Friday, October 30, 2009

Finally a NEW health care bill?

Now i may be wrong, but it seems that the many of the House liberals are now ready to accept a compromise health care bill, which is what the Democratic leaders have wanted. Liberals have argued that the previously proposed bill was weak.

"Leaders from the Progressive, Black, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific American caucuses met at the White House Thursday evening with Obama, who listened to their concerns and praised their efforts. "He looked at us and he said, 'You guys ought to be walking around like you won because you brought back the public option,'" said Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif."

Talks (more like debates) about this public option will begin sometime next week over issues like how it will cover about 96% of Americans. Included in this bill is a plan that would pay hospitals and providers rates that are negotiated by the Health and Human Services secretary. Still moderates have their cocerns about the bill's cost($1.055 trillion over 10yrs) and how the rates would effect hospitals and other providers . Also, the "long term spending implications and disputes to be resolved on how to block federal funding of abortions and prevent illegal immigrants from getting taxpayer-funded care". The fear of how the new version of this government-run plan will work with whatever the Senate passes worries the House liberals.

The one question that i have regarding this public option is whose going to pay for this if not many Americans who arent insured or who fall into the low income category back out from getting this supposedly affordable health care?

"My war wounds that can't be seen"

"I came home from Iraq in 2004 with grievous physical injuries...but my deep emotional wounds in some ways pose even greater challenges. As one of the thousands of vets who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, I carry around a burden that many people just can't understand. Often, I am baffled by my own behavior. Recently, a fellow Georgetown University student who sensed that I was having trouble grabbed me by the arm. 'Get your freaking hands off me,' I snapped. 'I'll break you down shotgun style!' The student was only trying to be helpful, yet I reacted as if I was under threat in Iraq. Why do I become so angry so quickly? Why do I threaten physical harm? Clearly, researchers still have a lot to learn about PTSD. But the more that people like me speak about our problems, without embarrassment or shame, the more the public will realize that this is our country's problem too."
-US Marines veteran Michael Jernigan

This article reminded me about a book that I read last year in English, Things They Carried. Talking about an aspect of the Vietnam war that many do not think of, PTSD being a common topic. This article made me think more about the effects of the war. The physical wounds, among many degrees of injuries, are nothing in comparison to the emotional trauma soldiers deal with. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition that effects the lifetimes of soldiers. When thinking about the war and rational, it is always an important factor to consider what the soldiers deal with.

Federal Reserve on executive pay

Treasury Department just imposed limits on compensation at many firms that received the biggest federal bailouts. Under a plan announced last week, the top 25 executives at each of these firms will their salaries cut by about 50 percent. The plan applies to companies such as AIG, Bank of America, General Motors, Chrysler, Financial, Citigroup, and GMAC. Cash pay for the top 25 executives at each of these firms will fall around 90 percent, and bonuses will be restricted mostly to company stock. Also, the Federal Reserve said it would evaluate the levels of compensation by assessing how well the management at the 6,000 banks it regulates.

However, pay limits are claimed to be a disaster in the making. The curbs will not only encourage executives to "leave for greener pasturs where the Obama administration does not hold sway." Even before the cuts were announced, dozens of executives at AIG and Bank of America definitely departed, and not accepted, the strictures. On the other hand, the focus on pay distracts the larger problem. The 2 most recent administrations gave a few firms a guarantee that they won't go bankrupt. What has to change is the idea that some firms are too big to fail.

(*sparkle*)Hogwarts is not the only school for witchcraft and wizardry(*sparkle*)

I have an extra shiny shlog for you today (notice the sparkles). Because Halloween is almost here, i present you with Witch School. I am not lying, if i was, my pants would be on fire. Witch school teaches students magic, spells, and other supernatural stuff, they even make their own wands. They have tests and different courses you can take, and they have campuses in Chicago, IL and Salem,MA. So far 200,000 students have registered for the school. If you don't believe me, look for yourself, but i should warn you, The school has been having financial problems, so whatever image you had of Witch School while reading this blog, you should probably erase it. It looks nothing like Hogwartz.

the website:

A youtube video:

A Satire Update in Swine Flu

My fellow Americans, it is very important that I explain to you all that we are all going to die. First there was Swine Flu, which as you know has killed millions in Amerca, and by millions I mean 114. But is the media really overplaying this, of course not, why would fox news indicate that 1000 people had died of swine flu when really that's the number of people who have died of the flu in general. Also, how could you not put faith in our media, besides, even if they were spinning things to make it more interesting, everyone loves a horror story right? I mean it is Halloween.

But if our impending doom wasn't enough, we have only received 2 million of the vaccine. So you know what that means, we need to join the 1700 people who lined up to get the vaccine on thursday.

So watch out, because this was a bio-weapon made by Obama-Hitler to make us support his health plan.

Information was taken from the CDC and one article from a fox news affiliate that made me chortle to an immense degree. Oh, and the California Report.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Clinton's stay in Pakistan, continued

Clinton doesn't believe that Pakistan is willing to go after Al Qaida despite her previous comments made on this country. Clinton generally praised Pakistan, a US ally, because of its willingness to use its military against the Taliban

"Al-Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002... I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to. Maybe that's the case, maybe they're not gettable. ...As far as we know, they are in Pakistan."

During her stay in Pakistan, Clinton met with leaders, citizens, and reporters. She would get feedback regarding the Obama administration's involvement in Pakistan. There is a lot of public concern in Pakistan; Clinton has taken criticism on the US' foreign policy.

She responded to editors, "I am more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States...answer, but also to change where we can, so we that we do have better communication and we have better understanding...But this is a two-way street. If we are going to have a mature partnership where we work together...there are issues that not just the United States but others have with your government and with your military security establishment."

Where is this headed? What will be the outcome of her stay in Pakistan?

Remember that girl coming home from homecoming

Here is the shiny new blog you ordered. This is kind of a continuation of the brutal homecoming blog that was put up a couple days ago. Three teenagers suspected for gang raping the 15 year old girl, were brought into court. The three teenagers were charged with rape in concert and sexual penetration with a foreign object. They were charged as adults because of the crime committed.
If your interest is still hungry, you can feed it this link, but don't let it feed too much.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Risks with Climate change.

"An island in the Indian Ocean, vital to the U.S. military, disappears as the sea level rises. Rivers critical to India and Pakistan shrink, increasing military tensions in South Asia. Drought, famine and disease forces population shifts and political turmoil in the Middle East."

With the climate changes becoming a more serious threat, U.S defense and intelligence agencies conclude that global alliances shifts resulting in more regional conflicts. Limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial factories will help, but if nothing drastic happens, consequences will occur. At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, retired Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn told the comittee that " our economy, energy and climate change challenges are all inextricably linked", which is true. That is why i think we need to do as much as we can to contribute to the cause of reducing our carbon footprint...and as the Obama adminstration's national intelligence director, Dennis Blair, has told Congress " global warming will have broad implications over the next two decades".

to read more about this article click here:

And the U.S is out to try and win again!

Earlier today the UnitedStates made it offical declaring that they HAVE to win the war in Afghanistan. Senator Mccain discussed several different reasons why the US must and if you are interested go ahead and take a look on the cnn website. As I read through his articles I came about and found one of the most interesting articles I have heard about all week. Obama has payes 680 billion dollars to have the afghans switch sides and help the United States. That is a ton of money! What is he thinking. I mean I understand if we wanna win we have to do anything possible to win but this is crazy! To win is not about bribing and since this is one of the longest wars in the united states we need to make a effort to make it a fair game. This is going to take more violent risks and why should we chose to do that? The united states has so much going on for it self right now and so much to accomplish why waste the time now to come up with unfair tactics. In my opinion I believe this is going a little over the top...any other opinions?

