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HIGH COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO N Y G U N L A W WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court is staying out of the gun debate for now. The justices on Monday declined to hear a challenge to a strict New York law that makes it difficult for residents to get a license to carry a concealed handgun in public. The court did not comment in turning away an appeal from five state residents and the Second Amendment Foundation. Their lawsuit also drew support from the National Rifle Association and 20 states. The high court action comes amid an intensifying congressional debate on new gun control measures. The issue has resurfaced prominently in Washington in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults
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KERRY TO NORTH KOREA: D O N ' T T E S T M I S S I L E SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a stark warning to North Korea on Friday not to test-fire a mid-range missile, while tamping down anxiety caused by a new U.S. intelligence report suggesting significant progress in the communist regime's nuclear weapons program.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se during a joint press conference at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. Kerry is making his first-ever visit to Seoul amid strong suspicion that North Korea may soon test a mid-range missile.
Kicking off four days of talks in an East Asia beset by increasing North Korean threats, Kerry told reporters in Seoul that Pyongyang and its enigmatic young leader would only increase their isolation if they launched the missile that American officials believe has a range of some 2,500 miles - or enough to reach the U.S. territory of Guam.
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"If Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile, whether it's across the Sea of Japan or some other direction, he will be choosing willfully to ignore the entire international community," Kerry told reporters. "And it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people's temperatures."
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on President Barack Obama's budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, and the HHS
If the trajectory of the test missile suggests that it could be a threat to either the U.S. or allies, the military would move to shoot it down from one of nine warships armed with sophisticated ballistic missile defense systems in the Pacific, including two that were moved closer to the Korean peninsula, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss military plans.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's new plan to raise Medicare premiums for upper-income seniors would create five new income brackets to squeeze more revenue for the government from the top tiers of retirees.
"It will further isolate his country and further isolate his people who are desperate for food and not missile launches," he warned. "They are desperate for opportunity and not for a leader to flex his muscles."
The administration revealed details of the plan Friday after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the Congress on the president's budget. The details had not been provided when the budget was released earlier in the week. The idea of "means testing" has been part of Medicare since the George W. Bush administration, but ramping it up is bound to stir controversy. Republicans are intrigued, but most Democrats don't like the idea. The plan itself is complicated. The bottom line is not: more money for the government. Obama's new budget calls for raising $50 billion over 10 years by increasing monthly "income-related" premiums for outpatient and prescription drug coverage. The comparable number last year was $28 billion over the decade. Currently, single beneficiaries making more than $85,000 a year and couples earning more than $170,000 pay higher premiums. Obama's plan would raise the premiums themselves and also freeze adjustments for inflation until 1 in 4 Medicare recipients were paying the higher charges. Right now, the higher monthly charges hit only about 1 in 20 Medicare recipients. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., asked Sebelius about the new proposal on Friday, noting that it would raise significantly more revenue. Part of the reason for the additional federal revenue is that Obama's 2014 budget projects an additional year of money from the proposals. The rest of the answer has to do with the administration's new brackets. Starting in 2017, there would be nine income brackets on
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Kerry said the test would be a "huge mistake" for Kim.
Kerry's diplomatic tour, while planned long in
advance, is unusual in that it brings him directly to a region of escalated tensions and precisely at a time when North Korea is threatening action. The North often times its military and nuclear tests to generate maximum attention, and Kerry's presence on the peninsula alone risked spurring Pyongyang into another provocation. Another key date is the 101st birthday of the nation's founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.
