Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama says waterboarding was torture

President Barack Obama said Wednesday night that waterboarding authorized by George W. Bush was torture, and the information obtained from suspected terrorists through its use could have been gathered in another way. President Obama admits that it may be challenging, but is "absolutely convinced" he had acted correctly in banning waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, and approved making public the Bush administration memos detailing its use as well as other harsh methods used on suspected terrorists. Obama has come under criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Republicans for banning waterboarding. Cheney as well as some congressional Republicans have urged Obama to release documents they say will show waterboarding was successful in obtaining information. President Obama told reporters he has reviewed the documents Cheney is referring to and stands by his decision.

President Obama's decision is ultimately justified .Terrorists are inhumane in their approach, but the United States should not behave at their level as it would merely result in hypocrisy. While obtaining information from terrorists is extremely crucial, the government should not have to resort to cruel and unusual punishment.

School closures... yea or nay?

I guess I've seen this in the newspapers and on the news in the past few days, but school closures are happening pretty close to us. If somebody shows symptoms then the school closes for a while in order to prevent the spread. Pretty crazy timing for us AP class taking seniors eh? While of course I hope that nobody at Aragon catches the flu, It seems a possibility. Additionally, and tragically, the first swine flu- caused death to happen in America was a 23 month old child who had traveled from Mexico, although another child has died in Texas. However, apart from those who are very young and weak, and as long as people don't wait when they feel symptoms, most cases are mild. Any thoughts on how the structure of our last high school year will be affected? At least it will make an interestingish story to tell people in 10 years.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Huge ice chunks break away from Antarctic shelf

Large chunks of ice are breaking away at a fast rate in the western Antarctic Peninsula. 1,300 square miles of ice may possibly crumble in the next few weeks from the Wilkins Ice Shelf. Ironically, the shelf had been stable for the majority of the last century but began deteriorating in the 1990's. A total of 8 ice shelves have shown signs of crumbling over the last few decades. Yet the retreat of the Wilkins shelf is by far the largest collapse scientists have documented, losing about 14 percent of its mass last year. The average temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has risen about 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit within the last 50 years, which is higher than average global rise.

The condition of the Wilkins shelf obviously demonstrates human impact among global warming. It's no mere coincidence that the ice shelf began to disintegrate in an atmosphere heightened with greenhouse gas emissions. The government should definitely focus on this problem as the consequences of the potential sea level rise could be dramatic to the environment. It's easy to turn a blind eye to events that seem distant and do not have a direct effect on the public, yet the large demise of the ice shelf ultimately represents its urgent need for attention. As the effects of global warming become increasingly more harmful and apparent, time will tell if the government will take the correct steps to remedy the situation.

How are some of the many world events affecting you?

Lately, it seems that the world is almost falling apart at the seams. Genocide, illness, terrorism, war, economic woes, almost everything bad imaginable is happening somewhere in the world. As a member of a very affluent community, do you see these things in ways other than the statistics or the front page of a newspaper? I have been lucky enough to be relatively untouched by the economic downturn so far, and I have also been lucky enough that nobody close to me has been affected greatly. However, the first real concrete thing that happened to me recently was the cancellation of a mission trip to Mexico. Because our plane was stopping in Mexico city, it was decided that it was simply too much of a risk with the swine flu. How have these things been affecting you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Officials propose swine flu may cause deaths in the US

Governments are currently taking action to prevent the further outbreaks of swine flu. Federal officials have stated that deaths as a result of swine flu are becoming increasingly more likely after killing numerous people in Mexico. Yet no deaths outside of Mexico have been reported. As of right now, there are 64 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States. Richard Besser, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated that, "I fully expect we will see deaths from this infection." Cuba has even taken the extreme action of banning all flights to Mexico.

President Obama proposed 1.5 billion in emergency funds to Congress to aid prevention of the disease. The funds would contribute to building stockpiles of drugs and monitoring of future cases. Officials have stated that swine flu cannot be classified as a pandemic as of right now and encourage taking all actions to prevent it from becoming so.

I feel that the government should contribute to prevent further spreading of swine flu, yet the extent to which the government should focus on the disease is debatable. An average of 20,000 people die from regular flu-related causes each year. The severeness of the disease is not entirely known, as no deaths have resulted from swine flu outside of Mexico. The media may be exaggerating the effects of swine flu, resulting in unnecessary panic. While citizens should be forewarned of the disease and the precautions that should be taken to prevent it, the extent of its impact has not fully been discovered and therefore not worthy of nationwide hysteria.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Japan pays foreign workers to go home...and not come back

This is easily the strangest government plan to combat recession I have ever seen. Japan is now offering its hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants to pay for their airline trip back to Latin America, in exchange for their agreement to never seek work in Japan again.

Some background information: Japan's Latin American immigrant workforce primarily came from Brazil, where Japanese citizens were encouraged to move to Brazil and its neighboring countries to work in coffee plantations around the 20th century. These "Nikkei Brazilians" were granted special visas to return to Japan around 1990 when Japan faced an industrial slump. Currently they make up the largest immigrant workforce in Japan, with around 366,000 people.

With the economic recession hitting nearly every country in the world, Japan faced a 45% drop in exports, 4.4% unemployment, and the lowest industrial production in 25 years. In response, the Japanese decided to urge its immigrant works to leave the country, which they reason could lower pressure on domestic labor markets.

The program offers about $3000 in airline fare to Latin American guest workers, as well as $2000 for each dependent in the family. Workers are allowed to keep any leftover money. The catch is that workers who agree to take the money cannot apply for a work visa in Japan. Without that, they essentially can never again work in Japan.

Not surprisingly, this plan caused a lot of shock among both native Japanese and the Brazilian immigrants. From what I understand, the Japanese ministry is trying to open up the vacant jobs left behind by leaving workers to native citizens. The vast majority of the immigrant workers hold jobs involving either more menial labor or dangerous conditions. Can you imagine if the US tried to do this too? I have no idea as to how successful this plan will be in improving Japan's economy, but it definitely wont help make the country more multicultural, something the country has tried to do in recent years. I guess only time will tell.

Pakistan Falling to the Taliban?

It seems to me as if all the focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, while obviously warranted, as we have two wars currently taking place there, coupled with the attention given to Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia is making it so that the situation in Pakistan is somewhat lost in the muddle of Middle East conflict. This is probably not a good thing.

Pakistan has been one of our most important allies in the War on Terror, especially in the Afghan theater, and it's now in danger of becoming either a failed state or a nation run by the Taliban. With all the recent political turmoil, involving assassinations, resignations, maybe even a coup, if I remember correctly, the overall stability of Pakistan is rapidly decreasing. This of course makes it ripe for insurgency action by Taliban members working out of the remote, essentially lawless borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So what's the problem here? Well, besides likely signaling a complete failure of the conflict in Afghanistan, a Pakistan run by the Taliban would pose a grave threat to world safety.

