Tags: Homeland | Security | Out-of | Control | Obama Debunked on Economic Immobility | U.S. Inaction Lets Iran Join Womens Rights Panel | Online Tax Cuts Amazons Sales

Homeland Security 'Out of Control'; Obama Debunked on 'Economic Immobility'

Sunday, 04 May 2014 03:53 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Obama's Claim of 'Economic Immobility' Called a Myth
2. Homeland Security Is 'Out of Control'
3. U.S. Inaction Lets Iran Join Women's Rights Panel
4. More Than Half of Humanity Now Lives in Cities
5. Online Tax Cuts Amazon's Sales
6. Asian-Americans 'Too Busy' to Vote
 

1. Obama's Claim of 'Economic Immobility' Called a Myth

President Barack Obama delivered a speech in December decrying what he called the nation's "diminished levels of upward mobility in recent years."

And a Gallup poll late last year found that just 52 percent of Americans believe there is "plenty of opportunity" to get ahead, down from 81 percent in 1998.

But an article on the Reason Foundation's website headlined "The Myth of Economic Immobility" points to a recent report from five economists, published via the National Bureau of Economic Research, that failed to find decreasing economic mobility.

"Contrary to the popular perception," they wrote, "intergenerational mobility" has remained "extremely stable" for Americans born between 1971 and 1993.

Their research indicates that a child born into the bottom quintile of income distribution in 1971 had an 8.4 percent chance to reach the top quintile as an adult. For a child born in 1986, that chance had risen to 9 percent.

So "mobility may have increased slightly" a recent years, they conclude, adding: "We find that children entering the labor market today have the same chances of moving up in the income distribution (relative to their parents) as children born in the 1970s."

Support for this view comes from the Pew Charitable Trust's Economic Mobility Project, which reported in 2012: "Eighty-four percent of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents had at the same age, and across all levels of income distribution, this generation is doing better than the one that came before it."

Reason observes: "Obama's widely shared misconception also misses the greater cultural context. Economic mobility is not the sole measure of national well-being or progress."

The nation has seen massive increases in cultural, social, and physical mobility in recent decades, and Americans' access to all sort of goods, services, institutions, and transportation has vastly improved, Reason asserts.

The website adds: "Today, most Americans have access to resources that were once inconceivable, and that access lets us cover more cultural and social ground than humans had ever previously been able to manage."

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2. Homeland Security Is 'Out of Control'

The Department of Homeland Security has often been assailed from the right, with Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions calling it "the most mismanaged department in the federal government."

Now a fresh attack on the DHS comes from the left-leaning Undernews, the online report of the Progressive Review, which castigates the department in an article headlined "Homeland Security Department Out of Control."

Excerpting an article from the Albuquerque Journal, Undernews reports: "Today, in addition to protecting America's borders and airports, [the department] is interrogating people suspected of pirating movies at Ohio theaters, seizing counterfeit NBA merchandise in San Antonio, and working pickpocket cases alongside police in Albuquerque.

"Some government watchdogs and civil liberties advocates — and even the nation's first Department of Homeland Security secretary — question how those actions serve the purpose set forth in the 2002 law" establishing the department.

That former secretary, Tom Ridge, told the Journal: "They've kind of lost their way."

In its first year of existence, DHS had 180,000 full-time workers, and its budget was $29 billion in 2003. Today the department has 250,000 workers, making it the third largest federal agency after the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and its budget this year is $61 billion.

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service last year disclosed: "The U.S. government does not have a single definition for 'homeland security.' Multiple definitions, missions and an absence of prioritization results in consequences to the nation's security.

"There is no clarity in the national strategies of federal, state, and local roles and responsibilities, and potentially, funding is driving priorities rather than priorities driving the funding."

Ridge said: "Someone needs to explain to me how critical all these new people are to the nation. Are they getting so big, they're actually making work?"

And Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard Extension School, calls the DHS "a colossal and inefficient boondoggle."

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3. U.S. Inaction Lets Iran Join Women's Rights Panel

In another "farce" perpetrated by the United Nations, Iran has won election to the world body's Commission on the Status of Women — and the Obama administration did nothing to oppose the move.

The Islamic Republic will now begin a new four-year term on the CSW, which deals with gender equality and the advancement of women — even though U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reported that women in Iran are "subject to discrimination, entrenched both in law and in practice" and women's rights activists face "persecution."

