Hi-Clem Lane here with our ABC Evening Editorial Note. Weather at Andrews AFB is absolutely MISERABLE for the Maersk Alabama crew’s return which is currently scheduled for 12:30am ET Thursday morning. Here’s what we focused on today…….
APRIL 15TH/WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TAX RELIEF WITH YOUR TEA?-Tens of thousands of Americans celebrated tax day doing what Americans have been doing since the birth of our nation-protesting. Hundreds of “tea parties” (really just rallies) to protest not “taxation without representation”, but as Dan Harris noted on WORLD NEWS “to protest the bailouts…the stimulus plan…and President Obama’s budget.” While one man featured in Harris’ piece noted “This is totally grassroots. I just got on the internet and sent a few emails”, there seems to be an alternate explanation for the gatherings today as well. Harris again: “Critics on the left say this isn’t a real grassroots phenomenon. That it’s orchestrated by people fronting for corporate interests…like politician turned lobbyist Richard Armey.” In fact the tea parties were promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by Armey. So is this the start of something big? Will these folks finally get a vote? Harris: “Critics point out that today’s protestors did get to vote…they just lost. What’s more, polls show most Americans don’t feel over-taxed.” But it would be unwise to assume this is a Republican stunt with no legitimacy-as Armey himself noted in Harris’ WORLD NEWS piece “Don’t ever underestimate your opposition. This is real.” Real or not, President Obama promised to make future Tax Days less painful saying today “I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests.”
PAYING THE TAXMAN-This year’s taxes may be a bit harder to pay for the average Joe in light of our economic situation. As David Wright noted on WORLD NEWS “the average American spends more on state and federal taxes than food, clothing and shelter combined.” How about some anecdotal evidence? Wright reports that “calls to one hotline that helps people work out a deal with the IRS were up nearly 300-percent.” While the IRS has pledged “to go the extra mile in these difficult times to help you out” (as IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman said in Wright’s piece), it doesn’t look like anyone will be helping Uncle Sam out. Wright notes that “for the first time in 6 years, state tax collections are down in 42 states. As of last month, federal tax revenues were 14 percent lower than last year. That means Washington has $160 billion less to spend.”
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S TAX RETURN-The President and First Lady released their 2008 Income Tax Returns this afternoon. The White House released a paper statement which read “Today, the President released his 2008 federal income tax returns. He and the First Lady filed their income tax returns jointly and reported an adjusted gross income of $2,656,902. The vast majority of the family’s 2008 income is the proceeds from the sale of the President’s books. The Obamas paid $855,323 in federal income tax. The President and First Lady also reported donating $172,050 – or about 6.5% of their adjusted gross income – to 37 different charities. The largest reported gifts to charity were $25,000 contributions to CARE and the United Negro College Fund. The President and First Lady also released their Illinois income tax return and reported paying $77,883 in state income taxes.”
PIRATES LATEST-“But that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do/but roll around heaven all day.” Don’t know if you remember a song called “That Lucky Old Sun” by Frankie Lane which was a hit in 1949 (and no, I’m not that old I just remember the Jerry Garcia cover version) but those lyrics have been going through my head ever since the crew aboard the Liberty Sun were attacked by pirates. No rolling around heaven for the Liberty Sun crew-Somali pirates fired grenades and automatic weapons at the freighter that was loaded with food aid. But David Muir told us on WORLD NEWS that “by blockading themselves in the engine room, the 20 member American crew, it turns out had successfully foiled the attack. Unable to get to the crew and the ship’s controls, the pirates gave up.” Cue the USS Bainbridge “changing course to help. Still on board that American captain who’d been saved from pirates just last weekend.” For the Liberty Sun a happy ending. But for others…… brigands seized four vessels and more than 75 hostages off the Horn of Africa since Sunday’s dramatic rescue of Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips. That brought the total number of sailors being held by Somali pirates to over 300 on 17 different ships – a distinct surge in the number of captives over the last few days. So again the $150 million question-what’s the answer to this plethora of piracy? Muir: “Part of the answer analysts say, should come from the shipping companies who risk the journey. By traveling closer together in a corridor further out to sea and experts say, the US and other nations should now concentrate on the pirates’ so-called ‘mother ships’…these mother ships carry and tow the smaller speed boats the pirates fan out in once they’re out to sea.”
