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by John Stossel

       Recently, many politicians were in such a hurry to ban plastic bags.
        California and Hawaii banned them, then New York. Then Oregon, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont passed laws against them. More than 400 cities did, too.
        Why? Because plastic bags are evil, didn't you know?
        "Look at the damage done by plastic bags! It is everywhere!" complained New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
        A Washington state senator cited "videos of animals choked by plastics, tangled in garbage!"
        So what should we use instead of plastic? Cloth bags! They're reusable! "Certainly the way to go!" said New Jersey's assembly speaker.
        But now, suddenly, politicians are canceling their bans. Instead, they're banning the once praised reusable bags.
        It's because of COVID-19, of course.
        Reusable bags already brought bacteria into stores. We're supposed to wash them, but almost no one does. Studies found reusable bags crawling with dangerous bacteria. After plastic bags were banned in San Francisco, food poisoning deaths increased sharply.
        But environmental groups, like Greenpeace, call those disease fears "misinformation."
        "There are no studies or evidence that reusable bags are transmitting viruses," says Alex Truelove of the Public Interest Research Group, in my new video.
        He's right. There are no human studies, but COVID-19 is so new. Millions of piglets died from swine coronavirus. The agriculture department concluded that reusable feed bags were probably the cause.
        Still, even now, some politicians can't wait to ban plastic again. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says "as soon as this crisis is over we'll go back to all paper bags and reusable bags."
        "Politicians are always just looking for something to do," complains supermarket executive Andrea Catsimatidis.
        She points out that paper bags cost five times what plastic costs. "When you're talking billions of bags, it really adds up!"
        And paper bags don't hold as much. They rip.
        Plastic is more convenient. Why must politicians take away what's convenient?
        "Over two-thirds of everything we use is not recycled or composted and ends up in a landfill," complains Truelove.
        So what?
        People think America is running out of room for landfills, but that's not true.
        "All America's trash for the next century would fit in one landfill just 18 miles square," says environmental economist Ross McKitrick. Landfills take up so little space that "if you look the air you wouldn't even be able to see where landfills are."
        And modern landfills hardly pollute. They're surrounded by layers of clay and plastic that keep nasty stuff in the garbage from leaking out.
        But what about all that plastic in the ocean?
        Plastic bags are sometimes eaten by animals. Some sea turtles mistake the bags for jellyfish and then starve. Islands of floating garbage have formed in the Pacific Ocean.
        Green groups have convinced Americans that we are to blame.
        But we aren't! Even if you litter -- and today, fewer Americans do -- your litter is unlikely to end up in an ocean.
        Almost all the plastic in oceans comes from Asia and Africa. Less than 1% comes from North America.
        In other words, banning plastic bags in America will accomplish roughly ... nothing.
        What it will do is inconvenience Americans and make some of us sick.
        Truelove says, "We should ... set an example for the rest of the world."
        "That's posturing," replies McKitrick. "The rest of the world isn't looking to see what you do with your Starbucks cup.
        "If we are concerned about other countries' waste going into their river systems," he adds, "there are better things we can do. We can share technology with them so they process their waste better. That's better than imposing on consumers' tiresome inconveniences in hopes that it will somehow change behavior on the other side of the planet."
        Politicians "looking for something to do" routinely do more harm than good.
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

        One of the first lessons in an economics class is everything has a cost. That's in stark contrast to lessons in the political arena where politicians talk about free stuff. In our personal lives, decision-making involves weighing costs against benefits. Businessmen make the same calculation if they want to stay in business. It's an entirely different story for politicians running the government where any benefit, however minuscule, is often deemed to be worth any cost, however large.
        Related to decision-making is the issue of being overly safe versus not safe enough. Sometimes, being as safe as one can be is worthless. A minor example: How many of us before driving our cars inspect the hydraulic brake system for damage? We'd be safer if we did, but most of us just assume everything is OK and get into our car and drive away. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 40,000 Americans lose their lives each year because of highway fatalities. Virtually all those lives could be saved with a mandated 5 mph speed limit. Fortunately, we consider costs and rightfully conclude that saving those 40,000 lives aren't worth the costs and inconvenience of a 5 mph mandate.
        With the costs and benefits in mind, we might examine our government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first thing to keep in mind about any crisis, be it war, natural disasters or pandemics, is we should keep markets open and private incentives strong. Markets solve problems because they provide the right incentives to use resources effectively. Federal, state and local governments have ordered an unprecedented and disastrous shutdown of much of the U.S. economy in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
        There's a strictly health-related downside to the shutdown of the U.S. economy ignored by our leadership that has been argued by epidemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski, formerly the head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at Rockefeller University in New York City. Wittkowski argues that the lockdown prolongs the development of the "herd immunity," which is our only weapon in "exterminating" the novel coronavirus -- outside of a vaccine that's going to optimistically take 18 months or more to produce. He says we should focus on shielding the elderly and people with comorbidities while allowing the young and healthy to associate with one another in order to build up immunities. Wittkowski says, "So, it's very important to keep the schools open and kids mingling to spread the virus to get herd immunity as fast as possible, and then the elderly people, who should be separated, and the nursing homes should be closed during that time, can come back!
  and meet their children and grandchildren after about 4 weeks when the virus has been exterminated." Herd immunity, Wittkowski argues, would stop a "second wave" headed for the United States in the fall. Dr. David L. Katz, president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, shares Wittkowski's vision. Writing in The New York Times, he argued that our fight against COVID-19 could be worse than the virus itself.
        The bottom line is that costs can be concealed but not eliminated. Moreover, if people only look at the benefits from a particular course of action, they will do just about anything, because everything has a benefit. Political hustlers and demagogues love promising benefits when the costs can easily be concealed. By the way, the best time to be wrong and persist in being wrong is when the costs of being wrong are borne by others.
        The absolute worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly its most unrecoverable damage, is the massive power that Americans have given to their federal, state and local governments to regulate our lives in the name of protecting our health. Taking back that power should be the most urgent component of our recovery efforts. It's going to be challenging; once a politician, and his bureaucracy, gains power, he will fight tooth and nail to keep it.
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

