Friday, April 22, 2005

Fairy tales linked to violent relationships

Fairy tales linked to violent relationships

Fri Apr 22, 7:47 AM ET

LONDON (AFP) - Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says.

A study of both parents of primary school children and women who have been involved in domestic abuse claims than those who grew up reading fairy tales are likely to be more submissive as adults.

Susan Darker-Smith, a graduate student who wrote the academic paper, said she found many abuse victims identified with characters in famous children's literature and claimed the stories provide "templates" of dominated women.

A more senior academic at the University of Derby said the topic was sure to spark debate but merited further research.

"They believe if their love is strong enough they can change their partner's behaviour," Darker-Smith said. "Girls who have listened to such stories as children tend to become more submissive in their future relationships."

The research, conducted in Leicester in the east of England, is to be presented to the International Congress of Cognitive Therapy in Gothenburg, Sweden, next month.

Her study, entitled "The Tales We Tell Our Children: Overconditioning of Girls to Expect Partners to Change", will be discussed by many of the world's most influential therapists.

Darker-Smith said she believed younger generations exposed to television and other entertainment media may react differently and be less submissive than those weaned solely on literature.

Her work found the most popular bedtime stories for girls were "Cinderella" and "Rapunzel", while boys were more likely to hanker for "Paddington Bear" or "Thomas the Tank Engine".

Darker-Smith, a masters student in cognitive behavioural psychotherapy at the University of Derby, will also submit other abstracts to the conference, examining ideas about anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Michael Townend, senior lecturer in psychotherapy at the university said: "We know that storytelling is an important way that children form beliefs about themselves and relationships."

"Susan's work is an interesting study which is sure to spark debate, but further research is required in this area."
Bill's Comment: I also believe that materialism and modern-day feminism contribute to it. Also, I believe that chldren living in broken homes do not help out much, either. Finally, to a degree, the media play a part too, due to their obsession with Hollywood couples and so-called "reality television" shows such as "The Bachelor"/"The Bachelorette", "The Swan", and even "the Simple Life".

I almost dare somebody to discuss and debate this with me.

Contraceptive Sponge to Return to Market

Contraceptive Sponge to Return to Market


By LINDA A. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

TRENTON, N.J. - The Today Sponge contraceptive is returning to the market after a decade as federal regulators Friday deemed it "spongeworthy" again.

Allendale Pharmaceuticals said the Food and Drug Administration has approved U.S. sales of the sponge, which was the favorite nonprescription birth control product of women when it was withdrawn from the market in 1995.

"They can re-enter the U.S. market," FDA spokeswoman Susan Cruzan said. "The product was found to be safe and effective."

The polyurethane sponges, which have been sold in Canada and over the Internet since March 2003, will be available soon on a company Web site and later at retailers.

"I'm overwhelmed," Gene Detroyer, president and chief executive officer of Allendale Pharmaceuticals, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. "I am pleased both from a business point of view ... and from the point of view that we can add another contraceptive for women."

Allendale bought rights to sell the Today Sponge several years ago from the prior manufacturer, American Home Products, which is now Wyeth of Madison. American Home stopped making the sponge rather than upgrade a manufacturing plant after FDA found deficiencies there.

The device's effectiveness and safety were never questioned.

The fierce loyalty of the product's fans was depicted in hilarious fashion on the sitcom "Seinfeld." The character Elaine Benes scoured stores for her favorite birth control, then stretched her supply by setting "spongeworthy" standards for prospective lovers.

The Today Sponge prevents pregnancy by covering the cervix and releasing spermicide from inside the soft, concave device. Roughly 250 million of the sponges were sold from 1983 to 1995.

While it was less effective than several other methods and does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, the sponge achieved a wide following among women who saw advantages from spontaneity to availability.

Abduction Precautions for Women

Bill's Pre-Comment: A friend of mine e-mailed this to me earlier in the week. I decided to post this as a "PSA" on my part. Here it goes:

Abduction Precautions for Women

Never heard the "crying baby" ploy before. - Good read here:
We can now add to the list of victims the retired 77 yr. old TCU professor from Ft Worth whose body was found last week in Oklahoma--and the 11 yr.old in Sarasota, FL. Because of these recent abductions in daylight hours, refresh yourself of these things to do in an emergency situation...This is for you, and for you to share with your wife, your children, everyone you know.

After reading this, forward it to someone you care about. It never hurts to be careful in this crazy world we live in.

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!

2. Learned this from a tourist guide in New Orleans. If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM . Toss it away from you....chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you, and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you, but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON'T DO THIS!) The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR, LOCK THE DOORS AND LEAVE.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:

A.) Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor, and in the back seat.

B..) If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

C.) Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out.

IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP . It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked "for help" into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

9. Another Safety Point: Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her "Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door."

The lady then said that it sounded like the baby had cra wled near a window, and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get run over. The policeman said, "We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do, DO NOT open the door." He told her that they think a serial killer has a baby's cry recorded, and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby. He said they have not verified it, but have had several calls by women saying that they hear baby crying outside their doors, when they're home alone at night.

Please pass this on and DO NOT open the door for a crying baby. This e-mail should probably be taken seriously because the Crying Baby theory was mentioned on America's Most Wanted this past Saturday when they profiled the serial killer in Louisiana.

I'd like you to forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life. A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle. I was going to send this to the ladies only, but guys, if you love your mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc., you may want to pass it onto them, as well.

Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that the world we live in has a lot of crazies in it, and it's better to be safe than sorry.

Obesity Danger May Have Been Overstated

Obesity Danger May Have Been Overstated


By CARLA K. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO - Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation's leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Tuesday that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths.

The new analysis found that obesity — being extremely overweight — is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.

Biostatistician Mary Grace Kovar, a consultant for the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center in Washington, said "normal" may be set too low for today's population. Also, Americans classified as overweight are eating better, exercising more and managing their blood pressure better than they used to, she said.

The study — an analysis of mortality rates and body-mass index, or BMI — was published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Based on the new calculation, excess weight would drop from the second leading cause of preventable death, after smoking, to seventh. It would fall behind car crashes and guns on the list of killers.

Calculating the health effects of obesity has been a major source of controversy at the CDC.

Last year, the CDC issued a study that said being overweight causes 400,000 deaths a year and would soon overtake tobacco as the top U.S. killer. After scientists inside and outside the agency questioned the figure, the CDC admitted making a calculation error and lowered its estimate three months ago to 365,000.

CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said because of the uncertainty in calculating the health effects of being overweight, the CDC is not going to use the brand-new figure of 25,814 in its public awareness campaigns and is not going to scale back its fight against obesity.

