An Open Letter to Representative Brad Miller

Mr. Miller,

I am writing you today to let you know how disappointed I am in your decision to both vote in favor of allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens while preventing them any recourse or due process, as well as your vote to prevent members of the public from being able to scrutinize Congressional meetings regarding H.R. 1540.

H.R. 1540 is one of the largest assaults on civil liberties in our nation's history. The idea that an American citizen should be able to be held indefinitely without access to due process is simply unconscionable, regardless of the charges against them. It goes against the principles this nation was founded on, common sense, and a strong legal tradition dating back centuries.

As a nation we have always managed to deal with threats to our national security while maintaining protections for civil liberties. Those past instances where we have abandoned them in the name of fear, as with the internment of Japanese Americans, have become stains on our nation's reputation and commitment to justice. With the benefit of hindsight, we look back upon them with shame, wondering what those involved could have been thinking.

It pains me to see another shameful chapter in our history beginning to take shape now, and it frustrates me that someone like you, who I believed would represent me well in Congress, who I actively supported, has taken a stance which is clearly on the wrong side of this extremely important issue.

Your decision to vote for the bill is indefensible, but your decision to vote in favor of closing the meetings to members of the public is simply shameful.

The public have a right to know what was said by our representatives at those meetings, and your recent legislative decisions have made me lose both respect for and trust in your ability to represent me.

Disappointed,

Ken Norman
Constituent, North Carolina 13th

Obama's health reform: A year by year breakdown

Curious what the health care bill means for you? Don't listen to misinformation coming from the right. Courtesy of Reuters, here's a year by year breakdown of what health care reform means for you:

WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR OF ENACTMENT

  1. Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted.
  2. Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
  3. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college.
  4. Uninsured adults with a pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain health coverage through a new program that will expire once new insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.
  5. A temporary reinsurance program is created to help companies maintain health coverage for early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64. This also expires in 2014.
  6. Medicare drug beneficiaries who fall into the "doughnut hole" coverage gap will get a $250 rebate. The bill eventually closes that gap which currently begins after $2,700 is spent on drugs. Coverage starts again after $6,154 is spent.
  7. A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.
  8. A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps goes into effect on July 1.

WHAT HAPPENS IN 2011

  1. Medicare provides 10 percent bonus payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons.
  2. Medicare beneficiaries will be able to get a free annual wellness visit and personalized prevention plan service. New health plans will be required to cover preventive services with little or no cost to patients.
  3. A new program under the Medicaid plan for the poor goes into effect in October that allows states to offer home and community based care for the disabled that might otherwise require institutional care.
  4. Payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage services are frozen at 2010 levels. These payments are to be gradually reduced to bring them more in line with traditional Medicare.
  5. Employers are required to disclose the value of health benefits on employees' W-2 tax forms.
  6. An annual fee is imposed on pharmaceutical companies according to market share. The fee does not apply to companies with sales of $5 million or less.

WHAT HAPPENS IN 2012

  1. Physician payment reforms are implemented in Medicare to enhance primary care services and encourage doctors to form "accountable care organizations" to improve quality and efficiency of care.
  2. An incentive program is established in Medicare for acute care hospitals to improve quality outcomes.
  3. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the government programs, begin tracking hospital readmission rates and puts in place financial incentives to reduce preventable readmissions.

WHAT HAPPENS IN 2013

  1. A national pilot program is established for Medicare on payment bundling to encourage doctors, hospitals and other care providers to better coordinate patient care.
  2. The threshold for claiming medical expenses on itemized tax returns is raised to 10 percent from 7.5 percent of income. The threshold remains at 7.5 percent for the elderly through 2016.
  3. The Medicare payroll tax is raised to 2.35 percent from 1.45 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples with incomes over $250,000. The tax is imposed on some investment income for that income group.
  4. A 2.9 percent excise tax in imposed on the sale of medical devices.
  5. Anything generally purchased at the retail level by the public is excluded from the tax.

