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Published: Sun, 02 Dec 2012 12:14:00 EST

 



Thank The Patron Saint Of Bakers For This Cake Today

Wed, 16 May 2012 15:29:00 EST

Pictures of Saint Honore or (Saint Honoratus) from church iconography reinforce his baker background. He's holding his wooden peel, often with a few delicious-looking loaves of crusty French bread nearby.We here at The Salt usually ignore food festivals and those "Celebrate Whatever We're Eating Now" Days. They're a bit precious, no? But this one was too good to pass up: Today is the day the French celebrate the Feast of St. Honoré, the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs.And since the French hold their corner bakery right up there with the Catholic Church, the celebration is not complete without a big bite of the complicated confection named for the saint in question. More on the cake a little later.First, the history: Honoré, also known as Honoratus, became bishop of Amiens in Northern France in the sixth century. Sources disagree over whether he was a baker, but when he was named bishop, a baker's peel - the flat wooden paddle used to move loaves to and from a hot oven - was said to have put down roots and transformed into a fruiting tree, much to the surprise of the incredulous woman holding it.After his death, processions in his honor reputedly stopped both droughts and deluges, ensuring good wheat harvests and, consequently, winning him the hearts of bakers. Pictures of St. Honoré from church iconography reinforce his boulanger roots. He's holding his wooden peel, often with a few delicious-looking loaves of crusty French bread nearby. But according to historian Steven Laurence Kaplan of Cornell University, who wrote The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700-1775, for many years St. Honoré had a rival in the battle for bakers' patron.Initially, bakers organized around both Honoré and St. Lazare, the latter of whom had a reputation for defending against leprosy. Bakers of the time, with their physically demanding profession and rudimentary understanding of disease, were especially afraid of leprosy, Kaplan tells The Salt.Eventually the French bakers' guild settled in favor of Honoré in the 17th century, subsidizing a chapel that became the central point for the gatherings of their confraternity, a sort of religious arm of the guild.Fast-forward to the 19th century, and Parisian bakers began bringing glory to the saint's name in the best way they knew how - with a fabulous confection. (Given the historical division between bread bakers and pastry chefs, the latter probably had little connection to Honoré, making this more a worshipping of butter and sugar than of a patron saint.)The St. Honoré cake was developed at the legendary Chiboust pastry shop on Paris' Saint Honoré Street, which, alas, no longer exists. It started out as a ring-shaped brioche filled with pastry cream, which Chiboust lightened with an airy Italian meringue to create a new kind of filling. That fussy filling became known as crème Chiboust, which is still used by French bakers and even has its own Facebook page. According the book, Desserts, by Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé, one of Chiboust's bakers, August Jullien, came up with his own version, replacing the ring of dough with a ring of little cream puffs. By the late 19th century, the St. Honoré cake had taken its present form, incorporating a pastry disk filled with Chiboust cream, topped with a crown of cream puffs dressed up even further with a crunchy cap of caramelized sugar, and draped with swags of whipped cream.The plain version of the cake - simply flavored with vanilla and the bittersweet notes of burnt sugar - is most common, but you can find fanciful seasonal variations, showcasing everything from tropical fruits to green tea.It's a sort of "master class" confection, because it contains all of the fundamental elements that pastry school students need to conquer in one package: puff pastry, pâte á choux, pastry cream and caramelized sugar.In modern-day France, the feast of St. Honoré still survives as a time to appreciate all sorts of breads and pastries. Baker Dominique Geulin who grew up in Normandy, fondly remembers how bakers (including his pare[...]



Bloomberg: Facebook's Saverin May Save $67 Million By Renouncing Citizenship

Wed, 16 May 2012 15:22:00 EST

News that Eduardo Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship ignited controversy from those who accused him of trying to dodge taxes and those who say it's just a symptom of a costly tax code.

Bloomberg took out its pencil, paper and calculator and came up with this number: $67 million.

That's how much the news service estimates Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin could save in federal income taxes after having renounced his United States citizenship in advance of social media company's public debut.

Bloomberg reports:

"The company plans to sell shares for as high as $38 apiece this week, compared with $32.10 in private auctions on SharesPost Inc. on Sept. 26. Saverin's stake may be worth as much as $2.89 billion, based on the company's 1.898 billion total shares outstanding. His stake was worth about $2.44 billion in September.

"Bloomberg calculated the $67 million figure by applying the 15 percent U.S. capital gains rate to the approximate $448 million spread between the two values. Bloomberg's methodology was reviewed by Robert Willens, an independent tax adviser based in New York."

Saverin's spokesman told Bloomberg their calculations were flat out wrong and that it furthers the narrative that Saverin gave up his citizenship to dodge taxes.

"His motive had nothing to do with tax and everything to do with his desire to live and work in Singapore," Tom Goodman told Bloomberg.

Since Saverin's decision became public earlier this week, it has been derided and praised by those who accused him of being greedy and trying to dodge taxes and those who say it's just a symptom of a costly tax code.

Today, in an op-ed by The Los Angeles Times, Bruce Ackerman defends the individual right to renounce one's citizenship, but the consequence of doing so should be severe, he argues.

"The key point is to reject the cynical notion that citizenship is just another marketplace commodity," Ackerman writes. "If an American wishes to separate himself from this country and its people, he is taking a step of deep significance. He should not be able to easily return and brag to his friends about the billions he is making by evading civic responsibilities."

In today's Wall Street Journal, the paper finds that while the practice of giving up citizenship is rare, "the trend has accelerated over the past two years-especially in Asian financial centers."

