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Arizona and Nebraska Governors Deny Driver Licenses to Young Immigrants with Work Permits

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Arizona and Nebraska Governors Deny Driver Licenses to Young Immigrants with Work Permits
The political battle between Republican governors and President Barack Obama over amnesty for illegal immigrants continued late last week when two states blocked hundreds of thousands of young people from gaining drivers licenses and other public benefits.
 
Under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as many as 1.7 illegal immigrants can receive work papers and driver’s licenses if they are under 32 years of age, arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, and have committed no major crimes.
 
The 2005 Real ID Act declared that “deferred action” recipients are eligible for driver’s licenses. However, within hours of the program going into effect on August 15, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) issued an executive order blocking the implementation of Obama’s program in her state. Brewer said the program does not make program applicants “legal citizens,” which meant the state could deny them driver’s licenses and other services, according to the governor.
 
Three days later, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) followed Brewer’s lead and blocked immigrants in his state as well from gaining deferred action status.
 
The two states reportedly have more than 100,000 eligible illegal immigrants within their borders.
 
Democrats in Arizona lashed out at Brewer, who has been a leading voice against illegal immigration in her state.  Jeff Rogers, the chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, told the media that Brewer was acting like George Wallace, the former Alabama governor who was an avowed segregationist and tried to block African-American students from attending the University of Alabama.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
For Young Immigrants Who Get Deferrals, The Battle Is Far From Over (by David Adams and Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters)
Gov. Jan Brewer Battles Obama’s DREAM Directive in Arizona (by Terry Greene Sterling, Daily Beast)
 
More than 3 Million Violent Crimes in U.S. go Unreported Every Year
Monday, August 20, 2012
More than 3 Million Violent Crimes in U.S. go Unreported Every Year
A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) paints a picture of the more than three million violent crimes that go unreported in the United States every year. Based on survey responses for the years 2006 to 2010, the BJS report estimates that 52% of all violent crimes, or an annual average of 3.38 million incidents, go unreported every year, including 211,000 sexual assaults and 507,000 aggravated assaults. From 1994 to 2010, the percentage of serious violent crime—rape or sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated assault—that was not reported to police declined from 50% to 42%.
 
Why do so many violent crime victims fail to report the incident? Personal issues and concerns about the criminal justice system dominated the reasons, according to the report. Asked for their most important reason for not reporting, 52% gave personal reasons, including that they “dealt with it in another way/personal matter” (34%) and “not important enough to victim to report” (18%).
 
Concerns about the criminal justice system itself were most important to 39%, including those who believed that the police would not or could not help (16%) and those who feared reprisal or getting the offender in trouble (13%). The share of unreported violent crimes not reported for police-related reasons has increased over the years, driven by a jump in the share of victims who believe that the police would not think the crime was important enough to address, from 5% in 2005 to 12% in 2010. Those victims who said the police would be ineffective or inefficient went from 2% in 2005 to 4% in 2010, as did those who thought the police would be biased (from 1% in 2005 to 3% in 2010).
 
Those who named another reason or said there was no one most important reason totaled 18%.
 
Consistent with the importance of personal reasons to why victims did not report the crimes against them are data showing that among unreported intimate partner violent crimes, 38% went unreported because the victim was afraid of reprisal or getting the offender in trouble. Further, 62% of crimes perpetrated by someone the victim knew well went unreported to police, compared to 51% of victimizations committed by a stranger.
 
Bullying remains a big problem, according to the study data. About 76% of violent crimes that occurred at school were not reported to police, which is consistent with the findings that from 2006 to 2010, crimes against youth age 12 to 17 were more likely to go unreported than crimes against persons in other age categories.
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
Victimizations Not Reported to the Police, 2006-2010 (by Lynn Langton, Marcus Berzofsky, Christopher Krebs, and Hope Smiley-McDonald; National Crime Victimization Survey) (pdf)
 
Good News and Bad News for Wind Energy Industry
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Good News and Bad News for Wind Energy Industry
The wind energy industry is having a banner year. So why are executives of wind-generated energy fretting so much? Because, they say, the industry’s success may get cut short by politicians in Washington.
 
