The Front Blog

Conversations from the Four Rivers Region

Archive for March 2010

morning cram (super intentions edition)

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KY~ A barge hits a Kentucky Lake bridge and sinks. Trigg County Schools begin interviewing superintendent candidates and McCracken County plans to do the same in mid-April. Where McCracken builds its upcoming Emergency Center could be decided by a grant. 130 Fort Campbell soldiers expected home Friday. The new manager of Hopkins County’s Animal Shelter didn’t pan out. KY Utilities now offers an online map of power outages. Jobless rates were higher in every county last year. The Commonwealth declines to join other states challenging healthcare reform. Beshear urges no education budget cuts, as legislative leaders continue to make us wait.

TN~ Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper will not run for re-election. No hablan Inglés? A bill says no driver’s license for you!

10 Things About Health Care Reform

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This report comes from the non profit Miller-McCune Center

While the 2,000-page health care bill that became law last week is packed with major reforms probably well known by anyone who has channel-surfed through the nightly news over the past year, it is also contains many random, weird and interesting solutions. From breast pumping to adoption tax credits, Miller-McCune’s Emily Badger finds some less-noticed provisions of the bill:

1. Menu labeling. The legislation mandates that national chains with at least 20 restaurants must post “nutrient content disclosure statements” — in other words, calorie counts right next to the menu offering “Big Mac.” To drive the point home, menus will also have to mention your suggested daily caloric intake. The provision has all kinds of addendums to deal with seasonal specials, salad bars, vending machines and condiments, but the main idea is this: Maybe we’ll eat less garbage if we can’t remain willfully ignorant about how bad it is for us.

2. Swag disclosure. The bill contains key elements of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a previously bipartisan idea calling for pharmaceutical reps and device manufacturers to disclose all the goodies they give doctors. This includes money, gifts, food, travel, entertainment, grants, just about anything that may constitute a conflict of interest. The “transparency reports” must be submitted to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and will be posted on a publicly searchable Web site.

3. Right to pump. Workplaces will have to provide “reasonable” break time and a private location — other than a bathroom — for breastfeeding mothers to pump breast milk for one year after the birth of a child. Women’s groups have long sought such guarantees, and this one will apply to all workplaces with the exception of employers with less than 50 employees, where the demand might create an “undue hardship.”

4. Postpartum depression. In addressing another priority for women’s groups, the bill singles out the problem of postpartum depression for expanded funding, worker training, public education and research. The National Institute of Mental Health is due to conduct a national longitudinal study of women with postpartum depression, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services must produce a study on the benefits of PPD screening.

5. Tanning tax. Starting July 1 of this year, there will be a new 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services (in legislative speak, “a service employing any electronic product designed to incorporate [one] or more ultraviolet lamps and intended for the irradiation of an individual by ultraviolet radiation, with wavelengths in air between 200 and 400 nanometers, to induce skin tanning”). Something called “phototherapy” is excluded.

6. Adoption credit. Beginning with your 2010 taxes, the federal adoption credit goes up by $1,000 to $13,170 per child and now becomes refundable. As one happy advocate blogged, “I’m pretty creative in coming up with ways that adoption is good for all concerned, but even I think the connection of the adoption tax credit and health care is tenuous.”

7. Indian health. The bill incorporates aspects of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, a goal of organizations who point out American Indians have the worst health disparities of any minority group in the U.S., particularly dealing with suicide, alcoholism and tuberculosis. The law increases funding and support on tribal lands for behavioral health and substance abuse, health care worker recruitment and facilities construction.

8. Background checks. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is tasked with developing a national system for conducting criminal background checks of prospective health care workers who would deal directly with patients in long-term care facilities or private homes. This is one of a suite of changes aimed at protecting seniors in nursing homes.

9. Abstinence education. The bill restores federal funding for abstinence-only education, the sex-ed technique that urges students to wait until marriage (while eschewing talk of contraceptives). Researchers dispute the effectiveness of the strategy, and it was getting the cold shoulder from the Obama administration. The health reform bill, however, allocates $250 million for such programs over the next five years.

