Thursday, May 28, 2009

Federal Court Upholds Constitutionality of Mandatory DNA Collection of All Individuals Arrested on Federal Felony Charges

/PRNewswire / -- Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown announced that a federal court in the Eastern District of California has upheld the constitutionality of DNA sample collection from all those arrested upon probable cause for the commission of a federal felony. The court's order, filed in United States v. Pool, 09-015-EJG-GGH, rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of DNA sampling and cataloguing of arrestees in federal cases as it has been recently modified by the DNA Fingerprint Act.

"We are very gratified with the ruling. DNA evidence has proved invaluable in both solving crimes and exonerating the innocent," said Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown.

According to Assistant United States Attorneys Sean C. Flynn and Russell L. Carlberg, who are handling the matter on behalf of the United States, the DNA Fingerprint Act, enacted in 2006, authorized the U.S. Attorney General to extend the collection of DNA samples for law enforcement purposes to those who are "arrested, facing charges, or convicted" of federal offenses.

Prior to the enactment of the legislation, DNA collection by law enforcement was permitted only for those convicted of crimes. The new legislation brought federal law on par with that of about a third of the states that currently authorize DNA sample collection from arrestees and others similarly situated. The U.S. Department of Justice exercised its authority under the statute earlier this year and issued direction to various federal agencies to begin collecting the DNA of individuals who are arrested or facing charges, as has historically been the case with the collection of fingerprints.

In its decision today, the court held that after a judicial or grand jury determination of probable cause has been made for felony criminal charges against a defendant, no Fourth Amendment or other Constitutional violation is caused by a requirement that the defendant undergo a mouth swab or blood test for the purposes of DNA analysis to be used for criminal law enforcement identification purposes. In so determining, the court recognized that an individual arrested upon probable cause has a "diminished expectation of privacy in his own identity," and that DNA fingerprinting as a law enforcement tool is merely a "technological progression" from photographs and traditional fingerprints, which are a "part of the routine booking process upon arrest."

The court found compelling that while the expansion of DNA collection to federal arrestees would aid in solving additional crimes, it would also "help to exculpate" individuals who are serving sentences of imprisonment for crimes they did not commit. The Court also looked favorably upon the protections built into the statute that impose criminal and financial penalties on those who maintain collected DNA samples should those samples be improperly used.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The "Marlboro Man" Gets Stimulus Courtesy of Texas Legislature s

RJ Note: So the big tobacco producer wanted this tax? When will the lawsuits begin for deceptive practice this time?

Texas Legislature Passes Massive Smokeless and Other Tobacco Tax That Allows 'Marlboro Man' and 'Copenhagen Man' to Benefit

/PRNewswire/ -- The Texas Senate voted 29-2 to pass a $100 million tax increase on smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products. HB 2154, while being a laudable program to fund rural doctor programs and changes in the business franchise tax, relies on an enormous tax on smokeless and other tobacco products, such as pipe tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco to help fund the legislation. The Texas House voted on a similar measure by a vote of 79-61 after much contentious debate. This issue has been debated over the past three legislative sessions and is largely viewed as an internal tobacco industry fight between industry giant, Philip Morris (now Altria), and the smallest companies says National Tobacco, headquartered in Louisville, KY.

"It is unfortunate that the Texas Senate, with little debate and what appears to be little understanding of the real market, passed a large tax increase on the small companies that compete with the 'Marlboro(R) Man' and 'Copenhagen(R) Man,' not realizing such a tax hike will do little to sustain these programs going forward," says Ron Tully, Vice President of National Tobacco. "This new tax is a huge gift to the same tobacco company that was sued in the late 1990's by the State of Texas, and the same company that recently lost an Appeal in the US Department of Justice case, for deceptive trade practices."