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power tweeted: "Given record on women's & human rights, this is an outrage."

But Richard Grenell, who served as spokesman for four U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. during the George W. Bush administration, declared: "Ambassador Power can tweet her outrage after the fact all she wants. She should have been in the room for the vote and demanded a secret ballot rather than allow an automatic acclamation by her silence."

There were 11 vacancies to fill on the CSW, and each of the five regional groups put forward the same number of candidates as there were vacancies available for that group, CNS News explained.

But if just one member of the 54-member U.N. Economic and Social Council — which elects CSW members — objected to Iran's candidacy, a secret ballot vote would then have to be called. If Iran did not receive the minimum number of votes required, another member state in Iran's group would have been elected instead.

Yet the United States did not object, nor did other democracies on the council including 13 European nations, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, India, and South Korea.

"This election farce has real consequences," said Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, in comments reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

"At its annual session in March, the CSW adopted only one resolution critical of only one country on earth for violating women's rights — Israel, violating the rights of Palestinian women.

"So the question is why do Western democracies like the United States legitimize these elections and their inevitable consequences?"

After the April 23 election, three board members of the National Iranian American Council wrote that Iran "has taken every conceivable step to deter women's progress."

A September 2012 U.N. report stated that under Iran's Islamic code, "a woman's testimony in a court of law is regarded as half that of a man's and a woman's life is still valued as half that of a man's."

Another U.N. report cited abuses against women in Iranian prisons, including the rape of virgins before execution and other forms of torture.

Minutes after the CSW vote, Iran was also elected to a seat on the 19-nation Committee on NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), enabling Iran to attend meetings of various U.N. bodies including the Human Rights Council.

Other nations elected to the committee include Cuba, Russia, China, Venezuela, Sudan, and Pakistan.

"This is a black day for human rights," Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, said in a statement. "By empowering the perpetrators over the victims, the U.N. harms the cause of human rights, betrays its founding principles, and undermines its own credibility."

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4. More Than Half of Humanity Now Lives in Cities

For the first time in history, more than half of the people on earth live in urban areas, and 51 percent of them — 1.92 billion — reside in urban areas with more than 500,000 residents.

That's one of the disclosures in the latest edition of Demographia World Urban Areas, which provides data on estimated population, area, and population density for the 922 urban areas with at least 500,000 population.

Demographia defines an “urban area" as a "continually built up land mass of urban development that is within a labor market (metropolitan area)." A metro area also includes economically connected rural land outside the built-up urban area, while an urban area does not.

Of the urban areas with 500,000 residents or more, 56 percent are in Asia, 14 percent in North America, 11 percent in Europe, 10 percent in Africa, 8 percent in South America, and 1 percent in Australasia.

There are now 29 megacities — urban areas with at least 10 million population — including London, which passed the 10 million threshold this year. That's according to an article on the Demographia report from Newgeography.com written by Wendell Cox, principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm.

Tokyo remains the most populous urban area, as it has been for a half-century, with 37.55 million residents, but its margin over other cities has been narrowing.

Jakarta, Indonesia, is second with 29.95 million, followed by Delhi, India (24.13 million) and Seoul-Incheon, South Korea (22.99 million).

Manila, Philippines, moves up to No. 5 with 22.71 million, passing Shanghai, China (22.65 million). Rounding out the top 10 are Karachi, Pakistan (21.58 million); New York (20.66 million); Mexico City (20.3 million); and Sao Paulo, Brazil (20.27 million).

Los Angeles ranks No. 16 with 15.25 million, and Chicago is No. 35 with 9.23 million. The least populous American urban area on the list of 922 is Toledo, Ohio, at No. 861 with 508,000 population.

In terms of land area, New York is by far the largest urban area with nearly 4,500 square miles, ahead of Tokyo with 3,300 square miles. Several other U.S. urban areas are in the top 10 in land area, including No. 3 Chicago (2,647 square miles), No. 4 Atlanta (2,645), No. 5. Los Angeles (2,432), No. 6 Boston (2,056), No. 7 Dallas-Fort Worth (1,998), No. 8 Philadelphia (1,981), and No. 10 Houston (1,793). Moscow, Russia is No. 9 with 1,800 square miles.

Due to the relatively large land area of U.S. cities, no American urban area is among the world's most densely populated.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, is the most densely populated, with 114,000 people per square mile. Hyderabad, Pakistan (not India), is behind at 105,500, and Mumbai, India, has 83,800.

