, dairy foods, poultry, and eggs cause about 63,000 fatal heart attacks each year.
  • More than 60 percent of Americans are overweight, with at least 30 percent considered obese compared with an obesity rate of 6 percent among vegetarians and 2 percent among vegans.
  • As many as 75 percent of women who eat fish more than twice weekly have  blood levels of mercury, a known neurotoxin, that are seven times higher than women who didn’t eat fish at all.
  • The death rate of breast cancer among American women is 350 percent higher than the rate among Japanese women and nearly 500 percent the rate of Chinese women. (People in both China and Japan consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal products.)
  • Skin and teeth look better — glow.
  • Fewer allergies and more energy.
With all the information confirming the adverse health affects caused by antibiotics and phthalates in our meat supply, I’m convinced more than ever that becoming a vegetarian is the way to go.   It's not too late to rethink your approach to healthy eating.       Source


Check Out raw food rehab

Try one of  Uncle Ray's vegetarian recipes

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

UPDATE **** U.S. jobless aid, tax bill fails in U.S. Senate

 Legislation to extend unemployment subsidies for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits teetered on the edge of collapse on Thursday, as Senate Democrats and Republicans traded bitter accusations about who was to blame for an eight-week impasse.

The vote was 57 to 41, with the Democrats falling three short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure.

Democrats, citing data by the National Employment Law Project, say that without Congressional action, 1.2 million Americans will exhaust their jobless benefits by the end of the month.

The bill, which also would have provided more aid to cash-strapped states for the Medicaid health program for the poor, fell a few votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the 100-member Senate. One Democrat, Ben Nelson, joined 40 Republicans to block the measure.

 Via NY Times


Jobless Aid Measure Dying In Senate

Republicans in the Senate appear likely to kill legislation to provide continued unemployment checks to millions of people and provide states with billions of dollars to avert layoffs.

It would be a bitter defeat for President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats, who have been trying to advance the measure for months as an insurance policy against a double-dip recession.

Despite another round of cuts to the measure aimed at pacifying GOP deficit concerns, the measure seems doomed to die by a filibuster in a vote expected as early as Thursday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would pull the measure from the floor if Democrats lose the vote. Democrats hope that political pressure from voters and business groups might eventually revive the measure.

The latest version of the measure contains a variety of provisions sought by lawmakers in both parties, blending jobless aid averaging about $300 a week with the renewal of dozens of tax cuts sought by business groups and a host of other legislation. It is considerably smaller than a version that passed with GOP help just three months ago.

"It adds new taxes and over $30 billion to an already staggering $13 trillion dollar national debt," said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The catchall measure also includes $16 billion for state governments to avert layoffs, farm disaster aid, $1 billion for a youth summer jobs initiative and an extension of a bond program that subsidizes interest costs for state and local infrastructure projects. It would levy a new tax on investment fund managers but extend tax breaks such as lucrative credits that help businesses finance research and develop new products, and a sales tax deduction that mainly helps people in states without income taxes.

The death of the measure would mean that more than 200,000 people a week would lose their jobless benefits because they would be unable to reapply for additional tiers of benefits enacted since 2008. People seeking the popular homebuyer tax credit would be denied a paperwork extension approved by the Senate last week.

"This is a bill that would remedy serious challenges that American families face as a result of this Great Recession," said Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chief author of the bill. "This is a bill that works to build a stronger economy. This is a bill to put Americans back to work."

And doctors are livid about a 21 percent cut in their Medicare payments imposed last week; the bill would have afforded them a six-month reprieve from the cuts. Stand-alone legislation to address the problem has stalled in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is insisting that it be part of the broader measure. By the end of this week, about 1.2 million people will have lost their jobless benefits since a temporary extension expired at the beginning of the month, according to Labor Department estimates.

Crestfallen Democrats tried in vain to win support from moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, leaving them apparently two votes short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster. But talks collapsed Thursday, aides said, leading Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to offer a pared-back measure that would add $33 billion to the deficit over the upcoming decade.

