At Least 46 States Have Imposed Cuts That Hurt Vulnerable Residents and the Economy

An Update on State Budget Cuts

At Least 46 States Have Imposed Cuts That Hurt Vulnerable Residents and the Economy

PDF of this Report (16pp.)

By Nicholas JohnsonPhil Oliff and Erica Williams

With tax revenue still declining as a result of the recession and budget reserves largely drained, the vast majority of states have made spending cuts that hurt families and reduce necessary services. These cuts, in turn, have deepened states’ economic problems because families and businesses have less to spend. Federal recovery act dollars and funds raised from tax increases have greatly reduced the extent, severity, and economic impact of these cuts, but only to a point. And federal aid to states is slated to expire well before state revenues have recovered.

The cuts enacted in at least 46 states plus the District of Columbia since 2008 have occurred in all major areas of state services, including health care (31 states), services to the elderly and disabled (29 states and the District of Columbia), K-12 education (34 states and the District of Columbia), higher education (43 states), and other areas. States made these cuts because revenues from income taxes, sales taxes, and other revenue sources used to pay for these services declined due to the recession. At the same time, the need for these services did not decline and, in fact, rose as the number of families facing economic difficulties increased.

These budget pressures have not abated. Because unemployment rates remain high — and are projected to stay high well into next year — revenues are likely to remain at or near their current depressed levels. This has caused a new round of cuts. Based on gloomy revenue projections, legislatures and governors have enacted budgets for the 2011 fiscal year (which began on July 1, 2010 in most states). In many states these budgets contain cuts that go even further than those enacted over the past two fiscal years.

Cuts to state services not only harm vulnerable residents but also worsen the recession — and dampen the recovery — by reducing overall economic activity. When states cut spending, they lay off employees, cancel contracts with vendors, reduce payments to businesses and nonprofits that provide services, and cut benefit payments to individuals.All of these steps remove demand from the economy. For instance, at least 44 states and the District of Columbia have reduced overall wages paid to state workers by laying off workers, requiring them to take unpaid leave (furloughs), freezing new hires, or similar actions. State and local governments have eliminated 407,000 jobs since August 2008, federal data show. Such measures are reducing not only the level and quality of services available to state residents but also the purchasing power of workers’ families, which in turn affects local businesses and slows recovery.

States are taking actions to mitigate the extent of these cuts. Since the recession began, over 30 states have addressed their budget shortfalls in part by increasing taxes. Like budget cuts, tax increases remove demand from the economy by reducing the amount of money people have to spend. But tax increases can be less detrimental to state economies than budget cuts because some of the tax increases affect upper-income households, so are likely to result in reduced saving rather than reduced consumption. Many more states will need to consider tax increases or other revenue measures, as well as such steps as tapping remaining state rainy day funds, as a way to minimize harmful budget cuts.  (read HERE)

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Germany probes possible poisoning of Russian dissidents

BERLIN – Agence France-Presse

German prosecutors have launched a preliminary investigation into whether two Russian dissidents living in Berlin were poisoned, a spokesman told Agence France-Presse on Monday.

“An investigation has been opened. It is being carried out by a department dealing with politically motivated crimes,” a spokesman for the public prosecutors’ office in the German capital said.

The German weekly Focus reported earlier this month that doctors had detected in Viktor Kalashnikov, a former colonel in the Soviet KGB, and in his historian wife Marina Kalashnikov dangerously high levels of mercury.

Both have suffered health problems, with Marina losing half of her hair and Viktor considerable weight, and medical experts have recommended that the couple undergo further tests and be watched closely, the magazine said.

“Moscow poisoned us,” the husband told Focus.

The couple has worked as freelance journalists since the late 1990s, publishing articles that have angered the Kremlin. They arrived in Berlin in September.

Focus earlier this month reported that doctors at Berlin’s Charite hospital found 53.7 micrograms of mercury per liter in the 58-year-old dissident’s blood and 56 micrograms in his wife’s body.

“The maximum safe level is between one and three micrograms of mercury in a liter of blood,” the magazine then quoted Frank Mertens, a toxicologist at Charite, as saying.

