Mark Kelly’s Gun Transaction Canceled

TUCSON, (UPI) — A gun store owner in Tucson said he canceled the purchase of an assault weapon by Mark Kelly, husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Ariz..

Kelly said he bought the AR-15 to show how easy it is to buy a weapon with high-capacity magazines even with a background check. He planned to surrender the gun to Tucson police, Politico reported.

Doug MacKinlay, owner of Diamondback Police Supply, said he canceled the purchase of the rifle when he discovered Kelly didn’t intend to use it.

“While I support and respect Mark Kelly’s 2nd Amendment rights to purchase, possess, and use firearms in a safe and responsible manner, his recent statements to the media made it clear that his intent in purchasing the Sig Sauer M400 5.56mm rifle from us was for reasons other then for his personal use,” MacKinlay wrote on Facebook Monday. “In light of this fact, I determined that it was in my company’s best interest to terminate this transaction prior to his returning to my store to complete the Federal Form 4473 and NICS background check required of Mr. Kelly before he could take possession this firearm.”

Giffords suffered a traumatic head injury Jan. 8, 2011, when Jared Loughner, a community college student, opened fire at a meet-and-greet outside a Tucson supermarket. She and her husband, a Navy officer and NASA shuttle commander, have founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group that pushes for expanded background checks for gun buyers.

Man Gets Prison For Shining Laser At Plane

PASADENA, Calif., (UPI) — A federal judge sentenced a 19-year-old California man to 2 1/2 years in prison for shining a laser at a small airplane and police helicopter.

Adam Gardenhire of North Hollywood pleaded guilty in October to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, the Pasadena Star-News reported.

On March 29, a pilot in a NetJet Cessna Citation reported a green-colored laser shined in his eye as he prepared to land at Burbank Airport, momentarily blinding him. A Pasedena police helicopter pilot then reported the laser was pointed at his aircraft when he responded to the first pilot’s report of the laser.

The Los Angeles Police Department, the Burbank Police Department, the Pasadena Police Department and the Burbank Airport Police Department identified Gardenhire as the culprit, the Star-News reported.

Gardenhire’s lawyer, Sean Kennedy, asked the court for a lighter sentence of two years probation, a fine and community service because he said his client didn’t realize the strength of the laser.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire had been warned by a friend who loaned him the laser not to shine it in anyone’s eyes. Just because he didn’t think about the consequences doesn’t mean he’s not responsible, she said.

“One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse — that he just ‘didn’t think about the dangers’ of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it,” Mills said.

Identity Theft, Student Loan Debt, Gun Control Support Wanes, And Paul May Filibuster Again: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 3-26-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Identity theft is at an all-time high in the United States; the victims are most often young Americans.

 

  • Meanwhile, banks wrote off $3 billion of student loan debt in the first two months of 2013, up more than 36 percent from the same period a year ago, as many graduates remain jobless, underemployed or cash-strapped.

 

  • A new CBS News poll shows support for stricter gun-control laws overall has dropped since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

  • Jeff Berwick, founder of StockHouse.com and CEO of TDV Media, announced Monday his plans to open the world’s first Bitcoin ATM in Cyprus amid the tiny nation’s bailout insanity.

 

  • Lawmakers in Tennessee freaked out when they thought a newly installed mop sink was a special foot bath installed for Muslims to wash their feet before prayer.

 

  • Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are threatening to filibuster gun-control legislation, according to a letter they plan to hand-deliver to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office on Tuesday.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

 

 

EPA Empowers Environmental Extremists To Attack American Farmers

A number of farmers are worried that Environmental Protection Agency records containing personal information about agricultural producers in more than 30 States will be used maliciously by environmental extremists.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a coalition of environmental groups including Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the EPA handed over records containing personal information about American livestock farmers collected under the authority of the Clean Water Act.

“When we reviewed the information submitted by the states and released by EPA, we were alarmed at the detail of the information provided on hard working family farmers and ranchers, family operations including my own,” said former National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president J.D. Alexander, a cattle farmer in Nebraska.

“It is beyond comprehension to me that with threats to my family from harassment atop bio-security concerns, that EPA would gather this information only to release it to these groups. This information details my family’s home address and geographic coordinates. The only thing it doesn’t do is chauffeur these extremists to my house. For some operations, even telephone numbers and deceased relatives are listed.”

A provision in the Act required large livestock and poultry operations to get Clean Water Act permits under the assumption that they might discharge contaminants into waterways. In order to determine which farms had to comply,  EPA officials gathered data on livestock operations in more than 30 States, including many family farmers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.