The paper found that in 2010, about 100 Americans "opted out of U.S. citizenship in Singapore last year, almost double the 58 that did so in 2009." About 1,780 gave up citizenship worldwide in 2010, up from 742 in 2009. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Town's Effort To Link Fracking And Illness Falls Short

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:41:00 EST

Many residents of Dish, Texas, blame the fracking operations that surround their tiny town for a host of health problems - from nosebleeds to cancer. The former mayor was so scared, he left town. But scientists who've studied Dish say there's not enough evidence to link natural gas operations to any illness.Quite a few of the 225 people who live in Dish, Texas, think the nation's natural gas boom is making them sick.They blame the chemicals used in gas production for health problems ranging from nosebleeds to cancer.And the mayor of Dish, Bill Sciscoe, has a message for people who live in places where gas drilling is about to start: "Run. Run as fast as you can. Grab up your family and your belongings, and get out."But scientists say it's just not clear whether pollutants from gas wells are hurting people in Dish or anywhere else. What is clear, they say, is that the evidence the town has presented so far doesn't have much scientific heft.'This Place Was Absolutely Beautiful'To understand why people in Dish feel the way they do, it helps to look at a satellite image of the tiny town about 35 miles north of Fort Worth.From above, you see an odd patchwork: ranch-style homes and green pastures interspersed with industrial lots filled with gas wells, compressors, storage tanks and metering stations.A visit to Dish fills in the details.In most parts of town, it's hard to miss the sulfurous odor of escaping gas or the rumble of compressor engines big enough to power a locomotive.Mayor Sciscoe has agreed to give me a tour of Dish and explain why he thinks natural gas production is bad for residents' health. He's an imposing guy who meets me dressed in black cowboy boots, a black sport jacket and aviator sunglasses.Sciscoe has been in charge of Dish since last year, when the previous mayor and his family actually did leave town to get away from the drilling.Gas wells weren't always a part of the landscape, Sciscoe says. There weren't any when he arrived in 1987."This place was absolutely beautiful," he says. "It was serene. It was very quiet, very clean. I raised five children here," including two who became Marines.But in 2005, two things happened to the town, which was named Clark at the time.First, Clark became Dish as part of a deal to get free satellite TV service from the Dish network.Second, energy companies arrived and began drilling lots of gas wells. The wells were made possible by a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which released natural gas trapped in the hard shale a mile underground.'A Who's Who Toxic Chemical Mix'To explain how profound that change has been, Sciscoe brings me to the biggest thing in Dish. It's a swath of gas wells and heavy equipment that stretches for a quarter-mile at the town's southern border. Sciscoe says emissions from this site are a big problem."It's just a who's who toxic chemical mix," he says. "Pretty much all of those items that you get from petroleum products are spewing into the air in this area."The town spent $15,000 on an air quality study several years ago. It found elevated levels of several chemicals including benzene. But since then, energy companies have made some changes, and an air monitoring station installed by the state has shown that pollution levels are generally within government limits.Dish also got state health officials to come and check residents' blood and urine for toxins. The officials say they found no cause for concern, though Sciscoe disagrees.It's pretty clear people in Dish have been hurt, he says."There's not a lot of residents right around this facility. But within a quarter of a mile, half a mile of this facility, there's been six people die of cancer here," he says. "And so do I think this is a concern? Yes I do."So why don't scientists see it that way?Health Effects: What Would It Take To Know For Sure?To find out, I make a visit to Brian Schwartz, an environmental epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.I ask him what it would take to figure out whether there [...]



Chipping In To Your Office Lottery Pool? Read This First

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:29:00 EST

A group of workers at a Chicago bakery recently won $118 million. But two employees say they should be getting a share. It's another example of why it's important to write things down beforehand.

Here's yet another reminder about why it's important to have somebody write down the rules and keep accurate records if you're pooling money at the office to buy lottery tickets.

After all, for every heart-warming story about "three amigos" who seem to have gotten along swimmingly and deserved the money they won, there are tales such as this:

"Two employees of a Chicago Heights bakery are suing co-workers over a $118 million Mega Millions jackpot, alleging they were unfairly left out of the winnings." (Chicago Tribune)

According to the Tribune, the two say they thought the $9 that the pool won on May 1 would be rolled over to buy more tickets for the May 4 Mega Millions drawing. They had pitched in to buy tickets in the May 1 drawing, and say they weren't asked to contribute again for the May 4 drawing.

You probably already figured out went gone wrong.

Eleven other employees at the Pita Pan bakery claimed the $118 million prize. The two who are suing weren't among that group. Their attorney tells the Tribune that three more employees who say they too should share in the price are looking for lawyers.

Yes, we know the odds of winning any lottery - and of ending up in court with your co-workers - are incredibly small. But it doesn't hurt to be safe. Write things down. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Latino Voters: Seen, But Will They Be Heard, In 2012?