Car bombing in Pakistan, not far from Clinton

Not too long after Hilary Clinton arrived in Islamabad, a car bomb went off in an area frequented by women in Peshawar, not too far from where Clinton was. Supposedly this is the area where Al-Qaida and other extremist groups are hiding.

After this, Clinton said, ""They are not courageous, they are cowardly...if the people behind these attacks were so sure of their beliefs, let them join the political process. Let them come forth to the people of Pakistan in this democracy and make their case that they don't want girls to go to school. That they want women to be kept back...and I want to make clear that the United States and Pakistan have a long history of cooperation and partnership. We have a relationship that we want to strengthen, but we don't want it to be lopsided. We don't want it to be just about security and just about our anti-terrorist agenda, although, as I said, that's our highest priority. So we want to strengthen democracy, we want to strengthen civilian institutions, which we think are in the best interest of the people of Pakistan."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi completely agreed with Clinton, "We will not buckle. We will fight you. We will fight you because we want stability and peace in Pakistan," he said. "You are on the run, and we know that."

This event is extremely unfortunate. Clinton dealt with this situation in a very diplomatic way considering the circumstances she was put in.

Polls on health care

Obama's health care reform holds an even division among the public view. His handling of this issue is apparently either better nor worse for him since summer, polls reported. However, 57 percent of those polled support government-sponsored insurance option. This number goes up to even 76 percent if it's limited to only those who can't afford private insurance.

Watch this video for more details:

Federal gay-rights law

Another shlog for the day. Obama signs first major federal gay-rights legislation, the Matthew Shepard Act. The new law added gays, bisexuals, transgenders and lesbians to the list of federal hate crimes. That is pretty much it. If your interested in learning more about what led up to it and more details, here is the link.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ted kennedy!

So about a month ago Ted Kennedy tragically pasted away. And again just like th rest of the kennedy's the funeral was HUGE and memories were shared through out the nation. lossing another Kennedy in the United States plays a great role and it will stay in our hearts (and teztbooks) forever. Yes this assasination was very sad and his memories will lie in my heart forever and I give my blessings out to the Kennedy family. Many believe that his death was a sad moment ,but to me I feel happy he is in a better place now. Suffering from cancer, he no longer has to. the pains of life are gona and now he can live in peace, and I believe that this should be considered in any loss for anyone. On 60 minutes his llife was shared on several different videos ( and it is nice to know that just sharing memories and having laughs in the end is all that matter. I know alot of you are probably thinking how random! But I just got back from a funeral and thought this was a great topic to discuss. I have seen so many shed tears and believe that this is not the way to be at someones death. Yes it is tragic but we do have to remeber the benefits they are having now thast they are gone , and seeing Teds death and the celebrations they did have (excluding the tears) I believe everyone should honer peoples death like this.

Our favorite, Rep. Grayson

Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democrat who, as stated in a previous blog post, did it again. Early on in his career, he said he did not need to be lectured by "this K Street whore" about why such regulation isn't necessary regarding the economy. Initially, Grayson stood by this comment but eventually he apologized,"“I did not intend to use a term that is often, and correctly, seen as disrespectful of women...This characterization of Ms. Robertson, made during a radio interview last month in the context of the debate over whether the Federal Reserve should be independently audited, was inappropriate, and I apologize.”

This seems to be the third thing he said that wasn't the best...what could be the possible cause for this?

So...we aren't really recovering from the economy...

A demonstrator is holding a sign during a rally on Wall Street, New York. This reflects the public's perspective that the economic recovery is exaggerated.

A recent poll was taken, asking, "Many economists say that using the standards they apply, the recession probably is over. Thinking about your own experience of economic conditions, would you say that from your point of view the recession is over, or not over?"
The percentage of people claiming it isn't over: 82 percent.

Also, 74 percent of people in this poll are worried about the direction of the nation's economy within the next few years, dropping 14 points from 14 years ago. This can at least put some sense of hope among some. Six in 10 are still concerned about their family's financial prospects. These are a few claims to why the recession is still an ongoing battle.

According to my experiences, the economy does seem to be brightening up comparing to last year, but is it as good as it should be?

Fresno, Afghans, and fires OH MY!

So we’re in two wars, though in the United States you would never know it. We are also viewed, or have been viewed, as the big bully of the world. Well, although we may have screwed up Iraq due to ignorance on how to deal with terrorism us Californians aren’t letting that happen to Afghanistan. Anyone from Fresno should be proud that a Fresno fire department is training Afghan fireman to use modern equipment. Now while that might seem useless, the story gets better. Apparently we dug into pockets and pulled out a brand new fire truck and gear for a fire department in Kabul. Now that we all have the warm fuzzies lets dig into our pockets and pull out an electric train and enough money to fix the deficit.

Credit goes to the KQED California Report:

Shortage in Hand Sanitizer

Here is a shiny new blog for my fellow students at aragon--i like to call them shlogs. Ever since the swine flu, people have been going through hand sanitizer like it's nobody's business. Hand sanitizer producers have been trying to keep up with the increasing demand for hand sanitizers, but producers are now worried that they might not be able to meet those demands. Short, right to the point, this slog is done.
If you want to learn more about it here are some links related to what i was talking about.

Afghanistan haunted by ghost of Vietnam

"Afghanistan is the new vietnam". In March the afganistan war will be known as the longest wat that has come in to the United States and just seems to get worse. Though overshadowed by the was in Iraq many deaths are still occuring. Why do we not care as much for this? This is brutal and we need to lay eyes on every aspect of reality and not focus on certain parts of the world especially if Obama is recalling this incident as Vietnam. Steve Clemons had a few words to say about this war and related it back to the Soviet-Afghan War. He believes that during this was the soviets fell in to a devastating trap and lead them to a loss in the war and this is what he is trying to prevent for the United States. he says the less plublicity for them the better it is and I agree. Though there are devastating risks being taken and lives are being lost having less publicity will not provoke much violence and that is what we do need. We especially do not need a nuclear war happening again just like in Cuba!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Calling all Travellers...

Apparently, tourism in the United States hasn't returned to its peak prior to 9/11. Kenyan artist Nicholas Sironka shared his outtake on why this is possibly so,"It is good to be a superpower, and we wish you the best in everything you do to keep out bad people. But what about the good people? Should they be treated the same as the bad people?...There is a courtesy that used to be there that needs to come back." In 2008 itself, the US had about 633,000 fewer tourists then in 2000. Roger Dow, the U.S. Travel Association's president and CEO, claims that the lower numbers in tourism is a direct cause of restricted visas, lack of publicity, and negative views on how tourists are treated. Dow said, "We don't promote the United States. Every other developed country in the world spends millions -- some countries spend 150 to 180 million dollars [promoting tourism]." Especially in the economical climate we are in, promoting tourism seems like a very potent key to ameliorating the current state we are in. Adam Sacks, managing director of Tourism Economics, stated," "I think the U.S. has a particular opportunity right now because it's in the process of refurbishing its brand in the global arena politically...There's a direct relationship between opinions about the U.S. and willingness to travel here."

So what does this mean? Is there a potential for tourism in the US to go up if we keep on promoting it, or does it require more then just that?

Afghan Decision TBA

The future of our presence in Afganistan will be announced sometime between November 7th and 11th. Although no decision has been made yet, there appears to be a large likelyhood that Obama will increase troop size, but not exceeding 40,000. Apparently this decision is not a matter regarding lessening the number of troops in Afghanistan; instead, it is more of a consideration of fulfilling options other then increasing troop size. Obama seems to be emphasizing the importance of achieving a more realistic goal, however, which should be reachable with the amount of troops which will be specified later in November.

I don't think I'm patient enough to wait until November, however I'm glad the Obama administration has finalized a decision regarding this topic because of the on going discussion this has created.

A brutal homecoming story!

