Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

McConnell-Reid Deal Includes $3 Billion Earmark for Kentucky Project -

McConnell-Reid Deal Includes $3 Billion Earmark for Kentucky Project - 

A proposal to end the government shutdown and avoid default orchestrated by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Harry Reid includes a nearly $3 billion earmark for a Kentucky project.

Language in a draft of the McConnell-Reid deal (see page 13, section 123) provided to WFPL News shows a provision that increases funding for the massive Olmsted Dam Lock in Paducah, Ky., from $775 million to nearly $2.9 billion.

The dam is considered an important project for the state and region in regards to water traffic along the Ohio River.

As The Courier-Journal's James Bruggers reported in 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they needed about $2.1 billion for the locks due to "stop and go funding."

Asked about the additional funding in the proposal, McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer directed all questions to lawmakers who worked on the bill directly.

"Senators (Diane) Feinstein and (Lamar) Alexander, the chair and ranking member of the energy and water subcommittee, worked on the issue and can help you," he says.

Since 2009, McConnell has been an outspoken supporter of the project, and has been working on getting its funding for some time.


What The Three Month Can-Kicking "Deal" Looks Like -

What The Three Month Can-Kicking "Deal" Looks Like - 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will soon announce an agreement to reopen the government and avert default on U.S. debt, Politico reports, according to several sources familiar with the talks. Here is what that "stunning reversal for the speaker" deal looks like. In short: the can has been kicked for three months, to early February.

Via Politico,

But the fact that House Republicans are now planning to go that route marks a stunning reversal for the speaker who had backed his conservative wing’s drive to gut Obamacare as part of the government shutdown fight, now in its third week.


The bill will barely scathe Obamacare, however, and putting it on the floor will mark a huge concession by the House after sparking a 16-day government shutdown over insistence that the health care law be defunded or delayed as a condition to keep the government open. Dozens of conservatives in the House will be disappointed by the proposal and Boehner will need Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to deliver a bevy of votes to pass the bill.

Reid (D-Nev.) and McConnell (R-Ky.) are very close to finishing an agreement to reopen the government through Jan. 15, lift the debt ceiling through Feb. 7 and develop a bicameral budget committee that would be required to develop a conference report by Dec. 13.

The plan includes a proposal offered by McConnell in the 2011 debt ceiling crisis that allows Congress to disapprove of the debt ceiling increase, which means lawmakers will formally vote on whether to reject of the debt ceiling increase until Feb. 7. Obama can veto that legislation if it passes. If Congress fails as expected to gather a two-thirds majority to override the veto, the debt ceiling would be raised.

The deal would also deliver back pay to furloughed federal workers, require income verification for people seeking health-insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and also allow the Treasury Department to use extraordinary measures to pay the nation’s bills if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by Feb. 7.
And The Hill adds:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) presented the deal to his conference Wednesday morning. Republican senators quickly rallied around the proposal, which would fund government through Jan. 15.

McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put the finishing touches on the proposal after an effort by House Republicans to advance a competing resolution collapsed Tuesday.

The bipartisan agreement would also raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling until February, setting the stage for budget talks between the Senate and House.

Reid and McConnell announced the deal on the Senate floor shortly after noon.


If the legislation passes as expected, it would set up a Senate-House conference to negotiate fiscal reforms, which must be reported to Congress by a certain date.

The bill will allow President Obama to retain his power to use so-called extraordinary measures to preserve the ability of the government to pay its bills once it reaches the debt limit. The Treasury Department informed Congress in May that it had begun to use such measures to manage the debt ceiling.


STUDY: Oreos more addictive than cocaine... - at least, in lab rats -

STUDY: Oreos more addictive than cocaine... - at least, in lab rats - 

A recent study released Wednesday by Connecticut College makes the bold claim that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine — at least, in lab rats.

Connecticut College psychology professor Joseph Schroeder told CBS News that rats who ate the high-fat cookies and rats who were exposed to cocaine or morphine had the same pleasure center of their brain stimulated.

“When we looked in the pleasure center of the brain, we found that the Oreo cookies activated the pleasure center more so than cocaine would activate the same center,” Schroeder said.

