Monday, November 28, 2011

16 Canadian Organizations ask Martelly to Try Jean-Claude Duvalier

A Collaboration of Haitian and Canadian organizations demanded the Haitian government to bring the former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier to trial. In a letter to President Michel Martelly, Michel Frenette, representative of Amnesty International Canada in the Concertation pour Haiti (CPH) argues on behalf of the consultation that the holding of a trial would do justice to the thousands of victims of Duvalierism. This would thus restore the confidence of the Haitian people in an effective justice system.

According to the Concertation pour Haiti: "It is now imperative that the Haitian government publicly confirms its commitment to non-interference in the work of the judiciary so that they lead to the end of the thorough and impartial investigations into serious violations committed under the Duvalier regime . This is a unique opportunity in Haiti's history to finally end the endless cycle of impunity that has always prevailed and thus enable the reconstruction of collective memory by preserving the dignity of the Haitian people while the world. History has shown that there can be no genuine reconciliation or national agreement worthy of the name that goes through the path of truth, justice and reparation."

Founded in 1994, the Concertation pour Haiti is a group of Canadian organizations involved in the movement of solidarity with the Haitian people on the way to a non-violent, more just and democratic.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Salads Are Nice, but Burgers Are What Really Sell

Americans talk skinny but eat fat.

No matter that First Lady Michelle Obama has been on a crusade for a year and a half to slim down the country. Never mind that some restaurants have started listing calories on their menus. Forget even that we keep saying we want to eat healthy. When Americans eat out, we order burgers and fries anyway.

"If I wanted something healthy, I would not even stop in at McDonald's," says Jonathan Ryfiak, 24, a New York trapeze instructor who watches his diet at home but orders comfort foods like chicken nuggets and fries when he hits a fast-food joint.

In a country where more than two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, food choices are often made on impulse, not intellect. So, while 47 percent of Americans say they'd like restaurants to offer healthier items like salads and baked potatoes, only 23 percent tend to order those foods, according to a survey last year by food research firm Technomic.

That explains the popularity of KFC's Double Down, a sandwich of bacon and cheese slapped between two slabs of fried chicken. It's the reason IHOP offers a Simple & Fit menu with yogurt and fruit bowls, but its top seller remains a 1,180-calorie breakfast sampler of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns and pancakes. It's also why only 11 percent of parents ordered apple slices as an alternative to fries in McDonald's Happy Meals.

The mixed message hasn't stopped many restaurants from offering healthier fare. After all, the government has stepped up its oversight — and influence — over the industry that it blames for America's expanding waistline. National rules about putting calorie information on menus are expected to take effect next year and Mrs. Obama touts restaurants and companies that slash calories in foods.

But revamping a menu can be difficult and expensive, requiring months or even years. It took Dunkin' Donuts four years to figure out how to make its doughnuts without trans fat — which doctors say is one of the unhealthiest types of fat — without altering the taste. And efforts to curb unhealthy eating aren't always fruitful. In 2009, a year after New York made chains start listing calories on menus, only 15 percent of diners ordered lower-calorie foods, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

Most restaurants won't share specifics about how their salads and veggie omelets compete when they're up against burgers and crepes. But the healthy stuff appears to be only a small proportion of revenue at most chains.

The IHOP pancake house, owned by DineEquity Inc., says that Simple & Fit sales have roughly doubled in the year since the menu was introduced. But it still makes up only a single-digit percentage of revenue.

The Cheesecake Factory, which introduced a "Skinnylicious" menu in August featuring entrees with 590 calories or less, says those foods have also performed well. But sales of its decadent cheesecakes are up too. "We recognize that 'cheesecake' is in our name," said Alethea Rowe, senior director of restaurant marketing.

There's a host of reasons for the disparity between word and deed. Sometimes people who eat healthy at home want to treat themselves when they go out. Others doubt that the so-called healthier items on fast-food menus are really healthy. Even peer pressure can play a role.

Jason Sierra, who was eating a Whopper hamburger and fries at a Burger King in New York recently, said he's cut back on unhealthy foods because his cholesterol and blood pressure were getting too high. But when his office buddies order lunch, he opts for "man food" like pizza to fit in.

"One day I did try to order a salad," said Sierra, 40, who works in tech support. "And I caught hell for that."

Healthier foods also are usually among the most expensive menu items, which can be tough for recession-weary customers to stomach. Efrain Vasquez and his wife, Evelyn, were recently eating fried chicken and gravy-drenched mashed potatoes at a KFC in New York. They say there's a big difference between a $2 burger and a $6 salad when you're on a tight budget.

"We've got bills to pay," said Efrain Vasquez, 51, a maintenance worker who's raising four kids with Evelyn, a 37-year-old receptionist. "We try to economize."