Acorrding to police last weekened was one of the biggest rapes that happened in Richmond. She was 15 years old and assulted outside of her school in Richmond by seven men who did not even attened the school. It was around ten o clock and she was leaving. About a hour later neighbors who could see the campus called the police and only cought a 19 year old suspect! The rest left! The sadest part about this is that many people walked past this incident and neither came to a conclusion to call the police. She is now being hospitalized. This is disgusting and dissapointing. How can people be so low and think of hurting a young innocent child! All she wanted to do was go to her first homecoming and it latered turned into a night in the hopital. I dont know but i believe this is a sickening story..what do you think? The video is on the link just hit the title!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Palin? Who's that? Oh yea...I remember her...

Well, I'm sure you all remember Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential candidate. I'm sure we all remember the shock when it was announced that McCain had selected her out of all the possible choices, and the mockery that ensued. Well, I recently found a copy of her resignation speech that she gave when she quit her job as governor of Alaska. Here's what the editors of Vanity Fair thought of her speech and what changes they would have made.

Legalizing Medical Marijuana

The Obama administration recently decided to not prosecute medical marijuana dealers, despite of its violation of federal law- as conservative George F Will said earlier today,""probably in the process now of legalizing marijuana." 14 states already do allow the use of medical marijuana. The federal government has allowed states to decide what is legal and who to prosecute.

Watch this to get a better understanding of the issue:

Oh Bernanke...

Well, once again I wanna share an old but somewhat relevant video. Some of you might have seen it already.

It is a song about Ben Bernanke, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve and how he isn't doing his job as he should and it is his fault the economy isn't doing too well.

We're Almost There Guys!

Well, recently the health care bill has been working it's way back into the news. As lawmakers draw closer to making a decision, the eyes of America are watching. Well...maybe not all of America...but at least some people are paying attention. Anyway, Congress has announced that they will present another draft of the bill as early as sometime next week to be reviewed by the CBO. If the CBO determines that the plan does indeed meet the Obama administration's budget goals, then the bill will move on to it's final stages.

However, many republicans including Senator John McCain are still showing their disapproval. Especially on issues of inclusion, or rather exclusion. Basically they have been complaining that this is a Democratic bill and the Republicans have been mostly left out of the process.

Anyway, we're almost there guys, just wait a bit longer...actually that's what Congress has been telling us for the past few months...>.<

~Victor Hung

Whats happening with who?

And it is another debate about techers! Three days ago Secretary of Education Arne Duncan established that he was going to be pushing for reforms to push and teach the teachers how to teach! Amazing when it comes to us students thinking about how some of the teachers teach, but I dont believe that the government should be focusing on how teachers teach. The MAIN concern should be budgets. Schools are going through difficult times right now and think this should be less of their concern. I mean yeah some teachers do need a little help but in this situation as long as we are being tought that is what should matter! Dont you think?H belives that the budget should be split into two. One training and the other one learning! Crazy! One situtation should be dealt with at a time! What are your thoughts about this?

Horrifying suicide bombing in Iraq!

So Iraq has been bombed again! This is crazy death rates and gowing up drastically and it is the sadest thing ever! Obama has tried helping and doing anything he can and in my eyes I am greatley pleased with his actions. Unfortunantley this has been one of the greatese suicide bombing in Iraq killing over 138 people! This is sad and as i read this article I think to myself if there is anything we can possibly do to help these inocccent lives. It is amusing how so many can disagree with these bombing and have so much hatred toward this but no one else seems to care! Dont you think? I just hope one day all peace comes, I mean I know this is reality, but I just hope one day something can be done! i hope the United States takes a big part in helping to fix this. I mean what if this was our nation? We would probably be doing a whole lot more and I think we should treat Iraq as part of our nation and help the ones in need.

Cheney, the Vampire

Rep. Alan Grayson known for criticizing the GOP's health care plan, especially within the last month when he described this health plan as, "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."However, this time, he criticized Cheney's speech regarding his administration's process of preceding in Afghanistan.

Grayson responded to these remarks made by Cheney at the Center for Security Policy ,"The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger...make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries."

Grayson said Friday night on MNBC's Hardball,"I have trouble listening to what [Cheney] says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he's talking. But my response is this: he's just angry because the president doesn't shoot old men in the face. But by the way, when he was done speaking, did he just then turn into a bat and fly away?"

In response to Grayson's remarks targeting the GOP, the Republicans from his conservative leaning district are challenging him in 2010, however, no one came up to do so.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

*sigh* Finally, it's not hot anymore...

Global warming might be the last thing on your mind, but I'm going to bring it up again. Ever since Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" shocked us with both the current state of global warming and what could one day happen, many of us have claimed to be against global warming. However, while many of us have vowed to take action, we continue to drive our gas guzzling, carbon dumping SUV's and trucks.

However, there are people who are willing to take action. Today, Saturday October 24, activists around the world staged simultaneous demonstrations demanding that the rest of the world do something about the issue of global warming. They advocated that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere was the maximum limit to protect us from further global warming. Currently we sit at 390 parts per million. Check out the link in the title for more details.

~Victor Hung

Wait...isn't Halloween about candy? Huh?

Well as you guys all know, Halloween is just around the corner. With many people scrambling to find costumes or stocking up for all the trick-or-treaters, Halloween season is in full swing. But how many of you know what Halloween is really about? Do you know where it originated? Do you know why you dress up?

Halloween actually originated as a Celtic holiday called Samhain. Eventually as the Romans took over what is now Ireland, they combined this holiday with two of their own, thus forming Hallowmas, which then eventually took the name of Halloween. To find out more about Halloween, click here.

Oh and I found an interesting video about Halloween and how it is becoming overly commercialized. And yes, before anyone begins to talk about how silly, fake, or stupid it is, I know it is from the Onion...if you don't know what the Onion is, Google it.

Holloween+Swine Flu= ?

Like someone previously posted, Obama declared the swine flue a national emergency. He is moving emergency rooms offsite in order to "speed treatment and protect non-infected patients". Today, he wrote in his declaration, "As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic."

I thought this cartoon was relevant because the flu has been stressed on many degrees-from Obama's declaration to seeing hand sanitizer bottles in schools and such.

The H1N1 Chaos

Obama has made it offical! He recentley just passed a law stating that hospitals are going to get over 1 million doses of the h1n1 vaccine in order to prevent its spreads! he said the rate of people dying has reached its hi9ghest peak: :Health authorities say more than 1,000 people in the United States, including almost 100 children, have died from the strain of flu known as H1N1, and 46 states have widespread flu activity"! This is crazy! It is amazing though because the virus lost its intrest into the summer and as schools gone back the thought of this disease has increased dramatically! Schools are going crazy and personally it is the craziest thing I have ever experienced. Sadly I have seen so many people at school continuing to get sick(including me) and I just hope it continues to stop. Yes, I admit the flu is being over thought of latley but it better to do that then have death rates increase!Hopefully having Obamas thoughts into this will help the countrys health get better. This is a law passed that will help all of us and I am very thankful it is here today(official saturday). If you would like to look at what moreObama has done to help us with this virus check the link out!

Obama: Just how much has he accomplished?

Apparently conservatives aren't the only Americans angry at Obama recently. More and more liberals are accusing Obama of betraying them by stalling on the progressive agenda they elected him to enact. Pro-choice opponents are upset that the Democratic health-care legislation won't include federal abortion funding for the poor. Immigration rights groups remind the president to "live up to past pledges to tackle comprehensive reform". Gay activists are also upset that Obama hasn't overturned the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Civil libertarians are angry that he's carrying on the Bush administration's policy on detaining suspected terrorists without charge or trial. Anti-war crusaders are outraged that he's weighing a troop increase in Afghanistan. And the list goes on...

On the other hand, Obama did accomplish a lot in just 9 months. For example, his stimulus bill- including renewable energy, mass transit, and money for college tuition- was a very important piece of legislation. Many other presidents have been trying to get as far as Obama has regarding his health-care package.

