Tax Foundation Analysis Shows ‘Fair Share’ Not Paid By All

The idea of a what constitutes a "fair share" when paying taxes to the Federal government has come into question, as an analysis by the Tax Foundation showed that half of the working population pays no income tax at all, according to Fox News.

"The top 10 percent income earners pay about 70 percent of Federal income taxes," Will McBride of the Tax Foundation, told the news outlet. "The bottom 50 percent of tax filers have, they pay almost no Federal income tax. They pay about 3 percent of Federal income taxes."

The "fair share" idea has been championed by President Barack Obama in several speeches and the State of the Union address, but many people who do not have to pay income taxes end up also receiving credits that lead to refunds from the government, Fox News reported.

"Right now about 70 percent of Americans take more out of the tax system than they put into it, according to the Tax Foundation," Arthur Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute, told the news outlet.

The analysis from the Tax Foundation came after the President released his FY2013 budget, which would see Federal borrowing rise to 76.5 percent of the nation's GDP by 2022, according to Fortune.

U.S., Mexico Agree To Cooperate On Gas And Oil Drilling

The U.S. and Mexico agreed to work together in drilling for oil and gas below their maritime border in the Gulf of Mexico, The Associated Press reported.

According to the news outlet, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mexico's foreign minister signed the deal at a ceremony in Los Cabos, as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Mexican President Felipe Calderon looked on.

The AP reported that the cooperation between the two countries dates back to an agreement between President Barack Obama and Calderon regarding a move to share in the profits and work together to avoid spills.

Clinton said that the deal would help to "ensure safe, efficient, responsible exploration of the oil and gas reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico."

"These reservoirs could hold considerable reserves that would benefit the United States and Mexico alike," she continued, noting that the agreement would prevent disputes over who should get the rights to the resources and who would do the extraction.

The New York Times reported that the deal is called "The Transboundary Agreement" and will make up to 1.5 million acres of offshore territory claimed by the U.S. available for leasing by June 2012.

Gold Prices Rise After Greek Debt Deal Boosts Euro

The price of gold rose for a second straight day on February 21, as a rally in the euro spurred by an agreement between European finance ministers and Greece helped to boost the value of the precious metal, Reuters reported.

According to the news outlet, Euro zone finance ministers agreed to a $172 billion bailout for Greece, a move which may help the Aegean nation avoid a chaotic default. Private bondholders agreed to take greater losses and Athens committed to make deep cuts in spending.

"Gold is trading more like the other metals – as a risk asset, rather than a risk hedge," David Wilson, an analyst at Citigroup, told Reuters. "You'd have thought that all the macro issues would be supportive for gold, when looking at U.S. and European debt and a slowing China, but it seems to be largely driven by the dollar/euro."

According to CNN, the price of gold rose $24.20 to $1,750.10 an ounce for April delivery, the most actively traded contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange. This marked an increase of 1.40 percent for the commodity. 

Bacon And Eggs, Breakfast Of Choice For Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant and have a hankering for bacon and eggs, you’ve got good nutritional evidence to back up your culinary desires. Research into fetal development shows that the fetal brain needs relatively large amounts of choline for proper growth. Both bacon and eggs are rich in this nutrient which is also found in other meats.

“We may never be able to call bacon a health food with a straight face, but the emerging field of epigenetics is already making us rethink those things that we consider healthful and unhealthful,” says Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal where the latest study was published. “This is yet another example showing that good prenatal nutrition is vitally important throughout a child’s entire lifetime.”

Epigenetics, the study of how genes behave, shows that an expectant mother’s nutrition influences the behavior of fetal cells. In this study, the choline in bacon and eggs helped fetal brain cells develop regions associated with memory. Nuts are also a good source of choline.


Afghan And U.S. Governments Begin Peace Talks With Taliban

The U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Wall Street Journal in an interview, as he disclosed an important breakthrough in the effort to end the ongoing war.

According to the newspaper, Karzai, whose government had objected to being left out of recent talks between the U.S. and the insurgent group, added that he believes the Taliban are in favor of a peace settlement.

“People in Afghanistan want peace, including the Taliban. They’re also people like we all are. They have families, they have relatives, they have children, they are suffering a tough time,” Karzai told the Journal. He declined to go into details about the specific location of the talks between his government, the U.S. and the Taliban, as he noted it may damage the process.

