Osama bin Laden dead – details.

With the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death, the war in the Middle East is once again trust into the limelight for the United States. After the so called ‘war on terrorism’ has largely been eclipsed in the public mind by more domestic concerns, like our flagging economy, the news of the death of one of the forerunners of the al-Qaida group has brought the issue to the forefront. And it was done during Obama’s watch. This could prove to be a feather in the President’s cap.

Americans gather to celebrate the news at the White House and Ground Zero while the stock markets get a modest boost from higher moral and confidence. U.S. officials say that the body of the master terrorist has been buried at sea, following Islamic practice and tradition that the deceased be buried within 24 hours. It was hard to get a country to accept the remains of the man who was the face of terrorism, so it was decided to bury bin Laden at sea. (This probably means they dumped the body over the side of a boat in whatever ocean or sea they were closest to. Don’t have any illusions here.)

DNA testing offered a “99.9%” certainty that bin Laden was the man shot dead during the raid and detailed photo analysis by the CIA and matching physical features confirmed the identity of the body. U.S. Blackhawk helicopters ferried about two dozen troops from Navy SEAL Team Six, a top military counter-terrorism unit, into the compound identified by the CIA as bin Laden’s hideout — and back out again in less than 40 minutes. Bin Laden was shot in the head, officials said, after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault.

It is unclear what this will mean. People have already stated that while bin Laden’s death is a great blow to terrorism and a victory for the United States, the war is not over. I fear that we have only cut off the head of a hydra, and two will spring up in its place. Homeland Security and the FDA has already issued travel warnings as the threat of retaliation from remaining el-Qaida members and those with radical sympathies is very real.

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Terrorist announced to be dead. Obama on Osama bin Laden.

A crowd gathered at New York’s Ground Zero right after Obama’s speech announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011. Revelers in the crowd scrambled up light poles over the cheering crowd.

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Cunningham seeks changes to child labor laws and Burns wants to create a ‘training wage’.

I caught a snippet of a debate on television last night while getting ready for bed (because CNN is the default channel in my house – kill me) about changing the child labor laws. Of course, I had to search the internet to find out what they were yapping about. Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham has proposed a bill that would “modify” child labor laws. The proposal would eliminate the prohibition of employment of children under age fourteen and repeals the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen has to obtain a work permit in order to be employed. It would remove restrictions on when and how many hours a child may work. It also would remove the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ.

I know the big thing in Washington right now is to bang your drum and chant “shrink the government” but there is a big difference between getting rid of regulations and expenditures that are useless or outdated and getting rid of regulations that keep your fellow Americans from doing something amoral and stupid. Because, let’s face it, humans are greedy, morally bankrupt, horrible, stupid people and the only thing keeping them from doing something disgusting is the fear of being punished. Child labor laws were created to keep young children (single digit ages) out of dangerous factory/manufacturing jobs but there is a big difference between wanting to work at the 7-Eleven and working in a textile factory where your task is to run under the huge cloth looms to untangle a snag in the threads and where failing to run back out quickly enough would result in your death. I agree that laws should reflect our time but doing away with the law completely is just as detrimental.

Jane Cunningham says that “parents should be in charge, deciding on the work ethic of their children,” which is so ignorant that it makes me cringe. Removing the regulations on how long and when a child can work is just asking for trouble. Parents, and I use that term loosely in some cases, are so wrapped up in their own lives that they don’t notice what their child is doing while other parents simply will not care. A similar bill in Maine proposed by David Burns takes the idiocy a step further, by establishing a “training wage” for new workers 20 years old or younger. It would reduce the minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $5.62 an hour for the first 90 days of employment. What this will result in, is young workers being fired after the 90 day period is over and a new teen worker being brought in at the reduced wage continually. You are working under the premise that Americans are ethical, decent people that will treat their fellow humans with respect, even a teen, but reality is that they are not. You are deluding yourself if you think otherwise.

The loss of fingers, limbs, and even death was the result of little children working in factories. They were employed because their small fingers and arms could fit into the gaps of machinery where tools and adults couldn’t. Children were often maimed or crushed doing this.

