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Tags: Canada | May | Bypass | Keystone-XL | Climate Change Ranks Last in Gallup Poll | Obama School Lunches Shunned | Foreign-Language Speakers in US at All-Time High

Canada May Bypass Keystone XL; Climate Change Ranks Last in Gallup Poll; Obama School Lunches Shunned

By    |   Sunday, 19 October 2014 02:57 PM EDT

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Canadian Pipeline Could Replace Keystone XL
2. Foreign-Language Speakers in US at All-Time High
3. Poll: Climate Change Least Important of 13 Issues
4. More Students Shunning Michelle Obama's School Lunches
5. Pakistan Upholds Death Sentence for Christian Woman
6. Wireless Taxes Highest in Washington, Nebraska

1. Canadian Pipeline Could Replace Keystone XL

With the Obama administration still not approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, citing environmental concerns, Canada is seriously considering building a pipeline to deliver its oil to a port on its own east coast.

The 1,200-mile Keystone XL would transport crude from Alberta's oil sands to refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

Instead, the proposed $11 billion Energy East Project would send 1.1 million barrels of oil per day 2,900 miles east to Saint John, New Brunswick, which has supertanker access.

"Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the country's largest energy concern, TransCanada Corporation, seem ready to develop the Energy East Project as an alternative" to Keystone, the International Business Times reported.

The project would convert an underutilized 1950s-era natural gas pipeline to carry oil, and add extensions to each end: one to a terminal south of Alberta's oil sands, and the other from Montreal, Quebec, to a refinery in Saint John. From there it could be shipped globally, in particular to Europe and India.

The United States currently consumes most of Canada's oil exports but at a discount of up to $43 a barrel, which costs Canada an estimated $20 billion a year, according to Bloomberg News.

The project could be up and running by 2018, although it likely will face opposition from politicians in Quebec since the pipeline would cross the St. Lawrence River, a major source of drinking water for the local population.

Bloomberg observed: "Still, if this end run around the Keystone holdup comes to fruition, it would give a lift to Canadian oil and government interests who feel they're being played by Obama as he sweeps aside a long understood 'special relationship' between the world's two biggest trading partners to score political points with environmental supporters at home."

Editor's Note:


2. Foreign-Language Speakers in US at All-Time High

A record 61.8 million U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home, representing 21 percent, or 1 in 5 people, in the country.

The Census Bureau recently released data from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS). It includes both legal and illegal immigrants, but 44 percent of those who don't speak English at home, 27.2 million, were born in the United States.

The 61.8 million figure is up by 15 million since 2000 and by nearly 30 million since 1990.

By far the largest number of people in the U.S. who do not speak English at home speak Spanish, 38.4 million, comprising about 12 percent of the overall American population.

Chinese is second, with 3.02 million speakers.

Other languages with more than 1 million speakers last year were Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), French (1.2 million), and Korean and Arabic (1.1 million each).

The languages that have shown the largest increases from 2010 to 2013 are Arabic (22 percent growth), Urdu, the national language of Pakistan (13 percent), Chinese (8 percent), and Spanish 4 percent).

Amazingly, more than 43 percent of all California residents spoke a language other than English at home last year, as did 36 percent of residents in New Mexico, 34.7 percent of Texans, 30.4 percent of the population in New Jersey, 30.3 percent in Nevada, and 30 percent in New York.

The ACS also disclosed that of those who speak another language at home, 41 percent said they speak English less than very well.

"Allowing in over 1 million new legal immigrants a year and to a lesser extent tolerating illegal immigration has important implications for preserving a common language," said Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, which released a report on the ACS findings.

"For too long, we have given little consideration to whether continuing this level of immigration, mostly legal, hinders the assimilation of immigrants and their children."

Editor's Note:


3. Poll: Climate Change Least Important of 13 Issues

Registered voters consider climate change the least important of 13 issues in determining who they will vote for in November's congressional elections, a new Gallup poll reveals.

Just 40 percent of those polled said they consider climate change extremely or very important to their vote.

Secretary of State John Kerry said recently that climate change may be "the most serious challenge we face on the planet."

Evidently Americans don't agree.

Of the 13 issues cited, the economy was deemed extremely or very important by 88 percent of registered voters. It was followed by the availability of good jobs (86 percent), the way the federal government is working (81 percent), the situation with Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria (78 percent), equal pay for women (75 percent), and the federal budget deficit (73 percent).

