Two gun violence prevention organizations have announced they are joining forces in an effort to strengthen state-level advocacy efforts.
Freedom States Alliance (FSA) merged with States United to Prevent Gun Violence (SUPGV) and assumed its name on Feb. 23. The new organizations’ stated goal is to support existing state-based gun violence prevention organizations and expand the network of groups working to reduce gun violence in America.
"Despite the tragic and ongoing epidemic of gun violence in this country, policymakers remain unwilling to take any meaningful action to address this urgent public safety issue," said Sally Slovenski, executive director of SUPGV.
She added that the merger will increase opportunities for the sharing of resources and strategies for state groups with a view of influencing anti-gun agenda "in state houses across the country."
As a an example of grassroots success, SUPGV cited Ceasefire New Jersey whose advocacy helped pass a one-gun-a-month law in the state.
However, in one commentary after the announcement, a blogger writing for GunPoliticsNY.com, dismissed the move by stating that "fresh off their defeat with the new federal law allowing guns in national parks, [these]organizations are merging in an attempt to remain relevant."
The amendment to the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009, authored by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), which permits national park visitors to possess firearms consistent with the laws of the state in which the park is located, went into effect on Feb. 22.
According to a recent study, regular exercise can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms that accompany a chronic illness.
After analyzing the results of 40 randomized clinical trials, researchers from the University of Georgia found that patients who exercised on a regular basis reported a 20 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to those who did not exercise.
"Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that physical activities such as walking or weight-lifting may turn out to be the best medicine that physicians can prescribe to help their patients feel less anxious," said lead author Matthew Herring.
Individuals participating in the study found relief from anxiety caused by a variety of conditions, including multiple sclerosis, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
The study’s co-author, Pat O’Connor, noted that exercise even helped calm respondents who were not very anxious to begin with. He added that exercise sessions of at least 30 minutes were found to be considerably more effective in reducing anxiety symptoms than routines lasting less than 30 minutes.
Additionally, there are a variety of herbal supplements on the market that can help calm the nerves, including B-complex vitamins, GABA and inositol.
Thank goodness for a conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week. I had day-long duties as the master of ceremonies—which meant I was not able to watch Barack Obama’s seven-hour healthcare summit on TV.
If you did, please tell me what you thought of it. (If you’ve never joined our comment club before, it’s easy to do. Just go to the end of this Straight Talk column, type in your raves, rants or whatever, and click “Submit Comment.” Assuming your remarks aren’t obscene, you’ll see them posted a few moments later.)
The analysts I trust—and even a few I don’t like—say the whole affair was bor-ing. Apparently our president came across as smug, arrogant and condescending. Do you agree? This doesn’t surprise me; I think that’s pretty much what he’s actually like.
Peggy Noonan, a conservative commentator who is frequently much kinder to our opponents than am I, said of Obama’s manner, “The president has entered a boorish phase.”
But boors don’t win in politics. I’m beginning to wonder if some of the president’s most avid supporters don’t see the handwriting on the wall. (The word they’re seeing is “failure.”)
In the television coverage of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, Obama’s water carriers in the Senate and House, both looked as though they had been sucking on lemons all morning. No jovial, back-slapping, “glad to have you here” gushing for them. It was more like “Line up the victims, boys, and let’s get this execution underway.”
In fact, the New York Times said as much in its coverage the next day. One of its lead stories started this way:
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is confident she will be able to get the votes needed to pass sweeping healthcare legislation in the House, even if it threatens the political careers of some members of her party.”
I put that last part in bold italics because I wanted to be sure you saw it—and recognized the significance of it. How would you like to be a moderate Democrat facing a tough reelection battle this November and read those words? Think it might send a chill up your spine?
Nasty Nancy has already lost at least one vote. Representative Marion Berry (D-Ark.) announced last month that he won’t be running for reelection this year. In his remarks, he lambasted the White House for pushing Blue Dog Democrats “into the abyss.” His words, not mine.
One astute analyst of the Washington scene commented thusly:
“The thing to know about President Obama’s health talk-fest is that it had zero to do with Republicans or their ideas. The GOP came, it spiritedly debated, it left. The president never budged. He never intended to.”
