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Governor Signs Landmark LGBT Inclusive Education Bill

When Jerry Brown took over the Horseshoe, there was some thought that now we would finally be able to get of really good progressive legislation enacted.  Turns out that wasn't entirely true, but nor was it entirely false.

Today, the Governor signed Mark Leno's SB 48, a bill that ensures that the historical contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and disabled individuals are accurately and fairly portrayed in instructional materials by adding these groups to the existing list of under-represented cultural and ethnic groups already included in the state's inclusionary education requirements.  As it stands right now, the state requires inclusion of minority groups contributions to the state, this law simply adds on the disabled and LGBT to that list.

From an immediate standpoint, this probably means that students are going to learn a thing or two about Harvey Milk in their history classes. But in the long run, this bill will help decrease bullying and protect LGBT youth in our schools.

"I am awed and humbled to be part of this historic moment," said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. "By signing the FAIR Education Act and ending the exclusion of the LGBT community from instructional materials, Governor Brown has realized the hopes of youth who have been fighting for safe and inclusive schools, where all students learn about our history and gain respect for each other's differences as a result. This is a part of the American story that we can be proud to know all students will learn."


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Griffin’s AppPowered Helo TC is a $50 iOS helicopter for your home’s airzone

Griffin Helo TC
Get to the chopper! Er, micro-copter. Say hello to Griffin's latest AppPowered gadget, the Helo TC. This indoor-heli lets users play pilot via an iOS app offering onscreen "Touch-to-Fly" or accelerometer based "Tilt-to-Fly" controls. After a half-hour's charge over USB, you'll be airborne for about eight minutes and can initiate one of three preset flight-paths if you want to go hands-off. Bummer though, you'll need to hook up a three-AAA packing IR sled to your iDevice for signal. Thankfully, this little guy's equipped for night flights with five LEDs, and you'll find extra rotors if you ever need to ditch into the linoleum. Expect to see these popping up during the holiday season for about $50 (£34.99), but for now you'll find details by flying past the break.

Continue reading Griffin's AppPowered Helo TC is a $50 iOS helicopter for your home's airzone

Griffin's AppPowered Helo TC is a $50 iOS helicopter for your home's airzone originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 14 Jul 2011 14:59:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Whoa! Now ESIs will get an extra bump on their competing renewal NIH grants? [DrugMonkey]

Following some chatter at the Rock Talk blog I ran across some very interesting news from the NHLBI:

The NHLBI will continue a commitment to help ESIs by a policy of maintaining separate paylines for new competing (Type 1) R01 and First Renewal (Type 2) applications in accordance with NIH guidelines. Regardless of amendment status, the paylines for new competing (Type 1) and First Renewal (Type 2) ESI R01 applications will be 5 percentile points above the regular R01 paylines for unamended (A0) applications in FY 2011. In addition and also regardless of amendment status, new competing (Type 1) ESI R01 applications that are >5 but <=10 percentile points above the regular R01 paylines for unamended (A0) applications in FY 2011 may undergo an expedited review to resolve comments in the summary statement. The funding policies will apply to all new competing (Type 1) and First Renewal (Type 2) ESI R01 applications under special funding consideration regardless of the amendment status of the application. All awards to ESI applicants under this policy will be funded for all years recommended by the NHLBAC. Please note that the NHLBI considers both NI and ESI status to have been determined at the time of the initial A0 grant application submission.

This is going to really, really anger the late Assistant Prof folks out there who are looking down the barrel of tenure decisions. Decisions in which the ability to renew their first (very hard won) award looms large.

As well it should anger them.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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John and Barack have drinks in the clubhouse

Time is featuring an insider "narrative" of the negotiating relationship between Boehner and Obama over deficits. Who knows who is the source here and who it's serving, but it's an interesting story if only for the way it evokes cherished Village nostalgia for the day of Tip 'n Ronnie.(If this keeps up I'm dying my hair blue and getting out the old GoGos LPs. If somebody offers up some Peruvian marching powder, I'm in, even if it gives me a heart attack.)

