Top Obama officials involved in deciding whether to keep Solyndra from going into bankruptcy
The company collapsed at the end of August 2011 and filed for bankruptcy in early September. The Hill has reported previously on the administration decision not to attempt a last-ditch financial rescue.
White House internal communications during the company's final days include an email about a planned meeting to discuss Solyndra on August 29, 2011. Heather Zichal, a senior energy policy aide, and Deputy OMB Director Jeffrey Zients were slated to brief other officials.
The list of optional attendees included several high-level officials, such as then-Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes and Nancy-Ann DeParle, another senior adviser to the president. . . .
New Fox News piece: Where did stimulus money really go?
When President Obama signed his economic stimulus plan into law on February 17, 2009, he promised it “includes help for those hardest hit by our economic crisis,” and “As a whole, this plan will help poor and working Americans.”
But the newest data on how the stimulus money was given out across the 50 states and the District of Columbia shows a perverse pattern: The states hardest hit by the recession received the least money. States with higher bankruptcy, foreclosure, and unemployment rates got less money. And lower-income states also received less.
Rather than helping out those in the toughest shape, it looks like Democrats ended up helping their supporters, including unions and many very wealthy supporters.
According to the Obama administration’s Recovery.gov, a total of $504 billion of federal contracts, grants, and loans to states and territories were awarded between February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011. The amounts vary a lot across states, with the very lowest at $978 per capita in Virginia and the highest at $2,495 per capita in Alaska. The District of Columbia is the real winner at a whopping $7,603.
The transfers to the states having the least economic problems were large. The following relationships were statistically significant: . . .
Fox Nation also noted the piece here.
As the prospects of Obama winning re-election rise, gun sales explode
Sales of handguns and ammunition are booming across the country, and retailers say it’s all about the November election.
Gun shop owners around the nation told FoxNews.com that sales, brisk ever since President Obama was elected, have spiked upward in recent months. And manufacturers are having so much trouble keeping up with the demand that one, Sturm, Ruger & Co., can’t keep up with demand. The Southport, Conn.-based company has had to suspend new orders after taking orders for more than 1 million guns in the first three months of the year. Smith & Wesson sales are way up, as well.
Gunmakers' stock soars
“Sales usually increase this time of year with tax returns, but this year has been higher than most,” Mike Weeks, owner of Georgia Gun Store in Gainesville told FoxNews.com. “People are scared their gun rights are going to be curtailed after the election." . . .
Michigan moves to get rid of gun-free zones for concealed carry
A State Senate committee on Thursday approved changes to Michigan’s concealed weapons law that include allowing people to carry concealed guns in churches, schools and sports arenas.
The legislation now goes to a vote in the full Senate.
Under the new law citizens would be allowed to carry their weapons into churches, schools and sports arenas — places they currently aren’t allowed to be packing heat. The proposal would also eliminate the state’s 83 county gun boards and transfer the power to issue CCW permits to local sheriff’s departments.
“Basically it’s a pretty huge rewrite of the concealed weapons permit law,” said WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick.
Under the amended law “highly trained” permit holders would be able to carry in the gun-free zones – which would require extra hours of training and more rounds fired at the range beyond the current basic requirements. . . .
Briefs and Amicus Briefs in the Health Care case before the Supreme Court
If there was any doubt about how leftwing NY Times reporter Linda Greenhouse is, you can read her piece in today's online edition.
Journalistic convention requires that when there are two identifiable sides to a story, each side gets its say, in neutral fashion, without the writer’s thumb on the scale. This rule presents a challenge when one side of a controversy obviously lacks merit. But mainstream journalism has learned to navigate those challenges, choosing evolution over “intelligent design,” for example, and treating climate change naysayers as cranks. . . .
Greenhouse accepts the government claims regarding the costs of uncompensated care unquestioningly. But there are some acknowledged problems with those numbers. See here:
Those economists have now acknowledged that their analysis suffered from serious methodological errors. Economists Amicus Br. 15 n.10, 23a n.1; see Gov’t Severability Br. 53-54; Economic Scholars Amicus Br. 28-33. Independent economic modeling shows that repealing the minimum coverage provision “would mean $20 billion more in uncompensated care provided to the uninsured.” Matthew Buettgens & Caitlin Carroll, Eliminating the Individual Mandate: Effects on Premiums, Coverage, and Uncompensated Care 5 (2012).
