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TAXPAYERS paid $156 million in 2011 to  federal workers who did no federal work at all, according to Americans for Limited Government, which cited responses to its Freedom Of Information Act requests.

Under a union-friendly federal law, taxpayers must pay for shop stewards who actually work full-time for unions rather than the government.

The Obama administration did not disclose in 2011 how many shop stewards it was paying, but thanks to Americans for Limited Government, some information is emerging.

The U.S, Department of Veterans Affairs pays more than 250 people who work full time for unions.

The Department of Transportation paid 35 shop stewards an average of $138,000 in 2011 for not working.

The National Labor Relations Board pays two union representatives more than $100,000 apiece.

The Environmental Protection Agency pays more than $1.6 million a year to employees who work full time for the union.

What an outrage. Members of Congress will please explain why they are bucking these costs to taxpayers rather than the unions that lobby for taxpayers' funds.

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THE number of people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) has jumped by 50 percent under President Obama. Taxpayers shell out $80 billion a year for this vital program.

But not all food purchases are nutritious. The

Center for Science in the Public Interest estimated that food stamp recipients — one in seven Americans — use the program to buy $4 billion worth of soft drinks each year.

Food stamps also are used to buy potato chips and other snacks. Lobbyists from the snack industry are very good and have thwarted proposals to change that.

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., wants the federal government to report online what products are being purchased with food stamps. That kind of data was generated when the program began more than 50 years ago but was scrapped because of all the paperwork.

But computers should make it easy to revive the program. Merchants must keep records of purchases for three years.

The program should provide "nutrition assistance," not snacks. The public needs usage information to see what tweaks can be made to this program.

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PARKERSBURG police were called to the Jackson Avenue area late Tuesday night to check on a 6-foot suspect who was roaming the area. It was a bear.

Evidently, it was quite a night. Police Chief Joe Martin said there were so many people on the street that it looked like the Parkersburg Homecoming.

The fact that people wouldn't get off the streets eventually forced authorities to put the bear down.

"There was no way for us to herd the animal," Martin told the Parkersburg News. "There was nowhere for it to go. Our options were very limited and I didn't feel comfortable letting it roam."

Over the years, Parkersburg Police have had to deal with deer, coyotes and even an alligator. Charleston and other cities already have urban deer hunts. Will bear hunts be next?

The killing of an urban bear was a sad occasion. But the sighting of a bear in the city reminds us that the state's bear population has rebounded from a low of 500 bears in the late 1970s to more than 10,000 today.

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A cold winter was hard on German taverns, as beer sales dropped to under 2 billion liters (4.2 million pints) in the first three months of 2013 — the worst quarterly sales in at least 20 years.

"We had a long, snowy winter, so people did not go out that much to have beer in the sun," said Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, a spokesman for the German Brewers Federation.

This is part of a 37-year decline, which has seen per person consumption drop by one third since 1976, when consumption peaked.

An aging population, bans on drinking at work and an influx of Muslims, who don't drink alcohol, helps explain the decline. But Germans remain second only to the Czechs when it comes to drinking beer.

What massive change is next for the world?

A decline in tea consumption in China? Vegetarianism in Texas? Common sense in Washington?


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