Pakistan is one of the few nations in the world with nuclear capabilities, developed to serve as a deterrent against perpetual sharer of enmity India, also a nuclear power. A nuclear Taliban would, obviously, not be good. For anybody, except maybe the Taliban, although that might even be debatable.

Michael Crowley, a blogger at "The Plank" on the website of The New Republic, wonders how long it takes for Obama to send in airstrikes and/or special forces, whether the Pakistani government endorses it or not. A very fair question, although it's entirely possible neither is a feasible solution, at least, not without extreme dissent from an American public already tired of two Middle Eastern wars.

That seems to me to be a very reasonable argument against the war in Iraq, especially, but a lot of war in general: What do you do when you're in an unnecessary war, and all of a sudden a necessary one pops up? That's not to say that Pakistan is destined to fall, and we should all hope very much that it doesn't, but it's something to think about. You can only engage in so many battles at once. Pick your fights wisely, I guess.

Supreme Court limits car searches without warrants

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that police needed a search warrant to search the vehicle of an arrested person if the person is locked in a patrol cruiser and poses no threat to the officer. This 5-4 decision is said to put many new restrictions on police officers, stopping them from searching the vehicle immediately after an arrest. The warrantless searches can still take place if the officer has reason to believe evidence regarding the arrest can be found in the car.

The new ruling is mainly dealing with daily cases where cops will pull someone over. As long as one isn't a threat to the officer, or has any reason to be suspected of suspicious activity, their vehicle can't be randomly searched. Of course, drunk or otherwise influenced drivers don't get a free pass if the police thinks the offending substance is still in the car. Still, it's an interesting step towards more rights for the accused that will probably be well received.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

European Nations Getting Involved....

To add more info from my last post, the CIA interrogation cases may be getting a bit more interesting as now it seems that some European nations are going to get involved, and possible hold some of their own trials for the men involved in this case. Some nations already have laws in which they state that they can investigate "torture, genocide and other human rights crimes anywhere in the world". Countries such as Spain have been pushing for their governments to investigate the men involved with these interrogation cases, with the backing of some UN officials who state how the techniques were a clear violation of human rights.

Personally, I do not mind seeing other nations getting involved if our own government does not want to step up and take responsibility for our own actions. But some also say we also have to consider how it would look to our image to the entire world. Do you think it would change what people around the word think of our country? Thoughts?

European Nations May Investigate Bush Officials Over Prisoner Treatment

Dick Cheney Has a Good Idea? Uhm... Okay...

I don't have the link handy at the moment, but it's been going around the blogosphere, and is perhaps even spreading into the MSM, that former Vice-President Dick Cheney has called for the release of CIA reports regarding the apparent successes of torture, or enhanced interrogation, or whatever we're all calling it these days.

Cheney's rationale is more or less that if everyone knows how well all our waterboarding, sensory deprivation, slappin, etc. worked, how safe it really made us, then we'll all just say "Great, sounds like torturing people is a good idea, no matter how illegal or immoral it may be."

Obviously I doubt that would be the expected reaction, but I think Mr. Cheney might be on to something here. The more we know about what the US has been doing in regards to interrogation, the more likely we may be to actually do something about this, in terms of prosecutions, truth comissions or what have you. So yeah, let's get those papers out, everything we can. Because really, if we don't let everything out, we can never know what else we're hiding.

The best thing I have ever seen on FOX NEWS

Warning: profanity included. Wow. Inappropriate, and yet so appropriate. Click here.

Morgan Stanley Brings Market Down

Morgan Stanley, one of the few investment banks left on Wall Street, announced their quarterly earnings today. Anticipating a poor report, traders set the market price of MS's stock two dollars before yesterdays closing price. Attacking the low price, MS investors raised the average stock price briefly until the quarterly announcement was made. After noon, equity fell and never rose again, leaving the current price two dollars and twenty one cents below yesterday's closing price, an 8.97 percent drop.

Unsurprisingly, Morgan Stanley's quarterly earnings reflected a more than expected loss. While officials believed Morgan Stanley would fall around eight cents per share, their actual loss was about fifty seven cents per share, roughly $177. In order to compensate, Morgan Stanely cut dividends from twenty seven cents per share to around five cents per share. The dramatic decrease can be explained by poor equity sales, the decline in commercial real estate, and changing their primary focus to fixed-income trading.

Morgan Stanley's decline had a noticeable impact on the rest of the market. JP Morgan, a competor in the investment banking sector, fell sixty three cents, a 1.94% drop, Dow Jones composite index dropped eighty two dollars and nintey nine cents, a 1.04% drop, and the Standard and Poors 500 composite index fell six dollars and fiftey three cents, a 0.77% drop.

While the current credit freeze is a reaction to the illiquidity of "toxic" assets that have poisoned bank's finances, the decline of Morgan Stanley's quarterly earnings was well expected. The good news, however, is that the large investment banks are refinancing their balance sheets in order to pull the loan industry out of fearful spending. By focusing on fixed-income trading, and other more reliable sources of income, the investment banking sector is moving towards a less risky manner of making money. Undoubtably, the investment banking sector is allways going to be involved in some form of risk, but the banks are rethinking and therefore rebalancing their finances. Hopefully, these assets will unfreze credit, and in turn raise the economy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No Prosecution for Interrogation Methods?...Not So Fast

Today President Obama surprised some by stating that he would not be "necessarily oppose a U.S. panel to investigate the interrogation program", going against what many interpreted he said a couple days back about there being no prosecutions for these men involved in these interrogation programs. In this article by Reuters,, Obama also went on to state that he just want the questioning to take place "outside of the 'typical hearing process' of Congress".

Now I know that the decision for Obama to release the memos was a very controversial one, with lots of backlash coming from conservatives, but is it a good idea to go through a hearing/interrogation of these men (ironically)? Personally, I would just see this as another distraction for our economic problems and I believe that those should be our first priority right now. What do you guys think? Should Obama be willing to let Congress have their day with these men? Or would it be too much of a distraction away from our economic problems in this country?

Monday, April 20, 2009

CIA delays 'torture memos' release

This article seemed to have caused a stir in the news recently. On Thursday, April 13, President Obama authorized the release of classified Bush-era interrogation memos. Had there not been staunch opposition from four former CIA directors, the memos would have been available to the public much sooner. Apparently, the memos' release might open up CIA officers to lawsuits filed against them on accusations of torture and abuse. The former CIA chiefs argued that opening the memos to the public could hinder current intelligence operations. Interestingly, the Jusitice Department urged senior CIA members to release the memos almost completely uncensored, which they were.

