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Somalia Is Dying. Why Don’t We Care?

July 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The United Nations warned Friday that all of Southern Somalia is in danger of slipping into famine. The number of people needing food is now at 12.4 million. Routes out of Somalia towards refugee camps are being called “roads of death” because of the bodies of those who starved to death along the way — particularly children — left by the roadside.

In the last week, since the Canadian Government announced that they would match all donations made to famine relief in Somalia and other parts of Africa, Canadians have donated — but not much. Since the announcement of donation matching, Canadians have donated $2.9 million to the Humanitarian Coalition, a group of charities that includes the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontiers and World Vision.

In contrast, in the week after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated parts of Japan on 11 march, Canadians donated over $10 million to disaster relief, despite the fact that Japan is a wealthy, first world country with plenty of resources of its own. Why the discrepancy?

The issues are complex. Individuals may feel that donating to famine relief in the Horn of Africa is a waste of money, particularly since it is well known that aid agencies are having a very difficult time getting assistance directly to those who need it. Warlords and corruption are both having enormous impacts on how much aid is actually able to reach those in need.

Canadians also have a troubled history with Somalia. During a peacekeeping mission in 1993, a Somali teenager was killed at the hands of Canadian soldiers — a scandal that had deep and far-reaching implications for the Canadian military and left many Canadians wary of peacekeeping missions overall.

In addition, the media coverage of  Somalia is patchy. The story is not even current top news on CBC, CTV, BBC or CNN. The disaster in Japan, on the other hand, was immediate, widely broadcasted, repeated frequently and was immediately, viscerally devastating.

Finally, with the debt crisis in the US, political intrigue in Ottawa and July holidays being in full swing, people may simply be distracted. Life is busy, after all, and the suffering and deaths of thousands of Africans is incredibly difficult to comprehend and thus is hard to keep on our radars.

But even if it’s not on the news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. People are dying. Children are too malnourished and weak to even try to feed from their mothers or take in any food that might come their way. Mothers are leaving the bodies of their babies by the side of the road when they cannot reach a refugee camp in time — and even if they reach the camp, there’s no guarantee there’s enough space or food.

[Please. . .] sign the Care2 petition, telling President Obama and his administration to make aid to Somalia a priority.

[Reprinted from Care2 Make A Difference, Jul 30, 2011]
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Five keys to debt deal compromise

July 28, 2011 Leave a comment

 
[Reprint Warning! If you are opposed to reading a reprint, Stop Now! Don’t Read Any Further!]

 

At times like this, it’s tempting to recall the 1987 movie No Way Out and a deliciously biting Beltway line from that movie.

It’s when a beautiful but cynical Washington party girl, Susan Atwell (played by Sean Young), first meets handsome Navy Cmdr. Tom Farrell (played by Kevin Costner):

Susan Atwell: Are you one of them?

Tom Farrell: One of what?

Susan Atwell: These hypocrites. All posh and shiny getting ready for four more years of ramming it to the rest of us.

Right now, Washington looks and feels stuck in No Way Out syndrome. It has nothing to do with that Cold War celluloid thriller and everything to do with ideology and inertia in the debt-ceiling debate. By all outward appearances, the dominant caucuses in Congress can be named “I Won’t” and “I Can’t.”

But is there room for an 11th-hour compromise? Is the glue available, possibly even visible, to patch together a deal?

Possibly.

First, of course, the existing plans have to die their inevitable legislative deaths. House Speaker John Boehner’s $900 billion debt-ceiling increase, now redrafted with $917 billion in cuts certified by the Congressional Budget Office, will pass the House on Thursday. It will then die when the Democratically controlled Senate tables it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s $2.7 trillion debt-ceiling increase will not surmount a GOP filibuster and therefore will die as well.

After swift burial, Congress will have four days to work out a deal to avert the default that Treasury says will begin on August 2. The key sticking point and the must-have for President Obama and Reid is an increase in debt authority of at least $2.7 trillion—enough to last until early 2013. When Reid sent a letter to Boehner on Wednesday signed by all 51 Senate Democrats and the two independents promising to kill his bill, the only reason cited was that it lacked a debt-limit increase past the 2012 election. This is Obama and Reid’s irreducible minimum. Democrats cannot and will not back away from it—not for economic or political reasons which, for all Democrats, are tightly intertwined.

