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November 4, 2010

Beware of Career Politicians!

Washington seems to be irrevocably broken. We no longer have politicians who leave their communities from Alabama to Wisconsin and go to work in Washington on issues that will benefit their constituents. Once elected by their home town and state, politicians go to Washington armed with personal agendas and to do lists. That’s why D.C. is currently filled with Republicrats and the Class of 2010 will introduce Teapublicrats into Washington’s political structure. If a politician goes to Washington and dares to try to change the corrupt, crooked, fraudulent practices s/he will be labeled as ‘Public Enemy Number One’ and everything they try to work on — no matter how good for America — will be blocked. Saying that our government is a social order of elite cliques is an understatement.

Washington is FILLED with career politicians who are only interested in getting rich and re-elected. I am not being scornful nor am I mocking people who are civic minded. It is just difficult to explain why anyone would spend $150 MILLION dollars on a campaign to get a job that pays $180,000 a year. What could cause such a reckless financial decision? Could it be the personal benefits: the kickbacks, salary for life, unbelievable insurance and the ability to vote for a raise for yourself?

Washington is damaged and only American voters can change it. We have to put a stop to this madness that works against us. The only people who seem to benefit from the Washington political system are the corrupt Washington fat cats. We need term limits: two 2 year terms. Politicians should campaign the way they intend to govern and govern like they campaigned. Politicians should go to Washington, focus on what they campaigned to do to benefit their community and then leave D.C. when they’ve done their job. We need to stop politicians’ ‘special benefits’. Politicians should receive Social Security and Medicare just like everyone else. There should be a five dollar limit on campaign contributions and only from individual American citizens. We need our elected officials to be civic minded public servants instead of special interest directed career politicians.

We also need to be independent thinkers. That’s the only way Americans are going to benefit from our political system. Do not let either political party control your mind. Do not hate a candidate only because he is a Democrat. Do not hate a candidate only because she is a Republican. Do not trust a candidate just because she is a Democrat. Do not trust a candidate just because he is a Republican. If you do, you will forever be their puppet without benefits.

Yesterday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he will not work with President Obama on Programs that will benefit Democrats and Republicans alike. He said that his goal is to get a Republican in as President in 2012. Excuse me, but how does this help Americans get jobs, and loans, and homes and cars? He doesn’t care about how his decision will create consequences for you and me. Plotting the next election only benefits his personal agenda. McConnell is the Senate minority leader with an obligation to govern for Americans in a manner that transcends his own partisan goals.

It seems that given the choice of supporting something that was good for the country, but would also benefit Barack Obama politically, McConnell would screw over Americans. He is willing to do what’s beneficial for his personal political agenda; and not necessarily good for us Americans.

Our Teapublicrats MUST work together in the next two years so that America can get out of the ditch she’s in. If these politicians do not work together we will all suffer tremendously.

If the economy does not improve soon, more businesses will lay off more employees. Those of us with jobs could lose our jobs. If we lose our jobs we can’t buy anything or support our local businesses. If we don’t support our local businesses they will go out of business. If they go out of business there will be less taxes coming into our communities. If there are less taxes flowing into our community our Mayors will have to cut services in our communities and the downward spiral will continue until we are ALL affected. This can turn into a living nightmare for all of us. We have to work together as Americans and make it clear to individual politicians we elected that they must work for us, that getting America back on its financial feet is goal number one.

Our politicians are living THEIR American dream. We have to convince them to work for us: for you and me so that we can live our American dream.

We have to let them know that we will not tolerate 2 years of dysfunction that leads to more suffering for us while they sit on their behinds and get paid. We have to remind them that we the voters have the power to stop their dreams. We have to demand that they work together to create jobs and do what’s best for ALL of us.

Empower yourself. Force politicians to do the work you sent them to do in Washington. Contact your elected officials: tweet, email, call or write your Senator, U.S. Representative, Governor and Legislators and insist that they work together and do what’s right for America.

