Friday, October 21, 2005

Macedonia Becomes World's First 'Wireless' Country

An example of what can be acchieved when government and industry work together to invest in a society.  It can be done.   plk
Macedonia Becomes World’s First ‘Wireless’ Country

Working with the Government of Macedonia and the private sector, the Academy for Educational Development  ( AED )  has helped transform Macedonia, once the least developed of the Yugoslav republics, into the world's first 'wireless country' of its size or larger.  
Through a grant from USAID, the AED project Macedonia Connects worked with a local Internet service provider to connect every one of the country's 460 primary and secondary schools to a wireless network. Now each is outfitted with a computer lab, and the students are connected to the world.

"Our project team had the technical vision of how the network we created for the schools could be expanded to benefit the entire country," said Dennis Foote, vice president and director of the AED Center for Applied Technology.

Microsoft provided valuable software packages and licenses to the government of Macedonia, and Motorola contributed necessary hardware.

Already, private companies are poised to take advantage of the new system."

Another result of the Macedonia Connects project was a steep reduction in the costs associated with Internet access.

According to Glenn Strachan, who directed the project for AED, there is now more competition among Internet service providers in Macedonia, prices have dropped, and "the Internet is accessible to students, teachers, and the general population, rather than just the wealthiest section of society."

For more information, contact Glenn Strachan.

Read more about AED’s work in Technology Applications, or visit the homepage of the AED Center for Applied Technology.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


As energy prices soar, a city finds ways to cut the cost

It doesn't always require a lot to save energy, just a little common sense. plk
As energy prices soar, a city finds ways to cut the cost |

Conservation consultants John Pierson and Parthiban Mathavan were able to save New Haven Public Schools $1.1 million in energy costs last fiscal year by simply 
deciding that a mild winter morning does not require full-blast heat at the 50 schools they monitor.  Stopping that saved $600,000 the first year.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


So You Want To Volunteer for Disaster Relief -- Think About The Details First Before Rushing Off

This is a must-read article for anyone considering travelling to a disaster site as a volunteer. plk
When Disaster Strikes: Considerations for Helping Relief Efforts
From: Action Without Borders, Inc.
When disasters strike, many of us look for a way to contribute to the relief of the victims. Our desire to help can surface whether the disaster is natural, such as a hurricane or earthquake, or human-caused, such as a refugee crisis, or even some combination of the two, like a drought-induced famine. As we struggle to find ways to help our fellow human beings in places that are often far from our homes, we must weigh our options, and our feelings, carefully. The decision to head to a disaster area is not one that should be taken without first considering the complexities of the situation. This article gives you a few issues to think about as you look to get involved in the disaster response. By Eric Fichtl, Editor at
Helping Out Close to Home Often,
the fastest way to assist disaster victims is to donate money to a charity that is responding to the disaster. 
Many charities specialize in providing relief in acute disaster areas, yet they face significant financial outlays to get their staff, equipment, and supplies to the affected regions.  Your donation helps put experienced disaster responders on the ground, and gives them the tools they need to help victims recover.

If you aren't in a financial position to donate, you can still help the relief effort in a variety of ways, often right in your own community.  For instance, you can contribute to the disaster response by collecting supplies to send, by volunteering at the local office of a charity that has sent staff to the affected area, or by organizing other initiatives in your community that raise awareness about, and funding for, the relief effort.  Such efforts shouldn't be downplayed:  Running a food drive, organizing a benefit, collecting clothes and supplies, or lobbying community leaders to support the relief effort can all generate tangible results for disaster victims.

Idealist's Volunteer Center can give you tips on getting active in your area.

For some people, donating money or volunteering locally feels too passive, or may not be financially possible. Seeing images of disaster often prompts an urge to head to the affected area and assist victims directly.  However, if your response is overly emotional and underestimates the complexity of working in a disaster area, you risk doing something rash for which you are unprepared, and you could damage the relief effort in the process.  While there are opportunities to take an active role in disaster response, there are several crucial issues that would-be disaster responders must first consider.

