NAFTA Talks Extended

Oct 18, 2017 12
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Agriculture and other contentious issues proposed by the U.S. during round four of the North American Free Trade Agreement talks have stalled the renegotiation effort. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico have now agreed to extend the talks into 2018, failing to meet the Trump Administration’s goal to conclude the talks by the end of this year. The move comes as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has confirmed the U.S. will table its dairy proposal, for now. The proposal seeks to end Canada’s dairy supply management program, a “non-starter” for Canada. Lighthizer has also tabled a proposal related to produce exports, opposed by Mexico.

Negotiators say the longer timeline allows for them to “dig in” to the tough issues, and pledge to continue to work out a deal, while acknowledging that strong differences remain. The next round of talks is scheduled for November 17th in Mexico.
Source: NAFB News Serivce

Trump Tells EPA to Stand Down on RFS Weakening Proposal

Oct 18, 2017 12
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The White House has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to stand down on efforts to weaken the Renewable Fuel Standard. The agency was told to abandon two changes that were under consideration: a possible reduction in biodiesel requirements and a proposal to allow exported renewable fuel to count toward domestic quotas. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump spoke with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who said she thought the “administration was feeling the pressure” from biofuels advocates. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt met with a group of senators led by Iowa’s Chuck Grassley on Tuesday as the lawmakers claimed they “pushed Pruitt to abandon” the proposals. Iowa’s junior Senator, Joni Ernst, said she would not commit to backing Trump’s EPA air office nominee, the office that oversees the renewable fuel program.

Administration officials say the handful of senators blocked the administration by “threatening to hold nominees hostage until they get their way.”

Source: NAFB News Service

Iowa Leaders Call on EPA to Reverse Course on Threats Against Biofuels

Oct 18, 2017 14

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg today joined leaders from across the state to voice their concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) consideration of proposals to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), reduce federal biofuel targets, and threaten rural jobs. The duo hosted a press conference at Pella, Iowa’s Two Rivers Cooperative alongside Monte Shaw, Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Grant Kimberley, Executive Director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, and Dennis Bogaards, a soybean and corn farmer in the Pella community. “The purpose of the Renewable Fuel Standard is to grow demand for biofuel while driving the industry to innovate,” said Governor Reynolds, who recently spearheaded a letter on biofuels to the EPA from four Midwestern governors. “Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposals seem to take us backward, not forward. While I have appreciated the accessibility of the EPA and have had many positive conversations about the RFS, I have some significant concerns with the direction the agency appears to be taking.”

“The proposed contraction of the RFS threatens thousands of Iowa farmers and workers who rely on biofuels to support their livelihood,” added Lieutenant Governor Gregg.

“President Trump vowed to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Monte Shaw, Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, which is also unveiling a new study on the economic and employment contributions of biofuels in Iowa. “But today, the EPA is considering schemes to cut corn ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. EPA Administrator Pruitt has made clear he is not interested in implementing the spirit of the RFS. Folks in rural America are upset and feel betrayed. Their message is clear: President Trump must take action to put the EPA back on track and not allow the RFS to be systematically destroyed. One path leads to hope for the heartland. The other leads to rural economic ruin and a breach of trust that will not be repaired.”

“The RFS is a vital policy that has fostered investments across every segment of the rural economy, from farming to manufacturing,” said Delayne D. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Iowa’s Quad County Corn Processors, which has pioneered technology to convert agricultural residue, namely corn kernel fiber, into cellulosic biofuels. “Cellulosic biofuels are poised to drive a wave of manufacturing investments across the heartland of the United States. The White House needs to remind the EPA that undermining the RFS sends a terrible signal to investors that America is not interested in leading the world in energy innovation.”

The RFS is America’s most successful energy policy, working for the past 12 years to provide consumers with cleaner, more affordable options at the pump while reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst recently outlined their opposition to the proposed cuts in a bipartisan letter signed by 38 U.S. Senators.

Source: Fuels America

Goodlatte Farm Labor Bill “Best Chance in Years”

Oct 18, 2017 13

New farm labor bill

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says it’s time for a solution on ag labor issues and legislation introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte is being called an important first step to address ag’s labor shortage.

Goodlatte is a Republican from Virginia and his bill is the American Guestworker Act, or AG Act. It replaces the H-2A program with a new, flexible and market-driven guestworker program designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry. According to Goodlatte, the bill would create a new H-2C guestworker program under which foreign workers would be allowed an initial stay of 36 months. Subsequent visas for year-round agricultural jobs and all other H-2C visas would afford a work period of 18 months.

