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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Under the Radar - Headlines You Won't Hear on Fox News or CNN

From The New Republic:

HOUSING – BUSH TO HUD: PACK IT UP!: One of the many controversial proposals in Bush's upcoming 2006 budget will "drastically shrink the Department of Housing and Urban Development's $8 billion community branch." While some of the programs are being slashed outright – economic development projects and rural housing programs – other anti-poverty efforts are bound to be lost in the shuffle when they are transferred over to the Labor and Commerce Departments, where they will be forced to compete for monies in a new arena with a budget that won't make room for them. Though administration officials claim the shift is meant to consolidate duplicates and eliminate the inefficient, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) revealed the truth behind the simply "appalling" proposal: "I'm always willing to look at consolidations, but clearly they're using consolidation as a shield for substantial budget reductions." Ultimately, the proposal could lead to HUD losing "a quarter of its $31 billion budget."

ENVIRONMENT – CLEAR SKIES MIGHT NOT BE SMILING FOR LONG: If the federal judiciary ever releases its block on President Bush's "Clear Skies" bill, we might have to retool some of the lyrics about "skies of blue" and "clouds of white" in Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." According to a preliminary report released by the National Academy of Sciences, an 18-member panel of academics and scientists found that "the Bush administration's bill to curb air pollution from power plans would reduce air pollution less than the current Clean Air act rules." Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT), "ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee," stated that the findings are just further evidence of the ill-conceived changes that the Bush administration has been making to the Clean Air Act. The Senator continued on to point out that "They want to replace existing programs…that have documented benefits, with a proposal that is weaker and slower when it comes to reducing emissions and protecting health and the environment."

SOCIAL SECURITY – HIJACKING FDR: A callous attempt to hijack the historical legacy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the name of Social Security privatization has been rebuffed by FDR's grandson. "My grandfather would surely oppose the ideas now being promoted by this administration and your organization," James Roosevelt Jr. wrote in a letter to Progress for America, a conservative advocacy group founded in 2001 by a political director of the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. The group released an ad this week featuring images of Roosevelt and comparing the Bush administration's privatization plans to FDR's legislation creating the Social Security system. In his letter, Roosevelt Jr. charges, "[T]o compare the courage it took to provide a guaranteed insurance program for our seniors and the disabled to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable."

IRAQ – "WE'RE LOSING": Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell has issued his bleakest assessment of Iraq yet, just two weeks out from the country's first elections since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government. Relaying an account from former U.S. ambassador Chas Freeman, the Financial Times reports that Bush recently asked Powell for his views on Iraq. "'We're losing,' Mr Powell was quoted as saying. Mr. Freeman said Mr. Bush then asked the secretary of state to leave." The anecdote appears to confirm two recent developments regarding U.S.-Iraq policy. On the one hand, prominent Republican moderates like Powell are issuing increasingly downcast prognoses of the prospects for stability in Iraq even after the election, and are openly discussing the possibility of withdrawing U.S. forces. On the other hand, according to the insider D.C. tip sheet, the Nelson Report, President Bush is consciously refusing to consider unpleasant reports about the situation in Iraq. According to the report, "attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear 'bad news.'"

HEALTH – REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS ROLLBACK: NARAL Pro-Choice America has released its 14th annual report on the status of reproductive rights in America, and the results are cause for concern. Among NARAL's findings: If Roe v. Wade were overturned, 19 states would quickly outlaw abortion, while another 19 could follow closely behind. In 2004 alone, state legislatures considered 714 anti-choice measures – an increase of 28 percent over the previous year's figure. Alarmingly, a bill banning abortions throughout pregnancy failed by just one vote in the South Dakota Senate, and is expected to pass this year.

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