Half of US 'at Risk' in Retirement; FBI Probed 'It's a Wonderful Life'; Israelis Banned in Bethlehem

Sunday, 29 Dec 2013 01:34 PM

By Special From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Half of U.S. Households 'At Risk' in Retirement
2. Pakistani Christian Mom Spends Fifth Christmas on Death Row
3. 'It's a Wonderful Life' Was Probed as Communist Propaganda
4. Lottery Taxes Vary Widely By State
5. Israeli Journalists Banned From Bethlehem
 

1. Half of U.S. Households 'At Risk' in Retirement

Half of American households are considered to be "at risk" of being unable to maintain their current standard of living once they enter retirement.

The National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) is calculated by comparing retirement income as a percent of pre-retirement income with target rates that would allow retirees to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living.

The NRRI shows that in 2013, 50 percent of households were at risk of lowering their standard of living once they retire.

That is up from 44 percent in 2007, and down only modestly from 53 percent in 2010, despite huge gains in the stock market and a rebound in housing values since 2010, according to a report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The reason the improvement has been modest is that most of the gains have occurred in the stock market rather than the housing market. Since the third quarter of 2010, equity prices have increased by 45 percent after adjusting for inflation, while house prices have increased only about 6 percent.

"The house is a much more significant asset than stock holdings for most households, making trends in house prices a major influence on the NRRI results," the report states.

For low-income households, equities comprise only 2 percent of total wealth. For middle-income households, the figure is 6 percent. But high-income households have 17 percent of their total wealth in stocks.

As a result, 60 percent of low income households are considered to be at risk, as are 52 percent of middle-income households. But just 40 percent of high-income households are at risk.

"The fundamental message [is] that half of today's working-age households are unlikely to have enough resources to maintain their standard of living once they retire," according to the report. "The only way out of this box is for people to save more and/or work longer."

Editor's Note:



2. Pakistani Christian Mom Spends Fifth Christmas on Death Row

Asia Bibi, a 46-year-old Christian mother of five, spent her fifth consecutive Christmas on death row in Pakistan due to a conviction for "blaspheming" the prophet Mohammed.

She is one of at least 17 Pakistanis on death row after being convicted under the country's blasphemy laws, and at least 20 more are serving life sentences for the same offense.

"Asia has been abandoned, her plight mostly forgotten or ignored," said Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of the Barnabas Fund, which works among minority Christians in Islamic nations.

Back in the summer of 2009, Asia was among a group of agricultural workers taking a drink from a communal well during a rest break.

When Asia, the only non-Muslim in the group, dipped her cup in the well, co-workers accused her of defiling the water because she is a Christian.

Asia replied, "I don't believe Mohammed would share the same view as you," according to CNS News.

According to other reports, the Muslim women claimed Bibi said: "I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?"

She was arrested for insulting Mohammed, convicted, and in November 2010 was sentenced to death by hanging.

"Although it is widely recognized that Asia, a simple and uneducated woman, did not blaspheme against Mohammed, she remains languishing on death row," Sookhdeo said.

Her husband and children have been forced to go into hiding for fear of retribution by radical Islamists.

Two officials who championed her case, the liberal governor of Punjab province and a federal cabinet minister, were both assassinated three years ago.

Asia's appeal is not expected to be heard until at least 2015. Meanwhile, a radical cleric has offered a reward for her murder.

French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who has followed Bibi's case closely, said recently: "I'm afraid she'll be killed very soon if nothing happens."

Editor's Note:



3. 'It's a Wonderful Life' Was Probed as Communist Propaganda

The beloved Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" was investigated as a vehicle for communist propaganda after its 1946 release, according to previously classified FBI documents.

During the Red Scare following World War II, FBI informants asserted that the movie's portrayal of wealthy banker Henry Potter as a greedy villain reflected the film's communist sympathies.

The recently published documents also show that investigators accused the film's screenwriters, husband and wife duo Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, of associating with known communists, the Daily Mail reported.

The declassified FBI files were unearthed by John Sbardellati in his book "J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies: The FBI and the Origins of Hollywood's Cold War."

An FBI report, "Communist Influence in the Motion Picture Industry," which was compiled between 1942 and 1958, read in part: "[NAME REDACTED] stated in substance that the film represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a 'scrooge-type' so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists."

It also states: "According to [REDACTED] the writers Frances Goodrick [sic] and Albert Hackett were very close to known Communists and on one occasion in the recent past while these two writers were doing a picture, Goodrick and Hackett practically lived with known Communists...

"[REDACTED] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters."

The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a small-town loan officer whose money is stolen by banker Potter. Bailey's imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, who shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community would be had he never been born.

The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and has been ranked No. 11 on the American Film Institute's list of top 100 American films.

FBI informants also linked the movie to an earlier Russian film with a similar plotline.

Editor's Note:



4. Lottery Taxes Vary Widely By State

The Mega Millions jackpot reached $648 million by the time of the Dec. 20 drawing, the second highest jackpot in the history of the 43-state lottery.

But jackpot winners would lose a large portion of their prize to the taxman — and the amount they would forfeit depends to a considerable degree on where they live.

Lottery winnings in excess of $5,000 are subject to a 25 percent federal withholding tax. A single winner of the Dec. 20 jackpot — there were actually two winners — who chose the "cash option" would receive a lump sum of $347.6 million, but would have $86.9 million withheld for federal taxes.

That would leave about $261 million. But then the states would get their share.

The highest withholding tax rate is in New York, 8.82 percent, plus 3.648 percent for New York City, according to the Tax Foundation.

Other states with a rate over 7 percent are Oregon (8 percent), Idaho (7.8 percent), Wisconsin (7.75 percent), and Minnesota (7.25 percent).

California, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the states with no state income tax do not withhold any tax.

Seven states have no lottery, but the others "rely heavily on lottery revenue, collecting an average of $59 per person in profit aside from any income tax collections," the Tax Foundation disclosed. "While no government labels its lottery as a tax, lottery profits are an implicit tax.

"After prizes have been awarded and operating costs have been covered, the remaining money is transferred to state coffers. To the extent this revenue is used for general government purposes, it is a tax."

Delaware makes the most money per capita from its lottery, $361 in a recent fiscal year, followed by South Carolina at $349 and Wisconsin, $316.

Ohio makes the least profit, $9 per capita, followed by Montana ($11) and Nebraska and Nevada (both $17).

Editor's Note:



5. Israeli Journalists Banned From Bethlehem

The Palestinian Authority on Christmas Eve expelled Israeli journalists who came to the historic Biblical town of Bethlehem to cover Christmas celebrations.

According to the PA Ministry of Information, the action was taken at the request of Palestinian journalists who protested the presence of Israeli journalists at Manger Square in the West Bank town.

Omar Nazzal, a senior representative of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, said the expulsion was justified due to "restrictions" imposed by Israel on Palestinian journalists, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Palestinian journalists earlier this year launched a campaign to ban Israeli reporters from entering PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. In one incident, Palestinian activists physically attacked an Israeli TV crew in Ramallah, according to the Post.

PA Deputy Minister of Information Mahmoud Khalifa said Israel was imposing restrictions on the work of Palestinian and international journalists in the West Bank.

"Israel does not honor international laws and conventions calling for the protection of journalists," he charged. "Israeli reporters have become accustomed to entering the State of Palestine without permission."

On Christmas, thousands of pilgrims from around the world converged on the ancient Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to visit the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born.

According to NPR, the U.S. Agency for International Development this holiday season donated nearly $400,000 to aid Christmas celebrations at Manger Square.

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Editor's Note:

 


 

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