Monday, August 31, 2009

GOP bill gets private Charlotte hearing

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 5:39 PM

Sept. 1, Sen. Richard Burr is hosting a big meeting on health care in Charlotte, and you’re not invited. Unless you’re a Carolinas Medical Center employee or one of the elite “special guests,” you won’t get to hear Burr, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John McCain, talk about the GOP’s proposal for health care reform, aka the “Snowball’s Chance In Hell Bill” — OK, it’s actually the Patients Choice Act.

Why McCain? Because the GOP bill is based on McCain’s health care proposal during the 2008 presidential campaign. Why McConnell? He needed to get out of town after losing the Men Who Look Like Turtles competition in his home state of Kentucky.

The Patients Choice Act allows employees to keep the same insurance when they change jobs. Trouble is, it also does away with employer subsidies for providing health care, so under this plan, you can probably forget about getting health insurance through work anymore. The bill also offers up to $5,700 per family to buy health insurance, which sounds good until you realize that health insurance rose to $12,680 annually for family coverage in 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Besides those problems, the GOP bill would still leave over 30 million of Americans uninsured, and does nothing to lower health care spending.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. tomorrow at Carolinas Medical Center.

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The remake mistake

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 5:28 PM

Is there no one left in Hollywood with an original thought in their head? Be on the lookout for an unfortunate influx of classic movie remakes coming soon to a theater near you for your viewing displeasure. It was bad enough that some film studio outfit sullied the legacy of one of my favorites, Dirty Dancing, with that dreadful Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights a few years back, but now I hear they are at it again, and an actual remake of the film is now in the works. Sigh … please, please let’s leave Baby in the corner where we left her 22 years ago.

No doubt the popularity of reality shows such as Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance is contributing to this lapse of judgment by these studio execs. But if they think this remake will have them swiveling their hips to the sounds of blockbuster cash rolling in like it did for the original flick starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey back in 1987, or that it could possibly take hold and never let go of a generation of blossoming adolescents in remotely the same way … well, let’s just say they will most certainly NOT be having the time of their lives.

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DVD Pick: Brother John

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 4:37 PM


For those who are devotees of film, or in this case, film acting, or deeper still, minimalist acting 101, check out Brother John, a 1971 film starring Sidney Poitier as John Kane.

Kane returns to a sleepy, racist Alabama town due to the death of his sister after being gone for a long time. Kane’s stoic yet enigmatic presence upsets and offsets the status quo of the town. John is branded a “troublemaker” just because of who he is. Coincidentally, at the same time, the local African-American townspeople are up in arms and protesting the unfair working practices at the local plant.

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Festival of India coming this weekend

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 4:05 PM


You don’t have to go all the way to India to celebrate its culture. In fact, Festival of India, held Uptown in the Q.C. this Sat., Sept 5 and Sun., Sept. 6, offers you a much cheaper alternative. The festival features arts and crafts, music and dancing, exhibits, and of course, authentic cuisine. If you’re like me and you love Indian food, this is the place to be — a variety of tasty treats from Indian restaurants in Charlotte and the surrounding area will be available for purchase (and eating!). $5 for admission; free for children under 10 years old. Festival starts at 12 p.m. Held at Belk Theater, which is located at 130 N. Tryon St.

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Best bets in Charlotte comedy this week, Aug. 31-Sept. 6

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 3:37 PM

As the headline suggests, here are a few of the best places to find comedy events in Charlotte — from stand-up to improv to sketch comedy and more. For a complete listing of all comedy visit

Tuesday, Sept. 1

* Taboo Tuesday Stand-up Open Mic at 9 p.m.

Stand-up Comedy Open Mic. This show is Rated R. No content or language restrictions. Last call for comics to sign-up is at 9:30 p.m. All comics get 5 minutes.

SK Net Café ~ 1425 Elizabeth Ave. ~ $2

* Comedian Matt Davis at 8 p.m. Stand-up comedy with nationally touring comedian Matt Davis. Lake Norman Comedy Zone in Galway Hooker Pub ~ 17044 Kenton Dr., Cornelius ~ 704-995-2658 ~ $10

Wednesday, Sept. 2

* Laugh Out Loud Wednesdays Stand-Up Open Mic at 8:30 p.m.

