Saturday, February 28, 2015

Florida Officers Under Scrutiny for Mistreatment of Arrestees

                               

Article Link
For two consecutive days, two Florida police officers were caught on video mistreating arrestees. The first video in the article link shows Fort Lauderdale police officer Victor Ramirez escorting Bruce Laclair, who is reported to be homeless, at a bus terminal. According to the arrest report, Ramirez asked Laclair to leave the terminal and that he was given plenty of time to do so. The fact that Ramirez is a nine-year veteran at his local police department just astounds me. Despite the controversy surrounding police brutality and the scrutiny police officers are under, it seems to me that they continue to abuse their power. The day after this incident, Broward Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Johnson is seen dragging a woman, who is mentally ill I might add, across a courthouse because she failed to comply with his instructions. In the video, she constantly yells, "You're hurting me." Lynn Desanti, the chief assistant public defender in charge of the division that represents the dragged woman, called the deputy's behavior a "huge disgrace." Despite the fact that Obama proposed these body cameras for police officers, they continue to continue their unnecessary actions. While the 4th and 14th amendment protects an individual from police misconduct before and during arrests, it doesn't seem to stop these officers and plenty of other unheard cases in the US.

Questions:

What should be done about these officers other than restricted duty and paid leave?
What other actions can local and federal take to ease this tension among individuals and police officers?
What measures can be taken to limit or possibly eliminate the targeting of minority groups (eg. Eric Garner case)?
What is the extent at which police conduct is considered "police brutality?" How can laws be be tightened or even reformed for that matter in order to prevent incidents like these?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Proffessor on thin ice for doing his job


Of course, climate change is an ongoing process. However, disagreeing with the established narrative is apparently enough to warrant investigation for some, such as Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. The professor has found that trying to research this issue is more trouble than it's worth, and is directing all of his future research efforts elsewhere. To put it simply, scientists are being silenced for daring to ask questions and reach a conclusion from their research.

Coming from the same government that has allowed the NSA to become what it is, I find this pretty unsurprising, although alarming all the same. What exactly does anyone gain from intimidating scientists? While devotion to the global warming narrative can be almost religious for some, certainly free speech should take priority? Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. obviously hasn't done anything wrong here; this is one instance where our polarized politics are without a doubt proving to be harmful to the country itself.

To what extent has climate change become somewhat of a pseudo-religious topic in America? Why is there a lack of room for debate in this field? If this kind of witch hunting goes unchecked, will we need additional legislation to protect our freedom of speech? What do you think about this?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

RSVP Yes: 2 No: 2

Republicans and conservatives alike are preparing for the start of CPAC, or Conservative Political Action Conference, which begins tomorrow. Both Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are scheduled to make appearances, while neither John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will attend. While Christie and Bush will speak to diffuse rumors about their political temperaments and loyalties, their possible campaigns  have attracted big money donors which the conservative 'grassroots' organizations distrust. Washington Republicans and conservatives are not completely in accordance over certain political actions; the attendances of Christie and Bush despite their uncertain standing and absence of Boehner and McConnell will underscore the tensions visible between the conservatives leading CPAC and those Republicans on Capitol Hill. Boehner and McConnell have cited scheduling reasons for their lack of attendance, but is it possible that other reasons have pushed them to not want to attend? On the other hand, however, The Washington Times reasoned that the CPAC stage is better suited for the 2016 Presidential Candidates, and that Boehner and McConnell are better suited to be in Washington D.C.

Questions:
What do you think about the attendance of certain politicians over others; is The Washington Times correct or are tensions between Republicans and far-right conservatives escalating?
Do you have any predictions about what might be talked about in speeches and how those messages might be received by the public?

Gender wage gap has most to do with life choices, not sexism, studies find


Recently, an actress used an award speech to put some more spin on the disparity between male and female earnings in America. However, she twisted the facts to present a false narrative. To quote the US department of Labor, “[T]he differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”.  So, there you have it.

The wage gap also came up in Obama's state of the union speech earlier this year. However, if it has not much to do with sexism, but instead is mostly dependent on life choices made by individuals, it can't exactly be legislated away, now can it? And if this phenomena is caused by different life choices, couldn't it also be said that women themselves are mostly responsible for the gap, as any individual should be held accountable for the choices that they have made?

Come on now, it's 2015. If the market is fairly awarding wages, why is there any need for government intervention?  Is this issue just a rallying cry for certain groups at this point? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Will it ever happen?


