October 26, 2014
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My take on the news
As planet population reaches 7 billion, there should be no beef with developing plant protein
Lonnie Barham

STUDENT PERFORMANCE: It’s refreshing to see a slight increase in RI students’ scores on the National Report Card tests for math and reading proficiency. Our students are still woefully ill prepared to face the challenges of life ahead. Only 33% of our 8th graders are proficient in reading and only 34% are able to solve math problems. It looks like the RI economy will remain in trouble for another generation as 65% of our near-future adults will be unemployable except in menial jobs due to lack of the basic reading and math skills required in the modern workplace. Thankfully, Education Commissioner Gist is on the right track in planning major education improvements. Let’s get behind her!

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND UNIONS: Rhode Island public school teachers are throwing stones at Connecticut charter schools operated by Achievement First, the company that has applied to open two such schools in RI. Yes, charter schools siphon tax resources from public schools, even though charter students generally have higher test scores, better discipline, and greater graduation rates. But, what is at fault for this shift of financial support from public to charter schools? It is the rigid, union-foisted rules that disallow education reform in public schools and that protect many bad teachers that are to blame for the poor quality of public school education. Thus, parents want to move their children to the more reform minded charters. Public school teachers need only look in a mirror to see the problem – it’s the union specter peering over their shoulders!

WORLD POPULATION: Last week the world’s population reached the 7 billion mark. Perhaps it is time to revisit the 1971 book, "Diet for a Small Planet ,"and to also consider in-vitro meat production. The book outlined how human dependence on meat consumption results in highly unproductive use of the world’s arable land, and that switching to a diet rich in plant protein would free enough beef-raising land so the entire world’s population could be easily fed. Recent scientific success in laboratory production of real beef from cattle stem cells is also promising, especially for those who “need” the taste of meat instead of plant protein. A very credible study shows the beef industry uses 80% of all farm land, produces 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, and consumes 10% of the world’s fresh water. In-vitro production of beef would require 98% less land, 45% less energy, and produce 85% less greenhouse gasses. Whether humanity moves toward a plant-based diet or moves toward consumption of laboratory-produced meat, we cannot continue forever on our current course of relying on land-produced meats. To do so will invite the spread of worldwide hunger and its accompanying problems, to include famine, corruption, war, and the spread of deadly diseases.

SENATOR WHITEHOUSE WRONG: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had the audacity to say that Justice Department mistakes were “understandable” and “a forgivable oversight” when these mistakes resulted in 1,500 guns – from automatic pistols to large caliber sniper rifles, being sold at the Justice Department’s direction to Mexican drug cartels as part of the botched federal sting operation known as Operation Fast and Furious. Senator Whitehouse is either naïve, ignorant, or on drugs himself if he thinks it is acceptable for Justice Department officials to look the other way as our government provides weapons to drug terrorists. Get real Sheldon!

TORAY PLASTICS: Toray Plastics, a North Kingstown company that uses an immense amount of electricity in its manufacturing process, is fighting extension of a contract between National Grid and Deepwater Wind, the start-up company that wants to build a wind farm near Block Island. The state virtually forced National Grid to enter into the contract that requires it to buy power from Deepwater at a rate far above what it pays for power from other sources. Of course, National Grid intends to pass the added cost to all consumers. The additional cost may be only a few dollars for most of us but it will increase Toray’s bill by several million dollars per year. Why should government force one company to subsidize another? It is unfair, immoral, and bad for business and job growth in RI. We should all be up in arms about this! Perhaps it is time for Toray to move to a state that is more supportive of free enterprise.

BOMB IRAN’S NUKES? Iran’s role in the defeat of President Obama’s effort to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond December is causing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to consider bombing Iran’s nuclear weapons development sites to protect Israel. Iran’s political maneuvering in Iraq was clearly behind the Iraqi decision to throw the U.S. out, handing Obama a major foreign policy defeat. Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East poses great danger to the region and to U.S. interests, while its maturing nuclear weapons program poses a specific danger to Israel. Obama’s foot-dragging on actions to rein in Iran’s nuclear program has to stop before Israel attacks Iran and drags us into yet another Middle East war.

OBAMA AND G-20: Kudos to President Obama for finally listening to his fiscal detractors and deciding not to take the U.S. pocketbook with him to the G-20 economic summit in Europe! The U.S. has historically volunteered to bail out foreign economies when they have bordered on collapse; this time we did not. Republicans, Tea Party activists and other conservative watchdogs are congratulating themselves for influencing this rare fiscal restraint by Obama. But, was Obama really listening to them or was he just fearful of how throwing money at the European problem will affect his reelection chances? With the national deficit so large, the political risk of adding to it was likely foremost in his mind. Whether frightened into a sane fiscal decision or acting on his own, the president acted presidential in this case.

ANOTHER RECESSION? Moody’s Analytics now places the odds of America sinking into recession again within the next year at 1 in 3. Moody’s was previously more optimistic, placing the odds between 1 in 4, and 1 in 5. To make matters worse, a poll released this week shows that when Obama was sworn in, 62% of Americans believed their children would enjoy a higher standard of living than they had experienced. Fast-forward three years and that percentage has now dropped to 47 percent. It is certainly difficult for Americans to say they are better off now than they were four years ago. So much for “hope and change!”

VETERANS DAY: This week we honor our military veterans! Isn’t it strange how things change, though? A decade or so ago when we conjured up pictures of veterans, what came to mind were images of old men wearing WWII or Korean service caps and images of bitter, long-haired, middle aged men of Vietnam vintage. We didn’t think of veterans as young, clean-cut, fresh-faced kids. But, alas, that is now the case. So Friday we honor them all – the old, the middle-aged, and the young. But we long for the day when again all veterans will be old. It will mean our country has been at peace for a few generations. Let’s pause today and extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our veterans for making the sacrifices that may allow this period of peace to unfold.


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