A new Cornell University study claims that obesity is responsible for nearly 21 percent of America’s healthcare spending, a larger impact than previously believed. According to the study, annual medical costs for an obese American are $2,741 higher (using 2005 dollars) than for Americans who are not obese, which adds up to $190.2 billion nationwide. Previous studies have found a link between obesity and higher health care spending, but as Cornell professor John Cawley, the lead author of the study, claimed, “we?ve been underestimating the benefit of preventing and reducing obesity.” A report released earlier this year predicted that 75 percent of Americans would be overweight by 2020.
A U.N. and Arab League brokered ceasefire in Syria was put under new strain today as security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at protesters, killing at least five, though there were no reports of the previously common practice of shelling urban areas. Also today, fighting broke out near the border with Turkey, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as troops went to clear rebels from the area. Syria’s grassroots Local Coordination Committees reported that gunfire had been heard near the village of Kherbet Joz, near the Turkish border, and dozens of tanks were positioned on the edge of the town.
In a new column rife with his usual brand of audacious conjecture, Keith Ablow of Fox News’ Medical A-Team takes aim at Hilary Rosen and all working moms (and arguably all feminists), suggesting they are “anti-gender” and “despise the parts of themselves” drawn to motherhood:
These ?anti-gender? women have it in for anyone who embraces her femininity, maternal instincts and capacity to nurture as their highest priority — postponing or passing up other laudable opportunities to work at, say, a law firm or as a marketing executive. They despise the notion that some women may indeed be drawn — instinctively and happily — toward creating special and loving environments in which to raise their children, while spending all their available time sustaining and enriching those environments and those children.
They despise the parts of themselves that may be drawn to such roles, as well. That?s why women like Hilary Rosen make such outlandish statements, to begin with. They?re essentially talking to themselves — albeit, with the rest of the world forced to listen — trying to reassure themselves that their own choices in life weren?t only equally as good as those of other women, but better. Far, far better. They feel like their choices are better because they have thrown off the shackles of roles that were once ?expected? of them, leaving them not only freer than, but superior to, those women who don?t feel enslaved at home, but feel fulfilled at home.
Unsurprisingly, Ablow assumes that gender norms are good and haven’t been used to discriminate against women for almost all of humanity. Perhaps he’d like to roll back all of the freedoms women have fought for over the past century so they can fully embrace their “maternal instincts” with nothing to distract them from what he seems to see as their true calling. Ablow, of course, includes a jab at Rosen for being a lesbian, suggesting she’s only capable of supporting “alternative lifestyles.”
As Carlos Maza points out at Equality Matters, Ablow’s column includes all his usual pop-psychology tropes:
But all of that aside, Ablow accidentally concedes that the intention of Rosen’s comments was exactly right, suggesting that many of his clients “wouldn’t be going to work for very long if their spouses made millions as investors (as Mitt Romney has done).” If Ann Romney really didn’t go to work, choosing instead to “allow her husband to go out and make the money to support all of them,” why doesn’t Ablow simply agree with Rosen?
House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
By Anthony Shadid, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 336 pages, $26.00
The story of making a house is one of the great and ancient archetypes of literature. You could say that it is a story as old as writing itself, since the image of a house, or bayt, underlies the B in the alphabet that the Phoenicians, inhabitants of what we now call Lebanon, invented. The word ?bayt? also means family, or clan. The title of journalist Anthony Shadid?s memoir resonates with both meanings. An account of rebuilding an ancestral bayt in southern Lebanon, it is a diary of architectural adventure, a personal record of family history, a subtle examination of intricate regional politics, and an Odyssean journey home.
Until a few weeks ago, House of Stone had a happy ending?a fulfillment, the house?s past, present, and future woven together in the form of traditional architecture. The new olive tree the author had planted was flourishing alongside the trees of his great-grandparents. In February, though, Anthony Shadid died on assignment for The New York Times in Syria. The rich consummation of the book?s final pages was transformed into destiny. His ashes have been scattered in the garden that he designed with a beloved local mentor and that he writes about with such radiance in the book.
Shadid?s reporting on the Middle East for the Times and The Washington Post was not only valued in the Western press; he was also respected in the region for his fine Arabic, his knowledge of history and local custom, and the integrity of his journalism. He was born and raised in Oklahoma, a descendant of the Samaras and the Shadids of Marjayoun, a town older than the nation where it is situated. Once a substantial trading crossroads in the days of its Ottoman prosperity, Marjayoun (?a gateway?to Sidon, on the Mediterranean, and Damascus, beyond Mount Hermon; to Jerusalem, in historic Palestine; and to Baalbek, the site of an ancient Roman town ? this was a place as cosmopolitan as the countryside offered?) supported four newspapers in its heyday. It was and is known as a Greek Orthodox town, but it is also a mosaic of Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Maronite Catholics. Shadid?s Greek Orthodox great-uncle Hana sang the call to prayer from the town minaret, while Muslims broadcast Good Friday prayers from their restaurants in the heart of the town.
