Archive for March, 2010


Scientist doubts meat-climate damage link

A scientist in the United States has questioned the impact meat and dairy production has on climate change, and accused the United Nations of exaggerating the link.

In 2006, a report published by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” claimed meat production was responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which it added was greater than the impact of transport.

Livestock farming already occupies 30 percent of the world’s surface and its environmental impact will double by 2050 unless drastic action is taken, the U.N. warned.

Environmentalists and leading campaigners including Paul McCartney, used the findings to urge consumers to eat less meat and save the planet. Last year the former Beatle’s much hyped-campaign featured the slogan: “Less meat = less heat.”

But Frank Mitloehner, an air quality specialist from the University of California at Davis (UCD), said the U.N. reached its conclusions for the livestock sector by adding up emissions from farm to table, including the gases produced by growing animal feed; animals’ digestive emissions; and processing meat and milk into foods.

But its figures for transport did not add up emissions from well to wheel; instead, it considered only emissions from fossil fuels burned while driving.

“This lopsided ‘analysis’ is a classical apples-and-oranges analogy that truly confused the issue,” Mitloehner said on the university’s Web site.

Mitloehner also pointed to the fact that leading authorities agree raising animals for food accounts for about 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., while transportation creates an estimated 26 percent.


Where will the jobs be in the future?

While some people take their time choosing a job or career based on their passions or goals, others just want to know where they can get a job and when.

During the economic downturn, it was difficult to be picky, but now that things are looking up, the abundance of jobs from which to choose should continue to get better with each passing year.

Total employment is expected to increase by 15.3 million jobs during the 2008-18 decade, according to the most recent employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job openings from replacement needs (when workers retire or otherwise leave their jobs) are projected to be more than double the number of openings due to economic growth.

Interested in getting in on the new job action? Here are the 20 jobs that will add the most workers in 2008-2018, according to the BLS.

1. Registered nurses
2008 employment: 2.62 million
2018 employment: 3.2 million
Minimum education or training: Associate degree

2. Home health aides
2008 employment: 922,000
2018 employment: 1.38 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

3. Customer service representatives
2008 employment: 2.25 million
2018 employment: 2.65 million
Minimum education or training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

4. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
2008 employment: 2.7 million
2018 employment: 3.09 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

5. Personal and home care aides
2008 employment: 817,000
2018 employment: 1.19 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

6. Retail salespeople
2008 employment: 4.49 million
2018 employment: 4.86 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

7. Office clerks, general
2008 employment: 3.02 million
2018 employment: 3.38 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

8. Accountants and auditors
2008 employment: 1.29 million
2018 employment: 1.57 million
Minimum education or training: Bachelor’s degree

9. Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants
2008 employment: 1.47 million
2018 employment: 1.75 million
Minimum education or training: Post-secondary vocational award

10. Post-secondary teachers
2008 employment: 1.69 million
2018 employment: 1.96 million
Minimum education or training: Doctoral degree

11. Construction laborers
2008 employment: 1.25 million
2018 employment: 1.5 million
Minimum education or training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

12. Elementary school teachers, except special education
2008 employment: 1.55 million
2018 employment: 1.79 million
Minimum education or training: Bachelor’s degree

13. Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
2008 employment: 1.79 million
2018 employment: 2.03 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

14. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
2008 employment: 1.21 million
2018 employment: 1.42 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

15. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks
2008 employment: 2.06 million
2018 employment: 2.28 million
Minimum education or training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

16. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants
2008 employment: 1.59 million
2018 employment: 1.79 million
Minimum education or training: Work experience in a related occupation

17. Management analysts
2008 employment: 747,000
2018 employment: 925,000
Minimum education or training: Bachelor’s or higher degree, plus work experience

18. Computer applications software engineers
2008 employment: 515,000
2018 employment: 690,000
Minimum education or training: Bachelor’s degree

19. Receptionists and information clerks
2008 employment: 1.14 million
2018 employment: 1.32 million
Minimum education or training: Short-term on-the-job training

20. Carpenters
2008 employment: 1.28 million
2018 employment: 1.45 million
Minimum education or training: Long-term on-the-job training


CNN Answers health care questions

With the passage of the health care reform bill, CNN has been flooded with viewer questions about specifics of the measure and how their lives may be affected. In response, we’re providing answers here, based on our reporting research, that address some of the issues you’re raising most often. Got another question? E-mail us at

Question: Can you explain whether the elimination of lifetime caps under the new health care bill applies to existing policy-holders as well as new insurance sign-ups?

