Thursday, October 29, 2009

Privacy Act Does Not Apply to White House?

/Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the Obama administration argued in a recent court filing that the Privacy Act does not apply to the Executive Office of the President (EOP). This court filing came in a Judicial Watch lawsuit filed in 1996 against the Clinton White House related to a scandal known as "Filegate," where the Clinton White House obtained
and maintained the private FBI files of hundreds of former Reagan and Bush officials [Alexander v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Civil Action No. 96-2123/97-1288 (RCL)].

In the Obama administration's "Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment," filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 17, the Obama Justice Department stated the following: "The White House is not an agency under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and it necessarily follows that it is not an agency subject to the Privacy Act." However,
the Privacy Act specifically lists the "Executive Office of the President" as an agency subject to the Act's provisions.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth had repeatedly rejected this same legal argument, most recently in 2008 when the court ruled against a government motion that would have dismissed the lawsuit: "...this court holds that under the Privacy Act, the word 'agency' includes the Executive Office of the President, just as the Privacy Act says."

While the Obama administration continues to advance the legal and political argument that the White House and the FBI should not be held accountable for the Filegate scandal, former President Bill Clinton apparently disagrees. Clinton told historian Taylor Branch in preparation for a recently published book, "those files did not belong at The White House," and that they "should have been isolated and returned immediately." According to Branch, Clinton also
said "[h]is administration should and would be held accountable."

"What the Obama administration is effectively saying here is that if the White House decides to illegally compile FBI files and violate your privacy rights, tough luck," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "It is disturbing that the Obama administration has taken the legal position that the Privacy Act does not apply to the White House and the Clinton FBI files scandal
was not a scandal. It is worrying to those of us concerned about the Obama White House's
collecting 'fishy' emails and compiling an enemies list of news organizations, radio hosts, businesses, and industry associations to attack and smear. Is the Obama defense of the FBI files scandal less about that Clinton scandal and more about what his White House is up to now?"

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Consumer Reports Poll: 65 Percent of Consumers Expect to Cut Back on Holiday Spending

/PRNewswire/ -- The effects of ongoing economic turbulence continue to weigh heavily on the pocketbooks and minds of shoppers as the 2009 holiday season approaches. According to a new Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, 65 percent of Americans plan to cut back on overall holiday expenses such as gifts, travel, and entertaining. The full results of this latest poll are available at www.ConsumerReports.org.

The anticipated decrease in spending comes on top of already dramatic cutbacks that occurred last year. In the 2008 Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, 76 percent of those surveyed said they were scaling back on holiday spending.

The projected decrease in spending is likely to be felt in almost every category. Those surveyed said they're cutting back on purchases of clothing and electronics (still the biggest seasonal gift categories), as well as other items such as gift cards, monetary presents, and jewelry.

Consistent with 2008's findings, Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll also found that some consumers are still saddled with leftover holiday debt. Six percent of Americans--some 13.5 million consumers--continue to carry debt from last winter's holiday season.

"This year, it all comes down to value and getting the best bang for your shopping dollar," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. "We've already seen aggressive discounts that make it seem more like November 28 rather than October 28, but retailers are getting more sophisticated about targeting their promotions to their best customers."

Additional findings from the Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll include:

The Gift List: Who's In? Who's Out?

-- Among consumers scaling back on gifts, most (78%) were willing to cut
back on buying for themselves, followed by friends and their families,
other family members, coworkers, and service providers like delivery
personnel and fitness trainers. Among those most likely to be spared
from the budgetary axe: Grandparents, grandchildren, kids under 18,
and the family pet.

A Few Favorite Things

-- Despite the gloomy outlook sales of certain products - notably
desktop, laptop, and netbook computers, cell phones and smart phones,
video game systems, and GPS systems - are expected to at least hold
their own, according to our poll.

Hitting the Stores
-- Similar to the past two holiday shopping seasons, the 2009 holiday
shopping season has begun with about a third of consumers reporting
that they have started their shopping as of mid-October.

-- Only about half (46%) of consumers anticipate they will be done buying
gifts by the second week in December. Approximately 18 percent say
they will push their holiday shopping right up to December 24th. About
4 percent of consumers don't plan to complete their shopping until
after the holidays.

Sticking to a Budget or Not?

-- This year, half (50%) of Americans will be making a budget for their
holiday purchases, yet sticking to it is bound to be a challenge. Of
the 38 percent of consumers who made a budget last year, 44 percent
reported that they exceeded it; five percent said they went way over
budget.

Most (& Least) Wanted Gifts
-- Clothing remains the biggest category, and 52 percent of consumers
plan to give apparel as a gift. But you might want to choose
carefully. Thirty-seven percent of recipients - particularly men -
cited clothes as their biggest gift disappointment of 2008. Socks were
still the single most hated item, but shirts, sweaters, slippers, and
ties, made the list, too.
-- Electronics gear also ranks among the most desirable gifts for both
men and women, and 51 percent of respondents plan on giving recipients
items such as video games or accessories, digital cameras, headphones,
or other gadgets.
-- Other gifts consumers plan on giving this season include gift cards
(46%), followed by money (44%), toys (42%), DVDs (31%), food or wine
(28%), jewelry (26%) and pet toys (19%).

Especially For You?

-- Tis' the season to give and receive and to re-gift what you've
received. According to the poll, 36 percent of adults have given a
gift they have received from someone else to another person as a
holiday gift. That's up from 31 percent in 2008.

