Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tattoos in Papillion...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omaha has 26 licensed body-art outlets.

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

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

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

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

Stensrud said suspensions are done only at the Bellevue parlor.

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

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

Hollywood perpetuates the stigma, he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Diet vs. Regular in School Vending Machines Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Time to Reboot America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Capitol holiday-display controversy turning into "circus"

By Janet I. Tu

Seattle Times religion reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stem Cell Research

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

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

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

--miles of smiles

Why be a Celebrity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Cheezy McNasty

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cell Phone Distractions

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

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

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

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

Little Lamb

Is Media Influencing America’s Children?

Is Media Influencing America's Children?

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


Friday, December 5, 2008

A Misconception with Giving Masquerades as the Spirit of the Season


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


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


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


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


Happy Holidays! May yours break all kinds of traditions.


Mr. Phil 

Thursday, December 4, 2008


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

Army Utilizes Stop-Loss Policy

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

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

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

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






                        By: EfarmsQUACK

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Sovereignty Dodge

By Robert Kagan
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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