News and Politics

Japan Limited on Water, Food, and Supplies

The death toll rises as more people are being found after the devastating events that took place in Japan. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and countless aftershocks that caused a shoreline-crushing tsunami and an evolving crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has also left many survivors without the necessary supplies for survival.
The Japanese government is doing its best to rush doctors and aid supplies to thousands of people left without food, water and shelter in the aftermath of a catastrophe that hit northeast Japan.
Images online and various news programs show people lined up for water, canned food, and some stores rationing food sales to 10 items per person. In other areas, the 100,000 personnel deployed by the government are attempting to rescue survivors stranded by the flood waters and mountains of debris.
The leaking radiation from Koriyama in the Fukushima area where the crippled nuclear power plant is located has forced people out of the region. According to Japan’s NHK television on Tuesday, already over 3,000 are confirmed dead and more than 10,000 are missing and feared dead.
Supplies of gasoline are also running low and expressways have been closed off to all vehicles except for emergency traffic. There is a definite need for clean water, food and blankets, and for those who have lost everything, basic things like soap and toothbrushes.
Millions of people are in need of food, water and electricity, while relief efforts are complicated by the widespread destruction of infrastructure, but people can still contribute efforts to help.
Here are just some of the ways you can help provide the basics necessary for those effected by the tragedy in Japan.
American Red Cross: Emergency Operation Centers are opened in the affected areas and staffed by the chapters. This disaster is on a scale larger than the Japanese Red Cross can typically manage. Donations to the American Red Cross can be allocated for the International Disaster Relief Fund, which then deploys to the region to help. Donate here. You can also donate by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 toward relief efforts.
Globalgiving: Established a fund to disburse donations to organizations providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Donate here.
Save The Children: Mobilizing to provide immediate humanitarian relief in the shape of emergency health care and provision of non-food items and shelter. Donate here.
Salvation Army: The Salvation Army has been in Japan since 1895 and is currently providing emergency assistance to those in need. Donate here.
Americares: Emergency team is on full alert, mobilizing resources and dispatching an emergency response manager to the region. Donate here.
Convoy Of Hope: Disaster Response team established connection with in-country partners who have been impacted by the damage and are identifying the needs and areas where Convoy of Hope may be of the greatest assistance. Donate here.

International Medical Corps
: Putting together relief teams, as well as supplies, and is in contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities. Donate here.
Shelter Box: The first team is mobilizing to head to Japan and begin the response effort. Donate here.
Keeping Japan in your thoughts and prayers is also needed. The Japanese government says 15,000 people have already been rescued and 450,000 have been evacuated nationwide. Of the missing, many may have been washed out to sea by the 10-meter tsunami.

Protests That Inspired The World

Eighteen days of angry protests from the citizens of Egypt did more than just earn a few tweets and clips on the internet. The determined people of the most populous country in the Arab world, decided to end decades worth of fiery grievances against the 30 year autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak. 

The people of Egypt not only toppled the power of Mubarak, but on Feb. 11, 2011 they have transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world. The Egyptian people braved tear gas, rubber bullets and security police officers notorious for torture and despite restrictions placed on the Internet, Egyptian bloggers managed to report new unrest, posting accounts and images of fresh demonstrations on the streets of Cairo online throughout the course of the protests.

As a result of the successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the people of Egypt have not only victoriously overthrown their government leader, but they have also enthralled dissidents and activists around the world who have campaigned for radical change.

The social media networking that played a huge part in distributing information from the people to other parts of the world has even spread to Djibouti, a city-state across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, where protesters reportedly clashed with security forces on Feb.18.

Protesters in Egypt and the surrounding region used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to organize, and benefited from pan-Arab media outlets such as Al-Jazeera television that spread word of the uprisings.

Gradually other countries in similar situations are seeing Egypt’s victory as a possibility for them as well. The protests in Tunisia and Egypt were a testament to what the power of the people can do.

"Tears welled in my eyes when I watched the Egyptians, overjoyed after Mubarak left. I want to tell them that your fight has paid off but we don't know where our future lies," said a 53-year-old private tutor in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city. The tutor spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the authorities in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Internet, For Better Or For Worse

The Internet has been used as a tool to connect the people all over the world. Every corner of the earth has been tied together, and the world seems just a little bit smaller because of it.

The global system of interconnecting computers has transformed the way we think, learn, and live in our society today. And like with any other advancement in technology, the Internet has both benefited and impaired every person on this planet.

Its origins, which reach back to the 1960’s, up till now has propelled the world into the digital age, and it isn’t disappearing anytime soon.

During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address to Congress and the American public on Tuesday, Jan. 25, Obama mentioned that we are a nation of Google and Facebook.

"We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook,” said Obama. “In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It's how we make a living.

It's about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

The birth of the Internet has created an entirely new category of jobs such as online journalism, professional blogging, web graphic design and development and professional vlogging, or video blogging, which you see on Web sites such as YouTube.

Billions of individuals can upload and download information instantaneously with the push of a button, and it has helped people like those who have participated in the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen that began last week.

The citizen activists there used social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to protest their retrospective governments and countered government disinformation.

But the Internet has also stirred trouble by ruining careers, ending lives and starting debates on whether or not it should be restricted.

Net neutrality, the principle proposed for users' access to networks participating in the Internet, is now the subject of debate. On the one hand, there are advocates who believe that there should be no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication.

Opponents believe the Internet should be regulated and controlled. They also believe that Internet providers can determine the quality of Internet service you can receive by what the individual pays. The belief that the age of equally accessing whatever Web site you wanted regardless of the Internet provider should be terminated for profitable gain.

Supporters of net neutrality are currently fighting the FCC’s decision that took place on Dec. 21 to approve new broadband regulations covering Web site blocking, traffic discrimination, and network management transparency.

The Internet has also challenged the definition of the First Amendment’s right of the freedom of speech.

Individuals like Simon Singh, who decided to tell the chiropractic community just exactly what he thought of it in an article demoting the entire profession. His comments only add to the disruption in how we can determine what we can say on the Internet.