Representative Dan Newhouse from Washington state says while many of the details have yet to be worked out H-2Cs would take the agriculture community to a much better place.

“I think this will be a very good step forward,” he said. “Immigration reform is a huge issue and a day does not go by that I do not hear from someone who is having a difficult time attracting the labor force that they need in this harvest period.”

The AG Act would allow current undocumented ag workers to get an H-2C visa and provides for 500,000 H-2C visas a year with allowances to adjust that number depending on agricultural labor needs.

The program also would give employers the option to provide housing and transportation for their workers, currently required under the H-2A program.

In addition, the H-2C program would be administered by the USDA.

Duvall at Farm Bureau acknowledged the Goodlatte bill is a possible solution, but he would like some improvements made to it.

“Chairman Goodlatte’s bill also would allow, for the first time, dairy farms to participate in the labor program,” he says in an FB website column. “The bill needs some improvements (raising a cap on the number of worker visas, for example), but it would be our best chance in years to make progress on an issue that is difficult but also so important to farmers, consumers who want their food grown in U.S. soil, and rural communities that benefit from the jobs that farms and ranches provide. It is time for a solution to the ag labor problem, before more of our food—and the U.S. farms and ranches that produce it—goes to waste.”

Jessica Chastain: Hollywood is 'an industry rife with racism, sexism and homophobia'

Oct 18, 2017 14

Jessica Chastain has called out Hollywood, claiming it doesn’t practice what it preaches in a passionate speech as more women detail their experiences with sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry. 

Chastain, speaking at Elle Magazine’s Women in Entertainment event Monday night, said the entertainment industry is marred with “racism, sexism and homophobia,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“It is so closely woven into the fabric of the business that we have become snowblind to the glaring injustices happening every day,” she said.

“Oh we’re very quick to point the finger at others and address the issue with social action and fundraising. Yet there is a clear disconnect between how we practice what we preach in our industry,” the 40-year-old actress added.

HARVEY WEINSTEIN SEX SCANDAL: DETAILING THE ALLEGATIONS

Chastain noted stars were quick to rally against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump after he was heard speaking in a lewd manner in an “Access Hollywood” recording, but she said Hollywood has ignored similar stories in the industry.

Chastain delivered a passionate speech on Monday amid the the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.  (Reuters)

“We rally against the presidential candidate who slants a narrative of his sexual assault as mere locker room talk, but at the same time we ignore the stories and warnings of sexual predators in our offices,” she said.

The actress added she was taught to make herself “as little as possible, to never say something that could be taken the wrong way or offend the wrong person” if she wanted to get acting gigs. However, she now feels “inspired” by the women who have come forward about their sexual harassment and assault experiences.

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lawrence also alleged Monday night they were sexually harassed and assaulted when they were starting out their acting career.

“I’m so inspired by the women who are far braver than I am, who have come forward with their stories and risked everything to help others,” Chastain said. “What is important is that the voices of these women do not disappear. We must amplify them.”

Chastain said shortly after the New York Times published its report on Weinstein that she was warned about working with the producer.

“I was warned from the beginning. The stories were everywhere. To deny that is to create an enviornment (sic) for it to happen again,” she wrote on Twitter. 

Pussycat Dolls deny 'prostitution ring' and 'abuse' claims

Oct 18, 2017 6

The Pussycat Dolls denied former member Kaya Jones’ claims that the all-girl group functioned as a “prostitution ring” and the singers were “passed around” and “abused.”

In a statement to Fox News, the Pussycat Dolls criticized Jones’ claims, stating they could not “stand behind false allegations towards other group members partaking in activities that simply did not take place.”

“The Pussycat Dolls has always and will always stand for female empowerment and sisterhood,” the statement read. “We stand in solidarity with all women who have bravely spoken publicly of their horrific experiences of abuse, harassment and exploitation.”

EX-PUSSYCAT DOLLS SINGER KAYA JONES CLAIMS BAND WAS ‘PROSTITUTION RING,’ MEMBERS WERE ‘PASSED AROUND,’ ‘ABUSED’ BY INDUSTRY EXECS

In a series of tweets last Friday, Jones, 33, who was part of The Pussycat Dolls from 2003 to 2005, alleged that the group was a “prostitution ring.”

“I wasn’t in a girl group. I was in a prostitution ring. Oh & we happened to sing & be famous. While everyone who owned us made the $,” Jones tweeted.

“To be apart (sic) of the team you must be a team player. Meaning sleep with whoever they say,” Jones continued.

