Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Overzealous Rules May Stifle Germ Research

By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press Writer David Dishneau, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 38 mins ago
HAGERSTOWN, Md. – A panel of university and private-sector scientists urged Congress on Wednesday not to overregulate laboratories that handle the world's deadliest pathogens, saying it could have a chilling effect on research of biological threats.

The 161-page report by a National Research Council committee says the best protection against deliberate misuse of deadly germs is a laboratory culture of trust and responsibility, including peer-reporting of unusual behavior.

The committee is one of several advisory panels created after the FBI concluded last year that Army scientist Bruce Ivins sent anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and sickened 17 others in 2001. Ivins, who worked at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., died of an apparent suicide in July 2008.

Congress is considering heightened security standards for labs that handle deadly pathogens.

At a press briefing in Washington, panel members rejected psychological examinations, polygraph tests and other screening measures used at Defense Department labs. Such "overzealous" regulation in the name of enhanced security could dissuade young scientists from pathogen research and slow progress on protections against biological threats, the report says.

"The committee concluded there is no 'silver bullet,' that is, no single assessment tool that can offer the prospect of effectively screening out every potential terrorist," the report states.

However, monitoring by co-workers and lab managers could detect many problems early, committee members said.

"And that's where you would be able to pick up those types of cues and clues that something's not right that maybe, in some instance, and we would hope never again, would result in another incident like 2001," said Michael G. Gelles, a former Navy criminal psychologist now with Deloitte Consulting LLP in Washington.

Committee Chairwoman Rita R. Colwell, president and chief executive of CosmosID Inc., a Bethesda-based biotechnology company, declined to discuss the Ivins case. But she said measures the government has implemented since the 2001 attacks have improved safety and security.

Those measures include strengthened federal oversight of labs and individuals working with any of the 82 pathogens listed as Biological Select Agents and Toxins.

"I think every lab we visited was striving to meet the guidelines," she told The Associated Press.

The report recommends creation of an advisory committee composed of laboratory and government officials that would help refine the pathogen list and standardize security measures.

The panel recommended that security enhancements focus on labs that work with the fewer than 10 agents known to have been weaponized — including anthrax, plague bacteria, and the ricin and botulism toxins.

One such measure, the committee said, should be a rule that "no one works alone." It would require a second person to be in regular, scheduled voice or video contact with someone working with a pathogen, although not necessarily in the same lab.

Such a rule, intended mainly as a safety precaution, differs from the "two-person" rule regulators considered in the wake of the Ivins disclosures. A two-person rule would require a second person to be in the lab. Many scientists said it would be too cumbersome and could endanger the second person.

David R. Franz, a former commander of the Army lab at Fort Detrick who now works for contractor Midwest Research Institute in Frederick, opposed a two-person rule but said a "no one works alone" rule makes sense.

"When you look at the safety implications, the cost and efficiency implications and the security implications together, the approach proposed in this report looks reasonable to me," Franz wrote in an e-mail.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who called last week for heightened biolab security, said he supports the panel's recommendations for coordinated oversight and pathogen prioritization.

"I look forward to also reviewing the report's recommendations in terms of the trade-offs between strengthening security and chilling bioterrorism research," Cardin said.

I chose this article because although it is not something that we consider on a daily basis, this issue is something that will affect us, directly or indirectly, some way or another. These labs are doing things from developing vaccines for deadly viruses to better understanding dangers like anthrax. What takes place in these laboratories greatly affects healthcare, national security, and therefore, us. If these new implications hinder the researchers, we're going to see it & feel the negative effects, but if it benefits the laboratories we'll also see a rise in the stability of healthcare and national security.

Despite Media Blitz, Little Change in Obama Job Approval

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nebraska Poverty Rate Fell in 2008

By Jeffrey Robb

Even as the recession started to spread across the country, Nebraska was able to lift people out of poverty, new figures from a federal survey indicate.

Iowa, however, saw its poverty rate increase.

The U.S. Census Bureau, in figures released this morning, says Nebraska's poverty rate dipped to 10.8 percent in 2008 — one of 18 states to see a drop from 2007.

In Iowa, one of 30 states to see an increase in poverty, the rate went from 11 percent to 11.5 percent.

Nebraska's decline — from 11.2 percent in 2007 — backs up other evidence that the state fared relatively well through the recession's early months. Last week, new census figures indicated that Nebraska had the country's seventh-highest growth in real income.

The figures being released today as part of the American Community Survey also show that in the Omaha metro area, the poverty rate was essentially unchanged at 10.7 percent. Statewide, child poverty dropped to 13.4 percent in Nebraska, from 14.5 percent in 2007.

Still, even the positive numbers provided little comfort to groups who saw the recession taking people to the financial edge as it continued beyond the census year into 2009.

“Some of the worst is here and happening,” said Kate Bolz, a community educator with the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest.

Coinciding with the new census figures, the Appleseed Center is releasing a report today on childhood hunger.

The Lincoln-based nonprofit says 14 percent of Nebraska children are “food insecure,” meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from or might be forced to miss a meal. Yet federal food programs that exist to serve low-income Nebraska children are not being used to their fullest, the group says.

Appleseed called for an increase in the income eligibility limits for the federally subsidized breakfast and lunch programs. The state also should boost reimbursement rates, provide grants to get programs started and offer transportation, the group said.

The report doesn't answer how the state would pay for improvements. While the federal government covers the cost of food, the state helps pay to run the programs.

Nationally, the new census figures reflect the recession's reach across the country by 2008.

Between 2007 and 2008, the national poverty rate grew from 13 percent to 13.2 percent, an 11-year high. Overall, 1 million more people were living in poverty, which this year translates to an income of $22,050 for a family of four.

Household income declined across all groups, but at sharper percentage levels for middle-income and poor Americans.

That has widened the economic gap between the richest and poorest Americans.

The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans — those making more than $138,000 each year — earned 11.4 times the amount made by someone living near or below the poverty line in 2008, according to the census figures. That ratio increased from 11.2 in 2007 and the previous high of 11.22 in 2003.

“No one should be surprised at the increased disparity,” said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University. “Unemployment hurts normal workers who do not have the golden parachutes the folks at the top have.”

Any state that saw its poverty rate drop performed relatively well in the early part of the recession, said David Drozd, a demographer with the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Center for Public Affairs Research.

