Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tattoos in Papillion...


Tattoos can really change your image. And that has some Papillion residents upset.

Dr. Jack's opened Dec. 1 on South Washington Street, Papillion's main drag.Along the main street of this suburban city, where T-ball teams line up for treats at the Dairy Queen and junior high students walk to school, the soft glow of the community's Nativity display recently got some competition for attention.

A lemon yellow sign radiates like a beacon outside the newest business in town: Dr. Jack's Ink Emporium tattoo parlor.

Opened Dec. 1, the parlor has already spurred complaint letters and a petition to shut it down. Petition supporters say the tattoo parlor mars the city's image.

The manager of the parlor said he is operating legally and is disheartened by misconceptions about tattooing.

Papillion Mayor James Blinn said the parlor doesn't fit the city's image, but the city can't shut the business down. He has asked a committee to look at tightening the regulation of such businesses.

Nearly 90 people have signed the petition opposing the parlor, which operates in a storefront at 213 S. Washington St.

The petition asserts that the parlor will have "a detrimental impact" on the safety and well-being of children and "detracts from Papillion's family atmosphere."

Retired teacher Barbara Berg, whose granddaughter attends Papillion Junior High, wrote a letter to City Hall objecting to it.

"We've had a big push in downtown to add flowers, and we've spent a lot of money redoing the curbs and putting in benches for people to sit," Berg said. "Then here's the tattoo parlor."

Since 2006, the city has spent nearly $600,000 adding planters, benches, decorative lampposts and brick pavers to improve its downtown image and create a pedestrian-friendly place. But like many cities, Papillion has struggled to keep its downtown vibrant as shoppers flock to shopping centers at the edge of town.

Blinn said Dr. Jack's did not require approval from the mayor and council to open in an existing building already zoned for commercial activity.

"Did we approve or recruit that business to go in?" Blinn said. "The answer is 'no.'"

He has asked the City Council's finance and administration committee to research whether ordinances can be changed to "more strongly regulate this type of activity at or near where children will be present."

The parlor in question, however, would be exempt from any new rules, he said.

"That business is now existing, so if you change the zoning law, it does not make them close down. They're grandfathered."

Matt Stensrud, 27, who manages the parlor, said he is disheartened by what he feels are misconceptions about body art. Stensrud said the art form appeals to folks of all ages and is becoming more mainstream.

Stensrud, a single dad who lives in Bellevue, said he grew up in Papillion, where he attended St. Columbkille School and became an Eagle Scout.

"We're not monsters; we're regular people," he said.

Derek Ferrell, who leased his building to Dr. Jack's, said critics don't understand the difficulty of finding tenants in the current retail climate.

"They're not in my shoes. I've got a $2,000-a-month bay open there. If nobody else is renting it, what am I going to do? Go out of business?"

Ferrell said the previous two lessees in the building, a sandwich shop and a women's gym, couldn't make it downtown.

"There were two viable, family-friendly businesses in there" that were not supported, he said.

Dr. Jack's has four other locations: one in Fremont, one in Bellevue and two in Omaha, near 137th and M Streets and near Interstate 680 and West Maple Road.

The Papillion parlor is one of four body art salons the state indicates are licensed in Sarpy County. Two are in Bellevue, including the Dr. Jack's at 410 Galvin Road North. One is in La Vista.

Omaha has 26 licensed body-art outlets.

Ana Perry of Papillion, who signed the petition, wonders about the location a block and a half from Papillion Junior High — and its hours she described as late —open until midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

"It's right next to the junior high," Perry said. "I'm just concerned about the kids, the exposure."

She said the Dr. Jack's Web site carries a warning that it contains "adult content and images" and that visitors should be 18 or older.

Perry also expressed concern that the chain's Bellevue location conducted "suspensions," where patrons are hung from hooks, sometimes before an audience.

Stensrud said suspensions are done only at the Bellevue parlor.

Monte Vogel, general manager of Dr. Jack's and a member of the Nebraska Board of Cosmetology Examiners, said people are quick to judge.

"A lot of times, fears are based on ignorance," Vogel said. "If you don't know about something, then you're just going to be scared about it until you know more about it or know the better."

Hollywood perpetuates the stigma, he said.

"You can pick out the bad guys, they're the guys with the tattoos and the piercings," he said.

As practitioners of a licensed profession, body artists are comparable to nail technicians and cosmetologists, he said.

James Lee of Papillion, who helped to circulate the petition, said he hopes the council will look at what other cities have done to regulate tattoo parlors, pawn shops and other businesses that he described as questionable.

Some cities, Lee said, have prohibited such businesses within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park or homes and have restricted operating hours.

"If they act quickly with some ordinances," Lee said, "then they can prevent it in the future."

Papillion City Councilman Gene Jaworski, who is on the committee, said he favors tightening the regulations.

"I wish it would have gone someplace else," Jaworski said. "I'm not against the business. I just don't think Main Street's the place to put it."

The big yellow sign stands out "like a sore thumb," he said.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Diet vs. Regular in School Vending Machines Again


Out of sight, out of mind — unless it's the sugar-sweetened sodas that many high school students crave.

Over the past year and a half, middle and high schools have removed regular pop from vending machines and have replaced it with diet pop, water and sometimes juice or sports drinks.

The goal: slow childhood obesity by changing what's available to students during the school day. A 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew — a favorite at many high schools — has more than 18 teaspoons of sugar and/or corn syrup and no nutritional value.

But diet pop isn't selling well in many Omaha-area schools.

At Ralston High, for example, the number of beverage cases needed to fill the vending machines during the 2007-08 year — when the Rams first made the switch — dropped by 48 percent compared with the year before. The machines have Coke Zero, diet sodas, water, flavored waters and juice.

Freshman Desiree King, 14, said she and her friends heard there was "bad stuff" in diet pop: the sweetener aspartame, which some studies have linked to bad reactions and side effects. And the students prefer the taste of regular soft drinks.

In many cases, students are turning to the fridge at home or the convenience store cooler to stock up on regular pop before class. Or they're selecting sports drinks and sugar-saturated coffees, which are no healthier.

That leaves a local doctor, school officials and others calling on parents to be the difference makers.

"Obese children become obese adults. . . . It's a lifelong battle. It's so imperative that kids keep a normal weight," said Dr. Birgit Khandalavala, a family practice doctor and an assistant professor at Creighton University School of Medicine.

Although schools may have good intentions when they put diet pop in their machines, Khandalavala said she's not convinced that drinking it is any better than consuming regular soda.

The doctor said research indicates that switching to diet drinks may not curb weight gain, because the brain behaves as though the sweetener is the real thing. That then starts a chemical response to prepare the body for the sugary version of the drink and makes the drinker crave more sweets.

Howell's BP, a gas station at 52nd Street and the Northwest Radial, is where many Benson students buy nondiet pop.She recommends cutting all pop out of the diet. For an overweight and pre-diabetic child, she said, the change could lead to major health improvements — weight loss and normal blood glucose levels — in as little as one month.

Starting with the 2006-07 school year, the federal government required school districts to develop wellness policies. The policies typically limit food as a reward for students and require nutrition education.

Soon after, the American Beverage Association decided that regular pop would not be sold to schools by 2009. The association also developed guidelines for what types of juices and beverages can be sold in schools.

Those actions prompted many area schools to kick out regular soda last school year. More followed this fall.

Since then, the Papillion-La Vista school district has seen beverage sales plunge. Mountain Dew had been the No. 1 seller.