Missouri Lawmaker Seeks to “Modify” Child Labor Laws – Huffington Post

Cunningham defends proposal to eliminate many child labor law restrictions -STL Beacon

Teen “training wage” bill draws opposition – Maine Bangor Daily News

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Congress gears up for the debt discussion – no, not that one. The other one.

The people in our government are buttheads and here is the reason why: both the Republicans and the Democrats have announced their party’s negotiators for the upcoming talks over the nation’s debt limit and they are pretty much a handpicked selection of people guaranteed to NOT come to an agreement. The Republicans have picked Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl. Please note that the invitation was for four congressional Republicans but the GOP decided to waste the time of only two. The Democrats chose Max Baucus and Daniel Inouye from the Senate and James Clyburn and Chris Van Hollen from the House. Of those, only Van Hollen seems to make any sense, having taken part in the 2011 budget negotiations that ended just last week. Basically, this is going to turn into a staring match where nothing gets done. Much like the negotiations for this year’s federal budget went.

Paul Ryan, the architect of the Republican budget that protects tax breaks for the wealthy and turns Medicare into a voucher system, is not finding a lot of support for his proposal. House Republicans voted 235-4 in favor of the plan but touching entitlement programs is incredibly unpopular with the public. Ryan was booed when talking about his proposed budget plan when holding a town hall meeting in his southern Wisconsin congressional district. Only Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 72% of Americans wanted Congress to raise taxes on wealthy Americans making more than $250,000 a year.

Americans would prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is and also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half of those polled say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Basically, Americans want the government to sort itself out without having themselves pay any more money. Better yet, to reduce what we are paying in taxes now. (You do realize that it doesn’t work that way, right? Basic math there, Bobo.)

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Photos from a natural disaster – Japan earthquake & tsunami.

TIME contract photographer Dominic Nahr arrived just one day after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting devastating tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan on March 11th. Nahr camped out at a Daiou temple in Minami Sanriku where most of the town had been wiped out by the tsunami. The temple, however, was on top of a hill and was spared. Dozens of survivors are living at the temple after having their homes destroyed. Nahr photographed the Buddhist funeral ceremonies that were being done in groups and in an abbreviated form so they could accommodate all the families that lose loved ones, many without a body to mourn.

Survivor's sleep closely together for warmth at a temporary shelter in a Daiou temple in Minami Sanriku, one of the only locations in the area not destroyed by the tsunami. March 29, 2011


Dozens of urns fill a room for a group funeral at a Daiou temple in Minami Sanriku. March 30, 2011


A member of Japan's Self-Defense Forces searches for survivors on March 14, 2011

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Photographs and family mementos saved from rubble after earthquake and tsunami.

Many family photographs have been found in the rubble and ruins of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. In Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, photographer Toru Hanai explains that search and rescue teams, police, firefighters and the Japan Self Defense Force have been gathering the muddied and damaged pictures and bringing them to the local police station. At the Collection Centre the images are cleaned under the direction of project leader and Ofunato resident Satoko Kinno, a paper conservator and graduate of Camberwell College of Arts in London.

Once restored the images are taken to the shelters where they can be reclaimed by their owners. This photograph, taken by Hanai on April 12, shows a volunteer washing and drying images of one single child, a 4 year-old girl. Just a few days after this photo was taken, Kinno got word that the child and her mother and father had all survived the earthquake and tsunami, and were safe. The photographs will be returned to the family.

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Big surprise – more tax issues.

Obama will head out on the road this week to begin the effort to get support for the debt reduction plan he outlined last week. He’s not doing so on the greatest footing. Last year, before elections created a Republican controlled House, a new tax plan would have had some chance to reach his desk. Not so much now. House Speaker John Boehner, even before Obama made his speech last week, spoke in opposition to any plan that would raise taxes – calling it “unacceptable” and a “non-starter”. But there are signs that Obama may get the support he needs if he focuses solely on corporations and the wealthy.