While I can understand why former CIA directors wanted to delay the relase of these once classified memos, I'm curious as to why Obama and his administration was pushing for their declassification. Because these documents are relatively recent, they contain important information on how our secret service operates that is not yet outdated, and to release the memos would be a considerable security leak. Exposing the acts of "torture" may be important for future reform of the department, but it definitely isn't helping the organization and efficiency of the department right now. To cover up human rights violations is bad, but to threaten the security of the nation just to satisfy the curious demands of society doesn't seem much better. Thoughts?

Marking an Anniversary

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the shootings at Coloumbine High School in Colorado that killed 12 students and 2 teachers as well as the two shooters themselves. As we are high school students now, it is impossible to remember what life in high school was like pre-Columbine, but here is something to think about... when the school does a lock-down drill it is called Code 99 because Columbine occured in 1999. So much has changed in terms of security in schools in just 10 years. There are metal detectors in many urban schools and video surveillance on campuses across the country. Security has been amped up, but is it enough?

Yes, it is true that one could argue that it violates the students right to privacy when lockers are searched or we are video-taped in the hallways, but should that right take prescedence over safety? Unfortunately, violence in schools has not stopped. This spring it will have been two years since the Virginia Tech killings of 23 students. Is there a way to stop such acts, or will there always be that one kid who is bent on destruction? Can psychologists predict who the next perpetrator will be? Will stepping up gun restrictions and laws help, or simply anger the NRA? These are very difficult problems when dealing with the safety of children. Any thoughts?


It only seems fitting that 4/20 should merit a marijuana policy post, especially since the issue has received very little coverage throughout the year on the Hitchhiker's Guide to National Affairs.

I'm not sure how many of you are regular readers of blogs outside of the class blog, but there's a wonderful writer out there named Andrew Sullivan, you might have noticed his blog listed in the Don Roll on the left side of your screen.

Anyways, Andrew, a longtime advocate of gay rights, and a gay man himself, has analogized the gay rights movement with that of the push for ending marijuana prohibition, a cause he also supports. The way he sees it, a deciding factor in the fight for equality among homosexuals was the decision made by many homosexuals to "come out of the closet" and show people that to be gay is not to be a freak, or a pervert, or what have you. Once people started realizing that homosexuals are just like everyone else, the movement for equality started gaining momentum.

So what does all this have to do with legalizing weed? Well, Mr. Sullivan has begun a regular feature on his blog, The Daily Dish, entitled The Cannabis Closet. As the name implies, the feature consists of anonymous emails sent to Andrew by normal, everyday people. Who also happen to smoke pot.

He's printed emails from youth football coaches, bankers, lawyers, moms, dads, graduate students, just about anyone you can think of. The point being that: hey, normal people can smoke weed too, it's not just hippies.

So what do you all think? Is Andrew correct in making the connection between gay rights and marijuana legalization? Will people coming out of the cannabis closet have any affect on ending marijuana prohibition? Has reading any of those emails changed your ideas about marijuana?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Recession's grip tight on jobs

A new government report on Thursday has come up with a unpleasant, yet unsurprising statistic: A record 6.1 million people will be receiving jobless benefits. The housing market has also plunged to its second-lowest level on the record. Construction as a whole seemed to have slowed, as the number of new homes has dropped 10.8 percent and applications for building permits are also declining .The recession is far from over.

The good news is that the economy is not plunging as badly as economists predicted it would. The Department of Labor readjusted its figures on annual unemployment claims, and found the adjusted 610,000 much less than the predicted 655,000. Apparently the spring shopping season has changed some of the numbers around, being much more successful than predicted. Hopefully this will show that even hard times, people will not hide all their money under the couch.

Middle East Peace?

Having recently returned from Israel, I heard a very interesting seminar and lecture that proposed the following statement: Israel's real problem is not the Palestinians, nor is it Lebanon; rather Israel's greatest threat to its existence (let alone peace) is Iran. The speaker, Neil Lazarus, proposed that the Pentagon's worst nightmare would be an Israeli preemptive strike on Tehran and Iran's nuclear program and then the retaliation from Iran, Hezbollah and all other anti-Israel countries surrounding it attack. What is the United States going to do then? 

I wonder about all of your opinions regarding peace in the Middle East. Do you think it needs to come from Israel or from its neighbors, or both? What is hindering the process? What is the objective in the region both for the United States, the world, and more specifically the parties involved? 

I think it is extremely dangerous to have someone like Ahmedinejad in power and even more frightening to discover that he has access to nuclear weapons. Not only is this a problem for the United States, but also it is an imminent and extremely serious threat to Israel. However, how does one deal with someone who refuses to follow acknowledge Israel's right to exist, denies the Holocaust,  refuses to follow U.N restrictions and poses a huge threat to global security when we need things from him, namely oil. The U.S has deep ties to Iran in terms of getting a huge amount of oil from the region and it would NOT be good in this economy to do something drastic and lose that large percentage of the oil market. So, I guess the question is what is to be done?  

Friday, April 17, 2009

Turnitin wins court battle over fair use...

See this Volokh post. Admittedly I find this interesting both as a consumer of turnitin and as Journalism instructor that deals with fair use law on a regular basis. I like to think of myself as a students' rights advocate, but really I'm a moderate, perfectly comfortable with this decision and NJ vs. TLO while fully supportive of Tinker and semi-outraged by Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and Morse v. Frederick. Interesting cases all.

Have a great, safe weekend.

Obama Heads South of the Border

Yesterday, President Obama met with Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, before they both head to the Summit of Americas later this week. The topic of discussion? Border safety and curbing the drug violence in both nations. President Obama expressed that the United States would be a partner with Mexico in terms of reducing the violent drug cartels' attacks and power. Obama acknowledged that this is not only Mexico's problem, but the United States' as well. He spoke of security measures in the United States (such as more stringent security on the border so guns and cash are not as accessible en route to Mexico) and how the United States is prepared to support Mexico in its endeavors.

From the articles I've read, the news and radio, it seems as though Americans don't fully understand the power of these drug cartels (I know I don't!). Apparently, it's like having 20 different mafias all of whom could take over cities, wreak havoc in little towns and have the power to do as they please because the citizens are so frightened of these drug lords. I think it is great that President Obama plans on supporting Mexico in this fight, but the question is will his plans come to fruition? Let's face it, the United States government, and especially Obama, has a lot on its plate. I hope that just because this problem isn't directly centered in the U.S (altough it's pretty dependent on America), it doesn't get pushed to the back burner.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Clinton Announces Plan to Reduce Piracy in Somalia

In recent years, the instances of piracy off the coast of Somalia have increased at an alarming rate. This week, United States Navy and cargo ships have been specifically targeted because of the Navy's rescue of an American Navy captain from a hostage situation which resulted in the deaths of three Somali pirates. As the danger and violence escalates off the coast of Somalia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today unveiled a plan to reduce the number of pirate attacks. Her plan consists of four main components: a delegation of diplomats being sent to Brussels next week to discuss the problem with Somali leaders, "the US would work with the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) to expand the multinational response to piracy" (, international discussions on how to freeze assets held by pirates and that countries need to step up and punish the pirates responsibly.

