It is outrageous that millions of the poorest people in the country will be denied health insurance because of decisions made mostly by Republican governors and legislators. These people will neither qualify for their state’s Medicaid program for the poor nor for subsidized coverage on new insurance exchanges that are being established in every state by the health care reform law.
Their plight is a result of the Supreme Court’s decision last year that struck down the reform law’s mandatory expansion of Medicaid and made expansion optional. Every state in the Deep South except Arkansas has rejected expansion, as have Republican-led states elsewhere. These 26 states would rather turn down incredibly generous federal funds that would finance 100 percent of the expansion costs for three years and at least 90 percent thereafter than offer a helping hand to their most vulnerable residents.
As Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff reported in The Times on Thursday, two-thirds of the country’s poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers and more than half of the uninsured low-wage workers live in those states. The reform law originally sought to help poor and middle-income people through two parallel mechanisms. One was a mandatory expansion of Medicaid (which in most states cover primarily children and their parents with incomes well below the poverty level) to cover childless adults and to help people with income levels above the poverty line. Those with slightly higher incomes would be eligible for federal subsidies to buy private policies on the new insurance exchanges.
That approach fell apart when 26 states decided not to expand Medicaid, at least for now. There is no provision in the law to provide health insurance subsidies for anyone below the poverty line because those people are supposed to be covered by Medicaid.
The Times report, based on an analysis of census data, found that eight million Americans who are impoverished and uninsured will be ineligible for help of either kind. To add to the insanity, people whose incomes initially qualify them for subsidies on the exchanges could — if their income fell because they lost a job — end up with no coverage at all.
There are no easy solutions to the difficulties wrought by the Supreme Court decision and the callousness of state officials who seized on that opening to victimize the poor.
States like New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee that are still flirting with the idea of expansion should do the right thing and expand. States that have adamantly refused to expand should relent and take the generous federal funds. And if Congressional Republicans ever give up on their obsession to destroy the health reform law, Congress could surely find ways to make certain that the people most in need of help get it.
Josh Marshall, who returned to his Talking Points Memo website after a week's vacation, has this to say about Syria and us.
I’ve been on vacation for the last week (actually still am). So I’ve only half or less heard all the commotions and developments in Syria. Besides the wonderfulness of being on vacation, being absent from all this has felt like a blessing.
I’ve generally been opposed to our getting involved in Syria’s civil war at all, especially as the rebel groups have become increasingly radicalized. In the present situation, which has its own special dynamics because of the use of chemical weaponry and President Obama’s extremely unfortunate ‘red line’, I’m uncertain what I think is the right thing to do.
But below are a few general points that I think are important to keep in mind.
1. Don’t make threats or tie yourself down, unless you’re sure you can and will follow through. And even then, do your best not to make threats; keep your options open.
2. Don’t listen to exile groups or rebel leaders. They may be brave, patriotic and even great. But they are also, almost by definition, opportunists and liars, eager to drag great powers into conflicts that have little or nothing to do with their own interests. Journalists only amplify this.
3. The people who talk most about international law and norms are mainly self-appointed groups with no actual constituencies who navigate and lobby elite global opinion, often with very benign motives and sometimes with benign effects.
4. Whether the US attacks Damascus or does not attack Damascus won’t have much effect on whether the US can in the future, under whatever circumstances, threaten or use force wherever else it wants to, to buttress or enforce whatever other international norm it chooses to. The entire concept of ‘unitary credibility’ is flawed to its core.
5. Most of these world policing conundrums come down to the imbalance of power and accountability in the international state system.
Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research.
Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain.
Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up.
Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming.
The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their "empathy switch", which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation.
The ability to empathise with others - to put yourself in someone else's shoes - is crucial to social development in order to respond appropriately in everyday situations.
Criminals with psychopathy characteristically show a reduced ability to empathise with others, including their victims. Evidence suggests they are also more likely to reoffend upon release than criminals without the psychiatric condition.
Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterised by superficial charm, pathological lying and a diminished capacity for remorse.
Now scientists have found that only when asked to empathise did the criminals' empathy reaction, also known as the mirror system, fire up the same way as it did for the controls. Without instruction, they show reduced activity in the regions of the brain associated with pain.
This mirror system refers to the mirror neurons in our brain which are known to activate when we watch someone do a task and when we do it ourselves. They are thought to play a vital role in the ability to empathise with others.
Christian Keysers from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and senior author of the study, said it could change the way psychopathic criminals were viewed.
"The predominant notion had been that they are callous individuals, unable to feel emotions themselves and therefore unable to feel emotions in others.
"Our work shows it's not that simple. They don't lack empathy but they have a switch to turn it on and off. By default, it seems to be off."
The fact that they have the capacity to switch empathy on, at least under certain conditions, could have a positive side to it, Prof Keysers said.
