Tags: Obama | Plays | Politics | on-Keystone | Adelson Spends 16M to Put Israel on Moon Ivory Ban | E-Cig Taxes Carry Nasty Results

Adelson Spends $16M to Put Israel on Moon; Obama Plays Politics on Keystone

By    |   Monday, 21 April 2014 12:04 AM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Obama Playing Politics With Keystone Pipeline
2. Tax Freedom Day Is April 21 This Year
3. Federal Ivory Ban Has 'Unintended Consequences'
4. GOP Bankroller Adelson Gives $16M to Send Israel to Moon
5. Taxing E-Cigarettes Would Encourage Smoking
6. Internet Users Still Confident in Online Business

1. Obama Playing Politics With Keystone Pipeline

President Obama is holding off approving construction of the vital Keystone XL pipeline not for environmental concerns but for political reasons — his fear of alienating one of his core constituencies, environmentalists, charges online magazine The American.

The pipeline would facilitate delivery of up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to refineries in the United States. The State Department concluded in 2011 that Keystone poses "no significant impacts" on the environment, and reiterated that finding earlier this year.

Yet the administration insists that the pipeline will be approved only if "it does not significantly exacerbate" carbon pollution.

"President Obama refuses simply to get out of the way of what should be the routine construction of energy infrastructure — why?" asks The American, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute.

Is protecting America from "dirty oil" from Canada the reason? Oil from Canada's oil-sands fields is already flowing into the United States by pipeline from Alberta to Oklahoma. The Keystone would simply extend the pipeline to the Gulf Coast and add another leg from Alberta to Nebraska.

Safety concerns? A recent study by the Fraser Institute disclosed that the transport of oil and gas is safer by pipeline than by rail or roadway.

Economic concerns? The State Department predicted that pipeline construction would produce about 42,100 jobs throughout America and boost local property tax revenue in many places.

Obama's opposition to Keystone isn't based on popularity, either. Pew polling reveals that 65 percent of Americans support extension of the pipeline and just 30 percent oppose it.

"That 30 percent, of course, includes the hard core of the environmental movement, and that may be the key to understanding the president's opposition," states The American article written by Kenneth P. Green, senior director of natural resource studies at the Fraser Institute, and Alan W. Dowd, a senior fellow there.

"Rather than building broad political support around unifying themes, Obama has generally advanced his agenda by cobbling together short-term coalitions comprised of micro-issue blocs. One of those blocs is the environmental movement," they write.

"Keeping Keystone in limbo keeps them happy, and the president — and his allies in Congress — probably reckon that they gain more from the environmentalists' deep and lasting support than from a temporary spike in the national polls."

Obama in general opposes the hydrocarbon economy. But the fact is, oil is the fuel of "both the present and the foreseeable future," The American asserts.

Petroleum is the primary source of energy for the entire country, accounting for 36 percent, followed by natural gas at 26 percent, and coal at 18 percent. Renewables account for just 9 percent.

What's more, North America now has access to huge supplies of oil and gas thanks to new fracking and horizontal drilling techniques, and the United States could have sufficient supplies to allow the export of oil and gas.

But pressure from the environmentalists can also be blamed in part for preventing America from becoming an energy exporter.

The 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, passed after the 1973-74 oil embargo crisis, bans most exports of U.S. crude oil.

Exporting natural gas is legal, but the Department of Energy has been slow in approving the terminals needed for liquefying the gas so it can be shipped overseas.

"Energy companies have been urging Congress to lift the lid on exports and start treating oil and gas again like any other commodity that's freely traded in world markets," The Daily Beast pointed out.

The strongest opposition to oil and gas exports has come from a coalition of environmental activists, who wrote an open letter to President Obama claiming that natural gas exports would make it "almost impossible" for the world to avoid "catastrophic climate change," adding that the nation's fossil fuel reserves should stay "in the ground."

The Daily Beast concluded: "What makes no sense is to let the dead hand of 40-year-old energy policies constrain America's freedom of action today."

