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Meet the Flute-Playing Astronaut Who Coached Sandra Bullock for "Gravity"

| Fri Oct. 4, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

Holy shit.

Those are two words you'll be thinking a lot when you watch Gravity, the new film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón. The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, who play two NASA astronauts stranded in space after satellite debris turns their mission into harrowing hell. The visuals and drama are jaw-dropping. Director James Cameron has called it "the best space film ever done," featuring the "best space photography ever done." Bullock, who occupies most of the screen time, delivers a flooring, commanding performance. And to prepare, she sought out the advice and wisdom of one NASA astronaut: Catherine "Cady" Coleman.

Cuarón and his team didn't spend much time consulting NASA for the film. However, Bullock did reach out to Coleman, a retired US Air Force colonel and astronaut who has been at NASA for 21 years and has spent 180 days in space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and the International Space Station. Coleman lives in Houston and commutes back and forth from her family home in Massachusetts. When she's not being launched into space, she enjoys playing music, mainly on her flute. The first time Bullock and Coleman communicated, Coleman was aboard the ISS, orbiting somewhere between 230 and 286 miles above the Earth's surface.

"It took a couple email cycles because I only got to email four times a day in space," Coleman tells Mother Jones. "After you reply, they don't get your email for another four hours." After they finally connected, the two chatted over the phone a few times about life in space and floating in microgravity. "Sandra wanted to know how we move up there, when we're still and when we're not still, what it was like in a space suit," Coleman says.

"How come we don't get to talk to Sandra Bullock?" joked the male members of her crew, including Ron Garan, who would make lighthearted comments such as, "Ah, you talked to Sandra, didn't you…Did she ask about me?"

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In Which Top Chefs Have Their Minds Blown by Scientists

| Fri Oct. 4, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
The future on display at Stone Barns: first-rate whole wheat bread from wheat varieties developed by plant breeders and bakers working together.

Ferran Adrià, who retired in 2011 as arguably the globe's most decorated chef since Auguste Escoffier, is mock-furious.

Looking chic and trim with his close-cropped graying hair and sporting a black jacket over a black T-shirt, he is regaling a crowd with his lilting Catalan-tinged Spanish. The intellectual father of the highly experimental, techno-centered cooking known as "molecular gastronomy," Adrià is renowned for the wild inventiveness of his cuisine at his now-closed temple El Bulli on Spain's Costa Brava—think "mango anchovy ravioli foam," or  chicken curry in which the curry is solid and the chicken is liquid. But now, with the help of a harried interpreter, he's confronting Washington State University wheat breeder Stephen Jones about the professor's apparent disdain for white flour.

Jones, you see, does something that few breeders have done in the past century or so: He develops wheat varieties specifically geared to be turned into top-quality, whole-grain bread—not 1970s-style bricks or the spongy logs of today's supermarkets, but the kind of stuff you'd find in an artisanal bakery.

Ferran Adrià, right, seen from back, confronts Washington State University wheat breeder Stephen Jones, center, over the question of white bread. Kirra Cheers

"What's wrong with a [white] baguette?" Adrià wants to know, his eyes playfully boring into those of Jones, who's looking slightly stunned. And then, making a dismissive gesture, Adrià asks: "Has anyone ever made a whole wheat croissant?"

It was a scene as surreal as one of Adrià's tapas: a radical European chef challenging a salt-of-the-earth, US land grant university professor over separating flour from bran and germ—and in a high-ceiling stone-walled room that once served as a cow barn for the Rockefeller family's country estate, no less.

I'm fairly confident when I say that last week at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture—a sprawling farm/restaurant nestled in a rural corner of Westchester County, New York, on land donated by the Rockefeller family—I witnessed the globe's first-ever meeting between a roster of renowned chefs and a set of utterly obscure, highly accomplished plant breeders, mostly from US land grant universities.

The meeting was the brainchild of the visionary US chef Dan Barber. In his revered Blue Hill restaurants (one in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, one at Stone Barns, site of the conference), Barber displays a culinary sensibility that's two parts Alice Waters (reverence for, even fetishization of, seasonal ingredients) and one part Adrià-like innovation.

