Saturday, March 20, 2010

Court fines Stockholm couple for faked sex

Court fines Stockholm couple for faked sex
Published: 19 Mar 10 08:04 CET

Dictionary tool Double click on a word to get a translation

A Stockholm couple have been fined by a district court for disorderly conduct after they were reported for having simulated sex on their patio, reports local newspaper Mitt-i-Södermalm.

The couple were fined 800 kronor ($112) by Stockholm District Court after a neighbourly feud left the faux-amorous couple feeling the long arms of the law.

In a submission to the court the couple admitted that they had engaged in simulated sex on the patio of their apartment on Södermalm in central Stockholm last August in an attempt to deliberately provoke a neighbouring family.

The pair told the court that their open-air sexual workout was a form of revenge on their neighbours who they claimed regularly hosted loud and rowdy parties.

The court ruling now establishes that sex, make believe or otherwise, is not legal on one's balcony or patio, and that it can lead to consequences when conducted in full view of the neighbours.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Health Overhaul's Assault On Business


March 19, 2010

Taxes: If ObamaCare becomes permanent, no one will suffer more than U.S. businesses. They'll face higher taxes, more regulations and a higher cost of capital. But don't take our word for it. Go ask Caterpillar.

The heavy-equipment giant reckons its insurance costs will go up 20%, or $100 million, the first year after the health care system is overhauled, and may go even higher. Multiply that by literally tens of thousands of companies nationwide, large and small, and you can see how costs will soar.

"We can ill-afford cost increases that place us at a disadvantage versus our global competitors," said Greg Folley, a Caterpillar vice president. "We are disappointed that efforts at reform have not addressed the cost concerns we've raised throughout the year."

If you don't care how this affects businesses, you should. Some 15 million people in this country don't have jobs — and another 12 million work part-time but want full-time positions.

If America's major employers are hit with huge, government-mandated cost increases during an economic downturn, do you really think they'll hire more when the economy starts growing on its own again? Of course not.

Despite this, the White House predicts its plan will "cut costs" for businesses. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even makes the bizarre prediction that passage of health reform will lead to 400,000 new jobs "immediately," and millions more down the road.

Such claims don't hold water because health reform includes $569.2 billion in new taxes, at last count 160 new bureaucracies and regulations, and 16,500 new IRS agents to collect all those taxes. Tax hits on businesses and industries include:

• $52 billion on companies that do not provide what the government deems "acceptable" or "affordable" insurance for workers.

• $60.1 billion on health insurers.

• $27 billion on drugmakers and importers.

• $20 billion on makers and importers of medical devices.

• $2.7 billion on the tanning industry.

And of course the companies themselves don't pay. You do — both as a consumer, through higher prices, and as an employee, through lower wages.

As the Tax Policy Center, a center-liberal think tank, noted recently, "Economists generally believe that the burden of payroll taxes is borne by workers in the form of lower wages, regardless of whether the tax is levied on the employer or employee."

But that's not the end of it.

A new Medicare tax on capital gains, dividends and other investment income has been raised from 2.9% to 3.8%. Supposedly, this is a tax on the "wealthy," those with $200,000 or more in income. It's really a tax on small business, entrepreneurs and investors.

This provision will push the top cap-gains rate from 15% to almost 24%, while the dividend rate will rise from 35% to 43.4%.

This amounts a big new tax on the very people who are most likely to own or start a new business and hire workers. Health reform will tax large numbers of job creators out of business — and no one in the White House seems to know, or even care.

But it will have an enormous impact. As a result of the Obama-Care taxes on successful individuals and companies, investment in new companies will slow, and old companies will face a higher cost of capital. New jobs will be created offshore in places such India and China.

Economist Steve Entin of the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation estimated the Medicare tax would reduce GDP by 1.3%, capital formation by 3.4% and after-tax incomes of those who don't pay the tax directly by 1.2%.

And those estimates came when the tax was "only" 2.9% — not the 3.8% it is in the current bill. So the economic losses would in fact be even larger than Entin estimated.

Because of these taxes and other faults in the plan, a group of 130 economists last Thursday sent President Obama a letter imploring him not to sign the bill, saying that it would be a job-killer.

"In our view," the economists wrote, "the health care bill contains a number of provisions that will eliminate jobs, reduce hours and wages, and limit future job creation."

