Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fox News Says Obama Muzzled Benghazi Whistleblowers

Here's a complicated sentence: Fox News reports that "at least four career officials at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency" have retained lawyers after being threatened by the Obama administration. It continues: Apparently, Obama's goons are going after them ahead of their revealing key information related to what really happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. Finally: The Obama administration has no idea what they're talking about.

RELATED: Tucker Carlson Already Reported on That Tucker Carlson Exclusive

First of all, remember Benghazi? It's been nearly eight months since the confusing terrorist attack took the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. The administration's doublespeak ? though some say it's just a series of misunderstandings ? has become a sticking point for conservatives, almost to a perplexing degree. They just won't let this scandal die, despite the administration's spilling its guts and releasing seemingly everything they've got on the tragedy. At a certain point, though, it ceases to become a campaign trail trick and starts to become a conspiracy theory.

RELATED: U.S. Knew About Al Qaeda Link in Benghazi Within 24 Hours

We're not there yet. However, this Fox News scoop is sort of strange. The story claims that the whistleblowers are not only being threatened but also denied security clearances. The network tracked down Victoria Toensing, "a former Justice Department official and Republican counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee," who's representing the four would be whistleblowers. "It's frightening, and they're doing some very despicable threats to people," she said. "Not 'we're going to kill you,' or not 'we're going to prosecute you tomorrow,' but they're taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over [if they cooperate with congressional investigators]." It's only slightly shady that Toensign has also written opinion columns for Fox News.

RELATED: More Things Fox's Bill Sammon Said But Maybe Didn't Believe

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has no idea what Toensing is talking about. You wouldn't know that from reading the Fox News piece ? not unless you read to very end of it. "I'm not aware of private counsel seeking security clearances or -- or anything to that regard," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told the press on Monday. "I'm not aware of whistle-blowers one way or another."

RELATED: Fox's Anti-Obama Ad Is Just a Remake of Romney's Ads

So then what the heck is going on? Regardless of which side of the aisle you're standing on, this is somehow still a provocative issue. Or it's not, and conservatives are trying to keep the flame alive, perhaps in some far-fetched hope that it might ignite a scandal ahead of the mid-term elections. However, the whistleblower thing is a larger issue, one that the Obama administration hasn't done the best job supporting. Despite the fact that Obama's often said he supports whistleblowers within the government, there is some evidence that his administration's been somewhat selective about what constitutes acceptable whistleblowing and what's criminal. One only needs to look as far as the Bradley Manning case to realize that one man's freedom fighting is another man's treason.

RELATED: Can Conservative Media Stomach Another Week of Weinergate?

It's smart to take this Fox News report with a grain of salt, though. Because so many conservatives have used this scandal to illustrate how Obama's liar who hates America. Or whatever.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/fox-news-says-obama-muzzled-benghazi-whistleblowers-015810894.html

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Obama to Nominate Foxx for Transportation Secretary (WSJ)

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Syrian state TV: Prime minister escapes assassination attempt

DAMASCUS, Syria - State-run Syrian TV says the country's prime minister has escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb went off near his convoy.

The TV says Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi was unhurt in the attack in the capital's western neighbourhood of Mazzeh. The TV said Monday's bombing left a number of casualties.

The attack was not the first targeting a high official in the Syrian capital.

On July 18, a blast at the Syrian national security building in Damascus during a meeting of Cabinet ministers killed the defence minister and his deputy, who was President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law. That attack also wounded the interior minister.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/syrian-state-tv-says-prime-minister-escaped-assassination-073754407.html

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Researchers design nanometer-scale material that can speed up, squeeze light

Apr. 29, 2013 ? In a process one researcher compares to squeezing an elephant through a pinhole, researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have designed a way to engineer atoms capable of funneling light through ultra-small channels.

Their research is the latest in a series of recent findings related to how light and matter interact at the atomic scale, and it is the first to demonstrate that the material -- a specially designed "meta-atom" of gold and silicon oxide -- can transmit light through a wide bandwidth and at a speed approaching infinity. The meta-atoms' broadband capability could lead to advances in optical devices, which currently rely on a single frequency to transmit light, the researchers say.

"These meta-atoms can be integrated as building blocks for unconventional optical components with exotic electromagnetic properties over a wide frequency range," write Dr. Jie Gao and Dr. Xiaodong Yang, assistant professors of mechanical engineering at Missouri S&T, and Dr. Lei Sun, a visiting scholar at the university. The researchers describe their atomic-scale design in the latest issue of the journal Physical Review B.

The researchers created mathematical models of the meta-atom, a material 100 nanometers wide and 25 nanometers tall that combined gold and silicon oxide in stairstep fashion. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter and visible only with the aid of a high-power electron microscope.

In their simulations, the researchers stacked 10 of the meta-atoms, then shot light through them at various frequencies. They found that when light encountered the material in a range between 540 terahertz and 590 terahertz, it "stretched" into a nearly straight line and achieved an "effective permittivity" known as epsilon-near-zero.

Effective permittivity refers to the ratio of light's speed through air to its speed as it passes through a material. When light travels through glass, for instance, its effective permittivity is 2.25. Through air or the vacuum of outer space, the ratio is one. That ratio is what is typically referred to as the speed of light.

As light passes through the engineered meta-atoms described by Gao and Yang, however, its effective permittivity reaches a near-zero ratio. In other words, through the medium of these specially designed materials, light actually travels faster than the speed of light. It travels "infinitely fast" through this medium, Yang says.

The meta-atoms also stretch the light. Other materials, such as glass, typically compress optical waves, causing diffraction.

This stretching phenomenon means that "waves of light could tunnel through very small holes," Yang says. "It is like squeezing an elephant through an ultra-small channel."

The wavelength of light encountering a single meta-atom is 500 nanometers from peak to peak, or five times the length of Gao and Yang's specially designed meta-atoms, which are 100 nanometers in length. While the Missouri S&T team has yet to fabricate actual meta-atoms, they say their research shows that the materials could be built and used for optical communications, image processing, energy redirecting and other emerging fields, such as adaptive optics.