Like so many American dieters, fast-food restaurants have tried and failed to go healthy. The Wendy's Co. burger chain led the way in the mid-1980s with a short-lived effort to sell tomato halves filled with cottage cheese and pineapple chunks on lettuce leaves.

"Consumers weren't ready for it," said Denny Lynch, a spokesman for Wendy's, where burgers and chicken are the biggest sellers. "Or at least they certainly didn't buy it."

In 2003, during the low-carb Atkins diet craze, Domino's Pizza Inc. couldn't get people to bite on a low-carb pizza it tested in Indianapolis. "While many people at the time made their voice heard that they wanted it, few people actually ordered it," said Chris Brandon, Domino's spokesman.

McDonald's, the world's largest burger chain, says the fruit smoothies and oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins it rolled out last year are selling well, although it declined to disclose their revenue. "We would not have them on the menu if we were not selling them at a rate that we could sustain them at," said Molly Starmann, director of McDonald's family business category.

But the chain didn't always have such luck. It spent three years developing the McLean Deluxe, a 91-percent fat-free hamburger it introduced in 1991 only to suffer disappointing sales.

More recently, McDonald's got a lukewarm response when in 2004 it began offering parents the option of choosing apple slices instead of fries for Happy Meals. So, in July, McDonald's said it would stop offering a choice and instead serve a half portion of both. It had considered taking fries out Happy Meals completely, but nixed the idea when parents in tests said "No."

Restaurants continue to straddle the line.

Burger King Corp. this summer pledged to promote healthier foods for kids, but announced last week that it would sell ice cream desserts nationwide, including an Oreo brownie sundae with 530 calories and 17 grams of fat. KFC introduced grilled chicken in 2009, then launched the Double Down sandwich the following year. The 540-calorie, 32-grams-of-fat breadless sandwich started as a limited-time offering, but proved so popular that the chain ended up keeping it.

Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., which runs the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast-food chains, said even though his restaurants offer salads and turkey burgers, he figures his best seller at Hardee's is probably the Thickburger. The most decadent version of it comes with two types of cheese, fried onions, mayonnaise and nearly half a pound of beef and weighs in at 1,170 calories and 83 grams of fat. (The government recommends that most people consume 2,000 calories and no more than about 70 grams of fat each day.)

"We have wonderful, healthy foods if people want to buy them," Puzder said. "But they don't sell particularly well."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Romney, Obama show rare interest in California

California, usually forlornly on the sidelines during presidential contests, saw a brief glimpse of a potential general-election kerfuffle Wednesday. Mitt Romney came to Los Angeles and slammed President Obama's handling of the economy; not coincidentally, Obama made his case in an interview with a Los Angeles television station, a rare shift from his focus on the states likely to matter most next year.

Romney, a Republican candidate and former Massachusetts governor, took a break from fundraising to appear before empty storefronts at a desiccated North Hollywood mall where he argued that Obama had failed to fully focus on the economy, instead pushing a liberal agenda that made the recession worse.

"Sadly, as we look around us at this development, we see a development that is no longer going to be developed," Romney said. "There was a plan to put a $600-million shopping mall here, but the Valley Plaza development plan has been scrapped in part because of the challenges in the economy."

Yet as Democrats were happy to point out, the mall was in decline well before Obama took office. One of the first outdoor shopping malls in the nation — then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in its parking lot in 1960 — it suffered structural damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Many of the businesses closed their doors during the George W. Bush administration.

Romney acknowledged that the shopping center's decline could not be fully blamed on Obama, but he argued that a massive revitalization plan was shelved because of the president's handling of the economy.

"Obviously, the challenges here are not all the result of the current administration. A lot of economic woes you are seeing around you and around the country are the result of errors made over a long period of time, but what's happened in the last couple years has not helped," Romney said. "The president is fond of saying he didn't cause the recession, he inherited the recession — and that's true. But he made it worse."

City Councilman Paul Krekorian said Romney was misleading voters. The company that owns much of the property — led by a Romney donor — is working with Krekorian and city officials to create a new development proposal for the mall. A preliminary proposal is expected soon. The company, iStar, was not contacted by the campaign about the event.

"In the San Fernando Valley, we make a lot of movies and we make a lot of television shows," Krekorian said. But "we know the difference between a movie set and real life. Today, Gov. Romney used my neighborhood as a movie set, and I'm a little resentful of that."

When pressed by reporters, Romney said, "I'm sure there's going to be something done here, and if I'm president there will be something done in places across the country to put people back to work."

Obama, meanwhile, argued in an interview on KABC-TV that he was actively engaged in creating more jobs.

"We've got more to do. First thing we have to do is get our fiscal house in order, and we should be able to do that in the next several weeks," Obama said, referring to negotiations over raising the nation's debt ceiling.

