Thursday, October 21, 2010


Top Companies Aid Chamber of Commerce in Policy Fights

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

They suggest that the recent allegations from President Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.

And these contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its legislative and political agenda. The chamber makes no apologies for its policy of not identifying its donors. It has vigorously opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.

Proponents of that measure pointed to reports that health insurance providers funneled at least $10 million to the chamber last year, all of it anonymously, to oppose President Obama’s health care legislation.

“The major supporters of us in health care last year were confronted with protests at their corporate headquarters, protests and harassment at the C.E.O.’s homes,” said R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist at the chamber, whose office looks out on the White House. “You are wondering why companies want some protection. It is pretty clear.”

The chamber’s increasingly aggressive role — including record spending in the midterm elections that supports Republicans more than 90 percent of the time — has made it a target of critics, including a few local chamber affiliates who fear it has become too partisan and hard-nosed in its fund-raising.

The chamber is spending big in political races from California to New Hampshire, including nearly $1.5 million on television advertisements in New Hampshire attacking Representative Paul W. Hodes, a Democrat running for the United States Senate, accusing him of riding Nancy Pelosi’s “liberal express” down the road to financial ruin.

“When you become a mouthpiece for a specific agenda item for one business or group of businesses, you better be damn careful you are not being manipulated,” said James C. Tyree, a former chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, who has backed Republicans and Democrats, including Mr. Obama. “And they are getting close to that, if not over that edge.”

But others praise its leading role against Democrat-backed initiatives, like health care, financial regulation and climate change, which they argue will hurt American businesses. The Obama administration’s “antibusiness rhetoric” has infuriated executives, making them open to the chamber’s efforts, said John Motley, a former lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, a rival.

“They’ve raised it to a science, and an art form,” he said of the chamber’s pitches to corporate leaders that large contributions will help “change the game” in Washington.

As a nonprofit organization, the chamber need not disclose its donors in its public tax filings, and because it says no donations are earmarked for specific ads aimed at a candidate, it does not invoke federal elections rules requiring disclosure.

The annual tax returns that the chamber releases include a list of all donations over $5,000, including 21 in 2008 that each exceed $1 million, one of them for $15 million. However, the chamber omits the donors’ names.

But intriguing hints can be found in obscure places, like the corporate governance reports that some big companies have taken to posting on their Web sites, which show their donations to trade associations. Also, the tax filings of corporate foundations must publicly list their donations to other foundations, including one run by the chamber.

These records show that while the chamber boasts of representing more than three million businesses, and having approximately 300,000 members, nearly half of its $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors. Many of those large donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors.

Dow Chemical, for example, sent $1.7 million to the chamber in the past year to cover not only its annual membership dues, but also to support lobbying and legal campaigns. Those included one against legislation requiring stronger measures to protect chemical plants from attack.

A Dow spokesman would not discuss the reasons for the large donation, other than to say it supports the chamber’s work.

Prudential Financial’s $2 million donation last year coincided with a chamber lobbying effort against elements of the financial regulation bill in Congress. A spokesman for Prudential, which opposed certain proposed restrictions on the use of financial instruments known as derivatives, said the donation was not earmarked for a specific issue.

But he acknowledged that most of the money was used by the chamber to lobby Congress.

“I am not suggesting it is a coincidence,” said the spokesman, Bob DeFillippo.

More recently, the News Corporation gave $1 million to support the chamber’s political efforts this fall; Chairman Rupert Murdoch said it was in best interests of his company and the country “that there be a fair amount of change in Washington.”

Business interests also give to the chamber’s foundation. Its tax filings show that seven donors gave the foundation at least $17 million between 2004 and 2008, about two-thirds of the total raised.

These donors include Goldman Sachs, Edward Jones, Alpha Technologies, Chevron Texaco and Aegon, which has American subsidiaries and whose former chief executive, Donald J. Shepard, served for a time as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s board.

Another large foundation donor is a charity run by Maurice R. Greenberg, the former chairman of the insurance giant A.I.G. The charity has made loans and grants totaling $18 million since 2003. U.S. Chamber Watch, a union-backed group, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service last month asserting that the chamber foundation violated tax laws by funneling the money into a chamber “tort reform” campaign favored by A.I.G. and Mr. Greenberg. The chamber denied any wrongdoing.

The complaint, which the chamber calls entirely unfounded, raises the question of how the chamber picks its campaigns, and whether it accepts donations that are intended to be spent on specific issues or political races.

The chamber says that it consults with members on lobbying targets, but that it does not make those decisions based on the size of a donation or accept money earmarked to support a specific political candidate.

Endorsement decisions, chamber officials said, are based on candidates’ votes on a series of business-related bills, and through consultations with the chamber’s regional directors, state affiliates and members.

To avoid conflicts of interest, individual businesses do not play a role in deciding on which races to spend the chamber’s political advertising dollars. The choices instead are made by the chamber’s political staff, based on where it sees the greatest chance of getting pro-business candidates elected, chamber executives said.

“They are not anywhere near a room when we are making a decision like that,” Mr. Josten said, of the companies that finance these ads. The chamber’s extraordinary money push began long before this election season. An organization that in 2003 had an overall budget of about $130 million, it is spending $200 million this year, and the chamber and its affiliates allocated $144 million last year just for lobbying, making it the biggest lobbyist in the United States.

In January, the chamber’s president, Thomas J. Donohue, a former trucking lobbyist, announced that his group intended “to carry out the largest, most aggressive voter education and issue advocacy effort in our nearly 100-year history.”

The words were carefully chosen, as the chamber asserts in filings with the Federal Election Commission that it is simply running issue ads during this election season. But a review of the nearly 70 chamber-produced ads found that 93 percent of those that have run nationwide that focus on the midterm elections either support Republican candidates or criticize their opponents.

And the pace of spending has been relentless. In just a single week this month, the chamber spent $10 million on Senate races in nine states and two dozen House races, a fraction of the $50 million to $75 million it said it intends to spend over all this season. In the 2008 election cycle, it spent $33.5 million.

To support the effort, the chamber has adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach to fund-raising. Mr. Josten said he makes many of the fund-raising calls to corporations nationwide, as does Mr. Donohue. (Both men are well compensated for their work: Mr. Donohue was paid $3.7 million in 2008, and has access to a corporate jet and a chauffeur, while Mr. Josten was paid $1.1 million, tax records show.)

But those aggressive pitches have turned off some business executives. “There was an arrogance to it like they were the 800-pound gorilla and I was either with them with this big number or I just did not matter,” said Mr. Tyree, of Chicago.

Another corporate executive, who asked not to be named, said the chamber risks alienating its members.

“Unless you spend $250,000 to $500,000 a year, that is what they want for you to be one of their pooh-bahs, otherwise, they don’t pay any attention to you at all,” the executive said, asking that the company not be identified.

Chamber officials acknowledge the tough fund-raising, but they say it has been necessary in support of their goal of remaking Congress on Election Day to make it friendlier to business.

“It’s been a long and ugly campaign season, filled with partisan attacks and political squabbling,” William C. Miller Jr., the chamber’s national political director, said in a message sent to chamber members this week. “We are all tired — no doubt about it. But we are so close to bringing about historic change on Capitol Hill.”