Last year, Albert Polman at the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam and Nader Engheta, an electrical engineer at the University of Pennsylvania, developed a tiny waveguide device in which light waves of a single wavelength also achieved epsilon-near-zero. But the Missouri S&T researchers' work is the first to demonstrate epsilon-near-zero in a broadband of 50 terahertz.

"The design is practical and realistic, with the potential to fabricate actual meta-atoms," says Gao. Adds Yang: "With this research, we filled the gap from the theoretical to the practical."

Through a process known as electron-beam deposition, the researchers have built a thin-film wafer from 13 stacked meta-atoms. But those materials were uniform in composition rather than arranged in the stairstep fashion of their modeled meta-atoms.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Missouri University of Science and Technology. The original article was written by Andrew Careaga.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lei Sun, Jie Gao, Xiaodong Yang. Broadband epsilon-near-zero metamaterials with steplike metal-dielectric multilayer structures. Physical Review B, 2013; 87 (16) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.87.165134

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Source: http://feeds.sciencedaily.com/~r/sciencedaily/matter_energy/physics/~3/RFnsUhSDhLc/130429094646.htm

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UFC 159 was clearly cursed by demons (Video)

"It was a very weird night."

UFC president Dana White started the post-UFC 159 press conference with these words. The event featured a nasty broken thumb on Yancy Medeiros, and equally nasty broken toe on Jon Jones, two fight stoppages because of eyepokes, and one fight that was canceled hours before it was supposed to happen.

But the craziest part of all? The demonic voice that was heard between rounds of Michael Bisping's win over Alan Belcher.

Did the gates of hell open before the fight, and did Satan send his minions to New Jersey? Were Bisping's cornermen, who were bathed in creepy red light, actually demons? Middle Easy thinks it was a spell from "Passages of the Dead."

It's possible the UFC ticked off the wrong person and got the evil eye thrown its way. The bigger question: Are we all cursed for watching the bouts?

Source: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mma-cagewriter/ufc-159-clearly-cursed-demons-video-172924960.html

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After Dhaka garment factory collapse, chances for supply chain changes low

A factory collapse in Bangladesh left some 300 dead, and prompted calls for improved regulations of the country's sweatshops. But veteran campaigners to improve factory conditions say pushing for change is harder than ever.?

By Ryan Lenora Brown,?Correspondent / April 26, 2013

A Bangladeshi woman weeps as she holds a picture of her and her missing husband as she waits at the site of a building that collapsed Wednesday in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday.

Kevin Frayer/AP


As Bangladeshi rescue workers continue to pull survivors and bodies from the ruins of a Dhaka, Bangladesh factory where some 300 were killed in a building collapse Wednesday, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the city to express their outrage at?negligence that has racked the world's second-largest garment-exporting country for years.

Skip to next paragraph Ryan Lenora Brown


Ryan Brown edits the Africa Monitor blog and contributes to the national and international news desks of the Monitor. She is a former Fulbright fellow to South Africa and holds a degree in history from Duke University.?

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Blocking traffic and vandalizing garment factories that stayed open during today?s official day of mourning, protestors smashed cars and clashed violently with police, demanding accountability for what The New York Times is calling ?one of the worst manufacturing disasters in history.?

Among those at the receiving end of the rage are not only unscrupulous local factory owners and lax regulators, but also the Western corporations whose demands for cheaply-made garments have fueled the precarious working conditions in Bangladesh?s 5,000 clothing factories.

Plucked from the rubble of the eight-story factory were labels from several Western brands, including some sold in major chains such as Wal-Mart, JC Penney, and Spanish retailer El Corte Ingles, who immediately began to issue a flurry of sympathetic press releases. British retailer Primark said it was ?shocked and deeply saddened by this appalling incident? and the Canadian retailer Loblaw said it was ?extremely saddened? by the tragedy, the Times reports.

None, however, went so far as to implicate themselves in the disaster.

?These companies have come up with some very effective approaches to distance themselves from responsibility in tragedies like this,? says Heather White, founder of Verite, an independent auditing group.?Indeed, she says, Western companies often bring their garments from factory to store through a tangled and globally sprawled cluster of middlemen ? subcontractors, auditors, consultants ? who not only drive down their prices but also help ensure that responsibility for corporate stumbles are spread thinly.

That leaves many Western consumers, even the most conscientious, flummoxed by how to react to tragedies like the factory collapse, Ms. White says. Short of switching to niche-marketed fair trade brands?think American Apparel or TOMS Shoes ? there?s ?no real way for your average consumer to use their buying power to mobilize around these issues,? she says.

But it wasn?t always that way.

In the late 1990s, a widespread campaign against labor conditions in Nike factories helped shame the company into adopting a code of conduct in its factories for the first time. Responding to massive protests, sit-ins, and hunger strikes, a large number of universities forced the suppliers of their branded athletic apparel to institute labor code reforms in return for their business.

?It was amazing to see how people bought in [to the campaign],? remembers Kirsten Moller, organizing director for the human rights group Global Exchange, which helped lead the Nike campaign. ?They really had no idea what was happening, no idea under what conditions these products they loved were being made.?

So what changed?

As the issue slid from the front page, "people got tired of protesting,? Ms. Moller says.

Many of the activists from the 1990s ? immortalized by their chaotic protests at the 1999 summit of the World Trade Organization ? moved on to new causes, White says, with many becoming deeply involved in anti-war efforts in the early 2000s.?

And perhaps more importantly, the corporations simply caught up. ?They co-opted the language of human rights and social responsibility,? she says, ?because they realized their consumers now cared about that.?

As a result of the Nike movement, she says, most corporations now at least pay lip service to the idea that transnational companies have a responsibility to the people who work for them and the land they work on.

?But we?re nowhere near where we should be,? she says.

In the streets of Dhaka today, it seems there are many who would agree with that.?

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/csmonitor/globalnews/~3/WJTSJ0l83no/After-Dhaka-garment-factory-collapse-chances-for-supply-chain-changes-low

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Do you fear you are missing out?

