MoneyMatters: Labor Department Reinstates Issuance of Opinion Letters


The U.S. Department of Labor will reinstate the issuance of opinion letters, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced today. The action allows the department’s Wage and Hour Division to use opinion letters as one of its methods for providing guidance to covered employers and employees.

An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the Wage and Hour Division of how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by an employer, employee or other entity requesting the opinion. The letters were a division practice for more than 70 years until being stopped and replaced by general guidance in 2010.

“Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes,” said Secretary Acosta. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.”

The division has established a webpage where the public can see if existing agency guidance already addresses their questions or submit a request for an opinion letter. The webpage explains what to include in the request, where to submit the request, and where to review existing guidance. The division will exercise discretion in determining which requests for opinion letters will be responded to, and the appropriate form of guidance to be issued.

Health & Wellness: Researchers Investigate Therapies for Fatty Liver Disease

Illustration of a liver with old cells filled with fatFatty liver disease is the abnormal accumulation of fat in liver cells. It can result from heavy alcohol use or other sources of liver injury. Fatty liver disease in people who don’t drink alcohol, called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is the most common cause of long-term liver disease in the US. The exact reasons are unknown, but NAFLD is more common in people with obesity and diabetes.

The initial stage of fatty liver disease is steatosis, which usually doesn’t cause symptoms but can worsen to life-threatening liver diseases, such as liver cancer. The primary treatment for NAFLD is a healthy diet and physical activity to manage diabetes and reduce body weight. If the disease worsens, a liver transplant may be needed.

As people age, old or damaged cells stop dividing to produce new cells. Over time, these “senescent” cells accumulate in the liver and other tissues. Previous studies have linked such cells to certain age-related diseases.

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Health & Wellness: Genetic Alteration in Child Reveals Immune Response Pathway in Common Cold

Family in bed together with coldsThe common cold is a regular nuisance for most of us. The average healthy adult has two to three colds per year. Cold viruses usually cause mild symptoms—such as sore throat, runny nose, and cough—and are quickly removed by the immune system. But for some people, particularly children and older adults with underlying health problems, cold viruses can lead to more severe health problems.

Human rhinovirus (HRV) is the main cause of the common cold, making up over half of the cases. Despite the prevalence of colds, the immune response to these viruses isn’t well understood. A better understanding could help researchers develop effective therapies against HRV and other cold viruses.

A case study by researchers at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) revealed an important mechanism by which the immune system responds to HRV. The case involved a child who, several weeks after birth, started getting life-threatening respiratory infections. Her doctors at National Jewish Health and NIH suspected she might have a genetic abnormality affecting her immune system. Led by NIAID’s Dr. Helen Su, they performed a genetic analysis on the child and her immediate family. The study appeared online on June 12, 2017, in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

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Concho Valley Local: City of San Angelo Promotes Morgan Chegwidden,   Will Manage Animal Shelter

Morgan Chegwidden, the City of San Angelo’s budget manager, has been promoted to
assistant director of the Neighborhood & Family Services Department, where she will
manage the Animal Shelter and oversee Code Compliance.

Chegwidden has worked 12 years for the City, including as budget manager the past five
years. She recently earned a master’s degree in business administration and has
contributed to 10 straight budget awards from the Government Finance Officers
Association and five financial transparency awards from the state comptroller. She was
honored as one of San Angelo’s 20 Under 40 rising young leaders last year.

Through her work with the City’s budget, Chegwidden grew concerned about unwanted
pets swamping the Animal Shelter. She and her husband Jason, a San Angelo police
officer, have fostered about 30 dogs in their home. Chegwidden was a Sadie’s Rescue
board member who devoted many Saturdays to staging adoption events.

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Round Rock Express Baseball: Express Out-Homered by Nashville Sounds in Loss

The Nashville Sounds (37-39) and Round Rock Express (36-40) put on a hitting display on Monday night at First Tennessee Park, but it was the Sounds picking up a 5-3 win over the Express. All eight runs scored in the game came via homers.

