Friday, December 23, 2011

EPA ponders expanded regulatory power in name of 'sustainable development'

By George Russell
Published December 19, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to change how it analyzes problems and makes decisions, in a way that would give it vastly expanded power to regulate businesses, communities and ecosystems in the name of “sustainable development,” the centerpiece of a global United Nations conference slated for Rio de Janeiro next June.

The major focus of the EPA thinking is a weighty study the agency commissioned last year from the National Academies of Science. Published in August, the study, entitled “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA,” cost nearly $700,000 and involved a team of a dozen outside experts and about half as many National Academies staff.

Its aim: how to integrate sustainability “as one of the key drivers within the regulatory responsibilities of EPA.” The panel who wrote the study declares part of its job to be “providing guidance to EPA on how it might implement its existing statutory authority to contribute more fully to a more sustainable-development trajectory for the United States.”

Or, in other words, how to use existing laws to new ends.

According to the Academies, the sustainability study “both incorporates and goes beyond an approach based on assessing and managing the risks posed by pollutants that has largely shaped environmental policy since the 1980s.”

It is already known in EPA circles as the “Green Book,” and is frequently compared by insiders to the “Red Book,” a study on using risk management techniques to guide evaluation of carcinogenic chemicals that the agency touts as the basis of its overall approach to environmental issues for the past 30 years.

At the time that the “Green Book” study was commissioned, in August, 2010, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson termed it “the next phase of environmental protection,” and asserted that it will be “fundamental to the future of the EPA.”

Jackson compared the new approach, it would articulate to “the difference between treating disease and pursuing wellness.” It was, she said, “a new opportunity to show how environmentally protective and sustainable we can be,” and would affect “every aspect” of EPA’s work.

According to the study itself, the adoption of the new “sustainability framework” will make the EPA more “anticipatory” in its approach to environmental issues, broaden its focus to include both social and economic as well as environmental “pillars,” and “strengthen EPA as an organization and a leader in the nation’s progress toward a sustainable future.”

Whatever EPA does with its suggestions, the study emphasizes, will be “discretionary.” But the study urges EPA to “create a new culture among all EPA employees,” and hire an array of new experts in order to bring the sustainability focus to every corner of the agency and its operations. Changes will move faster “as EPA’s intentions and goals in sustainability become clear to employees,” the study says.

The National Academies and the EPA held a meeting last week in Washington to begin public discussion of the study.

Even as it begins to go public, EPA, which has come under renewed fire for its recent rulings on new auto emissions standards and limits on coal-fueled power plant emissions, is being determinedly low-key about the study.

Initially questioned about the document by Fox News weeks ago, an EPA spokesman eventually declared that “we are currently reviewing the recommendations and have not yet made any decisions on implementation.” During the deliberations, he said, “the agency will seek a wide range of perspectives on the recommendations from the business community, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, and others.”

The spokesman also said that EPA had “no current plans” for the so-called “Rio + 20” environmental summit next summer “that pertains to the Green Book’s recommendations.”

The U.N. summit meeting, however, is mentioned in the Green Book itself as an instance where “sustainability is gaining increasing recognition as a useful framework for addressing otherwise intractable problems. The framework can be applied at any scale of governance, in nearly any situation, and anywhere in the world.”

When it comes to applying the framework via EPA, the study says it is likely to happen only “over time.” The Red Book risk assessment approach now in use, it notes, “was not immediately adopted within EPA or elsewhere. It required several years for its general acceptance at EPA and its diffusion to state and local agencies.”

What is “sustainability” in the first place? That is a question the study ducks, noting that it is only advising EPA on how to bring it within the agency’s canon.

The experts take their definition from an Obama Administration executive order of October, 2009, entitled Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance. It defines sustainability in sweeping fashion as the ability “to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.”

The study specifically notes that “although addressing economic issues is not a core part of EPA’s mission, it is explicitly part of the definition of sustainability.”

The experience of the European Union is deemed “particularly relevant” to achieving the sustainability goal.

That European strategy involves a virtually all-encompassing regulatory vision. The study notes that its priorities include “climate change and clean energy; sustainable transport; sustainable consumption and production; conservation and management of natural resources; public health; social inclusion, demography, and migration; and global poverty and sustainable development challenges.”

In an American context, the study says sustainable development “raises questions that are not fully or directly addressed in U.S. law or policy.” Among them: “how to define and control unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and how to encourage the development of sustainable communities, biodiversity protection, clean energy, environmentally sustainable economic development, and climate change controls.”

The study notes that sustainable development is “broader than the sum of U.S. environmental and conservation laws.”

It adds that “a great deal more needs to be done to achieve sustainability in the United States.”

The experts say they found the legal authority for EPA to foster sustainable development without further congressional approval in the wording of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, or NEPA. The study says the law, the cornerstone of U.S. environmental policy, declared that the “continuing policy of the Federal Government” is to “create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.”

(In fact, the study quotes selectively from that portion of NEPA. What that section of the Act says in full is that “it is the continuing policy of the Federal Government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations, to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.)

What ends that tacit authority should be used for are far less clear, because the study asserts that they need to be made up and codified as EPA goes along.

“EPA needs to formally develop and specify its vision for sustainability,” the study says. “Vision, in the sense discussed here, is a future state that EPA is trying to reach or is trying to help the country or the world to reach.”

The study offers up new tools for EPA to do the job. As opposed to environmental impact assessment, the study encourages the use of “sustainability impact assessment” in the evaluation of the hundreds and thousands of projects that come under EPA scrutiny to see whether they are moving in the proper direction

“Environmental impact assessment tends to focus primarily on the projected environmental effects of a particular action and alternatives to that action,” the study says. Sustainability impact assessment examines “the probable effects of a particular project or proposal on the social, environmental, and economic pillars of sustainability”—a greatly expanded approach.

One outcome: “The culture change being proposed here will require EPA to conduct an expanding number of assessments.”

As a result, “The agency can become more anticipatory, making greater use of new science and of forecasting.”

The catch, the study recognizes, is that under the new approach the EPA becomes more involved than ever in predicting the future.

“Forecasting is unavoidable when dealing with sustainability, but our ability to do forecasting is limited,” the document says.

One forecast it is safe to make: the study shows whatever else the new sustainability mission does for EPA, it aims to be a much, much more important—and powerful-- federal agency than it is, even now.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News

Obama threatened, called 'monkey' by ex-Carson council candidate

December 20, 2011

A failed Carson City Council candidate drew the attention of federal law enforcement when he called for the assassination of President Obama, whom he described on Facebook with a racial epithet.

Jules Manson, who ran for office on a Libertarian platform in the Carson race in March, called Obama a "monkey" in an online screed on the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act. The act has raised the ire of activists because it permits indefinite detention without trial for some terrorism suspects.

In a comment on the Facebook post, Manson added: "Assassinate the [president] and his monkey children." He used an obscenity followed by a racial epithet to describe the president. The post had been removed from Manson's Facebook page Tuesday, but the blog Your Black Politics captured and posted a screenshot of it, including the coarse language.
Manson described the comments on his Facebook page as "careless, emotionally driven remarks that had no real substance" and wrote, "Not including my regular friends whom I converse with often or have in the past and always welcome their comments and posts, I do not believe many of you are concerned citizens. Most of you were simply looking for drama to demonstrate your politically correct righteousness."

In another Facebook post, Manson said he had been visited by U.S. Secret Service agents.

Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said he could not confirm the visit but said, "We are aware of the incident and are going to conduct appropriate followup."

Manson lost the Carson council race by a wide margin, garnering only 550 votes.

U.N. adopts 'religious intolerance' resolution hailed by Obama

By Patrick Goodenough
December 20, 2011

( – The U.N. General Assembly on Monday adopted a resolution condemning the stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of people based on their religion, and urging countries to take effective steps “to address and combat such incidents.”

No member state called for a recorded vote on the text, which was as a result adopted “by consensus.”

The resolution, an initiative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), is based on one passed by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in Geneva last spring. The State Department last week hosted a meeting to discuss ways of “implementing” it.

Every year since 1999 the OIC has steered through the U.N.’s human rights apparatus a resolution condemning the “defamation of religion,” which for the bloc of 56 Muslim states covered incidents ranging from satirizing Mohammed in a newspaper cartoon to criticism of shari’a and post-9/11 security check profiling.

Critics regard the measure as an attempt to outlaw valid and critical scrutiny of Islamic teachings, as some OIC states do through controversial blasphemy laws at home.

Strongly opposed by mostly Western democracies, the divisive “defamation” resolution received a dwindling number of votes each year, with the margin of success falling from 57 votes in 2007 to 19 in 2009 and just 12 last year.

This year’s text was a departure, in that it dropped the “defamation” language and included a paragraph that reaffirms “the positive role that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information can play in strengthening democracy and combating religious intolerance.”

