Monday, December 24, 2012

Obama’s impact on federal judiciary

It takes a calculator and perhaps the rigor of Sherlock Holmes to cut through the partisan rhetoric about President Obama’s first-term record on judicial nominations. But the bottom line is clear enough.

There are more vacancies on the federal courts now than when Obama took office nearly four years ago. And he is the first president in generations to fail to put a nominee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the second most influential court in the land and traditionally a training ground for Supreme Court justices.

Obama has, of course, left his mark on the high court by nominating Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Their confirmations leave those two seats for decades in liberal hands, and marked a historic diversification of the court.

But, depending on what the Senate does in these final days,Obama’s record on the rest of the federal judiciary will show one more opening on the nation’s powerful 13 courts of appeal than when he took office, and more than a dozen additional vacant district court judgeships.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) blames Senate Republicans for foot-dragging on nominees that he says are utterly uncontroversial.

“These delays mean that the Senate will, again, be needlessly forced to devote the first several months of next year confirming judges who could and should have been confirmed the previous year,” Leahy said earlier this month.

He added that the increase in vacancies “is bad for our federal courts and for the American people who depend on them for justice.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, responds that the Senate has confirmed at least as many as were approved during President George W. Bush’s first term. “The continued complaints we hear about how unfairly this president has been treated are unfounded,” he said.
Russell Wheeler, a judicial scholar at the Brookings Institution, has taken a more detached look at the process. “There is so much propaganda out there,” Wheeler says. “It’s almost as if they are speaking different languages.”

Wheeler’s conclusion: “The contentiousness that affected President William Clinton’s and President George W. Bush’s efforts to appoint judges to the courts of appeals did not appear to worsen during Obama’s first term, but battles have heated up over district nominations.”

Drastically increased delays in confirming district court judges are part of the reason for the higher vacancy rates, Wheeler said, but the Obama administration is responsible for sending up fewer nominees and taking longer to do it.

District judges are at the first tier of the federal judiciary; they decide individual cases and their decisions do not create precedent for other judges. In the past, confirmation of district judges was seen as somewhat routine.

But that has changed, Wheeler said, with longer wait times and more contested votes. The average time from nomination to confirmation for a Clinton district judge was about three months. That grew to 154 days for a Bush nominee, Wheeler said, compared to 223 days for Obama’s choices.
 Nominations to the appeals courts are always more controversial. Those judges hear tens of thousands of appeals each year — by comparison, the Supreme Court hears arguments in about 80 — and their judgments become precedent in the states within those circuits.
 Despite some high-profile fights, however, Wheeler found that Obama’s circuit court nominees have fared about as well as those of his predecessors. Or as he put it, “That the Senate has since 1993 denied confirmation to three of every 10 circuit nominees reflects a new (and unfortunate) normal, but at least so far it has not worsened under Obama.”

Obama’s nominees, in fact, have had a shorter path from nomination to confirmation than did Bush’s — 240 days compared to 283 days, according to Wheeler’s calculations.

No court is more contested by either side than the D.C. circuit, for obvious reasons. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all put in time on the court before being picked for the Supreme Court; Kagan was nominated for the D.C. circuit but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

Even though there are three vacancies on the court — there will be a fourth next year — Obama did not submit a nominee until September 2010. Then, Republicans blocked nominee Caitlin Halligan, general counsel for the New York district attorney’s office, and an additional choice, California law professor Goodwin Liu. Liu has since been appointed to the California Supreme Court, and Obama will try again on Halligan.

Last June, he picked Sri Srinivasan, deputy U.S. solicitor general and a former clerk to retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, for another seat on the court. Srinivasan has not had a Judiciary Committee hearing. (Lest one think it is only Republicans who do the blocking, Senate Democrats ran out the clock the first time Roberts was nominated for the court.)

While liberal groups complain about Republican obstruction, they have also been critical of the White House. The American Prospect recently featured a long piece called “The Courts: How Obama Dropped the Ball.”
But as Wheeler points out, a two-term president almost always has a major impact on the makeup of the federal judiciary.

“Democratic appointees, who in 2009 constituted about a third of active circuit judges, might constitute about two-thirds in 2017,” Wheeler wrote.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Obama offers 'love and prayers' to Newtown, says these tragedies must end

President Obama came to Connecticut on Sunday to express his sorrow for those suffering after the fatal mass shooting of 26 people and to call for an end to such incidents --  offering “the love and hope of a nation” and saying “these tragedies have got to end.”

The president spoke at the Newtown High School after meeting privately with families of the victims and emergency personnel who responded to the deadly shootings Friday inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“I am very mindful that words cannot match the depths of your sorrow,” the president said. “But whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. … Newtown, you are not alone.”

The president spoke at a lectern, in front of which was table set with 26 glass-covered candles, one for each of the 6- and 7-year-olds fatally shot.

“Surely, we can do better than this,” said Obama in what was his fourth trip as president to a grieving city after a mass shooting. "We must change."

The president vowed during his roughly 18-minute speech that in the coming weeks he will use whatever powers possible to “prevent another tragedy like this” -- including calling upon law enforcement and mental-health experts to help.

A White House official said Obama was the primary author of his speech and edited his remarks on the flight to Connecticut with White House speechwriter Cody Keenan.

The president was introduced by Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, who said Obama told him Friday was the hardest day of his presidency.

“We need this … to begin our long journey through grief and loss,” said the Rev. Matt Crebbin, of the Newtown Congressional Church, who began the prayer vigil. “We are all in this together.”

Meanwhile, the grieving town braced itself Monday to bury the first two of the victims and debated when classes could resume -- and where, given the carnage in the building and the children's associations with it.
"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. "He's not even there yet."

Newtown officials couldn't say whether Sandy Hook Elementary would ever reopen. Monday classes were canceled, and the district was considering eventually sending surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town.