E-Train LHP Jimmy Reyes (2-3, 3.03) suffered the loss after giving up all five Nashville runs on a total of nine hits in six innings of work. He struck out three while walking two. On the winning side, Sounds RHP Paul Blackburn (5-6, 3.05) limited the Express to two runs on five hits in 5.1 frames.

The home side opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning as CF Jaff Decker notched a leadoff single before 3B Renato Nunez launched a two-run homer to left-center field. Round Rock 3B Will Middlebrooks responded in the top of the second, blasting a solo home run that cut the Nashville lead in half. The longball marked Middlebrooks’ eighth in his last 10 games.

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Midland RockHounds Baseball: Hounds Fall to San Antonio Missions

Pick your semantic: “re-charging the batteries”, “kicking back”, “getting some R&R.” However you say it, the three-day Texas League All-Star break could not come at a better time for the RockHounds.

The ‘Hounds fell at San Antonio, 5-1 on Sunday afternoon, completing an eight-game road trip with a 2-6 mark and a 21-man roster. They also ran into an outstanding Missions pitching staff, including Brett Kennedy’s seven scoreless innings in the series finale.

San Antonio, as they did Saturday night, got on the board in the top of the first. With rain delaying the star of the game slightly, and the possibility of more showers interrupting play, the ‘Hounds elected to start Carlos Navas, with scheduled starter Grant Holmes pitching in a “tandem role.” Back-to-back doubles from Luis Urias and Noah Perio (RBI) put the Missions on the board, as part of a two-run inning.

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Down East Wood Ducks Baseball: Wood Ducks Fall to Winston-Salem Dash

A masterful start by Jonathan Hernandez was discarded in extra innings as the Wood Ducks (2-2, 26-47) dropped the series opener 4-2 with the Dash (4-1, 28-47). Hernandez fired seven shutout innings while only allowing one hit with eight strikeouts.

While Hernandez was in command during his start, the offense was late-arriving against Dash starter Alec Hansen. The right-hander, fresh off his promotion from Low-A Kannapolis, worked five shutout innings of his own with five strikeouts to boot.

Hernandez carried a no-hitter (a walk in the fourth) to the sixth inning until Johan Cruz led off with a single to right. He would not advance as Hernandez struck out four of his last five batters to stymie the Dash bats.

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President Donald J. Trump Moves to Unleash America’s Energy Potential

President Donald J. Trump is getting American energy dominance on the fast track for greater energy independence and creating more American jobs.

After just five months in office, the president has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord, which would have cost the economy $3 trillion and as many as 6.5 million industrial sector jobs, including 3.1 million manufacturing jobs.

President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. According to NERA, the Obama plan would have increased electricity rates by as much as 14 percent, costing American households $79 billion.

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American Biz: Miami Marlins Look to Sale to Boost Club’s Fortunes

The $1 billion-question is, “Will the Marlin’s be sold to billionaire Jorge Mas?”

Mas is reported to be planning to throw down between $1 billion and $1.1 billion to purchase the struggling baseball franchise, in a deal that could be announced as early as Wednesday or Thursday of this week, FOX Business has learned.

Mas is a prominent South Florida businessman, whose family has been well connected in the local Cuban-American community for decades, and has told people he can “write the check himself” if he ultimately decides to make the move, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

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GOP U.S. Sen. Hatch: President Trump May Have to Accept Higher Corporate Taxes as Part of Comprehensive Reforms

Capitol Hill

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told Fox Business that the Trump administration is willing to accept a higher corporate tax rate than the 15 percent first proposed in order to pass comprehensive tax reform by the fall.

In an exclusive interview with FOX Business correspondent Adam Shapiro, Hatch said while it would be wonderful if the federal corporate tax rate, now 35%, could be lowered to 15%, he noted that comprise might be needed.