What do you think on his performance in the past 9 months?

-Mona Khemici

Friday, October 23, 2009

No School? Sweet!

As states are trying to recover from the recession in the economy, many states have imposed furloughs for state employees such as DMV workers and other public officials. By having these furloughs, states are able to save on spending in order to try and save themselves from rising debts.

While closing the DMV several times a year may be an inconvenience to people trying to register their cars or renew licenses, imposing a furlough on a school disrupts learning. That is what Hawaii has been doing. They are cutting 17 days out of their school year and have laid off several teachers. While students may celebrate because they get more three day weekends, their grades may suffer.

~Victor Hung

Hmm...another trillion?

You know that health care bill thing? Yeah, the one that we've been hearing about for a while? You want it? Then gimme a trillion dollars. It's okay, you can pay it over the course of ten years.

Yes, one trillion dollars over ten years. That may sound like a lot, but that is actually 100 billion a year. Think about it. The Department of Defense spent about $515 billion in just 2009. Now that I think about it, 100 billion doesn't sound all that bad. And it isn't. The bill could reduce the deficit by anywhere from $50 billion to as much as $120 billion dollars over a ten year period. Also the growth of our lumbering Medicare program would slow slightly.

Overall, the bill is a pretty good deal, but Obama expressed his disapproval at the price tag and is pressuring Congress to cut it down to about $900 billion.

Check out the article for more info. As usual, the link is in the title.

~Victor Hung

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Huh? Health Care?

Hey, so you know that whole health care bill uproar a few months ago? Well, it hasn't been receiving as much attention in the past few weeks. Or at least I haven't heard any major news about it lately.

Anyway, the Senate majority leader Harry Reid recently announced that he and his caucus, a group consisting of about 60 members, would vote for a public option. Just a month ago, insurance companies were brutally attacking the public option since it would damage their profits. For a while, that argument has died down...but it may start up again now that the possibility of the health care bill containing a public option may actually become reality.

So yea, the link to the NYT article is in the title so feel free to check that out.

~Victor Hung

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are states following stimulus plans for schools?

Finally I have something to blog about! So on CNN Obama has been discussing nationwide about the school budget limitations..but I think we ALL already know that! Evedentially some schools have been going over there budgets this year and may have to cut down drastically on school edecation which I believe it horrible! These schools should not have gone out of there way and exceeding there limitations. The least they could of done is taken the budget into consideration and used the money wisely. The education board even warned them! How could they do something so idiotic! Later, it was stated that the government had to come around and help the budget again "The stimulus funds appropriated $48.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to help keep and create jobs and advance education reforms over a period of two years, the report said. The program dedicates $39.8 billion for public elementary, secondary and higher education and other services. Another $8.8 billion will go for other activities such as public safety or government services." I love how they are trying to help our education and dreams come true but they cant help us out forever! There is only so much they can do and some schools need to consider that!
It is very sad how the schools might even have to close down and poor people have to loose their edecation. It is a corruption of peoples dreams. I know that i want to be a probation officer and thankfully I have gotten to the point of a almost graduationg senior and hoping to fufill my dreams. To hear this is a heart breaking story..Maybe i am taking this way out of proportion but let me know what do you think? and here is the website if anyone wants to check it out!

Obama the Superhero?

This is a somewhat old video seeing as it was posted this summer, but I thought it was amusing and felt like sharing it.

Obama Keeps on Fundraising

Today as I was skimming the headlines looking for something interesting to post, I came across an article talking about how Obama is trying to raise more money for the Democratic party. The link to the article is in the title.

It just so happened that we talked about campaign financing in class today.

Anyway, just felt like sharing that little story.

~Victor Hung

Monday, October 19, 2009

Medical Marijuana Users Breathe a Sigh of Relief

Today, the Obama administration along with the Justice department issued a memo to the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency telling them to ease up on the prosecution of medical marijuana users. This is basically a reversal of the Bush administrations stance on the issue. The memo basically told federal prosecutors to focus more on illegal drug trafficking while leaving medicinal marijuana alone as long as they complied with state laws allowing such activities.

Does this mean medicinal marijuana users don't have to worry any more? Not exactly. There has been no law passed stating that medicinal marijuana is legal in the United States. This "memo" sent out merely reflects a policy change on the enforcement of federal laws on marijuana. So while medicinal marijuana dispensaries may not be raided anymore, that doesn't mean the federal government has given up the power to do so. They can still raid medical marijuana facilities and arrest individuals if it is determined that some other illegal activity has taken place involving firearms, violence, illegal sales to minors, money laundering or other violations of U.S. law.

So what do you think will happen?

~Victor Hung

Friday, October 16, 2009

The baby and the train

A mother waiting at the Ashburten station sets her baby in her stroller while waiting for the train to approach. As she waits, the stroller rolls towards the track and falls into the ditch as the train speeds right over her.
Luckily the baby was unhurt, although the stroller was completely crushed.

Falcon and the Balloon

On Thursday, Richard and Mayumi Heene, a Colorado couple, called 911 when they discovered that their 6 year old son, Falcon, was missing, along with their giant Mylar balloon. The police formed a search party in an attempt to find the missing helium contraption as well as the child. It turns out that Falcon had hid in the attic and disregarded his parent's pleas for him to show himself. When police discovered the crashed balloon later with no one aboard, they turned to the Heene's to conduct background checks.
Now that Falcon is safe and sound, police are wondering whether this entire incident was just a hoax created by the Heene's to get some attention from the media, or an actual legit event.
On CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday night, the Heene parents asked Falcon why he had not come out from hiding when they were calling for him. "You guys said we did this for the show," he said.
Suspicions and doubts immediately began surfacing all over the country. Personally, I feel that Falcon was just confused at the time and said whatever he felt like, in which unfortunately led to some embarrassing moments for the family in front of live television.

Don't Read Before You Eat

According to this article, a study conducted in Britain found out that 65% of women actually use soap when washing their hands, and only 31% of men do. Another funny part and gross part of this study found out that while women respond to signs like "Please wash your hands with soap", men require more graphic motivations. This study done by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found out that men are more convinced by signs that say "Soap it off or eat it later."

Wow, this kind of makes you think twice before taking that next cookie or chip from your friend's hand. With the ongoing flu "crisis", maybe more graphic signs should be put up.

-Henry Zhang

Ignorant or Just Plain Racist?

Today, many Civil Liberties groups are calling for the resignation of Louisiana Justice, Keith Bardwell. Apparently, the Louisiana Justice of Peace of Tangipahoa Parish in the southeastern part of the state, refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. Earlier this month, Beth Humphrey, a white woman, and Terence McKay, a black man, were refused a marriage license by the Louisiana justice.

In response, Baldwell, the white Lousiana justice said that he thinks that any future children of interracial couples will have a troubled life. Wow, what a strong statement! I mean, I think Barack Obama, the child of an interracial couple, is completely troubled, being the president and all. Many other people with Liberties groups have expressed similar sentiments. In fact, Bill Quigley, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice, specifically said "Perhaps he's worried the kids will grow up and be president," ("he" referring to the justice).

After other angry people started to show their distaste, the Justice stopped answering his phone and Thursday, he specifically stated "No one's ever complained about it before...I do it to protect the children. The kids are innocent and I worry about their futures." This is exactly an example of stepping backwards into a time when the US was very racist. This very action is undermining the efforts of the Civil Rights Movements in the 1960s.

The justice actually believes that what he is doing is correct and is in no way racist at all. This is the kind of ignorance that damages the American image. Although I can't say whether Baldwell deserves to lose his job, it is clear that he just hurt his public opinion very much, just like Kanye and his embarrasing episode at the MTV awards.

Baldwell was a justice for 34 years, and he says that everytime he ran without opposition. However, after his current term expires, he will not try for another. Smart move.

