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The Lamp Beside the Golden Door: Protecting Refugee Children at our Borders

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 20:46
Nelson Mandela once said, "We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."

That phrase from the Noble Prize-winning global beacon should be our only mandate as we address the incendiary situation along the border as desperate droves of children fleeing violence in Central America for the refuge of the United States are met with an often impenetrable fence of antipathy. 

Conversely, America has had a recent history of empathy for refugees fleeing. But that was then...

This isn't 1980 when the Refugee Act signed by President Jimmy Carter welcomed more than 3 million mostly Central Americans to be provided with protection and the opportunity to establish a life in America after escaping violence in their home countries. 

And this isn't 1997 when the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) led by Republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart under Speaker Newt Gingrich provided amnesty to 150,000 Nicaraguans, 5,000 Cubans, 200,000 El Salvadorans, and 50,000 Guatemalans.

This isn't even 2008 when, at the end of the Bush administration, led by President Bush, Congress easily passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Action Act, which at this point is the only straw to which the current surge of young refugees are grasping.

No, this is 2014 when armed militia head to the border to "protect" our country from toddlers in diapers and tattered Dora T-shirts.  This is 2014 when hundreds of angry protesters in Murietta, California, chant "USA, USA, USA" and "go home" while blocking a busload of hungry, tired, lonely children from a long journey trying to make it to a holding center in search of a concrete floor to serve as a bed, and hopefully a bit of empathy as a pillow.  (They never made it to the center and the protesters celebrated as the bus turned around with no destination in sight.)

This is 2014 when a bipartisan effort is being forged to change the 2008 Bush-led law to expedite the removal of the refugee children.  It's also an era when a 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner flatly responded "send them back" when asked about the crisis during a recent CNN interview.  And a time when Texas Governor Rick Perry is calling for 1,000 National Guard to protect the borders.  Can't we protect the borders AND protect the refugee children? 

And make no mistake about it, they are refugees AND they are children. 

Yet they are being depicted as aliens invading America in a way that would have scared Orson Welles back in the day.  For instance, take note of Congressman Louie Gohmert's (R-TX) rant against this science-fiction-like form of child alien everyone is trying to protect us from when he said:

World English dictionary defines 'invasion' ... it's any encroachment or intrusion ... or advent of something harmful ... In the Constitution, it says that Congress has the authority to call for the military during times of invasion.

So, I guess that explains Rick Perry calling on the National Guard to keep these child "invaders" from destroying America. 

These are refugee children.  

Yes, the numbers are startling, more than 57,000 refugees since October and 90,000 by the end of the year.  But they aren't coming to America to hang out at the mall or to try to get famous on a reality show like other kids.  They are simply trying to survive.  And as a parent of young children, I can't fathom the choice their parents had to and continue to make -- either a dangerous journey through Mexico led by often nefarious guides or "coyotes" where if they make it to the border they are met with vitriol, uncertainty and a continued arduous journey... or the barbarity which has infected their home countries like a deadly virus piling up an unthinkable body count.  What would you choose if you were trying to keep your child alive amidst the crushing brutality of everyday life in these Central American countries?



It is not a coincidence that of the most dangerous regions on earth, all 20 are in Latin America, with San Pedro Sula in Honduras leading the way as the murder capital of the world.  Please note that violence, not poverty, is the driving force.  Take a look at my birthplace Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere next to Haiti which borders Honduras and is in Central America near El Salvador and Guatemala -- the amount of unaccompanied minors from Nicaragua is negligible and not coincidentally so is their gang presence and murder rate.  Statistics show that the lower the violence and murder rates in Central America the lower the amount of children escaping.  This is supported by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report that was obtained by the Pew Research Center and spelled out in an article titled "DHS: Violence, poverty, is driving children to flee Central America to U.S." by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, Jens Manuel Krogstad and Mark Hugo Lopez.

Again, the question we all need to ask ourselves is: what would you do if you were in Honduras and not blessed to be born in the United States, the greatest country in the world? Don't we have a responsibility in our position of privilege?  How did we get to this state of callousness in 2014 when we would turn away children in a life-threatening predicament?

It's clear what is motivating the protesters -- fear, animus and misguided self-preservation. These are powerful incentives for action indeed. But what about the supporters of the refugee children? We are driven by much more powerful emotions -- empathy, responsibility for those in need, and inclusiveness. Why then aren't we matching or surpassing the protesters' intensity? We can't afford to be benign advocates. Whether it's donating, volunteering, or raising the visibility of the plight of these children as a refugee issue, not an immigrant issue, we need to act and overwhelm the protesters' rancor with grace. (Ideas for those who want to help.)

I am going to a shelter in McAllen, Texas, with other supporters to read, play and pray with the children through an effort called READ (Refugee Enhancement And Development) Project which will be executed year-round through volunteers on the ground. As I was developing the effort, I was awash in the spirit of compassion from friends and strangers across the country who were frustrated and concerned and not sure how to get involved to support the refugee children. It's important that people that care have an outlet for their benevolence. The spirit of compassion needs to be nourished.

We also have a moral responsibility. Luke 12:48 in the Bible states, "To whom much is given much will be required."  And as Americans we should not lose sight of the inspiring words at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty which says, "Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The tens of thousands of young refugees are looking for that welcoming lamp lighting the golden door but it has been dimmed by an insular sentiment which has surged in America at the rate of growth of the immigrant population.  The light has dimmed, but it's not out.  And I'm confident it will go from a flicker to a glorious flame! We have an opportunity to be great during this crisis. An American type of great. 

Boehner Sues Obama in Order to Implement Health Law Faster

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 20:10
When I learned that House Speaker John Boehner is suing President Barack Obama, I thought about a number of good reasons for something to limit executive actions. Would it be to limit NSA spying on its citizens? Could it have something to do with limiting IRS hazing of liberal and conservative groups (the Tea Party gets most of the attention, but the Congressional panel revealed that all new groups got special scrutiny)?

Would it end executive orders by the executive branch, or terminate signing statements, something done by Obama and George W. Bush (who did both with more frequency)? Might it require less immunity for advisers in the presidential administration?

Actually, it wouldn't involve any of these good reasons for a lawsuit.

Instead, House Speaker Boehner wants to sue President Obama to implement the health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sooner.

Huh?

That's right, Boehner claims that the Obama administration overstepped its legal bounds by delaying the employer mandate for a year. Businesses won't be mandated to provide health care for their employees for a year.

What's ironic is that House Republicans, when they weren't voting to repeal the ACA, they also tried to vote for the exact same delay in the employer mandate.

So the lawsuit clearly isn't about policy. It is about who has the power.

Boehner claims that the Obama administration shouldn't have the power to write the law. But isn't the executive branch allowed to implement the law? Is the timing part of writing a law, or implementing a law?

Actually, there's a long history of delays in implementing the law, even about health care. And I don't remember Boehner filing a lawsuit, or even objecting, when President George W. Bush delayed the implementation of his prescription drug law 10 years ago (passed by Congress, of course).

Boehner also claims that the White House has been abusing the executive actions, even though Obama has used the fewest executive actions since Grover Cleveland, according to the Washington Post. Granted, Boehner admitted that he thinks presidents should be allowed to use executive orders, but that the president has been abusing such authority with recess appointments.

If that term sounds familiar, it's something President George W. Bush would use when making appointments that weren't approved by Congress. Nobody remembers Boehner suing Bush over these, or even objecting to them.

When making his case for the lawsuit in his op-ed in a CNN article, Boehner didn't say anything about implementing the health care law sooner, or even that he supported some recess appointments made by Obama's predecessor. Instead, he cited Senate Democrats and President Obama refusing to pass House Republican jobs bills.

I don't remember that being unconstitutional.

When Republican voters realize that the lawsuit has nothing to do with illegal immigration, the IRS, the NSA and spying, or repealing the health care law, but making the mandates occur faster, how will they react? I foresee a lot of disappointment in GOP ranks when they read the lawsuit.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.

Michelle Obama Tells Democrats To Be 'Hungry' For Midterm Victories

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 19:55
First Lady Michelle Obama is joining get out the vote efforts ahead of the midterm elections, telling Democrats it's time to be as "passionate" and "hungry" as they were working up to the 2008 and 2012 elections.

The first lady appeared in a video for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as part of their effort to collect 1 million voter commitments before November's election. She said that President Barack Obama can only work to defend equal pay for women, immigration reform and a minimum wage increase with congressional leaders "who will work with him."

"So when it comes to the midterm elections this November, we need you to be as passionate and as hungry as you were back in 2008 and 2012," the first lady said in the video. "In fact you need to be even more passionate and more hungry to get Democrats elected to Congress because these elections will be even harder and even closer than those presidential elections."

She added that the upcoming elections could be determined by as few as thousands or even hundreds of votes. The First Lady called on Democrats to pledge their commitment to vote, and to volunteer their time to register people to vote to help the DCCC reach its goal of 1 million vote pledges.

"Together we want to reach 1 million new voter commitments by Election Day because, it's simple: you deserve a Congress that will work for you and your family," she said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is the fundraising arm of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Though Democrats hold the majority in the Senate ahead of the midterms, Republicans maintain the majority in the House, with 234 of the 435 seats.

House, Senate Committees Reach Tentative Agreement On VA Bill

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 19:24

By Peter Cooney

WASHINGTON, July 27 (Reuters) - A tentative agreement has been reached by the chairmen of the U.S. Senate and House veterans committees on legislation aimed at resolving the Veterans Affairs healthcare crisis, their spokesmen said on Sunday.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who heads the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and his House counterpart, Republican Representative Jeff Miller, will outline the agreement at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) on Monday, their spokesmen said.

"Miller and Sanders continued negotiations on a VA reform package this weekend and made significant progress toward an agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals," their offices said in a statement.

The VA has been rocked by a scandal over cover-ups of months-long waiting times for medical appointments at its clinics and hospitals across the country. In Phoenix, doctors have alleged that some 40 veterans died as their names languished on secret waiting lists while officials misrepresented wait-time data to meet targets for bonus compensation.

The controversy led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in late May.

With time winding down before Congress begins a five-week recess on Friday, pressure has been building to reach a deal on a measure aimed at eliminating long waiting lists at VA hospitals and clinics.

Negotiations on the measure had broken down last week as Sanders and Miller rolled out competing proposals with a $15 billion gap between them.

The proposal introduced by Sanders on Thursday would provide less than $25 billion in new funds for VA healthcare, with $3.3 billion offset by other savings in the department's budget.

Miller came back with a plan for $10 billion in emergency funds, with other budget needs to be settled in the fiscal 2015 VA spending bill later this year.



(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Media on Middle East, ACA in Court, GMOs in Food

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 19:14


LISTEN HERE:



By Mark Green

Matalin and Corn debate déjà vu news - Israel back in Gaza and ACA back in court. Consensus: there's not a media bias but a rough balance between pro-Israel talking heads and the flood of photos of dead civilians. Also: why not label GMOs in processed food?

On Israel back in Gaza - Media Bias? The Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal denounces one-sided media coverage as we listen to Jon Stewart mock how hard it is for journalists to even discuss this conflict. That right?

"There's no issue more fraught with charges of media bias from both sides," concludes David Corn of Mother Jones, dismissing charges that the New York Times has slanted coverage by supposedly creating a moral equivalence. Mary agrees. "The problem is that each side is intensely in its 'silo' without adequate consideration of the larger context of a Mideast re-jiggered by the Arab Spring."

