Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Man sentenced to jail for collecting rainwater in Oregon

An Oregon man is expected to spend a month in jail after being convicted on nine misdemeanor charges related to his illegal use of…water. Gary Harrington was sentenced after being found guilty of illegally collecting water on his own rural property.

Harrington, of Eagle Point, Oregon, has been fighting for his right to do what he wishes with water since 2002. Now more than a decade after he first defended himself over allegations that the man-made ponds on his 170 acres of land violated local law, Harrington has been sentenced to 30 days behind bars and fined over $1,500.

Authorities say that Harrington broke the law by collecting natural rain water and snow runoff that landed on his property. Officials with the Medford Water Commission contested that the water on Harrington’s property, whether or not it came from the sky, was considered a tributary of nearby Crowfoot Creek and thus subject to a 1925 law that gives the MWC full ownership and rights. Therefore prosecutors were able to argue in court — successfully — that three homemade fishing and boating ponds in Harrington’s backyard violated the law.

For filling “three illegal reservoirs” on his property with runoff water, Harrington has been convicted on nine misdemeanor charges in Circuit Court. He says he will attempt to appeal, but as long as the conviction stands to serve 30 days of imprisonment. He has also been sentenced to an additional three years of probation.

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Papa John’s franchise owner says Obamacare may force job cuts

Papa John’s pizza restaurant owner Judy Nichols’ plan to expand her business in Southeast Texas with a fourth location is on hold because of uncertainty over the impact “Obamacare” will have on her operations.

“I want to open a new restaurant, but without knowing how Obamacare will affect me, I can’t make plans,” Nichols said at a recent community forum in Beaumont on the new Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

Nichols had already purchased property and had blueprints drawn to begin building, but is shelving plans for now saying she has no idea how to budget for the federal mandate.

Small business owners like Nichols have been studying their options since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that one of the plan’s most controversial elements - the individual mandate — was constitutional.

The mandate, which the high court determined was a tax, requires individuals to purchase medical insurance or pay a penalty. Companies employing 50 or more people but which do not offer health insurance will have to pay a tax of $2,000 per employee.

Nichols currently has 85 employees and has a private carrier insurance plan in place. Each employee pays $90 per month, and Nichols matches that with $90 to cover the whole premium.

“That’s the cost if I continue to provide insurance. So I have two options, I can stop offering coverage and pay the $2,000 fine, or I could keep my number of staff under 50 so the mandate doesn’t apply.

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Federal Court finds Obama appointees interfered with New Black Panther prosecution

A federal court in Washington, DC, held last week that political appointees appointed by President Obama did interfere with the Department of Justice’s prosecution of the New Black Panther Party.

The ruling came as part of a motion by the conservative legal watch dog group Judicial Watch, who had sued the DOJ in federal court to enforce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents pertaining to the the New Black Panthers case. Judicial Watch had secured many previously unavailable documents through their suit against DOJ and were now suing for attorneys’ fees.

Obama’s DOJ had claimed Judicial Watch was not entitled to attorney’s fees since “none of the records produced in this litigation evidenced any political interference whatsoever in” how the DOJ handled the New Black Panther Party case. But United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton disagreed. Citing a “series of emails” between Obama political appointees and career Justice lawyers, Walton writes:

The documents reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision. Surely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decision-making.

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Ron Paul Revolution Follows Romney To Poland

Mitt Romney’s public appearance was greeted by Ron Paul supporters today, according to tweets and photos from the scene. This is pretty much the norm these days — but for he fact that today’s event was held in Gdansk, Poland.

Poland is one of many countries outside the U.S. that, despite never having Paul on any ballots, have Ron Paul contingents. The main website, RonPaul.pl, includes information about Ron Paul’s campaign, primary dates, even the current time in Texas, where Paul is from. The banner: “Kim jest Ron Paul?” (”Who is Ron Paul?”)

The group has garnered 2,000 likes on Facebook. Today won’t be the last we see of them: tomorrow, when Romney will be in Warsaw, there will be a planned demonstration outside his event.

Other international Paulite factions include Germans for Ron Paul, South Africans 4 Ron Paul Revolution, Australians for Ron Paul, France for Ron Paul 2012, and Serbia for Ron Paul.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Obamacare falling short already

The unintended, convoluted and costly consequences of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law are about to be realized. Obamacare was rushed through Congress in 2010 despite almost no one knowing what the 2,700-page law provided, apart from a vague promise to make health care more affordable and accessible.

This week, the Congressional Budget Office said that, because the U.S. Supreme Court, in ruling last month to validate most of the Affordable Care Act, allowed states to opt out of the law’s expansion of Medicaid, about 3 million fewer people will end up insured than originally estimated. This is guesswork because the CBO admits no one knows how many states will opt out. We believe many, if not all, states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors will opt out.

That news arrived about the same time a study was released showing about one in 10 U.S. employers plan to drop health coverage for workers in the next few years as Obamacare’s provisions go into effect. The consulting company Deloitte found 9 percent of companies expect to stop offering coverage, and another 10 percent are uncertain they will continue. Last year another firm, McKinsey & Co., said up to 30 percent of employers would “definitely or probably” stop offering insurance after 2014.

Obamacare’s perverse disincentives make it less costly for companies to pay fines for not providing health insurance than to pay health insurance premiums.

The bottom line? The new health care law already is on the road to providing fewer Americans health insurance coverage than promised despite a vast expansion of Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor, into the middle class, on top of giving employers incentives to drop coverage for their workers.

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