Monday, December 14, 2009

Substitute to Stem Cell research

            Stem cells are characterized by the ability to renew themselves through mitotic cell division and differentiating into a diverse range of specialized cell types. Stem cells are found in most multi-cellular organisms. With this in mind, scientists over the last couple of years have made progress toward creating cells that would end the controversial studies of human stem cells. The ability to consistently replicate human stem cells would enable scientists to avoid the religious and ethical concerns about destroying human stem cells to further scientific studies and cures.

            Hundreds of scientists are working on some form of research about the replicas, known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher, Dr. Angie Rizzino, was among 22 scientists selected to receive federal funds from the recently passed stimulus package to resume his work. Researchers are using mouse, rat, and human cells to find which ones are most effective to manipulate into embryonic stem cells. Scientists predict that they are only a few years from understanding induced pluripotent stem cells well enough so that they could successfully replace embryonic stem cells consistently, and they predict they're only 10 years away from applying the cells to aid in human treatments.

            Rizzino believes that the understanding of the cells needs to deepen to understand how to efficiently and safely reproduce the cells. Scientists still don't know how different the induced cells are from embryonic cells. Rizzino said that the time may come where this new cell will replace human cells, but for now, he said, research should continue to further improve our technology and understanding of cells and disease start.

            There are many pros and cons involving stem cell research. Obviously the biggest impact would be that we would, theoretically, help treat a range of medical problems including Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Heart Diseases, Stroke, Diabetes (Type 1), birth defects, spinal cord injuries, replace or repair damaged organs, and maybe even get a copy of your own heart in a heart transplant in the future. Opponents of research often use moral reasons to back them up saying "We should not mess with human life" and "Humans should not be trying to play God." So also believe that this will lead to cloning of human life and previous attempts have been futile. I personally do not believe in stem cell research but I think that if scientists would be able to make this substitute it would be a huge leap for science as well as for the better of all of mankind for future generations.

Sites Used:


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Friday, December 11, 2009

Illegal Immigration

            Illegal immigration is a huge problem in the United States that needs to be fixed. Over the last few decades illegal immigration has had a huge impact on American society, and most if not all of it has been a bad impact. Illegal immigration has kept jobs from being given to people living legally in the United States, all the way to violence, and drug trafficking in the United States from the Mexican border. Nearly one in three immigrants is illegal, and immigrants count for 1 in 8 residents for the United States.

            Most illegal immigrants come, but not solely, from Mexico or South America and Central America. They get into the United States by illegally crossing the border from Mexico to the United States. Many Illegal immigrants pay people to sneak them across the border, and others try to sneak themselves across with no help. A problem is that many of the people that sneak the illegal immigrants across the border are Americans, or legal immigrants in the United States. Crossing into the United States Illegally is not the only way to become an illegal immigrant. Hundreds    of thousands of legal immigrants become illegal immigrants by overstaying the authorized amount of time, or by violating terms of being legal in America, and also by falsifying a visa to get into the country. There are an estimated 500,000 illegal entries in the United States a year.

                        A Pew Hispanic Center statistic says that in October 2008 there were 11.9 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. This should not be happening. Illegal immigrants are taking up jobs that are hard enough to find as it is in the hard economic times, and are bringing the violence rate up in the United States. California has the largest population of illegal immigrants living in the United States, with about 2.9 million living there. Texas is second with 1.7 million living there.

            NumbersUSA states that illegal aliens are taking up more than 7.7 million jobs in the United States. We need to start cracking down on illegal immigrants now, in order to give millions of jobs to people who live in America legally. Not only are millions of Americans losing jobs to illegal immigrants, but wages have also dropped for employees. Wages have dropped because illegal immigrants are willing to work for the cheapest wages out there. Wages were reduced 4% from 2000 to 2004 because of illegal immigration. Also from 2000 to 2004 2.3 million more Americans lost their jobs to illegal immigrants that were willing to work harder for cheaper wages.

                Large and small companies alike want the government to make immigration laws very loose, so that the companies can hire illegal immigrants for cheaper wages, and illegal immigrants don't mind near as much as Americans how they are treated while working. If companies were to speak out against illegal immigration, then a lot more work and laws would be set up against illegal immigrants.

         Illegal immigrants are living in our country for free, so therefore their cost of living is cheap and they don't have to have the higher wages. They do not pay for any taxes, and so they basically use Americans money without losing any of their own to help out America. These illegal immigrants are hurting our economy more than the American public really realize.

         The United States Government needs to start making laws against illegal immigration stricter, and not only on the borders. The United States government really needs to crack down hard on the large and small corporations and companies that are hiring these illegal immigrants. The only way to really bring down illegal immigration is taking away the reason why most illegal immigrants are there, which is the companies that are willing to hire them. If the United States government does that, then the illegal immigrants will have no reason to come into to America because no one would be able to hire them. The punishments for illegal immigration also need to be harsher, because thousands of illegal immigrants find their way across the border multiple times. The United States Government should do more than just deport the immigrants back to their original countries.

                     The point is that illegal immigration needs to stop. Its cons way outweigh the pros. In fact there really are not any pros about illegal immigrants living in the United States that I can find. These illegal immigrants are taking away jobs, lowering wages, raising violence and drug trade. If the United States government takes the opportunity away from

illegal immigrants to get money by making background checks mandatory, and by making laws a lot stricter against illegal immigrates working in companies, then illegal immigrants will have a much harder time surviving in the United States

Works Cited

How to reverse illegal immigration. Americans for illegal immigration, 9 Sept. 2009. Web.            15 Sept. 2009. <>.

Illegal immigration crimes. 1 May 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2009.


Illegal immigration facts. 22 July 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2009.


Illegal immigration. Steven A. Camarota, 5 May 2005. Web. 115 Sept. 2009.


Urban America

Urban America

On a Sunday morning, I wake up around ten in the morning and I begin to get ready for work. I climb the stairs to the kitchen and pour myself a bowl of cereal that my mother has purchased at the store. After breakfast, I put on my uniform which was bought at a JC Penny. I grab my keys to our fully paid off 2001 Ford F-150 and make my way towards my job. As I head down 84th Street, I see the Midlands Hospital on my right. I pass the new Shadow Lake shopping center, which consistently gets customers of every age and demographic. I turn onto 36th Street and head for Omaha. About the time I hit Q Street, the streets and sidewalks look significantly dingy and broken apart in comparison to their Papillion counterparts. Conditions don't improve as I push on towards L Street and turn into the parking lot of the Stockyards Plaza Hy-Vee.

What is it that makes these two communities so different? The answer to that question is very complex, for it has many contributing factors. The average person in South Omaha's salary is much less than that of the Papillion area is. The percent of families below the poverty level is much higher than the state's average. Businesses in the area make less money than those of other parts of the state as well.

Crime problems in the urban South Omaha community are undoubtedly linked to poor education. According to, school enrollment by grade level takes a drop in the 5th to 8th grade range and again in the 9th to 12th grade range. This essentially means that middle and high school dropouts are common within this community. The educational attainment is also much less than that of the Papillion community; in Papillion, the number of people earning some sort of college degree is much higher than the Nebraska state average. Not only is the number of people achieving collegiately in Omaha much less than the state average, but its number of people with less than a high school education is far, far above the state average.

Another factor contributing to crime in Omaha is the heightened number of broken homes in comparison to rural communities. Approximately 17.3 percent of people of parental age (30 years to 55 years old) are divorced. This number is staggering in comparison to Papillion, in which, 7.3 percent of parental aged people are divorced. Broken homes contribute to crime because the children of divorce are more likely to drop out of school, join gangs, or embark on a drug addiction. Parents DO have to set a good example, and that clearly seems to be a problem within the Omaha community. All of these problems are clearly linked together and affect one another. Fixing some of them but not all of them would not result in the improvement of the community, but would take it back down to what it was before. This is true because the problems I have listed above that are left unfixed would rub off on the ones that are fixed and make them a problem again. For this reason, any community reform plan should cover all of these problems rather than just simply covering one of them at a time.

