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Protective Life
11 ноября, 14:33

Russia’s 3rd-generation Ratnik combat gear to feature exoskeleton

Designers say outfit will enhance physical capabilities of infantryRussian designers are to present the third-generation Ratnik ("Warrior") combat gear to the world in seven years, the TASS news agency has reported (in Russian), citing the press service of the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building (TsNIITochMash, a subsidiary of the Rostec state corporation). According to the designers, the armor will feature an active exoskeleton, which will significantly increase the physical power of soldiers wearing it. "An active exoskeleton is a mechanism whose hinges are equipped with electric and hydraulic drives, to enhance the possibilities of the musculoskeletal system," said the report. The passive exoskeleton, which also will be one of the components of the new gear, will not contain wire and will not be connected to the body of the serviceman. Photo: 'Ratnik' modern military garment. Source: Mikhail Voskresenskiy/RIA Novosti The passive exoskeleton, which also will be one of the components of the new gear, will not contain wire and will not be connected to the body of the serviceman. It, in turn, will serve to reduce the load on joints and will reduce the likelihood of injury. As TsNIITochMash's CEO Dmitry Semizorov previously noted (in Russian), the next, third-generation Ratnik outfit will appear in five to seven years. According to him, all the components of the system (protection, life support, power supply, etc.) will reach a fundamentally new level of technology. In addition to exoskeletal structures, designers will create systems to display information and target designation on the visor or goggles. Read more: Russia developing new robot sapper>>> Subscribe to get the hand picked best stories every week

13 октября, 17:37

Executive Order -- Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events

EXECUTIVE ORDER - - - - - - - COORDINATING EFFORTS TO PREPARE THE NATION FOR SPACE WEATHER EVENTS By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to prepare the Nation for space weather events, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Policy. Space weather events, in the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, occur regularly, some with measurable effects on critical infrastructure systems and technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite operations and communication, aviation, and the electrical power grid. Extreme space weather events -- those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure -- could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents. Successfully preparing for space weather events is an all-of-nation endeavor that requires partnerships across governments, emergency managers, academia, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, and the private sector. It is the policy of the United States to prepare for space weather events to minimize the extent of economic loss and human hardship. The Federal Government must have (1) the capability to predict and detect a space weather event, (2) the plans and programs necessary to alert the public and private sectors to enable mitigating actions for an impending space weather event, (3) the protection and mitigation plans, protocols, and standards required to reduce risks to critical infrastructure prior to and during a credible threat, and (4) the ability to respond to and recover from the effects of space weather. Executive departments and agencies (agencies) must coordinate their efforts to prepare for the effects of space weather events. Sec. 2. Objectives. This order defines agency roles and responsibilities and directs agencies to take specific actions to prepare the Nation for the hazardous effects of space weather. These activities are to be implemented in conjunction with those identified in the 2015 National Space Weather Action Plan (Action Plan) and any subsequent updates. Implementing this order and the Action Plan will require the Federal Government to work across agencies and to develop, as appropriate, enhanced and innovative partnerships with State, tribal, and local governments; academia; non-profits; the private sector; and international partners. These efforts will enhance national preparedness and speed the creation of a space-weather-ready Nation. Sec. 3. Coordination. (a) The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), shall coordinate the development and implementation of Federal Government activities to prepare the Nation for space weather events, including the activities established in section 5 of this order and the recommendations of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), established by Executive Order 12881 of November 23, 1993 (Establishment of the National Science and Technology Council). (b) To ensure accountability for and coordination of research, development, and implementation of activities identified in this order and in the Action Plan, the NSTC shall establish a Space Weather Operations, Research, and Mitigation Subcommittee (Subcommittee). The Subcommittee member agencies shall conduct activities to advance the implementation of this order, to achieve the goals identified in the 2015 National Space Weather Strategy and any subsequent updates, and to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the activities specified in the Action Plan and provide subsequent updates. Sec. 4. Roles and Responsibilities. To the extent permitted by law, the agencies below shall adopt the following roles and responsibilities, which are key to ensuring enhanced space weather forecasting, situational awareness, space weather preparedness, and continuous Federal Government operations during and after space weather events. (a) The Secretary of Defense shall ensure the timely provision of operational space weather observations, analyses, forecasts, and other products to support the mission of the Department of Defense and coalition partners, including the provision of alerts and warnings for space weather phenomena that may affect weapons systems, military operations, or the defense of the United States. (b) The Secretary of the Interior shall support the research, development, deployment, and operation of capabilities that enhance the understanding of variations of the Earth's magnetic field associated with solar-terrestrial interactions. (c) The Secretary of Commerce shall: (i) provide timely and accurate operational space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, alerts, and real-time space weather monitoring for the government, civilian, and commercial sectors, exclusive of the responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense; and (ii) ensure the continuous improvement of operational space weather services, utilizing partnerships, as appropriate, with the research community, including academia and the private sector, and relevant agencies to develop, validate, test, and transition space weather observation platforms and models from research to operations and from operations to research. (d) The Secretary of Energy shall facilitate the protection and restoration of the reliability of the electrical power grid during a presidentially declared grid security emergency associated with a geomagnetic disturbance pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 824o-1. (e) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall: (i) ensure the timely redistribution of space weather alerts and warnings that support national preparedness, continuity of government, and continuity of operations; and (ii) coordinate response and recovery from the effects of space weather events on critical infrastructure and the broader community. (f) The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shall: (i) implement and support a national research program to understand the Sun and its interactions with Earth and the solar system to advance space weather modeling and prediction capabilities applicable to space weather forecasting; (ii) develop and operate space-weather-related research missions, instrument capabilities, and models; and (iii) support the transition of space weather models and technology from research to operations and from operations to research. (g) The Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) shall support fundamental research linked to societal needs for space weather information through investments and partnerships, as appropriate. (h) The Secretary of State, in consultation with the heads of relevant agencies, shall carry out diplomatic and public diplomacy efforts to strengthen global capacity to respond to space weather events. (i) The Secretaries of Defense, the Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, along with the Administrator of NASA and the Director of NSF, shall work together, consistent with their ongoing activities, to develop models, observation systems, technologies, and approaches that inform and enhance national preparedness for the effects of space weather events, including how space weather events may affect critical infrastructure and change the threat landscape with respect to other hazards. (j) The heads of all agencies that support National Essential Functions, defined by Presidential Policy Directive 40 (PPD-40) of July 15, 2016 (National Continuity Policy), shall ensure that space weather events are adequately addressed in their all-hazards preparedness planning, including mitigation, response, and recovery, as directed by PPD-8 of March 30, 2011 (National Preparedness). (k) NSTC member agencies shall coordinate through the NSTC to establish roles and responsibilities beyond those identified in section 4 of this order to enhance space weather preparedness, consistent with each agency's legal authority. Sec. 5. Implementation. (a) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall develop a plan to test and evaluate available devices that mitigate the effects of geomagnetic disturbances on the electrical power grid through the development of a pilot program that deploys such devices, in situ, in the electrical power grid. After the development of the plan, the Secretary shall implement the plan in collaboration with industry. In taking action pursuant to this subsection, the Secretaries of Energy and Homeland Security shall consult with the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (b) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the heads of the sector-specific agencies that oversee the lifeline critical infrastructure functions as defined by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan of 2013 -- including communications, energy, transportation, and water and wastewater systems -- as well as the Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector, shall assess their executive and statutory authority, and limits of that authority, to direct, suspend, or control critical infrastructure operations, functions, and services before, during, and after a space weather event. The heads of each sector-specific agency shall provide a summary of these assessments to the Subcommittee. (c) Within 90 days of receipt of the assessments ordered in section 5(b) of this order, the Subcommittee shall provide a report on the findings of these assessments with recommendations to the Director of OSTP, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and the Director of OMB. The assessments may be used to inform the development and implementation of policy establishing authorities and responsibilities for agencies in response to a space weather event. (d) Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of Defense and Commerce, the Administrator of NASA, and the Director of NSF, in collaboration with other agencies as appropriate, shall identify mechanisms for advancing space weather observations, models, and predictions, and for sustaining and transitioning appropriate capabilities from research to operations and operations to research, collaborating with industry and academia to the extent possible. (e) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of Defense and Commerce shall make historical data from the GPS constellation and other U.S. Government satellites publicly available, in accordance with Executive Order 13642 of May 9, 2013 (Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information), to enhance model validation and improvements in space weather forecasting and situational awareness. (f) Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and in coordination with relevant agencies, shall lead the development of a coordinated Federal operating concept and associated checklist to coordinate Federal assets and activities to respond to notification of, and protect against, impending space weather events. Within 180 days of the publication of the operating concept and checklist, agencies shall develop operational plans documenting their procedures and responsibilities to prepare for, protect against, and mitigate the effects of impending space weather events, in support of the Federal operating concept and compatible with the National Preparedness System described in PPD-8. Sec. 6. Stakeholder Engagement. The agencies identified in this order shall seek public-private and international collaborations to enhance observation networks, conduct research, develop prediction models and mitigation approaches, enhance community resilience and preparedness, and supply the services necessary to protect life and property and promote economic prosperity, as consistent with law. Sec. 7. Definitions. As used in this order: (a) "Prepare" and "preparedness" have the same meaning they have in PPD-8. They refer to the actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation. This includes the prediction and notification of space weather events. (b) "Space weather" means variations in the space environment between the Sun and Earth (and throughout the solar system) that can affect technologies in space and on Earth. The primary types of space weather events are solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances. (c) "Solar flare" means a brief eruption of intense energy on or near the Sun's surface that is typically associated with sunspots. (d) "Solar energetic particles" means ions and electrons ejected from the Sun that are typically associated with solar eruptions. (e) "Geomagnetic disturbance" means a temporary disturbance of Earth's magnetic field resulting from solar activity. (f) "Critical infrastructure" has the meaning provided in section 1016(e) of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (42 U.S.C. 5195c(e)), namely systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters. (g) "Sector-Specific Agency" means the agencies designated under PPD-21 of February 12, 2013 (Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience), or any successor directive, to be responsible for providing institutional knowledge and specialized expertise as well as leading, facilitating, or supporting the security and resilience programs and associated activities of its designated critical infrastructure sector in the all-hazards environment. Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) the authority granted by law to an agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) the functions of the Director of OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals. (b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations. (c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.   BARACK OBAMA   THE WHITE HOUSE, October 13, 2016.

