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AND FINALLY … 1-9-14
New York Times: 50 years later, war on poverty is a mixed bag
By Annie Lowrey
To many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed. The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate.
But looked at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans. At the same time, in recent decades, most of the gains from the private economy have gone to those at the top of the income ladder.
Half a century after Mr. Johnson’s now-famed State of the Union address, the debate over the government’s role in creating opportunity and ending deprivation has flared anew, with inequality as acute as it was in the Roaring Twenties and the ranks of the poor and near-poor at record highs. Programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps are keeping millions of families afloat. Republicans have sought to cut both programs, an illustration of the intense disagreement between the two political parties over the best solutions for bringing down the poverty rate as quickly as possible, or eliminating it.
AP: Report spurring anti-smoking crusade marks 50th anniversary
By Mike Stobbe, Associated Press
Fifty years ago, ashtrays seemed to be on every table and desk. Athletes and even Fred Flintstone endorsed cigarettes in TV commercials. Smoke hung in the air in restaurants, offices and airplane cabins. More than 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked, and there was a good chance your doctor was among them.
The turning point came Jan. 11, 1964. That Saturday morning U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released an emphatic and authoritative report that said smoking causes illness and death — and the government should do something about it.
In the decades that followed, warning labels were put on cigarette packs, cigarette commercials were banned, taxes were raised and new restrictions were placed on where people could light up.
"It was the beginning,” said Kenneth Warner, a University of Michigan public-health professor who is a leading authority on smoking and health.
It was not the end. While the U.S. smoking rate has fallen by more than half to 18 percent, that still translates to more than 43 million smokers. Smoking is still far and away the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Some experts predict large numbers of Americans will puff away for decades to come.
AND, FINALLY… 12-18-13
The Providence Journal: Online Immortality
By Paul Edward Parker
Journal Staff Writer
One snowy Saturday morning in 2010, Mason Boltrushek said goodbye to his girlfriend and headed to work, agreeing to get together when he got out, The Providence Journal reports.
He would never keep that promise. The 17-year-old lost control of his car on Route 102 in Burrillville. It spun across the center line, where a pickup truck plowed into it, killing Mason.
But, in this Internet Age, Mason has gained a measure of digital immortality.
Friends and family continue to post pictures and messages on his Facebook page. They recall fond memories. They bemoan his passing. They even seek his guidance and advice.
It’s as if he’s still around — somewhere out in cyberspace.
"It’s like a piece of him is always going to be there,” said Katie O’Connor, the girlfriend he left behind on Jan. 2, 2010. "It’s the same as just sitting there talking to the air as if he’s listening — without looking as silly.”
Only there’s one eerie difference: Sometimes, Mason posts messages on their Facebook pages.
AND, FINALLY… 12-11-13
Woman's 140K tapes of TV news to be digitized
A woman who faithfully taped 35 years of TV news with the hope that one day it would prove to be valuable, searchable historical material did not live to see her dream realized.
But the vision of Philadelphia resident Marion Stokes, who died last year at 83, will become a reality now that her 140,000 video cassettes are being archived in an online library.
The trove, which totals about a million hours of newscasts, is expected to arrive Tuesday at the Internet Archive in Richmond, Calif., where it will be digitized and made available to the public, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported (http://bit.ly/1ksefVO).
"We were awestruck by two things," said Roger Macdonald, the virtual library's director of TV archives. "One, the size of the collection. And two, the human story behind it, that one person could create so extensive a collection."
The massive collection, which was first reported last month by Fast Company magazine, include local news shows from Philadelphia between 1986 and 2012, and broadcasts from Boston, where she once lived, from 1977 to 1986. All the while, she also recorded national news and cable channels, leading to her to run several VCRs simultaneously 24 hours a day.
AP: ‘Trust me’ doesn’t cut it for many in the U.S.
By Connie Cass, Associated Press
You can take our word for it. Americans don't trust each other anymore.
We're not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away.
These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.
Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say "you can't be too careful" in dealing with people.
An AP-Gfk poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.
"I'm leery of everybody," said Bart Murawski, 27, of Albany, N.Y. "Caution is always a factor."
Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists.
What's known as "social trust" brings good things. A society where it's easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.
Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities.
Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher.
"It's like the rules of the game," Clark said. "When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil."
And finally .... Do we know exact words of the Gettysburg Address?
Gettysburg Address at 150: Reporter's story, scholars' research seek Lincoln's exact words
By ALLEN G. BREED AP NATIONAL WRITER It was the biggest assignment of Joseph Ignatius Gilbert's journalistic career — and he was in serious danger of blowing it.
On Nov. 19, 1863, the 21-year-old Associated Press freelancer was standing before a "rude platform" overlooking the still-ravaged battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa. Towering above him was an almost mythic figure: Abraham Lincoln.
By this time, Gilbert had been covering the president for two and a half long years of civil war. Three months earlier, he had written a dispatch about the Union rout of Gen. George Pickett from this very field, an event often called the "high-water mark of the Confederacy."
Lincoln had come to dedicate a portion of the battlefield — still strewn with equipment, clothing and horse skeletons — as a national cemetery. Gilbert was dutifully taking down the president's words in shorthand when something uncharacteristic happened.
He became star-struck.
"Fascinated by Lincoln's intense earnestness and depth of feeling, I unconsciously stopped taking notes," he would recall decades later, "and looked up at him just as he glanced from his manuscript with a faraway look in his eyes as if appealing from the few thousands before him to the invisible audience of countless millions whom his words were to reach."
Luckily for Gilbert, Lincoln graciously allowed his text to be copied while the ceremonies concluded. And "the press report was made from the copy," the AP man noted.