Authorities identified the shooter Friday as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. He fatally shot his mother before going to the school and killed himself.

Authorities said Lanza was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of deadly ammunition -- enough to kill nearly every student in the school if given enough time, raising the chilling notion that the bloodbath could have been even worse. Lanza shot himself in the head when he heard police approaching the classroom where he was gunning down helpless children.

Lanza was described as a bright but painfully awkward student who seemed to have no close friends. 

In high school, he was active in the technology club. The club adviser remembered that he had "some disabilities" and seemed not to feel pain like the other students. That meant Lanza required special supervision when using soldering tools, for instance. 

He also had an occasional "episode" in which he seemed to withdraw completely from his surroundings, the adviser said. Authorities said Lanza had no criminal history, and it was unclear whether he had a job.

Last summer, Obama went to Aurora, Colo., to visit victims and families after a shooting spree at a movie theater in the Denver suburb left 12 dead.

He went to Tucson, Ariz., in January of last year after six people were killed and 13 were wounded, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, outside a grocery store. Keenan also helped Obama write that  speech.
In November 2009, Obama traveled to Fort Hood, Texas, to speak at the memorial service for 13 service members who were killed on the post by another soldier.

After the Colorado shooting in July, the White House made clear that Obama would not propose new gun restrictions in an election year and said he favored better enforcement of existing laws.

However, the Connecticut shootings may have changed the political dynamic in Washington, although public opinion in favor of gun control has declined over the years. While the White House has said Obama stands by his desire to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, he has not pushed Congress to act.

Several Democratic lawmakers, during appearances on the Sunday talk shows, said the gruesome killings at the school were the final straw in a debate on gun laws that has fallen to the wayside in recent years.

"This conversation has been dominated in Washington by -- you know and I know -- gun lobbies that have an agenda" said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate. "We need people, just ordinary Americans, to come together, and speak out, and to sit down and calmly reflect on how far we go."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who is retiring, suggested a national commission on mass violence that would examine gun laws and what critics see as loopholes, as well as the mental health system and violence in movies and video games. Durbin said he supports the idea, and would add school safety to the list of topics to examine.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would push legislation next year to ban future sales of military-assault weapons like those used in the elementary school shooting. The bill will ban big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.

Gun rights activists remained largely quiet on the issue, all but one declining to appear on the talk shows. However, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should herself have been armed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Obama Bets Re-Election Gave Him Power to Win Fiscal Cliff

President Barack Obama’s hard stance on the “fiscal cliff” talks is a bet that his re-election gave him the political clout to force Republicans to accept higher taxes on upper income Americans as a first step toward reducing the federal deficit. 

Obama’s aggressive posture was shown in the proposal Timothy F. Geithner laid out for congressional leaders last week: a reprise of the president’s prior budget proposals, with $1.6 trillion in tax increases and about $350 billion in health care savings, primarily in Medicare. He also asked for an Aug. 1 deadline for decisions on income tax overhaul and further spending cuts.

“You could see the shock in the Republicans -- this is not what they were expecting from the White House,” said Stan Collender, managing director of Qorvis Communications LLC in Washington and a former staff member for the House and Senate budget committees. “There was almost euphoria among Democrats that the president was playing hardball.”

The two parties are in stalemate over what spending cuts and revenue increases should be approved to cut a budget deficit that’s exceeded $1 trillion for each of the four years Obama’s been in office. The administration says no agreement is possible unless Republicans agree to increase tax rates for the highest earning Americans, a stance underscored by Geithner in a sweep of the Sunday talk shows. Republicans oppose any tax rate increase and demand deeper cuts than Obama has offered, a line that House Speaker John Boehner drew on one show yesterday.

No Compromises

Both administration officials and congressional Republicans say they want a deal before year’s end -- without either side publicly offering any compromises.

“There’s not going to be an agreement without rates going up,” Geithner said in a taped interview that aired yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. Republicans will “own the responsibility for the damage” if they “force higher rates on virtually all Americans because they’re unwilling to let tax rates go up on 2 percent of Americans.”

Obama wants to boost top income-tax rates back to the levels they were when President Bill Clinton left office. The top rate then was 39.6 percent, compared with 35 percent today.
Boehner said Republicans aren’t ready to give in, and the president should take the lead by offering concessions.

House Majority

“They must have forgotten that Republicans continue to hold a majority in the House,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president’s idea of a negotiation is ‘roll over and do what I ask.’ We need to find common ground, and we need to find it quickly.”

Collender puts the odds of failure at 60 percent, as both sides need to prove their mettle to core supporters.
The risk for Obama is that Republicans will match his brinkmanship and no deal will be reached. The result would be the “fiscal cliff,” the more than $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases that start kicking in automatically at the beginning of the new year.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in an August report said the tax increases and spending cuts would shrink economic output next year by 0.5 percent and push the unemployment rate to about 9 percent.

Moody’s Investors Service said in September it may join Standard & Poor’s in downgrading the U.S.’s credit rating unless the president and Congress reduce the percentage of debt to gross domestic product.

Markets React

Stocks have been whipsawed since the election as Obama and Boehner dueled in public.
The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) increased 0.5 percent to 1,416.18 last week and it extended its rally since Nov. 16 to 4.1 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 15.90 points, or 0.1 percent, to 13,025.58.

The bond market hasn’t demonstrated the same level of concern. While total national debt has soared to more than $16 trillion from less than $9 trillion in 2007, U.S. borrowing costs have tumbled. The yield on the 10-year note touched a record low 1.379 percent July 25, down from more than 5 percent in mid-2007.
Obama’s strategy is borne, in part, out of lessons Obama and his advisers take from the failed 2011 attempt to reach a grand bargain on long-term debt reduction.

