A Happy Homecoming for Merrill Newman

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85-year-old Merrill Newman was recently “deported” from North Korea and returned to the United States this morning after being detained on October 26th by North Korean authorities. Newman is a Korean War veteran and according to son Newman “wanted to see the country and culture he has been interested in for years” (from a CNN article). All the arrangements had been made and Newman had been cleared for a visa before he left. However, just as Newman was about to depart from North Korea, authorities came and took him off the aircraft. After releasing a statement of apology to the North Korean people (an act that many believe Newman may have been coerced into) he was eventually released for “humanitarian reasons” … whatever that means. Now Newman is finally reunited with his family and probably ready for some R&R. Welcome home Merrill Newman! 

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Nelson Mandela’s Death

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“Mandela achieved more than can be expected of any man. Today he has gone home.

He no longer belongs to us, he now belongs to the ages”

These were some touching words that President Obama had to say about “father of modern South Africa.” Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to many; the leader of the anti-apartheid movement; and eventually became the President of South Africa.  He overcame the greatest of odds to become one of todays most revered leaders. There are many who denounce Mandela since he supported armed resistance against opponents to the anti-apartheid movement. There is much controversy over this topic and whether or not Mandela truly supported these actions or not since the South African government insists that he was not involved in the beatings or killings. Regardless of the accusations, it can at least be respected that he has brought the country into modern times and has eliminated the apartheid movement.

RIP Nelson Mandela.

Low Point for the President

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There is no denying that the past few months have been a low point of Obama’s presidency. There has been a growing number of American’s that have lost trust in the President. According to a Huffington Post article, 53% of those polled in a recent CNN/ORC poll said that they do not think Obama is trustworthy or honest. Not only that, but a recent Gallup poll found that Obama’s overall job approval has dropped to a rating of 41%… his lowest yet. Why so low you ask? Well, let’s take a look at what has been bringing Barack down… health care.

Affordable Care Act: this is one of the main reasons for the low approval ratings. Health Care reform in general has tainted the president’s public image. People will never completely agree on Health Care. Everyone is going to want something different, something better. That’s why it is pretty easy to point fingers and say, “ughhhhh anything but THIS.” The growing distrust of Obama on this issued occurred when he, according to an article in The Washington Post, “knowingly deceived” the public (this is disputed) when he said people could keep their health insurance if they desired.

HealthCare.gov: It was a train wreck. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. Launching this website that was supposed to make finding health care easier just lead to people becoming even more frustrated and confused about the system. So, this little speed bump brought Obama down too. 

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the President. HealthCare.gov improvements have been made and hopefully that will patch a few things up for him. Approval ratings always fluctuate throughout presidencies. Since we are no longer in “honeymoon” stage with the president, there’s no surprise his ratings have dropped. 

 

I can be your hero babyyyyy

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It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it. Chad Pregracke was recently named the CNN “hero of the year.” What did he do to deserve this title you ask? Did he save kittens from burning buildings? Did he disable a ticking time bomb? Did he cure cancer? well… no, but he sure has cleaned up a lot of rivers! It may not seem like a glamourous job, and one that clearly does not get recognized often; however, this “rivers’ garbageman,” as he is lovingly referred to, works every day to keep our rivers clean. Pregracke and his team recycle almost 90% of the garbage they find. So, not only are they making our rivers prettier, but they are paying it forward too.

Here’s Pregracke receiving his award:

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/bestoftv/2013/11/29/cnnheroes-chad-pregracke-intv.cnn.html

HealthCare.gov: Up and Running (smoothly)

According to an article by CNN, the Obamacare website is now running relatively smoothly for most users. Before the glitches were fixed, many users weren’t able to even sign on or into the website, let alone get healthcare from it. Now, it seems as though there has been vast improvements. The beginning of December was the deadline for the website to start up again. There were many doubts that so many problems could be fixed in that time… but I guess when your administration starts to get a bad rep you start working overtime. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, is relieved that the website has vastly improved, “Clearly by any metric, the website is much better than it was,” said Schiff (according to an article in USA Today). “Let’s hope that this is now the end of the botched website — we can move into a new phase where people are enrolling, where people are seeing the benefits of expanded coverage.”

Rep. Schiff isn’t the only one who is relieved, President Obama must be quite pleased that the website is finally starting to work more smoothly. He spoke earlier at The White House about the improvements his administration had in mind for the site. Take a look!