While I believe diplomacy should always be exhausted before any violence should be used, I wonder how much a meeting with diplomats in suits in Europe will help reduce violence off the in the Gulf of Aden. These pirates are, for the most part, using make-shift weapons and rubber boats to attack the Naval forces of developed countries. Why would they listen to their government leaders? It seems as though the United States should not simply work on the problem of Somali pirates, but also look at the conditions that breed the need to go into piracy to survive such as employment, the economy, and the education system of the country itself. Yes, that is a long-term problem that will not immeadiately reduce the pirates, but it seems worthwhile in the long run and I don't think that component of the problem should be overlooked.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Will Lifting Restrictions on Cuba Lead to More Lenient Immigration Laws?

Currently, President Obama is reviewing and considering new immigration reforms and last week it was announced that he is planning on lifting restrictions placed upon Cuban immigrants and Cuban-Americans who wish to send money to and communicate with their families in Cuba. I think it is about time that the United States stopped trying to regulate which nationalities get to send money back to their families in another country. This also raises the question of what Obama will do next in terms of immigration reforms such as laws that deal with illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and those who seek permanent residence in the United States.The article linked to this post shows a very common side of the plight of illegal immigrants and their families. While I do not condone illegal immigration, these are very difficult circumstances and hopefully, Obama will find some middle ground in terms of curbing illegal immigration while still maintaining the lives of those who have been in this country for decades and have built lives here, as well as those who have nowhere else to go.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kidnapped US captain freed; snipers kill 3 pirates

Thank god this whole thing is over! I can't believe nobody posted on this yet! US Navy snipers on the fantail of a destroyer cut down three Somali pirates in a lifeboat and rescued American sea captain Richard Phillips in a surprise nighttime assault in choppy seas Easter Sunday, ending a five-day standoff between a team of rogue gunmen and the world's most powerful military. One of the pirates pointed an AK-47 at the back of Phillips, who was tied up and in "imminent danger" of being killed when the commander of the nearby ship (USS Bainbridge) made the split-second decision to order his men to shoot, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said. The lifeboat was being towed by the Bainbridge at the time, he said. A fourth pirate was in discussions with naval authorities about Phillips' fate when the rescue took place. He is in U.S. custody and could face could face life in a U.S. prison. The rescue was a dramatic blow to the pirates who have preyed on international shipping and hold more than a dozen ships with about 230 foreign sailors. But it is unlikely to do much to quell the region's growing pirate threat, which has transformed one of the world's busiest shipping lanes into one of its most dangerous. It also risked provoking retaliatory attacks. Will the pirates learn from this or make retaliatory attacks? Yes, according to a self proclaimed pirate from Somalia. Jamac Habeb, the aforementioned self-proclaimed pirate, told the Associated Press from one of Somalia's piracy hubs that: "From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill the hostages."
"Now they became our number one enemy," Habeb said of U.S. forces. Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding the Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, said: "Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men." Was the rescue of the US captain a good thing? Yes. Was the killing of the pirates a good thing? That remains to be seen.

Out by 2011!

The top military commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, says that he thinks the United States will be our of Iraq by the year 2011. When asked to rate his confidence of his prediction on a scale of 1 to 10, Odierno replied "as you ask me today, I believe it's a 10 -- that we will be gone by 2011."
According to, nine U.S. troops were killed in March, which is the lowest monthly toll since the beginning of war in 2003. "So, there's been a clear improvement of security here," Odierno said. "The issue is: Can we maintain that? Can the Iraqis maintain it? And that's what we're working through now. We want them to be able to maintain this stability as we pull out."
This piece of news is music to my ears. When Bush was president, I had an incredibly hard time believing any predictions that came out of his mouth. To me, he had a secretive air about him and he seemed to be hiding something all the time. With Obama, now, I feel at ease trusting him as our Commander-in-Cheif to stick by his word and get our troops out of Iraq according to the set timeline. This assurance by General Odierno just reassures my thoughts.
I also think that pulling out of Iraq and sticking to the given timeline will significantly help our economy. Thousands of soldiers will be returning from Iraq, spending left and right on things they have needed since their departure for Iraq. Presents will be bought for them, stimulating the economy. Babies will be born, stimulating the economy. Overall, it's definitely a good thing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another Sales Drop in March

Sales continue to drop in March, as consumers show that they are not ready to spend the money. The American public is still not confident in the economy, and the fear of a worsening recession has affected their trust.
On the other hand, some stores have had an increase in sales. The stores that appeal the middle and lower classes have seen a new region of consumers come to their doors. Chains like Wall-Mart (1.4% increase), discount stores like TJX and Ross, as well as others.
But most retailers have suffered a sales decline. Abercrombie & Fitch was the most notable with a stunning 37 % drop in sales.
Specialty retailers in malls are still struggling, too, including Zumiez (down 17.9 percent), American Eagle Outfitters (down 16 percent), Wet Seal (down 11.4 percent), American Apparel (down 11 percent), Gap (down 8 percent) and Limited Brands (down 9 percent). Sales declined 2 percent at the Children’s Place.
Now, we can only wait to see the stimulus package work, and hope that Americans will once again start to spend some money.

Immigration reform doesn't make this year's cut

According to multiple sources from the Obama administration, the president doesn't plan on passing immigration reform this year but rather is going to focus on our economy. "There are a lot of things on his plate and a lot of pressing issues relating to the economy. I don't think he expects that it will be done this year," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters. Back when Obama was senator, he was very supportive of immigration reform, voting to build a 700-mile long fence across the US-Mexican border and backed plans that would provide a safe way for current illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship.

So should we start immigration reform right now? I think so. Immigration reform would be a great stimulus to our economy. The illegal immigrants right now getting paid under the table could come out of "hiding" and be able to start a family and a business, all of which would be great stimuli. Also, I think it would be somewhat of a morale booster. Many Americans get frustrated with the job market and claim that illegal immigrants have been taking American jobs. If the Obama administration began immigration reform that actually strengthen immigration laws, making it harder for illegal immigrants to take American jobs, but also making it possible to become a citizen, I think that would encourage the work force and get more people out and spending money.


Some relevant political cartoons...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spinach, peanuts, what??

