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President's Proposed Budget Assumes Savings from Finalizing Proposed USDA Poultry Inspection Rule That Would Be Harmful to Food Safety, Workers, and the Environment

Thursday, April 11, 2013

President's Proposed Budget Assumes Savings from Finalizing Proposed USDA Poultry Inspection Rule That Would Be Harmful to Food Safety, Workers, and the Environment:

For more than a year now, food safety and worker safety advocates have been fighting a proposal out of USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service that would pull most government inspectors off poultry slaughter lines in favor of potentially un-trained company inspectors, speed up the lines, and allow companies to use additional antimicrobial chemicals to cover up expected increases in contamination. Today, President Obama released a proposed budget that indicates USDA's proposal will be finalized before the start of FY2014 (see pages 86-87) - a rebuke to advocates who have made a strong case against the USDA proposal. As we've noted before, The proposed rule is bad for food safety. USDA has tried out pilot programs that allowed poultry slaughterhouses to speed up their lines and move government inspectors off those lines. Food & Water Watch obtained compliance records and found troubling results, including that bile, sores, scabs, feathers, and digestive tract tissue are often not being properly removed from chicken carcasses. The proposed rule is bad for workers in the plants. As the lines speed up, so does the pace of work at the "live hang" and "rehang" stations. Fast and repetitive motions are a serious ergonomic hazard that will only be exacerbated as line speeds increase. Workers who will be saddled with the responsibility of doing the visual food safety inspections currently conducted by government inspectors are also being set up for retaliation by their employers if their inspections cut into processing speeds or profits. The proposed rule will pollute local waterways, an issue first noted here in this space yesterday. As companies speed up their lines and lose government inspectors, fecal contamination and other microbial problems are expected to crop up more often. So poultry plants are expected to increase their reliance on something called "online reprocessing" (OLR), where all carcasses, visually contaminated or not, pass through automatic sprayers on the line that drench them with large amounts of antimicrobial chemicals like chlorine and trisodium phosphate (imagine a car wash ... but for chickens). Existing regulations and water permit programs are not equipped to handle large increases in the chemicals used in OLR. USDA has failed to account for the true costs of the proposal. USDA failed to properly account for the food safety, worker safety, and environmental costs of this proposal. The President's budget suggests that most of these concerns, raised by a broad coalition of the public interest community, have been ignored in a headlong rush to finalize a rule that officials believe will save a few million dollars in USDA's multi-billion dollar budget (as well as save money for poultry processing companies). Yet, some hope remains that the rule is not written in stone. The President's proposed FY2013 budget also assumed that the rule would be finalized before USDA's budget was set. That did not happen, and it shouldn't this time, either.

(Via Center for Progressive Reform)

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Fox Deceptively Crops Secretary Sebelius' Comments On Obamacare Implementation

Fox Deceptively Crops Secretary Sebelius' Comments On Obamacare Implementation:

Fox News deceptively edited a clip of Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make it seem as though she had not anticipated how complex implementation of President Obama's health care law would be when, in fact, Sebelius was pointing to the problems created by relentless political opposition to the bill.

On America's Newsroom, guest host Gregg Jarrett played a portion of Sebelius' appearance at the Harvard School of Public Health. Jarrett introduced the clip by claiming Sebelius "admitted there's been a lot of confusion associated with the rollout." Jarrett then played a portion of the clip in which Sebelius said, "There was some hope that once the Supreme Court ruled in July, and then once an election occurred, there would be a sense of, 'this is the law of the land, let's get on board, let's make this work,' and yet we find ourselves still having sort of state-by-state political battles."

After the clip, Jarrett responded by saying, "She underestimated its complexity. Well, my goodness, the law is 2,700 pages long with more than 15,000 pages of [regulations]. What does she expect?"

