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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Getting Harder to Be Upwardly Mobile

What is the wealth gap?

In America, it might be harder than ever to climb the ladder of success and move up in income levels.
American Public Radio's Marketplace
Jeremy Hobson: Well this week we've been introducing you to our new Wealth and Poverty Desk.
Today, we're going to tackle "The Wealth Gap" -- the growing concentration of wealth in our country at the top, while those in the middle and at the bottom have lost ground. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.

Mitchell Hartman: Back in 1979, the top 10 percent of earners took home about a third of the nation’s income. By the late 2000s, half that income was flowing into their paychecks. Another way to look at it: As the economy grew, fully 80 percent of the increase in our incomes went to the top 1 percent. Everyone else?
Well, not doing so well, says N.Y.U. economist Edward Wolff.
Edward Wolff: The middle class has basically been experiencing stagnating income, and, it turns out, stagnating wealth as well. So the benefits of economic growth have become almost totally concentrated in the hands of the rich.
But not everyone agrees gains for the rich come at the expense of the poor and middle class. Scott Winship of the Brookings Institution told a Senate Committee recently: Consider Mark Zuckerberg. He could make billions off Facebook stock.
Scott Winship: How would the typical American end up better off if Zuckerberg could not exercise those options? American inequality levels are viscerally bracing, but one still has to make the case that they are undesirable.
A lot of people are making the case for "undesirable." They point to growing disparities in health care and education. And, economic mobility.
Timothy Smeeding at the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Research on Poverty says a growing economy that leaves so many stuck at the middle or bottom tears at the social fabric. And he says it’s getting ever harder for the have-nots to move up the ladder.
Timothy Smeeding: Most low-income people do not begrudge the haves: 'Hey, he had a smart idea, he went out and worked hard, that’s great, I want my son to have the same chance.’ But the problem is they’re increasingly realizing that their children will not have the same chance. That means the American dream is shaking right now.
The stronger job growth we’ve seen lately could expand the economic pie again. But few economists see the slice the rich get served up, getting any smaller.
I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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College Test...just in time for COM midterms and Critical Thinking Finals!

Nobody Will Ever Play Baseball - Bob Newhart

Green Tech Festival Saturday at CSN

Which environment do you live in?

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part IV

In a decision destined for appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, a state court judge has ruled the state's medical marijuana distribution law is unconstitutional. At the same time Friday, Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley dismissed drug trafficking charges against two men who operated a storefront pot dispensary in Las Vegas.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that in his order, Mosley concluded the law frustrates the intent of a voter-approved state constitutional amendment by failing to clear the way for a patient to legally obtain marijuana. Prosecutors did not return a phone call seeking comment. Mosley threw out charges Sept.12 against the same two men, Sin City Co-Op owners Nathan Hamilton and Leonard Schwingdorf, but prosecutors obtained new indictments against them two days later.

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents major casino owners, has sued to block an initiative petition to raise the top tax rate on Nevada's highest earning casinos. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Carson City District Court, contends the petition is confusing and fails to inform voters of its impact. The Nevada Appeal and Las Vegas Sun report the suit asks Judge James Todd Russell to bar supporters from collecting signatures and to enjoin the secretary of state from putting the issue on the ballot.  Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller filed the petition last month to raise the gross gambling revenue tax on big casinos from 6.75 percent to 9 percent. A Miller spokeswoman says he hopes the issue won't get tied up in court, so voters can decide.

Wildlife officials say California's lone wolf has returned to Oregon. A GPS device tracking the movements of the gray wolf known as OR-7 shows he left California and crossed into Oregon around noon Thursday. When he did enter California in late December, officials said he was the first wolf to roam anywhere in state since 1924.

Authorities say a snowmobiler is missing following an avalanche in southern Utah. The snowmobiler was buried around 10:30 a.m. Saturday by an avalanche in the La Sal Mountains near Moab. Rescue teams searched Saturday. The effort was suspended at ight but was to resume Sunday morning. Grand County Sheriff Steve White says a group of four snowmobilers triggered an avalanche. Three of the four managed to escape, but were unsuccessful in their efforts to locate the missing snowmobiler.An investigation is underway to see if the snowmobilers were violating safety regulations.

A new study shows that federal defendants who do the same crime pay different time depending on their judge. A database of federal judges that launches Monday shows widely disparate sentences for similar crimes. The findings come 30 years after Congress tried to create fairer results. An analysis shows the differences don't line up with the party of the president who appointed the judges, despite any impressions that Republicans or Democrats may be tougher or softer on crime. Sentencing data from the past five years was analyzed for The Associated Press by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Sentences for the same types of crimes vary significantly between judges in the same courthouse. The party of the president who picked a judge is not a good predictor of toughness.

