Monday, April 27, 2009

Treating Mesothelioma Patients

Recent breakthroughs in treating mesothelioma patients

There are many treatment options to treatment mesothelioma patients. The conventional modalities include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

However; there are other alternative methods of treating mesothelioma patients include but are not limited to chemotherapy with newer drugs, gene therapy, photodynamic therapy and immunotherapy as well as multimodality approach. All of these are not successfully launched as yet, but in the experimental stages to treating malignant mesothelioma.

In chemotherapy use of new drugs is not a new thing and Alimta is one such regimen developed by Eli Lilly and is one claimed to help prolong the life as well as give some palliation to the mesothelioma patients. Conjunctive use of drugs such as lovastatin, thalidomide and onconase in chemotherapy found to give some encouraging results.

Then, there is gene therapy wherein genetic material is used to aim at the malignant tissues and make them sensitive to several drugs. A virus protein whose gene is altered will be injected and it multiplies in target tissues. The DNA of the cells will now be able can convert a drug that cannot act on malignant cells into one that can kill them. It’s also as termed suicide gene therapy. Although this is still in experimental stages, it holds promise as the results on clinical trial patients are quite encouraging.

Immunotherapy is another alternative treatment, that’s taking shape lately. It involves altering mesothelioma patients’ immune systems to identify malignant cells and destroy them. However, it’s not as easy as said. Vaccines are one form of immunotherapy that can modify the existent immune architecture of mesothelioma patients. However, these vaccines would be patient specific.

Then, there is therapy with MABs (monoclonal antibodies). Treatment with MABs is certainly promising and research is growing in the right direction.

The correlation between cytokines and immune system is also being studied and currently they are administered in a combination immunotherapy. Use of monoclonal antibodies such as Interferons and interleukins is another subject of interest for the researchers who are currently investigating how they can be used in a treatment regimen, from all dimensions, and these hopefully supplement the immunotherapy with vaccines.

Additionally, there is photodynamic therapy which involves use of a particular drug to sensitize malignant cells to specific light wavelength. The drug is usually given at the time of surgery. Although the results of photodynamic therapy are not quite promising as yet, it is not one that can be written off so early. Researchers are working ways so it can be used to complement another therapy.

The importance of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy for treating mesothelioma patients cannot be discounted. However, treatment regimens that use combination therapies will have a good prognosis and such a conjunctive treatment is also referred to as multimodality therapy approach and to treat malignancy a multimodality approach is always encouraging. Its only the modalities that change according to patients. With more research focused on alternative treatments, multimodality approach will take a new dimension in the future to treat and cure mesothelioma patients.

What Care is Needed to Choose an Online Stock Broker?

The Internet has opened information and opportunity to people all around the world ever since its inception. Twenty years ago if you wanted to research stocks you had to go down to the library and hope they had a good financial records section. If you wanted to trade stocks you had to have a real life broker who placed orders for you over the phone. You would call them to get the most real time stock quotes and then have them execute your order.

Prices were high and service was a good as it can be with a process like this. The biggest and best customers got the most attention and there was little room for the little guy.

But the Internet changed all of that. Firms like Ameritrade, E*Trade, and Scott Trade opened up and allowed customers to research stocks instantly and execute their own orders. With no middleman and no high fees, these companies opened up the market to the exploding Internet population.

The advent of this form of trading went hand in hand with the “tech bubble” of the late 1990’s and helped fuel the huge trend of day trading. This meant relative amateurs making their living off sitting in front of their computers trading stocks.

While some argue that online brokerages have their disadvantages, they have most certainly changed the face of investing. There is a plethora of companies out there offering online trading services, so how do you choose the one that best fits your needs?

Here’s a quick guide on how to choose an online broker.

1. Commissions: How much it will cost you to buy and sell your stocks is one of the biggest factors in choosing an online broker. While prices range online, they are lower than full services “real” brokerages. Make sure to read the fine print when signing up for a brokerage. Brokerages will advertise low commissions but will only charge those on accounts with a certain minimum deposit or level of trading activity. Also remember that while price is important it’s not everything. Just because it’s the lowest price doesn’t mean it’s the best for you.
2. Minimum balances: Some online brokerages, like “real world” brokerages, require a minimum deposit to have an account. Sometimes these amounts might be way higher than the average investor can come up with.
3. Minimum trading: Some brokerages mandate that you make a certain amount of trades during a quarter or year. If you don’t meet these requirements then you don’t get the best commission structures or can even get hit with an “inactivity fee”.
4. Interest rates: Some online brokers also offer banking accounts with very competitive interest rates. Find out what they offer and at what rate to make the most of your cash in between trades.
5. Other products: In the same vein as bank accounts, find out what other products these brokers offer. Many can let you buy and sell foreign stocks, CDs, bonds, options and gold or precious metal certificates.
6. Customer service: It’s key! This is your money we’re talking about, so you want to make sure there are people on deck ready to help you 24 hours a day. Go online and check out reviews by actual users of these brokerages to find out the nitty-gritty on their customer service.

Your options are varied when it comes to choosing an online broker. They run the gambit from the ultra discount brokerages, to more full service financial institutions. A lot of brick and mortar banks not only offer online banking but also brokerage services to compliment them.

Take a look around online and even at your own bank and see what they have to offer. With online trading the possibilities are endless!

Auto Insurance Facts Revealed

Auto Insurance is a commitment that cannot be avoided and you may feel stranded if you don’t have one. But here, when you apply for one, there will be just so many hidden clauses that may send you into a tizzy. That’s because most of the time you have little or no knowledge about the insurance complexities. But you cannot run away from the fact, as auto insurance is a must in most states.

So with no choice left you need to understand a few facts rather pesky prints about the auto insurance and the first step towards this would be to get an idea as to what benefits are covered under the insurance you choose to buy, and then you can plan to save some money by comparing it with other insurance firms. Read on for more information….

Have ample knowledge about the insurance cover

You need to know the exact amount of insurance that suits your convenience and pocket. Once you claim for an insurance cover your next premium automatically increases. For example, if you meet with an accident don’t be complacent and think that the damages will be covered by the insurance company, give a thought as to how much will the auto insurance really cover; probably much lower than what you have claimed. Be clear about this factor with the insurance agent before taking the insurance.

The other factor you must be aware of is that after the first accident the rates increase by 20-40% if you are at fault, and this rate is calculated considering the average amount of the claim and the processing fee of the insurer. And the safe option to deal with this is to go for an ‘accident forgiveness’ policy.

Depreciated value claim

In case you are a third party claim, you will be having the benefit. For example, if someone hits your vehicle you can claim for a diminished value from your auto insurance company, because you do not have any deal with their auto insurer. Making such a claim in a first party situation is not valid in most states. One must also remember that once your car has met with an accident in spite of the repairs whatsoever, the insurance company will lower the value of your automobile.

Do not pay in parts

Paying the auto insurance premium monthly, quarterly or half–yearly could bore a hole in your pocket because you will be charged with processing fees. And the best option to avoid this scenario is to pay a lump sum.

There are other points to keep in mind and that is if you want to change the insurer then you need to inform the old insurer in writing that you intend to cancel your policy with them. If required you will have to prove about the new auto insurance policy to your old insurer and also inform the financing company in case if you have dealt with dealer financing. And, last but not the least; choose an auto insurance policy that offers high deductible and liability levels as they can save you a lot of money.

Can Garlic protect Us From the Risk of Cancer?