06 октября, 00:26

Why Some Christians Say The Clinton-Kaine Ticket Is More 'Pro-Life'

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence are two religious men who care strongly about protecting life. But how this affects their politics differs greatly. In a surprisingly sincere and personal moment in Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate, the politicians discussed their religious backgrounds and how their faith impacts their views on the sanctity of life. In their responses, the men epitomized a divide that has historically separated Democrats and Republicans. Kaine discussed his moral opposition to the death penalty, while Pence decried abortion as “anathema” to him. A majority of Republicans would agree with Pence, but not all Christians are satisfied with the Republican ticket’s promise on this issue. People frequently use the term “pro-life” to reflect a stance that favors strict abortion legislation and seeks to protect the rights of individuals starting in the womb. But as many have noted, this stance is more aptly described as “anti-abortion” to reflect the efforts on both sides of the aisle to promote life.  For some Christians, the more “pro-life” stance in this election is actually one championed by Kaine and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In an op-ed published Monday on Christian Post, titled “Hillary Clinton Is the Best Choice for Voters Against Abortion,” Christian political consultant Eric Sapp argued that being “pro-life” should entail more than opposing abortion. “Here’s the question pro-life Christians must ask,” Sapp wrote. “Do we care more about talking about the unborn, or do we actually want to do something to prevent abortions?” Preventing abortions means supporting the women and families who are most likely to have them, Sapp continued, including those who are poor and facing an unexpected pregnancy. And when it comes to supporting women and low-income families, Hillary Clinton is the obvious choice.  “Want to guess which political party is more effective at reducing poverty and unwanted pregnancies?” Sapp wrote. “I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the ‘pro-life’ Party that in this last Congressional session alone fought to cut medical care for poor mothers and children, food programs for kids, and contraception coverage and access for women.” Sapp isn’t alone among Christians in holding these views. Anti-abortion Christian blogger Shannon Dingle discussed her reasons for voting for Hillary Clinton in a article over the summer. Being pro-life can’t just be about ensuring that babies are born without also affirming their value after birth through our words, actions, and policies.” Reducing the rate of abortions, she wrote, starts with addressing the “underlying causes” that lead women to choose the procedure, including poverty and lack of access to healthcare. Beyond abortion, she said, upholding the sanctity of life should include standing up for the lives of all those marginalized in our society ― including women, immigrants, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and religious and racial minorities. “To me,” Dingle wrote, “being pro-life can’t just be about ensuring that babies are born without also affirming their value after birth through our words, actions, and policies.” Prominent Christian writer Rachel Held Evans published a blog shortly after Dingle’s expressing similar views and outlining her reasons for choosing the Clinton-Kaine ticket. “I believe the sacred personhood of an individual begins before birth and continues throughout life,” she wrote. “And I believe that sacred personhood is worth protecting, whether it’s tucked inside a womb, waiting on death row, fleeing Syria in search of a home, or playing beneath the shadow of an American drone.” For these Christians, choosing a pro-abortion rights ticket doesn’t represent a rejection of their religious convictions. On the contrary, they see Clinton and Kaine’s commitment to social justice and to upholding the lives of marginalized communities as precisely what it means to be “pro-life.” -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

05 октября, 20:11

On Abortion, A Surprising Number Of Catholics Side With Tim Kaine

Despite the Catholic Church’s clear and consistent teaching that having an abortion ― and in fact, using all forms of artificial contraception ― is wrong, American Catholics are very much divided on the issue.  This division was on display during Tuesday’s vice presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana ― two men of deep faith and two very different kinds of Catholics. Quoting scripture, Pence defended his party’s line on the “sanctity of life” and said that the idea of late-term abortions were “anathema” to him. On the other hand, Kaine, who has personally opposed abortion in the past, said he believes that women should be able to make their own decisions about pregnancy.  “That’s something we trust American women to do,” Kaine said during the debate. Many American Catholics agree with Kaine. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2015, a very slim majority of all Catholics in the country (51 percent) think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Forty-five percent of all Catholics think it should be illegal in all or most cases. About 4 percent didn’t know how they felt, or refused to answer. Catholics who attended services weekly or more were more likely to support the church’s official anti-abortion stance.  A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 found about the same breakdown ― 48 percent of Catholics said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 47 percent said that it should be illegal in all or most cases. Five percent didn’t know. The numbers are telling, especially given the fact that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been so adamant in its stance against all forms of artificial contraception and against abortion in all circumstances ― often leading the charge in lawsuits that attempt to block women’s access to contraception.  The stats suggest that despite what they’re hearing from pulpits, a good number of Catholics disagree with their bishops about a woman’s choice to make their own decisions about pregnancy. In other words, some Catholics are looking outside of the church for moral guidance.  It’s a reflection of a tradition that is embedded within the catechism of the Catholic Church, which emphasizes the importance of Catholics’ individual consciences when it comes to navigating faith and family life. In fact, the word “conscience” was mentioned by both vice presidential candidates during their discussion about abortion. Pence said that he couldn’t “conscience about” a party that supported partial-birth abortion. Kaine said that he supports the right of American women to “consult their own conscience” when making choices about their reproductive care. Studies show that above the Bible, the pope, and the Catholic Church’s teachings, the majority of American Catholics (73 percent) look first and foremost to their own conscience for guidance on difficult moral questions.  For Catholics, protecting life is important ― but so is following your conscience.  -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

05 октября, 18:28

Poland May Walk Back Anti-Abortion Plans After Massive Protest

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has looked firmly in control since sweeping to power a year ago but it may have pressed its conservative agenda too far by initially backing a virtual ban on abortion. Now, rattled by nationwide protests on Monday by up to 100,000 women dressed in black, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s government is trying to distance itself from a draft proposal backed by the powerful Roman Catholic Church. Worryingly for PiS, the protesters included women who voted for the party in last October’s election but say they may no longer do so over its attempt to tighten the abortion law. Ola, a 29-year-old woman who works in public administration, said she had voted for PiS but now felt “very deceived” by the government. “I still think liberalism isn’t always right. But I wore black on Monday and went to the protests,” said Ola, who declined to give her surname. “I don’t support slogans such as ‘my pussy, not your issue’ and I don’t support abortion on demand but we don’t protect life by prohibitions but by supporting women who are pregnant or have problems,” she said. Echoing such sentiments, Natalia, a 30-year-old landscape designer from the western city of Poznan, described herself as a practicing Catholic but said women should be allowed to exercise their personal choice on such important matters. “What’s important for me is a situation when I would be pregnant or have to have prenatal testing. I would like to have a choice. Even if I am religious, I still think it’s a personal decision, a considered decision. The original rules were optimal,” she said. RESTRICTIVE Poland already has restrictive rules on abortion that allow it only in cases of rape, incest or if the mother or baby have serious health problems. The new proposal, brainchild of the anti-abortion campaign group Ordo Iuris, would limit abortion to cases where the mother’s life was deemed in direct danger. Women and doctors could face prison if convicted of causing what the proposed rules call “death of a conceived child”. Critics say doctors would be discouraged from doing prenatal testing, particularly if that carried the risk of miscarriage. “There is nothing in that proposal that women can support,” said Sylwia, 21, who took part in the protest in Warsaw and said she may not vote for PiS again. “PiS keeps coming up with ideas which are just unsupportable.” Such criticism matters for PiS, whose appeal is based on a blend of Polish nationalism, Catholic piety and promises to help poorer Poles who have not benefited much from a decade of heady economic growth. Some 40 percent of women backed the party last year, compared to 38 percent of the wider population. “I want to state very clearly that the PiS government is not working on any legislation changing the rules on abortion in Poland,” Szydlo told a news conference on Tuesday. “There are too many emotions surrounding this issue. The public and politicians should tone them down,” she said. Underlining the confusion, the speaker of the upper house Senate, Stanislaw Karczewski, said on Wednesday that PiS lawmakers had dropped plans to push their own draft proposal that would ban abortion of fetuses with Down Syndrome while retaining the other current exceptions. “We will now see how the Ordo Iuris proposal fares in parliament,” said Karczewski. function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); An opinion poll for the liberal OKO.press showed half of Poles supported Monday’s protests against the abortion proposal. “PiS realises this is an important issue that could have meaningful impact on their government and how long it governs,” said Aleksander Smolar, a liberal political analyst with the Stefan Batory Foundation. “They could lose the two sections of the electorate that helped them succeed,” he said, referring to women and to younger Poles who helped PiS broaden its traditional electorate last year and win a parliamentary majority. But PiS also does not want to antagonize the Catholic Church, which has lost some of its sway among Poles after more than two decades of democratization and free market capitalism but remains an influential institution. “For PiS, its relations with the Church hierarchy mean that it cannot agree to any easing of abortion restrictions. It will waver between the status quo and some tightening,” said Rafal Chwedoruk, a political scientist at Warsaw University. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

15 сентября, 06:00

Ten Signs You Might Be a Libertarian

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, likes to say that most Americans are libertarians but don’t know it yet. So why can't Libertarians (and other third parties) gain more political traction? The post Ten Signs You Might Be a Libertarian appeared first on Freakonomics.

13 сентября, 00:25

New Zealand Firefighters Honor 9/11 Victims With A Powerful Haka

On Sunday, almost 9,000 miles away from New York City, more than 160 New Zealand firefighters performed a powerful and emotional haka to honor their colleagues who were killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The haka, a traditional Maori war dance that is often used to honor a person or express collective emotion, was performed during the annual Memorial Firefighter Stair Climb, held at the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand. Steven San Filippo, a New York firefighter and Battalion Chief who was a part of rescue efforts at Ground Zero, was a guest of honor at the event. He said the ceremony was a “tremendous honor to be commemorating our guys here on the other side of the world,” according to local newspaper Stuff. During the two hour ceremony, event organizers read aloud the names of all 343 New York City firefighters who died on the tragic day 15 years ago, along with the names of 56 New Zealand firefighters who have died while serving their country. After the performance, the New Zealand firefighters, donning full fire gear, climbed up the 1,000-step staircase of Auckland’s Sky Tower while carrying special tags bearing the names of the fallen FDNY servicemen. Some firefighters completed the climb twice, according to trade magazine Firefighter Nation. “This spreads the word of the tremendous effort that the New York City firefighters made on 9/11, 2001,” Filippo said during the ceremony. “They were protecting life and property in the city of New York,” he added. “And you know what? Any department anywhere in the world would have done the same thing.” You can watch the entire ceremony below. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

31 августа, 17:28

FACT SHEET: At Lake Tahoe Summit, Obama Administration Underscores the Importance of Strong Partnerships and Innovation in Tackling our Shared Climate and Conservation Challenges

