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Author Topic: Bureaucracy and Regulations in action: The Fourth Branch of the US Govt.  (Read 16978 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #100 on: May 22, 2014, 08:45:37 AM »

Free market principles call for the facts to be known.  This is a regulation I support:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/business/us-seeks-disclosure-of-all-fees-fliers-face.html?emc=edit_th_20140522&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193

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DougMacG
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« Reply #101 on: May 22, 2014, 09:27:03 AM »


Agree.  Maybe we could remove 10 bad regulations for every good one that we add.  Instead the answer is to just keep adding more laws.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #102 on: May 23, 2014, 10:27:02 PM »

Let's Get 'Metaphysical'
A federal court slaps down an Obama regulator's legal abuse.


May 23, 2014 6:44 p.m. ET

President Obama's energy regulators have pushed the law to the hilt and beyond in their campaign against carbon, but maybe the courts are starting to get queasy. The latest is the D.C. Court of Appeals, which on Friday cashiered a rule meant to harm traditional power plants.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) used to be the rare government outfit that preferred to stay out of the news, but under Chairman Jon Wellinghoff the legal and economic offenses in favor of noncarbon power sources piled up. The Senate is now weighing Mr. Wellinghoff's replacement, Norman Bay, and one question is whether he'll continue the regulatory method that produced the rule the D.C. Circuit has now tossed as an abuse of power.

FERC governs the electricity grid, and in 2011 Mr. Wellinghoff ordered transmission operators to pay retail energy users to reduce their power consumption at peak periods. This smart-grid program is known as "demand response" and can help run the system more efficiently and reliably. But FERC rigged this well-meaning incentive to harm traditional baseload power, especially coal but also natural gas and nuclear.

The problem is that Congress limited FERC's mandate to the wholesale interstate power markets—that is, power supply. Authority over retail power demand is reserved to the "exclusive jurisdiction" of the states.

FERC regulated anyway, claiming that the demand-response program would "directly affect" the regional level and therefore the two distinct state and interstate spheres were essentially the same. Judge Janice Rogers Brown shreds that logic as a "metaphysical distinction." She goes on to note that FERC's rationale "has no limiting principle" because changes in one market inevitably beget changes in another. FERC could use the same rationale to claim jurisdiction over "any number of areas, including the steel, fuel and labor markets."

The D.C. Circuit ruled FERC lacked statutory authority but then took a further step and declared the demand-response rule "arbitrary and capricious" on the merits, which is unusual. The courts generally defer to the judgment of regulators, and the Administrative Procedures Act blesses all but the most egregious overreach.

Especially abusive was FERC's discriminatory compensation scheme. FERC reasoned that not consuming power was identical to adding power to the grid and therefore service providers that took advantage of demand response deserved to be paid the same full market rate as power generators. But so-called "negawatts" are different from real megawatts, not least because power producers incur the costs of actually producing electricity and sending that power to consumers.

In practice, demand response paid out twice to the service providers, once from the FERC rebate plus the savings of not buying electricity. Overpaying for not doing something and underpaying for real economic benefits distorts price signals and leads to a misallocation of resources from electricity investment.

For this reason FERC Commissioner Phil Moeller dissented at the time, and economists and industry objected. Mr. Wellinghoff overruled, and FERC held that "the Commission is not limited to textbook economic analysis." The D.C. Circuit has replied that in fact it is and that the commission was harming the reliability of power markets it is supposed to protect.

On that note, Mr. Bay, the nominee for FERC Chairman, did little to distance himself from the Wellinghoff legacy when he testified on Tuesday, nor did he explain his own history of prosecutorial abuse at the commission. His answer to every question was that he didn't know, he wasn't sure, or he couldn't say.

But if Mr. Bay is confirmed, his job becomes even more important after the D.C. Circuit opinion. Over the last two years demand-response programs have suffused the grid and barring a successful appeal, which is unlikely given the sweep of the ruling, the feds will now be banned from regulating electricity demand.

Yet the forthcoming Environmental Protection Agency regulations on power plant carbon emissions—due in two weeks—will probably depend on FERC's demand-response distortion. Ending the conservation subsidies while simultaneously imposing rules that will force the retirement of existing coal power could do even more to endanger the grid and lead to rolling blackouts. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin asked Mr. Bay about grid reliability but he only responded that "I have not been following the decisional process at EPA closely enough to know."

The D.C. Circuit thunderclap could help restore the old nonpolitical FERC, but so would a Chairman with more fidelity to the law than Mr. Bay
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #103 on: May 29, 2014, 06:22:54 AM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/29/opinion/why-license-a-florist.html?emc=edit_th_20140529&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #104 on: June 01, 2014, 10:53:17 AM »

Columnist Mona Charen: "After the press loses interest in the Veterans Affairs scandal, after the investigations have been completed and one or two officials have resigned, nothing will change. Is this cynicism? Not really. It comes down to one's view of how much government can achieve by bureaucratic, top-down management. ... Even if Obama were the best manager in the world, the problems with efficient service delivery by government would continue -- because the government is too large, too unwieldy and too lacking in incentives for efficiency to yield much, if at all, to management. A business that fails to deliver services will be crushed by its competitors. Government can never go out of business. ... No central authority can make a system like the VA or the IHS or Britain's National Health Service run efficiently. Competition is the only system that gives the power to consumers to reward good service and punish bad. But progressives cannot shed their faith that more government is the answer to bad government, so this story is sure to be repeated."
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DougMacG
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« Reply #105 on: June 01, 2014, 11:35:21 AM »

Columnist Mona Charen: "After the press loses interest in the Veterans Affairs scandal, after the investigations have been completed and one or two officials have resigned, nothing will change. Is this cynicism? Not really. It comes down to one's view of how much government can achieve by bureaucratic, top-down management. ... Even if Obama were the best manager in the world, the problems with efficient service delivery by government would continue -- because the government is too large, too unwieldy and too lacking in incentives for efficiency to yield much, if at all, to management. A business that fails to deliver services will be crushed by its competitors. Government can never go out of business. ... No central authority can make a system like the VA or the IHS or Britain's National Health Service run efficiently. Competition is the only system that gives the power to consumers to reward good service and punish bad. But progressives cannot shed their faith that more government is the answer to bad government, so this story is sure to be repeated."