Garlic is known for its several benefits, it is used to make garlic powder, garlic salt, and garlic bread for widely use in flavoring for different food items. Besides, garlic is said to be the oldest medicine to cure several ailments. Doctors recommend garlic juice for certain skin problems. Recent researches have revealed that garlic can be a cure to cancer. Now scientists are trying to link garlic consumption with cancer risk. There are few analysts who claimed in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that not enough data is available to support the results and more research is required to conclude the results.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mentions that experiments on humans are required to carry out before reaching to any results. Even earlier many claimed that garlic can reduce risk of cancer, but scientists are concentrating on human studies for this research so that there can achieve precise results.

Till now 183 human studies has been carried out on garlic and its probable cure to cancer. Out of the 183 people 19 people met their criteria for research covering 10 types of cancer. They divided them as none, low, medium, high consumption of garlic. But the terms were not defined clearly. Those labeled “high” consumption of garlic were consuming garlic twice a month to 16 cloves a month.

It is challenging to conclude the quantity of garlic to be consumed. Further research has revealed that garlic deliver best results after consuming 10-15 minutes peeling and chopping. Its inactive compounds get active after 10 to 15 minutes of peeling and chopping. Therefore, those who consume garlic immediately after peeling & chopping may not get as better results as those who consume it after 10 to 15 minutes of chopping.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) experts reported after research carried on humans on garlic consumption in 2007 under the heading Diet and Cancer Risk that

1. Garlic may protect from colorectal cancers.

2. Garlic which belongs to allium family (also onions and similar vegetables) and stomach cancer is probably cured by allium family foods.

AICR Report also mentions that it is difficult to ascertain the quantity to be consumed by individual. But they are not denying the benefits of garlic. For healthy living and to reduce cancer risk it is necessary to control weight, regular physical exercise and balanced & fibrous diet. These plan foods benefit more when consumed together than individual. Therefore, use garlic in your food to add flavor and possible protection from cancer development.

Get $5000 Tax Rebate If You Donate Your Car

How to Get $5000 Tax Rebate If You Donate Your Car?

People might think why on earth one need to donate one’s car; but the reasons could be plenty and car donation is now the next best charity and many people seem to give their vote for it making it popular not only in the United States but elsewhere in other developed countries as well. However, car donation to charitable organizations is simply not on humanitarian grounds, there are associated benefits with it that people love.

Although donating a car to charitable organization is a means to helping the poor and the needy, yet by doing so the individual can enjoy significant amount of tax benefits which is the most attractive thing here. Again, your vehicle might be in utter bad shape and is of no use to you but donating your car to any of the charitable organizations which could be of some worth to them.

Why not sell your car?

Selling a car is always a pain. It is not only time consuming but also involves additional cost. If you wish to sell your car you need to give a makeover to it which implies you need to invest something, so that you get the best price. Second, you need to bear with the cost of putting up an advertisement in any of the media. You need to run around car dealers and convince people about your car on various test drives that would be taken by parties before they buy the car.

So is that headache all worth? Instead why not donate your car to some organization and end up saving time at least?

Benefits of donating car

Car donation attracts tax benefit in the following year to the donor if the charitable organization is registered under 501(c) 3. The amount of tax refund is on the sale value of the car. Once you will up the car donation application form you become eligible for the IRS tax rebate and you receive a receipt of minimum $500. The charitable organizations will assess the market value of the car depending upon its running condition. If your car needs any repair then that amount will be deducted from the amount of tax rebate that you will receive on car donation.

Donating your car to a charitable organization is a simple and easy process. You simply need to call the listed numbers of the charitable organizations and they would take care of the rest. You need not worry on paper work, repairs or even money. Suppose your car is worth $5000, you are entitled for a charitable deduction of $5000 from your income for tax purposes. However, if the value of your car is more than $5000, then you need to fill up 8283 form along with 1040 form and officially written form of car valuation attested by highest concerned officials.

So if you are thinking of selling your old car think from your heart and feel the fact that a vehicle which is either junk or old-fashioned for you can be treated like golden chariot by others who are in need of it. Why not make a conscious decision and get going with your donation of car to a charitable organization.

Incorporating Your Business

While a lot of attention is focused on big corporations being the engine behind our economy, small business is responsible for a large portion of our economy. According to the US Small Business Administration in 2007 small businesses contributed half of the nation’s GDP.

The amount of money and jobs involved in small businesses in this nation is staggering. Half of the GDP of the second biggest economy in the world is nothing to sneeze at! With that kind of money and assets on the line there has been a lot of focus on incorporating businesses of all sizes.

Incorporating your business provides you protections that running it, as an individual just can’t provide. By using a corporation to run your business you gain personal asset protection. You can separate your business holdings and personal holdings. This is advantageous if something happens and your business is sued, which in this sue-happy country of ours is very possible. If you should lose, the other party would not be able to take personal assets like your house as payment.

Turning your business into a corporation also gives you a certain level of credibility. Other businesses, customers and potential sources of finance will take you a little more seriously with an INC. behind your name. You may be running your business out of your garage and using your kids for child labor, but if you’re incorporated people will take you more seriously.

Also, with a corporation, your business has perpetual existence. Once you’re dead and gone the company lives on and can be easily transferred to your heirs. Another advantage of incorporating your business is better tax rates. The government taxes income of corporations at lower rates than individuals. Different versions of corporations have varied tax structures and can lower your overall tax bill significantly.

Incorporating your business is the way to go if you’re looking for better asset protection, tax status and easier transferability. Since filing incorporation papers can be complicated and involved most people seek legal advice when going through the process. A business lawyer and accountant can help you analyze your unique situation and figure out what kind of corporate entity is best for you.

Hiring professionals like these can be expensive, and given that incorporating your business is more popular these days, incorporating services are readily available on the Internet. Companies like allow you to research, fill out and file corporate papers in several states across the nation. While companies like this don’t substitute for legal advice, they can simplify the process and are an economical alternative to hiring a professional.

Entrepreneurship and small business are vital to our economy and country. Unfortunately, you need more than a good idea and competitive nature to succeed in this country. Managing risk and protecting yourself from worse case scenarios is just as important as running a solid business. Incorporating your business is the only way to insure that your personal assets are protected and you are getting the most our tax and legal systems have to offer.

Treating Constipation With Yoga

Is Yoga an alternative to treat constipation?

Constipation is annoying and one heck of a problem. Although laxatives provide with some temporary relief, in the long run they become ineffective due to constant use. Doctors too warn against continuous use of laxatives to move your bowels.

The main problem in constipation is that the stool becomes so hard that it becomes difficult to pass through the rectum causing some serious problems.

Constipation is the most commonly caused side effect of today’s so called convenient foods. We stopped eating fruits and started taking juices. The fiber in the common foods is also disappearing in the process of cleaning and polishing.

How is constipation treated?

To treat constipation one must take recourse to natural therapies apart from some diet modification.

It is the power of Yoga, if practiced correctly and regularly could help cure constipation as well be a great therapeutic alternative to other allied diseases. Yogasanas as well pranayam coupled with cleansing kriyas can definitely come handy in alleviating constipation forever and it’s not exaggerating.

Some of the asanas for constipation related problems include:

Bhujangasana, which is referred to as snake pose with your chest lifted up and the rest of the body lying on the floor. Inhaling and exhaling must be done properly as you lie down and lift your chest upward. This position stimulates the adrenal glands and help increase blood circulation to all organs. With the application of pressure in the stomach muscles helps in relieving constipation

Supta Vajrasana is better known as pelvic posture, Here one need to knee with the knees together and feet apart and sit between the feet. Begin with spine erect and then bend backwards till the spine rests on the floor and the arms stretched backwards. With continuous practice one can retain the position for more than two minutes and then again be back to normal. Through this asana the stomach is stimulated, strengthens the thigh muscles and help relieving the pains of constipation.

