Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 1, 2009



Governing - Massachusetts lawmakers provided $6.5 million in their latest budget to help fund the Franklin Park Zoo. That figure represents about half the zoo's annual budget. Gov. Deval Patrick rescinded $4 million of that sum as a line-item veto. That led Zoo New England to send out a press release saying they would not be able to keep their doors open past October. As a result, zoo officials said, they would have no choice but to kill many of the soon-to-be homeless animals. Gov. Patrick's spokesman complained that the zoo was spreading "inaccurate and incendiary information.". . . State legislators quickly pledged to make good on the $4 million by overriding Patrick's veto.

Fair Vote
- Party officials in Iowa are moving their 2010 caucuses from a weekday to Saturday. Caucuses can be lengthy events full of socializing, deliberation, and negotiation. Last year, the presidential caucuses were held on a Thursday, and though they were held in the evening, many people still had to work, or couldn't make it from work in time before doors closed. Having the event take place on a Saturday allows far more people to take part. . . It's not a flawless idea, of course. Plenty of people will still be working on a Saturday, and as the Politico points out, observant Jews will face a problem due to the Sabbath.


USA Today - Americans . . . shell out roughly $34 billion a year out-of-pocket on alternative therapies that aren't covered by insurance, a new study shows. That's a growth of more than 25% in the past decade, says an in-person survey of 23,000 Americans from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health. Alternative therapies, which range from herbs to yoga classes, now account for 11% of the total amount that Americans spend out-of-pocket on all health care. . .
Many people combine conventional and "complementary" approaches, Lee says. For example, cancer patients may undergo chemotherapy at a hospital, but also use acupuncture for chronic pain. . .

Press Watch, UK - More than half of children taking the swine flu drug Tamiflu experience side-effects such as nausea and nightmares, research by the Health Protection Agency suggests. Studies of children attending three schools in London and one in the South West showed that 51-53 per cent had one or more side-effects from the medication, which is offered to everyone with swine flu symptoms in England. A total of 103 children took part in the London study, of which 85 were given the drug as a precaution after a classmate received a diagnosis of swine flu. Of those, 45 experienced one or more side-effects. The most common was nausea (29 per cent), followed by stomach pain or cramps (20 per cent) and problems sleeping (12 per cent). Almost one in five had a "neuropsychiatric side-effect", such as inability to think clearly, nightmares and "behaving strangely", according to the research, published in Eurosurveillance, a journal of disease.


The Washington Post
is back in the black, but as it admits, "The Post Co. is now largely an education company -- its Kaplan Inc. education unit provided 58 percent of the parent company's second-quarter revenue, as opposed to the newspaper division, which chipped in 15 percent. " The Kaplan income rose 23% in the quarter helped no doubt by the paper's endless flaking for fake education reform that helps NCLB bottom feeders like Kaplan.


Marc Abrahams, Annals of Improbable Research -
Clarence Robbins and Marjorie Gene Robbins visited theme parks hoping to find a good, representative mix of hairy-headed strangers. They then wrote a study called Hair Length in Florida Theme Parks: An Approximation of Hair Length in the United States of America. It tells how Robbins and Robbins gathered data, combed through it, and extrapolated the strands to gain new understanding. . . Robbins and Robbins could not, of course, ensure that their hairy-headed sample accurately represented the American populace. But the monograph tells how they tried: "In an attempt to try to determine how this population relates to the general US population, several telephone calls were made to the Walt Disney Corporation including to their market research department. Those contacted refused to provide any helpful information, indicating that their data and results were proprietary."

Metro UK
- The food dye that gives blue M&M's their color can help mend spinal injuries, researchers say. The compound Brilliant Blue G blocks a chemical that kills healthy spinal cord cells around the damaged area - an event that often causes more irreversible damage than the original injury. BBG not only reduced the size of the lesion but also improved the recovery of motor skills, tests on rats showed.


Washington Post -
A Washington state Quaker filed a federal lawsuit y alleging that the U.S. government is discriminating against him because it will not recognize his status as a conscientious objector on military draft forms. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of Tobin D. Jacobrown, 21, in the District's federal court. The suit asks U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina to order the government to recognize conscientious objectors when men register for the draft. The United States, which has an all-volunteer military, has not had a draft since 1973. But the Selective Service System collects information from men ages 18 to 25 in case Congress reinstates conscription into the armed forces. Jacobrown, of Indianola, Wash., said he has not filled out his Selective Service forms, as required by law, because they do not have a space for him to indicate his status as a conscientious objector. As a Quaker, he said, he cannot sign the forms without such a provision. Although Quakers do not have a specific creed, pacifism is a long-standing belief.


Fast Company
- While countries throughout Europe (and some U.S. states) are actively trying to encourage the use of rooftop solar panels with feed-in tariffs, Colorado utility Xcel Energy has decided to punish residents who want to go solar. The utility is toying with the idea of charging a fee to all customers who install solar systems after April 2010. While Xcel claims that it will be minimal--$23 annually for a Boulder home with a 4.5 kilowatt solar array--the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association says that super-efficient homes could be charged up to $200 or more. So why is Xcel discouraging solar power? Officials say that the fee will be used to pay for transmission lines. It's a charge that's built into the average customer's electricity rates, but solar-powered homes use so little power that they don't pay it. But as Scientific American's George Musser points out, solar users pay for their own net meters to monitor consumption and generation, pay $6 to $7 per month for meter reading costs, and pay for backup power from the grid. And solar users do utilities a favor by making to easier for them to fulfill demand during peak times and by helping meet federal renewable energy requirements. Utilities in Maine, Vermont, California, and Florida get this; that's why they pay solar panel owners above-market rates for their electricity. For a utility that is trying to turn Boulder into the first Smart Grid City, Xcel is doing a good job of making things difficult for forward-thinking customers.

Herman Daly, Common Dreams
- What would the US look like if we had one-half of our current energy consumption? I think there are two ways to kind of get a handle on that. The first is to go back in US history to such a time when we did live off of one-half of the current levels of energy consumption. That would put us somewhere around 1960. And gee, life in 1960 wasn't bad. There were all sorts of good things - you were a long way from freezing in the dark, and life was quite good, materially good, and so forth. Another way of thinking about it is to take the same year and look for another country with half the energy consumption per capita, like France, and life in France is pretty good. So society could cut energy consumption in half and, if it was done diligently, it wouldn't be a big deal in terms of how it would affect people's welfare. . .


USA Today -
Jobless rates for men and women older than 55 are at their highest level since the Great Depression, government data show. White men over 55 had a record 6.5% unemployment rate in the second quarter, far above the previous post-Depression high of 5.4% in 1983. The jobless rate for older black men was higher - 10.5% - but more than a percentage point below its 1983 peak. The most remarkable change is in the unemployment rate for black women: 12.2%, far below the historic peak of 20% in 1983. Hispanic unemployment is about 6 percentage points below historic highs, too. In other words, this recession has shrunk the racial gap in unemployment, largely because white men are doing so much worse than usual. Those above 55 also are spending more time than ever between jobs. Older workers spend an average 27 weeks between jobs, about five weeks longer than younger workers.


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