The Essence of Politics

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FBI denies editing Oklahoma City bombing tapes--By Tim Talley, Associated Press Writer

The FBI says it did not edit videotapes of the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building before turning them over to an attorney who is conducting an unofficial inquiry into the bombing.

The FBI turned over more than two dozen tapes taken from security cameras on buildings and other locations around the federal building to Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who obtained them through the federal Freedom of Information Act. Trentadue said the tapes are blank at various times in the minutes before the blast.

"They have been edited," Trentadue said Wednesday.

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The Fate of the Public Option could be in Obama’s hands

The fate of the public option might not rest in Congress as some people might think especially since the Senate Finance Committee spent more than five hours debating the public health insurance option Tuesday before voting down two Democratic amendments to add it to the bill. But the one person who will effectively decide its fate wasn’t even in the room. President Barack Obama got an early look at the depth of the Democratic divide on the government insurance option Tuesday — with Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad saying it would bankrupt North Dakota’s hospitals and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) saying it’s the only way to rein in ravenous, profit-hungry private insurers.

Not long from now, Obama’s going to have to referee the whole thing. A bloc of three moderate Democrats joined with Republicans to defeat the two public option amendments Tuesday, setting up the Finance Committee bill as the only version advancing in Congress that lacks the government plan. Now, squabbling Democrats are looking to the president to be the final arbiter of whether they include the public option in the version of the bill that goes to the Senate floor — and later, whether it will emerge in compromise legislation from a House-Senate conference.

In the Senate, Obama will work closely with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who speaks with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel several times a day. But the final decision rests almost entirely on the president’s shoulders. “Expect the president and his staff to be key participants in the tough decisions we have to make, on such issues as the level of subsidies and the public plan versus the co-ops,” said a senior Democratic Senate aide. “The only way we are going to get this done is with active involvement of the president.”

Public-option supporters are fine with that. They say they’ll take their chance with Obama at the helm because he’s declined every public opportunity to remove the government option from the table. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who voted for both public option amendments, said she wants the White House to make its position clear, if it expects the bill to drive down the cost of private insurance. “They should weigh in,” Cantwell said Tuesday. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) even describes Obama as the Democrats’ “cleanup hitter” who will mediate the dispute — noting approvingly that Obama has always said he wants the public option.

Of course, other more moderate Democrats could point to a variety of statements where Obama is cool to the idea of government-run health care — including saying during his speech to Congress that it’s just one option for driving down costs and ratcheting up competition, but not the only one. Going forward, Obama will have several chances to inject his views into the process, but he already faces one big decision — does he want a bill that can garner 60 votes in the Senate, or can he live with a bill that Democrats have to force through using a procedural maneuver that requires only 51 votes?

As long as the Democratic leadership and the White House want a bill that can win 60 votes, the public option isn’t likely to survive. Democrats are expected to go for that threshold as they merge competing bills from the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. So in terms of the most immediate decision, Obama and Reid are not expected to push for a bill with the public option, according to Senate sources. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would not support the public option, which means Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is also a “no” vote since he told constituents that he could not go with a Democrat-only bill. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) voted against both public option amendments in the Finance Committee.

But once the bill makes it to the conference committee, the calculus could change. This is where Vice President Joe Biden has said the White House plans to really exert its voice. Half the committee will be from the House, which is expected to pass a bill with a public option. And Republicans, as the minority party, play a diminished role. A third option is asking the 60 Democratic senators to vote to break a filibuster before allowing them to vote as they wish on final adoption, which requires only 51 votes. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told “The Bill Press Show” on Tuesday that a simple majority of Democrats support the public option. “This was the toughest terrain for us,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of the Finance Committee. “It gets easier on the Senate floor, and it gets easier still in conference.”

While progressive senators work to win 60 votes for a public option, a new alternative is beginning to emerge on the Finance Committee. Cantwell said she will offer an amendment to give states the power to negotiate down the price of insurance. If insurance companies agree to cover a chunk of the uninsured, states would help pay for the coverage. The states negotiate with insurers to set the cost and coverage of the program. The rates wouldn’t be tied to Medicare or Medicaid but set at the state level, she said. “It’s a way to get a foothold. If you can cover 75 percent of people that way, then it’s definitely a public plan for the big chunk of the uninsured,” Cantwell said of the idea, which is modeled after her state’s “basic health plan.”

In the Finance Committee, eight Democrats supported an amendment from Rockefeller that would have created a Medicare-like program for all Americans. Five Democrats voted against it: Conrad, Lincoln, Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Carper of Delaware and Bill Nelson of Florida. The division was less apparent on a more moderate approach offered by Schumer, which would set higher reimbursement rates for providers. His amendment failed 13-10, as Baucus, Conrad and Lincoln voted with Republicans. “My first job is to get this job across the finish line,” Baucus said. “I fear if this provision is in this bill as it goes out of this committee, it will jeopardize real meaningful health reform.”

Conrad said Rockefeller’s amendment will tie the public option to Medicare rates for two years. If that happens, Conrad said, “Every major hospital in my state goes broke.” That’s because Medicare reimburses his state’s providers well below the cost of care, and they make up the difference with higher payments from the insured and private payers, he said. Despite the loss, Schumer said he was more optimistic about the chances of enacting a public plan. “It was given up for dead a few weeks ago, but what we find is every time we debate it, whether back home or here at the Senate Finance Committee, we pick up more support,” Schumer said. “I am more optimistic now than I was six hours ago. Every day I am more optimistic that we can get something done.”

Schumer's amendment picked up support from Nelson and Carper, who had previously been noncommittal on the public option. Schumer said Carper still had concerns, but “voted with us as a message that we can get this done.” The two switched votes indicate that moderates are more willing to negotiate than their public pronouncements have suggested. As jockeying gives way to voting, Schumer and other public plan proponents are expected to tweak the proposals to attract moderates, and to move the bill closer to 60 votes. If Democrats show movement towards the public option, the White House could be less inclined to go with one of the weaker compromises, such as Snowe's trigger plan or Conrad's nonprofit insurance cooperatives.

In a statement, Carper said Schumer's proposal was "not perfect," but he supported it because "I believe it -- or something similar to it -- could help drive down insurance costs for consumers in a way that doesn't unfairly disadvantage insurance companies." Carper said he would work on a compromise as the bill moves to the floor. The debate laid bare the philosophical divides over government. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) captured the dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans on the level of trust in government: “The government is not a fair competitor — it is a predator.”

Echoing the warnings used for decades against increased government involvement in health care, Republicans uniformly presented the public option as a federal takeover that would leave bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions. “Gimme a break,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), dismissing the argument that the public option won’t lead to an entirely government-run health care system. “If we pass a single-payer program or something that gets us there ... we’ll never be able to change it. And I can tell you right now it will be a disaster.”

Nonetheless the fate of the public option could be in the hands of Obama and this will truly be a test of Obama’s political might. However at the same time with the public option being in the fate of Obama’s hand, there is still the question is how do you pay for a public option without raising taxes on more Americans who so far until now Obama has pledged no tax hikes on those making $200,000 or less. So as the public option continues to be debated, let’s see how it all comes out but make no mistake about it, the Obama administration will have to weigh in on it eventually.

The Audacity of Nope

Not everyone in Chicago wants the 2016 Olympics to come to the Windy City. In fact some Chicago residents are hoping the Olympics bid is a bust. The mayor, the president and Oprah Winfrey may hope to return to Chicago from Copenhagen with the 2016 Olympic Games, but some around town hope the International Olympic Committee deems the Second City the second city.

As in second to Rio de Janeiro. Or Tokyo. Or Madrid. The opposition is not as visible as the "We Back the Bid" signs plastered across town. But in a city all too familiar with stories of public corruption and problems with public services, there is serious concern the games can only mean more troubles — and bills — for residents. "I know it's going to cost us money somehow," said Joseph Patrick, a 51-year-old stay-at-home dad. "The government doesn't have a job (so) the only place they can get money is from us."

A new Web site — — is the talk of the town and features the game "Match the Olympic host with its estimated budget overrun." About 170 protesters marched outside City Hall on Tuesday night, many insisting that no matter what organizers say, the games will push people from their homes, lead to more corruption and raise taxes. "I don't believe anything the city and the 2016 committee says," said Larry Rivkin, who grew up in Chicago.

At least one person was later arrested for trying to interfere with workers erecting Olympic symbols in a downtown plaza. It's not that the bid does not enjoy wide support. Laid-off laborer Dennis Ries, 45, said the Olympics would bring jobs. Resident Molly Mason, 53, sees the games enhancing tourism and public transportation. "There's no downside, only upside," Mason said.

Others note protests routinely accompany Olympic bids. "The Olympics always galvanizes all sorts of opposition," said A.D. Frazier, chief operating officer for the 1996 Atlanta Games. In Chicago, though, the opposition seems to be getting stronger. A poll released this month by the Chicago Tribune showed residents almost evenly split, with 47 percent in favor of the bid and 45 percent against; that's a drop from the 2-1 support the newspaper found in a February poll.

The 2016 bid committee said its own poll last week shows support from 72 percent of Chicagoans. But even that segment has concerns. Seconds after saying the games in Chicago would be "thrilling," Susan Blaine was wondering what tens of thousands more riders will do to an already overwhelmed public transportation system. "A Cubs game turns my commute to chaos," said Blaine, 51. "You're belly button to belly button."

For others, concerns about taxes have only intensified since Mayor Richard Daley flip-flopped in April, telling the IOC he'd sign a contract promising the city would take full financial responsibility for the games after long maintaining he wouldn't. "For a lot of people that was definitely a major moment, when they said, `Wait a minute, we're going to be ... on the hook financially for a very large amount,'" said Anna Tarkov, who writes The Daily Daley blog and opposes the bid.

Organizers have tried to allay such fears, but it can be a tough sell at a time of headline-grabbing corruption cases, the biggest one involving former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich — a Chicagoan accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. "I just think that the history of corruption sets the stage for a brutal series of events like misuse of funds and insider dealings," said Brian Hayes, 53, of Chicago.

Frazier, of the Atlanta Games, doesn't think the opposition matters to the IOC. "They will probably be disappointed if there wasn't anything," he said. Members of a group called No Games Chicago hope he's wrong. They're headed to Copenhagen to tell the IOC that Chicago is in such financial straits that it cannot afford the games and is such a hotbed of political corruption that it doesn't deserve them. "We are bringing materials to back up our claim that Chicago is not fit to host the games," said Tom Tresser, an organizer for the group.

Still the opposition to Chicago getting the Olympics should be taken into consideration this go round considering that so many youth in Chicago are being killed at an increasingly alarming rate than ever in the city’s history. Think about this, 600 plus youth have been shot in less than 2 years and nearly 150 plus youth have been killed during that same time span. Therefore those who oppose Chicago’s bid for the Olympics should be taken into consideration especially considering that many of the facilities such as the Olympic Park will not be permanent places.

So it is extremely understandable why some people don’t want to see the Olympics in Chicago for budgetary reasons as well as safety issues. Therefore by this Friday afternoon, the decision to see who will host the Olympics will be made and the IOC will either give an audacity of hope for supporters of the Olympics in Chicago or will give an audacity of nope to them. Time will tell all things.