Apr. 29, 2013 ? Does checking Twitter and Facebook to see what your friends are up to make you feel like you are missing out on all the fun? Researchers have come up with a way of measuring the modern day concept of the "fear of missing out" (FoMO).

The rise in social media, where we can keep up-to-date with each other's every movements like never before, has led to the hidden curse of the "fear of missing out."

A relatively new concept, FoMO is a concern people have that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than them and is characterised as the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.

Now, researchers at the University of Essex have devised a way of measuring FoMO for the first time, providing a reliable measure of what people are experiencing.

The research, to be published in the July issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior, is the first study to delve deeper into the fear of missing out phenomenon, which only came to light about three years ago as social media become ever-more accessible with the increase in smart phones.

As lead researcher and psychologist Dr Andy Przybylski explained, the fear of missing out is not new, but the rise is social media offers a window into other people's lives like never before. The problem for people with a high level of FoMO is they may become so involved is seeing what their friends are doing and they are not, they often ignore what they are actually enjoying themselves.

"I find Facebook rewarding to use, but how we are using social media is changing," explained Dr Przybylski. "It is no longer something we have to sit at a computer and log into as we have access all the time on our phones. It is easier to get into the rhythm of other people's lives that ever before as we get alerts and texts.

"We have to learn new skills to control our usage and enjoy social media in moderation. Until we do, it creates a double-edged sword aspect to social media."

The research team, which included academics from the University of California and University of Rochester in the United States, devised a way of measuring an individual's level of FoMO. Take a version of the test yourself to see what your level of FoMO is compared to the people taking part in the study at www.ratemyfomo.com.

The research found that people aged under 30 were more affected than others from the fear of missing out. This group saw social media as an important tool for them and they were more dependent on social media as part of their social development.

Dr Przybylski explained that social factors are also important. The research also found if people's "psychological needs were deprived" they were more likely to seek out social media and FoMO bridged that gap, explaining why people were using social media more than others.

To see what effect FoMO had on people's lives, the researchers found that those with a high level of fear of missing out were more likely to give into the temptation of composing and checking text messages and e-mails whilst driving, were more likely to get distracted by social media during university lectures, and had more mixed feelings about their social media use.

The researchers hope this will study will prompt more investigation into the fear of missing out and how it affects on people's wellbeing.

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Essex, via AlphaGalileo.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew K. Przybylski, Kou Murayama, Cody R. DeHaan, Valerie Gladwell. Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 2013; 29 (4): 1841 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Source: http://feeds.sciencedaily.com/~r/sciencedaily/most_popular/~3/6ffp7vV7Vxc/130429094949.htm

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Monday, April 29, 2013

U.S. lawmakers press Obama to take action on Syria

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican senators on Sunday pressed U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene in Syria's civil war, saying America could attack Syrian air bases with missiles but should not send in ground troops.

Pressure is mounting on the White House to do more to help Syrian rebels fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which the Obama administration last week said had probably used chemical arms in the conflict.

Neutralizing the government forces' air advantage over the rebels "could turn the tide of battle pretty quickly," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CBS's "Face the Nation."

"One way you can stop the Syrian air force from flying is to bomb the Syrian air bases with cruise missiles," the South Carolina senator said.

Graham said international action was needed to bring the conflict to a close but "You don't need boots on the ground from the U.S. point of view."

More than 70,000 people have died in Syria's two-year-old civil war. So far, the United States has limited its involvement to providing non-lethal aid to rebels.

Obama said on Friday the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "game changer" for the United States, but made clear he was in no rush to intervene on the basis of evidence he said was still preliminary.

The U.S. fears anti-Assad Islamist rebels affiliated to al Qaeda could seize the chemical weapons, and Washington and its allies have discussed scenarios where tens of thousands of ground troops go into Syria if Assad's government falls.


Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, said the United States should step up its support for Syrian rebels even if it turns out that Assad's forces have not used poison gas in the conflict.

"We could use Patriot (missile) batteries and cruise missiles," the Arizona lawmaker, an influential voice on military issues in the U.S. Senate, told NBC's Meet The Press.

McCain said an "international force" should also be readied to go into Syria to secure stocks of chemical weapons.

"There are number of caches of these chemical weapons. They cannot fall into the hands of the jihadists," he said.

At the same time, McCain said it would be a mistake for American ground troops to enter Syria because that "would turn the people against us."

After fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, sending U.S. troops into another conflict would be politically unpalatable in America.

The Pentagon is also wary of U.S. involvement in Syria. The president's top uniformed military adviser, General Martin Dempsey, said last month he could not see a U.S. military option with an "understandable outcome" there.

Syria in July acknowledged for the first time that it possessed chemical and biological weapons, saying they could be used if the country faced foreign intervention. However, Syria has denied any use of chemical arms in the civil war and has said it would not use them against its own citizens.

(Additional reporting by Rachelle Younglai and Mohammad Zargham in Washington. Editing by Christopher Wilson)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/international-troops-prepare-syria-u-senator-150852575.html

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Asian markets mostly up after US, Japan data

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) ? Asian stock markets mostly rose on Monday as investors awaited the European Central Bank's interest rate decision later this week after disappointing U.S. growth data.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent to 5,118.00 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 0.1 percent to 22,568.15. Stocks in Taiwan, Indonesia and New Zealand also rose but South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 1,941.35. Markets in mainland China and Japan were closed for holidays.

The U.S. government said Friday that the economy expanded 2.5 percent in the first quarter over a year earlier, falling short of expectations of 3 percent growth and compounding worries about the global economy. The report came after Japan said its consumer prices fell 0.9 percent in March, underlining challenges to the government's efforts to pull the economy out of a long spell of debilitating deflation.

The downbeat reports were tempered by expectations the European Central Bank will either lower interest rates or expand financial support for the 17-country euro area at its meeting Thursday, said Lim Ho-sang, a Seoul-based economist at Samsung Futures.

Investors are also waiting for more data to better assess the health of the U.S. private sector as the weaker-than-expected growth of the U.S. economy largely stemmed from lower government spending. U.S. March housing sales and April employment figures are scheduled to be released this week.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 38 cents to $92.62 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 64 cents to $93 a barrel on Friday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3049 from $1.3029. The dollar fell to 97.59 yen from 98.03 yen.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/asian-markets-mostly-us-japan-data-051238351.html

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Obama?s 'red line' on Syria: An Iraq-like 'slam dunk' moment?