The Perils of Gift Cards
-- Despite their drawbacks - fees, expiration dates, and the like - many
people plan on buying gift cards (46%) and many want them (15%) as
well. During the 2008 holidays, about half of adults received a gift
card, but one in four hadn't redeemed at least one of the cards as of
this month.
-- Sixty-five percent of adults who received a gift card in 2008
typically spend more than the value of the card, up from 58 percent in
2007. Forty-one percent of those who have unused gift cards from last
year said that they hadn't found anything they wanted to buy. This
year, lack of time was less of a factor in not redeeming gift cards;
only 37 percent of respondents reporting that they hadn't had time to
redeem their cards, down from 54 percent last year.

Happy Holidays

-- Despite continued cutbacks, a majority (87%) of adults remain hopeful
that their holiday season will be as happy or even happier than last
year.

Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll Methodology

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. 1,000 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place over October 15-18, 2009. The margin of error is +/- 3% points at a 95% confidence level.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is the Recession Good for Marriage?

RJ Note: Bank account drops appear to be good for working on a marriage. Got to wonder if those mistresses (or the other man) don't find their honey bunnies as attractive with less lettuce to chew.....

Divorce Filings Have Dropped in the Recession Reveals Survey of Top Matrimonial Lawyers

/PRNewswire/ -- The economy appears to be downsizing the frequency of divorce cases, along with jobs and salaries. More than half of the respondents to the latest survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) are citing a drop in filings during the current recession. In all, 57% of the attorneys have noted fewer divorce filings since the last quarter of 2008.

"The current economic climate is proving to be far more unforgiving than estranged couples seeking a divorce," said Gary Nickelson, president of the AAML. "Forced to weigh damaged marriages against tight budgets and uncertain financial outlooks, many spouses seem more willing to try and wait out the recessionary storm."

Overall, 57% of AAML members reported a decrease in the number of divorce filings since the last quarter of 2008, while only 14% noted an increase in filings during these difficult times.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Waste in the U.S. Healthcare System Pegged at $700 Billion in Report From Thomson Reuters

RJ Note: If fraud and over treatment do account for about 60% of our current health care system, perhaps Congress would better serve the people by reforming malpractice suits and setting up a group to go after the fraud. Perhaps that is the more prudent way to reform healthcare at this time. Whatcha think?

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. healthcare system wastes between $600 billion and $850 billion annually, according to a white paper published today by Thomson Reuters.

The report identifies the most significant drivers of wasteful spending -- including administrative inefficiency, unnecessary treatment, medical errors, and fraud -- and quantifies their cost. It is based on a review of published research and analyses of proprietary healthcare data.

"The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion is wasted annually. That's one-third of the nation's healthcare bill," said Robert Kelley, vice president of healthcare analytics at Thomson Reuters and author of the white paper. "The good news is that by attacking waste, healthcare costs can be reduced without adversely affecting the quality of care or access to care.

"That's the point of this report -- to identify areas in the healthcare system that can generate game-changing savings," Kelley said.

Here are some of the study's key findings:


-- Unnecessary Care (40% of healthcare waste): Unwarranted treatment,
such as the over-use of antibiotics and the use of diagnostic lab
tests to protect against malpractice exposure, accounts for $250
billion to $325 billion in annual healthcare spending.

-- Fraud (19% of healthcare waste): Healthcare fraud costs $125 billion
to $175 billion each year, manifesting itself in everything from
fraudulent Medicare claims to kickbacks for referrals for unnecessary
services.

-- Administrative Inefficiency (17% of healthcare waste): The large
volume of redundant paperwork in the U.S. healthcare system accounts
for $100 billion to $150 billion in spending annually.

-- Healthcare Provider Errors (12% of healthcare waste): Medical mistakes
account for $75 billion to $100 billion in unnecessary spending each
year.

-- Preventable Conditions (6% of healthcare waste): Approximately $25
billion to $50 billion is spent annually on hospitalizations to
address conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, which are much less
costly to treat when individuals receive timely access to outpatient
care.

-- Lack of Care Coordination (6% of healthcare waste): Inefficient
communication between providers, including lack of access to medical
records when specialists intervene, leads to duplication of tests and
inappropriate treatments that cost $25 billion to $50 billion
annually.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

No Free Lunch: The True Cost of ObamaCare Report Released

Take a look at this. Yep, ObamaCare is just what we need. Not.

/PRNewswire/ -- Far from providing "affordable" care for everyone, ObamaCare would result in higher insurance premiums, more and higher taxes, fewer jobs, lower wages, a reduced standard of living and an erosion of privacy and individual liberty.

This is the conclusion of a new report, "No Free Lunch: The True Cost of ObamaCare," by policy analyst Matt Patterson just released by the National Center for Public Policy Research.

"Instead of providing "affordable" health care for everybody, ObamaCare will in fact lead to dramatically higher health insurance premiums, as well as higher taxes, reduced Medicare benefits, lower wages, and fewer jobs for low and middle-income Americans," said Patterson.

The paper says adoption of one of the "ObamaCare" proposals percolating in Congress would lead to:

Higher Premiums - Billions in new taxes and fees would be imposed on medical companies and health insurers to pay for ObamaCare - costs which would be passed on to the consumer as higher insurance premiums.

Higher Taxes - ObamaCare would be paid for with massive tax increases, amounting to an estimated increased tax burden of $2.3 trillion in the coming decades.

Lower Wages/Fewer Jobs - New taxes and fees imposed on businesses by ObamaCare would result in fewer jobs and lower wages for low- and middle-income workers.

Standard of Living - The massive government spending required would explode the federal deficit with ruinous consequences for every American's standard of living.

Medicare Benefits - ObamaCare aims to pay for itself, in part, with hundreds of billions in devastating cuts to Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

Privacy - ObamaCare regulations would result in a larger, more powerful IRS and ensure that more personal information is shared with more people.

Your Freedom - ObamaCare would require, under threat of penalty, every American to have insurance whether they want or need it.