If the president had actually meant for the summit to lead to compromise and accommodation he would have said so up front. He knew that every Republican in Washington—not to mention an overwhelming majority of Americans—wants to toss out those two disasters that the House and Senate approved under extreme pressure.
But instead of agreeing to kill those bills and, as the Republicans have insisted, “start with a clean sheet of paper,” the president has made it clear it’s “my way or the highway.”
It was apparent to me long before the summit started that the Democratic leadership had absolutely no intention of achieving a “compromise” with the Republicans. The White House had been dropping hints for days that the president was going to set aside the velvet glove and instead take out his heaviest hammer. In this case, that means endorsing an odd legislative practice called “reconciliation” to get his health-care bill passed by both branches of Congress.
I’ve written about reconciliation before. Basically, it means rigging the rules so that legislation already approved in the Senate by 60 votes can be ratified—when it comes back from a House-Senate conference committee—by a simple majority.
Normally, neither side would attempt this parliamentary slight-of-hand when major changes have been made in a bill. But apparently the powers-that-be in the Democratic camp have decided that this is the only way they’re going to get Obamacare passed this year. So the heck with precedent, the public, or the outraged cries of the opposition. It’s “damn the torpedoes, guys, full speed ahead.”
In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, former Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist wrote that using “reconciliation” to get Obamacare approved would be “an unprecedented, dangerous and historic mistake.”
Actually, Bill, I kind of hope they’ll go for it. I can’t imagine anything the Obamacrats could do that would stir up the opposition more than to cram this odious piece of legislation down our throats. You think the Tea Parties, town hall meetings and other gatherings have shown some spirited opposition? You ain’t seen nothin’ compared to what will happen if this happens. It’s going to take a lot more than a few hundred million in Cornhusker kickbacks to bully this bill through Congress. It’s going to take a few dozen acts of political suicide.
We’ve already seen the first sign that the deal is breaking down. Both Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are insisting that the other one be the first to bring the bill up for a vote. Watching them toss this hot potato back and forth would be amusing, if the situation weren’t so serious. (Actually, it’s pretty amusing even so.)
I’m sure many of you are getting all sorts of anxious emails from all of sorts of conservative groups, organizations and coalitions urging you to “write your Senators” and “call your Congressman.” Far be it from me to dissuade you—even though you can be certain they already know their constituents don’t like this sleazy effort to socialize medical care in this country.
Instead of telling them to “just say no,” how about we try a little legislative ju-jitsu here? Ask your elected representatives to support an amendment by Representative John Fleming (R-La.) that would require all members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in any new government-run health plan.
I can’t think of anything that would get these pompous planners to switch sides faster. They already know—as most of their constituents do not—that they have exempted themselves from most of the legislative shackles they’ve been so eager to foist on us. Enough of this “some pigs are more equal than others.” Let’s level the playing field and see how they like it.
As soon as we get Fleming’s amendment passed, let’s take away their fancy pensions and force them to join Social Security and Medicare. That will teach them to fuss with our freedoms!
Until next time, keep some powder dry.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s top adviser and spokeswoman Meg Stapleton, who was rumored to have a "difficult" relationship with the media and some Republicans, has resigned.
Officially, Stapleton cited family commitments and the need to spend more time with her 2-year-old daughter as the reason for the resignation.
"Taking care of the governor was my priority for the last [few years] and now I just want to personally refocus and spend some time with my precious little one," she said, quoted by The Associated Press (AP).
However, others have pointed out that Stapleton has been increasingly unable to handle the growing amount of scrutiny surrounding Palin since the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.
In particular, media have reported journalists’ frustration with Stapleton who frequently failed to answer phone calls and emails and when she did, her answers appeared "terse and combative," according to CNN.
Moreover, although the former spokeswoman’s performance earned praise from some Palin advisers—including Fred Malek who said Stapleton "has been a one woman band and deserves much credit and admiration"—other commentators were less generous.
According to Geoffrey Dunn, writing for The Huffington Post, Stapleton was considered "incompetent" by senior McCain officials during the 2008 presidential campaign, and her feud with GOP fundraiser Becki Donatelli, of the Washington D.C.-based Campaign Solutions, reportedly led to Donatelli breaking off her relationship with Palin’s Political Action Committee.