Contact your elected officials: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

October 16, 2010

Vote 2010: United We Stand; Divided We ALL Fall!

When you are the leader in anything (even on Dancing with the Stars!) there is only one way to go – down.  And there are always many happily waiting to take you top spot.  America is the world leader and there are many ‘vultures’ who want us to slip so that they can be the world leader – number one.  As the lyricist Des’ree said, “You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger, you gotta be calm and you gotta stay together!”

America – we MUST stay together.  We MUST unite or divided we will all fall.  The rest of the world is uniting against us. Wake up! Unite!!! Did you hear or read the news report on Thursday that Russia is helping to build a nuclear power station?!  Read the following articles for details:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101015/wl_nm/us_russia_venezuela_nuclear

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/10/15/russia.venezuela/

Most Americans want what’s good for America – we just have different ways we believe we should go about making America successful.  What we seem to forget is that there are more than one way to skin a cat, a deer or a gator.

If we continue to fight amongst ourselves as we are doing now, NONE of us will benefit.  Right now we are like a nation at a four way traffic intersection and we all moved at the same time. We are all in the middle of the intersection and no one wants to back up so we are all stuck. And everyone behind us is stuck and we’re backed up for miles without a solution in sight.

The top 10% of America has 90% of our wealth.  That 10% is receiving tax breaks from our government so that they will create good jobs in America and put us back to work.  But that’s not what they are doing.  They are taking the tax breaks and shipping tens of thousands of good paying jobs overseas.  This means that the top 10% are getting our tax monies from the government and they are getting more money by shipping our jobs abroad and saving millions. Why do the 10% wealthiest get to have their billion dollar cake and eat it too?  Why aren’t we screaming at them?

We have to look at who the real culprits are and rebel against THEM.  President Obama is giving these big businesses the tools they need to hire Americans.  These businesses have accepted the tools but they refuse to use it to help the middle class Americans they are suppose to help.  They are lining their pockets and sitting on their money eggs while we lose our jobs. 

America we have to unite against big business and we have to unite as a country before we drop from number one to number three or four.

We have to be smart citizen politicians.  We have to make decisions that help us; not the 10%.  We have to realize that the only way to rebuild America is for all of us to work together and get America out of the hole we’re in.  When we’re out of the hole we can debate our doctrines and personal preferences.

If we do not remain united, foreign powers will have a real opportunity to slip in and take bits and pieces of our country and businesses until they own America. Is that what we want to happen?

We can only point the fingers at ourselves if this great country collapses. 

This is not the time to snicker, bicker and point fingers.  Know is the time to set America right so we can continue to live in this great country as Americans and not become foreigners in our country.

So, what are you going to do?  Are you going to vote and unite America on November 2, 2010 and continue the work already started so we can all get jobs again?  Or are you going to vote to further divide the country and we will all fall?

United we stand. Divided we fall.

What are you going to do?

If America fails, which country do you want to rule America?  Which new language do you want to have to learn to speak?  Chinese, Russian, French?

United we stand. Divided we fall.

What are you going to do?

Peace, Love and Understanding!

December 16, 2009

Health Care Reform: Even Without The Public Option It’s BETTER Than What We Have Now!!!

With all the Health Care Reform brouhaha about losing the public option (which I want 100 %!) it may seem that we Democrats are losing the Health Care Reform battle – that’s not true.  Don’t believe the hype.

No,  we are not getting everything we want (neither is anyone else) but the chances of us getting everything we wanted with hundreds of law makers voting in Congress and needing 60 votes in the Senate was never realistic…it wasn’t going to happen; not ever.  There are too many politicians with specific political interests and geographical interests to make any one group or region completely happy.

But let us not forget the prize — Health Care Reform.  Let us re-focus. I know we’re in the middle of Hanukkah and Christmas is next week but we must get this done.