The sales slide is happening in most Omaha public middle and high schools, too, said spokeswoman Luanne Nelson. Administrators say it could be a mix of the change in what's being offered and the slow economy.

Edward Lopez, vice president of communications for Coca-Cola's region that includes Nebraska, said the dip in pop sales, as well as overall vending machine drinks, is happening at schools nationwide.

On a bright note, he said, students are selecting water from machines in larger numbers, though competition from coffee shops is growing.

Desiree and her friends Raebecca McArtor-Allen and Victoria Vong said the change has been an adjustment.

Some students bring bottles of soda or energy drinks to school, they said, and others have tried to get used to drinking flavored water.

Desiree, who considers herself too thin, said she's trying to gain weight, and the message of drinking only diet soda "if you don't need to be on a diet" bothers her.

Khandalavala said she knows it's a struggle to teach kids about good decision making when it comes to what they drink. She said her own kids have a taste for the sugary drinks.

And when your child is given a new glass of pop at a restaurant before the first one is half-finished, it's hard to send a consistent message.

But, she said, parents can make a huge difference by setting an example, such as choosing water and green tea; cutting out refills; and making sure there is time for physical activity.

Annette Eyman, spokeswoman for Papillion-La Vista schools, agreed that most of the work to change the habits of young people must happen outside of school.

"If we're going to change society, pulling pop out of the vending machines in high schools is not going to do it," Eyman said. "The schools are just one small piece of what we need to do."

School-bought soda is a fraction of what kids actually drink. And recently published findings of a study of Maine high school students suggest that taking regular soda out of school has no effect on how much of it they consume.

Not all schools have seen such a large drop in beverage sales since switching to diet. The decrease is less pronounced in Millard compared with other metro districts, and vending machine drink sales at Omaha Westside High were reported to be holding steady.

Officials in those districts say that's probably because bottled water had been a top seller before the switch.

• Contact the writer: 444-1037, michaela.saunders@owh.com

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Time to Reboot America

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
I had a bad day last Friday, but it was an all-too-typical day for America.

It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone. A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train — with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.

The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.

All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us? What has become of our infrastructure, which is so crucial to productivity? Back home, I was greeted by the news that General Motors was being bailed out — that’s the G.M. that Fortune magazine just noted “lost more than $72 billion in the past four years, and yet you can count on one hand the number of executives who have been reassigned or lost their job.”

My fellow Americans, we can’t continue in this mode of “Dumb as we wanna be.” We’ve indulged ourselves for too long with tax cuts that we can’t afford, bailouts of auto companies that have become giant wealth-destruction machines, energy prices that do not encourage investment in 21st-century renewable power systems or efficient cars, public schools with no national standards to prevent illiterates from graduating and immigration policies that have our colleges educating the world’s best scientists and engineers and then, when these foreigners graduate, instead of stapling green cards to their diplomas, we order them to go home and start companies to compete against ours.

To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions.

For all these reasons, our present crisis is not just a financial meltdown crying out for a cash injection. We are in much deeper trouble. In fact, we as a country have become General Motors — as a result of our national drift. Look in the mirror: G.M. is us.

That’s why we don’t just need a bailout. We need a reboot. We need a build out. We need a buildup. We need a national makeover. That is why the next few months are among the most important in U.S. history. Because of the financial crisis, Barack Obama has the bipartisan support to spend $1 trillion in stimulus. But we must make certain that every bailout dollar, which we’re borrowing from our kids’ future, is spent wisely.

It has to go into training teachers, educating scientists and engineers, paying for research and building the most productivity-enhancing infrastructure — without building white elephants. Generally, I’d like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets. If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us.

America still has the right stuff to thrive. We still have the most creative, diverse, innovative culture and open society — in a world where the ability to imagine and generate new ideas with speed and to implement them through global collaboration is the most important competitive advantage. China may have great airports, but last week it went back to censoring The New York Times and other Western news sites. Censorship restricts your people’s imaginations. That’s really, really dumb. And that’s why for all our missteps, the 21st century is still up for grabs.

John Kennedy led us on a journey to discover the moon. Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Capitol holiday-display controversy turning into "circus"



By Janet I. Tu

Seattle Times religion reporter

The state Capitol hosts a Nativity scene and a 25-foot "holiday tree." The nearby atheists' sign that sparked a nationwide furor was back in place Friday after being stolen and then dropped off at a country-music radio station.

And joining those displays soon could be a 5-foot aluminum pole in celebration of "Festivus for the Rest of Us." Not to mention a protest, a balloon display and even more signs, this time supporting religion.

"It's a circus and we're the center ring," said state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who wants the atheists' sign moved farther from the Nativity scene and the governor to establish firmer guidelines on displays.

Things in Olympia have taken a bizarre turn since Monday, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national group for atheists and agnostics, put up a sign that says, in part: "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." The sign was partly a reaction to the Nativity scene.

The issue went national when FOX News personality Bill O'Reilly chastised the state during his show for allowing the sign.

On Friday, workers discovered the sign was missing shortly after the building opened at 7 a.m., said Steve Valandra, spokesman for the Department of General Administration, which maintains the Capitol grounds.

Later that morning, a man carrying the sign walked into country-music radio station KMPS in Seattle, saying "you know what it's for," said News Director Stephen Kilbreath. Radio-show host Ichabod Caine and others had been talking Friday morning about how disparaging the sign was.

Of the sign turning up at the station, Caine said: "First you think: No way this happened. ... That's sort of funny on one level."

But what happened was stealing, Caine said, and "certainly, because we know 'thou shalt not steal,' don't steal a sign."

The Washington State Patrol is investigating the theft. The State Patrol also is providing extra security in the Capitol for all the holiday displays, Sgt. Mark Arras said.

The Rev. Ken Hutcherson of Redmond's Antioch Bible Church put up his own sign at the Capitol on Friday that says, in part: "There is one God. ... Atheism is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

There are requests for other displays as well. Someone applied to put up a "Festivus" pole in honor of the invented holiday featured in the 1990s sitcom "Seinfeld." Another person wants to create a religious-themed "balloon display."

And a demonstration against the atheists' sign is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday on the Capitol steps.

Organizer Steve Wilson of Federal Way said he's for free speech but thinks the sign denigrates religious people. His rally is intended to be pro-faith, not anti-atheist. "We just want to go show our support for people of faith. We don't want any hate," he said.

O'Reilly, on his FOX News show earlier this week, urged viewers to call Gov. Christine Gregoire's office to protest the sign. Gregoire's office received more than 9,000 calls Thursday alone, said spokesman Pearse Edwards.

Both Hutcherson and Roach taped segments Friday for a follow-up segment on O'Reilly's show.

Gregoire, a Democrat, and state Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, issued a statement after O'Reilly's first show, explaining the state's position.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution's First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of nonbelievers," the statement said.

On Friday, some nonbelievers said they had very mixed feelings about the sign.

Michael Amini, a University of Washington student and president of the Secular Student Union, says he's glad to see nonbelievers represented among the Capitol displays. But he doesn't like the sign's wording, saying it's inflammatory and divisive.

"Right now, the atheists are the least trusted minority in the United States," said Amini, who believes the foundation should spend its time and money trying to show people that atheists are "decent people, rational and sane, with legitimate world views. This sign does not send that message."

Dan Barker, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president, said he intended the sign to be a little controversial — though he didn't expect this much.

"We thought our sign was pretty mild. But some people thought it was pretty hard-hitting," he said. "It's a criticism of religion. I think people like O'Reilly confuse criticism with hate speech."

