Carr’s Group praises its flour mills

first_imgCarr’s Group, the farming and food conglomerate, said its flour mills had delivered an ‘excellent performance’ in its first half.However, the company, which also has assets in the animal feed industry, said revenue in its food group was lower because of weaker commodity prices – despite improved UK volumes.In a statement for the six months to 28 February 2015, Carr’s said: “The 2014 UK wheat harvest was large. However, the bread-making quality of home-grown wheat was disappointing as a result of the below-average protein levels.”And it added: “Once again, the flexibility provided by the portside locations of our two northern mills has meant we have been able to source consistently good-quality wheat from both the UK and overseas.“We are also looking to develop longer-term strategic relationships with our customers and a shared approach to risk management in a period of continued commodity market and exchange rate volatility.”The company said its Kirkcaldy mill continued to “exceed initial expectations” via “improved operational efficiencies” and an “uplift in volumes”.Within the whole group, revenue was down 2.8% to £208.6m, from £214.7m the year before and profit before tax was up to £10.6m, a hike of 5.4%.last_img read more

Watch Brendan Bayliss & Jake Cinninger Cover Ween, The Doors & More At 14th Annual Holiday Show

first_imgUmphrey’s McGee‘s guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger have been hosting their holiday show for fourteen years now. It’s amazing that it’s lasted this long, acting as both a reunion for local fans in Chicago and a destination event for any hardcore Umphrey’s fan around the country. The show always features a variety of deep cuts, alternate arrangements of fan-favorite songs, and a bevy of fun covers sprinkled throughout. This year’s show took place on December 10th at the long time home of their Holiday Show, the Park West.After an opening solo piano set by Umphrey’s keyboardist Joel Cummins that included his old-favorite “Orfeo”, the real festivities kicked off when Bayliss and Cinninger took the stage to perform “In The Kitchen”, a song synonymous with Chicago and Umphrey’s’ relationship with the city. A cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Going to California” followed, before Cummins re-emerged, with UM percussionist Andy Farag right behind him. Farag and Cummins would join Bayliss and Cinninger for the rest of the evening, fist delivering a few stripped down Umphrey’s tracks in “Cut The Cable”, “No Diablo”, “Water”, and “Booth Love”, before busting out Ween‘s “Transdermal Celebration”, Bob Marley‘s “Kinky Reggae”, Bruce Springsteen‘s “I’m On Fire”, Sublime‘s “Santeria” and more. “Santeria” featured Brendan on piano, with a special guest spot from local lap steel guitar master Mike Racky.The encore included a fun take on Styx‘s “Come Sail Away” before they performed The Doors‘ “L.A. Woman” with some special Santa-specific lyrics added to the song. “Bittersweet Haji” and a cover of Mötley Crüe‘s “Home Sweet Home” brought the evening to a close.Thankfully, a number of videos from the performance have emerged, which have been embedded for your viewing pleasure. Check out videos of “In The Kitchen”, “Transdermal Celebration”, “L.A. Woman”, “Bittersweet Haji”, and “Home Sweet Home” below (courtesy of YouTube user Michael Jacobson), as well as a full setlist for the evening.“In The Kitchen”Ween’s “Transdermal Celebration”“L.A. Woman”, aka “L.A. Santa”“Home Sweet Home”Setlist: Brendan Bayliss & Jake Cinninger’s 14th Annual Holiday Show | Park West | Chicago, IL | 12/10/16Set One: In The Kitchen*, Going to California*, Cut The Cable, No Diablo, Water, Booth Love, Transdermal Celebration, Gone for Good, Kinky Reggae, Ride On Pony, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, The Valley, I’m On Fire, Mama You’ve Been On My Mind, Santeria**, Watching The WheelsEncore: Come Sail Away, L.A. Woman*, Bittersweet Haji, Home Sweet Home* Brendan and Jake only**Brendan on piano and Mike Racky on steel lap guitar.***Special Santa-themed lyrics(Andy Farag on drums and Joel Cummins on keys on all songs from Cut The Cable on.)last_img read more