This year, energy produced from wind power reached 50 gigawatts in the U.S., the highest level ever recorded. It is enough electricity to power 13 million homes, or nearly all those in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined.
 
But the industry has been aided by a federal tax break that’s been around since the George H. W. Bush administration. President Barack Obama favors renewing the Production Tax Credit, which is set to expire this year.
 
But Mitt Romney wants to do away with the tax break, as do Republican leaders in Congress.
 
“These truly are the best of times and could be the worst of times for American wind power,” Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, the lobbying arm of the wind industry, told The Guardian. “This month we shattered the 50-gigawatt mark, and we’re on pace for one of our best years ever in terms of megawatts installed. But because of the uncertainty surrounding the extension of, incoming orders are grinding to a halt.”
 
Not all Republicans agree with Romney. In Iowa, where wind energy is popular, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad supports the tax break, as do all members of the state’s Congressional delegation.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Wind Energy Tax Credit Splits Obama, Romney (by Jennifer Jacobs, Des Moines Register)
 
10 Most Profitable U.S. Companies Paid 9% in Federal Income Taxes
Saturday, August 18, 2012
10 Most Profitable U.S. Companies Paid 9% in Federal Income Taxes
The largest corporations in the U.S., consisting of oil, retail, banking and technology giants, paid an average of only 9% of their earnings in income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service last year.
 
According to the tax code, companies are supposed to pay 35% income tax. But NerdWallet determined that the top 10 came nowhere near that.
 
Exxon Mobil, the country’s biggest business, made more than $73 billion in 2011, but paid only $1.5 billion to the IRS.
 
The second largest company, Chevron, paid $1.9 billion in taxes after collecting $47.6 billion in revenue.
 
No. 3 on the list, Apple, made $34.2 billion. It paid $3.9 billion to the IRS.
 
These were followed by:
 
Microsoft (made $28 billion, paid $3.1 billion)
JPMorgan Chase (made $26.7 billion, paid $3.7 billion)
Walmart (made $24.4 billion, paid $4.6 billion)
Wells Fargo (made $23.7 billion, paid $3.4 billion)
ConocoPhillips (made $23 billion, paid $1.9 billion)
IBM (made $21 billion, paid $268 million)
General Electric (made $20.1 billion, paid $1 billion)
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Corporate Tax Rate Too High? Not for GE…2.3% over 10 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
 
Congress on Track to Set Do-Nothing Record
Friday, August 17, 2012
Congress on Track to Set Do-Nothing Record
If lawmakers on Capitol Hill wanted to encapsulate the current session of Congress in a t-shirt slogan, they could go with: Support your party and don’t compromise.
 
The highly partisan environment in Washington has resulted in the most “do-nothing” congressional session since the end of World War II.
 
Of the more than 3,900 bills introduced, lawmakers have adopted just 147 this year—a passage rate of less than 4%. It is worth noting that 32 of the successful bills involved the naming of post offices and other buildings, while many others were of similar import.
 
Only 61 real bills went to President Barack Obama’s desk for signing, and he signed them all. This paltry productivity has put the 112th Congress on track to be the least productive in recent history. Even the 80th Congress, branded the “do-nothing” Congress by President Harry Truman in 1948, passed more pieces of legislation.
 
Congressional efficiency peaked in the election years of 1956 and 1958, when Republican President Dwight Eisenhower worked with Democrats, who held slim majorities in both houses of Congress. In 1956, 638 bills were signed into law and in 1958 620. Eisenhower did veto 23 bills in 1956 and 39 in 1958.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
In 2011, Fewer Laws and Fewer Confirmations (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
 
U.S. Gains First Openly Gay General
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
U.S. Gains First Openly Gay General
The U.S. Army achieved a milestone last week when it promoted its first openly gay officer to the rank of general.
 
Tammy Smith, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, was officially promoted to brigadier general in a ceremony that featured her wife, Tracey Hepner, pinning Smith’s stars to her uniform. As little as a year ago, Smith was still giving interviews under a pseudonym, rather than come out to her fellow service members.
 
Smith said she was excited and humbled by her promotion. She also downplayed the attention paid to her being the Army’s first acknowledged gay general.
 
