Saturday, January 18, 2014

U.S. Forest Service faces civil right claims by ranchers in Colorado, N.M.

A coalition of northern New Mexico Hispanic and American Indian ranchers is asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to address civil rights violations they say have compromised their traditions and livelihoods. The Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association has sent a letter to Vilsack and a White House senior policy adviser in response to a federal review that shows the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico and Colorado was not complying with several civil rights requirements, including policies aimed at helping people who speak limited English. The review also found the agency was inconsistent in implementing policies and procedures, namely when it came to the termination or suspension of grazing permits. "The issue of access to grazing permits is of vital importance to the minority Hispanic and Native American ranchers in Colorado and New Mexico and has long been a source of conflict with the (Forest Service) over complaints of discriminatory practices," the ranchers told Vilsack in their letter dated Jan. 6. The report states that civil rights training has fallen by the wayside for many employees and the training that does take place is largely ineffective. Also, the agency's anti-discrimination statement was consistently omitted from key documents, including grazing permit applications, and there was no evidence that brochures or websites were offered in any other language than English. Forest Service representatives are supposed to meet with ranchers to discuss annual operating plans. However, the report found that employees prepared the instructions and told the ranchers to "take it or leave it" with little or no discussion. According to the report, ranchers told the reviewers that Forest Service staff uses "Gestapo" intimidation tactics, such as constant threats, suspension of permits, retaliation and discrimination...more

Ranchers, farmers fear eco-terrorists after EPA releases private info

The Environmental Protection Agency has told farmers and ranchers it is sorry for handing private information about them over to environmental groups, but agriculture advocates who fear attacks from eco-terrorists say it's like closing the barn door after the horses escaped. In response to Freedom of Information Requests, the federal agency released information on up to 100,000 agriculture industry workers, including their home address and phone numbers, GPS coordinates and even personal medical histories. The agency later acknowledged much of the information should never have been provided, and even asked the recipients to give it back. “If someone is setting out to create mischief at these locations, basically the government gave them a road map,” Mace Thornton, spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is participating in a joint lawsuit against the EPA, told “It is very clearly an unjustified intrusion into citizens’ private lives by the government. And it is a betrayal of trust.” The EPA said it collected all the erroneous disclosures, released in July of 2012, and sent out new documents with sensitive personal information redacted, an EPA spokeswoman told The information covered farmers and ranchers from 29 states and was released to the Natural Resource Defense Council, The Pew Charitable Trust and EarthJustice. Although much of the data is available on public databases, the EPA redacted personal data in an amended release. Those groups have not been tied to illegal acts, but concerned agriculture advocates fear the information can be spread to dangerous militants. Large farms and cattle processing facilities have been targeted in the past by militant groups who believe they are cruel to animals and cause pollution. Two years ago, the Animal Liberation Front claimed credit for a fire that caused $2 million in damage to a farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The group issued a statement afterward ending with the words, “until next time.” No arrests have been made. The Farm Bureau's suit, joined by the National Pork Producers Council, seeks to block the EPA from releasing information in the future that they say could put members at risk...more

Friday, January 17, 2014

Birdwatchers see rare white-throated needletail fly into wind turbine

An enthusiast who travelled to the Western Isles to view a rare bird has told of his "dismay" after watching it fly into a wind turbine and die. The white-throated needletail, which breeds in Asia and winters in Australasia, was spotted on Harris. About 30 birdwatchers travelled to the island to see the unusual visitor, which has only been recorded five times in the UK since 1950. However, they then saw it die after colliding with the wind turbine. Birdwatcher David Campbell, from Surrey, told the BBC Scotland news website that the incident took place late on Wednesday afternoon.  Mr Campbell, who is now making his way home to south east England, said: "We just watched the whole thing with dismay." A relative of the common swift, the white-throated needletail is said to be the fastest bird in level flight. It is reported to reach a top speed of 105mph...more

Speed Kills!  And that poor Mr. Campbell, look what happened on a previous visit:  "He added that on a previous bird watching trip he had seen a migratory wryneck hit by a train."  Why does he keep returning and witnessing this carnage?  Is he truly a birdwatcher or is he surreptitiously collecting ingredients for Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup.  He couldn't call it White-Throated Needlelltail Soup or Migratory Wryneck Soup, so Chicken Noodle it has to be.  One informant claims his family has been doing this for 80 years!  Stay tuned as we are working 24/7 to ascertain the source of his noodles.  If you have any leads on this please let me know immediately.

Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers Ignore Science

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers have developed new regulations for what bodies of water are covered under the Clean Water Act, says Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at the Heritage Foundation.

Unfortunately, the EPA sent its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before its scientific report on the issue was even completed. By acting prematurely, the agency has undermined the results of the study.

What constitutes "waters of the U.S." in the Clean Water Act (CWA) has long been a subject of controversy. Federal agencies such as the EPA and the Corps have interpreted the phrase broadly. Recently, the Supreme Court rejected the broad, federal interpretation.

In July, the EPA created a Scientific Advisory Board for the purpose of issuing a report that, the EPA said, "will provide scientific basis needed to clarify CWA jurisdiction." But two months later, the EPA went ahead and sent its proposed rules on CWA jurisdiction to the OMB, before the Board had even met to discuss the issue. In fact, the Advisory Board did not have its first meeting until December 16.

