Sunday, May 26, 2013

First Openly Gay Male U.S. Soccer Player

Robbie Rogers, a professional MLS soccer player, retired in February at age 25, announcing then that he is gay. However, such a young athlete with such a great passion for the game, Rogers decided to return to Major League Soccer, signing a multi-year contract with the L.A. Galaxy this past Saturday. This makes him the first openly gay male athlete in U.S. professional soccer.

Rogers is not just an average player - he was a former winger on the U.S. National Team, has won the MLS Cup with the Columbus Crew, and has even played in the English premier league for a time. The L.A. Galaxy coach, Bruce Arena, was very clear in describing the assets that Rogers provides to his team, emphasizing that Rogers was acquired for his soccer skill, as he should be.

On a side note, between David Beckham and now Robbie Rogers, the L.A. Galaxy seem to have a knack for acquiring some of the most publicized players in the MLS.

What do you guys think of Roger's milestone? Is this the beginning of a larger domino effect that started with Jason Collins in the NBA and now Rogers in the MLS? How significant a step in the right direction is Roger's announcement/signing with the Galaxy?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Huge Tornado strikes Oklahoma

A tornado was reported to have hit Oklahoma today. 51 people are confirmed to be dead (more deaths expected to be uncovered) ,  some of which were children. Many others are injured and are in the care of nearby hospitals. The tornado did tons of damage to property and it completely destroyed two elementary schools. The tornado traveled at speeds up to 200 miles per hour and it was over one mile wide. There is a lot of information, photos, and even videos for those of you who are interested in seeing more as this post does not tell the half of it.

More information/visuals can be found here :

Obviously, this is a tragic event and I don't have any specific questions for you to reflect on. Respond as you see fit.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tea Party to Capitalize on Scandles

It looks like all the recent scandals has lead to the Tea Party being back in the news again. Many Tea Party leaders are using the recent scandals (AP Phone record seizure, Benghazi and Libya, and the IRS targeting conservatives), as a means to recruit individuals,lobby more members of Congress, and promote key Tea Party principles. Tea Party members gathered in Washington and it seems like their group is more active then ever before. Given their successes (aiding in the election of several Republican senators and house members) in the 2010 congressional election, they may be able to use their groups newly founded energy to deviate from the GOP disaster in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.  Many people, however, believe that the Tea Party could overplay their hand. Here are a few things several Tea Party members said related to this post:

"This is the defining moment to say I told you so." - Katrina Pierson 

"What's happened here is a reminder of, this is what happens when you expand government," 

"I personally feel so vindicated. But whats scaring me now is what's going on below the water line that we're not seeing." - Mark Falzon

"Suddenly, this is a very real demonstration of too much power ceded to government bureaucrats." - Matt Kibbe 

What are your takes on all this? Is the Tea Party asking for too much / doing too much? How will these scandals (and Tea Party Reaction) reflect on upcoming elections? 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Woman Receives New Bionic Hands

About a year ago, 25-year old Aimee Copeland was riding a makeshift zip-line when the line supporting her suddenly broke. She fell and was injured; her calf was deeply cut and had to be closed with 22 staples. Over time the condition of her leg worsened, causing her leg to turn purple. Doctors then concluded that Copeland's injury had contracted a flesh-eating bacteria known as necrotizing fasciitis. Copeland had to undergo surgery to amputate both of her hands, feet, and her left leg.

After a year of recovery, Copeland spent several weeks with a company called Touch Bionics, which makes prosthetic arms/hands for those with upper limb deficiencies. Touch Bionics had decided to give Copeland a pair of their bionic hands called "i-limb Ultra Revolution", free of charge dues to the fact that Copeland's insurance wouldn't cover the cost of the hands, which are $100,000 a piece. At Touch Bionics, Copeland learned how to function her new hands, which can perform about 25 different movements. She now has regained the ability to do simple things such as fixing her hair or picking up small objects. Additionally, many of the hand's movements can be controlled through an i-Phone app. Touch Bionics also make prosthetic fingers, and skin called "living skin" that is designed to cover prostheses to give it a more natural look.