“I think the President has probably come off of that particular figure” he said adding that a corporate tax rate between 20% and 25% would turn the U.S. economy around overnight.

Staff members from the Senate Finance Committee have been meeting daily with members of the administration and staff from the House Ways and Means Committee to write the tax reform bill.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn says the administration wants the bill introduced in Congress by early September.

However, Hatch says comprehensive tax reform, even in a Republican controlled Congress, will be a tough sell.

American Biz: Amtrak Names Former Delta Head Richard Anderson as New CEO

Amtrak announced that it has named Richard Anderson, a 25-year veteran of the aviation industry, as its next president and chief executive officer. Anderson, former chief executive officer of both Delta and Northwest Airlines, will begin his role on July 12.

To ensure a smooth transition, Anderson will serve in a co-CEO capacity with current CEO Wick Moorman through Dec. 31, 2017, at which time Moorman will become an advisor to the company. Moorman joined Amtrak in September 2016 as a transitional CEO tasked with improving the company’s operations, streamlining the organizational structure, and helping recruit his successor.

“Richard brings to Amtrak his experience running one of the largest global commercial air carriers. The board believes he is the right leader at the right time to drive the quality of customer service that our passengers, partners and stakeholders expect and deserve while continuing our path towards operational and financial excellence,” said Amtrak Chairman of the Board Tony Coscia. “The board also appreciates all that Wick continues to do to improve Amtrak’s safety culture and strengthen our operating performance, including the important renewal work at New York Penn Station.”

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CBO: Republican Health Care Bill Cuts Deficit, But Also Cuts Insureds

Capitol Hill

The Congressional Budget Office released its findings on the Republican health care overhaul bill, saying it would lower the federal deficit and lower premiums for health care coverage, but would drop millions of Americans from being insured.

The bill’s highly anticipated “score” was released Monday afternoon and immediately became part of the Senate’s raging health care debate as GOP leaders scramble to win over reluctant Republicans and tee up a vote to repeal and replace much of ObamaCare as early as this week.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate is an important factor, but its impact could be mixed.

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Three CNN Journalists Quit Following Retraction of Fake White House-Russian Investment Firm Scandal Story

Three CNN journalists quit after the network retracted a published story implicating a senior White House advisor to a Russian investment firm.

Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump adviser who is the target of the story, was the target of a CNN story in which the network claimed that he had secretly met with members of a Russian investment firm.

The story tried to draw a link between Scaramucci and the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Scaramucci, a Trump transition team member, has been nominated to an ambassadorial-level post based in Paris, France.

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Rural Biz: South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster Announces Sumter Easy Home Houseware Jobs

Sumter Easy Home LLC, a supplier of housewares and other retail goods, is locating their new manufacturing operations in Sumter County. The development is projected to bring $37 million of capital investment and create 88 new jobs.

Sumter Easy Home LLC produces and distributes home organization and housewares to a variety of clients, including Walmart and Lowe’s. Sumter Easy Home will be servicing multiple businesses out of this facility, including the warehousing and shipping of orders.

The company has purchased the Black River Spec Building, a 104,000-square-foot facility on North Wise Drive in Sumter, South Carolina.

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Rural Biz: North Carolina Announces New Stormberg Foods Plant


Stormberg Foods, LLC., a producer of meat protein snacks, will locate its first United States production facility in Wayne County, creating 60 jobs over three years, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. The company plans to invest $2.48 million in Goldsboro.

“North Carolina works hard to attract international companies, and they quickly come to appreciate both our friendly business climate and our warm and welcoming people,” Governor Cooper said. “These new jobs are especially welcome as Wayne County works to recover from the damage of Hurricane Matthew.”

Stormberg Foods, LLC is a new venture in the United States for a market-leading South African company based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The company’s mainstay product is a meat-based snack similar to beef jerky, known as biltong. The treat is an all-natural, gluten-free snack with no added sugar. The company distributes its products under several popular brand names.