"The next step is to start looking at bolder plans, like infrastructure, for example — putting people to work rebuilding not just our roads and bridges but also broadband lines, high-speed rail, putting all those construction workers that used to be in housing to work rebuilding California and rebuilding America," he said. "That can have huge ripple effects.

"And then the last thing we have to do is we have to make sure that we're investing in research and development and training our workers for the jobs of the future, thinking about clean-energy jobs, making sure the solar panels and the wind turbines and electric cars are built here in the United States, built in California. All that can help in terms of moving us forward."

Obama's remarks represented a departure from his routine of conducting interviews with television reporters from swing states. In recent months, his targets have included Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Presidential candidates of both parties typically ignore California during general elections, and pay attention at this time of the electoral cycle for one reason — the vast trove of wealthy donors who live here.

Focused on fundraising here Wednesday were Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is expected to announce within weeks whether he's running for president, was also conducting private meetings in the state.

In the interview, Obama took up a state issue: budgetary whacks at education.

Noting that school funding had been "drained away," he said: "What I encourage states and local officials to think about is what are the things you can't do without, but make sure you're still investing in those things that are going to help us win the future."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poll: Four in 5 approve of Obama's plan for Afghanistan drawdown

About four in 5 Americans approve of President Obama's plan to bring troops home from Afghanistan and more than half would approve an even bigger withdrawal, a new CBS News/New York Times Poll finds.

In the survey, conducted between June 24-28, Americans overwhelmingly expressed their approval of Mr. Obama's announcement last week that he intends to withdraw about a third of the 100,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan by the fall of 2012. According to the poll, 79 percent of Americans - including a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents - approved, while just 17 percent disapproved.

In fact, most Americans do not think Mr. Obama's proposed troop withdrawal goes far enough. Fifty-nine percent of Americans think even more than the proposed one-third of U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be withdrawn.

Still, for the first time since Mr. Obama took office, a majority (53 percent) of Americans say the Afghanistan conflict is going well. In March, only 44 percent of Americans said the same - a figure which was at the time outweighed by the 49 percent of those who said they thought things were going badly.

But while most Americans expressed confidence that the war in Afghanistan is now going well, they appear ambivalent about America's mission there. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan, the highest percentage recorded since the question was first asked in September 2009. Only thirty-five percent of Americans said they thought the U.S. was doing the "right thing" there.

Furthermore, most Americans don't think the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will have a significant impact on the threat of terrorism against the U.S. Twenty-six percent said they thought the threat would increase, but 65 percent said the threat would likely remain the same. Six percent said they thought the threat will decrease.

Despite Americans' general support Mr. Obama's proposed withdrawal, however, the survey suggests that they don't necessarily think that the U.S. has achieved most of its goals there. Only 36 percent think the killing of bin Laden means the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas has been completed; 58 percent disagree.

On the question of U.S. military operations in Libya, public opinion remains relatively unchanged in recent weeks: 59 percent of Americans say the U.S. should not be involved there, while 29 percent say America is doing the right thing.

Moreover, most Americans think the Obama administration should have to get congressional authorization in order to continue U.S. military action in Libya - despite the president's recent statements to the contrary. Six in 10 Americans think the President should have to get Congressional authorization.

There are partisan differences, however: 81 percent of Republicans think the president needs Congress to approve military actions in Libya, compared to half of Democrats.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nearly 80% of Obama’s Top Bundlers Given “Key Administration Posts”

President Obama launched his campaign in 2007 promising a change in the way business is done in Washington, DC, but today a report from the Center for Public Integrity says that when it comes to major campaign donors scoring plum administration positions, it’s business as usual.

The report says that 184 out of 556, or about one third of 2008 Obama campaign “bundlers” -- donors who agree to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a campaign – “or their spouses joined the administration in some role. But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took ‘key administration posts,’ as defined by the White House.

The Center points out that candidate Obama suggested that big moneyed interests would not have as prominent a role in DC during his administration.

"The cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play,” said then-Sen Obama in his February 2007 announcement speech. “They get the access while you get to write a letter…The time for that kind of politics is over."

The White House today pushed back on the Center report, saying it’s “hardly a story” and insisting that donations play no role in these plum jobs.

"The people who got those positions got them because of their credentials," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "They also happen to be donors in some cases. ... Being a supporter does not qualify you for a job or guarantee you a job, but it does not disqualify you."

It's essentially the same explanation the Bush administration gave.

"We make no distinctions about people on the basis of whether they've given or not," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in January 2001.

Tom Perrelli raised $500,000 for Obama in 2008 and is now associate attorney general. Charles Rivkin did the same and is now ambassador to France, so did Donald H. Gips, ambassador to South Africa, and John Roos, ambassador to Japan.