The Shadids and Samaras ?were part of a century-long migration that occurred as the Ottoman Empire crumbled.? Like many others (the steerage passenger lists from the Titanic include large numbers of Levantine names), they left to avoid intensified forced conscription by the Ottoman authorities and outbursts of sectarian violence and banditry that followed the empire?s dissolution. They also sought to escape the loss of livelihoods when, in 1920, ?France ? created a country where none existed,? disrupting ?history, tradition, clan, and commerce? previously unconfined by borders.
The struggling Marjayoun to which Shadid returns in his memoir, with its power failures and simmering local tensions, has endured the Lebanese civil war and rounds of Israeli occupation and bombing, its people constantly deprived of their own world. Yet Marjayoun remains a locus of Levantine history, where conversations begin with explorations of genealogy, and the exquisite arts of peace have been perfected throughout years of violence.
When the book opens, Shadid, recently arrived from three years in Iraq, is covering the attack on the village of Qana, one of the targets of Israel?s 33-day bombing of Lebanon in 2006. As the villagers comb through the ruins of their houses, uncovering the bodies of their dead families, Shadid is compelled to ask himself their question: How can we restore what has been destroyed? He makes his way to Marjayoun to discover the town square gutted by fires. Following a now-buckling asphalt road past cratered, bullet-riddled houses, he finds his grandparents? house rent by a half-exploded Israeli rocket. Determined to make this soil yield something other than spent weapons, Shadid goes off in search of a shovel and digs deep to plant a tiny olive tree, ?its trunk no thicker than a pen.?
Shadid?s account of restoring the house (?Bayt Sitti,? or the grandmother?s house, as he tenderly comes to call it) becomes the center of the book?s complex kaleidoscope of political and personal history. His quest and undertaking (which a fair number of Marjayounis consider insane, thanks to the complicated inheritance laws that ignite unresolvable family disputes) is to preserve its marble-floored liwan, or reception hall, its century-old iron railings, and its majestic traditional triple arcade of windows, but also to ?re--
imagine? the house for his family. A friend quotes the proverb ?A sliver of land can wipe out its people,? but Shadid persists.
The healing of his house also becomes the discovery of a new way to write. Shadid describes how he had slowly come to feel that the craft of journalism shows us ?the drama, not the impact ? we never find out, or think to ask, whether the village is rebuilt, or what becomes of the dazed woman who, after one strange, endlessly extended moment, is no longer the mother of children.? As Shadid rebuilds the house, he is restored to his own life, in all the fullness of its relationships to past and present.
In the subtlest of his delicate metaphors, Shadid remakes the house from the very materials of shattered Lebanon, remnants of war reassembled in a structure of peace. He acquires the tiles called sajjadeh, ?carpet,? as diverse and cosmopolitan as the Levant once was, from many sources: There are tiles from the destroyed houses of a Beirut Shiite neighborhood pulverized by the Lebanese civil war and Israeli bombs, and tiles from the controversial razing of Beirut?s old-town neighborhood and market by Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri?s Solidere company.
Reconstructing the house, Shadid starts to rebuild the world. We follow him through his often-comic navigation of the role of returning expatriate. He respects tradition but adapts it to his temperament. Endearingly unable to endure the violence of the olive harvest, he refuses to beat the fruit from his grandmother?s trees and gently handpicks the harvest instead, olive by olive.
Another excellent recent example of the house biography genre, almost an ironic companion to House of Stone, tells the story of Sledmere, a stately house in Yorkshire. The Big House (2005) is a memoir by Christopher Simon Sykes?grandson of Sir Mark Sykes, the co-author of the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, which dismembered the Ottoman East, or ?Asiatic Turkey,? for the benefit of England and France. The undisturbed accumulation of centuries in treasures at Sledmere contrasts dramatically with the wounded house in Marjayoun. To read the books together raises a tragic question. Did the continuity of one house depend on the ruin of the other?
Still, the memory of an expansive, more generous world persists in Marjayoun. It is alive in masterly stonework and in the Levantine furniture that draws on all the trees of the region, ?walnut, apricot, rose, olive, and lemon,? and on the waters of both rivers and sea, with different types of mother-of-pearl harvested from each. And it animates many of the people Shadid meets, especially Dr. Khairallah, an exemplar of Arab humanism. Dr. Khairallah has treated rich and poor and shepherded a hospital through war, occupation, and political betrayal, but he writes Arabic poetry on the walls of his house and crafts ouds, the Arab lute, for collectors and for his grandchildren. It is Dr. Khairallah, ?the kind of man I wanted to be ? gentle and kind, principled, ever curious,? who teaches Shadid to understand his garden. ?I learned to respect the garden, where rituals and right actions prevailed.?