In April the two men averted a government shutdown with just one hour to spare, crafting a $1 trillion stopgap spending bill for the rest of the year that included $38.5 billion in cuts. Boehner was a skilled and patient negotiator, holding up the White House day after day until he got closer to the deal he wanted. But when it turned out later that there were nearly as many bookkeeping gimmicks as real cuts in the deal, Boehner's freshman class lost some faith in his ability to deliver on their demands.

The two men kept at it. They had little choice: to do nothing was to risk another financial crisis, brought on by rising interest rates, a possible credit downgrade and a potential run on money-market funds. All along Pennsylvania Avenue there were whisperings about finally getting serious, showing the world that America could get her house in order.

Actually they certainly could have done nothing --- or rather just raised the debt ceiling as they've done every other time, but it's pretty clear that they both felt this was an opportunity to get significant spending cuts passed under pressure.

But I digress.

This timeline is instructive:

On April 13, Obama called on Congress to cut $4 trillion from the budget over 12 years. Though this was smaller than a plan to cut $6.2 trillion over 10 years, offered by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, it was nonetheless an astonishingly large number for a Democrat.

Then Boehner went to Wall Street and gave a fiery speech, saying Congress would raise the debt ceiling through 2012 but only if the White House agreed to offset the increase — to the tune of $2.4 trillion in spending cuts. This was genuine hardball: Republicans would hold the full faith and credit of the U.S. hostage to deeper cuts in federal spending. But it held the kernel of a deal. Instead of knocking down this offer, the White House was noticeably quiet.

The official Let's Make a Deal competition moved to Blair House, where both parties sent delegations in May to work out a compromise. The goals of this group, run by Vice President Joe Biden, were not modest: they would work out areas of potential agreement, looking at all government spending and tax loopholes. It was easy to get to $1 trillion; $2 trillion was much harder, especially since neither side came to the meetings united. The Democrats were acting like classically disorganized Democrats, one observer remarked later, "and the Republicans were acting like Democrats too."

But the leaders, meanwhile, were acting like leaders. Only a President, elected to serve all the people, can do certain things — including reach out and lift up a friend or rival into the heady temple of Executive power. "I'm the President of the United States," Obama told Boehner. "You're the Speaker of the House. We're the two most responsible leaders right now." And so they began to talk about the truly epic possibility of using the threat, the genuine danger of default, to freeze out their respective extremists and make the kind of historic deal that no one really thought possible anymore — bigger than when Reagan and Tip O'Neill overhauled the tax code in 1986 or when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich passed welfare reform a decade later. It would include deeper cuts in spending, the elimination of all kinds of tax loopholes and lower income tax rates for all. "Come on, you and I," Boehner admitted telling Obama. "Let's lock arms, and we'll jump out of the boat together."

After a round of golf at Andrews Air Force Base in mid-June, they retired to the clubhouse for drinks. Obama asked Boehner how they should get the deal done. They agreed to begin meeting together at the White House, alone, without aides. They would keep the talks private.

The first meeting came four days later, when Obama hosted Boehner on the Truman Balcony. They met again on July 3 on the President's Patio. The next day, as thousands of military families gathered on the South Lawn to watch the fireworks, Obama slipped away to call Boehner. They were now talking once a day or once every two days. I don't think anyone considers Ezra Klein unconnected or hostile to the White House. So when he writes something like this, I assume they want it out there:

In my Bloomberg column today, I argue that the Obama administration is much more intent on reaching a deficit deal, and much less intent on making revenues a major part of it, than is commonly assumed. That’s led them to offer Republicans a deal that is not only much farther to the right than anyone had predicted, but also much farther to the right than most realize. In addition to the rise in the Medicare eligibility age and the cuts to Social Security and the minimal amount of revenues, it’d cut discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion, which is an absolutely massive attack on that category of spending.