Cost-Benefit Analysis
Despite your initial sense that you aren't in a position to donate money or volunteer locally, bear in mind that volunteering to respond at the crisis scene isn't going to be free, either.  The costs you incur just to get to the disaster area may ultimately be a poor allocation of valuable resources, especially if you end up sapping scarce supplies once you arrive in the affected region.

On the other hand, you may be a more effective responder on your home turf rather than out in the field: If you're in school or college, or in a company, religious group, or union, think of the number of people you have the potential to involve in the disaster response just by raising your voice and steering your combined efforts.

If you truly think it's worth the cost for you to head to the field, there are other important issues to consider as well.

"Victims don't stop being victims just because they're no longer in the news."

Going It Alone vs. Going With Support
Individuals with special knowledge and specific skill-sets can undoubtedly improve relief efforts, often by plugging short-term holes in the existing efforts.  But quite soon after a disaster, individual responses can also lead to the unnecessary duplication of efforts and can run into significant viability problems.  Relief agencies are effective in part because they have significant support infrastructure behind their field programs to ensure that their efforts can be sustained for the longest possible period.

If you have local knowledge or special skills, there is a good chance that a relief agency will have a way to incorporate you into their relief effort.  Although you may confront some initial bureaucracy by joining a larger effort, you will likely be able to sustain your efforts much longer working with a dedicated team supporting you.

Are you physically prepared for this?

Despite your best intentions, your presence may compound, rather than alleviate, the problems in the disaster area. Disaster areas are usually characterized by a severe breakdown in the supply of food, water, medicine, and shelter.  Likewise, you may need special clothing, transport, and other equipment just to get into the affected region, let alone stay there. 
Are you emotionally prepared for this?
There's more to disaster relief work than physical challenges. Disaster survivors who have lost their homes, possessions, and loved ones, or who have witnessed acts of violence and degradation, are likely to suffer feelings of anguish, anger, remorse, and pain, and may experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In other words, disaster victims have physical as well as emotional needs, and relief workers must attempt to address both.  If you aren't emotionally prepared for the overwhelming stress of working in a disaster area and assisting disaster victims, you may experience many of these emotional conditions yourself. Action Without Borders/ created a resource for aid workers that helps them prepare for the special stress that they typically experience in the field, available at  If you do head to the field, keep tabs on the emotional well-being of yourself and your fellow relief workers: the ability to remain emotionally stable in trying circumstances is crucial to the success of the relief effort.

Are you "legally" prepared for this?

Though it may be the furthest thing from your mind in the aftermath of a disaster, you need to consider the legal regime of the country where the disaster has occurred. It's important to realize that the chaotic images you see of the disaster area may be quite localized, and that the laws governing that region may otherwise be in effect, even if these seem to be an impediment to the urgent response.

By All Means, Volunteer. But Consider the Timing.

Despite your initial desire to help, you may be far more effective as a long-haul volunteer rather than a first responder.  That is, long after the disaster's immediate aftermath, as the victims struggle to rebuild their communities, they will still need assistance. And that may be the best time for you to head to the region, especially because many of the more immediate challenges no longer inhibit your ability to help out.  The extra time may also allow you to improve your knowledge of the local language and customs, which both increase your ability to assist the victims.  Volunteering your skills as a teacher, a builder, a doctor, or any number of other professions can offer affected communities a resource that they may never have had before, or one that was tragically lost as a result of the disaster.

The point of highlighting these concerns is not to discourage you from getting involved in a disaster relief effort, but rather to try to ensure that you get involved in the way most suited to your abilities.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Thought For The Day

The process of maturing is an art to be learned, an effort to be sustained. By the age of fifty you have made yourself what you are, and if it is good, it is better than your youth." -- Marya Mannes

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New Survey Report Reveals Truth Behind Credit Card Debt Explosion in the U.S.

New Survey Report Reveals Truth Behind Credit Card Debt Explosion in the U.S.
Center for Responsible Lending
October 12, 2005
Washington, D.C. --- American families are turning to credit cards to make ends meet in an increasingly volatile economy, according to The Plastic Safety Net: The Reality Behind Credit Card Debt in America, a new report released today by Demos and the Center for Responsible Lending.

