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Tag: america

‘I Just Wanted To Let You Know’

I first heard from my old high school friend in an email in October 2011. Subject line: "Ashtabula High 1975."

"I am in complete shock over what has happened to compassion in the country I call home," Philip Kachersky wrote. "It is not the same country that I was raised in in Ashtabula in the 1960s and '70s.

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#EndorseThis: Lincoln Project's Inner Idealism Makes 'America' Glow

Just the other day, those irrepressible scamps at the Lincoln Project tweeted out a teasing message, aimed at the fans of Michelle Obama: "We go low so you don't have to." And it's true that many of their ads and tweets are pretty harsh, which is exactly what their targets deserve.

But the Lincoln Project gang somehow retains an inner core of idealism. That's why they've abandoned their lifelong allegiance to the Republican Party and risen to the defense of democracy and liberty.

That inner idealism -- about our country and our people – is on full display in this inspiring ad, titled simply "America," that well matches the mood of their new (if perhaps temporary) comrades as the Democratic Party convenes this week.

Did we mention that the Lincoln ad makers are highly skilled at their craft? The images are compelling and the music is powerful too. You may find yourself viewing this video more than once. Enjoy!





Now It's America That Needs To Be Saved

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

Remember the song "Over There"?
"Over there, over there
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming everywhere..."

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Putin As America’s Frenemy

Chicago Tribune (TNS)

The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, Nov. 18:

How much do we trust Vladimir Putin? Not at all, even when he does the right thing.

Russia on Tuesday launched cruise missiles toward Syria from the Mediterranean, but it seemed a good idea to double-check reports that the target was an Islamic State stronghold. The missiles easily could have been meant for U.S.-supported militias on the ground, since Putin’s hit them as well.

The reports were true, though. Russia went after numerous Islamic State positions, as did French warplanes. The U.S. Defense Department said the Russians even followed safety procedures by giving notice before launching the missiles, as they had promised. Putin also ordered a missile cruiser to cooperate with the French “as allies” on Syria operations.

Vive les frenemies!

The teamwork, however long it lasts, is a direct response to terror. The French are bombing Islamic State territory in retaliation for the Paris attacks. On Tuesday, Russian officials confirmed that an explosive hidden on board took down a Russian jetliner over Egypt on Oct. 31, killing all 224 passengers and crew. Islamic State’s Egypt branch had claimed responsibility. Russia did not name Islamic State as the culprit, but within hours Russia was firing missiles toward its headquarters in Raqqa.

“We will search for them everywhere, no matter where they are hiding,” Putin said of the perpetrators. “We will find them at any point on the planet and punish them.”

If the U.S., France and other allies end up fighting alongside the Russians to take down Islamic State — in partnership again as in World War II — that would be gratifying and logical. It also would be … weird. Out of character, at least, given Putin’s rogue ambitions.

In Europe, let’s not forget, the U.S. and its NATO allies are trying to figure out how best to contain Russia in the wake of its seizure of Crimea and adventurism in Ukraine. In Syria, the Russians quietly took over an airfield in territory controlled by the besieged madman President Bashar Assad. Putin indicated his forces would support Assad, an ally, by targeting Islamic State. Soon it became clear Islamic State was an afterthought: Mainly the Russians have been firing at areas held by anti-government rebels — our friends.

Putin’s main reason for being in Syria is to protect Assad and project Russian power. Russia is still at odds with President Barack Obama because the U.S. wants Assad out. Assad’s a brutal dictator who slaughters his own people. We saw the first slight signs of a shift on this point at Syrian peace talks in Vienna, where the U.S. signaled some patience on the subject of Assad’s future. Putin, with his forces in the air and on the ground, forced the point.

No one envisions the Vienna talks going anywhere quickly, but Islamic State’s horrible deeds have retribution on the minds of friends and frenemies alike. Russia is an American adversary but also a victim of terrorism. At the G-20 summit in Turkey over the weekend, Obama and Putin spent 30 minutes in conversation. That doesn’t happen very often.

