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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ricky Nelson Remembered To Perform in
Payson, Ariz. on March 2, 2013

Live On Stage, Inc. and the Tonto Community Concert Association Announce
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson to continue their 2012-2013 Concert Season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - (February 11, 2013) – The Nelson dynasty takes the stage in full force as Matthew and Gunnar Nelson share their first-hand view of the life and music of their father, Ricky Nelson, in “Ricky Nelson Remembered” at the Payson High School Auditorium in Payson, Arizona on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm.  Single tickets are $35 as available.  Children and students under the age of 18 will be admitted free when accompanied by a ticket holding adult. For more information visit the association website at www.tccarim.org or call 928-478-4363 or 928-474-4189.


RickyNelsonRemembered_PRESS_resizeMatthew and Gunnar Nelson, aka “Nelson,” rose to the top of the popular music charts in the early 1990’s with three top-ten singles, four number-one MTV videos and five Top-40 Billboard hits.   In “Ricky Nelson Remembered” the brothers lend their soaring sibling harmonies to the songbook of their legendary rock ‘n roll father.   While the duo performs the hit songs from the Ricky Nelson songbook, such as “Hello, Mary Lou” and “Garden Party,” the show is also intended as a deeply intimate experience; the production features stories and multi-media imagery of life inside three generations of stardom, including remembrances of grandparents Ozzie and Harriet Nelson.  The Nelson’s continue to write, perform worldwide, including collaborations with Yusuf (Cat Stevens) and Paul McCartney, and have produced seven albums on their own Stone Canyon Records label.

The Tonto Community Concert Association is committed to bringing quality entertainment to the Rim Country through an annual concert series and support of the fine arts in Payson schools.  This series is intended as an enriching cultural experience for the people of Payson and those in surrounding communities.

Live On Stage, Inc. provides excellent, affordable, entertainment attractions and support services to an American community of concert presenters.  For more information, visit www.LiveOnStage.biz.

Tips for tasting, ordering wine

  WINE Q & A   
from Pleasant Valley Winery
Gila County's only winery  

Wine Etiquette With Ease
 
Knowing the correct wine etiquette will make your  tasting experience more comfortable and enjoyable.  Like most interests, there is a set of protocol that most wine lovers adhere to.  Good taste sets out guidelines for tasting at wineries, and ordering wine at restaurants.
Tasting Room Etiquette

In a winery's tasting room, white wines are generally tasted first, followed by reds, and then dessert wines. Within these categories, lighter-bodied wines precede fuller-bodied ones. Correct wine etiquette does not require that you must finish every glass. Winery tasting rooms provide jars to dispose of excess wine. Do not feel that you need to sample every wine offered.  Only taste what appeals to you.

If you ask for a second tasting of a particular wine, it is in good taste to buy a bottle. Many wineries charge tasting fees which are generally applied to any purchase. It is not mandatory that you buy wine; purchase only what you desire. That being said, if you have made an appointment at a small winery, it is in good taste to make a purchase.

General Restaurant Wine Etiquette

The following tips will allow you to follow the customs of wine service with ease and confidence when you are ordering at a fine restaurant.

When choosing a wine from a restaurant's wine list, you may want to accomplish a suitable wine pairing with the entrees of your party. If the food orders are too different to generalize with one wine, consider purchasing splits or ordering by the glass. Waiters and sommeliers are there to answer your questions and make recommendations.  Feel free to avail yourself of these services.  You really just can’t go wrong with it.  You are the customer.

After ordering, the waiter/sommelier will retrieve your selection, and then present it, label forward, to the host of the party. This is merely to verify it is the correct wine. The cork is removed and placed on the table. Unless it is clearly tainted, (the waiter/sommelier should notice if it is) do not touch or smell it, as it means nothing.

A small amount will then be poured for the host. Swirl the wine in the glass, smell, then taste. This is to make sure the wine is not spoiled and it is not an opportunity to send back a sound wine that you are not crazy about.  After approval, the wine will be poured clockwise to the right, ladies first. The host's glass will be topped last.


Always Remember, Wine is Fun J, so be creative and playful.  Let us know what you experience!

