Friday, August 01, 2014

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THIS CONGRESS
SHOULD BE IMPEACHED
FOR NOT DOING THE
WILL OF THE PEOPLE!

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Who knew?
There really ARE differences between the brains of liberals and the brains of conservatives!




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I mean it--
STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!

Pilot to Air Traffic Controller
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What Happened When an Extremist, Christian Fundamentalist Got to Run a Whole State

Hint: nothing good.

 
Liberals throughout the land breathed a sigh of relief when Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas stepped down in 2008 and later decided to run for governor. Yes, the nation's gain was a loss for the good people of Kansas, but Brownback's special brand of right-wing fundamentalism was so extreme that many felt it was better to try to contain him in a single state rather than inflict him on the whole of the country. Judging from the four years he's been in charge of that unfortunate state, their concerns were well-founded.

This should come as no surprise. His tenure in the Senate was characterized by his righteous absolutism and entirely predictable ultra-conservative vote. There was no tax cut he did not back or military adventure he wasn't in favor of. He voted to impeach President Clinton and even took the unusual step of decrying the immorality of the American public for failing to be properly outraged. But it was in the realm of culture and religion where he made his mark.

Once a devout evangelical Protestant, Brownback converted to Catholicism later in life. (His chief of staff at the time was none other than Congressman Paul Ryan, who is credited with counseling him in his conversion.) In the Senate he took up the banner of the culture war, even chairing a Senate group called the Values Action Team which included such conservative activist groups as Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Right to Life Committee, where he and fellow right-wing senators plotted their strategy for taking America back to the Dark Ages. He was so doctrinaire he even refused to vote for a particular judicial candidate because she had once attended a lesbian commitment ceremony. (She didn't officiate or participate; she merely attended.) For the two terms he served in the Senate he was a ferocious culture warrior.

But he wasn't always so intensely focused on the decadence and moral dissipation of modern American life. When he first ran for congress in the mid-'90s he was considered a moderate Kansas Republican like Eisenhower. But a tough campaign against an opponent backed by well-organized right-to-life zealots converted him to an evangelical culture warrior and Republican revolutionary so committed to cutting taxes and shrinking government one profiler said he even gave Newt Gingrich "the willies."

He became leader of a House group called the New Federalists which devoted itself to the dismantling of the government one brick at a time. Fortunately, they were unable to pass their ambitious agenda so they instead became the far-right's hitmen, pioneering the use of hard-core obstructionist tactics to paralyze the government. They were the faction agitating the hardest for a government shutdown in 1995, pushing Gingrich to his most obstreperous limits (and setting the stage for his precipitous fall from grace). Joe Scarborough famously quoted Brownback telling him not to be disillusioned by the PR disaster that ensued, saying "Rome wasn't burnt in a day."

His far-right fiscal bona fides solidly demonstrated, Brownback turned his attention to social issues when he ran for the Senate in 1996 at the height of the religious right's growing clout in the GOP. He spent the next 12 years as a hardcore fiscal conservative but more importantly, as a far-right Christian crusader, sometimes fashioning himself as a "Wilberforce" conservative (after the British anti-slavery activist) comparing abolition of slavery to his determination to ban abortion. He's been closely associated for years with the secretive Christian fellowship group known as the Family.

By the time he tried to run for president in 2008, he appeared to be perfect conservative candidate. Unfortunately, the anticipated groundswell didn't materialize and he dropped out before the primaries. But he did participate in the early debates and was memorably one of the three (with Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo) who raised his hand to declare he did not believe in evolution.

Evidently, he really wanted an executive position, so he set his sights on the governor's seat in Kansas and in the Tea Party wave of 2010, won decisively. Brownback's Kansas has turned out to be a perfect petrie dish for every right-wing policy proposal he's championed for the past 20 years. With a Republican legislature and a strong mandate, he quickly established his tenure as the right-wing experiment to end all experiments. The results are in and they are amazing. And not in a good way.

