Speaking at a South Carolina town hall today, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich falsely claimed Environmental Protection Agency is trying to regulate agricultural dust. Calling the EPA a collection of “left-wingers trying to use the power of the government to reshape the whole economy on their terms,” Gingrich spun a tale of EPA bureaucrats going after Iowa farmers for the dust kicked up on dirt roads:
You have these people from the EPA saying, “You don’t understand! This is particulate matter! Here it is on page whatever of the Clean Air Act!“
“I can’t make these things up,” Gingrich concluded.
In reality, agricultural dust pollution is no joking matter. The Bush administration issued emissions monitoring guidelines for dust kicked up from poorly maintained rural roads. Industrial agribusiness in California puts up tens of thousands of tons of particulate matter every year. Regulations on particulate matter have been issued under the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations. The “dust” Gingrich jokes about has been found to cause hospital admissions for heart disease, hospital admissions and doctors? visits for respiratory diseases, increased respiratory symptoms in children, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
Despite the health threat from the tons of toxic dust produced by industrial agribusiness, there are no federal regulations protecting agricultural workers. Only two states, California and Arizona, have rules on farm dust. Although “farm dust regulation” is a popular Republican talking point, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has repeatedly affirmed that her agency has no plans to issue a farm dust rule.
Naked Capitalism today catches a chilling web comment by an employee of the New York Federal Reserve. Pointing to a Nov. 18 New York Post article about clashes between police and protesters in New York City. Naked Capitalism notes that a man named Jason Barker — who identifies himself on his Facebook profile as an employee of the New York Federal Reserve — left a comment calling on NYPD to “crack some hyppie skulls” for him:
Naked Capitalism called the New York Fed and confirmed that he is, in fact, an employee there. His LinkedIn profile identifies him as a Bank Examiner there. Naked Capitalism notes that his conduct appears to run afoul of the New York Fed’s Code of Conduct:
It is worrisome that a Fed employee would behave so unprofessionally, but it just as worrisome that the institution is hiring staffers whose are unable to understand or empathize with people who are upset at the financial system. (HT: @JoshuaHol)
There is currently a special loophole in the tax codes of most states that allows online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com to avoid charging the very same sales tax that brick-and-mortar stores are required to collect from customers. This loophole denies states billions of dollars of tax revenue. For example, in ?2011 alone, Wisconsin will lose an estimated $127 million in uncollected sales tax on purchases made online.?
Yesterday, the Daytona Beach News-Journal asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) about this loophole. Scott admitted that the loophole is “not fair” to bricks-and-mortar stores, but then said he does not advocate closing it anyway because he doesn’t want to raise taxes:
Q: Today is Cyber Monday and thousands, if not millions, of Floridians will go online to make holiday purchases without paying the sales taxes they face in downtown shops. Bricks-and-mortar retailers not only provide jobs in our communities, but they pay property taxes that help fund services and education. What should the Legislature do to level the economic playing field?
SCOTT: It’s not fair. You shouldn’t be treated differently, whether you’re selling online or in bricks-and-mortar. That’s not fair. But, at the same time, my focus is not to do it where we raise taxes. I don’t want to take money out of the private sector. Is it raising taxes to have a mechanism that helps Florida collect the sales taxes we’re already supposed to pay? If it’s out of your pocket, that’s a tax.
Back in 2009, when the public debate on torture ramped up after President Obama released the Bush-era memos authorizing torture techniques on terror suspects, a Fox News host asked Newt Gingrich if he thought waterboarding is torture. “I can?t tell you,” the former House Speaker said, “I honestly don?t know.”
Now that Gingrich has had some time to think about it (and that perhaps some of his fellow GOP presidential candidates recently voiced support for waterboarding), he seems to made a decision. Today at a town hall event at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, an audience member asked Gingrich where he stood on waterboarding. “Waterboarding is by every technical rule not torture,” the former House Speaker said, to which the crowd applauded. Gingrich seemed to justify his position claiming that the technique is legal under international law:
GINGRICH: Waterboarding is by every technical rule not torture. [Applause] Waterboarding is actually something we’ve done with our own pilots in order to get them used to the idea to what interrogation is like. It’s not — I’m not saying it’s not bad, and it’s not difficult, it’s not frightening. I’m just saying that under the normal rules internationally it’s not torture.
I think the right balance is that a prisoner can only be waterboarded at the direction of the president in a circumstance which the information was of such great importance that we thought it was worth the risk of doing it and I do that frankly only out of concern for world opinion. But we do not want to be known as a country that capriciously mistreats human beings.
Watch the clip (starting at 34:00):
Not only is the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario Gingrich refers to a red herring, waterboarding actually is illegal under international law because it is considered a torture technique. Last year, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said waterboarding is “immoral and illegal,” and his predecessor agrees.
The U.S. military doesn’t have much use for waterboarding either, considering the Army Field Manual bans it. And Gingrich, or any other of the Republicans running for president who support waterboarding and other torture techniques, might have a hard time getting it to happen as the CIA said it is unlikely to go down that road again. ?When you have years-long investigations into past practices, it?s unlikely that you want to spend a minute engaged in them,” one CIA official said recently.
