The Cronyism Grown Into U.S. Food Aid

America is a generous country. Taxpayers can take pride in the fact that, under the terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, they will send more than $2 billion worth of food to needy countries this year. Thanks to these aid programs, more than 50 million people in 51 countries will be fed by U.S. foreign aid. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that these programs are rife with cronyism that make them more expensive and less effective than they should be.

Just how much cronyism is there? Enough that another 8 to 10 million people could be fed at no added cost just by removing two unnecessary regulations.

What do these regulations do? The first requires that nearly all U.S. food aid be sourced from American farmers. The logic is that American food aid can combine generosity with national self-interest, stabilizing U.S. agricultural markets while providing aid.

But that self-interest has a cost, and a significant one. Namely, there is often more than enough food nearby that could be purchased and transported at a far lower cost and with far less waste than by shipping American food across the ocean. Even Africa, the continent most commonly associated with hunger crises, produces more than enough food to feed itself — as does the world as a whole, for that matter. In light of this fact, requiring that food aid be sourced in the United States no longer makes sense.

It’s a bizarre case where the costs of cronyism so outweigh the benefits that even one of the primary beneficiaries, the American Farm Bureau Federation, supports reform. The problem is that this regulation is a relic of a different era, one in which food aid was a meaningful portion of American agricultural exports and in which local food production in hunger-stricken areas was rarely sufficient to meet local demand. That is no longer the case — food aid today accounts for less than 1 percent of agricultural exports and less than 0.1 percent of food production in the country. The times have changed, but our rules have not.

The other regulation mandates that at least half of all U.S. food aid be carried on U.S.-flag vessels, known as the Cargo Preference for Food Aid (CPFA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the effects of the CPFA, and found that the costs were significant. Overall, the GAO estimated that the CFPA increased costs of shipping by 23 percent between 2011 and 2014, making up over $107 million of the total $456 million cost.

This time, the original intent behind the rule was based on national security concerns rather than economic ones. Lawmakers intended to use the food aid program to subsidize a merchant marine that could be called upon in times of war. Yet again, the organization that the regulation is intended to benefit, the Department of Defense, supports reform. The vast majority of U.S. vessels carrying food aid do not meet minimum standards for reform, and the DoD has stated that elimination of the regulation would not impact America’s maritime readiness in the case of war.

It is an unfortunate fact that as much as 60 percent of the food aid budget is spent on items that have nothing to do with food — such as transportation costs for the American food that we’re sending halfway around the world on more expensive American ships. And it’s why simple reform, such as the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2018, would free up nearly $300 million simply by reducing the requirement for U.S.-sourced food to 25 percent.

It’s rare that cronyism is so egregious and outdated that its beneficiaries support reform. When they do, lawmakers should take the hint, and support reform as well.

The post The Cronyism Grown Into U.S. Food Aid appeared first on The American Spectator.

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Reigniting The Meaning Of Citizenship Through National Service

It’s been a long time since a common rite of passage among our nation’s men was to put on a uniform and defend your nation, community, and family. Yet at a time of increasing hyperpolarization in our country, as well as the deteriorating state of our nation’s youth in mind, body, and soul, national military service may be an idea worth considering once again.

National service has been ever-present in our country’s history. From militias in the Revolutionary War era to the wartime drafts in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, to peacetime drafts through various parts of our nation’s past.

The legacy from those eras of conscription still remain in the form of the Selective Service system, which many of us remember being notified that we needed to register for upon reaching age 18.

The Selective Service system also has been the subject of debate in recent years, as many persons have considered whether women should register for it as well – such as during the 2016 Presidential election when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called for such.

Among other republics and democracies in the world national service is relatively common, from the nations of Europe to Africa, from the Middle East to Asia to South America. Conscription began falling out of favor since the end of the Cold War, as the general state of worry over military conflict faded.

Yet in recent years conscription has made a comeback. French President Macron has been trying to reintroduce military conscription in order to “foster patriotism and heal social divisions.” Norway recently expanded its military conscription in 2016 to include women, as Sweden has now re-introduced conscription as well.