The study’s findings are being used to explain how humans just can’t avoid eating high-fat treats, lending credibility to the oft-used saying that “[Insert food here] is so good, it’s like crack.”

A majority of the people polled on CBS News’s website agree that Oreos are addictive.


Cockroach farms multiplying in China - when dried goes for as much as $20 a pound -

Cockroach farms multiplying in China - when dried goes for as much as $20 a pound - 

This squat concrete building was once a chicken coop, but now it's part of a farm with an entirely different kind of livestock — millions of cockroaches.

Inside, squirming masses of the reddish-brown insects dart between sheets of corrugated metal and egg cartons that have been tied together to provide the kind of dark hiding places they favor.

Wang Fuming kneels down and pulls out one of the nests. Unaccustomed to the light, the roaches scurry about, a few heading straight up his arm toward his short-sleeve shirt.

"Nothing to be afraid of," Wang counsels visitors who are shrinking back into the hallway, where stray cockroaches cling to a ceiling that's perilously close overhead.

Although cockroaches evoke a visceral dread for most people, Wang looks at them fondly as his fortune — and his future.

People laughed at me when I started, but I always thought that cockroaches would bring me wealth."
— Zou Hui, cockroach farmer

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The 43-year-old businessman is the largest cockroach producer in China (and thus probably in the world), with six farms populated by an estimated 10 million cockroaches. He sells them to producers of Asian medicine and to cosmetic companies that value the insects as a cheap source of protein as well as for the cellulose-like substance on their wings.

The favored breed for this purpose is the Periplaneta americana, or American cockroach, a reddish-brown insect that grows to about 1.6 inches long and, when mature, can fly, as opposed to the smaller, darker, wingless German cockroach.

Since Wang got into the business in 2010, the price of dried cockroaches has increased tenfold, from about $2 a pound to as much as $20, as manufacturers of traditional medicine stockpile pulverized cockroach powder.

"I thought about raising pigs, but with traditional farming, the profit margins are very low," Wang said. "With cockroaches, you can invest 20 yuan and get back 150 yuan," or $3.25 for a return of $11.


Army Ranger believed to be unconscious salutes during Purple Heart ceremony -

Army Ranger believed to be unconscious salutes during Purple Heart ceremony - 

Josh Hargis, an Army Ranger severely injured in Afghanistan last week, was thought to be unconscious during his Purple Heart ceremony. He lost both legs and was hooked to a breathing tube at a military hospital in Afghanistan.

The bedside ceremony began and, while he still presumed to be unconscious, the Ranger struggled with an attending doctor to raise his heavily bandaged hand to salute a commanding officer presenting him with the medal.

"I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day," the commander wrote to the Ranger's wife. "Grown men began to weep, and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh's courage and character."

There were about 50 fellow Rangers, doctors and nurses in the hospital room. The commanding officer said the salute was the “most beautiful” and person in the room had ever seen.

"I'm overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed that that’s my boy, the he could come from me. Yeah, I'm overwhelmed," Jim Hargis, the 24-year-old's father told Fox 19.

Hargis, who is expecting a baby with his wife, was injured in an explosion while his unit, the 3rd Ranger Battalion, was searching for a high-value target in Panjwaj, Afghanistan, the Fox 19 report said. Four other soldiers died in the attack.

His father told the station that the troops had just inspected a man for bombs, and then a woman came by and exploded. While the troops were responding to the explosion, other IEDs planted in the area detonated, including one Hargis stepped on.

Hargis will be moved to a military hospital in San Antonio for further treatment.


Pregnant women warned of 80 % increased risk of miscarriage from food heated in plastic -

Pregnant women warned of 80 % increased risk of miscarriage from food heated in plastic - 

Pregnant women have been warned to avoid canned foods, microwaved food and plastic water bottles left out in the sun after a study found certain chemicals can increase the risk of miscarriage by 80 per cent.
The same advice has been issued to men whose partners are trying to conceive, after research found similar compounds contained in the same products can damage male fertility.
Research on animals has previously suggested that the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) could threaten foetal survival but until now there have been limited studies on humans.
The new findings from Stanford University, presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's annual conference in Boston, suggest that high levels of contact with the chemical found in many plastics could dramatically increase the likelihood of miscarriage.
The scientists behind the study said that it was impossible to avoid all contact with the substance, which is used in plastic packaging, tinned products and cash register receipts, but recommending limiting the impact of exposure.