Health reform's taxes and huge new costs will lead to semi-permanent stagnation in the U.S. economy, marked by higher unemployment and lower standards of living.

Is this how Americans see their future? Based on the Tea Party movement and growing anger at the government for seizing control of the economy's high ground, we doubt it.

The only real question is, are the White House and Congress listening?

Herb Denenberg, Bulletin Columnist And Consumer Advocate, Dies At 81


Mar 19, 2010

Former Channel 10 Consumer Investigative reporter Herb Denenberg died last night of an apparent heart attack. He was 81.

Denenberg spent his life fighting for the little guy. He had two law degrees, a doctorate in economics, taught at the Wharton school, served as Pennsylvania's Insurance Commissioner and as the state's Public Utility Commissioner before his career in television.

He didn't have the look, the hair or the booming voice of most men on the air in the mid70s, but his expertise and passion as an advocate for the people made him one of the most effective and attention-getting consumer reporters not just in Philadelphia, but in the country. You could not intimidate Herb and he never thought twice about going head to head with product makers, big business or the government to right a wrong.

Some of Herb's investigative reports and tactics to get action are legendary, like the time he told angry viewers to call the White House directly. Time Magazine wrote about it in a 1976 article called, The Horrible Herb Show:

The White House telephone operator was frantic. "Some guy on TV in Philadelphia," she said, had just told angry consumers to phone complaints directly to the President, and the switchboard was jammed. The guy was Herbert S. Denenberg, 46, lawyer, author (seven books), former college professor, hell-raising former Pennsylvania insurance commissioner, and currently one of the funniest, roughest consumer-affairs reporters ever to read fine print on a label.

But Herb didn't make the news because he was quirky or because he had a high-pitched voice or wore funny costumes. He made the news because he made a difference. Many consumers have better, safer choices because of Herb.

Claims that were too good to be true or products that were hazardous to your health got heaved into "Denenberg's Dump."

Remember Herb by joining his Facebook Tribute page

Herb won literally hundreds of awards from all sorts of prestigious organizations, but his personal victories were measured more by the troubleshooting Herb and his consumer team did daily.

"My greatest satisfaction is keeping some kid from drinking poison or making some Government agency do what it's supposed to do. For relaxation I go out and read food labels."

Herb was on the air at Channel 10 until the mid-90s, but his consumer watchdog days never stopped. He was active until the day he died – writing a column for The Bulletin and for his own blog. He was still fighting for health care and insurance reforms and one of his most recent targets was President Obama.

"First of all, he ought to shut up because every time he opens his mouth, he costs us a trillion dollars," Herb said in a YouTube video last July 4 when he was the keynote speaker for the Tea Party at Independence Hall.

Herb leaves behind his wife, Naomi who worked alongside him for many years.

Health Care Fraud



Health Reform: What did it take for Congress to schedule a vote on its awful health care reform package? Not much, just a phony low-ball "score" on what the plan would cost from the Congressional Budget Office.

By presenting the CBO with incomplete, inaccurate and misleading data, the Democrats in Congress were finally able to come up with a cost score they like: $940 billion.

That's the estimate the CBO arrived at. Like a used car dealer pricing a car at $9,999 instead of $10,000, the hucksters in Congress were anxious to get the official cost below the scary $1 trillion level at which things suddenly sound very unaffordable.

Using the rigged $940 billion estimate, Democratic leaders now hope to force a health care bill through as early as Saturday, seizing 17% of the U.S. economy by simply "deeming" the bill is passed — rather than actually passing it in an up-or-down vote.

This is not democracy. Nor is it constitutional. And it will do real violence to the Democrats' promise to leave 72 hours to debate the health care bill's contents and to let the public see what's in it. Transparency? This is legislating through a glass, darkly.

But what really bothers us, as we've noted before, is the use of a phony cost estimate to justify it all. The $940 billion figure the CBO came up with is almost wholly bogus. So is the laughable estimate that deficits will be cut by $138 billion over a decade.

And the Democrats know it. That's why they're trying to pass this bill using questionable parliamentary maneuvers and outright trickery. Those who agree to this backroom scheme are part of a massive fraud perpetrated on the American people. As frauds, they should expect no sympathy from voters.