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Texas Legislature Special Session Preview: State to Look at Mail-In Ballot Voter Fraud


In the upcoming special legislative session, Rep. Craig Goldman and Sen. Kelly Hancock will author legislation to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud. This is one of 20 items that Governor Abbott previously announced will be added to the special session agenda. Governor Abbott issued the following statement applauding Rep. Goldman and Sen. Hancock for taking on this issue and making it harder for this crime to be committed.

“The right to vote is sacred in this country, and ensuring the integrity of the ballot box is one of the most fundamental functions of government,” said Governor Abbott. “I prosecuted countless cases of mail-in ballot fraud as Attorney General, but the problem continues to exist today. I applaud Rep. Goldman and Sen. Hancock for their commitment to strengthen penalties for those who undermine the integrity of our elections. I look forward to working with them and members of both chambers to ensure mail-in ballot fraud legislation reaches my desk.”

“Protecting the integrity of our elections is of the utmost importance,” said Rep. Goldman. “That is why I am proud to work alongside the Governor during the special session and sponsor legislation that will put an end to mail-in ballot fraud.”

“In North Texas, we have a real problem with mail-in ballot fraud—as evidenced by the massive investigation underway at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office,” said Sen. Kelly Hancock.  “We must address this problem and that’s why I will file legislation during the special session to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud”.

Texas Legislature Special Session Preview: State to Look at Annexation


In the upcoming special legislative session, Rep. Dan Huberty and Sen. Donna Campbell will author legislation to reform and restrict the municipal annexation process. This is one of 20 items that Governor Abbott previously announced will be added to the special session agenda. Governor Abbott issued the following statement applauding Rep. Huberty and Sen. Campbell for tackling this issue in the upcoming special session.

“Cities abusing their authority with forced annexation practices is nothing more than a form of taxation without representation,” said Governor Abbott. “Cities that annex property without the approval from those affected is piracy by government, and it must end. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Huberty and Sen. Campbell to reform this unfair practice, and I look forward to working with them and members of both chambers to ensure this legislation reaches my desk.”

“Across Texas, we have seen years of tax abuse through forced municipal annexation,” said Rep. Huberty. “Forced annexation threatens the property rights of Texans, subjecting them to higher taxes and regulations that they did not consent to when they purchased their property. Last session, HB 424/SB 715 would have permitted property owners to have a say in whether or not their property could be annexed by these municipalities, consenting to the higher tax rates in these areas. In Texas, we have to remember that cities do not have a right to vote; citizens do. This bill would have prohibited taxation without representation that currently exists in some of the major metropolitan areas in Texas and allowed voters to have more control over their property.”

“Our nation was founded on the right to determine who governs us, yet current law allows cities to determine who they will govern,” said Sen. Campbell. “This is backwards and it’s why we need annexation reform. I applaud Governor Abbott for guaranteeing Texas citizens the right to vote as part of the annexation process, bringing greater accountability to local governments and limiting the appetite of big cities to tax, spend, and expand with no end in sight.”

Texas Legislature Special Session Preview: State to Look at Abortion Complication Reporting


In the upcoming special legislative session, Sen. Donna Campbell and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione will author legislation to strengthen reporting requirements when health complications result from abortions. This is one of 20 items that Governor Abbott previously announced will be added to the special session agenda. Governor Abbott issued the following statement applauding Sen. Campbell and Rep. Capriglione for their continued commitment to protect life in upcoming special session.

“To protect the health and safety of women, the state must ensure it is receiving accurate information when it comes to reporting complications that result from an abortion,” said Governor Abbott. “Good data informs good policy, and I commend Representative Capriglione and Senator Campbell for working to ensure Texas has the best data possible to further strengthen the Lone Star State’s pro-life reputation.”

