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  • RuralRebel 11:33 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Carp   

    Carp madness in Kentucky??? 

    Kentucky Officials Hopes to Thin Out Carp Population With Carp Madness Tournament

    Credit Fg2 / Wikimedia Commons

    The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife is tackling the state’s growing problem with Asian carp in a new way: pitting fishermen against each other in a contest to catch the most of the invasive species.

    It’s called Carp Madness. For two days next month, teams of commercial fishermen will descend on two Western Kentucky lakes and fill their boats with pounds of Asian Carp. First prize for the most pounds of carp is $10,000.

    Asian carp are an invasive species that have spread throughout rivers and lakes in the Midwest and often out-compete native species for resources. Once they’ve established themselves in an ecosystem, they’re nearly impossible to eradicate.

    Fisheries Director Ron Brooks says this is a good way to show commercial fishermen there is a market for the troublesome carp. 

    “The only people who can take out enough of them to make a difference is the commercial industry,” he said. “But if they don’t have the impetus to go after these fish then it doesn’t really matter.”

    State officials hope that events like Carp Madness will help thin out the carp population. Another possible solution is convincing Kentucky chefs to include carp on their menus as a local delicacy—wildlife officials say it’s tastier than catfish.

    If you haven’t seen a video of Asian carp jumping yet, this one’s a good one. But note: during Carp Madness, fishermen will be using nets, not cross bows.


  • RuralRebel 11:21 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Judd, ,   

    NPR and WFPL going full bore to defeat McConnell should tell us something! 

    Gov. Beshear, Ashley Judd to Meet Soon to Discuss 2014 U.S. Senate Race

    Ashley Judd—the actress and potential Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate—will meet soon to with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss the 2014 election, the governor said.

    Judd has been meeting with potential donors and supporters in the past several weeks, including some in Louisville, the Hill reports.

    For months, the Kentucky native hasflirted with running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.  Beshear and Judd previously spoke at the Bluegrass Ball during the presidential inauguration, the governor said.

    “She’s been trying to arrange and will be arranging more conversations here in the next month or so,” Beshear said on Thursday.

    Despite that potential meeting, Beshear said he’s not yet endorsing anyone in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, but did say he thought Judd would be a strong candidate.

    “Well there are a number of people that are still talking about running for the U.S. Senate. And I think she would be a very serious candidate and I think there are others that would be also. But you know I’m going to encourage as many as possible to take a look at it and hopefully we can come up with the best candidate,” Beshear said.

    Other potential candidates on the Democratic side include Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Owensboro carpenter Ed Marksberry has already filed to run as a Democrat in the race.

    Other Democratic Kentucky officeholders, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Auditor Adam Edelen, have been lukewarm to a Judd candidacy.

    There are also Tea Party groups who are recruiting candidates against McConnell in 2014.

    Isay..This last sentence  is how the Left works…drop a subtle little note …which has no basis in fact….but plant the idea anyways…try to divide



  • RuralRebel 11:00 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    I hope someone is compiling all this 2012 voter fraud…. 

    Elections Bureaucrats Ran Amok

    Posted on February 19, 2013 by Susan Myrick in Elections & Voting

    In a blatantly partisan move, the staff of the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) successfully subverted state law to facilitate online voter registration in North Carolina by the 2012 Barack Obama campaign. In doing so they coordinated with partisans behind closed doors, lied about the NC Attorney General’s Office concurring with the SBE staff on the issue, and dodged oversight by their own board and the legislature. The end result was to add thousands of people to the North Carolina voter rolls illegally.

    The SBE staff’s audacity is so breath-taking that it’s hard to believe, so let us emphasize:  The Civitas Institute has documented how SBE bureaucrats conspired with a private company, working for the Obama campaign[i], to facilitate a form of online voter registration for the 2012 General Election – in violation of state law. It’s a classic example of how bureaucrats ignore the democratic process and hijack an agency for partisan purposes.

    Breaking the Law

    Civitas initiated a series of public records requests to uncover this scheme concerning online registration in defiance of state law.

    NCGS 163-82.6(b) clearly states that the only form where an electronically captured signature can be used is one offered by a state agency:

    NCGS 163-82.6 (b) Signature – The form shall be valid only if signed by the applicant. An electronically captured image of the signature of a voter on an electronic voter registration form offered by a State agency shall be considered a valid signature for all purposes for which a signature on a paper voter registration form is used. [Emphasis added]

    The major use for this is for voter registration when people get their drivers licenses.