Conclusion: yes two peoples/one land, but a) Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 despite concerns about it becoming militarized; b) Hamas clearly started this war by launching rockets after the murders of three Israeli youth and one Palestinian boy; c) are aiming at civilian populations; and d) do not accept Israel’s right to exist.

Both discount any moral equivalence between the two sides. But they are concerned that the eventual loss of a Jewish majority in the "Jewish State" combined with reliance of Israel on the U.S. means that recurring wars eroding popular support for Israel aren't tenable. For example, while a clear majority of Americans over 40 consider Israel's response in Gaza to be justified, by 2-1 people under 40 do not. Corn: "Not everything that's justified is right or effective."

Sooner rather than later, there has to be a two-state solution. But after this month, it would appear to be later.

On Obamacare Back in Court. Milton wrote that "a poet can survive anything except a misprint." Laws too.

Can Obamacare subsidies be provided to citizens of states with federal exchanges rather than only those on state exchanges? One line in the 1,500-page law said there would be subsidies only for state exchanges while the rest of the law and congressional intent clearly indicates both exchanges. What now since the 4th and DC Circuits split on this issue?

Mary predicts that the Supreme Court will resolve the discrepancy by sending the issue back to the states. David thinks that the full DC Circuit would review the panel's 2-1 decision and, given the 7-4 lineup of Ds to Rs, would and should reverse the perverse conclusion that 6 million-plus Americans might lose their health insurance due to one obvious drafting error.

The Host adds that Republican candidates in red/purple states should be nervous this fall having to explain why tens of thousands of people would lose their health coverage and perhaps their lives - or pay double or triple in premiums - despite the unanimity of opinion that Congress intended no such thing. Mary argues that her coverage did triple while David counters that data shows only small premium increases. (Consumer Advice: she should probably go on an Exchange and shop around if her insurer tried to rip her off like that!)

On Mein Kampf back in Germany, Israel. This was easy: should Mein Kampf be allowed to be published in Germany? In Israel? Ron Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, thinks not.

"Absolutely" answers Mary. "Book banning is immoral and counter-productive. We must know our history." David completely concurs. "How can we allow some people to decide which books can be published?"

On GMO labeling. The Host interviews Jean Halloran of Consumer Reports about the huge controversy over the labeling of GMOs in 70 percent of our processed food. Europe does require such disclosure. The result: when consumers had a knowing choice between food with GMOs and without, they chose those without since they were no more expensive.

Again, consensus. Though there aren't studies showing GMOs to be dangerous, neither have they been adequately researched unlike, say, drugs under the 1938 and 1962 food, drug and cosmetic acts.

So far, one state, Vermont, requires GMO labels while two others - California and Washington State - voted it down in a referendum after giant food companies outspent opponents 6-1. The FDA is looking at the issue but, explains Halloran, it may lack the statutory authority to test GMOs as it does drugs and additives. So the issue appears likely headed to Congress... where nothing this controversial now seems capable of enactment.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

Send all comments to Bothsidesradio.com, where you can also listen to prior shows.







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Paul Schell Dead: Former Seattle Mayor Dies At 76

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 17:54
SEATTLE (AP) — Former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, who led the city during the World Trade Organization protests in 1999, has died. He was 76.

Schell died Sunday morning at a Seattle hospital surrounded by family, according to Mayor Ed Murray's office. "Paul will be greatly missed. He was truly committed to the people of Seattle, working to improve the city both as an elected official and private citizen. He was dedicated to the lives of the people of this city, evidenced by his countless contributions and the legacy he built here," Murray said in a statement.

Murray described Schell as one of the city's great "builders." Under Schell, Seattle approved funding to build the world-renowned downtown library. He also led efforts for the first parks levy and played a key role in constructing the Olympic Sculpture Park and the City Hall. He championed the arts and began a massive effort to draft plans for all 37 neighborhoods.

Schell, the city's 50th mayor, served one term as mayor from 1998 to 2002 before losing a re-election bid to Greg Nickels.

His one term was marred with street clashes. The city's response to the WTO protests was heavily criticized and led to the resignation of the police Chief Norm Stamper. The city was also sued by dozens of the protesters, eventually settling. In 2001, a riot broke out during Mardi Gras in Seattle's Pioneer Square, leaving one man dead and scores assaulted.

Schell is survived by Pam, his wife of 51 years, and his daughter, Jamie.

U.S. Releases Satellite Images To Back Up Claims Russia Fired Rockets Into Ukraine

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 17:50
DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.

The images, which came from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, show blast marks where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The four-page memo is part of the Obama administration's push to hold Russia accountable for its activities in neighboring Ukraine, and the release could help to persuade the United States' European allies to apply harsher sanctions on Russia.

The timing of the memo also could be aimed at dissuading Russia from further military posturing. The Pentagon said just days ago that the movement of Russian heavy-caliber artillery systems across its border into Ukraine was "imminent."

Moscow has angrily denied allegations of Russia's involvement in eastern Ukraine. Russia's foreign ministry over the weekend accused the U.S. of conducting "an unrelenting campaign of slander against Russia, ever more relying on open lies."

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, urging him to stop the flow of heavy weapons and rocket and artillery fire from Russia into Ukraine, said a State Department official. Kerry did not accept Lavrov's denial that heavy weapons from Russia were contributing to the conflict, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of the call.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow. The White House had no separate comment on the release, referring queries to the State Department.

The U.S. images claim to show multiple rocket launchers fired at Ukrainian forces from within Ukraine and from Russian soil. One image shows dozens of craters around a Ukrainian military unit and rockets that can travel more than seven miles.

The memo said one image provides evidence that Russian forces have "fired across the border at Ukrainian military forces and that Russian-backed separatists have used heavy artillery provided by Russia in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine."

Another satellite image depicted in the memo shows "ground scarring at multiple rocket launch sites on the Russian side of the border oriented in the direction of Ukraine military units within Ukraine."