Singh had targeted chiropractors' claims that their services could help children with asthma or colic, causing the chiropractic community to sue the man for libel and take him to court. When the courts began to investigate Singh they found his accusers didn't have a case. Attention was turned back to the chiropractors and as a result, about 1 in 4 chiropractors in the UK went under investigation by regulators for making backless claims back in March.

Issues such as cyber bullying and anonymous hate speech on forum chats that at times lead to suicide get added to the long list of crimes that could be committed as well.

Arguments about how the Internet has hurt students academically have also come up. The days of searching for information in large encyclopedias located at local libraries have been replaced by Wikipedia and Google.

Plagiarism has plagued the universities as it now has become easier to just copy and paste someone else’s work onto a word document, type your name at the top and just hit print, and yet at the same time people can access information and educate themselves whenever or wherever they wanted to.

The Internet has become an endless frontier of vast capabilities and endless problems. We have changed as species because of it and continue to change along with it. In the social and economic globalization, that primarily took place in the 21st Century, we have “flattened” the world because of the Internet, according to international bestselling author, Thomas Friedman, and for now we will continue to use the Internet for better or for worse.

Do the Women Of Wal-Mart Stand A Chance In The Sex-Discrimination Based Lawsuit?

Last month the Supreme Court has agreed to consider tackling a sex-discrimination lawsuit filed in 2001 against the retailer, Wal-Mart.

If Wal-Mart gets away with discrimination this time, I really do believe that it will be years down the road before women get another chance to fight for their rights in the workforce again.

The Dukes v. Wal-Mart. lawsuit began when a 54 year old California female Wal-Mart employee decided to sue her employer claiming discrimination. The discrimination, according to the employee, was in terms of pay and promotion on the basis of her gender.

Wal-Mart was accused of preventing the employee, and other females working for the retailer, from getting training that would allow them to get higher paying jobs.

But over the ten years since the lawsuit was filed, the conflict between the single employee and the large retailer grew to include more than 1.5 million women who were working for Wal-Mart across 3,400 stores in the US. 

Today, these women are still being paid less than men for similar jobs and are suffering with the lack of promotions. The allegations against Wal-Mart have yet to be put to a trial but the issues are left to the justices of the Supreme Court to decide whether the hundreds of thousands of female employees working at Wal-Mart can join together as a "class" to be represented by a handful of named plaintiffs.

Class-action suits are pretty much the only way for workers to receive justice. The women of Wal-Mart could never really win the lawsuit if they proceed with the anti-discrimination claims individually.

It’s really all left in the court’s hands to decide whether they can stand a chance against the retailing giant. And this case is so important because if the conservative Supreme Court dramatically narrows the criteria for determining what a class is, Wal-Mart will succeed and the victims of discrimination in future cases will find it even more difficult to find justice.

Protecting Wal-Mart in this particular case will only hold women back in the fight for women to be treated equally to their male counterparts in the workforce.

As of today, there is still a wage gap between genders in the workplace as a whole and there really shouldn’t be.

Women perform their duties just as well as their male counterparts do in the same positions. They pay the same amount for housing, utilities and food as men do, and women are no less inferior to men.

And while single mothers get screwed over with less pay than single fathers, our “first world” country is completely fine with the fact that women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men make according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The fight for equality should start right now with this case.

Right now there is currently no limit on the size of a class, and I agree that there really shouldn’t be a limit. The case involving the women of Wal-Mart follow Rule 23 stating that there is no conflict of interest among the group and that there is a commonality in their complaints.

It’s not just a feminist idea that there shouldn’t be a wage gap between the genders but a civil rights idea. There needs to be equality in the labor force regardless of gender, religion, race, sexual orientation or creed—and to be honest—I’m disappointed that we haven’t reached equality in 21st Century America.

Yeah, There Are Still Double Standards. So What?

People still have respect for a man when a he cries in politics, but let a female politician shed some tears and hear everyone shout that she’s weak.

It’s a double standard the majority of the time, and in 2010 this way of thinking still holds true. But it’s not worth crying over.

Sarah Palin made the news again, while making an appearance on "Good Morning America," after she complained about the double standard when it comes to politicians crying in public.

The ex-Alaska governor was asked about incoming House Speaker John Boehner's tendency to shed a few crocodile tears during an interview with Robin Roberts of "GMA." “While Palin said she had respect for her fellow Republican's emotional side, she suggested he gets a pass because he's a man.”

Palin continued by saying:

"I don't know if a woman would be given a pass necessarily. That's one of those things where a double standard is applied. I'm sure if I got up there and did a speech, and I started breaking down and cried about how important it is to me that our children and grandchildren are provided great opportunities, I'm sure I would be knocked a little bit for that."

Palin also mentioned that it is ok that there are double standards out there for women because it encourages women in politics to work harder and be tougher. But  it's ironic that she brought up the fact that there was a double standard in the first place.

I just want to know why, if she was ok with this originally and was compelled to be tougher in politics that she would bother complaining to the entire the world. And it is especially irrelevant because Boehner did receive some slack indirectly about his constant weeping.

But it’s not all unfair for women in politics. Female public displays of emotion can go both ways. Hillary Clinton's teary remarks on the presidential campaign trail in early 2008 gained critiques from fellow candidates and commentators, but also were seen as a contributing factor in her primary victory in New Hampshire. Maybe Palin should realize that the world isn't fair, stop complaining and just keep to herself for once.

They Went Too Far

I’m all for safety and securing major public transportation, but there is a line between security and invading every last bit of privacy that you have left.

The TSA has hit the news again with privacy invading images of boarding airplane passengers. This time instead of taking embarrassingly detailed photographs of people and sharing them to the public, some members of the TSA has been caught undressing little kids in the middle of the airport.

Have they crossed the line yet? Because if they didn’t, I really don’t want to see what their definition of crossing the line is. And I hate to say it, but Ron Paul is right on this issue. “Enough is enough” when it comes to the issue that the American people have with the TSA.