As foreseen, President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline bill, which proposed a pipeline which would carry over 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the US along Nebraska to the coast. The oil would be delivered to various refineries and ports. The debate over this pipeline has been ongoing since 2009. Obama rejected this bill on the grounds that the bill superseded the State Department's role in determining if the trans-national pipeline would be in the country's interest to have. Republicans, furious at the rejection, promise to incorporate a plan for the pipeline in another bill that Obama will not veto, as they believe that the addition of the pipeline is an opportunity to create jobs.

While the argument for an increase in jobs is valid, the whole picture has to be taken into consideration. The State Department should be able to do its job and determine the pipeline's place in our national economy. The issue of oil resources has, in the past, been a touchy and volatile subject, so it would be necessary to also look at how this would look to our other oil supplying friends. Additionally, I don't think that Republicans targeting Obama by saying that they will make sure to get this passed is a bad choice after the recent back-and-forth bills and cases between the president and Congress. 

Questions:
Is this pipeline a good idea or not, and for what reasons?
How could this further affect the relationship between Obama and Republicans?
Comments on the veto?

To bag or not to bag?


Governor Jerry Brown has implemented a statewide ban on plastic bags that will be put in effect in July. However, the plastic bag industry has gotten involved to block the ban. Now, the law signed by Gov. Brown will be suspended until the November 2016 elections when the issue will be challenged. Presently, the ban is on a city-by-city basis (138 cities - 37% of California) and not statewide, thus despite the suspension the local bans will stay. The battle over this measure is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, making it the most expensive environmental California proposition.

It is unfortunate that we have to go through this process because the polls show that Californians overwhelmingly support the ban at 59% in support and 34% against. It would be nice to be able to spend this money toward other environmental efforts. The reality is that many people are already used to this ban and have changed their lifestyle. I feel that the argument is that the money we pay for the bags should go towards an environmental cause and not back to the merchant. I do however sympathize with the plastic bag manufacturers, but I would be much more supportive of them if they were able to produce a zero impact bag (biodegradable).

Questions:
Should state resources be used in the ban or should it be kept to local cities to decide?
What do you think should happen to the money spent on the bags?

Monday, February 23, 2015

It just wouldn't be the Obama presidency without another good gun scare


The ATF has recently decided to classify M855 ammunition as 'armor piercing', and therefore illegal.  Considering that no major actions have been taken to satisfy Obama's anti-gun (or pro gun-control) supporters, involvement with this decision is not out of the question. However, there isn't any proof of Obama being personally involved (that I know of); this is happening under his administration.

This policy decision is based on a technicality regarding a popular civilian rifle, the AR-15. However, not only is this cartridge suitable for use in many other civilian rifles which don't have 'pistol' configurations, M855 isn't even actually armor piercing. 

This has also come with economic consequences: consumers have been buying M855 en masse, resulting in severe supply shortages. M855 is popular anyway, so this new decision will leave a pretty large hole in the ammunition market. After the market had seemed to really recover from the high prices and low supply resulting from the Sandy Hook Scare, this policy continues to make it more difficult for firearm enthusiasts to enjoy their firearms, as there cannot be recreational use without ample ammunition.

What do you think about this? Do you agree with the policy on an ideological level, or maybe disagree with the logic behind the decision? When a government is unable to pass legislation (in this case legislation federally banning or restricting the AR-15), do you think government officials should be able to mess with the free market to try to get their way instead?

Most Expensive Goody Bags


Many of us watched the Oscars Sunday night. Besides the typical best and worst dressed gossip, the Oscar goody bags also took the spotlight. These goody bags are given to the “losers” and are called “Everybody Wins at the Oscars Nominee Gift Bag”. This year the gifts were worth approximately $160,000 including gifts of herbal tea lollipops, personal fitness sessions, head-support pillows, liposuction, car rentals, a visit from a psychic ($20,000), and much more. The immense worth of the goody bags has shocked many this year. The gifts seem a bit excessive in my opinion, especially because many of the stars want to send images as philanthropists or were calling for equal pay. It seems hypocritical. I am sure that many would rather see the money spent on the gift bags sent to philanthropic organizations or to people in need. However, there is also the business point of view. Many businesses want their products to be promoted by celebrities to encourage growth in their businesses. Several of these businesses are new and this publicity will help them get awareness through this marketing tool.