The provision that allowed the EPA to collect the data was later nullified by a Federal appeals court, which ruled that the agency had overstepped its authority in gathering the information on farms that did not directly discharge into waterways. But the EPA continued its data collection efforts by soliciting information from State water agencies.

Representative Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) has spent the past several weeks working to hold the EPA accountable for the collection and release of the information.

“I have serious concerns over the EPA’s release of this information, particularly regarding individual privacy rights and possible bio-security threats to the nation’s food supply,” he said in a recent statement. “Releasing this type of information makes producers potential targets of harassment, or even bio-terrorism. Unfortunately, this release of information is yet another example of the EPA’s overreach into the lives of hardworking individuals in rural America.”

Bloomberg Says ‘There Are Certain Times We Should Infringe On Your Freedom’ Ahead Of Anti-NRA Spending Spree

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to spend far more than the $12 million he’s already spent on ad campaigns castigating Congressmen who’ve paused at the idea that infringing on personal freedoms is unConstitutional.

Bloomberg, who contributes millions out of his personal fortune to organizations and political action committees (he actually started his own anti-gun PAC last year), is helping drum up funds for a multi-State ad blitz this week targeting Senators he feels might be persuaded into acting on gun control legislation during the current Congressional session.

He’s making a play for the hearts and minds of low-information voters, with an eye toward offsetting the spending power of the National Rifle Association in the run-up to Congressional elections in 2014:

If I can do that by spending some money, and taking the NRA from being the only voice to being one of the voices, so the public can really understand the issues, then I think my money will be well spent and I think I have an obligation to do that.

Laudably quixotic as ever, Bloomberg’s idea of helping the public “really understand the issues” involves telling people they want something they don’t want — whether it be small sodas, hidden baby formula or gun bans — and then asking that they trust him to protect their safety instead of trusting the Constitution to protect their liberty.

That’s not a rant; Bloomberg said it himself Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet The Press” (full video here): “I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”

So many ominous things in that statement:

Telling Americans it’s appropriate that the state “infringe” on the freedoms of all citizens — not those few who’ve forfeited their freedoms through the due process of law.

Perversely appropriating that word, “infringe,” straight from his most despised passage in the Bill of Rights (that’s the 2nd Amendment, guaranteeing the right to bear arms) — in order to subvert the very freedoms it was created to secure.

“We” versus “you.”

Bloomberg’s comments came as he defended his failed attempt to ban large sodas in New York. At one point, he called the whole soda-ban fiasco just a big “public awareness” campaign — one he still says the city’s health department “has the legal ability to do.”

But his remarks, and his dogged commitment to his social engineering daydream, reveal Bloomberg’s Orwellian attitude toward individual freedoms on every front. In the coming months and years, he will spend many millions of dollars to sell a hypocritical message of gun control not only to New Yorkers, but to all Americans.

How hypocritical? Bloomberg himself brings along a retinue of on-the-clock New York Police Department guards for armed protection every time he flies to Bermuda. For personal protection.

Arguments For, Against Gay Marriage Laws Before SCOTUS Today

A pair of cases in which challenges to existing laws have made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court will inch closer to resolutions this week, with possible implications for sweeping changes to the way same-sex marriage is treated, both by the Federal government and by each State.

Beginning today, the high court will hear arguments on whether California’s Proposition 8 — a voter referendum that approved modifying the California State constitution so that only marriages between men and women would be recognized by the State — stands in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Since its passage in 2008, Proposition 8 has effectively banned same-sex marriage in California.

On Wednesday, the court will also hear arguments in a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a Federal law signed by President Bill Clinton. The DOMA defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman in the eyes of the Federal government.

Both cases present the potential to effect enormous changes in the way the state treats marriage.

While homosexuals in California have largely gotten around the implications of Proposition 8 through that State’s recognizing of same-sex “domestic partnerships” instead of marriage, the outcome of the Proposition 8 case still asks the high court to determine a Constitutional issue that would apply to all 50 States. The Proposition 8 case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court because the plaintiffs asked for a ruling on whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits the States from legislating that marriage can mean only the joining of a man and a woman.

The DOMA also challenges the Constitutionality of how the government recognizes marriage — at the Federal level. The case that brought a challenge to the DOMA involves a New York widow who was “married” to the same female partner for four decades, yet was not allowed, under DOMA, to claim a Federal estate tax exemption when her deceased partner’s property passed to her.

