The Common Good

Blog Posts By Duane Shank

Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 20 weeks ago
Finance reform. Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked for the second straight day efforts to begin debate on a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations, saying the bill represents an overreach of government power that could harm small businesses. Immigration. Pressure continued to mount Tuesday against Arizona's tough new immigration law, with the Obama administration considering a legal challenge and political leaders calling for economic boycotts. Iraq. Torture, including electric shocks and sexual abuse, was carried out at a secret jail in Baghdad, Human Rights Watch says. Quote of the day. “All I did was make a Facebook page. Anyone who has an opinion could do that and have their opinion heard. I would love to see kids in high school step up and start their own protests and change things in their own way.” Michelle Ryan Lauto, an 18-year-old college freshman, who inspired 18,000 students in New Jersey to walk out of class yesterday to protest school budget cuts. (The News York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 20 weeks ago
Oil Spill. Engineers are crafting a giant underwater dome to help to contain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after attempts to shut off the leak using robotic submarines failed. Palestine. Palestinian officials have passed a new law outlawing the sale of goods made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone launches a free health-care program for pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and children under five. Quote of the Day. “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, on the military’s obsession with PowerPoint briefings. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 21 weeks ago
Oil Well Leak. Officials worked Sunday to try to stop oil leaks coming from the deepwater well drilled by a rig that sank last week near Louisiana, but they acknowledged that it could be months before they are able to stem the flow of what is now about 42,000 gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Malaria. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has called for the elimination of malaria deaths by the end of 2010 as he marks the first World Malaria Day. Immigration Reform. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed the toughest law against illegal immigration in the country, shrugging aside warnings from religious and civil rights leaders -- and President Obama -- that it would lead to widespread racial profiling. Quote of the Day. "I could hear all around me the trees twisting and swaying. I asked God to hug us because it was like you could just tell you were looking in the eyes of death." Sandra Grayson, Yazoo City, MS, who hid in her bathroom as a tornado roared through the state, killing 10 people. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 21 weeks ago
Mine Safety. Federal officials who visited Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine early this year before the February blast said that senior managers showed "reckless disregard" for worker safety by telling a foreman to ignore a citation the mine had received for faulty ventilation. Immigration Reform. As Gov. Jan Brewer contemplated how to proceed on the nation's toughest legislation against illegal immigration, opponents of the bill converged in protest at the state Capitol on Thursday and Brewer announced efforts to beef up law enforcement along the Arizona-Mexico border. Burma. An imported art form -- hip-hop -- is providing a subterranean vehicle for quiet, yet significant, dissent among Burmese youth. Burma has a history of revolutionary music. Traditional protest songs, known as thangyat, were once used to air grievances, both small, against neighbours, and large, against authority. Quote of the Day. “There will be governors in some of those big, snooty places like California, New Jersey, and New York that will say, ‘Oh, but they’re a little state with just 950,000 residents, it’s easier for them to do this.’ But if you look at every state, big or small, they do the same things -- educate, medicate, and incarcerate -- and those things account for about 85 percent of their budgets.” Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, on how he has kept tight controls on spending. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 21 weeks ago
Iran. After months of first attempting to engage Iran and then wooing Russia and China to support new sanctions against the Islamic republic, the Obama administration appears within reach of winning a modest tightening of UN measures targeting Tehran. Immigration. A bill the Arizona Legislature passed this week that would hand the state and local police broad powers to enforce immigration law has split police groups and sown confusion over how the law would be applied. Housing. The gap between the cost of renting a modest apartment and the wages of working families continues to widen, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Quote of the Day. “I don’t want to use the word poverty, but I’m definitely poor. Poverty is still a very unfamiliar word in Japan ... Saying we’re poor would draw attention, so I’d rather hide it.” Satomi Sato, a 51-year-old widow in Memuro, Japan. Last fall the Japanese government announced an official poverty line for the first time, and reported that one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, lived in poverty. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 21 weeks ago
Thailand. Anti-government protesters in Thailand have seized a train carrying about 70 soldiers northeast of the capital, Bangkok. Education. School districts around the country, forced to resort to drastic money-saving measures, are warning hundreds of thousands of teachers that their jobs may be eliminated in June. Afghanistan. Assassins killed the deputy mayor of Kandahar yesterday as violence in Afghanistan's second city continued to spiral out of control before a planned NATO offensive. Quote of the Day. "Stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care, and low wages ... We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly." -- Dorothy I. Height, 98, a founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement whose crusade for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than six decades. Height died on Tuesday. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 21 weeks ago
