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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The U.S. And China: Rivals That May Need Each Other : NPR

The U.S. And China: Rivals That May Need Each Other : NPR


Doctors Free Giffords From Ventilator : NPR

Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic nominee and gen...Image via WikipediaDoctors Free Giffords From Ventilator : NPR

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords no longer needs a ventilator, hospital officials in Tucson said.

The officials at University Medical Center said Giffords underwent a procedure Saturday to replace the breathing tube with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe. That allows her to breathe better and frees her from the ventilator.

Though Giffords had been breathing on her own since she was shot in the head Jan. 8, doctors had left the breathing tube in as a precaution. Doctors also inserted a feeding tube. Those procedures are not uncommon for brain-injured patients.

Giffords' doctors have said they should be able to evaluate her ability to speak once the breathing tube is out.

Giffords, who was wounded in last weekend's attack that killed six people, remains in critical condition.

"Her recovery continues as planned,'' the hospital said in a statement.

Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has remained by her bedside.

One patient who was injured in the shooting was discharged Saturday, while two others remain in good condition.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Republican school board in N.C. backed by tea party abolishes integration policy

Republican school board in N.C. backed by tea party abolishes integration policy

RALEIGH, N.C. - The sprawling Wake County School District has long been a rarity. Some of its best, most diverse schools are in the poorest sections of this capital city. And its suburban schools, rather than being exclusive enclaves, include children whose parents cannot afford a house in the neighborhood.

But over the past year, a new majority-Republican school board backed by national tea party conservatives has set the district on a strikingly different course. Pledging to "say no to the social engineers!" it has abolished the policy behind one of the nation's most celebrated integration efforts.

And as the board moves toward a system in which students attend neighborhood schools, some members are embracing the provocative idea that concentrating poor children, who are usually minorities, in a few schools could have merits - logic that critics are blasting as a 21st-century case for segregation.

The situation unfolding here in some ways represents a first foray of tea party conservatives into the business of shaping a public school system, and it has made Wake County the center of a fierce debate over the principle first enshrined in the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education: that diversity and quality education go hand in hand.

The new school board has won applause from parents who blame the old policy - which sought to avoid high-poverty, racially isolated schools - for an array of problems in the district and who say that promoting diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for public schools.

"This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s - my life is integrated," said John Tedesco, a new board member. "We need new paradigms."

But critics accuse the new board of pursuing an ideological agenda aimed at nothing less than sounding the official death knell of government-sponsored integration in one of the last places to promote it. Without a diversity policy in place, they say, the county will inevitably slip into the pattern that defines most districts across the country, where schools in well-off neighborhoods are decent and those in poor, usually minority neighborhoods struggle.

The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint arguing that 700 initial student transfers the new board approved have already increased racial segregation, violating laws that prohibit the use of federal funding for discriminatory purposes. In recent weeks, federal education officials visited the county, the first step toward a possible investigation.

"So far, all the chatter we heard from tea partyers has not manifested in actually putting in place retrograde policies. But this is one place where they have literally attempted to turn back the clock," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP.

School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta referred questions on the matter to the district's attorney, who declined to comment. Tedesco, who has emerged as the most vocal among the new majority on the nine-member board, said he and his colleagues are only seeking a simpler system in which children attend the schools closest to them. If the result is a handful of high-poverty schools, he said, perhaps that will better serve the most challenged students.

"If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful," he said. "Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it."

So far, the board shows few signs of shifting course. Last month, it announced that Anthony J. Tata, former chief operating officer of the D.C. schools, will replace a superintendent who resigned to protest the new board's intentions. Tata, a retired general, names conservative commentator Glenn Beck and the Tea Party Patriots among his "likes" on his Facebook page.

Tata did not return calls seeking comment, but he said in a recent news conference in Raleigh that he supports the direction the new board is taking, and cited the District as an example of a place where neighborhood schools are "working."

Beyond 'your little world'
The story unfolding here is striking because of the school district's unusual history. It sprawls 800 square miles and includes public housing in Raleigh, wealthy enclaves near town, and the booming suburbs beyond, home to newcomers that include many new school board members. The county is about 72 percent white, 20 percent black and 9 percent Latino. About 10 percent live in poverty.

Usually, such large territory is divided into smaller districts with students assigned to the nearest schools. And because neighborhoods are still mostly defined by race and socioeconomic status, poor and minority kids wind up in high-poverty schools that struggle with problems such as retaining the best teachers.

Officials in Raleigh tried to head off that scenario. As white flight hit in the 1970s, civic leaders merged the city and county into a single district. And in 2000, they shifted from racial to economic integration, adopting a goal that no school should have more than 40 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the proxy for poverty.

The district tried to strike this balance through student assignments and choice, establishing magnet programs in poor areas to draw middle-class kids. Although most students here ride buses to school, officials said fewer than 10 percent are bused to a school to maintain diversity, and most bus rides are less than five miles.

