The Fiscal Cliff Deal That Almost Wasn't

House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t hold back when he spotted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the White House lobby last Friday.

It was only a few days before the nation would go over the fiscal cliff, no bipartisan agreement was in sight, and Reid had just publicly accused Boehner of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal.

Read the whole story at Politico

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Health Benefits of Green Coffee: Weight Loss, Diabetes, More

greencoffeebeans 260x162 Health Benefits of Green Coffee: Weight Loss, Diabetes, MoreYou may have heard of green coffee, but do you know what it is?  The beans most people use in their morning “cup of joe” are the ones that are dark brown and that brown color is simply the result of roasting. Green coffee, however, is simply the beans from the coffee plant which have not been roasted. So, green coffee is coffee made with raw beans. But the rawness of the beans is what makes the health benefits of green coffee great.

Health Benefits of Green Coffee

Coffee health benefits should not be ignored. Coffee can increase energy levels, reduce depression, improve mood, and help you focus. But while roasted beans do provide some benefits, green coffee is reportedly even more potent.

Among its benefits, green coffee seems to be particularly good at reducing blood pressure. One study found that green coffee is better than roasted coffee at reducing blood pressure because it has a lower level of hydroxyhydroquinone, a “byproduct of the roasting process,” according to

Hypertension Research published a study that found men with mild hypertension saw significant reductions in blood pressure from taking a water-soluable green coffee extract. Both diastolic and systolic pressure were reduced. Another study in 2006 found similar results.

So, what is it that makes green coffee so great? Well, it’s the concentration of antioxidants, or the protection against oxidative stress that it provides.

The ORAC scale is used to measure the ability of a food to protect against oxidative stress. It stands for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, and the ORAC score for green coffee is usually 2,500 or higher. In perspective, the ORAC score of blueberries, thought to be one of the best sources of antioxidants, is 10.

In addition to reducing blood pressure, green coffee and it’s impressive antioxidant ratings are said to assist in weight loss and even the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Subjects involved in one weight loss study changed nothing in their diets, but added a supplement regimen of green coffee extract. The participants not only lost weight, but lost body fat, and saw their heart rates decreased.

The chlorogenic acid within green coffee is believed to provide some of these benefits and even affect the body’s absorption of glucose, reducing blood sugar and decreasing insulin resistance.

The benefits of green coffee are many, as are the benefits of roasted coffee and green tea. In short, our morning beverages truly are a good way to wake up.

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Benefits of Steam Rooms: Skin Rejuvenation, Boosting Circulation

steamroomsauna1 265x165 Benefits of Steam Rooms: Skin Rejuvenation, Boosting CirculationIt’s that time of year when everything dries up. From your lips, to your skin and your nose, the drier air effects your body’s natural hydration and can leave you feeling uncomfortable. Fortunately, there is a simple solution that can help ease the dry conditions of winter, and it’s something that’s been used for centuries. It’s time to experience the health benefits of steam rooms.

While you may think of steam therapy as only a good way to relax at the gym, sitting around in your towel sweating with a bunch of strangers, the practice of inhaling and immersing yourself in steam actually has many benefits.

The Benefits of Steam Rooms

For your skin, steam allows your pores to open and expel toxins. Similar to what happens during an intense workout, steam triggers the body to cool down using perspiration. However, unlike exercise, when you are in a steam room, the sweat doesn’t evaporate and your pores remain opened to the soothing, warm, moist air.

For your airways, steam has numerous benefits. Firstly, the steam acts to provide moisture, soothing dry and potentially cracked mucous membranes like your nose and lips. It makes it easier and more comfortable to breathe if you are suffering from allergies or a cold as well. By lubricating the inside of the sinuses and your respiratory tract, the steam acts like an expectorant, loosening phlegm and making it easier for you to clear congestion.

If you get hit with a winter cold or even just some nasal or chest congestion, steam can offer immediate and completely natural relief. Because steam helps you get rid of congestion and eases breathing, it can also relieve headaches and help the body rid itself of the toxins within the congestion-causing mucous.

Finally, like a fever, the steam can increase your body temperature, triggering the immune system to fight infection. When you have a fever, your body is using the high temperature to fight illness. With steam, you are creating the same conditions and working to aid your immune system by creating a feverish condition. In this way, the illness-combating white blood cells will go to work defending your body from attack by bacteria and viruses that seek to lay you out.

Steam has been used for centuries—in ancient Egyptian baths and the sweat lodges of indigenous Americans, just to name a few. And as we know, as advocates of natural medicine, those time-tested solutions for health are often some of the best.