Landfill Saver

first_img Testing in Georgia “Modern landfills are also lined to keep the leachate water from getting into groundwater,” Smith said. “This water has to be treated before it’s sent to the local water treatment plant.” Traditional landfills are designed to keep air and water out. The new process involves putting them in. The old way “Normally, organic waste is piled up, the microorganisms begin to work and in the process, they deplete the oxygen,” said Matt Smith, an agricultural engineer with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “The waste degrades slowly,” Smith said. “And unfortunately, methane gas is produced.” Landfill operators must collect the gas and either burn it off or compress it for use as an alternative fuel. Good, but pricey to start Other benefits include easier recycling The new way saves space and protects the environment More landfill space isn’t the only benefit. The process results in stable organic material that can be sorted and sold or given to recycling companies. “What’s left are plastics, wood, cement, glass and other stable materials,” Smith said. “Once you’ve mined and separated the remaining materials, you can market them.” Some of these materials might be sold. Others are given away. Either case makes more landfill space available for reuse. Handling the methane gas and leachate water are costly processes for landfill operators. Smith and engineers from the firm of Arcadis, Geraghty and Miller developed a process that uses air and water to speed up the decomposing. “We reinject the waste with the leachate water and additional fresh water and pump air into the waste,” Smith said. “The extra water and air feed microorganisms that work much quicker at decomposing the waste.” A University of Georgia engineer, a private engineering firm and operators of a Metro Atlanta landfill have developed a process that could reduce the amount of landfill space needed to meet Georgia’s needs.center_img “Our main 207-acre site takes in more than 5,000 tons of solid waste each day,” said Hughe Brown, special projects manager at the Live Oak Landfill. “Landfills typically have a life of 20-30 years, depending on the volume of waste in the area.” S. Omahen, UGA CAES Stages increase landfill life The engineers tested the new process with their project partners at Waste Management, a national firm that operates waste treatment facilities nationwide. Using a 2.5-acre, 30-foot-deep waste site at the Live Oak Landfill in DeKalb County, Ga., the team proved the new process works. “The waste settles much, much quicker. In the long run, that results in more space for landfill operators,” Smith said. “Just 12 weeks into our first test, we recorded 6-percent settlement.” The new process also produces less methane. The methane levels on the pilot site were up to 90 percent lower than those in traditional landfills. S. Omahen, UGA CAES By using the new process, then mining the remaining materials, a landfill could recover 75 percent to 90 percent of its space, Smith said. The process expands the life of the landfill. But the startup cost is high. “It cost Live Oak Landfill $2 million to test the process. So it’s quite an investment,” Smith said. “But the result is a much more environmentally friendly landfill than we traditionally see.” PUMPING WATER AND AIR into landfills can help the material in them decompose more quickly, say University of Georgia scientists. Matt Smith, right, checks the pressure of a well pumping water into the test landfill site at Live Oak Landfill with the help of Hughe Brown. This process, when combined with removing recyclable materials, can recover 75 percent to 90 percent of the space in a landfill. “The key is to use the process in stages throughout the landfill,” he said. “You fill in one area while you’re decomposing another. In the end, you’ve increased the life of the landfill. And you’ve created a much more stable landfill in the process.”last_img read more

13,000-Home Kayenta Solar Project Comes Online as Closure Looms for Navajo Coal Power Plant

first_img13,000-Home Kayenta Solar Project Comes Online as Closure Looms for Navajo Coal Power Plant FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Associated Press:A giant array of solar panels near the famed sandstone buttes of Monument Valley has begun producing electricity for the Navajo Nation at a time when the tribe is bracing for the loss of hundreds of jobs from the impending closure of a nearby coal-fired power plant.The Kayenta Solar Facility is the first utility-scale solar project on the Navajo Nation, producing enough electricity to power about 13,000 Navajo homes.The plant comes at a time when the area’s energy landscape is shifting.The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page is set to close in December 2019, leaving a site that both tribal and private entities say has potential for renewable energy development.The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which owns the solar plant, said the project advances clean energy on the reservation long known for fossil fuel development, the Arizona Daily Sun reported (http://bit.ly/2wj3fsc ).Walter Haase, general manager of the tribal utility, said the plant proves to investors, developers and tribal communities that renewable energy projects are possible on the reservation. Economic development often is hampered by the lack of infrastructure, required environmental clearances and consent from anyone holding a permit or lease for use of the land.Before the solar facility, “we had a reputation in the industry of not being able to get something built or brought online,” Haase said.The town of Kayenta benefited, too. The contractor hired and trained about 200 Navajos to build the plant, said Deenise Becenti, a spokeswoman for the tribal utility, leaving a qualified workforce for other projects.The tribal utility avoided passing on the $60 million cost of the solar plant to its customers through federal solar investor tax credits, said Glenn Steiger, project manager for the solar farm. A two-year power purchase and renewable energy credit agreement with the Salt River Project will cover loan repayments for the plant’s construction, Steiger said.The tribal utility is working on extending the agreement.Navajo solar plant breaks new groundlast_img read more

Guatemala: Man arrested for carrying US$47,200 in his intestines

first_img GUATEMALA CITY – Police arrested a man on March 23 who attempted to travel to Panama with US$47,200 in cash concealed in capsules hidden in his intestines. Authorities detected the capsules inside Alberto Cayetano Pérez Laparra, 41, as he passed through the X-ray security machine at the La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala’s National Civilian Police said. After being questioned by authorities, the man confessed to having the capsules inside his body as well as carrying US$4,001 in his pockets. He was sent to a hospital to have the capsules extracted. Doctors found 59 capsules inside Pérez Laparra, each containing eight US$100 bills, amounting to US$47,200. “This is a new method used by criminal gangs who launder money, using people’s bodies to hide money to avoid declaring it to the [Guatemalan tax authorities],” police said. [AFP, 22/03/2012; Pnc.gob.gt (Guatemala), 22/03/2012] By Dialogo March 23, 2012last_img read more