After meeting South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Kerry also weighed in on an intelligence report that rocked Washington on Thursday, suggesting that North Korea now had the knowhow to arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead - even if the weapons would lack reliability. Kerry, repeating assertions by other administration officials, noted that Pyongyang still hadn't developed or fully tested the nuclear capacities needed for such a step. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., surprised a hearing on the defense budget Thursday when he read aloud one paragraph of an otherwise classified Defense Intelligence Agency report. The assessment said the Pentagon's intelligence wing has "moderate confidence" that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles but that the weapon was unreliable. The disclosure took even Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by surprise and he refused to discuss it at the budget hearing. While analysts have made similar statements over the last two years, the reading of it at the same time Kim was renewing threats against the U.S. and its allies gave the notion new urgency. Kerry offered strong words of solidarity for South Korea, praising Park's "bright vision" of a prosperous and reunified Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons. By
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B I PA R T I S A N S H I P B R E A K S O U T ON CAPITOL HILL, FOR NOW WASHINGTON (AP) - A filibuster averted. A likely accord on immigration reform. A former Republican presidential candidate thanked - publicly! by the Senate's top Democrat. Lawmakers of both parties lunched together for the first time many could remember, agreeing to agree on the heroism of Sen. John McCain and the tragedy of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. Bipartisanship broke out on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a newsy development after years of polarization that infuriated the public, brought Congress to a near-halt and the country to the brink of economic disaster. It could all blow to pieces by the time you read this article - fierce disputes remain on gun control and immigration, among others issues. And looming over it all is a midterm election next year with big implications for the divided government and President Barack Obama's legacy. But let history record that for a full day in battle-scarred Washington there it was: legislative progress, bipartisan bread-breaking and the emotional stuff of human rela-
tionships long-mourned and little-seen in recent years. Obama helped set the harmonic tone in his budget Wednesday, calling for cuts that Republicans have been urging in benefit programs for years. The gesture was widely seen as an effort to preserve the prospects of immigration and gun control legislation. But at the center of all of the civility was McCain, the president's vanquished GOP opponent from the 2008 presidential election. The gruff Washington veteran, Vietnam war hero and, lately, scolder of would-be obstructionists in his own party threw cold water on a filibuster threat by 13 conservative senators who oppose gun control. "What are we afraid of?" the Arizona senator said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Why not take it up and amend it and debate?" A bipartisan gun control deal by freshman Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., inspired Senate conservatives to drop their filibuster plans, even though many Republicans who allowed the legislation to advance said they were unlikely to vote for its passage. Also helping to remove the obstruction were the family
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WASHINGTON (AP) -DNA may be the building block of life, but can something taken from it also be the building block of a multimillion-dollar medical monopoly?
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The Supreme Court grapples Monday with the question of whether human genes can be patented. Its ultimate answer could reshape U.S. medical research, the fight against diseases like breast and ovarian cancer and the multi-billion dollar medical and biotechnology business.
An American flag flies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington. DNA may be the building blocks of life, but can something taken from it be the building blocks of a multimillion-dollar medical monopoly? The Supreme Court will grapple with that question Monday, April 15, 2013, as it delves into an issue that could reshape medical research in the United States, in the fight against diseases like breast and ovarian cancer, and the billion-dollar medical and biotechnology business: Can human genes be patented? The court's decision could have a wide-ranging effect.
"The intellectual framework that comes out of the decision could have a significant impact on other patents - for antibiotics, vaccines, hormones, stem cells and diagnostics on infectious microbes that are found in nature," Robert CookDeegan, director for genome ethics, law & policy at Duke University, said in a statement. "This could affect agricultural biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, green-tech, the use of organisms to produce alternative fuels and other applications," he said. The nine justices' decision will also have a profound effect on American business, with billions of dollars of investment and years of research on the line. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years. And Myriad Genetics alone has $500 million invested in the patents being argued over in this case. Without the ability to recoup that investment, breakthrough scientific discoveries needed to combat all kind of medical maladies wouldn't happen, the company says. "Countless companies and investors have risked billions of dollars to research and develop scientific advances under the promise of strong patent protection," said Peter D. Meldrum, the president and CEO of Myriad Genetics, in a statement. But their opponents argue that allowing companies like Myriad to patent human genes or parts of human genes will slow down or cripple lifesaving medical research like in the battle against breast cancer. "What that means is that no other researcher or doctor can develop an additional test, therapy or conduct research on these genes," said Karuna Jagger, executive director of Breast Cancer Action.
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Myriad sells the only BRCA gene test.
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The Supreme Court has already said that abstract ideas, natural phenomena and laws of nature cannot be given a patent, which gives an inventor the right to prevent others from making, using or selling a novel device, process or application. Myriad's case involves patents on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad's BRACAnalysis test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA. Those mutations are associated with much greater risks of breast and ovarian cancer. Women with a faulty gene have a three to seven times greater risk of developing breast cancer and a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Men can also carry a BRCA mutation, raising their risk of prostate, pancreatic and other types of cancer. The mutations are most common in people of eastern
The American Civil Liberties Union challenged Myriad's patents, arguing that genes couldn't be patented, and in March 2010 a New York district court agreed. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now twice ruled that genes can be patented. In Myriad's case, it's because the isolated DNA has a "markedly different chemical structure" from DNA within the body.
Mark C. Capone, president of Myriad Genetics Laboratories, Inc., a subsidiary of Myriad, said some of the concerns over what they have patented are overblown and some simply incorrect. "Myriad cannot, should not and has not patented genes as they exist in the human body on DNA," Capone said in an interview. "This case is truly about isolated DNA molecules which are synthetic chemicals created by the human ingenuity of man that have very important clinical utilities, which is why this was eligible for a patent."
