Americans consider most ideas for reducing the deficit to be more ways of screwing the middle class


From a post at the Big Picture

Despite all of the back and forth over the fiscal cliff and the deficits, when you get specific about deficit reduction, the majority of Americans are not supportive.

Of course, some of us understand how much of the so-called reduction is still ideological crappola. The best example being suggestions on modifying social security. You could remove social Security, SSA, entirely from the budget and nothing would change in the deficit.

SSA pays for itself, has years of equity remaining. All that needs to be done is to remove the cap on contributions – don’t stop collecting the tax when people pass $105K/year income – and we’re good till the next century.

Bosomy babe busted with cocaine breast implants

A Panamanian woman has been arrested in Spain with fake breast implants that turned out to be plastic bags containing 1.4kg of cocaine.

When the 20-year-old was stopped for a search at Barcelona’s Prat international airport, police noticed that she had gauze under her breasts…She said she had had plastic surgery two months before, but the wounds were open and she was still bleeding.

She was taken to hospital, where the cocaine bags were removed.

Spanish police say thousands of people try to take illegal drugs into the country every year, but this is the first time they have come across fake breast implants containing cocaine.

Flights coming from South America, where most of the world’s cocaine is produced, are subject to thorough checks.

The young Panamanian woman had flown in from Colombia and initially denied having any illegal drugs on her, police said…But on closer examination, they were able to see a “white object” through her wounds.

The seized cocaine has a street value of at least $80,000.

I imagine the payoff for being a drug mule was completing the boob job. Nothing much positive I can say about the risk, the cargo or the “reward”.

Do you plan on living to be 1,000 years old?

On which problems should we focus research in medicine and the biological sciences? There is a strong argument for tackling the diseases that kill the most people – diseases like malaria, measles, and diarrhea, which kill millions in developing countries, but very few in the developed world.

Developed countries, however, devote most of their research funds to the diseases from which their citizens suffer, and that seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Given that constraint, which medical breakthrough would do the most to improve our lives..?

In developed countries, aging is the ultimate cause of 90% of all human deaths; thus, treating aging is a form of preventive medicine for all of the diseases of old age. Moreover, even before aging leads to our death, it reduces our capacity to enjoy our own lives and to contribute positively to the lives of others. So, instead of targeting specific diseases that are much more likely to occur when people have reached a certain age, wouldn’t a better strategy be to attempt to forestall or repair the damage done to our bodies by the aging process?

Aubrey De Grey believes that even modest progress in this area over the coming decade could lead to a dramatic extension of the human lifespan. All we need to do is reach what he calls “longevity escape velocity” – that is, the point at which we can extend life sufficiently to allow time for further scientific progress to permit additional extensions, and thus further progress and greater longevity. Speaking recently at Princeton University, de Grey said: “We don’t know how old the first person who will live to 150 is today, but the first person to live to 1,000 is almost certainly less than 20 years younger…”

We still need to pose the ethical question: Are we being selfish in seeking to extend our lives so dramatically? And, if we succeed, will the outcome be good for some but unfair to others?

People in rich countries already can expect to live about 30 years longer than people in the poorest countries. If we discover how to slow aging, we might have a world in which the poor majority must face death at a time when members of the rich minority are only one-tenth of the way through their expected lifespans.

No doubt De Grey has interesting conversations with Ray Kurzweil. Peter Singer does a nice job of masking his own position on the questions he asks of De Grey. And he offers each of us a chance to scratch that particular curiosity itch on our own.

Regular readers of this blog know my answer – no doubt. Go for it!

Read the label – are you drinking brominated vegetable oil?

Sarah Kavanagh and her little brother were looking forward to the bottles of Gatorade they had put in the refrigerator after playing outdoors one hot, humid afternoon last month in Hattiesburg, Miss.

But before she took a sip, Sarah, a dedicated vegetarian, did what she often does and checked the label to make sure no animal products were in the drink. One ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, caught her eye.

“I knew it probably wasn’t from an animal because it had vegetable in the name, but I still wanted to know what it was, so I Googled it,” Ms. Kavanagh said. “A page popped up with a long list of possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones. I didn’t expect that.”

She threw the product away and started a petition on Change.org, an online petition platform, that has almost 200,000 signatures. Ms. Kavanagh, 15, hopes her campaign will persuade PepsiCo, Gatorade’s maker, to consider changing the drink’s formulation.

Jeff Dahncke, a spokesman for PepsiCo, noted that brominated vegetable oil had been deemed safe for consumption by federal regulators. “As standard practice, we blah, blah, blah

In fact, about 10 percent of drinks sold in the United States contain brominated vegetable oil, including Mountain Dew, also made by PepsiCo; Powerade, Fanta Orange and Fresca from Coca-Cola; and Squirt and Sunkist Peach Soda, made by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group…

Use of the substance in the United States has been debated for more than three decades, so Ms. Kavanagh’s campaign most likely is quixotic. But the European Union has long banned the substance from foods, requiring use of other ingredients. Japan recently moved to do the same.

“B.V.O. is banned other places in the world, so these companies already have a replacement for it,” Ms. Kavanagh said. “I don’t see why they don’t just make the switch.” To that, companies say the switch would be too costly…

Brominated vegetable oil contains bromine, the element found in brominated flame retardants, used in things like upholstered furniture and children’s products. Research has found brominate flame retardants building up in the body and breast milk, and animal and some human studies have linked them to neurological impairment, reduced fertility, changes in thyroid hormones and puberty at an earlier age…

Its use in foods dates to the 1930s, well before Congress amended the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to add regulation of new food additives to the responsibilities of the Food and Drug Administration. But Congress exempted two groups of additives, those already sanctioned by the F.D.A. or the Department of Agriculture, or those experts deemed “generally recognized as safe.”

The second exemption created what Tom Neltner…calls “the loophole that swallowed the law.” A company can create a new additive, publish safety data about it on its Web site and pay a law firm or consulting firm to vet it to establish it as “generally recognized as safe” — without ever notifying the F.D.A…

RTFA. You’ll love reacting to the history of not testing – and then meagerly testing – and then skipping any follow-up testing on BVO. The sort of “you scratch my back” good old boy relationship enjoyed by corporations producing manufactured food – and the government bodies supposedly in place to provide regulation and oversight.