I don’t want to be groped, stripped down to my undies and photographed just so I can go home for the holidays. Something should be done about this in Congress. Regulations should be put in place to deter this situation, others like it, from happening again.

In The Really New World

I was reading an interesting article the other day about the Catholic Church and its encouragement of Roman Catholic bishops in the United States to go forth and blog, tweet and preach on the “new digital continent” of social media. It really got me thinking the other day about technology and its effect on our lives. Has our world really changed so much in the past few decades that the Church feels the need to start a twitter account?

The truth is that we have. The world has changed culturally more in the last 40 years than it ever has before. Advances in technology before the last 40 years were only steadily groundbreaking. Older generations had the time to adjust to the new and innovative things being tossed at them. But now, in the digital age, the 40 and over crowd is struggling to stay afloat among the clutter.

Take a look back at what we have done in the last 40 years. The computer was born in the 1970’s. Then, the magical data-storing agent was accessed only by Bill Gates and super geniuses of the like. But by the time the 90’s rolled around, the World Wide Web gave birth to an infinite number of possibilities in the realms of communication and connectivity.

Fast forward 20 years to the present and you get whiplash moving from Web pages accessible through a graphical user interface and basic email, to the current use of over 92 million websites and counting online. And in an instant, the Internet condensed our huge world of billions of people and made it flat creating a connection, accessed by our fingertips, across the span of our planet.

Want to know what that guy, you met at that one party ten years ago, is doing right now at this moment? Why not stalk him on Facebook. Do you want to know every thought that Brittney Spears is thinking throughout the day? Why not follow her account on Twitter. Would you like to know how to make quiche at this very second? Just whip out your Smartphone and Google the recipe in your kitchen. Heck, watch someone prepare it step by step right in front of you on YouTube.

We can find the answer to any question that we might (or might not) have thought of by simply typing it in the search bar. The internet is so ingrained in our lives that we would all fall apart if it ever disappeared (or seemed as though it has disappeared). Y2K scare anyone?

The digital age has morphed the world into something so unrecognizable. It’s even apparent when we see people locked up for 20 years, who were recently released from prison after thedot-com boom, so incredibly confused at what the heck happened during the time that they went away.

We've even changed the way in which we react to things. We rather tweet about someone passing out in public than running to that person's aid. We document everything that we do, every second of the day, and display it on the inter-web for the entire world to see. Are we narcissistic, or has technology changed human behavior permanently?

Our livelihoods have been flipped upside down as we accommodate are swiftly evolving technology. Fifty years ago, a college level communications class would have never dreamed of electronically interacting with their fellow students outside of the classroom in a personal, yet public, blog. Technology has, and will always, drastically change the way we live our lives. And maybe a few years from now, I’ll be texting my confession to my priest instead of heading for the confessional. You just never know with this new world in the digital age.

Pushed Over The Edge

A young man walks by himself alongside a pathway on a large bridge. He looks over the railing separating him from the ledge that’s outstretched over a frigid river. He can hear the water as it quickly thrashes around below his feet. A cold chill brushes past his exposed face reminding him that a tear had rolled down the side of his cheek. The young man then slowly lifts his leg, one and then the other, over the railing. He stands on the edge of the ridge and pauses for a second as he tries to clear the frustration from his mind. Then he jumps.

This is the story of one gay teen who had suffered enough bullying to push him over the edge.

Recently, several teenagers from California to Rhode Island committed suicide in the past few weeks, including New Jersey college student Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge into the Hudson River.

According to a story from ABC News, Tyler was the victim of bullying and the invasion of his privacy after, prosecutors say, his roommate and a friend secretly streamed his sexual encounter with a man on the Web. He was hurt and made fun of like so many other gay and lesbian teens spanning the world are right now. And it’s time that something should be said.

According to SAVE, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24 years old. Adolescents that were rejected by their families for being gay were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, according to a Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey. But the sad fact of the matter is that the majority of these suicide attempts could have been prevented.

A heartfelt attempt at tolerance and understanding could have saved Tyler Clementi. His life was shattered the second his private affair went public. He was a human being who suffered from gay bashing with a cyber twist. And it shouldn’t matter if you believe that homosexuality is a sin or not because these are people that we are dealing with. We live alongside the same pathway in the world with these souls. And I just hope we can all understand this fact before we push another person over the edge.

The Third Party

It’s not looking so hot for the GOP right about now. Odds have dropped recently from a 26 percent chance to a 15 percent chance of the House being taking over by Republicans. The main reason for the decline is the outcome of the Republican primary in Delaware where the Tea Party sensation,Christine O’Donnell, defeated Michael N. Castle. 

It seems that the times are changing, and in the past few years a lot of people in politics have wondered about the possibility of a third party. And with the wide expansion of theTea Party Patriots, that has brought together countless activists and thousands of local groups, maybe that major third party is actually here.

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen in the Washington Examiner had said that "the Tea Party has become one of the most powerful and extraordinary movements in American political history. It is as popular as both the Democratic and Republican parties. Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement." And so far the Tea Party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it.

The party is angry and they want to be noticed. They’ve become a huge movement moved by the people. They’re fed up and they are ready to prove that they can hang in the ring with the major Parties. And maybe we’ll be sure of it in 2012.

United As One Nation

Nine years ago our nation was changed forever. And as the country watched their television screens in utter shock, we stood in fear for our loved ones and when we found out that it all was intentional, we wondered why anyone would commit such an act. But as I sat and watched my world come to a halt for a moment, I never would have thought nine years from then I would still feel as though the county has been ripped apart.

After the attacks on 9-11 our country has come together in the wake of a horrific event, displayed patriotism by mounting flags on car antennas and in yards all over the nation, and for a moment, showed the world what it was like to stand together as the United States. You couldn’t go anywhere after that day without running into a flag flying proudly in the wind. We covered our land from sea-to-sea in the valiant red, innocent white and our perseverant blue. And then one day our attitude changed.