Questions:
Do you approve of the goody bags?
Do you think the money should go to a “good cause” or to the stars?
What do you think of the business/marketing aspect?

Calling all "essential" personnel to not be paid?


With only four days to go until the foreseen DHS shutdown, both parties are ardently arguing their stance on proposed DHS funding standards. Republicans demand that the bill include provisions to block President Obama from enacting immigration reform, and do not seem to be backing down, sure that the Democrats will break first. Democrats, however, are not opposed to this kind of idea, but with the agreement that they will not allow any immigration measures to be passed by Obama, say that this issue should be dealt with after the immediate DHS matter is resolved.

One very important piece to remember, is the effect that the last government shutdown had on the country and the workers that were affected. If the DHS remains unfunded, an expected 75-80% of workers will be forced to go without pay. Those deemed "nonessential" will be furloughed until an agreement is made, while those necessary will continue to work unpaid. In the previous shutdown, many workers(and those in training) simply traded in their training from the government to find a job with those skills. While I understand that Republicans want to hold strong on their position against Obama, I don't think that depriving workers both in Washington D.C. and their home states would be too keen on not getting paid until that matter is resolved. It is not fair to deprive people unrelated to an executive action's source, and expect them to be okay with it.

Questions:
-Should the immigration provisions be taken out to be dealt with at a later date and allow the DHS funding bill to pass, or is this a necessary obstacle to deal with at the present moment?
-If the negotiations don't work and the deadline passes, what should be the immediate follow up, as current arguments would be proved to not work?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

When does a union get too big?


Recently, the ILWU decided to “strike” by working slowly at the Oakland ports. They are hoping for higher wages and more benefits. This has impacted many businesses that are not receiving their products on time. President Obama sent in Labor Secretary Tom Perez to help with negotiations.

The longshoremen union is a prime example of when a union becomes too big and powerful. In this case, the ILWU had little moral compass when they decided to sabotage the port by working slowly and less efficiently with no regard to the innocent players such as small business and individuals that depended on the cargo shipping. It is no doubt that billions of dollars were lost due to expired merchandise and items not received. America and the world should not be held hostage by a greedy group. According to Shippingwatch, American longshoremen are paid three times more than the average American salary. Unions like this affect the economy and safety of our country need to be controlled. The writer of the SF Chronicle article was an ILWU member has a biased view. I am glad President Reagan dismembered of the air traffic control union making air travel much safer without the threat of a union shutting down an airport and putting peoples lives at risk. This was not very different than what is happening with the longshoremen.

Questions:
Should we allow this behavior to continue?
If Tom Perez’s negotiations do not work, should the government step in and dismember the union like it did with air traffic control?

Every Kid in a Park



I do not think it is appropriate to bring up another social program in a time when the nation is in a crisis over terrorism. This being said, it would be ideal for children to go to national parks. It is important that children are outdoors and can learn from this experience. Obama’s initiative aims to connect kids with the environment by offering 4th graders and their families free admission to national parks. Low-income neighborhoods will receive free transportation to the parks called “Ticket to Ride”. This program will most likely grant priority to over families that do not have 4th graders and kids coming from middle class neighborhoods. The problem with this social program is that the government gets to decide who benefits and who does not. Keep in mind that some of these non-benefiting families have planned and saved for years (it can take years to get a camping reservation at some of the more popular parks) and will not get this benefit.

Questions:
What do you think of this new initiative?
Is it the government’s job to "raise" people’s children, as some parents may not find going to a national park important?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Too Much Information?



This past Thursday, information was released by an official in the US Central Command; this information included the details that 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdush soldiers, working with the US, were going to take back the Iraqi city of Mosul sometime this spring. Stating the reason for giving out so much detail, the official said that they wanted to show that all soldiers and participants were fully committed to the plan. This information has caused many officials, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have  contacted the White House, to express their displeasure at the amount of information given out. They believe that releasing information about a future attack could significantly decrease the possibility of it's success as well as put the lives of all soldiers in danger.

While specific dates have not been given out and there is still time to prepare for whatever assault is planned, this is a surprising turn of events in the world of military information being made public. The precedent of keeping out of the public eye until after a "mission" has been around for obvious reasons. What I wonder is, even with the reasons the Central Command official has given, if there are tactical reasons for this disclosure. It seems odd that at a time when it seems crucial to make sure everything goes to plan, we would choose to let others know key details that could be used to their advantage.


