Mexico massive meth seizure = 15 tons

The historic seizure of 15 tons of pure methamphetamine in western Mexico, equal to half of all meth seizures worldwide in 2009, feeds growing speculation that the country could become a world platform for meth production, not just a supplier to the United States.

The sheer size of the bust announced late Wednesday in Jalisco state suggests involvement of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, a major international trafficker of cocaine and marijuana that has moved into meth production and manufacturing on an industrial scale…

Jalisco has long been considered the hub of the Sinaloa cartel’s meth production and trafficking. Meanwhile, meth use is growing in the United States, already the world’s biggest market for illicit drugs.

The haul could have supplied 13 million doses worth over $4 billion on U.S. streets.

The Sinaloa cartel, headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is equipped to produce and distribute drugs “for the global village,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Such large-scale production could suggest an expansion … into Latin American and Asian markets,” Mazzitelli said…

There were no people found on the ranch or arrests made

Golly. There’s a surprise.

Canadian parliament uptight over baby! But, not really…

A New Democrat MP from Quebec is pleased to learn her baby is welcome back in the House of Commons after being asked earlier to remove the infant.

Rookie MP Sana Hassainia gave birth last November to her first child, a son named Skander-Jack in memory of the late Jack Layton.

The 37-year-old — who, like her elected colleagues, is not entitled to go on maternity leave — returned recently to work, but because she is breastfeeding, her husband and baby join her on Parliament Hill.

Hassainia said she was just finishing breastfeeding her son when a vote related to the bill to abolish the long-gun registry was called.

After searching in vain for her husband, she brought the three-month-old baby inside. That was when a page — one of the students who work in the Commons delivering messages to MPs — told her the baby had to go…

“He told me that certain MPs had noted the presence of my baby in the Commons and that it was forbidden and so I had to remove him…”

“I think it was a misunderstanding,” said Hassainia, adding that Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer has reassured her that she can bring Skander-Jack…back in whenever she needs to. She noted other MPs will be able to do the same…

A spokeswoman for Scheer said booting the baby out of the room was never his intention.

“Speaker Scheer had asked a page to go over and ask a group of MPs that were standing around and taking pictures of a member with her baby to please take their seat because the vote was about to start,” Heather Bradley told the Star on Wednesday.

“The vote clock was at zero. It was about to start. Pictures are not allowed to be taken in the chamber, so that was the problem he had. But he also wanted the vote to get started, so it had nothing to do with the baby…”

Still, some MPs called for clarification of the rules on Wednesday to prevent a similar misunderstanding from happening in the future.

Let’s just put it down to undisciplined enthusiasm by the young page. It makes for a humorous memory since, thankfully, it was just a mistake instead of cardboard politicians living by the wrong rulebook.

Congress — sort of — bans insider trading

Here’s where Congress’ principled motivation came from

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Thursday to ban insider trading by members of Congress and to impose new ethics requirements on lawmakers and federal agency officials. Doesn’t that look meaningful? Look further for the reality.

The 417-to-2 vote came less than three weeks after President Obama demanded such action in his State of the Union address. The Senate approved a similar bill by a vote of 96 to 3 on Feb. 2, but the lopsided votes concealed deep disagreements over the details of the legislation.

The swift response and the debate in both chambers showed lawmakers defensive and anxious about the low esteem in which Congress is held. The public approval rating of Congress has sunk below 15 percent…

Democrats said that House Republican leaders had weakened the Senate-passed bill by stripping out a provision that would, for the first time, regulate firms that collect “political intelligence” for hedge funds, mutual funds and other investors. Under the Senate bill, such firms would have to register and report their activities, as lobbyists do.

In place of this requirement, the House version of the bill calls for a study…blah, blah, blah.

Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, who has been pushing ethics legislation since 2006, said that House Republican leaders apparently “could not stomach pressure from the political intelligence community, which is unregulated and unseen and operates in the dark…”

In the Senate, the bill — the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or Stock Act — was written by members of both parties. In the House, it was revised by Republican leaders, without consulting Democrats, and it was considered on the House floor in a way that precluded amendments…

Please, don’t expect too much bona fide work on ethics from a Congress dedicated to achieving little or nothing. Given the lack of concern for the life and economics of ordinary citizens by our elected elite – I wouldn’t expect much more than the odd sound bite’s worth of useful lawmaking to spill from the Congressional maw.

Even this halfway useful bill resulted from media pressure. Congress members who have been introducing such legislation for years have gotten nowhere. Only election year publicity on a couple of TV shows lit a fire under political butts.

Ferrari sales drop [in Italy] as coppers track tax evaders

Italy in the winter of tracking tax evaders

Police fanned out across Milan in late January halting more than 350 vehicles, mostly luxury SUVs and Porsches.

At checkpoints, including one adjacent to the fashionable Corso Como, the police got the driver’s license and registration, which they passed on to the national tax agency. The tax authorities will use the data to check if the cars’ owners had declared enough income — and of course paid the right amount of income taxes — to justify their lifestyles.

It was at least the fifth raid targeting wealthy Italians since a Dec. 30 sweep at the posh Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where 251 high-end cars were stopped, including Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars… Rome, Portofino on the Italian Riviera and Florence have also been targeted…

Italian authorities are applying to luxury-car owners the same logic they displayed more than a year ago, when tax agents started tracking down the owners of yachts berthed in Italy’s harbors to see if they were current on their tax payments.