Peru’s Carmen Masías Outlines Agency’s Efforts to Combat Drug Scourge

first_img WASHINGTON — The Humala government vows to step up coca eradication efforts and adapt new strategies to help Peru’s estimated 100,000 drug addicts kick the habit — even as it battles severe budget constraints and continuing violence by Shining Path terrorists. So says Carmen Masías, director of Peru’s National Commission for Development and Life Without Drugs (Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo y Vida Sin Drogas). “President Ollanta Humala, in his inauguration speech, was abundantly clear when he said that Peru would continue its struggle against drugs and associated violence. At this moment, we are completing the mandates of the president and his ministries,” Masías told several dozen experts during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Masías, a psychologist and family therapist, took over as Peru’s drug czar in January following the resignation of her predecessor, Ricardo Soberón Garrido. Her May 11 presentation at CSIS came less than a week after a fire swept through a Lima drug rehabilitation center, killing 14 people in the second such blaze this year. A similar fire in late January claimed 29 lives, prompting Masías to acknowledge that the state has limited capacity for treating drug addicts. A 2010 DEVIDA study found that Peru has 222 private rehab centers containing 700 beds. But 80 percent of those centers are unlicensed, and many lack doctors and psychologists. This is one reason the Humala government is seeking additional help from Washington. “My visit to the United States is first, to thank a brother country for its constant support over the years in our struggle against drugs. This is a global problem and the U.S. is our principal partner in this fight,” she said, noting that “this is a very important moment for Peru. We have the political will, our economy is increasing by 7 percent a year and our government is committed to this struggle.” DEVIDA boosts spending on anti-drug programs Before her current position, Masías represented Partners of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization and other regional bodies, and developed courses for the Peruvian National Police. A renowned social development expert, she’s also written extensively on gangs and organized crime. Masías, who adamantly opposes the legalization of drugs — a subject raised during last month’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia — said Peru’s anti-drug budget has jumped from $13.4 million in 2002 to $101.9 million in 2011. This year, despite a substantial drop in international assistance, the government will spend more than double that amount ($223 million) and is projected to further increase anti-drug expenditures to $278.3 million in 2013, $284.9 million in 2014 and $291.5 million in 2015. Yet over roughly that same time frame, global production of cocaine has skyrocketed, from 140 metric tons in 2000 to 325 tons in 2010. Colombia accounts for roughly 42 percent of that total, followed by Peru (39 percent) and Bolivia (19 percent), according to UNODC statistics. In Peru, some 61,200 hectares of land in 14 distinct regions are devoted to the coca crop, led by three regions: Valle Río Apurímac-Ene (19,723 hectares, or 32 percent); La Convención-Lares (13,330 hectares, or 22 percent) and Alto Huallaga (13,025 hectares, or 21 percent). Drug use increasing The number of Peruvians who use illegal drugs continues to rise. In 2010, the country reported some 168,000 marijuana smokers, 143,000 users of coca paste and cocaine, 14,300 inhalant abusers and 5,800 ecstasy addicts. In addition, some 30,000 Peruvians get hooked on cocaine every year, she said, and 47 percent of those new users are younger than 25. “Peru produces cocaine but we also consume it, and we’re a transit country. The United States has reduced cocaine consumption by 50 percent, but Brazil has increased substantially, so the panorama is changing,” said Masías. In fact, only 4 percent of Peru’s coca production ends up being snorted by Americans; the “vast majority” of it is smuggled to neighboring Brazil. “There is no real possibility of having success unless we eradicate the crop,” she said. Last year, authorities destroyed 10,290 hectares of coca, down from a peak of 12,033 hectares in 2010, and 10,025 hectares the year before. “Eradication is absolutely necessary,” she said.“Positive results have been found where eradication was accompanied by alternative development programs. Negative results have been found where there was no eradication.” Masías said DEVIDA’s goal this year is to eradicate 14,000 hectares of coca, a 40 increase over last year’s figures. That would increase to 18,000 hectares in 2013, 22,000 hectares in 2014, 26,000 hectares in 2015 and 30,000 hectares in 2016 — a total of 30 percent over the next five years. Masías: Eradication can’t succeed without alternative development DEVIDA also aims to provide alternative development programs to 68,000 Peruvian families this year, increasing that by 4,000 families annually to reach 84,000 families by 2016. Among the most successful alternative development programs are those involving cash crops like coffee, cacao and winter vegetables. Some 1,000 former cocaleros are now harvesting palm oil, she said, with annual profits of about $17,000 a year per family. In 2000, total revenues of the 14 agricultural entities in DEVIDA’s alternative development program came to $15 million. By 2009, total sales of those 14 entities had jumped to $72 million — rising further to $101 million in 2010 and an impressive $140 million last year, thanks to excellent prices for coffee and cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate. “This involves the active participation of small agricultural producers who leave illicit crops, as well as a change of attitude toward the problem,” she said, emphasizing that only sustainable crops with access to domestic and foreign markets are likely to remain viable over the long term. One of the biggest drawbacks, however, remains Peru’s long-running war against the Shining Path. That conflict has killed some 70,000 people since 1980, when the group was established. “The Sendero Luminoso is definitely financed by the narcotraffickers,” Masías said. “The worst thing is that they are capturing children as young as 8 or 9 years old. This is unconscionable.” The Shining Path is a shadow of the Maoist rebel group that once terrorized the country 20 years ago, with only 300 to 500 hard-core fighters believed to remain in the Ene and Apurimac Valley region, where most of Peru’s coca is cultivated. Yet the group has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in recent months. In April, the rebels kidnapped 36 natural-gas workers and in the past two months have killed nine police officers and soldiers. Empowering women is key to success Peru, which next month hosts an anti-drug summit for 80 countries, has also stepped up confiscation of chemical products and controlled substances used in the manufacture of drugs. The average seizure of chemical products is now 2,500 metric tons — up 400 percent from 2007. Masías said that while much emphasis has been placed on alternative development and interdiction and punishment of narcotics smugglers, the third part of DEVIDA’s three-pronged strategy — prevention and rehabilitation of drug abusers — is equally important. That means boosting educational programs and advertising campaigns that warn about the dangers of drug abuse; strengthening programs to help drug users quit the habit, and generating job opportunities for young people — particularly women with limited education who are often the most vulnerable members of society. It is precisely these women who live in coca-growing regions that play a key role in getting their families to switch from coca to other crops like coffee and cacao. A number of DEVIDA programs offer technical training and management advice for Peruvian women who want to get out of the coca business once and for all. “We don’t want to see women only as victims, but also as agents of change,” Masías told her audience. “Stigmatization is not the answer.” By Dialogo May 21, 2012last_img read more

