Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2055 on: Dec 1st, 2010, 7:47pm »
New York Times
December 1, 2010 Fed Papers Show Breadth of Emergency Measures By SEWELL CHAN and JO CRAVEN McGINTY
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve released documents Wednesday showing that its efforts to help stabilize the markets at the height of the financial crisis reached far beyond Wall Street and deep into the economy.
The disclosures reveal the extent to which corporations were forced to rely on the Fed for the money to pay suppliers and make weekly payroll. The crisis in the commercial paper market, the documents show, was more extensive and lasted longer than was previously known.
During the worst moments of the financial crisis, in the fall of 2008, even commercial paper issuers with ties to bedrock corporations like Caterpillar, General Electric, Harley-Davidson, McDonald’s, Verizon and Toyota turned to the Fed after the market for short-term notes had dried up.
While most of the Fed’s commercial paper purchases were made in the first few weeks after the program opened on Oct. 27, 2008, the central bank had to buy nearly as much in January 2009 and only slightly less in March 2009. Indeed, the Fed was still supporting the market for commercial paper well into the summer of 2009 — even as the recession officially came to an end.
In total, the documents released Wednesday on the Fed’s Web site offer insight into the more than 21,000 emergency loans that the Fed provided to investment banks, foreign central banks and a number of other institutions. The bulk of the money went out in 2008 during the peak of the crisis.
The efforts by the Fed were in addition to the use of monetary policy to expand the supply of credit to the economy and lower interest rates. The Fed lowered its benchmark short-term interest rate, the federal funds rate at which banks borrow from each other overnight, to essentially zero in December 2008. And from that month until March 2009, the Fed purchased some $1.7 trillion in mortgage-related assets and Treasury securities to lower long-term interest rates. On Nov. 3, the Fed announced a resumption of its bond-buying strategy, known as quantitative easing, with plans to purchase $600 billion in Treasury securities through June 2011.
The data also revealed the global scope of the crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. The European Central Bank drew heavily on the Fed’s currency swap lines to support dollar-financed money markets in Europe. But nine other central banks, the data show, also made use of the swap lines: Australia, Britain, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland.
From March 2008 to May 2009, the central bank extended a cumulative total of nearly $9 trillion in short-term loans to 18 different financial firms — under a program called the Primary Dealer Credit Facility. Previously, the Fed had only revealed that four financial firms had tapped the special lending facility and did not reveal their identities or the loan amounts.
The data seemed to confirm that Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley were under severe strain in the weeks following the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008. All three firms tapped the facility on more than 100 occasions.
A quick analysis by The New York Times indicates that Citigroup was the greatest beneficiary, drawing on a total of $1.8 trillion in loans, followed by Merrill Lynch, which used $1.5 trillion; Morgan Stanley, which drew $1.4 trillion; and Bear Stearns, which used $960 billion. During the crisis, Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America and Bear Stearns was sold to JPMorgan Chase, as storied Wall Street institutions crumbled under the weight of bad loans and excessive leverage.
Despite Goldman Sachs’s insistence that it would have been strong enough to survive without a bailout, the bank borrowed money through an overnight loan program on 52 separate occasions in amounts as high as $18 billion, according to the Fed data.
JPMorgan’s investment bank, by contrast, used the special lending facility meagerly. It turned to the Fed only three times, borrowing as much as $3 billion at one time.
The American subsidiaries of French, German, Swiss and Japanese banks also benefited. BNP Paribas of France borrowed on 43 occasions, for a maximum of $4.6 billion. UBS of Switzerland borrowed 8 times, with a maximum of $6.5 billion. And Mizuho Securities of Japan borrowed 108 times, with a maximum of $2.2 billion.
The data on commercial paper market, however, illustrated the reach of the problem.
In early October 2008, the Fed hastily arranged to become the buyer of last resort for corporate commercial paper — the short-term notes that companies issue to smooth out cash flow and make sure that payroll checks and vendor payments do not bounce.
The market had been under pressure since Sept. 15, when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and defaulted on a substantial amount of its own short-term notes. The pressure became panic on Sept. 16, when the Reserve Fund, one of the nation’s largest money market funds, “broke the buck” by reporting a share price below a dollar. Within days, the Fed set up an emergency insurance program for money market mutual funds, which helped slow the tidal wave of withdrawals.