"We knew that over time, high-poverty schools tend to lose high-quality teachers, leadership, key students - you see an erosion," said Bill McNeal, a former superintendent who instituted the goal as part of a broad academic plan. "But we never expected economic diversity to solve all our problems."

Over the years, both Republican and Democratic school boards supported the system. A study of 2007 graduation rates by EdWeek magazine ranked Wake County 17th among the nation's 50 largest districts, with a rate of 64 percent, just below Virginia's Prince William County. While most students posted gains in state reading and math tests last year - more than three-quarters passed - the stubborn achievement gap that separates minority students from their white peers has persisted, though it has narrowed by some measures. And many parents see benefits beyond test scores.

"I want these kids to be culturally diverse," said Clarence McClain, who is African American and the guardian of a niece and nephew who are doing well in county schools. "If they're with kids who are all the same way, to break out of that is impossible. You've got to step outside your little world."

'Constant shuffling'
But as the county has boomed in recent years - adding as many as 6,000 students a year - poverty levels at some schools have exceeded 70 percent. And many suburban parents have complained that their children are being reassigned from one school to the next. Officials blame this on the unprecedented growth, but parents blame the diversity goal.

"Basically, all the problems have roots in the diversity policy," said Kathleen Brennan, who formed a parent group to challenge the system. "There was just this constant shuffling every year." She added: "These people are patting themselves on the back and only 54 percent of [poor] kids are graduating. And I'm being painted a racist. But isn't it racist to have low expectations?"

As she and others have delved deeper, they've found that qualified minority students are underenrolled in advanced math classes, for instance, a problem that school officials said they've known about for years, but that strikes many parents as revelatory. Some have even come to see the diversity policy as a kind of profiling that assumes poor kids are more likely to struggle.

"I don't want us to go back to racially isolated schools," said Shila Nordone, who is biracial and has two children in county schools. "But right now, it's as if the best we can do is dilute these kids out so they don't cause problems. It sickens me."

In their quest to end the diversity policy, the frustrated parents have found some influential partners, among them retail magnate and Republican operative Art Pope.

Following his guidance, the GOP fielded the victorious bloc of school board candidates who railed against "forced busing." The nation's largest tea party organizers, Americans for Prosperity - on whose national board Pope sits - cast the old school board members as arrogant "leftists." Two libertarian think tanks, which Pope funds almost exclusively, have deployed experts on TV and radio.

"We are losing sight of the educational mission of schools to make them into some socially acceptable melting pot," said Terry Stoops, a researcher at the libertarian John Locke Foundation. "Those who support these policies are imposing their vision on everyone else."

'Disastrous' results
Things have not gone smoothly as the new school board has attempted to define its vision for raising student achievement. A preliminary map of new school assignments did not please some of the new majority's own constituents. And critics expressed alarm that the plan would create a handful of high-poverty, racially isolated schools, a scenario that the new majority has begun embracing.

Pope, who is a former state legislator, said he would back extra funding for such schools.

"If we end up with a concentration of students underperforming academically, it may be easier to reach out to them," he said. "Hypothetically, we should consider that as well."

The NAACP and others have criticized that as separate-but-equal logic.

"It's not as if this is a new idea, 'Let's experiment and see what happens when poor kids are put together in one school,' " said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that advocates for economic integration. "We know. The results are almost always disastrous."

Many local leaders see another irony in the possible balkanization of the county's schools at a time when society is becoming more interconnected than ever.

"People want schools that mirror their neighborhood, but the bigger picture is my kid in the suburbs is connected to kids in Raleigh," said the Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh. "We're trying to connect to the world but we're separating locally? There is something wrong."


The First WikiLeaks Revolution? | WikiLeaked

Logo used by WikileaksImage via WikipediaThe First WikiLeaks Revolution? | WikiLeaked

Tunisians didn't need any more reasons to protest when they took to the streets these past weeks -- food prices were rising, corruption was rampant, and unemployment was staggering. But we might also count Tunisia as the first time that WikiLeaks pushed people over the brink. These protests are also about the country's utter lack of freedom of expression -- including when it comes to WikiLeaks.

Tunisia's government doesn't exactly get a flattering portrayal in the leaked State Department cables. The country's ruling family is described as "The Family" -- a mafia-esque elite who have their hands in every cookie jar in the entire economy. "President Ben Ali is aging, his regime is sclerotic and there is no clear successor," a June 2009 cable reads. And to this kleptocracy there is no recourse; one June 2008 cable claims: "persistent rumors of corruption, coupled with rising inflation and continued unemployment, have helped to fuel frustration with the GOT [government of Tunisia] and have contributed to recent protests in southwestern Tunisia. With those at the top believed to be the worst offenders, and likely to remain in power, there are no checks in the system."

