Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer the three American heroes who thwarted a terrorist attack on a European train. They also groan as the economic mess in China triggers a Wall Street sell-off. And they react to the mystery figure leaving raw meat at a North Carolina playground.
Archives for August 2015
The energy industry is pushing ahead with even stronger safety rules in an effort to have a perfect record and give federal officials no reasons to block the construction of new pipelines that would reduce costs for consumers.
The new rule comes after extensive cooperation among the American Petroleum Institute, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to improve an already strong safety record.
According to American Petroleum Institute Group Manager of Midstream and Industry Operations Robin Rorick, the U.S. contains 500,000 miles of oil and gas lines. In 2013 alone, the pipelines carried nearly 15 billion barrels of crude oil.
Given the volume of products on the move, Rorick says the track record was already good.
“That was done where 99.999 percent of our products reached its destination, but as an industry we’re committed to getting that number to 100 percent,” said Rorick.
He says it’s all about making the industry safer across the board.
“We’re going to work with the industry to establish a safety culture for companies, so that for the CEO all the way down to the worker in the field, we’re working with them to develop a program so that safety is at the core of everything that they’re doing,” said Rorick.
“That ensures that the worker who’s operating at the facility can operate and minimize any chance of injury , but it also ensures that we’re doing everything we can to prevent a release from happening that damages the surrounding environment or the community as well,” said Rorick.
But the change also makes a statement to federal officials that the industry is willing to collaborate with Washington and state governments in an effort to improve a safety record that’s nearly impeccable. The goal is to win approval of critical pipeline projects.
The most famous project in limbo is the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada down to the heart of the U.S. President Obama has vetoed Republican efforts to approve the project despite the State Department’s blessing for the pipeline. At the same time, Obama refuses to accept or reject it.
Rorick says there’s no good reason to block it.
“With regard to Keystone, there were five environmental reviews that demonstrated that Keystone would not provide additional environmental harm. The vast majority of the public supports the development of the Keystone XL pipeline. I think the data and the support is there. Unfortunately, the administration is not,” said Rorick.
Politics are also causing problems in the northeast, and Rorick says New England residents are paying higher energy prices because the industry isn’t allowed to get oil and gas there more efficiently.
“If you look at the Marcellus Shale area that produces natural gas. We’re talking about areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York as an example. There’s an opportunity there for them to provide natural gas up to the New England states, who suffered last year from a brutal winter,” said Rorick.
“On average, folks in New England pay five dollars more for their natural gas costs than the rest of the country does simply because we don’t have the infrastructure in place, which is only a few states away, up to the New England area,” he added.
The new rule will focus on individual plants and companies constantly reviewing their safety records and implementing any needed changes. The ongoing evaluations will also allow the entire industry to benefit from the best practices of individual firms. Rorick says companies will make the decision whether to abide by the new standards but given the wide collaboration in formulating the plan, he expects most in the industry to take part.
Reducing the already small number of accidents could prove difficult. Rorick says there is a variety of reasons for pipeline problems but says one of the most common causes is completely out of the industry’s hands.
“You’ll have everything from operator error to equipment failure. In some cases, you’ll have natural disasters that will cause damage. One of the leading causes for damage is not even within the realm of control within our industry,” said Rorick.
“It’s third party line strikes. It’s someone putting an addition on a house or putting in a new tree and they have a backhoe that comes in and it strikes one of our lines,” he said.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review cheer Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for greeting pro-choice protesters at the governor’s mansion with giant video screens playing the undercover Planned Parenthood videos continuously and applaud Utah Rep. Mia Love for saying the Planned Parenthood debate is not about right vs. left but about right vs. wrong. They also groan as the media tries to distract from the immigration debate by declaring the term “anchor baby” to be offensive. And they discuss some of the most ridiculous politically correct policies on campus, including the University of California’s ban on phrases like “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” because some might see those statements as racist.
This week, the information of tens of millions of philandering spouses has been exposed by hackers of the adultery website AshleyMadison.com, and while there isn’t much sympathy for this batch of victims, how vulnerable are the businesses that do have your personal information?