The bill has long been considered a must-pass measure, but the political sands have shifted since it first passed in March. That vote came in the wake of a political scalding for Republicans after Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., blocked a short-term extension of jobless aid.

In the interim, however, the debt crisis in Europe and growing anxiety on deficits and debt among voters, has turned Republicans against the legislation, even though it's been cut considerably since passage of a March version that would have added about $100 billion to the debt.

Most of the measure — except for a six-month extension of jobless benefits for people who have been out of work for more than six months — is financed with offsetting tax increases or spending cuts, including more than $10 billion cut from last year's stimulus bill. Congress has always approved additional unemployment benefits as a deficit-financed emergency measure.
Democratic leaders said they bent over backwards to accommodate demands by  Read Full Story


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama Administration Announces New Border Security Measures

The Obama Administration announced Wednesday that it will station an aerial drone in Texas as part of its stepped-up surveillance of criminal trafficking along the Mexican border.

Federal authorities also have signed an agreement to allow local police from non-border communities to temporarily "deploy" to the border region to assist with security, said Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

"Our Southwest border states have endured more than their share of challenges," said Napolitano, a former Arizona governor. "I share the frustration border communities feel."

In a speech at a Washington think tank, Napolitano laid out the case that the "border is as secure now as it has ever been."  She also said that some "are looking to score political points" by depicting the border as far more dangerous than it really is. "The numbers tell the story, and they do not lie," she said. Even as killings have increased in Mexico, violent crime is down along the U.S. side of the border, she said.

At the same time, seizures of illegal weapons, drugs and cash have risen. Nevertheless, Napolitano acknowledged that more can be done. 

On Tuesday, President Obama asked Congress for $500 million in emergency border security, including two more aerial drones and 1,000 more Border Patrol officers to join 1,200 National Guard troops heading to the region.

Many of the steps Napolitano outlined have long been advocated by Texas Republicans -- and created a side dispute over Obama's choice for the No. 2 position at the Federal Aviation Administration. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) had pressed for months for a pilotless drone, and when it was slow in coming,

Cornyn blocked Senate confirmation of Michael Huerta to be deputy director of the FAA. On Wednesday, after learning that the agency had given its approval for the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, to operate in Texas, Cornyn said he would allow a vote on Huerta. "While the approval process should not have taken this long, I'm pleased to see the FAA moving forward," he said.

"The FAA needs to implement a system that will reflect the great importance of border security as well as the growing significance of UAVs in homeland security and national defense."

Unmanned aircraft are used routinely in Iraq and Afghanistan and also patrol much of the Arizona border, using sensors to pinpoint trafficking activity. The vehicle being stationed in Texas has the ability to fly for 20 hours. It will arrive at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi this summer.

Later this month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who recently signed into law tough new state controls on immigration, will meet with administration officials for the second time. 
  Via Washington Post


50-Year Oil Spill Lingers in Brooklyn

Until the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, this was the largest oil spill in U.S. History. It took several decades to happen, and even longer to clean up. It's the oil spill that sent by some EPA estimates more than 30 million gallons of crude and petro-chemicals underneath the streets in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Clean Skies Lee Patrick Sullivan went to the streets of Brooklyn to check on the on going clean up of this massive spill.

US advances to second round of the World Cup

Landon Donovan scored a stunning goal in the first minute of injury time off a rebound, advancing the United States to the second round at the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Algeria. With the U.S. perhaps three minutes from elimination Wednesday, Donovan brought the ball upfield on a counterattack and Jozy Altidore's shot on the breakaway was tipped by Clint Dempsey into goalkeeper Rais Bolihi. The rebound went to Donovan, who kicked it in from about 8 yards for one of the biggest goals in U.S. soccer history. It gave the Americans first place in Group C. With just its fifth shutout in World Cup play, the United States (1-0-2) won a group for the first time since 1930 and will face the runner-up in Group D this weekend.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Poll: Americans Are Willing to Make Energy Sacrifices for a Better Future