Even without the public option an additional 33 million Americans will receive health care benefits – we want that.  Even without the public option all insurance companies will legally have to cover you and me and our families and friends and neighbors regardless of pre-existing conditions – we want that.  We have NEVER had that in American health care before.  That is major!!! That is worth it to me. Plus there are other benefits even without the public option.

Don’t forget that when Health Care Reform is passed it WILL be tweaked in the upcoming months and even years to come so that things that seem to be lost now can be added later

The important thing is to PASS HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW so that we have a foundation to build on; we can always make the bill better later.  If we don’t pass Health Care Reform now the precedence will be set that says we really don’t care about Health Care Reform and we will probably never see health care pass in the next 30 years — we can’t wait 30 more years!!!  Remember that this fight has been going on for over 60 years!!!  This is the closest we have ever been so let’s get this done in 2009.

Please contact your elected officials and tell them to PASS AMERICA’S HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL BEFORE CHRISTMAS!!!

You’ll find links to e-mail, tweet, postal addresses, and phone numbers for key elected officials from our President to State Legislators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.  All you have to do is enter your zip code and your elected officials’ information will pop up.

Keep your eyes on the prize.  Call your elected officials today!!!

Happy Holidays!

October 26, 2009

Asian Countries Uniting To Form EU Type Power Structure

ASEAN Leaders

As some Americans sit around huffing and puffing and thinking small;  as they continuously work on dividing and conquering the United States of America, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met last week and made moves toward uniting socially and economically in an EU-style community which would encompass half the world’s population.

So as we continue to fight amongst ourselves in America and dither on the brink of insanity and weaken our social and economic infrastructure instead of working together to make America better and stronger leaders at a summit of 16 Asian nations met in Thailand and listened as the prime ministers of Australia and Japan set out competing visions for a regional bloc that would boost Asia’s global clout.

A central question at their summit was what role that the United States and China would play in any future grouping.

Not wanting to miss out on the potential power that the Asian bloc of countries have, Russia has applied to join the East Asia Summit – a group that includes China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand that works in conjunction with ASEAN.

In November U.S .President Barack Obama will hold the first ever summit with ASEAN leaders as well as attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore to keep America relevant in Asia.

Some countries want the United States to be part of a future Asia regional framework as a counterbalance to China’s influence said one diplomat.

Japanese premier Yukio Hatoyama pushed his plan at the summit for an East Asian community that could “lead the world”.  He said that he would not want to see an extensive US involvement with ASEAN or the East Asia Summit despite Tokyo’s close ties to Washington.

Australian leader Kevin Rudd’s vision for an Asia-Pacific Community by 2020 explicitly includes Washington.

“Whether we like it or not, I think we could not avoid a US role because the US is a big country which has powers both in economic and security matters,” said Chaiwat Khamchoo, an analyst at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

“Some countries in the region are suspicious of each other so they want the U.S. to play a role.”

After the distractions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has only recently re-engaged with the region, particularly in Southeast Asia where Washington’s hard line on military-ruled Myanmar kept it at a distance.

With Japan kept busy by its economic woes, China has boosted its influence across the region in recent years, signing a free trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

India has tried to play catch-up, belatedly signing its own trade pact with the bloc.

Earlier this year US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the “US is back in Southeast Asia”.

Asian leaders agreed at this weekend’s summit that they need some new framework to hold together their diverse and sometimes fractious region. A closer community would help Asia capitalize on its relatively quick recovery from the global economic crisis and to cut its dependence on the West to drive growth.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his closing remarks to the summit on Sunday that the old growth model in which Asia relies on consumption in the West will no longer serve us as we move into the future.”

Americans — united we stand, divided we fall.  Let’s stand together and build a better and stronger U.S. of A!

NY Yankees

Go Yankees!!!

October 7, 2009

Michelle Obama’s Roots — A Complex Path From Slavery

Fraser and Marian Robinson with Craig and Michelle

In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery

By RACHEL L. SWARNS and JODI KANTOR

WASHINGTON — In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475.

