Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Egypt: A Warning for U.S. Democracy


By Frank Knapp Jr.

Make no mistake about it -- the peaceful Egyptian revolution was brought about by the workers and small business owners of that country protesting together. They want economic opportunity for all and a democratically elected government that puts its peoples’ interests above the interests of the financially powerful, well-connected oligarchy.

There is a lesson here for our country.

Our government structures are becoming ever more influenced by those with extremely deep pockets at the expense of our citizens and small businesses. And while we have a tradition of a democratic election process to address needed changes in our government, that process is becoming less and less democratic.

Click here to read the full article.


By Mahnaz Afkhami

A new day has dawned in Egypt. The dictator has been brought down. Euphoria is in the air. How will women fare as euphoria yields to reality?

During the past several days, I have kept in touch with our partners in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. They all agree that Egypt forecasts their destiny. They are enthusiastic and their exuberance is contagious.

Having lived through Iran’s 1979 revolution that dashed the hopes of millions, I was skeptical about Egypt’s prospects for a peaceful transition to participatory democracy. And I know revolutions are heady experiences, especially for the young, and especially for young women in repressive Middle Eastern countries. The Cairo air now shimmers with possibility, just as the air of Tehran once did.

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By Susan Shaer

Are you clued in to the current slashing and burning going on in Washington, DC? The new Congress is trying to settle on a federal budget that should have been voted on last fall. President Obama unveiled his idea for the next budget on Monday. How do you think they are setting priorities? After all, our federal budget shows what we value, doesn’t it? What we care about as a country? So what does our president’s budget care about?

President Obama’s federal budget for our next fiscal year revealed that almost all of Secretary of Defense Gates’ recommended Pentagon “cuts” (really restructuring and a reduction in the rate of increase) will be consumed by increased war spending. The total Pentagon budget planned for 2012-2016 shows virtually no change between this year and last year's projections.

This year, President Obama does face an incredibly steep challenge –growing deficits and debt. The fall election made it clear that fiscal conservatives, Tea Party candidates, and backers demand deep spending cuts to address this. Despite promises from President Obama that everything would be considered for cuts – this is not true for the Pentagon.

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By Rev. Garrett J. Andrew

I worked as waiter to support myself in seminary. It was one of the more difficult jobs I have had. The hours are always a bit strange. You are on your feet for long periods of time. There are the customers, ah yes, there are the customers. Some were demanding and some were laid back. But no matter, I worked as hard as I could to ensure I did the best job that I could. It was the customers after all that ensured that I could actually survive as a waiter. Without the tips I would never have been able to make it.

The worst nights were when I left with almost nothing. We had to tip others out and they had done their work well so they deserved all I could give them. But one night I remember I was going to leave with just $6 after working for 5 hours. Knowing that I was not going to be getting any more money for food the next day, I went into the kitchen and found some food that was going to be thrown away. I asked the manager if I could have it for dinner. Granted permission, I found myself eating other people’s leftovers and thanking God that I had even that.

I did this all while working in California, a state that requires all tipped employees to be paid minimum wage. Here in Georgia the minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. It’s with first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that tipped workers endure that I implore us all to support the federal Working for Adequate Gains in Employment Services (WAGES) Act, expected to be reintroduced soon in the new Congress.

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By Chris Coleman

When the newly-elected Republican congressman from Maryland, Andy Harris, was told that his government-subsidized health insurance would not go into effect until four weeks after his swearing in, he was furious. According to an article in Politico.com, he demanded to know why it would take so long and what he was supposed to do without 28 days of health care.

Ironically, Harris, like most of Tennessee’s congressional representatives, campaigned against “government health care,” and remains committed to repealing the new health care law, which would give his constituents and the American people the very same benefits and protections he is demanding for himself. The House of Representatives will soon vote on a proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and nearly all of Tennessee’s representatives intend to vote in favor of repeal. In other words, our representatives will attempt to take away from us what they intend to keep for themselves and their own families.