We would love to hear from you.  Please submit your questions or comments to:  PVWinery@wildblue.net
March 2013 Pleasant Valley Winery

Rapper threatens to sue Vatican

borowitz-pope.jpg

By Andy Borowitz

OAKLAND (The Borowitz Report)—
The Vatican’s plan to call the retiring pontiff Benedict XVI “Pope Emeritus” hit a snag today, in the form of a threatened lawsuit by an Oakland-based rapper who has been recording under that name since 2006.

“I don’t care who he is, I ain’t let nobody mess with my brand,” said Mr. Emeritus, who prior to 2006 recorded under the name Notorious P.O.P.E.

While the Vatican said it was unaware that Mr. Emeritus had already claimed the name seven years ago, the Oakland rapper scoffed at that idea: “They should have done what I did before I picked it out: Google it.”

Furious at what he is calling a clear case of trademark infringement, Mr. Emeritus said that he has no intention of stepping aside for the former pontiff: “He’s the one who should step aside. Call himself P. Biddy or something. This is wack, yo.”

According to a source close to the Vatican, Benedict is likely to choose another name for himself rather than risk a legal tussle with the aggrieved rapper: “The last thing the Church needs right now is another lawsuit.”


Photograph by Franco Origlia/Getty.

Editor vents on Big Lots!, racists

 EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE 

By Jim Keyworth
Gazette Blog Editor 

Your Blog Editor usually lays pretty low these days.  Until something or someone gets the best of him.  

Like Payson Mayor Kenny Evans pretending that the 49 years worth of potable Blue Ridge water he wants to dump on Chaparral Pines golf course can be sucked back up and resold - a "win-win" one town councilor calls it.

Like the Payson Roundup repeatedly and shamelessly shilling for the mayor and the business community - abdicating its responsibility to the people.

Like the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce pretending to be fair and wave Swiss flags around when it is obviously beholden to the Roundup and to what passes for "big business" in these parts.

But I digress.  I have two brand new things that tick me off to share with you:

1. Today's (Feb. 28) Arizona Republic contained an insert announcing the grand opening of Big Lots! in Payson.  Unfortunately, it boldly tells shoppers they can find the store in the Rim County Mall - that's right, the RIM COUNTY MALL.  And just to make sure there's no confusion, the insert includes a map that places the store on Longhorn Rd. rather than AZ 260.  Sorry folks, but sloppiness and the disrespect it connotes is not the best way to win over new customers.  And you won't read about this in the Payson Roundup, because they're too busy trying to placate a potential new advertiser to give a damn.

2. The right wing media folks who are criticizing Michelle Obama for announcing the Best Film winner during last Sunday's Oscars for demeaning the office need a bigotry check.  Presidents and First Ladies of both parties have appeared on Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show, Letterman, and all manner of other TV shows for years.  "Isn't it just like those black people - out there shuckin' and jivin' in front of a TV camera?"  It's racism folks, plain and simple.  And feigned outrage at being called a racist will get you nowhere with me.

Okay, I feel better now.  I'll get back to editing. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Boehner defends sitting on his ass

boehner-borowitz.jpg

By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Minutes after telling the United States Senate to “get off their ass” to avoid the deep spending cuts that will take effect this Friday, House Speaker John Boehner called an impromptu press conference to announce his intention of remaining on his ass “for the foreseeable future.”

“The United States Senate is showing contempt for the American people by refusing to get off their ass,” a defiant Mr. Boehner told reporters. “And the only fitting way for me to protest their reckless behavior is by remaining on my ass for as long as humanly possible.”

“Take a good look, ladies and gentlemen of the press,” he said, before leaving the lectern in a huff. “This is the last you’ll see of old John Boehner off his ass.”

Mr. Boehner’s words drew a strong rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said that Mr. Boehner’s suggestion that the Senate get off their ass while he remained on his “seems like the height of hypocrisy, ass-wise.”

True to his word, Mr. Boehner then held an additional press conference, this time sitting in a chair from which he showed no signs of budging.

Photograph by Win McNamee/Getty.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Was evolution God's tool for creation?

 GEORGE TEMPLETON: COMMENTARY 

[Gazette Blog Editor's Note: This is the third and final installment of a series of articles on Evolution.  To read the first two, click on the GEORGE TEMPLETON tab at the right.]

