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Reheated 'Pork' and Trains From Spain

A can of pork from a food bank. One of the stimulus contracts is $16.7 million to Lakeside Foods for canned pork. (gunnyrat/Flickr Images)Today's roundup of stimulus coverage:

Two months after ProPublica first identified stimulus "pork" -- the kind you eat -- the Drudge Report stirred the Obama administration's ire by, well, re-identifying the same pork. The pork here is going to food banks and pantries, many of which have seen demand for food increase recently.

Drudge linked to contracts on showing that the feds are spending $1.19 million for "2 pound frozen ham sliced," and $16.7 million for "canned pork." Stimulus critics seized on the news, in some cases misconstruing the contract and suggesting that the $1.19 million was spent for a single, two-pound ham.

In reality, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded, the government used the $1.19 million to purchase 760,000 pounds of ham that came in the form of many two-pound packages. ProPublica reported in May that the canned pork contract, which went to Lakeside Foods in Wisconsin, would employ 53 people for production. The pork is part of a $150 million Agriculture Department program to deliver food to facilities that serve the needy.

KHOU-TV in Houston documents the challenges of tracking stimulus funds dollar by dollar. "Finding out what the money's been used for -- and who's reaped its benefits -- took hours of digging," reports the station's Alex Sanz. "Members of Congress weren't even sure." We know the feeling. That's why we created a list of stimulus reporting resources. You can also join our listserv of those following the stimulus.

To get a piece of the stimulus's $48 billion in state fiscal stabilization funds -- which are largely earmarked for education -- states had to turn in an application to the Education Department by July 1. In the application, states had to promise to fund public schools and colleges at least at the same level as they did in 2006, or request a waiver to drop funding below that level. As ProPublica reported last month, some states were cutting it close: not requesting a waiver, but claiming that they would set funding for colleges at exactly the '06 level. Colorado was one of those states, showing in its application that it planned to fund public colleges for the next three years at $555,289,004 per year, equal to the '06 level.

But now Colorado wants more wiggle room. Gov. Bill Ritter said Monday that he is applying for a waiver that would allow him to cut funding for higher-ed. Other states have also been looking for flexibility as they deal with hefty budget deficits. As ProPublica reported last month, California amended its application in a way that clears the road for a funding decrease, which is on the way.

The Associated Press reports that foreign companies are looking for a piece of the $8 billion stimulus pie for high-speed rail. Despite the stimulus act's "Buy American" provision, the AP reports that the volume of trains demanded makes some involvement by foreign companies likely, especially companies from Europe and Japan, which already have high-speed rail systems.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling on Gov. David Patterson and the New York State Dpartment of Transportation to find stimulus money for a planned Canon headquarters in Melville. Schumer says the Canon project could fall through without $5 million in stimulus funds, which he wants transferred away from neighboring stimulus projects. Schumer says those projects will cost less than expected, freeing up some money.

The debate over the stimulus's efficacy is also drumming up new proposals for different kinds of economic stimuli. The conservative American Enterprise Institute is advocating a three-year declining tax credit to all taxpayers. The authors write: "It seemed clear to us last spring, and it seems clearer to us now, that the losses in wealth sustained by the American consumer require strong and direct stimulus rather than the very costly, inefficient and indirect stimulus path the administration and the Congress have prescribed."

Are you tracking the stimulus? ProPublica has set up a mailing list for reporters covering the stimulus, and you're welcome to join.

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