Jumping ahead to the final rule without using the scientific report as a basis undermines the forthcoming report and the rulemaking process:
  • If the EPA has to make major changes to its rule following the report, it would be an admission that its proposed rules were not, in fact, based upon science. As such, the agency has an incentive not to make changes to its proposed rules, even if the scientific report recommends such changes.
  • The whole process could be an expensive waste of time, as courts routinely require agencies to start anew when their proposed rules differ significantly from the final rules.
The EPA should halt the process and wait for the scientific report to be published before issuing the proposed rules.

Source: Daren Bakst, "EPA and the Corps Ignoring Sound Science on Critical Clean Water Act Regulations," Heritage Foundation, January 8, 2014.


Jessie Vetter’s Olympic goalie mask has U.S. Constitution removed by IOC

U.S. women’s hockey goalie Jessie Vetter had an awesome concept for her 2014 Sochi Olympics mask: Using actual 23 karat gold in the paint – hey, she’s going for gold, right? – and adorning it was inspiring American iconography. 

One of the images was of the Constitution’s famous opening line, “We The People” and some text from that historic document. But when Vetter takes the ice for Team USA next month, it won’t be found on her mask – the International Olympic Committee ruled it had to be deleted.  

“[It] had to be removed because no writings of any kind to promote the country is allowed,” Slater explained in an email to InGoal. “A sort of ‘our country is better than your country” kind of thing that the IOC frowns upon. Her name had to come off because they see it as self promotion. They wanted everything to be team based. … Our original idea was ‘land of the free, home of the brave,’ and that would have had to have been removed as well.”
The IOC’s Rule 51 bans any sort of advertising, demonstration, and/or propaganda on an athlete's equipment at the Olympics. American men’s hockey goalies were hit with the regulation in the 2010 Vancouver Games, as Jonathan Quick’s “support our troops” slogan and Ryan Miller’s “Matt Man,” a tribute to his late cousin who died of leukemia, were stripped from the mask designs.

Vetter and Slater were able to keep a USA logo, the Statue of Liberty and a bald eagle on the mask, as apparently none of that is propaganda. Here's the new back to the mask.

And the side, which was maintained:

Look, the Olympics have any number of silly restrictions on freedom of expression, and the idea that the U.S. Constitution is seen as “propaganda” rather than a procedural document establishing societal and governmental rules is asinine.

It’s not like the preamble reads, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union and be soooo much better than you unwashed heathens across the oceans …”

But our real question here: If Jessie Vetter can’t have a few words of the Constitution on her mask, why can Team Slovakia have their ENTIRE NATIONAL ANTHEM sewn into their hockey sweaters?

Relocation takes New Mexico pronghorn to Arizona

Dozens of biologists and wildlife managers from New Mexico and Arizona have been working to capture and relocate some 200 pronghorn that have been damaging cropland in northeastern New Mexico. Thursday marked the third day of the effort, a delicate dance that involves a helicopter, strategically placed fencing and volunteers on foot who help push the anxious animals toward a corral covered with tarps. The first group to be captured was bold, said Rachel Shockley, a spokeswoman with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The group's leader, a female, kept testing the fences and the line of approaching volunteers. The other pronghorns followed her lead. More than three dozen of the animals rounded up earlier this week were taken to Arizona and released as part of a trade that will allow that state to start rebuilding its dwindling pronghorn herds. In return, New Mexico will get 60 Gould's turkeys from Arizona in the next two to three years. In New Mexico, managers have relocated about 75 of the pronghorn from the Cimarron area to a location near Fort Stanton. On Thursday, they were working to trap and deliver another 75 to the Macho area northwest of Roswell. Thanks to habitat improvements, officials said the Macho area has the potential to allow pronghorn to range over 1 million acres. After being corralled, all of the pronghorn were blindfolded while biologists took blood and gave them antibiotics and sedatives to help calm them. Some that showed spikes in their temperatures were bathed in ice...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1189

Ranch Radio brings you Happy Perryman & His Happy-Go-Lucky Mountaineers performing "There's A Palace Down In Dallas".  Recorded in Hollywood on Nov. 30, 1944.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hopi lawsuit against wastewater snowmaking gets green light in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court has greenlighted a lawsuit that the Hopi Tribe brought against the city of Flagstaff, Ariz. for selling wastewater to a local ski resort to make fake snow. In a procedural victory, the tribe has won the right to proceed with its lawsuit challenging Flagstaff’s 2002 decision to sell reclaimed wastewater to the Arizona Snowbowl ski area, on claims that the wastewater snow creates a “public nuisance.” The ruling means that the Hopi can go forward with its claim that the wastewater – pumped up the mountain directly from Flagstaff’s sewage treatment plant – creates a “public nuisance” by “interfering with the public’s enjoyment” of the mountain wilderness area on the San Francisco Peaks mountain range, where the ski resort is located. A Hopi win would mean Flagstaff would have to cancel its water supply contract to Snowbowl...more