Immigration. One of the toughest proposed illegal-immigration measures in the country passed its final hurdle in the Arizona Legislature on Monday, moving on to face national media scrutiny, a growing firestorm of opposition, and cautious consideration by the governor's office. Politics. The nation's fastest-growing political party is "none of the above," which could be bad news for Democrats and Republicans. Volcanic Ash. A limited number of flights have taken off in northern Europe after five days of a blanket no-fly zone caused by the spread of volcanic ash from Iceland. Quote of the Day. "It's as if people cared more about birds than African Americans. It shouldn't have to be so hard." Derrick Evans, community activist in Gulfport, MS, on how progress in stopping hazardous waste dumping and other harmful projects was finally made when the low-income and minority community was recognized as a haven for tropical birds, and conservation groups such as the Audubon Society got involved. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 22 weeks ago
Goldman Sachs Fraud Alleged. Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse, was accused of securities fraud in a civil lawsuit filed Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which claims the bank created and sold a mortgage investment that was secretly intended to fail. Sudan. Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years have failed to meet international standards, observers from the U.S. and EU said. Haiti. The rainy season is bearing down, and Haiti is not ready. Three months after the earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, more than 2.1 million Haitians are still living in tents and under tarps, many on dangerous hillsides and tidal flats. Quote of the Day. “I probably should consider this my last marathon, but you never know what’ll happen. My friends reminded me that I said that last year and the year before and the year before ... I run with people all younger than me and they tell me I inspire them. That’s gratification for somebody my age.’’ Robert Borglund, 80, of Fort Myers, Fla., who won the men’s 80-plus age group last year, on today’s Boston Marathon. (Boston Globe)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 22 weeks ago
Visitation Rights for Same-Sex Partners. President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients' choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them. Finance Reform. As the Obama administration and Senate Republicans clash over the future of the nation’s financial regulatory system, there is one principle on which they agree: Taxpayers should never again have to bail out giant financial institutions. Afghanistan. Deaths of Afghan civilians by NATO troops have more than doubled this year, NATO statistics show, jeopardizing a U.S. campaign to win over the local population by protecting them against insurgent attacks. Quote of the Day. "I am becoming more radical with age. I have noticed that writers, when they are old, become milder. But for me it is the opposite. Age makes me more angry." Nawal El Saadawi, 79-year-old Egyptian writer, activist, and one of the leading feminists of her generation. She is trained as a doctor, worked as a psychiatrist and university lecturer, and has published almost 50 novels, plays, and collections of short stories. (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 22 weeks ago
Climate Bill. Leading voices in the Senate are considering a new tax on gasoline as part of an effort to win Republican and oil industry support for the energy and climate bill now idling in Congress. China Earthquake. Thousands of homeless and injured people await relief. Officials say 617 people died and 9,980 were injured when the tremor hit early on Wednesday, and 313 remain missing. Peacekeepers Kidnapped. Four South African peacekeepers have been kidnapped in Sudan's Darfur region, the joint African Union-United Nations force has said. Quote of the Day. "Mine health and safety laws are in place to protect our coal miners, but it's clear that a breakdown occurred and we lost 29 miners who should be with us today." West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D), calling for mines to be closed Friday in a 'Day of Honor and Mourning' in memory of the miners who died in an explosion 10 days ago. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 22 weeks ago
China Earthquake. Some 400 people have died and thousands are feared injured after a magnitude-6.9 quake hit western China's Qinghai province, officials say. Maternal Deaths Decline. For the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop worldwide in the number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, to about 342,900 in 2008 from 526,300 in 1980. Abortion. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska signed a law on Tuesday banning most abortions 20 weeks after conception or later on the theory that a fetus, by that stage in pregnancy, has the capacity to feel pain. The law, which appears nearly certain to set off legal and scientific debates, is the first in the nation to restrict abortions on the basis of fetal pain. Quote of the Day. “We created microcredit to fight the loan sharks; we didn’t create microcredit to encourage new loan sharks. Microcredit should be seen as an opportunity to help people get out of poverty in a business way, but not as an opportunity to make money out of poor people.” Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, on the increasing domination of microlending by large banks, some of whom charge interest rates of 100 percent or more. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 22 weeks ago
Mine Disaster. The last of the bodies of 29 men killed in a coal mine explosion were removed from the mine early Tuesday, officials said. Nuclear Summit. World leaders at a summit on nuclear security in Washington have heard dire warnings of the danger of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands. Red Cross Workers Kidnapped. Eight Red Cross workers have been kidnapped in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the aid group says. Quote of the Day. “A posthumous special citation to Hank Williams for his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.” Citation on a special Pulitzer award given posthumously for lifetime achievement as a musician. (The Pulitzer Prizes)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 22 weeks ago
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 23 weeks ago
Poland Mourns President. Poland was wrestling today with a problem that has not confronted a society since the end of the Second World War: how to keep a state functioning when a large segment of the governing class has been killed at a stroke. Thailand. Anti-government protesters in Thailand swore today that they would never compromise with the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the day after street battles left 21 people dead, including demonstrators, soldiers, and a Japanese journalist. Israel-Palestine. Israel is set to impose a military order which rights groups say could see tens of thousands of Palestinians deported from the occupied West Bank. Quote of the Day. “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.’’ (Bush v. Gore, 2000) “While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.’’ (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010) -- Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced his retirement Friday after nearly 35 years on the Supreme Court, in two of his dissenting opinions.