This deal isn’t just a last-ditch effort to save the economy from the damage of a federal default. The White House would far prefer this deal to the McConnell plan, which would lift the debt ceiling without making any cuts at all. So why are administration officials so committed to striking a deal composed of policies they’ve mostly opposed? Here’s their thinking:


He goes on to say that they feel that if they can only get deficits "off the table" in a big way they will have the room to do other Big Things, that the only stimulus they can get is something small like extended unemployment insurance which is "better than nothing", we should want to have the Democratic President timing the massive cuts in this deal rather than grumpy Republicans in 2012 appropriations, it's good policy on the merits (really!) and finally, it will help Obama get re-elected, which is important because Mitt will make even deeper cuts.

To put all this slightly differently, White House officials believe a big deficit reduction deal would do them enough good, both politically and economically, that it’s worth making very significant compromises on the details of that deal. If you thought getting to $4 trillion in deficit reduction was a Republican goal, you’re wrong. It’s the White House’s goal, and the only reason it might not happen is Republicans won’t let them do it.

So it is as it appears to be. And not one element of it is even remotely compelling.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that the Republicans understand better than Obama that "the deficit" isn't what people care about and that hugely cutting spending won't help him be re-elected in 2012. (If they really believed that they would have done it themselves when they held the White House and the congress.) I think they'll sign on to a deal that massively cuts government spending and which only required concessions are something like Unemployment Insurance. Seriously, think about it.

Maybe they won't sign on out of sheer contrariness. In which case hurrah for them.

And they are threading a very fine needle on the electoral calculation. John Sides at the Monkey Cage games out the three scenarios:

Scenario #1: There is no deal.

Assume there is no deal and then assume, as Geithner and others have warned, that there are serious consequences for the economy when the debt ceiling isn’t raised. This will hurt Obama. And it will hurt him more than it will hurt the Republican Party. Presidents suffer the consequences of a bad economy. Divided government does not change this. Beware pundits who see silver linings for Obama in this scenario.

Scenario #2: There is a deal, but it hurts the economy.

Assume the Keynesians are right and the GOP and, for that matter, Obama are wrong. If so, fiscal austerity is only going to make the economy worse. Maybe not as bad as it would be if the debt ceiling weren’t raised, but still: worse. If so, Obama will suffer. End of story. It does not matter that the deficit will (in theory) go down. Election-year changes in the size of the national debt do not affect election outcomes. And it does not matter that a deal could make Obama appear “bipartisan.” Independent voters do not put political process ahead of the most tangible outcome: the economy. See also Matt Yglesias.

Scenario #3: A deal, with no effect on the economy.

Assume that there is some sort of deal, which in all likelihood will not be the grand bargain Ambinder mentions but some smaller deal built around the Biden talks. I will ignore for the moment what must then be negotiated in 2012. Assume that neither a 2011 deal nor any future deals affect the economy between now and November 2012. Then what? Let’s subdivide.

Scenario 3a: The economy is still weak throughout 2012, as some forecasts suggest. Obama will suffer. See Scenario #2. He may win, depending on the GOP nominee and the campaign itself, but it will not be easy. All the GOP has to do is hammer him on jobs, jobs, jobs and no one will remember his masterful bargaining over the debt ceiling, or what the debt ceiling is in the first place.

Scenario 3b: The economy does improve—somehow, someway. Now Obama has the edge, and the economy is what he should campaign on. Maybe it’s not morning in America, but election-year economic growth is a powerful elixir to myopic voters.

At this point, there is finally an advantage for Obama to a budget deal. The GOP nominee will need an issue to emphasize other than the economy. As Lynn Vavreck argues in The Message Matters, that issue must be one on which (1) the GOP nominee’s stance is closer to voters’ than is Obama’s and (2) Obama can’t easily weasel out of his position. By passing a budget deal, Obama will have made it harder for the GOP to use the budget and deficit as that issue. They may still try, but now Obama can take credit for cutting spending and the debt, all the while noting that many in the GOP sided with him.

