Smart takes
March 17, 2014

Over at The New York Times, Timothy Egan notices a strange similarity between Paul Ryan's rhetoric on poverty, and that of the English authorities during the 19th century potato famine in Ireland:

A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a "culture of dependency"? Certainly England's man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. "Dependence on charity," he declared, "is not to be made an agreeable mode of life."

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated "culture of dependency" is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England's excuse for lethal negligence.

There is no comparison, of course, between the de facto genocide that resulted from British policy, and conservative criticism of modern American poverty programs.

But you can't help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy. [The New York Times]

I don't think anyone really thinks dependence on charity or a culture of dependency ought to be a long-term condition. Self-reliance is an indisputable virtue. But for the truly helpless, there can be no pathway back to self-reliance if one starves to death. Famine is not honorable or virtuous. Nor is it civilized to live in a country where the poor starve to death.

Paul Ryan would do better to set out an agenda of job creation than lecture the poor on the virtues of self-improvement. There are lots and lots of people who want jobs, who want to work and want the dignity of self-reliance — so many that there are 2.9 job seekers for every job opening. People can't lift themselves out of poverty and off welfare if the economy isn't creating an abundance of jobs. Job creation comes first. John Aziz

This just in
April 17, 2015
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the most prolific scorer in NBA history, underwent successful quadruple-bypass surgery in Los Angeles, according to a statement released Friday by UCLA Health. Abdul-Jabbar had the procedure done Thursday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after being admitted there with cardiovascular disease earlier this week.

Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer and is most known for his 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers during the "Showtime" era. In his 20 years in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar won six championships and was named league MVP six times. He is expected to make a full recovery. Kimberly Alters

Only in America
April 17, 2015
iStock

A San Diego man trying to board a bus in his wheelchair was stripped of his transit pass because he didn't have proper "proof" of his disability. A transit cop told Joey Canales, 31, that he wasn't carrying the proper paperwork and confiscated the pass. "My disability is not hidden," Canales told the officer, who also issued him a ticket. The Week Staff

2016 Watch
April 17, 2015
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Friday at 6 p.m., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will appear on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, where he's expected to lay out details of his future announcement about whether he'll run for president. Baier has been interviewing potential candidates in his series The Presidential Contenders: 2016.

Speaking with reporters before heading to New Hampshire this weekend to join several fellow potential and confirmed GOP candidates, Huckabee was predictably cryptic. "I will at least give people an understanding of when there will be an announcement and where," he said.

In January, Huckabee ended his own show on Fox News to explore a second shot at the White House — he won the Iowa GOP caucuses in 2008. Earlier this week, he also stated his nationally broadcast radio show would end in May. Stephanie Talmadge

This just in
April 17, 2015
iStock

The merger between Comcast and Time Warner, America's first- and second-largest cable providers, may not be so inevitable after all. The Department of Justice's antitrust lawyers are reportedly considering blocking the merger, sources told Bloomberg, for fear that "consumers would be harmed" by Comcast's $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, which would create a nationwide cable giant. 

Officials at the FCC's antitrust division, who are also reviewing the deal, reportedly "aren't negotiating" with Comcast about ways to fix the deal to prevent it from falling apart.

In light of these details, Comcast issued a statement saying there is "no basis" for a federal lawsuit to stop the merger, and maintained that the acquisition would result in "significant consumer benefits," like faster internet speeds, better video quality, and cost savings. Meghan DeMaria

Numbers don't lie
April 17, 2015

A new Labor Department report has revealed that most U.S. workers would have been better off in 1972.

The report found that weekly wages in 1972 for most U.S. employees were about $811 in today's dollars. This past March, U.S. workers averaged around $703 per week.

The Labor Department's report looked at average weekly earnings for production and "non-supervisory employees," which account for the majority of the U.S. workforce, The Wall Street Journal reports. For those workers, real average weekly earnings fell 0.4 percent from February to March.

Inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly earnings increased by 2.3 percent, compared with a year earlier, but the Journal notes that the recent spike in real average earnings is "largely due to low inflation, rather than surging paychecks." Meghan DeMaria

This just in
April 17, 2015
Karim Mohsen/Newsmakers

Iraqi forces have killed Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the former deputy of Saddam Hussein, government officials reported to The Associated Press on Friday.

Al-Douri has been declared dead or captured before, but Reuters notes that Iraqi officials released images of a body with red hair like al-Douri's, and said they have begun DNA tests to confirm the death. Officials said they believe al-Douri was killed during a joint operation between Iraqi troops and Shiite militias near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, which Iraq took back from Islamic State militants earlier in April.

Depicted as the "king of clubs" in a U.S.-issued deck of playing cards used to help troops identify key regime fugitives, al-Douri helped the Baath party plot its 1968 coup, and then served as vice president to Hussein until the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the regime, in 2003.  Sarah Eberspacher

For those who have everything
April 17, 2015
(Courtesy Photo)

If you're the owner of multiple cats — and one's a food bully — the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder ($150) "will make you purr as loudly as the gadget's whirring motors," says Jonathan Margolis at How To Spend It. The cover won't open until a sensor detects the microchip that's embedded under the correct cat's skin or on a collar-worn tag. The cover closes automatically when the cat moves away, keeping food safe from flies, dogs, and greedier cats. Sure, "it takes a bit of time and patience" to train a cat not to be spooked by the movement, but the "excellent" manual "makes light work of it." The Week Staff

See More Speed Reads