Almost 2,000 residents evacuated as wildfire rages outside Los Angeles

Nearly 2,000 residents were evacuated and two homes burned in a wildfire that started when three people lit a campfire in the dry foothills of Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains, authorities said. Embers from the fire fanned by Santa Ana winds quickly spread into an area below where residents were awakened in the pre-dawn darkness and ordered to evacuate. The three suspects, all men in their 20s, were arrested on charges of recklessly starting the fire that spread smoke across the Los Angeles basin. One resident suffered minor burns in the area abutting Angeles National Forest, just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, according to Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L Osby. Between 1,700 and 2,000 residents were evacuated and the order included 880 homes in Glendora and the neighbouring foothill city of Azusa. Many residents, some wearing masks, used garden hoses to wet the brush around their houses, even as firefighters ordered them to leave. At least two and a half square miles of dry brush were charred in the wilderness area about 25 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles...more

NSA collects millions of text messages daily in 'untargeted' global sweep

The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents. The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets. The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people’s travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more – including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity. The revelation the NSA is collecting and extracting personal information from hundreds of millions of global text messages a day is likely to intensify international pressure on US president Barack Obama, who on Friday is set to give his response to the report of his NSA review panel...more

Obamacare’s Fishy Navigators (In New Mexico, 38 of them turned up in a federal crime database)

One in seven of New Mexico’s certified Obamacare navigators had a match in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, according to public records obtained by National Review Online. In total, 38 health-care guides or certified application counselors received their certification despite a match, according to records from the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI), which certifies navigators working with the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. A hit in the NCIC does not necessarily reflect a criminal conviction. The database can include, for example, arrest records and criminal cases that were dismissed or led to an acquittal, according to the FBI. The records obtained by NRO did not specify how many of the 38 navigators with NCIC hits had been convicted of a crime. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress late last year that it was “possible” for convicted felons to be working as navigators. When navigators sign up people for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, they have access to private information, including Social Security numbers, financial data, and health records. Certified New Mexico navigators had been charged with crimes including: eight domestic-violence charges, including aggravated battery and aggravated assault of a household member; four drug charges; two larceny charges; one petty-theft charge; one shoplifting charge; and two child-abuse charges. There were also several driving-related charges, including DWIs, DUIs, and speeding or traffic crimes. In at least two instances, navigators had traffic charges for lacking insurance...more

Just right, thieves getting your personal data and helping enforce a mandatory insurance program when they've violated a home-grown mandatory program.  And, will they be sober enough to "navigate".

Editorial - Dems Want Networks To Manipulate Climate Coverage Like BBC

Senate Democrats want TV networks to promote climate-change hysteria and follow the lead of Britain's state broadcasting company, which sent its top executives to a green propaganda training seminar.

The mainstream media, long a house organ for Democrats, are about to come under pressure by Senate Democrats led by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who are gathering signatures from colleagues on a letter to the networks telling them they're ignoring global warming, according to a report in the National Journal.

They are seeking to impose sort of a climate change "fairness doctrine" designed to ignore inconvenient truths about climate researchers getting stuck in Antarctic ice that was supposed to have melted in favor of the gospel according to Al Gore.

"It is beyond my comprehension that you have ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, that their Sunday shows have discussed climate change in 2012, collectively, for all of eight minutes," Sanders said, citing analysis by the leftist George Soros-linked Media Matters for America, which promotes media bias while claiming to fight it.
"Sunday news shows are obviously important because they talk to millions of people, but they go beyond that by helping to define what the establishment considers to be important and what is often discussed during the rest of the week," he said...

What Sanders wants is for the major networks to become a forum for uncontested green propaganda as the British Broadcasting Corp. has become on the other side of the pond.

Emails Show Extensive Collaboration Between EPA, Environmentalist Orgs

Internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emails show extensive collaboration between top agency officials and leading environmentalist groups, including overt efforts to coordinate messaging and pressure the fossil fuel industry. The emails, obtained by the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI) through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, could fuel an ongoing controversy over EPA policies that critics say are biased against traditional sources of energy. Emails show EPA used official events to help environmentalist groups gather signatures for petitions on agency rulemaking, incorporated advance copies of letters drafted by those groups into official statements, and worked with environmentalists to publicly pressure executives of at least one energy company. Nancy Grantham, director of public affairs for EPA Region 1, which covers New England, asked an organizer for the Sierra Club’s New Hampshire chapter to share the group’s agenda so EPA could adjust its messaging accordingly in an email dated March 12, 2012. “If you could, it would great [sic] if you can send me an email describing what you would like to do in early April in NH–that way I can coordinate messaging with our air offices here and at HQ,” Grantham wrote. Critics of the agency and its nonprofit allies were surprised by the cooperation. “The level of coordination in these documents is shocking,” EELI said in a statement. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, said the emails suggest that the EPA is straying from its mission by working hand-in-hand with hardline green groups. “It’s unfortunate that EPA has spent more of its resources promoting and coordinating a political agenda with environmentalists instead of doing its job,” Pompeo said in an emailed statement. “In Kansas, we expect public officials to serve the public interest, not the interests of radical environmentalist groups.” These newly released emails show that officials also used events surrounding the rule to help environmentalist groups gather public comments on the rulemaking process that supported the EPA’s position. Deputy EPA administrator Bob Perciasepe attended an April 24, 2012, meeting with 24 leading environmentalist groups, including EDF, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resource Defense Council, according to a notice of the meeting sent by Teri Porterfield, Perciasepe’s assistant. “The purpose is to create a photo-op and narrative beat for the comment-gathering efforts on the issue,” Porterfield wrote. “Groups will use materials from the event to communicate with supporters and recruit additional comment-signers via newsletters, emails, and social media,” she added. The EPA also incorporated environmentalist groups’ messaging into then-administrator Lisa Jackson’s communications with members of Congress, the emails reveal...more