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:57:00 EST

Now the fastest growing voting group, Latinos have never been so heavily courted in a presidential race. They could play a key role in battleground states in the 2012 elections.If young voters were the breakout stars of the 2008 presidential election, then Latino voters may take center stage this year.Every other week or so, it seems, a new poll gauges Latinos' opinions about the candidates, the issues and their level of engagement. Both parties are pouring millions into their Latino outreach. Latino politicians have assumed prominent roles in the conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. And a Latino senator is on the short list of potential running mates for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.Latino voters arguably never have received this much attention so early in a presidential election. It's a new reality for America's largest minority group and fastest growing bloc of voters.But, for Latino advocates, the heightened interest won't matter much if their concerns don't move to the front burners of the two parties."If you are truly looking to be competitive at the national level, there's no way you can continue on the path of ignoring Latino voters," say Clarissa Martinez, director of immigration and national campaigns for National Council of La Raza, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the U.S. "Latinos now are asking the question, 'OK, so what are you going to do? We appreciate you stopping by. We had the pictures [taken]. We had the words in Spanish [from candidates]. When do we get to the policy stands that are actually acted upon?' "A Focus Beyond ImmigrationLatinos are frustrated with both parties for failing to enact an immigration overhaul, one of candidate Barack Obama's 2008 campaign promises. They are also angry at the Obama administration for processing a record number of deportations over the past three years.On Thursday, coordinated protests planned in presidential battleground states will demand that Obama exempt Dream Act-eligible young people from deportation. (The Dream Act, which failed to pass the Senate last year, would provide a path to citizenship for young people brought illegally to the U.S. as children if they attend college or serve in the military.)Education is another issue important to Latinos but not prominent so far on the campaign trail. A poll released Tuesday, by the American Federation for Children and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), found that 58 percent of Latinos in five battleground states want to "hear more from the presidential candidates on how they will improve education." By comparison, only 49 percent of all respondents agreed."There's much more to gaining ground with Latino voters than immigration," Albert Collazo, spokesman for HCREO, told reporters.Latinos polled also ranked the economy and jobs as their top concerns, followed by the federal deficit and education.An estimated 22 million or more Hispanics will be eligible to vote in 2012. Many projections put their voter turnout in November as high as 12 million, which would be a record and a 26 percent increase from 2008.Latinos could be especially important in battleground states with large Hispanic populations, such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, where their strong turnouts on Election Day could determine outcomes in congressional races as well as the presidential contest."I think Latinos have been accustomed to the attention of candidates since the late 1990s and then them disappearing after," says Stanford University political scientist Gary Segura, a principal in the polling group Latino Decisions. "The 2012 emphasis may be a function of what happened in 2010 - the only places where Republicans lost [elections] were in places with huge Latino numbers, like in Colorado, California and Nevada."Unprecedented Steps To Reach Latinos President Obama was the first in U.S. history to win the office without capturing a majority of white voters. G[...]



EU Human Rights Court Could Be Last Stop For German Claiming CIA Kidnapping

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:43:00 EST

Khaled El-Masri is looking for redress, after he says he was mistakenly flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan, under the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program.

A German man, who says he was mistakenly shipped to a secret prison in Afghanistan as part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, took the stand at the European Union's human rights court today.

After unsuccessfully seeking redress in the U.S. and Germany, Khaled El-Masri is suing Macedonia, where he was allegedly kidnapped. El-Masri argued that the country was callous and calculating when it turned him over to the U.S. This hearing could also mark the end of the legal road for a case that spans eight years.

The AP reports:

"El-Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, says he was brutally interrogated at a secret CIA-run prison in Afghanistan for more than four months after being kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, apparently mistaken for a terror suspect. He says he went on a hunger strike for 27 days and was eventually flown back to Europe and abandoned in a mountainous area in Albania. ...

"'Mr. El-Masri has spent the last eight years seeking legal redress for the crimes that were committed against him,' James Goldston told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. 'There is abundant evidence including data on CIA flights to and from (Macedonia's capital) Skopje.'"

The Guardian reports that this is the first full hearing this case has received. In the United States, for example, a court threw out his case against former CIA head George Tenet, citing "state secrets," which the Guardian explains "allowed the U.S. government to have the case dismissed without ever getting to the merits."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of El-Masri in the United States, calls El-Masri a "victim of torture."

In a press release, the ACLU argues that the United States has yet to answer some basic questions. It writes:

"To add insult to El-Masri's long-lasting injury, according to State Department diplomatic cables, the Bush administration pressured Germany not to prosecute CIA officers responsible for his kidnapping and abuse. Despite the fact that the former President Bush and other senior government officials acknowledged the existence of the U.S. rendition program, and the details of El-Masri's rendition and torture are widely known, the U.S. continues to deny responsibility and has invoked the "state secrets privilege" to protect government officials, CIA operatives and corporations from civil accountability. A 2005 ACLU lawsuit on behalf of El-Masri against former CIA director George Tenet was dismissed by lower courts on state secrecy grounds, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Because of the U.S. government's failure to provide redress for El-Masri, in 2008 the ACLU filed a petition on his behalf against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Over four years later, the U.S. government is yet to respond. Thus while his torturers enjoy impunity for their crimes, El-Masri has yet to receive an apology - or any other form of legal redress."

[Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Candidates Gird For A 'Scorched Earth' Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:24:00 EST

