True or False? Deficit is falling at the fastest rate in 60 years

Obama cheats. He uses verifiable facts.

President Barack Obama aimed to refocus the national debate and put the economy front and center with a speech at Knox College in Illinois. It was the same place he spoke as a senator in 2005 about the need for the government to help the middle class. He stuck to that theme in this speech, but now as president, he summarized the improvements that have come on his watch.

He talked about millions of new jobs, burgeoning energy production, and the nation’s improving balance sheet. “Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years,” Obama told the crowd.

In light of Obama’s ongoing battle with Republicans over taxes and spending, we thought this would be an interesting claim to examine. In this factcheck, we look at whether we are really seeing one of the most rapid declines in the deficit in many decades…

In 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, after tax cuts and new spending, the deficit was 10.1 percent of GDP. In 2012, the deficit declined to 7 percent of GDP. So that’s a decline of 3.1 percentage points.

You have to go back 63 years to the period between 1946 and 1949 to find a bigger four-year drop than what the country saw between 2009 and 2012. Right after World War II ended, the U.S. deficit stood at 7.2 percent of GDP. By 1949, America had a surplus of 0.2 percent. So that’s a decline of 7.4 percentage points.

We downloaded data from the Office of Management and Budget that shows the deficit as a percent of GDP all the way back to 1930. When we ran the numbers, we found, as Obama said, you need to go back to 1946 to find a larger change.

Our ruling?

Barack Obama said the deficit has fallen at the fastest rate in 60 years. While economists vary on how to best measure that decline, the president used an acceptable approach and his numbers are accurate. There are no statistical tricks in play…

We rate the statement True.

Which is more than you can say about the junk economics dribbling out the blowhole of Tea Party/Republican losers. Coming from a generally conservative, often pantywaist source like Politifact, I’d say this is strong proof indeed.

Malaysian court rules only Muslims may use the word “Allah”

A Malaysian court ruled on Monday that a Christian newspaper may not use the word “Allah” to refer to God, a landmark decision on an issue that has fanned religious tension and raised questions over minority rights in the mainly Muslim country.

The unanimous decision by three Muslim judges in Malaysia’s appeals court overturned a 2009 ruling by a lower court that allowed the Malay-language version of the newspaper, The Herald, to use the word Allah – as many Christians in Malaysia say has been the case for centuries.

“The usage of the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity,” chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali said in the ruling. “The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community.”

The decision coincides with heightened ethnic and religious tension in Malaysia after a polarizing May election, in which the long-ruling coalition was deserted by urban voters that included a large section of minority ethnic Chinese…

A court appointed on the basis of politics makes decisions based on politics. Sound familiar?

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The land where one in ten people will publish a book

Halldor Laxness

There is a phrase in Icelandic, “ad ganga med bok I maganum”, everyone gives birth to a book. Literally, everyone “has a book in their stomach”.

One in ten Icelanders will publish one…

Special saga tours – saga as in story, that is, not over-50s holidays – show us story-plaques on public buildings.

Dating from the 13th Century, Icelandic sagas tell the stories of the country’s Norse settlers, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th Century.

Sagas are written on napkins and coffee cups. Each geyser and waterfall we visit has a tale of ancient heroes and heroines attached. Our guide stands up mid-tour to recite his own poetry – our taxi driver’s father and grandfather write biographies.

Public benches have barcodes so you listen to a story on your smartphone as you sit…

So what has led to this phenomenal book boom?

I would say it is due to a crop of darn good writers, telling riveting tales with elegant economy and fantastic characters…No wonder JRR Tolkien and Seamus Heaney were entranced and Unesco designates Reykjavik a City of Literature.

Solvi Bjorn Siggurdsson, a tall, Icelandic-sweater-clad novelist, says writers owe a lot to the past.

We are a nation of storytellers. When it was dark and cold we had nothing else to do,” he says. “Thanks to the poetic eddas and medieval sagas, we have always been surrounded by stories. After independence from Denmark in 1944, literature helped define our identity…”

An enjoyable read, too brief.

But, then, I have always loved Iceland. Even the first time I stopped over, changing planes from one Icelandic Air flight to another, followed by 2 FBI agents because I was on the way to Scotland to visit a friend doing post-doc cancer research and liaison between Madame Binh of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front and American activists opposing the US War upon the people of VietNam.

The salmon fishing is also phenomenal if you know how to cast a fly in a gale. 🙂

The 50 best places to grow old ain’t the warmest

Kingston, Ontario, Canada – rated the best in North America

American retirees flock to warm-weather states such as Florida, Arizona and Texas. But globally, the best place to spend your old age is just a little bit cooler.

In fact, the top five countries for older people are all in temperate climates, at least according to the new Global AgeWatch Index, a division of HealthAge International, a nonprofit network devoted to healthy aging around the world.

The ranking is based on four key well-being categories: income, health, employment and education and an enabling environment. Countries with high marks are likely to have social policies that benefit an aging population, such as universal pension or health coverage for all seniors.

The United States received mixed reviews, though it did manage to snag a spot in the top 10. While more than 80 percent of senior citizens in the U.S. are covered by a pension, almost a quarter live in relative poverty, which knocked down the U.S.’s overall rank.

On the plus side, Americans are educated and likely to be employed between the ages of 55 to 64. Ninety percent of people more than 50 said they have relatives or friends they can count on when they need help. This could be a huge health boost for American seniors: Social support and activity is strongly associated with a lower risk for physical and mental disease, disability and early death, according to numerous studies and a review from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click through to the article – and the slide show at the top – to see all 50.