As the immigration reform issue continues to create controversy among Washington’s lawmakers, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has released a report on the likely partisan consequences of continued mass immigration.
For the purpose of the study, James G. Gimpel, a professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park, examined the Republican share of the vote and the foreign-born share of the population over three decades in all U.S. counties.
In his report for CIS entitled “Immigration, Political Realignment and the Demise of Republican Political Prospects,” he revealed that the electoral impact of immigration has been greatest in counties with large populations, where most immigrants settle. In these locations, Republicans have lost 0.58 percentage points in presidential elections for every one percentage-point increase in the size of the local immigrant population.
In fact, among counties with at least 50,000 residents, where the immigrant share increased by at least two percentage points from 1980 to 2008, a total of 62 percent saw a decline in the Republican percentage. In counties with at least a six percentage-point gain in the immigrant share, approximately 83 percent saw a decline in the GOP vote share.
However, Republicans have remained competitive in presidential elections because losses in high-immigration counties have been offset by gains in low-immigration counties, the report also found.
*That was an unfortunate choice. You’ve got to feel sorry for Anna Bernasek, a writer who labored for months over a new book on the importance of trust in building a business. The company she used as her prime example in The Economics of Integrity? Toyota. Bet that one won’t make the best-seller list.
*Big Brusher is watching. The Department of Early Education & Care in Massachusetts is taking a bold stand in favor of proper oral hygiene. As of the first of the year, any child who spends more than four hours in day care, and/or is given a meal there is required to brush his teeth on site. Wonder how long before some busy-body adds flossing to the list?
*Bet you wish you’d saved yours. Did you see the news that two different comic books just sold for $1 million each? Twelve days ago a private buyer paid $1 million for a pristine copy of Action Comics No. 1, the 1938 comic that introduced the world to Superman. Five days later, another anonymous buyer snatched up Detective Comics No. 27 for $1,075,000. That’s the one in 1939 where Batman made his first appearance.
*Tiger’s troubles continue. His much ballyhooed public apology hasn’t been enough to stem the defections for Tiger Woods. Gatorade has dropped him as a sponsor. And even General Motors has said it will no longer provide free automobiles to the superstar golfer. At least Nike hasn’t stripped him of his swoosh … yet.
As Republican lawmakers who are up for reelection later this year face tough battles ahead of them, they are increasingly counting on their party’s rising stars to boost their electoral chances.
In recent weeks, Sarah Palin has made a string of appearances on various campaign trails, most notably stumping for her former presidential running mate Senator John McCain who is facing a primary challenge in Arizona.
According to media reports, McCain has now reached out to another popular Republican – the newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown – to aid his effort, as Brown’s surprise win last January has energized the GOP.
Brown and the five-term Arizona senator are scheduled to appear together at a rally at Grand Canyon University’s Antelope Gymnasium in Phoenix this Friday. On Saturday, the two will head to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona-University of Southern California basketball game.
The 73-year-old incumbent is seeking to stave off a primary challenge from former Representative J.D. Hayworth in August. However, despite the support McCain received from Sarah Palin, four Tea Party organizations in Arizona announced that they will not endorse any candidate in the Republican primary, according to CNN.
At the end of February, the House ethics committee "admonished" Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) for allowing a private company to fund two trips that he and other members of the Black Caucus took to the Caribbean in 2007.
Later this week, Republicans in the House will introduce a special resolution to strip Rangel of his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, signaling a possible end of his tenure in Washington, Fox News reports.
The embattled representative is currently being investigated for several other illegal matters, including allegations that he failed to pay taxes on undisclosed personal assets and that he used congressional stationery to solicit donations for his school of public service at The City College of New York.
Many political pundits believe that some Democrats will be forced to vote for the resolution to relieve Rangel of his duties as chairman, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for an end to the "culture of corruption" that prevailed when the GOP had the majority in the House, according to The Washington Post.
"These Democrats who ran on ‘change’ and promised to run the most ethical Congress in history have a responsibility to call for Charlie Rangel’s resignation and to give back the thousands in tainted money they received from him," concluded Ken Spain, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee quoted by the news source.