With both the economy and his own poll numbers weaker than he'd want them to be, President Obama has launched attack ads against Mitt Romney that are unusually blunt and direct for this early stage of a campaign. And Romney has responded with a few roundhouse rights of his own.If President Obama is already running campaign ads that showcase people describing Mitt Romney as a "vampire" and a "job destroyer," what will his ads be like by November?It's not unusual for an incumbent president to launch springtime attacks against a challenger, but the tone of the ads Obama has already run regarding Romney's business record and his views on foreign policy and social issues portend a highly negative campaign, political observers say."It's hyperbole every election to say, 'This is the most negative election ever,' " says Republican consultant Dave Carney. "I think hyperbole will be fact this cycle."Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has not shied from criticizing Obama, running hostile ads and devoting the bulk of most of his speeches to claims that a second Obama term would do serious harm to the economy and individual freedom.But a challenger will always attack. A presidential race can turn particularly vicious when the incumbent feels vulnerable and begins castigating his opponent."When they feel the heat, that's when they bring out the heavy artillery, says Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers: The Twenty-Five Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.With the economy still wobbly and Obama barely ahead or sometimes trailing Romney in the latest polls, the president's campaign will do everything it can to sully Romney's name before swing voters can picture him comfortably in the White House, Swint says"They don't want to give independents a chance to get used to Mitt Romney as a credible president," says Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. "Those images of greed and laying people off - that's what they want to shape over the summer."Not Above The FrayThere was a time presidents seeking re-election shied from tearing down their opponents, at least this early in the campaign year.Bill Clinton began running TV ads a full year ahead of his 1996 re-election bid, but they criticized Republicans in general, as opposed to his eventual opponent, Bob Dole. In 1984, Ronald Reagan barely mentioned his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale, until the fall.George W. Bush took a more aggressive approach in 2004. As soon as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had sewn up the Democratic nomination, Bush went on the attack."The day after Super Tuesday, Bush had a meeting at the White House and said, 'Let's go after Kerry as a flip-flopper,' " says William Schneider, a veteran political analyst who teaches public policy at George Mason University. "It was Bush, not Karl Rove, who decided on the strategy."Bush not only attacked Kerry, he sought to undermine Kerry's ability to present himself as a war hero and not a wimpy Democrat.Obama now is trying to do the same thing against Romney, whose success as a "turnaround artist" in business and public service is the driving premise of his campaign."What they're trying to do in both cases is to chip away at their opponent's perceived strength," says Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who served as Kerry's campaign manager for part of his presidential run."As distasteful as it is for me to analogize between Obama and the Bush folks, that is a fair [comparison]," Jordan says. "It's a very smart strategy for the Obama guys to be using."Sending A MessageRepublicans say Obama is going on the attack because of the weakness of his own record. But this campaign was bound to be negative because of the very real differences between the two candidates across a variety of policy areas, says David Mark, author of Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning."It's a clashing vision of government," Mark says. "It's inevi[...]



Candidates Gird For A 'Scorched Earth' Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:24:00 EST

With both the economy and his own poll numbers weaker than he'd want them to be, President Obama has launched attack ads against Mitt Romney that are unusually blunt and direct for this early stage of a campaign. And Romney has responded with a few roundhouse rights of his own.If President Obama is already running campaign ads that showcase people describing Mitt Romney as a "vampire" and a "job destroyer," what will his ads be like by November?It's not unusual for an incumbent president to launch springtime attacks against a challenger, but the tone of the ads Obama has already run regarding Romney's business record and his views on foreign policy and social issues portend a highly negative campaign, political observers say."It's hyperbole every election to say, 'This is the most negative election ever,' " says Republican consultant Dave Carney. "I think hyperbole will be fact this cycle."Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has not shied from criticizing Obama, running hostile ads and devoting the bulk of most of his speeches to claims that a second Obama term would do serious harm to the economy and individual freedom.But a challenger will always attack. A presidential race can turn particularly vicious when the incumbent feels vulnerable and begins castigating his opponent."When they feel the heat, that's when they bring out the heavy artillery, says Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers: The Twenty-Five Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.With the economy still wobbly and Obama barely ahead or sometimes trailing Romney in the latest polls, the president's campaign will do everything it can to sully Romney's name before swing voters can picture him comfortably in the White House, Swint says"They don't want to give independents a chance to get used to Mitt Romney as a credible president," says Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. "Those images of greed and laying people off - that's what they want to shape over the summer."Not Above The FrayThere was a time presidents seeking re-election shied from tearing down their opponents, at least this early in the campaign year.Bill Clinton began running TV ads a full year ahead of his 1996 re-election bid, but they criticized Republicans in general, as opposed to his eventual opponent, Bob Dole. In 1984, Ronald Reagan barely mentioned his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale, until the fall.George W. Bush took a more aggressive approach in 2004. As soon as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had sewn up the Democratic nomination, Bush went on the attack."The day after Super Tuesday, Bush had a meeting at the White House and said, 'Let's go after Kerry as a flip-flopper,' " says William Schneider, a veteran political analyst who teaches public policy at George Mason University. "It was Bush, not Karl Rove, who decided on the strategy."Bush not only attacked Kerry, he sought to undermine Kerry's ability to present himself as a war hero and not a wimpy Democrat.Obama now is trying to do the same thing against Romney, whose success as a "turnaround artist" in business and public service is the driving premise of his campaign."What they're trying to do in both cases is to chip away at their opponent's perceived strength," says Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who served as Kerry's campaign manager for part of his presidential run."As distasteful as it is for me to analogize between Obama and the Bush folks, that is a fair [comparison]," Jordan says. "It's a very smart strategy for the Obama guys to be using."Sending A MessageRepublicans say Obama is going on the attack because of the weakness of his own record. But this campaign was bound to be negative because of the very real differences between the two candidates across a variety of policy areas, says David Mark, author of Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning."It's a clashing vision of governm[...]



Buyers Of Hyped Skechers 'Toning Shoes' Can Get Refunds

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:22:00 EST

Skechers has agreed to pay $40 million to settle claims that it deceived its customers by saying its Shape-ups shoes would help people who wore them shed pounds and tone their abs, buttocks and legs, the Federal Trade Commission said.

No more ifs, ands or butts about the claims that Skechers USA made for its goofy-looking toning shoes.