"The notion psychopaths have no empathy at all was a bleak prospect. It would make it very hard for them to have normal moral development.
"Now that we've shown they have empathy - even if only in certain conditions - we can give therapists something to work with," Prof Keysers told BBC News.
But he explained that it was not yet known how this wilful capacity for empathy could be transformed into the spontaneous empathy most of us have.
Essi Viding from University College London, who was not involved with the study, said it was an extremely interesting finding, but that it remained unclear whether the psychopathic criminals' experience of empathy felt the same as that of the controls.
"It's dangerous to look at brain activation and say that it means they're empathising. They are able to generate a typical neural response, but that doesn't mean they have the same empathetic experience," Prof Viding told BBC News.
"We know they can generate the same response but they do that in an active and effortful way. Under free-viewing conditions they don't seem to. Just because they can emphasise, doesn't mean they will.
"Psychopathic criminals are clearly different. The million-dollar question is whether we can devise therapeutic interventions that would shift them do this more automatically."
Randall Salekin, from the University of Alabama, US, who works with youth offenders said: "These findings fit with much of the treatment I am doing using a mental model program, whereby youth are informed about how the brain works and then asked to make specific plans for improving their lives.
"This study is impressive because it actually shows the brain mechanisms or neural networks involved in activating the inmates' empathy."
As hundreds of pro-choice protesters swarmed to the Texas capitol on Sunday, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) quipped on Twitter that he’s “extra thankful” for the Second Amendment because “today is 1 of those days.” Attempting to explain that comment hours later, he insisted it was actually, somehow, a reference to unarmed fetuses.
Amid desperate protests against the legislation, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) – who brings his gun to work every day, according to The New York Times — thought it was appropriate to assure fellow Republicans he wasn’t taking any chances with all these liberals running around. “Some days u r extra thankful we still have the right 2 protect ourselves & the 2nd amendment,” he wrote. “Today is 1 of those days”.
Hours later, an essay went up on Stickland’s website insisting that anyone who makes the connection between relying upon the Second Amendment and actually shooting someone is merely engaging in “Illogical Liberal Attacks.”
Saying the replies he got on Twitter “at least warrants a response,” Stickland began by making it perfectly clear that when he was talking about potentially opening fire on demonstrators in self defense, he really meant that he’s sad fetuses aren’t armed themselves.
“My reference this morning to being grateful for the ability to defend myself is coupled with the knowledge that there are those among us who cannot defend themselves,” Stickland wrote. “Through my vote today I will be defending the rights of those who cannot speak for their own rights.”
He went on to claim that by making it nearly impossible to obtain an abortion in Texas, Republicans are somehow increasing the “standard of care” for women — and certainly not waging a war against rights affirmed by the Constitution and the Supreme Court.
“Only liberals would take a mention of the 2nd amendment and my gratefulness for my ability to protect myself from threats and twist it into absurd accusations that I am going to attack people today at the Capitol,” Stickland concluded.
Mister Cuccinelli is running for Governor of Virginia, and he's decided to play the moralist in order to get the votes of the rubes. He could have gotten a conviction for sex with a minor, but that's not so important to him. No, the Cucc doesn't want anyone to get a blowjob.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) filed an appeallast week after a federal appeals court struck down Virginia’s sodomy law as unconstitutional. Virginia prosecutors had charged a 47-year-old man with soliciting oral sex from a 17-year-old girl — a felony under the disputed law. But whether or not Cuccinelli’s appeal succeeds, his vote to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling when he was a state Senator in 2004 helped create the uncertainty over the provisions.
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas ruling held that states may not ban private non-commercial sex between consenting adults. Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature statute, which made oral sex (even between consenting married couples) a felony, was clearly the sort of legislation the Court was referencing.
A year later, a bipartisan group in the Virginia Senate backed a bill that would havefixed the state’s Crimes Against Nature law to comply with Lawrence — eliminating provisions dealing with consenting adults in private and leaving in place provisions relating to prostitution, public sex, and those other than consenting adults. Cuccinelli opposed the bill in committee and helped kill it on the Senate floor. In 2009, he told a newspaper that he supported restrictions on the sexual behavior of consenting adults: “My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that. … They don’t comport with natural law.” As a result, the law’s text remains unchanged a decade after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
While the state could have brought misdemeanor charges under other statutory rape laws, the prosecution instead utilized the felony provisions of the Crimes Against Nature law. Because its provisions were never updated to comply with the constitutional privacy protections, the appeals court ruling determined that the law itself is unconstitutional. Even if Cuccinelli wins, the cost in time and money to Virginia will be huge — and could have been entirely avoided had he and the Republican majority in the Virginia General Assembly not been so determined to ignore the Supreme Court.