In one of the biggest cases to come before the Supreme Court in years, justices are hearing arguments today in McDonald v. Chicago over the city’s 28-year-old handgun ban. It has also prompted both proponents and opponents of the ban to once again voice their cases.
The court’s role will be to decide two fundamental questions, namely whether strict state and local gun control laws violate the Second Amendment rights and whether an individual’s right to own a weapon extends beyond federal jurisdiction, according to CNN.
Community activist Otis McDonald is the key plaintiff in the case, arguing that the ban should be overturned.
"We are in a war," he told the news provider, adding that the case is about "the innocent law-abiding citizens against the drug dealers and gang bangers."
However, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) says that ruling against the ban would result in more gun suicides, homicides and unintentional shootings.
"The court must not ignore the longstanding and robust history of effective gun laws in this country for purely political or ideological reasons," said Thom Mannard, executive director of ICHV. He added that the case was "completely manufactured" by the gun lobby in order to dismantle America’s gun laws for their own profit.
The ICHV also cited polls that suggest an overwhelming majority of NRA members and gun owners nationwide favor common sense gun laws.
Meanwhile, critics point out that although Chicago’s ban is one of the most restrictive in the U.S., the city continues to be among the most violent in the nation.
On Thursday, three dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers met at the White House-initiated healthcare summit and agreed on one thing; the current system needs changing. Unfortunately, liberal and conservative leaders came to an accord on little else, leaving the often contentious six-and-a-half hour televised meeting with an uncertain plan on how to proceed.
President Obama soundly rejected the Republicans’ pleas to start from scratch or conduct piecemeal reform, stating that the nation cannot afford another year-long debate.
GOP and Democratic leaders butted heads on several key issues, including Obama’s proposal to establish state or national purchasing exchanges, where individuals and small businesses can pool together and compare federally regulated health plans, according to Fox News. Republicans responded that all private insurance plans should be offered without government regulation to create a competitive playing field, implying their distaste for involving the federal government outside of setting minimum standards for insurance plans.
The GOP also took issue with the Democrats’ plan to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare to help pay for the government’s reform proposal. Moreover, Republicans opposed the mandate that nearly everyone be required to carry insurance.
However, the president did seem open to a GOP request that insurers be allowed to compete across state lines.
Republican leaders left the summit unsure of how Obama and other Democratic leaders will proceed. The president left the door open to using the parliamentary tactic known as reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to push through healthcare reform with 51 votes, instead of 60.
Discussions between President Obama and Senator John McCain became heated during Thursday’s healthcare summit, culminating with the commander-in-chief reminding the Arizona Republican that he is no longer campaigning for the nation’s top leadership position.
In the middle of the debate over healthcare policy reform, McCain slammed Democratic leaders for allowing special deals to be inserted into the Senate’s version of the bill, including special "carve-outs" that won over many moderate Democrats, convincing them to vote along party lines.
The veteran senator also blasted Obama for his of lack of transparency in creating the piece of legislation.
"In fact, eight times you said that negotiations on healthcare reform would be conducted with the C-SPAN cameras," said McCain. "I’m glad more than a year later that they are here."
Obama tried to interject more than once, but McCain went on for several more minutes.
After he had finished, Obama responded, "Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore. The election’s over."
"Well, I’m reminded of that every day," McCain replied, causing an eruption of laughter in the room.
Unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits expired for millions of U.S. citizens on Sunday after Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) single-handedly stopped a $10 billion bill that would have funded several extension programs.
In an after-hours session on Thursday, Bunning opposed the legislation because it would add to the federal deficit, which is already at an all-time high. He suggested that the money be taken from unspent Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds, but Democrats objected.
"I believe we should pay for it," said Bunning. "I’m trying to make a point to the people of the United States of America."
Meanwhile, Bunning’s opposition to the bill also blocked the extension of several federal programs, a move that has put nearly 2,000 transportation employees out of work.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood blasted the senator’s decision on Monday, expressing his disappointment that "political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country."
