Thursday, February 27, 2014

Obama's Stance on Ukraine

In light of the recent protests in Ukraine, President Obama has not wavered from his 'wary stance' on intervention. Compared to his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama has certainly taken a more cautious approach to intervening in international conflicts. His aides say that Mr. Obama is 'wary of being proactive in trying to change other societies, convinced that being too public would make the United States the issue and risk provoking a backlash.' Avoiding instability remains his priority. There are also considerations of 'an underlying weariness on the part of the American public after more than a dozen years of war.' In contrast, in 2004, inspired by Ukraine's Orange Revolution,  President Bush launched a 'freedom agenda' in an effort to pursue the idealistic goal of 'the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.'  In twelve years, all Americans have seen how unrealistic and costly this goal has proven to be.

Now that the government has been ousted in Ukraine, Putin is very alarmed--having started miliatry exercises to the north of Crimea, a region earlier ceded to Ukraine, as a warning not only to the Ukranian rebels, but to the rest of the world as well--should any other nation dare to support Ukraine with military aid. Some might think it is the 'responsibility' of Europe to nuture democracy and support former Soviet satellite states in their struggles for equitable and representative governments.

There are other more dramatic humanitarian crises happening currently, such as Syria, where our lack of intervention has only encouraged the continued slaughter of innocent civilians. The government of Syria has been delaying the destruction of their chemical weapons, promised by President Bashar al-Assad for the end of February. 

The old criteria for American intervention in foreign conflicts, moral and humanitarian, and maintenance of our prestige as a defender and midwife to world democracy, seem to be in question. What do you think our role in the world should be? Should we continue being the world's protector? We have already seen the refusal of other Western countries to deal with crises in Rwanda and Kosovo. If we do not take action, who will? Do you think Obama's 'policy of restraint' is a wise one for our country right now? What do you think of the costs of intervention, both monetary and human?

NYT Article
NYT Syria Article
Russian/Crimea Article
Bloomberg Article

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Texas Takes a Leap Towards Legalizing Gay Marriage

Today, February 26th 2014, a district judge struck down the ban of same-sex marriage in Texas. Judge Garcia's main argument was that the ban was unconstitutional because it did not serve a legitimate governmental purpose. The opposition are arguing that the Supreme Court has given the states the authority to define and regulate marriage. Also with the argument that same-sex parents will be a bad influence on the children they raise. Although this ban was struck down by Judge Garcia, it does not mean same-sex couples in Texas can marry each other now. Since Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (Republican) appealed to the US Court of Appeals, Texans must wait until the ban goes through the appeal process before the decision can be enforced. Thinking back at the judicial branch chapter, this is a great example of a court case trying to get through the appeals courts. When the appeals courts recognizes the validity of the appeal to attempt to reverse the district court decision, it will be brought up to the Supreme Court. If Abbott succeeds in the appeals courts, he has a chance to reverse the decision of Judge Garcia, bringing ban on same-sex marriage back to Texas.

The most important aspect of this event, is that Texas is one of the most populous, conservative states in the United States. Such a conservative state taking a huge step towards legalizing same-sex marriage may impact other conservative states to follow the same path. Although no real law has been created in Texas yet, this is a huge victory for gay rights activists. Do you think step will pave the way for Texas and other strongly conservative states to legalize same-sex marriage? How will other states react to this district court decision? Although only a small percentage of cases reach the Supreme Court, do you think this is a case will reach the Supreme Court?

WashingtonPost Article
CNN Article

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When is Small Insignificant? Nuclear Waste Leak in New Mexico

On February 14th, a nuclear waste repository detected a small amount of radioactive material leaking out of the underground tunnel.  The repository known as The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has been running for over 15 years mostly without any dangerous incidents. The site is equipped with a sensitive ventilation machine that detects very little radioactive material, and immediately filters it to catch 99.9% of the contamination. Even with this seemingly flawless facility, researchers have discovered that some radioactive contamination reached the surface of the ground. However, a monitor of the radioactive leak stated that "there had been no health risk at all and that the radiation levels detected near the mine’s surface —far from town—were well below concern." An additional report stated that none of the workers at the repository had been detected with any contamination. The monitors are planning to brush off this leak as if nothing happened because the amount of released radioactive material was "too small." Even today, there has been no statement regarding the cause of the leak. Critics have stated that this lack of information can incite fear and distrust from the public. 