Creation

The ad in the business magazine encouraged CEOs to move their operation to China, claiming that they are harder working, more motivated, better educated, and blessed with the latest multi-million dollar equipment brought from around the world.  The followers of Confucius have no religious motivations outlawing stem cell research.  They are betting that biotechnology will be tomorrow’s prosperity, transforming the lives of everyone.  America, a world leader because of scientific innovation, risks going the way of the failed Ottoman Empire by adopting anti-science policies.

Science is under attack because of the problems it might provoke.  Creationists accuse secular science and education as being indoctrinating religions, thus rallying fundamentalists who constitute the majority of American religious thought.  Supernatural explanations are always very simple, emotional, and attractive for those reasons.  They have long been used as explanations that were either incomplete or later found wrong.
Science is like the carpenter who must measure and cut without disputing the architectural plan.  Because it is objective, it lacks emotion.  Because it is complex, many have no desire to understand it.  Science does not deny God, faith, or man’s creation of art and beauty.  It does not treat the meaning of life or the purpose of the universe.   It can’t accurately quantify love, hate, ambition, altruism, and attitudes.  However, higher education reveals ambiguity, challenges values, is demonized for that reason, and claimed to persecute the faithful.  Science cannot advocate only those beliefs supporting conservative, political-religious values.
Religion is more persuasive, emotional, and comforting than a science that brought us weapons of mass destruction.  Science challenges fundamentalist ideas about biological evolution and mankind’s stewardship of the earth.  Well financed, organized and politically shrewd creationists are adamant about indoctrinating religious belief in the classroom at taxpayer expense and they object to funding of science that does not start with Genesis.  Arizona SB1213 is their latest effort in the anti-science, culture-war.  Its sponsors are Judy Burges (R-District 22), Chester Crandell (R-District 6), Steve Pierce (R-District 1), Don Shooter (R-District 13), and Steve Yarbrough (R-District 17).     
Intelligent Design (ID) deceitfully claims that it is scientific and not religious, but it is in a quandary.  It can’t be religious to be taught in public schools but it has to be religious to secure public support and funding.  It is disingenuous to deny its foundation and religious history, but ignoring that and allowing it to deny secular science we must ask, how does ID work?  How does it explain reality?
When the Answers in Genesis Ministry exhibits show children and dinosaurs playing together, and claim that their message is not contradictory to science, they are wrong.  Science and a literal interpretation of Genesis cannot be reconciled.  Religion does not explain scientifically how life came to be.  Science cannot justify why.  The Bible, desiring to win the world instead of struggling against it, raises two questions.  The first regards how we are to hear and understand it.  The second concerns how the message relates to the content of our own intellectual being.

The attempt to force science to become literally Biblical is ill conceived.  It subjects the truth of the Bible to scientific testing, unwittingly buoying the Truth Decay described by Douglas Groothuis in his book.  If history is under God’s influence, then so must be evolution.  Man’s relationship to God, in science, evolution, and history, is revealed because they are part of the fabric of reality.

Strata

Simple observation confirms that the earth is more than 6000 years old.  It is obvious that the mountains, geologic faults, and outthrusted layers of rock, and continents that drifted could not have happened in an instant or have been caused by a world-wide flood.  The distribution of flora and fauna seems not specially placed and carries the signature of land masses that once adjoined.

Embryology

Before Darwin, scientists noticed that the young embryos of many species were a similar non-descript clump of cells that gradually developed adult features. This led to the exaggeration that they replayed evolutionary history and eventually to the biological principle that the features of a large group of animals appear earlier in the embryo than the special features.  For example, cartilage that appears in all fish comes before the bones that are found only in bony fish.

Missing Link

Science classifies nature in a branching, hierarchical tree structure where lower organisms fan out in many related but different forms.  Creationism denies this, claiming that each “kind” was intelligently and simultaneously created for its particular role and purpose.  Perhaps as many as 50 billion species have evolved on the earth.  Science finds 18,000 new ones every year.

The claim that the Bible has no ambiguity prevents thinking about what “kind” is.  If all the animals could fit on the Ark, there must be few kinds and millions of found links.  If kinds are like species, then there are many missing links, but the animals won’t fit on the Ark.