“Requiring timely and accurate reporting of medical data, especially as it relates to complications from abortions, will improve the standard of patient care and protect the safety of women,” said Senator Campbell. “Abortion is abhorrent because it prematurely and unnaturally ends the life of a child, but it is even more tragic when compounded by complications that pose additional harm to women. Because we know medical data is not biased, we can learn a lot from what the data tells us by making every effort to collect it. I am grateful that we have a Governor who promotes a culture of life and has made this one of his priorities for the upcoming special session.”

“Reporting abortion complications uniformly and correctly ensures the state has the best data to inform policy and legislation,” said Rep. Capriglione. “Data-driven medicine is the key to protecting the health and safety of women.”

White House Weekly Address: President Trump Talks About Obamacare ‘Disaster’

Transcript of White House Weekly Address

My fellow Americans,

Millions of families across our nation are suffering under the disaster known as Obamacare.  Traveling throughout our country over the last two years, I have met so many of these wonderful Americans, and I have never forgotten their stories.

In Wisconsin, I recently met a proud Veteran and his wife – Michael and Tammy Kushman. When they were forced onto Obamacare and the exchange in 2015, they thought they would be able to keep their doctor-but they couldn’t.  They thought they would be able to keep their plan – but they weren’t allowed.  They were told their premiums would go down – but instead, they soared by 120 percent upward.  It was one Obamacare lie after another.  Today, the Kushmans spend $1,400 dollars a month on health insurance – nearly one-fourth of their entire net monthly income.

On the same visit, I met another family, Robert and Sarah Stoll. Robert is a volunteer captain for his local fire department.  After their Obamacare premiums nearly doubled, they needed extra money and Sarah had no choice but to leave retirement to pay their bills.  But this new income meant they were no longer eligible for the tax credit they had once received, and the federal government actually forced them to repay thousands and thousands of dollars.

These families and so many others are victims of a catastrophic law that is wreaking havoc on our healthcare system and our families.

Democrats in Congress created this calamity and now, if we don’t act, millions more Americans will be hurt by Obamacare’s deepening death spiral.

Americans were promised lower premiums, more choices, and better access.  Instead, premiums have doubled nationwide – and insurers are still fleeing the market that Obamacare has nearly destroyed.  Americans in nearly one-third of all counties have only one insurer to choose from on the exchanges – and many markets may soon have no insurers at all.  It really is a disaster.

The American people are calling out for relief, and my administration is determined to provide it – and we are working with Congress to get a bill to my desk so we can rescue Americans from this catastrophe.

As families across the nation continue to suffer under this law, I only hope that Democrats in Congress will have the political courage to help fix what we know to be a catastrophic situation – a total disaster – that they have created.  To be part of the solution, instead of obstructing – always obstructing – change, blocking reform, and doubling-down on Obamacare’s failure.

But no matter what, my Administration will never stop fighting for you – and for the healthcare system that you deserve.  We’ll get it done.  Even if we don’t have any help from the Democrats, we’ll get it done.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Farm & Ranch: Texas Ag Commissioner Congratulates Efforts to Increase U.S. Dairy Exports of China

miller_sid_2014_8583596_ver1-0_640_480Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller earlier the month congratulated the efforts of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and China’s Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) on their hard work to create an agreement that will drastically increase U.S. dairy exports to China.

Chinese food-safety regulations put into place about three years ago required U.S. milk suppliers to be registered and certified by FDA before they could ship to China. The process was difficult for U.S. dairy producers and certifying officials to navigate, which meant new U.S. milk exporters found it hard to gain access to the steadily-growing Chinese market. Now an agreement has been reached that will permit third-party certification companies to audit U.S. dairy facilities to ensure compliance with Chinese requirements.

“This is a win for dairy producers across the nation but especially Texas producers,” Commissioner Miller said. “The Texas dairy industry was already experiencing positive growth for 2017, and easier access to the Chinese market will only help our dairy producers expand their herds and production. I am confident the Chinese consumer will quickly learn what we already know—Texas dairy is the cream of the crop!”