Republicans must reconcile themselves to this fact. The question, therefore, is this: can both sides strike a deal and avert a default? It won’t be easy. To do so, Obama and Reid will have to give House Republicans additional concessions—compared to where things stand now—to draft a bill that can pass in both chambers. Boehner might have to give a thing or two as well.

Based on National Journal’s reporting, a smidgen of tea leaf reading, and a careful look at the underlying numbers and policy, here are five areas of possible compromise.

1. Balanced Budget Amendment: House Republicans desperately want a vote in both chambers on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. It’s required in the Boehner bill but Reid’s bill doesn’t address it. Adding a balanced-budget amendment vote in the Senate (where Democrats would offer an alternative version) could mollify some House Republicans.

2. Tax increases: The Boehner bill establishes a 12-member congressional “Super Committee” to draft $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction this year and gives the committee’s recommendations an expedited path to the House and Senate floor with no opportunity for amendments. For some mysterious reason, Boehner’s bill does not tell the committee it can’t raise taxes—even though Reid has offered $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction without tax increases. If the committee mandate was to pursue tax reform in the context of deficit reduction (a stated goal of both parties) but do so without a net tax increase, Boehner might be able to sell House Republicans on a longer debt-ceiling increase.

3. Defense spending: The Reid bill seeks much less in security spending (defense and veterans) than House Republicans and Obama. The numbers appear artificially low, seeking defense cuts that Reid might not get through the Senate when considered in isolation. The apparent artificiality of the numbers suggests they might be fodder for compromise. Reid, for example, seeks $31 billion less for security than Obama in fiscal year 2012 and $49 billion less than Obama in 2013 ($29 billion in 2012 and $47 billion less in 2013 when compared to the budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.). If Reid agreed to higher defense numbers, that might prove attractive to House Republicans—but he would have to give a lot, thus jeopardizing non-defense discretionary spending. At this late hour, these trade-offs will almost have to be zero-sum maneuvers.

4. Discretionary spending: When Boehner and Reid introduced their original bills, the numbers for overall discretionary spending were almost identical—oddly so. There was only $1 billion separating the budget authority numbers for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Beneath that, Boehner’s first bill cut $7 billion from last year’s budget and Reid cut $5 billion. Boehner’s redrafted bill seeks $22 billion in cuts (compared to the Ryan budget that sought $31 billion in cuts). If Boehner started at $7 billion and has jumped up to $22 billion, a middle number would be $15 billion. And that would be half as much as Ryan’s budget. That’s a first-year discretionary spending cut that might work for both sides and reflect a true middle ground.

5. Other entitlement savings: Reid’s bill is very specific (or at least more specific than Boehner’s bill) about the $70 billion in savings it envisions from changes to non-third rail entitlements. Exempting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the Reid bill counts $40 billion in savings over 10 years from the elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid (and hires the investigators to do it—along with agents to tighten up tax enforcement). It also counts $15 billion in broadband spectrum sales and up to $15 billion in savings from agriculture price supports. All of these ideas were passed back and forth during the earlier budget talks with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. They are low-hanging fruit. Boehner’s bill refers to them opaquely but doesn’t’ count them. If Boehner agrees to count them, that could give Reid and Democrats some breathing room when considering the implications of the super committee’s future deficit-reduction proposals—a $70 billion buffer, if you will, to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Without question, each of these areas of possible compromise is fraught with peril. For every reason why a compromise might work and is even apparent, there are probably five or 10 reasons why Republicans and Democrats would rather not. But the time for rather not is dwindling. Default is drawing closer and economic anxiety is growing.

No Way Out isn’t just a movie title. It’s becoming a legislative way of life in this saga. Perhaps the items listed above may prove to be a way out. Quite possibly, there are others. Either way, Congress doesn’t want voters to conclude lawmakers are all “posh and shiny” and just spent their summer “ramming it to the rest of us.”

[Reprinted from: National Journal; Author: Major Garrett]

NFL: Brett Favre, Another Season, Another Rumor, Another Decision?

