Monday, April 5, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 4/5

  • The Environmental Protection Agency is exploring whether to use the Clean Water Act to control greenhouse gas emissions, which are turning the oceans acidic at a rate that's alarmed some scientists. With climate change legislation stalled in Congress, the Clean Water Act would serve as a second front for the Obama administration.
  • Two years ago, Kansas spent $12.6 million on treatment and support services to prepare inmates for re-entering society. The mental health care, job training and community residential programs for parolees made Kansas a national model. But the program has been virtually dismantled as Kansas faces falling tax revenues. The likely result is more released inmates will end up committing crimes that send them back to prison.
  • The cost of keeping that golden tan year-round is going up this summer. Starting July 1, a small provision in the huge national health care law will impose the first ever U.S. tax, of 10 percent, on indoor tanning.
  • For decades, the federal government has imposed a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men. The reason is that the AIDS virus, HIV, can be spread through blood transfusions, and gay men are more likely to carry HIV than the general population. But increasingly refined tests are removing many of the doubts about whether a blood donor carries HIV. So a movement is under way to end the lifetime ban.
  • South Carolina House lawmakers said a Senate proposal to use cigarette taxes to pay for rural water, sewer and other infrastructure could further erode already tenuous support for raising the tax. South Carolina has the nation's lowest cigarette tax at 7 cents per pack. The national average is $1.36 a pack. The issue is significant because every vote will be crucial to reach the two-thirds majorities needed to overturn a likely veto by Gov. Mark Sanford.
  • The mere existence of the Steep Hill Lab presents a pointed question: How safe is the marijuana provided to hundreds of thousands of medical pot users in California? The Oakland laboratory, started in 2008 by two former growers, has tested 12,000 pot samples to assure marijuana businesses that their product isn't tainted by dangerous toxic molds or pesticides.
  • As small businesses see their lines of credit shrink and struggle to get loans, exchanging goods ends up being a way to afford extra services and make sure time and products don't go to waste. There are two types of bartering — making business deals on a case-by-case basis — and "modern" bartering through organized networks, which is what the International Reciprocal Trade Association measures to be a $10 billion to $12 billion industry globally.
  • As lawmakers in Juneau near the end of this session and begin mulling over the capital budget, they'll be deciding whether — and how — to fund a pillar of Gov. Sean Parnell's initiative against domestic violence: a proposed $76 million crime lab to replace an aging and cramped facility.
  • The green trend has engulfed the private office market. Developers in Sacramento — and nationwide — are using sustainability as a key marketing tool in their effort to attract tenants. It's one more selling point in a real estate climate with vacancy rates well into the double digits.
  • And all the time, we thought the Republicans failed to stop the Big Evil, communistic health care reform, because the Demon-crats were up to shenanigans, probably putting stuff in municipal water supplies, maybe hypnotizing people with special signals sent through Wolf Blitzer's beard, doing their best to muster the secret forces of their Left Wing Conspiracy Brigade to suppress the will of the people. (Note to Sarah Palin: This theory is copyrighted and you cannot use it in your Fox News commentary.)
  • Last week I had the distinct displeasure of speaking with Glenn Miller, the race-baiting, anti-Semitic bigot running a write-in campaign to replace U.S. Sen. Kit Bond in Missouri. And while we agreed on almost nothing, Miller was correct about one thing: Radio stations are doing him a favor by running disclaimers before and after his hate-filled commercials.
  • Vacant storefronts, abandoned homes and shuttered schools tell the story of the economy in the Northern San Joaquin Valley: This is the new normal. People are beginning to look at the 3-year-old economic downturn as a permanent condition rather than a storm to be weathered.

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