Oregon Students Share Common Cause With Michelle Obama

The senior boys of Marshfield High School, in Coos Bay, OR, will be pleased to know they are in prestigious company with their fundraising efforts for the Share Bear Snack Pack program.

bear share snack pack coos bay

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Pig Panic!

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

For the last few days I have been glued to my TV, washing my hands compulsively and been trying to stand a safe distance away from people.  Not that its helped much since, in my city there are 4 confirmed cases of swine flu today.  

At the same time as the Toronto cases were confirmed, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, was busy suggesting that President Obama was to blame for the swine flu crisis. Bachmann implied that swine flu epidemics are a Democratic phenomenon that date back to President Carter.

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

Sadly Bachmann's facts are not quite right. As Republican President Gerald Ford, not Carter, was in office during the last outbreak of the virus.

In the meantime, before you get back to stockpiling water, vaccinations and food, you may want to take a look at this.

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The Wildly Popular First Lady

Bumped - Todd

These numbers are pretty remarkable:

Barack Obama's approval ratings are good. Michelle Obama's are better.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Monday and Tuesday, 79% say they approve of the way Michelle Obama is handling the job of first lady. Just 8% disapprove.

To compare, her husband's rating in the Gallup Poll released Thursday is 65% approval, 29% disapproval -- undeniably a healthy rating. Even so, asked about her stronger showing, senior White House adviser David Axelrod jokes, "Fortunately, she's agreed not to run against us."

What's more, while the president's rating shows a sharp partisan divide -- Democrats overwhelmingly approve of him but most Republicans don't -- Michelle Obama's appeal crosses party lines. Almost every Democrat expresses approval, 94%-1%. Even among Republicans, her approval rating is 64%-17%.

Don't believe that Michelle Obama, who during the campaign was not the most popular national political figure, could be this popular today? Take a look at the latest numbers from The Pew Research Center and think again.

Not only is Michelle Obama highly popular relative to other current political figures, she is also historically popular compared to other first ladies, making her one heck of a surrogate for her husband's administration. I would not be at all surprised, then, to see Michelle Obama hitting the hustings more and more in the coming months as the White House tackles increasingly ambitious issues -- including, and particularly, healthcare. Though I do not foresee Michelle Obama holding the same role that Hillary Clinton did in her husband's push for universal coverage, given Michelle Obama's immense popularity and background working in hospitals, she would be a major asset for the White House and could be an important part of the administration's efforts to make sure that no American has to go without healthcare.

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Arab Summit: Mass Murderers Shouldn't Be Celebrated.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

The Arab League Summit planned for Qatar this weekend seems fated to go down in the history books, but for the worst possible reason. Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, embraced Sudan's resident Omar al-Bashir as an honoured guest today as he arrived to attend the Summit in a brazen act of defiance against an international arrest warrant on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

On March 4, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for al-Bashir's arrest on for "directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property."

Given a red-carpet welcome:

Wearing a traditional Sudanese robe and white turban, a smiling al-Bashir was greeted at the airport with an embrace and kiss by Qatar's emir. They later had coffee with the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.

It was a low-risk trip for al-Bashir with high symbolic value for his Arab backers, who argue that carrying out the ICC's arrest would further destabilize Sudan as the Darfur conflict between the Arab-led government and ethnic African rebels enters its seventh year.

Only Jordan and two other tiny Arab League members, the Comoros and Djibouti, are party to the ICC charter, but can take no action on Qatari soil. Arab foreign ministers have endorsed a draft resolution for the summit rejecting the ICC's arrest warrant.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has said that al-Bashir should be arrested once he leaves Sudanese airspace, but it was unclear whether any military forces were monitoring his flight. The United States does not recognize the ICC's jurisdiction, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons. But President Barack Obama earlier this month denounced the "genocide" in Darfur.

The Sudanese government's battle against rebels in the western Darfur region has killed up to 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million from their homes since 2003, according to the United Nations.

Clearly, no Arab leader is keen to accept the precedent the ICC set when it issued its warrant.  But even a club of kings, strongmen and despots shames itself by breaking bread with a man accused of murder, transfer, torture and rape.

Al-Bashir has no business being in Qatar, especially considering that planned peace talks with Khalil Ibrahim, the head of Darfur's strongest rebel group, have fallen through. Ibrahim cancelled on Friday after al-Bashir expelled aid groups such as Oxfam, Save the Children, CARE and Médecins Sans Frontières that care for people in Darfur, where 4.7 million rely on aid for food, shelter, water and protection.

Expelling these aid groups marks a new low in the war al-Bashir's Arab-led regime in Khartoum has been waging against ethnic African insurgents since 2003. As many as 300,000 people have been killed and nearly 3 million have been driven from their homes.

These dismal developments should galvanize U.S. President Barack Obama to step up pressure on the Khartoum regime, even though George Bush's, Obama's predecessor refused to back the ICC.

Al-Bashir should be arrested when he ventured outside the Arab League zone. China, his powerful patron, should withdraw its support. The United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan should be reinforced with troops and equipment, so that it can protect civilians. Sanctions should be tightened on al-Bashir and his cronies. Donors should carefully re-evaluate the $1 billion aid operation in Darfur, as relief agencies are expelled. The arms embargo on Sudan should be expanded. And the U.S. and its allies should impose a no-fly zone in Darfur, to prevent al-Bashir's air force from bombing civilians.

Al-Bashir said contemptuously that the ICC "can eat" its warrant. For Darfur's sake, he must be made to swallow those words.

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Chemical ag group upset about White House organic garden

Jill Richardson reported at La Vida Locavore that a group promoting the use of chemicals in agriculture is lobbying First Lady Michelle Obama not to make the White House garden organic. They want the White House to "consider using crop protection products and to recognize the importance of agriculture to the entire U.S. economy."

Jill posted the full text of the Mid America CropLife Association's letter to the first lady.

It's notable that conventional farming advocates were unconcerned about First Lady Laura Bush's insistence that White House chefs cook with organic food. Former executive chef Walter Scheib wrote that Mrs. Bush was "adamant that in ALL CASES if an organic product was available it was to be used in place of a non-organic product." It's fine for the Bushes to be closet organic eaters, but very different for the Obamas to promote growing food without pesticides or herbicides. I think Americans will be surprised by how much one organic garden can produce.

More important, as Think Progress noted, the Bush administration's agriculture policies repeatedly sought to water down organic standards. That hurts organic growers, not conventional growers. It remains to be seen how far President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will go in rewriting organic regulations. If I were the Mid America CropLife Association, I would probably also be trying to assure the first lady not to fear chemical-based "crop protection technologies."

Anyone with an interest in food or agriculture policy should bookmark La Vida Locavore and check it regularly.

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