Posts Tagged ‘Government’
Last year, in his State of the Union address, President Obama announced his plan to work with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety by creating 20 “Promise Zones” across the country.
Yesterday, as we reflected on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, the President reiterated this commitment; he reminded us of the frustrations that many American families face, and the need to build ladders of opportunity for those working to get into the middle class.
In a country as great as this one, a child’s zip code should never be what determines his or her opportunity. The government can’t fix this on its own, but it can be a much better partner in helping local leaders develop policies that improve education, protect the most vulnerable, and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. That’s what we’ll be doing in these Promise Zones, where the federal government will partner with local innovators, advancing their work to expand opportunity in their communities.
Today, in the East Room of the White House, the President will announce the first five “Promise Zones”, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
These areas – urban, rural, and tribal – have all committed, in partnership with local business and community leaders, to use existing resources on proven strategies, and make new investments that reward hard work. They have developed strong plans to create jobs, provide quality, affordable housing and expand educational opportunity, which we’ll help them execute with access to on-the-ground federal partners, resources, and grant preferences.
Each of these designees has a proven track record of working collaboratively; their officials work as a team with business, faith-based and non-profit organizations; and with the public to ensure that opportunity becomes real for every member of their communities.
Over the next three years, we’ll announce 15 more Promise Zones around the country to help build on this Administration’s commitment to create better futures for the middle class and those striving to reach the middle class. The President called this the defining challenge of our time, and I’m proud that today’s announcement will take us one step closer to addressing that challenge. You can watch the President’s remarks here, starting at 2:20 pm ET, and visit our web site to learn more about our efforts to build ladders of opportunity.
The President issued Executive Order 13636, stating that the “cyber threat to critical infrastructure continues to grow and represents one of the most serious national security challenges we must confront.” The Executive Order sets out a number of steps to address this problem, including calling on the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) to develop a Cybersecurity Framework (“Framework”) and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to build a voluntary program (“Program”) “to support the adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework by owners and operators of critical infrastructure and any other interested entities. . .” The Program could include guidance on how to implement the Framework in specific sectors, as well as incentives for companies to align their cybersecurity practices, with the practices and standards specified in the Framework. The President requires DHS, the Department of Commerce (“Commerce”), and the Department of Treasury (“Treasury”) to draft separate reports on incentives to join the Program. The following recommendations are Commerce’s contribution to this analysis of incentives.
* Engage insurance companies in the creation of the Framework
* Study tort liability
* Consider participation in the Program as a criterion for NSTIC Pilot and other Commerce grants
* Offer guidance to federal agencies on compliance with the Framework and participation in federal grant program
* Ensure that the Program links research and development efforts to overcoming real-world challenges
* Identify candidates for regulatory streamlining
* Explore a Fast-Track Patent Pilot for cybersecurity
* Study the use of government procurement considerations
* No further study of the use of tax incentives
Creating laws is the U.S. House of Representatives’ most important job. All laws in the United States begin as bills. Before a bill can become a law, it must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the President. Let’s follow a bill’s journey to become law.
The Bill Begins
Laws begin as ideas. These ideas may come from a Representative—or from a citizen like you. Citizens who have ideas for laws can contact their Representatives to discuss their ideas. If the Representatives agree, they research the ideas and write them into bills.
The Bill Is Proposed
When a Representative has written a bill, the bill needs a sponsor. The Representative talks with other Representatives about the bill in hopes of getting their support for it. Once a bill has a sponsor and the support of some of the Representatives, it is ready to be introduced.
The Bill Is Introduced
In the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill is introduced when it is placed in the hopper—a special box on the side of the clerk’s desk. Only Representatives can introduce bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.
When a bill is introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill clerk assigns it a number that begins with H.R. A reading clerk then reads the bill to all the Representatives, and the Speaker of the House sends the bill to one of the House standing committees.
The Bill Goes to Committee
When the bill reaches committee, the committee members—groups of Representatives who are experts on topics such as agriculture, education, or international relations—review, research, and revise the bill before voting on whether or not to send the bill back to the House floor.
If the committee members would like more information before deciding if the bill should be sent to the House floor, the bill is sent to a subcommittee. While in subcommittee, the bill is closely examined and expert opinions are gathered before it is sent back to the committee for approval.
The Bill Is Reported
When the committee has approved a bill, it is sent—or reported—to the House floor. Once reported, a bill is ready to be debated by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Bill Is Debated
When a bill is debated, Representatives discuss the bill and explain why they agree or disagree with it. Then, a reading clerk reads the bill section by section and the Representatives recommend changes. When all changes have been made, the bill is ready to be voted on.
