Contest winning video for American Solutions. Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gringrich is a prominent member of this group.
Monday, September 29, 2008
BY JUDITH NYGREN
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
• Confidentiality a cornerstone of the battle
Dr. Amy Lacroix has a simple rule for determining which of her teenage patients need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections.
If they have had sex, even once, they should be tested.
A positive result generally means a return visit for a second test three months later - the time it takes for many to become re-infected, said Lacroix, who teaches adolescent medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Douglas County is in the midst of a four-year epidemic of sexually transmitted infections that is hitting teens and 20-somethings particularly hard, health officials say. Although certain behaviors - binge drinking, drug use, sex with multiple partners - put the young at greater risk, many who are infected don't fit into any high-risk category.
The county's STI rate - "sexually transmitted infections" is the preferred term nowadays - is risk enough because prevalence creates more opportunity for catching an infection, health experts said.
Last year, Omaha ranked 12th among 43 large U.S. cities reporting chlamydia, the most common and fastest-growing STI in the country. Omaha ranked 26th for gonorrhea.
Those two, chlamydia and gonorrhea, account for the bulk of STIs in Omaha. Both can strike without symptoms and, if untreated, make sufferers infertile.
As happened in many communities, health experts said, the Douglas County rates soared because people didn't recognize the growing problem. Even though awareness and education have increased in recent years, the rates remain high.
Now public health officials are calling on the county to redouble its efforts against STIs.
"Much gallant effort to educate and draw attention . . . has been made," said Richard Brown, chief executive of the Charles Drew Health Center. "But it continues to thrive. . . . We need to take a more aggressive approach."
One area in which Douglas County already is aggressive is testing, state and local officials agree. That also is one reason the county shows up as a hot spot on STI tracking maps. Other communities probably would find higher rates if they tested as much, said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Nebraska's chief medical officer.
Lancaster, Thurston and Dawes Counties in Nebraska also have higher-than-average infection rates compared with the rest of the nation.
Their rates reflect issues unique to those counties, including large numbers of Native American and college-age residents, two high-risk groups. Still, their rates don't approach Douglas County's.
Although the Omaha area's infection numbers haven't fallen, they also haven't increased significantly since 2003, when the county announced the epidemic was at hand. That indicates the county has been able to contain infections, said Dr. Adi Pour, Douglas County health director.
The challenge, said Schaefer, is to identify what has and hasn't worked, and to find new tactics for reaching the most vulnerable group: those ages 15 to 24.
That age group accounted for more than 70 percent of the 2,745 chlamydia cases reported in Douglas County in 2007. More specifically, about 990 of the infected were ages 15 to 19. About 975 were ages 20 to 24.
Women of all age groups are the hardest hit by chlamydia. In Douglas County, women accounted for 2,020 - nearly 75 percent - of the infections reported last year.
The Women's Fund of Greater Omaha has devoted more than $450,000 in grants and private donations to raising awareness about the infection and testing sites.
The group knows its money has been well spent, said Ellie Archer, executive director. Immediately after it runs ads in high school newspapers, more teens come in for testing, she said.
Money is a major obstacle for any community dealing with high infection rates, said Karen Thompson, who manages Iowa's STI programs. Most states, Iowa and Nebraska included, rely almost entirely on federal funds to run infection programs, and that money has been declining in recent years, she said.
Iowa's federal STI money of $785,000 covers only about 60 percent of the cost of preventive programs, Thompson said. Nebraska gets about $450,000 of the federal funds, more than $280,000 of which goes to Douglas County.
Local health officials estimate they would clean out the state's entire prevention fund in a single day if they were to test and treat every infected resident in Douglas County.
At its current funding levels - which includes $5,000 in Medicaid funds for treatment and $554,000 in county money - Douglas County has seen its testing rate increase nearly 50 percent during the past four years. Roughly 6,355 free tests were performed at the county's two infection clinics in northeast and midtown Omaha.
Thompson credits Douglas County with putting its money to good use. Neighboring Pottawattamie County doesn't have free clinics devoted to sexually transmitted diseases. As a result, she said, Omaha probably tests some Council Bluffs residents, who then show up in Douglas County's statistics.
Testing is so critical to reducing infection rates that Douglas County health officials have asked that a third free clinic be opened, in west Omaha. Private doctors report that teens in suburban areas often have health insurance but don't want their parents to know they are sexually active or have an infection.
Lacroix encounters this in her practice. Her advice: Have the test - often as simple as providing a urine sample - then talk to mom and dad. Lacroix even offers to be the one to break the news to parents that their child is sexually active.
For those who resist her advice, Lacroix provides information on free and subsidized testing at the county or Planned Parenthood clinics. Sometimes she offers her patients a payment plan, allowing them to pay $10 or $20 a month to avoid an insurance claim.
Lacroix also has a matter-of-fact conversation with patients about behaviors that increase risk. She talks about the hazards of multiple partners, about using condoms and about never mixing alcohol or drugs with sex.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
With two eventful and closely followed political conventions now in their rearview mirror, voters' views of Barack Obama and John McCain have changed in some ways, yet remain the same in others. What has not changed is that the race remains very close: a national survey of 2,509 voters interviewed Sept. 9-14 on both landline phones and cell phones finds that 46% support Obama, while 44% support John McCain. These results are almost identical to those in Pew's pre-convention survey in early August, which had 46% backing Obama and 43% McCain.
When the current survey of registered voters is narrowed to those most likely to vote, the margin between the candidates contracts further. Among 2,307 likely voters surveyed, the race is tied at 46%-46%.
Although bottom-line voter attitudes have changed little since early August, the new survey finds that McCain has made considerably more progress than has his opponent in changing fundamental attitudes toward his candidacy. Yet the race remains close largely because Obama continues to be seen as the candidate of change, and voters remain divided over whether McCain would govern differently than President Bush.
Nonetheless, McCain's recent achievements are clearly evident. First, Republican voters are much more politically energized than they were prior to the conventions. A greater percentage of GOP voters believe that it "really matters" who wins the election (71% now vs. 62% in June); far more also express satisfaction with their presidential choices than in June (74% vs. 49%).
McCain also garners more strong support and more positive support from his backers than he did a month ago. The percentage of voters saying they back McCain strongly climbed from 17% in August to 25% currently. McCain's increase in strong support has been particularly apparent among Republicans, white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics.
Second, the Republican candidate has increased voter confidence in his ability to deal with a number of key issues. While pluralities still favor Obama to deal with the economy and energy, McCain reduced his rival's margins on these two top domestic issues. The Arizona senator has also all but eliminated Obama's wide advantage in being seen as the candidate best able to reduce the interests of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.
