Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
Critics have said using food crops to produce fuel is not economically viable and inflates the demand for those crops. But now a United Nations expert says the practice of converting food crops to biofuel is "a crime against humanity."
U.N. Special Investigator on the right to food — Jean Ziegler — is demanding a five-year moratorium on biofuel production to halt what he calls a growing catastrophe for the poor. Ziegler says using crops for fuel is creating food shortages and price hikes that cause millions of poor people to stay hungry. He says that it takes 510 pounds of corn to produce 13 gallons of ethanol — and says that much corn could feed a child in Zambia or Mexico for a year.
British citizens are fleeing the country in record numbers to get medical treatment — in order to escape the government-run national health system. The Daily Mail reports a new survey reveals 70,000 patients are expected to fly out this year. By the end of the decade – 200,000 so-called "health tourists" will travel to destinations as far as Malaysia and South Africa to get major surgery and avoid long waiting lists and the rising threat of superbugs in public hospitals.
India is the most popular destination for surgery — where flights, hotels and a heart bypass can cost less than half the price charged by British private hospitals.
Tax or Treat
The Iowa Department of Revenue has played a Halloween trick on Iowans this Halloween season — a tax on pumpkins. The Des Moines Register reports that for the first time ever — pumpkins are subject to the state's six percent sales tax — because they are classified as decorations instead of food.
Pumpkins that are specifically used for pies are exempt — but customers are required to fill out a special form to avoid the tax. Pumpkin sellers are unhappy — many saying they were unaware of the new law and have been forced to pay the taxes out of their own profits.
And the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has concluded that state entities which are legally required to produce about 400 reports a year — are actually churning out at least 1,600 — many of them obsolete, duplicative, or otherwise unnecessary.
It found that agencies could save thousands of staff hours and tons of paper by streamlining the reporting process. Officials determined this during an 18-month investigation that included the canvassing of more than 170 agencies, and public colleges and universities.
The commission published its findings in — you guessed it — a 668-page report.
— FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.