What do you think about the future of prosthetic limbs? Do you think that expensive prostheses such as these will eventually be available to the general public?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Google Maps 2013

Most everyone has either used the extensive information available with Google Maps or heard of it, and its capabilities are about to get even more advanced. Google has just announced upgrades that are going to be available to the public in the coming months. These upgrades include many more personalized custom settings. For example, based on past search history, reviews, and networks of friends, the map will automatically make recommendations of places it has "calculated" that you will enjoy. Another interesting feature is that if, for example, you click on a local deli, a box will appear that shows many reviews of the deli, and related search items will also pop up on your map. While there are other downloads available such as Yelp that do things along these lines, now it will all be built in to the map itself.

What is more, the map has a new built-in schedule for alternative forms of transportation, so that it automatically gives directions and compares estimated times of biking, driving, or taking the train at any given time. Car accidents appear on the map in real time, and the map will reroute directions in order to take into account time delays of accidents and traffic. Finally, instead of searching for a start and end address, you can now simply tap the map at the start point and end point, and it will route your directions just the same. People interested in testing it out can sign up for an invitation here.

What do you guys think of these upgrades? Which ones do you think will be the most useful to you, or to other high-school/college aged people? As technology and smart phones keep getting more and more advanced, are all these new, specified upgrades more and more helpful? Or are they "too much information" and becoming annoying? What other upgrades with Google Maps do you foresee in the future?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

IRS Scandal - IRS targets conservatives

Steve Miller, the acting IRS commissioner was forced to resign Wednesday when it was discovered that the IRS focused in on conservatives claims of tax exemption status. A little more than a year ago, several members from conservative groups such as the Tea Party reported difficulties getting their tax exempt statuses approved. Miller became fully aware of the issue by May 3, 2012 after asking one of his managers to investigate. The investigation revealed that the "agency singled out groups by name for additional examination". In a report to Congress six weeks later, Miller defended the IRS by claiming that "the agency "took steps to coordinate the handling of the cases to ensure consistency" due to an increased amount of applications in 2010. After the scandal was confirmed to be true, Miller claimed that “mistakes were made, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan motivation.” 

Following an official announcement by Obama, many top officials of the IRS also resigned. Obama said that the conduct of the IRS was "inexcusable" and he announced that an investigation would be launched. Obama's top concerns are the public's faith in the IRS, "holding the responsible parties accountable, by putting in place new checks and new safeguards, and going forward by making sure the laws applied as it should be." 

Republicans are especially furious as you could imagine. House Speaker John Boehner went as far as to say, "My question isn't about who is going to resign. My question is, who's going to jail over this scandal?"

It seems lately that there are a lot of scandals ( AP phone records, Benghazi attacks, IRS targeting conservatives) that reflect poorly on the Democratic party. 

What are your thoughts on this? How will Republicans benefit from these scandals(are they seeking something in particular)? How does this event effect the public's faith in the IRS/government agencies? Is there anything else that needs to be done? 

For More Information:

Stem Cell Success

For the first time, scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University have created human embryos that are genetic copies of living people. They have used these to make stem cells, cells that can divide into different specialized cells and self-renew to keep producing more stem cells. You can watch a video of a beating heart successfully made from stem cells here, and if you're interested on how they actually did it, scroll on down about halfway through the article.

The successful development of stem cells has all kinds of medical implications. They can be used to grow replacements for all kinds of diseased cells and can treat a wide range of diseases with personalized body tissues. Thus, this stem cell development has the potential to treat everything from diseased blood cells to diseased brain cells to patients with Alzheimer's disease to diabetic people.

However, in addition to the medical advantages of stem cells, this development also means that humans now have the ability to clone themselves. And as cool as this may sound, it also brings to light many ethical questions. Many, if not most scientists have flatly declared human cloning unethical and scientifically irresponsible. That being said, it is hard to imagine that no one will go ahead and do it with the knowledge and methodology of human cloning now available. 13 states currently ban reproductive cloning (human clones), and seven states ban "therapeutic cloning," which is cloning for medical treatment (i.e. growing a replacement organ). However, the federal government has yet to set restrictions or determine legality of either practice.

So what do you guys think: How much cloning should be allowed? Should we allow therapeutic cloning and/or reproductive cloning, taking into account the ethics of such practices? Should human cloning legality and restrictions be left up to the states, or should there be national legislation regarding its usage?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Immigration Reform: Yes or No?