The DOMA case doesn’t address whether gays have a Constitutional right to marry; it simply asks the Supreme Court to decide whether Congress and the President have the power to withhold Federal benefits to same-sex partners that heterosexual partners receive.

Dozens of Congressmen, the Administration of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Attorney General’s office have all weighed in, asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. So has Clinton, who said he’s had a change of heart since signing the original legislation into law.

An opinion in both cases is expected in June.

Liberty 101: Exam Time

All right, everyone; take your pencils out and put away your books. Professor Ben is here to take stock of just how much you’ve managed to retain from the reams of knowledge proffered by the rest of the faculty here at the Personal Liberty Digest Institute for Higher Learning and General Awesomeness. I’ve tried to cover as wide a range of topics as possible, all the better to gauge your progress. You’ll find the questions tough, but fair. Of course, some of you will fail to earn a passing grade and will be furious with me for refusing to “level the playing field.” That’s a tough break, kiddies. This is our field; we don’t move the goal posts to make it easier for the junior varsity.

Try to remember: There are no stupid questions, but there are some really stupid answers and some really, really stupid people:

Q: The $6 trillion rise in the national debt is a direct result of:

  1. President Barack Obama’s wildly ill-advised attempts to nationalize huge swaths of America’s economy.
  2. The fuel bills for greedy conservative’s private jets.
  3. Dick Cheney’s evil plans.
  4. Michelle Obama’s shopping habits.

Q: The “sequester” was created by:

  1. President Barack Obama.
  2. Speaker of the House John Boehner.
  3. Dick Cheney.
  4. Evil rich people. (But not the really cool ones like Al Gore and Sean Penn.)

Q: Because of the “sequester”:

  1. White House tours have been canceled.
  2. Michelle and Barack Obama are taking the girls on a “staycation” to the East Wing this year.
  3. Vice President Joe Biden is staying only in motels that charge by the hour.
  4. Obama has cut back to using Pinnacle™ golf balls instead of the Titleist ProV1x’s™ he prefers when he plays The Floridian™ with Tiger Woods.

Q: People’s health insurance premiums are rising because:

  1. Obamacare’s costs are untenable at current rates.
  2. Insurance companies are, like, totally evil and stuff.
  3. Doctors are mean.
  4. There’s a secret plot to help Donna Brazile maintain relevancy.

Q: As a direct result of Obamacare:

  1. Birth control pills are pretty much taxpayer-covered.
  2. Planned Parenthood is retraining abortionists to dispense IUDs.
  3. Senator Bob Menendez is thinking about moving to Las Vegas.
  4. Sandra Fluke is constantly out of breath.

Q: Hillary Clinton reversed her position on same-sex marriage because:

  1. She’s a calculating political animal who shares her husband’s penchant for governing by opinion poll.
  2. She figures gay couples should suffer just as much as she has.
  3. Her husband did, and she has yet to secure his 2016 endorsement.
  4. May Day at Janet Reno’s house last year was really awkward.

Q: A nuclear-armed North Korea:

  1. Seriously threatens the balance of global power, given the nature and associations of the Pyongyang regime.
  2. Gives the Chicoms something to do besides torturing dissidents.
  3. Gives the Chicoms something to do besides counting the IOUs we’ve written them.
  4. Gives the Chicoms something to do besides enabling the Pyongyang regime’s nuclear ambitions.

Q: Iran’s increasing belligerence is caused by:

  1. The fact that the only thing worse than an islamofascist is nuclear-armed islamofascist.
  2. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attempts to make up for being a tiny little man.
  3. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attempts to make up for being a tiny little man, in more ways than one.
  4. Something President George W. Bush did in the country next door.

Q: The so-called “Arab Spring” has produced:

  1. An increasingly dicey Mideast with war nearing virtual certainty.
  2. Wild hijinks like Benghazi.
  3. Iran’s totally not-weapons-related nuclear program.
  4. More for former President Jimmy Carter to blame on Israel.

Q: Benghazi is:

  1. A town in Libya where four Americans were murdered by islamofascists while Obama and his aides did less than nothing and then created a cover-up that continues to this day.
  2. A town in Libya where a YouTube video made everyone go temporarily insane with rage six months after the video was released.
  3. Something you can get from drinking the water in Libya.
  4. Totally no big deal, because… shut up.

Q: Obama’s approval rating has sunk below 50 percent because:

  1. Instead of showing constructive leadership on the economy, diplomacy or society, he has whined and griped about how those poopy Republicans are mean to him.
  2. Somewhere between 50 percent and 55 percent of the American people are racist.
  3. Somewhere between 50 percent and 55 percent of the American people are really racist.
  4. He drank the water in Libya and got a scorching case of the Benghazis.

