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.” –


            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.

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.


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:

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.

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


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.


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,, 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, 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.

Majority Of Americans Never Use Physical Education After High School

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA—Kevin Higgins always hated gym class. Like many of his classmates, he questioned the relevance of things like "exercise" and "physical fitness," and wondered if these skills would ever provide any practical, real-world benefits. Though he endured more than 720 hours of gym over 12 years, the 32-year-old accounting clerk said Monday that he has still never used physical education once in his life.

"I don't know why they bothered teaching us all that stuff," said Higgins, who since graduating has not once encountered a situation that required him to move his body at a sustained pace or keep himself in healthy shape. "I mean, come on—when will I ever need to physically exert myself for an extended period of time?"

Higgins is not alone. According to a recent poll, nearly 85 percent of all Americans admitted that, since entering the real world, they have found very few reasons to utilize the concepts they learned in physical education. In fact, most high school graduates claim that despite their gym teachers' insistence that this knowledge would come in handy later in life, they have still never used bending, breaking a sweat, or coordination.

"I remember my gym teacher droning on and on about this thing called 'physical well-being,'" Higgins said. "I still don't even know what that means."

Many educators and high-ranking health officials maintain that it is essential for young adults to learn such valuable skills as participating in activities and interacting with peers, increasing the intake of oxygen and nutrients to the blood, going out of doors, and moving. However, thousands of Americans have nonetheless gone on to lead very successful lives without ever bringing their heart rate over 120 beats per minute.

Erica Burnstrom, a 28-year-old aeronautics engineer living in San Jose, CA, said that abstract concepts such as aerobic activity and raising one's knees above the hips in a rapid "pumping" motion have not added any appreciable value to her day-to-day life.

"I never use any of that stuff, like walking quickly for five minutes," said Burnstrom, who paused from using the Pythagorean identity to solve for the cosine of 71° and 144° in order to speak to reporters. "I understand that my phys-ed teacher needed to know all that stuff because that was his job, but I'm not some specialist who needs to lie flat, lift her torso into a sitting position, and then return to the original position for a living."

"I wish they'd have taught us useful things in gym, like sitting at a computer and ordering things," Burnstrom added.

Many Americans claimed that once they finished high school, skills such as increasing joint mobility and building muscle strength were no longer necessary.

"If something needs to get from one place to another, I can just use my cell phone, or hop in the car. And I know they say that physical education promotes balance, but that's what my cane is for," said Miami, FL resident Keith Monahan, 32. "The only thing I still use from gym class is that occasionally I'll throw on some sweatpants while I'm sitting on the couch watching television. So I guess I learned that."

Omaha insurance salesman William Haylor, 43, said that when his 8-year-old son asked him how to do a chin-up, he realized that he had simply forgotten.

"I know I used to be able to do that, but for the life of me I can't remember," Haylor said. "They're really hard to do. I think that's why I stopped."

"I wish I could help him out," Haylor added. "But what's the point? He's never going to use it anyway."

In response to these findings, many Americans have urged the government to stop wasting millions of dollars on useless physical education programs and start focusing on real problems, such as obesity, arthritis, and chronic back pain :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Global Warming - Hot or Not?