That's a lot of hope there. And a lot of pain for real people on the off chance that the GOP attacks will be blunted.

So basically they really are still counting on Morning in America to magically appear in time and think that massively cutting government will ruin the Republicans' plans to complain.(Maybe that explains the Reagan comment yesterday.) The fact that they will also be selling deficit reduction as an economic elixir doesn't seem to bother them in the least. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I guess.

And Republicans have been running against Big Gummint/taxnspend liberals for as long as I can remember. A Democrat slashing spending won't stop them. And I know this because Bill Clinton declared that the era of Big Government was over and they impeached him for his trouble. The idea of Obama's campaign being based upon bragging that he has proved how much pain he can cause is rather nauseating.

My personal feeling is that it takes about 18 months for voters to feel the effects of a recovering economy and that window is rapidly closing. I think if they were less rigid about their re-election plan and able to adjust to current realities they might do things differently. But it's pretty clear that they've been counting on the Reagan Replay from the very beginning and changing circumstances just aren't going to sway them.

I can't cheer this even if the economy turns around and unemployment is way down by the time of the election. The level and type of spending cuts that the White House has already proposed is a betrayal of liberal ideology and economic reality to such a degree that I'm rooting for the McConnell proposal, which is just bizarre. But it's the most sane plan on the table.


(See this to understand just how deeply he is proposing to cut into vital services. This rationale just doesn't measure up in any way to the pain that this will cause and the danger we will all be living with in our daily lives as a result.)

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Crazy Initiative Department: End of Unions

The thing about the initiative process is that there is a lot of smoke without fire.  If you were to really monitor each initiative that comes into the hands of the offices of the Secretary of State you would keep yourself in a perpetual state of manic depression. First, initiatives that seem great (like repealing Prop 8) or initiatives that seem awful (like repeating the restrictions on choice that Californians have rejected many times).  It is just a bag full of crazy, and most of the crazy has nowhere near the money to get close to the ballot.

And so comes this bag full of crazy from the California Center for Public Policy

He said he filed the three initiatives Tuesday with the state attorney general's office.

The first measure would ban recognition of all public-sector labor unions and prevent government authorities from collectively bargaining with them.

The second would impose a higher tax burden on pensions paid through CalPERS or CalSTRS. Someone who earns an annual pension of $100,000 to $150,000 would pay 15 percent above the regular state income tax on the pension. The rate would jump to 25 percent for any pensions above $150,000. Health benefits would not be considered in the calculation. Ebenstein said the tax would eventually raise $1 billion a year for the state.

The third would raise the retirement age for state employees to 65. Public safety workers would see their retirement age rise to 58. 

 As we speak, the Legislature is working on its own pension reform measure that might be on the ballot sometime next year, and who knows what other private organizations might decide that the time is ripe for them to get some publicity through this stuff.  But Larry Eberstein, the head of the fair and balanced California Center thinks the time is now.  So he's groping around for some cash from some of the big funders of initiative campaigns to get some money.  (Not, you know, those dirty grassroots people...)

In the end, I would be pretty surprised if this got any momentum.  The reaction from Wisconsin from milder "reforms" has been outrage, and in California, a bluer state, the reaction to the end of all teacher, firefighter, police, etc unions, yeah, that will not be taken lightly.  Frankly, it's one thing to pay $200 to get some attention for your rather anonymous organization.  But he does have former Assemblyman Brooks Firestone on board, and he is the father of Andrew Firestone, one of the first "Bachelors" on the TV reality show.  So, that's awesome.

But, hey, why not let Eberstein play in the crazy box.  It looks like fun.  Perhaps next week I will round up some friends to file an initiave calling for a save the unicorn program. 



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Olloclip three-in-one lens for iPhone 4 review


The age of lugging around a pricey DSLR kit just to capture casual fisheye, wide-angle and macro photos may be nearing its end -- for some of us, at least. Designed by a startup duo in California, the Olloclip was the first project featured in our Insert Coin series, and we were thrilled to learn not only that it was successfully funded, but that the device is ready to ship to both early supporters and new customers just two months later. The accessory brings the functionality of all three lenses to the iPhone 4, and it does so well enough to warrant leaving your pro kit at home on occasion -- assuming, of course, that your photographs aren't responsible for putting food on the table.

