Millions more Russians living in poverty as economic crisis bites

Russia’s recession-hit economy has propelled the country’s poverty rate to a nine-year high, state statistics showed, as the country struggles to cope with a crippling economic crisis.

An average of 19.2 million Russians – or 13.4% of the population – were living last year on less than 9,452 roubles ($139) a month, the minimum subsistence level determined by the Russian government in the fourth quarter.

This figure represents a 20% increase year-on-year, with an average 16.1 million people living below the poverty threshold in 2014.

Mother and daughter allege gang-rape in India

A mother and her teenage daughter were allegedly gang-raped in a field after being dragged from their car outside New Delhi, police said on Sunday, India’s latest brutal sexual attack.

A gang of robbers allegedly stopped the family’s car along a busy highway early on Saturday, said additional director general of police Daljeet Chaudhary.

The mother has told officers that she and her 14-year-old daughter were pulled from the vehicle and raped by six men.

The family’s four male members have said they were tied up with ropes and their belongings stolen while the attack took place, Chaudhary said.


Kim Jong-un prances around fish tackle factory as North Koreans starve

The North Korean dictator was snapped perusing the new build in Pyongyang, constructed by the Korean People’s Army.

The photos released by Korean Central News Agency see him in the net production room, playing with a basket of buoys and learning about the factory’s level of technical equipment




More important things

We’d like to know what are More Important Things for your tax dollars.  Please email your comments as to what you would prefer to spend (or not spend, if you’d just like to see a tax cut) at the feedback hyperlink and we will add your thoughts to The List.  Be as specific as you would like.  We would like to print your name with your wish.  Others who are allied with us may disagree with your priorities; nevertheless, we are all in agreement as to what should grace the very bottom of the list.  

Requests we’ve had so far:

CCTV for Schools

Though we may be in agreement with you depending on the object of your diatribe, we will refrain from publishing obscenities or patently offensive material.

Key Arena: Didn’t they just build it?

Yes. Built in 1994 at a cost of about $92 million, with some $74 million of bonded indebtedness, Key Arena has had a shelf life hardly longer than canned beans. Now, they tell us Key Arena was supposedly obsolete the day it opened for business.

Click here to read how the project was described by its constructors at the time, a short eleven years ago.

The financial structure for payment of the bonds by revenue generated at the facility through luxury box seats sales has failed. Now the Sonics, who were responsible for those sales, and whose principal owner is undoubtedly one of the world’s best marketers, say they cannot sell the high priced luxury seating that is responsible for debt service on the facility. So the Sonics want the City of Seattle to pick up the tab.

The demand for tax subsidies for professional basketball at Key Arena has many other factors driving it. The team payroll has ballooned in the last year from $34 million to $50 million. Check out the Sonics payroll here. The Arena has to compete with Safeco Field and Qwest Field. Despite lavish salaries that are competitive in the league, the team languishes.

The Sonics not only want the taxpayers to pay that bill still outstanding from 1994, they want an entirely new facility. That facility will have about 900 more seats (475 of which are standing room only), even fancier luxury suites, a practice arena, and a bigger concourse for restaurants and other facilities that get people to spend more money. Those new businesses will compete with other private businesses ringing Seattle Center. And the Sonics want to control the new Arena, keeping nearly all the money from all the events–not just basketball. But to make the proposal palatable, they’ve thrown a bone to the arts–about one in seven of every dollar raised by the proposed tax increase will go to fund arts organizations in King County.

To get legislative support in Olympia, they tell legislators that the proposal really helps Seattle–that it gets rid of losses at Seattle Center that drain money from other city programs. This is the same logic that wasted the Kingdome–they argued that the Kingdome was a drain on King County’s budget. So they shift it to the capital facilities side of the ledger, with a tax increase on somebody else to pay the bill. That tax increase is real, it hurts workers, and it hurts–to quote a Republican or two–our children who will eventually pay it. This kind of self-indulgent, fiscally irresponsible policy-making helps nobody.