    Yet the SBE staff set in motion a scheme that in the last two months of the election resulted in more than 11,000 people being allowed to register online. Civitas has confirmed this by a public records request to all 100 counties and is still compiling the total number of registrations as counties comply with the request. Thus far, 68 percent of the registrations we have received were Democratic voters, 10 percent were Republican voters and 21 percent from unaffiliated voters.

    Don Wright, SBE General Counsel, played word games when answering inquires about the Obama campaign’s own re-election site Gottaregister.com, which utilized the technology that SBE staff approved.  Wright repeatedly denied that the SBE allowed online voter registration, insisting that it was “web-based voter registration”[ii] instead, as if there could be a “web-based” process that wasn’t online.

    The technology from Allpoint Voter Services uses remote-control pens to transmit “signatures” over the Internet, according to techpresident.com[iii]. After entering voter information in an online form, the citizen “signs” it with a stylus or a finger. The Allpoint technology records the signature and then transmits it to one of two autopens – one in California, the other in Nevada[iv]. One of the pens transcribes the signature on to a paper voter registration form. Allpoint then mails the documents to local election boards – or is supposed to, a point we’ll come back to.

    To say this is not “online” registration but “web-based” is like saying a certain vehicle is not a car, it’s an automobile. The point of having a “wet signature” – one in ink – is to provide a universally accepted way proving that a prospective voter is affirming in person all the facts on the form. To have an auto pen inserted at one point in this long computerized process is a far different thing. Even the Obama campaign called it online voter registration. Because, no matter how you twist words around, that’s what it is.

    North Carolina law does not authorize any kind of online voter registration, however “wet” or “web-based” it might be. Neither the term “wet signatures” nor the phrase “reduced to paper” appear in the NC General Statutes. The term “wet signature[v]” was put in use in the context of elections by Allpoint Voter Services promoting the product it was providing to the Obama campaign. “Wet signature” is a term that Wright returns to often, even in the legal opinion he authored to support the staff decision.

    Following the Paper Trail


    Click the image above for a larger version.

    The scheme appears to go back at least three years, beginning with cautious probes into the topic. The oldest document found pertaining to online voter registration was uncovered in a previous, unrelated Civitas records request to the SBE.  It is a letter to Attorney General Roy Cooper[vi] from Gary Bartlett, Executive Director of the SBE, dated September 11, 2009, formally requesting an advisory opinion of the “effect NCGS 66-311 Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) upon possible electronic voter registration.”  That in itself is a bit odd, as UETA is the state law governing commercial transactions in general, and is in a totally different section of the state’s legal code from the election laws. Bartlett asked specifically whether UETA would make it permissible for a county board of elections to accept an electronically submitted voter registration application that has been electronically signed. Bartlett also asked the AG if voter registration is outside the scope of UETA.

    Since we did not have a reply to Bartlett’s request, we submitted a records request on January 16, 2013, to the Attorney General’s Office. In answer to our request, Special Deputy Attorney General Susan Nichols informed Civitas that Bartlett orally withdrew the written request in question before a response was prepared.

    The next documents[vii] in the timeline can be attributed to the Attorney General’s Office also. Nichols forwarded to Civitas a string of emails dated April 12 – 13, 2010. The emails were a conversation between Nichols and David Becker, Director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States. Nichols, on behalf of Gary Bartlett, was seeking contact with other states that had adopted UETA.  Bartlett wanted to know if the other states chose to also adopt new legislation to facilitate electronic voter registration. Yet why would Bartlett need the AG’s Office to be the go-between? Did he want to keep his profile low?

    This inquiry into UETA also appeared to die after an email from Becker to Ms. Nichols. He included a list of states that had passed some form of online voter registration: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

    We could surmise from these two tentative inquiries that the SBE was hoping UETA would supersede NCGS 163-82.6, the only North Carolina election statute that speaks to the use of electronic voter registrations.  We might also suspect that the conversation stopped abruptly with both these inquiries because the SBE could not risk a written decision that would prevent it from forging ahead with its online voter registration scheme.

    Party Politics

    The SBE staff’s following move shows their deep collaboration with Obama allies. The next document pertaining to online voter registration was dated more than a year later, on August 23, 2011. Gary Bartlett was forwarded an email from Veronica Degraffenreid[viii], SBE Elections Liaison, with the link to consulting firm Catapult Strategies, specifically the page that introduces Jude Barry. Barry is Catapult’s CEO and co-founder and is co-founder of Verafirma and Allpoint Strategies.