Eric Lipton reported from Washington, and Mike McIntire and Don Van Natta Jr. from New York. Kitty Bennett and Griffin Palmer contributed research.

Low Dose of Aspirin Could Cut Cancer

Low Dose of Aspirin Could Cut Cancer, Study Finds

LONDON (AP) — A low dose of aspirin may reduce colon cancer cases by a quarter and deaths by a third, a new study found.

But experts say aspirin's side effects of bleeding and stomach problems are too worrying for people who aren't at high risk of the disease to start taking the drug for that reason alone.

Previous studies have found a daily dose of at least 500 milligrams of aspirin could prevent colon cancer, but the adverse effects of such a high dose outweighed the benefits. Now, researchers say a low dose, equivalent to a baby or regular aspirin, also appears to work.

European researchers looked at the 20-year results of four trials with more than 14,000 people that were originally done to study aspirin's use in preventing strokes. They found people taking baby or regular aspirin pills daily for about six years reduced their colon cancer risk by 24 percent and that deaths from the disease dropped by 35 percent. That was compared to those who took a dummy pill or nothing. There seemed to be no advantage to taking more aspirin than a baby-sized dose.

The study's conclusion that even low doses of aspirin can reduce colon cancer suggests the drug is inching its way toward being used for cancer prevention, though people should not start taking aspirin daily without consulting their doctor.

The studies used European baby aspirin of 75 milligrams and regular aspirin, 300 milligrams. US. baby aspirin is 81 milligrams and regular aspirin, 325 milligrams.

If taken in high doses over a long period, aspirin can irritate the stomach, intestines and bowel, causing lesions and major bleeding.

Some researchers said the drug would benefit certain people.

"Anyone with any risk factors such as a family history (of colon cancer) or a previous polyp should definitely take aspirin," said Peter Rothwell, a professor at the University of Oxford and one of the paper's authors. The finding also "tips the balance" for anyone considering aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes, he said.

No funding was provided for the study and it was published online Friday in the journal Lancet. Rothwell and some of his co-authors have been paid for work by several drugmakers who make anti-clotting drugs like aspirin.

The trials analyzed in the Lancet paper were done before the widespread introduction of screening tests like sigmoidoscopies and colonoscopies, which cut a person's chances of dying from colon cancer from about 40 to 70 percent. Rothwell said taking aspirin would still help, because the drug seems to stop cancers in the upper bowel, not usually caught by screening tests.

The studies compared people who took a low dose of aspirin to those who took a placebo or nothing. Researchers followed the patients for almost 20 years and observed who got cancer by checking cancer registries and death certificates in Britain and Sweden, where the studies were done. Of 8,282 people taking a low dose of aspirin, 119 died of colorectal cancer. Among the 5,751 people who took a placebo or nothing, 121 died of the disease.

Scientists think aspirin works by stopping production of a certain enzyme linked to cancers including those of the breast, stomach, esophagus and colon.

Other experts warned against aspirin for the general population. "It's not for everybody," said Robert Benamouzig, of Avicenne Hospital in Bobigny, France, who co-authored a commentary in the Lancet. He said he would advise some of his high-risk patients to take aspirin, but only after explaining its side effects.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in developed countries, and there are about 1 million new cases and 600,000 deaths worldwide every year. The average person has about a 5 percent chance of developing the disease in their lifetime.

'Hang them': Uganda paper publishes photos of gays

KAMPALA, Uganda -- The front-page newspaper story featured a list of Uganda's 100 "top" homosexuals, with a bright yellow banner across it that read: "Hang Them." Alongside their photos were the men's names and addresses.

In the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.

A lawmaker in this conservative African country introduced a bill a year ago that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. An international uproar ensued, and the bill was quietly shelved.

But gays in Uganda say they have faced a year of harassment and attacks since the bill's introduction.

The legislation was drawn up following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy they say allows gays to become heterosexual.

"Before the introduction of the bill in parliament most people did not mind about our activities. But since then, we are harassed by many people who hate homosexuality," said Patrick Ndede, 27. "The publicity the bill got made many people come to know about us and they started mistreating us."

More than 20 homosexuals have been attacked over the last year in Uganda, and an additional 17 have been arrested and are in prison, said Frank Mugisha, the chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda. Those numbers are up from the same period two years ago, when about 10 homosexuals were attacked, he said.

The bill became political poison after the international condemnation. Many Christian leaders have denounced it, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signaled to legislators that they should not take it up.

Four members of parliament contacted by The Associated Press for this article declined to comment, and instead referred queries to David Bahati, the parliamentarian who introduced the bill. Bahati did not answer repeated calls Tuesday.

Homophobia is rife in many African countries. Homosexuality is punishable by death or imprisonment in Nigeria. In South Africa, the only African nation to recognize gay marriage, gangs carry out so-called "corrective" rapes on lesbians.

Solomon Male, a pastor and the head of a group of clergy in Uganda, said he is glad the anti-homosexual bill has not yet passed, but said there needs to be an investigation to find out "why homosexuality is increasing in the country."

The Oct. 9 article in a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone - not the American magazine - came out five days before the one-year anniversary of the controversial legislation. The article claimed that an unknown but deadly disease was attacking homosexuals in Uganda, and said that gays were recruiting 1 million children by raiding schools, a common smear used in Uganda.

After the newspaper hit the streets, the government Media Council ordered the newspaper to cease publishing - not because of the newspaper's content, but rather that the newspaper had not registered with the government. After it completes the paperwork, Rolling Stone will be free to publish again, said Paul Mukasa, secretary of the Media Council.

That decision has angered the gay community further. Onziema said a lawsuit against Rolling Stone is in the works, and that she believes the publication has submitted its registration and plans to publish again.

"Such kind of media should not be allowed in Uganda. It is creating violence and calling for genocide of sex minorities," said Mugisha. "The law enforcers and government should come out and protect sex minorities from such media."

Rolling Stone does not have a large following in Uganda, a country of 32 million where about 85 percent of people are Christian and 12 percent are Muslim. The newspaper published its first edition on Aug. 23. It publishes about 2,000 copies, but a single newspaper in Uganda is often read by 10 more people.

The paper's managing editor, Giles Muhame, said the article was "in the public interest."

"We felt there was need for society to know that such characters exist amongst them. Some of them recruit young children into homosexuality, which is bad and need to be exposed," he said. "They take advantage of poverty to recruit Ugandans. In brief we did so because homosexuality is illegal, unacceptable and insults our traditional lifestyle.'

Members of the gay community named in the article faced harassment from friends and neighbors. Onziema said the proposed bill already has led to evictions from apartments, intimidation on the street, unlawful arrests and physical assault.

"We are an endangered species within our country," said Nelly Kabali, 31. "We are looked at as if we are outcasts. One time I was in a night club with a friend when someone who knew me pointed at me shouting 'There is a gay!' People wanted to beat me up but I was saved by a bouncer who led me out."

Who are you calling stupid?

The 2010 election has devolved in its closing days into a battle – familiar in American history and high school alike – over who’s stupid, and who’s a snob.