Released just five days before the new bankruptcy law took effect and effectively shut the door on financial recovery for millions, The Plastic Safety Net presented new findings from a national survey on credit card debt among low- and middle-income households---those whose earnings fell between 50 percent and 120 percent of local median income.

The survey provides new information about why households are in credit card debt, how long they have carried their debt and the impact this debt has had on their economic security.

Research shows that credit card debt in America has almost tripled since 1989 and increased 31 percent since 2000. Americans now owe some $800 billion in credit card debt.  In addition, owing largely to job instability and medical costs, bankruptcies rose from 616,000 in 1989 to over 1.8 million in 2004.

Existing data sources tracking debt, such as the Federal Reserve Board's triennial Survey of Consumer Finances, provide limited information and do not answer basic questions about how long households have been in debt and about the type of charges that lead to outstanding balances.

Prior to the survey findings presented in The Plastic Safety Net, there have been few studies that analyze how households are using credit cards and how they are managing their debt.  "The results are clear: wages have stagnated while medical and housing costs have skyrocketed, and if confronted with a layoff or health emergency there are few, if any, personal or public safety nets adequate enough to help in a crisis.

Seven out of 10 low- and middle-income households reported using their credit cards as a safety net---relying on credit to pay for car repairs, basic living expenses, medical expenses or house repairs.

One out of three households reported using credit cards to cover basic living expenses on average four out of the last 12 months; households that reported a recent job loss or unemployment, and those without health insurance in the last three years, were almost twice as likely to use credit cards for basic living expenses. 
Further, these households still had average credit card debt over $14,000.  As a result, they were carrying 18% more debt than homeowners who had refinanced a mortgage but not paid down credit card debt---even though their incomes were almost identical. 
Almost half missed or were late with a payment in the last year, with nearly a quarter of households reporting paying a late fee at least one or two times in the past year.  In addition to charging late fees ranging from $30 and $39, most issuers also penalize cardholders for late payments by increasing the interest rate on the account two- or three-fold, often after only one late payment.

"Americans families are losing the fight against an economy and lending practices that are working against them," said Mark Pearce, President of the Center for Responsible Lending.  "It's time for Washington to address this crisis head-on and create policy that protects, and promotes economic vitality for, all American households."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Monday, October 17, 2005

Worst Amazon Drought in 40 Years

"The environmental crisis (leads me to) conclude that I have not gone nearly far enough. The time has long since come to take more political risks ... We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization ... We can believe in (the) future and work to preserve it, or we can whirl blindly on, behaving as if one day there will be no children to inherit our legacy. The choice is ours; the earth is in the balance."

Al Gore, "Earth in the Balance"

Amazon hit by worst drought for 40 years

Read the entire article at:


Parts of the Amazon rainforest are enduring the worst drought for 40 years, prompting local government to declare several cities in the Brazilian state of Amazonas as disaster areas.

Researchers say that rising sea temperatures in the North Atlantic, perhaps prompted by climate change, are probably to blame. In addition, Researchers at a forest monitoring station in Santarém, where the Amazon and Tapajós rivers meet, report that water levels are some 15 metres lower than usual.

"Everybody has been taken by surprise," says Paul Lefebvre, a researcher at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, which runs the station. Droughts in South America are often associated with El Niño climate events - oscillating changes to weather patterns that occur as a result of periodic warming of southern Pacific waters. But researchers have not spotted any such warming this year, Lefebvre says.

Instead, rising surface temperatures in the North Atlantic could be the culprit. The waters have been unusually warm this year - as shown to devastating effect by this year's unusually destructive tropical hurricane season. This creates storm conditions that carry water and energy towards the United States. But it also sets up high pressure systems over neighbouring regions further south, such as the Amazon.

Drought in the Amazon could also stunt tree growth and make the forest more susceptible to burning - both of which could have global implications for climate. Studies by Lefebvre's colleagues show that drought conditions can cut the amount that trees grow by a quarter, which would in theory prevent the forest's ability to soak up carbon. If this happens, the Amazon could conceivably become a carbon 'source', pumping out carbon dioxide faster than it can absorb it, Lefebvre says. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could raise world temperatures even further, making droughts even more damaging in the future.