The most important part of any reform plan put into place would undoubtedly be education reform. Students with a more satisfying academic experience would be less likely to drop out of school, and therefore, less vulnerable to joining a gang. Less gang members means fewer gangs, and fewer gangs means less crime.

In order to hire more adequate teachers, government funding should be increased in these problem areas to increase teacher salaries so that better teachers are more inclined to get a job in these schools. Along with acquitting better educators, the added government funding would provide improvements to the schools themselves. It would buy them better books, better computers, and would help to improve facilities to make the students more proud of their school. Pride in the schools would also increase pride in the students' education. Included in this reform program, I would use funding to create a program similar to the health program in Papillion's middle schools. I feel that this program would teach the students more about how to deal with problems, and how to avoid early pregnancy. The reason for this program is not just to create more aware people, but to create more able parents. With a stronger health program, there would be fewer divorces in the future.Overall, education reform would eventually improve the area's average family income, because a educated worker is going to make more money than an uneducated worker.

One problem not addressed by education is unemployment due to less jobs being available in the city. The city government should take advantage of the unemployed and help them at the same time by creating jobs for them. These jobs could benefit both the unemployed and the community. These jobs would include rebuilding the city's roads, rebuilding the schools, and other construction projects to improve the city.

The problems that I have discussed are not just true for Omaha, but for most of the urban areas across the country. The majority of these problems could be solved by using increased government funding to improve education, create jobs, and build a better community. An expensive solution? Yes. Is it worth it? I believe it is, because reform in cities across America will increase the output of a great nation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Taliban pay vs. Afghan forces pay


PRO'S: Remember September 11, 2001. Afghanistan under the Taliban provided the al-Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Today, the al-Qaeda and its associates have found room for manoeuvre in the tribal areas of Pakistan. For Nato to withdraw from Afghanistan would expose the West to further acts of mass murder.

If the Taliban seized power again, a newly liberal society would once again have to obey their values. Women would have a lower quality of life.

Barack Obama has made Afghanistan a priority and promises a better approach than his predecessor, notably in treating Pakistan as an integral part of the problem.

Improvements in military technology, from communications satellites to pilot-less drones, have made the targeting of an enemy easier.

The increasing size and effectiveness of the Afghan army is encouraging.

CON'S: The continued military mission is costing billions at a time when Western economies are suffering. We simply can't afford to remain fighting in Afghanistan. Pakistan's northern border has become a launching-pad for terrorism.President Hamid Karzai has proved a weak ruler far too tolerant of corruption in his country

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

House BCS Bill Gets Subcommittee Approval

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer Frederic J. Frommer, Associated Press Writer – Wed Dec 9, 4:36 pm ET
WASHINGTON – Dismissing complaints from some members that Congress had more pressing matters, a House subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine its national champion.

"We can walk across the street and chew gum at the same time," said the subcommittee chairman, Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush, one of the bill's co-sponsors. "We can do a number of things at the same time."

The legislation, which still faces steep odds, would ban the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision game as a national championship unless it results from a playoff. The measure passed by voice vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee's commerce, trade and consumer protection subcommittee, with one audible "no," from Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga.

"With all due respect, I really think we have more important things to spend our time on," Barrow said before the vote, although he stressed he didn't like the current Bowl Championship Series, either.

The BCS selections announced last weekend pit two unbeaten teams, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Texas, in the Jan. 7 national title game. Three other undefeated teams — TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State — will play in a BCS bowl game, but not for the championship.

"What can we say — it's December and the BCS is in chaos again," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He said the BCS system is unfair and won't change unless prompted by Congress.

The legislation, which goes to the full committee, would make it illegal to promote a national championship game "or make a similar representation," unless it results from a playoff.

There is no Senate version, although Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has pressed for a Justice Department antitrust investigation into the BCS.

Shortly after his election last year, Barack Obama said there should be a playoff system.

In a statement before the vote, BCS executive director Bill Hancock said, "With all the serious matters facing our country, surely Congress has more important issues than spending taxpayer money to dictate how college football is played."

Yet Barrow wasn't alone in criticizing his colleagues' priorities; Reps. Zach Space, D-Ohio, and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., made similar arguments. Space said that with people facing tough times, the decision to focus on college football sends the "wrong message."

The legislation has a tough road ahead, given the wide geographic representation and political clout of schools in the six conferences that have automatic BCS bowl bids — the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC.

The current college bowl system features a championship game between the two top teams in the BCS standings, based on two polls and six computer rankings. Eight other schools play in the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose bowls.

Under the BCS, the champions of those six big conference have automatic bids, while other conferences don't. Those six conferences also receive far more money than the other conferences.


On the Net:

Information on the bill, H.R. 390, can be found at

Bowl Championship Series:

House Energy and Commerce Committee:

'Hannity' With Cheney

'Hannity' Exclusive

U.S. history is littered with war blunders

President Obama would be wise to note that bad advice often precedes momentous wartime decisions.

By Robert Dallek

As President Obama moves ahead with his expansion of the war in Afghanistan, history suggests that he has a better chance of being wrong than right.

Judging from the experience of Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, miscalculations about war and peace are all too common. Despite receiving counsel from the best and the brightest in each of their generations, these presidents received poor advice that each should have resisted.

Wilson's Fourteen Points of January 1918, which were an amalgam of high-minded progressive thinking, described a postwar world that was beyond reach: a peace without victors, disarmament, self-determination for nationalities, a world safe for democracy, and an end to war through collective security provided by a league of nations. It was a mirage that did nothing to prevent the rise of Nazism and the onset of another world war.

A costly mistake in Korea

Truman's miscalculation followed a series of wise steps between 1945 and 1950 in the emerging Cold War. The fact that realistic good sense — containment as played out in the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan — characterized his initial Cold War decisions was no assurance that he would get things right in the Korean conflict. His decision to beat back North Korea's attack on South Korea in June 1950 now enjoys almost universal approval as a sensible extension of the containment response to communist aggression.

Yet the decision to cross the 38th parallel in order to unify Korea under a representative government was a blunder that cost the United States, Koreans and Chinese considerable blood and treasure. Gen. Douglas MacArthur's advice that the Chinese would not enter the fighting if we crossed the parallel and that they would suffer a great defeat if they did, with American troops returning home in a matter of weeks, was the greatest miscalculation of his military career. Moreover, it destroyed Truman's presidency: Unable to end the war or put across the domestic reforms promised in his 1948 election campaign, his approval rating fell to 23%.

Kennedy's decision to accept the judgment of CIA and military advisers that Cuban exiles could topple Fidel Castro's Cuban government was a failure he could never forget. "How could I have been so stupid?" Kennedy repeatedly asked himself later.

No president stands out more for poor judgment in fighting a war than Johnson. His beliefs that he could defeat a communist insurgency in South Vietnam, that this could be done quickly and that it was vital to the national security in the larger Cold War struggle all proved to be wrong. Two of the principal architects of the war — Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy later acknowledged how unwise they had been in pressing the case for a war they retrospectively saw as unwinnable. Their views reinforced Johnson's mistaken assumptions and made it easier for him to push ahead on a policy that was a disaster, costing more than 50,000 American lives and even greater Vietnamese losses.

Nixon, who was burdened with ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam, mistakenly drew out American withdrawal over four years on the conviction that Vietnamization — the training of South Vietnamese forces to replace U.S. troops — was a viable option suggested by his military chiefs that would produce "peace with honor." Nixon would have done well to recall the Herculean efforts to supply and train Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist armies, who never performed effectively against either the Japanese or the communists during and after World War II. Vietnamization was another miscalculation in the miserable history of American involvement in Vietnam.

