Sources: New York Times, PR Watch
Last year, the White House announced they would miss their promised deadline to shut down Guantánamo Bay by 2010, but there is now skepticism that the president will accomplish the goal at all. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who supports shutting the prison down, says the effort is “on life support and it’s unlikely to close any time soon.” A White House spokesman counters that “our commanders have made clear that closing the detention facility at Guantánamo is a national security imperative, and the president remains committed to achieving that goal.” Some White House officials say that the Obama Administration has done its job by finding an empty maximum-security prison in Illinois where detainees can be transferred. Next, Congress has to allow the Justice Department to buy the prison from the state of Illinois. When President Obama took office, a majority of Americans supported closing the prison but a poll in March found 60 percent wanted Guantánamo to remain open. Though an estimated $180 million in taxpayer dollars would be saved each year if Guantánamo closed, some improvements have been made in conditions at the prison, including Obama’s successful ban on brutal interrogation techniques.
Source: New York Times
House Minority Leader John Boehner has suggested raising the retirement age to 70. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Boehner said, “We’re all living a lot longer than anyone ever expected, and I think raising the retirement age is a step that needs to be taken.” In Great Britain, the government has announced plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 66 and in France, a suggestion to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 caused serious protest. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich remarked that the cost of Medicare is rising much faster than the cost of Social Security. Some liberal think tanks have commented that blue-collar workers who are more likely to lose their ability to work at a younger age would be disproportionately affected by a retirement age increase.
Eighteen children have died in the US from hyperthermia this year after being left or getting accidentally trapped in cars. Jan Null, a professor of meteorology at San Francisco State University, has documented 463 child deaths resulting from heat exhaustion inside vehicles since 1998. This year is the highest death toll for the first half of the year since Null began the study. Organizations such as Kids and Cars and Safe Kids USA advocate for parents to create reminder systems to check the back seat every time they get out of their car.
Source: Yahoo News!
Efforts to place more stringent regulations on current whaling practices at the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting at the end of June led to a stalemate. As a result, Japan, Iceland, and Norway will continue scientific and unregulated whaling including within the borders of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, a 19-million-square-mile area near Antarctica where most of the world’s whales feed. The three countries have killed an estimated 30,000 whales since the moratorium was placed on commercial whaling in 1986. According to the Associated Press, many Japanese people feel the vigilance of the anti-whaling movement is rooted in cultural prejudice against Japan. In 2008, Shigeko Misaki of the Japan Whaling Association gave a statement that anti-whaling “has almost become a religion. People who believe this religion think all Japanese people are evil, because we kill whales.”
Source: National Geographic
Despite discussions in Congress to ban BP from any new oil and gas drilling projects, BP is still the Defense Department’s largest single supplier of fuel for the military. According to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), BP’s military contracts in 2010 amount to $980 million, approximately 11.7 percent of the military’s supply. BP spokesman Robert Wine says one large contract for operations in Europe was signed after the oil rig exploded in the Gulf on April 20. Before the disaster in the Gulf, the EPA had been considering taking measures to ban BP from federal contracts due to their 2006 oil spill in Alaska and explosion at a Texas refinery in 2005. Former EPA attorney Jeanne Pascal claims a Defense Department official warned her that the Pentagon relied heavily on BP for operations in the Middle East. A Defense Department spokeswoman claims that the DLA told the EPA there were safety nets in place “to protect the US military should the EPA determine that BP should be debarred.” Another spokeswoman from the DLA says “none of BP’s current energy contracts are in direct support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Source: Washington Post
President Obama announced that two billion dollars in stimulus money will be used to build solar panel plants in Arizona, Colorado, and Indiana, generating more then 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. One of the companies receiving stimulus money is Abengoa Solar, whose farm in southern Spain, Solúcar, is utilizing a new technology called concentrated solar power (CSP), which focuses solar radiation with mirrors. Abengoa has identified CSP’s potential in the Mojave Desert in California and Nevada which receives 30 percent more solar radiation than southern Spain and can therefore generate 30 percent cheaper solar power. Obama’s plan to invest in stimulus money in solar energy companies followed the Labor Department’s report that employers cut payrolls last month for the first time in six months, related to the end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. At the same time, private-sector hiring increased by 83,000 jobs and unemployment dropped to 9.5 percent. In response, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) called the move another example of “Democrats out-of-control spending.”
Sources: Associated Press, Smithsonian
Twelve million people worldwide are stateless, or don’t have citizenship, which can prevent them from obtaining work, healthcare, education, and other legal protections. The problem was first identified on a global scale following World War II and the denationalization of German Jews by the Nuremberg Laws along with new borders in Europe. James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Institute’s Justice Initiative, says, “One of the great challenges in terms of advocacy is that these people are dispersed and it does manifest itself in different ways all across the globe. It is hard to mobilize the stateless as one class or group.” The UN’s attempts to secure rights for stateless people with the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in the early 1960s was ratified only by 33 countries. Goldston points out: “Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to nationality, but nowhere does it say which state must secure that right. We still need some greater clarification of states’ obligations.”
Source: Christian Science Monitor