July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Here we go again. Another season of NFL football looms on the horizon, and somewhere sitting on a tractor in Mississippi, Brett Favre is getting antsy.

First, the Jets, then my Vikings, now, supposedly, the Eagles. Will the drama ever end?

I get it, Brett is an old pro, he’s been playing his whole life, and it’s very hard to let go. The camaraderie in the locker room, the butterflies a guy gets on game day when he has the ball in his hands with mere seconds on the clock, it’s a big deal to just walk away from.

He’s tried to walk away, sort of. So far, he’s just been unable to do it.

So, instead of lamenting the fact that Brett’s career is over in the minds of many fans and he should just give it up, perhaps we should just attempt to look at it from his point of view.

Why, because we owe it to him? No, as fans it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’ And last year, Brett didn’t do much of anything. The year before, of course, looked to be the Vikes’ time, with Brett leading the way. Everything had fallen into place for the veteran, and as a fan I was loving the ride.

For me, it was great to see Brett shine again. There is something about the gun slinging quarterback that intrigues me. The whole concept of a guy throwing caution to the wind and putting the team on his back as he throws a Hail Mary pass is what the League is all about. No one personifies that mentality better than Brett Favre.

When Minnesota lost to New Orleans, I was crushed. Not surprised, but crushed nonetheless. I wasn’t surprised because when a player like Brett hit’s the field with his shoot first ask questions later mindset, it comes as no shock to anyone when he fails. After all, that’s the chance he takes every time he comes out of the huddle.

But, that loss cannot be squarely placed on Brett of course. To quote Doug Reemer in BaseketBall, “it took the whole team working together to lose this one.”

So, the next season comes, and we go through ‘the return part 3.’ Brett comes back, looking to vindicate not only himself, but his team. No doubt, this time, he was going to get it right.

As we all know, that didn’t work out too well.

Okay, you’re Brett Favre. Why are you even entertaining the possibility of coming back again, this time in a support role? It doesn’t make sense, you like being the General, you love playing the fourth quarter hero, so why take a backseat to Vick or anyone else?

Simple. You truly love the game. You have become a man playing football, raised a family, lived a full life, and the NFL has always been there, always been a part of your life. How do you give that up?

It could very well be that this is nothing but rumor. Brett could come out today and deny the whole thing. You know, like he did before. Three years in a row.

Or, we could all be on the edge of our seats once again, as Brett takes the game into his hands and tries to put to rest all the whispers that he should just stay home and let the younger players have their day.

Everyone dig in and get ready for the ride. Here we go again.

Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever.

[Reprinted from Bleacher Report]
Categories: Interesting Info, NFL, Sports

Congress’ War on Women, the Global Edition

July 23, 2011 Leave a comment

When Congress turns this week to another round of negotiations over spending for 2011, much of the country will be focused on the sure-to-be contentious debate over the House proposal to strip federal funding from family planning services, including from Planned Parenthood clinics.   But there’s another anti-woman proposal buried deep in the House’s proposed spending bill that has gone virtually unnoticed, even though it also promises to endanger the health and lives of women, and on a significantly larger scale. Anti-choice lawmakers–apparently not content with only targeting basic medical services for millions of American families–are also taking aim at women in countries around the world.

They have proposed a measure that would prohibit U.S.-funded family planning groups based overseas from using their own money to provide safe, legal abortion, counsel or refer for abortion, or even lobby their own governments for the legalization of abortion. This policy has nothing to do with the federal debt, but it would severely reduce the availability of reproductive health services, including abortion and contraception, muzzle advocacy efforts to change abortion laws in other countries, and likely condemn countless women to unsafe abortion.

The “Global Gag Rule,” as this policy is commonly known, is a perennial fixation of anti-choice groups and administrations. It was the brainchild of President Reagan, and then implemented by subsequent Republican administrations. Because USAID is the leading global funder of family planning, when the gag rule was in effect during the Reagan and Bush administrations, it hit hard. Organizations that opted to forego U.S. funding were forced to scale back their services and others closed down.  Groups that continued to receive funding saw their free speech rights violated, and their advocacy efforts to liberalize abortion laws stifled.  In countries where abortion is legal, medical providers had to choose between meeting their ethical obligations–discussing all reproductive health options with their patients–and continuing to receive essential funding.