-Henry Zhang

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smoking May be Deadly and Selfish

According to a federally commissioned panel of scientists, bans on smoking in restaurants and other public areas reduced wide spread decreases in cases of heart disease and heart attacks. The report issued by the Institute of Medicine just further confirms what many people already know: second hand smoking is very deadly. In this article, it was mentioned that "Even a small amount of exposure to secondhand smoke can increase blood clotting, constrict blood vessels and can cause a heart attack."

The report also says that in places like New York, where there have been bans on smoking in public areas, there is a drop in disease rates related to smoking. However, the studies seem incomplete, in that, there is no concrete evidence that that bans alone are causing the decrease in the disease rates. Other societal and environmental factors could play some role as well. Despite that, I still think that there should be more restrictions on smoking, in general.

Although I realize that smoking is up to the individual, just like alcohol is, it should be put out eventually. Now, that opinion is somewhat biased, since I am very adamant about not smoking. The reason I am like this is because in my elementary school in Canada, a whole week was dedicated to learning about the dangers of smoking. The people who worked at a nearby health institute came to my elementary school and told us the terrible ingredients in a cigarette like tar and formaldehyde. They also had, on display, a healthy human lung and one damaged by years of smoking. What shocked me was that second hand smoke exposure is actually more dangerous to one's health than actually smoking a cigarette! This was because the filter on most cigarette actually abates some of the toxic chemicals that enter the system.

After this experience, I was very even more against smoking than I was before. I believe smoking is a one of the more dangerous health risks in the world today. Now, I realize that the US has a lot of other issues to deal with, regarding health, but maybe if they dedicate some time and effort into bringing more educational information about smoking into schools, the US' citizens will gradually grow old of their love for cigarettes. Now, if the world does this, maybe cigarettes can be gone for good. It's crazy to think that this will happen in the next fifty years, let alone the near future, but maybe eventually, this will become a smoke-free world.

-Henry Zhang

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Terror in Colombia

I was shocked when I read this article, because it really reveals some of the horrors in this world. In Medellin, Colombia, there is constant gang violence and drug wars. In this particular article, there is an interview that involves two Hit-men, Red and C. There is much corruption in Columbia, and especially in Medellin, where even politicians are hiring Hit-men to rid their opponents.

According to the two men, Red and C, there is much chaos in their neighborhoods in Medellin, since authorities have locked up many gang lords so now there is a lot of chaos. Many drug wars have been fought and many people killed. Recently, in August, Samir Romero, someone who is apparently in these wars, was shot thirteen times. This caused a lot of grief for his relatives and you can see the anguish in the photos.

According to the interviews, the two Hit-men have the support of their neighborhood who they deliver food, probably provided by the drug lords of the area. They see it as a "kill or be killed" situation that is very hard to leave. They can either wind up in jail or end up dead in the streets. The authorities also have a huge problem catching all the drug lords, since more people will replace the jailed criminals. With Colombia's neighborhoods falling into poverty, more and more people are drawn into this chaos, and according to the C, one of the Hit-men, this chaos doesn't seem to have an end.

- Henry Zhang

Obama: Too Short of a Stay?

In New Orleans, most people are pretty happy with our president, Mr. Obama. “President’s doing a good job as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Bienaime, 71, said. “And he ain’t even been there a year.” In fact, scheduled this Thursday is Obama's visit to the Gulf Coast. However, despite some of the praise for the new president, his visit terms to New Orleans was met with criticism.

Apparently, Obama is only going to stay in that state for a few hours, visiting a charter school and an university, then heading to our San Francisco for a fundraiser. So what's the problem? Well, many people think that this visit is definitely way too hasty and kind of contradictory of what the President previously had said.

The president is not visiting any areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, despite his attack on Bush for Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina. Also, during his campaign, Obama visited the city of New Orleans five times. Some people, like a strong supporter Lawrence N. Powell, said“I know he’s got a lot going on, but I think this needed to be approached differently. You can’t multitask a world-historical tragedy.”

Other people like Nick Shapiro, White House speaker, says that all this criticism is not necessary since Obama is already doing some of the things that the people of New Orleans wanted and that this is not Obama's last visit to the region. Obama's administration is also setting up and doing projects that rebuild the Gulf Coast, set up more protection, etc. I personally do not think that all the criticism is that warranted, since Obama definetly will visit this region sometime soon and the administration is directing money and efforts toward rebuilding and aiding the Gulf Coast. However, I can understand how Obama's hasty visit appears to be contradictory of what he stated in his campaign. What do you guys think?

-Henry Zhang

"Burn the Snitch"

According to CNN, 5 juveniles were caught laughing an talking about setting 15 year old Michael Brewer on fire at an apartment complex on Tuesday. Michael received second-degree burns on the majority of his body. 3 of the juveniles were caught on a couple of hours after the incident and the other 2 were caught the next morning.

Police Sgt. Steve Feeley said "A couple of them last night were laughing about it," he said.

Apparently Michael owed one of the suspects $40 for a video game and never paid back for it. In retaliation, the youth stole his Michael's father's bicycle. Brewer sent in a claim that the bike was stolen and the suspect was sent to a detention center shortly afterward. The suspect however was released last Monday morning.

Gathering up his friends, the suspect got a group of four together who cornered Michael while he was waiting for his friends at their apartment.

Witnesses heard the suspect yelled, "He's a snitch, he's a snitch" and "pour it on him."

They doused Michael with what the police believed rubbing alcohol and threw a lit match at him. One witness rushed by to spray Michael with a fire extinguisher and Brewer shortly afterward dived into the complex's swimming pool. Brewer is expected to be hospitalized for around 5 months.

This purely vengeful crime to get back at a "snitch" is not new to me. I myself have been caught in an act of retaliation for warning my friend that his money was being stolen. Although I wasn't set set on fire, I did receive a pretty nasty kick to the back of my leg from the offender who, unfortunately, was never penalized for stealing and assault. Not being able to walk normally for a couple of days, it did affect me in the way in which I doubt I could "snitch" on others again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Immigration and Deportation

According to the New York Times, thousands of immigrants came to Capitol Hill requesting immigration reforms. They are upset that amidst all of the other issues in America, the immigration issue is not drawing much attention. Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois and chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus unveiled a new bill regarding immigration reform. The new bill basically states that illegal immigrants who come to the US for job opportunities and a better life will get a chance at citizenship, but those who come to disrupt neighborhoods will get no such opportunities.

This new bill is basically aimed at quelling the anguish of people who don't want to see a mother torn from her child. Many illegal immigrants come to the US to have a child, but I guess that doesn't make them citizens of the US, just the child. From that you can see where the tearing the mother from her child comes into play. Gutierrez's new bill is less restrictive than the previously proposed bill by Senator Schumer of New York who says that the reform needs to “curtail future illegal immigration,” and have “operational control of our borders” and a "“biometric-based employer verification system.”

There are always the sob stories like that of Peter Derezinski, whose father was deported back to Poland after 18 years of working in the US. Gutierrez's new proposed reform does sound reasonable. I mean if illegal immigrants just want a better life and an opportunity at a job in America, why not let them. However, his new proposal may seem a little simplistic as in there has to be other consequences of just letting all of these new illegal immigrants in. I would have to read to the full details of Gutierrez's bill before making an informed decision of whether I support the bill, but from the looks of it now, it does seem pretty reasonable.

-Henry Zhang

Anti-Semitism Makes a Comeback in Sutter Creek

In Sutter Creek, California, an really unfortuanate circumstance happened to Justin Zysman, a high school student at Amador High School. Zysman had filed legal papers against his high school district after it took over a year for the school officials to erase "Burn Jew, Burn" from Zysman's locker.

Zysman, the great-grandson of Holocaust survivors thought that some sick pranksters were just messing with him, but apparently they took the joke even further when his gym uniform was urinated on and some of his classmates were making Nazi salutes at him.