But the ACLU is arguing that isolating the DNA molecules doesn't stop them from being DNA molecules, which they say aren't patentable. "Under this theory, Hans Dehmelt, who won the Nobel Prize for being the first to isolate a single electron from an atom, could have patented the electron itself," said Christopher A. Hansen, the ACLU's lawyer in court papers. "A kidney removed from the body (or gold extracted from a stream) would be patentable subject matter." The Obama administration seems to agree. Artificially created DNA can be patented, but "isolated but otherwise unmodified genomic DNA is not patent-eligible," Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in court papers. That was the ruling of the original judge who looked at Myriad's patents after they were challenged by the ACLU in 2009. U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA's existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body or the information it encodes. But the federal appeals court reversed him in 2011, saying Myriad's genes can be patented because the isolated DNA has a "markedly different chemical structure" from DNA within the body. The Supreme Court threw out that decision and sent the case back to the lower courts for rehearing. This came after the high court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease, saying the laws of nature are unpatentable. But the federal circuit upheld Myriad's patents again in August, leading to the current review. The court will rule before the end of the summer. "The key issue now for the court will therefore be whether the scientist working in the lab to isolate a particular gene innovated in a way that allows for that isolated gene to be patented," said Bruce Wexler, a lawyer with the law firm Paul Hastings, who advises pharmaceutical and biotech companies on patent issues.
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The Weekly News Digest, April 15, 2013
L E G A L P O T D R AW S T O U R I S T S T O C O L O . , W A S H . , F O R 4 / 2 0 DENVER (AP) -- Thousands of people are expected to join an unofficial counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana in Colorado and Washington this coming weekend, including out-of staters and even packaged tours. The events and crowds will test the limits of new laws permitting pot use by adults. More than 50,000 are expected to light up outdoors in Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more are headed here for the nation's first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, April 20-21, a domestic version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam. Expected guests at the Cannabis Cup, a ticketed event taking place inside the Denver Convention Center, include Snoop Lion, the new reggae- and marijuana-loving persona for the rapper better known as Snoop Dogg. Marijuana activists from New York to San Francisco consider April 20 a day to celebrate the drug and push for broader legalization. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and its sale without a doctor's recommendation isn't allowed yet in Colorado or Washington. Neither state allows open and public use of the drug. But authorities largely look the other way at public pot-smoking, especially at festivals and concerts, and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to capitalize on new marijuana laws. One of them is Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," which gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air.
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contrast, he said North Korea's Kim, by estimates only 29 or 30 years old, has a choice to make between provocation and returning to talks to de-escalate tension and lead to the end of its nuclear program. "It's up to Kim Jong Un what he decides to do," Kerry said. A missile launch, he said, "is not going to change our current position which is very clear: We will defend our allies. We will stand with South Korea and Japan against these threats. And we will defend ourselves." Speaking beside Kerry, South Korea's Yun called for more United Nations action against Pyongyang if it commits another provocation. He refused to comment specifically on the U.S. intelligence report, saying only that the North has "high nuclear and missile capabilities" but that it is still some time away from a nuclear bomb that is "small, light and diversified." Both Yun and Kerry kept the door open for future negotiations with Pyongyang. But both seemed to suggest that such talks were unlikely in light of the North's increasingly bombastic threats, including nuclear strikes on the United States. Most experts say those are unfeasible based on the North's current capacity and would never be explored seriously because the U.S. response would be overwhelming against a regime focused primarily on survival. Kerry said any talks with North Korea have to lead toward denuclearization. They have to be really serious," Kerry said. "No one is going to talk for the sake of talking and no one is going to play this round-robin game that gets repeated every few years, which is both unnecessary and dangerous."
The magazine's editorial director, Dan Skye, says this month's U.S. Cannabis Cup was timed for the April 20 weekend. "4/20 is the national stoner holiday, for lack of a better word," Skye said. "It gets bigger every year, and this year, after the legalization votes, it's going to be absolutely huge."
Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," looking over a sampling of marijuana edibles at a dispensary in Denver. "My 420 Tours," gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air. Instead, the service plans to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and take them to a cannabis-friendly hotel (a national chain that has given permission for Denver patrons to smoke marijuana on outdoor patios but doesn't want its name advertised)
The tour sends cannabis tour guides to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and deposit them at a hotel where smoking - tobacco or reefer - is permitted on room patios. Marijuana tourists on Brown's tour can add extra days of touring medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations. A cannabis cooking class is another option. Five-day tours run $649 to $849. Brown, a medical marijuana patient who is new to the travel business, says his tours will enable sharing of pot but not selling it. Eighty percent of his clients are coming from outside Colorado - meaning it's illegal for them to bring marijuana from home. And because commercial pot sales in Colorado don't start until January, out-of-state visitors can't yet buy pot at Colorado's 500-plus dispensaries. Despite the legal barriers, Brown said his tours quickly filled to capacity and he had to turn away would-be cannabis tourists. He's hoping to book future pot-themed weekends if the April 20n weekend does well. "People are fascinated by what's happening here, and they want to see it up close," Brown said. "We want to make sure people don't come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend." The tour group isn't affiliated with the Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times Magazine, which has run similar events for medical marijuana in nine cities.