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 23 weeks ago
Retiring. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, announced his retirement Friday. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill. Chile Gives Up Uranium. With President Obama shifting his nuclear nonproliferation strategy to rogue states and terrorists, Chile has become an example of how small countries can play a big part in making the world safer. Debt Bill in U.K. A landmark bill to protect the poorest countries in the world from profiteering by so-called "vulture funds" became law yesterday after passing the House of Lords "wash-up" at the end of the Parliamentary session. Quote of the Day. "There has been free beer, water, and soft drinks everywhere. Yesterday, beers were removed from all refrigerators. The only place you can get a beer in [the] future is in the canteen, at lunch." Jens Bekke, a spokesman for the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen, explaining why hundreds of workers walked out when the brewery tightened rules on alcohol consumption at work. (Times Online)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 23 weeks ago
Arms Reduction Treaty Signed. The treaty signed by President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia in Prague on Thursday would trim the two powers’ strategic nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in half a century. Kyrgyzstan. The president of Kyrgyzstan was forced to flee the capital, Bishkek, on Wednesday after bloody protests erupted across the country over his repressive rule, a backlash that could pose a threat to the American military supply line into nearby Afghanistan. U.S. Teacher Jailed in North Korea. A North Korean court has sentenced an American man to eight years in prison for illegally crossing its border, the fourth U.S. citizen to be detained on such a charge in less than a year. Quote of the Day. "It was one of the most heart-rending things I have heard. She said, 'I get to eat two meals today.'" Pastor Glenn Schwerdtfeger, Columbus, OH, recounting what a little girl said to a volunteer at a community dinner at his church during spring break while schools were closed. (Columbus Dispatch)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 23 weeks ago
Mine Disaster. The West Virginia mine where at least 25 workers died Monday in an explosion was written up more than 50 times last month for safety violations. Twelve of the citations involved problems with ventilating the mine and preventing a buildup of deadly methane. Farmworkers Win. Food service provider Aramark and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced a deal Thursday that calls for Aramark to increase wages for tomato pickers by about 70 to 80 percent. Palestinian Nonviolence. Something is stirring in the West Bank. With both diplomacy and armed struggle out of favor for having failed to end the Israeli occupation, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, joined by the business community, is trying to forge a third way: to rouse popular passions while avoiding violence. Quote of the Day. "I hope you realize there's a target on your back now. There are many people out there that want you dead. Now that you've passed your health-care bill let the violence begin." Message allegedly left on the phone of Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, by a Washington state man arrested on Tuesday. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 23 weeks ago
Mine Disaster. Rescue teams planned to search again for four workers missing in a coal mine where a massive explosion killed 25 in the worst U.S. mining disaster in more than two decades, though officials said Tuesday that the chances were slim that the miners survived. Killing in Iraq. The Web site WikiLeaks.org released a graphic video on Monday showing an American helicopter shooting and killing a Reuters photographer and driver in a July 2007 attack in Baghdad. Drones. The Obama administration, facing questions about the legality of its drone program -- a key part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan's Afghan-border region -- is pushing back with a legal defense of a program it only tacitly acknowledges. Quote of the Day. “People want to work for companies they perceive as socially responsible. It's part of the symbolism of a company that they're in a green building." Tom Aguer, a Sacramento, CA, leasing agent, on the growing trend of making office buildings green to attract tenants. (Sacramento Bee)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 24 weeks ago
Immigration. State and local police officers who enforce federal immigration laws are not adequately screened, trained, or supervised, and the civil rights of the immigrants they deal with are not consistently protected, according to a report released Friday by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. Iran Nuclear Agenda. Iran has said it will host a nuclear disarmament conference later this month as part of an effort to ease fears Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Baghdad Bombings. At least 41 people were killed and 237 wounded Sunday in three suicide car bombings targeting the Iranian and German embassies and the Egyptian Consulate in Iraq in a span of 30 minutes. Quote of the Day. “I’d love to have those numbers be higher, but I think that we have made a great start and have paved the way, with women now being able to perform the same duties as men in space flight.” Stephanie Wilson, one of three women aboard the space shuttle Discovery that successfully launched this morning on a mission to the International Space Shuttle, which also has a woman crewmember, setting a record for the most women in space at the same time. (Times Online)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 24 weeks ago
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 24 weeks ago
Russia Bombing. A team of suicide bombers struck again in Russia early this morning following Monday's devastating attacks on the Moscow metro, killing at least 12 people and injuring 28 others in the unstable southern Caucasus republic of Dagestan. Offshore Drilling. President Obama announced Wednesday that his administration will approve significant oil and gas exploration off America's coasts, including a possible sale two years from now of leases off the Virginia shore. Death Penalty Report. China executed more people last year than the rest of the world combined, according to a report published Tuesday by Amnesty International. Quote of the Day. "Not only are the (speeding) tolerances much lower, but the frequency of a warning instead of a ticket is way down. Most people, if they're stopped now, are getting a ticket even if it's only a minor violation of a few miles per hour." James Baxter, president of the National Motorists Association, suggesting that the recession may be leading police departments to stop allowing a 5 to 10-mph “cushion” in order to raise more revenue. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 24 weeks ago