Carney insisted that all bundlers given these positions were qualified, but earlier this year, the Ambassador to Luxembourg, Cynthia Stroum -- who also was a half-million dollar Obama bundler -- resigned right before a State Department report was issued calling her "aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating."

Schulte, Senior Reporter with the Center, says that there is a difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

“We did look at the administration of George Bush which was widely criticized for appointing donors to these kinds of posts, and they had about the same number in four years that the Obama administration has had in two years,” Schulte said.

And according to the American Foreign Service Association, President Obama has nominated more “political” appointees for ambassadorships versus foreign service candidates than any president in at least the past 20 years. A full 36.2% of Obama’s ambassadors are political, while just over 30% of Bush’s were political. Former President Clinton, 27.82% were political, for President George H.W. Bush, 30.3% were political.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Obama to meet with his Republican opponents

Look for pointed disagreements over raising the $14.3 trillion federal debt limit when President Obama meets Wednesday with the 240-member House Republican Conference.

Led by Speaker John Boehner, most of the House Republicans will troop down to the White House for a tete-a-tete, to be followed Thursday by House Democrats -- the day their caucus grows to 193 following last week's special election in New York.

The sessions follow similar meetings with Republican and Democratic senators two weeks ago and illustrate Obama in full bipartisan mode. The main goal: a meeting of the minds on what it will take to let the government continue to borrow money hand over fist.

Americans "expect their elected leaders here in Washington to come together and work out solutions to these challenges that we face, rather than talk past each other," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "It's useful to come together in the same room, talk and listen. So that's what he looks forward to doing."

House Republicans met with the president in January 2009, shortly after he was elected, and again in January 2010. At the first, Obama sought support -- unsuccessfully -- for his economic stimulus plan. At the second, he sought support -- unsuccessfully -- for his health care overhaul. Both measures passed with Democratic votes.

Those meetings came before Republicans flexed their muscles and won a House majority last November. Now, they have virtual veto power over Obama initiatives.

"Members always appreciate an opportunity to propose and debate solutions with the president," said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. "But this shouldn't be viewed as a budget negotiation. No deal will be struck tomorrow. It's an opportunity to discuss priorities."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Oprah didn't scrap dated Obama scoop

After a morning of agonizing, Oprah yesterday aired her interview with President Obama -- taped nearly a week ago -- without mentioning the stunning news that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a daring raid ordered by the president.

"Trying to decide what to do about tomorrow's show with prez that was taped last week. Show will feel dated because we taped last week. Not even a hint of Osama's demise," Winfrey tweeted Sunday night.

It was a sticky spot for the queen of daytime, a former TV news anchor who does not like to be shown up by events.
OOPS: Oprah's interview with the Obamas was taped last week so there was no mention of Osama Bin Laden's death.

But the show aired, uncut and without an Oprah intro explaining what had happened since it was taped.

The only indication was a line on the screen, "Previously recorded," that appeared several times during the show.

"The decision was made late [Sunday] night to air the original show as taped . . . with the inclusion of a notification to our viewers that the program was previously recorded," said a Harpo spokesperson.

Was there any discussion of yanking yesterday's show altogether?

"There was discussion about how to remind our viewers that today's show was pre-taped," the Harpo spokesperson said.

The interview was taped last Wednesday in Chicago.

Subjects ranged from Obama's release that morning of a copy of his long-form birth certificate to the secrets of a healthy marriage to his re-election campaign. But no mention was made during the hour of the war on terrorism.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

President Obama and Sarah Palin extend their Passover wishes in similar ways

President Barack Obama called Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to wish him a happy Passover. On Saturday, Obama delivered a message to all Jews in an attempt to send warm wishes "to all those celebrating the sacred festival of Passover."

"The story of Passover — which recalls the passage of the children of Israel from bondage and repression to freedom and liberty — inspires hope that those oppressed and enslaved can become free," Obama said in a statement. "This year, that ancient instruction is reflected in the daily headlines as we see modem stories of social transformation and liberation unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa. Against the backdrop of change, we continue to pray for peace between Israel and her neighbors, while reaffirming our enduring commitment to Israel’s security."

PalinFormer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin posted a Passover message to her Facebook account on Monday that mirrored Obama's in structure and substance.

"Tonight is Passover, the Jewish people’s celebration of their deliverance from bondage and their Exodus to the Land of Israel," Palin wrote. "Passover contains poignant spiritual and historical meaning for Jews, but it also reminds all of us of mankind’s universal aspiration to be free from bondage and oppression.

"Today, in the same region where the story of Exodus took place, Arabs suffering under despotic regimes are seeking their own freedom and self-determination. As Jews in Israel, the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, gather for Passover, we hope for the spread of freedom and peace throughout the region. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to the Jewish community. Chag kasher V'Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem," Palin posted.

