Category Archives: Featured

Featured: Student protests planned in U.S. today

University students and professors in over 30 states are taking part today in protests against slashed budgets. The protests began in California as a response to the state’s university system issuing $1 billion in budget cuts, which forced steep tuition increases and furloughs for professors, CNN. At the University of Georgia, proposed cuts could lay off almost 1,500 people, close 4H programs statewide, and shut down entire departments. The president of the university, Michael Adams, has stated the university is strongly opposed to the cuts, ABH.

The University of California-Santa Cruz has advised employees to not report for work today due to security concerns from the planned campus protest, Student Activism.

For updates on today’s protests and more resources, follow Student Activism’s blog or their Twitter.

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Link Round-up Ahead of UN Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

Extended coverage on climate change ahead of next month’s UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark:

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Featured: U.S. House Debating Healthcare Bill

President Obama has asked House Democrats to pass the healthcare reform bill today in a rare Saturday session. The Representatives are still debating the bill, with a vote expected around midnight.

Watch the House debate live.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D -CA) says she believes she has enough votes to pass the bill. The legislation hopes to help 36 million uninsured Americans afford health insurance, but it is meeting fierce opposition from Republicans who want government to stay out of health insurance. If passed, the Senate will then debate the bill before to two chambers revise the bill together.

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The Health Care Crisis in America

While the public debate has primarily focused on costs and how to keep insurance companies profitable, millions of Americans have been living without health care. A study by the Harvard Medical School found that annually 45,000 deaths in the U.S. are linked to lack of health coverage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 46.3 million people in the U.S. did not have health coverage in 2008, Reuters.

“We’re losing more Americans every day because of inaction … than drunk driving and homicide combined,” Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters.

A USA Today special report looks at what happens when the uninsured are forced to use the emergency room as a last resort for care, USA Today.

A poll by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that a majority of doctors support the public option which would create a plan administered by the federal government that individuals could buy like private insurance, NPR.

In what was described as the largest free health care clinic in U.S. history, more than 2,000 received free care for health problems at Reliant Center in Houston, Texas last September, KRTK-TV.

The progressive website Daily Kos features an examination of the salaries and total compensation of health insurance industry executives, Daily Kos. Health care costs have been rising faster than the rate of inflation for several decades. The average cost of health care for a family through an employer-sponsored plan in 2008 was $12,680, Hidden Costs of Health Care Report.

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer offers a comparison of five international health care systems: Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States and Mexico, NewsHour Online. The NewsHour’s health homepage, Global Health Watch.

The radio program This American Life is featuring an hour-long examination of the U.S. health care system and why it is so expensive, #391, More is Less.

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The Future of Manned Space Travel

NASA has delivered the space shuttle Atlantis to its launch pad in anticipation of a planned November 12 launch date to take a team of six astronauts to the International Space Station for an 11-day mission, MS-NBC.

NASA is considering cutting jobs in an effort to save enough money to keep a manned mission to the moon in the works, Houston Chronicle.

The June 2009 issue of IEEE Spectrum, was devoted to Mars, with articles including: why, despite past predictions, we’re not there yet, Mars Is Hard; the psychology of astronauts, The Kind of People Who Will Go to Mars; and new ideas for how to get there, Rockets for the Red Planet.

In an editorial for the New York Times, Lawrence M. Krauss, the director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, made a bold suggestion: a manned mission to Mars can be undertaken soon if there’s no plan to bring the astronauts back to Earth. Predicting that exposure to radiation from the sun during the journey to Mars would shorten an astronauts lifespan anyway, Krauss suggests sending older astronauts to Mars where they can spend their last years carrying out experiments and setting up bases for future exploration, New York Times.

NASA’s Mars homepage, NASA.

Check NightSky for information on what you can see from your area, How to spot satellites,

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Order from Disorder

The show RadioLab on WNYC examines the strange behavior of ants and the ability of the colony to make seemingly intelligent collective decisions, RadioLab, episode “Emergence“.

Researchers from many different fields have started to look at the ability of animals to naturally form a consensus, Utne.

Bees, ants, locusts and plenty of other animals collectively make life-or-death choices. The biologists studying animal groups are finding strange lab fellows these days in economists, social scientists, even money market specialists. They are trading tales of humans and of nonhuman animals to understand collective behavior and what makes it go right or wrong, “Swarm Savvy“, Science News.

Web comic xkcd’s take on the intelligence of ants, xkcd.

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Surviving the Financial Crisis

Despite the apparent bounce back of the Dow Jones industrial average which recently reached 10,000 points for the first time in a year, many individuals are still feeling the effects of the economic downturn. Foreclosures in the United States were up 5% from summer to fall with 938,000 foreclosures from July to September alone. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is at a 26 year high of 9.8% and is expected to continue to increase through mid 2010, Associated Press.

Some tips to help weather the downturn:

Check your eligibility for the government’s mortgage refinancing and modification programs at

Should you buy a foreclosed home?, SmartMoney, 2007. Pros and cons of buying a foreclosed home, Nolo. How to pick out a good foreclosure, Wall Street Journal.

How to survive work when everyone’s getting laid off, Lifehacker and Fortune.

A cheat sheet for living frugally, Lifehacker and Frugalist.

A concise, easy to understand explanation of how irresponsible lending sparked a global financial crisis is provided by the radio program, This American Life, show #355 “the Giant Pool of Money,” transcript and episode link (free streaming).

Under the category of “should have known better” Edmund Andrews, an economic reporter for the New York Times, tells the story of the part he played in the housing bubble in his book “Busted:Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown.” Excerpt, New York Times Magazine. Book review, Salon. More information on Andrews’ story, including financial information he left out, The Business Insider.

Arthur M. Schack, a judge in Brooklyn is being hailed for his insistence that mortgage lenders who wish to foreclose on homeowners have all of the necessary paperwork when they come to court. Schack says he began to see a rise in foreclosure proceedings in 2007. He has thrown out 46 of the 102 foreclosure cases that have come before him in the past two years, New York Times. Homeowners facing foreclosure should check to be sure the foreclosing bank actually holds the mortgage.

Using analysis from real estate website Zillow, the Wall Street Journal finds that foreclosures are increasing among wealthy homeowners. The study, which broke homes into three tiers based on value, found that homes in the top tier accounted for 30 of foreclosures, up from 16% earlier in the year, Wall Street Journal.

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President Obama to Deliver Key Health Care Reform Speech Tonight

U.S. President Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress to discuss his goals for health care reform tonight at 8pm EDT, Reuters. The speech will be broadcast live online on C-SPAN.

A major question is whether President Obama will push for the “public option”- a government run plan that people could buy instead of the private insurance that’s available now. Conservatives have criticized the public option saying it is tantamount to systems where health care is entirely government-run. Other reform options include requiring private insurance companies to stop using “preexisting conditions” as a reason to drop coverage. The Senate Finance Committee, under Chair Max Baucus, is working on a “moderate” bill that would not include a public option but would provide a plan that individuals under the age 25 could buy for “catastrophic illnesses” and would expand the number of people with low-incomes eligible for Medicaid coverage, New York Times.

What to look for in Obama’s speech, New York Times.

A look at health care systems worldwide, CNN.

A comprehensive series, including an examination of America’s health  care of last resort: the ER, USA Today.

An investigation of health care insurance industry CEO salaries, Daily Kos.

A review of President’s Bill Clinton’s 1993 speech calling for health care reform, CBS Political Hotsheet.

Bill Moyers interview of former health insurance industry executive Wendell Potter who discusses how market forces push the industry to put profit over health.

Bill Moyers on the controversy surrounding reform.

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