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InsiderOnline Blog: July 2007

News You Might Have Missed

Dead get farm subsidies. Getting paid by the government for not farming is nothing new. This week though, the Government Accountability Office revealed a twist to that trick. It seems that having a pulse isn’t a prerequisite for getting subsidies, either. The GAO found that the Department of Agriculture had distributed $1.1 billion to the estates of deceased farmers over a seven-year period. The Washington Post reports that the payments do not necessarily represent fraud: “Most estates are allowed to collect farm payments for up to two years after an owner’s death, giving heirs time to restructure their businesses and probate the will.” It all makes sense. If the dead can vote, then politicians need to look out for their interests, too.

Disney caves to nanny statists. Pity the independent filmmaker, always bucking the corporate media mentality for the sake of art. The latest outrage: Disney has decided that depictions of smoking are now verboten in its films, and the edict, apparently, will extend to the independents under the Disney umbrella, too. Disney chief executive Bob Iger told Financial Times that the company will at least discourage Touchstone and Miramax from including smoking scenes in their films. A question for Iger: Will Touchstone no longer be involved in making movies like The Insider which was highly critical of the tobacco industry? There might have been some smoking depicted there. As the Financial Times reports, Iger says the ban is appropriate for consumers of Disney’s products. And by consumer he means Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Telecommunications and Internet subcommittee, to whom Iger sent a letter announcing Disney’s decision.

Unintended consequences. A team of U.S. investigators studying a deadly outbreak of diarrhea in Botswana says that the United Nations and international development organizations have made a mistake in pushing infant formula as a substitute for breast feeding among HIV infected mothers, reports the Washington Post. The 2006 outbreak claimed the lives of 532 children, 20 times more than normal. The team has concluded that formula lacks the crucial antibodies contained in breast milk and leaves children vulnerable to diarrhea. Breast feeding from HIV-infected mothers does carry a small risk of transmission of HIV, but, say the investigators, that risk is outweighed by the benefits of breast feeding.

Somebody asked the Iranians. Only 29 percent of Iranians say that developing nuclear weapons should be an important priority for their country, according to a poll conducted last month by The poll, based on telephone interviews with 1,000 Iranians distributed across all 30 of Iran’s provinces, produced numerous surprising results. For example, 61 percent of respondents oppose the current Iranian system of government in which a supreme leader rules according to religious principles and cannot be replaced by a vote of the people. Seventy-nine percent favor a more democratic system. The poll also found that while two-thirds favor continued support of Palestinian opposition groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, 55 percent endorse recognizing Israel and Palestine as separate states. Only one-third said that support for Palestinian opposition groups is very important compared to 47 percent who say that improved political and trade relations with the West is important.

Posted on 07/26/07 01:33 PM by Alex Adrianson

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