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Sunday, May 12 2013 11:00 PM

HITS & MISSES: Sequester hits home for local oil industry

By The Bakersfield Californian

MISS: For those who thought the sequester, that series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal agencies that kicked in on March 1, was much ado about nothing, consider the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's decision to postpone energy land leasing in California.

Included in the temporary stoppage: the postponement of an auction to lease the drilling rights to 1,300 acres of land in Kern and Fresno counties. The BLM cites sequestration and environmental litigation as among the reasons for the postponement. The oil industry has a dissenting opinion about the stoppage, however: It's part of "the Obama plan to maximize the sequester's harm to the U.S. economy."

We call it just plain unfortunate, because the drilling translates to jobs that are sorely needed in these parts. Here's hoping October arrives soon; that's when the postponed lease auctions are scheduled to resume.

HIT: Paramount loves its scholars

The Paramount Agricultural Companies has distributed 68 scholarships to the children of its Central Valley employees that are headed to college. The scholarships range from $1,250 to $6,000 each and are renewable for up to five years. That's a great incentive to ensure that the recipients remain in college.

Since the program's inception in 1994, Paramount has helped send more than 770 students to college, providing more than $4 million in scholarships.

MISS: Dire news from the STEM world

Speaking of education, the United States ranks 25th in math and 17th in science among industrialized nations, according to the Obama administration. Those are pretty dismal numbers for an economy that is clearly shifting to one that is technology-based.

A greater emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education is warranted. On the plus side, it seems to be happening here, with strong STEM programs at Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield, as well as STEM-targeted programs for students in the Kern High School district.

HIT: A la carte TV menus coming?

U.S. Sen. John McCain has proposed legislation designed to put TV-channel lineups squarely in the hands of the consumer. He's attacking the standard cable company practice of bundling channels, which requires viewers to pay for many channels they never watch.

The Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 will create a system where consumers will pay for only the stations they watch. It sounds great, but don't expect to be ordering your TV shows "a la carte" off the Bright House Networks menu anytime soon.

The cable industry is big, powerful and facing tremendous competition from newer services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. It's going to fight McCain's proposal in a manner worthy of its monolithic status.

MISS: Seriously, ladies?

We weren't particularly amused by the YouTube video of two women slugging it out near the beer line at a Rabobank Arena event last week. Such exhibitions should be left to the people we expect those things from: hockey players. Sadly, the Bakersfield Condors don't start playing until mid-October.

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