All this hubbub threatened to overshadow what would otherwise be a big-deal wintertime moment in the Capitol: the annual lighting of the "Capitol Holiday Kids Tree" Friday. The tree, sponsored by the Association of Washington Business, is part of a charity drive.

There also will be a menorah in the Capitol this year, scheduled to go up on Dec. 21.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stem Cell Research

Before December 10th, 2008, I had never known the real function of a stem cell, I had only heard about them. After watching an episode of South Park that had to do with the benefits of stem cells, I was more interested in the topic. For those of you who haven't done your own  research, stem cells are cells that have not been developed for a certain part of the body. Three main resources for stem cells are adult cells, embryonic cells, and cord cells. However, most of the controversy is over the extracting of embryonic cells.

Why? Those who value human life, AKA pro-choicers, oppose the destruction of the embryo because they see it as a human life. Is this considered murder? In, my opinion, I don't think so because the fertilized egg has the POTENTIAL to be a human life, it's not one yet. These cells could possibly cure many diseases because of the ability to adapt to other cells of the body. For example, stem cells could replace neural cells in the brain that have been damaged. They can also replace damaged cells from the cancer treatment radiation.

Two sides: Saving the potential human life, or the possibility of curing diseases like parkinsan's disease. Which one do you choose?

--miles of smiles

Why be a Celebrity?


How awesome would it be to be a celebrity? Think about it, you would be popular, have lots of money, nice cars, nice clothes, and even eat at expensive restaurants all the time. Isn't becoming a famous person what most people strive to be in their life?

It seems to me that people spend their whole lives trying to become famous. They want the nice crap that the other rich people have and all the famous friends that normal people dream about. But most of all, I believe that the top reason people try to become famous is because they want the attention to be on themselves. People just want to be noticed, and it is amazing what people go through for their fame.

Average ordinary people will get another job to purchase the designer clothes and accessories. They may even stop doing everything and go partying so people will just notice them and hope that everything will be alright in the end. For most people these methods probably don't work and they end up worse than before, but for others that get lucky, this dream may become a reality.

Don't get me wrong, many celebrities have become famous due to their hard work and accomplishments. Athletes, actors, and actresses come to my mind, but some people are famous just because of their looks and luck.

But what happens when you do get famous? Does the cliché 15 minutes of fame come to mind? Celebrities get tired of being noticed and try to hide from all the attention. They want to be famous but not seen in public with normal everyday clothes or without a lot of makeup. This seems like a contradiction to me.

The point is that people spend their whole lives trying to get famous and become a celebrity, but once they have accomplished this goal they don't want to be noticed at all.



-Cheezy McNasty

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cell Phone Distractions

Cell phones are now a necessity of life. They have evolved into a vital appendage to the human body. Their features use to consist of just placing calls but now they're practically computers in the palm of our hands. Unfortunately this "necessity" has become excessive, and dangerous.

Kids as young as the age of 8 are getting phones, but that is not where the danger resides.. The problem is among those capable of driving. Put an inexperienced 15-year-old driver behind the wheel and you already have a high risk for an accident. Now add a phone into the equation and that risk skyrockets. "Cell phone distraction causes over 2,500 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year." (Journal's publisher, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.) To decrease this total many states, such as California, New York, Connecticut, and others, have made it illegal to use anything but a 'hands-free' device, although this doesn't completely eliminate the distraction.

Also, since phones have more available communication tools, talking and driving isn't the only hazard. Chronic texting has become popular, especially among teens. Obsessive texters argue that they can reply to a text blindfolded, implying that their attention is still on the road. Sure, that's impressive, but can they read a text blindfolded?

Too many have had to experience the tragic effects of cell phone distractions while driving. Sadly not everyone realizes the danger they put themselves and every other driver around them in when they make this all too common mistake. While many feel they would die without this "vital appendage," using it could be could be the reason they do.

Little Lamb

Is Media Influencing America’s Children?

Is Media Influencing America's Children?

Everyone has seen some form of violence on television, whether it be from a movie, news, or just a weekly show. But did you know that by the time a child is eighteen years old, he or she will witness on television 200,000 acts of violence including 40,000 murders?
It is proven that media violence does, in fact, affect children's behavior. (As Stated by the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry)
Media is known to effect young children in many ways. Children are more easily impressionable and have a harder time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. They cannot easily discern motives for violence and they learn by observing and imitating. Many will increase anti-social and aggressive behavior throughout their growth. Children may also become less sensitive to violence and those who suffer from violence. They may view the world as violent and mean, becoming more fearful of being a victim of violence. They may believe that they constantly need to look to defend themselves. Unfortunately, children will desire to see more violence in entertainment and real life. Children will view violence as an acceptable way to settle conflicts.
What about movies and TV shows? Many studies done on the affects of violence in television and movies conclude that children who watch significant amounts of television and movie violence are more likely to have aggressive behavior, attitudes, and values. Aggressive behavior on screen that lacks consequences, portrayed as justified, or is rewarded will have a greater effect on children. When the violence is committed by an attractive or charismatic hero, with whom the child identifies, the effect of that violence will be greater. The child's attention is focused on the violence on the screen, causing the child to be engaged or aroused. If the child sees the violence in the show as being realistic, reflecting real life, the impact will be greater.
Any solutions? Personally, I was allowed to watch violent movies and news stories when I was younger. I do not ever feel the need to hurt others, but not all cases are like mine. Many times, it depends on the child's surroundings and what they experience. I do believe that with the right parenting, violence does not have to have an effect on children. As for censorship, I think our government can only get so involved but in the end, they cannot completely control what America's children watch. There have been steps taken to resolve this increasingly problematic issue. L.O.V.E.3 (Lets Overcome Violence through Education Empathy and Empowerment) is one of many groups created to prevent violence in youth. This is a serious issue and steps are being taken to prevent violence in youth.

Fireball

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Misconception with Giving Masquerades as the Spirit of the Season

 

After finishing our thanksgiving meal many people went out to buy gift from the department stores with amazing door busters. I admit I was one in the crowd but there I am not a big fan of the holidays. I have just only started to realize the how bad this time of year is and how it brings out the worst in so many people. Being showered with gifts, kids grow up expecting them to come larger and in greater numbers as each year passes. A the while the parent enable this behavior by buying into it in the most literal sense. On Saturday morning while shopping in Kohl's I couldn't help but overhear a family glad to have found a gift for their grandparents that was cheap and would appease them. What has the holidays come to?

 

Is it necessary for me to give everyone I know a gift to ensure peace in my social circle?  I would love to be able to say that I could give gifts to only the people I found special to me but it is not feasible in the include-everyone-world we live in today, where it is necessary to hand out consolation prizes and participation ribbons. The fact that our society accepts the marketing ploy of assigning a certain time of year to plunge into their pockets and purchase, purchase, purchase is insane. Is that truly the spirit of giving is the thought behind a gift not to let someone know that you care. I have found that there are much better ways to show someone you care than purchasing the one of millions, assembly line manufactured products. I have found that some of my favorite gifts are personal photographs handwritten, or handmade cards. This is not because I am one for the sentimental but these gifts represent the genuine care of someone else. Whether it is a paint ball gun to some one who plays paint ball of a piano book to a suffering musician, gift that reveal support and compassion are the best gifts to receive.

 

The second problem with the giving of this season is the fact that it is contained to just this season. Have you ever tried to give someone a gift on any day other than their birthday of Christmas? Well, I have and most will not accept it yet other fear to in dread of being the butt of yet another prank for the umpteenth time. The fact that we contain and save up our generosity for a period of the year sickens me. What is wrong with helping a friend out when they need it or doing a little charity when it is unexpected or not required? Many of the students at our school have no grasp of what donating time really is; I have run across a few, but on the most students do community service to fulfill the Honor Society requirements which in my mind is not a form of volunteering and is more a form of manipulation of overachievers to perform costless child labor.