Perhaps the most noted military conscription program is that of Israel, which requires all men and women to serve about two years in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with few exceptions. While brought about by military necessity, it has also cultivated an Israeli citizenry that has the character, grit, and sense of duty to keep their nation thriving.

It used to be that way in America, as serving in the military was a relatively common experience. In 1980, veterans totaled 18% of adults in the United States. In contrast, by 2016 that number had fallen to 7%.

At a time when our nation is reeling from divisions along seemingly every line possible, it is worth considering a common and shared experience as national service to reconnect our country together. The benefits are very clear in other nations, as despite often no overt military conflict conscription still provides a variety of security and social benefits to the country.

Undoubtedly the implementation of a conscription program, not seen in our nation for almost half a century, would be difficult initially. Not only have the times and culture changed, but so has the very nature of our armed forces.

Our military nowadays is an extremely high-tech organization and finding how to best utilize the massive manpower from our almost 330 million person nation would require careful delineation.

Furthermore, many of our nation’s youth, estimated currently at 71% of those between the ages of 17 and 24, are grossly unfit for military service. Creating a new conscript category and integrating them usefully into the nation’s military would be challenging, but given how seemingly every other nation is able to do it effectively we undoubtedly can find a way to as well.

The idea of national service would undoubtedly require a significant period of pilot programs and testing. The idea has been proposed frequently in the national discourse throughout the years and particularly during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. It is a big, nation-changing policy that certainly, if it gets further traction and consideration, would be a serious national debate.

National service is a very realistic program that could do a lot in solving many of our nation’s otherwise seemingly unsolvable problems, as well as reigniting reflection on the meaning of citizenry in a republic.

I think it is worth considering at our present time, as, although it seems a big change, nonetheless could revive our American spirit and heal our nation in an extraordinary way.

 

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AA-12 Shotgun is Now Available for Civilian Consumption

Famed AA-12 Shotgun is Now Available for Civilian Consumption
Famed AA-12 Shotgun is Now Available for Civilian Consumption

Melbourne, FL-(Ammoland.com)- Sol Invictus Arms with Tactical Superiority, Inc. is proud to announce the release of the AA-12 shotgun. This venerable, proven shotgun is a new addition to the Sol Invictus Arms product offering. With several improvements, changes to manufacturing processes and enhanced variants catering to the civilian market, this shotgun, once only available to law enforcement and military is now being re-released to the general public.

Originally designed by Max Atchisson, the design was sold in 1987, and the AA-12 underwent more than 100 changes made by Boje Cornils enabling a fully functional and reliable firearm. Now Boje Cornils is working with Tactical Superiority, Inc. and Sol Invictus Arms, to bring this amazing firearm to the masses. Not only will the production models include new and improved versions of the already known AA-12 in a full auto configuration for military and law enforcement, it will now include a never before seen, 100% legal semi-automatic version for the civilian market. The newly available AA-12 represents significant improvement over past production techniques, including improved design elements, and is now available at a significantly more consumer friendly price point.

“We’re proud to be a part of the legacy of the infamous AA-12 Shotgun and happy to be able to bring a civilian version to market.” Said Michael Conn, President and CEO of Tactical Superiority, Inc. when asked for comment.

The first release of the AA-12 will be a pre-sale offering, available on Armslist.com initially and followed on Gunbroker.com a few weeks later as a limited edition called the “Boje Signature” model. Each edition will be limited to 1000 shotguns. Expected delivery will be in December of 2018.

You can find these limited edition firearms on the respective sites (Armslist.com and Gunbroker.com) for pre-purchase.


About Sol Invictus ArmsSol Invictus Arms

Sol Invictus Arms was created by the team at Tactical Superiority as an avenue for innovation in the firearms industry. The name is derived from the Roman Sol Invictus, meaning “to protect the troops”, it represents the company’s dedication to producing the finest innovations in the industry and focusing on practicality, reliability and efficiency, suitable for use in the line of duty and beyond. Sol Invictus Arms is based in Melbourne, Florida. www.solinvictusarms.com

About Tactical Superiority, Inc.