The Bill Is Voted On
There are three methods for voting on a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives:
- Viva Voce (voice vote): The Speaker of the House asks the Representatives who support the bill to say “aye” and those that oppose it say “no.”
- Division: The Speaker of the House asks those Representatives who support the bill to stand up and be counted, and then those who oppose the bill to stand up and be counted.
- Recorded: Representatives record their vote using the electronic voting system. Representatives can vote yes, no, or present (if they don’t want to vote on the bill).
If a majority of the Representatives say or select yes, the bill passes in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is then certified by the Clerk of the House and delivered to the U.S. Senate.
The Bill Is Referred to the Senate
When a bill reaches the U.S. Senate, it goes through many of the same steps it went through in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is discussed in a Senate committee and then reported to the Senate floor to be voted on.
Senators vote by voice. Those who support the bill say “yea,” and those who oppose it say “nay.” If a majority of the Senators say “yea,” the bill passes in the U.S. Senate and is ready to go to the President.
The Bill Is Sent to the President
When a bill reaches the President, he has three choices. He can:
- Sign and pass the bill—the bill becomes a law.
- Refuse to sign, or veto, the bill—the bill is sent back to the U.S. House of Representatives, along with the President’s reasons for the veto. If the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate still believe the bill should become a law, they can hold another vote on the bill. If two-thirds of the Representatives and Senators support the bill, the President’s veto is overridden and the bill becomes a law.
- Do nothing (pocket veto)—if Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law after 10 days. If Congress is not in session, the bill does not become a law.
The Bill Is a Law
If a bill has passed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and has been approved by the President, or if a presidential veto has been overridden, the bill becomes a law and is enforced by the government.
More Cool Stuff
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What the Farm Aid Organization has to say about GMO food:
With a new mission to squash “burdensome” regulation and play nice with U.S. businesses, the Obama Administration has been in a frenzy green-lighting genetically engineered (GE) crops.
Just weeks into the new year, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the full deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa—a genetically engineered crop variety designed to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The move gave the OK for commercial planting to take place this spring without restrictions. A week later, USDA announced the deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets, followed by the deregulation of Syngenta’s Enogen corn, a variety genetically engineered for biofuel production. Meanwhile, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is now considering the commercial release of genetically modified salmon.
With a new onslaught of GE products hitting the market it’s no wonder the public has some questions, as you do, Jerry. So, what’s the big deal about genetic engineering?
The short and not-so-sweet of it is this: GE crops present real risks, fewer choices for both farmers and eaters and offer unclear benefits except to the companies that develop and market them, and thus pocket major profits.
Risky Business for Farmers
One of the biggest problems GE crops have presented in the real world is the contamination of non-GE crops. The newest wave of deregulated GE crops presents a very real risk that such contamination will happen again.
Take alfalfa, which is pollinated by bees. Bees can generally cover a five-mile range as they buzz from plant to plant, collecting and spreading pollen. Since bees don’t tend to observe property lines or fences, GE alfalfa pollen could, for example, be spread to and pollinate a non-GE alfalfa plant, in turn contaminating a neighboring field with GE genes.
This cross-fertilization would be especially disastrous for organic farmers. If organic fields are contaminated, an organic farmer’s certification is at risk, since the use of GE crops is prohibited under the organic label. Losing organic certification would mean his or her goods can no longer be sold for the premium price that helps cover the higher costs of growing organically. Organic livestock farmers would face similar consequences if their cattle consumed contaminated alfalfa, and the organic industry as a whole could suffer from severe supply problems if organic alfalfa can’t be maintained with integrity. Canada’s organic canola industry suffered this fate, and is virtually extinct due to contamination from GE canola.
GE contamination hurts conventional farmers too. A prime example occurred in 2000, when genes from Aventis’ StarLink GE corn showed up unexpectedly in the nation’s food supply and U.S. export markets. While StarLink corn only represented 1% of planted corn acreage, it ultimately contaminated at least 25% of the harvest that year. Traces of StarLink corn also showed up in taco shells, even though the variety wasn’t approved for human consumption. The fiasco led to a massive recall of over 300 food products. Export markets started rejecting American corn and corn prices plummeted. Corn farmers ultimately filed a class-action lawsuit against Aventis, who forked over $112 million in settlement. Three years later, StarLink genetics were still detected in the U.S. corn supply, well after the crop was pulled from the market. Millers and food manufacturers are concerned the same thing will happen with Syngenta’s Enogen corn intended for biofuel production, which could contaminate corn for human consumption and seriously threaten foods processed with corn–based ingredients.
