Sunday, November 30, 2014

After Adding Planes, US Wastes No Time in Taking Action Against ISIS

After reports this past week and a blog post by myself that stated that the United States was going to ramp up their airstrikes on terrorist group ISIS and do so by adding more aircrafts and planes, these reports were nothing but confirmed on Sunday morning as a U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria stepped up its attacks on the militant Islamist group's de facto capital by launching 30 airstrikes targeting Raqqa overnight. At least 10 of the airstrikes were carried out by government war planes, attacking the Raqqa city- the de facto capital of ISIS-which is known as a hotspot for ISIS training centers, weapons depots and accommodations for fighters. It is not stated or known how many were killed and the level of damage these airstrikes ultimately caused. Clearly, the US is just about all-in with their pursuit of destroying ISIS and their leaders and it will be interesting to see how these next few weeks will unfold with their emphasis on airstrikes and more ISIS surveilance.
Do you think that theses airstrikes will be beneficial for the US?
What does the quick timing of the United States actions with their air strikes say about how committed they are to stopping ISIS?
How much is too much? Does the US need to continue dropping down bombs and airstrikes on heavily populated ISIS grounds to accomplish their goal?
To read more:

No Severance Package for Wilson After Resignation

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson-the man who shot Michael Brown-will not recieve a severance package after his resignation this weekend. He will not recieve any pay or further benefits despite not being indicted by the grand jury. He resigned for his community and fellow officers, saying his "continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow."Effectively, Wilson is now left without a job, no pay and has to move on with his life. Yes, this whole tragedy is very saddening and the protests and reaction from America has been very extreme, but does this man deserve his fair share of benefits after his resignation?

More questions:

Had society not reacted with such hatred toward Wilson, would he have received his benefits and still have his job?

Ferguson Jury: No Charges For Officer In Michael Brown's Death

A White-Caucasian man by the name of Wilson who works as a police officer is said to have murdered an unarmed Black man named Brown. There are protesters around the area where Brown was killed but the police drove them away with smoke due to their supposed disturbance of the peace. Police have stated that they were being bombarded by rocks, bottles, and batteries; as well their patrol cars were set on fire. These acts can be accounted for as vandalism and destruction of government property and assault.

Michael Brown’s family said “we are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequences of his actions.” And continued to proclaim, “while we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.” They showed a manner of nobility and an initiative personality even after a family member’s death. Such quality that in the western world one would think only a white man can do, due to stereotypes. Brown’s family now shows negative attitudes towards the current system of the government. Since police forces are under the interior ministry, which is part of Executive branch, it display inefficient actions and unable to bring justice towards victims of violence and are helpless to victim’s family.

How does this case show the inefficiency of separation of power and government, helpless to violence against another like African-American and domestic issues / problems under Obama’s presidency?

Can the executive branch deal with issues like these have been on the rise lately?

What is the weakness about the police department force and why are they so helpless to African-Americans when they are being turn against in the area?

Source for further reading:

The new threat: 'Racism without racists'

Many have been left wondering the motives causes and effects of the ferguson incident, and some have gone to the extent of finding out how and these are the psychologists of the APA. The APA includes many from MIT, University of Chicago, Duke University and Stanford. They believe that racism has taken on a new form in which racists are no longer a component.

The psychologists presented an experiment to people consisting of two photographs showing two people fighting, they asked them who is the person that is armed. The first picture is two white men fighting and the second one is a black man and a whiteman fighting. Both pictures have one person armed with a knife and the other is empty handed. Most people pointed out it is the black man that is armed in the second picture when he is actually unarmed meanwhile in the first picture they picked the armed white man and said he was armed in the first picture.

Some people displayed racial discrimination on innocent people just because of their race without intending to be racist or having any strong opinion on them. Race minorities and white have different point of view on racism.

How long will this new racism last without notice in the USA and how will it continue to affect the people?

If people are affected by this psychological phenomena, what societal causes under the influence of the government are said to be the root of the problem?

How does racism influence and affect people’s point of view and behaviors when the society has already improved and changed?