Brief as Lincoln's speech was, many newspaper reports paraphrased or outright butchered it. In his new book, "Writing the Gettysburg Address," Martin P. Johnson argues that the fledgling "wire service" played a key role in ensuring that most Americans experienced the true power and poetry of their president's words at a time when he desperately wanted to reach them.
"The Gettysburg Address was not necessarily going to be an important text, if the first version published had been such a truncated version," he says.
But 150 years later, the debate continues over exactly what Lincoln said that day — and why it matters.
"Four score and seven years ago ..."
The speech contains about 250 words. Today, a listener with a smartphone could polish it off in 10 tweets or simply post the raw video on YouTube.
But a century and a half ago, the news medium was a reporter taking notes with a pencil, most likely in shorthand.
Once finished, he would race to a telegraph office and hand over his dispatch to an operator, who would tap it out in Morse code. The story would travel to a newspaper office, where the series of dots and dashes were deciphered, then set in lead type.
For a great many papers, the source of that text was the AP, and its "agents" — men like Gilbert.
The goateed Gilbert was a "shorthand novice" in the state Senate at Harrisburg on Feb. 22, 1861, when he first heard the new president speak in the Pennsylvania capital. His dispatches appeared in the city's Evening Telegraph. As he moved on to The Philadelphia Press and AP, the young scribe would have other opportunities to report on "the care worn President whose shoulders, Atlas-like, were carrying the pillars of the Republic."
So Gilbert was an old hand at covering Lincoln when he joined the throngs assembling on Cemetery Hill in the fall of 1863.
"The battlefield, on that sombre autumn day, was enveloped in gloom," he wrote in a paper delivered at the 1917 convention of the National Shorthand Reporters' Association in Cleveland. "Nature seemed to veil her face in sorrow for the awful tragedy enacted there."
Lincoln was not even the keynote speaker that day; that honor fell to former U.S. Sen. Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours. Lincoln's address lasted barely two minutes.
There are five known drafts of the speech in Lincoln's own handwriting, each different from the other in some subtle or not-so-subtle way. The last, penned in March 1864, is the version chiseled in marble on the Lincoln Memorial.
In 1894, Lincoln's personal secretary, John Nicolay, published what he called "the autograph manuscript" of the Gettysburg Address. The first page was written in pen on lined stationery marked "Executive Mansion"; the second is in pencil on bluish foolscap.
Johnson, an assistant history professor at Miami University in Ohio, concludes that this is the delivery or "battlefield draft" Lincoln pulled from his coat on the platform that day. John R. Sellers, retired curator of Civil War papers at the Library of Congress, which recently put the pages on display, agrees.
But historian Gabor Boritt, author of "The Gettysburg Gospel," argues that a version discovered in 1908 among the papers of John M. Hay, Lincoln's assistant secretary, is the one from which the president read.
Perhaps the most important difference among the address's various permutations is the presence or absence of the phrase "under God."
Those words do not appear in either the Nicolay or Hay drafts, but they are present in the three other handwritten copies Lincoln produced for use in fundraising efforts.
They also appear in dispatches sent by Gilbert and shorthand stenographer Charles Hale, who was there for the Boston Daily Advertiser, leading Johnson, Boritt and others to conclude that Lincoln added them extemporaneously.
Lincoln told his good friend, Kentuckian James Speed, that he continued to work on the speech after arriving in Gettysburg and had not had time to memorize it. He also acknowledged that he did not stick to the script in his hand.
Nicolay said Lincoln referred to the AP report when reconstructing and refining the address for the later drafts. But which one?
Due to "inevitable telegraphic variations," says Johnson, there were almost as many versions in circulation "as there were newspapers that printed them." No definitive "wire copy" survives in AP files, says company archivist Valerie Komor.
Many, including Komor, believe the story that appeared the next day in the New York Tribune, represents the dispatch sent out from AP headquarters. But Johnson notes that the Tribune had its own reporter in Gettysburg that day.
Through some forensic calisthenics, Johnson believes he has succeeded in recreating the original AP dispatch.
Different versions either include or omit the word "poor" in "far above our poor power to add or detract."
"Poor" is missing from the Tribune version, Boritt notes. It's included in the story published in the Philadelphia North American, which to Johnson "appears to be the closest approximation of the AP version as it was telegraphed from Gettysburg on the day of the speech."
Unfortunately, Gilbert's personal account only muddies the waters. In the wire dispatches, the text is interrupted six times to note applause. But in 1917, Gilbert remembered no "tumultuous outbursts of enthusiasm accompanying the President's utterances," adding the cemetery was "not the place for it."
Boritt, director emeritus of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, has concluded the recollection of the AP man, who died in 1924, "needs to be taken with a grain of salt."
In the end, does it really matter whether Lincoln said "the government" or just "government?" It certainly did to him.
"The exact words are important because they clearly reveal Lincoln's thinking about the importance of the Civil War and the world historical importance of the struggle that he was engaged in," says Johnson. "He was very clear about wanting to get the words correct, precise — because he knew that it was an important point."
Johnson says it is fortunate that the AP quickly reported the speech at full length.
"We'd probably always have the delivery text, but that might never have been published during Lincoln's lifetime," he says. "So the Gettysburg Address might never have become such an important, iconic text for us if the AP had not been there reporting it properly."
In a paper prepared for Northern Kentucky University's Six@Six lecture series, archivist Komor suggests that Gilbert's greatest contribution to our understanding of the speech is perhaps his recollection of how Lincoln delivered the final lines: "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Many who recite the address place the emphasis on the prepositions "of," ''by" and "for." But Gilbert, no longer preoccupied with the mechanics of note-taking, was able to truly listen to what the president was saying, and how he said it — and he insisted Lincoln's focus was "the people."
"He served the people; he referred to them as his 'rightful masters,'" Komor writes. "On the morning of November 19, Lincoln beheld his masters lying dead by the thousands."