Tags: Condi | Inks | Book | Deal | Half of Babies to Unwed Moms | Swiss Death Clinics | Saving for Retirement

Condi Inks Book Deal; Half of Babies to Unwed Moms; Swiss Death Clinics

By    |   Monday, 25 March 2013 12:13 AM

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Switzerland Becomes Mecca for Suicide Clinics
2. More Than 4 in 10 Workers Not Saving for Retirement
3. 29 States Get 'F' Grade for Healthcare Price Transparency
4. Detroit's Fight Against Blight Hampered by Red Tape
5. Half of First Babies Now Born to Unwed Moms
6. Condoleezza Rice Signs New Book Deal

1. Switzerland Becomes Popular for Assisted Suicides

Switzerland has become the European mecca for those who want to die early.

An 83-year-old British man in an early stage of dementia plans to die at the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, becoming the first person to end his life there purely due to dementia.

His plans have been publicized by Michael Irwin, chairman of Dignity in Dying, who has been dubbed "Dr. Death," the nickname given earlier to American euthanasia activist Jack Kevorkian.

Irwin, 80, claims to have helped at least 25 people commit suicide at the Zurich clinic, where 150 Britons are thought to have died, according to the Daily Mail. Among them were several people who were not terminally ill, including a 23-year-old man who was paralyzed after a rugby injury.

Irwin says the British man with dementia has a report from a psychiatrist asserting that he is mentally competent to choose to kill himself.

No one has been prosecuted for assisting in a Dignitas clinic suicide.

Irwin said: "The desire to stop being a burden on one's family and to avoid squandering financial resources perhaps better spent on grandchildren's further education could become the final altruistic gesture, especially when combined with a wish to stop prolonging a life that is both futile and very unpleasant."

But Dr. Peter Saunders of the pressure group Care Not Killing warned: "We have seen in European countries that have legalized euthanasia that once you allow it in any circumstances at all you inevitably end up widening the category of people to be included.

"This case shows that if we were to change the law in [Britain] there would be pressure to apply it to dementia patients, as is already happening in the Netherlands."

And Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture, wrote for the LifeNews website: "The Swiss refuse to shut the suicide tourism down, which is why I call it Kevorkian as a country."

Kevorkian claimed to have assisted in 130 suicides. He was convicted of second-degree murder and served eight years in prison before his 2007 release. He died in June 2011.

Editor's Note:

2. More Than 4 in 10 Workers Not Saving for Retirement

A growing number of American workers are financially unprepared for retirement — and few feel confident that Social Security will provide them with the benefits retirees enjoy today.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute's 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey found that 57 percent of workers have less than $25,000 in total household savings and investments, not including the value of their primary residence, up from 49 percent in 2008. And 28 percent have less than a paltry $1,000.

Only 66 percent of workers have saved any money at all for retirement, and just 24 percent of those earning less than $35,000 in household income have saved for their later years. Even worse, just 57 percent of workers — defined as those who are not retired even if they're not employed — are currently saving money for retirement.

The survey also disclosed this troubling fact: Only half of workers say they could "definitely" come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month; 20 percent "probably could"; but 12 percent "probably could not" and 16 percent "definitely could not."

It's not surprising, then, that 28 percent of workers are "not at all confident" that they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement, the highest level in the survey's 23-year history. Another 21 percent are "not too confident." Just 13 percent are "very confident."

The survey also disclosed:

  • Only 5 percent of workers are very confident that Social Security will continue to provide benefits of at least equal value to benefits received by retirees today; 41 percent are not at all confident.
  • Similarly, just 6 percent of workers are very confident that Medicare will continue to provide today's benefits, and 37 percent are not at all confident.
  • 18 percent of workers decline to contribute to employer-sponsored retirement savings plans. The cost of living and day-to-day expenses are the reasons most cited for not contributing.
  • More than half of workers report having a problem with their level of debt, and 16 percent say it is a "major problem."
  • 52 percent of workers are not at all confident or not too confident they will have enough money to pay for medical expenses in retirement, and 62 percent are not confident they will have enough for long-term care.

    Editor's Note:

    3. 29 States Get 'F' Grade for Healthcare Price Transparency

    Three-quarters of U.S. states get a poor grade when it comes to requiring healthcare providers to clearly indicate the price of their services, according to a new report.

    "Wonder why you can't get a straight answer on how much a healthcare procedure will cost you? One big reason: State laws which allow hospitals and other providers to keep costs hidden until they send you the bill," Kaiser Health News observes.

    Kaiser cites a study by the Catalyst for Payment Reform, a consortium of healthcare purchasers such as GE and Wal-Mart, and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute.

    The study has produced a "Report Card on State Price Transparency Law," which gives 29 states an "F" grade and seven states a "D" mark for policies that keep patients in the dark on prices. The "F" grade goes to states with virtually no transparency requirements.

    "The grades reflect the quality and scope of the pricing data that states require and how well they disseminate it," Kaiser explains. "Public websites gain high points, for example."

    The report notes: "States can play an important role in ensuring that consumers have access to both quality and price information by setting policies and implementing laws that advance transparency. The most comprehensive, consumer-friendly laws ensure ready access to information and data about a broad range of providers and services."

    Only two states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, receive an "A" grade on the report card.

    Five states receive a "B" grade — Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Seven states get a "C" — Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont. All other states receive an "F" or a "D" grade.

