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Watchdog: Hub has paid over $1 billion for Iraq war


 Watchdog: Hub has paid over $1 billion for Iraq war

The Iraq war has cost Boston taxpayers $1.1 billion to date, according to the calculations of a Massachusetts federal spending watchdog group.

For the money Boston has spent on the Iraq conflict, the Northampton-based nonprofit National Priorities Project (NPP) says, the city could have provided a litany of public aid and social services for residents. The funds could cover one year of health care for more than 300,000 people, salaries for nearly 19,000 music and arts teachers, and more than 110,000 one-year scholarships for university students, the group says.

The numbers come from NPP’s recently released breakdowns of Iraq war spending costs by state, congressional district, county and town, as Congress considers President Bush’s request for another $178 billion in war funding.

Of the new war spending request, $135 billion is dedicated to the Iraq War, with close to $84 billion allocated for the remainder of fiscal year 2008 and almost $52 billion set aside for the start of fiscal year 2009.

The state-level breakdown shows the cost of the war thus far, the cost of the pending funding request, and what each state’s share of the cost could buy in terms of health care, schoolteachers and affordable housing.

“Once again, Congress must decide whether its going to write a blank check to continue this failed war or whether it’s going to require some accountability to bring it to an end,” said NPP spokesperson Greg Speeter in a statement. “Voters have made clear that the loss of lives and dollars must stop, and now is the time for Congress to show they’re listening.”

On the state level, Massachusetts’ share of total Iraq war funding approved to date is more than $14.8 billion, according to NPP. The state would bear $3.8 billion of the president’s new funding request — money the group says could pay for 13,291 affordable housing units, 54,752 elementary schoolteachers, and health coverage for more than  1.1 million Massachusetts children and adults.

ABCD program returns $6.8M in tax credits

Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) provided free tax assistance to more than 5,000 families and individuals this year, with almost $7 million in tax credits and refunds returned to local residents, the anti-poverty agency recently reported.

More than 40 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) volunteers joined ABCD neighborhood and program directors at an April 29 celebration, where they were applauded for their hard work and dedication. These volunteers worked at ABCD’s downtown and neighborhood sites, meeting with taxpayers and preparing both federal and state returns.

This year’s efforts netted $1.3 million more in tax credits and refunds than last year. The highest combined federal and state EITC credit for which a family was eligible was $5,396.

The EITC is a federal and state income tax credit for low-income, working individuals and families, and does not affect eligibility for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps or low-income housing. Every year, thousands of dollars in EITC payments for Boston-area residents go unclaimed. ABCD works to reach out to those who are eligible, but unaware.

This year, ABCD’s EITC program included credit counseling and money management workshops as part of the agency’s comprehensive Asset Development Program, intended to help low-income households build assets through homeownership, savings, higher education and entrepreneurship.

MetLife study: Nearly 80 percent of blacks believe ‘American dream’ achievable

African Americans still believe it’s possible to achieve the “American dream” in their lifetime, according to insurer MetLife’s second Study of the American Dream.

Despite a sobering level of concern among blacks about the U.S. economy — 94 percent of African Americans reported believing the nation is heading in the wrong direction, up from 71 percent last year — nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) said they believe the dream is within reach, slightly ahead of the overall U.S. population (74 percent).

The study also found an 8-percent increase in the number of blacks who reported they have already achieved the dream, generally defined as financial security and having a family. African Americans, however, are more likely than others to include in their definition of the American dream a comfortable retirement (45 percent to 35 percent) and successful career (39 percent to 27 percent).

“Even as the U.S. economy slows, African Americans aren’t willing to have their dreams disrupted,” said Tunde Ogunlana, a MetLife financial advisor. “Over the past year, more African Americans [say they] believe they have achieved the American dream. At the same time, I see my clients who are still trying to achieve the dream forging ahead with hard work and self-reliance.”

Among the study’s other findings:

• Ninety-six percent of African Americans say they believe Americans are working as hard as or harder than ever just to get by, but less than half (48 percent) reported working harder than their parents to achieve the dream.

• Sixty-four percent of blacks expressed concern about their ability to rely on the government for their financial security and the availability of programs like Social Security and affordable health care for future generations.

• Just over six in 10 (61 percent) of African Americans expect their personal financial situation to be better in the future.

The study is based on 800 online surveys conducted in January 2008 among the general U.S. population, including 124 African Americans.

3 Mass. doctors highlight Black Enterprise report on changing face of medicine

Three Massachusetts doctors were among the skilled medical professionals spotlighted in the May issue of Black Enterprise, which contains the magazine’s 2008 “America’s Leading Doctors” report on the best and brightest in medicine.

The report magazine names 140 physicians responsible for saving millions of lives through the revolutionary treatment of diseases, many of whom are responsible for major medical breakthroughs and have participated in creating drugs that have improved patients’ quality of life.

The three doctors are: Edgar L. Milford, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tissue Typing Laboratory in the Renal Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Emery N. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., professor of computational neuroscience, health sciences and technology in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School; and Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist in the Center for Cancer Genome Discovery at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The Black Enterprise report comes at a time when blacks must contend with not only a gap in the quality of available health care, but also a stagnant number of black doctors entering the nation’s medical field. While African Americans make up 13.4 percent of the total U.S. population, only 5.6 percent of all U.S. physicians and surgeons are black, according to the magazine. Even fewer are in positions of power and leadership, with under a dozen serving as chairs of departments at the nation’s medical schools.

“The exceptional black physicians we highlight uniquely understand the medical issues that confront African Americans,” said Black Enterprise Founder and Publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. “Their expertise makes them an essential part of the solution to the health care crisis facing black Americans and our entire nation.”