Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Good news: the Senate voted 60-40, pretty much along party lines, to extend jobless benefits to millions of people unemployed for more than six months, according to the Washington Post. Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted, pretty much along party lines, to send Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, according to the Washington Post. If she gains the approval of the Senate as she is expected to do, Kagan will become the 4th woman nominated to the highest court of the land.  

Have a healthcare question for U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius? You may post it at the MomsRising website.

The Texas Tribune ran an article on how fewer Mexican students are applying to border universities like the University of Texas in El Paso in favor of colleges further north like the University of Texas in Austin.

E-book sales are already outnumbering hardback book sales at Amazon, according to the New York Times. Also in the New York Times: small businesses are turning to health insurance plans with fewer doctors to choose from as a way to cut costs.  

The Momologie newsletter offered these natural remedies to remove stains from clothes:

• Hydrogen peroxide based products and non-chlorine bleach can help keep things really white without the noxious fumes. We also love Borax for keeping whites, white.
• Drying out in the sun has a wonderful bleaching effect on clothes. Boost the results by adding lemon juice to the rinse cycle.
• If you have hard water, which can yellow your clothes, add vinegar to your rinse water.

What other tricks do you have up your sleeve?

Non-Toxic Kids ran a guest post on how to keep your baby safe in the summer heat. In case you missed it, Kellogg’s had a massive cereal recall, including 28 million boxes of Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks, for a petroleum-based compound in the packaging. Katy Farber, editor of Non-Toxic Kids, has the details.  

Finally, congrats to Argentina for becoming the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage, according to the Huffington Post.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Hybrid Mom magazine wrote an interesting review of the book The War On Moms. Who, but a privileged few, can’t relate to this:

(Sharon) Lerner’s stories have convinced us there really is a war on moms—or at least a disregard for them. The mom to a special needs baby whose supervisor wouldn’t give her three weeks off, so she was forced to quit; the mother who cannot cover the cost of daycare and scrambles every morning for family members or friends who can watch her daughter; the daycare administrators who cannot keep skilled providers at their centers—which are filled with 20 children to every employee—because it doesn’t pay enough.

It’s these stories, woven with facts and stats, that tell us that the system is clearly broken. When we hear about Sweden’s drool-worthy maternal program and the fact that a Croatian immigrant would rather return to her country for its more-substantial mother and infant care—we know something’s wrong.

It sounds like Lerner’s book offers suggestions, too, like a program in New Mexico that offers some mothers financial assistance to stay home with their children. Hillary Clinton proposed a similar program on the national level. But that hasn’t gone anywhere, and childcare subsidies are actually being cut in the current recession.

It does sometimes feel like this country is setting up mothers to fail, huh? The comments in the Hybrid Mom thread were thoughtful, too.

My friend, Peggy Reskin, wrote about empty-nest syndrome now that her 26-year-old daughter and boyfriend moved out of the house. ran videos of members of Congress answering commonly asked questions about healthcare reform such as the provision allowing young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, coverage for moms with postpartum depression and other mental health issues, and coverage for special needs children.

The post office, which is barely holding on in the recession, plans to increase postage stamps to 46 cents in January, according to the Associated Press.

My apologies for not being active in the threads this weekend. I am in Tahoe with DH and the kids, as Markos is doing death ride this weekend.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Healthcare Reform and Children with Pre-existing Conditions

Our Desmoinesdem has been covering this issue in the diaries, so I thought I would follow up. MomsRising just unveiled a website on “How will healthcare reform affect my family?”

Here is what it said in terms of covering kids:

• This year, insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse to pay for treatment of children’s pre-existing conditions.
• This year, health care plans will allow young people to remain on their parents’ insurance policy up until their 26th birthday, as long as they are not eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.
• This year, insurance companies will be banned from dropping people from coverage when they get sick, and they will be banned from implementing lifetime caps on coverage.

Unfortunately, Desmoinesdem is right that insurance companies will be allowed to discriminate against people, including children, with pre-existing conditions until 2014. Then that unethical practice will be banned.

Here are other perks that will kick in 2014:

• Families and children with moderate incomes (up to about $88,000 for a family of four) will be able to get help paying for health insurance coverage for the first time.
• State insurance exchanges will enforce minimum benefit standards for health insurance coverage.
• All new health insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses will cover maternity and newborn care.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Thank you all for the compassionate advice on my sister. I vented, I took it all in, and then I took it down. I am grateful for this community.

Nine high school students in Massachusetts have been charged for bullying a girl who eventually committed suicide, according to the Associated Press. Surprisingly, school officials will not face charges, even though they knew of the bullying.

The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has launched a sex abuse hotline to document all allegations of sexual abuse by priests, according to BBC News. So far, “hundreds” of people have come forward to say they were abused by priests as children between the 1950s and 1980s.  