Before you use a steam room, however, there is one important issue to take note of. Unfortunately, the nations water supply is contaminated with chlorine, fluoride, drugs, birth control, lead, arsenic, and many other harmful substances. Since steam rooms use tap water, everything in the tap water will also be absorbed into the skin. The above benefits may be experienced, but it’s always important to know about what you’re getting into so you can make your own well-informed personal choice.

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Smokers at Higher Risk of Stroke, Recurrent Stroke

smokingguy2 265x165 Smokers at Higher Risk of Stroke, Recurrent StrokeIf you smoke, not having cancer doesn’t mean you are doing something right, it simply means you are, for the time being, defying the odds. Just because you don’t have cardiovascular disease yet, doesn’t mean you won’t down the road. And according to a new study, if you are a smoker and you survive a stroke, you are actually at a higher risk of having another stroke, a heart attack, or even dying.

The American Heart Association’s journal Stroke reports that stroke survivors who survive their stroke are at a greater risk of having another, having a heart attack, or dying when compared with nonsmokers.

Scientists looked at stroke-survivors in Australia, tracking nearly 1,600 survivors for ten years. Using telephone surveys, in-person interviews, and medical records, the researchers tracked recurrent health episodes and deaths.

They found that people who smoked at the time of their first stroke were 30% more likely to have a “poor outcome”. Those who are “current smokers” and who survived their first stroke by at least 28 days were 42% more at risk for a poor outcome.

So, not only are smokers at a greater risk for a first-time stroke, they are at a greater risk of a recurrent stroke too. Prior studies like this one were inconsistent in producing results on long-term outcomes following a stroke.

In the United States, stroke are the fourth-leading cause of death. It is also the leading cause of disability.

The researchers found that smoking had the greatest impact on young adult men from disadvantaged populations. They say this could help public health sectors determine where their preventative dollar would be best spent.

In addition to quitting smoking,  the following tips can help you prevent a stroke:

  • Stop drinking diet soda and regular soda alike
  • Boost magnesium intake
  • Add apples and pears to your diet
  • Follow this anti-stroke diet
  • Stop your daily aspirin regimen

Every 40 seconds a stroke occurs in America. Like heart attacks, the vast majority are preventable. Whether smoking  or a poor diet is your vice, getting control of could be a matter of life and death.


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Jewish and Muslim girls cook together 

(Scroll down for video) In an effort to bring peace between Jews and Muslim, one Ultra-Orthodox Jewish couple reached out to the Muslim community.
Chabad Rabbi David Slavin and his wife Laya, who run the soup kitchen, in Sydney, Australia, reached out to the Muslim community by getting a Halal certification for their kosher soup kitchen, making the premises and the food available to Muslims.


The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Education came up with an idea of bringing Jewish and Muslim girls together for a day of cooking and discussions. They asked rabbi Slavin if they can use “Our Big Kitchen” for the event. “We obviously agreed to the idea to host the two schools at “Our Big Kitchen”. It was a way for Jews and Muslims to come together and cook each other’s food and realize that we can live together in peace,” Rabbi Slavin said.

Thirty Jewish girls and thirty Muslim girls came together to cook side by side in “Our Big Kitchen”. Discussions were held about food and charity.
In the past, Mike Tyson paid a visit to the Jewish soup kitchen “Our Big Kitchen”.


Rabbi Dovid Slavin, arranged the event where Tyson spoke to kids who serve time in prison and to kids at risk. Many non-Jewish young people were also invited to be inspired by Tyson.


A lot of effort has gone into getting permission to have young people who are serving time in prison to be allowed to attend the gathering. Special arrangements had to be made for the young prisoners to travel to Bondi, Sydney, to hear Tyson’s message, learn from him and get inspired.


Tyson told the group: “I had a great deal of fame and fortune but I did not have the discipline to handle it.” Tyson spent his early years in Brooklyn, New York, not far from the area in which “Our Big Kitchen” executive director Rabbi Slavin grew up.


Tyson told the group that by the time he had turned 13-years-old he had been arrested dozens of times. He spoke openly and honestly about his life and the mistakes he made. He told the attendees they should get on the straight path and not make the same mistakes he made.


He told the young audience that there will be a time in life when one reaches “a fork” and they should be sure to take the path that lead to a life free of crime.

“Our Big Kitchen”, was founded by Rabbi Dovid Slavin and Laya Slavin in February, 2005. “Our Big Kitchen”, is a charity organization.


The kitchen is located in the Sydney Yeshiva Center in Sydney, Australia. The organization provides a large kitchen for community use. It is a 300 square meter kosher kitchen which is available for Jews and non-Jews alike. The Kosher soup kitchen facility is used by various groups to prepare and distribute meals. As outlined above it is now available to Muslims as well.