At the same time, McCain increased his lead on national security and foreign policy issues. His current advantages over Obama on terrorism and foreign policy - 25 points on terrorism and 11 points on foreign policy - are on par with President Bush's leads over John Kerry on these issues at this stage in the 2004 campaign.
McCain may also have improved the GOP "brand," which had steadily eroded during Bush's second term. Half of registered voters now express a favorable opinion of the Republican Party - the party's highest rating in three years. The Democratic Party continues to have a more favorable image (55% favorable), but the gap between the two parties has narrowed considerably since earlier this year.
Equally important, independent voters now express about the same view of both major parties: 50% of independents have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party while 49% feel favorably toward the Democratic Party. As recently as August, positive ratings for the Democratic Party surpassed the GOP's by 18 points (56% to 38%).
In contrast with McCain, Obama has made only modest progress coming out of his convention. Since early August, Obama has gained increased support from Democratic voters, including former backers of Hillary Clinton. However, while support for Obama among Clinton's former backers has increased slightly from 72% to 78%, this is still well below the level of support McCain enjoys from supporters of his former primary rivals (91%).
Obama continues to hold the advantage over McCain on nearly every domestic issue. Obama has double-digit leads over his opponent as the candidate best able to improve education and healthcare, and to deal with environmental issues. And while he has lost ground to McCain on the economy, he still is favored by 47% to 38% on this issue, which tops the list of voter concerns.
As has been the case throughout the campaign, Obama's strong suit is in being seen as the candidate most likely to bring about change. And Obama's biggest weakness continues to be the widespread belief he is not as qualified as McCain. Fewer than half of voters (47%) say the trait "well-qualified" applies to Obama, compared with 75% who say it describes McCain.
In this and other respects, voters' assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates have been stable for much of the campaign. Far more voters view Obama as inspirational and down-to-earth than say these traits apply to his opponent. Far more voters view McCain as patriotic than say that about Obama.
The conflicts and cross-pressures facing many voters - especially swing voters - in assessing the candidates' strengths and weaknesses are reflected in important ways. First, sizable percentages of all voters describe both candidates as "risky" - 51% of voters say this describes Obama, while nearly as many (46%) say it applies to McCain. Among swing voters, 53% see Obama as risky, compared with just 41% who view McCain this way.
Yet somewhat more swing voters (46%) say their greater concern is that McCain will govern too much like President Bush, rather than that Obama lacks experience (37%). Nearly one-in-five swing voters (17%) offered no response about which concerned them more.
Palin Enthuses Reps, Attracts Independents
Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, may well be contributing to some of the positive trends for McCain's candidacy. Overall, 54% of voters hold a favorable view of Palin, which is about the same percentage as express a positive view of Democratic vice- presidential candidate Joe Biden (52%). However, the Alaska governor's favorable ratings are sharply higher among conservative Republicans and white evangelical Protestants, who now express much stronger and more positive support for McCain than they did prior to the Republican convention.
Notably, 22% of all McCain supporters say they "almost wish" Palin were the GOP nominee instead of McCain. Just 10% of Obama supporters express the same sentiment about Biden. White evangelical Protestants, in particular, react positively to the prospect of Palin leading the GOP ticket: 27% of white evangelical supporters of McCain say they almost wish Palin could be the nominee, compared with 18% of white Catholics and 16% of white mainline Protestants who back McCain.
Palin appears to have brought additional benefits to McCain, beyond increasing enthusiasm for his candidacy among Republicans. Independents, who on balance favor McCain in the horserace, have a particularly positive opinion of Palin (60% favorable). McCain trailed slightly among independents in August (by 45% to 41%), but now holds the edge over Obama among this group (by 45% to 38%).
While Palin is viewed more positively by voters in her own age cohort, she draws about the same favorable ratings among women (53%) as among men (56%). And while less educated whites give the Alaska governor higher than average ratings, former supporters of Hillary Clinton are not particularly drawn to her. Perhaps predictably, Democrats - especially liberals - are highly critical of Palin; she also gets particularly low ratings from voters younger than 30.
Voting Blocs: Then and Now
There are a few demographic groups that stand out in the current race when compared with the 2004 election. Yet most of the patterns of support for Obama and McCain reflect long-standing trends in voting behavior:
Age - Obama is running even better among voters under 30 years of age than did Kerry, who led Bush by 54% to 45% among voters younger than 30, according to 2004 national exit polls. Obama currently leads by 60% to 31% among this group.
Region - Compared with Kerry, Obama is running better in the Midwest and the West. Obama holds a small lead among Midwestern voters (48%-40%); four years ago, Bush narrowly carried voters in this region (51%-48%). Obama has a narrow edge in the West (51%-43%); in 2004, the West divided its votes nearly evenly between Bush and Kerry.
Gender - The gender gap is slightly larger today than it was four years ago on Election Day. McCain holds an eight-point lead among men but trails among women by 10 points. Bush beat Kerry by 11 points among men and trailed Kerry by three points among women. However, McCain holds a 48% to 41 lead over Obama among white women, who also backed President Bush over John Kerry - 55% to 44%.
Religion - McCain's support among white evangelical Protestants, a key Republican voter group, has inched up to 71% (Obama is supported by 21% of evangelicals). Based only on voters who express a preference between the two candidates, McCain's lead among evangelicals (77%-23%) is comparable to Bush's final margin among this group (78%-21%). McCain has a small edge among white Catholic voters, 48% to 41%. He also holds a clear lead among white Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly (52% McCain vs. 36% Obama). Four years ago, Bush beat Kerry 61% to 39% among this group.
Race - White voters support McCain over Obama by a margin of 52%-38%, unchanged from August. Obama's large lead among black voters (89%-5%) is also unchanged from a month ago. These leads are comparable to the results in 2004, according to the exit polls.
The race is now dead even in the battleground states (45% to 45%). Obama held a 47% to 40% lead among voters in these states in Pew's early August poll.1
When asked to identify Obama's religion, a small but consistent minority of voters say that Obama is a Muslim. Currently, 13% assert incorrectly that Obama is a Muslim, which is virtually unchanged from June; in March, 10% said that Obama was a Muslim.
Three-in-ten voters say that chances of another terrorist attack would increase if Obama is elected. An even higher percentage (42%) expresses concern that McCain will take the United States into another war.
Most voters say that both Obama and McCain would be able to work well with the political opposition. Roughly six-in-ten (61%) voters say Obama would work well with both Republicans and Democrats; a comparable percentage (59%) says the same about McCain.
Opinions about the candidates' wives are positive, and have improved since earlier in the campaign. Currently, 56% of voters express a favorable opinion of Michelle Obama while 52% have a favorable opinion of Cindy McCain.
