President Obama’s State of the Union address, delivered before Congress and the nation on Feb. 12, laid out priorities for his second term agenda. Prominent among Obama’s proposals was his call to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour, while indexing future increases to inflation. The minimum wage had not been raised since 2009. While conservative opponents assert any increase in the minimum wage will force small businesses to reduce hiring, there are many studies that contradict this view
On Feb. 17, tens of thousands of Americans – and a contingent of Canadians – rallied on the national mall in Washington, D.C. to demand that President Obama veto the government permit needed by TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the international border that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The rally, dubbed as the largest climate change protest in U.S. history, was organized by the Sierra Club and 350.org. The extraction of tar sands oil in northern Canada – much of it on indigenous lands occupied by what are called First Nations – has already destroyed large areas of the land, poisoning both water and air. That’s likely the cause of new and more frequent occurrences of cancer and respiratory ailments among both humans and animals that live there. The spirited two-and-a-half hour rally in Washington featured a dozen speakers, including Van Jones, who worked briefly in the Obama White House as special adviser on Green Jobs. He now works with the group Rebuild the Dream. Here is his short, but powerful speech.
Ten years ago a growing number of people across the globe were becoming more and more concerned about then President George W. Bush’s escalating public threats to go to war with Saddam Hussein, over the alleged danger posed by Iraq’s stockpile of “weapons of mass destruction.” Those grave accusations, coupled with vague charges that Hussein’s government was somehow linked with the 9/11 attacks against the U.S., two years earlier, laid the groundwork to attract public support for President Bush’s decision to launch an invasion of Iraq on March 19th 2003.
- Over a decade after the 9/11 attacks and multiple conflicts around the world involving Islamic extremists, peace may be at hand on the Philippines’ island of Mindanao, where 40 years of civil war by Muslim rebels led to 120,000 deaths in a brutal war over land, resources and religion. (“Philippines moves closer to historic peace deal with Islamist rebels,” The Guardian, Feb. 13, 2013; “Mindanao peace process has a lot to achieve within a tight time limit,” Guardian, Feb. 13, 2013; “Philippines: Breakthrough in Mindanao,” International Crisis Group press release, Dec. 5, 2012)
- Melting Artic ice and expanding sea lanes has put international focus on the low key Artic Council made of eight nations including the United States, Canada, Denmark and Russia who have territory in the Arctic Ocean. More countries are now seeking to join the Council as shipping traffic increases, a consequence of climate change. (“The Roar of Ice Cracking,” Economist, Feb. 2, 2013)
- Two years ago, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol. Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or (ATF) inspected the records at Taylor’s Trading Post, a gun shop in rural Penn. It was the first inspection at the gun shop in 30 years. There, agents uncovered thousands of violations of federal gun laws. (“ATF’s Struggle to close down firearms dealers,” Center for Public Integrity, Feb. 1, 2013)