"There's absolutely no question that obesity is a major public health concern of this country," she said. Gerberding said the CDC will work to improve methods for calculating the consequences of obesity.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said she is not convinced the new estimate is right.

"I think it's likely there has been a weakening of the mortality effect due to improved treatments for obesity," she said. "But I think this magnitude is surprising and requires corroboration."

The analysis was led by Katherine Flegal, a senior research scientist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. The study that had to be corrected was conducted by a different arm of the CDC, the Division of Adult and Community Health, and its authors included Gerberding.

One major reason for the far lower number in this latest study is that it used more recent data, researchers said.

"This analysis is far more sophisticated," said Kovar, who was not involved in the new study. "They are very careful and are not overstating their case."

A related study, also in Wednesday's JAMA, found that overweight Americans are healthier than ever, thanks to better maintenance of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Diabetes is on the rise among people in all weight categories, however.

Flegal said the two studies raise questions about what definitions to use for obesity and "where to draw the line." Under current government standards, a BMI, or weight-to-height measurement, of 25 or higher is overweight; 30 and above is obese.

In recent years, the government has spent millions of dollars fighting obesity and publicizing the message that two out of three American adults are overweight or obese, and at higher risk for heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.


On the Net:


They Shoot Horsepower, Don't They?

They Shoot Horsepower, Don't They?

Wed Apr 20, 1:20 PM ET

MIAMI (Reuters) - Fed up with his troublesome car, a Florida man fired five rounds from a semi-automatic pistol into the hood of the 1994 Chrysler LeBaron.

"I'm putting my car out of its misery," 64-year-old John McGivney said after the incident outside an apartment building in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, according to a police report that listed the car as "deceased."

McGivney surrendered to police, was jailed on a firearms charge on Friday and released on bond a day later. He told them the car had been giving him trouble for years.

"I think every guy in the universe has wanted to do it," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Wednesday quoted McGivney as saying. "It was worth every damn minute in that jail."

B.B. King Monument to Be Built in Arkansas

Bill's Pre-comment: IT'S ABOUT TIME!

B.B. King Monument to Be Built in Arkansas


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The Arkansas Legislature has approved a $5,000 expenditure to build a monument honoring bluesman B.B. King in the tiny Delta town of Twist.

More than 50 years ago, King's famed guitar Lucille earned its name after a dance hall brawl in Twist. King's trademark Gibson guitars have been called Lucille ever since.

"B.B. put Twist, Ark., on the map," Allan Hammons, interim director of the planned B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Miss., said Thursday. "I think it's very important that the state of Arkansas took the opportunity to memorialize that great American story."

State Sen. Steve Bryles said that he pushed the funding through for the monument because too little is known of King's connection to the state. Bryles also hopes the marker will draw tourists to the area.

The Legislature concluded its session Wednesday.

"We want to make sure we do it tastefully," said Bryles, who has some of his own ideas. "You can make it look like the Gibson Lucille model or it could be something really plain that just contains some writing that explains the story."

Hammons said the $10 million museum and Delta cultural center is set to break ground on June 10. He said Arkansas' efforts highlight another part of King's legacy.

"Fate was kind to him," Hammons said of the 79-year-old blues singer.

"The guitar got a name and Twist was known around the world. It is a piece of American history."


On the Net:

Cheney Weighs in on Judicial Filibusters

Cheney Weighs in on Judicial Filibusters


By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney warned Democrats Friday that he will cast the tie-breaking vote to ban filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees if the Senate deadlocks on the question.

Republicans are moving the Senate toward a final confrontation with Democrats over judicial nominations. Internal GOP polling shows that most Americans don't support Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's plan to ban judicial filibusters — a tactic in which opponents can prevent a vote on a nomination with just 41 votes in the 100-member Senate.

"There is no justification for allowing the blocking of nominees who are well qualified and broadly supported," Cheney told the Republican National Lawyers Association. "The tactics of the last few years, I believe, are inexcusable."

"Let me emphasize, the decision about how to proceed will be made by the Republican leadership in the Senate," Cheney said. "But if the Senate majority decides to move forward and if the issue is presented to me in my elected office as president of the Senate and presiding officer, I will support bringing those nominations to the floor for an up or down vote."

Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., said the White House "has stepped over the line by interfering with the Senate to reduce checks and balances."

"The White House has always wanted to reduce the Senate's power and the fact that Vice President Cheney is encouraging this abuse of power should strengthen the Senate's resolve to resist," Schumer said.

Now that Texas judge Priscilla Owen and California judge Janice Rogers Brown have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Frist has two nominees to push forward in a battle that conservatives hope their allies will rally around.

"We have now the vehicle. We have two qualified women. They have met every test," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas.

An internal Republican poll showed that Frist's plan to ban judicial filibusters might not be as popular as they had hoped.

Frist, strongly backed by conservatives in and out of the Senate, has threatened to employ a parliamentary tactic — requiring only a majority vote — to change Senate practices on judicial filibusters. Republicans hold 55 seats in the 100-member Senate, and Cheney would be available to break a tie if necessary.

Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada commands a solid block of 45 votes against the proposal, and Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island have publicly stated their opposition as well. A few GOP lawmakers are uncommitted, and Reid said this week that if Frist calls a vote, "it's going to be very close."

GOP polling shows 37 percent support for the GOP plan to deny Democrats the ability to filibuster judicial nominees, while 51 percent oppose, officials said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Several officials who attended the polling briefing said the survey also contained encouraging news for Republicans. The poll found more than 80 percent of those surveyed believed all judicial nominees deserve a yes-or-no vote.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, noting the survey data has not been made public.

Republicans say negative polling numbers wouldn't deter them. "Polling on this issue is not going to make a difference. We are going to try to do what's right," Hutchison said.

GOP Conference chairman Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said he was just as strongly behind the plan to push through Bush's nominees, despite a report that he was urging Republicans to slow down. "As far as the timing, that's up to the majority leader," he said.

Republicans want a resolution before a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court because they worry that having to get support from 60 senators would affect who Bush picks for that seat. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, is fighting thyroid cancer.

One judicial nominee, Idaho lawyer William Myers, already is waiting for a confirmation vote on the Senate floor. But conservatives would rather see the final showdown come over Brown, Owen or U.S. Appeals Judge William Pryor, who was given a temporary appointment by Bush after he was blocked by Democrats.

Conservatives during the last Congress accused Democrats of acting out of racial, religious and gender prejudice in blocking Brown, Owen and Pryor. Brown is black, and Pryor is a Catholic.