Friday, September 26, 2008
A person who most have heard of before that has been to court regarding mandatory Pledge of Allegiance is Michael Newdow. Newdow is atheist and has constantly been trying to get the Pledge to become not mandatory. He says he doesn't like the fact that his daughter is "learning" religion because she is required to say "under God." When interviewed by the Chronicle, a Sacramento newspaper, he makes a very valid point on where he is coming from.
"I'm passionate about treating people equally," Newdow said. "Imagine you send your kids to school everyday, and the teachers made them stand up and say, 'We are one nation the denies God exists." Imagine you are Jewish, and they say, 'We're one nation under Jesus.' Imagine you are Christian, and they say, 'We're one nation under Mohammad.' Do you think it's a big deal? Because that's exactly what goes on against atheists."
He makes a great point, but students have been saying the Pledge in school for as long as they can remember. Because everyday in elementary school we would recite the Pledge. Once we entered junior high, we would just say it once a week in Titan Time. This continued for about the first quarter of the '06-'07 school year. We soon didn't even say the Pledge at all. During the '07-'08 school year, we never once said the Pledge of Allegiance. Now we get back to school this year and we suddenly say it everyday.
Granted saying it everyday gets tiring. The point of saying the pledge is to remind us of our patriotism and how much we love our country. But saying everyday just makes students lose the meaning of the Pledge. That's why I think we should have the Pledge be mandatory, but only say it once a week.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
By KARL ROVE
Presidential debates are important -- and the first debate is the most important of all, establishing an arc of opinion that persists unless jarred loose by big mistakes or dramatic events.
So whether this year's first presidential debate between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain is Friday night or postponed a few days, it may be the fall's most critical event. In the nine first debates since 1960, the perceived winner of the debate averaged a 4.2 point net swing in the Gallup poll.
Martin KozlowskiMr. Obama fought hard to have the first clash devoted to foreign policy and the last on the economy. It may be smart to end the series on his strongest turf. But that means the debates start on ground where Mr. McCain is more comfortable, having a sizable poll lead on who'd be a better commander in chief.
Here's the advice some experts I consulted offered the candidates:
First, do no harm. Persistent proficiency is better than big mistakes. Remember Al Gore's sighs in 2000? President George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch in 1992? Michael Dukakis's botched answer to Bernie Shaw's death-penalty question in 1988?
Know what you want to achieve and have that narrative down cold, for yourself and for your opponent. How do you want potential defectors and converts to see and feel about you and your opponent when it's over? How do you accentuate your strengths and his weaknesses?
Answer the questions. Voters don't like it when candidates are not responsive. Mr. McCain shone so much brighter at Rev. Rick Warren's Saddleback conversation because he answered with plain talk and simple declarative statements.
People want to see candidates operating without a script. They are clamoring for spontaneity. So avoid hyper-repetition. For example, Mr. Gore's repeated robotic invocation of the phrase "risky scheme" backfired.
Spend time describing problems. In the '92 debates, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot established personal links with voters as much from how they portrayed the nation's challenges as from their proposals to address them.
Humor is a powerful weapon, but only if it is not canned or forced. Ronald Reagan demolished Walter Mondale with this self-deprecating line: "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
The counterpunch is better than the punch. The first person to attack generally suffers, especially if the attack comes across as exaggerated or unfair. Attack sparingly and then by inference and obliquely. Rather than a frontal assault on Mr. Obama's inexperience, Mr. McCain could say America's adversaries will test any new president, and only he has the skill and leadership the country will need in that crisis.
Mr. McCain needs to come across as optimistic, loose and likable. He must guard against revealing his lack of respect for Mr. Obama. And he must grab the "change" banner from Mr. Obama by describing a few things he'll do internationally that are new and different.
Mr. McCain should remind voters the surge in Iraq was the most vital decision in the War on Terror. Mr. Obama opposed it and even continued to oppose it after it was an undeniable success. And Mr. McCain should frame energy as a security issue with large implications for jobs and our economy.
Mr. Obama's task is to look like a credible commander in chief. Right now, too many people lack confidence that he's up to the most important of presidential responsibilities.
Mr. Obama must avoid the pervasive sense of nuance that weakened his performance at the Saddleback Forum. He should attack less. If Mr. McCain is condescending, Mr. Obama should call him on it. If Mr. McCain launches a full-out assault, Mr. Obama should rebut it. Otherwise, he should aim for firmness, seriousness of purpose and clarity in his views.
In criticizing President Bush's foreign policy, Mr. Obama must be careful not to sound like he's running down America. Breaking with someone in his party on a vital issue would show leadership and independence.
The story line of the coverage afterward can do almost as much to shape perception as much as the debate itself. Mr. Gore was on defense for weeks after his '00 sighing fit.
Mr. Obama has more recent debate experience, and he's wise to have spent three days in Florida resting. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has campaigned with little rest and rehearsal. This is dangerous. Mood and countenance matter as much as command of issues.
A debate tie goes to the frontrunner. With that now being Mr. Obama by a slim margin, Mr. McCain must emerge the clear winner, or his prospects of being the next president will dim.
About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.
Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.
Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster. Email the author at Karl@Rove.com or visit him on the web at Rove.com.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
"A dog is the only animal on Earth that will love you more than he loves himself."
Animal cruelty involves a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. There are two main types of cruelty towards animals: passive and active.
Chances are if an animal is being abused and there is a child in that household then the child is also being abused. Chances are that a child abusing an animal can grow up to be someone who commits other violent crimes.
In 1997, Boston's Northeastern University did a study that found 70% of all animal abusers have committed at least 1 other crime and that 40% had committed violent crimes against humans.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The first amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The 1984 Supreme Court ruling of
For over 240 years the American flag has stood as a symbol of freedom in the face of those tyrants who have tried to oppress it. From the former British Empire, to our current enemies in the
When citizens burn the American flag they are burning the foundation of our country's beliefs. The only reason these protestors aren't arrested is because of the freedom they are granted under the United States Constitution. The American flag is much more then a mere piece of cloth, it is a constant reminder of the rights we enjoy that many others around the world cannot. Men, such as the marines on
U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel stated, "Let them protest, let them write to their newspaper, let them organize, let them march, let them shout to the rooftops-but we shall not let them burn the flag."
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Once a suspect is caught and found guilty of a crime, that person probably isn't going anywhere. If the crime were severe enough, he or she could receive a lifetime in jail or the death penalty. Preferences for punishment vary between inmates. Some would enjoy living the rest of their lives with no cost, and others would rather die than sit in jail their entire life. The controversy then boils down to whether it is ethically right or wrong to use capital punishment.
Is the death penalty ethically wrong? A study done by Isaac Ehrlich in 1973 showed that for every inmate that received the death penalty, 7 lives were spared due to others being deterred from committing murder. Deterrence is a measure taken by a state to prevent further hostile actions for similar offenses or crimes. This is a primary reason behind the death penalty.