“I don’t think I need to be focused on that,” she told Stars and Stripes. “What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”
 
Smith’s next assignment will be deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve, making her responsible for providing support to the families of reservists. This includes benefits for married spouses, something Smith cannot share with Hepner under current law, gay rights advocates pointed out.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Smith Becomes First Gay General Officer To Serve Openly (by Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes)
First Openly Gay Flag Officer Promoted (by Sue Fulton, OutServe Magazine)
Military Spent $193 Million to Kick out Gay Troops (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
 
  

  

 
WikiLeaks Whistleblower Calls for Dismissal of Charges Against Him for Cruel and Unusual Detention
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
WikiLeaks Whistleblower Calls for Dismissal of Charges Against Him for Cruel and Unusual Detention
The attorney representing Private Bradley Manning has filed a motion calling for the military to dismiss all charges against his client, whose constitutional rights were violated during his pretrial confinement. Manning is accused of giving thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks, which released large portions of them on the Internet.
 
Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, said in a 110-page motion that the Army private has been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by military guards acting upon orders from a high-ranking general in the U.S. Marine Corps, which operates the Quantico, Virginia, base where Manning is being held.
 
While awaiting trial, Manning has suffered “degradation and humiliation” that includes spending several nights in a row without clothes and being forced to stand without sleep.
 
Manning’s treatment was ordered by an unnamed three-star Marine general who wanted to punish the soldier for previously speaking out about his mistreatment, according to Coombs.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Is Secrecy at Bradley Manning Court-Martial about Security or Embarrassment? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
 

  

 
CBO Says Drilling on Federal Land Won’t Net Much Money or Energy
Monday, August 13, 2012
CBO Says Drilling on Federal Land Won’t Net Much Money or Energy
It turns out that the slogan “drill, baby, drill” ought to be “nil, baby, nil.” According to two recent reports by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office,(CBO) opening all federal land to oil and gas drilling — including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) — would do nothing to insulate Americans from price hikes or global supply disruptions and would yield only modest revenue to the U.S. Treasury. The reports, released in May and August of this year, drive a stake through the heart of the two primary arguments in favor of increased drilling on public lands.
 
The oil and gas industry and their congressional allies have argued for years that removing fossil fuel drilling bans that protect many public lands and waters would produce significant revenue for the federal government and help reduce the national debt. The August 9 report — which was requested by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in his capacity as House Budget Committee chairman — concludes that opening ANWR, parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Florida coasts, and all other targeted public lands would yield only $7 billion over the next ten years, barely 0.1% of the deficits CBO projects for that period.
 
As to energy security, a CBO report released May 10 found that more domestic drilling cannot make America less susceptible to price hikes or supply disruptions, primarily because oil is sold on a global market that would quickly absorb increased supply and blunt any domestic price impact. In fact, CBO concluded that even if gas prices did go down, “such lower prices would encourage greater use of oil, thus making consumers more vulnerable to increases in oil prices. Even if the United States increased production and became a net exporter of oil, U.S. consumers would still be exposed to gasoline prices that rose and fell in response to disruptions around the world.” After reviewing different proposals to enhance the country’s energy security, CBO determined that using less oil is the only way to avoid price increases.
 
Drilling advocates who cite the so-called laws of supply and demand to support increased drilling are being simplistic. A recent statistical analysis of gasoline prices and domestic oil production for the 36 years between 1976 and 2012 concluded that there is no statistical correlation between increased drilling and lower prices at the gas pump. For example, between February 2009 and February 2012 seasonally adjusted U.S. oil production increased 15% even as gas prices went up by 72.9%, from $2.07 per gallon to $3.58 — exactly the opposite result predicted by supporters of more drilling.
 
- Matt Bewig
 
To Learn More:
 

  

 
UN Calls on U.S. to Halt Biofuel Production as Drought Devastates Corn Crop
Sunday, August 12, 2012
UN Calls on U.S. to Halt Biofuel Production as Drought Devastates Corn Crop
With the drought of 2012 — already the worst in the U.S. since the 1950s — expected to cause dramatically smaller corn and soybean crops, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has called on the U.S. to suspend the use of corn in producing biofuels like ethanol in order to avert a food crisis. So far, however, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has rejected this suggestion, arguing that ethanol production supports many jobs and reduces the price of gasoline for Americans.
 