Where the Moon Trees Grow

Many space enthusiasts know that one of the U.S. Forest Service’s most famous former employees was astronaut Stuart Roosa. The smokejumper circled the moon as part of NASA’s Apollo 14 mission more than 40 years ago. However, what most folks don’t know is that Roosa brought a group of tiny travelers along for the ride. After all these years, they’re still among us today, living quietly across the United States. Their names – Douglas fir, sequoia and loblolly pine – are familiar to most everyone because they were seeds from these and other well-known tree species. But just call them by their cool 1970s-sounding name: Moon Trees To get them into space, Roosa carried a metal canister about the size of a soda can in his personal kit filled with more than 500 seeds from loblolly pine, redwood, sweet gum, sycamore and Douglas fir trees. He did it in part to honor the Forest Service, where, as a smokejumper, he was a first responder to forest fires. As the command module pilot on the Apollo 14 mission, Roosa was contacted by Ed Cliff, then Chief of the Forest Service. Cliff proposed the idea of taking the seeds along as an experiment, but more so as a publicity stunt, to see how they would grow back on Earth after being exposed to the harsh realities of space travel, including zero gravity and radiation…more

'Wardens' producer fined for filming without permit in Montana national forests

The producer of the popular cable TV show “Wardens” pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal district court to illegally filming on national forests in western Montana. Mitch Petrie, the producer of Muddy Boot Productions, said he takes full responsibility for using U.S. Forest Service lands in Montana without a special use permit on five different occasions between Jan. 1 and June 24, 2013. The crime is a misdemeanor. Petrie was fined $1,500 and ordered to forfeit the footage he shot. Even though this was the second time Petrie has been cited for shooting on federal lands without the proper permit, he said it was an honest mistake. “It was an administrative error on our part and an oversight,” Petrie said. “We were in the process of having the permit renewed. ... We had a positive working relationship, but unfortunately it was a little too casual at the time. They said that since we were getting the paperwork signed and everybody on the forest knew what we were doing, that it was OK to film.”  However, one of his videographers was filming a segment and ran into a Forest Service law enforcement officer, Petrie said. The next day, the officer checked to see if they had a valid permit, and once he found out they didn’t, an investigation began. “Once law enforcement gets involved, it’s pretty black and white,” Petrie said. “Once we found out we weren’t in compliance, it became my responsibility and that’s why I pleaded guilty.”...more

So here is a show about law enforcement officers and they get caught by a law enforcement officer.  I wonder if they filmed that part.  Anyway, the will learn, just like ranchers have learned, if you are dealing with the Forest Service you better get it in writing.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1188

Ranch Radio's tune today is Lady's Man by Hank Snow.  Recorded in 1952 for RCA.

Senate Grazing Improvement Act Spells Disaster for Federal Lands Users

In a move hailed by the National Beef Cattlemen’s Association (NCBA) and the national Public Lands Council (PLC), the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee passed a measure entitled the Grazing Improvement Act sponsored by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) in late November 2013. In reality what was passed was “a substitute in the nature of substitute” that looked nothing like the original measure.

            Not only does the bill not contain many improvements for federal lands ranch families, says Jose Varela Lopez, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association President, La Cieneguilla, New Mexico, it does just the opposite.

            “The measure was intended to provide stability for ranchers grazing on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) as part of the multiple use mandate for these lands,” Varela Lopez explained. “Instead, the amended bill reduces stability and provides a path for eliminating lands from multiple use.”

            For example, he said, Senator Barrasso’s original bill would have provided term permits for grazing of 20 years rather than the current 10 on healthy allotments. The substitute will allow for up to 20-year permits, but it removes the stability of even a 10-year permit.
According to Denver, Colorado based environment and land law attorney Connie Brooks, “The grazing permit renewal bill provides for 20-year renewal and categorical exclusion under NEPA if:
 monitoring of the allotment has indicated that the current grazing management has met, or has satisfactorily progressed towards meeting objectives contained in the land use and resource management plan of the allotment, as determined by the Secretary concerned.
             “In more recent land use plans, the Forest Service adopts management objectives that are based on the “natural range of variation.”  The objectives are not tested by data and assume management to mimic pre-western civilization.  It is possible if not probable that most grazing permits will not achieve such objectives. 
`“In North and South Dakota, the Forest Service had adopted objectives for the National Grasslands that required vegetation density measured by “visual obstruction rating” or “VOR.”  Despite expert opinions that the prescribed ratings cannot be achieved on most North and South Dakota range sites due to soils, climate and lack of precipitation, the Forest Service insisted that the land was biologically capable of producing tall and dense vegetation.  Rigorous studies have proven that the western North Dakota range sites are not biologically capable of meeting the management objectives.  To this day, the Forest Service proposes significant reductions in grazing for the very reason that they do not meet the LRMP management objectives. 
“Similarly the same plans called for 20 percent of the land area to be native plant species, even though the Department of Agriculture conservation programs planted most of the land with non-native crested wheat grass that still dominates the areas.  Crested wheatgrass is very difficult if not impossible to convert to native grasses.  So once again, the grazing permit will not conform to management objectives.