This leak of radioactive material relates to the economics topic we just covered: externalities. This is a negative externality similar to air pollution and water contamination. Although the public does not pay the government to bury nuclear waste underneath New Mexico, they are being exposed to the dangerous contamination leaks. Clearly, the third party—the public—is receiving negative influence from the burying of nuclear waste.
My question is, although the not a large amount of radioactive material was leaked, should the government and the Energy Department ignore this leak? Do you think this was just a insignificant leak that should not incite any concern, or do you think any kind of unusual radioactive leak should call upon action? My main concern is, where do you draw the line between small and insignificant? Also, should Energy Department release the causes of the leak, or should it completely ignore the event because it was insignificant? 

NYTimes article

ABCNews article

Monday, February 24, 2014

The most important man in Mexico arrested

He was like a god in Mexico. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the boss of one of the world's deadliest drug trafficking operations was arrested on Saturday. The man was quite possibly Mexico's top figure, he controlled people from local authorities to mexican politicians. Guzman was on of the world's most wanted drug lords, so his capture was a victory for Mexican officials and the DEA. The United States has been pushing for the extradition of Guzman, as he faces charges in seven jurisdictions.

This isn't the first time Guzman had been in jail. In 2001 he escaped about of a Mexican prison in a laundry basket, so security is expected to be raised. Nevertheless, Guzman is one of the world's most powerful people. In 2013, he was ranked 67th in a Forbes list. Unfortunately it appears that El Chapo either has a replacement or will continue to run his empire from jail, so the war on drugs in Mexico is far from over.

What do you guys think? Does this event spark the end of the war on drugs in Mexico? Will Guzman use his drug lord powers to free himself? It's not every day the 67th most powerful person in the world is put in jail, will he be received well by the other inmates in the prison?   

Article 2
CBS article

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Religious Conservatives in Arizona Cheer Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse Service to Gays

On Thursday, lawmakers in Arizona passed a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service on the basis of religious beliefs. Of course, this measure primarily targets gay couples and their wedding celebrations. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer now must decide whether to sign this legislation that would allow these businesses 'to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for denying service to same-sex couples' (NYT). The bill is backed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative organization that is against abortion and same-sex marriage. It claims to see a 'growing hostility' towards religion, while gay rights groups denounce it as a 'license for discrimination.'

Next month the Supreme Court will hear two cases where businesses are refusing, on religious belief claims, to provide employees with insurance coverage for contraception.

Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Oklahoma have had similar religious protection bills introduced, and Idaho, Ohio and Kansas had similar bills stalled. Arizona has been the only state to  pass successfully this type of legislation. Gay rights advocates and gay couples have stated that a difference exists between the individual religious rights of citizens and their ability to impose those rights in a business environment by refusing to serve others who disagree.

Governor Brewer is currently serving her last term as Arizona's governor, and has tried to think about Arizona's fiscal future as well as its legislative present.

Is Governor Brewer likely to sign this bill into law? Should this occur, doubtless a Supreme Court argument will ensue. What do you think of this attempt to couch discrimination and hatred in terms of religious freedom?

NYT Article
Related NYT Article

Immigration Reform in NY Chinatown

In the middle of the second month of 2014, John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, made it known that there would be no major legislation passed for the remainder of the year. This includes immigration reform, one of Obama's announced major goals of his second term. 
Many immigrants are trying to game the system with claims of persecution, and an entire industry is springing up to respond to the desire for permanent immigration status. 

In New York, asylum appears to be the most straightforward and expeditious path to permanent immigration status. Once granted, asylum allows the applicant to work legally immediately, and to apply for the coveted green card in one year. In order to receive asylum, an immigrant historically must have a valid, substantiable cause to flee their country. Recently, and on a large scale, immigrants from China seeking asylum in Manhattan, are employing lawyers to fabricate a case of persecution for them. Lawyers in Manhattan's Chinatown, both authentic and false, are now charging an initial price of $1000 to take a case, followed by 'incremental fees that might total more than $10,000' (NYT). For this price, applicants can be coached on Christian values in churches or how to describe a forced abortion that never occurred, or have newspaper pictures of crowd beatings Photoshopped to include their face. Fraud is blamed for at least part of the two-year backlog of petitions clogging the New York Asylum Office.

