Death Valley Sets Coolness Record; 1 in 5 Blame Israel, Not Hamas; 'Retirement Security Crisis' Looms in US

Sunday, 10 Aug 2014 03:47 PM

By Special From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Americans Face a 'Retirement Security Crisis'
2. New Rules Threaten School Bake Sales
3. One Simple Step to Cut Medicare Spending
4. Oil and Gas Jobs Up 259 Percent in Pennsylvania
5. One in Five Americans Blames Israel for Gaza Violence
6. Death Valley Sets New Temperature Record — for Coolness

 

1. Americans Face a 'Retirement Security Crisis'

More than half of new retirees will not be able to maintain their standard of living in their retirement years, according to a troubling new report.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that before the Great Recession, 43 percent of households would not be able to maintain their standards of living. That figure has now risen to 53 percent.

It stood at just 30 percent as recently as 1989.

The center also estimates that the nation faces a "retirement income deficit" of $6.6 trillion — the gap between what Americans have available through Social Security, employer pensions, 401(k)s, home equity, and other forms of saving, and what will be needed to maintain standards of living in retirement.

Social Security Works, a coalition of more than 300 state and national organizations, warns that America "is facing a formidable retirement security crisis," and the retirement income deficit can be traced to four major factors.

First, less than half — 48.8 percent — of all private sector employees worked for an employer sponsoring a retirement plan, leaving 55.5 million workers without the opportunity of enrolling in one.

Even among the minority of households that had a 401(k) plan in 2010, the median balance in households headed by a person aged 55 to 64 was just $120,000 — enough to buy an inflation-indexed lifetime annuity of less than $600 a month.

Second, with wages stagnating in recent years, many workers have been unable to save for retirement. From 1979 until the beginning of the recession in 2007, the top 1 percent of earners received nearly two-fifths of all gains in household income, while men in the bottom 60 percent saw their real wages decline.

Today, about half of all workers have personal savings of less than $10,000, according to Social Security Works.

Third, home equity is no longer a reliable source of savings for retirement, due to a reduction in home ownership to the lowest levels since 1965 and the drop in home values.

Finally, Social Security benefits will have declined 25 percent by 2030 as the full retirement age rises and Medicare premiums continue to increase.

Americans without substantial resources are already struggling to get by on Social Security alone. The average monthly payout this year is $1,294, and $2,111 for couples.

Social Security collected $752 billion in non-interest income last year, while spending $822.9 billion, according to the American Action Forum. Since 2010, the program has run a cumulative deficit of nearly $220 billion.

Social Security Works concludes that the retirement income crisis "can be addressed most effectively by expanding Social Security and addressing its projected shortfall, not by cutting benefits, which would only compound the crisis."

Editor's Note:

 

2. New Rules Threaten School Bake Sales

Nutrition requirements championed by Michelle Obama could ban many of the bake sales on which schools have traditionally relied to raise funds.

The rules that took effect in July come from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act promoted by the first lady and her "Let's Move!" campaign to combat childhood obesity, announced in February 2010.

The law required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set standards for all food and beverages sold during the school day, including daytime fundraisers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Obama administration said it has provided states with flexibility in adhering to the rules, which cover schools that participate in the federal school meals program. States are allowed to decide how many bake sales they will sponsor that don't meet the nutrition standards set forth by the law.

But so far, 32 states have decided not to hold those exempted sales, so any food items sold will have to meet calorie, sodium, fat and other requirements. No more than 35 percent of the calories in an item can come from total fat. Schools that violate the rules can be fined.

"Schools have relied on these types of sales as revenue streams for sports, cheering clubs, marching bands," David Sevier, deputy executive director of the Tennessee Board of Education, told the Journal.

"We get the obesity issue, but we don't want to jerk this out from under the kids."

Some schools have already banned students from selling Girl Scout cookies during the day, and others have replaced bake sales with sales of wrapping paper and other nonfood items or events.

Among the items banned for consumption in schools by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act are potato chips with excess salt, granola bars with excess sugar, fortified sports drinks, sodas with sugar or caffeine, gum, and candy.

Childhood obesity has more than quadrupled in the past 30 years. Today nearly one in five children in the United States between ages 6 and 19 are obese, and one in three are overweight.

Michelle Obama's campaign has the stated goal of "solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight."

Editor's Note:

 

3. One Simple Step to Cut Medicare Spending

Medicare could cut spending significantly by simply changing its policy of not reimbursing ambulatory surgical centers for many procedures performed there.

Ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) are outpatient facilities that have the same equipment, surgeons, and staff as hospital operating and recovery rooms.

But they are far less expensive than hospitals because they are not subject to the same administrative procedures that burden hospitals, notes Brittany La Couture, a healthcare policy analyst with the American Action Forum.

Treatment at an ASC is on average 75 percent less expensive than hospitalization. Therefore private insurers encourage patients to use ASCs for many procedures rather than a hospital.

But Medicare has an “inpatient-only” list of 1,700 procedures that must be performed in a hospital in order to receive Medicare reimbursement, even though a large portion of them are regularly and safely performed in ASCs and "should not be excluded," La Couture asserts.

She adds that ASCs have nearly identical outcomes when compared to hospitals, and their patients are at a slightly lower risk of acquiring an infection than they would be in a hospital.

Furthermore, for the procedures that Medicare does permit at an ASC, it pays ASCs an average of just 56 percent of what the program would pay a hospital for the same procedure. So encouraging the use of ASCs would also save taxpayers money at a time when it is becoming increasingly necessary to rein in Medicare spending.

The federal government spent $586 billion on Medicare last year, accounting for 14 percent of the federal budget, and hospital inpatient services ate up one-quarter of all Medicare spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Spending is projected to increase to $597 billion this year, and to top $1 trillion by 2022.