President Obama said a 'red line' would be crossed if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against rebels. Might that propel the US into war, as those elusive 'weapons of mass destruction' did in Iraq?

By Brad Knickerbocker,?Staff writer / April 27, 2013

President Barack Obama answers a question regarding the ongoing situation in Syria during his meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


For President Obama, the Syrian regime?s possible use of chemical weapons brings with it a political dilemma that can be summed up in two words: ?Slam dunk.?

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That was what then-CIA director George Tenet told the Bush White House about Iraq?s alleged possession of ?weapons of mass destruction? (WMD).

It was a phrase Mr. Tenet came to regret, asserting that others in the administration twisted its intended use ? that building public support for a US-led invasion of Iraq would be easy ? to make the CIA (and him in particular) the scapegoat when no WMD were found.

But Tenet admitted in his 2007 book ?At the Center of the Storm? that ?there was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,? nor any in-depth discussion of possible alternatives to military invasion.

Fast-forward ten years since the beginning of the Iraq War ? which has cost 4,486 US military fatalities, plus at least several hundred US civilian contractors killed in Iraq ? and ?Iraq has informed every part of this debate? over Syria, writes Amy Davidson in the New Yorker.

The headline on a Politico piece reads: ?Iraq haunts President Obama?s Syria choices.?

?The ghosts of the Iraq War weigh heavily on the president and his top advisers handling the Syria crisis, according to former officials and analysts close to the administration,? writes Politico?s Josh Gerstein. ?They don?t want to get it wrong. They don?t want to move too quickly. They don?t want to spend the second term getting embroiled in toppling another Middle East dictator and cleaning up the aftermath after spending the first term getting untangled from the last war.?

It?s a specter with implications for Obama?s legacy; by nearly 2-to-1, Americans don?t think the war in Iraq was worth the cost.

In fact, Obama already has had a sort-of ?slam dunk? moment with his assertion that the Assad regime?s use of chemical weapons against Syrian rebels would constitute the crossing of an unacceptable ?red line,? with the implied warning that the US might then initiate a military response.

Has that red line been crossed?

"Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin," the White House said in a letter to members of Congress this week.

The operative phrase here seems to be ?small scale,? suggesting that the red line may have been nudged but not fully crossed. Speaking to reporters before meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah in the Oval Office Friday Obama implied as much.

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/feeds/csm/~3/83C5ICcLRXs/Obama-s-red-line-on-Syria-An-Iraq-like-slam-dunk-moment

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Moody's, S&P settle lawsuits over debt ratings

NEW YORK (AP) ? Ratings agencies Standard & Poor's, Moody's and investment bank Morgan Stanley have settled two lawsuits dating back to the financial crisis that accused them of hiding risky investments.

The lawsuits from King County in Washington state and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank claimed that the ratings agencies and Morgan Stanley hid the risk of investing in a fund that purchased bonds backed by subprime mortgages.

Judge Shira Scheindlin dismissed the lawsuits on Friday, in federal court in New York, with prejudice, which means they can't be filed again.

Spokesmen for the McGraw-Hill Cos., which owns S&P, Moody's Corp. and Morgan Stanley confirmed the settlements but did not disclose terms.

"This settlement allows us to put the significant legal defense and related costs, as well as the distraction, of these very protracted litigations behind us," said Moody's spokesman Michael Adler in an emailed statement. "We are satisfied that it is in the best interests of our company and shareholders."

McGraw-Hill spokesman Jason Feuchtwanger said the cases were settled without any admission of liability or wrongdoing.

Ratings agencies came under intense scrutiny following the 2008 financial crisis for giving top-notch ratings to investments backed by subprime mortgages. As defaults and losses mounted in the housing market, especially among subprime loans, the value of bonds backed by the bad debt plummeted.

As the mortgage market collapsed, the ratings agencies sharply lowered their ratings on the investments.

With the value of such investments declining, funds that purchased the bonds filed for bankruptcy. King County and Abu Dhabi sued the ratings agencies and Morgan Stanley claiming the banks misled them about the safety of some investments that were part of a structured investment vehicle.

A structured investment vehicle is a fund that borrows money by issuing short-term securities at a low interest rate and then lends that money by purchasing long-term securities at higher interest. That process can make a profit for its investors from the difference.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/moodys-p-settle-lawsuits-over-debt-ratings-194608758.html

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What's The Fastest You've Ever Destroyed a New Gadget?

Accidents happen. Butterfingers or not, you're bound to slip up and destroy a perfectly lovely device, especially if you use it a lot. But the worst is when you bust that sucker up RIGHT after you've started to fall in love with it. What's your record time for completely and totally busting up a new gadget? A month, a week, a day, an hour? Let's hear some real horror stories. More »

Source: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/HIf_3Uzsu9A/whats-the-fastest-youve-ever-destroyed-a-new-gadget

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Big growth likely for Georgia's film industry

ATLANTA (AP) ? A few years ago, Georgia was locked in a bidding war with North Carolina over the Disney movie, "The Last Song," starring Miley Cyrus.

Both states wanted the movie to film in their state, and North Carolina was close to sealing the deal with an attractive tax incentive package. But Georgia snapped up the production, largely because it had recently expanded its own tax credit for films.

The state hasn't looked back since. Not only are TV shows like "The Walking Dead" and films like "The Hunger Games" sequel filmed in Georgia, but tens of millions of dollars are being invested to build up critical infrastructure. No fewer than five major studio developments or expansions have been announced in recent months with the goal of luring big-budget blockbusters.

"It really is about the whole package," said Lee Thomas, director of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office. "They can do everything here now."

Last fiscal year, productions filmed in Georgia generated an estimated $3.1 billion in economic activity, a 29 percent increase from the year before, according to state estimates. And Thomas said that will only increase with the studio projects in the works that will add large soundstages and back lots to lure big productions, such as "Iron Man 3," which Georgia wasn't able to accommodate. The state didn't have a studio that fit the requirements of the film's production company.