Main Street Continues to Suffer and Congress continues to spend

Now days when it comes to Washington politics, nothing seems to surprise me these days. I say this because as main street continues to lose jobs and find ourselves in tougher times than we were in just a day ago, lawmakers in D.C. want to jack up spending for themselves to $500K for town halls in which many of them didn’t have during such a pivotal time in our nation’s history for the healthcare debate. In fact some congressional leaders in the House and the Senate seem to rarely host town halls when they are back at home and when they do they don’t host many in their districts or states.

Therefore I don’t understand why Congress would want to raise their own budgets to cover quote unquote town halls that many of them avoided to have in their own districts and instead opted for conference town halls. Nonetheless, Congress is on the verge of giving itself a bump in its annual budget — even as local governments, families and businesses across the country are tightening their belts in the worst recession in decades. Under a House-Senate conference measure, approved by the House last week and poised for passage in the Senate on Wednesday, spending for the legislative branch will increase 5.8 percent this year, boosting Capitol Hill’s annual budget to $4.7 billion.

Come up people, as we the American people continue to suffer and many of our state budgets suffer, the U.S. Congress wants to add more to its annual budget that seems to increase every freaking second of the day right along with their automatic pay rises that none of them want to get rid of. Still the measure includes a hodgepodge of new funding for lawmakers: a $500,000 pilot program for senators to send out postcards about their town hall meetings, $30,000 for receptions for foreign dignitaries and $4 million for consultants — with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) getting up to nine each and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) getting up to three more. There’s $15.8 million for salaries for the Senate Appropriations Committee — plus an extra $950,000 for the committee’s administrative expenses.

Funding for House office buildings will jump a staggering 128 percent, to $84 million. Some of that money will go to replace a roof at the Rayburn House Office Building, and an additional $50 million is being allocated to renovate the Cannon House Office Building. The Architect of the Capitol will see a 17.8 percent hike to deal with infrastructure repairs, and the Government Printing Office’s revolving fund will increase a whopping 155 percent, to $12.7 million, to deal with technology upgrades and repairs, according to the conference report.

The bill — which President Barack Obama could sign as soon as Wednesday — funds operations and staff salaries in the personal offices of the 535 members of Congress, dozens of legislative committees in the House and Senate, the GPO, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the Government Accountability Office and the Capitol Police. Supporters of the bill argue that they were relatively frugal this year. Last year, Congress increased its funding 10.9 percent over the fiscal 2008 level — and the $4.7 it’s appropriating to itself this year is less than the $5 billion Obama set forth in his budget earlier this year.

“This is a fiscally responsible bill,” said Jake Thompson, spokesman for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), chairman of the Senate’s legislative branch appropriations subcommittee. But not everyone agrees. “With an enormous deficit and rest of the country tightening their belts, Congress should be looking at doing the same,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of the Taxpayers for Common Sense. Added Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “The growth of expenditures particularly in these times is terrible.”

The Appropriations Committee disputes that funding increased by 5.8 percent, arguing that the real number is 3.5 percent — or $157 million — because of emergency spending and the $787 billion economic stimulus that added to Congress’s budget. But critics call the move a budget gimmick that does not represent a true apples-to-apples comparison of the amount of money Congress approved in last year’s spending bills versus the fiscal 2010 bills. The bill contains just one earmark — a $200,000 Nelson project for a museum in Omaha, Neb. — and it includes language added by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to force the Senate for the first time to put its expenses online.

“We have not seen a significant increase in overall legislative branch expenditures since nearly 2001,” said Jonathan Beeton, a spokesman for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Nelson’s counterpart in the House. “During this time, significant cost increases have occurred, and the Capitol complex has also seen significant deferred maintenance. Many of these maintenance expenses become much more expensive if they continue to be deferred.” Still Nelson’s office said the $500,000 “pilot program” for office mailings was included at the request of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and has been in place since 2004. It said the additional $950,000 for the Appropriations Committee accounts for telecommunications, hearing transcripts, and travel and office supplies and that the total for the GPO is far less than the $32.1 million the agency wanted.

It also said that the 5.5 percent increase that will go in part to increasing aides’ salaries was derived from cost-of-living-adjustment projections. “While the crisis is easing, we are still a nation in financial peril, and we believe it is necessary for the legislative branch to lead by example,” Nelson said last week. He said that, “with one notable but important exception” — a reference to the renovation of the Cannon building — “I think we have been successful.”

Still, at a time when inflation remains low and the national debt is rising fast, leadership offices across the Capitol are expecting a bump in funding. Vice President Joe Biden, who also serves as president of the Senate, will see his budget increase 4.3 percent, to $2.5 million, under the measure. The offices of Reid and McConnell will each get a 4.3 percent increase from last year and will now each have $5.2 million; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is seeing her budget jump 4.1 percent, to $5.1 million; the budget of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will rise 3.9 percent, to $2.5 million; the budget of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will increase 4 percent, to $4.5 million; and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) each get a 3.7 percent increase, to $1.7 million and $2.2 million, respectively.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, said the 4.3 percent increase for Reid and McConnell is calculated by the Senate financial office to maintain current staffing levels. “It is a cap, which neither office will necessarily meet but cannot exceed,” Manley said. He added that the authorization of up to nine consultants “is a long-standing authority to ensure the leaders’ offices can fulfill their duties to the Senate and to their respective caucuses.” Aides stressed that the money will not go to political consultants but to staffers who work on a contractual basis rather than as Senate employees.

The biggest hikes for the leadership offices went to the Senate whips — with Arizona Republican Jon Kyl and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin each getting a 6.2 percent hike and each getting a new budget of $3.3 million. A spokesman for Durbin said that the hike accounts for annual cost-of-living increases, as well as the addition of new staff to oversee a more expanded Senate Democratic majority of 60 members. Even though Republicans have just 40 members, Kyl’s budget is the same as Durbin’s, but a Kyl spokesman said his office “always returns a large amount of funding” at the end of the fiscal year.

The bill is now headed to the Senate floor — and senators will be hard-pressed to block it. With the fiscal year ending Wednesday, Congress needs to pass a short-term, stopgap resolution to keep the government funded through October — and that resolution is included in the legislative appropriations bill, meaning a defeat for the bill could shut the government down. House Republicans protested the move, with 162 Republicans — including the subcommittee’s ranking member, Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt — last week voting against the bill last week, which was sent to the Senate on a 217-190 vote. But the increase in funding has otherwise largely been a bipartisan affair. The Senate Appropriations Committee — where McConnell and 29 other appropriators sit — voted 30-0 in June to send the bill to the full Senate, which approved the bill in July by a 67-25 vote.

Still it amazes me how Congress is continuing to spend during a time when main street continues to suffer and some might argue that our government needs to continue to spend to assistant us the people but at a time when many states are struggling to fix their own budgets and are cutting back, it seems that D.C. only knows how to increase its own budget rather than wheel in its budget. Congress is continuing to speed out of control and this didn’t just start under the Obama administration and Democrats but this has been an ongoing problem in Congress for years.

Our congress doesn’t know the meaning of fiscal responsibility and although this bill is $300 thousand less than what Obama had projected for Congress, the reality is that, why should Congress continue to see an increase in its annual budget when it hasn’t shown an effectiveness to deliver good and efficient services in America. Therefore Congress increase in spending is not justified and anyone who thinks it is, I would love to have this debate with them about this matter.

GOP drafts anti-Rangel resolution

Since last week, I've been hearing the House GOP was planning a resolution to ask Charlie Rangel to step aside as Ways and Means chairman.

GOP aides say they have been working on the draft for weeks -- long before Joe Wilson bellowed "You lie!" and earned his own resolution of disapproval. But part of the motivation, I was told, was payback at the Democratic leadership for forcing through what many R's thought was a mean-spirited attempt to spank the South Carolina Republican, even after he personally apologized to President Obama.

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Harry situation: What if Reid loses?

It’s a question few in the Senate will ask aloud but one that’s creeping into the chamber’s collective consciousness: What happens to Democrats if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid really does get knocked off in the 2010 midterm elections?

Most of his fellow Democrats believe the Nevadan will pull out a win, avoiding the humiliation of ousted Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota in 2004. But privately, they’re looking ahead with some trepidation, imagining a Reid-less Senate that could be more chaotic and even more partisan than it is today.

“You’ve got people who ask, ‘What does Harry actually do around here?’ I say, ‘Just wait till he’s gone. You’ll see just what he did; how he held things together,’” says a Democratic insider with ties to the leader. “On the surface, it appears that all these guys have friendly relationships. But under the surface, there are people who really don’t like each other in the conference, and Harry keeps a lid on all of that.”

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The War on Our Youth: College & Career Futures Get Tougher

As we continue to fight many battles plaguing our youth in this war that we are fighting to create a better future for them, it seems that when it comes to education, our youth continue to find tough obstacles standing in their way at every angle. With many politicians and others stressing the importance of our youth to get a good education and to pursue going to college, it seems that this option might be tougher because a tight economy drives cutbacks in high school counselors. Barely milliseconds after a new report offered vivid illustration of how much students need help applying for college financial aid, I got a survey telling me that some of the folks who could help them do that are getting cut from high school payrolls.

A survey released two weeks ago by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that tight economic times are driving freezes or cutbacks in the counseling staffs at the vast majority of high schools. Troubling, especially in light of a new report showing how important it can be for students to get help filling out the complicated FAFSA financial aid form. That difficulty can prove a stumbling block to college application and enrollment. (See my story about it here; blog item here.)

High school counselors are already so strapped that they can't give much help, if any, on college advising and applications. Cutbacks could only make that situation worse. At some schools, I know, those duties are handled by a career and college counselor, to take the burden off of guidance counselors, who rarely have that sort of training. I wonder if budget cuts are eliminating some of these positions, as well.

Speaking of cutbacks that affect the high-school-to-college pipeline, take a look, too, at this new report from the University of Alabama on cutbacks at the community college level. And this is happening just as the two-year colleges are experiencing a rising tide of interest and enrollment, fueled by the need for retraining in a rough economy, and a high-profile push from the presidential administration to boost Americans' educational attainment. Inside Higher Ed has a story on the study, as well.

Nonetheless, High school seniors who used a highly simplified version of the daunting federal application for student financial aid—and had help completing it—were 30 percent more likely to enroll in college the next fall than were their peers who had no such assistance, a study released today shows. The report details the results of an experiment designed to measure the effects that simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and providing personalized financial-aid eligibility information might have on students’ likelihood of applying for and obtaining aid, and enrolling in college.

Researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Toronto, and the National Bureau of Economic Research teamed up with H&R Block to offer FAFSA help to nearly 17,000 low- and moderate-income families in Ohio and North Carolina who used the company to file their 2008 tax returns. Using software and procedures developed by the researchers and adapted by H&R Block, the tax-preparation workers offered to help families complete the FAFSA, which typically takes more than a dozen hours to complete. Because their tax information, which forms the bulk of the 102-question FAFSA, had already been submitted and could be imported into the financial-aid form, the FAFSA was finished in less than 10 minutes. The tax preparers also generated personalized financial-aid eligibility estimates based on the families’ tax information.

The researchers randomly assigned the families into three groups: those who got help with the quick FAFSA submission and the aid-eligibility information, those who got only the aid-eligibility information, and those who got neither. They examined the effect of the help on 12th graders, on those who were already out of school but had not enrolled in college, and on those who had attended but not completed college. The most pronounced effects were on high school seniors who received both types of help. Thirty percent more of them enrolled in college, 33 percent more won federal aid, and 39 percent more submitted FAFSAs than those in the control group, who did not get the assistance.