It boggles the mind that any honest liberal who would not trust a small number of corporations to control any industry because they would only be in it for themselves would instead trust one bloated, top-down, power hungry bureaucracy with that same responsibility - even after they are proven to be a corrupt, self-interested and miserable failure.
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G M
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« Reply #106 on: June 01, 2014, 01:14:05 PM »

Leftists never let reality intrude on their feelings.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #107 on: June 16, 2014, 04:08:16 PM »



http://online.wsj.com/articles/gordon-crovitz-uber-shocks-the-regulators-1402869510
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #108 on: June 19, 2014, 09:22:29 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/us/maine-court-fight-pits-farmers-against-state-and-one-another.html?emc=edit_th_20140619&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
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DougMacG
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« Reply #109 on: June 20, 2014, 09:54:39 AM »

Crafty from race, origin, discrimination thread:  "I just went to washingtonredskins.com and bought two t-shirts"

And ccp mentioned Cracker Barrel.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From Daily Caller:

12 Trademarks Declared Less Offensive Than Redskins

http://dailycaller.com/2014/06/18/12-trademarks-declared-less-offensive-than-redskins/

(I am very tempted to not post the details, but here goes...)

In a ruling Wednesday morning, the United States Patent and Trademark Office cancelled six federal trademarks for the name of the Washington Redskins. (RELATED: US Patent Office Cancels ‘Redskins’ Trademark)

Currently, federal trademark law does not allow the registration of any names that bring individuals or groups into contempt or disrepute. The PTO cited this rule in their decision regarding the Redskins’ name.

Here are twelve other trademarked names that apparently didn’t come up on anyone’s offense radar.

Figgas over Niggas: This pending trademark seeks to cover a line of “Apparel for dancers, namely, tee shirts, sweatshirts, pants, leggings, shorts and jackets.” “Niggas,” of course, is a slang version of the word “nigger,” a term considered highly offensive towards black Americans.

Kraut Kap: Another recently-filed trademark, this one for a line of plastic lids. “Kraut” was made famous in World War II as a derogatory term for opposing German soldiers, as well as Germans in general.

Dago Swagg: A label created for a line of clothing. ”Dago” is a corruption of the common name Diego, and is used in English-speaking countries as an offensive term for those of Italian descent, and occasionally people from other Mediterranean countries as well.

Cracka Azz Skateboards: Unsurprisingly, this trademark was taken out for a line of skateboards and longboards, as well as associated clothing such as bandannas. While the USPTO helpfully notes that “The wording ‘cracka azz’ has no meaning in a foreign language,” “cracka” is a slang version of “cracker,” which in this context is a term of derision for whites, used primarily within the black community.

You Can’t Make A Housewife Out Of A Whore: This trademark for T-shirts and hats appears to imply that women involved in prostitution can never transition into the domestic role of a housewife. Such an accusation would certainly “bring them into contempt or disrepute,” the stated reasoning for eliminating the Redskins trademark.

Blanco Basura: A seemingly innocuous phrase, Blanco Basura, rendered into English, is actually the highly offensive slur “white trash.” White trash is a derogatory insult that typically refers to poor, white Americans, who have a penchant for crime and a patent disrespect for authority. Apparently, they thought they could go unnoticed designing a hateful beer.

Home Cookin Biscuit Head: Intentionality, as we well know, is not required in order for something to be highly, highly offensive. They should’ve done their due diligence before designing this logo for the restaurant industry. The term “biscuit head” has its origins in the Korean War, when American GIs picked this unseemly term to describe the shape of Koreans’ heads.
 
by TaboolaSponsored Content
‘teensdoporn.com’: This is a classic example (Safe For Work) of a harmful stereotype used to justify condescension toward teens in the form of countless hours of sex-ed in high school. It wrongfully supposes that all teens are sex-crazed maniacs, who given the chance, will opt for trading their sexuality on a website for fame and fortune.

Gypsy Soule Women Who Live By Their Own Rules: This line of makeup containers and tote bags is a double whammy. “Gypsy” is a term for the itinerant Romani people that derives from the erroneous belief they originated from Egypt, rather than India. In addition, the “Live by their own rules” component hearkens to the common stereotype that Romani routinely ignore the law and engage in criminality.

Mammy Jamia’s: A company going by the name of A & S Cairns Limited has decided to attach its good name to an antebellum slur used to refer to an enslaved black woman who was in charge of household affairs, particularly caring for white children. The product? Frozen fruits and vegetables. Was it really worth it, A &S?

Uppity Negro: Intended to be imprinted on mugs and apparel, this trademark references the frequently used adjective “uppity” to describe blacks who agitated for greater respect and civil rights in the Jim Crow-era South.