This manipulation of the asylum system isn't an infrequent occurrence: it's an industry, with thousands of people receiving asylum through the 'loophole in the system that cannot be closed because of politics' (NYT). Having abandoned any pretense of accomplishing anything whatsoever, whether it be job bills or immigration reform, the House Republicans are returning to their districts in a 'desperate attempt to save their seats' (PoliticsUSA). Will the Republicans get it together and act in order to close the loophole of asylum claims? Or, if they continue not to act, how will that affect run-arounds of the system like the one in Manhattan's Chinatown? America cannot, of course, take the entirety of the planet's population who would prefer to live here. Would immigration reform result in a more enlightened or restrictive policy? Is the failure to address needed reform to immigration policy the cause or the effect of the gaming of the system?

NYT Fraud in Chinatown article
NYT Gridlock article

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ukraine boots it's president

The Ukrainian parliament voted to remove current president Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday after a large amount of citizens protested in the country's capital, Kiev. Earlier this week, protesters and police fought in the streets and 77 people were killed in the scuffle. Yanukovich has called the protest movement a coup and has abandoned his office. The victorious protesters chanted the Ukrainian national anthem when they heard the news.

This is a major blow to Vladimir Putin. Putin was trying to rebuild the old Soviet Union into a new Eurasian Union (Soviet Union 2). Putin was counting on Yanukovich to join, as Ukraine is the biggest of the ex soviet countries. Along with expelling Yanukovich from office, the Ukrainian parliament also freed the old president of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko from jail.

Does America find a way to get involved in this? I don't think so but you never know. Should we be worried about this Eurasian Union? Could this Union lead to a second cold war? Where could Yanukovich have run off to?

Live Stream of Revolt
Article about the fighting

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Obama's Overreaching Orders?

In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama addressed Republicans in a 'declaration of independence' from the obstruction and gridlock in Congress. Though he promised a 'year of action' and said that he was 'eager' to work with Republicans on current issues, he was also adamant on others.

'So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do.' And he started by issuing an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers. He proposed incentives for trucks to run on alternative fuels, and new higher efficiency standards for those running on gasoline. (NYT) Obama began the new year with ideas that create the image of 'an America with expanded opportunity.' These were moderate pursuits compared to his proposals to regulate Wall Street, and remake America's health care system from his first term. We don't know successful Obama will be in achieving implementation of his bold proposals; however, the Supreme Court is already scheduled to hear arguments over one of them.

Obama has stated that he is planning to use the EPA to enforce a new interpretation of the CAA (Clean Air Act) to enforce reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. Of course the argument has split down the usual fault lines, with the coal and oil refining states--largely, if not entirely Republican--on one side, and New York and 14 other states on the other.

One of the logical points to be addressed in the Supreme Court arguments over this case will be the degree of reduction and control of the stationary sources: will our fireplaces and BBQ pits be regulated? How about restaurants and laundromats?

The larger picture is that those industries which have historically enjoyed free exploitation and abuse of the environment are now facing regulation and much closer examination of their practices. It is to be ex pected that they will fight tooth and nail to retain the perks and adavantages their enterprises have always enjoyed. This will be framed with an argument whether Obama has overstepped executive privilege and is rewriting parts of the CAA.

While this argument takes this form, the real question is whether the American people and their elected representatives will willingly address the issues that Obama has outlined, and actively make a better future for all of us, or whether the regressive forces will go down defending the status quo. The industries polluting are rich and many Congressional representatives rely on their financial support for their re-election campaigns.

Is it possible for Obama to overcome Republican opposition through executive order alone? How might the Supreme Court dash his attempts to move society forward with these announced proposals?  If he is successful with his use (rework) of the CAA, how will this change the interpretation of the executive order?

