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Smart Talk Oct. 13

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Leeving is hard to do
With legions of heretofore-silent fans of Sharon Lee — formerly the co-host of the 6 to 9 a.m. morning show on KARN — coming out of the woodwork to call us, all wondering what was the reason behind Lee’s departure from the airwaves last month, we figured it was time to give the station a ring.

“We didn’t bury her in the backyard or anything like that,” said KARN morning show producer John Payne. “She just figured it was time for her, after 21 years, to take a break and sleep in late.”

Payne said Lee can still be heard on KARN from time to time, doing voice-overs for local ads.



You still need to bundle up
The state Public Service Commission has revised its estimate on gas bill sticker shock this winter.

In September, a prediction on wellhead prices (the major portion of home gas bills) produced an estimate that gas bills for Arkansas homes could go up as much as 57 percent this winter.

The number has come down. The PSC said last week that the increases are likely to range from 10 percent for Centerpoint customers, to 21 percent for Arkansas Western Gas and 26 percent for Arkansas Oklahoma Gas.

That’s enough of an increase to insulate more, heat less and talk to the gas company about levelized billing.



Frugal Yanks
When it comes to disaster relief and foreign aid, no one matches the USA, or so the corporate media tell us, as when the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Bradley Gitz wrote Sept. 29 that “the American people have now reconfirmed their status as the world’s most generous people.”

It’s too soon to know the total government and private spending in response to Hurricane Katrina, though some Republicans are already saying it’s too much, and some Democrats too little. But there are other measurements of the charity of the richest country in the world. After the Indian Ocean tsunami last December, the U.S. government pledged $350 million, a little more than a dollar per citizen. This was the largest amount pledged by any single country, and the media judged it proof that American generosity surpasses all others. With few exceptions, they avoided linking the size of a nation’s pledge to the size of its economy or population. The New York Times, for instance, gloated that $350 million was “more than three times the amount committed by Britain,” not mentioning that the U.S. has five times Britain’s population and six times its gross domestic product.

One of the exceptions was the Boston Globe’s Charles Sennott, who consulted economists and analysts of international development aid, then wrote that “both on a per capita basis and as a percentage of the nation’s wealth, America’s emergency relief in Asia and development aid to poor countries actually ranks at the bottom of the list of developed nations … ”

The Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tracks the foreign development aid given by the 22 wealthiest countries each year. The USA ranks next to last in giving as a portion of Gross National Income, at 0.16 percent. It was dead last until Italy dropped past it in 2004. Factoring in private giving doesn’t improve the picture. Private giving by Americans after the tsunami was smaller in proportional terms than that of most Western European and Scandinavian nations.


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