That tax increase slams restaurants, hotels and motels, and hits taxpayers directly through a county-wide diversion of sales tax revenue to the facility. See the House Office of Program Research Analysis here. And the proposal–House Bill 3233 and Senate Bill 6849–not only has no public vote–it eliminates the public vote on sports stadium remodeling projects in Washington State forever. The salt in the wound? Under the current proposal, tearing down the Kingdome and rebuilding it would have been a remodeling project. Had this proposal been law ten years ago, there would have been no Seahawks stadium vote, no Mariners stadium vote.

The playbook for the Sonics proposal is nearly identical to that of the Mariners. Claim losses, make threats to leave, hype the economic impact of the team. Shed crocodile tears about not being loved. Bring out a citizen’s report and economic analysis that shows how much money they contribute to the community. What’s worse, the consultants Seattle Center retained to tell us how to deal with Key Arena now, are the same ones who could not get it right, back then. Go figure. The strategy would be laughable, if it did not work, not only in Seattle, but in other cities throughout America.

That citizens report can be viewed here. One thing it does say is that Key Arena is viable without the Sonics. It also states that, at least with respect to Seattle Center, the problem is a $3 million per year problem. That begs a question, which it does not address, which is why the solution to that problem will result in the issuance of bonds, at a cost of some $10 million per year.

Because of the well voiced public outrage over it, this proposal did not make it through the legislature. However, the Governor and others are still trying to make a deal happen. It is imperative that you call or write your legislator, the Governor, and the King County Council and Seattle City Council.

Focus On What Matters Most

Prioritize Funding for Schools, Health Care and Affordable Housing, Not Sports Stadiums.

You Can Still Sign!

Initiative 91 says no more tax subsidies for professional sports stadiums. It is about setting priorities, about spending tax dollars on the things that matter most.
To get an Initiative 91 petition to sign, click here.

With professional basketball now pitting sports tax boosters against the people’s pocketbooks, Citizens for More Important Things is leading another fight for fiscal sanity in stadium funding. The existence of Initiative 91 has already significantly impacted negotiations between the Sonics and the City. After Initiative 91 passes, there will be no more giveaways, period.

For conservatives, not being able to say no to the extravagance of professional sports means government will never say no to anybody for anything. Moderates wonder at the gullibility of elected officials when doused with the snake oil of pro-sports as a tool for economic development. Liberals are angry at a government that chronically underfunds education and social services but has a blank checkbook for rich boys with big toys.

These are difficult battles. Most, in America, are won by the pro-sports moguls. At least in Washington State, because of the efforts of thousands of Citizens For More Important Things contributors and volunteers, they have not been able to run roughshod over sane public policy and the taxpayer’s pocketbooks.

Citizens for More Important Things has a single agenda–focus on what matters most, on more important things, and leave sports entertainment to the private sector. We cross partisan boundaries, and bring together normally opposing voices. We simply question the reasonableness of any government that would subsidize private entities whose average player salaries are in the millions of dollars per year. Teachers should be so lucky.

The supporters of publicly subsidized sports franchises argue that pro-sports bring people together as communities, to see and enjoy the art of sport. No doubt. But there are many things in public life that are great for any city. At some point, we have to weigh the cost, and set priorities, in light of the fairness of the subsidy to these very well funded private enterprises. This is what Initiative 91 does. It makes pro-sports teams pay their own way, and fairly share the cost.

Stadiums and professional sports are powerful symbols. Voters, the public, sports fans, the media all pay close attention to these debates. Because the outcome not only changes skylines when sports promoters win, the shadow of the debates falls across public hearings and discussions of public spending for schools, highways, and many other more important things. The obvious, unanswered question is nagging and simple: If they can pay for stadiums, why can’t they pay for what we need?

Formed in 1995, Citizens for More Important Things has long been a voice of reason in the debate over spending tax money for professional sports subsidies in Washington State. We are thankful to all who have helped us, and who are helping this year.

Call, email, write. Send money. We need your assistance. Without it, consider your tax dollars will likely be stuffed somewhere, through someone else’s golden hoop, and most likely, that professional basketball player will already have earned millions, long before he got to yours.