Thursday, May 28, 2015
Posted By Michael Bastasch On 2:13 PM 05/27/2015
The EPA has released its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule critics say would allow the agency to regulate waterways previously not under federal jurisdiction, including puddles, ditches and isolated wetlands.
Republicans, farmers and industrial groups have called the rule an EPA “power grab” because it extends the agency’s powers to new heights. Environmentalists and the Obama administration, however, argue the WOTUS rule is necessary for protecting water quality.
No matter how you spin it, the EPA’s WOTUS rule does expand the agency’s authority, and creates new avenues for environmental groups to sue projects they want to stop from moving forward.
“The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.
“Despite their assurances, it appears that EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have failed to keep their promises to Congress and the American people,” echoed Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe. “In fact, instead of fixing the overreach in the proposed rule, remarkably, EPA has made it even broader.”
Farmers and industry groups worry the new WOTUS rule will expand EPA reach over isolated wetlands, ponds and ditches that have a “significant nexus” to navigable waters — a vague standard employed by the EPA to regulate bodies of water.
This could add another layer of permitting for industries and homeowners as well as more uncertainty caused by the expanded federal role in regulating bodies of water.
“Rather than clarifying the Clean Water Act, today’s ‘interpretive’ guideline from the EPA called the ‘Waters of the United States’ rule entrenches the confused, case-by-case ‘significant nexus’ approach employed by the EPA and USACE,” William Yeatman, a policy analyst at the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute said in an emailed statement.
But the EPA says its new rule is based on more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies and “clearly defines” what sources of water the agency now has jurisdiction over. The new WOTUS rule is meant to clear up confusion in the wake of two Supreme Court decisions over federal control of waters, according to the agency.
EPA chief Gina McCarthy even authored a blog post telling farmers that “planting, harvesting, and moving livestock across streams have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation; the Clean Water Rule doesn’t change that.”
“The final rule doesn’t create any new permitting requirements for agriculture, maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions, and even adds exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, water-filled depressions from construction, and grass swales—all to make clear our goal is to stay out of agriculture’s way,” McCarthy wrote.
“The rule, for example, is meant to clarify that federal agencies won’t regulate features like intermittent waterways or wetlands that don’t connect to a larger body of water,” she said. “The rule also wouldn’t affect artificial lakes and ponds, grass swales and depressions from construction and other activity that fill with water.”
The EPA further clarifies its only applies to tributaries wit “physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark.” But agency efforts to ease agriculture and industry concerns seem to have achieved little.
“What’s the point of muddying the (interpretive) waters?” Yeatman asked. “The answer is that a federal government intent on expanding its jurisdiction welcomes ambiguity, because blurry lines are more easily crossed than definitive boundaries. In this fashion, today’s rule codifies uncertainty, which is the opposite of what a clarifying rule is supposed to do.”
Unions Now Want An Exemption From The Minimum Wage Hike They Pushed
BY JOHN MERLINE
Those who think the minimum wage doesn't cost jobs might want to have a chat with unions in Los Angeles.
After pushing for a big hike in that city's minimum wage — which will climb to $15 an hour by 2020 — labor leaders now want an exemption for companies that have unionized workers.
Why? Because, according to Rusty Hicks, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, "with a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them."
The union exemption would, Hicks said, give "the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing."
Wait just a minute.
Isn't this precisely what happens when anyone applies for a job, whether it's through collective bargaining or one-on-one?
An employer and a prospective employee negotiate the terms of employment that suit them both, including the mix of wages, benefits and perks. If either side doesn't like the offer, the deal's off.
It's called the free market. And it works just as well when it comes to pricing labor as it does cars, homes, food, stocks, vacation packages and countless other things bought and sold every day.
What's more, when the government intervenes in this pricing process — by mandating artificially higher or lower prices — it inevitably creates shortages or surpluses.
In the case of a higher minimum wage, it does both: It creates a shortage of entry-level jobs and a surplus of unemployed workers.
When restaurants and other businesses in Los Angles tried to explain this to the city council and ask for the "freedom to negotiate" wages with their own workers, labor activists shot them down.
Apparently, only union bosses can be trusted with the free market.
Our Tom Blumer pointed out that AP reported that CEOs in the media industry earn more because the celebrities in the media industry earn more, and noted from a conservative perspective that there may valid business reasons for pay hikes.
But let’s turn it around and look at it from the Left for a minute and explore the angle of media hypocrisy. Did anyone at the networks pick up the story if liberals felt CEO pay was excessive, the media itself was Exhibit A? Nope, not at ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN.
AP's Steve Rothwell and Ryan Nakashima began their May 26 story:
Six of the 10 highest-paid CEOs last year worked in the media industry, according to a study carried out by executive compensation data firm Equilar and The Associated Press.The best-paid chief executive of a large American company was David Zaslav, head of Discovery Communications, the pay-TV channel operator that is home to "Shark Week." His total compensation more than quadrupled to $156.1 million in 2014 after he extended his contract.Les Moonves of CBS held on to second place in the rankings, despite a drop in pay from a year earlier. His pay package totaled $54.4 million.The remaining four CEOs, from entertainment giants Viacom, Walt Disney, Comcast and Time Warner, have ranked among the nation's highest-paid executives for at least four years, according to the Equilar/AP pay study.