Over the nine years our country has taken down our beautiful flags, we tucked our patriotism away and found ourselves divided. We pointed fingers at our neighbors and replaced the feeling of being united as a country with the feeling of fear.

What happened during the period between our devout patriotism and our current fear? Did we finally let the terrorists win? Why can’t we go back to being united as one nation again before the pointing of fingers and the overwhelming feeling of fear that we hold today? The anniversary of the September 11 attacks should be time for Americans to respect religious freedoms and “rekindle that spirit of unity and common purpose” felt nine years ago like President Barack Obama has said. We are all Americans; ALL of us. And the anniversary is an excellent time to think about that.

Devastating Lies From the Divisive Conservative Media

Reposted from The Loop
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.

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?

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.

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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Struggle with Immigration Law

Recently Arizona’s controversial immigration law took effect on Thursday, July 29th. Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched his 17th sweep against illegal immigrants and in response eighty demonstrators began protesting and were arrested.

The protesters against the tough-on-illegal-immigration policies trickled out of jails in Arizona the next day as a local sheriff continued one of his controversial operations that many say targets Latinos. Three illegal immigrants were reportedly arrested in the sweep.

Law enforcement officers are currently allowed to stop people who commit minor traffic violations and check their citizenship status. The controversy from this law stems from the obvious racial profiling that is enacted in order to be able to stop people in the streets to see if they are illegal immigrants.

And although a federal judge had barred most of the immigration law, SB 1070, from being implemented, that didn't stop hundreds of protesters from filling the streets and engaging in civil disobedience. Twenty-three were arrested at Arpaio's main downtown jail for blocking the entrance and their demonstration forced the sheriff to delay his sweep for several hours.

The current law requires the police to check only people they stop and believe are illegal immigrants. But it’s hard to tell if Arizona law enforcement officers will be able to discern who they believe are illegal immigrants from anyone of Latin/Hispanic decent.

A new Immigration law is to be taken up in November after the most controversial provisions were stripped away by a federal judge in the U.S. appeals court in California. Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer appealed on Thursday against Judge Susan Bolton's decision and asked the court for an expedited appeals process. The Ninth Circuit court said that first brief hearings were set for mid-September and the case would begin on November 1 in San Francisco.

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Missing Middle Class

The saying only the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer is starting to describe the American economic statuses today. We were once a nation marveled for our middle class. In fact the U.S. had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world once upon a time, but now that status has been forgotten.

So what made our happy beginning fall apart in this tragic trend? Researchers say globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather malicious side effects. With a "global economy" the middle class American workers have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have found things to be increasingly difficult.

According to the Business Insider, Right now 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people and 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007. For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth while the top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago. In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.

For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011. Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years and despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
And with the top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income; our future has never looked so dim. The middle class is slipping away, and if something isn’t done soon we may see it completely disappear.

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Survey a Trap for Gays

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” went out the window when they started tricking gay and lesbian soldiers into outing themselves. Many gay rights group are warning soldiers not to cooperate with the Pentagon “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” study. Gays in the military who participate in a new survey about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" could be discharged for outing themselves even after they were assured that the questionnaire was confidential. And not surprisingly the Pentagon denies that survey respondents would run any such risk.

The survey, which Pentagon researchers are planning to send to 200,000 active duty and 200,000 reserve servicemen and women via email, asks soldiers if and how letting gays serve openly in the military will affect morale, according to CNN, which obtained a leaked version of the document.

The survey contains more than 100 questions. Questions like: “Would a repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" prompt a soldier to reconsider serving in the military?” “Would serving under an openly gay commander adversely affect morale?” And “How would troops feel about sharing a bathroom or open-air shower with an openly gay comrade in a war zone?” were also on the tricky questionnaire.

All gay and lesbian survey takers are advised to take the survey in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation, but until then, gay and lesbian military personnel have to lay low. The only thing about this questionnaire though is that you can out yourself most likely just by being tolerant of fellow gay service members still living with you or being members of authority.

If the Senate approves the measure this summer, the ban may be retired as early as next year, according to The Washington Post. The surveys are said to be designed to protect the individual’s privacy, but as long as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” exists, gays and lesbians should probably just not take the survey.

Watch Barbara Starr explain the survey.

Min Wage Foiled by Old Technology for Now

Governor Schwarzenegger for the second time in two years has ordered most state workers' pay cut to the federal minimum wage because lawmakers missed their deadline to fix the state's $19 billion budget deficit. The Legislature's failure to act on time has left the state without a spending plan as the new fiscal year begins.

So let me get this straight. Because lawmakers missed the deadline to fix the state’s 19 billion dollar budget deficit state workers are now ordered a pay cut to min wage? Not only are we still in debt most California workers are receiving less pay as a punishment for the Legislature’s failure.

A state appellate court ruled in Schwarzenegger's favor Friday, but the state controller, who issues state paychecks, says he can't comply. One reason given by Controller John Chiang, a Democrat elected in 2006, is because the state's computer system can't handle the technological challenge of restating paychecks to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Chiang cited Friday's ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which said "unfeasibility" would excuse him from complying with Schwarzenegger's minimum wage order. He said a fix to the state's computerized payroll system won't be ready until October 2012.

But in the meantime, more than 200,000 state workers remain in an indeterminate state about the size of their July paychecks while Chiang asks the court for assistance on how to proceed. If wages are indeed cut to $7.25 an hour, employees will be reimbursed once a budget is signed but they suffer a not being able to pay all of their bills in the mean time.

The state's payroll system was designed more than 60 years ago and was last revamped in 1970, Hallye Jordan, state controller's office spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

A report by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office said an overhaul of the state's computerized payroll system was proposed by the controller's office in 2004. A year later, the Legislature approved $130 million for the effort, called the 21st Century Project.

The state fired the vendor carrying out the project in 2008 because the company went bankrupt. And as the project dragged on, the state has had fewer experts on hand who could thoroughly understand the programming languages used to design the system.

And what’s most annoying about this whole thing is that apparently the state isn't saving any money on paying them minimum wage. The average state employee makes $65,000 annually, according to the state Department of Personnel Administration. A cut to minimum wage would mean state workers would make the equivalent of $15,000 a year.