"As the senior population continues to rapidly expand with the aging of the baby boomers and the demand for hospital services generally increases due to the Affordable Care Act, ASCs will become increasingly appealing as an inexpensive and efficient conduit to provide care and meet increasing demand," La Couture concludes.

"The existing body of evidence shows clearly that for many indications, ASCs are a safe alternative to hospitalization."

Editor's Note:

 

4. Oil and Gas Jobs Up 259 Percent in Pennsylvania

Natural gas production from the Marcellus shale formation in the eastern United States surpassed 15 billion cubic feet per day in July, the latest chapter in what a writer calls "one of the most remarkable energy success stories in U.S. history."

Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute cites Energy Information Administration figures showing that gas production has increased by a factor of about 14, from just over 1 billion cubic feet per day in early 2007, when the shale boom first started in the Marcellus gas fields.

Natural gas production there has tripled since as recently as 2011, thanks to the increasing use of fracking and horizontal drilling techniques that make extracting oil and gas from shale formations profitable and have led geologists to call the Marcellus formation "the Saudi Arabia of natural gas."

The Marcellus formation, named after a distinctive rock outcrop near Marcellus, N.Y., stretches across Pennsylvania and West Virginia and into Ohio and New York.

Perry points to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that examined the impact of natural gas production in Pennsylvania.

From 2007 to 2012, employment in the oil and natural gas industry in the state rose by 259.3 percent or 15,114 jobs, according to the BLS. Wages in the industry increased by 36.3 percent over that period, to $82,974 in 2012.

Perry writes that "the shale gas bonanza in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia is bringing shale-based prosperity to those states in the form of thousands of new, well-paying jobs, millions of dollars in royalty payments to local landowners and farmers, construction booms for housing and hotels, and a huge boost in local retail spending for food, restaurants, cars and trucks, recreational vehicles, home furnishings, appliances."

But the United States could increase gas and oil production even more if the federal government would remove barriers to production and avoid erecting new ones, observes H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Almost all of the recent increase in oil and gas production has occurred on private or state lands, while the federal government has been slow to issue new drilling permits for energy exploration on federal lands.

Burnett writes: "The federal government should streamline the permitting and leasing process on public lands, leaving regulation on private land to the states, in order to reap the fiscal, economic, and energy bounty of fracking."

Editor's Note:

 

5. One in Five Americans Blame Israel for Gaza Violence

A surprising 19 percent of Americans say Israel is most responsible for the recent violence in Gaza, a new Pew Research Center poll reveals.

But twice as many, 40 percent, say Hamas is most responsible, while 14 percent believe Israel and Hamas are equally responsible and 28 percent have no opinion, according to the poll of more than 1,000 adults.

Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to believe Hamas is most responsible for the violence — 60 percent of Republicans blame Hamas while just 13 percent blame Israel. Among Democrats, 29 percent blame Hamas and 26 percent blame Israel. Twice as many independents — 42 percent to 20 percent — blame Hamas than blame Israel.

Hispanics are the most likely group to blame Israel — 35 percent point to Israel and just 20 percent blame Hamas. Among whites, 14 percent blame Israel and 47 percent say Hamas is most responsible.

Asked to evaluate how Israel has dealt with the violence, 25 percent of respondents say the nation has "gone too far," 35 percent say the response is "about right," 15 percent say Israel has "not gone far enough," and 24 percent have no opinion.

When fighting erupted between Israel and Hamas in January 2009, a similar percentage of respondents in a Pew survey, 24 percent, said Israel had gone too far, but 50 percent said its response was about right, and just 7 percent said it had not gone far enough.

In the new poll, only 16 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of conservatives believe Israel has gone too far, while 19 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of conservatives believe Israel has not gone far enough.

Among Democrats, 35 percent say Israel has gone too far, and 9 percent believe Israel has not gone far enough.

Editor's Note:

 

6. Death Valley Sets New Temperature Record — for Coolness

Death Valley, Calif., which holds the world record for the highest temperature ever recorded, hit a high of just 89 degrees on Sunday, Aug. 3 — the coolest high temperature on record for the date.

Climate Depot, a website skeptical of manmade global warming claims, linked to an article in The Washington Post disclosing that the Death Valley temperature was 15 degrees lower than the previous record of 104 degrees set in 1945.

The Aug. 3 reading was just the eighth time that a high in the 80s has been recorded in Death Valley on any date in July or August. Weather records have been kept there since 1911.

Among the locations that were hotter than Death Valley on Aug. 3 were Boise, Idaho (99 degrees), Spokane, Wash. (93), Casper, Wyo. (92), and Missoula, Mont. (91), the Post reported.

The average August high in Death Valley is 115 degrees, 26 degrees higher than the Aug. 3 temperature.

Death Valley is the site of the lowest elevation in North America, 282 feet below sea level. It set the world's hottest temperature record of 134 degrees on July 10, 1913.

The relatively cool temperature on Aug. 3 resulted from extensive cloud cover that blocked out much of the area's usual intense sunshine.

Climate Depot also linked to a NewsBusters article citing some "ridiculous" claims from global warming alarmists about what climate change has done or threatens to do in the future:

  • July 2014 articles in several British newspapers suggested that redheads could be "extinct" in Scotland as the weather there warms.
  • A media source in Britain said some "experts" believed an increase in UFO sightings in the U.K. in 2008 could be linked to global warming because extraterrestrials are concerned about what man is doing to the planet.
  • In 2007, a scientist in Germany claimed global warming would make the earth spin faster on its axis due to a shift of water from the equator to the poles.
  • An Australian publication asserted in 2009 that global warming could endanger Italy's pasta production by destroying the country's durum wheat crops.

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Editor's Note:

 

Editor's Notes:

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