This bill changes the methodology of how smokeless tobacco is taxed, from being a tax on the manufacturer's list price to being a tax based on the weight of tobacco in the final retail package. "Texas has been enjoying a rise in tax revenues from the current smokeless and other tobacco products tax, because the free market allowed companies to compete aggressively for adult customers. Texas has consistently brought in more tax revenue each year on these products, as almost all manufacturers, including Philip Morris, annually increase their prices on brands such as Copenhagen(R) and Skoal(R) to offset rising costs. As a result of these annual increases, the state gets an automatic revenue bump from the current list price tax. Even the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts acknowledges that the revenue from smokeless tobacco based on the current list price method, would increase from $75,918,000 to $86,877,000 for the biennium 2010-2011. With the proposed weight-based tax method, Texas will experience less revenue in the future as tobacco sales decline," says Tully.

Tully added, "Philip Morris, which now has over a 50% share of the cigarette market and over a 50% share of the smokeless tobacco market, is pushing for this weight-based tax on almost all tobacco products, simply to take out the small competitors in the market and make its smokeless and smoking brands the dominant market players. Interestingly Philip Morris has managed to maintain an exemption from this new weight-based tax for its popular Black and Mild(R) cigar products. Texas will now have the unpopular distinction of being among only a few of the 50 states that have elected to switch to a punitive weight-based tax on many tobacco products."

"When doctors who have historically opposed smoking, stand with Philip Morris, you know it has got to be a bad deal for someone. If Philip Morris is supporting a tax on the tobacco industry, you also know it must be a good deal for them and the brands they sell. And it is," Tully says.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vast Majority of Speakers at USDA’s Listening Tour on the National Animal Identification System Say No to NAIS

RJ Note: National Animal Identification? Such visions are running around my head after reading this story. Can't you just picture lining up all the animals for their brand? How soon would it extend to more than just farm animals who are used for food production?

Whose brainchild was this? It just sounds like a very expensive way to do nothing to improve our safety. And, at the least, an expensive endeavor to really increase the price of food. Yep, just what we need in a time of recession.

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Some 100 people attended the kick-off meeting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s multi-city listening tour on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania yesterday, with an overwhelming majority of them voicing strong opposition to the program.

Farm-to-Consumer acting president Pete Kennedy said that the number and passion of the farmers and consumers speaking out against NAIS at this first stop on the listening tour should cause the USDA to reexamine whether it should be implemented at all.

“The USDA positioned these listening tour hearings as a forum to discuss ‘stakeholder concerns’ about NAIS, but the message they got in Harrisburg was that NAIS is not needed at all,” Kennedy said.

Of the 36 people chosen by lottery to speak during the morning session of the day-long meeting, 27 of them were opposed to NAIS, four spoke in favor and five speakers were undecided.

“The people who spoke in favor of NAIS were mostly from organizations like the Farm Bureau which has consistently supported NAIS,” said Tom Maurer, a retired farmer who attended the meeting and spoke against the program.

During the afternoon session, participants were separated into three groups that were described by the USDA facilitators as mechanisms for gaining consensus from those at the meeting on NAIS implementation.

“In my session the participants continued to speak out against the implementation of NAIS in any form, even as the USDA facilitator kept trying to elicit comments about how the program could be improved,” Maurer added.

“They were just going through the motions,” he said.

“We think the USDA will get the same sort of input from farmers and consumers at each of the upcoming stops on its listening tour,” said Fund board member Taaron G. Meikle.

“More and more people are recognizing that implementing NAIS will do little if anything to improve animal health or food safety in the United States since most animal health problems are the result of the high-density CAFOs that concentrate thousands of animals in one location. Food safety problems begin at the slaughterhouse where NAIS traceability ends,” she said.

“By implementing NAIS—which requires small farmers and ranchers to track each animal individually while allowing CAFOs to track all animals under one blanket Group Identification Number—the USDA would be rewarding factory farms whose practices encourage disease while crippling small farms and the local food movement in the name of increased international sales.”

The Fund, along with six of its members from Michigan, last year filed suit in the U.S. District Court – District of Columbia against the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) to stop the implementation of NAIS. An amended complaint was filed in January 2009 with the Fund and seven members from Michigan and one member from Pennsylvania as Plaintiffs.