The nod to freedom of expression won the resolution the support of the U.S. and other democracies, with the Obama administration and others hailing it as a breakthrough after years of acrimonious debate.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the opportunity of the State Department-hosted talks with foreign governments, the OIC and other international bodies last week to stress the importance of freedom of speech in the U.S. She argued that “the best way to treat offensive speech is by people either ignoring it or combating it with good arguments and good speech that overwhelms it.”

Saudi initiative singled out for praise

Nonetheless, the resolution adopted in New York on Monday does contain elements that concern some free speech and religious freedom advocates.

It calls on states “to take effective measures to ensure that public functionaries in the conduct of their public duties do not discriminate against an individual on the basis of religion or belief.”

Governments also are expected to make “a strong effort to counter religious profiling, which is understood to be the invidious use of religion as a criterion in conducting questionings, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures.”

“Effective measures” to counter cases of religious stereotyping and stigmatization include education, interfaith dialogue and “training of government officials.”

And in the worst cases, those of “incitement to imminent violence” based on religion, the resolution calls on countries to implement “measures to criminalize” such behavior.

Also of note is the fact that the resolution singles out for praise only one interfaith initiative – and that initiative was established by Saudi Arabia, a leading OIC member-state with a long history of enforcing blasphemy laws.

The resolution commends the establishment of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, “acknowledging the important role that the Centre is expected to play as a platform for the enhancement of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.”

(Another clause welcomes “all international, regional and national initiatives aimed at promoting interreligious, intercultural and interfaith harmony and combating discrimination against individuals on the basis of religion or belief,” but the Saudi one alone is recognized specifically.)

Monday’s adoption of the text took place without a debate. Earlier, when a General Assembly committee considered the draft resolution, a delegate of Poland – speaking on behalf of the European Union – raised concern about the fact it mentioned by name only one center for interreligious dialogue, even though there were numerous such facilities around the world.

The E.U. was also concerned that the resolution considered the world as “monolithic religious blocs,” while religious hatred was primarily a threat to individual freedoms, he said.

Despite those concerns, the E.U. was prepared to join consensus and support the resolution.

The U.S. representative, John Sammis, said the United States was pleased to join the consensus.

It had been unable to support previous resolutions of this type because they sought to restrict expression and were “counterproductive,” he said, but the new one upholds respect for universal human rights.

“The United States welcomes all international, national, and regional initiatives that respect universal human rights and that recommend these types of measures to promote interfaith harmony and combating discrimination against individuals on the basis of religion or belief,” Sammis said. “Such initiatives can promote respect for religious diversity in a manner that respects universal human rights.”

Big Brother: Government monitors 'customers daily lives'

BC Government Report: ‘Smart Meters Will “Reveal Patterns of Household Consumption and Information About Customers’ Daily Lives”

Posted by Gateway Guest Blogger
Tuesday, December 20, 2011, 3:00 AM

The Last Post By The P/Oed Patriot

According to an article on CBC News, a Government report released by British Columbia’s Commissioner from the Office of Information and Privacy, Elizabeth Denham, says that Smart Meters will collect personal information about people’s daily lives:

“Denham said that hourly power use updates would reveal patterns of household consumption and information about customers’ daily lives..”

This report was a result of an investigation started by 600 complaints about privacy concerns when the local power company, DC Hydro, announced it was going to replace the old analog meters with new ‘Smart Meters’.

Energy Consumers in British Columbia are not the only ones who should have privacy concerns when it comes to the Smart Meters and the Smart Grid. The United States has come a long way in ensuring that their Smart Grid will be just as intrusive, if not more, when it comes to collecting information on the daily lives of average Americans.

In 2010, the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), a part of the Executive Branch agency called the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST), requested that the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) (Consisting of 300 + Energy Producers and Distributers) in conjuction with the EPA, create a document listing the standards for the type of information that will be collected through the Smart Grid. That document is called the NAESB Energy Usage Information Model or Priority Action Plan 10 (PAP-10).

On Page 9 of PAP-10 listed under ‘kind of reading’ alongside normal readings that will be tracked through the Smart Grid like voltage, date and time are the not so normal readings such as carbon and carbonDioxide.

On Page 11 of PAP-10 listed under the ‘kind of services’ that will be tracked through the Smart Grid is this:

As you can see PAP-10 calls for the tracking of everything from your TV, gas, water, heat (Includes Hot Water and Steam), refuse (trash), sewerage, internet, TvLiscense & cold (Includes chilled water and ice) through the Smart Grid. If you want a detailed explaination of these catagories click Here.

In February of 2011, the SGIP voted to recommend PAP-10 as the standards of information that should be collected through the Smart Grid, and it was approved.

On June 13th, 2011 the Obama administration and the NIST released a document titled: “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future”. This was the Obama administration’s blueprint for accelerating the creation of the Smart Grid.

On Page 42 of this document it states:

“The Priority Action Plan 10 (PAP 10) of the NIST-initiated Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP 2011) provides a standardized model for exchanging energy usage and cost information between different parties and devices and is the basis for information exchange directly from the meter to household devices, as well as from utility back office systems to authorized third parties.
The above principles provide valuable guidance as to how state regulators can support consumers’efforts to direct the secure transfer of data from utilities to third-parties,…”

On August 1, 2011 a ‘panel of Government and Industry representatives’, aka the SGIP, approved the first 6 standards for the Smart Grid posted as the ‘Catalog of Standards Library’ on the SGIP website.

Listed as the 2nd Standard in the Catalog of Standards Library is a link titled:

“NAESB REQ18/WEQ19: Energy Usage Information”

If you click on that link your will see a document titled:

“SGIP CoS: NAESB PAP10 Energy Usage Information”

What does that mean?

That means Ladies and Gentelmen that this ‘paranoia’ about the destrcution of your privacy through the Smart Grid is not a ‘tin foil hat’ conspiracy but is indeed reality since the 2nd Standard Officially adopted by the SGIP for the Smart Grid is PAP-10. The document that shows all of the information that will be tracked though the Smart Grid which, as you can see includes ice, cold and hot water, TV and even CO2.

So in May of 2008 when we all laughed because President Obama said:

“We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times..”

Little did we realize he was talking about the Smart Grid and Electric Vehicles and that he was going to make it all happen.

Funny, we are not laughing now.

If you have anymore questions about the Smart Grid you can reach me through my email which is listed on my blog.

Since this is my last article (I apologise for the length of it) that I will write for the Gateway Pundit, I want to take this time to Thank Jim and all of you, his readers, for tolerating my style of blogging and for graciously accepting me and my fellow Guest Bloggers with compasion and understanding.

It has been a pleasure and an honor to try and entertain and inform you in his absence.

Till We Meet Again,

Patch W Adams
The P/Oed Patriot

We Did Find a Weapon of Mass Destruction in Iraq

By Alexander Abad-Santos
The Atlantic Wire
Wed, Dec 21, 2011

Unfortunately, it isn't exactly what we were looking for.

Related: These Dueling Cheney-Condi Memoirs Should Please Obama
Related: America's Shrinking Military Footprint in Iraq and Pakistan
Related: Bush-Era Spy Says White House Tried to Smear Juan Cole

675 Pakistan 'honor killing' victims in 9 months

AFP – Tue, Dec 20, 2011

At least 675 Pakistani women and girls were murdered during the first nine months of the year for allegedly defaming their family's honour, a leading human rights group said Tuesday.

The statistics highlight the scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence.

Despite some progress on better protecting women's rights, activists say the government needs to do far more to prosecute murderers in cases largely dismissed by police as private, family affairs.

"A total of 675 women and girls were killed in the name of honour across Pakistan from January to September," a senior official in the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told AFP.

They included at least 71 victims under the age of 18.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is unauthorised to speak to the media, said figures were still being compiled from October to December, and that a full report would be released in February.

The Commission reported 791 honour killings in 2010 and there was no discernible decrease this year, the official added.

Around 450 of the women killed from January to September were accused of having "illicit relations" and 129 of marrying without permission.

Some victims were raped or gangraped before being killed, he said. At least 19 were killed by their sons, 49 by their fathers and 169 by their husbands.

Rights groups say the government should do more to ensure that women subject to violence, harassment and discrimination have effective access to justice.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, told AFP that the state's inability to enforce rule of law, leaving matters in the hands of tribesmen and local elders, was a major factor.

"We have a system in Pakistan where the state and judicial recourse are absent and the vacuum is filled by local elders," he said.

"A combination of legal reforms, exercise of administrative authority and social awareness can greatly help check the honour killings," he added.

Earlier this month, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistani family to prison for the murder of their daughter and sister, who defied them by living with a Belgian man and refusing an arranged marriage.

$2.5m judgment brings question: Are bloggers journalists?

By Dan Springer
Published December 22, 2011

‘Bloggers Beware’

That was the headline on a conservative blog following a $2.5 million judgment this month against blogger Crystal Cox in a defamation case tried in federal court in Oregon. It’s a case followed closely in both the blogosphere and in the traditional media, as it highlights the proliferation of blogging, the blurring of lines between journalists and bloggers and more libel cases born out of blog posts.