I really do wish the new health care law’s stipulation on pre-existing conditions took effect right away. Here is a tragic story about a newborn baby in Texas being denied healthcare coverage due to a heart defect. Death panels, anyone?

Here is an hilarious Bloomberg story on tea party activists. They want government out of their lives, but want it to create jobs, reign in Wall Street bonuses, and continue to dole out medicare and social security. Okay.

The Environmental Protection Agency listed bisphenol-A, or BPA, which is found in hard shiny plastic products, as a “chemical of concern,” according to the Washington Post.

Yahoo! listed five jobs that are flexible and offer at least $40K in pay.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Here are more death threats, vandalism and violence unleashed by tea party activists in light of the passage of healthcare reform, according to Oy.

A federal court ruled in favor of a high school lesbian whose constitutional rights were violated when her school’s prom was cancelled to keep her from bringing her girlfriend and wearing a tuxedo, according to The Huffington Post.

Due to budget cuts, the University of California Commission on the Future is considering a number of proposals, including offering three-year Bachelor’s degrees and doubling their number of out-of-state students, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hybrid Mom ran a column on how to make mom friends. Hint: the park with running toddlers is not always the best place to hold a conversation with someone.

If you need another reason to quit smoking, a report from the Royal College of Physicians in the UK just found that 165,000 children in the UK got asthma, chest infections and ear problems because they were exposed to secondhand smoke by their parents, according to the Guardian.

In other health news, AP ran a story on the role that exercise and a healthy diet may play in preventing breast cancer.

A mom at Mamapedia wrote a column on how to get your kid to eat healthy foods as well as healthy comebacks at the school lunch table to trump peer pressure.

Women’s Day listed 8 foods that combat stress: dark chocolate, skim milk, oatmeal, salmon, walnuts, sunflower seeds, spinach and blueberries.

This is disturbing. College students are now smoking a synthetic, but legal, version of marijuana that has sent one user into a coma, according to CNN.

I am having a relaxing two-day girls’ weekend in Texas with high school friends. My apologies in advance for not checking my e-mail or the blog. I will be back at my desk on Monday. Have a good weekend all!


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. He was shot before giving the Eucharist at a mass by right-wing death squads because he often railed against poverty and oppression of the poor during his homilies. He is a revered figure in Latin America, and someone my husband names as a personal role model on his website. I was sad to learn on a Daily Show news clip that certain members of the Texas State Board of Education had him stricken from the social studies curriculum. Here is the news clip on it and a wonderful homage to Archbishop Romero on Jim Wallis’s God’s Politics blog.

In somewhat related news, the Texas State Board of Education also gave preliminary approval last week to replacing the word “capitalism” with “free enterprise” in school textbooks, according to the Austin American Statesman.

I have to say, I am loving the Democratic Party lately. In addition to the passage of healthcare reform, the Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill to give needy students Pell grants as opposed to private loans, according to the New York Times.  

The Washington Post ran a sad “trend” story about separated couples who must live together because they cannot afford to divorce.

Twelve states plan to sue over the recent healthcare reform bill President Obama signed into law yesterday, according to Business Week. The states’ attorneys claim the law will place additional burdens on their already tight budgets. Those states are Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Call your governor’s offices, ladies!

Octomom Nadya Suleman is back in the news again. This time, she has fallen behind $450,000 on the mortgage and may lose the house, according to TMZ.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

In the aftermath of the passing of an historic healthcare reform bill on Sunday, I am relieved that those legislators who passed the bill are holding their own — and are safe. Seriously, it is scary out there. I read a lot of hateful, racist rhetoric in the comments section of the blogs. A message board at the sweet land of MomsRising had message after message ranting against coverage for “illegals.” Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of Texas was called a “wetback” and told to “go back to Mexico” for his support of healthcare reform, according to the Plum Line blog. I can’t help but think this is the Vietnam War of our time, that we have to brace ourselves until the nasty storm passes. Gah!

In the meantime, Kaiser Health News had a helpful question and answer page on what the new health care reform bill means for the uninsured, the insured and everyone in between. Yes, the facts — what a concept!

In other news: the U.S. Supreme Court refused to listen to a case, in which a student was prohibited from playing an instrumental version of “Ave Maria” at her high school graduation, according to the Associated Press. The lower courts said it violated the separation of church and state, while conservative Supreme Court Judge Samuel Alito viewed it as censorship.  

First Lady Michelle Obama wrote a column for Newsweek about the causes of childhood obesity and what parents can do about it.

In celebrity gossip: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and four of their children were recently spotted having a playdate with Johnny Depp, his partner Vanessa Paradis and their two children at Depp’s home in Venice, Italy, according to MSN Wonderwall.

Guess what? Ari is riding a two-wheeler now! I have to take some pictures. While he was learning with Papi on Sunday, lazy Mami was napping. :)

How old were your kids when they learned to ride a two-wheeler? What’s up with you? What else is in the news?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, one more reminder that the MomsRising event at the Wal-Mart in Oakland originally scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) is now cancelled.

