I think most of us that have lived awhile can attest to the fall in lifestyle and standards of living in the country. I think it’s been rather obvious that it’s much more difficult to “get ahead” more than at any other time in recent U.S. history. I ran across some interesting articles that sort’ve validated my gut feeling so I thought I’d share them with you. I hope you don’t find them too depressing. The first one indicates that the longevity of U.S. women just isn’t what it used to be. Why are U.S. women dying younger than their mothers?
Whether you think the Affordable Care Act is the right solution or a dangerous step toward tyranny, it’s hard to dispute that the U.S. health-care system is broken. More than 48 million people lack health insurance, and despite having the world’s highest levels of health-care spending per capita, the U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes among developed nations, lagging behind in key metrics like life expectancy, premature death rates, and death by treatable diseases, according to a July study in theJournal of the American Medicine Association.
For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.
“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”
Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.
I’ve always thought that the American Lifestyle that you find touted on TV and at most restaurants and stores is really at odds with living well. Here’s an interesting list of items that also reminds me why I always wanted to just stay in Europe whenever I visited there. Are Europeans better at just living life? Here’s one of the statistics that makes me realize how overworked the U.S. worker is and why we all just sort’ve wear out at some point in time.
The top seven nations in the world, in terms of time off? All European. Austrians get 35 (35!) paid days off per year. Nobody criticizes them for being lazy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is the sole developed nation that requires no paid vacation time or holidays by law.
There’s a lot of fun comparisons there including cars, cheese, and sports. The link is good for a few smiles.
So, I lot of people subscribe to the idea of peak oil. I’ve always thought I’d really rather go solar or some alternative for energy in the future since fossil fuels have such incredible problems. I’m not all that concerned about an oil shortage, but a cocoa bean shortage? That’s a completely different matter!!!
The world will officially run out on October 2, 2020.
Industry experts met in London last week to discuss the impending meltdown.
Confectionery giants revealed there are just not enough cocoa plantations across the globe to feed the demand.
They warned we would need the equivalent of another planet Earth to fill the gap needed to keep the chocolate industry going.
Prices are set to soar over the next few years as chocolate becomes harder to get hold of.
As a result many big-name companies are expected to fill bars that are smaller in size with more nuts and fruit because they are cheaper to produce.
Chocolate taster and expert Angus Kennedy said: “There will be a chocolate shortage and there isn’t a solution to the problem. Seven years is what we think we have left.
“Experts have worked out we need 2.3 globes to accommodate man’s needs for chocolate in terms of forestry and space.
“We need another Earth basically if we carry on at this rate. We are destroying the whole thing.
“The problem we’ve got is that much of the space that was used for cocoa plantations is no longer there.
“The Chinese love their cars and they have found that rubber makes more money than cocoa and at a much quicker pace.
“Cocoa farms are being chopped down and turned into rubber plantations because they get a better yield.
“If you plant a cocoa plant you get cocoa beans in four years, which means the farmers are waiting four years for a profit so obviously they think ‘What is the point?’”
Manufacturers from all over the world including Iran, Belgium, Lebanon, Germany and Switzerland met at the British Library last week for the annual Chocolate Industry Network Conference where they heard the worrying news.
After a stint in the Marines, Archibald began his CIA career as a weapons man in the agency’s special activities division – the “knuckle-draggers,” as they’re known around headquarters – during the Bosnian civil war. From there, he made it into the agency’s elite spy corps, rising to the rank equivalent of general in Pakistan.
How Archibald got his new job remains a mystery to everyone Newsweektalked to. One source thought he’d caught the eye of David Petraeus, whose brief tenure as CIA chief was short-circuited in 2012 by an extramarital affair. Other agency veterans think current CIA director John Brennan liked the former Marine’s non-confrontational style. Bonus points: There was not a whiff of scandal in his background, unlike that of the acting chief, who was closely identified with harsh interrogations and passed over in favor of Archibald. She stayed on as his deputy.
One agency veteran has a more nuanced take on the appointment: “Brennan is his own clandestine ops chief.” Another added, “[Brennan] doesn’t like anyone to argue with him much.”
But there are plenty of things to argue over, insiders say, starting with the layers upon layers of assistants to deputy assistants that clog the agency’s chains of command. Many agency old-timers are also dismayed that the CIA’s core mission of spying on major adversaries seems to have been eclipsed by constant commando raids and drone strikes against terrorist targets. All that, they contend, diverts the agency’s finite resources, time and attention from finding out what’s really going on inside Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, China’s weapons labs or Iran’s nuclear program.
What does Frank Archibald think? Sorry. We can’t ask him.
The paycheck federal workers have been dreading hit bank accounts across the region Friday, representing salaries cut in half for most idled employees. The next payday will be all zeros, and with furloughs dragging on, civil servants are settling into a financial crouch, slashing expenses, canceling vacations, tapping retirement savings and taking second jobs.