She claims that the constitutional arguments against the mandate are "frivolous," and she cites the famous New Deal case of Wickard v. Filburn, a 2005 Supreme Court decision, Gonzales v. Raich, and United States v. Comstock -- cases cited extensively by the Obama administration. Greenhouse does nothing more than repeat the Obama administration's arguments and doesn't respond to what the states note about those cases.
Another perspective by Peter Johnson is offered here.
Obama on Solyndra: “But understand: This was not our program per se.”
“Are you doing your ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy right if that’s what we have to show for it — Solyndra?” asked Kai Ryssdal, host of “Marketplace” on American Public Media, in an interview with Obama.
The solar energy start-up Solyndra, which had been the poster child of Obama’s initiative, went bankrupt in 2011, putting 1,000 employees out of work. It had received more than $500 million in federal loan guarantees through a Recovery Act program. The loan process is now the subject of a congressional investigation.
“Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn’t gone bankrupt,” Obama said. “But understand: This was not our program per se.”
“Congress — Democrats and Republicans — put together a loan guarantee program because they understood historically that when you get new industries, it’s easy to raise money for start-ups, but if you want to take them to scale, oftentimes there’s a lot of risk involved, and what the loan guarantee program was designed to do was to help start up companies get to scale,” he said.
Obama mischaracterizes congressional support for the program, however. The loan to Solyndra was not part of a program developed by both Republicans and Democrats. Rather, it was entirely funded through the 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which did not receive any GOP votes. . . .
Why the shooting in Florida isn't covered by that state's "stand your ground" law
Media stories sharing the transcripts of the 911 tapes from the evening of the incident clearly show that Mr. Zimmerman was instructed by authorities to remain in his vehicle and to cease pursuit of Mr. Martin. George Zimmerman seems to have ignored the direction of the authorities and continued his pursuit of Mr. Martin.
Mr. Zimmerman's unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine. There is no protection in the "Stand Your Ground" law for anyone who pursues and confronts people. . . .
CNN has some edited takes of the 911 calls, but they didn't have any racist comments being made.
His parents believe that race was a factor in their son’s death. . . . . Zimmerman’s family made a statement saying, he grew up in a multiracial family and that he was not racist. He has since moved out of the family home after receiving death threats. . . . .
More is available here.
Audio of 911 call
Listen to the audio and tell me if you can tell when George Zimmerman supposedly uses the term "fuckin' 'coons." I have listened a couple of times and I can't hear it. Even the left wing Daily Kos only says:
It's not clear. It's said in a low voice. But, in the opinion of many who have listened to this publicly available version of a 911 call made shortly before he shot unarmed Trayvon Martin to death last month, George Zimmerman seems to be saying "fuckin' 'coons." . . . We know for certain that the 28-year-old Zimmerman, who has been identified as the "captain" of an unregistered neighborhood watch group in some reports, made other comments in that 911 call that could, in context, be considered racially charged. For example, "These assholes, they always get away."
I am not sure how that last quote is racist given that Zimmerman never even volunteered the race of Martin until he was specifically asked about it and that it could have been referring to the criminals that had been breaking into homes that he was obviously upset about.
Some details about the case from Fox Orlando:
"The guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, 'Help! Help!' and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911," said the witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John.
John said he locked his patio door, ran upstairs and heard at least one gun shot.
"And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point."
See more details here. The Examiner has a summary here:
-- The witness reports that George Zimmerman was on the ground and Trayvon is on top of him punching him.
-- The witness says that George Zimmerman was screaming and yelling for help.
-- Police arrive and find Zimmerman bleeding on his face and the back of his head. He also has had grass stains on his back. All this confirms the story told by Zimmerman and the witness.
-- Police play the 911 tape for Trayvon Martin's father, who tells police that the voice screaming is not the voice of his son.