What are the benefits and protections that the opponents of the Affordable Care Act want to keep for themselves but deny to the American people?

Click here to read the full article. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Individual Mandates as a Moral Imperative


By Raymond H. Feierabend, MD

It’s no secret that the individual mandate is one of the most unpopular and controversial aspects of the new health care reform law.

It’s being challenged legislatively in the Tennessee General Assembly, and legally through lawsuits such as the one recently ruled on in Virginia. Two thirds of Americans say they would like to see a repeal of that provision of the law. Yet, seven in 10 Americans favor restrictions on insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and to rescind coverage when individuals become ill. Unfortunately, as long as our health care system is based largely on the private insurance industry, we can’t have one without the other.

Politically, passage of comprehensive health care reform would not have been possible with active opposition from the industry. Repeal of the individual mandate alone at this time would be vigorously opposed by health insurers and most health care providers, including hospitals and large health care systems.

Click here to read the full article. 


By C. David Hill, MD, F.A.A.P.

Everybody deserves smoke-free air. Pediatricians have first-hand experience about what happens when children and babies breathe second-hand smoke.

Smoking is a known cause of preterm birth, low birth-weight and very low birth-weight infants. Exposure to tobacco smoke in the womb causes increased miscarriages and neonatal deaths. And smoking-related health problems result in increased health care costs for all of us.

Mississippi has the nation’s highest prematurity rate and the highest infant mortality rate. Women who work or must do business in buildings where smoking is prevalent suffer an increased risk to their pregnancy even if they do not smoke.

Click here to read the full article.


By Amy Hanauer

Dear Governor Kasich,

As you begin your term, it is a perfect moment to rethink priorities and map new paths. With high unemployment, big budget shortfalls, and continued erosion of our industrial base, our problems might feel overwhelming.

But during and after our toughest economic time – the Great Depression – Americans created Social Security, wove our safety net, established unemployment insurance and encouraged other innovations that generated the world’s first real middle class, with four decades of improvements to prosperity, equity, living standards, education levels, and life spans. Later we passed the Clean Water Act in response to the burning Cuyahoga, enacted civil rights, and committed resources to public schools and colleges.

Throughout the 20th century, we moved forward. At times far less prosperous than today, we still invested in education, the environment, infrastructure, workers, and families. The result was a state with greater equity, more entryways to the middle class, and cleaner, safer communities.

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By Elizabeth Crowell

There was some good news at the state Capitol in January.

The Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee met to announce their plans for passage of a redistricting plan this legislative session. It’s good to see that they are listening to Mississippians and are committed to adopting a timely and fair plan.

Once every 10 years, following the release of the U.S. Census Report, every state must draw new lines for the election of local, state and federal officials. A large part of the ability or inability of those elected officials to get anything done rests with the way district lines are drawn.

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By: Maureen Costello

Sometimes the most important lessons learned at school don’t come from a classroom.

They come from how a school reacts to ugly incidents of bias and prejudice. When a principal learns that nasty slurs are being used in the school or that students are being bullied because of their race or ethnicity, it can be tempting to deny it.

It can be tempting to resort to the old refrain, “That doesn’t happen at our school.”

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By Nicole C. Lee, Esq.

When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, 2010 the world community came to its aid. Millions of private citizens in this country and around the world reached into their household budgets and gave generously to the Haitian people who were grappling with the devastation.

We sat in front of our televisions and watched men digging for their families. We gave more. We heard doctors lament the lack of supplies. We gave more. In March, the United Nations member states and international partners met in New York and passionately pledged more than $5 billion over the next 18 months to help Haiti recover.

Despite the billions of dollars pledged from private citizens and world governments, a serious health scare has arisen. With poor sanitation, malnutrition, little safe drinking water and no sewage systems, the over-crowded temporary housing tent communities provide an ideal breeding ground for cholera.

Click here to read the full article.