Michelle Obama writing garden book – proceeds go to charity

Michelle Obama is to follow in her husband’s footsteps by writing a book about the organic garden she started at the White House and her efforts to promote healthy eating.

The as yet untitled book will be published in April 2012, and will see the US First Lady describing how she was inspired to plant the first edible garden on the White House’s South Lawn since Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War Two era “victory garden”.

She will also share some of her family’s favourite healthy recipes, said Crown, an imprint of Random House publishers. Mrs Obama received no advance and would donate the proceeds to a charity to be determined later.

Explaining her reasons for writing the book, she said: “We’ve gotten food out of the garden, and we can eat it and it’s good. So we wanted to share the story with the rest of the nation and perhaps with the rest of the world, because we get so many questions about the garden: how did we do it? Why did we do it? How do I do this in my own home or community?” The book will include photos of Mrs Obama’s White House garden as well as other community, urban and school gardens around the United States.

The first lady has been a strong advocate of healthy eating and exercise and in February 2010 launched her “Let’s Move!” initiative aimed at beating child obesity and improving the quality of food in US schools.

Now, how many ways do you think the reactionaries of America will hate this book?

Republicans can whine about an attack on the profits of agribusiness, the subversive nature of organic gardening. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman will try to outdo each other in ignorance, assuming advice on diet and nutrition is something Americans need never consider.

The leading populists of our time, the KoolAid Party only needs to remind their obedient followers that Michelle Obama is well-educated – and Black.

Judge forcing hysterectomy on fundamentalist woman

A cancer patient in Montana — identified only as L.K. — refused to undergo a hysterectomy as treatment for her cancer on the grounds that she is deeply religious and wants to have children. That’s sad enough in it’s own right. But no one could have foreseen what happened next: A judge found her “mentally incompetent” based on her “delusional religious beliefs” and ruled she was to have the procedure.

The Montana Supreme Court has halted the surgery to allow for an appeal, but in the interim let’s ponder this question: Since when do we force people to be sterilized in this country?

On one side of the case we have L.K.’s physician and psychiatrist testifying that without the surgery she could die in three years and that her “religious delusions” — namely, that God had cured her — interfered with her ability to make reasoned decisions about her care.

On the other, we have L.K. herself saying that while she did understand that she had been diagnosed with cancer and did understand the risks of dying if she did not have the procedure, she didn’t want it…Alas, this wasn’t enough to convince Judge Karen Townsend that she was of sound mind.

To be fair, it’s likely that Townsend acted in what she thought was the best interest of this woman: By ordering L.K. to have the lifesaving surgery, she was potentially saving her life…

Do you think this woman should be forced to have a hysterectomy?

What do you think? We interfere with beliefs like this all the time – to save children of True Believers. Do we have the right to do the same for adults?

Thanks, Mr. Fusion

Con artist claims magic potion can double your money

An African man who claimed he could double your money simply by applying a magic potion to currency notes has been arrested at a Madrid bar where the Ecuadorean owner nearly fell victim to the ploy, said Spanish national police.

Police arrived in time to catch the suspected thief, from Cameroon, with 1,120 euros that had been handed over by the bar owner. The suspect, 28, alleged he had run out of magic potion and would need to go home to get some more, a police statement and spokesman said…

He told police the suspect had come to the bar a week earlier claiming he could double currency notes by applying a magic potion, the police statement said.

Taking a chance, the owner provided a 20 euro note, and the suspect mixed it with various white papers, applied a brown liquid and white power, and mixed it up with cotton. Presto, and there were soon three 20 euro notes visible, the owner told police.

“He returned my 20,” said Tepan, who’s lived 16 years in Spain and has owned the bar in central Madrid for 11 years. When the suspect came back last Saturday, the owner provided 1,120 euros in various currency notes, after the owner and the suspect agreed on how to split up the proceeds from the doubled money, the police said.

The suspect put the bills in an envelope and sealed it with tape. Then he applied the alleged magic potion, repeating this various times, but finally told the bar owner he had run out of the magic potion and would need to go home and get more. But he promised to leave the sealed envelope at the bar…

“I realized he was trying to take the money,” Tepan told CNN. A neighbor called the police and Tepan’s adult son arrived and locked the door to the street, with the suspect inside the bar.

The police arrived and opened the sealed envelope but found only white papers inside. Then they searched the suspect, and found the 1,120 euros hidden in his clothing, the police statement said.

This is one of the oldest cons in the world. Usually the bait is a bit more rational sounding – like found money. Falling for a magic potion is more than gullible.

Republicans say cut tsunami warnings instead of oil subsidies!

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Buried deep inside the GOP House of Representatives plan to trim the 2011 budget is a line item that will take $454 million away from the agency running the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Yes, that’s the same Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, one of two operated by a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that alerted the nation to a potentially deadly wave headed toward Hawaii and the California coast following the devastating earthquake off northern Japan last week.

