Front Page Photo by Chris Wilhelm - More
Alaska: After many decades with 48 stars,
another was added to American flags on this day - January 3rd
- in 1959, as Alaska was admitted to statehood.
Alaska had been a territory
since 1867, when it was purchased from Russia in a highly controversial
move. A land of superlatives, Alaska is noted for its great expanses
of natural beauty and is the vacation destination for many Americans
seeking to get away from traffic and pollution.
Alaska is almost one-fifth
the size of all the lower 48 states, and has a population density
of just over one person per square mile, while the U.S. average
is close to 80. The state's population, long the lowest in the
U.S., is today nearly 649-thousand, larger than Wyoming, Vermont
and North Dakota. - Source U.S. Census Bureau
glance at the issues Congress will face - The 109th Congress
opens at noon on Tuesday. Here's a look at the top issues for
President Bush and the Republicans who control both the House
SOCIAL SECURITY: The president
says the nation's retirement system is in crisis and needs to
be fixed immediately to keep it solvent. Although details are
sketchy, Bush wants Congress to approve a plan that would allow
workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes into private
accounts. Democratic critics say there's no crisis and argue
the president is out to privatize the system.
TAXES: Fulfilling a pledge
he made in his campaign, Bush wants to make his tax cuts permanent
and overhaul the federal tax code. The president wants a commission
to study tax changes and make recommendations later this year.
Although Bush has yet to endorse a proposal, ideas being discussed
in Washington include a national sales tax or a flat income tax
to replace the current multi-tiered income tax system.
JURY AWARDS: With juries awarding
multimillion-dollar verdicts, Bush says the current judicial
system is too much like a lottery. He wants Congress to approve
a plan that would put a cap on jury awards. Bush has criticized
the Senate for not acting on a House-approved plan that would
cap noneconomic damages for pain and suffering at $250,000.
JUDGES: Bush is likely to get
a chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice. Chief Judge William
Rehnquist, 80, is being treated for thyroid cancer and is expected
to retire. There has not been an opening on the high court since
DEFICIT: With the Congressional
Budget Office projecting a budget deficit of $348 billion in
the current budget year, Bush is promising to cut the deficit
in half in the next five years. With war costs mounting, spending
cuts are expected in many domestic programs when Bush presents
his new budget to Congress on Feb. 7. - More...
Monday - January 03, 2004