Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Chickens can't compete with gas tanks The price of corn has more than tripled in the last two years as the ethanol craze has swept common sense out the door and off the porch. This is leaving poultry producers crying "fowl!" as subsidized ethanol producers outbid them for the commodity that they need to feed the animals they raise for part of the human food supply. In recent weeks, groups that have been negatively impacted by the food-vs-fuel war that is raging in commodities markets has prompted applications for waivers from the ethanol mandates that were included in last years energy bill.

Hastert aide ratted out Vito's squeeze after a congressional junket where the still-married LtC Fay was the military escort, and neglected her duties in favor of waxing Fosella's flagpole. Hastert's then-chief-of-staff Scott Palmer was so put off by her lack of focus and overall lousy job performance that he reported his concerns about her behavior to her Pentagon superiors. "The person in charge from the military sticks like glue to the chairman or speaker, and she didn't, frankly. She was not always on top of things." (She may well have been on top of some things, but she wasn't on top of the things the American taxpayers were paying her to be on top of.)

Nancy, cast your eyes to Ohio, please and take a look at what some real-live Democrats have done that you should look into emulating. Faced with an unrepentant and recalcitrant screw-up who refused to step down as the states Attorney General, they impeached his ass this morning.

Obese pets are a problem everyone can relate to:Future pet food labels that indicate the number of calories per serving could help obese animals shed the extra pounds, a veterinarians' association recommended to the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday. "Pet owners do not always know how much to feed. They may not realize the high number of calories associated with some of the pet food they are giving their pets," said John Branam, testifying on behalf of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The FDA held the hearing as part of legislation passed last year that requires the administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine to establish pet food labeling standards in two years. According to the AVMA, 54 million pets in the U.S. are obese, an "epidemic" that the association says is growing at an alarming rate.

Miers predicts she will be at odds with Congress for a while: Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers predicted that her constitutional clash with Congress over executive privilege and the separation of powers doctrine may not be settled until after President Bush leaves office next year. Miers, a former U.S. Supreme Court nominee, was sued and cited for contempt by the Democratic-controlled Congress earlier this year for declining to talk about her role in the firings of U.S. attorneys while serving the Bush administration. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it extended beyond this administration,” Miers said following her speech Tuesday at a Tarrant County Bar Association luncheon celebrating Law Day. But it also could be settled at any time “with the agreement of the parties,” she said. “All sides had hoped, I suspect, that it would be resolved by accommodation. That hasn’t happened. Now it’s in the hands of the judiciary, which is the way the system works,” Miers said. “It’s an opportunity to see the Constitution actually function and work.” There is no evidence Miers actually sought accomodation that would have complied with the wishes of Congress, however.

New immigrants in California struggle to get an education, legal or otherwise: California's migrant students are struggling to meet high school graduation requirements for math and English -- if they enroll in high school at all -- and at all ages tend to learn English at a slower rate than other English-language learners, according to a report released Monday by the California Department of Education. The report assesses the progress and needs of the state's migrant student population -- children whose parents work in the fields or in other agriculture-related jobs, and who tend to change school districts as a result of their parents' work. California has the largest such population in the country, with more than 240,000 migrant students enrolled in public schools.

Jesse Jackson ridiculed by Secret Service agents: The Secret Service is under fire for racist and sexist e-mails, including one aimed at Chicago's Rev. Jesse Jackson. CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the e-mails were just released by the Secret Service as part of a long-running civil rights suit filed by African American agents. They contain racist and sexist jokes and pictures. The one about the Rev. Jackson has now led to a demand for the release of any other insulting references to members of the Jackson family in Secret Service files. Rev. Jackson's dealings with the Secret Service date back to his two campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s. He actually asked for and was assigned protective details before other candidates back then. The Secret Service e-mail, CBS 2 obtained from a court filing in Washington, was titled "The Righteous Reverend," and jokes about the deaths of Jackson and his wife when a missile strikes their plane. The e-mail ends with, it "certainly wouldn't be a great loss and probably wouldn't be an accident either." "This e-mail today tells me I have a lot less confidence in the secret Service than I did before it was exposed," said U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)

UPDATE on the Postville Immigration raid in Northeast Iowa: Federal officials say a raid at a northeastern Iowa meat processing plant this week was the largest in U.S. history. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say 390 people have been arrested on immigration charges after Monday's raid at Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville. The facility is the world's largest kosher meatpacking plant. The raid was aimed at seeking evidence of identity theft, stolen Social Security numbers and people who are in the country illegally. Fifty-six of those arrested have been released on humanitarian grounds; many of them have to take care of children. Others arrested in the raid at are being held in county jails and at a converted fairgrounds.