The two pound Chihuahua and 180 pound Mastiff are both species of wolf but different breeds created by artificial selection.  They could mate by artificial insemination, but it does not happen in nature.  We could fix this problem of great differences by classifying these dogs as different species.  Then we would have the speciation that creationists claim cannot exist.
 
Evolution sometimes is sudden, like camera flashes that leave no evidence.  It has been identified with “accelerated” regions in DNA.  It’s part of the scarcity of transitional fossils.  Creationists especially deny fossils linking humanity to ape-like creatures.  Pride, not the Bible, prevents apes and humans from being related.

The July 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine described the oldest missing link, four million year old “Ardi”, who had both ape and human characteristics.  Like the chimpanzee, we are made of flesh and blood.  Although our brain is larger, we have no new parts.

There is no vector of man’s ascendency from the apes, as depicted by the picture showing knuckle walkers gradually and continuously changing into modern upright walkers.  Instead we find a bush of life, with multiple parallel lineages, corresponding fossils, and mixes of adaption for life in the trees and on the ground.  Evolution tried many variants of man.  Ancestry is not clear.  What we know is their extinction.  We, who hold the fate of the world in our hands, are all that is left.

DNA

All life on earth, bacteria, plants, animals, and man uses the same universal DNA system that codes its building plan in every cell of our bodies.  Created “kinds” are not distinctly separated.  We share common DNA and are all related.

Comparison of identical DNA in different species confirms the ages of the earth’s epochs and ancestry in the tree of life.  Constant stretches of DNA are preserved by the forces of disadvantage and death.  Damaged DNA can cause genetic diseases or beneficial adaptations that are passed on by sex.

Most small random changes in DNA are inconsequential.  They occur at a constant rate called the “molecular clock”.  Minor DNA changes that give rise to new species accumulate in regions of accelerated change.  Evolution is not a constant process.  It jumps, jerks, and coasts and has a complexity barrier arising from the mechanics of DNA switches, regulators, RNA, amino acids, proteins, and cells.

Recent advances in computer technology allow comparisons relating differences in DNA to traits.  Larger differences in DNA correspond to longer time intervals between the separations of species on the tree of life.  Ninety-nine percent of our DNA is identical with chimpanzee DNA and fifty percent the same as a banana.

Verifying Evolution

Evolution is no longer a theory that cannot be seen in action.  We see cause and effect in DNA.  Even more than the atom, whose inferred atomic structure explains physics and materials science, DNA explains life form changes.

The growth of bacterial antibiotic resistance is an example.  Rapid evolution and corresponding DNA changes have been documented in birds and fish responding to drought and new competitor species. A gene has been identified that does the same job in birds and fishes that live continents apart.  Genetics, human speech defects and bird song have been correlated in DNA structure.

Probability

Evolution is not just about random mutation, parental gene mixing, and reproductive advantage.  Life finds a way.

That the laws of probability could give rise to man and our fine-tuned universe seems unlikely, but we must remember that people win at the lottery even though the chances are slim.  If forever exists, everything that can happen will eventually happen.  Science does not deny miracles though it does have rules for the application of mathematical probability that predict the outcome of multiple draws from a set of similar equally probable things.  It is meaningless to extrapolate technical probability to the creation.

Intuitional probability arises from intensity of conviction and is not mathematical.  For example, it is nonsense to walk outside blindfolded, pick up a rock of a particular color, size, and shape and expound about how unlikely that would be.  If the parameters of the rock had been specified beforehand, our feelings might be justified.  Likewise, it is absurd to claim that something found to be complex and functional must have been “specified” by intelligence.

We think that evolution could not create the information necessary to make a man, but simple hidden rules generate surprisingly ordered complexity.  The hidden order in DNA arises from the geometry of its double helix structure and the mechanics of atomic bonding.  It is the reason why there is no Minotaur.  The pieces fit together only in particular ways that are not random.

Program or Book

Evolution has always been about changing the process of growth instead of specifying an end result.  DNA is an image recording the world, a continuing process of creation, adaptation, and growth, instead of a simple but long computer program with an intended purpose and a fixed meaning independent of species, geographical environment, and time.  DNA is more like a book than a plan, but it is a strange book that jumps forward and backward and that reads and writes itself.  DNA letters have no meaning apart from their context and use.  Details like globalization, the jet airplane, and drug resistant disease change.  Evolution includes non-genetic inheritance mechanisms that are passed on by culture, disease immunity, technology, and psychology.  Evolution depends on the consequences of itself.  The results of evolution are not independent of its path.  Our trip from yesterday to tomorrow is not reversible and alters reality forever.