Maybe it's something in the air--or in the Gulf--but Americans have finally decided that they are willing to make personal sacrifices for the betterment of both the environment and the economy. In a recent national survey commissioned by GE, 79% of those polled said they would adjust their energy consumption habits and behaviors in the short term to ensure bigger changes in the long-term--most likely because 72% of respondents believe that their energy use can directly harm the country's economic growth. As part of their commitment to change, 88% of those polled said they would be willing to use a smart device like a smart meter, thermostat, or smart appliance. That's encouraging news for companies like GE that are investing big bucks in smart grid-aware microwaves, oven ranges, hot water heaters, dryers, and more. These surveys are tied into larger concerns about the economy, as reported in a poll this week from the New York Times and CBS. According to the poll, 48% of Americans disapprove of the way the President is handling the economy, and only 34% believe that Obama has a clear plan for creating jobs. And while GE's survey indicates that Americans are willing to take charge on energy issues, the CBS poll shows that they also want government leadership. Fifty-nine percent of those polled think that Obama doesn't have a plan to deal with the Gulf oil disaster, and the majority of respondents want more environmental regulation for offshore drilling. Changing attitudes about energy use might not be directly related to the Gulf oil disaster, but the heartbreaking images of oil-soaked animals certainly have an effect. And as long as environmental issues impact our checkbooks, Americans will continue to care. 
Via Fast Company


Monday, June 21, 2010

Tron Legacy Cycles , These aren't Your Father's Hot Wheels

Disney Pictures is gearing up for a December release of Tron: Legacy with a line of cutting edge toys that defy gravity.

Most are beautiful dark-chrome replicas of vehicles and gizmos from the film, complete with neon-glowing trim, but to really feel like Kevin Flynn barreling through cyber space, we recommend the zero gravity light cycles. These aren't your father's Hot Wheels--as the name implies, these futuristic remote control vehicles can actually climb walls.

"One of the things the light cycles can do in the movie is ride in the third dimension," says Chris Heatherly, VP of Disney Toys and Electronics, who gave Fast Company a sneak peak at the upcoming Tron toy line. "We recreated that using Spin Master's zero G technology that lets you ride up the walls and upside down on the ceiling." In addition to the zero gravity tech, the cycles also feature six-foot light emitting trails. When two bikes are racing against each other, and one crosses through the other's light trail, it'll fall off the wall or ceiling, just as in the film.
Watching these toys zoom around the wall vertically or upside down, seemingly free from the restraints of gravity, makes you forget the toys are designed for children ages 8 and up.

Set for an October 2010 release, these light cycles, which are only $34.99, are sure to be a holiday hit.

Read More on these holiday hits Via Fast Company


Unemployed Still Waiting

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed Republicans on Friday for the Senate's failure to pass an urgent jobs bill.
"The House has repeatedly sent jobs-creating bills to the Senate since December -- Build America Bonds, small business hiring incentives, and importantly, summer jobs -- and yet Republicans continue to block approval of jobs legislation," said Pelosi in a statement. "What is it that Republicans in the Senate and House don't understand about the need for jobs in America?"

At the end of May, the House approved a bill to provide tax breaks for individuals and businesses and to reauthorize several domestic aid programs, including extended unemployment benefits and the so-called "Doc Fix," which protects doctors who see Medicare patients from a 21 percent pay cut. The Senate has been unable to pass the bill because of deficit concerns, and extended unemployment benefits and Doc Fix have both expired, affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

On Friday, Senate leaders congratulated each other profusely after agreeing to spending offsets to preserve Doc Fix for six months without adding to the deficit, but it was too late: Moments later, Medicare announced that after holding off for weeks, it would begin processing June claims at the reduced rate.

The American Medical Association, a physicians' lobbying group, says that some doctors are already shunning Medicare patients because of uncertainties about compensation, and the AARP says its members have reported trouble finding doctors specifically because of the current lapse in Doc Fix.