President Barack Obama unveiled a trillion-dollar healthcare plan to “provide coverage to more than 31 million Americans now uninsured without adding to the federal deficit,” according to the Associated Press. The plan would require most Americans to purchase health insurance and does not include a Medicare-like public option. What do you think of the plan?

Here is a cute People story about a Wisconsin couple that got married while the wife was in labor with their first child. All I gotta say is I hope she had an epidural. If it were me, I would be like “f**#@!” I mean, “I do!” Maybe. No seriously, I wish this couple well. Congrats to them.

In a March primary, Texas voters will have the chance to choose representatives on the state board of education and shape school curriculum for the next four years. Based on this San Antonio Express-News article, it sounds like the social conservatives are dangerously close to stripping evolution from the science curriculum and eliminating certain historical figures from social studies classes. Yikes! What do you moms in Texas think?

I am sorry, but the photo of the 67-year-old with a huge bong in this Associated Press story cracked me up. Apparently, marijuana use among seniors is on the rise now that the baby boomers are aging.

Please excuse my cougar moment, but have you caught Robert Pattinson’s new do? Here is a Huffington Post photo of it. Personally, I think he looks good both ways.  

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, a good Disney rant. Out of nostalgia, my husband recently ordered the kids a few Disney movies from the 1990s: A Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. I did not know this, but Disney releases its classics every so often to maintain their value, so the movies can be hard to find. We ordered the movies from different vendors online, and so far, have only received A Little Mermaid.

Anyways, after all these years, my husband and I — and now the kids! — love A Little Mermaid. We watched it at least two times this weekend and sang along. Then DH and I got into a discussion on what the hell happened to Disney. They used to make such great movies and if it weren’t for Pixar their animated films would suck. Then the credits of A Little Mermaid started rolling and I realized I did not recognize a single name from the credits. Back then, they had no big-name celebrities doing the acting — just really kick-ass singers, and of course, catchy tunes. This is just an observation…What do you all think?

In case you missed it, Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha died yesterday after complications from gall bladder surgery, according to the Associated Press. He was 77.

Newsweek ran a good story on how young people are most likely than any other group to be uninsured and most likely to support healthcare reform. If the Dems don’t deliver on their campaign promise to insure them, they may not show up to the polls in November. Also from Newsweek: Anna Quindlen — I love her! — wrote some great food for thought in an article about protesting teabaggers and President Barack Obama. I especially appreciated her succinctness in describing the contradictory nature of the American electorate:

Over and over again some Americans say they want lower taxes and smaller government. Yet somehow, in a recurrent bit of magical thinking, they also expect those things that taxes are used to pay for and that government delivers. The result is contradictory: vote down the school-board budget, then complain that Johnny can’t read.

Another political buzzword, “productivity,” has come to stand for the proposition that you can always do more with less. There’s little evidence that that’s accurate. And it’s hard to believe that even the most zealous tea-party types would shrug philosophically if a bunch of kids died of E. coli because we hadn’t hired enough food inspectors. The old dictum stands: you get what you pay for.

MSN Careers doled out advice on what not to include in a resume.

Here is more on the children who were temporarily in the care of Baptist missionaries now in detention, according to the Associated Press.

Retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, who was responsible for the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, has changed his position, according to the Washington Post. He said that attitudes towards gays and lesbians have changed so they should be allowed to serve openly.

Here is a disturbing story out of India. India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and about 40 percent are adolescents, according to CNN. The culprit? Academic pressure.

Damn, these are some good genes. Juana Rodriguez, of Havana, Cuba, turned 125 years old today, according to the Agence France-Presse. (The article is in Spanish.) She has six grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. Can you imagine??

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Special Election Open Thread

I am off to a memorial service for a friend’s mother so I am posting this early today.

I admit, I have not gotten involved in the Massachusetts race at all. I didn’t make calls or donate any money. In light of the healthcare fiasco and all the uncertainty around that issue, which is dear to my heart, I am afraid I am suffering from a bout of outrage fatigue and need to check out of politics for a while. I actually hung up on the Democratic National Committee today when they called to ask for money. Once again, I told them I would donate to and to please remove me from their list.

I am just so upset at how little the Democrats have accomplished with super majorities in the house and senate. If the tables were turned, the Republicans would have passed so much (bad) legislation just because they could. We were so focused on bipartisanship and pleasing a small group of so-called moderates that we got nothing done. It’s time to challenge some of these Dems in the primaries and start over with a clean slate of candidates.

Okay, I am getting of my soapbox now and letting you all debate tonight’s senatorial election in Massachusetts amongst yourselves. Here is a Boston Globe article on the record turnout for this special election. The polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

Of course, if you are suffering from outrage fatigue, too, you can discuss other stuff. Enjoy!