The legislation should be revised to remove the section in its entirety, Brooks concludes.

         It is the “categorical exclusion” language that is poison pill for Karen Budd-Falen, Cheyenne, Wyoming federal lands attorney who was instrumental in drafting the original Grazing Improvement Act.

         “The amended bill codifies National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis on federal grazing allotments,” she explained. “This bill would congressionally mandate actions that are currently discretionary.”

         In an unprecedented move, the amended Grazing Improvement Act takes dead aim at ranchers in New Mexico and Oregon, Varela Lopez points out.

         “The bill contains a provision for “voluntary relinquishment” of up to 25 allotments in New Mexico and Oregon,” he said. “Those allotments would be mandated to permanently exclude grazing.”

         Not only does this undermine the small business of ranching in those states, but it unmanaged allotments will certainly provide more fuel for the catastrophic wild fires the West has suffered in recent times, Varela Lopez noted. Further frustrating New Mexicans is the fact that no one was contacted regarding this substitute bill prior to its’ committee passage he said.

         The substitute bill offered as an amendment was offered by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) is now ready for action on the U.S. Senate Floor.

         The U.S. House of Representatives has an un-amended version of the measure awaiting action as well. Neither measure is scheduled for action in Congress at this time.
            Thus far neither NCBA nor PLC have provided any information that might alleviate ranchers’ concerns or opposition to the senate bill, says Varela Lopez.

Green Fade-Out: Europe to Ditch Climate Protection Goals

The EU's reputation as a model of environmental responsibility may soon be history. The European Commission wants to forgo ambitious climate protection goals and pave the way for fracking -- jeopardizing Germany's touted energy revolution in the process. The climate between Brussels and Berlin is polluted, something European Commission officials attribute, among other things, to the "reckless" way German Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked stricter exhaust emissions during her re-election campaign to placate domestic automotive manufacturers like Daimler and BMW. This kind of blatant self-interest, officials complained at the time, is poisoning the climate. But now it seems that the climate is no longer of much importance to the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, either. Commission sources have long been hinting that the body intends to move away from ambitious climate protection goals. On Tuesday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported as much. At the request of Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU member states are no longer to receive specific guidelines for the development ofrenewable energy. The stated aim of increasing the share of green energy across the EU to up to 27 percent will hold. But how seriously countries tackle this project will no longer be regulated within the plan. As of 2020 at the latest -- when the current commitment to further increase the share of green energy expires -- climate protection in the EU will apparently be pursued on a voluntary basis. In addition, the authority wants to pave the way in the EU for the controversial practice of fracking, according to the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The report says the Commission does not intend to establish strict rules for the extraction of shale gas, but only minimum health and environmental standards...more

Harvey Weinstein and Meryl Streep - new movie to make NRA ‘wish they weren’t alive’

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein announced for the first time on Howard Stern’s radio show that he is making a full feature drama to try to destroy the National Rifle Association. Mr. Stern asked Mr. Weinstein on Wednesday whether he owned a gun. The Hollywood heavyweight replied that he did not and never would. “I don’t think we need guns in this country. And I hate it,” the producer said. “I think the NRA is a disaster area.” Mr. Weinstein then revealed his secret project about the gun rights group. “I shouldn’t say this, but I’ll tell it to you, Howard,” he said. “I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this head-on. And they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.” The shock jock asked whether the film was going to be a documentary. Mr. Weinstein said no, that it would be a “big movie like a ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’” The movie mogul said his vision was to scare people away from firearms. He foresees moviegoers to leave thinking, “Gun stocks — I don’t want to be involved in that stuff. It’s going to be like crash and burn.” The chairman of the Weinstein Co. (formerly Miramax) is one of President Obama’s biggest fundraisers. He brought in more than $500,000 from his Hollywood friends for the president’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2012...more

UN climate chief: Communism is best to fight global warming

United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said that democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model. China may be the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide and struggling with major pollution problems of their own, but the country is “doing it right” when it comes to fighting global warming says Figueres. “They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she said. “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.”  Figueres added that the deep partisan divide in the U.S. Congress is “very detrimental” to passing any sort of legislation to fight global warming. The Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, can push key policies and reforms all on its own. The country’s national legislature largely enforces the decisions made by the party’s Central Committee and other executive offices...more

That pesky, inefficient democracy makes the envirocrats wait for the people to vote. How inconvenient.