In addition to the Ashley Madison breach, major corporations like Target, Sony and Home Depot have fallen victim to hackers, as has health insurance giant Anthem. With so many of our daily transactions conducted in cyberspace, the opportunities for our data to be compromised are plentiful.
“This is a huge issue and it seems to be getting worse and worse and worse. Once you have companies like Target, Sony that start getting breached, and these are companies that have incredible security, then we know that there is a very big problem,” said Tyler Cohen Wood, a cyber expert who is also cyber branch chief for the Department of Defense. She is also the author of “Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life.”
Wood says because almost all of us take part in electronic transactions, almost all of us are at risk.
“It is effecting pretty much everyone and one of the worst thing about it is there is not a ton that the average consumer can really do to protect their information when they’re putting it out there on these types of websites,” said Wood.
According to Wood, hackers will prey on any system where they can find an opening.
“Hackers target companies of all shapes and sizes. Often times, unless there’s an ideology behind it, like in the Ashley Madison case, they’re typically going to go for the lowest hanging fruit. So they’re going to find a way in, and it’s getting harder and harder for companies to find where the lowest hanging fruit is,” said Wood, who explained the unlikely manner in which a major retailer was breached.
“Target was actually breached through a remote HVAC system. The lowest hanging fruit there was an unsecured HVAC system, where they were able to steal credentials and get into the system,” said Wood.
The greatest damage is done to companies that fail to discern a breach until long after it happened.
“Often times, companies don’t necessarily know that they’ve been breached for a few months. So a lot of times they just don’t know so we don’t hear about it until months, months later,” said Wood.
There are some bright spots in this challenge, however. Wood says the recent spate of high-profile hackings has corporate leaders focused on making sure it doesn’t happen to them or their teams.
“I think a lot more higher-level executives are taking notice and getting involved. This is no longer just an issue where your IT department can step in and do all of the security. Now you have employees who are using devices to connect into your network. All employees have to be educated about the threats and the risks that they could potentially be posing to their corporate network as well,” said Wood.
Another encouraging sign, she says, is that better security will soon be available for our credit cards.
“There’s also something that’s coming in October called the new PIN and chip cards. These cards are actually going to help consumers because, when you use them, the information is stored in a chip. When you add that with a PIN, it is much less likely to be hacked,” said Wood. “The Federal Reserve says that it makes the transaction 700 percent more secure.”
Although greater corporate vigilance and heightened credit card security are likely bring greater consumer protection, Wood says individual Americans need to be very careful to avoid offering help to hackers in our online posts.
“One of the big problems is that people take for granted that they’re completely anonymous or they have complete privacy when they’re posting things because they’re sitting behind a keyboard,” said Wood.
Wood says it’s smart to check every online communication for any information that doesn’t belong in cyberspace.
“People really need to take a different way of looking at this issue and really think that anything that you put out there is not necessarily private. Anything that you do put out there could potentially come back and haunt you one day,” said Wood.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review welcome terrible poll numbers on favorability and trustworthiness for Hillary Clinton in three critical states. They also throw up their hands at revelations that Iran will be permitted to conduct its own inspections of a site suspected of developing nuclear weapons. And they react to the latest case of a prominent black activist proven to be white.
The doctor who recently went public with her belief that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers harvest organs from babies with active heartbeats says she is sickened to see her theory confirmed by a new Center for Medical Progress video and says the horror is compounded by knowing fetal organ research yields virtually no medical progress and that other depraved experiments may be happening.
On Wednesday, the Center for Medical Progress released the seventh in a series of videos exposing the practices of Planned Parenthood, with particular focus on the abortion provider’s alleged profiting from the sale of aborted baby parts.
The new video is the third to feature the testimony of Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement technician for Stem Express, the biomedical firm that had a close business relationship with Planned Parenthood until last week.
O’Donnell told the horrific tale of watching a Planned Parenthood employee prepare to harvest the brain of a newly aborted baby.