We can't blame the CBO. It can only produce a score, or cost estimate, at the behest of Congress based on the data it is given. As the saying goes in the tech world: Garbage in, garbage out. In this case, they were given 10 years of revenues, but only six years of costs. So of course the "cost" looks reasonable.

And even the CBO, in releasing what it made clear was an unofficial estimate, warned: "This estimate is ... preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal ..." In short, they want no part of this farce.

In fact, the real cost of this health care takeover is more like $2.5 trillion over 10 years — not $940 billion. That's off by, oh, 166%.

As Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute has noted, Congress' estimates carefully exclude the majority of the costs from the health care plan. Indeed, he notes, "the on-budget costs of the legislation probably account for only 40% of the total costs."

The other 60% comes from mandates on the private sector — that is taxes, mostly on you but also on businesses. Once reform is passed, you will by law have to buy health insurance — the first time the federal government has forced Americans to buy something with their own money. And premiums will go up.

And despite promises by President Obama of "cuts," total health care spending will still be $210 billion higher in 10 years, CBO says.

But, you say, even if it costs $250 billion a year, at least 31 million Americans without health insurance would get care, right? Not so fast. The CBO's own estimates say the legislation would still leave 24 million Americans without insurance after 10 years.

Worse, the CBO analysis ignores the well-established impact that higher taxes have on the economy and personal behavior.

When factored in, according to Heritage Foundation policy analyst Kathryn Nix, "These provisions would decrease investment in the economy, resulting in lower wages and growing the debt."

Heritage estimates health reform will add $755 billion to our debt over 10 years, push annual interest payments up $20 billion, add $76 billion on average to the deficit and kill 690,000 jobs a year.

With reform like that, who needs health care?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Not Even A Vote?!


Health Reform: Using a parliamentary trick ironically known as the "self-executing rule," Democrats plan on passing their massive health bill without voting. In November, they'll learn just how "self-executing" it was.

Just when you thought Washington couldn't get more corrupt, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week seems intent on trampling representative government itself. Unable to get the votes to pass their U.S. health care revolution, she and her fellow Democratic leaders have figured out a way to pass it without a vote.

The "self-executing rule" has been "used to adopt concurrent resolutions correcting the enrollment of measures or to make other technical changes to legislation," according to the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress.

It's "a two-for-one procedure," as the CRS describes it, because the House of Representatives always must pass a rule, written by the House Rules Committee (where Democrats hold a 9-to-4 majority), setting the terms of debate on a particular piece of legislation. In this case, it's been rigged so that if the rule passes, the legislation passes too.

The trick has been used before, as cited by the CRS, on obscure measures like the prohibition of smoking on airline flights in 1989, an employee verification program regarding illegal aliens in 1996, the blocking of the use of statistical sampling for the 2000 census until federal courts could determine its constitutionality, and an IRS overhaul in 1997.

But never on anything approaching such landmark legislation.

Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, is among a number of legal scholars who believe this Slaughter Solution, named after House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., "would stand a very good chance of being tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court."

In the 1998 Clinton v. City of New York ruling on the line-item veto, liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for a 6-to-3 majority, "laid a likely road map for how the court might rule on a challenge to the constitutionality of the Slaughter Solution," according to Ridenour.

Stevens made note of "three procedural steps" that must be taken before a bill becomes law:  The "exact text" must be "approved by a majority of the members of the House of Representatives"; the Senate must approve "precisely the same text"; and the same text must be "signed into law by the president. The Constitution explicitly requires that each of those three steps be taken before a bill may become a law."

Indeed, Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution couldn't be clearer: "The votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively."

Michael McConnell, a former federal judge and director of Stanford University's Constitutional Law Center, writing in the Wall Street Journal this week, declared the trick unconstitutional because "this means that no single bill will have passed both houses in the same form." Talk radio host and Landmark Legal Foundation President Mark Levin warned of its use sparking "the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War."

The president, the speaker and the rest of those involved in one-party rule in Washington may think they know what's good for the American people better than the people do.

Do they also think they know better than the framers of the Constitution and their naive ideas of one man, one vote?

If anything could swell the ranks of the populist Tea Party movement and make it friendlier to Republican candidates this November, it's executing the "self-executing rule."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Social Security to start cashing Uncle Sam's IOUs

Social Security to start cashing Uncle Sam's IOUs

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Writer
Sun Mar 14, 7:19 pm ET

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – The retirement nest egg of an entire generation is stashed away in this small town along the Ohio River: $2.5 trillion in IOUs from the federal government, payable to the Social Security Administration.

