April 12, 2007

March US Treasury Report: Receipts Barely Up, Spending Way Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:19 am

So altogether, not a good month.

Here are the numbers:

MonthlyTreas0307

The amount spent by Uncle Sam in March is probably the highest in any month in history, and moved what had looked like a surprising bit of spending control into the land of mediocrity.

The differential between the increases in receipts and spending needs to stay at about 5% for the possibility of a balanced budget by sometime in 2008 to remain.

A Civil Lawsuit Attempts to Exact a Meaningful Punishment in a Situation Eliot Spitzer Virtually Let Ride

Filed under: Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:14 am

The New York State United Teachers Member Benefits Trust is in richly deserved hot water — but it had to come from the a private lawsuit and not the government:

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan last week contends that a retirement plan offered by the New York State United Teachers breached its fiduciary duty when it accepted millions of dollars in payments from an investment firm in exchange for endorsing the firm’s products to plan members.

The lawsuit, filed as a class action on behalf of participants in the New York State United Teachers Member Benefits Trust, taps into a growing concern among retirement plan participants that excessive fees are enriching investment firms while diminishing their savings. The suit also signals to those overseeing plans that the investment offerings must be appropriate and suitable to plan participants.

According to the court filing, the teachers’ trust exclusively endorsed a high-fee annuity investment offered by ING Life Insurance and Annuity Company, a subsidiary of the ING Groep, a Dutch investment firm.

In return, ING reimbursed the trust for salaries of some employees whose jobs were to promote the company’s products to plan members. “The excessive costs of the plan compared to lower cost equivalents resulted in tens of millions of dollars of lost retirement savings” for the trust’s members, the filing said.

Under ERISA, plan sponsors’ and trustees’ paramount duty is to help participants get the best returns they can consistent with safety and preservation of capital. The arrangement described is clearly a disgraceful betrayal of that duty.

“Conveniently” overlooked is how in June of last year, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who was in possession of the same set of facts that caused the civil suit to be filed, and who “happened” to be running for governor at the time, let the Teachers’ Union Trust off the state’s legal hook in return for a $100,000 fine and a promise by the Trust that it would sin no more — in reality, little more than a wrist slap.

Would it be impolite to ask if the fact that the Empire state’s teachers’ unions are mostly Democratic Party members had anything to do with Spitzer’s lenient treatment?

Apparently the Importance of Consensus Depends on What’s Being Consented To

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Environment — Tom @ 6:09 am

Stated briefly, Reason’s Ronald Bailey (HT Ace) notes that the actual scientific consensus about the safety of genetically modified foods gets no respect from the hard-line anti-technology and anti-capitalist left — while the faux globaloney consensus is said to be deserving of the utmost in respect by many of those very same folks.

You see, the “good consensus” on climate change also “just happens” to be hard-line anti-technology and anti-capitalist.

I would call that a convenient consistency.

Stem Cell News That Can Be Used (041207)

Filed under: Life-Based News,Marvels,Positivity — Tom @ 6:04 am

Dramatic, and of course, non-embryonic:

April 11, 2007

Diabetics cured by stem-cell treatment

Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.

In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.

The results show that insulin-dependent diabetics can be freed from reliance on needles by an injection of their own stem cells. The therapy could signal a revolution in the treatment of the condition, which affects more than 300,000 Britons.

People with type 1 diabetes have to give themselves regular injections to control blood-sugar levels, as their ability to create the hormone naturally is destroyed by an immune disorder.

All but two of the volunteers in the trial, details of which are published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), do not need daily insulin injections up to three years after stopping their treatment regimes.

Positivity: Missing Dog Found 4 Years Later — And 4 States Away

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

Video is here.

Look for the story at this link if you can’t get to the vid directly.