“This is the most gestated fetus and the closest thing to a baby I’ve seen. [The Planned Parenthood employee] was like, ‘Okay, I want to show you something.’ So she has one of her instruments and she just taps the heart and it stops beating. I’m sitting here looking at this fetus and its heart is beating and I don’t know what to think,” said O’Donnell in the video.
“It had a face. It wasn’t completely torn up. It’s nose was very pronounced. It had eyelids and its mouth was pronounced. Since the fetus was so intact, she said, ‘Well, okay, this is a really good fetus and it looks like we can procure a lot from it. We’re going to procure brain. So what you do is you go through the face.’ I’m thinking, no, I don’t want to do this,” continued O’Donnell.
AVM Biotechnology CEO Dr. Theresa Deisher, who predicted these sorts of tactics were being used in abortion facilities, says she takes no solace in having her theory confirmed.
“I probably felt the same emotions that every American and every person is feeling this morning. Having my suspicions and the suspicions I shared with (Center for Medical Progress Project Lead) David Daleiden over the years confirmed, it just made me sick and really a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach,” said Deisher.
Deisher says her suspicion of such grisly tactics came from years of studying scientific journals and learning what fetal organs are most highly desired.
“For the heart research, they look for fetal gestation age of 20 weeks or beyond,” said Deisher, noting that babies as young as 22 weeks in the womb have survived premature births.
“In their descriptions, it was just very clear that those babies had to be alive when they took their tissues because the scientists in their publications say that they have to have the material in their special digesting buffers within five minutes. That wouldn’t be possible with other situations,” said Deisher.
As O’Donnell saw the Planned Parenthood technician tap the baby’s heart on and off, she was sure if the child was alive or dead. Deisher says there should be no confusion.
“A human being is certainly alive until their heart stops beating. Perhaps in this situation, the baby’s heart stopped beating temporarily during the procedure to take the baby from the mother’s womb. But it started beating again with a tap. I would consider that a living baby,” she said.
Deisher is not sure if we will soon see videos describing other grisly tactics, but she has another ominous fear about how these babies may be used.
“I have long worried about the temptation that people might have to keep an aborted baby alive and potentially use that baby for an intact study on a drug metabolism or a new drug toxicity profile by perfusing the baby, which is absolutely horrific,” said Deisher.
Deisher says Wednesday’s revelations not only shock the conscience but ought to generate even more frustration when realizing the pro-choice defense of harvesting baby organs is fallacious.
“Regardless of illegality or legality, this is wrong. Even if it’s legal, it should be made to be illegal. We should not allow this as a civilized society. More important, it’s absolutely unnecessary,” said Deisher, referring to Planned Parenthood assertions that the harvested organs are used to develop breakthrough treatments for all sorts of ailments.
She says that’s simply not true.
“I’m not aware of any medical breakthrough that required or needed the use of aborted fetal issue for progress,” said Deishen.
She says there are biological barriers that prevent fetal parts from being of much use to treat older patients.
“Results from fetal tissue would often times be misleading because what happens during the development of a baby in a womb and the proteins and factors that regulate that is often not what happens in an adult or a toddler,” said Deishen.
“Since we’re talking about breakthroughs to treat adults or children, the information from the aborted fetus in many cases would not be applicable at all,” she added.
Deishen concluded by saying the moral conscience of America must be aroused by the horrors exposed in these videos.
“This is absolutely barbaric and beneath the dignity of a civilized society,” she said. “We can do better than this. We, as a people who are civilized and respectful of other human beings, we need to develop alternatives. That’s the mission of my organization, to develop alternatives so that no one will ever feel compelled, coerced or justified in exploiting another human being for medical progress.”
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review enjoy Hillary Clinton’s pathetic attempt to defend her actions involving her private email server and her handling of classified information. They also shudder as the latest video exposing Planned Parenthood includes testimony of technicians slicing open the face of a baby with a beating heart to take out the brain for research. They react to Hillary’s very awkward interaction with Black Lives Matter. And they salute Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison for returning his kids’ participation trophies and demanding they earn awards.