Don’t Believe the Hype: Holiday Sales Won’t Make or Break the Economy

Retailers and their shareholders seems to be making an excessive number of profit, but the truth is, that isn’t so. Like for this year, the holiday sales generate $616.9 billion, the number sounds vast because in macroeconomic terms it is but this is only a portion of the overall measured economy. A statistic analysis shows from 1992 to 2013, December’s amount of sales aggregated to a 23% higher sale in comparison of the time period from January to October, meanwhile November’s was only 4%. In addition, there could be some error that is take in account for holiday sales. Therefore, one should only look at the net increase within the last two month. So if we look at it specifically, Americans spend only $106 billion but not $617 billion on these outdated or over timed products. Therefore the holiday sale does not generate as much income as you think for the economy. If one were to analyze this over the entire scheme of the United States as a best and worst case scenario the gap between expected results and calculated would be the $67 billion that was stated as a gap between both ends. Also as the media slowly creeps onto an age of disillusional decline in advertisement for Black Friday people will still be seen strongly believing in the sales. This is an interesting trend that must be further looked into.

How to make change marketing so that the economy could be better?

Are there any other ways to profit more other than holiday sale on the last two months of the year?


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Republicans Contemplate Suing President Obama

Republicans are in quite a rage after President Obama's use of executive power this past week in his proposal to protect as many as five million illegal immigrants from deportation out of the estimated eleven million in the United States. Obama states that he is pushing Congress to take action, however the Republicans clearly are upset with Obama's decision especially after taking full control of the House and Senate. The fact that Obama is doing this with his own exectuive power and going about the immigration issues himself has raised a red flag to the Republicans and speaker John A. Boehner stated matter of factly that "We (Republicans) will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country." Republicans have in fact discussed the possibilities of suing Obama and some have called for impeachment or for the government to shut down, though it remains unclear how exactly Congress will react. A huge point of influence on what the Republicans will ultimately do in response to Obama's call is how to go about their business without alienating Hispanic voters who obviously have a huge influence on  the upcoming 2016 election.

What do you think the Republicans will do in response to Obama's action(s)?

Where do the Republicans go from here in terms of passing legislation for immigration?

Do the Republicans have a justifiable reason to take aim at Obama through a suit or other means?

To investigate more:

Friday, November 28, 2014

US Adds Planes to Enhance Plan to Destroy ISIS

The Unites States has begun to increase their attack and surveilance on ISIS with more aircrafts and attack planes. A dozen A-10 ground attack planes were moved from Afghanistan to Kuwait, and the nation of Morocco has also contributed to the effort by sending F-16's to fight as well. These planes will begin some time this week with flying missions to support Iraqi ground troops. In addition, missile-firing Reaper drones are being redeployed in Afghanistan. A huge concern of the new wave of increased firepower that the US is implementing is the fact that the decision makers of the attacks and targets are based in control centers. For example, in the South Carolina and at the Central Command base the staff members review a list targets in such an order: just completed, about to happen, and future strikes. ISIS is a target that is not easy; they are a "conventional army and a terrorist network who can be in one place, and then a week later they're gone."So with these centers making the majority of the decsions, it calls to question how the US will actually physicall seek out where ISIS is moving to and from rather than just heavily targeting fixed ISIS sites such as military headquarters, communication centers, oil refineries and training camps. Furthermore, only a quarter of missions sent to attack pop-up targets have actually dropped bombs, and of the 450 strikes in Syria up to last week, only a quarter of them were actually planned. With that said, the US has to find a way to conduct better research and narrow down where ISIS is and where they are heading, which obviously cannot be done strictly from a control center. This has lead some Americans to comment that this is like the Vietnam War all over again except politicians and staff members are making the decisions.

How should the US go forward with the airstrikes?

Does Obama need to get more involved in directly locating ISIS networks?

How deep should the US be involved in eliminating ISIS and is the increased aircraft and surveilance
a step in the right direction?

For more:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Friday is America's premier gun-buying day

(Image taken from the Washington Post)

As many Americans know, Black Friday is a time of sales, and because of that, the perfect time to go holiday shopping. Americans wake up early to buy various products. Popular items are toys, clothes, and appliances. And surprisingly, so are guns. A study by the FBI has concluded that "of the 10 days on which the FBI has conducted the most background checks since December 1998, two are the last two Black Fridays."

After the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012, the number of firearm background checks in December 2012 was 2,783, 765 background checks, which is almost 800,000 more background checks than the amount conducted in November 2012. Most of the other years, the difference in background checks from November to December has only been around 200,00 background checks. So why the giant difference between November and December in 2012? According to this article, the reason for this is that fears of anticipated talks about gun control after the  Sandy Hook shooting would cause massive numbers of firearms to be taken off the shelves.

