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Retirement confidence falls, especially in Social Security: Poll


Talk about a race to the bottom: Which institution do you think is losing the trust of Americans to provide future retirement benefits most quickly – government, or private employers? The winner is … private employers, but not by much. A new national poll on retirement sentiment by Sun Life Financial Inc. finds worker confidence in the future value of employer-provided benefits plunged 32 percent in the past year. Meanwhile, confidence in the government’s ability to provide Social Security and Medicare benefits fell 22 percent. Sun Life’s fourth annual Unretirement Index points to a sharp deterioration in Americans’ overall confidence about their ability to retire. The survey’s overall retirement confidence index fell nearly 20 percent to an all-time low compared with a year ago. Like several other surveys this year, the poll underscores the national mood of deep worry about financial security, especially in old age. Along with worries about workplace and government benefits, only 23 percent of working Americans said they are very confident that they will be able to meet basic living expenses in retirement — plunging from double that number (42 percent) last year. And one in five workers said they will never retire. The falling confidence in employers to provide benefits such as defined benefit pensions or health insurance “reflects a sense people have that an employee benefit is discretionary,” said Wes Thompson, president of Sun Life Financial. “But the broader underlying trend is a shifting of responsibility to the individual – whether it’s from government or employers. That starts with the shift in recent years from defined-benefit to defined contribution plans, and much greater dependence over the last 10 or 15 years on employees to contribute more for their health care. Now it’s spreading to other areas of employer-paid benefits, such as life insurance and disability benefits.” Thompson thinks falling confidence in Social Security and Medicare stems from the “public policy debate in Washington.” Indeed, we’ve seen repeated calls this year for a higher Social Security retirement age, reduced cost-of-living adjustments and a higher eligibility age for Medicare. But don’t confuse pessimism with lack of desire for the benefits. A survey for the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare shows that Americans overwhelmingly reject the suggestion that Social Security contributes to the national deficit, or that benefits should be cut to reduce the debt. And that sentiment crosses all lines of political party, gender, race and age. Considering the sorry state of every other aspect of retirement, is that really a surprise? What do you think? Whom do you trust most to provide for your future retirement? The government Private employers Yourself View Results

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Toll of heavy drinking on U.S. economy rises: study


Seventy two percent was due to lost productivity and the most of the cost was borne by the drinkers themselves in the form of lost income.Health care outlays accounted for another 11 percent of the total economic cost of heavy drinking, the CDC said, followed by criminal justice expenses and motor vehicle crash costs caused by impaired drivers.The CDC defines excessive drinking as, on average, more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women, and more than two a day for men.But the agency said that nearly three-quarters of the costs were caused by binge drinking — four or more drinks per occasion for by women or five or more for men.The researchers found that about $94.2 billion, or 42 percent, of the total economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 was picked up by federal, state, and local governments.Another $92.9 billion, or 41.5 percent, was absorbed by the drinkers and their families, largely in the form of lower household income.The study, “Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S., 2006,” appears in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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Toll of heavy drinking on U.S. economy rises: study


Seventy two percent was due to lost productivity and the most of the cost was borne by the drinkers themselves in the form of lost income.Health care outlays accounted for another 11 percent of the total economic cost of heavy drinking, the CDC said, followed by criminal justice expenses and motor vehicle crash costs caused by impaired drivers.The CDC defines excessive drinking as, on average, more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women, and more than two a day for men.But the agency said that nearly three-quarters of the costs were caused by binge drinking — four or more drinks per occasion for by women or five or more for men.The researchers found that about $94.2 billion, or 42 percent, of the total economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 was picked up by federal, state, and local governments.Another $92.9 billion, or 41.5 percent, was absorbed by the drinkers and their families, largely in the form of lower household income.The study, “Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S., 2006,” appears in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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Steven Seagal to go from Hollywood to border law enforcement


Those who try to slip across the Rio Grande from Mexico into west Texas may find themselves arrested by newly sworn-in Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Deputy and action film star Steven Seagal.Seagal, currently starring in an A&E Network reality show detailing his experiences as a reserve deputy in New Orleans, contacted County Sheriff Arvin West about his interest in “patrolling the border”, West said.He was sworn in this week for the position in Hudspeth County, which runs along the Rio Grande east of El Paso, West added. Seagal, 59, could not be reached for comment.”Mr. Seagal is not in this for the celebrity or publicity,” West told Reuters. “He has a sincere passion for his country and he wants to do more to help. I think he will make a significant contribution to this office and to our community.”Seagal starred in big-budget films in the 1980s and early 1990s, earning a reputation as an action star in movies like “Above the Law” and “Under Siege.”In the last decade, he has appeared mainly in direct-to-DVD, low-budget films while working in law enforcement. His last role was as a corrupt Mexican drug lord in the Robert Rodriguez grindhouse flick “Machete.”After Seagal expressed interest in joining the Hudspeth County department, two members of the department traveled to Los Angeles to talk to the actor about his proposal and to make sure he was serious, said Rusty Fleming, a spokesman for the sheriff and one of the two who made the trip.”We were very quick to find out that he was not doing this for publicity,” Fleming said. “He wants to come down to the border and work and try to do his part.”Hudspeth County, population 3,400, is on the front lines of border issues ranging from illegal immigration to drug gangs. West once made headlines when he urged people who live in the county to buy a gun and “learn how to use it.”It was also in Hudspeth County that singer Willie Nelson was arrested on marijuana charges last fall. Two reality TV shows focusing on the border are being filmed in the county, Fleming said.”He understands this issue that we have down here on the border,” Fleming said of Seagal. “His help with his training and what he can help show our deputies and what he can show us here, I think he’ll make a tremendous contribution.”West said he expected Seagal to report for duty in January and that the exact nature of his duties were still being worked out.