Recent missteps in Iraq

Bush's misadventures in Iraq are a familiar tale that is so fresh in American minds, it hardly needs repeating. Nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, more than 4,300 U.S. dead as well as tens of thousands of Iraqis, and a Middle East no more stable or inclined to embrace democracy are not the legacies that Bush, Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld intended.

By promising an early exit from Afghanistan, President Obama might be trying to avoid the catalogue of blunders that beset these predecessors. If pressure mounts to extend his withdrawal deadline, he would do well to remember JFK's refusal to take the advice of his military during the Cuban missile crisis, when Pentagon officials urged him to bomb Soviet missile installations on the island and some of them favored a follow-up invasion that would oust Castro.

Kennedy told his aide, Kenneth O'Donnell, "These brass hats have one great advantage in their favor. If we listen to them ... none of us will be alive later to tell them that they were wrong."

President Obama could rue the day he listened to his military chiefs instead of the many Americans who doubt that an expanded war in Afghanistan is worth the cost in lives and dollars. As in past wars, should guns and butter prove to be incompatible, playing havoc with commitments to national health insurance, rigorous financial regulations and environmental protections, it could wreck his administration.

Presidential historian Robert Dallek's new book, The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, will be published next year.

(1963: President Johnson confers with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on Vietnam./AP file photo.)

Should the Drinking Age be Lowered?

    The debate between lowering the drinking age to 18 or keeping it at 21 is a very hot topic for high school and college students nation wide. I'm in favor with lowering the drinking age but not by any means because I want to be able to drink sooner. At the age of 18 you are considered a legal adult in most states and you are finally able to vote, sign up for the military, sign legal contracts on your own, and even adopt a child. To me those seem to be very mature decisions, so whats making drinking alcohol a more mature responsibility then let's say, adopting a child?
    The United States is one of the countries with the highest drinking age besides New Zealand where you have to be 21 to drink on your own but are still allowed to drink at the age of 18 with an adult. Mexico, France, Canada, and Australia are all countries with drinking ages of 18. In Germany you can start drinking at the age of 5 if its at dinner time, at 16 you can buy your own alcohol for meals, and once you hit 18 you are able to drink for what ever reason (shea). One of the biggest arguments of lowering the drinking age is that there will be more traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers. But according to, even with the United States increasing the minimum legal drinking age to 21, its rate of traffic fatalities in the 1980s decreased less than that of European countries whose legal drinking ages are lower than 21. Regardless the drinking age, there are still going to be people out there that will choose to make stupid decisions and drive while intoxicated. Just because you are 21 doesn't mean that your brain won't be affected any differently then that of an 18 year old who is just as drunk.
    Because drinking is prohibited to anyone below the age of 21, it provides more a of thrill to minors to drink. If The drinking age was lowered, people wouldn't see it as another rule that they can try and break. Usually when a teenager is told no, they have more of a desire to break that rule because it's off limits to them. Along with the drinking age being at 21, it causes a barrier when someone has over-drank and is in a serious health condition and could possibly die. They are afraid to seek help because they might get in trouble with either their parents or even the law because they have been participating in underage drinking.
    Enforcing the law of underage drinking takes a lot of time and money. Instead of wasting the money on trying to reinforce the law that is just going to continually get broken, the money should be spent on educational programs that teach children and young adults about the dangers of drinking and how to drink responsibly. If children are taught how to drink responsibly and its not something that they are forbidden to do, they are more then likely to take it more seriously and drink more responsible. Also, alcohol has been proven to be good for your health, but only in moderate amounts. So if the drinking age is at 21, 21-year-olds and higher are the only ones that can use that type of medical treatment so to say.
    Just because the drinking age should be lowered, doesn't mean that people are just going to be able to get drunk at an earlier age. It could potentially reduce binge drinking and deaths caused by alcohol poisoning if people aren't afraid to get help and money is spent on the education of alcohol and it isn't just another law that young adults are trying to sneak behind. Also, what makes having the choice to drink alcohol any different from selecting the next president, having a child, or joining the military?
Sites used:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Schools strive to stay on key

By Joe Dejka

The majestic strains of Handel's “Hallelujah” chorus trumpeting from a slide projector seemed out of place.

Amid the legions of public school board members and superintendents — 1,000 from throughout Nebraska — the religious masterwork sounded a discordant note — somewhat like the aroma of beef stew wafting through a PETA convention.

Bent over the projector was Lincoln attorney Neal Stenberg, preparing to deliver some timely advice: Allowing religious music at school programs is OK, as long as you abide by simple rules to keep from running afoul of the U.S. Constitution.

“I think there's a need to remind people it's lawful,” he said.

Every winter, America's educators wrestle with how to deal with the First Amendment's Establishment Clause — commonly interpreted as requiring the separation of church and state — while recognizing the traditions on which the holidays are based.

Although most districts have found a way to balance those interests, fear of lawsuits and confusion about the law have driven some school boards and teachers to cut religious songs unnecessarily from school settings.

Last year, school officials in North Carolina pulled the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from an elementary school winter concert after a parent complained the song contained the words “Santa” and “Christmas.” Widely ridiculed for their decision, school officials then reversed themselves.

In a backlash against such bans, a Redding, Calif., substitute teacher is gathering signatures on a petition that would require the state's public schools to let students listen to or perform Christmas music.

Despite confusion about the use of religious music in schools, Stenberg said, courts have upheld its constitutionality.

When schools use religious music, however, the objectives must be secular, he said.

“It's important to understand the distinction between teaching religious music for a secular purpose and trying to inculcate some religious value through the use of music. The former is lawful, the latter is not,” he said.

Stenberg's credentials lie in music and school law.

He is a former legal counsel for the Nebraska Association of School Boards and currently advises several school boards and Southeast Community College. His brother, Don, is the former Nebraska attorney general.

Neal Stenberg, 59, took voice lessons at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and professes the ability to sing a tenor aria in four languages. He sings in the St. Paul United Methodist Church choir in Lincoln and, in his younger days, ran with a rock band called Sour Mash.

Schools, he said, should select music for its educational value, such as its historic value or the skills it demands of musicians, not to advance a particular religious belief.

In 2002, an atheistic couple sued the Woodbine Community School District, northeast of Council Bluffs in Iowa's Harrison County, to prevent the choir from singing “The Lord's Prayer” at high school graduation. The school board had overruled the decision of the principal and choir director not to use the song. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the school's intent in singing “The Lord's Prayer” was to promote Christianity.

“The court said, ‘There is no secular purpose here.' The whole purpose by the board is to actually add a prayer into the graduation,” Stenberg said.

Choosing a diverse selection from different faiths “just makes good sense,” to show people their traditions are being respected, he said.

In 2008, three-quarters of Nebraskans and Iowans identified themselves as Christian, the same percentage as the country overall, according to Trinity College's American Religious Identification Survey.

Three percent of Nebraskans and 4 percent of Iowans identified themselves as non-Christian, including Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu.

Fifteen percent of Iowans and 17 percent of Nebraskans said they had no religion. The rest didn't know or declined to take the survey.

Stenberg said that although offering musical diversity is desirable, it isn't necessarily enough to stay within the law.

“If the purpose of using ‘Silent Night' as a song is to try to persuade someone to become a Christian, then the fact that you add in a Hanukkah song isn't going to save you,” he said.

On the other hand, he said, a public school choir singing a repertoire of all religious songs at a local church would be constitutional if the performance could be defended on educational grounds. For example, a church setting might offer unique acoustics or accompanists that make it a can't-miss opportunity for students, he said.

Alan Potash, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the main hope with winter concerts or programs is that students feel included by the music selections.

“The music teacher should know who the audience is. ... And to alienate one religion or alienate students is not an appropriate educational experience,” Potash said.