Foreign affairs and taxes were both said to be extremely or very important by nearly 70 percent. The other issues deemed more important than climate change were immigration (65 percent), Obamacare (64 percent), the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S. (64 percent), and abortion and access to contraception (50 percent).

Poll respondents were also asked which party they believe would do a better job handling each issue.

On the issue considered the most important, the economy, 50 percent said Republicans would do a better job, compared to 39 percent for Democrats. The margin of 11 percentage points is up five points from a similar Gallup poll in April.

On the availability of good jobs, Republicans hold a slim one-point edge. But they have an eight-point edge on the way the federal government is working, a 19-point advantage on the situation with Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, and a 20-point edge on the federal budget deficit.

Among the six issues deemed the most important, Democrats lead only on equal pay for women, where they hold a 38-point advantage.

"Republicans lead Democrats on a number of issues of high importance to the electorate, including the economy, the situation in Iraq and Syria, and the federal budget deficit," Gallup noted.

"As the two parties enter the final campaign stretch, the electoral environment increasingly appears to favor the GOP."

Editor's Note:


4. More Students Shunning Michelle Obama's School Lunches

More than three-quarters of schools questioned in a nationwide survey say they have seen a decrease in students' participation in school lunches that comply with the nutritional standards championed by first lady Michelle Obama.

The poll by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) also found that 83.7 percent of school districts reported an increase in "plate waste" — food discarded by students.

And 81.8 percent of schools said they have had an increase in the cost of serving lunch due to the standards.

"We must address the visible realities of complying with school nutrition requirements," said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in a statement.

"Our poll shows that school leaders are in favor of good nutrition for children but concerned with the unintended consequences of the current federal regulations. Trays of uneaten cafeteria food thrown in the trash, hungry kids, and struggling school food-service programs are the practical realities many school districts and students face."

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, considered a cornerstone in Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign to reduce childhood obesity, calls for reduced sodium and fat, and more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The Insider Report disclosed in August that at that point 1 million fewer students nationwide were choosing a school lunch each day that complies with the nutritional standards.

Students who shun the lunches are instead bringing lunch from home, visiting nearby restaurants — including fast-food outlets — or skipping lunch altogether.

In many cases, students who do participate in the school lunch program and are required to take fruits and vegetables with their meals are simply throwing them away.

When a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter visited a school on a day when students were required to take green beans or applesauce with their chicken sandwiches, most of the green beans were thrown away.

Michelle Obama recently drew the ire of school cafeteria workers when she criticized some school districts for serving "junk food," Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reported.

She said at a White House event: "In a number of school districts, participation in the lunch program has actually risen. And there's a simple reason for that: It's because those districts actually put some effort into marketing the new meals to kids. They didn't just sit back and say, well, the kids like junk food so let's just give them junk food."

Patti Montague, chief executive of the School Nutrition Association, responded in a letter to the White House: "It is offensive to America's frontline cafeteria professionals to say that those who struggle with the national decline in school lunch participation have simply said, 'Well, the kids like junk food so let's just give them junk food.'"

Referring to an Agriculture Department finding that 49 states have seen a drop in student participation, Montague said: "USDA's data point to a national problem under the new standards, and it is not, as you imply, simply because schools have failed to 'put some effort into marketing the new meals to the kids.'"

Footnote: In the first two years since Michelle Obama launched her "Let's Move!" campaign, teenage obesity actually increased in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.4 percent of children ages 12 to 19 were classified as obese from 2009 to 2010. From 2011 to 2012, 20.5 percent were obese.

Editor's Note:


5. Pakistan Upholds Death Sentence for Christian Woman

A high court in Pakistan has upheld the death sentence for a Christian woman who was accused of "blasphemy" for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Asia Bibi, an illiterate farm laborer and mother of five, is the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death under the nation's stringent blasphemy laws.

After the high court in the provincial capital Lahore dismissed Bibi's appeal on Thursday, a pro-Christian organization accused the court's two judges of being influenced by two dozen Islamic clerics who reportedly were present in the courtroom to "apply pressure," CNS News reported.

The charge came from the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a group with branches in Pakistan and Britain that provides legal assistance to Christians accused under the blasphemy laws.

"I am very disappointed with today's result and my thoughts and prayers are with Asia's family," said CLAAS-UK director Nasir Saeed.