I am utterly shocked that it took Zysman's school district this long to erase the painful words on Zysman's locker. Obviously the Holocaust is a very sensitive issue for many people, especially Jewish people. Evidently, after a whole year, investigation is still going on and not much more information can be released, like the names of possible suspects.

Even after Zysman's parents filed legal documents, the school district's officials still said that they cannot act because of the ongoing investigation. I don't know much more than what was said in this article, but it seems like it is ridiculous that it took a year for those words to be removed. It seems to be that the school district is kind of indifferent to this hateful action.

I guess I was naive to think that at least in California, hate crimes/ actions were a thing of the past. Maybe we're lucky that at least our school district is somewhat sheltered.

-Henry Zhang

Monday, October 12, 2009

Biology For the Win: Woman with Half a Brain, Literally

One arm? No problem. No legs? Still Alive. One kidney? Hardly notice the difference? Half a brain? Yeah...kind of an issue there.

In Virginia lives an extraordinary woman by the name of Michelle Mack. What's so amazing about her? She has half a brain. Now all of you who have or haven't taken Biology, it usually takes one whole brain (100% physically of a brain) to survive...doesn't it? Apparently, Mack only has the right hemisphere of her brain.

Despite this "little" handicap, she still manages to do her household chores and maintain a steady job managing data for the church (I bet some full brained people can't even manage data). However, she does need some help and lives with her mom, which is granted since she is missing half of the most important organ in the body.

Now diving into the scientific aspect of this finding, Mack's right hemisphere has adapted to the situation by taking it upon itself to do some vital jobs of the left hemisphere, like speaking and reading. However, this caused the right hemisphere to lose some of its capacity as well, due to the extra jobs. Apparently, a lesion in Mack's brain at the time around her birth caused 95% of her left hemisphere to be missing.

Besides just keeping her alive, her rewiring also has allowed her to have an affinity towards remembering specific dates, which comes in handy with her church job. She specifically requested this article on CNN to be published to send out the message that she is normal. This definitely, goes under one of those inspirational stories and maybe "Ripley's Believe it or Not".

-Henry Zhang

Oh No! Kid gots a spoon!

According to the New York Times (and I saw this on yahoo news too), Zachary Christie, a six year old, was suspended from going to school in the Christina School District, Delaware, for bringing a camping utensil to school. Zachary had gotten a multi-tool from his boy scouts group and was excited to eat using said tool at school. Unfortunately, the tool is also a fork and a knife, which caused the boy to get suspended. His school district employs a zero tolerance policy on weapons.

However, where do you draw the line at zero tolerance? Apparently, Zachary's mom draws it far away from her son's action, since she feels it is absolutely ridiculous. Lawmakers are also scrambling on young Zachary's case, since they have been trying to make this zero tolerance policy dependent on a "case to case" basis. Last year, another girl was suspended since her grandma sent her to school with a knife, with the intent to KILL. Just kidding, it was for a cake that her grandmother made. Apparently the teacher had first used the knife to cut the cake, then called the principle to get this girl suspended (presumbly using one hand to fork a huge piece of cake and the other to complain to the principle about the tremendous danger of this generous girl).

Although this seems very unfair especially to our nation's very young people, it is not unjustified. Many incidences of school dangers have occurred very recently. Columbine, Virginia Tech and our very own Hillsdale High School. Although many people doubt that these small toddlers are insane and capable to bringing guns to school and shooting up the place, it is nevertheless, better to be safe than sorry.

However, I do think that a case to case basis should be considered, since it is really not fair to six year olds who probably do not even know of things like Columbine or Virginia Tech. Now, poor Zachary has to get home schooled, which may not be a bad thing, but is nevertheless missing his experiences of being a young student. If you want to help out Zachary, or find out more from his mother's side, click here.

Where do you draw the line?

-Henry Zhang

Enough is enough

"If the president should listen to McChrystal and adopt a troop "surge," the question remains: How many is enough?"

Currently the United States has around 48,000 troops in Afghanistan not including Iraq. General Stanley McChrystal plans to put 40000 more troops into the area to help keep things "under control."

But is there a point to all the troops going into Afghanistan? Will the 40,000 US troops make a difference in subduing the insurgencies going on?

The current state in Afghanistan has gotten to point where it is nearly a civil war. Although Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War claims that the extra 40,000 troops may reduce the amount of violence in the country, I feel that adding the 40,000 may not help the overall of the war. Sooner or later, the US will have to pull out because our economy won't be able to support our troops there and the insurgents aren't just going to fall back and retreat just because we added in a more troops.

Just last week, eight more US soldiers were killed fighting hundreds of insurgents in the lower areas of the Nuristan province. If we add 40,000 more troops, what's stopping the insurgents from rallying up even more people to help "fight the US" off?

As Rep. Jim McGovern says, " We need to come up with a strategy that includes an exit strategy, because it'll also put pressure on the government of Afghanistan to step up to the plate, which it has not done so far."

Yet Another Post on North Korea: North Korea Testing its Limits

According to a news article by Yahoo, North Korea test-fired short range missiles today. If you're interest for the complete info, click this link. Now, this came as a surprise to the US and many of its allies, because North Korea launched these missiles right after it seemed like it was going to act more complacent.

This even surprised Russia, a country that usually is not too adamant a supporter of stopping North Korea (compared with the US, or Japan). A Russian foreign ministry source was quoted of saying "The launch of short-range missiles by the Korean People's Democratic Republic causes bewilderment." I'm guessing that this "testing of limits" by North Korea even surprised China, because just last week, the premier, Wen Jiabao visited North Korea, and N.K said that it was willing to go back to the negotiating table.

Clearly, North Korea is just trying to test the other countries and see what they will do. I think if the US and its allies really want to get the message through that N.K's actions are not okay, they should be more assertive. The US already sent an aircraft carrier to the South Korean port of Busan. Still, I do not think that is enough.

North Korea right now is acting like a toddler (toddler with nukes that is). It keeps wanting to see what it can do before getting a scolding. Maybe the US and its allies should start giving out more than just "scoldings" and convince other countries to start sanctioning. About 75% of people already think that North Korea is at least somewhat of a threat to the US in terms of nuclear engagements, so I think the US should take initiative (since it is the big dog in the world right now) and kill the beast in its infancy.

Picture this:

-Henry Zhang

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Military strategy change approaching for Afghanistan

Ironically juxtaposed alongside President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, the American war in Afghanistan is going to be taking a turn in one of several directions in the coming week. General McChrystal has put forward several different requests, each with an increase in troop presence on the ground. New York Times article here.

What always displeases me is how the issue of military strategy, already convoluted, is so politicized. I haven't read or heard any coverage of the potential troop increase without seeing it paired with analysis of what this will do for President Obama's popularity or sway among Democrats.

We've discussed in class how American political campaigns are often candidate-centered, influenced by parties but that politicians can divorce from their party to an extent. But especially now, as Congress is polarized over a multitude of issues, the pulls from either side strengthen. There are always going to be strong reactions across the political spectrum to decisions made about war, but doesn't it seem wrong that it always goes straight to what it will mean politically for the president? That always seems to come first, rather than assessments of potential successes or problems that will come with the military change. When it is a matter of putting the lives of men and women on the line, in particular, I think that the party skirmishing is particularly shameful. I understand that war elicits the most passionate of debates, but too-often the feel I get from it is more like squabbling/jockeying.

swine flu is out to get you

We've all heard about the swine flu since it was first discovered in the spring of this year, but many of us have probably not realized the reality of it affecting people our age.

In a recent report, 76 children have already died from the H1N1 virus. Between 46 and 88 children die from the regular flu each year, but swine flu is about to cause these numbers to dramatically rise. There has been a total of 600 deaths, 9,000 hospitalizations, and now 37 states across the U.S. have wide spread cases of swine flu.