He said he fields calls each year from parents concerned about programs that put too much emphasis on one faith over another.

The Anti-Defamation League says in position statements that school choirs should not sing religious music only and should not focus on a particular holiday or denomination, and that officials should excuse public school children from singing religious music without fear of embarrassment or peer pressure.

The National Association for Music Education contends that the study and performance of religious music within an educational context “is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education.”

The chorales of J.S. Bach, the “Hallelujah” chorus, spirituals and Ernest Bloch's Sacred Service all have an important role in developing a student's musical understanding and knowledge, the association says.

By some estimates, Stenberg said, 60 percent to 75 percent of serious choral music is based on sacred themes or text. Serious music from some historic periods is almost exclusively religious, he said.

In the Omaha Public Schools, elementary school teachers choose music based on the community and culture in which they teach, said Linda Hulsey, the district's vocal music supervisor.

They can “absolutely” use religious music, but the program should be diverse and include many genres, she said.

She said she reviews the selections and asks the teachers to have their principals review them as well.

As a result, programs vary widely from school to school.

For example, this year's program at Columbian Elementary School in west Omaha was decidedly secular. Under the theme “Sing a Song of Seasons,” the children sang about hot chocolate, snowmen and presents, but also about springtime, summer days, the beach and Halloween skeletons. None of the lyrics spoke of Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, the seven-day celebration based on African festivals.

Columbian music director Linda Schoening said the music was selected with regard to a substantial Jewish population in the community around the school. Next year, she said, she might include a variety of religious songs from different traditions.

Stenberg said districts can legally cut out all religious music, but by doing so they could face a backlash from those who want their traditions included. And they must beware to avoid using government to squelch religious freedom, he said.

When school officials in Frenchtown, N.J., refused to let 8-year-old Olivia Turton sing “Awesome God” in a talent show, a federal judge ruled the district had trammeled her freedom of speech.

“Even the ACLU entered this case on Olivia's side,” Stenberg said. “And that's saying something.”

Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research is one of the most controversial disputes that our national government is trying to settle. There are many arguments against stem cell research, but the main argument is that embryonic stem cell research is morally wrong. I disagree. So many successful stories have come from embryonic stem cell research that it's ridiculous we are still fighting over this issue.
Everyone gets touchy when it comes to embryonic cell research. Embryonic cells are taken from an egg after it is fertilized. The first source of embryonic cells was from a 5 to 9 week old fetus, taken from a pregnant female having an abortion. Now there is a new method that is called in vitro fertilization. This process is all done in a lab and does not require an abortion. The problem with embryonic research for many people is that they consider it murder. I do not consider this murder because the in vitro method does not require an abortion. Many cases there are surpluses of embryos left after this procedure, and the extra cells can be given to other couples or frozen to be used for future research.
While our country is fighting an endless fight, Britain has made a huge difference with stem cell research. British researchers at Sheffield University have managed to grow tiny hair cells found in the ear, which one day could help repair hearing in deaf patients. Professors Martin Birchall and Anthony Hollander from the University of Bristol teamed up with doctors to form one of the first organs made from stem cells. They created a windpipe that was transplanted into 30 year old Claudia Castillo. Professor Hollander also invented "cellular bandages" from bone marrow that can be used to repair torn knee cartilage.
Stem cell research has amazing potential to save human lives someday. Look at all the good Britain has done! Embryonic research can lead us closer to finding the cure of Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, birth defects, spinal cord injuries, etc. America could be doing the same if we would just stop fighting over this issue.
--Left Sock

Friday, December 4, 2009

Obama Touts Dip in Unemployment on Jobs Tour

President Obama seized on the report Friday showing a slight dip in the jobless rate to put an upbeat face on the economy to an audience in a Pennsylvania region where 41,000 are out of work.
Speaking to a crowd in Allentown, Pa. -- the first stop on Obama's multi-city jobs tour -- the president touted Friday's government report showing the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 10 percent in November.
"Overall, this is the best jobs report that we've seen since 2007," Obama said, adding that U.S. employers cut 11,000 jobs in November, the lowest monthly job loss in nearly two years and 115,000 fewer than economists predicted.
"This is good news just in time for the season of hope," he said, "but we've got a lot more work to do before we can celebrate."
Too many Americans have "felt the gut punch of a pink slip" and "good trends don't pay the rent," he said.
The Labor Department's Friday report marked an improvement over October's 111,000 jobs lost. But the respite may be temporary, as many economists expect the jobless rate to keep climbing into next year as the economy struggles to generate enough jobs for the 15.4 million people out of work.
The unemployment rate fell to 10 percent from 10.2 percent in October, where economists expected it to remain.
If part-time workers who want full time jobs and laid off workers who have given up looking for work are included, the so-called underemployment rate also fell, to 17.2 percent from 17.5 percent in October.
There was other positive news in the report. The average work week rose to 33.2 hours, from a record low of 33 hours. Economists expect employers will increase hours for their current workers before hiring new ones.
The department also increased its job estimate for September, to a loss of 139,000 from 219,000, and for last month, to 111,000 from 190,000.
Swing voters in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley helped Obama win the pivotal, populous state. But the region's jobless rate inched up another half percentage point in October to 9.8 percent. About 41,000 people are currently unemployed, the highest number since 1984.
Small businesses that power the economy in the region are starved for credit and laying people off. Stimulus dollars for roads, bridges, schools and social services are mired in Washington and state bureaucracy.
"In the last two or three months people are getting disillusioned," Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, a Democrat, told the Wall Street Journal in advance of Obama's speech. "If he's kicking off this tour and nothing of substance comes out of it, it's gonna kill him," he said.
Obama told Pennsylvanians Friday that he's optimistic that banks will ease lending next year and that should help businesses that want to expand and hire new workers.
When asked what his administration could do to loosen tight credit, especially for struggling small businesses, Obama said that banks were "way too easy in terms of giving credit" -- which he said contributed to the near financial collapse. Obama said banks now "have swung in the opposite direction" and that the administration will push them to lend to credit-worthy customers. The president said "they were used to saying yes to everybody and now they're saying no to everybody."
In a speech from Washington next Tuesday, Obama plans to unveil a proposal to "jump-start" business hiring across the country.
The president plans to send Congress a list of ideas he supports for a new jobs bill. He will endorse sending the biggest chunk of fresh money to cash-strapped state and local governments to stem their layoffs and on expanding a program that gives people cash incentives to fix up their homes with energy-saving materials. Obama will also endorse new tax breaks for small businesses that hire workers.
The nation's unemployment rate fell in November because the number of jobless Americans dropped by 325,000 to 15.4 million. The jobless rate is calculated from a survey of households, while the number of jobs lost or gain is calculated from a separate survey of business and government establishments. The two surveys can sometimes vary.
The rate also dropped because fewer people are looking for work. The size of the labor force, which includes the employed and those actively searching for jobs, fell by nearly 100,000, the third straight decline. That indicates more of the unemployed are giving up on looking for work.
The participation rate, or the percentage of the population employed or looking for work, fell to 65 percent, the lowest since the recession began. Once laid-off people stop hunting for jobs, they are no longer counted in the unemployment rate.
The economy has now lost jobs for 23 straight months, but the small decline in November indicates the nation could begin generating jobs soon.
Yet even as layoffs are easing, the slow pace of hiring is causing headaches for political leaders. The employment report comes a day after Obama hosted a "jobs summit" at the White House, where he told economists, business executives and union leaders that he is "open to every demonstrably good idea" to create jobs.

This ties in well with American Government. Jobs is one of the presidents many duties that he has to oversee along with the economy. If he was to ignore the economy and not worry about jobs the United States would be a failure in the eyes of the rest of the world. As Chief of the economy the job growth is very important to the president and our government, because Congress has passed new laws concerning the economy and jobs.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Illegal Immigration Effects in America

The United States' borders have been lightly protected and illegal immigrants have been crossing in uncontrollable numbers. There is an estimated 22 million illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration has been a breeding ground for many thorns in the United States' side. These thorns include, but are not limited to, crime, disease, and burdening the tax payers of the United States.