Blue Hill's Dan Barber has seen the future, and it's all about farmers and breeders collaborating. Kirra Cheers

Both qualities were on display at the meeting, called "Seeds: The Future of Flavor," convened by Barber in his capacity as an advisory board member of the Basque Culinary Center, a culinary university launched in 2011 in San Sebastian, Spain, that is emerging as an emblem of Spain's emerging status as the center of the global culinary avant garde. Barber's fellow advisory board members read like a who's who of international culinary innovators, and several of them attended, including Adrià, his fellow Spaniard Joan Roca, France's Michel Bras, Mexico's Enrique Olvera, Peru's Gaston Acurio, and Brazil's Alex Atala. They were joined by a glittering group of US luminaries like New Yorkers Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park), Bill Telepan (Telepan), Peter Hoffman (Back Forty West), and Charleston, South Carolina's Sean Brock (Husk).

These attendees gave the meeting an electric glamor: a food-world version of what I imagine attending the Academy Awards is like. I almost involuntarily spit out my coffee when I realized the nice young British woman I was chatting with at my assigned table was none other than April Bloomfield, of the renowned New York City restaurants The Spotted Pig and The Breslin. If I had done so, I might have soiled the shirt of the unassuming fellow sitting across from me, who turned out to be David Kinch, chef/owner of Northern California's Manresa.

In his opening remarks, Barber pointed out that for a century or so, plant breeding has been mainly focused on a few large commodity crops: corn, wheat, soy, and a smattering of widely traded fruits and vegetables like tomatoes. Moreover, increasingly dominated by agrichemical-industry interests, breeding has been geared to generating high-yielding, easily portable crop varieties, ignoring considerations like flavor, nutrition, and adaptation to diverse regional ecosystems.

Meanwhile, Barber continued, the movement to transform the US food system along healthier, more ecologically robust, and tastier lines has viewed seeds through two lenses: (1) condemning giant, patent-bearing seed companies like Monsanto; and (2) preserving heirloom seed varieties that were developed before the World War II-era rise of industrial agriculture, and which have been rapidly dying out ever since.

Chefs and breeders have already developed a winter squash variety called "honeynut"—a smaller, more intensely flavored version of the widely grown butternut.

Preserving the fast-eroding agricultural biodiversity of the past is critical, but insufficient. "We need something between Monsanto and heirlooms," Barber declared. He imagines a revitalized seed-breeding sector that answers not just to huge agribusiness companies but also to evolving demands for better-tasting, healthier, and regionally grown food. "If we could talk to the people a hundred years ago who bred the heirloom tomato varieties we love," he said, "they'd wonder, 'Why all the effort to preserve these? Why not keep going, keep breeding new varieties?'"

Cornell plant breeder Michael Mazourek, who works directly with organic farmers in the Northeast to generate  new crop varieties that thrive without pesticides, asked what must have been a provocative question to a group of chefs known for their love of experimentation: "If you consider all the produce—all the vegetables and grains—available in your kitchen, what would you change if you could?"

For breeders, the answers don't need to be guided by the conventional demands for higher yields and suitability for long-haul travel. Mazourek and a growing number of breeders use a "completely non-GMO process" called marker-assisted selection. Using genomic tools, they identify the genes that trigger particular traits in a plant species and then select for them—greatly accelerating the process of creating desirable new seed lines. "We have this great potential to customize and refine taste, flavor, size, and functionality in the kitchen," he said.

Barber and the farmers at Stone Barns have already been availing themselves of Mazourek's services. Together, they've developed a winter squash variety called "honeynut," a smaller, more intensely flavored version of the widely grown butternut.

Frank Morton, who plays the rare role of farmer/seed breeder in Oregon's Willamette Valley, spoke of his work using low-tech methods—like crossing heirloom varieties of lettuce—to create entire new lines, selected for traits like vibrant pigmentation (which also means more nutrients), crunchy texture, and sweet or spicy flavor. Farmers have been doing the same thing for centuries, but in recent decades have come to rely on seed companies, not the painstaking process of selection and seed saving. Morton, whose seed operation is part of a broader market farm operation called Gathering Together Farm, is a kind of throwback to the days of farmer-breeders. He has created new lettuce (and other vegetable) varieties that shine both in the field and on the plate.

The idea of working directly with breeders seemed to send a shiver through the crowd. In a later conversation, Bloomfield said she hoped to find a breeder to develop a tomato variety for the New York region that could match the intense flavor of those grown in Northern California.