Unlike other Tea Party governors around the nation who have tried out a handful of their more extreme policies, Brownback went for broke. First he and his Koch brother allies (they are Kansas homeboys too, you'll recall) engineered a full-blown Tea Party takeover of the legislature with a well-funded primary strategy in 2012. It is now the most conservative legislature in the nation (and that's saying something considering how conservative Republican legislatures have become). In their minds, they are on a mission from God.

He went after the teachers' union, in one particularly clever move creating what he called "innovation zones" which allow districts to circumvent existing state law regarding curriculum and teacher salaries. He slashed education funding, including cutting the arts programs entirely. He privatized Medicaid. (It goes without saying refused the Medicaid expansion under the ACA.) He defunded Planned Parenthood and signed one of the most far reaching anti-abortion laws in the land, declaring that life begins at "fertilization" and forcing the last remaining Kansas providers to read an anti-abortion script filled with frightening misinformation to women seeking the procedure.  (He doesn't even try to hide his religious motives—he wrote the words Jesus + Mary on top of the bill when he signed it.)

Gun legislation has been similarly extreme. Adopting the language of the 10th Amendment fetishists, they managed to pass what they called the Second Amendment Protection Act, a thoroughly useless piece of legislation declaring that the state of Kansas does not have to observe federal gun laws under its "sovereign" status. This last April, Brownback signed the "CLEO Shall Sign and Comprehensive Preemption legislation" which, among other things, prohibits all county and municipal initiative to regulate firearms and ammunition. So much for the vaunted small government, local control portion of the conservative program.

All of this was to be expected from Sam Brownback. But the results of his equally fundamentalist approach to economics has made a lot of people stand up and take notice. First and foremost, he slashed taxes to the bone. Well, not for everyone. The Center on Budget and policy priorities shows how that tax cut has been distributed:
And he cut spending, especially for education, as far as the eye can see:
(Of course, Governor Brownback is a huge proponent of religious home schooling so this is killing two birds with one stone.)
His economic mentor and top adviser, the thoroughly discredited inventor of supply-side economics, Arthur Laffer, explained the game plan back in 2012 this way:
Laffer told more than 200 people at a small-business forum at Johnson County Community College that there is a war among states over tax policy and that nowhere is that revolution more powerful than in Kansas. He said Kansas’ tax cuts and political shifts will produce “enormous prosperity” for the state.
How's that working out? Well, last May this happened:
Moody’s Investors Service dropped Kansas from its second-highest bond rating, Aa1, to its third highest, Aa2. The Kansas Department of Transportation also took the same downgrade.

“The downgrade reflects Kansas’ relatively sluggish recovery compared with its peers, the use of non-recurring measures to balance the budget, revenue reductions resulting from tax cuts which have not been fully offset by recurring spending cuts, and an underfunded retirement system for which the state is not making required contributions,” the report said.
And that's not all. This graph shows what's the matter with Kansas in 2014 in red, white and blue:
As Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times pointed out, if the last few years have shown anything, it's that draconian spending cuts inhibit economic growth while preservation of the services that businesses and workers require to thrive enable it. He cites the example of California where Gov. Jerry Brown successfully raised taxes once the recession was over. As you can see above, California's job growth and prosperity is now leading the nation.

Yes, the citizens of Kansas voted in this right-wing wrecking crew, but it must be remembered that there was a whole lot of help from the deep pockets of native sons Charles and David Koch, who wanted to demonstrate once and for all how well their libertarian economic ideas would work if only they were given a chance. Unlike their counterparts in DC, they didn't have to deal with a Democratic usurper in the Governor's Mansion—they had a true believer leading the way and full rein to see their ideology put to the test.

Their problem now is not because they are seen as the Party of No, or that they are using obstructionist tactics that offend the sensibilities of those who seek a nice bipartisan consensus. These Republicans got everything they wanted. Governor Brownback's approval rating is unsurprisingly in the dirt and he is in grave anger of losing re-election. Another nail in his coffin was pounded in last week when more than 100 current and former Republican officials endorsed Brownback's Democratic opponent, citing the failure of his economic program and the extreme nature of his overall agenda.

