China has been hit once more by a food safety crisis, as officials in that country attempt to assure its own people, as well as consumers in the United States and elsewhere, that its products are safe. The Chinese government’s official Xinhua press agency reported on December 30 that food safety inspectors in the southern city of Shenzhen had discovered carcinogenic mildew in peanuts and cooking oil at some markets and restaurants.
High levels of the toxin aflatoxin were found in peanuts in three markets, and in cooking oil in four restaurants, Xinhua reported. “Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus that commonly grows on crops such as grains and peanuts,” the news site reported.” While the toxin is found in insignificant levels in most peanut crops, including those grown in the United States, high levels of aflatoxin have been linked to liver damage and cancer.
An earlier report from the government news site said that high levels of the same toxic substance had been found recently in milk and other products from a popular dairy company in the region. “An initial investigation showed that the contamination was caused by mildewed feed given to cows in the dairy’s plant in southwest Sichuan province,” reported Xinhua. The news agency said that the Mengniu Dairy Company had “issued a public apology in an online statement, but insisted that the problem was discovered before the tainted milk could enter the market.”
What human motivation gets the most wonderful things done? It's really a silly question, because the answer is so simple. It turns out that it's human greed that gets the most wonderful things done. When I say greed, I am not talking about fraud, theft, dishonesty, lobbying for special privileges from government or other forms of despicable behavior. I'm talking about people trying to get as much as they can for themselves. Let's look at it.
This winter, Texas ranchers may have to fight the cold of night, perhaps blizzards, to run down, feed and care for stray cattle. They make the personal sacrifice of caring for their animals to ensure that New Yorkers can enjoy beef. Last summer, Idaho potato farmers toiled in blazing sun, in dust and dirt, and maybe being bitten by insects to ensure that New Yorkers had potatoes to go with their beef.
Here's my question: Do you think that Texas ranchers and Idaho potato farmers make these personal sacrifices because they love or care about the well-being of New Yorkers? The fact is whether they like New Yorkers or not, they make sure that New Yorkers are supplied with beef and potatoes every day of the week. Why? It's because ranchers and farmers want more for themselves. In a free market system, in order for one to get more for himself, he must serve his fellow man.
The former head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) unit tracking terror leader Osama bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, endorsed Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas for President in 2012, days before the Iowa caucus. He argued, among other points, that the top-tier GOP hopeful is the best candidate to protect America from violent Islamic extremism.
In a column entitled "Iowa’s Choice: Dr. Paul or U.S. bankruptcy, more wars, and many more dead soldiers and Marines" published on his website over the weekend, Scheuer said voting for any candidate other than Paul would help inflict further damage on an already-wounded America. It would also contribute toward the continuation of a foreign policy that will ensure total national bankruptcy, noted the 22-year intelligence-community veteran, who now serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.
“Dr. Paul’s non-interventionist policy will allow foreigners to work out their political destiny in their own way and at their own pace; prevent unnecessary additions to America’s growing list of enemies; and save countless young lives,” Scheuer wrote in his endorsement, blasting senior leaders and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle with harsh words. “Electing anyone but Ron Paul will further increase the already strong chances of widespread Islamist-conducted violence inside the United States.”
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul noted on Tuesday that efforts to rein in government spending appeared to be in vain, due to an agreement reached with the White House during the recent debt ceiling negotiations. Congress would have to pass a joint resolution to oppose any extension of the debt ceiling, which President Obama is free to veto. Said Paul: “A default is becoming more mathematically unavoidable with ... every debt ceiling increase.”
Not only is the word “default” becoming commonplace but also the words “economic collapse.” A study conducted by Leflein Associates and published by EcoHealth Alliance showed that of the 1003 individuals interviewed for the survey, 63 percent — or more than six out of ten of them — feared an “economic collapse” more than a natural disaster, a terrorist attack or a global outbreak of disease. This study was picked up by Michael, the author of his Economic Collapse Blog, who piled on by adding a long list of reasons why concerned citizens should be afraid of such an event:
While iPods, Kindles, and Angry Bird stuffed animals were some of the hottest items of the 2011 Christmas season, December saw record-breaking numbers for gun sales, as droves of Americans found firearms and ammunition under their Christmas trees. According to FBI statistics, gun dealers requested more than 1.5 million background checks to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in December, the highest single-month figure since the statistics first began being recorded.