Pavanmuktasana: If you practice daily for 10-15 seconds upto 2 minutes can be quite beneficial in treating indigestion and relieving constipation. Through this asana the wind in the whole body is balanced. Here, one needs to lie down flat and take some long deep breaths. Now, gradually the legs need to be folded at the knees. Exhale and press the legs that are folded with your abdomen and bring either your nose or chin to the knees. Stay in this position for some time and then release the knees and put your foot on the floor.

Other yogasanas are Dhanurasana, Sarvangasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana and Trikonasana. Besides these some breathing exercises such as Anuloma-Viloma and Kapalabhatti can be helpful.

Mutual Fund Investment - Are they wise option in Recession?

Mutual funds are basically pool of funds invested in different securities for better return on invested money through diversification. There are different types of mutual funds depending on the risk factor of investment with right mix of money market instrument, government bonds, debt funds and equity linked securities. Available as Income funds, Growth Funds and Balanced funds, the penultimate question in today’s economic recession is how safe is these investments and whether it’s a wise decision to invest your money in them.

As it is the time of recession and stock market indices all over is touching low, it’s a general advice to invest more in mutual funds. This is because the NAVs (Net Asset Value) of most stocks are low. So, it is wise to buy those Mutual Fund schemes at present NAVs that are low and to get subscription in New Offers as well. Invest wisely into different categories of funds such as Commodity sector, Mid-Cap funds or even Small-Cap categories. Since, this time the market is down put the money on bonds. Once, the market gears up for a northward turn, the option can be Growth Funds. With assessment of market situation, one can switch funds.

There are some free fund switches offered by most of the mutual fund companies, so while you exercise your option of investing into mutual funds, check into these as well besides the entry load, exit load and redemption conditions.

Another option needs to be weighed when it comes to investment at any point of time and it is the time horizon. One must know as to whether the return is expected in a short span or in long term. If you are investing in Mutual funds, it is advisable to keep your money at least for a 2-3 years span of time to gain benefits. The volatility of market gets averaged out in long time span.

Investment spread out is a key benefit of investing in mutual funds and they act as lifeboats in a ship. However, to select the right mutual funds, it is the essence of picking the right ones. That’s the job of fund managers and it is not you who is making it work to churn return, but it’s the fund managers with their skilled expertise and credentials work in tandem to make the best pick for mutual funds. Again, advice is not to invest money into mutual funds with load charges in the current economic scenario.

Select one that is consistently performing. All will get into temporary slump but that gets outperformed over a longer time horizon. So, invest in mutual funds by making an informed decision.

Money Market funds - Why Is it Safe Investment?

The economic uncertainty has shaken the market beyond any reason and it is hard to estimate what funds or investments will give you certain gains. During these hard times it is quite a task to make the right investment plan that is risk-free and at the same time help you make profits. In order to know if a Money market fund will generate gains you need to first understand what the fund is all about.

What is a Money market fund?

Money market funds are attractive because they possess lower risk. These funds are open-ended mutual funds that invest purely in the money markets and they are normally short-term investments and have features of a debt fund that expires in a year or less than a year. The main aim of this kind of fund is to generate interest for the shareholders. And many off such funds invest government securities for instance treasury bills and commercial paper. The money market funds are ideal for large financial institutions and an individual investor can enter the fund through a wide range of securities. Your investment matures in a short period of time and these funds are also called cash investments.

Functions of a Money market fund

The main function of the Money market fund is to protect the principal amount. The NAV or the Net asset value is constant; $ 1 for each share, which does not change in order to simplify accounting but the interest rate, tends to move up and down. The fund involves large sums of money unlike the stock market. And generally these funds are liquid that are used by financial sectors, which store the money that is not yet invested. The funds have low risk and are insured by private companies.


The low risk factor is the biggest plus point of a Money market fund and your principal amount is well secured. The funds are liquid and thus considered to be the safest options of investment.


Although the fund is popular for its safe option feature. The fund can still not perform well though the chances are bleak. One of greatest drawbacks of the fund is very less returns but you can be assured of the principal amount that will be safeguarded. And one of the risks of the fund is inflation that can possibly alter the return and thus crumble the buying power of the investor’s cash. Because the fund is based on conventional principles and they are less profitable.

Can Marijuana Stop Dementia?

Dementia is a typical problem of the brain where memory of the person gets affected and is unable to recollect or remember anything. This condition is characterized by loss of memory, difficulty in communication and most importantly trouble in performing daily activities. Dementia mainly occurs due to inflammation in part of brain cells. This inflammation or brain cells destruction can occur due to sudden stroke, brain tumor or even head injury. Dementia can be the result of natural process of aging or due to damage of cells because of Alzheimer’s disease. Several research studies indicate that inflammation in brain may accelerate dementia.

A new research study suggests that parts of marijuana have proved to be beneficial in treating memory loss. It has been seen that some constituents of marijuana has anti-inflammatory properties and it is this characteristic of marijuana that can help in treating inflammation in brain cells. Inflammation of brain cells is a part of aging but there can be situations when inflammation goes out of control and that results in deadly diseases such as dementia or even Alzheimer.

In an experiment by a group of scientists, synthetic drug with components similar to marijuana were administered to a group of rats. The result showed that both young and old rats exhibited considerable improvement in memory with even reduced inflammation of brain cells in some old rats. There were other experiments as well that showed drug acted on parts of brain that was responsible for appetite, memory, mood and even pain.

Research studies from Ohio State University conclude that a synthetic drug similar to marijuana triggers production of brain cells and neurons and help cut inflammation. The most important component of marijuana is the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Medicines based on this chemical compound have been in use to keep dementia at bay, and this is proven and widely accepted.

There are also evidences that suggest people who smoked marijuana in 1960s and 1970s rarely developed memory loss or Alzheimer’s disease. However use of marijuana cannot be recommended because of its psychoactive properties. The challenge is to find a drug or a synthetic substitute to marijuana without its negative impact that is without making the patients feel dizzy and high as in the case of smoking marijuana. So the need is to find a compound that will help treat neurogenesis and inflammation in an efficient way to produce best results.

However, the focus as of now is to find a pill or pills that will reduce brain inflammation without adverse effects of marijuana.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

10 Most Money Saving tips for Senior Citizens

With increasing baldness and gray hair, it is accepted that one gains more wisdom, one gets classified as a privilege class of senior citizen, and you get more time to spend but yes with it come a fixed source of income. With rising inflation you need to spend wisely to maintain a perfect balance in the tightrope walking of living a meaningful and qualitative life over the years.

Here are some price-chopper ideas into living each day:

1. Shopping on Senior Citizen Days: If you do your purchases on the designated days of the week when it’s called senior citizen days you can save some bucks in the form of discounts. Most shops discount it on your bill without you having to ask for, but in some cases you need to remind them so you need to be informed in the first place to get the discount.

2. Shopping at Charity Stores: If you need to buy gift items for your grandchildren or wish to read between the lines of a new novel, walk into any charity shops where you can buy the stuffs at much less price. Not only that you also contribute to a social cause by purchasing from a charity shop.

