Thursday, January 8, 2009

BREVITAS

CRASH TALK

Dean Baker, Prospect
- The NYT is doing some serious fear-mongering when it tells readers that Social Security is a program that along with Medicare "threaten to grow so large as to be unsustainable in the long run." Because are children and grand-children are projected to live longer lives than us, the costs of Social Security are projected to outrun its revenue in 40 years, but the projected shortfalls are relatively modest. They can be easily addressed by sorts of changes to the program (tax increases and or spending cuts) that we had in the decades of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. There is no realistic sense in which Social Security can be termed unsustainable unless we take the view that unlike in prior decades, the program can never be changed.

Click On Detroit - A Detroit elementary school is asking for donations of toilet paper and light bulbs to keep their school functioning. The principal of the Academy of Americas sent a letter to staff, parents and partners asking for donations of items "that are of the utmost importance for proper school functioning and most importantly for student health and safety." In the letter, Principal Naomi Khalil cited budget constraints within the district as the reason why the school could no longer stock the items. . . The letter asks for toilet paper, paper towel rolls, trash bags and 60, 100 or 150-watt light bulbs. . . Parents said a letter went out asking for supplies at the start of the school year. "They sent out a letter for pencils, pens, they put Kleenex on there," said parent Danny Huddleston.

FREEDOM & JUSTICE

Kevin Johnson, USA Today -
Nearly 98% of emergency room physicians report that they believe some patients were victims of suspected excessive force by police, a national survey concludes. Yet most of the suspected incidents went unreported because no laws require physicians to alert authorities. The survey of 315 physicians, contained in the Emergency Medicine Journal's January issue and based on 2002 data, is believed to be the first doctors' account of suspected police brutality, says H. Range Hutson, the lead author and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard.

NY Times editorial - This country puts too many people behind bars for too long. Most elected officials, afraid of being tarred as soft on crime, ignore these problems. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat of Virginia, is now courageously stepping into the void, calling for a national commission to re-assess criminal justice policy. . . The United States has the world's highest reported incarceration rate. Although it has less than 5 percent of the world's population, it has almost one-quarter of the world's prisoners. And for the first time in history, more than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. Many inmates are serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes, including minor drug offenses. It also is extraordinarily expensive. Billions of dollars now being spent on prisons each year could be used in far more socially productive ways. . .

HEALTH & SCIENCE

Sharon Jayson, USA Today
- The newest and most detailed data on teen birth rates shows significant increases in 26 states and represents most regions of the USA. "To see 26 states with statistically significant increases is fairly remarkable," says Paul Sutton, a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the data. "We're seeing increases in both the number of teens having births and also the rate at which they are having births. Both of them are going up."

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