Because money market funds were the principal buyers of commercial paper, the crisis quickly spread to that market. On Oct. 27, 2008, the Fed started buying commercial paper.
The program was not aimed at rescuing the least creditworthy borrowers, who remained frozen out of the market, but was intended to buy only the best quality paper. The common wisdom was that its primary beneficiaries would be the top-tier banks, insurers and financial institutions who would normally could have sold their notes without difficulty.
In the first week, the Fed bought more than $225 billion in paper. And the new data confirms that companies ranging from Ohio’s Fifth Third Bank to the best-known bank franchises of Europe and Asia, like Commerzbank and Sumitomo were the primary occupants of the new lifeboat, along with the finance arms of the nation’s hard-pressed auto industry and the teetering insurance American International Group.
But in line with them that week were McDonald’s, Caterpillar, General Electric, Harley-Davidson, Verizon and Baxter International, the health care industry giant — major companies that were not generally considered vulnerable to the market meltdown.
The Fed, which took months to compile the data and release it in electronic form by the Dec. 1 deadline, emphasized that most of the programs discussed closed earlier this year and that taxpayers did not incur losses.
“The Federal Reserve followed sound risk-management practices in administering all of these programs, incurred no credit losses on programs that have been wound down, and expects to incur no credit losses on the few remaining programs,” the central bank said in a statement.
To an unprecedented degree, the Fed created an alphabet soup of loan programs during the crisis. (Probably the one with the most cumbersome name was the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the program used to help money market funds that held commercial paper.)
The Fed also purchased $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities to prop up the housing market.
With the economy still so fragile, some Fed officials have expressed concern that the release of so much data might roil the markets. The Fed emphasized Wednesday that the institutions that used the loan programs did not necessarily have any underlying problems beyond the liquidity crunch that became widespread in 2008.
Sewell Chan reported Washington and Jo Craven McGinty from New York. Diana Henriques, Eric Dash and Ben Protess contributed reporting from New York.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2056 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 07:43am »
New York Times
December 2, 2010 Swedish Court Confirms Arrest Warrant for WikiLeaks Founder By JOHN F. BURNS and ALAN COWELL
LONDON — Sweden’s highest court refused on Thursday to allow Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing organization, to appeal a court order seeking his arrest to face questioning over alleged sex crimes, his lawyer and said.
In a telephone interview, Mark Stephens, Mr. Assange’s lawyer in Britain, said the ruling by Stockholm court exhausted his client’s legal options to overturn the arrest order in Sweden, where the offenses are alleged to have taken place. Thursday’s ruling in Stockholm came a day after Interpol, the global police body, said it had been circulating a so-called red notice seeking Mr. Assange’s arrest for almost two weeks. Reuters quoted Kerstin Norman, a Swedish High Court official, as saying the ruling meant that earlier warrants for Mr. Assange’s arrest were still in force.
In a statement issued from its headquarters in the French city of Lyon, Interpol said on Wednesday that it had issued its call on Nov. 20, two days after Swedish prosecutors won court approval for a warrant that Interpol could circulate, and that it had only now received Sweden’s authorization to make its action public.
Also on Wednesday, WikiLeaks accused Amazon.com of ending an agreement to host its Web site. Amazon hosts the sites of many companies and organizations as part of its Amazon Web Services program.
The whereabouts of Mr. Assange, 39, is unknown, but the sequence of recent events suggests that if he had wanted to flee Britain, his last known location, without being arrested, he might have had to do so within 48 hours of the Nov. 18 Swedish court ruling.
A report in the British newspaper, The Independent, on Thursday suggested that Scotland Yard’s Serious Organized Crime Agency knows the whereabouts of Mr. Assange. He is said to be in the south of England and Scotland Yard even has a telephone number for him but they have declined to arrest him until they clarify technical difficulties with paperwork filed by the Swedish prosecutors, the report said.
Mr. Stephens, Mr. Assange’s lawyer, said his client’s arrest and extradition may not be imminent. “Given the procedural defects we’ve seen so far,” he said, “I’d be absolutely astonished if the Swedes were able to present a warrant valid in this country.”
The developments came as several newspapers, including The New York Times, published confidential documents obtained by WikiLeaks and made available from a mass of some 250,000 diplomatic cables from the State Department, including communications concerning American policy toward Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and many other countries.