The Latin American contingent brought a different perspective. Chefs Atala of Brazil and Acurio of Peru spoke of the stunning variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains that still flourish in indigenous-populated regions of Latin America—and how that heritage is threatened by globalization and the severe economic pressures faced by smallholder farmers. Their remarks reminded me that here in the United States, where European settlers virtually wiped out indigenous populations, we have a relatively small seed heritage to preserve—and much of it has already been obliterated by the rise of industrial farming over the past half century. Hence Barber's focus on the imperative to generate new seed lines. In Latin America, there's much more left to defend.

Washington State's Jones wrapped things up by bringing the conversation back to new varieties—in this case, wheat. Here Barber introduced Jones with an anecdote. Several years ago, he said, Jones had established himself as one of the nation's leading conventional wheat breeders, creating varieties ideal for industrial-scale growing and processing, when he was called into a meeting with his dean and found himself face to face with several Monsanto executives who wanted to breed some of their genetic modifications into his wheat—a proposition that could have made Jones "lots of money," Barber said. Instead, Jones walked out and never looked back, turning his back on commodity wheat forever.

Gaston Acurio, left, speaks about the traditional seed varieties of indigenous Peruvians. Kirra Cheers

Jones explained that most modern wheat varieties are bred to be processed into white flour, with the highly nutritious bran and germ stripped away. To make what is known as "whole wheat bread," some (but not all) of that bran and germ is mixed back in. Making true whole wheat bread from those varieties, using flour from wheat grown without separating the component parts, would result in the hard, brick-like loaves that gave whole-grain bread its bad name in the '70s.

Jones showed a photo revealing that he may be history's first wheat breeder whose lab is outfitted with a professional baking kitchen, complete with big ovens, gleaming steel tables, and tubs of freshly ground flour. His lab crew includes a full-time baker whose job is to turn Jones' novel wheat varieties into bread. And then the baker, Jonathan McDowell, emerged, bearing samples of three loaves made from distinct wheat varieties bred specifically for whole wheat bread.

Each was delicious, sporting a crunchy, blistered crust and a light, airy middle, with varying levels of sweet, nutty, and just plain wheaty flavors. They were so good that this audience was largely consuming them without butter.

Even Adrià, during his spirited defense of white bread, conceded their excellence. And I reflected that bread itself—a chunk of hard crust encasing a cottony, puffy middle—is the original Ferran Adrià project. If it hadn't been invented thousands of years ago, would even he have dreamt of creating such a wondrous thing from a bunch of rock-hard, virtually flavorless little seeds?

Conservatives' Biggest Fear: Being Called Racist

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 7:57 PM EDT

In Pacific Standard, Tom Jacobs writes about a new study that tries to figure out why so many people love to watch and listen to "outrage-based radio and television programs." After conducting a series of in-depth interviews, their answer, in a nutshell, is that unlike conversations with actual friends and neighbors, these programs provide a safe space where you don't have to worry about saying something that might get you ostracized:

But why is their pull apparently stronger among conservatives, who gravitate to such programming in much greater numbers than liberals? Based on their interviews, the researchers believe the answer lies in the fact those on the right have more to fear in terms of social condemnation for their views.

In conversation with conservatives, liberals risk being called naïve or willfully blind to potential threats—not very pleasant labels, but not especially damaging ones, either. In contrast, conservatives risk accusations of racism—and “being called a racist carries a particular cultural force,” the researchers write.

“The experience of being perceived as racist loomed large in the mind of conservative fans (we interviewed),” they report. Every single conservative respondent raised the issue of being called racist, and did so without even being asked.

“What makes accusations of racism so upsetting for respondents is that racism is socially stigmatized, but also that they feel powerless to defend themselves once the specter is raised,” the researchers add. “We suspect that this heightened social risk increases the appeal of the safe political environs provided by outrage-based programs, and may partially explain the overwhelming conservative dominance of outrage-based political talk media.”

It's worth noting that this is not, plainly, a representative sample of conservatives. It's specifically a sample of conservatives who listen to right-wing radio and TV, where they're barraged daily with affirmations that the entire liberal project is based on unfairly slurring conservatives as racists. So it's no surprise that this is at the top of their minds.

That said, this is still something I struggle with. It's obvious that race infuses a tremendous amount of American discourse. It affects our politics, our culture, and our history. Racial resentment is at the core of many common attitudes toward social welfare programs; our levels of taxation; and the current occupant of the White House. There's no way to write honestly about politics in America without acknowledging all this on a regular basis.