In 2006, dissident Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was murdered by radio-active poisoning in London, prompting an icy period in Moscow’s diplomatic relations with Britain.

Anti-fascist rally in Moscow brought together more than 2000 people

Митинг на Пушкинской площадиMeeting “Russia without fascism, according to various sources, collected from 1.5 to 4 thousand people

Sunday’s rally at Pushkin Square, was held under the slogan “Moscow – for all”, “Fascism will not pass” and “Russia without the Nazis.”

In the management of Information and Public Relations Moscow police say that the rally passed without incident.

Journalists working for the campaign estimate the number of participants at about 2,5 thousand people. In the Russian capital’s police department said in a rally attended by about fifteen hundred people. The organizers say about 4 thousand.

The action came in response to a ride in recent years in Moscow and other Russian cities rioting and clashes on ethnic grounds.

Despite the fact that the rally was attended by many politicians, including the organizers of the “Marches of Dissent” and shares the 31 th, political slogans may sound.

The gathering were popular Russian film actors and directors, writers and public figures.

Writer Viktor Shenderovich read a letter from Elena Bonner, who was unable to come to the Pushkin.

Акция протеста в поддержку Ходорковского перед Белым домомDecember 26 was also held rally in support of Khodorkovsky, the White House

“Think of what I went there again to save the motherland, even though his legs do not walk” – ended with the message of his wife of Andrei Sakharov.

Came to the rally director Pavel Lungin, poet Dmitry Bykov, actress Chulpan Khamatova, the governor of Kirov Region Nikita White and many others.

Another rally was held Sunday at the White House, where a group of activists organized a performance in support of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Established a group of protesters in front of the home government a symbolic cage, which was placed a masked man Putin.

Along with this, they unfurled a banner calling to release Khodorkovsky, who on Monday shall be declared the verdict on the so-called second Yukos case.

The rally was foiled by police. As a result, briefly detained several photographers protest.

Assassinating national leader of Pakistan

Assassinating national leader of Pakistan


The nation is observing the third death anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto today

remembering the services she rendered to the country and its poor people with complete dedication and commitment. Criminal conspirators killed her when she delivered her historic speech at the mammoth public meeting at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi and she was on way back to her residence in Islamabad. There was no post mortem examination of the dead body and it was handed over to her husband for burial with it. The Government is responsible to undertake post mortem examination immediately and as per laws of the land. But it was not done presumably on the instructions from the higher ups. There was a definite conspiracy to eliminate the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan as she had been receiving threats from hostile elements. The Government was responsible for providing security to every citizen of Pakistan, particularly the national leader who remained prime minister of the country twice and leading the biggest political party of the country for the past many decades. Before leaving UAE for Pakistan, she told newsmen and close aides that she is facing threat for her life and despite this fact, she would return to Pakistan ending her decade long self exile during the entire regime of General ® Pervez Musharraf. Off and on, Pervez Musharraf was reminding the people of Pakistan, obviously through media, that he would not permit Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan and their political activities. Even he was opposed to Benazir’s return to Pakistan despite an agreement brokered by the United States Government. She held direct talks with Pervez Musharraf in Abu Dhabi in presence of top US officials of the State Department. Despite that agreement, he refused to permit her to return to Pakistan. However, she came back and landed in Karachi where more than two million people received her at the Airport. Before she reached her residence in Clifton, he came under terrorist attack at Karsaz leaving more than 180 people, all her personal and party guards, were killed and over 500 injured in a massive bombing attack. The military dictator was opposed to holding huge public meetings and public rallies and advised the former Prime Minister not to hold such mammoth public meetings and public receptions as it heightened the sentiments of the people against the military dictatorship ruling this country for a decade for the fourth time in our national history. The United Nations had conducted the investigations during which the Rawalpindi Police chief made disclosures that the site of crime scene was washed at the behest of high officials very close to Pervez Musharraf. When the FIA started the investigations, he backed out of his earlier statement given before the UN Commission. Now the FIA had widened the scope of investigation and collecting evidence against other top officials who might have played some role in washing out the evidence or others who instigated the murder of the former Prime Minister. Five of the people, including the two top police officials of Rawalpindi, are in custody and the prosecution had framed specific charges against some of them. FIA is expected to make more arrest before collecting other evidence. In any case, the Government of the day was responsible for the murder. There is a definite possibility that some of the officials might have been involved in the criminal conspiracy to assassinate the former Prime Minister. Sooner or later, the Government will have to frame criminal charges against former military dictator General ® Pervez Musharraf in the Benazir assassination case. If it is confirmed that some higher officials of the Government had issued those instructions, then there is a possibility that the former Military dictator will face direct murder charges. The law will take its natural course and the sitting Government is determined to expose the conspiracy before the end of its present political tenure.

