Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Five Years After The Storm

It’s been 5 years since the flood waters ravished the streets of Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina had destroyed homes, damaged landmarks and left the city in disarray and despair. New Orleans at one point, seemed to have been lost to the storm, but after the waters receded, a ray of hope emerges.

Before the hurricane the schools in New Orleans was deemed unsatisfactory by the locals as. Cash-strapped and under-performing, education sat on the back burner. From 2000 to 2004, enrollment in the schools declined from 77, 610 to 64,920 and an increasing amount of people were dropping out altogether.

In 2005, the state of Louisiana deemed 64 percent of the city’s schools “academically unacceptable. But when Katrina hit at the end of August 2005, the city was wiped clean of its students and teachers as they were forced to evacuate. And in November, the Legislature expressed an emergency session to give the state the authority to take over the school’s districts it considered to be “academically in crisis.”

The “Recovery School District” was then instituted taking 1-7 under-performing Orleans Parish public schools in the city under the states control. Private organizations converted the ailing schools into charter schools and left 16 schools that performed above the state average standard before Katrina.

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Today the schools have greatly improved as the Cowen Institute recently reported that just 42 percent of New Orleans schools are “academically unacceptable.” This is wonderful news seeing as the numbers went down from 64 percent from before Katrina.

Education in the Big Easy dramatically improved despite the horrific disaster. The rebuilding of 85 schools damaged during the hurricane acts as a symbol of faith in the next generation’s future. And it just goes to show that good things can come out of a bad situation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Devastating Lies From the Divisive Conservative Media

Reposted from The Loop 21.com
by Jasmine Lowe

The recent controversy with the building of the mosque near Ground Zero has me concerned with the country’s future relationship with the media. News stories at one point in time were supposed to inform the public of current issues and bring them up-to-date with what was happening in the world. But lately when I turn on my television I completely see one-sided and partially accurate information on overblown political stories.

Take for example the current mosque controversy. Individuals on the overwhelmingly right-wing opinionated Fox News channel, like Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, have single-handedly confused the public by tugging at the heart strings of the victims’ families of 9-11. They spin tales telling their listeners that the mosque is some sort of terrorist backed attempt to disgrace those who have died at Ground Zero when its really not.

First of all the project isn’t even a mosque, it’s an Islamic community center. The structure, completely opened to the public, even has a basketball court. Second of all, the “mosque” isn’t even going to be located at Ground Zero. The so called “abomination” will be located at an abandoned and private building several blocks away in a building once used as a Burlington Coat Factory store. But because the extremely opinionated, Glenn Beck, mentioned the words: mosque, 9-11 victims and terrorists, everyone who hears his rant full of lies gets the wrong story and runs with it all the way to their protest site.

These types of stories never help anyone but the popularity of the people who make them up. And in actuality, they just hurt more people than they might think.

An entire organization was destroyed when the ever-present Fox News brought the nation’s attention to a videotape of ACORN workers seemingly dressed as a “pimp and ho” showing people how to avoid paying federal taxes. But instead of doing any research and running with anything that they come in contact with, they failed to realize that the tape was a forgery made by a crazed conservative activist who was later arrested for breaking into Mary Landrieu’s office.

ACORN was eventually vindicated of all wrongdoing, but the damage was already done. Their funding was terminated and 50 years of helping the poor and minorities were diminished all because the conservative media just loves to lead people to believe in completely inaccurate nonsense.

But it didn’t end there. When Shirley Sherrod was branded as a racist by a blogger who posted part of a speech she gave last month at a banquet, she was forced to resign from her position as the director of the United States Department of Agriculture. She was publicly embarrassed and her reputation was damaged because of a story that never even happened.

The Republican Party has continually bashed the Democrats for some how “brainwashing” everyone with their “liberal agenda.” But while the conservative media is destroying careers, obliterating communities, and destroying organizations tended to helping the poor and less fortunate, they are slowly loosing credibility as responsible journalists and are engulfing their audience into the very act that they pin on their more credible counterparts—brainwashing.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sick of Tainted Food

It seems like every time I turn around there is another recall on some food item. Do we have to play Russian roulette with our food choices, or shouldn’t there be more concern over the safety of our food.

More than 170.4 million eggs were recalled from stores in as many as 14 states nationwide due to a recent widespread salmonella scare that has impacted the lives of more than half a billion people. The FDA announced on July 9 that it had new safety rules for large-scale egg producers, but the new rules came late in the game as they apparently appeared after the salmonella outbreak began. 

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But what concerns me is that all this could have been prevented in the first place. Jack DeCoster, who leads Wright County Egg, in June, pleaded guilty to 10 civil counts of animal cruelty over his company's treatment of its chickens. DeCoster and his company agreed to a $25,000 fine and made a $100,000 payment to reimburse the state for future monitoring of the facility.

Allegations included too many birds in case, injured chickens not being treated, dead animals not being promptly removed from cages and improper euthanization. But then we wonder why every year something new is recalled.

But this isn’t the first time we had a major country-wide food scare. Anything from beef to tomatoes has been put on a list at one point of tainted foods. Experts say that food-borne illnesses cost the country around $152 billion a year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures there are about 76 million illnesses in the U.S. each year, landing about 325,000 people in the hospital. And about 5,000 people probably die from the illnesses in the U.S. each year. If this doesn’t spark anyone’s interest to make a change in food safety and regulations, then I don’t know what will.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

China: World’s Largest Economy In 2027?