 

In the last three weeks I have committed 23 hours to varying efforts regarding charities. I don't need the hours; I have 220 hours since the beginning of this past summer.  I do it because it feels great not going somewhere to count watch the clock rather to get into what you are doing and know that I did not require repayment. That is real giving, the kind that in no way expects to receive. I don't mean for you to go out and work yourself to the bone for something you do not believe. Instead find a cause you can consistently get involved in and have a personal connection to, that is when you will enjoy donating you time. Volunteering and gift giving should be all year enjoyable experiences. All I am saying is, take a step back this season and ask yourself why, compulsion or compassion?

 

Happy Holidays! May yours break all kinds of traditions.

 

Mr. Phil 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is defined by the Webster dictionary as the act or practice of painlessly ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment. It is also referred to as mercy killing. The most common form of Euthanasia is doctor assisted suicide. When a patient has an incurable disease that is causing them massive amount of pain, they should at least have a choice to escape a world that only holds more pain in their future.
The Freedom guaranteed to every American of the pursuit of happiness should not end with hospitalization. They should have a right to a dignified and humane death of their own choosing. This willingness to die differs greatly from the act of suicide that is common in the US today. If a person knows that their death is going to be horrific and painful, they shouldn't have to endure such a horrible demise. It's not like the person can just say, "i wanna die." after coming to the hospital with a splinter. This option should only be available to those with no other options than to wither away in pain.
The family members of an individual that is going through so much pain should know that Euthanasia is the best option for their loved one. They should be allowed to alleviate that loved ones' pain when they are not able to make that decision. The decision to be freed of pain over the prospect of lasting, lingering anguish is a heavenly chance.
Many Organizations like Compassion in Dying, Death with Dignity, and the World Federation of Right to Die have been working to make this merciful choice an option for terminal patients in hospitals across America. Will you make that choice?
~charlie the unicorn~

Army Utilizes Stop-Loss Policy

            Imagine serving the U.S. Army for a year in the hot, Iraqi desert. Each day, you risk your life and await your return to America. After your tour is over, you are supposed to be done and able to move on with your life. However, you return to the States only to find the Army will be shipping you back overseas against your will. Sounds unfair, doesn't it?

            The Army, along with the U.S. government, is allowed to do this because of the Stop-Loss order issued by the Department of Defense. This order, otherwise known as some sort of a "backdoor draft," is an unpopular practice forcing soldiers to stay in the service well beyond retirement or re-enlistment dates.

            In May of 2007, the number of soldiers affected had dropped to a 3-year low of 8,540. However, in March of 2008, despite Robert Gates' request for the Army to limit the use of Stop-Loss, this number had increased by 43%. From 2002 to April of last year, 58,300 people had already been affected by the policy. In addition to the Stop-Loss order, President Bush has extended tour lengths to 15 months.

            The Army says they will need the Stop-Loss practice until late 2009, but just how many more soldiers will this burden until that time? While most soldiers understand the necessity of the policy and the need to bolster troops in order to meet our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, not many are happy. The use of this policy does not boost morale, hurts recruitment of new servicemen, and definitely puts a strain on the men and women already generously serving our nation, along with their families.


LINKS: 

http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2008-04-21-stoploss_N.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/04/21/general-army-needs-stoplo_n_97844.html

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/02/gates-stop-loss/


 

                        By: EfarmsQUACK

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Sovereignty Dodge



By Robert Kagan
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"We don't think the world's great nations and countries can be held hostage by non-state actors," Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said yesterday. Fair enough. But what is the world to do when those non-state actors operate from the territory of a state and are the creation of that state's intelligence services?

One can feel sympathy for Zardari's plight. He and his new civilian government did not train or assist the Pakistani terrorist organizations that probably carried out last week's attacks in Mumbai. Nor is it his fault that al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other dangerous groups operate in Waziristan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of western Pakistan, from which they launch attacks on U.S. and European forces trying to bring peace to Afghanistan. For that we can thank elements of the Pakistani military, Pakistani intelligence and the late military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. Reversing decades-old policies of support for these groups may be impossible for any Pakistani leader, especially when the only forces capable of rooting them out are the same forces that created them and sustain them.

So if the world is indeed not to be held hostage by non-state actors operating from Pakistan, what can be done? The Bush administration is right to press Pakistan to cooperate fully with India's investigation of the Mumbai attacks. But that may not have much effect. Pakistani intelligence services have already balked at sending their top official to India to help. Nor is mere cooperation by Pakistan likely to satisfy the outraged Indian people. They, like Americans after Sept. 11, 2001, want to see some action taken against the groups that carried out the attacks. So all the warnings in the world may not be enough to forestall an Indian attack, especially given the Indian government's political vulnerability, even if it risks another Indo-Pakistani war.

Rather than simply begging the Indians to show restraint, a better option could be to internationalize the response. Have the international community declare that parts of Pakistan have become ungovernable and a menace to international security. Establish an international force to work with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in the tribal areas. This would have the advantage of preventing a direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan. It might also save face for the Pakistani government, since the international community would be helping the central government reestablish its authority in areas where it has lost it. But whether or not Islamabad is happy, don't the international community and the United States, at the end of the day, have some obligation to demonstrate to the Indian people that we take attacks on them as seriously as we take attacks on ourselves?

Would such an action violate Pakistan's sovereignty? Yes, but nations should not be able to claim sovereign rights when they cannot control territory from which terrorist attacks are launched. If there is such a thing as a "responsibility to protect," which justifies international intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophe either caused or allowed by a nation's government, there must also be a responsibility to protect one's neighbors from attacks from one's own territory, even when the attacks are carried out by "non-state actors."

In Pakistan's case, the continuing complicity of the military and intelligence services with terrorist groups pretty much shreds any claim to sovereign protection. The Bush administration has tried for years to work with both the military and the civilian government, providing billions of dollars in aid and advanced weaponry. But as my Carnegie Endowment colleague Ashley Tellis has noted, the strategy hasn't shown much success. After Mumbai, it has to be judged a failure. Until now, the military and intelligence services have remained more interested in wielding influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban and fighting India in Kashmir through terrorist groups than in cracking down. Perhaps they need a further incentive -- such as the prospect of seeing parts of their country placed in an international receivership.

Would the U.N. Security Council authorize such action? China has been Pakistan's ally and protector, and Russia might have its own reasons for opposing a resolution. Neither likes the idea of breaking down the walls of national sovereignty -- except, in Russia's case, in Georgia -- which is why they block foreign pressure on Sudan concerning Darfur, and on Iran and other rogue states. This would be yet another test of whether China and Russia, supposed allies in the war against terrorism, are really interested in fighting terrorism outside their own borders. But if such an action were under consideration at the United Nations, that might be enough to gain Pakistan's voluntary cooperation. Either way, it would be useful for the United States, Europe and other nations to begin establishing the principle that Pakistan and other states that harbor terrorists should not take their sovereignty for granted. In the 21st century, sovereign rights need to be earned.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes a monthly column for The Post.