All Natural My Dadz Nutz Carmelized Jumbo Redskins: Available at MyDadzNutz.com, this line of savory peanuts is unlikely to run into trouble for applying “redskin” to a line of peanuts. One might argue the two terms describe different things, and so the overlap does not matter, but that hasn’t stopped the old name for Brazil nuts from fading away. Kaffir limes, meanwhile, are a discouraged name in the Oxford Companion to Food, as “kaffir” is a highly offensive term for blacks in South Africa.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #110 on: June 24, 2014, 02:25:40 PM »

WSJ
What Is the EPA Hiding From the Public?
The agency shouldn't get to decide who sees the science behind its rules. Open the research to outside analysis.
By Lamar Smith
June 23, 2014 6:45 p.m. ET

The climate is changing and, yes, humans play a role. But that does not mean, as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy would have us believe, that the debate—over how much the climate is changing, how big a role humans play, and what can reasonably done about it—is over. Still less does it mean that anyone who questions her agency's actions, particularly the confidential research it uses to justify multimillion and billion-dollar air rules, is a denier at war with science.

The EPA's regulatory process today is a closed loop. The agency funds the scientific research it uses to support its regulations, and it picks the supposedly independent (but usually agency-funded) scientists to review it. When the regulations are challenged, the courts defer to the agency on scientific issues. But the agency refuses to make public the scientific research it uses.
Enlarge Image

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy Getty Images

The House Science Committee will vote Tuesday on legislation to open up this closed loop. The Secret Science Reform Act, which I co-sponsored, has a simple goal: EPA regulations should be based on legitimate science and data that are open to the public.

Scientific journals in a variety of disciplines have moved toward data transparency. Ms. McCarthy sees this effort as a threat. Speaking before the National Academy of Sciences in late April, she defended her agency's need to protect data "from those who are not qualified to analyze it."

The EPA essentially decides who is or is not allowed access to the scientific research they use—research that is paid for with public funds, appropriated by Congress, on behalf of American taxpayers. This is wholly improper.

I recently received a letter of support for the Secret Science Reform Act that was signed by more than 80 scientists, including physicians, and professors of environmental science, physics, statistics, economics and engineering. The signatories included George Wolff, former chair of the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in the Clinton administration and Forrest J. Remick, former commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the George H.W. Bush administration. They wrote that the bill would "make the agency's regulations more accountable, credible, and enforceable" and that its transparency requirements "can be accomplished without imposing unnecessary burdens, discouraging research, or raising confidentiality concerns."

Costly environmental regulations must be based on publicly available data that independent scientists can verify. For example, take the administration's recently proposed plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants—regulations that could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and spike electricity rates.

In the announcement of her agency's 645-page Clean Power Plan, Ms. McCarthy claimed "The science is clear. The risks are clear. And the high costs of climate inaction keep piling up." Yet any reporter willing to read beyond the EPA press release would find that the reality doesn't match the rhetoric.

Monday's Supreme Court decision (Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA) underscores the need for scrutiny of agency claims. The court called EPA's rewriting of the Clean Air Act "outrageous," and said that "When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate 'a significant portion of the American economy,' we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism." Such skepticism is well deserved.

Virtually all of the EPA's health claims for its latest power-plant rules, including that they would save thousands of lives a year, are based on data that haven't been made public. In any event, for most of the EPA's 2030 projections, a majority of the health benefits claimed have nothing to do with carbon dioxide. They come from reductions in air pollutants already regulated by the EPA such as particulate matter and ozone.

The EPA also claims that its Clean Power Plan will yield climate benefits, such as lower sea levels, which the agency calculates using its "social cost of carbon." But a recent analysis by Ted Gayer, vice president and director of economic studies at the Brookings Institution, found that most of these alleged benefits take place outside the U.S. Even using the EPA's own numbers, the costs of this regulation may exceed the direct, domestic benefits.

The EPA, like every other government institution, should be accountable to the American people. We need to protect our environment, but this should be done on the basis of open and honest information. That is the goal of the Secret Science Reform Act.

Mr. Smith, a Republican from Texas, is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #111 on: July 22, 2014, 10:00:34 AM »



Study Finds Elementary Students Like New Healthier Lunches
Students Complained When Regulations Implemented, But Ultimately Found Them Agreeable
by Caroline Porter and Stephanie Armour
WSJ
Updated July 21, 2014 7:39 p.m. ET

A new study reveals that the healthier school lunches despised in 2012 are now found to be agreeable among students and staffers. Caroline Porter joins the News Hub with Sara Murray. Photo: Getty Images.

When the federal government implemented new school-meal regulations in 2012, a majority of elementary-school students complained about the healthier lunches, but by the end of the school year most found the food agreeable, according to survey results released Monday.

The peer-reviewed study comes amid concerns that the regulations led schools to throw away more uneaten food and prompted some students to drop out of meal programs.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed administrators at more than 500 primary schools about student reaction to the new meals in the 2012-2013 school year. They found that 70% agreed or strongly agreed that students, by the end of the school year, generally liked the new lunches, which feature more whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and lower fat levels.

"We feel like these data support the new meals and show that although change can be slow, there have not been as many student complaints as thought to be," said Lindsey Turner, the lead author of the study, which will be published in the journal Childhood Obesity. The research was supported by a national group called Bridging the Gap that studies polices that improve health and was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which backs public-health initiatives.

In another study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this past spring, researchers found that students were eating more fruits and vegetables under the new guidelines.

The school-meal standards have been contentious. Some Republicans criticized their calorie limits—the first time the government had imposed such a mandate on school meals—and in 2012 introduced legislation in the House to repeal the requirements. The standards also spurred student-led lunch boycotts in some districts.