I don't mean to be he barer of bad news, but this is something that people our age need to pay close attention to. I think it's important for us to read all information possible and learn exactly what we can to help prevent the virus from attacking our precious immune systems. It is important that we get vaccinated and stay home from school if we don't feel well. Also, don't forget that hand sanitizer is your friend!

click here for a swine flu update

Friday, October 9, 2009

The stupendous legacy of Norman Borlaug

I mentioned Normal Borlaug in my last post and suddenly was consumed with the neeed to follow up about him. He was an agricultural scientist who worked for his entire life to improve strains of wheat and other staple crops in undeveloped countries to combat starvation.
This YouTube video from a TV show called "B.S.!" gives a great explanation of Norman Borlaug's life and works. The show is devoted to debunking myths, and the episode in which this clip aired is about those who advocate against genetically modified crops (in case you were wondering why they're making fun of those mask-clad dudes in front of the store). I hope you enjoy the clip; it's very well put together and incredibly inspiring. The man was passionate, innovative and brilliant. He leaves an enduring legacy in the world.

Advisory warning: clip contains swearing! Penn and Teller, the hosts of the show, are pretty vehement about what they discuss, which is often reflected in their language. Just don't want anybody to be shocked!

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Obama

President Obama's reaction to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize today somehow made me think about Beyonce's reaction at the VMAs in September. As Kanye West launched into his now-infamous speech, the camera flashed to Beyonce, who was clearly flattered but taken completely off-guard. In a speech today, Obama said that he was honored but felt like he didn't belong amongst the many who have been revolutionary in order to garner the award (visit this article from the WSJ)... a fair analogy to Beyonce's utter confusion at the unsolicited compliment from West.

And indeed, the Nobel Peace Prize has over time gotten such acclaim because of its connection to those who are evoking change in remarkable ways. Though Obama is very much an emblem of change for America right now, his presidency is still early and was just beginning when he was nominated (New York Times summary article here).

Though not every year highlights a revolutionary, recent winners include former pres Jimmy Carter (2002), the group Doctors Without Borders (1999), Nelson Mandela (1993), Elie Wiesel (1986), Mother Teresa (1979) and Norman Borlaug (1970--if you don't know who Borlaug is, you should. A man credited with saving a billion lives through his agricultural pioneering research. Yes, billion with a "B." A personal hero of mine, who just passed away this past month). A full list here of winners.

What's going on here is that the Nobel Committee is diluting its credibility by allowing its actions to become politically motivated. The confused and even upset reactions are because for an award as esteemed as the Nobel Peace Prize, "a call to action" doesn't cut it. An admirable message, but one that detracts from the legitimacy of the cause.

Yo yo Nobel Peace Prize Committee, I like you, Ima let you finish, but I just gotta say that some of the other recent winners had the best accomplishments of all time. OF ALL TIME. Get it together, old dudes.

PS to Mr. Silton: Apparently Teddy Roosevelt's award was unrelated to the Spanish-American War; he got it for making a treaty between Russia and Japan. Guess his "Big Stick" diplomacy didn't hurt him there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Symbolism of the white lab coat

I was reading this weekend about how the American Medical Association (AMA) is in talks about efforts against the white lab coats that many doctors wear to work. This entry in the Wall Street Journal's blog explains a bit of the reasoning behind why. Essentially, lab coat sleeves have been pointed to as a carrier of disease between patients, especially in hospitals. The WSJ report cites the CDC's finding that ~100,000 people died of hospital-contracted diseases in 2002. There has been no correlation between this gargantuan number and lab coats. However, the logic of those proposing to get rid of the coats is that if they increase risk of infection by even a minimal amount, they should be eliminated.

Meanwhile, those who fear the loss of the symbolism and respect carried by the lab coat are intent on seeing more research before taking action. Britain has already carried out a similar decision, as described in this BBC article from Sept. 2007.

These poor lab coats... subject to the great irony of representing professionalism and cleanliness but pointed to as carriers of disease. I draw a connection between these AMA talks and how recent presidential advocacy sessions for health care have been careful to have white coat-adorned doctors present, as discussed here. Of course, anybody can understand why the White House was so intent that the doctors were wearing lab coats--throughout the health care debate, doctors' opinions have been important in swaying public opinion, and doctors dressed in lab coats make for a much more direct image for the public than those in suits.

Images courtesy of and

Taliban claims they no longer pose a threat to the Western World

Ahhh I have found something worth blogging about. In recent news, the Afghan Taliban claim that they pose no threat to Western countries. I find this completely ridiculous because after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the bombings in Madrid on March 11th, 2004, I think that it is obvious that the Taliban does still pose a threat to Western countries. We have reason to believe that it is very possible that they could attack again, and I think that by saying they are no longer a threat, they are just waiting for Western countries to back down and become unprepared so that they can attack somewhere in the Western world again.
In a recent statement, the Taliban said, "the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan for its refusal to hand over al Qaeda leaders, was hasty and unjustified" (Katyal). Excuse my language, but this is complete bullshit. Even though I would of course prefer to see the war end and I think that its commencement is long overdue, we went to war for a legitimate reason and that's because our country was attacked.
I just find it ridiculous that the Taliban is even making such statements when the majority of the world knows what they're capable of, and I would think that the majority of the world is in no way ready to trust that what they're saying is true.
If you'd like to read the article for more information, here it is. I'd like to read your feedback, so let me know what you think!

The sh*t that's considered news...

HAHAHAHA. So as I am looking around the internet from something interesting to blog about, I come across this video on the front page of Yahoo! Apparently some couple in Northern England is very angry that their wedding photographer/videographer did not capture their special day properly because in the majority of the photos, everyone's head is cut off or slightly cut off. Personally I think they should've hired a better photographer but maybe that's just me. I understand that they're upset, but does this really have to be front page news? I don't think so. Anyway, just thought this was amusing so i decided to share it with all of you. I am now going to look for some actual news to blog about..

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The battle for legal medical pot a little closer to home

The issue of the legalization of marijuana generally buzzes in people's ears, present in the media but recently not rising to the forefront. This is especially the case from a national perspective, recently from which the the economy, foreign policy and now health care reform are in the hot seat.
This article, from yesterday's edition of the San Mateo Daily Journal, is a reminder that particularly in California many advocates' focus has not strayed from marijuana's social and economic role for the next decade.
As is often the case with legal weed, though, a ton of emphasis is placed on precautions to make the operation of the "collective" subtle. This is important for those who are mainly concerned about making medical use of the plant possible, as they know that the more grand the operation of collectives like this one is, the more likely a strong push-back will come soon from the other side.

What do you think? Will collectives like the one in SSF survive? Are they directly concerned with medical marijuana?... or do they reflect a more general trend of public opinion toward more individual choice and freedom?

Tax credit key to ending high unemployment rates?

I was trying to find a current event to blog about and I came across this very interesting article on Apparently the government is debating about whether or not a tax credit should be given to companies who create new jobs. This is would be an updated version of a proposal created in 1977. I don't totally understand how this would work, but what I got from the article is that the policy created would make it cheaper for companies to hire more workers and that the government "would give employers a two-year tax credit if they increased the size of their workforce or added significant hours of working (for example, making a part-time worker full time.)

I personally think that this whole concept/idea/proposal would probably be a good idea, just as long as employers did not take advantage of it (a concerned expressed in the article). I think that if this policy could be pulled off then it would help the unemployment rate to go down, businesses to make more money, and for our economy to improve and not to be such crap. I am very sorry if I did a horrible job explaining this. I believe if you click on the title of this post it will take you to the article if you are interesting in reading it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Developments in Iran nuclear talks

It feels like Iran, the United States and its allies are again playing a game of bluffing and testing each other. Iran is advancing a militaristic agenda, to what extent is a little murky, while America is trying to hold onto diplomatic pretenses while becoming increasingly vocal against Iranian nuclear development. Both entities move back and forth without relinquishing the key objectives.