Stimulus Packages and Bailouts

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Darkest Friday of All

Black Friday is known as the biggest shopping day of the year.  The day after Thanksgiving, it is marked by massive lines and countless shoppers who sacrifice sleep in order to get the best deals.  Stores open as early as four in the morning to accommodate the enormous crowds.  Usually reports are made of pushing in line and small fist fights.  But this Black Friday was to become the most memorable and darkest of all, when reports were made of the death of a Wal-Mart employee.  Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death while opening the doors of a Long Island Wal-Mart.  Shoppers had broken through the doors and stampeded through the entrance of the store with no regard to Damour or the other employees who were trying to save him, including a pregnant woman.  The same shoppers who had trampled Damour to death then refused to leave the store when asked by police. They complained that they "had been waiting in line for hours to shop."  As if things couldn't get worse, two men killed each other inside a Toys R' Us.  They pulled handguns on each other and than ran through the aisles of the store shooting at one another. 

            What ever happened to Christmas being a happy time of year with "goodwill towards men?"  It seems horribly wrong that on Christmas, an innocent child will be opening a present that its parents trampled a man to death for.  What will it take to protect the employees of stores, the National Guard?  The shoppers of that Wal-Mart should be prosecuted.  How about one hundred hours of community service as a Salvation Army bell ringer?  Shoppers should reflect on the horrors of this year's Black Friday, and promise to themselves to show restraint and courteousness next year.

The Professor

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran?

Talk of Iran getting nuclear power has been hovering in the media for several years now. In 2003 it was clear that Iran was developing nuclear power; however, they claimed it was for peaceful purposes and invited inspectors. Then, in 2004 Tehran signed an agreement with Germany, France, and Britain to cease uranium enrichment. Then in 2006 it was clear they had broken the agreement and sanctions were place upon Iran. Finally, in 2007 further sanctions were placed upon Iran for continuing failure to cease nuclear production.

 

            Now, the better part of two years later, Iran has 5,000 functional centrifuges, used in producing nuclear power as well as nuclear weaponry. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that he plans to build 6,000 more in the coming year. Fortunately, not all 5,000 current centrifuges are perfect, which is needed to produce enriched uranium, however Iranian methods are improving quickly.

 

            “Most estimates say Iran is about a year away from developing a nuclear weapon.” –CNN.com

 

            The CNN report goes on to say, “David Albright -- president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington group dedicated to informing the public about science policy issues -- said the figure is credible and that "Iran is marching onward in developing its nuclear weapons capability."

 

            We don’t know when Iran will achieve nuclear power, either logistical or offensive. But we do know that if action isn’t taken soon they certainly will have nuclear power in the near future. We also know that the country is lead by a man who hasn’t been fazed by economic sanctions. We know that Israel stopped a similar development in 1981 when they attacked Osirak, one of Iran’s nuclear power plants. And we know Israel will defend itself by any means necessary if they feel the western world won’t intervene.

 

            President Elect Barack Obama will be inheriting, perhaps literally, a ticking time-bomb in the Middle-East. The President Elect will have to handle the situation delicately, as too strong of an action could incite another war, and inaction will certainly do the same. However, it is clear now that so long as the current President of Iran stays in power, decisive action must be taken and it must be done quickly. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proven he won’t respond to reasonable diplomacy, but perhaps he will respond to force.

 

How dangerous will we let people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad get before we see diplomacy won’t always work?

 

-The Burninator

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fairness Doctrine: talk about an oxymoron...

The Fairness Doctrine was an FCC program in the 70s and 80s that stated that if a radio station talked about a controversial issue, the station had to give equal time to the opposing side if someone requested it. That sounds like a dandy idea on paper, but in practice all it did was stifle the free exchange of information. It was such a hassle for the stations to schedule the opposing views that they just didn't talk about anything that was at all controversial.

There has been a movement in congress, lead by democrats, to revive the Fairness Doctrine. The Democrats do not actually want "fairness" on the airwaves; but rather want to silence conservative talk-show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh. Despite the grand-sounding name, reinstituting Fairness Doctrine would reduce fairness in the media. The current problem with the media is the bias on every level of broadcasting. Every TV news channel except for Fox News and CNBC are blatantly liberal. FNC and CNBC are probably the closest to the center of all news outlets, but both do shade to the right. On the radio, Conservatives dominate. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity are blatantly conservative (and proud of it). Bill O'Reilly and Neal Boortz are the most popular centrists on the radio.

When looking at the biases of the media, it becomes abundantly clear why the Fairness Doctrine is anything but fair. If Talk Radio is eliminated as a news medium, there will be no voice for Conservatives over the airwaves. If liberally tainted news is all that America hears, that is likely what they will believe. In an optimal world, all news and information would be provided in an unbiased manner. But due to human nature, that is impossible. The best bet for America to get all sides of an issue is the current system where every side presents their beliefs and then letting the people decide. It should be the market, not the government, that decides how to disseminate information.

- LovableLoser

Friday, November 28, 2008

Very Black Friday

Black Friday has been a day for people to go out and get what they want for Christmas at low deals. But this year, with the economy not as strong and people losing their jobs, is Black Friday going to save all the businesses out there. Last year, Black Friday accounted for 10% of total holiday sales according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp. And with people getting covered in credit debt, people are not going to be using credit cards this holiday season to get more gifts for loved ones and friends. Plus with the job being lost for many Americans and the dollar growing weaker, people budgets for gifts is getting smaller and smaller. So with the credit cards staying in their owner's wallets and budgets for gifts getting smaller and smaller, is there any hope?
There is. Even though budgets are getting smaller and smaller, gas prices have fallen to levels not seen since 2005. People have more money to spend on items. And the stores have not only sliced prices for the huge sale, but have sliced prices even more to sell the items they need to get rid of. So, with prices even lower and people have more money to spend with gas being below the national average of $1.835 for regular unleaded, according to auto club AAA, there is hope that there will be a big boom of sales to help out the stores during this crisis.
-Im.an.AMERICAN

Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Privacy: Right or Privilege?

Privacy: Right or Privilege?
   

    It has been debated whether or not privacy is a right or just a privilege to the American people.  Does it state in our constitution that we have the right to privacy?  Some say not, but really the word "privacy" is just hidden amongst its own definition. 

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    The fourth amendment clearly states that we have the right to privacy, but are all government searches what is said to be a "reasonable" search?  The answer is no, not all, but the government still needs to ensure the safety of the American citizens.   To prevent terrorist attacks and other tragedies, the government should be able to check everyone's files and history.  This is only as long as they feel that there is a threat and that it is necessary enough to impose a search on particular people.  The government is trying to help keep us free, yet we complain that they are too involved in our lives and that they are imposing on our right to privacy.

    But do Americans really want the privacy they ask for?  Websites such as MySpace, FaceBook, Xanga, etc.  make it especially difficult to keep our lives and information private.  When signing up for accounts, you give up your age, birthday, gender and your name and then when you finally have the account, you'll post albums upon albums of yourself and everyone you hang out with.  This exposes names and locations of yourself and all of the friends.  If Americans really wanted privacy, would they sign up and post where they work and put ways to get ahold of them and all of their favorite locations to be at?  If Americans REALLY wanted that privacy would they post themselves all over YouTube?  Do the Americans that make obscene videos of themselves and others then post them on the web want privacy as well? 

    Americans constantly criticize their government for taking away their rights and invading "personal space" when in actuality, they don't want privacy.  They want to decide what they keep private in their lives when all the government is trying to do is protect the fact that America is free and that those Americans even have those rights.