Road Hazard: How the ‘Embarrassing’ Gas Tax Impasse Explains Washington

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York This story was co-published with Politico.In 1993, the Dow Jones industrial average was still well under 4,000, the best-selling car in the country was the Ford Taurus, and the average cost of a Major League Baseball ticket was under $10.That was also the year that Congress last raised the federal tax on gasoline.The gas tax pays most of the tab for America’s federal highway program; it’s what we rely on for new highways and for the bridge repairs that keep us safe. Those costs go up every year, but the tax remains stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon. In fact, it’s effectively going down: since it was last raised, those 18.4 cents have lost more than a third of their value to inflation, and at the same time drivers with fuel-efficient vehicles have been buying less gasoline, further reducing the federal take.As a result, the main U.S. spending account for infrastructure has fallen deep in the red, and the gap gets worse every year. The government, through a series of funding tricks, keeps the Highway Trust Fund on life support with short-term emergency patches. The latest infusion expires at the end of the month, and the argument about how to fix it is coming to a head this week.The uncertainty has frozen major projects around the country, from the widening of Route 1 in Delaware to the Kalispell bypass in Montana, while maintenance and repairs are long overdue on thousands of roads and bridges dangerously near the end of their expected life spans.That Congress can’t fulfill such a basic purpose of government stands out as a signal example of Washington dysfunction. Unlike some other stalemates, though, this one can’t be blamed on special interests at loggerheads. Nearly all the lobbies that take an interest are in favor of simply increasing the tax — big business, the road builders, the unions, even the truckers. Lobbies that might oppose an increase, notably the oil industry, have invested relatively little in the debate.Instead, it’s an example of those big decisions that get trapped in a kind of ideological crevasse. Because it’s a tax, raising it has been decreed out of bounds by a combination of anti-tax orthodoxy among conservative Republicans and a fear of political backlash that spans both parties.Still, there may be a way out of the trap. A slew of states around the country — including some led by conservative Republicans — have managed to raise their state gas taxes to address the transportation burden without triggering the fury of taxpayers. The contrast is an unflattering one, says former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat and a leading proselytizer for infrastructure spending.“If the gas tax could be voted up or down on a secret ballot, it would get 285 yes votes in the House and 85 or 90 in the Senate,” says Rendell. “Everyone knows we need new revenue, everyone knows we can’t let the trust fund go broke … Everyone knows this is one of the most embarrassing chapters in the history of the U.S. Congress.”What’s gone so wrong?It sounds strange now, but the gas tax was born and built up under Republican presidents. The U.S. government has been picking up a part of the highway tab for nearly a century — since 1916, when, in an era of Model T’s bumping over rutted country lanes, the bluntly named Good Roads Movement gave rise to a law providing federal money for any rural routes used for U.S. mail. Fuel taxes started around the same time, but only at the state level.When the federal government adopted its own penny-per-gallon one in 1932, under President Hoover, it was intended for deficit reduction, not roads. It was only when the tax was raised to 3 cents under President Eisenhower in 1956 — with an additional cent added on in 1959 — that it was targeted for the new interstate highway system and the Highway Trust Fund that would finance it.In a country that loves big cars and views cheap energy as a national birthright, the gas tax was never going to be beloved. After several failed attempts to raise the tax in the 1970s as a means to spur fuel conservation and fight inflation, it was left to Ronald Reagan, of all people, to push through the next increase, in late 1982.With the economy still sluggish after Reagan’s steep income tax cuts in 1981, “they were facing $200 billion deficits as far as the eye could see … and the administration was desperate to find some way to close that gap,” recalls Kenneth Schwartz, a career employee in the Office of Management and Budget.Just before the 1982 midterm election, Reagan had ruled out a gas tax increase “unless there’s a palace coup and I’m overtaken or overthrown.” But shortly after the election, he and his budget director, David Stockman, settled on a five-cent increase in the gas tax (or “user fee,” as Reagan preferred to call it) proposed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, the Illinois Democrat. The increase, Reagan said, would be “less than the cost of a couple of shock absorbers.”The proposal had bipartisan backing from Hill leadership. In the House, well over half of Republicans voted for it. The Senate passed it 54-33.That political landscape was already shifting when Washington took up the tax again less than a decade later. As part of George H.W. Bush’s big deficit-reduction package of 1990 — in which he violated his “read my lips” pledge — the gas tax was raised by another nickel. This time, it didn’t win over a majority of House Republicans: just over a quarter of them voted for the increase. The partisan divide ratcheted several notches further three years later when President Clinton, after initially proposing a broad-based “BTU tax” on all forms of energy, included a 4.3 cent gas tax increase in his 1993 deficit-reduction package. It passed without a single Republican vote.The following year brought the electoral earthquake of 1994 that made Newt Gingrich House Speaker. Two years earlier he’d been the only Republican in Georgia’s 10-member House delegation. Now he was one of eight. Among the lessons drawn by Clinton and other Democrats from this wipeout was a deep wariness about fuel taxes.The lesson was no less clear to Clinton’s successor, whose father had been pilloried among Republicans for the 1990 increase. Schwartz says that it was impressed on him and his OMB colleagues under President George W. Bush that a gas tax increase was not to be discussed.While the flow of money from the gas tax was flat-lined, spending wasn’t. Congress kept pressing for bigger highway bills. “They weren’t raising the revenues,” says Schwartz, “but they were raising the authorizations.” After 2000, lawmakers turned to one-time budget gimmicks and spending from general revenues to plug the gap, thereby driving up the deficit.Liberals have a handy culprit to explain why the gas tax hasn’t budged since 1993: Grover won’t allow it. Republicans, the story goes, have developed such fealty to the