Thursday, November 10, 2011

President Obama's Agriculture Dept. Announces New 15 Cent Tax On Christmas Trees

President Obama’s Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees—the Christmas Tree Tax—to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.

In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)). And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).

To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52). And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.

Acting Administrator Shipman had the temerity to say the 15-cent mandatory Christmas tree fee “is not a tax nor does it yield revenue for the Federal government” (76 CFR 69102). The Federal government mandates that the Christmas tree sellers pay the 15-cents per tree, whether they want to or not. The Federal government directs that the revenue generated by the 15-cent fee goes to the Board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out the Christmas tree program established by the Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. President, that’s a new 15-cent tax to pay for a Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.

Nobody is saying President Obama doesn’t have authority to impose his new Christmas Tree Tax — his Administration cites the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. Just because the Obama Administration has the legal power to impose its Christmas Tree Tax doesn’t mean it should do so.

Read More From The Heritage Blog

Hurrican Force Winds Of "Epic Proportions" Slams Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Packing hurricane-force winds, an Alaskan storm of "epic proportions" slammed into coastal communities, sending some residents fleeing to higher ground as it tore roofs from homes and knocked out power.

The strongest storm to hit the state in four decades carried with it heavy snows and rains. The precipitation sent water levels rising late Wednesday night in Nome, causing flooding in low-lying areas, the National Weather Service said.

"It's barely beginning to wind down along the coast," Stephen Kearney, a meteorologist for the Weather Service in Fairbanks, said late Wednesday night.

Emergency officials warned that areas on Alaska's western coast between Norton Sound and Point Hope were vulnerable to a possible surge of sea water that could bring varying degrees of flooding to villages already soaked.

However, there were no new reports of substantial damage in Nome late Wednesday night, the National Weather Service said.

"The sea level will remain steady into the early morning hours and then start to come down tomorrow morning," Kearney told the Anchorage Daily News.

Flooding was reported in Point Hope, where the water came within 10 feet of the airport runway, but the community still had power, Kearney said.

Earlier, the storm produced 85-mph gusts, well above hurricane force. But emergency managers said that the winds had begun to taper off and were clocked with still-potent gusts of 55 mph. The storm passed through more southern points of its path.

Some villages, such as Kivalina, could be even more vulnerable with winds shifting as they head to Russia, officials said.

Water reportedly reached some reached homes in at least four Native villages, including Tununak and Kipnuk, state emergency managers said earlier Wednesday.

"This is a storm of epic proportions," said meteorologist Jeff Osiensky with the National Weather Service. "We're not out of the woods with this."

The last time the communities saw something similar was in November 1974, when a storm created a sea surge that measured more than 13 feet. The surge pushed beach driftwood above the level of the previous storm of its type in 1913.

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WWII Spitfire Plane Guns Still Fire After 70 Years Buried In Peat

An excavation at the site of a 1941 Spitfire crash in a bog in the Irish Republic uncovered huge, remarkably preserved chunks of plane and six Browning machine guns. After 70 years buried in peat could they be made to fire? They certainly could, writes Dan Snow.

It was June in Donegal, when we stood on a windswept hillside in hard hats and high-vis surrounded by a crowd of locals and watched by an Irish army unit while we filmed an archaeological excavation.

This was the place where, in 1941, Roland "Bud" Wolfe, an American pilot flying a British RAF Spitfire, paid for by a wealthy Canadian industrialist, had experienced engine failure while flying over the neutral Republic of Ireland.

After flying a sortie over the Atlantic, Wolfe was on his way back to his base in Northern Ireland when he was forced to bail out. He parachuted safely to the ground - his plane smashed into the boggy hillside.

Fast-forwarding 70 years and local aviation expert Johnny McNee was able to identify the wreck site. The ensuing dig was accompanied by intense anticipation.

We did not have to wait long for results. Suddenly the fresh Donegal air was tainted with the tang of aviation fuel.

Minutes later the mechanical digger's bucket struck metal. We leapt into the pit to continue by hand. One by one the Spitfire's Browning machine guns were hauled out.

We had hoped for one in reasonable condition - we got six, in great shape, with belts containing hundreds of gleaming .303 rounds. The Irish soldiers then stepped in. This was a cache of heavy weapons, however historic they might be.

Next came fuselage, twisted but in huge pieces, over a metre across, still painted in wartime colours, with neat stencils of the plane's ID and the iconic RAF bullseye-style roundel.

Despite hitting the ground at well over 300mph the artefacts were incredibly well-preserved. The wheel under the Spitfire's tail emerged fully inflated, the paper service manual, a first aid kit with bandages and dressings, the instrument panel, the harness that Wolfe had torn off as he hurled himself out of the cockpit and my highlight - Wolfe's leather flying helmet.

Perhaps 20m down was the magnificent Rolls Royce Merlin engine, which the digger raised to a cheer from the crowd.

Thanks to the soft peat, the inaccessibility of the crash site and the crater rapidly filling with water, a huge number of artefacts had survived the crash with the authorities unable to clear them up.

But Wolfe's Spitfire had more surprises for us.

Thanks to a "wild idea" from Lt Colonel Dave Sexton, ordnance technical officer in the Irish army, it was decided an attempt would be made to fire one of the Browning guns that had spent 70 years in the bog.

His team painstakingly cleaned the weapons and straightened pieces bent by the impact. Finally, on Tuesday we were able to stand on an old British Army range just north of Athlone for the big day.

The machine guns looked as good as new. Soil conditions were perfect for preservation. Beneath the peat there had been a layer of clay. Clay is anaerobic, it forms an airtight seal around all the parts, so there is no oxygen, which limits corrosion.

Had they been in sandy soil, which lets in water and air, the metal would have been heavily corroded.

Read More From BBC News

Muslims Upset Over Christian Prayer Event In Detroit Michigan

DETROIT (AP) - A coalition of Detroit clergy and community activists plan to march to a downtown football stadium and hold a prayer rally while thousands gather inside for a 24-hour Christian event known as TheCall.

The gathering inside Ford Field espouses anti-Muslim, anti-homosexual and anti-abortion beliefs and is designed to separate people of various faiths, the Rev. Charles Williams II told reporters Wednesday.

TheCall is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Friday. Organizers have said Detroit is a "microcosm of our national crisis" that includes economic and racial struggles, as well as "the rising tide of the Islamic movement."

Detroit area Muslim leaders have said they fear some attendees might provoke or disrupt Friday prayers at local mosques.

"We certainly don't believe that the Muslim community is what cast a dark shadow over the city of Detroit in terms of economics," said Williams, pastor of Historic King Solomon Church in Detroit.

"Our prayer will be a prayer where we will be calling on God to help us solve the foreclosure crisis; to help us solve the job crisis; to help us solve the education crisis. This is the prayer we should be calling on, not a message of hate against those who are United States residents."

The Associated Press left a message Wednesday seeking comment from Lou Engle, co-founder of The Call assemblies.

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