A copy of the police report available here confirms some of these points.
Statement from the Brady Campaign President Dan Gross rushing to judgment about a concealed carry permit holder:
"Make no mistake: This tragic shooting represents the National Rifle Association's vision for America. The NRA's vision is an America that looks just like Florida, where it's easy for criminals and dangerous people to get, carry, and use guns. The NRA wants us to be a nation without any gun laws, a nation where just about anybody can get a gun and take it anywhere. Their leaders and spokespeople use fear, paranoia and misleading notions of self-defense to justify flooding our streets with armed and violent people, and the result is more tragedies like Trayvon's.
Trayvon's life has been lost not because of an accident, but because of the easy access to a gun by a violent person permitted by a state with weak gun laws. It is time we stand up to the NRA and the politicians who put the agenda of the gun lobby ahead of the safety of the people they have been elected to represent. It is time that we as a nation flatly reject the vision of the gun industry and replace it with the vision where our young people can grow up without the fear and tragedy of gun violence."
The Brady Campaign's Vice President Dennis Henigan also had some very strong words and managed to link it to the recent Maryland judicial decision that the government can't completely ban people carrying guns:
“Recently Judge Benson Everett Legg of Maryland became the first federal judge to hold there is a Second Amendment right to carry a gun outside the home. Only days before, Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager, lay dead from a shooting that dramatically illustrates the price in lives we will pay if Judge Legg’s renegade ruling becomes the law across the United States.”
The Republican governor is already caving on the "Stand your ground" law in Florida. "Gov. Rick Scott announces task force on Stand Your Ground, assigns new state attorney to Trayvon Martin case"
After speaking with Gov. Scott, State Attorney Norman Wolfinger voluntarily decided to step aside form the case to avoid “the appearance of conflict of interest,” according to a release put out by the governor’s office on Thursday evening. Angela B. Corey of the Fourth Judicial Circuit has been appointed the Assigned State Attorney in the case.
Gov. Rick Scott also announced that Florida will put together a task force to study the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which has come under intense media scrutiny in the wake of Trayvon’s death. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Caroll, House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, will be involved in the task force.
“They will be recommending individuals for me to appoint to the Task Force, which will thoroughly review Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and any other laws, rules, regulations or programs that relate to public safety and citizen protection,” Scott said in a release. . . .
Well, at least we know who to blame:
MSNBC host blames Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for death of Trayvon Martin
Karen Finney blamed the language of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh for creating the enviroment that led to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. . . .
Trayvon Martin case: 'Blacks are under attack,' says Jesse Jackson
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said Friday that he's grateful the rest of the country has sat up and taken notice of the tragic slaying of Trayvon Martin. But he can't help but wonder: Why has it taken so long for everyone else to recognize the chronic injustices that African Americans face?
"We're surprised that everyone else is surprised," Jackson told the Los Angeles Times. African Americans have tried for decades to get the rest of America to understand their plight, he said, particularly their beliefs that justice is still elusive in many parts of America, especially the Deep South.
Then along comes the Trayvon Martin case, and facts that are not in contention: Volunteer neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman pursued and then gunned down the unarmed 17-year-old last month, and never faced arrest because police said there was no evidence to contradict his claim that he fired in self-defense.
"I hope that this will be a transformative moment," Jackson said. . . .
Obama gets personal
President Barack Obama weighed into the controversial killing of a black teenager in Florida in very personal terms on Friday, comparing the boy to a son he doesn't have and calling for American "soul searching" over how the incident occurred. . . .
"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said in his first comments about the shooting, acknowledging the racial element in the case.
"Obviously, this is a tragedy," Obama told reporters. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids."
The case has rippled across the nation and prompted rallies protesting the failure of the police to arrest the shooter, George Zimmerman, and, more broadly, a pattern of racial discrimination black leaders cite in Sanford and elsewhere in the country. . . .
Even on the right, people condemned Zimmerman. Take Jeb Bush for example.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that the “stand your ground” self-defense law he signed while in office should not apply to the case of a teenager who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in his home state.
