Saturday, October 25, 2008

Learn, Think, Act- TB a Global Epidemic-

James Nachtwey is one of the most incredible and influential photographers of our time. Last year he won the TED prize of a wish to change the world and his goal was to use photography to bring knowledge to the world of the epidemic of Tuberculosis and particularly the new form of Extremely Drug-Resistant TB. I encourage you to watch the video of his images below- get educated, think, take action, pass it on.

XDR-TB has been found in at least 49 countries and killed 1.7 million people last year, with more than 2 billion people currently infected. For more information check out , to learn, to find places to volunteer, and to donate to the cause. We have to stop the spread before this epedimic becomes a pandemic, and help get aid to those who are already sick.


Friday, October 17, 2008

States of the Nation - Obama Ahead in the Polls

Just a few weeks before the election do you wonder where we stand? As of today, October 17th, reports that Obabma is ahead. They cite the following polling data: "Obama 352 McCain 171 Ties 15"... As of today, Democrats are ahead in the Presidential race, as well as taking control of more seats in the House and the Senate. If you would like to see a visual representation of which states are red, blue, tied, or leaning, check out their great tool!

America is craving change. We are facing many enormous problems, everything from the economic crisis to global warming, and we need a strong government that can lead us through these difficult times. Some may argue that John McCain is the better choice for President, but at this moment the data shows that Barak Obama is seen by more as the best choice.


The Controversial Electoral College

Guest Author Grant Lingel

When it comes to electing a new president of the United States, one would imagine that it is the people of the country who choose the new official. Some may say that their vote really counts, but exactly how true is that belief? The Electoral College system is something most people have heard of but don’t really know that much about. To sum it up quickly in laymen’s terms, it takes the vote out of the hands of the people and gives it to the states.

According to the Constitution, the people are empowered to make a choice through popular election of the people who represent them in the US congress and their state legislatures. By doing so, the Electoral College is created and its members are the ones who choose the next president.

This doesn’t mean that your voice means nothing. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have any say in the presidential elections. The representatives of states in the Electoral College are supposed to vote the way the people of their state vote. This may not seem fair to some but when you are working with hundreds of millions of people, there needs to be some organization.

If the popular vote was all that mattered and was all that was necessary to elect a new president into the White House, eleven states could ultimately decide the new president and then thirty-nine other states would cry foul. I don’t necessarily agree with how the system works, but I do agree there should be some order. And this is the United States of America, not just America.

The only way that the Electoral College could be modified or done away with completely would be through a constitutional amendment. I believe the only way that something like this could happen would be if a president won the Electoral College vote while losing the popular vote. That has happened three times in history: in 1876 with Rutherford B. Hayes, shortly after in 1888 with Benjamin Harrison, and most recently in 2000 with George W. Bush. People were furious when Bush beat Al Gore and the eight years that followed were a disaster, leaving it clear in people’s minds that the Electoral College system is rather shady.

I’d be willing to bet that this year would be a lot different. Barack Obama is on his way to becoming our next president. He will win the popular vote and is looking very good in the Electoral College. With the lowest approval rating in history going to Bush right now, you can bet your bottom dollar that if McCain is elected without the popular vote this year, the United States of America will go up in smoke. I think there would be a call or two for some constitutional amending to be going on. There are too many people who care about this country too much to let the Bush Administration live on vicariously through the McCain Administration (just typing those words gave me the chills).

There are numerous arguments against the Electoral College. The most frequent of those arguments would be the chance of a president to be elected who didn’t win the popular vote. After asking around I found that people were also concerned with the Electoral College system because it may not accurately portray the true feelings of the population and so, the country. I’m sure sore as can be when watching McCain and Palin rallies and seeing all the hate and bigotry taking place. I surely don’t want to be cast alongside those hate-mongers if McCain wins the election. Because everybody knows the world will see us all like that if this country can’t change course and head in a new direction with Obama.

Barring that hypothetical scenario with McCain losing the popular but winning the presidency, the Electoral College isn’t the worst thing out there. There are very few positives about the way it works. A few examples of this would be how it improves the status of minority interests and it upholds a system of government and representation. However, I believe the system is flawed.

There is always a time for change. Now is the time, finally. The country is demanding change like crazy, be it from both sides of the aisle. Who is more honest and better qualified to lead us through that change? I believe the country, people and states alike, will make the right decision. I sure hope they will. And if for some horrible reason things go wrong and the popular vote goes to Obama while the Electoral goes to McCain, the only change people will be looking for (besides other countries to live in) will be a change to the system and an amendment to the Constitution.

Grant Lingel is a 25 year old from New York City. He is the author of, Imagine. A Vagabond Story. He currently works for AmeriCorps in Brooklyn and runs a daily blog from his home in Harlem.


Jokes and Smiles from Obama and McCain?

A rare look at the lighter side. Both candidates for the office of President, Senators Obama and McCain, took a swing at some humor this evening while attending the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner. After so much overt, attacking negativity in the campaigns its nice to see smiles and jokes (albeit with a few potshots) among the candidates.