10. Your W-2. Changes are coming to your tax paperwork. Come next January, the W-2 you receive from your employer (if, hopefully, you have one) will include the cost of employer-provided health care you probably have not quantified before. This will become much more relevant in 2018, when people with the so-called high-cost “Cadillac” plans will have to start paying a hefty tax on it.

meth country

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The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office is circulating photos of a Coca-Cola bottle found in Benton, KY they say was used as a “ generator” in the manufacture of methamphetamine and contains hazardous chemicals such as sulfuric acid.

This kind of toxic junk is increasingly turning up, as the EPIDEMIC continues to intensify.  And juss a wemindah: meff’s bad fuh ya healff.

Written by Chris Taylor

March 30, 2010 at 9:34 am

morning cram (denial edition)

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KY~ MSU’s Billy Kennedy is expected to sign a contract extension today. Paducah officials deny being confused. Fort Campbell will tighten its (financial) belt while soldiers are away. A US-62 bridge near Lake City is down to one lane till noon. Murray’s Chamber of Commerce will release how its members feel about a payroll tax later this week. Two bills now sit on Beshear’s desk: one forces 2 organizations out into the public eye and another wants to reduce teen suicide. Most lawmakers get a day off as budget talks resume. No ‘Race to the Top’ $$$. More universities may establish nursing doctoral degree programs.

TN~ The state expects a $75m revenue shortfall. The Senate has passed a constitutional ban on an income tax.

The California Cannabis Experiment

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— John Dillon

As you may have heard on NPR or in other news venues, the people of California will be faced with a ballot referendum later this year on whether to legalize sale of marijuana for purely recreational purposes.

The state already has its share of “medical cannabis” suppliers and users.

Why legalize Mother Nature? TAX REVENUE.

California is broke, and this really boils down to a “Cannabis Tax Reform Issue.” Sell the stuff and tax the heck out of it. Individuals could purchase up to one ounce at a time, although it should not be consumed in public places.

The initiative is polling well so far. It stands a fair chance of passage, and could raise tens of millions of dollars a year to help keep schools open, pave roads and pay for essential services.

And here we are in the mid-South, also struggling with budget issues. Alas, more than half of the counties in the Commonwealth of Kentucky have yet to lift alcohol Prohibition.

Oh, well. It will be interesting to see if California does pass this measure; whether it will benefit the public overall; and if new waves of surfer dudes will turn to paying their taxes for weed and then eat Doritos by the bagful on the couch.


Written by JD

March 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What Matt did during Earth Hour 2010

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Somehow I was in the dark about Earth Hour being Saturday, March 27. Until I had read earlier that day about Sydney, Australia turning off its lights, I had no idea the event was to take place locally only a few hours later. Unfortunately, I don’t live in a region where I can step out on my balcony and look over a darkened city, showing somber respect for the environment and the fragile, yet powerful hold we as humans have over its fate. In truth, looking outside my window you’d see the lights, sights and sounds of a small, expanding town.

What I really wanted to do was to sit on my front porch with a candle, to see neighbors outside doing the same, to gaze at the stars and reflect on the magnitude of our existence. This romantic idea was soon washed away by a brief, but hard swept storm followed by a chilly temperature drop. Alas, during Earth Hour, I was forced to stay indoors.

Around 8:30, my girlfriend and I scrambled to turn off all the lights, the computers, the television and anything else whirring, blinking and glowing. It was 8:40 by the time we finished, but we vowed to make up for lost time by making our Earth Hour last until 9:40.

Matt reading during Earth Hour 2010

We decided to light some candles and read in the living room. I read my book, she read hers. I don’t quite know how to explain the strange phenomena when reading by candle light, an urge to read something scary. I put down my book and pulled out that famous collection by Alvin Schwartz, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” We read the one about the dead guy walking through a town, not realizing his demise until he read about his funeral in the newspaper; the one about the group of fishermen who take refuge in a spooky house with the big, green face. After a few stories, the darkness around us settled in and the apartment, though only dark for 30 minutes or so, became rather creepy.