USDA recognized such risks when it conducted an environmental impact statement (EIS) for GE alfalfa. This past December, Secretary Vilsack acknowledged “the potential of cross-fertilization to non-GE alfalfa from GE alfalfa — a significant concern for farmers who produce for non-GE markets at home and abroad.” Despite such concern, USDA approved the planting of GE alfalfa for this spring without any indication of how it will prevent the type of costly contamination that threatens to occur.
Into the Wild: “Superweeds” and other environmental hazards
In addition to the very real risks of GE-contamination, there are numerous accounts of superweeds developing from the overuse of Roundup herbicide on Roundup Ready crops. Fifteen years after Roundup Ready corn and soy first debuted, there are now at least 10 species of Roundup-resistant weeds identified in more than 22 states, as well as superweeds sprouting up in Australia, China and Brazil.
Superweeds undermine the environmental benefits that GE crops are claimed to offer by reducing soil tillage, pesticide applications and soil and water contamination. Affected farmers must now resort to more toxic chemicals, increased labor or more intense tillage of their fields to address superweeds on their farms. The newly approved Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugar beets will only exacerbate that problem. And as companies like Bayer, Syngenta and Dow Chemical work on their own pesticide-resistant crops (including one designed to resist 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange!), even nastier superweeds may be on the horizon, with even nastier pesticides being used to control them in the ever-escalating arms race against weeds and pests.
GE crops pose additional environment risks, such as threats to biodiversity or unintentional harm to other insects and animals in the ecosystem, many of which are beneficial to crop production. But remember, there’s absolutely no recall on GE genetics. Once they’re out there, they’re out there for good. What’s more, once a crop is fully deregulated, USDA currently conducts no monitoring of any kind to see if a GE crop has harmed the environment. To date, we are completely unequipped to deal with all of these consequences. (For more on how GE crops are regulated, see this Ask Farm Aid column from 2009).
Do I eat GE foods?
What does all this mean for eaters? Do we eat GE foods? The quick answer is: almost certainly.
Remember that the vast majority of our corn and soy come from GE seed, and that these crops are generally used as feed for cattle, hogs and poultry, or otherwise used in the many processed foods found in grocery store aisles. Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the U.S. and is most commonly used to feed dairy cows and beef cattle.
So, if you drink milk, eat beef, enjoy the occasional slice of bacon with your breakfast, order chicken in your Caesar salad or ever indulge in processed foods, cereals and desserts with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and soy lecithin, GE crops are part of your food chain. Unfortunately, you can’t be sure when you eat them or in what form, because there is no requirement to label foods with GE ingredients. As discussed above, the release of GE alfalfa also puts several organic foods at risk for contamination—further eroding our choice as consumers to avoid GE foods if we wish.
Little research has been conducted to examine whether GE foods present risks to human health—such as allergens or toxins—but it seems prudent that this be investigated rigorously before GE foods hit the market. Many countries, including countries of the European Union, Japan, Australia and Brazil, have banned the cultivation of GE crops or require labeling of GE foods as precautions.
Feeding the World? The Silver Bullet That Misses the Target
Defenders of GE crops argue they are desperately needed to feed the world’s ever-growing population and address world hunger. Some have accused critics of GE technology as being shortsighted Luddites at best, and irresponsible at worst.
But to date, GE crops have done little to address hunger worldwide—yield results have been mixed globally, and are nominal for America’s family farmers. A recent study of historical yield data in the U.S. found that herbicide-resistant genetics in GE corn and soy didn’t increase yield any more than conventional methods. Perhaps more importantly, the GE varieties hitting the market aren’t focused on yield in the first place. Developing a crop for herbicide resistance or biofuel production is quite different than selecting for plant traits that encourage plant growth, drought resistance or other traits that would actually help address food security worldwide. Moreover, companies haven’t invested their dollars in the staple crops of food insecure populations worldwide, such as millet, quinoa or cassava. We will need much more than Roundup Ready alfalfa to solve world hunger.
The Seedier Side of GE: Who Benefits
So if farmers, eaters, the environment and the world’s undernourished won’t appreciably benefit from the government’s recent GE green-lighting parade, who will?
Most GE crops hitting the market are developed by multinational companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and Dow Chemical to increase their sales and push their related pesticides. For example, Roundup Ready crops are all engineered to withstand Monsanto’s toxic herbicide Roundup. With Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugar beets on the market, Monsanto can expect increased profits from its new seeds, as well as increased sales of Roundup herbicide to douse all those new seeds.