"ObamaCare won't save money, nationally or individually," says Patterson. "Instead, it will increase insurance premiums, raise taxes, depress wages, siphon jobs, explode the deficit, reduce living standards, rob privacy and erode personal liberty."

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Opposite of a Tax Decrease is an Increase

Uhhh--eliminating a tax decrease-- uh-- it' a tax increase --





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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Which Tax Hikes in Senate Health Bill Violate Obama's Tax Promise?

/PRNewswire/ -- Over and over again, President Obama has promised not to raise "any form" of taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. Yet, the U.S. Senate is getting ready to consider a government healthcare bill which does just that. Here's how:

Health Insurance Mandate Taxes on Working Families

-- Individual Mandate Excise Tax. Americans who do not sign up for health
insurance will have to pay an excise tax in the following range:

Single Family
100-300% of Federal Poverty Level 750 $1500
300+% of Federal Poverty Level $900 $1900

300 percent of the federal poverty line is well under $250,000. For a family of four, it's $67,000. For an individual, it's about $30,000.

-- Employer Mandate Tax. $400 per employee if health coverage is not
offered. Note: this is a huge incentive to drop coverage, as $400 is
much less than the average plan cost of $11,000 for families or $5000
for singles (Source: AHIP)

Small businesses pay their tax liability on their owners' 1040 forms. This $400 employer mandate tax does not hold harmless business owners making less than $250,000

Tax Hikes on Healthcare Spending Accounts

-- Cap on Flex-Spending Account (FSA) contributions at $2500: Currently,
the contribution level is unlimited
-- Medicine Cabinet Tax : Americans would no longer be able to purchase
over-the-counter medicines with their FSA, Health Savings Account
(HSA), or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)
-- Increase in the Non-Qualified HSA Distribution Penalty from 10% to
20%: This makes HSAs less attractive, and paves the way for HSA
pre-verification

There are 30 million Americans with FSAs. About 8 million Americans have an HSA. Virtually all of them make less than $250,000 per year. These are clear tax hikes on these families.

Denying a Tax Deduction for Medical Costs

-- Increase "haircut" of medical itemized deductions from 7.5% to 10% of
adjusted gross income (AGI), further denying medical itemized
deductions

There is no exemption made here for families making less than $250,000 per year.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Opinion on Russia Embarrassing Obama

RJ Note: I ran across this educational and interesting opinion piece on the recent Obama failure with Russia regarding Iran. Thought you'd be interested in reading it as well....


Guest Column: Obama’s Russian Embarrassment
October 19, 2009 |
by Richard Brownell

The naïveté of the Obama administration was on full display this past week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Russia failed to drum up support for tough sanctions against Iran. Clinton and Obama had hoped.....http://virginiapatriot.com/?p=108

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Monday, October 19, 2009

White House Boasts: We 'Control' Media, Reports Aaron Klein

RJ Note: Control the media. Control Health Care. Control America. Control your mind? Anyone see a pattern going on?

/PRNewswire/ -- President Obama's presidential campaign focused on "making" the news media cover certain issues while rarely communicating anything to the press unless it was "controlled," White House Communications Director Anita Dunn disclosed to the Dominican government at a videotaped conference. The story, recently reported by Aaron Klein of WND.com, has also been linked to the Drudge Report.

"Very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn't absolutely control," said Dunn.

"One of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters," said Dunn, referring to Plouffe, who was Obama's chief campaign manager.

"We just put that out there and made them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it," Dunn said.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Big Win for Academic Inventors

Federal Circuit Court Hands Academic Inventors a Big Win – IP Advocate Founder Says Decision Affirms That Faculty Inventors, Not Universities, Own Their Inventions

(BUSINESS WIRE)--IP Advocate:

A recent Federal Circuit Court decision confirms that universities do not automatically have the right to claim ownership of a faculty researcher’s federally funded invention. That’s a critical distinction that could protect faculty inventors and students nationwide from being forced by universities to sign away the rights to their life’s work, according to Dr. Renee Kaswan, inventor of the billion-dollar drug Restasis® and founder of the non-profit organization IPAdvocate.org.

“The court’s ruling confirms that faculty inventors own the rights to their ideas and their creations, and that universities can no longer use the Bayh-Dole Act as a bulldozer to claim ownership away from the inventors themselves,” said Dr. Kaswan. “Inventors should be able to choose for themselves with whom to partner to bring an innovation to the marketplace and to the people who need it. Stanford’s policy is more inventor-friendly than most, but it’s the overarching principle of inventor ownership that wins in this case.”

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. The patents involved HIV test kits.

Decision on September 30, 2009; opinion authored by Federal Circuit Judge Richard Linn. See the opinion here: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions/08-1509r.pdf

The Court rejected Stanford's argument that one of the inventors’ assignment of rights to another entity, Cetus, was voided by the university's rights to federally funded inventions under the Bayh-Dole Act. The court’s ruling states: “Bayh-Dole does not automatically void ab initio [from the beginning] the inventors’ rights in government-funded inventions.”

Why this matters now: The 30th anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 is just around the corner, and it’s time to correct the rampant misuse of the law to take IP ownership away from faculty inventors. As the Obama Administration and Congress push for patent reform, and as the country relies on innovation as an engine of economic recovery, the question of the ownership of ideas is crucial in moving those ideas forward from an inventor’s mind to an entrepreneur’s office to a consumer’s bedside table as quickly as possible.