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Driving drunk 

(Scroll down for video) A Chabad rabbi from BeerSheva, Israel, was arrested and charged with drunk driving, sexual harassment and indecent sex acts.


A sixteen-year-old boy reported the rabbi to police after being sexually abused.


The boy claimed that the rabbi, who has previously served as the Chabad rabbi of BeerSheva in southern Israel, was driving under the influence of alcohol, when he invited him into the car. When the teen got into the car, the rabbi sexually harassed and sexually assaulted him. The rabbi was arrested and charged.

Sadly, this is not the first incident involving a Chabad rabbi, who had sex with minors.


Unfortunately, these few “bad apples” make all Ultra-Orthodox Jews look bad. Young boys and their parents put their trust in these rabbis, who are supposed to be role models to young boys. But instead these pedophiles take advantage of the trust and they sexually assault young boys.


Recently a founder of Chabad Lubavitch, in an Albany, New York town, was slapped with a lawsuit seeking damage for child sexual abuse, according to court proceedings in New York.


A Loudonville rabbi who admitted to having inappropriate physical contact with two children, 13 years of age, in 2007, is being sued by families of those victims that suffered the sexual assault.

Yaakov Weiss, who is the founder of Chabad of Colonie and the Chabad Hebrew School, is also being sued for allegedly defaming the youth when he said that the allegations were “100 percent false” and concocted by a rival, according to court documents in New York. Weiss has been cut off and is no longer affiliated with Chabad of Colonie.

The case will go to trial soon before Supreme Court Justice Eugene “Gus” Devine, although it could be assigned to another judge.


Weiss complained about the civil suit before a rabbinical court in Rockland County, New York, according to people with knowledge of the situation. This body could excommunicate the parents of

the victims after taking the matter outside of a religious court.


Weiss, now 32, was convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment in January 2010, when he admitted to knowingly having inappropriate physical contact with the boys separately while naked in a small pool, called a mikveh, which was used for ritual purification.


He received a sentence of 60 days in jail and 3 years probation. The parents of the victims called the sentence extremely light.



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Molly Crumley

An 11-year-old girl was left traumatized after her mother left her at the side of the road and then committed suicide.


The mother from River Falls, Wisconsin, was driving on a busy road when she stopped her car at the side of the road and exited the car, leaving her daughter inside alone. She proceeded to walk over to the bridge barrier and jumped off the bridge to her death.


The woman was identified as Molly Crumley, 48. According to her Facebook page, Crumley has two daughters, Katie and Clare.


Witnesses reported that the woman left her car on the shoulder near the St. Croix River bridge, about 100 meters west of Wisconsin’s border. She then exited her vehicle, leaving her young

daughter inside. She climbed over the railing and jumped into the freezing water.  

The distraught eleven-year-old-girl witnessed the incident.

According to reports, a counselor was called to the scene to meet with the abandoned girl. The girl is now in the care of relatives in Wisconsin.


A team of divers recovered the body from the icy waters by boat. It is unclear what drove Crumley to jump off the bridge.
Police are still investigating the incident.


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Angela Bauer and her partner Jennifer Schreiner

A lesbian couple desperately wanted to have a baby of their own. The couple took to Craigslist, where they posted an advertisement seeking a sperm donor.


William Marotta, who is a 43-year-old mechanic, responded to their post and offered to be the sperm donor. After agreeing to be the sperm donor to the lesbian couple, Marotta  from Topeka, Kansas,  sat down with Angela Bauer, 40, and her partner Jennifer Schreiner, 34, to sign an agreement.


The agreement included Marotta giving up his parental rights to the child while Bauer and Schreiner gave up the right to financial support.

But now, after the lesbian couple had parted ways, Marotta has been ordered by the state of Kansas to pay child support for the girl who is now three-years-old.


The child support issue came up after the lesbian couple separated but continued to co-parent the child. Bauer, who had been supporting Schreiner and the child, became unable to provide for them e due to an illness that prevented her from working.


The couple applied for State services which led the Kansas Department of Children and Families to request the name of the child’s father.


Since Kansas law does not recognize gay marriage, the state was unable to obtain child support from Bauer. Therefore the state requested the couple to disclose the name of the sperm donor. Now, the Kansas Department of Children and Families services has filed a child support claim against Marotta.

The couple said that they have an agreement with Marotta where he gave up his parental rights, including all financial responsibility.


But the State, in court documents, claims that the contract between the women and Marotta is not valid because the insemination was not done by a licensed physician.