The MDA has implemented the first two stages of NAIS – property registration and animal identification – for all cattle and farmers across the state under the guise of its bovine tuberculosis disease control program. MDA’s implementation of the first two steps of NAIS was required, in part, in exchange for a grant of money from the USDA.

The Fund’s suit asks the court to issue an injunction to stop the implementation of NAIS by the USDA at both the State and Federal levels by any State or Federal agency. If successful, the suit would halt the program nationwide.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Great American Cookies Launches Nationwide Search for the 'Great American Dad'

RJ Note: Dads are so very important to our lives. I just know Fayette County is the perfect place to find a great American dad. Why, I bet we have tons of them. Why not take a moment and let the world know about your special hero? I better put my pen where my mouth is and get to work on this!

/PRNewswire/ -- Great American Cookies announced today that the company has launched its first-ever search for the "Great American Dad." The Great American Dad Contest began Wednesday, May 13 and runs through Friday, July 31. During the contest, participants will be asked to tell the world, in 200 words or less, what makes their dad a "Great American Dad." The contest will be conducted completely online, with submissions accepted through the entry form available at www.greatamericancookies.com.

Prizes for the contest will be awarded in September and include:

-- Grand Prize: The "Ultimate Dad Den" courtesy of Great American
Cookies. Essential "ingredients" for creating a great in-home getaway
for Dad include a Sony BRAVIA(R) 52" Flat-Panel LCD HDTV, Sony Blu-ray
Disc Player and Sony BRAVIA(R) Home Theater System.
-- First Prize: Sony BRAVIA(R) 52" Flat-Panel LCD HDTV.

-- Runner Ups: (5) $50.00 gift certificates to Great American Cookies.


The contest opens during Great American Cookies Celebrating Everyday Heroes promotion and is supported by NexCen Franchise Management, Inc., a subsidiary of NexCen Brands, Inc.

"Customers tell our franchisees every day how much they appreciate the heroes in their lives when they order Cookie Cakes and gift tins," said Jenn Johnston, senior vice president of brand marketing for NexCen Franchise Management, Inc. "During this contest we expect to hear some wonderful, funny, touching and even quirky stories about some of the most unsung heroes...dads."

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

America's Top Young Scientists to Receive Scholarships for Winning Eggs-Periments

RJ Note: Fayette County Middle School Science Olympiad Teams have a great record of winning and placing at tournaments. Kudos to all the great teachers who inspire our young minds. Will we have any egg-cellent wins this year?

/PRNewswire/ -- Where can you find America's brightest young minds launching rockets, crashing vehicles and cracking eggs? These activities and many more are part of the 25th annual Science Olympiad National Tournament in Augusta, GA, on May 16. For the first time, the incredible edible egg, on behalf of America's egg farmers, will celebrate the incredible achievements of science-minded students by awarding four $1,000 college scholarships. The tournament is the culmination of what began with 200,000 students across the nation competing in local tournaments, and has been narrowed to a group of 2,500 who will compete in a series of scientific challenges that require a unique level of focus, precision and skill.

As part of the incredible edible egg's partnership with Science Olympiad, two of the 46 events will be "egg-centric." In the "Scrambler" competition, students are challenged to design and build mechanical devices to transport eggs, while at the "Egg-O-Naut" event, students design and launch rockets that deploy parachutes to carry a raw egg without breaking. Each member of the gold medal winning teams will receive a $1,000 scholarship towards college.

"I co-founded Science Olympiad to bring science to life for students through hands-on, minds-on learning challenges," said Dr. Gerard Putz, co-founder and president of Science Olympiad. "We are excited for this first-time partnership with the incredible edible egg. It's a natural and important educational component of this year's competition - encouraging kids to learn more about science while emphasizing the importance of eating a balanced breakfast, including eggs, for sustaining mental and physical energy."