Participation in the school-meal program has declined in recent years, fueling questions about the regulations' impact.

"Our big concern is that participation continues to slide," said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association, which represents 55,000 school-nutritional professionals. The group seeks a relaxation of the rules, and says it believes they play a role in the decline in students participating.

Nationwide, participation in the school-lunch program fell by 1.2 million students, or 3.7%, from the 2010-2011 school year through the 2012-2013 year after having steadily increased for many years, according to a Feb. 27 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. State and local officials reported the drop was due in part to the new standards.

The study released Monday shows that schools in which two-thirds or more of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch had higher participation and left less food on their plates than schools with fewer students qualified for the meals. In addition, administrators at rural schools reported more student complaints and wasted food, as well as participation drops, as compared with urban or suburban schools, according to the report.

The rules cover the roughly 32 million children who eat school breakfasts, lunches and snacks, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which says the program cost $15.2 billion in the 2013-2014 school year.


The requirement for healthier school food was a signature push of first lady Michelle Obama. The standards are aimed at reducing childhood obesity and were released in January 2012. Ms. Obama earlier this month vowed to fight GOP efforts to weaken the rules. House Republicans and the School Nutrition Association are seeking to relax some of the requirements in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

House Republicans are calling for some schools facing financial challenges to get a temporary waiver from the rules. They say the standards have been money losers for some districts. Democrats say the schools simply need more time and that many have made a successful transition.

"It takes students a little bit to adjust," said Jessica Donze Black, a child nutrition expert for the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit that promotes healthy school meals. "A majority of schools are doing well, and we should be able to learn from those schools and move forward with the schools that are still struggling."

A hearing on school nutrition by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is set for Wednesday.

Write to Caroline Porter at caroline.porter@wsj.com and Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com
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MikeT
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« Reply #112 on: July 22, 2014, 11:42:14 AM »

Cities who take HUD funding--- basically all of them-- could fall under federal jurisdiction for neighborhood planning quotas.

http://mobile.wnd.com/2014/07/new-obama-rule-could-force-cities-to-house-illegals/

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #113 on: August 02, 2014, 10:22:50 AM »


This was published in the Canada Free Press and some  blogs. [And not in the US press?  Surprise surprise. ]
 

 
 
Green Energy for Dead Vets
Daniel Greenfield
Three years before Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki would be forced out of his job because of the veterans who had died under him, he visited the Massachusetts National Cemetery . He wasn't there to see the men and women who had died because of him.
 
While vets were dying, Obama and Shinseki had turned their attention to something truly important; seeing to it that all the cemeteries where they were being buried had wind or solar power.
 
The Massachusetts National Cemetery was getting a wind turbine so that the dead veterans would have all the sustainable energy they needed.
 
A VA press release about the cemetery turbine boasted that "under the leadership of Secretary Eric K. Shinseki... VA is transitioning into a 21st century organization that better serves America ’s Veterans."
 
Shinseki arrived in person at the dedication ceremony to flip the switch on the cemetery wind turbine.
 
“Nationally, VA continues to expand its investment in renewable sources of energy to promote our Nation’s energy independence, save taxpayer dollars, and improve care for our Veterans and their families,” he said.
 
The cemetery turbine had cost $533,000. Veterans were dying to save the VA a few hundred dollars. Shinseki had made his order of priorities clear. Green energy boondoggles came first. Improving veteran care came last.
 
Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro told the crowd, "With one of VA’s first wind turbine projects, the Massachusetts National Cemetery is leading the way in the use of renewable energy while providing the burial benefits that New England Veterans and their families have earned."
 
Muro had made the entire macabre spectacle worthy of a Joseph Heller novel. Obama's people had not only killed veterans, they had killed satire.
 
When the VA wasn't installing a wind turbine at a cemetery, it was installing solar panels at cemeteries to better serve the dead veterans that it was killing.
 
The Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery’s solar panels cost $787,308. According to the press release, the solar panels in the cemetery would "reduce greenhouse gas emissions".
 
$742,034 worth of solar panels was put in at the Calverton National Cemetery .  The San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery got an $800,000 solar panel setup. The Riverside National Cemetery got a $1.3 million solar system.
 
“We are investing in clean energy and renewable energy projects at our national cemeteries to reduce our environmental footprint,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki declared. ”The transition toward these renewable energy sources helps VA continue to be a leading example of going green in the federal government.”
 
Vets might be dying at VA facilities, but they would have solar panels and wind turbines over their graves so that Shineski could provide Obama with a leading example of “greenness”.
 
The cemeteries may have been where the VA's scandal of shorting care for vets ended, under the shade of solar panels and wind turbines, but it was not where it began.
 
The VA scandal began at the Phoenix VA Health Care System where administrators earned promotions and bonuses by shunting patients who needed treatment into fake waiting lists.
 
 
As many as 40 veterans had died while waiting for care and 1,715 veterans in the Phoenix VA Health Care System had waited more than 90 days for an appointment. A retired Navy serviceman died of bladder cancer after being put on a 7-month waiting list after blood was found in his urine. He finally received an appointment a week after his death.
 
But each and every year, from 2009 to 2011, the Phoenix VA Health Care System put in solar panels. The solar panels at the Carl T. Hayden VA in Phoenix cost $20 million.
 
That $20 million could have saved the lives of dying veterans.
 
In 2009, Obama had signed a Green Energy executive order. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki had announced that "in order to continue providing Veterans with the best health care and benefit services, VA must adapt to climate change."
 