anti-tax pledge rolled out by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform in 1986 that raising the rate has become a matter of heresy.Making this explanation all the more appealing to the left is the hypocrisy it points to: The signers of the Norquist pledge predominate in the states most dependent on federal highway funding. (On average, Washington contributes about a quarter of all transportation funding but about half of major capital projects.) A ProPublica analysis finds that the rate of pledge signers is twice as high in the delegations from the dozen states that are most dependent on federal highway aid as it is in the 11 states that are least dependent on it. In Georgia, which is among the most highly dependent states, all but one of the 12 Republicans it now sends to Washington has signed it.But it’s oversimplifying to give Norquist all the credit. For one thing, his pledge focuses on income tax rates, and while he has done his best over the years to apply it to taxes more broadly, there have also been plenty of times when its signatories have voted to raise revenues without being vilified by Norquist: raising some industry taxes in the 2007 energy law, raising cigarette taxes to pay for children’s health insurance that same year, raising taxes on the wealthy in the 2012 fiscal cliff showdown. While Norquist has sent mixed signals, it’s not unreasonable to think that a gas tax increase that managed to draw support from Republican leaders would get a pass as well.Resistance to the tax hike goes well beyond the Norquist army. There were a couple years recently where the pledge signers were in the distinct minority on the Hill, and the gas tax still didn’t budge. On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama opposed Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s call for cutting the gas tax amid high oil prices. But Obama made his own pledge not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000. And even if that pledge could be reconciled with a gas tax increase, when he became president with huge majorities in Congress, there was little appetite in his administration for a higher tax amid a steep recession.“Obama is more open-minded on this than the people around him, but in the conversations I had with him he was not particularly receptive to raising the gas tax,” says Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and leading infrastructure booster. “When we were in charge, we didn’t push it.”The fact is, the gas tax has never been deeply embraced even by many Democrats. It’s a regressive tax, hitting Americans at the same level regardless of income. Partly for this reason, some liberals have started flirting with alternatives to the gas tax — like a far-reaching carbon tax or a tax on vehicle miles traveled. So far, though, these ideas are far from executable and have only distracted some likely supporters from the push for a simple increase.So the rate stayed stuck in Washington, even as oil prices plunged, an ideal window for raising the tax since the increase wouldn’t be as hard on a driver’s wallet. The tax now provides only $34 billion of the $50 billion spent annually out of the trust fund. Since by law the fund can’t operate at a deficit, short-term infusions from the Treasury — $62 billion since 2008 alone — have kept it solvent. What’s supposed to be a self-supporting trust fund has turned into just another scramble for taxpayer money.In the face of the stalemate, the states have crafted their own solutions, often in a rebuke to the political assumptions that have stymied Washington.In early 2013, just a few months after it voted for Mitt Romney by 41 percentage points, Wyoming passed a 10-cent increase in its gas tax, to 24 cents. Members of the Republican-dominated legislature say there has been no discernible blowback, in the form of primary challenges or otherwise. “There are those folks that will always be upset, but the average person looks at the conditions of the highways and understands there is a need,” says state senate President Phil Nicholas.As it turned out, Wyoming Republicans were hardly going out on a limb. Instead, they were setting a trend. Other states with Republican leadership that have approved increases in the tax (or in a few cases have hiked other taxes directed toward road spending) are Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.In Iowa, state Sen. Michael Breitbach, a Republican, says his reason for voting for a 10-cent increase was pretty straightforward: it had been 25 years since Iowa raised it, and trucks that used to get four miles per gallon now get almost seven, reducing revenue. He hasn’t seen much backlash, but said he wouldn’t care much if he did. “When I ran for office, I ran on a platform that we needed to improve our road system and we won on that platform, so I’m not too worried about that,” he says. “If I don’t get reelected, I can live with that.”In Georgia, former Republican state representative Edward Lindsey, who served on a state commission that proposed an increase, says the seven-cent hike passed in April “was not an easy sell” but the backlash has been relatively minimal. “When you go back and tell folks, look guys, this is a core government function — if we can’t do roads and schools and public safety, what’s the purpose of government?”These legislators’ equanimity about their votes is backed up by the numbers. A survey released in May by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found that raising the gas tax didn’t hurt Republicans politically, and if anything helped them slightly. Ninety-five percent of Republican state legislators who voted to increase their state gas tax in the past two years and ran for re-election won their races—one point higher than the rate for Republicans who voted against increases. The survey identified 25 legislators who voted for higher gas taxes despite having signed the Norquist anti-tax pledge — and of those, all but one won re-election.In Pennsylvania, which raised its tax by as much as 28 cents over five years, making it the most expensive in the country (50 cents) while providing $2.3 billion per year for transportation, not a single Republican who voted for the increase was booted from office. The notion that voting to raise the gas tax is a political third rail is being undermined in some of the most conservative swaths of the country.It’s true that most states must, by law, balance their budgets, and can’t just load highway costs onto the deficit as Washington can. The major anti-tax groups were noticeably subdued in the state debates — some groups, like Club for Growth and Heritage Action, steered clear entirely, while Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity made only token efforts in some states, like Iowa. As some of these groups see it, transportation spending should be left to the states entirely — “devolution” — and if they want to raise their gas tax, so be it. “There are 50 departments of transportation that know their priorities far