Jones also called the group’s founder, Robin Antin, “the den mother from hell” and criticized her for keeping silent when “another one of her girl group girls committed suicide.”

Social media users speculated Jones was referring to G.R.L. singer Simone Battle, who committed suicide in 2014 at age 25.

In an interview with The Blast on Monday, Antin slammed the allegations, calling them “disgusting, ridiculous lies,” and added Jones “is clearly looking for her 15 minutes.”

The group argued that the “prostitution ring” claim undermines what the Pussycat Dolls have achieved.

SHIRLEY MANSON RECALLS DISASTROUS GARBAGE AUDITION, INFAMOUS SEE-THROUGH DRESS

“To liken our professional roles in The Pussycat Dolls to a prostitution ring not only undermines everything we worked hard to achieve for all those years but also takes the spotlight off the millions of victims who are speaking up and being heard loud and clear around the world,” the statement continued.

The Pussycat Dolls claimed they were not aware of Jones’ alleged experiences and could “firmly testify” that no inappropriate conduct was occurring.  

The statement concluded: “Since its inception, The Pussycat Dolls and founder Robin Antin have supported and empowered women from all walks of life to flourish in their careers. Should any member or associate allude to any form of abuse or harassment whatsoever, it will be taken very seriously and investigated. We truly wish Kaya the best and hope she gets the help she deserves.”

The Nicole Scherzinger-led group disbanded in 2010 but announced this month that they would be making a comeback. 

Monica Lewinsky tweets '#MeToo'

Oct 18, 2017 23

Monica Lewinsky raised eyebrows over the weekend when she tweeted the hashtag #MeToo, marking herself as a victim of sexual harassment or assault.

Lewinsky, who carried on an affair with then-President Bill Clinton while a White House intern in the 1990s, did not go into details about her experience.

Several women have accused Clinton of sexual misconduct, dating back to his tenure as governor of Arkansas. Clinton has only admitted to having consensual relations with Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers.

The #MeToo hashtag gained traction after actress Alyssa Milano asked Twitter users to respond with that message if they had been subject to unwelcome advances.

The social media outcry has followed a series of accusations of sexual misconduct against film producer Harvey Weinstein. A number of actresses, including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rose McGowan, have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse, assault and in the case of British actor Lysette Anthony, rape.

Kaepernick fires back at Roger Goodell without opening his mouth

Oct 18, 2017 3

Colin Kaepernick hasn’t said much publicly since he stopped being employed as an NFL quarterback.

The last tweet he wrote was on Oct. 10, and it was a shout-out to Eminem for name-dropping him in a long freestyle rap that was extremely critical of President Trump. He has remained active on Twitter though, specifically by re-tweeting several posts per day.

Many of the posts he shared on Wednesday were aimed at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who addressed the media at the league’s owners meetings in New York. Goodell spoke at length about the national anthem protests, a movement that Kaepernick started last season as a member of the 49ers, saying he wants — but is not mandating — all players to stand for the song, saying he aims to put the number of protesters “at zero.”

“Goodell and his avoidance of police killing unarmed black and brown people is an extension of the coopting/erasure of Kaepernick’s cause,” came a tweet from @LeftSentThis, endorsed by Kaepernick.

“White supremacy is thinking that ending black protest is a better goal than ending the murder of black lives,” wrote @samswey, in reply to Goodell’s goal of reducing the number of protesters, which Kaepernick also retweeted.

CLICK FOR MORE FROM THE NEW YORK POST

Demi Lovato admits to using drugs while advocating sobriety

Oct 18, 2017 16

Despite promoting a “sober lifestyle” in 2012, Demi Lovato was still using drugs, she reveals in her new documentary.

“I wasn’t working my program, I wasn’t ready to get sober,” Lovato, now 25, explained in “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated.” “I was sneaking [cocaine] on planes, I was sneaking it in bathrooms, sneaking it throughout the night … I went on a bender of like, two months where I was using daily.”

“There was one night when I used a bunch of coke and I popped a few Xanax bars, and I began to choke a little bit. My heart started racing, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I might be overdosing right now,’” the “Hitchhiker” singer said.

Lovato’s manager, Phil McIntyre, recalled, “We were in New York and she clearly was on something, and she was on air promoting this new way of life, and I was like, ‘You’re so full of it.’”

McIntyre reached out to Mike Bayer, Lovato’s sober coach and CAST Centers partner, for help, but it was neither an easy nor a fast process.

“I was using while I had a sober companion,” Lovato admitted. “And I went through about 20 different sober companions.”

Following an incident in Palm Springs where the singer downed half a bottle of pills, Lovato was temporarily placed in a psychiatric unit, but continued to use drugs.

