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Archive for December, 2004

Charities see an increase in aid applications

Despite reports of an improving economy, charities are experiencing an increase in the number of people asking for “help to pay the rent or feed their children.” At the Sullivan Center, requests for aid have doubled. North Fulton Community Charities is reporting that requests for rent money or food from the pantry are up about 20%.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty rates rose from 12.1% in 2002 to 12.5% in 2003, an increase of 1.3 million people.” And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has “found that more than 36 million people, including 13 million children, experienced hunger or worried about it last year. Two years ago, the figure was 35 million people.”

The majority of aid applicants are single mothers who have lost their jobs or are working for lower wages and fewer benefits. But for the most part, the media has avoided covering the plight of the working poor. Sensationalized media segments about “the anti-Christmas jihad” serve as convenient distractions from more substantive reports on the work of benevolent Christian charities.

The greatest Christian moral outrage is the willingness of many to ignore the growing number of Americans who have been displaced out of the modern economy, not Macy’s refusal to greet customers with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Perhaps someone should tell Billy O’Reilly.

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New torture opinion issued

The Bush administration has issued a new directive retreating from its previously permissive view of torture. The new memo doesn’t repudiate the previous policy, which allowed interrogators to inflict pain approaching that of organ failure or death, but it does concluded that the 2002 memo was wrong when it found that only “excruciating and agonizing pain” constituted torture, and that prosecution for committing torture was only possible if the defendant’s goal was simply to inflict pain, rather than to extract information. “There is no exception under the statute permitting torture to be used for a ‘good reason,’ ” the new memo concludes, even if the aim is “to protect national security.”

From the Justice Department:

  • “Severe” pain is no longer narrowly limited to the intensity of pain “accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death.”
  • Severe physical “suffering” can be distinct from severe physical “pain.”
  • In order to be classified as “prolonged” mental harm, conduct does not have to last for “months or even years.”
  • Infliction of severe pain or suffering does not have to be the defendant’s “precise objective” in order to prosecute for war crimes.

An early New Years gift from Gonzales? Perhaps he’s trying to butter up that Senate confirmation committee…

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Empty talk show outrage?

The Nation looks into the Oil for Food Scandal:

Listening to the cable pundits, you would never suspect that there is no proof at this point that Annan, or indeed anyone else at the UN, did anything wrong. Charges of corruption against UN official Benon Sevan are suspect at best, given that they come via Ahmad Chalabi, who was also the source of the discredited information about Iraq’s illusory weapons, as well as the assurances that Iraqis would greet US and British forces as liberators. Nor is there any evidence that Annan used his influence to give Cotecna, a company that employed his son, the job of monitoring contracts under the oil-for-food program, and no proof that Cotecna did anything illegal or corrupt. Although Annan’s son certainly let his father down by not telling him of Cotecna’s continuing “non-compete” payments to him, paternal resignations in response to the sins of prodigal sons have not been a great American tradition–certainly not under the Bush dynasty.

More thorough Thoughtful Points coverage here.

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Why we’re stingy

The NYT editorial page weighs in on the “Are We Stingy?” relief efforts debate and concludes that yes, we are. The paper contrasts the public perception that the U.S. gives 24% of its budget on aid to poor nations and the reality that we only spends a quarter of 1%. In 2003, America gave $16.2 billion in development aid, while the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, America offered $13.2 billion, while Europe contributed $29.9 billion. Also, very often, the U.S. does not actually deliver all the aid it promises.

Still, all spending is an indication of priority. When a country, a people, or a politician (do you like how politician get her/his own category?) allocate money towards a cause, they acknowledge the importance of that cause. When not enough money is allocated, the cause is deemed less important than a higher spending priority. In this case, the message couldn’t be clearer. Helping the poorest nations on earth overcome one of the largest natural disasters in history is less important than the Bush inauguration. The inauguration of Bush is more important than rebuilding the lives of millions.

Now, I wonder. If (God forbid) a natural disaster occurred in the Western hemisphere, or even in the United States, would we, as Americans, not expect all other nations to (1) send their condolences immediately and not wait almost a week [note to Bush: since you’re president and all, you’ll sometimes have to disrupt your vacation, especially when 80,000+ suddenly die in the poorest region on earth. If you were a true statesmen you would fly to India and Sri Lanka to survey the damage and extend your personal sympathies] (2) contribute all that they can to the relief efforts.

Is it all too much to ask for?

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Is the U.S. too stingy with relief funds?

From Democracy Now!

President Bush has pledged to send $35 million in tsunami relief. To put the figure in perspective, Bush plans to spend $30 to $40 million for his upcoming inauguration celebration.

“The U.S. has spent an average of $9.5 million every hour on the war and occupation of Iraq. With a current price tag of $147 billion, the U.S. has spent on average of about $228 million a day in Iraq.

In other words, the U.S. spends what it promised on the tsunami relief effort in less than 4 hours in Iraq.”

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Does this mean that Bush is defending us with spitballs?

The NYT is reporting that in an effort to offset deficits and the costs of the war in Iraq, the Pentagon is considering “cuts in the Air Force’s program for the F/A-22, the most expensive fighter jet in history.” Where is Zell Miller now? (I wonder if he’ll be screaming about this from his new soap box at FoxNews…)

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In Ohio recount, Bush’s margin narrows

In the latest Ohio recount, spearheaded by Green and Libertarian, Bush’s vote margin shrunk by 318 votes, from 118,775 to 118,457. The NYT notes that “the state has become an emblem of continuing ailments in the nation’s electoral process, because of Election Day events like seven-hour lines that drove voters away from the polls, malfunctioning machines, poorly trained poll workers who directed people to the wrong polling places and uneven policies about the use of provisional ballots, which were given to voters whose registration was contested.” The Washington Post had a better story on this here.

Because the real problems are the for profit corporations that count our votes, the partisan leanings state election heads, and the intimidation and suppression of voters.

More thorough Thoughtful Points coverage:
Column on voter fraud in 2004.
Analysis of voter intimidation.
Radio segment with Professor Bruce Luske on Vote 2004.

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