Militia Members Arrested. The indictment said the Hutaree, which describes itself as a "Christian warrior" group, viewed all law enforcement as the enemy. It said members planned a violent act to get the attention of the police, possibly by killing an officer at a traffic stop, then attacking the funeral procession with explosives. Bombing in Russia. The brazen suicide bombings in the center of Moscow confronted Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin with a grave challenge to his record of curbing terrorism, and raised the possibility that he would respond as he had in the past, by significantly tightening control over the government. India-U.S. Nuclear Agreement. India and the United States announced Monday the successful conclusion of negotiations granting rights to India to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, a new step toward opening nuclear commerce between the two countries, potentially worth billions of dollars. Quote of the Day. “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment ... The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it.” From the Web site of the Hutaree, an apocalyptic “Christian” militia group, nine of whose members were arrested yesterday. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 25 weeks ago
Attacks in Moscow. Female suicide bombers set off huge explosions in two subway stations in central Moscow during the Monday morning rush hour, Russian officials said, killing more than three dozen people and raising fears that the Muslim insurgency in southern Russia was once again being brought to the country’s heart. United Kingdom. Britain needs to use "sharp elbows" in its dealings with Washington because Barack Obama is "less sentimental" about the historic links between Britain and the United States, a former ambassador to the U.S. has claimed. Afghanistan. President Obama personally delivered pointed criticism to President Hamid Karzai in a face-to-face meeting on Sunday, flying here for an unannounced visit that reflected growing vexation with Mr. Karzai as America’s military commitment to defeat the Taliban insurgency has deepened. Quote of the Day. "We have seen need grow at certain times, but we have never seen a national economy like this. And we have never seen so many middle-class people lose their jobs and have to depend on emergency food assistance … It's no surprise that this is a very poor area. But I never would have expected to be No. 1 in food insecurity in the entire country." Susan Sanford, who has headed the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis for the past two decades, on a survey that found 26 percent of people in greater Memphis couldn't afford to buy the food their families needed at some point over the previous 12 months, the highest rate in the nation. (McClatchy)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 25 weeks ago
Nuclear Arms Treaty. The United States and Russia have broken a logjam in arms control negotiations and expect to sign a treaty next month to slash their nuclear arsenals to the lowest levels in half a century, officials in both nations said Wednesday. Congresspeople Threatened. Democratic lawmakers have received death threats and been the victims of vandalism because of their votes in favor of the health-care bill, lawmakers and law enforcement officials said Wednesday, as the Congressional debate over the issue headed toward a bitter and divisive conclusion. Romero Anniversary. Thirty years after Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated as he celebrated Mass, a divided Salvadoran society still struggles over his legacy and the failure of authorities to punish the killers. For the first time, the Salvadoran state is publicly commemorating Romero. Quote of the Day. "It's a huge problem. We have more than a billion people hungry at the moment, then on top of that we're going to have to feed a growing human population -- we're looking at having to double food production by 2050." Sir Gordon Conway from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London in a keynote speech at the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development. (BBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 25 weeks ago
Obama Signs Health-Care Bill. With the strokes of 20 pens, President Obama signed his health care overhaul -- the most sweeping social legislation enacted in decades -- into law on Tuesday during a festive, at times raucous, White House ceremony. China-Google. Just over two months after threatening to leave China because of censorship and intrusions from hackers, Google on Monday closed its Internet search service there and began directing users in that country to its uncensored search engine in Hong Kong. Afghanistan. Pilots have always undergone intense debriefings after combat missions, but the questions focus now on whether they were certain that no civilians were endangered before they dropped a bomb or launched a missile. Quote of the Day. "Faith leads to action. We have a chance today to do something with our faith." Rev. Rick Cole of the Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, CA, explaining a community-wide effort among 80 houses of worship to help homeless people called "One Day to Prevent Homelessness," in which members donate one day's worth of rent or mortgage payment. (Sacramento Bee)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 26 weeks ago