The company has agreed to pay $40 million to settle claims that it deceived customers by saying its Shape-ups shoes would help people who wore them shed pounds and tone their abs, buttocks and legs, the Federal Trade Commission said.

The FTC alleged there's no evidence the Skechers shoes would do a better job by those measures than regular old gym shoes.

If you bought Skecher's line and the shoes, you can now apply for a refund here.

"Skechers' unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles," said a statement by David Vladeck, head of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health." So, Vladeck said, the Skechers settlement should send a message to advertisers: "shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims."

Previously, the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit group, compared toning shoes from Skechers and two other companies with running shoes. The group concluded there is "simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone."

The "studies found that there was no significant difference between any of the toning shoes and the standard running shoe," ACE's Todd Galati told All Things Considered two years ago. "These shoes are not a magic pill. It is the walking that will make a difference in your life. Not the shoe," he said.

Under the settlement the company can't say its toning shoes strengthen muscles, lead to weight loss or do much of anything related to health, unless the claims "are true and backed by scientific evidence," the FTC said.

Skechers claims had also been the subject of class-action litigation and an investigation by state attorneys general across the country.

For its part, Skechers said it continues to "vigorously deny the allegations made in these legal proceedings and looked forward to vindicating these claims in court," according to a statement by David Weinberg, the company's chief financial officer. But, he said, "Skechers could not ignore the exorbitant cost and endless distraction of several years spent defending multiple lawsuits in multiple courts across the country." [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Biden On Bain: Romney 'Thinks This Experience Will Help Our Economy'?

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:21:00 EST

The Obama campaign on Wednesday escalated its attack on Mitt Romney's business career, with Vice President Joe Biden scheduled to aggressively question how Romney's management of the private equity firm Bain Capital might translate into running the U.S. economy.

The Obama campaign on Wednesday escalated its attack on Mitt Romney's business career, with Vice President Joe Biden scheduled to aggressively question how Romney's management of Bain Capital might translate into running the U.S. economy.

On Monday, Obama's re-election campaign unveiled a new swing state ad questioning Romney's assertion that he was a job creator while running the private equity firm. The Romney campaign countered later in the day with its own ad.

On Tuesday, the Obama campaign's mantra was picked up by the pro-Obama superPAC Priorities USA Action, in what was officially (and by law) an uncoordinated ad - albeit, one with a very similar storyline.

And on Wednesday, Biden is scheduled to take the fight directly to Romney during a speech in Youngstown, Ohio.

"He thinks that because he spent his career as a 'businessman,' he has the experience to run the economy. So let's take a look at a couple of things he did," Biden is to say, according to excerpts released by the campaign.

Romney has defended his work at Bain as - among other things - helping struggling companies and helping to create jobs in total. He also has acknowledged that not all of Bain's efforts were successful, and has said he welcomes the focus on economics in a faceoff with President Obama.

But the Bain-specific attacks mirror some charges made before Romney's 1994 loss to Sen. Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts, and others from early in this year's GOP primary campaign.

Biden, in the noon speech, is to say: "Folks, this election is going to create a stark and fundamental choice between two different economic philosophies. ... In the 1990s, there was a steel mill in Kansas City, Mo. It had been in business since 1888. Then Romney and his partners bought the company. Eight years later it went bankrupt."

While Romney worked at Bain when GST Steel was acquired, he had left Bain to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City two years before GST Steel went bankrupt.

The Biden excerpts also say: "Romney made sure the guys on top got to play by a separate set of rules, he ran massive debts, and the middle class lost. And, folks, he thinks this experience will help our economy? Where I come from, past is prologue. So what do you think he'll do as president?"

Romney is campaigning in the swing state of Florida on Wednesday, and the Miami Herald's Adam C. Smith reports that the Obama campaign's anti-Bain attacks are taking place on a state level as well.

"At the heart of Romney's presidential campaign is an argument that his successful business record makes him best equipped to turn around the economy. Democrats are aiming to turn his strength into a vulnerability - a strategy that has worked before," Smith writes.

[Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Civilians Flee, Soldiers Dig In On Sudanese Frontier

