CVS Is Quitting Tobacco, But Was It Really Selfless?

In February, CVS — one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains — announced that it would take tobacco products off the shelves of its 7,600 locations effective Oct. 1 of this year. The move is expected to cost the company $2 billion in annual sales.

What could possibly encourage a company to do such a thing? Company spokesmen have said that CVS is in the business of providing healthcare, and selling cigarettes at such a facility is detrimental to that mission — cigarettes and healthy living don’t mix.

Shortly after the announcement, the pharmacy received a proverbial pat on the back from President Barack Obama, himself a former smoker. The president lauded the company for doing something that he said would have a profoundly positive effect on the health of the citizens of the United States.

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America’s War on the Poor

It’s never been easy to be poor, but recent studies suggest it may be more difficult than ever to live below the poverty line. Although our country is one of the wealthiest in the world, approximately 47 million U.S. citizens — including a quarter of our children — live below the poverty line. According to the U.S. Census, between 14 and 18 million impoverished families live on just $10 a day per person. Worse yet, 8 to 10 million families live on around $5 a day per person. The bottom 1% of U.S. citizens, or about 4 to 6 million families, may live on an appallingly low $2 a day per person.

In America, approximately 47 million citizens live below the poverty line.

It is both shocking and horrifying that so many people live in abject poverty when our nation is so wealthy. In light of recent policies, it may even seem like our government is waging a war against the have-nots in the U.S. While the poor get poorer, our country continues to cut programs that help keep them afloat. Here’s a look at how and why the gap between the rich and poor in our country is getting worse.

As Poor as the Poor in Ethiopia?

The poorest of the poor in the United States aren’t just the least wealthy people in this country; they are also some of the poorest people in the entire world. Even though the United States is one of the richest countries in the world, the bottom 1% of our citizens make about the same amount of money as the poor in Haiti, Mozambique and Ethiopia. The difference is that in poorer counties, people can often live on this amount of money. The poorest citizens of the United States don’t just face the social stigma of having to be below Western standards of living — they also can’t afford to feed their families.

If you think the divide between the rich and the poor is growing, you’re right. The incomes of the neediest Americans have risen only minimally during the past two decades. The same amount of people that lived on $15,000 a year or less in 1989 live on that salary today. However, the number of people that make over $200,000 a year has risen by over 60 percent.

The Failure of the Trickle-Down Effect

One of the reasons wages for the poor have only risen marginally in the past several years is our failure to accommodate those in poverty when coming out of a recession. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and similarly-minded politicians spoke of the so-called “trickle-down effect.” What they meant by this was that if you simply took care of the rich, their wealth would trickle down to the lower classes. However, the increasing divide between our rich and poor is proof that this hasn’t worked.

Stripping of Social Mobility

One of the great American dreams is to be able to overcome humble beginnings and give your children a better life. However, Americans are becoming less and less likely to do so. Tools that needy people in our country previously used to come out of poverty are dwindling. The House of Representatives actually targeted SNAP — the supplemental nutrition assistance program. SNAP, which is also known as food stamps, helps approximately 23 million Americans eat every day. Contrary to what you may have been told, it only costs about $4.50 per person. Getting rid of food stamps is one of the worst things our country could do for social mobility. How would the poorest of the poor ever hope to move out of poverty if they were no longer able to eat?

The reason given for the proposal to oust SNAP was to reduce government spending and help bring the country out of a recession. However, as we’ve seen throughout American history, caring for the rich alone doesn’t seem to work. After all, even though we’re in the midst of a recession, the salaries of the top 1% of Americans have risen by 34%. Our government needs to look after all of us if we hope to have economic prosperity again.

The Poor Can’t Simply Overcome Poverty

There’s often a stigma associated with those who live in abject poverty. Some of us assume that poor people are poor because they don’t work hard enough or manage their money properly. People think they spend their money fueling habits like alcoholism or gambling, when the simple, more common, fact is they merely have families to feed.

The bottom line is most people live in poverty because they have no way out of it. How we’ll get out of the recession remains to be seen, but could it be that the opposite of the trickle-down effect — taking care of the needy first — could work? If not, how will we solve the poverty crisis in the United States? Does anyone think we can actually call ourselves the best country in the world when so many of our citizens live in such dire conditions?

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Why Was Ryan Ferguson Jailed for a Crime He Didn’t Commit?

Ryan Ferguson, a 29-year-old Missouri man, was freed from prison last month after having spent nearly a decade in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He had originally been sentenced to serve 40 years. A number of witnesses who originally testified against Ferguson have since withdrawn their testimonies, and a lengthy campaign to free Ferguson now leaves police back at square one looking for new leads in a murder case that is now unresolved. Police Chief Ken Burton said, “The Department is reviewing the options internally as to how or whether to proceed with additional investigation and/or a review of the case.”

Ryan Ferguson is now free after spending a decade in prison for murder.

Ferguson was arrested in 2001 for the murder of Kent Heitholt, the sports editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Heitholt had been shot in his car at a gas station in the early hours of the morning.

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Biggest Food Stamp Cut in US History Took Effect Nov 1. More to Come?