Health Care. House Democrats scored a historic victory in the century-long battle to reform the nation's health-care system late Sunday night, winning final approval of legislation that expands coverage to 32 million people and attempts to contain spiraling costs. Immigration Reform. Tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters from across the United States packed the Mall on Sunday in a last-ditch effort to spur Congress and the White House to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Haiti. Estimates from the InterAmerican Development Bank put the cost of rebuilding Haiti at anywhere from $8 billion to $14 billion -- at the high end, that's twice the size of Haiti's total economy last year. Quote of the Day. “One of the clearest messages coming out of this survey is that any kind of green shoots of recovery are very slow to get to the nonprofit sector. Any recovery is not actually reaching people in dire need and the frontline organizations that serve them.” Clara Miller, chief executive of the Nonprofit Finance Fund. The organization released a survey showing that 80 percent of the 1,315 nonprofit groups responding to the survey say they expected the demand for service to be even greater this year, and only 49 percent of the respondents expected to be able to meet that demand. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 26 weeks ago
Children’s Health Insurance Eliminated. Arizona on Thursday became the first state to eliminate its Children’s Health Insurance Program when Gov. Jan Brewer signed an austere budget that will leave nearly 47,000 low-income children without coverage. Financial Reform. If not for the sea of navy business suits and the hotel ballroom's chandeliers, the gathering Wednesday morning might have seemed more like a pep rally than a meeting of the American Bankers Association. But the 900 bankers were preparing to storm Capitol Hill, and they were getting revved up. Gaza. After Gaza rocket attacks resulted in the first fatality since last year's war, Israeli warplanes carried out retaliatory air strikes on at least six targets overnight. Hamas is struggling to contain unaffiliated militants in Gaza. Quote of the Day. “With the reality of 78 million baby boomers coming into an aging demographic, we need more housing choices for caregiving. It can be a great opportunity for connectedness across generations, but also an opportunity for conflict if family members don’t keep communications lines open.’’ Elinor Ginzler, AARP’s senior vice president for livable communities, on a new study showing that about 6.6 million U.S. households in 2009 were “multigenerational,” with at least three generations in the household. (Boston Globe/AP)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 26 weeks ago
Health Care. President Obama claimed his first convert on health-care reform Wednesday, as senior Democrats, labor unions, and an array of interest groups intensified their efforts to sway wavering lawmakers before a climactic vote in the House this weekend. Cuba. Cuban police have prevented the mothers and wives of detained dissidents from marching on the outskirts of Havana, the capital, forcing them into buses and taking them away, witnesses say. Burma. There is guarded hope among business people and diplomats that Myanmar, or Burma, as many people still call the country, may be gradually moving away from years of paranoid authoritarianism and Soviet-style economic management that has left the majority of the country’s 55 million people in dire poverty. Quote of the Day. “That’s a low bar. If you can’t graduate two out of five of your student-athletes, how serious are you about the academic part of your mission?” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former college basketball player, proposing that teams with graduation rates of less than 40 percent be banned from the NCAA tournament. A new study shows that this would disqualify 12 teams in this year’s tournament. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 26 weeks ago
Thailand. Anti-government protesters poured liters of their own blood across the entrances to Government House in Bangkok today in a lurid campaign to secure new elections. Israel-U.S. An ill-timed municipal housing announcement in Jerusalem has mutated into one of the most serious conflicts between the United States and Israel in two decades, leaving a politically embarrassed Israeli government scrambling to respond to a tough list of demands by the Obama administration. Health Care. Declaring that "every argument has been made" on his health-care overhaul, President Obama sought to seal the deal with Congress and the American people Monday by focusing on a single patient: a self-employed cleaning woman who dropped her costly insurance plan and just discovered she has leukemia. Quote of the Day. “Our alumni over the years have told me that they’re so proud of the graduation rates. They don’t want to hear about Xavier, or any university, using students athletically and then dumping them without a degree.” Sister Rose Ann Fleming, academic adviser for Xavier University athletics. Since she began the job in 1985, every men’s basketball player who played as a senior has left with a diploma, a record of 77-0. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 27 weeks ago
Thailand. Swelling crowds of anti-government protesters swarming in central Bangkok cheered and rattled their plastic clappers this afternoon as one of their leaders told the Thai Government to dissolve parliament within 24 hours or face the consequences. Israel-U.S. Israel's ambassador to the U.S. has said that relations between the two countries are at their lowest point for 35 years, Israeli media have reported. Mexico. Gunmen believed to be linked to drug traffickers shot a pregnant American consulate worker and her husband to death in the violence-racked border town of Ciudad Juárez over the weekend, leaving their baby wailing in the back seat of their car, the authorities said Sunday. The gunmen also killed the husband of another consular employee and wounded his two young children. Quote of the Day. “Knowledge doesn’t equal behavior. A lot of people just can’t be bothered, which is extremely disheartening. They take the path of least resistance. So if it’s easier to throw it away, they’ll throw it away.’’ Claire Sullivan, director of the South Shore Recycling Cooperative south of Boston, commenting on state statistics showing just over one-quarter of all residential trash was recycled in 2008, roughly the same percentage as 10 years ago. (Boston Globe)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 27 weeks ago