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:20:00 EST

Sudan and South Sudan are still threatening one another along their borders. The U.N. is warning both Sudans that they could face sanctions if they can't reverse their escalating feud.There's a tense calm at South Sudan's front line, just 10 miles from the frontier with Sudan, its neighbor to the north. The South Sudan commander, Maj. Gen. Mangar Buong, says his troops remain on alert and on the defensive.There is not a civilian in sight. They all fled the area, known as Panakuach, after Sudan's recent aerial bombardments and escalating concerns about a full-scale war.South Sudan's soldiers sing morale-boosting tunes to rally the forces and keep their spirits up. They've dug trenches in the black earth, which is littered with bullet casings and remnants of what they say are bombs dropped by Sudan's air force.After the singing, Pvt. John Nkoi Deng says he knows what he's defending. "This is our land. It belongs to us," he tells NPR. His colleagues nod in agreement. Last month, South Sudan briefly captured the oil-rich town of Heglig - widely considered to be part of Sudan. That move triggered the most recent clashes. Southerners claim Heglig, which they call Panthou, which means "the place of thou trees" in the Nuer language.Dispute Over Oil RegionThe South's troops have left Heglig, though the sides disagree over whether it was international pressure or Sudan's military forces that drove them out.Either way, the departure clearly did not please South Sudan's military, including Buong, though it deferred to the politicians.Buong says the military awaits the outcome of talks to try to resolve the South's explosive quarrels with its neighbor over oil revenues and border demarcation.But he is unequivocal. If dialogue breaks down and Sudanese aerial and ground attacks continue, then South Sudan will respond with force."We don't want war," the general says, "but it is our right to defend South Sudan."He says the South is waiting for the world to assist in settling the differences, but warns: "I want to ask the world community to help the people of the North and South. But if the world community fails in this case of borders, then not just me, even my son, will go [to Heglig]."South Sudan's army has no air force, and the government wants U.N. peacekeepers to create a demilitarized area in the disputed oil region until the problems are worked out.Civilian Casualties In HospitalA bumpy two-hour drive from the front line leads to the South Sudan town of Bentiu, the capital of oil-exporting Unity State. Survivors are recovering in the hospital from a series of bombings in April and May.Dr. Peter Gatkuoth Tob, the medical director of Bentiu State Hospital, says that since the beginning of April, patients have been admitted with injuries directly related to bomb attacks by Sudanese warplanes. Most of the patients are women and children, he notes."As a doctor, it's very painful to me," he tells NPR. "They have no power to defend themselves from bombs or from guns. So we don't know what the reason is for dropping bombs among the civilians. It's a very painful situation."Sitting up and staring down at her amputated left leg, Nyachieng Nguot Teny, 25, is clearly traumatized. The young mother is on one hospital bed, while her 7-month-old boy, Dak Tab, is lying asleep, with a fractured leg, beside his grandmother on another bed.Nguot describes hearing a plane and seven loud booms from bombs being dropped. The eighth, she did not hear. It landed on her thatched-roof hut on May 5. The next thing she knew, she woke up in the hospital, minus her left leg.She says whether her infant son will grow up in peace is in God's hands. But, she adds, "he will always know that his mother lost her leg for our beloved land."Slow Recovery For Burn VictimIn the ward next door lies Mohamed [...]



Four Decades After Dying In Cambodia, Soldier To Receive Medal Of Honor

Wed, 16 May 2012 12:51:00 EST

More than 40 years after his actions during the Vietnam war saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, Army Specialist Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony.

President Barack Obama will award a posthumous Medal of Honor today to Spec. Leslie H. Sabo Jr., a Pennsylvania rifleman killed after sacrificing his body to grenade fire in Vietnam during 1970's "Mother's Day Ambush".

A Defense Department description of Sabo's heroic actions says the 22-year old saved the lives of several other soldiers. He charged enemy positions and killed several North Vietnamese fighters while drawing fire away from his unit.

Later, when a grenade was tossed near a wounded fellow soldier, Sabo used his body to shield his comrade from the blast. Wounded from fire, Sabo then crawled towards an enemy bunker and dropped a grenade that "silenced the enemy fire, but also ended Specialist Sabo's life."

The Associated Press explains the four decade delay in recognizing Sabo's actions:

"The Army says paperwork for the award was done at the time of the war by George Koziol, one of the men wounded in the battle of Se San but that it was lost in 1970 and did not resurface for three decades.

"In 1999, Alton Mabb, a 101st Airborne Division Vietnam veteran, found the original paperwork while at the National Archives researching an article for the division's magazine. A few weeks later he asked archive personnel to send him copies of the paperwork and began the push to get Sabo recognized."

President Obama will present the medal to Sabo's widow, Rose Mary Brown, and brother, George Sabo.

The White House will live stream the medal ceremony, starting at 3 p.m. EDT. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Report: Syrian Opposition Sees Greater Support From Gulf States, U.S.

Wed, 16 May 2012 12:49:00 EST

The Gulf countries are providing weapons and the U.S. is helping build the rebels' command and control infrastructure.

There's quite a bit of news coming of out of Syria today. The big one is a report from The Washington Post, quoting "U.S. and foreign officials" saying that the Persian Gulf states and the United States have stepped up their efforts to assist and arm the opposition.

The Post reports that a senior State Department official says the U.S. is providing "non-lethal assistance," such as help with a command-and-control infrastructure.

The paper adds:

"The U.S. contacts with the rebel military and the information-sharing with gulf nations mark a shift in Obama administration policy as hopes dim for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Many officials now consider an expanding military confrontation to be inevitable.

"Material is being stockpiled in Damascus, in Idlib near the Turkish border and in Zabadani on the Lebanese border. Opposition activists who two months ago said the rebels were running out of ammunition said this week that the flow of weapons - most still bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military - has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month."

At the same time, the United Nations rescued a team of international observers whose vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb on Tuesday.

The AP reports that no one on the team was hurt but they did have to spend the night with the rebels. The AP adds:

"He said the observers were meeting with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army when Tuesday's explosion occurred. He said three vehicles were damaged. It was not clear who was behind the blast and no one claimed responsibility.

"More than 200 U.N. observers have been deployed throughout Syria to monitor the cease-fire agreement, which has been repeatedly violated by both sides since it took effect on April 12."

As we've reported, Syria is in the midst of an uprising that started more than a year ago and has killed more than 9,000 people. The international community has tried to broker a deal between rebels and the regime of Bashar Assad, but so far the violence is unabated. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Report: Syrian Opposition Sees Greater Support From Gulf States, U.S.

Wed, 16 May 2012 12:49:00 EST

The Gulf countries are providing weapons and the U.S. is helping build the rebels' command and control infrastructure.

There's quite a bit of news coming of out of Syria today. The big one is a report from The Washington Post, quoting "U.S. and foreign officials" saying that the Persian Gulf states and the United States have stepped up their efforts to assist and arm the opposition.