It's not just Republicans, but conservative Democrats in both chambers who are standing in the way of the jobs legislation. After monthly jobs reports have shown modest gains, conservative Democrats have lost their appetites for fighting the jobs crisis if doing so adds to the deficit, and party leaders apparently have no choice but to try to appease them. 

Since June 1, federally-funded extended unemployment benefits for people who've been out of work for longer than six months have been phasing out. So far, 903,000 people have prematurely lost access to the extra weeks of benefits, which were originally provided by the stimulus bill. By Friday, that number will climb to 1.2 million. 



Saturday, June 19, 2010

BP Chief’s Appearance at Yacht Race Is Criticized

Just when it seemed Gulf residents couldn't get any more outraged about the massive oil spill fouling their coastline, word came Saturday that BP's CEO was taking time off to attend a glitzy yacht race in England.

BP officials on Saturday scrambled yet again to respond to another public relations mess when their embattled chief executive, Tony Hayward, spent the day off the coast of England watching his yacht compete in one of the world’s largest races.

Two days after Mr. Hayward angered lawmakers on Capitol Hill with his refusal to provide details during testimony about the worst offshore oil spill in United States history, and one day after BP’s chairman said the chief executive would not be as involved in daily operations in the gulf, Mr. Hayward sparked new controversy from afar.
“He is having some rare private time with his son,” a BP spokeswoman, Sheila Williams, said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
But Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, who taped an interview for ABC’s “This Week,” called Mr. Hayward’s attendance at the race “part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes” that he has made.
“To quote Tony Hayward, he’s got his life back,” Mr. Emanuel said.
On May 31, six weeks after the spill began, Mr. Hayward uttered “I’d like my life back,” a comment that struck many in the gulf region as insensitive, and for which he eventually apologized.
On Saturday, Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, called Mr. Hayward’s yacht outing the “height of arrogance,” in an interview with Fox News.
“I can tell you that yacht ought to be here skimming and cleaning up a lot of the oil,” Mr. Shelby said. “He ought to be down here seeing what is really going on. Not in a cocoon somewhere.” 
Read Full Story

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Men's Health, A Father's Day Gift For Us All

June is Men's Health Month! Take this opportunity to schedule your own medical checkup. Care for yourself now so you can share many happy, healthy years with the ones you love.



Why is seeing a doctor so important?

Consider the connection between these three statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention*:

  1. Men are 100 percent less likely than women to seek preventive care.
  2. Men have a lower life expectancy than women.
  3. Men are more likely than women to die from many preventable diseases. This includes hypertension, heart disease and many cancers.
Early screening can find diseases before symptoms begin to show. The earlier a disease is found, the more likely it can be treated. So seeing your doctor and getting the screenings you need could mean the difference between finding a disease while it can still be treated and finding it when it has become serious and could cause more permanent damage.

Call your doctor today!

Throughout June, health care professionals, policy makers, the media and the public are raising awareness about the health issues that most affect men. They are also drawing attention to the effectiveness of early screening for finding and treating disease.
This month and always, men are urged to get the medical care that could make the difference.

Things you can do right now!
Men's health starts right at home. Here are some ways to get started today.
  • Find a doctor you like. The more comfortable you feel with your doctors, the more likely you are to call them for medical advice.
  • Know your numbers. At every visit, get your cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), Vitamin D  and blood pressure checked. Make sure to ask your doctor about the screenings that are right for you. 
  • Healthy Eating. More Vegetables, grains, nuts and fruit. 
  • Walking. A little exercise goes a long way toward lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. It can also boost your energy and mood, help manage your weight, and even promote a better night's sleep.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jobless Aid Bill Hits Deficit Wall In Senate

President Barack Obama's plea for more stimulus spending as insurance against a double-dip recession hit a roadblock in the Senate on Wednesday, the victim of election-year anxiety over huge federal deficits. A dozen Democrats joined Republicans on a key 52-45 test vote rejecting an Obama-endorsed, $140 billion package of unemployment benefits, aid to states, business and family tax breaks and Medicare payments for doctors because it would swell the federal debt by $80 billion.