Obama and Boehner tried to forge a compromise in private talks. Instead of clearing the path, their effort collapsed and served to increase resistance among members of both parties in Congress.


Monday, November 19, 2012

On a Trip to Asia, Obama Can’t Escape Mideast

President Obama flew around the world to visit a giant reclining Buddha and pay a courtesy call on a hospitalized king — all to make a point. 

After too many years of being obsessed with the Middle East, Mr. Obama argues, it is time for the United States to focus on the rise of Asia. The only problem? The Middle East is not cooperating. 

Mr. Obama had not even landed here in Thailand on Sunday before finding his four-day, three-country Asia tour shadowed by the new crisis in Israel and Gaza. Aides have been briefing him on the latest in the conflict, and he has been working the phones with the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Turkey. Even his joint appearance with Thailand’s prime minister was partly consumed by the Gaza question. 

The confluence of events serve as a vivid reminder that the presidency is an exercise in juggling priorities. But the peculiar timing also underscores why Asia has often taken a back seat in American policy to the more volatile areas of the world, not just under this president, but under the past six. 

The logic behind Mr. Obama’s so-called Asia pivot draws little dispute: By many measures, it is the region of the future, the area that will see nearly 50 percent of the world’s economic growth outside the United States over the next five years. To compete globally, the thinking goes, the United States will need to assert itself as an economic and strategic power in the Pacific. 

Inside the Situation Room, though, long-term logic invariably falls victim to short-term crises, which are the specialty of places like the Middle East. 

“One of the great challenges in the implementation and execution of foreign policy is to prevent the daily challenges, cascading crises, from crowding out the development of broader strategies in pursuit of the United States’ long-term interests,” Tom Donilon, the president’s national security adviser, said in a speech before leaving Washington. 

It was in service of that goal that Mr. Obama scheduled his Asia trip. As his first overseas journey after re-election, it was meant to send a signal that his second term would focus on moving beyond the past, particularly the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He visited the region several times in his first term, but twice canceled Asia trips because domestic issues took priority. 

After a day in Thailand, Mr. Obama was to head early Monday to Myanmar for a historic visit highlighting the emergence of that isolated country, long known as Burma, from decades of repressive military rule. He was to land in Yangon to meet with President Thein Sein, who has orchestrated the change, and the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Along the way, the president planned to announce on Monday that he would send a new mission from the United States Agency for International Development to Myanmar and devote $170 million to aid projects over the next two years, according to aides. 

“One of the things that we can do as an international community is make sure that the people of Burma know we’re paying attention to them, we’re listening to them, we care about them,” Mr. Obama said in Bangkok. “And this visit allows me to do that in a fairly dramatic fashion.” 

Yet not as dramatic as Hamas lobbing rockets into Israel or Israel responding with punishing airstrikes and the threat of invasion. 

Asia is not the only other region that finds it tough to compete for attention. Mr. Obama was in Latin America when he launched the air and naval campaign that helped topple Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya. 

“There is now war between Israel and Hamas in addition to a proxy war with Iran in Syria; there are huge demonstrations against the king in Jordan; and the I.A.E.A. last week said Iran had doubled its capacity to enrich uranium,” said Elliott Abrams, who was President George W. Bush’s Middle East adviser and is now at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The only way to pivot away from all that is to move to Mars — Myanmar isn’t far enough.” 

Moreover, even Asia is inextricably linked to events in the Middle East, said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

“The reality is this — the more you pivot toward Asia, the more you have to care about the Middle East, because Asia gets so much of its energy from the Middle East,” he said. “Our Asia pivot doesn’t get us out of the Middle East. It just gets us into the Middle East from the other side.” 

Mr. Obama’s advisers say they understand that. Rather than a zero-sum game, they said, Mr. Obama must find ways to focus on Asia even as older conflicts demand his attention. “The rebalancing doesn’t mean our short-term military requirements in the Middle East will diminish,” said Jeffrey A. Bader, the president’s former Asia adviser, who is now at the Brookings Institution. 

Mr. Obama began his trip on Sunday with a stop in Thailand, America’s oldest ally in Asia. Joined by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for their final foreign trip together before she steps down, Mr. Obama visited the Wat Pho Royal Monastery, one of the country’s most revered cultural outposts, where both Americans took off their shoes and inspected the famed giant reclining Buddha. 

Even domestic issues followed the president, as he found himself talking about the so-called fiscal cliff back home with a monk before asking him to pray for his success in resolving the problem. “If a Buddhist monk is wishing me well, I’m going to take whatever good vibes he can give me to try to deal with some challenges back home,” Mr. Obama said lightly. 

The president and Mrs. Clinton then headed to Siriraj Hospital to pay respects to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the 84-year-old monarch, who has been ailing. From there, they went to the Government House for meetings and dinner with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who came to office in 2011, five years after her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was deposed in a military coup

“We have historically been an Asia-Pacific power, and I wanted to make sure that all our friends and partners throughout the region understood that we see this as a central region for our growth and our prosperity,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s not one that we can neglect.” 

Even if he has to keep one eye on the Middle East at the same time. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Health and safety tips

A radical revamp of the way small businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber can access advice about health and safety online has been launched.

The new Health And Safety Toolbox is the latest in a package of online guidance, bringing together in one place everything a small, low-risk business could need to manage health and safety.
Written with busy firms in mind, it makes it easy to find relevant guidance on specific risks with a few clicks of the mouse.

The package of guidance, developed by the Health And Safety Executive (HSE) with the support of businesses, will help small business owners and employers avoid wasting precious time reading what they don't need to, spending money on unnecessary bureaucracy or hiring costly consultants.

David Snowball, of HSE, said: "Employers in smaller, lower-risk businesses can feel daunted by what health and safety law requires.