The Family Research Council, a conservative organization, has arranged a rally for this weekend in Tennessee to build support for the GOP plan. It accuses Democrats of waging filibusters based on faith. Frist is scheduled to appear by videotape.

Democrats have condemned those attacks and countered that their opposition is based solely on the conservative views of the nominees.

Republicans defended Owen and Brown, saying they were fine judges and that Democrats broke with Senate tradition by threatening to filibuster their nominations.


Associated Press Writer David Espo contributed to this story.


On the Net:

Senate Judiciary Committee:

GOP Chips Away at Dems' Filibuster Efforts

GOP Chips Away at Dems' Filibuster Efforts


By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Majority Republicans are chipping away at Senate Democrats' ability to defeat a change in internal rules involving filibusters — the Democrats' most potent weapon to block GOP legislation and judicial appointees they oppose.

One Republican who has been undecided on the rule change, Sen. Richard Lugar (news, bio, voting record) of Indiana, said Sunday he is leaning toward supporting changes in filibuster rules "when push comes to shove."

"I would not take a stand against my party's view that we should have up-or-down votes on judges and that this is a part of the filibuster thing that really needs to be settled and set aside," Lugar told "Fox News Sunday."

Lugar said he hopes differences can be settled "through negotiation."

A second Republican who has been on the fence, Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) of Nebraska, said, "I've said to both sides, don't include me in your count right now."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is under pressure to force a Senate showdown before Congress breaks on May 27 for its Memorial Day recess.

It now takes 60 votes to shut down a filibuster in the Senate, which has 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one independent. That means 41 senators can stall a nominee.

Frist is considering a change whereby a simple majority in the 100-member Senate can end a filibuster. Republicans can get that by mustering 50 GOP votes and bringing in Vice President Dick Cheney as the tiebreaker.

About a half-dozen GOP senators either have said they oppose or have refused to support changing the rules.

Democrats blocked confirmation on 10 of the president's first-term judicial nominees while confirming 204. The president has renominated seven of the 10, and Democrats have again threatened to employ filibusters to prevent them from coming to a final vote.

Republicans are stepping up efforts to win over wavering lawmakers. Frist plans to offer a a brief videotaped speech at a rally on April 24 organized by the conservative Family Research Council. A flier for the event says "the filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith."

While not criticizing Frist's planned speech to the group, Hagel on CNN's "Late Edition" said, "When we talk religion and government, neither should become an instrument for the other. And I see drifting here in different directions that are, I don't think, healthy for our country."

Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware rejected any attempt to link the judge dispute with religious faith. The fight over judges "has nothing to do with the Bible," Biden told "Fox News Sunday."

The battle over judicial appointments has focused on court decisions on several issues important to religious conservatives, such as abortion, gay marriage and Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman who died after her feeding tube was removed under court order.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was a leader in congressional efforts designed to keep Schiavo alive. After her death, he implied that judges in the case should have to "answer for their behavior." He later called that comment "inartful."

The Texas Republican faces several reports of possible ethical violations that have prompted complaints from many Democrats and a few Republicans.

Republicans on the Sunday talk shows closed ranks with DeLay. Rep. Roy Blunt (news, bio, voting record), the Missouri lawmaker who serves as House GOP whip, said on NBC's "Meet the Press:" "I would hope he has no intention of stepping aside."

Last week, White House spokesman Scott McClellan indicated support for DeLay, but indiated that the president and DeLay were more business associates than close personal friends.

That response was noticed by Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record) of Mississippi, the former Senate majority leader who got little backing from Bush after some comments during a birthday celebration for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., that critics interpreted as racist. The fallout cost Lott his job as Senate majority leader.

"I do think the White House needs to remember that people who fight hard for you as a candidate and for your issues as a president, deserve your aggressive support," Lott told ABC's "This Week."

Democrats search for a party path

Democrats search for a party path

Tue Apr 19, 4:00 AM ET

The party has failed to convert a recent string of Republican stumbles to its own gain.

By Linda Feldmann, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Life in the political wilderness can be tough. Some Republicans here still know what that's like - though at this point, 10-plus years after Newt Gingrich & Co. swept the Democrats out of power on Capitol Hill, a majority of House GOP members have no firsthand experience of being in the minority.

Democrats, in fact, are counting on those dwindling numbers to help them as they look for that right combination of message, candidates, infrastructure, and opposition stumbles - with a dash of opposition hubris - to win back their mojo in 2006, if not 2008. So far, the party in power has obliged on that last score: House GOP leader Tom DeLay is under siege over ethics. President Bush faces an uphill climb with his No. 1 domestic priority, remaking Social Security. A majority of Americans objected to Congress and Bush turning the Terri Schiavo tragedy into a federal case.

But Democrats aren't gaining from the other side's losses. Polls show the GOP congressional leadership is less popular than the president - but the Democratic leadership fares still worse. And even among rank-and-file Democrats, only 56 percent approve of their own congressional leadership, according to the Pew Research Center. Among Republicans, the analogous number is 76 percent.

Bottom line: It's hard to project power when you're out of power. Among Democrats, "there's a feeling that somehow our leaders are not fighting back hard enough, though I don't think that's true," says Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank.

Mr. Marshall adds that he's never seen the party so determined in its opposition to the right. "But even though we may be winning policy arguments on Social Security and things like the Schiavo case, there's no way to take those gains to the bank immediately, in the sense of winning elections," he says.

Polls also show the public doesn't get a clear message from the Democrats - beyond "just say no" to Republicans. Around town, pollsters and Democratic policy groups are hunkering down and formulating ideas they hope will propel their party back into power. One new group, called Third Way, is a stepchild of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist group that was Bill Clinton's ideological home base. Third Way is working with centrist Democratic senators to draft ideas, and ultimately legislation, on national security, the economy, and cultural issues. Another group, the Center for American Progress, launched in 2003 by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, calls itself nonpartisan, but has emerged as a premier purveyor of progressive Democratic analysis - some say spin.

A couple of other Clinton alumni - pollster Stanley Greenberg and campaign guru James Carville - have also been on a quest, via their group Democracy Corps, for what they call a dominant "narrative" that Democrats can take from battlefield to battlefield, from Social Security to the budget to tax reform. Of the six Democratic vision statements they tested in a February survey, one scored highest for its potential to sway likely voters to their party's side: "The Democrats say America is only strong when we are strong at home, as well as in the world. We must invest in our own people to expand opportunity and build our own economy. Promoting American jobs, industry and technology is our starting point and mission in building a strong America."

