Author Archives: DCG

Kids try to figure out a “Walkman”…

DCG

New poll shows statewide Texas GOP candidate enjoy double-digit leads

Abbott in the lead...

Abbott in the lead…

Dallas News: GOP governor nominee Greg Abbott is maintaining a strong lead over Democrat Wendy Davis, as Republican candidates throughout the ballot are in strong positions seven months out from the November election.

A new Public Policy Polling survey of registered voters in Texas shows Abbott leading 51 to 37 percent over Davis. The Fort Worth state senator has seen her negatives increase among voters over the past several months, with now 33 percent having a positive impression of her and 47 percent having a negative view.

While Davis has been fundraising and become more active on the campaign trail in recent weeks, she has yet to place a big TV outlay to introduce herself to voters.

Abbott enjoys a 40 percent positive view with 27 percent having a negative impression.

The survey shows that all Republican candidates are doing well with voters – even Rick Perry, who’s not running for re-election.

For the first time in years, Perry has climbed into the positive stratosphere with 48 percent approving of him, compared to 44 percent who disapprove. That’s up 18 points from two years ago, after his failed presidential bid.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte trails both Republicans in the run-off. Dan Patrick leads her 51 to 35 percent and David Dewhurst leads her by 18 points – 50 to 32 percent.

The margins are similar in the U.S. Senate race, where incumbent John Cornyn leads Democrat David Alameel 49 to 32 percent.

Cornyn’s lead comes even with a low 31 percent approval rate. At best, even Republicans show only tepid support for him, pollsters said.

“There’s one finding in this poll that goes a long way toward explaining all the other ones,” PPP stated.

It’s that only 36 percent of voters in the state approve of the job Barack Obama’s doing to 58 percent who disapprove. “That makes life for Democrats running for office this year a lot more difficult,” pollsters said.

The random telephone poll of 559 registered voters was conducted April 10-13 and has a 4.1 percent margin of error, meaning findings could vary that much in either direction.

UPDATE 2:05 pm: Zac Petkanas, spokesman for Wendy Davis, criticized the methodology of the poll, saying that PPP failed to include voters who exclusively use cell phones instead of land-lines. Cell phones are “important to contacting African-American, Latino and young voters,” Petkanas pointed out. (raaaaacist!)

He also said that Davis is working on energizing qualified people who haven’t voted, which also would knock them out of the poll.

DCG

Idea of New Attention Disorder Spurs Research, and Debate

children

NY Times: With more than six million American children having received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, concern has been rising that the condition is being significantly misdiagnosed and overtreated with prescription medications.

Yet now some powerful figures in mental health are claiming to have identified a new disorder that could vastly expand the ranks of young people treated for attention problems. Called sluggish cognitive tempo, the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing. By some researchers’ estimates, it is present in perhaps two million children.

Experts pushing for more research into sluggish cognitive tempo say it is gaining momentum toward recognition as a legitimate disorder — and, as such, a candidate for pharmacological treatment. Some of the condition’s researchers have helped Eli Lilly investigate how its flagship A.D.H.D. drug might treat it.

The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology devoted 136 pages of its January issue to papers describing the illness, with the lead paper claiming that the question of its existence “seems to be laid to rest as of this issue.” The psychologist Russell Barkley of the Medical University of South Carolina, for 30 years one of A.D.H.D.’s most influential and visible proponents, has claimed in research papers and lectures that sluggish cognitive tempo “has become the new attention disorder.”

In an interview, Keith McBurnett, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-author of several papers on sluggish cognitive tempo, said: “When you start talking about things like daydreaming, mind-wandering, those types of behaviors, someone who has a son or daughter who does this excessively says, ‘I know about this from my own experience.’ They know what you’re talking about.”

Yet some experts, including Dr. McBurnett and some members of the journal’s editorial board, say that there is no consensus on the new disorder’s specific symptoms, let alone scientific validity. They warn that the concept’s promotion without vastly more scientific rigor could expose children to unwarranted diagnoses and prescription medications — problems that A.D.H.D. already faces.

“We’re seeing a fad in evolution: Just as A.D.H.D. has been the diagnosis du jour for 15 years or so, this is the beginning of another,” said Dr. Allen Frances, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Duke University. “This is a public health experiment on millions of kids.”