I’m just wondering why our Governor is continuing with this order if it really isn’t helping the state out in the first place.

Unequal Pay after 47 Years

Tell me. Does rent for women cost less than their male counterparts? Do women only get discounts for food from the grocery store? No? Then tell me why there is a gap in the wages that men and women earn?

We live in a country that stands for equality and freedom for all, but when it comes to equal pay, Uncle Sam turns the other cheek. What ever happened to equality between men and women?

I don't know if it's just me, but I thought that there was some Equal Pay Act that was signed in 1963. Isn't it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who hold the same job and do the same work?
At the time of the EPA's passage, women earned only 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. By 2006, that rate had only increased to 77 cents, an improvement of less than half a penny a year. Minority women fare the worst. African-American women earn just 64 cents to every dollar earned by white men, and for Hispanic women that figure drops to merely 52 cents per dollar. Why is there still such a disparity?
Here are the facts according to the IWPR. "$434,000 is the median amount that a full-time female worker loses in wages over a 40-year period as a direct result of the gender pay gap, also known as the "career wage gap. 78 cents is the amount that the average, full-time working woman makes for every $1 a man makes over a year. I'm pissed. Where's my money?
This loss of money affects the livelihood of women in a very devastating way. A report from the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that if women were paid fairly, family incomes would rise and poverty levels would fall.

Single women would take home 17 percent more in income if they were paid fairly. This would lead to a 50 percent reduction in poverty for these women, from 25.3 percent to 12.6 percent. Married women would receive 6 percent more if they were paid fairly. This would lead to a 62 percent reduction in poverty for these women, from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent.

 The wage gap has narrowed over time since the beginning of the last century, but it is still significant. Women earned 59% of the wages men earned in 1963; in 2008 they earned 77% of men's wages—an improvement of about half a penny per dollar earned every year.

There has been some progress in the direction of equality in pay recently though. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victims of pay inequity to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck. This Act is named after a former employee of Goodyear who alleged that she was paid 15-40 percent less than her male counterparts. President Obama has vowed to reduce the wage gap between the genders. Currently women make approximately 80 cents for every dollar that men earn.

Women have made enormous progress in the workforce since the Equal Pay Act, but the fact still remains the same four-and-a-half decades later, that the basic goal of the act has not been realized. Women work just as hard as men do and are still not paid in the same amount that men are paid. When is that going to change?

A Revised Budget Plan for California

Governor Schwarzenegger has done it again. Last week, the Governor revised the state's budget which included eliminating health programs and ceasing the increase of funding for it k-12 schools. Home healthcare for the elderly and disabled and the Healthy Families program for low-income children are being cut from the budget as previous efforts at scaling back such programs were overturned.

California is only digging itself deeper and deeper into a hole that will take a while to climb out of. It's true, "California no longer has low hanging fruits," as the governor has stated in his speech on Friday concerning the newly revised budget plan, but eliminating much needed programs isn't going to really help a lot of people now is it?

Schwarzenegger has announced that he would reduce Health and Human Services, including CALWORKs, eliminate 60 percent of funding for Community Mental Health and child care funding except for preschool and after-school programs. He has also proposed downsizing some of our natural resource programs. And the list goes on even further.

Previous attempts to eliminate the vital programs have been reversed by federal courts. The rulings, issued mostly over the last two years, have already forced the state to unwind roughly $2.4 billion in cuts approved by the governor and Legislature and have alarmed other financially strapped states seeking ways to balance their budgets.

Why not tax the oil companies? We are the only one of the 22 major oil states to give the industry a free ride. And we're the third-biggest producer in the country. It's just in times like these; we need all the money that we can get. Not from robbing little old ladies via their health care, but taxing the guys with thousands of dollars lining their pockets. I'm just saying.

Discussing Immigration

Lately Immigration reform has in the national spotlight after Arizona passed its tough immigration enforcement law last week. The law will allow police to question anyone about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally, and the law makes it a state crime if they are.

The law takes effect in late July or early August, 90 days after the Arizona Legislature adjourns. But many say that the law is unconstitutional and unfair because it promotes racial profiling. Apparently it has been estimated that 440,000 illegal immigrants reside in the state of Arizona.

Many say this law just gives cops the right to profile people of Hispanic descent. And since roughly 30 percent of Arizona is Hispanic and about 80 percent of illegal immigrants are also Hispanic, many people say the law basically mandates that police engage in racial profiling and apprehending people based on their appearance rather than on any evidence that they may be in violation of the law.

Also amid the national debate over Arizona's tough new immigration law, Republican Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James (and son of previous Gov. Fob James) vows in a new campaign ad that if he's elected, he'll give the state driver's license exam only in English, as a cost-saving measure.

"This is Alabama; we speak English," he says in the ad "If you want to live here, learn it." According to AOL News, exams are currently given in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.

Watch the ad here.

Puff and Pass This Law?

There is a political party centered on it, and hundreds of people using and selling it for medicinal purposes are campaigning for it. This year's coming statewide November election is now the year for the possible legalization of marijuana.

In 1996 California voters decided that marijuana could be used for medical purposes and since then fourteen other states have followed in our footsteps. And now, in what originally was intended to be for people suffering from serious afflictions like debilitating pain and terminal cancer, became a slow shift in the law towards legalization.

This November, if the proposition is passed, marijuana will be legalized for recreational use for those 21 years of age and older. The law will allow people to grow 25 square feet of the substance at their own residence, and if legalized, marijuana would be taxed providing extra revenue for the state.

"The Cannabis Act" is already causing a major uproar amongst law enforcement and clergy members all over California. Many law enforcement officials and clergy members are voicing their opinions against the proposition saying that the if marijuana is legalized, there will be a lot more kids dropping out of school and getting into "harder drugs" like cocaine or methamphetamine since marijuana is already deemed "the gateway drug".

