In today's On the News segments: Verizon, is handing over the personal information of millions of their customers to the NSA; yesterday, the International Monetary Fund admitted that it made serious mistakes in the handling of the Greek debt crisis; the largest study ever on same-sex parenting shows that children of gay and lesbian couples are thriving; and more.
Jim Javinsky here – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news...
You need to know this. One of our nation's largest phone carriers, Verizon, is handing over the personal information of millions of their customers to the NSA. According to the Guardian newspaper, a secret court order issued in April requires Verizon to hand over all call records on an "ongoing, daily basis." The document obtained by the Guardian shows that a secret FISA Court granted the FBI authority to collect three month of Verizon data, including telephone numbers, duration of calls, location data, and the times that calls were made. The court order did not grant the FBI authority to listen to conversations, and it's unclear as to whether text messages were also intercepted. The court order only applies to Verizon, and bars the company from informing customers about the information request. It's unclear whether any other phone carriers are handing over similar data, or whether this three-month request was part of an ongoing process, or a one-time event. According to the Guardian, the document may explain two years of ominous warnings by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, who have warned about the government spying on Americans. Last year, those two senators sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, writing, "there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows." This sweeping demand for personal information is reminiscent of the policies of President George W. Bush. It's also the first top-secret document to confirm that the Obama Administration is continuing to spy on Americans.
In screwed news... Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund admitted that it made serious mistakes in the handling of the Greek debt crisis. An IMF study revealed that a debt restructuring program should have been considered earlier, and that officials were "too optimistic" about growth assumptions. Before imposing huge budget cuts, tax increases, and debt-to-GDP ratio benchmarks, the IMF predicted that the requirements would only lower economic output by about 5.5 percent, but the actual result was a 17 percent contraction in Greece's economy. IMF officials also projected that unemployment in that nation would not rise about 15 percent, but 25 percent of Greeks were out of work as of 2012. Essentially, the IMF, the European Union, and the European Central Bank were operating with untested assumptions about austerity, and caused the near destruction of the Greek economy. In the report, the IMF cheered its own so-called accomplishments, like fiscal consolidation, Greece remaining in the E.U., and the lack of spillover into the global economy. However, it's doubtful that the Greek people would agree about the program's success.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The largest study ever on same-sex parenting shows that children of gay and lesbian couples are thriving. The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families compared children of same-sex couples to children raised in heterosexual households. The researchers found that among the 500 children they studied, there was no statistical differences in self-esteem, emotional behavior, or the amount of time spent with parents. In addition, they found that same-sex households scored higher on family cohesion and overall health. Essentially, researchers found that most same-sex families had a closer family dynamic, and hypothesized it resulted from families being "more willing to communicate and approach issues." Last September, the Australian Senate voted down same-sex marriage, but they will take up the measure again in this September's general election. Researchers hope that this study will convince lawmakers to support marriage equality the next time around.
The Department of Education says President Obama's universal preschool initiative would benefit over 300,000 children in the first year alone. According to The Think Progress Blog, the proposal would cost $75 billion over the next decade, and states would only be required to cover 10 percent of the cost in the first year. While seven states, including some red states Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma, are embracing the opportunity to expand preschool, the national trend is moving in the other direction. Overall, preschool programs saw their largest-ever drop in funding last year. Currently, states are spending less per child than they have in a decade. Multiple studies support the economic benefits of early childhood education, and show that it gives kids a much better chance at success later in life. Many Americans understand that investing in our future leaders is beneficial to our nation as a whole, and they're hoping that every state will embrace universal preschool.
And finally... The source of huge cell phone network blackout in Australia has been identified. Technicians tracked the disturbance to a beer fridge belonging to neighborhood resident Craig Reynolds. Apparently, electric sparks from the fridge's motor generated enough radio frequency noise to knock out the surrounding cell network. Reynolds had no idea that keeping his beer cold could cause such a disturbance. In an interview with the Harold Sun, he said, "I'm going to run and see if my fridge is all right next time there's a problem with the network." Beer lovers everywhere appreciate Mr. Reynolds' sense of priorities.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, June 6, 2013. I'm Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.