Here’s the top ten “overpaid” CEOs:
1. David Zaslav, Discovery Communications, $156.1 million, up 368 percent2. Leslie Moonves, CBS, $54.4 million, down 17 percent3. Philippe Dauman, Viacom [used to be merged with CBS], $44.3 million, up 19 percent4. Robert Iger, Walt Disney [ABC], $43.7 million, up 27 percent5. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo, $42.1 million, up 69 percent6. Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, $42 million, up 16 percent7. Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com $39.9 million, up 27 percent8. Jeffrey Leiden, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, $36.6 million, up 179 percent9. Brian Roberts, Comcast [NBC], $33 million, up 5 percent10. Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner [CNN], $32.7 million, unchanged
AP explained how this dramatic “income inequality” occurred:
The media magnate Sumner Redstone controls almost 80 percent of the voting stock at CBS and Viacom. Because of his large holdings, Redstone can easily override the concerns of other investors about the level of CEO pay. Discovery's voting stock is heavily influenced by the brothers Si and Donald Newhouse and John Malone, another influential investor in the media industry.At Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal Studios, CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts controls a third of his company's voting stock. That means he has substantial influence on the pay he is awarded. Comcast had no comment when contacted for this story.All the media executives have tried, with varying degrees of success, to maximize the value of their company's entertainment brands online and on mobile devices.For example, Moonves at CBS launched the series Under the Dome -- based on the Stephen King novel -- on the network and the Amazon Prime streaming service. Besides reaching online customers, the move helped offset production costs. The company, whose shows also include NCIS and The Good Wife, has attracted 100,000 customers to CBS All Access, an online subscription platform that costs $6 a month. Time Warner, under CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, launched HBO Now, which streams shows to computers, tablets and smartphones for $15 a month.At Disney, CEO Bob Iger has bolstered revenues through canny acquisitions.The purchase of Marvel in 2009 is reaping dividends with blockbuster superhero movies. Avengers: Age of Ultron pulled in almost $190 million in its opening weekend, making it the second-biggest U.S. movie opening. Disney's purchase of LucasFilms in 2012 means it owns the lucrative Star Wars franchise, with the next installment scheduled for release in December.Disney spokesman David Jefferson said in an email Iger's pay award "reflected the company's outstanding financial performance," and cited its record earnings. He also said during Iger's tenure, Disney has returned more than $51 billion to stockholders through share buybacks and dividends.
But nobody at the networks is getting out their calculators and figuring out how much more an executive like Iger makes compared to the entry-level Disney amusement-park employee. And no one expects the show Undercover Boss to feature Les Moonves rubbing elbows in disguise with the low-level CBS rank and file.
Published May 28, 2015
Recently released emails detail then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's interest in arming Libyan opposition groups using private security contractors before the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 – though at the time, the opposition was not formally recognized by the U.S. or United Nations, which prohibited arming without following strict guidelines and oversight.
The issue remains so sensitive that the emails recently released by the State Department redacted a key line on the matter. But the unredacted version of the same email, released to the congressional Benghazi Select Committee and first posted by The New York Times last Thursday, showed Clinton appearing to endorse the idea of using private contractors to her then-deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan.
"FYI. The idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered," Clinton wrote to Sullivan on April 8, 2011, attaching an intelligence report from Hillary’s adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The opposition was known as the Transitional National Council, or TNC.
Another email released by the State Department shows that five days earlier, on April 3, 2011, Bill Clinton said he would not rule out arming the Libyan opposition. The story was circulated by Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton's principal personal adviser at the State Department, to "H." While it's not clear who “H” is, based on the message traffic it is likely Hillary Clinton or possibly adviser Huma Abedin.
Later that same year, a Sept. 10, 2011 email with a subject line "Rogers" said, "Apparently wants to see you to talk Libya/weapons."
At the time, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was Mike Rogers, who abruptly announced he would not seek re-election in the spring of 2014. Rogers did not immediately respond to questions seeking comment. Fox News also filed its own Freedom of Information Act request for the documents in October 2012.
Current and former intelligence and administration officials consistently have skirted questions about weapons shipments, first documented by Fox News in October 2012, one month after the Benghazi terrorist attack, and what role the movement played in arming extremist groups the U.S. government is now trying to defeat in Syria and Iraq.
Through shipping records, Fox News confirmed that the Libyan-flagged vessel Al Entisar, which means "The Victory," was received in the Turkish port of Iskenderun -- 35 miles from the Syrian border -- on Sept. 6, 2012, five days before the Benghazi terrorist attack. The cargo reportedly included surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles, RPG's and Russian-designed shoulder-launched missiles known as MANPADS.
On the movement of weapons, in an interview broadcast May 11, former acting CIA director Mike Morell said the CIA and U.S. government “played no role. Now whether we were watching other people do it, I can't talk about it.”
Heavily redacted congressional testimony, declassified after the House intelligence committee’s Benghazi investigation concluded in 2014, shows conflicting accounts about the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria were apparently given to lawmakers.
On Nov. 15, 2012, Morell and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified "Yes" on whether the U.S. intelligence community was aware arms were moving from Libya to Syria. This line of questioning by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who is now the intelligence committee chairman, was shut down by his predecessor Rogers, who said not everyone in the classified hearing was "cleared" to hear the testimony, which means they did not have a sufficient security clearance.
An outside analyst told Fox News that Rogers' comments suggest intelligence related to the movement of weapons was a "read on," and limited to a very small number of recipients.
Six months later, on May 22, 2013, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, now chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked if the CIA was "monitoring arms that others were sending into Syria." Morell said, "No, sir."
Several individuals connected to Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s term at the State Department now work at the D.C. consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies. Among them are Clinton’s principal gatekeeper Philippe Reines; Morell, who’s listed as a senior counselor; and Andrew Shapiro, who was a Clinton policy adviser at the State Department whose portfolio included ridding Libya of shoulder-launched missiles called MANPADs. Critics argue no group knows more about Benghazi or has such a vested interest in the outcome of the congressional Benghazi investigation.