Senate passes torture ban — all those opposed were Republican

Thanks to Joan McCarter and DK

More than 20 Republican senators rejected a ban on the use of cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners…voting against an ultimately successful measure to permanently prevent a repeat of the CIA’s once secret and now widely-discredited torture program.

The bipartisan amendment reaffirms President Barack Obama’s prohibition of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, which were developed by the CIA under the administration of his predecessor, George W Bush.

The measure passed in the Senate, 78-21.

However Republican hawks, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, opposed the amendment, despite an impassioned plea from their colleague, John McCain, who called on them to avoid the “dark path of sacrificing our values for our short-term security needs”.

The Arizona Republican, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and is chairman of the Senate armed services committee, co-authored the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act – a must-pass defense appropriations bill – with Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

Feinstein led the Senate investigation into the CIA’s secret torture program, the blistering conclusions of which were made public six months ago, in a report revealing how the agency lied about gruesome interrogation techniques deemed to have been brutal and ineffective…

All those who voted against the ban on torture were Republican.

Kentucky senator Rand Paul and Texas senator Ted Cruz voted for it. I’m not surprised about Rand Paul. As inconsistent as he can be about his flavor of libertarianism, opposition to torture as a political/military tool fits the definition.

So far, all the other current Republican presidential candidates who have voiced an opinion on the amendment – didn’t support it.

Finally – the FDA gets up on their hind legs and bans trans fats

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday gave the food industry three years to eliminate artery-clogging, artificial trans fats from the food supply, a long-awaited step that capped years of effort by consumer advocates and is expected to save thousands of lives a year.

Trans fats — a major contributor to heart disease in the United States — have already been substantially reduced in foods, but they still lurk in many popular products, including frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines, coffee creamers, graham crackers and granola bars…

…The time-frame decision announced…was final…

The agency has estimated that banning trans fats completely could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.

“This is the final nail in the coffin of trans fats,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that had pushed for the ban since the early 1990s. “In terms of lives saved, I think eliminating trans fats is the single most important change to our food supply.”

The agency has ruled that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, no longer be “generally recognized as safe.” That means companies would have to prove that such oils are safe to eat, a high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level for consumption of them, a conclusion that the F.D.A. has cited in its reasoning on the topic.

RTFA for a decent recitation of bureaucratic history, too-brief notes about the history of medical research.

New York City was the biggest early player in the fight against this as well as other unhealthy profit-makers in the food chain. One of the real achievements of Mike Bloomberg’s reign as mayor.

California has a similar statewide ban – and a glaring exemption for food preparation for the state’s schoolchildren.

Like any regulatory process affecting human health vs profits, papier-mache libertarians and birthright old farts will be up in arms.


It’s worth $173 billion to Israel and Palestine if they stopped fighting

Researchers at the Rand Corporation’s Center for Middle East Public Policy recently mounted a study to determine the net economic costs and benefits of various alternatives in the Middle East over the next ten years. They looked at five possible scenarios: a two state solution; a coordinated unilateral withdrawal of 60,000 Israelis from much of the West Bank, with 75 percent of the cost covered by the international community and 25 percent of the bill footed by Israel; an uncoordinated unilateral withdrawal, in which only 30,000 Israeli settlers leave the West Bank and Israel bankrolls the withdrawal completely; nonviolent Palestinian resistance to Israel through boycotts of Israeli products in the region, and diplomatic efforts in the UN; and a violent Palestinian uprising beginning in Gaza, with the potential to spread to the West Bank and involve players like Hezbollah.

The study asserts that the two-state solution is most profitable, and could allow Israel to gain $123 billion by 2024. Assuming that an agreement is reached and Israel retreats to the 1967 borders (save for agreed-upon swapped territories), 100,000 Israeli settlers relocated from the West Bank to Israel, Palestinian trade and travel restrictions are lifted, and up to 600,000 refugees are returned to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza, the changes in “direct and opportunity costs”—among them a projected 20 percent increase in tourism and a 150 percent increase in Palestinian trade—would be immediate boons. The peace would bring the cessation of Arab country trade sanctions and with it, a raise of Israel’s GDP by $23 billion over what it would have been under the status quo. Palestine would pocket over $50 billion under these conditions. Palestinians would see an average per capita income increase of approximately 36 percent. Under such a peace accord, Israelis would experience a 5 percent increase in income.

The Israeli government is as likely to consider this report as is, say, the Republican Party’s platform committee considering open automatic voting rights like Oregon.