Young adults already out of high school benefited from the help as well. Twenty percent more of them enrolled in college, nearly three times as many completed the FAFSA, and 20 percent more won financial aid. Among young people who had completed some college, 58 percent more of those who got both types of help from H&R Block submitted the federal financial-aid forms, and 13 percent more got financial aid than their counterparts who didn’t have the assistance. Their likelihood of getting financial aid was only marginally higher, though, and their chances of re-enrolling in college were no higher.

Receiving only the aid-eligibility information, without the FAFSA help, had a negligible effect on college aid and enrollment, the researchers found. The role of the FAFSA as a barrier to college has been rising on the national radar, as President Barack Obama calls for more Americans to finish college. Earlier research by the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that the complex application is one reason many young people don’t apply to college. More than 40 percent of college students fail to file the form, even though most would qualify for some form of aid.

In response to such concerns, the U.S. Department of Education has introduced key FAFSA fixes. Recently, “skip logic” introduced into the online form has enabled some students to zoom past questions that don’t pertain to them. That feature will be expanded in January. Also at that time, some students will be able to “pre-populate” the form with their federal tax information, as the randomized study did through H&R Block, automatically inserting the tax information and shortening the process dramatically. Additional improvements are in the works.

Bridget Terry Long, one of the co-authors of the study and a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said she and her fellow authors, Eric P. Bettinger of Stanford University’s school of education and Philip Oreopoulos of the University of Toronto, have been sharing results with officials from the federal government since March to help them streamline financial-aid applications. The study’s findings answer key questions and provide reason for optimism, she said.

“We’ve proven that it can work and can have huge effects,” Ms. Long said. “We were hoping this would help families, but we didn’t have any guess [the effect] would be that large. Now, we’re thinking past just a tax-preparation office. We’re thinking about ways to help give families assistance with the rest of the form, and how we can put this online, get it into schools.”

Made available widely, she said, the system could also help nonprofit groups such as the National College Access Network, which hosts “College Goal Sundays” across the country to help families complete the FAFSA. William McClintick, the director of counseling at Mercersburg Academy, a private high school of 430 students in south-central Pennsylvania, said having an easier way of completing the FAFSA would encourage families to expand their lists of target colleges. “A lot of families are intimidated by the aid process, and that affects their choices,” he said. “They are going for the easiest and the cheapest [colleges] as opposed to taking a shot at the more expensive schools where they might get funding every bit as good.”

Pat Z. Smith, a veteran Florida guidance counselor who chairs the New York City-based College Board’s Guidance and Admissions Assembly, said that having tax information automatically imported into the FAFSA would be a godsend not only to students and parents, but also to high school guidance counselors, who typically stagger under caseloads of several hundred students. “Pre-population [with tax information] is what’s so important,” Ms. Smith said. “Most of the FAFSA is based on that. If that part was already done, it would really take the fear out of it. We know full well that many students are qualified and don’t apply. And some of it is the reluctance to deal with this form.”

The study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides support to Education Week and its parent company, Editorial Projects in Education; the Spencer Foundation; the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences; the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

However the reality is that college and career futures for many youth will get tougher without the aid of high school counselors being there to provide them with transcripts and other information regarding scholarships and career opportunities. Still some youth do need to take it upon themselves to seek internships, scholarships and college information on their own. Now at the same time, some of those opportunities are only sent to schools for counselors to view and distribute which is why cutting high school counselors no matter if they are guidance or career counselors will only make getting to college tougher for some youth while at the same time choosing a career even more difficult.

Our youth today need all the help they can get but in this tough economy it is clear that if our youth is to succeed, many school districts have to keep teachers in the classroom first before they keep other support staff on board. It is sad but this is where people like me and others who know the difficulty of getting into college yet alone searching for scholarships and career opportunities can lend our assistance to high school students on how to go about finding scholarships and internships. Those of us who are unemployed and are looking to just stay busy should lend our hand to our nation’s youth particularly high schools where they need assistance in choosing the right college for them or finding scholarships and financial aid just to stay in school once they choose the college that fits them.

Getting into college shouldn’t get tougher for youth despite the odds that high school hundreds of thousands of high school counselors might get laid off. Instead this should be a golden opportunity for college recruiters to boast their assistance in helping more potential college recruits find resources to look up scholarships. Our youth need all the assistance they can get so those who own their own business or those companies who are looking to get free extra assistance should offer today’s youth non-paid internships for them to obtain experience in career fields that are difficult to get into. Think about how a youth who interns at a law firm can gain valuable assistance or a youth who wants to be a disc jockey working a radio station can help that youth understand a little bit of the ins and outs of the radio business.

Today’s youth just need us to give a care and even in these tough times when it seems college and career opportunities might get tough for some of them, I refuse to believe that all hope as lost. Therefore let’s step up the plate to help today’s youth realize their dreams and goals for the future. Nothing should stop our youth from going to college yet along pursuing their careers. There are enough of us who can find an hour a day to give assistance to our nation’s high school students and other youth to get the experience and opportunities they need to obtain scholarships for college and career development for future job opportunities.

We can win this war on our youth by winning battles like this. So stand with our youth by praying for them, lobbying to them and working with them to create a better present life for them and an even greater future for them to enjoy.


The War on Our Youth: The Job Market

Our youth today have to deal with a lot from education to protecting themselves but even for those youth who do the right thing, it seems as if their struggles to live good productive and prosperous lives is getting tougher with incomes of young workers being in a 8 year nose dove. As the incomes of young people go down, the incomes of individuals older than 54 see their earnings increased. This tough economic recession has not made finding jobs better for today’s youth which is why this war on our youth seems to get tougher ever day.

The incomes of the young and middle-aged — especially men — have fallen off a cliff since 2000, leaving many age groups poorer than they were even in the 1970s, a USA TODAY analysis of new Census data found. People 54 or younger are losing ground financially at an unprecedented rate in this recession, widening a gap between young and old that had been expanding for years. While the young have lost ground, older people have grown more prosperous over the years and the decades. Older women have done best of all.

The dividing line between those getting richer or poorer: the year 1955. If you were born before that, you're part of a generation enjoying a four-decade run of historic income growth. Every generation after that is now sinking economically. Household income for people in their peak earning years — between ages 45 and 54 — plunged $7,700 to $64,349 from 2000 through 2008, after adjusting for inflation. People in their 20s and 30s suffered similar drops. Older people enjoyed all the gains.

The line between the haves and have-nots runs through the middle of the Baby Boom, the population explosion 1946-64. "The second half of the Baby Boom may be in the worst shape of all," says demographer Cheryl Russell of New Strategist Publications, a research firm. "They're loaded with expenses for housing, cars and kids, but they will never generate the income that their parents enjoyed."

What caused the income gap:
•Waiting line for good jobs. Older people are working longer, crowding out young people from the best-paying jobs while boosting the incomes of older workers and seniors.
•Global competition. Low-income workers in other nations have pushed down wages in the USA. Newly hired workers — generally younger people — experience the wage decline first, says economist Dean Baker of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank.
•Golden age of retirement. Social Security and private pensions have elevated the incomes of retired people to record levels and reduced poverty among the elderly.

One bright sign: Women have boosted income by holding half the USA's jobs, working longer hours and narrowing the gender pay gap from 2000, when women made 25% less than men, to 2008, when they made 23% less. Older, college-educated career women have had the biggest gains. Terry Neese, founder of a human resources firm in Oklahoma City, says income shifts partly reflect changing gender roles and values. As women bring in more income, men can work less or stay home with children, she says. Neese says her own daughter, who now runs the family firm, worked less and went to more kids' soccer games. "My daughter says, 'I'm not going to work like you worked,' " says Neese, 60.

Change in median income from 2000-08 (in 2008 dollars):
Age Men Women
15-24 -9.7% -3.3%
25-34 -11.7% -2.9%
35-44 -6.8% -0.8%
45-54 -11.2% -4.8%
55-64 -2.3% 20.6%
65-74 8% 8.7%
75+ 1.9% 3.5%
Source: Census Bureau

Despite the job market being slim for youth today and their incomes steadily decreasing, there are some youth magnet cities that are attracting youth despite their being fewer jobs. Last October, as the stock market tanked and the economy shed 400,000 jobs, Matt Singer moved from Oxnard, Calif. to Portland, Ore. He didn't have a job, but he was attracted to the city's offbeat culture and hungered for change. Mr. Singer's plan was to get an editing or writing gig at an alternative weekly newspaper, the job he was doing in California.

Eleven months later, the 26-year-old is still without a steady job -- and still here. "I wasn't really aware of how bad the job situation was at the time," says Mr. Singer. This drizzly city along the Willamette River has for years been among the most popular urban magnets for college graduates looking to start their careers in a small city of like-minded folks. Now the jobs are drying up, but the people are still coming. The influx of new residents is part of the reason the unemployment rate in the Portland metropolitan area has more than doubled to 11.8% over the past year, and is now above the national average of 8.9%.

Some new arrivals are burning through their savings as they hunt for jobs that no longer exist. Some are returning home. Others are settling for low-paying jobs they are overqualified for. With his search for a journalism job coming up short, Mr. Singer has spent thousands in savings, and is now earning $12 an hour at a temporary job scanning loan documents, a task he says is so mind-numbing he listens to his iPod all day. "Careerwise, it's definitely not what I'd like to be doing," says Mr. Singer.

The worst recession in a generation is disrupting migration patterns and overturning lives across the country. Yet, cities like Portland, along with Austin, Texas, Seattle and others, continue to be draws for the young, educated workers that communities and employers covet. What these cities share is a hard-to-quantify blend of climate, natural beauty, universities and -- more than anything else -- a reputation as a cool place to live. For now, an excess of young workers is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. But holding on to these people through the downturn will help cities turn around once the economy recovers.

Portland has attracted college-educated, single people between the ages of 25 and 39 at a higher rate than most other cities in the country. Between 1995 and 2000, the city added 268 people in that demographic group for every 1,000 of the same group living there in 1995, according to the Census Bureau. Only four other metropolitan areas had a higher ratio. The author of the Census report on these "youth magnet" cities, Rachel Franklin, now deputy director the Association of American Geographers, says the Portland area's critical mass of young professionals means it has a "sustained attractiveness" for other young people looking for a place to settle down.

Indeed, the trend has appeared to continue. Between 2005 and 2007, only eight metropolitan areas -- many of them bigger -- added more college-educated migrants of any age than did Portland, the nation's 23rd largest metro area, according to an analysis of Census data by William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. A more detailed breakdown by age isn't yet available, but Mr. Frey and other demographers say the bulk of the movers are likely between the ages of 25 and 39, the most mobile age group by far.

Portland's bleak job market might seem like a reason to stay away, but some of the newcomers say the pull of a different city is greater than the fear of unemployment. Some had already lost their jobs where they used to live, so there wasn't much keeping them there. "A lot of people figure there aren't jobs anywhere, so they might as well be where they want to be," says Mark McMullen, a senior economist at Moody's

Portland isn't discouraging the young and educated from coming, though the glut of workers puts more stress on city services. One of the most important factors in a city's economic success is the education level of its work force, says Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser. Cities such as Detroit and Cleveland that have exported college graduates in recent years are trying to retain them with everything from internship programs to building artists' lofts. "I'm hopeful people will stick around," says Portland mayor Sam Adams. "Even if they come to my city without a job, it is still an economic plus."

