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Washington, DC – A large and ideologically diverse coalition of civic organizations called upon (PDF) Congress today to approve the “Strengthen House Floor Integrity Resolution,” sponsored by US Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), that would end a special privilege enjoyed by former lawmakers who are now registered lobbyists: access to the US House floor during ceremonial events.
The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, approved by Congress in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, applied a ban on access to the House floor for lobbyists to members-turned-lobbyists as well. However, an exemption in both House and Senate rules allows members-turned-lobbyists to access the floor during “ceremonial” events, such as the State of the Union address. At this year’s State of the Union address, at least one former member-turned-lobbyist was prominently featured on national television visiting with colleagues and networking throughout the floor of the House.
Part I - The Historical Precedent
In the spring of 1793, France, then at war with Great Britain, sent a new ambassador to the United States. His name was Edmond Charles Genet (aka Citizen Genet). His instructions were to undermine the neutral position President George Washington had taken in the conflict. To this end Genet, who had the backing of anti-British elements within the American population, went about subverting peace by commissioning American ships to act as privateers against British commercial vessels. He also tried to provoke hostilities between Americans living along the western borders and the Spaniards (then allies of Great Britain) in Florida and Louisiana. This meddling in the internal affairs of the United States was quickly recognized as dangerous, and Washington demanded that France recall Genet.
If you have ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s gruesome stories you may recall feelings of horror like those which made me, still a youngster, cringe and shudder. I have similar feelings when I hear of bloodthirsty, barely-hidden “concerts” by German “Neo-Nazis”, which too often lead to violence against subjects of their hatred: hippy-type leftist youngsters called “ticks” (their vocabulary), but above all people with other accents, clothes or skin colors.
Such groups, present all over the map, seem strongest in southeastern Saxony, northeastern Mecklenburg and the western Ruhr region, all areas plagued by unemployment, especially among young people.
Washington DC - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is providing $330 million of financing to aid Ebola-impacted countries. The plan includes $170 million of debt relief and grant-like aid for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The new plan also expands a debt relief facility previously used to cancel debt after Haiti's 2010 earthquake. The new expanded facility, the Catastrophe Containment Relief Trust (CCR), is now a permanent debt relief facility for the world's poorest countries when they experience shocks such as epidemics or natural disasters.
"This aid is so vital for the countries affected by Ebola," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA Network. "Now we have a permanent debt relief vehicle for when the poorest countries face certain crises. Essentially, a global social safety net is now in place to protect the least developed countries when they experience disasters."
Washington, D.C. – Reforming the flow of money into politics and revitalizing democracy requires a new framework: a focus on enhancing political opportunity, concludes a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and New America. Such a principle would both engage the public and lead to the creation of policy proposals that are both effective and achievable.
Friday, February 6, 2015 is the 70th birthday of reggae star Bob Marley. The milestone is likely to pass on the national stage - even among most progressives - as a nonevent. Celebration concerts planned in various locations around the world, headlined along the lines of the title of this essay, are likely to attract the attention of few beyond the devoted reggae fan. Bob Marley, in the West, is largely dismissed as something of a freaky dread from the Islands, great smile, some cool songs, stoned on marijuana half the time (well, closer to all the time). But then, heroes have always been dismissed by the Establishment, by those who cling to the lies and half-truths of life in the mainstream.
Two of the greatest noble heroes of the 20th Century were Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. Even to mention Bob Marley in the same breath as these iconic figures is to invite laughter and derision. It shouldn't.
Ronald Reagan’s assertion back in 1984 that “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought” seems to have become accepted across the political spectrum in the US and abroad. The level of destruction that would result would at best make it impossible for medical systems to respond adequately and at worst lead to climate change on a global scale. Reagan continued: “The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
Thirty years later, the paradox of deterrence—nine nuclear powers with weapons kept absolutely ready for use so that they will never have to be used—is far from resolved. Meanwhile 9-11 bent our imaginations toward suicidal nuclear terrorism. The possession of even our large and varied arsenal of nuclear weapons would not deter a determined extremist. Fear became so powerful that it motivated not only the grotesque proliferation of information-gathering agencies but also assassination and torture. Anything became justified, including trillion dollar stalemated wars, to preempt the wrong adversary from getting their hands on a nuke.
With the frenzy in Europe and parts of the United States, after the Pegida demonstrations and the Charlie Hebdo attacks, it is worth pausing to consider what a de-Islamized Europe or America would look like. It is worth remembering some history and some science.
It is quite easy to debunk the purity or the “Europeanness” of one’s daily life in the West. Imagine your life without the “European” comforts of sugar, syrup, cotton, coffee, marzipan or jars and mattresses. These and dozens more are Arabic words that mark the gifts of Islamic “states” of North Africa, Spain, Sicily or Turkey via the contacts, exchanges, conquests, and mixes that occurred over the centuries of Muslims living in Europe BEFORE the renaissance, BEFORE the industrial revolution.
A coalition of anti-fracking groups and the Center for Biological Diversity today urged the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately shut down hundreds of injection wells that are illegally dumping toxic oil industry wastewater into scores of California aquifers during the midst of a record drought.
Oil and gas companies over decades used more than 170 waste disposal wells to inject oil and gas wastewater into dozens of aquifers containing potable water, in violation of state and federal law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The majority of these violations are located in California’s Central Valley, while others are near San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has joined the growing chorus of top medical professionals and organizations in favor of reforming marijuana laws to allow access for medical purposes.
On today’s CBS This Morning Murthy said, “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful. I think that we have to use that data to drive policymaking.”