The 160 year old Arlington Green Bridge in southwest Vermont is celebrated in a $5.60 U.S. postage stamp released today.

[imgcontainer right][img:arlingtongreenbridge.jpg]The 160-year-old Arlington Green Bridge in southwest Vermont is celebrated in a $5.60 U.S. postage stamp released today.[/imgcontainer]

Changes in the way Electoral College votes are distributed in Virginia are being promoted as a way to enhance the voice of rural residents.

As of now, Virginia casts all its EC votes for the popular vote in the state. Republicans, however, want to change that system.

The state Senate is ready to vote on a proposal that would apportion EC votes based on who wins congressional districts. Under the old system, President Obama won 13 of Virginia’s electoral votes. Under this new system, he would have won four.

The Washington Post reports that Republicans say this is a way to spread power across the state instead of having the election determined by large population centers: 

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson County), said he wants to give smaller communities a bigger voice. “The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them,” he said.

“This is coming to me from not just my Republican constituents,” added Carrico, whose district voted overwhelmingly for Republican Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election. “I want to be a voice for a region that feels they have no reason to come to the polls.”

Keystone and Kerry — Secretary of State nominee John Kerry said Thursday that he would be the one deciding whether to grant a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“I’ll make the appropriate judgments about it,” he said, referring to the State Department’s ongoing review of the 1,200-mile tar sands oil pipeline. “There are specific standards that have to be met with respect to that review, and I’m going to review those standards and make sure they’re complete.”

Pipeline opponents nationally say using the tar sands would unleash large amounts of carbon and speed global warming. InsideClimate News’ Maria Gallucci notes that Kerry has a long history of concern about this issue: 

Kerry is one of the nation’s most vocal proponents of climate action. He co-authored comprehensive climate legislation that died in 2010 and has long pushed for American leadership in global climate treaty talks. Speaking about the State Department’s Keystone XL review in 2011, Kerry told reporters that he would “do my best to leave no question unanswered, including every possible economic and environmental consideration, before a final decision is made.”

Gun Control…Here We Go — Several Montana sheriffs say they will refuse to enforce any “unconstitutional” federal gun control laws. 

Powell County Sheriff Scott Howard wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden saying he won’t permit “the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations by federal offices within the borders of Powell County,” the Missoulian reports.

The sheriffs in Ravalli and Sanders counties have made the same promise.

Sheep Raisers Are Meeting — The Tri-State Livestock News reports of an early January meeting in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, of sheep and cattle producers. The publication reports:

What brought the producers together was the need to move forward with the investigation into the vast spread between the market value of a lamb when it is weaned and the value of the meat from that lamb on the shelf. Congresswoman Kristi Noem addressed this issue when she sent out a letter requesting an investigation into that spread. It is called the 2012 Congressional Sheep Market Complaint….

“What has happened in the sheep industry isn’t because of a natural phenomenon or supply-and-demand fluctuations. Domestic production was falling when consumption was increasing,” stated Bill Bullard of R-CALF USA, an independent cattlemen’s group, adding “The sheep industry is the canary in the coal mine for livestock producers in general. What happens in one segment of the industry can happen in any other.”

“The sheep industry is the first livestock sector to be off-shored,” said Bullard. “We import more than is produced in the U.S. There are record imports while the U.S. flock is decreasing dramatically.” He added, “Increasing exports isn’t the answer unless imports are limited. The idealistic goals of free trade haven’t worked for the independent producers in the U.S.”

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