"The wide areas of impact near the Ukrainian military units indicates fire from multiple rocket launchers," the memo said.

Moreover, the memo included a satellite image that it called evidence of self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units "on the Russian side of the border oriented in the direction of a Ukrainian military unit within Ukraine."

Separately, The New York Times reported Sunday that defense and intelligence officials were working on a plan that would enable the Obama administration to give Ukraine specific locations of surface-to-air missiles controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The plan, if implemented, would allow the Ukraine government to target these missile sites for destruction, the newspaper said.

Citing U.S. sources, the Times said it was unclear if President Barack Obama would want to give Ukraine the more precise information about military targets because it would amount to America getting more involved in the conflict.

Tensions have run high in that region since Russia seized Crimea in March and Washington has been highly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior.

More recently, U.S. intelligence officials have said they have what they call a solid circumstantial case that Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine are responsible for downing the Malaysia Airlines plane. Citing satellite imagery, intercepted conversations and social media postings, officials say a Russian-made SA-11 surface-to-air missile hit the plane on July 17.

Moscow denies any involvement in the attack.

U.S. officials said they still don't know who fired the missile or whether Russian military officers were present when it happened. But until Sunday, they were unwilling to share evidence that the separatists had the technology to down a plane.

___

Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.

The New York Times Will Continue Drug Testing Despite Pot Legalization Stance

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-27 17:35
NEW YORK -- The New York Times came out in its Sunday editorial in support of legalizing marijuana, kicking off a six-part series to make its case.

But the editorial board’s new stance doesn’t mean incoming Times employees can partake. As Gawker recently noted, the Times is one of several big media companies that require prospective hires to take a drug test. A Times spokeswoman told HuffPost that the paper's policy for drug testing hasn’t changed, despite the editorial board's decision.

“Our corporate policy on this issue reflects current law,” the spokeswoman said. “We aren't going to get into details beyond that.”

The Times editorial board would like to see that current law changed, arguing that the federal ban on marijuana inflicts “great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.” As with the earlier prohibition on alcohol, the Times is calling for repeal.

In a blog post on the series, editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal said that the paper's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., supports the board's decision, which "was long in the making."

The Times has called in the past for legalizing medical marijuana, but Rosenthal said the current position came “as more and more states liberalized their marijuana laws in open defiance of the federal ban” and it “became clear to us that there had to be a national approach to the issue.”

During a Sunday appearance on ABC News’ “This Week,” Rosenthal acknowledged that he's smoked pot in the past and indicated he wouldn't be bothered if colleagues do now.

"I’ve never asked the people that work for me whether they smoke pot, and I’m not going to ask," he said.

Sunday Roundup

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 23:29
This week provided some notable examples of Crime and Punishment in modern America. First, football star Ray Rice received a two-game suspension for knocking unconscious his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator. His coach promptly proclaimed Rice "a heck of a guy." Earlier in the week, Lane Johnson, another NFL player, was suspended four games for taking a performance enhancing drug -- a transgression apparently twice as bad, in the NFL's eyes, as beating up your soon-to-be-wife. In Arizona, the execution of murderer Joseph Wood went seriously awry, leaving him gasping for air for close to two hours before dying. Despite this grotesque death, Gov. Jan Brewer declared that Wood "did not suffer," but didn't explain how she could possibly know this. And, finally, there was a very different kind of punishment served up for our entertainment as the trailer for Fifty Shades of Gray was released, attracting nearly 7 million views in just 24 hours. Somewhere, the Marquis de Sade is smiling.

Sydney Leathers Lived In My Apartment For A Week

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 22:46
“Goodbye, city I own!”

New York businessmen and 16-year-old rich, white kids who think they're gangsters regularly scream these words—but for once a 24-year-old girl was screaming, and that girl was Sydney Leathers, Anthony Weiner’s notorious former misstress who face-palmed his mayoral campaign when she leaked sexts he had sent her.

In late May, I rode a Metro-North train with Sydney from New York City to Bronxville, New York. Sydney had flown to New York from her home Indiana to attend my graduation from Sarah Lawrence College.

New York Times Editorial Board Calls For Legalization Of Marijuana

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 21:37
The most authoritative paper in the United States has put its weight behind the federal legalization of marijuana, a momentous endorsement in the prolonged fight to end to the criminalization of marijuana that has been in place since 1937.

Debuting what is to be a six-part series, The New York Times editorial board called for an end to the "prohibition" of marijuana, saying the current ban "[inflicts] great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol." The interactive series is to run from July 26 to August 5, beginning with Saturday's editorial, "High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization." An accompanying blog post by editor Andrew Rosenthal stated the decision to back legalizing marijuana was "long in the making," and "as more and more states liberalized their marijuana laws in open defiance of the federal ban, it became clear to us that there had to be a national approach to the issue."

The board argues that after weighing the pros and cons of legalization, the scale tips in favor of ending the ban. The Times acknowledges that there are concerns about certain forms of marijuana use, including that by minors. Thus, the board advocates for restricting sales of marijuana to those under the age of 21. Addressing other health, social and legal concerns, the board writes that "there are no perfect answers ... but neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol." But as the Times argues, the concerns are outweighed by the "vast" social costs of marijuana laws.

From the Times editors:

There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

As Politico notes, the "The Times is the biggest U.S. newspaper to endorse the legalization of marijuana." Adding to the significance is the Times' history of being conservative when it comes to legalization. In 2013, an article stressed the dangers of more potent forms of marijuana as well as use of the drug by teenagers. Following Colorado's legalization of marijuana in January 2014, a Times article sounded alarm over having more users of the drug behind the wheel. The article was accompanied by a photo of Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin in the film “Up in Smoke," lighting up in a vehicle. Fears over food laced with marijuana being more accessible to children were sparked by tales of a rise in youth being taken to the emergency room after consuming snacks with the drug. As Washington state moved to join Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana, the Times wrote on the many hurdles that medical marijuana providers would encounter. In June, the Times hosted an op-ed column where the writer said "Marijuana is more dangerous than many of us once thought," pointing to a link between marijuana use and schizophrenia. And of course, there was New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's "bad trip," where she detailed being "curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours," after trying a marijuana candy bar while on assignment.