better than bureaucrats do,” says Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs at the Club for Growth.Most of all, state legislators voting for gas tax increases benefit from one key dynamic that hurts all federal tax-collection efforts: voters know the money would stay right at home, without the strings that come with federal money, such as having to spend some of it on public transit, a requirement that dates back to the Reagan tax increase. “The problem I have with the federal gas tax is … you never know if you’re going to get back what you put in,” says Breitbach, in Iowa.In fact, all states are now getting back more than they put in, because the federal gas tax is being supplemented by so much additional spending in the trust fund. But Breitbach put his finger on the biggest obstacle to raising the federal gas tax: voters simply don’t trust what happens to their money once they send it to Washington. “I don’t think anyone at the national level will be able to articulate a gas tax as the way to go forward,” says Dan Holler of Heritage Action. “It’s gotten progressively harder because there’s less and less trust in Washington.”The latest short-term extension for the Highway Trust Fund — the 33rd passed by Congress — expires at the end of next week. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster last week pushed through the House yet another short-term fix, with about $8 billion, enough to get the fund through mid-December.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cobbled together a somewhat longer-term fix, enough to get the fund through the 2016 election, when many of his Republican colleagues are up for reelection. Among the revenue sources in the three-year proposal he presented yesterday, and which the Senate may vote on today, is selling off part of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve for $9 billion — that is, instead of updating a tax on gasoline, Congress may end up selling off part of its emergency supply of it.The extensions, their proponents say, will give Congress more time to come up with a truly long-term solution to transportation funding — the same thing congressional leaders have been saying for years now. There is talk of using a one-time influx of repatriated corporate revenues from overseas for infrastructure, but that has gotten caught up in the larger debate over tax reform. The conservative dream of devolution to the states has a long way to go to win acceptance, not least amongst the states themselves. Some Republicans, including Ryan, say they are open to new forms of “user fees” to pay for roads, such as electronic tolling, but this remain nebulous.What Ryan, McConnell and Speaker John Boehner have all ruled out is an increase in the gas tax. At a Ways and Means hearing last month to discuss long-term solutions for the shortfall, Ryan announced at the outset that “We are not going to raise gas taxes, plain and simple.” The tax, he said, had outlived its time. “We just can’t chase fuel efficiency with much higher taxes,” he said, deftly painting the decision as technocratic rather than ideological and political. Top Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, have made precious little attempt to rally support for an increase, citing a lack of support in both parties.Even as congressional leaders look for another short-term fix, though, more of their Republican colleagues are starting to contemplate the long-term one adopted by so many red states. Early this year, several Senate Republicans, including the conservative Oklahoman James Inhofe, spoke up for an increase before Ryan quashed the notion. In the House, Rep. Jim Renacci, an Ohio Republican, reached out to colleagues as fed up as he was with funding patches, including Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat. In April, they released the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act.The bill would keep the gas tax, raise it by half a cent in the first year, and then index it to inflation moving forward, so it could grow roughly in line with costs. The plan would provide enough revenue over 10 years, $27.5 billion, to plug the shortfall in the next couple years. Meanwhile, the bill would order a congressional task force to come up with an alternate long-term solution, and if it failed to do so, the gas tax would be increased to whatever level was necessary to fill the trust fund.This indirect, incremental approach may make the proposal more palatable than a straightforward proposal by Earl Blumenauer to increase the tax 15 cents over three years, or about as much as it would have gone up if it had been tied to inflation way back to 1993.“When people say, ‘That’s an increase in the user fee,’ I say, no, that’s an opportunity for Congress to work its will,” Renacci says. “And if it won’t work its will, then the user fee goes up.” As painfully gradual as this approach is, it’s a big step further than anything else Hill leaders have proposed, its proponents say. “Mr. Ryan hasn’t done a damn thing yet that we can buy into,” Pascrell says.The bill has more than 30 co-sponsors, a quarter of them Republicans. (Another Republican, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, just introduced his own bill, to increase the tax by 10 cents, offset with a $133-per-driver income-tax credit.) So far, aside from a Wall Street Journal op-ed from Americans for Prosperity, the anti-tax groups have held off on it, saying its prospects are so dim that it’s not even worth warning Republicans against it. “We don’t view it as a credible threat from a legislative standpoint,” says Holler, of Heritage Action. But that could change quickly, says Club for Growth’s Roth: “If this Renacci nonsense gains traction, I’m pretty certain we’re going to weigh in on it.” To prepare for that moment, the transportation lobby has given the bill’s sponsors some back-up advertising at home, says Michael O’Brien of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.The prospects for any long-term fix may turn on whether enough Washington Republicans are willing to relinquish the anti-tax flag and join their state legislative counterparts who voted for gas-tax hikes and lived to tell of it.Some of the Renacci bill’s Republican backers, including Renacci himself, have signed the Norquist pledge — but are adamant that it does not apply to the gas tax. Others, such as Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia and Rep. Richard Hanna of New York, have formally rejected the pledge.“You can’t run a country on ideology, you have to run it on ideas, and they have to be forward-thinking and allow us to be competitive,” says Hanna. “These are public benefits. They’re not about bigger government. They’re about running the country.”Related stories: For more coverage of politics and lobbying, read ProPublica’s previous reporting on an about-face by the higher ed lobby, the rising influence of single donors and an imploding super PAC.ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.last_img read more