William Bowers of Northeastern University claims that the death penalty has the opposite affect on society. He states that our society is "brutalized" by the practice, and that it further encourages murder. It is also argued against the death penalty that it is not a deterrent, because the majority of those that commit murder do not expect to be caught or do not analyze the possible consequences. There really isn't any other reason a person would follow through with such an act. Many murders are committed on impulse or flurries of emotion. So it can also be concluded that the death penalty serves no more purpose than lifetime sentences.
Either way, does something need to change? The Supreme Court has decided that a automatic death penalty applied to everyone found guilty of first degree murder would be unconstitutional. This allows juries an amount of discretion in deciding whether or not a person is worthy of the death penalty. More whites have been punished by the death sentence than blacks in this country. But statistically, blacks commit more murders than white people. Also, suspects being tried for murder cannot always afford a decent lawyer. Those who cannot are most often the ones selected for the death penalty. Should such a dramatic and important sentence as the death penalty be decided on how much money the murderer has?
The death penalty is largely an issue of morals and ethics. Some think that not only are cable TV and free meals for life making a mockery of justice, but we are also the ones that pay for it. Others can effectively argue that awarding our government the authority to take life at their discretion is wrong. The grey area that capital punishment sits in right now is growing continuously more questioned by both sides of the argument.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Maybe you don’t see a problem with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Perhaps, you even see it as a positive thing for our country’s education system—higher standards, improved quality of teaching and learning. A chance to close the racial and income gaps in standardized test scores, and a chance for our country as a whole to strengthen itself by strengthening its future—the youth of America. In a 2002 speech to Hamilton High School, Ohio, about NCLB, President Bush stated the importance of ensuring that “every single child, regardless of where they live, how they're raised, the income level of their family, every child receives a first-class education in America”. I believe this is a goal towards which our country should strive, because to be educated is among the most valuable gifts in life—but we are being led in the wrong direction to achieve that. Not only is NCLB fundamentally unconstitutional (nowhere in the Constitution is education addressed as being under the power of the national government), but it is failing. The Bush campaign promised to leave no child behind. You and I are those children, and as students of America, we are all being left behind.
The idea of NCLB is essentially well-intentioned. Unfortunately, major design flaws and poor planning have caused it not only to be downright inefficient, but also to have a frighteningly negative impact on our education system. The four parts of NCLB are (1) stronger accountability, (2) increased choices for parents, (3) more local freedom, and (4) government grants for methods that are “scientifically proven” to work. While none of these aspects appear particularly harmful, they are leading to the decline of our education system.
What does it mean to enforce “stronger accountability” upon schools? Basically, schools must report “adequate yearly progress” (defined as “an individual state's measure of progress toward the goal of 100 percent of students achieving to state academic standards in at least reading/language arts and math”) to receive government funding. Schools failing to do so over a prolonged period of time risk their money, their students, and, eventually, control of their schools. For one thing, the government’s expectations are impossibly high, especially for a nation as far behind in education as ours. After one year, how many schools could have believably achieved “100 percent” in state standards? The answer to that is none. Driven by unattainable expectations, and accomplished by NCLB’s allowance of local freedom, a surprising percentage of schools nationwide are nonetheless living up to the government’s standards.
Instead of actually meeting the Department of Education’s demands, most states and schools have found alternative routes in order to “play the system”. The very use of the term “state standards” creates a wide loophole for states, most of which are lowering state standards considerably. In 2007, The Center on Education Standards declared overall achievement on state standardized tests; however, according to a recent report by the CATO Institute, there were so many “huge holes and inconsistencies in state data, the result of most states’ having altered their standards, tests, definitions of ‘proficiency’ and other achievement measures since NCLB was passed”, that there was only useable data from 13 states. In addition, CATO revealed that compared to national testing standards, states have lowered their level of “proficiency” to that of the nation’s “basic”—or lower.
No Child Left Behind is not working. I have only about 8 months left before none of these laws will again affect my education. But they have affected both yours and mine previously—and they might affect yours again. They might affect your children’s. Your grandchildren’s. There are blatant displays of NCLB’s failing policies right here at South. The Department of Education is revising NCLB currently—but is that enough? The revised NLCB has some excellent features, such as more resources, and better training, for teachers; incentives vs. punishment for results; and more federally funded drug resistance programs.. But it also calls for more rigorous standards by 2010-2011, and to have every child at or above grade level by 2014 on both national and state testing. Is this realistic? Will it solve past problems created by NCLB, or simply create new ones? There are many who are calling for an altogether end to NCLB—arguing not only is education constitutionally a power reserved for the states, but that the national government cannot possibly regulate something as personal and individual as education.
I leave you with these final facts, and you tell me if you feel comfortable putting our education into the national government’s hands:
—NCLB only measures the successes of students in Math and Reading. Will a well-rounded education, including the vital fields of social studies and science, be sacrificed for this law?
—CATO: “Average achievement remains flat in reading and grows at the same pace in math as it did before NCLB was passed.”
—Though the income and racial gaps closed slightly following the passing of NCLB, “the progress was not sustained”. (CATO)
—According to the National Council of Teachers of English, 76% of English teachers under NCLB believe it’s had “at least a somewhat negative influence on teaching and learning in English/reading classrooms.”
I have not listed all the problems involved with NCLB. But it is enough, I feel, to prove that we, America’s future, are being left far behind.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Homelessness is on of the major issue in the United States. It is difficult to avoid homelessness because it is attached to poverty and other internal and external issues. There were estimated of 744,000 homeless people in the United States during the year 2005. As years passed, the statistic gradually increased. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness 39% were under 18 years of age, 42% were single adults, and the rest were families. The reasons that lurked on homelessness were poverty, eroding work opportunities, declining in public assistance, housing, lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, mental illness, addiction disorder, abuse and many more. Homeless people are scattered and it seems like there are few of them in one single area but in reality they are not. They hide under the shadows of the streets.
When we ask the question “What can we do to help the homeless?” we think of financial resources. We think of fundraising, volunteering many hours to raise money, or selling simple things like clothes or home baked cookies. There are a lot of ways to help homeless people in a really simple way. I have a personal experience witnessing how a man helped a homeless. This man invited us on a dinner one evening with his family. After we were done eating, he asked for a bag for his two daughters’ left over. On our way out he directly walked to a child lying behind a lamppost and gave the left over. The child pasted a big smile and thanked him graciously. Money is not the only way to help homeless people. Giving leftovers or a simple drink will enlighten them up.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
This certainly pushes some peoples' buttons, but first, let's ask each other… Are they right? Should public schools celebrate holidays with a religious background? Is it right for companies to advertise for Christmas? What about when the city of Papillion puts up the manger near downtown in the park? Is that offensive and politically incorrect for those who do not believe? Could the ACLU actually have a point?