Of the studio projects in the works, one being planned in Fayette County, a short drive south of Atlanta, could be a game changer. British film studio Pinewood Shepperton PLC, home to the James Bond franchise, has reportedly been in talks with a group of investors to manage and operate the facility. It would be Pinewood's first production facility in the U.S. Recent films shot at Pinewood Studios, outside London, include the coming Angelina Jolie film, "Maleficent" and "Jack Ryan," directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh.

The project, once finalized, would underscore how much Georgia has become a film destination and be another sign that California continues to struggle with runaway production.

A survey last year found that California lost $3 billion in wages from 2004 to 2011 because of film and TV production moving to other states and countries, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Half the wages went to states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana that offer tax incentives and rebates to the industry.

Representatives of Pinewood declined comment on the plan, and the head of Fayette County's development agency would say only that discussions continue between the company and a group of Georgia-based investors on the state-of-the-art studio complex, which would sit on 288 acres and include at least five soundstages.

"It takes the state to a whole new level," said Matt Forshee, president of the Fayette County Development Authority, who has been closely involved in the project. "When you look at the films that have filmed in Georgia, for the most part, they have been smaller budget films, in the range of $20-25 million. This allows us to open up to larger budget productions, which means more expenditures occurring within the state, which becomes a bigger return on the investment on the state level for the tax credits."

Georgia has come a long way since the 1939 Civil War epic "Gone With The Wind," arguably the most famous movie about the state, was filmed in California. Three decades later, the 1971 Burt Reynolds movie "Deliverance" helped put Georgia on the map as a shooting location. The state created a film commission, and Reynolds returned to the state to shoot hits such as "Smokey and the Bandit" and "The Longest Yard."

Now, Atlanta truly has the feel of Hollywood South. In recent years, the state has been a shooting location for films such as Clint Eastwood's "Trouble With the Curve," the new Jackie Robinson biopic "42" with Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington's Oscar-nominated turn as an alcoholic pilot in "Flight," the Katherine Heigl rom-com "Life as We Know It," the current Reese Witherspoon project "The Good Lie," and comedies such as 2011's "Hall Pass" and the coming "Anchorman: The Legend Continues" starring Will Ferrell.

While studio developers building soundstages are not eligible for Georgia's tax credit program, the production companies making films are. Georgia provides a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in the state, either in a single production or on multiple projects.

Georgia also grants an additional 10 percent tax credit if the finished project includes a state promotional logo. Further, if a company has little or no Georgia tax liability, it can transfer or sell its tax credits.

"The industry follows the dollar," Forshee said. "They are going to go where they can do the best product for the cheapest cost. This tax credit has made Georgia a viable and lucrative place to make films."

The economic benefits have been debated in Georgia, although the state has remained committed to the film incentives. Meanwhile, lawmakers in North Carolina are debating a plan that would place certain limitations on the state's program, with supporters of the effort saying there's no evidence the $30 million in tax breaks in 2011 matches the job growth cited by the industry. In comparison, Georgia handed out $140.6 million in tax credits in 2010.

Gov. Nathan Deal said it's the combination of the tax credits and Georgia's diverse landscape ? from the mountains to the coast ? that has made the state so attractive to filmmakers.

"It is an affirmation of several things, some of which is just the natural beauty of our state," Deal said in a recent interview. "You are seeing ample evidence that the tax credits for the movie and film industry are definitely paying the dividends that we anticipated."

There are a number of ripple effects. The films bring jobs, and the state already has an estimated 5,000 union and non-union professionals associated with the film industry along with more than 1,000 production suppliers and support companies. Major components of the proposed studio projects also include educational programs aimed at training the next generation of industry employees.

This week, Atlanta-based Jacoby Development announced plans to build an estimated $1 billion multiuse project north of downtown Atlanta that will include 12 soundstages as well as production offices and an arts and media school.

Jim Jacoby, chairman of The Jacoby Group, said he expected to have financing lined up quickly and was in Hollywood this week to pitch the project.

"The times are ripe because the demand is there right now. We feel like we have a facility that we can get to market quickly," Jacoby said.

The studio project will be located on 100 acres in Gwinnett County just north of the city, where with an existing 500,000-square-foot building can be remade into 12 soundstages. Plans call for construction to begin by the end of the year.

"The facility that Jacoby is building will be designed to Hollywood standards and will fill quickly," said Gary Bastien, whose architectural firm will be involved in the studio design. Bastien has designed various TV and movie projects for major studios in Southern California.

Other projects include a planned expansion of Tyler Perry's sprawling studio complex that already includes five soundstages, a $100 million project east of the city in Newton County and a $90 million studio planned in Effingham County near Savannah.

The one in Newton County is in the early stages, but Covington-based Triple Horse says it plans a 160-acre studio with multiple soundstages, post-production facilities and a back lot. The one in Effingham County is backed by Medient Studios, which began in India and has expanded with offices in Hollywood and London. Medient's project includes a $90 million studio and entertainment complex with the goal of also becoming a major tourist destination.

Thomas, who heads the state's entertainment office, said another side benefit has been Georgia's burgeoning film tourism industry, with fans planning vacations around visits to film locations. Much of that has centered on the town of Senoia, where AMC's "The Walking Dead" is filmed, with plans to promote Georgia locations in connection with the coming release of the "Hunger Games" sequel. The state also has launched a website, ComeTourGeorgia.com, that lists movie tours and travel tips, pitching an opportunity to "walk in the footsteps of your favorite actors and musicians."

Said Thomas: "We have all the pieces of the puzzle here."


Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Christina.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/big-growth-likely-georgias-film-industry-150552810.html

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CSN: Harper, Haren propel Nats over Reds

Game in a nutshell:?The Nats took their third win in as many days against the Reds behind early offense and Dan Haren?s best start as a member of the team. Washington scored two runs in each of the second, third, and fourth innings to jump out to a comfortable lead and give Haren the room he needed to pitch an efficient afternoon. They forced Reds? starter Mike Leake out of the game after three innings with a high pitch count, three walks and six hits. The Reds would scrape out three runs, but end up losing by a final score of 6-3.?