Q: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to dictate the size of beverage containers because:

  1. He actually thinks people’s dietary habits fall under his authority.
  2. The only carbonated beverage he considers worth drinking is Veuve Clicquot™.
  3. Soda makes his armed bodyguards gassy.
  4. The uniforms he picked out for his minions are not particularly slimming.

Q: The Democrats want to ban so-called “assault weapons” because:

  1. If law-abiding citizens can defend themselves, tyranny can be a mite tricky to impose.
  2. Guns are secretly imbued with an innate evil that drives people to kill people; but only liberals can see it, so it’s up to them to save the rest of us.
  3. They’re worried Joe Biden might get ahold of a “tacticool” Ruger 10-22 and massacre the White House squirrel population.
  4. All of the above.

Q: Despite the Democrats’ demonization of semi-automatic rifles, the only actual military that deploys soldiers with semi-automatic rifles as standard practice is:

  1. Trick question; no national military equips regular front-line soldiers with semi-automatic rifles.
  2. A couple of those “–stan” countries that got sprayed all over the map after the Soviet Union exploded.
  3. One of those Eastern European countries with too many consonants in its name.
  4. The security force at Michael Moore’s country estate.

Q: The Department of Homeland Security is planning to buy 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition because:

  1. They’re stockpiling five rounds for every man, woman and child in the country for some reason they’re refusing to divulge.
  2. They’re too lazy to reload their own brass.
  3. Secretary Janet Napolitano is thinking about turning “pro” and needs the target practice.
  4. Who wants to know?

Q: Dr. Ben Carson is:

  1. A world-renowned neurosurgeon who is standing up publicly to Obama’s bullying and fearmongering.
  2. “…the right wing’s go-to black token.”
  3. “…a pawn to get more black votes and change that image of the racist party.”
  4. “…the Negro du jour.”

Q: The recent spate of wintry weather has been caused by:

  1. Winter.
  2. High-capacity rifle magazines.
  3. Spider goats.
  4. A mythical creature which is half-man, half-bear and half-pig.

Well, how did you fare? For those of you who haven’t wandered off to compare your NCAA tournament brackets to the one the President filled out instead of doing his job, the correct answer to every question was (a). For those of you who actually needed me to tell you which answers were correct, you’re going to need some remedial coursework. I recommend the Personal Liberty Digest™.

–Ben Crystal

Rand Paul’s Libertarian Vision On Display: Lighten Up On Pot, Get Tough On Federal Budget

In the eyes of many people, the left-right political paradigm has served little purpose beyond saturating political debate with conversations about moral issues, over which legislation has little affirmative power. If Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gets his way, these conversations may become a thing of the past.

The message that Paul is very publicly pushing is not a new one. Libertarians have been saying the same things for years: Laws that seek to infringe on liberties that come with mostly personal consequences in the short term are unpopular and, often, unenforceable. Thus, the result of moral legislation often is more societal harm than good.

And Paul’s position on Federal marijuana prohibition — while, perhaps, at odds with traditional GOP positions — makes a great deal of sense for a fiscal conservative. According to NORML, the United States’ law enforcement agencies spend $10 billion and arrest 750,000 individuals each year as a result of Federal marijuana laws. This is despite the fact that more than 30 percent of the U.S. population currently lives under some form or another of marijuana decriminalization, including people living in States like Washington and Colorado where full legalization of the drug has been allowed.

In an interview on FOX News over the weekend, Paul — who has previously been an outspoken advocate for legalizing hemp (a non-psychedelic plant in the cannabis family with industrial viability) production — said that current marijuana laws are burdening American society with a Federal one-size-fits-all legal view of drug offenses.

“I don’t want to promote that but I also don’t want to put people in jail who make a mistake,” Paul explained. “There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on in their twenties they grow up and get married and they quit doing things like this. I don’t want to put them in jail and ruin their lives.”

Paul went on to note the publicly acknowledged youthful drug use of President Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

“Look, the last two Presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, look what would have happened, it would have ruined their lives,” Paul added. “They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys, and they go to jail for these things and I think it’s a big mistake.”

With regard to youthful drug offenders whose futures can be forever tarnished by a small possession charge, marijuana advocacy groups have expressed a view similar to Paul’s. According to NORML’s statistics, in recent years more than 30 percent of all Americans arrested for marijuana-related offenses were 19 years old or younger.