New York Times SOtU Article
NYT Climate Change Article

Justice for Bryan Stow

Two years after Giants fan Bryan Stow was brutally beaten by two Dodgers fans, a judge has finally reached a sentence. The fans, Marvin Norwood and Louie Sanchez, will both serve jail time. Sanchez will be in the can for eight years while Norwood will see four years. Since both criminals have been in jail since they were caught, and that time will go into their sentences, so Norwood will be a free man in a couple years. 

Nevertheless, the Stow family finally has a reason to smile again. Ever since the incident Bryan Stow has required 24 hour care. He takes 13 medications every day and has seizures on a regular basis. The beating left him severely brain damaged and his family has to dress him, shower him, and feed him. The Stow family called the criminals "cowards" and watched as they were carried to jail. 

The Bryan Stow incident did not only have an affect on the Stow family. The sports world became outraged and stadiums everywhere began rethinking their security measures. I myself was terrified to go to Oakland (scary enough) in my Detroit Tigers jersey to see the Athletics take on the Tigers. This event left a permanent scar on life at sports games.

Do you guys think life at sports games will go back to normal now that justice has been served? Would you go to a rival teams game in your teams jersey? Will you watch your back in Seattle in your Crabtree jersey? Should the criminals have deserved a longer sentence?

LA Times

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

United Nations Human Rights Council busts North Korea

While it has been rumored that North Korea has been abusing it's citizens for ages, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report after a yearlong investigation officially stating that the North Korean government under Kim Jong-un has been committing crimes against humanity. Such crimes include executions, enslavement, rape, torture, and starvation. Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge and current chairman of a United Nations panel, summarized the 36 page summary report of the investigation and stated that Kim Jong-un could face trial.

The North Korean government, however, thinks otherwise. They believe that the findings are false and that their enemies South Korea and the United States of America produced them to frame them. According to North Korean officials, such violations do not exist in their country. Nevertheless, North Korea is under some fire now and will be receiving a lot of attention during the next few days.

What do you guys think? Will Kim Jong-un himself face trial in front of the United Nations? Will North Korea refuse to cooperate thus igniting a bigger conflict? If you are the United States what would you do about this?

Creating better care or unfair business disadvantage?

Recent studies show that more people are using online rating sites to help them make choices about their doctors. There are clearly many benefits of this: patients can chose the best doctor for the job by finding doctors with high ratings in addition to steering clear of those with abysmally low ratings. Sites offer great additional services (other than the basic rating out of some number and the personal written accounts from patients) such as detailing the insurance policies and rates of the doctors. Reviews can even explain the pros and cons of specific procedures/testing that a particular doctor offers.

On the other hand, these sites, when unregulated, can be unfair and reviews can be dishonest. Dishonest reviews are not confined to medical reviews, and there have been many accounts of rival businesses, disgruntled former employees, etc., writing negative reviews despite the false personae they take on. There is little to no way to combat this, and some websites themselves are quite shady with their policies—displaying only some reviews and asking the person whose business the page is about to pay money to display all the reviews on the first page. Personally, I find that to be egregious. When the system isn’t helping customers find the best service available and becomes another incarnation of “Rate My Teacher,” then I have to say there needs to be some reform in these systems.

When a bad online review about a doctor is clearly the result of a “shoot the messenger” scenario, some turn to "Reputation Defender" This site is also gaining popularity. This site allows for some of this type of damage to be contained. Still, when a bad review is one of only a few on a doctor’s page, it can be incredibly damaging. Sometimes it is deserved, but there are too many cases when it is not deserved for this issue to continue to be ignored.

What are your thoughts on this issue? What are other solutions? Is this just a good way for the internet to help the free market improve—medical competition heightened to some degree? Or is this system too flawed and need some way to hold people accountable for the anonymous reviews they post?

Amid Protests in Venezuela, Expulsion of 3 US Diplomats

Although the US may not be currently actively involved in Venezuela, the Venezuelan government certainly thinks it is. On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered three US diplomats out of the country, accusing them of conspiring with anti-government protesters. The US released a statement that the accusations were “baseless and false”, and that it had received no formal notifications of the expulsions.  

