News in Brief: Ending Bush Tax Cuts Would Balance Budget, and More

Letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire would put the United States on a path to balance the budget by 2015, reported the Washington Post. Obama’s former budget director, Peter Orszag, said last week, “If we actually ended the Bush-era tax cuts, that would pretty much do it.” The Republicans plan to renew the tax cuts would add almost $4 trillion to the deficit by 2020, while President Obama’s plan to extend cuts for all but the richest Americans would add $2 trillion.

Push for the DREAM Act by Undocumented Students Escalates

As the Senate prepares to vote on whether to move the DREAM Act forward as an amendment to a defense authorization bill, undocumented students all over the country are planning vigils, demonstrations, rallies and phone banks to pressure legislators to pass the bill that would allow undocumented children who were brought to the United States as minors a path to legalization. A group of undocumented students is heading to Washington, DC to rally there. Meanwhile, in Chicago, students planned an all-night vigil around the Republican party headquarters and a demonstration downtown; in Miami, students lay down on the beach to spell out the giant letters “DREAM”; in Arizona, a rally outside McCain’s office is planned and similar actions are set to take place in at least 18 other states around the country.

FBI Improperly Investigated Environmental Activists

A Justice Department investigation into a series of FBI inquiries about left-wing activists during the Bush years shows that the files were opened for “factually weak” reasons, and continued “without adequate basis.” The FBI was cleared of the more serious charge of investigating people for exercising their First Amendment rights, reported the Washington Post, but their practices were still called “troubling.” According to the report, the bureau improperly kept files on the Thomas Morton Center, PETA and Greenpeace. Greenpeace-affiliated activists were even put on a terrorist watch list, and an FBI agent was sent to a Pittsburgh peace rally to search for suspected terrorists. The ACLU notes that there have been more than 100 incidents of politically motivated surveillance since September 11, 2001.

Head of Vatican Bank in Money-Laundering Probe

The Vatican is at risk of another big scandal, reported Reuters, as two of its top bank officials go under investigation for money laundering. Italian police froze 23 million euros of the Vatican bank’s funds when they began the investigation into its president and director-general. In a statement, the Vatican expressed “perplexity and amazement” at the investigation, and said they had “utmost faith” in the men who run the bank.

Thailand Fails to Protect Education in Southern Schools

The Thai government’s use of schools as military bases and separatist attacks on teachers and schools are greatly harming the education of children in Thailand’s southern border provinces, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday. Ethnic Malay insurgents, who see schools as tools of the government, have threatened and killed teachers, bombed government schools and spread terror among students and parents, the report said, also noting that the government’s use of school as military bases only exacerbated the problem.