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HORNS OF DILEMMA: Apocalypse Now?

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MOTHER JONES: It’s early in 1965, and President Lyndon B. Johnson faces a critical decision. Should he escalate in Vietnam? Should he say “yes” to the request from U.S. commanders for more troops? Or should he change strategy, downsize the American commitment, even withdraw completely, a decision that would help him focus on his top domestic priority, “The Great Society” he hopes to build? We all know what happened. LBJ listened to the generals and foreign policy experts and escalated, with tragic consequences for the United States and calamitous results for the Vietnamese people on the receiving end of American firepower. Drawn deeper and deeper into Vietnam, LBJ would soon lose his way and eventually his will, refusing to run for reelection in 1968.

obamafusco_1_1.jpgPresident Obama now stands at the edge of a similar precipice. Should he acquiesce to General Stanley A. McChrystal’s call for 40,000 to 60,000 or more U.S. troops for Afghanistan? Or should he pursue a new strategy, downsizing our commitment, even withdrawing completely, a decision that would help him focus on national health care, among his other top domestic priorities?

The die, I fear, is cast. In his “war of necessity,” Obama has evidently already ruled out even considering a “reduction” option, no less a withdrawal one, and will likely settle on an “escalate lite” program involving more troops (though not as many as McChrystal has urged), more American trainers for the Afghan army, and even a further escalation of the drone war over the Pakistani borderlands and new special operations actions. By failing his first big test as commander-in-chief this way, Obama will likely ensure himself a one-term presidency, and someday be seen as a man like LBJ whose biggest dreams broke upon the shoals of an unwinnable war. MORE

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LOCAL TEABAGGERY: About 70 protesters stood on a sidewalk across the street from the B. Bernice Young School waving obama-socialism-jokercropped.thumbnail.jpgflags and homemade placards, singing “God Bless America” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and chanting slogans such as “No indoctrination” and “Free children, free minds.” A smaller group of counter-protesters watched and occasionally heckled them. The school is in a diverse suburb 15 miles northeast of Philadelphia and landed in an uncomfortable national spotlight last month when the video, shot last school year during an author’s visit, surfaced. In it, second-graders sang a medley that began, “Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama/He said that all must lend a hand/To make this country strong again.” Some critics of the president say the song was overtly political and follows a pattern of Obama being viewed as an idol rather than a politician. MORE

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PHAWKER: A bunch of second graders singing that we should all lend a hand to make this country strong again? THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

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DENIED: Insurer Says Newborn Is Too Fat To Cover

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ALSO: Alex Lange is a chubby, dimpled, healthy and happy 4-month-old. But in the cold, calculating numbered charts of insurance companies, he is fat. That’s why he is being turned down for health insurance. And that’s why he is a weighty symbol of a problem in the health care reform debate. Insurance companies can turn down people with pre-existing conditions who aren’t covered in a group health care plan. Alex’s pre-existing condition — “obesity” — makes him a financial risk. Health insurance reform measures are trying to do away with such denials that come from a process called “underwriting.” “If health care reform occurs, underwriting will go away. We do it because everybody else in the industry does it,” said Dr. Doug Speedie, medical director at Rocky Mountain Health Plans, the company that turned down Alex. By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don’t take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise. MORE

UPDATE: Rocky Mountain Health Plans has now said it will cover Alex Lange, a baby they previously refused to give health insurance because of his weight. “A recent situation in which we denied coverage to a heavy, yet healthy, infant brought to our  attention a flaw in our underwriting system for approving infants,” says Steve ErkenBrack, president and CEO, Rocky Mountain Health Plans. “Because we are a small company dedicated to the people of Colorado, we are pleased to be in a position to act quickly. We have changed our policy, corrected our underwriting guidelines and are working to notify the parents of the infant who we earlier denied.”

 

 

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The Lonesome Death Of Email

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WALL STREET JOURNAL: Email has had a good run as king of communications. But its reign is over. In its place, a new generation of services is starting to take hold—services like Twitter and Facebook and countless others vying for a piece of the new world. And just as email did more than a decade ago, this shift promises to profoundly rewrite the way we communicate—in ways we can only begin to imagine. We all still use email, of course. But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun. Little wonder that while email continues to grow, other types of communication services are growing far faster. In August 2009, 276.9 million people used email across the U.S., several European countries, Australia and Brazil, according to Nielsen Co., up 21% from 229.2 million in August 2008. But the number of users on social-networking and other community sites jumped 31% to 301.5 million people. MORE

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