While a bargain compared to its professional equivalents, $70 is a lot to spend on any iPhone accessory, so the lens's price tag may not sit well with some users. Also, design limitations mean you won't be able to use the lens with other devices, and there's no way to guarantee compatibility with future iPhones as well. Nonetheless, we had a blast shooting with the Olloclip, and we think you will too. Head past the break to find out why.

Continue reading Olloclip three-in-one lens for iPhone 4 review

Olloclip three-in-one lens for iPhone 4 review originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 14 Jul 2011 13:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Roller Slide Physics Explained [Uncertain Principles]

On Monday, I posted a short video and asked about the underlying physics. Here's the clip again, showing SteelyKid and then me going down a slide made up of a whole bunch of rollers at a local playground:

The notable thing about this is that SteelyKid takes a much, much longer time to get down the slide than I do. This is very different than an ordinary smooth slide, where elementary physics says we should go down the slide at the same rate, and empirically I tend to be a little slower than she is.

So what's the difference?

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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Yes, they really want to do this: cuts for cuts sake

I don't think anyone considers Ezra Klein unconnected or hostile to the White House. So when he writes something like this, I assume they want it out there:

In my Bloomberg column today, I argue that the Obama administration is much more intent on reaching a deficit deal, and much less intent on making revenues a major part of it, than is commonly assumed. That’s led them to offer Republicans a deal that is not only much farther to the right than anyone had predicted, but also much farther to the right than most realize. In addition to the rise in the Medicare eligibility age and the cuts to Social Security and the minimal amount of revenues, it’d cut discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion, which is an absolutely massive attack on that category of spending.

This deal isn’t just a last-ditch effort to save the economy from the damage of a federal default. The White House would far prefer this deal to the McConnell plan, which would lift the debt ceiling without making any cuts at all. So why are administration officials so committed to striking a deal composed of policies they’ve mostly opposed? Here’s their thinking:


He goes on to say that they feel that if they can only get deficits "off the table" in a big way they will have the room to do other Big Things, that the only stimulus they can get is something small like extended unemployment insurance which is "better than nothing", we should want to have the Democratic President timing the massive cuts in this deal rather than grumpy Republicans in 2012 appropriations, it's good policy on the merits (really!) and finally, it will help Obama get re-elected, which is important because Mitt will make even deeper cuts.

To put all this slightly differently, White House officials believe a big deficit reduction deal would do them enough good, both politically and economically, that it’s worth making very significant compromises on the details of that deal. If you thought getting to $4 trillion in deficit reduction was a Republican goal, you’re wrong. It’s the White House’s goal, and the only reason it might not happen is Republicans won’t let them do it.

So it is as it appears to be. And not one element of it is even remotely compelling.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that the Republicans understand better than Obama that "the deficit" isn't what people care about and that hugely cutting spending won't help him be re-elected in 2012. (If they really believed that they would have done it themselves when they held the White House and the congress.) I think they'll sign on to a deal that massively cuts government spending and which only required concessions are something like Unemployment Insurance. Seriously, think about it.

Maybe they won't sign on out of sheer contrariness. In which case hurrah for them.

And they are threading a very fine needle on the electoral calculation. John Sides at the Monkey Cage games out the three scenarios:

Scenario #1: There is no deal.

Assume there is no deal and then assume, as Geithner and others have warned, that there are serious consequences for the economy when the debt ceiling isn’t raised. This will hurt Obama. And it will hurt him more than it will hurt the Republican Party. Presidents suffer the consequences of a bad economy. Divided government does not change this. Beware pundits who see silver linings for Obama in this scenario.

Scenario #2: There is a deal, but it hurts the economy.