3. Use unbranded items: Most items, if branded carry the cost of the brand image or credibility and pass it on to the consumers with increased price tag. So, buy unbranded items especially food items and get yourself treated with mega deals and discount offers. It helps you sane few bucks always.

4. Cut cost by shopping @ 99p store: As a senior citizen you can further cut cost if you purchase some items such as deodorants, tea, coffee and other essential items from these stores as the prices here is much less. In this way your grocery bill can be reduced to a great extent.

5. Cook your sauce: Instead of spending money on sauces and rubs, cook your homemade sauce. It adds to healthy well being besides saving some money.

6. Save energy: It not only helps in controlling pollution but also helps save in electricity bills by not heating all the rooms. Use energy efficiently by replacing the electrical fittings with LED bulbs. It will help you curtail cost on electricity.

7. Reduce gasoline cost: Keep your vehicle well-maintained with regular tuning such as checking on tires and air filters so that fuel efficient is at its maximum. You can save few bucks by buying less expensive gas to run your vehicle.

8. Save on your insurances: From health to auto, you can save money on your insurance policies by being that little extra vigilant and using some research diligently online to compare costs before registering into one. If you are healthy and if you drive safe, there are insurance companies that provide with the best deals to the senior citizen.

9. Check on the State Benefits: Due to limited earnings, many senior citizens are not needed to pay the council taxes, one need to check on the local council to get benefited from the scheme.

10. Know other allied state benefits: There are other benefits such as free TV license if you are aged above 75 years and also pension credits to boost income.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is America a Christian nation?

Just last month, President Obama speaking in Turkey said that we are not a Christian nation. Not surprisingly, the media had a field day with those comments, placing them in a context of secular liberalism that denies the historical roots of American culture. Also, not surprisingly, most of the commentators who were critical of the president failed to show the full context of his comments.

What he actually said was, “I’ve said before, one of the great strengths of the United States is, although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation … we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

It would seem that the president was more in tune with the pulse of American feelings about faith and religion than his media tormentors. The cover of Newsweek, April 20 edition, proclaims: “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.” Curiously it was not written in response to the president’s comments; it came as the result of a recent survey on faith in America.

The Newsweek poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, found that there has been a 10 percent decline in the number of people who identified themselves as Christian from 1990 to 2009. Further, the bulk of that shift seems to have taken place within the last years of the Bush administration and most prominently in the Northeast.

But before we fall into a state of monumental lamentation, let’s consider that even under these new low survey results, 76 percent of Americans today identify themselves as Christian, down from 86 percent in 1990. Now, when three-fourths of everyone in America claims they are Christian, it seems unrealistic to announce the new post-Christian age, though agnostic and atheist people now represent 15 percent of all Americans, a near doubling in the past 19 years.

The place of religion in American has been a hot topic since Jamestown was established. Many of our earliest citizens came here because they were experiencing religious persecution in their homelands and this is still true today.

I think it is important that America never consider itself a “Christian nation.” Most governments of the world dictate the religion, or lack of religion, of their people.

To become a Christian nation, we would need Congress to enact legislation dictating Christianity as the official religion of the United States of America. And, the Supreme Court would have to decide not to object to that new law. The result of this would be that we would lose our freedom to choose our faith system. Are you ready to have Washington tell you what to believe?

America is a free market for religion and we were founded on that basis. Our founders knew all too well the intolerance associated with state religions. They also could look back on several hundred years of wars and see clearly that a majority of them were fought for religious reasons. Religious hatred stirs more action than religious tolerance. Since religion deals with ultimate truths, people are more than willing to make ultimate decisions — life and death — for other people who don’t think like them.

As a Christian pastor, I have no question in my own mind about what I believe. But as an American, I have no question in my own mind that you are completely free to agree or disagree with me. I understand my church will thrive because the values I preach resonate with the values that people in the pews feel in their hearts. In church-going America, people vote with their feet. If I am not preaching the love of God in my sermons, people’s feet with take them elsewhere on Sunday mornings.

As some denominations have gotten more aligned with a political agenda, some people have felt manipulated by their leaders. The Newsweek poll indicates that a real crisis is growing for the Republican religious right. A majority of people who identify themselves as Evangelical Christians voted for the Democratic party in the last election.

The irony here is that 40 years ago, the liberal churches were heavily involved in the social movement and trying to affect legislation. The evangelical churches pointed to this involvement in politics and said, “The role of religion is to save souls, not to change society.”

People began leaving those mainstream liberal churches back in 1959 and going to conservative and more evangelical churches. Now the evangelical churches are seeing an erosion of influence due to their heavy political involvement. The same central truth is at work; people don’t like to mix religion and politics. Americans feel the salvation of our souls should not be dependent on the policies of our government.

America is the hope of the world! If we can show that a great nation can rejoice in the religious freedom of all faiths, can worship God as we understand God to be, can support and defend the freedoms of faiths different than their own, and can prosper while we do that, then there exists a great hope that other nations and other peoples can learn to do the same.

I believe American is the most faithful nation on the planet.

I believe we can show the world it is possible for different faiths to worship side by side, without killing each other.

I do believe we are the hope of the world.

And I believe that the love of God, calls us to do no less.

The Rev. Steve Petty is pastor of First United Methodist Church. He welcomes your e-mail at

April 24, 2009

Italy's Mafia thrives in global financial meltdown

While businesses around the world are hunkering down for survival, the Italian mob is living a golden moment.

Italy's various organized crime syndicates — often lumped together colloquially as Mafia Inc. — are gobbling up gas stations, muscling in on supermarket franchises, making loans to cash-starved businesses, taking over trattorias and acquiring buildings in swank neighborhoods in Rome and Milan, investigators say.

These mobsters have lots of what is in short supply for many businesses these days — liquidity — as well as centuries-honed expertise in preying on the vulnerable, whose ranks are swelling in the current financial crisis.

It all means the mob is free to sink cash into two areas that lie at the heart of the global meltdown: real estate and credit markets.

The crime syndicates are flush with billions of euros from extortion rackets, drug trafficking and booming sales in fake designer clothing made in China expressly for the Italian mob — an increasingly lucrative trade as hard-hit consumers search for bargains, prosecutors and police said in recent interviews.

For the mob bosses, the global economic meltdown "is only an advantage," said anti-mafia prosecutor Franco Roberti, in his office in Naples, the chaotic port city that is home to the Camorra, one of the Italy's major crime syndicates.

Italy has scored some spectacular successes in its decades-long fight against the Mafia, capturing top bosses, persuading turncoats to testify, and encouraging ordinary citizens to resist shakedowns.

But the mob keeps growing — and its drive in recent years to grab chunks of legitimate business is paying off big time in the financial crisis.

In Rome, in the high-rent neighborhoods around the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain, mobsters are snapping up real estate, anti-Mafia prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo said in a courthouse interview.

In probes of what Capaldo described as "indications" that mobsters have taken over hotels, restaurants and cafes in Rome, police seized assets of some of these businesses, although the establishments remain open.

"These places are well run because they want to make money," Capaldo said. He declined to identify the establishments because the probe is still being conducted, saying only that "you'll find some of them in tourist guide books."

Capaldo's office also confiscated auto dealerships in Rome from suspected Camorristi or their allies.

"The Camorra makes the money here in the south, but it invests it in legal activities up north," customs and tax police Gen. Giovanni Mainolfi said in his Naples office.

If the mobsters built posh places in the largely undeveloped south "they would stand out, but do it in Milan ... and they blend right in," Mainolfi said.