        I'm "social distancing." I stay away from people.
        I do it voluntarily.
        There's a big difference between voluntary -- and force.
        Government is force. The media want more of that.
        "Ten states have no stay-at-home orders!" complains Don Lemon On CNN. "Some governors are still refusing to take action!"
        Fox News' host Steve Hilton agreed. "Shut things down! Everywhere. That includes Utah, Wyoming..."
        But wait a second. People in Utah and Wyoming already socially distanced just by living there. Why must Utah and Wyoming have the same stay-at-home rules as New York?
        I find it creepy how eager some people are for authorities to boss us around.
        That's the topic of my new video.
        In Raleigh, North Carolina, people gathered to protest a "stay-at-home" order. The police arrested a protester and tweeted, "Protesting is a non-essential activity."
        I bet they got a chuckle out of that. But our Constitution guarantees Americans the right to "peaceably assemble" and "petition the government for a redress of grievances."
        The coronavirus doesn't override the Constitution.
        Protests also erupted in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed some absurd rules. She declared, "All public or private gatherings of any size are prohibited." Her executive order stopped people from seeing relatives and banned anyone with more than one home to travel between them.
        Big-box stores are allowed to stay open, but they must not sell things like carpet, flooring, furniture, garden supplies, paint, etc. So, Walmart stores are open, but some of their shelves have tape blocking certain products.
        That's just dumb.
        Gardening and painting can be done far away from other people.
        So can exercise. But in California, police chased down and arrested a paddleboarder paddling in the ocean. He was far more than 6 feet away from anyone.
        In Encinitas, California, police fined people $1,000 just for sitting in cars to watch the sunset at the beach. Yes, inside their cars. The police said, "We want compliance from everybody (because of) lives that we're trying to save."
        But it's not clear that demanding total compliance is the best way to save lives.
        Sweden took a near-opposite approach.
        Yes, they encouraged older people to stay inside and sick people to stay home. They didn't want hospitals overwhelmed. But otherwise, Sweden is carrying on almost as normal.
        "Closing schools, stringent measures like that, closing borders, you cannot do that for months or years," said epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Swedish Health Agency. "What we are doing in Sweden we can continue doing for a very long time. I think that's going to prove to be very important in the long run."
        The long run matters most.
        Since a vaccine is probably at least a year away, the Swedes reason that the best protection is what epidemiologists call "herd immunity," a critical mass of people who get the disease and then are resistant to it.
        The hope is that once enough people get coronavirus, there will be enough immunity to prevent mass outbreaks later. Many of the most vulnerable may then be able to avoid ever getting the virus.
        The jury is still out on this experiment. More than 1,500 Swedes have died, five times the death rate of neighboring Norway. But if Swedes acquire "herd immunity," their death rate will be the first to drop.
        Other European countries agree that lockdowns are not sustainable.
        Last week, Denmark reopened nursery and elementary schools. Germany opened retail stores this week. Norway opens schools next week. Austria reopens shops to people who wear masks on May 1.
        That seems smarter than the "absolute shutdown" promoted by so many American authorities. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has threatened to "shut off water and power" to homes of people who do not shelter in place.
        Shut off water and power?
        Politicians rush to limit our choices in the name of "keeping us safe." They don't even want to think about places like Sweden or the argument that leaving us alone might make us safer.
        They just like pushing people around.
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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By Taylor Kovar, Kovar Wealth Management

Hey Taylor - Things being what they are, I’m looking to invest some money outside of the stock market. Got any hot tips for me? - Lee

Hey Lee - Alternative investments are always a strong bet, not just when the market is going through tumultuous times. There are so many ways to put your money to work outside of the traditional markets, but I’ll stick with three of my favorites for now.

