Monday Roundup: Fighting ‘Pam’

A 'sand boom' • National parks are crumbling with short budgets • 75 years of power from Bonneville • Medicare funding cuts to hurt rural hospitals more

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The same lawyers who successfully sued the tobacco industry for misleading advertising that made an unhealthy product appear to be good for you are now lining up suits against food producers.

The New York Times reports, “More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.” 

The suits, filed in the last four months, say that food makers are mislabeling their products. Stephanie Strom reports that these suits are asking a California court to halt the sale of Pam and Swiss Miss cocoa, among other grocery items.

Food labels are a mess, but it’s unclear that the courts are eager to intervene. For instance, Strom reports, a federal judge in California dismissed a suit against PepsiCo for false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal did not contain berries.

The judge ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

In another case, Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, is charged with violating a rule by saying its product contained “evaporated cane juice” instead of sugar.

In the Pam case, the attorneys say ConAgra’s label says the product contains “propellant.” The attorneys bringing the case said that “propellant” consists of petroleum gas, propane and butane.

Rural Medicare Funding — Rural hospitals in California would be hardest hit by proposed changes in the way Medicare funding is distributed, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. 

The study looked at a proposal for Medicare funding. Although payments to doctors in California would be a “wash” statewide, the Institute found that payments in rural areas would decline in 36 of 58 counties.

Federal Power Turns ‘Darkness to Dawn’ — The Idaho Statesman tells the story of the Bonneville Power Administration, which celebrates its 75th anniversary today. 

“Few projects carried the hope and hubris of the New Deal more than the Bonneville Power Act,” writes Rocky Barker. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the law creating the Bonneville Power Administration 75 years ago. His dream was to harness the Columbia River and turn nature’s flows into electricity to power industry, provide jobs to lift the poor out of poverty and transform the life and economy of the Pacific Northwest.

“This vast water power can be of incalculable value to this whole section of the country,” Roosevelt said in a speech in Portland in 1932. “It means cheap manufacturing production, economy and comfort on the farm and in the household.”

The BPA now has 31 dams and 15,000 miles of transmission lines, providing half the power used in the Northwest.

Shrinking River — Last year, the Mississippi was rampaging. This year, in the drought, it’s shrinking, reports the New York Times.

Although the river receives the drainage from 40 percent of the U.S., that flow hasn’t been enough to keep the river from reaching record lows this summer. Dredgers are working, but there are fears that barge traffice on the river could soon be affected.

How low is the river? Well, the Mississippi is 59 feet lower at Vicksburg than it was during last year’s flood.

National Parks Are Crumbling — The national park system budget has been cut six percent the past two years and “the signs of strain are beginning to surface,” reports the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway, for example, has a $385 million backlog in maintenance projects and has kept 75 jobs vacant since 2003. New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument can’t afford to hire a specialist to protect its archaeological ruins.

So far through July of this year, 201 million people have visited the nation’s parks. The president’s 2013 budget (adopted now by the House Appropriations Committee) would cut 218 full-time parks jobs and 763 seasonal employees.

The Senate Campaign in Maine — By portraying former Maine governor and independent senate candidate Angus King as a big spender and government expander, Republicans lowered his lead over their candidate by ten points. 

Republicans have an “attractive alternative to King” in Secretary of State Charlie Summers, writes Marc Thiessen. But he wonders if the national party will seize the opportunity.

Sand Boom — To frack, you need sand. So employment is up in the Wisconsin communities that mine the sand needed in gas and oil exploration. 

Ranchers’ Hope Running Dry — Ranchers are hurting, and unlike other ag sectors, they don’t have any federally subsidized insurance to cover losses.

There was hope that Congress would act to provide some relief, but that didn’t happen. And now, the AP reports from Nebraska, ranchers are selling out. 

“I’d like to see every one of the senators and congressmen go out into one of these . . . drought-stricken areas and spend a day,” said Todd Eggerling, 44, of Martell, Neb. “Then they can go back to Washington with a real perspective and say, ‘Hey; we need to do something.’ “

 

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