Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Time We Know What to Do


By Jill Sheffield

Reading the news is usually an ordeal of watching the world fall apart at an accelerating pace, so when four United Nations agencies offer a new count of mothers’ deaths worldwide in pregnancy and childbirth, one braces for another depressing and insoluble problem. The numbers over the past 20 years, after all, have been stubbornly high: one death per minute on average.

Today, however, the news is jarring because it’s good: the 2008 total of maternal deaths is down 35 percent from 1990. About 358,000 women died in 2008 from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, according to Trends in Maternal Mortality, a recent joint report from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and the United Nations Population Fund. The study reinforces one by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) earlier this year that put the number at 342,900. Both figures translate roughly to one death every 90 seconds. That’s a definite improvement over one per minute. But is it enough?

Of course not. A thousand women per day is still a horrendous toll in human devastation, and it is almost completely unnecessary. Disparities among the 171 countries ranked in the UN report prove that we know what to do to save women’s lives, and that where governments have had the political will to invest in meeting women’s needs, even in the developing world, those investments have paid off.

Click here to read the full article.


By Lt. General Dirk Jameson, U.S.A.F (ret.)

As the former commander of the U.S. ICBM force, I was personally responsible for making sure that the hundreds of land-based missiles, each carrying as many as ten warheads, stayed on alert and ready to launch against targets half way around the world at a moment’s notice, if deterrence failed.

Working at the sharp end of the nuclear spear taught me to respect the skill and wisdom needed to prevent a nuclear confrontation. It made me a strong believer in the kind of tough, pragmatic arms control diplomacy that President Reagan practiced to reach the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia in l981, when he said we should “trust, but verify.” For a military commander, arms control aggressively negotiated and constantly verified is just smart security.

Unfortunately, we now risk turning our backs on President Reagan’s warning.

Click here to read the full article

Click here to read the article in USA Today


By George P. Shultz, Madeleine K. Albright, Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel

The Senate should promptly vote to approve the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) with Russia for one reason: It increases U.S. national security. This is precisely why Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared at the outset of Senate consideration of the treaty that it has “the unanimous support of America’s military leadership.”

The treaty reduces and caps the Russian nuclear arsenal. It reestablishes and makes stronger the verification procedures that allow U.S. inspectors to conduct on-site inspections and surveillance of Russian nuclear weapons and facilities. It strengthens international efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, and it opens the door to progress on further critical nonproliferation efforts, such as reducing Russian tactical nuclear weapons.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has urged the Senate to ratify the treaty, and seven former Strategic Command (STRATCOM) chiefs have called on Senate leaders to move quickly.

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to see the article in the Washington Post.


By Sarah van Gelder

Americans are facing a troubling reality. The economic recovery they were promised has not materialized. There’s growing talk about a “new normal”—a new way of life to take us through a long period of failed recoveries.

There are, indeed, good reasons to believe we won’t go back to the old ways. But this new normal doesn’t have to be a time of chaos and decline. Instead, many Americans are building stronger families and communities, rejecting the waste and greed that made our economy implode, and turning instead to self-reliance and the sort of neighborliness that embraces diversities of all sorts.

Why not go back to the consumer ideal that was the foundation of the American Dream? Many who live paycheck to paycheck have lost jobs, homes and hopes for an education, retirement security and belief in a more prosperous future. CEO pay is on the uptick, as are corporate profits. But the anti-tax, anti-regulation fever that enriched some undermined the real wealth of our country—our education system, infrastructure, communities and natural resources. And much of our economy has been outsourced, making it difficult for stimulus spending to get growth going again.

Click here to read the full article

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Laboring for Justice


By Rev. Gary Kowalski

Americans are more likely barbecuing this Labor Day weekend than singing “Which Side Are You On?” We’ve forgotten the workers who were our own forebears.

My wife’s family, for instance, came from Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. Today it’s an unremarkable crossroads, but a century ago, it saw a titanic contest between labor organizers and the Reading Railroad, which ran the nation’s coal mines. The union wanted an eight hour day and took 100,000 men out on strike. The walk-out finally ended six months later when Teddy Roosevelt established a commission for binding arbitration. In his closing argument to that commission, the railroad CEO testified that “These men don't suffer. Why, hell, half of them don't even speak English.”

Three years after the strike, a government report found thousands of children still picking chunks of coal by hand from the mountains of slag. And this was my wife’s hometown.  Her great-grandfather Balliet died of black lung, as did great uncle Ellis. Grandmother Jeanette told stories of her brother Evan, who was so small when he trudged off to the pit that his lunch bucket dragged the ground; he perished in an accident at age 14. So the history of labor in this country is our family history. It’s a story whose repercussions are still felt.

Click here to read the full article

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Putting the Public First in State Services


By Ennis Leon Jacobs Jr.

As a former chair of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), I am concerned that recent actions in Tallahassee to dismantle the PSC send a message that the views of the working and bill-paying public count for nothing. Those actions show contempt for balancing the interests of ratepayers with politics.

What other meaning could be derived from the fact that immediately following a vote against record rate-increase requests, four members of the PSC were removed and the public counsel who advocated for ratepayer interests was asked to reapply for his position?

A strong, independent and objective regulatory agency is necessary to oversee utility ratemaking and operation. The legislature recognized that back in 1978, and it remains true today as utility services expand and grow more complex. Just look at your monthly bills that are filled with obscure surcharges and rising prices. But the recent actions to subvert the independence of the PSC threaten to undermine the agency’s credibility and erode public trust. At the moment, the balance seems to be shifting away from consumer protection and toward the utilities and big-money politics.

Click here to read the full article


By: Sally Bethea

For two decades, Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been battling over future water allocation in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin which straddles their borders. The dispute also involves a number of federal agencies, courts, and mediators. Its outcome is one of the most important issues facing the Southeast.

On July 17, 2009, federal judge Paul Magnuson answered a key question that has dominated this 20-year water conflict—how much of the water in Lake Lanier can be legally used for metro Atlanta’s water supply? His answer was stunning: none.

Lake Lanier lies in the Chattahoochee River’s headwaters just north of Atlanta, and over time it has become the main water source for metro Atlanta, sustaining 3.5 million people, half of whom have moved to the area in the last decades. While the reservoir, built by the Corps of Engineers in the 1950s, was authorized by Congress for flood control, navigation, and hydropower, Georgia argues that water supply was also an intent of the federal project. Alabama and Florida argue the opposite, claiming the Corps is holding back too much water in Lanier for unauthorized water supply.

Click here to read the full article.