Assume the Keynesians are right and the GOP and, for that matter, Obama are wrong. If so, fiscal austerity is only going to make the economy worse. Maybe not as bad as it would be if the debt ceiling weren’t raised, but still: worse. If so, Obama will suffer. End of story. It does not matter that the deficit will (in theory) go down. Election-year changes in the size of the national debt do not affect election outcomes. And it does not matter that a deal could make Obama appear “bipartisan.” Independent voters do not put political process ahead of the most tangible outcome: the economy. See also Matt Yglesias.

Scenario #3: A deal, with no effect on the economy.

Assume that there is some sort of deal, which in all likelihood will not be the grand bargain Ambinder mentions but some smaller deal built around the Biden talks. I will ignore for the moment what must then be negotiated in 2012. Assume that neither a 2011 deal nor any future deals affect the economy between now and November 2012. Then what? Let’s subdivide.

Scenario 3a: The economy is still weak throughout 2012, as some forecasts suggest. Obama will suffer. See Scenario #2. He may win, depending on the GOP nominee and the campaign itself, but it will not be easy. All the GOP has to do is hammer him on jobs, jobs, jobs and no one will remember his masterful bargaining over the debt ceiling, or what the debt ceiling is in the first place.

Scenario 3b: The economy does improve—somehow, someway. Now Obama has the edge, and the economy is what he should campaign on. Maybe it’s not morning in America, but election-year economic growth is a powerful elixir to myopic voters.

At this point, there is finally an advantage for Obama to a budget deal. The GOP nominee will need an issue to emphasize other than the economy. As Lynn Vavreck argues in The Message Matters, that issue must be one on which (1) the GOP nominee’s stance is closer to voters’ than is Obama’s and (2) Obama can’t easily weasel out of his position. By passing a budget deal, Obama will have made it harder for the GOP to use the budget and deficit as that issue. They may still try, but now Obama can take credit for cutting spending and the debt, all the while noting that many in the GOP sided with him.

That's a lot of hope there. And a lot of pain for real people on the off chance that the GOP attacks will be blunted.

So basically they really are still counting on Morning in America to magically appear in time and think that massively cutting government will ruin the Republicans' plans to complain.(Maybe that explains the Reagan comment yesterday.) The fact that they will also be selling deficit reduction as an economic elixir doesn't seem to bother them in the least. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I guess.

And Republicans have been running against Big Gummint/taxnspend liberals for as long as I can remember. A Democrat slashing spending won't stop them. And I know this because Bill Clinton declared that the era of Big Government was over and they impeached him for his trouble. The idea of Obama's campaign being based upon bragging that he has proved how much pain he can cause is rather nauseating.

My personal feeling is that it takes about 18 months for voters to feel the effects of a recovering economy and that window is rapidly closing. I think if they were less rigid about their re-election plan and able to adjust to current realities they might do things differently. But it's pretty clear that they've been counting on the Reagan Replay from the very beginning and changing circumstances just aren't going to sway them.

I can't cheer this even if the economy turns around and unemployment is way down by the time of the election. The level and type of spending cuts that the White House has already proposed is a betrayal of liberal ideology and economic reality to such a degree that I'm rooting for the McConnell proposal, which is just bizarre. But it's the most sane plan on the table.


(See this to understand just how deeply he is proposing to cut into vital services. This rationale just doesn't measure up in any way to the pain that this will cause and the danger we will all be living with in our daily lives as a result.)

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Microsoft licenses GeoVector’s augmented reality search for local guidance (video)

After the ho-hum AR demonstration of Windows Phone Mango, Microsoft appears to be stepping up its game by licensing a mature set of technologies from GeoVector, (a company previously known for its defunct World Surfer application). While the details remain elusive, Ballmer's crew was granted a multi-year, non-exclusive right to use and abuse the pointing-based local search and augmented reality elements of GeoVector's portfolio -- surely capable of bringing Local Scout to the next level. While much of the technology relies on GPS and a compass for directional-based discovery, the licensor also holds intellectual property for object recognition (à la Google Goggles), although it's unclear whether this element falls within the agreement. Of course, Microsoft could have turned to Nokia's Live View AR for many of the same tools, but that would have been far too obvious. Just beyond the break, you'll find the full PR along with an (admittedly dated) video of GeoVector's technology.