Other analysts believe that just saying "no" to the GOP is precisely the way to go for now, at least in the run-up to the 2006 midterm elections. Just as out-of-power Republicans in 1994 succeeded in wounding the Democrats by rejecting Clinton's healthcare plan, and not putting forth an alternative, the Democrats are following the same game plan with Social Security.

"It really is important for Democrats over this longer period, certainly for the presidential campaign of 2008, to know what they're about in a way that's easily communicated," says Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution. But "the object now, from [Democrats'] perspective, is to keep the Republicans from doing more harm."

Indeed, Democrats complain that while they have plenty of ideas and proposals, when you're out of power, the press doesn't care.

"You are inevitably going to focus on the official agenda," said Rep. Barney Frank (news, bio, voting record) (D) of Massachusetts at a recent Monitor breakfast, "and therefore it makes sense for us to define what we are doing in terms of our opposition to their official agenda."

Many analysts are looking back to the Republicans' 1994 electoral sweep that gave them control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Some parallels to today are there: an unpopular presidential initiative, ethics problems of a key leader. But the Democrats face a steeper climb - in part, because congressional redistricting has made the vast majority of seats safe for their incumbent parties.

And it would be a mistake, says Mr. Mann, to assume that a Democratic version of the GOP's 1994 "Contract With America" - a 10-point plan that gave candidates and party activists a campaign blueprint - is essential in 2006. The contract wasn't released until six weeks before the 1994 midterms, and polls show most of the public wasn't aware of it. Mann calls it "a minor ingredient" in the Gingrich revolution. Far more important was a sense that a form of dry rot had set in at the core of the Democratic leadership, allowing the Republicans to nationalize the race.

For now, then, while the Republicans reap the benefits and risks of total control, some Democrats are focusing on infrastructure. In a New York Times commentary last month, former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey called on his Democratic brethren to build a Republican-style "pyramid" of power - a base of donors and foundations, a second layer of think tanks, a third layer of political strategists, a fourth level of partisan media, and, if all goes according to plan, a Democratic president at the top.

Last weekend, in Scottsdale, Ariz., Democratic strategist Rob Stein was to hold a confab of party fundraisers to begin such an enterprise. Newly minted Democratic chair Howard Dean is also working on structure, building up state Democratic parties. But he has also grabbed headlines of late, suggesting, for example, that Democrats should "use Terri Schiavo" to attack Republicans. Whether Dr. Dean's outspokenness takes away from his mundane but crucial goal of party-building remains to be seen.

Mall Won't Allow Teens Without Parents

Mall Won't Allow Teens Without Parents


NASHUA, N.H. - Every kid knows hanging out with Mom or Dad can be kind of a drag. Kids who want to spend time at the Pheasant Lane Mall on Friday or Saturday nights might not have a choice.

In response to recent "disorderly and disruptive" incidents, mall security two weeks ago started distributing fliers outlining the mall's "general code of conduct," according to mall Manager Ginny Szymanski.

From 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, mall security guards now stand outside two entrances to make sure anyone under 16 has a parent or someone over 21 with them.

"That's when we approach them and give them a copy of the code of conduct and ask the parent to come in with them," Szymanski said.

She said the code — which outlines 13 rules governing acceptable conduct and clothing, among other things — will be enforced by security.

Szymanski said the mall rules have always been in place and posted, but the fliers were printed two weeks ago in response to the large groups of teenagers who have been hanging out — not shopping — at the mall on Friday and Saturday nights.

If the parent can't accompany the child during those times, they are asked to take the youngster home, she said.

If kids are found to be disrupting the mall's business, Szymanski said they will be escorted to the command center to call a parent to pick them up.

"We're not out to punish anyone," she said. "We're just trying to better manage the shopping experience."

Shoppers interviewed by The Telegraph didn't seem too thrilled by the code of conduct, though.

"I feel as though if I want to drop my kids off, I should. They're responsible," said Leann Newcomb of Lowell, Mass., who was shopping Monday with her 15-year-old daughter, Ashley.

Ashley agreed.

"I can come here and I can be fine without my mom," she said.

Stacey Donovan of Tyngsborough, Mass., said she always has considered the mall a safe haven for people.

"God knows what they'll be doing if they're not at the mall," she said. "To say it's not allowed is not the right answer. Let them have their place."

Not every New Hampshire mall has problems with kids' behavior. Scott Payrits, senior marketing manager at the Steeplegate Mall in Concord, said kids come to his mall to shop, not to cause trouble.

"We do not have any sort of problem with disruptive incidents, especially with kids," he said. "We have very good public safety. We don't have the need for a children-specific code of conduct."

One of the rules at Pheasant Lane prohibits dress "commonly recognized as gang-related."

Szymanski said the mall doesn't have a gang problem, but that people with certain attire — such as long chains that fall below the knee or studded dog or wrist collars, all of which can be used as weapons, she said — will be asked to remove them. If they don't comply, they will be asked to leave the mall, she said.

Leann Newcomb questioned the rule.

"They sell that stuff," said Newcomb. "How are they going to tell the kids after they buy that stuff not to wear it? Isn't that a violation of your constitutional rights?"

Bill's Comment: Too bad all malls don't follow this? Besides, a little family time nevewr hurts anybody.

Pope Benedict XVI Gets E-Mail Address

Pope Benedict XVI Gets E-Mail Address


VATICAN CITY - Got a prayer or a problem for the new pope? Now you can e-mail him. Showing that Pope Benedict XVI intends to follow in the footsteps of John Paul II's multimedia ministry, the Vatican on Thursday modified its Web site so that users who click on an icon on the home page automatically activate an e-mail composer with his address.

In English, the address is In Italian:

Vatican spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment on how many messages Benedict may have received already.

John Paul, who died April 2, was the first pope to use e-mail, a medium that made its debut during his 26-year papacy. The Vatican said he received tens of thousands of messages in his final weeks as he struggled with illness.

In 2001, sitting in the Vatican's frescoed Clementine Hall, John Paul used a laptop to tap out an apology for Roman Catholic missionary abuses against indigenous peoples of the South Pacific.

The Vatican also used e-mail to notify journalists of John Paul's death.

The Holy See often issues news or documents to journalists via e-mail, and its labyrinth of obscure offices and councils are online in half a dozen languages. Even the Sistine Chapel, with its famed art collection, offers a virtual reality tour.


On the Net:

Vatican site,

New Pope Vows to Work to Unify Christians

New Pope Vows to Work to Unify Christians


By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday pledged to work to unify all Christians, reach out to other religions and continue implementing reforms from the Second Vatican Council as he outlined his goals and made clear his pontificate would closely follow the trajectory of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, listed top priorities of his papacy in a message read in Latin to cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel for the first Mass celebrated by the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

He said his "primary task" would be to work to reunify all Christians and that sentiment alone was not enough. "Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences are needed," he said.