House Republicans, who have been looking for ways to shave $61.5 billion from the 2011 federal budget, stress that they don’t want to specifically cut either of the warning centers — a network of ocean buoys and deep-water sensors that alert scientists to changes in ground movement and tide levels and could indicate a tsunami is on the way. They just think the parent agency has some fat to trim. The Republicans are also going after federal funding for climate change research and other environmental projects in their proposed cuts…

“Everyone knows that the government needs to cut spending, but this tsunami serves as an tragic reminder that Representative Dan Lungren and House Republicans made the wrong budget choices that can have real consequences for California families,” said Jesse Ferguson of the DCCC. “Instead of cutting taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies, Representative Dan Lundgren voted to slash the weather service that gives us critical early warnings in times of danger, like this one…”

“Nowhere have we indicated that we’re directing NOAA not to emphasize the services it provides for the safety, health and welfare of Americans,” said Eric Cantor. “I’m told that this point was raised by some employees at NOAA, who made it known that they didn’t believe the cuts were needed. Again, we all have to do more with less here…”

How much less is Cantor making do with in his lifestyle? Total staff salary for his office since his first year in office has gone from $621,655 to $1,145,591 for 2010. An 84% increase in 9 years.

The mission of the National Weather Service is to save lives and save property. But the funding to do that has already been reduced. Cutting the funding even more is going to potentially lead to loss of life,” said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. “I’m not trying to shock people, it’s just the truth.”

Sobien points to a need to invest in early warning technology that, for instance, can help increase the notice of impending tornados or spend money to revamp an overwhelmed web site that provides early weather alerts or put more weather satellites in the sky.

Republicans and their teabagger flunkies would rather direct increased profits into the pockets of oil companies and investment banks.

Nothing new about the practice. Nothing new about their lies.

U.S. Army tries out tactical smartphones

“No – you can’t have a white one!”

U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division recently took part in a field exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in which they experimented with a tool not normally used by the armed forces – a smartphone. And no, they weren’t playing Farmville. Instead, they were using custom phones running custom apps, to coordinate the swarming of a mock village and the capture of a high-value target. Judging by how the exercise went, smartphones could soon be showing up on battlefields everywhere.

The phones were ruggedized Android-based prototypes developed specifically for the project. They were plugged into the soldiers’ tactical radios, combining the capabilities of both technologies. Running on the phones were two apps – Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P Handheld, and Tactical Ground Reporting, or TIGR Mobile.

JBC-P displays a map of the battlefield, using GPS to indicate the locations of friendly forces, enemies, and landscape hazards in real time. TIGR allows soldiers to send photos back and forth, and swap historical information relevant to the operation…

Given that troops presumably wouldn’t want to be thwarted by coverage limitations, the phones communicated using the WIN-T secure terrestrial network provided by the soldiers’ HMS Manpack and Rifleman radios. The network allowed troops to share information with one another in the field, and with the battalion tactical operations center. WIN-T also links up to a secure satellite connection, to keep the higher-ups at headquarters in the loop.

Of course, the U.S. Army is confident that no one else in the world can match our tech know-how. Couldn’t possibly hack into battlefield cellphones and use the information against our troops.

We need a new generation of Navajo code-talkers.

Sisters – hiding in Colombia – busted in $9M Medicare scam

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Two sisters wanted in a $9.1-million Medicare fraud investigation into their Dearborn clinic have been arrested in South America and will be returned to Detroit to face charges…

Clara Guilarte, 56, and Caridad Guilarte, 54, missing since February 2007, were on a federal most-wanted list for Medicare fraud. They were apprehended Sunday as they tried to get on a plane in Colombia, said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Tom Spokaeski, an investigator with the federal fraud task force in Detroit, said the sisters were arrested after tipsters called a national Medicare fraud hotline.

They are charged with committing fraud at the Dearborn Medical and Rehabilitation Center, a drug infusion clinic they opened that served people with AIDS and HIV, hepatitis C and other chronic conditions…

Clara and Caridad Guilarte, who had been involved in questionable clinic activities in Miami, came to Detroit in 2005 to flee the heightened federal scrutiny there, federal court records show.

They filled out a simple form to establish a Michigan corporation — paperwork that essentially requires little beyond the name of the registered agent for the company — found a doctor who was certified to bill Medicare and opened the Dearborn Medical and Rehabilitation Center.

Like the ones the sisters were associated with in Miami, the Dearborn facility was a drug infusion clinic for people with AIDS, hepatitis C and other health conditions. They are charged with $9.1 million in fraudulent Medicare billings.

HHS is ramping up internal methods – also available to states and regional bodies – to spot and track suspicious billing patterns. IMHO, one of the best tools to rely upon is nosy old farts like me who just might spot a fraud in progress. That’s what happened in this case.

To report questionable billings, call 800-633-4227; to report fraud, call 800-447-8477.