"Wrong Axe, Mr. President." Maybe budget deficits do grow on trees: On Dec. 23, the Department of Agriculture exempted 300,000 acres of Alaska's Tongass National Forest from a federal rule limiting taxpayer subsidies for the building of private logging roads in national forests (the action was announced at the tail end of a press release about mad cow disease). In an update on the Web site The Progress Report (Jan. 12), Taxpayers for Common Sense asks why the federal government continues to massively subsidize the logging industry -- to the tune of nearly $35 million on the Tongass program in 2002 alone (www.progress.org/2004/tcs160.htm).
"Risky Business." Naomi Klein goes inside the corporate gold rush on Iraqi reconstruction billions, where social and political unrest are tempering corporate enthusiasm. In a cover story in The Nation (Jan. 5), Klein recaps "Paul Bremer's bold plan to auction off Iraq while it is still under occupation," but notes that "insurance companies aren't going for it," not least because of anxiety over how a directly elected Iraqi government might rule. Don't worry, though: Klein tells how a federal agency is prepared to step in with loans and insurance ultimately backed by taxpayers -- thus using public risk to indemnify private gains (www.thenation.com).
"Protests in Iraq." Another source of Iraqi unrest is the treatment of Iraq's former military class, thousands of whom are demonstrating, rioting and clashing with occupying British troops over back payments due them (amounting monthly to some $50 per person). In her "Occupation Watch" column on the Web site Electronic Iraq (Jan. 12), Ewa Jasiewicz provides an in-depth first-person account of the violence and bitterness engulfing the issue (www.electroniciraq.net/news/1325.shtml).
"Chatter, chatter everywhere." Sure, the orange alert's off, but the paranoia lingers. On the Web site spiked (Jan. 5), Brendan O'Neill says American and British responses to upticks in nonspecific, indecipherable "chatter" among suspected terrorists -- like the kind that gets international flights canceled -- sow fear without necessarily making us any safer. O'Neill explains why chatter is of limited use in fighting terrorism, and that when authorities go public with every possible threat it might actually work to terrorists' advantage (www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CA339.htm).
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