Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Are Wild Animals Meant To Be Pets?

Is it right to keep wild animals as pets? More importantly, is it safe? Even though many might not think it's right to keep these "pets," its not illegal. Last week, exotic animal reserve owner, Terry Thompson, released 56 wild animals from the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Ohio. He shot himself after doing this. These animals were extremely dangerous to the neighborhood living outside the animal farm. Because of this, sheriff's deputies shot 48 of the released animals, including eighteen rare Bengal tigers and seventeen lions. Six black bears, two grizzlies, a baboon, and three mountain lions were also killed. The death of the eighteen Bengal tigers was the most tragic because they are endangered with only around 1,400 left in the world. The real question is, why is this not illegal? There are many people around the world that keep these wild animals as pets in their homes. They raise them from when they are babies, and think that the animals will never harm them because they grew up with them. WRONG. As these wild animals get older, they become more aggressive and less predictable. These pet owners are taking a huge risk by keeping these dangerous animals as pets.

The author of the article, Peter Laufer, implies that he does not support people keeping wild animals as pets. He says that raising exotic animals can be very dangerous and creates many challenges. Laufer also says that, "Nationwide, the laws on keeping wildlife as pets are a confusing patchwork."Penalties for the violations are almost never severe and the laws are not very well enforced. This is part of the problem. Laufer believes that the federal government has some more work to do to protect the animals, and the owners. "It’s past time to regulate the wild beasts: us."

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Orleans Back On The Right Track

The city of New Orleans has been slowly improving ever since Hurricane Katrina. Before the traumatic hurricane, more than 60 percent of children in this city attended a failing school. Now, 6 years later, only about 18 percent do. This is a huge step forward for the city of New Orleans. New Orleans Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the progress has been "stunning." The author of the article believes this progress is being made after the hurricane because the hurricane "destroyed the old system, allowing the city to begin fresh." The city of New Orleans has also made some major changes in their school systems. They laid off ALL of their teachers, and made them take a basic skills test if they wished to return. Only about 20 percent of the original teaching force returned to the schools.

The author of this article, Andrew Rosenthal, thinks that the school systems in New Orleans are improving. Rosenthal talks about charter schools in New Orleans and says, "They spend a great deal of time teaching study and time management skills, and plan each student’s development. None of these attributes are particular to charters, but they have helped turn the schools around." He argues that the schools do have a long way to go, but by bringing in "fresh ideas and strong instructional methods" they will continue to improve in the future. 

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Gambling on Your Health

"Early October brought two developments in the world of cancer screening." The first was the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which calls for regular mammograms for women. The second was a recommendation from the United States Preventive Services Task Force that healthy men do not get screened for prostate cancer. The author says there are two basic harms of screening: false-positive tests and overdiagnoses. "Approximately 15 to 20 percent of women and men who are screened annually over a 10-year period will have to undergo at least one biopsy because of a false-positive mammogram or P.S.A. — prostate-specific antigen — test." The author also points out that in breast cancer screening, there are about 5 to 15 people who are overdiagnosed each year. So, its really your decision whether you want to take a gamble on your health. 
The author of this article, H. Gilbert Welch, is very biased. He implies that he does not believe in screening and he would never get screened himself. But, he points out that he does not believe people who do get screened are wrong. The point he is trying to get across is that even if you do get screened, it doesn't mean the results are going to be a hundred percent accurate. Welch says, "Screening is like gambling: there are winners and there are losers. And while the few winners win big, there are a lot more losers." Many people believe that getting screened is the best possible health decision you can make. But, Welch explains why that theory may be wrong. 

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Employed Robbers

Many Bank of America users were upset to discover that the bank is now going to charge them a monthly $5 fee to use their debit cards. Their reason for doing this was that they were forced to make the change due to regulations that altered the economics of the card. JPMorgan Chase also told customers that they, too, were going to charge this fee. The author of the article, Lloyd Constantine, says, "Both banks were responding to the Federal Reserve’s actions to limit the interchange fees banks charge stores each time a debit card is used for a purchase." But in reality, banks are telling customers this to hide one of the largest illegal transfers of wealth from consumers to banks in American history. For decades, Bank of America, the founder of Visa, and all of the MasterCard banks, hid the identity of their debit cards from stores by making them look and function like their signature credit cards and by charging stores the same price for debit and credit transactions. This resulted in a 1996 lawsuit. This lawsuit resulted in $3.4 million settlement to banks, a court order for the redesign of debit cards, and a reduction in the price banks charge stores for common debit transactions. So, the fees that banks now charge stores for debit transactions are economically identical to the check interchange fees prohibited by the government almost a century ago.

The author of this article, Lloyd Constantine, does not support this new fee by Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. He really doesn't state his personal opinion until the last paragraph of the editorial. He explains that retail customers of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and any other companies that follow their lead should move their business. He says that these banks are "arrogant" and their actions are disingenuous. 

Hell on Rails

"Few things say 'urban mass misery' more vividly than a breakdown on the Long Island Rail Road, the nation’s oldest, largest and, lately, most trouble-prone commuter railroad." (Hall, 1) Last Thursday, at the height of rush hour, lightning fried the signal system at the Jamaica Station in Queens, delaying service out of Penn Station. Hours later, the signal failure shut down all trains going east of Jamaica Station. This is not the first time this has happened. In August 2010, almost the exact same situation occurred. The real question is, why is the brand new $56 million dollar signal system failing? The only explanation the Long Island Rail Road has now is the failure of communication. They left thousands of people stranded on trains and platforms for hours last week, and many believe this is not the last time it will happen. 

The author of the article, Trish Hall, is very persuasive. She strongly believes that the Long Island Rail Road does not have an explanation for all their issues. She lists all the imperfections of the rail road system, like the quiet intercoms, and TV-monitors with the wrong information. Hall also points out that the state government has ignored the ancient infrastructure of the rail road for years. Hall encourages Long Islanders to urge lawmakers to spend what it takes to keep the Long Island Rail Road up and running. She says, "Being cheap about transit always ends up being expensive, especially when lightning strikes."

Click here to view the article - Hell on Rails

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Mother Never Worked Journal Entry

I do not believe that a homemaker who has never been a wage earner should be entitled to a Social Security death benefit for her survivors. If the homemaker did not put any money into Social Security, then why should he or she receive any money back? I don't think its fair for people that actually have documented paying jobs and contribute to Social Security. A homemaker definitely works, don't get me wrong. But, they never pay into the system. There is an example of this in "My Mother Never Worked" by Bonnie Smith-Yackel. Bonnie's mother "worked" all her life. She worked in the fields and in the house with the children. But, she never had a legit paying job. That was her problem. Bonnie gets upset when the Social Security woman tells her her mother never worked and she cannot get the death benefit check. All in all, I feel like Social Security has a good reason to not give homemakers the benefits.