Of course, Tunisians didn't need anyone to tell them this. But the details noted in the cables -- for example, the fact that the first lady may have made massive profits off a private school -- stirred things up. Matters got worse, not better (as surely the government hoped), when WikiLeaks was blocked by the authorities and started seeking out dissidents and activists on social networking sites.

As PayPal and Amazon learned last year, WikiLeaks' supporters don't take kindly to being denied access to the Internet. And the hacking network Anonymous launched an operation, OpTunisia, against government sites "as long as the Tunisian government keep acting the way they do," an Anonymous member told the Financial Times.

As in the recent so-called "Twitter Revolutions" in Moldova and Iran, there was clearly lots wrong with Tunisia before Julian Assange ever got hold of the diplomatic cables. Rather, WikiLeaks acted as a catalyst: both a trigger and a tool for political outcry. Which is probably the best compliment one could give the whistle-blower site.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

America turns its attention to victims


Mass animal deaths cause many to search for answers


By Mark Johnson, WEWS

CLEVELAND - One to the top search terms on the internet over that two weeks was this: "dead birds & bible." Several dozen mass bird, fish, and other animal deaths over the past weeks have captured the attention of the world. Its the topic of conversation at work, at school and at home. And now, folks are looking for answers. Why are these events happening, seemingly, all of a sudden? Is it natural or something supernatural?

Biologists are quick to explain the events as common and random. Indeed, the United States Geological Survey keeps track of animal mortality reports .

"Although wildlife die-offs always pose a concern, they are not all that unusual," said Jonathan Sleeman, director of the USGS NWHC in Madison, Wisconsin, "It's important to study and understand what happened in order to determine if we can prevent mortality events from happening again."

According to the USGS, there have been 188 reports of mass deaths of 1,000 or more birds in the last decade. In 2010 alone, there were eight documented mass die-off events of 1,000 or more birds. Scientists say starvation, avian cholera, parasites, and other diseases account for the deaths. The records, Sleeman says, show that, "while the causes of death may vary, events like the red-winged blackbird die-off in Beebe, Ark., and the smaller one near Baton Rouge, La., are more common than people may realize."

But why so many cases in such a short amount of time? Are there other possible explanations?

In late December, an estimated 2 million fish began washing ashore along Chesapeake Bay. In the UK, it was about 40,000 crab. More fish deaths were reported along the Florida Coast, while hundreds of jellyfish and starfish were meeting their maker just north near Charleston, South Carolina. Were these deaths just mass aquatic suicides? Probably not. As of this writing, none of the fish were found wearing white tennis shoes and black t-shirts (insert Comet Hale-Bop reference here).

Many biologists believe the above fish deaths can likely be attributed to....extreme cold weather. Arctic outbreaks and heavy snows have affected a large portion of the coastal US and UK over the past month. In winter, many fish species move closer to shore to feed amongst the colonies of seaweed. It appears many of our fish friends met their demise simply because of below normal water temperatures. In fact, the water temperature in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, should be in the 50s. It currently sits in the upper 40s. Thats very cold to the temperate aquatic species and can cause real stress to any self-respecting fish.





Other mass deaths are likely caused by human factors. In Vietnam, 150 tons of Red Talapia died last month in their aquiculture farm pens. Turns out the farmers have been allowing the fish pens to become very overcrowded. This, plus an unusual amount of ebb tides, caused the oxygen level in the water to drop. The fish died due to lack of oxygen.





In New Zealand, 10 tons of dead fish, including Red Snapper, were found floating, en masse, just off the Northland Coast. The cause of death was traced to commercial fisherman dumping their loads and broken fish nets.

Dozens of residents were sickened after eating some of the thousands of dead fish that washed ashore in the Phillapines. Officials there suspect some sort of water pollution or contamination and are searching for the source.

Also In New Zealand, penguins are washing ashore by the dozens, along with other shorebirds. Officials are expecting thousands more by summer. The current La Nina weather pattern is the strongest here since 1975, says one meteorologist. La Nina is the cooling of the Pacific Ocean waters near the equator. During La Nina events, fair weather high pressure parks over New Zealand. This reduces the small aquatic animals that the fish feed on. The fish then move to other spots to find food. A lack of fish means that the penguins and shorebirds starve to death.

Last week in Italy, thousands of Turtle Doves dropped dead from, what zoo officials there call, "massive indigestion." It appears the birds gorged themselves on sunflower seeds from a nearby sunflower oil factory. The overeating apparently caused damage to each bird's liver and kidneys. But, what would cause these birds to overeat to the point of death?

Despite what seems to some to be very logical explanations for these deaths, many others are looking for larger answers. Some have even coined the phrase "The Aflockalypse" to describe the thousands of bird deaths. So are these events signs of a coming Biblical tribulation?