In fact, the best model for a clean environment is based on free markets and property rights.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

NFR Still Has Fighting Chance

Fingers are crossed across Las Vegas as many wait to hear if the National Finals Rodeo will stay in town. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association submitted a counteroffer to Las Vegas Events on Tuesday. Details of that offer have not been disclosed. The PRCA didn’t accept LVE’s initial offer to keep the NFR in Las Vegas, instead entering into a memorandum of understanding with Osceola, Florida to take the NFR there. Many in the local community were outraged to hear the decision. Past reports have Pat Christenson of Las Vegas Events calling the move ” a big mistake.” Now, hope remains alive for the huge money-maker to stay. The event sells out each year and brings tens of thousands of visitors to Las Vegas who spend money on hotels, food and entertainment for 10 days. The event generates nearly $100 million in non-gaming revenue for the city each year. According to Lacey Stevens, Marketing Executive with Rodeo News, the cowboy community wants the NFR to stay put. Stevens says she’s hopeful Las Vegas Events gives the cowboys what they deserve. Reports show Florida offered $16 million in annual prizes, compared to Las Vegas’ $6 million. “The cowboys deserve more money. They travel all year. They have a lot of sleepless night. They are out there trying to make it just like we all are. I think they deserve a bigger purse and however the PRCA goes about getting that for them, I think that’s in their best interest, ” said Stevens. Still, she’s hopeful that purse comes from Las Vegas and not Florida. “You know, you can get airfare really cheap into Las Vegas…that, plus it’s just easier access. I don’t think Florida can provide what Las Vegas does, ” Stevens added...more

Border-patrol drones being borrowed by other agencies more often than previously known

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are increasingly borrowing border-patrol drones for domestic surveillance operations, newly released records show, a harbinger of what is expected to become the commonplace use of unmanned aircraft by police. Customs and Border Protection, which has the largest U.S. drone fleet of its kind outside the Defense Department, flew nearly 700 such surveillance missions on behalf of other agencies from 2010 to 2012, according to flight logs released recently in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties group. The records show that the border-­patrol drones are being commissioned by other agencies more often than previously known. Most of the missions are performed for the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration and immigration authorities. But they also aid in disaster relief and in the search for marijuana crops, methamphetamine labs and missing persons, among other missions not directly related to border protection. Because they have sophisticated cameras and can remain in flight for many hours at a time, drones create novel privacy challenges. Civil libertarians have argued that these aircraft could lead to persistent visual surveillance of Americans on private property. Government lawyers have argued, however, that there is no meaningful legal distinction between the use of unmanned and piloted aircraft for surveillance...more

New food safety law means California bartenders have to wear gloves

Chefs aren't the only ones affected by a new food safety law that bans culinary workers from touching certain foods with their bare hands. Like chefs, bartenders have to wear gloves or use other utensils to make their drinks. No touching ice, fruit garnishes or anything else that goes directly into your glass. Changes to the California Retail Food Code that went into effect at the beginning of 2014 require disposable gloves or utensils such as tongs, paper or scoops to be used when handling "ready-to-eat" foods, which include sushi, bread, deli meats and fresh fruit and vegetables. Basically, nothing that won't be cooked or reheated before it goes out to diners can be touched with bare hands."Technically speaking, these rules do apply to bars," says Angelica Pappas, a spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Assn. "It’s been a common question we’ve heard ... so there may be more information to come on this in guidance documents from the health inspectors."...more

Swedish hunter opens beer with a shotgun - video

A Swedish hunter has provided new insight into how to open a bottle of beer – by shooting its cap off with a shotgun. Carlsberg-loving Anders Rodenberg uploaded a video to YouTube showing him perform the dangerous stunt. ‘Real men drink beer,’ he says in the clip, before holding the bottle of Carlsberg at arms-length and firing the shotgun, blowing off the lid...more

Spending Deal Continues Funding USDA Program to Promote Food Stamps to Illegal Aliens

The more than $1 trillion federal appropriations measure passed today in the House does not eliminate a controversial program initiated by the Department of Agriculture and with the assistance of the Mexican government that promotes food stamps through outreach and advertising to illegal immigrants living in and coming into the United States. In fact, it only “strongly” encourages the Department of Agricultural to stop the program, according to the explanatory statement offered by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers. Rogers worked out the arrangement with Senate counterpart Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in consultations before the bill was filed. Although federal law requires that those granted entry into the U.S. must be able to support themselves financially, the administration continues to promote food stamps to illegal aliens through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). There is no exact estimate on how much the program has cost taxpayers in terms of personnel, increased enrollment and the actual food stamps distributed to Mexican nationals living in the U.S. illegally because there has never been a cost estimate conducted on the program, a GOP congressional aide told Top Right News on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter...more