If you are amused (I sure was!) I encourage you to check out the longer videos of McCains speech and Obama's speech.

What did you think of their roasts? Did any of the jokes go to far?


Monday, October 13, 2008

TIMEOUT! If you don't know what the responsibilities of an office are, are you even allowed to run for it?!

While I try to stay open minded, and at least understand the argument of the other side even if I disagree with it (perhaps even more so if I strongly disagree with it), but this Sarah Palin video is quite disconcerting. Either she is serious and really does not know what the job duties of the Vice President are, in which case how can she argue she is a valid candidate if she does not know what she is saying she is capable of doing? Or she was just being cheeky which is highly disrespectful of the current Vice President, implying he does not do much (and this is a guy in her own party!), and that she is busier running Alaska than our VP and President are running our entire country.

My guess is a little of both- she probably had very little idea what the VP actually does and was just being snarky. My extreme concern boils down to her lack of knowledge of national politics- if she doesn't know what the VP does can she really hold that position? And if she has been so entrenched in Alaska politics for this tremendously long two years as Govenor, has she had any time (especially as she's being the perfect mom to her 5 kids), to study US history, world history, politics, economics, etc, and stay up to date with current events? If McCain were to win, would she sit down in a meeting with Kim Il-sung or Vladimir Putin and wink?

Now seriously, the woman who less than two months ago claimed she did not know what the Vice President did, is now a candidate for that very position, and if elected less than a month from now will have access to launch codes to nuclear weapons. This is not a movie.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Amazing Voice of Hope and Call to Action by 5th Grader

Fifth Grader Dalton Sherman gave an amazing speech at a back to school convocation in Dallas. Through his inspired words, this young man challenges his peers and teachers alike to believe in him, themselves, and each other. His words rang through the auditorium as he calls, "You better not give up on us. No- you better not! Because as you know, in some cases, you're all we've got!" In his young commanding tone, he wills the teachers to never give up on any of the students, thanking them for doing the most important job in the city, reminding everyone to always believe that they can achieve their highest potential!

I highly recommend passing on this video to all teachers, students, and anyone needing a lift in your life!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

National Debt at Record High- or is it just i?

How low can we go? I say how low can we go? The Wall Street Journal reports that our 'Debt Clock' has officially run out of digits! With our new 'bailout' plan, our country has set a new record low- we crossed the $10 trillion mark of debt.

When the current debt clock was first constructed, the idea of ever hitting $10 trillion seemed beyond our capability. The dollar sign was securely placed in front of the trillion dollar place- not even conceiving of the possibility of it getting larger than $9,999,999,999,999. Having surpassed our wildest expectations, we have sunk the deepest in debt our country has ever fallen- erasing the dollar sign and replacing it with a '1'- that's the 1 in the '10' trillion...

As we try to counter our flailing economy with these new measures, I cannot help but wonder how far this debt can go? Seeing a number like 10 trillion makes it feel like monopoly money, or when your math teacher tries to explain the concept of i (ie the square root of negative one). If a government or company is in debt, they are playing on borrowed money for a limited period of time (usually with a growing interest tacked on to the original loan amount). So while this bailout plan (hopefully) will help stop the bleeding for now, we still have quite a deep wound in our economy overall- to the tune of $10 TRILLION and then some, that we owe to other countries and companies.

We have lived in prosperity for quite some time now, but throwing around numbers in the trillions is like doing math with that little i - you just start seeing the huge number in your bank account and forget that there still a negative sign in front of it (or an i back in math class meaning imaginary)! Obviously this is a simplistic view, but to be in debt is to have borrowed money that you will have to pay back some day. The article mentions plans to make a new national 'Debt Clock' increasing the digits to the quadrillions- so not only do we not have a plan or even goal to pay back our debt, the assumption is we will be going into greater debt!

We seem to be forgetting the negative sign that is tacked in front of that bill. $700 Billion to save our economy could be a deal or a disaster. If it works- fabulous! But it is imperative to know how they plan on paying it back! Because the 'they' in this scenario is our government and we, citizens of America, are responsible for that debt and we will be the ones to pay the price. We have to keep in mind that $700 Billion is not in the government's pockets, it is borrowed money on borrowed time, and we will be paying it back some day- with interest. And if we don't have the money now, how will we get it then? Just as the little i helps mathematicians do higher level functions, being able to borrow money large and small is one of the reasons our capitalistic society has run so smoothly for so long. But in math there are times when you can have an equation in which 2 i's will cancel each other out through division, but debt is not as imaginary as we like to make it out to be. We seem to hold an illusion that we can just go further and further into 'debt'- as if that negative sign up front is something we can just ignore- and it will all be ok in the end, no one will ever call in those debts, or make us repay.

Times are going to be tough for the foreseeable future as we pitch through these rocky waters. As you are evaluating the plans of government officials that you are voting for, make sure they detail actions that will help now as well as into the future. A tourniquet may stop the bleeding now, but it will only be so long before you have to cut off your entire arm.



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