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October 29, 2009

President Obama Honors Fallen American War Heroes At Dover

President Obama Downed Soldiers 10 29 09

As he weighs whether or not to send more troops into the Afghan war zone, late last night President Barack Obama made a solemn trip to Dover Air Force Base to honor some of our fallen soldiers by being there personally to greet the 18 flag-draped caskets of young American soldiers killed in action this week.

When he arrived in Dover, Delaware our President travelled directly to a base chapel where he met privately with families of the fallen Americans. Former President George W. Bush visited the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers but did not attend any military funerals or go to Dover to receive the coffins.

The Dover base is about 100 miles from the White House and is the entry point for service personnel killed overseas.

October 9, 2009

President Obama — Nobel Peace Prize Winner!

Obama Nobel  This morning, while most Americans slept the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway announced that President Barack Hussein Obama had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.  The Nobel Committee awarded this honor to President Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The committee also pointed out our President’s efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons, “He has created a new international climate, the committee said.

There are many cynics who choose to pretend that they are naïve by saying that our President does not deserve this honor.  I disagree.  Our world has been in a state of turmoil with the potential of war bubbling to the surface in the Middle East and Asia for the past several years.  Our President was courageous enough to go to South America, Egypt and Africa and Europe and speak peace to the world.  He did the same thing at the United Nations.  By his words and actions he has smoothed the feathers of leaders and put out fires that could easily be ignited in the East and West from North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il to Cuba’s Raul Castro to Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Whether the cynics want to believe it or not, the fact is, our world is safer because of President Barack Obama and therefore this honor bestowed upon him is not premature.

Which other world leader has put their reputation on the line and has spoken peace and responsibility to the world in this bold manner?

Obama Nobel  Today in the Rose Garden President Obama said he was “surprised and deeply humbled” by the committee’s decision, and quickly put to rest any speculation that he might not accept the honor. Describing the award as an “affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations,” he said he would accept it as a “call to action.” 

Here are President Obama’s own words:

OBAMA: Good morning. Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning. After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, “Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday!” And then Sasha added, “Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.” So it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build — a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

These challenges can’t be met by any one leader or any one nation. And that’s why my administration has worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek. We cannot tolerate a world in which nuclear weapons spread to more nations and in which the terror of a nuclear holocaust endangers more people. And that’s why we’ve begun to take concrete steps to pursue a world without nuclear weapons, because all nations have the right to pursue peaceful nuclear power, but all nations have the responsibility to demonstrate their peaceful intentions.

We cannot accept the growing threat posed by climate change, which could forever damage the world that we pass on to our children — sowing conflict and famine; destroying coastlines and emptying cities. And that’s why all nations must now accept their share of responsibility for transforming the way that we use energy.

We can’t allow the differences between peoples to define the way that we see one another, and that’s why we must pursue a new beginning among people of different faiths and races and religions; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.

And we must all do our part to resolve those conflicts that have caused so much pain and hardship over so many years, and that effort must include an unwavering commitment that finally realizes that the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in nations of their own.

We can’t accept a world in which more people are denied opportunity and dignity that all people yearn for — the ability to get an education and make a decent living; the security that you won’t have to live in fear of disease or violence without hope for the future.

And even as we strive to seek a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully and prosperity is widely shared, we have to confront the world as we know it today. I am the commander in chief of a country that’s responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies. I’m also aware that we are dealing with the impact of a global economic crisis that has left millions of Americans looking for work. These are concerns that I confront every day on behalf of the American people.

Some of the work confronting us will not be completed during my presidency. Some, like the elimination of nuclear weapons, may not be completed in my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it’s recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone. This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration — it’s about the courageous efforts of people around the world.

And that’s why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity — for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometimes their lives for the cause of peace.

That has always been the cause of America. That’s why the world has always looked to America. And that’s why I believe America will continue to lead.

Thank you very much.

Congratulations President Obama!

October 5, 2009

Healthcare: Do Americans Understand? Or Even Care?

Does the average American really know what’s best for the ‘greater good’ of all Americans or do they even care? 

Looking back in history Americans have lamented the passing of many laws because they some how thought that it would impact their community in some conceived negative manner without looking at the long term benefits and how it benefited the majority for the ‘greater good’.

grand-canyon

There are too many  laws to mention that are now celebrated and their authors who were visionaries are now viewed as heroes decades later. But while these laws were before Congress there were those who didn’t have the vision to see their worth and fought tooth and nail to defeat them.  The 19th Amendment (gave women the right to vote), the Social Security Act of 1965, Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve by proclamation in 1906 and Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908 are just a few – there are sooo many others. Another law which was far-seeing but created battles and brawls was the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservative Act.

Mount Denali

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (or ANILCA) was a United States Federal Law passed in 1980 by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on December 2 of that same year. 

