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Category Archives: Politics As Usual

AP: Salazar urges splitting energy agency

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is proposing to split up an Interior Department agency that oversees offshore drilling, as part of its response to the Gulf Coast oil spill, The Associated Press has learned.

An administration official who asked not to be identified because the plan is not yet public said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will urge that Congress approve splitting the Minerals Management Service in two. One agency would be charged with inspecting oil rigs, investigating oil companies and enforcing safety regulations, while the other would oversee leases for drilling and collection of billions of dollars in royalties.

Currently, the Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Interior Department, is responsible for collecting more than $10 billion a year from oil and gas drilling and with enforcing laws and regulations that apply to drilling operations.

Some critics have said the two roles are in conflict and are one reason the agency has long been accused of being too cozy with the oil and natural gas industry.

An internal investigation in 2008 described a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by workers at the agency. The investigation by Interior’s inspector general found workers at the MMS royalty collection office in Denver partied, had sex with and used drugs with energy company representatives. Workers also accepted gifts, ski trips and golf outings, the report by Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said.

Devaney decried “a culture of ethical failure” and an agency rife with conflicts of interest.

Read the full article here

Bloomberg: Oil-Spill Agency Fetches $13 Billion Amid ‘Cozy’ Ties

New York Times: Sex & Drugs & the Spill

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AP: Are school lunches a national security threat?

WASHINGTON — School lunches have been called many things, but a group of retired military officers is giving them a new label: national security threat.

That’s not a reference to the mystery meat served up in the cafeteria line either. The retired officers are saying that school lunches have helped make the nation’s young people so fat that fewer of them can meet the military’s physical fitness standards, and recruitment is in jeopardy.

A new report being released Tuesday says more than 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. Now, the officers are advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation’s school lunches healthier.

The officers’ group, Mission: Readiness, was appearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The military group acknowledges that other things keep young adults out of the armed services, such as a criminal record or the lack of a high school diploma. But weight problems that have worsened over the past 15 years are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected.

Although all branches of the military now meet or exceed recruitment goals, retired Navy Rear Adm. James Barnett Jr., a member of the officers group, says the obesity trend could affect that.

“When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice,” Barnett said. He noted that national security in the year 2030 is “absolutely dependent” on reversing child obesity rates.

Recruitment isn’t the only problem posed by obesity. According to the report, the government spends tens of millions of dollars every year to train replacements for service members discharged because of weight problems.

This isn’t the first time the military has gotten involved in the debate over school lunches. During World War II, military leaders had the opposite problem, reporting that many recruits were rejected because of stunted growth and inadequate nutrition. After the war, military leaders pushed Congress to establish the national school lunch program so children would grow up healthier.

The program was established in 1946, “as a measure of national security,” according to the original bill language.

Today, the group is urging Congress to eliminate junk food and high-calorie beverages from schools, put more money into the school lunch program and develop new strategies that help children develop healthier habits.

The school lunch bill, currently awaiting a Senate vote, would establish healthier options for all foods in schools, including vending machine items. The legislation would spend $4.5 billion more over 10 years for nutrition programs.

The Army is already doing its part to catch the problem earlier, working with high schoolers and interested recruits to lose weight before they are eligible for service, says U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s Mark Howell. He added that he had to lose 10 pounds himself before he joined the military.

“This is the future of our Army we are looking at when we talk about these 17- to 24-year-olds,” Howell said. “The sad thing is a lot of them want to join but can’t.”

USA Today: Facing unfit recruits, military leaders target food in schools

GQ: ¿Qué Pasa, Lou?
According to Lou Dobbs, we’ve been completely wrong about him. Wrong about his stance on illegal immigrants. Wrong about his reasons for quitting CNN after twenty-seven years. And wrong about his newfound political aspirations. Well, we might actually be right about that last thing. Jeanne Marie Laskas meets the man we thought we knew.

“How do you feel?” Lou turns to me and says. We’re in the back of his silver Audi midmorning on a steel gray New Jersey day, and we’re heading from the country, where he lives, to the city, where he does his radio show, about an hour and a half away. He’s working on a Wendy’s cheeseburger, a Diet Coke, and a small chocolate Frosty.

“How do I feel?” I ask. He throws his shoulders back, like, How hard a question is that? He’s a Brahman bull of a man with puffy hands and a dainty silver bracelet, and he’s in truck-driver attire: orange thermal shirt, green overshirt, John Deere cap.