Currently, an immigration reform bill is pending in the Senate. The bill intends to make massive changes to the immigration process, by providing more security around the southern U.S. border, and including new means for illegal immigrants to obtain their U.S. citizenship. There is much opposition to the bill, due to the fact that the accumulated cost of this reform will add to the U.S. deficit. Over 50 years, it is expected to cost the government $6.3 trillion for this large-scale reform.  Others believe that the sudden addition of 11 million citizens to the nation will cause other problems "would put the country's national security at risk". 
However, many have been pushing for this reform in order to change the lives of many suffering immigrants. Mexican priest Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, an outspoken speaker for Mexican migrants, will be travelling from Los Angeles to Washington in order to push for this grand-scale reform. Solalinde intends "to include more voices in the debate" by speaking on behalf of the poor migrants form Mexico, "lobbying for a path to citizenship, a stop to the separation of families, and greater attention to the human cost of immigration policies." He doesn't believe his voice will have much impact on the national government, but he is determined to make change for the better, no matter how small it may be.

Do you think that Solalinde will be able to have any influence the American government? Do you think immigration reform is something that the U.S. is ready to deal with?

12th state legalizes same-sex marriage

View image on TwitterMinnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage today, following similar same-sex marriage legalization in Delaware last week. Governor Mark Dayton posted the photo to the left of him signing the new bill on his twitter account, saying "It's history." This is a rather radical turn-around for Minnesota, as just six months ago, an amendment to the Minnesota State constitution permanently banning gay marriage was almost passed.

In addition, the Illinois state senate approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage back in February, and although it has yet to be voted on by the full House, it is half way through the congressional process. So, while national legislation in favor of same-sex marriage has not come yet from the courts as many hoped, it seems that at least over the past few weeks, same-sex marriage has been having success at the state level. A full map of states is shown below:

So what do you guys think? How big of a step forward are the recent Delaware and Minnesota legalizations of same-sex marriage? Do you think they will significantly influence other states or the national government to do the same? Any other thoughts or comments on same-sex marriage in general?

Ohio Kidnapping Case

We've had a short break from blogging because of AP testing, but I feel that we missed out on an important story that i'm sure you've all heard of in the news lately. I hope to tie this story into a bigger question about justice and look forward to your responses. Below is a quick summary of the case.

Ariel Castro kidnapped 3 women seperately in the state of Ohio in  2002,2003, and 2004 imprisoning them all until just recently. Castro is accused of repeatedly raping and beating these women. One of the victims, Michelle Knight, was impregnated multiple times. Each time, Castro would starve and beat her to force a miscarriage. It is rumored that another victim, Amanda Berry, was impregnated and did not miscarry (I am not sure if this was confirmed). Now, Castro fathers the 6 year old child. Throughout their imprisonment, police reports claim that the girls had their obedience constantly tested by Castro - any failure to comply would result in a beating. Castro's brothers would sometimes visit the house but they claim that they never knew that the girls were there because the T.V. or radio would always be on and Castro would not allow them into a certain area of the house.

More information can be found below:

What should Ariel Castro's punishment be? Do you think an eye for an eye justice is justifiable in a situation as messed up as this one? Is death too easy, and life imprisonment too soft for Castro? The question seems to be hinting towards an extreme form of justice but it is not intended to be that way.  I'm aware that cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited by the Constitution. What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Philadelphia Abortion Doctor Convicted of Murder

Abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell (72) was found guilty today of first-degree murder. First charged in January 2011, Gosnell had been accused of the murder of 21 unborn babies who had been over 24 weeks old, and the deaths of two patients as a result of his practice.
Gosnell ran a clinic in Philadelphia; his clients being either immigrant, minority, or low-income women.
 During the day, Gosnell's clinic sold dangerous and expired medical drugs to his clients and wrote fake medical prescriptions. By night, the clinic turned into an abortion center, where Gosnell and his staff performed illegal and dangerous abortions. These abortions removed almost fully developed, breathing babies who were killed illegally.
Gosnell was an actual doctor, however his staff had no medical licenses and little medical experience. One of his staff members included a high school teenager, who was trusted to give patients anesthesia and perform other tasks.
The equipment used to perform the abortions were extremely unsanitary and malfunctioning, making it dangerous for the women who often developed serious medical conditions after their abortions. Gosnell and his staff often overdosed their patients on drugs, and they would be left for hours in the clinic without proper medical attention.
In the coming months, it will be decided whether or not Gosnell will pay the ultimate price of the death sentence for his crimes.

