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Obama signs farm bill that trims food stamps EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — President Obama on Friday signed into law an agriculture spending bill that will spread benefits to farmers in every region of the country, while trimming the food-stamp program that inspired a two-year battle over the legislation. As he penned his name on the five-year measure at Michigan State University, Obama said the wide-ranging bill “multitasks� by helping boost jobs, innovation, research and conservation. “It’s like a Swiss Army knife,� he joked. But not everyone is happy with the legislation, and

Obama acknowledged its passage was “a very challenging piece of business.� The bill expands federal crop insurance and ends direct government payments that go to farmers whether they produce anything or not. But the bulk of its nearly $100 billion-per-year cost is for the food-stamp program that aids 1 in 7 Americans. The bill finally passed with support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers from farming states, but the bipartisan spirit didn’t extend to the signing ceremony where Obama was flanked by farm

equipment, hay bales and Democratic lawmakers. White House press secretary Jay Carney said several Republicans were invited, but all declined to attend. Conservatives remain unhappy with the bill and its generous new subsidies for interests ranging from Southern peanut growers and Midwest corn farmers to the Northeast maple-syrup industry. They also wanted much larger cuts to food stamps than the $800 million Congress finally approved in a compromise. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters

he did not expect the cut of about 1 percent of the food stamp budget to have a significant impact on recipients. Obama promised in his State of the Union address last week to make 2014 a year of action, using his presidential powers in addition to pushing a Congress that usually is reluctant to go along with his ideas. In that spirit, he’s coupling the signing of the farm bill with a new administration initiative called “Made in Rural America� to connect rural businesses with federal resources that can help sell their products and ser-

vices abroad. Obama’s trip was a reward for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee helped broker the hard-fought farm bill compromise after years of setbacks. Michigan State, a leading agricultural research school, is Stabenow’s alma mater. Obama also squeezed into his three-hour visit to Michigan a lunch with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Duggan took office last month as the city is going through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Labradoodle’s inventor laments designer craze


David Bransfield, a state outreach coordinator for Young Invincibles, a group which supports President Obama’s health care law, talks with student Philippe Komongnan, 27, who is in the process of signing up for health care, at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington on Jan. 30. An army of workers and volunteers has fanned out across the country trying to enroll young and healthy people in health insurance now available through Obama’s signature law.

Race begins to enroll young, healthy for new insurance WASHINGTON (AP) — “Do you guys have health insurance?� David Bransfield asks each time a group of college students passes by. Some nod yes. A few promise to stop back after class. Others don’t bother removing their headphones. Nearly every day, Bransfield comes to a satellite campus of the University of the District of Columbia in the shadow of the Capitol, sitting for hours behind a table in the lobby of a classroom building. With an Apple laptop and lots of fliers, he’s part of the army of workers and volunteers trying to enroll young, and probably healthy, people in health insurance available through President Obama’s law. Run largely by groups with close ties to the White House, the recruiting effort is based in part on lessons learned from Obama’s presidential races, which revolutionized the way campaigns tracked and targeted voters. More than any other group, participation from among the “young invincibles� — those ages 18 to 34 — will be crucial to the law’s success. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that about 40 percent of those who enroll need to be young and healthy, to balance out the higher costs of insuring older, sicker people. But less than two months

before the March 31 sign-up deadline, the administration is lagging behind its goal. Young adults made up about one-fourth of the 2.2 million people who enrolled in the exchanges through December, the last time the administration released demographic data. Officials announced in midJanuary that 3 million people had enrolled in insurance plans, but officials didn’t update the demographic details. Critics of the law say young people were most likely to be turned off by the technical problems that marred the first two months of online sign-ups. They also say some young people will opt to pay the penalty for not enrolling — $95, or 1 percent of income, whichever is higher — rather than pay more for coverage. A December Gallup poll found that 26 percent of uninsured people under the age of 30 intended to pay the fine rather than enroll. White House officials have minimized the slow enrollment by young people, saying they always expected those in their 20s and 30s to enroll toward the end of the six-month sign-up period. Spokesman Jay Carney said young people are more likely to be deadline-driven and “late to the party when it comes to signing up.� Megan Chapman is among

the holdouts. The 23-year-old college student from High Point, N.C., has been without health insurance for several years. She’s been thinking about signing up through the new federal marketplace but said she’s heard conflicting information about the costs, prompting her to do more research. “It just depends on the price and how much financial aid I can get,� said Chapman, her laptop and spiral notebook spread out before her as she worked in the Guilford Technical Community College cafeteria in Jamestown, N.C. “I’m unemployed. I can’t pay a whole lot of money. So that will definitely be a major factor.� As Chapman studied, a volunteer from Enroll America was going from table to table in the cafeteria, encouraging uninsured students to sign up.

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Tucker, a 3-year-old Labradoodle, jumps on his owner Mike Pentz at their home in Columbus, Ohio, in 2011. name ‘Labradoodle,’� he said. “We told people we had a new dog, and all of a sudden, people wanted this wonder dog.� Over the years, demand grew for Conron and other breeders. Labradoodles became a hot dog — Jennifer Aniston, Tiger Woods and Christie Brinkley are among their owners — and President Obama’s family considered a Labradoodle before picking a Portuguese water dog as the First Pet. “When I heard he was thinking about a Labradoodle, I wrote to him and said to make sure he checked its pedigree,� Conron said. There’s the problem that troubles him. Conron said there are far too many unscrupulous people eager to make a buck at a dog’s expense. Rather than check the history and science, he said “horrific� puppy mills are springing up and producing unstable dogs that go unwanted and eventually are euthanized. “Instead of breeding out the problems, they’re breeding them in,� he said.

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NEW YORK (AP) — He’s deemed the man who unleashed the designer dog craze, this wave of Maltipoos, puggles and shorkies. A Doberhuahua? Not quite. But from that new Super Bowl ad to Hollywood boulevards and nearly to the White House, these pooches with cute names are pretty popular. Hardly what Wally Conron expected — or ever wanted — back in the late 1980s when he first bred a pair of prize canines and called the result a Labradoodle. “I’ve done a lot of damage,� Conron told The Associated Press this week by phone from his home in Australia. “I’ve created a lot of problems.� “Marvelous thing? My foot,� he said. “There are a lot of unhealthy and abandoned dogs out there.� Conron was working as the puppy-breeding manager at the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia when he tried to fulfill a request from a couple in Hawaii. She had vision problems, her husband was allergic, and they wanted a dog that would satisfy their needs. After a lot of trial and error, Conron came up with a solution when he bred a standard poodle with a Labrador retriever. The mix was a personal triumph, yet not a success outside his lab. “I was very, very careful of what I used, but nobody wanted Labrador crosses. I had a three-to-six-month waiting list, but everyone wanted purebreds,� the 85-year-old Conron recalled. “So I had to come up with a gimmick.� “We came up with the

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February 8, 2014  
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