The magazine planned to award Snoop Lion with a "lifetime achievement" award at a Denver ceremony Friday. A Cypress Hill/Slightly Stoopid concert was planned Saturday at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater just west of Denver. Both events sold out weeks ago. A few dozen miles northwest of Denver, the University of Colorado in Boulder will try to dampen pot celebrations on April 20. The campus once held the nation's largest college 4/20 celebration, drawing an estimated 10,000 in 2010. The legendary smokeout was cited by Playboy magazine when it named Colorado the nation's top party school in 2011 . After the Playboy mention, the university stepped up efforts to shut the celebration down. Campus officials last year roped off the site of the smokeout, Norlin Quadrangle, reducing the 4/20 crowd to a few hundred protesters. The school planned another shutdown Saturday. Celebrations were planned in Washington state, too, though April 20 isn't as broadly celebrated as Seattle's annual Hempfest, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to a waterfront park every summer. The April 20 celebrations in Washington included a Seattle party being put on by DOPE Magazine at an artist work space and studio. About 1,500 were expected for glassblowing demonstrations, music, dancing and a bar where revelers can vaporize their pot, plus the judging for the "DOPE Cup" - an award for the best bud. There will be a smoking tent set up outside, along with food trucks to combat any cases of the munchies. "It's pretty monumental," said DOPE editor in chief James Zachodni. "This is the first time in the U.S. there's been a cannabis holiday with a legal aspect to it." Back in Colorado, longtime pot user Andrew Poarch says this year's April 20 observations in Colorado have taken on epic significance. He's joining dozens of friends to hire a bus from Colorado Springs to attend Denver's Cannabis Cup. "It's going to be a lot bigger, a lot more people," he predicted. "People are trying to outdo themselves because it's a party and a celebration. We beat prohibition. It's a pretty big deal."
STOCKS SINK IN EARLY TRADING; GOLD PLUNGES NEW YORK (AP) -- A steep fall in commodity prices pulled down energy and mining stocks for a second day in a row on Monday.
gains in the S&P. The bank reported earnings Monday that beat analysts' estimates thanks to strength in investment banking.
Gold plunged to $1,400 an ounce for the first time since March 2011 as a sell-off in metals continued from last week. Oil prices hit their lowest level since midDecember.
Two deals sent some stocks higher. Sprint Nextel jumped after Dish Network offered $25 billion to buy the company. Dish's bid is aimed at beating Japanese phone company SoftBank's offer for Sprint. Dish fell 6 percent to $35.28. Sprint surged 16 percent to $7.20.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 89 points at 14,773 shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, a drop of 0.6 percent. Caterpillar led the Dow lower, losing 3 percent to $82.87. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 12 points to 1,577, a loss of 0.7 percent. The Nasdaq composite fell 25 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3,267. Mining and energy stocks had the biggest losses following the plunge in commodity prices. Freeport-McMorRan Copper Gold and Newmont Mining fell 6 percent, the biggest drops in the S&P 500 index. Citigroup rose 3 percent to $46.05, one of the biggest
Thermo Fisher Scientific offered to pay $13.6 billion to buy genetic testing equipment maker Life Technologies. Thermo Fisher said Monday it agreed to pay $76 in cash for each share of Life Technologies. Both companies' stock jumped. Thermo Fisher rose 3 percent $82.21, and Life Technologies rose 8 percent $73.23. In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 1.71 percent from 1.72 late Friday. The yield remains near its low point of the year, 1.69 percent, which was reached April 5 following news that U.S. employers hired far fewer workers than expected last month.
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PROMISES, PROMISES: OBAMA'S M I X E D E C O N O M I C R E C O R D home pay for nearly all working Americans. Middle and lower-income Americans were hardest hit because the tax is levied only against the first $114,000 of income.
