Archive for March, 2017

A Brighter Future Through Education Funding

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We all know how powerful education is. It not only empowers the mind and enhances one’s knowledge and skills but can change the future too. An education can help people realize their dreams and aspirations in life. A myriad of opportunities opens up to an educated person – opportunities that will never come knocking to someone who did not get an education. Books are key to this, of course.

Yet for as long as we can remember, public education is only free to primary and secondary school students and is plagued with issues and controversies too. Affluent parents who only want the best for their kids would rather enroll their children in private schools than compromise their child’s learning at the many public schools sprawled all over the country.

College is an even bigger problem as most students no longer pursue it because they simply cannot afford the high tuition fees. As a result, more and more Americans go through adulthood without a degree, making it harder for them to compete globally. Many of them also lack the necessary knowledge and skills to qualify them for work in various industries both in and out of the country.

Our nation’s rapidly evolving, technologically oriented economy is driving a surge in demand for skilled employees. It is estimated that two-thirds of all jobs created in the coming decade will require some form of postsecondary education. In response, the United States has established a goal of achieving a 60 percent postsecondary degree or certificate attainment among the nation’s labor force by 2025, equating to an additional 62 million Americans. But with the current trajectory, the U.S. will produce only 39 million such graduates, 23 million short of the goal.

At the same time, funding constraints and other factors have resulted in a 20 percent decrease in total state appropriations to public baccalaureate-granting institutions. Our experts report that innovative approaches to funding postsecondary education are required to meet America’s demand for skilled workers.


Fortunately, lawmakers are finally doing something about the problem so that the future of the country has a better chance in work and in life.

Florida lawmakers are pushing an education agenda that includes big changes to higher education and k-12 schools. Recess could become mandatory, tuition less expensive and Bright Futures expanded under proposals in the House and Senate.

The sound of kids playing on jungle gyms and monkey bars isn’t as common as it used to be in public schools. Over the years, as the state has increased requirements on schools, they’ve cut back on recess. It’s now optional in many districts, and that’s not fair to students says Angie Gallo, legislative chair of the Florida Parent-Teacher Organization.

School systems put undue stress on students that they end up hating school rather than being excited to learn something new every day. We should not dismiss the fact that teachers play a major role in a student’s enthusiasm to go to school daily.

Meanwhile, a plan to boost universities is already waiting for a full Senate vote. The plan calls for the state to use a four-year graduation rate instead of the traditional six-year-figure to help determine who gets what money. Bright Futures scholarships would expand to cover 100 percent of tuition. There are also dollars for recruiting new faculty into the system. And schools would have to offer flat, block tuition plans. Senate President Joe Negron says students take fewer courses because they can’t afford more. 


Both parents and students can only hope that the new Secretary of Education also put their best interests in mind and strive to improve the quality of public education aside from increasing access to college and university scholarships instead of making further budget cuts. Many are baffled when she said that the sector is not facing any problem today when asked in an interview.

Further, she seems to be in support of the Department of Education being significantly stripped of some—if not all—of its powers. “There’s clearly an opportunity to slim down the department in some ways. I don’t know if that will ultimately significantly reduce the overall expenditure, but it may, it may help incentivize states in other ways,” she said, according to Axios.

When asked if there are current issues involving education that the federal government has a place intervening in, she said: “I can’t think of any now,” though she acknowledged the Department played an important role in desegregating schools and promoting gender equality in the past.


A good education is the foundation of a thriving economy. Educated workers need less supervision and can contribute to the growth of any company or organization. They not only work to survive but work to make a name for themselves. If the government only sees it that way, then it will put more emphasis on education reforms that the education sector desperately needs right now.

Israel: A Nation Eluded By Peace

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Many countries in the Far East have been ravaged by war for centuries now. Peace seems to elude them. The people learned to live a life that is always on the edge. Attempts of powerful western nations to restore peace in these nations seem futile and to no avail.

Israel is one of these countries that are always in the path of war and destruction. It had always been in conflict with its neighbor, Palestine. But so far, nobody has ever come up with a more lasting and positive solution. People died in the process of restoring peace in these countries and it seems like wishful thinking now.

Israel has issued 35 administrative detention orders against Palestinian prisoners, including one woman, within the last two weeks.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said in a press statement that the orders were served to prisoners from across the occupied West Bank cities, including 11 to Palestinians from Bethlehem, eight to those from Hebron, six in Jenin and five in Ramallah.

It added that the orders were issued against first-time detainees as well as those who have been previously detailed.


Many suggestions have been considered (with finger crossed – that is).

Israel has been a sovereign state, with all the trimmings, since 1948, including a government, an army, a seat in the UN and membership in the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as many other international bodies. By now, 135 of the 193 member states of the UN have recognized “Palestine” as a sovereign state, plus the Holy See, which is not a full member state of the UN.

