FCC Rules Cost $142 Billion a Year; Obama's 'Crumbling' Roads Claim Unfounded; New Prophet Film Riles Muslims

Sunday, 03 Mar 2013 02:44 PM

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Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Study Finds U.S. Infrastructure Not 'Crumbling'
2. Protestant Hispanics More Religious Than Catholics
3. John Kerry Speaks 'Effortless French' in Paris
4. Another Film About Mohammed Riles Muslims
5. After the Recession: Young Adults Have Fewer Homes, Cars
6. FCC Costs Americans $142 Billion a Year
 
 

1. Study Finds U.S. Infrastructure Not 'Crumbling'

President Obama has proposed spending $40 billion on "urgent upgrades" to the nation's infrastructure, saying that "crumbling" roads, bridges, airports and rail lines are hindering U.S. economic growth.

But countering the doom and gloom about America's deteriorating infrastructure is some surprising good news: A study by the Reason Foundation reveals that U.S. roads and bridges have improved significantly over a 20-year period.

"There are still plenty of problems to fix, but our roads and bridges aren't crumbling," said David Hartgen, lead author of the report and emeritus professor of transportation at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

"The overall condition of the state-controlled road system is getting better and you can actually make the case that it has never been in better shape. The key going forward is to target spending where it will do the most good."

The Reason Foundation study measured the condition of U.S. roads and bridges from 1989 to 2008, based on seven criteria; highway fatalities; miles of urban interstate highways in poor condition; miles of rural interstates in poor condition; congestion on urban interstates; deficient bridges; rural primary roads in poor condition; and the number of rural primary roads flagged as too narrow.

Here's what the researchers found:

  • Eleven states made progress in all seven categories, and 37 states improved in at least five of the seven. Only one state, California, showed improvement in less than three areas, making progress in just two.
  • The U.S. fatality rate lessened from 2.16 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles in 1989 to 1.25 fatalities in 2008, a decrease of about 42 percent. The fatality rate improved in all 50 states over that 20-year period.
  • The percentage of deficient bridges fell from 37.8 percent in 1989 to 23.7 percent in 2008.
  • The percentage of urban interstates in poor condition decreased from 6.6 percent to 5.4 percent. In Missouri, urban interstate mileage in poor condition plunged from 47 percent to just 1.3 percent over the period studied.
  • The percentage of rural interstates in poor condition was reduced by two-thirds, from 6.6 percent 1989 to 1.93 percent in 2008.
  • 29 states showed reduced urban congestion between 1989 and 2008, and six states reported improvements of greater than 20 percent.
  • The nation also saw improvements in the condition of rural primary roads and in the number of primary roads considered too narrow.

"The debate on how to continue the positive trends in the nation's highway infrastructure is one that needs to occur now, especially given increasingly intense competition for diminishing financial resources," the report observes.

"It will take resolve, good policy and effective management to continue these trends."

Editor's Note:



2. Protestant Hispanics More Religious Than Catholics

Hispanics in the United States are generally considered to be a solidly Catholic voting bloc, but a surprising number of Hispanic Americans are in fact Protestant — and they are significantly more religious than their Catholic counterparts.

A Gallup poll based on interviews with more than 28,600 Hispanics found that a slight majority, 54 percent, are Catholic, while 28 percent are Protestant. Three percent belong to another religion, and the rest of the respondents cited no religion or declined to provide an answer.

Among those Protestant Hispanics, 60 percent say they are very religious, meaning religion is an important part of their daily life and they attend religious services every week or almost every week.

But only 43 percent of Hispanic Catholics are very religious, and 18 percent are not religious, meaning religion is not an important part of their daily life and they seldom or never attend services. Among Protestants, only 11 percent are not religious.

The remainder of those polled are moderately religious, meaning they do not attend services regularly but consider religion important, or attend services but do not consider religion important to them.

The disparity between Protestant and Catholic Hispanics on religion is even more pronounced among younger Hispanics — 52 percent of Protestant Hispanics ages 18 to 29 say they are very religious, compared to 33 percent of Hispanic Catholics in that age bracket.

Gallup also notes that less than half of Hispanics ages 18 to 29 are Catholic, 47 percent — compared to 61 percent of those 65 and older — while 29 percent are Protestant, 4 percent belong to another religion, and 20 percent belong to no religion or declined to answer.

"A majority of Hispanics in America continue to identify as Catholic, although the Catholic percentage among Hispanics appears to be decreasing and the youngest Hispanics today are less likely to be Catholic than those who are older," Gallup concludes.

"These patterns suggest the potential for an increase in the relative or proportionate number of Protestant Hispanics in the years ahead. If this does happen, and given that Protestant Hispanics are considerably more religious than Catholic Hispanics, this could lead to a higher average level of Hispanic religiosity in future years."

Editor's Note:



3. John Kerry Speaks 'Effortless French' in Paris

It's no secret that Secretary of State John Kerry is affluent, thanks to his marriage to Heinz ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz, but he demonstrated that he is also a fluent Cabinet member during his first official overseas trip in Europe.

"During his failed 2004 presidential run, Kerry may have been ridiculed as a French-speaking, windsurfing East Coast aristocrat, but he was in his element in Paris on Wednesday," Al Kamen reported in The Washington Post.

"He spoke in effortless French, with a good accent to boot, to open a news conference with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius."

According to Kamen, Kerry said in French: "We just finished one of those wonderful French lunches that have been drawing Americans to Paris for centuries."

But after praising France as America's oldest ally, he said it was time to switch to English "because otherwise I would not be allowed to return back home."

Kerry created a stir during the news conference when he said — in English — that "Iran is a country with a government that was elected." The 2009 election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term was viewed as a farce by many Iranians, and touched off massive anti-government protests and a bloody response from the regime.

