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OpenMarket: March 2013

  • CEI Podcast For March 28, 2013: The TSA's Illegal Body Scanners

    March 28, 2013 2:32 PM

    Despite a court order, the TSA is still dragging its feet on complying with the law. Fellow in Land-use and Transportation Studies Marc Scribner has the latest developments in the case.


  • White House Immigration Bill Will Be A Disaster Without Accessible Work Visas

    March 27, 2013 3:08 PM

    Obama RacinePresident Obama’s recently leaked immigration bill left off the most important component of an immigration bill: the immigration part. Given the fact that the Chamber of Commerce and the big unions -- the AFL-CIO and the SEIU -- were still locked in vain negotiations over a potential guest work program, the president clearly did not want to leak a version that would step on the toes of his two biggest backers. Unfortunately, without a robust work visa system, the White House bill will be a disaster.


    The bill contains 95 pages on “worksite enforcement,” that is, conscripting employers to police their workforce for unauthorized immigrants. Under the scheme proposed by President Obama, within four years, all employers with five or more employees would have to enroll into E-Verify, an internet based, national identification system. This provision would require employers would force employers to check employee Form I-9 information against an internet database that contains every American worker. Employers who fail to do so can face 10 year prison sentences and large civil fines.


    Here’s the catch: employers would still have to hire, train, and pay employees who are found not to be in the database for the three weeks after the employer notifies them of the mismatch. During this period of time they have the right to contest the “further action notice” to update any missing information at Social Security Administration offices. At current error rates of a third of a percent, 171,000 authorized workers would receive “further action notices,” costing them $250 per error in lost wages and other expenses -- almost a half a billion dollars to resolve over the next decade.


  • Education Department Joins EPA In Touting Communist Killers

    March 27, 2013 1:44 PM

    The Department of Education featured a quote from mass-murdering dictator Mao Zedong on its website. Mao, the longtime Communist dictator of China, killed up to 60 million people through executions, torture, and the government-created famines of the abortive "Great Leap Forward."


    As law professor Jonathan Turley notes,


    In one of the truly moronic acts from a government official, the Department of Education posted a mangled quote of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong on its website as the saying of the day for children. It is clear that whoever approved it had no idea who Mao was or the atrocities that he committed, particularly during the Cultural Revolution when intellectuals were massacred. . . The quote appeared on the “Kids’ Zone” website of the National Center for Education Statistics. The quote stated “Our attitude towards ourselves should be ‘to be satiable [sic] in learning’ and towards others ‘to be tireless in teaching.’” That was the webpage’s “Quote of the Day” section. . . It is highly unnerving that a DOE employee clearly had no idea who Mao was. I consider the quote to be akin to a Hitler quote on the need for living space to achieve true happiness. Mao destroyed the intellectual and academic community in China in the cultural revolution and spoke of reeducation to mouth the Communist dogma of the time. It is not reeducation that is needed at the Education Department but simple education on history.

  • The Red Tape Challenge

    March 25, 2013 10:53 AM

    Over at the Daily Caller, Christian Rice and I take a look at a successful regulatory reform model in the UK: the Red Tape Challenge:


  • When The Nanny State Kills

    March 25, 2013 10:52 AM

    The government told people to switch from saturated animal fats to unsaturated vegetable fats. But that advice may have killed a lot of people. As David Oliver notes, a recent study "in the British Medical Journal" shows that "those who heeded the advice" from public-health officials "to switch from saturated fats to polyunsaturated vegetable oils dramatically reduced their odds of living to see 2013," incurring up to a "60% increase in risk of death by switching from animal fats to vegetable oils." This possibly deadly medical advice has a long history:


    Fifty years ago the medical community did an about-face . . . and instead went all in on polyunsaturated fats. It reasoned that since (a) cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular disease and (b) polyunsaturated fats reduce serum cholesterol levels, it inescapably followed that (c) changing people's diet from saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats would save a lot of lives. In 1984 Uncle Sam got involved - Time magazine reported on it in "Hold the Eggs and Butter" - and he made a big push for citizens to swap out animal fat in their diet for the vegetable variety and a great experiment on the American people was begun.


    As Oliver, an expert on mass torts, points out, it is hard to "think of any mass tort, or combination of mass torts, that has produced as much harm as the advice to change to a plant oil-based diet" may have done.


