Political Trough: Free Amtrak Trips, a Facebook “Challenge”

Aaron Flint posted on March 12, 2014 14:09 :: 3755 Views

With flood water impacting Montana, residents are being warned of a Facebook “challenge.” Obamacare enrollments dropped in February, while concealed weapons permits in Illinois outpaced the number of Obamacare enrollees.  The US electric grid is inherently vulnerable to sabotage.  And- a bill to support gas exports in the wake of the foreign policy crisis in Ukraine is moving forward.  That and more is in this week’s “Political Trough” below.   

KTVQ-TV: Crow Agency residents warned of Facebook ‘challenge’

The Emergency Task Force for Crow Agency voiced concerns regarding a “Winter Challenge” on the social media site Facebook.
According to ICP Spokesman Ben Cloud, the challenge has people “jumping into rivers and creeks.”
The update urged people to recognize the Little Big Horn River is still dangerous with ice jams, swift waters, and other debris that may not be visible.

Washington Post: Obamacare enrollment drops off in February

About 4.2 million people have signed up for health plans on Obamacare exchanges through the end of February, making it unlikely that the Obama administration will hit the estimate of 6 million enrollees by a key deadline at the end of March.
Whatever momentum appeared to be building in January dropped off in February, as the number of sign ups fell below the administration’s expectations. The numbers – which were released a day before Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on the Hill – also show young people aren’t enrolling at rates officials had hoped. That group is key because they are generally presumed to be healthier and less costly to the overall program.

For the second straight month, young adults between 18 and 34 years made up 25 percent of total exchange signups. The administration originally said 40 percent of exchange enrollees should be young adults to help counter the cost of older and less healthy enrollees.

CNSNews.com- Illinois Concealed Carry Applications Outpace Obamacare Enrollment

In the land of Lincoln, more residents are applying to ensure their protection with firearms than are signing up to insure themselves with Obamacare.
In Illinois, which last summer became the last state to allow their residents to carry concealed firearms,  applications for concealed carry permits are now outpacing Obamacare enrollment according to today’s Chicago Sun Times. 

Washington Free Beacon- Report: U.S. Electric Grid ‘Inherently Vulnerable’ to Sabotage

Electric grid compounds across the country have faced an uptick in unauthorized intrusions by unknown individuals, causing concern that the U.S. grid is “inherently vulnerable” to widespread sabotage, according to a recent oversight report issued by New Jersey’s Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC), which monitors the threat level.
Following at least eight “reports of intrusions at electrical grid facilities in New Jersey” from October 2013 until January 2014, the ROIC’s Intelligence & Analysis Threat Unit issued a report warning that the U.S. electrical grid is “inherently vulnerable” to attacks that could wipe out power across large swaths of the country.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote this afternoon on a Ukraine aid and sanctions package after the planned vote was delayed from yesterday. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) still intends to submit LNG export amendments, a spokeswoman said last night. While the U.S. and Ukraine don’t have LNG export and import capabilities to make a difference in the short-term, the point of Barrasso’s effort is that “it undercuts the Russians’ ability to hold people hostage long term,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Once contracts are written, immediately the negotiation occurs and the Russian price will drop.”

One of the only viable short-term solutions to help Ukraine would be for the U.S. to send financial aid to help pay for expected higher natural gas costs from importing Russian natural gas. “If we’re talking about actually sending the money to the Ukraine for higher energy costs, that money’s essentially going to go to Russia to pay their energy bill,” Barrasso said. “So what I want to do is undercut that Russian dominance on the market.”

The Weekly Standard: Free Trips on Amtrak

The federally subsidized railroad service Amtrak is offering up to 24 writers the chance to take a 2-5 day trip aboard a train for free. It’s all part what is being called the “#AmtrakResidency program.”

“#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.”

Flathead Beacon- Officials: Canadian Oil Won’t Hurt North Dakota Production

The heavy sour crude from Canada is of lower value and more difficult to refine than North Dakota’s light sweet crude.

Enbridge Inc. announced a $7 billion plan last week to replace and increase the capacity of a crude oil pipeline that runs from Canada to Wisconsin. That project, which would bump the pipeline’s capacity from 410,000 barrels daily to 760,000, is in addition to Calgary-based TransCanada Inc.’s long-delayed $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline.

Enbridge also is proposing the 612-mile Sandpiper pipeline, a $2.6 billion project that would be largest yet from the oil patch. It would carry 225,000 barrels of oil daily to a hub in northern Minnesota and 375,000 barrels to one in northwestern Wisconsin.

Heritage Foundation- A loss of nearly 500 manufacturing jobs in Montana due to EPA Climate Regs

America’s manufacturing base will be particularly harmed by the EPA’s climate regulations. Manufacturing accounts for over 330,000 of the jobs lost.[4] This occurs for a number of reasons.

As more coal generation is taken offline, the marketplace must find a way to make up for that lost supply. The Heritage Energy Model builds in the most cost-effective means of replacing the lost coal through a combination of consumers decreasing energy use as an adjustment to higher prices and increased power generation from other sources.

Manufacturing is an energy-intensive industry, and the impact of the higher energy prices on manufacturing averages to more than 770 jobs losses per congressional district. However, not all regions are affected the same, as districts in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois are especially hit hard. In fact, 19 out of the top 20 worse off congressional districts from the Administration’s war on coal are located in the Midwest region. In those districts, the manufacturing industry, on average, will slash more than 1,600 jobs by 2023. The table at the end of the paper shows the estimates of the decrease of manufacturing employment per congressional district by 2023.

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