Continue reading Microsoft licenses GeoVector's augmented reality search for local guidance (video)

Microsoft licenses GeoVector's augmented reality search for local guidance (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 14 Jul 2011 11:13:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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WIC on the Chopping Block [Casaubon’s Book]

Over the years I've written a great deal about SNAP/Food Stamps and other hunger alleviation programs, but I've never written anything specifically about WIC, which I have tended to lump in with other food programs. I've been thinking, however, a lot about WIC lately, because it has come on the budget chopping block in the US - along with other food security programs including the CSFP which serves low income seniors and the emergency food program that provides commodities to emergency food pantries. While Republicans restored funds for military bands, they took them out, as is customary, from low income elderly people, children and the hungry. About a billion dollars is set to come out of food security programs, including 868 million from WIC alone.

While I have mostly lumped programs to reduce food insecurity together, WIC Is significantly different from SNAP - its targets are children. The goal is to provide good nutrition *along with* nutritional education, lead screenings, anemia screenings and other basic medical supports. Moreover, WIC Is precisely the program that people who hate food stamps and think that all poor folk do is use them for soda and lobster should love. The food permitted on WIC is very limited - fruit juices, canned fish, peanut butter, milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables, beans, and infant formulas. You can't buy candy or luxury food items - this is the bare basics program for folks who like to peer into the shopping cart of anyone swiping an EBT card. Moreover, you can't enroll without also receiving nutritional information.

For this reason, historically WIC has been popular - and for the moment it is running a budget surplus, due in large part to a decline in the price of milk - milk costs represent 20% of the WIC food cost expenditures. In the very near term, cutting WIC isn't a crisis. In the longer term, where more and more people struggle (and we've seen in the last couple of months that the economic crisis is not over), it is a serious issue.

WIC serves pregnant women and children under five years old - the ages at which nutritional sufficiency is most critical for brain development and long term good health. At last count, almost half the nation's infants were on WIC which serves people up to 185% of the poverty level.

A number of studies have shown that WIC is associated with better birth outcomes for at risk populations - children whose mothers are on WIC prenatally and after birth tend to have higher birth rates, lower infant mortality (and US infant mortality rates among poor infants are a scandal) and fewer premature births. WIC has repeatedly shown to return well - every dollar spent on WIC reduces health care and other costs between 1,77 and 3.50, depending on which study you take.

Anyone with a child under five who is eligible for SNAP can get WIC as well, and of course, the programs are all inter-connected. Cut back on WIC and the former recipients will increase demand at local food pantries for emergency food. Moreover the fundamental benefit of WIC has been its tying of subsidies to nutritional education and programs that also support child health like lead and anemia screenings.

WIC does have issues. Like SNAP, it tends to operate as a subsidy upon the industrial food system - indeed, because WIC purchasers have little choice in what they purchase, WIC operates disproportionally. WIC purchasers are generally required to buy the lowest cost item, and 2/3 of all states explicitly disallow organic foods. Many states have brand limitations that functionally require WIC parents to purchase their food from larger supermarkets.

While WIC does have a farmer's market program - the Farmer's Market Nutrition Program, it represents a comparatively tiny portion of WIC's budget (and is potentially at risk given current cuts) at only about 20 million to cover 46 States, Indian Nations and Territories. It is not available everywhere, and only fresh fruits and vegetables can be purchased - not milk, cheese, dried beans, grains or juices - even though these items are permitted under WIC.

The impact of the FMNP has been quite good - more than 70% of WIC participants who received coupons had never been to a farmer's market before, and at least one study found that even after their WIC participation ended, more than half of the participants who received farmer's market coupons continued visiting. Families that received farmer's market coupons consumed significantly more fruits and vegetables than families that did not. It is a program worth expanding - for both the benefits of a viable food system and for the participants, but this is unlikely in a budget-cut scenario.

