Homeopathic Medicine Warning

March 31, 2011

Consumer Warning Network’s Terry Smiljanich came across a homepathic product at the pharmacy that promises to help flu-like symptoms… and boy, did it set him off.  Click here to watch the video above  and find out why he’s so concerned.

It May Not Be Too Late for the Polar Bears

March 23, 2011

By Judy Schropp Hoyer:

It would be nice if there were hope for the polar bears, but hope may not be all it’s cracked up to be.  Consider this excerpt from an Associated Press article, December 16, 2010:

Two groups of scientists are suggesting a sliver of hope for the future of polar bears. A study published online in the Journal NATURE rejects the often used concept of a “tipping point,” or point of no return, when it comes to sea ice and the big bear that has become the symbol of climate change woes.  The study optimistically suggests if the world dramatically changed its steadily increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, a total loss of critical summer sea ice for the bears could be averted.  Another research group projects that even if global warming doesn’t slow — a more likely near-future scenario – a thin, icy refuge for the bears would still remain between Greenland and Canada.

A “thin, icy refuge”  – great.  What more could they need?  And why should we care?

But, did I mention the oceans? Consider this from Matthew Knight for CNN, Dec. 12, 2010:

OCEANS FAILING THE ACID TEST, U.N. SAYS

The chemistry of the world’s oceans is changing at a rate not seen for 65 million years, with far-reaching implications for marine bio-diversity and food security, according to a new United Nations study. 

“Environmental consequences of ocean acidification,” published by the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP), warns that some sea organisms including coral and shellfish will find it increasingly difficult to survive, as acidification shrinks the minerals needed to form their skeletons.

Lead author of the report Carol Turley, from the UK’s Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said in a statement: “We are seeing an overall negative impact from ocean acidification directly on organisms and on some key ecosystems that help provide food for billions.  We need to start thinking about the risk to food security.

It’s CO2 Again

Why?   We’re back to CO2.  CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans where they turn into carbolic acid.  This causes the oceans to acidify.  Acidification affects the growth and structural integrity of tropical reefs and, coupled with ocean warming, could limit the habitats of crabs, mussels and other shellfish.  In turn, this will affect the rest of the food chain (right on up to the polar bear and us).   Fish depend upon coral reefs for shelter and food.  And a billion people rely on fish as a key source of protein.

Aw, who needs stupid fish anyway?  We can eat cake.  Or become vegetarian.  Eat meat.   Or, maybe, we could all stop needing so much oil.

Editor’s note:  Judy Schropp Hoyer is an attorney, mother and organic farmer. She joins CWN with an occasional essay on the state of the world.

How Health Care Reform Affects You NOW

March 23, 2011

It’s been one year since health care reform was passed, but few of us are any closer to understanding all the things that it actually does or will do.  Confusion has probably been the number one result of the legislation to date.  So what exactly does the bill do?  Several measures have already taken effect.  MSNBC  put together an in depth look at all the controversies brewing over whether to repeal it or leave it alone, but first, let’s see what exactly it’s doing for Americans right now:

  • Insurance companies no longer allowed to discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions
  • Insurance companies barred from placing lifetime caps on benefits
  • Insurance companies barred from dropping patients’ coverage when they get sick
  • Children allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until their 26th birthday
  •  A 10% tax on indoor tanning services
  • Insurance companies must prove they spend 80% to 85% of premium revenue on medical services
  • Insurance companies required to disclose rate increases (and the reason) of 10% or more
  •  Government-run insurance plan set up for adults with preexisting conditions who are denied coverage
  • Seniors receive a $250 rebate to help cover the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare drug coverage
  •  Free preventative care covered by Medicare and private plans. 
  •  Nursing mothers to be allowed lactation breaks
  •  Government-run long-term care program set up. For those who participate, people pay premiums for five years and then will receive benefits if they need them
  • Small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) begin receiving tax credits covering 35% of premiums to help them buy coverage. (This credit jumps to 50% in 2014.)
  • States receive billions in funding for community health centers
  • Drug companies face $2.5 billion in fees (rises in later years)
  • Creation of a government research institute created in to examine the effectiveness of medical treatments
  • Establishment of a Medicare Independent Advisory Board, which will be tasked with trying to keep Medicare spending down and submitting legislative proposals to do so. It will first submit recommendations in 2016.