The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, are now saying that we need an overhaul of the current regulation system. When the food safety system was made, food were groen and consumed more locally, but now there is a whole shipping and transporting factor in the food supply that makes it easily for E. coli and other harmful bacterias to find their way into our food.
Here in the US, people assume that the food we are eating is fully inspected and okay to eat because of our extensive regulation. But are we regulating enough? Growing up in the United States, I never thought twice about eating something that I bought from the store, assuming that it was fresh and not contaminated in any way. I'm scared to learn that that may not be the case.
Do you think that the government should spend more money to update the food regulation system in the country? With this economy, should that be the first priority? Or should our first priority be injecting the economy with money?

The pirates are not linked directly to any terrorists

The US hasn't found any direct ties between East African pirates and terrorist groups, but it continues to search for signs of links between the two factions in the wake of the recent Indian Ocean hijacking. According to the article this post is liked to, "military and counterterrorism officials say that in the transient world of Somalia's combative coastal dwellers, a Somali clansman can be a fisherman one day, a pirate the next, and a weapons trafficker the following day". This sounds a lot like the vietnam war to me, where a man could be a vietcong by night, and a simple villager by day. I do not believe the US stands a chance of wiping out piracy or terrorism, but I am shocked that the pirates would attack a US vessel after centuries of not doing so. There must be a reason behind this bold act. If they are in some way connected to a terrorist group, that might explain, but beyond that...any ideas?

Obama seeks $83.4 billion in special war money

Obama asked Congress on Thursday for $83.4 billion for U.S. military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, pressing for special troop funding that he opposed two years ago when he was senator and Bush was President.
This request, including the money needed to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, would push the costs of the two wars to almost $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service. The additional money would cover operations into the fall.
Obama is also requesting $350 million in new Pentagon funding to deal with Mexican drug cartels and conduct other security activities along the U.S.-Mexico border, along with another $400 million to help Pakistan in counterinsurgency efforts along the border with Afghanistan.
Robert Gibbs--the White House press secretary--said it was needed this time because the money will be required by summer, before Congress is likely to complete its normal appropriations process.
"This will be the last supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan," Gibbs said.
This monetary request by Obama shows his shift of focus from the war in Iraq to the war in Afganistan, where many challenges remain.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Old Man and the Fee

On April 7, Somalian pirates once again attempted to hijack a ship on it's normal route so they could hold the crew for ransom. The only difference from previous hijackings, is that this ship was being run by an American crew. This is the first time in a couple of centuries that pirates like this have attacked a United States' crew and cargo. The ship, the Maersk Alabama, carried food supplies and other aid like materials that were to be used to help different communities in the Kenyan port of Mombosa. However, the hijacking didn't go as planned and the American crew, along with American Naval Officers stationed near the Somalian coast, have taken back the ship and thwarted most of the pirates' plans. Yet, there's a problem. Before the skirmish was over, the captain of the Maersk, Captain Richard Phillips, allowed himself to be taken by the pirates so as to save his crew. Four of the pirates took him on one of the Maersk's lifeboats and are holding him hostage until their demands are met. The United States Navy and the FBI Hostage Negotiations Unit are both working to negotiate Captain Phillips' safe return. But the pirate's are "desperate" according the the USA Today article. Desperation causes people to do stupid things and it's very likely that Captain Phillips' life is at stake. This represents the first serious, albeit small, "security risk" for the Obama administration. I'm not aware of how much power each person of the government has in these type of situations, but what should the person calling the shots do in this type of situation? If you pay the ransom, you not only let the pirates get away, but you also encourage repeat attempts because they know it pays off. If you don't pay the ransom, sure you capture the pirates and discourage future attempts, but you would be putting the good captain in serious risk and also risk the lives of the pirates themselves. The press would have a field day if they knew the US forces allowed the captain to be killed in order to not pay a ransom. How much is an American citizen worth to the the United States government? How much are pirates lives worth? I would personally try to pay the ransom (there's an interesting article on how they do that here: secure the hostage, then take the pirates before they escape...but even that's really messy and there's no telling what the pirates will do. It all comes down to how much the pirates want to survive this incident.
Also, pirate attacks have been increasing (especially off the Somalian Coast) with this being the sixth hijack attempt this week! Why is this not a major concern at things like the G20 conference when it is obviously hindering trade and travel?

Oil's big 5 are thrilled with Obama's green outlook

As might be expected, the planned 150 billion dollar expenditure towards a greener future posed by the Obama administration is not sitting well with big oil companies like Shell and BP. The companies claim that the alternative energy would not be able to handle the vast amount of energy needed to run this country. Although the companies have run commercials claiming that they support alternative energy and will be experimenting with biofuels, their investments are quite small and are not a focus of their long term goals.
I think that alternative fuels are necessary to find and I think it's important for oil companies to make it a priority, but at the same time, we also have to keep our oil flow steady because our country still relies heavily on oil. Is it realistic to assume that we can replace conventional forms of energy in the time frame that Obama has given? Should we focus all our efforts on helping our dying planet and use a substantial amount of money towards alternative fuels?

Iran willing to talk to US if Americans are Honest

Finally, a step has been taken to prevent a potential nuclear war with Iran. The Obama Administration said today that they were planning, together with other world powers -Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia- to join a new round of talks on its nuclear program.
Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been cautious in his press conferences. He has stated that he is willing to talk to President Obama as long as the United States is honest and does not try to take advantage of the situation. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not yet taken a strong stand against the new American administration, like it did with President Bush.
Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Iran favored dialogue as long as it was based on mutual respect. “We favor dialogue with other countries but it has to be based on justice, respect and national security of our and other nations,” he said.
Let’s remember the campaign trail of the now President Obama. It had been an issue of debate the fact that Mr. Obama was one of the few or only candidates willing to talk to our enemies overseas without preconditions. The strong rival for the Democratic nomination, the now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, criticized Mr. Obama for his weak stand against our enemies.
It will be interesting to know, how Secretary Clinton feels about the new “relationship” with Iran.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Night of the Living Taliban