In a message posted on Twitter, WikiLeaks said its servers at Amazon had been “ousted,” adding that its money would now be spent “to employ people in Europe.”
An hour and a half later, WikiLeaks continued the attack, saying, “If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.” WikiLeaks then posted a link to its donations page, with an appeal to “Keep WikiLeaks strong.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment about any business relationship with WikiLeaks.
The WikiLeaks site was inaccessible for several hours before it switched to servers owned by its previous Swedish host, Bahnhof, The A.P. said.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent of Connecticut, said Amazon had stopped hosting the WikiLeaks site on Wednesday after being contacted by the staff of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Staff members had asked Amazon to explain its business relationship with WikiLeaks, which Senator Lieberman, the committee’s chairman, had criticized for publishing sensitive government documents.
“I wish that Amazon had taken this action earlier, based on WikiLeaks’s previous publication of classified material,” the senator said in a statement. “The company’s decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material.”
Senator Lieberman called on any other company that is hosting WikiLeaks’s Web site to stop immediately, saying that its “illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world.”
“No responsible company — whether American or foreign — should assist WikiLeaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials,” he said. “I will be asking Amazon about the extent of its relationship with WikiLeaks and what it and other Web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information.”
The Swedish prosecutor’s office said almost two weeks ago that a court in Stockholm had approved its request for the arrest of Mr. Assange to face questioning on suspicion of “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion” — charges that he has strongly denied and that WikiLeaks has dismissed as “dirty tricks” meant to punish him for his organization’s work.
The accusations were first made against Mr. Assange after he traveled to Sweden in mid-August and had brief relationships with two Swedish women.
At that time, he said he intended to establish a more secure base for himself and WikiLeaks under the wide protections afforded to whistle-blowers by Swedish law. The organization already had strong support there, and used Sweden as a base for some of the multiple Web servers that stored and disseminated its caches of secret documents.
According to accounts the two Swedish women gave to the police and friends, each had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual. Mr. Assange has portrayed the relationships as consensual and questioned the veracity of the women’s accounts.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said the force had received “no intelligence” that Mr. Assange, an Australian, was still in London, and that while the Interpol alert did not compel the British police to hunt for him, “if that intelligence comes in, or we have reason to believe that a person who has a Red Notice out on them is in a certain location, we will find them and extradite them as per the international rules.”
John F. Burns reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting from London, and Verne G. Kopytoff from San Francisco.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2057 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 07:46am »
Suspect in Chasen's death kills himself Under surveillance in the publicist's death, he pulls out a gun as police approach him in his apartment building in Hollywood.
By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times December 2, 2010
A man described as a suspect in the slaying of veteran Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen fatally shot himself at a Hollywood apartment house Wednesday evening as Beverly Hills police were serving a search warrant there.
The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. at the Harvey Apartments on Santa Monica Boulevard.
It was not immediately clear if police suspected the man of shooting Chasen or of being an accomplice, but four law enforcement sources told The Times that detectives considered him a suspect.
The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because the investigation was ongoing, said detectives received information suggesting the man would be in his apartment Wednesday evening. He had been under surveillance for some time, they said.
When police officers approached the man in the lobby of the apartment building, he backed up and refused their orders to raise his hands. He pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head, the sources said. He died at the scene.
The identity of the man, who was believed to be in his 40s, was not released. Residents at the apartment building said they knew him only as Harold.
Brandon Harrison said Harold described himself to other tenants as an ex-convict who served two stints in state prison, the most recent for firearms and drug convictions. Harold vowed that he would never go back to prison, according to Harrison.
"He told me several times, 'If it ever came back down to me going to prison, I would die first,'" Harrison said.
The man moved into the building three months ago, Harrison said, but was evicted. Harold had returned to the building repeatedly and asked Harrison and others if police had been looking for him.
He said Harold told him that he was supposed to be getting $10,000, at one point saying it was for a job he did and on another occasion saying it was from a lawsuit.
Harrison said he had no way of corroborating Harold's claims. "I don't [know] if anything he told me was true," Harrison said. "The man was very strange."
Chasen's slaying shocked Hollywood and sparked endless speculation.
The publicist was shot to death early Nov. 16 while driving her Mercedes-Benz near the intersection of Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills.
She was on her way home from a party after the premiere of the movie "Burlesque."