At the same time, it's also obvious that, in many ways, a liberal focus on race and racism is just flatly counterproductive. When I write about, say, the racial obsessions displayed by Fox News (or Drudge or Rush Limbaugh), it's little more than a plain recitation of obvious facts, and liberals applaud. Ditto for posts about the self-described racial attitudes of tea partiers. But conservatives see it as an attack. And why wouldn't they? I'm basically saying that these outlets are engaged in various levels of race-mongering, and by implication, that anyone who listens to them is condoning racism. That's such a uniquely toxic accusation that it makes any real conversation hopeless. Cognitively, the only way to respond is to deny everything, and that in turn forces you to believe that liberals are obviously just lying for their own partisan ends. This feeds the vicious media-dittohead circle, and everyone withdraws one step more.

I know I'm not saying anything new or insightful here. But just as there's no way to not talk about this, I wish there were some way to talk about it that didn't instantly estrange conservatives even further—but that also didn't water the truth down into mush. I imagine I'll be wishing for that for a very long time.

Republicans May Be Cynical, But Democrats Need Better Answers

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 3:54 PM EDT

As you know, the latest Republican ploy on the budget is to pass mini-CRs that fund a tiny handful of high-visibility programs: national parks, cancer treatment for kids, and keeping Washington DC running. This is all breathtakingly cynical, based on the idea that maybe the public won't get too mad about what Republicans are doing as long as all the damage from the budget impasse is behind the scenes.

Still, the optics of the Republican ploy are pretty obvious, and it's a little unnerving that Harry Reid could have been so unprepared to respond:

CNN's Dana Bash asked Senate Democratic leaders if they'd back the new piecemeal bill.

"What right do they have to pick and choose what parts of government can be funded?" asked Reid.

"But if you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn't you?" asked Bash.

...."Why would we want to do that?" asked Reid, keying off Bash. "I have 1100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home." He concluded by asking why someone of Bash's "intelligence" would ask something so silly. The video below reveals the gobsmacked faces of reporters.

Ugh. It's irksome that reporters like Bash are so eager to play gotcha with obvious Republican talking points, but them's the breaks. That stuff happens. Democrats need to have better answers, and they need to explain just why the Republican CRs are such contemptuous exercises in trying to gull the American public.

UPDATE: Commenters are upset about my interpretation here. There are two parts to this.

First, just as Reid started to say "Why would we want to do that?" Chuck Schumer interjected "Why pit one against the other?" A lot of you think Reid was keying off Schumer's statement, not Bash's question. That's possible, though the video isn't clear about this, and it's not how I initially read it.

But here's the second part: that's not what I meant to criticize anyway. Honestly, I just took it for granted that Reid wasn't literally saying "why would we want to help kids with cancer?" That's Sean Hannity crap. I was objecting to his comment about Nellis Air Force base. He sounds as though he's comparing some furloughed civilian workers in his home state with kids who have cancer. Fair or not, that's going to sound bad.

Reid also needs to learn to stay on message. He began his statement with a decent enough response to the CRs, but before he finished he wandered off into an aside about Republicans being obsessed with Obamacare. That may be true, but it was completely nonresponsive and stepped all over the point he needed to make.

President Obama Has Had Enough

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 2:00 PM EDT

I like this Ezra Klein analysis of where we are in the budget/debt ceiling crisis. It picks up after the White House spent several fruitless months trying to negotiate with Republicans and eventually giving in completely to their spending demands. But even that didn't do any good:

As the White House sees it, Speaker John Boehner has begun playing politics as game of Calvinball, in which Republicans invent new rules on the fly and then demand the media and the Democrats accept them as reality and find a way to work around them.

....The White House has decided that they can't govern effectively if the House Republicans can keep playing Calvinball. The rules and promises Boehner makes are not their problem, they've decided. They're not going to save him. And that also rules out unusual solutions like minting a platinum coin or declaring the debt limit unconstitutional. The White House doesn't want to break the law (and possibly spark a financial crisis) in order to save Boehner from breaking a promise he never should have made.