Almost 48 million people in the richest country on Earth are hungry. And the most vulnerable, those receiving food stamps, got even hungrier on November 1st when the program—now called SNAP—was cut by $5 billion nationwide, or about 5.5%.

On November 1, the U.S. food stamp program was cut by $5 billion nationwide.

Over 91% of people who receive food stamps in the US live below the poverty line, and the average food stamp allocation for these people now stands at $1.41 per meal following the cuts. But Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and like-minded policymakers believe that cuts should go deeper yet for these people.

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The Cult of JFK: 50 Years of Mystery

On November 22, 1963, exactly fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was gunned down while parading through Dallas, Texas. The official story, according to the 1963-1964 Warren Commission investigation, is that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president using a sniper rifle from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, acting alone. He was arrested just over an hour after the assassination, hiding out in the Texas Theatre. Two days later, a local nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, shot and killed Oswald as he was being escorted by the police to the Dallas County jail. Ruby was sentenced to death and died of a heart attack while awaiting a retrial.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

While many thought this official story sounded fishy from the moment it occurred, later investigations cast a much more questionable light on this chain of events. In 1976, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was formed to investigate the murders of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. In their final report, the committee concluded that his assassination was very likely the result of a conspiracy.

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The Battle Over Minimum Wage in the United States

In the United States, minimum wage laws are a widely debated topic. Advocates of change argue that the minimum wage is too low to meet people’s needs, while others suggest that raising the rate would be detrimental, rather than helpful. Below is a discussion of this controversial issue featuring factual arguments from both sides.

Fast food workers protest for higher minimum wages.

Productivity

A strong argument in favor of an increased minimum wage points to the historical progress of business in the United States. As businesses began enjoying increased financial productivity, every year worker’s wages remained stagnant. Senator Elizabeth Warren noted that the minimum wage would now be nearly $22 had it kept pace with productivity as cited in the International Business Times.

It is this disparity that angers many proponents of a higher minimum wage. While businesses are enjoying heightened productivity, the workers who carry out the production are not paid accordingly. The extra profits from this productivity have gone toward making the rich richer, instead of rewarding those responsible for the work.

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Edward Snowden: American Traitor or Hero?

The world of espionage has been turned on its head a bit by Edward Snowden and his startling revelations. The Obama Administration and most in the government consider him an extraordinary criminal who took treasonous actions against the interests of the United States. Others think him a hero, who took on an out-of-control NSA and outed the agency.

Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? Many Americans are divided on this very controversial issue.

Figuring Out Who Supports Snowden

In the past, the lines of separation on Snowden could have been drawn more along party lines. In the current political climate, wherein some on the right are more afraid of seeming to agree with the president than speak to their beliefs, it’s more muddled. Mr. Obama has struggles of his own. The progressive base isn’t on board with what appears to be very ham-handed overreach that rakes in mountains of useless information. Outside of the left and right, there are plenty of people who aren’t sure what to make of what Snowden did. While outspoken support for Snowden can found in libertarian and anarchist groups, the majority of people view him as anti-American.

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The New Secession Movement

It’s no secret that there have been some pretty stark differences between the Democrats and the Republicans for quite a while now, which has divided and polarized people throughout the country. In some states, in particular those with a Democratic majority, these differences are more visible than in others. There is huge discontent among Republicans living in Democratic-controlled states, who feel that they are not represented well enough. They are having difficulties accepting a series of new laws, regulations and taxes enforced by the Democrats, with the most troubling issues being related to gun control, abortion, and immigration.

Due to severe political polarization in the U.S., many counties and states are now moving towards secession.

Conservatives who live in predominantly Democratic states believe that the solution to their grievances is seceding and forming their own states. The idea of secession in the United States has been around for a long time, but it has mostly been expressed through states wanting to secede from the country, whereas now, there are counties who want to break off from their states.

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How the NSA’s International Spying Has Changed Digital Security Forever

Ever since the first revelations of massive NSA surveillance against U.S. citizens, foreign citizens, companies, governments and even several dozen world leaders were first revealed in June 2013 and the months that followed, the tech and digital security worlds have been in an uproar.

Recent revelations about NSA surveillance are changing how digital security works worldwide.

What had for years been dismissed as paranoid conspiracy theorizing was soon revealed to be completely factual, thanks to documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden and made public with the help of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and other publications such as the Washington Post and NY Times.

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Should Russell Brand Be Taken Seriously?

From actor and musician to the face of revolution, Russell Brand isn’t the first celebrity to jump into politics, but he may be the most extreme. His rants about utopian revolution seem to be getting a lot of attention these days, leading us to ask – should Russell Brand be taken seriously as a political forerunner? Or should his rants be written off as the crazy thoughts of a celebrity whose shaggy locks and chest hair are part of his signature look?

Comedia Russell Brand discusses his controversial political views with BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman.

Brand seemingly jumped headfirst into the political arena after the publishing of his 2007 memoir, My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand Up. Since then, he’s published more polished pieces about encounters with icons such as Margaret Thatcher and appeared on political talk shows such as The Morning Joe, where he requested that the hosts take his ideas seriously despite his unruly physical appearance and his unusual tendency to wear outrageous jewelry.

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