U.S. reports record 153,400 new Covid cases as Dr. Fauci urges Americans to be careful: ‘It is not futile’

first_imgWhile some, including President Donald Trump, have said increased testing is driving the rise in cases, the data doesn’t bear that out. The seven-day average of new tests on Thursday was over 1.4 million, up by about 8.3% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of COVID Tracking Project data. The rise in cases far outpaces that with a week-over-week rise of more than 32%, on an average weekly basis.And the so-called positivity rate has been increasing, too. Epidemiologists say the percent of positive tests can be a helpful figure to determine whether an outbreak is expanding and whether an area is conducting enough testing. In the U.S., the seven-day average positivity rate rose to 9.1% from 7.2% a week ago, according to Hopkins data.The surge of the virus is beginning to overwhelm hospitals in some areas. Dr. Alan Kaplan, CEO of UW Health at the University of Wisconsin, said Thursday his system’s hospitals are overwhelmed in both rural and urban communities.“We are short of staff all times, either because they have Covid or they have some other illness and we need to rule out Covid before we bring them back to work,” he said on “Squawk on the Street.” “There is no surplus now.” Fauci added that “we need to pull more testing into the community” in order to identify people who don’t have symptoms but are infected and spreading the virus. Testing has increased substantially across the country, but as infection becomes more prevalent, as well, epidemiologists say even more testing is needed. – Advertisement – The United States reported another record one-day spike in Covid-19 cases on Thursday as the outbreak grows more severe and overwhelms some hospitals.The country reported more than 153,400 new cases on Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That’s the third-straight record one-day spike in cases in the U.S and has pushed the seven-day average of new cases over 131,400, up more than 32% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data.It’s not just cases. There are currently more than 67,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, more than at any other point during the pandemic, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic. The number of people dying every day from the disease is ticking upward as well. – Advertisement –center_img Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that “a number of factors” are driving the outbreak, including people growing tired of following public health measures. He said that’s a particular issue as the country approaches Thanksgiving in about two weeks, when many Americans are expected to travel across the country to see family and friends, potentially bringing the virus with them.Fauci urged Americans to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash hands frequently and to follow other public health measures.“If we do the things that are simple public health measures, that soaring will level and start to come down,” he said on CBS’ “This Morning.” “You add that to the help of a vaccine, we can turn this around. It is not futile.”- Advertisement – Spc. Demetrie Barnett of the Nevada National Guard administers a COVID-19 test during a preview of a free drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the parking garage of the Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel on November 12, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada.Ethan Miller | Getty Images – Advertisement –last_img read more