Republican candidates have served up their share of bloopers — humanoid mice, sunspots causing climate change – and Democrats have taken the expected delight in their opponents’ stumbles. But they’ve taken their mockery one step further – contending as a part of their closing argument that the tea party movement, its champion Sarah Palin, and the left’s favorite Republican candidate, Christine O’Donnell, are, frankly, dumb.

Palin “has made ignorance fashionable,” the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd wrote Wednesday, comparing the Alaska Governor’s intellect – unfavorably – to Marilyn Monroe’s.

Rachel Maddow occupied her MSNBC show Tuesday night mocking a series of Republican figures, laughing through a clip of O’Donnell’s attempt to explain that the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, a point that drew nothing but ridicule on the left and in the British press. “The crowd is laughing at you,” she said as O’Donnell appeared on-screen.

Republicans say this strategy will work about as well this year as it did when used against Ronald Reagan.

But the Democrats are just getting started. Their laughter will be noisiest in a rally on the Mall on the eve of the midterm election, led by two comedians who have reveled in mocking the resurgent conservative grassroots. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have tapped into the Democratic Party’s ironic, scornful mood.

In doing so, they’ve also brought to light some of the party’s most self-destructive tendencies, the elitism and condescension that Bill Clinton sought to purge in the 1990s, when he matched a progressive agenda with the persona of a likeable “Bubba” to win two terms. Not many Democrats could pull it off. Charges of elitism dogged John Kerry in 2004 and resurfaced against Barack Obama at his lowest points in Pennsylvania in the spring of 2008, when he was recorded saying that small town people “cling” to their faith and their guns.

And President Obama himself has given his blessing to the election-eve irony-fest on the Mall, planning to appear on Stewart’s show in advance of the rally and plugging it in a recent appearance in Ohio, suggesting that Stewart’s point was to rally a silent, “sane” majority. The embrace led conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer to label the party the “Colbert Democrats” and to warn that “the hip face of the new liberalism” would leave the broader electorate decisively “not amused.”
Stewart’s version of sanity is easily confused with condescension. Like donning a tricorn hat and belting country music to celebrate tea party victories last month. A typical shot at Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle earlier this month: “She wants to dissolve the Post Office and send all her messages through angels.”

Surely, Angle has said some questionable things — but it's probably still bad politics for the Democrats to be seen as “eggheads” (a term of derision used by Adlai Stevenson’s critics in the 1950s) and “pointy-headed liberals” (as they were known in the glory days of Spiro Agnew.)

Waging battle over the Politics of Dumbness may not be smart for Democrats.

“The Washington elite isn't just blind to the wave, it is fueling the wave of anti-elite resentment,” said the Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. “Laughing at the tea party proves their point — Washington doesn't listen to people outside the Beltway.”

“There is a tendency now in the Democratic Party not only to disagree with, but to belittle political opponents,” said former Clinton pollster Doug Schoen, who accused Obama of “blaming the voters.”

He called the posture “counterproductive,” and indeed, the Democrats have provoked the almost automatic backlash.

“These are some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president,” former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote of a recent Obama comment about how voters were responding to Republicans out of fear. Gerson interpreted it as saying that Republicans had lapsed into reliance on their “lizard brains” while Democrats used their higher faculties.

Whether Obama’s comments were really that far beyond the pale – Michael Kinsley, in POLITICO, suggested the president should think he’s smarter than most of his citizens -- they certainly expressed a common view among Democratic leaders.

Ours is a complex message. The tea party message is pretty easy and simple and direct,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said recently.

Even Clinton got in on the act: “They got the wrestling federation lady in Connecticut and the witchcraft lady in Delaware – I tell you, so far, they’ve gathered up everybody for this tea party but the Mad Hatter.”

The Democrats may be burnt by the same backlash that has singed Republican Establishment figures like Karl Rove, jabbed by Palin for his lack of faith in O’Donnell, then smacked by Rush Limbaugh for suggesting that the Tea Party movement lacks “sophistication,” as Rove put it.

The mocking Democrats – and the inevitable backlash against sneering elites – is nothing new. Clinton, with his Arkansas roots and his deliberate identification with the lower middle class, was intent on binding his party back to its natural constituency of white workers.

But the tension has always been there in American politics. In earlier eras, it was Washington elites sneering at Jacksonian Democrats, abolitionists deriding ill-educated Irish immigrants, Republicans viewing Populists as “a bunch of crazy know-nothings,” said the historian Michael Kazin of Georgetown University.

“The idea of people in an insurgent movement being idiots is something that gets used a lot by people who are well educated and know how government works, because they’re in government,” said Kazin.

The most recent insurgent movement to be mocked as na├»ve and ill-informed was, of course, Obama’s primary campaign, dismissed by Hillary Clinton’s camp as the product of juvenile fantasy. And you’d be forgiven for worrying about whiplash. Just two years ago, the situation was reversed, as conservatives wrung their hands over Obama’s “cult-like” hold over his ignorant young followers, and Democrats celebrated the wisdom of the masses.

But Obama has not shied away from the suggestion that the masses – whose wisdom produced his victory two years ago – have gotten a bit confused.

“Facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country is scared,” Obama said, though there was more reason for fear in the depths of the financial crisis in November, 2008, than there is now.

This is not to say that Republican candidates – and O’Donnell in particular – haven’t had their share of extremely dumb statements. O’Donnell worried publicly in 2007 that ”American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains,” one of many quotes that can be found on a website devoted to “Dumb Quotes by Delaware GOP Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell.”

Other Republican candidates have contributed to the fun: The frontrunner for Senate from Wisconsin blamed global warming on “sunspots,” while the fading GOP nominee for governor of Colorado worried that bike sharing was part of a U.N. conspiracy.

But the Democrats’ bitter, sarcastic mood helps explain why O’Donnell – a long-shot candidate in a deep blue state – has absorbed so much more of the opposition party’s attention than, say, former Rep. John Kasich, a formidable candidate for governor of Ohio whose political problems – a political insider, and a former Lehman Brothers employee – are actually better suited to the message of reform and change that the Democrats rode for the last four years.

The Democrats mockery, and the Republican momentum, reminded one veteran observer of the dueling chants that broke out at a football game between a strong academic school and its more athletic rival. During a blowout, fans of the academic school chanted, “We have higher board scores." The rejoinder from the winning team's fans: “Look at the scoreboard!"

This season, Democrats may be resting on their board scores, but they don’t count for much on the electoral scoreboard.
© 2010 Capitol News Company

QUESTION If the drugs the people the crime keeps coming across the Southern USA Mexico border. WILL THE USA INVADE MEXICO?

Gun Battles Erupt Along U.S.-Mexican Border

Battles in Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico have prompted factories to close down, parents to pull children out of schools, and left a member of the Texas National Guard dead.

The two cities across the border from Texas have been increasingly plagued by violence ever since the split between the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels.

In a firefight on Wednesday, roads were blockaded and in the city of Matamaros, a grenade was thrown at an army barracks. It was near Matamaros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, that 72 migrants were massacred in August for refusing to work for the Zetas.

There were also shootouts in the town of Reynosa, where, along with Nuevo Laredo, local governments used Twitter and Facebook to warn residents to stay inside.

Chihuahua state officials tell the El Paso Times that Texas National Guard member Jose Ramirez was found dead along with another man.