Housing indicators falling: Median home prices fell in two-thirds of the cities surveyed during the first three months of this year while 46 states reported declining sales, a real estate trade group reported Tuesday. The National Association of Realtors said that median prices for existing single-family homes dropped in 100 of 149 metropolitan areas in the January-March period, while 48 metropolitan areas saw prices increase and one reported no change. The price declines in 67 percent of the areas surveyed was the largest percentage of areas reporting declining prices in the history of the Realtors' survey, which goes back to 1979. Prices had fallen in 34 percent of the cities surveyed in the October-December survey. Nationally, the median home price - the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less - fell to $196,300 in the first quarter, down by 7.7 percent from the same period a year ago, when the median sales price was $212,600.

More headaches for the NRCC: After losing two special elections in conservative-minded districts over the past two months, the GOP is now at risk of losing a seat in the heart of the Deep South - and is pouring all its resources into hanging on to it, including a rare campaign trail appearance by Vice President Cheney on Monday. A third loss in Tuesday's 1st District special election would prompt new predictions of electoral doom in November, hurt the party's already flagging morale and usher in a new round of public finger-pointing among an already fractured GOP leadership. Southern Democrats, turned off for decades by the party's liberal-leaning leaders in Washington, seem to be coming home. This special election comes one week after Rep. Don Cazayoux (D-La.) picked up a House seat in the Baton Rouge area that Republicans had held for three decades. "You offer Southerners a conservative Democrat on the issues and a fiscal conservative, then I think they're understanding it now," said Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), who campaigned alongside Democratic nominee Travis Childers on Sunday. "They were fooled for about 12 years. What happened in 1994 is going to happen in reverse."

Yes, but who is watching to ensure they're really doing what they're supposed to be doing, without violating the privacy rights of the American people? FBI officials tell CBS News that there are currently more than 1,300 active investigations into mortgage fraud. That number has also been on the rise in recent years as the crisis has grown, with open investigations increasing 47% from 2006, according to a new FBI report on mortgage fraud. Of those active investigations, more than 50% involved losses of more than $1 million. The FBI has put hundreds of agents onto multiple nationwide task forces aimed at finding and prosecuting mortgage fraud and is currently looking at 19 large corporate entities involved in possible wrongdoing over subprime loans. According to the report, foreclosures increased more than 75% in 2007 over the previous year while the subprime share of outstanding loans more than doubled since 2003. There were more than 2.2 million foreclosures on over 1.2 million properties nationally in 2007. And the percentage of outstanding loans that are classified as subprime grew from 5% in 2003 to over 13% last year. For the federal government, the only real way to measure mortgage fraud is the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by homeowners and authorities to the FBI. Last year there were more than 46,700 reports, up 31% over the previous year. FBI officials tell CBS News that the bureau is on pace to pass 65,000 SARs for 2008, which would be a new record. As a reference point, there were only 6,900 such reports in all of 2003. A "SAR" report is what, ultimately, led government investigators to former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer.

This is taking the whole obsession with punishment thing entirely too far There is a man in Butler County, Ohio who is sitting in jail tonight because his daughter has failed to get her GED. The girl is now 18, but as a 16-year-old living with her mother (her father had been granted custody) she skipped a lot of school and was a troubled truant. Her father was ordered to "stay on top of" her education. Because she has failed to get her GED - she has taken the test and failed the math portion - her father was sentenced to six months in jail. This man is married to his second wife, has a stable life and is at risk of losing the job he has held for 15 years. I agree that parents are responsible for their children...up to a point. But this is tyranny from the bench.

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