What I think is that we should not ban the Christmas performances put on by public schools. However, I do think that they should be optional, and the parents can decide if they want their child to participate. Society has created a somewhat secular view of Christmas, and I really don't think that decorating a 3rd grader's classroom with reindeer and Christmas trees is a problem, as long as the religious side of Christmas isn't taught. As for whether or not we should remove religion from the public square, I think that Senator John Cornyn of Texas put it best:
"The first amendment clearly provides that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor interfering with the free exercise thereof. Nothing in these provisions requires govt. to be hostile to religious speech or religious liberty. The constitution nowhere requires govt. to expel professions of faith from the public square."
A past Gallup poll showed that 95% of America celebrated the holiday, while only 84% of them called themselves Christians, proving that maybe everyone doesn't find that C-word so terrible. I think that when it does comes to religion, as long as it isn't celebrated somewhere such as a public school, it isn't a problem. Separation of faith from the public square is interfering with our right to exercise religion freely. This argument is a little bit bigger than just whether or not we can celebrate Christmas in public. It embodies the whole culture struggle that our country is experiencing. Is separating religion from the public square a good idea? As for me, come December, I'll be wishing everyone a sincere Merry Christmas :)
Monday, September 15, 2008
Although skeptics of alternative energy will say that it is an unreliable source of energy, there is proof that you can rely on our natural energy sources. One wind turbine can supply enough energy for approximately two hundred houses. Now, with new technology, there are smaller, more practical wind turbines more fit for the use of acreage owners. You can also depend on hydropower. The Hoover Dam is a great example this. It provides generation of low-cost hydroelectric power for use in Nevada, Arizona, and California. The Hoover Dam alone generates more than 4 billion kilowatt-hours a year - enough to serve 1.3 million people. Relying on these alternative sources of energy will help our nation become self-sustaining, not relying on the whims and demands of unstable foreign countries.
While some critics of alternative energy will argue that the negatives and risks of nuclear energy outweigh the benefits, there are clear facts to disprove their beliefs. For example, the use of nuclear power does not contribute to global warming, through emissions of carbon dioxide, as stated in the article, "Nuclear Power and the Environment." The same article also says, "Nuclear power provides an environmental benefit by almost entirely eliminating airborne wastes and particulates generated during the power generation." Turning to nuclear power, as well as many other alternative energy sources, could help diminish excessive pollution.
Other natural sources of energy are bio fuels, solar power, and hybrid power. The use of solar power can dramatically reduce the cost to provide energy for a home or place of business. It can do this by not only supplying solar energy for present use, but by also storing excess power for later use. This excess solar power can also be sold back to utility companies for a profit. This technology could assist families with not only electrical costs, but could provide them with a reliable source of heat and air-conditioning. The use of the alternative energy sources can help ease the burden of the energy needs for the families that live paycheck to paycheck.
As more and more people start to "go green," many states are adopting mandates and standards to reduce local and global impact of energy production. Even legislatures are promoting the development of these resources. "We are reaching landmark times and cannot let these opportunities just slip by," says Arizona Representative Lucy Mason. "Renewable energy development is important to our rural areas. We're talking about attracting new businesses and highly skilled job opportunities."
As America becomes aware of the unfortunate consequences of society's dependence on foreign oil, they begin to look for answers to become independent of those undesirable ties. The perfect answer can be found all around us. The water, the sun, the wind, as well as the crops that farmers produce are all a part of the answer. Using available alternative energy sources is a much wiser decision than wasting money on the limited non-renewable energy sources society now relies on.
In recent society, there has been heated controversy over the ethical and moral complications associated with euthanasia. For those readers who are not aware of what euthanasia is, it is the causation of a patient's death. The word itself is derived from the Greek language to mean an easy, painless death. Diving into this heated discussion, there is a volley of different terms, such as active and passive euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, which must be understood before I even make my argument. Active euthanasia is what people will usually think of when euthanasia is mentioned. This is when a physician will assist, usually through lethal doses of medication, with death. Passive euthanasia happens when a physician allows a patient to die, such as refusing to perform CPR. Physician-assisted suicide is just active euthanasia with the help of the patient.
The ethical problems with this argument should be obvious. Is it morally ethical to kill someone? In a perfect world where everyone took another's interests to heart, the answer would be yes. If a person is suffering an extreme amount of pain with no hope to an end, wouldn't a peaceful death be more humanitarian than allowing that person to continue suffering? We do this for our pets. In fact, you will find that active euthanasia already occurs in hospitals. Overdoses of pain and anti-anxiety medication (i.e. morphine and ativan) are given to patients to help ease them to death. If a person wants to escape their suffering, euthanasia should be an option they can consider.
However, we do not live in a perfect world. The other concern with euthanasia is that physicians will abuse this power over patients. A patient should be able to say "no" to euthanasia if that is their choice. In Belgium, where euthanasia has been legalized since 2002, 11.3% of deaths are from involuntary euthanasia. The easy alternative to this would be to restrict euthanasia with mounds of legal documents that would include the patient's permission and condition. Considerably, this would require enormous effort, and it is very likely that a bill encompassing all the limitations would never be passed.
Even considering all of the complications though, I would want the choice. If I was seriously injured beyond the point of return, I would want the choice to end the suffering.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The fate of Roe v. Wade and choice
By Cass Sunstein (Cass Sunstein is a professor of law at Harvard Law School and an informal adviser to the Obama campaign.) September 14, 2008
THE RIGHT to reproductive freedom has played an occasional role in many presidential campaigns, but its fate is likely to turn on the 2008 election. Republican presidential candidate John McCain vows to "return the abortion question to the individual states" and then "to end abortion at the state level." The new president will probably be in a position to appoint at least one and perhaps as many as three new justices. With an excellent chance to reconfigure the Supreme Court, McCain, if elected, might well be able to get what the antiabortion movement wants - and more fundamentally, numerous changes in other areas of constitutional law as well.
Those who seek to preserve the right to choose ought to be prepared to make some distinctions. As it was written in 1973, Roe v. Wade was far from a model of legal reasoning, and conservatives have been correct to criticize it. The court failed to root the abortion right in either the text of the Constitution or its own precedents.
Moreover, it ruled far too broadly. In its first encounter with the abortion question, the court failed to focus on the particular abortion restrictions at issue, some of which were unusually draconian, forbidding abortion even in cases of rape. Instead, the court took the highly unusual step of a setting out a series of rules for legislatures to follow.