Chasen is believed to have left the event about midnight and was traveling west on Sunset.
Friends believe she planned to head south to her condominium on Wilshire Boulevard near the grounds of the Los Angeles Country Club.
Several residents dialed 911 at the time of the attack, saying they heard gunshots. Moments later, another resident called 911 to report hearing the car crash into a light pole.
People living on Whittier Drive who heard the crash ran to the scene and found Chasen slumped over the steering wheel, bleeding. The passenger-side window was shattered.
Detectives have repeatedly stated that the case was wide open and that they had neither a motive nor a suspect.
Beverly Hills police issued a statement Wednesday night saying that its officers were at the apartment when the shooting occurred but declined to provide further details.
The Harvey is home to a diverse array of tenants who pay month-to-month rents, including a number of elderly people and others on fixed incomes, as well as younger people.
Terri Gilpin, 46, said she stepped out of the elevator on the ground level of the building and saw blood splattered on the floor.
Gilpin said she had heard what she thought was a car backfiring. "I really didn't think anything of it," she said, "because I was kind of drowsy."
Then a neighbor knocked on the door saying someone had been shot.
Gilpin said the entryway had been cordoned off as LAPD officers gathered near the door.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2058 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 07:50am »
'Life as we don't know it' discovery could prove existence of aliens
NASA has sent the internet into a frenzy after it announced an "astrobiology finding" that could suggest alien life exists – even on earth.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent 6:00PM GMT 01 Dec 2010
The discovery could prove the theory of "shadow" creatures which exist in tandem with our own and in hostile environments previously thought uninhabitable.
The "life as we don't know it" could even survive on hostile planets and develop into intelligent creatures such as humans if and when conditions improve.
In a press conference scheduled for tomorrow evening, researchers will unveil the discovery of a microbe that can live in an environment previously thought too poisonous for any life-form to survive.
The bacteria has been found at the bottom of Mono Lake in California's Yosemite National Park which is rich in arsenic – usually poisonous to life.
Somehow the creature uses the arsenic as a way of surviving and this ability raises the prospect that similar life could exist on other planets, which do not have our benevolent atmosphere.
Dr Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist at the Centre for Planetary Sciences in London, said: "If these organisms use arsenic in their metabolism, it demonstrates that there are other forms of life to those we knew of.
"They're aliens, but aliens that share the same home as us."
The space agency will announce the full extent of the findings at a press conference titled “astrobiology finding which will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life”.
They believe the creature proves the existence of a second form of life that exists in tandem and before and after intelligent life blooms on planets across the universe.
It follows a growing belief that alien life far from being rare is actually abundant in the universe just in a form that is not recognisable as life.
At the heart of his theory is that life on earth may have come and gone many times during the planet's existence.
These creatures are the remnants of the previous inhabitants.
Scientists have also estimated that life of some kind exists on hundred billion trillion Earth-like planets in space.
However it is usually just bacteria and intelligent life such as us is fleeting and only exists for a fraction of the time.
A study last month said that the universe is teeming with planets capable of supporting alien life.
After studying stars similar to the Sun, astronomers found that almost one in four could have small, rocky planets just like the earth.
Many of these worlds may occupy the "Goldilocks" zone – the region where conditions are neither too hot, nor too cold, for liquid water and possibly life.
Planets outside our own solar system are too far away and too small to see directly with telescopes.
Instead, astronomers study distant stars for tell-tale 'wobbles' – caused when stars are pulled by a planet's gravity.
In the last decade, nearly 500 planets have been discovered outside the solar system this way.
In September astronomers announced the discovery of the most Earth-like planet ever found – a rocky world three times the size of our own world, orbiting a star 20 light years away.
The planet appears to have an atmosphere, a gravity like our own and could have flowing water on its surface.
The discovery came three years after astronomers found a similar, slightly less habitable planet around the same small red star called Gliese 581 in the constellation of Libra.
The planet, named Gliese g, is 118,000,000,000,000 miles away – so far away that light from its start takes 20 years to reach the earth.
The latest news induced feverish debate as to whether scientists were about to announce that they had discovered life on other worlds.
"Did they find ET?", asked one headline in the U S., while another wrote, "Has Nasa found little green men?"
Speculation mounted around the world about the mystery information and buoyed people who already believe in aliens.