Linguistics

The limits of our language mean the limits of our world.  Words change with usage and the thought and will of those speaking.  Language is the harmony between thought and reality.  Meaning shifts as knowledge grows.

The ancients of the Genesis story felt that plants did not live and that life was like a breath.  Darkness was tangible, not just the absence of light.  Demons caused disease, not germs.  It was 4400 BC when the creation and meaning of life needed to be communicated to the people and culture of that time.  Would different words be used today?  Could God have used evolution as his tool for creation?

Seafood freakshow: most tuna mislabeled

Article image

Fake Tuna Linked to ‘Anal Oil Leakage’

By Anthony Gucciardi
Natural Society / News Report
Published: Monday 25 February 2013
 
Do you enjoy the taste of tuna? If you answered yes to that question, there’s a very large chance that you actually enjoy the taste of many bizarre and exotic imposter ‘fake tuna’ fish types that have been peddled and mislabeled by the seafood industry and restaurants alike—even a ‘snake mackerel’ fish linked to side effects like anal oil leakage.

The new genetic testing campaign kickstarted and funded by the nonprofit organization known as Oceana, a group whose mission statement involves protecting the world’s oceans, reveals that 59 percent of tuna is not only mislabeled but is almost entirely compromised of a fish once banned by the FDA. Sushi restaurants were the worst offenders by far, but the tests spanned throughout restaurants and grocery stores alike. Altogether, the findings oust over half of tuna fish as fraudulent.

As you can see for yourself in the report by Oceana, the numerical breakdown of tuna fraud (especially ‘white tuna’) paints a picture of just how far companies will go to deliver rubbish products and deceive the consumer:
  • Between restaurants and grocery stories in the US alike, 59 percent overall of the tuna tested was definitely not tuna as found by genetic testing.
  • Sushi restaurants had the worst record, with every single restaurant’s ‘tuna’ tested in major cities like DC, Chicago, Austin, and New York City coming back as fraudulent.
  • A whopping 84 percent of ‘white tuna’ was actually escolar, the snake mackerel fish that causes oily anal leakage and was banned by the FDA until 1992. It is still banned in Japan, Italy, and requires warning labels regarding the leaky discharge in Canada, Sweden, and Denmark.
Rampant Food Mystery Ingredients | From Fake Tuna to Horsemeat
 
The blatant lack of knowledge regarding the actual ingredients in so-called ‘tuna’ products is reminiscent of recent food ingredient disasters such as the Burger King horsemeat incident, in which Burger King was forced to admit that consumers had been eating either horse or donkey meat in their juicy Whoppers for who knows how long. An admission that not only grossed a lot of people out and emotionally touched a lot of horse lovers, but brought up a great consideration: we really don’t even know what we’re putting into our mouths.

We’ve even seen rampant food fraud in the seafood industry before, with food geneticists revealing a large percentage of the entire market is actually filled with mislabeled fish. Oftentimes, it becomes an even greater concern when entering into the realm of health. Many ‘wild-caught’ fish varieties are scams and are actually heavily processed, with the FDA inspecting only around 2 percent of seafood imports.

We know there exists a number of serious additives that lurk in our food supply like MSG and various neurotoxic food coloring ingredients, but the fact of the matter is it even comes down to the very food product itself. Many of you probably do not consumer tuna for a number of reasons, such as the likelihood that it was harvested from Fukushima-touched Pacific waters, or perhaps because it contains mercury or was taken from the oil-plagued Gulf of Mexico. Regardless of the reason, I am sure you see the validity in highlighting this information for consumers.

When we can’t even be sure what we’re eating, even down to the very base product itself, we have a very serious problem for consumers. A problem that I don’t think producers seem to care about given that this fraud is so prevalent — and it is undoubtedly a culinary fraud that expands far beyond the seafood industry.

How GOP is lying to Americans

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

26 February 13
readersupportednews.org
he White House apparently believes the best way to strengthen its hand in the upcoming "sequester" showdown with Republicans is to tell Americans how awful the spending cuts will be, and blame Republicans for them.