The issue: The U.S. economy is recovering from the Great Recession but at a modest, uneven pace. Many scars remain visible, particularly an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. The U.S. has 2.8 million fewer jobs than in December 2007, when the recession began. And average hourly wages have trailed inflation in the past three years. Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit has ballooned, topping $1 trillion each year in President Barack Obama's first term. It is forecast to fall to $845 billion this year. Obama faces the challenge of reducing that gap without cutting it so quickly that it slows growth. The campaign promise: Obama promised a balanced approach to deficit reduction that wouldn't undermine the recovery or place most of the burden on the middle class. He also sought to revitalize manufacturing, harkening back to an era when high-paying factory jobs
CAPITOL HILL Continued from page 1 members of some of the 20 children and six adults murdered by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School who had spent days lobbying lawmakers for stricter gun control laws. Several lawmakers said they were brought to tears in those meetings. On Thursday, the Senate departed from its streak of legislating by filibuster. Under the grim gaze of Sandy Hook victims' relatives, 16 Republicans voted with 50 Democrats and two independents to begin debate on tightening the nation's gun laws. In the gallery over the chamber, some in the delegation wiped away tears, held hands and appeared to pray as each senator cast a vote. Much emotional debate lay ahead and the ToomeyManchin bill's fate was far from certain. But after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave Republicans - "especially John McCain" - some rare, nationally televised credit for the progress. "There have been many things written in the last several months about how the Senate cannot operate," Reid, who frequently decries congressional dysfunction, said on the Senate floor. "John McCain has been a leader in this country for 31 years. People respect his opinion." Senators then adjourned to spend time together at a lunch for McCain to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his release from captivity in Vietnam. In a gilded room named for John, Robert and Edward Kennedy, surrounded by black-and-white photos of a young McCain returning on crutches, Republicans, Democrats and independents dined on enchiladas and tilapia as McCain revealed harrowing details of his captivity and torture. The account of McCain's five years as a POW was new to some in attendance. Several said they were moved to tears by it, reminded again of bigger matters than how this or that vote would go over with certain constituents back home. "It makes you think about the human condition," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. Even Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican tea partyer whose 12-hour filibuster delaying the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director inspired a rebuke from McCain, emerged reporting good times.
And Obama wasn't able to avoid $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that kicked in March 1. Economists warn the cuts could shave a half-percentage point from growth this year. Obama said in a presidential campaign debate that the cuts "will not happen." But they have. They could be reversed in a future agreement. copies of President Barack Obama's budget plan for fiscal year 2014 are prepared for delivery at the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington. The U.S. economy is recovering from the Great Recession but at a modest, uneven pace. Many scars remain visible, particularly an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. The U.S. has 2.8 million fewer jobs than in December 2007, when the recession began. And average hourly wages have trailed inflation in the past three years. Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit has ballooned, topping $1 trillion each year in President Barack Obamaâ€™s first term. It is forecast to fall to $845 billion this year. Obama faces the challenge of reducing that gap without cutting it so quickly that it slows growth.
were a gateway to the middle class. Obama promised to cut the corporate tax rate for U.S. manufacturers to 25 percent from 35 percent, while penalizing those who shift work overseas. He also proposed more job training and called for the creation of 15-20 manufacturing research hubs, all as part of his promise to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016: "We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports. And if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future." - Democratic convention speech, Sept. 6, 2012. The prospects: Obama has had mixed success in reducing the deficit without unduly impacting growth. He struck a deal with Congress to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a set of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for Jan. 1. Relieved businesses responded by stepping up hiring and spending.
In his budget plan, Obama now proposes cutting future Social Security benefits by changing how they are calculated. Some liberal Democrats in Congress expressed opposition, charging that the move would harm lower-income recipients. And Obama's proposal to cut taxes for manufacturers has been caught up in a stalemate with congressional Republicans over deficit reduction. On a brighter note, a provision to create the manufacturing research hubs garnered bipartisan support and was attached to a Senate budget proposal. Manufacturing is picking up a bit and creating more jobs, but adding 1 million more by 2016 is unlikely. That would require 250,000 new factory jobs per year, nearly double the current pace. Several trends are working in favor of American manufacturing. Labor costs are rising in China. U.S. corporations are increasingly worried that overseas supply chains are vulnerable to natural disasters and other disruptions. And an oil and gas drilling boom has made energy much cheaper in the U.S., reducing manufacturing costs. Factories have added more than 500,000 jobs in the past three years. But factories still only employ about 9 percent of the U.S. workforce. That's down from 14 percent in 1997.
But he and Republican congressional leaders allowed Social Security taxes to rise 2 percentage points at the beginning of the year, cutting take-
And more manufacturing output doesn't create many more jobs, because automation has made many factories highly productive. The Congressional Research Service estimated in a July report that manufacturing output increased 19 percent in the three years after the recession ended. But employment rose only 4 percent.
top tier would pay 90 percent of the cost of their outpatient coverage, compared to 80 percent currently.
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The administration did not provide a comparable table for the effects on married couples.
which the higher premiums would be charged. There are only four now. If the proposal were in effect today, a retiree making $85,000 would pay about $168 a month for outpatient coverage, compared to $146.90 currently. Under current law, the next bump up doesn't come until an individual makes more than $107,000. Under Obama's plan, it would come when that person crosses the line at $92,333. If the plan were in effect today, the beneficiary would pay about $195 a month for outpatient coverage under Medicare's Part B, rather than $146.90.