Disney might check visitors’ temperatures when theme parks reopen

first_imgWalt Disney might require theme park visitors to have their temperatures checked when they reopen after coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings are lifted, Executive Chairman Bob Iger said in an interview published on Tuesday.The company is considering the idea as one way to make the public feel safe about returning to Disney’s parks once they are allowed to open again for business, Iger told Barron’s.”One of the things that we’re discussing already is that in order to return to some semblance of normal, people will have to feel comfortable that they’re safe,” Iger said. “Some of that could come in the form ultimately of a vaccine, but in the absence of that it could come from basically, more scrutiny, more restrictions.” “Just as we now do bag checks for everybody that goes into our parks, it could be that at some point we add a component of that that takes people’s temperatures, as a for-instance,” Iger added.Disney operates Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California as well as theme parks in China, Hong Kong, Japan and France. All are currently closed to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. The company has not said when they will re-open.Walt Disney World, the most-visited theme park in the world, attracted 58.4 million visitors in 2018, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.Iger said Disney is studying China’s efforts to let people return to everyday activities.In China, “you can’t get on a bus or a subway or a train or enter a high-rise building there, and I’m sure this will be the case when their schools reopen, without having your temperature taken,” Iger said.Topics :last_img read more

Paul Merson criticises Frank Lampard after Bournemouth stun struggling Chelsea

first_imgBournemouth secured a narrow victory in west London (Picture: Getty)Lampard brought on Callum Hudson-Odoi and Michy Batshuayi before Bournemouth scored – with Jorginho one of the players to make way – and Merson felt the Chelsea manager got his tactics wrong.ADVERTISEMENTAsked about Bournemouth’s performance, the Arsenal legend told Sky Sports: ‘They definitely didn’t deserve to lose but they didn’t dominate Chelsea.AdvertisementAdvertisement‘I watch Chelsea a lot and if you can get through the first 20 minutes against them, their confidence seems to go.More: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man City‘They’ve got a lot of young players and they are easy to play against sometimes. The pitch looks so small for the way they want to play, it just looks to easy to defend against.’Moving on to the Chelsea manager, Merson said: ‘With Frank, it’s not a good day at the office for him. It was 0-0 and sometimes you have to swallow the pill and settle for a draw.‘He takes off Jorginho and brings on Hudson-Odoi and Batshuayi. Tammy Abraham was already on so he has all these forwards on, everyone is bumping into each other. Paul Merson criticises Frank Lampard after Bournemouth stun struggling Chelsea Metro Sport ReporterSaturday 14 Dec 2019 5:42 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link1kShares Comment Frank Lampard’s Chelsea suffered a defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League (Picture: Getty)Paul Merson criticised Frank Lampard after his struggling Chelsea team were stunned by Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge.Injury-ravaged Bournemouth clinched a 1-0 victory in west London on Saturday as Chelsea slipped to their fourth defeat from five league games.The Premier League clash appeared to be heading for a goalless draw but Dan Gosling scored Bournemouth’s winner on 84 minutes after a VAR review.center_img Paul Merson felt Lampard got his tactics wrong (Picture: Getty)‘I think Chelsea will need to go into the market next month. This is a crisis now. If other results go the wrong way for them, their lead [over the top-four] could be down to two points.‘They’ve got Tottenham away next. It’s hard for them now. I think they have to go in the market. This squad, for me, doesn’t get into the top four.’Lampard, meanwhile, reflected on a disappointing performance from his Chelsea side.More: FootballBruno Fernandes responds to Man Utd bust-up rumours with Ole Gunnar SolskjaerNew Manchester United signing Facundo Pellistri responds to Edinson Cavani praiseArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira movesHe said: ‘It’s a home loss. Not good enough from us which is the story at the minute. We need to be better.‘We needed more urgency and we have to make it more difficult for them.‘Top teams show consistency and that’s what we’re striving for. There’s a lot of work to do.’MORE: Jermaine Jenas sends surprising message to Chelsea board after Bournemouth defeat Advertisement Advertisementlast_img read more