Jon Stewart Insists CNN Is 'Terrible' While on CNN

Comments More Jon Stewart has never been one to mince his words about the state of CNN, recently characterizing it as watchable only when "your flight's been cancelled." But his sniping at the troubled network doesn't seem rooted in outright dislike. (That's reserved for a certain News Corp. entity.) He just seems flabbergasted by the incompetence he sees at the troubled network.

Still, it's not every day that on CNN's Larry King Live, Stewart tells the host point-blank: "You're terrible!" For his part, King takes the Comedy Central personality's blunt editorializing in stride, and cautions: "We've been around a while so you should be proud to be here." In the course of the lengthy interview, Stewart explains why he really picks on the network (24:35 in the video below):

I think CNN has a -- an opportunity to be a real arbiter. But being a real arbiter means taking a stand, not just having people on -- you're on the left, you're on the right. That's like having people on in the cola wars. You're from Pepsi; you're from Coke. What do you think? I think we taste great. I think we taste great. That's all the time we have.

You know? It's about being authoritative, about earning credibility. CNN, more than anybody, has the infrastructure to be able to accomplish that. And instead, they make a holographic Jessica Yellin and they just make her come up as a holograph on election night. Do you remember that?

Yes, unfortunately we do.

DNA Spray Links Criminals to the Place They Robbed

Bank robbers have been wary of the exploding money pack that covers them with a bright colored dye for years.

SelectaDNA is a device that sprays robbers with an invisible DNA mist that irrefutably links them to the scene of the crime.

But now they've got one more thing to worry about as a more sophisticated way of marking robbers is making its way into stores and businesses that are frequently targeted by thieves, a device that sprays an invisible DNA mist on the bad guys that won't wash off for weeks.

The mist, which is now being used in nine countries and coming to the U.S. soon, shows up under ultraviolent light and contains a DNA code that police stations scan for when they bring in criminals. The unique code irrefutably links criminals to the scene of the crime.

"The word DNA spreads fear into even the most hardened criminals," said Jason Brown, business director of Selectamark, the company that created SelectaDNA Spray.

Selectamark says the spray stops crime by scaring criminals away with warning signs posted outside of protected buildings that read "You Steal, You're Marked."

The mist is so fine, it's unlikely a robber would know he's been hit. It sinks into the target's skin and hair where it sits for weeks.

"You can take a shower three times a day, but the DNA stays on," said Jean-Paul Fafie, the manager at one of several McDonald's restaurants in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, that had the spray system installed.

TSA Supervisor Stole Cash From Luggage?

Facebook disables apps that violated its privacy policySeven Secrets Behind TSA Airport CheckpointsFafie is a big fan of the system for good reason. He was robbed at gunpoint five years ago while closing up the store at 5 a.m. Three men burst in, and shoved a gun to his head while they tied him up and stole about 8,000 euros, or $11,000.

"It feels safer," he said of having the system, which was installed about a year ago and so far hasn't had to be tested. "We hope that the robbers think twice before they come in."

No arrests have yet been made that are attributed to the DNA mist, and police say while the mist is extremely effective at protecting individual shops the overall rate of crime isn't down. It's just changed locations.

"They go now to stores without DNA spray. It's not that they do less criminal activity," said Quirine Schillings, a communications officer for the Rotterdam police. She added that in Rotterdam, robberies are way down and none of the locations with the spray installed have been burglarized. But crime has risen in poorer areas outside of town that don't have the resources to install the system.

The SelectaDNA Spray has potential for helping police solve who-dun-it mysteries. "Often times it's not that they [police] don't know who they [robbers] are, it's that they don't have evidence to get a prosecution," said Selectamark's Managing Director Andrew Knight. SelectaDNA Spray helps that problem, and has the potential to put more guilty parties behind bars, he said.

BRETT FAVRE wife (DEANNA) speaks. Amazing how much she looks like JENN! But older.

Deanna Favre tells morning show: 'I'm handling this through faith'

(AP) -- Deanna Favre says her religious faith and an outward focus are helping her overcome the allegations of improper behavior that have been leveled against her husband, Brett.

Deanna Favre was interviewed Thursday on "Good Morning America" about a book she co-authored with Shane Stanford called "The Cure for the Chronic Life," which is about getting past hard times and patterns of unhealthy behavior.

During the interview, Deanna was asked how she's handling the accusations against Brett Favre, who is being investigated by the NFL for allegedly sending suggestive messages and lewd photos to a woman who worked for the New York Jets.

Deanna Favre says: "I'm handling this through faith."

She did not address whether the allegations against her husband are true or false.

Brett & Deanna have been married 14 years.


Time to check your Toyota Avalon or Lexus—the Japanese auto maker is recalling 1.5 million more vehicles, including 740,000 in the United States, because of concerns over brake fluid and fuel pump problems.

In the past year, the automotive giant has recalled more than 10 million cars. No accidents have been reported because of the new problems, most of which relate to the brake master cylinder, which can cause weaker braking power when not working properly.

U.S. car owners will get letters in early November if Toyota needs their cars back.
Associated Press

What is wrong with college football? This a college grad that made over $50 million!!?

JaMarcus Russell: "I don't know where it went wrong"

Former Raiders No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell says he still wants to play in the NFL, and he says he's not the same man now that he was when he played three disappointing seasons in Oakland.

"Now looking back on it, I could have went about certain things different," Russell said in an interview with Josina Anderson on Inside the NFL.

But when Anderson asked him to be specific about what he would do differently, Russell couldn't give much detail.

"I'm not sure," Russell said. "I don't know where it went wrong. But for the things that did go wrong, I take full blame for whatever was my fault and the things that did happen. Being drafted number one, there's so much that they want you to do at the snap of a finger. It didn't happen that way, which brings us to today."

Unfortunately for Russell, if he can't be specific about what he did wrong and what he will do differently if he gets another chance, it's going to be hard for him to convince NFL teams that he deserves another chance.

Russell insists that he will get another chance, however, telling FOX 26 in Houston, "I know for a fact. I have faith in God and strong beliefs. I know for a fact it's going to happen."

Victim's family and students mourn

DEADLY ATTACK: Police say robbers beat teacher who died after being struck by vehicle

Family and Eldorado High School students mourn

As a child, Timothy VanDerbosch was a budding teacher.

"He always wanted to be either a teacher or a weatherman," recalled his younger sister, Lori Delosreyes, 47, from her home in Indianapolis. "He'd create tests for me when I was little so he could grade them, and send out weather reports to our family and friends."

Dedicated to his craft and community, the Eldorado High School science teacher lived in an apartment a mile from campus and walked to work early each morning to get a jump on daily lesson plans.

That is where VanDerbosch was headed at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday when he was struck by a passing vehicle after being targeted in what Las Vegas police described as "a brutal and violent robbery."

Police received reports that VanDerbosch was attacked and beaten by several Hispanic men before he was hit by a vehicle.

"The victim was left injured and laying in the street where he was accidentally run over by a passing motorist," according to a Metropolitan Police Department report. "The motorist remained at the scene, and has cooperated fully with Metro's investigation. No charges are anticipated to be filed against the motorist."

Las Vegas police are searching for a white, four-door compact car, possibly a 1998 to 2000 Nissan Maxima, which might be linked to a string of violent street robberies that happened earlier Wednesday morning.