--Normally kept private so to maintain secrecy and not jeopardize American lives, this information was willingly given out and is now public knowledge. Should this information have been kept out of the public atmosphere for those reasons or would that have not made a difference?
--Could this instance, despite the reason this information was given out, prompt people to want more notice to what actions the military is taking?


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ethics of Clinton Foundation Accepting Foreign Donations

The Clinton Foundation is a charity that raises money for the improvement of education, health care, and much more. It has recently been found accepting foreign donations, as their ban on foreign donations was lifted when Hillary resigned as Secretary of State. It is particularly interesting that the Wall Street Journal found these undeclared donations. The Foundation has raised over $48 million from foreign countries. Some of the countries donating in the last year were: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia. The Clintons use money from their foundation to pay for travel expenses. As they are travelling, they are spreading their word. It is thought that this money is also being used to pay for political advisors. This makes this money directly linked to supporting Hillary and her message. It should be noted that foreign contributions towards political campaigns are strictly prohibited for good reason, as it creates a conflict of interest. Since Hillary is a highly potential Presidential Candidate, this creates an ethical question of whether this money from foreign countries should be allowed. It can be speculated that these foreign countries that are donating to the foundation are expecting something in return. This is a potential ethical problem because these foreign countries want influence. I agree with the Wall Street Journal that the Clinton Foundation should give back the money donated by foreign countries. The Obama Administration was correct in asking the Clinton Administration to ban foreign donations when Hillary became Secretary of State and this ban needs to be in place again.

Questions:
Do you think that the foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation are ethically wrong?
What should happen to the foreign money already donated to the Foundation?
Should Hillary be disqualified from running for President since she has accepted the money?

Oklahoma denounces AP U.S. History Test's "unpatriotic" Account of History


This week, the Oklahoma legislature approved a bill that subsequently ends funding for the AP U.S. History course. While the initial bill banned the course completely, after a wake of disapproval from the country, Rep. Dan Fisher plans to submit a new bill simply proposing a review of the course. Proponents of this bill and those who spearheaded the initial campaign believe that the class promotes the history of the United States as a “negative” view of “oppressors and exploiters,” only focusing on what is bad about America. Many are frustrated that the AP U.S. History course is liberally focused and centers on the “blemishes” of history. Responding to this claim, one Washington Post article argues that the course should teach controversy instead of deleting critical parts of history. To assert that the class is not positive enough is comparable to taking one side of a very complex argument; people in history have made mistakes and others have had great victories, why should only one half of these lessons be taught to the next generation?

Another Washington Post article brings up the argument certain legislators have made about the “tyrannical” power of the federal government over the states, but AP and IB tests are managed by independent nonprofits and not overseen by the federal government. Eliminating this course will prevent students from obtaining college credits received from scoring well on this test, which can negatively impact the future of many. Legislators cite the actual class as the only factor or the issue, but fail to note the impact on the students; while they mention the problems with the course as a bad picture of the country, the argument does not include how this change will affect the students for their futures.



Questions:
Do you believe that only the state of Oklahoma should be involved in the resolution of this controversy, or think that the public should be included in this impactful decision, as it is run by an independent company and not the government? 

As many of us took this course last year, do you believe the claims made that the test and course are too negative and need to be changed, or should the class/test remain intact as is? Any alternative suggestions?



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Obama Immigration Policy Halted by Federal Judge in Texas

On Monday, judge Andrew S. Hanen of Texas prohibited the Obama administration from implementing immigration programs that the president announced last November. Hanen, a vocal critic of the Obama Administration's immigration policy, believed it had failed to comply with basic administrative procedures for putting such a far-reaching program like this into effect. Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit opposing these initiatives, arguing that the new provisions would impose huge new costs on their state budgets and therefore unjustly affect other state projects. Upon making his ruling, Judge Hanen wrote that "...lack of enforcement, combined with the country's high rate of illegal immigration, significantly drains the states' resources.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton wrote that Obama's executive order was "an affront to everyone pursuing a life of freedom and opportunity in America the right way," elucidating the strong sentiment in many border states. The White Houses responded to the judge's ruling, stating that the President acted well within the law and had decades of legal precedent to back up his actions. 

Whatever your opinion on Hanen's ruling, this Mother Jones article asserts that this headline-making ruling may not mean too much in the grand scheme of the Obama administration's immigration policy. 