But Kathy Bigsby Moore, executive director of Voices for Children in Nebraska, said she believes the worst of the statistics for Nebraska's poor families are yet to come.

“Families, particularly families with young children, are struggling daily to keep food on the table and clothes on their backs, much less provide health care coverage.”

World-Herald staff writer Erin Grace contributed to this report, which also includes material from the Associated Press.

US Income Gap Widens as Poor Take Hit in Recession

By HOPE YEN Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The recession has hit middle-income and poor families hardest, widening the economic gap between the richest and poorest Americans as rippling job layoffs ravaged household budgets.

The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans - those making more than $138,000 each year - earned 11.4 times the roughly $12,000 made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008, according to newly released census figures. That ratio was an increase from 11.2 in 2007 and the previous high of 11.22 in 2003.

Household income declined across all groups, but at sharper percentage levels for middle-income and poor Americans. Median income fell last year from $52,163 to $50,303, wiping out a decade's worth of gains to hit the lowest level since 1997.

Poverty jumped sharply to 13.2 percent, an 11-year high.

"No one should be surprised at the increased disparity," said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University. "Unemployment hurts normal workers who do not have the golden parachutes the folks at the top have."

Analysts attributed the widening gap to the wave of layoffs in the economic downturn that have devastated household budgets. They said while the richest Americans may be seeing reductions in executive pay, those at the bottom of the income ladder are often unemployed and struggling to get by.

Large cities such as Atlanta, Washington, New York, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago had the most inequality, due largely to years of middle-class flight to the suburbs. Declining industrial cities with pockets of well-off neighborhoods, such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y., also had sharp disparities.

Up-and-coming cities with growing middle-class populations, such as Mesa, Ariz., Riverside, Calif., Arlington, Texas, and Henderson, Nev., were among the areas showing the least income differences between rich and poor.

It's unclear whether income inequality will continue to worsen in major cities, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Many Americans are staying put for now in traditional cities to look for jobs and because of frozen lines of credit.

"During the years of the housing bubble, there was middle-class movement from unaffordable metros with high-income inequality," Frey said. "Now that the bubble burst, more of the population may be headed back to the high-inequality areas, stemming their middle-class losses."

As to poverty, the biggest shifts last year were increases in metropolitan areas in Florida and central California. Stockton, Calif., jumped from 14.1 percent to 16.8 percent, while Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., rose from 12.7 percent to 15.4 percent. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando, Bradenton and Palm Bay - all in Florida - also saw gains in the share of poor residents.

Among other findings:

_Income at the top 5 percent of households - those making $180,000 or more - was 3.58 times the median income, the highest since 2006.

_Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia had higher poverty rates than the national average, many of them in the South, such as Mississippi (21.2 percent), Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana (each with 17.3 percent). That's compared with 19 states and the District of Columbia that ranked above U.S. poverty in 2007.

_Use of food stamps jumped 13 percent last year to nearly 9.8 million U.S. households, led by Louisiana, Maine and Kentucky. The increase was most evident in households with two or more workers, highlighting the impact of the recession on both working families and unemployed single people.

_Pharr, Texas, and Flint, Mich., each had more than a third of its residents on food stamps, at 38.5 percent and 35.4 percent, respectively.

_Between 2007 and 2008, income at the 50th percentile (median) and the 10th percentile fell by 3.6 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, compared with a 2.1 percent decline at the 90th percentile. Between 1999 and 2008, income at the 50th and 10th percentiles decreased 4.3 percent and 9 percent, respectively, while income at the 90th percentile was statistically unchanged.

_Plano, Texas, a Dallas suburb, had the highest median income among larger cities, earning $85,003. Cleveland ranked at the bottom, at $26,731.

The findings come as the federal government considers new regulations to rein in executive pay at companies in which it has invested. President Barack Obama also typically cites the need for higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for health care overhaul and other measures, arguing that the wealthy have disproportionately benefited from tax cuts during the Bush administration.

The 2008 figures come from the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, which gathers information from 3 million households. The government first began tracking household income in 1967.


More school: Obama would curtail summer vacation

By LIBBY QUAID AP Education Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Students beware: The summer vacation you just enjoyed could be sharply curtailed if President Barack Obama gets his way.

Obama says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe.

"Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year. "Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.

"Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Fifth-grader Nakany Camara is of two minds. She likes the four-week summer program at her school, Brookhaven Elementary School in Rockville, Md. Nakany enjoys seeing her friends there and thinks summer school helped boost her grades from two Cs to the honor roll.

But she doesn't want a longer school day. "I would walk straight out the door," she said.

Domonique Toombs felt the same way when she learned she would stay for an extra three hours each day in sixth grade at Boston's Clarence R. Edwards Middle School.

"I was like, `Wow, are you serious?'" she said. "That's three more hours I won't be able to chill with my friends after school."

Her school is part of a 3-year-old state initiative to add 300 hours of school time in nearly two dozen schools. Early results are positive. Even reluctant Domonique, who just started ninth grade, feels differently now. "I've learned a lot," she said.

Does Obama want every kid to do these things? School until dinnertime? Summer school? And what about the idea that kids today are overscheduled and need more time to play?

Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.

"Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here," Duncan told the AP. "I want to just level the playing field."

While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it's not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests - Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).

Regardless, there is a strong case for adding time to the school day.

Researcher Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution looked at math scores in countries that added math instruction time. Scores rose significantly, especially in countries that added minutes to the day, rather than days to the year.

"Ten minutes sounds trivial to a school day, but don't forget, these math periods in the U.S. average 45 minutes," Loveless said. "Percentage-wise, that's a pretty healthy increase."

In the U.S., there are many examples of gains when time is added to the school day.

Charter schools are known for having longer school days or weeks or years. For example, kids in the KIPP network of 82 charter schools across the country go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., more than three hours longer than the typical day. They go to school every other Saturday and for three weeks in the summer. KIPP eighth-grade classes exceed their school district averages on state tests.

In Massachusetts' expanded learning time initiative, early results indicate that kids in some schools do better on state tests than do kids at regular public schools. The extra time, which schools can add as hours or days, is for three things: core academics - kids struggling in English, for example, get an extra English class; more time for teachers; and enrichment time for kids.

Regular public schools are adding time, too, though it is optional and not usually part of the regular school day. Their calendar is pretty much set in stone. Most states set the minimum number of school days at 180 days, though a few require 175 to 179 days.