Police described the suspects as four or five Hispanic male adults in their early 20s.

VanDerbosch was taken to University Medical Center, where he died eight days after celebrating his 50th birthday.

Police think the teacher's robbery in the intersection of Washington Avenue and Betty Lane was one of four violent acts committed that morning by the same group of suspects.

The first incident happened about 2 a.m. in the 6100 block of East Sahara Avenue near Sloan Lane. Four to six Hispanic suspects armed with guns and knives committed a robbery on the street, according to police. One person was stabbed and taken to an area hospital.

Police reported three other robberies: one near Lake Mead Boulevard and Los Feliz Boulevard, another near Vegas Valley Drive and Hollywood Boulevard, and a third near Bonanza Road and Nellis Boulevard.

At least two other victims were hospitalized after being pistol-whipped by suspects, said officer Bill Cassell, a police spokesman.

Police did not release details of the robberies, citing an ongoing investigation. No suspects had been arrested as of Wednesday evening.

Cassell said every resource of the department is devoted to finding the suspects, who showed a "disregard for human life and safety."

Delosreyes said details of her brother's death seemed "sketchy." Detectives told her family that her brother was found without his wallet or school identification.

"It's been hard to get information, which makes it worse for us," she said. "We couldn't even find out (from authorities) exactly where his body was at first."

Delosreyes said her brother, a physics and chemistry teacher, devoted his life to Eldorado and constantly volunteered for activities.

Her brother could have moved to another school during his 15-year career, she said, but he didn't want to, though Eldorado is a struggling school in an area often plagued by crime.

The Clark County School District campus has been a needs-improvement school for six years, according to its 2009-10 accountability report. That means the school has failed to meet the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The school serves about 1,800 students, 40 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunches.

"We'd say, 'Why not that school? It's newer, it seems nicer, not as many problems,' " Delosreyes said. "But he was committed to staying there and making sure every kid had a path to college or at least some sort of structure when they moved on."

Students at the school were devastated by their teacher's death.

"I just saw him yesterday," said Veronica Moreno, 17, who was taking his physics class.

Jacqueline Trejo, 15, said she was in shock. "A lot of people were crying," she said.

Trejo said VanDerbosch, who taught her chemistry class, was "strict, but he was really nice. He really expected a lot from you."

Because he liked to wear blue shirts, Eldorado staff members are discussing holding a "blue shirt" day in his honor.

His death weighs heavily on the Eldorado community. Another teacher, Pamela Orr-Sowers, recently died after being in ill health. Orr-Sowers had worked for the district since 1984 and taught special education.

"Their passing occurred in unrelated incidents. The shock of this terrible news is having an adverse effect on our faculty and students," Eldorado Principal Danielle Miller said in a letter to parents and guardians.

Lt. Ken Young, Clark County School District police spokesman, said that security around the school has been boosted with extra patrols in response to the incident.

VanDerbosch had no children and never married. He had dated Jill Ruby, a school counselor, for about eight years.

Ruby said she was still in shock about VanDerbosch's death and preferred not to comment. She said she was treated at UMC earlier Wednesday because her anxiety led to high blood pressure.

Delosreyes said her family is reeling from her brother's death and is awaiting answers from police.

"He was the last person you'd expect this to happen to; he would never hurt anything," she said, calling what happened senseless.

"You ask yourself, 'Why does it have to happen?' And I just don't know."

Malpractice Methodology By PETER ORSZAG

The health care legislation that Congress enacted earlier this year, contrary to much of today’s overheated rhetoric, does many things right. But it does almost nothing to reform medical malpractice laws. Lawmakers missed an important opportunity to shield from malpractice liability any doctors who followed evidence-based guidelines in treating their patients.

As President Obama noted in his speech to the American Medical Association in June 2009, too many doctors order unnecessary tests and treatments only because they believe it will protect them from a lawsuit. Instead, he said, “We need to explore a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first, let doctors focus on practicing medicine and encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines.”

Why does this matter? Right now, health care is more evidence-free than you might think. And even where evidence-based clinical guidelines exist, research suggests that doctors follow them only about half of the time. One estimate suggests that it takes 17 years on average to incorporate new research findings into widespread practice. As a result, any clinical guidelines that exist often have limited impact.

How might we encourage doctors to adopt new evidence more quickly? Malpractice reform could help — possibly a lot.

The academic literature tends to play down the role of medical liability laws in driving up health care costs. Doctors themselves, however, almost universally state that malpractice statutes lead to extraneous testing and treatment.

It is also conceivable that because such laws usually focus on “customary practice” — that is, a doctor who has treated a patient the way most other doctors in the area would is considered safe from accusations of malpractice — they create a strong contagion effect among doctors. The laws, no matter how weak or stringent, may therefore explain why doctors in some parts of the country generally adopt much more intensive approaches than those in other areas do.

The traditional way to reform medical malpractice law has been to impose caps on liability — for example, by limiting punitive damages to something like $500,000. A far better strategy would be to provide safe harbor for doctors who follow evidence-based guidelines. Anyone who could demonstrate that he has followed the recommended course for treating a specific illness or condition could not be held liable.

The health care reform act that Congress passed earlier this year included a modest set of state pilot projects, including one in Oregon that is intended to experiment with this approach. But these pilots are small; the project in Oregon, for example, has only $300,000 in financing.

What’s needed is a much more aggressive national effort to protect doctors who follow evidence-based guidelines. That’s the only way that malpractice reform could broadly promote the adoption of best practices.

Congress has taken a step in this direction before. As Prof. James Blumstein of Vanderbilt University Law School has pointed out, a little-known provision in the Social Security Act amendments of 1972 provides immunity from malpractice liability to doctors who treat patients in conformity with the standards set forth by so-called quality improvement organizations — nonprofits under contract with Medicare that work to improve care. The provision remains in force, though those organizations have yet to set such standards.

Organizations like the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine could also be called upon to issue the needed evidence-based standards for malpractice immunity. But no matter which body is put in charge of certification, this approach to reform will require larger investments in research into what works and what doesn’t. Fortunately, both the health care reform act and the 2009 economic stimulus act provided additional financing for such comparative effectiveness medical research, and the health care act provides for a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to coordinate the work. It’s a good start.

Better technology would help, too. Your doctor’s computer should be able to not only pull up your health records (after you have approved such access) but also quickly suggest best-practice methods of treatment. The doctor should then be able to click through to read the supporting research. Subsidies in the stimulus act help doctors pay for this kind of technology.

A final step toward improving standard medical practice will be to better align financial incentives for delivering higher-quality care. Hospitals now lose Medicare dollars, for example, if they succeed in reducing readmissions. Medical professionals should be given incentives for better care rather than more care.

The health care reform act already includes measures that enable policymakers to shift Medicare’s payments toward “fee for quality” rather than “fee for service.” My next column will discuss these measures, which get far less credit than they should, in more detail.

Opponents of the act are generally off base in criticizing investments in improved care. In complaining about the missed opportunity to reform medical malpractice laws to promote evidence-based medical practice, on the other hand, the critics are entirely on target.

Peter Orszag, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to 2010 and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing columnist for The Times.