    Jude Barry’s political credentials would be considered stellar in Democratic/liberal circles. According to the Catapult site; “In December 2006, he created the Obama for America Draft Committee, the first political committee to raise thousands of dollars online to encourage then-Senator Obama to run for the Presidency.” The Catapult website elaborates on Barry’s political accomplishments[ix] by noting that he began his career in politics as Senator Edward Kennedy’s press aide and later deputy political director. He also worked on presidential bids by liberal Democrats Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt and Howard Dean.

    The next day, August 24, 2011, Peter Allen, Lead Organizer for Verafirma, contacted Gary Bartlett by email[x]in reference to a phone call he had with the SBE staff. Note that Allen is also an Associate on the Catapult Strategies team.

    Catapult Strategies, Inc. describes itself as “a Silicon Valley-based social media, public relations, and political consulting firm with strong ties to and extensive knowledge of Silicon Valley business and political communities.”  Verafirma is a technology company whose projects include the use of electronic signatures for politics. The firm is featured on Catapult Strategies’ website as a “related company.”

    On the Catapult site, Allen’s bio refers[xi] to Democratic connections too, “Peter has dedicated the past few years developing a rich understanding of online social media tools and how they can be used to empower and mobilize people on behalf of a candidate or cause. He saw this potential come to fruition as an organizer on Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential campaign ….” Allen was on the Obama campaign’s payroll in May 2008.

    It is important to note that in a September 26, 2012 email to Civitas[xii], Don Wright insisted that the SBE had not been contacted by any campaign, candidate, legislator, or political party.  That looks like another word game. Catapult Strategies could easily pass for the outreach and new media wings of the Obama Campaign.

    There’s a money trail too: from October 2, 2012 to October 24, 2012, according to Federal Elections Commission data, there were 12 separate payments from the Obama campaign to Allpoint Voter Services, Inc. (See table below.)

    Moreover, the number of payments raises another question.  That is, there isn’t a single fee or two, but a series of fees of varying sizes as Allpoint collected signatures. Was the Obama campaign paying Allpoint Voter Services for each registration collected? Doing so would be a violation of NCGS 163‑82.6 (a) (2), which states “To sell or attempt to sell a completed voter registration form or to condition its delivery upon payment” is a class 2 misdemeanor.

    SBE attorney Don Wright, in response to inquiries as to whether there was any discussion with Allpoint Voter Services in reference to payments for registrations, said that he had no direct contact with the company but Gary Bartlett, Veronica Degraffenreid and Marc Burris were the staff members who talked directly with the company. According to Wright, the company was never asked if they were being paid for each registration delivered.

    We do know that not all forms completed on the site were accepted. Some users were told to print and mail the form on their own. This shows that they were not intending to serve all citizens, but only ones that met a preselected criterion.

    After a few short emails over a matter of a few days, but without ever having talked to the company himself, Wright produced a legal opinion approving the Allpoint Voter Services voter registration technology in North Carolina. His opinion dated September 16, 2011 [xiii] claimed it was reviewed by the North Carolina Attorney’s General Office, which concurred in it. That statement is untrue (as you will see later), but since this appears to be an internal SBE staff document it went unchallenged at the time.

    On September 19, 2011, Bartlett forwarded Wright’s opinion to Peter Allen. The same day, Allen emailed back and asked for the point person they will be working with to make the SBE’s part “as painless as possible.” Bartlett responded that Degraffenreid and Burris would be the points of contact going forward.[xiv]

    Election Year Revelations

    A year went by without evidence of discussion about the new voter registration technology, however. No documents for the period from September 19, 2011 to September 11, 2012 were turned over as part of our public records request, almost a year of silence on this by the SBE staff.  This silence was broken with less than two months to go before the General Election.

    Betsy Meads, a former Pasquotank County BOE member, was the first person to ask about the online voter registration process. It was a happenstance that her son ran across the gottaregister.com website. The next day, September 11, 2012, Betsy Meads sent an email[xv] questioning Don Wright as to the legality of the President’s online voter registration site.  She wrote, “This is contrary to the Statute as I read it, and as I was just in Chapel Hill at training for local board members August 14th, I’m sure I didn’t hear anything about electronic registrations in NC being allowed.” The SBE held the Annual Training for Elections Officials onAugust 13-14, 2012.[xvi]

    On September 13, 2012, Wright delivered an answer to Meads – which was also the answer he gave later to Civitas and one other person who would ask the question about registering to vote online in North Carolina: “There is no online voter registration[xvii] allowed in North Carolina ….” He also forwarded Ms. Meads the legal opinion he had written in 2011 which stated that the North Carolina Attorney’s General Office had concurred in it.