But Jarrett's interpretation of Sebelius' appearance is based on deceptive editing. Sebelius wasn't complaining about the bill's length or complexity -- she was explaining that political opposition to the law has made implementation more difficult. Fox began the clip after Sebelius pointed out that  "politics has been relentless and continuous." In the portion after Fox's edited verision (comments begin around 13:30),  Sebelius went on to explain that states which have expressed consistent opposition to the law make it more difficult to implement the law and explain benefits to health care consumers. In Sebelius' comments below, the portion aired by Fox is in bold:

(Via Media Matters for America)

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As The "Drug Testing Dragnet" Widens, The Poor Continue to be Swept In

As The "Drug Testing Dragnet" Widens, The Poor Continue to be Swept In:

Heads up: mandatory, suspicionless drug testing is not just about violating your Fourth Amendment rights anymore. According to a recent in-depth look at what journalist Isabel MacDonald calls "The GOP's Drug-Testing Dragnet," it's also about money – and lots of it. MacDonald reports that drug testing companies are eagerly cashing in on the recent urine-sampling frenzy that has impacted recipients of public benefits, government employees, and college students around the country. Not surprisingly, these companies are singing the praises of drug testing to curious lawmakers, while relishing the business boom that has accompanied this pernicious and unconstitutional trend.

In February, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision striking down a Florida law requiring Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants to submit to suspicionless drug tests in Lebron v. Florida, an ACLU case. Introduced in the 2011 legislative session, the law was joined by similar proposals in more than two dozen states. And in 2012, Georgia introduced the charmingly named Social Responsibility and Accountability Act, a virtual carbon copy of the recently-debunked Florida law, which requires all benefits recipients to pass a drug test. But in spite of the 11th Circuit's recent decision, the dozens of state legislative proposals mandating drug tests of individuals who apply for and receive various forms of public assistance do not appear to be losing ground. In fact, just yesterday, the Arkansas senate passed a bill mandating random drug tests for all recipients of unemployment benefits.

The insidious interests that drive these laws are thinly veiled at best. They perpetuate the inaccurate and offensive assumption that public benefits recipients use drugs at higher rates than the general public, and imply that the privacy rights of poor people and communities are worth less than those of the gainfully employed—at a time when more and more people in our country are hurting financially.

But as thousands of Americans struggle to make ends meet and turn to the government for help, drug testing companies are reaping the benefits of their misfortune.

While proponents of the bills have argued that drug testing protects taxpayers from the possibility that recipients of public benefits are spending their hard-earned money on drugs, this claim is baseless. When Florida's law was halted after three months of implementation, only 2.6 percent of benefits recipients tested positive for drug use. (As Judge Barkett stated in her 11th circuit opinion, "[T]here is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a "concrete danger" that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use.")

In addition, the unfortunate reality is that public assistance funds scarcely cover the costs of basic necessities such as food and housing. Indeed, because of inflation, the value of benefits has fallen at least 20 percent since 1996 in 37 states. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports, as of July 2012, benefits for a family of three with no cash income for all states were below 50 percent of the Federal poverty line. A family of three in Missouri receives $292 per month, while Tennesseans receive just $185. Doesn't exactly leave much room for drug money, does it?

While Florida and Georgia are attempting to subject all TANF applicants to drug testing, absent any individualized suspicion whatsoever, other states have chosen to infuse some level of suspicion into their drug testing schemes—for instance, by having government employees fill out a questionnaire. But although such schemes may not be as overtly unconstitutional as the Florida and Georgia models, many of them also fall short of constitutional requirements. And one has to wonder why all of these proposals—suspicionless and suspicion-based alike—are targeting poor people, rather than the many other individuals receiving government assistance in one form or another.

At their core, all of these proposals exacerbate existing stigmas associated with receiving public assistance, and create unnecessary hurdles for families that are already struggling just to get by. As more evidence comes to light about who is benefiting from these laws, the reality that this disturbing legislative movement is built on the backs of America's poor has never been clearer.

Learn more about drug testing and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

(Via Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union)

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On Fox, Hate-Group Leader, Tony Perkins, Distorts MSNBC Ad To Attack Same-Sex Families

On Fox, Tony Perkins Distorts MSNBC Ad To Attack Same-Sex Families:

Hate group leader Tony Perkins jumped at the opportunity to attack same-sex parents while peddling distortions about a new MSNBC ad on Fox News.

During the April 10 edition of Fox & Friends, host Gretchen Carlson invited Perkins on to criticize a new MSNBC ad in which Melissa Harris-Perry calls on America to think about child-rearing as a community effort. Perkins suggested that Perry’s comments are part of the left’s desire to move away from family structures headed by “a mom and a dad”: 

PERKINS: Kids are still born to moms and dads, to women and men. Still takes a man and a woman to create a child. Children aren't born to the neighborhood watch; they are born to a man and woman. There is a reason for that. God gives them to man and woman. And the reality is now we have decades worth of social science that show children do best with a mom and dad who love them, who are married, and care for them. Moving away from that notion, which the left would love to do, will be devastating for society. [emphasis added]

The ad, which was promoting Harris-Perry's call for renewed investment in education, clearly had nothing to do with same-sex marriage. Yet Perkins, who never misses an opportunity to attack marriage equality, took a not-so-subtle jab at households led by same-sex parents. Perkins’ claim isn’t supported by scientific research, which has consistently found that children raised by gay parents do just as well as those raised by heterosexual parents.