“There are a lot of malicious people out there,” says Bruce Johnson, a Seattle attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine and author of Washington state’s current Shield Law. “You’re not going to be able to get rid of them all. They will continue to basically write graffiti on the bathroom wall, and in this case, the Internet provides the bathroom wall,” says Johnson.

According to the Media Law Resource Center, bloggers have been hit with $47 million in defamation judgments. Just two years ago the total stood at $17 million, revealing a sharp increase. MLRC’s Dave Heller sees a rise in ‘fringe publishers’ and says the case against Cox was, in some ways, "extremely rare."

Crystal Cox calls herself an investigative blogger who is also a journalist. The Montana real estate agent wrote extensively about the bankruptcy case of Summit Accommodations. Kevin Padrick, an Oregon attorney with Obsidian Finance Group, was appointed trustee in charge of paying Summit creditors. Cox accused Padrick of, among other things, committing tax fraud.

Padrick sued and won a unanimous jury verdict.

According to published reports, there is no evidence Padrick did anything improper. Cox tried to invoke the Shield Law, which allows journalists to protect confidential sources, but Judge Marco Hernandez ruled Cox was not a journalist and therefore not entitled to the protections. He wrote, "there is no evidence of any education in journalism, any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity or proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking or disclosures of conflicts of interest."

Dave Heller says what’s remarkable about the Cox case is the court reverted to common law libel standards, meaning she had no defense except to prove what she had written about Padrick was true. Bruce Johnson believes Washington state’s Shield Law would have afforded Cox some protections because it is technology neutral. “I think it’s moving gradually toward more blogging being protected,” says Johnson.

Many bloggers, initially shocked by the size of the judgment against Cox, have since distanced themselves from her. David Goldstein, who founded the liberal Seattle blog "Horse’s Ass," says as more mainstream media reporters and anchors blog, the lines are getting blurred, but getting it right is vital no matter what your medium. “Just like anybody can claim to be a journalist, anybody can claim to be a blogger,” says Goldstein, “And if you look at the court records, she really appeared to be neither.”

Crystal Cox did not respond to our emails and phone calls seeking comment. It appears, however, she plans to continue to fight. She represented herself in the defamation suit, but now has legal help from UCLA Law School and blogger Eugene Volokh. He has taken the case pro bono in hopes of getting the decision reversed. Volokh has written about the First Amendment’s protection of the press, arguing it’s not solely intended for the media as an institution, but anyone doing the work of journalism.

Goldstein agrees, but accuses Cox of harassing Kevin Padrick and getting her facts wrong. “We’re in the business of criticizing people,” says Goldstein, That’s what journalists, that’s what bloggers do. So we have an obligation to be at least accurate with that criticism.”

Kevin Padrick says the issue is much bigger than whether or not Crystal Cox was acting as a journalist or not. “False allegations can be made against somebody,” Padrick says, “and they will have to live with those false allegations for the rest of their lives.”

Since the attacks against him hit the Internet, Padrick says his business is way down. He partially blames the easy manipulation of the search engines to keep even false content front and center.

Crystal Cox has hundreds of web sites and by linking the content it gives the appearance of multiple sources. Google Padrick’s name and up comes dozens of Cox’s blog postings.

“Through search engines, we are allowing bloggers to have a power that is disproportionate,” says Padrick, “and yet with that power has to come the responsibility.”

'Tell loved ones they are overweight this Christmas'

20 December 2011

Christmas may be a time of indulging for many, but health experts believe it is the perfect time to tell a loved one they are overweight.

The National Obesity Forum and International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk said it was important to be upfront because of the health risks.

Being overweight - particularly around the waist - increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

But a poll by the groups suggests too many people shy away from the issue.

The survey of more than 2,000 people found 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds would not tell a loved one they should lose weight because of a fear they would hurt the other person's feelings.

For those aged 25 to 44 it was just over a third, while for older people it was about one in four.

Men find it hardest to tell their partners, while women were more worried about bringing up the issue with a friend.

But with families and friends getting together up and down the country over the festive period, the experts believe there is an opportunity that should not be missed.

Prof David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, said: "Suggesting to someone that they should consider losing a few pounds may not be a comfortable conversation to have.

"But if someone close to you has a large waistline then as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life."

Dr Jean Pierre Despres, scientific director of the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk, agreed.

"Start by encouraging someone close to you to make simple lifestyle changes such as becoming more active, making small alterations to their eating habits and replacing sugary drinks with water.

Survey: U.S. most charitable nation

U.S. jumps to top of charity index

By Lauren Markoe
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — Americans: the most generous people in the world. In this season of giving, that’s no idle gloat.

According to a new study, the United States tops a massive global charity survey, rising from fifth place in 2010.

The “World Giving Index,” based on 150,000 interviews with citizens of 153 nations, ranks the U.S. highest on a scale that weighed monetary donations, volunteer work, and willingness to help out a stranger.

“In spite of economic hardships and uncertainty in the future, the American spirit is caring and strong, as these survey findings clearly show,” said David Venne, interim CEO of CAFAmerica, the Virginia-based charities consultant that released the results of the index.

Ireland placed second, followed by Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Laos.

At the bottom of the list: China, Russia and India.

The survey relied on data from the Gallup polling organization, and asked whether people had donated money (two-thirds of Americans), volunteered their time (43 percent) or helped a stranger in the preceding month (73 percent).

The survey’s authors noted that charitable behavior is not correlated with wealth. Of the 20 countries that the World Bank ranks richest by gross domestic product, only five made it into the top 20 of the index.

This is the second year the index has been published by British-based Charities Aid Foundation. Compared to 2010, monetary donations fell, but more people reported volunteering and helping strangers.

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DHS spent $9.8 million to store unused steel for border fence

DHS Spent $9.8M to Store $44M of Steel It Bought But Did Not Use to Build Mexico Border Fence
By Edwin Mora
December 19, 2011

( - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has spent about $9.8 million to store $44 million in steel that it bought but did not use to build fence along the U.S,-Mexico border, according to a report from the DHS Inspector General.

CPB has in storage about 27,000 tons of “extra steel” that could be used to extend the estimated 650 miles of fencing mandated by Congress along the approximately 2,000-mile long southwest border, according to the IG.

An IG report released in November notes that in January 2008, the CBP -- a DHS component -- awarded an unnamed “prime contractor” a “Supply and Supply Chain Management (SSCM) task order” for storing and purchasing steel to support the construction of fence along hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border by Dec. 31, 2008 as part of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) that was mandated by Congress.

Although the report does not name the prime contractor who was awarded the SSCM task order, the CBP reported that it “teamed up with The Boeing Company” of Chicago, Ill. to “support and facilitate the successful execution” of all fence building operations under the SSCM project mentioned in the IG report.

The steel purchased under the task order was used to build about 299 miles of the estimated 651 miles of fence that have been erected so far along the U.S.-Mexico border as requested by Congress. Most of the fence is single-layered, including 352 miles of fence aimed at preventing people from crossing the border illegally, known as a primary pedestrian fence, and 299 miles of fence aimed at preventing vehicle crossings known as a vehicle fence.

After using about 117,000 tons of steel to build the 299 miles of fence from a total of 145,000 tons purchased under the task order, “27,557 tons of extra steel, with a value of about $44 million, remained in storage,” said the DHS IG report.

“CBP did not efficiently plan the purchase and storage of steel for the SSCM task order,” reported the DHS IG, later adding, “as a result, 27,557 tons of extra steel, with a value of about $44 million, remained in storage at the end of the task order. Further, CBP incurred $9.8 million in additional storage costs because it did not move the remaining steel to a government facility for more than 2 years after the original storage contract expired.”

According to the IG, “the original storage contract for the SSCM task order covered the period from April to December 2008” and “instead of moving the extra steel to a cost-efficient location, CBP extended the original contract and awarded a supplemental storage contract.”

CBP ended up spending $9,753,010 in storage fees between January 2009 and March 2011 after making revisions to the original contract.

The agency admitted to the DHS IG that the “extra steel” can be used to extend the fence along the southwest border.

“CBP also indicated that if required to build additional fence, it would use the extra steel for future construction projects,” stated the IG. While the steel to build more border fence is being stored, Congress has only required CBP to fence about 650 miles of the approximately 2,000-mile long U.S.-Mexico border “where fencing would be most practical and effective,” noted the IG.

The agency also told the DHS IG that the extra steel will be used “to maintain and repair the existing fence and that it has already used some of it for this purpose. In January 2011, CBP transported approximately 500 tons of steel to two areas along the southwest border to replace damaged fencing.” That brings down the total 27,557 tons of “extra steel” that remained in storage after the 299 miles of fence were built under the task order to about 27,000 tons.

During the course of the task order that resulted in 299 miles of fence built along the southwest border, the contractor “stored and distributed steel from three locations: El Paso, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Lynwood, California,” added the IG report. “CBP consolidated the remaining steel at the end of the project to the El Paso, Texas facility.”

