Americans fund Social Security all their working lives – never learn anything about how it functions!

About 60 percent of U.S. residents who are not yet collecting Social Security benefits believe they never will, a poll released Friday said.

Only 40 percent of retirees surveyed by Opinion Research for CNN said they expect Social Security to be able to continue paying their full benefits.

“There have always been a significant number of Americans who thought that Social Security would not be able to pay benefits to them when they retire,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “But since 1989, when Gallup first asked this question, that number usually hovered in the mid-40s and never rose higher than 52 percent. Today, 60 percent say they will never get a benefit from Social Security.”

Social Security has a long-term problem because of the large number of baby boomers, who are starting to hit their retirement years.

This is one of those non-events that pollsters love. They’re fully aware that most Americans are completely ignorant of how Social Security Insurance is funded.

Since most Americans earn less than the capping income figure, they never realize that anyone earning more than the current cap of $106K stops paying SSA taxes when they reach that figure.

When Congress is really pressed – someday – they’ll raise the ceiling as grudgingly as they ever do when forced to tax wealthier folks at the same rate as most workingclass wage earners.

Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans will whine and use the issue of increasing taxes in their re-election campaigns. The rest of the Democratic Party will be too chickenshit to point out that egalitarian taxation ain’t exactly a bad idea.

And Social Security will keep on cranking right along. The single most efficient department in the Federal Government – operating at an administration cost of less than 3%. That’s at least 5 times better than the average American corporation.

Same-sex bridal magazine a response to conventional ignorance

Kirsten Ott walked down the aisle in a white strapless gown with an embroidered bodice and cascading ruffles. Maria Palladino, dressed in a white suit, waited for her at the end of the aisle with a minister. Surrounded by their family and close friends, the women committed to each other for the rest of their lives.

A beautiful reception followed. It had all the makings of a traditional wedding, but instead of calling themselves bride and groom, the couple used the terms bride and “broom.”

“Broom is a combination of bride and groom,” said Kirsten, who took Maria’s last name when they wed…

Both were relieved the special day they had planned for so long finally arrived.

Organizing a wedding can be challenging, what with finding the right photographer, the perfect cake, the prettiest flowers and, most importantly, the venue. It was even harder for Kirsten, because she had to find vendors who accepted same-sex marriage in Atlanta, Georgia, where the union isn’t legally recognized…

Kirsten and Maria turned to wedding magazines for inspiration while planning their 2008 wedding. But Kirsten said something important was missing. “There are tons of wedding magazines when you go into a wedding section at a bookstore, but we weren’t in any of them. Not one single gay couple. It was disheartening…”

Planning their wedding inspired the newlyweds to start their own wedding magazine geared toward engaged same-sex couples. Kirsten, a journalist, and Maria, a graphic designer, used their career backgrounds and personal experience to launch the online magazine Equally Wed…

The Palladinos discovered that more wedding vendors across the United States are now offering their services for two brides or two grooms. The magazine has a staff that spans the country. Employees find companies that cater to same-sex weddings and welcome couples to their honeymoon destinations. They list gay-friendly vendors that will make the cake, design the flowers or take pictures of the ceremony…

“It’s a ceremony in front of your friends and family, committing to this other person for the rest of your life … it doesn’t matter what sex you are or who, the sex or gender of the person you’re marrying.”

It’s a sound business in my neck of the prairie. There are just as many bible-thumping bigots as most places; but, the community as a whole recognizes the borderline criminality of such behavior. Same-sex marriages would be a daily occurrence in Santa Fe if our state government was endowed with either courage or common sense.

Scientists find new superbug spreading from India

A new superbug from India could spread around the world — in part because of medical tourism — and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it.

Researchers said on Wednesday they had found a new gene called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, in patients in South Asia and in Britain.

U.S. health officials said on Wednesday there had been three cases so far in the United States — all from patients who received recent medical care in India, a country where people often travel in search of affordable healthcare.

NDM-1 makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, including the most powerful class called carbapenems. Experts say there are no new drugs on the horizon to tackle it.

“It’s a specific mechanism. A gene that confers a type of resistance (to antibiotics),” Dr. Alexander Kallen of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said in a telephone interview.

With more people traveling to find less costly medical treatments, particularly for procedures such as cosmetic surgery, Timothy Walsh, who led the study, said he feared the new superbug could soon spread across the globe.

At a global level, this is a real concern,” Walsh, from Britain’s Cardiff University, said in telephone interview.

“Because of medical tourism and international travel in general, resistance to these types of bacteria has the potential to spread around the world very, very quickly. And there is nothing in the (drug development) pipeline to tackle it.”

Pretty scary.

With luck, the essential reason behind this apparent lack of preparedness will be the newness of the mechanism of infection, the complex processes adding infection danger.

Learn more in kindergarten, earn more when you grow up


Click on the photo – for a video

There isn’t a lot of research that links early childhood test scores to earnings as an adult. But new research reveals a surprising finding: Students who learn more in kindergarten earn more as adults. They are also more successful overall.

Harvard University economist John Friedman says he and a group of colleagues found that students who progress during their kindergarten year from attaining an average score on the Stanford Achievement Test to attaining a score in the 60th percentile can expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than students whose scores remain average.

Taking into account all variation across kindergarten classes, including class size, individuals who learn more–as measured by an above-average score on the Stanford Achievement Test–and are in smaller classes earn about $2,000 more per year at age 27.

