Weird Science 06-30-10
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Editor, The Konformist
Mercury Dental Fillings: What the FDA and the ADA are not Telling You
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Aaron Turpen, citizen journalist
(NaturalNews) Many in the natural health and wellness community were elated when, in 2008, the FDA reluctantly declared mercury-based fillings (usually called "amalgams" or "silver") to have neurotoxic effects on children. Then the Food and Drug Administration reversed itself a year later, when it declared that mercury fillings were A-OK. The FDA`s opinion doesn't change the science behind mercury fillings and their link to debilitating diseases like autism and Alzheimer`s.
In 2009, several petitioners asked the FDA to reconsider their stance on mercury fillings, reversing their stance back to their original assessment of toxicity. Signing petitioners included Moms Against Mercury and several individuals holding various positions in the medical and health care industry as well as private citizens, all through the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT).
They cite the FDA`s use of an "ill-defined and unsubstantiated estimate of absorbed mercury exposure from dental amalgam of 1 to 5 [micrograms]/day that supposedly relates to the presence of between 7 and 10 amalgam fillings." The petition shows that the FDA's conclusions from that report were wrong and that further conclusions taken from another World Health Organization (WHO) report were also mis-represented in the FDA`s findings.
It is well-documented that amalgam fillings give off mercury vapors, even after decades of service as a cavity filling. A video of mercury vapor being given off of an extracted tooth when it is submitted to water at about the same heat level of a cup of coffee or tea shows that mercury fillings are toxic for a very long time.
In fact, many dentists, while they understand the dangers of an amalgam spill in their office, are unaware that they and their staff are exposed to mercury vapors and potential poisoning every time they handle both the fillings they're putting into teeth and the mouths of patients who already have them. The extraction and disposal of existing mercury fillings has been linked to at least one patient who developed Parkinson's Disease and became wheelchair bound.
Another study involving 9 velvet monkeys was conducted in Denmark. In that study, three of the monkeys were given amalgam fillings, three were given amalgam bone implants, and three were left untouched as controls. A year later, tissues in the monkeys showed that the fillings deposited mercury in several organs, including the spinal ganglia, adrenal, liver, pituitary, kidneys, and more. The monkeys in the control group had only trace amounts of mercury in their bodies.
Mercury has been linked to several neurological disorders including Alzheimer`s, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson`s Disease, and others. Other studies have been done into the links between mercury and other heavy metals and their reactive properties with one another.
In future articles here on NaturalNews, this citizen journalist will be exploring those other mercury-metal links and sources such as Thimerosal, fish, dentistry, and more.
The Future of Green Architecture: A Floating Museum
Physalia is half-boat, half-building, and all green. This mammoth aluminum concept by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut is meant to travel Europe's rivers, making filthy water drinkable. At the same time, the ship generates more energy than it uses.
A coat of titanium dioxide paint brushed onto the silvery shell will neutralize pollution by absorbing ultraviolet rays, enabling a chemical reaction that decomposes organic and inorganic toxins. (It's the same technology used in certain high-tech concrete that breaks down airborne particulates.) As the vessel whips along, purifying waterways, it can draw on both solar and hydro power. Turbines under the hull transform water movement into electricity, and rooftop photovoltaic cells harness energy from the sun. The roof doubles as a nursery, whose carefully selected plants help filter river gunk, whether from the Thames, Rhine or Euphrates.
But Physalia isn't just designed to be a working ship. The vessel will also be a floating museum of sorts. Scientists who study aquatic ecosystems can hole up in the dedicated "Earth garden" lab, and tourists can visit temporary exhibits in a "water garden" or settle into a submerged lounge that could easily pass for a London nightclub. Callebaut, 33, dreamed up the idea after last year's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen shone a long-overdue spotlight on global water issues. He has some lofty terms for his project: It's a "nomadic hydrodynamic laboratory," a "fragment of living earth," and a "floating agora" on a "geopolitical scale." Others might just call it a cool idea.
Google 'Newspass' to save the newspaper industry?
June 19, 2010
According to a report from Italy, Google plans to release a micro-payment system that will link to paid newspaper content directly from search results.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica is reporting that Google has been contacting Italian newspapers (wonder how they found out?!) about a new service called 'Newspass' which will be released later this year. Newspass will provide news organizations with micro-payments for direct links to their properties from Google News. The move is likely in response to an Italian publishers organization/antitrust authority who is reviewing Google's relationship with the newspaper industry. However, the move could have implications on the global newspaper industry.
