APNewsBreak: New pen may allow sale of horses for slaughter
By SCOTT SONNER
Tuesday, January 15
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has built a new corral for wild horses in Northern California, which could allow it to bypass federal restrictions and sell the animals for slaughter.
The agency acknowledged in court filings in a potentially precedent-setting legal battle that it built the pen for mustangs gathered in the fall on national forest land along the California-Nevada border because of restrictions on such sales at other federal holding facilities.
The agency denies claims by horse advocates it has made up its mind to sell the more than 250 horses for slaughter. But it also says it may have no choice because of the high cost of housing the animals and continued ecological impacts it claims overpopulated herds are having on federal range land.
“While slaughtering wild horses does not present a pleasant picture, the reality of this dire situation is not pleasant,” Justice Department lawyers representing the agency wrote in its most recent filing last month. “The Forest Service is taking a step to reduce what is universally recognized as a natural catastrophe.”
Horse advocates have been suing the government for two decades over mustang roundups that private ranchers say are necessary to curb growing herds that reduce the forage on federal lands they lease for cattle and sheep grazing across the U.S. West. The region holds roughly 90,000 wild horses.
A sharp reduction in demand in recent years for a federal program that offers the horses for adoption to the public has left little room in existing corrals. Horse advocates argue the mustangs are federally protected and that taxpayers subsidize the livestock grazing on U.S. land.
A hearing is scheduled Jan. 31 in federal court in San Francisco on a motion filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and American Wild Horse Campaign seeking an injunction to block the sale of the horses captured in the Modoc National Forest in October and November for possible slaughter. The new pen is in the forest, about 170 miles (273 kilometers) northwest of Reno.
Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen announced late last year she would postpone any sales for slaughter until at least Feb. 18.
The protection groups say it would be the first time in nearly a half-century the government has sold mustangs “without limitation,” or for any purpose, including slaughter.
Horse slaughterhouses are prohibited in the U.S. but legal in many other countries, including Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe where horse meat is considered a delicacy.
The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burros Act that President Nixon signed into law in 1971 prohibits the inhumane destruction of wild horses. Congress approved an appropriations amendment in 2004 that allows the Forest Service, under its parent Agriculture Department, to sell horses without limitations if they’re over age 10 and have been offered for adoption three times unsuccessfully.
But in most years since then, Congress has specifically prohibited the Bureau of Land Management, under the Interior Department, from using any appropriations for such purposes. President Donald Trump proposed allowing such sales in his 2017 budget, but Congress refused to go along.
The Forest Service normally holds the horses it gathers at pens belonging to the BLM, which manages 385,000 square miles (997,000 square kilometers) of public lands in the West.
With few exceptions, lawsuits have targeted the bureau because it captures the vast majority of the horses. BLM lands hold an estimated 83,000 wild horses, while national forests managed by the Forest Service hold about 8,000.
The Forest Service gathered 932 horses in the Modoc National Forest late last year and shipped about 260 to the new corral, while placing about 650 at a BLM facility in nearby Susanville, California.
Justice Department lawyers acknowledged in the December filings “BLM is not permitted to humanely destroy healthy, unadopted horses or conduct any sale that could ultimately result in their destruction, which includes any Forest Service horse in BLM custody.”
“What has changed is that the Modoc now has its own short-term holding facility … which is not subject to congressional restrictions,” they wrote about the corral, which currently can hold up to 300 horses but has room for expansion to accommodate as many as 1,500. They said local ranchers “generally support these sales” because of the horses’ economic impact on leased grazing land.
The attorneys also said the opponents’ assertion the horses will be slaughtered “is only speculative, not concrete and imminent.”
Horse advocates say the government can’t have it both ways.
“It cannot both argue it is harmed by plaintiffs’ delay in bringing this action because of all the time and resources it has expended to allow the sale of horses without limitation, yet also insist to the court that it has not yet made any such decision,” their lawyers wrote Jan. 8. “In short, the record and defendants’ own statements make clear that the decision to sell horses without limitation is final and judicially reviewable.”
This story has been corrected to show the new corral is the first built by the U.S. Forest Service in California.