In the raid in Cortina D’Ampezzo, tax agents found that 42 luxury car owners had declared income of less than 30,000 euros for 2010 and 2009. Another 19 luxury cars were owned by businesses which posted a loss in the previous year. The sweep in Florence discovered a builder with no tax record who was driving a Mercedes with his wife who was receiving social assistance. Tax officials also found a German owner of a BMW X5 SUV with no declared income, according to the website of the tax agency’s Florence office.

This is serious stuff for the government, which estimates that tax evasion costs the country about 120 billion euros a year in lost revenue…

The collection effort is part of Prime Minister Mario Monti’s plan to curb record borrowing costs on Italy’s 1.9 trillion-euro debt and avoid following Greece, Portugal and Ireland which all had to seek bailouts.

Demand for vehicles from the likes of Ferrari and Maserati brands and Lamborghini slumped 53 percent in January, with just 66 supercars sold, according to Anfia, the association of Italian carmakers. The new taxes and high-profile dragnets have also sent exotic-car prices down 20 percent, according to dealer association Federauto…

Still, for Ferrari, which earns higher profit margins than any other Fiat unit, it’s not the end of the world. There’s plenty of demand outside Italy for the company’s sports cars.

“Italy isn’t a concern for Ferrari as it sells its cars abroad,” Marchionne said last month in Detroit.

I wonder what people like John Boehner and Harry Reid intend to drive when they retire from Congress – and they no longer have to lie quite as much as they do now about what they really care about.

GOP turnout has taken a dive – Any ideas why?

Republican primary polling station is a pretty quiet place

Beneath Rick Santorum’s stunning three-state sweep on Tuesday stands another stubborn sign of dissatisfaction with the status quo: Republican turnout is down. I’m talking embarrassingly, disturbingly, hey-don’t-you-know-it’s-an-election-year bad. It is a sign of a serious enthusiasm gap among the rank and file, and a particularly bad omen for Mitt Romney and the GOP in the general election.

Here’s the tale of the tape, state by state, beginning with Tuesday night: Minnesota had just more than 47,000 people turn out for its caucuses this year — four years ago it was nearly 63,000 — and Romney came in first, not a distant third as he did Tuesday night. In Colorado, more than 70,000 people turned out for its caucus in 2008 — but in 2012 it was 65,000. And Missouri — even making a generous discount for the fact that this was an entirely symbolic contest — had 232,000 people turn out, less than half the number who did four years ago.

Always proudly rebellious, South Carolina has been the great outlier in this election cycle. With Newt Gingrich making an all-out push for conservatives in a conservative state, turnout was up almost 150,000 over four years before.

But in Florida, the decline became unmistakable. Maybe it decreased because the Romney and Gingrich campaigns, plus super PACS, spent more than $18 million in the Sunshine State on TV ads, of which 93% were negative in the last week alone, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. After all, negative ads depress turnout. But after all the mud was thrown, 1.6 million people turned out in the nation’s fourth largest state, which might sound impressive until you compare it with the nearly 2 million who turned out in 2008.

Nevada was even worse, with 32,894 people turning out to vote in a state with more than 465,000 registered Republicans. Four years before, more than 44,300 participated in the caucus. Turnout was down more than 25% despite the GOP caucuses being the only game in town. Party officials were expecting a turnout of more than 70,000…

Continue reading

Trans fat levels are declining in the bloodstreams of Americans

The intense battle that public health advocates have waged against trans fats appears to be working: A new report shows that since 2000, levels of trans fats in Americans’ bloodstreams have plummeted nearly 60 percent.

Once widely found in fried, baked and packaged foods, trans fats have been slowly removed from the food supply after studies linked them to heart disease and obesity. Many cities have banned their use in restaurants, and public health experts have pressed companies to strip them from processed foods like cookies, soups, crackers and frozen foods.

In a research letter published in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association today, researchers found that as trans fats have disappeared from supermarket shelves and restaurant kitchens, they have also been disappearing from Americans’ bloodstreams. The study showed that in a nationally representative sample of middle-aged Americans, levels of trans fats fell 58 percent from 2000 to 2009…

Trans fats have been widely vilified since the late 1990s, when large studies showed that even slight increases in their intake could significantly elevate heart risks. Advocacy groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the most vocal opponents of trans fats, sued fast food companies that used them in their foods, and cities including New York and Philadelphia have prohibited restaurants from cooking with them.

As controversy grew, many food manufacturers and restaurants gave in to pressure to remove trans fats — also known as partially hydrogenated oils — and began using alternatives like canola or sunflower oil.

In the new study…trans fat levels fell 58 percent, but there were also improvements in cholesterol and triglycerides. Levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, fell almost 10 units on average, to 119.2 milligrams per deciliter of blood from 128.2 milligrams. Meanwhile, levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, rose to 55.8 milligrams from an average of 49.6 milligrams.

At the same time, triglyceride levels, a measure of fat in the blood, fell on average about 20 units, to 109 milligrams from roughly 131 milligrams. The American Heart Association considers triglyceride levels of 100 milligrams to be “optimal.” Health authorities say HDL should be above 40 milligrams in men and higher than 50 milligrams in women, while LDL levels in men and women should ideally be lower than 100 milligrams…

Partially hydrogenated oils could be removed pretty much entirely from supermarkets, processed foods – and our bloodstreams – by an order from the FDA. I know every one has kept the heat on this medical/political enclave since the election of Obama. But, the pressure hasn’t been sufficient. Maybe we relented too soon when we started to get some movement on food quality, food safety.

Maybe it’s time to ask questions, try to turn the attention of our elected representative from oil-bearing sands in Canada to those partially-hydrogenated oils still being stuffed into our circulatory systems?