Helmet Safety Unchanged as Injury Concerns Rise

NORMAN, Okla. — Moments after her son finished practicing with his fifth-grade tackle football team, Beth Sparks examined his scuffed and battered helmet for what she admitted was the first time. She looked at the polycarbonate shell and felt the foam inside before noticing a small emblem on the back that read, “MEETS NOCSAE STANDARD.”

“I would think that means it meets the national guidelines — you know, for head injuries, concussions, that sort of thing,” she said. “That’s what it would mean to me.”

That assumption, made by countless parents, coaches, administrators and even doctors involved with the 4.4 million children who play tackle football, is just one of many false beliefs in the largely unmonitored world of football helmets.

Helmets both new and used are not — and have never been — formally tested against the forces believed to cause concussions. The industry, which receives no governmental or other independent oversight, requires helmets for players of all ages to withstand only the extremely high-level force that would otherwise fracture skulls.

The standard has not changed meaningfully since it was written in 1973, despite rising concussion rates in youth football and the growing awareness of how the injury can cause significant short- and long-term problems with memory, depression and other cognitive functions, especially in children.

Moreover, used helmets worn by the vast majority of young players encountered stark lapses in the industry’s few safety procedures. Some of the businesses that recondition helmets ignored testing rules, performed the tests incorrectly or returned helmets that were still in poor condition. More than 100,000 children are wearing helmets too old to provide adequate protection — and perhaps half a million more are wearing potentially unsafe helmets that require critical examination, according to interviews with experts and industry data.

Awareness of head injuries in football was heightened last weekend when helmet-first collisions caused the paralysis of a Rutgers University player, a concussion to Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson and injuries to three other N.F.L. players. Although some injuries are unavoidable results of football physics, helmet standards have not kept up with modern football, industry insiders said. The one helmet standard was written by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or Nocsae, a volunteer consortium that includes, and is largely financed by, the helmet makers themselves. Nocsae accepts no role in ensuring that helmets, either new or old, meet even its limited requirement.

One frustrated vice president of Nocsae, Dr. Robert Cantu of the Boston University School of Medicine, said the organization has been “asleep at the switch” for five years. Cantu joined other prominent voices involved in youth sports concussions in calling for stronger standards.

Recent engineering advances made by Riddell, Schutt, Adams and other manufacturers have undoubtedly improved the performance of the football helmet, which from its leather roots has always symbolized football’s duality of valor and violence. But helmets communicate a level of protection that they do not provide, experts said, in part because of lax industry standards and practices.

As she looked again at the helmet of her 11-year-old son, Hunt, Ms. Sparks said: “You just trust. You care so much about your kid, and then you just trust.”

One Limited Standard

After more than 100 high school and college football players in the 1960s were killed by skull fractures and acute brain bleeding, Nocsae was formed to protect players against the extreme forces that caused those injuries. The resulting standard, phased in by all levels of football through the 1970s, requires helmets to withstand a 60-inch free fall without allowing too much force to reach the skull.

This standard has accomplished its intent: skull fractures in football have essentially disappeared, and the three or four football-related deaths each year among players under 18 are caused by hits following a concussion that has not healed (known as second-impact syndrome) rather than by a single fatal blow.

As the size and speed of players have increased since the full adoption of the Nocsae standard in 1980, concussion rates have as well. An estimated 100,000 concussions are reported each season among high school players alone, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, but many times that figure are believed to go unreported or unrecognized.

Preventing concussions — which are typically marked by confusion, disorientation, nausea and other symptoms following a blow to the head — is trickier than preventing skull fractures. The brain can crash into the inside of the skull through a wide range of forces, some arriving straight to the head and others suddenly rotating it. Scientists have yet to isolate where thresholds are in different players at different positions and at different ages.

While bicycle helmets are designed to withstand only one large impact before being replaced, football helmets can encounter potentially concussive forces hundreds of times a season. Helmets cannot get too large or heavy, so helmet designers say they face a trade-off: make helmets stiff enough to withstand high impacts and allow less violent forces to cause concussions, or more softly cushion against concussive-type forces while allowing large impacts to crack the skull.

The helmet industry has essentially chosen the former. With some differences among brands, helmets are generally made of polycarbonate plastic shells cushioned inside with foams of various stiffnesses and some air-pocket cushioning. Headgear worn by pee-wees to professionals differs primarily by size; Nocsae’s standard makes no distinctions for the wearer’s age.

Because of the uncertainty of how concussions occur in football, experts said there was no way to cite real-life examples of players whose injuries might have been avoided by a stronger helmet testing standard. But requiring headgear to perform across a spectrum of impacts would undoubtedly decrease the total number of injuries, they said.

Nocsae’s standard for lacrosse and hockey helmets includes tests for concussive-type forces. But because football helmets have already prevented deaths so effectively for decades, and because football’s faster and more violent environment leaves biomechanists unsure of how to prevent concussions in the sport, Nocsae has not asked helmets makers to even try.

“When you have something that has worked well for a lot of years, you have to be pretty cautious,” said Mike Oliver, Nocsae’s executive director and general counsel since 1995. “If we save 15,000 concussions with a new standard but allow one skull fracture, if we save 5,000 concussions and allow one subdural hematoma, is it worth it? I can’t tell you that would be the trade-off, but you’ve got to basically be really sure that change wouldn’t adversely affect something else.”

Some experts, both within and outside Nocsae, question why helmets still are not required to handle the less violent impacts believed — although not scientifically proven — to cause concussions. Blaine Hoshizaki, director of human kinetics at the Neurotrauma Impact Research Lab at the University of Ottawa, said he lobbied Nocsae to strengthen its standard five or six years ago but, “It was like punching a balloon; they, yeah, understand, and then do nothing.”

“They say they don’t know what the thresholds are; O.K., but I can tell you that less angular acceleration is better than more,” said Mr. Hoshizaki, referring to the forces that cause the head to rotate suddenly. “To suggest we have no idea so we’ll do nothing is not an excuse to me. This has become a serious impediment to making a safer football environment.”

Helmet companies say they are making inroads on their own, pursuing improvements that they say decrease the number of concussions that players receive.

Riddell has gained the largest share of the overall helmet market in part because of the 2002 introduction of its Revolution model, which the company markets aggressively as having features, like thicker jaw padding, that reduce concussion risk by 31 percent compared with previous helmets. Riddell’s president, Dan Arment, said: “We think we’ve taken great strides to improve the protective features of our helmets, and we’re not done. We see it as an open frontier.”

Outside experts have criticized Riddell for overselling the protective properties of the Revolution and its successors. Dr. Cantu noted that the 31 percent figure — derived from a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a Riddell vice president — resulted from reports of concussions among high school players, which are notoriously inaccurate, and compared new Revolution helmets with old helmets of unknown age and condition.

Dave Halstead, the technical director of Nocsae, said: “It’s a good helmet. But I don’t believe that 31 percent for a Yankee minute.”

Schutt, which runs a close second to Riddell in market share, has unveiled helmets with plastic-based cushioning that its Web site says are “designed with the intent to reduce the risk of concussions” and feature “breakthrough technology providing maximum protection to athletes.” No scientific information is provided, although Schutt’s YouTube channel has a video demonstration in which a head-sized watermelon bearing the plastic does not break when struck by a 15-pound bowling ball.