In an operation code-named "Easy Money," police this year seized a hotel in the exclusive Tuscan sea resort of Punta Ala, as well as a supermarket, two Ferraris, a gas station in the wealthy northern Reggio Emilia region and other properties, altogether totaling euro30 million (about $40 million). All were believed to be owned by the Camorra, flush with drug profits.

The revenues raked in by Italy's crime syndicates would be more than respectable for many a stock market-listed company these days — although, of course, the mobsters hardly issue annual reports.

The Rome-based Eurispes think tank has estimated that in 2008, "Mafia Inc." earned euro130 billion (then $167 billion), or about 8 percent of Italy's GDP, from its criminal activities, nearly half of that from drug trafficking.

Eurispes, which analyzes social, economic and criminal trends, said loansharking brought in an estimated euro12.6 billion ($17 billion) of that income. It calculated that some 180,000 merchants and other businessmen got their loans, directly or indirectly, through organized crime in Italy.

With much of the world financial crunch making its impact in Italy in the first months of this year, it's too early to tell how much more profit organized crime might make.

Government probes have found that as they launder illicit revenues, mob bosses are increasingly moving their money out of the underdeveloped south where the syndicates are rooted and into affluent central and northern Italy.

In March, Italy's intelligence services warned in a report that rising unemployment and the credit crunch could help crime syndicates tighten their tentacles around vast swaths of the nation's business sector, including supermarkets, real estate and tourism.

A main engine of the mob's recent strength — the age-old practice of loan-sharking — is thriving as banks hoard cash, allowing the Mafia to elbow in on legitimate businesses.

The mobsters are poised to "acquire control of businesses in difficulty, especially through their consolidated practice of loan-sharking," as well as to "snap up assets put on the market by enterprises experiencing liquidity crises," the intelligence report said.

The dire predictions seem borne out by businessmen's complaints.

SOS Impresa, an Italian business lobby dedicated to fighting organized crime, estimated in a report late last year that in the Camorra has "multiplied by 10, 100, perhaps 1,000 times, its penetration of the economic and social fabric, stepping up its business presence in our country, in Europe and the world."

In Rome, Camorra men or those in their employ have been spotted hanging out at pawnbrokers' auctions to learn which businesses might be in financial straits, said Carabinieri Lt. Col. Roberto Casagrande. Those businesses would then be approached — and offered a loan they could scarcely refuse.

The Camorra offers shaky businesses attractive interest rates, calculating that the businesses will end up part of its economic empire if the owner falls behind on payments, Roberti said. The mobsters sometimes leave the original owner as a figurehead to thwart suspicion, police said.

The 'ndrangheta crime syndicate — based in Calabria, the "toe" of Italy's boot — is also brazenly taking over struggling businesses and snapping up prime northern Italian property at a bargain during the real estate slowdown, investigators say.

Genoa Mayor Marta Vincinzi told a rally against organized crime in Naples late this spring that Mafia bosses, particularly from the 'ndrangheta, were "gobbling up entire neighborhoods" and pressuring merchants to pay "protection money" in the gritty, northwestern port city.

Investigators believe that flourishing ties with Colombian cocaine cartels have helped the 'ndrangheta to surpass Sicily's Cosa Nostra in international drug dealing.

Cosa Nostra has taken blows in recent years. Longtime fugitive bosses have been captured and a rebellion by island businessmen against paying "protection money" is starting to take root. But the anti-extortion revolt is not widespread enough to significantly reduce the Sicilian Mafia's coffers, the intelligence services' report noted.

Particularly tempting to the mob is Italy's recent explosion of supermarkets, a boon to consumers long frustrated by the often limited hours and selection offered by mom-and-pop stores.

In Sicily last year, authorities seized euro$700 million (then worth $900 million) in assets, including supermarket outlets, from a businessman who was known as the island's "king of supermarkets" and was suspected of letting Cosa Nostra use his businesses to launder money.

Prosecutors in Palermo said the owner's name turned up on handwritten notes scribbled by Bernardo Provenzano, the longtime fugitive "boss of all bosses" who was captured in 2006.

The intelligence services report predicts that mobsters would step up production of counterfeit name-brand goods given consumers' apparently increased appetite for fake designer items. The Eurispes think tank estimated this growing business earned the mob euro6.3 billion ($8.5 billion) last year.

Naples anti-organized crime prosecutor Roberti said the Camorra has pumped up what once was a kind of cottage industry, with crime clan bosses knitting closer ties with mobsters in China, where fake designer clothing, shoes and accessories are now churned out in factories for the mob.

Trafficking in fake designer goods — which investigators suspect the Camorra is also peddling in the United States, France, Britain and Germany — is now becoming more profitable for the Neapolitan syndicate that dealing in cocaine and hashish, said Mainolfi, the customs and tax police general.

He has calculated that for every euro it costs to manufacture the counterfeit designer goods, the Camorra earns 10 euros, while for every euro spent to run drug trafficking, it earns six or seven euros.

The fakes, sold in street stalls and clothing shops in the Naples and Rome areas, arrive by the tons in Naples' sprawling, chaotic port, where custom officials manage to check only some 5 percent of the shipping containers being unloaded, Mainolfi said.

Is Bottled Water Really Better Than Tap?

From coast to coast, the United States has some of the finest supplies of drinking water in the world. But you’d hardly know it to judge from the number of people toting around bottles of designer H2O.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, an industry research and consulting firm based in New York City, Americans drank more than 8.2 billion gallons of bottled water in 2006 — nearly double the amount consumed by the second-place country. That’s 28 gallons per person, or half a gallon a week. We drink more bottled water than milk, coffee or beer. Only carbonated soft drinks have a bigger market share.

Beverage Marketing estimates that Americans spent nearly $11 billion in 2006 on a product they could have had practically for free. State and local governments spend trillions — yes trillions — of dollars to deliver clean, fresh water to homes and businesses. The water that comes out of your kitchen sink routinely wins taste tests over bottled water and costs a tiny fraction of the $1.64 a gallon that Americans spend on the bottled stuff, according to ACNielsen, an international market research firm based in Illinois.

Testing the waters: Is tap water really safer?

Plain old tap water may be safer, too, because its purity is tested far more often than bottled water. Federal law requires municipalities to test the purity of their drinking water at least once a day — and in most cases, multiple times a day, says Dale Kemery, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which sets the regulations for public drinking water.

The EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule of 1991 requires testing at customer taps because lead (which isn’t usually in source water) can enter water through corrosion of lead-bearing materials that may be present in service lines and home plumbing. Systems must work to ensure that the corrosivity of their water is minimized to keep lead from leaching.

“We’re talking about flowing water,” Kemery says. “It’s a constantly changing situation, so we’re constantly sampling it.” The frequency of testing depends on the size of the water system, but in larger cities, Kemery says the public water supply is analyzed hundreds or even thousands of times per day.

EPA regulations require drinking water to be tested as it enters the local distribution system as well as at various points along the way in order to protect against contamination in the aquifers. Every public system must also report the quality of its water to the public at least once a year. (For a copy of your city’s Consumer Confidence Report, call the EPA at 800-426-4791, or check

Bottled water is regulated as a food product — not by the EPA but by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which requires bottlers to test their water for bacterial contaminants just once a week, according to FDA spokesman Mike Herndon. Some regulations on bottled water are not as stringent as those on public drinking water.

For example, the FDA permits bottled water to contain trace amounts of E. coli and/or fecal coliform bacteria, while “the maximum level of bacteria in public drinking water is zero,” Kemery says.