I took Paul Ryan’s measure two and a half years ago. All the Very Serious People were very angry with me — Ryan was the Serious, Honest Conservative, the guy centrists demonstrated their centrism by praising. But he was an obvious phony. His “plan” was all smoke (I couldn’t even find any mirrors), with all the alleged deficit reduction coming from closing tax loopholes he refused to specify plus projected reductions in discretionary spending that he also refused to specify. Meanwhile, he was pursuing radical redistribution away from the needy to the wealthy.
Nothing has changed, except that the plan has gotten even crueler.
So while I may do some analysis later today, the only really interesting question is how the VSPs will react. Have they had enough of the Flimflam Man? Or does hype spring eternal?
The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2012, adding $241 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 100 wealthiest individuals.
The aggregate net worth of the world's top 100 stood at $1.9 trillion at the market close Dec. 31, according to the index. Of the people who appeared on the final ranking of 2012, only 16 registered a net loss for the 12-month period.
"Last year was a great one for the world's billionaires," said John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of Red Apple Group Inc., in an email written poolside on his BlackBerry in the Bahamas. "In 2013, they will continue looking for investments around the world — and not necessarily in U.S. — that will give them an advantage."
Amancio Ortega, the Spaniard who founded retailer Inditex, was the year's biggest gainer. The 76-year-old tycoon's fortune increased to $57.5 billion, a gain of $22.2 billion, according to the index, as shares of the retailer that operates the Zara clothing chain rose 66.7%.
"It's an amazing company that has done great, and the gains are quite justified given its performance," said Christodoulos Chaviaras, an analyst at Barclays in London who's had an "equalweight" rating on Inditex for about a year. "Can they repeat that? It will be harder. A lot of the positive news is already reflected in the share price."
Global stocks soared in 2012. The MSCI World Index gained 13.2% during the year to close at 1338.50 on Dec. 31. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13.4% to close at 1426.19.
European stocks surged in the second half of the year. The Stoxx Europe 600 index is up 19.6% since June 4, advancing as the European Central Bank introduced bond-buying programs, S&P upgraded Greece's debt and German business confidence rose more than forecast. The benchmark gauge's 14.4% advance for the year was the best annual return since 2009.
Carlos Slim, the telecommunications magnate who controlsMexico's America Movil, maintained his title as the richest person on Earth for the entire year. The 72-year-old's net worth rose $13.4 billion, or 21.6%, through Dec. 31, making him the second-biggest gainer by dollars.
Gains by Slim's industrial conglomerate, Grupo Carso, and Grupo Financiero Inbursa, his banking and insurance operation, more than offset the decline posted by America Movil, his biggest holding. The largest mobile phone operator in the Americas by subscribers fell 5.8% to close at 14.9 pesos at the end of the year.
U.S. software mogul Bill Gates, 57, ranks second on the list, trailing Slim by $12.5 billion. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder added $7 billion to his net worth as shares of the Redmond, Wash., company rose 2.9%. Microsoft stock accounts for less than 20% of the billionaire's fortune.
Warren Buffett, 82, lost his title as the world's third-richest man to Ortega on Aug. 6. The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman gained $5.1 billion during the year, even after donating 22.3 million Berkshire Class B shares in July to charity. The billionaire, who has pledged to give away most of his fortune, spent much of the year pressing for higher taxes on the wealthy.
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, 86, is the world's fifth-richest person with a $42.9-billion fortune. The complex ownership structure behind Ikea, the world's largest furniture retailer, became more transparent in August after Ikea's franchisor published its financial performance publicly for the first time. His net worth rose 16.6% in 2012.
Brazil'sEike Batista, 56, was the year's biggest loser by dollars, falling $10.1 billion. The commodities maven, who vowed a year ago that he'd become the world's wealthiest man by 2015, sold a 5.63% stake in his EBX Group Co. in March to Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co.
As part of the deal, he pledged an unspecified additional stake in 2019 if he fails to meet a 5% annual return on the sovereign wealth fund's $2-billion investment, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. Batista now ranks 75th in the world with a net worth of $12.4 billion. On March 27, he was worth $34.5 billion and ranked 8th on the Bloomberg index.
Batista's former title as the richest Brazilian is now held by 73-year-old banker Jorge Paulo Lemann, who ranks 37th on the index with an $18.8-billion fortune. The country's second-richest person is Dirce Camargo, the matriarch behind Camargo Correa, the Sao Paulo conglomerate that has interests in cement, electricity and Havaianas flip-flops. Her net worth is $13.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking.
Camargo, who doesn't appear on any other major international wealth ranking, is one of 54 billionaires the index uncovered during the year. Among the others: Hamdi Ulukaya, the 40-year-old Turkish immigrant owner of Chobani, the bestselling yogurt brand in the U.S.; South Africa's Nathan "Natie" Kirsh, 80, who amassed a $5.4-billion fortune in retail and real estate; and Elaine Marshall, 70, whose 14.6% ownership of closely held Koch Industries makes her the fourth-richest woman in America. She is worth $14.1 billion.
