Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 27, 2009



Irv Katz, The Chronicle of Philanthropy
- As charitable organizations face unprecedented challenges because of the global economic crisis, it is time for all nonprofit leaders to join forces and become key players in achieving a recovery.

Instead of doing what nonprofit groups traditionally do--seek money for their own causes and programs-we need to focus on solving the problems at hand. What Americans need now are jobs and what charities need are extra hands, so let's urge Congress and the White House to make charitable employment a key component of the economic-stimulus plan.

Spending government money on jobs at nonprofit causes would accomplish several goals. The government would be financing jobs that paid workers a decent living, money they could use to invest in goods and services in their hometowns. It also would help nonprofit groups deal with the short-term increase in demand for services and a shortfall of private and government money available to hire new workers to meet those demands. And perhaps most important, it would give nonprofit groups an opportunity to train a cadre of workers who can sustain charitable institutions over the long haul as demographic changes make it harder to attract workers.

Workers placed in organizations that focus on arts, conservation, health care, social services, and so many other causes could acquire skills and experience that will be much in demand for decades to come.

The need for workers is especially acute at social- service organizations, which are facing steep rises in demand. Training more people to do this vital work will make it possible for charitable organizations to come closer to caring for all those who seek aid. . .

Les Christie, CNN Money There is probably even more excess housing inventory gumming up the market than current statistics indicate, thanks to a wave of foreclosures that has yet to hit the market.

The problem: Many foreclosed homes and other distressed properties that are now owned by banks have yet to be listed for sale. The volume of this so-called 'ghost inventory' could be substantial enough to depress already steeply falling prices when it does go on the market. . .

RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosed properties, recently discovered that it has far more foreclosed properties listed in its database, which the company compiles using courthouse records, than there are listed in the multiple listing services maintained by real estate agents.

RealtyTrac looked at listings in four states, California, Maryland, Florida and Wisconsin, and found that they contained only a third of the foreclosures it has in its database. The scope of the problem isn't clear, but it could be huge considering that RealtyTrac has a total of 1.5 million bank-owned properties on its site.

Dean Baker makes an interesting point about now much discussed employment figures from the New Deal: "The standard measures of the unemployment rate counted people employed under government programs like the Works Progress Administration as being unemployed. If these people are instead counted as being employed (in keeping with current methodology) then the unemployment rate fell below 10 percent in 1937, before Roosevelt became concerned about budget deficits and cut spending and raised taxes. This is still far from full employment, but it is less than half the 23 percent rate that Roosevelt faced when he took office.


Asia Times
- [An] intelligence assessment shared by Moscow reveals that almost half of the US supplies passing through Pakistan is pilfered by motley groups of Taliban militants, petty traders and plain thieves. The US Army is getting burgled in broad daylight and can't do much about it. Almost 80% of all supplies for Afghanistan pass through Pakistan. The Peshawar bazaar is doing a roaring business hawking stolen US military ware, as in the 1980s during the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. This volume of business will register a quantum jump following the doubling of the US troop level in Afghanistan to 60,000.


Political Wire -
"An 'apoplectic' Kennedy family is seething over the rough treatment that heiress apparent Caroline got from Gov. Paterson's office and is spoiling for revenge," the New York Post reports. Said one "well-placed" Democrat: "The governor's going to pay for this. Ted is furious. The family is furious. The Kennedys are now against the governor."


Voice of America
- Israel's prime minister says his country will grant legal protection to soldiers who fought in the three-week war in the Gaza Strip, against possible allegations of war crimes. Mr. Ehud Olmert said he had appointed Israel's justice minister, Daniel Friedman, to chair a committee to offer a coordinated defense against what he called "self-righteous people" who might want to sue Israeli soldiers. This past week, a United Nations human rights expert, Richard Falk, accused Israel of violating humanitarian law by conducting an offensive against, in his words, "an essentially defenseless population."