    As previously referenced, the statement that the AG’s office had concurred is false. In an email I received from the Attorney General’s office, dated September 18, 2012, Susan Nichols informed Don Wright that she did notconcur[xviii] in that decision. In fact, before she had taken her post with the AG, the AG’s office ended the procedure of allowing attorneys to state they concur in an opinion they did not author.

    By the time Wright received Nichols’ email, revelations about the online registrations were breaking into the open.

    In what appeared to be a move to head off any problems at the local level, on September 18, 2012 the SBE notified the 100 counties to expect a new kind of voter registration. Veronica Degraffenreid sent the email to the County Directors[xix], explaining, describing and defending the new registrations. This email explanation went out just over a month after the SBE had election representatives from across the state at a training session in Chapel Hill – at which they never mentioned this new kind of registration.

    Her email went out a day after Gary Bartlett received an email from George Gilbert, Guilford County BOE Director, reporting that they had received “a good number of registration forms from Allpoint Voter Services.” Gilbert went on to say they contained signatures that were “immediately suspect.[xx]” The timing of the responses to Meads and to the counties raises the question of when, if ever, the state SBE would have brought the online registrations to the notice of the counties. Were SBE bureaucrats hoping no one would bring up the online registrations until after all the votes were certified?

    Subsequently other counties questioned these forms and offered some observations about problems with them. For example, the Duplin County BOE Director said, “The part we find the most questionable is the similarity of all the signatures ….” Rockingham County wrote, “The forms have info typed in and the signatures all resemble each other and it appears the envelope was addressed with the same marking pen.” Rockingham County also noted one signature did not match the voter’s registration with the DMV.

    There are many problems and questions about the decision that the SBE bureaucrats’ made in relation to registering to vote online. For instance, Betsy Meads used gottaregister.com to change her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated.  Once she “signed” her iPhone, she was informed that her registration would be forwarded to her local BOE. That didn’t happen: 36 hours later she received an email with a link to her registration.  She was told to print the form, sign it and then mail it to the SBE. Did the Obama Campaign prioritize registrations? Did they send some registrations directly to the elections board and decide that others could be sent to the voters?

    Perhaps most disturbing, the SBE staff apparently tried to keep this all from the view of the public and even county elections boards until mere weeks before the election, which raises the disturbing question of whether those involved were aiding a last-minute registration surge planned by the Obama campaign.

    This is not an isolated incident[xxi], but just one more example of how the SBE staff flouts the law, the legislature and their own board in order to further a partisan agenda. All North Carolina citizens should be aware of the importance of reforming the SBE so that it carries on its duties in a transparent manner, with full regard for the democratic process and in a way that instills trust in the North Carolina election system.


    cand_nm recipient_nm disb_amt disb_dt recipient_city disb_desc






































    [viii] August – September 2011 – SBE and Allpoint Voter Services communications

    [x] August, 2011 – Peter Allen emails

    [xiii] Don Wright’s legal opinion dated September 16, 2011 – Susan Nichols concurs

    This article was posted in Elections & Voting by Susan Myrick on February 19, 2013 at 4:21 PM.
  • RuralRebel 5:51 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Los Angeles, Skid Row, Tuberculosis   

    This is how the elites “protect” the homeless 

     Isay….The “know it all” elitist in our society have created this threat…they speak of  the homeless as simple transients.  They released many of these people onto the streets…with no protection…and they let their “buddies” start a Advocate group or a NGO to help them…by them…I mean the politicians….these groups are nothing more than another arm of the democrat party…a “get out the vote” organization! How humane is it to crowd a bunch of people, who can’t even take their medicines properly, into a shelter, or allow them to congregate together in one part of town? It is…”Out of site of the elitists…Out of mind”…..until of course, more dollars are needed….usually around vote time! Time to sue these people for malfeasance … KEEP THOSE BORDERS OPEN….DON”T DO TESTING…..to hell with the Legal citizens!

    Los Angeles asks for federal help with tuberculosis outbreak
    Published February 22, 2013
    The Wall Street Journal