However, while praising the Bunning’s decision to temporarily block the legislation, GOP leaders have admitted that the extensions will be passed. The senator’s one-man filibuster was made to point out the hypocrisy in the Senate, said Senator John Kyl (R-Ariz.), according to Fox News.
Results of a recent study have suggested that bitter melon extract, a common dietary supplement, may help protect women from breast cancer cell growth.
"Our findings suggest that bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death," said lead researcher Ratna Ray, professor in the department of pathology at Saint Louis University. "This extract can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer."
In the study, researchers found that bitter melon extract, which is commonly used in the East as a folk remedy for diabetes because of its blood sugar-lowering properties, was capable of decreasing cell growth and division, and even induced death in some breast cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.
Although Ray believes that the supplement will not cure cancer, she does feel that it may delay or even prevent cancer cell metastasis.
However, the researchers stress that their findings were established in a laboratory, and haven’t been tested on humans. They note that it is important to first establish the validity of their results in animal models before recommending the addition of bitter melon extract to a person’s diet.
Each of us secretly hopes that, should we find ourselves facing a disaster, we would respond nobly if not heroically. And we certainly hope that we would never just freeze, like a deer caught in the headlights—or worse, panic.
But how we respond to crisis may be hardwired into our brain’s circuitry long before we’re confronted with a disaster situation. And while practice or preparation can help us to respond properly, we may have little actual control over what we do in a disaster.
That’s the conclusion of Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable, which has a subtitle: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—And Why?
Ripley, an award-winning journalist for Time magazine, has covered some the world’s biggest disasters over the course of her career. In this book she retraces some of history’s biggest calamities—from the 1917 explosion of the munitions ship Mont Blanc, to plane crashes, calamitous fires, the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, hostage situations and mass shootings—and studies people’s responses in an effort to find out why some survive the seemingly unsurvivable while others perish in situations where survival should have been assured.
She interviews the survivors to learn how they made it out, the rescuers to learn how the victims were responding, and the heroes to learn what made them different. What she learned could help you understand your response should you ever be confronted with a disaster situation.
Ripley determined that most people did not respond the way they thought they would. Whether they froze, panicked or led, many people were, in retrospect, surprised by their actions.
Her research showed that the human mind goes through three basic steps when confronted with a crisis. The steps are denial, deliberation and decision.
During the denial stage, it’s not unusual for people to continue performing mundane tasks while chaos reins around them. During this stage the brain is processing information, delaying its decision-making process and assessing the risk. But because the event is so unlike anything ever experienced before, the brain has trouble putting the situation into perspective.
From her interviews with 9/11 survivors she learned that even after hearing what had actually happened in the Twin Towers and that there was a need to get out quickly, many workers continued to talk on the telephone, put away items on their desks, gather personal effects and mill about in casual conversation.
Often it took someone shouting or speaking in a rude or demanding voice to spur people into action. Still, many assessed the risk and determined it was better to stay put than to flee.
In the deliberation phase the mind begins to put together possible courses of action. It’s not unusual for people to describe this period as having time almost stand still. They remember in great detail words or images that would not normally be significant.
It’s in this stage that training or practice can step in and influence one’s behavior, affecting the response in the third stage, the decisive moment. Some overcome their fear and take the steps necessary to escape and some help those around them.
Ripley breaks down the decisive moment into panic, paralysis or heroism.
Panic takes many forms, none of them good, and rarely is panic productive. Some see paralysis as a form of panic, but Ripley writes that researchers have concluded that paralysis is an escape mechanism that is instinctive in many animals, and humans.
For instance, a prey animal being attacked by a predator may go limp, causing the predator to lose interest before inflicting a mortal injury. Humans have used it—though it is often an unconscious action, like when a killer is shooting people at random—to remain inconspicuous and out of harm’s way.
But Ripley writes that that instinctive action often works against people in today’s society. Remaining motionless in a situation where flight is needed to save you is deadly, and has cost many people their lives in plane crashes and other situations where there was ample time to escape and doing nothing was not a rational option.
Finally, there is heroism. A relatively small number of people step into this role and fewer still know why. When asked why they responded to the crisis with heroic actions they generally respond that if they hadn’t responded that way they wouldn’t have been able to live with themselves, Ripley writes.