“This law does not apply to this particular circumstance,” Bush said after an education panel discussion at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Stand your ground means stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”
He was referring to reports that the 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, was pursued by the volunteer and fatally shot in a scuffle.
“Anytime an innocent life is taken it's a tragedy,” Bush said. “You've got to let the process work.” . . .
Newt Gingrich thinks that the shooter is at fault, but still had this to say.
“It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background," Gingrich said. "Is the President suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?" . . .
National newspaper editorials have concluded that Zimmerman must be prosecuted. The piece obviously has its facts wrong.
Axelrod Can't Explain Why Senate Dems Won't Pass A Budget
Parking lot bill passes in Maine
AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has signed into law three bills expanding the rights of concealed weapons permit holders . . .
One of the bills, signed Tuesday, would bar businesses from prohibiting employees who have concealed firearms permits from keeping a firearm in their vehicle, as long as the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible.
Another bill allows a law enforcement officer from another state to carry a concealed firearm in Maine, provided the officer also has proper police identification.
The third bill will allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry weapons in state parks and historic sites. The bill was scaled back to eliminate other locations, including bars and the State House.
Here is a strange related article. A state legislator doesn't want to allow permitted concealed handguns in the state capitol unless security is improved. By my reasoning, the exact opposite should be the case.
“It’s wide open here,” he said. “I could carry a weapon unchecked every day and so could others. That’s not a safe environment.”
There are no metal detectors in use that would indicate if a State House visitor had a weapon, although that could change as early as next week, officials said.
Still, many lawmakers, Republicans included, are uncomfortable with the idea of bringing guns into the State House. Even Crafts said if security were improved, he likely would abandon his bill to allow concealed weapons inside the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said the incident involving Wintle, who allegedly threatened a man with a loaded gun last weekend, brings extra emotion to legislation that already has evoked strong emotions. . . .
Further down in the article the relevant point is made.
Restricting a person’s right to carry a concealed weapon only hurts innocent citizens, they claimed. . . .
Brady Campaign supports ban on gun shows
Before the end of this year, Russell and Sallie Nordyke will set up shop for at least five gun shows at the Santa Clara County, Calif., fairgrounds, providing a gathering spot for thousands of gun enthusiasts to buy and sell rifles, pistols and other weapons.
For the California couple, the southern San Francisco Bay Area is a small island amid a sea of hostility toward their TS Gun Shows. Nearby counties have enacted laws that forbid the sale or possession of guns on government property, effectively banning gun shows at some of the best spots to hold them.
The Nordykes believe those laws are unconstitutional - and on Monday, a federal appeals court will once again take up their 12-year quest to strike down the regulations.
The case offers another crucial test of Second Amendment rights that could have repercussions for California's sweeping slate of state and local gun control laws.
Specifically, an 11-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel is to hear arguments in the Nordykes' legal challenge to Alameda County's ordinance, which has outlawed gun shows at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., since 1999.
"It has impacted our lives tremendously," Sallie Nordyke said. "We used to be able to have gun shows in a lot of other places."
With gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association on one side and gun control advocates such as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence on the other, the Nordyke case is being closely watched across the country. . . .
Are Mark Thoma and Justin Wolfers willing to do anything for politics?
Andrew Sullivan is easily deceived by a figure that is being disseminated by Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Thoma. The problem with this graph should be pretty obvious: using the first quarter of 2009 as the base already bakes into the base the Stimulus, a $410 billion spending bill loaded with pork barrel projects that Obama signed, and the half of the TARP spending that Obama requested Bush to release. All that new spending was approved during the first quarter of 2009.
Going from 2009 to 2012 assumes that Obama isn't responsible for any of the increase from 2008 to 2009. Going from the first quarter to first quarter, also blames Bush II for the increase during the Obama first quarter.