"It doesn't have to be an onerous task and we will be pointing them to the Toolkit for all the advice they need."


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Medicare Open Enrollment Tips for 2013

The open enrollment period for 2013 Medicare plans begins October 15 and extends through December 7. This annual ritual asks more than 50 million people, mostly seniors, to venture forth once again into the arcane and complex world of Medicare health insurance—Parts A, B, C, and D, drug formularies, shifting co-pay, coinsurance, and deductible rules, and now, a growing assortment of health reform changes.

Is it any wonder that many seniors shudder at the prospect of actively shopping for new Medicare insurance providers? Instead, they tend to stick with their current insurance plans, while experts and pundits (like me) lament how much money they could be saving if only they shopped around like they do for most other consumer purchases.

"Not a lot of people are switching plans," observes Mary Dale Walters, senior vice president for Allsup Medicare Advisor. Allsup provides fee-based Medicare coverage advice to consumers, and does a lot of its business with disabled people. The bad news about Medicare's complexity has been good news for Allsup, which reports that its advice business has been growing steadily.

Medicare consumers "ride out the price increases," Walters adds. "They don't do the math. They are worried that their doctors won't be covered under a new plan ... People bog down in indecision because they're scared they are going to make a mistake." While many things change about Medicare each year, Walters says, "the only thing that doesn't change under Medicare is that it continues to be complicated."

Avalere Health, a Washington D.C., healthcare research firm and consultancy, has looked at 2013 Medicare plans and found that seven of the 10 most popular plans were raising their drug prices by more than 10 percent. Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere, says it's particularly important for consumers to look at the prices of their prescription drugs, including co-pays, and see if it makes sense to switch plans.

In addition, he adds, more health plans are developing partnerships with preferred pharmacies. "You get your drugs more inexpensively if you purchase them from a preferred provider," Mendelson says. This is yet another reason consumers should look at the drugs they take and compare prices from other health plans.
Health reform changes will reduce the price of drugs for seniors with big drug bills who fall into what's called the doughnut hole. Once drug expenses hit $2.970 in 2013, insurance coverage ceases until a person's out-of-pocket expenses reach $4,750. The health reform law has been lowering the cost of drugs inside the doughnut hole. For 2013, consumers must pay 52.5 percent of the cost of branded drugs and 79 percent of the cost of generic drugs. These percentages will decline in future years under the law.

While the open enrollment period ends in December, Walters notes that this restriction does not apply to plans that have received top marks under the government's relatively new rating system. Plans with a 5-star rating may enroll consumers at any time during the year. Because of the newness of the program, there were few 5-star plans for 2012 enrollments. But the number is expected to increase.

Overall, Mendelson and Walters agree, premiums for fee-for-service Medicare (parts A and B) should not rise much in 2013, and premiums for managed care Medicare Advantage plans (part C) should change very little.

"The general feeling is that there is not going to be major increases in premiums," Walters says. "If your premiums aren't changing much, make sure your co-pays aren't changing much, either."

"It's reasonable to expect that the part B premiums (for physician and outpatient services) will be going up in the range of 5 to 10 percent next year," Mendelson says. Medicare is expected to announce part B costs for 2013 soon, but a spokeswoman declined to specify a date.

Both experts advised consumers with traditional fee-for-service Medicare plans to take a careful look at Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. "The care coordination is often better and the prices are often much more stable," Mendelson says. "People don't have to worry as much about out-of-pocket costs. MA plans structure their premiums differently and you're generally not paying a 20 percent co-pay on physician services." Accepting restrictions on the choice of physicians may be unacceptable for some traditional Medicare users, he notes.

Walters advises people to have their own plan for healthcare services before they begin looking at the plans for the 2013 enrollment process. "You really need to begin with a needs assessment," she says. "Focus on those things that you have already identified as being important to you."

This list usually contains specific prescription drugs but should also include expected medical visits for routine care as well as care for any ongoing illnesses or health needs. Do you need regular blood work and other laboratory services? Are there predictable surgeries? Have you factored in the expanding range of free preventive health services under the health reform law?

Once you've developed your needs list, Walters says, it's much easier to use the Medicare website or specific insurer sites "without being overwhelmed by all the options" that are available.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Michelle Obama to speak at Lawrence University

First lady Michelle Obama plans to drum up support among Democratic voters when she speaks Friday at Lawrence University.

Mrs. Obama’s visit to Appleton will be an attempt energize the base, grow the grassroots effort and promote voter registration, according to a campaign release.

The free event will be held in Alexander Gymnasium on the Lawrence University campus. Doors will open at 1 p.m.

Because space is limited, tickets are being issued on a first-come, first-serve basis at three Organizing for America field offices in Appleton, Green Bay and Oshkosh.

Friday’s stop in Appleton will mark Mrs. Obama’s first trip to Wisconsin since August when she visited the families of the Sikh temple shooting near Milwaukee. The trip will also come less than a week after her husband, President Barack Obama, made a campaign stop in Milwaukee on Saturday.

Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said as long as the President Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns continue to invest in Wisconsin, it means both sides think the state is still up for grabs.

USA Today identifies Wisconsin as one of at least 12 swing states that are key to the election’s outcome.
In a Gallup poll released last week, Obama edged the Republican candidate 48 to 46 percent among registered swing-state voters.

Mayer called the first lady an “asset” to the Obama campaign — a person who can reach out to Democratic supporters.

“She’s an important symbol for women,” Mayer said. “She’s a very, very good campaigner.”
Kaukauna resident Cindy Fallona, an Obama campaign volunteer, thinks Mrs. Obama will energize local supporters during her Appleton visit.

“I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have a woman of her stature coming to Appleton,” Fallona said.
The 60-year-old Obama supporter said she had a chance to shake the first lady’s hand during a luncheon for former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010 ­— a moment she “will always treasure.”