US Testing Pakistani Reactions, As 2 NATO helicopters violate Pakistan’s air space again

2 NATO helicopters violate Pakistan’s air space

2 NATO helicopters violate Pakistan's air space

Two NATO helicopter gunships violated Pakistan’s air space in its northwest border area Monday morning.

Two Nato helicopters violated Pakistan’s border limits on Monday morning, entering through the Torkham border located in Khyber Agency, said security officials.

According to details, the helicopters penetrated into the Pakistani territory near Torkham and remained there for about five minutes before they returned to Afghanistan. No firings have been reported. Security officials are investigating the matter.
Such incidents occurred several times in the last few months. Earlier this year, NATO helicopters entered the Pakistan’s territorial sky, killing three Pakistani border soldiers while intending to attack some militant’s hideouts on the Pakistani side.
This incident has led to a closure by the Pakistani government of a border pass for NATO convoys supplying goods and fuel to the U.S.-led NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan via Pakistan, leaving hundreds of NATO supply trucks stranded on the way, falling prey to numerous terrorist attacks.

Don’t cross the ‘red lines’

Don’t cross the ‘red lines’

EDITORIAL  (December 27, 2010) : Don’t cross the ‘red lines’, Pakistan has warned the United States, saying it could complicate counter-terrorism co-operation. One of the red lines is to refrain from landing its boots on Pakistani soil, and the warned ‘complication’ is that in case of territorial invasion, Pakistani people would not stay neutral and join the side of the Taliban militants – a strong possibility, the taste of which was given to Nato sometime back when scores of its supplies containers, were burnt down in retaliation of an incursion.

Pakistan’s position stems from the fact that the Nato and Isaf mandate is restricted to Afghanistan. In fact, even the drone attacks that the CIA is carrying out in the border areas of Pakistan are in violation of international law and are not covered by the UN mandate – which in itself, was against the spirit of the principles of justice. The fact is that Pakistan’s co-operation in the US-led Nato military campaign in Afghanistan has lost public support and for the Zardari-Gilani government, it’s a hell of an unpopular mission to stay committed to.

No doubt with only six months left for President Obama’s deadline to commence troop drawdown in Afghanistan, a kind of angst seems to be pushing his administration to justify withdrawal when the war is far from over and victory is uncertain. The public in the United States and its allies are increasingly critical of their governments’ commitment to an unnecessary and unwanted conflict in a far-off Afghanistan. Their perception is that after nine years of bloody battles and murderous raids by the Isaf forces, the adversary remains defiant and largely unsubdued. No wonder their public wouldn’t mind their soldiers’ quiet departure from Afghanistan irrespective of victory or defeat, but that’s not the case for their commanders. So, as the endgame unfolds, the generals are hectically searching for a scapegoat – which, if the recent ‘disclosures’ in some of the American papers is any indication, is going to be Pakistan. The blame for failure in Afghanistan, now being pinned on Pakistan for allegedly providing ‘safe havens’ to Afghan insurgents, is gaining unanimity among US military circles to put its boots on the ground in Pakistan, say the newspapers.