    Los Angeles County health officials have asked federal officials for help to contain a worsening tuberculosis outbreak among the homeless in its downtown area.
    County health officials here have identified 78 cases of a particular strain of the highly contagious disease in the past five years, resulting in 11 deaths. Of those cases, 60 have been identified as homeless living around Skid Row, making it the “largest outbreak we’ve seen” among the city’s homeless population in a decade, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
    Dr. Fielding said as many as 4,500 homeless may have been exposed to the disease. Earlier this month, he asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send health officials to Los Angeles to help identify other possible victims. The move to turn to federal officials was first reported by the Los Angeles Times Thursday.
    A spokesman for the county’s health department said federal officials have agreed to help, but haven’t arrived in Los Angeles yet. A CDC spokeswoman deferred comment to Los Angeles officials, and was unable to comment further Thursday night.
    About 5,000 homeless live on Skid Row, a downtown area where thousands of the city’s homeless have gathered for years—and the city offers about 3,000 shelter beds, homeless aid workers said. Hundreds still sleep on city streets at night.
    Tuberculosis is most associated with developing countries. Most of L.A. county’s cases of the disease are brought in by foreign travelers, Dr. Fielding said. But L.A. county officials have been grappling with growing numbers of tuberculosis cases among the city’s homeless population for years.
    “Many people think that TB is something of the past. Unfortunately it’s not. This is a population at particular risk. We need to protect them,” Dr. Fielding said.
    Health officials said the outbreak isn’t cause for alarm across the entire city, since it is confined to a specific area. The outbreak among the homeless comes as cases of tuberculosis have actually declined among the general population countywide—from 816 cases in 2007 to 625 in 2012.
    But the outbreak is disturbing because homeless people are especially vulnerable, because of the conditions in which they live. As a transient population, they are less likely to get treatment and more likely to spread the disease to others in shelters or on the street, health officials said.
    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/02/22/los-angeles-asks-for-federal-help-with-tuberculosis-outbreak/?intcmp=HPBucket#ixzz2LeOhcB8H


  • RuralRebel 4:55 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Isay….Look what we got for One billion dollars….Can you imagine what it will cost to get a GOOD DECENT PRESIDENT?
  • RuralRebel 4:19 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: unemployment   

    Abbott and Costello 2013….and unemployment 

    Abbott and Costello explain the unemployment rate!

    COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.

    ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 7.9%.

    COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.

    COSTELLO: You just said 7.9%.

    ABBOTT: 7.9% Unemployed.

    COSTELLO: Right 7.9% out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.

    COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 14.7% unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 7.9%.

    COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 7.9% or 14.7%?

    ABBOTT: 7.8% are unemployed. 14.7% are out of work.

    COSTELLO: IF you are out of work you are unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, Obama said you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.


    ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.

    COSTELLO: What point?

    ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.

    COSTELLO: Fair to who?

    ABBOTT: The unemployed.

    COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment roles that would count as less unemployment?

    ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down.

    COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?

    ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how the current administration gets it to 7.9%. Otherwise it would be 14.7%. Our govt. doesn’t want you to read about 14.7% unemployment.

    COSTELLO: That would be tough on those running for reelection.

    ABBOTT: Absolutely.

    COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

    ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

    COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

    ABBOTT: Correct.

    COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

    ABBOTT: Bingo.

    COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to have administration supporters stop looking for work.

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like the Economy Czar.

    COSTELLO: I don’t even know what the h— I just said!

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like our current President!

    Found @ The Political Commentator (http://s.tt/1A5bt)

  • RuralRebel 2:39 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Wildlife Officials Warn Hunters Of Deadly Rabbit Fever in NC 


    RALEIGH, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) – Officials with both the North Carolina Division of Public Health and the Wildlife Commission are urging hunters to be wary about rabbit fever after two hunters contracted it this month.
    Their warning, reported by the Wilson Times, comes just before the end of rabbit hunting season on Feb. 28.
    The disease, tularemia, is a rare and possibly fatal affliction that has already affected two members of a hunting party in the state recently – and has led to a confirmed 17 cases overall since 1999.
    “It can make you very, very sick,” Marilyn Haskel, a veterinarian and epidemiologist with the DPH, told the paper. “We want hunters to know you can get very sick and the rabbit can appear very normal.”
    Symptoms reportedly include ulcers, swollen lymph glands, or even pneumonia, in addition to other ailments.
    Hunters could be exposed to tularemia through tick bites and handling infected bodies of killed rabbits. Eating tainted food could also lead to an infection, the Times is reporting.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, tularemia could also play a part in chemical and biological warfare.
    The CDC noted, according to the paper, “If [the bacteria] were used as a bioweapon, the bacteria would likely be made airborne so they could be inhaled.”

    This news link <a href="http://tiny.iavian.net/p1p&quot;

    • Jacob 4:38 am on March 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I was just talking about “rabbit fever” in a blog posting of mine. Check out my posting and let me know if you think my information is accurate. If it’s not, post more information on Tularemia because I’m just getting into hunting myself and I want to understand all that I can.

      Here’s my site: http://www.listinglists.com/rabbit-hunting-tips/

    • RHI 8:34 am on April 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      More attention should be paid when dealing with such animals. Handling them should be done in a cautious manner and hunters should avoid being bitten. This rabbit will spread the disease and will prove impossible to eat.