Several schools are going year-round by shortening summer vacation and lengthening other breaks.

Many schools are going beyond the traditional summer school model, in which schools give remedial help to kids who flunked or fell behind.

Summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents.

That makes poor children almost totally dependent on their learning experience at school, said Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, home of the National Center for Summer Learning.

Disadvantaged kids, on the whole, make no progress in the summer, Alexander said. Some studies suggest they actually fall back. Wealthier kids have parents who read to them, have strong language skills and go to great lengths to give them learning opportunities such as computers, summer camp, vacations, music lessons, or playing on sports teams.

"If your parents are high school dropouts with low literacy levels and reading for pleasure is not hard-wired, it's hard to be a good role model for your children, even if you really want to be," Alexander said.

Extra time is not cheap. The Massachusetts program costs an extra $1,300 per student, or 12 percent to 15 percent more than regular per-student spending, said Jennifer Davis, a founder of the program. It received more than $17.5 million from the state Legislature last year.

The Montgomery County, Md., summer program, which includes Brookhaven, received $1.6 million in federal stimulus dollars to operate this year and next, but it runs for only 20 days.

Aside from improving academic performance, Education Secretary Duncan has a vision of schools as the heart of the community. Duncan, who was Chicago's schools chief, grew up studying alongside poor kids on the city's South Side as part of the tutoring program his mother still runs.

"Those hours from 3 o'clock to 7 o'clock are times of high anxiety for parents," Duncan said. "They want their children safe. Families are working one and two and three jobs now to make ends meet and to keep food on the table."

Associated Press writer Russell Contreras in Boston contributed to this report.

A Constitutional Debate Over a Health Care Mandate

By Katharine Q. Seelye
The New York Times
Sept. 26, 2009

The requirement that everyone buy health insurance moved a step closer to reality last week — and possibly a step closer to being challenged in court.

Conservatives and libertarians, mostly, have been advancing the theory lately that the individual mandate, in which the government would compel everyone to buy insurance or pay a penalty, is unconstitutional.

“I think an individual mandate will pass, and I think it’s going to be very vulnerable because it exceeds Congress’s constitutional authority,” said David Rivkin, a lawyer who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Mr. Rivkin spelled out his argument in a recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal that he co-wrote.

“If you say the government can mandate your behavior as far as this type of insurance goes,” he said, “there will be nothing the government can’t do. They can control every single way in which you dispose of your income.”

But while Mark A. Hall, a professor of law and public health at Wake Forest University, agrees that the matter could end up in court, he says that a legal challenge is “extremely unlikely to succeed.” The power to impose such a mandate is firmly rooted in the Constitution, Mr. Hall said.

Existing case law provides lots of guidance, but “there is not a Supreme Court decision directly on point because this is unprecedented,” said Mr. Hall, who recently expounded his theory on a Seton Hall University Law School blog.

“Other than serving in the military through the draft or paying your taxes,” he said, “it’s hard to think of anything else that the federal government requires you to do just because you’re a citizen.”

Question of Commerce
Both Mr. Hall and Mr. Rivkin point to the commerce clause of the Constitution to support their views.

Mr. Rivkin says a mandate to buy health insurance goes beyond the scope of that clause because Congress cannot regulate activity that is not economic. But Mr. Hall says it clearly falls under the definition of economic activity.

All five committees in the Democratic-led Congress that have taken up a health care plan this year have supported an individual mandate, with the Senate Finance Committee upholding the idea last week. The bills grant exceptions for a variety of reasons, including religious objections and financial hardship; they also exempt American Indians.

Through the nation’s history, the federal government has imposed its will in various ways, of course, whether through military drafts, the advent of the federal income tax or the requirement that working people contribute part of their earnings to Social Security.

Still, a health insurance mandate would be in many ways new for the United States. In 1994, during the debate over the Clinton health care plan, the Congressional Budget Office described an individual mandate as “an unprecedented form of federal action.”

“The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States,” the budget office wrote. “An individual mandate has two features that, in combination, make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would have to be heavily regulated by the federal government.”

Shifting Views
Those favoring an overhaul of the health care system say that requiring everyone to carry insurance is essential to making insurance affordable, chiefly by broadening the risk pool to include those who are young and healthy and go without insurance now.

The insurance lobby would not support overhauling the system without the individual mandate. President Obama supports it too, although during the presidential campaign last year he supported a mandate for children only.

Objections have been picking up steam since Mr. Rivkin and others began writing op-ed articles against the idea this summer. And some Republicans, like Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who supported the idea earlier this year, now oppose it. Opponents say that compelling people to spend part of their income on something they may not want is an unwarranted intrusion by government.

Still others have questioned how the mandate would work and suggested that a government-run insurance plan, including a single-payer system, or a system of tax subsidies could be “more efficient in containing costs and avoid the slippery slope of unconstitutional mandates.”

The Congressional Research Service recently grappled with the legal underpinnings of an individual mandate and concluded that Congress “may have” the power to enact a mandate “as part of its taxing and spending power or its power to regulate interstate commerce.”

Still, it sees potential pitfalls, noting: “Whether such a requirement would be constitutional under the commerce clause is perhaps the most challenging question posed by such a proposal, as it is a novel issue whether Congress may use this clause to require an individual to purchase a good or service.”

If the individual mandate were found to be unconstitutional, the health care overhaul as it is now structured by many committees in Congress would almost certainly collapse.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dance team raises money for teenagers in need

By Bethany Hughes
Times Managing Editor
Published: Sunday, September 20, 2009 3:11 AM CDT

As the Papillion-La Vista South dance team raises money for its program, the girls are raising the bar in giving as well.

This year, the team — the Sapphires — decided to donate 25 percent of its raised funds to Youth Emergency Services, a shelter for teens in Omaha.

“It feels good to give back to the community,” said senior and the team captain, Megan Wegenhoft, 17.

The girls’ only goal is to raise as much as they possibly can, Wegenhoft said. In addition to giving a quarter of their funds to YES, they also need to fund their trip to nationals this year.

The girls decided to donate money to YES because they could relate to the teenagers the program helps, said Kylie Adolf, 16, a junior on the team. Adolf’s mom, Vicki, was instrumental in putting the idea in the girls’ heads.

