Most NYC Cigarettes Are Smuggled; Obama Emissions Cuts Futile; Apostasy a Crime in 21 Nations

Sunday, 15 Jun 2014 12:50 PM

By Special from Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Emissions Cuts in US Won't Impact Climate
2. Convicts Can Work As Home Healthcare Providers
3. Attacks on Teachers Set New Record
4. Dozens of Nations Still Outlaw Apostasy, Blasphemy
5. Most Cigarettes in New York Now Are Smuggled
6. Next Olympics City Among World's Most Dangerous
 

1. Emissions Cuts in US Won't Impact Climate

The Obama administration's recently announced proposal to cut U.S. carbon emissions is partly intended to encourage other large-scale emitters to cut their levels as well.

But persuading other nations to do that "won't be easy," Gautam Naik asserts in The Wall Street Journal — and U.S. cuts alone will have minimal impact.

The American proposal would cut overall domestic carbon emissions by just 3 percent to 4 percent by 2020, according to Connie Hedegaard, commissioner for climate action in the European Commission, which sets laws for the European Union.

By comparison, the EU's emissions are set to decline 24 percent, and the EU goal is to cut them by 40 percent by 2030, Hedegaard noted.

And Stephen Eule, a vice president at the Institute for 21st Century Energy, part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said: "No matter what your view of climate change, these [U.S.] reductions will be dwarfed by increased emissions in other parts of the world.

"For every ton of carbon dioxide that's reduced in the administration's proposal, there will be at least six to seven tons of increase [elsewhere]. Unless the rest of the world gets on board, this won't have an impact on the climate."

But many developing countries are trying to industrialize their economies and will resist large domestic reductions in carbon emissions, Naik said.

"China has such a vast program of building new coal-fired power plants that it can't simply be stopped," said Gordon Hughes, a professor of economics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who has studied climate change in China for the World Bank.

Environmental experts in India, another rapidly industrializing nation, maintain that if the United States expects developing nations to cut emissions, then America has to take a bolder step.

"Carbon emissions in the U.S. are significantly more than emissions by India," a senior environment ministry official told the Journal.

"The U.S. is a developed country and should do a 60 percent to 70 percent cut."

While the cuts in America won't seriously impact the climate, they are likely to impact the cost of energy, particularly electricity.

And that will hit the poor the hardest, the Insider Report recently pointed out.

Americans in the lowest fifth of the income distribution spend 24 percent of their income on energy, compared to 4 percent for those in the top fifth.

Editor's Note:



2. Convicts Can Work As Home Healthcare Providers

In 10 U.S. states, convicts can avoid background checks and be hired as home healthcare workers, a security loophole that federal investigators warn could lead to abuse.

Home healthcare workers offer skilled nursing care in a home setting for the elderly and homebound. In 2012, home health agencies (HHAs), which hire the providers, served about 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries at a cost of almost $18.5 billion.

But a report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General (IG) notes that there are no federal laws or regulations "that prohibit HHAs from hiring individuals who have been convicted of crimes (e.g., assault, rape, and theft) or who have had a finding concerning abuse, neglect, mistreatment of beneficiaries, or misappropriation of beneficiary property."

There are also no background checks required by the state in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

"Beneficiaries receiving care from HHAs are especially at risk of mistreatment because employees are providing services, usually unsupervised, in beneficiaries' homes," the IG report states.

The other 40 states do require checks, but only 15 require the agency to receive and confirm the results of the check before a person can begin working with patients, The Washington Times reported.

Another 20 states permit providers to serve patients for a specified timeframe while background checks are conducted. But six states — Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington — have "no maximum timeframe during which an individual may work without a completed background check," the IG reported.

And in 16 states, persons who were denied home healthcare employment due to a criminal violation can apply to have the conviction waived.

A spokesman for the Service Employees International Union told the Times that states should run background checks on all direct care workers "to ensure that individuals with a history of violence or financial malfeasance do not participate as a provider."

Editor's Note:



3. Attacks on Teachers Set New Record

The number of U.S. teachers who were physically attacked set an all-time record in the 2011-2012 school year — 209,800 primary and secondary school teachers reported being physically attacked by students, a new government report reveals.

That was up 34.5 percent from the previous record of 156,000 teachers who were attacked in the 2007-2008 school year.