And they don’t think of their actions as heroic. They think of them as simply doing what needed to be done.
Ripley’s The Unthinkable is a fascinating compilation of event descriptions, interviews and research that both entertains and informs. It can help you to make sense of the actions of those around you should you suddenly find yourself facing the unthinkable.
According to top international human rights groups there is evidence that key congressional members knew about the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogation and detention programs, and that the United States government covered up the details of its cooperation with Polish authorities in the so-called rendition flights.
The groups—led by Amnesty International USA (AI USA)—received the documents in response to their Freedom of Information Act litigation. Among other things, they reportedly show that in one of his first acts as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) discontinued efforts by previous chair to implement greater oversight of CIA detention and interrogation programs, failing to fulfill the role of Congress in overseeing the agency.
"These documents reveal that members of Congress colluded in covering up evidence of the U.S. government’s torture program," said Tom Parker, policy director for AI USA. He also called for a "full and impartial investigation" as Congress could not be trusted "to properly investigate itself."
Meanwhile, Open Society Justice Initiative, an advocacy group, said that official flight records—provided by Polish Air Navigation Services Agency in response to a freedom of information request filed by a human rights group—confirm that at least six CIA flights landed in Poland in 2003.
It is the first time a Polish government agency has confirmed that CIA aircraft landed repeatedly close to a suspected CIA secret detention and interrogation site for "high-value detainees."
"These records reinforce the troubling findings of official European enquiries and global human rights groups, showing complicity with CIA abuse across Europe," said Adam Bodnar of the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the United States government system is broken, but most also say that there is some hope for it to improve, according to a recent CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll.
The study found that a staggering 86 percent of U.S. residents hold such negative opinion about their government, an increase from 77 percent three years ago.
However, only 5 percent of them believe the government cannot be fixed, while 81 percent still hold out hope for improvement, which is 10 percent more than in late 2006.
Keating Holland, CNN polling director, said that the increase in the number of Americans who see their government as broken is the most pronounced among higher-income individuals and those who live in rural areas.
"Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but those are the groups that make up the bulk of the Tea Party [movement] today," he suggested, quoted by the news network’s website.
According to a separate CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll, activists in the Tea Party movement—which was created last year in response to the massive stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Obama—tend to be male, rural, upscale and are overwhelmingly conservative.
It was 19 years ago that something extraordinary in recent U.S. history took place: The United States won a war.
On Feb. 27, 1991, then-President George Bush (George W’s father) went on national television to proclaim, “Kuwait is liberated. Iraq’s army is defeated.”
He continued, “I am pleased to announce that at midnight tonight, exactly 100 hours since ground operations began and six weeks since the start of Operation Desert Storm, all U.S. and coalition forces will suspend offensive combat operations.”
Yes, you read that right. The entire war effort lasted less than a month and a half. Actual ground operations took four days and four hours, with relatively few U.S. casualties. I can still remember watching with amazement on live TV as our “smart bombs” hit such specific targets that we could watch our missiles go through windows and down elevator shafts.
Unfortunately, the aggressor—Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein—was allowed to withdraw his troops from Kuwait. He was neither punished nor pursued. Had he been, events since then in that war-torn region might be substantially different.
By the way, the next day the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 4 percent, capping a 20 percent surge during the six-week Gulf War.
Republican lawmakers blasted the Obama administration’s mortgage assistance program last week, claiming that it has harmed the nation’s economic recovery.
Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) argue that the $75 billion Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which provides incentives for mortgage companies to modify loans of qualified buyers, has failed "by every empirical measure" and is a waste of taxpayer’s money.
When President Obama unveiled the program one year ago, he said that it would help 3 million to 4 million homeowners avoid foreclosure, according to ABC News. As of last month, the Treasury Department estimated that 116,000 homeowners have received permanent loan modifications.
"[The] Treasury’s own data suggests that hundreds of thousands of homeowners would receive temporary modifications but fail to qualify for permanent ones, thus ultimately leading to default," said the lawmakers. "These homeowners would have been better off if they had defaulted earlier and spent the payments on more affordable housing options."