Much of the fundraising this year is traditional — spirit wear, T-shirts, a dance clinic on Oct. 9, and even a Nebraska Huskers football tickets raffle.

On Aug. 28, the team also performed at YES’s Dance for a Chance, a Dancing With the Stars-like fundraiser held at the DC Centre in west Omaha. The event raised $18,000, according to the program’s Web site.

“(Giving) makes us feel more fortunate,” Adolf said.

Wegenhoft agreed.

“(It) makes us realize how much we have,” she added.

Making Money Post Mortem

Watch CBS News Videos Online

I thought this was related to government as it is dealing with property rights for deceased individuals and their families. Check it out. Very interesting business.

General McChrsytal

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Community Participation and Involvement

Siena's Research about Social Capital in New York.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Terror suspect allegedly planned to attack Marine base

I picked this article because terror in our amazing country is a major problem. People attack the country they live in and in my opinion it is a lot of mental illness driving their threats. In this case the man wanted to attack a marine base which does not make a bit of sense because they are the ones who protect our wonderful country. It really maked me mad that people wheather they live in america or somewhere else would do something like that. I am completely disgusted  by these people. In my opinion love it or hate it and if you hate it, leave it.

The charge is one of three counts in a new indictment against Daniel Patrick Boyd, who authorities allege is the ringleader of a group of men charged with training in North Carolina for a "violent jihad." Boyd and another man, Hysen Sherifi, are charged with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel.

"Boyd undertook reconnaissance of the Marine Corps Base located in Quantico, Virginia, and obtained maps of the base in order to plan an attack on Quantico," the charges state.

FBI agents found weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and $13,000 cash in Boyd's Raleigh-area home, an FBI agent testified at an August bond hearing for the men, who were arrested in late July. The original indictment says the men practiced military tactics in a North Carolina county that borders Virginia.

The latest indictment also charges Boyd, Sherifi, and Boyd's son Zakariya with possession of weapons in furtherance of a crime of violence, while Boyd faces an additional charge of providing a rifle and ammunition to a convicted felon.

Boyd and seven others already have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people. One of the men is believed to have fled to Pakistan, and the remaining men are in custody.

In August, a federal judge denied bail for the seven in custody, but expressed skepticism about the charges against them. Magistrate Judge William Webb said the defendants made a number statements espousing holy war, and said the statements could be interpreted in isolation as braggadocio.

But he agreed to keep them in jail because some of them had amassed a large arsenal and engaged in firearms training

Are We Ready for an Emergency?

Are We Ready for an Emergency?


            August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in Louisiana. Around 11 a.m. a major levee in New Orleans breaks and the city begins to flood. Thousands of people were stuck in the city; in the Superdome and in their houses (most often on the roof). All these people were either in need of rescue or basic needs of food and water. What would you do now?

            You can't always know when, where, or how bad a disaster can strike. But when it does, we need a plan to help rescue and then help the community to recover. We thought we had this in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), but when the hurricane victims needed the rescue and recovery effort, FEMA was slow to respond. Then the chief of FEMA resigned and it seemed as if they were unprepared to handle the situation. Of course, you can't really fully prepare for an event as catastrophic as that, but there should still be order and a base plan to start the recovery effort.

            This applies to today, in 2009, by the effects of the efforts of recovery. I went down to New Orleans this summer on a service trip and got a good look at the city and the areas it was hardest hit. Four years later there is still a lot of work to be done. The lower ninth ward of the city isn't nearly close to being back where it was. There are mostly still vacant homes, empty lots, overgrown vegetation, and still ruins of what were houses or buildings. In the downtown area there are buildings that used to be malls, or even a hospital, that are now just sitting vacant because they still aren't able to be used. Of course, the rebuilding effort has been forgotten long ago by the media while there are still many things to be done. One question would be if we are sending money and troops into foreign nations to help rebuild their government and country, shouldn't we take care of ours first?

            We should be more prepared for a situation like this by making sure that we can recover from it. Government should maybe look more into the problems in our own country more readily than looking in other countries. What if disaster struck Omaha? A bad storm could produce a large or maybe even multiple tornadoes that could tear through the city. I think we would appreciate a little help and have the assurance that we could recover. On a much larger (and hopefully never happens), what if an atomic bomb would strike our country? We've been worried about other countries testing nuclear devices, but are we ready to respond and react if something like that was launched at us? Hopefully, we can prepare and be ready for an emergency situation so that we won't have to suffer the consequences for a long time.


- The Man with No Name    

The Final Chapter

Got Troops?

Gadhafi at the U.N.

Micahel Moore on Larry King


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gallup Poll - More Government?

Importing Teachers?

Would you pay $8,000 to come to the U.S. and teach?

Obama on Letterman

Assault Weapons Ban

Assault Weapons Ban
People, over the years, have started to wonder whether a ban on assault weapons would help lower the crime rate. A ten year study conducted from 1994 -2004, shows that the crime rate had dropped greatly.  In a 2004 report, examining the effects of the ban, it was shown that out of 1.4 million guns involved in crime, assault weapons made up only 1.61%, a drop off 66% from the pre-ban rate; this translated into 60,000 prevented assault weapon crimes over the 10 year ban period.
The effectiveness of the weapons ban is still being debated. Supporters of strict gun control point to the fact that now, with the expiration of the ban, law officers face an increase of assault weapons in everything from robberies to basic traffic stops. Opponents of the ban, however, insist that it is too early to get an accurate picture of the Assault Weapons Ban effectiveness and that it could very well have had a minimal impact on crime. I believe that it is too early to tell what kind of impact this ban actually had on the national crime rate.
In February 2007 a bill sponsored by Representative Carolyn McCarthy was introduced that would cut in half the classification requirements of 'assault weapons' thus broadening the reach of the law. The bill, referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on March 19, 2007.
Many Americans are opposed to the ban because they believe it violates the second amendment (the right to bear arms). This is true. As citizens of the United States we should be able to choose to have assault weapons or not. I do think that before assault weapons are sold, there should be a very thorough background check. This will help lower the likelihood of the wrong type of people getting these powerful weapons.
- Scrubs