Could US lose access to Keystone oil? Canada moves to Plan B

Where crude oil is concerned, Canada waits for no country. It doesn’t matter how wealthy or how friendly that country is -- or whether that country is the United States. With the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline stuck in limbo on the U.S. side, Canada’s Energy Board recently gave a thumbs up to a $6.5 billion pipeline designed to carry 525,000 barrels of oil per day from the oil sands of Alberta to ships on the British Columbia coast. The final destination is most likely Asia. The development has the U.S. oil industry attacking the Obama administration over its drawn-out process. “It’s taken longer to approve the Keystone XL pipeline than it did to win World War II, longer than it took us to put a man in space, and almost as long as it took to build the Trans-Continental railroad 155 years ago,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute. The U.S. State Department received the Keystone application in September of 2008. The 1,700-mile project is projected to create thousands of jobs and lessen the need for OPEC oil. Even with domestic production booming, the U.S. still imports about half the crude it uses. The department says it is still working on the pipeline approval process. “The decision will be made after consideration of the full range of issues, including environmental, economic and safety issues, energy security and compliance with relevant state and federal regulations," the department told Fox News in a statement. A spokeswoman said the department is working on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Once it’s done, eight federal agencies will review it and issue comment...more

State officials see federal control as blocking source of revenue, education funding

From his vantage point, he sees how North Dakota has the nation's No. 1 economy, the country's top jobless rate and an education system rife with dollars flowing from unhindered access to natural resources such as oil and gas. A dozen years ago, new technology unlocked the wealth of the Bakken Formation, a 200,000-square-mile layer of shale that occupies western North Dakota, and parts of Montana and Canada.Back in Utah, the state sits on an "energy gold mine" from the world's largest source of oil sands and is home to a substantial chunk of the Green River Formation, the world's richest deposits of oil shale. Stewart and a whole movement of conservative Republicans wonder — if Utah had access to its own resources, would the story of its anemic education funding have a different narrative? They contemplate if Utah could enjoy its own brand of Bakken and reap the rewards that would follow — an amply funded education system — if not for the federal government that stands in the way. "Federal land ownership is a huge impediment," Stewart said. "There is no other way to put it. There is an artificial cap on energy production that is directly related or the result of federal land ownership." In North Dakota, each time a well in the oil boom begins producing, it generates on average $24 million in net profit. While in 2001, few outside of North Dakota or the industry had heard of the Bakken oil field, now close to 10,000 wells are producing nearly a million barrels of oil a day. Each passing month seems to bring a new all-time high in production or well completions for the state's oil and gas department. And for every dollar that industry earns, the state takes 11.5 cents, which produced revenues of more than $2 billion from July 2011 to October 2012. One-third of that was deposited into the state's permanent fund, and that savings account balance is expected to swell to more than $3 billion by 2015. As North Dakota continues this unprecedented economic boom, as oil and revenues spurt from thousands of new wells on private and state lands that seemingly spring up overnight, Stewart looks across the vast federal acreage of Utah and sees the "what ifs" and "if onlys." "One of my greatest frustrations is that I advise the governor on resources we don't control, which puts me in a strange position," Stewart said. "We can't pull a lever, pull back the curtain, make a phone call or do anything to make it happen. We are not in the driver's seat." In Utah, the man who controls the most land in the state does not sit in the governor's chair at the Utah state Capitol or sleep in the Governor's Mansion. The man technically in charge of the most acreage in Utah has an office on 200 South, next to The Gateway, on the fifth floor in offices of the Bureau of Land Management — the agency's Utah state director, Juan Palma....more

Compromise, solutions sought in energy and public lands debate

Rob Bishop
Amid all the contentious strife over energy development, access to Utah lands and the federal government, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is trying to broker a solution that strikes at compromise. Why not agree that some lands are worth preserving, grant them protections and in turn get "resource" rich lands that are marked for development? "One of the things I am trying to accomplish is that we quit fighting over all these lands," he said. "There are lands in Utah that are deserving of conservation status. There are also lands that should be developed for their energy." The Public Lands Initiative — which has its grounding in themes of collaboration, compromise and creativity — seeks to solidify land use designations by starting at the "ground up" and gathering input from thousands of Utah residents and groups. While the Transfer of Public Lands effort is about "ownership," the initiative that also began in 2012 is more about management — both by counties and the state, Bishop said. "We have examples of land outside of Moab where the county manages Bureau of Land Management land and they do it brilliantly. ... The state can manage wilderness areas far better than the federal government." Bishop has held more than 100 individual meetings with environmentalists, oil and gas representatives, county officials and others to try to end the strife and uncertainty that goes with disputed land use designations. Joined in his efforts by Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, the "Grand Bargain" has involved road trips throughout Utah as they build a multi-county effort to identify priorities and ensure all interests are represented. "Recreation, for example, is the stepchild that has been forgotten in the past. We're trying to make sure they have a voice this time," Bishop said. As chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and the Environment, Bishop is a curious champion for new wilderness designations because of his long-standing vitriol aimed at environmentalists and their cause. But he said it is clear something has to change to bring an end to the bickering — and that there is a growing consensus that balanced, responsible land use management is possible. Ultimately, Bishop said the goal is to get federal legislation passed that will protect some of the most high-value areas in the state prized by environmentalists and conservationists and open up resource-rich areas for industry and struggling rural counties. "I think there is something for everybody in this."...more

