U.S. Army Soldiers carry a bag filled with food and water that will sustain them while on a multi-day mission near Sar Howza in Paktika province, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2009. The Soldiers, assigned to 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, will hide the bag until they return to gather and distribute the contents before moving to a different location. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith.)

Yes, we've all heard that cougars, that pop culture term for older women who prefer younger male lovers, are running rampant. Especially in Palo Alto. But those "cougars" actually have a few things in common with the real, endangered cougars (Felis cougar concolor). The average cougar is only slightly smaller than a woman, measuring 5' to 6' in length and weighing in at 105 to 150 pounds. Cougars, also called mountain lions, pumas, and catamounts, are also known for their "screams" which some say sound distinctly like a woman. Hear for yourself here.

All joking aside, cougars are in trouble. They've been hunted and poached to the point that their natural prey species like deer are creating overpopulation problems. Somewhat ironically, the farmers and ranchers who complained about and sometimes shot cougars now have to deal with depleted grasslands because of exploding deer populations. Even though cougars are federally endangered, and even though there have only been 10 fatalities since 1990, some hunters insist on believing there's actually a cougar overpopulation and that their children and pets are next on the dinner menu. In actuality, the cougar is shy, solitary, and rarely sighted: most interactions with humans end up with the cougar being eventually killed, rather than the other way around.

Today's must-reads:

  • Our radical activist Supreme Court? (The Economist)
  • Dems likely to sanction Joe Wilson for outburst (WaPo)
  • Judge: $33 million settlement over Merrill Lynch bonuses "does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality." (NYT)
  • Andrew Sullivan: Dear President Bush (The Atlantic)
  • Shocker! WaPo publishes another misleading op-ed! (Yglesias)
  • Human Rights Watch's Marc Garlasco slammed for his Nazi memorabilia collection. (NYT)
  • The skinny on Jay Leno's new show (NYT)
  • Cry for the rich, part one: Lehman Brothers, one year later (NYT)
  • Cry for the rich, part two: "World's Wealthy Pay A Price in Crisis." (WaPo)

Seriously, people, can we cut it with the rich people pity party? Anyway, I post pieces like these throughout the day on twitter. You should follow me, of course. David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

Don't let honey lurk in your cabinet, quietly crystalizing while you forget about it. Instead, AltUse.com suggests using it to:

1. Soothe a sore throat: Instead of a teabag, add honey and lemon to hot water. Or, if you're feeling brave, mix 1/2 c. vinegar and 1/4 c. honey and gargle. Both solutions work like a cough drop.

2. Clear up acne: Apply a little honey to a blemish and cover with a band-aid. Works best overnight.

3. Condition your hair: Add one tablespoon of plain honey to two teaspoons of oilive oil. Place the mixture in the microwave for 15 seconds or until warm. Rub the mixture into your hair, wrap in a wet towel, and leave on for 20 minutes. Shampoo normally, but lather well to get olive oil out.

4. Dress a wound: In a pinch, honey works as a mild antiseptic. Apply it to to the wound and cover with a band-aid.

5. Exfoliate your skin: Honey crystallized? Use it like a facial scrub to get rid of dead skin. Rinse off with water.

Good morning, troops. Here is what is new and Blue Marbleish here at MoJo and out in the wide world today:

K Street rejoice: Meet the Senate Agricultural Committee's new head, Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Today's healthcare reform question: How do Americans feel about the public option?  Do they (a) support it, (b) oppose it, or (c) not care all that much?

David Corn on Hardball: David Corn and Lynn Sweet talked to Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball about whether the public option is dividing democrats.

Jobs! Get yer green jobs!: Switching from coal to renewable energy could create 2.7 million new jobs, says a new study. [Treehugger]

"We all blew it:" High Country News asks whether white environmentalists failed Van Jones.

"I don't really know what a ton of carbon dioxide looks like." US Representative Michael Burgess,  R-TX, during markup of HR 2454, House Committee on Energy & Commerce.

It should surprise no one that Representative Burgess voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) when the historic climate bill narrowly passed the US House, just a day or so after the Texas Republican complained that he couldn't see the offending green house gas. If you can't see it; how do you know it's real?