Though the concept of sluggish cognitive tempo, or S.C.T., has been researched sporadically since the 1980s, it has never been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which codifies conditions recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. The editor in chief of The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Charlotte Johnston, said in an email that recent renewed interest in the condition is what led the journal to devote most of one issue to “highlight areas in which further study is needed.”

Dr. Barkley declined repeated requests for interviews about his work and statements regarding sluggish cognitive tempo. Several of the field’s other key researchers, Stephen P. Becker of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Benjamin B. Lahey of the University of Chicago and Stephen A. Marshall of Ohio University, also declined to comment on their work.

Papers have proposed that a recognition of sluggish cognitive tempo could help resolve some longstanding confusion about A.D.H.D., which despite having hyperactivity in its name includes about two million children who are not hyperactive, merely inattentive. Some researchers propose that about half of those children would be better classified as having sluggish cognitive tempo, with perhaps one million additional children, who do not meet A.D.H.D.’s criteria now, having the new disorder, too.

“These children are not the ones giving adults much trouble, so they’re easy to miss,” Dr. McBurnett said. “They’re the daydreamy ones, the ones with work that’s not turned in, leaving names off of papers or skipping questions, things like that, that impinge on grades or performance. So anything we can do to understand what’s going on with these kids is a good thing.”

But Dr. McBurnett added that sluggish cognitive tempo remained many years from any scientific consensus: “We haven’t even agreed on the symptom list — that’s how early on we are in the process.”

Steve S. Lee, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, said in an interview that he was conflicted over the journal’s emphasis on sluggish cognitive tempo. He expressed concern that A.D.H.D. had already grown to encompass too many children with common youthful behavior, or whose problems are derived not from a neurological disorder but from inadequate sleep, a different learning disability or other sources.

About two-thirds of children with an A.D.H.D. diagnosis take daily medication such as Adderall or Concerta, which often quells severe impulsiveness and inattention but also carries risks for insomnia, appetite suppression and, among teenagers and adults, abuse or addiction.

“The scientist part of me says we need to pursue knowledge, but we know that people will start saying their kids have it, and doctors will start diagnosing it and prescribing for it long before we know whether it’s real,” Dr. Lee said. “A.D.H.D. has become a public health, societal question, and it’s a fair question to ask of S.C.T. We better pump the brakes more diligently.”

Dr. McBurnett recently conducted a clinical trial funded and overseen by Eli Lilly that investigated whether proposed symptoms of sluggish cognitive tempo could be treated with Strattera, the company’s primary A.D.H.D. drug. (One of Strattera’s selling points is that it is not a stimulant like Adderall and Concerta, medications more susceptible to abuse.) His study, published in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, concluded, “This is the first study to report significant effects of any medication on S.C.T.”

An Eli Lilly spokeswoman said in an email, “Sluggish cognitive tempo is one of many conditions that Lilly scientists continue to study to help satisfy unmet medical needs around the world.”

Representatives of the drug companies that make the best-selling medications for A.D.H.D. — Shire (extended-release Adderall and Vyvanse), Novartis (Focalin) and Janssen (Concerta) — said they are not currently conducting research into sluggish cognitive tempo. However, because the new condition shares so many symptoms with A.D.H.D., these products might easily be repositioned to serve the new market.

Continue reading the main story Write A Comment

Dr. Barkley, who has said that “S.C.T. is a newly recognized disorder,” also has financial ties to Eli Lilly; he received $118,000 from 2009 to 2012 for consulting and speaking engagements, according to propublica.org. While detailing sluggish cognitive tempo in The Journal of Psychiatric Practice, Dr. Barkley stated that Strattera’s performance on sluggish cognitive tempo symptoms was “an exciting finding.” Dr. Barkley has also published a symptom checklist for mental health professionals to identify adults with the condition; the forms are available for $131.75 apiece from Guilford Press, which funds some of his research.

Dr. Barkley, who edits sluggish cognitive tempo’s Wikipedia page, declined a request to discuss his financial interests in the condition’s acceptance.

“I have no doubt there are kids who meet the criteria for this thing, but nothing is more irrelevant,” Dr. Frances said. “The enthusiasts here are thinking of missed patients. What about the mislabeled kids who are called patients when there’s nothing wrong with them? They are not considering what is happening in the real world.”

I’m not buying this new “disorder”. Especially with the financial ties between the researcher and the drug manufacturer.

