Farm law “reform” would increase subsidies, guarantee farm income

The farm law being written by agricultural leaders in Congress — and the lobbyists who own them — would boost support rates for some crops and may remove caps on how much money growers collect in subsidies.

Three agricultural sources said that crops grown in the Midwest and Plains — corn, soybeans and wheat — would be covered by one subsidy plan, while cotton and rice, grown in the South, each would have a separate program.

This three-track plan is designed to shore up support from a broader number of farm-state lawmakers for a new approach to farm policy.

Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees…hope to piggyback it onto a government-wide deficit bill in exchange for a $23 billion cut in their programs. It would bar any change in their plan and enact it a year ahead of schedule…

“There’s nothing good about any of this,” said agricultural economist Vince Smith of Montana State University after reviewing the expected crop subsidy changes.

Higher supports could encourage growers to over-produce, said Smith, and they could breach world trade rules against production-distorting subsidies…

Under their plan, corn, soybean and wheat growers would get federal payments when revenue from a crop was more than 15 percent below average, said a farm lobbyist. Crop insurance would cover deep losses. So-called marketing loans would put a floor on prices.

Cotton growers would operate with a higher marketing loan and revenue insurance policies. Target prices for rice and peanuts would be raised, an effective guarantee of revenue.

The package also could remove caps on subsidy payments.

What would happen if someone offered a bill before Congress guaranteeing income protection for working class Americans? Yes, I know that’s a silly question. The bill would never get out of committee much less face a vote before our manure pile of politicians.

Congress is more likely to vote for guaranteeing a healthy life for chickens before schoolchildren.

Neutrino experiment repeated at Cern finds speed of light exceeded — again

Antonio Ereditato
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The team which found that neutrinos may travel faster than light has carried out an improved version of their experiment – and confirmed the result. If confirmed by other experiments, the find could undermine one of the basic principles of modern physics.

Critics of the first report in September had said that the long bunches of neutrinos (tiny particles) used could introduce an error into the test. The new work used much shorter bunches.

It has been posted to the Arxiv repository and submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics, but has not yet been reviewed by the scientific community.

The experiments have been carried out by the Opera collaboration – short for Oscillation Project with Emulsion (T)racking Apparatus…

The initial series of experiments, comprising 15,000 separate measurements spread out over three years, found that the neutrinos arrived 60 billionths of a second faster than light would have, travelling unimpeded over the same distance.

The idea that nothing can exceed the speed of light in a vacuum forms a cornerstone in physics – first laid out by James Clerk Maxwell and later incorporated into Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity…

When the Opera team ran the improved experiment 20 times, they found almost exactly the same result.

“This is reinforcing the previous finding and ruling out some possible systematic errors which could have in principle been affecting it,” said Antonio Ereditato of the Opera collaboration.

“We didn’t think they were, and now we have the proof,” he told BBC News. “This is reassuring that it’s not the end of the story…”

“So far no arguments have been put forward that rule out our effect,” Dr Ereditato said.

Several months – or longer – lie ahead of independent testing of the original and recent results. Exciting stuff for old geeks like me.

Associated Press reporters smacked by the boss for tweeting

Karen Matthews, AP reporter, arrested by NYC coppers
Photo by AP photographer Seth Wenig, also arrested

Associated Press has reprimanded some of its journalists for breaking news on Twitter before posting it on the wires.

The news agency issued the warning after some staff members tweeted that AP journalists had been arrested at the Occupy Wall Street camp in Manhattan. An email from bosses followed reminding staff about AP’s social media policies…

While Twitter is an invaluable tool in newsrooms around the world, it has also forced news organisations, including AP, to draw up strict rules.

“If you have a piece of information, a photo or a video that is compelling, exclusive and/or urgent enough to be considered breaking news, you should file it to the wire, and photo and video points before you consider putting it out on social media,” the AP policy reads.

After the recent incident in New York, AP’s managing editor Lou Ferrara wrote an email to employees explaining that their first duty was to the agency not Twitter.

And executive editor Kathleen Carroll issued a memo saying much of the resulting “chatter” had missed the point.

“When we lose contact with a journalist, our main focus is making sure they are safe, no matter where they are. Sometimes, talking about it while things are still uncertain can endanger them,” she said.

“It’s not outlandish to think that a tweet that’s taken by someone in authority to be opinionated or sarcastic could lead to one of our staffers being held longer than necessary…”

But Anthony de Rosa, social media editor at Reuters, thinks that such policies may need to be overhauled. He tweeted: “News agencies must evolve or face extinction.”

