Dispatches > Quick Takes

QuickTakes

Issue: "Will Kurds stand alone?," June 1, 2002

Insecure numbers

Tens of thousands of foreigners use fake documents to receive Social Security numbers, reports Robert Pear in The New York Times. Federal officials say that the government issued 100,000 such numbers in 2000-and they have no way to search immigration records to stop the practice. Some of the 9/11 hijackers had obtained Social Security numbers illegally-and that heightens worries. "The continuing problem is causing great concern among law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, because Social Security cards can be used to obtain credit cards and the security badges needed for jobs at airports or other vulnerable locations," Mr. Pear writes. "Since Sept. 11, federal authorities have been conducting nationwide sweeps to arrest people on charges of using false Social Security numbers."

Welfare for the wealthy

David Rockefeller is on the government dole. The New York Daily News' Tracy Connor reports that the billionaire's Hudson Pines farm has collected nearly $500,000 in farm aid since 1996. Taxpayers also subsidize another Rockefeller property called Stone House. "Subsidies such as Rockefeller's have become fodder for critics who charge that the system-based on acreage instead of financial need-benefits deep-pocketed corporations and well-heeled city slickers and celebrities," Ms. Connor writes. The story cites managers who say the farms are financially unstable even with the subsidies.

Home-cooked philosophies

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America's unchurched are on the rise. The Los Angeles Times' Lisa Richardson found two Berkeley sociologists who say the number of Americans who claim "no religion" doubled during the 1990s, jumping from 7 percent to 14 percent of the American population. The spike seems to cross most demographic lines. "Though blacks and Latinos are more likely to claim a religious affiliation than the wider population, they too saw the same statistical doubling of people with no religious preference," Ms. Richardson reports. "The only exception to the trend was people of Jewish ancestry." The sociologists, Michael Hout and Claude Fischer, read these numbers with liberal glasses, claiming that so-called "moderates" are alienated from today's churches. Mr. Fischer did say that some of those with "no religious preference" have cooked up homemade philosophies and are ignorant of traditional belief. "Some of these people are unsophisticated about the differences between Catholics and Protestants ... and maybe say, 'Oh, to heck with it,'" Mr. Fischer told the paper.

Monument to destruction

Reno claims to be the "Divorce Capital of the World"-and some want to commemorate that with a national landmark. A group called Preserve Nevada wants to save the Virginia Street Bridge, from which new divorcees could toss their wedding rings into the Truckee River. This is nuts, writes columnist L. Brent Bozell. Before divorce laws were liberalized nationwide, people would head for Nevada for a divorce. Many went to Reno, which built a reputation for seediness. "Some landmarks preserve the freaky, unsavory moments in time meant more for the curious tourist than for history," Mr. Bozell points out. "But not this. They are serious about making a statement." The columnist cites statistics that the percentage of kids living outside two-parent families doubled from the 1960s to the 1990s. "Reno's divorce-a-go-go merits commemoration, but not celebration," he concludes. "It deserves a spot in history as the landmark for a town that, sadly, made its name promoting the destruction of the family."

Rolling out the "rainbow carpet"

Atlanta is rolling out the red carpet to homosexual tourists. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Caroline Wilbert reports that, "The thinking goes: Gay people, many of whom don't have children, have disposable income. So let's get them to spend it here." Such campaigns have also popped up in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that "rolled out the rainbow carpet" to homosexuals. The website for Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin's campaign, gay-atlanta.com, features the slogan "We're out to show you a good time!" The plan is to promote events like the Atlanta Pride celebration and the NCAA Women's Final Four. The effort's budget consists of $20,000 from the state of Georgia and $35,000 from the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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