Given the Times influence, it could be that the endorsement of federal legalization of marijuana could spur politicians, organizations and publications to do in kind. The Times' endorsement is strengthened by the paper's history on issues concerning marijuana and strong language, likening the ban on marijuana to the prohibition of alcohol. Set beside an interactive American flag where stars transform to marijuana leaves as readers scroll, the editorial opens:

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The Times editors close with certainty, "It is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition."

President Barack Obama said in 2012 that prosecuting pot users in states that have legalized it would not be a top priority for his administration, telling ABC News' Barbara Walters, "We've got bigger fish to fry." The New York Times editorial board endorsement of legalizing marijuana counts as another key voice sounding for a change in how the U.S. approaches marijuana.

CORRECTION: 10:30 p.m. ET -- This article previously stated that marijuana had been banned in the United States for 40 years. As Frontline notes, the Marijuana Tax Act effectively criminalized marijuana in the U.S. in 1937.

Fast Food Workers Vow Civil Disobedience

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 19:11
VILLA PARK, Ill. (AP) — Comparing their campaign to the civil rights movement, fast food workers from across the country voted Saturday to escalate their efforts for $15-an-hour pay and union membership by using nonviolent civil disobedience.

More than 1,300 workers gathered in a convention in center in suburban Chicago to discuss the future of a campaign that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years. Wearing T-shirts that said "Fight for $15" and "We Are Worth More," the workers cheered loudly and said they would win if they stuck together. "People are just fed up," said Cindy Enriquez, 20, of Phoenix.

The $8.25 an hour she makes working for McDonald's is not enough to go to college and become a police officer and barely enough to pay her rent, Enriquez said.

While the vote didn't list any specific acts of civil disobedience, Enriquez said some workers suggested sit-ins and perhaps blocking businesses. She said they need to keep pressure on owners even if it means sitting in front of restaurants "to make sure they do not sell anything."

"We're going to keep on going," Enriquez said.

The Service Employees International Union has been providing financial and organizational support to the fast-food protests. They began in late 2012 in New York City and have included daylong strikes and a loud but peaceful demonstration outside this year's McDonald's Corp. shareholder meeting, where more than 130 protesters were arrested after stepping onto company property.

Saturday's convention in Villa Park, Illinois, included sessions on civil disobedience and leadership training. Kendall Fells, an organizing director for the campaign and a representative of SEIU, said when and what actions happen next will be up to workers in each city.

The Rev. William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, said the movement is young but as important as when civil disobedience efforts began during the early years of the civil rights movement.

"People should not work and be willing to work and then be denied living wages and be denied health care because of greed," Barber said.

"This movement is saying that America is less than she promises to be, morally and constitutionally, by denying living wages," Barber said. "If you raise wages for workers, you buoy the whole economy."

The campaign comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats across the country have attempted to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wages.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, translating to about $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours a week, though many fast-food workers get far fewer hours. Obama and others have called for increasing it to $10.10.

Fast food workers say even that's not enough because most people working in the industry now are adults with children, rather than teenagers earning pocket money. The restaurant industry has argued that a $15 hourly wage could lead to business closings and job cuts, though the Seattle City Council recently voted to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour, phased in over several years.

The National Restaurant Association said last week that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership. Scott DeFife, the association's executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said protesters were "demonizing" an industry that employs workers of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels, when the focus should be on policies that increase education and job training.

But many people now are staying with fast-food restaurants for years, because they're often the only ones available, workers said.

Latoya Caldwell, a mother of four from Kansas City, Missouri, who earns $7.50 an hour at a Wendy's restaurant, said she works six days a week to get 40 hours and earn a $435 paycheck.

"I might pay the mortgage, but then not be able to pay the light bill or pay the gas bill. Then I have to wait until the next check and not able to buy shoes or not able to buy diapers," Caldwell said. "I just want to make sure we are able to live decent."

Barber said workers such as Caldwell, who's participated in three strikes, are putting a face on the campaign for better wages.

"This movement is intensifying and it is going to shake the moral consciousness of this country," he said.

Video Of First American Suicide Bomber In Syria Emerges

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 18:27
BEIRUT (AP) — An al-Qaida-linked group fighting in Syria has released video of the first American to carry out a suicide attack in the country's civil war, showing him smiling and saying he looked forward to going to heaven.

The Nusra Front released the new video late Friday showing American citizen Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, 22, with other fighters before the May 25 attack that targeted several army positions at the same time. It said two of the other three suicide attackers in the assault in the government-held northwestern city of Idlib were from foreign countries, including one who was identified as being from the Maldives. Abu-Salha appears smiling in the video and speaks in broken Arabic.

"I want to rest in the afterlife, in heaven. There is nothing here and the heart is not resting," Abu-Salha says. "Heaven is better. When people die they either go to heaven or hell. There is happiness beyond explanation."

The video, released by Nusra Front's media arm, al-Manara al-Baydha, was posted on jihadi websites. It corresponded with Associated Press reporting about the attack and Abu-Salha.

Opposition forces previously identified the American who carried out the bombing as Abu Hurayra al-Amriki and said he was a U.S. citizen. The name al-Amriki means "the American" in Arabic.

It's unknown how many people were killed in the bombing. Opposition rebels with the Nusra Front said Abu-Salha's truck was laden with 16 tons of explosives to tear down the al-Fanar restaurant, a gathering site for Syrian troops. The other suicide attackers targeted nearby army positions.