The Post reports that a senior State Department official says the U.S. is providing "non-lethal assistance," such as help with a command-and-control infrastructure.

The paper adds:

"The U.S. contacts with the rebel military and the information-sharing with gulf nations mark a shift in Obama administration policy as hopes dim for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Many officials now consider an expanding military confrontation to be inevitable.

"Material is being stockpiled in Damascus, in Idlib near the Turkish border and in Zabadani on the Lebanese border. Opposition activists who two months ago said the rebels were running out of ammunition said this week that the flow of weapons - most still bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military - has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month."

At the same time, the United Nations rescued a team of international observers whose vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb on Tuesday.

The AP reports that no one on the team was hurt but they did have to spend the night with the rebels. The AP adds:

"He said the observers were meeting with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army when Tuesday's explosion occurred. He said three vehicles were damaged. It was not clear who was behind the blast and no one claimed responsibility.

"More than 200 U.N. observers have been deployed throughout Syria to monitor the cease-fire agreement, which has been repeatedly violated by both sides since it took effect on April 12."

As we've reported, Syria is in the midst of an uprising that started more than a year ago and has killed more than 9,000 people. The international community has tried to broker a deal between rebels and the regime of Bashar Assad, but so far the violence is unabated. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Minority Rules: Who Gets To Claim Status As A Person Of Color?

Wed, 16 May 2012 12:46:00 EST

Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American heritage seem uneasy to swallow. But why? What does it take to be considered an ethnic minority, and what does the controversy say about the way we judge ethnic backgrounds?Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren isn't backing down from her claim of Native American ancestry, despite the apparent lack of primary documents proving that she's 1/32nd Cherokee.The controversy surrounding Warren's heritage led us to wonder - how much of a racial or ethnic heritage constitutes minority status? Should percentages of a bloodline matter at all?The Census Bureau lets individuals self-identify. Since the 2000 count, people have been permitted to check multiple boxes for race or ethnicity. But history has shown a wide variance in how people of different backgrounds come to be identified as part of ethnic groups.Notably, the issue of racial identity surfaced recently following the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was African American. The boy's shooter, George Zimmerman, initially was identified as white, prompting accusations that he racially profiled Martin. Once it was reported that Zimmerman's mother is Latino and his father is white, he was identified as Hispanic and later as white Hispanic.The early 20th century's "one-drop rule" stated that a person with a single drop of African blood in their lineage was considered black, and the classification was used for discriminatory purposes."This is the story of the tragic mulatto, right? A person who looks totally white was denigrated as a black person," said Anne Cheng, a professor who specializes in race studies at Princeton University.For generations, people have used their mixed-race background to gain advantages in society. Many of those who were half-black, for instance, "passed" for white to avoid discrimination.Today, some people have flipped the "one-drop rule" to claim minority status to try to gain perceived advantages in scholarships, college admission and in the workplace. In response, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color passed a resolution last year urging law schools to treat the practice of "box checking" as "academic ethnic fraud."So the question of membership in a distinct racial or ethnic group matters to those both inside and outside the groups. But the ways we define minority status are as diverse as the people defining themselves.Among the 400-plus federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S., questions about the authenticity of people's tribal memberships have led to power struggles and in some cases, expulsions."It's an answer all over the place," said Michael Woestehoff of the National Indian Gaming Association. "I'm Navajo. To be considered Navajo, it's up to 1/32nd ... [but] for elections and holding office, my tribe requires you to speak fluent Navajo."A similar percentage standard is used by the Cherokee Nation, of which Warren's campaign says her great-great-great-grandmother was a part. Mother Jones' Tim Murphy waded in earlier this month:Prior to 1963, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians granted tribal membership to anyone who could prove he was 1/32 Cherokee. ...For those who applied after 1963, the standards went up to 1/16. Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation-an umbrella group which includes the Easter Cherokee - is 1/32 Cherokee, which was the subject of a minor controversy prior to his election, but obviously not a deal-breaker. In other words, without wading too deeply into ongoing debates within the Native American community, Warren could make a fairly a legitimate claim to the title.Different tribes handle the question in different[...]



Neither John Edwards Nor His Mistress Will Testify At Corruption Trial

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:40:00 EST

His attorneys also will not call Edwards' adult daughter to the stand. He's accused of using campaign funds to try to hide his affair and a daughter Rielle Hunter delivered.

The campaign corruption trial of former Democratic presidential contender John Edwards will not reach a dramatic climax with testimony from the former senator or the mistress he's accused of trying to hide with 2008 campaign funds.

According to The Associated Press, Edwards' attorneys said in court today that they will not be calling Edwards or Rielle Hunter to the stand and that they expect to rest their case later today.

They also won't be calling Edwards' adult daughter Cate to the stand, AP says.

As the wire service reminds us:

"Edwards is accused of masterminding a plan to use money from two wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress during his bid for the 2008 White House. Edwards faces six counts of campaign finance violations. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison."

Edwards has said he did not break campaign finance laws. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




FDA Delays Sunscreen Label Redo

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:35:00 EST

Almost a year ago, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a slew of new rules to make the labels of sunscreens more helpful and realistic. To avert summer shortages, the agency has delayed implementation until December for most companies.

For a little while longer you'll still be able to buy suncreen labeled as waterproof or with a sun protection factor of 100.

Almost a year ago, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a slew of new rules to make the labels of sunscreens more helpful - and realistic. Sunscreen that says it's waterproof or has an SPF greater than 50 was supposed to be verboten by next month.