China has surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy last quarter. The Communist country led the world out of last year’s global recession with an economy over 90-times larger than when former leader
Deng Xiaoping ditched-line Communist policies in favor of free-market reforms in the year 1978.

China’s GDP was reportedly $1.288 trillion more than Japan’s for the second quarter. Predictably the China will take over the U.S. as the number one spot by 2027 according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.chief economist Jim O’Neill.

China has already overtaken the U.S. last year as the biggest automobile market and Germany as the largest exporter. They are the world’s number one buyer of iron ore and copper and the second biggest importer of crude oil.

And with their larger population and our poor economy, China is on the path to take the U.S.’s position as the world’s largest economy around 2020. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
reported in March that China’s future influence on the global economy will increase. Their enormous expansion will contribute one third of the world’s growth this year. So what is our government going to do
about this?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

With Liberty and Justice for All

The U.S. has dealt with a lot since it faced the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center's towers almost nine years ago. We’ve entered into war and have been changed forever by 9-11. We have come together as a country since that day and somewhere along the line we have also been driven apart.

Many have engaged themselves in prejudice ideas disguised as defenses against “future harm.” We took what happened nine years ago and labeled anyone practicing the religion of Islam as a terrorist disregarding any source of evidence revealing whether they were innocent of any wrongdoing or not. The goal of terrorism is to create fear using violent acts as a means of coercion. And what seems like extra precaution by the American people is actually the very thing that the terrorists tried to provoke.

Recently there has been controversy surrounding the possible building of a Mosque near the Ground Zero site in Manhattan. Many believe that it would be inappropriate for the project to be completed so close to the site where so many died by the act of terrorism. And instead of allowing the Mosque to be built, many Non-Muslim Americans disregard our first Amendment.

President Obama also came under fire when asked to comment on the project while at a White House event celebrating Ramadan with other U.S. officials. Before dinner was served, Obama gave a speech addressing the situation. He referred to the trauma of the Sept. 11 attacks as unimaginable and continued by saying, "So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground." He then added that America's "commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable."

The President was careful in understanding the underlying emotions and thoughts stemmed from the project by saying, "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," he said. "I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about."

And Obama says is true. We are a nation of all types of people from various religions, cultures and creeds. We believe that we have the freedom to believe in, or not believe in any religion or belief. And I believe that the second we take that away from anyone, we begin to lose the very thing that makes America truly free.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Girls Hit Puberty At Younger Age

New research shows that girls are entering puberty at a younger age. Many people suspect the recent rise in obesity and the additives of chemical hormones in packaged foods. And if there wasn't a reason to eat organic and stay healthy, then now is the time. Experts say that girls who begin the "big change" at an earlier age are at a higher risk for breast cancer later on in life.

According to a study published in pediatrics, a team of researches examined about 1,200 girls aged 7 to 8 in cincinnati, New york and San Francisco. They measured breast development to determine which girls started puberty and they suggested that being an overweight child makes them more likely to enter puberty earlier.

Researches suspect that the increase in fat that obese girls contain also give rise to an increase in estrogen. Hormone latent food also played a factor in the increase in earlier puberty for thinner girls. Many assume hormones in packaged foods could be related to the increase in hormones needed for puberty.

The increase in earlier puberty is definitely a problem. Not only are the girls of this current generation at a higher risk for breast cancer, but because of the increase in obesity they are at a higher rate for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, infertility, liver disease gallstones, respiratory problems and other cancers.

Phycological problems including depression, and problems related to an eleven-year-old being mistaken for a seventeen-year-old could also pose some problems on the street. Which is just another couple of reasons why you should probably be a little healthier. I'm just saying.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Decision on Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court of California at one point granted the right of marriage between same sex couples and from June 16, 2008 to November 5, 2008 an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples married in California. But when Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that limited marriages to those between one man and one woman was passed, the right to marry was limited to only heterosexual couples.

Voters approved the ban by a 52.3% margin six months after the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was permitted under the state Constitution. The state high court later upheld Proposition 8 as a valid amendment to the state Constitution.

The right of marriage was denied to same-sex couples until August 4, 2010 when federal judge Vaughn R. Walker had stated that Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice. His ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and officially become active on August 19, 2010.

Under the ruling, Proposition 8 is said to be a violation of “the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The amendment enacted by the voters of California was said to burden the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and create an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.

He concluded that Proposition 8 "fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. … Because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

Many Californians (those who supported the controversial proposition) are currently outraged at the judge’s decision to overturn the ban. Fear that the federal government is exceeding the limit its constitutional powers is a primary focus for those who are also supporting the proposition based on their faith.

Yes it is true, "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” but like the ruling in the case of Brown v Board of Education, discriminatory acts towards a group of persons based on race, sex, gender, faith (or lack thereof), sexuality, age, you name it "violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws," Brown v. Board of Education laid the foundation for shaping future national and international policies regarding human rights. It would be an outright shame to remember this landmark case by reinstating the ban based on what religious doctrines.

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