Whenever she sees Mrs. Obama speak, the first lady always carries her message forcefully and in a positive manner, Fallona said.

The Kaukauna resident will not be attending Mrs. Obama’s visit on Friday due to a family wedding in Maine, but she has no doubt the first lady will bring words of wisdom to all voters.

“I know that Appleton will give her a warm welcome,” she said.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

10 Tips For Keeping Your PC Healthy Online

Here’s Some Tips To Help Keep Your PC Healthy!

Tip #1: You’re already doing one of the first “right things right”. You’ve ditched Norton, McAfee and Microsoft Security Essentials in favor of a respected antivirus solution. Generally I recommend something like Avast Pro, Kasperski, or AVG Pro… but Trend Micro doesn’t generally have a bad reputation.
Trend however was one of almost half of all antivirus companies that has been slow in responding to, and protecting you from, the recent Java based exploit.

Tip #2: Your tech is actually right (though it goes against popular belief) about the fact that in the very early days of a particular virus it often evades every virus scanner out there. We routinely deal with ones that go around before the antivirus companies are able to write a corrective file.

It’s kinda like vaccinating for the flu. Someone has to get sick, a sample has to go to the lab, the lab has to analyze it, and a vaccine has to be prepared which unfortunately all takes time! (And in the meantime, more people are catching the darn thing!)

Tip #3: Regarding the ”162″ thing… don’t let that scare you. Viruses are like teenage kids throwing a drunken party… if one can get in, and you’re not home… they invite ALL of their friends. It could have been 1, 7, 83, 162 or 561 just as easy. I’ve cleaned up systems in every realm.

Majority of the time, this is made worst by the fact that the first one in deactivates the antivirus!
Tip #4: I know some others have given you advice about possibly switching to the antivirus known as AVG Pro. Lately, I prefer AVAST Free and Pro over AVG. Trend usually is a pretty decent company and I wouldn’t be fast to fault them as guilty in this situation.

We’ve used both-all in client systems in both retail and enterprise. Everyone has their favorites but the differences are splitting hairs. (Generally though, pro trumps often free for a number of valid reasons in terms of added security.) Currently, I personally use Avast Pro and I put it into “gaming mode” aka silent mode to minimize it’s resources when I’m hosting a webinar event.

Bitdefender, Kaspersky, etc… all of these big name antivirus companies are “generally” good and “good enough”.

Tip #5: One thing is important to note… never try running 2 antivirus programs at the same time. One will stop the other from working and visa versa… but it happens silently. Unfortunately, this is happening a lot lately with people that have enabled Microsoft Security Essentials (which sucks) and then have a real antivirus. The two conflict and you get negative protection.

In this case, unfortunately, the two guard dogs simply end up fighting on the front porch while the burger sneaks in the back door.

Tip #6: Be sure your using a router at home. If your computer is plugged straight into your cable/dsl modem… you’re sitting duck. Go to Walmart/BestBuy, etc and get a router. It goes between your PC and your main internet connection. (Either by a cord from the router to the system or by a wireless connection from the router to the system.)

While yes, it can add wireless, extra ports etc, one of the most important thing it does is make it substantially harder for critters that are literally just roaming around the web to get right up to your PC’s doorstep. Its a rather foolproof layer of easy-to-add security. Most people today are using a router already but if you’re not, thought I’d note it. For this particular use, a midrange router is just as good as a high end router. No need to spend a ton.

Tip #7: A good MALWARE scanner… is different than a virus scanner and may or may not be built into a “pro” version of a virus scanner is something you also want. Malware scanners do not generally in-fight like antivirus scanners do. Three examples are Ad-Aware (they have a free version), Spybot Search & Destroy (free), and Malwarebytes.

These don’t necessarily need to be left running if your system is slow but a good once a month run will head off trouble. (AA and MB both have a real time scanner though I believe that would make you even more safe if your pc is fast enough to not be bogged down by adding it.)

Effective handling of MOST types of malware however has been one of the things I’ve found that Avast Pro is doing a great job at currently. (Check your version of Trend and see if they have a malware scanner built in. If not, get one, if so, then your likely set.)

Tip #8: Several people that responded mentioned a Mac… well… that’s an idea. However, the problem is that while, yes “not virus proof” many of the viruses that DO affect them are “rootkit” and require a complete wipe of the system often including data lose if you don’t have a remote backup (and a remote backup can harbor the nasty buggers).

Rootkits exist in PCs as well but given that you had a “clean up” rather than a full reformat, I’d say you didn’t face one. (I honestly MUCH PREFER a clean reformat, every time possible for a whole list of reasons, but that’s a planned attack.) Now that macs can be affected by “drive by” infections where no user interaction is required, their rate of infection is escalating rapidly. There are plenty of perfectly good reasons that some prefer mac, but you have to consider that option with open eyes and a wide grasp of the bigger picture. All Mac users still require a good antivirus and a healthy dose of common sense.

Tip #9: Regardless of whether you’re on Mac or PC, be sure you have a dual-backup system. (Yup, dual!) As a business owner, you have a lot riding on the data on your system (including tax prep).

Generally, the advice is to have a primary backup “in the cloud” or to an external drive that is not physically in the same geographical region as you are. (Literally, out of state) The reason for this is that you want your primary full backup to be immune to the risks of flooding, tornadoes and other natural disasters. That’s one of the reasons the cloud is convenient.

Two cloud based tools that are industry-grade and worthy of your time to look at include Mozy Backup and Carbonite Backup.

Then as a secondary backup, take your most precious files, including your business documentation, and your kids photos, onto a disk or two… and take them to a family members and get them into a fire proof box there. Offer to do the same for them. (We are not counting on the media to survive in the safe in a fire, most people do not have safe rated high enough for the media to survive.) This gives you a local copy of key critical files.