"It is not surprising that the judges were swayed by pressure from local influential Muslims, but I had hoped that justice would prevail and that the case would be judged based on its merits. While the rest of the world condemns such draconian laws, Pakistan continues to persecute its minorities simply because of their religion."

As the Insider Report disclosed in December, Asia was among a group of agricultural workers taking a drink from a communal well during a rest break in the summer of 2009.

When Asia, the only non-Muslim in the group, dipped her cup in the well, co-workers accused her of defiling the water because she is a Christian.

Asia replied, "I don't believe Mohammed would share the same view as you," according to CNS News.

A mob later came to her house and beat her. She was arrested and spent a year in jail before being charged. In November 2010, a judge sentenced her to death by hanging.

A month after her conviction, a Muslim cleric announced a reward equivalent to $10,000 for anyone who killed her, the Express Tribune in Pakistan reported.

The Insider Report updated Bibi's story in May and reported that after the governor of Punjab state, Salman Taseer, took up Bibi's case, he was shot dead by one of his bodyguards. Hundreds of lawyers offered the killer free representation and 500 Muslim scholars gave him an honorary title as "Lover of the Prophet."

Pakistan's federal minorities minister, a Christian who supported Bibi, was also shot dead.

CLAAS now plans to make a final appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court, but says because of a large backlog of cases the process could take years. Bibi has already been behind bars since June 2009.

Editor's Note:


6. Wireless Taxes Highest in Washington, Nebraska

Oregon and Washington are neighbors in the American Northwest, but they're worlds apart when it comes to state and local cellphone taxes.

Washington has the highest state and local wireless taxes in the nation — 18.6 percent including taxes, fees and surcharges. In Oregon, the taxes are just 1.76 percent, the lowest in the nation.

The federal government also imposes a tax on cellphones of 5.82 percent, bringing Washington's total taxes to 24.42 percent.

In Seattle, a typical single-line wireless consumer pays more than $11 in taxes, fees and surcharges on an average $49 monthly bill, according to a report from the Tax Foundation.

Other states with hefty cellphone taxes are Nebraska (18.48 in state and local taxes), New York (17.74 percent), Florida (16.55 percent), Illinois (15.81 percent), and Rhode Island and Missouri (both 14.58 percent).

In each of those states, total federal, state and local wireless taxes exceed 20 percent.

The lowest-taxing states after Oregon are Nevada (1.86 percent), Idaho (2.62 percent), Montana (6 percent), and West Virginia (6.15 percent).

The national average is 17.05 percent — 10.12 percent in state and local taxes plus the 5.82 federal tax — up from 14.13 percent in 2006.

The average rates of taxes and fees on wireless telephone services are more than two times higher than the average sales tax rates that apply to most other taxable goods and services, the Tax Foundation pointed out.

The greatest disparity between sales and wireless taxes is in Nebraska, where the sales tax rate is 7 percent and the wireless tax rate is 18.48, for a difference of 11.48 percent.

In Oregon, there is no sales tax, so the disparity is 1.76 percent. In Nevada, it is minus-5.93, since the wireless tax is significantly lower than the 7.79 sales tax rate.

In four cities — Chicago, Baltimore, Omaha, and New York — taxes on cellphones comprise more than 25 percent of the typical bill.

"Cellphones are increasingly the sole means of communication and connectivity for many Americans, particularly those struggling with poverty," the foundation's report observed, and "excessive taxes and fees impose a disproportionate burden on low-income consumers."

At the end of last year, more than 50 percent of poor adults had only wireless service, and nearly 40 percent of all adults were wireless-only, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Tax Foundation warns: "Congress is currently considering legislation to extend the federal moratorium on state and local taxes on Internet access. Should the moratorium not be extended by Congress, the excessive wireless taxes discussed in this report could be imposed on wireless Internet access. This could add significantly to the tax burden on wireless consumers."

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Editor's Note:


Editor's Notes:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Canadian Pipeline Could Replace Keystone XL 2. Foreign-Language Speakers in US at All-Time High 3. Poll: Climate Change Least Important of 13 Issues 4. More Students Shunning Michelle Obama's School Lunches 5....
Canada, May, Bypass, Keystone-XL, Climate Change Ranks Last in Gallup Poll, Obama School Lunches Shunned, Foreign-Language Speakers in US at All-Time High, Pakistan Upholds Death Sentence for Christian Woman, Wireless Taxes Highest in Washington, Nebraska
Sunday, 19 October 2014 02:57 PM
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