 

-Sidewalk Chalk

Monday, November 24, 2008

21st Century Piracy

Often in an attempt to maintain international relationships and promote a positive persona our country ignores the inhuman events in the name of humanity.  This may sound like a paradox, and it most likely is, but the issue here lies in what other country’s see us as.  Among the recent slew of market crashes, historic elections and increasing tensions among world powers some of the less significant issues can be left unattended.  One of such is the significant increase in Somali piracy.   The country no longer is able to maintain an organized government and has fallen into a state of anarchy.  Social gangs begin to form in the name of survival and personal gain.  In the past few months Somali pirates have claimed 35 vessels in a series of 120 attacks, Including in a Russian Freighter carrying advanced small arms weaponry and several T-72 tanks.  The only way to prevent further attacks is to make it known that such actions will not be tolerated.  The current methods of deterrence have been limited to unorganized military patrols by several country’s with little jurisdiction on their ability to defer attacks.  This is becoming a more serious issue and requires cooperation.  In order to prevent the loss of life of innocent merchants the United States must work with the other powers to secure the waters around Somali.  We need to become more aggressive and begin confiscating the weapons caches accumulated by pirating groups and to take treat them as any other terroristic organization.  If we continue to be pacifists we will only be saving the lives of criminals and allowing the innocent to perish.

-ea6b607

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect

This is the first of a weekly "Fireside Chat" of sorts from President Obama on You Tube. Check out more about the transition on this website: http://www.change.gov/

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Uniformed Solution

School uniforms are a touchy subject for most teens that have not had any experience with them. When in reality, school uniforms just make everything easier. When I was in fifth and sixth grade I went to an elementary school and junior high where uniforms were required. Just between sixth grade at my other school and seventh grade at our junior high, where uniforms aren’t required, there was such a huge difference in absolutely everything.
Everyone was so much nicer to each other; there weren’t nearly the cliques I saw when I was at my old school. Without uniforms it is just so easy to judge people. I know everyday I see kids ridiculed because of what they are wearing. And of course that takes away from the reason we are even at school, to learn, remember? If you’re wearing a uniform how is someone going to look so much better than anyone else? Girls, I know won’t be wearing super tight and uncomfortable clothing to distract them all day, and boys won’t be distracted by looking.
Some may argue that having school uniforms “take away individuality” that’s definitely a common misconception. Just because you have to wear a school uniform doesn’t mean you can’t wear a rare piece of jewelry or an unusual pair of tennis shoes. Showing your individuality involves using your creativity, so come up with something totally original and show it off with your uniform. Plus getting up in the morning and not having to decide what would look “acceptable” is wonderful.
On top of all of that, uniforms seem like a much more cost effective choice for families being affected by the economy today. I’ve done some research and uniforms are much cheaper than the on brand clothes teenagers “must have.” I’m not saying that if uniforms became mandatory people wou ld stop shopping at the brand name stores, no not at all. I’m saying that, if uniforms became mandatory, teens won’t need to demand so much clothing from these stores, because they have outfits for five out of the seven days in a week.
Overall, uniforms are just a good idea, and I believe they should be put into effect at our school.


-George Costanza

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Perfect Body... Does it truly exist?

            As teenagers we are always worried about our self image. The thoughts arise; do I look good today, am I fat, do I look big in these pants? As these thoughts come into our head we imagine our bodies perfected to the “t”. But, is our level of perfection truly attainable?

            Our level of perfection has been altered through the years by the media. The media has desensitized us to the point that we hate to even look in a mirror. They have altered our images of the perfect body to that of a big-chested, toned arms and legs, cute butted, six-packed abs, and bleached blond hair for women, and for men having six-pack abs, ripped arms, and bright-white teeth. Daily the media is showing us pictures of who’s hot or not. T.V. stations are dedicated to tearing down celebrities for not looking perfect one day of their hectic lives. Along with these shows, T.V. stations also display commercials about diet pills or exercise equipment hourly. There is not one channel on T.V. that doesn’t play one of these commercials at some point during their commercial break. It consumes most of the air time on television. How can young adults truly know what their perfect body is, if daily they are shown what someone else’s perfect body is? We will never know what is truly right for us, because of how much influence the media has on our daily lives.

            As we look at how much the media has an impact in our daily lives several questions arise. Does technology truly have that much of an impact on us? And if it does will this great influence affect our lives more than it already is? And does the perfect body truly exist? We may never know, for the shear fact that we don’t even know what the perfect body really is.


peace.to.all

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Safe Haven Law

Recently, I have read an article online about a 17 year old girl running away from Methodist Hospital.  Her mother took both her, and her 14 year old brother to the hospital when she decided she couldn't take care of them anymore.  I personally think that many parents are beginning to take advantage of the law.  It was said that a lot of parents are rushing to drop their kids off before the law changes to only being allowed to take children under a certain age.
This summer there were 34 children dropped off.  Most being preteens and teenagers as old as 17.  Nebraska is the only state that allows parental abandonment at any age without criminal prosecution.  Lawmakers are leaning towards the idea of setting an age limit of either one month or one year for a child to be legally abandoned by its parents or guardians.
I feel that lowering the age limit is a good idea for more than one reason.  If I were abandoned by my parents I would feel worthless. It would be hard for me to trust, or be able to make friends with anyone in fear of loosing them.  If a child was dropped off at the hospital because they already had mental problems that their parents/guardians could not deal with anymore, I would think that the feeling of abandonment and the unwanted feeling would only cause more emotional mental issues.
Again, I am in favor of making an age limit on the law.  The more time a child has to spend with their parent/guardian, the more time they have to make a connection with them.  It is the parents responsibility to get their children help, not give up and abandon them.



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Monday, November 17, 2008

Teenagers and Money

As we move into the 21st century, more and more teenagers have credit cards and more money available than anytime in history.
This, on the one hand is a good thing, because they can become more independent and act on their own.
On the other hand, managing their money might be a big challenge.
Most kids got their first money from their parents, before the had a job. They were excited because they could go out for dinner or to the movie theater with their friends or go shopping. If kids just get money easily, they tend to spend it faster because they do not know the value of money. They did not have to work for it. People who work hard for their money know its value and they are careful how and for what they spend the money. Parent's money is easier to spend than moneyfor which teenagres have had to work. Having a job makes teenagers more financially responsible. This responsibility is very important for their future. They have to know the value of money and what it means to plan ahead financially. Let's take college for instance, many teenagers have to make the decision where to go to college and how to pay for it. This is where saving money comes in. Teenagers have to make the decision how much of their money they want to save for college and how much they want to spend for their own pleasure. They need to think ahead and know what is important for them and the consequences of what they are doing with their money.
Many people have experienced the frustration of being broke due to frivolous spending. Being broke is not fun. So what does a person do when faced with bankruptcy? The easiest thing to do is to borrow money. As long as you pay back the money, you've learned your lesson, and you should be okay. But unfortunately not everybody realizes that. As soon as they get more money they spend it again, to the point where they can not pay back the money. It usually starts off with borrowing a small amount of money from a friend and if they say no at a point, the bank is the next to give the money. A lot of people spend more money than they have. They borrow money which they can never pay back to the bank. This not only has a bad effect on the debtor but also on the economy. If a lot of people act the same way, and are to able to pay the money back, the banks won`t lent any more money, which would lead to a financial crisis.
Hardly anyone pays with cash anymore. Credit Cards are very popular and most people do not only have one both big selection. Paying with a credit card has its advantages and disadvantages. First of all, you do not need to carry money with you, the small tiny cards takes care of everything. The disadvantage, as handy as it is, is that you can not control your money, and can easily lose track of how much money you have spent. This can lead to major problems. This so-called plastic money might be very handy if one can use it responsibly, but it can also be a danger. The way we pay has changed over the last couple years, one thing will never change, if you pay cash or with a credit card, you have to know how to use it, that means you have to know your limit.
These are all reasons why teenagers need to learn how to manage their money. And they need help. Schools have noticed that and offer "Personal Finance" classes at high schools. Not only students learn about saving, and dealing with money for now and the future, but they also learn how they can best use a credit card without, spending too much money and ways to always be aware about their money accounts. Everybody makes mistakes when it comes to money, but we have so many chances to change that. These classes are a good chance for teenagers to learn about money and how to deal with it, they should take this opportunity and learn about it.