Today, no mother has to go through the horror that mine did of losing ALL of our baby pictures in a house fire… and having to piecemeal through friends and family to try to re-build the two small albums I have today.

Tip #10: One final tip, if your computer (or more often a laptop) is regularly turned off, it is possible that the antivirus has not been updated and ran in weeks or months due to the system never being on and online at the scheduled time. Particularly with laptops (and desktops that are turned off) you should check that the scanner has been run recently.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Obama Plans Program to Help African-American Students

President Barack Obama was set to announce an executive order aimed at improving the performance of African-American students as he addresses the Urban League Wednesday night. 

The speech to the civil rights group is an opportunity for the president to reach out to some of his most loyal supporters, African-Americans, who as a group have struggled more than most Americans in the tough economy.

The executive order establishes an interagency initiative aimed at identifying promising programs to improve African-American students’ performance and developing a national network of people and groups to share these ideas and put them into practice. The program, to be housed in the Education Department, is dubbed the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

The order also sets up a commission to advise the initiative and a federal interagency working group to coordinate federal efforts from early childhood education through college and adult schooling.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Feherty talks with golf's biggest newsmakers for season's fantastic finish

The list of guests joining David Feherty to help close out the successful second season of his hit primetime series on Golf Channel will feature some of golf’s biggest newsmakers, including golf super-agent Chubby Chandler, two-time major champion Fuzzy Zoeller, a host of patriotic stars for a special Independence Day show, Hall-of-Fame player and commentator Peter Alliss, and one of the most enigmatic personalities in the history of golf, John Daly.

Debuting in 2011 as the most-watched premiere of an original series in Golf Channel history, Feherty has maintained its momentum in 2012, moving to a new night and lifting the network’s Monday primetime lineup ratings by 64 percent year over year.

On tonight’s new episode (10 p.m. ET), Feherty takes a ride to the Florida coast to interview golf super-agent Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, founder of England-based International Sports Management and manages a stable of golfers including World No. 3 Lee Westwood, Open Championship winners Darren Clarke and Louis Ousthuizen and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. Feherty and Chandler’s relationship spans nearly four decades when both men played on the African Tour and were “sunburned and penniless.” 

Their conversation includes the origination of his “Chubby” nickname, early life on tour, Chandler’s decision to start a management company, the significance of signing Darren Clarke as an amateur in 1990, and the departure and shock of losing Rory McIlroy as a client following McIlroy’s U.S. Open victory in 2011.

On July 2, Feherty celebrates the U.S. military and Independence Day with a diverse group of American patriots at the Patriot Cup golf tournament and gala, hosted by the Folds of Honor Foundation and The Patriot Golf Course in Tulsa, Okla. In an enormous hangar with antique warbirds serving as a backdrop, Feherty visits with PGA TOUR pros Rickie Fowler and Ben Crane to talk about their careers, the origins of the Golf Boys and their fellow group member Bubba Watson’s career-changing Masters victory, and the impact social media can have in golf. Conversations with other participating golfers include Corey Pavin and Tom Lehman talking about the significance of the Ryder Cup, and Craig Stadler and Gary Woodland providing insight about playing pro golf in separate generations. Feherty also sits with country music star Vince Gill and actor Craig T. Nelson to talk about the entertainment industry’s impact on golf, and tries to convince country music group Rascal Flatts that he should become its opening act. Feherty also squeezes in a ride in an F-16 fighter jet with Major Dan Rooney.

Two-time major champion Fuzzy Zoeller sits down with Feherty for the July 9 episode, which was shot at Zoeller’s southern Indiana estate. In addition to compelling conversation about the state of golf, his controversial comments about Tiger Woods after Woods’ historic 1997 Masters victory and the next chapter in his life – which includes a new venture into the vodka making business and car racing sponsorship – the two men try their hand at fishing and Feherty creates hilarious moments with some of the animals on Zoeller’s farm.

On the cusp of his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May, Peter Alliss, former player and the charismatic BBC television golf commentator for nearly 40 years, sat with Feherty to discuss his life in the game, which included 21 tournament victories, eight Ryder Cup appearances and a stellar commentating career, which earned him the nickname as “The Voice of Golf.” On the July 23 episode, the two men discuss the current state of golf – Alliss is a big proponent of faster play – and share some great stories along the way. Perhaps the most poignant part of the interview is when Alliss talks about the death of his daughter, Victoria, who was born with irreparable brain damage and died at age 11.

On the series' final episode on July 30, Feherty travels to Dardenelle, Ark., and the home of John Daly to find out how Daly has become one of the least- and most-liked personalities in golf, and if “Long John” has any shot in recapturing some of his glory days on tour. In between playing golf, serenading Daly’s girlfriend and enjoying a traditional Arkansas barbecue in the backyard of Daly’s home, Feherty reveals how Daly’s party image was created and how he has dealt with the aftermath; how his four marriages have not turned him away from love, but made him more cautious; how his father’s abusive discipline have influenced his desire to be a better father; and if he lives to the age of 50, whether or not playing on the Champions Tour is in his future. Parts of the interview take place in front of a huge, hand-painted mural in Daly’s home that is supposed to depict his extraordinary – and unlikely – moment in the sun in 1991 when he won the PGA Championship as an alternate. Daly says he not only dislikes the depiction, he also says it is inaccurate. Daly and Feherty come up with a plan to make their own surprising corrections to the painting.