I began reading a book called "Unstoppable Global Warming," by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery. It poses a question: Is current atmospheric warming due to natural causes, or is it caused by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities? The authors challenge the theory that global warming is man-made.
The book declares, "NASA acknowledges it had accidentally inflated its official record of surface temperatures in the U.S. beginning with the year 2000. The revised data now show 1934 as the warmest year, followed by 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, and 1953. Four of the top 10 years on record are now from the 1930s, before human emissions could have been responsible, while only three of the top 10 (1998, 2006, 1999) are from the past 10 years."
There has been no warming trend in the U.S. since the 1930s. This information undermines claims that the effects of global warming are a direct result of emissions or pollution. There have been two comparable warming periods in recent history: the Medieval Warming (950-1300 AD) and the Roman Warming (200 B.C. to 600 AD). Evidence from Greenland and Antarctic ice cores have proven that there have been 600 moderate cycles like these in the past million years.
Three scientists (Willi Dansgaard of Denmark, Hans Oeschger of Switzerland, and Claude Lorius of France) were awarded the Tyler Prize (virtually the equivalent of an environmental Nobel) for their efforts in the discovery of the "1,500-year cycle."
What is the 1,500-year cycle? Good question.
"In 1983, Dansgaard and Oeschger were among the first people in the world to see two ice cores, each nearly a mile long, that were then being brought up from deep holes in the Greenland Ice Sheet-bringing with them 250,000 years for the Earth's layered climate history. These men then began the frigid, laboring task of counting the layers and analyzing their contents to reveal Earth's past climatic changes."
By means of their newfound discovery, the researchers could use the ratio of oxygen-18 isotopes to oxygen-16 isotopes in ice to reveal the air temperature when snowflakes fell to Earth year-by-year for the past 2,500 centuries.
The two scientists expected to see big ice ages in the ice-layered record. Instead, Dansgaard and Oeschger discovered a smaller, moderate temperature cycle. They estimated that the average length of the smaller cycle was about 2,550 years. With the help of later investigations, researchers have revised that estimation, reducing it to only 1,500 years, thus the 1,500-year cycle.
Evidence that Earth's warming is natural is found in more than a hundred professionally published journals, with hundreds of co-authors, cited in this intriguing and unique book.
The authors of "Unstoppable Global Warming" remain confident in their studies. However, they are disappointed that "the public has remained unaware that the 1,500-year cycle offers the only explanation for the modern warming that is supported by physical evidence."
The data is there. Global Warming should not be a political issue, because it cannot be stopped by the passing of a law. It is inevitable, a persistent cycle begun millions of years ago. I encourage anyone to read this book. It is fascinating to realize that a "problem" our nation has been force-fed for so long, is in fact an act of nature.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

George W. Bush: America's All Time Low


            One month after the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001, President Bush achieved the highest approval rating of any U.S. president, 92%. However, Bush has also set the record for the highest disapproval rating of any United States President.


[Notice: Different polls and sources yield different disapproval rating results.]


          According to a Gallup poll, Bush's disapproval rating is at 69% -which is not only the highest of the Bush administration, but the highest disapproval rating in Gallup poll history. A CNN poll indicates that Bush is the least popular president in American history. In this poll, 71% of Americans disapprove of how Bush is carrying out his presidential duties. Bill Schneider, a CNN Senior Political Analyst, said, "He is more unpopular than Richard Nixon was just before he resigned from the presidency in August 1974." Nixon's disapproval rating in 1974 was at 66%. "No president has ever had a higher disapproval rating in any CNN or Gallup Poll; in fact, this is the first time that any president's disapproval rating has cracked the 70 percent mark," said CNN's polling director, Keating Holland.


          According to a poll by the American Research Group Incorporated, Bush's disapproval rating is at 75%. This source also showed that Republicans tend to support Bush at a higher rate than Democrats, however, the approval rating is still low. Forty-three percent of Republicans approve of Bush's overall job performance and 51% disapprove. Among Democrats, only 2% approve and 96% disapprove. On the way Bush handles the economy, 98% of Democrats disapprove and only 1% approve. Forty- one percent of Republicans approve and 58% disapprove.


          I, personally, am not a huge fan of W. Bush. I feel that he may have good intentions sometimes, but his methods and actions are too rash and not well thought out. The No Child Left Behind Act is an example of this. NCLB sets high qualifications for teachers, placing even more stress on them and making it more difficult to become a teacher. Also, NCLB encourages (and rewards) teaching children to score well on the test, rather than teaching with the primary goal of learning. The war in Iraq is another rash action that should have been better planned. Our reasons for being over there are ever-changing. Yes, it is good that we have liberated all of those people, but the cost was a lot of American lives. Now we have the problem of when and how to pull our troops out. Lastly, the issue of our economy is not completely Bush's fault, but he could be doing more and making better choices to help.


            Overall, there are many possible reasons behind Bush's record high unpopularity. I only mentioned a few. Bill Schneider, from CNN says, "Support for the war, the assessment of the economy and approval of Mr. Bush are all about the same – bad."


Friday, November 7, 2008

Do Schools Have the Right to Search Students’ Lockers?

In this world of increasing violence, even schools are subject to what results from it. There are always just a few people that ruin it for the rest; the ones who use their lockers as a place to stash drugs, alcohol, and even weapons. To fight against this schools have been randomly searching students’ lockers. Some schools even have police dogs that search for them. Schools can open lockers if they have evidence to suspect that something is wrong with a student.