Hitting highlight:?Bryce Harper is clearly the leader of the Nats? lineup through the season?s first month and is making the case as one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball. He began had a single in the fourth, added a two-run home run (his ninth of the year) in the fifth, and drew a walk in the sixth. After today he is hitting .373 with nine homers (2nd in majors) and 18 RBI. The homer and RBI totals are team records for the month of April.?

Pitching highlight:?When a pitching staff is throwing as well as the Nats have seen lately, no one starter wants to break the streak. The team had seen back-to-back one-hit starts from Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, and Haren actually continued that run through 3 2/3 innings before giving up his second hit of the day. A Brandon Phillips RBI single as the next batter then ended a 17 inning scoreless streak for the Washington staff. All in all, a great day for Haren who finally made it through six innings and finished with 2 ER, 6 H, 5 SO on 88 pitches in 6 IP.

Key stat:?Harper hit his ninth homer of the season, extending his team record for April, and also set the month?s RBI mark with 18. Through 24 games he?s hitting .373/.453/.783.

Up next:?Ross Detwiler (1-1, 1.38 ERA) and the Nats will look for a four-game sweep against the Reds and lefty Tony Cingrani (1-0, 2.25 ERA) on the mound.

Source: http://www.natsinsider.com/2013/04/instant-analysis-nats-6-reds-3.html

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Sudanese protesters stone government convoy after rebel attack

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Residents of a provincial Sudanese city set government offices on fire and threw rocks at local officials on Sunday, accusing them of failing to protect them from a rebel attack the day before, witnesses said.

Insurgents from Sudan's Darfur region stormed Um Rawaba in North Kordofan state on Saturday, witnesses said. State media said late in the evening authorities had regained control of the city, located some 500 km (300 miles) from Khartoum.

On Sunday, 300 people gathered in the city center to protest at a visit by North Kordofan Governor Mutassim Mirghani Zaki Uddi to inspect damage from the fighting in the state's second-largest city.

An angry crowd set several government buildings on fire and threw stones at the cars of the governor and his entourage, three witnesses told Reuters.

"We don't want you here - where were you yesterday?" the crowd chanted, according to witnesses. Uddi's motorcade left without any reports of injury or serious damage. There was no immediate police comment.

The attack marked a major thrust by a rebel alliance that is seeking to topple President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Fighting had hitherto been limited mainly to Darfur and South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which border South Sudan.

Local newspapers showed what they said were pictures taken during the rebel attack. Several burning buildings could be seen as well as the body of a person on the ground, according to the daily al-Intibaha.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the biggest Darfur rebel groups, denied it had looted or destroyed any property in Um Rawaba.

The group was one of two main rebel forces that took up arms against the government in 2003, demanding better representation for Darfur and accusing Khartoum of neglecting its development.

In 2011, JEM teamed up with two other Darfuri groups and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) which took up arms in South Kordofan and Blue Nile around the time of South Sudan's secession, breaking up Africa's largest country.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/sudanese-protesters-stone-government-convoy-rebel-attack-143642468.html

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Obama vows to defend abortion rights at Planned Parenthood event (Washington Post)

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Source: http://news.feedzilla.com/en_us/stories/politics/top-stories/301893148?client_source=feed&format=rss

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Cyberattack suspect had 'bunker' in north Spain

(AP) ? A Dutch citizen arrested in northeast Spain on suspicion of launching what is described as the biggest cyberattack in Internet history operated from a bunker and had a van capable of hacking into networks anywhere in the country, officials said Sunday.

The suspect traveled in Spain using his van "as a mobile computing office, equipped with various antennas to scan frequencies," an Interior Ministry statement said.

Agents arrested him Thursday in the city of Granollers, 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Barcelona, complying with a European arrest warrant issued by Dutch authorities.

He is accused of attacking the Swiss-British anti-spam watchdog group Spamhaus whose main task is to halt ads for counterfeit Viagra and bogus weight-loss pills reaching the world's inboxes.

The statement said officers uncovered the computer hacker's bunker, "from where he even did interviews with different international media."

The 35-year-old, whose birthplace was given as the western Dutch city of Alkmaar, was identified only by his initials: S.K.

The statement said the suspect called himself a diplomat belonging to the "Telecommunications and Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Republic of Cyberbunker."

Spanish police were alerted in March by Dutch authorities of large denial-of-service attacks being launched from Spain that were affecting Internet servers in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and the U.S. These attacks culminated with a major onslaught on Spamhaus.

The Netherlands National Prosecution Office described them as "unprecedentedly serious attacks on the nonprofit organization Spamhaus."

The largest assault clocked in at 300 billion bits per second, according to San Francisco-based CloudFlare Inc., which Spamhaus enlisted to help it weather the onslaught.

Denial-of-service attacks overwhelm a server with traffic, jamming it with incoming messages. Security experts measure the attacks in bits of data per second. Recent cyberattacks ? such as the ones that caused persistent outages at U.S. banking sites late last year ? have tended to peak at 100 billion bits per second, one third the size of that experienced by Spamhaus.

Netherlands, German, British and U.S. police forces took part in the investigation leading to the arrest, Spain said.

The suspect is expected to be extradited from Spain to face justice in the Netherlands.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/cae69a7523db45408eeb2b3a98c0c9c5/Article_2013-04-28-Spain-Cybercrime/id-b01d1a301b88423f832d38ac77012027

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Butler Joins Think Finance | peHUBpeHUB

Marcella Butler has joined Think Finance as Chief Human Resources Officer. Butler joins Think Finance from Google where she worked in a variety of directorate-level roles across corporate development, finance and people operations.


Think Finance, a company that develops online financial products that bridge the gap between payday loans and credit cards, today announced it has named Marcella Butler as its Chief Human Resources Officer.