Hosted by Tasha Renee. Music by DJ Infinite.

Situations Lounge ~ 7801 University City Blvd. ~ Free before 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 3

* Stand-Up Comedy at Gastonia Comedy Zone at 8 p.m.

Featuring nationally touring stand-up comedian Johnny Millwater.

Jack Rabbit's ~ 1225 Union Rd. ~ 704-864-1966 ~ $10

Friday, Sept. 4

* Stand-up Comedy at Alive in NoDa at 8 p.m.

Stand-up comedy with nationally touring comedian Matt Davis and DT Owens.

Alive ~ 2909 N. Davidson St. ~ 704-930-2200 ~ $15

Saturday, Sept. 5

* Robot Johnson Sketch Comedy at 10 p.m.

Good humor by bad people. Funny at the Binary Level. Charlotte's premiere sketch comedy troupe delights us with this epic show.

Carolina Actors Studio Theatre ~ 1118 Clement St. ~ 704-455-8542 ~ $10

* Stand-up Comedy at Alive in NoDa at 8 p.m.

Stand-up comedy with nationally touring comedian Matt Davis and DT Owens.

Alive ~ 2909 N. Davidson St. ~ 704-930-2200 ~ $15

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Insurance companies ration care

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 1:25 PM

The spin phrase an insurance industry executive used in a recent New York Times article is "controlling utilization."

The article, ultimately, was about the insurance industry's workers licking their wounds after bearing the brunt of what they feel are unfair attacks by health care reform advocates.

So, I'll ask you to do this: The next time you pay $1,000 for a test your doctor ordered -- on top of the thousands you and your employer already pay in premiums each year; the next time your pharmacy tells you the insurance company won't pay for a full prescription (oh, and that'll be $150); the next time you receive a bill from your doctor's office when you though your bill was covered ...

Go easy on the sweet innocents at the insurance company. They're just trying to protect their triple didget profits so their CEO can get that jet he's been lusting after and so the company's shareholders will stay off their back.

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Mecklenburg County, time to go shopping in South Carolina

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 12:33 PM

Say what you want to say about South Carolina's poor choice of governor, but come tomorrow, it's going to be a lot cheaper to go shop at Wal-Mart in Fort Mill or Rock Hill than any of the 500 locations in Mecklenburg County or anywhere else in North Carolina.

Thanks to Gov. Bev Perdue, our poor choice of a governor, and the General Assembly, there is a new sales tax going into effect Sept. 1.

According to the Charlotte Observer, this is supposed to be a temporary fix for the state's poor economy.

The tax hike, passed by the N.C. legislature this summer, is expected to raise $803.5 million.

It is supposed to expire in 2011. However, a 2001 sales tax increase characterized as “temporary” is still in effect.

Basically, Mecklenburg County is now overtaxed. And with all of the job loss in this area, people running out of unemployment benefits, this is something we can't afford.

The drinkers and smokers are going to pay too. But guess who drinks and smokes more than anyone else -- poor, stressed out people who are worried about their money. Lawmakers seem to forget that you can't collect sales tax if people aren't buying things and that's what we should start doing around the state, stop buying things  -- especially here in the great state of Mecklenburg.

It would be different if the state gave Charlotte its due. But drive down (or up) any road the state is supposed to upkeep and your car tires will tell you that the state is holding out on us. So this "temporary" sales tax is supposed to do what? Break those of us who are already broke?

Maybe it's time skip the N.C. sales tax racket and head to South Carolina to buy groceries, clothes and other items that are just too much here and see how well this increased sales tax works for the state then.

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TV torture talk

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 11:30 AM

The Sunday talking-heads news shows became venues for wrangling over torture yesterday. First, former VP Dick Cheney spoke with FoxNews’ Chris “I Love You Man” Wallace, in a fawning interview that Atlantic magazine blogger Andrew Sullivan says was “like a teenage girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers.” During the interview, Cheney let the world know that Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation of CIA torturers “offends the hell out of me,” to which you really want to reply, “Good, because you and your insane policies offended the hell out of most of the world for eight long, torturous years. What goes around, etc, etc.”

