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Friday, 28 April 2017 21:09

Fort Rock Festival Returns to SW Florida

Get ready Florida! The World’s Loudest Month is bringing the Fort Rock Festivals back for 2017 and the lineups for the festival are great!

The Fort Rock Festival will take place the weekend of April 29 and 30 at Jet Blue Park, Fort Myers Florida.

The Saturday bill is headlined by Def Leppard, Chevelle and Papa Roach, with support from Alter Bridge, Seether, Three Days Grace, In This Moment, Nothing More, Of Mice and Men, Motionless In White, Beartooth, Cover Your Tracks and Felicity

The Sunday bill at Welcome featured artists Soundgarden, A Perfect Circle and The Offspring. Other acts performing on Sunday include Mastodon, Highly Suspect, The Pretty Reckless, In Flames, Eagles of Death Metal, All that Remains, Starset, Dinosaur Pile-Up, I Prevail and Goodbye June.

“We can’t wait to hit the stage and kick off the World’s Loudest Month in Florida! See you all at the show,” adds Pierce the Veil’s Vic Fuentes, while Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy concludes, “We’re stoked to be kicking off the World’s Loudest Month with Alter Bridge. It’s gonna be epic so don’t miss it!”

“We are thrilled to return to Fort Rock — Florida crowds are some of the best in the world,” says The Offspring’s Dexter Holland.

“Fort Rockfest is coming again guys! Hailing from Chicago, IL, we always look forward to heading down south to Florida to warm up, stretch our legs and hopefully still head bang our way right into, or right through your hearts! Yes indeed, we will see you soon,” adds Chevelle’s Pete Loeffler, while Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy concludes, “We’re stoked to be kicking off the

World’s Loudest Month at Fort Rock with Alter Bridge. It’s gonna be epic so don’t miss it!”

Tickets are still available and can be found on craiglist.com or purchased at www.fortrockfestival.com

Florida residents pay 6th lowest state taxes; some say burden can be still be lowered

Florida residents have the sixth lowest state tax burden in the U.S., according to a recent WalletHub report.

“Florida has the sixth lowest total tax burden at 6.79 percent mostly because the state has no income tax,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “One of the advantages is that residents here pay the third lowest total taxes at $2.385 per capita, but there’s also a notion of ‘you get what you pay for’ in terms of government services, according to our taxpayer Return On Investment report.”

Florida TaxWatch president and chief executive officer Dominic M. Calabro said the low tax burden is a plus for Florida families and businesses.

“Florida’s tax climate makes it an attractive option for families and businesses alike to move to and flourish,” Calabro said. “A lower tax burden allows businesses to create more jobs and expand, while allowing taxpayers to have more money in their pockets that can then be spent and funneled back into the economy.”

Calabro said Florida still could do more to reduce the tax burden. His organization “also called for burdensome taxes to be cut to improve our tax climate further.”

The proposed changes include reducing or eliminating the state’s business rent tax and communication services tax.

According to a briefing published by Florida TaxWatch, “Florida subjects commercial lease and license payments to the state and local sales tax and it is the only state in the nation that does so.”

As a result, Florida TaxWatch said the state government mandated an increase of up to 8 percent in occupancy costs for all business that rent property, “a cost they would not incur in any other state.”

“Florida businesses pay more than $1.7 billion a year as a result of this tax,” the briefing said.

In addition, Florida TaxWatch said renters must pay local option sales taxes, increasing the tax burden for these businesses by an estimated $230 million.

In a separate briefing, Florida TaxWatch said, although the combined state and local tax rate in the state tops out at 7.5 percent, the purchase of cell phone and other taxable communications services drives the tax rate to more than 14 percent and even in excess of 16 percent.

“Florida has one of the highest tax rates on communications services in the nation,” the briefing said.

Richard C. Auxier of the Urban Institute/Tax Policy Center, said it’s important to understand what rankings like the ones reported by WalletHub “say and what they don’t say.”

According to Auxier, Urban Institute has found that “state tax cuts do not automatically lead to economic growth.”

Auxier said “politicians certainly care about rankings like WalletHub’s, but the study only analyzed property tax, individual income tax, sales tax and excise tax.

A business considering moving its operations to Florida would want to know about other taxes such as corporate income taxes, gross receipts taxes, fees and all the taxes levied at the city or county level, he said.

In addition, he said state residents are also affected by different taxes.