The law provided for the creation or revision of 15 National Park Service properties and set aside public lands for the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The act provided for the designation of 79.53 million acres (124,281 square miles) of public lands, a third of which was set aside as pure wilderness area where flora and fauna could thrive in their natural habitat and not be disturbed. The act provided for the creation or expansion of Denali National Park (home of North America’s tallest mountain).

The legislation was initially introduced into Congress in 1974 in several different bills, each outlining a single proposed park, monument, or other area. Several of these, in particular Lake Clark and Kenai Fjords, were quite controversial in Alaska. Little action was taken on any of them, so that by 1975 the National Park Service (NPS) and conservationists conceived the idea of a single bill that would cover several separate areas. The election in 1976 of Jimmy Carter kept afloat hopes that Alaskan conservation would finally get a fair hearing. However, several members of Congress, particularly Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, remained strongly opposed to the absorption of such a large amount of land by the National Park Service — which would take the land off the market and, Gravel felt, damage long-term economic development plans for Alaska. Gravel became the primary opponent to the act.

The Interior Department and NPS became concerned as 1978 dragged on that no action would be taken at all on the “national interest lands” included in the proposals mining and forestry claims, among other issues, were beginning to be levied against the lands and time was running out. The National Park Service and Interior lobbied President Carter to use the Antiquities Act to designate the proposed lands as National Monuments by executive order, which Carter did on December 1, 1978.

Carter argued that he had been forced to use the Antiquities Act by Congress’ failure to act in a reasonable time, but his actions nevertheless caused wide protest across Alaska.

President Carter was burned in effigy (a representation of his person) in Fairbanks. Residents in the Cantwell area undertook a large act of civil disobedience known as the Great Denali Trespass. Alaskan citizens went up into the park, fired off guns, made campfires, and did a number of other things that were officially prohibited by the National Park Service. The towns of Eagle and Glennallen produced official proclamations stating that the towns would not support National Park Service authorities, not enforce NPS regulations — such as not allowing open fires, skydiving, hunting, alcohol, and numerous other formerly popular activities in the parks and monuments — and would shelter and protect individuals who broke the regulations and protesters marched in the streets and called Jimmy Carter a socialist and a communist.

These protests continued for some time, the designation of the monuments broke the legislative opposition to ANILCA. Senator Gravel continued to obstruct passage of the bill, but in the wake of Carter’s proclamations most opponents recognized the need to work toward passage of an acceptable bill, rather than no bill at all.

In early November 1980, Jimmy Carter lost re-election to Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party won a majority of seats in the Senate. Conservationists recognized that if they did not accept the compromise then on the table, they would be forced to begin again in the next Congress with decidedly less support. The bill was passed in late November, and signed into law in December.

Mike Gravel, meanwhile, was blamed in Alaska for forcing Carter’s hand with the Antiquities Act. Though Carter was hardly held blameless for the creation of the new national monuments, Gravel was taken to task for the unpopular decision as well and was denied his party’s nomination for his Senate seat in the 1980 election.

Despite all these past hysterics most Alaskans and Americans and citizens of the world now strongly support the ANILCA, to the point of celebrating its creation, especially within the population center of Anchorage. To them the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act represents a successful example of wilderness conservation for the benefit of future generations.

The same will be said about healthcare reform in the decades to come.  Healthcare reform will be viewed as a humanitarian right that is a quintessential part of what makes America a great democracy and in the future Americans will ask why there was even a debate about healthcare being a right for citizens in the United States.

Sometimes in life, if we are not experts on a subject or if we are not farsighted and resourceful we have to step back, get out of the way and let our visionaries help us do what’s right today for our future and for the  ‘greater good’.

September 30, 2009

Iran — What Should The World Do?

Middle East 9 09

World powers put pressure on Iran ahead of crucial nuclear talks scheduled for Thursday, amid growing concern about the covert build up of Tehran’s nuclear program.  Iran has insisted for years that it has a right to civilian nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to make enriched fuel for power plants — although its first Russian built and long delayed nuclear plant is still not online. Iranian officials underscored that their nuclear “rights” (uranium enrichment which the UN Security Council wants suspended) were not negotiable.

But its announcement last week of the ongoing construction of another uranium enrichment plant, underground near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, prompted stern warnings from western capitals led by Washington and concern from some Arab states.

Arab states from the Gulf have joined talks with the six Western nations preparing to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Envoys from the Arab states are said to have met at the United Nations headquarters in New York over the weekend with the five permanent powers (P5) in the UN Security Council plus Germany who want guarantees from Tehran on the civilian nature of its nuclear ambitions.  The ‘P5-plus-one’ group is set to meet with Iran on Thursday, October 1 in Geneva.

“It will be in the best interests of everybody that this situation stays under control,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the disclosure of a secret Iranian nuclear site under development near the holy city of Qom. “The new facility is being looked at by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it seems there will be positive co-operation with Iran for inspecting this site.”

