OTHER VOICES

US funds aiding enemies

Posted Aug. 28, 2011, at 6:15 p.m.

What’s $360 million? In the context of the U.S. military budget, maybe it’s not much. For the Taliban, it’s a windfall. The Associated Press reported recently that $360 million in American money meant to support reconstruction in Afghanistan was lost to “the Taliban, criminals and power brokers with ties to both.” It was the U.S. military itself that determined the money had been lost.

The Taliban, the brutal, reactionary insurgent movement that’s fighting Americans to reclaim control of Afghanistan, is commonly perceived as a ragtag band of zealots not unfamiliar with cave living. Just an extra million dollars could help it greatly. Millions and millions of dollars could promise success in multiple offensive operations. That the U.S. inadvertently gave our enemy such financial assistance is a sign of an administrative breakdown on an infuriating scale.

And it’s hardly the first instance of fund-management ineptitude in Middle East war zones. The image of wayward shrink-wrapped cart loads of cash will be an enduring symbol of American folly in Iraq. There’s still $6.6 billion of American money unaccounted for in that country.

Members of Congress try to outdo each other denouncing wasteful spending on domestic programs, yet many billions of dollars have slipped from their control in a land full of enemies. They must face the families of fallen service members with the knowledge that American money may well have helped support attacks against Americans.

Loveland (Colo.) Reporter-Herald (Aug. 23)

On the brink of real equality

Starting in the 1980s, females began to outnumber males in U.S. college classes. In 1996, for the first time, more American women earned bachelor’s degrees than men did. Today, 20.1 million U.S. women hold those degrees, while only 18.7 million men do.

Now the Census Bureau reports another breakthrough: For the first time, women have surpassed men in also earning master’s degrees and doctorates.

Men still dominate university courses in science, engineering and business — but the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania reported that its female ratio has climbed to 45 percent.

Clearly, U.S. society is evolving. Women are rising relentlessly in good-paying careers, giving them independence that was unimaginable a couple of generations ago. Their income now equals 78 percent of male earnings — up sharply from 64 percent a decade ago.

The Great Recession of 2008 wiped out far more male jobs than female ones. An ever-growing number of fathers stay home to tend children while mothers work. Stay-at-home moms have fallen to 5 million, one-fourth of two-parent households, compared to one-half in 1969.

A recent book was titled: “The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms and Shared Parenting are Transforming the American Family.” That sums up the ongoing U.S. trend.

Throughout history, men wielded nearly all power in every society. But the coming of democracy brought a slow, gradual change. Western countries finally are on the brink of genuine equality. A historic transition is occurring, in slow motion, while most people are too busy to notice.

Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette (Aug. 23)

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