In particular, they advised pregnant women to avoid cooking or warming foods in plastic containers, as chemicals leak far more quickly at higher temperatures, and to avoid letting plastic bottles of drinks get warm in the sun.
The same advice was issued to men whose partners are trying to conceive, after separate research found that the presence of similar chemicals found in the same plastics appeared to reduce male fertility by 20 per cent.
Earlier this year the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued advice that pregnant women should "play it safe" and try to limit exposure to many chemicals found in plastics, because they said it would take years to properly assess the risks of exposure.
The new study on 114 pregnant women found that those with the high concentrations of the compound in their blood were 80 per cent more likely than those with low or normal levels to suffer a miscarriage.
Lead author Dr Ruth Lathi, reproductive endocrinologist at Stanford University said: "This is important because miscarriage is a very common occurrence and human exposure to BPA is near-ubiquitous."
The group studied had a history of miscarriages and difficulties conceiving.
Such women should avoid contact with products containing BPA as far as possible, said Dr Lathi.
Other pregnant women should take basic steps to limit their exposure, she said.
"There are some simple things that people can do but it’s impossible to avoid it completely.
"Avoid anything that involves cooking or warming food in plastic as the chemicals leak out of plastic materials at a higher rate at higher temperatures."
Even shopping posed a risk, she suggested, because many cash register receipts are coded with resin containing BPA.
"Avoid canned food, avoid cooking or heating plastic and then avoid unnecessary cash register receipts. Those are simple things that don’t cost a lot of money and are easy to do," said Dr Lathi.
Between 15 and 20 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. While the risk increases with age, scientists have struggled to identify other causal factors.
Researchers said it remained unclear why BPA appeared to have such an impact on miscarriage rates, and said further studies were urgently needed.
While those who were most likely to miscarry had the highest level of the chemical in their blood serum, it was possible that they had metabolised the substance differently, so it stayed in the body longer, they said.
The chemical has previously been found to carry small risks to child development, and has been banned in baby bottles by the EU.
Dr Linda Giudice, ASRM President, said that while some previous studies has examined the impact of chemicals on those with fertility problems, the findings suggested BPA could have negative effects on a far larger group of people.
She said: "These studies extend our observations to the general population and show that these chemicals are a cause for concern to all of us."
Dr Giudice said that one of the most important things to avoid was drinking from plastic bottles which had been allowed to get warm.
She said: "Don’t leave your water bottles in the car in the sun. Studies show that levels of BPA increase by about 1000-fold in the water of a bottle that has been sitting in the sun."

Virginia Humane Society released cats into wild; Counted as 'adopted'... - 

Workers at a Virginia Humane Society released some 300 feral cats into the wild and counted many of them as having been adopted, state investigators said.
Three former employees at the Portsmouth Humane Society said shelter bosses instructed them to release cats brought in by residents and city workers alike. The shelter, which serves as the Portsmouth animal pound, is supposed to neuter the animals and put them up for adoption.
Instead, the workers said, they were instructed to take the cats home and release them, The (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot reported Tuesday.
One employee said she released about six cats in her Norfolk neighborhood on instructions from her boss but later refused to continue the practice after she saw two had been hit and killed by cars. Another former worker said she would drive out to a wooded area near where she grew up because she didn't want to release the felines in an urban setting.
Two of the employees who spoke to state investigators were fired from the shelter. A third quit her job.
State investigators fined the shelter $1,250 and the Humane Society fired the shelter's executive director, Jenn Austin.
The practice began under the shelter's previous executive director, Christie Chipps Peters, the employees said. Chipps Peters said she wasn't aware releasing feral cats violated the law.
Workers said she was lying and she used to laugh about the situation regularly.
"She knew that it was illegal," said Laurie Dedio, a former kennel assistant who left the shelter in May. "She used to joke about it all the time."

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