Dr. Renee Kaswan is founder of the non-profit organization, IP Advocate (www.IPAdvocate.org), inventor of the billion-dollar drug Restasis®, founder of Georgia Veterinary Specialists and former University of Georgia Veterinary Ophthalmology professor. Her patented treatment for chronic dry-eye remains the most profitable invention in UGA’s history and has been hailed as one of the “University Innovations that Changed the World” by the University of Virginia Patent Foundation. Dr. Kaswan was recognized by the University of Georgia as its “Inventor of the Year” in 1998 and received UGA’s Creative Research Medal in 1992.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

FRC Stands With 53 House Members; Calls on President to Remove Kevin Jennings

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, Family Research Council praised fifty-three House Republicans for calling on President Obama to fire Kevin Jennings, a homosexual activist who heads the Education Department's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.

On multiple occasions, Kevin Jennings has proudly boasted of an incident (when he was a teacher) in which upon learning that a young boy in his class was having sex with a much older man, he did nothing to discourage him and failed to report it to the authorities. The only advice this future "Safe Schools" czar gave the young boy was "be sure to bring a condom."

Early this summer, in response to this revelation and several other serious concerns about Mr. Jennings' record, FRC launched www.stopjennings.org and a media campaign that has generated tens of thousands of emails and phone calls demanding his resignation.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments:

"We applaud these fifty-three House members for seeking to uphold basic ethical standards within the Department of Education. We urge President Obama to heed the growing calls from Congress and the American people that he immediately remove Kevin Jennings as 'safe schools' czar. No Administration official is more deserving of removal than Kevin Jennings.

"Kevin Jennings has shown a disregard for parental rights and for our children's well being. The record shows that Kevin Jennings has neither the temperament nor the ethical standards needed for public service.

"Kevin Jennings continues to decline to answer the many questions about his radical record. He has also failed to acknowledge that:

* Children should not be having sex with anyone;
* An adult having sex with a 15-year-old is a crime;

* Crimes of child sexual abuse and statutory rape should be investigated and punished;

* No one of any age should seek sex partners in a bus station restroom; and

* Using a condom is not sufficient "protection" for a child being sexually abused by an

adult.

* On his past illegal drug use, he should make it clear that he regrets his youth drug use and affirm that no one should ever use illegal drugs - including marijuana.

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Barack Obama Gets the Public’s Vote Once Again in Magazine Cover Competition

RJ Note: Guess as long as you look good.......
--

Amazon.com Customers Choose Rolling Stone’s July 2008 Issue Featuring President Obama As the ‘Cover of the Year’ in ASME Best Cover Contest


(BUSINESS WIRE)--The cover of the July 10-24, 2008, issue of Rolling Stone featuring Barack Obama was named “Cover of the Year” in the American Society of Magazine Editors’ (ASME) Best Cover Contest. The announcement was made today by David Willey, ASME President and Editor-in-Chief, Runner’s World, at the Magazine Innovation Summit currently underway in New York City.

This is the first time in the Awards’ four-year history that the “Cover of the Year” was determined by consumers rather than by members of ASME. Ten category winners, chosen by visitors to Amazon.com during the first round of public voting, competed for the “Cover of the Year” honor. The Rolling Stone cover, which won the “Best Obama” category before it was chosen “Cover of the Year,” depicts Barack Obama in Raleigh, North Carolina, just a few days after he nailed down the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

The nine other Best Cover Contest category winners are:

Vanity Fair (January 2008) in “Entertainment & Celebrity. ”The cover features “New American Sweetheart” Tina Fey, whose portrayal of Sarah Palin provided much-needed comic relief during an otherwise contentious election season.

Sports Illustrated (December 12, 2008) in “Sports & Fitness.” An underwater camera, firing at eight frames per second, provided the only photographic proof of Michael Phelps’ astounding, come-from-behind triumph over Serbia’s Milorad Cavic in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Harper’s Bazaar (March 2009) in “Fashion & Beauty.” The magazine’s Spring Fashion Issue cover features actress Sarah Jessica Parker, whose silvery gray organza Chanel dress picks up the early-morning light on the Brooklyn Bridge, signaling the optimism of the new fashion season.

Veranda (October 2008) in “House & Home.” The rustic farmhouse featured on the cover where Dick Vervoordt lives with his family was strongly influenced and partly designed by his father, the celebrated Belgian designer and antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt.

Condé Nast Traveler (August 2008) in “Lifestyle.” A solitary pool of one’s own with an infinity-edge view of the rugged Amalfi Coast and endless seas is a traveler’s fantasy made reality.

New York (March 2, 2009) in “News & Business.” New York eschewed familiar business-magazine conventions for a bold, daring and somewhat gruesome depiction of Bernie Madoff as the comic-book villain Joker.

Audubon (August 2008) in “Science, Technology & Nature.” Using high-speed photography and a pure white background, this portrait of a blue-and-yellow macaw in flight captures and celebrates the magnificent color and design of this iconic parrot’s plumage.

Bon Appétit (August 2008) in “Most Delicious.” Photographer Kenji Toma brought his unique sense of creativity and energy to a relatively straightforward approach to a mouthwatering ice cream recipe, featuring dripping chocolate as a visual hook.

ELLE (December 2008) in “Sexiest.” The graphic black and white image of country-pop star Carrie Underwood in a moment of apparent ecstasy yields a surprisingly sexier vibe in someone whose image up to then had been nothing but wholesome.

More than 350 magazine covers, from issues published June 1, 2008, through May 30, 2009, were entered in the 2009 Best Cover Contest. Visit the Best Cover Gallery at www.magazine.org/bestcover to view all the entries, finalists, winners and to read the stories behind the covers.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shareholders Challenge Goldman Sachs as It Prepares To Pay Record Bonuses

/PRNewswire/ -- Goldman Sachs is issuing its much anticipated earnings announcement on Thursday (October 15, 2009), and is expected to set aside up to $20 billion for executive bonuses. In view of this action coming so quickly on the heels of the federal bailout money issued to the company during the height of the financial crisis last year, investors are responding by mounting major proxy initiatives.