Answer: Yes, within six months, the private insurance plans will have to stop some practices, such as setting lifetime limits on coverage and canceling policy-holders who get sick, on all new policies and current policies.

Question: I have been watching all of the debating. I still cannot figure out, what does this mean to me? I’m an unemployed 56-year-old. Lost my health care. Cannot afford COBRA. Now, what is there for me? I have a daughter in college. My insurance company refused to pay for therapy on my knees, calling it pre-existing. My unemployment just ran out. Now what?

Answer: When the insurance exchange opens, as required by the health care bill, people who are self-employed or whose employers don’t offer coverage can purchase a plan. If you lost a job, you could get insurance through this new marketplace. Also, once this exchange opens, private insurers will no longer be able to turn away people with medical problems or charge them more. Individuals would be required to purchase coverage or face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater, starting in 2016. The plan includes a hardship exemption for poorer Americans. Exemptions will be granted for financial hardship, those for whom the lowest-cost option exceeds 8 percent of an individual’s income and those with incomes below the tax filing threshold (in 2009, the threshold for taxpayers under age 65 was $9,350 for singles and $18,700 for couples).

Question: What happens to the cost of insurance to the company that is providing the insurance to the employee? Is there a set amount or percentage of the total premium that the employer is required to pay? Will it change the mix that already exists between employer and employee responsibility?

Answer: By no later than 2014, states will have to set up Small Business Health Options Programs, or SHOP exchanges, in which small businesses will be able to pool together to buy insurance. Small businesses are defined as those with no more than 100 employees, though states have the option of limiting pools to companies with 50 or fewer employees through 2016; companies that grow beyond the size limit will also be grandfathered in. But until the SHOP exchanges are set up, there will be a tax break for small businesses that goes into effect right away: Tax credits of 35 percent to 50 percent of premiums will be available to small businesses that offer coverage.



Opinion: Try terrorists in civilian courts

Editor’s note: David Frakt is a professor and director of the Criminal Law Practice Center at Western State University College of Law, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve JAG Corps, and a former lead defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions. He also previously served as a military prosecutor and special assistant U.S. attorney.

(CNN) — Suppose that shortly after 9/11, when it became clear that Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda were responsible for the attacks, President Bush had made the following announcement:

“Those responsible for these attacks are cowardly, vicious murderers, and we will pursue them to the ends of the earth to capture them. They are not warriors, they are criminals, and they will be treated accordingly. And once we catch them, we will bring them back to the United States and put them on trial right there in lower Manhattan so that a jury of 12 fair-minded New Yorkers can decide their fate.”

Such an announcement would not have been controversial in the slightest and undoubtedly would have been met with widespread approval. After all, putting terrorists on trial in federal court is how we always dealt with terrorists, including the first group of murderers who tried to blow up the World Trade Center.

But President Bush didn’t say that. Instead, on November 13, 2001, he announced that those responsible would be tried in military commissions, and declared that “it is not practicable to apply in military commissions . . . the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts.”

Like many Americans, I did not adequately consider the implications of that statement at the time. More of us should have challenged the president to explain why it was impracticable to apply regular principles of law and rules of evidence to these criminal suspects.

In hindsight, it appears likely that the president’s real concern was that he knew he had authorized the CIA to detain suspectedterrorists in secret prisons and subject them to harsh interrogation methods. Those grossly abusive techniques would taint potential statements and pose a challenge for future criminal trials.

Whatever his motivations, the president’s decision to jettison the civilian courts in favor of military commissions was a grave misjudgment that diminished our stature in the world and ultimately accomplished nothing.

As I witnessed as a military defense lawyer at Guantanamo Bay, the military commissions of the Bush administration were, indisputably, a catastrophic failure. Not a single person responsible for any major terrorist attack was tried. The countless millions of dollars and man-hours devoted to the commissions yielded only three convictions of minor figures, two — David Hicks and Salim Hamdan — who received token sentences and were then released.

Neither of these defendants was convicted of a traditional war crime, but of providing material support to terrorism, a crime more appropriately tried in federal court. Since 9/11, many Americans have been tried and convicted of this same offense in federal court and received considerably longer sentences than Hicks or Hamdan.