(I would read this post on the Taliban before reading the article, if you choose to do so.)
With the assurance that all combat operations will end in Iraq by late 2010, and that our troops will be evacuated by 2011, President Obama now refocuses American foreign policy and troops on fighting the problems in Afghanistan. However, the situation in Afghanistan is much like having a house whose occupants you evicted, you left for a while to deal with other houses and now those original occupants are back and bugging the current owners. Apparently, the Taliban are back and causing enormous problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But first, a little history of the Taliban (because I think it's important for later on):
The Taliban (which sort of means "religious students") started as a mujahideen ("holy warriors") group back when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. When the Soviets retreated, the Soviet-backed government had hard times trying to control the conflicting mujahideen and ultimately failed into obscurity around the early 90s, letting Afghanistan fall into the hands of corrupt warlords holding sway over their local territories. The Taliban up to this point, had been composed of various factions of religious students who had fought the Soviet occupation but were still unorganized and unpowerful when they were separated. However, in 1994, the Taliban united under the local faction of religious students in the city of Kandahar, taking that city, then began a push that eventually ended up with the now united Taliban capturing the capital city of Kabul and thus taking control of Afghanistan in 1996. At the head of the Taliban was a fierce cyclops of a man, Muhammed Omar, a one-eyed cleric who believed devoutly in the practices of Islam. He imposed Sharia, or Muslim law, over Afghanistan, banning education or other rights for women and supporting terrorists in the country. But yet, most citizens were relieved to see him come because he took power from the corrupt warlords and restored a sense of peace and trade to the region that it badly needed. Situations in the country deteriorated under the Taliban's rule, but Afghanistan WAS united (for the most part) rather than involved in an all out civil war. The Taliban continued in their oppressive peace from 1996 until 2001, when the United States invaded and took them out for harboring Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda ("the base" for those who don't know) in their country. The United States forced the Taliban out of power by aiding the opposing northern alliance of Afghan tribes and by bombing key Taliban military installations. The Taliban fell out of power and the new government, led by a funny-hat wearing man by the name of Karzai, seemed fit to rule instead. We thought that the Taliban was dead. Most of their leaders had been killed or had fled, and the Taliban as a whole seemed to have lost all power. We thought wrong. While the United States was fighting for six years in Iraq, the Taliban had come back from the dead, like very determined zombies. Violence and attacks by the Taliban have been increasing annually, with two NATO troops being killed just today in a car bombing. Their ties to Al-Qaeda have only strengthened and they are making a comeback. Yet, now that the Iraq War is (hopefully) winding to a close with the agreements that we will have our troops out within a year or two, the United States is ready to come back into Afghanistan and kick some ass! But it's not as simple as we found it. We can't just focus on Afghanistan if the Obama Administration is serious about taking down Al-Qaeda and the Taliban who support them. There's a problem, though, in that the Taliban and the majority of their ethnic make-up, the Pashtuns, have very strong ties to not only Afghanistan, but Pakistan. We didn't eradicate the Taliban, we just let them slip through our fingers into Pakistan where they've been gaining strength and occasionally mounting attacks into Afghanistan. Muhammed Omar, the cyclops leader of the Taliban, still eludes capture and the Taliban themselves guarunteed a safe haven for themselves while we were busy dealing with the climax of violence in Iraq, around late 2006 to early 2007. In those years, ex-president of Pakistan Musharref ("friend" of the United States) signed a deal saying the Taliban could hold sovereignty and rule over the area they had been basing in, including the Pakistani city of Quetta, which seems to be the stronghold of the group. Fans of the agreement argue that it contains the Taliban and helps prevent more factions from springing up elsewhere. Critics say it gives the Taliban and thus, also Al-Qaeda, a base of operations. However, this region and the city of Quetta are where "Cyclops" Omar and the rest of the Taliban have been planning against the new Afghan government and the resurging United States' plans of operation. The Pakistani government (without Musharref now) have seemed ambivalent towards the Taliban living within their borders. The Taliban have fought against the established government and caused trouble for the current leaders. And thus, according the the BBC, "Mr Obama has pledged substantial economic assistance for Pakistan - more than $1bn (£684m) annually over the next five years - but the money will depend on the army's performance against the Taleban and al-Qaeda. " While Obama was at the G20 conference and touring Europe, he sent special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, to the capitals of the those respective countries to "clarify Washington's thinking" and guaruntee the funding to the Pakistani Government. However, at the same time, according to the New York Times, "American officials say that Pakistan's military intelligence agency has continued to offer money, supplies and guidance to the Taliban forces in Afghanistan as a proxy to help shape a friendly government there once American forces leave." Pakistan's government refuses to be resolute on where it stands and could become a threat to the United States when we start to focus our efforts on destroying Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Afghan War might just expand to be the Afghan-Pakistani War and destroying the terrorist organization and capturing Osama Bin Laden could become bigger than just "refocusing our troops in Afghanistan."
Obama "unveiled a new strategy which suggested both Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to be fully engaged in the confrontation if the militants were to be defeated." (BBC) The presence of the Taliban in Pakistan is a big threat to the United States for two reasons: one) The Taliban have been closely interconnected with Al-Qaeda for decades, and their presence in Pakistan means there is an Al-Qaeda threat in Pakistan. and two) their presence in Pakistan gives a major base of operations to oppose any economic prosperity and peace United States' troops could fight for in Afghanistan.

I wanted to make sure people understood the background if this war gets bigger. Couple of questions though: Should we continue to fund Pakistan when we know there performance against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban has been shaky in the past? Would it be reasonable for the United States to expand it's war against terror into Pakistan, or would we be disrespecting the rules of internation law and sovereignty by exercising our own views and wills on a certain group? What should we do and how much power do we have to eliminate threats like terror in other people's countries? and to that same effect, what right do we have to carry on with drone attacks in Pakistan, and what does that show if our attacks are inhuman?

My information on the Taliban came from my own memory and summaries from the New York Times ( and ( The future plans of the Obama administration came from the article from the BBC and from the administration's website (

Job Losses Will Increase This Year, Biden Says

According to Vice President Biden, American job losses are going to continue to increase throughout this year, but the seeds of recovery are in place. The over $700 billion stimulus package pushed through Congress by Obama will hpoefully begin to make our job loss slow and our GDP go up. "We went out there and we came up with a major recovery package of over 700 billion dollars which we are spending now to prevent another 3.5 million to four million jobs from being lost in the meantime," he said. Thoughts anyone?

Obama's Guantanamo Policy to be Tested by Supreme Court

For the first time since he took office, President Barack Obama may see his Guantanamo detention policies tested before the US Supreme Court. This occurred after 14 Chinese Uighurs (members of the predominantly Muslim and Turkinc-speaking Uighur minority) who were detained without any charges lodged a petition for their release. They were captured in Afghanistan in 2001, and have since been cleared of all accusations that they were "enemy combatants". Legal battles regarding their fate still continue.
This case has become a major political headache for the Obama administration, which has sought to avoid a major diplomatic bust-up with China while attempting to unpick detention policies of the preceding administration (that was Bush, for those of you who are still unaware).
The nine justices will decide this summer whether to hear the case that was filed Monday. If the court does decide to hear the case, it may fid itself sucked into the establishment of new rules regarding the detention of terrorsit suspects. Stay tuned, and read the article at the link I posted!

Are colleges really "need-blind?"

This year, colleges have blurred the definition of "need-blind" acceptance as a result of the reduction of donations made to the colleges.

The definition of "need-blind" acceptance is that students are accepted into the college no matter what financial situation they are in. This ensures that the colleges don't accept too many wealthy students, thus not having to pay a substantial amount in scholarships and financial aid.

