04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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  • Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about 'high stakes' tests   
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Marian-Wright-Edelman23-150x150American families gathered around the Thanksgiving table last week, with some of us combining  traditional dinners with Hanukkah feasts. But one quiet group was left out of the national celebration. The nearly 49 million Americans, including nearly 16 million children, living in food insecure households struggled to afford the food they need. These families didn’t have the luxury of choosing between apple or pumpkin pie this holiday season but continue to face choices about paying for groceries or rent, heat, electricity, medicine or clothing for their children as they do each month – choices no family should have to make in our nation with the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world.

Congress will be choosing how many of these desperate families and children in need to cut from life-giving and life-sustaining federal nutrition programs. In the middle of this season of gratitude for plenty, Congress has put the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often called food stamps) on the chopping block while leaving largely intact subsidies for rich farmers and even some non-farmers.

With the decision deadline just weeks away, Congress is working to bridge the gap between two dramatically different Farm Bill proposals that both include unjust funding cuts for SNAP. The Senate Bill cuts $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years while the House bill slashes more than $40 billion – denying food to as many as 6 million people, including children, seniors, and veterans. The House proposal would also drop 210,000 children from school meals and cost our economy 55,000 jobs in the first year alone.

Any agreed upon Farm Bill cuts to the already meager SNAP food benefits will come on top of the $11 billion cut over the next three years that already began on November 1 and affected every single SNAP recipient. This recent cut was equivalent to a week’s worth of meals for a 9-year-old. SNAP benefits now average a mere $1.40 per person per meal. Imagine preparing your family Thanksgiving meal on that budget.

SNAP lifted 2.2 million children out of poverty in 2012 and provided benefits to more than 46 million Americans on average every month, including more than 22 million, or more than one in four, children. SNAP was a life saver for millions of families in need during the recent recession and still sluggish recovery. Nearly three-quarters of SNAP households are families with children. Any additional cuts will take desperately needed food away from many vulnerable children and adults.

At a time when child poverty remains at a record high, and when three-quarters of our nation’s teachers report students who routinely show up to school hungry and half report hunger to be a serious problem in their classrooms, what kind of political leaders could for one minute consider cutting children’s food assistance while protecting subsidies for rich farmers?

Hunger and malnutrition have devastating consequences for children and have been linked to low birth weight and birth defects, obesity, mental and physical health problems, and poorer educational outcomes. SNAP cushions these threats and yields a strong return on investment. Children who benefit from SNAP are less likely to be in poor health, experience fewer hospitalizations, and are less likely to have developmental and growth delays than those with similar incomes denied the program. A recent study found that needy children who received food assistance before age five were in better health as adults. Specifically, the girls studied were more likely to complete more schooling, earn more money, and not rely on safety net programs as adults.

Adults who care and have common and economic sense would strengthen and not cut this critical lifeline for children. Though Thanksgiving Day has passed, it is not too late for those of us blessed with enough or too much food to show our gratitude for living in a wealthy country where we can take action and urge our political leaders to put hungry children before rich farmers. Let us offer a simple grace of thanks:

God, we thank You for this food

for the hands that planted it

for the hands that tended it

for the hands that harvested it

for the hands that prepared it

for the hands that provided it

and for the hands that served it.

And we pray for those without enough food

in Your world and in our land of plenty.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information, go to www.childrensdefense.org.

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