Okay, what happens next.  Republicans argue the bill was front-loaded with postive stuff, but then launches the rub.  Here are some of the measures that take effect in the coming years:

  • In 2013, new taxes and fees go into effect for:
    •  individuals making more than $200,000 a year (and families making more than $250,000 a year)
    • on dividends and interest
    • on sales of medical devices
  • By 2014, the individual mandate goes into effect — if you don’t have insurance, you have to buy it or face a fee.
  • By 2016, that fee will be 2.5% of your income or $695 a year, whichever is more.

Click here to read more on MSNBC’s First Read.

Hijacking Homes: The Bank’s Bait & Switch

March 16, 2011

Homeowners trying to save their homes have been lured into government supported programs promising lower mortgage payments to help avoid foreclosure. One big problem. Even when homeowners follow all the rules, banks often pull the rug out from under them and try to take their house anyway.  Click here to read this investigative report by WTHR in Indianapolis on an all too common problem nationwide.
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Is it Getting Hot in Here?

March 16, 2011

By Judy Schropp Hoyer

Our planet is getting warmer.   “All but the most ignorant, biased, and skeptical now admit this truth…” (Tim Flannery, Chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council).  That’s because there’s more CO2 (carbon dioxide) and methane gases  – once simply called “pollution” –  in the atmosphere than ever before.

 A Quick Non-Scientific Explanation of CO2 In the Atmosphere

Carbon is in the oil, gas , limestone and coal  – all that fossilized organic matter -  that we dig out of the ground.  When we dig that stuff up, and when we burn it to make electricity, we release the carbon into the air.  The atmospheres of Mars and Venus – planets where life does not exist – are made up mostly of CO2.  In contrast, CO2 makes up only a few parts per 10,000 of Earth’s atmosphere.  Carbon in the air is drawn into the earth, primarily by the oceans.  The more we burn, the more CO2 results, both in the air and in the sea.  CO2 and methane are the principal “greenhouse gases” that are warming our planet.

More about methane later.

 What Can Slow Down the Effect of Greenhouse Gases?

There are two things which naturally slow down the rate at which greenhouse gases will warm the earth -  the oceans which absorb the CO2 and the ice which currently covers about 10% of our planet.  The ice reflects a lot of the sun’s heat back out into the atmosphere and also stores cold, a sort of natural refrigerator.

 But the ice is melting and the oceans are becoming warmer.  These are facts. 

 WARMER EARTH SEEN AS THREAT TO GRAIN PRICES  -  Associated Press, Dec. 2, 2010.

 Oh, yeah, it will affect our food supply.

 CLIMATE CHANGE’S THREAT TO THE FLORIDA ECONOMY  -  St. Petersburg Times,  Jan.  19, 2011.

 Oh, yeah, it will affect our economy.

 Maybe we really should use less coal, oil and gas.

Editor’s note:  Judy Schropp Hoyer is an attorney, mother and organic farmer. She joins CWN with an occasional essay on the state of the world

Effect of Japanese Earthquake on the Economy

March 15, 2011

The earthquake in Japan has left many wondering what the impact will be on the world economy.  Will it lead to squeezed supplies of goods from computer chips to auto parts and raise fears of higher interest rates?

According to an article by the Associated Press, the damage to the U.S. and world economies is expected to be relatively moderate and short-lived. Oil prices are falling, helping drivers around the world. And the reconstruction expected along Japan’s northeastern coast could even provide a jolt of economic growth.

Autos and auto parts make up more than one-third of U.S. imports from Japan. As a result, shutdowns of Japanese auto factories could disrupt production at U.S. plants owned by Japanese automakers.  At the same time, some U.S. auto parts makers could benefit if Japanese plants in the United States substitute U.S. parts for those they usually get from Japan.

Japan’s contribution to the world’s economy fell from 18 percent in 1995 to 9 percent in 2010, according to CLSA. And the area hardest hit by the quake accounts for just 6 percent to 7 percent of Japan’s output, about half as much as the area hit by the 1995 Kobe quake, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates.

Click here to read more from the Associated Press.

What States Have the Most Expensive Car Insurance?

March 15, 2011

You know that accidents, traffic tickets, and even your credit score can determine your auto insurance rates. But so can the state where you live. According to a just-released ranking of state-by-state costs from the web site Insure.com, average rates in the most expensive state — Michigan — are two and half times as high as in the cheapest state, Vermont.

Here are the top ten most expensive states:

1. Michigan, $2,541
2. Louisiana, $2,453
3. Oklahoma, $2,197
4. Montana, $2,190
5. Washington, D.C., $2,146
6. California, $1,991
7. Mississippi, $1,896
8. New Mexico, $1,896
9. Arkansas, $1,836
10. Maryland, $1,807

Click here to see the full list and read more on CBS MoneyWatch.com.