“For example, Florida does not tax income,” Auxier said. “That’s great if you’re earning a lot of money. But if you’re not earning much, Florida’s no income tax is not helpful and its high sales tax is harmful, and there are states with far better tax systems for you.”

Auxier said “businesses think about a lot of things other than taxes.” He said a 2016 study ranked highway access, availability of skilled labor and cost of labor as the most important business location factors, “with tax incentives and rates ranking fifth or lower.”

Meanwhile, Auxier said individuals consider schools, commute times and other issues when deciding whether to move to a specific state or area.

“All those things – roads, workforce, schools, parks, etc. – are affected by a lot of things governments do and spend on,” Auxier said.

Auxier said some independent state tax commissions use rankings like the ones reported by WalletHub to boost their argument for cutting income taxes or corporate taxes.

Enterprise Florida communications director Nathan Edwards feels that Florida’s low state tax burden and lack of government interference in spending decisions have benefits for the state’s residents and businesses.

“Business dollars go a lot farther in Florida given the state’s tax advantages, tax exemptions and no state personal income tax,” Edwards said. “Businesses and citizens know how to spend their money better than government. Florida’s leaders recognize this and keep government out of the way.”

Carrie Salls
Watchdog.org

Air pollution in California cities is the worst in the United States, both for short-term and year-round pollution, finds new research published by the American Lung Association in its 2017 “State of the Air” report. Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Visalia topped all most-polluted lists in the report.

Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution.

This 18th annual national air quality report card found that 125 million Americans, 38.9 percent, lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution in 2013-2015. This exposure places them at risk for premature death and other serious health problems such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardio- vascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

“This year’s ‘State of the Air’ report is a testament to the success of the Clean Air Act, which has reduced air pollution in much of the nation,” said Harold Wimmer, national president and chief executive of the American Lung Association. “As a result, Americans’ lung health is far better protected today than it was before the Clean Air Act health protections began nearly five decades ago.”

“However,” Wimmer said, “this report adds to the evidence that the ongoing changes in our climate make it harder to protect human health. As we move into an ever warmer climate, cleaning up these pollutants will become ever more challenging, highlighting the critical importance of protecting the Clean Air Act.”

Wimmer is feeling defensive about the Clean Air Act because President Donald Trump has issued a budget slashing by 31 percent funding for the agency responsible for administering the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump’s first budget has yet to be approved by the U.S. Congress, but already the EPA has rescinded what EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called “an unjustified, premature evaluation of greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for model year 2022-2025 vehicles.”

The Trump administration is reviewing the entire Clean Air Act, and that could have a big effect on air quality in California.

California has a unique power under the Clean Air Act. At any time, the state can ask the EPA administrator for a waiver to restrict tailpipe emissions more strictly than the federal government. If its proposed rules are “at least as protective of public health and welfare” as the EPA’s, then the agency must grant the waiver.

No other state can ask for a waiver, but under the same section of the Clean Air Act, any other state can choose to adopt California’s stricter standards, and 15 state currently do so.

Not all the news in the American Lung Association’s report is bad. The analysis finds continued improvement in air quality over the 2013-2015 time period, but also finds that “a continued increase in dangerous spikes in particle pollution is putting Americans’ health at risk.”

Unhealthy particles in the air are emitted from diesel engines, wildfires, wood-burning devices and coal-fired power plants.

Known as PM2.5, these microscopic particles lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, cause lung cancer and shorten life.

The report grades both daily spikes, called short-term particle pollution, and annual average or year-round level that represents the concentration of particles day-in and day-out by location.

The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can be lethal.

But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2013-2015, are different for these pollutants.

The largest improvements in air quality tracked in this report result from the ongoing reduction in high ozone days and in levels of year-round particle pollution.

Steps to clean up emissions that produce these widespread pollutants have allowed many cities to reach the lowest concentrations of these pollutants since the “State of the Air” report first reported them.

By contrast, and despite these improvements, many cities hit their highest average number of days when particle levels spiked.

Many cities experienced their highest number of spikes since the monitoring for particle pollution began in 2000-2002, with 43 million people living in counties that experienced too many days when particle pollution peaked at unhealthy levels.

Increased heat, changes in climate patterns, drought and wildfires – all related to climate change – contributed to the extraordinarily high number of days with unhealthy particulate matter, the report shows.

“Even with the ongoing improvements, too many people in the United States live where the air is unhealthy for them to breathe. This is simply unacceptable,” Wimmer said. “Everyone has a fundamental right to breathe healthy air. Our nation’s leaders must do more to protect the health of all Americans.”