According to the IG, overall, CBP spent $69 million more than it needed to manage the storage and purchase of steel in support of fence construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The agency “purchased steel based on an estimate before legally acquiring land or meeting international treaty obligations,” reads the IG report. “In addition, it did not provide effective contract oversight during the project: it paid invoices late, did not reconcile invoices to receiving documents, and did not perform a thorough review of the contractor’s selection of a higher-priced subcontractor or document the reasons for its approval of the subcontractor.”

“As a result, Customs and Border Protection purchased more steel than needed, incurred additional storage costs, paid interest on late payments, and approved a higher-priced subcontractor, resulting in additional expenditures of about $69 million that could have been put to better use,” said the IG report.

In responding to the DHS IG’s findings, CBP disputed the $69 million in overrun costs spent on storing and purchasing steel for the border fence saying the number is more like $282,000.

“While we agree that the program incurred unanticipated costs, we markedly disagree with the amount of these costs and the reasons why they were incurred,” said CBP in a response to the DHS IG audit that was included in the report. “In short, of the $69 million questioned in the report, we agree that approximately $282,000 in unanticipated costs were attributable to errors in using CBP's accounting system to properly process invoices and track steel as an asset. CBP immediately responded to these early challenges, correcting them within 60 calendar days, resulting in no late payments thereafter. The balance of the costs discussed in the draft report were not program overruns or funds spent unwisely as we briefly discussed here.”

CBP “wholly” disagreed with the IG conclusion that “$44 million in excess steel was purchased as a result of poor management practices,” according to the agency’s response included in the report.

“Since 2008, Customs and Border Protection has spent approximately $1.2 billion to construct physical barriers along the southwest border as part of the Department’s Secure Border Initiative,” noted the DHS IG. “About $310 million of the cost was to purchase and store steel in support of fence construction.”

Did Bo return from Hawaii for Obama’s photo op?

by Keith Koffler on December 22, 2011, 11:53 am

Updated 1:43 pm ET

Bo Obama was supposed to be in Hawaii. Instead, he showed up at President Obama’s side Wednesday shopping for treats at PetSmart

According to Michelle Obama’s press office, the first dog was planning to go to Hawaii with the first lady and the Obama daughters. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that he in fact had gone there. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser quoted an eyewitness who said he had seen the Portuguese Water Dog having his walk.

So what is Bo doing back in Washington shopping at PetSmart?

Either these reports are mistaken, or Bo was told his vacation was over and that he had to return to the White House to keep a lonely president company – and participate in a silly photo op presenting Obama as an average guy who likes to head out to the PetSmart.

If Bo returned from Hawaii, who paid for his flight?

It’s possible he hitched a ride on a return flight of the Air Force plane that brought Michelle to Hawaii, which wouldn’t have really added much to Michelle’s more than $100,000 price tag for her solo trip.

Or maybe he commandeered his own Air Force jet.

Arpaio: ICE refusing to take illegal aliens

Submitted by Breann Bierman
Updated: Dec 22, 2011 6:34 PM


Sheriff Joe Arpaio had his first run-in with a group of suspected illegal immigrants since things heated up with the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice recently revoked his deputies' ability to check immigration status inside Maricopa County jails.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says they pulled over a vehicle and had 12 illegal immigrants in their custody for human smuggling at 35th Avenue and Durango.

MCSO says deputies contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pick up six of the illegal immigrants that could not be charged with felonies under Arizona's human smuggling laws. MCSO says their deputies were told by ICE officials that according to the new order from the Department of Homeland Security, ICE would not pick them up.

MCSO says they asked if the new policy only applies to MCSO and were told "Yes."

MCSO says they then contacted Casa Grande Border Patrol who picked up the illegal immigrants.

Stay with and CBS 5 for more on this developing story.

Copyright 2011 KPHO. All rights reserved.

Former ACORN operatives plead guilty to voter fraud

By Eric Shawn
Published December 21, 2011

A total of four Democratic officials and political operatives have now pleaded guilty to voter fraud-related felony charges in an alleged scheme to steal a New York election.

The latest guilty pleas expose the ease with which political insiders can apparently manipulate the electoral system and throw an election their way, by the forging of signatures of unsuspecting voters that are then cast as real votes.

"The phrase they use is: 'making sure they vote the right way,'" said a source close to the case, which is unfolding in Troy, N.Y. "It is not a Democratic or Republican thing. ... It is criminal."

Former Troy Democratic City Clerk William McInerney, Democratic Councilman John Brown, and Democratic political operatives Anthony Renna and Anthony DeFiglio have entered guilty pleas in the case, in which numerous signatures were allegedly forged on absentee ballots in the 2009 Working Families Party primary, the political party that was associated with the now-defunct community group, ACORN.

The four have pleaded guilty to one count of various charges, ranging from forgery to falsifying business records, and criminal possession of a forged instrument.

"Getting at the truth has always been the primary goal of this investigation," Special Prosecutor Trey Smith said in a statement, while also thanking New York State Police efforts to "bring those responsible for the voting fraud to justice."

Numerous voters told Fox News that they were stunned that their signatures were faked on absentee ballot applications and ballots, which were cast as real votes in their names in the 2009 primary election.

Brian Suozzo's absentee ballot application claimed that he was "at home recovering from medical procedure," which he told us was not true.

"Someone took my signature and voted with it and I feel extremely violated," Suozzo said when Fox News first broke the story nationally in 2009. "The whole thing seems dirty to me."

Jessica Boomhower's absentee ballot application falsely claimed that she was in Boston.

"I can't believe they thought they would get away with this," she told Fox News. "I didn't get to cast my vote on my own. ... They're corrupt. I am sure this goes on a lot in politics, but it's very rare that they do get caught."

Two of the ballot applications claimed that the voters were unavailable, because they were supposedly on a "bus trip to casino."

Smith, at one point during the two-year long investigation, even obtained court orders to take DNA samples from five of the seven Democratic members of the Troy City Council. The goal was to try and compare the samples to any DNA evidence found on the absentee ballot envelopes.

No Republicans were implicated in the alleged conspiracy, but one political operative claimed that such voter fraud occurs "on both sides of the aisle."

In November 2009, Democratic operative Anthony DeFiglio told New York State police investigators that faking absentee ballots was a commonplace and accepted practice in political circles, all intended to swing an election.

"This is an on-going scheme and it occurs on both sides of the aisle," he told police. "The people who are targeted live in low-income housing and there is a sense that they are a lot less likely to ask any questions."

He said that "it was common knowledge that these people were never going to receive an absentee ballot. This is a political strategy to get control of a third party line."

DeFiglio claimed that "the reason that this came to light in this election, was the sheer number of absentee ballots that went out to the Working Families Party. ... To political insiders in the county, what appears as a huge conspiracy to non-political persons is really a normal political tactic."

Troy City Council President Clem Campana pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges including falsifying business records and illegal voting.

When Fox News asked him about the case last year, Campana was adamant that he did nothing wrong.

"No one tried to steal any election," he claimed. "I did nothing wrong, I don't know if anyone did, and if they did, they should be held accountable for it."

City Councilman Michael LoPorto and Democratic County Elections Commissioner Edward McDonough were indicted earlier this year and they face trial on the felony charges next month.

LoPorto also denied the allegations when Fox News questioned him last year.

"Did you do anything wrong?" Fox News asked.

He answered, "No."

"Did you try to steal an election?"


"Did you forge any ballots?"

"No," said LoPorto.

"They did steal an election," claimed Bob Mirch, the pugnacious former Republican Majority Leader of the Rensselaer County legislature, who first discovered the alleged fraud and started the investigation. For his efforts in trying to expose what happened, Mirch says he was voted out of office after serving 16 years and was replaced by a Democrat.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said about voter fraud. "This case in Troy shows that the political insiders had this scheme down pat. Two years ago the public didn't believe me, but they know it now."

The case in Troy echoes a similar election fraud investigation that is now ongoing in Indiana.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak, in South Bend, is currently investigating allegations that numerous signatures on 2008 Democratic Presidential primary petitions for then candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, were faked. There are claims that so many signatures were fraudulent, that the Obama campaign may not have actually obtained enough legitimate signatures to have legally qualified for the ballot. And just like the New York voters in Troy who told Fox News that they never signed absentee ballots, voters in South Bend and Mishawaka told us that their signatures were forged too.

If you suspect voter or election fraud where you live, tell us. Our address is

European court demands climate fee from U.S. carriers

Turbulence Ahead, As European Court Demands Climate Fee From U.S. Transatlantic Flights

By Patrick Goodenough
December 22, 2011

( – Expect to pay more in the future to fly to London or Paris.

Europe’s highest court ruled Wednesday that U.S. airlines must comply with a European Union carbon emission trading scheme, triggering protests from the Obama administration, the aviation industry and free market groups – and raising fears of a costly trade war in coming year.

The decision by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) means that starting on January 1, all carriers flying to, from or within the E.U. will be liable for charges for emitting greenhouse gases blamed for “global warming.”