The impact on monthly premiums for prescription drug coverage is hard to calculate, since different plans on the market charge varying premiums. Sebelius told lawmakers the Medicare proposals in the budget are intended to strike a balance between cutting health care spending to reduce the deficit and maintaining services for people who depend on them. "This proposal would improve Medicare's long-term financial stability by reducing the federal subsidy for people who can afford to pay more for their coverage," said Medicare spokesman Brian Cook.
The top income step - currently more than $214,000 would be lowered to $196,000. And individuals in the new
"He got a standing ovation from both parties," Paul said. "The idea of defending the country brings everybody together." Late in the day, there was even more apparent progress: Four Democratic and four Republican senators reached agreement on all the major elements of sweeping legislation to remake the nation's immigration laws, and expect to unveil the bill next week.
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Don't get used to all this civility and forward motion, Reid warned. "The hard work," he said, "starts now."
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M E D I C A R E I N C R E A S E C O U L D DING SOME IN MIDDLE CLASS tions about whether (Medicare) premiums will continue to be affordable."
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Retired city worker Sheila Pugach lives in a modest home on a quiet street in Albuquerque, N.M., and drives an 18-year-old Subaru.
Required withdrawals from retirement accounts would be the trigger for some of these retirees. For others it could be taking a part-time job.
Pugach doesn't see herself as upper-income by any stretch, but President Barack Obama's budget would raise her Medicare premiums and those of other comfortably retired seniors, adding to a surcharge that already costs some 2 million beneficiaries hundreds of dollars a year each.
One consequence could be political problems for Medicare. A growing group of beneficiaries might come together around a shared a sense of grievance.
Due to the creeping effects of inflation, 20 million Medicare beneficiaries also would end up paying higher "income related" premiums for their outpatient and prescription coverage over time. Obama administration officials say Obama's proposal will help improve the financial stability of Medicare by reducing taxpayer subsidies for retirees who can afford to pay a bigger share of costs. Congressional Republicans agree with the president on this one, making it highly likely the idea will become law if there's a budget deal this year. But the way Pugach sees it, she's being penalized for prudence, dinged for saving diligently. It was the government, she says, that pushed her into a higher income bracket where she'd have to pay additional Medicare premiums. IRS rules require people age 70-and-a-half and older to make regular minimum withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement nest eggs like 401(k)s. That was enough to nudge her over Medicare's line. "We were good soldiers when we were young," said Pugach, who worked as a computer systems analyst. "I was afraid of not having money for retirement and I put in as much as I could. The consequence is now I have to pay about $500 a year more in Medicare premiums." Currently only about 1 in 20 Medicare beneficiaries pays the higher income-based premiums, which start at incomes over $85,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples. As a reference point, the median or midpoint U.S. household income is about $53,000.
"That's part of the problem with the premiums - they simply act like a higher tax based on income," said David Certner, federal policy director for AARP, the seniors lobby. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, center, accompanied by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, left, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, speaks during a news conference at the HHS in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, to discuss President Barack Obama's fiscal 2014 for the Health Department.
Obama's budget would change Medicare's upper-income premiums in several ways. First, it would raise the monthly amounts for those currently paying. If the proposal already were law, Pugach would be paying about $168 a month for outpatient coverage under Medicare's Part B, instead of $146.90. Then, the plan would create five new income brackets to squeeze more revenue from the top tiers of retirees. But its biggest impact would come through inflation. The administration is proposing to extend a freeze on the income brackets at which seniors are liable for the higher premiums until 1 in 4 retirees has to pay. It wouldn't be the top 5 percent anymore, but the top 25 percent. "Over time, the higher premiums will affect people who by today's standards are considered middle-income," explained Tricia Neuman, vice president for Medicare policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "At some point, it raises ques-
"Means testing" of Medicare benefits was introduced in 2007 under President George W. Bush in the form of higher outpatient premiums for the top-earning retirees. Obama's health care law expanded the policy and also added a surcharge for prescription coverage. The latest proposal ramps up the reach of means testing and sets up a political confrontation between AARP and liberal groups on one side and fiscal conservatives on the other. The liberals long have argued that support for Medicare will be undermined if the program starts charging more for the well-todo. Not only are higher-income people more likely to be politically active, but they also tend to be in better health. Fiscal conservatives say it makes no sense for government to provide the same generous subsidies to people who can afford to pay at least some of the cost themselves. As a rule, taxpayers pay for 75 percent of Medicare's outpatient and prescription benefits. Even millionaires would still get a 10 percent subsidy on their premiums under Obama's plan. Technically, both programs are voluntary. "The government has to understand the difference between universal opportunity and universal subsidy," said David Walker, the former head of the congressional Government Accountability Office. "This is a very modest step toward changing the government subsidy associated with Medicare's two voluntary programs."