Titan 2

Friday, November 14, 2008

Persecution of the Saints…again.

As you all may know, Amendment 8 passed in California. Churches of all faiths fasted and prayed as congregations for the passing of this amendment. Marriage between and man and a woman is central to the Christian belief and it is held close to the hearts of faithful Christians. One church that participated in funding for advertisements of Amendment 8 was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And now that Amendment 8 has passed, LDS members are being persecuted for this and now lives may be at stake. John Shroeder, an Evangelical priest said this about the terror in California, "We have seen instances of vandalism, property destruction, and some leaders in the fight currently find themselves with armed protection because of the threats made against them and their families. " Envelopes full of white powder, made to look like anthrax, a white powder that kills the instant it is inhaled, are being sent to LDS temples as a scare tactic, and there have been reports of people setting fire to Books of Mormon and throwing them on church steps. This kind of vandalism is unacceptable. John Schroeder then said, "We are treated to stories on these events as if the protestors have some right to behave in this manner. They most assuredly DO NOT…Vandalism, threats of violence, simulated acts of violence, and violence itself are not acceptable behavior for any American wishing to express a viewpoint. We cannot, as a nation, stand for this." The Mormons were first persecuted out of their homes in Illinois and were forced to move west and settle in Utah, and now this terror in California. But the thing is, the Mormons are getting the heat from this amendment when they were just a fraction of the participants against gay marriages. There was incredible turnout from the African American voters who went out to support Obama and when they voted they played a crucial role in the passing of Amendment 8 because 70% voted for Amendment 8. And thankfully, they are being left alone, but as for the Mormons, I will quote the eloquent John Schroeder, "I call on the Christian, and Jewish, media elite…sympathize with the Mormons and our brethren threatened here [in California]."

PJ Lover

Briefing 2.0 (10/31/2008): Answers

The State Department is reaching out to us all by allowing us to directly ask questions about U.S. Foreign Policy. The next briefing will be November 20th. You can make a question and submit it and maybe get it answered.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

GSA Club?

Gay-Straight Alliance

      Recently in the Omaha area a story made the news that brings light to something that is happening nationally. At Bellevue East High School the Gay-Straight Alliance wants to be an officially  school sponsored club. However Bellevue Public School officials say that the group can be called the Gay-Straight Alliance, but if they want it to be sponsored by the school it must be called the Diversity Club. Last November the Nebraska ACLU stepped in because the school wouldn't provide a meeting place or allow them to announce upcoming meetings.  They threatened to sue the school and shortly afterward the GSA was able to meet at school, but they could not call themselves by their true name.

      The ACLU wants clearer guidelines for which clubs are sponsored and which aren't. Sponsored clubs can get funding for events and speakers, and can be featured in the yearbook, but as of right now the different non-sponsored clubs are being treated differently. The Equal Access Act of 1984 says, "deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical or other content of the speech at such meetings." As long as the group is voluntary and started by students, if the school wants to limit meeting times and locations they must limit all of the  different groups equally. So Gay-Straight Alliances should be able to meet at school under their real name even if it isn't a school sponsored club.

       Some people don't want the GSA to be a school sponsored groups because they say it promotes sex within same sex relationships, and since they are abstinence only, it can't be allowed. The GSA is NOT promoting sex. Just because people are gay it doesn't mean all they talk about is sex, that is just another stereotypical remark made by un-tolerant people. Here are the three mission statements of the Gay-Straight Alliance:

  1. Create safe environments in schools for students to support each other and learn about homophobia and other oppressions
  2. Educate the school community about homophobia, gender identity, and sexual orientation issues
  3. Fight discrimination, harassment, and violence in schools

      The GSA just wants to STOP the harassment and discrimination towards homosexuals. The club is not just for gay people, it is also for straight people who want this discrimination to end. Six out of the seven OPS high schools have a GSA club, and at Central and Fremont High School's yearbooks have had layouts for the club. Several school districts have been taken to court by the ACLU, and the judges have ruled in their favor, that the club can meet at school and that it doesn't interfere with abstinence-only education. Another non-sponsored club by schools includes the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. If the FCA can meet at school, under their real name, and can announce their meetings, shouldn't the GSA be able to also? Under the First Amendment and the federal law all clubs should be treated the same, so shouldn't the Gay-Straight Alliance be treated the same as other clubs?

Inigo Montoya 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy...Holidays?

With Halloween just over, I see signs of Christmas everywhere I look.  Twinkling lights, nativity scenes, and candy canes never seem to leave my sight.  These beautiful decorations also bring a lot of controversy.

 

Many people object to the public display of religious Christmas decorations.  Every year, the Papillion City Park displays, among other lighted figures, a nativity scene.  From time to time, it has been contested by people claiming that it was offensive to them.  A common argument is that if it is shown in a public park, it is a violation of separation of church and state.  This states that the government may not establish a national religion.  It does not say that the government has to pretend that it doesn't exist. 

 

Schools seem to have done the same thing.  We no longer have Christmas parties, breaks, or concerts.  The words "holiday," or "winter," have seemed to replace Christmas.  Uttering the phrase "Merry Christmas," at school has become a crime against the state.  Traditional Christmas carols have been banned and replaced with songs such as, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

 

I don't see the problem with Christmas.  I cannot understand how people are offended by the display of something just because they don't agree with where it came from.  As a Christian, I am not offended by the Jewish Star of David or the Islamic star and crescent moon. I am much more offended by a song about my poor grandmother being killed in a brutal fashion. 

 

People seem to be picking and choosing what actually offends them.  Getting a few days off of work or school doesn't seem to offend non-Christians.  If it weren't for Christmas, we wouldn't be able to have that holiday break.  If people are going to request the absence of nativity scenes and other things related to the religious aspect of Christmas, they simply should not be able to take the day off of work.  They have no reason for celebration; therefore, they should be working. 

 

The Christmas controversy has gotten way out of hand.  I should be able to display all of my Christmas paraphernalia without disturbance.  If a school wants to sing Christmas carols, the student who objects doesn't have to sing them.  Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, laughter, and peace.  I simply wish that people would not worry so much about what is being displayed in our public parks and more about how they are treating one another.
 
mary poppins

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Smoking: a deadly choice

Wrinkles, bad breath, poor sports performance, smelly clothes and hair, does this sound fun to you? Probably not, but these are just some of the minor effects of smoking. Smoking can cause lung, throat, mouth, and bladder cancers, as well as coronary heart disease, emphysema, and stomach ulcers. Smoking is one of the worst things you could do to your body, so don't smoke.
Every cigarette smoked takes an estimated 12 minutes off the lifespan of the smoker. Cigarettes can increase a smoker's heartbeat, blood-pressure, and pulse, resulting in the risk of heart attacks. The leading cause of lung cancer is smoking, and there is no cure for it. The worst time to smoke is during pregnancy. Smoking can cause low birth rate, premature birth, stillborns, and children developing ADHD.
Secondhand smoke is environmental tobacco smoke that causes non-smokers to involuntarily breathe in smoky air. This can cause cancer, lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children, and sudden infant death syndrome. About 3,400 lung cancer deaths occur in nonsmoking adults each year in the U.S.
The cost of smoking can have a lot of effect as well. Most people only look at the cost of the actual cigarettes, but there are much more expenses. Cigarettes by themselves can cost up to $1500 a year. Some other costs to worry about are higher life insurance, medical insurance, and prescription medicine.
Some may say they have freedom of choice and it is their body. What some smokers do not realize is their smoking results in secondhand smoke. Non-smokers have their rights to a smoke-free environment. If people want to smoke in their own homes, they can, if they wish to endanger their lives and spend a lot on unneeded bills. Smoking causes 419,000 American deaths and $100 billion is spent on smoking-related health care costs each year. Smoking is bad for the body and for the wallet. So, when the cigarette looks tempting at the store, just think about what each puff can do to your life, and to others' lives.