The ultimate fear is that the Amazon forest - often touted as an invaluable piece of armour against climate change - could become part of the problem rather than a key element of the solution.
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Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Should You Raid Your 401(k) to repay credit card debt


Dear Steve,

My husband and I have about $40,000 in credit card debt, and I know that in October the minimum payments will double. I'm considering borrowing from my retirement savings to pay off some of this debt. Do you think this is wise?
-- Robin


Dear Robin,

That's a lot of credit card debt you've got there. And you are right about those minimums increasing soon. Under new federal guidelines, almost everyone who is carrying a credit card balance can expect higher minimum payments before the end of the year. But I am not so sure that you should borrow from your retirement to decrease your debt.

You didn't say what type of retirement account you have, but I assume it is a 401(k), since these plans often have a provision for borrowing up to 50 percent of the vested value. Repayment is generally through payroll deduction, and interest is usually charged at a low rate, which is credited to your account. Repayment begins immediately and in most cases must be paid off in 60 equal monthly payments over five years. There is no penalty for prepayment. Sounds good so far, right?

Unfortunately, there is this guy out there whose name is Murphy. He is so popular that he has a law named after him. Murphy's law says: If something can go wrong, it will. So let's look at what can happen.

If you lose or leave your job before the loan is paid off, the balance of the loan usually must be paid in full at termination or it will be treated as a distribution. "Distributed" 401(k) money triggers a federal tax penalty, of 10 percent, for early withdrawal if you are less than age 59½, and you will have to pay federal income taxes on the distributed amount. If you are in a 25-percent tax bracket, the taxes plus penalty mean you will have to surrender 35 percent of your balance. If you live in a state with an income tax that will be charged, too, you could lose as much as 50 percent to state and federal income taxes. Check your plan for specifics before you do anything like this.

The reason this penalty exists is because Uncle Sam doesn't want you to use your retirement to pay off your debts; he wants you to save it for your retirement! So do I.

Even if you feel your job is as secure as Fort Knox and you will not have a problem with the additional withdrawal from your paycheck, I would urge you to try another method of getting your debt down before breaking open the retirement piggy bank.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Stop using the cards. Don't add more to your pile of debts; use cash.
  • Set some goals. Agree on some five-year goals for you and your family. Make one of them to retire the debt in 60 payments or less. Few people can live like monks for five years, though, so make sure your plan includes some fun and affordable goals. They will give you incentives to stick to your goals.
  • Get a plan. Develop a spending plan that encompasses your goals and current needs. Make it real by posting pictures of your goals and dreams on the refrigerator so you both can see them every day.

My bottom-line advice is to not rob tomorrow to pay for yesterday. If you don't stop, when you get to tomorrow, you will find that it has been emptied not only of money, but of hopes and dreams as well.

If you can't agree on the goal-setting and spending plan, find yourself a good, accredited credit counselor to help you find a way out of this $40,000 debt without risking your future to do it. Good luck!

The Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the president of Money Management International Financial Education Foundation and the author of Credit Repair Kit for Dummies. Visit MMI for additional debt advice or click here to ask a debt question.

How to Aid Earthquake Victims in South & Central Asia

International aid organizations are accepting donations to help victims of the devastating earthquake in South and Central Asia. The groups include:

AmeriCares(800) 486-HELP

American Jewish World Service(212) 736-2597

The British Red Cross(44-20) 870-170-9240

The American Red Cross(800) HELP-NOW

The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies(41-22) 730-4222

Canadian Red Cross(800) 418-1111

CARE(800) 422-7385]