 How could a clinic such as this run for so long? Why hadn't there been any investigation on the clinic sooner? Do you think Gosnell should receive the death sentence?

Associated Press Claims Justice Department Intrusion

The Associated Press claimed Monday that the Justice Department had secretly collected two months worth of telephone records of around 20 reporters and editors from the news agency. The agency's CEO, Gary Pruitt, obviously outraged at such a breach of privacy, called the activities a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into the agency's operation and information "that the government has no conceivable right to know." In a letter, he further emphasizes that their actions are a "serous interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news."

The Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, are in a very sticky situation. Their only response as of now has been that federal investigators only obtain phone records from news agencies after making "every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means." However, they have failed to disclose the reason for the probe into the AP phone lines. Back in 2012 Holder announced investigations of leaked specified state secrets, however, this AP probe seems to be pretty unrelated to the subjects of those investigations, leaving a pretty questionable justification of the probe.

Now it seems that everyone, including myself, are waiting for the justification that the Department of Justice is going to come up with. No matter what they claim as their reason for the probe, however, it is going to be very questionable, and will almost certainly draw tons of criticism from the public, the AP, and the rest of the government. So what are all of your reactions? Is probing into a wide range of AP phone calls acceptable in order to try and find a source leaking confidential information, or is such an action an unacceptable abuse of power under any circumstances? Just how unconstitutional is such a probe - Does it violate the First Amendment Freedom of the Press, or will you be satisfied with their actions under certain circumstances? If so, just how serious a threat must be posed in order to warrant such a probe?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Limo Fire on San Mateo Bridge

Yesterday night, a limo burst into flames while transporting nine women to a bachelorette party in Foster City. Four women escaped but five were killed in the fire. One of those who died was the bride. This caused a lot of traffic on the bridge. Police are still trying to figure out what happened.

Shooting at McDonald's in East Palo Alto

Six people were shot at McDonald's this afternoon, pretty near us--Palo Alto. The victims were old people, young children, and middle aged people. It's suspected to be a gang-related crime. It seems like people are always getting shot these days. How does that make you feel? Can gun control ever be effective?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Obama's Press Conference--Obama Sounds Tired Out

On Tuesday, Obama had a long-awaited press conference which has received considerable criticism. Obama was criticized for being passive, not even beginning the conference with an opening statement. Then in response to many of the questions asked, "he often found himself remarking on the difficulty of his job: intelligence sharing (“this is hard stuff”), closing Gitmo (“it’s a hard case to make”), Republican governors blocking his health-care law’s implementation (“that makes it harder”) and responding in Syria (“it is a difficult problem”)." He also revealed much frustration at the uncooperative Congress. For example, Obama mentioned signing into law a bill about flight delays which he disapproved of. When asked why he went along with it, Obama said that he "cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions.” Unfortunately for him, this kind of slow government is what America was setting itself up for when it created separation of powers. People have also been making a big deal of when Obama said "If you put it that way, Jonathan, maybe I should just pack up and go home. Golly. I think it's a little — as Mark Twain said, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point." This comment seems to me to reveal an almost given-up attitude, and as one article said, it "prompted immediate online coverage that made the president sound downright self-pitying." Personally, I sympathize with Obama's plight. It must be tiring to always constantly have to look good for the public and make things work where others don't cooperate. But then again, that's basically been the president's job description from the beginning.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Removing Age Restriction on Contraceptives?

The Food and Drug Administration announced that Plan B morning-after pills are safe as non-prescription drugs for females 15 and older, a change from how it used to be-- prescription-only for those under 17. US district judge Edward Korman then ruled to end all age restrictions on contraception, saying that the restrictions on the pills were political and not scientific. But now, Obama appealed to the court, trying to keep the restrictions. Many people, including Obama, disapprove of the court's and FDA's decision to lower the age, saying that 15 is too young to responsibly buy and use morning-after pills without their parents. Conservatives also disapprove of abortion and the use of contraceptives, especially at such a young age. Meanwhile, others feel that contraception should be available to any female of childbearing age, and they argue that scientifically, the morning-after pill is safe and effective regardless of age. They also feel that Obama's desire to keep the restrictions is purely political, to keep the religious conservatives on his side. Again they cite the research findings that the drug is safe.

What is your opinion on the removal of the age limit for buying morning-after pills without parental supervision? For 15 year-olds? How about all age restrictions? Is Obama trying to please conservatives?