Selasa, Jun 06, 2006

Popular Question - Is there any thesis about global warming?

Global Warming: Is there any thesis about global warming?

There are clear and thorough explanations of the theory behind global warming and the greeenhouse effect at, one of our favorite websites.

Al Gore's site summarizes global warming this way: "By burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere - trapping solar energy close to the earth instead of releasing it into space - and as a result, temperatures are rising." The site includes the following facts as evidence of global warming: glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing. The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.


America? And Hot Popular Question - What companies are profiting from the US actions in Iraq?

Iraq and War Profiteering: What companies are profiting from the US actions in Iraq? reports on a plan to create a government contracts database that would help bring profiteering to light.

Mainstream media rarely reports on the corporations profiting from the Iraq conflict, but the independent media has been watching. The Nation published an editorial as the war was just starting that compared Truman's vigiliance (about profiteering) to Bush's complacency. A year later, In These Times published a piece called, War Profiteering and You. The website of Corporate Watch, a nonprofit advocacy group, keeps an eye on reconstruction profiteers at this page: Reporters from the group, United for a Fair Economy, put modern profiteering into context in a piece called, War Profiteering Starts at the Top, And a group is specifically watching the Halliburton company with reports at

Even the National Enquirer has a Perpetual War Portfolio of companies poised to profit most from the ongoing war on terror.


Popular Question - Who pays taxes in America, or rather, who does NOT pay income tax, or pays very little?

Income Taxes: Who pays taxes in America, or rather, who does NOT pay income tax, or pays very little?

Taxes are political and controversial. Editors at the National Review, a conservative current events magazine, argue that the Bush tax plan will allow ordinary people to save more and provide greater incentives to work, save, and invest.

On the other side, a Washington Post editorial piece called "Good for Investors, Bad for the Rest" argues that decreases in the dividend tax and the future elimination of the estate tax cater to high-income earners and not the middle class.

A new book from New York Times reporter, David Cay Johnston is a must-read on this subject. Already making waves in political circles, the book is one that every concerned citizen should read. It's called, "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich-And Cheat Everybody Else."

Hurricane Katrina has punched a hole in the President's plan to permanently eliminate inheritance taxes and other tax cuts according to many news artilces, including this one from

We found several sites offering useful information about taxes:
  • United for a Fair Economy, is a non-profit organization that "raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart." UFE published an article that answers some common questions about US tax policy "Winning Responses to Tough Tax QUestions."
  • The Tax Policy Center, run by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute compiles a wealth of analysis of tax trends over time. For example, the TPC reports that corporate taxes have been falling sharply as a share of government revenue.
  • Other useful statistics can be found at the IRS Tax Stats page.
  • The Center on Budget and Tax Priorities works to protect low and middle income groups by analyzing policy proposals and publishing extensive data on the social consequences of economic policies.
  • Citizens for Tax Justice also represents middle class people.
  • The group Empower America argues for tax cuts and other reforms aimed at reducing taxes.
  • And Taxpayers for Common Sense watchdogs government spending to help control waste.


Popular Question - How are public schools funded in America? And how are private schools funded?

School funding: How are public schools funded in America? And how are private schools funded?

We recently published some general statistics about school funding in answer to the question: How are lotteries contributing to schools? and How is funding related to quality? and we are researching a question about funding arts programs

Total government spending for public education was over $440 billion for the 2002/2003 school year, and the Federal government contributed about 9% or $37 billion.


Popular Question - What does the Patriot Act mean to me?

The Patriot Act: Banks, pharmacies and other businesses are using the Patriot Act to demand my social security number and other private financial or medical information, At the same time, I hear about identity theft in the media. What's going on, and what should I do? What does the Patriot Act mean to me?

Background: The Patriot Act was passed into law on October 24, 2001, just six weeks after the events of 9/11. The Act was recently extended and updated. You can read the Patriot Act online at this site:
  • For: The US Department of Justice provides the argument in favor of the Patriot Act at a site: that also gives the history of the act and updates to it.
  • Against: For the other side of the picture, read analysis from the Electronic Freedom Foundation at: This site also tracks new developments with the Patriot Act. National Public Radio maintains a page with current news and updates on the USA Patriot Act.
Financial Transactions
The sections of the Patriot Act that deal with financial transactions fall under Title III, which is also known as the International Money Laundering Abatement and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001. It stands on its own as a separate act of Congress as well as being part of the Patriot Act, and is an amended version of the 1986 Money Laundering Control Act and the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act. The earlier acts tended to focus on preventing money laundering and international cash flow as it related to the drug trade, or to gambling, smuggling, and other types of criminal activity. In the 2001 version, the focus has shifted towards money laundering as a means of financing international terrorism.

The current act encourages financial institutions to collect certain data to identify customers and their transactions in case any of the activity should be flagged as “suspicious” by a government agency. “Suspicious” in most cases means involving any foreign nationals or corporations. The Patriot Act considers any such accounts or transactions worthy of intense scrutiny. (Although the scrutiny will, of course, be more severe for certain nationalities than for others.)

What if you are a US-born, US citizen, do not have any offshore accounts, and are not involved in any type of criminal activity? If you’d just like to open a bank account or engage in another banking transaction, can a bank force you to provide your social security number? How about fingerprinting you? Are either of these strictly required by law? Not exactly – although if you do not wish to provide your social security number you will have to obtain an alternate taxpayer identification number. This information (along with your name, address, and date of birth) is used as part of the required Customer Identification Program (CIP) used to verify customer identity (and to compare customer information with lists of known terrorism suspects). Such information may also be required by other money service businesses such as currency exchanges.

Fingerprints are not a requirement of the Patriot Act, and they are certainly not required by all financial institutions – so if your bank insists on this procedure, you may wish to take your business elsewhere.

Cash Transactions
Cash transactions are certainly not prohibited, but they bring more government scrutiny, and they are now more inconvenient for certain vendors to process. If you deposit, withdraw, or make a purchase involving more than $10,000 in cash in one day, the other agency involved has to file a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) with the IRS that reports details such as your name, address, and taxpayer identification number. If you purchase over $3,000 of traveler’s checks, money orders, or cashier’s checks, such a transaction will also be reported to the IRS via a Monetary Instrument Log (MIL). And should you engage in any activity that indicates you may be engaged in money laundering or otherwise violating the law, your transaction may even trigger a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). The SAR will be filed without your knowledge – it is, in fact, against the law for you to be informed of the SAR as your knowledge would compromise the subsequent investigation.