World Vision Staff Killed. Churches in Pakistan have deplored the killing of six World Vision staff members as the international Christian humanitarian organization suspended its operations in the country. Mideast Peace Talks. A four-day trip by Joe Biden designed to kick-start faltering peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships ended in failure last night despite a parting plea for negotiations to begin with no delay. Taliban-Al Qaeda Rift. A growing number of Taliban militants in the Pakistani border region are refusing to collaborate with Al Qaeda fighters, declining to provide shelter or assist in attacks in Afghanistan even in return for payment, according to U.S. military and counter-terrorism officials. Quote of the Day. “It will take an expanding worldwide but grassroots culture reaching beyond national borders to fashion a body of Christian peacemakers to be an effective power to block the guns and be part of transforming each impending tragedy of war. Little by little there will be change.” Gene Stoltzfus, founding director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, who died Wednesday at age 70. (Christian Peacemaker Teams)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 27 weeks ago
Immigration. Overcoming their fear of deportation, a group of college-age immigrants publicly admitted their undocumented status at a rally at the Federal Plaza on Wednesday in hopes of putting a face on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Financial Reform. Payday lenders, pawnbrokers, car dealers, and other companies that make loans but do not hold bank charters would be shielded from the scrutiny of a proposed federal consumer protection regulator under the terms of a tentative compromise between senators who are attempting to craft a bipartisan bill. Afghanistan Withdrawal Resolution. In a strong bipartisan endorsement of the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, the House of Representatives on Wednesday soundly rejected a call to withdraw American troops by the end of the year. Quote of the Day. “A well-crafted carbon surcharge achieves two goals. The first is a drastic reduction in fossil fuel usage for energy, but the second, and more important for Los Angeles, is the creation of thousands of green-collar jobs.” Jay Carson, chief deputy mayor of Los Angeles on the city’s plan to increase electric rates to fund renewable energy programs. (Los Angeles Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 27 weeks ago
Haiti. With his country's economy stalled, crops unplanted, and a million people without homes, Haitian President René Préval began a visit to Washington Tuesday to focus on how U.S. and international donors can help the beleaguered nation recover from a devastating earthquake. Israel. With indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians due to start within days, a new crisis is threatening to derail the peace process: Israel announced it had authorized the construction of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. Afghanistan. The State Department is failing to properly oversee nearly $2 billion in contracts to battle the drug trade, build infrastructure, and train police in Afghanistan, according to a bluntly worded internal assessment. Quote of the Day. "Crop Mob is not a charity ... At its core, it's about community -- farmers helping farmers. And when the 'agricurious' come out to help them and learn, well, that's just icing on the top." Rob Jones, a founder of “Crop Mob,” which organizes groups of office workers, backyard gardeners, and striving young farmers to dig, weed, mulch, and clear land for farmers across two North Carolina counties. (Los Angeles Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 27 weeks ago
Financial Reform. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched an ad campaign focused on limiting the reach of any new consumer regulatory agency, saying that a far-reaching entity would wreak havoc on a lot of mom and pop businesses that had nothing to do with the financial meltdown in the first place. Immigration. Leaders of nearly a dozen grass-roots immigrant rights groups excoriated President Obama and congressional Democrats on Monday, accusing them of moving too slowly to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants and citing a record number of deportations in 2009. Iraq Election. More than 60 percent of Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections despite numerous attempts to disrupt the vote, officials have said. Quote of the Day. "This is like putting on every student's desk, when you walk into class, five different magazines, several television shows, some shopping opportunities and a phone, and saying, 'Look, if your mind wanders, feel free to pick any of these up and go with it.'" David Cole, Georgetown Law professor, on why he has banned laptops from his classes. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 28 weeks ago
India-Women in Government. The Indian government has reintroduced a bill which would reserve a third of all seats in the national parliament and state legislatures for women. Law Minister Veerappa Moily tabled the bill amid loud protests from opponents. Iraq Election. Female candidates were all over Iraq these last few weeks -- shaking hands, making speeches, and handing out campaign literature. In a region of the world where some women are forbidden to drive or required to cover their hair in public, some analysts say Sunday's election was a model of democracy and inclusiveness for the Middle East. Nigeria. Rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 200 people overnight yesterday as religious violence flared anew between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria, witnesses said. Hundreds of people fled their homes, fearing reprisal attacks. Quote of the Day. “At the moment, Haiti is flooded with help -- the whole humanitarian circus is here. Most came with no planning horizon and will soon leave. And then what? We'll try, but it won't be enough. In that respect, we'll be back to square one." Hans van Dillen, head of mission of the Dutch chapter of Doctors Without Borders, which has provided medical services in Haiti for much of the last 15 years, on the impending departure of medical personnel who came in the aftermath of the earthquake. (Los Angeles Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 28 weeks ago