Ms. Butler joins Think Finance from Google, where she spent five years in a variety of directorate-level roles across corporate development, finance and people operations. Prior to that, Ms. Butler was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Compliance Officer for Pershing Square Capital Management and Chief Administration Officer for Sanford Bernstein, LLC. She has also held positions with Egon Zehner International, McKinsey & Company and Morgan Stanley & Co, Inc.
?We?re delighted to welcome Marcella to Think Finance,? said Think Finance Global Chief Executive Officer Ken Rees. ?Her impressive background and expertise will help us navigate the challenges of rapid growth and create a truly great place to work for all our employees.?
?I?m excited to work with the talented individuals at Think Finance,? said Ms. Butler. ?The Think Finance team is vibrant and growing with the business, and together, we will continue to lever the unique aspects of Think Finance?s culture as we build a great place to work and grow.?
Ms. Butler graduated with highest distinction from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where she was a Morehead scholar and holds a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University?s Kennedy School of Government.
About Think Finance
Think Finance develops online financial products that bridge the gap between payday loans and credit cards. Using our technology and analytics platform, Think Finance and the lenders we work with have provided over $3.5 billion in credit to 1.5 million consumers in the U.S. and abroad and have saved customers over $1 billion compared to payday loans. Think Finance is privately held and is backed by some of Silicon Valley?s most respected venture capital firms including Sequoia Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures. The company was recently named No. 2 on Forbes? America?s Most Promising Companies list. Learn more at?www.ThinkFinance.com.

Source: http://www.pehub.com/198600/butler-joins-think-finance/

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NKorea says it will indict American citizen

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) ? North Korea said Saturday it will soon put a detained American on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the government, further complicating already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

The indictment of Kenneth Bae comes in the middle of a lull after weeks of war threats and other provocative acts by North Korea against the U.S. and South Korea. It has expressed rage over U.N. sanctions over a February nuclear test and ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, though analysts say Pyongyang's motive is to get its Korean War foes to negotiate on its own terms.

"For North Korea, Bae is a bargaining chip in dealing with the U.S. The North will use him in a way that helps bring the U.S. to talks when the mood slowly turns toward dialogue," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Seoul's Dongguk University.

Bae, identified in North Korean state media by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho, is a tour operator of Korean descent who was arrested after arriving with a tour on Nov. 3 in Rason, a special economic zone bordering China and Russia.

He is the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The other Americans were eventually deported or released after high-profile diplomatic interventions, including some involving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

"The preliminary inquiry into crimes committed by American citizen Pae Jun Ho closed," the official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report. "In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence."

DPRK is the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Under North Korea's criminal code, terrorist acts include murdering, kidnapping and injuring the country's citizens can lead to a death sentence or life in jail.

North Korea and the United States fought the 1950-53 Korean War and still don't have diplomatic relations. The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang represents the United States.

KCNA didn't say when Bae's trial will take place or what the charges were.

North Korea's state media and the U.S. government have made little information about Bae public.

But his friends, colleagues and South Korean activists specializing in North Korea affairs said Bae is a Christian missionary based in a Chinese border town who frequently made trips to North Korea to feed orphans there. It is not known whether he tried to evangelize while in North Korea.

Officially, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion. In practice, authorities crack down on Christians, who are seen as Western-influenced threats to the government. The distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution, defectors from the country have said.

In 2009, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for trespassing and unspecified hostile acts. They were freed later that year after former President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang to negotiate their release.

Meanwhile, South Korea is pulling its citizens from a joint factory park in North Korea after Pyongyang rejected Seoul's demand for talks on the inter-Korean symbol of detente on Saturday. The park was shuttered earlier this month after the North pulled its workers out of it, objecting to views in South Korea that the complex is a source of badly needed hard currency for Pyongyang.


Associated Press reporter Sam Kim contributed from Seoul, South Korea.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/nkorea-says-indict-american-citizen-031457146.html

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lawmakers question U.S. government failure to protect Iranian dissidents in Iraq, continued funding for Iraq government, says Iranian American Community of Northern California

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a briefing on Capitol Hill, senior House Foreign Affairs, Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees members voiced dismay over what they described was the State Department's failure to secure the safety and protection of thousands of Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty Iraq and questioned U.S. government's continued funding of Iraq in view of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's refusal to treat the 3,100 residents at Liberty humanely.?

"We should make sure that we as a nation secure the liberty of Camp Liberty. One thing we can do is... to put them back into Camp Ashraf, which is at least a decent place for them... Unfortunately, Camp Liberty was not a place of safety for those folks in Camp Ashraf. So we need to allow them to return to Camp Ashraf," emphasized Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade Subcommittee Chair Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX).

Pointing to the Iraqi government's refusal to heed the call for the safety and security of Camp Liberty residents, the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees member, the Texas Democrat, Sheila Jackson Lee said, "Why do we keep funding Iraq when they can't deal with the human rights of the people in Camp Liberty? ... If they will not listen, then we have to make sure that they listen... Why we are continuing to give comfort to Iraq that continues to participate in the events that result in this devastation and loss of life??... I'd vote for any amendment that would question, diminish, and cut Iraq's funding?... "

Referring to the February 9th rocket attack that left eight Liberty residents dead and dozens wounded, Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) added, "[Due to] the Iranian government's efforts to tear down your people, they've moved them from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, which is not as protected, as fortified; people are losing their lives, we need to send a strong message, my hope is that Congress will send a strong message that these people need a fortified place to live... We will continue to push the State Department and this administration to not let you down... We need to send the Iranian government a strong signal that this will not be tolerated anymore."

House Judiciary Committee Member, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) added, "The folks at Camp Liberty are commendable, [They are] fighting for liberty and in Iran... [They] need to be protected from attacks such as those that occurred in February."

SOURCE Iranian-American Community of Northern California

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/lawmakers-u-government-failure-protect-iranian-dissidents-iraq-225900898.html

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Health Insurance Shortfalls Hit Nearly Half of US Adults - Health.com

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By Brenda Goodman
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) ? Nearly half of all working-age U.S. adults, or 84 million people, faced the prospect of crippling medical bills in 2012 because they had little or no health insurance, according to a new report by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund.