WHAT HAPPENS IN 2014

  1. State health insurance exchanges for small businesses and individuals open.
  2. Most people will be required to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a fine if they don't. Healthcare tax credits become available to help people with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty purchase coverage on the exchange.
  3. Health plans no longer can exclude people from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
  4. Employers with 50 or more workers who do not offer coverage face a fine of $2,000 for each employee if any worker receives subsidized insurance on the exchange. The first 30 employees aren't counted for the fine.
  5. Health insurance companies begin paying a fee based on their market share.

WHAT HAPPENS IN 2015

  1. Medicare creates a physician payment program aimed at rewarding quality of care rather than volume of services.

WHAT HAPPENS IN 2018

  1. An excise tax on high cost employer-provided plans is imposed. The first $27,500 of a family plan and $10,200 for individual coverage is exempt from the tax. Higher levels are set for plans covering retirees and people in high risk professions.

(Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by David Alexander and Eric Beech)

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1914020220100319

Obama's first year accomplishments

Obama hasn’t been perfect, but contrary to the right wing narrative, he’s accomplished a lot in his first year despite facing extraordinary challenges from his first day in office. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here's a (partial) list collected from various sources:

1. Banned the use of torture and the ordered the closing of Guantánamo, bringing us back in line with the Geneva Conventions.

2. Reversed Bush’s funding cutoff to family planning organizations overseas, saving millions of lives with the stroke of a pen.

3. Gave a green light to the California car-emissions standards that Bush had been blocking for six years, enabling them to set their own standards.

4. Signed the stimulus bill, a $787 billion accomplishment designed to help turn around the economic slowdown caused by 8 years of fiscal mismanagement.

5. Formally announced America’s withdrawal from Iraq.

6. Erased Bush’s decision to restrict federal funding for stem-cell research, increasing federal support for new stem-cell and biomedical research, including new funding for science and research labs.

7. Forced Chrysler and GM into bankruptcy, allowing them to restructure their failing companies with the protection of the federal government.

8. In June, Obama reset the tone of our relations with the entire Arab world with a single speech — an accomplishment that the Bush administration failed to achieve despite a series of desperate PR moves (anyone remember Charlotte Beers?) and a "public diplomacy" budget of $1 billion a year.

9. Also in June, Obama unveiled the "Cash for Clunkers" program, reanimating the corpse of our car industry — leading, for example, to the billion-dollar profit that Ford recently announced.

10. He’s now a month or two from accomplishing the awesome and seemingly impossible task that eluded mighty presidents like FDR, LBJ, and WJC — health-care reform.

11. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings and lower drug costs for seniors.

12. Has, with Bush's help, it must be said, stopped the financial collapse,
revived the credit markets, and nudged the economy toward 3.5 percent growth in the last quarter.

13. Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel

14. Improved housing for military personnel

15. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy promotes in-sourcing to bring jobs back

16. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry's predatory practices

17. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending

18. Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices

19. Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women (Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay)

20. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB

21. Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information

22. Ended media blackout on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover AFB; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier's family

23. The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act

24. Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible

25. Limits on lobbyist's access to the White House

26. Limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration

27. Ended the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date

28. Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren't even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan

29. States are permitted to enact federal fuel efficiency standards above federal standards

30. Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after years of neglect

31. Funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools

32. New funds for school construction

33. Housing rescue plan

34. The public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (the new plan can be completed in one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying

35. US financial and banking rescue plan

36. The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed

37. Ordered release of torture memos

38. Push for charter schools

39. $28 billion in tax cuts

40. End of the “war on medical marijuana” – leading to relief for thousands of cancer patients.

41. Better body armor is now being provided to our troops

42. The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010

43. Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols

44. Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic

45. Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions

46. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office

47. Successful release of US captain held by Somali pirates; authorized the SEALS to do their job

48. US Navy increasing patrols off Somali coast

49. Attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles

50. Cash for clunkers program offers vouchers to trade in fuel inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars; stimulated auto sales

51. Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government

52. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children

53. Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program

54. Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones

55. Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions

56. Expanding vaccination programs

57. Immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters

58. Closed offshore tax safe havens

59. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals

60. Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources

61. Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses

62. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals

63. Increasing student loans

64. Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program

65. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy

66. Established a new cyber security office

67. Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force; this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.

68. Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts

69. Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness

70. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient

71. Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans
refinanced

72. Improving benefits for veterans

73. Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than previous administration

74. Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud

75. The FDA is now regulating tobacco

76. Ended previous policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules

77. Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports

78. Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by Pres. Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons

79. Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Sen. Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive

80. Making more loans available to small businesses

81. Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare

82. Appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court

83. Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans

84. Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000

85. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel

86. Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan

87. Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan

88. New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid,
development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans

89. Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production

90. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters

91. Paid for redecoration of White House living quarters out of his own pocket

92. Held first Seder in White House

93. Attempting to reform the nation's healthcare system which is the most expensive in the world yet leaves almost 50 million without health insurance and millions more under insured

94. Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform

95. Has announced his intention to push for energy reform

96. Has announced his intention to push for education reform

And here's a link to a list of campaign promises and whether he's kept/broken them or whether they're in progress/stalled: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/

Which other proverb would you like? -- Post your name and which proverb to the comments after voting

عقلي مش دفتر (My mind is not a notebook)
50% (2 votes)
فوق الريح (On top of the wind)
25% (1 vote)
في المشمش (In your dreams / When pigs fly)
25% (1 vote)
Other (dont vote on this one, post in comments)
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 4

Arabic QWERTY Keyboard Layout for Windows

I'm taking Arabic this semester, and one of our final assignments is to type a 175+ word essay in Arabic.

If you own a Mac and have reason to type in Arabic, you've probably seen the Arabic-QWERTY keyboard layout that comes standard with Mac OS X, which has the keys assigned intuitively for a non-native speaker who's used to a normal, QWERTY English keyboard and probably associates Arabic letters and sounds with comparable ones in the Latin alphabet.

Alif = A, Baa = B, Nuun = N, and so on.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn't come with anything similar.. meaning you have to get used to things like Siin being where the A key is and all sorts of other wacky things that aren't at all intuitive, resulting in it taking forever and a day to type a simple word.

So, to save myself some hassle (since I don't have a Mac), I searched for a similar keyboard layout.

I found a custom keyboard layout created by someone called "AziizKeez" which makes it much more intuitive, and similar to the Mac layout (though not exactly the same). You can see their website here: AziizKeez 4.0

Unfortunately, they only provide the .klc file, which means you have to download the Keyboard Layout Creation Tool from Microsoft, compile a package, etc.. and I am sure there are many people who aren't technical enough to want to go through the hassle, so I decided to create it and post it.

I did NOT create this keyboard layout, so please direct all questions about it to the creator (who's website I've linked above), although if you have a problem with the installer feel free to contact me.

Instructions for installation:

  1. Download the file listed above for your appropriate machine. If you have an AMD64 processor or one of the newer Intel ones, you can download one of those. If you aren't sure which to download, download the i386 version.
  2. Unzip the file, and inside the folder you'll see either: arabic_i386.msi, or arabic_amd64.msi, arabic_ia64.msi
  3. Double click the file, following the prompts to install it.

In order to easily switch between English and Arabic keyboards, I recommend enabling the language bar.

In Windows Vista:

Go to Start -> Control Panel

Default View:

  1. Go to "Change keyboards or other input methods"
  2. Click on "Change Keyboards" - The Keyboard for Arabic should already be enabled
  3. Click on the "Language Bar" tab
  4. Click on "Docked on the Taskbar" (my preference)

Classic View:

  1. Go to "Regional and Language Options"
  2. Click on the "Keyboards and Languages" tab
  3. Click on the "Language Bar" tab
  4. Click on "Docked on the Taskbar" (my preference)

And that's it. You should see an icon at the bottom that says "EN" down by the Time on the Taskbar. If you click it, you can easily switch between "EN" and "AR," which is the layout you've just added.

If you'd like to see the entire layout of the keyboard, you can open up the "On Screen Keyboard" in Windows Vista by doing the following:

Start -> Control Panel (either Default or Classic View)

  1. Click on "Ease of Access"
  2. Click on "Start On-Screen Keyboard"

You can switch between AR/EN keyboards by clicking the icon you put on the taskbar above, and then switch to the On Screen Keyboard to see where each individual letter is.

Good luck!

شُكراً
كن

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