Chile. Class war has broken out in the city that bore the brunt of the Chilean earthquake and tsunami and the wave of looting that followed. Aid has just arrived in Concepción but it is the rich who are being fed first. Armenian Genocide. A congressional committee voted Thursday to label as "genocide" the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians, shrugging off a last-minute warning from Obama administration officials that it would alienate Turkey, a key U.S. ally. Education Cuts Protests. A day of passionate protest against education funding cuts attracted thousands of demonstrators Thursday to mostly peaceful rallies, walkouts and teach-ins at universities and high schools throughout California and the nation. Quote of the Day. “We can live in fear and make bad policy based on fear, or we can have some backbone and make policy based on what really helps our communities. [Still,] I worry about it. I say a rosary every day.” Patricia L. Caruso, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections,on the growing trend by states to reduce prison populations by expanding parole programs and early releases in order to save money, with the risk that some will commit new crimes. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 28 weeks ago
Health Care. President Obama, beginning his final push for a health-care overhaul, called Wednesday for Congress to allow an "up or down vote" on the measure, and sketched out an ambitious -- and, some Democrats said, unrealistic -- timetable for his party to pass a bill on its own within weeks. Iran Sanctions. Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi has warned against imposing sanctions on her country, saying it would harm the population not the government. Pakistan Arms Deal. The United States is to deliver a thousand laser-guided bomb kits to Pakistan this month. The deal, which also includes the delivery of 18 new F16 fighter jets and a dozen surveillance drones later in the year, is an apparent pay-off for greater co-operation against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Quote of the Day. "Mislabeling is a real disservice to consumers because people are cheated and are led to believe their food is healthier than it is. We're delighted that the FDA has issued an unprecedented flock of warning notices to companies big and small to clean up their labels." Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, on the Food and Drug Administration sending notices to 17 food companies that they have violated federal laws by making false or misleading claims on their product packaging. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 28 weeks ago
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 28 weeks ago
Chile. As the Chilean government employed helicopters and boats to extend aid to earthquake-battered regions, President Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday began to grapple with the enormous cost of rebuilding the country, saying it could extend into the tens of billions of dollars. Gun Ownership. The Supreme Court justices, hearing a Second Amendment challenge to Chicago's ban on handguns, signaled Tuesday that they were ready to extend gun rights nationwide, clearing the way for legal attacks on state and local gun restrictions. Darfur. The United States has expressed concern over reports that the Sudanese army launched offensives against rebels in Darfur after signing a peace deal with the main rebel group there last week. Quote of the Day. "We're delivering fewer pieces of mail to more and more addresses every year. Something's gotta give." Rich Maher, Los Angeles Postal Service spokesman, on the problems facing the Postal Service as e-mail and electronic bill paying cause the volume of traditional stamped mail to decrease. (Los Angeles Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 28 weeks ago
Chile. Chile’s government, after initially waving off outside aid, changed course Monday as the devastation from the powerful earthquake sank in and the nation’s pressing needs became clear. Afghanistan. The initial phase of the military offensive in southern Afghanistan to wrest Marja from insurgent control has largely ended, but the more daunting task of building a credible government in the place of Taliban rule has just begun, according to senior U.S. and Afghan officials. Financial Reform. The chairman of the Senate banking committee is seeking Democratic support for a Republican proposal to house a new consumer-protection regulator inside the Federal Reserve, a compromise that could clear the way for bipartisan legislation on financial reform. Quote of the Day. "They [terrorists] can't claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma [global brotherhood]. No, they become heroes of hellfire, and they are leading towards hellfire. There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered jihad." Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri, a London-based Pakistani Muslim scholar in a fatwa (religious ruling) against terrorism and suicide bombing. (Al Jazeera)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 29 weeks ago
Chile Earthquake. After experiencing one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike the earth in more than a century, Chileans accelerated their rescue, aid, and security efforts in damaged regions Sunday but also took pride in the comparatively low death toll, a result widely attributed to the country's meticulous planning and preparation. Heating Assistance. A record number of U.S. households are applying for help to pay home heating bills with 17 states fielding application requests that are up more than 20% from last year, the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association says. Unemployment. The payday loan industry has found a new and lucrative source of business: the unemployed. Payday lenders, which typically provide workers with cash advances on their paychecks, are offering the same service to those covered by unemployment insurance. Quote of the Day. “The positive energy has been incredible. There has been an outpouring of pride [among natives] the likes of which I've never seen before.” Tewanee Joseph, CEO of the Four Host First Nations, on the involvement of native peoples in the Vancouver Olympics. (Globe and Mail, Toronto)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 29 weeks ago
Health care summit. President Obama declared Thursday that the time for debate over health-care reform has come to an end, closing an unusual seven-hour summit with congressional leaders by sending a clear message that Democrats will move forward to pass major legislation with or without Republican support. Iran-Syria. The presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East "without Zionists," combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region's defining alliances. Burma. The Supreme Court in Burma has rejected an appeal by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against an extension of her house arrest.
