Online Voting Blasted as Insecure; Poverty Soaring Since 'War on Poverty'

Sunday, 08 Jun 2014 02:43 PM

By Special From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Obama's Carbon Plan Will Hurt US Poor the Most
2. Online Voting 'Fraught With Danger'
3. Fewer Than 40% of H.S. Seniors Are Prepared for College
4. Petition Urges Obama to Save Condemned Woman in Sudan
5. Poverty Up for Those of Working Age Since 'War on Poverty'
6. Southern Retirees Most Reliant on Social Security
 

1. Obama's Carbon Plan Will Hurt US Poor the Most

The Obama administration on Monday announced a proposal that would cut carbon emissions at existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels — a move that will have a severe impact on lower-income Americans, an economist warns.

Americans in the lowest fifth of the income distribution spend 24 percent of their income on energy, compared to 4 percent for those in the top fifth, according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

"Obama's new proposed cuts in carbon emissions, in the form of 'cap-and-trade' proposals that were rejected by the Democratic House and Senate in the first two years of his presidency, will raise the cost of energy, particularly electricity, and hit the poor hardest," she writes for Real Clear Markets.

Every state would have to meet its emissions target by ensuring that plants reduce emissions, reducing consumer demand, or investing in renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

But electricity from solar power costs twice as much as electricity from natural gas, and this too would raise costs and hurt the poorest Americans the most.

New coal plants would have to employ new technology at a cost of billions of dollars a year for consumers, and many plants would close, Furchtgott-Roth asserts.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the emissions reduction program would cause job losses in coal mining, oil and gas extraction, gas utilities, and petroleum refining.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Obama's plan "a dagger in the heart of the American middle class."

Even the Democratic opponent vying for McConnell's Senate seat, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, blasted the proposal, calling it "more proof that Washington isn't working for Kentucky," NBC News reported.

Furchtgott-Roth also pointed out that the new costs borne by U.S. energy producers would raise prices on domestic goods and allow foreign producers from countries with less stringent policies (or no policy at all) to charge less for their goods than American producers. This would mean fewer jobs in the United States and more jobs offshore.

She added: "For those concerned about economic growth, poverty, and inequality, cap-and-trade makes no sense, either nationally or regionally."

Editor's Note:



2. Online Voting 'Fraught With Danger'

Online voting has been coming into wider use in the United States over the past decade, but it's impossible to safeguard the process against manipulation by hackers, two experts assert.

More than 30 states and territories permit online voting, such as by email or on a website directly, for some voters, including members of the military.

Utah has passed legislation allowing disabled persons to vote online, and anyone in Alaska can vote online.

Democratic and Republican national committees are even mulling online primaries and caucuses, according to Bruce McConnell, former deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, and Pamela Smith, president of the Verified Voting Foundation.

"But online voting is fraught with danger," they write in opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. "Hackers could manipulate enough votes to change the results of local and national elections. And a skilled hacker can do so without leaving any evidence."

The authors point to the example of Estonia, a country of 1.3 million, where online voting has been available since 2007. It has been used by about 25 percent of the voters in national elections.

In May, a team of security professionals reported serious vulnerabilities in Estonia's online voting system, concluding that elections "could be stolen, disrupted, or cast into disrepute," and recommending that online voting "be immediately discontinued."

McConnell and Smith observe: "The underlying architectures of the Internet, the personal computer and mobile devices present numerous avenues of attack, making it impossible to safeguard a voting system with the security tools that are currently available."

Tech expert Doug Gross noted on CNN that "advocates say the time is right to seriously consider letting voters cast a ballot from the comfort of their homes or even on the screens of their mobile phones."

But a report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency researching Internet voting, agrees with authors McConnell and Smith, warning that secure online voting is not currently feasible.

The authors conclude: "Online voting should be shelved until it can be made secure."

Editor's Note:



3. Fewer Than 40% of H.S. Seniors Are Prepared for College

Fewer than 40 percent of American high school seniors have the academic skills in either math or reading to pass entry-level college courses, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The report from the NCES, the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the United States and other nations, is the first to compare students' scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to college course requirements.

