Monday Roundup: Tester Fights Kansas Bio-lab
• The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a large gender discrimination suit against Walmart could not go forward as a single class action.
• The Boston Globe sets out to find why the price of a single scoop of mango ice cream at Toscanini’s has risen 40 cents since March, to $4.25.
One might say the story ought to be about anyone who would buy a single scoop of ice cream for $4.25, but the story illustrates why food prices are going up. Included in the tale are cyclones, political uprisings, demands for food from China and rising milk exports.
• The Washington Post has a story about growing income inequality. The paper finds that executive pay is the major cause of the increasing amount of the nation’s income taken by the top ten percent of Americans.
• Georgia farmers are worried that strict new immigration laws in the state will make it difficult to find agricultural workers.
• The Des Moines Register revisits the causes and consequences of the 1952 and 1993 floods on the Missouri River.
• Rep. Barney Frank, the very Democrat from Massachusetts, says he was “disappointed” in President Obama’s choice for commerce secretary because John E. Bryson is associated with an environmental group that is “antifishing.”
Bryson helped found the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group the Boston Globe says has “earned antipathy from fishermen for its efforts to beef up regulation.” Bryson says he left NRDC in 1974, long before the organization became involved in fishing issues.
Other Massachusetts members of Congress are pressing Bryson to say that he “will not work against the interests of fishermen.”
• The Washington Post reports that hospitals are rushing to hire primary care doctors:
The push is forcing doctors to make decisions about how to deliver care to patients, many of whom have relied on long-standing relationships with trusted independent neighborhood physicians and wonder what lies ahead.
It also spotlights benefits and drawbacks for patients and doctors alike in one of the health-care overhaul’s much-touted initiatives, set to begin next year. The law will reward teams of doctors, nurses and others if they coordinate to provide better care at lower costs. As front-line doctors, primary-care physicians are key to this effort.
• Budget cuts in Texas may mean the end of the independent Department of Rural Affairs. It would be merged into the Department of Agriculture.
• Sen. Jon Tester of Montana continues to object to to moving an agricultural-disease research lab into the middle of Kansas beef country. The Democrat is asking the Department of Homeland Security to re-open its selection process. A Tester press release notes:
The Homeland Security Department is currently relocating the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility from an isolated island off the coast of New York to Kansas. The site of the new facility is within 200 miles of ten percent of all cattle in the nation, and in an area prone to dangerous tornadoes.
Concerned by the move, Tester added language to 2009 legislation that barred federal funding for the facility until the National Academy of Sciences conducted an independent review of the Department of Homeland Security’s safety analysis and emergency response plan in case of an accidental release of a contagious livestock disease, such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease.
The report, released in November, estimated the probability of a disease outbreak from the facility at nearly 70 percent over the next 50 years. The report also found that the Department’s safety plan “is not entirely adequate or valid.” Although the Department pledged to revise some of its construction plans to improve safety, it has not provided details or a revised cost estimate.
In a letter this week to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Tester again warned that damage to such a facility could “disperse viruses classified as biological weapons far and wide, and would make response and containment of a release nearly impossible.”
• A vice president at the Kansas City Fed tells us that the rural economy has come through the recession better than the cities. Lots of charts.