Questions to consider:
Do you think the states have the right to sue over federal programs that may impact state budgets, or believe that the states should acquiesce in this instance? How do you see this issue playing out-- in favor of dissenting states, with a weakening of these immigration programs or in favor of the federal government with the overturning of this ruling? What are the possible costs of each outcome? Do you think the boosts to the economy that might come from these immigration programs overshadow the possible burdens put on state budgets?

FAA rules might allow thousands of business drones

The FAA has recently drafted new regulations on drone flight that could allow thousands of companies to fly drones for commercial purposes, like information collection. Businesses would only be allowed to fly the drones during daylight hours and keep the drones withing eyesight of the operator or observers on the ground, however. In order to avoid dangerous collisions, they would also be required to stay below 500 feet in altitude, but the process of becoming eligible to fly a drone would be relatively easy. Operators would not need a regular pilot's license, and would essentially just need to pass a proficiency test and pay a few hundred dollars worth of fees. 

 The concept of drone traffic presents a whole new area requiring government regulation and presents us with a countless questions about how to control the responsible usage of drones. It's already difficult to police the skies now that people own hobby drones, especially since they may not show up on radar and are controlled by remote, compared to traditional automobile traffic where the law-breaker himself is physically in the car.

Questions: 
How good do you think FAA regulations will be at continuing to provide citizens with safety and privacy with the introduction of widespread commercial drone flight? Do the economic benefits outweigh the potential costs? All federal agencies would have to disclose information about their drone flights within the United States; should we still be worried about how information collected by drones could be used?  Can you think of possible Constitutional/legal questions that could arise from this new field of  regulations (e.g. commerce clause, questions of accountability, jurisdiction, privacy)?

Monday, February 16, 2015

To Save Money on Building Rail, Spend Money on Marketing Buses

In cities all across the United States, millions of dollars are being spent on new railway projects to supposedly facilitate better, faster public transit. However, most of these same cities already have adequate bus systems to provide consumers with the transportation they need. The problem is that there's often a stigma attached to riding the bus; it's seen by many as a symbol of the lower class and something to be a bit ashamed of. I can definitely see this in the area we live, and perhaps it's because a majority of us have ready  access to a car, or because of convenient new products like Uber, but I don't know many people--child or adult--who ride the bus. 

There's a lesson in economics that can be taken away from this interesting article: the transit agencies described in the article are exhibiting economic inefficiency. They're failing to maximize their output based on their input by attempting to create alternative systems of transit when a viable solution exists in the form of putting more resources into advertising the existing bus systems. In this example, the consumers (commuters) would still be provided with their economic service (transportation to a certain location) if more money was spent on changing the image of buses, and thus the system would be more efficient.

Questions:
How successful do you think advertising would be at encouraging consumers to ride the buses instead of sleek but costly trains? Does this article change your opinion on public transit systems at all? Can you think of any other examples of economic inefficiency that you see in society?

Danish attacks echo France

On Saturday, the Danish capital of Copenhagen went into a frenzy as a gunman went on a violent rampage. The suspect attacked a free-speech debate hosted by controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. A Swedish film producer was killed in the conflict and and three police officers who were on the scene were wounded. Hours later, the same gunman opened fire on a Copenhagen synagogue only a few miles away from the first site, where a bat mitzvah was being held. He killed a Jewish guard who was patrolling the event and wounded two more police officers.

These attacks are strikingly similar to Paris just a month ago: the killers in each instance are sad to have been habitual criminals with comparable targets and aligning motives. The main difference is that it’s not entirely clear whether the Copenhagen attacker was connected to established extremist organizations, whereas the killers in Paris openly claimed their allegiance to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic state.

These assailants are believed to be attacking the values of free speech and the freedom of expression, seen as fundamental values of Denmark and Western society as a whole. Denmark is not accustomed to gun violence like this, but the nation has experienced similar ideologically-charged violence not too long ago after a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting Mohammed in 2005. Now, citizens in Denmark and much of Europe believe that attacks like these will continue to occur, and will likely increase in frequency. 

What are your thoughts on the issue of freedom of speech when it could bring such violent backlash? People like Lars Vilks, the target of the first attack, have been "marked for death" by Islamic extremists for practicing their freedom of speech. Is there an issue, perhaps this one, that you feel strongly enough about to risk your life over? Should more be done to protect vulnerable minorities and possible targets of extremist action from further violence? And if so, what can or should be done?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

West Coast and Predicted Droughts





NASA is warning that the Western half of the United States will be facing unprecedented Mega droughts before this century is over. The predictions are based on computer models that take into effect population growth, historical weather data, and expected effects of global warming. If NASA’s predictions are even partially correct, then we are facing a severe crisis that will make today’s droughts look like nothing in comparison.