Just as other races in the country are reflecting the fight between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party wing, Kansas will be a battleground in the fall for the latest fight for the soul of the Republican Party. But this time it isn't just about race or the culture war or bad political tactics. This one is about all of that to be sure. But this time the Koch brothers' libertarian economic dream agenda has been enacted and it's on the ballot. If America wants to see what the country will look like if the Brownback wing of the GOP manages to get its way nationally, they only need to look at Sam Brownback's Kansas—a disaster on every level.

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Heather Digby Parton is a writer also known as Digby. Her political and cultural observations can be found at www.digbysblog.blogspot.com.

Photo: _MÆ

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Photo: The Voices Are Telling Her To Run In 2016

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Hey, Republicans!

You're so protective of the UNBORN...

Why not embrace the children
ALREADY HERE

and languishing at our borders?

C'mon, REPUBLICANS,
be modern-day HEROES!

EMBRACE THE CHILDREN!

Dot Calm
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Photo

Photo: $1.2 Trillion in Corporate Welfare Lurks In the U.S. Budget @EricByler via @Politics_PR

Photo: Republicans Long For The 'Good Old Days' Of Unregulated Capitalism...

"The courts have to get this right"
...that didn't stop SCOTUS from making a ruling based on "sincerely-believed" misinformation in the case of Hobby Lobby....


Did Courts Just Gut Obamacare? There's More to This Story Than You Think

Two federal appeals courts. Two opposite rulings Tuesday. Stay tuned.

AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

July 22, 2014  |  The right-wing war on Obamacare reached a new plateau Tuesday, with two different federal appeals courts issuing opposing rulings—one killing and one upholding the billions of dollars in subsidies that lower the cost of health insurance that 4.5 million people bought on federal government websites in 36 states.

The legal roller coaster began with a 2-1 ruling by a U.S. District Court of Appeals panel in Washington, D.C.. That panel, dominated by conservative judges, held that the subsidies—which are paid by the federal government to insurers to make the policies more affordable—can be granted only to those people who bought insurance in state-run exchanges or in the District of Columbia, but not through the federal government’s HealthCare.gov.

“Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states,” wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph for the majority. “At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.”

But then several hours later, another federal appeals court panel in Virginia reached the opposite conclusion, and unanimously upheld the same provisions in the health law that allows the federal government to issue the insurance subsidies.

“Having examined the plain language and context of the most relevant statutory sections, the context and structure of related provisions, and the legislative history of the Act, we are unable to say definitively that Congress limited the premium tax credits to individuals living in states with state-run Exchanges,” Judge Roger Gregory wrote. “Simply put, the statute is ambiguous and subject to at least two different interpretations.”

That ambiguity in the legal fine print of the Affordable Care Act is what has allowed anti-Obamacare activists to pursue this strategy to try to upend the law. The federal government runs these exchanges in states where Republicans have refused to implement the law, or where state-run exchanges failed to offer the services under the health reform law. By 2016, more than $35 billion in Obamacare subsidies were slated to make health care more affordable nationwide.

The competing appeals court rulings mean that the issue of federal subsidies will go to the next rung in the judicial ladder—an appeal before all the sitting judges, not a three-judge panel, on either ot both of the Appeals Courts. The White House said that it expected the negative ruling from the Washington-based Court and would appeal in that venue. This is not surprising because legal observers noted that some of the judges who heard the case in Washington were overtly hostile to the law in earlier proceedings.   

“The subsection of the Affordable Care Act dealing with computing the amount of the premium tax credits that make insurance affordable to lower- and middle-income Americans says that those credits should go to individuals enrolled ‘through an exchange established by the state,’” said Timothy Jost, a Washington and Lee School of Law professor, at Balkinization blog, explaining the legal backdrop and starting line of the anti-Obamacare suits.

“But two thirds of the states are not operating their own health insurance exchanges, and are rather served by the federally facilitated exchange. In 2012, the IRS issued a rule authorizing the federal exchange to issue tax credits,” he continued. “ACA opponents… argue it is illegal.”