A poll conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine found that nearly 80 percent of American doctors favor the public option in health care reform. The Journal mailed a confidential questionnaire to 2,000 practicing US physicians 65 or younger to explore whether they endorse a public role for the profession.

Respondents were asked to indicate their agreement or disagreement with the following statements:
 

  1. Addressing societal health policy issues, as important as that may be, falls outside the scope of my professional obligations as a physician
  2. Every physician is professionally obligated to care for the uninsured and underinsured
  3. I would favor limiting reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures if that would help expand access to basic health care for those currently lacking such care

The Journal also asked physicians to indicate whether they objected to using cost-effectiveness data to determine which treatments will be offered to patients.More than half the doctors answered. The results:
 

  • A large majority (78%) agreed that physicians have a professional obligation to address societal health policy issues
  • Majorities agreed that every physician is professionally obligated to care for the uninsured or underinsured (73%)
  • Most doctors were willing to accept limits on reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures for the sake of expanding access to basic health care (67%)

Physicians were divided almost equally about cost-effectiveness analysis. More than half (54%) reported having a moral objection to using such data "to determine which treatments will be offered to patients."

Interestingly, age, race, and region didn't seem to affect opinions. Female doctors were more likely than males to object to using cost-effectiveness data to guide treatment decisions but otherwise did not differ on other questions.

There were differences in opinion based on the doctor's specialty. Surgeons, procedural specialists, and those in nonclinical specialties were all significantly less likely than primary care providers to favor reform that expands access to basic health care by reducing reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures.

There were also consistent differences between self-described liberals and conservatives. The 28% of physicians who called themselves conservative were consistently less enthusiastic about professional responsibilities pertaining to health care reform.

The data suggest that some of the more controversial elements currently appearing in reform proposals will likely face serious opposition from segments of the medical profession, including:
 

  • Limiting reimbursement under Medicare (expanding the ranks of the underinsured)
  • Using cost-effectiveness data in treatment decisions
  • Limiting reimbursements for expensive drugs and procedures

The Journal concludes:
 

  • Most physicians see deliberations on health care reform as part of their professional responsibility
  • Conservative doctors need to be engaged for health care reform to succeed

 

Quote of the Day

From Sen. Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy's replacement as chairman of the HELP committee, to a crowd cheering about healthcare reform at his annual steak fry:

You might as well stay standing because that strong health reform bill — mark my word, I'm the chairman, it's gonna have a STRONG PUBLIC OPTION!

Those are stirring words.  I don't really believe them, unfortunately, since being HELP chairman doesn't exactly make Harkin emperor of the Senate.  But even if it's just steak fry talk, it's nice to hear.

The Ag Lobby

Over at Grist, Tom Laskawy reacts to the recent changes in the Senate Agriculture Committee:

As suspected, agribusiness is indeed turning cartwheels over the news that Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln is now chairman of the Senate Ag Committee. The public policy director for the retrograde American Farm Bureau told The Hill, “We couldn’t have handpicked a chairman better than this.” The giant sucking sound you’re hearing is agricultural reform rushing down the drain.

The headline of The Hill’s piece tells you all you need to know:  “K Street welcomes Lincoln as the new head of Ag committee” — K Street being the center of the lobbying biz. If you read on, however, you’ll discover all sorts of lovely little Lincolnian tidbits. Did you know that in 2007 Lincoln tried to exempt agribusiness from toxic waste lawsuits? The fact that Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest chicken (and chickensh*t) producer, is based in Arkansas and is a major campaign contributor to her is, of course, a total coincidence.

I wouldn't normally link to this, but I just got finished writing a piece for the magazine about the ag lobby and its malign effect on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, so this stuff is on my mind right now.  While I wouldn't say the ag lobby is the most powerful lobby in the country — that title is probably reserved for the finance lobby, the target of my next piece — it's definitely right up there.  And it's equally powerful no matter which party is in charge, too.  The ag lobby owns 'em both.

David Corn and Lynn Sweet joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball this evening to discuss whether the public option is dividing democrats and what, exactly, Rahm Emanuel and Rod Blagojevich talked about.

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