Governor Christie looking to become President Christie?

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According to most recent national polls and a CNN report, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie seems to be the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. Christie has made a huge impact on people already, becoming something of a celebrity politician with his no-nonsense attitude. Christie and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton seem to be the top contenders for their respective parties. According to a POLITICO.com article, “Clinton has an overwhelming lead with 63 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic saying she would be their top choice for the nomination.” If Clinton drops out though, most of that support will most likely go to Vice President Biden as the next contender. But what kind of nominee will these individuals be? Both nominees have a significant amount of experience under their belts so this race could be interesting.

The Tea Party seems to be a little weary of Christie since he has a history of some compromise with the democratic party. I can almost hear them chanting, “off with his head!” now. When it comes to Clinton, she definitely has the support of the Democratic Party, however she hasn’t made it completely clear whether or not she is going to run or not. Only time will tell….

Shop til you drop….dead.

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When most people think of Black Friday they think of the crazy deals and discounts… but it’s much more than that (at least to some people).  Today, according to a Black Friday Death Count there have been 5 deaths and 81 injuries. The Huffington Post reported that law enforcement had to be brought into many stores  due to the violence from shoppers. Come on people, REALLY, REALLY?? You are going to literally STAB someone over a Walmart parking space? Have some pride. I’d understand a Target parking space… but Walmart? Wow. How much more of a discount can you even get at that place? I once saw a t-shirt being sold there for $0.75.

SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS.

What more are people expecting??? A FIFTY CENT t-shirt? But I digress… what I am trying to say is that Black Friday is a sham. A total sham. I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that basically said Black Friday is an elaborate scheme to make people think they are getting a great deal when in reality they aren’t getting that much of a steal after all. For example, that $175 jacket you got for 50% off? Yeah, it was never meant to ever be priced that high. Realistically, it was probably worth around exactly the same price you bought it for. Months in advance companies jack up prices to make it seem as though the discounts you are getting are outrageous deals; when in fact they are not. Sorry ya’ll.

On that note, stay safe, save your money, and have a happy holiday!

Filibuster Rule Change…. and Fili”BUST” or a Fili”MUST” ?

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Last week something prettyyyyyy important happened in the Senate. Now this news might not be as sexy as gay marriage and gun law news… but it potentially it could effect both of these subjects and many more. As many of you (hopefully) know, a filibuster is a procedure a Senator can use to delay a vote on a bill. A bill has to pass through both houses of Congress before it can be sent on to the head-hancho (aka El Presidente aka Obama). For more information on this process you can check out The White House page on The Legislative Branch. For a while now, there has been this huge debate over whether or not filibusters actually have a purpose in the Senate or just stall work from getting done.

Basically, this is the deal: Before the filibuster change in the Senate, there was a required 60-vote supermajority necessary for all executive branch and judicial nominees. Now, all that is required is a simple up-or-down vote (a direct, simple majority vote) for these nominees. So essentially the filibuster doesn’t apply to them. It DOES however, according to an article The Washington Post, apply to bills and Supreme Court nominations.

Why this could be good: Maybe we will see more action in the Senate. The polarization of the two major parties has caused a total gridlock in government action. This change might lead to a more responsive Congress.

Why this could be bad: This change does not really protect the power of the minority, it anything  it weakens it more… making it impossible for the minority party to have much say in nominations.

What I think: I doubt there will be much change. If anything, this change may come back to bite the Democratic majority in the butt. If the Republicans ever gain back a majority… the Democrats won’t have much say in actions the GOP will be bound to take.

For a more in-depth opinions on this topic, the New York Times published a debate between four different political scientists discussing the pros and cons of the filibuster change… take a look and see what ya think!

Kid President Strikes Again!

I’m sure you have all heard of the Kid President. He is an inspirational, internet sensation. His most recent presidential platform doesn’t include healthcare reform, a nuclear pact, or tax programs. Instead, the Kid President is more focused on important issues like “20 Things We Should Say More Often.” His videos have touched many and even President Obama himself has met with the pint-sized politician. His simple words of wisdom remind us to focus on the important things in life. Things like being kind to others and always saying thank you. Kid President might not be dealing with national crises but he sure knows how to put a smile on everyone’s face.

Go on, indulge yourself in some binge watching of this lil fella…