Here's how the system would work: When users do a Google News search, they will receive both paid and unpaid results. If users choose to click on the paid results (which will denote the cost), they will be charged a fee through Google Checkout. If they refuse payment (or don't have/want to have Google checkout) they won't be able to see the content.
Google will share the analytics information with the site owners so that they know how successful (or unsuccessful) the program is.
According to the paper, the service is set to roll out later this year and may find its way into other markets. In future iterations, Newspass will adapt to any payment method chosen by the owners of the sites including micro-payments or various subscription models.
Henrique de Castro, a Google vice president, said in a translated statement, "Google wants to be partners, not competitors, with the Newspaper industry."
Coalition urges FCC to block proposed merger of Comcast-NBC
A coalition of media companies, unions and nonprofits is urging the Federal Communications Commission to block the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.
The coalition, made up of organizations including media giant Bloomberg, the Writers Guild of America, West and advocacy groups like Free Press and Media Access Project, wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Monday voicing their opposition to the proposed merger of Comcast and NBC-Universal.
Monday is the last day for organizations to submit public comment to the FCC on the proposed merger, which would create a new $30 billion joint venture merging the Philadelphia cable giant's content division with NBC Universal's (NBCU) stable of television networks, film studios and theme parks. Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger, (R-Calif.), David Paterson, (D-N.Y.) and Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) have expressed support for the merger.
The groups argue the new entity would have unprecedented control over the country's media landscape, raising antitrust concerns.
"The proposed merger of Comcast and NBC-Universal is poised to fundamentally alter the landscape of the U.S. media market," the letter states. "We are a group of varied organizations with many specific concerns with this merger, but we have joined together because the threat of this merger to consumers is so great."
"As filed," it goes on, "we oppose this merger."
According to the letter, the new entity created by the merger would include the largest cable company, the largest residential broadband Internet service provider, the owner of one of the four national broadcast networks, several prominent local stations, cable networks and some of the most popular websites.
This would give the company "a degree of market power unrivaled in our nation's media history," the letter claims.
Comcast executive vice president for public policy David Cohen responded to criticism of the deal Monday afternoon in a lengthy blog post citing the numerous elected officials, advocacy groups and labor organizations that have endorsed the merger. He also indicated that many critics are motivated by business interests, not concern for consumers.
"It is important to keep in mind as you read the comments from opponents of this transaction that the businesses in which Comcast operates in today distribution, programming, online, high-speed Internet, and voice are all fiercely competitive," Cohen writes.
"Comcast and NBCU don't compete against each other in most segments of the market, so there is no new concentration. There are no cable systems involved in this deal, so Comcast's distribution platform will not grow."
"If the Comcast-NBC deal goes through, it would be one of the largest media mergers in a generation, leaving Americans with even higher cable bills and fewer diverse, independent choices on the dial," said Free Press President Josh Silver. "Approval of the deal would be business as usual in Washington, letting the largest companies have their way at the public's expense."
Silver said the deal is particularly bad for consumers in the 12 markets where Comcast is the leading cable and broadband Internet provider and NBC has a local TV station, including Washington, D.C. He also warned the deal could threaten the viability of online video sites like Hulu.com, claiming Comcast could prioritize its own online content in violation of the principle of net neutrality.
Sen. Herb Kohl, (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights, wrote to the FCC last month asking the commission to impose a host of conditions on the deal, including a promise from Comcast not to discriminate against content from other networks.
The full list of organizations that co-signed the letter follows:
Communications Workers of America
Media Access Project
The National Association of Independent Networks
The National Coalition of African-American Owned Media
National Consumers League
The Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies
National Telecommunications Cooperative Association
Writers Guild of America, West
Individuals see health insurance costs jump-report
Mon Jun 21, 2010
* Kaiser Family survey looks at those who buy own coverage
* Future impact of health care reforms unclear
* Industry defends rate hikes, points to cost of care (Adds reaction, quotes, share movement)
WASHINGTON - U.S. health insurers are raising prices by an average of 20 percent for working age adults who buy their own policies, according to a survey released by a nonprofit healthcare group on Monday.
Such premium cost increases affected more than three-quarters of the 14 million U.S. adults who buy their own health plans and caused some to either seek a cheaper option with fewer benefits or switch insurers altogether, the Kaiser Family Foundation study showed.
The findings come as the Obama administration works with insurers to implement some of the new rules under the recently passed healthcare law, which aims to expand consumers' coverage while cracking down on discriminatory industry practices.