But after companies complained they'd have trouble complying in time, the FDA gave them a reprieve. The agency was concerned that without an extension some companies might stop making some sunscreens and that there could be a shortage of so-called broad spectrum sunscreens.

For most makers of the protective goops, sprays and lotions, the new rules will take effect in December. Small companies will have another year to get their products squared away.

Waterproof sunscreen, as you've probably discovered in your own experiments, doesn't really exist. Same for the allegedly sweatproof stuff. So those descriptions will be off limits, eventually.

Water-resistant sunscreen passes muster, and that will be OK on the new labels. But the makers will have to give you an idea of how long you can swim or sweat and still be protected against the sun.

The FDA's new rules would also require sunscreen makers to say how effective their products are in protecting against ultraviolet A (UVA), as well as ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, a longstanding measure. Both types raise the risk of skin cancer. UVA rays get deeper into skin and contribute to its premature aging. UVB rays put the burn in sunburn.

Only sunscreens that pass a new FDA test on UVA and UVB protection could say "broad spectrum" on the label after the rules take effect. The agency suggests people use a broad spectrum suncreen with an SPF of 15 or more to guard against the sun.

There are more than 2 million new cases of skin cancer in U.S. each year. Melanoma, the type that causes the most deaths, is expected to afflict more than 75,000 people this year and to lead to the deaths of almost 9,000, according to the American Cancer Society.

Despite the delay in the official rules, the FDA says you may start seeing new labels on some sunscreens anyway, as manufacturers that were ready to comply make the changes. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Is There Racial Bias In Clemency Decisions?

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:30:00 EST

Nearly 20 years ago Clarence Aaron was sentenced to three life terms for his involvement in a drug deal. His request to have his sentence shortened was denied by the White House in 2008. Now a story by ProPublica's Dafna Linzer reports the Bush administration was not told key facts before deciding on it. Host Michel Martin speaks with Linzer.




Breasts: Bigger And More Vulnerable To Toxins

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:24:00 EST

In her new book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, Florence Williams offers her take on why breasts are getting bigger and arriving earlier, why tumors seem to gravitate towards the breast and how toxins from the environment may be affecting hormones and breast development.When science journalist Florence Williams was nursing her second child, she read a research study about toxins found in human breast milk. She decided to test her own breast milk and shipped a sample to a lab in Germany.What came back surprised her.Trace amounts of pesticides, dioxin and a jet fuel ingredient - as well as high-to-average levels of flame retardants were all found in her breast milk. How could something like this happen?"It turns out that our breasts are almost like sponges, the way they can soak up some of these chemicals, especially the ones that are fat-loving - the ones [that] tend to accumulate in fat tissue," Williams tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Unfortunately, the breast is also masterful at converting these molecules into food in the way of breast milk."Learning that breasts soak up lots of chemicals made Williams wonder just what else was going on with breasts. A lot, as it turns out. In her new book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, Williams offers her take on - among other things - why breasts are getting bigger and arriving earlier, why tumors seem to gravitate towards the breast and how toxins from the environment may be affecting hormones and breast development.She says many of those toxins, including the flame retardants found in her breast milk, may come from ordinary household items like couches and household electronics, which often contain flame retardants. Some animal studies have shown that certain types of flame retardants interact with hormone levels."The flame retardants are known to react with the thyroid receptor, and it turns out that thyroid hormones are responsible for all kinds of important functions in our body, from neuro development in our brain to temperature and metabolism," she tells Gross. "We don't know at what levels these substances may be affecting humans, but it's certainly enough to make us stand back and say, 'Do we really need to have this furniture covered in flame retardants, or is there a better way here?'"Breast CancerWhile researching her book, Williams also learned that more tumors form in the human breast than anywhere else in the body except for human skin. "The breast is not even fully developed until the last stages of pregnancy, and that's when the mammary gland forms," she tells Gross. "And for many years, breast tissues are sitting around not being fully differentiated. That's one of the theories about why the breast might be so vulnerable to carcinogens."She says scientists are now studying whether the plastic additive BPA, which acts like the sex hormone estrogen, may be linked to cancer and reproductive problems in animals. Most plastic products, from package wrappers to water bottles, contain BPA."We know that if pregnant rats are dosed with BPA, their pups will grow up with altered mammary glands ... in ways that predispose that animal to breast cancer later on," she says. "A lot of people would say, 'A rat is a rat, it's not a human. What do we know about humans?' And we actually don't know that much. But recently a study just came out doing the same experiment but using Rhesus monkeys and unfortunately, the results were very, very similar. Those monkeys ended up developing mammary glands that were altered by the chemical in ways that made it more likely to get breast canc[...]



Bush Says 'I'm For Mitt Romney,' But He Likely Won't Play Role In Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 10:47:00 EST

As an elevator's doors closed, former President George W. Bush confirmed the obvious. But Romney's campaign doesn't see Bush playing an important role in the 2012 campaign.

"I'm for Mitt Romney."

With four words, said to an ABC News reporter as an elevator's doors closed, former President George W. Bush on Tuesday confirmed what was pretty obvious - he is supporting his fellow Republican's bid for the White House.

But as The Associated Press reports:

"Romney's campaign doesn't foresee the 43rd president playing a substantive role in the race. Aides are carefully weighing how much the former president should be involved in the GOP convention - and for good reason. The Bush fatigue that was a drag on GOP nominee John McCain four years ago, and on the country, still lingers, including among Republicans."

[Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]