The fact that a less than an hour earlier, a place whirring and whizzing, bright as the day could so quickly be foreboding simply by cutting some of the power is a strange sort of paradox and something of a repercussion to 21st century living habits. Our dependency on modern energy is a deeper issue for another day, but it led to an interesting conversation while we waited out the rest of Earth Hour that night.

We had three large candles going and, for a time, a flashlight. It was pointed out that burning these manufactured candles and eventually discarding (even recycling) their glass containers consumes large amounts of energy. The battery in the flashlight would be one of the worst things disposed of in a landfill. Compared to a single light bulb, all of which costs about half a penny on the monthly electric bill, we were probably consuming more energy in our recognition efforts.

Regardless of whether or not we actually helped the environment in this year’s Earth Hour, it gave us pause to think about the value of resources, to participate in the global event and an excuse to read scary stories with candles. It was a highlight to an otherwise ordinary weekend and, for an hour, made the world seem smaller and more connected. Searching Earth Hour 2010 on Flickr, it’s refreshing to see others and particularly cities who’d gotten involved, hopefully inciting a positive change on a larger and more substantial scale. I know Earth Hour takes place at the end of every March, but would it really be too much to ask if we moved it to, say, late June? If only so I could live out that romantic plan of sitting on the porch and gazing up at the stars.

Written by Matt Markgraf

March 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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morning cram (no _~ edition)

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*We do not endorse or promote drug use of any kind.

KY~ The Senate will vote on banning salvia and fake pot. Will Reidland-Farley Fire Chief Richard Tapp return to face the music? Paducah could be a new coal stop. The Mayfield Lowe’s shooter is guilty (and mentally ill). Hopkinsville police find +$13k worth of meth/no one home. A student-made spacecraft will be blasted into… space. Is (former lawmaker/accused murderer) Steve Nunn competent?

TN~ They’re gonna burn the Devil’s Backbone in LBL.

morning cram (weekend lovin’ edition)

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KY~ Paducah Police want to know who robbed the Waffle Hut. Paducah’s Waterway Innovations gets $150k to develop barge monitoring technology. A survey gauging opinions on a Murray payroll tax is circulating through the business community. That lady who (allegedly) shot at her husband in a Mayfield Lowe’s now has a jury of her peers. The general manager of WKDZ-FM (Cadiz) is one of the Commonwealth’s leading ladies. Unemployment rises (10.9%). The House puts off an official discussion on a Capitol gun ban. One Senate committee adds an eminent domain clause to the stalled nuclear bill and another is confused about instant racing.

morning cram (strolls edition)

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Do you ever feel like this? Oh! You’re so popular! Too bad this blog isn’t.

KY~ Paducah school officials show off the Middle School’s ill-repair. A public hearing in Oak Grove will explore a betting outfit in their planned mall. Them kids is reading more good. Beshear wants to help/meddle with budget negotiations. Rep. Henley hopes some Calloway County projects will be spared. The House may ban guns (in the House) and will vote on a meth bill. A Senate committee could stiffen the proposed punishment for sexting today.

TN~ Clarksville’s Dunbar Cave closes after a bat comes down with the white nose.

IL~ State cops get the boot.

morning cram (socially acceptable edition)

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KY~ Methlabs on the rise (up 60% over 2008). Officials say it’s too soon to know how healthcare reform will affect Commonwealthers. The budget passes the Senate (finally); but with mixed reactions and many differences. A bill that would end a ban nuclear reactors sees a meltdown in the House.

TN~ The state’s Supreme Court rules when facing a police interrogation, you must explicitly request a lawyer. Legislators consider options to defy federal healthcare reform.

IL~ Metropolis’ garbage contract renewal brings rate hikes. SIU proposes a freeze on tuition.