Monday, September 21, 2009

Being for Open Adoption

People choose to adopt children for many reasons. All have the same goal of having a family, but the reason why people actually adopt goes much deeper than that. Common reasons people adopt are that someone in the couple is infertile (or even both can be), they can pass on a disease to a biological child, or people may adopt to save children from bad situations and give them better lives. There is also stepparent adoption, international adoption, interracial adoption, and even homosexual adoption. In every case, at some point or another, the question arises whether the adoptees (children) have the right to know who their biological parents are, otherwise known as open adoption.
I think that those who are against open adoption haven't seen what can happen when an adoption isn't open. For example, my uncle is adopted. When he married my mom's sister, like any other couple, they wanted to have a baby; they were going to, but something went horribly wrong.
My aunt found out that the baby inside her was only going to have a brain stem-no brain had formed. The child would've had a very hard and most likely short life, so they terminated the pregnancy. My aunt and uncle went to the court system, and found out that my uncle had some condition from his biological parents that caused Tina (that was going to be the baby's name) to not have a brain. However, since his adoption was not open, they couldn't release the condition; they could only tell him it existed. Just think how much easier it would've been on them if they knew before-hand about the condition-it would've saved them so much hardship (Robertus interview).
Another argument that opposers of open adoption have is that the birth parents will change their mind and try to reclaim the child. According to Kathleen Silber, who is the assistant director of the Independent Adoption Center located in Pleasant Hill, CA, "adoptive parents usually fear open adoption at first…as they learn about it, we find that most couples want it." Silber also said that "the adoptive parents get peace of mind from knowing the birth mother has chosen them, and seeing that she is committed to the family she has created…the birth mother also gains peace of mind, when she sees the child is loved and well." Silber's center counsels to about two-hundred adoptions per year (Esch, no page).
Another opposing view on open adoption is that it violates the birth parents' right to privacy. In 2005 in Ontario, Canada, The Adoption Information Disclosure Act (Bill 183) was created. Here is how it was laid out:
Right To Information
* Adoptees who are 18 years old or older will be able to obtain copies of their original birth registrations that will provide them with their original birth name and may identify birth parents.
* Adoptees who are 18 years old or older will be able to obtain copies of their adoption orders that may provide information on the adopted person's given name at birth, birth registration number and name of adoptive parents.
* Birth parents will be able to have access to information from their child's birth records and adoption orders if the adoptee is 19 years old or older. Information about the adoptive parents would be removed from the adoption records.
* Adult adoptees will be able to register a "waiver of protection" that will allow the Ontario Registrar General to release information to a birth parent even though the adopted person may have been a victim of abuse by the birth parent.
Protecting Privacy
* Birth parents and adult adoptees can apply to the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB) to prohibit disclosure of identifying information in circumstances where there are concerns about preventing sexual harm or significant physical/emotional harm.
* Birth parents and adult adoptees can register a "no contact" notice with the Registrar General. This means the birth parent or adoptee must agree, in writing, not to contact the person who registered the "no contact" notice, before he or she can receive information from the birth registration or adoption order. A person who violates a "no contact" notice may be fined up to $50,000.
* When an individual registers a "no contact" notice, it may include family and medical history and a brief statement concerning the person's reasons for not wishing to be contacted. That information will be passed on to the adoptee or birth parent if he or she applies to the Registrar General. (New media journalism).
Not in every case do birth parents want privacy, or are able to keep it though. Andrew Knight of Ontario was able to convince officials to let him to find his birth mother, Barb Beveridge, because he suffered a blood disorder in 1999, and needed her to provide health information; neither has been affected negatively because of this. "It's something that has enriched and broadened my life in so many different ways," said Knight; Beveridge has no regrets about being contacted, and that Knight is now "an integral part of her life." He was even walked down the aisle at his wedding by her and his adoptive mother, Janet Knight (Volmers, no page).
What if it is a child who wants to know where they came from? In Minnesota, Sydney Eiselt was able to grow up knowing who her mother is. Melissa Oys (the birth mother) and her family thought they wouldn't have very much contact with her at first, but the Eiselts gladly welcomed them. Peggy Eiselt said that she can't imagine kids not knowing their roots. (If one thinks about it, it really would be hard to not know where you are from.) The Eiselts adopted another child, and keep that adoption open as well, and the birth mother even said "he (Jordan) is a very important person in my life, and he always will be." She gets to visit him, and Peggy emails his updates to her (Beckstrom, no page). If this was in every adoption case, children would never have to wonder who their parents are.
Open adoption is not only better for the child, but for the parents (both sets). For the birth parents, like Silber said, they are truly happy when they know their child is being loved and is happy. The adoptive parents will be happy because they can give that love and happiness to the child. As already pointed out, the child will never have to possibly hurt their adoptive parents by asking where they are from- they already know as long as it's open. In the case of my uncle (and I'm sure there are others), if his adoption had been open, he and my aunt would've been saved from a lot of grief. Adoption in general is for sure better than abortion (but that's a completely different issue), and when it is open, it brings happiness to everyone involved, not to mention that there are no secrets-just complete honesty, which truly brings success in any relationship.
Blue Eyed Texas Belle

Works Cited
Beckstrom, Maja. "Thanks to Open Adoption Rules, Kids Grow Up Knowing Who They Are and Where They Came From." Sirs Researcher, 3 June 2003. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. <>.
Esch, Mary. "OPEN ADOPTION GAINING ACCEPTANCE ACROSS U.S." 16 Jan. 1994. Web. 19 Sept. 2009. <>.
New media journalism, 2008. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. <>.
Robertus, Todd. Telephone interview. Aug. 2009.
Volmers, Eric. "Adopting Controversy with Bill 183." Sirs Researcher, 15 Aug. 2005. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. <>.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Government's Public Option- Cheap, But Fair?

The political issue that Barack Obama has decided to make his own for his first term is health care. And, as such, the issue for the mainly-Democratic Congress, and their Republican opponents, is.. Health care. As stated in the Republican rebuttal to Obama's speech to the Joint Session of Congress last week by Charles Boustany (R-Louisiana), Democrats and Republicans agree on most of the bill. But, there are a few main differences between their philosophies. Mainly, the issue of a government-funded public option.

Democrats argue that the public option is a distraction. "That (reducing the deficit) is really the meat of the matter, not the distraction of whether it's a co-op or a public option. That's a small part of this," said Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. Yes, it isn't the whole issue. But, in a debate where both sides are trying to reach similar ends, and actually agree on many points, the differences stand out. But, what is the public option?