Not only did Global Warming have nothing to do with serving veterans, but it got in the way of the VA's central mission. While Shinseki was focused on building solar panels so the sky wouldn't fall, veterans were waiting months to see a doctor.
 
At some South Texas facilities vets had to wait 85 days for a primary care appointment and 55 days for a mental health appointment with  "a worst-in-the-nation, 145-day average wait for new patients seeking specialist care".
 
One of the vets waiting for a mental health appointment, who suffered from waiting list cheating, committed suicide.
 
Meanwhile the South Texas Veterans Health Care System installed a 1.7 MW solar PV system.
 
The Amarillo VA Health Care System had the third longest wait times for mental health appointments in the country. Its Thomas E. Creek office complained of a lack of resources. Meanwhile $10 million was spent on solar panels.
 
Hawaii has the longest waiting list for veterans with an average of 145 days for an appointment at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center.
 
Meanwhile it was spending between $1 and $2 million on a 119 KW Solar PV System.
 
Veterans at Kansas VAs had to wait more than 90 days. 977 never had appointments scheduled. There were 104 vets on the waiting list at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita .
 
But while the Dole Center may not have had time for vets, it did have time to set up solar panels.
 
Three mental health administrators at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville , Florida were suspended for keeping a waiting list for over 200 vets. Meanwhile the facility had blown between$5 and $10 million on a solar panel system.
 
The Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center put 3,000 vets on a phantom waiting list to see a doctor who doesn't see patients.
 
Unfortunately its $20.3 million solar setup was all too real.
 
The average wait time for new patients at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center was about 57 days to see a primary care doctor.  But that just gave vets more time to admire its new $1.1 million solar setup.
 
The Bay Pines VA Health Care System didn't schedule appointments for 1,000 vets. But it did find the time and money to put in solar panels. The Cheyenne VA Medical Center, which was caught removing vets from the waiting list, had not one, but two, million dollar solar setups.
 
The Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center , which was one of three flagged facilities, was part of a $50 million VA solar panel contract.
 
Vets couldn't get appointments, but every VA facility was getting solar power, whether it needed it or not.
 
The Buffalo VA Medical Center in upstate New York , where winter is the best 8 months of the year, got solar. So did the VA center in the Bronx in New York City . The New York VA solar contracts were part of $7.8 million in solar contracts awarded to one company.
 
Meanwhile in Southeast Texas, the former associate chief of staff at the VA said that a cost-cutting policy had been implemented under which colonoscopies would only be approved if the patient tested positive in three successive screenings for bloody stools.
 
“By the time that you do the colonoscopies on these patients, you went from a stage 1 to a stage 4, which is basically inoperable,” Dr. Richard Krugman said. "That was done because of dollars and cents. For the VA, they have to be bleeding out of their rectum before they would authorize a colonoscopy."
 
Everyone has their priorities. Benghazi and the VA scandal happened because the men who died were a low priority compared to solar panels and buying bad art for embassies. The State Department spent millions on art for embassies and mansion renovations, but begrudged the security that would have saved four American lives. Fortunes were spent on solar panels and wind turbines for VA facilities, but veterans died of cancer to save money on a colonoscopy.
 
The corrupt obsession with Green Energy doesn't just waste money, it costs lives. The fanaticism of the Global Warmists in the White House led them to disregard the lives of vets because they thought that saving the world with solar panels and wind turbines was more important.
 
The VA's Green Management Program Office claimed that it would "keep our promises to Veterans through sustainability." Instead it focused on "Environmental Justice" and "Green Purchasing" at the expense of veterans. Solar panels went up and veterans went down.
 
While they were putting in wind and solar at VA facilities and cemeteries, they forgot about the veterans who had served their country and deserved better than to be sacrificed for a solar panel.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #114 on: September 22, 2014, 09:27:52 AM »

Not quite sure where to put this

http://thefreethoughtproject.com/police-11-arrests-seize-190-pounds-unlicensed-ginseng-30000-cash/
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 11:21:16 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
G M
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« Reply #115 on: September 23, 2014, 09:13:31 AM »


Tragedy of the commons?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #116 on: February 12, 2015, 01:32:01 AM »

Regulation Is Good for Goldman
Lloyd Blankfein and Elizabeth Warren find common ground.
Feb. 11, 2015 7:27 p.m. ET
11 COMMENTS

Liberals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) are treating the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law as holy writ because she says it punishes the big banks. But then why is Lloyd Blankfein so content? On Tuesday at an investor conference, the Goldman Sachs CEO explained how higher regulatory costs are crushing the competition.

“More intense regulatory and technology requirements have raised the barriers to entry higher than at any other time in modern history,” said Mr. Blankfein. “This is an expensive business to be in, if you don’t have the market share in scale. Consider the numerous business exits that have been announced by our peers as they reassessed their competitive positioning and relative returns.”
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs ENLARGE
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Photo: Bloomberg

Longer term, Mr. Blankfein sees more opportunities for global giants like Goldman to grab even more market share, as “only a handful of players” will likely be able “to effectively compete on a global basis.”

While the Goldman boss wasn’t endorsing all of the added directives from Washington, he said his bank is “prepared to have this relationship with our regulators”—and the regulators are prepared to have a deep relationship with Goldman—“for a long time.”

