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Gibson: Feds Want Guitar Woodwork Done by Foreign Labor September 6, 2011

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

Gibson Guitar Corp. is claiming the Obama administration wants more of its woodwork done overseas, as a bizarre battle heats up between the government and one of the country’s most renowned guitar makers. 

The dispute started in 2009, when federal agents raided the company over suspect wood shipments from Madagascar. Gibson took that case to court but has denounced the administration with a vengeance after agents returned late last month to raid several Gibson factories — this time out of concern that Indian export laws had been violated. 

Though some reports on the dispute have cited environmental concerns, court documents suggest the latest battle boils down to a simple, non-environmental question — which country is working on the wood? 

Gibson’s CEO has said repeatedly that the only reason his company is in trouble is because U.S. workers are completing work on guitar fingerboards in the United States. In an interview earlier this week, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz claimed that the U.S. government even suggested Gibson’s troubles would disappear if the company used foreign labor. 

The Justice Department is hamstrung from talking about the case because it’s an ongoing investigation. Justice spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle told FoxNews.com only that agents were looking for evidence of “possible violations” of a law governing imports of plants and wildlife. 

Hornbuckle also confirmed that no charges have yet been filed in either of the two cases. 

Court documents help explain the root of the tree dispute. According to search warrants associated with the latest raid, federal agents in June intercepted a shipment of Indian ebony apparently bound for Gibson in Tennessee. The documents noted that Indian law “prohibits the export of sawn wood,” which can be used for fingerboards — but does not prohibit the export of “veneers,” which are sheets of woods that have already been worked on. 

The search warrants alleged that the intercepted shipment was “falsely declared” as veneer, something that would have been legal. However, the documents said the ebony was in fact unfinished “sawn wood,” supposedly illegal. 

This led to the raid on Gibson facilities late last month. 

Juszkiewicz said in a statement that the U.S. government has effectively suggested “that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India.” 

A representative at the Indian Embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment. 

But Juszkiewicz has since claimed that his company’s wood exports do in fact comply with Indian law, even if American workers are doing some of the work. 

In an interview on the company website, Juszkiewicz said Gibson “for decades” has purchased fingerboard wood that is two-thirds finished. 

“The fact that American workers are completing the work in the United States makes it illegal,” he said, citing the government’s position. 

Juszkiewicz maintains Gibson is still complying with the law.


Obama Pushes Congress to Pass Transportation Bill September 6, 2011

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to pass a transportation bill to ensure funding for roads and construction jobs, arguing that failure to do so would spell economic disaster.

Republicans say they support passing the bill, but Obama says time is running out and “political posturing” may stand in the way.

“There’s no reason to put more jobs at risk in an industry that has been one of the hardest-hit in this recession,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. “There’s no reason to cut off funding for transportation projects at a time when so many of our roads are congested, so many of our bridges are in need of repair and so many businesses are feeling the cost of delays.

“This isn’t a Democratic or a Republican issue — it’s an American issue,” the president said.

Obama issued his call as he prepares to make a major jobs speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday in which he’s expected to push for bipartisan action on tax credits and infrastructure spending to get the economy out of its doldrums. A new jobs report just found the economy stopped adding jobs in August and unemployment stood at 9.1 percent.

Federal highway programs, and the fuel taxes that pay for them, will expire Sept. 30 unless Congress acts, and funds for construction projects across the country would be held up. That follows the partial shutdown this summer of the Federal Aviation Administration over a showdown between the House and Senate that led to thousands of layoffs of workers on airport construction and other projects.

Transportation experts say the impact of an expiration of highway programs would be even more devastating for the economy. Transportation programs tend to have wide bipartisan support, but given the focus of the House Republican majority on cutting the budget, the legislation could run into disputes over how much to spend on it.

Republicans used their weekly address to push for passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and attack Obama over his approach to job creation. Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte complained that the administration has spent too much money on stimulus initiatives that didn’t work while piling on burdensome regulations.

“While our workers are being held back by Washington, there’s nothing in place to stop the federal government from bankrolling further big government spending — the kind that leads to government expansion into private-sector jobs, burdensome mandates on job creators and skyrocketing national debt,” Goodlatte said.

The debt legislation passed last month requires both the House and Senate to vote on a balanced-budget amendment, and Goodlatte said Obama should use his upcoming jobs speech to join the call for the measure.

But the administration and most Democrats oppose the approach as unnecessary and political, arguing Congress should be able to control the budget without amending the Constitution. Passage is unlikely anyway since it requires two-thirds approval of both houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states.