“That was meant to be a parody,” Robert Erb, Schutt’s chief executive, said. “I don’t believe that there’s any single one test that will tell you whether a helmet can stop a concussion. We communicate with coaches, equipment managers and other people in the football community. We have years of experience, test different conditions, temperatures, putting the helmets through a variety of contexts to see if it has superior dampening ability for a range of impacts.”

Helmets produced by Adams U.S.A., worn by about 650,000 high school and younger players, are focused on meeting the Nocsae skull-fracture standard, David Wright, the chief executive of Adams, said. “Once we see evidence that says we can reduce these types of injuries,” he said, referring to concussions, “then we’ll do it. We haven’t seen that.”

Art Chou, vice president of Rawlings, agreed: “We’re not in the standards-making business. We make equipment focused on standards given to us.” Chou also serves on the Nocsae board.

Along with Riddell, the company most emphasizing concussion safety is Xenith, whose X1 model is making inroads among high schools, colleges and the N.F.L. The X1 features a radical new design: air-filled shock absorbers that attempt to withstand a wider range of forces than traditional foam. Xenith’s founder and president, the former Harvard quarterback Vin Ferrara, said the Nocsae standard had discouraged innovation among other companies and was “wholly inadequate” for modern football.

“The fact that there’s only one standard for everything, designed 30 years ago for a different problem, indicates how far off the industry is right now from having an acceptable standard,” Mr. Ferrara said.

Dangerous Misconceptions

The fact that helmets are held to no standard regarding concussions surprised almost every one of dozens of people interviewed for this article, from coaches and parents to doctors and league officials. Even one member of the Nocsae board, Grant Teaff — who represents the American Football Coaches Association — said he was unaware of it.

“Obviously if you’re protecting against skull fracture, you’re protecting against any type of concussion,” Teaff said, incorrectly.

Nocsae receives no oversight from any independent agency, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Its 16-member board features five representatives of the helmet industry, six volunteer doctors, two athletic trainers, two equipment managers and one coach.

Nocsae’s annual budget of about $1.7 million is funded mostly by sporting-goods manufacturers whose products bear the Nocsae seal of approval. The largest share of that comes from football helmet makers and reconditioners.

“That’s pretty scary,” said Dr. David Price, who is heavily involved with youth football as a sports medicine physician for Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. “You would think there would be some sort of third-party oversight.”

Mr. Oliver, Nocsae’s longtime president, said that helmet companies do not unduly influence the organization’s policies. Dr. Cantu agreed, but said that the board has become as concerned about legal liability as about child safety. If Nocsae were to supplement its helmet standard in an attempt to address concussions, it could open itself to lawsuits brought by players saying that their helmet did not prevent the injury.

“I have been calling for a new standard to be written for football helmets for years, and Nocsae has been sitting on their duffs,” Dr. Cantu said. “Everyone’s afraid of being sued, because if you say that certain helmets are better, you’re saying that millions of them out there now aren’t safe.”

Nocsae officials insisted that the organization does not mandate adherence to its standard; it is merely used, voluntarily, by every level of football from Pop Warner to the N.F.L. Nocsae goes so far as to state in its testing instructions that its standard “does not purport to address all of the safety problems, if any, associated with its use.”

One use of the standard often emerges after a young player sustains a head injury and sues a school district or helmet manufacturer. In the 42 lawsuits in which he has testified as an expert, Mr. Halstead of Nocsae said, the primary (and usually successful) defense is that the helmet met the Nocsae standard.

“Manufacturers and schools, equipment managers and the coaches — the whole football industry — don’t want to go after or even criticize the security blanket of Nocsae,” said Sander Reynolds, Xenith’s vice president for product development. “If there’s a lawsuit, they all look to Nocsae to say, ‘Hey, see, the product met the set standards.’ They’re all ultimately on the same side when it comes to liability. Nocsae exists for two reasons — to avoid skull fractures, and to avoid liability.”

USA Football, which oversees tackle football among players ages 6 to 14, requires only that helmets have a Nocsae seal of approval. In the slightly more explicit rule book of the National Federation of High Schools, before several paragraphs that regulate the size of uniform numbers, decorative stripes and the like, helmets are required only to have “met the Nocsae test standard at the time of manufacture.”

This has allowed thousands of older youth helmets to be re-used — particularly in poorer, rural communities — that would not even meet the Nocsae standard if they were examined critically through an industry procedure called reconditioning.

To the extent that 1.7 million helmets do undergo reconditioning each year, they encounter procedures and practices that industry experts described as laughable if they didn’t compromise the safety of children’s brains.

Borrower Beware

Everyone with experience in youth football has his favorite horror story. The helmet with socks inserted where the padding should have been. The helmet with a nail holding parts together. Hundreds of cracked helmets with detached foam that had no business being worn at all.

At Stadium System, a family-operated business in northern Connecticut that for decades has been the primary helmet reconditioner for New England schools and youth leagues, the owners Mike and Ken Schopp shook their heads last August at one typical rack of helmets awaiting work. One youth helmet had torn ear padding that compromised safety for who knew how many games or seasons. Another’s inflatable air liner was ripped and useless. Another high school helmet, covered with skull-and-crossbones stickers, had padding that was switched from front to back and placed upside down, probably because it was itching the player’s neck.

“That’s a fairly common thing for kids to do — and the kid’s wondering why he has a bloody forehead,” Mike Schopp said. Ken, his brother, added, “And it would probably pass the Nocsae test no problem.”

Only about 10 to 20 percent of football players of high school age or younger wear a new helmet, which can cost from $150 to $300. The vast majority of headgear is handed down for years and at various points undergoes a reconditioning process that costs about $25 to $45. Most get reconditioned every one or two seasons, which most experts recommend. But data closely held by the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association, Naera, indicated that about 500,000 young players this fall were wearing helmets that had not undergone this basic safety check, which encounters glaring failures of its own.

About 25 facilities are authorized by Nocsae to recondition helmets and recertify them as meeting the original testing standard. The dozen-step process involves removing and washing all padding, inspecting parts for cracks and other deformities, washing and repainting the shell, and reassembling the helmet with either used or new parts. About 15 percent of helmets are deemed unfixable and discarded.

Nocsae’s sole means of quality control is to require each reconditioning facility to perform the Nocsae drop test — in which a helmet is placed on a fluid-filled polyurethane head-form and dropped along wires from a height of 60 inches — on a random sample of about 3 percent of their helmets to see if they still absorb enough force to protect against skull fracture. The test is designed to help identify the rare helmet model that requires recall, not to pinpoint individual helmets that need replacement.

The test is failed by about 1 in 300 reconditioned helmets, according to Naera reports. All of the passing helmets — along with the vast majority that undergo no testing at all, just a visual assembly-line inspection — receive a sticker that indicates they continue to meet Nocsae standards, and are returned to the league or school.

This largely faith-based process allows for significant errors. Hundreds if not thousands of supposedly reconditioned helmets emerge still unfit for use, according to interviews with coaches, parents and helmet-industry principals.