The E.U. has estimated that the cost to airline passengers for longer trips, such as transatlantic flights, will amount to between eight and 40 euros ($10.40 -$52.20), depending on the market price for emission allowances.

Under an E.U. directive that comes into effect in just 10 days, airlines using European airports will be allocated tradable allowances covering a certain amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted each year, based on historical emissions data. CO2 emissions beyond the allowance must be paid for, and airlines can trade permits among themselves depending on how much carbon they produce.

Proponents say aviation accounts for three percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

The industry group Airlines for America (A4A), which brought the legal action on its members’ behalf in 2009, argued that the European move violates international aviation treaties and infringes on national sovereignty.

A4A also contended that the E.U. directive would impose “an exorbitant tax that takes away from aviation the very funds it needs to continue to invest in aircraft technology, sustainable alternative fuels and infrastructure advances to build on its strong record of fuel efficiency improvements and emissions savings.”

But the ECJ disputed that extending the emissions trading scheme (ETS) to aviation amounted to a tax.

Applying the ETS to U.S. aircraft infringed neither customary international law nor aviation treaties, it said, since the airlines have a choice whether or not they wish to use European airports.

“It is only if the operators of such aircraft choose to operate a commercial air route arriving at or departing from an airport situated in the E.U. that they are subject to the emissions trading scheme.”

Welcoming the decision, E.U. climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard said Brussels now expects the American airline applicants “to respect European law.”

Apart from the U.S., more than 30 other countries, including Canada, China, India, Russia and Japan, have publicly opposed the directive.

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote to the E.U. warning that if it was not willing to suspend the directive and “re-engage with the rest of the world to find a way forward,” the U.S. would respond with unspecified “appropriate action.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday the administration was disappointed at the court ruling and believed, as it has consistently said, that the question of greenhouse gas emissions should be dealt with by the United Nations’ aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization.

‘Unilateral, counterproductive’

Airlines are expected to face huge costs in the coming years. A 2007 study commissioned by the aviation industry found that airlines would not simply be able to pass additional costs along to consumers, but would have to absorb a large proportion themselves. It estimated that complying with the ETS would cost carriers more than 45 billion euros ($60 billion) between 2011 and 2022.

Responding to Wednesday’s ruling, A4A said its members “will comply under protest and will continue to operate safely and efficiently to Europe when the scheme takes effect Jan. 1.”

But the industry group is also reviewing its options to pursue the matter in the High Court of England and Wales – where it originally took the case.

“Today's court decision further isolates the E.U. from the rest of the world and will keep in place a unilateral scheme that is counterproductive to concerted global action on aviation and climate change,” A4A said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents some 230 airlines accounting for 93 percent of scheduled international air traffic, was also party to the A4A-led legal challenge.

“Unilateral, extra-territorial and market distorting initiatives such as the E.U. ETS are not the way forward,” IATA director-general Tony Tyler said Wednesday. “What is needed is a global approach agreed through the International Civil Aviation Organization.”

Retaliation foreseen

Last October the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote a measure introduced by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), prohibiting U.S. carriers from participating in any ETS unilaterally set up by the E.U.

“The European Union’s extraterritorial action is inconsistent with long-established international law and practice … and directly infringes on the sovereignty of the United States,” it states.

The bill, along with a similar measure introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) in July, is before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

The ratings agency Fitch warned the ECJ decision could lead to a damaging trade dispute.

“We believe threats of trade retaliation over the E.U.’s cap and trade system will pose growing threats to aviation market access in both developed and emerging markets next year,” it said in a statement.

“Retaliation may be largely rhetorical in the early stages, but an absence of progress next year may trigger protectionist responses, especially from emerging market governments.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has also predicted trade retaliation.

“So, the Court is its arrogance is willing to open the gates of protectionism, tax the world’s airlines, and further weaken the airline industry – and ultimately harm the fragile world economy,” CEI adjunct fellow Fran Smith wrote on the free-market think tank’s blog.

But a coalition of six U.S. and European environmental groups which were permitted to intervene in the legal case hailed the decision, saying it “makes clear Europe’s innovative law to reduce emissions from international flights is fully consistent with international law.”

Earlier one of the six, the Environmental Defense Fund, expressed disappointment at the administration’s stance.

“The U.S. should be playing a constructive role in the global effort to reduce emissions and avoid dangerous climate change,” it said.

U.N. funds Palestinian magazine glorifying Hitler

'UNESCO funds Palestinian magazine glorifying Hitler'
12/22/2011 02:33

Simon Wiesenthal Center asks UN cultural agency to halt its sponsorship of the Palestinian childrens' magazine.

NEW YORK – The Simon Wiesenthal Center asked UNESCO’s director-general Wednesday to suspend its sponsorship of a Palestinian children’s magazine, saying the magazine applauded Hitler for murdering Jews.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, the educational children’s magazine, Zayafuna, “includes terms glorifying jihad.”

The PMW report references an essay in the magazine by a teenage Palestinian girl. The girl wrote about meeting Adolf Hitler in a dream, who tells her that he killed the Jews “so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world.” In the essay, Hitler tells the child to be patient regarding the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Jews.

In a letter to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, wrote that the editors of Zayafuna “endorse Adolf Hitler as a role model for Palestinian children,” noting that a quarter of the children’s submission selected for publication by the magazine “express hatred for Jews and reflect messages transmitted through PA official media.”

“Apparently, the magazine’s positive messages on coexistence and peace apply to all but Jews and Israelis,” Samuels wrote. “Through a young girl, the Holocaust is presented as an act for the benefit of humanity.”

The Palestinian Authority’s deputy minister of education and its former minister of education are both on the magazine’s advisory board, Samuels noted.

UNESCO, Samuels said, has sponsored Zayafuna since August. The Hitler essay ran in the magazine’s February 2011 issue.

While Samuels noted the October edition states that “opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily express UNESCO’s views,” Samuels wrote that this disclaimer was “hardly a fitting response to the discovery of the repugnant Holocaust celebration in the February issue.”

Samuels recalled the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s suggestion last month “when ‘Palestine’ was welcomed into UNESCO, that the new member be tested by being held to the declared values of UNESCO.”

“Until Zayafuna publicly apologizes for its anti-Semitism, Palestine will have already failed that test,” Samuels wrote, and urged UNESCO to demand that PA President Mahmoud Abbas rescind funding for the magazine.

PMW head Itamar Marcus said his organization welcomes the Wiesenthal Center’s call to UNESCO to stop funding the magazine Zayafuna.

“UNESCO’s continued funding of a hate magazine makes them a participant in the hate promotion it disseminates,” Marcus said. “It would be a violation of basic moral principles to fund a Palestinian magazine that glorifies violence and jihad, and presents Hitler as a role model for children.

“The only way, it seems, the Palestinian Authority will ever stop its repeated hate promotion is if there are financial consequences to their hate promotion,” Marcus said. “Let us hope that UNESCO takes the morally decent route and stops the funding, and not the politically expedient route of turning away in the face of Palestinian hatred.”

How Kim Jong Il starved North Korea

Dec 20 2011, 10:00 AM ET 27

What kind of disastrous economic policy results in the death by starvation of up to 3 million people in a nation with the population of Texas?


When North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died of a coronary this weekend after 17 years in power, the homuncular tyrant left his country much as he found it -- poor and desperately hungry.

For the last two decades, North Korea has grappled with food crisis upon food crisis, the result of a dysfunctional government and its erratic leader. In 1994, the year Kim inherited North Korea's reins from his late father, the country was in the midst of a severe agricultural decline. The newly minted despot transformed it into a famine that would claim as many as three million lives. Food shortages have plagued the country ever since.

It begs the question: How did one man starve a nation of roughly 23 million people? The answer: By clinging to a broken economic system designed to do little but ensure his own survival.

Agriculture has always been a dicey proposition in North Korea, where the cold, mountainous terrain is short on high-quality farmland. A normal economy could cope by importing food. But during the 1980s, the North Korean government embarked on a policy of radical self-sufficiency known as juche. Farmers were expected to overcome mother nature and grow enough crops to feed the entire population. To do it, they relied on heaps of chemical fertilizer. But that crutch was yanked away in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The demise of the USSR threw North Korea's entire economy into chaos, and agriculture was among its most important casualties. Without imports of cheap fuel (self-sufficiency had its limits), the country's industrial base fractured, and production of fertilizer dwindled. Farm yields plummeted, and the government started a campaign urging citizens to consume less. Its cheery slogan: "Let's eat only two meals a day."

It was against this background that the Kim Jong Il took power. The country was at a crossroads, says Marcus Noland, a leading expert on North Korea at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. With the USSR gone, the prospects for a small, isolated, neo-Stalinist regime looked rather grim. The government could have opened up its economy, much like Vietnam did with great success. Instead, North Korea chose to stay frozen in time.

"The mystery is why the North Koreans did not understand the historical magnitude of the change around them," Noland says.