The 208-page report was released on Monday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Educational Statistics, and offers the most recent "national indicators" on school crime and safety.

"Our nation's schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and violence," the report states.

The report defines a physical attack as "an actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against his or her will, or the intentional causing of bodily harm to an individual."

During 2011-2012, 5 percent of teachers reported being physically attacked by a student, and on average, 1,175 teachers were physically attacked each day of the school year, according to data based on the responses of nearly 60,000 public and private school teachers.

Among teachers in public schools, 197,400 or about 6 percent reported being attacked, as did 12,400 or 3 percent of private school teachers.

Six percent of female teachers reported being attacked, compared to 4 percent of male teachers.

The report also disclosed that 9 percent of teachers reported being threatened with injury by a student in 2011-2012.

Among the states, the percentage of public school teachers who were threatened with injury ranged from 5 percent in Oregon to 18 percent in Louisiana.

And the percentage who reported being physically attacked ranged from 3 percent in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, and Tennessee to 11 percent in Wisconsin.

Other findings include:

  • In 2012, among students ages 12 to 18, there were about 1,364,900 nonfatal "victimizations" at schools, including 615,600 victims of theft and 749,200 victims of violence, 89,000 of which were serious violent victimizations.
  • In the 2011-2012 school year, 35 percent of teachers said student tardiness and class cutting interfered with their teaching, and 38 percent agreed that student misbehavior interfered with their teaching.
  • During that school year, 88 percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours, and 64 percent said they used security cameras to monitor the school.
  • Editor's Note:



    4. Dozens of Nations Still Outlaw Apostasy, Blasphemy

    The death sentence handed down to a pregnant woman in Sudan for the crime of "apostasy" has created a furor worldwide, but 20 other nations have laws against apostasy as well.

    And even more countries have laws against blasphemy, including nations in Europe and the Americas.

    Last week the Insider Report disclosed that Sudanese doctor Meriam Ibrahim, who is married to an American citizen, was charged with apostasy for converting from Islam to Christianity. She was jailed with her 20-month-old toddler and gave birth to another child in late May.

    Apostasy — abandoning one's faith, including by converting to another religion — is a capital offense in Sudan.

    But worldwide, 11 percent of nations — 21 countries — outlawed apostasy as of 2012, including all the Arab nations in the Middle East, along with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Comoros, Maldives, Malaysia, Mauritania, Somalia, and Nigeria, according to a new Pew Research analysis.

    All these nations are predominantly Muslim except Nigeria, where 48.8 percent of the population was Muslim in 2012.

    But not all Muslim countries outlaw apostasy, including Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, Libya, Bangladesh, and Turkey.

    Laws against blasphemy, defined as speech or actions considered contemptuous of God or the divine, are far more common than strictures against apostasy. Nearly a quarter of the world's nations had anti-blasphemy laws or policies in 2012, according to Pew.

    The nations that outlaw apostasy by and large also punish blasphemy as a crime, some of them severely. A Christian man in Pakistan was recently sentenced to death by hanging for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad during a conversation with a Muslim friend.

    In Europe, six countries still have laws on the books outlawing blasphemy — Germany, Poland, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, and Greece.

    In the Americas, 11 countries outlaw blasphemy, including Guyana, Belize, and several Caribbean island nations.

    In the United States, there are no federal blasphemy laws. But as of 2012, several states, including Michigan and Massachusetts, still had laws on the books, although the First Amendment "would almost certainly prevent the enforcement of any such laws," Pew pointed out.

    Blasphemy laws are also in effect in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Maldives — where all citizens are required to be Muslim — and of course, Sudan.

    Editor's Note:



    5. Most Cigarettes in New York Are Now Smuggled

    More than half of the cigarettes consumed in New York, 56.9 percent, are now smuggled into the state, according to a report from the Tax Foundation.

    And it's no wonder: The cigarette tax in New York is $4.35 a pack, the highest in the nation. And New York City imposes an additional $1.50 tax, bringing the total taxes to $5.85 a pack — nearly 35 times higher than in the lowest-taxed state.

    The cigarette tax in New York has risen 190 percent since 2006, and the smuggling rate has surged 59 percent.