The swing toward frugality runs counter to the advice of economists who support the bill's funding for additional jobless benefits and help to states to avoid layoffs of public service jobs. They fear that the economy could slip back into recession just as it's emerging from the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned last week that while lawmakers need to come up with a plan for tackling the nation's long-term deficit crisis, the U.S. recovery is still fragile. It's too early for large, immediate spending cuts, Bernanke said. "We've got to do more to build on the existing jobs momentum and that's what these targeted measures are about," said White House economist Jared Bernstein.
The Senate earlier passed another version with even bigger deficits. But that was before tea party-backed candidates running on anti-deficit, anti-big government platforms began knocking off more established politicians in spring primaries.
Despite the loss, Democratic leaders predicted serenely that a scaled-back version of the measure — extending unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and providing $24 billion in aid to the states — could pass, possibly as early as later this week, after relatively minor revisions. "We need to change a few things," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Later Wednesday, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., unveiled a new, slimmer version of the bill that he predicted would "provide a path forward."  But Republicans cautioned that the margin of Wednesday's vote was a bad sign for a bill that, even after     Read More


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BP Officials Arrive at White House- Watch Video

 President Obama announced Wednesday that energy giant BP will finance a $20 billion fund to compensate people whose livelihoods have been damaged by the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the giant British company's chairman apologized to America for the worst spill in U.S. history.
Obama said BP has voluntarily agreed to set aside $100 million to help oil workers displaced since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20 and killed 11 people.
Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer overseeing executive pay issues for the White House, will be in charge of the compensation fund. A three-person panel will mediate any disputes.
Feinberg oversaw payments to 9/11 victims for the federal government.   


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vegetarians Might Be On To Something

The latest federal suggestions for how Americans should eat were issued on Tuesday morning: You can have an egg for breakfast, just not the bacon. There is nothing wrong with eating meat, but the government admits vegetarians might be on to something.
As always, we need to eat more vegetables and grains, and less salt. And everyone needs to cook more.
The advice comes from a 13-member board of scientists and nutritionists appointed by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments to rework the Dietary Guidelines for All Americans. 

The guidelines are reassessed every five years so the government can adjust the official federal position on what constitutes a healthy diet.
This might mean nothing to the average home cook, who worries more about braising times and bagged salad than micronutrients and milligrams. But the guidelines affect what’s served in public schools and anywhere else government money contributes to the food budget, including prisons.

It is the information on which the food pyramid is built and also forms the basis for the work of many the nation’s nutritionists and dietitians.

Perhaps most important for consumers, the guidelines are used to create the formulas in the nutritional information labels on almost every package product. For the food industry, whether pork producers, vegetable farmers or processors of potato chips and soda, even slight changes in the recommended levels of fruit, salt or other aspects of the typical American diet can mean millions of dollars won or lost in the grocery stores.

The guidelines won’t be officially issued until the fall, after the agriculture department has a chance to consider the advisory committee’s report and listen to public comment on them.

Among the suggestions:
* Lower the maximum daily amount of sodium to 1,500 milligrams from 2,300 milligrams. The current dietary guidelines suggest the lower limit for adults with high blood pressure, but the advisory committee members believe the number of people at-risk for health problems connected to sodium is so great the entire ceiling should be lower. That won’t be easy. Americans on average consume more than 3,400 milligrams daily, according to the American Heart Association.
* Eat less “solid fat,” another way to describe saturated fat. The means fewer processed meats like sausages, bacon and ribs. The total amount of saturated fat in the daily diet should drop to 7 percent of total calories, from the previously recommended 10 percent.
* Drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.
* Eat more seafood and low-fat dairy products.
* Eat more vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The report suggests that people who are on a vegetarian diet have lower blood pressure and weigh less. As a corollary, access to fresh produce needs to be improved.
* Nutritional education, cooking skills and food safety needs to be strengthened, especially among families. The idea is to get people to cook and eat at home more.
* Lose the concept of “discretionary calories,” which was added in 2005. The idea was that people who ate according to the guidelines would have a handful of calories left over to indulge in ice cream or chips or other food with less nutritional value compared with the calorie hit. The more physically active you are, the more discretionary calories you could have.         Via NY Times