  • RuralRebel 2:25 pm on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Why your boss is dumping your wife 

    By Jen Wieczner

    Companies have a new solution to rising health-insurance costs: Break up their employees’ marriages.
    By denying coverage to spouses, employers not only save the annual premiums, but also the new fees that went into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act. This year, companies have to pay $1 or $2 “per life” covered on their plans, a sum that jumps to $65 in 2014. And health law guidelines proposed recently mandate coverage of employees’ dependent children (up to age 26), but husbands and wives are optional. “The question about whether it’s obligatory to cover the family of the employee is being thought through more than ever before,” says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. See: When your boss doesn’t trust your doctor.

    While surcharges for spousal coverage are more common, last year, 6% of large employers excluded spouses, up from 5% in 2010, as did 4% of huge companies with at least 20,000 employees, twice as many as in 2010, according to human resources firm Mercer. These “spousal carve-outs,” or “working spouse provisions,” generally prohibit only people who could get coverage through their own job from enrolling in their spouse’s plan.
    Such exclusions barely existed three years ago, but experts expect an increasing number of employers to adopt them: “That’s the next step,” Darling says. HMS, a company that audits plans for employers, estimates that nearly a third of companies might have such policies now. Holdouts say they feel under pressure to follow suit. “We’re the last domino,” says Duke Bennett, mayor of Terre Haute, Ind., which is instituting a spousal carve-out for the city’s health plan, effective July 2013, after nearly all major employers in the area dropped spouses.
    But when employers drop spouses, they often lose more than just the one individual, when couples choose instead to seek coverage together under the other partner’s employer. Terre Haute, which pays $6 million annually to insure nearly 1,200 people including employees and their family members, received more than 20 new plan members when a local university, bank and county government stopped insuring spouses, according to Bennett. “We have a great plan, so they want to be on ours. All we’re trying to do is level the playing field here,” he says.
    While couples generally prefer to be on the same health plan, companies often find that spouses are more expensive to insure than their own employees. That’s because, say benefits experts, covered spouses tend to be women, who as a group not only spend more on health care, but also have more free time to go to the doctor if they don’t work. Indeed, JetBlue’s covered spouses cost 50% more than crewmembers themselves, according to the airline’s online Q&A about its health plan, which this year extended wellness incentives to spouses for the first time. 
    Obama health law contraception opt-out proposed
    Any change would be aimed at alleviating concerns of the Catholic church.
    About a fifth of companies had policies to discourage spouses from joining their health plan in 2012, according to Mercer, though most just charged extra—$100 a month, on average—to cover spouses who could get insurance elsewhere, rather than deny coverage entirely. Indeed, large firms including generics maker Teva and supply chain manager Intermec have spousal surcharges costing $100 a month, or $1,200 annually, while Xerox charges $1,000 for the year. See: 10 things your office won’t say.

    But experts say more firms are likely to drop spouses altogether, whether they work or not—especially when the new federal health-care exchanges open in 2014, providing an alternative for spouses left out in the cold. “When there’s a place for people to go, employers won’t feel as beholden or compelled to cover the spouse,” says Joan Smyth, an employee benefits consultant with Mercer.
    Firms that recently decided to drop spouses from their plans range from private insurance agencies to school systems and universities like Ball State, as well as large companies like pump and valve manufacturer Flowserve. Wisconsin-based furniture company KI carved out spouses this year when couples flocked to its plan for the first time during open enrollment. “Now, each employer is responsible for its own employee,” says Timothy Van Severen, corporate risk manager for KI, which insures about 1,700 employees in its health plan. “We were going to see a higher claim cost if we didn’t do that, because of the migration coming back to us.”
    Some companies drive spouses away using other tactics, such as making spousal coverage prohibitively expensive through higher surcharges or by making reimbursement rates so low that spouses can’t afford the plans. The share of employers who allow spouses in their plan but don’t pay for any part of it rose from zero to 3% this year, according to human resources consulting firm Towers Watson. Northrop Grumman, the large security firm, will cover spouses who can get insurance through their own employers, but only if they first enroll in their own plan, and use Northrop’s as secondary coverage. (Some companies actually pay spouses an incentive if they enroll in their own plan, though insurance experts say the incentive is a waste of money—and that employers would do better by just cutting spouses off.) “You’re making it kind of a no-brainer for the other adult dependent to get on his or her own plan,” says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. “No one wants to be just a dependent magnet.”
    But like any breakup, the separation of spouses into different health plans can be traumatic for families. Greg Fischer, a vice president in the employer solutions division at HMS, says demand has increased for the company’s dependent audits, which have revealed that 3% of spouses are ineligible for the health plans, either because of plan rules or divorce and legal marriage issues. The news can be upsetting to couples when one partner is forced to pay more for coverage or accept lesser benefits: One spouse may even have to stop seeing the family doctor if his or her new plan stipulates a different set of providers. “I think that’s where the pain point comes in for the employee—that their spouse may have to be covered under a different plan, or their benefits might be reduced,” Fischer says.
    Couples then have to decide whether to stick together, even if it means losing benefits, or to split up so at least one spouse maintains coverage. If they separate, they may also have to choose which plan to insure the kids under, or whether to use different plans for each. “It certainly makes the family unit have to do some real soul-searching and figure out what works best for them,” says Karen McLeese, vice president of employee regulatory affairs for CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services. The decision, she adds, will likely come down to dollars and cents.
    For their part, employers say they try to educate employees on their options well in advance of the change, and health plans or insurance brokers sometimes step in to guide people through the transition and help them find doctors in their new network. In announcing its spousal carve-out, Ball State University, for one, warned employees to prepare “since this is a potentially life-changing event.” The university employee benefits staff worked with spouses and their employers to guide them through the transition onto their own plan, and have even allowed some spouses with “uncooperative” companies to stay on “until the conflict is resolved,” says Joan Todd, a spokeswoman for the university. “We wanted to be very careful that no spouse would lose coverage before they could be placed on their own employer’s plan.”