Editor's Note:

2. Tax Freedom Day Is April 21 This Year

Americans on average will work until Monday, April 21, to pay off their total tax burdens this year — three days longer than last year, according to the Tax Foundation.

The foundation each year calculates Tax Freedom Day, when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.

This year Americans will pay $3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state taxes, for a total of $4.5 trillion, up from $4.22 trillion last year.

Tax Freedom Day 2014 is 111 days into the year, and "three days later than last year due mainly to the country's continued slow economic recovery, which is expected to boost tax revenues especially from the corporate, payroll, and individual income tax," foundation economists Kyle Pomerleau and Lyman Stone noted.

Americans will spend more on taxes this year than they will spend on food, clothing, and housing combined.

If federal borrowing, representing future taxes owed, is included in the calculation, Tax Freedom Day would not come until May 6 this year — 15 days later.

Not including borrowing, the latest calendar date of Tax Freedom Day was May 1, 2000. A century earlier, in 1900, it fell on Jan. 22. With borrowing included, the latest day was May 21, 1945, during World War II.

This year Americans will work 33 days to pay federal income tax; 27 days to pay Social Insurance taxes — which includes Social Security; 13 days for sales and excise taxes; 11 days for property taxes; and nine days for state and local income taxes. Also included are federal excise taxes, federal corporate income taxes, state and local corporate income taxes, and several other outlays.

This year's April 21 date is an average — individual states have their own Tax Freedom Day. Higher-income and higher-tax states mark Tax Freedom Day later, while lower-income and lower-tax states mark it earlier.

The latest state Tax Freedom Days in 2014 will be May 9 in Connecticut and New Jersey, May 4 in New York, and April 30 in California.

The earliest days this year came on March 30 in Louisiana, April 2 in Mississippi, and April 4 in South Dakota.

Editor's Note:

3. Federal Ivory Ban Has 'Unintended Consequences'

A proposed federal ban on ivory trading could outlaw the resale of many common objects — including pianos — and is unlikely to reduce the illegal ivory trade, according to a report from the Hoover Institution.

The Department of the Interior, which is charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act, recently announced plans to introduce a "ban on Commercial Trade of Ivory as Part of Overall Effort to Combat Poaching, Wildlife Trafficking."

But the ban would have "unintended consequences," the report points out.

The ban would cover the sale of objects that contain any amount of ivory, and the shipment across state lines by the owner of any object that contains ivory.

"With all guns blazing, the White House report steps up enforcement at all stages of production and distribution, without once mentioning the competing interests of current property owners of ivory: piano keys, chess sets, ivory pegs and bridges for fancy guitars, dice, tea sets, and thousands of other decorative uses are all caught up in the downwind," report author Richard A. Epstein observes.

"The proposed regulations appear to require that a piano owner show, for example, that the ivory found in its keys, some of which could be replacements, came in through one of 13 ports that were licensed to receive goods made of ivory. But these ports did not keep records until 1982."

The ban would not affect ivory sales in the rest of the world. In fact, removing ivory in the United States from the market will increase the value of new ivory sources, further incentivizing poachers and traders, according to Epstein, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Lawrence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University.

Ivory hunters currently slaughter up to 35,000 African elephants a year, and a pound of ivory can fetch $1,500.

But Epstein maintains that there is no reason to believe a domestic ban in the United States will have "any discernible positive effect" on the illegal ivory trade.

He concludes: "In light of these considerations, Interior should rethink the scope of its regulations fast."

Editor's Note:

4. GOP Bankroller Adelson Gives $16M to Send Israel to Moon

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife have pledged $16.4 million to fund SpaceIL, the Israeli mission to the moon.

The donation by the Jewish couple's Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation was reported by the Israeli news site hayadan.org.il.

"Sheldon and I are thrilled to be supporting the SpaceIL association in its effort to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon," Miriam said. "As a physician and an Israel-born scientist, I am particularly proud of the positive effect this will have on a generation of young Israelis and non-Israelis."

The SpaceIL project has 20 full-time staffers and 250 volunteers, and aims to land a spacecraft on the moon at a cost of about $37 million, Forward.com reported.