Compounding this, too, is President Obama’s declaration of wanting to heal and make progress with our international relationship with Iran, which is obviously being pushed aside in not wanting to back down from demands.

My impression is that Iran is stalling for time and that the October 25 deadline for inspection is intended to appear as more of a concession than it is. It has certainly been that way in the past—Iran has done it and so has North Korea. Iran’s modus operandi is to seemingly meet certain United States demands while actually buying time. Meanwhile, the countries using whatever means of diplomatic pressure lose their common footing, allowing Iran to regroup and strengthen its position.

Some recent articles on the issue: Mideast: Iran Inspections (from the Council on Foreign Relations, the second post on that page)

And Congress poised to act swiftly on Iran if needed.

This article is only marginally related, but it struck me as pretty bizarre. Found it during some fact-checking research for this post: Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is secretly ... Jewish?.

Thanks for reading--What do you think about the United States stance on Iran's nuclear program? Do you think that as a country we should more aggressively pursue our goal? Or do you think we should back off at this juncture?

Why do TV shows linger beyond their expiration dates?

I was hoping for a miraculous turnaround, but the first two episodes of the new season of The Office have convinced me that the show has finally lost its charm. Being a die-hard fan since the beginning of the show’s second season, this is traumatic to admit, but it’s the unfortunate truth.

A lot of television, especially sitcoms, seems to keep coming back, round after round, when it feels to many viewers that the charm of the original show is lost. Yet, many stay devoted to the show, because it has the same characters and basic plot elements that made it interesting in the first place (Scrubs and Friends are two other shows that I think had this happen). I for one know that no matter how stilted the writing gets, I will always find Jim hilarious, Jim and Pam adorable together, and Michael Scott will always make me want to curl up into a ball when he says something awkward.

But I have finally given up, and am at that point when the painfulness of watching the writers'

search for new material outweighs my need for more of The Office. It’s interesting to me, because the American show came from a British version. The British version ended after two seasons of six episodes each—all of the content was punchy and funny, but a lot of plot elements weren’t tied together. I guess the pattern here is that the British like their shows punchy with short runs, while we Americans don’t like to let the shows go (from the producers’ end because they’re reliable money-makers, on the other because the audience is too sentimental to say goodbye to the characters). The best route is to remember The Office as it was at its peak, and of course hope that 30 Rock is bomb-diggity when it starts in a few weeks.

On the left is Ricky Gervais, the boss in the British original version of The Office, on the right is Steve Carell, of the American version.

Images courtesy of and

Dogs: the Superior Animal

I generally like cats, but dogs are far superior. Click here if you are interested in why.


P.S. I hope nobody get super-offended by this, it's not that serious. But I 100% agree with it :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

U.S. Official Bribed by Sudanese Government?

So if anyone read my earlier Darfur-related post, you know that a man named Gration is the special envoy to Sudan and has been taking a less-than-stern stance towards the Sudanese government. If you didn't read it...well, he is. Anyways, new light has been shed on the situation! This Washington Post article says that Gration and the U.S. National Security adviser, James L. Jones, met with the former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane (who earned a bad name for his role in Iran-Contra) to discuss Sudan policy. At a time when McFarlane appears to have been working for the Government of Sudan. Hmmm...

McFarlane was apparently contracted by the Sudanese government (for a salary of $410,400 channeled through Qatar) to lobby officials in the Obama administration to improve the relationship between the two. He "dismisses suggestions that he has done anything improper, saying he has adhered to U.S. restrictions while focusing on his work to unify feuding tribal leaders and help create jobs in Darfur". I'm not sure if McFarlane is acting on behalf of the Sudanese government or not, but it definitely appears that way from the article:

"What followed was a month-long exchange of e-mails and documents between McFarlane and Babiker (a Sudanese diplomat), culminating with McFarlane's contract with Qatar. Sudanese officials asked McFarlane to approach four former U.S. diplomats to ask whether they were interested in assisting in the effort; a proposed budget set aside $100,000 a month to pay them." Looks like a pretty obvious attempt by the Sudanese government to bribe U.S. officials for political support. Gration's plan to ease sanctions on the Khartoum regime seems to be an act that will support a corrupt government led by a convicted war-criminal.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Soda and cake.

I can no longer put an end to my gummy worm cravings during 2nd period for the following reason:
They aren't there anymore.

It looks like schools across the nation are following this trend of stacking vending machines with water instead of soda. It looks like in New York, Mayor Bloomberg is at it once again. I remember it was not too long ago when he wanted to enact a "fat tax" (taxing people extra on junk food).

I doubt that taking a few bags of chips and cookies out of the vending machine will solve this war on obesity that's so rampant America. Sure, it helps on some degree, but it's a small one. I think eating habits in kids are largely influenced by the parents, not the machines in school.

In response to the swine flu post:

-Phoebe Chao

Merit Based Pay for Teachers!!!

America is known to have a capitalistic economy (it is not 100% capitalistic on the spectrum, but when asked, we state that we have a capitalistic economy).

Most jobs will pay their employees according to if they do their job and they do it well. When it comes to public schools, teachers are paid based upon their years of experience and their qualifications. There is also this thing called "tenure" which after a certain number of years at the job (I believe it is three years), makes it very hard for the teacher to lose their job.

There are many pros and cons to merit based pay for teachers.
-education will improve because MBP will weed out the teachers who don't achieve the results illustrated in their students test scores
-it will give teachers an incentive to keep working hard (it is a fact that many [not all] teachers burn out after teaching for so long and do not teach with the same enthusiasm when they first started.
-it rewards teachers who do an outstanding job teaching

-many do not think MBP is fair because there will be obvious differences in the test scores of an Senior AP class than a freshman CP class
-it does not work for all subjects. Music and Special Ed are cases where it is hard to determine what has been accomplished through standardized tests.
-it is not fair for teachers to be "punished" if their students are just not good test takers,9171,1862444-1,00.html

I couldn't find an extremely current article about this, but this article from Time Magazine last year provides some pretty good insight on Michelle Rhee (the chancellor of education in Washington DC). Rhee supports the idea of merit based pay as means to improve education by weeding out the "bad" teachers and rewarding the "good" ones who get results illustrating the improvement of their students.

"Rhee wants to use that [improving test scores with a certain teacher] to decide who gets paid more--and, in combination with classroom evaluation, who keeps the job. But many teachers do not trust her to do this fairly, and the union bristles at the idea of giving up tenure, the exceptional job security that teachers enjoy."

One of the things that I found almost shocking when I first read this article almost a year ago was this interesting piece of data regarding having "good" teachers over "bad" ones:

"If two average 8-year-olds are assigned to different teachers, one who is strong and one who is weak, the children's lives can diverge in just a few years, according to research pioneered by Eric Hanushek at Stanford. The child with the effective teacher, the kind who ranks among the top 15% of all teachers, will be scoring well above grade level on standardized tests by the time she is 11. The other child will be a year and a half below grade level--and by then it will take a teacher who works with the child after school and on weekends to undo the compounded damage. In other words, the child will probably never catch up."

Now I must warn you, many people I've talked to at Aragon are very opposed to the idea of merit based pay because it does not seem like a fair system. Only the thing is, that is because people at Aragon immediately think of the teachers at Aragon and that it would not be fair for them to be penalized if the students don't meet the standards in our test scores. I think that many of us agree that our teachers are great, and I believe that the majority of teachers here would have no problem with us not meeting the test standards. The thing is that MBP will help education in parts of the country where teachers aren't as strong and in turn student education is sacrificed (I couldn't think of a less intense adjective...).

What do you guys think? Any arguments for MBP or why MBP should not be implemented?