The Global Gag Rule’s clear intent is to prevent women around the world from accessing safe, legal abortions.  But we know from past experience that the policy won’t reduce the number of abortions at all – instead, it will likely lead to more women being forced to rely on unsafe abortions. Already, there are a staggering 20,000,000 unsafe abortions that kill more than 45,000 women each year and inflict injuries, disabilities, and infertility on millions more.

Depriving women of information about legal and safe abortion doesn’t lead to a reduction in abortion, but leads to women resorting to crude and unsafe methods. In Kenya, for example, where until recently, the abortion law was extremely restrictive and abortion services essentially unavailable, common methods of abortion are ingesting bleach, inserting sharp objects or resorting to back-alley abortions. Currently, thirty to forty-percent of maternal deaths in Kenya are attributable to unsafe abortion.  Forcing family planning organizations that provide contraceptive services to shut down or cut services is only likely to exacerbate the problem.

The Global Gag Rule is also un-democratic and un-American.  Our foreign policy should promote free speech and democratic change around the world – not silence groups that are doing nothing more than informing women about their legal reproductive options or peacefully petitioning their governments to ease abortion restrictions.  The Global Gag Rule would be unconstitutional if applied to U.S. citizens.  It is both unfair and unwise to limit the ability of foreign groups to inform women about all of their reproductive options – particularly when many abroad are looking to the United States as a beacon of liberty and free speech.

The Global Gag Rule has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility – it won’t have any effect on the deficit – but it will exact a cost in lost lives and shattered health.  

For more information, read our report, Breaking the Silence:  The Global Gag Rule’s Impact on Unsafe Abortion. The report was issued at the time President George W. Bush implemented a version of the Global Gag Rule, but its findings are as true today as they were then.  And add your voice to those protesting the harmful, anti-woman measures in the House-enacted budget bill.  

Don’t let Congress take a huge step backwards on women’s health here and around the world.

——–The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global legal organization dedicated to advancing women’s reproductive health, self-determination and dignity as basic human rights

Take Action: Sign the petition to end the Global Gag Rule forever.

Eight Ways to Balance Your Life

July 20, 2011 Leave a comment

1. Balance activity with serenity.

Exercise and rest are both essential to a healthy and joyful life.

2. Balance wealth with simplicity.

The best things in life truly are free, but there is also a place for material accomplishments – both for your own sake and for the sake of the world. Avoid the clutter of collecting excess possessions, but treat yourself with a few special items, trips, and other benefits of the modern world.

3. Balance persistence with innovation.

Albert Einstein is sometimes quoted as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Practice, patience, and persistence are essential to success in life, but recognize when the time comes to stop what you are doing and to search for a different route toward your life goals.

4. Balance community with solitude.

Life success requires teamwork with a community of like-minded companions, yet you must also allow time for solitude – time for contemplation, time for relaxation, and time to be your own self with no pressure to conform or to please others.

5. Balance familiarity with adventure.

Adventure is like the seasoning on your meal – life is monotonous and boring without adventure, yet there is also a crucial place for the familiar. Physically and emotionally comfortable surroundings are essential to your wellbeing. There is no place like a comfortable home from which to launch your adventures and to which you return – either as the victorious hero or in shameless defeat, ready to recharge and set out on the next adventure.

6. Balance constancy with change.

Tradition lends a comforting structure to life. Imagine if at each meal you had to decide on which side of the plate to place the fork. Doing what our parents did before us and their parents did before them, creates a stability and eases the small details of life. However, constancy is also habit, and there is a time to question all old habits – perhaps consciously renewing them, but hopefully often deciding to make new choices.

7. Balance leading with following.

There are times to follow, but also times to raise your own torch and lead, as well as times to choose to disengage. Life is too short to fight all the battles. Choose your causes wisely, and then choose whether you need to become a leader of the cause.

8. Balance being of service with play and celebration.

A life without service is not likely to be fulfilling, but you must charge your own batteries – physical, mental, and emotional – before you can inspire, motivate, and serve others.