He expanded the point in his official Reuters blog.

The wire is still a huge part of our business and always will be. However, acting in a way that handcuffs us from doing our best work on and on social networks, which help drive traffic and extend our brand, is writing a death sentence for us as a future media company.

“To bury our head in the sand and act like Twitter (and who knows what else comes into existence next month or five years from now?) isn’t increasingly becoming the source of what informs people in real-time is ridiculous,” he wrote.

RTFA – the discussion moves in a few directions not the least of which is hoax tweets – which are generally reprehensible.

It is Guinness records day

Irish leprechauns, tea-sipping Britons, Australian ABBA impersonators and the oldest yoga teacher on the planet were just some of the people setting world records Thursday.

More than 300,000 people around the world took part in the seventh annual Guinness World Records Day, in which a number of records have already been confirmed.

They included the largest cream tea party (334 participants) in Essex, England; the largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns (262 participants) in Dublin; the oldest yoga teacher (91 years old) and the largest hula hoop workout (221 children) both in Florida…

In keeping with the national theme, 262 members of the public in Dublin got into leprechaun costume to break the record previously set in the United States.

We believe that a record for leprechauns belongs to its native soil and we’re really pleased to bring it back to Ireland,” Derek Mooney from Ireland’s RTE Radio One said…

On the other side of the globe, Australia got involved in the record-breaking action as 368 children in Melbourne transformed into “dancing queens” to set a new record for largest gathering of ABBA impersonators.

Other record attempts Thursday included the most people whistling in Switzerland, the world’s largest Zumba class in the Netherlands, the largest 3D painting in London, the most arrows caught by hand in two minutes — blindfolded — in Germany, the largest rice cracker in Japan, the largest speed-dating event in China and the largest coloring book in Nigeria.

My kind of creative folks. With a sense of humor. Always pleased to see that Guinness feels the same.

Former head of MI5 calls on UK government to decriminalise and regulate cannabis

The former head of MI5 believes the “war on drugs” has proved fruitless and it is time to consider decriminalising the possession and use of small quantities of cannabis.

Eliza Manningham-Buller has backed calls for the government to set up a commission to examine how to tackle the UK’s drug culture and consider the highly controversial move of relaxing the law.

She was speaking at a meeting held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform on Thursday where senior government representatives met experts from across the world to consider ways of combating the issue.

The cross-bench peer said the current policy was failing and it was time to look at alternative ways of tackling the production and use of drugs by assessing how other countries are dealing with the problem. She believes serious consideration needs to be given to the idea of regulating cannabis so that its psychotic effects can be controlled more closely…

Manningham-Buller said there was too much of a knee-jerk opposition to changing drug policy but it is an issue that needs to be at the forefront of national debate.

She urged politicians to come up with a more successful way of tackling the issue by assessing evidence that looks at how to reduce the harmful effects of drugs in a cost-effective approach.

Politicians at the meeting with a vested interest in continuing the same old policy offered up statements in opposition. If you have any knowledge of the topic, of the realities of of cannabis, pot, mary jane, marijuana, grass, weed, ganja or Texas Tea – you understand why I didn’t waste any space quoting such foolishness.

10-year-old steals truck from police impound yard for joy ride

Not the tallest crook they ever busted in Eatonville

A 10-year-old elementary-school student broke into a town impound lot…stole an Eatonville pickup and was chased by the police chief, who arrested him.

The Eatonville boy scaled a 10-foot chain-link fence about 3 p.m., climbed into the white pickup and drove through a fence at the lot on Mosely Avenue, near Kennedy Boulevard at the west side of town, police Sgt. Eric McIntyre said.

Someone noticed the child behind the wheel and called police, who tried to stop him. However, the boy threw the truck into reverse to avoid officers’ patrol cars and drove a couple of blocks before crashing into a light pole at College Avenue and Lemon Street, McIntyre said.

An electric wire fell, setting a house there on fire. The Maitland Fire/Rescue Department put out the flames, and there were no serious injuries, he said.

The child got out and ran, but police Chief Joseph Jenkins and a detective caught and handcuffed him a little more than a block away. The boy was taken to the Orange County Juvenile Assessment Center…

He was arrested on charges of burglary of a conveyance, grand theft of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.

The boy told officers a relative had taught him to drive.

Now, they just need someone to teach the Eatonville, Florida, police department something about security and safety. The kid did $4000 damage to the city-owned truck. No one offered a guess on the cost of damage to the house.