One said on U.S. news website MSNBC, "It's still hard for me to understand why people can't accept that aliens exist ... ET is real".
"Fact is, life is everywhere," another wrote. 'I don't need some BS announcement to know it because I have common sense.'
A newspaper in South Korea proclaimed "Nasa to hold news conference on alien life".
The event will be streamed live on the internet tomorrow evening.
There are also conspiracy theorists who believe the government is involved in a cover-up of some kind.
"It is embarrassing how our country makes it all a secret and hides and controls what we know," one American ranted, insisting aliens do exist and the U.S. knows it.
"The government lies to us all the time."
Others were more light-hearted in their predictions.
"Looks like good old Elvis finally ran out of hiding places!," joked a person on a science blog.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2059 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 07:55am »
Video: You Only Dream of Driving Like This By Chuck Squatriglia December 1, 2010 | 10:00 am Categories: Autopia WTF? Dept., Car Shows
Rhys Millen drifting his 750-horsepower Hyundai Genesis coupe up Serra Do Rio Do Rastro in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Everything you need to know, by the numbers: 9.4 kilometers, 156 turns, 7 minutes and 17.898 seconds. Top speed? More than 136 mph.
You will never, ever drive like this.
Millen made the record-setting run during Red Bull Xtreme Drift on Nov. 13. DC Chavez shot and edited the video, which he sent us this week. Thanks, DC.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2060 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 08:02am »
2 December 2010 by Brian S.
New Zombie flick: Zombiefield
The newest zombie film to come along, Zombified is currently seeking distribution through champion Entertainment. The film is directed by Todd Jason Cook and stars Rebecca Torellas, Mike Gebbie, Kathryn Rene Ginzel, Tayvis Dunnahoe, LisaWhiteman, Sabrina Cook, Joe Grisaffi, MeganHerrington, Alexia Roy, Carli Moser, Brad Roberson, and Joe Condoleo.
With a tagline like "Zombiefied - the first SLASHER film & ZOMBIE film cross-over!" I'll be checking it out for sure!
Friends Angel and Tommy have kept a deadly secret that has tormented them for 13 years. A local concert becomes a bloodbath as the fans strangely become rageful zombies. An outbreak occurs, leaving members of the band separated. Now Angel and Tommy must face their fears to help save their friends. Things become more complicated when lead singer Alana is attacked by a twisted killer who knows the secret and the bodies are adding up. Zombiefied is the first film of its kind, combining SLASHER film and ZOMBIE film.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2061 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 1:00pm »
Arsenic-feeding bacteria expands traditional notions of life By the CNN Wire Staff December 2, 2010 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Washington (CNN) -- Scientists have discovered a form of bacteria that can thrive largely on arsenic -- an element generally considered toxic -- dramatically expanding both traditional notions of how life is sustained and the range of where it might be found in the universe, NASA funded-researchers announced Thursday.
"Life as we know it requires particular chemical elements and excludes others," Arizona State University researcher Ariel Anbar said in a news release. "But are those the only options? How different could life be?"
The bacterium -- strain GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae family of Gammaproteobacteria -- was scooped from sediment in California's Mono Lake, an area rife with naturally high levels of arsenic, it said.
Scientists were able to grow the microbes from the lake using only small portions of phosphorous -- considered an essential nutrient in the biomolecules of a naturally occurring bacterium.
Internet speculation had reached a fever pitch Thursday ahead of a NASA news conference, which the agency said would "discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life."
"Our guess is that this astrobiological discovery will have something to do with water, evolutionary biology and aquatic bacteria," said the Geek Tech bloggers at PCWorld.
Others were more tongue-in-cheek. "There's only one thing this could mean: NASA has aliens," wrote Stephen Losey on FederalTimes.com. "Now let's just hope they're the friendly, E.T.-kind of visitors, and not the warlike Klingon types."
Speculation was rampant on social networks as well. "Can only mean one thing," one Twitter user posted. "The Martians are coming." One person wrote on the Huffington Post, "we've got enough ... alien lifeforms in Washington."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2062 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 3:45pm »
What does the moon smell like? Gunpowder, apparently. By Kat Hannaford 2 December 2010
Artist Sue Corke has created a scratch 'n sniff print of the moon, working from an Apollo 16 astronaut's memories—which you can buy for between $55 to $428.