Today, President Obama will speak at the 20th Anniversary of the Annual Lake Tahoe Summit about the importance of partnerships and innovation in tackling our shared climate and conservation challenges. The visit builds on other recent announcements, including the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park Service, last week’s designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in north-central Maine, and the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to create the world’s largest marine protected area off the coast of Hawaii. Like the President’s visit to the Alaskan Arctic last summer and Yosemite National Park earlier this summer, this visit to the Lake Tahoe region provides another vivid example of the new challenges we face as climate change threatens communities and ecosystems through impacts like increasingly frequent and severe drought and wildfires. In 2015, Lake Tahoe experienced its warmest average surface water temperature ever recorded and the west struggled with what may be the worst drought in more than 1,500 years.  In keeping with the unique history of collaborative and innovative conservation efforts that have surrounded the Lake Tahoe region for more than two decades, today’s announcements include a series of commitments to build upon the successful conservation legacy at Lake Tahoe, boost innovative approaches to conservation, and address threats to vulnerable communities at another of the region’s key water bodies, the Salton Sea. After the Summit, the President will travel to Hawaii to address leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and Midway Atoll to highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our lands and waters more important than ever. BUILDING ON A SUCCESSFUL CONSERVATION LEGACY AT LAKE TAHOE At the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, President Bill Clinton – joined by Senator Reid as well as other key leaders from Nevada and California – jumpstarted a two-decades-long, successful partnership to restore Lake Tahoe’s legendary water quality, and strengthen the region’s economy for future generations. Since then, Federal, State, and local government partners have invested more than $1.8 billion into projects to restore wetlands, build transit facilities, upgrade roads to reduce polluted runoff, and reduce fire risks from nearby forests. Today, the Administration is building on this commitment with a number of conservation-focused actions impacting Lake Tahoe: Providing Hazardous Fuel Reduction Funding and Reducing Wildfire Risk:  The Department of the Interior is announcing $29.5 million dedicated for hazardous fuels reduction projects to improve forest health and protect life and property from the threat of catastrophic wildfires. The funding will be used on public and private lands to support the removal of standing dead and dying hazard trees along roads and in campgrounds, administrative sites, communication sites, and the wildland urban interface – adjacent to community infrastructure – in or adjacent to the Tahoe Basin.  Since 2002, the Department of the Interior has invested more than $400 million in funding for over 400 projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin that support hazardous fuels treatments, restoration work and the acquisition of environmentally-sensitive lands. Investing in a Public-Private Partnership to Improve Watershed Health: The National Forest Foundation – working together with the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and local community partners – is announcing that it has raised over $4 million for forest health, sustainable recreation and creek restoration projects throughout the Truckee River Watershed. This investment will increase the pace and scale of restoration in the region by expanding this effort to include adjoining watersheds as well as providing assistance in forming and facilitating the Tahoe West Collaborative.  Supporting Improvements in Clean Water Infrastructure and Invasive Species Prevention: The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing more than $230,000 in grant funding for infrastructure to manage and reduce stormwater runoff in the region. The money will improve water quality in Lake Tahoe, which has been degraded by pollution from decades of uncontrolled stormwater runoff. In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing nearly $1 million for eight projects to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels from nearby water bodies to Lake Tahoe. These invasive mussels could disrupt the natural balance of the Tahoe Basin ecosystem by degrading water quality and significantly reducing habitat for native species. BOOSTING INNOVATION FOR CONSERVATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE America’s lands and waters face growing challenges and increasing importance, especially from the impacts of climate change.  In order to increase conservation efforts and meet these challenges, we must strengthen partnership and boost innovation – and, in turn, bring private capital off the sidelines. Built on the spirit of collaboration and innovation that first catalyzed Lake Tahoe’s historic conservation efforts, the Administration is: Outlining a Strategy focused on “Leveraging Innovation to Boost Private Investment in America’s Natural Resources”: Today, the Administration released a strategy document outlining the potential for increased private investment in conservation to complement existing efforts to tackle the Nation’s climate and conservation challenges, and opportunities for increasing investment by innovating across three areas: policy, finance, and technology.  The strategy focuses on promoting policies that reward flexibility and outcome-focused conservation, financing methods to kick start new conservation markets, and technologies to unlock low-cost measurement and verification of conservation outcomes and enable collaboration across previously incomplete landscape-scales. Consistent with the strategy, the Administration is: Setting a New Goal to Achieve $10 Billion Per Year in Support for Conservation from Private and Philanthropic Impact Investment: Estimated at approximately $230 million per year at the beginning of this Administration, private and philanthropic impact investment in conservation is increasing rapidly.  In fact, a low estimate of current calendar year investment in the United States is approximately $1 billion.  By focusing on the innovation strategy laid out by the Administration today, this investment stream can continue to scale. Issuing New Guidance on Mitigating Impacts of Development and Incentivizing Greater Conservation: Building on President Obama’s November 2015 memorandum that called for our economic development, infrastructure, and national security goals to be aligned with environmental preservation, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft compensatory mitigation policy to help address the impacts of development on the nation’s most at-risk species.  The policy is the first comprehensive treatment of compensatory mitigation under authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to be issued by the Service. Announcing Progress on First-of-a-Kind, Market-Based Conservation Approach: This week, the Department of the Interior signed an agreement with Newmont Mining Company to advance a first-of-its-kind mitigation credit system that will protect and restore sage grouse habitat. Along with an agreement signed with Barrick Gold Corporation earlier this year, these agreements highlight ways to enable important economic development while meeting our Nation’s commitment to conservation. Expanding Sensor Technology Challenge: The Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with NOAA and USGS, is extending the Nutrient Sensor Challenge to include transitioning new sensors, developed under the program, into the hands of state, local, academic and other users.  Additionally, the agencies announced that they will expand the Challenge to include sensors for detection of harmful algal blooms in surface waters that are a direct result of excess nutrients next year. Continuing to Support Innovative Finance for Water Infrastructure: Consistent with the goals outlined in the strategy issued today, EPA announced that it will publish a new playbook for financing non-traditional wastewater projects, like green infrastructure, water conservation, energy efficiency and nonpoint source protection. The playbook will describe examples of innovative financing currently utilized in some states and will highlight various financing options, such as State Revolving Fund assistance, fee programs, issuance of green bonds, watershed financing, interstate assistance, “pay for success” programs, and innovative partnerships. Making Progress through the National Drought Resilience Partnership: Today, the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), a cross-agency Federal partnership, released its first progress report. As of August 1, moderate to exceptional drought is impacting 20% of the United States and nearly 92.9 million people. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack issued Secretarial Drought Designations for all the counties in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  The report outlines the work of the Federal partnership, such as co-investing $47 million through USDA and DOI to improve the water efficiency of farms an irrigation districts, and identifying rural communities most at risk for compromised drinking-water supplies as a result of drought, support of the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), providing technical assistance to rural communities and the water and wastewater utilities that serve them, including rural water services in California and Nevada. BUILDING A PATH FORWARD FOR THE SALTON SEA AND CLEAN ENERGY NATIONWIDE Today, the Administration is also announcing a package of actions to marshal strong partnership and innovation in support of the communities surrounding the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, which is facing a tipping point in environmental degradation. A 2014 study from the Pacific Institute, a global water think-tank, found that Californians could face $70 billion in costs, ranging from lower property values to dramatically higher health care costs for respiratory illness, if action is not taken to save the Sea. The actions today, in close partnership with the State of California, will support implementation of the State’s Salton Sea Task Force Agency Action plan, help boost the region’s climate resilience through innovative conservation approaches, spur economic growth by developing new clean energy resources, improve public health and provide a path forward for the Sea.  The Administration is: Establishing a New Partnership Between the Federal Government and California to Accelerate Conservation in the Salton Sea: The State of California and the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a new partnership that prioritizes long-term coordination between the State and Federal government that will facilitate prompt and informed decision-making regarding the future of the Salton Sea.  This agreement will help to catalyze appropriate state and federal actions in addressing the natural resources and regional interests associated with the Salton Sea while recognizing the critical role that the Colorado River plays in providing water security for the State of California. Southern California relies on water from the Colorado River and from Northern California to augment limited local supplies.  Consequently water supply reliability for a major part of America's economy is interconnected on progress in addressing long term drought on the Colorado River, environmental conditions at the Salton Sea and environmental conditions in California's Bay-Delta region.  Each of these critical interconnected areas require a joint state and federal response to ensure success. Announcing a $10 Million Goal for Salton Sea Efforts with the Water Funder Initiative Foundations: Today, the Water Funder Initiative, a collaborative of leading philanthropic foundations including the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, announced a goal to provide $10 million over five years to support implementation of a comprehensive plan to protect public health and the environment, enhance drought resilience, and promote renewable energy and restoration at the Salton Sea. The funding could include loan guarantees, civil society support, private sector engagement, economic diversification programs, and other initiatives that benefit wildlife habitats and local communities. Advance Collaboration on Renewable Energy Development in the Imperial Valley/Salton Sea Area: The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) has published a Request for Information (RFI) on identifying pathways for aggregating a power purchase between 100 and 250 MW of new geothermal energy from around the Imperial Valley's Salton Sea. The Imperial Valley is home to world-class renewable energy resources, with an existing capacity of over 6000 MW of renewables, and an estimated 1200 MW of additional geothermal resources that are currently untapped. This RFI will serve as a critical first step in exploring how Federal partners could aggregate demand to harness this existing and additional potential for meeting the nation’s clean energy and sustainability goals, while ensuring that development balances with state and federal efforts to conserve the critical wildlife habitats in and around the Salton Sea. In addition, the Department of the Interior will soon finalize the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation plan, which will include provisions to help facilitate permitting of renewable energy and transmission projects in the Imperial Valley. Focusing on Technology Adoption and Breakthroughs to Boost the Salton Sea Economy and Clean Energy Generation: In addition to evaluating approaches to purchase clean power from the region, DOE is advancing technology adoption and breakthroughs by: Convening Key Geothermal Experts for First-Ever Forum on Salton Sea Renewable Potential: DOE will lead a targeted, technical forum with the State of California, and the Geothermal Resources Council in October 2016 to accelerate development of geothermal energy resources in California, particularly around the Imperial Valley’s Salton Sea. The forum will convene a diverse group of stakeholders from government, industry, and research to lay out solutions for new geothermal development while remaining consistent with critical Federal and state conservation planning efforts at the Salton Sea. Investing in New Sources of Renewable Energy in the Region: DOE is announcing two projects selected for a total of up to $29 million for the pioneering Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE). Dedicated to cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), this field lab could unlock homegrown, geographically diverse, and carbon-free source of clean energy. After a competitive first phase of research, Sandia National Laboratories’ Fallon, NV candidate site, and the University of Utah’s candidate site in Milford, UT were selected for further development. The breakthroughs supported by this research can help improve the technical and economic feasibility of geothermal energy nationwide, including in the Salton Sea area, which features vast geothermal energy potential. Developing Innovative Partnerships Around Critical Watersheds: Today, the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is announcing that partnership agreements are being finalized with the Sierra Valley Conservation Planning Program and the Salton Sea Authority totaling more than $17 million for innovative partnerships that will help spur critical air, water, and wildlife habitat conservation planning for the Sierra Valley as well as the Salton Sea, in California.  Partners to these agreements propose to contribute another $60 million, more than tripling the Federal investment. 

12 июля, 21:55

Conscience Protection Act: What It Is and Why It’s Needed

This week, the House will consider legislation to protect health care providers that decline to be involved in abortions as a matter of conscience. Introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), it’s called the Conscience Protection Act and here’s what you need to know about it. Why is the Conscience Protection Act so important? There is a law on the books known as the Weldon Amendment, which prevents the government from discriminating against hospitals, doctors, nurses, and insurance plans that decline to provide or pay for abortions. It is meant to guard against exactly what happened in California, where all employers—including churches—are now required to cover abortions.  There have also been cases in recent years where nurses have been forced to take part in abortions. Last week, at a forum led by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), Fe Vinoya, a nurse from New Jersey said, “Participating in the destruction of human life is not only a violation of my religious convictions, it conflicts with my calling as a medical professional to protect life, not to end it.” No one and no organization should be forced to violate their conscience. Here’s how Speaker Ryan put it in an interview with EWTN last Thursday, when he first announced that the House would take up this legislation: “This is something that I’m really worried about, which is the government is using its power to deny people their First Amendment conscience rights. And so, next Wednesday, we’re bringing legislation to the floor offered by Diane Black—the Conscience Protection Act—to give private citizens like health care workers…to protect their conscience rights. … This is something we feel very strongly about. I really worry that our conscience and our religious freedom is under attack in America by our government.” What does the Conscience Protection Act do? The way it works right now, those who face discrimination for exercising their conscience have only one recourse: to file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. Through the Conscience Protection Act, health care providers would have the ability to file a civil suit to seek relief from discrimination. Of note, victims would not have to file a complaint with the government before filing a lawsuit. In addition, the legislation codifies the Weldon Amendment and the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion.  What happens next? The House is scheduled to vote on the Conscience Protection Act on Wednesday.