The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel, Oregon announced today that they have filed a shareholder resolution urging the Board to review pay disparity at the company and analyze the appropriateness of its spiraling pay packages - packages that have an unprecedented impact on Wall Street compensation in general,

The resolution, which is expected to gather more co-sponsors, has been filed early to challenge Goldman Sachs as the Board makes final decisions on bonuses. It was filed to appear in the 2010 proxy and be voted on at the stockholder's meeting. Goldman Sachs had received resolutions calling for shareholders to have an Advisory Vote on executive compensation that received a 46% vote in favor, but the Board has resisted implementing even that modest reform. Other investors may also file resolutions calling for a "say on pay" or for separation of board chair and CEO positions at Goldman Sachs.

Laura Shaffer, who is director of shareholder activities of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and one of the resolution's sponsors, stated: "This request is especially timely as Goldman Sachs rushes to pay huge bonuses, setting an example that many Wall Street firms will no doubt strive to emulate. As shareholders, the ripple effects of this extraordinary compensation are especially concerning. Executive compensation accounts for a considerable portion of aggregate earnings and as firms like Goldman hand over ever larger sums to their executives, these spiraling pay packages will have increasingly significant impacts on investors' returns."

Sister Judy Byron, who coordinates the faith-based Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment and is a longtime proponent of this resolution, said: "Goldman Sachs' announcement of record bonuses is a stark reminder about how executive compensation is spiraling out of control for many firms. It is important that citizens and shareowners both act as voices of reason. As Fortune reminded us in 2007, top executives earn 364 times the pay of the average worker. CEO pay increases significantly for many executives even in rough times, while layoffs skyrocket and pay for average employees stagnate.

Laura Berry, executive director of the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility, said: "As prudent investors, we have a responsibility here to act as the conscience of Wall Street, especially when it fails to do so on its own. How is it possible that the year after billions of taxpayer's dollars helped companies like Goldman Sachs return to financial health, this company shows absolutely no restraint? Goldman Sachs is poised to become the poster child of the company that drives income disparity in the United States."

FULL RESOLUTION TEXT

Recent events have increased concerns about the extraordinarily high levels of executive compensation at many U.S. corporations. Concerns about the structure of executive compensation packages have also intensified, with some suggesting that the compensation system incentivized excessive risk-taking.

In a Forbes article on Wall Street pay, the director of the Program on Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School noted that, "compensation policies will prove to be quite costly--excessively costly--to shareholders." Another study by Glass Lewis & Co. declared that compensation packages for the most highly paid U.S. executives "have been so over-the-top that they have skewed the standards for what's reasonable." That study also found that CEO pay may be high even when performance is mediocre or dismal.

In 2008, Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner stated that, "executive pay is out of control and the marketplace cannot be trusted to rein it in." Legislative attempts to address executive compensation include the Excessive Pay Shareholder Approval Act, which mandates that no employee's compensation may exceed 100 times the average compensation paid to all employees of a given company unless at least 60% of shareholders vote to approve such compensation.

A 2008 piece in BusinessWeek revealed that, "Chief executive officers at companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index earned more than $4,000 an hour each [in 2007]." It also noted that an S&P 500 CEO had to work, on average, approximately 3 hours in 2007 "to earn what a minimum wage worker earned for the full year."

A September 2007 study of Fortune 500 firms showed that top executives' pay averaged $10.8 million the previous year, or more than 364 times the pay of the average U.S. worker. Another study by the Economic Policy Institute found that between 1989 and 2007, average CEO pay rose by 163% while the wages of the average worker in the United States rose by only 10%.

RESOLVED: shareholders request the Board's Compensation Committee initiate a review of our company's executive compensation policies and make available, upon request, a summary report of that review by October 1, 2010 (omitting confidential information and processed at a reasonable cost). We request that the report include -

1. A comparison of the total compensation package of senior executives and our employees' median wage in the United States in July 2000, July 2004 & July 2009.

2. An analysis of changes in the relative size of the gap and an analysis and rationale justifying this trend.

3. An evaluation of whether our senior executive compensation packages (including, but not limited to, options, benefits, perks, loans and retirement agreements) are "excessive" and should be modified to be kept within reasonable boundaries.

4. An explanation of whether sizable layoffs or the level of pay of our lowest paid workers should result in an adjustment of senior executive pay to "more reasonable and justifiable levels" and whether Goldman Sachs should monitor this comparison going forward.

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Tis the Season to be Jolly, Fa, La La, Tis the Season of Broken Promises

RJ Note: Flexible Spending Accounts have been great for my family. I know I have a certain amount of money each year to help offset the portions of health care that insurance doesn't cover. And now, they want to take that away? It is a tax increase and it will affect the middle class. So much for the season of greatness and change. Now it's become the season of broken promises. Fa, la, la.

Fight to Preserve Flexible Spending Accounts Moves to the House of Representatives

/PRNewswire/ -- Despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) support of President Obama's pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class, the House of Representatives is now considering -- outside of the normal legislative process -- adopting provisions approved yesterday by the Senate Finance Committee that would drastically restrict the use of flexible spending accounts (FSAs) in order to help pay for health care reform. The restrictions, which include an unreasonably low cap on contributions to this tax-advantaged benefit that wouldn't adjust with inflation, would quickly de-value the benefit and possibly lead to its elimination, over time.

"This would be the season of broken promises if the House Democratic leadership plans to raise taxes on the middle-class by restricting the use of FSAs -- a benefit used by over 35 million working Americans to hold down their health care costs," said Joe Jackson, chairman of Save Flexible Spending Plans and CEO of WageWorks, a benefits company based in San Mateo, California. "Worse yet, the House would bypass the standard legislative process and abandon due diligence by including this ill-conceived policy in its health bill without the standard committee hearings or debate."