Charles M. Duke Jnr worked with flavorist Steven Pearce from Omega Ingredients to get the smell downpat, which was then turned into an ink by The Aroma Co. for Sue Corke's print. Supposedly it's a well-known fact amongst astronauts that the moon has the faint odor of gunpowder, presumably because of the basalt rock which came from the lava flows thousands of years before us. While there's no air on the moon to breathe, the rocks they always collect up there can be smelled once aboard the spacecraft.
The prints themselves are pretty pricey though—there are 300 prints, so it's quite limited edition.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2065 on: Dec 3rd, 2010, 07:46am »
New York Times
December 2, 2010 Arizona Cuts Financing for Transplant Patients By MARC LACEY
PHOENIX — Even physicians with decades of experience telling patients that their lives are nearing an end are having difficulty discussing a potentially fatal condition that has arisen in Arizona: Death by budget cut.
Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state’s version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.
Randy Shepherd, a patient, and his daughter Krista.
“The most difficult discussions are those that involve patients who had been on the donor list for a year or more and now we have to tell them they’re not on the list anymore,” said Dr. Rainer Gruessner, a transplant specialist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “The frustration is tremendous. It’s more than frustration.”
Organ transplants are already the subject of a web of regulations, which do not guarantee that everyone in need of a life-saving organ will receive one. But Arizona’s transplant specialists are alarmed that patients who were in line to receive transplants one day were, after the state’s budget cuts to its Medicaid program, ruled ineligible the next — unless they raised the money themselves.
Francisco Felix, 32, a father of four who has hepatitis C and is in need of a liver, received news a few weeks ago that a family friend was dying and wanted to donate her liver to him. But the budget cuts meant he no longer qualified for a state-financed transplant.
He was prepared anyway at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center as his relatives scrambled to raise the needed $200,000. When the money did not come through, the liver went to someone else on the transplant list.
“I know times are tight and cuts are needed, but you can’t cut human lives,” said Mr. Felix’s wife, Flor. “You just can’t do that.”
Such high drama is unfolding regularly here as more and more of the roughly 100 people affected by the cuts are becoming known: the father of six who died before receiving a bone marrow transplant, the plumber in need of a new heart and the high school basketball coach who struggles to breathe during games at high altitudes as she awaits a lung transplant.
“I appreciate the need for budget restraints,” said Dr. Andrew M. Yeager, a University of Arizona professor who is director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at the Arizona Cancer Center. “But when one looks at a potentially lifesaving treatment, admittedly expensive, and we have data to support efficacy, cuts like this are shortsighted and sad.”
State Medicaid officials said they recommended discontinuing some transplants only after assessing the success rates for previous patients. Among the discontinued procedures are lung transplants, liver transplants for hepatitis C patients and some bone marrow and pancreas transplants, which altogether would save the state about $4.5 million a year.
“As an agency, we understand there have been difficult cuts and there will have to be more difficult cuts looking forward,” said Jennifer Carusetta, chief legislative liaison at the state Medicaid agency.
The issue has led to a fierce political battle, with Democrats condemning the reductions as “Brewercare,” after Gov. Jan Brewer.
“We made it very clear at the time of the vote that this was a death sentence,” said State Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, a Democrat. “This is not a luxury item. We’re not talking about cosmetic surgery.”
The Republican governor has in turn blamed “Obamacare,” meaning the federal health care overhaul, for the transplant cuts even though the Arizona vote came in March, before President Obama signed that bill into law.
But a top Republican, State Representative John Kavanagh, has already pledged to reconsider at least some of the state’s cuts for transplants when the Legislature reconvenes in January. Mr. Kavanagh, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he does not believe lawmakers had the full picture of the effect of the cuts on patients when they voted.
“It’s difficult to be linked to a situation where people’s lives are jeopardized and turned upside down,” he said in an interview. “Thankfully no one has died as a result of this, and I believe we have time to rectify this.”
Across the country, states have restricted benefits to their Medicaid programs, according to a 50-state survey published in September by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. But none have gone as far as Arizona in eliminating some transplants, which are considered optional services under federal law.
Before the Legislature acted, Arizona’s Medicaid agency had provided an analysis to lawmakers of the transplants that were cut, which many health experts now say was seriously flawed. For instance, the state said that 13 of 14 patients under the state’s health system who received bone marrow transplants from nonrelatives over a two-year period died within six months.