Daydreaming is now a “disorder”. Good grief, just let the kids be kids!

DCG

How to register your gun (warning, foul language)!

guns4

DCG

Chicago Teachers Union to Mayor Rahm: Improving failed schools full of black kids is racist

lewis

Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis

Daily Caller: In late March, the Chicago Board of Education announced an ambitious plan to implement its “turnaround” model for three low-performing elementary schools in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.

The turnaround process involves the sacking of every teacher and staffer at each of the schools, according to an email from the Chicago Teachers Union obtained by The Daily Caller.

Naturally, the union bosses aren’t happy that the nation’s third-largest school district is employing such sweeping measures to improve some of its worst schools.

Still reeling from the closure of 50 schools in 2013, embattled Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis called the turnaround plan “a slap in the face to those of us who are attempting to negotiate for more resources” and “nothing more than school closings by another name.”

The email from the teachers union also suggested that the effort to improve the schools is an effort spearheaded by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to damage black children and black families.

“This is an attack on Black schools that continues the assault carried out by” Byrd-Bennett “last year, when she closed 50 schools (claiming they were the last closings for at least five years).” Byrd-Bennett is black.

“After closing 50 schools, now we find three campuses more on the chopping block while the mayor continues his televised propaganda campaign of promoting these disastrous policies,” Lewis, a Dartmouth graduate, fulminated.

In a CPS press release, Byrd-Bennett countered by saying that the city is committed to fixing schools that aren’t adequately educating students.

“The power of a high school diploma is great and the power of a college diploma is even greater,” said the CEO. “Our children have one chance at a high-quality education and we are committed to doing everything we can to provide our students with the tools they need to be successful.”

One of the three schools facing turnaround plans is Ronald E. McNair Elementary School, which has been on academic probation for the past 14 years. Another school is Dvorak Technology Academy, which has been on academic probation for the past 7 years. The third school is Walter Q. Gresham Elementary School, which has been on academic probation for the past 6 years.

If the Board of Education approves the plan at its board meeting on April 23, the three schools will be managed by the Academy for Urban School Learning (AUSL), a nonprofit organization which already manages 29 public schools in Chicago where over 17,000 students are enrolled.

The turnaround process involves bringing in teachers and staffers who have been specifically trained to work in low-performing schools. It would begin in the fall of 2014 for all three schools.

DCG

Most public pensions may run out of money in 30 years

pensions

Watchdog.org: Public pension systems across the country may be heading toward a financial meltdown, according to a series of stress tests conducted by a respected hedge fund.

Bridgewater Associates, based in Wesport, Conn., estimates it will take about $10 trillion for public pensions to meet their financial obligations in the coming decades as an aging population retires, but according to Bridgewater’s report there is only about $3 trillion in assets to invest.

In order to cover the coming expenses, Bridgewater estimates pension plans would need to earn an annual return of 9 percent.

The report said most states’ public pension systems work on a presumption of a 7-8 percent annual return on their investments, but Bridgewater says a more realistic goal is 4 percent — or even less.

Given all those factors, Bridgewater’s report concludes that as much as 85 percent of public pension plans could run out of money within three decades.

New Mexico’s two big public pension plans — the Public Employees Retirement Association and the Educational Retirement Board — work on presumptions of annual returns of almost 8 percent.

On the other hand, New Mexico is one of the few states that have passed a pension reform “fix” to try to tackle the looming financial problem.

In the 2013 legislative session, Republicans and Democrats — working with PERA, ERB and the state’s chapter of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees — hammered out bills aimed at shoring up pension solvency.

“We haven’t let ours go completely in the cellar,” said state Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, who sponsored the ERB fix. “We tried to tackle the problem and I’m hopeful that we solved it. But our investments have to make some money. If not, we’ll have to come back and change them.”

State Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, spearheaded PERA pension reform in the 2013 session, but worries about the annual rate of return assumptions.

“I think the 6 percent range, 6 and three-quarters” is more realistic, Muñoz told New Mexico Watchdog. “You’re floating that line. The economy is such a rollercoaster, there are no flat line projections where you can get a solid smoothing over for a three to five year period.”

The ERB plan works on a presumption of 7.75 percent a year. That’s pretty high, but last month ERB reported its investment portfolio returned 11.7 percent for the calendar year.