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Rural Life USA: N.C. National Guard Project Creating More Parking for Mountain State Fair

A partnership between the Western N.C. Agricultural Center and the N.C. National Guard is creating 450 additional parking spaces for visitors to use during the N.C. Mountain State Fair and other events.

The National Guard is building the parking lot on six acres next to current parking areas on the southwest side of the agricultural center’s property.

About 90 personnel from the Guard’s 105th Engineer Battalion and 40 from the 505th Engineer Battalion are working on the project. Equipment being used includes bulldozers, dump trucks, loaders, graders, excavators, compactors and rollers. Work began earlier this month and is scheduled to be completed June 30.

“As attendance at the Mountain State Fair has grown over the years, the need for more parking has become very apparent,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “This project will add parking spaces near the fair’s main gate while at the same time providing valuable training for the Guard’s engineer battalions.”

Lt. Col. Cale Moody, commander of the 105th Engineer Battalion, said the project provides “a tremendous benefit to the National Guard and, more specifically, the engineers as this real-world training allows us to perform our Mission Essential Tasks, which ensures individual soldier and unit readiness in order for us to perform our mission proficiently and professionally when called upon, either domestically in state emergencies or abroad.”

The project will cost the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about $150,000 for materials. The Guard’s assistance, along with site preparation work done by the N.C. Forest Service’s Young Offenders Forest Conservation Program as part of its readiness training, will save the department an estimated $250,000. Another partner was the department’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation, which designed the site’s erosion control plan and provided other assistance.

The N.C. Mountain State Fair is scheduled for September 8-17 at the WNC Ag Center. Discounted advance admission tickets will go on sale July 15 at Ingles stores, the WNC Ag Center and WNC Farmers Market.

Bill Signed by President Trump Gives EPA’s WIFIA Program Additional Help to Meet Water Infrastructure Needs


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program received an additional $8 million for credit subsidy in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on May 5, 2017.

This additional funding, combined with the $17 million appropriated for credit subsidy in December 2016, will allow the WIFIA program to lend approximately $1.5 billion for water infrastructure projects, a key component of the President’s infrastructure agenda.

“Thanks to President Trump and Congress, this additional funding will accelerate the construction of projects to meet communities’ water infrastructure needs. This investment will empower states, municipalities, companies, and public-private partnerships to solve real environmental problems in our communities, like the need for clean and safe water,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

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Farm & Ranch: USDA Authorizes Emergency Grazing in Drought-Stricken Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota


Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

All or parts of these states are experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions – indicated as categories D2 and D3 on the U.S. Drought Monitor .

“Due to reduced availability of forage, ranchers in the hardest hit locations have already been culling their herds,” said Perdue. “Without alternative forage options like grazing CRP lands, livestock producers are faced with the economically devastating potential of herd liquidation.”

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Farm & Ranch: Using the Open Data Revolution to Fight Global Hunger


Every day, people around the world use data to make decisions.  When heading out of town, most of us use weather apps to check the forecast anywhere in the world before packing our bags.  However, when we travel to far-flung places, we may find ourselves packing food from home because we don’t know what may be available when we arrive.

We have a global, comprehensive, open data set that enables weather forecasting, but not something similar for food and agriculture?

In his first public remarks as head of USDA, Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that “…we want to make decisions based on facts and evidence,” “we want to be data-driven,” and “I need good data, I need good sound science to make decisions on…”

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American Military: Vice President Mike Pence Engages Troops at Shriever Air Force Base

The service members at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, evolve the force, drive innovation and master space, Vice President Mike Pence said in a troop talk there yesterday.

The vice president told service members at the Air Force Space Command base that his visit was intended to pay a debt of honor and gratitude on behalf of the American people for their service to the nation.

“This Air Force base has really exemplified American leadership and American excellence now for more than 30 years,” Pence said. “There may not be any runways here, but every day you reach into the stars and you make it possible for your fellow warriors to be able to take the fight to the enemy with enhanced security and enhanced safety.

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