This is the third time Fox has hosted the hate group leader for a softball interview in aboutweek.

When Perkins tried to push a similar talking point on MSNBC last month, he was grilled for peddling junk science. On Fox News, he gets a free pass.

Previously:

Megyn Kelly Asks Anti-Gay Hate Group Leader Why Pro-Gay Activists Are So Intolerant

Fox News Contributor On Marriage Equality: “Seriously. Why Not Incest.”

Megyn Kelly Whitewashes Hate Group Leader’s Extreme Anti-Gay Bigotry

(Via Equality Matters - County Fair)

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Rove Echoes Bogus GOP Budget Spin To Mislead On Deficit Reduction

David Shere: Rove Echoes Bogus GOP Budget Spin To Mislead On Deficit Reduction:

Karl Rove accused President Obama of misleading the American people on deficit reduction when the GOP operative and Fox employee denied that Obama "has met the Republicans more than halfway" on the deficit.Rove was repeating a bogus piece of spin from GOP leadership -- on the whole, deficit reduction under the Obama administration has actually been heavily tilted towards spending cuts.

When Happening Now guest host Rick Folbaum asked Rove if Obama had "met the Republicans more than halfway," as the president has said, Rove replied, "He has not met the Republicans halfway. The Republicans gave him $600 billion in additional revenue at the end of the year on the fiscal cliff deal." Rove continued: "The president during the campaign said we ought to have, he had TV ads, saying there ought to be two and a half dollars in spending cuts for every dollar in new revenue. So he's got to come up with about $1.5 trillion in spending reductions, and there's nowhere near that in this budget."

Rove is trying to pull a fast one on Fox's viewers by omitting the crucial fact that Obama signed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts into law in 2011 as part of the Budget Control Act. Those cuts are legally binding and are in place today. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "these reductions will shrink non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level on record as a share of GDP, with data going back to 1962." As Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein has written, "you can't pretend the BCA cuts didn't happen."

This CBPP chart shows the balance between spending cuts and revenue increases signed into law since 2011:

Rove is not the only one trying to tell the American people that post-2010 spending cuts never happened. By starting the timer at the beginning of 2013 and ignoring Obama's actual record on deficit reduction, Rove is parroting GOP House Speaker John Boehner, who said last week that "the president got his tax hikes on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts."

(Via Media Matters for America - County Fair)

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Fox Helps Bobby Jindal Recover From Tax Plan Rebuke By Pretending It Didn't Happen

Alan Pyke: Fox Helps Bobby Jindal Recover From Tax Plan Rebuke By Pretending It Didn't Happen:

Fox News buried Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's (R) decision to back down on his plan to eliminate the state's income tax, praising the now-dead proposal just days after Jindal acknowledged Louisianans reject the scheme.

While the network has not covered* Jindal's April 8 speech rescinding the proposal, Fox News' America's Newsroom dedicated a segment on April 10 to the idea of repealing Louisiana's income tax. Before introducing Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, guest host Gregg Jarrett framed the topic, saying: "Creating jobs and helping put more money in your wallet--the state of Louisiana wants to scrap its state income taxes." As Jarrett continued, Fox displayed a graphical summary of the plan Jindal withdrew two days earlier:

In his speech to state lawmakers, Jindal explained his decision to withdraw that plan as a recognition of fierce opposition to it. From The Times-Picayune:

The speech is a major concession that Jindal's proposal, a complicated plan contained in a total of 11 bills, is unpopular both within and outside the Legislature. The proposal has come under increasingly heavy fire in recent weeks as business groups and advocates for the poor have assailed its effects and think tanks have questioned whether the math in the proposal adds up.

Jindal acknowledges the strong opposition to the proposal in his prepared remarks.

"I realize that some of you think I haven't been listening. But you'll be surprised to learn I have been," according to the text of the speech. "And here is what I've heard from you and from the people of Louisiana -- yes, we do want to get rid of the income tax, but governor you're moving too fast and we aren't sure that your plan is the best way to do it.