Catholic Relief Services (800) 736-3467

Church World Service(800) 297-1516

Christian Aid(44-20) 845-700-0300

Concern Worldwide (353-1) 850-410-510

Direct Relief International (805) 964-4767

Episcopal Relief and Development (800) 334-7626

Humedica (49-8341) 966-1480

International Medical Corps(800) 481-4462

The International Rescue Committee (877) REFUGEE

The International Rescue Corps (44-1324) 665011

Habitat for Humanity International(800) HABITAT

Islamic Relief(44-121) 622 0622

MAP International (800) 225-8550

Medair(41-21) 694-35-35

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders(212) 679-6800

Mercy Corps(888) 256-1900

Muslim Aid(44-20) 7377-4200

Network for Good

Northwest Medical Teams(800) 959-HEAL

Oxfam(800) 77-OXFAM

Plan USA(800) 556-7918

Save the Children(800) 728-3843


UNHCR (800) 770-1100

The United Methodist Committee on Relief(800) 554-8583

World Food Program(202) 530-1694

World Vision (888) 511-6548


By David Tait

Under the Old Covenant (Testament) system authority was effectively shared between 'kings' and 'priests'. Put simply, kings were responsible to God for the people's temporal wellbeing while the priests were accountable for the nation's spiritual welfare. '

The 'saviour' that the Jews were, and many still are, looking for, was to be a king/priest who will, help them overcome their enemies in battle. Not a god, but a man. Hence, still today, leading rabbis are looked at to see if they have the qualities and charisma that would qualify them to be the promised saviour. Someone wise, someone successful, of stature, someone who can rally the people to defeat the multitude of enemies that Israel has always been plagued with. There have been numerous pretenders, both before and since Jesus, but none have been successful in setting the people free.

Along comes Jesus. Brilliant academically from a young age, He confounded the top teachers of the day with His knowledge of the Scriptures. "Is it possible that Jesus could be the saviour?" must have been in the rabbis thoughts. But, of course, this was soon discounted. For Jesus didn't behave like a king. In fact the very opposite! He mixed with the lower levels of society, the 'down and outs' of the day. He was anti-establishment - the religious establishment that was! Nor did He show any interest in leading a rebellion against the Roman invaders. In fact, He often went out of his way to avoid confrontation with them. Indeed, sometimes it seemed He was running away! He also did such strange things such as washing the feet of His close followers, instead if them washing His. Highly unbecoming and completely out of character for a candidate for the 'Savior' role. Although forceful at times, particularly in His dealings with the religious hierarchy, He was a humble man. He didn't stay in the top inns of the day, build a single building, nor indeed, leave any physical monument of His existence - not even a body! He had no money. In all truth, He relied upon His supporters, particularly - dare it be mentioned - the women, to provide for His minimal physical needs. When He died, all He owned was the clothes He was wearing. Finally, He conquered no territory, set up no government, indeed, left no formal organisation. Just a few ragged followers, most of who would then desert Him in the worst, yet best, moment of His life. He failed in His last opportunity, on Palm Sunday, to stamp His authority on the adoring crowds and lead them into battle against the hated Roman occupiers. A few days later He was hung on a tree, in the manner of the lowest criminal element of the Land. A disappointment. A failure, in human eyes.

Yet this 'failure' rose again, of course unrecognised by the Establishment, and His life has had a greater influence upon human history than any other, before or since.

The question then is, in whose image are we going to live our life? Are we seeking to have fine churches and great ministries recognised by multitudinous Christians, maybe even, by the secular world? Do we want to gather a Christian Army and conquer the world for Jesus? Set up Christian government?

Or do we want to be like Jesus? In perfect harmony with the Word! Serving our neighbours; figuratively, even literally, washing their feet. Loving others, with the love Jesus showed the people of His day. Being misunderstood. Not standing on our rights, but influencing others through our behaviour. Often appearing defeated from a worldly viewpoint, but having a character that attracts the spiritually hungry -the character of Jesus. Selfless, serving, even unto death. Like Jesus, neither seeking nor receiving the plaudits of mankind but unconditionally obeying the will of His Father, Like Him, changing the world!

For most of us this requires a new mindset. Well away from status, away from buildings and programmes, conquering nations, fighting the battle in human way. Rather, offering unconditional forgiveness and love, dying to our own desires and dreams, serving others without any thought of recognition or reward for ones self.

As we so do, we will become the Jesus generation today.

"But Lord, my new church building will witness for you in this community!" "No, my son, My witness is not found in buildings, programmes or position, but through your sacrificial life."

Find out more about us at...