On Tuesday, Kerry spoke German during a visit to Berlin, and "'pretty good' was the verdict of an unscientific sampling of German reporters," Kamen added.

Kerry tried out his Italian in Rome on Thursday, the day he announced that the United States will, for the first time, provide support to Syrian rebel fighters in the two-year-old war to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Editor's Note:



4. Another Film About Muhammad Riles Muslims

An Iranian filmmaker's plan to produce a movie on the life of the prophet Muhammad is being attacked by some powerful Muslim organizations.

Director Majid Majidi is working on a three-part epic on the seventh century founder of Islam, but scholars at the Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL), an organization with close ties to the Saudi monarchy, have condemned the plan and urged a halt in production, CNS News reported.

"It is the responsibility of Tehran to stop such acts, which are contrary to the principles of the Islamic shari'a, occurring in its territory," MWL said in a statement released through the official Saudi Press Agency.

The MWL said that all councils affiliated with it — including the World Supreme Council for Mosques and the Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) Council — "ban the depiction" of Muhammad.

"This is the unanimous view adopted by the Islamic scholars, experts in jurisprudence and top bodies representing them," the MWL said in the statement.

Scholars at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, considered the top seat of learning in Sunni Islam, also have condemned the movie, Kuwait's official KUNA news agency reported.

During a visit to Turkey last June, Majidi said his film would not show the face of the prophet.

"Only his face is not visible," Turkey's Anatolia news agency quoted Majidi as saying. "He will appear physically but we will not see his face."

Previous mainstream movies about Muhammad have shown neither his face nor any physical presence. In the best-known, the 1976 biopic "The Message," the prophet's voice was not heard, but his words were repeated by other characters such as his uncle, Hamza, played by Anthony Quinn.

But "The Message" still sparked protests by Muslims and a siege in Washington, D.C., in March 1977, when 12 Muslim gunmen held around 150 hostages for 39 hours. One person was shot dead and dozens injured before the gunmen surrendered.

Last year a 14-minute anti-Muslim movie made in the United States that denigrated the prophet triggered violent protests in Egypt and other Muslim countries, and was initially blamed for the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four U.S. diplomatic personnel.

The title of Majidi's film "is not clear yet but we are thinking about 'Muhammad,'" the director said, adding that he expects the movie to be in theaters within two years.

Editor's Note:



5. After the Recession: Young Adults Have Fewer Homes, Cars

In another indication of the economic downturn's dire impact on younger Americans, young adults now have fewer homes and cars than before the recession — and less debt.

According to a Pew Research Center report based on the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances, the share of households headed by adults younger than 35 who owned their primary residence fell from 40 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2011.

The median outstanding residential property debt owed by younger households fell from about $150,000 in 2007 to $128,000 in 2010. The figures are the most recent available, and are adjusted for inflation and reported in 2011 dollars.

Car ownership fell as well. In 2007, 73 percent of young households owned or leased at least one vehicle, but just 66 percent did so by 2011.

In 2010, 39 percent of young adult households carried a credit card balance, down from 48 percent in 2007 and 50 percent in 2001.

From 2007 to 2010, the median debt of young adult households fell by 29 percent, while it dropped just 8 percent among households headed by adults ages 35 and up.

Student loan debt did rise among younger households, from 35 percent of households carrying debt in 2007 to 40 percent in 2010. But the median amount owed by households with student debt dropped from $14,102 in 2007 to $13,410 in 2010.

"Debt reduction among young adults during bad economic times has been driven mainly by the shrinking share who own homes and cars, but it also reflects a significant decline in the share who are carrying credit card debt," Pew observed.

"These shifts in the debt profile of younger adults reflect a broader societal shift toward delaying marriage and household formation."

They also reflect the difficult employment situation facing younger Americans. In September 2011, young adults suffered from the highest unemployment since World War II. In May 2012, one in three young adults was underemployed, according to a Gallup survey.

And the Insider Report disclosed in early February of this year that 115,000 college graduates were working as janitors and cleaners.

Editor's Note:



6. FCC Costs Americans $142 Billion a Year

The Federal Communications Commission is the third most expensive federal agency when it comes to the compliance costs it imposes with its regulations.

Americans spend $142 billion a year to comply with FCC regulations, behind only the Environmental Protection Agency ($353 billion) and the Department of Health and Human Services ($185 billion), according to a report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) Center for Technology and Information.

The FCC was established as an independent agency in 1934 and took over regulation of telephone and telegraph communications and radio. It has since expanded to cover television, broadband, and the Internet, and has a 2013 budget of $365 million.

The agency enforced more than 25,000 regulatory restrictions in 2011 and added 108 more last year — an average of one new rule every 2.3 working days. Between 2000 and 2012 it published 2,705 proposed rules, and as of fall 2012, 86 proposed rules were at some stage of the rule-making process, with seven of them imposing costs of more than $100 million.

The agency's real costs could be even higher, the CEI observes, "but it is hard to gather data because of an alarming lack of transparency. Important information, such as the number of FCC regulations in the books, how many more are on the way and how much they cost, are scattered among obscure sources."

For example, estimates of the costs of wireless spectrum regulations and broadband regulations, two of the biggest components of FCC compliance costs, date to 2005.

"Americans do not know — and in large measure cannot find out — what they are paying for this regulatory regime or what this agency is up to," said Ryan Young, CEI's Fellow in Regulatory Studies. "The basic principles of transparency and open government are ignored, and this undermines Americans' trust in government."

The CEI proposes that the FCC every year should "evaluate its older rules and repeal the ones that no longer apply; have been rendered obsolete by new technologies, regulations, or private action; or have been demonstrated to do more harm than good."

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