Abu-Salha grew up in Florida and attended several colleges before dropping out and moving abroad.

Thousands of foreign fighters have come to Syria from around the world to fight against President Bashar Assad's forces after the uprising against his government began three years ago.

The war, which began in 2011, has since taken on strong sectarian overtones, pitting a Sunni-led insurgency that includes al-Qaida-inspired extremist groups against a government dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Syria's uprising began with peaceful protests in March 2011 but escalated into an armed revolt when government forces launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent. The conflict has killed at least 170,000 people, nearly a third of them civilians, according to activists. Nearly 3 million Syrians have fled the country.

On Saturday, a car bomb exploded in a northern Syrian town near the Turkish border, killing and wounding a number of people.

The Aleppo Media Center said the car bomb exploded in a vegetable market in the town of Azaz. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the car blew up near a gas station in Azaz. The Observatory said the blast killed at least four people and wounded several others while the AMC said it killed and wounded a number of people without offering specific figures.

The Observatory and an Idlib-based activist who goes by the name of Asad Kanjo said another car blew up in the northern village of Atmeh near the Turkish border. The Observatory said the blast killed two people. Kanjo said the blast occurred near a market and close to a children's hospital, though it was not affected.

The Observatory also said the Syrian troops recaptured the Shaer gas field in the central province of Homs a week after fighters from the Islamic State group captured it and killed dozens of soldiers. Syrian state television confirmed that troops recaptured the field, saying that "large numbers of Islamic State terrorists were wiped out."

The Observatory also said a missile shot down the helicopter Friday night over a neighborhood of Aleppo known as Camp Nairab. Camp Nairab is adjacent to the Nairab military airport southeast of the city, where government aircraft take off to carry out attacks in northern Syria.

Assad's forces use helicopters to drop barrel bombs — crude explosives that have killed thousands of people and caused widespread destruction, especially in Aleppo.

The Observatory and an Aleppo-based activist who goes by the name Abu Saeed Izzedine said the helicopter crash killed four people, including a child. The Observatory said three of the dead were the helicopter's crew members.

Aleppo, once Syria's commercial capital, has seen heavy fighting since rebels seized part of the city in 2012.

The Observatory also reported Saturday that the number of soldiers killed over the past few days in a northern military base in Raqqa that was overrun by the extremist Islamic State group has risen to 85. It said the fate of 200 other soldiers is still unknown.

The monitoring group, which relies on a network of activists inside the country, said Islamic State fighters have executed and paraded the bodies of "tens" of soldiers in Raqqa, the only provincial capital in rebel hands.

Amateur videos posted online by activists showed more than a dozen beheaded bodies in a busy square said to be in Raqqa. Some of the heads were placed on a nearby fence, where at least two headless bodies were crucified. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the events.

New York Times Editorial Board Calls For Legalization Of Marijuana

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 17:59
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

John Boehner Leans On 'Worst Pop Singer Ever' For Talking Points On Jobs

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 17:45
Members of Congress often employ groan-inducing press materials in order to spread their message on any given day. There's the cheesy Valentine's Day greeting cards, which lawmakers tailor every year to a timely issue. Or, for example, there's using adorable kittens to attack Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

But House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) press operation may have taken the cake on Friday by releasing a litany of puns in honor of singer Billy Joel, who is being honored by the Library of Congress. Joel, despite being called by some critics as the "Worst Pop Singer Ever," is apparently dear to the Speaker's heart.

Here's an excerpt of Boehner's ode to Joel criticizing Democrats on the economy, replete with references to the Long Island native's greatest hits:

The American people have been asking ‘where are the jobs’ “For the Longest Time,” as we find ourselves in the middle of the worst ‘recovery’ for jobs ever.

Yet the president just has to be a “Big Shot,” bragging about his policies when Americans are having a tough time.

No, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” of uncertainty that has small businesses in Southwest Ohio and nationwide struggling under ObamaCare.

And a student coming out of college trying to find a job has every right to be an “Angry Young Man” about this economy.

On top of all this, the president’s “Shameless” push for ‘economic patriotism’ would just make things worse, with even more jobs “Movin’ Out” of the country.


And -- ugh -- of course:

So “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” Mr. President, and work with us to help grow the middle class and expand opportunity for everyone, from the “Piano Man” to the “Uptown Girl.”

h/t Mediaite

Obama Banned From Visiting Chechnya

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 17:01
MOSCOW (AP) — Although Russia has not responded to U.S. sanctions by putting a travel ban on President Barack Obama, there's one part of the country he's blocked from: Chechnya.

The president of the small Russian republic that was the scene of two devastating separatist wars in the past 20 years on Saturday said he was placing Obama on a list of people banned from visiting. Also on the list are European Union figures Jose Manuel Barroso, Herbert Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram account Saturday that the ban is in response to U.S. and EU actions in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, which he called "state terrorism."

Kadyrov was a separatist rebel in the first Chechen war, but switched sides in the second.

Families Mourn Victims Of Air Algerie Crash In Mali

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 16:18

By Michel Rose and Tiemoko Diallo

PARIS/BAMAKO, July 26 (Reuters) - Family members of those killed on the Air Algerie flight that crashed in Mali were taken to the wreckage to grieve on Saturday as French President Francois Hollande announced three days of mourning.

Hollande ordered that flags on government buildings across France fly at half-mast for three days from Monday after the death of 118 people including 54 French nationals in the crash.

Hollande, who met with relatives of victims for three hours on Saturday afternoon, said that all the bodies would be flown to France and that he would make sure that families can, at some point, travel to the crash site to help them cope with their grief.

"A headstone will be erected so that no one ever forgets that on this land, on this site, 118 people perished," Hollande said in a television address, his third on the air disaster in three days.