None of this will surprise our readers, who understand that one goal of Dodd-Frank was to turn big banks into the equivalent of financial utilities. But it is unusual to see a financial CEO like Mr. Blankfein state the effect so candidly. Goldman can afford to hire battalions of lawyers and lobbyists to commune with regulators, and no doubt some of Wall Street’s campaign contributions from its regulation-aided profits will even make it to the likes of Ms. Warren. As ever, powerful government mainly helps the powerful.
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ccp
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« Reply #117 on: February 12, 2015, 08:55:08 AM »

"“More intense regulatory and technology requirements have raised the barriers to entry higher than at any other time in modern history,” said Mr. Blankfein. “This is an expensive business to be in, if you don’t have the market share in scale. Consider the numerous business exits that have been announced by our peers as they reassessed their competitive positioning and relative returns.”

The same thing is happening in health care.  Regulations and profound complex technology requirements have done the same thing in health care.
The biggest thrive and everyone else struggles or goes out of business.   The winners are the biggest who can pay reams of people to navigate the mazes that are laid down all over the streets and sidewalks.

Hence big pharmacies, big hospital chains, and the biggest insurers are thriving and taking over the entire health care world.

Any of us seen any savings yet?
« Last Edit: February 12, 2015, 10:52:47 AM by ccp » Logged
DougMacG
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« Reply #118 on: February 12, 2015, 10:40:07 AM »

"“More intense regulatory and technology requirements have raised the barriers to entry higher than at any other time in modern history,” said Mr. Blankfein. “This is an expensive business to be in, if you don’t have the market share in scale. Consider the numerous business exits that have been announced by our peers as they reassessed their competitive positioning and relative returns.”
The same thing is happening in health care.  Regulations and profound complex technology requirements have done the same thing in health care.
The biggest thrive and everyone struggles or goes out of business.   The winners are the biggest who can pay reams of people to navigate the mazes that are laid down all over the streets and sidewalks.
Hence big pharmacies, big hospital chains, and the biggest insurers are thriving and taking over the entire health care world.
Any of us seen any savings yet?

Isn't that the truth!  The rise of the giant bureaucracy is a war against entrepreneurialism and small business, right while the "market" index of entrenched companies keeps showing big gains.  Big companies continually challenged by start-ups and competition is what would actually make them stronger.  Health care in America is only the latest example of a country being swallowed by big government, one industry at a time.
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ccp
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« Reply #119 on: February 12, 2015, 11:00:00 AM »

Doug writes,

"The rise of the giant bureaucracy is a war against entrepreneurialism and small business, right while the "market" index of entrenched companies keeps showing big gains"

Yes!  And a giant expansion of the middle man growing exponentially to help with navigation and squeeze out savings.  But who shares the savings?  It ain't us.  It is the Wall Street businesses.   

Take for example the Pharmacy Benefits Managers such as Caremark.  To help keep down drug costs.  Sounds good but what was their market cap when they were finally swallowed up but the bigger player - CVS?

I could be wrong but I would like a real objective cost benefit analysis (actuaries?) to explain to us (Joe the plumber public) who is actually seeing the big benefits.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #120 on: February 13, 2015, 03:16:06 PM »

Don't be fooled by the name; it's a government takeover.
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/02/net-neuter-trality.php

Watch the short video.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #121 on: March 02, 2015, 01:01:19 PM »

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/mar/2/judge-rules-epa-lied-about-transparency/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #122 on: April 05, 2015, 10:22:26 AM »

Mansour Samadpour makes his way through the supermarket like a detective working a crime scene, slow, watchful, up one aisle and down the next. A clerk mistakenly assumes that he needs help, but Mr. Samadpour brushes him off. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

He buys organic raspberries that might test positive for pesticides and a fillet of wild-caught fish that might be neither wild nor the species listed on the label. He buys beef and pork ground fresh at the market. He is disappointed that there is no caviar, which might turn out to be something cheaper than sturgeon roe. That’s an easy case to crack.

Civilian shoppers see food when they go to the market. Mr. Samadpour, the chief executive of IEH Laboratories (short for Institute for Environmental Health), sees mystery, if not downright fraud. On this visit, he is shopping for goods he can test at his labs to demonstrate to a reporter that what you see on market shelves may not be what you get.

While he’s out of the office, he receives a call and dispatches a team on a more pressing expedition: They need to buy various products that contain cumin, because a client just found possible evidence of peanuts, a powerful allergen, in a cumin-based spice mix. The client wants a definitive answer before someone gets sick.
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Testing vials of caviar samples at IEH Laboratories in Seattle. Credit Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Suppliers, manufacturers and markets depend on Mr. Samadpour’s network of labs to test food for inadvertent contamination and deliberate fraud, or to verify if a product is organic or free of genetically modified organisms. Consumers, the last link in the chain, bet their very health on responsible practices along the way.

The annual cost of food-borne illnesses in the United States is $14.1 billion to $16.3 billion, according to a 2013 analysis by the Agriculture Department. The federal government has called for a shift from reaction, which usually means a large recall after people have fallen ill or died, to prevention, to reduce the number of such episodes. Wary customers want their food to be safe and genuine, and food retailers, who rely on a global array of suppliers, are looking for ways to protect their brands.

Food testing sits at the intersection of those desires. Mr. Samadpour, who opened IEH’s first lab in 2001 with six employees, now employs over 1,500 people at 116 labs in the United States and Europe. He refers to his company, one of the largest of its kind in the country, as “a privately financed public health organization.”

The Promise of DNA Tests

The two low-slung wooden buildings that house IEH’s labs at its base in Seattle feel more like a high school chemistry lab than the center of a national food security network; there’s an acrid smell, and the counters are crammed with vials of various shapes and colors, centrifuge machines and lined notebooks full of data entries.

