Don't Sweat the Trivial Stuff
Remember the war in Afghanistan? That is, the longest war in U.S. history, launched in 2001 to annihilate al-Qaeda and send its Taliban hosts packing? These days, an overwhelming Taliban resurgence has led to the radical group's embarrassingly unchecked takeover of the Afghan countryside. In response, the U.S. military has decided that such pesky details as territorial control don't really matter in the big picture anymore.
"We are focused on setting the conditions for a political settlement to safeguard our national interests," spokesman Col. Dave Butler told The New York Times. Trying to assess where Taliban forces were entrenched and in control "did little to serve our mission of protecting our citizens and allies," he said.
John Sopko, the inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, offered an apt analogy of this tacit admission of defeat: "It's like turning off the scoreboard at a football game and saying scoring a touchdown or field goal isn't important."
Nurses' Heart Rates on the Rise
Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh is getting some unexpected schooling on the rigors of nursing. Maybe she thought no one was paying attention when she made an offhand remark on the state Senate floor last month that nurses in rural hospitals don't really need regular breaks because they "probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day." A national petition campaign via Change.org is calling for Walsh to shadow a nurse for an entire shift, so she can help herself sift fact from fiction about what the job entails.
The petition drive has collected more than 800,000 signatures. Walsh, a Walla Walla Republican, acknowledged to her Senate colleagues last week that her comments were "very unfortunate" and "harsh," and that she had "frankly insulted a great number of nurses in this nation." She said her office had received 30,000-plus phone calls and emails. She said she will accept an invitation to shadow a nurse for a shift. Perhaps the greatest irony here is that Walsh's mother worked as a nurse.
Sigh. Students and Blackface. Again.
Students, parents, teachers and administrators at a high school near Chicago were duly outraged when a video surfaced on social media Sunday depicting a small group of white students driving around in blackface and ordering fast food at a drive-through window. One of the boys wore a Homewood-Flossmoor High School sweatshirt, making them easily traceable. The Flossmoor, Ill., high school has about 2,800 students — about 70% of whom are African American.
It's not clear what possessed the boys to take a walk on the dumb side, but the response they received at school certainly is one they'll never forget. As administrators were inundated with calls and emails, they met with all families and students involved.
Other students' parents met to voice their concerns. On Tuesday, about 1,000 students staged a school-permitted walkout. It wasn't clear how much authority the school has to discipline the students for actions they took off campus, but the principal, Jerry Lee Anderson, sent a letter to all parents assuring them that "we are doing everything possible to ensure that these students understand the ramifications of their actions and that appropriate consequences are received."
Perhaps the boys' parents can start by requiring them to earn enough money for a trip to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., for a soul-rattling lesson on why there's nothing funny about racism.
As America grapples with sexual assault issues, a judge in New York clearly doesn't get it: A school bus driver convicted of the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl on his route won't spend a day in prison because the judge decided probation is enough. Shane M. Piche, 26, a former bus driver for the school district in Watertown, N.Y., took the girl to his home and plied her with alcohol. He pleaded guilty to third-degree rape.
Judge James McClusky could have sent Piche to prison. Instead, he gave him 10 years probation and the lowest-level status on the state's sex offender registry. That tap on the wrist came despite the girl's family's plea for real punishment.
It's the latest in a string of shockingly light sentences in rape cases, like that of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, who got just six months in jail for raping an unconscious woman.
The judge in that case was recalled due to public outrage. The good people of Watertown should be considering that.
Americans are sitting more than ever, and computers are to blame, says a new study. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that average American adults spend about 6 1/2 hours a day sitting. That's an hour a day more than they did a dozen years ago. Teenagers are even more immobile, sitting 8 hours a day, the study says.
Based on 16 years of data, the report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, makes clear that television isn't the growing part of the problem. While about 60% of people spend 2 hours a day or more watching TV, that percentage has remained basically unchanged over the years.
What has changed is computer usage. In 2003, fewer than 30% of adults spent more than an hour of personal time daily in front of a computer; today, more than half do.
Experts note that lack of physical activity can usher in a range of health problems including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. So close that cat video, and go for a walk.
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