It's time to start cashing them in.

For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits — billions more each year.

Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.

Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs — in the form of Treasury bonds — which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg's municipal offices.

Now the government will have to borrow even more money, much of it abroad, to start paying back the IOUs, and the timing couldn't be worse. The government is projected to post a record $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, followed by trillion dollar deficits for years to come.

Social Security's shortfall will not affect current benefits. As long as the IOUs last, benefits will keep flowing. But experts say it is a warning sign that the program's finances are deteriorating. Social Security is projected to drain its trust funds by 2037 unless Congress acts, and there's concern that the looming crisis will lead to reduced benefits.

"This is not just a wake-up call, this is it. We're here," said Mary Johnson, a policy analyst with The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group. "We are not going to be able to put it off any more."

For more than two decades, regardless of which political party was in power, Congress has been accused of raiding the Social Security trust funds to pay for other programs, masking the size of the budget deficit.

Remember Al Gore's "lockbox," the one he was going to use to protect Social Security? The former vice president talked about it so much during the 2000 presidential campaign that he was parodied on "Saturday Night Live."

Gore lost the election and never got his lockbox. But to illustrate the government's commitment to repaying Social Security, the Treasury Department has been issuing special bonds that earn interest for the retirement program. The bonds are unique because they are actually printed on paper, while other government bonds exist only in electronic form.

They are stored in a three-ring binder, locked in the bottom drawer of a white metal filing cabinet in the Parkersburg offices of Bureau of Public Debt. The agency, which is part of the Treasury Department, opened offices in Parkersburg in the 1950s as part of a plan to locate important government functions away from Washington, D.C., in case of an attack during the Cold War.

One bond is worth a little more than $15.1 billion and another is valued at just under $10.7 billion. In all, the agency has about $2.5 trillion in bonds, all backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. But don't bother trying to steal them; they're nonnegotiable, which means they are worthless on the open market.

More than 52 million people receive old age or disability benefits from Social Security. The average benefit for retirees is a little under $1,200 a month. Disabled workers get an average of $1,100 a month.

Social Security is financed by payroll taxes — employers and employees must each pay a 6.2 percent tax on workers' earnings up to $106,800. Retirees can start getting early, reduced benefits at age 62. They get full benefits if they wait until they turn 66. Those born after 1960 will have to wait until they turn 67.

Social Security's financial problems have been looming for years as the nation's 78 million baby boomers approached retirement age. The oldest are already there. As that huge group of people starts collecting benefits — and stops paying payroll taxes — Social Security's trust funds will shrink, running out of money by 2037, according to the latest projection from the trustees who oversee the program.

The recession is making things worse, at least in the short term. Tax receipts are down from the loss of more than 8 million jobs, and applications for early retirement benefits have spiked from older workers who were laid off and forced to retire.

Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, says the crisis has been years in the making. "If this helps get people to look more seriously at that in the nearer term, that's probably a good thing. But it's only really a punctuation mark on the fact that we have longer-term financial issues that need to be addressed."

In the short term, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security will continue to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes for the next three years. It is projected to post small surpluses of $6 billion each in 2014 and 2015, before returning to indefinite deficits in 2016.

For the budget year that ends in September, Social Security is projected to collect $677 billion in taxes and spend $706 billion on benefits and expenses.

Social Security will also collect about $120 billion in interest on the trust funds, according to the CBO projections, meaning its overall balance sheet will continue to grow. The interest, however, is paid by the government, adding even more to the budget deficit.

While Congress must shore up the program, action is unlikely this year, said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., who just took over last week as chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Social Security.

"The issues required to address the long-term solvency needs of Social Security can be done in a careful, thoughtful and orderly way and they don't need to be done in the next few months," Pomeroy said.

The national debt — the amount of money the government owes its creditors — is about $12.5 trillion, or nearly $42,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. About $8 trillion has been borrowed in public debt markets, much of it from foreign creditors. The rest came from various government trust funds, including retirement funds for civil servants and the military. About $2.5 trillion is owed to Social Security.

Good luck to the politician who reneges on that debt, said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut who is now president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

"Those bonds are protected by the full faith and credit of the United States of America," Kennelly said. "They're as solid as what we owe China and Japan."