As migration within the U.S. slows as jobs disappear and home prices fall, Portland is one of the few cities to which people of all ages are moving. Of the top 25 destinations for domestic migrants between July 2006 and July 2007, before the recession started, Census data show only four drew more people in the subsequent 12 months, between July 2007 and July 2008, when the U.S. was in recession, according to an analysis by Mr. Frey.

The four places: Portland, Seattle, Denver, and Houston, which in addition to attracting college graduates, enjoyed a boom fueled by high oil prices. In Seattle, the number of people in the labor force, both working and looking for work, has continued to grow faster than the national average, even though there are fewer jobs. The inflow of young college grads helped change Portland's economy over the past two decades. Most notably, it contributed to an increase in the fraction of Oregon workers with college degrees to 28.3% in 2007 (above the national average of 27.5%) from 19.5% in 1990 (below the national average of 21.3%), according to Moody's Of course, some of that increase came from older educated migrants, as well as homegrown college graduates.

Portland's culture and businesses have come to reflect the city's youthful edge. Among U.S. metro areas with more than a million people, only Seattle -- another magnet for the young and educated -- has more coffee shops per capita than Portland, according to NPD Group. Roughly 8% of Portlanders commute regularly by bike, the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average, according to Boulder, Colo., bike-advocacy group Bikes Belong.

Andrew McGough, executive director of Worksystems Inc., a Portland nonprofit that helps people find work, says he's seen young people continue to stream into the city even as the economy has worsened. "Assuming they are educated, we like it," says Mr. McGough, who moved to Portland himself without a job in the early 1990s. Portland's vibrant music scene was part of what drew Ryan Suarez, a 28-year-old civil engineer, from San Diego two years ago. In February 2007, when Portland's unemployment rate was about half what it is today, Mr. Suarez took a one-week trip to scout for jobs, lined up five interviews -- and got five offers. But construction work has slowed with the rest of the economy. Mr. Suarez says his firm has had two rounds of layoffs; he survived, but took a 20% wage cut. "Things have changed a lot," he says.

Tyler Carney, a 29-year-old computer programmer, moved here from Tulsa, Okla. in September when the Internet-security company he was working for relocated to downtown Portland. He was laid off two months later, and today is living off the $417 in weekly unemployment checks. He has trimmed expenses, such as cutting out restaurant meals, ending cable and switching to slower Internet service. Mr. Carney is spending most of his days job-hunting, but has no plans to go back to Tulsa anytime soon. "Portland is a little more progressive than Tulsa was, as far as the culture goes," he says. "This town is awesome. Tulsa tended to roll up the streets at night."

Scott Thompson, president of Lexicon Staffing, Inc. in the Portland area, says the information technology staffing firm continues to get calls from new arrivals looking for work. Many, he says, are less interested in jobs and more interested in Portland's quality of life, such as the city's proximity to the Oregon coastline and the Cascade Mountains. "You have to wonder what would inspire someone to walk into a situation where you have higher than U.S. average unemployment rate," he says.

For Brian DeGrush, 28, it's a visit he paid to the city two years ago to see friends. He says he loved the social life and the green landscape, and when he went back about a month ago with his girlfriend, it was to scout out jobs and neighborhoods to live in. On Saturday, he graduates from the MBA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but hasn't yet found a job.

If he doesn't find work soon, Mr. DeGrush says he and his girlfriend will probably just move to Portland over the summer and hope for the best. "We're debating just trying to find part-time stuff and scrounging by until something more permanent opens up," he says. As unemployment has risen, businesses have felt the pain. So many restaurants have closed in recent months that the Portland alternative newspaper Willamette Week recently started a column called "Restaurant Apocalypse" to keep track of closings. "Everybody is holding on to their money," says Ryan Birkland, a Portland artist who does abstract paintings of flowers and koi fish on glass, sheet metal and other recycled materials. Mr. Birkland sells art across a range of prices, but says sales of $400 to $500 pieces, which are mostly purchased by young professionals, are down about 25% compared with this time last year.

The scarcity of jobs has college grads competing for positions they might not have considered just a few years ago. HotLips Pizza, a local institution that touts ingredients from nearby farms and whose owner drives a stubby electric car emblazoned with the restaurant's rouge lips logo, recently posted a job for a sous-chef and got hundreds of résumés in the space of a few days. They were both over- and under-qualified, ranging from the executive chefs at fine dining restaurants that have closed to unemployed computer technicians with zero experience in a kitchen. "People are having a harder time landing," said Greene Lawson, HotLips' chef. Boly:Welch Recruiting, a Portland firm, says it has had several lawyers willing to settle for work as paralegals. The firm says it generally won't place the lawyers because their over-qualification makes it unlikely they would continue to do paralegal work when the economy turns.

Stephen Anderson, 28, a lawyer who moved in June to Portland from Austin, says for now, he's happy being over-qualified. He went to Boly:Welch looking for legal or temp work of any kind, and the recruiting firm ended up hiring him to be an assistant to the firm's recruiters, a job that includes answering phones, getting lunches and occasionally walking the owner's two poodles. "I know I'm underemployed and if it bothered me more, I guess I'd do more to change it," he says. Of course, less-educated migrants are being squeezed, too. Chris McGee, a 29-year-old concrete finisher moved to Oregon about four years ago from Philadelphia to follow his then-girlfriend. Mr. McGee was out of work for seven months and exhausted his unemployment benefits. But after applying for dozens of jobs at convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and other places, he finally got a job washing dishes. "It's just to stop the bleeding in my bank account," he says. "I'm thankful for it, but it's just temporary."

With jobs scarce, some Portland newcomers are going home. Adam Pollock, 36, moved from New York to Portland in December, lured largely by the natural beauty and vibrant cycling scene. "In New York, if you want to get anywhere decent you have to battle traffic for a half-hour on either end of the ride," he said. Mr. Pollock, a computer consultant, rented a small apartment with a month-to-month lease, figuring he'd trade up after he found a job. He spent months sending out résumés and trying to drum up consulting work. He looked for work as a bicycle mechanic and as a barista at some coffee shops. As his savings ran out, he finally punted. "It got to the point where, fiscally, the clock had run out," he said in a recent phone interview from Louisville, Ky. He was visiting relatives on his way back to New York.

Nonetheless, youth today are in need of jobs that pay well now these. However this situation will not be resolved until more people are willing to take a risk on youth who don’t have the experience of some but are willing to do the work necessary to keep a company or business going strong. Therefore as we continue to fight this war on our youth, we must keep in mind that at the end of the day, we need to find jobs for our youth to live and prosper because they are our future.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Five "Democrats" on the Senate Finance Committee opposed the public option: Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

This is just one committee. Four other committees already have bills with a Public Option. A bill with a Public Option will pass.

The other four committee bills with a Public Option:
Senate HELP Bill (7/2009)

The Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 3200 (7/2009

House Committees on Ways and Means

House Education and Labor Committee

What does this mean when Democrats who say they are for reforming heatlhcare don't support a public option and in fact the Senate Finance bill is the worst bill out there according to all sources who have covered the healthcare bills currently being debated in Congress.

Information from The Center for Education Reform


MORE GREAT SCHOOLS. Last week, more than 2,500 Michigan students, parents, teachers and education reformers held an awesome rally on the lawn of the State Capitol calling for more great schools for kids. CER's own Kevin Chavous and Co-Founder and Chairman of Democrats for Education Reform delivered the keynote address saying, "Each and every American citizen is entitled to have equal access to a high quality education." One sour note amongst the united voices came from an absent State Representative Tim Melton (D-Pontiac) who, though professing a desire to save Michigan schools from failure, reneged on his commitment to take part and went out of his way to strong arm others from attending and refused to even talk with reformers inside the Capitol. Spineless or disingenuous? You decide.

For more information go to the following Free Press article that talks about the rally:
Michigan school reform supporters rally in Lansing

Congress Tackles Afghanistan Strategy As Obama Wavers--By Jay Newton-small / Washington

President Barack Obama is taking out a blank sheet of paper this week as he weighs his options in Afghanistan, and Congress stands more than willing to fill it in. The Senate on Sept. 29 is expected to debate amendments to the 2010 defense appropriations bill that are likely to include everything from timelines for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to proposals to send upwards of 40,000 more. But, unlike health-care reform, this isn't a decision Obama can leave in the hands of the Legislative Branch - however undecided he remains today.

To read more go to:

BREAKING NEWS: Senate Finance panel rejects govt insurance option--By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent


Liberal Democrats failed Tuesday to inject a government-run insurance option into sweeping health care legislation taking shape in the Senate Finance Committee, despite widespread accusations that private insurers routinely deny coverage in pursuit of higher profits.

The 15-8 rejection marked a victory for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman, who is hoping to push his middle-of-the-road measure through the panel by week's end. It also kept alive the possibility that at least one Republican may yet swing behind the overhaul, a key goal of both Baucus and the White House.

"My job is to put together a bill that gets to 60 votes" in the full Senate, the Montana Democrat said shortly before he joined a majority on the committee in opposing the provision. "No one shows me how to get to 60 votes with a public option," the term used to describe a new government role in health care. It takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to overcome delaying actions that Republicans may attempt.

Undeterred, supporters of a new role for government in U.S. health coverage immediately launched a new attempt to prevail.

To read more go to:

Public plan debate could pit Democrat vs. Democrat--By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer

Liberals are taking aim at Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus as his committee prepares to vote Tuesday on whether the government should create its own health plan to compete with private insurers.

Offering the middle class the option of a plan like Medicare is a top goal for liberals. But no Republican lawmakers support it, and moderate Democrats say the Senate would never go along. Baucus, D-Mont., says his own plan will achieve the goals liberals are seeking by other, more politically feasible, means.

The Finance showdown is expected to pit Democrat against Democrat. Although the public plan isn't expected to get a majority of the panel, supporters say at least they'll know where everybody stands.

To read more go to:

GOP base still wild about Palin--by Michael Falcone, Zachary Abrahamson

Despite a torrent of criticism from the media, Democrats and even some in her own party, Sarah Palin remains the hottest brand name in politics.

Her recent resignation was perplexing. It’s raised doubts about her viability as a potential presidential candidate. Still, she remains extremely popular with the GOP grass roots, and most Republican Party leaders would jump at the chance to have her headline one of their events.

That’s the picture that emerges from interviews with dozens of GOP state and local leaders from across the country.

To read more go to:

My Perspective: The War on Our Youth: Food & Soda Taxes

As the healthcare debate goes on, it seems as if one thing that is being debated is the notion of taxing soda and certain foods that cause obesity to many Americans but particularly our youth. So cities, towns and states have discussed taxing junking foods and soda but now it seems as if our nation’s Congress feels this is a good idea in order to prevent obesity from continuing to get out of control. However I believe that the key to dealing with obesity is for us as Americans to “Think Smart. Be Smart. Act Smart.” Now, more than ever, Americans must think smarter and act smarter. Especially when it comes to improving health care in America, an admirable goal I support. But I also know we can't tax our way to healthier lifestyles, and we need to make that clear to our members of Congress. After all, we all do have an obligation to our children - and to ourselves - to promote healthy lifestyles through balanced diets and exercise.