Locker searches are a practical way of trying to keep schools safe, but many people have a problem with them. Many people say that locker searches violate The Fourth Amendment of The Constitution of the United States of America. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” School officials don’t need a warrant or a probable cause to search lockers, but only a reasonable suspicion. If a teacher or school official searches a student who is thought to have drugs, alcohol, or weapons, but turns out clean, that teacher is restricted from searching students any longer. But if a teacher searches a bag or locker for cigarettes, and finds a bong, or pipe, that teacher can continue the search because it is likely that more will turn up. The use of sniffing dogs and metal detectors can be used at anytime because they don’t invade the privacy of the students.

But I believe there are other, better ways to cracking down on the problem of students having illegal things in their lockers. Though I think this should really only be implemented in schools that frequently have the problem of students having illegal substance with them. Principals can have metal detectors installed in the school to detect weapons. There could also be a few security guards who patrol the school. Having metal detectors and security guards would dramatically decrease the crime rate, because knives and guns would be easier caught. To eliminate the drug use of students, there could be a random drug test in the school. The students would be less likely to do drugs if they knew that they could be tested for drugs at any time.

I don’t think random locker searches are the best idea. They invade students’ privacy. And there are better solutions then locker searches. But I do think that if there is proof or a very strong suspicion that a locker or a student has illegal substances or weapons then a school official should be able to initiate a search.

-Regina Philangie

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Using Radiation to Clean up Our Food?

Using Radiation To Clean Up Our Food


One not-so-well known food safety action was created at the beginning of August 2008 by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Quite simply, the new act allowed producers to zap spinach and iceberg lettuce with radiation. At first, this sounds ludicrous, but apparently, just the right amount of radiation kills micro-organisms such as E. coli and salmonella.

Although zapping away bacteria sounds like a wonderful idea, irradiation is not the "cure-all" the agency is looking for. Most food-borne illnesses come from viruses that will not be destroyed by irradiation. So while it may be safe and effective for destroying some pathogens, it will not solve all our food problems. Yet, everyone seems to agree, irradiated food is safer than food that has not been treated.

Believe it or not, irradiated food has been around for a while, although this is the first time irradiation has been allowed on vegetables. The FDA has allowed beef, eggs, poultry, oysters and spices to be irradiated, but the people don't tend to buy these products. "People think the product is radioactive," said Harlan Clemmons, president of Sadex, a food irradiation company based in Sioux City, Iowa. This is due to the fact that the FDA requires these foods to be labeled as irradiated food, which scares off consumers.

Supporters of irradiation say that the new technology can help reduce the risk of illness and the number of outbreaks. Critics condemned the FDA saying that irradiation reduces nutritional value, creates unsafe chemicals, and ruins taste. Deciding which one is right is up to you to decide.



Increase In Teen Sexual Activity

Increase In Teen Sexual Activity
Today in our society all of
our T.V. shows glamorize
sexual activity. Due to this
it has shown that teen
pregnancy has also increased
because of it. The youth in
our nation are so exposed to
such a vast extent of sexual
content it is no wonder
more are becoming
sexually active. Recent
studies show that those who
view a lot of sexual content
are twice as
likely to get someone
pregnant or be pregnant than
those who view the least
amount. Also ask yourself
this, how often do you think
parents are censoring what
their children are watching?
Younger children are
watching naughtier shows
every day so it is no wonder
teens are becoming
sexually active earlier.
Even in our cartoons there
is a large amount of sexual
innuendo take Family Guy,
Futurama, and South Park.
Granted they are all
hilarious, but the fact
remains. The youth in our
nation are having constant
images of hot, steamy sex
shot into their mind every
day. We have to do something
about this. I will admit our
television shows are not the
only reason for an increase
in teen pregnancy. A number
of factors take play in
this: single parents, broken
families, poverty, and the
list could go on. The point
remains though there has
been a drastic increase in
teen pregnancy that
corresponds with television
programming. We need to find
a solution to this problem
though. I am not saying take
the shows off the air,
what we need is a better
sexual education. We should
educate our youth to
understand what they are
seeing and teach them safe
sex. Straight up abstinence
programs normally don't
work, so we should educate
and protect our teens
instead of just telling them
to not have sex. They need
to be prepared
because we can't predict
every eventuality
Our sex ed classes take
place in junior high, how
does that help? All that
did was explain the
reproductive process, it did
not show us how to act. We
should start teaching it
more in high school and
address the issue directly.
After all high school is
most teens are becoming
sexually aware of themselves
and noticing the opposite