Until Tuesday, lower federal courts that have upheld the IRS interpretation of the provision were correct. Jost noted that conservatives on the Washington-based Appeals Court panel were openly hostile in hearings last winter. “The case was argued on March 25, 2014 to a three-judge panel consisting of Judges A. Raymond Randolph, Harry Edwards, and Thomas Griffith,” he wrote. “Almost from the moment the argument began, Judge Randolph expressed his profound dislike of the Affordable Care Act. He also demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of the history of the statute, and of the statute itself.”

Jost said that court’s conservative judges misread the legislative history of the law and some sloppy legislative drafting—less precise rather than more precise language—to create a justification for blocking the federal subsidies. Tuesday’s other federal appeals court ruling, upholding the subsidies, highlighted those same legal ambiguities but reached the opposite conclusion.

“One hopes that by the time the D.C. Circuit announces a decision in this case, the judges will have reread the briefs and supporting record and have corrected any erroneous first impressions,” Jost wrote late last week. “This case is too important to be decided on wrong information… A decision for the plaintiffs could deprive residents of 34 states of $36 billion in tax credits by 2016 and could cause the non-group market to collapse in those states. The ensuing disruption of the healthcare system will bring financial ruin to many families and, ultimately, will cost lives. The courts have to get this right.” [emphasis mine]

Unfortunately, one federal court did not get it right, as Jost put it. But it will not be the final word on this case and Obamacare subsidies. Shortly after the ruling was released, the Obama administration said it would ask all of the judges on the Washington Appeals Court to review the ruling. And then the federal appeals court in Richmond issued its ruling in the administration’s favor, underscoring that there is firm basis for the Affordable Care Act's subsidies to continue.

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Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, the low-wage economy, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

Photo: Republicans need to face the facts.

Thanks to Jobs With Justice.

Photo: How Many Homeless Families Does It Take To Make A Billionaire?

Members Of Congress Take ‘Minimum Wage Challenge’ To Live Off Reduced Budget For A Week

Since he began his minimum wage challenge on Sunday, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, now president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, has had eggs and toast, a bowl of cereal with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a banana. On Monday, he came to work with a bologna and cheese sandwich and a banana. “I’m not sure what I’m going to have for supper,” he told ThinkProgress.

This is not a typical menu for him. But given that he can only spend $77 a week while he’s taking the challenge, which asks lawmakers to live on a typical full-time minimum wage minus average taxes and housing expenses for a week, he has to “be sensitive about everything that I buy.” Eggs are fairly cheap, he reasoned, and “I have found out that bananas don’t cost a whole lot, so I stocked up on bananas.” He hasn’t eaten any other fruits or salads because they’re too expensive. For the remaining five days of his challenge, “I don’t think I’ll be eating very healthy,” he said. “Bologna’s a lot cheaper than ham. I’ve been eating quit a bit of bread.”

He’s also had to give up some pleasures. “I was walking by a nice restaurant last night near my apartment and people were sitting outside and eating nice food and drinking,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘You know what would be nice? To have a cold beer.’ But you know, I didn’t. Ordinarily I would, but if you don’t have much money there’s a lot of things you can’t do.”

And some things have come up that are more dire than skipped beer. He came down with a cold but was lucky enough to find Tylenol and Afrin nasal spray in his cabinet already. “I don’t think I would have been able to buy that Afrin nasal spray” on the challenge, he noted. “I never think about what medicine costs if i need it… But some people have to think constantly about how they spend their money, and their quality of life is quite different than mine.”

Strickland will be joined by some current lawmakers this week, including Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL), Tim Ryan (OH), and Keith Ellison (MN), to mark the fact that Thursday will represent five years since the last minimum wage increase, leaving it at $7.25 an hour. And Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, the group that is organizing the Live the Wage challenge, said on a press call that they want more to join in, particularly Republicans. “We’re asking you to live the wage John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and others who insist the minimum wage is adequate or we don’t need a minimum wage at all,” he said.