GE crops are also patented, which grants several privileges to corporate seed giants. For example, companies have repeatedly restricted independent research on the risks and benefits of GE products, which is perfectly legal under patent law, but severely limits objective examination of the efficacy and safety of GE crops. If that weren’t bad enough, patents have given companies the power to pursue lawsuits against farmers for illegally “possessing” patented GE plants without a license. Monsanto has famously sued thousands of individual farmers for patent infringement when their fields were contaminated with GE genes.
With the power to own and patent genetics, seed companies can demand even more control over the market as a whole. The seed industry has suffered enormous concentration of power in the past few decades, with at least 200 independent seed companies exiting the market in the last fifteen years and four companies now controlling over 50% of the market. This consolidation means farmers have far fewer options for seed varieties. Meanwhile, farmers have seen the sharpest rise in seed prices during the period in which GE crops rose in prominence.
In this sense, the deregulation of new GE varieties comes as a slap in the face to the farmers and eaters who put their trust in the USDA and Department of Justice as they examined antitrust abuses in our food system this past year, including specific investigations into Monsanto and the seed industry. The newest wave of GE products will only further corporate control over our food supply, putting the interests of corporations far before the needs of farmers and eaters.
The bottom line?
Surely, this is a lot to take in. Genetic engineering is a complicated topic, with a broad set of consequences for our society. There are many questions left unanswered about how GE will impact farmers and eaters, and even less clarity about how these impacts will be managed.
Until our regulatory system and the biotech companies themselves properly address the risks inherent in GE crops, farmers and eaters have a right to reject them. Releasing GE crops into the fields without mitigating their risks is gambling with our health, our environment and livelihoods of family farmers.
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said that we must invest in the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising and thriving middle class. He said that every day, we must ask ourselves these three questions: “How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”
This morning the President sent Congress his Budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which presents his plan to address each of these questions. He also spoke to the press about his proposal in the Rose Garden, and said that while our economy is poised for progress, we need to get smarter about our priorities as a nation. And that’s what his 2014 Budget represents — a fiscally-responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth:
To make America a magnet for good jobs, this budget invests in new manufacturing hubs to help turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. We’ll spark new American innovation and industry with cutting-edge research like the initiative I announced to map the human brain and cure disease. We’ll continue our march towards energy independence and address the threat of climate change. And our Rebuild America Partnership will attract private investment to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, our bridges and our schools, in turn attracting even more new business to communities across the country.
To help workers earn the skills they need to fill those jobs, we’ll work with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. And we’re going to pay for it by raising taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people. It’s the right thing to do.
We’ll reform our high schools and job training programs to equip more Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. And we’ll help more middle-class families afford the rising cost of college.
To make sure hard work is rewarded, we’ll build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who is willing to work hard to climb them. So we’ll partner with 20 of our communities hit hardest by the recession to help them improve housing, and education, and business investment. And we should make the minimum wage a wage you can live on — because no one who works full-time should have to raise his or her family in poverty.
President Obama’s budget also replaces the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester with smarter ones, making long-term reforms, eliminating actual waste and programs that are no longer needed.
And finally, because he is willing to make tough choices and serious about finding common ground to further reduce the deficit, President Obama’s budget incorporates his compromise offer he made to House Speaker Boehner that achieves another $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction in a balanced way. When combined with the deficit reduction already achieved, this will exceed the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, while growing the economy and strengthening the middle class.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Ten years ago the peace and anti-war movements warned the leaders of the global community that war was not the answer, and that war once unleashed would bring only destruction and death. United for Peace and Justice finds no pleasure in being right about this U.S. made catastrophe of human suffering. There is no joy or self-satisfaction that can be felt. This is not an “I told you so” moment. But we will use both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as examples of how violence begets violence and how war, if it ever was, is no longer a moral means to solve conflicts.
The people of Iraq have suffered for decades: first under Saddam Hussein; then the 1991 U.S.-led invasion, followed by U.S.-led sanctions; and finally another U.S.-led invasion and occupation. The Iraq War must not be swept aside to be forgotten like a national nightmare, and we must not let the nightmare of the war be repackaged in patriotic rhetoric to support future wars. Our nation has an obligation to the people of Iraq, and to the U.S. service members sent to fight, bleed and die there. There is still much work ahead to help the people of Iraq and the U.S. troops and communities to which they have returned to heal.