 

Thanks to  for inspiration.

 

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July 19, 2011 Leave a comment

 

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Weekly Astrology for Lovers

July 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Your Weekly LoveCast for July 18-24, 2011

Your Love Horoscope

Fantasy fuels romance at the beginning of the week, causing practicalities to fly out the window. Afflictions to Moon in Aries mid-week can intensify irritability or impulsiveness. Friday is a great time for a spontaneous tryst, while the weekend favors a leisurely, sensual encounter because of Moon in Taurus. Best days for socializing: Any day this week except Wednesday and Thursday.

Aries Love Horoscope

Staying emotionally balanced will be difficult toward the middle of the week, when you’re likely to do or say something rash. On the upside, you might experience a breakthrough in a troubling emotional issue. During the weekend, taking a hint from Mother Nature by using natural scents, sounds and sheets will deepen passion!

Taurus Love Horoscope

Socializing can bring a romantic interlude at the start of the week. Taking some time to yourself mid-week can bring a surprising insight about your past and get you in touch with your intuition as well. The Moon in your sign this weekend makes you a magnet for admirers by firing up your sensuality. Enjoy!

Gemini Love Horoscope

Offering your expertise in a professional setting may bring a romantic encounter at the beginning of the week. Socializing can have an unpleasant outcome on Wednesday or Thursday, so choose your companions carefully. Creating a cozy ambiance and sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings will intensify intimacy during the weekend!

Cancer Love Horoscope

You’re especially expressive at the start of the week, so share your feelings in a heartfelt, poetic or humorous way to inspire/attract romance. A jarring encounter (at work?) is likely on Wednesday or Thursday. Socializing is energized this weekend, when a gathering of friends or a group project can bring a romantic interlude.

Leo Love Horoscope

Sharing your sensitive, poetic side will deepen intimacy at the start of the week. Impulsiveness or the need for freedom can upset romance on Wednesday or Thursday, so engage your brain before you leap into action (or away from your partner). Slowing down to enjoy the subtle pleasures of love will set passion ablaze this weekend!

Virgo Love Horoscope

A shared activity will bring satisfaction at the beginning of the week, but feeling vulnerable may cause you to erect an emotional wall shortly thereafter. During the weekend, your sensuality and sense of adventurous merge, so plan an exotic date with your sweetie, or look for someone new during a trip, class or cultural event.

Libra Love Horoscope

A helpful act inspires love at the start of the week. Romance may be a bumpy ride mid-week, however, when your partner or close friend threatens to have a meltdown. Patience and objectivity will help get the relationship back on track. Getting physical via a massage, scrumptious cuisine or a hike in beautiful surrounding will intensify passion this weekend!

Scorpio Love Horoscope

The flow of feelings inspires love at the beginning of the week, a great time for a rendezvous. Your wicked side may emerge mid-week if your feelings overpower your intellect. Sharing brings satisfaction this weekend, so plan an intimate date with your sweetie or share what’s in your heart with a close friend over dinner.

Sagittarius Love Horoscope

A romantic encounter may have unintended consequences toward the middle of the week, so be mindful of whom you spend time with. Love may need a show of practical support this weekend, so prepare to lend a helping hand to someone close to you. Romance can be found during a charity event or healthy activity.

Capricorn Love Horoscope

Verbalizing your feelings inspires love at the beginning of the week. Look for romance through an online source or while learning something new. Some stress at home can upset love mid-week. Your fun-loving side makes you irresistible during the weekend, when romance can be found at a party, club or concert.

Aquarius Love Horoscope

For good or bad, your desire to change things up mid-week may prompt you to say something shocking, which will likely have consequences. Other communications will be unpredictable too. Your home will be social-central this weekend, so why not create an artsy ambiance and throw a party for 10 or 100 of your closest friends?

Pisces Love Horoscope

Your mystique is irresistible at the start of the week, so put yourself out there and share who you are to inspire/attract romance! A problem over money or values can derail romance toward the middle of the week. Combining your heart and mind through your words, whether heartfelt, witty or insightful will inspire love this weekend.

Categories: Astrology