Nearly 500,000 of those took place in the six days before Christmas and an astounding 102,222 background checks were administered on December 23 alone, the second-busiest single day in history. However, the actual total may have been even higher if individual buyers purchased more than one gun each, because exact sales are not recorded or reported. The FBI indicates that there is not a one-to-one correlation between background checks and the total number of guns sold because of "varying state laws and purchase scenarios."
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney eked out an eight-vote win in the Iowa Republican caucuses January 3 with just under 25 percent of the vote, ahead of second place former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (also just under 25 percent), in a tight six-way race that included Ron Paul pulling a close third place at nearly 22 percent.
Romney used the narrow victory to target President Obama in his victory speech. "He said three years ago, after being inaugurated, he was on the Today Show, and he said look, if I can't get this economy turned around in three years, I'll be looking at a one-term proposition. And we are here to collect." Romney is viewed as the Republican front-runner, and is far ahead in the polls in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. But he actually trails in polls in other early primary states, such as South Carolina and Florida. Romney's campaign is seen as the most viable because of his position in the polls nationally, and in New Hampshire, as well as his fundraising ability. Romney has raised more money than any of his Republican rivals, and is the top recipient of donations from employees of elite Wall Street banking concerns such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Bank of America. According to entrance polls in Iowa, Romney drew heavily from votes from establishment and veteran Republican functionaries, which carried the state for him.
Employers across the country are facing new concerns related to federal oversight in hiring, as a letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) warns that requiring a high-school diploma from a job applicant might infringe on the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The revelation has some employment analysts concerned that the commission’s guidance will generate an educational backlash by shackling the incentive for students to graduate from high school, as well as subjecting employers to frivolous lawsuits and spawning a new industry for lawyers.
In an "informal discussion letter" posted on the commission’s website on December 2, EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members asserted that under ADA standards, a qualification test or other selection criterion, such as a high-school diploma requirement, that "screens out an individual or a class of individuals on the basis of a disability must be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity." A qualification standard, the letter notes, is "job-related" or "consistent with business necessity" if it accurately measures the applicant’s ability to perform the job’s fundamental duties. Thus, the letter reads:
The Democrats have the best public-relations team in the world. It’s called the U.S. media. As a consequence, the Republicans essentially have to spot the Democrats a certain number of points every election. How much do the media steal for statists? While it’s hard to say if the figure is 10, 15 or 20 percent, how it’s stolen is obvious — if you’re not trapped in the Media Matrix.
The Obama administration gave states and the gambling industry an early Christmas present December 23 in the form of a controversial Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion that reversed years of federal policy covering online gambling. As reported by Reuters News Service, previously the DOJ had held that “online gambling in all forms was illegal under the Wire Act of 1961, which bars wagers via telecommunications that cross state lines or international borders.” The recent DOJ opinion, dated in September but released only in late December, makes the qualification that “[i]nterstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”
The New York Times reported that the opinion, in the form of a memorandum, came in response to “requests by New York and Illinois to clarify whether the Wire Act of 1961 … prevented those states from using the Internet to sell lottery tickets to adults within their own borders.” The Times added that while the memorandum “dealt specifically with lottery tickets, it opened the door for states to allow Internet poker and other forms of online betting that do not involve sports. Many states are interested in online gambling as a way to raise tax revenue.”
In kicking off the New Year, Washington has become the first state with a minimum wage of more than $9 an hour, as it joined seven other states in similar measures that index their minimum wage rates to inflation. Including workers in all industries, Washington’s minimum wage increased 37 cents to a record high of $9.04 an hour (the rate for workers who are 14 or 15 years old is $7.68), which went into effect the first day of the New Year.
According to data from the Census Bureau, more than a million low-wage U.S. workers will see their hourly wages rise, including workers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Based on a typical 2,000-hour work year, the wage hike will generate annual salaries for minimum-wage workers of between $15,280 and $18,080, depending on the state.
A total of 10 states currently tie their minimum wage to inflation, eight of which made adjustments for an effective date of January 1; Missouri opted to wait on a rate change and Nevada plans to make adjustments later this year. The increases per state range from $0.28 an hour in Colorado to $0.37 in Washington, and new minimum wages in the eight states now range between $7.65 and $9.04 an hour.