House of Stone is a tale of spiritual apprenticeship, in which a man learns the difference between bullets and chisels, bayonets and scalpels: between violence that is wanton and the artful demolitions that sustain life. As the builders set to work renovating Bayt Sitti, Shadid sees that ?there was meaning to the destruction, an elegance of movement as the house hurtled toward its end and a new beginning.?
I hope after tonight's news on N. Korea, people look at FP experience instead of stances on women's issues. #weneedtheManchurianCandidate
? @HuntsmanLiddy via Twitter for iPhone
Okay, I'll play, daughter of irrelevant failed presidential pretender!
Barack Obama: President and leader of the free world for over three years.
Mitt Romney: Lived in Paris mansion during Mormon mission.
Good to see you'll be voting for Obama!
p.s. I hope you're not using birth control.
p.p.s. About that hash tag ... huh?
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is trying to play the martyr once more. This time, they are trying to claim the mantle of James Madison and Martin Luther King Jr. as they self-righteously hold themselves up as the defenders of religious liberty. If[...]
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Desperate times in the Newt Gingrich camp have called for desperate measures.The initial thrust of the linked article is the political risk involved in diluting the donor list of a campaign that's still technically active.
Scrambling to dig himself out of a $4.5 million hole, the former House speaker has resorted to renting his presidential campaign?s most valuable asset ? its donor list ? for as much as $26,000-a-pop.
But I just wanted to point out that a while back, the Gingrich campaign was paying Gingrich himself, to rent his donor list.
Funny, too, that Gingrich, who's famously insisted that his "campaign" make stops at his personal bucket list of zoos and museums along the way, has according to his spokesman, loaned the campaign "thousands, primarily toward travel and lodging expenses.? But you'll all be relieved to know that ?the campaign intends to reimburse" the loans.
Whew! And here I thought Newt was going to have to pay the expenses of his personal travel and private jet rental himself! Thank God his broke-ass campaign is going to do it! By renting out the list it paid him to buy.
You see how that works? Gingrich spends years running variations on his "Entrepreneur of the Year" scheme, then sets up a "presidential campaign" whose job it is to raise money to buy the product of the previous schemes.
Actually, Politico's lengthy piece does a respectable job of taking you down all the side streets and seamy alleyways of Newt, Inc. I recommend it, and not just for salacious nuggets like this one:
Campaign insiders attribute the problems partly to Gingrich and his wife Callista?s, asserting that the couple was unwilling to downgrade from private jets and security details even as the campaign floundered. Insiders say Callista Gingrich required an entourage of at least two staffers ? including one who dressed in an elephant costume to promote her children?s book ? and a contracted security guard who followed her even on non-campaign trips.Not that I could resist including it, of course.
As an added bonus, though, let me include this link, for yet another deep dive into the Gingrich grift legacy: Newt Gingrich Leaves 30-Year Trail Of Debts, Lawsuits And Bankruptcies In His Wake
Seriously. If you learn the history (and what "historian" would discourage you from doing that?), you'll see there's no "teetering" here. Gingrich took a flying leap off the laughingstock cliff years ago. If I had to pin it down, I'd say it dates from, oh, let's say, the time he was forced from the nation's third highest Constitutional office under a cloud of... well, pretty much exactly this same thing.
Keep puttin' him on the Sunday shows, though! It's workin' out great!
GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA -- Military prosecutors and defense attorneys for the man accused of plotting an attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors haggled over the defense team's expenses on Thursday, with a judge ultimately ordering the government to estimate how much it has spent on its investigation into the 2000 bombing.
Had things gone a bit differently, Thursday would have likely been the day that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri testified about his torture while he was held at overseas CIA "black sites." But the judge in the case averted that testimony (for now, at least), ordering prison officials to allow al-Nashiri to meet with his defense team unshackled, which recently has not been allowed. Shackling was used by the CIA and would be traumatic for the 47-year-old Saudi, according to his defense team.
Instead Thursday the government and al-Nashiri's four defense attorneys argued a series of procedural motions on what was the second and final day of al-Nashiri's pre-trial hearing. The actual trial is scheduled for November.
One point of contention: how much money the defense team could spend to prepare for the trial. Head prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins estimated that $100,000 has already been approved to cover the costs of defense experts and investigators, an estimate which excludes the cost of travel, a translator and four lawyers. Martins said that sum "is comparable to or in excess of those provided the defense in civilian court and court-martial capital cases."
Martins told reporters that there was no set budget for the al-Nashiri trial. But al-Nashiri defense lawyer Richard Kammen said that it "seems to be the attitude of the military that we can kill him and do it cheaply. We think that is transparently unfair."