Fuel Energy for Mind and Body

Coaches and parents of Science Olympians know that it's important for students to have a healthy, balanced breakfast. In fact, research shows that there are cognitive benefits to eating breakfast, such as improved memory recall time, improved grades and higher test scores.(1,2)

"Serving kids eggs for breakfast is important because the high-quality protein in eggs provides the energy for the body and mind they need to stay alert and active throughout busy days," said Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, pediatric nutritionist and associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "For 70 calories and an average cost of 14 cents apiece, eggs are one of the most affordable breakfast options and can be combined with almost anything already in the fridge or pantry."

Help encourage your kids to eat incredible and be incredible on competition day, and every day, with these tips from Ayoob:

-- Pack a hard-cooked egg as a snack for kids so they can avoid the
afternoon slump. Pack it in an insulated bag with a cold pack for
freshness.
-- Get your kids involved in planning and preparing meals to help instill
good eating habits. Kids love to eat what they help prepare!
-- Have a one-pan meal like a frittata or strata for dinner once a week.
It's easy, affordable and kids love it.



You can also try your hand at these nutritious breakfast recipes that offer an easy solution to a hectic morning, take less than 10 minutes to prepare and cost less than $2.00 a serving(3):

-- Cereal Bowl Egg & Cheese Breakfast Burrito ($0.50/serving)
-- Easy Egg Breakfast Quesadillas ($1.91/serving)

-- Mini Breakfast Pizzas ($0.59/serving)



Visit www.eatincredible.com for quick and easy egg breakfast recipes, official Science Olympiad experiments to try at home and to share videos of incredible science experiments.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

National Park Foundation Calls on Facebook Friends To Vote for National Parks

RJ Note: This sounds like it could be a great cause. Georgia has our own National Parks so don't forget to vote for our state! After you have voted, be sure to become a friend of the Georgia Front Page, too!

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Park Foundation (NPF) today announced its participation in Bullseye Gives, the first-ever Target giving campaign on Facebook(R). From May 10 through May 25, the Facebook community and all of the National Park Foundation's Facebook fans, donors and stakeholders can vote to help our national parks win a portion of a $3 million charitable donation. The more votes, the larger the donation.

"Our National Parks were actually established more than 100 years ago by citizens who gave their time and money to protect the natural spaces that they loved for the benefit of future generations. The Bullseye Gives program is created in that same spirit -- asking each of us to stand up and vote for what matters most to us," said Vin Cipolla, Vice Chairman of the NPF Board of Directors. "The National Park Foundation is honored to have been selected by Target to participate with all of these magnificent and worthy organizations and we hope that all of our Facebook friends who love nature, and history and our American heritage make your voice heard by voting as many times as you can to help the National Park Foundation protect our national parks."

Chartered by Congress in 1967 as the official non-profit partner of America's 391 National Parks, the National Park Foundation serves to strengthen the enduring connection between the American people and the national parks by raising private funds, making strategic grants, creating innovative partnerships and increasing public awareness. Our national parks preserve more than 84 million acres and are the world's greatest collection of nature, history and culture.

Contributions generated through Bullseye Gives will help NPF care for our 391 national parks and protect these diverse environments and historical sites for future generations. Making sure that our children have a strong connection to our national parks is of vital importance to their future care. The Foundation supports nationwide conservation education programs like First Bloom and youth programs like Junior Rangers that get kids outdoors to discover and take ownership of our national parks. NPF also supports electronic field trips and other programs in classrooms that help kids learn about the parks when they can't be in them.

The percentage of votes per charitable organization will correlate to the charities' portion of the $3 million. All votes and dollars allocated will be updated in real time on the Target Facebook page throughout the course of the contest and site visitors can vote once per day, everyday, throughout the contest. The final allocations per charity will be announced on May 26. To vote, visit www.facebook.com/Target.

"At Target, our reputation is built on our legacy of giving, and Bullseye Gives is an incredible opportunity for us to continue to engage Target guests and the online community," said Laysha Ward, president, community relations, Target. "This is a unique way to help raise awareness of the important work these deserving charities do and increase localized volunteerism nationwide."