Actually, this large amount of background checks can be a problem for the government. If there are too many background check requests, the FBI would be unable to process all requests. The NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) has a legal window of only three business days to determine if the buyer of a firearm is eligible or not. So if the NICS cannot determine a buyer's eligibility within the designated window, the buyer can purchase the firearm without a background check, and it's completely legal. Due to this window, 186,000 people did not have to go through a background check to purchase firearms in 2013.

More on gun sales and background checks: FBI data shows thousands of gun sales beat checks

Should the window to determine a firearm buyer's eligibility be extended? If so, to what extent?

Why do you think it is legal to allow people to purchase a firearm without a background check after the window has passed?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

EPA to propose tougher rules on smog-causing ozone, setting up clash with GOP

The Environmental Protection Agency is drafting new legislation to impose stricter regulations on pollutants released adversely affecting the ozone. The Obama Administration backs the EPA's proposition, leading to new clashes between the White House and  Republican controlled congress. Recent air quality reports show higher than healthy pollutant values which lead to respiratory illnesses, which is a major problem in the United States. This legislation, if passed, will be the first increase on air quality limits since the end of the Bush Administration in 2008. The burning of fossil fuels is a main reason for the increased levels of toxins in the air. Many urban areas are hubs for ultra-high levels of air pollutants which have been linked to asthmatic attacks as well as other ailments. "We deserve to know the air we breathe is safe," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy stated in announcing the proposal. When deciding to update the law, the EPA was following a legal mandate for "bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science" to protect Americans from serious health threats. As of now the current level of acceptable toxins in the ozone level is 75 parts per billion. This new revision would lower that number to somewhere "in the range of 65-70 parts per billion. While many environmental groups have been pushing for tougher standards, closer to 60 parts per billion, nevertheless they are supporting the EPA's standards full-heartedly as this change is better than no change. GOP lawmakers have taken a vow to fight this bill tooth and nail. Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee stated their intentions to block what they say is one of the "most devastating regulations" set by the EPA in its 44 year history. Industry groups have waged war against these new restrictions warning that it will cost the economy billions in revenue. Many groups including state health and environmental agencies believe those estimations are exaggerated. Other groups point to studies presenting economic losses due to ozone-related respiratory illnesses and premature deaths. "The public should have the right to know whether or not the air they are breathing is safe," said S. William Becker the director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. He continues to say "there can be a false security thinking that levels at 75 ppb are safe to breathe when scientists are saying there are not." This new EPA policy is expected to be adopted next fall.

Should the EPA enforce stronger restrictions on air quality?
Are possible economic setbacks worth the benefits?
Should the president and the GOP work together to find a medium on this issue?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Protests Flare After Ferguson Police Officer Is Not Indicted

The Ferguson protests that began with the shooting death of Michael Brown that began in August grew in anger and intensity as the grand jury released their verdict. The grand jury made of nine whites and three blacks announced that no charges were to be brought against Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot and killed the unarmed Brown. After it was spread that Wilson would not be charged, demonstrators "chanted and threw signs and other objects toward [police officers in riot gear]." Protesters threw bottles and rocks at police, and damage was done to several businesses and police cars. 29 people were also arrested. Understandably, Michael Brown's family was disappointed by the verdict, but they have issued a statement asking people to "'channel [their] frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.'"

The grand jury's decision to not charge Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is appalling and reminiscent of the Jim Crow era where trials with black defendants had all-white juries. The year is 2014, decades after the civil rights era, yet here we have a case where a white police officer who shot an unarmed black teen walks away free and gets money for what he did. Great job, America.

Some links to look at regarding the Ferguson decision:
Documents Released in the Ferguson Case (NY Times)

KKK Raising Money for Police Officer Who Shot African-American Teen (published 08/13)

All 4 Eyewitness Accounts of the Shooting of Michael Brown (in chronological order)

Strained relations undercut St. Louis County prosecutor (08/18)

Unorthodox police procedures emerge in grand jury documents (11/25)

Questions to consider:
Besides requiring the police to wear body cameras, what can people do to prevent police brutality?

Why has there been an increase in police brutality cases?