Short-term spikes in particle pollution increased in eight of the 10 most polluted cities in 2013-2015, including in the city ranked once again as having the worst short-term particle pollution problem, Bakersfield, California.

Situated at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield is the capital of Kern County, the most productive oil producing county, and the fourth most productive agricultural county, by value, in the United States.

Industries include natural gas and other energy extraction, aerospace, mining, petroleum refining, manufacturing, distribution and food processing.

 

 

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution
Bakersfield, California
Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Ca.
Fresno-Madera, California
Modesto-Merced, California
Fairbanks, Alaska
San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Ca. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
Logan, Utah-Idaho
Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
Reno-Carson City-Fernley, Nv.

 

By contrast, year-round particle pollution levels have dropped across much of the nation, including in half of the 10 cities most polluted by year-round particle pollution.

While fewer people suffered from unhealthy year-round levels of particle pollution, 19.9 million people were still living with unhealthy levels in 2013-2015.

Several cities, including four among the 10 most polluted, reached their lowest levels ever.

This continued progress is due to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines, steps taken because of the Clean Air Act.

Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California was an area where levels worsened, and it ranked as the city with the worst year-round level in 2013-2015.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution

Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California

Bakersfield, California

Fresno-Madera, California

San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Ca. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California

Modesto-Merced, California

El Centro, California

Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia

Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California

 

The 2017 report found that far fewer people suffered from unhealthy ozone pollution than in the 2016 report, although 116.5 million people lived in counties that earned an F for too much pollution.

Los Angeles remains the most polluted city for ozone, yet it’s one of the six of the 10 most ozone-polluted cities list that have reached their best levels yet.

This progress is due to steps taken under the Clean Air Act to clean up the emissions nationwide that create ozone, including emissions from cars and trucks as well as power plants.

Inhaling ozone pollution acts like a sunburn of the lung, and can trigger coughing and asthma attacks, and may even shorten life.

 

Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:

Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
Bakersfield, California
Fresno-Madera, California
Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona
Modesto-Merced, California
San Diego-Carlsbad, California
Sacramento-Roseville, California
New York-Newark, New York–New Jersey-Connecticut-Pennsylvania
Las Vegas-Henderson, Nevada-Arizona

 

The report also identified the cities with the least air pollution in 2013-2015, and found that only six cities had no days when ozone or particle pollution reached unhealthy levels and also had the lowest year-round levels of particle pollution.

Top Cleanest U.S. Cities,

Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont

Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, Fl

Elmira-Corning, New York

Honolulu, Hawaii

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fl.

Wilmington, North Carolina

“The Clean Air Act is the most important tool in the fight for healthy air; it has successfully saved lives and improved health by driving emission reductions for more than 47 years, as ‘State of the Air’ continues to document,” Wimmer said.

“We urge President Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and members of Congress to fully fund, implement and enforce the Clean Air Act for all pollutants,” he said, “including those that drive climate change and make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.”

© Environment News Service (ENS) 2017. All rights reserved.
www.ens-newswire.com

Monday, 24 April 2017 23:13

Rain Brings Relief but Fires Still Burn

Even though Heavy downpours early Sunday morning have finally brought some relief to Firefighters battling wild fires across the southern half of Florida, Fires continue to bun in the Gateway area.....Golden Gate Estates Brush Fire covered over 7,000 acres and is now only 65% contained

The sound of early morning raindrops was music to the ears of firefighters and forest officials in the area, but firefighters are asking the public to help in getting the rest of the fires out. If you see a log burning in the middle of a black burned out area, chances are that that is not a problem, but if you see fire running accross green or dried out fields, that needs to be reported.

The rain that did fall allowed the firefighters to go on the offensive and start to push back flames.

Sunday, 23 April 2017 08:04

Rain Brings Relief but Fires Still Burn

Even though Heavy downpours early Sunday morning have finally brought some relief to Firefighters battling wild fires across the southern half of Florida, Fires continue to bun in the Gateway area.....Golden Gate Estates Brush Fire covered over 7,000 acres and is now only 65% contained

The sound of early morning raindrops was music to the ears of firefighters and forest officials in the area, but firefighters are asking the public to help in getting the rest of the fires out. If you see a log burning in the middle of a black burned out area, chances are that that is not a problem, but if you see fire running accross green or dried out fields, that needs to be reported.