My enemy’s enemy is … in this case, my enemy. You go, Vlad.

©2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: President Obama chats with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin prior to a working session at the Group of 20 leaders summit in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkey, November 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kayhan Ozer/Pool

Teen Birth Rate Falls In U.S.

Miami (AFP) – The birth rate among US teenagers has continued to decline, but health authorities said Tuesday that even greater strides could be made if more teens used long-acting forms of contraception. More than 273,000 babies were born to mothers aged 15 to 19 in 2013, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The teen birth rate in 2013, the most recent year in which data is available, was 26.5 births per 1,000 teenagers. This was more than double that in 1991, when the birth rate was 61.8 births per 1,000 teens.

“Improved contraceptive use has contributed substantially to this decline,” said the CDC Vital Signs report. A key strategy for further reducing teen pregnancy is increasing awareness, access, and availability of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), specifically intrauterine devices.”

Nearly 90 percent of sexually active teens surveyed said they used birth control the last time they had sex. The most common forms of contraception were condoms and birth control pills.

However, relatively few teens are opting for implants and intrauterine devices, which are the most effective kinds of birth control. Long-acting reversible contraception use among teens was 0.4 percent in 2005 to but rose to 7.1 percent in 2013. Of the 616,148 female teens the CDC studied in 2013, 17,349 (2.8 percent) used IUDs, and 26,347 (4.3 percent) used implants.

“LARC is safe to use, does not require taking a pill every day or doing something every time before having sex, and, depending on the method, can be used to prevent pregnancy for three to ten years,” said the CDC report. Less than one percent of LARC users become pregnant during the first year of use.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have endorsed LARC as a first-line contraceptive choice for teens, the report added. However, the CDC stressed that LARC does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

“The good news is that teens are taking responsibility for their reproductive health needs,” said Lisa Romero, a health scientist in CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. We also know that teens using birth control do not often choose intrauterine devices and implants –- the most effective types of birth control. Parents and teens are encouraged to talk with their health care professional to learn about the various types of birth control, including long-acting reversible contraception.”

Photo: Loic Venance via afp.com

New Texas Social Studies Textbooks Draw Fire During Public Hearing

By Terrence Stutz, The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN, Texas — Too much negative about former President George W. Bush, too much positive about Hillary Rodham Clinton, and way too much coverage of Moses.

Those were among a long list of complaints — from both sides of the political spectrum — during an all-day hearing Tuesday on new history and social studies books for Texas public schools.

Most of the complaints centered on alleged biases in the textbooks and e-books that the State Board of Education will vote on in November. But more broadly, the hearing demonstrated how pitched battles over culture and politics are reflected in Texas’ schools and their curriculum. The materials will be distributed to schools in the fall of 2015.

Southern Methodist University history professor Kathleen Wellman told board members that several of the books on U.S. government and U.S. history exaggerate the influence of biblical figure Moses on America’s Founding Fathers.

“These books make Moses the original Founding Father and credit him for virtually every distinctive feature of American government,” Wellman said. “Moses shows up everywhere doing everything.”

She said publishers are trying to follow an ill-conceived curriculum requirement approved by the state board four years ago that called for more coverage of Moses and Mosaic Law in textbooks.

“This epitomizes the wrong-headed idea that the United States was founded on biblical law. The publishers are trying to conform to a standard without knowing how to do it,” Wellman said.

If the books are adopted as now written, she added, Texas schoolchildren will grow up “believing that Moses was the first American.”

On coverage of political figures, Emily McBurney of Temple said the Worldview company’s world history book has virtually nothing good to say about Bush, including the “increasingly low approval ratings” during his White House tenure and his continued resistance to evidence of human-caused climate change.

But Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, receives 38 lines of glowing descriptions in the book, McBurney told the board.

“Her roles as secretary of state (2009-2013) has often been seen as having a dual purpose: to improve the image of the United States and its relationships with foreign nations that were seen as damaged by the Bush administration, and as an advocate for the impoverished and the hungry around the world,” the high school textbook read.