Called "a cross between Oprah Winfrey and Johnny Carson" by The New York Times, Feherty displays an uncanny interview style that engages his subjects and brings out answers both honest and revealing. This season, Feherty has gone one-on-one with celebrities across golf, sports and entertainment including former President Bill Clinton, golf legend Bill Russell, real estate magnate Donald Trump, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and golfers Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Michelle Wie.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Zhang, 14, youngest Open golfer since WWII

The site of one of golf's great miracles no longer exists. It was a run-down driving range in Beijing, one of those two-tiered setups, and it was torn down a few years back. So if you happen to be in China, looking for the place where it all started for Andy Zhang, you'll be out of luck.

Not many people, not even back home, know the story of the 14-year-old player who has found his way into the U.S. Open field. The sport only recently has ascended in Zhang's native land, which might explain why there was no sign of a Chinese media contingent as the kid played a practice round Tuesday morning.
It is known that Zhang hails from Florida, where he has lived since he was 10. It's known that that he qualified to play at the Olympic Club - the youngest to play the U.S. Open since World War II - only because two players withdrew.

The remarkable part is how he began playing golf in the first place.

"It was coincidence," he told two reporters as he sat out a backlog on the 3rd tee. "My dad liked to play for fun - usually shot in the high 90s - and he took me to this range when I was 6 1/2 years old. I hit a few balls, and after a while this Korean guy came up to me. It was something like, 'Would you like to play some golf?' "
Zhang doesn't remember the man's name, "but it was An Qi Huan in Chinese," he said. "He wanted to coach me. He took me on."

The kid must have had a hell of a swing. But think about it: What if the man hadn't been there that day?
"I wouldn't be here," Zhang said. "I might not even be a golfer. I'd be in school somewhere."
As he began working with the Korean coach, he convinced his mother, Hui Li, that golf would be his future. "My mom quit her job when I was 8 and was there to support me ever since," he told "She brought me to Florida to play tournaments." 

Zhang enrolled at the famed Ledbetter Academy in Bradenton, set up a permanent home in Florida, and now plays out of Reunion Resort in Davenport.

A polite kid who speaks a very Americanized English, Zhang entered the sectional qualifying last week at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Fla. There was a U.S. Open spot on the line, but he lost in a playoff.
"I was really depressed," he said. "That was my chance right there to make history."
Saddened, Zhang's father headed back to China after watching the event, but not before telling his son, "Go to San Francisco. You probably won't get in, but go."

At 7:40 a.m. EDT Monday, Zhang boarded a flight from Orlando to San Francisco, connecting through Phoenix. Space was tight - "I was way back in the far corner, next to the bathroom" - but he got his seat. He landed at 12:30 San Francisco time, checked into a hotel and headed straight to the Olympic Club.
As the second alternate, he needed two players to withdraw - and that's exactly what happened: first Brandt Snedeker, then Paul Casey.

"I was on the putting green, trying to act cool, when I found out," he said. "At first my mind went blank. Then I said, 'Wait! What? I'm in the U.S. Open? I just started screaming, hugging my mom and Chris," referring to Chris Gold, his caddie and part-time coach.

Checking into the locker room, Zhang was assigned stall No. 483, and according to, he was astonished: "The whole thing? This whole locker is mine?" Watching him out on the course Tuesday morning, though, was to see a very composed, mature player, solidly built (6 feet, 185 pounds) with a fine balance of raw power and finesse around the greens. 

One of his playing partners was the formidable Bubba Watson, who said later, "It's cool that he got in. It was fun talking to him, although he didn't say much. His game's good. At 14, he's got some growing up to do, but it's not like this luckily happened. You have to be able to play to get here."
Watson's caddy, Ted Scott, called it "an awesome story. I told him, don't let anyone tell you you're not supposed to be here. A lot of great players aren't here. I wouldn't want to play him for money, I know that."
Could he really be that young?

"He looks 25," said Scott, "until he smiles, and then you see the braces."

Golf has become a wildly popular sport in Korea and Japan, with spectacular results on both the men's and women's tours. That hasn't been the case in China, although things are changing fast. 

On Sunday at the LPGA Championships in Pittsford, N.Y., Shanshan Feng became the first Chinese player to win on the LPGA tour. On Monday, Zhang was granted his historic entry at the U.S. Open. That might be recalled as a two-day sequence for the ages.

"I take pride in representing China," he said. "It's my dream to someday play for my country in the Olympics. Golf hasn't really developed much in China, but we're getting there. You come to America and you play all these wonderful courses. Back home, if you go to the driving range, you're usually hitting off a mat, not real grass."

Not such a bad thing, if you're lucky. Zhang proved that when he was 6 years old. Now he's got an 8:21 tee time Thursday for the first round of the U.S. Open. In that mythical realm of "out of the blue," this 14-year-old kid steps right to the front.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tweet inShare2 Golf: Luke Donald wins Transitions in four-player playoff, regains No. 1 world ranking

One great round. One solid swing out of the rough. One clutch birdie putt.

That's what Luke Donald needed to win the Transitions Championship in a playoff in Palm Harbor, Fla., and get back to No. 1 in the world.

Donald was starting to feel overlooked in the two weeks since Rory McIlroy replaced him atop the world ranking. That changed on a steamy Sunday at Innisbrook, where Donald closed with a 5-under 66 and won a four-man playoff on the first extra hole with a 7-iron out of the rough to 6 feet below the cup for birdie to beat Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Bae Sang-Moon.

"I think people ... thought that my last year was maybe a little bit more of a -- not a fluke, but I don't think many people thought I could do that all over again this year," Donald said. "Hopefully, I can prove them wrong."

With his fifth win in his last 31 starts around the world, Donald went back to No. 1 and will stay there until he gets to Augusta National for the Masters and tries to win his first major title.

McIlroy wasted no time sending his congratulations through Twitter: "Well I enjoyed it while it lasted! Congrats (at)LukeDonald! Impressive performance!"

"I'm sure he got a taste of the view and I'm sure he'll want more of it. He's a great player," Donald said. "I think golf is in a good spot right now. There's a lot of excitement going on."

