Sunday, January 31, 2010

So, how is the State of the Union?

The 2010 State of the Union speech was given Wednesday by President Barak Obama to a joint session of Congress. 

The speech was delivered on the floor of the United States House of Representatives in the United States Capitol. The presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat behind the president.

The speech President Obama gave was full of good things and encouraging words. And among other topics, Obama discussed proposals for job creation and federal deficit reduction.

After Obama’s Speech, the newly inaugurated Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell delivered the Republican response following the speech from the floor of the House of Delegates at the Virginia State Capitol in front of over 300 people.

But the topic that I tuned into the most was the investing in the skills and education of our people. Obama promised to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, revitalize community colleges, end taxpayer subsidies to banks for student loans, a $10,000 tax credit for families for four years of college, an increase Pell Grants, and only 10% of income going towards student loans. Obama also promised that all student loan debts would be forgiven after 20 years, or after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, he promised that there would be cost cutting at colleges and universities.

But besides all of this, Obama had a lot more to promise during his speech. Many people are suggesting that maybe Obama is taking on a little too much right now, while others have said that after one year of office he hasn’t really accomplished that much. But despite all of the doubt, Obama asked and discussed the importance of bipartisanship as he encouraged the nation that we can overcome what was actually left for him in these trying times.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Have you heard the one about the 8 year old terrorist?

Ok, so I don’t know if anyone has heard of this, but apparently there are a lot of people who get hassled going through airport security because, although they have nothing to do with terrorism, they are unknowingly on the TSA’s no flight list.

No big deal right? Just get it straightened out and be able to fly without any trouble the next time you decide to vacation outside the U.S. right? Well apparently this isn’t so for Mikey Hicks, an 8-year-old New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has rarely boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person.

Michael Winston Hicks’s has had trouble getting through airport security ever since was a baby. He was frisked at 2 years old when airline officials explained that his name “was on the list.” He cried.

This year’s vacation to the Bahamas was no different than any of the other times he and his family have had to go through security either. It really shook up the family when Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home.

For every person on “the list,” hundreds of other innocent people may get caught up simply because they share the same name as a suspicious person or terrorist. “Over the past three years, 81,793 upset travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending,” according to filed reports.

Many of these unlucky frequent flyers have been forced to change their name to make flying easier for them. It sucks, but the TSA isn’t doing anything about this crazy situation. I just think it’s just crazy how an 8 year old can’t get through security without being thoroughly harassed while some crazy terrorist can successfully blow up his pants on a plane.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wal-mart destroys and trashes unsold goods while people in Haiti struggle for much needed items

I was really disturbed when I heard about H and M and Wal-Mart destroying unsold goods and throwing them away in trash bags lining the alley.

Apparently, instead of taking the unsold items to sample sales or donating those to people in need, H and M and Wal-Mart have been throwing them out in giant trash bags.

And to make sure that someone will try to keep or re-sell the items, these companies have gone ahead and cut off the sleeves of coats, slashed up garments, and sliced holes in shoes so they are not able to be worn.

Needless to say H and M made a statement promising to stop destroying the garments at the midtown Manhattan location where the atrocity was found. The company mentioned that they will donate the items to charity. Wal-Mart on the other hand acted surprised that these items were found and claimed that they typically donated all unworn merchandise to charity.

This news especially popping up around times like this when we’re in a recession, the unemployment rate is still high (not as high as it was but still) and natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti just happened. It’s really disgusting to just waste clothes like that when there are so many people who need them more than Wal-mart needs to cut corners to make a profit.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cringing at the thought of new airport body scanners

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like it when people see me naked. And that is exactly what the TSA wants to start doing with its new body scanners.

The machine looks like something out of a sci-fi movie and when you see the images that it takes for security officials to view, you’ll think you’re in a horror movie.

Many people, including myself do not like this idea. I think this is just one step further to completely losing your privacy. Eventually, whether you like it or not, the images will become clearer and may in time get saved in the computer. What’s to stop them?

Already, six different airports in the U.S. are testing the machines as a primary security check option, instead of metal detectors followed by a pat-down. The rest present them as a voluntary secondary security option instead of a pat-down, which is protocol for those who've repeatedly set off the metal detector or have been randomly selected for additional screening.

At the moment, not having any rules on what the Transportation Security Administration does with this machinery makes it so we don't have the guidelines to hold them to what they say. This is why I think they should make sure there are no loop holes around the procedures they have now so that it doesn’t lead to naked images being dispersed all over the internet.

I can just see going through airport security becoming even more uncomfortable than getting groped by strangers.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year for New Laws

New Year’s Day makes way for resolutions, memories and new laws, over 40,000 in fact. This year starting January 1, legislatures in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico met in 2009, leading to the enactment of 40,697 laws. The new laws cover a variety of areas, from texting and tanning beds to human trafficking and seat-belt safety.

Oregon and Illinois join 17 other states that prohibit motorists from sending text messages while driving, and same-sex couples will be able to marry in New Hampshire. A California measure that limits Trans fat in restaurant food also takes effect January 1 as well as a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants that will take effect in North Carolina.

Many bar and restaurant owners in North Carolina are annoyed that they have to abide by a law banning smoking in the nation’s largest producer of tobacco. Some declare that the new laws have “officially killed the holiday spirit” and that “the government shouldn’t tell us how to live our lives.” While others say that the new laws, many of them being very beneficial to our health and livelihood, say the laws are very much needed.

I believe many of the new laws will help better the lives of many people. I think the laws concerning texting and seatbelts will reduce a lot of the traffic accidents as many do become distracted while driving. And I think the human trafficking laws will help stem the flow of this crime as well. But I suppose we will all have to see how the new laws pan out during the first year into the new decade.

Watch the video about the year of new laws on Yahoo.