The woman who famously described herself as a hockey mom spent two days in Israel last month, where she expressed her support for the the nation, met with Netanyahu and sported a Star of David necklace. During a tour around the sacred Western Wall, she asked her guides, "Why are you apologizing all the time?" after being told that Jews were not allowed to pray openly on the Temple Mount.

Monday, April 4, 2011

More on Alex Ovechkin and Michelle Obama

Like you and me, Karl Alzner follows Alex Ovechkin on Twitter, and so he saw the image Ovechkin posted of himself with the First Lady on Friday night.

“I don’t know how he did that,” Alzner said. “How the heck did that happen, is what I want to know. I thought they eat at home with their chef and stuff. I’ve got to find out about that.”

Well, I wanted to find out about it, too, so I asked Ovechkin after Monday’s practice.

“Me and [Jason] Arnott go to restaurant and she was there,” Ovechkin explained. “So I asked the manager can we take a picture with her. It was kind of cool, and she was very nice. Like, it’s unbelievable.”

This squares pretty well with the much longer account provided by a commenter at Japers Rink, who wrote that the encounter took place at BLT Steak DC. And indeed, the restaurant tweeted back at Ovechkin after he posted the photo, writing “Hope you both had a wonderful time!”

Ovechkin said Arnott snagged a photo with the First Lady, too, although he doesn’t have a Twitter account on which to share such things. And Ovi, of course, has had his picture taken with various Russian dignitaries, so he was not cowed by the moment. Obviously.

“Why I have to be nervous?” he asked me.

Teammates, as you’d guess, were mostly not surprised that there was a photo floating around of a goofily-smiling Ovechkin with his arm around the First Lady, because no one in that room seems to be surprised by much of anything that happens to their star.

“That’s just part of the way he is,” Matt Bradley said. “He’s just a happy-go-lucky guy, and he treats everyone the same, and that’s what makes him the kind of person he is .”

“Alex Ovechkin lives large and has fun,” Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog. “So does Nicklas Backstrom. As long as we are winning, I am good to go with it.”

Sunday night’s encounter with Lil Wayne was less of a surprise; a Caps PR person had let the appropriate people know in advance that a bunch of players would be around if Wayne and Drake had a moment to say hi. As usual, Ovechkin was the featured attraction.

“I think [Wayne] knew who Ovi was,”John Carlson told me. “I doubt that he would know who I was. He said, ‘Oh hey, what’s up, you guys are the Capitals, right?’ and he said something to Ovi. I don’t know, I was a little star struck.”

“He knew who Ovi was,” D.J. King confirmed. “He just said ‘Hey Ovi, what’s up.’ He recognized him, which we thought was really cool. Ovi didn’t really even notice that he recognized him — everyone was talking so quick and everything — but we picked up on it. It was cool.”

With Ovechkin now having posted photos of himself with the First Lady, Weezy, DJ Pauly D and Michael Vick in a three-week span, I figured maybe I should ask other members of the team whom their most famous celebrity photo was with. Mike Knuble has a picture of himself with Sly Stallone on his computer, which is tough to top. (Plus, Stallone is holding his fist by Knuble’s jaw.) Eric Fehr has one with Taylor Swift, from before she was famous. Alzner has one with DJ Tiesto, which he got with Ovechkin’s help. Bradley said his would be Pauly D, which means Ovechkin gets another assist. Brooks Laich had to stop and think when I asked him the question.

“Alex Ovechkin,” he said, adding “I’m not really infatuated with all that stuff. (For example, Laich was at the same memorabilia show when Ovechkin met Vick, but he declined a chance to meet the Eagles quarterback.)

I’m not sure if Ovechkin is infatuated, exactly, but it seems pretty clear he enjoys a bit of celebrity stalking. Though the celebrities seem to enjoy him back.

“I think that’s cool; he’s made a name for himself and people love watching him” Carlson said. “So that’s how that stuff happens.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chile President Pinera to ask Obama for Pinochet files

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has said he will formally ask the US for classified intelligence documents on human rights violations during the rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Mr Pinera was speaking a day after US President Barack Obama said he would consider any Chilean requests.

Mr Obama - who was visiting Chile - ducked a request that he apologise for US support for Gen Pinochet.

More than 3,000 Chileans were killed under military rule in 1973-90.

More than 1,000 human rights cases are still unresolved, and hundreds are being investigated by Chile's independent judiciary.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Pinera said his government was "categorically committed to contribute to the search for truth so that justice is done in all of these human rights cases".

"If there is information that a friendly government such as the US can provide to us, that advances the speed and strength of Chilean justice, of course we're going to ask for it," he added.
'Rocky' relations

On Monday Chile's centre-left opposition coalition urged President Obama to apologise for the US role in the coup that brought Gen Pinochet to power.