This summer two reconditioners, Clean Gear in New Jersey and Maxletics in Hawaii, skipped the drop testing altogether and sent back all its helmets to schools, said Ed Fisher, Naera’s executive director and a longtime high school football coach in Washington state. He added that he discovered this only because an athletic trainer happened to complain about the condition of the helmets at a trade show. The helmets were recovered by Nocsae, which terminated the companies’ licenses to recertify helmets.

During a tour of Stadium System in Connecticut, Fisher walked into the drop-testing room and found the technician testing helmets that were far too loose on the head-form to be measured correctly. The Schopps said that they were following Nocsae instructions — although those instructions require a “reasonable fit” — and that they had been testing helmets like that for the entire summer, or longer.

“I need to have a critical eye,” Fisher said. “And to the people that say they’re doing it correctly, I need to have some procedures that will allow me to walk in and be able to say, show me and prove it. We’re working on that.”

Some helmets are returned to teams with obvious defects. This summer, high schools in California, Wisconsin and several other states received reconditioned helmets (all bearing the Nocsae seal) that had missing harness cables, improperly attached face masks, incorrect padding and other problems that would almost certainly pose a danger to a young player. One of them was received by Jim Rudloff, the coach of Marblehead High School near Boston.

“We’re rolling the dice and trusting that these things are done right,” Mr. Rudloff said. “There is that blind faith in a lot of towns that you put on whatever they give you.”

Mr. Halstead, the technical director of Nocsae, added: “School districts are so strapped that they just go to the cheapest place and hope. They’ll always want to fix an old bus rather than find the money to buy a new one. That means they keep using old helmets, and sometimes not recondition them for way too long. For example, I would never let my kid wear a helmet that is more than 10 years old.”

Mr. Fisher of Naera and most everyone involved in the helmet industry agreed that helmets older than about 10 years present an unacceptable safety risk. Riddell and Adams both strongly recommend that their helmets be discarded after 10 years. Schutt sets no such limit.

Naera data indicated that more than 100,000 helmets more than 10 years old were worn by players in the 2009 season, thousands were close to 20 years old.

Helmets made before 1997 could pose an additional safety risk of which few people outside of Nocsae are aware. The standard to which helmets are now held — a drop-test score of less than 1,200 in a measure of force called severity index — had been 1,500 until 1998, when Nocsae lowered it. (This was done because new helmets were easily passing the 1,500 test and would easily pass the new figure, Nocsae officials said.) But helmets produced before 1997 were grandfathered in. So any one of the 70,000 pre-1997 helmets currently in use can test above 1,200 but below 1,500 — a range now agreed by most to be unsafe — and still be certified as meeting the Nocsae standard.

“There’s no scientific evidence that a helmet has to be pulled after 7, 10, 12 years, that there’s some line in the sand,” Schutt’s Erb said. “There are helmets that are out there that are performing fine. Do you want your car manufacturer to tell you that your car, at the end of 10 years, you have to destroy it? That’s a decision for the user.”

Some players at Cooperstown Central High School in New York are wearing helmets made in 1991, the school’s athletic coordinator, Jay Baldo, said. They were Schutt helmets reconditioned this summer by Stadium System.

“Our plan is to replace them next year,” Mr. Baldo said. “The money’s going to have to come from somewhere else. Our whole budget is about $300 for football.”

Only two people have access to the test logs that would determine just how many non-Schutt helmets more than 10 years old are being recertified and used in which areas of the country: Naera’s Mr. Fisher and Nocsae’s Mr. Halstead. They provided data to The New York Times that indicated that the number is minuscule.

Mr. Oliver, Nocsae’s executive director, said he does not receive or consult reconditioning data. Asked if helmets more than 10 years old should be worn by a child, he said: “I can’t say it should or shouldn’t be. All I can go on is how it tests on the standard.”

The Future

Most experts agree that regarding concussions and growing evidence of their health risks — particularly among young athletes — the first order of business is to get players, coaches and parents to recognize the injury and then keep the player away from sports for as long as it takes to heal. Others added that football leagues and referees must more vigilantly penalize players who lead with their head while tackling. This dangerous maneuver received heightened news media coverage this week given several high-profile injuries, but it occurs in almost every game at every level.

The Wild West culture regarding helmets must also change, they said. Some call for Nocsae and Naera to set stronger standards and more proactively enforce their rules, but that would almost certainly require greater legal protection, said Dr. Cantu, the Nocsae vice president. Mr. Ferrara, the president of Xenith, called for the industry to receive governmental oversight.

“I want to answer to a higher authority than Nocsae,” Mr. Ferrara said. “I want to answer to the F.D.A.”

After four years of national debate over sport-related concussions as a public-health concern, and after several officials were interviewed for this article, Nocsae decided earlier this month to consider moving on the matter of a concussion-related helmet standard. Strongly pressured by Dr. Cantu, Mr. Oliver scheduled a meeting for Saturday to have experts in the field discuss possible adjustments — specifically a test for the less violent forces believed to raise concussion risks. Even if adjustments begin that day, the process will take at least three or four years.

Meanwhile, and pending more effective industry oversight, young football players will continue to wear helmets whose limitations are obscured by their communities’ love for football. Nowhere was this more clear than here in Norman last August, when fifth-graders lined up to receive their headgear for the season. No one thought to question what helmets are designed to do, how old the helmets were, if and when they had been reconditioned, or whether their sweat-stained and dirty padding retained its safety properties.

One of them, Joseph Kirk, stood at attention as his team, the Punishers, received their primary brain protection for the season. A league volunteer reached into a rack of helmets and chose No. 5045 — a worn white Riddell Little Pro with no known age, no known history and one Nocsae sticker.

“That good, big man?” the volunteer asked as Joseph peered unblinkingly from behind the face mask. The man fiddled with the fit, handed Joseph a leather chin strap and said, “Put this on when you get home.” The entire process took nine seconds.

Joseph shuffled to the next station to get his shoulder pads as the volunteer beckoned, “Next!”


The movie "Network" with Peter Finch as the deranged news anchor. His rant seems so current!

Howard Beale:

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job.

The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.

We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.

We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.'

Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first you've got to get mad.

Beale: [shouting]

You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit!
My life has VALUE!'

So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.
I want you to get up right now and go to the window.
Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, [shouting]


I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!'

Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'

Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis.
But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it:

Howard Beale: [screaming at the top of his lungs]


(Sounds the movie was ahead of its time!)

Arthur Jensen(Beale's network owner):

I started as a salesman, Mr. Beale. I sold sewing machines and automobile parts, hair brushes and electronic equipment.
[puts arm around Beale's shoulders]
Arthur Jensen: They say I can sell anything. I'd like to try to sell something to *you*.

[bellowing] You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?

You think you've merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars.

Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today!
And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU... WILL... ATONE!

Jensen: [calmly] Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon.

Those *are* the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx?
They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale.

The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale.

It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that... perfect world... in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock.

All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.

Howard Beale: Why me?

Arthur Jensen: Because you're on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.

Howard Beale: I have seen the face of God.
Arthur Jensen: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.

BEALE's next TV program:

I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks' time because of poor ratings.

Since this show is the only thing I had going for me in my life, I've decided to kill myself.

I'm going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today.

So tune in next Tuesday.
That should give the public relations people a week to promote the show.