It is no wonder that millions of Americans felt, and continue to feel, that the court refused to treat their moral convictions with respect. Nor is it surprising that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - the most important women's rights lawyer in the history of American law, but also a judicial "minimalist" - has sharply criticized Roe for doing so much so fast.
But it is one thing to object to Roe as written in 1973. It is another to suggest that it should be overruled in 2008. American constitutional law is stable only because of the principle of stare decisis, which means that in general, the Court should respect its own precedents.
Roe v. Wade has been established law for 35 years; the right to choose is now a part of our culture. A decision to overrule it would not only disrupt and polarize the nation; it would also threaten countless doctors, and pregnant women and girls, with jail sentences and criminal fines. As Ginsburg has also urged, Roe v. Wade is now best seen, not only as a case about privacy, but also as involving sex equality.
No one should disparage the convictions of those who believe that abortion is an immoral act. But after more than three decades, a decision to overrule Roe v. Wade, and to throw an established domain of human liberty into turmoil, would be anything but conservative. It is relevant here that many people, including McCain running mate Sarah Palin, believe that abortion is unacceptable even in cases of rape and incest, and there is little doubt that if Roe is overruled, some states will enact that belief into law.
For the future of constitutional rights, there is a broader point, which involves the fragility of many constitutional principles. Of course the Supreme Court tends to move slowly, but some conservatives who speak of "strict construction," and of "legislating from the bench," have something quite radical in mind.
For them, these are code words. They seek to appoint judges who will overturn not merely Roe, but dozens of other past decisions. For example, they want judges to impose flat bans on affirmative action, to invalidate environmental regulations, to increase presidential power, and to reduce the separation of church and state. Some Republican appointees to the Supreme Court have already called for significant changes in constitutional law in these domains.
Does all this sound like "strict construction"? Actually there is an uncomfortably close overlap between the constitutional views of some recent Republican appointees to the federal judiciary and the political views of those on the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party. There is a good chance that a newly constituted Supreme Court would entrench some of those views into constitutional law.
It is inevitable that the principal debates between McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama will involve the economy and foreign policy. For most voters, the Supreme Court is simply too abstract. But we should not overlook a crucial point: The fate of Roe v. Wade, and of countless principles in constitutional law, is now hanging in the balance.
Near the end of a town hall meeting in Johnstown, Pa., a woman arose to offer a passionate plea to Barack Obama to "stop these abortions."
Obama's response was cool, direct, unequivocal.
"Look, I got two daughters -- 9 years old and 6 years old. ... I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."
"Punished with a baby."
Obama sees an unwanted pregnancy as a cruel and punitive sanction for a teenager who has made a mistake, and abortion as the way out, the road to absolution and redemption.
The contrast with Sarah Palin could not be more stark. At the birth of her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, Gov. Palin said: "We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives.
"We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed."
Between the convictions and values of Palin and those of Barack, then, there is a world of difference. In the culture war that is rooted in religious faith, they are on opposite sides of the dividing line.
But more crucial than their conflicting beliefs is the political reality. This election is America's last hope to reverse Roe v. Wade. Upon its outcome will rest the life, or death, of millions of unborn children. The great social cause of the Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus, of the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, of the entire right-to-life movement, hangs today in the balance.
Why? It is not just that Obama is a pro-choice absolutist who defends the grisly procedure known as partial-birth abortion, who backs a Freedom of Choice Act to abolish every restriction in every state, who even opposed a born-alive infant protection act.
Nor is it because Joe Biden is a NARAL Catholic who has been admonished by bishops not to take communion because he has, through his career, supported a women's "right" to abortion, the exercise of which right has ended the lives of 45 million unborn.
Nor is it even because McCain professes to be pro-life, or Gov. Palin is a woman who not only talks the talk but walks the walk of life.
No. The reason this election is the last chance for life is the Supreme Court. For it alone -- given the cowardice of a Congress that refuses to restrict its authority -- has the power to reverse Roe, and because that court may be within a single vote of doing so.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts appear steeled to overturn Roe and return this most divisive issue since slavery to the states, where it resided until January 1973.
And John Paul Stevens, the oldest and perhaps most pro-choice justice at 88, is a likely retiree in the next four years. And there is a possibility Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 75, a survivor of cancer, could depart as did Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Thus, in the first term of the next president, there is a strong probability that one or two of the most pro-Roe justices will leave the bench. Replacement of even one of these two liberal activists with a jurist who has a Scalia-Roberts-Alito-Thomas record on the U.S. appellate court could initiate a challenge to Roe, and its rapid reversal.
Not only would that decision be a stunning perhaps irreversible victory for the pro-life cause, it would return the issue of abortion to Congress and the states, where numerous legislators are prepared to curtail if not outlaw abortion on demand in America.
Overturning Roe would re-energize the right-to-life movement in every state. In some, like California and New York, where it could not wholly prevail, some restrictions -- i.e., no abortions after viability -- might be imposed. Requirements such as for parental notification before a teenager has an abortion and that pregnant women be informed of what the procedure means and the trauma that often follows could be written into law.
If Roe goes, all things are possible. If Roe remains, all is lost.
Is there any certainty that John McCain, who set up the Gang of 14 to give Democrats veto over the most conservative of Bush judges, would nominate an Alito or a Roberts? No.
But there is a certainty that a President Obama would move swiftly to replace a Stevens or Ginsberg, or any other justice who steps downs or dies, with a pro-choice jurist. For support for Roe v. Wade is a litmus test in today's Democratic Party, where the right to an abortion has been elevated to the highest rank in the Constitution.
Bottom line. If Obama-Biden wins, Roe is forever. If McCain-Palin wins, Roe could be gone by the decade's end.
As Catholics are the swing voters who likely will decide this election, one awaits the moral counsel of the Catholic hierarchy.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Every year, about 30,000 people die in the US due to gun related deaths. Most people would say that that doesn't surprise them. That would be their reason for controlling guns, to prevent gun deaths. Then maybe you should think about controlling cars, or controlling tobacco. Annually, about 42,000 people die due to car accidents, and about 440,000 die from tobacco related illnesses. Why aren't Obama and McCain discussing their "tobacco control" policies? Then one could say "Yeah, but all those deaths could have been prevented." Yeah, as could the tobacco related deaths.
What I'm driving at here is most of the people who promote gun control are just misinformed about guns. All they hear are the insane people that go around shooting up malls and killing people with handguns. They don't hear the hunters that use the guns for recreational purposes. By getting rid of guns altogether, you are taking away a constitutional right for those that use them responsibly, and I'm going to assume you all are informed about the second amendment.
Next, one could argue that getting rid of guns would make criminals have less guns, therefore promoting a better environment for everyone. Wrong. Imagine, you're a convicted felon on the run. Are you going to care if you buy a gun off of the black market or from the underground? No. The criminals will find a way to get the guns. The only thing this would do is allow the people that would use the gun for righteousness to be defenseless when encountered.