Next up, on CBS, Sen. John McCain — hardly a leftwing softie — said the use of torture not only doesn’t work, it violates international law and actually helps al-Qaeda recruit new members. McCain is opposed to Holder’s investigation, saying it would hurt CIA “morale and effectiveness,” but reiterated his story of a conversation he and Sen. Lindsey Graham had with an imprisoned "high-ranking member of al Qaeda," who told them that pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib had helped his organization "recruit thousands of young men."

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Is pot the cure for cancer?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 11:26 AM

Um. We'll see. For now, here's some promising science for pot smokers to rejoice over: The same doctor who concluded that marijuana was toxic in the '70s now says it may cause malignant cells to die instead of multiply. (Translated: It may make cancer go away.)

How did that happen? Well, he took a second look. He was actually trying to prove that ganja causes cancer when his research proved otherwise.

To that we say: Puff puff pass, don't be a Bogart.

One in three Americans will be afflicted with cancer, we are told by the government (as if it’s our immutable fate and somehow acceptable). Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. and lung cancer the leading killer among cancers.

You’d think it would have been very big news in June 2005 when UCLA medical school professor Donald Tashkin reported that components of marijuana smoke -- although they damage cells in respiratory tissue -- somehow prevent them from becoming malignant. In other words, something in marijuana exerts an anti-cancer effect!

Tashkin has special credibility. He was the lead investigator on studies dating back to the 1970s that identified the components in marijuana smoke that are toxic. It was Tashkin et al. who published photomicrographs showing that marijuana smoke damages cells lining the upper airways. It was the Tashkin lab’s finding that benzpyrene -- a component of tobacco smoke that plays a role in most lung cancers -- is especially prevalent in marijuana smoke. It was Tashkin’s data showing that marijuana smokers are more likely than non-smokers to cough, wheeze, and produce sputum.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, which supported Tashkin’s marijuana-related research over the decades, readily gave him a grant in 2002 to conduct a large, population-based, case-controlled study that would prove definitively that heavy, long-term marijuana use increases the risk of lung and upper-airways cancers.

What Tashkin and his colleagues found, however, disproved their hypothesis. (Tashkin is to marijuana as a cause of lung cancer what Hans Blix was to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction -- an honest investigator who set out to find something, concluded that it wasn’t there, and reported his results.)

Tashkin’s team interviewed 1,212 cancer patients from the Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance program, matched for age, gender, and neighborhood with 1,040 cancer-free controls. Marijuana use was measured in “joint years” (number of years smoked times number of joints per day).

It turned out that increased marijuana use did not result in higher rates of lung and pharyngeal cancer, whereas tobacco smokers were at greater risk the more they smoked. Tobacco smokers who also smoked marijuana were at slightly lower risk of getting lung cancer than tobacco-only smokers.

As to the highly promising implication of his own study –that something in marijuana stops damaged cells from becoming malignant— Tashkin noted that an anti-proliferative effect of THC has been observed in cell-culture systems and animal models of brain, breast, prostate, and lung cancer. THC has been shown to promote apoptosis (damaged cells die instead of reproducing) and to counter angiogenesis (the process by which blood vessels are formed —a requirement of tumor growth). Other antioxidants in cannabis may also be involved in countering malignancy, said Tashkin.

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I was gonna write something else, but then I got high ...

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Where are our off-shore wind turbines?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 11:25 AM

President Obama: When I go to my childhood vacation spot, Gulfshores, Ala., I'm now forced to look at oil rigs. I think your friends in the Northeast can deal with a few wind turbines.

You promised us off-shore wind turbines, now get to it.

Reporting from Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and Washington -- For at least one more summer, vacationers on Martha's Vineyard won't be able to gaze across the water and see, far off on the horizon, the churning blades of offshore wind turbines -- no matter how badly the island's most famous current vacationer would like.

President Obama, now summering on the Massachusetts island with his family, is still at least a year away from seeing turbines take root anywhere off the U.S. coast, even though his administration promised to make offshore wind a priority and developers are lining up to string wind farms up and down the Atlantic seaboard.

His administration, delayed by controversy and red tape, has yet to grant a single permit for wind or solar development on public land, onshore or off.

More from The L.A. Times.

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