A multimillion dollar manufacturing company, founded in 2010, Tactical Superiority is a contract supplier to some of the largest names in the firearms industry. Chances are, you have personally used one or more of their parts in a firearm at some point. Their focus has been primarily in the M4/M16, AR-15 and M110/AR .308 markets. As a supplier to the largest companies operating in the space, Tactical superiority has cemented its legacy as a quality provider of parts kits, critical components and innovative add-ons to the industry. www.tacticalsuperiority.com

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Amazon sells facial recognition tools to cops and people are freaking out

Hey, are you using that wild Amazon product known as Rekognition? Me neither. And unless you’re running an online company of some significant size, most people probably aren’t. First of all, it’s pretty expensive if you put it to any extensive amount of use, and it’s rather specific in what it does. It’s a facial recognition program listed under their Artificial Intelligence offerings (gulp) and it can scan social media or other video feeds and pick out individual faces from both still pictures and video.

You know who some of their biggest customers are, right? Law enforcement. And that has certain online privacy advocates up in arms and demanding that the e-commerce giant stop selling it to the cops. (Associated Press)

Amazon’s decision to market a powerful face recognition tool to police is alarming privacy advocates, who say the tech giant’s reach could vastly accelerate a dystopian future in which camera-equipped officers can identify and track people in real time, whether they’re involved in crimes or not.

It’s not clear how many law enforcement agencies have purchased the tool, called Rekognition, since its launch in late 2016 or since its update last fall, when Amazon added capabilities that allow it to identify people in videos and follow their movements almost instantly.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon has used it to quickly compare unidentified suspects in surveillance images to a database of more than 300,000 booking photos from the county jail — a common use of such technology around the country — while the Orlando Police Department in Florida is testing whether it can be used to single out persons-of-interest in public spaces and alert officers to their presence.

So the ACLU and other civil rights groups are going public and demanding that Amazon stop selling this powerful facial recognition software to the police. Not to everyone, mind you… just to law enforcement. That’s a tricky proposition because normally they demand that the government either start doing something or stop some activity they consider harmful. But Amazon isn’t the government. They’re a private business entity selling a product which has apparently not been deemed illegal or dangerous in a fashion which would cause the government to restrict its sale.

Looked at in that light, Amazon is pretty much free to ignore them unless they can come up with some sort of court order forcing the company to cease and desist. But since the product would still be made available to the public under the terms of these demands, it’s tough to see a judge making that call.

The bigger issue here is the reason the ACLU gives for wanting to keep police from having this tool. They claim that Rekognition could allow the government to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.” Um… isn’t that the point? And if you’re just wandering around minding your own business, why would the police want to track you to begin with? Sure, this software probably looks like something out of the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report, but technology is continually reshaping how our society operates.

I keep coming back to the same type of crime scenario when considering these online privacy questions. Imagine that some creep is out there using this software (or something like it) to stalk his ex-girlfriend. When he finally puts his plan into action and throws her in the trunk of his car, somebody has to call the police. Wouldn’t you like the cops to be able to feed that guy’s picture into their system and have it spit out the location of his car minute by minute? Of course you would, at least if the victim was your relative or friend.

But somehow this is still viewed as “a bad thing” among privacy advocates because it’s apparently worth getting a bunch of people killed so long as you can continue to make the job of law enforcement harder. And for what? Because you imagine that Big Brother is stalking you every time you leave your house? This makes no sense to me.

The post Amazon sells facial recognition tools to cops and people are freaking out appeared first on Hot Air.

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How To Prove The NRA Is Wrong: Just Make Stuff Up… ANTI-GUN VIDEO

Opinion
By Chris Knox and Jeff Knox

Buckeye, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, turned ubiquitous talking head on left-leaning cable news and radio, recently published five talking points that he claims shoot holes in the NRA’s (here meaning all gun-rights supporters’) arguments.  The points are not at all unique to Mr. Reich, so we thought it would be worthwhile to take a closer look.

Reich’s Point Number 1: Gun laws save lives.

“Consider the federal assault weapons ban. After it became law in 1994, gun massacres – defined as instances of gun violence in which six or more people were shot and killed – fell by 37 percent. The number of people dying from mass shootings fell by 43 percent. But when Republicans in Congress let the ban lapse in 2004, gun massacres more than doubled.”