3 Hetley Crescent, Taradale, Napier 4001, New Zealand

Monday, October 10, 2005

Action Call: Ask FEMA to Extend Their 60-Day Deadline

I am inviting you to take action to urge FEMA to extend the deadline for victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita to apply for federal assistance. Millions of families have been displaced by the hurricane and hundreds of thousands still have not been able to go home to survey the damage. FEMA only gives these families 60 days to fill-out complex applications for aid. These families deserve more time.

Please go to and take action today!

Earthquake Devastation in Pakistan Posted by Picasa
You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting . The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.

 Posted by Picasa

Chappatte's Global Warming Cartoon Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 7, 2005

Fire Yourself by Dan Miller

Of course you know the “frog in the kettle” story. If you throw a frog in a pan of hot water, he’ll immediately jump out. But if you put that frog in a pan of lukewarm water, you can slowly turn up the heat and that poor frog will cook to death sitting right there. The changes were slow and subtle and he just never responded at all.

I hear lots of fascinating stories from people who sound like that poor frog. Here’s a recent response from a reader in describing his work situation:

'I work as a rural letter carrier (a mail man). I have been at the same job, in the same Post Office, in the same town for 20 years. I hate the job! Have hated it for 15 years or so. Have hated it with a passion since my second son was born. It steals my life. I've stood it as long as I can. If I don't get out I'll drown or explode.'

Well at least he recognizes he’s in hot water. But with all the opportunities available today, why would someone spend 15 more years after realizing he hated the position? How does a person spend 40-50 hours a week doing something they detest? Maybe I’m just impatient, but if I’m in hot water, I start looking for an escape in about 15 minutes; not 15 years. The interesting thing in many situations like this is that the person eventually gets fired. (They usually set in motion subtle events to assure this.) And then he/she immediately begins to see all kinds of new possibilities for better options. Why is our vision so clouded by the status quo? Why is the “good” the enemy of the “best?” Why does it take getting fired to force someone to take the initiative in finding better choices?

Space does not allow room for even just my opinion on all of those tough questions. But I would recommend that you “fire yourself” today. Then tonight ask yourself:
  • What are my highest “areas of competence?”
  • How do those translate into marketable skills?
  • What are the companies, organizations or my own business that would welcome those skills?
  • Knowing what I know now, do I choose to work for the same company tomorrow? If so, I recognize it’s a good fit; I’m grateful for it and will make my finest contribution there.
  • If not, how can I create a 48 Day plan to begin a better life?
Don’t wait until you “drown or explode.” Get out of that hot water. Yes, there really are plenty of ponds with cool, clear, refreshing water just waiting for you


Dan Miller is President of The Business Source, in Franklin , TN , specializing in creative thinking for personal and business development. He believes the most effective life plans are achieved by integrating natural gifts, unique personality traits and one's own values and passions. Dan is the author of 48 Days To The Work You Love and 48 Days To Creative Income.

Democracy DeLayed

Democracy DeLayed
Lee Drutman
October 03, 2005
Lee Drutman is the co-author of The People's Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy.
In the never-ending chatter that necessarily follows the indictment of any politician as important as Tom DeLay, much effort has gone into prognosticating the political ramifications: What does this mean for 2006?

What does this mean for the GOP agenda?

These are the kinds of questions that are perhaps to be expected of the mainstream media, with its endless focus on the horse race of politics.

Unfortunately, much less has been made of the law that DeLay actually stands accused of violating---a Texas statute that bans corporate money from statewide political campaigns---or the larger problems of corporate money in politics that supported the entire DeLay empire.

In the news coverage so far, the Texas law has generally been treated as an aside, the trap that finally snared Tom DeLay's arrogance (what is important, it would seem, is that he was finally caught doing something illegal!).

We know that Tom DeLay stands accused of violating Texas law by laundering $190,000 of corporate money to support Republican candidates for the state legislature.

We know that with the help of this money, Republicans in Texas were indeed able to take over the state legislature, and redraw the election maps so they could send five more Republicans to Congress, increasing the sycophantically corporate-friendly GOP majority in Washington.

We know that the cost of running for Congress is now prohibitively expensive---about $1 million for a House seat, about $6 million for a Senate seat.

We know that in the last election cycle, business spent $1.5 billion on politics, accounting for 74 percent of all campaign contributions.

It follows that if you want to run for federal office, you'd better be good at raising money.