The most densely populated European urban area doesn't appear on the list until No. 296 — Genoa, Italy, with 20,800 per square mile.

And to find the most densely populated U.S. urban area, you'll have to go all the way to No. 794 on the list of 922. That's where you'll find Los Angeles, with 6,300 people per square mile.

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5. Online Tax Cuts Amazon's Sales

Contrary to some previous reports asserting that online sales taxes would have a minimal impact on Amazon.com, new research shows that Amazon's sales have suffered in states that collect the taxes.

Ohio State University researchers tracked the spending of about 245,000 households that spent at least $100 at the online retailer during the first six months of 2012, then monitored the households' purchases through the end of last year.

About a third of the households were in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia, states where new tax laws went into effect during that period, Bloomberg disclosed.

The researchers found that in the states that impose the sales tax, households reduced their spending at Amazon by about 10 percent. And for online purchases of more than $300, sales fell by 24 percent.

Amazon had an advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers because consumers didn't have to pay sales tax on Amazon purchases.

But the research disclosed that brick-and-mortar retailers showed an increase in purchases of just 2 percent in states imposing the online tax, because many shoppers turned to online alternatives to Amazon instead of the brick-and-mortar stores. Online retailers that compete with Amazon saw a 20 percent increase.

Amazon collects sales tax in 21 states — including Florida, which began charging the tax on May 1 — and "more are set to follow as the company has become a popular target to help state governments generate more revenue to cover budget shortfalls," Bloomberg observed.

States lose an estimated $23 billion a year in uncollected sales taxes from Internet retailers.

Online retailers must collect sales tax on purchases only if the company has a nexus or "substantial physical presence" in the state where the buyer resides.

Ten years ago, Amazon would therefore have been required to collect the tax only in a state where it has its headquarters or major distribution centers.

But in recent years, states have broadened the definition of a nexus to include the presence of "affiliate programs."

Amazon and other online retailers often advertise on websites including blogs. If a reader clicks on the ad and ultimately purchases the Amazon product, the website owner receives a commission. These website owners who permit Amazon to advertise on their sites are referred to affiliates, and the presence of affiliates in a state will require Amazon to collect the tax there.

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6. Asian-Americans 'Too Busy' to Vote

Only three in 10 Asian-Americans who were eligible to vote have cast ballots in midterm elections since 1998, a far lower turnout rate than that of white and black voters, a new Pew Research Center report reveals.

In the 2010 midterms, Asian-American turnout was 31 percent, the same as for Hispanics but below whites (49 percent) and blacks (44 percent).

Research shows that people with higher levels of education are more likely to vote in U.S. elections, and 47 percent of Asian-American eligible voters in 2010 had a college education, higher than for whites (31 percent), blacks (18 percent), and Hispanics (16 percent).

Yet Asian-Americans lagged behind whites, blacks, and Hispanics among college-educated eligible voters who cast a ballot. Just 40 percent of college-educated Asian-Americans voted in 2010, compared to 64 percent of whites, 57 percent of blacks, and 50 percent of Hispanics.

"So why the lower voter turnout among Asian-Americans? Among registered voters who didn't go to the polls in 2010, Asian-Americans were most likely to say they were too busy to vote," Pew reported. "About 37 percent of Asian-Americans chose 'too busy, conflicting work or school schedule' as a reason for not voting," compared to about 25 percent of whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

An estimated 9 million Asian-Americans are eligible to vote in 2014, accounting for about 4 percent of all eligible voters.

Half of Asian-Americans are Democrats or lean Democratic, while just 28 percent are Republican or lean Republican, according to Pew.

In 2012, President Obama garnered 73 percent of their vote to Mitt Romney's 26 percent.

The six largest groups of Asian-Americans by country of origin are from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Obama's Claim of 'Economic Immobility' Called a Myth 2. Homeland Security Is 'Out of Control' 3. U.S. Inaction Lets Iran Join Women's Rights Panel 4. More Than Half of Humanity Now Lives in Cities 5. Online Tax...
Homeland, Security, Out-of, Control, Obama Debunked on Economic Immobility, U.S. Inaction Lets Iran Join Womens Rights Panel, Online Tax Cuts Amazons Sales, Asian-Americans Too Busy to Vote
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Sunday, 04 May 2014 03:53 PM
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