Without going into the debate whether the urge to expand military operations into Pakistan will help President Obama vindicate his pledge to begin a troop drawdown next July or not, we in Pakistan would insist that the envisaged incursions entail dangerous consequences not only for the Nato’s engagement in Afghanistan but also for the peace of the entire region. The people of Pakistan will stand up to this aggression leaving the military leadership and the government of Pakistan with no option but to make a complete U-turn on its so-called anti-terrorism alliance. If at all there was a justification for the UN mandated invasion of Afghanistan, that’s not available anymore. What is now going on in that country is essentially a civil war, where outside interference if mandated by the United Nations, should merely be for peacekeeping and not geared to win victory for a certain group of people. Going by the reports over the past several years, the epicentre of terrorism is now located in Europe and North America where certain sections of the public are increasingly prone to be radicalised – for whatever reasons. Ambassador Hussain Haqqani has rightly pointed out that instead of ‘rather than blaming Pakistan, the West should concentrate and focus on how to end increasing radicalisation’.

As they say, for the generals, advancing ahead and winning victories is not as challenging as staging a safe and secure retreat. That seems to be quite a dilemma for the Isaf generalship as it finds itself caught between President Obama’s unalterable withdrawal timeline and a battlefield victory that should not appear to be Pyrrhic. After all, what more can Pakistan do – after being fully sucked into an unwanted war with all its enormous collateral cost in terms of loss of life and property, socio-economic turmoil and earning the epithet of the world’s most dangerous place to visit.

There is a need for its so-called allies in this war on terrorism to comprehend the myriad thankless consequences Pakistan is suffering in return for its commitment to remain a faithful ally. The truth is that Pakistan’s patience with the unsavoury statements and ungrateful behaviour of its allies is wearing thin and has arrived at a tipping point. Should something like the recently reported plan of crossing the ‘red lines’ come to happen, we would have come to the fork, and today’s friends may be tomorrow’s foes.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2010

Nuclear Power/People Power

“It is surprising that while on one hand government expects us to use democratic methods for airing our views and grievances, for smothering our voices it uses strong-arm tactics and stoops to any level without any qualms. Even though the anger is slowly corroding the daily lives of locals, we are still attempting to walk on democratic paths.”

Fear Over Konkan

By Prabhat Sharan

26 December, 2010
The Verdict Weekly

The fear amongst the natives of Jaitapur in Konkan belt of Maharashtra
is now a constant subliminal hum emanating from slapping of serious
criminal charges as punishment for not heeding the internal protocol
devised by the government – a protocol that is never spoken in the
press…

Natives of Jaitapur in Konkan-the green ribbon which runs across the
coastline of Maharashtra, is flaming red. The anger of people is
expanding. It is relentless, exponential, riding and rushing like the
waves of Arabian Sea which crashes on the shore.

For the Indian State neither empirical evidences of nuclear disasters
or people’s anger has any place in its deranged experiment. After
being hounded out from various parts of country and forced to put its
plan for nuclear installation on hold- the Indian State has zeroed in
on Konkan belt.

The government has learnt lessons learnt from places like Haripur
mouza in East Midnapore and Gorakhpur where it had tried to usurp 700
acres and 1000 acres respectively for Nuclear Power Corporation of
India Ltd (NPCIL,) plans.

Today, it has converted Jaitapur into a concentration camp. Charges
are being slapped on protestors and now there are more armed policemen
than the natives whose eyes glint in the twilight paths with the fear
of a helpless animal pinned in the headlights of an oncoming truck
full of armed men.

The fear amongst the natives is now a constant subliminal hum
emanating from slapping of serious criminal charges as a punishment
for not heeding the internal protocol devised by the government- a
protocol that is never spoken in the press.

The area is cordoned off, and outsiders read ‘unauthorised,’ people
are not allowed in the region where NPCIL has decided to put up
Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) having 6 reactors, each of 1650
MWe totalling 9,900 MWe. Two reactors have already been approved in
the first phase.

With just a tokenism of support from the establishment press having an
attention span of gnat, and politicians of various hues dancing out
political businesses in the region, the people of the area are slowly
being reduced to semiotic ghosts.

The Bhopal gas tragedy preys on everybody’s mind and ironically this
time it is the women who have taken up the fight. Talking to The
Verdict, Comrade Vaishali Patil of Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi
Samiti (KVPVS,) from Madban said that a criminal technology with a
proven killing record is being carved out and installed with all kind
of lies and stories framed in sci-fi imagery that permeates the
culture.