- Bulbasaurus 75

Public vs. Private schools

    To some parents, it has always been true that private schools offer better experiences than public schools. But whats the truth? Many schools get a bad reputation due to students from rival schools and parents, so does sending your child to a private school elimintate these problems?
    One major concern is cost. In public schools, they are not allowed to charge tuition. Private schools on the other hand, charge tuition because they do not recieve tax revenues. Public schools are cheaper, but do you get your moneys worth attending private schools? In private schools, classes tend to be smaller in size, providing more teacher-to-student help. Because the classes are smaller, kids have more resources available to them. Classes can often take longer field-trips for a more hands on experience.  So is it worth the money?
    The common thought is that people who attend private schools tend to be more successful then students in public schools. The Center on Education Policy (CEP) has information that proves otherwise. In their study of achievement advantages, public schools and private schools are equal in reading, math, science, and history. The only two subjects that private schools excell on are SAT scores for the math and verbal sections. SAT scores were the ONLY thing the CEP found different between the two. That being said, it was also researched that college enrollment was equal between the two types of schools. It was proven that private school graduates are no more satisfied with their jobs at age 26 than public school graduates.
    While many students stereotype the education of private schools to be better, the fact is that actually it doesn't make that big of a difference. It all comes down to preference. If you believe your kid will do better in a private school, thats your opinion. If you think the money is worth the private school, thats your opinion too.  Either way, kids will be equally educated.
Banana hammock

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voters: Intelligent or Careless?

Anticipation for Election Day has been mounting throughout the month of October, and now that the day has finally arrived, the excitement is contagious. Today the school was filled with discussion over the presidential race, and several students were even sporting stickers that supported one of the candidates. In the hallways, students could be witnessed rallying for their favorite candidate, and one could read messages written on markerboards in the classrooms. Such enthusiastic support has always been encouraged in America, and certainly has played a huge role in our votes. But has it played too large a role? Are American voters voting based on issues and beliefs, or are Americans voting just to jump on the bandwagon?

As I walked the halls of the school today, I found it difficult to voice who I personally supported when everyone else was so loudly voicing their support for the opposer. I found myself wanting to join their rally, to start shouting support for their candidate and laughing along with them as they put down the other candidate, even though I was not in agreement. My friends were having a sort of party, and I wasn't included, and I wanted to be.

Now, as I watch the election results unfold on the television, I wonder how many of our voters are voting entirely because they wanted to join the fun, just like I wanted to today. If I were an American who did not do the research necessary to really know both the candidates, would I vote based on what others thought? I know that I would want to. Americans make voting such a big deal, something to be proud of, and I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to be a "true American," even just for a day.

If Americans are voting for the wrong reasons, how can we be sure that we are intellectually choosing and voting for the future leaders of our country, including the President of our United States? How many voters are voting under the influence of their peers, family, or job? How many voters judge the candidates by looks and speaking ability instead of values? This poses a problem that cannot be solved by simply relying on others to not take advantage of uninformed Americans or by relying on our uninformed Americans to take the initiative to get informed. Maybe we should take the initiative to make sure that the only Americans to vote are those who know what they are voting for.

Although I am well aware that changing the voting system would be an exhaustive process, I believe it is high time we started it, so that our children and children's children will live under a more intelligent government. I propose the voting ballet to be more than a simple list of names, but rather a sort of multiple choice quiz. The ballot should ask the voter which view they most closely agree with regarding the issues discussed in the campaign. They would be able to choose from the views of each of the candidates. Take for example this election: a ballot question might ask which candidate's economic plan most appeals to the voter, McCain's or Obama's, and the voter would pick the plan he/she supported the most. A sort of voter quiz could eliminate uneducated voting motives such as a candidate's outward appearance.

On the negative hand, a voter quiz could very well discourage lazy voters from voting at all, but to those who voice this opinion I must ask, do we really want these people to vote at all then? If a voter is too busy to take a short quiz instead of circling a name, or too upset over a quiz to take his initiative to vote, why should we expect him to have the time of day to research the candidates and vote for a worthy candidate?

Is it more important for every citizen to vote? Or for every citizen who CARES to vote?

It's definitely worth the time of day to consider. If not a voter quiz, what else can we do to ensure that our voters are voting intelligently? What other solutions might there be to this problem?


The Mac Is Back!