UNDERNEWS

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

February 3, 2009

BREVITAS

GOVERNMENT

Washington Times -
A coalition of government-watchdog groups now is asking the new administration to review and correct retaliation against air marshal whistleblowers who spoke out during the first few years of the Department of Homeland Security. . . The groups are asking Mr. Obama to issue an executive order to review and restore the careers of whistleblowers "who lost their jobs because they sought to defend the public" under former Federal Air Marshals Service Director Thomas Quinn, who retired in January 2006. In addition, these and other groups lobbied Congress last week to include whistleblower-protection language for federal employees in the stimulus package, an amendment that passed by voice vote in the House.

WORLD

Paul Richter, LA Times
- President Obama has taken painstaking care in the first days of his administration to calm the waters of international relations with promises of cooperation and respect for other nations. But his new envoy to South Asia has landed with a splash. Officials in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have reacted uneasily to the appointment of Richard Holbrooke, a veteran diplomat nicknamed "the Bulldozer." Holbrooke, who embarks on his first official visit this week, has declared in recent months that the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a longtime American ally, has failed. In opinion columns, he has pointed to "massive, officially sanctioned corruption," along with drugs, as the country's most severe problems. Holbrooke has also called for vigorous action to deal with extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan. He charged that Pakistan has the power to destabilize its neighbor Afghanistan, "and has.". . .

MEDIA

Dean Baker -
In its top of the news brief for Morning Edition NPR told listeners that New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, who President Obama is considering for Commerce Secretary, "supports responsible federal spending." If this is a distinguishing feature for Mr. Gregg then implicitly there must be senators who it believes support irresponsible federal spending. It might be helpful if NPR told listeners who those senators are, which spending is irresponsible, and how it has made this determination.

Great moments in objectivity -
The Washington Post describes Tom Daschle's $128K underpayment of income tax as a "glitch." That's the way it is in Washington: some break the law, some just have glitches.

January 26 Review headline over a story on Afghanistan: "Obama's Vietnam". . . January 31 Newsweek headline over a lead story on Afghanistan: "Obama’s Vietnam.". . . Like we say, the news before it happens. . . .One interesting point in the Newsweek story: "The 642 U.S. deaths sustained so far pale in comparison to the 58,000 lost in Vietnam. Still, consider this: that's a higher death toll than after the first
nine years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam."

RELIGION & ITS ALTERNATIVES

Leah Fabel, Examiner - Nationwide, the number of students enrolled in urban religious schools declined by 18 percent to about 1.8 million between 1989 and 2006, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the Department of Education. Urban Catholic schools were hardest hit, losing 27 percent of their students since 1989, dropping to an enrollment of just over 1 million overall. . . Of religious institutions, only Islamic and Jewish urban schools saw an increase in enrollment and total number of schools. More than 115,000 students are enrolled in urban Jewish schools, and more than 13,000 students in Islamic schools.

HEALTH

Kay Lazar, Boston Globe - The state's jobless rate has hit a 15-year high, and for the people behind the statistics, there is a special urgency. Massachusetts, unlike other states, requires nearly everyone to have health insurance - even if they have lost their job and, with it, their health coverage. Going without insurance for more than three months can result in a stiff penalty. Congress is crafting a stimulus package that would provide laid-off workers with some health coverage assistance, but for now, the state's unemployed, and underemployed, are scrambling to piece together affordable coverage. Unemployment benefits, or a spouse's income, can make recipients ineligible for health insurance assistance through the state. The hunt for coverage is challenging.


OUTLYING PRECINCTS

Great Thoughts of Michael Steele - You and I know that in the history of mankind and womankind, government-federal, state or local-has never created one job," he said. "It's destroyed a lot of them."

Fark - New RNC chairman says GOP should reach out to gay voters. Isn't that how Larry Craig and Ted Haggard got in trouble?

POPEPOURRI

Daily Mail, UK An Austrian cleric who said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for the homosexual sins of New Orleans has been made a bishop by the Vatican. Reverend Gerhard Wagner was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI just days after controversial British bishop Richard Williamson, who has said 'no one had died in the gas chambers' during the Holocaust, was allowed back into the Catholic Church. Rev Wagner, 54, caused outrage when he was quoted in his local parish newsletter as saying that the death and destruction of Hurricane Katrina was 'divine retribution' for New Orleans' tolerance of homosexuals and laid-back sexual attitudes. In 2001 Wagner slammed Harry Potter books as 'satanic'.

INDICATORS

Bloomberg - The average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million, new IRS data show. The 17 percent tax rate in 2006 was the lowest since the IRS began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although the richest 400 Americans paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year since 2000. . . Capital gains made up 63 percent of the richest 400 Americans' adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data.

But what if the bank doesn't want to help and what if the bank is no longer in charge of the mortgage, but has bundled it off to somewhere else?

This is why giving bankruptcy courts strong powers to modify such loans is so important. Mediation can help, too, although a study in Connecticut found that about half of endangered homeowners didn't ask for any help, many apparently unaware that it was available. In the end, mediators could only resolve about 5% of the cases.

Washington Post - According to researchers Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, since the late 1970s, a greater and greater share of national income has gone to people at the top of the earnings ladder. As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don't spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do -- after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. That's why the concentration of income at the top can lead to a big shortfall in overall demand and send the economy into a tailspin. (It's not coincidental that 1928 was the last time that the top 1 percent took home more than 20 percent of the nation's income.)

FURTHERMORE. . .

MSNBC - Houston Mayor Bill White is under fire after appearing in an advertisement in a local newspaper between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama, KPRC Local 2 reported. . . In the ad, over King's head it reads "The Dream", over White's head it reads "The Hope" and over Obama's head it reads "The Change."

Times, UK - A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman commented, 'This sort of thing is all too common'.

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