  • The Cancer Clusters That Weren't

    March 25, 2013 10:50 AM

    e_brockovichA recent post in ACSH Dispatch examines an interesting question: How likely is it that some U.S. communities have elevated cancer rates, a.k.a, "cancer clusters," because of chemical pollution? The answer: not very.


    ACSH points to an enlightening article published in Slate by George Johnson, who notes:


    Time after time, the clusters have turned out to be statistical illusions—artifacts of chance. … The Erin Brockovich incident, one of the most famous, is among the many that have been debunked. Hexavalent chromium in the water supply of a small California town was blamed for causing cancer, resulting in a $333 million legal settlement and a movie starring Julia Roberts. But an epidemiological study ultimately showed that the cancer rate was no greater than that of the general population. The rate was actually slightly less.


    Johnson also discusses the alleged cancer cluster in Toms River, N.J., which is the subject of a new book: Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, by Dan Fagin. But contrary to Fagin's book, Johnson concludes: "... no matter how hard I squinted at the numbers, I found it hard to be convinced that there had been a cancer problem in Toms River."


    It is true that chemicals cause cancers where people are exposed for long periods of time to very high levels. For example, populations in Taiwan whose drinking water was contaminated with extremely high levels of arsenic for many decades experienced elevated rates of skin cancer. Is that a cluster? Surely it is. Does it convey information about the risks to populations exposed to much lower concentrations? Not particularly.


  • CEI's Battered Business Bureau: The Week In Regulation

    March 25, 2013 10:46 AM

    59 new regulations, from patent fees to pork export reports.


  • Vitter Amendment To Ban Drug Patent Settlements Would Raise Pharmaceutical Prices

    March 22, 2013 8:47 PM

    With time running out for the Senate to act on a continuing budget resolution, members are trying to find some magic pot of money that would mask the fact that our government spends far more than it raises in revenue. Tonight, it looks like Sen. David Vitter has resurrected an old proposal to ban what are known as reverse payment patent settlements -- agreements in which brand name drug manufacturers pay generic firms not to challenge patents on the innovators’ drugs.


    Critics, including the Obama administration and the Federal Trade Commission, call these settlements “pay-for-delay,” and argue that successful patent challenges would get generics to market sooner. In turn, they claim, that could save federal health programs billions of dollars every year, which is why the proposal is so popular with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. A CBO analysis scored a ban proposed in 2011 as saving federal health programs $2.68 billion over 10 years.


    The problem is, any alleged savings from a ban on these patent settlements is illusory because reverse payment settlements actually have the effect of getting generic drugs on the market sooner, thereby lowering drug costs, not raising them.


  • CEI Podcast For March 21, 2013: A Rainbow On The Right

    March 21, 2013 4:23 PM

    CPAC is the largest annual event of its kind. It is also one of the most controversial, due to its exclusion of gay groups. CEI hosted a widely publicized panel discussion at CPAC, titled “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet.”


  • Labor's Loss: Secret Ballot Protection Advances In Virginia

    March 21, 2013 4:22 PM

    This week Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell struck a little heralded -- but much needed -- blow for privacy rights in the Old Dominion by signing two key bills: House Bill 1385, the "Secret Ballot Protection Act," and House Bill 1931, the "KEEP Secure Act: Keep Employees Emails and Phones Secure Act."


    The "Secret Ballot Protection Act" will provide, according to legislation summary, that:


    [I]n any procedure providing for the designation, selection, or authorization of a labor organization to represent employees, the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.


    A secret ballot is, of course, a cornerstone of the democratic process, and absolutely vital to ensuring elections free of intimidation and coercion -- which explains why organized labor has so bitterly opposed secret ballot provisions, preferring insetad so-called "card check" laws whereby, as we put it in a previous OpenMarket post, "new unions can be formed with signatures from only a majority of a company’s employees on a card which union officials kindly bring right to your door."


    Unions will equally loathe the "KEEP Secure Act,"which will ensure that employers cannot be forced to share private information about current or former employees to "a third party...unless required by federal law, state law, court order, warrant issued by a judicial officer, subpoena, or discovery." This, too, will make it harder for labor leaders to intimidate workers into joining a union.

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