At a White House press conference on April 16 following the Virginia Tech shooting rampage, the deadliest in US history, spokesperson Dana Perino expressed horror and sadness. When asked whether the incident might cause the president to rethink his views on gun control, Perino said: “As far as policy, the president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly, bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting numbers—I don’t want to say numbers, because I know that they’re still trying to figure out how many people were wounded and possibly killed. But obviously, that would be against the law and something that someone should be held accountable for.”
During a speech at the Daviess County, Indiana annual Lincoln Day Dinner on April 12, the state’s Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita used an unusual reference to describe black voting trends. Rokita stated 90 percent of blacks vote Democrat and questioned why.
“How can that be?” Rokita was quoted as saying by the Washington Times-Herald. “Ninety to ten. Who’s the master and who’s the slave in that relationship? How can that be healthy?”
Rokita’s remarks, made on the same day that Don Imus was fired by CBS for referring to black college female basketball players as “nappy-headed hos,” were criticized by black lawmakers. Rokita, who apologized for his comments, explained that his intention was to encourage the Republican Party to continue its efforts to diversify its constituency.
Source: Washington Times-Herald
Rising shipping, transportation, and logistical costs have been cutting into the effectiveness of the $2 billion in food aid the US gives every year to developing countries, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on March 21. The US provides more than half of the world’s food aid, but in recent years, there’s been a 43-percent decline in the amount of food delivered. As a result, the US is feeding about 70 million people a year, instead of the more than 90 million it fed five years ago.
The GAO reports noted that ocean shipping was eating up a larger share of the food-aid budget, as shipping costs had soared. The price of moving a metric ton of food had risen from $23 to $171 between 2002 and 2006. In contrast, the UN World Food Program, which is not subject to the same restrictions that the US law places on aid shipments, pays only $100 to ship a metric ton. The US aid restrictions include one that requires three-fourths of all aid to be shipped on US-flag vessels that employ American crews. These ships charge higher rates than foreign-flag ships. In addition, Canada, Australia, and Europe are moving away from shipping homegrown food to Africa and Asia, purchasing food from developing countries that are as near as possible to possible areas hit by hunger crises, thereby eliminating ocean-shipping charges. US law requires that all food given as aid be grown in America. In recent years, the US has bought more than half the food for its aid programs from just four agribusinesses and their subsidiaries: Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge, and Cal Western Packaging.
For the third year in a row, the Bush administration has asked Congress to amend the law, allowing up to a quarter of the food aid budget to be used to buy food in developing countries, thereby increasing the effectiveness of US food aid. On April 18 in Kansas City, US Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns told the International Food Aid Conference that he was “guardedly optimistic” that Congress would agree to the local or regional purchase and distribution proposal. Congress has killed the proposal in each of the past two years, and many legislators see it as aiding America’s food-growing competitors overseas. “If you want to see a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply in the United States, somebody’s got to stand up for the growers,” said Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AK).
Source: International Herald Tribune
On April 12, 2006, an Iraqi Associated Press photographer, Bilal Hussein, was taken prisoner in the city of Ramadi by US forces. Over a year later, Hussein is still being held at a prison camp in Iraq by US military officials, who have neither formally charged him with a crime nor made public any evidence of wrongdoing. The US military claims it is justified in Hussein’s continued detention because it considers him a security threat. Dozens of journalists—mostly Iraqis—have been detained by US troops or Iraqi security forces during the war, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Most were released without trial after a short period.
Paul Gardephe, a lawyer representing the jailed AP photographer, disputes assertions by US officials that Hussein aided insurgents. “The absence of evidence leads to the conclusion that Bilal is being held because of the photographs he took for AP—which were published around the world—and which were part of AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning submission,” Gardephe said. “He hasn’t been interrogated since May 2006, so he clearly is not being held for intelligence value. He’s just held to be held.”
Source: Editor & Publisher
On April 4, British Home Secretary John Reid announced that the government had provided nearly $1 million to pay for new closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to help fight crime. The new cameras are to be fitted with loudspeakers, allowing security staff to remotely berate people dropping litter, vandalizing property, or fighting. “Talking CCTV is another tool in creating safer communities,” Reid said. “It uses modern technology to allow camera operators to speak directly to people on the streets to stop or prevent them from acting antisocially.”
Britain is the most watched country in the world, with an estimated 4.2 million CCTV cameras, or one for every 14 people.
In the United States, as well as in many European countries, when people renew their drivers licenses, they also decide whether they want to be organ donors. As a 2003 study in the journal Science found, more than 90 percent of Europeans are organ donors, while only about 25 percent of Americans are—even though most Americans approve of organ donation. In the US, to be an organ donor you have to sign a form. The reverse is true in Europe, where you are an organ donor unless you specifically indicate that you do not want to donate your organs.
Source: New York Times
On the eve of Passover in late March, Israel’s pro-marijuana Green Leaf Party told its followers that marijuana is not kosher and those who observe the holiday’s dietary rules should not smoke it or ingest it during the holiday. The Green Leaf Party said products of the cannabis plant, including hemp seeds, had been grouped by rabbis with foods like beans, which are off limits. The party assured its faithful that marijuana was kosher the rest of the year.
The Woodstock Town Board passed a resolution on March 13 committing the town to reduce the town’s net carbon emissions to zero in 10 years. According to the resolution, the town will create a task force to inventory its energy use and make recommendations for improvements by 2017. The resolution also seeks to promote the development of renewable energy sources, encourage homeowners to use solar power, converting town vehicles to biodiesel, and increase recycling. Included in the resolution are concrete suggestions for reaching the zero carbon goal, including green building, bike paths, and tree planting. Woodstock has already installed solar panels on top of its Town Hall, creating enough energy to meet all of the building’s heating needs and sell energy back into the grid.
Source: CNN, Woodstock Times