The touchiest part of Obama’s plan is his pledge to not extend the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, those making $250,000 or above. (Oh, déjà-vu! We’ve heard that before.) The GOP has always had the image of protecting the wealthy, the fat-cats, while the Democrats are often accused of an endless “tax and spend” cycle. Now, almost everyone thinks that the Republicans have pretty much cheated middle-class America while pandering to the wealthy. The wealthy aren’t paying their fair share in taxes and the middle-class is drowning in the kickback.

Nearly six in ten Americans have the belief that the wealthy aren’t paying their share of taxes and nearly seven in ten think the same about corporations. Two-thirds of those making under $100,000 a year believe that those in the upper-incomes are not paying enough in taxes. This public opinion might give Obama the backing he needs in order to get a new tax plan going. Plus, the middle-class is a huge target in any election but particularly one where the economy will be a central issue. If Obama can use quashing tax cuts for the wealthy to appeal to those middle-class voters it could be a huge advantage in upcoming elections.

That is if people can get past the knee-jerk reaction that increasing taxes hurts economic growth. Lesser known facts, like the U.S. corporate tax being the highest in the world and that ending the Bush tax cuts could impact 894,000 small businesses, could allow the Republicans to ultimately win the tax debate. But turning public opinion makes tax issues less of a sure thing for the GOP.

Obama’s winning message on taxes? – The Washington Post

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There is still turmoil in Egypt.

Egyptian military men clear razor wire as they reopen Tahrir Square in Cairo. Tahrir had been closed off for five days following a sit-in by protesters. The Egyptian military—seen as heroes during the initial protests—are coming under increasing criticism for their repressive actions. April 12, 2011. Khaled Desouki—AFP/Getty Images

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Auction to benefit Japanese quake and tsunami victims.

On Thursday April 21, from 6-9pm at 25CPW Gallery in New York City, a group of international photographers will host a photographic exhibition and silent auction to benefit Architecture for Humanity’s efforts rebuild Japanese communities damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Sixty photographers will be showcased and 100% of the proceeds will be donated.

Architecture for Humanity is a non-profit design service firm whose mission is to building sustainable futures through meaningful projects that make a difference in local communities and are currently collaborating to rebuilding area in Japan ravaged by natural disasters.

For more details and to preview the art, please visit [Wa] Photography Auction

Photography Auction to Benefit Japan Quake Communities – Time Magazine

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Budget bill moves through Senate and on to Obama. Up next: the debt ceiling.

Both the House and the Senate passed the budget bill yesterday, with the Senate voting 81-19. Fifteen Republican senators, three Democrats, and one independent voted against the measure. Now the legislation moves on to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. But the fight over the 2011 budget may have weakened John Boehner when many of his own party abandoned him when voting in the House on the measure took place yesterday afternoon. Without Democrat help, the bill may never have passed. But don’t be fooled into thinking anybody is having fuzzy feelings for the opposite party, 108 of the no votes came from House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.Now Capitol Hill turns its attention to raising the national debt limit but the king of the Republicans may be doing so with a weaker hand. Boehner’s little GOP kingdom has become disenchanted with him. The federal debt ceiling, currently just under $14.3 trillion, is projected to be breached by mid-May and the Treasury Department’s accounting tricks will only last until early July. Conservatives and tea party members are demanding that their leaders shrink the government and are howling at the suggestion of raising the debt ceiling. But they may end up having no choice. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and others have warned of dire consequences to the global financial markets if the debt limit is not extended and the government begins defaulting on its loans.

With debate over the debt limit intensifying, Republicans are discussing attaching some tough statutory language to the bill that would allow the ceiling to be increased only if Congress institutes broad spending cuts in federal agency budgets and in entitlement programs such as Medicare. Those proposals might unify House Republicans for an initial passage of the debt ceiling, but they might also fail in the Democratic controlled Senate. Such an outcome would send Boehner back to the bargaining table with Obama and Reid. This past week’s reaction to the spending bill from GOP conservatives may leave the White House assuming Boehner will not be able to deliver a majority on his own, prompting Obama’s side to not give in to as many of the speaker’s demands.

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