The new pope said he wanted to continue "an open and sincere dialogue" with other religions and would do everything in his power to improve the ecumenical cause.

The message was clearly designed to show that Benedict was intent on following many of the groundbreaking paths charted by John Paul, who had made reaching out to other religions and trying to heal the 1,000-year-old schism in Christianity a hallmark of his pontificate.

Benedict referred to his predecessor several times in his message, including a reference to the late pope's final will, where John Paul said he hoped new generations would draw on the work of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meeting that modernized the church.

"I too ... want to affirm with decisive willingness to follow in the commitment of carrying out the Second Vatican Council, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the 2,000-year-old tradition of the church," he said.

John Paul supported council reforms but cracked down on what both men considered excesses spawned by the changes, including calls for priests to be allowed to marry and admission of women into the priesthood.

The Vatican's hard-line enforcer of church orthodoxy under John Paul II for almost 25 years, Benedict had gone into the two-day conclave as a favorite. He was elected Tuesday as the oldest pontiff in 275 years and the first Germanic pope in almost a millennium.

A cheering crowd of more than 100,000 welcomed Benedict when he stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica as dusk fell Tuesday and gave his first blessing as pope. By contrast, St. Peter's Square was nearly empty early Wednesday, although by the end of the Mass a few hundred had gathered to watch on giant TV screens.

"We greet our Pope Benedict XVI," read a poster toted by teens from a high school in Handrup, Germany, who were in the square when his black Mercedes convertible, its top up and Vatican flags flying, zipped into and out of his former offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Benedict said he had been surprised by his election, and German Cardinal Joachim Meisner told reporters late Tuesday that he had looked "a little forlorn" when he went to change into his papal vestments in the Room of Tears — so nicknamed because many new pontiffs get choked up there, realizing the enormity of their mission.

Meisner added: "By the time dinner came around, Ratzinger was looking much better and very much like the pope."

Benedict asked cardinals to dine together on bean soup, cold cuts, a salad and fruit, Meisner said. The nuns who prepare their meals at the Vatican hotel where the cardinals were sequestered during the conclave didn't have time to plan a special menu, so there were only two special treats — ice cream and champagne.

In his first words as pope delivered from the loggia overlooking the square, Benedict paid tribute in accented Italian to "the great John Paul II." He called himself "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

It was a sign of John Paul's charismatic legacy looming over the new pontiff, who is described by people who know him as intellectual, cultured and rather reserved.

Benedict said Wednesday he felt John Paul's presence as he wrestled with two conflicting emotions following the election: thanks to God for the gift of being pope but also "a sense of inadequacy" in carrying out the responsibility.

"I seem to feel his strong hand holding mine, I feel I can see his smiling eyes and hear his words, at this moment particularly directed at me: 'Be not afraid.'"

Benedict, who turned 78 on Saturday, is the oldest pope elected since Clement XII in 1730. His age clearly was a factor among cardinals who favored a "transitional" pope who could skillfully lead the church as it absorbs John Paul II's legacy, rather than a younger cardinal who could wind up with another long pontificate.

His election in four ballots over two days concluded one of the shortest conclaves in 100 years.

A conservative on issues such as homosexuality, the ordination of women and lifting the celibacy requirement for priests, Benedict has led the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a position he used to discipline church dissidents and uphold church policy against attempts at reform by liberals and activist priests.

His background was clearly on the minds of cardinals a day after the election.

"God has taken the most unusual people and placed them in places of authority, power if you will, and used them for his purposes," said American Cardinal Adam Maida. "So I believe that Cardinal Ratzinger, with all his gifts and talents and even some of his shortcomings, will somehow be able to reach others."

British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor suggested Ratzinger might temper some of his positions, at least publicly, because of the office he now holds.

"The pope now has a platform and a place he didn't have before. Now he has much wider responsibilities, and I think he's aware of that," Murphy-O'Connor said, adding that Ratzinger was elected "notwithstanding his age."

Joy over the selection of a new pope immediately mixed with worries that Benedict could polarize a global church, whose challenges include growing secularism in rich countries and inroads by evangelical groups in regions such as Latin America.

"He could be a wedge rather than a unifier for the church," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine America.

Evelyn Strauch, a 54-year-old housewife from Ratzinger's home state of Bavaria, buried her head in her hands and wept as she stood in St. Peter's.

"This can't be true," she said. "I had hoped so much that we would get a good pope who would do something for women. ... This is so terrible."

Mark Wunsch, 27, a religious philosophy student from Denver, was elated.

"The cardinals elected a good and holy man who was close to Pope John Paul II," he said. "He'll be a wonderful and good leader in preaching the truth and love."

Benedict inherits a range of pressing issues. These include priest sex-abuse scandals that have cost the church millions of dollars in settlements in the United States and elsewhere, chronic shortages of priests and nuns in the West, and calls for easing the ban on condoms to help fight the spread of AIDS.

And he has to follow in the footsteps of John Paul II, the global pontiff who made 104 international trips in his more than 26 years as pope and set new standards in reaching out to other religions.

In an indication that he would indeed travel and continue to reach out to young people, Benedict said Wednesday he planned to attend the church's World Youth Day celebrations in Cologne, Germany, in August.

Two images of Ratzinger have emerged in recent days.

With his wispy silver hair blowing in the wind, the German prelate stood before the world's political and spiritual leaders at John Paul's funeral April 8 and offered an eloquent and sensitive farewell that moved some to tears.

Then, just before the cardinals entered the conclave Monday, he made clear where he stands ideologically, using words that John Paul would surely have endorsed. He warned about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects and ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism — the ideology that there are no absolute truths.

"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires," he said.

He has denounced rock music, dismissed anyone who had tried to find "feminist" meanings in the Bible, and last year told American bishops it was appropriate to deny Communion to those who support abortion and euthanasia.

Benedict is the first Germanic pope in nearly 1,000 years. His faith is rooted in Bavaria, the Alpine region with Germany's strongest Catholic identity. Like many of his generation, he carries the burden of Germany's past.

In his memoirs, the policeman's son wrote of being enrolled in Hitler's Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He says he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood.

He and his older brother, Georg, were ordained in 1951. He taught theology and earned a reputation as a forward-looking prelate. He took part in the Second Vatican Council, but had some reservations.

Returning to Germany between sessions of the council, "I found the mood in the church and among theologians to be agitated," he wrote in his memoirs. "More and more there was the impression that nothing stood fast in the church, that everything was up for revision."