28 июня, 22:08

Reclaim Our Domestic Tranquility: Putting The First Amendment Before the Second Amendment

It's 1791 and people write by candlelight with quill-tipped pens and no one has indoor toilets. There are only a handful of personal firearms in existence, and they are all complicated to operate. To load a musket, you have to put gunpowder in a pan, put a musket ball down the front of the barrel, and use a ramrod to jam the musket ball down for every single shot. There are many other steps before you can fire this musket, but if you are good at it, you might manage to get off a few shots in a minute. These are the only personal firearms our Founding Fathers knew when they wrote the Second Amendment in 1791, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Because the musket of 1791 requires so many complex coordinated steps to fire it, one cannot easily shoot someone on impulse or by accident. One person could never kill four or more people before being overpowered, even by unarmed people. By contrast, modern firearms can be discharged by a flick of a finger, killing people by accident and impulse. Toddlers can operate modern guns, yet they could never have discharged a musket. For this reason, modern guns scare the heck out of so many of us. It is a perfectly rational fear. Yet, one commentator on my last blog wrote, "you don't have a right to not be a scared baby I do have the right to a gun (sic)." A gunman with an easily purchased civilian assault rifle with a high capacity magazine can fire 12-15 times a minute, and keep going 100 times without reloading, and even a highly trained "good guy with a gun" can do little to stop him, as we've seen in Orlando. Would the Founding Fathers have written something different if they could have imagined modern weapons? If they knew their words are behind the statistics that Americans are ten times more likely to be killed by guns than people of every other developed country? Could the Founders have imagined their words would be a reason why the US now leads the world in firearms per capita and owns 35-50% of all the world's civilian-owned guns? The Founding Fathers created our constitution in 1789 in part in order to "insure domestic tranquility," after declaring our independence to protect "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." They created the First Amendment to ensure "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Then they added the Second Amendment. One reason guns are scary is because of the patchwork of laws in the US regulating who can buy firearms, with very few states requiring a license and some not even requiring a permit. If I knew that everyone carrying a gun were well-trained, responsible, and not prone to angry or impulsive acts, I would not be so scared of guns or people with guns. A number of common mental health conditions -- including certain personality disorders, unmet mental health needs, depression, and substance abuse -- tend to be associated with the high-risk mix of impulsive anger with gun access, according to a 2013 report on gun violence from the American Psychological Association. (See CNN's summary). Research shows that a large number of individuals in the US self-report patterns of impulsive angry behavior AND own firearms at home (8.9%) or carry guns outside the home (1.5%)."Because only a small proportion of persons with this risky combination have ever been involuntarily hospitalized for a mental health problem, most will not be subject to existing mental health-related legal restrictions on firearms." This does not even include people on terrorist watch lists and people associated with hate groups. Ideally there were would be a psychological screening process tailored to potential gun owners to look for these traits and disqualify potential buyers at risk, but at the least, universal background checks and minimal licensure requirements make sense. And, while I can see why some responsible gun owners enjoy using assault rifles, there can be no justifiable reason to purchase magazines over ten rounds. This is why the sight of guns destroys my domestic tranquility. With so few national restrictions on who can buy and operate these lethal weapons, I do not want to be sitting next to a civilian concealing a gun on their person or openly carrying one. I don't want to live in a society where civilians feel the need to carry a gun. No gun safety class is going to reassure me that a stranger next to me isn't going to accidentally, impulsively, or intentionally fire a gun in my direction. I don't believe that carrying a gun will make me safer, and statistics sadly bear me out. Research highlighted in the APA report show that women handgun owners have a 55% increased chance of becoming a homicide victim, and gun owners of both genders have much higher suicide rates in the six years after purchase. Only male handgun owners have a lower risk of becoming a homicide victim (by 31%). Very few US gun deaths are at the hands of terrorists. Nearly all of the 13,432 gun violence deaths from 2015 are just from everyday gun owners. These days, the First and Second Amendments are clearly in conflict. Our nation was founded on the right to domestic tranquility, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ten times the gun deaths of every other developed country cannot be what our Founders had in mind when they imagined a peaceful society. Living in a world where everyone is increasingly armed takes away all those rights, and puts us into a domestic war-zone not of our choosing. The Founders put the First Amendment before the Second Amendment. Let's take back our domestic tranquility and our First Amendment right to peaceful assembly. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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23 июня, 20:00

‘A comprehensive overhaul of the health care system’: Praise for A Better Way to Fix Health Care

Republicans have put forward a plan containing more than 48 ideas to repeal and replace Obamacare with a system in which every American has access to quality, affordable health care. This is the fifth plank of A Better Way—a bold agenda to tackle some of our country’s biggest challenges. Here is a look at what experts around the country are saying about our plan: “In sum, the plan would be a very large net tax cut from current law. The plan is also designed to be a net spending cut and a net deficit cut from current law. That’s the triple crown for limited government conservatives.” (Ryan Ellis, Conservative Reform Network) “Today, House Republicans unveiled their blueprint for patient-centered health care reform. The proposal includes several policy recommendations and conservatives priorities promoted by the Republican Study Committee (RSC). . . . The shared priorities between the RSC’s policy recommendations on private insurance market reforms and the House’s health care proposal include: Repealing Obamacare. . . . Reforming the Market to Improve Choice. . . . Expanding Consumer-Directed Health Care. . . . Protecting Those with Pre-Existing Conditions. . . . [and] Protecting Life.” (Chairman Bill Flores, Republican Study Committee) “The House Republican Health Care Task Force’s report shows that Republicans understand that a better health care system requires the repeal of Obamacare. Admirably, it proposes a number of patient-centered reforms to the employer and individual market, as well as a fundamental rethinking of the health entitlement programs—Medicare and Medicaid—that are driving our country deeper into debt and failing seniors and low income Americans.” (Michael Needham, Heritage Action) “The core of the new proposal is structured around the long-proclaimed GOP goal to ‘repeal and replace’ the president’s Affordable Care Act. By eliminating the ‘knot of regulations, taxes and mandates’ ushered in by Obamacare, and instead focusing on a ‘patient-centered reform’ approach, Republican lawmakers plan to foster an environment in which individuals would no longer be forced into an ill-fitting insurance plan, according to a draft of the new agenda. Rather, the GOP health plan would create a system in which insurance companies would compete against each other to offer the most affordable and expansive coverage to citizens.” (Evan Smith, Opportunity Lives) “A Better Way proposal on health care is a welcome policy agenda to tackle some of the biggest challenges for employers and employees under the Affordable Care Act. . . . Any relief from the employer mandate will empower the economic engine driven by America’s restaurant industry. We look forward to working with Congress as these proposals develop.” (Robin Goracke, National Restaurant Association) “Notably, the Ryan plan is not merely a replacement for Obamacare, but instead strives to be a comprehensive overhaul of the health care system. Good, because so many parts of government health care need improvement. . . . We ought to commend Paul Ryan and his team for putting pen to paper, and for being willing to be held accountable for their ideas. They’ve done the country an important service.” (Avik Roy, Forbes) “This is a major step forward. Republicans are endorsing a vision of health care in which people can make their own decisions, manage more of their own health care in which people can make their own decisions, manage more of their own health care dollars and reap the benefits of competition in the marketplace. The ultimate goal should be to treat everyone the same. People should get the same tax relief regardless of where they obtain their insurance—at work, in the marketplace or in an exchange.” (John Goodman, Goodman Institute of Public Policy Research)

10 июня, 16:03

Trump’s blunders start to catch up to him

While Clinton basks in a very good week, Trump’s campaign is in disarray.