The third detainee who was convicted, Ali Hamza al Bahlul (whom I was assigned to represent but who refused to be defended), received a life sentence. Having sat through the trial, I’m quite confident the prosecutors could have achieved the same outcome in federal court.

The convictions of Hamdan and al Bahlul are now on appeal. Because of the many flaws in the law and procedures under which these men were tried, it is by no means certain that their convictions will be upheld.

In November 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder made the decision that President Bush should have made eight years earlier, announcing that the 9/11 suspects would be tried in federal district court. This was more than just a symbolic repudiation of Bush era policies — after eight years of failed efforts to prosecute the men in military commissions, during which hundreds of other terrorists had been tried and convicted in federal court, it was the only logical choice.

Unfortunately, Holder also announced that other detainees would be tried in military commissions, creating a two-tiered system of justice. So far, the attorney general has failed to offer any principled basis for which defendants are sent to which forum, leaving many with the disturbing impression that the decisions are based on political, rather than legal, considerations. The latest news reports suggesting the administration is close to reversing itself has only reinforced this view.

It’s true that the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the third version of the military tribunals, is a substantial improvement over the previous version of the law, which has hastily passed in 2006 in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the original military commissions created by executive order were unconstitutional.

Indeed, “the principles of law and rules of evidence” that generally apply in U.S. criminal courts now largely apply to military commissions, ironically proving false President Bush’s original justification for the creation of the military commissions — the alleged impracticability of applying such principles and rules.

Yet, even with improvements, the commissions are still a completely untested criminal justice system. The implementing regulations for the new law have yet to be published. The secretary of defense has failed to appoint a new Convening Authority or a new Chief Defense Counsel for the military commissions. The first hearings under this law have been plagued by confusion and delay, and there’s every reason to believe that will continue. How much longer should the families of the 9/11 victims have to wait for justice?

Perhaps there are sound practical and logistical reasons why the 9/11 trial should not take place in lower Manhattan; that is debatable. But there are no valid reasons why the 9/11 trial should not take place in a federal court under federal law. Let’s show the world what distinguishes Americans from our enemies: our reverence for the rule of law and our respect for human rights and due process, even for those we despise.

Let the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators have their day in court under fair, time-tested and internationally accepted laws, rules and procedures. If they are guilty of the appalling crimes of which they are accused, the capable prosecutors of the Justice Department (who have far more experience than their military counterparts) will prove it.


Opponents of health reform gain support in House

House Democrats need 216 votes to pass the health care reform bill.

Five more House Democrats said Tuesday that they will vote against Senate health care legislation, which puts opponents of reform just 11 votes shy of the 216 needed to prevent President Obama from scoring a major victory on his top domestic priority.

An ongoing CNN analysis shows that opposition in the House to the Senate health care plan has reached 205 members.

A total of 27 House Democrats, including nine who supported the House plan in November, have indicated that they would join a unified Republican caucus in opposing the Senate plan, which passed in that chamber December 24 with the minimum required 60 votes.

Nonetheless, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut said Monday after a meeting with rank-and-file Democrats that “the votes are there” to pass the health care bill.

Among at least 27 Democrats who will vote against the bill is Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, who confirmed his opposition Monday.

Health care reform is needed, but the bill before us is too expensive, does not adequately address rising medical costs and skyrocketing insurance premiums, and tries to do too much too soon,” McIntyre said in a written statement. “We simply cannot afford to create a new federal bureaucracy that costs nearly $1 trillion when our national debt is $12 trillion and there is no plan in place to address it. I will not vote for it.”

Proponents of the health care plan need 216 votes to pass the Senate measure. No Republicans have indicated that they will vote for the bill, which means Democratic leaders must rely solely on votes from their own members. Democrats hold 253 House seats.


Retail sales show uptick

Retail sales rose in February, the government said Friday, surprising economists who expected a decline.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales edged up 0.3% to $355.5 billion last month. Economists surveyed by had anticipated that February sales would drop 0.2%.

February’s increase showed that Americans were still making it to the stores despite the snow and cold weather last month and customers were splurging on electronics for the Super Bowl, said Chris Donnelly, a senior executive at consulting firm Accenture.

February retail sales jumped 3.9% compared to the same month in 2009.

“This is consistent with the trend we’ve been seeing,” said Donnelly. “We’ve seen a gradual thaw in the consumer pocketbook, and there is pent up demand — we are certainly