12 Steps To Optimal Health


Obama's Remarks To Nation On Oil Spill

President Obama's remarks to the nation on the BP oil spill:

 Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. And tonight, I've returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.
On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.
Because there has never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation's best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge — a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation's Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.
As a result of these efforts, we have directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. In the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.
Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.
But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Tonight I'd like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we're doing to clean up the oil, what we're doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we're doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.

First, the cleanup. From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation's history — an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost 40 years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and cleanup the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, they're ready to clean beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims — and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.
Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming and other collection methods. Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we are working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.

 Click  To Read Entire Plan

Monday, June 14, 2010

Business Travelers are Moving Again, but Frugally

After an economic slump that put the brakes on business travel, the corporate world appears to be redeploying workers again to attend out-of-town meetings, conferences and conventions. But business travelers are hitting the road with a mind to pinch pennies by flying coach, cutting back on meals and even sharing hotel rooms with colleagues, according to a new survey of 700 business travelers nationwide. The survey, released last week by Embassy Suites Hotels, found that 71% of travelers say they have changed their business travel habits because of the continuing economic woes. To save money, 29% of the travelers surveyed said they fly only coach, while 27% said they are cutting back on meals and other expenses. Meanwhile, 24% of business travelers said they are now booking hotel rooms that their companies consider a good value, and 17% said they try to share a room with a colleague. John Lee, Embassy Suites' vice president for marketing, said the survey results mirror business trends at his hotel chain. "Over the past 15 months we've seen a softening on the business traveler side of the mix while the leisure traveler contribution, especially on weekends, has remained steady for us," he said. "Good news is, we are currently seeing a steady uptick in business travelers."

Click For Full Story


Sunday, June 13, 2010


 If you like strawberries, they probably taste good to you at any time of year. But if you love strawberries, then you know that nothing compares to a strawberry fresh off the vine. Low in calories and bursting with Vitamin C, potassium, fiber and folate, indulge while they are in season.

Select....   Buy organic whenever possible to avoid high pesticide residues. The redder the better, they don't ripen after picking.

Store....   To keep fresh, spread in a single layer on a shallow plate, cover with a paper towel and plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two to four days. Wash just before using.

Serve....   For breakfast, combine chopped strawberries, blackberries, walnuts and cooked oatmeal.

To make a summery salad dressing, blend strawberries with hazelnut oil and balsamic vinegar, toss with garden-fresh greens and goat cheese, garnish with more berries.

For a light dessert mousse, puree fresh or frozen strawberries, with silken tofu and sweetener.

To get more decadent, serve sliced strawberries atop polenta cake with a dollop of vanilla yogurt, drizzled with honey or chocolate.

I found this recipe on My, It was outstanding.
Strawberry-Avocado Salsa
Serve this sweet and savory salsa with roast chicken, sautéed fish, or grilled pork tenderloin. You can also enjoy it as a snack with baked tortilla chips.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)


  • 1  cup  finely chopped strawberries
  • 1/4  cup  finely chopped peeled avocado
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped red onion
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2  teaspoon  grated lime rind
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lime juice
  • 2  teaspoons  finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon  sugar


1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss gently. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 34
Fat:1.6g (sat 0.2g,mono 0.9g,poly 0.3g)
Cholesterol: 0.0mg
Iron: 0.3mg
Sodium: 2mg
Calcium: 11mg