Although admissions committees report nothing of the sort, colleges have been using sneaky tactics in order to accept more students that are able to pay tuition in full. For example, Bowdoin college in Maine are planning to offer admittance to 50 more students over the next 5 years, but those spots will not be need-blind admittance. Also, Brandeis are planning to accept more wait-listed and transfer students, both of which are admitted not using the "need-blind" system (Zernike, New York Times).

It is unfortunate that us seniors have to deal with something like college admittance at such a horrible economic time. People are already turning to more local schools or junior colleges for higher education, and I think it's horrible that instead of accomadating those students who need more funding in order to go to their dream private school, colleges are trying to trick us out of that needed money and giving those spots to the more well off. I understand that colleges need money in order to keep their campus learning at its fullest potential, but private universities still are getting a lot of revenue in existing tuition paments and still have loyal alumni who donate millions.

Any thoughts?

Obama Makes Unannounced Visit to Iraq

On Tuesday, Obama arrived to Iraq in an unexpected visit. This is the first time he has visited Iraq since he became president.
Addressing hundreds of troops gathered at a military base here, Mr. Obama said that it was time for Iraqis to “take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty,” winning enthusiastic applause.
President Obama told the troops that he believed it was time for the Iraqis to take charge of their country, and that it was all due to the help of the American troops.
He met with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, asking him to take steps to unite political factions, such as the Sunnis, in Iraq.
Under Mr. Obama’s new Iraqi War strategy, the roughly 140,000 American troops now in Iraq will be drawn down to between 35,000 and 50,000 by the end of August 2010.
There have been speculations, that he would move them to Afghanistan, but the White House has not admitted or denied that it was part of the plan.
“I have a responsibility to make sure that as we bring troops out, that we do so in a careful enough way that we don’t see a complete collapse into violence,” Mr. Obama said. “So some people might say, wait, I thought you were opposed to the war, why don’t you just get them all out right away? Well, just because I was opposed at the outset, it doesn’t’ mean that I don’t have now responsibilities to make sure that we do things in a responsible fashion.”

Obama Seeks Nuclear Arms Cuts

After the Korean missile test, President Obama said that even though the threat of nuclear war has gone down, the risk of attack has gone up. “Black Market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread.”
The President of the free world said that his administration will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. He believes that if America shows that is willing to decrease its nuclear power, others will follow.
President Obama also said that too few resources have been committed to developing a strategy to stop terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda, from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Vermont makes same-sex marriage legal!

The Vermont legislature overrode a the governor's veto of a bill yesterday that would make same-sex marriages legal. On Tuesday, the legislature passed the bill by a margin of 95-52, which was not a big enough margin to pass over the promised veto by the Vermont governor. But today, the legislature's same-sex marriage supporters triumphed over the veto in the House by 100-49 and opened the churches to gay couples.

Vermont was the first state in the US to allow civil unions, and many Republicans that didn't support this current bill were willing to instead extend those benefits. After having passed this bill, however, Vermont will the the fourth state in the US to allow gay marriage, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa.

After the passing of the infamous Proposition 8 in California, this has been a sore subject around the Bay Area. In my opinion, when historians write about this period, allowing gays the right to marriage will be comparable to women's suffrage--a no-brainer.

Last night, on The Daily Show with John Stewart, he commented on the irony of the fact that conservative Iowa, not super-liberal Vermont, was the first state to allow same-sex marriage. Do you think this could be the beginning of the domino effect, being that both a red state and a blue state now allow gay marriage? Or could it be the first sign of a United States split in two by "social values?"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Korean Missile Was a Failure

After a highly expensive but failed attempt to launch a satellite onto space, North Korea has once again shown itself as a nation with nuclear power aspirations. It seems that North Korea wanted to show that they could be a potential adversary to the western world. Experts believe that even though the missile fell onto the sea, it should be seen as a major step toward military nuclear weaponry.
The launching had led to a widespread rebuke by President Obama and other world leaders, and prompted a United Nations Security Council to go into an emergency session.
Other nations that pose a threat to the western democracies, like Iran, seem to have had better luck with their missiles.
“It is not unusual to have a series of failures at the beginning of a missile program,” Jeffrey G. Lewis, an arms control specialist at the new America Foundation, a research group in Washington, said in an interview. “But they don’t test enough to develop confidence that they are getting over the problems.”
Dr. Lewis added that in a 1998 report from former Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld, argued that North Korean rockets might be good enough to pose a threat to the United States.
Now, the Obama Administration has started talking to its allies to launch a series of agreements and sanctions that could hopefully lead to disarmament of nuclear weapons.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Everybody Loves Walgreens!

Walgreens has decided to give a helping hand by offering unemployed and uninsured individuals free access to its clinics. "Take Care Healh Systems," the Walgreens-owned company that runs these free clinics, offers its services in 342 locations. However, not all individuals (and not all illnesses) qualify for these free services. Individuals had to have lost their jobs on or after March 31st of this year and needed to have gone to a Take Care Health clinic some time during the last year. Individals must be eilgible for unemployment benefits, and they need to exhibit only minor illnesses. This means that you cannot show up to the clinic with a broken leg and expect to get a cast for free. Only things such as warts, cold sores, splinters, burns and minor cuts qualify. If you want a physical examination, you must be willing to pay the fees, which start at $60.

Although I commend Walgreens' efforts, I feel that there are some other motives at work here. Walgreens may just be trying to help those in need, but I highly doubt that. Self-interest must be at work here to some degree. The free clinics serve as advertisement for Walgreens, and those unemployed individuals who end up visiting the clinics also end up going to Walgreens to buy other goods. Walgreens knows that it can make a profit out of these individuals, so it doesn't hesitate to do so. What do you guys think? Is this just a gimmick to earn money, or is Walgreens genuinely concerned about the public's well-being? Check out this website for more information regarding this project:

Friday, April 3, 2009

FBI Cracks Down on White Collar Criminals

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI has been consumed by cases that have to do with terrorism. However, the current economic crisis has forced them to switch gears and start to focus on white collar criminals (aka individuals who take advantage of the economic situation and commit fraud). The FBI has started investigating more than 200 mortgage-fraud cases and 36 corporate-fraud cases. "The increasing mortgage, corporate fraud, and institution failure case inventory is straining the FBI's limited white collar crime resources," says FBI director John Pistole (according to US News article: Congress has been discussing the possibility of increasing the FBI's budget so that it can better address the current problems.

So what exactly is the FBI doing to curb fraud? For one, it is sending its agents into firms and is telling its accountants to track "illicit securities deals." There is apparently some sort of difficulties between the agents and the FBI leaders, but nonetheless, they are making progress. The rise of white collar criminals has also come at a good time for the FBI. The FBI has been getting fewer and fewer terrorism cases since 2001 and has not really been taking many of them to trial. As a result, the FBI can commit more energy and time into combating financial fraud, and less of it to combat terrorism.