Provisions approved by the Senate Finance Committee now being considered in the House include a proposed $2,500 cap on FSA contributions that would not adjust with inflation. Failure to index the cap for inflation will cause the value of a $2,500 FSA contribution to plummet to $1,250 in just nine years.

"It doesn't make any sense that the House would want to pay for health care reform by overly restricting FSAs and raising taxes on millions of people, especially those who are the sickest," added Jackson. "FSAs are a lifeline for working Americans, often making the difference between staying afloat and going into debt over health care needs, and sometimes between getting necessary treatment and avoiding it altogether because of the cost. They enable participants to play an active role in managing their health care and should be preserved as a safety net for middle-class Americans struggling to afford rising health care costs."

In July, the House Ways and Means Committee also approved health care reform legislation that includes a ban on using money set aside in FSAs to buy over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and allergy medications.

About Flexible Spending Accounts

Flexible spending accounts are voluntary, account-based plans that enable millions of Americans to use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible out-of-pocket health care expenses like prescription drug co-pays, vision and dental costs, office visits and medical supplies. Most FSA participants are middle income Americans, earning approximately $55,000 annually. Currently, limits on contributions to FSAs are set by individual employers.

Individuals and families with chronic illnesses typically receive the most benefit from FSAs. They incur annual out-of-pocket expenses averaging $4,398 per year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found -- well above the proposed limit. Approximately 44 percent of Americans have one or more chronic conditions.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Statement of Robert Greenstein, Executive Director, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on The Senate Finance Committee's Health Reform Plan

/PRNewswire/ -- The Senate Finance Committee's approval of an ambitious health reform plan marks a major step toward enactment of legislation to extend health care to tens of millions of people who lack it, strengthen insurance protections for millions more who are underinsured or face exorbitant charges, and begin to address the nation's most serious fiscal threat -- the relentless rise in health care costs.

The Congressional Budget Office has reported that the bill would modestly reduce the budget deficit both over the next ten years and beyond. This is a fiscally responsible bill that would redirect federal spending and tax subsidies from less productive uses elsewhere in the health care sector. (Read: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=2920)

While the committee package represents a vast improvement over the current health insurance system, it has some serious shortcomings that likely would limit its effectiveness in certain areas. Because the health reform bills approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and three House committees are stronger in those areas, policymakers should blend the best provisions from these bills as they move forward.

Of particular concern are Finance Committee provisions that provide tax credits to help low- and moderate-income households purchase insurance. Under the plan that Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus initially unveiled in mid-September, those tax credits would not have been sufficient to make insurance affordable for many people of modest means. To his credit, Chairman Max Baucus later strengthened those tax credits significantly. But they need further improvement, as many people of modest means likely would still face costs that would be difficult to meet. For most households with incomes between 133 percent and 200 percent of the poverty line, the premium costs for insurance purchased in the new health insurance exchanges would be two to four times higher under the Finance Committee bill than under the Senate HELP Committee bill or the House bill, as a new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' analysis explains. (Read: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=2922)

Compared to those other bills, the Finance Committee plan also provides less comprehensive benefit packages for low- and moderate-income individuals and families that would result in higher charges for deductibles and co-payments. This is another area where the bill merits improvement. (Read: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=2949)

President Obama has set a $900 billion limit on the gross cost of coverage expansions in a health reform bill - that is, the cost before accounting for measures to finance those expansions. The other House and Senate bills effectively exceed that limit. CBO's preliminary cost analysis of the Finance Committee plan indicates that the gross cost of its coverage expansions is $829 billion. Thus, there is room to improve the bill in these areas without running afoul of the President's limit.

The Finance Committee's "free rider" provision also remains highly problematic; in fact, the Committee made the provision somewhat worse. This provision would require employers who do not offer health coverage to pay large amounts for low- or moderate-income employees who receive tax credits to purchase coverage in the health insurance "exchanges" -- but not to pay anything for employees who do not get the tax credits. An employer could be charged $4,000 or more for each full-time employee from a low- or moderate-income family who receives a tax credit to purchase coverage. (The employer charge would be capped at $400 times the total number of full-time workers a firm employs, including workers who do not receive subsidies.)

Many economists believe this provision would make it harder for people from low- and moderate-income families to secure or retain jobs, a problem the Committee exacerbated by voting to deny employers required to make these payments the right to deduct them as a business expense, even though employers deduct the payments they make for workers' health insurance premiums. This change will increase the cost to employers of hiring or retaining employees from modest-income backgrounds and, thus, heighten the disincentive to employ such workers. The "free rider" provision also would place significant administrative burdens on employers, because it would be complex and burdensome to administer. (Read: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=2921)

Policymakers should continue to move health reform legislation through the legislative process. In so doing, they should blend the best provisions from the various bills in a way that is fiscally responsible, addresses the shortcomings that remain in the Finance Committee package, and can command the votes to pass Congress in final form.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Official! "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" Gets The Green Light!

/24-7/ -- The fourth saga in the Twilight Series is going back to it's roots and will be filmed in Portland, Oregon. The original Twilight film was shot there. In addition, a new production company, Sunswept Entertainment, has been brought on board for Breaking Dawn. Sunswept Entertainment was created by Karen Rosenfelt, who is the daughter of former MGM Chairman & CEO Frank Edward Rosenfelt. Karen Rosenfelt served as Producer on both "Twilight" and on "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse". She did not work on "New Moon", but is producing "Breaking Dawn" through her Sunswept Entertainment banner.