Donald returned to No. 1 by winning a playoff, just as he did at Wentworth last May when he first rose to the top of the ranking.

Garrigus birdied the last two holes for a 64 and was the first to finish at 13-under 271. Bae made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole for a 68. Furyk had a 69 and was the last one to join the playoff.

Missing from the group was Ernie Els, who was leading at 14 under when he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on 16. He also missed the green badly on the par-3 17th for a bogey, then pulled a 4-foot par putt on 18 for a 67 to finish a shot out of the playoff.

"I'm pretty hot now, and it's difficult to talk with a straight head," Els said.

Scott Piercy, who finished off a 62 before the leaders teed off, joined Els, Ken Duke (68) and Jeff Overton (66) in a tie for fifth.

Retief Goosen showed on the first hole that it was a minor miracle he was even tied for the lead. His back was in such pain that he could barely finish his swing. He drove into the trees, took five shots to reach the green and made double bogey.

Goosen closed with a 75 for a 277 total. He now goes to Virginia for a protein injection for his back.

Meanwhile, Charlie Wi hit three straight shots that caromed off a tree, leading to an octuple-bogey 13 on the par-5 fifth hole.

His tee shot went into the right rough. There was a wood chip next to the ball, which caused his 6-iron to come out to the right into the trees. From there, the former Cal star had a tree in front of him with a trunk 3 feet high until it split into two limbs. He tried to hit 5-iron through the 4-foot gap, but it struck the tree and went onto the practice range. He tried it again and got the same result.

"I said, 'OK, that's not getting up. Give me a 6-iron,' " Wi said. He hit the tree and saw a third ball go back onto the range.

He finished with a 78 and 292 total.

LPGA Tour: Yani Tseng two-putted for par from 40 feet in fading light to hold off Ai Miyazato and Na Yeon Choi by a stroke in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

The top-ranked Taiwanese star won her 14th tour title and second in four events this year. She closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 18-under 270. The second-ranked Choi also shot 68, and Miyazato had a 69.

Three shots behind Miyazato at the turn, Tseng birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine and closed with three pars.

Because of lightning near the Wildfire Golf Club, play was delayed three times for a total of three hours. Tseng holed her winning 2-foot putt at 6:45 p.m., seven minutes after sunset.

Champions Tour: Loren Roberts shot a 2-under 69 to win the Toshiba Classic by two strokes over Mark Calcavecchia (73), Tom Kite (69) and Bernhard Langer (70) at Newport Beach Country Club. Roberts made a 5-foot birdie putt on 18 after bogeys on three of the previous four holes. He finished at 8-under 205.

European Tour: Julien Quesne shot an 8-under 64 and won the Andalucian Open in Marbella, Spain. He birdied four of his final five holes to finish at 17-under 271, two shots ahead of Matteo Manassero (68).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pregnancy tips for would-be parents

Couples wanting to conceive a child often get plenty of pregnancy tips. Not all of them can be taken seriously and some are utter nonsense. But maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are pieces of advice that certainly cannot hurt.

'There are no evidence-based studies showing that eating certain foods can increase a woman's fertility,' said Werner Harlfinger, head of the Rhineland-Palatinate branch of the Munich-based Professional Association of Gynaecologists. Nevertheless, he said, it is important that women wanting to become pregnant be mindful of their diet.

According to Harlfinger, women who are extremely overweight generally find it much harder to get pregnant. Would-be mothers ought not start a weight-loss programme, though, because the body could be deprived of necessary nutrients.

'Being too thin isn't good either,' Harlfinger said. 'The body of a woman with this kind of figure knows she shouldn't get pregnant.' Deficiency symptoms from being underweight can affect metabolism and prevent ovulation.

As soon as a woman has decided to conceive, he said, she would do well to begin taking folic acid. If an expectant mother's body has too little of it, the nervous system of the foetus cannot develop properly.

A woman's folic acid requirements rise so much during pregnancy that simply eating a healthy diet can hardly supply enough of the B vitamin, said Harlfinger, who recommends that would-be mothers start taking folic acid supplements before conception. This, he said, may make their bodies feel better prepared for pregnancy.

As for men, 'they should mainly make sure to get a balanced diet and physical exercise,' said Frank Sommer, a professor in the Department of Men's Health at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.

Sommer's special dietary tip is the amino acid arginine. 'It's very important for many processes in the testicles and penis and can positively affect the dynamism and fitness of sperm,' he said. Arginine is found in high quantities in grain products, soya beans and nuts.

Zinc also has a positive effect, Sommer pointed out. The trace mineral makes sperm hardier, he said. Legumes as well as apples and bananas are high in zinc.

Exercise is very advisable, Sommer said, so long as it is not excessive. 'Ruthlessly engaging in aerobic exercises has the opposite effect and tends to impair fertility' because an intense workout regimen can upset hormone levels, he warned.

'It goes without saying that smoking and drinking are harmful,' Sommer added. He noted that it took a man three months to produce new sperm, so even men who fully heeded their doctor's lifestyle advice should not expect immediate results.

Along with the physical prerequisites for conception, the mental preparedness of would-be parents is very important.

'A couple wanting to start a family must be prepared for the matter playing a dominant role' in their lives, particularly if pregnancy is difficult to achieve, said Tewes Wischmann, director of walk-in services at Heidelberg University Hospital's Institute of Medical Psychology. 'Give space to the desire to have children, but limit that space,' Wischmann advised.

Some couples are turned off by having to time sexual intercourse to the midpoint of the woman's ovulation cycle. But dampened ardour is usually temporary - and worth it - said Wischmann, who believes that 'coitus doesn't always have to be super romantic.' He recommends making a clear distinction between sex for propagation and sex out of mutual desire, for which time should be found, too.