Families of victims from Burkina Faso, from where the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft took off early on Thursday morning, were flown out by helicopter to pay respects at the scrubby bushland site.

But, in a blow to the bereaved, the mayor for the northern Malian town of Gossi, said that the remains would be difficult to recover.

"No bodies cannot be recovered because they are shredded and burned. Everything has burned, even the forest in a radius of 200 meters," said Moussa Ag Almouner.

"It is heart-breaking and difficult for any person to bear. You are left with no appetite. It's better not to go and see," he added, after a visit to the site.

As well as French and Burkinabe, those aboard included Lebanese, Algerians, Spanish, Canadians, Germans, Luxembourgers, a Cameroonian, a Belgian, an Egyptian, a Ukrainian, a Swiss, a Nigerian and a Malian.


PROBES BEGIN

Initial evidence taken from the remote crash site indicates that the aircraft broke apart when it smashed to the ground early on Thursday morning, making an attack appear unlikely.

Hollande confirmed that early signs pointed to poor weather as the most likely cause of the crash, but added he did not rule out any other explanation at this stage. Two separate investigations are ongoing, he said.

The United Nations peacekeeping force MINUSMA said on Saturday that its experts had located the second black box from the flight.

French, Malian and Dutch soldiers from MINUSMA secured the crash site, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Gossi, near the Burkina Faso border. A resident in the north Malian town of Gao said he saw about 20 researchers from French aviation safety body BEA preparing to visit the site on Saturday.

Aviation authorities lost contact with the plane at around 0155 GMT on Thursday, shortly after the pilot asked to change course due to a storm.

Another plane crash is likely to add to nervousness about flying a week after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed over Ukraine, and after a TransAsia Airways plane crashed off Taiwan during a thunderstorm on Wednesday. (Additional reporting by Mathias Drabo in Ouagadougou; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Henry Miller on War

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 15:23
War is much in the news these days, to the great distress of the world. There is not a continent on Earth on which some form of violence is expressing our species capacity for hatred and cruelty. What did Henry Miller think of war and how it could be avoided?

Miller regarded war as the ultimate expression of anti-life. In the midst of World War Two, at the urging of his devoted follower Bern Porter, Miller wrote a pamphlet titled Murder the Murderer that set forth his position. Not surprisingly, Miller's views on war reflect his belief in the inviolability of the individual human conscience, and his condemnation of mass movements. War results because men surrender their individuality to the will of the herd⎯a herd that is manipulated to pursue the interests of a privileged few.

Murder the Murderer has two parts. Part I, "An Open Letter to Fred Perlès," was written in 1941 but never sent. It was Miller's response to a letter from his Paris friend Alfred Perlès, who had moved to England, become a British citizen, and joined the army. Perlès faulted Miller for his "detachment" in taking an American driving tour while his country was at war. Miller replied that the ultimate authority of the individual conscience justifies his detachment from state sanctioned mass murder.

Miller's argument against involvement in the war effort is based on his belief that wars are fought to advance the economic interests of a vested few whose will to power denies the individual his freedom of choice. "It is the minority which sponsors war, and this minority always represents the vested interests . . . The vast majority of people in the world to-day not only believe but know the sole reason for war, in this day and age, is economic rivalry." Miller insists on the right of the individual to obey his own conscience and refuse involvement in war. "What I protest against, and what I will never admit to be right, is forcing a man against his will and his conscience to sacrifice his life for a cause which he does not believe in."

Miller asserts that his detachment, far from being a fault, is actually the highest form of virtue, practiced by the world's greatest spiritual leaders. "The figures who have most influenced the world all practiced detachment: I mean men like Laotse, Gautama the Buddha, Jesus Christ, St. Francis of Assisi, and such like." Miller traces his own detachment to his stay in Greece just before the outbreak of the war. "The visit fortified me inwardly to a degree beyond anything I had ever known before . . . In Greece I came to grips with myself and made my peace with the world . . . I succeeded in detaching myself completely . . . I finally became a citizen of the world."

Miller made this supra-nationalism into an ideal world order that would come about only through the effort of each individual to become free, to self-actualize. "There can be no civilized effort until the organism embodying the ideal becomes world-wide . . . The fact that we are all alike before God has to be demonstrated in practice."

In Part I of Murder the Murderer Miller defends his detachment and disengagement from the war on the principle of individual freedom. In Part II, he argues for the supremacy of individual freedom, whether of conscience or of expression, over state authority, and implies that militarism and censorship of his work emanate from the same repressive animus that dominates American life. He cites distinguished American thinkers such as Thoreau and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in support of his position. Thoreau: "There will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly." Brandeis: "No danger flowing from free speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. Only an emergency can justify repression. Such must be the rule if authority is to be reconciled with freedom."

Miller saw America's willingness to go to war and its willingness to censor free speech as driven by a deeply rooted impulse towards conformity and control that springs from greed and fear. "We are paying now for the crimes committed by our ancestors. Our forefathers when first they came to this country, were hailed as gods. To our disgrace, they behaved as demons. They asked for gold instead of grace . . . We have emphasized gold instead of opportunity . . . Power and riches, not for all America⎯that would be bad enough!⎯but for the few."

Miller refused to participate in a society that suppresses individual liberty. He accepted his role as an outsider, one of a small number of people⎯like Thoreau, or D. H. Lawrence, or Christ⎯whose ability to self-govern eliminates their need for, or obligation to, society. "Men of good will need no government to regulate their affairs. In every age there is a very small minority which lives without thought of, or desire for, government . . . They lie outside the cultural pattern of the times . . . They are evolved beings." This statement brings into view Miller's anarchism, a philosophy he adopted at the age of twenty after hearing a lecture in San Diego, California by the anarchist Emma Goldman. Miller viewed himself as being among the spiritually elite of his day, a man in possession of himself, an adept who is attuned to a higher moral order than the vast majority of men. And until all men become adept at living war will not cease. Christ is Miller's touchstone. "The Christian world has welcomed every excuse to fight in the name of Christ who came to bring peace on earth. There can be no end to this repetitious pattern until each and every one of us become as Christ, until belief and devotion transform our words into deeds and thus make of myth reality."