It found that just 39 percent of 12th-graders scored 163 or above on the 300-point mathematics assessment in 2013, the level considered a minimum to handle entry-level college courses.

And only 38 percent scored 302 or above on the 500-point reading assessment, a decrease from the initial assessment in 1992 and unchanged since 2009.

Students scoring at or above those minimum levels "are likely to possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities in those subjects that would make them academically prepared for college," the NAEP's governing board stated.

The percentage of seniors capable of doing 12th-grade-level math was even lower — just 26 percent were at or above the "proficient" level in math and 38 percent in reading.

Asian/Pacific students were the most prepared for college, with 47 percent testing at or above the proficient level in both math and reading.

Just 7 percent of African-American seniors tested at grade level in math, and 16 percent in reading. Among white students, 33 percent were proficient in math and 47 percent in reading.

And only 3 percent of seniors scored at the "advanced" level in math and 5 percent in reading.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and South Dakota had the highest percentage of seniors scoring at or above the proficient level in math, while students in Florida, Idaho, Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia had the lowest percentage.

In reading, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Idaho, and New Jersey students had the highest percentage in reading, while those in Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia had the lowest percentage.

"As NAEP is the country's only source of nationally representative 12th-grade student achievement data, it is uniquely positioned to tell us how academically prepared 12th-graders will be for educational pursuits after high school," said David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the NAEP.

"The results are in — and unfortunately they are lackluster.

"But it is only by knowing these sobering data that we can build the sense of urgency needed to better prepare students for higher education."

Editor's Note:



4. Petition Urges Obama to Save Condemned Woman in Sudan

The Family Research Council (FRC) has posted a White House petition that "strongly urges" the Obama administration to take action to save the life of a Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

Meriam Ibrahim, who is married to an American citizen, was sentenced to death on May 15 in the strict Muslim country after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity.

Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father but said during her trial that she had never been a Muslim herself, the Guardian reported.

She was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother's religion, because her father was absent, according to Amnesty International.

The court gave her three days to "recant" her faith. When she refused, she was sentenced to be hanged and to receive 100 lashes for "adultery," since Sudan considers her a Muslim and does not recognize her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian.

Ibrahim, a 27-year-old doctor, was jailed along with her 20-month-old toddler and gave birth to a second child behind bars in late May.

A court ruling said she could nurse her newborn for two years before being hanged for apostasy.

"We strongly urge the administration to take action in the case of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese mother who with her toddler and newborn baby (who pending the proper documentation are American citizens) is languishing inside a prison in Khartoum," the FRC petition states.

"We urge you to pressure the Sudanese government to release Meriam and her children so she can escape execution and the possible death of her children and be rejoined with her husband in the U.S."

The White House would be forced to respond to the petition if it receives 100,000 signatures.

FRC President Tony Perkins told CNS News: "We have a duty and an obligation to speak out and exert pressure on this president to act on behalf of this mother, who is married to an American citizen.

"There's no denying what we're looking at here. This woman was sentenced to death simply because she declared herself a Christian.

"If President Obama will not act in a situation like this, what will he act upon? Does Obama care?"

A report surfaced last week that Ibrahim would be freed soon, but Sudan's foreign ministry quickly denied the report, saying quotes from a ministry official had been taken out of context.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., has also appealed to the administration to act on Ibrahim's behalf, writing a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting the U.S. government immediately grant her and her family political asylum.

On Tuesday, all Republicans and all Democrats in the U.S. Senate approved a resolution demanding the "immediate and unconditional release" of Meriam Ibrahim and her two children.

"I fear for the health and safety of Ibrahim, her husband and two children," Inhofe wrote, "despite statements by the government of Sudan that no sentence will be carried out until two years after the completion of her appeals."

Editor's Note:



5. Poverty Up for Those of Working Age Since 'War on Poverty'

The percentage of Americans ages 18 to 64 who live below the poverty line has risen by 30.5 percent since 1966, two years after President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

"We have declared unconditional war on poverty," Johnson declared in 1964. "Our objective is total victory. I believe that 30 years from now Americans will look back on these 1960s as the time of the great American breakthrough toward the victory of prosperity over poverty."