But outside specialists said the success rates were considerably higher, particularly for leukemia patients in their first remission.
“Something needs to be done,” said Dr. Emmanuel Katsanis, a bone marrow transplant expert at the University of Arizona. “There’s no doubt that people aren’t going to make it because of this decision. What do you tell someone? You need a transplant but you have to raise the money?”
Just before the Oct. 1 deadline, Mark Price, a father of six who was fighting leukemia, learned he needed a bone marrow transplant. But his doctor, Jeffrey R. Schriber, found donor matches for his transplant the very day the new rules went into effect, and Mr. Price no longer qualified for coverage by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the formal name for the state’s Medicaid program.
What happened next was at once inspirational and heart-rending.
Out of the blue, an anonymous financial donor quickly stepped forward and agreed to cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed for Mr. Price’s surgery. But Mr. Price died last weekend, after his cancer returned before the operation could be done. He was buried on Thursday, next to his grandfather.
“It’s not correct to say that he died as a result of the cuts,” said Dr. Schriber, who is active in lobbying for the financing to be restored. “Did it prey on his mind? Did it make his last days more difficult? No doubt.”
Elsewhere, the fund-raising is already under way.
Mr. Felix and others are now trying to raise enough for new organs through NTAF, a nonprofit organization based in Pennsylvania formerly known as the National Transplant Assistance Fund that helps transplant patients pay for their medical costs. National coverage of their plight has already led to more than $100,000 in donations for some of the patients affected by the budget cuts. The Felix family is also planning a yard sale this weekend so he does not lose the chance to get another liver.
There has been a flurry of lobbying to persuade the state to reverse the decision. Dr. Gruessner said he and others met with state health officials recently to propose other cuts associated with transplants, like eliminating tests typically conducted before surgery.
If the Legislature does decide to reconsider the cuts, one of the affected people, a plumber and father of three named Randy Shepherd, 36, who has an ailing heart and needs a transplant, plans to attend the debate.
“I’m trying not to take it personally,” he said of being cut out of the program. “None of the politicians had heard of me when they made their decision. They didn’t say, ‘Let’s kill this guy.’ ”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2066 on: Dec 3rd, 2010, 07:49am »
New York Times
December 3, 2010 Disappointing Job Growth in U.S. as Jobless Rate Hits 9.8% By MOTOKO RICH
In a significant setback to the recovery and market expectations, the United States economy added just 39,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent, the Department of Labor reported Friday.
Included in the latest report were revisions from previous months. The agency now says that the economy added 172,000 jobs in October, instead of the 151,000 jobs previously reported.
November’s numbers were far less than the 150,000 jobs forecast . More than 15 million people remain out of work, and 6.3 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer.
Private companies, which have been hiring since the beginning of the year, added 50,000 jobs in November. Government jobs dropped by 11,000.
November’s jobs report came during a week when the economy received a smattering of other improving news in the last few days: weekly initial unemployment claims have been trending lower, pending home sales in October topped forecasts and November retail sales jumped by one of their highest increases in years.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2067 on: Dec 3rd, 2010, 07:51am »
New York Times
December 3, 2010 WikiLeaks Struggles to Stay Online After Cyberattacks By RAVI SOMAIYA and ALAN COWELL
LONDON — An American provider of Internet domain names withdrew its service to the WikiLeaks Web site after a barrage of attacks by hackers that threatened to destabilize its entire system, according to the provider and WikiLeaks itself on Friday. But within hours, WikiLeaks said it had registered its domain name in Switzerland.
By mid-morning, attempts to access the original Wikileaks.org Web site produced only a page saying: “The address is not valid.” The new domain name, Wikileaks.ch, appeared to be providing only sporadic access to the site.
The action by EveryDNS.net, which provides domain names for about 500,000 Web sites, followed a decision on Wednesday by Amazon.com Inc. to expel WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing organization, from its servers. WikiLeaks remains on the servers of a Swedish host, Bahnhof, as it continues to anger the United States by publicizing a huge array of some 250,000 leaked State Department documents relating to American foreign policy around the globe.
In a statement on its Web site, EveryDNS.com said it terminated WikiLeaks’ domain name at around 10 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.
“The services were terminated for violation of the provision which states that a ‘member shall not interfere with another member’s use and enjoyment of the service or another entity’s use and enjoyment of similar services.’”
