Monday, October 15

Not-so-affordable care
A rush by the Dept. of Health & Human Services to implement the most popular parts of President Obama’s health insurance law has produced eight “economically significant” regulations of remarkably poor quality, the Heritage Foundation claims in a report by researchers at George Mason University and Duke University. The researchers found that incomplete analysis by the federal government was not sufficient to inform their decision making, resulting in a “bias favoring regulation, based on both underestimated costs and overestimated benefits.”

Tracking independent expenditures
The Campaign Finance Institute, a non-partisan watchdog group that conducts campaign finance studies, has posted an online tool for tracking independent expenditures in House and Senate elections. Financial tables for House and Senate candidates can be sorted according to total spending on behalf of a candidate, spending by political parties, and spending by IEO (independent expenditure only) committees. (IEOs are popularly referred to as SuperPACs.)

Election monitors
Several lobbying organizations have invited the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe to observe the upcoming general elections in states that have been impacted by recently enacted voting restrictions. Among groups that signed the invitation were the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the League of Women Voters.

Debt and deficit reduction
A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reveals that Americans are deeply divided over most proposals for reducing the national deficit and debt, but they are in substantial agreement with two of them: 64% approve raising taxes on annual incomes over $250,000 and 58% approve limiting tax deductions that corporations use to reduce their federal tax liabilities. The survey of 1,511 adults found respondents nearly evenly divided on a proposal to reduce Medicare benefits for high income seniors.

Cure for motion sickness
A nasal spray for motion sickness may soon be showing up on the shelf of consumer products inspired by the NASA space program. The space agency signed an agreement with a California firm to develop and commercialize a drug called intranasal scopolamine which astronauts use in space to defeat motion sickness.

Obesity trigger
A study from the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that antipsychotic medications, especially those used to treat schizophrenia, may have serious metabolic side effects that can result in substantial weight gain and other cardiovascular problems. NIMH said the study was based on 139 pediatric patients over a 12-week period and, because the sample was small, a larger study is needed to confirm the result.

Trade pacts fizzle
Free trade agreements initiated last year with Korea, Panama and Colombia have not produced the results that were promised for them, Public Citizen said. Contrary to a claim by President Obama that U.S. exports to South Korea have increased, exports to Korea have declined while imports from Korea and Colombia have surged. The agreement with Panama hasn’t yet taken effect.

Cuba missile crisis
A 2,700-page collection of papers from Robert Kennedy, declassified in time for the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, reveals previously unknown details of the Kennedy administration’s secret effort to reach an accord with Cuba that would have removed the Soviet missiles in exchange for improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The collection was posted online by the National Security Archive.

Pesticide and food
The world’s six largest pesticide corporations have contributed over $20 million to defeat Proposition 37, a California ballot measure that would require food labels for genetically-engineered food, the Pesticide Action Network said. The companies that are actively opposing the measure, PAN said after reviewing campaign finance disclosure reports, are Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta.

Chemical serendipity
It was while searching for a way to detect explosives that Paul Edmiston, a chemistry professor at the College of Wooster (Ohio), stumbled onto an absorbent nanomaterial that can remove oil and other contaminants from water. With support from the National Science Foundation, a company was created to manufacture and distribute Edmiston’s chemical discovery, called Osorb.

“Biggest Loser” study finds keys to weight loss
A research study that examined 11 “Biggest Loser” reality tv show contestants confirmed that exercise and healthy eating reduces body fat and preserves muscle in adults better than diet alone. The study, conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, measured body fat, total energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate at the start of the program, at week 6, and at week 30. Program contestants had an average weight loss of 128 pounds.

Linking mortgages and discrimination
A lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court is the first to claim racial discrimination by a bank that sold securities backed by mortgages on black-owned homes that were doomed to foreclosure. The suit filed on behalf of five Detroit residents by the American Civil Liberties Union is also the first case where a prospective class of victimized homeowners is suing an investment bank directly, Morgan Stanley in this case, rather than the subprime lender whose loans the bank bought. If certified by the court as a class action lawsuit, the case may ultimately have as many as 6,000 plaintiffs.


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