In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time.

In the annals of American slavery, this painful story would be utterly unremarkable, save for one reason: This union, consummated some two years before the Civil War, marked the origins of a family line that would extend from rural Georgia, to Birmingham, Ala., to Chicago and, finally, to the White House.

Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama, the first lady.

Viewed by many as a powerful symbol of black advancement, Mrs. Obama grew up with only a vague sense of her ancestry, aides and relatives said. During the presidential campaign, the family learned about one paternal great-great-grandfather, a former slave from South Carolina, but the rest of Mrs. Obama’s roots were a mystery.

Now the more complete map of Mrs. Obama’s ancestors — including the slave mother, white father and their biracial son, Dolphus T. Shields — for the first time fully connects the first African-American first lady to the history of slavery, tracing their five-generation journey from bondage to a front-row seat to the presidency.

The findings — uncovered by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and The New York Times — substantiate what Mrs. Obama has called longstanding family rumors about a white forebear.

While President Obama’s biracial background has drawn considerable attention, his wife’s pedigree, which includes American Indian strands, highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans. Mrs. Obama and her family declined to comment for this article, aides said, in part because of the personal nature of the subject.

“She is representative of how we have evolved and who we are,” said Edward Ball, a historian who discovered that he had black relatives — the descendants of his white slave-owning ancestors — when he researched his memoir, “Slaves in the Family.”

“We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America,” Mr. Ball said. “We’ve all mingled, and we have done so for generations.”

The outlines of Mrs. Obama’s family history unfolded from 19th century probate records, yellowing marriage licenses, fading photographs and the recollections of elderly women who remember the family. Ms. Smolenyak, who has traced the ancestry of many prominent figures, began studying the first lady’s roots in earnest after conducting some preliminary research into Mrs. Obama’s ancestry for an article published in The New York Times earlier this year.

Of the dozens of relatives she identified, Ms. Smolenyak said, it was the slave girl who seemed to call out most clearly.

“Out of all Michelle’s roots, it’s Melvinia who is screaming to be found,” she said.

When her owner, David Patterson, died in 1852, Melvinia soon found herself on a 200-acre farm with new masters, Mr. Patterson’s daughter and son-in law, Christianne and Henry Shields. It was a strange and unfamiliar world.

In South Carolina, she had lived on an estate with 21 slaves. In Georgia, she was one of only three slaves on property that is now part of a neat subdivision in Rex, near Atlanta.

Whether Melvinia labored in the house or in the fields, there was no shortage of work: wheat, corn, sweet potatoes and cotton to plant and harvest, and 3 horses, 5 cows, 17 pigs and 20 sheep to care for, according to an 1860 agricultural survey.

It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm as well.

“No one should be surprised anymore to hear about the number of rapes and the amount of sexual exploitation that took place under slavery; it was an everyday experience, “ said Jason A. Gillmer, a law professor at Texas Wesleyan University, who has researched liaisons between slave owners and slaves. “But we do find that some of these relationships can be very complex.”

In 1870, three of Melvinia’s four children, including Dolphus, were listed on the census as mulatto. One was born four years after emancipation, suggesting that the liaison that produced those children endured after slavery. She gave her children the Shields name, which may have hinted at their paternity or simply been the custom of former slaves taking their master’s surnames.

Even after she was freed, Melvinia stayed put, working as a farm laborer on land adjacent to that of Charles Shields, one of Henry’s sons.

But sometime in her 30s or 40s, census records show, Melvinia broke away and managed to reunite with former slaves from her childhood on the Patterson estate: Mariah and Bolus Easley, who settled with Melvinia in Bartow County, near the Alabama border. Dolphus married one of the Easleys’ daughters, Alice, who is Mrs. Obama’s great-great-grandmother.

A community “that had been ripped apart was somehow pulling itself back together,” Ms. Smolenyak said of the group in Bartow County.