Ted Cruz Blames Democrats For Congressional Dysfunction

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 15:18
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is worried about dysfunction in Congress, but he's placing the blame for inaction squarely at the feet of Democrats in Washington.

"It should embarrass all of us, and it's the result of a deliberate partisan decision," the Texas Republican said in an interview scheduled to air on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Congress has predictably dithered on domestic crises this week, struggling to address an influx of unaccompanied minors on the U.S.-Mexico border and stalling on a last-ditch effort to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs before the scheduled August recess. While legislators have produced several bills, they have been unable to coalesce around bipartisan solutions to either issue.

For Cruz, the problem is a detached administration and an unwilling Senate Democratic Caucus.

"The crisis on the border, unfortunately President Obama and Harry Reid have demonstrated no interest in solving it," Cruz said in the interview. "President Obama a couple of weeks ago was down in Texas. He went to Democratic party fundraisers, had plenty of time to pal around with fat cats in the Democratic party, and collect their checks for politics."

"But he had no time to go to the border. He had no time to visit the air force bases where these children are being held, are suffering because of the failures of his immigration policy and his lawlessness," he added.

It's a bit much for the ideological bomb-thrower to lament dysfunction in Congress just days after vowing to block all nominees to an understaffed State Department until the White House explains why the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded U.S. flights to Israel. And there's still the matter of last year's federal government shutdown, which was spurred by Cruz's quixotic demand to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Would Jesus Accept Climate Science?

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-07-26 15:11


Climate change is one of the biggest and most divisive environmental issues we've faced. Not only is the science scary and the challenge daunting, but it calls into question the very way we live our lives.

Perhaps that's why climate science is causing a schism of sorts among American Christians. On one side you have Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative group, Cornwall Alliance, and former professor of historical theology and social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary, who claims that climate science is alarmist junk. Then on the other side, you have Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and an Evangelical Christian, who educates people on the dangers of climate change.

With all this rhetoric going back and forth, what's a Christian in the U.S. supposed to believe? Do climate scientists lack ethics when they say climate change is real and dangerous? Or is there some truth to what they say?

Dr. Beisner's Case Against Climate Change Science

Beisner claims that science today isn't based on the moral grounding it should be. "Sometimes we talk about a society living on the moral capital of previous generations, but as that deteriorates you have that moral decay going on," said Beisner in an interview for the New American. "I think we're seeing that in the sciences and particularly in relation to climate science."

He paints a picture of science, a once noble practice, being hijacked by a big-government agenda. The scientists who conclude that climate change is real and a serious problem, aren't basing those conclusions on any "observations in the real world" or the "objective reality" that's out there, he says. They're merely using climate science to further an agenda -- an agenda that wants to make climate change an issue. (And, yes, of course, there is a comparison to be made with Nazi, Germany.)

"In a world dominated by capitalism, climate change is a handy thing to come along," said Beisner. "Climate change can be a reason for furthering a lot of the political ideals that we've had all along, but not been able to show a good rationale for."

In the New American interview Beisner doesn't specify what political ideals climate change science is furthering and why scientists would want to make climate change a political issue. He worries about an unholy alliance between scientists and government without explaining how it's unholy. And Christian climate change scientists also call into question his claim that science today has fallen into moral decay.

Dr. Hayhoe's Climate Change Concerns

For example, Hayhoe is director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She researches the regional to local-scale impacts of climate change on human systems and the natural environment by analyzing observations, comparing future scenarios, and evaluating models. Hayhoe's work has resulted in over 100 peer-reviewed papers, abstracts, and other publications, as well as many key reports including the U.S. Global Change Research Program's Second National Climate Assessment; the U.S. National Academy of Science report; and the Third National Climate Assessment.

Beisner may argue that a climate scientist like Hayhoe, who warns of the dangers of climate change, shouldn't be trusted because she lacks a strong moral standing. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Actually, Hayhoe is a devout Evangelical Christian who believes that caring about the issue is one of the most Christian things you can do.

"The people we trust, the people we respect, the people whose values we share, in the conservative community, in the Christian community, those people are telling us, many of them, that this isn't a real problem -- that it's a hoax," Hayhoe said in a recent NPR interview. "Even worse, that you can't be a Christian and think that climate change is real. You can't be conservative and agree with the science."

But Hayhoe disagrees with this assessment. "We have been given information about climate change that is not true," she said on the Inquiring Minds podcast. "We have been told that it is incompatible with our values, whereas in fact it's entirely compatible with conservative and with Christian values."

So Whom Should Christians Believe?

Both Beisner and Hayhoe are educated people. And both Beisner and Hayhoe are Christians -- they are (presumably) moral people. But both Beisner and Hayhoe present opposing arguments.

Whom should a Christian believe? Should they assume all climate scientists are just furthering a government agenda when they conclude that climate change is real? Or should they accept the science?

The answer to that question lies in the exercise of free will. God gave us brains to make good choices. It's just important to remember that every choice has consequences.

I imagine sitting in a room. Next door I can hear my neighbor yelling for help. One person in the room with me says, "Oh don't worry. They've shouted for help before and it's turned out to be nothing. There's no observable proof that they're actually in trouble this time." The other person in the room says, "Well, it might really be something this time. Maybe you should check it out."

What would Jesus do? Would he go check on his neighbor? Or would he wait for blood before acting?

EdenKeeper is an information source for those interested in the connection between religion/spirituality and the environment. If you would like to read more visit: www.edenkeeper.org.