Paul’s marijuana position is not surprising given his continued call for the GOP to embrace candidates who are fiscally conservative, but capable of appealing to a broader base on social issues. The Senator isn’t just talking the talk, either.

On Friday, Paul presented a budget plan that was considered harshly conservative by many Americans and criticized as “out of the mainstream” by pundits. For a fiscally conservative Tea Party voter, however, the Paul plan — roundly rejected by the Senate — was the stuff of dreams.

Echoing the ideas of his father, Paul proposed eliminating the deficit in five years by doing away with the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, while also privatizing the Transportation Security Authority. The Senator’s proposal also called for raising the age for Social Security eligibility, a privatized Medicare system and the annihilation of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

On top of the spending cuts, Paul proposed that the capital gains tax should be eliminated and a 17 percent flat tax be put into place.

Though his plan was rejected, it did receive a “yea” vote from Paul and 18 other members of the legislative body:  Republican Senators John Barrasso (Wyo.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jerry Moran (Kansas), James Risch (Idaho), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), and David Vitter (La.).

There is widespread speculation that Paul is working to position himself for a 2016 Presidential bid. And while it is yet to be seen whether the junior Senator will be embraced by the GOP as it works to rebrand itself, most analysts say there is no doubt that Paul has the power to bring a broader base of support to the Party. The biggest question, it seems, is how much moral conservatism are traditional Republicans willing to forgo in return for real fiscal conservatism.

Meet The ‘Press’

There’s a grave somewhere in which Tim Russert is spinning like the smart meter on Al Gore’s mansion during Masseuse-apalooza. Russert spent decades building NBC News’ “Meet the Press” into the benchmark of Sunday morning appointment television. Not only did viewers flock to the Peacock network to watch Russert conduct a weekly symphony of journalism and celebrity, the roster of guests was a veritable who’s who of the movers and shakers of the world.

Perhaps it’s the pressure of trying to fill the oversized footprints of a legend like Russert. Perhaps it’s the relentless drumbeat of liberal malarkey that has replaced actual discourse. Perhaps President Barack Obama promised him a spot in his next foursome with Tiger Woods. Whatever the reason, David Gregory has fallen into the same pit of partisanship that has turned the rest of NBC’s news apparatus into a weird little carnival of mealymouthed mendacity.

On Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press,” Gregory hosted yet another in the seemingly endless series of increasingly fruitless Democratic efforts to dismantle the Bill of Rights. While discussing so-called “gun control” with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Gregory coughed up an old and debunked “loophole” statistic: “[I]sn’t that preferable to a big loophole where you have all these — 40 percent of sales, private sales, one-on-one, where you’ve got no ability to trace it?”

Gregory was trying to make a point about what liberals believe is an epidemic of unregulated and unregistered sales of firearms between private citizens. For the gun-grabbing tyrants of the left, two law-abiding Americans conducting a simple business transaction free of the withering gaze of the government, President Barack Obama and/or NBC News is simply too much to bear. Thus did they concoct the aforementioned “40 percent.”

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if that number were accurate. After all, Americans don’t require government approval to exercise their 1st Amendment rights; so they neither want nor need the Democrats’ approval to exercise their rights under the 2nd Amendment. However, the real percentage of gun sales conducted between consenting citizens is around 10 percent, an admission even The Washington Post was forced to make following Obama’s use of the number in a ghoulish speech on so-called “gun violence” more than a month after the Newtown massacre. It’s worth noting that not only was Obama lying during his January fearmongering session, but he also omitted the fact that Connecticut already has the sort of anti-freedom laws the Democrats want to force upon the rest of us — for all the good they did the victims of Newtown.

While I don’t condone liberalism’s leading lights deliberately fabricating anti-Bill of Rights talking points for the sole purpose of, well, abrogating the Bill of Rights, I do understand that people so completely bent on control of The People will lie like Attorney General Eric Holder testifying about Operation Fast and Furious. But Gregory is supposed to rise above petty partisan dishonesty.

Democrats lie; it’s what they do. Obama deploys the “40 percent.” Congressman Charlie Rangel, disgraced but re-elected anyway, claims: “[W]e’re talking about millions of kids dying, being shot down by assault weapons.” Piers Morgan and Michael Moore jabber like cracked-out orangutans on basic cable television, blaming inanimate objects for everything except Morgan’s weak chin and Moore’s lack of self-control around fatty foods. But they’re politicians. Gregory is, ostensibly, a journalist.