States are on the front lines of fighting inequality
January 16, 2019
Christopher Witko: Associate Director and Professor, School of Public Policy, Pennsylvania State University
Disclosure statement: Christopher Witko has received funding from the Russell Sage Foundation.
Partners: Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
When Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., almost immediately took aim at America’s growing income inequality by recommending a 70 percent tax rate on income over US$10 million.
Income inequality refers to the unequal distribution of income between the rich and poor.
Inequality in the U.S. has dramatically increased since the 1970s, under both liberal and conservative administrations in Washington. And the kind of policy Ocasio-Cortez is proposing will be impossible to pass with the polarized politics in Washington D.C.
The federal government could reduce inequality by raising the federal minimum wage, raising taxes on the wealthy, regulating the financial sector and strengthening labor unions.
Instead, the federal government has more often done the opposite in recent decades, and these actions have contributed to growing inequality. In my recent book with William Franko, “The New Economic Populism: How States Respond to Inequality,” we examine what the states are doing to combat inequality in the absence of federal action to address it.
Combating inequality in the most unequal states
Massachusetts, sometimes called “Taxachusetts” because of its liberal policies, is among the most unequal states in the country. Between 1980 and 2015, the share of income in the state going to the top 1 percent of earners increased from 10 percent to over 25 percent.
Politicians in Massachusetts have been pushed by activists and unions to combat this growing inequality.
For example, when state Senate President Stan Rosenberg, a Democrat, took office in 2015, he named the fight against economic inequality as his major priority. He led attempts to change the Massachusetts Constitution to increase taxes on millionaires to pay for early childhood education. Legal challenges prevented this amendment from going before voters for their approval.
Rosenberg also worked with the governor, Republican Charlie Baker, and other leaders to pass expanded tax credits for the working poor.
It is not surprising that a liberal Democrat would tackle inequality, but Baker has also pushed for major expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides cash back to the working poor when they file taxes.
The tax credit is expected to put an additional $214.1 million into the pockets of low-income working families in Massachusetts in 2019.
Gov. Baker also signed bipartisan legislation increasing the minimum wage and requiring employers to offer paid family and medical leave. The hike in the minimum wage from $11 to $14 per hour in 2023 will increase the annual income of a minimum wage worker working 40 hours every week from under $23,000 to over $29,000. That’s an average increase of almost 30 percent.
These policies will make a big difference in increasing the incomes of those at the bottom of the pay scale.
Limiting conservative policy shifts at the ballot box
As in Massachusetts, inequality has also grown in Missouri, though not as rapidly. The 1 percent income share increased from just under 10 percent to nearly 18 percent from 1980 to 2015.
Missouri has seen many attempts by conservative groups to remake state politics and policy in recent decades. As a result, Missouri economic policy has veered sharply to the right in the last decade, but especially since Missouri government came under unified Republican control in 2014.
The legislature has enacted right-to-work legislation, limiting the power of unions, and enacted major tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
Despite this shift to the right, voters have consistently supported what is normally considered a liberal policy, minimum wage increases, at the ballot box.
In 2018, Missouri voters approved a proposition to increase the minimum wage by 40 percent, from $7.85 to $12 by 2023.
That same year, unions sponsored a ballot initiative to overturn the states’ recently enacted “right-to-work” law, which would have made it harder for unions to enroll members. Voters approved the measure by a 2-1 margin, giving the U.S. union movement one of its greatest political victories in years.
Minimum wage increases and expanding tax credits for the working poor will put more money into the pockets of the poor and therefore limit the growth of income inequality. Research examining all 50 states is clear: Higher minimum wages and stronger unions lead to lower income inequality.
When states increase their minimum wage or take steps to support the power of unions, they are fighting against inequality.
Limits of state action
States can do a lot more than increase minimum wages or expand tax credits. They can also invest in education and attempt to foster the growth of high-wage industries. While some states are acting, a substantial reversal of inequality by the states is unlikely.
There’s only so much states can do to reverse inequality. They have a smaller tax base. And, unlike the federal government, states are limited in their ability to raise taxes and spend due to restrictions in many state constitutions, and balanced budget requirements. They are also, of course, unable to shape trade and monetary policy.