Marotta asked the court to dismiss the child support claim against him.The two women said they support Marotta’s efforts to fight the child support order. The women believe that the State’s decision is politically motivated.

“More and more gays and lesbians are adopting and reproducing and this to me is a step backward,” Bauer said. “I think a lot of progress is happening currently in the world as far as gays and lesbians are concerned. Maybe this is Kansas’ stand against some of that,” Bauer added.


“This was a wonderful opportunity for a guy with an admirable and giving character who wanted nothing more than to help us have a child. I feel like the state of Kansas has made a mess out of the situation,” Bauer also said.


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Joe Lueken 

(Scroll down for video) An elderly owner of a multi million dollar supermarket chain did not do what was expected. Instead of leaving his family business to his children he gave it all away to his employees, according to video uploaded to the internet.

Last week, retiring Minnesota supermarket chain owner Joe Lueken, did the unusual. He gave his business to his 400 employees. The story received wide attention as comforting and was praised as a Wonderful act of charity.


This decision however, is not that unusual, according to press reports. In fact, Bob Moore, owner of Oregon-based cereal producer Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, did exactly the same thing two years ago.


Their actions reflect the under the radar, but the growing trend of worker ownership in the United States. The shocking truth is that there are thousands of successful worker-owned businesses in the United States. We’re not just talking about the little hippie cooperatives. In fact, the largest majority employee-owned business is based in Florida. Publix Super Markets, a company worth $27 billion, employes 152,000 people. Moreover, Publix has more workers than Costco and Whole Foods combined.


At a time of high unemployment, rising corporate profits and declining job quality, employee ownership offers a viable and attractive alternative to corporate capitalism. It’s a way for workers to own the means of production without overthrowing the capitalist system.


Far from the communist ideal, employee ownership is a third form of business ownership that both the left and the right can embrace. Advocates applaud this as workers are more involved in the structure of the business model.


Workers directly reap the fruits of their labor instead of working hard for investors. In turn, the employees are more motivated, productive and creative. According to a study by researchers at Rutgers and the University of Harvard, firms with substantial employee participation often exceed those without, due to lower staff turnover and stronger relationships of trust at work.



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As 2012 Ends, a Turning Point on Women’s Rights

Women’s rights have been in the forefront of international of international concern over the last few weeks.

Making the biggest headlines were the massive demonstrations in New Delhi and other cities in India provoked by the brutal gang rape by six men of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in the Indian capital. The crime, which occurred on a moving bus and saw the victim suffer ultimately fatal wounds to her genitals and intestines, proved to be the trigger for the release of popular anger that had built up over the years over the rise in violence against women.

The statistics are horrific. According to government estimates, a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. In New Delhi, dubbed the “rape capital of India,” the incidence of rape rose from 572 in 2011 to 661 towards the end of 2012. Of the 256,000 incidents of violent crime reported in 2011, nearly 229,000—close to 90 per cent—were committed against women.

What accounts for what one writer calls India’s “increasingly predatory sexual culture”? For some analysts, the rise in sexual aggression is related to male resentment over the erosion of India’s patriarchal society by women’s increasing role in the work force, their increased mobility, and their growing social and economic empowerment. Another major factor has been police laxness in dealing with rape reports and increased impunity for rapists, leading victims to feel that the legal processes are stacked against them and exploiting their wish to avoid the stigma associated with being raped or abused. India is in this regard little different from, say, the United States, which analyst Shenali Waduge, citing government estimates, says tops the rape chart.

Yet the current protests may prove to be a turning point, for while much of the media reporting has focused on spontaneous demands like the death penalty or chemical castration for rapists and sex offenders, the recent developments may well mark the emergence of a militant mass movement in India that will focus on confronting head-on the patriarchal norms that are at the root of much sexual violence.

Historic Triumph against Patriarchy in the Philippines

Even as India’s gender equation may be in the process of transformation, the women’s movement registered a historic victory in the Philippines with the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. The law, which makes family planning an obligatory policy for the current administration and for future ones, was passed on December 17 in the teeth of ferocious opposition from the super-patriarchal Catholic Church hierarchy.

Key provisions of the new law include, among others, the provision of free or cheap contraceptives to poor couples, institutionalization of sex education for students from the sixth grade up, the establishment of maternal care facilities in state-run hospitals, and provision of reproductive health counseling and treatment for women in all hospitals, including those suffering from post-abortion complications. The law accomplishes all this while ensuring respect for the rights of health professionals who cannot offer these services owing to their religious beliefs.