Koch Industries' two other shareholders, the brothers Charles and David Koch, are each worth $40.9 billion, up $7.1 billion, or 20.9%, for the year.
Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison rose $6.4 billion in 2012 as shares of the world's largest database company jumped 31.7%. Ellison, 68, who has more than tripled the amount of Oracle stock he has pledged against lines of credit in the last year, agreed to buy 98% of Hawaii's Lanai island. The 141-square-mile parcel with no traffic lights was purchased from billionaire David Murdock, the 89-year-old chairman of Dole Food Co., the world's largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The bulk of Ellison's fortune comes from his 23.5% stake in Oracle. He also has interests in software makers NetSuite Inc. and LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., as well as property holdings, including estates in California and Newport, R.I.
In America it's the fault of gays, atheists, blacks and Latinos. In Italy it's the fault of women. Especially because of the cold meals. And if you don't agree then you're gay.
A Catholic priest in Italy has created a firestorm by claiming that women bring violence on themselves by serving cold food and dressing provocatively.
Father Piero Corsi of Liguria sparked outrage after members of his congregation posted his Christmas bulletin onto Facebook. The flyer, entitled “Women and femicide – healthy self-criticism. How often do they provoke?” said victims of domestic and sexual violence should question if they were themselves to blame for the incident.
The flyer said women “provoke the worst instincts” and “should search their consciences and ask: did we bring this on ourselves?”
“The fact is that women are increasingly provocative, they become arrogant, they believe themselves to be self-sufficient and end up exacerbating the situation,” Corsi added. “Children are abandoned to their own devices, homes are dirty, meals are cold or fast food, clothes are filthy.”
He later added fuel to the fire by suggesting an Italian reporter must be gay if he wasn’t enticed by a picture of a nude woman.
Following the uproar in Italy, Corsi said he plans “to take a period of rest.”
A dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an "irresistible attraction," even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. Such firings may be unfair, but they are not unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.
An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.
But Nelson's attorney said Iowa's all-male high court, one of only a handful in the nation, failed to recognize the discrimination that women see routinely in the workplace.
"These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don't think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires and that Iowa women are the ones who have to monitor and control their bosses' sexual desires," said attorney Paige Fiedler. "If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it."
Nelson, 32, worked for Knight for 10 years, and he considered her a stellar worker. But in the final months of her employment, he complained that her tight clothing was distracting, once telling her that if his pants were bulging that was a sign her clothes were too revealing, according to the opinion.
He also once allegedly remarked about her infrequent sex life by saying, "that's like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it."
Knight and Nelson — both married with children — started exchanging text messages, mostly about personal matters, such as their families. Knight's wife, who also worked in the dental office, found out about the messages and demanded Nelson be fired. The Knights consulted with their pastor, who agreed that terminating Nelson was appropriate.
Knight fired Nelson and gave her one month's severance. He later told Nelson's husband that he worried he was getting too personally attached and feared he would eventually try to start an affair with her.
Nelson was stunned because she viewed the 53-year-old Knight as a father figure and had never been interested in starting a relationship, Fiedler said.
Nelson filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, arguing she would not have been terminated if she was male. She did not allege sexual harassment because Knight's conduct may not have risen to that level and didn't particularly offend her, Fiedler said.
Knight argued Nelson was fired not because of her gender, but because her continued employment threatened his marriage. A district judge agreed, dismissing the case before trial, and the high court upheld that ruling.
Mansfield noted that Knight had an all-female workforce and Nelson was replaced by a woman.
He said the decision was in line with state and federal court rulings that found workers can be fired for relationships that cause jealousy and tension within a business owner's family. One such case from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a business owner's firing of a valued employee who was seen by his wife as a threat to their marriage. In that case, the fired employee had engaged in flirtatious conduct.
Mansfield said allowing Nelson's lawsuit would stretch the definition of discrimination to allow anyone fired over a relationship to file a claim arguing they would not have been fired but for their gender.
Knight's attorney, Stuart Cochrane, said the court got it right. The decision clarified that bosses can make decisions showing favoritism to a family member without committing discrimination; in this case, by allowing Knight to honor his wife's wishes to fire Nelson, he said.
Knight is a very religious and moral individual, and he sincerely believed that firing Nelson would be best for all parties, he said.
"While there was really no fault on the part of Mrs. Nelson, it was just as clear the decision to terminate her was not related to the fact that she was a woman," he said. "The motives behind Dr. Knight terminating Mrs. Nelson were quite clear: He did so to preserve his marriage.
"I don't view this as a decision that was either pro-women or opposed to women rights at all. In my view, this was a decision that followed the appropriate case law."