Ingle said adjustments may be needed in the future, but is relieved New Mexico passed the pension bill. “Before, it was a like a gusher,” he said. “Now there’s a certain stream of money going out, but the pipe’s cut down from 12 inches to maybe three.”

DCG

Harvard study: Your share of the federal debt is $106,000

taxpayer

Washington Examiner: American workers would have to cough up a one-time “debt reduction fee” of $106,000 to pay off the nation’s debt that has grown 58 percent under President Obama, according to Harvard University’s Institute of Politics annual report on the USA.

The 91-page report provided to Secrets pegged the nation’s debt at $16.7 trillion, up from the $10.6 trillion inherited by Obama. “The debt has grown so quickly because of large and repeated annual deficits in federal spending,” said the report.

What’s more, the Annual Report of the USA, from the student at the Harvard Political Review and done in partnership with the American Education Foundation, found that food stamp usage has surged 77 percent during the recession and that Social Security benefits will be slashed 23 percent starting in 2033 unless Congress and the White House institute sweeping reforms.

The report is considered one of the nation’s authoritative independent analysis review of federal spending. One of the best benefits of the report is that the authors try to put huge numbers like the debt in perspective.

“Such large sums are difficult to conceptualize properly,” said the student authors in their report.

“If the federal government spent its yearly revenues exclusively on debt reduction and ceased all of its operations, it would take three of four years to pay down the debt. Or, the government could pay down the debt in one blow if it simply took more than $52,000 from every person living in the U.S., including children, the elderly, and the unemployed. If this one-time ‘debt reduction fee’ were levied only on those in the workforce, the cost would be over $106,000 per person,” warned the report.

It also revealed how desperate American families have struggled during the recession that struck at the end of the Bush administration and has lasted through Obama’s two terms: food stamp participation has surged 77 percent and funding more than doubled to $71.8 billion.

Harvard said that from the beginning of the recession in late 2007, average monthly participation in the program jumped to historic levels and an annual bill of $30.4 billion.

The news isn’t much better on the Social Security front: “Without reform, Social Security beneficiaries will face a 23 percent benefit cut in 2033. By 2087, beneficiaries will receive 28 percent less than calculated under the current benefit formula.”

DCG

Hillary Clinton memoir to be released June 10

Can you say Photoshop?

Can you say Photoshop?

NY Daily News: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book on her time as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state will be released on June 10, her publisher says.

Publisher Simon & Schuster said Wednesday that Clinton would share “candid reflections about key moments during her time as Secretary of State as well as her thoughts about how to navigate the challenges of the 21st century.” The book’s title and jacket design have not yet been released; the publishing date was released by the publisher on a website for the book: http://www.hillaryclintonmemoir.com/

Clinton’s book has been widely anticipated as she considers another presidential campaign in 2016. The former first lady and New York senator is already a best-selling author: Her 2003 memoir, “Living History,” sold more than 1 million copies.

Clinton has been traveling the country giving paid speeches to industry organizations and appearing before a variety of constituency groups that comprise the Democratic party. During a speech in San Francisco on Tuesday, Clinton said she was seriously considering a presidential bid and all it would entail.

“The hard questions are not, ‘Do you want to be president?’ ‘Can you win?’ The hard questions are, ‘Why? Why would you want to do this?’ and “What? What could you offer that could make a difference?” she said.

Her new book and accompanying media tour will offer Clinton the opportunity to share her outlook for the nation and offer hints about another campaign. Clinton said during a March speech to a publishing industry trade group that her upcoming book will address the “rapidly changing and increasingly interdependent world” and 21st century challenges from “Crimea to climate change.”

“Just another light, summer read,” Clinton joked to the Association of American Publishers. Clinton said at the time that she was still working on the book, so the June 10 date would represent a quick turnaround by the publisher. Simon & Schuster declined comment on whether she has finished the book.

Clinton is scheduled to be in Chicago on June 10 to address the United Fresh Produce Association and Food Marketing Institute.

Clinton has said she is working with a team of friends and advisers that includes her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea Clinton, and her editor at Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp.

Wonder if she’ll address Benghazi or the missing $6 BILLION from the State Department under her watch?

At this point, “what difference does is make?”

DCG

 

 

New York rich face tax surprise when they die

taxedtodeath2

CNBC: If you’re a New York multimillionaire, you now have another incentive to stay alive.