“We have no income coming into the house right now, but the bills haven’t stopped,” said John Ferris of Falls Church. He is in a two-furlough marriage; both he and his wife, Lena, are locked out of jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency. With both of their paychecks dwindling, the family of six has put a scalpel to the household budget.
They’ve cut out restaurants and expensive groceries. Gone are the motel stays at their kids travel softball tournaments; instead, they drive all night. But the most painful cut has been a furlough of their own, laying off their autistic son’s longtime reading specialist.
“He’s been with our family for years, and I love him to death, but I thought, ‘Wow, how am I going to pay him if we don’t have paychecks coming,’ ” Lena Ferris said. She worries that one of the shutdown’s lasting aftershocks could be her son’s having to adjust to a new tutor. “He needs money, too,” she said of the tutor. “I’m worried he’s going to start working for another family.”
Federal workers say they were hugely relieved by last week’s House vote toguarantee the missed pay after the furlough’s over. But that hasn’t eased their anxiety over the bills stacking up in the meantime. Some parents are stretching to pay for day care they don’t need just so they don’t lose their slots while waiting to go back to work. All around the region, the furloughed are looking for money to satisfy their creditors or begging them for more time to pay their bills.
“A lot of our members have been asking to skip a payment,” said Pamela Hout, chief executive of the Census Federal a Credit Union. Her staff has been working a few hours a week at the nearly deserted Census Bureau headquarters in Prince George’s County to meet the demand. “We’ve been accommodating them; all they have to do is show us their [furlough] letter.”
I need to add one more thing before I sign off this morning. This is the month that we need to renew our domain and our ability to customize things here. The bill is about $100 per year so just a bit of a donation to the blog would be much appreciated. The specialized font comes due in about a month after that so any thing above that will be held until that comes due!!! Thanks so much!!!
So, that’s my little bit of this and that on a Friday. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? There was a double rainbow over Boston last night, and quite a few people took photos and videos of it. Here’s another shot of it over the harbor and seaport.
You can see more views of it here.
Some people said the rainbow must be a positive sign for the Boston Bruins, who are in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t work out that way though. The Blackhawks ended up winning game one, after what seemed like an endless triple-overtime hockey game.
In other local news, yesterday was the first day of the trial of 83-year-old Irish gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Opening statements were apparently riveting. It’s a shame the federal courts won’t allow TV cameras, because this trial is going to be an incredible show. Yesterday both sides gave their opening statements. From The Washington Post:
BOSTON — The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish mob boss who allegedly helped scratch out 19 lives and ran this city’s underworld aided by corrupt FBI agents, got underway Wednesday morning almost 20 years after he fled the city on the eve of his indictment.
Now 83 and with just a bit of white hair left, Bulger wore a long-sleeve green shirt and jeans and listened without displaying any reaction as prosecutors laid out their 32 charges against him in a packed South Boston federal courtroom near the gangster’s old hangouts.
“It’s a case about organized crime, public corruption and all types of illegal activities,” federal prosecutor Brian Kelly said during opening statements. “He was no ordinary leader. He did the dirty work himself. He was a hands-on killer.”
Kelly told the story of one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims, Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, who prayed for his life before he was led to a cellar stairwell. “Barrett’s going downstairs to lie down for a while,” Bulger told an accomplice. Barrett walked down the stairs, and Bulger shot him the back, Kelly said.
Bulger’s rise as the city’s brutal organized crime leader was aided and abetted by corrupt FBI agents, who brushed off Bulger’s racketeering and violence in exchange for his help as an informant to bring down the local mafia, according to a lengthy ruling by a federal judge and other investigations.
On the defense side, (Hartford Courant)
Bulger lawyer Jay Carney made it clear in his remarks to the jury that much of the crime boss’s defense will be spent trying to discredit the government’s three chief witnesses. They are close former Bulger associates who agreed to turn on him for leniency or other considerations.
Carney argued to the jury that the three — John Martorano, Stephen Flemmi and Kevin Weeks — will say whatever they think the government wants in order to protect their cooperation agreements. Among other things, he said, they are accusing Bulger of their crimes.
Martorano was sentenced to 14 years in prison for 20 murders. Weeks, once a Bulger protégé, got a shorter sentence for less serious offenses. Flemmi, Bulger’s long-time partner, got a life sentence, but was not exposed to possible death sentences for crimes in Florida and Oklahoma related to the gang’s attempt to takeover World Jai Alai, once one of the country’s largest pari-mutuel businesses.
Carney compared the federal prosecutors to chefs and the three witnesses to elaborately prepared meals.
‘What [we] are going to try to do is show you what happens in the prosecutors’ kitchen before the witness comes out,” Carney said.
I guess I’ve bored you with enough Boston news for today. Let’s see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Breaking . . . Edward Snowden Tells South China Morning Post US Hacks Into Hong Kong, China ComputersPosted: June 12, 2013
I’m no expert on the laws about revealing classified information to foreign governments, but this doesn’t sound very smart to me. Edward Snowden, who has leaked information about methods the NSA uses to collect data on Americans has now showed documents to the South China Morning Post to prove that the U.S. has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and China since at least 2009.