Furthermore, many states have been adopting policies that will lead to more inequality. In the end, any substantial change in inequality would require federal action.
But what is taking place in the states can actually spur change at the federal government level.
We have seen in past periods of economic discontent, like the Great Depression, that state policy created a blueprint for subsequent federal policy action, like minimum wage laws and unemployment insurance benefits.
State action can also show federal politicians that addressing inequality with certain policies can be popular. Gov. Baker has been among the most popular governors in the nation since he was elected.
May government faces no-confidence vote after Brexit defeat
By DANICA KIRKA and JILL LAWLESS
Wednesday, January 16
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May defied calls to resign as she faced a no-confidence vote Wednesday, a day after Parliament rejected her Brexit deal by a historic margin and unleashed a power struggle over control of Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union.
May was battling to save her job after staking her political reputation on winning support for the divorce agreement she has negotiated with the EU over the last two years. That it would lose was widely expected, but the scale of the rout — 432 votes to 202, the biggest defeat for a government in British parliamentary history — was devastating for May’s leadership and her Brexit deal.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn responded with a no-confidence motion, and urged the government to “do the right thing and resign.”
“If a government cannot get its legislation through Parliament, it must go to the country for a new mandate,” Corbyn said ahead of the vote, scheduled for 7 p.m. (1900GMT, 2 p.m. EST).
May, who leads a fractious government, a divided Parliament and a gridlocked Brexit process, said she would stay put. May said an election “would deepen division when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty, and it would bring delay when we need to move forward.”
The government is likely to survive Wednesday’s vote with support from May’s Conservative Party and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party.
“I don’t think the people in this country would rejoice at the prospect tonight if a general election were to be called,” said Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s leader in Parliament.
If the government loses, it will have 14 days to overturn the result or face an early national election within weeks. Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29.
Political analyst Anand Menon, from the research group U.K. in a Changing Europe, said May had a remarkable ability to soldier on.
“The thing about Theresa May is that nothing seems to faze her,” he said. “She just keeps on going.”
May’s determination — or, as her foes see it, her inflexibility — might not be an asset in a situation calling for a change of course. The prime minister has until Monday to come up with a new Brexit plan, and has promised to consult with senior lawmakers from across the political spectrum on her next moves.
But she also said any new Brexit plan must “deliver on the referendum result,” which May has long interpreted to mean ending the free movement of workers to Britain from the EU and leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.
Many lawmakers think a softer departure that retained single market or customs union membership is the only plan capable of winning a majority in Parliament. They fear the alternative is an abrupt “no-deal” withdrawal from the bloc, which businesses and economists fear would cause turmoil.
Corbyn said despite May’s claim that she would reach out to opposition parties, he had not received a call from her. Labour lawmaker Ben Bradshaw accused May of being “in a total state of denial” about how radically her Brexit plan needed to change.
Faced with the deadlock, lawmakers from all parties are trying to wrest control of the Brexit process so that Parliament can direct planning for Britain’s departure.
But with no clear majority in Parliament for any single alternative, there’s a growing chance that Britain may seek to postpone its departure date while politicians work on a new plan — or even hand the decision back to voters in a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
Pro-EU lawmaker Dominic Grieve introduced a bill Wednesday that aims to lay the groundwork for a second referendum, which he called “the only way out of the current crisis.”
European leaders are now preparing for the worst, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was still time for further talks. She told reporters in Berlin that “we are now waiting to see what the British prime minister proposes.”
But her measured remarks contrasted with the blunt message from French President Emmanuel Macron, who told Britons to “figure it out yourselves.” He said Britain needed to get realistic about what was possible.
“Good luck to the representatives of the nation who have to implement something that doesn’t exist,” Macron said.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was stepping up preparations for a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit after Parliament’s actions left Europe “fearing more than ever that there is a risk” of a cliff-edge departure.
Economists warn that an abrupt break with the EU could batter the British economy and bring chaos at borders, ports and airports. Business groups have expressed alarm at the prospect of a no-deal exit.
But investors appeared to shrug off the rejection of May’s deal. The pound was up 0.1 percent at $1.2869 in early morning trading Wednesday in London, and the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.1 percent at 6,888.