Officials with the Treasury Department have admitted that the treatment of borrowers has been a dilemma over the past year, according to the Associated Press. They are currently working on several consumer protection provisions, including barring lenders from foreclosing on homeowners while their applications are being considered.
“The United States needs a Commander in Chief not a professor of law.” —Sarah Palin.
I hate to be a stickler for presidential definitions especially after Bill Clinton said: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” But given President Obama’s woeful performance as America’s Commander in Chief, I think he needs to be educated on the meaning of war.
After all, it was Mr. Obama that said “We are at war,” earlier this year at a White House state dinner.
Yet it is clear that Mr. Obama may not understand what war really means. He is certainly not cut from the same cloth as Ike, nor does he have the fortitude of Reagan.
How do I know? Well the Obama administration openly talks with our adversaries; has terminated the F-22 air-superiority aircraft and has shown a fierce commitment to cutting America’s nuclear arsenal even as impending super-power—China—rises in the east.
A recent issue of Foreign Affairs warns that the world is becoming a more dangerous place. According to the magazine, America’s enemies see war far differently than the President does. “The United States’ overseas conflicts are limited wars only from the U.S. perspective; to adversaries, they are essential. It should not be surprising if they use every weapon at their disposal to stave off total defeat.”
All the while our President is muddling through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his State of the Union Address Mr. Obama barely made a mention of the Afghan conflict which will involve 100,000 U.S. troops in a war that has persisted for eight years.
Worst of all, the President is undermining morale in our military by putting the enemy on trial and allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
The President and his advisers have become adamant in trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four fellow Guantanamo Bay detainees in New York.
With resistance building over plans to try the accused Sept. 11 mastermind in a civilian court in New York, White House officials are lobbying lawmakers to secure funding.
Thankfully there is opposition. A bipartisan group in Congress is pushing to cut off funding to prosecute Mohammed and other 9-11 co-conspirators in civilian courts.
It is hard to believe if Mr. Obama understands the nature of war when the enemy is afforded a trial and the rights provided within the Constitution of the very nation they are trying to destroy. Imagine if President Truman had put Tojo on trial in Honolulu for planning the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Andrew C. McCarthy believes it is ridiculous to try an enemy and thus provide them with the comforts and rights therein.
“A war is a war,” declared McCarthy. “A war is not a crime, and you don’t bring your enemies to a courthouse.”
McCarthy knows a thing or two about trying terrorists. Fifteen years ago he was front and center in the nation’s biggest terrorism trial as the chief prosecutor against a group led by a blind Egyptian sheik that plotted to blow-up the United Nations, as well as the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.
The Trouble With Gays in the Military
Recently, President Obama renewed his commitment to allow gays to openly serve in the U.S. military. As a result, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has emerged as the Senate champion for trying to scrap limits on gay and lesbian service in the military.
Last week Lieberman announced that he would introduce a bill to repeal the ‘Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell’ policy that became law in 1993.
Lieberman said: “To exclude one group of Americans from serving in the armed forces is contrary to our fundamental principles as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, and weakens our defenses…”
Not so fast Joe. There are good reasons for keeping gays out of the military, the least of which isn’t combat effectiveness.
A decade ago one of my best friends, a Gulf War veteran and now a major in the National Guard explained it to me when I questioned him on the subject.
“Keeping gays out of combat has nothing to do with sex,” said my friend who served as an U.S. Army infantry captain in Operation Desert Storm. “It has to do with love.”
He explained that leading men, whether it be a squad, a platoon or a company, meant making tough decisions; decisions that put the men under one’s command in grave danger. Such orders are not easily given under the best of circumstances but are undertaken with the knowledge that what is tantamount is the success of a mission.
My friend—who by the way is a true-blue Democrat—went on to explain that he thought gays in the military would lead to relationships in the field; the kind of relationships that would endanger a mission and compromise the lives of men undertaking them.
To underscore his point my friend the Major asked: “Would you order the love of your life into a dangerous undertaking, even if you knew they were the best person for the job?”
As the 2008 Republican Party Platform correctly stated: "Military priorities and mission must determine personnel policies. Esprit and cohesion are necessary for military effectiveness and success on the battlefield.”