Nonsense. Reich doesn’t cite a source for his claims because there is no credible source drawing that conclusion.  Start with his definition of “gun massacres” being shootings resulting in 6 or more deaths. Despite a rash of those horrible events, massacres, by any definition, remain rare.  But because of their horrific nature, they draw media, following the ancient newspaper adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” As a result the nation fixes its gaze on a single-digit percentage of all crime involving guns, and a fraction of a percent of overall deaths.

With such a small sample size, a difference of one or two incidents has a dramatic impact when presented as a percentage.  Thirty-seven percent of 10,000 would be a significant result, but 37% of 3 would be one more or less – a meaningless statistical anomaly.  There’s no way of knowing exactly what Reich’s percentages are based on though, because he provides no source, and most tellingly, no real numbers.  In short, Reich’s first point is just short of a total fabrication.

Reich’s Point Number 2: The Second Amendment was never intended to permit mass slaughter.

When the Constitution was written more than 200 years ago, the framers’ goal was [to] permit a “well-regulated militia,” not to enable Americans to terrorize their communities.

The First Amendment was written more than 200 years ago and the founders’ goal was to protect people’s right to assemble in person, and protect the press – newspapers printed on paper, not to enable the mass propagation of fake news by internet trolls.  But few today would argue that the First Amendment does not apply to online communications. The rights recognized by the Bill of Rights are not dependent on technology.

It is also worth noting that during the framers’ time, it was common for private citizens who could afford them to own canons, and even fully-armed warships.  The right to arms does not “permit mass slaughter,” and restricting that right does not prevent mass slaughter. Every day over 100 million lawful gunowners don’t kill anyone or terrorize their communities.  Restricting their rights will not prevent evil people from doing evil things.

Reich’s Point Number 3: More guns have not, and will not, make us safer.

“More than 30 studies show that guns are linked to an increased risk for violence and homicide. In 1996, Australia initiated a mandatory buyback program to reduce `the number of guns in private ownership. Their firearm homicide rate fell 42 percent in the seven years that followed.”

Once again, Mr. Reich throws around “studies” but fails to mention which ones.  We can easily present more than 30 studies that show that gun control laws don’t reduce risks of violence.  In fact, in the late 1970s Wright and Rossi produced a study funded by the Carter Justice Department, with the objective of determining which “gun control” programs were most effective.  They found none. In the mid-2000s, both the Centers for Disease Control and the National Science Foundation did independent reviews with the same objective. Both reviews reached the same conclusion as Wright and Rossi: that there is no clear evidence that any gun control laws have effectively reduced crime.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Reich also fails to mention that murder rates in Australia were declining prior to the massacre that triggered their gun ban and confiscation.  The rates went up slightly in the year right after the ban, then resumed their downward trend at a slower pace than previously, and slower than the rate enjoyed in the U.S., where gun laws were being liberalized, and gun ownership was skyrocketing.

Reich’s Point Number 4: The vast majority of Americans want stronger gun safety laws.

“According to Gallup, 96 percent of Americans support universal background checks, 75 percent support a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales, and 70 percent favor requiring all privately owned guns to be registered with the police. Even the vast majority of gun owners are in favor of common-sense gun safety laws.”

Gallup polls also concluded that Hillary Clinton was supposed to be our president.

Poll results depend on how questions are phrased and asked.  A good many Americans support some of the general ideas around gun control, but absolutely reject specific proposals.  Rephrase the question about “universal” (sic) background checks to ask whether it should be a felony for you to lend your gun to a friend for target practice, and different answers come back, as they did in Nevada and Maine when such proposals were put to voters.

Reich’s Point Number 5: The National Rifle Association is a special interest group with a stranglehold on the Republican Party.

“In 2016, the group spent a record [for them] $55 million on elections. Their real goal is to protect a few big gun manufacturers who want to enlarge their profits.

America is better than the NRA. America is the young people from Parkland, Florida, who are telling legislators to act like adults. It’s time all of us listen.”