30 percent of Federal loan guarantees went to individuals with connections to the Obama administration (either fundraisers or staff)
Supreme Court unanimously rules against the EPA in Sackett v. EPA
The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the Act, and according to the Federal Government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy. The EPA may issue a compliance order demanding that the owners cease construction, engage in expensive remedial measures, and abandon any use of the property. If the owners do not do the EPA’s bidding, they may be fined up to $75,000 per day ($37,500 for violating the Act and another $37,500 for violating the compliance order). And if the owners want their day in court to show that their lot does not include covered wetlands, well, as a practical matter, that is just too bad. Until the EPA sues them, they are blocked from access to the courts, and the EPA may wait as long as it wants before deciding to sue. By that time, the potential fines may easily have reached the millions. In a nation that values due process, not to mention private property, such treatment is unthinkable.
The Court’s decision provides a modest measure of relief. At least, property owners like petitioners will have the right to challenge the EPA’s jurisdictional determination under the Administrative Procedure Act. But the combination of the uncertain reach of the Clean Water Act and the draconian penalties imposed for the sort of violations alleged in this case still leaves most property owners with little practical alternative but to dance to the EPA’s tune.
Real relief requires Congress to do what it should have done in the first place: provide a reasonably clear rule regarding the reach of the Clean Water Act. . . .
Does the Obama administration know anything about world markets?
On the other hand exempting 11 major countries from penalties for dealing with Iran's central bank means that any international transactions will be taken care of through those countries (in addition to China or Russia that would ignore the sanctions anyway). From Foreign Policy:
The State Department announced on Tuesday that it would exempt 10 European countries and Japan from penalties for doing business with Iran's central bank, because those countries are making significant progress toward weaning themselves off of Iranian oil.
"I am pleased to announce that an initial group of eleven countries has significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran -- Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. As a result, I will report to the Congress that sanctions pursuant to Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA) will not apply to the financial institutions based in these countries, for a renewable period of 180 days," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a Tuesday statement. "The actions taken by these countries were not easy. They had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil, which many had been reliant on for their energy needs."
The European Union banned all new purchases of Iranian crude oil as of Jan. 23 and will phase out existing contracts by July 1, Clinton said. Japan was able to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil even despite energy shortages created by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
"We commend these countries for their actions and urge other nations that import oil from Iran to follow their example," said Clinton. "Diplomacy coupled with strong pressure can achieve the long-term solutions we seek and we will continue to work with our international partners to increase the pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations." . . .
Obama administration’s energy policy chief on Tuesday gives himself an "A" grade
The Obama administration’s energy policy chief on Tuesday gave himself an A for controlling gas prices that have reached a record high at pumps across the country, drawing criticism and even chortles from Washington Republicans.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the comment during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in which he was asked whether he was still doing A-minus work.
“Well, the tools we have at our disposal are limited, but I would say I would give myself a little higher,” he told committee Chairman Darrell Issa. “Since I became secretary of energy, I've been doing everything I can to get long-term solutions."
Issa, a California Republican, said later that the administration’s “DOE is DOA.”
The average price of regular gas is now $3.87 a gallon, a record high for March and more than double the $1.85 a gallon price when Obama took office in January 2009, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. . . .
Yet more subsidies for solar energy producers in the US
U.S. trade officials slapped modest tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels, giving a partial victory to solar-equipment manufacturers in the U.S. but stopping short of harsh duties that could spark a trade war.
Responding to a complaint by the U.S. unit of Germany's SolarWorld AG SWV.XE -1.06% and six other firms who complained about competition from Chinese rivals, the Commerce Department announced preliminary duties of between 2.9% and 4.73% on Chinese solar cells and solar panels.
The ruling found that Chinese solar manufacturers enjoyed some unfair government financial assistance that helped them become an export powerhouse. The U.S. imported more than $3 billion worth of Chinese solar cells and panels last year, double the amount of imports in 2010.
Tuesday's move may not be the final step. The Commerce Department is expected to rule by May 17 on a related complaint, that Chinese manufacturers are selling cells and panels at prices below fair value. If the department finds dumping, it could put additional, antidumping tariffs on the Chinese firms. . . .