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 29 weeks ago
Jobs Bill Passed. In what Democrats hope is the first in a series of legislative victories, the Senate on Wednesday easily approved a $15 billion plan to spur job creation, a vote that lawmakers hoped would show that they were taking steps to improve the nation’s employment outlook. Health Care. The health-care summit that convenes today in Washington has emerged as a high-stakes gambit for President Obama and opposing Republican lawmakers, carrying risks for both sides that could not only alter the outcome of the health-care debate but also November's midterm elections. India-Pakistan. India and Pakistan took a "first step" toward rebuilding confidence on Thursday after a meeting between high-level diplomats of both countries that included discussions on terrorism, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the disputed border region of Kashmir, and competing water claims. Quote of the Day. "The cross is and will forever be the sign of the church. This is the symbol that we have together, the symbol of what we have together, the symbol of what the churches have to give to the world. From the beginning to the end.” Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, in his installation as new general secretary of the World Council of Churches. (Christian Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 29 weeks ago
Jobs. Senior Democrats say the House is preparing to quickly pass a $15 billion job-creating measure once it is approved by the Senate, illustrating new urgency on the part of Democrats to show they are taking steps to improve the national employment picture. Afghanistan. More than eight years after the Taliban was toppled from power, the number of U.S. military fatalities in the war in Afghanistan is nearing 1,000, a grim milestone in a resurgent conflict that is claiming the lives of an increasing number of troops who had survived previous combat tours in Iraq. Free Speech and Terrorism. The Supreme Court struggled Tuesday to resolve a conflict between the free-speech rights of a Los Angeles-based advocate for international peace and a broad anti-terrorism law that makes it a crime to advise a foreign terrorist group, even if it means advising its members to seek peace. Quote of the Day. "The American people and the governing class have accepted that war has become a permanent condition. Protracted war has become a widely accepted part of our politics." Andrew Bacevich, retired Army Col. (and now history professor at Boston University) whose son was killed in Iraq in 2007, on how eight years of war have affected American foreign policy. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 29 weeks ago
Health Care. President Obama signaled his determination to forge ahead with a Democratic vision of comprehensive health-care reform as he unveiled on Monday an ambitious proposal that would extend coverage to 31 million people, raise taxes on the wealthy, and ratchet up regulations on insurers. Afghanistan-Civilian Deaths. The U.S. defence secretary has said that NATO forces are doing their best to avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan, after an air raid killed 27 people, including women and a child. Darfur. Sudan's largest opposition group is set to sign a peace deal with the government that could end the conflict in Darfur. Quote of the Day. "Oh God, what happens if the staff for these members finally wakes up, realizes what they are doing and makes them stop? A lot of them have aides follow them around so they won't say something stupid in the hallway." Mike Madden, Salon.com Washington correspondent, on the more than one-third of members of Congress who regularly tweet. To follow Congress, see TweetCongress.org. (Los Angeles Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 30 weeks ago
Haiti. Next month in New York, the international community's commitment to Haiti's reconstruction will face its first big test. At a meeting of donor nations and international organizations, the Haitian government is to present its preliminary reconstruction plan, which it hopes will set the stage for a large and lasting commitment by the rest of the world. Afghanistan-Civilians Killed. One day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an impassioned plea for American-led forces to do more to avoid killing civilians in their fight against the Taliban, a NATO air strike killed as many as 33 civilians in southern Afghanistan. Immigration. An ambitious, multibillion-dollar project to hot-wire the new Southwest border fence with high-tech radar, cameras, and satellite signals has been plagued with serious system failures and repeated delays and will probably not be completed for another seven years -- if it is finished at all. Quote of the Day. "If you were to take the best engineers in the world and try to design the perfect plug for a child's airway, it would be a hot dog. I'm a pediatric emergency doctor, and to try to get them out once they're wedged in, it's almost impossible." Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH, on a study urging that hot dogs be "redesigned" so they are less likely to become stuck in children’s throats. About 17% of food-related asphyxiations in children are caused by hot dogs. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 30 weeks ago
Posted by Duane Shank 4 years 30 weeks ago
Deficit Commission. With the national debt soaring, Republican leaders reluctantly consented Thursday to join Democrats on a bipartisan commission to address the government's budget problems. Black Farmers. The Obama administration announced a $1.25 billion settlement Thursday to resolve charges by thousands of black farmers who say that for decades the Agriculture Department discriminated against them in loan programs. Climate Change. The sense of disarray in the global effort to address climate change deepened Thursday with the resignation of Yvo de Boer, the stolid Dutch bureaucrat who led the international climate change negotiations over four tumultuous years. Quote of the Day. "When people are not treated right, you have an obligation to do something about it ... So get in the way, get in trouble -- but good trouble." Rep. John Lewis, U.S. House member from Georgia and civil rights veteran, speaking at Central Piedmont Community College. (Charlotte Observer)