Basically, the public option is government-funded health care. It serves a large purpose in the President's plan for health care, which is based on the belief that everyone in the United States must have health insurance. While this idea is good on paper, it is a bit more difficult to make work in practice. Not everyone can afford to pay for health insurance as an individual, and some of those who technically can, choose not to. The public option creates an alternative to signing up for an expensive policy- much cheaper, government-run health insurance.

This is where the plan gets a little sketchy. Again, it looks good on paper. The concept of everyone having inexpensive coverage is definitely attractive, and the Obama administration maintains that everyone retains the right to choose between the government-run option and their current provider. Sounds like a win for all, right?

The simple fact is, some may not have the right to choose. Health care is often provided through one's employer, and it is obviously a business. So, look at it from a business perspective.

You are the owner of a large company, in the billions-and-trillions of dollars range. And, as everyone can see, our health care system isn't functioning as well as it should be. 37th worldwide..? Come on. Health care is overpriced, for one. And, while running the company, you must provide health insurance for your employees. Now, this is a money issue, not a quality-of-care issue, for any CEO. You'll pick the least expensive option, as will everyone else. Why not?

But, the least expensive option will soon be the government. This will lead to a certain downsizing of the health insurance market, as the companies with government backing survive. Small-business owners are worried about the plan, as are people with jobs in the health care industry. In the words of Kimberly Weatherford, owner of Red Eagle Software Consulting in Atlanta, "I may not be REQUIRED to make a change, but the financial impact of the reforms may REQUIRE that I make a change."

Where does this lead?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Religion in Public Schools

I think that this article ties into the learning of American Government because it deals with the seperation of church and state. It tells of a althetic director who said a prayer at a school event. This is also an issue of freedom of speech because shouldn't he have to right to express his faith. Expressing his faith doesn't mean you are endorsing a religion.

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Gun Control and Crime Rates

"Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would." (John Adams, Boston Gazette Sept. 5, 1763)

The 2nd amendment of the constitution specifically states that, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" (The Second Amendment of the US Constitution). This grants us, the citizens of this country, the right to bear arms.

The greatest debate on guns is its relation to crime rates; do guns cause crimes or prevent them? The answer is neither, guns are just tools. People have been killing each other with what ever advantage they can get since the beginning of time. Guns aren't the cause of crime, people with guns are, and people with guns also stop crimes and fight for our freedom. "A statute is not a magic wand. Simply passing a law will not necessarily get people to change their behavior" (Daniel D. Polsby, Yes, there will be people out there that will take advantage of guns in a negative way, but there are many more that respect the power and possible lethality of the weapon.

According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the number of guns per 1,000 population has very little affect on the number of homicides and suicides. In fact, the little affect of the guns has the crimes going slightly down! Although there is no significant change through history, this information can also be used to prove my point: guns don't commit crimes people do.

The right to own and keep a concealed weapon on you is a constitution right as well as a natural right of possession and self-defense. Guns, although highly debated, are completely constitutional, American, and may be necessary for survival. The founders of the country put its laws in the constitution for a reason and we really have place to say what they created was wrong. American life with guns has worked so far, and it has become the greatest nation in the world.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Obama's Czars

Miranda for the Pledge?

The White House Responds

MTV VMAs Remix: Kanye West Interrupts Obama's Speech (HD)

Army gets $117 million for emotional training

This article ties in to our American Government class because it shows the difference in opinion of humans like we've been talking about. This program's goal is to end the thought of talking about feelings showing weakness. On one side, you have those who say it is a way too "touchy-feely" approach and on the other they say it is a good idea in developing "Post-traumatic growth." Another question would be is $117 million a bit too drastic for the emotional training of the army? All together I think this ties in to the quote "If humans were angels, we would need no government," meaning everyone would have the same opinion and this debate wouldn't be necessary in the first place.

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" Republican March On Washington" by pprus915

Saturday, September 12th, Washington D.C., the West Front of the Capitol was overflowing with protesters, as many as 2 million. The loud and determined mob was another in a series of 'Tea Party' protests that have been galvanizing a populist movement within the Republican party and conservatives all summer. The crowd was rallied by invocations of God and former President Reagan, and stirred to raucous cheering by Republican lawmakers who joined the rally, such as Rep. Tom Price who shouted over the din, "You will not spend the money of our children and our grandchildren to feed an overstuffed government." Also, dozens of signs were visible praising Rep. Joe Wilson who shouted out, "You lie!" during President Obama's joint address of Congress last week. These events have all sprung from the fact that obama our new African American president of the United States which is a drastic change its self has decided to push for a healthcare reform, and some people aren't used to change.

There are two sides to and argument in any debate and i want to argue both sides of them. President Obama broke racial and societal barriers when he ran and won the canidacy for president in November of 2008. He has since taken on the role as the president of the United States and as his campaign slogan stated he is aiming for change. President Obama is the first major president for change in at least 30 years and in this time there have been republican and democratic presidents that have caused many problems that have hurt the goverment's infastructure. The flaws they have created are now up to president obama to fix.

Being the notorious president for change has requiered him to change and mend the govemment's infastructure. The opposing side would like to say that president obama is a young inexperienced president who has high hopes for change and mending the goverment that he can not live up to. The republicans think that the president and his ideas are change that is unnessacary at a delicate time such as the present cituation with the recession and the severe job losses. The republicans have always had the idea that america has  great infastructure that does not need change but needs slight adjustments. Over the centuries the republicans have become more conservative but in the past the were for  rights for women and slaves and etc. Republicans claim they dont discriminate but with other presidents of the united states of white american nationality the resentment wasnt as strong.

Saturday, September 12th to republicans was a mear cry out for attention. They lost some of there powers in the goverment and they wanted to get there point across that they were not in approval of the healthcare reform that president Obama was proposing. The galvanist have a idea and they want it to be heard they lost the presidency and its only fair that some of there ideas be heard and if they have to bring 2 million people to the nations capital to protest they will do it. Its a natural person especially americans objective is to express there opinion thus the phrase"freedom of speech". What the republicans did was justified by the constitiution and the opinions of the two million that marched and the others that agreed with them.

So I ask you fellow blog reader what do u think was the march on washington in opposition of healthcare a republican cry for help or a republican scandal to make the democratic president look bad?