  • RuralRebel 12:48 am on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: flu vaccine, seniors   

    Only 9% of seniors were protected with Flu shot! 

    Flu vaccine protected barely HALF of Americans who got it… and only 9% of seniors
    PUBLISHED: 18:01 EST, 21 February 2013 | UPDATED: 18:16 EST, 21 February 2013

    The flu vaccine protected just 56 percent of Americans who received it and completely failed to shield the elderly against the most deadly strain of the virus, the U.S. government announced today.
    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the findings underscore the need for more effective weapons in the fight against influenza, which kills between 3,000 to 50,000 people a year, depending on the severity of the flu season.
    ‘We simply need a better vaccine against influenza, one that works better and lasts longer,’ CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden said in a statement Thursday.

    Ineffective: Only nine percent of vaccinated seniors were protected against the deadliest strain of the flu virus
    Experts generally estimate the effectiveness of flu vaccines to be between 50 percent and 70 percent, but this vaccine appears to have fallen on the low side of that range.
    The vaccine did cut the risk of medical visits caused by either influenza A or influenza B by 56 percent, according to the study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
    It was more effective against influenza B, protecting 67 percent of those who were vaccinated, compared to the influenza A (H3N2) strain, which only protected 47 percent of those.
    The protective benefits of against influenza B were consistent across age groups. That was not the case with the influenza A (H3N2) component of the vaccine, which protected 46 percent to 58 percent of people aged 6 months to 64 years, but only 9 percent of those 65 and older.
    The estimates are based on studies of 2,697 children and adults enrolled in the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network during between December 3 and January 19. The CDC said those estimates may change by the end of the flu season, when more people have been sampled.
    Even so, the findings suggest that a large group of elderly people, who are consistently the most vulnerable to influenza, were completely unprotected during this year’s flu season.

    Not working: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it isn’t sure why the vaccine was less effective this year than it has been in the past
    One possible explanation may be that in older individuals, the immune system often produces a less robust immune response to vaccines, or to any infection.
    CDC experts suggested that poor immune response to the influenza A (H3N2) component of the vaccine may help explain why the elderly were not protected, but said the findings ‘should not discourage future vaccination by persons aged 65 years (or older), who are at greater risk for more severe cases and complications from influenza.’
    They stressed that flu vaccines remain the best preventive tool available, noting that effectiveness has been known to vary based on a number of factors including virus type, age, the particular flu season and variations in an individual’s immunity.
    ‘Although it’s far from perfect, flu vaccination is by far the best tool we have to protect from flu,’ Frieden said.
    Frieden said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as pharmaceutical companies are working to produce better vaccines. Efforts include the use of genetic engineering to develop more potent and more modern flu vaccines, with the hope of ultimately developing a universal flu vaccine that could protect against all strains of flu. Experts predict that could be possible within eight to 10 years.
    ‘It’s going to be hard but it’s well worth the effort,’ Frieden said.