Illegal immigrants have many different ways of getting here. Some simply come here on a visa and never leave. Others use false identifications and other false documents to stay here. Some cross the dangerous terrain, guided by "coyotes," people paid to smuggle them across, and avoid the Border patrol to get here. Some are smuggled across in vans in large groups. In all methods they face great risk. There is always a risk of getting deported if caught. There is the danger of the wilderness. The guide could ditch them and leave them for dead. People have died from vans with illegal immigrants stuffed in it crashing.

Anywhere from 700,000 to 1,289,000 crimes are committed by illegal immigrants each year. Most crimes by illegal immigrants go unrecorded. These crimes end up costing the victims, and all Americans, too. In 2003, about 267,000 illegal immigrants were incarcerated, and in Federal correctional facilities. That statistic is costing Americans 6.8 billion dollars a year.

The crimes illegal immigrants commit leave deep scars in the American society. About 2,200 people are murdered by illegal immigrants per year. Close to 131,000 cases of sexual crimes are recorded a year. Crimes illegal immigrants commit also stretch to drug trafficking. About 80% of all drugs and narcotics come from across our southern border. About 4.5 million pounds of cocaine come across our borders, which totals to 72 billion dollars worth of cocaine on the streets of America.

Many illegal immigrants are wanted for repulsive crimes. In Los Angeles, out of 1,500 homicide warrants, 95% of those are for illegal immigrants. Out of 17,000 wanted fugitives there, 67% are illegal immigrants. The ratio of sex offenders is higher in the illegal immigrant population than it is to the general population. A sample of 1,500 sexual crimes shows 35% of those were molestations, 24% were rapes, and 41% of them were sexual homicides.

MS-13, a gang mostly made from illegal immigrants, is considered by the FBI to be the most dangerous gang, and one of the fastest growing. It is a gang formed from guerilla soldiers in El Salvador. It has been infecting areas of mass illegal immigrant population. The gang is spreading to places once considered safe. MS-13 has infected 33 states. The crimes this organization commits are some of the most violent and gruesome police have seen. One Virginia woman was kidnapped and taken to Florida where she was beaten and raped. They are responsible for most of the drug, weapon, and human smuggling across the border.

Illegal immigration also is a problem because they do not have insurance or driver's licenses. When illegal immigrants get into wrecks, they tend to be hit and run because they have no insurance. This puts the financial burden on the victim. Illegal immigrants also tend to drive drunk or impaired more, pair that with the fact that they can't read road signs and many accidents happen that cause fatalities. Like Min Soon Chang who was killed by an illegal immigrant, Jorge Humberto Hernandez-Soto, going 100 miles per hour down the wrong side of the highway. Jorge Humberto Hernandez-Soto had been deported 17 times before this tragic incident.

Not all victims of these terrible collisions die. Many victims face years of rehab to get to their once normal state. John Hesler was hit in 2003 by an illegal immigrant in an uninsured car. John would then face many years in rehab knowing the person who put him into this situation escaped back to Mexico. There are many more sad stories of people killed or maimed by illegal aliens.

Illegal aliens are also clogging up our hospitals. Because of the Emergency Medical Treatment Act of 1985, hospitals are required to treat illegal aliens. They have no way of paying the hospital bills. This forces the hospital to close. From 1993 to 2003, 84 hospitals were closed in California due to free services provided to illegal aliens. Illegal immigrants are also bringing diseases that have never been here or have been eradicated here. Tuberculosis has sprung out of control in the illegal population. It costs thousands of dollars to treat. Also leprosy, or Hansen's Disease, Dengue Fever, and Polio have found their way back into the United States.

When illegal aliens come here, they have what is called an "anchor baby." This acts as their anchor to stay here. Any one born inside the borders automatically becomes a citizen. About 350,000 anchor babies are born each year. Since they are citizens they get welfare money. Thousands of tax payer dollars are fed into families of illegal immigrants each year. Thousands of illegal immigrants then stay here and jam the thorns into the sides of Americans every day.

For the children of illegal immigration there is a language gap. Most do not speak English, so the government must spend more to educate illegal aliens. The cost per year to educate them is 34.5 billion dollars. Most will not even continue on the secondary schooling. This money could be better spent on resources for our schools or better pay for the teachers. It could also hire more teachers to create better learning environments.

Illegal immigration is more than just one singular problem. It is like a weed that has a very complex root system. While many people think it is just one problem, they do not see thet amount of damage it causes. Thousands of people die from the crimes and the diseases it brings. Billions of dollars out of tax payer's wallets go to take care of illegal immigrants. Billions for extra education, and billions for treatment of third world diseases.


Interview by Rita Cosby. MSNBC.


Medical Malpractice

Medical practices in the United States have improved dramatically over the last few decades.  The number of new diseases and cures doctors have discovered has increased exponentially.  Unfortunately, like the number of new discoveries, the number of medical malpractice suits that are filed has increased exponentially also.  Medical malpractice law suits are a major problem and need to be capped and regulated by the government.  

Physicians fear and expect malpractice suits.  Often they happen more than once to every physician.  Just because a physician has been sued does not make them bad. Some physicians in high risk fields such as surgery and obstetrics are often sued every six years.  Surgeons have to pay anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 a year in medical malpractice insurance premiums, since they are so likely to get sued.  Physicians are forced to buy malpractice insurance.  Malpractice insurance rates are incredibly high, to cover physicians for when a lawsuit is filed. 

Physicians practice defensive medicine, or the ordering of unnecessary tests, to prevent being sued for malpractice.  Reports say that 18 -28% of all tests done are to prevent law suits.    Many doctors are afraid to admit mistakes, in fear of being sued, so if they make a mistake they will not ask for help to fix the mistake, therefore they will not learn from their mistake. 

Lawyers make 30% to 50% of the amount of money won from cases.  This promotes lawyers to look for "victims", or people to claim they have gained injuries from doctors.  This puts the court system into disarray and prevents people with true claims from getting the legal help they need. 

Patients are allowed to sue for obscure situations.  For example a pediatrician was sued after an infant underwent a routine two month check up, then later that week died of sudden infant death syndrome, even though sudden infant death happens with out warning.  In another case, after a woman under went life saving pancreatic cancer surgery, she sued for a pain in her arm that she blamed on the medicine the physician gave her. 

States that impose a medical malpractice suit cap tend to have more physicians.   Many states have enacted a $250,000 cap on non – economical malpractice suits. Malpractice insurance rates are much lower, so the states attract many new physicians.  Also different specialties in the medical field that have lower malpractice suit, or insurance, rates seem to attract more physicians. 

If malpractice suit caps were put in place, more Americans could access health care.  It would be cheaper, therefore easier for people to access.  Physicians would not fear being sued, so they would be less likely to perform defensive medicine.

Medical malpractice suits are a very extreme problem in our country.  There is an answer to help the problem in our country: the government should regulate, and cap the amount of a medical malpractice suit.  It will have a positive effect on many parts of the health care and judiciary system: help lower the overall cost of health care and take some of the stress off the judiciary system, and cause there to be less scam cases. 


The Green Giant

Dubai Downfall

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Gulf markets tumbled again on Tuesday, taking no comfort from Dubai World's plan to restructure about $26 billion of its estimated $59 billion in liabilities, which appeared to calm global fears of contagion.

In a sign that concern among banks was subsiding, UAE interbank offered rates eased, with the 3-month rate falling to 1.90500 percent from Monday's 1.94125 percent fix.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi stocks fell about 6 percent on their second trading day since Dubai last week asked creditors of government-controlled conglomerate Dubai World and property arm Nakheel for a delay on debt repayments as a first step to restructuring.