Extended criticism of the Worldview books led board member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) to remark: “Do you own any Worldview stock? Because I would recommend that you sell it.”

Bradley was part of the social conservative bloc on the board that in 2010 pushed through new curriculum standards for U.S. history and other social studies courses that reflected a much more conservative tone than the previous standards.

Several speakers who criticized the books Tuesday blamed many of their problems — including factual errors — on the standards adopted four years ago over the objections of Democrats and mainstream education groups.

But board president Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) warned those in attendance that complaining about the standards now won’t do much good because they are now required in classroom instruction, achievement tests, and textbooks.

“We are not here to dive back into the curriculum standards,” she said. “That was over in 2010. We are here now to discuss textbooks.”

Other people testifying Tuesday cited unfair treatment of Muslims, Latinos, American Indians, and various minority groups.

Mustafaa Carroll of the Council of American-Islamic Relations told board members that some of the books unfairly blame the rise of international terrorism on Muslims and Islamic fundamentalism.

“Terrorist groups with nationalist and political agendas have formed in every part of the world,” said Carroll, who has headed the regional CAIR office in Dallas and Houston. He cited the Irish Republican Army and “Jewish-Zionist terrorist groups who committed acts of terror in their quest to establish a Jewish state.”

Jacqueline Jones, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, criticized the Pearson U.S. history text for encouraging ideological biases “that are either outside the boundaries of established mainstream scholarship, or just plain wrong.”

The authors, she said, “seem determined to shield impressionable (high school) students from some of the unpleasant facts of our history.”

That includes former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, whose opposition to school integration and glorification of white supremacy is watered down, she said, to make it sound “as if he was appealing to those who did not like the Beatles’ music or their haircuts.”

“We do our students a disservice when we scrub history clean of unpleasant truths, and when we present an inaccurate view of the past that promotes a simple-minded, ideologically driven point of view,” she told the board.

Karin Gilliland of Garland, who said she spent more than 130 hours reviewing some of the books this summer, criticized the world history books that are now using B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) to replace B.C. and A.D. when citing historical dates. Some scholars use B.C.E. and C.E. to avoid using the central figure of Christianity, Jesus Christ, as the reference point for the important dates.

She also said that one of the books devalues the good in America. “I don’t see people flocking to Russia or Arabia or Africa. I see people flocking to America,” she said. “Our values are what make us great.”

Texas last adopted new social studies books in 2002. As one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, the state has a strong influence on books marketed in other states.

Photo: Pesky Library via Flickr

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Republicans: History Classes Should Leave Out The Bad Parts

Republicans are always talking about how the government is way too involved in the American education system. So it’s completely logical that the Republican National Committee (RNC) took the time to write a resolution condemning the new Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History curriculum.

They’re concerned that the new framework, “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

For example, the RNC thinks that 17th-century colonists should be seen in a mostly positive light — and that students should not be taught about the consequences of American colonialism.

The RNC also criticized the curriculum’s framework for not including enough about the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the role that religion played in forming the United States, and important battles and military heroes.

The critics complained that they weren’t able to view sample tests, which is a standard practice, and that everything in the curriculum is required knowledge, meaning that students are not going to be tested on anything outside the framework.

The RNC asked that the College Board delay implementing the new framework for a year, and that a new framework be developed that allows students “to learn the true history of their country.”

It also requested that Congress and state legislatures investigate this curriculum, and that Congress withhold any federal funding to the College Board until the framework is revised.

The RNC isn’t the only conservative group that has a problem with the way history is being taught. American Principles in Action and Concerned Women for America wrote an open letter to the College Board, condemning the curriculum’s “consistently negative view of American history,” which highlights “oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country.”

The letter also complains that “colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed ‘a rigid racial hierarchy.’” So basically they have a problem with the fact that the curriculum will teach students that slaves and Native Americans were still oppressed after the American Revolution.

The groups are also upset with the framework’s portrayal of Manifest Destiny as something that “was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority,” and that the curriculum focuses too much on some of the negative aspects of World War II, such as the use of atomic bombs and Japanese internment camps.