Back to Work Budget – Green Jobs
As you already know, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget is beyond devastating– dismembering Medicare, slashing Medicaid and dismantling other vitally important social programs If enacted, it will put the United States on a fast-track back to 1928.
Fortunately, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has proposed a “Back to Work” budget which puts the emphasis back where it belongs: the creation of seven million jobs, the preservation of the “entitlements,” and full funding for domestic social programs. Deficit reduction will be achieved by increasing the number of working Americans, by raising taxes on the rich and making reductions in the Pentagon budget. For more details: http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/back-to-work-budget/
Although we would prefer larger cuts from the Pentagon, the CPC Budget represents an immense step forward. It is already changing the terms of the national debate.
But to make a real difference, we need a large number of Representatives to vote YES on this “Back to Work Budget.” National and local groups across the country are sponsoring call-in days in support of this budget.
During this week, Progressive Democrats for America will be continuing its effort to personally deliver messages to local offices around the country. To get more information and get involved with a letter drop near you: http://www.pdacommunity.org/issues/bblv-mission
by United for Peace and Justice
Ten years ago this month the United Sates embarked on one of the worst foreign policy decisions in the nation’s history. Fooling itself into believing that U.S. soldiers would be welcomed as liberators, the Bush Administration ordered the invasion of Iraq. March 19th began a more intensified subjugation and destruction of Iraq that really began with Operation Desert Storm in January 1991 when I was part of that invading force.
Today due to the resistance of the Iraqi people and domestic pressure created by the peace movement here in the U.S., officially U.S. forces have left Iraq and the Iraqi people are picking up the pieces of a destroyed national infrastructure and fragmented society. The two decades of Iraq Wars from 1991 to when the last U.S. troops left in 2011 must not be swept aside like a bad dream to be forgotten. Our nation has an obligation to the people of Iraq and to U.S. service members sent to fight, bleed and die there. I congratulate the peace movement for its successful efforts to bring our troops home and end the violence caused by U.S. military operations and or the presence of our forces, but there is still much work to do to help the people of Iraq and U.S. troops and the communities to which they have returned heal.
As always the peace and anti-war community is busy with over flowing plates of work to do. There have been important developments in the Bradley Manning case. He needs our support as much as anyone. March is Women’s History month and as we celebrate the triumphs and continuing struggles of women here at home, the challenges women face around the world in the U.S. war machine and in the aftermath of U.S. wars must be part of the dialogue.
We are beginning preparations for the April 15th Global Day of Action on Military Spending to end the madness of international squandering of material resources and people’s lives and we must support our allies in the struggle for a clean and sustainable environment so that we can have safe food and clean air and water.
Thank you for your devotion to peace and justice. We will continue in the struggle because it honors those who brought us this far, it is the right thing to do, and we know that together we are making a difference for the better.
by the Environmental Defense Fund
In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced the goal of cutting energy waste in buildings and homes in half over the next 20 years. House Speaker John Boehner clapped approvingly. U.S. buildings and homes waste so much energy that a 50% reduction of such energy waste would save businesses and individuals billions of dollars, would deliver healthier air to all Americans and would put us on the path of energy independence. Most of our energy comes from burning fossil fuels; so, consuming less fossil fuel will reduce toxic emissions and improve air quality. Cleaner air will save lives. Studies estimate that over 35,000 Americans die every year due to air pollution related illnesses.
Cutting energy waste in half won’t just happen on its own, though, and it won’t be easy. We need to identify the opportunities where we can eliminate energy waste, and then invest in the types of technologies that lead to more energy efficient buildings and homes. The good news is that these modern, cost-effective technologies are available now.
Clearly, opening windows when a building is overheated is not the solution. For example, building owners will need to invest in control technologies that cut overheating and turn off lights and equipment when not needed. These are smart energy efficiency investments with typically short pay-back periods. And, in reducing the energy we waste, we improve our quality of life with more money in our pockets and fresher air in our lungs.
Finally, let’s not forget about the environmental impacts of energy exploration, which is another reason why we shouldn’t waste the energy that was so hard to get out of the ground in the first place. The actual extraction of fossil fuels is the second biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and – if developed irresponsibly – can pollute our water, air and oceans — jeopardizing our health, livelihoods and quality of life. When you consider the whole range of health and environmental impacts involved with using, and (of course) wasting, energy –it is blatantly obvious that wasting energy is already coming back to hurt us.
If Washington can agree that wasting energy is senseless, let’s keep the momentum going and support smart efforts, policies and investment tools that will help energy efficiency reach its full potential. Cutting energy waste is a win for our wallets, our health and our children’s’ future.