In 1977, he was appointed bishop of Munich and elevated to cardinal three months later by Pope Paul VI. He was one of only two cardinals in the latest conclave who were not chosen by John Paul.


Associated Press writers Tony Czuczka, Vanessa Gera, Brian Murphy, Daniela Petroff, Niko Price and Rachel Zoll contributed to this story.

RNC Raises $32 Million in Three Months

RNC Raises $32 Million in Three Months

Mon Apr 18, 5:56 PM ET

By SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Republican National Committee raised a record $32.3 million from January through March, more than double the Democrats' total.

The RNC finished March with $26.2 million on hand, Chairman Ken Mehlman said Monday. The money it collected in the first quarter tops its fundraising during the same period in 2001 and 2002, before the national party committees were banned from collecting corporate and unlimited donations. It also exceeds its fundraising in early 2003, the first year the parties were limited to contributions from individuals and political action committees.

The Democratic National Committee raised $13.8 million in the first quarter. That includes at least $1 million a week since former Vermont governor and presidential hopeful Howard Dean took over as chairman in mid-February. The committee has $7.2 million in the bank.

The DNC views it as a strong start for the year, said spokeswoman Laura Gross.

"We know we're headed in the right direction," she said. "We're going to keep working hard."

Dean and Mehlman have been traveling the country to raise money.

The Republican committee has held at least 19 fundraisers coast to coast. Yet to come is its biggest event of the year: an annual gala headlined by President Bush.

Rather than stockpiling the money to spend when the fall 2006 elections near, the RNC is starting to tap it now for campaign efforts.

"One of my lessons from the 2004 election is that voter registration and grass-roots-building needs to be year-round permanent," Mehlman said in a phone interview from Atlanta, where he was raising money. That means, he said, that where the GOP is likely to have competitive races in '06, the RNC is working with state parties to build grass-roots support and register voters "to make sure we have the grass-roots we need to be successful next year."

The RNC's first-quarter fundraising included $10.7 million in March.

In all, the committee received 715,000 individual contributions so far this year and logged 68,200 new donors, Mehlman said.


Bill's Comment: I bet that the Dems will not raise as much because of all of the bashing ads we see on TV and hear on the radio. (Why not have do all of the dirty work?) (I first heard from Dr. Mark Levin, aka The Great One by Sean Hannity.)

Germany's Cardinal Ratzinger Elected Pope

Germany's Cardinal Ratzinger Elected Pope

Tue Apr 19, 1:15 PM ET

By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the church's leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI and called himself "a simple, humble worker."

Ratzinger, the first German pope since the 11th century, emerged onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, where he waved to a wildly cheering crowd of tens of thousands and gave his first blessing as pope. Other cardinals clad in their crimson robes came out on other balconies to watch him.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me — a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," he said after being introduced by Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estivez.

"The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers," the new pope said. "I entrust myself to your prayers."

The crowd responded by chanting "Benedict! Benedict!"

If the new pope was paying tribute to the last pontiff of that name, it could be interpreted as a bid to soften his image as the Vatican's doctrinal hard-liner. Benedict XV, who reigned from 1914 to 1922, was a moderate following Pius X, who had implemented a sharp crackdown against doctrinal "modernism."

On Monday, Ratzinger, who was the powerful dean of the College of Cardinals, used his homily at the Mass dedicated to electing the next pope to warn the faithful about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects, ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism — the ideology that there are no absolute truths.

"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism," he said, speaking in Italian. "Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards.

Ratzinger served John Paul II since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that position, he has disciplined church dissidents and upheld church policy against attempts by liberals for reforms. He turned 78 on Saturday.

The new pope had gone into the conclave with the most buzz among two dozen leading candidates. He had impressed many faithful with his stirring homily at the funeral of John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84.

Ratzinger is the first Germanic pope since monarchs imposed four men from that region in a row in the 11th century.

Bush to Sign Rewrite of Bankruptcy Code

Bush to Sign Rewrite of Bankruptcy Code

Wed Apr 20, 7:20 AM ET

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Americans weighed down by credit card bills and other financial obligations will have a harder time wiping out their debt under a bankruptcy bill President Bush is poised to sign.

Many debtors will have to work out repayment plans instead of having their obligations erased in bankruptcy court under the law, which will go into effect six months after Bush signs it Wednesday. The legislation is the biggest rewrite of the bankruptcy code in a quarter-century and was pushed for eight years by banks and credit card companies.

The measure would require people with incomes above a certain level to pay some or all of their credit-card charges, medical bills and other obligations under a court-ordered bankruptcy plan.

Those who fought the bill's passage said the change will fall especially hard on low-income working people, single mothers, minorities and the elderly and would remove a safety net for those who have lost their jobs or face crushing medical bills.

The financial services industry argued that bankruptcy frequently is the last refuge of gamblers, impulsive shoppers, divorced or separated fathers avoiding child support, and multimillionaires who buy mansions in states with liberal homestead exemptions to shelter assets from creditors.

The bill got final congressional approval last Thursday, and Bush said he was eager to sign it. "These commonsense reforms will make the system stronger and better so that more Americans — especially lower-income Americans — have greater access to credit," he said.

New personal bankruptcy filings edged down from 1,613,097 in the year ending June 30, 2003, to 1,599,986 in the year ending last June 30, breaking an upward trend of recent years.

Between 30,000 and 210,000 people — from 3.5 percent to 20 percent of those who dissolve their debts in bankruptcy each year in exchange for forfeiting some assets — would be disqualified from doing so under the legislation, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Those people have six months until the law takes effect to escape the tougher guidelines. Bankruptcy attorneys have said they anticipate a rush to the courthouse.

Under the current system, a federal bankruptcy judge determines whether individuals must repay some or all of their debt.

Under the new law, those with insufficient assets or income could still file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which, if approved by a judge, erases debts entirely after certain assets are forfeited. Those with income above their state's median income who can pay at least $6,000 over five years — $100 a month — would be forced into Chapter 13, where a judge would then order a repayment plan.


Bill's Comment: I like this new law. This will help out our debt issues later on. Besides, I still believe that it is still too easy to file for bankruptcy. I t all goes back to personal responsibility.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bush panel vows revamp of tax code

Bush panel vows revamp of tax code

Fri Apr 15, 9:40 AM ET

By William Neikirk Tribune senior correspondent

As Americans faced Friday's deadline for filing their income tax returns, President Bush's advisory panel on tax reform is serving notice that it will propose sweeping changes in the tax code this summer.