I would have to say that marijuana becomes more of a problem because it's so taboo, and knowing that the drug has had many reported health benefits, cannabis is becoming something that a lot of people are willing to decriminalize.

But many dispensary owners, the people who use it for medicinal purposes and other like minded people who also see the controlled substance as a health benefit, see the act as part of the solution to help California's large deficit. And many cannabis act supporters are spending millions of dollars for the campaign one of whom, a dispensary owner in Oakland is spending $20 million for ads.

This year is definitely an important time for people who have been trying to legalize the drug's recreational use for 35 years. They believe that cannabis does have several well-documented beneficial effects. Among these are: the amelioration of nausea and vomiting, stimulation of hunger in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, lowered intraocular eye pressure which is shown to be effective for treating glaucoma, as well as a pain reliever. Less confirmed individual studies also have been conducted indicating cannabis is beneficial in a variety of conditions including Multiple sclerosis and depression according to the NORML, or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

They also believe that allowing the drug to be used recreationally will benefit California immensely. With the budget problem consists of a $6.3 billion projected deficit for 2009–10 and a $14.4 billion gap between projected revenues and spending in 2010–11, according to the California Legislative Analyst's Office, any new source of funding will be helpful.

According to NORML, in 1980 there were 401,982 total marijuana arrests in the Unites States. That number is only extremely increasing with numbers doubling to 872,720 last year in 2007. Many people believe that by decriminalizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes it will help relieve some of the pile up in the prisons and that tax payers will have to pay a less amount to keep people in prison.

It's really crazy how the money spent on keeping those people in prison who were arrested on the possession, use or sale of marijuana could be used on our schools. Programs and classes have already been cut here at my school, Cal Poly Pomona, and at other CSU's and UC's all over California. It just makes sense to go ahead and decriminalize marijuana.

And with California in so much debt and not that many options to choose from, maybe taxing cannabis and letting the pot smokers come out and smoke freely isn't such a bad idea.

Historic Health Care Bill Passed

If you haven't heard this news by now, then you probably live under a rock. Last Sunday, the historic Health Care bill was finally passed. This is either awesome or really awful news depending on your views. But one thing that has not really been discussed is what is actually in the bill.

The bill will basically allow doctors and patients will have more control over their health care decisions. Insurance company bureaucrats will have less. If you are an American who already has health insurance, your coverage will become more stable and secure. If you are uninsured, insurance will become more affordable.

If you have a child with a pre-existing condition, like diabetes or asthma, he or she cannot be denied coverage by insurance companies. That part of the plan is in effect six months after enactment. In 2014, the prohibition against denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions will apply to everyone.
For seniors, the bill provides a $250 rebate this year to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the "donut hole" in coverage. And next year it eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program.

And from what it seems, it doesn’t look like the government is necessarily "taking over health care." Like anything else we haven’t experienced before, I think we should just try this out. Health care was already a big issue to begin with, why not try and fix it?

Guns and Coffee?

The next time you walk into a Starbucks, are you going to have to watch out for gun toting, coffee drinking citizens? Apparently the Coffee chain Starbucks Corp. is sticking to its policy of letting customers carry guns where it's legal and said it does not want to be put in the middle of a larger gun-control debate.

Earlier this month, the company made their statement on the response from the recent campaign by some gun owners, who have walked into Starbucks and other businesses to test state laws that allow gun owners to carry weapons openly in public places. Gun control advocates have protested.

The fight began heating up in January in Northern California and has since spread to other states and other companies, bolstered by the pro-gun group Apparently a lot of the incidents where people came in with their guns were merely spontaneous. But some of the incidents resulted with large groups of people coming in to Starbucks with their guns proudly at their sides.

Now, gun control advocates are protesting the policy. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, launched a petition drive demanding that the company "offer espresso shots, not gunshots" and declare its coffeehouses "gun-free zones." And that group delivered 28,000 signatures to the coffee giant's headquarters in Seattle.

But the Corp. is sticking to its "guns" and allowing the regulars to walk in with their weapons. Starbucks also asked both gun enthusiasts and gun-control advocates "to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue."

Watch the video

9/11 A Big Lie?

Well that’s what Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said on Saturday. Apparently Ahmadinejad called the official version of the Sept. 11 attacks a "big lie" used by the U.S. as an excuse for the war on terror, state media reported.

Now a lot of people, include many American’s, have stated before that they thought the 9/11 attacks were really an inside job. I’m not really one of those people, and I think this is really a result of the continuation of a centuries-old conflict that began before any of us were really born.

At the time, he also told Iranian state TV the attacks were "a result of mismanaging and inhumane managing of the world by the U.S," and that Washington was using Sept. 11 as an excuse to attack others.

He has also questioned the Sept. 11 death toll of around 3,000, claiming the Americans never published the victims' names. Crazy, right? But on the 2007 anniversary of the attacks, the names of 2,750 victims killed in New York were read aloud at a memorial ceremony.

Have you seen this crazy ad?

Ok, so there is a three-and-a-half minute ad circulating funded by Carly Fiorina's campaign for the California Senate. This ad is squarely aimed at her Republican opponent Tom Campbell, a former Congressman and Stanford law professor. 

Watching this ad gave me the creeps as the soft spoken announcers speak sarcastically about a "wholesome and honorable" Tom Campbell, turns into lightening flashing and demon eyed wolves dressed disguised as a sheep among an unsuspecting herd. 

It's really out there in the creepy psychedelic way. But after thinking about it the ad is drawing a lot of attention to the candidates. Maybe the ad was a genius move?

The Tea Party Revolution

The Tea Party has been heating up talk about the next election. And no, I’m not talking about the Canadian rock band, but a political Party that has already sparked interest by both the Democrat and Republican Parties. Some of the faces of the two leading political Parties are looking into the complaints and the concerns that the Patriots of the newly rising Party have expressed and are trying to get in on the action. Politicians like Sarah Palin are looking in to see how far the Party can achieve before the 2012 election.

Members of The Tea Party Patriots have been protesting and voicing their concerns all of the country, speaking at rallies and gathering support from many frustrated people fed up with tax increases.

