Archive: November, 2009
It’s been almost five years since the Philadelphia Police Department’s own integrity officer called for establishing a foot-pursuit policy when suspects flee. Despite deaths, shootings, and a lawsuit, there are still no guidelines.
The inaction may result in a steep price paid in lives — to both civilians and police officers — and legal judgments against the city when foot chases go wrong.
Indeed, a federal lawsuit on behalf of a man shot and killed following a foot chase in 2006 contends that a pursuit policy could have helped avoid the incident.
In addition to monetary damages, the lawsuit, by the family of Raymond Pelzer, could force the city to implement foot-pursuit guidelines. But why wait — especially when police officers’ lives could depend upon it?
Pelzer, 25, was shot when he reached for a cell phone while cornered after a chase. Such adrenaline-charged pursuits also can endanger officers.
The federal government reached a distressing milestone this month - $12 trillion in debt. That's about $39,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
In 2001, the national debt stood at about $5.5 trillion. In the past eight years, Washington piled up more debt than the nation had accumulated in its entire history.
Foreign countries hold $3.5 trillion of our country's debt, led by China at around $800 billion and Japan at $730 billion. Unless the United States starts living within its means, foreign lenders could decide to end our free-spending ways.
What does this record debt mean? With interest rates at historic lows, the government is paying about $200 billion per year in interest on the debt. But as rates inevitably rise and the government borrows even more, interest payments are projected to soar to $700 billion annually within 10 years.
Paying an extra $500 billion per year is equal to the combined costs of fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus the budgets of the U.S. departments of education, energy and homeland security. There's just no room in the federal budget to absorb that kind of increase.
The next time a state lawmaker claims to be safeguarding your tax dollars, remember Sue Cornell and Sam Stokes.
Cornell and Stokes are allegedly the latest in a long line of "ghost" employees paid with public money for doing nothing. Their stories are more evidence that some top elected leaders in Harrisburg consider taxpayers chumps.
Cornell offered some of the most infuriating testimony in the latest round of criminal indictments against legislators and top aides in the state capitol. She was a Republican state representative from Montgomery County who lost her bid for reelection in 2006. After her loss, Cornell asked then-Speaker John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) if he could find her another job. The grand jury report that led to the indictment of Perzel and others said his top aide put Cornell on the state payroll in the office of Rep. George Kenney (R., Phila.).
When Cornell asked Kenney what work she should do, he just laughed. Kenney, who was not charged, said he didn't know about the move beforehand and didn't approve of it. Cornell was paid $72,187, which she collected from Dec. 1, 2006, to Jan. 16, 2007.
"She did no work whatsoever for Kenney, and never even appeared at his office," the grand jury report said.
In the wake of a number of shocking mass shootings, Americans should call on their elected leaders to tackle the problem of easy access to guns by people who have no business being armed.
Ever since the Virginia Tech killings in mid-2007 by a mentally ill college student, the need has been obvious to tighten laws to prevent such troubled individuals from obtaining gun licenses. But doing so bucks against the powerful gun lobby.
Now a disturbing new study from a Washington-based gun control group, the Violence Policy Center, should sharpen that debate - and maybe even drown out the expected protests from the National Rifle Association.
Eight years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, much of the public is understandably weary of war. And given the costly intelligence failures in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, they are also wary when it comes to warnings of new and continuing threats, especially in regard to weapons of mass destruction.
With the passage of time, one challenge is how best to keep the public engaged and aware of looming threats. So how do you get people to pay attention and demand action of their government?
In the mass media generation raised on MTV and ESPN highlights, one way is to release a two-minute DVD that asks: "Why wasn't H1N1 vaccine available before school started?"
Mayor Nutter swept into office buoyed by voters' high hopes and great expectations.
But almost two years into his term, the mayor has lost some of his mojo. His administration doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders.
The issues plaguing the mayor are more squishy than concrete, and may come with the territory of pushing for change within an entrenched and often dysfunctional City Hall.
Many are surprised at Nutter's rocky relationship with his former colleagues on City Council. Some say the mayor lacks a strong No. 2 person who he trusts and can speak for him. Instead, they say Nutter is surrounded by policy wonks good at PowerPoint presentations but short on bare-knuckled politics.
On the surface, things may appear to be in order but behind the scenes the wheels of government are often stalled.
Kudos to Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.) for his strong defense of fellow Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D., R.I.) who was asked by a Catholic bishop not to receive Holy Communion because of his support for abortion rights.
The church is more than free to voice its positions on a variety of issues. But it should not pressure elected officials to chose between full membership in the church and carrying out their sworn elected duties.
Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?
Kennedy is in a dispute with Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence over funding for abortions. Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass.), criticized Catholic bishops for threatening to oppose health-care reform unless it tightened funding on abortions. Tobin responded by questioning Kennedy's faith.
Turns out the bishop has been leaning on Kennedy for some time. Tobin wrote Kennedy a letter in 2007 asking him not to receive Communion because of his pro-choice stance on abortion.
The operators of Three Mile Island should have notified the public sooner about a relatively minor radiation leak that nevertheless raises troubling concerns.
Gov. Rendell had every reason to blast Exelon Corp. for a five-hour delay in informing state emergency officials about the incident Saturday.
The biggest reason: Three Mile Island is forever linked to a near-disaster - the 1979 partial meltdown that occurred at the plant's sister reactor Unit 2, which remains shut down.
That makes it perfectly understandable if the governor and residents who live near the site, located on the Susquehanna River south of Harrisburg, get a little jumpy when an incident occurs at the plants.
The leak didn't fall within the 15-minute notice to state officials required by the federal government for more serious incidents.
Thanksgiving traditions can become routine, but however you celebrate today, don't take your circumstances for granted.
Whether your family is large or small, whole or incomplete, comfortable or struggling, nearby or serving our country overseas, this holiday more than ever asks us to appreciate what we have.
The reminders of tough times are everywhere.
The percentage of people out of work today is higher than at any time since 1983 - 10.2 percent. In the construction industry, the jobless rate is 15.5 percent.
Add the people who are working part-time jobs but can't find full-time employment, and nearly one out of five Americans is either out of work or underemployed.