Former Sen. John Breaux (news, bio, voting record) (D-La.), co-chairman of the panel, said Thursday that the group is "absolutely" intent on recommending a thorough restructuring of the income tax system rather than a modest simplification or tinkering around the edges.

He also said he favors limiting to one or two the number of tax reform options the panel will submit to the Treasury Department by July 31, rather than four or five options that would include less extensive reforms.

Breaux said the recommended options could include an overhaul similar to the sweeping legislation passed in 1986 or perhaps even a "new tax system," likely featuring a consumption tax, such as a sales tax, or perhaps a flat tax, where all income is taxed at one rate.

The advisory panel issued a strong statement Wednesday calling the current tax code "unstable and unpredictable" and in a "dismal condition," harming businesses, individuals and the U.S. economy.

"Our tax laws have been compared to an overbuilt and dilapidated house with conflicting architectural styles and a crumbling foundation, a sick patient who is about to expire, and a factory that has been littered with so much garbage that it can no longer operate productively," the panel said.

Breaux said this tough language was chosen to send a message to Americans that "the tax system is a mess" requiring quick action.

Congress urged to act quickly

The nine-member advisory group, co-chaired by former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), also said Congress should move speedily to fix the alternative minimum tax, a levy initially designed to prevent tax avoidance by wealthy people.

Now some middle-class Americans are finding that as they earn more money, they have to pay the alternative minimum tax on top of their income taxes. This year, the panel said 4 million people are paying this levy; next year it will be 20 million.

Doing away with the alternative minimum tax might prevent higher taxes on middle-income Americans, but Breaux said repealing it would reduce revenue by $1.3 trillion over 10 years, making the deficit worse.

Far-reaching tax-reform proposals by the panel would land on top of the administration's floundering Social Security overhaul plan, putting two complex and politically difficult proposals before a bitterly divided Congress.

While the president said Thursday that he is pleased with the progress he has made in pushing his Social Security plan, Breaux said at a Brookings Institution conference that it appears to be going nowhere.

"I think the White House should be looking for an exit strategy," Breaux said. He said members of Congress don't see a crisis in Social Security and that the financial problems of Medicare and Medicaid are much worse.

Former Rep. William Frenzel (R-Minn.), a Brookings scholar who also sits on the president's tax panel, said he and Breaux hope Congress will be able to shake off its gridlock on the deficit and other issues and approve a tax overhaul measure.

"Maybe that is our next best chance" of achieving action on a major economic proposal in Congress, Frenzel said.

A `hybrid' result is seen

Adam Hughes, economist for OMB Watch, a non-profit watchdog group in Washington, said he doubts that the tax advisory panel would recommend junking the income tax system in favor of a consumption tax, such as a national sales tax. But he said a "hybrid" system, combining the income tax with a consumption tax, is a possibility.

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist and president of a political action committee, said, "people have underestimated the possibilities of tax reform. I think there's a greater chance of bipartisan agreement on tax reform than Social Security."

He cited the 1986 tax overhaul law, in which Congress closed many tax loopholes and reduced overall tax rates, as a prime example that tax changes can produce bipartisan action. In fact, Democrats have been less critical of Bush's tax-reform effort than his Social Security plan.

Urban Institute analysts Eugene Stuerle and Len Burman said tax reform is going to be hard for Bush, chiefly because the president has insisted that any plan be "revenue-neutral," raising no more or less money than the current system.

By closing loopholes for some and giving tax breaks to others, any revenue-neutral plan would create winners and losers, they said.

Powerful interests who wound up losing in past tax reforms generally fought the legislation vigorously.

Bush has said that any tax restructuring should protect the mortgage interest and charitable deductions, both of which are part of the income tax system. These deductions would go away with adoption of a sales tax or European-style value-added tax.

Breaux also said he is looking at a proposal to limit the tax exclusion currently provided for health-insurance premiums. Extra money garnered by this idea could be used to expand health-care coverage for the poor, he said.

Bill's Comment: The sooner the tax code is revamped, the better.

Judge Strikes Down FDA Ban on Ephedra

Judge Strikes Down FDA Ban on Ephedra


By MARK THIESSEN, Associated Press Writer

SALT LAKE CITY - A federal judge Thursday struck down the FDA ban on ephedra, the once-popular weight-loss aid that was yanked from the market after it was linked to dozens of deaths.

The judge ruled in favor of a Utah company that challenged the Food and Drug Administration's ban. Utah-based Nutraceutical claimed in its lawsuit that ephedra "has been safely consumed" for hundreds of years.

Supplements that included ephedra have been widely used for weight loss and bodybuilding, but have linked to 155 deaths, including that of Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler. The FDA ordered the substance off the market in April 2004.

Judge Tena Campbell's ruling sends the matter back to the FDA "for further rulemaking consistent with the court's opinion" and keeps the agency from enforcement action against the companies.

FDA officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Company president Bruce Hough said the decision is about "protecting the public's access to safe and effective dietary supplements."

Wis. Considers Legalizing Cat Hunting

Wis. Considers Legalizing Cat Hunting

Tue Apr 12, 8:06 AM ET

By The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Feline lovers holding pictures of cats, clutching stuffed animals and wearing whiskers faced-off against hundreds of hunters at meetings around Wisconsin to voice their opinion on whether to legalize cat hunting.

Residents in 72 counties were asked whether free-roaming cats — including any domestic cat that isn't under the owner's direct control or any cat without a collar — should be listed as an unprotected species. If listed as so, the cats could be hunted.

The proposal was one of several dozen included in a spring vote on hunting and fishing issues held by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. The results, only advisory, get forwarded to the state Natural Resources Board.

Statewide results were expected Tuesday.

La Crosse firefighter Mark Smith, 48, helped spearhead the cat-hunting proposal. He wants Wisconsin to declare free-roaming wild cats an unprotected species, just like skunks or gophers. Anyone with a small-game license could shoot the cats at will.

At least two other upper Midwestern states, South Dakota and Minnesota, allow wild cats to be shot — and have for decades. Minnesota defines a wild, or feral, cat as one with no collar that does not show friendly behavior, said Kevin Kyle with that state's Department of Natural Resources.

Every year in Wisconsin alone, an estimated 2 million wild cats kill 47 million to 139 million songbirds, according to state officials. Despite the astounding numbers, Smith's plan has been met with fierce opposition from cat lovers.

Critics of Smith's idea organized Wisconsin Cat-Action Team and developed a Web site — Some argue it is better to trap wild cats, spay or neuter them, before releasing them.

In Madison, about 1,200 people attended the Monday evening meeting at the Alliant Center — more than the 250 or so in a typical year, but less than the 3,000 or so who took part in a debate in 2000 over whether to allow hunters to shoot mourning doves.