Some family members of victims of the USS Cole attack, speaking after the trial, in a press room set up in an old airplane hanger that now serves as Camp Justice's media center, said that al-Nashiri's cost shouldn't be an issue.
"As long as justice prevails, that's what matters. I think if you start scrimping on the money, something has to give way," Jesse Nieto, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who lost his son Mark in the USS Cole attack.
"But then again, if you go the other way, you get the GSA type deal," Nieto said, referring to the overspending scandal at the General Services Administration which has led to several firings and resignations.
"As far as I'm concerned, money is no option," said Ron Francis, a former Navy officer who lost his daughter in the Cole bombing. "We are Americans. We seek justice. And the whole world's looking at us, and how we go about doing justice."
"He's fighting for his life ... so we are a fair and human country," Francis said. "So in that aspect, money is no option."
NOT LIKE SCOOTER
Military prosecutors on the case against al-Nashiri also argued before Judge Col. James L. Pohl that the case was nothing like the case against former Dick Cheney chief-of-staff Scooter Libby.
The comparison between al-Nashiri and the 2007 national security case against Libby -- which first raised during a January hearing -- came up once again on Thursday as al-Nashiri's legal team argued that they should be able to appeal the summaries of classified information that the government provides.
"The facts are so distinguishable from any other case that has ever applied CIPA because the defendant in that case had a security clearance and he had previously had access to the same documents that the government was attempting to summarize and substitute," Joanna Baltes, a Justice Department lawyer assisting in the case, told the military court. "We do not have that situation here, nor have the courts ever faced that in any other national security or terrorism cases."
Lawyers in the case at Gitmo against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri are haggling over how much money the accused USS Cole bombing plotter should get for his criminal defense. Not unusual. But what's interesting is comments from some of the family members of the[...]
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It didn't have to be like this.
The White House could have done the right thing and issued the LGBT non-discrimination executive order for federal contractors. But, somehow, the geniuses that run the place decided against it. Not sure why, but no doubt, it was another inane political calculation on their part. Now, it's a big story.
Today, an editorial in the NYT takes the President to task:
Many federal contractors already have antidiscrimination policies. With Congress gridlocked over the issue, Mr. Obama had the chance to immediately extend protections against anti-gay employment bias to the rest of the employees of federal contractors without imposing a significant new burden on business. Yet the White House said no such executive order ?will be issued at this time.?I think this White House makes political calculations based on what their opponents will do (see, for example, this NYT article on how FOX News sets the agenda for the FDA.) The President's political strategists don't factor in what their allies will do in response to negative news. That's because most progressives just sit back and take it. We don't. You'd think they'd know that by now.
It is unclear why Mr. Obama declined to do the right thing here. He has taken actions against discrimination, like repealing the military?s ?don?t ask, don?t tell? policy against openly gay service members. And he has voiced opposition to proposed state constitutional amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota to bar same-sex marriage. His hesitation to ban gay bias by government contractors, like his continued failure to actually endorse the freedom to marry, feels like a cynical hedge. It?s hard to see the political sense in it, and it is certainly unhelpful to the cause of full gay equality under the law.
Gay rights activists vowed Thursday to step up political pressure on the White House over President Obama?s refusal to sign a nondiscrimination executive order, with some decrying the decision as an attempt to avoid controversy before the November election.It shouldn't have to be like this. But, it is.
One prominent liberal donor said he would spend $100,000 to fund a ?We Can?t Wait? campaign targeting Obama, a takeoff on the president?s own slogan for his efforts to use administrative actions as end runs around what he has termed an obstructionist Congress. The donor?s money will be used to fly victims of discrimination at federal contractors to Washington to confront Obama and his aides and gin up public attention.
What?! Someone's pants are on fire, and they're not mine.Here's why she wrote that:
On ENDA, the White House never weighed in, despite the fact that there only a few votes needed to pass it, and, in fact, declared they wouldn't, as it wasn't their place to do so.The White House doesn't have a valid policy reason for why they're not doing this executive order, which means politics is at play. And, it means they're more worried about the reaction from the professional homophobe community than what the LGBT community thinks. Disturbing to think that's how these decisions are made by the Obama team.
This is a shell game -- watch the pea under the shell and see if you can figure out where it is this time. The Democrats have successfully played a shell game with LGBT rights for quite a long time.
In my 2010 meeting with Melody Barnes, the Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, this is what happened:She also noted he has mentioned ENDA, and that he believes it should be integrated into the agenda. He has articulated his support and will continue to. "We are not a barrier," she said. But, she continued, "we look to the Senate leadership; they know what we support and if the President were to push issues it would be a long list. It's up to them."