Although the Bible is open to interpretation, a few verses do mention the death of birds and fishes. Zephaniah 1:3 contains this eerie prophesy about judgment day: “I will consume the birds of the heavens and the fishes of the sea.”

Steve Wohlberg is a sometimes-controversial theologian. He believes the dead birds and dead fish are signs of the "End of Days." Wohlberg quotes Luke 21:11 to back up his assertions: 'Fearful sights and great signs shall there be from Heaven,' he quotes.

Ronald L. Conte Jr., a Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator, has a different opinion. "There is nothing in the Bible...concerning the end times about bird or fish or other animal deaths in relation to the Apocalypse."

Conte adds: "Are not the deaths of human persons more important than the deaths of animals? But the event of World War 2, in which millions of persons were killed, was not the start of the Apocalypse. Neither were any of the other wars since that time a sign of, or the start of the end times. Various disasters that have killed many human persons did not herald the Apocalypse. For example, in late 2004, there was an earthquake that caused a tidal wave, resulting in about 250,000 deaths all on one day, in Indonesia. And yet this did not mark the beginning of the apocalypse. So the deaths of some fish and birds cannot be a sign of the Apocalypse either."

Nostradamus is often quoted for his predictions and prophecies of future tribulations. The History Channel did an entire feature on the famous apothecary from the 1500's. In his many quatrains, Nostradamus does mention birds and fish on occasion. One, in particular, stands out to many as an end-times prediction: "Before these events happen, many rare birds will cry in the air, "Now! Now"! and sometime later will vanish."

Nostradamus paid a lot of attention to the year 2012. According to History.com , he predicts a shift in the earth's magnetic field in that year. Get ready for lots of havoc and mayhem as a result, according to the prophesy.

Scientists say, earth's magnetic poles shift every 250,000 years or so. Is this phenomenon happening again right now? Just last week, the Tampa Airport closed its main runway for re-labeling. The reason? The north pole is shifting! Scientists say the magnetic north pole is moving toward Russia at a rate of 40 miles per year...

What's more, studies show that both birds and fish rely on the earth's magnetism for migration and feeding. They have magnetite in certain cells of their brains that help orient them to the poles. Would a shift in the poles cause fish to swim into shallower waters where the cold could threaten their very lives? Would a shift in the magnetic poles cause birds to become more frequently disoriented in flight or prevent them from feeding properly? Many unanswered questions remain... What do you think? Leave your comments below.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Obama: We must "make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds." - Poliglot

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via WikipediaObama: We must "make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds." - Poliglot

January 12, 2011

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona

University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center

Tucson, Arizona

January 12, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery—


To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders – representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation’s capital. Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” – just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.

That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday – they too represented what is best in America.

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge. His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.

George and Dorothy Morris – “Dot” to her friends – were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. Both were shot. Dot passed away.

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she’d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together – about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.

Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion – but his true passion was people. As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved – talking with people and seeing how he could help. Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.

And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer. She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken – and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.

Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.

And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive. We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives. And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.

Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law. In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.

And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.

So deserving of our love.

And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. “I hope you help those in need,” read one. “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening Democratic Rep. McDermott - WSJ.com

Jim McDermottImage via WikipediaMan Arrested for Allegedly Threatening Democratic Rep. McDermott - WSJ.com

The Justice Department filed a criminal complaint in Seattle federal court Wednesday against a California man for allegedly making threatening phone calls to U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott's office.

Charles Habermann, a Palm Springs, Calif. man, allegedly made two "expletive-laden, threatening phone calls" to the Seattle office of Mr. McDermott (D., Wash.). The 32-year-old Mr. Habermann allegedly threatened to kill Mr. McDermott, his friends and his family and to put the congressman "in the trash."

Authorities said Mr. Habermann was arrested Wednesday. Neither he nor an attorney for him could be reached for comment.

The charge against Mr. Habermann comes only days after Saturday's shootings in Tucson, Ariz., in which six people were killed and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head. Jared Loughner has been charged in Phoenix federal court with murder and attempted murder in that attack, which authorities have said they believe was aimed at Rep. Giffords. She was holding an open meeting for constituents at a shopping center in Tucson.

In the complaint filed in federal court, the government said that in an interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in December, Mr. Haberman admitted to leaving threatening voice-mail messages for Rep. McDermott. He said he had been drinking beforehand, according to the complaint, and that he wanted politicians to know he was unhappy with how they were spending taxpayer money and was trying to scare them.

Mr. Haberman also allegedly said he left a message with a congresswoman, whom the complaint only identified as "Congresswoman C.P." He also acknowledged leaving a threatening message in 2010 for a California state legislator, the filing said.

Mr. Habermann said he never intended to harm anyone, according to the complaint.

If convicted of threatening a federal official, Mr. Habermann faces as many as 10 years in prison, the government said.