Are all bottled waters the same?

Not all bottled waters are created equal. Members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) — an Alexandria, Va.-based trade group that represents both small and large bottlers and major brands such as Evian, Crystal Geyser, Poland Springs and Deer Park — must meet standards that are stricter than the FDA’s. IBWA membership requires zero tolerance for E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria — just like the EPA guidelines for tap water. These companies must also submit to a surprise annual inspection from an independent third party.

“We’re trying to raise the standards for bottled water quality,” says Joe Doss, the IBWA’s president and CEO. “We’ve asked the FDA to make the E. coli standard a zero-tolerance policy.” Doss adds that there are 31 substances for which IBWA regulations are more stringent than both the FDA’s and EPA’s.

But regulation without enforcement loses a lot of punch. In this area, tap water again receives better marks from just about every consumer and environmental organization.

State governments are responsible for implementing regulations on public drinking water, while the FDA does its own policing — and very little of it. “The FDA has less than one full-time staff person enforcing bottled water regulations,” says Victoria Kaplan, organizing director of Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

What’s more, bottlers do not have to reveal the results of their bacterial tests; they’re only required to keep the data on file for two years in case an FDA inspector visits.

“The FDA is constantly understaffed and underfunded and relies on bottled water companies to police themselves,” says Gigi Kellett, director of Think Outside the Bottle, a Boston-based campaign to restore consumer confidence in public water systems. “When there’s a problem with our public water, we know it right away because it’s so rigorously tested.” By contrast, Kellett notes, a contaminant in bottled water could go undetected for longer.

The sources of bottled water

Bottled water companies spend millions of dollars to persuade consumers that their product comes from pristine mountain springs and is therefore cleaner or purer than tap water. But in reality, many bottled waters are simply tap water that’s been filtered (which, ironically, can remove the beneficial fluoride — although some firms also add fluoride back into their water) and packaged.

In July, PepsiCo announced that its Aquafina bottles would spell out the fact that the water inside it comes from the same place as local tap water. Dasani, bottled by Coca-Cola, is also nothing more than filtered tap water. This filtering process “doesn’t make [the water] any healthier,” says Aquafina spokesman Dave Dececco. It merely removes salts, chlorides and other dissolved solids that may affect taste. Together, these two brands make up a quarter of the bottled water market.

Acknowledging the folly of buying bottles of filtered versions of their own tap water, municipalities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City have recently prohibited the use of city funds to purchase bottled water.

“For a long time, I’ve viewed [bottled water] as a huge marketing scam,” says Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. The City Council of Ann Arbor, Mich., passed a similar resolution earlier this year, while New York City is spending $700,000 to promote its tap water (which, reportedly, many Manhattan diners often request by name).

These governments are publicly acknowledging what water industry experts have long known: that our public drinking water is safe and healthy. The water flowing from San Francisco’s taps, for example, comes from snowmelt into the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir near Yosemite National Park. It’s so pure that it passes all contamination tests without even being filtered.
Flowing to market: Bringing bottles to consumers

San Francisco's tap water comes from a natural downhill flow from the Sierras into the aqueducts that feed the city’s homes and businesses. Bottled water, on the other hand, requires a great number of resources to make that same journey in petroleum-derived containers.

According to the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., it took 18 million barrels of crude oil to make 50 billion polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles in 2005 alone. That process released a staggering 800,000 metric tons of carbon into the environment.

Trucking those bottles to market entails even more use of petroleum and more carbon emissions, especially when that water comes from far-flung places like Europe or Fiji. In July, 2007, ABC News estimated that 2 ounces of oil were consumed in bringing each 1-liter bottle of water from France to Chicago — and that doesn’t count the petroleum used to make the bottle.

But everyone recycles! Don't they?

Less than a quarter of plastic bottles get recycled. “Only half the U.S. has access to curbside recycling,” says Betty McLaughlin, executive director of the nonprofit D.C.-based Container Recycling Institute. She adds that even in communities where recycling facilities exist, people usually drink bottled water when they’re away from home and on the go — and much less likely to recycle the bottle.

Statewide bottle bills — in which consumers pay a deposit (usually 5 cents) on beverage containers — are one of the most successful methods of improving recycling rates, but the IBWA has lobbied against them. Just four states (Oregon, Hawaii, California and Maine) charge deposits on water bottles in addition to beer and soda containers.

The IBWA also claims immunity from the environmental issue, pointing to evidence that bottled water sales are merely displacing purchases of sugary drinks like soda. Gary Hemphill, managing director of the Beverage Marketing Corporation, agrees, noting that the greatest growth in water sales has come in single-serving bottles. Bulk sales of large jugs, which consumers usually buy as a substitute for tap water, have grown more slowly.

“Our competition is not tap water — it’s other beverages like teas and carbonated soft drinks,” says the IBWA’s Doss. “We have research that indicates consumers choose both tap and bottled water. They may choose bottled water to eliminate calories from their diets.”

Doss also trumpets his industry’s green efforts. “We take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.” He notes that plastic water bottles are already 100% recyclable and that several bottlers have recently switched to a lighter bottle that uses 40% less resin.

So what does it all mean? Well, the choice between bottled and tap depends largely on where you are. On the road, at a convenience store or at a stadium where you’d otherwise choose something fattening, bottled water is a healthful alternative. But at home, at work or in restaurants — anywhere tap water is readily available — the house brand is best.

“There’s no reason bottled water and tap water can’t coexist,” says Aquafina’s Dececco. “When you’re out and about, bottled water is more convenient. When you’re home, there’s absolutely no reason not to drink tap water.”

Ford loses $1.4 billion

Ford Motor reported a narrower-than-expected loss for the first quarter Friday, and its CEO said he is confident the company will not need the same kind of federal bailout that is keeping its U.S. rivals alive.

Ford posted net losses of $1.4 billion, or 60 cents a share. That compares to a profit of 3 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Excluding special items, Ford (F, Fortune 500) lost $1.8 billion, or 75 cents a share, compared to a profit on that basis of $477 million, or 20 cents a share a year in the first quarter of 2008. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast a loss of $1.23 per share on this basis.

Ford's revenue plunged 37% during the quarter to $24.8 billion, as vehicle sales in the U.S. dropped 43%. But revenue was also better than analysts' forecasts. Wall Street was expecting sales of $22 billion.
0:00 /2:44Ford chief: Plan's working

Still, the latest losses come on top of $30 billion in net losses the company reported from 2006 through 2008.

In addition, the company reported a $1.9 billion pre-tax operating loss on its automotive operations, which brings those losses to just under $40 billion since that core unit started losing money in 2005. And the company expects those losses to continue through at least next year.

But the report also once again showed Ford is in far better shape to weather the crisis in the global auto industry than its two U.S.-based rivals.

CEO Alan Mulally told analysts that the company is still confident it will not need a federal loan unless the economy gets significantly worse, or unless there is an uncontrolled bankruptcy in the industry that disrupts the flow of parts from Ford's suppliers.

Ford had asked the government for up to a $9 billion line of credit last December, but said at that time it didn't expect to need such help unless sales were worse than expected.

While sales have been far worse than the company's forecast at that time, Mulally said the debt restructuring and new union contract that the company completed during the quarter will allow it to continue without federal assistance.

Chrysler LLC is racing to reach deals with unions, creditors and Italian automaker Fiat before a deadline next Thursday that could force it to file for bankruptcy.
0:00 /1:36Ford's competitive disadvantage

General Motors (GM, Fortune 500), which faces its own bankruptcy deadline at the end of May, announced Thursday it is extending shutdowns at 12 of its 15 U.S. assembly plants due to weak sales.