Even if the effects of climate change are reduced, there will be serious consequences as California and neighbouring states endure long periods of drought. This will present major problems as the large population combined with limited water resources will leave only a few possible solutions.

Questions:
1.       While many of NASA’s predictions are worse case, there is an 80% chance that the State will have at least one Megadrougth period lasting as long as 10 years. How should the State prepare for this situation?

2.       Technology often presents solutions to major problems. Some countries that have limited water resources have invested heavily in desalinization and are able to get freshwater from saltwater. Desalinization plants are very expensive and take many years to construct. Should California proactively invest in desalinization plants? 

3.       While the world is facing many problems today, how realistic is it to expect that countries can come together and find a solution to global warming?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Effects of Oil Price Dropping.


At the beginning of 2010, the price of oil was around $70 per barrel. By December 2010, the price had risen to about $120 per barrel. For most of the following years, the price of oil ranged between $100 and $125 and only once dropped slightly below $100 per barrel. This resulted in extremely high gas prices. It was not uncommon to see gas prices in the three to four dollar per gallon range. Most Americans were frustrated with the high gas prices. In August of 2014, oil prices began to fall dramatically. Today oil is in the $60 per barrel range. The cost of gas at the pump has dropped to the low three dollars per gallon range. While drivers are very happy about this, is this a good thing for our economy?

Some of the positive consequences of lower gas prices include lower cost of transportation. This is good for travelers and for consumers as the cost to ship goods is reduced. Some of the problems include shifting away from fuel efficient vehicles. When gas prices are high, consumers look to buy smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles, but when gas prices fall, consumers quickly forget their previous pain and begin to buy larger cars and trucks that consume more fuel and result in more pollution. This means less investment in alternative energy vehicles. Lower oil prices are also hurting gas companies as there is less overall demand resulting in lower stock prices. Lower stock prices means less employment opportunities and fewer purchases of goods and services from suppliers. Lower oil prices while positive in some instances have an effect on the economy which might possibly outweigh the benefits.

Questions:

Do you think lower oil prices are good or bad for the economy?

Should the government create a program like putting a man on the moon but focused on developing alternative energy source so that U.S. could become independent of oil and the political problems associated with maintaining an oil supply?

If the U.S. is less dependent on Middle East oil, what will happen to those governments like Saudi Arabia that are dependent on oil as their only significant source of revenue?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ukraine ceasefire deal reached after marathon Minsk talks


Just recently, a ceasefire agreement has been reached regarding the fighting in Ukraine which has claimed many lives, including civilian casualties. The ceasefire is set to take place on February 15, and the deal is that both sides will withdraw heavy weapons, and Russia must end its support of the separtists and remove its military from Eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, "I call on both sides to end the bloodshed as soon as possible" and come to a real political solution to the conflict." The United States sent out a message showing their support of the ceasefire agreement, stating that it could lead to peace in the area and restore Ukraine's sovereingty. There is, however, uncertainty about how long this ceasefire will last for and if the countries in agreement will maintain their promises.

Article Link

Questions:
Will this ceasefire last and will the standards of the agreement be met?

Is this truly a stepping stone towards the end of conflict? Or is it just a temporary act?

Klay Thompson Named Starter on Western Conference All-Star Team

Recently, Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson was selected to replace the injured Kobe Bryant in the Western All-Star teams starting lineup. He now joins teamate Stephen Curry in the backcourt, and the Warriors coaching and training staff is also heading the Western team. The fans select the starters, while the coaches then select the reserves and injury replacements. There haven't been too many surprises this year (except for the amount of Hawks players), but the snubs seemed to pile up on a stacked West team. Luckily, thanks to some injuries, a few of these snubs, including DeMarcus Cousins (top 10 in scoring in rebounding, but team sucks) and Damian Lillard.

These snubs got me thinking about the selection process and whether or not to limit the power of the fans. Kobe Bryant is always selected as a starter, but for the past few years he's been injured during the selection period. And if all-stars should be chosen based on individual success or impact, or team success.
Article Link
Questions:
Should the voting process be altered in any way?

What defines an All-Star?