Dispatches > News
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast

Exaggerated claims

and more news briefs

Issue: "Finding their way," Oct. 8, 2011

The Census Bureau reported that nearly 1 in 6 Americans fall below the poverty line of $22,314 annual income for a family of four, bringing the total number living in poverty to a record 46.2 million-2.6 million more than the previous year. The report defended government safety-net programs, saying that without extended unemployment benefits and Social Security, another 23.5 million would have fallen below the poverty line. But poverty analyst Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation said the census numbers don't capture what many Americans define as "poor." According to the federal government's own surveys, 83 percent of poor families reported having enough to eat, and 42 percent owned their own homes. Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning, 75 percent own a car or truck, and one-third own two or more cars and trucks. The lifestyle of the average poor person departs from images of stark deprivation "purveyed equally by advocacy groups and the media," Rector wrote. "His hardships are real and must be an important concern for policymakers. Nonetheless, anti-poverty policy needs to be based on accurate information. Gross exaggeration of the extent and severity of hardships in America will not benefit society, the taxpayers, or the poor."

Wet quake

Monsoon season turned deadly in northeastern India when a 6.9-magnitude earthquake shook wet ground already weakened by torrential rain. At least 99 people died in the Sept. 18 quake that struck parts of India, Nepal, and Tibet. Indians suffered the most as the ground gave way in rural villages. Authorities said the quake damaged at least 100,000 homes in India's Sikkim state. Rescue workers battled blocked roads and mudslides to reach villagers still trapped under homes, and helicopter crews dropped food and supplies to stranded villagers in a region where quakes aren't uncommon. Indian officials were relieved the death toll wasn't higher: An 8.2-magnitude quake in the same region in 1934 killed an estimated 30,000 people.

Getting paid to sue

The Boise Rescue Mission, a Christian ministry for homeless men and drug-addicted women, scored a substantial victory in a California court that could offer protection to other religious-based shelters around the country. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court rejected the claim by Intermountain Fair Housing Council (IFHC) that the rescue mission violated the Fair Housing Act by encouraging homeless men to attend chapel services and requiring women in addiction recovery to participate in Christian programs (two former rescue mission clients joined the suit). The appeals court ruled on Sept. 19 that the clients didn't have a protected right to participate in the mission's programs, and that the mission wasn't subject to the Fair Housing Act. While the mission receives no government funds, the federal government paid $874,000 to IFHC from 2008 to 2010.


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Iran freed on Sept. 21 two Americans convicted as spies after they spent more than two years in custody. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, arrested along with American Sarah Shourd, say they mistakenly crossed the border from northern Iraq, yet received eight-year prison sentences. Shourd won freedom in 2010 after payent of $500,000 demanded by the Islamic regime in Tehran. Further high-level diplomatic wrangling won freedom for the remaining pair with payment of $1 million.

Gay activist wish list

The 18-year-old law preventing gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military ended Sept. 20 when the head of Pentagon personnel released a memo advising that "all service members are to treat one another with dignity and respect regardless of sexual orientation." Homosexual troops counted down the clock to midnight at a San Diego bar while a Navy lieutenant married his male partner at a midnight ceremony in Vermont. House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., unsuccessfully asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to delay the repeal. While the end of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is a victory for gay activists, an August letter to the Pentagon reveals there's already pressure for more changes: The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's wish list includes giving "civil rights" protection to homosexual couples in the military, access to on-base family housing, testimonial immunity, joint duty assignments, and deployment exemptions for same-sex couples.

No truce with the Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai charged the Taliban with using "a trick" to carry out the Sept. 20 assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. The 70-year-old former head of state-a one-time foe of Karzai- led the country's High Peace Council tasked by Karzai with seeking reconciliation with Taliban insurgents. When Karzai received word of a Taliban audio recording containing a peace overture, he summoned Rabbani from a trip to Iran to listen. "It was not a peace message. It was a trick," said Karzai, speaking Sept. 22 in a courtyard of the presidential palace. "The messenger was the killer." The assassin breached Rabbani's highly secured neighborhood-much as Taliban insurgents who attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Sept. 13 did-with a bomb hidden in his turban. The explosion killed Rabbani and seriously wounded top Karzai aides. Said NATO commander U.S. Gen. John Allen: "Regardless of what the Taliban leadership outside the country say, they do not want peace, but rather war."


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