I'm not bashing all types of gun control. Assault rifles, or fully automatic weapons should be banned. There is no reason to have an AK-47 or anything like that for general home defense. All I'm asking is that you stop following the people that are for gun control and think of who your actions are hurting. Think of the people that can't have fun because they used to hunt. Think of the people that use guns for self defense in a dangerous part of town. You've taken away their security. There is no reason for gun control in America.
Why we should stay in Iraq
There are many reasons why the U.S. cannot withdraw our forces from Iraq before the mission is accomplished. Why? This is because our national security depends on the outcome of the war. If Iraq goes to the old regime, it will be similar to Afghanistan all over again. If terrorists do not gain control after the U.S. withdrawal, it will be likely that Iran or a neighboring country will. If Iran gains control of Iraq, they will dominate most of the world's oil supply. They would wreak chaos on the economies of western nations if they had the ability to shut off the flow of oil. This will cause a lot of tension between the nations around the world. Why else should we stay in Iraq? Our nation's reputation depends on it. Other countries are watching to see if we will keep our promises. Nations around the world have seen that we cannot be trusted when the going gets tough. A prime example is Vietnam. Since then we have walked out of hostages in Iran, leaving marines in Beirut, and leaving Somalia. The rest of the world is watching us as dictators around the world are rising, such as in Cuba and Russia. Violence in Iraq according to recent reports are down by 70% and is the lowest in several years. The Al Anbar province, once thought lost to the enemy, has now become a symbol for hope for the rest of Iraq. The fact is that insurgencies almost never win unless the target government simply gives up, just like in Vietnam. South Vietnam only lost the war because of the forces invasion from North Vietnam when we refused to support them and left them in the dust. The success is spreading outward from Baghdad as terrorist cowards flee the capital for the countryside. Withdrawal will not be easy for the people of Iraq. When U.S. troops left South Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were killed or imprisoned for years. Many thousands more became refugees and died trying to escape. Those who remain are persecuted even today and have very few freedoms. I find this very true to today.I find that the Islamic enemy is more cruel than the North Vietnamese. We would be letting innocent people die at the hands of the enemy. The war will not end with no U.S. troops in Iraq. The war will only rapidly accelerate. If we lose in Iraq, the enemy will try to take the war into our own shores as they have done before. If anyone needs a refresher, 9/11 happened even before the invasion of Iraq. Also, setting a timeline for withdrawal will just make the enemy wait until we leave and resume with all the violence. With all of this in consideration, I think that we should stay in Iraq and finish the fight.
One survey showed that 90% of the public desired both creation and evolution to be taught in public schools. 90% of Americans consider themselves to be of some sort of creation, and about half of that believe that God created humans in their form for the last 10,000 years. Only 15 % of high school teachers teach both evolution and creation, and about 20% of high school science teachers and close to 10,000 scientists reject the idea of evolution.
Personally, I think it is hard to teach any subject like math, science, or literature without introducing the theory of creation. Just because a certain "theory" is introduced in a public classroom does not mean that the teacher is trying to convert or change the mind of their students. You don't have to believe what is being taught, you just have to understand it. I don't think you can be taught one without being taught the other. Both theories are important to be taught and understood by students.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Did you know that "U.S. residents are 117 times more likely to die from a gunshot than people in Japan and 39 times more likely than people in Britain, countries where gun ownership is not permitted."?(Washington Times) By allowing just anyone to own a gun or not putting rules on the guns people do own we are keeping those odds stacked against us. I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't be able to own guns for protection or that we take away their constitutional right, I'm only suggesting that with the guns people own certain restrictions should be placed on them.
Guns can do a lot of damage when they end up in the wrong hands. In the United States alone there are many examples of this. Schools, Malls, and even the sidewalks we walk on everyday are becoming dangerous places to go because of people with guns. On April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech was devastated when a mentally ill man with a gun killed thirty-two and left more wounded. Some advocates of gun control believe that an easy way to make these occurrences less and less is to run tight background checks and have very strict rules regarding who can own a gun. If the person selling guns checks to see if the person is mentally ill or has a criminal history we can stop guns from getting in the hands of people who will miss use them and end up hurting themselves or others.
Another great tool to help save lives from the devastating effects of guns is promoting gun safety. Adding child safety locks and making sure people are properly taught how to use their guns can help save the lives of many. Always having control over your gun and knowing how to use it and how not to use it is key in gun ownership. Putting safety locks on the guns will allow guns that get into the hand of children to be less dangerous and stop them from shooting off on accident. Over the years there have been quite a few accidental deaths because children have gotten a hold of guns. With new laws in place we could decrease these deaths in great amounts.
There are some concerns about gun restrictions though. If we begin to limit who can own a gun or take away that right completely we are taking away that person's right to defend themselves. Without guns to protect themselves the rate of crime will rise because "burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police." (Conservapedia) With guns to protect ourselves the U.S. crime rate is lower. The guns people carry around scare away that man waiting to steal your purse or break into your house. Without that sense of security many people will be more paranoid and afraid to live their day to day lives.
Gun ownership is linked to more than just crime. It is also linked to suicide. As we give more and more unstable members of our society guns we run the risk of escalating suicides. Handing a gun to a depressed person is like handing a grenade to a suicide bomber, not a good combination. We could prevent a lot of suicides by taking away the tools they need to actually kill themselves, the guns.
In today's political campaign each runner has their own opinion on how gun control should be taken into account in our society. Barak Obama believes that we should make "sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets" ( On the Issues) On the other hand Hillary Clinton believes "We do need to crack down on illegal gun dealers. This is something that I would like to see more of. We need to enforce the laws that we have on the books. I would also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We now have, once again, police deaths going up around the country and in large measure because bad guys now have assault weapons again." (On the Issues) Even the republicans have their own view as Mr. McCain expresses when he says "that the right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, individual Constitutional right. We have a responsibility to ensure that criminals who violate the law are prosecuted to the fullest, rather than restricting the rights of law abiding citizens."(On The Issues) The issue of gun control, as you can see, has become a major issue in political debate. Whether you are a republican or a demarcate you have to answer at some point, where do I stand on this issue?, and is the person I am voting for going to implement laws that will guide this country in the right direction.
Many also suggest that controlling the gun issue means you need to completely eliminate the ownership of guns in the U.S. but a lot believe this is not true. As long as background checks are done to show that the person is capable of using a gun and using it for the right reasons there is no reason he or she should not be allowed to own a gun. I also believe that child safety locks are a great security feature and should be used on every gun. With these and a few laws to restrict the use of guns, we can reduce the amount of shootings and accidents that happen in the United States every year.