In December, Gregory displayed a standard-capacity magazine during an attempted interrogation of LaPierre. His actions violated a local ordinance which bars possession of any magazine with a capacity exceeding 10 rounds. Though he escaped prosecution for his televised crime, Gregory did succeed in proving that anti-gun laws have no bearing or effect on people determined to break them, even pencil-necked media hacks who couldn’t actually use a firearm without wetting their pants.

Gregory’s murdering his own credibility is shameful, but not unexpected. Too bad “Meet the Press” got caught in the crossfire. Of course, the real estate between liberals and their goal of comprehensive gun control is as dangerous as your average Democrat-run city. Tim Russert would be mortified.

–Ben Crystal

Suit Filed Against EPA To Restrict Neonicotinoids

A group of California beekeepers and environmental groups filed suit last week to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict insecticides they say has a detrimental effect on honeybees.

The groups filed their lawsuit against the EPA in the Northern District Court of California, demanding that the regulatory agency suspend the use of pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The pesticides, which are part of a class of systemic insecticides known as neonicotinoids, are absorbed by plants and transported throughout a plant’s vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects, the groups said. Neonicotinoids are chemically related to nicotine, the harmful ingredient in tobacco products.

“Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees. The agency has refused, so we’ve been compelled to sue,” Peter Jenkins, a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety who is representing the coalition of plaintiffs told NBC News.

The group claims to have obtained records of “legal violations” by EPA officials regarding its approval of clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

Syngenta and Bayer are the leading manufacturers of the neonicotinoid variety of insecticides and they claim there is no proof they are detrimental to bee health. But neonicotinoids are used on more than 100 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton annually; and California beekeepers say their populations have been so decimated that many of the State’s almond growers won’t have enough bees to effectively pollinate their trees this year.

The American Bird Conservancy recently published a review of 200 studies on neonicotinoids that included industry research obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The study calls for the banning of the insecticide based on its toxicity to birds, aquatic invertebrates and other wildlife.

Bees are essential pollinators of plants used for food and — along with butterflies, bats, beetles and some small mammals — are key components of the food system. Bee populations in China have been so decimated by the use of insecticides that farmers employ people to pollinate their almond trees.

Actor In Gun Grab TV Ad Violates Basic Gun Safety

An actor who portrays a hunter in a new pair of ads pushing for Federal gun control doesn’t exactly know how to handle that shotgun he’s holding.

The man, who claims he’s a hunter, sits on the tailgate of a pickup and talks about how hunting is a big part of his family history. He talks about why background checks are a good thing and says no one’s trying to take your guns away. He’s got the requisite mountain-man facial hair, and he’s holding a shotgun.

But critics who’ve paid attention point out the guy is clueless when it comes to gun safety. His onscreen behavior seems to violate the National Rifle Association’s three fundamental rules of gun safety.

He’s holding the gun in a way that suggests the kids in the ad’s background could move into in its line of fire: a no-no. He’s got his finger on the trigger of the gun, even though he clearly isn’t ready to shoot at anything: a big no-no. And he’s holding his pump-action shotgun with the bolt closed, so there’s no way to know if he’s breaking another fundamental rule: keep a gun unloaded until you’re ready to use it.

The ad was paid for by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a project organization partially created and funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has committed $12 million of his own money to help push the ads in 13 States where Senators on the fence about gun control might be swayed to vote on a slew of gun restrictions the Senate will take up after Easter.

 

Is Obamacare Application A Democratic Voter Registration Tool?

There is some speculation that the Administration of Barack Obama has set up a scheme to register voters to the Democratic Party after it was revealed that the 61-page online Obamacare draft application for healthcare includes a section to register voters.

Near the end of the application packet is the question: “Would you like to register to vote?” The placement and wording of the question could lead some applicants to the conclusion that voter registration is a requirement for healthcare.

The online application states: “This document-the ‘questionnaire’-represents each possible item that may need to be asked for successful eligibility determinations.”

The voter registration question has drawn criticism from lawmakers such as Representative Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) who expressed concern in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“The draft documents wander into areas outside the department’s purview and links applications for health insurance subsidies to voter registration,” he wrote in the letter provided to Washington Secrets. “The position of the question could lead some to think voter registration is somehow tied to subsidy eligibility,” he added.

Researchers Looking To Create Human Heart

MADRID (UPI) — Medical researchers in Spain say they are close to being able to grow human hearts for transplants outside the body.

Doctors have already grown and transplanted a number of human organs, including windpipes, ears, tear ducts and an artery, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Now, they want to recreate a heart. Researchers in Spain say although the country has the highest number of organ donors in the world, only about 10 percent of patients in need of a new heart get one.

Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Aviles of the Gregorio Maranon hospital in Madrid said that a lab-made version of a heart may be ready in five or six years, and after passing rigorous regulatory and safety hurdles, may be ready for transplant “in about 10 years.”

U.S. scientist Doris Taylor, who grew a mouse heart in a lab at the University of Minnesota, says she believes it is possible.

“We opened the door and showed it was possible,” she said. “This is no longer science-fiction. It’s becoming science.”

Florida Coast Protected For Sea Turtles

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (UPI) — Much of Florida’s space coast is being declared “critical habitat” to protect the threatened loggerhead sea turtle, federal wildlife officials said.

That means sea walls built below the mean low tide line will face additional scrutiny to preserve habitats for the turtles. Officials said most of the Atlantic coast in central Florida is already under federal control with military installations that already have incorporated plans to help preserve the turtles.

Florida Today said Friday most new construction on the coast won’t be affected much,.

“We expect any changes to be minimal or none at all,” said Sandy MacPherson, national sea turtle coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The loggerhead turtle was first listed as a threatened species in 1978. In total, about 740 miles of Florida’s coast will receive the special designation to help it repopulate.

U.S. Gasoline Prices In Decline

CAMARILLO, Calif. (UPI) — Retail gasoline prices in the United States are on pace to decline in the short term, Lundberg Survey President Trilby Lundberg said.

Motor group AAA reports that U.S. consumers paid Monday, on average, $3.66 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. That’s 12 cents cheaper than one month ago and 23 cents less than the same time last year.

Lundberg told Bloomberg News that prices were showing a steady decline following an early season spike.

“It seems fairly likely we will see a bit more price-cutting at the pump, another drop from here in the next few days of a similar amount (as in past days),” she said.

U.S. consumers this year paid higher-than-average prices for retail gasoline earlier in the year because of refinery issues, complications from late-season hurricanes and market factors. Gasoline prices in some markets held steady at more than $4 during mid-winter.

The American Petroleum Institute last week said it saw lower demand for petroleum products in February. Gasoline production was up 0.8 percent though deliveries were down year-on-year by 3.1 percent.

‘Tatooine’ Planet Found Orbiting Two Stars

GRENOBLE, France (UPI) — European astronomers say they’ve captured the first image of a planet orbiting two suns, like the fictional “Tatooine” of the Star Wars films.

Philippe Delorme of the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and colleagues took the picture of the massive world, dubbed 2MASS0103(AB)b, using a telescope in Chile, NewScientist.com reported

Astronomers said they aren’t sure exactly how to classify the object orbiting the binary pair of stars at a distance of about 7.7 billion miles

That’s close enough to suggest it may have been born from a disc of dust surrounding them, like a planet forms, but at 12 to 14 times the mass of Jupiter it is near the dividing line between planets and failed stars called brown dwarfs.

“It’s either one of the most massive planets you can form or the lowest-mass star you can imagine,” Delorme said.

The dividing line between the two, based on studies of bodies’ mass, “is more of a working definition, as it is easier to measure the mass of an object than its past formation history,” he said.

Confirming its true nature could yield new clues to how stars and planets form, the researchers said.

Study: Whole World Eats Too Much Salt

NEW ORLEANS (UPI) — Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston say 75 percent of the world’s population eats almost twice the daily recommended amount of salt.

“This study is the first time that information about sodium intake by country, age and gender is available,” lead author Dr. Saman Fahimi, a visiting scientist in the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement. “We hope our findings will influence national governments to develop public health interventions to lower sodium.”

Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in the world; excess sodium intake raises blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the major contributors to the development of cardiovascular disease, Fahimi said.

Among women and men, average sodium intake exceeded healthy levels in almost all countries, the study said. Kazakhstan had the highest average intake at 6,000 milligrams per day, followed by Mauritius and Uzbekistan at just about 6,000 mg per day, Fahimi said.

Kenya and Malawi had the lowest average intake at about 2,000 mg per day, while the average intake in the United States was about 3,600 mg a day, the study said.

One hundred eighty-one of 187 countries — 99 percent of the world’s population — exceeded the World Health Organization’s recommended sodium intake of less than 2,000 mg a day; and 119 countries, representing 88 percent of the world’s population, exceeded this recommended intake by more than 1,000 mg a day.

All countries except Kenya exceeded the American Heart Association recommended sodium intake of less than 1,500 mg a day, the study found.

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.