However an document entitled “Taxing Sins: Are Excise Taxes Efficient?” by Katelyn Christ and Richard Williams (Download Document ) says, “Policy makers and the public have become increasingly concerned about the dramatic growth in obesity that has taken place in the United States over the last several decades. While the public claims to be concerned about the issue, obesity rates continue to increase. People seem content to wait for a magic pill that will correct the problem. While science has so far failed in its attempts to invent that pill, policy makers think they have found it. It's called excise taxes.

Still Most economists, particularly those in public finance, find it preferable to raise revenue by taxing a broad base at a low rate in order to maximize the amount of revenue while reducing the distortions to the economy. The opposite of a broad-based tax is an excise tax, a tax levied on particular goods. Historically, governments have used soft drink excise taxes, which have existed since at least 1920, primarily to generate revenue. Today, however, states and localities increasingly view the taxation of soft drinks as a social tool—a way to curb rising obesity rates.

Policies that tax sweetened soft drink for the purposes of reducing obesity and, in some cases, raising funds to advance this goal seek the same economic legitimacy as past attempts to tax “sin products” like tobacco, alcohol, and firearms. Not surprisingly, though, this tax raises efficiency concerns similar to those taxes. Taxes on sweetened soft drinks do not necessarily advance the overall public interest, may be regressive in nature, and hardly ever work as intended.

Still there are five myths that we all need to can about soda taxes. Katherine Mangu Ward wrote the article “5 Myths We Need to Can About Soda Taxes” in Sunday’s Washington Post and she begins by saying, “Like bears to honey or zombies to brains, politicians find something irresistible about soda taxes. President Obama recently told Men's Health magazine that he thinks a "sin tax" on soda is "an idea that we should be exploring." San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom moved to impose a fee on stores for selling sugary drinks, only to admit that his plan was probably illegal. In December, New York Gov. David Paterson proposed an 18 percent tax on full-sugar soda to help cover a budget shortfall. After a public outcry, he claimed he was just raising awareness about childhood obesity. But he was also rehashing the same old myths about how taxing soda will save us all”

So with that said, below are five myths we need to can about soda taxes:

1. Sin taxes are for our own good.
The basic idea sounds reasonable enough. Why not have the government nudge citizens along the path to righteousness by making bad choices more expensive? But even the most avid proponents of sin taxes concede that none of the nickel-and-dime proposals on the table is large enough to discourage soda drinking. And they're not really intended to. Soda taxes, like most sin taxes, aren't primarily designed to reduce consumption -- they're designed to raise revenue. Tap water is already virtually free. Adding a few cents in tax to a $1.29 soda bottle isn't going to send cost-conscious Coke-guzzlers swarming to the nearest water fountain. Forty states currently take a bite out of sales of soda or junk food -- if anyone's addicted to soda, its state legislatures. In the Men's Health interview, Obama focused on childhood obesity. But the Senate Finance Committee's
interest in soda taxes at a hearing this spring wasn't about keeping American spawn slim; health-care reformers were salivating over the projected $24 billion in revenue that a 3-cent tax would generate over the next four years.

2. Soda is causing the obesity epidemic.
It's true that, on the whole, fat people drink more soda than skinny people. They also consume more calories overall and exercise less. So soda does help people pack on the pounds. But so does absolutely everything everyone eats. No news story about soda is complete without the scolding phrase "empty calories," yet soda consumption per capita has
remained steady over the past two decades as obesity numbers have continued to rise. Weight gain is a function of calories in minus calories out. A food calorie is 4.2 kilojoules of energy, whether it comes from a bottle of orange juice, a latte or an ice-cold Coke. Cola calories are not uniquely "empty." They are not bleak, hollow shells of calories, staging tiny productions of "Waiting for Godot" in your love handles. A calorie is a calorie.

3. Soda taxes help everyone.
Even advocates of soda taxes admit that the costs will be borne disproportionately by the poor, who spend a larger percentage of their income on soda than other groups. Nonetheless, politicians continue the long tradition of taxing the wazoo out of a can of Coke while leaving upscale beverages and luxury foods sin-tax-free. Eight ounces of Naked's Mighty Mango juice ($3.79 a bottle at Whole Foods) contains slightly more sugar than the same serving of cola, while diet soft drinks have the same calorie count as water. But nationwide, fancy juices and venti mocha Frappuccinos remain almost completely untouched by sin surcharges, while a bodega bottle of Sprite brings down the wrath of the taxman. It's the silly, sugary equivalent of the distinction between the harsh sentencing guidelines for people caught with crack vs. the lenient sentencing for possessors of cocaine, its high-class cousin.

4. High-fructose corn syrup is extremely hazardous to your health.
It's the stuff that makes soda sticky sweet -- and the reason many justify a soda tax. Florida state Rep. Juan Zapata called it the "crack of sweeteners" and tried to ban it in schools in 2006. At the popular blog
Slashfood, it's known as "the devil's additive." High-fructose corn syrup has been treated as the fall guy for America's obesity problem. But the hazards of cheap corn sweetener are the stuff of pseudo-scientific legend. New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle, a major proponent of soda taxes, has said of corn syrup: "It's basically no different from table sugar. . . . The body can't tell them apart." Even the head of the self-proclaimed "food police" has denounced high-fructose fear-mongering. Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest tore into a 2004 scientific research report that kicked off anti-corn-syrup hysteria, saying, "The authors of this paper misunderstood chemistry, draw erroneous conclusions and have done a disservice to the public in generating this controversy."

5. Obesity is driving health-care costs up. A soda tax is just a user fee.
Should we consider soda taxes an advance payment for all those diabetes tests and emergency room visits down the road -- not to mention the cost of buying the inevitably necessary super-size MRI machines? A group of academics, state health commissioners and others take exactly that line in the pages of the
New England Journal of Medicine this month, writing, "Escalating health care costs and the rising burden of diseases related to poor diet create an urgent need for solutions, thus justifying government's right to recoup costs." But there is a dangerous precedent at the root of this argument: that government can and should tax any behavior that hurts the budget's bottom line. That logic sends us down a strange road. It's just a slouch, sink and a slump to taxing remote controls, thus encouraging the fat and lazy to get a little exercise by standing up to change the channel.

All kinds of private decisions -- good and bad -- affect government spending. That doesn't give politicians the right to use taxes to push people around. However what would be wise for politicians is to start looking to tell our youth to make smart choices by installing nutrition education in our youth at early ages and throughout their education endeavors so they can know the importance of healthy eating. Teaching our kids how to eat a variety of foods and beverages in moderation is essential to developing skills for a lifetime. That is why I support efforts to provide nutrition education in schools. School Beverage Guidelines Childhood obesity is a serious and complex problem that requires comprehensive solutions. That is why the beverage industry is stepping up to do its part. In 2006, America’s leading beverage companies teamed with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association) to develop School Beverage Guidelines as part of a broader effort to teach children the importance of a balanced diet and exercise.

Through the guidelines, the beverage industry committed to changing the beverage mix in schools across America by removing full-calorie sodas from all schools, while capping calories and reducing portion sizes on other lower-calorie and nutritious beverage options. After just two years of a three-year implementation, the guidelines are delivering results. At the start of the current school year, nearly 80 percent of America’s schools under contract were in compliance with the School Beverage Guidelines – exceeding the agreed-upon goal of 75 percent after two years. And calories from beverages in schools have been cut by 58 percent during that same time.

The School Beverage Guidelines provide the following beverages:
Elementary School
--Bottled water
--Up to 8 ounce servings of milk and 100% juice
--Fat-free or low-fat regular and flavored milk and nutritionally equivalent (perUSDA) milk alternatives with up to 150 calories/ 8 ounces
--100% juice with no added sweeteners, up to 120 calories / 8 ounces, and with at least 10% of the recommended daily value for three or more vitamins and minerals

Middle School
--Same as elementary school, except juice and milk may be sold in 10 ounce servings
--As a practical matter, if middle school and high school students have shared access to areas on a common campus or in common buildings, then the school community has the option to adopt the high school standard

High School
--Bottled water
--No- or low-calorie beverages with up to 10 calories / 8 ounces
--Up to 12 ounce servings of milk, 100% juice and certain other drinks
--Fat-free or low-fat regular and flavored milk and nutritionally equivalent (perUSDA) milk alternatives with up to 150 calories / 8 ounces
--100% juice with no added sweeteners, up to 120 calories / 8 ounces, and with at least 10% of the recommended daily value for three or more vitamins and minerals
--Other drinks with no more than 66 calories / 8 ounces
--At least 50% of non-milk beverages must be water and no- or low-calorie options

Time of Day
--All beverages sold on school grounds during the regular and extended school day.
--The extended school day includes before and after school activities like clubs, yearbook, band, student government, drama and childcare/latchkey programs.
--These guidelines do not apply to school-related events where parents and other adults are part of an audience or are selling beverages as boosters during intermission, as well as immediately before or after an event. Examples of these events include school plays and band concerts.

Now I am willing to support physical activity legislation and initiatives are needed more so than simply taxing Americans and youth. Balancing calories consumed with calories burned through physical activity is critical to losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight for all consumers, especially children. While nutrition education addresses the “calories in” part of the equation. we also must address the “calories out” part. That is why I support legislation and initiatives that promote physical activity for our kids.

The FIT Kids Act, The Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act – or the FIT Kids Act – promotes the need to make physical education in schools a greater priority. It amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) to require annual state and local educational agency report cards to include specified information on school health and physical education programs. Other objectives include: the promotion of healthy, active lifestyles by students within ESEA grant programs that support school counseling, smaller learning communities, community learning centers and parental involvement in their childrens’ education; and revising the professional development program for teachers and principals to include training for physical and health education teachers, and training on improving students’ health habits and participation in physical activities. It also directs the Secretary of Education to contract with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for a study that: (1) assesses the affect health and physical education have on students’ ability to learn; and (2) makes recommendations for improving, and measuring improvements to, their health and physical education in schools.

Then there is PE4Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring active, healthy living by advancing the development of quality, daily physical education programs for all children. The organization’s approach to physical education is that it should be offered daily to all children; be available to all students, not just those that are athletically inclined; provide a wide variety of sports and fitness activities; assess students on their personal progress toward fitness and physical activity goals; regularly incorporate technology; and extend beyond the walls of the school gymnasium to form community and business partnerships.

I also support The Partnership for Play Every Day. This nationwide, action-oriented partnership is made up of a diverse group of premier organizations from the public, non-profit and private sectors. It is convened by the YMCA, the National Recreation and Park Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. However with all these initiatives there needs to be responsible marketing to our youth when it comes to soda and junk food similar to what has taken place in regards to cigarettes. So here the ICBA Global Guidelines on Marketing to Children: The beverage industry has long recognized the positive role it can play in promoting healthy lifestyles for all ages. This commitment extends to responsible marketing practices, especially when it comes to children. In 2008, the International Council of Beverages Association (ICBA) adopted global guidelines on marketing to children. Through adopting the ICBA Global Guidelines on Marketing to Children, the beverage industry can further protect the role of parents, ensuring a collaborative effort to help teach children around the world how to make more informed choices.

These guidelines (, which are supported by the American Beverage Association, set a standard whereby beverage companies voluntarily agree to eliminate the advertising and marketing of a wide range of beverages, to any audience that is comprised predominantly of children under 12. This policy includes paid media outlets such as TV, radio, print, Internet, phone messaging and cinema (including product placement). These guidelines were developed within the framework of a wider food and drinks industry commitment to collaborate with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders to help implement the 2004 WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. They are the first, sector-specific step in a broader movement that will include a variety of initiatives and a large number of food and beverage partners.