Jeffrey Feltman, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, spoke of “ongoing consultation with our Gulf friends about what is our policy toward Iran and how we are going to address the October 1 dialogue with Iran.  There’s a profound concern on their part that we do not try anything that could be construed as trading their interests for our interests.”

Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated he has no objection to Gulf countries directly joining the talks.

Gulf States, fearing the encroachment of Iranian power throughout the region, have urged the country’s leadership to comply with international demands regarding the development of its nuclear program.

“Nuclear weapons is a tough issue, but it’s hard to know whether all this is just talk,” Dr. Ghanim A-Najjar, a political scientist at Kuwait University, told The Media Line. “Nuclear weapons are not a joke and I don’t think Iran will go that far. They don’t have the ability; the technology is not available to them.”

Dr. A-Najjar argued that recent efforts by Gulf States to explore nuclear power were in direct response to Iran’s nuclear development. “The Gulf States want to put pressure on Iran with threats of their own nuclear energy plans.”

“But I don’t see how Gulf States can be serious about nuclear development,” he added. “There’s a big step between saying we want nuclear power to actually having it and I don’t think the Gulf States are capable of this kind of development.”

Dr. Stephen Steinbeiser, Resident Director of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, argued that there was more concern over Iran’s overall influence in the region than the potential of a nuclear armed Iran.

“People are definitely interested in Iran, if one day it’s proven that Iran has nuclear weapons the balance of power in the Middle East really squeezes Arabs out of the middle between Iran and Israel. That’s something that makes people pause and people are starting to question just how powerful Arab states really are.”

“The Israelis have a very palpable fear of Iran,” he said. “Yemenis don’t have that but there’s a concern about the influence that Iran is presumed to yield.”

“People here are less interested in these negotiations than in what is perceived to be Iranian interference in the northern rebellion,” he said, referring to an ongoing military conflict between Yemen’s central government and a Houthi-led rebellion in the country’s North. “You never hear it in the mainstream media but locally people feel that the northern rebels are receiving Iranian support and that this is not so much a war against rebels but a war against Iranian intrusion.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said this week that Moscow would like to see “substantial progress” on the nuclear program in Geneva, days after President Dmitry Medvedev signaled he might endorse sanctions against Iran.

This is a strong indication of a change in Russia’s position and that probably has something to do with the US attempts to reset the relationship with Russia. 

China has an important import/export relationship with Iran — will they put pressure on Iran now that Russia seems willing to do so? 

September 29, 2009

Bill Maher On Jay Leno: Emails — Mark Foley vs Gov Mark Sanford

In June 2009 Governor Mark Sanford, Republican from South Carolina, admitted that he had conducted an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina who he had gone to visit in Argentina three times during the past year.  “I have been unfaithful to my wife . . . I developed a relationship with what started as a dear dear friend,” said Sanford.

He said that he had met Maria Belen Shapur roughly eight years ago and that it had become romantic within the last year.

In September 2006 Mark Foley, Republican Congressman from Florida, sent sexually explicit email and instant messages to a 16 year old male congressional page from Monroe, Louisiana as well as to other congressional pages.

This is sad but funny.  Watch Bill and Jay read some of the emails.

September 23, 2009

Important Facts About Healthcare Reform

Benefits of Healthcare Reform:

So what does reform mean for you? In short, it means stable, quality, affordable care that you can depend on when you need it.

Here are five ways that health care reform will help lower costs, improve quality and bring stability to your health care.

  1. You & Your Doctor Make Decisions
    Health Care Reform Means You and Doctor Will Make Health Care Decisions
     
  2. Stable Coverage If You Have a Pre-Existing Condition or Get Sick
    Health Care Reform Means Stable Coverage for You and Your Family if You Have a Pre-Existing Condition or Get Sick.
     
  3. Lowers Cost & Caps Out-of-Pocket Expenses
    Health Care Reform Lowers Costs, Caps Out-of-Pocket Expenses and Eliminates Limits on Annual or Lifetime Care.
     
  4. Focuses on Preventive Care
    Health Care Reform Focuses on Preventive Care to Fend Off Illnesses and Save Costs.
     
  5. Relief to Employers
    Health Care Reform Provides Relief to Employers.

For more information go to: http://www.factsaboutreform.org/index.html

September 21, 2009

Watch President Obama’s Healthcare Plan In 4 Minutes!!!

The details President Obama outlines in this video are those that every American needs to know. No matter your political party or whether or not you have insurance, his plan for health care security and stability matters to all of us.

Millions of American citizens cannot get health insurance — and 14,000 are losing their insurance every day. If we do nothing, half of Americans under the age of 65 will lose their health insurance at some point in the next ten years.

That’s not right. Plain and simple. For Americans with insurance as well as those without it, inaction is not an option.  In America, no one should go broke because they get sick.

Bottom line — health insurance reform will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance, coverage for those who don’t, and will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government.

As the President says, now is the time to deliver the change we need on health care.

Please pass on this information to your family, friends and social networks.

Please take four minutes and watch this video.

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