There was one bright spot in the new numbers. For the first time in a decade, younger adults saw coverage gains, thanks to a new provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows children to remain on their parents? policies until age 26. Nearly 2 million more young adults had health insurance in 2012 compared to 2010.

In an April 17 press briefing, Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, called the gains ?good and unprecedented news? and said they helped to offset continuing declines in other age groups.

?But overall,? he said, ?the survey shows the continuation of the bad news that sparked the move to reform our dysfunctional health care system.?

For the report, the Commonwealth Fund randomly surveyed over 4,400 adults aged 19 to 65 in 2012. Respondents were asked questions about their health insurance, medical bills and access to needed medical care. The Commonwealth Fund has conducted the study every two years since 2003.

These surveys show that the number of Americans who were uninsured or underinsured ? meaning their out-of-pocket health care costs were considered to be too high relative to their incomes ? has climbed steadily over the last decade. That figure rose from 61 million, or 36 percent of working age adults, in 2003 to 81 million, or 44 percent of adults, in 2010. The number rose only slightly in 2012 to 84 million, or 46 percent of all adults.

Lack of adequate health insurance has left millions struggling to pay off medical debt. Two in five adults, or an estimated 75 million people, said they had trouble paying at least one medical bill over the past year.

Forty-two percent said medical debt had lowered their credit score. Thirty-seven percent said they?d run through all of their savings to pay medical bills. Meanwhile, roughly one in four people said they took on credit card debt, were unable to pay for basic necessities like food and rent, or delayed career or education plans because of medical debt.

Costs are also preventing many from getting needed care in the first place. Over the last decade, the number of adults who said they didn?t go to the doctor when they were sick or couldn?t get a test or a prescription because it cost too much rose from an estimated 63 million in 2003 to 80 million in 2012.

Problems with access to care because of high costs were so pervasive, the survey found they were even affecting people who had good health care coverage.

?About 28 percent of people who were adequately insured? reported problems accessing care, said Sara Collins, vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund. ?It?s really a problem across the insurance spectrum.?

Poor and middle-income adults continue to be the most vulnerable to medical costs. Seventy-two percent of those who didn?t have enough health insurance in 2012 had incomes that fell under 250 percent of the federal poverty level. For single adults, that?s an annual income of about $28,000 a year, or roughly $58,000 for a family of four.

The report projects that the Affordable Care Act will help to mitigate some of those disparities when it takes full effect next year.

Of the estimated 55 million adults who had a gap in coverage in 2012, 87 percent would qualify for assistance to help them pay for health insurance under the new law. Roughly 28 million would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, if it?s available in their state. And another 20 million would get subsidies to help them pay for health plans available through new health insurance exchanges.

?The findings point clearly to the need to move forward with implementation of the law,? Blumenthal said.

More information

To see the full report go to the Commonwealth Fund.

HEALTHDAY Web XSmall Health Insurance Shortfalls Hit Nearly Half of U.S. Adults

Source: http://news.health.com/2013/04/26/health-insurance-shortfalls-hit-nearly-half-of-u-s-adults-report/

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First-quarter growth quickens, but misses forecasts

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Economic growth regained speed in the first quarter, but not as much as expected, which could heighten fears the already weakening economy could struggle to handle deep government spending cuts and higher taxes.

Gross domestic product expanded at 2.5 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Friday, after growth nearly stalled at 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter. The increase, however, missed economists' expectations for a 3.0 percent growth pace.

Part of the acceleration in activity reflected farmers' filling up silos after a drought last summer decimated crop output. Removing inventories, the growth rate was a tepid 1.5 percent.

Given the smaller-than-expected increase and signs the economy has weakened in recent weeks, the GDP data will probably weigh on U.S. stocks. It could also give ammunition for the Federal Reserve to maintain its monetary stimulus.

The U.S. central bank, which meets next week, is widely expected to keep purchasing bonds at a pace of $85 billion a month.

Data ranging from employment to retail sales and manufacturing weakened substantially in March after robust gains in the first two months of the year. There are indications the weakness persisted into April.


The GDP showed contributions to growth from all areas of the economy, with the exception of government, trade and investment by businesses in offices and other commercial buildings.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at 3.2 percent pace - the fastest since the fourth quarter of 2010. It grew at a 1.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter of last year.

However, households cut back on saving to fund their purchases after incomes dropped at a 5.3 percent rate in the first quarter - a bad sign for future spending growth. The drop in income was the largest since the third quarter of 2009.

The saving rate - the percentage of disposable income households are socking away - fell to 2.6 percent, the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2007, from 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Much of the gains in first-quarter spending came from automobile purchases and outlays for utilities, which were boosted by unusually cold temperatures. Consumers managed to step up their spending despite the return of a 2 percent payroll tax and higher gasoline prices.

Despite the spike in gasoline prices, inflation pressures were benign in the first three months of the year.

An inflation gauge in the government's GDP report rose at a 0.9 percent rate, the smallest increase since the second quarter of 2012. The personal consumption expenditure index had increased at a 1.6 percent pace the fourth quarter.

A core measure that strips out food and energy costs rose at a 1.2 percent rate, still well below the Fed's 2 percent target. Core PCE had increased at a 1.0 percent rate in the fourth quarter.

The lack of inflation should come as welcome relief for American households, but it could cause some nervousness at the U.S. central bank, which may see it as a symptom of the economy's weakness.

Another big contributor to growth in the fourth quarter was inventory accumulation, which added a full percentage point to GDP growth after chopping off 1.5 points from output in the final three months of last year.

Business spending on equipment and software slowed sharply, growing at an only 3.0 percent rate after a brisk 11.8 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

Economists caution that it is too early to blame the cooling in business investment and other more recent signs of economic softness on the $85 billion in mandatory government spending cuts, known as the sequester, that began on March 1.

Homebuilding marked an eighth straight quarter of growth, though the pace moderated from the fourth quarter. Housing added to growth last year for the first time since 2005 and its recovery should help ensure the economy does not contract.

While export growth rebounded, it was outpaced by imports, resulting in a trade deficit that cut off half a percentage point from output.

(Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/first-quarter-gdp-seen-3-percent-momentum-ebbs-051102013--sector.html

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