8A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 10, 2005
U.S. losing its advantage
in technology due to lack
of research funds and to
increased foreign competition
WASHINGTON (AP) - Leaders of high-
tech companies said Tuesday the United
States risks losing its competitive edge with-
out significant new investments in education,
research and development and the spread of
"The world is changing a little bit, and
frankly there is a significant amount of
concern that if we don't make some adjust-
ments, follow the right public policies, do
some things that are important, we could find
ourselves very quickly losing the advantage
we've had for so long," Rick White, president
and chief executive of high-tech lobby Tech-
Net, said at a press conference.
The Palo Alto, Calif., group represents
about 200 high-tech leaders, including
Microsoft, Intel Corp., Cisco Systems and
Hewlett Packard. TechNet made its annual
lobbying trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to
meet with Cabinet members and congres-
White and other TechNet officials cited some
troubling indications that the United States is
falling behind in high-tech development:
b Some 7 percent of U.S.dhouseholds-have
broadband access, compared with 30 percent
in Korea, 20 percent in Japan and over 10 per-
cent in France.
U.S. investment in research and devel-
opment has stayed flat for the last three
decades, while it has grown significantly
in competitors such as Brazil, India, China
Students in the United States are behind
their counterparts in other countries in math'
and science, and some Asian countries are
graduating five times as many engineers.
The officials announced formation of a
CEO Education Task Force to try to come up
They also called on Congress to increase basic
research funding and make permanent a research
and development tax credit; promote broadband
development, in part by minimizing regula-
tions; enact a U.S.-Central America-Dominican
Republic free trade agreement; promote cyber-
security initiatives; and continue to take steps to
reduce frivolous lawsuits.
Senate may change
M Democrats attempi to dilte
the new lill., ')1 t the legislationl
will likely go uncha nged
WASHINGTON (AP) - The SenateI
marched yesterday toward passage of land-
mark legislation that would make it harder to
erase medical bills, credit card charges and
other debts by declaring bankruptcy.
Democratic opponents made last-ditch
attempts to soften the bill's impact and restrict1
practices of the credit industry that they said
were especially hurting the poor.
Not a dent was made in the legislation, which
was armor-plated by the Senate's Republican
majority against amendments and enjoyed
bipartisan support. With Senate passage+
expected today and House approval likely next
month, the bill would deliver to President Bush
the second of his pro-business legislative pri-
orities since the GOP augmented its majorities
in both chambers in November's elections.
Ordering the most sweeping overhaul of
U.S. bankruptcy laws in a quarter-century,
the legislation would rework the centuries-old
system - created soon after the Republic was
founded - under which indebted people meet
their obligations to creditors while also beingi
able to get a fresh start.+
It would establish a new income-based
test for measuring a debtor's ability to repay
debts, require people in bankruptcy to payI
for credit counseling, stiffen some legalI
requirements for debtors in the bankruptcy
process while easing some for creditors,
and enable credit card issuers, retailers and
other consumer lenders to recover more of
what is owed them.
Opponents say it would fall hard on low-
income working people, single mothers,
minorities and the elderly and would remove a
safety net for those who have lost their jobs or
face mounting medical bills.
"The bankruptcy courts are filled with
cases of hardworking single mothers
who were pushed over the financial brink
because they failed to get the child support
they deserve," said Sen. Edward M. Ken-
nedy, D-Mass., author of an amendment
addressing single parents. "Yet this bill
would only tighten the screws, looking to
squeeze out a few more dollars for the credit
Backers have been pushing the legislation
for eight years, arguing that bankruptcy fre-
quently is the last refuge of gamblers, impul-
sive shoppers, divorced or separated fathers
avoiding child support, and multimillionaires
- often celebrities - who buy mansions in
states with liberal homestead exemptions to
shelter assets from creditors.
New personal bankruptcy filings declined
to 1,599,986 from 1,613,097 in the year end-
ing last June 30, breaking an upward trend
of recent years.
In a series of near-party-line votes yesterday, the
Senate quickly dispensed with several Democrat-
ic amendments. Some targeted credit card com-
panies, which have championed the bankruptcy
overhaul legislation and are accused by critics of
granting credit irresponsibly.
Farmers forced to live in poverty in China
HAIKOUZI, China (AP) - Bent under a
load of corn stalks that weighs as much as he
does, 61-year-old Xu Rongsheng trudges up
a mountain road to the farmhouse where he
was born and raised five children.
Xu gets by on what he can grow on a few
acres, meat and eggs from ducks, chickens
and sheep in his backyard and occasional
gifts from friends and relatives. He wishes
he could pass the house on to his children,
but they've left for jobs in the city.
The story is the same throughout much of
China's poor countryside, home to 800 mil-
lion people. Farmers like Xu have just man-
age to make ends meet while eastern cities
have ridden to prosperity on an export-driv-
en economic boom.
As China's legislature meets this week,
making life better for farm families is a criti-
cal issue for the Communist government,
which worries that rising anger at rural pov-
erty could threaten political stability.
"Solving the problems facing agriculture,
rural areas and farmers remains a top prior-
ity of our work," Premier Wen Jiabao said
Saturday on the legislature's opening day.
"There are more than a few factors threaten-
ing social stability."
Wen promised to scrap farm taxes and said that
by 2007, the government will see to it that every
Chinese child gets nine years of schooling, with
free textbooks for the poorest.
Rising taxes have sparked violence between
farmers and local authorities, causing embarrass-
ment for leaders of a Communist Party that was
founded on improving the lot of peasants.
In his mountain village two hours north of
Beijing, Xu already has benefited from pilot
programs that eliminated agricultural taxes a
few years ago. He gets government-supplied
rice and flour and subsidized medical care.
But even with that help, he scrapes by. The
"Solving the problems facing agriculture, rural areas
and farmers remain a top priority of our work."
Premier of China
area offers no livelihood to pass on to his
children, who have left for factory jobs and
to work in construction in nearby cities.
By the millions, other poor farmers have
flooded into China's cities looking for work
over the past two decades.
The economic reasons are stark: Annual
incomes for city dwellers average more than
$1,000, the government says, while farmers
made an average of just $355 last year.
With a deeply lined face and a toothless
smile under a salt-and-pepper brush cut, Xu
sits in his ramshackle farmhouse with his
wife, chain-smoking cigarettes and offering
persimmons and tea to a visiting reporter.
The couple work, eat and sleep in one
room. Wilted cabbages used to make dump-
lings through the winter line the windowsill.
Sacks of flour lie stacked in the corner.
Xu's wife, Wang Chunfeng, complains
about "Green for Trees," an erosion-control
campaign they have been forced to join that
pays farmers to plant trees instead of more,