Write to John R. Emshwiller at john.emshwiller@wsj.com

John Boehner turns down Air Force One ride to Tucson - John Bresnahan - POLITICO.com

John BoehnerImage via WikipediaJohn Boehner turns down Air Force One ride to Tucson - John Bresnahan - POLITICO.com

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) turned down an offer by President Barack Obama to travel on Air Force One to Arizona for a memorial service on behalf of the victims of Saturday’s shooting, a decision that has upset some Democrats.

Boehner is instead scheduled to attend a reception on Wednesday night on behalf of Maria Cino, a former top House GOP aide who is seeking the Republican National Committee chairmanship. Boehner is backing Cino’s challenge to current RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

Boehner’s reception for Cino was first reported on Wednesday morning by POLITICO.

Senior Democrats - who to date had been impressed with Boehner’s response to the Arizona tragedy - expressed surprise at what they saw as an unmistakable misstep by the new speaker: appearing at a partisan political event on the same night as the the president, first lady Michelle Obama, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Arizona congressional delegation come together at the memorial service for the victims of an attack that nearly took the life of a member of the House. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was critically wounded in Saturday’s attack, while six other people died and a dozen more were wounded.

“It is disrespectful for Speaker Boehner to skip joining the President’s and bipartisan congressional delegation to the Tucson Memorial so he could host a Washington D.C. cocktail party for RNC members,” said a Democratic leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Boehner’s aides noted that the speaker will complete his remarks on Cino’s candidacy before Obama’s speech at the University of Arizona-sponsored memorial event.

The Boehner staffers also insisted that, as speaker, Boehner’s place is on Capitol Hill, not in Tucson. They noted that Boehner had opened an hours-long tribute on the House floor Wednesday to Giffords and the other shooting victims and attended a bipartisan prayer service afterward. Because Air Force One left at 1 p.m., Boehner couldn’t have flown to Arizona and also attended the Capitol prayer service.

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said: “Today, Rep. Giffords’ colleagues on both sides of the aisle honored her and mourned those who were lost. The speaker felt his place was here in the House, with them.”

A senior GOP aide called it a “very misleading claim” to suggest that Boehner was somehow slighting Giffords or the other shooting victims by remaining in the Capitol, even as Obama and Pelosi made the trip to Arizona.

“The speaker made it clear to the White House all along that he would be in the House today,” the GOP aide said. “Their last-minute invite was a courtesy - they knew he was going to be here. The invitation came along after all this stuff in the House had been set up, on a bipartisan basis. The speaker can’t exactly walk away from all that.”

Boehner was clearly emotional during his remarks on Giffords and the other shooting victims when he appeared on the House floor early Wednesday.

“Our hearts are broken but our spirit is not,” Boehner said as he fought back tears. “This is a time for the House to lock arms, in prayer for those fallen and wounded, and in resolve to carry on the dialogue of democracy.”

Boehner added: “We may not yet have all the answers, but we already have the answer that matters most: that we are Americans, and we will make it through this. We will have the last word.”

Yet three days after the Giffords’ shooting, a full-fledged partisan battle has broken out over the attack, especially what may have led accused gunman Jared Loughner to open fire on Giffords and others during a small constituent event at a local supermarket in Tucson.

Former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin posted a video on Wednesday accusing her critics of a “blood libel” for suggesting that harsh rhetoric by her or other conservatives was a cause for the incident. Pro-gun control activists have lambasted members of both parties for allegedly abdicating their responsibility over U.S. gun policy. And some lawmakers have openly called for beefed-up security for members and senators, even as their colleagues reject such measures as harmful for the conduct of their jobs.

Jake Sherman and Jonathan Martin contributed to this story

Palin Calls Criticism 'Blood Libel' - NYTimes.com


Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.
Palin Calls Criticism 'Blood Libel' - NYTimes.com

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
Sarah Palin: “America’s Enduring Strength” from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

Sarah Palin, who had been silent for days, issued a forceful denunciation of her critics on Wednesday in a video statement that accused pundits and journalists of “blood libel” in what she called their rush to blame heated political rhetoric for the shootings in Arizona.

“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own,” Ms. Palin said in a video posted to her Facebook page. “Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

Ms. Palin’s use last year of a map with cross hairs hovering over a number of swing districts, including that of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, has become a symbol of that overheated rhetoric. In an interview with The Caucus on Monday, Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 rival and the former Republican governor of Minnesota, said he would not have produced such a map.

In the video, Ms. Palin rejected criticism of the map, and sought to cast that criticism as a broader indictment of the basic political rights of free speech exercised by people of all political persuasions.

She said that acts like the shootings in Arizona “begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state.”

“Not with those who listen to talk radio,” said Ms. Palin, who is also a Fox News contributor. “Not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle. Not with law abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their first amendment rights at campaign rallies. Not with those who proudly voted in the last election.”