Justices press government in Wyo. man's challenge to Forest Service rail trail

The Supreme Court struggled today with a Wyoming man's challenge to the Forest Service's construction of a bicycle trail across his property. Landowner Marvin Brandt argues that the Forest Service had no right to create the trail on an abandoned railroad right of way that bisects his 83 acres about 50 miles west of Laramie. Forest Service officials claim the government has a "reversionary interest" in the land after the railway was removed from a 200-foot-wide strip under the 1875 General Railroad Right of Way Act. Several justices appeared receptive to Brandt's arguments. Steven Lechner of the nonprofit Mountain States Legal Foundation, representing Brandt, focused his argument on the Supreme Court's 1942 ruling in Great Northern Railway Co. v. United States. In that case, the court considered whether railroad companies were granted the mineral rights under rights of way. The court held that they didn't have mineral rights and characterized the rights of way as easements -- meaning the government-provided right to pass over otherwise private land. In that case, Lechner noted, the government explicitly asked the court to consider the rights of way as easements. Justice Elena Kagan, a member of the court's liberal wing, said the government "faces a problem" in now asking the court to reconsider that characterization. Consequently, Kagan indicated she understood why Brandt would think he now owns the land. "Why anybody would think they hadn't gotten the whole ball of wax is a mystery," Kagan said. The 21-mile trail runs along part of a 66-mile right of way that was once used by the Laramie, Hahn's Peak and Pacific Railroad Co. to carry gold and coal from Laramie to the Colorado line...more

Obama to Congress: We're not waiting for legislation

President Barack Obama sent a message to Congress Tuesday: He plans to use his power whenever he can to move his agenda forward. "We are not just going to be waiting for a legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need," Obama said before a Cabinet meeting. "I've got a pen and I’ve got a phone -- and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward." Obama said he told members of his Cabinet the need to use all the tool available, not just legislation, to advance his mission. Items on the agenda in the future: adavancing manufacturing, college affordability and hiring the long-term unemployed...more

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America's Dwindling Economic Freedom - U.S. Drops Out of Top Ten

World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries. For 20 years, the index has measured a nation's commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil's economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice. It's not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity. But as the U.S. economy languishes, many countries are leaping ahead, thanks to policies that enhance economic freedom—the same ones that made the U.S. economy the most powerful in the world. Governments in 114 countries have taken steps in the past year to increase the economic freedom of their citizens. Forty-three countries, from every part of the world, have now reached their highest economic freedom ranking in the index's history...more

Probe Finds White House Wanted to Make Sequestration as ‘Painful as Possible’ for Rural Schools

A House Natural Resources Committee investigation has found that President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget ordered that sequestration cuts be applied retroactively to funding for rural schools over the opposition of the Agriculture Department. The committee’s report released today, “A Less Secure Future for Rural Schools: An Investigation into the Obama Administration’s Questionable Application of the Sequester to the Secure Rural Schools Program,” detailed how last February the USDA had determined 2013 sequestration wouldn’t apply to 2012 funds that had already been distributed in the program. The White House stepped in and overruled the USDA, though both agencies haven’t turned over numerous subpoenaed documents that could reveal more behind the decision. The Secure Rural Schools program helps provide rural counties with funds for teachers, schools, police officers, emergency services and infrastructure — “necessary because the federal government had failed to uphold its century-old promise to actively manage our national forest to provide a stable revenue stream for rural counties containing national forest land,” Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in reference to the timber industry link. The program dates back to a 2000 bill, which was extended in July 2012 for that fiscal year. The $323 million in funds were doled out to 41 states by the USDA in January 2013. But two months later, after sequestration went into effect, the Obama administration announced it wanted $17.9 million back — prompting bipartisan backlash from governors and congressional representatives of the affected states. “The Obama administration appeared intent on making this sequester as painful and visible as possible, and this was another example. Instead of working with Congress to make responsible cuts and reforms, the administration took the political opportunity to go after funds used to pay teachers and police salaries,” Hastings said at a hearing on the report today...more

N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers

The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks. While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials. The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target. The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user. President Obama is scheduled to announce on Friday what recommendations he is accepting from an advisory panel on changing N.S.A. practices. The panel agreed with Silicon Valley executives that some of the techniques developed by the agency to find flaws in computer systems undermine global confidence in a range of American-made information products like laptop computers and cloud services...more

Grazers wait for BLM ruling on Green Mountain

A delay in a decision over grazing rules covering a large part of Fremont County is preventing the Bureau of Land Management from making rangeland improvements in the area. The setback has also set the BLM back from implementing a new management regime. "It's one of those items everyone is waiting for," BLM Lander field office manager Rick Vander Voet said. The decision concerns appeals from environmentalists and livestock growers regarding management rules for the former Green Mountain Common Allotment the BLM established in 2011. Both groups sought changes to the proposed rules. "We can plan, but we certainly can't implement the range improvements that were part of the Green Mountain plan," Vander Voet said. "That makes the management proposed ... impossible to do." The BLM has been operating under the same conditions for the past three years, said BLM rangeland management specialist Curtis Bryan in an interview. "The challenges going into this grazing season aren't any greater than last year or the year before that," he said. The GMCA's area covers 522,000 acres in southern Fremont County and parts of Sweetwater County. Sixteen livestock producers hold 19 grazing permits for those rangelands. Many of the rangeland improvements, such as fences and watering structures, the 2011 rules called for have been put on hold while the case is resolved. Hearings were held in the case in February and March, and the parties submitted final written arguments over the summer...more