“Very disappointed by statements at SC GOP debate supporting waterboarding,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted earlier this month. “Waterboarding is torture.”
Former Rep. Guy Molinari (R-NY) unloaded on GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich today, calling the former House Speaker “an evil person” who has “got all kinds of baggage.” Molinari, who works on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, went on to say that “The thought that [Gingrich] could be president of the United States is appalling.” Far from the only Republican trashing the former House speaker, conservatives of all stripes have publicly grumbled about Gingrich’s record. In the last week alone, radio host Don Imus called Gingrich a “greasy, repulsive man,” longtime Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tweeted, “RReagan was a friend of mine and you Newt are no RR,” and a Christian leader in Iowa, Cary Gordon, said, “Newt is famous for being all over the board,” before declaring, “I don?t trust him.?
Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) attributed the failure of Congress to pass a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to a “crowded agenda,” health care reform, and “transgender inclusion” during a press conference in Washington, D.C. this afternoon. “Given the polarization on this issue…[the bill will pass] the next time you get a Democratic House, Senate and President,” Frank predicted in response to a question from Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner, adding that in his 32 years in Congress, Democrats controlled all three for just four years. Frank said that openly LGBT members can also influence their fellow legislators to vote in favor of equality. “Legislating is the most personal form of governance…and personal factors mean a lot. Voting on the abstract on an issue is one thing, telling someone with whom you had good personal relations that you think he’s inferior, that’s harder.” Watch it:
We haven't heard a lot about the Fukushima nuclear disaster lately, but this story on the extent of radiation sounds really bad. A Japanese Ministry reports that as much as 8% of the country was contaminated.[...]
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Kansas City is a drug hub, and anyone with two or more firing neurons, a modicum of common sense and the most rudimentary of map-reading skills could deduce that within minutes.
We literally sit at the crossroads of the continent, with I-35 and I-70 - two of the busiest interstate highways in the nation - intersecting less than two miles from my house. I-35 brings the drugs north from Mexico, and I-70 carries them east.
Kansas City is both a significant drug market and a major distribution point for drugs headed north and east from the U.S. Southwest.
The maps are contained in the National Drug Intelligence Center's 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment, its annual unclassified study of emerging trends in drug trafficking, the use of illegal drugs and the organizations that perpetuate the narcotics business.
In years past, the center, which compiles the threat assessment from seizure data and interviews with federal, state and local law enforcement, has confined its mapping to broad corridors.
In last year's report, Kansas City sat, undistinguished, in the middle of a transportation map bounded by Duluth, Minn., to the north, Chicago and New Orleans to the east, Laredo, Texas, to the south and a meandering line from the Big Bend area of Texas back to Duluth in the West.
The new maps, released this fall, put Kansas City in much sharper relief: It sits at the end of some very fat arrows headed north, 970 miles from Laredo. Smaller arrows sweep drugs brought in from Arizona and New Mexico into that march up I-35.
According to the study, the size of the arrows suggests the volume of drugs that traffickers moved along the routes between 2008 and 2010. The report, based on closely held data on total drug seizures throughout the U.S., does not put a quantitative number on that volume, but the arrow pointing to Kansas City is as impressive as any on the map.
David Barton, director of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal effort coordinating law enforcement efforts in a six-state region, said the new maps reflect a reality for transporters of legal and illegal commodities.
"It's geography," Barton said. "We're right in the middle of the country, and everything goes through here."
...and the beat goes on...
A few drugs get confiscated and a lot more get through.
People who were going to get high anyway, still manage to get high.
People who sell them the dope they ingest to get high keep selling it to them until they get busted or killed, and then someone steps in and takes their place before they have even been arraigned or buried.
It's an insane merry-go-round ride that never stops, and it costs billions of dollars to keep it going.
But keep it going we do, because some people stubbornly cling to the belief that morality can be legislated, and the ones who refuse to acquiesce can be punished and have their lives ruined, and that's an appropriate penance for their sins.
Decriminalization, taxation and education are the answers, but they are steadfastly, diligently ignored in favor of punitive measures that don't work and deliver little benefit for the cost.
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The Critical Metals Report: The Chinese government is now enforcing environmental standards at its rare earth element (REE) mines. Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth (Group) Hi-Tech Co. Ltd., China’s biggest rare earths producer, even halted production earlier this year. Yet the scarcity of these metals continues to provide China with unprecedented economic opportunity. Which side wins and for how long?
Anthony Young: For the time being, China will continue to dominate the industry, but it may become a net importer of rare earths after 2015. As it cuts back on supply, prices are likely to remain elevated for an extended period of time.
TCMR: Do you think we’ll see the day that China stops producing rare earths . . . → Read More: Anthony Young: China, Molycorp and the Future of Rare Earths
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When former Goldman Sachs exec Henry Paulson was Treasury Secretary he apparently gave his hedge fund buddies extremely helpful and lucrative secret information about his plans to seize Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac while still assuring the public[...]
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