One Cold War relic in desperate need of reform was the country's food distribution system. Crops such as rice and corn were raised on collectivist farms, then doled out by the state. The process served a political purpose by funneling cheap food to the country's outsized military, as well as citizens in the capital of Pyongyang, which together made up the base of Kim's power. But it was also ready to collapse.


In 1995, when the globe first learned about the North Korean famine, massive floods decimated as much as 15% of North Korea's farmable land. Local officials began hoarding food they were charged with distributing. And a fuel shortage made it impossible to move crops around the country. The government appealed to the United Nations World Food Program for humanitarian aid, blaming the floods for the disaster. Yet even as he sought help from abroad, Kim deepened the crisis at home by stumbling into a war with his country's farmers.

Without enough food to go around, the North Korean regime had turned to triage. Pyongyang and the military had to eat, so the government cut rations for farmers instead, slashing the portion of their harvest they could keep to feed their own families. Predictably, there were severe consequences. Faced with the unappealing prospect of going hungry, farmers began hiding their grain. In 1996, the World Food Program found that half the country's corn crop had gone missing. Reports spread of farmers' roofs collapsing under the weight of stashed food. Soldiers were sent to guard the fields at harvest time, but as a United States Institute for Peace report noted, they were easily bribed. After all, the soldiers were hungry, too.

From there, the situation only degenerated. Despite the international community's wariness toward the Kim regime, food aid did begin to flow. But much of it was stolen by well-connected elites, who re-sold the aid at marked-up prices. Farmers started doing the same thing with their own crops. As a result, food prices soared, and the poorest continued to starve.

Farmers stole their own crops. Elites stole the aid. Impoverished Koreans starved. Because the country's statistics are so unreliable, nobody knows the exact number of casualties caused by the famine. But common estimates peg the number of deaths between one million to three million.


The great famine finally began to subside in 1998. There were better harvests. The world continued delivering food aid. And North Koreans adjusted to the new private food markets. But history had a habit of repeating itself under Kim. The government set in motion a second, albeit milder, food crisis when it outlawed the private sale of grain in 2005, forcing the country to rely once again on the public food system. The situation worsened once foreign governments cut off aid following the military's first nuclear test.

Then just in October, Reuters published a report on the growing fears about yet another food shortage.

"The country's dysfunctional food-distribution system, rising global commodities prices and sanctions imposed over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs had contributed to what appears to be a hunger crisis in the North, even before devastating summer floods and typhoons compounded the emergency," the wire reported.

There are skeptics who believe that Pyongyang is exaggerating its food problems. The country is known to hold grain for its military, even as rural peasants starve, and according to Reuters, South Korean officials believe it may be stockpiling supplies in preparation of a new nuclear test.

And yet, the echoes of 1994 are haunting. Like his father before him, Kim Jong Il has left the country in the hands of a politically inexperienced son, who has yet to consolidate his own power. Once again, the transition has happened at a moment when the government may not be able to feed its own people. Hopefully, the parallels end there.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Charters Of Freedom

The Declaration of Independence
Constitution of the United States
Bill of Rights
& MORE.....

The 8 Stages Of Liberal/Progressive Discussion When They Are Busted

Exactly how do liberals/progressives go about discussion of stories that do not bode well for them? (cross posted at Right Wing News)

1. Ignore the story – pretend it is not happening, or deflect like crazy.

2. Find some sort of moral equivalence or a story from 30 years ago saying a Conservative did something sort of similar.

3. Come up with some conspiracy theories. This is usually the most amusing part, reading and hearing all the strange stuff they come up with in their reality based chat rooms.

4. Blame Conservatives for bringing the truth to light. How dare they do dat!!!!

5. Concoct strange defenses based on wild psychological discourse, which no one understands, including the writer, but it sounds good, and allows a liberal/progressive to say there is no problem.

6. Whine about the discussion of the topic, proclaiming that it means nothing, and why aren’t we talking about X? This is usually the point where Liberals/progressives truly understand how bad the issue really is for them, typically when even the NY Times cannot ignore it, so, now they want to have an in-depth discussion on the point of the Iraq War, which you have had 1,000 times, but, they strangely have never had.

Alternately, this is the point where some liberals realize that they did not receive their talking points emails, so haven’t a friggin’ clue how to respond.

7. Declare victory! Those dastardly Conservatives have been proven wrong again, and why do you keep asking so many questions?

8. Ignore the issue. It never happened. This is similar to the 10 Stages Of Success. See below the fold.

Many may wonder why the irrational seething, virulent vitriol and disgusting language, personal attacks, and abject hatred has not been mentioned. Well, this of course is the natural state of the modern liberal/progressive, and can not only occur at any time, but will occur throughout any discussion. It is a pervasive state of nature for those on the Left.

At age 4 success is . . . not peeing in your pants.
At age 12 success is . . . having friends.
At age 16 success is . . . having a drivers license.
At age 20 success is . . . having sex.
At age 35 success is . . . having money.
At age 50 success is . . . having money.
At age 60 success is . . . having sex.
At age 70 success is . . . having a drivers license.
At age 75 success is . . . having friends.
At age 80 success is . . . not peeing in your pants.

The Postmodern Pedophile

by Anne Hendershott
December 20, 2011
Meet the academics who try to redefine pedophilia as “intergenerational intimacy.”

The anger and disgust that most of us experienced when we learned of the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the sports programs at Penn State and Syracuse University suggest that our cultural norms about the sexual abuse of minors are intact. Yet it was only a decade ago that a parallel movement had begun on some college campuses to redefine pedophilia as the more innocuous “intergenerational sexual intimacy.”

The publication of Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex promised readers a “radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act about children’s and teens’ sexuality.” The book was published by University of Minnesota Press in 2003 (with a foreword by Joycelyn Elders, who had been the U.S. Surgeon General in the Clinton administration), after which the author, Judith Levine, posted an interview on the university’s website decrying the fact that “there are people pushing a conservative religious agenda that would deny minors access to sexual expression,” and adding that “we do have to protect children from real dangers … but that doesn’t mean protecting some fantasy of their sexual innocence.”

This redefinition of childhood innocence as “fantasy” is key to the defining down of the deviance of pedophilia that permeated college campuses and beyond. Drawing upon the language of postmodern theory, those working to redefine pedophilia are first redefining childhood by claiming that “childhood” is not a biological given. Rather, it is socially constructed—an historically produced social object. Such deconstruction has resulted from the efforts of a powerful advocacy community supported by university-affiliated scholars and a large number of writers, researchers, and publishers who were willing to question what most of us view as taboo behavior.

Postmodern theorists are primarily interested in writing that evokes the fragmentary nature of experience and the complexity of language. One of the most cited sources for this is the book Male Intergenerational Intimacy: Historical, Socio-Psychological and Legal Perspectives. This collection of writings by scholars, mostly European but some with U.S. university affiliations, provides a powerful argument for what they now call “intergenerational intimacy.” Ken Plummer, one of the contributors, writes that “we can no longer assume that childhood is a time of innocence simply because of the chronological age of the child.” In fact, “a child of seven may have built an elaborate set of sexual understandings and codes which would baffle many adults.”

Claiming to draw upon the theoretical work of the social historians, the socialist-feminists, the Foucauldians, and the constructionist sociologists, Plummer promised to build a “new and fruitful approach to sexuality and children.” Within this perspective there is no assumption of linear sexual development and no real childhood, only an externally imposed definition.

Decrying “essentialist views of sexuality,” these writers attempt to remove the essentialist barriers of childhood. This opens the door for the postmodern pedophile to see such behavior as part of the politics of transgression. No longer deviants, they are simply postmodern “border crossers.”

In 1990, the Journal of Homosexuality published a double issue devoted to adult-child sex titled “Inter-generational Intimacy.” David Thorstad, former president of New York’s Gay Activists Alliance and a founding member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), writes that “boy love occurs in every neighborhood today.” The movement continues but has gone underground since NAMBLA found itself embroiled in a $200 million wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston. The suit claims that the writings on NAMBLA’s website caused NAMBLA member Charles Jaynes to torture, rape, and murder a 10-year-old Boston boy.

Not so long ago, the postmodern pedophiles had help in defining down their deviance from the American Psychological Association. In 1998, the association published an article in its Psychological Bulletin that concluded that child sexual abuse does not cause harm. The authors recommended that pedophilia should instead be given a value-neutral term like “adult child sex.” NAMBLA quickly posted the “good news” on its website, stating that “the current war on boy-lovers has no basis in science.”

It appears that a number of postmodern pedophiles have taken the advice to heart. For a while, we lived in a culture in which man-boy sex was not only tolerated, it was celebrated. And while the furor over the allegations at Penn State and Syracuse reveals that male pedophilia remains contested terrain for most, women-girl sex, because of the power of the women’s movement, scarcely registers on the cultural radar screen.