There will likely be quite a bit of tweaking to the fourth novel in the series due to the explicit sex and birth scenes to avoid an R rating. Inside sources confirm that Breaking Dawn may be filmed and released in two parts - "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I", and "Part II". Although this has not been confirmed officially by Summit, author Stephenie Meyer has stated, "it would have to be made into multiple movies because it's hard to imagine it fitting into ninety minutes".

Fans can expect a massive talent search for the role of Renesmee Cullen, the half-vampire, half-human daughter of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, just as there was for the roles of Seth and Leah Clearwater in "Eclipse".

David Slade is directing "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse", but it is unknown if he will also direct any of the Breaking Dawn films. "Breaking Dawn: Part I" should start shooting in September 2010, with a release scheduled for 2011.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

YouTube and Faith

Has anyone ever noticed that YouTube has all kinds of categories for videos: non-profit & activism, sports, comedy, education, how to & style, entertainment, news & politics, etc., etc., but not one for "faith" or "religion" or similar?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Parents Concerned Over Obama's 'Safe Schools Czar'

/PRNewswire/ -- "Gay activist Kevin Jennings' appointment as President Obama's 'Safe Schools Czar' is yet another questionable selection. Only this time, they're endangering our children," said Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX).

"As a founder of the Gay/Lesbian/Straight Education Network, Jennings encouraged impressionable youth in our nation's public high schools to identify as 'gay' or 'transgender' at an early age," said Griggs. "Yet many youth are distressed by unwanted same-sex attraction and want information about the possibility of change. Jennings opposes ex-gay equal access to public schools like our PFOX teen brochures that offer ex-gay resources and encourage students to wait until full maturity before declaring themselves 'gay' or 'transgender.'"

"I wish ex-gay resources like those available through PFOX had been around to help me when I was in high school," said Christopher Doyle, a former homosexual and PFOX board member. "As a youth, I was very confused and would have appreciated support for my unwanted same-sex attractions. All I heard, even from some teachers, was that I was born gay. But as an adult, I discovered there is no scientific evidence to support this claim."

"While Jennings promotes tolerance for boys and girls to identify as 'gay' or cross-dress at school, he is intolerant of former homosexuals and their message of hope and change," remarked Griggs. "As a national public official, will Kevin Jennings now work on behalf of all Americans, including the ex-gay community? Or will Jennings continue to deny ex-gay organizations a voice in our public schools while he supports full access by gay and transgender organizations?"

"Jennings' blatant disregard for parental rights and children's well being has surfaced before," said Griggs. "Jennings admits that a 15 year-old student once came to him and confessed that he was having sex with an older man he met in a bus station restroom. Shockingly, rather than notify the boy's parents or school administrators, Jennings' only response as a teacher was, 'I hope you knew to use a condom.'"

"Our children deserve better," said Griggs. "We encourage the Secretary of Education to reappoint another Safe Schools Czar capable of protecting all students."

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey moms... come together... right now...

(Sorry Beatles fans... I went to see RAIN last night and Beatles tunes are seared into my brain...)

Seriously, we want a revolution, but maybe not the kind the Beatles talked about (I'll have to read the complete lyrics, find out where their mind was when they wrote the tune, can't remember terzactly... yep, I made that word up so don't go lookin' it up in the dictionary)!!! Here's a group I just joined (http://www.asamom.org/) and I hope every patriotic, concerned, values lovin' Mom out there will take a look, get involved, join this group or something similar.



Check this one out, too: http://www.the912project.com/

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No Dollars Accepted for Payment?

RJ Note: Combine this story with the news of the new world order at the recent G20 meeting. Yep, this ought to give everyone the shivers.

The demise of the dollar

In a graphic illustration of the new world order, Arab states have launched secret moves with
China, Russia and France to stop using the US currency for oil trading

By Robert Fisk

In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held....http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-demise-of-the-dollar-1798175.html

G-20 Advances New World Order, Media Admit
Alex Newman

26 September 2009
Almost as if a global memo had been sent out, headlines of major media outlets across the planet announced the unfolding of the coming “New World Order” — with a smaller role for the United States and freedom. A correspondingly larger role will be reserved for tyrannical governments like China and global economic management by international institutions, the news reports explained.

Even U.S. government-funded media outlets like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty used the term in an article headlined, “‘New World Order’ Emerging At G-20 Summit.” The article began: “A new world order is emerging.....http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/economy/commentary-mainmenu-43/1969-g20-advances-new-world-order-media-admit

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The Day ObamaCare Died - Sung by Barack Obama

Catchy tune, doncha think? This will be the day.....




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Monday, October 5, 2009

Levi's(R) Brand Buries $100,000 Somewhere in America With the Challenge to Pioneers to 'Go Forth'

/PRNewswire/ -- The Levi's® brand challenges today's pioneers to uncover a $100,000 fortune buried somewhere in America by solving the question "Who was Grayson Ozias IV and where is his fortune?"

Launching October 5, 2009, at levi.com/goforth, this interactive challenge invites participants to solve mysteries as they unfold, keep up with other players or go for the gold themselves with the final cipher. It is a mystery, wrapped in a puzzle and an adventure across our country.

"The question we asked ourselves was 'how do we bring the spirit of Go Forth to life out there in the world? How do we bring the unique history and rich legacy of the Levi's® brand to life in a fun and compelling way?' The story of Grayson Ozias's lost fortune seemed like a mystery just waiting to be solved," says Doug Sweeny, Vice President of Levi's® Brand Marketing.

Grayson Ozias IV Fortune

The narrative behind the challenge follows Grayson Ozias IV, a fictional character based on the Levi's® brand's pioneering and innovative spirit, on his adventures across America until his 1896 disappearance into the wilderness, after hiding his considerable fortune. Grayson Ozias IV was a friend of Levi Strauss's nephew Nathan, so the story goes, who recorded newly discovered details about Grayson's journey that hint at the final hiding place of his fortune. These newly discovered recordings and the story they tell will lead participants on a new adventure of discovery.