Gershom Gorenberg, South Jerusalem - Responding to the appointment of George Mitchell as Barack Obama's Mideast envoy, Abe Foxman has achieved something remarkable: He has outdone Marty Peretz in the tasteless-comment competition among the self-appointed cheerleaders of Israel. . . Peretz, still listed as editor-in-chief of The New Republic, greeted the beginning of the Israeli air campaign in Gaza in December by describing its message as: "Do not f- with the Jews.". . . Now comes Foxman. "Sen. Mitchell is fair. He's been meticulously even-handed," said Abraham Foxman . . . "But the fact is, American policy in the Middle East hasn't been 'even handed' - it has been supportive of Israel when it felt Israel needed critical U.S. support. So I'm concerned, I'm not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East.". . . Thanks, Abe. Heaven forfend that American policy should be afflicted with fairness.


- Cannabis has been reclassified by the [British] government from a Class C to a Class B drug, carrying a higher maximum jail sentence for possession. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said there was "uncertainty at the least" on the future impact on young people's mental health as a result of using cannabis. Therefore she was going to "err on the side of caution and protect the public" by upping the classification level, she went on.


A 14-year-old who wanted to be cop conned officers at a Chicago police station by appearing in uniform and asking for his assignment. It took the police five hours to discover the error as the boy rode in a squad car.


Politico - House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has subpoenaed Karl Rove, the former top political advisor to President George W. Bush, to question what Rove knows about "politicization" of the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee had subpoenaed Rove during the last Congress, but relying on an executive privilege claim by Bush, Rove refused to appear. Conyers had previously subpoenaed former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, Bush former White House chief of staff, seeking any information they had. Conyers is also seeking White House documents related to the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. After the White House refused to comply with the subpoenas, and Miers refused to even appear before the committee to answer the subpoena, the House Judiciary Committee sued. A federal judge backed the committee in a major win for Conyers and House Democrats, but resolution of the case has been delayed by the changeover in administrations.


Boston Globe -
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so. . . The justices accepted Arizona's argument that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for police and that pat-downs are permissible when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the passenger may be armed and dangerous. The pat-down is allowed if the police "harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing - An Australian family who traveled to the US to visit a dying relative were accused of attempting to illegally immigrate by US Customs and Border Patrol officials, who caged them, detained them, starved them overnight, and then sent them back on the next flight to Australia. The US consulate's only comment? "We reserve the right to refuse entry to visitors to the United States." . . . "They treated us like terrorists," Mr Rabbi said. "We are Australian citizens. Why did they have to keep us in a detention centre? Why did they have to lock up my kids?". . .
Despite producing the family's $6400 return tickets, dated February 5, he says the officers accused him of attempting to illegally stay in the US.

An Iowa woman has been arrested for failing to return a library book she checked out last April. The book is valued at $13.95.


Tree Hugger
- Who'd have thought that poetry in the potty could make you use less toilet paper? A study by the research center Japan Toilet Labo showed that it can make a big difference - cutting down paper use by 20%.
Written poetically, the posters send messages like: "That paper will meet you only for a moment," "Fold the paper over and over and over again," and "Love the toilet." Researchers said that toilet paper usage has been increasing in Japan as of late, and they hypothesize it's because it's free - people scrimp when they're at home. So they're pushing to have 1,000 posters put in public stalls to encourage people to cut down on how much toilet paper the use as one more small step to save the planet.


Comcast - A 93-year-old man froze to death inside his home just days after the municipal power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills, officials said. Marvin E. Schur died "a slow, painful death," said Kanu Virani, Oakland County's deputy chief medical examiner, who performed the autopsy. Neighbors discovered Schur's body on Jan. 17. They said the indoor temperature was below 32 degrees at the time, The Bay City Times reported Monday. "Hypothermia shuts the whole system down, slowly," Virani said. "It's not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they're burning." A city utility worker had installed a "limiter" device to restrict the use of electricity at Schur's home on Jan. 13, Belleman said. The device limits power reaching a home and blows out like a fuse if consumption rises past a set level. Power is not restored until the device is reset.


NY Times -
Today, fewer than half of all high school students have had sex: 47.8 percent as of 2007, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, down from 54.1 percent in 1991. . . A 2002 report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old girls had experienced sex, down from 38 percent in 1995. During the same period, the percentage of sexually experienced boys in that age group dropped to 31 percent from 43 percent. The rates also went down among younger teenagers. In 1995, about 20 percent said they had had sex before age 15, but by 2002 those numbers had dropped to 13 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys.




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