And if you want to raise money, you'd better be good at appealing to corporate donors, because without big business donors, it's awfully hard to raise that kind of money.

DeLay's alleged laundering of corporate money is just another example of how big corporations---who have exponentially more resources than average citizens---use those resources to shape political outcomes.

This fall, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of a Vermont law that limits campaign spending and contributions.

The point of the law is to make candidates less dependent on wealthy donors (e.g. large corporations) by putting a cap on the arms race of political spending.

The precedent would be the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling, which equates money with speech and therefore deems spending limits unconstitutional.

However, since Buckley was decided, we have amassed almost three decades of evidence demonstrating what happens when campaign expenditures are unlimited and the highest bidders are comfortable going quite high.

It is also worth noting that while Buckley protected the speech of those few with countless resources to expend on politics, doing so effectively drowned out the speech of many others who might like to make their voice heard but can only offer small contributions.

In 2002, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the Vermont law, writing that without expenditure limits, Vermont officials "have been forced to provide privileged access to contributors in exchange for campaign money," and that "the basic democratic requirements of accessibility, and thus accountability, are imperiled when the time of public officials is dominated by those who pay for such access with campaign contributions."

If it upholds the Vermont law, it would be a major step forward in the fight against excessive corporate political spending, since spending limits by necessity reduce the amount of money in politics.

And as the Supreme Court considers this case this fall, we ought to keep in mind the antics of Tom DeLay.

Yet, because it has grabbed the spotlight, it offers an important opportunity to talk about what role large corporations, with their disproportionate financial resources compared to ordinary citizens, should play in politics.

And the more we talk about this now, the stronger a case we can make this fall for upholding Vermont's expenditure limits.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


How to Prepare for One Really Quick Getaway - New York Times

OK, you've been warned that a hurricane ( tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption ... ) is coming and you have 24 hours to get out of town.   What do you take?
After the survival gear what will you need to rebuild your life when all your posessions are lost.   The following article provides a terrific preparation list.   The summary provides  a quick overview of the recommendations.  But please read the entire article in detail,  it is well worth it.  plk
How to Prepare for One Really Quick Getaway - New York Times

All told, you can secure your records in a weekend afternoon.  One of the first things to do is compile a list of where everything is - account numbers and the locations of important documents.   The list will help you or anyone in your family locate things you need for the insurance adjuster or relief worker.

Here is what else you have to do to protect your records and yourself:

RECORD: Once you have made your basic list, save it on a U.S.B. flash drive. A 256-megabyte drive, which you can buy for $20 or even less if you catch a store promotion, gives you enough space for that file and all the other suggestions mentioned below.

Several of the big flash drive makers, like SanDisk and Lexar Media, are now selling more advanced drives that allow you to encrypt the data so others cannot read it without knowing the alphanumeric key that unlocks the code. Some are even shock proofed with heavier rubber and plastic coatings. Those will cost about $10 to $20 more, but are certainly worth it when you consider the sensitivity of the data on them.

It is also a good idea to copy the contents onto additional drives for backup and for other members of the family.

SCAN: Some important documents are on paper and you will want copies of them with you: tax returns for the last three years (Form 1040 is all you will need in an emergency), a recent pay stub, birth certificates, marriage license, the deed to your home and insurance policy pages that list your coverage. If you do not have a scanner or a printer with a flat scanner, take the pile of documents down to a copy center like Kinko's to scan. Record the image files on the U.S.B. drive.

SHOOT: Some personal finance advisers suggest that you make a spreadsheet listing everything you own and enter the date and price paid and then file all the receipts and ... yeah, yeah. You will never do it. But creating a detailed inventory of everything you own need not be a major chore when technology comes to the rescue. Many households now have a camcorder or digital camera. Walk around each room and take a picture of each item. Then, either store all the photos on a memory card (unless you live in the Biltmore mansion, you can load all the photos on a 256- or 512-megabyte card). Or you can transfer them to the same U.S.B. drive with your other documents

SECURE: Now it is time for your medical records. You can place your health history as well as digitized copies of X-rays, scans and electrocardiograms on the same encrypted flash drive.   Those with serious medical conditions may want to consider a product sold by the nonprofit organization that developed the MedicAlert bracelet 50 years ago. It sells a special USB flash drive on its Web site,, called the E-HealthKey for $85.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Thoughts for the Day

With the recent debate over teaching intelligent design along with evolution I found the following quotes by Albert Einstein appropriate for the day. Enjoy!