Dubai World, which led the emirate's transformation into a regional hub for finance, investment and tourism, unveiled details late on Monday of a plan covering $26 billion of debt owed by its main property firms, Nakheel and Limitless.

"This is definitely good news, it shows they are still committed to their payments, and it removes all fears that this is a complete default," said Hassaim Arabi, chief executive at Gulfmena Alternative Investments.

News of the plan helped global markets edge higher, but did not halt the sell-off in the Gulf, which followed comments by Dubai's leading finance official on Monday that the government would not guarantee Dubai World's debts.

The market in Qatar, reopening after a five-day Eid al-Adha holiday, plunged more than 9 percent, while Kuwait's bourse was down 2.55 percent.

'It's a beginning'
"It's a beginning, and it's definitely a positive step in that it gives us a scale of the problem," said a Dubai-based strategist. "But the main concern remains unchanged. What is the outcome of those negotiations with regard to the Nakheel problem?"

The Abu Dhabi market had also plunged on Monday, an 8.3 percent fall that was its worst one-day drop on record, while Dubai's 7.3 percent slide was its biggest in more than a year.

But after sharp falls last week, Asian and European stocks were up on Tuesday, following a rise on Wall Street overnight.

Dubai says Dubai World is on its own
UAE to back banks amid meltdown in Dubai
Dubai debt plea sends fear around world

"Dubai is still a risk, but most of Asia has very limited exposure to Dubai, other than isolated banks. So people may want to avoid the banks, but most other companies are okay," said Francis Cheung, an equities strategist at CLSA in Hong Kong.

Dubai World said its restructuring efforts would not include other firms such as Infinity World Holding, Istithmar World and Ports & Free Zone World, which includes DP World, Economic Zones World, P&O Ferries and Jebel Ali Free Zone, or JAFZA. Dubai World said those firms were financially stable.

The statement said Dubai World would look at options for deleveraging, including asset sales, funding requirements and formulating restructuring proposals to financial creditors.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Raj Madha, a banking analyst at EFG Hermes in Dubai.

"I'd like to see the details it promises, basically: which entities they're talking about (selling), how big a haircut they're going to take."


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Antidepressants and Adolescents

In the past few years, there has been a heated debate over the safety and efficiency of antidepressant use in adolescents. But in our society today, researchers are finding that antidepressants are doing more good than harm. Studies are now stating that the bigger risk is not taking antidepressants when the teen is depressed or suicidal (Segal 1-2).

An antidepressant is a psychiatric medication used to alleviate mood disorders, such as depression. Medication commonly used to treat teenage depression are; Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Prozac. These drugs help elievate the uncomfortable, disturbing and even disabling effects of depression. But the biggest benefit a teen can get from taking antidepressants is the prevention of suicide.

Despite the apparent benefits, the controversy still remains. Do antidepressants increase the suicide rate in the teen population? In 2004, the FDA released a report stating that when teens were being treated with antidepressants, the rates of suicidal thoughts and actions increased in some of the teens. The same report stated that a large study found that the rates of suicidal thoughts increased, but none of the participants actually committed suicide (Baune 2). Conversely, in 2005 the Journal of the American medical association released a report looking at suicide rates in antidepressants. They found that between the years 2001 and 2003, more teens were being treated with antidepressants than ever before, yet this did not correlate with the number of suicides. In fact, there was not an increase of suicide rates at all during the years 2001 to 2003 (Baune 1).

Benefits a teen can obtain from taking antidepressants greatly outweigh the setbacks. Antidepressants are a proven treatment for depression, which can also lead to the prevention of suicide. All though this debate is two sided, the risks of leaving depression untreated is greater than uncommon risks that come with taking the antidepressant.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Convienient Truth

Life without oil is improbable. We use many byproducts from petroleum to power our economy and individual based items we use every day; from house hold disinfectants to fuel for our transportation. We are a society based on oil and have been since we first discovered oil in the united states. Today the United States consumes about 24% of the oil produced in a day while the second leading oil consumer, china, is at 9% a day (Oil). Many believe that the consumption of oil is exceeding what the environment can withstand in terms of green house gases and are looking toward government to step in. However the evidence to support this over dramatized matter of Anthropogenic Global Warming is completely bogus.

Recently, the head scientists leading the Anthropogenic Global Warming ideology, has been proven fraud by an unknown internet hacker who released 61 megabytes of confidential files from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (Climategate). Through these released suggest: "Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organized resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more" (Climategate). This scandal that created the manipulation and exaggeration of the climate change of the world is known as Climategate, which is the biggest scandal in the history of the scientific community of our age. Who can be trusted to tell us what is happening, if not the scientists?

Most data supporting the AGW theory has come through Climategate scientists and has been exaggerated or pulled out of thin air based on speculations. One example of a bogus evidence is the tree-ring theory which is said to prove climate change. The tree-ring theory is derived from scientists connected with Climategate which basically says that the rings in trees are in direct correlation with the climate and Carbon Dioxide levels from a study done on THREE trees from Siberia; proven false just recently by studies done on other forestry. Though the scientists knew their evidence was false, they proclaimed that the truthfulness of their evidence directly to the media of the world and through Al gore who proclaim an "immediate freeze" of greenhouse gases (After).

"Supporting" data for the actually climate change has almost been made up. Through the last 20 years the climate change has not constantly risen and has" worried" the Climategate scientists. In one hacked email, it proclaims to have tampered with data to "hid" the decline"(Climategate). The actually email states, "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline"(Climategate).

Life without our precious fossil fuels is improbable and cannot be expected to last forever. However, that does not mean it cannot be used and therefore should be used until it society deems it invaluable. The greenhouse gases that are given off by the burning of fossil fuels has no affect on the environment and does not cause any sort of Global Warming. In reality, what evidence does the government have to pass "Global Warming bills" which are meant to "help" the environment? None, the government is included in Climategate scandal designing bogus bills to "help" the environment when all the tax payer money is sent to other fields completely separate from a green environment strategy.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Should Nebraska Raise the Driving Age?

There are many milestones. One milestone that most teenagers look forward to is their sixteenth birthday. Most celebrate this milestone receiving a car and the ability to drive it alone, meaning without a licensed guardian. However, many politicians are trying to make these waiting teens wait even longer, by increasing the minimum age a teenager may obtain a full driver license. On top of having a longer wait to get a full license, politicians are placing restrictions on young drivers.
Although Nevada was one of the last states to place restrictions on young drivers, in 2006, it has the some of the strictest laws to prevent reckless driving by teens. Some of their laws include a 10 p.m. curfew, fifty hours of supervised driving, and for three months the new driver is prohibited to transport any passengers. An eighteen percent drop in teenage collisions has proven the new laws successful and helpful in the effort to prevent teenage reckless driving.
New Jersey, so far, is the only state to raise the minimum driving age. Instead of sixteen, teenagers now must wait one more year until they can begin driving unsupervised. New Jersey has seen a great drop in the number of fatal teen crashes. In a 1992-1996 study between neighboring states New Jersey and Conneticut, Connecticut, with its minimum driving age of sixteen, had twenty fatal crashes for every one hundred thousand drivers. While, New Jersey on had four fatal crashes for every one hundred thousand drivers, with its seventeen minimum driving age. So a new sixteen year-old driver in Connecticut is five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a new seventeen year-old driver in New Jersey. The study also showed that, after a graduated license law was passed, the percent of fatal crashes decreased thirty-three percent in New Jersey.
A factor that congress is taking into consideration is distractions a driver faces. Now, 21 states and the District of Colombia have strict laws forbidding new drivers to use their cell phones to text and talk while driving. A young driver is already distracted with other things, such as the radio or rowdy passengers, they don't need more distractions. While texting and driving a teenager is not focusing on the task at hand, which is to get to point A to point B. Cell phones are already considered a driving distraction to most driver, they are even more distracting to teenagers. The risk of being in a fatal crash is doubled when a young driver has one teenage passenger in the car with them. The risk is increased to five times when a teenage driver has two of more teenage passengers in the car.
Some auto makers are helping with reckless driving. Next year, in 2010, Ford Motor Company will feature a new technology that will help keep reckless driving by teenagers low. A special chip inserted in the key will help parents set a maximum speed limit the teenage driver may travel. The chip can also set a volume limit on the audio system and alert the driver when they aren't wearing their seat belt and pass the speed of forty-five, fifty-five, and sixty-five miles per hour. The new technology will debut in the 2010 model of the Ford Focus. Some scientists have also created a new chip that can be plugged into any car. The chip records mileage, speeds traveled, and any sudden starts or stops. It will also record if the driver unplugs the chip.
I think allowing teens to drive at the age of fourteen is way too young. I think the Nevada driving laws are the best, except for the 10 p.m. curfew. Some of my activities don't even let out at 10. I think if Nebraska was to change the age one could get a driver licenses, seventeen would be better than the age of eighteen. Some kids don't even graduate at eighteen, which would make getting to school difficult if a bus didn't come in close proximity to one's house. I think it is up the parents to decide if their child is ready to drive and teach safe driving. Some of my friends have cameras in their cars which help them drive more responsibly because whatever they do, their parents will see it.
-Cap N Crunch