This is where analysts coax DNA out of a tiny sample of whatever is being tested. For lethal threats, like E. coli 0157 in ground beef, the detection process involves a grim recipe of ground beef and a broth infused with nutrients that E. coli likes to eat, put in a warm place to rest for 10 hours — at which point a single E. coli cell, if it exists, will have spawned one million easy-to-detect siblings. For fraud cases, the process is somewhat simpler; lab technicians run a DNA test or chemical analysis to confirm a sample’s identity.
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Cheap technology has made this kind of testing possible. “Ten years ago, it would have taken millions of dollars to sequence a genome,” Mr. Samadpour says. “Now it takes $100. We do thousands a year.”

Business is booming — partly because IEH clients consider testing to be a gatekeeper defense in a multitiered food economy without borders. “We’re a lot more concerned about imports,” Mr. Samadpour says, because of “lack of accountability, lack of infrastructure, lack of a culture of food safety.” He says episodes like the 2008 discovery of the toxic chemical melamine in infant formula from China have contributed to a gradual shift in food manufacturers’ attitudes toward imports.

While the lab focuses primarily on safety issues like the cumin-and-peanut inquiry, there are enough fraud calls to support specialties among the lab technicians, like Kirthi Kutumbaka, referred to by his colleagues as “the emperor of fish” for his work on a seafood identification project. Once a fish is filleted, genetic testing is the only way to confirm its identity, making it a popular category for fraud.

IEH’s clients are primarily vendors who supply retailers and manufacturers, and they generally prefer to remain anonymous for fear of indicating to consumers that they have a specific worry about safety.

Costco is one of the retailers that use IEH’s services, and the company doesn’t mind talking about it.

“We have to inspect what we expect,” says Craig Wilson, the company’s vice president for quality assurance and food safety, meaning that products have to live up to their labels, particularly items in Costco’s own Kirkland Signature line.

Costco has a smaller margin of error than most food retailers; the company stocks only about 3,500 so-called S.K.U.s, or stock keeping units, while most retailers offer as many as 150,000. A single misstep is a far greater percentage of the whole. That’s why, in addition to retaining IEH, it operates its own 20-person testing lab.

“We’re not typical,” Mr. Wilson says. “We have one ketchup, one mayonnaise, one can of olives, Kirkland Signature olive oils and a couple of others.” Since 2003, the United States Department of Agriculture has required the testing of beef used for ground beef, resulting in a 40 percent reduction in cases of E. coli traced to beef consumption. Costco, which processes 600,000 to 700,000 pounds of ground beef daily, does extensive micro-sampling of the meat at its California facility, Mr. Wilson says.

The company expects its suppliers to absorb testing costs and gets no resistance, given the size of the resulting orders. Costco sells 157,000 rotisserie chickens a day. As Mr. Wilson put it: “If vendors get a bill for a couple hundred bucks on a $1 million order, who cares? They don’t.”

The sheer volume also enables Costco to demand action when there is a problem. After a 2006 outbreak of E. coli tied to Earthbound Farm’s ready-to-eat bagged spinach, in which three people died and more than 200 became ill, Mr. Wilson, one of Earthbound’s customers, instituted what he calls a “bag and hold” program for all of Costco’s fresh greens suppliers. He required the suppliers to test their produce and not ship it until they had the results of the tests.


Earthbound responded to the outbreak with a “multihurdle program that places as many barriers to food-borne illness as we can,” says Gary Thomas, the company’s senior vice president for integrated supply chain. Earthbound now conducts 200,000 tests annually on its ready-to-eat greens.

Not everyone was as quick to embrace change; some growers were concerned about losing shelf life while they waited for results. Mr. Wilson was unmoved by that argument. “If you can test and verify microbial safety, what do I care if I lose shelf life?” he says.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, intended to improve food safety practices, has been mired in missed deadlines, which have been attributed to food-industry concerns about overregulation and to an unrealistic timeline given the scope of the overhaul. The delays led to a lawsuit by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health, two advocacy groups. The F.D.A. and the Office of Management and Budget now operate under a court-ordered schedule that requires regulations to be issued in late 2015 and 2016.

The F.D.A. currently stops short of requiring produce tests, although it conducts its own “surveillance sampling,” according to Juli Putnam, an agency spokeswoman. The agency sees two drawbacks to mandatory tests: “A negative product test result does not necessarily indicate the absence of a hazard,” Ms. Putnam wrote in an email, because contamination might show up in another part of a field, and conducting more tests would increase the costs that are passed on to the consumer.

The agency is focused instead on defining minimum safety standards for “potential sources of microbiological contamination such as agricultural water, worker health and hygiene and animals in the growing area,” she wrote (though some preventive testing is conducted on sprouts).


DNATrek, a newcomer to the field, sees opportunity in another aspect of food safety testing: the need to quickly pinpoint the source of a pathogen outbreak, to avoid delays and unnecessarily broad recalls. Anthony Zografos, the company’s chief executive, says it soon plans to introduce a test called DNATrax, which will be able to identify the source of contaminated produce within an hour, narrowing recall efforts “to a specific field or packer or distributor.” The test relies on tracer DNA that is dissolved in the liquid coating applied to many types of produce after harvest or added to prepared foods; it provides a unique genetic fingerprint.