-yoshi

Marcus Luttrell Interview

Great video - I posted this last November and I still think it is great. The book Lone Survivor is in our library. Enjoy.

Iraq, Afghan war vets find a voice




Nonprofit becomes powerful new player for recent wars' 1.8 million vets
By Christian Davenport
The Washington Post
updated 4:30 a.m. CT, Tues., Nov. 11, 2008

WASHINGTON - Some lobbyists come to Capitol Hill armed with PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets. Todd Bowers brought the rifle scope that saved his life.

He was on patrol outside Fallujah, Iraq, when his unit came under fire. Bowers, 29, a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, fired back. A sniper's bullet hit his scope, inches from his face.

So when members of Congress wanted to know why they should pass legislation that would reimburse service members for buying their own combat equipment, Bowers, 29, a staffer at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, pulled out the $600 piece of equipment his father had bought him before his second tour in Iraq. His scope, with the bullet still lodged in it, brought the war home.

The legislation passed.

The veterans' group might not have the budget or membership or fancy clients of some of the lobbying shops that line K Street. But its leaders, most of whom are younger than 30, are keenly aware of the problems their unique constituency faces -- post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, repeated tours -- a fact that has helped the fledgling nonprofit group become a powerful voice for the 1.8 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan on this Veterans Day.

With its ability to talk intimately about both the horror of combat and the difficulty of coming home to a society disconnected from it, the first nonpartisan organization dedicated to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan has emerged as a key player on veterans issues on the Hill.

From the battlefields to halls of Congress
One of the group's biggest successes was helping to pass the Post-9/11 GI Bill, sponsored by Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), while working alongside some of the other veterans groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"They have a lot of heart and are very passionate about the issues facing their fellow veterans," said Webb spokesman Kimberly Hunter.

Rep. Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine), chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs health subcommittee, said: "They definitely do have a lot of credibility, because they've dealt with these issues themselves, and it's fresh in their minds. They're literally fresh from the battlefield to the halls of Congress."

Today is a sort of coming-out party for the group, which was founded in 2004 by Iraq war veteran Paul Rieckhoff, now 33. The group, which has about 125,000 members, will unveil an ad campaign designed to reach out to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. It has set up a Web site, http://communityofveterans.org, that is like a Facebook for veterans, designed to help them connect with one another, navigate the Department of Veterans Affairs and get information on programs such as the GI Bill.

As part of the outreach, the group has taken out print ads showing soldiers in combat and proclaiming: "99% of Americans have seen combat on TV. 1% of Americans have seen combat in Iraq or Afghanistan."

The campaign's motto illustrates the theme that the group says sets it apart from others composed largely of veterans of other wars: "We know where you're coming from."

IAVA's staff is largely made up of service members who know what it's like to be a modern-day veteran, home from war. When lobbying for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Bowers, IAVA's director of government affairs, told legislators and their staffs that he had to drop out of George Washington University because the current version of the bill did not cover the high cost of tuition.


In a congressional hearing two years ago on post-traumatic stress, Patrick Campbell, 30, a combat medic with the D.C. National Guard, tossed aside his prepared statement and told lawmakers about how one of his fellow soldiers had recently killed himself. Then, with his voice cracking, he said he would "tell you all a story I don't tell anyone."

His base in Iraq came under mortar fire. A civilian contractor was hit. "She had holes all over her body," he said. "Her intestines were sticking out. There was nothing we could do."

Grotesque, yes. But that's war, and Campbell, IAVA's legislative director, figured members of Congress needed to hear it.

The group is based in New York but opened a Washington office two years ago. At first, Campbell worked alone out of his apartment near Catholic University. A few months later, Bowers joined him, and the pair worked out of office space donated by the Blinded Veterans Association as they tried to navigate the halls of Congress, "put a face on the war and say, 'This is what it is like to have been in Iraq,' " said Vanessa Williamson, the group's policy director.

But it was difficult. "We didn't know any of the players down here," Campbell said.

Soon, though, they were getting in to see leaders of both parties and making regular appearances on cable television, advocating for veterans. The group's strategy has been to reach out to veterans using Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and its Washington staff has grown to six.

Bringing recent experience to the issues
The organization has been careful to pick issues -- such as the GI Bill, set to be in place Aug. 1 -- that directly affect this generation of veterans. That is something that other veterans' groups, with hundreds of thousands of members from several wars, cannot do.

"They bring combat experience, recent combat experience, so when you're talking about PTSD or (traumatic brain injury) or how to reach this generation of vets, why not talk to people who just went through that?" said Eric Hilleman, deputy director of national legislative services for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "That's a very powerful tool."

Bowers and Campbell have a personal stake in the legislation they lobby for, not just because they are veterans themselves but because both will probably be headed back to war early next year. Bowers's Marine Corps unit might be headed to Afghanistan, and Campbell's Guard unit could be going to Iraq.

Which is yet another way they are different from the people they meet on the Hill, Campbell said: "We're the only people at the table who are still deployable."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Organ Donor Registry

One of the biggest crises America faces today is the lack of organs. There is always a shortage of needed vital organs for people waiting on the organ donation list. According to womenshealth.gov, there are 92,000 people who are on that waiting list. Everyday that they don't have that needed organ is one more day closer to their death. Coming from the same source, EIGHTEEN people die EVERYDAY waiting for an organ. Only SEVENTEEN people each day get a new organ, out of the 92,000 people who need an organ. Why do you need a perfectly good organ when you are dead? These need to be going to people who still have a chance at life.
There are many reasons why people don't become organ donors. First off, someone could just skip over the organ donation indication when he is filling out his driver's license. Some people lack the knowledge of the crisis at hand and they are uninformed about the process. Sometimes when a person has marked that they want to be an organ donor their family can change it. I don't see why organs are so important to the dead. They aren't using them anymore.
The process isn't as gruesome as some people may believe, in actuality is quite simple. After the person has passed away, there is a routine surgery to remove the organs. After that the body is neatly sewn back up. This process does not interfere with funeral plans. One act of kindness could save up to SEVEN people. Almost every organ can be used in some way to help save another life. Just few organs used are the heart, kidney, liver, and lung. This one act could help a mother with polycystic kidney disease or a grandfather with coronary artery disease.
I think that a law should be passed that every American citizen with a driver's license/ state ID will be a registered organ donor by default, unless they indicate "no". This will help the people who are suffering from these horrible diseases, and if a person is really opposed to giving an organ they can mark no. It is not taking away anyone's right because they can still choose no. I think the majority of people wouldn't mind being an organ donor, but they don't know how to sign up for it or they are too lazy. Something needs to be done about the thousands of people dying each year waiting for an organ.
 
-curlycue