“Scientists themselves are talking politics and what we see here is a
concentration camp… the state government is forcibly acquiring the
land at Madban, Karel, Niveli and Mithgavhane in Rajapur Taluka.
Locals till now are opposing and protesting the forcible land
acquisition democratically. But the government does not seem to know
any kind of democratic methods…a silent genocide, ethnocide and
ecocide is being carried out.”

In May this year, a public hearing was held where villagers spoke
against the project. Strangely, despite sans any clearance from the
Ministry of Environment and Foresty, NPCIl and Maharashtra government
started issuing tenders for geological surveys and construction of
compound wall building near Niveli village, “as if people’s voice does
not matter at all.”

With the initiation of work on sites, eruption of a confrontation was
inevitable. And in August, the inevitable happened between the
contractor and his men on one side and villagers on the other side.
And as expected police waiting in the wings swung into action and
started picking up villagers. According to Vaishali Patil, when
villagers tried to point out to the authorities as well as the
contractor about the non-clearance from MoEF, 40 FIR were filed
against the locals.

According to activists, “It is surprising that while on one hand
government expects us to use democratic methods for airing our views
and grievances, for smothering our voices it uses strong-arm tactics
and stoops to any level without any qualms. Even though the anger is
slowly corroding the daily lives of locals, we are still attempting to
walk on democratic paths.”

Till date neither the Centre nor the State nor NPCIL has bothered to
answer queries raised by locals. According to leaders from KVPVS-the
umbrella organization of various protest movements in Konkan, the
French firm Areva which has been asked to set up the nuclear reactors
in Jaitapur, was recently penalized by nuclear regulatory authority of
Finland for its flawed design and construction of reactors.

Moreover, sometime back even France, found serious difficulty in
maintaining safety at its nuclear infrastructures. A couple of years
back, in Romans-sur-Isere in Southeastern France, Uranium-bearing
liquid leaked from an underground pipe of Areva’s nuclear plant. The
cleaning up operation is still on, according to reports.

Moreover, Ms Patil points out that Konkan region is a seismic zone and
the site selected for JNPP falls under seismic zone 4. “The tremors
experienced over the years in Koyna valley and Ratnagiri district
makes the site inappropriate for a nuclear power plant. Lacs of liters
of sea water sucked in and released into sea at higher temperature
everyday will severely damage marine aquatic life. Fish & fishing will
be in danger. The increased temperatures of the surroundings,
billowing clouds of steam, will endanger and destroy the well
developed mango, cashew, other horticulture, forests and also health
of people. Considering all the factors, it is an obvious inference
that the site selection is unscientific and dangerous.”

She also points out that apart from this “there are 8 coal-based
thermal power plants of 23,000 MWe capacity proposed in Raigad,
Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. The State Government has also
accorded permissions to mining projects in Mandangad, Dapoli and
Dodamarg talukas. Huge piles of stored coal and fly ash will
contaminate of water bodies in the surroundings. The pollutants e.g.
Sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Carbon monoxide and Carbon dioxide
along with Arsenic, Cadmium will spread over 25~30 km and contaminate
air, soil, water. These proposed projects will result in destruction
of ecology and means of livelihood of toiling masses of Konkan. CRZ
norms will be violated.”

In its study paper, KVPVS points out, “…the risk associated with
nuclear power which is usually long-term effects is not just confined
to human beings but also to the trees, livestock, fish and environs.
Exposure to radioactivity leads to the increase in incidence of
tumors, cancer, infertility, congenital deformities, stillbirths etc.
The most serious matter is that due to genetic mutations these can be
transmitted through generations. An even more monstrous problem is
that of safe storage of nuclear waste. Finally, considering the
complexity of the technology of a nuclear reactor, there is no way to
ensure that a serious accident at a nuclear power plant will not take
place. An accident at a nuclear power plant is not a simple accident;
it affects the very sustainability of life on Planet Earth. Nuclear
energy is also no less harmful in greenhouse gas emissions as compared
to coal or gas fired electricity generation, when the entire nuclear
cycle from uranium mining to waste storage is considered.”
Maybe, in the process of ravaging, pillaging and destruction some
places might be preserved as a kind of historical park for the future
generations to show what once was-Konkan with semiotic phantom bits of
cultural imagery also added to it. And natives probably would be left
with mementoes of a scorched out decayed existence and a life not
asked for.