MAERSK ALABAMA CREW-The Maersk Alabama crew is currently winging its’ way to Andrews AFB. Their arrival is currently scheduled for 11:30pm ET this evening which Tom Giusto reminds could change based on weather conditions. We’ll likely hear from some of the crew after their return but Jim Sciutto, in an ABC NEWS exclusive talked with Shane Murphy and Colin Wright, the second and third in command of the Maersk Alabama while they were still in Mombassa. Both men admitted the attack “sparked sheer terror”. Colin Wright noting in Sciutto’s piece that “I was told that the color went from my face and I’m sure it did.” Which is not to say that the men were unprepared. Sciutto notes that “many crews say it’s not a question of if they’ll be attacked but when….The crew of the Alabama had carried out an anti-piracy drill just the day before.” The story of the crew’s struggle has been documented. Both Murphy and Wright had special praise for their Captain Richard Phillips. Sciutto: “Colin Wright was on the bridge with Captain Phillips.” Wright told Sciutto: “Captain Phillips is doing so many things, he is driving the ship, he is giving helm orders, he is calling over the radio where the pirates are, what they’re doing. He was incredible.” It’s going to be a day or two before Wright will be able to tell Phillips that in person. Still on the Bainbridge, Captain Phillips is due back in Mombassa, Kenya around midnight ET this evening, a long way from Andrews AFB but with solid ground under his feet.
MEXICAN PRESIDENT CALDERON-Mexican President Felipe Calderon sat down for an interview yesterday with ABC NEWS NIGHTLINE’s Terry Moran. President Calderon was adamant his country would prevail against the multi-billion dollar drug cartels. “We need to win,” said President Calderon, “and we will win. That’s my idea. I’m sure about that.” As Moran noted in his WORLD NEWS spot, “(Calderon) has fought back hard-harder than any previous Mexican president-sending tens of thousands of troops to border areas, cracking down on the corruption, arresting major drug lords.” Calderon’s problems extend beyond the drug gangs-there’s the thorny subject of illegal Mexican immigration into the United States. Moran reports that Calderon “takes a dim view of a major US initiative-that fence going up along the border” Calderon told Moran that “I respect the rights of every single country to establish the conditions to enforce the law. But I cannot say that (the fence) is a friendly attitude from one neighbor to the other.” Calderon also spoke of the assault weapons ban which expired here in the States in 2004. Moran: “Since then, (Calderon) said, the violence here has grown worse as criminals have gotten more powerfully armed. The Mexican president told us frankly he’d like to see the ban reinstated.”
FED BEIGE BOOK- The U.S. economy continued to weaken in March and early April but the speed of contraction was waning, the Federal Reserve said today. More encouragingly, signs that the recession might be nearing an end. "Five of the 12 districts noted a moderation in the pace of decline, and several saw signs that activity in some sectors was stabilizing at a low level," according to the Fed’s Beige Book summary of anecdotal reports from its 12 regional banks. The survey was based on information collected by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on or before April 6.
DETAINEE TREATMENT/THE BRADBURY MEMOS-From Ariane DeVogue: “Tomorrow marks a deadline for the Obama administration to turn over to the ACLU some of the most potentially controversial legal opinions written during the Bush administration on detainee procedures. The Obama administration has been under some pressure to release the documents, as a part of a FOIA lawsuit brought by the ACLU, but has sought, more than once, for a delay in the release. If the documents are not released tomorrow, or if they are released in a heavily redacted form, look for the ACLU to renew claims that the Obama administration is not being as transparent on these issues as it should be. The so called ‘Bradbury memos’ were written in May of 2005 by top DOJ attorney Steven G. Bradbury and provide legal guidance in part to the executive branch as to which interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, could be used by the CIA.”