Friday, September 5, 2008
The rest of the American popultion who lives their everyday lives and goes about their own business, pays for these criminals to live. Everytime we pay our taxes, a small percent of that goes to fund the prisones of America. It is said that it is around $20,000-$40,000 a year to keep an inmate. Where do you think that money came from? The victim's families are the ones who really suffer from this. Knowing that the one who took the life of one of their relatives or a close friends is still living comfortably would drive anyone to do anything to make the murderer suffer. But instead of making them suffer, the families of America are paying for their hospitality.
Capital punishment would be a great scare for our country's criminals, too. Just recently, My history teacher assigned us a journal to read. It was about why constitutions matter. In the article an Egyptian girl was talking with an American professor on how our country has so much crime compared to the rest of the world. She simply stated it was because we have no religion and that it is not inforced. That is truly not the case. Other countries don't have as much crime as us because their punishments are way more extreme. If someone were to steal a vegetable off a cart, they would simply have their hand cut off. People could be killed for any law they violated. Now I am not saying we should go to that extreme but our country is much more lenient toward all crimes. If our country started enforcing the death penalty for reasonable crimes, the crime rate would lower and it would scare criminals from doing wrong.
To summarize this, capital punishment would scare our criminals and hopefully lower crime rate. It just isn't morally fair either, life for death…it doesn't make sense.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
With obesity on the rise, many Americans are turning to diets and fads to lose weight. One favored method is the substitution of regular soda for a seemingly slimmer diet option. Fruit flavors and fewer calories add to the appeal that these drinks are healthier and taste great, but exactly how healthy are they for you?
To cut down on sugar, companies like Coca-cola and Pepsi, use the artificial sweeteners Nutrasweet, Splenda, and aspartame to flavor their drinks. Aspartame alone, discovered in 1965, has been a source of controversy for many years. Numerous studies have been performed on it to try to legitimize the link between brain cancer and heavy consumption of aspartame. Thus far, none have proved this theory true, and the FDA has continuously approved the use of aspartame in products, but doubts still arise about possible health risks due to aspartame. It was actually law, until 2001, that companies print a warning label on all products containing saccharine (which is closely related to aspartame and was the previous artificial sweetener used in diet sodas until replaced in 2005) to warn consumers of possible health risks such as seizures, dizziness and migraines.
Another potential reason people switch to diet sodas, is the fewer calorie count. It is true the regular Coke has 140 calories in 1 can and that Diet Coke has none, but if you look further on the nutritional value label you will notice that Diet Coke contains more caffeine. High levels of caffeine can raise your blood pressure, potentially cause sleep-deprivation, and has a potential of becoming an addiction.
The only confirmed study on how diet sodas affect humans, compared to regular sodas, was performed at the University of Texas Health Science Center in 2005. It actually found that those consuming diet sodas gained more weight over a period of time than their counterparts drinking regular sodas!
To switch to diet beverages simply on the idea that you will lose weight and become healthier is preposterous. It may just become that Americans will have to actually work hard to slim down their waistlines
- reeses puffs
At least 250 people were arrested outside the Republican Convention last night as police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse rioters attacking property and blocking roads in protest at the war in Iraq.
They had come in their thousands – grandmothers, veterans, young families and even disgruntled Republicans bearing banners and peace flags, to demand an end to the five-year conflict. And for the most part, the demonstrations passed off peacefully.
But once the main antiwar march had finished, splinter groups embarked on a violent rampage, smashing windows, slashing car tyres, throwing bottles and even attacking Republican delegates attending the nearby Xcel Centre.
Many of those involved identified themselves to reporters as anarchists. These protesters, some clad in black, wreaked havoc by damaging property and starting at least one fire.
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The Minnesota National Guard sent 150 soldiers to help police tackle the riots, which flared as delegates were assembling in St. Paul for the four-day meeting. The convention has got off to a slow and subdued start as Republicans turn their attentions to the millions in Louisiana who have fled Hurricane Gustav.
Members of the Connecticut delegation said they were attacked by protesters when they got off their bus near the convention centre, KMSP-TV reported. Rob Simmons, a delegate, told the station that a group of protesters came toward his delegation and tried to rip the credentials off their necks before spraying them with a toxic substance that burned their eyes and stained their clothes.
One 80-year-old member of the delegation had to be treated for injuries, and several other delegates had to rinse their eyes and clothing.
Terry Butts, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice who is a convention delegate, was on a bus taking delegates to the arena when a brick thrown through a window sprayed glass on him and two others. Mr Butts said he wasn’t hurt.
“It just left us a little shaken,” he said. “It was sort of a frightening moment because it could have been a bomb or a Molotov cocktail."
Five people were arrested for lighting a rubbish bin on fire and pushing it into a police car, St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said. Of those arrested, 119 faced possible felony charges.
At least four journalists were among those detained, including Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke and Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, a nationally syndicated public radio and TV news programme.
Ms Goodman was intervening on behalf of two producers for her program, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, when she was arrested, said Mike Burke, another producer.
The anti-war march was organised by a group called the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, whose leaders said they hoped for a peaceful, family friendly event. But police were on high alert after months of preparations by a self-described anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee, which was not among the organisers of the march.
Most of the trouble was in pockets of a neighbourhood near downtown, several blocks from where the convention was taking place. Police fired tear gas canisters and used pepper spray on protesters who tried to block key streets.
Up to 200 people from various groups marched in a noisy “Funk the War" march. Clad in black, protesters smashed windows of cars and stores, tipped over rubbish bins, pulled down street signs and bent the rear-view mirrors on a bus. Some wore gas masks and bandanas to protect themselves from smoke bombs and other chemical irritants.
The war was likely to get a second day of attention outside the convention on Tuesday as Ron Paul, a Congressman and former Republican presidential candidate who opposes the Iraq war, was expected to speak to supporters at a Minneapolis rally. Separately, a group advocating for the poor was planning a protest march toward the convention centre.
Security has been tight in St Paul, in a bid to avoid a repeat of the chaotic scenes seen at the 2004 Republican convention in New York when more than 1,800 people were arrested. Yesterday snipers looked on from nearby buildings and a helicopter hovered overhead as some 10,000 surged through the streets during the main march.
“We joined up with an altruistic vision of promoting freedom and justice around the world,” said Vince Emanuel, a Marine lance corporal who did a tour of duty in Iraq from August 2004 to April 2005, explaining why he was marching.
“Except we saw the killing of innocent people and the destruction of property ... for a lot of us it was very disenfranchising."
The veterans group tried to hand a message to the campaign of Republican White House hopeful John McCain calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, reparations for the Iraqi people, and full medical benefits for veterans. No one from Mr McCain’s campaign received them, Mr Emanuel said.