This was amid a series of protests and violence that have so far resulted in four deaths - three last week (two of which were protesting students) and one yesterday (Monday). The Venezuelan government has aimed to arrest the protestors, and Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concerns that an arrest of the opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, would have a “chilling effect” on Venezuelans’ rights to free expression.

Student Protesters - Source

As of today, Lopez has decided to hand himself into the Venezuelan authorities peacefully, while maintaining that he had not committed any crime or caused any violence.

What do you think about potential US involvement? Do you think the United States has no business commenting on the affairs of other countries, or is it perhaps our obligation as a current world power to do so?

Read more:
Washington Times
Washington Post

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Serial Killer? Or does she just want Attention

Miranda Barbour, a woman from Pennsylvania claims to have "stopped counting" after killing more than 22 people. The authorities found out about this when she told them that she killed Troy LaFerrara, a man she met through Craigslist, this November. Barbour claims to have joined a Satanic Cult in California, and then moved to Alaska and North Carolina while continuing to kill more people.

Do you believe she actually committed all the murders? Do you think shes BSing all the "Satanic Cult" and "Stopped counting after 22" just for attention?
Article 1 and Picture
Article 2

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Youth Entrepreneurship and Review for Econ Quiz

Check out this article from BBC Business under Entrepreneurship. Thought this might serve as nice practice for our first set of economy vocabulary and a bit of review before our quiz next week. I’ve included some of our terms, but please work in as much of the vocab or as many of the concepts as you can in your responses.

First, take a second both to feel a bit envious of these talented young entrepreneurs and to bask in the impressive business accomplishments of these young people.

Then, go through and comment (for one, multiple, or all of the businesses) and explain the factors of production (the last factor should be easier since it is the main focus of the article.) Explain 1-2 (no need to list all the items that fall under the four categories) aspects of the land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship factors. Include a bit of analysis on how the entrepreneur successfully brought all the factors together. Keep in mind that the source of labor/entrepreneurship in these examples often comes from the person being featured.

Example: Leanna Archer
Land: Natural ingredients that go into her products.

Labor: Leanna and her team that makes the products.

Capital: Leanna’s knowledge of her grandmother’s hair products.

Entrepreneurship: Self-explanatory from article. 

Here, I’ve only listed one aspect of each factor; there are plenty more. Please feel free to add on to this nascent case study or start your own.

BONUS: Consider what an opportunity cost could be for any of the examples and write a little bit about that opportunity cost.

Possibility for Immigration Reform?

It’s looking like significant immigration reform may not be possible this year.

Despite hopes for a bipartisan solution, House Speaker John Boehner stated that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get anything major past the more conservative members of the GOP. As immigration is an issue that deeply divides the Republican party, it may make it more difficult to keep the conservative votes in upcoming elections.

J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press. Image Source

However, Senator Schumer of New York has suggested using a discharge petition to bypass the committee process and bring new immigration legislation directly to the House floor for voting. The tactic rarely succeeds, and many think it also unlikely to in this case. Legislation would need not only all the Democrat votes, but also more than a dozen Republican ones to gain a majority.

Schumer also suggested passing legislation this year, but not letting it take effect until 2017 when Obama would no longer be in office. This would hopefully assuage the GOP's doubts.

Although the debt ceiling vote went smoothly, it doesn’t seem as though this will be an ongoing trend. Immigration reform has been called for by most, but the details just can’t seem to be agreed on. What do you think about the possibility for change this year - is the state of immigration in this country going to stay stagnant for long?

Read More:
Source [opinion]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Drug war - clearly not working

Following the recent death of American actor and director Philip Seymour Hoffman, people have begun to open up about their concerns regarding rising rates of drug overdosing in America. Hoffman had been clean for 23 years, only recently relapsing.

And indeed, it seems that the rates of drug overdoses are definitely rising. According to the CDC, between 2000 and 2010 the number of people that died from overdoses doubled, going from 17,000 to 38,000.

It seems this could be largely due to the increasing rate of overdoses due to prescription drugs, and the increasing quantity of prescription drugs in the market. In 2012, 12.5 million people reportedly used prescription painkillers without advisement of a doctor. Attempts to crack down on this black market, however, may have had an unintended side effect. The number of heroin users in the past five years has doubled as a possible side effect, as heroin is much cheaper and more easily accessible than pharmaceutical opioids.

