|Issue of the Day Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’|
White House Proposes Increase Spending for Cyber Security
Published Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
It has been known for a while now that the future of war or conflict will involve information or cyber warfare. A non-profit US Cyber Consequences Unit studied the cyber tactics used against the country of Georgia during its military conflict with Russia last year. Cyber attacks in August 2008 shut down the web sites of critical Georgian government agencies, the media and banks. The US-CCU expects this model to be used again in future conflicts. The report suggests that an international organization be created to provide risk advisories and international cyber-response forces to assistance member states in the form of advice and setting up permanent operations, plus cyber-response exercises to thwart future attacks.
Overall, spending for Defense as a percentage of the federal budget has trended upwards since 2002 at a rate of 0.7 percentage points a year to 21.7%. For cyber security, President Obama called for $355 million in spending for the DHS intelligence and warning mission area, up from the $294 million fiscal 2009 budget. As of 2008, there were increases in a majority of mission areas except Domestic Terrorism and Catastrophic Threats.
President Intends to Submit UN Treaty for Ratification
Published Monday, August 17th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
Recently, President Obama announced his intentions to sign and submit to the Senate for ratification an international human rights treaty. In the past the US has ratified only three of 26 international human rights treaties, given reluctance from some in Congress. The treaty in question is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and it has been signed by 141 nations including Yemen and Sudan, ratified by 60 countries. Historically, the US created the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, yet as the UN contemplated a treaty for the disabled in 2001, Bush-era diplomats declared disability a domestic issue.
In the US, there are 37.8 million disabled; the greatest group facing disability is the group 16-64 years of age followed closely by the group 65 and over. Many believe that by signing the Disability Teaty, the US will put its reputation and influence behind it, and thus more will adhear to its provisions. Worldwide, there are 650 million people living with a disability; 85% live in developing nations.
This week, President Obama is holding talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev regarding the further reduction of nuclear stockpiles. In a press briefing, both presidents expressed a desire to “reset” their relationship and work together on global issues that Russia called their “special responsibility.” One of the more pressing issues is the deadline for the START I treaty, which is to expire on December 5. Both Presidents signed a joint understanding that called for a legally binding treaty. The provisions call for the US and Russia to reduce their respective strategic warheads to a range of 1,000 to 1,675 — down from 2,200 — and their delivery vehicles to a range of 500 to 1,100. The previous START I treaty allowed for a maximum of 2,200 warheads and 1,600 vehicles.
Russia and the United States are the leading repositories of active and inactive nuclear warheads, topping out at 16,000 and 9960 respectively, followed far behind by France and the United Kingdom at around 200 warheads. The US campaign for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons has taken a more active role in reducing weapons as spending for the Defense program doubled from $874 million to $1,726 million in 2007. Plus, what the US does have in warheads is maintained by $5 billion in test and analysis each year to ensure they are still viable weapons; reports for Russian spending for maintaining their stockpile is not available.
From the state of Vermont comes the Vermont Energy Act of 2009, which will create and regulate new 10-20 year contracts—25 years for solar projects—for the sale of power produced by owners of small renewable energy facilities. So-called “Feed-in Tariffs” are used to encouraged the installation of grid-connected renewable energy systems by both individuals and businesses by making such systems a profitable investment and guaranteeing income that can help attract financing. Currently, Vermont’s Feed-In systems are at 2.2 megawatts capacity; the act sets a cap of 50 megawatts for such contracts. The linchpin for Governor Jim Douglas was the Act’s provision that the Vermont Public Services Board adjust the preliminary standard rates—varying by method of generation—set by the legislature.
Renewable energy is a priority policy issue for the Obama Administration. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides over $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, which includes $4.5 billion for the creation of a smart grid to handle today’s generation needs. Renewable energy generation accounts for 7% of our total generation output in 2008; this is a product of a revival in renewable energy after a 12% drop in net generation in 2000. Sources of renewable energy include biogenic waste, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind.
The Rate of Savings Gets a Boost from Frugal Consumers
Published Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Commerce Department, income growth is far outpacing spending as the personnel savings rate skyrocketed to 5.7%, the highest since February 1995. The level of savings has reached $620.2 billion, the most since January 1959. American incomes rose by 0.5%, which follows two straight months of declines. The increase in April is a result of tax cuts and benefit payments from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Wages and salaries were flat in April. Consumer spending has increased on services by 0.3% in April, which was up from 0.1% in March. Spending on big ticket items and ‘non-durables’ decreased by 0.6%, yet spending on services increased by 0.3% in April.
In 1952, the national savings level was 8.5 times that of the national level of liabilities, yet that level of savings has not been seen since. In 1968, the ratio trickled to 5.75 times the national liabilities; the rate rollercoastered to 3.15 in 2007. Accordingly, the percentage of Americans who are in debt has risen to 76.4% in 2004. After the new bankruptcy laws in 2005, the number of non-business and business filings was cut by 75% and 50% respectively, yet from 2006 to 2008 the number of filings for both have doubled to 1,074,255 and non-business filings reaching 43,546.
Repeal of Tiahrt Amendment Called for by Coalition
Published Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
Much debate is going on in the gun and policing worlds regarding the need to repeal the 2004 Tiahrt Amendment, which was one of the agenda items President Obama discussed in his Senate and Presidential campaigns. The restriction placed on police from the Tiahrt Amendment prevents the federal government from requiring gun dealers to conduct inventory inspections to see if guns they possess are lost or stolen. Also, the President’s budget retains the rule regarding the destruction of federal background checks, which are required for gun buyers within 24 hours. Major proponents for the repeal include the National Public Safety Coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City who believes that these restrictions limit law enforcement of gun sales and crime.