02 июня, 00:20

Rohan Marley - Rastapreneur

Rastafari is a belief that God is man and man is God. It is a belief that humans are called on to celebrate and protect life and that the spoken word, as a manifestation of the divine presence and power, can both create and bring destruction. Those who follow Rastafari believe that they are chosen to manifest God's power and to promote peace and love in the world. Rohan Marley is a 44 year old athlete, entrepreneur, and son of reggae artist, peace maker, and world changer, the late Bob Marley. Rohan Marley grew up in Miami, living with his dad and then his grandmother. His dad passed away from cancer when he was just nine years old. He attended the University of Miami where he was a star football player, playing alongside players like Dwayne Johnson and Ray Lewis. After college, he went on to play professional football in the Canadian Football League prior to setting off on a personal journey to find his passion, his purpose, and his legacy. While many of Bob Marley's children went on to become musicians in their own rights, Rohan went in a different direction. He says he wasn't born musically gifted like most of his family members. That being said, he's very much Bob Marley's son. What he did carry forward from his dad's legacy is an intense following of Rastafari, an immense respect for and ensuing belief in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, and a contagious love and passion for the land and community of Jamaica from which he has not only built a massive coffee empire, but has also created a sustainable community that continues to provide sustenance to the farmers and local citizens, all supported by the richness of the earth. I recently spent an afternoon sipping Marley Coffee, and chatting about Rastafari, entrepreneurship, lions, and growing up Marley with a man who is the embodiment of the peace, love, unity, and respect movement his father put on the map through his music beginning in the 1960s. Just like his dad, he is a committed Rastafari who continues to infuse his Jamaican culture and identity into everything he does. Rohan Marley has fathered seven children, traveled countless times to Ethiopia seeking answers on life and religion, has built several business empires, and has encountered massive loss and disappointment along the way, beginning with the loss of his greatest mentor, his dad, at a very young age. What does it take to cling to peace, love, unity, and respect through the most difficult of times? How does Rastafari fit into business? Here are Rohan Marley's 5 simple strategies for blending entrepreneurship with Rastafari, creating empires infused with peace, love, unity and respect. Here's everything you need to know to become a Rastapreneur: Access Not Ownership: After a short stint in professional football and after a few years working on the road for his brother's band, Marley was approached in 1999 by reggae artist, IQulah Rastafari, who knew of 52 acres of land being sold in The Blue Mountains in Jamaica. Rohan visited the land for a tour. He says the land was the most fertile he had ever seen in the world, full of fruit bearing trees and even a hidden river with a waterfall fed from The Spanish River. At the end of the property tour, Rohan was met by a large group of local citizens waiting to talk to him. The locals explained that they were dependent on the land to provide work for them and they wanted to know Rohan's intentions. It was these local farmers who explained that the land was perfect for producing coffee. Rohan says it was because of this passionate community of local citizens that he agreed to buy the land and to begin a coffee farm. Right from the start, Rohan held a unique perspective on property ownership. Although technically he owns 52 acres, he says that really nobody owns anything at all. He says that the only thing we really have is access, since it's not a physical item that can be wrapped, carried, or transported. He says that he and his farmers now had access to fertile land in order to create ongoing resources for the community. In that vein, Marley immediately went to work learning everything there was to know about coffee farming. Although he had big plans for his coffee farm from the beginning, it took ten years for him to find, partner with, and hire the appropriate people and to locate resources to scale the business. During that ten years, Marley kept the farm operational only to provide work for the local citizens. He says there wasn't anything left over for him during those years, but it was his Rasta belief system which taught him that the needs of the community outweighed his own needs, and so the farm remained operational for the farmers for an entire decade. One Love, One Heart: One of the immediate changes Marley made when he took over the coffee farm in 1999 was that he got rid of all the chemicals and poisons used by the previous owner to grow coffee. Marley says that as a Rastaman he has an intense understanding of the unity of everything on earth. He believes that by applying chemicals and poisons to the earth, those poisons also effect everything else, including the people. Marley, like his dad, believes that the earth and all people are one. Marley applied to become a certified organic farm in the early days of his farm ownership, and he became accredited more than 7 years later, one of the first coffee farms in Jamaica to receive such accreditation. Marley says that in life and in business, it is essential to take as much care of the people, places, and things around you, as you would of yourself, regardless of profit, and, just like the most fertile coffee lands in the world, they will produce for you naturally. Follow Your Purpose: From 1999 to 2009 Rohan Marley kept on returning to his coffee farm off and on. He knew he had something special, but he couldn't figure out how to make it work. He learned the fine art of planting, harvesting and processing the cherries, drying and milling the beans, and eventually exporting them. At each leg of his journey, Rohan met with adversity. At one point he asked one of the local manufacturers to help mill the beans for exportation, and they took the beans never to return them or pay for them. No sooner did he learn that he could make 10 times more by exporting the coffee beans for roasting and grinding, did he also learn that he was harvesting way below the minimum needed to export, thereby squashing his hopes of exportation. Every time Marley met adversity, he would leave the farm in the hands of his farmers so that they could continue to plant and cultivate to provide for their own families, while he figured out other ways to provide for his own. On multiple occasions during this period, Rohan Marley found himself visiting monasteries of Ethiopia seeking answers about his purpose and his Ethiopian Orthodox Christian beliefs. In his first visit to Ethiopia in 2000, Rohan took a seven hour canoe trip down Lake Tana to visit a monastery with Bathawi Gebre Meskel. While there Bathawi put a coffee cherry in Rohan's pocket and told him it would be his future. Rohan was baffled by this at the time because most of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian religion and most Rastas don't drink coffee. Seven years later, on a return trip to the same monastery in Ethiopia, Rohan arrived on land after the seven hour canoe trip and found coffee cherries drying on large slabs of slate. Perplexed, Rohan asked a monk why they were drying coffee when the religion doesn't believe in coffee. The monk explained that although many of their religion didn't indulge in coffee, there is great value in trading one of their greatest resources, coffee beans, for the resources their people were in dire need of, like food, clothing, and shelter. The monk explained that, for them, coffee was universal because by trading it, it provided everything they needed to give sustenance to their people. Rohan says that every person should take the time to seek answers to life and to question their purpose, because answers will show up out of nowhere. It was during his 2007 trip to the monastery that Rohan knew for certain he was going to once again figure out a way to build his coffee empire. Find Your Inner Lion: Rohan says that there was a point in 2006 in which he felt like a massive failure. All of Bob Marley's other kids had gone on to do great things in business, life, and music, and Rohan says that he had failed in just about every endeavor he went after. He had failed in coffee, in his professional football career, in business, and in relationships. Rohan says that everyone faces times in their life where they are confronted with fear, sadness, loneliness, and failure. He says it is times like these in which we must find our inner lion. The symbol of Marley Coffee, the symbol of Rastafari, and the original symbol which flew on the Ethiopian flag is the lion. Rohan says that the lion represents strength and courage in the face of adversity. It was 2007, eight years after purchasing his farm, Marley says he found his inner lion. He became absolutely determined to launch one of the biggest and best, sustainable, organic, globally responsible, coffee empires in the world. In 2007 he created the Marley Coffee brand and designed his coffee line. In 2008, Rohan partnered with Richard and Jason Sharp whose family has been in the coffee business for 60 years and who also had coffee farms Jamaica. They too believed in Rastafari and they had access to thousands of acres of coffee farms so that minimum exporting guidelines could be met. In 2009 Marley went about building an American based sales force, distribution arm, and leadership team. In 2010, Marley Coffee produced and shipped $37K in coffee. In 2011, they produced and shipped 1.5 million in coffee, and today they are in 13,000 stores in North America, doing over $13M a year in business. They are the #1 organic coffee in the UK and in Canada. They are the fastest growing coffee brand in Chile and they have launched in South Korea with 14 coffee shops. In Jamaica, they are providing jobs for 300 community farmers. Rohan says that when you keep on falling down, rejoice in the fact that somewhere living within you there is a lion, just waiting to make a move. Be Love: Rohan recalled a time when he was five years old when he was playing with his brothers and sisters at his father's home in Jamaica. They were playing inside of 56 Hope Road in the yard eating ice cream. Some local kids were on the other side of the fence and Rohan, along with his brother Stephen, told them they could not enter. Bob Marley called his kids into the house and offered them a lesson on humility. He explained to Rohan and his other children that the kids outside the fence might not have the food, toys, and ice cream like they did, and that being a good person meant caring more about the kids outside the fence than they did about themselves. Bob Marley had his kids bring ice cream to the kids outside the fence and encouraged them to go play together for the afternoon. Rohan says that although their time together on earth was short, his dad taught him how to be love. Rohan says that being a Marley to him means being Rastafari, being humble, and showing love by giving back to friends, family, community, and to humanity. Being love, says Rohan, is about creating a better world for all of humanity, because we are all one. He is wise, humble, spiritual, and determined. He continues to spread the message his father sang about since the 1960s. He is the embodiment of peace, love, unity and respect, and he infuses these qualities into everything he touches, including business. He's more than just a kind person, he's Rastafari. He's more than just a businessman, Rohan Marley is the original Rastapreneur. Photo Credits Lou Bopp -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

11 мая, 22:59

Candidate for POTUS Warns of Russian Invasion of Alaska

John Richard (J.R.) Myers, who lives in Alaska, warns that the Russians are claiming large areas of the Arctic. He's on the ballot in the California June 7th primary and as a write-in for the Independent Party of Oregon for President of the United States. He's exploring write-in ballot access for 10 states. Failing to achieve the Constitution Party's nomination in Salt Lake City last month, he continues with his candidacy because he has a message that they aren't necessarily supporting. JF: Tell me what your message is. JRM: In general, I do support a return to our Judeo-Christian values and the rule of law based upon our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. In particular, I oppose unauthorized wars which are usurping Congress's authority by the executive and damaging a lot of our relationships around the world. As part of the ongoing wars, I would also include the war on drugs, which I believe has created a prison industrial complex that is a self-sustaining entity that is destroying lives, and families and communities around the nation. It's certainly a threat to our Constitution. It's a war against our liberties, basically. As all the unauthorized wars are, war is against human rights and individual dignity and liberty. I oppose those things vehemently, which would not necessarily be supported by the National Constitution Party, at least the end of the war on drugs. I'm not a prohibitionist. I think that alcohol required a limit to the Constitution for prohibition, then so too any other substances. I believe that substance use is a right reserved unto the people and to the states. That's a big difference there. JF: What is your day job? JRM: I work for the sovereign nation of the Kenaitze Tribe. I'm a behavioral health consultant. I'm a licensed professional counselor supervisor. I have a Master of Professional Counseling as well as a Master of Human Services and a Bachelor of Science and Liberal Arts, cum laude. I'm also in the process of being grandfathered under the Master of Addiction Counseling. I serve the native people in the area. I help to meet their behavioral health needs. JF: Do you consider yourself an evangelist? JRM: I wouldn't consider myself a traditional evangelist as far as evangelical type. But I do believe in the word of God and the Bible, and so I'm not afraid to talk about my beliefs with people. I think if I share my beliefs, yeah, you could say that I would be an evangelist in that respect. But I'm not a merciless proselytizer, let's put it that way. JF: Why are you running for POTUS? JRM: I think our system was set up for average working citizens to participate. It was never meant to be a permanent professional political class of elites that didn't have any other connections. Some of these people have never worked outside of politics. I think it's important for average citizen to be involved at all levels and to learn the system and to express themselves and the reality of their daily lives. I think any citizen that's qualified Constitutionally should feel free to run for president or any other office, and I would encourage others to do so. It's important that we all get out there and speak out. It's important that we inform the public debate through our participation and through our different perspectives and viewpoints and experiences. Being in Alaska, it's even more important to participate because Alaska is so often marginalized because of our distance from the rest of the country. I think that with Internet, social media, and that kind of thing, the distance is becoming more and more irrelevant. I'm running to show that the average person can do it. I feel it's a turning point in our nation; I think we're seeing a sea change in the political alignments. JF: What is your international experience? JRM: I've traveled to Mexico and Canada! JF: (Laughing) JRM: More seriously, we border Russia and we're concerned up here. Last summer, the Russian and Chinese naval fleets had joint military exercises for the first time in the Bering Sea crossing Alaskan waters. A very threatening maneuver. We need to be realistic about who our neighbors are and we need to have strong defenses and we need to support our allies in the world and we need to be wary of our enemies and not the other way around. JF: Why do you feel threatened when they put ships through? JRM: Because it was a joint military exercise and who else would it be directed against than the Bering Sea? JF: But does it have to be against anyone? JRM: It was a joint military exercise. JF: I just don't get it; why that has to be an act of aggression. JRM: Maybe another part of the picture you're not aware of is that there's several arctic islands that have been ceded back to Russia that were Alaskan territory. Russia has been fortifying military installations on those islands in the last few years. Russia is engaged in a very aggressive military and economic expansion, staking claim to vast areas of the Arctic now in a very aggressive move. It's all part of that. JF: How did that happen? Did we take our eye of the ball? What happened? JRM: I don't think it's been formally ratified by the Senate yet, but basically in essence, they just returned Wrangell Island and five other islands in the Arctic that have been part of Alaska since the 1800's, and they have ceded them back to Russia. JF: Let's say you're sitting down with Putin. What would you say? JRM: We need to respect Alaskan sovereign territory and we will respect Russian sovereign territory and we have actually great mutual interests and we should be friends, our nations should be in a friendly stance, not in an adversarial stance, and we need to work out our differences. JF: Is it possible that you could partner with Russia on a climate change initiative? JRM: I think we should partner with Russia and other nations with similar interests wherever we can: environmentally, militarily. It's in our best interests to cooperate, not be adversarial when possible, with other nations around the world, but we do have to maintain our defense. Strong defense. JF: Let's assume, for a moment, that we all live on the same earth, and that the earth is our spaceship. (Laughs) And the spaceship is in trouble. The seas are rising, the amount of arable land is decreasing because we have severe floods and severe droughts now... JRM: Right. JF: We are either do or die situation on the spaceship. Do you think that maybe we could work with the Russians? JRM: Well, I would hope we could work with the Russians. And yes, we do need to be good stewards of the planet, because it's all we have, that's for sure. It's important, yes. JF: Do you think Obama has spoken enough in person with Putin, I mean he really hasn't done it at all, right? JRM: No, I think that Obama has engaged in quite an adversarial stance with Putin. JF: And maybe if we talked to him, we'd get to understand... JRM: Get better results if we actually communicated? JF: Yeah! (Laughing) JRM: Fancy that. JF: As a counselor, I understand the value of communication and of listening. Being in Alaska, we have a strong history of Russian influence, and we still have Russian speakers today. I have no innate animosity towards Russia whatsoever. They could be, and have been, great allies in the past... One of my campaign things is that the American presidency should not rightly be seen as an imperial office. Presidency, in fact, is too powerful and needs to be diminished in its power and needs to be rebalanced with the Congress. The Congress needs to reassert itself. JF: What three things would you focus on as POTUS? JRM: On my first day in office, I would begin the review of the Presidential executive orders and start to rescind those orders that I believe are extra-Constitutional which I believe would be the bulk of them, since the President has been legislating through executive orders which is not proper. I would try to rebalance the powers with Congress, put pressure on the Congress to assert their prerogative in budgetary and military matters. I would also re-size government and downsize, decentralize the federal government and start to return many of the federal activities to the state governments and because the federal government is strictly prohibited from engaging in all but a handful of activities, which would be national defense, Post Office, that kind of thing. Most of the powers, Constitutionally should be delegated to the states or to the people themselves. I do believe in a de-centralization of powers to the states and local levels. As I said before, it's imperative that the average citizen become involved at all levels and I think that is part of that process. I think we need to re-engage the public and break this public apathy. Part of that is campaign finance reform and Citizens United was terrible mistake which has flooded our system with corporate money, which I think is a corrupting influence. I don't believe corporations are people. I would seek to challenge the idea that corporations are people and that the expenditure of corporate funds equates to free speech, which I do not believe. Thirdly, life: we must protect life throughout the whole spectrum from conception through natural death. That means opposing assisted suicide and that sort of thing as well. For instance, the extra Constitutional drone strikes that Obama has claimed the right to execute American citizens that he deems to be enemy combatants. That's totally unlawful. JF: It's murder. JRM: It's murder, yes. JF: What would you do with a Congress that blocks you? Let's just say, 'cause you're a counselor, you can relate to this: they're passive aggressive, right? JRM: Right, yes. JF: How do you handle that? JRM: The president has the bully pulpit. I think that's an effective tool that the President does have, that national forum. If someone such as myself were to ever be elected President, it would reflect a sea change in the political climate, and I would think that there would be several congressmen and women who would be swept into the Congress at the same time, so there would be allies in the Congress. I think they have to be held accountable in a relentless manner and the President is the only one who can really do it. And just keep on it, that they have a responsibility, they have a duty, it's incumbent, it's their Constitutional authority. They're the only ones who can do certain things and they must do it or not. If they choose not to, then no action is to be taken through executive fiat. JF: That's what Obama is doing. His back is against the wall and so he's decided to use his executive powers to... JRM: Right, and I think that's wrong. The President needs to refrain from that and the President needs to continue to put pressure on Congress to act. I know it's not easy, but that's the way the system is supposed to work. JF: It sounds to me like you're recommending that he do it in a more public way, but don't forget, he, as well as Congress, is under pressure from these corporations to not say what's going on. JRM: That's true, that's why we need new candidates, new officials elected. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