The story of Grayson's 1890s adventure exploring America will guide our modern-day event. The game's scavenger hunt leads to many cities and towns across America, each a part of Grayson's journey, encourages players to step out from behind their computers and will lead some lucky player into the real world directly to the buried treasure. Each task triggers the next clue in the challenge.

The ongoing puzzle, an elaborate cryptogram, requires a combination of knowledge, skill and determination. The players will be receiving clues and pieces of the puzzle from launch to finish. The first player to crack the final puzzle and send it to the Levi's® game team will win Grayson Ozias's buried fortune. Players can also win other great prizes throughout the journey.

The Levi's® brand is not only awarding the Grayson Ozias IV challenge winner with $100,000, the participants of the challenge will be given the opportunity to nominate and vote for a U.S.-based non-profit organization to receive an additional $100,000 gift from the blue-jean-inventing icon. Sweeny adds, "This is the legacy of Levi Strauss who himself donated a robust portion of his first earnings to a local orphanage that the company still supports today. This began the company's tradition of sharing its prosperity with the community."

The hidden fortune is the third expedition from Levi's® Go Forth campaign, first launched July 1, 2009. The campaign will be supported heavily in digital social media (Facebook, Twitter), online via rich media and offline (ESPN The Magazine). The first two expeditions--the New Declaration and the New Americans--were an homage to today's America.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Revealed to have Jewish Past

RJ Note: Well, well. Look at this story. Ahmadinejad's family appears to have been Jewish. His Jewish name means weaver and is reserved for Iranian Jews. Looks like he's trying to weave out his past. Maybe he should be more careful about wanting Jewish blood to spill?


The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at http://www.eogn.com.


Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made many speeches attacking Israel and the Jewish people. Now a report in London's Daily Telegraph shows that Ahmadinejad's family has Jewish roots. In fact, the president apparently was born to a Jewish family which later converted to Islam after his birth.

A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 was magnified by the Daily Telegraph staffers shows lettering that is clearly readable. The document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.

The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from "weaver of the Sabour", the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior.

Experts last night suggested Mr Ahmadinejad's track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.

You can read more in the Daily Telegraph at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/6256173/Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad-revealed-to-have-Jewish-past.html.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

NLC Statement on Unemployment Numbers: Indicate Cities Expected to Struggle in Coming Years

/PRNewswire/ -- Today's unemployment figures demonstrate that while the economy may be showing some signs of recovery, many people and cities are still feeling the effects of the economic downturn. According to the Department of Labor, local governments cut 47,000 jobs in September alone. Job cuts are typically a last case effort for local governments trying to find cost savings.

"Cities are facing enormous financial pressures right now and their fiscal circumstances are indicative of the depth of the downturn," said Christopher Hoene, director of research and innovation for the National League of Cities. "Cities lag behind the overall economy by 18 to 24 months and are only just beginning to see the worst of the recession. These job losses may only be an indicator of what is to come in the rest of 2009 and 2010."

The National League of Cities recently made public the results of a survey city finance officers. The report showed that in the face of declining revenue and increasing expenses, city finance officers are pessimistic about cities' abilities to meet their financial needs. Nine in ten (88%) say this year will be difficult in meeting fiscal needs, while 89% expect the same in 2010.

The report, City Fiscal Conditions 2009, is a national mail and online survey of finance officers in U.S. cities conducted in the spring-summer of each year. This is the twenty-fourth edition of the survey which began in 1986.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Man Did Not Evolve From Apes: Kent State University Professor C. Owen Lovejoy Helps Unveil Oldest Hominid Skeleton That Revises How We Think

Man Did Not Evolve From Apes: Kent State University Professor C. Owen Lovejoy Helps Unveil Oldest Hominid Skeleton That Revises How We Think of Human Evolution

/PRNewswire/ -- Throw out all those posters and books that depict an ape evolving into a human being, says Kent State University Professor of Anthropology Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy. An internationally recognized biological anthropologist who specializes in the study of human origins, Lovejoy is one of the primary authors who revealed their research findings today on Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.

"People often think we evolved from apes, but no, apes in many ways evolved from us," Lovejoy said. "It has been a popular idea to think humans are modified chimpanzees. From studying Ardipithecus ramidus, or 'Ardi,' we learn that we cannot understand or model human evolution from chimps and gorillas."

A special issue of Science (www.sciencemag.org) available Oct. 2 will feature 11 papers that are the first formal description of "Ardi," a partial female skeleton. Lovejoy was first author on five papers and contributed to an additional three. For the past seven years, he has been a part of a major international research effort studying "Ardi," serving as post-cranial anatomist and behavioral theorist.

One of Lovejoy's most recognized achievements is the reconstruction of the skeleton of "Lucy," a fossil of a human ancestor that walked upright more than three million years ago. "'Ardi' is one million years older than 'Lucy,' more informative than 'Lucy,' and 'Ardi' changes what we know about human evolution."

When comparing "Ardi" to "Lucy," Lovejoy said that working on "Ardi" was much more exciting and interesting. "She provides real answers," he said.

A resident of Kent, Ohio, Lovejoy has taught at Kent State for 40 years. He is a widely published author, with more than 100 articles in prestigious publications. He also holds the honor of being one of the Institute for Scientific Information's "Most Highly Cited" authors in social sciences. In 2007, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for excellence in original scientific research. Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States.

To watch a video of Lovejoy discussing the research findings of Ardipithecus ramidus, visit www.kent.edu. A Discovery Channel special also will air this month that will feature Lovejoy and Kent State.

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