The selected charities fall within the Target's core areas of giving, as well as causes that are of specific interest to its guests. The other nine charities participating include American Red Cross, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Feeding America, HandsOn Network/Points of Light Institute, Kids In Need Foundation, Parent Teacher Association, Operation Gratitude, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital(R), and The Salvation Army.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

American Policy Roundtable Announces 40 Days of Prayer for Congress

RJ Note: Sounds like a great plan. Count me in!

/PRNewswire / -- The American Policy Roundtable today called upon all Americans to lift the United States Congress in prayer for the next 40 days. The call went out via the national radio broadcast, The Public Square(R), produced by the Roundtable and aired on over 140 radio stations and translators coast-to-coast.

"Criticism of Congress is high in every city and town, but the responsibilities before this Congress are even higher," stated David Zanotti, President/CEO of the Roundtable. "In the healthcare debate alone, Congress is now facing decisions that will impact every American. These are decisions that have life and death consequences for every household."

The Roundtable has produced a daily Congressional prayer list to help people pray through the entire U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, in the forty days between May 7th and June 15th, 2009. The list is found on the Roundtable's homepage at www.APRoundtable.org. Over one-million visitors log onto this site per year.

Individuals, churches, schools and organizations are all being invited by Internet email blasts to participate in the 40 Days of Prayer for Congress.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Firearms and Ammunition Excise Taxes Up 31 Percent in 4th Quarter '08

/PRNewswire / -- During a time period of great economic uncertainty, firearm and ammunition sales have continued to increase throughout the country.

According to the most recent Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax Collection Report, released earlier today by the Department of the Treasury, firearm and ammunition manufacturers paid more than $98.1 million in the fourth calendar quarter of 2008, up 31.3% over the same time period reported in 2007.

Manufacturers of firearms and ammunition pay a federal excise tax -- a major source of wildlife conservation funding -- on all firearms and ammunition manufactured (11% on long guns and ammunition and 10% on handguns).

The report, which covers the time period of October 1, 2008, through December 31, 2008, shows that $27.6 million was collected for pistols and revolvers, $35.0 million for long guns and $35.5 million for ammunition. Compared to the same quarter in 2007, collections were up 70.1% for handguns, 11.4% for long guns and 31.1% for ammunition.

These figures close out the 2008 calendar year. In 2008, a total of $345.2 million was collected in excise taxes, up 13.9% from the $303.2 million collected in calendar year 2007.

"Demand for firearms and ammunition is clear," said NSSF President Steve Sanetti. "Since the November elections we've seen an increase in firearm ownership coupled with an unprecedented level of attendance at firearm safety courses nationwide. Americans are buying firearms, and they're taking the proper precautions to ensure that they exercise their individual Second Amendment rights safely and responsibly."

Translation to Sales:

Using the latest collections as an indication of sales, a projection of $917.5 million was generated in the fourth quarter (calendar year) of 2008. Please keep in mind that although excise taxes are one of the best indicators of industry performance, they only report what the manufacturers paid in taxes and do NOT reflect retail mark-up and final retail sales. Furthermore, these figures are based solely on U.S. civilian sales and do not include sales to military, police and other governmental agencies.

Pistols and revolvers:
$27,649,109.11 / .10 = $276,491,091.10 = $276.5 million for handguns

Long guns:
$35,021,474.66 / .11 = $318,377,042.36 = $318.4 million for long guns

Ammunition:
$35,488,061.46 / .11 = $322,618,740.55 = $322.6 million for ammunition

Total estimation for the quarter: $917.5 million


Using the same methodology, a projection of $3.22 billion dollars was generated in calendar year 2008, up 15% from the $2.8 billion projected for calendar year 2007.

Pistol and Revolvers: $907.1 million
Long guns: $1.15 billion
Ammunition: $1.16 billion


"These numbers speak to a much greater story," said NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane. "America's gun owners have serious concerns about the country's current political make-up. Lawmakers should recognize this and understand that these gun owners are not merely consumers buying a product, but voters reacting to a very real threat."

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