The law’s passage was seen widely as an enormous debacle for the Catholic Church, to which some 80 percent of the Philippine population nominally belongs. For 14 years, the Church hierarchy had thrown everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, against the effort. How did the RH advocates manage to beat an institution that has been a massive force in Philippine society for nearly 500 years?

Well, first of all, the Church was fighting a rearguard battle whose outcome could not be in doubt in the long run. Survey after survey had shown large majorities of the population favoring family planning, and these majorities only got larger over time. Whereas 61 percent of respondents in a Social Weather Station survey conducted in 1990 agreed with the statement that “the choice of family planning method is a personal choice of couples and no one should interfere with it,” by 2011, respondents agreeing with it came to 82 percent.

Yet the passage of the bill could have taken longer had it not been for a strategic shift in the discourse of the pro-RH forces. Population management has long enjoyed widespread popular support, with some 90 percent of respondents in an October 2008 Pulse Asia survey agreeing with the statement that it was important to “have the ability to control fertility or plan a family” for the “welfare of the country.” However, in the early years of the family planning debate, the Church and its allies managed, with some success, to paint a sinister side to population management, depicting it as an American plot to contain the Philippine population to serve the interests of the United States, as well as a scheme to create a market for the big western contraceptive manufacturers.

The pro-RH coalition was made up of forces that saw unrestrained population growth as a major cause of poverty and underdevelopment and women’s groups that focused on the reproductive rights of women. In the early years of the family planning debate, the discourse was heavily weighted on the side of population management. In the last few years, however, the discourse shifted heavily towards emphasizing the reproductive rights and welfare of women.

While the Church and its political allies continued to portray the bill as a foreign-inspired attempt to control the population of the country, the pro-RH forces were able to promote the bill to politicians and to the public as one that would allow women and their partners free and informed choice in deciding the size of their families and the spacing of their children in order to achieve a better quality of life.

While the Church and its allies denied that family size was positively correlated with poverty, RH advocates produced convincing statistics showing that the larger the family, the lower its income. They also produced reliable studies showing that over 22 percent of Filipino couples wanted to limit their family size to escape poverty but were prevented by lack of access to contraceptives and lack of familiarity with family planning.

While the anti-RH forces claimed that promoting contraception would inevitably lead to legitimizing abortion, the pro-RH forces turned the argument around and argued that providing access to contraceptives would greatly reduce the incidence of abortion, which is now estimated at 400,000 to 500,000 a year. The anti-RH forces also found it difficult to counter the pro-RH coalition’s claim that greater reproductive health care would greatly reduce the mortality rate for Filipino mothers, which increased from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2009 to 221 in 2011.

While the Church tried hard to present the program as a top-down population control program on the part of the state, the pro-RH forces argued successfully that a decline in the fertility rate at the macro level would be an “incidental result” of voluntary family planning at the micro level—though a very important incidental result, since failure in the near future to reduce the country’s currently high Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 3.1 would guarantee a population of some 200-250 million or more at the end of the century, which most economists and ecologists agreed would be unsustainable.

In the end, the Church hierarchy and its allies were outmaneuvered politically and outgunned intellectually and reduced to becoming, like their counterparts on the climate front, hysterical denialists. Or they were cornered into making fallacious arguments such as claiming the RH bill was unconstitutional because it was anti-life, uttering silly statements like the classic assertion of one congressman that “contraception is abortion,” or trotting out outrageous remarks like that of  Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who compared Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to Adam Lanza, the shooter who massacred 27 children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The events in India and the Philippines are steps forward in the struggle against gender oppression and for women’s rights. Yet the difficulty of the road ahead is underlined by recent developments in the African country of Swaziland, where, according to an Agence France Presse report, police “have banned women from wearing miniskirts and midriff-revealing tops, saying they provoke rape.” The article goes on to quote police spokeswoman Wendy Hleta as saying, “The act of the rapist is made easy, because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by women.” Further, according to Hleta, “women wearing revealing clothing were responsible for assaults or rapes committed against them.”

Swaziland may have gone further than other societies in banning what its ultra-conservative authorities regard as unacceptable women’s wear. But the blaming-the-victim syndrome they exhibit is still far too common among men, whether in the United States, India, Africa, Europe, or Latin America.

More broadly, misogynist and patriarchal attitudes are not only lingering stubbornly. In many societies, they are making a comeback. Witness recent developments in Egypt, formerly one of the Arab world’s most secular societies, where Islamists in power are pushing hard, as in Iran, to re-subordinate women to traditional gender roles.

Women throughout the world are on the march, but the struggle against sexual oppression and gender rights will continue to be a difficult one, where significant steps forward will be matched by occasional steps back.

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