But a report from the House Budget Committee, "The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later," states: "Today, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, we are once again debating the best way to help the least among us.

"On this important anniversary, we should take stock of the federal government's anti-poverty programs — and figure out why we have yet to achieve the 'total victory' Johnson predicted."

According to the Census Bureau, 13.7 percent of those ages 18 to 64 — 26,497,000 people — were living below the poverty line in 2012. In 1966, 10.5 percent of that age group — 11,007,000 people out of 105,241,000 — were living below the poverty line. (The Census did not report data for this demographic in 1965 and 1966.)

From 10.5 percent to 13.7 percent is an increase of 30.5 percent.

An average family of four was considered poor in 2012 if its pre-tax cash income for the year was below $23,492.

That threshold reflects "crude estimates of the amount of money individuals or families, of various size and composition, need per year to purchase a basket of goods and services deemed as 'minimally adequate,'" according to the Congressional Research Service.

The Budget Committee report noted that "during his administration, Lyndon Johnson expanded the size and scope of assistance programs to an unprecedented degree. The Great Society created or made permanent a number of programs that remain with us today" — including Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start, Job Corps, Volunteers in Service to America, and child-nutrition programs.

But today, the federal government's anti-poverty programs are "duplicative and complex," the committee observed.

"There are at least 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans. For instance, there are dozens of education and job-training programs, 17 different food-aid programs, and over 20 housing programs."

The federal government spent nearly $800 billion on these programs in fiscal year 2012 alone, including $300 billion on healthcare, $200 billion on cash aid, $100 billion on food aid, $90 billion on education and job training, and $50 billion on housing.

Despite the massive spending in the last five decades, the overall poverty rate has gone down only a few percentage points, from 17.3 percent in 1965 to 15 percent in 2012.

"Perhaps the single most important determinant of poverty is family structure," the committee reported, adding that "poverty is most concentrated among broken families. For all families, the poverty rate was 13.1 percent. But 34.2 percent of families headed by a single female were considered below poverty, and 22.8 percent of households composed of [unmarried] individuals were considered to be in poverty."

In 1960, 70 percent of black children and 97 percent of white children were born to married couples. Today, just 30 percent of black children and 76 percent of white children are born to a married couple.

One conclusion of the committee's 205-page report on poverty: "Congress has taken a haphazard approach to this problem. It has expanded programs and created new ones with little regard to how these changes fit into the larger effort. Rather than provide a road map out of poverty, Washington has created a complex web of programs that are often difficult to navigate."

Editor's Note:



6. Southern Retirees Most Reliant on Social Security

At least 27 percent of retirees ages 65 and over rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their family income in 11 U.S. states — all of them south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

That's a sobering statistic considering that the average monthly Social Security benefit as of December 2013 was just $1,294 — barely more than a person would earn working 40-hour weeks for the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The largest percentage of retirees relying on benefits for at least 90 percent of their family income is in Tennessee, 32.7 percent, according to figures from 2010 to 2012.

The rate is also above 30 percent in Mississippi (30.8), Arkansas (30.7), and Georgia (30.6), the AARP Public Policy Institute disclosed.

Other states where the rate is at least 27 percent are Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina, West Virginia, Alabama, and Florida.

The lowest rate is in Alaska, where just 14.5 percent of retirees rely on benefits for at least 90 percent of their family income, followed by Hawaii at 15.1 percent.

Other states where the rate is below 20 percent are Nebraska, Washington, Wyoming, Maryland, Connecticut, California, and Oregon.

Nationwide, 22 percent of married couples who receive Social Security benefits and 47 percent of unmarried persons rely on the benefits for 90 percent or more of their income, according to the Social Security Administration.

And 52 percent of married couples getting benefits and 74 percent of unmarried persons receive at least 50 percent of their income from Social Security.

The SSA also estimated that as of April 2014, 51 percent of the workforce has no private pension coverage, and 34 percent has no savings set aside specifically for retirement.

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