Top administration officials say that President Obama feels as strongly about this fight as he has about anything in his presidency. He believes that he will be handing his successor a fatally weakened office, and handing the American people an unacceptable risk of future financial crises, if he breaks, or even bends, in the face of Republican demands. And so the White House says that their position is simple, and it will not change: They will not negotiate over substantive policy issues until Republicans end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

I think Obama is right. Conservatives are basically trying to invent a new Constitution because they don't like the way the current one works, and they're doing it by threatening the equivalent of nuclear war if they don't get their way. There's simply no way that any president can give in to that.

I Am Now Very Confused by John Boehner

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 1:26 PM EDT

I do not understand this:

With a budget deal still elusive and a deadline approaching on raising the debt ceiling, Speaker John A. Boehner has told colleagues that he is determined to prevent a federal default and is willing to pass a measure through a combination of Republican and Democratic votes, according to one House Republican.

The lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of not being named, said Mr. Boehner indicated he would be willing to violate the so-called Hastert rule if necessary to pass a debt limit increase. The informal rule refers to a policy of not bringing to the floor any measure that does not have a majority of Republican votes.

Other Republicans also said Thursday that they got the sense that Mr. Boehner, who held two meetings Wednesday with groups of House moderates, would do whatever was necessary to ensure that the country did not default on its debt.

That's good to hear. But it doesn't make sense. For months now, Boehner has been telling his caucus not to use a government shutdown as leverage to cut spending or defund Obamacare, but instead to use the debt ceiling as leverage. That's been his consistent strategy since March.

But now he's telling them that, in fact, the debt ceiling can't be used as a hostage after all? That's weird. Of course, at the same time that he's been begging his caucus to use the debt ceiling as leverage, he's also been promising that he will never "risk the full faith and credit of the United States." So this has been confusing all along.

I don't know what's going on anymore. In the meantime, however, here's a video of brave, brave Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) publicly berating some poor park ranger for being stuck doing a terrible job that Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) has forced her to do. Kinda makes you want to puke.

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No, the House GOP Isn't Standing Up for Kids With Cancer

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 12:51 PM EDT

Step aside, WWII vets; House Republicans have found their newest government shutdown prop: children with cancer. On Wednesday, having caught wind of the news that about 200 patients—including 30 children—would not be admitted for clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, the House quickly passed a bill to fund the NIH. (It passed similar resolutions for the National Park Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the District of Columbia.) On Twitter, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) synthesized the new conservative talking points as only he could: "President Stompy Feet now says he'll kill funding for children's cancer treatment. Will the media still cover for him?" On Thursday morning, House Republicans who worked previously as doctors and nurses held a press conference on Capitol Hill to call once more for full funding of the NIH.

But missing from all of this is any explanation of what the Republicans' continuing resolution would actually do: Enshrine the severe cuts imposed on the institute by sequestration. NIH lost 5 percent of its budget—or $1.7 billion—when the cuts included in the Budget Control Act went into effect last spring. It has adjusted by eliminating at least 700 research grants, and slowed down priorities such as developing a universal flu vaccine. As NIH director Dr. Francis Collins told the Huffington Post in August, "God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic." (Making a bad situation worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it will be unable to effectively monitor flu vaccination programs and virus outbreaks during the shutdown.) In September, Collins suggested that the cuts to research could put "the next cure for cancer" on ice.

Now the Government Shutdown Is Stopping Blood Drives

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 12:49 PM EDT

Here's how the government shutdown may literally be killing people: by causing blood shortages.

For all the scorn heaped on government employees, some people forget that the faceless bureaucrats who populate Washington are often, in fact, a bunch of do-gooders—people who genuinely believe in the notion of public service. As such, they contribute to the public good in a lot of ways that are taken for granted, like their immense contribution to local blood banks. Thirty-eight percent of the population is eligible to give blood, but only 5 percent actually does so. A lot of that 5 percent apparently works for the federal government. Thanks to the shutdown, in just two days, four federal agency blood drives scheduled by one DC-area health care system have been canceled. The regional Red Cross has had to cancel six others in the Washington region.

Inova Blood Donor Services projects that the cancelations will result in its projected loss of 300 donations that would have helped 900 patients in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Inova's donated blood collections supply 24 hospitals, which bank much of the blood for inevitable disasters or, say, terrorist attacks. The Red Cross is suffering from similar disruptions, projecting the loss of 229 donations, each of which could potentially save up to three lives. A single major trauma event can easily deplete a hospital's entire blood store. The longer the shutdown goes on, the worse the situation is likely to get.