Cleveland police: Slain youth held air gun 'indistinguishable from a real firearm'

This past weekend yet another shooting of a young black male occurred, this time in Cleveland, Ohio. This event took place days before the country nervously awaited the trial proceedings of Officer Darren Wilson and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident in Cleveland began Saturday night as police responded to a 911 call which stated "there's a guy in there with a pistol, you know, its probably fake, but he's like pointing it at everybody" the caller went on to say "he's sitting on a swing right now, but he's pulling it in and out of his pants and pointing it at people. He's probably a juvenile, you know?" Police later said it was not clear if the responding officers received the information about the suspect being a "juvenile" or the gun being "probably fake". When police arrived at the scene they encountered 12 year old Tamir Rice. Rice did not point his gun at the two officers or otherwise threaten them, but he did reach for his gun. The two officers ordered him to stop and to put his hands up however he reached in his waistband and pulled out his weapon according to reports. "Our officers at times are required to make critical decisions in a split second," Cheif Calvin Williams said "Unfortunately, this was one of those times." Rice succumbed from his wounds early Sunday morning at MetroHealth Medical Center after surgery was performed. After the incident, police recovered Rice's weapon, it was a large, black BB replica gun resembling a semiautomatic pistol. An orange tip indicating it was not a real firearm was removed leaving it indistinguishable from a live firearm. Residents of the neighborhood quickly angered by this event, one man told CNN "It wasn't a dog. It was a child. You didn't give him a chance. You just killed him." While this is true, the officers had no way to distinguish whether or not the gun was real or fake and according to head of the police union the two officers followed police protocol. While they followed protocol, both officers have been placed on leave following the incident.

Should the two officers involved in the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice be punished?
Should toy producers have greater restrictions on the similarity of appearances between their products and real guns?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Missouri Burning

Another surreal and depressing evening of racial politics on television. I won't soon forget the split screen of the President asking for calm as a vehicle was sacked and smoke and/or gas canisters were deployed. A sampling of readings, all but the first one published before the chaos ensued tonight:

What a mess. Happy Thanksgiving America.

US and Iran Extend Nuclear Talks yet Again for 7 More Months

The United States and Iran have moved to declare a seventh month extension in their talks to dismantle heavy parts of Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Once again, the two sides continue to be far apart in reaching any sort of framework for making a deal for Iran to cut back on their controversial nuclear program. Arguably one of President Obama's top foreign policy goals, this comes as a huge disappointment and failure for the administration and also hits at a bad time, with ISIS and terrorist groups in the middle east commanding a huge amount of attention as we already know. It seems that this situation is nowhere close to becoming resolved, especially with Iran's supreme leader-Ayatollah Ali Khamenei- having yet to offer his acknowledgement that he is willing to make the huge sacrifices that Washington is demanding. On top of that, Iran's president told his fellow Iranians on national tv that no matter what happens in the talks "the centrifuges are spinning and will never stop." John Kerry then said "we would be fools to walk away" which is basically admitting that we do not quit because we are the United States and we have already put in too much work to abandon such measures. With that said, there are no clear indications of where these talks will go next. The next date to mark on the calendar is March 1st, which is the first deadline in reaching a political agreement in the new seven month extension.

After this yearlong effort failed and the US and Iran remain far apart, is it time for the US and the Obama adminsitration to alter their priorities in terms of foreign policy?

Should this issue take a back seat to the emerging ISIS threats and other middle east conflicts?

How does the Republican victory in the midterm election influence US foreign policy targets? Is the Obama administration going to make any sort of changes?

Sources and to read more:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

DEA checks 49ers’, Bucs’ medical personnel

Week 11 did not end as planned for the San Francisco 49ers'. No, they did not lose, they beat the New York Giants by a score of 16-10. It was the surprise visit by the Drug Enforcement Agency  that received attention at MetLife Stadium in East  Rutherford New Jersey postgame. The San Francisco 49ers' were one of three teams to be greeted by members of the DEA after their respective game this past Sunday the 16th (also visited were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks). While no arrests were made, the DEA is responding to serious allegations by former NFL players in regard to the mishandling of prescription drugs by team medical personnel. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the former NFL players this past May in a San Francisco federal court house. The most pressing of these drugs are pain killer medications. The lawsuit specifically claims that the NFL and its 32 team's doctors and trainers acted without regard for player health by withholding information about injuries while prescribing an excess of pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication to mask pain and increase playing time. One plaintiff described the distribution of these drugs through his lawyer as "like candy at Halloween" and went on to say that the drugs were even combined in "cocktails". A multitude of former players came forward describing a range of debilitating effects caused by these practices, they range from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage due to addiction. Although many of these conditions have not been fully linked to the use of painkillers, they players insist it came from the drug use. The NFL has stated that it is not responsible for the medical practices by each of its 32 teams and argues it should be handled by the players union. 