The hope is that those who take the challenge get a taste of what life is like on a low wage, even if it’s temporary and they can go back to their normal lifestyles after a week. “I think it’s important for those of us in these leadership positions that get elected by our constituents to represent their views from time to time to take a challenge such as this,” Rep. Ryan said on the call, “to make sure we really are not just understanding this in an intellectual way but really understand the deep challenges that people face.” It’s meant to “bring awareness to this issue,” he said.

He and his family will take the challenge for a week and “make decisions that a minimum wage family would make,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to put our money where our mouth is.”

Rep. Schakowsky will also do the challenge with her husband, spending just $77 each on “all of our food, transportation, personal care products, and whatever entertainment,” she said on the same call, “although I doubt there’ll be much of that.” She has already run up against the constraints, saying it took her longer to shop for groceries as she got ready for the coming week because she had to weigh everything out and put some things back to make it all fit in her budget. “It does give us a taste of what it’s like to try to live on a minimum wage,” she said.

She added, “I’m hoping more of my colleagues will take the challenge, especially my Republican colleagues who will decide whether or when to call a vote” on the current legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. “After they would do it, I believe it would be hard for anyone to deny the importance of moving quickly to raise the minimum wage.”

Some state lawmakers have already done similar challenges to push for minimum wage raises in their states, and Schakowsky has taken the food stamp challenge, eating off of a food stamp budget for a week, to protest cuts. States have been more successful in raising wages: ten have passed higher wage floors since January. Progress at the federal level appears stalled, though.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Photo: God has a great idea!

Bill Maher calls out Republicans and FOX Noise on ZOMBIE LIES

(click here for the whole kaboodle of goodness: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/12/1313451/-Bill-Maher-calls-out-all-the-debunked-GOP-lies-on-Obamacare...sample below; see the link for the whole funny video)

And finally, New Rule: Now that there's been an uproar over all the neocons who lied about the Iraq War with no consequences, someone must tell me why there isn't a similar uproar over all the Republicans who lied about Obamacare with no consequences.  (audience applause)  It's been four years since the bill passed.  Has anybody come across even one death panel?  The next liberal to tell a Republican, "you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts", should really just admit they've never seen Fox News.  (audience cheering and applause)

Now, look, I get it that neither party has a monopoly on lying, and in fact they all do it so often, they've invented their own word for it — "I misspoke".  But how come the rule for one party — the Republican Party — is that when they get caught in a lie, they don't have to stop telling it?

They said Obamacare would use death panels.  It doesn't.

They said it was a government takeover, and the insurance industry is making record profits.

They said it covered illegals.  It doesn't.

They said it was a job killer.  It hasn't been.

They said there were elves who bake cookies in trees.  Well, almost.  (audience laughter and applause)

Now for sure, Obama also told a lie when he said everybody who likes their health care plan can keep it.  And for about 2% of the population, that did turn out to be false.  The difference is, he stopped saying it!  He stepped up and said, you're right, my bad, because he understands there's this thing called observable reality.  (audience applause)

But on the Republican side, observable reality needs more study.  (audience laughter) Which is why their talking points that have been disproven, remain!  Like a guest who's been asked to leave a party, but does not.

It reminds me of a horror movie where you think you've killed the lie, but it won't stay dead.  Which is why I call them zombie lies.  (thunder crackles and camera shakes)

Ooh, what an effect!  (audience laughter)  Excuse me, I have a weak heart.

Yes, zombie lies.  Remember "fracking doesn't cause earthquakes"?  Zombie lie!  So stop saying it!

Voter fraud?  We studied it, it's not an actual problem.  Stop zombie lying about it.

Their entire economic philosophy — cut taxes for the rich, and it trickles down — is a zombie lie!  (audience cheering and applause)

And all these zombie lies are still out there, roaming the countryside, neither alive nor dead.  Like Dick Cheney.  (audience laughter and applause)

Hungry for brains.  Like Dick Cheney.  (audience laughter)

I mean, we think we've eradicated one, but it turns out it's just lying dormant in a cave full of bat blood, like the ebola virus.  Or Dick Cheney.  (audience laughter)

Dick Cheney, who did not even bother in his recent return from the dead to update the lies he told about Iraq the first time.  He's still out there saying, "Well, Saddam was building a bomb, and he was working with al-Qaeda."