The Associated Press reported that the presidents of Afghanistan and Iran convened in Pakistan on Thursday for a three-way summit that was focused on specific steps that could be taken to facilitate peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

Rhode Island School Committee Votes Not To Appeal Prayer Banner Case

A Rhode Island public school district committee recently voted not to appeal a Federal court decision that ordered the removal of a prayer banner that had been displayed in a high school, The Associated Press reported.

According to the news outlet, the issue was brought up when a 16-year-old atheist filed a lawsuit against the school district, and the Cranston School Committee voted to not appeal the case after a lengthy public hearing.

The AP reported that the banner, which had been up since 1963, was covered since a Federal judge ruled that it was unConstitutional and ordered its removal. In the hearing, appeal opponents cited the legal costs – that were predicted to be more than $500,000 if it were to reach the Supreme Court – as grounds for giving up the fight.

“You will be wasting time and incredible resources. Half a million dollars? How dare you,” a resident said during the hearing.

Reuters reported that the reaction from the crowd was mixed, but the school must remove the banner within 10 days under the court order.

“The ACLU is going to win solely because of the fiscal condition of Cranston,” school board chairwoman Andrea Iannazzi told a crowd after the appeal was dropped.

Obama Raises $29 Million For Campaign In January

President Barack Obama raised $29 million for the Democratic party and his campaign in January, as the strong month put him ahead of the pace that he set in the last quarter of 2011, The Associated Press reported.

According to the news outlet, the campaign for the President announced that Obama raised the money through the Victory Fund for his re-election effort, for the Democratic National Committee and other related committees.

The money that was raised in January brings Obama’s total combined fundraising for this election cycle to roughly $250 million, an average of nearly $23 million a month.

The AP reported that fundraising concluded before the campaign’s announcement this month that, in a reversal of policy, the President would embrace the big-money groups in fundraising that he had once criticized.

CBS News reported that a Tweet sent by the President’s Twitter account noted that of the donations from January, 98 percent of them were for $250 or less. Obama raised $68 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, significantly more than any Republican during that period.

Spending Cuts Outweigh Farm Subsidies For Rural Constituents

The promotion of farm subsidies was once a common move for rural members of Congress who were seeking re-election, but this year the call for spending cuts may affect the push for the agricultural industry by these lawmakers, The Associated Press reported.

According to the news outlet, lawmakers are approaching the writing of the next five-year farm bill with caution, and agribusiness and farmers’ lobbyists are preparing for the worst. With little support for spending in Washington, subsidy cuts in the billions of dollars are on the table.

The recent success in the agricultural industry hasn’t helped, as the farm bill may lose support due to the fact that many people feel farmers are doing fine.

“What’s different this time is we have very strong commodity prices,” Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, told the AP. “And that is generally not a really good time to write a farm bill because everyone who is projecting the future says, ‘Oh, this is going to last forever.'”

Bloomberg reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture spending would rise 2.5 percent in the next year, before crop subsidies would kick in and provide aid to farmers.

Light Sleepers More Likely To Get Alzheimer’s

The amount and quality of sleep you get at night may affect your memory later in life, according to research to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans in April.

“Disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques, a hallmark marker of Alzheimer’s disease, in the brains of people without memory problems,” says study author Yo-El Ju, MD, with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Further research is needed to determine why this is happening and whether sleep changes may predict cognitive decline.”

Researchers tested the sleep patterns of 100 people between the ages of 45 and 80 who were free of dementia. Half of the group had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. A device was placed on the participants for two weeks to measure sleep. Sleep diaries and questionnaires were also analyzed by researchers.

After the study, it was discovered that 25 percent of the participants had evidence of amyloid plaques, which can appear years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin. The average time a person spent in bed during the study was about eight hours, but the average sleep time was 6.5 hours due to short awakenings in the night.

The study found that people who woke up more than five times per hour were more likely to have amyloid plaque build-up compared to people who didn’t wake up as much.

Social Security Reserves Forecast To Be Empty By 2022

Social Security's bank account will be empty in 2022, the first time the program's combined trust funds will run a deficit, according to the budget that was recently released by President Barack Obama.

The Washington Times reported that not only will Social Security be empty by that date, but one of Medicare's trust funds will also be in the red for much of the next decade.

According to the numbers in the briefing book that the White House provided along with the budget, Social Security's trust fund will run a deficit of $2.6 billion in 2022.

The Times reported that Social Security has taken in less in taxes than it has paid out in benefits since 2010, but the shortfall has been covered by the government dipping into the leftover money in the trust funds from previous years.

The Washington Post reported that the proposed budget from the President included only modest trims to Federal healthcare programs and no changes to Social Security, which remain the biggest drivers of future borrowing.