Should the NFL take responsibility for their teams actions and put forward some sort of relief fund in order to help the players harmed by drug use?
Is it the leagues responsibility to insure better quality care of its players by better monitoring of the situation and enforcement of new guidelines? or should each team hold their respective medical staff accountable?

Friday, November 21, 2014

University of California Is Set to Raise Tuition

The University of California board of regents, headed by former former secretary of Homeland Security and governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano, has voted in favor to increase tuition at a 5% increase each of the following five years. Out of state students currently pay 35  thousand dollars in tuition and fees across the UC system, not even including room and board which is about $14,000. These totals  are $9,100 above the national average for public 4-year institutions. While the UC system is above the average for all universities, it is under the cost of attending the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, to name a few. This increase in tuition threatens the availability of attending a college in the UC system by the lower and working class who may not be able to afford the increases. “I would have real trouble paying any more, and so would a lot of people,” said Buckminster Barrett, an undergraduate at the Santa Cruz campus. “They say they’re worried about student debt, but this would force a lot of us to take more loans.” In California the average student graduates college accumulating $20,340 of debt, and many presume this will be another factor that increases that large number. 
During the recent recession California cut one billion dollars of the UC budget, but since the budget has rebounded and it reaches a  seven billion core operating budget. Governor Jerry Brown is a strong opponent of this recent increase in tuition. Brown's plan suggested a 4% increase in funding by the state, but  Janet Napolitano and her committee viewed that as not nearly enough.

Will this increase in tuition create an elitism in the UC system?
Could there have been a way around increase in tuition that was viable? Such as Brown's plan to increase funding or an increase in taxes to support the UC insitution.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Florida State University Gunman Wounds 3, Then Is Killed by Police

Shortly after midnight on Thursday in Florida State's Strozier Library in Tallahassee Florida a man entered and opened fired on the students. The students rapidly headed for safety by going to the second floor, finding cover or by leaving the library all together. "I ran for my life...I ran right out the backdoor" said freshman Allison Kope. Three students were shot, and were admitted at Tallahassee MeidcalCare and are being treated for gunshot wounds. Florida State, along with many other universities in the country, has a campus wide alert system for situations just like this one which was quickly sounded. Police arrived on the scene, shortly after exchanging fire with the gunman. Killing the gunman, the campus was declared "all clear" by police a few hours later. 

This seems to be another chapter in the continuous saga of mass shootings. According to ABC News there have been 160 mass shootings from 2000-2013, the most frightening fact is that most of these shootings occur at schools. While the number of shootings per year are increasing, with no action being done by our government to address this horrendous problem. 

Should Congress pass bans or restrictions on guns in an effort to limit these type of shootings?
Would having armed guards at schools work as a deterrent to shootings?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

And Now the Richest .01 Percent

              Research by Emmanuel Saez of UC Berkley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics shows that the richest one hundredth of one percent of Americans now hold over 11 percent of the nations total wealth. How do these super rich people spend their money? If you said politics you are correct. Of the spending of the .01 percent, political spending is the fastest growing. It is even growing faster than their wealth. A way to show how rich the .01 percent are, is that in 1978 the .01 percent was 220 times richer than the average American. In 2012 the .01 percent were 1120 times richer than the average American. Along with the rich getting richer, the bottom 90 percent are getting poorer. In the mid 1980s the bottom 90 percent held 36 percent of the nation's wealth. Now they hold less than 23 percent. Meanwhile, the .01 percent account for much of campaign donations. In the 2012 election the .01 percent accounted for 40 percent of all campaign contributions. The author of this article wanted to bring attention to this inequality in the distribution of income and representation in politics.

-            Does this inequality in the distribution of income show that the US/economy is going in the wrong direction?
-      Should such a small percent of the population be able to to influence politics so much?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Obama Condemns Islamic State’s Killing of Peter Kassig

On Sunday the Islamic terrorist group ISIS released a horrifying video showing they had beheaded a fifth Western hostage, and threatened to kill more in retaliation for US airstrikes. President Obama confirmed the death of Mr. Kassig who went missing in Syria more than a year ago at a checkpoint while delivering medical supplies. While on Air Force One President Obama released a statement saying how Mr. Kassig “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group…” The video seemed to show the same executioner as before, a man with a British accent. One glaring difference between this video and the rest was the quality and nature of the video. No beheading actually occurred on video and the video looked amateur and not choreographed. This could be a sign of US surveillance and drone strike making a difference, by making it so ISIS militants can’t stay out too long without fear of being detected.

-            Are US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq making a difference? If so how much of a difference?