Some Foods Help Fight Inflammation

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (UPI) — Inflammation, the body’s normal response to injury, can lead to disease if it becomes chronic, but U.S. researchers say some foods help fight inflammation.

Lauren Whitt, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Employee Wellness director and adjunct professor of personal health, said inflammation has one goal — to respond immediately to detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body.

“The trouble with inflammation occurs when the defense system gets out-of-control and begins to destroy healthy tissue, causing more damage than the original issue,” Whitt said in a statement.

Weight loss is related reducing inflammation but Whitt said the right anti-inflammatory foods are the answer.

“I encourage people to focus on eating whole foods and foods that are high in fiber,” Whitt said.

Anti-inflammatory food Whitt suggested include citrus fruit because vitamin C and vitamin E are essential antioxidants; dark, leafy greens are high in vitamin K; tomatoes because their red pigment, lycopene, is a potent antioxidant; and wild-caught salmon, which contains a rich concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.

“Eating to minimize inflammation doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task,” she said. “Take baby steps by incorporating leafy greens into a salad at lunch, or add a piece of whole fruit to your breakfast.”

In addition, Whitt said to consume more foods straight from the farm, as well as fewer processed and fried foods.

Blinking Combats Computer Vision Syndrome

DALLAS (UPI) — Working all day in front of a computer screen can result in eye fatigue but a U.S. optometrist says breaks and blinks helps combat computer vision syndrome.

The American Optometric Association defines computer vision syndrome as the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work that are experienced during or related to computer use.

Dr. Edward Mendelson of the University of Southwestern Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology said there is a healthcare strategy to combat the problem called 20/20/20 — computer users should take a break every 20 minutes, for at least 20 seconds, and look at objects that are 20 feet away.

However, Mendelson suggests adding another 20 to the mix.

“Give yourself 20 good blinks,” Mendelson said in a statement. “Blinking is nature’s way of keeping the eyes moist, and those blinks help to lubricate and refresh.”

Mendelson, whose clinical interests include the study of computer ergonomics, said offices are commonly cool and dry, which is nice and comfortable, except for the eyes.

“If you use eye drops periodically — and a drop just before you begin is a good way to start — then you can slow some of the drying of the eye that takes place naturally in a cool, dry work environment,” Mendelson said.

Egg Substitutes For Easter And Passover

MCLEAN, Va. (UPI) — About 1.5 percent of U.S. children are allergic to eggs but families can use egg substitutes for Easter and Passover traditions, an allergy specialist says.

Nancy Sander, president and founder of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics, said it is fairly easy to follow Easter and Passover traditions without the threat of egg exposure.

“A little planning and creative thinking is what’s required to have a fun and tasty celebration,” Sander said in a statement.

She said it is OK for allergic children to color East eggs, since touching the hard shell poses no threat.

Sander said families can use a plastic eggs instead of a hard-boiled egg on a Seder plate, and plastic eggs cane be filled with toys, money, stickers or candy for egg hunts. Plastic eggs can substitute for the real thing in “egg in a spoon” races.

When cooking, instead of using eggs, Sander said it’s OK to use several substitute mixtures — 1 1/2 tablespoons water, 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil and 1 teaspoon of baking powder; 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon vinegar; 1 teaspoon apricot puree; or 1 packet of plain gelatin mixed with 2 tablespoons of warm water.

“Easter and Passover celebrations should be fun and inclusive,” Sander said. “But everyone with life-threatening food allergies should be prepared for the unexpected accidental exposure. Preparation includes always carrying two doses of your prescribed epinephrine auto-injector and knowing what the signs and symptoms are of an anaphylactic reaction.”

U.S. Military Diet Changes Boost Nutrition

NATICK, Mass. (UPI) — The U.S. military is following the general population in getting heavier, with obesity within the military at 13 percent, a researcher says.

Maj. Aaron Crombie of the Military Nutrition Division, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, in Natick, Mass., and colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center staged an intervention within five dining facilities on Fort Bragg, N.C.

Following the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the researchers recommend increased availability of fresh fruit, a variety of vegetables and whole-grain foods, and reduced availability of foods with high dietary fat and sugar.

The recommendations include offering one main lean meat or vegetarian entree at lunch and dinner with no added fat, and the placing of color-coded “Go for Green” nutritional information cards at the point of service.

Five other dining facilities served as a control during the first half of the yearlong study. Researchers collected data using a combination of survey questionnaires and digital photography of the diners’ plates before and after meals were consumed.

The study found, over time, minimal changes in food service practices and menus produced significant improvement in soldiers’ nutritional intake, including decreases in fat.

The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.