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Author: Administrator

03/02/2009



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MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LIVING IN EXTREME POVERTY

In the United States, the official poverty rate for 2012 stood at 15 percent based on the national poverty line which is equivalent to around $16 per person per day. Of the 46.5 million Americans living in poverty, 20.4 million live under half the poverty line. This begs the question of just how poor America’s poorest people are. Using an alternative dataset from the one employed for the official U.S. poverty measure, Shaefer and Edin show that millions of Americans live on less than $2 a day—a threshold commonly used to measure poverty in the developing world. Depending on the exact definitions used, they find that up to 5 percent of American households with children are shown to fall under this parsimonious poverty line. These numbers are intended to shock—and they succeed. The United States is known for having higher inequality and a less generous social safety net than many affluent countries in Europe, but the acute deprivations that flow from this are less understood. A crude comparison of Shaefer and Edin’s estimates with the World Bank’s official $2 a day poverty estimates for developing economies would place the United States level with or behind a large set of countries, including Russia (0.1 percent), the West Bank and Gaza (0.3 percent), Jordan (1.6 percent), Albania (1.7 percent), urban Argentina (1.9 percent), urban China (3.5 percent), and Thailand (4.1 percent). Many of these countries are recipients of American foreign aid. However, methodologies for measuring poverty differ wildly both within and across countries, so such comparisons and their interpretation demand extreme care.

Violent Japanese anti-war film is a contender at Venice festival

One of the most powerful and violent films to be shown at the Venice Film Festival this year, Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto's "Nobi" (Fires on the Plain), delivers a stinging anti-war message bathed in blood. A remake of a 1959 classic, the film, shown late on Monday and in competition for the main festival prize, sticks to the plot of Kon Ichikawa's earlier film about defeated Japanese troops in the Philippines in World War Two. The version by Tsukamoto, whose past horror-and-fantasy-tinged films have earned him a reputation as an auteur of the strange, pumps up the volume in terms of severed body parts, bloody stumps of arms, maggot-ridden corpses and starving soldiers descending into cannibalism. Tsukamoto also plays Private Tamura, the main character in the film, which dwells on the dead and the dying among Japanese troops towards the end of the war. It shows the limits of human endurance, and the desperate measures people will take to survive. "In the last year all the people that had experienced war are getting older and older and many of them have died, so there are very few people who can testify and say what war really is," Tsukamoto told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Celebrity lawyer tells clients to avoid using iCloud, smart devices

A leading celebrity lawyer has advised his clients not to use smartphones and the iCloud after intimate photos of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and female entertainers and models were posted online following an apparent mass hacking. Martin Garbus, a New York trial lawyer who over the years has represented actors Al Pacino, Sean Connery, Robert Redford and others, said on Tuesday worried clients have approached him about security issues. "Nothing is safe on the Internet, period," he told Reuters. "Everything on your iPhone, whether it be phone calls, message texts, pictures, is all available." Garbus said clients started to contact him after intimate photos of Lawrence, a star of "The Hunger Games" movie franchise and a best actress Academy Award winner for "Silver Linings Playbook," and other high-profile women began appearing on Sunday. Personal photos of Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton and American actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead were also posted on the image-sharing forum 4chan. Apple Inc has said it is investigating the reports that its iCloud, which stores data online rather than on a user's device, had apparently been hacked. Lawrence's representative described the release of the photos as a "flagrant violation of privacy" and said the authorities have been contacted.

Battling biographies head to Toronto to win awards season hearts

As a first-time film director, television comedian Jon Stewart pleads ignorance about the workings of the movie industry. But as he heads to the Toronto International Film Festival this week, he shares many of the feelings of more seasoned directors: excitement, nausea and the hope that he has done justice to the man whose story he depicts in film. "The Daily Show" host's film is "Rosewater," the real-life story of journalist Maziar Bahari and his five months of torture and interrogation in an Iranian prison at the hands of a man who smells of rosewater. "I felt like Maziar was really trusting me with something that was very personal to him," said Stewart. "I have tremendous affection and respect for the guy and I wanted to do right by it." Stewart's debut is one of several highly anticipated biographical films to feature at the Toronto festival that runs Sept. 4-14 and is considered the kick-off to a six-month awards season that concludes with the industry's top honours, the Academy Awards. There is the story of cosmologist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," the portrayal of British World War II code-breaker Alan Turing in "The Imitation Game," and "Pawn Sacrifice" about American chess champion Bobby Fischer and his 1972 match against Russian rival Boris Spassky. In the women's camp, Reese Witherspoon stars in "Wild," based on the best-selling memoir of Cheryl Strayed, a self-destructive woman who treks solo across 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of wilderness. Biographies are "catnip for the Academy," says Keith Simanton, managing editor of movie website IMDb. "We are seeing more biographies that have a really good shot of ending up being talked about at awards next year and in top 10 lists at the end of the year," said Simanton.

A landmark law at 40: How well is it protecting workers’ retirements?

Every American who has retired with economic security - or hopes to - should know these two dates in our history: August 14, 1935, and September 2, 1974. The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, and 40 years ago today President Gerald Ford signed landmark pension reform legislation aimed at protecting the interests of Americans in private sector pension programs. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was signed on Labor Day 1974. These are the two of our most important laws governing the retirement security of Americans. And today’s ERISA anniversary is a good moment to ask: How are we doing when it comes to protecting the retirement security of everyday Americans? And how are these two laws connected? For the answer, look no further than the two most important words in ERISA’s title: income security. Unfortunately, we’re not living up to those two words very well. Since ERISA’s passage, we have seen a profound shift from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans, mainly 401(k)s. Pensions are a promise by employers of lifetime income in retirement; 401(k)s are a promise to contribute a certain amount to your account while you are working. Evidence is mounting that we need to get focused on income again. Performance of the defined contribution system is a mixed bag. Some higher-income workers have accumulated sizable sums, though most don’t have a clue how their nest eggs will translate into income. Lower-income workers have negligible savings. Most public sector workers are covered by defined benefit pensions, but coverage in the private sector has evaporated since ERISA’s passage. The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) reports that 38 percent of private sector workers received income from a traditional pension in 1979 - a figure that plunged to 15 percent in 2010. And the trend is accelerating, with a growing number of private sector pension plan sponsors unloading pension obligations by making tempting lump sum buyout offers to workers (reut.rs/1sHHGbo). The substitution of 401(k)s for pensions comes as Americans are living longer, making retirement more expensive and risky. And it isn’t what lawmakers envisioned in 1974 when ERISA was passed, says Josh Gotbaum, who stepped down last month as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the government-sponsored agency that insures most private sector defined-benefit pensions through premiums paid by plan sponsors. “Congress passed ERISA on the assumption that employers were going to offer lifetime income pensions - the only issue was how they would do it. But the response from employers has been increasingly not to offer lifetime income solutions to workers.”