Monday, February 28, 2011

The Official Not-For-Profit Blog of Keith Olbermann

Early Reviews for Keith Olbermann's Fok News Channel

It turns out that some of the key ingredients in Keith Olbermann's recently canceled show Countdown--the "Worst Persons in the World" segment, the digs at Fox News--didn't disappear when the outspoken liberal host left MSNBC in January. No, they've just migrated from television to the web. Over the weekend, Olbermann, who will soon host a nightly news and commentary show for Current TV, launched a "not for profit blog" called the FOK News Channel. The masthead mimics Fox News' logo, but the FOK stands for "Friends of Keith."

So far, Olbermann has deemed Mike Hogan--the Republican nominee for mayor of Jacksonville--the Worst Person of the Day for joking that bombing an abortion clinic might cross his mind (Olbermann's nemesis, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, was, naturally, a runner-up). Olbermann's also introduced a new shtick--"Snappy Answers to Stupid Headlines"--and penned a post criticizing the New York Times for describing a source inaccurately in an article about union solidarity declining in Wisconsin.

What are the early reviews of Fok News?

•I'm Impressed Digby thinks Olbermann's post on the Times story "is a lovely little story of Big Media and its biases working in favor of the ruling class ... It turns out that Keith Olberman is a very good blogger."

•Falls Short of Show Don Irvine at the Canada Free Press isn't impressed: "Olbermann seems to think that all he has to do is set up a website and make pithy comments and that people will follow. But so far his posts lack the humor and edginess that made him MSNBC's top rated news show."

•Too Cute Suzanne Murray at The Stir says Olbermann shouldn't have turned his pun into a full-fledged blog. While she's an Olbermann's fan, she dislikes Fox News and "that big red, white, and blue FOK News logo sitting there staring me in the face just rubs me the wrong way ... The only upside to the whole thing? A bad typist trying to get to Fox News could land on FOK News--and might actually learn a thing or two about what's really going on in the world."

•A Lonely Endeavor Emily Esfahani Smith at The Blaze asserts that "so far, the 'Friends of Keith' network is just a community of one: Keith Olbermann himself. Let's hope that this doesn’t turn into a dating website."

Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions

As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them. But the nationwide poll found that embattled public employee unions have the support of most Americans — and most independents — as they fight the efforts of newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to weaken their bargaining powers, and the attempts of governors from both parties to cut their pay or benefits.

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

When it came to one of the most debated, and expensive, benefits that many government workers enjoy but private sector workers do not — the ability to retire early, and begin collecting pension checks — Americans were closely divided. Forty-nine percent said police officers and firefighters should be able to retire and begin receiving pension checks even if they are in their 40s or 50s; 44 percent said they should have to be older. There was a similar divide on whether teachers should be able to retire and draw pensions before they are 65.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Feb. 24-27 with 984 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said there was a union member in their household, and 25 percent said there was a public employee in their household.

Tax increases were not as unpopular among those surveyed as they are among many governors, who have vowed to avoid them. Asked how they would choose to reduce their state’s deficits, those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one. Given a list of options to reduce the deficit, 40 percent said they would increase taxes, 22 percent chose decreasing the benefits of public employees, 20 percent said they would cut financing for roads and 3 percent said they would cut financing for education.

The most contentious issue to emerge in the recent labor battles has been the question of collective bargaining rights. A proposal by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin to weaken them sent Democratic state lawmakers out of state to prevent a vote, flooded the Capitol in Madison with thousands of protesters and sparked a national discussion about unions.

The poll found that an overwhelming 71 percent of Democrats opposed weakening collective bargaining rights. But there was also strong opposition from independents: 62 percent of them said they opposed taking bargaining rights away from public employee unions.

Phil Merritt, 67, a retired property manager from Crossville, Tenn., who identifies himself as an independent, explained in a follow-up interview why he opposed weakening bargaining rights for public workers. “I just feel they do a job that needs to be done, and in our country today if you work hard, then you should be able to have a home, be able to save for retirement and you should be able to send your kids to college,” he said. “Most public employees have to struggle to do those things, and generally both spouses must work.”

The one group that favors weakening those rights, by a slim majority, was Republicans. Warren Lemma, 56, an electrical contractor from Longview, Tex., said states did not have the money to pay for many benefits that state workers enjoy.

“Retirement benefits should not be taken away from those about to retire, but the system should be changed for the people starting to teach just now,” said Mr. Lemma, a Republican. “And the only way the system will change is to do something about unions and their control, and the only way to do that is to take away collective bargaining.”

The poll found that 45 percent of those surveyed said they believed that governors and state lawmakers who are trying to reduce the pay or benefits of public workers were doing so to reduce budget deficits, while 41 percent said they thought they were doing so to weaken unions’ power.

Although cutting the pay or benefits of public workers was opposed by people in all income groups, it had the most support from people earning over $100,000 a year. In that income group, 45 percent said they favored cutting pay or benefits, while 49 percent opposed it. In every other income group, a majority opposed cutting pay or benefits: Among those making between $15,000 and $30,000, for instance, 35 percent said they favored cutting pay or benefits, while 60 percent opposed it.

Labor unions, including private sector labor unions, are seen as less influential now than they were three decades ago. The poll found that 37 percent of those surveyed believe that labor unions have “too much influence” on American life and politics, while 48 percent said they had the “right amount” or “too little” influence. In a 1981 poll, by contrast — soon after President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers — 60 percent of those surveyed said unions had “too much influence.” Of course, union membership has declined since then.


Marina Stefan contributed reporting.

Oral sex now main cause of oral cancer: Who faces biggest risk?

 What's the leading cause of oral cancer? Smoking? Heavy drinking?
Actually, it's oral sex.

Scientists say that 64 percent of cancers of the oral cavity, head, and neck in the U.S. are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is commonly spread via oral sex, NPR reported. The more oral sex you have - and the more oral sex partners you have - the greater the risk of developing these potentially deadly cancers.

"An individual who has six or more lifetime partners - on whom they've performed oral sex - has an eightfold increase in risk compared to someone who has never performed oral sex, Ohio University's Dr. Maura Gillison, said at a recent scientific meeting, according to NPR.

It's news that might alarm some parents, who worry about adolescents' appetite for oral sex.

"Today's teens consider oral sex to be casual, socially acceptable, inconsequential, and significantly less risky to their health than 'real' sex," Dr. Gillison and colleagues said in a written statement released in conjunction with the meeting.

Teens simply think oral sex is "not that a big a deal," Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, told NPR. "Parents and health educators are not talking to teens about oral sex. Period."

But simply needling teens about the risks posed by oral sex and HPV - the same virus that causes cervical cancer - is no substitute for literally giving them the needle.

"When my patients ask whether they should vaccinate their sons, I say 'certainly," Gillison said, the Telegraph reported. "The vaccine will protect them against genital warts and anal cancer and also as a potential byproduct of that it may protect them against oral cancer caused by HPV."

This year, 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Eight thousand will die from the cancers.