The Party focuses its concerns on fiscal responsibility, enforcing a constitutionally limited government and they push for free markets. Already people have taken notice to this fast rising political Party, and I’m just wondering if they’ll end up having someone representing their movement in the actually election.

Is this the future of American politics?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Failed Terrorist Attack Leads To Heightened Security

On Friday a Nigerian man who was said to be an agent for al-Qaida attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane as it was preparing to land in Detroit.

Passengers aboard the flight smelled smoke and heard the failed bomb detonation before they rushed to restrain him. One U.S. intelligence official said the explosive device was a mix of powder and liquid. Apparently the man suffered burns to his legs where the bomb was attached.

The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel. It did not specify what those were. But for frequent fliers, the stricter airline restrictions are most likely going to cause even longer wait lines and more frustrated travelers than the ones we have now.

Arriving earlier for the long check-in process and only being allowed 3.4 ounce bottles for liquid stored in one-quart bags per person and limiting the total liquid volume each traveler can bring, are just some of the precautions that the TSA has already taken when it comes to security.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that airport security needs some work. I just believe rather than adding more regulations to the list, airport officials should just buckle down on trying to enforce their rules a little better.

I just hope that I don’t have to endure a wait that resemble Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal.

60th Democratic Vote Passes the Health Care Bill

The wait is over and now President Obama has something to celebrate about over the holidays. Sen. Ben Nelson provided the 60th and deciding vote to pass the health care legislation in Senate.

After a year of revisions, struggle and confusion from some Senators who didn't even know what was in the bill, President Obama's top domestic priority has been completed.

It was said that Nelson made the decision after winning fresh concessions to limit the number of abortions and in insurance sold in newly created changes, as well as tens of million in Federal Medicaid funds for his home state. The Senator also made it apparent that the government-run option wouldn't compete with the private insures.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the revises measure would lower deficits by $132 billion over a decade with a possibility of even more reductions to follow in the decade following. It is estimated that the bill will extend its coverage to 94% of eligible Americans under the age of 65, a total that will exclude illegal immigrants.

Nelson's decision has put Obama and his allies on track by passing this legislation before Christmas despite the unanimous opposition from the Republicans. I just hope that the rest of Obama's check list for the nation will succeed as the health care reform did.

Accepting the Peace Prize on the way to War?

Thanks for the Nobel Peace Prize, now it’s off to war. If this doesn’t sound ironic to you then I don’t know what will.

While accepting the peace prize, Obama spelled out a doctrine of justifiable war and the steps needed for a "just and lasting peace." Fighting for peace? I think that sounds a little funny.

Obama arrived Friday from Norway after becoming the first president to collect the honorable award so early in his term.

President Obama accepted the peace prize just nine days after ordering 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Obama justified his “peaceful war” by mentioning “that the tools of war have a role in preserving peace he also stressed the need to avoid conflict. He called for alternatives to killing, like sanctions with true bite”.

He defined free speech and economic opportunity, peace as civil rights, not just the absence of conflict. And he pushed himself away from the former president, George W. Bush, defending diplomacy that engages even enemies.

It was said that Obama was chosen for the award more for his aspirations and approach than his accomplishments so far. The Nobel committee honored him for changing the gist of international politics and pursuing goals that the winner himself says will take a world effort, like nuclear disarmament and reversing global warming.

I just hope that he will actually accomplish something that will be Nobel Peace Prize worthy during his stay in the White House.

Obama Promises To Put More Americans Back To Work

Obama has recently pledged on his weekly radio and internet address that he will focus every single day on building the economy and putting people back into more productive jobs.

The President will speak on Tuesday about the country's 10 percent unemployment rate despite the November's lower jobless rates.

There is definately a trend in the unemployment rate, but Obama is still not satisfied, which makes sense to the million Americans who have lost their job during the recession.

President Obama says his $787 billion stimulus plan prevented a possible collapse of the financial system or a potential second Great Depression.  But he says history shows that hiring is often slow to follow an economic rebound.

This is all good news, and it is definately a step in the right direction as we can now see some progression out of the this awful recession. But health care is still a major issue in the economic plan that Obama plans to speak about at Capitol Hill on Sunday.

Black Friday Spending

First off, for those of you who don't know what it is, Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season.

The term dates back to at least 1966, although its usage was primarily on the East coast. Many retailers open extremely early, with most of the retailers typically opening at 5AM or even earlier.

The term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day, but more recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (i.e., posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (i.e., turning a profit).

This year consumer spending was slightly higher on Black Friday. I suppose the stores opening earlier and less supplies of popular products wouldn't be to blame would it? Preliminary sales data already show shoppers spent $10.66 billion when they hit the malls on the day after Thanksgiving, up only 0.5 percent more than last year,according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp.

Shoppers crowded stores and malls in the wee hours Friday, some after spending the night waiting in line, to grab early morning deals and hard-to-find items. The nation's retailers expanded their hours and offered deep discounts on everything from toys to TVs in hopes of getting consumers, many of whom are worried about high unemployment and tight credit, to open their wallets. 

A number of stores, including Walmart and many Old Navy locations, opened on Thanksgiving, hoping to make the most of the extra hours. Toys R Us opened most of its stores just after midnight Friday. Which makes me wonder if people even celebrated Thanksgiving.

So hopefully with all this added time to shop, when the final numbers come out about Black Friday sales we'll see a greater increase in spending.

Health Care A Go?

So for those who have been following the news lately, you are already informed about the situation that the new health care reform bill is in.

We know that the bill is most likely going to get passed if all the Democrats in the Senate vote in favor for it.

Depending on who you decide to talk to, the facts that you will receive will vary quite noticeably.

On the one hand, a Democrat in the Senate who agrees that the bill should be passed will tell you that 98% of Americans will get covered in this new government run health care plan and the 31 million needed to finance this bill will only be a result of taxes that those who earn at least $200,000 in their annual salary or more will have to pay.
But on the other hand, a Republican in the Senate will inform you that important regular screening such as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings will be limited and most likely rationed out despite the need for women to get screened early and often.