It also asked him to share uncensored versions of thousands of CIA documents that might shed light on human rights abuses.

Answering questions from journalists, Mr Obama did not respond to the request for an apology, but said he would consider any formal request for information.

He acknowledged that US relations with Latin America had at times been "extremely rocky," but said he could not "speak for all the policies of the past".

"It is important for us to learn from our history, to understand our history, but not be trapped by it," Mr Obama added.

Human rights groups and the Chilean opposition allege the CIA was closely involved in the military coup that overthrew left-wing President Salvador Allende in 1973.

Mr Allende's death as troops attacked the presidential palace - long regarded as suicide - is among the cases currently being investigated.

Mr Pinera is Chile's first conservative president since the end of military rule in 1990.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Obama's health-care push began in Green Bay

The debate over health care kicked off in June when President Barack Obama used Green Bay Southwest High School as the backdrop to announce his vision for what he characterized as much-needed reform.

Congress took one step closer to a final bill on health care Christmas Eve when the Senate voted for an overhaul that would require most Americans to have insurance.

The Senate's bill must still be merged with legislation passed by the House before Obama could sign a final bill, and there are significant differences between the two measures.

The House bill has stricter limits on abortion than the Senate, and unlike the House, the Senate measure omits a government-run insurance option.

But both would expand coverage to millions of Americans who don't have insurance, a significant goal that Obama outlined in his speech in Green Bay.

Using Hobart resident Laura Klitzka's personal struggle with medical bills for her breast cancer treatment as an example, Obama spoke to a 1,500-person crowd in the gymnasium of Southwest High School of the need for insurance reform and expansion of health care to millions of uninsured through a federally regulated national exchange.

Those on both sides of the various bills introduced in Congress over the summer clashed at public venues across the country and here in Northeastern Wisconsin.

Specifically the inclusion of a public option in the insurance exchange concept — a provision later removed in the Senate versions of the legislation — drew criticism from those who portrayed it as leading to government-run health care.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, faced people upset about the proposed reforms at listening sessions and town halls throughout the 8th Congressional District during the August recess. Supporters countered those with pro-reform rallies and gatherings before Congress returned to session.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Obama administration guts 'conscience clause' protection for health workers

The Obama administration has rolled back the "conscience clause" protections for health-care workers that were instituted during the Bush presidency.

The new federal regulations, released on February 18, still protect health-care workers who refuse to be involved in abortions. But the rules do not protect those who refuse to provide contraceptives.

The new regulations will create severe moral dilemmas for health-care workers who believe-- as the Catholic Church teaches-- that the use of contraceptives is gravely wrong. The conflict could be acute in some cases, since the regulations would force health-care workers to dispense contraceptives that function as abortifacients.

Rather than condemning the new rules, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a measured response. Speaking for the bishops' conference, Deirdre McQuade said that the administration's move was "a cause for disappointment, but also offers reasons for hope regarding an emerging consensus in Washington on the need for clear conscience protections for health-care providers." She said that the USCCB would work to expand the "conscience clause" protections.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Obama's budget to target education Pell grants

President Obama's budget Monday will propose cutting $100 billion dollars from the Pell grant program and other higher education programs, but use those savings to ensure that eligible students would be able to receive the current maximum award of $5,500 per school year.

Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Sunday on State of the Union with Candy Crowley that the changes would affect two areas of the Pell grant program.

The proposal calls for the end to the policy where students could qualify for two grants in one year -- one for the regular academic year and a second for summer school. Only one Pell grant per year would be awarded.

According to an Obama administration source, the savings would be $8 billion dollars next year, and $60 billion dollars over 10 years.

Lew said the second change would affect graduate and professional school students, reducing loan subsidies for these students.

Currently the government pays the interest on loans for some graduate and professional school students as long as they remain in school. Under the proposal, interest would build up while students were in school, though students wouldn't have to start paying back loans until after graduation.

By ending this program, the government would save $2 billion next year and $29 billion dollars over 10 years, according to an administration source.

"In education, we invest very seriously to make sure that 9 million students can go to college using Pell grant, to make sure that K-12 education -- we have 100,000 new teachers who are trained and experienced in science, technology, engineering and math," Lew said on State of the Union. "But we also have cutbacks."

In a conference call Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan was asked about cuts in discretionary spending and how that could affect Pell grants. Duncan said the administration is "committed to maintain Pell."

Duncan said the budget would be "responsible" and "makes important investments in education reforms" including early learning, reforms in education and making college affordable.