Although there has been a lot of focus on relatively benign drugs like marijuana in recent years, it is clear that this use of hard drugs is definitely a growing problem. But what do you propose the US does about it?



CVS will no longer sell cigarettes

Photo source

Last week, CVS made the bold decision to take cigarettes off their shelves. CVS will no longer be selling cigarettes since they endanger the lives of their customers and that goes against their pharmaceutical values and healthcare promotion.

President Obama has commended CVS’s CEO, Larry Merlo, for the decision. The company will obviously lose quite a bit of money because of the decision, but the CEO believes the pros outweigh the cons.

Photo source
Photo source

Some have said they support the decision while others say it’s pointless since it won’t deter smokers—it will just send them elsewhere. It’s interesting to me that CVS has chosen to make this “moral” decision because it is not every day that a company chooses to take something off their shelves in order to promote healthier behavior. Since CVS is private and made this decision independently, it doesn’t bother me too much, but I generally think that people ought to be making this decision for themselves. And I also fall into the more cynical category of people for this issue—I suspect the percentage of smokers who will a) quit or b) cut down on their consumption will be few and far between. CVS will lose about 3 percent of their profits and over a billion dollars in revenue. Quite a tradeoff for a business who has a goal of making money! What do you think about this decision? The economic aspects? The political ones?

Thanks to Annika for the idea for this post!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Progression of Marijuana?

Legalize it? -Not quite. However, members of Congress have asked Obama to move Marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. The difference is, Schedule I drugs are classified as having no medicinal value, such as Heroin or LSD. While Schedule II drugs, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, are considered to have a medicinal use.

However small the request may be,(18/535) do you think it is a request Obama will actually look at/take action on? Do you think this is too radical of a movement for society? Do you believe giving Marijuana possession a smaller consequence would encourage more people to use the drug?


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Suicide Bomber Instructor Accidentally Blows Up Class

(Photo source)

Honestly, I’m not sure what to say about this. Read the story first. This post is outside the blog’s normal realm, but I think deserves some coverage at least. There is a sense of dark irony, as the author says, but the amount of joy and vengeance in the quotes are … too real. It is a good reality check on what the situation is like in Iraq. Thoughts?

'Raise the Roof' ... with no conditions

Well, we started with Economics in class today. So let’s dive right into some discussion on everyone’s favorite topic: debt! 

Photo credit: AP

Today, the House voted on and passed a bill to increase the government’s borrowing limit (debt limit) with no conditions. This is a surprising turn of events, as Speaker of the House John Boehner has previously been defeated bringing legislation with policy attachments, and it is unexpected that he support a simple no-strings-attached bill now. Some are calling Boehner weak for this action, what do you think? Why might Boehner “compromise” on this matter?

In the past, Republicans have asked for “dollar for dollar spending cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase.” (Source). Many are shocked by this change on both Boehner’s behalf in addition to other Republicans. This article offers an interesting analysis, saying that most of the Republicans who supported the bill are not facing tough re-election fights; and therefore they are not pressured to support this bill because they are seeking re-election. There are a lot of facets to this story, and it makes for an interesting discussion. Below are some suggested background/beginning articles to get you started.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beyond The Drill

If, anytime in the past year, you had asked me about my views on the lockdown drills across the country that have undoubtedly increased in number since the Sandy Hook tragedy, I probably would have immediately pledged my support.  An article that I saw on BBC today presented the subject from a viewpoint that I'd never previously considered.  It didn't ultimately change my opinion, and I don't think that it was supposed to, but it was definitely thought provoking.

The article discussed the impact that lockdown drills have on young kids.  These kids have to prepare for scenarios of a magnitude that they aren't ready to try and understand.  They have to prepare to hide from a crazed gunman, but you can't tell that to a room of five-year-olds.  Laura Trevelyan, the author of the piece, writes, "The thought of my children learning how to behave in case there is a gunman on the rampage is deeply unsettling. But for schools across America, the lockdown drill has become a grim necessity."

Proponents of anti-gun laws haven't made much progress in terms of getting any restrictions past Congress, but I wonder if it would be unrealistic to consider a near future in which schools are lawfully required to conduct lockdown drills and educate children on safety procedures.