The rain that did fall allowed the firefighters to go on the offensive and start to push back flames.

 

Saturday, 22 April 2017 21:45

Life, be in it

Keanu Reeves writes..

"My friend's mom has eaten healthy all her life. Never ever consumed alcohol or any "bad" food, exercised every day, very limber, very active, took all supplements suggested by her doctor, never went in the sun without sunscreen and when she did it was for as short a period as possible- so pretty much she protected her health with the utmost that anyone could. She is now 76 and has skin cancer, bone marrow cancer and extreme osteoporosis.

My friend's father eats bacon on top of bacon, butter on top of butter, fat on top of fat, never and I mean never exercised, was out in the sun burnt to a crisp every summer, he basically took the approach to live life to his fullest and not as others suggest. He is 81 and the doctors says his health is that of a young person.

People you cannot hide from your poison. It's out there and it will find you

so in the words of my friend's still living mother: " if I would have known my life would end this way I would have lived it more to the fullest enjoying everything I was told not to!"

None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought.

Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine.

Jump in the ocean.

Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure.

Be silly. Be kind. Be weird.

There’s no time for anything else."

Saturday, 22 April 2017 07:26

Great Quote

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.

When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I wrote down ‘happy’.

They told me I didn’t understand the assignment,

and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Wednesday, 19 April 2017 23:44

Which Is Better: Fresh or Frozen?

Frozen fruits and vegetables get a lot of heat because most people assume that if an item is frozen, it must be of a lesser quality and nutritional value than the same item that's fresh in the produce department.

Is it true? Is fresh really better than frozen? And if so, is the difference great enough to spend more money to make sure we're always eating fresh?

According to nutritionist Cynthia Sass, frozen foods get a bad rap for being processed junk, but the truth is, some of the healthiest foods in the market are in the freezer section.

MATURITY.

Ask any nutritionist and you'll learn that the minute a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose nutrients. The amount of time between harvest and consumption impacts its nutritional value. Because most frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen shortly after they are harvested, those items scheduled for flash freezing are fully ripe. That means they are chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Freezing actually locks in many of their nutrients.

On the other hand, the fresh produce in your supermarket could have been harvested as far as 1,500 miles away -- much of it in South America -- and had to travel by truck to get to the store. It may have been picked before it reached its nutritional peak and then artificially ripened during transport.

NUTRITION.

Frozen produce has been proven to be just as nutrient-rich, and even superior in nutrients to fresh items, retaining most of their antioxidants and vitamins.

Scientists from Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Chester carried out 40 tests to measure nutrient levels in produce that had been sitting in a fridge for three days compared to their frozen equivalents. They found more beneficial nutrients overall in the frozen samples, in everything from broccoli to blueberries.

Of course, eating produce within minutes of harvest is the healthiest option. However, frozen can be almost as good and is often better than items sold as fresh because unless you pick it yourself, you have no idea how long it has been since that produce was harvested.

ADDITIVE-FREE.

Frozen goodies like spinach and strawberries have no additives because additives are not necessary to preserve quality. Naked produce (e.g. no added salt or sugar) is the norm. That's why frozen fruits and vegetables carry a single-word ingredient lists -- the fruit or veggie itself. Always check the ingredients, but I bet you'll find at least a dozen varieties in the freezer aisle with absolutely nothing added.

CONVENIENCE.

Even the freshest produce comes with a prep requirement. Sometimes that extra time is just too much at the end of a stressful day. Know the feeling? Frozen produce magically preps itself. It comes washed, peeled and chopped. Frozen produce can save you a ton of time, making it more likely that you'll cook and eat at home rather than opting for takeout.

Mary Hunt

The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region, Vice President Mike Pence told U.S. service members aboard the USS Ronald Reagan at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, home of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet today.

As he stood aboard the aircraft carrier, Pence said President Donald J. Trump sent him to thank U.S. and Japanese service members who have “stood up and stepped forward to protect our countries, our values and our very way of life.”

Pence is in the Asia-Pacific region to visit top officials in Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Sydney for discussions on economic engagement and evolving security challenges.

“You are the sons and daughters of freedom willing to defend it with your life so that your families, fellow countrymen and future generations may continue to call themselves free. All of America is proud of you,” the vice president said.

‘Heroes All’

Pence told the service members they are, “the best of us, heroes all. The Americans among you are so far away from home because the United States of America and Japan are bound by history, a time-honored treaty and the abiding oath of friendship.”