Other criticisms of WIC are that despite its emphasis on breastfeeding education and support, and the fact that it give preference in program inclusion and greater quantities of food to nursing mothers, its breastfeeding programs seem to have made little difference - or even to slightly discourage breastfeeding. Because the population served by WIC is less likely to nurse in general, it is hard to gauge exactly how much impact all of WIC's work and emphasis on nursing has had, but a GAO study suggested at best, it was moot - and the availability of free formula may actually discourage nursing.

No one wants to risk poor infant development by restricting formula access - at the same time, we know that nursing has a greater remunerative return than WIC on short and long term child health, as well as being a way of cutting the budget without harming families - programs that increased the emphasis on nursing and incentivized nursing further might save WIC more - infant formula represents a significant portion of its overall budget.

Other criticisms of WIC are related to the subsidizing of industrial food - WIC has been shown to be a contributing cause for older children with its emphasis on high fat foods like whole milk and peanut butter. At the time WIC was created, the main concern was putting weight on poor children - 40 years later, obesity and its health consequences are a major concern for the population that WIC serves. Again, this seems a clear indication that expansion of programs like the FMNP could help enormously - and an emphasis on high quailty food, rather than quantity might make sense.

WIC's emphasis on the foods of a conventional American diet has also raised issues when trying to meet the needs of low income immigrant populations. WIC has been criticized for its emphasis on milk (1/5 of total food expenditures) and its lack of alternative for cultures that don't have a dairy emphasis or have large numbers lactose intolerant children. Peanut butter, canned fish and other foods that aren't necessarily part of many cultural experiences are often offered preferentially over equally healthy or healthier foods typical of other communities and cultures. Communities whose traditional foods are not supported derive less benefit from WIC - and thus we all derive less benefit for WIC. There are also significant arguments against imposing a high fat, high salt American diet on immigrant families.

This is a major issue, since children of immigrants represent the fastest growing share of WIC population. What WIC has done well is convince immigrant populations, particularly at-risk undocumented immigrants that applying for WIC is safe - which is good, because every premature infant or low birth weight baby born in the US costs us considerably more than money spent on WIC. It is in our interest to see immigrant populations making full use of the WIC program because their use reduces overall costs in the net.

Most of the problems in WIC could be resolved by permitting a wider range of food, emphasizing quality as well as adequate quantity, and expanded breastfeeding supports. Moreover, an expansion of the FMNP could operate to save money in several ways - not only by reducing overall health care costs due to larger vegetable and fruit consumption and by serving at-risk populations better, but also because some 64% of American small farmers are WIC eligible themselves, and my best estimate from the data available (there is no clear recent data I can find, this is based on some consolidated state findings) is that about 30% of American farmers are presently receiving WIC - re-routing dollars back to the people who grow the food is a win-win situation.

In a nation with rapidly expanding health costs and few tools to contain them, cutting WIC is completely insane. WIC needs the resources to expand and shift its mission - the foods that were primarily essential in 1971, when WIC was founded are no longer the right primary foods. WIC's failures, however, are not fundamental - they are failures based on their origin in a 1970s hunger response culture, and could be updated - at little cost. In the long term, it might even cost less per person.

WIC itself has an essential mission - and one that will only grow more urgent in a society of declining resource availability. Keeping and child mortality low, and ensuring fewer health costs - both in the near term in infancy and childhood, and over a lifetime, is one of the things we can do for little cost. In _Depletion and Abundance_ I document at some length how nations with low health care spending have been able to keep lifespans and infant mortality rate comparable to our own with tiny percentages of our own spending. Uniformly, those nations put their resources into food and reproductive care, as WIC does. If we were to protect and expand any single US social welfare program WIC would be it - it should not be on the chopping block, despite its imperfections.

Sharon


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