"They are incredibly labor-intensive cases, especially if the criminals were educated the country's best business schools," says FBI director. Pistole is right, considering that cases take years just to get enough research and background information; the magnitude of paperwork is huge.

I feel that the FBI is finally doing something productive in terms of our public safety. Terrorism isn't really that big of an issue anymore, so it's about time that we started refocusing our efforts on more important issues. Financial fraud is an especially pertinent topic considering our current situation. I finally approve of what the FBI is doing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April Fools - You Didn't REALLY Get into UCSD

UC San Diego had a huge fiasco the other day in terms of its acceptance letters. Instead of sending the "We're thrilled that you've been admitted to UC San Diego" email to the 18,000 individuals who actually got in, the email was sent to the entire applicant pool - all 46,000 students. Although students were notified a few hours after the original email was sent, it still got people's hopes up (and down) rather quickly. This article (,0,7943711.story), for example, tells of one student who, upon getting his "acceptance" letter, managed to book a flight and hotel room only to find out that he had been rejected a few hours later. The article says that the boy was "crushed", and I don't blame him. When it comes to college acceptance letters, it isn't really a laughing matter; students are pretty serious about them.

Apparently, the email was a result of an "administrative error;" the UCSD staff "accessed the wrong database." But why would it take a couple hours for the staff to figure out this mistake? In the age of Internet and technology, that error should have been addressed much faster! Either way, this is not the first time that an error of this sort was committed. Cornell and Northwestern had a similar situation, but neither school made the mistake with so many students.

Although I feel sympathetic for those individuals who were accepted/denied, I kind of understand why such a mistake occured in the first place. So many more students are applying to colleges this year that the institutions are just being overwhelmed with paperwork. However, despite the increase in the applicant pool, the number of individuals who are actually accepted has decreased. Here are some stats that I got from

Harvard: accepted 7% of applicants, a decrease from the 7.9% it accepted last year.
Columbia: accepted 9.8% of applicants
Dartmouth: accepted 12% of applicants

It seems like getting into college will only be tougher for next year's seniors!

G20 Summit A Success

Leaders of the world's largest economies met in London this week to discuss the worldwide economic crisis. According to BBC News, this summit was a "historic" event because it created a economic plan potentially worth $1.1 trillion. Obama, of course, was present and actively participated in drafting the new agreement. The plan calls for stricter control of bankers' pay/bonuses, a new board that will work directly with IMF to "provide an early warning mechanism for the financial system" (BBC News:, and $100 billion in aid to poor countries. The G20 countries also plan to inject $5 trillion into the world economy by the end of next year. Despite some disagreements between certain countries (the US and UK wanted more public spending while Germany and France wanted more financial regulation), it was decided that the leaders would reconvene in New York next year to check on the agreement's progress.

I personally think that this summit was a commendable effort by our world leaders. We really needed to meet with other foreign nations and reach a final agreement, because when it comes down to it, we are all interconnected whether we like to admit it or not. I am a little hesitant about the amount of money that is being injected into the world economy, however. $1.1 trillion is a lot of money, and it has the potential to do a lot of damage if it is not used properly. It seems, though, that the leaders have used the money for a good cause - increasing the trade credit of some of the poorest countries. These countries will have more trading capabilities now, allowing them to right themselves once again.

However, the G20 summit has also caused a lot of drama in terms of protests. 400 protesters stood in front of the Bank of England, while a few hundred more stood in front of the ExCel Centre. Roughly 120 arrests were made. I really don't understand what these individuals are protesting. The summit agreement, in my opinion, should help our economic crisis tremendously.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Russia and US Decreasing Number of Nuclear Weapons

If you take the total number of nuclear weapons that the US and Russia have together, you can easily blow up the world more than ten times. It is no wonder, then, that both countries are trying to reach an agreement that will lower nuclear weapon numbers on both sides. Obama met with Russian President Medvedev in London to discuss a new plan, and it looks promising.

When Bush made an agreement in 2002 with then-president Putin, it was decided that both countries would decrease their number of warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 (BBC News: Obama is hoping that this number can be decreased even further to ensure the protection of the nation and the world. Obama has decided to meet again with Medvedev in December to finalize a new plan, considering that the old plan (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is ending at the end of this year. A concern has been voiced regarding the speed with which this new agreement is trying to be passed. Most arms treaties have taken years to create and finalize, so trying to create such a plan in one year seems almost unheardof. However, "there is a political will behind this [plan]" (BBC News), so hopefully it all works out. I thought it was interesting that the afore mentioned article said that although the number of nuclear weapons on both sides will decrease, it will never go down to zero. No country is dumb enough to get rid of all of their major weaponry, so we will always have the threat of a nuclear war over our heads.

I was reading an article on Wikipedia ( regarding Russia's nuclear weapons, and was completely astounded by the statistics. Apparently, Russia reported 28,000 tons of chemical weapons in 2008 and 5,200 nuclear weapons. This doesn't even include the number of unknown tactical nuclear weapons that Russia may have. I just don't understand why any country needs to have SO MANY weapons, considering Russia is not really being threatened by any country. I'm definately for any agreement that Obama and Medvedev can come up with; we NEED to get the world's nuclear weaponry under control.

Obama's Afghanistan Plan: More Troops

Throughout his campaign, Obama made it clear that he wanted to tie up loose ends in Iraq and bring our troops home. However, in my opinion, Obama seems to be tying up loose ends in one place just to untie them again in another. Obama has announced his plan for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it doesn't look pretty.

According to a US News Blog, (, Obama is planning to send 4,000 US troops into Afghanistan to help with police duties. He is also planning to bring US diplomats and agricultural experts into "this increasingly violent land" (US News). Isn't Obama supposed to be bringing troops home and not sending them to die in a different country? And 4,000 troops is A LOT of people, not to mention a lot of money spent on weapons, food, and the like. Can America afford to spend so much given the economic crisis? I certainly don't think so! We have to be saving our money, not spending it on another foreign crisis.

Also, America is becoming increasingly involved in Pakistan. The CIA is still conducting Predator drone strikes (using unmanned aircrafts) and spending money on things that I personally feel do not concern us. Obama has been quoted saying that he wants to "help Pakistan defeat these extremists," (BBC News: but is now the best time. Although Obama has said that he wouldn't be sending any ground troops to Pakistan, I think it will only be a matter of time until he might consider it. You can't really "help" a country get over "extremists" with Predator strikes for very long. I just hope that he makes the right decision and doesn't send more troops there. I really don't want another Iraq War and another 4,000 casualties.

Also: see video clip of Obama at