In her seven-and-a-half minute video, Ms. Palin said that “journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

The term blood libel is generally used to mean the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of matzos for passover. That false claim was circulated for centuries to incite anti-Semitism and justify violent pogroms against Jews. Ms. Palin’s use of the phrase in her video, which helped make the video rapidly go viral, is attracting criticism, not least because Ms. Giffords, who remains in critical condition in a Tucson hospital, is Jewish.

In the video, posing in front of a fireplace and an American flag, Ms. Palin looks directly at the camera as she condemns the shooting and talks about “irresponsible statements” made since it happened.

With President Obama scheduled to travel to Arizona to speak at a memorial for the victims, Ms. Palin posted the video early in the day Wednesday, getting a jump on the discussion.

“President Obama and I may not agree on everything,” she said, “but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process.”

Ms. Palin quoted former President Ronald Reagan as saying that society should not be blamed for the acts of an individual. She said, “it is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

In the past several days, some pundits have wondered aloud why Ms. Palin had not been more vocal, considering the criticism being leveled at her. In the video, Ms. Palin, who is mentioned as a possible presidential contender for 2012, returns again and again to her contention that critics were unfairly tarring people who engaged in political debates last year.

“When we say ‘take up our arms,’ we are talking about our vote,” she said. “Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully.”

She said she and her supporters would not change their rhetoric because of the shooting in Arizona.

“We will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults,” she said.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed Nevada Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, also issued a statement defending her rhetoric.

“Expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon the people’s Constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant,” she said in the statement, according to news reports. “The irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the Tea Party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger.”

Ms. Angle said during the campaign that voters could pursue “Second Amendment remedies” if the political process did not work for them. In the wake of the Arizona shooting, those remarks have been criticized anew.

“Finger-pointing towards political figures is an audience-rating game and contradicts the facts as they are known – that the shooter was obsessed with his twisted plans long before the Tea Party movement began,” Ms. Angle said in her statement.

In a video statement, Sarah Palin accused her critics of making “irresponsible statements” over the Arizona shooting.
Ms. Palin’s video, which appeared to be professionally produced, is sure to intensify speculation that Ms. Palin is planning to run for president in 2012.

By taking on her critics directly, using language designed to grab headlines, Ms. Palin is likely to steal attention away from her potential presidential rivals, most of whom have issued more cautious statements.

Caution is not part of Ms. Palin’s political repertoire. She starts the video with the standard expressions of condolences to the victims of the shootings. But her demeanor quickly shifts into a more aggressive posture.

The video is laden with references that will appeal to her potential supporters. She talks about the country’s “foundational freedoms” and the intentions of the nation’s founders, and refers to former President Reagan.

And twice, she calls the United States “exceptional,” a dig at Mr. Obama, whom conservatives accuse of not believing in the concept of “American exceptionalism” because of his answer to a reporter’s question early in his presidency.

“Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength,” she says. “It is part of why America is exceptional.”

Poll: Obama approval up 6 points - Jennifer Epstein - POLITICO.com

Poll: Obama approval up 6 points - Jennifer Epstein - POLITICO.com

President Obama’s approval ratings has climbed to its highest point in nearly a year and opinions of Congress are up too, a new poll Wednesday found.

Fifty-three percent of Americans surveyed for an Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday said they approve of how Obama is doing his job.

In November, just after the election day in which the president said Democrats got a “shellacking,” his approval rating in the same poll stood at 47 percent. Obama’s approval was last at 53 percent in this poll in early March 2010, before his health care reform bill was passed in its final form.

Americans’ views of how Obama is handling the economy also improved, with 47 percent approving, up 6 points from November.

A majority of voters are confident that Republicans can bring about an economic turnaround, with 56 percent saying they think the GOP can improve the economy.

Congressional Republicans’ overall approval ratings are also up, from 29 percent three months ago to 36 percent in this poll. Democrats in Congress are also doing better in the eyes of the American people than they were this fall, with 39 percent of those surveyed saying they approve of them, up from 36 percent in October.

The poll surveyed 1,001 adults Jan. 5-10. The error margin is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Hezbollah Forces Collapse of Lebanese Government - NYTimes.com

The Lebanese Parliament in downtown Beirut. Th...Image via Wikipedia

BEIRUT, LebanonHezbollah and its allies forced the collapse of the government here on Wednesday, deepening a crisis over a United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of a former prime minister.

Eleven of the cabinet’s 30 ministers announced their resignations, a move that dissolves the government. They said they were prompted to act by the cabinet’s refusal to convene an emergency session to oppose the tribunal, which is expected to expected to indict members of Hezbollah.

Ten of the ministers announced their resignations just as Prime Minister Saad Hariri was meeting with President Obama in Washington. The opposition had hoped that all 11 ministers would resign together, to bring down the government at that time and embarrass Mr. Hariri to the maximum.