When asked if more money for race to the top and new initiatives for early learning was realistic, he said he hoped it is. He continued: " The president is making very tough cuts, painful cuts. Pieces of our budget is being hit hard but we have to continue to invest" in education for this country's children.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Taxes under Obama

A comparison of tax bills for 2010, which must be filed this spring, with bills from 2008, the last full year of George W. Bush’s presidency.

■ A married couple with two young children and a combined income of $25,000

Their refund grew by $385 because the Earned Income Tax Credit was made more generous. The credit is refundable, meaning tax filers can receive it even if they didn’t pay any federal taxes.

■ A married couple with two children, including one in college, and a combined income of $50,000

Refund shrank by $500 because in 2008, the family received a $1,500 economic stimulus payment, which was larger than the $800 Making Work Pay credit they received for 2010. Other deductions were more generous in 2010.

■ A single person making $50,000 who paid $2,500 in interest on a student loan

Tax bill was reduced by $63 because the standard deduction and personal exemption increased. They increase most years, based on inflation.

■ A married couple with two children, including one in college, with modest investments and a combined income of $200,000

Tax bill reduced by $780 because the family had $37,000 in itemized deductions for state and local income taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable donations. Limits on such deductions were phased out.

■ A married couple with two children in college, larger investments, and a combined income of $1 million

Tax bill reduced by $6,740 because the family had $110,000 in itemized deductions for state and local income taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable donations. Limits on such deductions were phased out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Health bits: Tips for brushing your teeth

Most of us forget to brush the inner surfaces of our teeth -- the areas the tongue presses against.

But the plaque we can't see is just as important to remove as the plaque we see.

Dentists say the area most neglected is the inner surface of the front teeth.

Also remember the next time you brush your teeth you may actually put old bacteria back in your mouth.

So rinse the toothbrush after you brush to help remove any leftover toothpaste.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five top tips from the late Jack LaLanne

To honor the legacy of American fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who died at the age of 96 on January 23, US fitness and health magazine Self reports on the five essential truths of the "Godfather of Fitness."

LaLanne, a brawny showman who towed boats while swimming handcuffed to encourage Americans to get healthy, brought the concept of daily exercise to the American masses long before it became the norm. He opened what was believed to have been America's first fitness club, in Oakland, California, in 1936. He invented much of the exercise equipment seen in today's gyms, including leg extensions and cable-pulley systems. Jumping jacks? Named after LaLanne himself. Last year, LaLanne released a new book titled Live Young Forever, in which he discussed how he stays healthy and active in his twilight years.

According to Self, the LaLanne legacy includes the following five pointers:

1. Pump iron: When LaLanne came onto the scene, lifting weights was relegated to bodybuilders. "But through his fitness clubs and TV show, he helped Americans realize that strength training isn't just about baby oil and bulging biceps," writes Self. Rather, pumping iron stabilizes joints, boosts metabolism, burns more fat, and keeps you healthier, longer.

2. Eat a high-fiber diet: "What I do today, I am wearing tomorrow," LaLanne once said, reported in the article. "If I put inferior foods in my body today, I'm going to be inferior tomorrow, it's that simple.'"

3. Ladies, this includes you too: Before Jane Fonda, LaLanne was encouraging women to the hit the gym, back when most health clubs catered only to men.

4. Challenge yourself: At age 42, LaLanne did a record 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes. That swim while reportedly towing 10 boats carrying 77 people? LaLanne was 66 years old.

5. Scales are not an accurate measure of fitness: The better gauge is how your clothes fit, how strong and fit you are, and how you feel, cites the magazine.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chiropractic patients learn tips to keeps new year's resolutions

It is about two weeks into new year's resolutions.

According to health experts, it takes about three months for a resolution to become routine.

During that time, there are ways for people to physically prepare their body to make achieving their new year’s fitness goals easier.

Ruth Burlesan-Garigen suffers from muscle pain in her arm, which prevents her from continuing her new year’s resolution to exercise every day with her husband.

To ease the pain, Burlesan-Garigen visits Chiropractor Chris Garner in Murrels Inlet.

“It’s not just cracking your back,” said Burlesan-Garigen. “It’s a whole other realm of chiropractic therapy. He works on different areas of your body to include your mind.”

Garner has a resolution of his own.

He wants to help his patients make 2011 their healthiest year yet.

To do that, Garner hosts health expos.

“In January we always like to educate people on how to stick to the new years resolutions,” said Garner. “We talked to them about their nervous system and the importance of a nervous system and regulating all bodily function. We also talked to them about massage therapy.”

Those forms of therapy, according to Garner, makes exercising feel better.

Health experts say chiropractors help to make sure the nervous system is in check and that the body functions how it is supposed to.

“Often times it does help people to feel better,” Garner said. “And it also does help them to work out as far as allowing your body to move properly. You always want motion in all of your joints.”

Another resolution that is hard to keep is healthier eating.