What do adult euphemisms mean to these kids?  Is there a better way to go about this, or a "right thing" to say?  How would you feel about the government taking part in necessitating these drills and discussions?  Under what circumstances would you support it?

Photo: Getty

Don't Judge An Unemployment Statistic By Its Cover

This weekend, the first jobs report of the year came out.  While only 4% of Americans seem to be officially unemployed, there's more behind these statistics than is apparent at first glance.

With last week's successful Republican filibuster of a bill that would have lengthened long-term unemployment benefits by an additional three months, many Americans currently searching for jobs may feel new financial pressure to stop searching for jobs in favor of receiving extended unemployment benefits.  So while a large number of the 91 million Americans "not looking for jobs" are people who are retired, in school, etc. (i.e. people who actually are not looking for jobs), an increasing amount might soon be people who want jobs but have stopped officially looking for them because of the slight financial benefit of officially extended unemployment.

Politicians who oppose the bill, such as Republican Senator Rand Paul, believe that the passage of the measure would "provide some disincentive" for the unemployed to find jobs quickly.  Ironically, Congress' failure to pass the bill may ultimately lead to an outcome that Republicans hoped to avoid with the filibuster of the bill in the fist place.  The unemployment statistic may decrease, but for an overall negative reason.  What is your stance on the bill?  How do you interpret these statistics?  What steps do you think the government should be taking right now to improve the situation?

Article 1: CNN
Article 2: Washington Post
Article 3: NYT

Microsoft considering cutting consumer products, such as Bing, Surface, and Xbox


Satya Nadella, as shown in the picture above, is the new CEO of Microsoft, who had taken the seat in office just yesterday. Already, Nadella has received pressure from two influential shareholders to end the production of Xbox, Surface, and Bing to allow the company to focus on its strengths in software towards large companies. In the last year, Microsoft lost a net of over $2.2 billion in these three consumer products, while still managing to gain money through their software sold to businesses.

It's obvious that the shareholders are more concerned about business profit, but do you think that Microsoft should remain concerned about its consumer population? Do you think a cutback on consumer products would actually help Microsoft?
Article and Picture

Aid In Dying: Should It Be Legal?

A few weeks ago, a New Mexico district court ruled that a terminally ill person has the right to physician assistance in dying.  This ruling has the potential to make New Mexico one of the five states that allows "aid in dying" in the United States.  Such actions were illegal throughout the country until Oregon legalized the practice in 1997.  While opponents believe that assisting another person in ending his or her own life is immoral under all circumstances, proponents argue that the ability to "die with dignity" is a fundamental human right.

The New York Times published an article over the weekend about Robert Mitton and his fight to receive "aid in dying" that gives a more personal perspective to the controversy.  Mitton needs major heart surgery to save his life, but has chosen not to have that surgery because of the rough recovery process that he anticipates will follow.  Without the surgery, doctors estimate that he only has six months left to live.  Because aid in dying is not legal in Colorado, Mitton is considering taking matters into his own hands by means of imported lethal drugs or a chemical overdose.  (The article contains more details.)

What are your personal views on this topic?  If you do not wish to share your personal views, what are your views/predictions about government policy regarding this topic?  Should legalization of this practice extend to Mitton and others who share his circumstance?  Is there a difference between "aid in dying" and "physician-assisted suicide"?

Article 1: NYT
Article 2: CNN

Photo: New York Times

Sunday, February 9, 2014

McCain and Reid Support Boxing Study

Earlier this week, Democratic Senator Harry Reid and Republican Senator John McCain came together in support of government-funded research on brain injuries in boxing.  Both former boxers, the senators are collaborating in recognition of the degenerative impact of the many blows that professional fighters take to the head on a daily basis.  Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have already spent $2 million dollars conducting research on the correlation between the hits that fighters are taking and long-term diseases later on in life.  The study already has attracted over 400 active and retired athletes volunteering to participate, and has also brought together rival boxing organizations -both of whom recognize the importance of looking into this issue to keep athletes healthy in the long term.