George Farquar, a chemist and Mr. Zografos’s partner in the company, was looking for ways to trace airborne contaminants as part of a national security project financed by the Defense Department when he realized that the work could be applied to food safety. He and Mr. Zografos licensed the technology from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he was conducting the research, and it will receive royalties from sales of the test. Mr. Zografos says that DNATrax will offer traceability for most types of field produce at a price of about $1 for 1,000 pounds.
Continue reading the main story

Tracking Down Fraud

Food safety is a yes-or-no proposition — either there is a contaminant or there isn’t. Food fraud, a smaller segment of the universe of problem foods, is harder to detect because it can take so many forms. Fish from a country whose imports have been banned might arrive at the market labeled with a different country of origin, honey might be cut with cheaper extenders, and saffron might not even be saffron.

When asked if fake food has ever crossed the threshold at Costco, Mr. Wilson smiles and says, “I’m going to go with ‘no,’ but you’re not going to believe me entirely. Yes, there have been egregious things, and we’ve taken care of them, and that’s that.”

Olive oil is a popular target for fraud because there are several ways to charge more for less. Compliance with United States Department of Agriculture quality standards for extra-virgin olive oil is voluntary. Unless a supplier pays for testing, passes and puts a U.S.D.A.-certified sticker on the bottle, consumers have no way to know whether they got extra-virgin olive oil. Any grade of olive oil can be doctored with cheap filler oils like canola, because they have no flavor. And the country of origin listed on the label isn’t always where the contents are from.

About five years ago, Mr. Wilson decided it was time to send an employee to Tuscany to collect leaves from Tuscan olive trees. Costco now has an index of DNA information on “all the cultivars of Tuscan olive oil, about 16 different ones,” he says. “When they harvest and press, we do our DNA testing.”

A group of undergraduates at the University of California, Davis, has developed the OliView, a biosensor that can detect rancid or adulterated olive oil. They expect to have the device ready for sale, at $60 to $80, in 18 months to two years. “At the supermarket level, we found that a lot of times the oil was just old and rancid,” says Selina Wang, research director at the U.C. Davis Olive Center and one of the students’ advisers, “but there were also samples labeled extra virgin that were actually a little bit of virgin olive oil mixed with refined olive oil.”

Adulterated oil, more common among imports, can stump even food professionals. Ms. Wang says that at the center, they “have seen samples with as much as 70 percent canola oil.”

DNATrek has also developed a test for products where fraud is a temptation — “high-value stuff, truffles, saffron, premium juices, honey, seafood and olive oil,” Mr. Zografos says.

Mr. Samadpour says that in multi-ingredient products, the source of trickery is usually hidden further down the food chain than the name on the package. “It’s not the top people who get involved in economic adulteration,” he says. “It’s someone lower down who sees a way to save a penny here or there. Maybe it’s 2 or 3 cents, but if you sell a million units, that’s $20,000 to $30,000.”

Consumer Vigilance

As with most expanding technologies, there are believers and skeptics. David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at the 111-year-old United Fresh Produce Association, echoes the position of the Food and Drug Administration: Testing is not a sufficient answer for his members, who include anyone engaged in the fresh produce industry, “from guys who come up with seeds to growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, restaurants and grocery stores, everyone from beginning to end,” from small organic farms to Monsanto.

Their common ground, he says, is a commitment to food safety — but members disagree on how to achieve it, including Mr. Gombas and Mr. Samadpour, who are both microbiologists. “Microbiological testing provides a false sense of security,” Mr. Gombas says. “They can find one dead salmonella cell on a watermelon, but what does that tell you about the rest of the watermelon in the field? Nothing.”

Testing has its place, he says, but as backup for “good practices and environmental monitoring,” which includes things as diverse as employee hygiene and site visits. “I’m a fan of testing,” he says, “if something funny’s going on.” Otherwise, he has taken on the role of contrarian. “People think testing means something. When I say it doesn’t, they smile, nod and keep testing.”

Mr. Samadpour says sampling “can reduce the risk tremendously but can never 100 percent eliminate it,” but he will take a tremendous reduction over a food crisis any day. The government’s “indirect” stance, which mandates safety but does not require testing, allows companies to interpret safe practices on “a spectrum,” he says, “from bare minimum to sophisticated programs,” and he worries about safety at the low end of that range.

He says consumer vigilance is the best defense against the selling of groceries under bare minimum standards.

IEH tested the contents of Mr. Samadpour’s grocery cart:

The organic raspberries showed 0.12 parts per million of spinosyn A, an insecticide with a tolerance limit of 0.035 p.p.m. on organic crops and 0.7 p.p.m on nonorganic berries. Mr. Samadpour assumed that was the result of an errant breeze from a nearby nonorganic field.

The beef and pork were cross-contaminated — each had amounts of the other — a common occurrence, he says, when markets grind first one batch of meat and then the other. These were small amounts as well, but their presence could upset a Muslim or Jewish customer who does not eat pork, or a Hindu who does not eat beef. The fish was what the label said it was.

As for the cumin and the peanuts, the F.D.A. posted a handful of product recalls, all of them involving cumin and peanuts, including Kellogg’s MorningStar Farms chipotle black bean burgers, which Mr. Wilson removed from Costco’s shelves.

The recalls continued for weeks, until the F.D.A. issued a blanket statement “advising people who are highly allergic to peanuts to consider avoiding products that contain ground cumin or cumin powder, because some shipments of these products have tested positive for undeclared peanut protein. People who are highly allergic or sensitive to peanuts may be at risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction.”

Inside the labs, reaction was more world-weary than panicked; this was business as usual.

“Other than the label somebody’s written,” Mr. Farquar says, “you really have no idea where your food’s coming from.”

Mr. Samadpour, having been at this far longer, is more philosophical. “I eat street food when I travel,” he says. “One can’t become a microbe-phobe.”
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