Moreover, students who learn more in kindergarten are more likely to go to college than students with similar backgrounds. Those who learn more in kindergarten are also less likely to become single parents, more likely to own a home by age 28 and more likely to save for retirement earlier in their work lives…

This new study, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences, examined adult outcomes of nearly 12,000 students who took part in the original study and who are now 30 years old. It allowed the research team to go beyond what children learned during their year in the STAR project to see how their kindergarten learning experiences affected their lives.

Well, rock on, kids!

The sort of outcome I’ve expected ever since the days of the original HeadStart Programs. No wonder reactionary politicians have tried their best to squash such programs – especially among minority children.

The last thing they want is better educated voters, people with improved status in their communities – and thinking about changing the politics of the world around them.

Cattle “cloned from dead animals” – Oh, the horror!


Which are clones – which aren’t?

Some of the cattle cloned to boost food production in the US have been created from the cells of dead animals, according to a US cloning company. Farmers say it is being done because it is only possible to tell that the animal’s meat is of exceptionally high quality by inspecting its carcass.

US scientists are using a variety of techniques to assess which animals have exceptional qualities. These attributes include meat quality, productivity or longevity.

These exceptional animals are cloned to be used as breeding stock, with the aim of raising the quality of herds on beef, dairy and pig farms in the US…

The head of the leading US animal cloning company has said that European farmers will fall behind the rest of the world unless they are allowed to use such techniques to improve the productivity of their livestock…

Brady Hicks of the JR Simplot company in Idaho said his organisation was among many that had tried out the technique successfully…

“We identify carcasses that have certain carcass characteristics that we want, but it’s too late to reproduce the genetics of the animal. But through cloning we can resurrect that animal…”

Cloning is not used by livestock farmers in Europe, and there are moves by some members of the European Parliament to ban it altogether. Mark Walton believes that would be a mistake.

“If I were a European farmer and my competitors in the US, China and South America were using the technology, I’d be concerned about losing all access to it,” he said.

It is early days for cloning in US agriculture. There are only a thousand clones in the one hundred million-strong American cattle herd…

Disingenuous. That hundred-million-strong herd includes hundreds of thousands of offspring of cloned animals. Do you think farmers are buying cloned bulls for 5-figures just to gaze at them? They go to work siring offspring.

Two years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that meat and milk from cloned animals were safe to eat. Ever since then, products from the offspring of cloned animals have entered the food chain

I always ask the same question and get the “Uh, no” answer. Can anyone who’s panicking over cloned food animals tell the difference in a blind test between meat that is – or isn’t – cloned?

Judge says “I do” is OK for same-sex marriage in California


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A federal judge ruled on Thursday to allow same-sex couples to marry in California, starting on August 18, handing another victory to supporters of gay rights in a case that both sides have said is likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last week, ruling that voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. Walker had issued a temporary stay on his decision, which on Thursday he said he would lift.

The high-profile case is being watched closely by supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage, as many say it is likely to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it does, the case could result in a landmark decision on whether people in the United States are allowed to marry others of the same sex.

It’s being watched by people with a stake in civil rights – in and of itself – people willing to fight for our nation’s once-proud reputation as defenders of liberty.

Same-sex marriage is legal in five U.S. states and in the District of Columbia, while civil unions are permitted in New Jersey. The five states are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Same-sex couples in California were permitted to marry, briefly, before Proposition 8 passed in 2008.

“Today’s ruling means that in less than one week, equality under the law will be restored for millions of loving families across California,” said Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign.

Dozens of same-sex couples gathered outside City Hall in San Francisco ahead of Walker’s decision, hoping they would be allowed to marry. Many waved rainbow flags and carried signs that read: ” ‘I DO’ support the freedom to marry.” The crowd erupted in cheers after the judge’s decision, though couples there must now wait at least another week or so to get married.

Opponents of same-sex marriage will continue to place their bets on courts less likely to support constitutional grounds for civil rights and equal opportunities. Especially the Supreme Court – stacked with conservatives who lied through their teeth to get Congressional affirmation.

11-year-old girl spooks burglars with her mommy’s pink rifle

When three teenage burglars pried open the door of a northwest Albuquerque home they had no idea they would be met by a brave little girl, police said Wednesday.

Alyssa Gutierrez, 11, took matters into her own hands Tuesday when police said when Miguel Marquez, Eduardo Zubiate and Jesus Quintana broke into her home. Gutierrez armed herself with a loaded rifle.

“I was planning, if they came right next to me, I would shoot them,” Gutierrez said.

But Gutierrez, who will start sixth grade next week, never got the chance because she’d spooked the burglars…

I ran back into my mom’s room and grabbed her little pink rifle, and there was two bullets in there,” she said.

With the loaded rifle, Gutierrez said she checked the bathroom and then the living room ready to defend herself. She said she ran to her mother’s closet and called 911.

But while Gutierrez protected her home, she had no idea the suspects had jumped the fence and that an off-duty APD officer driving passed her home had spotted them.

Police arrested the three teens and their alleged getaway driver, Abraham Bustillos, minutes after the break-in.

Gutierrez said she feels lucky because just a few days ago she had learned how to shoot a rifle.

“I felt proud of myself,” Gutierrez said.

Good for you, kid!