Gun Control

        If guns kill people then pencils misspell words and forks make people fat.  There have been years of debate spent on the topic of gun control.  Some say it will make our country safer if no one can legally own a fire arm, some say the exact opposite.  It's in our constitution that the citizens of our country may own a legally licensed fire arm if they are 18 or older and a sidearm if they are 21 or over.  Many people have tried and none have succeeded in ridding the nation of firearms and in my eyes no one ever will.

            A gun has never got up and shot somebody so it is impossible to say that guns kill people only people kill people.  Guns are not the problem in crime and death it is the person holding the gun and that is why there are so many background checks and classes required to legally own or operate a gun.  The rate of criminals that have guns has gone down severely because of the new requirements such as; you have to have hunters education to buy a gun and there are now better background checks that make it extremely hard to let a convicted felon to even own a firearm.

            It is our constitutional right to own a firearm as stated in the second amendment, the right to bear arms.  The amendment was originally put  in place as part of the minuteman philosophy that there could be an army ready in a minute to drive off the British.   Some people say that that is no longer needed to support our nation and that there will never be an invasion of our country, they might be right. The only problem is if they are wrong and we have no further defense than our army.  If it were not for our minuteman army in the revolutionary war we may not even live in the country we do today.

            The closest anyone has ever come to removing the firearms from the U.S. was President Clinton and he barely did anything.  During President Clinton's term he made it so a person could only have a maximum of 10 rounds of ammunition in his or her firearm.  This was the closest any person has ever come including President Obama.  Even though Clinton was able to set a limit on how man rounds of ammo could be put into a gun at one time the law was rejected as soon as his term was over.

            The most reoccurring statement made for gun control is to completely remove the firearm from the U.S.  They believe that just because it is unlawful to own a firearm means there will no longer be any guns in the U.S., they are right all law abiding citizen will no longer have a firearm.  The problem is that criminals or people that don't follow the laws already will still be able to obtain and have guns because they don't care what is right or wrong. The only difference that removing firearms from law abiding citizens will make is that they will now be defenseless against criminals that do have firearms.

            So whether it's protecting our constitutional rights, our country, or ourselves in general fire arms are goods things if used by good people.  The good people who own firearms believe in our government and in our constitutional rights, but the few people who chose to abuse their rights give the good people a bad name. That bad name then makes the country look bad and gives the people without proper knowledge of our rights the idea that all people who own guns are bad.


H1N1 Vaccine Approved

President Carter's Remarks

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Iraq War


            According to the associated press count there are a reported 4,344 deaths in Iraq as of Monday 9/14/09.  This count has been gathered since March 2003, the start of the war.  The war in Iraq has caused much more than deaths.  A count of the total revenue lost in the war has skyrocketed to close to $600 billion dollars.  At the beginning before the war, White house executives estimated cost at $100 to $200 billion.  These numbers speak for themselves and many Americans have realized the downfall to this war.  It was necessary for us to invade Iraq after the 9/11 attack, but what are we doing now?  Some might say defending our country and trying to isolate countries who cause threats.  Most will say the war is getting old and these countries no longer impose threat to America.  Our military is now in countries in the Middle East trying to accomplish similar goals as in Iraq.  Our government needs to end this war and start mobilizing troops back to the United States.  My dad is in the army and has been to Kuwait.  I believe in supporting my dad, and the troops, but not the war we are in.  Even though we are starting to pull out soldiers we still are sending units over.  Hopefully now with President Obama in office, people will see how we need to focus on issues in America and stay out of foreign countries unless total necessary.


Written by: Wanton Soup       



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Do You Have the Right to Flip Off a Cop?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Learning Community to be Implemented in Douglas and Sarpy County

Those living in the Omaha metro area must have heard of the school district disputes of recent years. A history of a lack of cooperation, racial division, financial needs, and legislation has created a plan for a Learning Community made up of the 11 Douglas and Sarpy County school districts. Many in these districts may be left wondering what exactly the Learning Community is, what it will involve, and how it will affect them. It also begs the question of will the plan actually work? What is the point of it? It would seem that too many questions have been left unanswered for concerned parents. It therefore seems pertinent to inform those involved of the plan and to point out the flaws, lack of representation, and unjust redistribution that it holds.

In 2000 Omaha Public Schools was struggling financially. As the city of Omaha annexed more surrounding neighborhoods, including the city of Elkhorn, the OPS district attempted to enforce the statute that the school district's boundaries extend as far as the city's boundaries. OPS was also struggling with racial division within its current district. Around the same time the Bellevue and Papillion-LaVista school districts were in a dispute over several Papillion-LaVista elementary schools within Bellevue city limits. Bellevue wished to incorporate them, while Papillion-LaVista insisted that when the concerned neighborhoods had been outside city limits, Bellevue had not wished to deal with funding the building of schools for them. However, now that there were established homes and obtainable revenue, Bellevue wished to incorporate both the neighborhoods and their schools.

The continuing disputes led the Nebraska Legislature to attempt to force cooperation between the school districts. After several months of debate and little progress the result was a bill passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2006. LB1024 created a Learning Community between the districts, froze school district boundaries, and split OPS into three districts based on race. In 2007 LB641 was passed. It amended LB 1024 and allowed OPS to stay as one district. Altogether the bills created a Learning Community, set up a Learning Community Coordinating Council, and established laws to begin for the 2009-2010 school year.

The questions begin. What is the Learning Community? It freezes school district boundaries but opens enrollment within the 11 school districts. This means that any student can go to any school district within the Learning Community. In an attempt to balance the "socio-economic" demographic among the districts, which means priority is given to students who go to a school in the middle of Omaha because it will give them a better balance among races. This also means that if a student chooses to stay in say, Papillion because that is where their family and friends are, they take second priority. The Learning Community will also share tax dollars, state aid, and a common levy tax across the districts. Money will be distributed based on "need". This means that the taxes will be higher in Papillion-LaVista, but more of the money will go into Omaha schools.