And if at all a nuclear disaster does strike then the middle-class
which tom-tomms about the much-bandied and abused word ‘development,’
may find themselves snuffed out and maybe the nuclear proponents
sitting in Delhi, will spin out platitudes and rake in monies on the
howls, cries and deaths of radioactive corroded bodies in cheap
coffins.

CHINA SYNDROME

March 16, 1979: Hollywood film “China Syndrome,” hits the screen in
USA cities. The film revolves on an impending nuclear disaster in one
of the plants. The nuclear hawks and proponents dismiss it and term it
as “an exaggeration, pseudo-science and a hypothetical improbability.”
Twelve days later. March 16, 1979, in an island just 10 miles from
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, disaster struck in Three Mile Island.
Though no fatalities were reported, till date nobody is sure as to
what effects radioactive water released in Susquehanna river at the
time have had on the people living in vicinity. Thirty-one years have
passed since the disaster and no
April 26, 1986, near Kiev in Ukraine, one of the worst nuclear
disasters occurred. The effects are still to be assessed. Twelve
years later in Tokaimura in Japan over a 100 people were hospitalized
and two workers exposed to radiation during the disaster in the
nuclear plant died.

The list is long and it goes back to 1952 when the first recorded
disaster occurred on in the Chalk river experimental nuclear plant in
Canada. Five years later in the Great Britain’s Windscale reprocessing
plant (Sellafield) three tones of uranium caught fire. The effect:
over 200 people developed terminal cancer. The exact magnitude could
not be ascertained as the radiation spread hundreds of miles across
northern Europe.

Facts and Figures

• Over the past 60 years, the standards set for occupational exposure
has dropped from 30 rems per year in 1934 to 5 rems per year in 1987.
These changes in the exposure limits were dramatically altered, as the
health effects of radiation became further understood.
• Single radiation doses of over about 1 gray can cause radiation
sickness. Acute effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,
sometimes accompanied by malaise, fever, and hemorrhage. The victim
may die in a few hours, days or weeks. Other acute effects can include
sterility and radiation burns, depending on the absorbed dose and the
rate of the exposure.
• For radiation doses less than about 1 sievert, stochastic, or
random, effects are of the greatest concern. Cancer and inheritable
genetic damage may appear many years or decades after exposure.
Estimates of the magnitude of low-dose radiation effects have tended
to rise over the years, but remain the subject of controversy. That
Chernobyl is giving rise to a new range of deformations and that
cancer in the United States is becoming an epidemic, provides new
opportunities to assess the health risks of routine exposure from
leaks in commercial power plants, nuclear weapons production
facilities, uranium mines and test sites.
• The largest source of radioactive waste threatening human health and
genomes is the tailings resulting from uranium mining. These mines are
often in indigenous communities with lower than adequate public health
monitoring and medical facilities.
• Approximately 2,051 nuclear weapons were detonated in the pursuit of
‘security’ between 1945 and 1995, an average of one every 9 days
during a 50 year period. The 423 above ground tests are estimated to
have put 11-13 million curies of strontium-90, 17-21 million curies of
cesium-137, 10 million curies of carbon-14 and 225,000 curies of
plutonium into the environment.
• The US National Cancer Institute released a report in 1997 revealing
that iodine-131 from nuclear testing was found in every single county
of the United States.
• Temporary sterility in men can occur with a single absorbed dose, of
about 0.15 grays, to the testis. In children, the threshold for
congenital (existing at or dating from birth) malformation and other
developmental abnormalities has been estimated to be 0.25 grays of
radiation exposure up to 28 days of gestation.
• The dose at which half the exposed population would die in 60 days
without medical treatment is called the LD50 dose (LD for lethal dose,
and 50 for 50 percent). It is about 4 seiverts for adults.

Source: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/technical/factsheets/health.html
Reaching Critical Will- Health Effects and the Nuclear Age.

Prabhat Sharan is a Senior Journalist with interest in social, working
class, wild-life conservation, media, philosophical and literary
studies. He can be contacted at sharanprabhat@gmail.com.