“The Vagina Monologues,” for example, is still part of the standard dramatic repertory in student productions on college campuses—including Penn State and Syracuse. The original play explores a young girl’s “coming of age,” beginning with a 13-year-old girl enjoying a sexual liaison with a 24-year-old woman. Later published versions of the play changed the age of the young girl from 13 to 16 years old, and the play continues to be performed. Last year’s February production at Syracuse was enhanced by inviting an “all-faculty” cast to perform the play on campus.

While the anger over the recent sex abuse allegations would suggest that the deviant label will remain for pedophilia, the reality remains that powerful advocates with access to university presses will continue their semantic and ideological campaign to define down this form of deviance.

Anne Hendershott is Distinguished Visiting Professor at The King’s College, New York, NY. She is the author of The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books).

Victims of Obama’s Bus & Insult List

A list of people who have been insulted or met "Obama’s bus"

William Ayers
Jeremiah Wright
Father Michael Pfleger
His own church
Jim Johnson
His own Grandma (and white women in general)
Henry Louis Gates
Tony Rezko
Jimmy Carter
Rod Blagojevich
Van Jones
David Paterson
The Constitution of Honduras
Kanye West
Those who want to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (He finally made up for this one)
Creigh Deeds
Special Olympians
Hamid Karzai multiple times
Gordon Brown and his wife
The British Press
The Queen of England
The People of Britain (sending the bust of Churchill back as one of his first acts)
Nicholas Sarkozy
Fox News
Joe The Plumber
The Czechs and Poles (missile shield)
Insurance companies and those who work for them
People who pay their taxes (appointing lots of tax cheats)
The People of NYC with his Scareforce 1 flyover
The US Chamber of Commerce
doctors (remember the whole tonsils thing, plus ear, nose, and throat doctors, among others?)
US Postal Service employees
Rush Limbaugh
Sean Hannity
Wall Street
Nancy Reagan
People with guns and Bibles
Conservatives and veterans in general (that DHS report)
Oil companies
Pharmaceutical companies
TEA Party attendees (multiple times)
Oh, hell, how about the entire United States of America, when he ran around the world calling us “arrogant.” Even Jimmy Carter hasn’t been that bad since he left office.
(12/9/09 More) Every hard left progressive who thought Obama was lying just kidding when he was saying he would put more troops into Afghanistan, and then he goes and escalates the Afghanistan war
Dissed Air Force pilots who fly the F-22
British troops in Afghanistan
His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, demeaned a female White House reporter and the Gallup Poll org.
Robert Gibbs mocks Sarah Palin, a private citizen, right after Obama discussed bipartisanship
Obama blew off our great ally England which is in a dispute with Argentina over the Falklands
(adding on 4/3/10) I had forgotten about Obama snubbing the King Of Norway who had invited him to dinner during the Nobel (snicker) Prize shindig, incensing the people of Norway
Let’s not forget his treatment of the Iranian protesters
Sec. Of State Clinton pissing off the Canadians
Dissing Netanyahu
Gordon Brown, mentioned previously, has been blown off 5 times for dinner
Tea Partiers again and again and again, private citizens all
American’s who disagree with his policies, again and again and again, private citizens all
Looks like Obama has snubbed another ally, this time, Georgia, and their president, Mikheil Saakashvili
Updates 8/16/10: The people of the Gulf Coast by vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, rather than the Gulf, as Michelle Obama told everyone else to do
The families of 9/11 victims, by showing support for the Ground Zero mosque
6/2/11: Dissing Israel with his 1967 borders idiocy.
Hosni Mubarak (a crappy ally, but, one who kept the peace between Egypt and Israel)
Making the Dalai Lama go out the back door at the White House, around the trash
Americans For Prosperity
The Queen of England during a toast (minor)
Poland (again)
Britain again, claiming France is our greatest ally
Carnival barkers
Oh, wow, I don’t have the SCOTUS snub at the SOTU speech.
Says bad economy is to blame on Americans not thinking clearly.
7/1 update: Attacks The Heritage Foundation
Dishonors Staff Sergeant Jared Monti, whom Obama himself awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Obama attacking the whole Republican Party in a speech that made him sound like a 5 year old.
Ed Morrissey and Kevin Edar are attacked by Obama’s social media propagandist director.
11/11 update: Obama calls country “soft“
Obama calls Americans “lazy“
Calls Israeli PM Netanyahu a “liar” when he thought it was off-mike

Anything I’m forgetting?

Blogs For Victory puts it in song.

6/2/11: I thought I should probably add some updates, since I was reminded of this thanks to the Link at Linkiest.

OOPS: Report: Huntsman, Bachmann, Santorum Fail to Make Virginia Primary Ballot UPDATE: Close Calls for Newt and Perry.

Posted on December 22, 2011

A certain number of petition signatures had to be delivered by close of business today in order for candidates to be included on the ballot for the March 6 Virginia Republican primary.

Rick Santorum supporter Lisa Graas just informed me by e-mail that, according to University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, three candidates — Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman — failed to collect enough signatures in time to meet the qualifying deadline.

UPDATE: Andrew Cain of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

Four Republican presidential candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Ron Paul — submitted paper work in time to qualify for Virginia’s March 6 primary ballot. . . .
Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman did not submit signatures with Virginia’s State Board of Elections by today’s 5 p.m. deadline.
Those who submitted the required signatures must clear another hurdle. The Republican Party of Virginia has until Tuesday to certify which candidates qualify. . . .
The State Board of Elections will turn over the petitions to the respective political parties for validating. Republican will begin the process Friday morning and have sought volunteers to help with the process.
Candidates must submit the signatures of at least 10,000 registered voters, with 400 from each of the 11 Congressional districts.
Romney submitted 16,026 signatures; Paul 14,361; Perry 11,911 and Gingrich 11,050.

UPDATE II: NBC’s Alex Moe reports:

The Gingrich campaign might be able breathe a sigh of relief.
After Newt Gingrich’s third event in less than 24 hours in Virginia, the former House speaker announced that his campaign has secured enough signatures to be on the ballot in the state.

Notice that Perry also barely cleared the 10,000-signature threshold. As Lisa Graas notes below, because some signatures will prove ineligible, it is recommended that candidates get at least 15,000 signatures to qualify. If Romney wants to dispatch lawyers to keep an eye on the validation process, they might be able to disqualify enough petitions to knock Perry and Gingrich off the ballot.

UPDATE III: Hat tip to The Right Scoop on Twitter for this Politico article by Emily Schultheis adding further background:

The state’s primary, which is slated for Super Tuesday on March 6, has some of the most stringent ballot access requirements in the country: 10,000 signatures from registered Virginia voters, including 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. And the elections board recommends getting at least 1.5 times the number of required signatures — 15,000 for presidential candidates — in case any of them are found to be invalid.
Mitt Romney, who filed Tuesday, was the only candidate to get 1.5 times the required number of signatures . . .
The Gingrich campaign had announced yesterday, after “scrambling” to organize in the state, that it had reached the required number of signatures.
The state parties will certify the signatures from each of the candidates and decide by Dec. 27 whether or not the four GOP candidates are eligible to appear on the ballot, Piper said.

UPDATE IV: OK, we’ve nailed down the facts. Now for the big-picture “What Does It Mean?” stuff that’s usually above my paygrade. (Because it’s Thursday evening three days before Christmas, all the super-genius Smart Guy pundits in D.C. are off the clock, so I’ll give it a shot.)

The Right Scoop says, “I wonder if they struggled to get the 10k signatures needed.” And yeah, of course that was the situation.

On a conference call with grassroots supporters last week, a top Santorum staffer had discussed ballot-access issues in several states. Virginia was singled out as a tough one, because of the “stringent” factor described in the Politico article: Not just the 10,000-signature minimum, but you have to get 400 signatures in each of 11 congressional districts, and the deadline hit in the middle of the holiday season, at the same time that the campaigns were going all-out in Iowa.

The Santorum people on the conference call were asking for Virginia volunteers to help with their ballot-access drive, saying they were hoping for a “Christmas miracle.” Given the low-budget situation with the Santorum campaign, they had no other choice but rely on volunteers. (Romney, of course, could afford to hire professional ballot-access people.)

Contrast Santorum’s situation to the ballot shortfalls by Huntsman and Bachmann — both of whom have raised and spent multiples of Santorum’s campaign budget — and Santorum’s shortfall in Virginia, while certainly disappointing, is not nearly as embarrassing as the others.

The fact that Gingrich was “scrambling” to hit the 10,000-signature threshold in Virginia shows the gap between his high-profile “front-runner” status and the relative weakness of his campaign operation.

But certainly the biggest question mark is why Perry could only get about 900 more Virginia signatures than Newt. The Perry campaign had millions of dollars cash-on-hand in early September, and has unloaded a huge amount on TV ads the past month, yet they barely cleared the Virginia ballot threshold? That doesn’t bode well.

So, yeah: Romney’s now looking a bit more likely as the nominee.

UPDATE V: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Now that I think about it, a wild-card idea: If we assume a four-way Virginia primary between Romney, Newt, Perry and Paul — that is to say, if Romney’s big-money lawyers can’t disqualify either Newt or Perry — could Ron Paul win Virginia?