29 апреля, 22:06

Blasphemy Laws Don't Protect Religion, They Hurt It

Last Wednesday, I spoke on a panel at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs In DC. The conference, co-hosted by the Center's Religious Freedom Project and the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, looked at the historical sources of blasphemy laws and their implementation in countries around the world today. One panel addressed the correlation between blasphemy and extremism. American Muslim organizations focus on the way forward for American Muslims- how they can understand blasphemy laws and how such laws are an anathema to the very values we hold dear as people of faith. As Muslims, we can participate in ensuring the removal of these laws in Muslim-majority countries, and removing blasphemy laws will in fact serve to protect religion, not harm it. There is no punishment for blasphemy or apostasy in the Quran. These acts are sins which fall under God's jurisdiction, and does not fall under man's law; punishment in the area of religious belief or non-belief is left up to God. What is misunderstood or overlooked is that the primary and clearly defined goals of Sharia are to protect life, protect the freedom of expression and thought, protect religious freedom, protect property and protect family lineage (especially for inheritance rights). Unfortunately, anti-Muslim sentiment in the US feeds into the rhetoric of extremist groups whose main claim is that Muslims are not welcome in the West. In addition, American anti-Muslim sentiment provides false legitimacy to extremists because they are seen as the only people talking about real grievances that exist around the world. Their messaging highlights the double standard in the West, which has resulted in the absence of serious discussion about the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar and the unraveling of any real solution for Palestinians. Extremists make use of the idea that what preceded the genocide in Bosnia during the early 1990's was anti-Muslim propaganda, the same kind of propaganda that we are seeing today, that Islam is a false religion, that American Muslims are a foreign invasion, that they are not part of the endemic culture. Unfortunately, the effect of geopolitics is that it dehumanizes the people of the regions concerned. Thus, Muslims are seen mostly through the lens of security and CVE (countering violent extremism), policies toward the Middle East reflect oil interests, and our support for Israel is driven by geopolitical interests in the region, as are our relationships with compliant rulers. The result is that geopolitical aims and policies trump the needs of the people that are most affected. Current use of apostasy and blasphemy laws are mostly about power, and sometimes about economic issues. (For more information about the context of using religious decrees in general, see Tariq Ramadan's book on Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation). Apostasy charges are used to silence political opponents. The rationale is really about treason (or what state actors view as treasonous to their hold on power) and not about a change of religion or insulting a religion. When there is anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US (and 25% of the US population seems to support candidates who say Islam hates America and that the US should ban Muslim immigration), we are perpetuating an image to the rest of the world that the US has a restricted and unsophisticated worldview that does not consider nuances or the needs of ordinary citizens. Legal solutions to the problem of hate speech against Muslims may not be possible, but we should have socio-political ones. Our national leaders must speak out more about anti-Muslim bias and harassment, to serve as a corrective to the dialogue of hate and ignorance. Blasphemy laws need to be removed, but these laws do not originate in the religion of Islam. They were introduced and continue to be used as tools for authoritarian governance, and are spread among the less educated masses as a means of arousing emotions. The way forward is for our country to demonstrate even-handedness both in dealing with anti-Muslim inciteful rhetoric at home and in our policies overseas. In this way, we deligitimize proponents of blasphemy laws, while calling out the use of blasphemy laws for what they are, political despotism. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

29 апреля, 18:04

Genworth (GNW) Q1 Earnings Beat Estimates, Decline Y/Y

Genworth Financial, Inc. (GNW) reported first-quarter 2016 net operating income of 21 cents per share, which handily beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 14 cents per share by 50%.

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27 апреля, 21:36

The Guardian view on checking abuse of public power: after Hillsborough, count the value, not the cost | Editorial

The inquest into the deaths of 96 football fans might end up costing £70m. If it means the police think again about covering up their mistakes, then it was worth every pennyAfter such a catharsis as Tuesday’s verdicts of unlawful killing of the 96 victims of Hillsborough, there is a hunger for change that should be exploited before “never again” fades away, as experience suggests it surely will be. The home secretary, Theresa May, has built a reputation for being sensitive to the abuse of power by public authorities, from failure to protect children from sexual exploitation to deaths in police custody. It is notable that throughout the two long years of the Hillsborough inquest, in which both sides were state-funded, she insisted on complete equality between the families and the state agencies.But – as Hillsborough, where the bill has topped £14m and may be heading towards £70m, also showed – holding power to account has a big price tag. It also relies on citizens having the requisite entitlements in law to demand answers, too. It is an irony indeed that legal rights that were pertinent in the Hillsborough story, which require the state properly to investigate charges that it failed in its duty to protect life, are derived from a European convention which Mrs May has this week been proposing Britain should quit. MPs unquestionably want to change the culture of public bodies, to make them accountable. It won’t happen unless they also will the resources and the legal powers to prise out the truth. Continue reading...