The U.S. bond with Japan is strong and growing stronger every day, he said.

“It’s fitting today I deliver this message aboard this great ship, a majestic ship, the USS Ronald Reagan here at Yokosuka Naval Base,” Pence said. “Her steel deck literally signifies the ironclad alliance our country enjoys with Japan, and our enduring commitment to the Asia-Pacific.”

Today, more than 50,000 U.S. troops, and another 50,000 civilians and family members are stationed in Japan, Pence told the audience. And the United States will continue to deploy more of its advanced military assets to the region in the years ahead, he added.

“Beyond the noble ship and the carrier strike group that it leads, by the year 2020, this ocean will boast 60 percent of our Navy’s fleet. And the skies above already have F-35 [Lighting II] joint strike fighters flying for freedom,” Pence said.
Stronger Fighting Force

“The president and I will honor your commitment and secure America’s safety through historic investments in our national defense. Just as President Ronald Reagan restored the armed forces in his day, so too, President Donald Trump will make the strongest fighting force in the world even stronger still,” Pence said.

In Trump’s first 100 days in office, Pence noted, the new president has taken steps to strengthen America’s military.

“President Trump has submitted a budget, which will rebuild our military and restore the arsenal of democracy with the largest increase in defense spending since the days of the namesake of this ship sat in the Oval Office,” he said.

In the past two weeks, Pence said, the world saw strength and resolve when Trump took decisive actions in Syria and Afghanistan.

“The enemies of our freedom and this alliance would do well not to test the resolve of this president or the capabilities of the armed forces of the United States of America and our allies,” he said.

North Korea Threat

Pence referred to his visit to South Korea earlier in the week.

“North Korea is the most dangerous and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asian Pacific,” he said. “For more than a generation, North Korea’s leaders have sought to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic weapons on which to deliver them. They have impoverished their people and embittered the region in their pursuit of this dangerous goal.”

And the United States and its allies have worked tirelessly to peacefully dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program and alleviate the suffering of its people, he added.

“But at every step of the way, North Korea answered with overtures of willful deception, with broken promises and nuclear and missile tests,” Pence said.

“As President Trump has made clear, the era of strategic patience is over,” the vice president said.

Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News

United Airlines brought itself a world of hurt with its disastrous handling of a seat-shortage problem Sunday that led to an Asian-American passenger being beaten bloody and dragged, apparently unconscious, off a plane by security personnel at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. A potentially costly lawsuit by the passenger is probably the least of United's worries. The self-inflicted public relations wounds could be catastrophic.

The airline's stock price took a nosedive Tuesday. In China, one of the airline's major markets, reaction has been volcanic, largely because the abused passenger was reported to be ethnically Chinese. Within 36 hours of Sunday night's incident, a video of the man being dragged off the Flight 3411 to Louisville, Ky., had been viewed more than 210 million times. Outraged viewers in China called for an international boycott.

United claims to offer more nonstop flights to China than any other airline. The airline cannot afford to put that lucrative market in jeopardy. Deft handling of this incident was an absolute requirement. United blew it badly.

In a statement, chief executive Oscar Munoz offered an Orwellian apology: "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers." He revised it Tuesday into a full-throated apology.

What's worse is the reason why the battered passenger and three others were forced off the flight. The airline said it had overbooked -- common in air travel -- and had offered up to $800 and a free night's hotel accommodation for passengers willing to give up their seats. None volunteered.

In desperation, the airline said four passengers were selected at random by computer and then ordered off -- but not to make room for other paying passengers. It was to clear seats so that four United employees could travel to Louisville as relief crew members for another flight. The airline later acknowledged there was never any overbooking.

The airline made a conscious decision to put its own operational priorities ahead of the needs and rights of its paying passengers. No matter how urgent it was for ticketed passengers to get to Louisville, United decided seats for its four employees were more important.

Equally incomprehensible was the airline's decision to board passengers before the overbooking problem had been resolved. It's far easier to deny entry when passengers are in the waiting area than when they're already buckled into their seats.

Various news reports identified the battered passenger as David Dao, a Louisville physician. Witnesses quoted him as saying that he needed to return to Louisville Sunday night because he had appointments with patients on Monday morning.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Dao had been in legal trouble from drug-related offenses more than a decade ago. His past should have no bearing on the appalling way he was treated Sunday night.

This is one case where the airline deserves all the rough re-accommodation customers can bestow upon it.