Diplomacy vs Military Might

The big story du jour is whether the U.S. should join other countries that are signing an international agreement designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On Aug. 7, I attended an Aspen Institute forum on how the U.S. should respond to the ISIS crisis. A stellar group of speakers included senior pentagon brass, a former CIA director, former Secretary of State, former top advisors to the President, and top scholars of Islam. It went on for hours. An informal buzz word analysis revealed an alarming tendency to discuss military “solutions” far more frequently than diplomatic actions. The panel was divided on what to do. Four star general David Petraeus could not make up his mind (although more recently he announced that he would support the agreement). After all the failed military interventions in the Middle East it seemed like déjà vu all over again: some of the best and brightest still think that there are military solutions to the world’s social and political problems. They still haven’t learned that military interventions cause problems rather than solve problems. In Washington, our elected members of Congress are voting on what is best for their careers, not what is best for the country. Not a single Republican Senator will support diplomacy. If you want to see what might happen if we don’t sign on, read this thoughtful Op-Ed in the LATimes by Joseph Cirincione, head of Ploughshares.

Reflecting on President Jimmy Carter

A few days after announcing that he now has brain cancer, Pres. Carter taught his regular Sunday school lesson at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. It is sad how many political pundits have caricatured his presidency, portrayed him as an inept clown, and overlooked his accomplishments. Unlike some other recent presidents who really were clowns, Carter is likely to go down in history as a great president. Here’s why. 

Oliver Sach’s Parting Words

Another distinguished person suffering from cancer is in the news.  Oliver Sachs, best-selling author, neuroscientist, and authority on the nature of conscious experience died today, August 30. Maybe you read (along with millions) The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. A month ago, he wrote about his own periodic table and the grander scheme of life on Earth.

Why Do Teachers Quit?

We hear that there is a big teacher shortage, perhaps explained by the fact that so many quit. Statistics show that about 17% leave the profession after the first five years. The rate is much higher in urban schools. Is it long hours and low pay? Or is it because of bad administrators who force them to slavishly follow formulas produced by politicians? Read all about it in the LAT.

Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Lots of Water?

Do you walk around with water bottles? Did your mother tell you to drink 8 glasses of water every day? Are you resistant to facts? Read what a medical doctor has to say regarding myths about hydration.

American Exceptionalism.

It comes as no surprise that the US spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined. We can also brag that we have more guns per capita than any other country. Yea! USA #1. Of course we lag in education, health care, infant mortality, stuff like that. But now we have a new crown: the mass shooting capital of the world. We have only 5% of the world population but we have 31% of the world’s mass shooting deaths. No one else is even close! Read all about it here. 

Land of Opportunity or Land of Limitations?

Researchers are now reporting that there is less economic mobility in the United States than there is in Canada or much of Europe. Contrary to the popular myth, young people now have less mobility than previous generations. Stanford professor Sean Reardon notes that rich kids make a lot of bad choices but they don’t suffer the same consequences compared to poor kids. So let’s just drop the social Darwinism, says Nicholas Kristof. Success is not a sign of virtue and hard work. It’s mostly a sign that your grandparents did well.

New Controversy over Cholesterol Drugs.

What? Controversy in medicine???  Big time.  It is no secret that heart disease is the number one killer, and now some doctors advise everyone over 65 to take statin drugs. Other doctors worry about the 25% of statin-intolerant people who suffer from muscle deterioration, diabetes, sleep disorders, and memory loss.  Thousands of lawsuits are piling up against drug makers over this, yet Big Phama rakes in over $100 billion a year selling statin drugs.  Now comes a new class of cholesterol lowering drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors which are much more effective in reducing LDL and apparently have few side effects.  The FDA just approved Praluent and Repatha.  Slight problem:  they cost $14,000/year.  Front page story in the NYT Aug. 30.

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