Obama floats plan to tax cars by the mile

The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.

The plan is a part of the administration’s “Transportation Opportunities Act,” an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.

This follows a March Congressional Budget Office report that supported the idea of taxing drivers based on miles driven.

Among other things, CBO suggested that a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax could be tracked by installing electronic equipment on each car to determine how many miles were driven; payment could take place electronically at filling stations.

The CBO report was requested by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), who has proposed taxing cars by the mile as a way to increase federal highway revenues.

Obama’s proposal seems to follow up on that idea in section 2218 of the draft bill. That section would create, within the Federal Highway Administration, a Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office. It would be tasked with creating a “study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems.”

The administration seems to be aware of the need to prepare the public for what would likely be a controversial change to the way highway funds are collected. For example, the office is called on to serve a public relations function, as the draft says it should “increase public awareness regarding the need for an alternative funding source for surface transportation programs and provide information on possible approaches.”

Read more here.

Joe Biden opens his mouth about US Navy SEALs

Since President Barack Obama announced that “a small team of Americans” had killed Osama bin Laden, US government officials have carefully stuck to the line that they will not talk about which units were involved.

Obama did not say it was the SEALs. In numerous television appearances, Obama’s counter-terrorism chief John Brennan didn’t and his deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough didn’t. Despite the numerous news reports that named the SEALs, none of the anonymous briefers from the CIA and Pentagon would confirm it.

Here’s a typical response to a question about the SEALs from a senior defence official in a Pentagon briefing on Monday:

QUESTION: Can I ask you, can you confirm that it was a (Navy) SEAL team? And was this a specially designated team that had been practising or reviewing intelligence for a while and they were the unit of choice?

SENIOR DEFENCE OFFICIAL: Not going to comment on units or numbers.

But here’s what the legendarily verbose and loose-lipped Vice President Joe Biden said at a dinner at Washington’s Ritz Carlton Hotel last night to mark the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council:

Let me briefly acknowledge tonight’s distinguished honorees. Admiral James Stavridis is a, is the real deal. He can tell you more about and understands the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALs and what they did last Sunday.

And:

Folks, I’d be remiss also if I didn’t say an extra word about the incredible events, extraordinary events of this past Sunday. As Vice President of the United States, as an American, I was in absolute awe of the capacity and dedication of the entire team, both the intelligence community, the CIA, the SEALs. It just was extraordinary.

Osama bin Laden dead: Blackout during raid on bin Laden compound

Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.

A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.

In an interview with PBS, Mr Panetta said: “Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.

“We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound.”

Mr Panetta also told the network that the US Navy Seals made the final decision to kill bin Laden rather than the president.

Food Prices Rise to Near-Record as Inflation Accelerates

World food prices rose to near a record in April as grain costs advanced, adding pressure to inflation that is accelerating from Beijing to Brasilia and spurring central banks to raise interest rates.

An index of 55 commodities rose to 232.1 points from 231 points in March, the United Nations’ Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report on its website today. The gauge climbed to an all-time high of 237.2 in February before dropping 2.6 percent in March.

The cost of living in the U.S. rose at its fastest pace since December 2009 in the 12 months ended in March, the same month in which Chinese consumer prices rose by the most since 2008. The European Central Bank raised interest rates on April 7, joining China, India, Poland and Sweden in a bid to control inflation partly blamed on food costs. Costlier food also contributed to riots across northern Africa and the Middle East that toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia this year.

“There seems to be some easing for a lot of commodities, but whether this is demand rationing, we have to wait and see,” Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the FAO, said before the report. “If the weather is good, if plantings expand, I think we could see some relief in food prices.”

Read more here.

Education … A Failure of Our Government

You want to hear a really sad statistic? According to a new report, 47% of Detroiters are ”functionally illiterate.” This means that they can’t read worth a lick … from a prescription bottle to a McDonald’s value menu. Why do you think McDonald’s menus have pictures? What do we have to thank? Government schools, of course. Remember – government schools were designed just about 100 years for the purpose of educating our children just to the point that they would make good and obedient government subject and private sectors … but no more. Speaking of government schools, I have some more disheartening statistics; these are from the Department of Education, as reported in the New York Times:

Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights on the most recent national civics examination, and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, according to test results released on Wednesday.

At the same time, three-quarters of high school seniors who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unable to demonstrate skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.

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