A county lawmaker insists she's not trying to push panhandlers off the Las Vegas Strip with a measure that she says would prevent pets from having to endure sizzling summer sidewalks in Sin City's neon corridor. The Clark County Commission is due Tuesday to consider Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani's revised ordinance to only allow animals from 5 a.m. to noon on walkways and pedestrian bridges. A similar measure in January drew howls of protest, but Giunchigliani tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal she thinks business folks came up with a good compromise.The bustling corridors funneling tourists between casinos are popular places for panhandlers who sometimes bring animals along. The proposed law wouldn't apply to service animals for the handicapped and those used by law enforcement officers on the job.

Nevada officials are putting the spotlight on the little-known agency that tests gas pumps and cash register scales to make sure consumers aren't getting gypped.  The Nevada Department of Agriculture is marking Weights and Measures Week through March 7. The agency was expected to show Gov. Brian Sandoval the complex equipment the department uses to regulate commercial transactions. The state's Bureau of Weights and Measures makes sure gas pumps are dispensing the quantity of fuel they say they're dispensing, and truck scales are accurate on whether a vehicle is overweight. Officials say the agency plays a vital role in protecting consumers.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

This has been the most expensive presidential election in history, and there remains to be confirmed Republican nominee. Mitt Romney is outspending Rick Santorum six to one, not counting a sizable investment in Tuesday's Super Tuesday from Political Action Committees supporting Romney. Ron Paul, who spent large amounts on non-traditional media, is banking his grassroots organization and younger voters to gain ground on Tuesday. The Republican candidates and a few independent groups have spent nearly $10 million on television and radio ads in seven states that vote on Super Tuesday. More than half of that total comes from the Mitt Romney-backing Restore Our Future, which is running spots criticizing Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. The infusion of cash has swelled total ad spending in the GOP presidential race to more than $75 million. That's according to a review of Federal Election Commission data and information provided to The Associated Press by several media buyers. About $40 million has been spent by the Romney campaign and Restore Our Future to support the former Massachusetts governor. The latest figures provide more evidence of the oversized role that these groups have played in the campaign.

While the media is declairing "wins" and "losses" as if the elections are playoff games of some sport, the reality is that the ballot count at the national convention is what counts. No candidate is near the required amount, yet Newt Gingrich has become the first to call for delegates to change and support whomever the nominee is on the first ballot. Gingrich is calling for unity. Newt Gingrich says he has no doubts that the Republican presidential candidates who fall short of winning the nomination will unite behind the eventual nominee - despite the often tough rhetoric the contenders are throwing at each other during the campaign.Gingrich says "people shouldn't be at all confused about that" and that the GOP's goal is to deny President Barack Obama a second term. He tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that Obama's re-election would be "such a disaster to the future of this country" that all the Republicans in the presidential race will "come firmly behind" the eventual nominee.

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich says he sees no evidence that the Obama administration is taking steps to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Gingrich tells CNN's "State of the Union" that Iran is playing the U.S. leadership for fools.  He says the White House is "trying desperately" to persuade the Israelis not to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. But Gingrich says no leader of Israel could responsibly allow Tehran to have nuclear capability. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. President Barack Obama is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says Rush Limbaugh was wrong to call a college student a "slut" and "prostitute" in the debate over contraception coverage, and was right to apologize for the comments.Gingrich tells CNN's "State of the Union" that he's glad the conservative commentator issued the apology on Saturday and that it's time to move beyond the controversy. Gingrich says it's "silly" to suggest that Limbaugh speaks for the GOP. Gingrich contends the media are "trying desperately to protect" President Barack Obama. Limbaugh apologized to a Georgetown University law student who spoke out about her support for requiring health care providers to cover birth control for women. A number of advertisers say they're cancelling their ads on Limbaugh's talk show because of his remarks.
Mitt Romney has his fourth straight win in hand as the Republican presidential race heads to Super Tuesday.  Romney scored a double-digit victory in Washington state's caucuses yesterday. He says the message is voters want a president who "knows how to get the federal government out of the way so that the economy can once again grow vigorously."  Tuesday's 10-state bonanza features contests from Alaska to Ohio and Massachusetts. It also puts a focus on the South. Newt Gingrich is staking his entire campaign on a big victory
Tuesday in Georgia. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is trying to make inroads in Tennessee with a socially conservative message. Ron Paul is also seeking to keep his candidacy and plans to campaign in
Alaska today.

Opposition leaders and Russian observers say they are seeing widespread violations in elections that are expected to return Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin. Putin, who was president in 2000-2008, is expected to easily win the Sunday election against four challengers. But if credible evidence of vote manipulation emerges, it would bolster the determination of opposition forces to continue the unprecedented wave of protests that arose in December.  Lilia Shibanova of the independent elections watchdog agency Golos said her organization is receiving reports of so-called "carousel voting," in which busloads of voters are driven around
to cast ballots multiple times.  Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Putin's first prime minister and later went into opposition, said "These elections are not free ... we will not recognize the president as legitimate."