It’s taking me a moment to catch up to Lou’s abrupt change in subject. Feelings? We had been talking about NAFTA, how he supported it—”I was there before Clinton, for Chrissake!”—and how this position, along with so many others, goes completely against the Lou Dobbs–ian economic-isolationist mythology that exists in American culture today. Mythology—that’s been his main point. As in: a false collective belief. As in: so much utter bullshit. And: “I let the liberal mainstream media define me. That was my mistake. I was stupid, and I was arrogant.” He’s made this point often over the past few days, not with rage so much as regret, and after he said it this last time, he fell silent, gazed with some interest out his window, so apparently he’s found some reason for switching subjects.

“Uh, I feel good,” I answer.

“Happy?” he says.

“Well, sure—”

Read the entire article at GQ


CNN: Tanning salons burned by health care bill
LA Times: Healthcare reform fun facts: The 10% tan tax


Reuters: Abortion looms as election issue after U.S. reforms
Concern over federal funding for abortion, which nearly torpedoed historic U.S. healthcare reforms signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, now looms as a potent issue for congressional elections in November.

CNN: Obama to sign executive order on abortion limits Wednesday
President Obama will sign an executive order Wednesday that ensures that existing limits on the federal funding of abortion remain in place under the new health care overhaul law.


Huffington Post: Biden Drops F-Bomb On Live Mic


New York Times: Obama Calls for Major Change in Education Law

The Obama administration on Saturday called for a broad overhaul of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, proposing to reshape divisive provisions that encouraged instructors to teach to tests, narrowed the curriculum, and labeled one in three American schools as failing.

By announcing that he would send his education blueprint to Congress on Monday, President Obama returned to a campaign promise to repair the sprawling federal law, which affects each of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools. His plan strikes a careful balance, retaining some key features of the Bush-era law, including its requirement for annual reading and math tests, while proposing far-reaching changes.

Wall Street Journal: Obama Outlines Sweeping Education Revamp
The Atlantic: Education Proposal Sparks Debate in House Before Hearings

Associated Press: Airport body scanners spreading across US
The Transportation Security Administration on Friday announced nine more U.S. airports that will receive body-scanning technology, as the U.S. heightens its effort to detect hidden explosives and other weapons amid a threat highlighted by an attempted bombing on Christmas Day.

TSA security director Lee Kair said units will be fielded in the coming months at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; San Jose, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; San Diego; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; and Kansas City.

They will join three machines going online Monday at Boston’s Logan International Airport, and one being deployed next week at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

All are among 150 machines bought with money from the federal stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama last year. They join 40 machines already in use at 19 airports nationwide.

Read the Full Article: Associated Press: Airport body scanners spreading across US

Hmmm, wonder why she’s stepping down?

Chicago Sun-Times:

White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers to step down

WASHINGTON–White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers told me Friday she will step down next month, after presiding over 330 events in the White House in 14 months.

Rogers is departing after achieving a major goal of President Obama and First Lady Michelle — opening up the White House to make it the “peoples house.”

“As we turn the corner on the first year,” Rogers told me, “this is a good time for me to explore opportunities in the corporate world.”

Rogers told me it has been “an honor and a privilege to serve this president and First Lady, in what has certainly been a historic presidency.”

Rogers, a friend of the First Couple for years, was one of the first Obama administration appointees.

“When I took on this assignment, we talked about the importance of creating the people’s house. My work was really to create this framework,” she told me.

“I think I completed that work. Our office has been able to lay the foundation for what will be known as the ‘people’s house’ and it has already taken shape.”

Rogers tenure was marked by high points–she was a moving force behind a White House music series–and a low point, when the Obama’s first state dinner was crashed by a publicity seeking couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi. Though the Secret Service immediately said it was their fault–agents did not follow security protocols–Rogers got some of the blame.

I asked Rogers if the Salahi episode was a factor in her resignation. “The incident at the State Dinner was not a deciding factor,” she told me. “But it did show me a side of the job and of Washington that I had not seen before.”

After I spoke to Rogers, President Obama and First Lady Michelle said in a statement, “We are enormously grateful to Desiree Rogers for the terrific job she’s done as the White House Social Secretary. When she took this position, we asked Desiree to help make sure that the White House truly is the People’s House, and she did that by welcoming scores of everyday Americans through its doors, from wounded warriors to local schoolchildren to NASCAR drivers. She organized hundreds of fun and creative events during her time here, and we will miss her. We thank her again for her service and wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

I’ve been told by several sources that Rogers will be replaced by Julianna Smoot, the chief of staff to the U.S. Trade Representative who was the Obama presidential campaign chief fund-raiser.

Lynn Sweet

Food Inc.

GRASS FED .. EAT IT.