But the 11th minister, Adnan Sayed Hussein, announced his resignation in a statement later in the evening, the National News Agency reported, after the meeting in Washington was over.

The collapse of the fragile government marks the worst crisis in Lebanon since 2008, when an agreement reached in Qatar achieved a truce to end sectarian clashes that killed 81 people and brought Lebanon to the brink of a renewal of its 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.

“We were committed but they were not,” said Ammar Houri, a lawmaker with Mr. Hariri’s bloc. He added that Mr. Hariri’s allies were meeting to decide the next step.

Hezbollah and its foes have wrestled over the direction of the small Mediterranean country since the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed in a bombing along Beirut’s seafront in 2005. Twenty-two other people died in the attack. Since then, the tribunal has investigated his death and is now widely expected to indict members of Hezbollah, the country’s powerful Shiite Muslim movement.

Hezbollah has denied involvement and denounced the tribunal as an “Israeli project.” It has urged the slain man’s son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, to reject its findings. Mr. Hariri has so far resisted the pressure.

There has been a sense of inevitability to the resignation by cabinet ministers allied with Hezbollah. For months, Hezbollah has warned that it would not stand by as its members were accused of involvement in the assassination of Mr. Hariri’s father. Though it is technically part of the opposition, Hezbollah joined a unity government formed after elections in June 2009. It has emerged as the single most powerful force in the country, aided by its alliance with a powerful Christian general and the fracturing of its foes.

In contrast to 2005, Hezbollah’s adversaries — gathered around Mr. Hariri — have fewer options and less support than they once did, emblematic of the vast changes in Lebanon’s political landscape the past few years. While the Bush administration wholeheartedly backed Mr. Hariri and his allies then, President Obama has not pledged the same kind of support. Syria, whose influence was waning in 2005, has re-emerged in Lebanon, and even its detractors here have sought some kind of relationship with it. Most Lebanese also vividly recall the speed at which Hezbollah and its allies vanquished their foes in just a few days of street fighting in Beirut in May 2008.

“Who are your allies these days?” Sateh Noureddine, a columnist with As-Safir newspaper, asked of Mr. Hariri’s camp. “You are going to get beaten on the streets and you will not be able to respond.”

The decision to resign came after the collapse of talks between Saudi Arabia and Syria aimed at easing the political tension. The two countries have backed rival camps in Lebanon since 2005 and their initiative was seen across the political spectrum as the best chance to end the stalemate. But Tuesday night, Michel Aoun, a former general and Hezbollah’s Christian ally, announced the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

“The initiative has ended with no result,” he said.

The prospect of the government’s collapse sent a wave of anxiety through Lebanon, which has seen only brief periods of calm since Rafik Hariri’s killing and has often found itself perched between the competing agendas of Hezbollah allies — Iran and Syria — and Mr. Hariri’s supporters, in particular the United States and Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi-Syrian initiative was an attempt to prevent strife in the country,” said Walid Sukkariyeh, a lawmaker allied with Hezbollah’s bloc in Parliament.

A leading opposition newspaper, Al Akhbar, underlined the sense of unease with an editorial headlined, “The beginning of the unknown.”

Many here fear that “unknown” could turn bloody with street clashes in which Hezbollah is likely to prevail. An outbreak of violence might enable it to effectively seize control of the government and force a new reality on the streets of Beirut, at least until a new agreement can be reached under the auspices of foreign powers, who have long played an outsized role in the country’s domestic affairs.

Other analysts dismiss the prospect of violence, given Hezbollah’s strength. A more likely scenario, they say, is months of political stalemate, not unlike Lebanon witnessed between 2006 and 2008, before another deal is reached.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Patrick Kennedy rebuffs Sarah Palin’s words - Brett Coughlin - POLITICO.com

Patrick Kennedy rebuffs Sarah Palin’s words - Brett Coughlin - POLITICO.com

Patrick Kennedy, who lost two uncles to assassins’ bullets, says there’s an obvious connection between the violent rhetoric of today’s politics and the massacre in Tucson.

“When Sarah Palin puts targets on people’s districts? Or you have 10,000 signs on the mall during the healthcare battle saying ‘Bury Obamacare with Kennedy’? When the vitriol and the rhetoric is so violent, we have to connect consequences to that.” said Kennedy, who left congress two weeks ago after serving eight terms representing Rhode Island.

Saturday’s tragedy touches on both elements of Kennedy’s new mission in life — helping someone after they’ve been afflicted by a brain injury and ensuring universal access to mental health services, which might have prevented Jared Lee Loughner’s apparent paroxysm of madness.

In lengthy interviews with POLITICO, Kennedy talked about both Giffords and Loughner.