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is vowing “free” college tuition if he is elected and Hillary Clinton is promising a plan that might make student loans a thing of the past, but a prominent economist says the only results would be soaring costs for taxpayers and a much worse education for students.
Sanders and Clinton have made the cost of education one of their earliest campaign issues. While Sanders advocates government picking up the tab for tuition, Clinton’s plan is a bit more complicated. She would commit $350 billion over ten years to help make college more affordable for families. While requiring qualifying students to work ten hours a week while in college, she would also mandate that a college graduate would never pay more than ten percent of their income to pay down student debt. Recipients who faithfully make payments would have their remaining debt erased after 20 years.
Those details give the impression of a detailed plan, but those in the know see nothing but political spitballing.
“First, $350 billion doesn’t even come close to paying for kids’ college over the next ten years. What politicians do is they’ll throw out a big number and make it sound like they’re doing it, but it doesn’t come close. It is a huge expense,” said Brian Wesbury, former chief economist for the Joint Economic Committee in Congress. He’s now chief economist at First Trust Advisers in the private sector.
Not only does Wesbury believe Clinton greatly underestimates the cost of education, but he says plans like those offered by her and Sanders would only make the affordability problem exponentially worse.
“When you give something away for free, the demand for it picks up. When the demand for it picks up, the price picks up. We already know what student loans have done to the cost of college,” said Wesbury, who believes there is a clear parallel in another sector of the economy.
“There’s a saying about health care, ‘If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it’s free.’ If you think a college education is expensive, just wait until it’s free because taxpayers would have to foot the bill and the costs would go through the roof while the quality of education fell,” he said.
Wesbury says schools are a marketplace just like anyplace else and the amount of government involvement at various levels tells a very instructive tale.
“For example, our higher education system in the United States is one of the best educational systems in the world. But if you look at our primary education, especially inner city schools, where school is free, it’s one of the worst education systems in the world,” said Wesbury.
“You have to have a market. You have to have a price mechanism. That’s the only way to keep the quality up,” he said.
However, Wesbury says there is a big difference between the government paying for everyone’s tuition and taxpayers helping the truly needy get ahead in life.
“I don’t have a problem economically with helping low income people get a college education. The problem comes when you make it universal, when you make it bigger over time. Then you take the competitiveness out of the school system,” said Wesbury.
So what is Wesbury’s answer to the high cost of education? First, he says we need to realize why the tab is so high.
“The whole idea is that you’re paying the professor to teach the student no matter what it is. In ballroom dancing, you have to pay the professor today, whether or not that helps a child get an education,” said Wesbury.
He believes the market post-graduation should determine the costs.
“My alternative would be to make college professors paid by equity. In other words, negotiate with the student. I get ten percent of your salary for the next twenty years, or fifteen percent of your salary for the next 18 years, some negotiation,” said Wesbury.
“If that were the case, what do you think the professor would teach the student? They would teach them that would earn them an income, that would get them a job: math, writing, speaking. You know, all the things that actually work, rather than what we’ve gotten to know as politically correct education,” he said.
Wesbury believes that by relying on the future salaries of students, professors will spend more time developing critical skills and less time indoctrinating.
“Let the professor share in the income the student can earn. Then the professor would be forced to teach something that is of value in the marketplace,” he said.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are pleased to see some liberal media figures slam Hillary Clinton for her endless dishonesty, while Chris Christie chastises the media for its double standard by wondering how the press would react if he deleted his emails and said none of them dealt with the bridge investigation. They also shudder as Americans’ optimism plummets about the success awaiting future generations. And they welcome Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker’s opposition to the Iran deal but point out that it will likely be meaningless since Corker’s legislation makes it virtually impossible for critics to win.
Despite the largest GOP congressional majorities in decades, lawmakers made virtually no progress over the past seven months toward overhauling and simplifying the federal tax code, a goal both parties have insisted is a high priority.