27 апреля, 17:57

The House that Denny Built

His Republican colleagues called him "coach". He was the affable old guy who cared so much about young people that he dedicated the first half of his career to helping them. His presence in the Speaker's Office was reported by some to have had a calming effect on the institution after the highly acrimonious years of his predecessor and his repeated calls for "regular order" seemed to signal recognition that the body he was leading needed to be restored to a better place and time. But the scene which took place at the Federal Court House in Chicago this morning leaves little doubt that John Dennis Hastert was a very different individual than the man we may have thought we knew as speaker. He was in fact a twisted soul who used the opportunities and authorities of a coach and teacher to sexually exploit and molest children. That shocking reality should not only force us to see Dennis Hastert quite differently as an individual but also invites a second look at his speakership and the troubled period in which he served as the third highest public official in the nation. Just as Hastert abused his authority as a coach and teacher in the Yorkville, Illinois schools he in my judgment had a similar record as master of the House. The Hastert era was a tumultuous period, a period in which Congress approved dramatic changes in the nation's tax laws, gave the Bush administration a green light to invade Iraq, saw the biggest budget surpluses in our nation's history turn into gigantic deficits and watched the country tumble into the steepest and longest economic downturn since the Great Depression in part because of catastrophic failure on the part of government regulatory agencies. Congress itself also changed dramatically during the Hastert Speakership. Committee chairmen and the entire congressional committee system became increasingly subjugated to direct daily supervision of their party leadership and in turn, the party caucus. As term limits forced chairmen to give up their gavels and place their future roles in Congress in the hands of their party leadership, the capacity of committees to make independent and fact based judgments largely vanished. Candidates to replace the outgoing chairmen were selected not simply on the basis of seniority and ability but also on their willingness to toe the party line, flack party rhetoric and perhaps most importantly use their new chairmanships to raise funds for the party campaign committee. Speaker Hastert also instituted a new wrinkle in how the House conducts its business on the floor, a pledge to his fellow Republicans that continues to be known as the Hastert Rule. That pledge was to use the power of the speakership to prevent any legislation from being considered by the House unless it could be passed with solely Republican votes. That greatly empowered the most extreme members of the House Republican Conference essentially meaning that fewer than a dozen members collectively representing less than 3 percent of the American people could block any legislation with which they disagreed. Conversely it meant more than 200 members of the opposition party; members who collectively had been elected by more than 45 percent of the American people could never cast a single vote that would determine outcome legislation. That pledge served to greatly widen the growing separation between the two major political parties. It further damaged the spirit of trust and cooperation necessary for the institution to fulfill its central responsibility under the Constitution, to find compromise and common ground between competing regions, economic interests and philosophies. Hastert's tenure as Speaker saw not only a continued shifting of power away from House committees and into the hands of the leadership but also a dramatic subjugation of Congress to the executive branch, allowing Bush Administration policies to take effect without the normal review and due diligence that our Constitution was crafted to insure. Arguably, this became an important factor in a number of the major policy blunders during that administration. Our Congress rarely devises the policies to cope with the major challenges we face as a nation. But the ability of Congress to force any administration to come forward with sufficient evidence to demonstrate the correctness of the course the executive has chosen is our central safeguard against the excessive and unwise use of executive power. It is a system that served us well for 200 years prior to Hastert's accepting the House gavel. The small slaps and often little publicly noted criticisms that were part of the yearly legislative review of executive branch budgets, administrative performance and legislative proposals are far more important in our system of government than most people realize. Through the years, they have forced the White House, cabinet members and agency heads to pursue a more thoughtful approach to policy making, they have encouraged much needed mid-course corrections and at times even forced the abandonment of initiatives that were not achieving their intended purpose. While the two parties in Congress generally disagreed on a great deal, the one thing that they did agree on was that somebody needed to keep an eye on the executive branch. That effort was basically suspended for the 6 years that Bush was President and Hastert was Speaker. Rather than accept his responsibilities as a leader of a coequal branch of government structured to insure a separation of powers and open and sometimes critical discourse on policy direction, Hastert seemed to do all he could to eliminate the separation. He actually even gave the Vice President office-space on the House side of the Capitol for the first time in American history. At times he seemed to believe that he worked for the Vice President. I saw the influence of the Vice President over the Speaker and in turn over the Congress on several occasions. In one instance an investigation by the House Appropriations Committee into the millions of dollars being directed by the Defense Department to the Iraqi National Congress and its leader Ahmed Chalabi was blocked at the speaker's direction after the committee leadership had agreed on a bipartisan basis that an investigation was necessary. As a consequence, what we now know was deeply flawed intelligence continued to infect government decision making without challenge. In another instance, Hastert reversed a committee decision to withhold a large amount of money requested by the Administration because the Administration had not provided sufficient evidence that those funds would actually be used for the purposes for which they had been requested. When the committee refused to provide the funds until the White House made clear what its purpose would be, Hastert intervened and in an 11th hour move directed the money be inserted in a conference report. The questions raised by the committee about how the funds would actually be used went unanswered. The most widely noted change in the Congress during the Hastert era was the explosion in earmarking. To be fair, this like many of the changes that took place in the legislative process during the Hastert Speakership had its roots under the prior speaker. During the 105th Congress, the one immediately prior to Hastert's accession as speaker, there was a sudden and seemingly improbable (given the previous rhetoric of House Republicans on the subject) spike in the number of earmarks included in the regular appropriation bills. During the Hastert Speakership that upward trend went on steroids. The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriation bill (by far the largest domestic appropriation measure) had prior to 1996 contained few if any earmarks. The two Labor, HHS-Education bills passed in the Congress before Hastert became Speaker contained a combined total of 209 earmarks costing taxpayers a little less than $400 million. But in the following Congress under Speaker Hastert the Congress passed Labor, HHS bills containing more than 1700 earmarks and costing the taxpayer nearly $1.4 billion. The following Congress earmarking in Labor-HHS swelled to nearly 3500 earmarks at a cost of more than $1.9 billion. A similar pattern could be observed throughout the appropriation process. In 2006, Congressional Research Service issued a report that found the number of earmarks contained in funding provided to the U.S. Department of Transportation increased from 147 the year before Hastert became speaker to 2,282 by 2004. But the greatest bonanza in Congressional earmarks during the Hastert era did not occur in the annual appropriation bills. That bonanza was in the highway reauthorization legislation enacted in 2005, the one and probably only piece of legislation that moved through the House during Hastert's speakership that he appeared to take a direct and personal interest in. He actively shepherded that particular piece of legislation as though he were the chairman of the committee that had written the bill--a dramatic departure from his otherwise detached and at times disconnected involvement in other legislative matters before the House. On virtually every other piece of legislation it was up to his staff to think through the policy implications and iron out the jurisdictional and philosophical wrinkles. But as Norm Ornstein and I outlined in a piece published in The New Republic in 2006, Hastert's activity on this legislation appears to have been driven by more than a desire to upgrade the nation's crumbling infrastructure. The bill contained a stunning 6,300 earmarks or more than $23 billion in congressionally mandated spending. One of the biggest of those 6,300 projects was $207 million for a new highway dubbed the "Prairie Parkway" that ran through the middle of Hastert's district. The project was not supported by the Illinois Department of Transportation and was actively opposed by local citizen organizations. The most disturbing aspect of this earmark was a complex set of real estate purchases made by Hastert in the time period leading up to the consideration of the highway bill and the sale of a large portion of that real estate following shortly after its enactment. Hastert's net worth grew from less than $300,000 when was first elected to the House in 1998 to more than $6.2 million when he left office largely as a result of these transactions. But a larger and even more troubling question has begun to haunt me regarding Hastert in light of the recent revelations about his abuse of power as a teacher and a coach. Was his repeated acquiescence to the Bush administration on matters of Congressional oversight more than simply ignorance about the role the legislative branch was called on by the Constitution to play in American Democracy? Was this former civics teacher really that clueless about why the framers of the Constitution had created the institution that he led? Bluntly, I began to wonder whether Hastert was so intent on passage of the highway bill and how it would affect him personally that he traded his Congressional prerogatives and responsibilities to secure its passage. We may never know what motivated Hastert to suspend executive accountability but we do know that the Bush Administration did not come to support the disgraceful 2005 highway bill easily. We also know that the Bush Administration desperately sought to exclude the Congress from any interference or even knowledge of its policy setting. The predecessor of the 2005 highway bill, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), expired in September of 2003. For more than a year before that expiration date Congress struggled but failed to reach agreement between the House, Senate and the White House on legislation to replace it. After the authorization expired, Congress was forced on eight occasions to pass temporary extensions to prevent the nation's road building from being brought to an immediate halt. The central problem was that Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate wanted to spend more than the $256 billion proposed by the White House for the 6 year period that the bill was to be in effect. But earmarking was also a central issue. Even after the White House had agreed to a somewhat higher spending level the White House Statement of Administration Policy warned: The Administration believes that the vast majority of federal-aid highway funds should be distributed to States via formula as States are far better equipped than the Federal Government to make appropriate decisions about their own transportation systems. Following the bills signing the Department of Transportation Inspector General noted that 99 percent of the projects mandated by Congress were "either were not subject to the agencies' review and selection processes or bypassed the states' normal planning and programming processes." When a bill was finally agreed to, Congressional Quarterly's headline expressed the surprise of many observers, "Bush Signs Highway Bill Despite Surge in Earmarks". No one questioned who was responsible for the White House giving up its fight against the earmarking of highway funds and signing a bill that would eventually embarrass both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Illinois Transportation Secretary Timothy Martin summed it up, "I think it's truly a recognition of the leadership of Speaker Hastert...Speaker Hastert was able to deliver a bill that made it through Congress that the president could sign, rather than a bill that would make it through Congress that the president would veto." So Hastert was responsible for both the administration's acquiescence on highway bill and for relaxing the customary level of oversight during the period that the highway bill was under consideration. We don't know that those two things were connected and perhaps we never will. But we do know that the tenor and substance of how decisions were made by the federal government changed pretty dramatically during the time that Dennis Hastert held the House gavel. Partisanship became more intense. The House Committee System became dramatically weaker. The legislative process, despite the speaker's professed commitment to the "regular order" became increasingly irregular. Congressional oversight of executive performance almost vanished with Bush Administration flatly refusing to provide Congress with the information needed to assess performance and Hastert blocking the ability of committees to take the retribution necessary to force cooperation. No one can project what mistakes might have been avoided had Hastert brought a more traditional view of the role of the legislative branch to the Speakership. • Would greater scrutiny of the fiscal implications of the administration tax proposals resulted in scaling them back and avoiding the dramatic deterioration in the nation's fiscal well-being that occurred between 2001 and 2005? Probably not. • Would demands for more specific information and tougher questioning forced the Bush White House to back away from plans to invade Iraq? Doubtful. • Would forceful oversight of the Administration's post invasion strategy resulted in a more effective effort in protecting life, property and social cohesion in the newly liberated Iraq? Very likely. • Would greater scrutiny of the role the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission slowed the unbridled growth of mortgage derivatives in the years leading up to the 2008 crash? Arguably. • Would stronger oversight of the Federal Emergency Manage Administration and its leadership have reconciled some of the issues that we were forced to learn about only after Katrina had rolled across Louisiana? Very possibly I would argue that even in instances where better oversight would have not altered policy at the time it was made, it would have created a far better baseline to judge the quality of our decision making and improve it moving forward. Perhaps just as importantly, it would have educated a generation of House members about how the two branches should interact. Today the House is a very different place than it was a quarter of a century ago. One constructive way of venting public frustration over its dysfunctionality is to look back on the changes that have taken place and look for ways to restore some of the attitudes, practices and relationships that made Congress work in the past. Understanding the changes that occurred during the Hastert era would be a good place to start that process. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

14 апреля, 23:29

Cruz dodges Chuck Todd's questions on personhood

The personhood amendment Cruz endorsed "would guarantee a constitutional right to life for every innocent human being, from earliest biological beginning until natural death."