O A T F I L L E D W I T H P R O T E C T E D S P E C I E S H I T S C O R A L R E E F ties consider the Philippine pangolin threatened because of unabated illicit trade. He said the Chinese crewmen have said the pangolins came from Indonesia, but officials were still verifying the claim.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- A Chinese vessel that ran into a protected coral reef in the southwestern Philippines held evidence of even more environmental destruction inside: more than 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of meat from a protected species, the pangolin or scaly anteater.
WWF-Philippines said the global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to yield at least $19 billion per year, comprising the fourth-largest illegal global trade after narcotics, product and currency counterfeiting and human trafficking. It said the risks are low compared with other crimes, and that high-level traders are rarely arrested, prosecuted or convicted.
The steel-hulled vessel hit an atoll on April 8 at the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site on Palawan island. Coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said Monday that 400 boxes, each containing 25 to 30 kilograms of frozen pangolins, were discovered during a second inspection of the boat Saturday.
The Philippine military quoted the fishermen as saying they accidentally wandered into Philippine waters from Malaysia. They were being detained in southwestern Puerto Princesa city, where Chinese consular officials visited them.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said the Chinese vessel F/N Min Long Yu could have been carrying up to 2,000 of the toothless, insect-eating animals rolled up in the boxes, with their scales already removed. "It is bad enough that the Chinese have illegally entered our seas, navigated without boat papers and crashed recklessly into a national marine park and World Heritage Site," said WWF-Philippines chief executive officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. "It is simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife." The boat's 12 Chinese crewmen are being detained on charges of poaching and attempted bribery, said Adelina Villena, the marine park's lawyer. She said more charges are being prepared against them, including damaging the corals and violating the country's wildlife law for being found in possession of the pangolin meat. It is not yet clear which of the four Asian pangolin species the meat comes from. The International Union of Conservation of Nature lists two species as endangered:
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Tubbataha is a 97,000-hectare (239,700-acre) marine sanctuary and popular diving destination 640 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Manila. The massive reef already had been damaged by a U.S. Navy ship that got stuck in January and had to be dismantled.
In this April 13, 2013 photo released by the Philippine Coast Guard, members of the Philippine Coast Guard hold a frozen pangolin or scaly anteater on board a Chinese vessel that ran into the Tubbataha coral reef, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, in the southwestern Philippines. Authorities discovered more than 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of meat from the protected species inside the Chinese vessel F/N Min Long Yu.
The fishermen face up to 12 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $300,000 for the poaching charge alone. For possession of the pangolin meat, they can be imprisoned up to six years and fined, Villena said.
the Sunda, or Malayan, pangolin, and the Chinese pangolin. Two others, including the Philippine pangolin endemic to Palawan, are classified as near threatened. The animals are protected in many Asian nations, and an international ban on their trade has been in effect since 2002, but illicit trade continues. The meat and scales of the pangolin fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram in China, where many believe they cure various ailments. The IUCN says rising demand for pangolins and lax laws are wiping out the toothless anteaters from their forest habitat in Southeast Asia. Alex Marcaida, an officer of the government's Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Philippine authori-
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Looking for a career change, Ken Shimizu decided he wanted to be a software developer, but he didn't want to go back to college to study computer science.
The coding academies are helping meet the seemingly insatiable demand for computer programmers in the U.S. tech industry, which has been lobbying Congress to issue more visas for engineers and other skilled immigrants.
Instead, he quit his job and spent his savings to enroll at Dev Bootcamp, a new San Francisco school that teaches students how to write software in nine weeks. The $11,000 gamble paid off: A week after he finished the program last summer, he landed an engineering job that paid more than twice his previous salary. "It's the best decision I've made in my life," said Shimizu, 24, who worked in marketing and public relations after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. "I was really worried about getting a job, and it just happened like that." Dev Bootcamp, which calls itself an "apprenticeship on steroids," is one of a new breed of computer-programming school that's proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These "hacker boot camps" promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation. "We're focused on extreme employability," said Shereef Bishay, who co-founded Dev Bootcamp 15 months ago. "Every single skill you learn here you'll apply on your first day on the job." These intensive training programs are not cheap charging $10,000 to $15,000 for programs running nine to 12 weeks - and they're highly selective, typically only admitting 10 to 20 percent of applicants. And they're called boot camps for a reason. Students can expect to work 80 to 100 hours a week, mostly writing code in teams under the guidance of experienced software developers. "It's quite grueling. They push you very hard," said Eno Compton, 31, who finished Dev Bootcamp in late March. Compton is finishing his doctorate in Japanese literature at Princeton University, but decided he wants to be a software engineer instead of a professor. "For people who are looking to get involved in software in a big way and don't want to set aside four years for a computer-science degree, this nine-week program is a terrific alternative," Compton said. One San Francisco school called App Academy doesn't charge tuition. Instead, it asks for a 15 per-
Student David Wen works during a class at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Dev Bootcamp is one of a new breed of computer-programming schools thatâ€™s proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These â€œhacker boot campsâ€? promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation.