Gun prohibitionists routinely target the NRA instead of ordinary American gun owners.  It’s certainly easier to stir fear and uncertainty about some large organization funded by a faceless industry than to risk humanizing the opposition.  Even so, the NRA’s power does not arise from industry money, it comes from millions of individuals who freely choose to defend their rights with their voices, their votes, and their dollars.

Something else worth mentioning is that while Reich and other media accuse NRA of buying politicians with their $55 million in election spending in 2016, labor unions reportedly spent $1.7 billion on those elections.

If those talking points are the strongest assault an Ivy League lawyer can launch against the unfettered right to arms for defense of self, family, home, and homeland, then the Second Amendment should be safe for a while longer.  Unfortunately, these and similar points rarely get any sort of honest scrutiny in the media shouting matches, so it’s up to you to call them out every time they pop up again.

Jeff Knox
Jeff Knox

About Jeff Knox:

Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.

The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

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Despite Rhetoric, Schools Still Safe For Your Kids

While anti-gun activists are going on and on about how unsafe our children are, building a soapbox out of dead kids to try and make their point, it seems that schools aren’t the murder-death-kill traps they’re described as. Yes, there are some features that need to be addressed in some way, shape, or form, schools are still probably the safest place for your children.

No, really.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly show that school-age children die every year in far greater numbers outside of school in a variety of ways.

Take a look at the raw data. According to statistics compiled by The Washington Post, 80 students died in shootings at elementary, middle and high schools from 2000 to 2016. That includes 11 students who committed suicide.

Considering there are more than 50 million schoolchildren, that makes homicide victims in schools vanishingly rare.

At home or on the streets is where the vast majority of school-age homicide victims meet their end. The CDC data show that during the same time period, a total of 34,227 children ages 5 to 18 died from gunfire. Suicides made up nearly a third of that total, 10,779. Accidental gun deaths accounted for another 1,694 deaths.

In fact, data amassed by the Chicago Sun-Times show that more children ages 5 to 18 became homicide victims in Chicago during 2016 alone — 113 — than perished in school shootings from 2000 through 2016 all across America.

But it is not only guns awaiting our progeny when they are not at school. The CDC statistics show children have died in much greater numbers due to a variety of more exotic causes of death. Some 8,555 drowned during that 17-year period. Of those, 155 were suicides. So more children intentionally drowned themselves than suffered fatal gunshots at school.

Schools are safe places for your kids. It doesn’t get much more simple than that.

The media has pushed this idea that our schools are under attack, but let’s look at the handful of school shootings his year. Now, let’s look at the total number of schools in the nation.

When you compare those two numbers, you see an extremely low percentage experiencing anything of the sort. The risk is actually minimal.

Now, it should be noted that while only 80 died in that 17-year span, we already have a significant percentage of that number in 2018 so far. I get that. Yet let’s say we match that 17-year total in 2018 alone. I pray we don’t, but for the sake of argument, let’s say we do.

That’s 80 kids killed at school.

Yet there were 50.7 million kids attending public school in 2017. Now, I’m not great at math, but I fail to see the statistical significance of 80 people out of a population of almost 60 million people. That’s not a public health crisis, that’s statistical noise.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that all of these are real people who were loved by someone. To those loved ones, the loss is a devastating tragedy. I could only imagine what it would be like to lose one of my kids to anything. I get that.

However, we also need to look at the bigger picture when we talk about the risk to our children. While kids may well feel their lives are in danger going to school, that’s an artifact of the media’s attention on Parkland and other shootings, not one based on the actual risks. That’s because the reality won’t push forward the narrative that guns are bad and must be banned.

My guns aren’t going anywhere and in truth? My kids are just as safe as they’ve always been when they’re at school. They have more to worry about from the typical stupid kid stuff than they do about an active shooter entering the building.

 

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NH officials: needle-sharer thought to be behind HIV spread

New Hampshire health officials say a homeless drug user thought to be sharing needles could be behind a significant increase in the number of HIV cases in the state’s most populous county. WMUR-TV reports the Division of Public Health Services is working with the city of Manchester to determine who might have shared needles with the recently diagnosed person.

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