Under the Renewable Fuel Standard, 13 billion gallons of biofuel must be produced in the U.S. this year as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on imported oil. As a result, about 40% of the corn crop will be used to make ethanol, 40% as animal feed, and 20% is eaten by consumers, mostly in processed foods like high-fructose corn syrup and corn flakes. Critics of the fuel standard argue that the use of corn to make ethanol is a major factor in the tripling in the price of corn since 2005 and likely contributed to a food crisis in 2007-08.
 
The latest forecasts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicate that the 2012 corn yield per acre will be the lowest since 1995-96, and that total production will be the lowest since 2006. As a result, the USDA is predicting that farm prices for corn will average $7.50-$8.90 per bushel, up from the $5.40-$6.40 per bushel it projected just a month ago and up to 85% higher than the $4.80 per bushel projected at planting time in April. Some private forecasters have projected even lower yields per acre, which would lead to even higher prices.
 
For American consumers, the USDA estimated in July that food prices would climb 3%-4% in 2013, but that prediction will probably be revised upward because of the new, lower corn numbers. Even so, the overall economic effect in the U.S. will be muted because American households generally spend only about 13% of their budgets on food and because so little of what we pay at the supermarket is actually for food. For example, the corn in a $4.00 box of corn flakes is worth about 7 to 8 cents. Most of the price is for processing, transportation, advertising, and an oligopoly premium. The poor and near-poor, however, will feel the price rise at the grocery store far more acutely.
 
It is in the developing world, where many people spend 30%-40% of their income on food, that the impact will be greatest. Writing in the Financial Times, Jose Graziano da Silva, director general of the FAO, argued the ethanol quota should be suspended to allow more of the corn crop to be used for food production, especially in light of an FAO report that world food prices soared 6% in July, with the price of corn up 23%. In addition to the U.S. drought, severe weather has damaged agricultural production in other major grain exporting countries as well, including Brazil, Russia, Australia, and India, raising concerns of global food shortages that will increase food prices and lead to widespread hunger.
 
“The United States is the world’s largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat, and likely price spikes will ripple through markets globally, with devastating consequences for those already struggling to get enough food to eat,” said Eric Munoz, a senior policy analyst with the international aid group Oxfam. U.S. livestock producers, who feed corn to their animals, also want the ethanol quota waived, and 156 House members and 25 senators have signed letters to Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, asking her to issue a waiver on the ethanol standard.
- Matt Bewig
 
To Learn More:
US Farmers Expect Poorest Corn Crop in a Decade (by Jim Suhr, Associated Press)
USDA Revises Corn, Soybean Crop Estimates Dramatically Lower (by Dan Piller and Elizabeth Weise, USA Today)
Drought Forces Reductions in U.S. Crop Forecasts (by Ron Nixon and Annie Lowrey, New York Times)
FAO Food Price Index up 6 Percent (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

  

 
U.S. Finally Cleaning Up Some of Its Agent Orange Mess in Vietnam
Saturday, August 11, 2012
U.S. Finally Cleaning Up Some of Its Agent Orange Mess in Vietnam
More than 50 years after it first sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam, the U.S. government has started a program to help clean up a small portion of the contamination it caused during the war.
 
The Obama administration plans to spend $43 million over four years to remediate an area near Da Nang in central Vietnam. A former U.S. air base left behind large swaths of land polluted with dioxin, the chemical contaminant in Agent Orange that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other diseases.
 
In a country that commemorates the 10 years of American spraying, many Vietnamese reacted bitterly toward the news, calling the program too little and too late. Many in the country were incensed that Dow Chemical, a producer of the poison, was allowed to be a sponsor at the Olympic Games this year.
 
Nguyen Van Rinh, a retired Vietnamese military commander who now chairs the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, told The New York Times: “The plight of Agent Orange victims continues. I think the relationship would rise up to new heights if the American government took responsibility and helped their victims and address the consequences.”
 
It is estimated that the U.S. military sprayed about 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from 1961 to 1971. More than five million acres of forest and cropland—an area roughly the size of New Jersey—were destroyed by the defoliants.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Fact Sheet (The Aspen Institute)
 

  

 
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