James Smith, an economist at ING, said the “calm market response” suggested investors think Britain will end up having to seek an extension to the Brexit timetable.
May’s deal was doomed by deep opposition from both sides of the divide over the U.K.’s place in Europe. Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal will leave Britain bound indefinitely to EU rules, while pro-EU politicians favor an even closer economic relationship with the bloc.
The most contentious section was an insurance policy known as the “backstop” designed to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Assurances from EU leaders that the backstop is intended as a temporary measure of last resort failed to win over many British lawmakers.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said it was now up to opponents of the backstop “to come up with an alternative solution to honor their commitment to avoiding a hard border.”
Varadkar said if May’s government was willing to shift some of its “red lines” in negotiations — such as leaving the customs union and EU single market — then the position of EU negotiators would also change.
“The onus is on Westminster” to come up with solutions, Varadkar said.
Raf Casert in Strasbourg, France, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Pan Pylas in London, contributed.
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
Theresa May Brexit deal hammered in parliament, but be wary of prospects of a new ‘consensus’ approach
January 15, 2019
Author: Simon Usherwood, Reader in Politics, University of Surrey
Disclosure statement: Simon Usherwood receives funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, as Deputy Director of the “UK in a Changing Europe” programme. He sits on the academic advisory board of Modern Europe. The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the research councils.
Partners: University of Surrey provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
Another day, another record. The 230 majority against the motion to approve Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement on the UK’s exit from the EU smashes pretty much any parliamentary record one cares to discover.
That May’s immediate response was to make time for the house to debate and vote on Labour’s motion of no-confidence in her the day after her loss was thus hardly a surprise: how else to respond to such a heavy blow against the central platform and policy of the government?
And yet the abiding impression of these events was of avoiding a resolution, for as long as possible. Most obviously, May did not offer her resignation. That was a reflection not of her principles but rather her analysis of the situation. As she noted in her statement, a lack of majority for her deal doesn’t mean there’s a majority for another course of action. Without that alternative majority, she clearly feels there is still everything to play for and she is the right person for the job.
In essence, what May offered parliament was a “put-up or shut-up” proposition. Should the government win the confidence motion – which looks very likely indeed – she will hold a series of cross-party talks, inviting parliament to bring ideas and suggestions about how to build a majority position. The results will then be put to the EU for negotiation and agreement.
At one level, that might sound like a generous offering to a parliament that Number 10 has tried hard to keep well away from the process to date. It looks like a concession to those who have said May’s offer is unacceptable. But in practice, this is just another stage in the longer-term Number 10 strategy of whittling away the options available, until only the withdrawal agreement remains.
If you consider that there is no majority in parliament for any option at present – May’s deal, a softer form of Brexit, second referendum, or a revocation of the entire process – then this offer of talks looks more like a trap than an opportunity or a conciliatory gesture.
The only two changes that might win over the kinds of numbers of MPs to secure a majority both look problematic. For Tory backbenchers or the DUP, the big bone of contention is the backstop arrangement on Northern Ireland. A limit on its application or the power for the UK to decide alone not to use it would have a very big impact on the support the government could get. Yet this is clearly not going to gain the support of the EU, which sunk very deep red lines around that part of the agreement. It cannot move those lines without compromising the interests of one of its own member states.
Much more acceptable to the EU would be the other possible change: a commitment to a much softer Brexit, staying in the single market and the customs union, which would bring a lot of opposition parties on-side. In this case, the problem would be domestic: does May want to be propped up by the opposition; does the opposition want to prop up the government; and can May give up the one thing that has been central to her Brexit plans – an end to free movement?
In short, the offer to parliament is intended to demonstrate that despite all its faults and Tuesday night’s hammering, the withdrawal agreement is still on the table, agreed by the EU and there to potentially be put to another vote following further discussions and guarantees.
Thus we might find ourselves repeating this vote, with no substantive changes to the text and ever greater uncertainty about what will happen on March 29.
May’s withdrawal agreement might still have a future, but this vote means that it is unlikely ever to become a popular and positive choice for parliament, or for the public in general. Being the least-bad option could get it over one hurdle, but it points to the bigger questions that the UK still has to face – what does its future relationship with the EU actually look like?