    Research and development: Drug companies are working on more advanced versions of the flu vaccine, including the first gene-based vaccine
    Already there are signs of change. In November, the Swiss drugmaker Novartis won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for Flucelvax, a seasonal flu vaccine grown in animal cell cultures instead of live chicken eggs, a speedier and more reliable process that could help build stockpiles in the event of a pandemic.
    In December, GlaxoSmithKline won FDA approval for a new seasonal flu shot called Fluarix that protects against four strains of seasonal flu instead of three. The announcement followed the approval last February of AstraZeneca’s four-strain flu nasal spray made by the company’s MedImmune unit. Current vaccines tackled two A strains and one B strain. The quadravalent vaccines will add an additional B strain.
    Last month, the FDA approved the first gene-based flu vaccine by privately held Protein Sciences Corp, which uses genetic engineering to grow portions of the virus in insect cells.
    ‘What we’re looking at is really incremental improvements, because if we could make the breakthrough improvements easily it would have happened already,’ Dr. Leonard Friedland, vice president of clinical and medical affairs for vaccines in North America at GlaxoSmithKline, said in a recent interview.
    Glaxo’s quadravalent vaccine is the first inactivated flu shot to include four instead of three strains of flu.
    ‘It was just licensed and will be available for next season,’ Friedland said, noting that flu vaccine giant Sanofi is also in the process of having their inactivated quadravalent flu vaccine approved.
    AstraZeneca’s FluMist, a live, attenuated or weakened flu vaccine, will also have a four-strain version available for next flu season.
    Dr. Chris Ambrose, a vice president at AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit, said the company plans to completely switch to the four-strain version of Flumist.
    Sanofi Spokeswoman Donna Cary said the company has produced flu vaccines for specific age groups, including a high dose vaccine designed to produce a greater immune response in the elderly.
    ‘The next step for the future is to get to the point where we don’t need to develop a new vaccine every year,’ Cary said. ‘The main thing we are all looking forward to is the universal vaccine.’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2282543/Flu-vaccine-protected-barely-HALF-Americans-got–percent-seniors.html#ixzz2LaI9JeFd
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

  • RuralRebel 12:35 am on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bankers, BBC news, imbalances   

    Stock markets fall after US Fed comments 

    21 February 2013 Last updated at 17:18 ET 
    Stock markets fall after US Fed comments

    Marketwatch ticker DATA DELAYED BY 15 MINS
    Global stock markets have fallen after some members of the US central bank suggested its stimulus measures may be increasing the “risks of future economic and financial imbalances”.

    The comments came in minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting, where the Fed said it had left its monthly $85bn bond-buying plan in place.

    US markets fell further on Thursday after recording their biggest drop so far this year on Wednesday.

    European markets all closed down.

    Bubble bursts
    The Fed comments have raised expectations that the US central bank may scale back its bond-buying programme earlier than predicted.

    Currently, the Fed is carrying out its plan of buying $85bn of bonds a month until the US jobs market sees a substantial improvement.

    By buying bonds, the Fed keeps interest rates low, which keeps the cost of borrowing for mortgages and other loans low.

    However, the minutes of the Fed’s meeting in January showed that some members were concerned that the bond-buying programmes could push up inflation or could “foster market behaviour that could undermine financial stability”.

    The minutes said that “a number of participants” commented that an ongoing review of the effectiveness of the bond programme “might well lead the committee to taper or end its purchases before it judged that a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labour market had occurred”.

    Continue reading the main story
    US Dollar v Euro
    LAST UPDATED AT 21 FEB 2013, 19:26 ET 

    The bond-buying programme has been cited as a major reason for the rise in share prices in recent weeks, so signs of a premature end have hit stocks.

    “US liquidity concerns following the Fed minutes looks like the pin which will burst the recent bubble in equities,” said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index lost 108.13 points on Wednesday, and shed a further 46.92 points on Thursday to close at 13,880.62.

    In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 159.15 points, or 1.4%, to 11,309.13, while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng index closed down 400.74 points, or 1.7%, at 22,906.67.

    European markets all fell, with London’s FTSE 100 closing down 1.6% at 6,291.54 and the Cac 40 in Paris falling 2.3% to 3,624.80.

    The dollar rose 0.5% against the euro on Thursday, with one euro buying $1.3206.

    While the dollar had been boosted by the Fed minutes, the euro was also hit by the latest survey of the eurozone region which suggested the downturn in the region’s businesses had worsened.

    The latest eurozone purchasing managers’ index (PMI), compiled by research firm Markit, fell to 47.3 this month, down from 48.6 in January. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

    The figure was the lowest reading for two months and appeared to dash hopes that the eurozone’s economy would show signs of revival.

    It also indicated a growing divergence between Germany and France, with output rising in Germany but declining at an increasing pace in France.


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