One of the attendees was Katy Francis, who wore cat ears, whiskers, a cat nose and a sign that read, "Too Cute to Kill." For Francis, "The cat hunting thing brought me out because it was very extreme."

Bill's Comment: No, my family has no plans to move there, despite our disdain for felines. I am sorry to disappoint.

'Honey, I'm Running Over to the Mall for Some...'

'Honey, I'm Running Over to the Mall for Some...'

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The Hungarian Interior Ministry looks set to allow prostitutes to tout for business in shopping malls, local media reported Tuesday.

The ministry is thinking of allowing dedicated shopping centers where prostitutes could strike deals for sex as long as they move to a place of their own to carry out the transaction, the daily Nepszabadsag said.

"There is nothing intrinsically wrong legally with an entertainment center without gratification," the newspaper quoted from a letter the ministry sent to the businessman who proposed to set up an "all-in-one" sex plaza.

Hungary allows local governments to set so-called "zones of patience" for the country's up to 20,000 prostitutes, but no municipality has done so yet.

Bill's Comment: I am sure that this will a stop the next time former President Bill Clinton comes through the neighborhood.

Efficiency of Ceiling Fans Under Debate

Efficiency of Ceiling Fans Under Debate

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The efficiency of ceiling fans may not be at the center of the country's energy debate, given record high gasoline prices. Yet the issue has become a focus of critics, including congressional Democrats, who complain Congress is not doing enough to address conservation as part of a broad energy bill.

When the House recently began writing a revised package of energy proposals, Rep. Nathan Deal (news, bio, voting record), R-Ga., wasted no time offering an amendment — the first out of the block — that would call for the Energy Department to establish a federal efficiency standard for home ceiling fans.

But Democrats and outside energy efficiency advocates said Deal's measure would pre-empt stronger fan efficiency requirements already approved or being considered in more than half dozen states, calling it a step backward in efforts to curb energy use.

Congress not only "is doing far too little to improve energy efficiency," but also "will pre-empt stronger state standards," said Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, arguing against Deal's measure.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., also expressed misgivings over Deal's amendment, but it was quickly approved, 29-17, by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The committee plans to resume action on the bill Tuesday, and other committees were scheduled to take up other parts of the legislation later this week. The Senate has yet to take up the energy matter, but House leaders hope to pass a bill, possibly as early as next week.

A key debate on energy always has been how much emphasis should be placed on promoting energy production as opposed to energy conservation. Critics of the Republican-crafted House bill say it leans too heavily toward production, giving scant emphasis to improving efficiency.

Deal's home state is the headquarters of Home Depot, the country's third largest retailer and merchant of half the ceiling fans sold. The company, which has been concerned about states' efforts to impose ceiling fan efficiency standards, lobbied the congressman for federal legislation, pre-empting the states.

Deal said action by individual states will result "in a warehouse full of fans" that can't be sold — and higher fan prices. He contended the Energy Department still would be free to develop stronger requirements.

Todd Smith, a spokesman for Deal, said the congressman had been contacted by Home Depot and by several ceiling fan manufacturers seeking federal legislation that would preclude the states' actions.

"The consumers are the ones that will benefit from this," Smith said.

Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said Home Depot had agreed in discussions with energy efficiency advocates for stronger ceiling fan standards — reflecting what states are considering — but then backed off.

Kent Knutson, director of governmental affairs at Home Depot, denied that the company backed away, saying there had been a one-year agreement that expired at the end of 2004. Knutson acknowledged lobbying Deal and other lawmakers for a federal standard that would override state action.

"A federal standard is much better than state-by-state standards," Knutson said in an interview.

Ceiling fans, when their generally inefficient lights are included, use about as much or more energy each year as refrigerators, dishwashers and window air conditioners, deLaski said.

Maryland has passed a standard that would reduce ceiling fan energy use by about a third. Among the states considering similar legislation are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. California is considering a fan efficiency labeling law, which also would be pre-empted, said deLaski.

Deal's amendment does not require specific efficiency improvements, leaving any future standard up to the Energy Department. Manufacturers would not have to comply with a standard until 2009 or later if the DOE does not issue a standard by then.

Efficiency advocates said there's no assurance the department will enact a standard anytime soon, although the amendment would prevent states from issuing their own standard. There are some appliance standards required by Congress in 1992 that have yet to be issued, they said.

Because of budget pressures the House bill may have fewer energy efficiency measures than the legislation that came close to being approved by Congress two years ago, energy efficiency advocates said. That bill was estimated to cut energy consumption by 1 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a private group.

"They appear to be poised to roll back on energy efficiency at exactly the wrong time," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a private advocacy group.

But Rep. Joe Barton (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in an interview he considered the bill "balanced" and said it will address efficiency as well as energy production. A summary from his committee cited requirements for new energy efficiency standards for appliances, expansion of the federal "Energy Star" program, and measures aimed at reducing energy use in government buildings.


On the Net:

Energy Department:

Injuries Rising as More Kids Take Up Golf

Injuries Rising as More Kids Take Up Golf

MONDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- The increasing popularity of children's golf has teed off an upswing in golf-related head injuries among youngsters, a new study finds.

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia reviewed the cases of more than 2,500 patients under age 19 seen by neurosurgeons between 1996 and 2002. They identified 64 sports-related injuries, including 15 golf-related injuries. Of those injuries, seven were caused by golf cart accidents, seven by golf clubs and one by being struck with a golf ball.

One of the children involved in a golf cart accident died as the result of uncontrollable brain swelling. Six of the 15 children required surgery. The youngest child with a golf-related injury was 10 months old. Skull fracture was the most common type of golf-related head injury in the children.

The study appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Lead author and neurosurgery resident Dr. Scott Y. Rahimi got the idea for the study after he noticed an increase in the number of golf-related head injuries in children.

"Golf-related injuries constitute a common type of sports injury in the pediatric population. The increase in frequency of these injuries is largely attributed to the increase in the popularity of golf and greater use of golf carts by children," Rahimi and his co-authors said in a prepared statement.

They believe safety training programs, precautionary guidelines, proper storage of golf equipment and adult supervision of golf club and golf cart use can reduce golf-related head injuries among children.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has advice on how to prevent some common golf injuries.

Bill's Comment: I have some advice of my own. It is called adult supervision and paying attention!

Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany Is New Pope

Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany Is New Pope

By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a longtime guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI.

Ratzinger, the first German pope in centuries, served John Paul II since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that position, he has disciplined church dissidents and upheld church policy against attempts by liberals for reforms. He turned 78 on Saturday.