    The Tax Foundation report is based on data from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan think tank. Their latest report uses data from 2012 and shows that smuggled cigarettes make up substantial portions of cigarette consumption in many states, and more than 25 percent of consumption in 12 states.

    It also points out that cigarette tax rates increased in 30 states between 2006 and 2012.

    "Public policies often have unintended consequences that outweigh their benefits," the foundation observed. "One consequence of high state cigarette tax rates has been increased smuggling as criminals procure discounted packs from low-tax states to sell in high-tax states."

    The second-highest percentage of smuggled cigarettes is in Arizona, 51.5 percent, where the 2012 tax is $2, followed by neighboring New Mexico (48.1 percent) where the tax is $1.66.

    In Washington State, where the tax is $3.025 per pack, 48 percent of cigarettes are smuggled, as are 34.6 percent in Wisconsin, which has raised its tax 227 percent from 2006 to 2012, to $2.52.

    Other states where the tax is more than $2 are Rhode Island, where 32.4 percent of cigarettes are smuggled, Connecticut (25.7 percent), New Jersey (15.5 percent), and Massachusetts (12.7 percent).

    The tax in Vermont is $2.62, but the rate is -2.3 percent, meaning that percentage of cigarettes sold there are sent to another state.

    The highest outbound smuggling rate is in New Hampshire, -24.2 percent, even though its tax is $1.68. In Wyoming, where the tax is $0.60, it's -22.3 percent, and in Idaho, with its $0.57 tax, it's -21.3 percent.

    The lowest taxes on cigarettes are in Missouri, $0.17 (-11.7 percent), and Virginia, $0.30 (-21.1 percent).

    North Carolina is not included in the data, but with a large tobacco industry and a tax of just $0.45, the state undoubtedly has an outbound percentage. Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia are also not included.

    There is a $1.01 per pack federal excise tax, in addition to the state tax. Some municipalities also have a cigarette tax, and most states charge a sales tax on top of all the other taxes.

    Nationwide, as much as $10 billion in state and federal tax revenue is lost each year due to smuggling, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

    The Tax Foundation concludes: "Growing cigarette tax differentials have made cigarette smuggling both a national problem and a lucrative criminal enterprise."

    Editor's Note:



    6. Olympics City Among World's 'Most Dangerous'

    Rio de Janiero, Brazil, will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and is one of the host cities for soccer's 2014 World Cup. But it has another distinction — as one of the world's most dangerous cities.

    And the city declared the most dangerous of all is a Latin American metropolis many Americans have likely never heard of.

    The travel site EscapeHere.com has published a list of what it asserts are the world's "10 most dangerous cities to travel."

    At the top of the list is San Pedro Sula, a city of around 870,000 in northwest Honduras. The city is plagued by the illegal drug trade, arms trafficking, and gang activity. In 2012 it had the world's highest murder rate, 169 per 100,000 population — about three murders a day, according to CNN. Some have dubbed it "the murder capital of the world."

    Karachi, Pakistan, is No. 2 on the list. The city suffers from political unrest and terrorism, and assassinations are common, as are suicide bombings and gang warfare, EscapeHere.com reports.

    No. 3 is no surprise — Kabul, the capital of war-torn Afghanistan, where terrorist bombings are common, as they are in the next city on the list, Baghdad, Iraq.

    Acapulco, Mexico, is No. 5. Formerly a luxurious resort area, drug violence has now made it dangerous. The murder rate, one of the world's highest, recently stood at 142 per 100,000 population.

    Next is Guatemala City, which is also plagued by drug violence and a high murder rate. Common crimes include street robberies, bus holdups, and carjackings.

    Rio de Janeiro is No. 7. The city is safer than it was a decade ago, EscapeHere.com notes, but street crimes are still common in many areas, especially at night.

    Cape Town, South Africa, No. 8, is afflicted by poverty, social unrest, and an extremely high crime rate. Visitors are advised not to travel alone at night.

    Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is No. 9. It had the world's highest murder rate for several years until it was overtaken by San Pedro Sula. Police are often employed or paid off by drug gangs, the website states, and many crimes go unreported.

    Rounding out the list is Caracas, the capital of Venezuela and another city plagued by drug violence. Street crimes such as muggings and theft are common. Note: Newsmax magazine is now available on the iPad. Find us in the App Store.

    Editor's Note:



    Editor's Notes:

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