For Mr. Obama not to understand this combat necessity puts into question whether he has a fundamental understanding of the nature of war; enough to be our Commander in Chief.
I am not saying that one must have combat experience to be President. What I am saying is that a good President puts the nation ahead of what he thinks is good politics or what is politically correct.
John Stuart Mill was a 19th Century philosopher, economist and academic. Yet he understood the nature of war.
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things,” said Mill. “The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
Other words about war that Mr. Obama might want to heed come from the former First Lady Barbara Bush: “War is not nice.”
Neither is it nice sitting back and watching the decline of the U.S. through weak leadership. This is especially true when it not only makes America more vulnerable to our enemies, but also accelerates our economic decline.
You may be asking, “What does any of this have to do with my financial future?” I am glad you inquired.
The U.S. dollar has been the reserve currency of the world for more than half a century. It gained this status not only because of the financial vitality of America but because the U.S. was the ultimate protector against tyranny.
But today America’s precarious economic situation, as well as the serious lack of leadership from its highest office, will only serve to weaken an already crumbling currency.
Action to take: Continue to accumulate hard assets, most important of which is physical gold, silver and platinum.
Yours for real wealth and good health,
Myers’ Energy and Gold Report
According to a recent United Kingdom (UK) study, drinking coffee on a regular basis may lower the odds of having a stroke.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge in England monitored nearly 23,000 men and women over a 12-year period and found that "self-reported coffee consumption was inversely related to stroke risk."
In the study, individuals who drank coffee on a regular basis had a 27 percent decreased risk of having a stroke compared to those who never consumed the beverage. The researchers found that the results were consistent irrespective of which type of coffee was consumed, including caffeinated, decaffeinated, instant or ground.
"This association was consistent in subgroup analyses stratified by sex, age, social class, educational level, smoking status, alcohol drinking, tea drinking, physical activity, plasma vitamin C and diabetes status," said study leader Yangmei Li, an epidemiologist at the university.
Although the researchers suspect the antioxidants in coffee help lower inflammation in the blood vessels, additional studies need to be conducted to understand the perceived health benefits of consuming the beverage.
Separate studies have also indicated that drinking coffee and tea may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
The Senate has voted to temporarily extend several key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the nation’s primary counterterrorism surveillance law. Lacking a filibuster-proof majority, Senate Democrats decided against adding new privacy protections to the provisions, which had been scheduled to expire at the end of February.
The bill, which was approved on a voice vote with no debate, will extend for one year three important sections of the USA PATRIOT Act.
If endorsed by the House, the legislation would continue to allow investigators to require third parties to provide them access to a suspect’s personal records without their knowledge. It would also enable the government to utilize roving wiretaps to monitor phone lines and internet accounts that a terrorism suspect may be using, according to Main Justice.
Finally, the bill would allow the government to track a suspect without advanced knowledge of the target’s affiliation with a foreign power or international terrorist organization.
Democratic supporters of the extensions believe that they may protect the Obama administration from Republican criticism that they are too soft on terrorism, according to MSNBC.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has found that Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, then working as a DOJ lawyer, exercised "poor judgment" when he prepared legal memos regarding the use of torture on detainees in United States custody. Although the document failed to recommend disbarment, it has fueled an independent and long-running campaign to have Bybee disbarred.
At the forefront of the push is the organization called DisbarTortureLawyers.com, which last year filed a disciplinary complaint against Judge Bybee seeking his disbarment in Washington, DC. After the DOJ announcement, it has vowed to supplement that complaint with the new report.
"Until [he] resigns or is removed from the bench, we call on all lawyers of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to file motions to disqualify Judge Bybee, should he be assigned to their cases, on the basis of these official findings of poor judgment," said attorney and campaign spokesperson Kevin Zeese.
DisbarTortureLawyers has also promised to work with jurisdictions outside the U.S. to indict other top Bush administration lawyers, including John Yoo, David Addington, William Haynes, Alberto Gonzales and Stephen Bradbury, as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney, for violating the UN Convention Against Torture.
But the idea is strongly opposed by many Republicans, such as Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, who said that "it is important that future government lawyers know that their efforts to protect Americans will not be criminalized by future administrations," quoted by CNN.