Did Stimulus dollars go to states that had more union workers? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
Did Stimulus dollars go to states that gave Obama a bigger win margin? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
Did Stimulus dollars go to states with more Democratic Congressional delegations? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
Did Stimulus dollars go to states with lower per capita incomes? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
Did Stimulus dollars go to states with worse foreclosure rates? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
Did Stimulus dollars go to states with worse bankruptcy rates? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
Did Stimulus dollars go to states with worse unemployment rates? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
Did Stimulus dollars go to states with worse poverty rates? (Recovery.gov February 17, 2009, and December 31, 2011)
WSJ: On states with Open carry
From the WSJ:
Advocates of "open carry" laws have been pushing for several years to make it legal for gun owners to display their handguns in public places, arguing the practice would increase public safety and is protected under the Second Amendment.
Their campaign has had mixed results. Florida last year enacted a law allowing people to "briefly and openly" display firearms, provided they don't do so in "an angry or threatening manner." That law loosened how people can handle guns in public but is considered too restrictive by most open-carry proponents.
California last year banned the open carry of firearms, as have Illinois and Texas.
Fourteen states have laws allowing handgun owners to openly display their weapons. Advocates say the practice is legal in 29 states that are silent on the issue, according to OpenCarry.org, a gun-rights organization. "Just because it is not in vogue to openly carry doesn't mean that it is improper or illegal," said Dave Workman, editor of TheGunMag.com. . . .
Fast & Furious "caught top suspect, then let him go"
Seven months after federal agents began the ill-fated Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation, they stumbled upon their main suspect in a remote Arizona outpost on the Mexican border, driving an old BMW with 74 rounds of ammunition and nine cellphones hidden inside.
Detained for questioning that day in May 2010, Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta described to agents from theBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosiveshis close association with a top Mexican drug cartel member, according to documents obtained this weekend by the Times/Tribune Washington Bureau.
The top Fast and Furious investigator, Special Agent Hope MacAllister, scribbled her phone number on a $10 bill after he pledged to cooperate and keep in touch with investigators.
Then Celis-Acosta disappeared into Mexico. He never called.
Had they arrested him red-handed trying to smuggle ammunition into Mexico, Fast and Furious might have ended quickly. Instead, the program dragged on for another eight months, spiraling out of control. . . .
Celis-Acosta continued slipping back and forth across the border, authorities say, illegally purchasing more U.S. weapons and financing others. He was not arrested until February 2011, a month after Fast and Furious closed down. . . .
Why ATF agents did not arrest Celis-Acosta immediately is not clear. He was their prime suspect and the subject of secret wiretaps approved by the Justice Department. . . .
Tennessee Woman who accidentally carried permitted concealed handgun where it is ban gets misdemeanor
A registered nurse and fourth-year med student got a no-jail, misdemeanor deal today for the Tennessee-registered gun she tried to check at the 9/11 Memorial in December.
Manhattan prosecutors this morning dropped the felony gun possession charges Meredith Graves had originally been slammed with -- charges carrying a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years prison.
Graves pleaded guilty instead to a misdemeanor weapons possession charge, a move that she hopes will save both her gun license and pending medical license, said her lawyer, Daniel Horwitz.
"We're hoping that wherever she ends up practicing, this is the kind of disposition where licensing boards have a lot of discretion," Horwitz said. . . .
It was all just an innocent mistake, the lawyer said. Graves had come to New York on a job interview, and realized she had her small, .22-cal. handgun on her once she stopped by the memorial to pay her respects. . . .
Letters to the Editor in the Baltimore Sun: "Right-to-carry lowers violent crime"
Tricia Bishop misrepresented my research as well as the debate over concealed-carry laws ("Gun laws' sketchy effect," March 11). She makes it appear that I am only "one economist" who claims to find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime.
By now, a vast body of research supports my results. Among peer-reviewed national studies by criminologists and economists, 18 find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, 10 claim no effect, and just one claims one type of crime temporarily increases slightly. The possibility that permit holders might lead to more crime is easily evaluated by looking at how incredibly law-abiding they are, with them losing their permits for any firearms-related violations (usually trivial ones) at hundredths or thousandths of 1 percentage point.
Forty-one states currently have right-to-carry laws where permits are based on objective criteria, such as passing a criminal background check. These laws have worked well — so well that no state has chosen to repeal the law or even held legislative hearings to reconsider it.