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." -- , "Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium", 1941

" The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. "

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. "

SARS Virus Linked to Tiny Bats

Last week a team of researchers announced that they've pinpointed the source of SARS to believe or not the horseshoe bat. The experts from the Consortium of Conservation Medicine state that the SARS virus, which has sickened thousands of people '"would have been happy to stay with bats if only humans hadn't gone sticking their noses in every nook and cranny of nature."

Read the entire story at:

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Protect Your Children from High-Tech Predators

A recent article in the The San Jose Mercury News warns parents that technology is making it easier for sexual predators to sexual exploit their children and distribute child pornography.

In the article Det. Sgt. Paul Gillespie of the Toronto police's sex crimes unit states, "everything's going to be in the size of a (cellular) telephone that has the computing power of 10 of the best PCs that are out there right now. Everything's going to be portable, mobile, wireless - that's just going to pose huge challenges for law enforcement and I'm not sure what the answer is."

"The tip of the iceberg was the arrest of a 36-year-old man last month for using a cell phone camera to take digital photographs under the skirts of young girls in the city's east end", said Gillespie

To learn how to protect the children in your life from online predators go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website.

Thoughts for a New Day

"Unless we can hear each other singing and crying, unless we can comfort each other's failures and cheer each other's victories, we are missing out on the best that life has to offer. The only real action takes place on the bridge between people." -- -- author unknown

"The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for." -- Joseph Addison

Learn the Secrets to True Financial Freedom

In his series Howard Dayton, Cofounder of Money Matters states that in order to enjoy true financial freedom we must first and foremost acknowledge that God is the owner of everything.

Dayton states, "If there is any one financial principle that is foundational, it is this issue of ownership. It is only after you and I acknowledge that everything in heaven and on earth belongs to God, and begin to live out that truth, that we can start to experience True Financial Freedom.

As long as we see ourselves as owners rather than managers, we will continue to be owned by our possessions.

There is an amazing sense of freedom that comes from giving up our tightly held grip on all of the “stuff” in our lives. Once we let go of the illusion that we are owners, God has the freedom to do a mighty work in our lives as His stewards. "

Read the entire article at:

Saturday, October 1, 2005

An Important Breakthrough in the Cancer Wars

BBC NEWS | Health | Single gene 'skin cancer cause'

A single gene may play a major role in nearly all cases of one of the most common human cancers, a study says.  A team from Barts and the London Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London used gene chip array technology to identify the key skin cancer gene.

The technology allows scientists to look at thousands of genes at once, helping to pinpoint the role played by individual ones in much greater detail. Experts said the technique may lead to similar discoveries for other cancers.

The researchers used the gene chip array technology, which employs a microscope to analyse a specialised slide capable of containing thousands of genes, to identify the key role played by a gene called patched.  The technique is also being used to study tumours of the breast, bladder and prostate and conditions as diverse as HIV and Crohn's disease. 

They found that 70% of basal cell carcinoma tumours - a type of skin cancer - had mutations in the patched gene, leading them to conclude it was probably the "first hit" in most cases.  Basal cell carcinoma is a form of non-melanoma skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer with more than 60,000 diagnoses a year, although it is often treatable and is responsible for about 500 deaths a year.

Lead researcher Professor David Kelsell said the new gene chip array was a "vast improvement on previous technologies, which could not pick up certain differences".   "By comparing a cancer patient's tumour cells with their healthy cells, we were able to see all of the genetic events that played a part on the development of disease in that individual."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Thoughts to Begin A New Week

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." -- Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

"A desperation to escape a problem is the wrong way. A passion to understand it is the right way" -- Vernon Howard

"Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to "jump at the Sun."We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off theground." -- Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960) American Writer

"A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying that he is wiser today than he was yesterday." -- Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English Poet

Quote of the Day for William Bennett

"Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy." -- Howard W. Newton