By contrast, Ford announced a modest 10,000 vehicle increase in second quarter production plans Friday. Its total North American production target of 435,000 is still down 36% from year-ago levels, however.

Ford's automotive operations burned through $3.7 billion in cash during the quarter. But the company burned through cash at a much lower rate than in the past two quarters -- Ford burned through nearly $15 billion in the six months prior to the first quarter.

The company was helped by an agreement with the union to use stock rather than cash to pay for future retiree health care costs. In addition, by tapping into $10.1 billion in revolving lines of credit during the quarter, a move announced in February, the overall company was able to end the quarter with $21.3 billion in cash on hand, up $7.9 billion from the end of 2008.

Ford's cash position gives it a cushion to weather the losses the company expects to continue for the rest of this year and next. Ford chief financial officer Lewis Booth added that the company believes the first quarter will be the worst period of 2009 in terms of using cash, and that the burn rate will fall in each of the next three quarters.

Ford said action taken during the quarter to restructure its debt and changes in its labor contract with the United Auto Workers union will allow it to meet its goal to break even or make money on a pre-tax basis on its North American auto operations by 2011.

The company has previously said it expects about $500 million a year in reduced costs due to the changes in the UAW contract, although those full savings will not be seen this year as the changes are phased in.

Ford also expects that its balance sheet restructuring, in which lenders accepted equity in return for about $10 billion in outstanding debt, will save it about $500 million a year, pro-rated for this year.

Five Steps for Home Insurance Claim Preparation

Filing a home insurance claim is a very important task for every homeowner. Before you file your claim, make sure that you know all the information you need. Moreover, you should be able to do it the right way so that you will not miss anything and that you will get what you deserve in your claim. Here are five steps to preparing for and filing your home insurance claim.

1. Inform your home insurance company immediately. As soon as the damage (or damages) has been done, call your agent and ask for assistance about your home insurance claim. Your agent will give you information about the next steps that you should take for your home insurance policy.

2. Make an assessment of your property and document it for proof. Depending on what available equipment you have, you can take pictures or shoot a video of your property and the damages you will file a claim on. You can use this to as proof when you file your home insurance claim.

3. Do your own repair of the things that you can do yourself. Do not worry, you can reimburse all the expenses you would have to make when doing repairs. Just keep the receipts and present it to your home insurance company for a reimbursement. You are responsible for your property. Aside from making minor repairs, you can also start securing your property by doing preventive measures, such as securing your roof.

4. Keep a list of the items you think are damaged or lost. Go through your whole house and ask everyone who lives in your house to recall any item that was previously there but is now missing. If your home insurance includes replacement cost coverage, you can have your old items replaced even if the values are different.

5. Wait for your home insurance claim. If you want to file a home insurance claim right after a natural disaster, chances are you will not get immediate attention from the home insurance company. This is especially true when the damages on your property are not as serious as what other homeowners are experiencing. While waiting, you can stay in communication with your home insurance agent so that you can get updates about when you can get your home insurance claim.

FOX News Poll: Obama's First 100 Days

As Barack Obama closes in on his first 100 days as president, majorities of Americans approve of the job he is doing, are satisfied with what he has accomplished so far and think he is keeping his promises, according to a FOX News poll released Friday.

Obama's job approval rating comes in at 62 percent, down just three points from the 65 percent approval he received after his first week in office. Twenty-nine percent of Americans disapprove.

In addition, most people say Obama is doing a better job than they expected (26 percent) or meeting expectations (56 percent). Few say he is doing worse than expected (16 percent).

The president's approval is nearly identical to the job rating George W. Bush received at the same point in his first term, as 63 percent of Americans approved and 22 percent disapproved (April 18-19, 2001). One noticeable difference is that approval of Obama is much more divided along partisan lines today than Bush's ratings were eight years ago.

There is a wide 68 percentage point gap between the number of Democrats (92 percent) and Republicans (24 percent) who approve of the job Obama is doing. For Bush, there was a 50-point gap in April 2001.

After the September 11 attacks the partisan difference in Bush's approval narrowed significantly and was twenty-some points for months. Later, in the days leading up to the 2004 presidential election, the gap grew as wide as 79 points among registered voters as 90 percent of Republicans approved of the job Bush was doing, compared to 11 percent of Democrats.

Most Americans have a favorable opinion of Obama as a person: 68 percent favorable and 27 percent unfavorable. Similarly, at this point for Bush, 64 percent said they had a favorable view of him and 27 percent unfavorable (April 18-19, 2001).

First lady Michelle Obama is even more popular than her husband, as 73 percent of Americans have a positive view of her, up from 65 percent earlier this year (January 13-14, 2009).

Just over half of Americans (53 percent) approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as vice president, while 26 percent disapprove and 20 percent are unable to give an opinion. A 59 percent majority has a favorable opinion of Biden as a person and 28 percent unfavorable.

Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from April 22 to April 23. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

The poll also finds that 73 percent think Obama is honest and trustworthy, up from 60 percent in October 2008. Furthermore, more people today see Obama as a "doer" (43 percent) than a "talker" (30 percent), a reversal from pre-election polling when more people saw him as a talker (49 percent) rather than a doer (34 percent).

Foreign policy is the area where voters say the administration has done its best so far. Coming in a close second is the economy, which is also the area where the most voters say the administration has done its worst.

Things Are Getting Better
Most Americans — 69 percent — say they are satisfied with what Obama has accomplished in his first 100 days, and 57 percent think he is keeping the promises he made during the campaign.

Such positive marks are not surprising given that nearly half of Americans (46 percent) are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today, up significantly from 20 percent in mid-January. The increase in satisfaction is driven almost solely by Democrats: 17 percent said they were satisfied in January -- before Obama took office -- and 73 percent say they are satisfied today.

The number of people who rate the nation's economy as being in "excellent" or "good" condition has also increased from 5 percent a week before Obama took office to 12 percent today.

On the personal level, about a third (34 percent) say they are better off financially now than they were in January, while almost as many say they are worse off (30 percent) and another third says there has been no change in their financial situation (34 percent).

Nearly twice as many Americans think the actions Obama has taken since becoming president will help rather than hurt the nation's economy (52 percent to 28 percent). The gap is smaller when it comes to personal finances: 38 percent say Obama's actions will help them, while 25 percent say they will hurt. A third (33 percent) says the president's actions will not make much of a difference for their family.

The recently passed $3.6 trillion dollar budget makes nearly half of Americans feel less secure about the nation's financial future; 37 percent say more secure.

In general, more Americans say they prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services (50 percent) over a bigger government that provides more services (38 percent). And, by a 16 point margin, people think big government is a greater potential threat to the country's future than big business.

The poll also shows the public is significantly more likely to say the size of government has gotten bigger (42 percent) since Obama took office, than to say it has gotten smaller (8 percent). Some 42 percent say the size of government hasn't changed.

What's more, by a 27 point margin, people think Obama sees big business as the greater potential threat than big government.

While some 53 percent of Americans think Obama is making policy changes at the right speed, that's down from 66 percent in January. And the number saying he is changing policies too quickly has increased from 24 percent to 30 percent.

Obama Seen as More Liberal Than Most Americans
A slim 53 percent majority thinks Obama's positions on the issues are "about right," while 35 percent think he is "too liberal" and 6 percent say "too conservative."