Rebecca Manarchuck, marketing director for Inova Blood Donor Services, says the Washington area supplies were already low, thanks to reduced collection rates that historically happen in the summertime. The shutdown is only compounding the shortage. Blood drives are carefully scheduled and planned well in advance. Doing them at government offices requires a host of logistical arrangements because of tight security and other considerations, meaning that rescheduling the drives for a later date won't be an easy task. And even then, donated blood can't even be used until three days after it's given to allow time for all the screening tests, resulting in some lag time before it can be given to patients in need.

Inova is attempting to make up for the loss by encouraging people to donate blood at their three centers in Virginia. (The Red Cross is also encouraging people to donate at local chapters.) Members of Congress are encouraged to make an appointment here and here

The Real Lesson From The Flaming Tesla Video

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 12:30 PM EDT

Yesterday afternoon, a Tesla Model S burst into flames on Washington State Route 167 outside Seattle. The auto blog Jalopnik quickly posted a video of the luxury electric car engulfed in a ball of fire and smoke. Tesla later noted that the fire hadn't been spontaneous; the car had been hit by a metal object that damaged the battery pack. The car's alert system detected a failure and told the driver to pull over, the driver wasn't injured, and the fire never spread to the passenger compartment. Even so, at the close of the stock market yesterday, Tesla's share price had fallen more than 6 percent (UPDATE: It dropped another 5 percent this morning).

The sell-off may have resulted from the video, from a ratings downgrade released the same day by an R.W. Baird stock analyst, or both. Either way, the experience shows how hard it can be for companies to stake their success on radical innovation. Behind investors' (unfounded) hand-wringing over electrical fires or production hiccups is their unease over the basic fact that nobody has ever built anything like a Tesla before.

That Tesla has come this far—the value of its stock has increased six-fold since the Model S was named Motor Trend's Car Of The Year—partly reflects the savvy of its co-founder and CEO Elon Musk. But it's also a classic illustration of the value of federal subsidies, such as the $465 million loan that Tesla received from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2010. When you're trying something really awesome and new, sometimes you need a little help from taxpayers. Just look up the early history of Google and Apple. Yet Musk, a self-described libertarian, has loudly criticized federal subsidies. I take a closer look at this sort of disconnect, which is pretty common in Silicon Valley circles, in my story in the September/October print issue, now online.

 

Why Conservatives Are Saying Obamacare Could Take Your House

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 12:29 PM EDT

The health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act opened for business on Tuesday, allowing uninsured Americans to buy subsidized coverage. By Wednesday, conservative websites had a fresh conspiracy theory running: if you decline to purchase health insurance, the feds may put a lien on your home.

InfoWars cites this Facebook post as proof:

 

I actually made it through this morning at 8:00 A.M. I have a preexisting condition (Type 1 Diabetes) and my income base was 45K-55K annually I chose tier 2 'Silver Plan' and my monthly premiums came out to $597.00 with $13,988 yearly deductible!!! There is NO POSSIBLE way that I can afford this so I 'opt-out' and chose to continue along with no insurance.

I received an email tonight at 5:00 P.M. informing me that my fine would be $4,037 and could be attached to my yearly income tax return. Then you make it to the 'REPERCUSSIONS PORTION' for 'non-payment' of yearly fine. First, your drivers license will be suspended until paid, and if you go 24 consecutive months with 'Non-Payment' and you happen to be a home owner, you will have a federal tax lien placed on your home. You can agree to give your bank information so that they can easy 'Automatically withdraw' your 'penalties' weekly, bi-weekly or monthly! This by no means is 'Free' or even 'Affordable.'

The Affordable Care Act itself states that the IRS cannot file a lien on a property because an uninsured person fails to pay a penalty. Nor can it seize bank accounts or garnish paychecks to recover Obamacare fines. Nor will Americans who refuse to pay for mandatory health insurance be subject to criminal prosecution of any kind.

Infowars acknowledges all this, but concludes that the Facebook poster, Will Sheehan, still might be right: "Either Sheehan’s claim that he received this notice is a lie, or the feds have been dishonest with the American people all along, and the revolt against Obamacare is about to take 'don't tread on me' to a whole new level."

As Obamacare moves from legislation to reality, many of the old conspiracy theories making the chain email rounds will be laid to rest. It seems there will be no shortage of new tin foil hat tales to take their place.