Monthly Archives: September 2011

Senate panel trims NIH budget

Now for some good reporting: A Senate committee today approved an NIH budget that trimmed the health agency’s budget by $190 million.

This report actually gives us an accurate description of the proposed budget, which offers a 2012 budget of $30.5 billion compared to the $30.7 that NIH got in 2011. For further context, note that the 2012 budget is still more than the agency got in 2009 ($30.2 billion), and more than a billion above what it got in 2008 ($29.2 billion). Anyone who cries poverty at this budget cut immediately discredits themselves.

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Farmers flee as Indonesia’s Mount Tambora volcano rumbles

Farmers begin fleeing as Indonesia’s Mount Tambora volcano comes back alive.

Villagers like Hasanuddin Sanusi have heard since they were young how the mountain they call home once blew apart in the largest eruption ever recorded — an 1815 event widely forgotten outside their region — killing 90,000 people and blackening skies on the other side of the globe. . . . The April 1815 eruption of Tambora left a crater 7 miles (11 kilometers) wide and half a mile (1 kilometer) deep, spewing an estimated 400 million tons of sulfuric gases into the atmosphere and leading to “the year without summer” in the U.S. and Europe.

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Blurred vision a risk for astronauts who spend months in space

Blurred vision is now considered a serious risk for astronauts who spend months in space.

According to one NASA survey of about 300 astronauts, nearly 30 percent of those who have flown on space shuttle missions – which usually lasted two weeks — and 60 percent who’ve completed six-month shifts aboard the station reported a gradual blurring of eyesight.

This story is a followup on information contained in an earlier National Academies report on astronaut staffing.

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Muslim students on trial for shouting during Israeli diplomat’s speech

Muslim students on trial for shouting during Israeli diplomat’s speech. You can watch what they did here.

As much as I found the actions of these Muslims despicable, it seems a mistake to put them on trial, as this only garners them undeserved sympathy. It also goes against American culture to put anyone on trail for what they say, no matter how impolitely they say it. Furthermore, the punishment meted out by the university seems more than sufficient.

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Senate appropriations committee has capped Webb Telescope budget

The Senate appropriations this week recommended capping the budget for the James Webb Space Telescope at $8 billion, less than the $8.7 billion that NASA now thinks is required to finish the telescope.

The committee also recommended a budget of $17.9 billion for NASA, about $1 billion less than the House recommendation and about a half billion less than NASA’s 2011 budget. If the Senate numbers are adopted, it would bring NASA’s budget back to the budget it received in 2008.

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Times Atlas shows ice free areas of Greenland that are not ice free

When faith trumps data: The most recent edition of the Times Atlas incorrectly shows large areas of Greenland free of ice, claiming this was caused by global warming, even though those areas remain ice-covered. More here.

The Scott Polar group, which includes director Julian Dowdeswell, says the claim of a 15% loss in just 12 years is wrong. “Recent satellite images of Greenland make it clear that there are in fact still numerous glaciers and permanent ice cover where the new Times Atlas shows ice-free conditions and the emergence of new lands,” they say in a letter that has been sent to the Times. “We do not know why this error has occurred, but it is regrettable that the claimed drastic reduction in the extent of ice in Greenland has created headline news around the world. There is to our knowledge no support for this claim in the published scientific literature.

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New exoplanets make astronomers long for a telescope to see them

The plethora of new exoplanet discoveries has astronomers longing for a telescope that can see them up close.

Astronomers need either a giant space telescope equipped with a device for blocking starlight, or an interferometer, consisting of several telescopes flying in formation. NASA did develop a proposal for such a space telescope, called Terrestrial Planet Finder, and the European Space Agency hoped to fly a similar mission called Darwin. But budgetary constraints have left both missions in limbo, unlikely to advance to the front of either agency’s queue until well into the next decade. At the conference, Traub raised the issue. “People are not thinking deeply about the distant future. People are wrapped up with what they’re doing right now,” he says. “Clearly, I’m concerned.”

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Another ObamaCare glitch could result in some businesses being exempt from fines for not providing their workers with health insurance.

Another ObamaCare glitch could result in some businesses being exempt from fines for not providing their workers with health insurance.

In reading the article I found its attempt to explain this situation to be quite incomprehensible. In fact, I wonder if anyone really understands this law, which helps explain why it has squelched the economy and should be repealed.

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White House Emails Reveal Major Obamacare Accounting Fraud

Repeal it: White House emails have revealed an effort by the Obama administration in 2009 to coverup the accounting failures of the CLASS program within Obamacare.

Emails show that the first warning about CLASS came in May 2009, from Richard Foster, head of long range economic forecasts for Medicare. “At first glance this proposal doesn’t look workable,” Foster wrote in an email to other HHS officials, some of whom were working with Congress to get CLASS into the health care law. Foster said a rough outline of the program would have to enroll more than 230 million people — more than the U.S. workforce — to be financially feasible. But work on CLASS continued, bolstered by a report for AARP that laid out scenarios for implementing the plan. The AARP study also raised financial concerns, although the seniors’ lobby supports CLASS.

In July, Foster tried again. After reviewing the latest information from Kennedy’s office, he wrote HHS officials: “Thirty-six years of (professional) experience lead me to believe that this program would collapse in short order and require significant federal subsidies to continue.” Too late. The Obama administration had decided to support CLASS. Documents and emails indicate that Foster was edged out of deliberations. [emphasis mine]

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Obama to propose $1.5 trillion in new taxes

Obama to propose $1.5 trillion in new taxes today.

A quick look at this proposal tells me that most of it is made of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors. The cuts are elusive, while the tax increases are real. More important, none of it actually appears to cut spending at all, merely reducing the rate that spending increases over the next decade.

Sadly, I don’t expect anything much better from the present Republican leadership.

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