“I would sneak out and get drugs, I would fake my drug tests with other people’s pee,” she admitted.

Lovato recalled that the last night she ever abused any substances, booze was the poison she picked.

“The very last night that I drank, I was at a hotel, and I invited two random people and basically just drank with them,” she said. “I got really, really drunk until it was time to get on a flight, and I was so drunk that I threw up in the back of the car service on the way to the airport to perform on ‘American Idol.’”

The “Give Your Heart a Break” singer was hung over during her performance, and her professional team almost gave up on her, which is what led her to finally get sober.

“The most important thing to Demi is losing people, losing people that she cares about and that love her,” Bayer said.

Bayer worked with McIntyre to intervene.

“I worked with everyone on the team — business managers, agents, attorneys, everybody, to say, ‘If Phil walks, we walk,’” McIntyre said. “This was the showdown of all showdowns.”

A sobbing Lovato asked what she needed to do to get those close to her to stay, at which point Bayer demanded she relinquish and destroy her cell phone, which contained contact info for drug dealers. He wasn’t satisfied with her simply smashing it, and her team ordered her to drop it in a vase full of water while they watched.

“It’s embarrassing to look back on the person that I was,” Lovato said, adding, “I think that approach worked for me because … it was the beginning of the process of surrendering.”

This article originally appeared in Page Six.

Ellen DeGeneres has emotional interview with security guard shot during Vegas massacre

Oct 18, 2017 13

The gunman who unleashed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history first wounded an unsuspecting hotel security guard in a hallway who promptly radioed for help, according to a TV interview broadcast Wednesday with the guard and a hotel building engineer whose life he is credited with saving.

In his only public recounting of the Oct. 1 shooting that killed 58 people and wounded more than 500, guard Jesus Campos told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show that he was heading down the hall after calling for a maintenance worker when he heard “rapid fire” gunshots through the nearby doors of Stephen Paddock’s suite in the Mandalay Bay.

“At first, I took cover. I felt a burning sensation. I went to go lift my pant leg up, and I saw the blood,” Campos said. “That’s when I called it in on my radio that shots had been fired.”

He didn’t say what time that was.

The hotel engineer, Stephen Schuck, who was sent to check a fire exit door that Campos found bolted shut, told DeGeneres that he didn’t hear gunfire when he reached the opposite end of the 32nd floor hallway. Then, he heard what he thought was the sound of construction.

“I didn’t know it was shooting. I thought it was a jackhammer,” Schuck said. “And, you know as an engineer, I’m like, ‘We’re not working up here this late at night.’ We wouldn’t be doing that.”

“It was, I believe, outside,” he said, referring to gunfire that authorities say Paddock rained down from broken windows into a crowd of 22,000 at a country music festival. “It wasn’t in the hallway yet.”

Schuck said Campos leaned out from a door entrance and yelled for him to take cover.

“Within milliseconds, if he didn’t say that, I would have got hit,” Schuck said, describing bullets whizzing past his head.

Police later said more than 200 shots were fired into the hallway.

Campos, who walked into the interview with a cane, is recovering from a leg wound. Schuck wasn’t injured. Both are on paid leave from their jobs, according to officials at MGM Resorts International, which owns the hotel.

The company, police and the FBI declined to comment on the TV appearance.

Campos drew intense attention when police hailed him as a hero just after the shooting, saying he unwittingly stopped the massacre by arriving in the hallway.

The police timeline changed dramatically a week later, when authorities said Campos reported being wounded at 9:59 p.m. — six minutes before people in the concert crowd reported shots.

The timeline of the massacre changed again last Friday, when Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Campos had been dispatched to the 32nd floor at 9:59 p.m. and was wounded in the hallway less than a minute before the massacre started at 10:05 p.m.

Schuck’s account in the DeGeneres interview seemed to support that chronology.

He told Campos in the interview that the guard saved Schuck’s life, and DeGeneres credited Campos with also warning a woman who started to come out of her room to get back inside.

“Shortly after that is when Stephen (Schuck) was approaching, and I told him to stay back and get cover, and that’s when more rounds were dispersed,” Campos said.

His interview came after the last-minute cancellation of a scheduled live interview with Fox host Sean Hannity last Thursday, said David Hickey, president of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America.

Campos then dropped from public view, said Hickey, who had been involved in booking the appearance.

“We’re more than pleased that he’s resurfaced and appears to be in good health,” Hickey said. “If he comes back as a security officer at Mandalay Bay, we’ll see him again. If not, we wish him the best.”