Something to think about including if you want to explain the changes in the number of robberies over time
The Swedish Bankers' Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy is already making an impact in crime statistics.
The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011 — the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down.
"Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash, but also of course for the public," says Par Karlsson, a security expert at the organization.
The prevalence of electronic transactions — and the digital trail they generate — also helps explain why Sweden has less of a problem with graft than countries with a stronger cash culture, such as Italy or Greece, says economics professor Friedrich Schneider of the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.
"If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities," says Schneider, an expert on underground economies.
In Italy — where cash has been a common means of avoiding value-added tax and hiding profits from the taxman — Prime Minister Mario Monti in December put forward measures to limit cash transactions to payments under euro1,000 ($1,300), down from euro2,500 before.
The flip side is the risk of cybercrimes. According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention the number of computerized fraud cases, including skimming, surged to nearly 20,000 in 2011 from 3,304 in 2000.
Oscar Swartz, the founder of Sweden's first Internet provider, Banhof, says a digital economy also raises privacy issues because of the electronic trail of transactions. He supports the idea of phasing out cash, but says other anonymous payment methods need to be introduced instead.
"One should be able to send money and donate money to different organizations without being traced every time," he says. . . . .
School shooting in France
UPDATE: From the WSJ:
A French police official says the gun used to kill four people at a Jewish school Monday was the same gun used in attacks on three French paratroopers last week.
Police had been investigating a connection between the attacks after a gunman opened fire outside Ozar Hatorah school in the southwestern French city of Toulouse, killing a rabbi, his two sons and one other child, according to the prosecutor's office.
Prosecutor Michel Valet said a 30-year-old rabbi and his 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons were killed in the attack just before classes started at the Ozar Hatorah school.
Another child, the 8-year-old daughter of the school principal, was also killed, school officials said. Valet said a 17-year-old boy was also seriously wounded and in the operating ward of a city hospital.
"The drama occurred a bit before 8 a.m. A man arrived in front of the school on a motorcycle or scooter," Valet said, adding that the man got off his scooter outside the school and opened fire.
"He shot at everything he had in front of him, children and adults," he said. "The children were chased inside the school." . . .
This after two different public shootings in France last week:
A gunman on a motorbike opened fire on three French paratroopers at a bank machine Thursday in southern France, killing two and critically wounding one, officials said. It was the second such attack in a week targeting French soldiers. . . .
On Sunday, a 30-year-old paratrooper was fatally shot near a gymnasium in the southern city of Toulouse by an unidentified attacker. . . . .
UPDATE: This is an interesting new twist on the case. From the WSJ:
The man who gunned down four people at a school in this southern French city apparently filmed his attack, further convincing authorities that they are searching for a merciless killer who meticulously planned the shooting that has sparked horror and outrage across the country.
Investigators said Tuesday they fear the shooter, who may be connected to two recent attacks in the area that left three soldiers dead, could strike again.
Prosecutors say they have dispatched more than 200 specialized investigators, from anti-terrorist police to profilers to Internet experts, to Toulouse to help identify the shooter, who opened fire Monday at a private Jewish school, killing a father and his two young sons as well as an 8-year-old girl.
Prosecutors have said gunpowder was found on the heads of all the victims, suggesting they were shot at point-blank range. Interior Minister Claude Guéant, who is helping coordinate the hunt for the killer from Toulouse, said all the witnesses to the shootings at the school said the man "was cold and determined and showed great cruelty." . . .
CSPAN's Q&A for Walter Williams
Government continuing to play favorites, helping out some companies at the expense of others
Turning up the heat on Boeing Co., Sen. Tom Coburn wants Congress to bar the Export-Import Bank from financing aircraft sales to foreign airlines if the transactions do “substantial injury” to American carriers competing for the same international routes.
As drafted now, Coburn’s legislative language appears to stop short of a strict, “shall not” prohibition. But he specifically targets “long-range aircraft” akin to Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, which is heavily dependent on international sales supported by Ex-Im loan guarantees. . . .