U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has blasted health insurance companies such as WellPoint Inc for their premium hikes in individual policies sold in California and other U.S. states.
"With people in the individual market being hit with average increases of 20 percent, the survey shows that the steep increases we have been reading about over the last several months are not just extreme cases," Kaiser Family Foundation Chief Executive Officer Drew Altman said in a statement.
Although individual, or "nongroup," policies are a small slice of the health insurance industry, they have attracted sharp scrutiny in recent months amid reports of price increases as high as 39 percent.
The survey of nearly 1,040 working-age adults from 18 to 64 years of age was conducted in late March and early April. Most responses came on or before March 23, when President Obama signed the healthcare bill into law.
Although individual, or "nongroup," policies are a small slice of the health insurance industry, they have attracted sharp scrutiny in recent months amid reports of price increases as high as 39 percent.
Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the industry's lobby group, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), defended the industry's premium hikes, citing "soaring medical costs" and the number of younger, healthier consumers who are opting out of coverage. AHIP fought the healthcare reform bill.
While most working-age adults who have insurance get it through their employers, roughly 14 million people in the United States -- usually small business owners or those whose companies don't offer insurance -- buy their own policies.
In comparison, 157 million adults under 65 have employer or "large group" policies, while roughly 45 million people 65 and older have coverage through the federal government's Medicare program for the elderly and disabled.
Besides WellPoint, other health insurers include Aetna Inc, Cigna Corp, Humana Inc, UnitedHealth Group Inc, Health Net Inc, Amerigroup Corp and the Blue Cross Blue Shield network.
Kaiser's findings also found those who have to buy their own policies still worry about their access to care and whether their insurance will adequately cover them.
"People in this market are not expressing much confidence in their level of protection that's provided by the plan," Mollyann Brodie, vice president and director of Kaiser's Public Opinion and Survey Research, told reporters. They also have higher deductibles and large out-of-pocket costs, she added.
Many insurers have already begun adopting some of the new health law's reforms ahead of schedule, such as ending lifetime caps on coverage and stopping cancellations when a policyholder gets sick.
But other reforms, such as protections for those with pre-existing health conditions, do not go into effect until 2014.
By then, all Americans will be required to have health insurance or risk paying a fine. States can also set up health insurance exchanges aimed at providing consumers one-stop shopping to compare plans.
Oversight of insurers' rates is still left largely up to individual U.S. states, although companies will have to publicly justify any increases.
Other rules governing how insurers spend premium dollars on actual medical care versus administrative expenses also aim to help bring down insurers' costs and, ideally, premiums.
It remains to be seen just how the various changes will affect health insurers, which saw their shares buffeted amid the health reform debate. Companies are now awaiting clearer rules from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Kaiser said 52 percent of survey respondents who buy their own coverage said they would keep their current plan next year, while 32 percent said they were not sure they would do so. Another 14 percent said they would switch companies.
"In the vast majority of states, the nongroup market is subject to substantially less regulation than group insurance," the Kaiser report said. "Much will change under the new health reform law."
Various studies have shown the nation's healthcare costs outpace inflation, rising more than 6 percent a year.
"Insurance is still going to be expensive because healthcare is expensive," said Gary Claxton, vice president and director of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Marketplace Project, but he said many of the reforms should help increase competition for those shopping for their own coverage.
The Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index ended down 0.8 percent and the S&P Managed Healthcare Index fell 0.5 percent, while the overall S&P 500 Index lost 0.4 percent. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tim Dobbyn)
Published on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 by Daily Finance
FCC Source: 'We F*cked Up' Secret Internet Meetings
by Sam Gustin
The Federal Communications Commission "f*cked up" by holding closed-door meetings with industry giants aimed at striking a deal over Internet regulation, a government source told DailyFinance on Tuesday, even as the agency's chief of staff defended a process that has effectively shut out the public.
Since becoming chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, the former Internet executive and Harvard Law School chum of President Barack Obama, has repeatedly insisted that under his watch, the FCC will be more open and transparent than any previous Commission, with greater public involvement.
How we will work will be central to what we can achieve. We will be fair. We will be open and transparent. Our policy decisions will be fact-based and data-driven. -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, Remarks to FCC Staff, June 30, 2009
It is a roadmap for a process that will be open, transparent and will allow public participation in ways that are unparalleled for this agency. The FCC will reach out to nontraditional stakeholders, because all Americans have a stake in this proceeding. -- Remarks at FCC Open Meeting, July 2, 2009
Effectively Shutting Out the Public
Yet, writing on the agency's website Tuesday, FCC Chief of Staff Edward Lazarus -- who has been running the meetings -- said that the agency's ex parte disclosure rules, which require the agency to provide documentation of all meetings or discussions related to FCC rule-making, don't apply in this case.