It said wikileaks.org “has become the target of multiple distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks.” Such attacks usually involve bombarding a Web site with attacks, preventing legitimate users from access, and are designed to make a targeted Web site unavailable. When questioned about similar cyberattacks on Sunday against WikiLeaks, American officials vigorously denied any involvement.
The organization appears increasingly engaged in a game of digital Whac-A-Mole as it struggles to stay online. The Web infrastructure that supports WikiLeaks is deliberately diffuse and difficult to track, with servers spread through many countries in order to insulate the site from hostile states or companies.
According to the Web site whois.com, the new domain, wikileaks.ch, is registered to the Swiss branch of the Swedish Pirate Party, a political organization that has previously worked with Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder. Mr. Assange is being sought for questioning in connection to alleged sex crimes in Sweden, which he denies.
In an interview with The New York Times earlier this year, the Pirate Party’s leader, Rickard Falkvinge, expressed an open offer to host the WikiLeaks site because “our organizations generally share the same values — we value privacy, transparency, democracy and knowledge.” Mr. Falkvinge added that any sharing of Web services between the two organizations would offer “heightened political protection. Any prosecutors will have to target a political party in us, and the price for doing that is much higher.”
WikiLeaks reacted to the domain name switch on its Twitter feed, writing just after midnight on Friday morning: “WikiLeaks.org domain killed by US everydns.net after claimed mass attacks.”
It implored supporters to “keep us strong” and provided a link for financial donations. Hours later, a message on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed said: “WikiLeaks moved to Switzerland” and provided the new Web address.
Earlier this week, Amazon — which rents server space to companies in addition to its online retail business — canceled its relationship with WikiLeaks after inquiries from an aide to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman. The company said the organization was violating the terms of service for the program.
“When companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere,” the company said.
Anna Mossberg, Banhof’s chief executive, said her company held “two physical WikiLeaks servers in our data hall in Stockholm.” Those servers, she said, have been cyberattacked in recent weeks, though Bahnhof has come under no overt government pressure to abandon them. “But I know we are not the only provider of WikiLeaks’ servers — they are everywhere.”
Ravi Somaiya reported from London, Alan Cowell from Paris. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington and J. David Goodman from New York.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2069 on: Dec 3rd, 2010, 08:03am »
Wired Threat Level
Feds Warrantlessly Tracking Americans’ Credit Cards in Real Time By Ryan Singel December 2, 2010 | 5:06 pm Categories: Surveillance
Federal law enforcement agencies have been tracking Americans in real-time using credit cards, loyalty cards and travel reservations without getting a court order, a new document released under a government sunshine request shows.
The document, obtained by security researcher Christopher Soghoian, explains how so-called “Hotwatch” orders allow for real-time tracking of individuals in a criminal investigation via credit card companies, rental car agencies, calling cards, and even grocery store loyalty programs. The revelation sheds a little more light on the Justice Department’s increasing power and willingness to surveil Americans with little to no judicial or Congressional oversight.
For credit cards, agents can get real-time information on a person’s purchases by writing their own subpoena, followed up by a order from a judge that the surveillance not be disclosed. Agents can also go the traditional route — going to a judge, proving probable cause and getting a search warrant — which means the target will eventually be notified they were spied on.
The document suggests that the normal practice is to ask for all historical records on an account or individual from a credit card company, since getting stored records is generally legally easy. Then the agent sends a request for “Any and all records and information relating directly or indirectly to any and all ongoing and future transactions or events relating to any and all of the following person(s), entitities, account numbers, addresses and other matters…” That gets them a live feed of transaction data.
It’s not clear what standards an agent would have to follow to get a “Hotwatch” order. The Justice Department told Sogohian the document is the only one it could find relating to “hotwatches” — which means there is either no policy or the department is witholding relevant documents.
The Justice Department did not return a call for comment.
Every year, the Justice Department does have to report to Congress the numbers of criminal and national security wiretaps undertaken, as well as the number of National Security Letters issued. Tens of thousands of NSLs are issued yearly — most with gag orders that forbid ISPs or librarians from ever saying they have ever been served with such a subpoena.
But the Justice Department does not report or make public the number of times it got real time or historic cell phone location information, nor how often it is using these so-called “hotwatch” orders.