Watercooler Stories

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Bush calls for simpler tax system

PARKERSURG, W.Va., Sept. 6 (UPI) -- President Bush used a speech in West Virginia to call for a simpler tax system, the Washington Post reported Monday.


"Americans spend about 6 billion hours of paperwork and headache every year on the tax code," Bush said. "In a new term, I will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify and make fair the federal tax code."

One suggestion, a flat tax, which Congress would have to pass, would have fewer -- or no -- deductions and credits.

Administration officials, while saying no decision has been made, said the Treasury Department is studying ways of reducing the current complexity of the nation's tax code, including various proposals for a flat tax.

Kerry goes to Clinton, staffers for help

NEW YORK, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, resting in a New York hospital ahead of heart surgery, spent 90 minutes on the phone advising John Kerry.


The Massachusetts senator, suffering a double-digit deficit in the polls behind President Bush, had called Clinton Saturday night for help with invigorating his campaign, the New York Times reported.

Clinton urged Kerry to move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy, and focus instead on drawing contrasts with Bush on job creation and health care policies.

Kerry also used the conversation to recruit old Clinton hands amid rising concern among Democrats about the state of Kerry's campaign.

Among better-known former Clinton aides who are expected to play a greater role are James Carville, Paul Begala and Stanley Greenberg.

Scientists turn skeptical on organic food

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- The world's scientific community is beginning to turn a skeptical eye toward the U.S. organic food industry to see if all its health claims are true.

And so far the results are not particularly flattering, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

At last month's annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, scientists held a symposium that asked the question: Is organic food healthier than conventional food?

"There's certainly not sufficient science to prove that the claims of organic food advocates are true," said Rutgers University Professor Joseph D. Rosen.


The symposium was the second this year to question the benefits of organic food, a $10.2 billion per year industry in the United States.

In March, the First World Congress on Organic Food convened scientists, farmers and consumer analysts to consider the safety and nutritional aspects of organic food.

It, too, found a dearth of evidence to support claims that organic foods are better than their conventional counterparts.

"We don't have a huge wealth of literature here," said Dr. Ewe C.D. Todd, director of Michigan State University's National Food Safety and Toxicology Center, which hosted the gathering.

Vocational education getting neglected

LOS ANGELES, Calif., United Arab Emirates, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Advocates of vocational education in the United States are feeling short-changed in the recent push to boost children's academic performance.

The number and quality of vocational programs for high school students has been declining even as the nation seeks to upgrade college preparatory programs, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

"Clearly, there are a set of academic skills everyone needs to be successful in our society," said James Stone, director for the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education. "But does every child need to study trigonometry?"


That's a view echoed by vocational education teachers.

"The problem is that many people look at college as the goal," said Robert McCarroll, a California teacher who runs one of the state's relatively few programs that blends academics with traditional vocational training.

"College is not the goal. It is only one means to an end, and the end is these kids' careers. We are trying to shove a lot of square pegs into round holes."

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