The use of firearms to commit murder actually rose from 9385 murders in 2004 to 10086 in 2007. Separated by type of gun, murders by handguns has been reduced and replaced by other types of guns such as assault rifles. After a short decline, law enforcement deaths have risen from the use of both handguns and assault rifles. Nonfatal firearms incidents are also on the rise again after a steady decline. Crimes committed with firearms besides murder remained at a steady level since the creation of the Brady Laws; this includes crimes committed while under the age of 18—the age at which many states allow at least rifle purchase.
In an effort to influence the Health Reform that President Obama is determined to initiate, hospitals, insurance companies, drug makers and doctors will voluntarily slow their rate increases in coming years, potentially adding up to $2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years. 6 major health groups pledged to cut the rise in health care costs by 1.5 percentage points each year. This move will help provide health insurance to the growing 50 million who now have no health insurance. Obama’s plan is estimated to cost the federal government $1.2 to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, only half of that has been accounted for by the White House. Health groups who discouraged the health reforms prescribed by the Clinton administration seem to be coming forward to help President Obama for a variety of reasons.
By 2007, overall annual consumer expenditures for Private and public health care has reached 1.2 trillion and 1.02 trillion respectively. The difference in public and private expenditures has not always been so wide; between 1977 and the present, the range has slowly grown wider, except between 1994 to 2000 where private shrank and public grew. The number of uninsured has grown from 14% in 2000 to 15.3% of the population in 2007. The percentage includes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which has grown from 3.4 million in 2000 to 6 million in 2005. Most prone to be uninsured are minorities, who are disproportionately uninsured at 24.5-21.8% and those who of 18-44 years of age. All of which has lead to a steady increase in government health care rolls from 10.3% in 2000 to 13.2% in 2007.
Alternative Fuels get a Boost of Funding from ARRA
Published Thursday, May 7th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
Nearly $800 Million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been announced in a press release by US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to accelerate bio-fuels research and commercialization. Also, the money will go towards commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects. This move follows the Obama Administration’s initiative to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, addressing the climate crisis and creating jobs that cannot be outsourced. Broken down, $480 million will go towards 10 to 20 awards for integrated pilot- and demonstration-scale biorefineries for commercial-scale replications. Also, the Act releases $176.5 million for increasing the federal ceiling on pre-existing biorefinery projects. There is $110 million for sustainability research, the development of technologies and bio-fuels including algal based. Plus, $20 million goes towards Ethanol research into flex-fuel vehicles, the impact of higher ethanol blends in conventional vehicles and the subsequent infrastructure for fuels up to E85.
Alternative fuel consumption started gaining ground in 1981 when the US consumed barely 7000 Billion alternative-based Btus. Consumption rose at a slow pace until President Bush’s Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000, which saw the use of biofuels increase exponentially along with the 2002 Farm Bill and the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Currently, the consumption of alternative fuels, which has been cultivated by the Federal Government, has risen to 626,000 Billion Btus in 2007.
One of the major agenda items that President Obama wants to implement is the reduction of oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela. Recently, Chevron has reported that a geological area known as the lower tertiary trend in the Gulf of Mexico, about 175 miles off the Louisiana coast, may produce between 3-15 billion barrels of oil for the US. At the top end of that range, it would account for a 50% boost US oil reserves and potentially US oil production. Other findings suggest that the Ocean Continental Shelf may contain as much as 86 billion barrels; the Balkken Formation of Montana and North Dakota may hold 3.65 billion; and Colorado may have 2 trillion barrels of oil shale (rock). If the US recovers over 800 billion barrels, that’s triple Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves, yet sources will not be available for 5, 10, to 15 years.
The US uses 70% of its oil for transportation (e.g., cars, trains, planes), and 1.5% goes to electricity generation, of which produces two thirds of all US electricity. The US has been using Natural Gas to generate electricity since before WWII, which has tripled in the last 20 years. Renewable or ‘Green Energy’ provides only 7% of all electricity generated nationally, at levels generally flat since the early 1980s and less than the late 1990s.
Gun Crime in Schools a Challange for Secretary of Education
Published Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
During the lead up to the primary in 2007, President Obama had challenged the government, the gun lobby and the public to do more to stop gun violence. In Chicago, where he gave the fiery speech, 32 Chicago school children had been killed in the previous year by firearms. As of today, 33 Chicago public school children have been cut down this year so far. The President had then called for better enforcement of existing gun laws, tighter background checks on gun buyers and a permanent assault-weapons (e.g., AK-47s) ban, which expired 5 years ago. Coincidentally, the new Secretary of Education was the former head of Chicago Public Schools, of which he stated that gun violence was his biggest challenge. These remarks by Secretary Arne Duncan come after the administration’s shift from methods like metal detectors to counseling and community building in order to combat school violence.
By 2007, there were over 10,000 people killed in the US by handguns, this is actually down from 10,225 in 2006. Violent crime committed with a firearm has reduced and remained relatively flat over the last decade. During the 2006-2007 school year, the number of those killed in school amounted to 32. By the 2007-2008 school year, the number reduced below 20 for the first time since 2002 to 16 deaths. Yet, students who reportedly carried a handgun on school campus reduced steadily from 11.8 to 6.1% from 1993 to 2003. Therefore, there were fewer guns on campuses but more deaths.