If all of these facts are taken into account, you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing could possibly stand in the way of the two-state-solution. But there are a few small matters that ought to be addressed before Jerusalem and Ramallah are to take up any diplomatic relationships. These are, namely, the issues of borders, the Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the “return policy,” which is non-negotiable for Palestinians, as well as the recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” a condition that Israel is not willing to forego.

And all of this is without mentioning the most important question of all: who will speak for the Palestinians? The local elections in the West Bank and Gaza, set for Oct. 8, 2016, had to be cancelled due to the fact that leaders of Fatah and Hamas could not reach an agreement.

The rules are basically the same: the first to move, loses.


Many people (Americans and non-Americans) may not like most of President Trump’s statement and policies so far but it appears that he is doing something right in this aspect after all.

To understand what President Trump has indeed achieved and undertaken – which although limited, does represent a strong foundation for a future Middle Eastern peace initiative – requires envisioning an alternate scenario. Envisage a Democratic American president who in his or her first two months of leadership has appointed two premier advisors to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue; called on the Israeli government to hold back on settlement construction; intimately engaged Palestinian and Arab leaders; and has avoided any notable scandals on this particular front.

The President helps negotiate peace among these troubled nations and extend a helping hand, so peace can finally be achieved if everything works in their favor.

Observers and commentators on the Israeli-Palestinian issue should do so by cautiously highlighting positive developments, which further incentivize a working, democratic relationship between the community and the White House. To continue on the current path would otherwise signal four complete years of partisanship and opposition that would dissuade progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front, which Israelis, Palestinians, and world interests simply cannot afford.


Life in a war-torn nation is something you would not wish on anybody. We all deserve to live in a society with established law and order, where the citizens are free to roam the streets and go after their pursuits in life. Children should enjoy a normal childhood that is not exposed to violence and various injustices.

It may not be the reality for countries like Palestine and Israel right now (and many other countries in the Middle East e.g. Syria and Iraq) but it is possible once the nations unite and look past each other’s difference. The bottom line is, the world will be a better place if everyone learns to love more and hate less.

The Changing San Diego Landscape

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Weather changes are old news. Wherever you are in the globe, you have likely witnessed your fair share of environmental mayhems that probably have temporarily put your lives on hold. Devastating as it may be, there is little one can do once disaster strikes. And in its aftermath are even more problems as people try to rebuild their lives and pick up from where they left off. There are services to help clean up, but often, they may not be enough.

More often than not, the people rely on the government for help. With taxes that are supposed to fund the most basic of services, the government can tap into these resources to secure calamity funds needed by everyone. And the United States is not an exception. Major cities like San Diego in the West Coast face the wrath of nature where storms, droughts and bush fires are quite common.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued state-of-emergency proclamations Tuesday for counties across the state, including San Diego, in response to damage during powerful storms that struck in January and February.

Brown also sent a letter to the White House requesting a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to complement state and local recovery efforts.

The emergency proclamations direct Caltrans officials to immediately request assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program to obtain federal funds for “highway repairs or reconstruction.” They also direct the Office of Emergency Services to provide assistance to counties affected by the late January storms.


And even neighboring towns outside the country are just as affected as San Diego itself considering their close proximity. They also suffer when infrastructure breaks down because of wear and tear that are perhaps hastened by the elements or the failure to maintain it.

Baja California’s governor is preparing to declare a state of emergency in the coming days, hoping to draw financial aid for Tijuana’s strained and underfunded sewage system following a massive spill that sent millions of gallons of untreated wastewater from Tijuana across the border and into San Diego last month.

The incident was triggered by the collapse of a major sewage trunk line in Tijuana, state officials say, and repairs led to the release of a large amount of untreated sewage into the Tijuana River channel, which empties into the ocean at Imperial Beach. The spill generated outrage north of the border, especially because of Mexico’s failure to notify U.S. officials, who found out only after residents reported foul odors over a two-week period.


It is also common to see other infrastructure problems brought about by weather disturbances and neglect from public agencies that are supposed to oversee its repair and maintenance.

We apparently have 36,000 potholes to fill, on 2,800 miles of street. Your writer says the crews “can fix a small hole in five minutes.”

A 2011 U-T article called the budget $26 million then, no indication what the 2017 cost is. If increased at the rate of inflation that could be $31 million. I doubt that includes pension costs. That’s almost $900 per pothole.

Do we think any private companies might be willing to take on the job of pothole repair for, say, a measly $800 per pothole and save us a few dollars?

What if we simply hired a city “inspector” to drive those streets and held a private company (or two) to standards for timeliness and quality of repair? Effective government?


The United States is a first class country. San Diego itself is a big city with a bustling economy. Even if the weather and other environmental factors are a constant threat to the city, it is not an excuse for its public officials to slack and do nothing when many of the infrastructures are crumbling and negatively impacts the lives of the people.