Therefore, our youth and America need education not taxation in order to deal with obesity and to create healthier lives. Discriminatory and punitive taxes on soda and juice drinks do not teach our children to have a healthy lifestyle, and have no meaningful impact on child obesity or public health. They just further burden working families already struggling in this trying economy. Even the science shows that education, not taxation, is the key to reducing obesity and improving public health. Learn more about why increased taxes are not the solution.

Below various research regarding taxing food and soda as well as obesity in this nation that prove that education is needed more so than taxes:
Why a Soda Tax is the Wrong Tax Policy
“Taxing Sins: Are Excise Taxes Efficient?”Mercatus on Policy 2009Link:
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University (GMU) applies scholarly research to problems facing policy-makers. In this paper, Richard Williams, managing director of GMU’s regulatory studies program and government accountability project, along with Katelyn Christ, examine why excise taxes fail to be efficient and effective public policy. Together, they found that any impact of a soft drink tax would be trivial because soft drink consumption is a relatively small part of the diet for overweight people. Their findings also support that it would be a regressive tax, whereby the burden would likely fall disproportionately on the poor. Importantly, the paper also states that, while consumers have little control over these funds, governments may not spend the increased revenues from such taxes on the intended social purpose.

Calories are Calories “Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates.” Sacks et al.New England Journal of Medicine; February 2009
This study funded by the National Institutes of Health reaffirms that, regardless of the source, calories are calories when it comes to losing weight.

Soft Drinks Are Not Unique Contributors to Obesity
“Lack of findings for the association between obesity risk and usual sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in adults – A primary analysis of databases of CSFII-1989-1991, CSFII-1994-1998, NHANES III, and combined NHANES 19999-2002.” Sun S and Empie M. Food and Chemical Toxicology; 2007
This study looked at the relationship between obesity risk and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) along with multiple lifestyle factors and found that those who frequently consumed SSB (primarily HFCS-sweetened beverages) did not have a higher obesity risk than those who consumed them less frequently.
“Sugar-sweetened beverages and body mass index in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis1-4.” Forshee et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2008
This review article looked at 12 studies to assess the role of consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) in weight gain among children and adolescents and found that the association between SSBs and body mass index was near zero based on the current body of scientific evidence.

“The role of beverage consumption, physical activity, sedentary behavior and demographics on body mass index of adolescents.” Forshee et al. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition; 2004
This study used government data, NHANES 1988-1994, to examine the relative importance of demographics, beverage consumption, physical activity and sedentary behavior for maintaining a healthy body weight. The authors found that regular physical activity was linked to lower BMI among teens whereas sedentary behavior was linked to higher BMI. Consumption of regular carbonated soft drinks had no impact on teens’ BMI; thus, to reduce obesity rates, policies should “revitalize physical activity and physical education programs for all students/not just student athletes/and educational efforts that discourage sedentary behavior will be far more successful in combating overweight than an undue focus on beverage consumption.

“Physical Inactivity and Obesity: A Vicious Circle.” Pietiläine et al. Obesity; 2008
This study showed that physical activity in adolescence strongly and independently predicts total (and especially) abdominal obesity in young adulthood. Thus, physical activity should be seriously recommended for obesity prevention in the young.

“Comparison of overweight and obesity prevalence in school-aged youthfrom 34 countries and their relationships with physical activity and dietary patterns.” Janssen et al. Obesity Reviews; 2005
This review compared estimates of the prevalence of overweight among school-aged youth in 34 countries and examined associations between overweight and selected dietary and physical activity patterns. Within most countries, physical activity levels were lower and TV viewing times were higher in overweight compared with normal weight youth. Overweight status was not associated with the intake of fruits, vegetables, and soft drinks or time spent on the computer. In conclusion, the adolescent obesity epidemic is a global issue. Increasing physical activity participation and decreasing television viewing should be the focus of strategies aimed at preventing and treating overweight and obesity in youth.

“Associations of Various Family Characteristics and Time Use With Children’s Body Mass Index.” Forshee et al. Journal of Community Health Nursing; 2009
This study looked at various family characteristics and time use on the BMI of boys and girls aged 5-18 and found that the strongest predictor of overweight was the BMI of the head of the household. The findings suggest that a family-oriented approach to prevent and treat childhood and adolescent overweight is required.

So if we are to have a healthy economy in this nation than our nation’s politicians need to understand that American families and small businesses are struggling to survive in the current economy which is why certain food prices such as milk are at its lowest prices in years. So the proposed national tax on soda and juice drinks will have a negative impact on American families struggling in this economy. This is a regressive tax that would unnecessarily burden hard-working Americans. And it would do irreparable harm to an industry whose economic reach extends to literally every community in America, directly providing 220,000 good-paying jobs with health benefits and a direct economic impact of $136.4 billion.

Now for those who think I am just saying this because I don’t want to pay higher taxes for soda than I should let everyone know that I don’t drink soda unless it is Tahitian Treat. If I do drink a soda product than I am really thirsty and that’s all that I see to drink but for the last 10 years, I have not drunk soda outside of Tahitian Treat on a regular basis. Nonetheless even when I drink my Tahitian Treat I drink at least 3 bottles of water as well. Therefore as I watched the show the Doctors on Tuesday on ABC, I saw the 4 doctors discuss higher taxes on fattening foods and soda and they even advocate for taxing soda and foods. However what the female doctor said is that most of the healthier foods in stores cost more and the fatter foods are cheaper for most consumers to buy.

The reality is that taxing foods and soda will not create healthier living. Our youth need more education about how to eat healthier and our nation’s politicians need to look at ways to create cheaper healthier foods for us as Americans to buy so that our youth can eat healthier. Most of the fruits and vegetables that we as Americans buy are not always fresh and if we buy can or frozen goods, they are not always good either. Therefore our youth today do need to eat healthier but taxing unhealthy foods will not decrease consumption just look at how cigarettes and alcohol have been taxed to death but their consumption is constantly growing with each generation almost. So taxing sins does not decrease consumption but whether finding a way to make healthier foods cheaper for Americans would be a great way to encourage healthier living because if healthier foods are cheaper than fatty foods than I am willing to bet that our youth will buy it more so than the fatty foods. This is something I can support rather than increased national taxation.


Americans Against Food Taxes—

My Perspective: The War on Our Youth—Pray for Them, Lobby to Them, & Work with Them

After School Chicago: Student Beaten to Death

What's a community to do without its organizer?
This poor kid, Derrion Albert, was literally beaten to death with planks of wood in an after school melee.

I have always been baffled by the fact that many Americans would whether send out prayer requests for the President Barack Obama but can’t take the time to send out a prayer request for all our nation’s leaders yet alone our youth who are need of prayer in these tough times. In fact the war on our youth is getting worse each and every day especially in the streets of Chicago where the violence on our youth has been on a raise for the last 4 years but many Americans have ignored it but not me. Our youth need prayer now more than ever. Our youth need us to pray for them because their burdens, their pains and their heartaches as well as worries as just as great as our beloved President. Our youth need us to pray for them because it seems as if no politician cares enough of our youth to do what’s right by them not when the camera is on but when it really counts which is when the camera is off. Our youth need us and it seems as if not many religious leaders, community leaders, parents and politicians care until it happens to a youth they know or are connected to.

Well I am here to tell Americans to pray for all Americans and to pray for all people not just the President of the United States of America but for all us but most particularly our youth who are facing conditions today that whenever I hear a youth doing something good, I break out in tears almost because that’s all passionate I am about our youth succeeding. One youth’s achievement is like an achievement to all of us because our youth is the future of this nation and this world. Therefore as I surfed the web yesterday, I was amazed at how many people on twitter, Facebook, and other blogs were more concerned with President Obama going to speak to the Olympic Committee to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago than the fact that a 16 year old honor student was beaten to death last week during a gang fight on the streets of Chicago while just walking home.

The video of the incident is seen above but luckily thanks to this video and others, three teenagers were charged Monday afternoon in the beating death of a 16-year-old Chicago honor roll student on his way home from school, a melee captured on a cell phone video that shows a group striking him with boards and kicking him as he lay on a sidewalk. The death of Derrion Albert, a sophomore at Christian Fenger Academy High School, on Thursday has reignited community outrage over chronic violence involving city students and is putting pressure on school and police officials to address gang problems that often are at the root of such violence. The Chicago public school system is the nation's third-largest and has about 407,000 students in 666 schools. More than 30 students were killed in 2008, according to district figures, and for the 2008-2009 school year 34 students were killed while 290 were wounded to gun violence.

Some community members said the solution lies with parents, not the schools. "It is our problem. We have to take control of our children," said Dawn Allen, who attended a vigil at the school Monday, where a group of residents tried to force their way into the school before being turned back by police. Still Albert was attacked around 3 p.m. Thursday in front of Agape Community Center in the south Chicago neighborhood of Roseland, where he was walking to a bus stop, authorities said. Prosecutors charged Silvonus Shannon, 19, Eugene Riley, 18, and Eric Carson, 16, with first-degree murder, and they were ordered held without bond on Monday, said Andy Conklin, a spokesman for the Cook County prosecutor's office. The suspects are scheduled for preliminary hearings Oct. 19.

The violence stemmed from a shooting early Thursday morning involving two groups of students, said Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County prosecutor's office. When school ended, members of the two groups began fighting. The attack, captured in part on a bystander's cell phone video, shows Albert being struck on the head by one of several young men wielding wooden planks. After he falls to the ground he appears to try to get up, he is struck again and then kicked. Simonton said Albert was a bystander and not part of either group. She said Albert was knocked unconscious when Carson struck him in the head with a board and the second person punched him in the face. Albert regained consciousness and was trying to get up when he was attacked a second time by five people and was struck in the head with a board by Riley and stomped in the head by Shannon, Simonton said.

The Rev. Victor Grandberry told NBC Chicago that Albert "was just a nice young man that grew up in the community. Folks just bullied on him, they tried to rob him, and they tried to do everything they can." A camera attached to the Agape Community Center also captured at least part of the attack, the center's executive director, Milton Massie, told NBC Chicago. "It was mob action, basically a bunch of kids, some coming from the east and others from the west on the street, fighting," he said.

Desiyan Bacon, Riley's aunt, attended Monday's vigil at the school and said her nephew didn't have anything to do with the beating and was a friend of the victim. "They need to stop the crime, but when they do it, they need to get the right person," Bacon said. Earlier, Chicago police bolstered security around Fenger High School. Police patrolled the area in squad cars and staged a visible presence at the entrance, the Chicago Tribune reported. "We want to provide reassurance to the public that there's a police presence and they can feel safe in the neighborhood and kids can feel safe at school," Morgan Park District Cmdr. Michael Kuemmeth told the Tribune.

Still as a delegation of 10 Americans goes to the International Olympic Committee this week to pitch to them the idea of bringing the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, I ask those individuals especially Oprah and the Obamas to lobby to our youth especially those in Chicago to stop the senseless violence. Now while some individuals in Chicago are against the 2016 Olympics because the city can’t afford it, I was for the Olympics until the last year and a half when the youth violence in the streets of Chicago seems to be getting worse. Therefore I plea to Orpah Winfrey who shut down Michigan Avenue for nearly a week or so to do her show to talk to the youth on the Southside of Chicago to stop the senseless violence. I would like to make a request to President Obama and First Lady Obama whose Chicago home is just a few blocks from where much of the violence on the cities Southside is taking place to lobby to the youth of Chicago to stop the violence.