    Timber. While the logging industry has certainly changed over the last couple generations to become more environmentally conscious, the demand for wood remains high. With farmed forests and access to so many unique types of lumber, you have inherent stability within this investing field. In addition to the importance of the material, you have a handful of ways to invest in the timber market. Buying acres of timberland is relatively straightforward, with value in the land itself as well as what the acreage produces. Many savvy investors go with timber-focused REITs to remove one degree of responsibility while still making money on the product. In any case, you can safely bet on timber to maintain value and weather financial downturns.
    Real estate. Buildings and land will fluctuate in value and consumer interest more than timber, but owning property means you always have an asset that typically increases its worth in the long run. If you have the time and means to buy a desirable vacation rental, you can create a steady flow of income in addition to the actual value of the property. You should at least consider some form of real estate, as few investments can deliver such long- and short-term rewards. Also, for the investor combating fears of market volatility, a physical piece of land or building can be an exceptionally comforting holding. As the old saying goes "They aren't making any more land!"
    Precious metals. Precious metals make for useful alternative investments. Like real estate or timber, the intrinsic value of a physical element provides stability and diversification for standard portfolios. Buying gold bullion will give you a concrete investment that’s excellent at value retention, while investing in precious metals ETFs or mining companies might allow you to escape a little market volatility while still enjoying the booms that come with economic progress. If you’re looking for a non-stock investment you can rely on for long-term sustainability and insurance, precious metals should rank high on your list.

If you want to see more options, you can check out my article on GoFarWithKovar.com about alternative investments for this year. There are plenty of options and hopefully you’ll find at least one of them exciting. Good luck!

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by John Stossel

        Coronavirus is frightening.
        I'm working from home, practicing "social distancing." Experts say it'll help "flatten the curve" so fewer people will be infected simultaneously. Then hospitals won't be overwhelmed.
        But the infection rate grows. Doctors and hospitals may yet be overwhelmed.
        It didn't have to get to this point.
        Coronavirus deaths leveled off in South Korea.
        That's because people in Korea could easily find out if they had the disease. There are hundreds of testing locations -- even pop-up drive-thru testing centers.
        Because Koreans got tested, Korean doctors knew who needed to be isolated and who didn't. As a result, Korea limited the disease without mass quarantines and shortages.
        Not in America. In America, a shortage of COVID-19 tests has made it hard for people to get tested. Even those who show all the symptoms have a difficult time.
        Why weren't there enough tests?
        Because our government insists on control of medical innovation.
        That's the topic of my new video.
        When coronavirus appeared, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made its own tests and insisted that people only use those CDC tests. But the CDC test often gave inaccurate results. Some early versions of the test couldn't distinguish between coronavirus and water.
        Private companies might have offered better tests, and more of them, but that wasn't allowed. The World Health Organization even released information on how to make such tests, but our government still said no. Instead, all tests must go through the government's cumbersome approval process. That takes months. Or years.
        Hundreds of labs had the ability to test for the virus, but they weren't allowed to test.
        As a result, doctors can't be sure exactly where outbreaks are happening. Instead of quarantining just sick people, state governors are forcing entire states to go on lockdown.
        At the same time, many people who show no symptoms do have COVID-19. Without widespread testing, we don't know who they are, and so the symptomless sick are infecting others.
        A few weeks ago, the government finally gave up its monopoly and said it was relaxing the rules. There would be quick "emergency use authorizations" replacing the months- or years-long wait for approval. But even that took so long that few independent tests were approved.
        So President Donald Trump waived those rules, too.
        Now tests are finally being made. But that delay killed people. It's still killing people.
        Other needlessly repressive rules prevented doctors and hospitals from trying more efficient ways to treat patients.
        For example, telemedicine allows doctors and patients to communicate through the internet. When sick people consult doctors from home, they don't pass on the virus in crowded waiting rooms.
        But lawyers and bureaucrats claimed such communications wouldn't be "secure," and would violate patients' privacy.
        Only last week did officials announce they would allow doctors to "serve patients through everyday communications technologies."
        Americans shouldn't have to ask permission to use "everyday" technologies.
        Now doctors fear that as more people get sick, hospitals won't have enough beds for the critically ill.
        But the bed shortage is another consequence of bad law. Critical access hospitals in rural areas are not allowed to have more than 25 beds. Trump has now announced that he's waiving those rules.
        In some states, there's a shortage of doctors or nurses. That, too, is often a product of bad law -- state licensing laws that make it illegal for professionals licensed in one state to work in another. Trump said he would waive "license requirements so that the doctors from other states can provide services to states with the greatest need." Then it turned out that he could only allow that for Medicare; he didn't have the power to override stupid state licensing rules.
        Fortunately, many states finally waived harmful licensing laws on their own.
        It's good that governments finally removed some rules.
        But the time that took killed people.
        Once coronavirus passes, America should leave those regulations waived.
        And we should repeal many others.
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media."
For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2020 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
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