It won't work. These tactical messages are getting in the way of the larger truth, which the President must hammer home: The Republicans' austerity economics and trickle-down economics are dangerous, bald-faced lies.

Yes, the pending spending cuts will hurt. But even if some Americans begin to feel the pain when the cuts go into effect Friday, most won't feel it for weeks or months, if ever.

Half are cuts in the military, which will have a huge impact on jobs (the military is America's only major jobs program), but the cuts will be felt mainly in states with large numbers of military contractors, and then only as those contractors shed employees.

The other half are cuts in domestic discretionary spending, which will largely affect lower-income Americans. There will be sharp reductions in federal aid to poor schools, nutrition assistance, housing assistance, and the like. But here again, most Americans won't see these cuts or feel them.

Moreover, the blame game can be played both ways, and Republicans are adept at slinging mud. When it comes to high-visibility consequences of the spending cuts - such as a sudden dearth of air-traffic controllers - Republicans will dodge blame by happily giving Obama authority to shift spending and find the cuts himself, thereby making the White House appear even more culpable.

Besides, there's no end to this. After Friday's sequester comes the showdown over continuing funding of the government beyond March 27. Then another fight over the debt ceiling.

The White House must directly rebut the two big lies that fuel the Republican assault - and that have fueled it since the showdown over the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011.

The first big lie is austerity economics - the claim that the budget deficit is the nation's biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery.

Wrong. The problem is too few jobs, lousy wages, and slow growth. Cutting the budget deficit anytime soon makes the problem worse because it reduces overall demand. As a result, the economy will slow or fall into recession - which enlarges the deficit in proportion. You want proof? Look at what austerity economics has done to Europe.

The second big lie is trickle-down economics - the claim that we get more jobs and growth if corporations and the rich have more money because they're the job creators, and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were hiked.

Wrong. The real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join it. Their purchases keep economy going.

As inequality continues to widen, and income and wealth become ever more concentrated at the top, the rest don't have the purchasing power they need to boost the economy. That's the underlying reason why the recovery continues to be so anemic.

These two lies - austerity economics and trickle-down economics - are being told over and over by Republicans and their mouthpieces on Fox News, yell radio, and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. They are wrong and there are dangerous.

Yet unless they are rebutted clearly and forcefully, the nation will continue to careen from crisis to crisis, showdown to showdown.

And we will have almost no chance of reversing the larger challenge of widening inequality.

President Obama has the bully pulpit. Americans trust him more than they do congressional Republicans. But he is letting micro-tactics get in the way of the larger truth. And he's blurring his message with other messages - about gun control, immigration, and the environment. All are important, to be sure. But none has half a chance unless Americans understand how they're being duped on the really big story.

Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause

Monday, February 25, 2013

You can no longer be punished for being sick

Health care law protects consumers against worst insurance practices
Key health insurance protections for all Americans moves forward

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, and makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families, and small businesses.

“Because of the Affordable Care Act, being denied affordable health coverage due to medical conditions will be a thing of the past for every American,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Being sick will no longer keep you, your family, or your employees from being able to get affordable health coverage.”

Under these reforms, all individuals and employers have the right to purchase health insurance coverage regardless of health status.  In addition, insurers are prevented from charging discriminatory rates to individuals and small employers based on factors such as health status or gender, and young adults have additional affordable coverage options under catastrophic plans.

Today’s final rule implements five key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are applicable to non-grandfathered health plans:

·         Guaranteed Availability
Nearly all health insurance companies offering coverage to individuals and employers will be required to sell health insurance policies to all consumers. No one can be denied health insurance because they have or had an illness.

·         Fair Health Insurance Premiums
Health insurance companies offering coverage to individuals and small employers will only be allowed to vary premiums based on age, tobacco use, family size, and geography.  Basing premiums on other factors will be illegal.  The factors that are no longer permitted in 2014 include health status, past insurance claims, gender, occupation, how long an individual has held a policy, or size of the small employer.

·         Guaranteed Renewability
Health insurance companies will no longer refuse to renew coverage because an individual or an employee has become sick.  You may renew your coverage at your option. 