In a frank hour-long interview, the 29-year-old, who US authorities have confirmed is now the subject of a criminal case, said he was neither a hero nor a traitor and that:
US National Security Agency’s controversial Prism programme extends to people and institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China;
The US is exerting “bullying’’ diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him;
Hong Kong’s rule of law will protect him from the US;
He is in constant fear for his own safety and that of his family.
Snowden told the interviewer that none of the documents related to Chinese “military systems.”
One of the targets in the SAR, according to Snowden, was Chinese University and public officials, businesses and students in the city. The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets.
Snowden believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he said….
Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries”.
“Not only does it do so, but it is so afraid of this being known that it is willing to use any means, such as diplomatic intimidation, to prevent this information from becoming public.”
What the hell? This guy is really starting to sound like a loose cannon. I’ll update with more info in the comment thread as I get it.
Ever since the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, there has been plenty of intrigue going on between the U.S. and Russia.
While he was in Dagestan, Tsarnaev was squired around by a relative who is “a prominent Islamist” and most likely introduced Tsarnaev to two men who were fighting with the Chechen rebels. Soon after these meetings, these men were killed by the Russians.
Tsarnaev had expressed interest in joining the fight for Chechen independence, but left Dagestan soon after his two friends were killed. He hurriedly traveled to Moscow and then flew back to JFK in NY without anyone in Russian intelligence noticing supposedly. No one can explain how Tsarnaev was able to board a plane for Russia at JFK Airport when he was on two U.S. terror lists or how he was able to fly out of Moscow when he was supposedly being closely watched by Russian intelligence during his stay there.
There have also been numerous reports of CIA connections to the Tsarnaev brothers. In addition, a professor at U. Mass Dartmouth (Brian Glynn Williams, a Chechnya expert) who has worked with the CIA [NOTE: This link to post by Mark Ames at nsfwcorp will be available for 23 hrs], served as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s mentor for a project on Chechen ethnic identity that the younger Tsarnaev brother did as a student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Dzhokhar later attended U. Mass Dartmouth, although Williams says he never had any direct contact with the future accused bomber (they interacted by e-mail).
The Latest U.S.-Russia Dustup
This morning news is breaking that an American diplomat has been detained in Russia by the FSB for allegedly trying to “recruit a Russian agent” for the CIA.
Russia’s security services claimed Tuesday to have arrested a CIA agent posing as an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for allegedly trying to recruit a Russian secret service agent to work for the U.S.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) announced that it had detained a man identified as Ryan Christopher Fogle on the evening of May 13 or early the next morning for attempting to recruit a Russian agent….
Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a statement from the FSB as saying Fogle was arrested while trying to recruit a member of the Russian security services, and he had on his person, “special technical devices, written instructions for the Russian citizen being recruited, a large sum of cash and means of changing his appearance.”
After being arrested and processed by Russian security services, the man was handed back to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Moscow.
The FSB said Fogle had been masquerading as a career diplomat at the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy, but that he was a CIA employee. A photo provided by the FSB and published across Russian media allegedly showed his Russian-issued diplomatic identification card.
And get this: Fogle was wearing a long blonde wig when he was arrested! And he had other disguises for his potential regruit. From the NYT:
Photographs that appeared on Russian news sites on Tuesday afternoon showed a man in a blue checked shirt and baseball cap being pinned to the ground, evidently by a Russian officer. Further images showed a number of items evidently confiscated from him: a brown and blond wig, three pairs of glasses, several stacks of 500-Euro notes, and an embassy card identifying him as Ryan C. Fogle.
Mr. Fogel was brought to F.S.B. headquarters and then delivered to officials at the American embassy, the statement said. The F.S.B. went on to say its counterintelligence service has documented a series of recent attempts by the United States to recruit officers from Russian law enforcement and “special departments.”
According to the Times article, “Russia’s foreign ministry has summoned United States Ambassador Michael A. McFaul to appear on Wednesday to respond to the allegation” that Fogel was “carrying written instructions for a Russian recruit.” From Twitter, I learned that Fogel has a condo in McLean, Va.
Russia Today has lots of photos, including a photograph of an instruction sheet offering money and explaining how to set up a gmail account (WTF?!) to be used to contact U.S. intelligence. Apparently Fogel had “a large sum of cash” (in Euros?!) with him to hand over to the new recruit. Is this really how the CIA operates? It seems so half-assed.
Connections to the Tsarnaev Investigation?
Whether any of this will connect back to the Tsarnaev saga, I have no way of knowing; but I can’t help but suspect it will. There has simply been too much recent activity between the U.S. and Russia being reported lately for this to be completely unrelated to the Boston bombing investigation. Time will tell.
I think that’s about all the weird news I can handle for right now. I’ll leave it to you to post your own links–on any topic–in the comment thread.