Obama to address nation on Gulf spill, demand BP damage fund

 President Obama plans to address the nation this week about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst in U.S. history. White House adviser David Axelrod told NBC's Meet the Press Sunday that Obama will discuss the disaster after he returns from a visit to the region Monday and Tuesday, reports the Associated Press. "The president will announce several steps" for handling the spill's fallout, Alexrod said. Scientists estimate the Gulf spill has spewed anywhere from 40 million gallons of oil to more than 100 million gallons since the Deepwater Horizon rig, run by energy giant BP, exploded April 20.
Axelrod said Obama, who meets Wednesday at the White House with BP executives, will demand the company fund an escrow account that a third-party panel will administer to distribute damage claims from individuals and businesses hurt by the Gulf spill, reports POLITICO.

Read Full Story


Enjoy the video of President Obama singing Kick A*s!

President Obama was interviewed on the Today Show by Matt Lauer on Tuesday, June 8. In the interview, Matt Lauer and the President discussed who was at fault in Gulf Oil Spill. President Obama is angry, and said so in plain, caustic terms. Share

Bp Spills Coffee, Watch Video

This is what happens when BP spills coffee Share

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kalamazoo Student Sitting Behind Obama Was Asleep

One of the Kalamazoo Central students -- who was seated behind keynote speaker President Barack Obama during Monday night's commencement ceremony -- fell asleep.

The student, who earned such a prime seat by singing in the choir, was captured on video due to his proximity to the president. He also was a hot topic on Twitter and the subject of several recently created Facebook pages with close to 11,000 fans.  While it’s not a massive number of Facebook users, it’s impressive that so many people noticed the kid sleeping during a mid-day event and turned to Facebook to share the experience.


BP plans to suspend shareholder dividend amid oil spill

BP is expected to announce next week that it will suspend its shareholder dividend, the BBC has learned.No announcement is expected to be made until after talks between BP and US President Barack Obama on Wednesday. BBC business editor Robert Peston says that BP directors are to meet on Monday to discuss the payments.BP has been under intense pressure from the US government, which wants BP to use the money to pay for the Gulf of Mexico clean-up.Meanwhile, BP's shares closed up 7.2%, recovering losses suffered on Thursday."In practice, Monday's discussion at newly instituted weekly meetings of the board will be about when to suspend the payments, how long to suspend the payments, and what to do with the billions of dollars that would be saved and not paid to shareholders," our business editor says.
Dividend options Pensions expert and former government adviser Ros Altmann told the BBC that if the company did cut its dividend it would be "a blow", but should not be taken "out of proportion".
Read Full Story

Speedy Green Cleaning


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Census: Multiracial US Becoming Even More Diverse

The nation's minority population is steadily rising and now makes up 35 percent of the United States, advancing an unmistakable trend that could render them the new American majority by midcentury.
New Census estimates show minorities added more than 2 percent in 2009 to 107.2 million people, boosted by a surge in Hispanic births and more people who described themselves as multiracial. During this time, the white population remained flat, making up roughly 199.9 million, or 65 percent, of the country. In 2000, whites comprised 69 percent of the total population and minorities 31 percent.
Currently four states — Hawaii, New Mexico, California and Texas — as well as the District of Columbia have minority populations that exceeded 50 percent. About 311 of the 3,143 counties — one in 10 — have minority populations of 50 percent or greater. That's up from more than 250 counties in 2000. And it's one state more from 2000, when Texas had not yet become a minority state. The 35 percent overall minority proportion of the population was up from 34 percent a year ago.
The new Census estimates released Thursday documented a widening age and race divide. They also are the last government numbers before completion of the 2010 census later this year, which could change the balance of political power when legislative districts are redrawn based on population and racial diversity. Locally, the changing race dynamics were even more widespread.
Seven U.S. counties last year saw their minority populations become the majority: Gwinnett County, Ga.; Titus and Victoria counties in Texas; Finney County, Kan.; Saguache County, Colo.; Contra Costa County, Calif.; and Yakima County, Wash.