A change this month in New York’s estate tax, which was billed as tax relief for the wealthy, contains a hidden wrinkle that could leave some multimillionaires with a much bigger surprise tax upon their death. Certain estates could even wind up with a tax rate of 164 percent on portions of their estates, according to one tax expert.

The changes were intended to ease the tax bill for wealthy New Yorkers and prevent them from fleeing to lower-tax states. A report from the Tax Foundation found that New York had the highest tax burden in the country as a percentage of state income. It found that New Yorkers spent 12.6 percent of their per capita income in 2011 on state and local taxes.

Instead of lowering the tax bill, the tax changes could hit some estates with much higher-than-expected rates.

“It’s nonsensical,” said Kevin Matz, an accountant and attorney in White Plains, N.Y. “The governor said this is about making New York a better climate for the wealthy. It’s had the opposite effect.”

On its face, the new law seems like tax relief. Under the previous law, New Yorkers paid estate taxes of 3.06 percent to 16 percent on the value of estates over $1 million. The new law raises that exclusion to $2.062 million this year and gradually increases it to more than $5 million by 2017.

But because the law also phases out certain credits related to federal taxes, people who have estates valued just above the $2 million threshold could get massive estate tax bills. An analysis by U.S. Trust found that a New York resident who dies today with a taxable estate of $2,165,625 could have to pay an estate tax of over $112,050. That represents a tax of over 100 percent on the value of the estate over $2,062,000.

It gets worse in a few years. Matz said that assuming that the exclusion rises to $5,250,000, a New Yorker with a taxable estate of $5,512,500 would have to pay an estate tax of $430,050. That’s a marginal tax rate of 164 percent on the value of the estate above the exclusion.

It’s a bait and switch,” Matz said. The solution, he said, is to not phase out the tax credits. Or, the state could also allow them to phase out over a much longer period of time.

The New York State Society of CPAs and other groups have sent letters to New York lawmakers in hopes of getting a quick fix. So far, there has been little response.

A spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget said that while the marginal rates may have changed, “No one’s taxes have gone up. The dollar amount they pay does not increase.”

He added that the tax change has insured that by the time it’s fully implemented in 2017, 90 percent of New York’s estates will no longer be taxed.

Matz, however, said the issue is not just a problem for the so-called rich. When you add up the value of property, pension plans, 401(k) plans and other assets, a New Yorker with just over $2 million in New York “is not exactly super rich. In a state with a high cost of living, that’s not that unusual.”

DCG

Brandeis U. decides against honor for Islam critic

 

AP Photo

AP Photo

Sacramento Bee: After taking heat from some of its own over a decision to grant an honorary degree to an advocate for Muslim women who has made comments critical of Islam, Brandeis University withdrew the honor Tuesday night.

The university said in a statement that Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali would no longer receive the honorary degree, which it had planned to award her at the May 18 commencement.

Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion: “Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

Brandeis, outside Boston in Waltham, Mass., said it was not aware of Ali’s statements earlier.

“She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world,” said the university’s statement. “That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Even though the university withdrawing the honorary degree, “Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues,” the statement said.

Ali was raised in a strict Muslim family, but after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage, she renounced the faith in her 30s. She declined to comment this week to The Associated Press.

In 2007, Ali helped establish the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, according to its website. The foundation also strives to protect basic rights and freedoms of women and girls. This includes control of their own bodies, access to an education and the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, the website says.

More than 85 of about 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed a letter asking for Ali to be booted off the list of honorary degree recipients. And an online petition created Monday by students at the school of 5,800 had gathered thousands of signatures from inside and outside the university as of Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a real slap in the face to Muslim students,” senior Sarah Fahmy, a member of the Muslim Student Association who created the petition, said of the honor before the university withdrew it.

Bernard Macy, a 1979 Brandeis graduate, sent an email this week to university President Frederick Lawrence and several members of the faculty saying, “Thank you for recognizing Ayaan Hirsi Ali for defending Muslim women against Islamist honor violence.”

But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, said, “It is unconscionable that such a prestigious university would honor someone with such openly hateful views.”

The organization sent a letter to Lawrence on Tuesday requesting that it drop its plans to honor Ali.

“This makes Muslim students feel very uneasy,” Joseph Lumbard, chairman of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, said in an earlier interview. “They feel unwelcome here.”

You want to talk about hateful views (sorry if they make you feel very uneasy)? Take a look:

DCG