When asked to compare Obama's views to most Americans, 54 percent think he is more liberal, 13 percent think more conservative, and 23 percent think his views are in line with the country.

More people think Obama has started bringing real change to Washington (51 percent) than think it is more of the "same partisan politics" (40 percent).

Even so, by a 12 point margin, Americans think Washington has become more "partisan and divisive" in the last few months than think it has become more "bipartisan and cooperative."

Few People Want a Mulligan for Their 2008 Vote
Overall, Americans say they are still satisfied with the way they voted in the 2008 presidential election. Among Obama voters, fully 93 percent are still satisfied, while 3 percent wish they had voted differently and 2 percent have mixed feelings.

For McCain voters 85 percent are still satisfied, 5 percent wish they had voted differently and 9 percent mixed feelings.

Looking ahead to 2012, just over half — 52 percent — say they would vote to reelect the president if the election were held today, including 79 percent of 2008 Obama voters.


Gore tells GOP deniers they’re victims of ‘the Bernie Madoffs of global warming.’

ice President Al Gore, testifying to Congress, told GOP global warming deniers that they are the victims of "the Bernie Madoffs of global warming." After Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) mocked global warming as being responsible for the woes of the Dallas Cowboys, Gore said that he and other climate change deniers have been receiving bad information. He pointed out that a front-page story in today's New York Times reveals that the largest corporate polluters in the United States censored their climate scientists in 1995:

The largest corporate carbon polluters in America, 14 years ago, asked their own people to conduct a review of all of this science. And their own people told them, "What the international scientific community is saying is correct, there is no legitimate basis for denying it." Then, these large polluters committed a massive fraud far larger than Bernie Madoff's fraud. They are the Bernie Madoffs of global warming. They ordered the censoring and removal of the scientific review that they themselves conducted, and like Bernie Madoff, they lied to the people who trusted them in order to make money.

Gore concluded, "These corporations ought to apologize to the American people for conducting a massive fraud for the last 14 years."


BARTON: I was somewhat taken aback, Mr. Vice President, by the list of current environmental problems contributed to global warming. You did miss a few, though. the dallas cowboys have not won a playoff game in 10 years. You didn't mention that. And you also, as Mr. Markey pointed out to me, the New England Patriots did not make the Super Bowl. I would add those to the list of problems you enumerated.


GORE: Congressman Barton, I want to address the point you made about the science. I do not question your sincerity for one moment.

BARTON: And I do not question yours, so we are equal on that.

GORE: Thank you. I believe it is important to look at the sources of the science that we rely on. With all due respect, I believe that you have relied on people you have trusted who have given you bad information. I do not blame the investors who trusted Bernie Madoff, but he gave them bad information.

BARTON: I have never talked to Bernie Madoff.

GORE: I'm not saying that you have, but he gave them that information and committed a massive fraud that ended up hurting most of all the people who trusted him. Senator Warner made reference in his opening statement to the story on the front page of the New York Times this morning, absolutely incredible. The largest corporate carbon polluters in America, 14 years ago, asked their own people to conduct a review of all of this science. And their own people told them, "What the international scientific community is saying is correct, there is no legitimate basis for denying it." Then, these large polluters committed a massive fraud far larger than Bernie Madoff's fraud. They are the Bernie Madoffs of global warming. They ordered the censoring and removal of the scientific review that they themselves conducted, and like Bernie Madoff, they lied to the people who trusted them in order to make money. And the CEO of the largest . . .

BARTON: I will stipulate that CO2 concentrations are going up. there is no debate about that. there -- they are about 380 parts per million and they're going to rise to about 500 parts per million in the next 50 to 100 years. I will stipulate that. Now, the consequences of that, and that is because of man-made CO2, I think are debatable. I do not know about the scientific peer review that you just talked about, but if somebody lied about something 14 years ago, I am sure Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey will conduct am investigation oversight hearing into that. My question to you was about the cost of the allowance system. How are we gonna to pay for it? How many jobs are we going to lose? if you've got information about something that happened 14 years ago, I am sure, again, our chairman and subcommittee chairman -- Mr. Stupak, who's the oversight subcommittee chairman -- will look at it. But answer the question about costs, please.

GORE: It is on the front page of the New York Times today, by Andrew Revkin. They themselves conducted review and found a science about it's valid. And to the point you made a moment ago: they verified in their own studies that man-made global warming is raising temperatures and causing this crisis. Like Bernie Madoff, and they lied about it in order to make money. And they themselves profited. The ceo of the largest got a onetime payment of $400 million. Now, again, those who have trusted them and believed them are due an apology. These corporations ought to apologize to the American people for conducting a massive fraud for the last 14 years.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Sex

Sex is everywhere in the media but does everybody know that besides experiencing sexual pleasure, sex has immense psychological and physical benefits even after the sweat has dried up and sweet talk ended. The feel-good benefits of having sex at least thrice a week enhance quality of life and well being, a fact backed by scientific studies.

1. Acts as a pain reliever: Instead of popping analgesic pills to relieve your headache; have sex with your loved one and you can feel the difference as sex has the ability to act as a pain reliever. If you engage in any sexual activity, there is secretion of hormone oxytocin into blood that releases chemical like substances called endorphins. With the increased level of oxytocin during the course of sexual activity, overall body pain, cramps and even headache is relieved.

2. Leads to increased blood flow: It is a known fact that as you engage in any sexual activity, your heart rate increases and blood flow to the brain is also increased. This increased flow of blood throughout the body leads to better functioning of the organs as they get fresh supply of high dosage of oxygen.

3. Sex acts as a detoxification agent: Sex can cleanse the body by elimination of waste products through increased blood flow leading to reduced fatigue and also helps prevent diseases.

4. It is a stress buster: Since ancient days, sex has always helped men to reduce stress. The chemical secretion involved in a sexual activity helps to relieve stress. Additionally a good sleep is what most enjoys after experiencing sexual pleasure. Recent studies confirm the fact that the body gets relaxed after a satisfying orgasm and lovemaking. A good sleep is very important for a healthy well being.

5. Sex enhances immunity: If you experience good sex at least thrice a week, research studies indicate that it is directly correlated to the level of immunoglobulin in our body. Healthy sexual life implies higher level of immunoglobulin, resulting in increased immunity and greater resistance to diseases.

6. Sex helps reduce body weight: Sex results in burning of calories. It has been found that sexual intercourse can help you burn off 85 calories in every 30 minutes. Sexologists are of the opinion that sex is a great form of exercise to reduce your body weight.

7. Sex help rejuvenate mind and body: Sexual activity and orgasm helps increase life span. It leads to secretion of DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) hormone that helps maintain your body, repair tissue, improves skin and most importantly act as an anti-depressant. It will help you grow more youthful and energetic.

8. Improves genital health: Regular sexual intercourse and ejaculation helps men maintain prostrate glands in good health conditions. Kegel exercise (contraction of genital muscles) is another way of strengthening the genital tract and also helps women in childbirth and in experiencing intense orgasms.

9. Increases estrogen and testosterone: Daily sexual activity helps increase testosterone level, leading to increased level of good cholesterol in the body. Helps to keep your heart healthy as well. Estrogen level also boosts cardiovascular health in women and makes her proactive towards sex.

10. Improves Relationship: And bet that this is the best effect of sex. Love is important in maintaining and strengthening relationship. Sex helps people to grow intimate and aids in creating the right bond of togetherness. Sex has a healing power and acts as a catalyst to live happily with a healthy mind and body.