SpaceIL is the only team running its project through philanthropic contributions rather than corporate sponsorships, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

Yariv Bash, a co-founder of SpaceIL, said that once the Israeli spacecraft lands on the lunar surface, he hopes it will carry out a number of experiments including the first attempt to grow plants outside the earth.

Adelson was a major donor to Republican campaigns during the 2012 election cycle. He and his wife spent more than $92 million helping mostly losing candidates, and in the next cycle they plan to support a GOP presidential candidate they believe will have broad electoral appeal.

But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is not likely to be Adelson's choice. An Adelson confidant has said that he cannot support Christie in 2016 because the governor used the term "occupied territories" in discussing the West Bank at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Editor's Note:

5. Taxing E-Cigarettes Would Encourage Smoking

Budget proposals imposing additional taxes on e-cigarettes would discourage smokers from switching from more harmful regular cigarettes to the vapor devices, Reason Foundation argues.

Minnesota is currently the only state with a specific tax policy on e-cigarettes. Lawmakers voted in 2012 to place a 95 percent tax on the wholesale price of the devices, which are battery-powered and use heat to vaporize a liquid solution that usually contains nicotine and flavoring.

But more than two dozen states are reportedly weighing plans to tax e-cigarettes as a new source of revenue.

New Jersey has announced a plan to tax e-cigarettes at the same rate as tobacco cigarettes: about $2.70 a pack, on top of the 7 percent sales tax already imposed. But some Garden State lawmakers are wary.

"It seems like we're going to catch a lot of people with this price point that will either go elsewhere to buy or will not buy it and continue to smoke a cigarette," said Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli in comments reported by njspotlight.com.

A recent review of 16 scientific studies in the Journal of Public Health concluded that "a preponderance of the available evidence shows [e-cigarettes] to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes," Reason noted.

E-cigarettes are also far less expensive than tobacco cigarettes, which are heavily taxed. The concern is that raising the price of e-cigarettes by imposing a tax would remove the economic incentive for smokers to switch to the vapor devices.

New Jersey Assemblyman Joseph Cryan said his state may "jump the gun" in discouraging the use of e-cigarettes through a tax when the product could be helpful in reducing smoking.

Washington state legislators attempted to pass a bill taxing e-cigarettes, but it was recently voted down.

Reason pointed to an article by Erik Smith at Washington State Wire offering observations "that highlight why the rush to tax e-cigarettes may satisfy the political appetite for ever more tax money to spend, but it is ultimately counterproductive to public health and economically harmful to a rapidly growing market."

Wells Fargo projected that annual e-cigarette sales could increase from $1.5 billion to more than $45 billion in 10 years.

And former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona has warned the New York City Council that attempts to extend the city's smoking ban to e-cigarettes would "constitute a giant step backward in the effort to defeat tobacco smoking," with the result that many smokers "will simply continue to smoke their current toxic products."

Editor's Note:

6. Internet Users Still Confident in Online Business

Most Americans remain comfortable doing business over the Internet in spite of the recently disclosed Heartbleed security breach, a new Rasmussen Reports poll reveals.

The Heartbleed bug, announced by some security experts on April 1, left personal information at risk of being stolen by hackers. Most websites corrected the bug within days.

The Rasmussen nationwide survey found that 82 percent of American adults now use the Internet at least once a week, while 66 percent say they use it every day or nearly every day.

Among Internet users, 63 percent say they bank online.

A majority of respondents, 65 percent, say they are at least somewhat confident in the security of online banking and other financial transactions, including 17 percent who are very confident.

Other findings of the Rasmussen poll include:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Obama Playing Politics With Keystone Pipeline 2. Tax Freedom Day Is April 21 This Year 3. Federal Ivory Ban Has 'Unintended Consequences' 4. GOP Bankroller Adelson Gives $16M to Send Israel to Moon 5. Taxing...
Obama, Plays, Politics, on-Keystone, Adelson Spends 16M to Put Israel on Moon Ivory Ban, E-Cig Taxes Carry Nasty Results
Monday, 21 April 2014 12:04 AM
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