26 марта, 10:47

Brussels Attack and Connection to "9/11," Trump Gains Support

"For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding? Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water? (Job 8:8-11)" Brussels- The horrendous attack by Islamic extremist criminals on innocent people in this beautiful historic European capital is an affront to humanity and a diabolical play as an attempt to gain center stage with perverted plans for power. Unfortunately, 24/7 global news plays right into the strategy of competing terrorist organizations. They each desire fame, fortune and fear. This eventuates by constantly reporting their deplorable crimes, thereby glorifying the perpetrators. It is better that they not be named but be treated and hunted down like a pack of wolves. Their inhumane acts of violence were notably orchestrated to take place during the holiest week of Christianity, leading to Easter Sunday. Immediate response begs one to utter the words of shock and dismay as when Paris was attacked on November 13, 2015 and when "9/11" happened in New York City, "How could we not have known and stopped it?" Failed intelligence. No excuse. The bad guy who perpetrated the Paris attack was caught on March 18th in Brussels at a "safe house" with other bad guys. Days were wasted following his capture debating whether to allow him to be extradited to France or would he be treated better in more liberal Belgium? The very European capital this criminal was apprehended in, Brussels, is where reportedly he operated from for conducting mass murder in neighboring France and retreated to for participating in this attack. It is significant that Brussels is the home of the European Union and NATO. Logically one would have expected Belgian and French security with international law enforcement to have worked together to obtain critical information from this coveted fugitive to learn of imminent attacks, and the March 22nd slaughter of human life in Belgium could have been prevented. "C'est La Vie?" or "Fight for Life!" Are government officials more concerned about the sensitivities of criminals out of "political correctness" than saving lives? Or, are they corruptly turning a blind eye to the evil in their midst? Or, in the words of GOP Presidential Frontrunner, Donald Trump, are they just "stupid" or "wimps?" It's no surprise that the controversially outspoken-tough guy, is gaining rapid support by voters of all demographics and endorsements from respected people in the intelligence and law enforcement community. Even skeptical media, conservative and liberal, who were against him are now supporting some of his positions. Interesting to observe that following the Brussels attack, his closest competitors, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are now claiming some of his views as their own and imitating his criticized hard-hitting stance which appeals to American voters looking for unwavering strength in a Commander and Chief. Appeasement and apathy is antithesis to the American spirit and Constitution "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." America's mentality. It's "common defense" and common sense to confront and root out criminals before they inflict harm. Interesting to note that CEO Trump was grilled by the Washington Post Editorial Board the day before Brussels was attacked and he was vilified for holding the position that "nuclear" and "terrorist attacks" was a greater immediate threat to humanity than "climate change." Again CEO Trump is vindicated by the news that the Belgian Nuclear facility was another target for this attack. It is fortunate this plot to hit it was inadvertently thwarted, but reports indicate it is still an "emerging threat." CEO Trump also argued that NATO, based in Brussels, needed to be supported in a more meaningful way by European members to lift some of the resource burden off America. Given the current cataclysmic "climate" of more bad guys plotting to destroy Europe, America and beyond, maybe it is time to listen to CEO Trump, the advice of military and intelligence authorities including Special Forces Commanders with frontline experience, Islam experts, and the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson taught, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Samuel Adams announced, "The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks." Just as France and other nations stood by America after "9/11" pronouncing an attack on America was an attack on them, America must resolutely stand not only with Belgium and France, but with the community of nations to protect life and eradicate intrinsic evil perpetrated by criminals which affects us all. Problem Is Clear-So Is Solution The Good Book informs us in The Apocalypse, "Whoever has ears, let them hear (Revelation 2:7)". Those who remember September 11, 2001 recall exactly where they were on that historic day, what they saw and heard. I was in Brussels alongside former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. The otherwise jovial American leader gave a somber response to my question of his opinion of the greatest threat facing the United States and the world. He looked me straight in the eye with steely resolve and without missing a heartbeat he firmly proclaimed, "Fundamentalist Islam." During our recent encounter at Nancy Reagan's funeral, we spoke again of his assessment and the need for strong leadership by America on the world stage. This deduction of the most serious global threat was eerily exactly the same voiced to me prior and subsequent to "9/11" by former Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger. During encounters in Budapest, Washington D.C. and in Beijing, Dr. Kissinger expressed to me his view, "the greatest danger is Islamic Fundamentalism." The difficulty in controlling Radical Islam, is partly due to sympathies held by good Muslims who are influenced by contradictory theological teachings in The Qur'an, especially in Surah 9, or those fearful of repercussions if they speak out against Qur'an or Hadith teachings that incite jihad annihilation of non-believers. Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, an Islam specialist, wrote a compelling editorial "The Quran's Deadly Role in Inspiring Belgian Slaughter" published in USA Today on March 23rd. It is imperative for leaders to listen to his first-hand perspective as vital intelligence and act on it. Immediately after "9/11" we began working with Mayor Rudy Giuliani to help rebuild tourism to New York. During a dinner with him in Los Angeles for the New York Firefighters, we were briefed by the New York Police Commissioner that the modus operandi of these terrorist-gangsters is to never give up on failed attempts. They keep trying until they succeed or are caught and put out of commission. As a military and law enforcement expert in criminal prevention, the police commissioner was adamant that: "A culture change in intelligence and information sharing is essential, and those that refuse to change must be removed. There can be no compromise. I believe our battles have just begun. We must stand firm, stay preemptive, and never believe for one minute that this war is over. Why us on September 11, 2001? They brought this war to us, and it is a war we cannot afford to lose. We need to continue the battle before us. For without it ... we lose." Another relevant point to consider is that terrorism is a profitable business and a job generator for disenfranchised youth who are recruited just as gang members are in inner cities and ghettos. Muslim youth in search of identity are targets for recruiting. They respond to the literal Islamic promise of spiritual gain for inflicting pain on infidels or apostates, plus reportedly they receive 50,000 Euros each as perpetrators, whether they commit suicide or not. The promise of virgins in the afterlife is appealing but the attraction of financial security in the here and now for themselves or their families is a huge motivator for signing up. Interesting to note, the criminal fugitive arrested in Brussels decided not once, but twice to not blow himself up. He must not be afraid of recrimination. That speaks loudly about the laws and consequences or lack thereof in Europe. They must feel completely emboldened and disconnected to be raised in Europe and have zero national commitment to their birth nation or their fellow countrymen. That is something for other countries to seriously consider. It means that these natural born citizens who are radicalized are potential cells everywhere. Unless their families, friends or neighbors report them to law enforcement, tragedy inflicted in Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels is only the beginning. Terrorism Inc. The evening of September 11, 2001 was a disturbing eye-opener offering a glimpse of clarity in how this "terrorism for hire" underground operates. Part of our delegation was taken to visit a section in the heart of Brussels called the "hotbed" (literally) of trouble. We were informed on that tragic day in 2001 that the Brussels crime syndicate and many neighborhoods were controlled by Muslim gangsters from Albania and North Africa who greatly profited in human and drug trafficking. We were told that they primarily preyed upon Eastern Europeans desiring a better life. Seducing them with promises of honest work, then kidnapping, drugging and forcing victims into the sex trade which is active, highly-profitable and sadly accepted in Brussels. Ironically the headquarters for this depraved anti-woman, anti-child activity is the same city as the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. From our van we saw many women and adolescents, noticeably spaced-out, in cubicles and windows offering sex for payment. There were swarthy gangsters guarding the streets, some holding machine guns on their shoulders. It was frightening but insightful, just like watching the movie "Taken" but not cinematic fiction, reality. We were advised it is organized crime partnered with orchestrated jihad, for money and power. Our Belgian hosts informed us that local judges and prosecutors were threatened for their lives and that of their families if they convicted these organized home grown and immigrant malefactors. The information being reported during the aftermath of the Paris and Brussels attacks is evidence that European authorities have not been aggressively rooting out and convicting criminal jihadists. Reports that family and friends hid the bad guys in Brussels is deeply disturbing. This was also the case in San Bernardino and must be addressed with consequences for not reporting the criminals, whether family or not. It affirms the argument that they benefit financially and support the same criminal jihadist mentality as the perpetrators or they fear retaliation that is advanced by Sharia Law. They are essentially accomplices and must be held accountable to change the mentality to prevent future complicity. America, Lead, Do Not Follow The solution is for America to lead our allies with strong intelligence, strong military, strong economy and strong moral foundation. America needs to be relentless in eliminating gangster-terrorism as a priority. In addition to listening to our military-intelligence and Islam experts, we should offer skills and jobs for at-risk Muslim youth so they reject being recruited. Tie any aid America provides with required education of virtue values, global ethics and vocational training. Encourage entrepreneurism. Perhaps open American Internet Café's across the Middle East and North Africa, partnering with Arab youth entrepreneurs. Open tourism-training centers to counteract terrorism-training. Since 1990, we have worked successfully with Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan on sustainable development programs. Currently we cooperate on educating "Arab Youth Advancing Tourism" to provide good futures. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu teaches to wisely use unorthodox means to win. Consider the strategy of Hamas, although known as a terrorism organization, they have strong support from the Palestinian people because they provide education, healthcare, jobs and charity for them. We should not support any organization with a history of terrorism but we can influence good people by helping them to be healthy and successful. It is better to pay for good to be perpetuated or we will pay a much greater price if the bad guys have the "nukes." There will be no debate about climate change then. It will be an indisputable reality. President Reagan's words are insightful to consider: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." Our flag of the United States of America must be embraced by future generations of Americans. Acts of selflessness makes patriotism grow. "Old Glory" is watered with the blood, sweat and tears of the American people who fight for freedom and human life, holding it dear in their hearts to the death. The flag stars symbolize heaven, the Divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripes are symbols of rays of light emanating from the sun, encouraging Americans to always walk in The Light, leading virtuously by example. The U.S.A. flag colors, red, white and blue combined, have a dramatic and everlasting meaning. "Red is valor and bravery; white symbolizes purity and innocence; blue is vigilance, perseverance and justice for all." We must be vigilant, never allowing personal desire for power to bring dishonor to our American House. We must elect honest leaders who are trustworthy, courageous and patriotic. The lesson from President Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" must be passed onto our children and their children. We cannot allow the debacle that happened at Benghazi to fellow Americans and the ensuing lies told to the grieving families and the American people to ever happen again. Those who place America's destiny to be a beacon of light and hope at the forefront as decreed by "We The People" in the Preamble of America's Constitution, should be chosen to lead, to protect and to serve our nation. Foundation Matters: Sand Disintegrates, Rock Eternal Belgium, called the "Battlefield of Europe," a reputation strengthened by two world wars is considered a neutral country. My first visit to the Kingdom of Belgium was in 1968. Although small it is strategically important. There are primarily two distinct European mentalities within its borders. One that is French (the Walloons-except Brussels) who generally only speak Belgian French. The other is Flemish which is closer to The Netherlands. They have a Northern European mentality but they speak French and Flemish (Belgian Dutch). To complicate it more, there is a section in Eastern Belgium that speaks a dialect of German and has more of a German mentality. You can tell by the names of the towns the dividing lines between the Walloons and the Flemish. Belgium is a constitutional monarchy with a King and a parliamentary system. Besides being known for exceptional chocolate, beer and lace, Belgium is considered one of the most liberal-thinking societies in Europe. Highest number of women ministers in the world (55% in 2,000). Euthanasia was enacted in 2002 and same-sex marriage legalized in 2003. Belgium is also where Prussian (German) philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto between 1845-48 and the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the British Duke of Wellington at Waterloo in 1815. The three official religions of Belgium are Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but it is a secular society. Belgium is predominately Catholic, historically and culturally, but only 5% of the country attends church, reportedly 3% of Catholics living in Brussels. Citizens of primarily French and Flemish descent, that are mostly Christian with some Jewish, co-exist with immigrant communities that are primarily Muslim and not well assimilated even if born in Belgium. Understanding mentalities of people matters in politics, business and law enforcement. The minority in Belgium from the Middle East and North Africa have distinct mentalities based on cultural and religious backgrounds. This is a major challenge to overcome when confronting the lure of being recruited by Radical Islam criminal-terrorist organizations that are clearly anti-Europe, anti-America, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-women, anti-humanity and anti-Islam, if they don't support their demonic tactics. European Union members may wish to reconsider their foundation and the highly contentious decision to exclude any reference of a Creator or higher power than man in the European Constitution of 2004. This last word of caution is found in The Good Book, Jesus taught: "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it! (Matthew 7:24-27)" America's Rock is Her Constitution and Declaration of Independence as set forth by the Founding Fathers (and Mothers). George Washington, the Father of our country, summed up the Foundation of America best: "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible." Brothers and Sisters, Alleluia. Amen. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.