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Las Vegas is destroyed again...this time on an off-Broadway New York stage."Mission Drift" is a two hour experimental musical created by a New York theatre collective known as The Theater of the Emerging American Moment or The Team. The musical Intertwines the real story of two teenage pioneers in New Amsterdam with the creation and destruction of contemporary Las Vegas. There's the atom bomb, mystic gods and more. Mission Drift attempts to get at the tension between creation and violence:  the love and ambivalence of Americans toward constant expansionism and growth. 

Israel's Supreme Court overturned a law last week that helped tens of thousands of religious men avoid military service and pursue studies at a religious seminary instead. Now, ultra- Orthodox political groups have rallied together against the law, as Netanyahu tried and failed to find a compromise.  In Israel, the law has all Israeli's regardless of gender, age of belief, serving two years in the Israeli military and  eligible for rapid recall if needed.

Russians go to the polls today to elect their next president. It will most likely be their previous president, Vladimir Putin. The election has exposed social rifts and provoked popular opposition not seen in decades. The attitude reported by the BBC is more a stoic Russian resolve to go with the Status Que, regardless of how you feel about it, over the unknown. If he wins, not only will Putin be able to serve another term, due to his time between office as the Prime Minister (Communist Party Chair), but could serve up to two six year terms as President (a dozen years). Presidential terms were increased from four to six years in a recent constitutional revision.

The Chinese village of Wukan  held an election this weekend to choose their village committee, after rebelling against corrupt local officials last year in a dispute about land seizures. The village is now in full electioneering mode with loudspeakers blaring out the election law. Villagers say it will be the first free and fair election in the town's history. Some officials are touting the "Wukan model" as a way of defusing protests, but others say only comprehensive reform of land ownership laws can really solve the widespread problem of official expropriation.

The Agricultural "bank vault" is open for business. This week, thousands of small packets of grain -- wheat and barley -- were placed inside an underground vault on a lonely Arctic island. They joined a growing collection of seeds in that vault, which represents a backup collection of all the different kinds of agricultural crops on Earth.  Survival of anything form a meteor strike to a world nuclear war sparked the development of a project to provide "just in case" for the world's food supply. Genetic engineering and research also contributed, making it possible to protect against extinction, mutation, shortage and extinction of the plant life we depend on.

Virginia votes next week, along with the 9 other states of Super Tuesday. But it's quiet there, compared to other states like Ohio, Georgia, and Tennessee. That's largely because Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are the only candidates on the ballot.  Gingrich, who lives in the state, is among those who failed to navigate the complex regulations and deadlines Virginia uniquely presents for presidential candidates.


Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

A change in the policy of baptising the dead. The top leaders of the Mormon Church have composed a letter that will be read to every congregation today as the faith struggles with a controversy about one of its most important religious practices.  The letter instructs the faithful to stop posthumous baptisms of celebrities, Holocaust victims and anyone else who is not a direct ancestor.  In recent weeks, the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead has attracted criticism that has even touched the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, a member of the faith. This is a reversal of previous LDS policy, and comes while Mitt Romney, the first Mormon to have a real chance at being a major party candidate for president. Romney has not addressed Holocaust survivors, Jewish and complaints by other religions on the previous policy of baptising first Mormon ancestors, then any ancestor regardless of faith, and finally anyone other deceased person. These type of faith wide letters delivered by the pulpit are not common among the LDS (Latter Day Saints). The message this time is very clear. Do not violate a policy that limits you to first and if possibly only Mormon ancestors, then only blood relatives after all Mormon relatives have been discovered and baptised.

Residents in parts of the Midwest and South are recovering from a wave of deadly and destructive tornados and storms. Not one but two Super Tornado's, a very rare ocurance, stuck in two consecutive days, with winds in excess of 200 miles and hour. The images of a bed remaining with no house around it, the home where the man in the photo lost a close family member...of flattened homes and businesses..and of the sudden horror of deadly Super Tornado's.

Today, President Barack Obama addresses thousands of pro-Israel activists in Washington, for the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. His appearance before that influential lobbying group comes at a crucial juncture for Israel, with a looming nuclear threat in Iran and growing violent conflict in neighboring Syria. We begin with perspectives of Israelis in Tel Aviv, regarding the escalating threat posed by Iran. He is expected to reveal what he can of the "red line"over which Iran cannot step without serious military retribution.Tomorrow , President Obama will meet at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Obama is expected to try to convince Netanyahu to put off any plans his government may have to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.On Tuesday responses from Republican candidates for president will answer Obama's plans and set out their own stratigies before AIPAC and/or the media.