Now, with presidential politics dominating the news, the likelihood of anything substantive to emerge in the current Congress appears very remote, according to the leader of the nation’s largest grassroots taxpayers organization.
In December 2014, in the wake of the “cromnibus” controversy, National Taxpayers Union President Pete Sepp believed the table was set for meaningful, beneficial reform, but that Republicans needed to act quickly.
“I would say no more than 6-8 months (to get it done). If we don’t see packages reported out of the House and Senate tax writing committees by the spring, we’re going to be in trouble,” said Sepp last year.
As Congress stand in recess, no tax reform plan has come before a House or Senate Committee. According to Sepp, the only progress is a report from a working group under the auspices of the Senate Finance Committee.
Translation: A golden opportunity was missed to make life easier for families, individuals and businesses.
“Congress remains stuck on the first step of that path, not holding hearings, not having votes. This, unfortunately, is not very encouraging. We will not likely see a comprehensive individual and business tax reform plan this year,” said Sepp.
Tax reform is not considered a top tier issue in the 2016 campaign and there were no questions about it at the first GOP debate. Sepp says that’s a big mistake. He says there’s no time to lose because our current code discourages employers from starting or staying in the U.S. every day.
“It’s an absolutely urgent task, especially for the larger businesses, because they are the ones that not only have the means but the motive to do things such as inversions, relocating their headquarters overseas,” said Sepp.
“The rates and the differences in how the tax bases are defined and the huge compliance burdens that the U.S. tax system imposes on large businesses all incentivize them to go to tax-friendlier climates,” he added.
In addition to the sluggishness of Congress, Sepp says the process is getting bogged down by lobbyists trying to make sure their clients don’t get the short end of the stick.
“There are some interests in Washington saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to be the ones who get peeled first. Tax reform has to happen all at the same time and for everybody in the same phase-ins, same rates, same deductions, same years or we’re not buying it,'” said Sepp.
Any sort of “comprehensive” reform immediately raises a red flag for many on the right. But unlike, health care, banking or immigration, Sepp contends a comprehensive approach makes a lot more sense when it comes to taxes.
“With tax reform, the disparities can be so dramatic if you don’t try and do things comprehensively. You could have entire sectors of business or entire classes of individuals left with much, much higher tax bills than others. It’s already the case under the current system. It could get worse under a reformed system unless you handle the transition properly,” said Sepp.
Sepp applauds some of the Republican presidential contenders for advancing tax reform plans, namely former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. He says the most dramatic plan comes from Huckabee.
“If you’re looking for the most comprehensive tax reform, Gov. Huckabee has advocated a Fair Tax, which would replace the current system completely with a national retail sales tax, for a number of years,” said Sepp.
The Fair Tax faces two common criticisms: that it would not bring in as much revenue and that it unfairly hits the poor. On the revenue side, Sepp says there’s not much to worry about, although we would feel the pain on every purchase.
“It requires a rate of 23 percent (sales tax), which is quite high for many people’s taste, but that’s almost the rate that a middle class or upper middle class family would be paying in income and payroll taxes anyway,” said Sepp.
As for the alleged regressive nature of a consumption tax, Sepp says safeguards can be built in to protect low income Americans.
“The Fair Tax also protects lower income Americans by creating a prebate, that every household would get based on their size, so that purchases that would help them to maintain a standard of living above the poverty level would not be subject to tax,” said Sepp.
Sen. Paul favors a flat income tax rate of 14.5 percent, but he also advocates a Value Added Tax , or VAT, at the same rate. Sepp says that approach could get very expensive for taxpayers if Europe is any indication.
“Value Added Taxes can be very dicey propositions. Citizens in Europe have discovered that once such a thing is introduced, the rate tends to creep up, past 20 percent in most countries. Plus, the administrative burden is very difficult for many businesses,” said Sepp.
Sepp says if lawmakers every contemplate a VAT, there should be constitutional protections guaranteeing there won’t be any rate increases.