The so called "recommendations" that were just released from the government had recently informed people that women over 50 were the only ones who should really worry about mammogram screenings and that cervical cancer screenings were really "recommended" for women 21 years of age or older. These new releases actually sparked the concerns of rationing from the health care plan because the statements were actually misleading.
But of course if you talk to Democrat in the Senate, like Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu who according to the Associated Press says she will vote yes on the bill, will tell you that they guarantee that there will be no rationing of much needed procedures and screenings and that everyone will still be able to receive these simple procedures and screenings just like how it is actually recommended.
I for one would like the voters to actually review the bill thoroughly and revise any "misleading" information in the plan. But that of course is wishful thinking and something left for a perfect world.

Shutting Down the Fox News Channel and Our Freedom of Speech?

 So I know I'm a little late to comment on the matter, but this issue of potentially getting rid of a whole news channel kind of makes me nauseous.

So as everyone should know, during an appearance on Fox News, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said that Fox's news coverage has at times been "shockingly biased, and I think that's wrong and I just say so right up front."

The party Chairman also said he agreed with the netroots campaign to boycott the Democratic debates on the network.

Immediately after hearing this news my mind flashed back to the first Amendment, you know, the one about our freedom of speech? So what if a news station is a bit biased. They still report the facts while suggesting their opinion on the matter. It's impossible not to have an opinion.

And maybe I just think this way because I'm a blogger who is obviously extremely opinionated about everything as I'm aloud to be, but with so many options of news coverages, how else is each channel going to stand out?

Everyone pretty much covers the news at a relatively quick response within minutes of the break of a newsworthy story, but what makes people actually choose a specific source is now mainly the accuracy and the opinions provoked. And with the accuracy box checked on Fox News Channel, I believe they are allowed to voice their opinions on everything political. That's just the way I view the matter.

Should Obama have really received a Nobel Peace Prize?

Mixed reactions buzz around this event like wildfire. Today, President Obama received the Nobel Preace Prize. 

But what really stopped the press was the overwhelming tension between the people who believe he shouldn't have been awarded this honor because it is still premature and the people that believe he does indeed deserve it. 

The question is, should Obama have really received a Nobel Peace Prize, or are they now handing these things out like candy on Halloween? Seriously though, they say the Peace Prize was created partly to encourage ongoing peace efforts, but Obama's efforts are at far earlier stages than those of past winners, and the committee acknowledged they may not bear fruit at all.

Obama said he was working to end the war in Iraq and "to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies" in Afghanistan, where he is seriously considering increasing the number of U.S. troops on the ground and asking for help from others as the war enters its ninth year. 

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi in Afghanistan condemned the Nobel committee's decision, saying Obama had only escalated the war and had "the blood of the Afghan people on his hands."Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called the Nobel decision "hasty." 

"The appropriate time for awarding such a prize is when foreign military forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan and when one stands by the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people," he was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency. Aagot Valle, a lawmaker for the Socialist Left party who joined the Nobel committee this year, said she hoped the selection would be viewed as "support and a commitment for Obama."

In my opinion, I agree with the ones who said Obama shouldn't have received such an award this early in his time in office. Just because he promised hope and change doesn't mean that you should win an award for it. I think they should have waited and seen if he made good on his promises. But since we can't take it back, I believe Obama receiving this award will motivate more to stick to his promises.

Garrido Story: Why is the Justice system letting these criminals get away?

Katie Callaway Hall has thought about Phillip Garrido every day since November 22, 1976 when he asked her for a ride at a supermarket in California, before handcuffing her, binding her and taking her to a mini-warehouse in Reno, Nevada, where he raped her. 
Garrido was convicted for kidnapping and raping Hall, but was released after serving just over 10 years of a 50-year sentence. He was labeled a sex offender and put on lifetime parole. So why is it that Garrido and his wife, Nancy, were charged last week with crimes relating to the abduction of 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991 and her captivity in a hidden shed-and-tent compound in the couple's backyard in Antioch, California?

Imagine the thought that your rapist and potential killer is out on the loose after your terrible ordeal and then finding out that this same person caused pain to a little girl and the two children she was forced to have with him. 
Not only should you be terrified for your life because of this situation, but you should also be pissed off at our legal system for letting this pervert slip through the cracks. I for one wonders how this could ever happen. But because this guy slipped through the system, Jaycee Dugard was held captive for an avoidable 18 years.

I just find this story to be ridiculous for the fact that this could have never happened. I Just hope that we use this tragedy as a warning to change some laws in our Justice system.

First Garrido victim speaks out ..CNN's Larry King

Health care for all?

We all know that the current state of health care is on the road to change, but what we all don't know is both sides to the argument.

On one side, people say that Medicare is government-funded and government-run and generally patients love it. So what's the problem? Well the doctors say the problem is that Medicare limits how much they can charge. They say doctors are also facing a potential 20 percent cut in their Medicare payments unless Congress acts on the this health care issue, according to NPR. Should we be worried about there not being enough doctors to care for 46 million newly-insured people?

And we all know that this health insurance reform is expensive, but the Congressional Budget Office estimated that expanding health insurance coverage would probably cost a trillion dollars or more over 10 years, depending on unspecified details that were almost sure to add to the price, according to the New York Times.

On the other side of the argument, they say that we waste $100 - $200 billion a year on the high overhead of insurance companies. $200 - $300 billion a year is frivolously spent to doctors filling out forms for insurance companies.

The compliance cost of patients fighting with insurance companies is unknown, but it is speculated to be in the 100’s of Billions. America is speculated to pay the highest drug cost in the world to drug companies that spend twice as much on profit and three times as much on “marketing” as they spend on research. This is about another $100 billion each year. Apparently this new health care plan will allow everyone to have health care insurance at no more cost per person than we are now paying, according to .

So should the government stay out of one of the biggest markets out there? Or should it be regulated and available to everyone? Hopefully we don't result in disaster while we sit back to find out.