Why is that? Lazarus asserted that because the meetings concern "approaches outside of the open proceedings at the Commission, the agency's ex parte disclosure requirements are not applicable."
After last Friday's Lazarus-hosted meeting with Google (GOOG) and Skype, Markham Erickson, executive director of the Open Internet Coalition, sent a "Notice of Ex Parte Presentation in GN 09-191" to the FCC that stated plainly: "We endorsed the six principles proposed in the docket; we reiterated our support for applying those principles to wireless platforms; and we expressed our support for flexible network management standards."
Proceeding 09-191 is the docket number for a public comment process entitled: "In the Matter of Preserving the Open Internet Broadband Industry Practices. Public interest groups were not invited to the meetings.
"We fu*ked up," a government source familiar with the meetings told DailyFinance. "We deserve the bad press. It was a process foul at a minimum." The source was granted anonymity because the meetings are private.
Finding a Way for FCC to Regulate the Internet
So if the discussions with AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Google and Skype don't concern an ongoing rule-making process, what are they about?
What, indeed. According to multiple press reports, as well as persons with knowledge of the meetings, the talks are designed to find a legislative path forward that would give the FCC the authority to regulate the Web -- and thus impose network neutrality rules -- without the limited Title II reclassification that the FCC has been seeking after a federal court ruled in April that the agency lacks such authority.
"They don't want to see this played out in the press," the government source said.
Stricter Rules For the FCC
Unlike Congress, where lawmakers routinely meet behind closed doors with industry lobbyists, the FCC -- a federal regulatory authority -- operates under stricter disclosure rules, hence the ex parte disclosure requirements.
Despite the secret meetings, Lazarus insisted that, "As always, our door is open to all ideas and all stakeholders." He added: "To promote transparency and keep the public informed, we will post notices of these meetings here at blog.broadband.gov."
In the first of such notices -- a letter published by the FCC Tuesday -- Erickson said the FCC met with: "Thomas J. Tauke, Executive Vice President Public Affairs, Policy and Communications, Verizon; James W. Cicconi, Senior Executive Vice President External & Legislative Affairs, AT&T Inc.; Kyle E. McSlarrow, President & CEO, National Cable & Telecommunications Association; Alan Davidson, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, Google; Christopher Libertelli, Senior Director ofGovernment and Regulatory Affairs, Skype."
According to Lazarus, Monday's meeting does not require ex parte documentation, because it was "outside of the open proceedings at the Commission." The topic? Erickson: "We discussed details relating to prospective legislation relating to open Internet principles."
That's it. Unlike Erickson's previous, actual ex parte filing, this document provides no hint as to the motive or argument of the meeting participants.
"Simply Not Acceptable"
Public interest groups went utterly ballistic.
"We are appalled at the idea put forward by the FCC Chief of Staff that there will be no disclosure (ex parte) requirements for meetings the Commission staff will hold on topics directly related to ongoing FCC proceedings," Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Public Knowledge said in a statement Tuesday.
"To say, as Mr. Lazarus did, that 'other approaches outside of the open proceedings' would not be subject to disclosure requirements is simply not acceptable in any circumstance, must less in an Administration and an FCC which have promised new levels of transparency."
Josh Silver, head of D.C.-based public interest group Free Press, echoed those sentiments.
"The FCC's blog post is a fig leaf attempting to cover for what appears to be secret negotiations to sell out the future of the Internet," Silver said in a statement Tuesday.
"It is deeply disturbing that the FCC's Chief of Staff is not only meeting exclusively with industry representatives on the future of the Internet, but when faced with criticism, he is also making weak excuses for the agency's behavior alongside vague promises to include others somewhere down the road," Silver said. "Paying lip service to transparency and being transparent are two different things."
"Lazarus's claim that these meetings were not subject to ex parte rules is a red herring. Either the FCC is hosting these meetings to discuss FCC action on the future of the Internet, in which case they are subject to ex parte rules, or the FCC is secretly conspiring on a legislative strategy with only the largest telecom industry representatives and lobbyists at the table. That's even more outrageous."
So, do you think Genachowski is living up to his pledge to create "the most open and transparent FCC in history"?