Emma Ware, a certified nutritionist and clinical homeopath, works with Garner at health seminars to teach patients that making small adjustments in their diets can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

“To feel empowered, you have got to wake up feeling great. If you’re consuming foods that promote a lot of inflammation, or if you’re consuming a lot of foods that make you feel heavy, then you wake up feeling lethargic and you don’t feel well,” said Ware. “Today, there are so many amazing foods that you can choose from that not only help you keep your weight down, but give you energy.”

Burlesan-Garigen keeps those tips in mind so that she can turn her resolution into a routine.

“We don’t want to do it for a month and stop,” said Burlesan-Garigen. “Its not so much about losing weight as it is about the shape your body’s in and getting healthy and fit.”

Garner will host another new year’s resolution seminar next Saturday at the Pepper Geddings Rec Center in Myrtle Beach.

The event is open to the public.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Work Out Tips: How to stay motivated

It’s a new year and a new opportunity to recommit to our health by working out. You feel the motivation right now, but how do you keep it throughout the entire year?

I started working out when I was 23 years old and have kept it up over the years. Here are my top tips for 2011.
1. Make it a priority

One of the most common excuses for not working out is that we are too busy. Admittedly, I’ve used this excuse many times as well and have to catch myself. The goal of working out is tied often to losing weight and looking better. However, when we really pause to think about our physical health, exercise is far from skin deep.

Firstly, research shows that about 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day can boost brain productivity by 30%. So if you are too busy to workout because you have too many things to do back in the office, you are really operating at 70% of your potential. Physical health impacts mental performance.

Secondly, think of your body like the car you can never replace. Your body can either be a barrier or enabler for everything you want to do in life whether it is having enough energy to keep up with the competition at work or hiking up a pyramid in Egypt. Technology brings many digital experiences to our finger tips, yet nothing beats the real McCoy when it comes to full immersion into the things we are most passionate about. Working out is not a guarantee of great health, but it is something we have control over that greatly increases the chances of a healthy future.
2. Assume you are lazy

It takes a lot of effort to work out. Remove as many barriers as possible to getting to the gym, working out at home or getting to a recreational game of hockey. Try to make working out in your daily routine the path of least resistance.

For example, a couple of things I do. On weekends, I will wake up and put on my gym clothes even if I don’t know when I will make it to the gym that day. I also leave my gym bag in the front foyer so if I decide to go, I just have to grab the bag. If I plan to work out after the office, I throw my gym bag into the trunk when driving home, I have the option to go straight to the gym.

As a last resort, if I am not feeling it, I will convince myself I just need to drive to the gym and then drive back to fulfill my obligations to myself. Every time, once I am in the parking lot of the gym, I go in.
3. Know your type

I am the “gym rat” type if it isn’t obvious to you already. I wasn’t born with a lot of athletic ability and I enjoy mentally zoning out when I am working out. I love the pure predictability of an elliptical machine.

I know several of my friends who would be completely bored with my work out regimen. Clint, my partner in crime, enjoys playing hockey and will often trek down to the cold ice rink at 11 pm with what seems like 20 pounds of gear. This would be torture for me.

Find something you enjoy, but also something you can realistically maintain. That is why I like the gym, it is always there for me and I don’t need to plan ahead.
4. Make it social, make it fun

I use Foursquare to check into my local gym every time I visit and have been in a fierce battle with others to maintain my status of mayor of Club One Silver Creek. Today, I finally ousted my arch nemesis, a guy whom I’ve never met, to once again become the reigning mayor.

Yes, it is a silly game. But it is one other way I motivate myself to work out. I know I am competitive and this is a very low effort way to compete with others.

Another thing I do is post my check-ins on Facebook. I doubt my friends and family care that I go to the gym, but for me, the additional amount of imagined peer pressure helps me get to the gym.

Clint, for example, will compete against his previous performance with a “ghost” of himself on the Expresso bikes. Every time he cycles, he tries to beat his current record.
5. Reward yourself

No, not with a large slice of New York cheese cake (which happens to be one of my favorite desserts). Reward yourself with new clothing and work out gear. Some gyms have even started a point reward system. Club One has WellPower which I have signed up for. It rewards points for each visit towards merchandise and guest passes. I think more insurance companies and employers should also start up such programs.

What you reward is important as well. Focus on the good habits of working out, not on the scale of losing x number of pounds.

The problem with focusing on an outcome in this case is that:

* if you achieve it, you feel you have accomplished the goal and stop working out.
* if you don’t achieve it, you feel like a failure.

Unfortunately, health is a lifelong journey, not a destination. I know, corny isn’t it. It is more about forming good habits, not aiming for a particular “number” goal. The good news about this is that missing a day here or eating a dessert there is okay. What matters is what you do over the long-term.