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Senate Committee Passes $500 Billion Farm Bill

Tuesday the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a new five-year farm bill. The bill cuts subsidy payments and the food stamp program while expanding crop insurance. The Senate bill will reduce spending by $24 billion over 10 years. The bill passed 15-5 in committee with a full Senate vote expected later this month. USA Today reports:

The farm bill passed on Tuesday eliminates $17 billion in farm subsidies, $5 billion a year in direct payments given to farmers regardless of need and reduces $4 billion from conservation programs largely through consolidation. Spending for food stamp programs, used by 48 million Americans, also would be cut by $4 billion.

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DRONE WATCH: Drone Launched From Aircraft Carrier

The U.S. Navy took a new step in drone warfare this morning. For the first time, a drone was launched from an aircraft carrier. The drone did not land back on the carrier, a feat that is challenging even for piloted aircraft, but that is expected soon. According to the Associated Press:

The Navy for the first time Tuesday launched an unmanned aircraft the size of a fighter jet from a warship in the Atlantic Ocean, as it wades deeper into America's drone program amid growing concerns over the legality of its escalating surveillance and lethal strikes.

The drone, called the X-47B, is considered particularly valuable because it's the first that is designed specifically to take off and land on an aircraft carrier, allowing it to be used around the world without needing the permission of other countries to serve as a home base.

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NTSB Recommends Lowering Blood Alcohol Threshold for Drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board voted to recommend lowering the blood-alcohol content to legally drive from .08 to .05. While a American Beverage Institute spokesperson called the move "ludicrous," the NTSB has numbers to back them up. According to NBC News: 

The NTSB reports that at .05 BAC, some drivers begin having difficulties with depth perception and other visual functions.  At .07, cognitive abilities become impaired. 

At .05 BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by 39 percent. At .08 BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by more than 100 percent.

Read more HERE.

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Supreme Court Upholds Monsato Genetically Modified Soybeans’ Patent

The Supreme Court ruled that farmers must pay Monsanto every time they plant the company’s genetically modified soybeans. Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman argued he was not violating the patent because the soybeans self-replicate. The justices felt "Bowman’s practices threatened the incentive for invention that is at the heart of patent law." Bowman was ordered to pay $85,000 to Monsato. This case could have broader implication on patent protections for vaccines and other products that self-replicate. The Washington Post reports:

If someone is able to copy a patented product simply by planting it and collecting its progeny, “a patent would plummet in value after the first sale of the first item containing the invention,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote. “And that would result in less incentive for innovation than Congress wanted.”

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DRONE WATCH: New Pakistan PM Questions Drone Attacks

Nawaz Sharif, the newly elected prime minister of Pakistan told reporters yesterday that he considered U.S. drone attacks in that country a challenge to national sovereignty. According to the AP (via the San Jose Mercury News): 

“The CIA's drone campaign targeting al-Qaida and other militants in the tribal regions has been extremely controversial in Pakistan, where people say it frequently kills innocent civilians -- something Washington denies -- and that it violates Pakistan's sovereignty.

"Drones indeed are challenging our sovereignty. Of course we have taken this matter up very seriously. I think this is a very serious issue, and our concern must be understood properly," said Sharif.”

Read more here.

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Gang of 8 Defends Guest Worker Plan

The Gang of Eight is banding together across party lines to fend off attacks to the guest worker program in the immigration bill. Members of the gang have been working behind the scenes to ensure only amendments they support are proposed. This has upset Democrats and Republicans who feel the bipartisan coalition has too much power over the immigration bill. Politico reports:

"One of the things that most upsets the American people about Washington is drafting a bill with special interests in secret and jamming it across the finish line in a way that minimizes public involvement and input,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said recently. “This legislation needs improvement and openness.”

Read more here.
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America's First Climate Refugees

The residents of Newtok, Alaska could see their village washed away within five years, making them the first American climate refugees. Newtok is surrounded by the Ninglick River, which continues to carry off 100ft or more of land each year. The highest point in the village could be underwater by 2017. The small community of 350 will be scattered across Alaska, with Newtok ceasing to exist. The Guardian reports:

"The snow comes in a different timing now. The snow disappears way late. That is making the geese come at the wrong time. Now they are starting to lay their eggs when there is still snow and ice and we can't go and pick them," Tom said. "It's changing a lot. It's real, global warming, it's real."

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Obama May Delay Controversial Keystone XL Decision Until 2014

Climate defenders should celebrate the news that Obama is continuing to delay signing a permit that would allow foreign-owned mining company TransCanada a permit to build the northern route of the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S.

After the State Department once again released an assessment in March that garnered more than a million responses during the public comment period and the Environmental Protection Agency called it “deeply flawed”, we see that grassroots pressure is creating a successful roadblock on this dangerous climate path.

From Reuters:

The Obama administration is unlikely to make a decision on the Canada-to-Nebraska Keystone XL pipeline until late this year as it painstakingly weighs the project’s impact on the environment and on energy security, a U.S. official and analysts said on Friday.

The decision may not be made until November, December or even early 2014, said a U.S. official … who did not want to be named given the sensitive nature of the project.

Analysts agreed that a decision would not be made by this summer as the State Department had suggested when it issued an environmental review on the pipeline on March 1.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Climate Change Will Cut Habitats by 2080

A recent study by biologists and climate researchers finds 57% of plants and 34% of animals will see their habitats cut by 50% or more by 2080. At the current rate worldwide temperatures are expected to rise 7 degrees by 2100. This change will make habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia and Australia unsuitable for animals and plants. USA Today reports:

"The terrifying loss of biodiversity predicted by this study shows that climate chaos will fundamentally transform our planet," Shaye Wolf of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, says in a statement on the study. "We need to cut emissions now, before our ecosystems suffer catastrophic damage."

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Gun Control Advocates Target Senators

Gun control advocates are escalating their campaign toward senators who voted against the proposal to extend background checks. The campaign includes letter-writing, protests at town hall meetings and television ads. Several senators including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have seen their poll numbers plunge since voting against the proposal to extend background checks. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"The outside game is about convincing those who voted no that they've made the wrong choice. And that is happening. There are definitely second thoughts out there," said Jim Kessler, a gun policy expert at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. Senators who opposed the agreement, he said, "expected the politics to work for them after the vote and so far it hasn't."

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence