Tag Archives: President Obama

All Progressive Roads Lead To Illinois? Illinois Bans Death Penalty

 

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

Illinois is not precisely dead-center on a map of the United States, but it certainly forms part of what we Americans typically refer to as the Nation’s “Heartland.”  Bordered by Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin, Illinois – quite literally these days – forms a bastion of progressive ideals amidst a sea of conservatism.  So, do all progressive roads lead to Illinois?

 

For example, if you have been following at all the political debacle taking place in Wisconsin, then you probably know that Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic state lawmakers recently fled to Illinois in protest over Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker’s, attempt to end the collective bargaining rights of public employees in that state.  The exodus by these lawmakers has effectively shut down Walker’s efforts by denying the Wisconsin Legislature a quorum, a move that is being hailed by progressives across the country.

Did you also happen to know that a similar exodus took place involving Indiana state lawmakers?  In late February, as events in Wisconsin unfolded, a similar fight was brewing in the Hoosier State.  There, over three dozen of Indiana’s Democratic lawmakers took to the broad, well-kept interstates that lead one into the Land of Lincoln.

As a New York Times article put it, “Illinois [has] suddenly found itself as the refuge of choice for outnumbered Democrats fleeing their states to block the passage of such bills.”  In truth, Illinois has a long and proud tradition of progressive politics.

Obama Launches Presidential Bid At Illinois State Capital

U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, courtesy of Illinois Public Media

Though it is  the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, Illinois is also the state from which President Obama catapulted to national attention as a U.S. Senator.

Prior to Obama, Illinois was well-known as the home state of liberal U.S. Senator Paul Simon, pictured to the right.  Simon unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1988.

On a personal note, this writer is proud to say that I was an Intern Staff Assistant for Senator Simon in 1988.  Even now, I continue to revere Simon for his profound honesty, sense of purpose and overwhelming decency.

Simon was the kind of leader who believed it was wrong – morally and politically – for an elderly person, who had lived and worked all their life, to not be able to afford medical care.  He told you his beliefs, and he voted his beliefs.

Of course, Illinois also produced President Abraham Lincoln.  While Lincoln may have been a “Republican,” we should get real about his political leanings, people.  Lincoln would not be caught  in the same room as some of these modern-day, neo-fascists. Lincoln lived by a motto that included, “With malice towards none, with charity for all.”  Those are not the words of modern-day Republicans that hand out enormous financial breaks to the wealthiest, while fomenting discord to advance their regressive policies.

This writer is proud also to remark that my home state is continuing its progressive tradition.  Today, Illinois’ Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, outlawed the death penalty.  In a surprising show of bi-partisanship, Illinois’ death penalty was first called into serious question over a decade ago by former Republican Governor George Ryan.  Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates were cleared of the charges that led to their imprisonment on Illinois’ death row.

Quinn’s order takes effect on July 1.  However, the governor’s order immediately clears death row, so no executions can take place in Illinois.

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Child Slavery Reaches Record Levels In Haiti; Poverty Blamed As Cause

There is a startling new report just released by the Pan American Development Foundation, reporting that almost 225,000 Haitian children have been forced into child slavery in Haiti as a result of poverty.  Most of the children – nearly 2/3 in fact – are young girls, and are subjected to extreme physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

Although the plight of these children is apparently commonly known, and is a source of great shame in the Caribbean country founded by a slave revolt, the practice of enslaving children has become widespread.  According to the report, nearly half of the children interviewed in just one village (257 total ) were living as slaves.

A previous count of the number of enslaved Haitian children was attempted by UNICEF in 2002.  That attempt resulted in a count of 172,000 children, but was criticized as being a gross under-estimation of the problem.  The current report used a broader counting methodology and was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

In May 2007, USAID awarded the Pan American Development Foundation $6.4 million to combat trafficking in persons, torture, and organized violence in Haiti.

You can link to an excellent article discussing the problem of child slavery in Haiti here.  The link here is a link to the Pan American Development Foundation.  Finally, I am including a link to a resource showing the current state of slavery conditions in countries around the world as reported by the U.S. State Department, here.

UPDATE!  DISASTROUS EARTHQUAKE STRIKES HAITI – REV. PAT ROBERTSON, LIMBAUGH BLAME HAITIANS, OBAMA

A disastrous earthquake struck the already impoverished island nation of Haiti on Tuesday.  The quake measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale, was shallow – only 6 miles deep, and struck the island’s capitol, Port-Au-Prince, especially hard.  The quake, together with the nearly 30 major aftershocks that followed it, have decimated the country.  Thousands were crushed in the rubble as buildings collapsed, and one Haitian Senator fears that the quake may have claimed as many as 500,000 people.  The quake is the largest earthquake to strike Haiti in a century.

According to MSNBC News, the Presidential Palace and most government buildings have been destroyed.  The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Haiti, Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, was killed.  The scene has been described as one of utter devastation.  President Obama has pledged ‘aggressive’ help, but the generally poor infrastructure of the country is expected to hamper relief efforts.  You can link to President Obama’s remarks here and here.

You can link to articles discussing this disaster here and here, as well as MSNBC News here.

The so-called “Reverend” Pat Robertson remarked that the earthquake was Haiti’s own fault.  Here is the text of what this psychotic had to say about the earthquake from today’s 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: [S]omething happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.” True story. And so the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.” They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free.

But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle, on the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.

They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now, we’re helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable.

Not to be outdone by Rev. Insanity, Rush “the Devil’s Douchebag” Limbaugh, had to get in on the game, saying that President Barack Obama and company would use Haiti to get closer to the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black [communities] in this country” while adding that the U.S. has “already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”  You can link to a news article discussing these remarks, as well as Robertson’s, here.

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World AIDS Day 2009: Combining A National And International Focus

Today, is World AIDS Day 2009.  The first World AIDS Day was held on December 1, 1988.  The event originated from the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention, part of the United Nations.  Since then, hundreds of millions of people have used World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the ongoing struggle against HIV/AIDS around the globe.

This year’s theme is “Universal Access And Human Rights,” a fitting theme in light of the divisive and, frankly, mean-spirited struggle taking place in the U.S. over pseudo-universal health care.  The United Nations has identified key principles for World AIDS Day 2009:

  • I am accepted.
  • I am safe.
  • I am getting treatment.
  • I am well.
  • I am living my rights.
  • Everyone deserves to live their rights.
  • Right to Live.
  • Right to Health.
  • Access for all to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is a critical part of human rights.

People infected with HIV/AIDS live in all parts of the world.  Many countries, however, have been stricken harder by the epidemic than others.  In Botswana and Swaziland, for example, almost 40% of the population has HIV/AIDS. In Africa alone, 13 million children have been orphaned by AIDS.  Epidemics have erupted in China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, several Central Asian Republics and the Baltic States.  Internationally, combating the spread of HIV/AIDS is further complicated by the resurgence of other opportunistic illnesses such as tuberculosis, aggressive flu virus, malaria, and cholera.  In March 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported some 89,000 cases of cholera in Zimbabwe.  In populations with high concentrations of immuno-compromised citizens, these types of diseases can wreak havoc.

Astonishingly, in 2009, many people – including many in the U.S. – continue to define HIV/AIDS as a problem faced by the “Other.” A “not my problem; it’s their problem.”  HIV/AIDS is not just a gay-straight problem; it is not just a health problem.  Statistically, HIV/AIDS spreads fastest among young people and working-age adults.  The virus respects neither social class, family ties, background, schooling, race, culture, or creed.  As a result, HIV/AIDS weakens a country as a whole.  In a global community, HIV/AIDS is everyone’s problem, and the epidemic has not gone away.

While we are fortunate that people living with HIV or AIDS in the U.S. are legally protected by legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), stigma and mis-information has continued.  The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS could be seen clearly in the fact that the United States – one of only a dozen countries – persisted in banning travel into our country by anyone infected with HIV.  This ban went into effect in 1987, a time when fear and ignorance ruled most discussions about HIV/AIDS.

When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services attempted to lift the ban in 1991, a right-wing led Congress took a further step toward stigmatizing HIV/AIDS by making it the only infectious disease barring entry into the U.S.  This ban has kept out thousands of students, tourists, refugees, and children with HIV needing adoption.

This year, a remarkable event took place, one for which President Obama should be commended.  In October 2009, President Obama signed an executive order lifting the travel and immigration ban on people living with HIV/AIDS. On January 4, 2010, people living with HIV/AIDS will be eligible to apply for a green card.

In case you missed the signing ceremony, I have uploaded a video to the Box on this site for your viewing.  In attendance at the signing ceremony was Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White.  Ryan White was a teenager from Indiana who brought international attention to the AIDS epidemic and for which is named the Ryan White Care Act.  As part of the signing cerermony, President Obama also reauthorized the Ryan White Care Act.

If you do nothing else this year, take a few minutes to either educate yourself about HIV/AIDS, or perhaps even update what you know about the epidemic, its social costs, and legal issues.  Here are some resources available to you:

Yahoo Directory on HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS Search Engine

National Pediatric AIDS Network

AIDS Resource List – this list includes national and international resources

National Minority AIDS Council – this site contains a very useful video on the domestic, U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic

National Association of People With AIDS

Communities Advocating Emergency AIDS Relief

United Nations’ World AIDS Day 2009 website – you will find the 2010 Outlook report in the Box on this site

In addition, all across the Internet you can find many informative articles discussing various HIV/AIDS-related issues.  Of particular assistance to me in preparing this post was Felix Salmon’s article on Reuters, Anna Gorman’s article from the L.A. Times, and Darlene Superville’s article from The Huffington Post.  I also would like to point out a very interesting article written by my colleague, Lori J. Paul, on her blog, californiafamilylawparalegal.  The article discusses a specific HIV/AIDS-related issue – adoption or conception by HIV+ men and women.  It is well worth checking out, and contains many additional resources not listed here, including a link to the official U.S. government website, AIDS.gov.

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