This is a rare show of bipartisan cooperation that contrasts unfriendly interactions directly between Reid and McCain as recently as last December.  It's interesting to see the typically hostile parties come together in complete support of an issue, even if it doesn't necessarily involve politics.

Does this make you feel happy inside?  Or does the overarching negativity of current party politics overshadow this small show of bipartisanship?  What are some issues, if any, that might realistically have bipartisan support in the future?  What are some issues that should have bipartisan support in the future?

Article 1: TIME
Article 2: ESPN

Picture: AFP

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Is Sochi Ready?

Many have questioned whether Russia was truly ready to host the Olympics. In fact, according to a PewResearch poll, within the US 44% expressed that they thought it was a poor decision (32% thought it was a good one, and 24% did not know).

Disregarding the countless unprepared hotel rooms and facilities, the primary reason for concern has been threats to security. Worries have only increased with the United States’ warning to airlines hosting flights to Russia. These warnings stated that terrorists may try to smuggle explosive substances in toothpaste and cosmetic tubes. According to a CNN poll, 57% believe that a terrorism attack on the games is likely.

Luckily, it seems Russia has increased security substantially. Tens of thousands of police and troops have been dispatched to protect the area around the Games. Additionally, the US has sent two warships in the off chance there is an emergency.

Additional concerns include the controversy surrounding gay rights activists in Russia, especially because of recent local crackdowns on such protesters of Putin’s anti-gay laws. It seems that the rest of the world is joining in with these protestors, however; many have stated their intentions to boycott the Olympics, and Google itself released a self-explanatory homepage.

What do you think? So far the Olympics have gone smoothly, but is there reason for concern? Should political debates have any effect on attendance of the Games?

Friday, February 7, 2014

2016 Presidential Elections: Republicans Diversify?

While Hillary Clinton is a clear favorite to be the top Democratic nominee in 2016, the Republican Party's frontrunner is far from clear at the moment.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, until recently one of the GOP's top potential candidates, has experienced a harsh fall from popularity following the political scandal that has become known as "bridgegate."  The Republicans now find themselves considering a promising group of potential candidates, yet struggling to identify an obvious choice.

Interestingly, several politicians being considered for the GOP's 2016 campaign are not old white men; multiple are of minority descent and are relatively new to the scene (in politician years).  This new type of Republican candidate hopes to attract young and diverse voters that the GOP has lost in recent years.  With Obama midway into his second term as essentially the face of the Democratic Party, the Democrats want to select a different type of candidate as well to change things up.  If Clinton were not to run, the Democrats would look to figures like Joe Biden and Martin O'Malley, neither of whom is particularly young or of color.  Figures like Clinton and Biden are appealing because of their many years of experience with Presidential politics, which are reassuring to currently dissatisfied Democratic voters.  The party role reversal concerning the 2016 elections will paint a very different picture from that to which voters have grown familiar in recent years.

What will voters make of this role reversal?  Do you think that it will have a significant impact on young voters and minority voters?  Or is the selection of a particular candidate not likely to change an image that has become engrained in voters' minds?

Article 1: CNN
Article 2: US News
Article 3: CNN

Photo: The Huffington Post

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bye Bye Bieber?

When pop superstar Justin Bieber was arrested in Miami a few weeks ago, a petition was released in favor of revoking Bieber's green card and deporting him back to Canada. Bieber was charged with driving under the influence, resisting arrest, and driving with an expired license during an illegal drag race with friends.  Less than a week after the petition went online, it reached 100,000 signatures.  

Two days ago, VA Senator Mark Warner (D) stated his desire to see the singer deported, asking if there "[was] someplace [he could] sign" while on the "Rumble in the Morning" radio show on FM 99, before tweeting about his readiness to sign the petition and remove Bieber from the United States with a link to the story.  As of tonight, the petition has reached 251,201 signatures.

If Bieber is "threatening the safety of our people” due to his "dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing” behavior, what is there to say about the estimated 900,000 people who are arrested for a DUI every year?  Why do you think the media has stuck to Bieber’s story when more important things are taking place such as the Sochi Winter Olympics or the Al-Qaeda's resurgence in Iraq?  Do you think that Bieber will have his green card revoked and ultimately be deported? Thoughts?