- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

‘CHANGE’ TO CUBA

In defending President Obama’s easing of U.S. policy towards Cuba, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, remarked this week: “I had some friends who recently went to Cuba, through Mexico, with a visa. They came back and said, ‘You know, they are still using oxen for power in their agriculture.’

“Yoking oxen, in the 21st century, 90 miles offshore from the United States?” Mr. Durbin noted. “If they knew and could see what modern agriculture could bring to them … we would have a greater chance of bringing real ‘change’ to Cuba.”

Tread carefully, senator. Those oxen for centuries have helped grow the finest cigars in the world.

GROW YOUR OWN

Once upon a recent time, Americans said they couldn’t live without certain household appliances.

Now, no longer do substantial majorities say a microwave oven, television set, or even an air-conditioner is a necessity.

“Instead, nearly half or more now see each of these items as a luxury,” Pew Research finds when comparing surveys take in 2006 to 2009. “Similarly, the proportion that considers a dishwasher or a clothes dryer to be essential has dropped sharply since 2006.”

All told, 8 out of 10 adults have taken specific steps to economize during the current bad times, including shopping in discount stores and passing up name brands. Americans are also cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes, and reducing spending on cable or satellite television service, or canceling the service altogether. Same goes for cell phone plans.

Finally, 1 in 5 adults “are following the example of first lady Michelle Obama and are making plans to plant a vegetable garden to save money on food.”

Pew’s Social & Demographic Trends survey on the effects of the recession was conducted by land line and cell phone April 2-8, among a nationally representative sample of 1,003 adults ages 18 or older.

GO FIGURE

At the same time the Department of Labor released data showing 640,000 new Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the last week - hitting a new record of 6.14 million - Pew Research released data showing President Obama’s job approval ratings continue to climb, far beyond those of his recent predecessors.

GET THE PICTURE?

The shocked leaders of this nation have officially declared the terrorist interrogation technique known as “waterboarding” to be cruel and unusual punishment.

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