Still, Melvinia appears to have lived with the unresolved legacy of her childhood in slavery until the very end. Her 1938 death certificate, signed by a relative, says “don’t know” in the space for the names of her parents, suggesting that Melvinia, then in her 90s, may never have known herself.

Sometime before 1888, Dolphus and Alice Shields continued the migration, heading to Birmingham, a boomtown with a rumbling railroad, an iron and steel industry and factories that attracted former slaves and their children from across the South.

Dolphus Shields was in his 30s and very light skinned — some say he looked like a white man — a church-going carpenter who could read, write and advance in an industrializing town. By 1900, he owned his own home, census records show. By 1911, he had opened his own carpentry and tool sharpening business.

A co-founder of First Ebenezer Baptist Church and Trinity Baptist Church, which later became active in the civil rights movement, he supervised Sunday schools at both churches, which still exist today, and at Regular Missionary Baptist Church.

“He was the dean of the deacons in Birmingham,” said Helen Heath, 88, who attended church with him. “He was a serious man. He was about business.”

He carried his family into the working-class, moving into a segregated neighborhood of striving black homeowners and renters. In his home, there was no smoking, no cursing, no gum chewing, no lipstick or trousers for ladies and absolutely no blues on the radio, which was reserved for hymns, remembered Bobbie Holt, 73, who was raised by Mr. Shields and his fourth wife, Lucy. She said the family went to church “every night of the week, it seemed like.”

He carried peppermints for neighborhood children, Mrs. Holt said, and told funny stories about his escapades as a boy. But his family struggled.

His first wife, Alice Easley Shields, moved around after they split up, working as a seamstress and a maid, and two of their sons stumbled.

Robert Lee Shields, Mrs. Obama’s great-grandfather, married Annie Lawson in 1906 and worked as a laborer and a railroad porter, but disappeared from the public record sometime around his 32nd birthday.

Willie Arthur Shields, an inventor who obtained patents for improving dry cleaning operations, ended up working as a maintenance man, Mrs. Holt said.

As for his ancestry, Dolphus Shields didn’t talk about it.

“We got to the place where we didn’t want anybody to know we knew slaves; people didn’t want to talk about that,” said Mrs. Heath, who said she assumed he had white relatives because his skin color and hair texture “told you he had to be near white.”

At a time when blacks despaired at the intransigence and violence of whites who barred them from voting, from most city jobs, from whites-only restaurants and from owning property in white neighborhoods, Dolphus Shields served as a rare link between the deeply divided communities.

His carpentry shop stood in the white section of town, and he mixed easily and often with whites. “They would come to his shop and sit and talk,” Mrs. Holt said.

Dolphus Shields firmly believed race relations would improve. “It’s going to come together one day,” he often said, Mrs. Holt recalled.

By the time he died in 1950 at age 91, change was on the way. On June 9, 1950, the day that his obituary appeared on the front page of The Birmingham World, the black newspaper also ran a banner headline that read, “U.S. Court Bans Segregation in Diners and Higher Education.” The Supreme Court had outlawed separate but equal accommodations on railway cars and in universities in Texas and Oklahoma.

Up North, his grandson, a painter named Purnell Shields, Mrs. Obama’s grandfather, was positioning his family to seize the widening opportunities in Chicago.

But as his descendants moved forward, they lost touch with the past. Today, Dolphus Shields lies in a neglected black cemetery, where patches of grass grow knee-high and many tombstones have toppled.

Mrs. Holt, a retired nursing assistant, said he came to her in a dream last month. She dug up his photograph, never guessing that she would soon learn that Dolphus Shields was a great-great-grandfather of the first lady.

“Oh my God,” said Mrs. Holt, gasping at the news. “I always looked up to him, but I would never have imagined something like this. Praise God, we’ve come a long way.”

Jim Sherling contributed reporting from Rex, Ga. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

This article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/us/politics/08genealogy.html

 

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? 

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