    Kaiser adds that most Americans are not aware of the huge variation in healthcare prices, offering the example of a California market where knee replacement surgery can cost from $15,000 to $100,000 depending on the hospital, "with no discernible difference in quality."

    The report concludes: "Consumers deserve to have as much information about the price of their healthcare as they do about restaurants, cars, and household appliances."

    Editor's Note:

    4. Detroit's Fight Against Blight Hampered by Red Tape

    Demolishing Detroit's blighted and dangerous buildings would cost an estimated $500 million in a city already $325 million in debt — and much of the blame can be laid squarely on red tape.

    The situation in the Motor City is grim — and so is the landscape. More than 38,000 homes are listed on Detroit's Dangerous Building inventory, and 80,000 addresses no longer receive mail.

    The city's population has plunged from 1.8 million in 1950 to just 706,000 in 2011, dropping 237,000 residents in the previous decade alone. More than half the owners of the city's 305,000 properties reportedly failed to pay taxes in 2011.

    Some property owners turn to arson to collect insurance payouts on their deserted buildings. Detroit has suffered between 11,000 and 12,000 fires each year for the past decade, most of them in blighted buildings, and there is one act of arson for every 65 residents — compared to one per 3,808 in New York, according to National Review Online.

    Thousands of abandoned buildings need to be demolished. But that's where the red tape comes in:

  • Anyone wanting to demolish a structure must fill out a four-page application in person.
  • Signatures are then required from five different departments, and collecting them takes up to four hours.
  • Owners must prove ownership before they can be permitted to tear down a blighted building, or show that the owner has consented to a demolition, requiring more paperwork.
  • Each demolition permit costs $254.
  • The demolition team must show documentation that gas, water, and electricity have been disconnected, and labor contracts have often demanded that unionized utility workers are the only people authorized to disconnect. It costs $660 to turn off the water and $720 to disconnect electricity and gas.
  • If the city judges a house too large for volunteers to demolish it, a professional contractor must be hired.
  • After the walls are torn down, an inspector must visit the site for an open-hole inspection, which, along with the cost of filling the sewer lines, adds $500 to $1,000 to the cost. Also, fresh dirt must be purchased and used to fill the hole.
  • Tearing down a single blighted building costs between $10,000 and $12,000.

    "To eradicate existing blight in Detroit would cost about half a billion dollars at the current rate, and that's in a city with a $327 million accumulated deficit and $14.9 billion in unfunded liabilities," according to the National Review article written by Jillian Kay Melchior, a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

    Citing the rules and regulations relating to demolishing properties, John George, founder of a nonprofit that has worked on more than 1,500 abandoned Detroit houses over the past 25 years, said the government has been "interfering with our ability and others' ability" to deal with the blight.

    "We have more volunteers than the city has employees. Many of them are skilled electricians, carpenters. We know how to disconnect gas and water lines. It would be considerably cheaper if they would just get out of our way and let us do it."

    Editor's Note:

    5. Half of First Babies Now Born to Unwed Moms

    For the first time in U.S. history, the median age of American women when they have their first child is lower than the median age of marriage, an eye-opening new report discloses.

    The median age for marriage is 26.5 years for American women, while the median age for a first birth is 25.7 years, according to the "Knot Yet" report released by a team of academics and social activists.

    The report also reveals that nearly half — 48 percent — of first births are by unwed mothers. At age 25, 44 percent of women have had a baby, while only 38 percent have married.

    By the time they turn 30, "about two-thirds of American women have had a baby, typically out of wedlock," states the report compiled by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the RELATE Institute.

    Among women with less than a high-school education, 83 percent give birth to their first child without being married, up from 33 percent in 1970.

    The "troubling" trend is that delayed marriage does not necessarily mean delayed motherhood, the report observes.

    Delayed marriage does offer several benefits. Women have more time to launch a successful career before marrying, and divorce rates are lower for later marriages.

    But the report points to negative repercussions as well: "Most researchers agree that on average, whether because of instability or absent fathers or both, children of unmarried mothers have poorer outcomes than children growing up with their married parents."

    They are much more likely to experience family instability, school failure, and emotional problems, and they are three times more likely to see their parents break up, compared to children born to married parents.

    But "culturally, young adults have increasingly come to see marriage as a 'capstone' rather than a 'cornerstone' — that is, something they do after they have all their ducks in a row, rather than a foundation for launching into adulthood and parenthood," the report surmises.

    "Moreover, one of the primary reasons for getting married — starting a family — is increasingly viewed as a relic of the past. The institution of marriage, and even the presence of two parents, are seen as nice but not necessary for raising children."

    Editor's Note:

    6. Condoleezza Rice Signs New Book Deal

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signed a new book deal to write "an examination of democracy at home and abroad."

    The deal was announced on March 19, the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Rice served as U.S. National Security Adviser at the time of the invasion, before moving on to head the State Department in 2005.

    Henry Holt and Company will publish the book in 2015, and said in a statement: "The book will discuss the never-ending process of building democracy as citizens – and their governments – strive to attain and secure the ideals of self-rule. Rice will draw upon stories from her career and personal life to shed light on the essential questions of contemporary democracy, including the centrality of education, immigration, free enterprise, and civic responsibility. She will also address America's destiny as a beacon for global freedom."

    In 2009, Rice inked a three-book deal with Crown Publishers said to be worth at least $2.5 million, according to Mediabistro.com.

    Her most recent book was "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington."

    Rice is currently the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

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    Monday, 25 March 2013 12:13 AM
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