Even those in the City of Chicago have lobbied for the President to speak up way before he was President. In fact as candidate Obama, Chicagoans’ lobbied to Senator Obama to help deal with the youth violence that had had over 500 youth shot in a 16 month period from a period of late 2006 to early 2008. I wrote about this previously and have even debated others about this very issue taking place in Chicago. While youth violence occurs everywhere, nothing like it in previous times or current times seem to match the senseless violence that is plaguing the youth of Chicago. No other city in America can match the youth violence numbers of Chicago in terms of student deaths and those wounded by gun violence.

However on Monday, Chicago parents united in grief and they hope an end to the violence. Candlelight flickered in the dim room as several families lit wicks in memory of loved ones cut down by violence on Chicago's streets. Some women wailed, inconsolable by embraces. Others stood with somber expressions when homecoming and school photos of young people flashed across a large screen in St. Sabina Academy's auditorium Saturday afternoon on the South Side. Families of many slain children were grieving together at the fourth annual vigil organized by the Chicago Area and Westside Chicago chapters of Parents of Murdered Children following Friday's National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

But organizers could not have predicted that the event would be held on the same day as 17-year-old Corey McClaurin's funeral. The Simeon Career Academy High School student was shot last week in his Auburn Gresham neighborhood while sitting in his Monte Carlo, waiting for a friend. Melvin Nichols, founding member of the Chicago chapter, told the crowd of more than 100 that he knew all too well what happens when the shock of a funeral wears off on friends and family.

"As time passed and as our comforters moved on with their lives, understandably, we were continuing to grieve with the murder of our loved ones," said Nichols, whose daughter was stabbed to death in 2003. "You see, grief does not have a timetable, as so many who have not walked in our shoes seem to think." The Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church, encouraged families in a passionate, sermon like speech to stay in touch, pray for one another and rally against gun violence that is plaguing communities.

And Janette Albert said she found comfort in knowing she was not alone and attended the ceremony immediately after identifying the body of her 16-year-old son, Derrion, who was beaten to death Thursday in a melee of dozens of teenage boys near the Agape Community Center in Roseland. She said she talked with her son, whom she described as quiet and an honor roll student at Fenger High School, every day from Mount Vernon. Albert moved to the southern Illinois town last year after her mother's death. "I told my son every day before I hung up with him, 'I love you and stay safe,' " she said.

Wentworth Area detectives said Saturday night that they were reviewing video taken during the melee in Roseland. The video, taken by a witness and given to WFLD-Ch. 32, appears to show the teen knocked to the ground by a male swinging a long board. That video resulted in the captured of 3 teens by Monday afternoon but a fourth teenager was charged late Monday evening with beating to death 16-year-old Derrion Albert, an "innocent bystander" who walked into the middle of a street fight between two groups of feuding teens last Thursday, according to prosecutors.

Charges of first-degree murder were announced against Eugene Bailey, 18, hours after three other teens were charged in the slaying. Bailey is to appear in bond court Tuesday. The others charged are Silvonus Shannon, 19, Eugene Riley, 18, and Eric Carson, 16, according to the Cook County state's attorney's office. All were charged as adults and all were ordered held without bond on Monday.

Prosecutors said the fight -- with teens punching and kicking and swinging two-by-fours -- was related to a shooting outside Fenger earlier Thursday. At the teens' bond hearing this afternoon, a Cook County prosecutor said Albert was beaten by teens from both sides of the simmering rivalry. One group of Fenger students lived near the school and the other is from the Altgeld Gardens housing development.

Carson, who was allegedly from the faction near Fenger, was the first to hit Albert with a railroad tie, according to Assistant State's Atty. Jodi Peterson. As Albert struggled to stand up and escape the melee, Riley also hit him with a railroad tie and Shannon repeatedly stomped on his head, the prosecutor said. Both Riley and Shannon allegedly belonged to a separate faction that lived in or near Altgeld Gardens. Records showed Carson is on probation for a robbery conviction. Shannon and Riley have no criminal records.

Police said that an amateur video helped detectives identify the participants in the melee outside the Agape Community Center, 342 W. 111th St. That video was provided to Fox affiliate WFLD-Ch. 32, which turned it over to detectives Friday night. Fox said it paid its typical freelance fee of about $300 for exclusive rights to the video. The video shows dozens of people punching, kicking and swinging planks in a melee in a lot next to the community center and the adjacent street. At one point, four or five males -- including one wielding a two-by-four -- can be seen beating and stomping another person, believed to be Albert, who had fallen to the ground.

As the attackers flee, the person with the camera and several others approached Albert and carried him into a nearby building. "Derrion, get up!" a female voice pleaded. On Monday morning Chicago police lined up in a show of force outside Fenger as students trickled into the school at staggered intervals. Most arrived on foot wearing their standard uniform of khaki pants and black shirts. Police patrolled the area in squad cars and staged a visible presence at the school's entrance. "We want to provide reassurance to the public that there's a police presence and they can feel safe in the neighborhood and kids can feel safe at school," said Morgan Park District Commander Michael Kuemmeth.

Monday was the first day Fenger has been open since the fatal melee that swept up Albert, an honor roll student. All Chicago public schools were closed Friday for a staff day. A march and vigil for Albert outside Fenger, organized by his family, was held at 1 p.m. Later, at Agape, Chicago Public Schools joined with relatives and friends to pray and offer condolences. "This is such a difficult thing to deal with," said CPS head Ron Huberman. "There are no words that can ever make it right."

Originally, the vigil had been planned for Sunday, but Albert's family agreed to postpone it at the request of the Chicago Public Schools, said Albert's grandfather Joseph Walker. Before the announcement of charges, Chicago Police spokesman Roderick Drew said investigators had identified several people from the video and were questioning four of them. Albert's family was squeamish about watching the video and not all of them were able to watch it in its entirety. "It hurt to watch," said LaTonia Williams, the teen's aunt. "It's one thing to hear about it and come up with your own theory of what happened. To see it is another thing. It gave us a real clear picture of what happened. That video was crucial."

Nonetheless much of the violence that takes place against the youth of Chicago is not always videotaped and not all of the violence plaguing our youth across America is caught on tape. But thank God it was video that captured this incident that took an innocent bystander for what, for nothing but walking home from school. Therefore I plea to all Americans to work with our youth to end this violence against them and most importantly to end this war on their lives and their future. Our youth need us now more than ever. Our youth need for us to pray for them and to lobby to them to end the violence against each other but most of all they need us to work with them to save their fellow youth lives.

No more can we ignore the fact that our youth are under attack every day not just from violence but from the inadequate education system that many of them are receiving and the fact that many can’t find good paying jobs once they graduate from college in this tough economic recession. Therefore our youth need us to work with them and for them. No longer can we sit up and act as if our youth will be alright as long as parents do their job. Some of our youth don’t have parental guidance especially not positive parental violence and some of the attacks on our youth are not always done by youth themselves. Our youth need protection not just from youth but from adults who have abused and misused our youth time and time again. For example there is an incident in Detroit that took place last school year that resulted in the death of a special needs student who was pushed down by an adult official at the special education school who has a history of abuse towards students and even fellow employees.

Therefore when I say pray for our youth, I mean truly pray for their protection from not only each other but from adults who don’t give a damn about our youth yet alone give a care about the future of our youth. There are some people who work in our educational systems in American and work with youth everyday but don’t really care about our youth; all they care about is getting a paycheck. It breaks my heart to hear stories of abuse by our parents and guardians toward youth but it hurts me even more when I hear other adults abusing youth that aren’t their own children. It is truly sad people that our youth are under attack by not just themselves but those who are suppose to aid in the protection of them when they are not in the care of their parents.

Pray for our youth people, lobby to them people and work with them people. The next person who thinks about sending a prayer request asking for their friends and family to pray for President Obama, I am going to ask you to also include praying for our youth at least those in your own city and state if not for all the youth of this nation. I am asking the IOC to ask President Obama, First Lady Obama, Oprah and the other 7 officials, who are going to lobby for the City of Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics, to lobby to the youth of Chicago to end the senseless violence and to lobby to the rest of the youth of this nation to stop the violence against each other. I am begging all Americans to get up and work with our youth to improve their present and their future. Our youth need us and I refuse to give up hope on them. I refuse to abandon our youth when so many have given up hope on the future of America. Our youth need us now more than ever and I am going to continue to fight for our youth no matter what.

Pray for our youth, lobby to our youth and work with our youth to make their current lives better but most of all their future even greater.

Honor Student Beaten to Death in Chicago Eye-Witness Video


Jay-Z - History

(Jay-Z - History)Jay-Z - History with Lyrics

LYRICS : [Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
(Gimme a lighter)
Victory (Lighters up) is finally ours
(Lighters up)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 1: Jay-Z]
In search of victory, she keeps eluding me
If only we could be together momentarily
We can make love and make history
Why won't you visit me? until she visit me
I'll be stuck with her sister, her name is defeat
She gives me agony, so much agony
She brings me so much pain, so much misery
Like missing your last shot and falling to your knees
As the crowd screams for the other team
I practice so hard for this moment, victory don't leave
I know what this means, I'm stuck in this routine
Whole new different day, same old thing
All I got is dreams, nobody else can see
Nobody else believes, nobody else but me
Where are you victory? I need you desperately
Not just for the moment, to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History (yeah), so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 2: Jay-Z]
So now I'm flirting with death, hustling like a G
While victory wasn't watching took chances repeatedly
As a teenage boy before acne, before I got proactiv I couldn't face she
I just threw on my hoodie and headed to the street
That's where I met success, we'd live together shortly
Now success is like lust, she's good to the touch
She's good for the moment but she's never enough
Everybody's had her, she's nothing like V
But success is all I got unfortunately
But I'm burning down the block hoppin' in and out of V
But something tells me that there's much more to see
Before I get killed because I can't get robbed
So before me success and death ménage
I gotta get lost, I gotta find V
We gotta be together to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
(Lighters. Up.)
And the battle's finally won
(Lighter. Up.)
Victory is finally ours
(Lighters. Up.)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 3: Jay-Z]
Now victory is mine, it tastes so sweet
She's my trophy wife, you're coming with me
We'll have a baby who stutters repeatedly
We'll name him history, he'll repeat after me
He's my legacy, son of my hard work
Future of my past, he'll explain who I be
Rank me amongst the greats, either 1, 2, or 3
If I ain't number one then I failed you victory
Ain't in it for the fame that dies within weeks
Ain't in it for the money, can't take it when you leave
I wanna be remembered long after you grieve
Long after I'm gone, long after I breathe
I leave all I am in the hands of history
That's my last will and testimony
This is much more than a song, it's a baby shower
I've been waiting for this hour, history you ours

[Chorus: Cee-lo (2x)]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

Man in the Mirror--By Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

I'm gonna make a change,
for once im my life
It's gonna feel real good,
gonna make a diference
Gonna make it right...

As I, turn up the collar on
my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets,
with not enought to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard,a broken bottle top
And a one man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)
(Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah)

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed-out dream
(Washed-out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me
(Starting with me!)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways - ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that..
(Take a look at yourself and then make that..)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror - Oh yeah!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
(If you wanna make the world a better place)

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cook

It's been a long time coming but a change is surely going to come in America and the World! I am the Future of America and the World and that is the message that each of us must carry with us each and every day that we wake up on Earth! I am the Future! You are the Future! We are the Future of America and the World! That is way every election is important--primaries, special elections and general! So vote every year and hold our politicians accountable. Hold our political officials accountable by writing them, calling them and making sure they attend meetings that we the people have. "The Time for Change is not Now but Right Now!"

"EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary" should be our anthem and should be our creed as we make the positive differences in America and the world that so many people beg for and hungry for year after year! A Change is Gonna Come, A Change is Gonna Come, that's what we must say as we say "God grants us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courge to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference" each morning before we go about the task of making a positive change in America and the world a reality.

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

“When will people realize that we are Americans first and foremost, not Democrats or Liberals, not Republicans or Conservatives, not Independents or moderates. We are Americans. Stop putting a political party above America and stop putting any politican above America. America succeeds because of us the people holding our government responsible no matter the political party because the main two political parties are to blame for the condition America is in."—Hodari P.T. Brown

America with its flaws and all is a country I am proud to have been born in. America is not perfect but my love for it is perfect. That’s why all Americans must realize that we are all Americans. In fact we are Americans first and foremost. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are Americans.

We are not Muslims, Christians or Jews. We are Americans. Too many times we recognize our differences with others rather than appreciating our similarities which are, we are Americans. We are Americans first and foremost, no matter if we were born here or moved here legally. We are all Americans, here in this country to make not only our lives better but the lives of other Americans better so future Americans can enjoy the rights and freedoms that make us all Americans.

We are all Americans. We are one party united under God. We are Americans and this is the only political party that matters. We are Americans and this is our country so let’s make sure that we make America better than how we found it so future Americans can live prosperous and joyous lives. We are Americans and must not ever forget that.

America will prosper as long we make sure we are doing our part to make it prosper and that means we can’t put any political party or politician above America. Long live America forever and long live America’s service to the world. Together, America and the world will prosper for future generations to enjoy America and the world we live in.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

This video of the ' Negro National Anthem' was originally screened at the historic African-American Church Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC on January 18th, 2009. Many of the esteemed individuals featured in this video in attendance and we presented with the ' Keepers of the Flame' award for the monumental contributions to social justice.

This version of the song was performed by the Grace Baptist Church Cathedral Choir, conducted by Derrick James. The video was produced and donated by Ascender Communications, LLC ( at the request of The Balm In Gilead, Inc.

If I Was President--Wyclef Jean

If I was President that is the people's anthem. We all have ideas of what we can do as President and through this website, we will fulfill our deam as a people!

Somethings Gotta Give--Big Boi ft Mary J Blige

Somethings Gotta Give people and it begins today for all us to make sure that something is us. We the people are sick and tired of suffering. Where is our piece of the Dream that so many people dead for so that we all could see today. This is our time people to change America and the world so that the Next Generation has a better future than the past we inherited.

This is our call to service. This isn't about one political candidate or one political figure. This is about us as people coming together to finally leave up to our potential and achieving the great feats that those before us have achieved. This is our moment to lead our nation and our world to greater heights.

Somethings gotta give people and it starts with us the people making it happen. We have to improve our education system in America. We have to rid the world of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We have to go to the streets and lift a hand to another in order to decrease poverty in this world. We have to take a stand today and make sure that the future of America and the world is brighter than it has ever been.

Somethings Gotta Give and that is why we must "Remember Each One, Reach One and Teach One so America's future and the World's future continues to prosper."

John Legend - "If You're Out There"

If you're out there than you need to get started in helping to change America and the world. The world and America won't change until you get involved in making the changes you want to see in this world. If you're out there, than you must know that tomorrow started now and today started yesterday so you are behind in helping to the change. If you are tired of hatred, racism, poverty, war, and violence than the time to change it is now. If you want universal health care, world peace, democracy for every nation, equal rights, and happiness for all than you must get involved now to help the save world.

You must believe in the change that you want to see and you must act on making that change a reality. If you're out there than say it aloud and show the rest of America and the world that you're out here to make a real positive change in the communities we stay in. If you're out there than get involved now. I'm calling every women and men to join me as we take back our country right here, right now. If you're out there than the future started yersterday and we are already late so we have lots of work to do but I know we can do it together as one.


Yes We Can accomplish anything that we set out to do! We don't need charismatic or inspirational leaders to believe in ourselves and to take responsiblity for our own faith, we just need each other. Yes We Can build a new America and a new world if each of us would take action now to make the changes that we want to see in the world. Yes We Can control government by holding our political officials accountable for their actions by calling them out when they don't pass legislation that supports the common good of all man and by voting in every election to ensure that we have people representing the people locally, state wide, nationally and in the world.

Yes We Can be great! Yes We Can be what we want to be! Yes We Can be glorious in not only America but the world! Yes We can put action behind our worlds and change the world starting right here, right now! Yes We Can as Republicans, Democrats and Independents become one as we freely think about our fellow men and women and make decisions that will be in the best interest of all people and not one single group.

Yes We Can be the change that we want to see in the world! Yes We Can show the world that the youth are ready to lead! Yes We Can put our egos, our social economic statuses, our religions, our educational statuses and our skin color to the side for the better good of the world! Yes We Can be Greater than we have ever been and help others be Greater than they have ever be!

YES WE CAN and YES WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS IN ALL THAT WE DO! YES WE CAN, no matter what others may say, we will be glorious! YES WE WILL and YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN is what will be sung from every mountaintop, every riverbank, every household, every school yard, every factory, every sporting event, every college campus and even every place you can imagine in the world is where YES WE CAN, will be said and heard!


Keep On Pushing - Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions

Wake Up People! No matter who is elected to any public office, we have to “Keep On Pushing” as a people to make sure they don’t leave us in a worst state than what they inherited. We as a people have to “Keep On Pushing” to make a difference in the lives of others. We have to have an “EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary” attitude as we continue to push our agenda that we the people deserve and want better. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change in a positive way that will benefit all Americans no matter their age, their religion or skin color. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will improve our education system, improve our military, improve our national security, improve our healthcare system and improve our economy. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will leave America’s future in a better than how we found it and that will leave the world’s future in a better state than we imagined we could live it. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to make life better for our neighborhoods, our families and even our quote on quote enemies. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to inspire, to uplift and to guide those who need help spiritually, physically and mentally. We have to “Keep On Pushing ” so that our lives, our future generation’s lives and the lives of those who came before us does not die in vein.

“Keep on Pushing”

A War For Your Soul

A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.

The moment has come for us as a nation of people to finally wake up and realize that our destiny and fate in society has rests on our shoulders. We cannot allow the forces of evil and darkness to drain us out. We have to continue to overcome all odds in order to make the future of our nation better and the future of future generations of Americans better. We have to continue to pray to our Lord and we have to continue to uplift each other in prayer as well as take action against those things that are trying to destroy us. We have to stand up once and for all and be the future that we want to be. Now is our time and we shall do together by any means necessary.

This video was created to inspire young African-Americans not to fall prey to some of the problems they face in society. The use of the voice "Master of Darkness" represents evil, which is where the blame of all problems should be placed, and not on any one group of people. This video should not to be used to divide people (Black & White), there are images of heroes that are white in this video, and there are images of Black & White coming together with the words of Dr. King in the background. Some of the images from the past can be unsettling, but they are used to show all Americans how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. This film is being strategically placed in school systems, churches and youth orgs around the country, in hope of helping a lost generation of kids that we as Americans have forgotten. As fellow Americans we must continue to love each other, and take that love and spread it to the rest of the world. **THIS VIDEO IS NOT FOR SALE & I AM NOT ACCEPTING DONATIONS FOR THE FILM, I ONLY WANT THE MESSAGE TO REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT ANY HIDDEN POLITICAL OR FINANCIAL AGENDA.

Sitting On the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

"The time for sitting is over! The time for action is now! The time for hope without action is hopeless! The time for change without a positive attitude is a change that we can't believe in! We need change that is positive of helping all people! Our time for action is now, our time for hope is now, our time for change is now and our time to believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to is not now but right now!"


The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming;
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner; O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land,
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just.
And this be our motto— "In God is our trust; "
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Black President

Our Time is not now but Right Now! Our Time has finally come to change the world not now but Right Now! If you don't believe that we can change the world than watch as we do it by changing your mind into believing in us and what we can do! This is OUR TIME RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!


We got to FIGHT THE POWER! We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch injustices take place. We can no longer sit by and allow our right to vote to become unexercised. We must FIGHT THE POWER for our past, present and future! We can no longer allow our rights to be oppressed and our voice to become drained by the powers at be. We must FIGHT THE POWER and show that we have a lot to say that needs to be heard by the mainstream media. We must FIGHT THE POWER and live up to our potential as dynamic, unbelievable and phenomenal people.

We must not believe the hype but we must become the hype. We are not Harriett Tubman, Marcus Garvey, MLK, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B. DuBois, the Black Panther Party, SNCC, or any other activists but we are the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunties, and relatives of those who came before us to pave the way for us to FIGHT THE POWER! We are not next Generation of leaders who will not be honored and praised until they die but that’s the fight we accept. We are not fighting the power for glory or fame but we are fighting the power for just causes that most men and women will not understand until years or decades later.

We are fighting for our sisters and brothers in Darfur, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, China and Mexico. We are speaking for those who are poor and have no food or water. We are fighting for those who are sick and dying. We are fighting for universal healthcare across the world and human rights for all people. We are fighting for rich and poor! We must FIGHT THE POWER no matter how hard and tough the road may be. We must FIGHT THE POWER for a better today and an even greater tomorrow!



“People Get Ready” our time is coming! We have come too far to turn back now. Our train is coming and it is coming in waves. “People Get Ready”, we don’t need a ticket but we need faith and the Lord will help guide us as we take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” our moment is now and we are ready to see the change we want in America and the world. All we got to do is have faith, hope and prosperity. “People Get Ready” to face your fears. “People Get Ready” to face your demons and the challenges of yesterday because today and tomorrow we will conquer & be victorious. “People Get Ready” a change is coming and our actions will make sure that change is a real positive change that lasts forever.

“People Get Ready” because we have had enough of just talking but now is our time to show action. “People Get Ready” to take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” to take back our communities and to make our streets safer and schools better. “People Get Ready” to make all our dreams come true. “People Get Ready” to see a better present for everyone and a better future for future generations. “People Get Ready” to live up to your potential and to help others live up to their own potential. “People Get Ready” to move past hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the dreams of those who came before us and those who will come after us.

“People Get Ready” as we make our actions speak louder than our words. “People Get Ready” to make words mean something again as we put action to back up our rhetoric. “People Get Ready” as we embark on a new journey that will re-write America’s history as well as the world’s history. “People Get Ready” as we make the lives of others better and the lives of future generations better. “People Get Ready” because all we need is faith, hope and action to make this world a better place. “People Get Ready” to make a difference. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the American dream. “People Get Ready" to live out the American Dream as our founding fathers wanted us to live it. “People Get Ready” because our time is now, our moment is now and our moment in time to change America & the world is not now but right now. “People Get Ready” because a change is coming!

(Let me tell you now)
People get ready, there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord

People get ready, for a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among those loved the most

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all man kind just to save his own (believe me now)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there's no hiding place against the kingdoms throne

[Alicia & Lyfe]
So people get ready there's a train coming
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming,
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord


God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood

Lee Greenwood-god bless the U.S.A