What is the Coordinating Council? What will it be able to do? It will levy and distribute the tax across the districts, levy for the budget and for approved projects, develop focus schools and work to "diversify" enrollment in the districts, collect data from the surrounding areas, and add another layer of bureaucracy above the existing district school boards. The area involved will be split into six electoral subdistricts. The largest of these will consist of a majority of the suburban school districts. The Council will be made up of 18 voting members, three from each district. They will make up the "achievement subcouncil". A non-voting member will be added for each school district not represented by the voting members. This of course is in an attempt to involve everyone. Yet, how is it fair if one subdistrict is made up of several school districts, with possibly conflicting interests, to only get three votes to spread around as opposed to an inner-Omaha subdistrict that is only made up of one school district and has similar interests? Subsequently, how is it fair to let a school district that is not represented sit on the board but not actually give them a vote? What will they do, sit and watch decisions being made that they can do nothing to change? The fact is that this is not fair and to call it such is to insult the intelligence of those involved.

On the Papillion-LaVista school district's website the district attempts to inform parents about the Learning Community and to share several of their concerns. The concerns listed are over governance, finances, student achievement, and specialized legislation. The Learning Community council is just another layer of governance that is going to be given $1 million annually. The Papillion-LaVista school district is not even guaranteed representation on this council beyond the status of a non-voting, helpless bystander. Financially, there are more concerns. The property tax for the Learning Community will be divided across two counties that don't evaluate property the same way. Property taxes collected in Papillion and LaVista will also not necessarily stay in the school district, as all taxes will be pulled together and redistributed, a school district form of socialism. The Papillion-LaVista school district is also concerned because there is nothing in the new legislation that focuses on student achievement. All the law does is move students around in order to "diversify". This adds a financial burden on the school district to provide the transportation and begs the question of what this is actually doing to help students. Finally, the district wonders that if legislators consider this to be a great, innovative plan, why are they only requiring it for Douglas and Sarpy County? It seems that this is simply the Legislatures way of stopping bickering and punishing the school districts for not "playing nicely".

In simple terms the Learning Community is a way of forcing opposing groups to work together. It adds a layer of bureaucracy that will raise taxes and take representation away from administrators and parents. Taxes will be taken out of a community and implemented in unknown places. A financial and structural burden will be placed on individual school districts with little concern for the wellbeing of students beyond the fact that they go to a "racially diverse" school, regardless of what that does for them academically. It seems to be an awful waste of time and resources with little gain for the community as a whole.


John McCain Reaction

Heroes in Afghanistan

AC in Afghanistan

President's Speech and Heckler

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Teenage Vegetarianism

A study, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, shows that about 1 in 200 kids (about 367,000) do not eat meat of any kind. This rate could be up to six times higher in older kids that have more power over what they are consuming. Some have a different reason for the lifestyle than others: environmental concern, treatment of animals, health reasons, or religious reasons. But can kids and teens be responsible for their own nutrition?

Vegetarianism is sometimes seen as an easy way to lose weight or improve health. "Lots of science shows that a plant-based diet can prevent … heart disease, cancer, and diabetes," says Susan Levin, a dietitian at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This is true, but many teens that rely soley on vegetables and continue bad eating habits such as eating doughnuts, french fries, soda or potato chips, are not heading down the right road. Without meat, vegetarians need extra amounts of protein, vitamins, and other nutrients.

"Since beef, chicken, and fish are good sources of protein and vitamins, teens who attempt to practice a vegan … diet are at greater risk for [vitamin] deficiencies," reports the California Department of Public Health.

Now what can be done to change health habits? Sure, Papio South has tried diet pops and baked chips, but lunch everyday still consists of the choices of french fries, pizza, hamburgers, and other unhealthy foods side by side with the various salads. There should be more encouragement of healthy eating and exercise, and there ought to be a decrease in the fatty foods and more of the healthy alternatives (like the new grab-and-go salads, those are tasty).


Well Done Sister Suffragette!

The other day, while watching television, I happened to come across a viewing of Mary Poppins. As I delighted in a viewing of the film, I began to think as one of the songs began to take shape in the next scene. "Sister Suffragette" is pro-suffrage protest song pastiche in which Mrs. Banks protests the inability for women to vote and the equality they face. She later mentions ""Our daughters' daughters will adore us and they'll sing in grateful chorus, well done Sister Suffragette!".

Years later, while many women partake in their rights, I don't think that we, as a group, fully understand the power which has been given to us. After watching, I was deeply embarrassed at how many women were easily giving up their right to vote without even questioning. But it made me consider the people who went through such great trials in order to get us where we are today. Since the 19th amendment was passed in 1920, women have been making great strides for history by performing acts such as voting, holding offices, becoming CEOs of a company and many more.

Even then, we still face many barriers and our struggle for equal rights is far from over. In the public sphere, American women hold only 16 percent of the seats in the current Congress. Sweden, by contrast, uses an electoral gender quota system and is among the world leaders, with women holding 47.3 percent of its parliamentary seats, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Globally, 97 countries have some type of electoral gender quota and some believe we should look to this as an example of how the United States could increase specific gender parties within our government.

In the workplace, women are making some gains in pay, but, overall, they still face a significant wage disparity. Nationally, women who work full time still earn 76.5 cents for every dollar men do, according to 2004 Census data. Over time, those pennies add up to a pricey disadvantage for women. The AFL-CIO figures that the average 25-year-old woman will lose roughly $455,000 to unequal pay during her working life.

Another area of concern for women is upholding equal rights, is the issue of personal health. Some believe that to uphold equal rights, they must protect women's access to all forms of birth control, for example. Even though the Food and Drug Administration last year approved the over-the-counter sale of some birth controls, for women 18 and over, they have still faced obstacles in obtaining the medication. Only 14 states require hospitals to provide women--including possible rape victims--with information about its availability. In 2006, 18 states considered legislation allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions.

These obstacles, while challenging, have not been the end for the progress that has come throughout time. For example: In Arizona, a working woman earned 83.8 percent of a man's annual salary in 2005, well above the national average, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., Arizona's male-female salary gap was the second-smallest. Only the gap in the District of Columbia was smaller.. "The fact that Arizona is up there near 84 percent really is outstanding compared to the nation," said Avis Jones-DeWeever, program director for the institute. The pay gap might be closing for Arizona's women, but, as Jones-DeWeever points out, it's probably not for the reason women want to hear. Men in the state are earning less than the national average, while Arizona's women are on par with it.

As the years go on, our generation is becoming more and more open to the thought of women taking roles of responsibility and power. We still have a ways to go, but the progress is growing stronger every day. I hope that within my lifetime I and my children will be able to have this kind of perfect equality that many still strive for. We will be truly thankful and say "Well done Sister Suffragette!"

Works Cited: p:// Jane Austen