He called Giffords a “very compassionate person, with a generous spirit. She was always asking about me and how I was doing,” in the time just after his father’s death.

After the final vote on health care reform, Kennedy volunteered his services to raise money for Giffords and other Democrats who had voted yes and were facing a tough reelection fight. Kennedy was able to raise about $65,000 for Giffords “virtually overnight,” he said. “She was happily surprised.”

In Loughner, Kennedy sees an object lesson for the media and others. “When I hear terms about the alleged shooter in this case, perjorative terms like psycho, lunatic, or they say ‘He’s crazy.’ These are terms we use to describe someone’s mental health?” he asked, his voice booming over the telephone.

“This is a rare opportunity to take all the stigma and stereotyping, and take the terms like crazy and psycho, that are being bandied about by reputable people who should know better, and use this as an opportunity to have some enlightened debate about better public policy that can help respond to the real need amongst many families whose family members are part of that very small subset of individuals who suffer from violent, paranoid schizophrenia.”

(Loughner has not been diagnosed with schizophrenia; he faces federal charges in the deaths of six people and the wounding of 14.)

Out of Congress for just two weeks, the former Rhode Island representative already has his new nonprofit The Next Frontier underway.

Kennedy will present the first major research of the nonprofit on May 25, 2011, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech about sending a man to the moon. He sees the new effort as trying to coordinate all the brain research that is being done by an army of scientists around the globe.

“You have umpteen different groups all trying to do their own research: bipolar [disorder], Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, epilepsy,” Kennedy said. “They file all these things as if they are individual disorders when they all have one organ in common, the brain. We know a fraction of 1 percent of what we need to know, unless we are working on the big picture about what’s common to all.”

Kennedy says scientists have been inspired by the metaphor of everyone working together to achieve something that seemed impossible.

“They call brain research the last medical frontier,” said Kennedy. “Instead of going to outer space, we’re going to inner space.”

As in the 1960s when Sputnik spurred the United States to action, Kennedy says there is a national security interest at stake: “Our race to space is the suicide rate among soldiers and veterans. All that research — Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s — that’s all going to accrue to the soldiers’ benefit.”

The totality of the effort taps into very personal issues for the 43-year-old, eight term congressman. His father succumbed to brain cancer, his aunt Rosemary was lobotomized. Kennedy himself has struggled with addiction and remains in recovery.

A few weeks after his father – “Lion of the Senate” Edward Kennedy — died, Kennedy was sitting on a bench outside of the Cannon Office Building talking. Asked if he intended to take up the mantle and continue his father’s lifelong work in health care, Kennedy said “I don’t know.”

Not long after that, Kennedy announced he would be retiring from Congress.

Later in the year, as the Tea Party and anti “Obamacare” protests exploded all over the country, Kennedy saw a sign outside of the Congress. It said “Bury Obamacare With Kennedy.” He was later told that thousands had been handed out.

The event lead Kennedy to say that he feared for the future, and pointed to his family’s well-known tragic story.

“My family’s seen it up close too much with assassinations and violence in political life. It’s a terrible thing when people think that in order to get their point across they have to go to the edge of violent rhetoric and attack people personally,” Kennedy said during a speech before healthcare providers and union officials in downtown Providence in September 2009, according to the Providence Journal.

“It’s fine for people to debate the issue and attack the issue, but when they go and stoop to the level of the vitriolic rhetoric that we’ve seen this debate turn up, it’s very, I think, dangerous to the fabric of our country,” he said at the time.

“There are consequences to violent rhetoric,” he said. “Some people can see through TV ratings and right-wing talk show hosts that just try to create some theater, but unfortunately, there are some that can’t see through it. And that’s the danger in it. There is definitely freedom of speech, but freedom of speech does not allow yelling ‘fire’ in the middle of a crowded movie theater.”

Kennedy remains optimistic about the future, however, and said he is courting some major corporations to help raise money for veterans returning home with traumatic brain injury.

Last fall, in San Diego, Kennedy gave a speech before the National Foundation for Neuroscience, lamenting that there hasn’t been a “galvanizing moment” to spur the coordination of research of the brain.

What happened in Tucson may now be the moment.

“We’ve had a war on cancer, but never a war on Alzheimer’s. We’ve had a war on poverty, but never a war on Parkinson’s. As a result, progress has been painfully slow,” Kennedy told the researchers in San Diego. “To develop and gain approval for new treatment takes about 18 years, and the number of FDA approvals of new molecular entities has actually declined. Recently, pharmaceutical-company investment has declined with it. I suppose it’s possible to look at these facts and say, ‘The pace of discovery is uneven. That’s just the way it is.’

“But I say it’s time – it’s long past time – to redouble our efforts. To refocus our work. To marshal the American spirit toward this great challenge,” he said. “So when people ask me, after more than two decades in politics, what’s next? I’m proud to tell them. This is next.”