What??  It's like when Chuck Berry sings "Sweet Little Sixteen".  You're 90, man!

There is no shame in their game.  One week they're out there saying, "No one will sign up for Obamacare."

And the next week, "Oh, OK, they signed up?  Sure, OK, but they aren't paying the premiums."

"Oh they are?  OK, uh, well, they're paying, but it's not the young people."

"Oh, it is?  It's the young people?  OK.  Uh, OK, but it only covers you if you're gay."  (audience laughter)

You know, you just wanna go, wait, when did we switch over?  What happened to yesterday's lie?  It's still out there forever, like a plastic bag in a tree.  But now we're just using the new one?

Yes, because what they do is they pass a zombie lie down to dumber and dumber people, who believe it more and more.

Hank Paulson may be over the one about climate change being a hoax, but it's still good enough for Sean Hannity.  Who then gets quoted by Michele Bachmann.  Who forms the intellectual core of the thinking of Victoria Jackson.  And when you think the zombie lie has finally gone to die at the idea hospice of the absolutely stupidest people on Earth, there it is being retweeted by Donald Trump.

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 Hey, stop telling me what to do!
Pilot to Air Traffic Controller
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This study was done in 2011. 
Considering how much poverty in America has increased since then, the numbers are surely higher...worse...by now.  - Dot Calm

Death by Poverty?
 
How many U.S. deaths are  caused by poverty, low levels of education and other social factors?

A new study finds that the  numbers are in the same range as deaths from heart attacks and stroke.

How researchers classify and quantify causes of death across a population has evolved in recent decades. In addition to long-recognized physiological causes such as heart attack and cancer, the role of behavioral factors—including smoking, dietary patterns and inactivity—began to be quantified in the 1990s.

More recent research has begun to look at the contribution of social factors to U.S. mortality. In the first comprehensive analysis of such studies, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that poverty, low levels of education, poor social support and other social factors contribute about as many deaths in the U.S. as such familiar causes as heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

The full study findings are published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health.

The research team, led by Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, chair of Epidemiology, estimated the number of U.S. deaths attributable to social factors using a systematic review of the available literature combined with vital statistics data. They conducted a MEDLINE search for all English-language articles published between 1980 and 2007 with estimates of the relation between social factors and adult all-cause mortality. Ultimately they considered 47 studies for meta-analysis.

After calculating for the relative risks of mortality from social factors, researchers obtained prevalence estimates for each social factor using primarily Census Bureau data. Individual social factors included education, poverty, health insurance status, employment status and job stress, social support, racism or discrimination, housing conditions and early childhood stressors. Area-level social factors included area-level poverty, income inequality, deteriorating built environment, racial segregation, crime and violence, social capital and availability of open or green spaces.

The investigators found that approximately 245,000 deaths in the United States in the year 2000 were attributable to low levels of education, 176,000 to racial segregation, 162,000 to low social support, 133,000 to individual-level poverty, 119,000 to income inequality, and 39,000 to area-level poverty.
Overall, 4.5% of U.S. deaths were found to be attributable to poverty—midway between previous estimates of 6% and 2.3%. However the risks associated with both poverty and low education were higher for individuals aged 25 to 64 than for those 65 or older.

“Social causes can be linked to death as readily as can pathophysiological and behavioral causes,” points out Dr. Galea, who is also Gelman Professor of Epidemiology.  For example, the number of deaths the researchers calculated as attributable to low education (245,000) is comparable to the number caused by heart attacks (192,898), which was the leading cause of U.S. deaths in 2000. The number of deaths attributable to racial segregation (176,000) is comparable to the number from cerebrovascular disease (167,661), the third leading cause of death in 2000, and the number attributable to low social support (162,000) compares to deaths from lung cancer (155,521).

“These findings argue for a broader public health conceptualization of the causes of mortality and an expansive policy approach that considers how social factors can be addressed to improve the health of populations,” observed Dr. Galea.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
June 16, 2011