cent cut of the student's first-year salary. Graduates who can't find jobs don't have to pay, but so far nearly all of them have. "When I started it, people thought we were crazy. Why would you do something like that? But in practice it's worked out well so far," said Ned Ruggeri, who co-founded App Academy last summer. Over the past year, more than two dozen computercoding schools have opened or started recruiting students in cities such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Washington and Cambridge, Mass. The programs are attracting students from a wide range of backgrounds, from college dropouts to middleaged career changers. Most students haven't formally studied computer science, but have tried to learn to code on their own. Alyssa Ravasio, who graduated from UCLA with a liberal arts degree in 2010, worked at tech startups but was frustrated because she didn't know how to write software, so she signed up for Dev Bootcamp. "What we've learned in the last nine weeks would have taken at least a year, if not years, on my own," Ravasio said. "I knew I wanted to learn how to code, and I tried to on my own before and it was really hard and really frustrating." But as more boot camps open, backers worry lowquality programs could hurt the reputation of the pioneer schools and drive away potential students and recruiters. "I worry about the explosion of Dev Bootcamp copycats," said Michael Staton, a venture capitalist at Learn Capital. "If they mess up, they kind of ruin it
The boot camps are launching at a time when many recent college graduates are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to chip away at their hefty student loan debts. The new schools say they are teaching students the real-world skills that employers want but colleges have failed to provide. "Our school is a lot shorter, cheaper and more applicable to the work they'd like to do than universities," said Shawn Drost, who cofounded Hack Reactor in San Francisco six months ago. This intensive-learning model can also be used to train workers for other professions for less time and money than what traditional colleges require, Staton said. "We think this is the beginning of a really large movement that will happen across industries," he said. Bishay, an Egyptian-born engineer who sold his first software company to Microsoft in 2001, started Dev Bootcamp as an experiment. He wanted to see how quickly he could teach his friend and other nontechies how to write code. "I used about 10 percent of what I learned in college in my first job, and I figured I could teach that 10 percent in two and a half months," Bishay said. Dev Bootcamp has trained about 400 students, and 95 percent of them have been hired as software developers with an average salary of about $80,000, Bishay said. It's now opening a campus in Chicago. The school doesn't just teach technical skills. It teaches students how to work in teams, communicate better and interview for jobs. On graduation day, it invites tech recruiters to meet students at a "speed-dating" job fair. "Finding engineering talent is a big challenge right now, and Dev Bootcamp is addressing a really important problem," said Felicia Curcuru, who was recruiting engineers for FundersClub, a San Francisco company that connects investors with tech startups. "There are not enough people studying computer science."
1 9 0 M - Y E A R - O L D D I N O B O N E S S H E D L I G H T O N D E V E L O P M E N T LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Recently discovered dinosaur embryos are giving scientists their best glimpse yet into how the ancient creatures developed.
set of fossils that Reisz reported about in 2005 from South Africa and were hailed at the time as the oldest dinosaur embryos ever found. The two types of dinosaurs, which roamed during the early Jurassic age, were close relatives.
The 190-million-year-old fossils unearthed in China belonged to Lufengosaurus, a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur known for its gigantic size, with adults reaching 30 feet long.
The latest discovery was published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. The cache of bones was uncovered three years ago, but it has taken this long to analyze them - not an unusual lag time for dinosaur finds.
A detailed look at more than 200 bones from 20 individual animals at various stages of development revealed they grew much more rapidly inside the egg than other dinosaurs and flexed their muscles in much the same way as birds and humans. While not a complete surprise, "we are thrilled that we could document this for the first time for an extinct animal," said University of Toronto paleontologist Robert Reisz, who led an international team that excavated the remains in southwestern China. The embryos were the same age as a separate
In the earlier discovery, the embryos were curled up inside the eggs and scientists were not allowed to remove the skeletons. The new collection contained bones that were scattered, letting researchers examine them in finer detail.
The honeycomb like external area is embryonic bone tissue with large primary spaces for blood vessels, bone making cells called osteoblasts, and other soft tissues needed for growth. The central portion is the medullary cavity, but in this case filled with crystals that formed during fossilization. An international team of scientists discovered a cache of dinosaur embryos near the city of Lufeng, in Yunnan, China . Estimated to be 190 million years old, the fossilized bones are among the oldest dinosaur embryos in the world
The latest embryos were not in as pristine condition as the previous find, noted University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz, who was not part of the discovery team. But they have allowed scientists to chart dinosaur growth, which wasn't possible before, Holtz said.