The College Board is taking this criticism seriously. College Board president David Coleman released a practice AP U.S. history test to the public, and announced that he will soon issue “clarifications” about the framework.

College Board spokeswoman Carly Lindauer told Education Week that the curriculum “is built to be flexible.”

“The new course emphasizes the American founding documents and their essential role in our nation’s history, and recognized American heroism, courage, and innovation,” she said. “College Board leaders continue to meet with individuals who have concerns about the redesign to listen and receive feedback.”

This isn’t the first time that the RNC has spoken out about education. Last year, it denounced the Common Core education standards, not just because they thought it was a government overreach, but because they believed a Glenn Beck-promoted conspiracy theory claiming that Common Core would collect personal student data from lab experiments.

Photo: Pesky Library via Flickr

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Free Market America? Yes, But With Limits

Washington (AFP) – The United States portrays itself as a bastion of the unfettered free market, but when foreign firms launch takeover bids for American businesses things are not always so laissez faire.

The United States is the world’s top destination for foreign investment.

Business leaders here scoff at protectionism, such as the French government’s opposition to U.S. engineering giant General Electric’s bid for the energy business of French rival Alstom.

“There’s a sense here that the highest bidder should prevail,” said Mitchell Marks, a mergers and acquisitions specialist at the University of San Francisco.

Last year, Softbank of Japan acquired Sprint, the third largest American mobile phone carrier. And Smithfield Foods was bought by a Chinese investor for around $7 billion.

But there are limits to this openness, first because of concerns over competition but mainly when the transaction involves assets linked to “national security” or “crucial infrastructure” under current law.

In these cases, takeover bids are examined by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

This panel brings together representatives of the Treasury, State and Defense departments as well as domestic intelligence services.

After an assessment period that can last up to 75 days, the committee can approve the bid, require changes or, in the most extreme case, recommend that the president simply nix it.

In September 2012, President Barack Obama blocked Chinese companies from acquiring wind power farms in Oregon on that grounds that they were located near a U.S. military base.

“It is a unilateral, non reviewable decision and he doesn’t have to justify it,” said Samuel Thompson, author of a book entitled “Fusion, Acquisition and Tender Offers.”

A review does not even have to go as high as the White House.

Political pressure can also influence the process, especially when the takeover bid comes from a country with delicate relations with the United States, such as China or Russia.

“Many foreign buyers are surprised by the number of takeover defenses that are available to U.S. companies,” said James Hanks, a mergers and acquisitions lawyer with the firm Venable LLP in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 2006, facing opposition from Congress even though it had the green light from the White House, the United Arab Emirates firm DP World had to give up on a bid to acquire management business at six American seaports including New York.

Opponents of the deal had noted that two of the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks were born in that country, and this was enough to trigger a media reaction.

In 2005, the Chinese company CNOOC withdrew a takeover bid for the oil firm Unocal, saying it was the victim of the “political climate” in Washington. The state-run press in Beijing complained at the time that the U.S. economy was not free and open.

The mere fact that a takeover bid can be assessed by U.S. authorities is enough to cool foreign firms’ acquisition appetite, the Congressional Research Service said in a report published in March.

Since 1990 nearly half of foreign takeover bid by foreign firms that were subjected to study were abandoned by these companies without even waiting for a verdict, this agency said.

It said companies do not want to be associated with anything that smacks of a threat to U.S. national security.

In 2008, the investment fund Bain Capital, allied with the Chinese group Huawei, dropped its bid to acquire the American high tech firm 3Com, fearing objections from the CFIUS.

But allied countries like France, for instance, generally find less resistance on American soil. In December 2006 the telecoms group Alcatel won permission, albeit with strings attached, to take over the U.S. firm Lucent.

“If it’s a company placed in a country that is as close to the U.S. as France or the UK, I think that the chances of the transaction being barred are very, very small,” said Thompson.

©afp.com / Philippe Lopez