·         Single Risk Pool
Health insurance companies will no longer be able to charge higher premiums to higher cost enrollees by moving them into separate risk pools.  Insurers are required to maintain a single state-wide risk pool for the individual market and single state-wide risk pool for the small group market.

·         Catastrophic Plans
Young adults and people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable will have access to a catastrophic plan in the individual market.  Catastrophic plans generally will have lower premiums, protect against high out-of-pocket costs, and cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing. 

In preparation for the market changes in 2014 and to streamline data collection for insurers and states, the final rule amends certain provisions of the rate review program.  And, HHS has increased the transparency by directing insurance companies in every state to report on all rate increase requests.   A new report has found that the law’s transparency provisions have already resulted in a decline in double-digit premium increases filed: from 75 percent in 2010 to, according to preliminary data, 14 percent in 2013.

In addition, today the U.S. Department of Labor announced an interim final rule in the Federal Register that provides protection to employees against retaliation by an employer for reporting alleged violations of Title I of the Act or for receiving a tax credit or cost-sharing reduction as a result of participating in a Health Insurance Exchange, or Marketplace.  Additional information is available at www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/osha/osha20130327.htm or www.osha.gov.

For more information on how this final rule helps create a better health insurance market for consumers, please visit: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/marketreforms-2-22-2013.html
For information on the rights and protections guaranteed by the health care law, please visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/rights/
For the full text of the proposed rule, please visit: http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2013-04335_PI.pdf

Did gay Vatican blackmail push Pope out?

The Vatican is awhirl with rumours about the pope's decision to retire. (photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)
The Vatican is awhirl with rumours about the pope's decision to retire. (photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)



By John Hooper, Guardian UK

24 February 13
potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom - the report said - were being blackmailed by outsiders.


The pope's spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.


The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign - the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called "Vatileaks" affair.


Last May Pope Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.


According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising "two volumes of almost 300 pages - bound in red" had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope's successor upon his election.


The newspaper said the cardinals described a number of factions, including one whose members were "united by sexual orientation".


In an apparent quotation from the report, La Repubblica said some Vatican officials had been subject to "external influence" from laymen with whom they had links of a "worldly nature". The paper said this was a clear reference to blackmail.


It quoted a source "very close to those who wrote [the cardinal's report]" as saying: "Everything revolves around the non-observance of the sixth and seventh commandments."


The seventh enjoins against theft. The sixth forbids adultery, but is linked in Catholic doctrine to the proscribing of homosexual acts.


La Repubblica said the cardinals' report identified a series of meeting places in and around Rome. They included a villa outside the Italian capital, a sauna in a Rome suburb, a beauty parlour in the centre, and a former university residence that was in use by a provincial Italian archbishop.


Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said: "Neither the cardinals' commission nor I will make comments to confirm or deny the things that are said about this matter. Let each one assume his or her own responsibilities. We shall not be following up on the observations that are made about this."


He added that interpretations of the report were creating "a tension that is the opposite of what the pope and the church want" in the approach to the conclave of cardinals that will elect Benedict's successor. Another Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, alluded to the dossier soon after the pope announced his resignation on 11 February, describing its contents as "disturbing".


The three-man commission of inquiry into the Vatileaks affair was headed by a Spanish cardinal, Julián Herranz. He was assisted by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, a former archbishop of Palermo, and the Slovak cardinal Jozef Tomko, who once headed the Vatican's department for missionaries.


Pope Benedict has said he will stand down at the end of this month; the first pope to resign voluntarily since Celestine V more than seven centuries ago. Since announcing his departure he has twice apparently referred to machinations inside the Vatican, saying that divisions "mar the face of the church", and warned against "the temptations of power".


La Repubblica's report was the latest in a string of claims that a gay network exists in the Vatican. In 2007 a senior official was suspended from the congregation, or department, for the priesthood, after he was filmed in a "sting" organised by an Italian television programme while apparently making sexual overtures to a younger man.

In 2010 a chorister was dismissed for allegedly procuring male prostitutes for a papal gentleman-in-waiting. A few months later a weekly news magazine used hidden cameras to record priests visiting gay clubs and bars and having sex.


The Vatican does not condemn homosexuals. But it teaches that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered". Pope Benedict has barred sexually active gay men from studying for the priesthood.