The overall rise in the minority population is due to recent sharp increases in minority births, especially among Hispanics, who made up more than half of the total population gains last year. There are now roughly 9 births for every 1 death among the Latino population, compared to a roughly one-to-one ratio for whites.  Read Full Story


Ariz. governor takes on immigration law controversy, boycotts and Mexican president's comments

Ariz. governor takes on immigration law controversy

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Cup Stadium to Feature Green Design

 There’s hasn’t been an abundance of sustainability coverage for the upcoming FIFA World Cup South Africa. Perhaps the excitement around the first-ever hosting of the World Cup on African soil has monopolized the media coverage; or perhaps there just isn’t a lot of sustainability initiatives to report on.
Regardless of the reason, we did find it worthy to highlight a few programs, most notably the design of the newly-built Durban stadium.
Construction of the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban was completed in 2009 and is set to host  70,000 spectators for one of the semi-final matches and numerous group matches.
The design called for a “state-of-the-art landmark sports facility with excellent amenities and a sustainable recreational and multi-disciplinary sporting venue.”
The stadium is stunning in design. Its most notable feature is a large 150-meter arch rising high above the stadium center. A SkyCar funicular system transports visitors to a Skydeck, allowing a birds’ eye view of the stadium, city and nearby coast.
Though large scale event-driven construction is always heavy on resource use, the builders of the Durban stadium minimized construction and demolition impact by utilizing recycled materials from the old stadium. More than 30,000 cubic meters of concrete demolition material from the old stadium was used for construction of the new stadium.

The PTFE-coated roof membrane allows 50 percent of sunlight to filter through while protecting the stadium from glare and rain. The stadium also features a rainwater collection system, water-saving installations, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and natural ventilation design.
When the World Cup comes to a close mid-July and South Africans find themselves in a sort of post World Cup hangover, the ten beautiful stadiums spanning the country, five new and five updated, will still be standing. The Durban stadium, among others, was built to Olympic standards in the hopes of hosting a future Olympic Games in South Africa.

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Gucci Goes Green

 Gucci is going green. The Italian luxury brand has announced that it is going to make a few green changes, including redesigning their packing to be eco-friendly, using 100 percent recyclable FSC Certified paper.
The Italian label will now forgo the usual plastic laminate surfaces found in their tissue paper, bags and boxes. The ribbon and garment bags have been switched to cotton from the original polyester material.
They will be packing their shoes in one flannel instead of two. They will also give out gift boxes only when requested.
Also, Gucci is replacing all of its mannequins with a new version, designed by Frida Giannini, which is made with shockproof polystyrene and finished with water-based paints.
Creative director Frida Giannini was quoted by as saying, "This project proves hat you sacrifice nothing creatively when working with environmentally friendly materials."
"The new packaging is very beautiful and evokes perfectly the combination of Gucci's values and the traditions for which is has become renowned since Guccio Gucci founded the company in Florence nearly 90 years ago."
"I believe we have a collective responsibility towards future generations to minimize our impact on the environment."
The initiative will be introduced in all of its 284 stores starting this month.


Walk On The Beach

What better way to enjoy the summer than to take a walk.

There's just no question that regular physical activity is an essential ingredient of a healthy lifestyle. A little exercise goes a long way toward lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. It can also boost your energy and mood, help manage your weight, and even promote a better night's sleep.
There are lots of ways to exercise. You can take a dance class, go for a swim, or join a yoga class. But the simplest way is to start walking. You can walk anywhere, anytime, with anyone. All you need are comfortable clothes and a good pair of walking shoes.

Staying motivated is half the battle when you are trying to establish and stick to an exercise routine.
Change things up by taking different routes from time to time. Invite a friend, partner or spouse along. If purpose is what keeps you going, consider walking to do your errands or park a little further away from your destination. So put on your hat , and enjoy the sun but most of all  Enjoy your Walk !

Don't forget to drink water.......


US experts find undersea oil from spill