LA Times: Is The Republican Campaign To Repeal Obamacare Over?

After five years and more than 50 votes in Congress, the Republican campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or “Obamacare”) is essentially over, states the LA Times.

According to the LA Times, GOP congressional leaders, unable to roll back the law while President Obama remains in office and unwilling to again threaten a government shutdown to pressure him, are focused on other issues like trade and tax reform.

Another interesting development is that senior Republican lawmakers have quietly incorporated many of the law’s key protections into their own proposal bills, including guaranteeing coverage and providing government assistance to help consumers purchase insurance.

Oddly, facing the situation that the Supreme Court this year could strip away insurance subsidies provided through the law, several GOP lawmakers have even proposed extending the aid, perhaps even until a new president takes office.

Former Florida Governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush has shown little enthusiasm for a new healthcare fight. Last year, he even criticized the repeal effort, states the LA Times.

This doesn’t mean that efforts to repeal the law will completely stop.

“Only 18% of Americans want to go back to the system we had before because they do not want to go back to some of the problems we had,” Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster who works for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who still demand a repeal, appear to be long shots for the presidential nomination, states the LA Times.

More realistic might be adjustments to Obamacare rather than outright repeal. For example, the Affordable Care Act allows states to enact policies that specifically ban abortion coverage in health plans offered through the health insurance exchange.

Right now, Republicans in the House State Affairs Committee in Texas are considering just such a bill that would ban coverage for abortion in health plans offered through the ACA’s health insurance exchange.

Opponents, however, argued that House Bill 3130 would create yet another hurdle for women.

More:

http://www.latimes.com/business/healthcare/la-na-obamacare-republicans-20150418-story.html#page=1

(Updated article)

Is Loretta Lynch Tough Enough On The Big Banks?

Sam Seder / Ring of Fire

On Thursday, September 25th, 2014, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would be leaving his office as soon as a replacement could be found.

According to Ring of Fire Radio, the Obama administration has turned to a corporate attorney who has plenty of experience representing Wall Street – rather than an attorney that spent her career fighting for average citizens.

Liberals have remained almost silent about Obama’s nominee Loretta Lynch and her record on going after the big banks.

Farron Cousins and attorney David Hersh talk about why people need to be very wary of Lynch’s nomination.

Secret Service Management Shakeup

CNN

According to the Washington Post, the Secret Service is forcing out four of its most senior officials while two others are retiring following months of scandal.

It is the biggest management shake-up at the agency since its director resigned in October.

More:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/4-top-secret-service-executives-told-to-leave-their-posts-in-agency-shake-up/2015/01/14/a084b164-9c1f-11e4-96cc-e858eba91ced_story.html

Appalachian Beekeepers Create Hives In Onetime Coal Mines

HERNSHAW, W.Va. (AP)

Up a tree-lined trail in Hernshaw, West Virginia, swarms of bees now patrol a mountain once partially broken apart for coal.  It’s been 15 years since the severed West Virginia mountainside produced any of the fossil fuel. Pritchard Mining Company has filled the adjacent valley with rocks, re-sloped the mountain, and new trees and plants.

“Mining for honey” is the new extractive business here, one with no impact on the Kanawha County land. Behind two security gates, seven small hive boxes are surrounded by a short electric wire fence, which helps fend off hungry adversaries of honey producers.

“Our biggest threat is that bear,” Wade Stiltner, state Department of Agriculture apiary inspector, said earlier this month before flipping on the voltage.

The controversial mining method often involves scraping off sides of mountains or literally blowing off their peaks for coal, and filling nearby valleys and streams with the remnants.

For bees, which fly about 2 miles in any direction from their hives, the result seems pretty good: expansive areas that coal companies restored, replanted and relined.

“The stuff we plant in reclamation and restoration, the beekeepers love it,” said Bill Raney, West Virginia Coal Association president.

Since April, West Virginia has test-run its tiny beekeeping operation on one former surface mine. The first year yielded more than 400 pounds of honey, which exceeded expectations and was an easy sell.  The state hopes to expand and offer veterans and displaced miners training, install hives at other mines, and provide honey in schools.

Kentucky provided a formula to follow. The Coal Country Beeworks program, which started in 2008 and uses various coal company partnerships and grants, includes 35 bee boxes at five mine sites and research with Eastern Kentucky University. A transition in leadership, not to mention skunks, bears and a bad winter, cut the hives down from about 80.

“We don’t have to teach appreciation for bees. Many people already have it,” said Tammy Horn, Kentucky state apiarist and former head of Coal Country Beeworks. “And we have unique varietals, which make our honey quite unique.”

Stiltner, a former underground miner himself, said there’s no specific testing of the honey from strip mines, as some environmentalists are urging. But he said nothing is getting into the nectar of the plants, and pesticides aren’t being used.

Due to habitat loss and pesticide use, commercial honeybees and their wild cousins have declined for more than a decade, threatening agricultural production.  The sudden disappearance or death of honeybees, called colony collapse disorder, has exacerbated the problem.  Winter losses have grown to up to 30 percent per year. Mites are also cited as part of the problem.

In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $3 million program to help dairy farmers and ranchers in five Midwestern states reseed pastures with plants appealing to both bees and livestock. The problem was also pressing enough that President Barack Obama formed a pollinator task force in June.

In the two Appalachian states dabbling most in mine beekeeping, there’s no shortage of usable sites. Bees don’t take up much space. The fenced-off site in West Virginia is less than 500 square feet, and another nine hives could fit there.

The Associated Press reported in 2010 that more than 345,700 acres had been approved for post-mining uses in eastern Kentucky; only about 1.8 percent was used for commercial, industrial or residential development. Those figures dated to 1999.

In West Virginia, covering about 84,800 acres of 218 mining permits awarded since 2001, only 7 percent was designated for industrial/commercial, public service or residential use.

Federal law requires restoring surface mines to pre-mining conditions. A provision allows exemptions for “higher or better uses,” often used for development projects. Golf courses, an airport, a prison, subdivisions and businesses have been constructed on reclaimed mine sites, though most are used for habitat, forest or pasture lands.