"So I've thought about that. And it certainly wasn't the reaction I was hoping to hear. And now I'm going to give you my response and it's not the response people are accustomed to hearing from politicians.

"Here is my response: 'Ok, I hear you,' " according to the text of the speech. "So I am going to park my tax plan."

The governor went on to request that lawmakers write an income tax repeal bill of their own, and his administration has reportedly signaled interest in repealing the income tax even without any accompanying plan to make up the lost revenue.

Numerous major news outlets reported on Jindal's speech as both a setback for his political career and a victory for the poor. MaddowBlog's Steve Benen noticed this is the second such rebuke Jindal's suffered so far this year, after his plan to end hospice care for Medicaid beneficiaries went down in the face of stiff criticism. But on Fox, Jarrett and Moore didn't just ignore Jindal's reversal. They praised Jindal's stillborn plan as a near-heroic effort to boost economic growth in his state. "The real story here is that Bobby Jindal is trying to take on the special interests in Louisiana, trying to make the case that Louisiana could be a really high-flying state if they could get rid of their income tax," Moore said.

Beyond their attempt to recast Jindal's efforts in a more positive light, Moore and Jarrett continued Fox's pattern of misrepresenting the relationship between state income taxes and growth. Fox had previously ignored the regressive nature of Jindal's plan, and the April 10 segment featured the false claim that eliminating income taxes boosts state economic growth. Media Matters has previously shown Moore's work on that subject to be dishonest, and as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown, cuts in state income taxes are correlated with weaker economic growth except in oil-rich states. Furthermore, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported in February that the nine states with no income tax have shown substantially weaker economic growth than those with high income taxes.

*A review of transcripts found that no Fox News Channel shows covered the Louisiana governor's speech from April 8. Fox Business's Stuart Varney interviewed Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform about Jindal's reversal on the April 9 edition of Varney & Co.

(Via Media Matters for America - County Fair)

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Ben Carson Steps Down As Johns Hopkins Commencement Speaker

Ben Carson Steps Down As Johns Hopkins Commencement Speaker:

Dr. Ben Carson, a rising star in conservative media, announced today that he would step down as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His decision followed a widespread backlash in the media and on campus after he compared the LGBT community to "NAMBLA" and "people who believe in bestiality." 

From the Baltimore Sun:

Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson stepped down Wednesday as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine after complaints from students about controversial comments concerning same-sex marriage.

[...]

"Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interest of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year," he wrote in the letter to [Dean Paul] Rothman, which the dean shared with the Hopkins community.

Media Matters previously documented Ben Carson's promotion by right wing media figures after he trumpeted conservative policy ideas during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Carson was ultimately burned by that media exposure. 

The controversial remarks cited by the Baltimore Sun came during Carson's March 26 appearance on Fox News' Hannity. In reference to efforts to overturn bans on same-sex marriage, Carson said, "No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are -- they don't get to change the definition."

Those comments led Johns Hopskins students to launch a petition for his removal as commencement speaker, which petitioners said more than half of the graduating class had signed. Carson was also criticized by colleagues at Johns Hopkins who called his comments "hurtful" and "extremely discouraging." In a statement to Media Matters, the co-director of Johns Hopkins University's Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Professor Todd Shepard, said Carson's statements made him look, "nasty, petty, and ill-informed." Carson eventually apologized for his comments, before calling his critics "racists," and then apologizing again.

Carson once wrote that marriage equality could lead to the fall of America like the "fall of the Roman Empire." As of April 2, Carson was scheduled to give the keynote address at a banquet hosted by the Illinois Family Institute, an anti-gay hate group.

According to the Baltimore Sun, "Carson also stepped down as speaker for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education diploma ceremony. New speakers have not been chosen for either commencement address."

(Via Media Matters for America)

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HBO Films: Behind the Candelabra Trailer

HBO Films: Behind the Candelabra Trailer - YouTube:

(Via www.youtube.com)

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Republicans disagree over election comeback plan - Some say party shouldn't compromise on issues such as immigration, gay marriage

Republicans disagree over election comeback plan - Some say party shouldn't compromise on issues such as immigration, gay marriage:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)Some U.S. Republican leaders on Wednesday pushed back against a new comeback plan after a poor showing in last year's elections, saying the party shouldn't give up its conservative stance on sensitive but core issues like immigration and gay marriage.

(Via LGBTQ Nation)

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