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Should the US use Peacetime Conscription?

Since the ratification of the US Constitution, the Federal Government has had the power to "provide for the common defense."  This has been clearly stated in the preamble of the US Constitution.  Over the years, the government has proven to have the power to draft in order to keep the military a force to be reckoned with.  What is interesting, however, is that the government has only used this power to draft in times of emergency, such as war.  Why do they only use the draft during times of war?  One policy the government should enact is peacetime conscription.  This is when every male citizen would have to serve two years in the US military, regardless if there is a war or not.  Peacetime conscription should be considered because the military is weakening, it is historically beneficial, and it would provide jobs and an increase in patriotism.  Though this policy may seem irrational on the surface, in reality, it would be very beneficial to national security and the country as a whole.

First of all, historically, peacetime conscription has been used before.  In France, Emperor Napoleon I instituted the policy during his reign in the early 1800s.  Also, Switzerland has used the policy of peacetime conscription for many years.  To this day, when a Swiss male turns twenty, he must go into fifteen weeks of basic training.  The peacetime draft has worked before, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to implement in the US.

The draft would also give the armed forces extra support, support that is badly needed by the US military.  Since the USSR's collapse in 1991, America has been the world's only true superpower.  Unfortunately, that is changing rather quickly.  Currently, China has the world's largest military, with 2.84 million military personnel.  Other potential enemies of the United States have been increasing their military power.  One would think that with so many countries increasing the size of their militaries, the US would also increase their armed forces' size.  In reality, if anything, America's military has been weakening.  For example, according to defense journalist Mark Pizzo, "The Navy was 6,892 people short, the Army was 2,300 short of its 1999 recruiting goal, and the Air Force and Marines have had to give raises and lower standards to keep enough personnel."  Since then, the US military has downsized even more.  The peacetime draft would take some of the stress of recruiting off the backs of the different military branches, and provide them with the numbers needed to execute the tasks needed to maintain world stability.

Peacetime conscription would not just aid the military, but our nation could reap social benefits with this policy also.  This would help provide jobs, because everyone eligible would have a guaranteed job for the two years they serve in the military.  If they enjoyed it, they could make the military a career.  Especially in a time of high unemployment, this option of serving in the military would be beneficial to the US economy.  Also, after World War II, most of the draftees used the GI bill to go back to school and pursue a higher education.  The current GI bill is almost as accessible as the WWII GI bill.  This would mean that draftees leaving the military could use those benefits to go to college and pursue a better education.

I realize that many think the policy of peacetime conscription is unorthodox and unnecessary.  I realize that there is a very good chance that this blog post will get bombarded with negative comments about this idea, and that's okay.  I'm not even completely convinced that this is a great idea.  What I'm trying to do is put some light on an idea that most Americans aren't aware of.  Regardless of what one thinks about this policy, one thing's for sure, it would be very interesting to see how this policy would affect the American culture.
Mister T

White House State Dinner

Catholics and Abortion

Monday, November 23, 2009

The United States and Independent Energy

The United States and Independent Energy
Life without cars is impossible. As Americans we commute to work, run errands, and take vacations several times a year. Each time we get in a car, we rely on a source of energy: oil. Our dependence on this fuel source leaves us vulnerable to environmental, economic, and political issues that need to be addressed. To bring about change with alternative fuels and energy independence raises questions and concerns such as: Would there be a significant impact if the United States were to switch from petroleum to clean fuel sources like wind and solar? And what ramifications would there be on the global economy? The problem we as Americans have to solve is obtaining energy sources that are reasonably priced, easily accessed and used in the world we live in.
Each day the United States imports approximately 13 million barrels of oil, which is 60% of the oil we use (Energy Information Adminstration). This oil comes from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada, and Mexico, some of which are unwelcoming to America or actively anti-American. These facts pose a real problem when it comes to our energy security. After all, this does leave part of our economy vulnerable to the foreign nations that supply the United States. The obvious solution to this problem would be to turn to alternative fuels such as ethanol, wind, solar, or hydrogen powered fuel cells (Energy Information Adminstration). These solutions, I believe, are too often overlooked.
Taking a closer look at the renewable sources of energy, many would argue that renewable energy sources is the future for energy independence. In a matter of three minutes, enough sunlight reaches the earth to meet our energy needs for one month (Gibson). The potential in solar energy is largely unrealized and not further developed. If the United States were to coat its highways with solar photon-electron material it could create a power stream to power electric engines in cars, directly reducing the need for oil by exponential proportions (Gibson). Reliance on fossils fuels for automotive power is the central hindrance on our budget. The Obama administration currently supports means for creating and producing clean energy. An example of this are the new solar companies subsidized by the national government in California. The restrictions on becoming totally reliant on alternative fuels lies in the cost of bringing about these changes, just as oil continues to pressure our current budget.
The application of new technologies to make oil consuming items such as cars more efficient would make a pivotal impact on the United States consumption of oil. Improving energy efficiency will not only reduce energy use but the green house gas emissions as well. Technologies involving solar or electric powered engines in cars could potentially drop CO2 emissions 28% below what they were in 2005 according to a study led by McKinsey and Company (Roberts). In addition, saving energy is less expensive than making it. Since transportation takes up 95% of crude oil consumption, making energy efficient cars, trains, and planes is fastest way to cut oil use (Roberts). In the 2007 energy bill, standard mpg for automobiles rose from 25 to 35. This increase will cut our oil imports by 3.6 million barrels a day by the year 2030 (Roberts). If car manufacturers were to switch to plug-in hybrid cars, oil imports would decrease by 9 million barrels a day by the same time (Roberts). That's about a 70% decrease just by changing the technology we use with the same energy source, oil.
It is obvious to see, that without the implications of new technology, the energy crisis will continue to spiral out of control. With such great potential to create clean, efficient energy, the prospects for the future can be exponential if these new technologies are put into action. The United States as a whole would not only be able to radically change this nation, but the entire world by distributing the methods for producing efficient energy.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More School?

