Thursday, April 3, 2008

BREVITAS

WORD

We are here on earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don't know -- WH Auden

MONEY

DEAN BAKER, AMERICAN PROSPECT The Falling Dollar Is a "Symptom of U.S. Economic Ills" That's what USA Today told readers. . . In fact it seems rather evident that the over-valued dollar was a main cause of the country's economic ills. The high dollar is the main cause of a trade deficit that approached $800 billion, or 6 percent of GDP, in 2006. It has cost the country millions of relatively high paying manufacturing jobs, putting downward pressure on the wages of workers without high school degrees. The trade deficits of recent years were not sustainable. (They were two to three times the size of the budget deficit over the last three years.) The only way to bring the trade deficit down on a sustained basis is by reducing the value of the dollar. This is a necessary adjustment, not a "symptom of U.S. economic ills."

CYBER NOTES

KELVIN CHIBOMBA Created in collaboration with Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, the interactive site is the first of its kind for a truth commission. Its creators hope it will play a key part in Liberia's reconciliation process, bringing video footage of the TRC's work to Liberians around the world. "By hosting videos on our website, we hope to better engage Liberians at home and around the world in the work of the TRC" says TRC Chairman Jerome J. Verdier. TRC hearings are now in session, and are being uploaded to the website as quickly as possible given Liberia's limited bandwidth. The TRC of Liberia is the first TRC to be mandated to reach out to the Diaspora. The website was created by researchers from both the School of Interactive Computing and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech using web 2.0 technologies and leveraging web social networking trends. . . Researchers consulted focus groups of Liberians living in America and Liberia to assist in the design. Previous truth commissions have used their websites to simply host their final reports

OUTLYING PRECINCTS

WASH TIMES - If offered, syndicated radio talk-show host Michael Reagan says he will accept the vice presidential nomination. He explained on his Radio America show that if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is qualified to be president because she lived in the White House for eight years as "first lady," then surely he is qualified to be a vice president after his eight years there as "first son."

ECO CLIPS

IPS - The poor may need insurance to deal with humanitarian needs arising from climate change, experts say. Demands for humanitarian assistance will grow significantly, and the biggest cause is likely to be climate change rather than wars and internal conflicts, they say. In 2006 the world experienced 427 natural catastrophes that affected about 143 million people, and the trend is rising, says Ulla-Maija Finskas, director of the department for humanitarian assistance in the Finnish ministry for foreign affairs. These included 254 floods and related disasters, 43 percent higher than the 2000-2004 average, says Sir John Holmes, under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator at the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. . . Holmes says an insurance-based response should be explored. Since vulnerable people in places most likely to be affected by humanitarian disasters cannot afford insurance, donors could pay a small premium to insure them against extreme weather conditions. "It may be a more cost effective response than trying to raise money after the event."

RACHEL'S DEMOCRACY & HEALTH NEWS The Sierra Club's national board voted March 25 to remove the leaders of the club's 35,000-member Florida chapter, and to suspend the chapter for four years. It was the first time in the club's 116-year history that such action has been taken against a state chapter. The leadership of the Florida Chapter had been highly critical of the national board's decision in mid-December 2007 to allow the Clorox Company to use the Sierra Club's name and logo to market a new line of non-chlorinated cleaning products called "Green Works." In return, Clorox Company will pay Sierra Club an undisclosed fee, based partly on product sales. The Clorox Company logo will appear on the products as well. A 2004 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund named The Clorox Company as one of the nation's most chemically dangerous. The Clorox deal has angered and embittered Club members all across the country, not just in Florida. Since the deal was announced in January, 2008, the Club's national leadership has deflected many requests by Club members to see the text of the legal agreement signed with Clorox. Johanna O'Kelley, the Club's director of Licensing & Cause-Related Marketing, will say only that the amount of money involved is "substantial." Carl Pope, the Club's executive director, has said that money was not the driving factor behind the deal: "Our focus was on consumers who otherwise would not migrate to a safer product because they wouldn't be sure it wasn't green scamming," Mr. Pope has written. The idea is that the Clorox logo will convince people the products will work, and the Sierra Club logo will convince people the products are environmentally preferable.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR For the first time since 1980, when long lines sprouted at gasoline stations, Americans are beginning to cut down on their driving. The slight decline in total miles driven - apparent first in December - may indicate that the twin forces of high gasoline prices and a struggling economy are starting to affect the US lifestyle. Surveys find that Americans now consider gasoline prices a "financial hardship."

FREEDOM BEAT

ACLU - You're fired. Those are the words that millions of Americans could hear if Congress passes the SAVE Act. The SAVE Act would require every employer in the U.S. to use so-called "electronic employment verification," cross-checking all current and potential employees' citizenship status against databases that the government itself knows are filled with errors and inaccuracies. And what if the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security get it wrong and can't verify a person's citizenship or right to work using their buggy database? Tough luck. That person is out of a job, with no right to appeal. This is unacceptable, and un-constitutional. The SSA estimates its records contain at least 17.8 million errors, of which 12.7 million involve U.S. citizens. Bills with mandatory employment verification, including the SAVE Act, contain no assurances that government databases will be accurate and updated, no privacy protections for the vast amounts of personal information to be handled by employers and absolutely no recourse for workers who are wrongfully denied employment.

HEALTH & SCIENCE

HEALTHCARE NOW There are only two ways to pay for a national healthcare system - either single payer, getting much better care and spending billions of dollars less -or the much more costly plans of the think tanks and the candidates - continuing and expanding the billions of dollars of profits to the insurance companies. Under the current economic crisis, we cannot expect that Congress will continue to increase taxes to pay, "Individual Mandate" forces everybody to further enrich the insurance companies for policies that many people cannot afford and that must be subsidized by the taxpayers. Some form of individual mandate is supported by both Obama and Clinton as the new plan for the United States and has failed over and over again in states where it has been tried.

FURTHERMORE. . . .

RADLEY BALKO, REASON Man caught having sex with picnic table. Fortunately, prosecutors have dropped the felony charges. Rick Santorum was right. Gay marriage has put us on the slippery slope to men having relations with deck furniture.

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