Think about it: Gingrich and Perry waging an all-out knife-fight to be the “Not Mitt” conservative candidate, both of them taking their shots at Romney. Meanwhile, Paul’s army of fanatics descend on the Old Dominion to turn out every possible libertarian/Constitutionlist/fringe-kook vote. In a four-way primary, if the other three candidates run in the 20%-30% range, couldn’t a maximum effort by the Paulistas produce a shocking upset in Virginia?

War-gaming these crazy possibilities is such fun, isn’t it?

UPDATE VI: Now a Memeorandum thread. I’m sitting here with Fox News on the TV in my home office, and they haven’t even mentioned this story yet. Everything’s all, “Congressional compromise, blah, blah, blah, Iraq, blah, blah, blah.” Maybe they don’t grasp the significance. Probably because their super-genius Smart Guy pundits are all on holiday this week.

The “School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

Have we reached the point where it’s parental malpractice to enroll your kids in public school?

School Police Have Uncertain Impact On Student Arrests, Crime Prevention

Radley Balko

A headline-generating study, published in the journal Pediatrics this week, suggests that approximately one in three Americans is arrested before age 23. That's up from about one in five in 1965, the last time a similar study was conducted. The study used data from surveys given to the 7,335 people who enrolled in the federal government's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1996.

This study, a recent joint initiative between the Departments of Justice and Education and a spate of anecdotal stories in the news all suggest a surge in the arrests of minors, and particularly in arrests that originate in schools. But the federal government is both fighting the "school-to-prison" pipeline while continuing to fund the same programs that critics say are causing it. Moreover, because the government hasn't been collecting data on school-based arrests, and the little available data shows overall arrests of juveniles are down, it's difficult to determine if a problem exists, much less whether federal initiatives are solving it -- or contributing to it.

The Pediatrics study seems consistent with a rough survey of the criminal justice system over the same period. The U.S. certainly has more laws now than it did a generation ago. The U.S. incarceration rate has soared since the early 1980s (though last year it declined for the first time in two decades). State and federal governments have been prosecuting consensual crimes more aggressively, particularly drug crimes. And since the late 1990s, again with federal prodding, most public schools have embraced a "zero tolerance" policy for many offenses (drugs and weapons in particular), treating every infraction as if it were a criminal offense. The policy bars school officials from considering context or using nuance when dealing with an accused offender.

There are also more police in America's schools. A survey by the Justice Police Institute released last month found a 37 percent increase in the number of law enforcement personnel (called school resource officers, or SROs) employed by public schools between 1997 and 2007, including more than 5,000 such officers in New York City schools alone. The increase in SROs, also driven by federal funding, was in part influenced by media-driven hysteria over a few highly publicized school shootings in the 1990s.

There have also been a number of stories in the news of late about pre-adolescent children arrested for absurdly minor offenses, including a 6-year-old Wisconsin boy arrested for "playing doctor" with a 5-year-old girl, a 12-year-old arrested in Memphis for not wearing his helmet at a skateboard park, a 13-year-old boy arrested in New Mexico for burping in gym class (his parents' lawsuit also revealed the arrest of a 7-year-old girl who refused "to sit next to the stinky boy" in class), a 10-year-old Connecticut boy arrested for giving a classmate a "wedgie," and a 5-year-old who was bound at the wrists and ankles, arrested and charged with assault after kicking a police officer in the leg.

Taken together, these studies and anecdotes suggest a troubling trend of putting kids in handcuffs for doing the sorts of things kids have always done. This has spurred concern over a burgeoning "school-to-prison pipeline" problem in which children -- particularly poor, minority and at-risk children --are funneled from public schools into the criminal justice system. In response, the Justice Department and the Department of Education launched a joint initiative last July that aims to combat this trend.

One problem with the school-to-prison pipeline narrative, however, is that isn't clear that it actually exists, much less that it's getting worse. According to the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1.9 million minors were arrested in 2009. That's down 17 percent since 2000. The 2.3 million arrested in 2000 was down 20 percent from 1996. Since 2000, juvenile arrests have also slightly declined as a percentage of total arrests, for both violent and property crime.

So how can arrests of minors appear to be dropping and increasing at the same time? Robert Brame, a professor of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the lead author of the Pediatrics study, tells HuffPost via email that the overlapping time periods explain some of the discrepancy. "I don't think there is an inconsistency between the two sets of results," Brame writes. "What my study does is measure the cumulative arrest experience of a group of people who were in their teenage years in the late 1990s ... The number we come up with is in the 25 to 41 percent range by age 23. That number seems high to many people (not so much to criminologists) and it does appear to be somewhat higher than it was in the 1960s but not dramatically so. If we looked at a group of people who were adolescents today and followed them for the next 10 years, the cumulative arrest rate might turn out to be lower."

So while it's true that the U.S. experienced a surge in both crime and arrests in the 1970s and 1980s, the drop in total juvenile arrests since the early 1990s is part of a broad and dramatic nationwide drop in crime that began at about the same time.

It is still possible that policies like the funding of SROs and zero tolerance have spurred a surge in school-based arrests, but that the surge was drowned out by a broader drop in crime and arrests overall. Because so little actual crime occurs in schools, school arrests make up only a small percentage of total arrests. The problem is that national data on school-based arrests simply doesn't exist.

Department of Education press spokesman David Thomas told HuffPost that the agency hasn't been tracking those figures. (Officials at the Justice Department did not return a request for comment.) This means that in the 1990s, when the federal government passed policies to incorporate federal crime policy into the public schools, they provided no real way to assess whether or not the policies work, much less to assess possible collateral, unintended consequences. Thomas says the agency's Office of Civil Rights did recently survey 7,000 school districts on student disciplinary actions and law enforcement referrals for 2009-2010. Those results are expected to be released next month. Those figures will at least offer a snapshot of how often minors are arrested on school campuses, but they still won't reveal whether or not school arrests and referrals to law enforcement are rising or falling.

Still, critics say that what data is out there suggests a problem. "It's true that national statistics just aren't available," says Amanda Petteruti, a policy analyst with the Justice Policy Institute. "But we do know that surveys of specific cities and school districts have shown a significant increase in school referrals [to law enforcement]." A 2005 study by the advocacy group the Advancement Project, for example, found "the number of arrests in Philadelphia County schools has increased from 1,632 during the 1999-2000 school year to 2,194 in 2002-2003." Arrests at Houston schools jumped fourfold from 2001 to 2002. In Denver, law enforcement referrals at city schools jumped from 818 in 2000-2001 to 1,401 in 2003-2004. Arrests in Chicago schools increased from 7,861 in 2001 to 8,539 in 2003. The study found that in most cases, more than half the arrests were for broadly classified, unspecified offenses like "detrimental behavior," "other" or "miscellaneous."

A recent report by the New York Civil Liberties Union found that the New York Police Department's School Safety Division arrested more than one student per day and issued summonses to three per day between July and October of this year. Of the 63 arrests, 15 were for serious crimes (felonies). Most of the summonses were for nondescript crimes like disorderly conduct or minor offenses like riding a bike on the sidewalk. But that survey, too -- the first since NYPD was required to release the information -- still doesn't reveal the existence of any underlying trend.

Of course, even if juvenile arrests have fallen since the 1990s -- and even if they've fallen in schools specifically -- it doesn't mean the figure still isn't too high, or that schools shouldn't be looking for less harmful ways to discipline students. Nor does it answer whether zero tolerance or police in school hallways are sound policies.

The history of these policies suggests they are not. Both policies came about in the 1990s, in response to dire warnings from politicians and right-of-center anti-crime activists about the rise of "super predators," a supposed new class of ruthless, brutal, amoral juvenile criminal who was going to wreak havoc on American cities and suburbs.

The wave of super predators never happened. In fact, violent crime had already begun its historic drop when those warnings were issued in the early to mid-1990s, and has continued to drop since. The media also obsessed over a series of anomalous school shootings in the 1990s, which led to new legislation from panicked politicians. But the rise in school shootings was also a myth. A 2000 annual report on school safety issued by the Departments of Education and Justice found that "for students aged 12 to 18, overall school crime ... decreased by nearly a third." A 1996 CDC report arrived at similar results: Children were 40 times more likely to be killed outside the school building than inside of it. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, incidence of violent crime in schools, already low, was halved between 1993 and 2008.

The result is a pretty muddled picture of juvenile arrests, and uncertainty as to whether the school-to-prison pipeline is a real concern. With little hard data, the federal government has launched a new program to address an alleged problem that, if it exists, other federal programs may have helped to create. And those programs -- which are still operating -- were passed in response to a problem that may not have existed. In the meantime, the government hasn't bothered to collect the data necessary to assess the efficacy or impact of any these programs.

All of these programs were enacted in the name of protecting children. But without the tools to assess their actual impact, it's impossible determine whether they are actually working, or doing more harm than good.