There are three hundred and sixty five days in a year. From this most students in the United States spend about an average of one hundred and eighty days in school. Recently President Obama proposed that he would like to make summer vacations shorter and the school year longer. He also said he would like to keep schools open later and on the weekend so students can always have a safe place to go (Anita Gutierrez-Folch).
The United States school calendar is based on an agrarian economy, meaning that it is based on the farming calendar. Obama stated that this calendar does not affect us any longer and "We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day". In many countries all around the world, children are spending on average more than 25% additional time in the classroom every day (Libby Quaid). The President feels that American children need to spend more time in school to keep up with the children of the other countries. Another problem reported is that after summer vacation much time is spent reviewing topics students forget over the summer.
The President's proposal over this issue has caused people all over the United States to have mixed reactions. Parents who do not agree with the proposal feel that it would take away from family time at home (Libby Quaid). Longer school days would also cut into the extracurricular activities that are so prevalent in many American children's lives such as sports, music lessons, club activities, and even jobs. People have also said this will just increase the stress on American students, many who are already leading high stress academic and personal lives. Plus having more school would increase the cost with more money needed for teachers, support staff, and building maintenance just to name a few (Anita Gutierrez-Folch).
Americans who do agree with the proposal say that cutting summer vacation will make it so teachers won't have to spend so much time at the beginning of each school year reviewing what students learned the year before because they forgot it (Libby Quaid). Many also feel year round school and/or longer school days will benefit the majority of American families and children who now come from homes where both parents are working and so therefore there is no one at home to support and supervise the children at the end of the school day. Many younger children especially are already staying longer hours in school participating in various after school care programs. Above all, those in favor of the proposal feel that for the youth of America to be able to compete and work successfully in the global market today the USA must change its school system to equal that of other powerhouse nations.
Whether President Obama is able to make any of his proposed changes take place during his years in office remain to be seen. He is not the person to suggest these changes or to start dialog about this topic. As a high student myself I can only hope these changes do not happen before I graduate.

- Icecube

Works Cited
Anita Gutierrez-Folch. "Obama Pushes for More School, Less Vacation." FindingDulcinea | Online Guides | Internet Library | Web Resources. Web. Nov. 2009.
QUAID, LIBBY. "Kids beware: Obama would cut summer break |." KOMO News. Web. Nov. 2009.

American Energy Dependence

"Energy is the single most important problem facing humanity today — not just the U.S., but also worldwide."  This quote is from Nobel Laureate, Dr. Richard Smalley.  While energy is a problem worldwide, it is a huge problem for the United States.  The United States of America makes up about five percent of the world's population, yet the country uses around twenty-six percent of the world's oil supply.  Most of the oil is imported from other places.  This causes both economic and security issues for our country.  It would be extremely beneficial, in many ways, for our country to gain more energy independence.

The United States consumes massive amounts of oil daily and yearly.  Seventy percent of all U.S. oil consumption is for transportation.  Sixty-five percent of that is for personal vehicles.  American drivers consume around nine million barrels of oil per day.  Those nine million barrels are almost half of the twenty million barrels the United States uses daily.  America imports nearly ten million barrels of crude oil every day and sixty percent of that comes from OPEC.    

OPEC stands for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.  This organization includes the countries of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, and Gabon.  All countries are foreign and some we have even been, or are currently, at war with.  America spends more than twenty-five billion dollars a year importing from the Persian Golf.  Due to the United States' overwhelming need for foreign oil, there has been growth in the country's economic and political vulnerability. 

            With the amount of money that the United States spends on foreign energy, especially in the Middle East, it is hard not to think that at least some of that money is going towards dictators and groups that dislike our country.  When America deals with these countries, we trade our wealth for their oil.  This gives these angry dictators and groups more money.  If the U.S. stopped trade with these countries, it would cut off a lot of money from eventually making it to possibly terroristic associations.

            The United States has become a customer of OPEC and other oil companies in the Middle East and Africa.  As an extremely large customer, the business would have a hard time trying to stop selling oil to America.  If the United States, however, stopped buying the oil, it

could most likely cripple a business.  The U.S. is a major revenue source of the oil industry and it would be a gigantic loss for the other companies.  Without the money that the countries make from America, they would be reduced to very small importance.

            Because the United States of America is so dependent on foreign nations for energy, it allows those nations to influence our economy.  We buy massive amounts of oil per day, which we hope that money doesn't come back to hurt us in some way.  But also, by depending on OPEC and other countries for energy, the United States allows them to determine how much the oil will cost.   Barack Obama said that we must become independent because, "it puts the American people at the mercy of shifting gas prices, stifles innovation, and sets back our ability to compete."  American Presidents, however, have been promising energy independence since Nixon promised to be independent by the end of the 1970s.  Now, still, today, President Obama is coming up with a new plan.

-Hulk Hogan

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Change in Policy

National security is a big issue in the United States especially after the reminder of the September 11 attacks with the trials of alleged terror suspects.  This tragedy awakened a new sense of unity among the American people as well as instilling a new fear of outside threats.  With this fear the national government took steps to further the country's security including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.  Another step taken by the president of the time, George W. Bush, was the creation of a missile defense program based in Europe to protect against missile threats from Iran.  Early September our current president Barack Obama eliminated this program set up under the Bush administration and is currently under fire for this decision.

            President Bush's plan was to create a base in Poland for interceptor missiles and radar stations in the Czech Republic. The basis of President Obama's decision to scrap the program was that Iran did not possess the ability to launch a missile that would endanger the United States or its European allies.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates defended the decision by stating that the threat of long-range missiles from Iran was not as immediate as previously feared.  Instead of Bush's proposed plan the new policy under the Obama administration would be as follows: "a redesigned system based on mobile land and sea-based interceptors [that] would be cheaper and more effective against the region's greatest missile threat, Iran.  The new system would focus on mobile medium and short-range missiles, rather than longer-range threats." These are the words of Mr. Gates when asked by US News Weekly to describe the new program.

            The new plan has strong opponents in the Republican Party including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former presidential nominee John McCain.  Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, "This is going to be seen as a capitulation to the Russians, who had no real basis to object to what we were doing.  And at the end of the day you empowered the Russians, you made Iran happy, and you made the people in Eastern Europe wonder who we are as Americans".  Senator McCain made a statement saying "This decision calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic, and has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe.  Given the serious and growing threats posed by Iran's missile and nuclear programs, now is the time when we should look to strengthen our defenses, and those of our allies".  The United States cannot afford to be seen as a weaker country with the new program in effect, especially by removing the program with the approval of Russia.  Strength in Europe for both the U.S.'s sake and that of our allies is of vital importance to keep potential threats from Iran at bay.  Reputation can be a major factor in the way someone, or in this case a country, is perceived by their opponents. 

            The entire situation and string of events eventually boils down to the truth in the statement regarding our safety from missile attacks from Iran.  In May of 2009 Iran launched a new long-range missile showing the strength of their nuclear program.   The missile was a Sejjil-2 surface-to-surface missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers or nearly 1,250 miles, which is far enough to reach Israel, Eastern Europe, and U.S. bases in the Middle East.  The range is similar to that of their Shabab-3 missile, which is suspected to have been designed for carrying a nuclear warhead.  This missile is the longest-range solid-propellant missile launched by Iran thus far, raising governments officials concern as the to the sophistication of Tehran's missile program.  These types of rockets are of increased concern because they can be fueled in advance,moved and then hidden away.  So with this said how safe are we?

            There is a confirmed danger of attack from Iran with the launch of this missile earlier in the year.  Keeping that in mind, what are President Obama's intentions for changing a program that would protect us, and our allies, from such a threat?  Is he bowing down to political pressure from Russian leadership over their own concerns for their safety? Bush's administration had repeatedly quelled Russia's fears of attack from the U.S. so, as was stated by Senator Graham, this matter really was none of Russia's concern.  So then was the program changed just to save money? No American citizen can really approve of his or her safety being diminished just for a small budget cut.  President Obama and his Defense Secretary Robert Gates have a careful balancing act ahead of them.  Weighing safety with costs, and missile threats with appeasing other countries can be no small task.  Hopefully our president is up to the challenge of making the best decision in all regards to the missile defense program.


-Pirate For Hire