On the Net:

Social Security Administration:

Trustees' reports:

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare:

The Senior Citizens League:

Bureau of Public Debt:

Congressional Budget Office:

'Mission: Impossible' star Peter Graves dies in LA

'Mission: Impossible' star Peter Graves dies in LA

By BOB THOMAS, Associated Press Writer
41 mins ago

LOS ANGELES – Peter Graves, the tall, stalwart actor likely best known for his portrayal of Jim Phelps, leader of a gang of special agents who battled evil conspirators in the long-running television series "Mission: Impossible," died Sunday.

Graves died of an apparent heart attack outside his Los Angeles home, publicist Sandy Brokaw said. He would have been 84 this week.

Graves had just returned from brunch with his wife and kids and collapsed before he made it into the house, Brokaw said. One of his daughters administered CPR but was unable to revive him. Graves' family doctor visited the house and believed he had a heart attack, Brokaw said.

Although Graves never achieved the stardom his older brother, James Arness, enjoyed as Marshal Matt Dillon on TV's "Gunsmoke," he had a number of memorable roles in both films and television.

Normally cast as a hero, he turned in an unforgettable performance early in his career as the treacherous Nazi spy in Billy Wilder's 1953 prisoner-of-war drama "Stalag 17."

He also masterfully lampooned his straight-arrow image when he portrayed bumbling airline pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 disaster movie spoof "Airplane!"

Graves appeared in dozens of films and a handful of television shows in a career of nearly 60 years.

The authority and trust he projected made him a favorite for commercials late in his life, and he was often encouraged to go into politics.

"He had this statesmanlike quality," Brokaw said. "People were always encouraging him to run for office. But he said, 'I like acting. I like being around actors.'"

Graves' career began with cheaply made exploitation films like "It Conquered the World," in which he battled a carrot-shaped monster from Venus, and "Beginning of the World," in which he fought a giant grasshopper.

He later took on equally formidable human villains each week on "Mission: Impossible."

Every show began with Graves, as agent Phelps, listening to a tape of instructions outlining his team's latest mission and explaining that if he or any of his agents were killed or captured "the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions."

The tape always self-destructed within seconds of being played.

The show ran on CBS from 1967 to 1973 and was revived on ABC from 1988 to 1990 with Graves back as the only original cast member.

The actor credited clever writing for the show's success.

"It made you think a little bit and kept you on the edge of your seat because you never knew what was going to happen next," he once said.

He also played roles in such films as John Ford's "The Long Gray Line" and Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter," as well as "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell," "Texas Across the River" and "The Ballad of Josie."

Graves' first television series was a children's Saturday morning show, "Fury," about an orphan and his untamed black stallion. Filmed in Australia, it lasted six years on NBC. A western, "Whiplash," also shot in Australia, played for a year in syndication, and the British-made "Court-Martial" appeared on ABC for one season. In his later years, Graves brought his white-haired eminence to PBS as host of "Discover: The World of Science" and A&E's "Biography" series.

He noted during an interview in 2000 that he made his foray into comedy somewhat reluctantly.

Filmmakers Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker had written a satire on the airplane-in-trouble movies, and they wanted Graves and fellow handsome actors Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack to spoof their serious images.

All agreed, but Graves admitted to nervousness. On the one hand, he said, he considered the role a challenge, "but it also scared me."

"I thought I could lose a whole long acting career," he recalled.

"Airplane!" became a box-office smash, and Graves returned for "Airplane II, The Sequel."

Born Peter Aurness in Minneapolis, Graves adopted his grandfather's last name to avoid confusion with his older brother, James, who had dropped the "U" from the family name.

He was a champion hurdler in high school, as well as a clarinet player in dance bands and a radio announcer.

After two years in the Air Force, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota as a drama major and worked in summer stock before following his brother west to Hollywood.

He found enough success there to send for his college sweetheart, Joan Endress. They were married in 1950 and had three daughters — Kelly Jean, Claudia King and Amanda Lee — and six grandchildren.

Graves credited the couple's Midwest upbringing for a marriage that lasted more than 50 years in a town not known for long unions.

"Hollywood or New York ... can be very flighty and dangerous places to live, but the good grounding we had in the Midwest ethic I think helped us all our lives," he said.


Associated Press Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.