Beware What You Click – Online Discount Coupon Rip Off

March 9, 2011

By Angie Moreschi:

We all love to get discounts when shopping online, but beware what you click on.  A 15-year old girl buying a present for her mom got sucked into a “coupon click fraud,” which lifts credit card information when shoppers click on a pop-up ad.  The pop-up promises a $10 cash rebate from the retailer on your next purchase, but when you click on it, your credit card number is snatched, and you’re charged $12 a month for a so-called “membership” you never asked for, were not aware of, and don’t want.

Internet merchant Shopper Discounts is behind the practice. The 15 year old girl who got duped by this deception is leading a federal class action suit against Webloyalty, which is the parent company of Shopper Discounts.    ”The uniform business practice at issue in this case is as simple as it is deceptive and devious,” the class claims. 

And apparently it’s not just the coupon company at fault,  the retailer you’re buying from might also be complicit.  The suit claims Webloyalty pays its retailer accomplices for signing up consumers. Another good reason to only make online purchases from a company you know and trust.

This practice is another sleazy example of how consumers are being ripped off in the age of the internet.  It’s time for the courts to stand up and stop these practices.  Make the company pay this time! 

Click here to read more about this practice and the case on Courthouse News Service.

Higher Gas Prices are Coming – Part Two

March 7, 2011

By Judy Schropp Hoyer

It’s an economic law –  price is highly dependent upon the ratio of supply and demand.   There are other factors affecting the price of gas and oil for the consumer besides supply – the cost of getting it out of the ground, the cost of refining it, and  the cost of transporting it, plus the taxes and profit added on to those costs.   But, ultimately, it will come down to supply because supply actually is limited.  We will run out someday.  When?   Depends on how fast we use up the finite supply.   The population of the world is increasing, and China and India are not only growing in population but also supplying a larger percentage of their people with electricity.

It’s all a matter of time

There are about 6.9 billion people in the world now.  In 40 years there will be nine billion.  At our current rate of 87 million barrels per day, it’s estimated that we’ll run out of recoverable oil as soon as 2050. (Until then, prices will continue to rise.  Four dollars a gallon at the pump will be a sweet memory, much as 35 cents per gallon is now. 

I remember my mother pulling into a “service station” (this was the 1950s) and asking the man who came out to pump the gas and wipe the windshield and check the oil for “Two dollars of regular, please.”  We’d ride all week in our Ford station wagon on that. 

Then, in 1971 came a terrible rumor:  gas prices would go over a dollar in the next year.  It didn’t actually happen that year.  But then OPEC cut down on the amount it would supply the US and other countries – the “Arab Oil Embargo.”   After that came the “gas lines” of 1973 –  our first real scare.  After that the price of gas went up rapidly, and consumers were glad to pay it.

President Ford was in the White House then, but did nothing to curb our dependence on OPEC.  Nor did President Carter.   Nor any of them since then. 

 The last big scare

Our last big scare was 2008 when prices went over $4 per gallon.  In some places that summer, supply lines were interrupted by storms.  I was in Western North Carolina then.  If someone saw a gas station that actually had gas, that person would tell all his friends (after he’d filled up) and – even if my tank was ¾ full -  I’d go fill up, too.   Then, tell my friends.  Can you imagine living like that?  In my mind I pictured the poor Russian peasant women waiting in line at the bread store, then waiting in line at the butcher, then….  Or my own mother with her rationing stamps during WWII, trying to get sugar to bake my older brother’s birthday cake.   Think it can’t happen?    Then you’re not scared enough.

But maybe you should use less oil.

Editor’s note:  Judy Schropp Hoyer is an attorney, mother and organic farmer. She joins CWN with an occasional essay on the state of the world.

How To Balance The Budget In One “Easy” Step

March 7, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

Even though former Vice President Dick Cheney used to say that “deficits don’t matter,” back when the Republicans were running up huge budgetary imbalances, deficit reduction is the new mantra for Republicans, Tea-Partiers, and increasing numbers of Democrats, including the President. On the chopping block are billions of dollars in cuts in domestic discretionary spending, including home heating oil subsidies for the poor, Public Broadcasting, Pell Grants, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Accepting for a moment that such draconian cuts in the federal budget are prudent, especially when the country is trying to recover from a serious recession, isn’t there a better way to achieve this goal?

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