On Monday, the Republican Party put into writing what many of its top leaders have been saying since last year's election losses: "The GOP is too old, too white, and too insular to win national contests." In a 100 page report, the Republican National Committee acknowledged its messaging problems, as well as their structural setbacks to the primary calendar. However, the most important thing they addressed was how to traget specific demographic groups that voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic party in 2012. In the 2012 election, Romney only won 27% of the Latino vote, which was most likely due to his "self-deportation" immigration policy. In the report, they agreed that that policy should be done away with, and that it was a huge turnoff for Latino voters to vote for the Republican Party. Instead, the report adivises Republicans to "embrace and cherish" comprehensive immigration reform. Also, in an attempt to appeal to younger voters, the report recommended "changing their tone." "In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the
discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters," it states, adding later that it's imperative that young people not regard the GOP as "totally intolerant of alternative points of view." The report also recommends cutting the number of Republican candidate debates in half, and that the parties national convention should be moved to earlier in the summer, so that the party's presidential candidate can start using Republican National Convention money earlier. The report also stressed a more robust digital effort, which included creating a chief technology and digital office. 
    In my opinion, this is a step in the right direction for the GOP. They definitely were lacking in the minority vote in the 2012 presidential election, and without adjusting some of their policies and views, then they will most likely continue to struggle gaining support from minority demographics. 

Last week, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) announced that pocket knives and other previously banned items will be allowed in airline cabins starting this April. Despite these new rules with possibly threaten the safety of passengers, the screening conducted by airport security will not get any easier; therefore, passengers will still have to take of their shoes and go through all of the screening methods they previously had to. According to these new rules, knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or shorter and less than a half inch wide will be allowed on planes as long as the blade is not fixed or locks in place. However, razor blades and box cutters are still prohibited. These new rules also allow passengers to carry up to two golf clubs, toy bats, and sports sticks. Many are opposed to these new rules, including Senator Charles Schumer who said "These items are dangerous, and have not become less so in the years since they were banned from planes."  However, despite strong scrutiny from others, TSA chief John Pistole said that "the changes will bring the United States into alignment with international rules and are in keeping with a 'risk-based security' approach that will allow screeners to focus on items such as liquid explosives and improvised bombs that pose a greater threat to aircraft." Representative Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that he supports these new rules, and that the "TSA must continue to improve its risk-based screening and one of its highest priorities must be securing commercial aviation from the type of threats and weapons that could bring down an aircraft. Any modifications to our security system must enhance our ability to detect such threats. As I have stated, my priority is to make TSA more passenger-friendly and threat-focused." Supporters of these new rules argue that the search for these types of knives interferes with the search for objects that can truly threaten aircrafts.
    In my opinion, I do not like these new rules. I don't understand how any good could come out of allowing knives on planes. Ever since 9/11, and the subsequent increases in airport security, we haven't had any major tragedies. So why would you fix something that

    There has been much speculation surrounding the involvement of video games in Adam Lanza's mass killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Although the official investigation has yet to release its report, there is significant evidence that Lanza was an avid and enthusiastic player of violent video games. Earlier this week on Monday, a CBS news report raised eyebrows when they claimed that Lanza was partly motivated by the violent video games he had been playing, just as the Norway shooter, Anders Breivik, allegedly was. Despite many people's claims that violent video games are linked with mass shootings, according to the article, there has been no such evidence to substantiate those claimes. The article goes on to explain how the popular notion that mass homicides are linked to violent media was debunked all the way back in 2002 by a study conducted by the United States Secret Service; this study found that school shooters did not consume high levels of violent media. The article also responded to people who believe that the regulation, or even the complete removal, of violent video games and other violent media would have stopped these mass shooters from doing what they did: "If we could make it legal to regulate violence in games, would that have stopped
Lanza or any of the other mass homicides through history? No, not a one. We
should not be distracted from looking for the real contributing factors to
societal violence."
    In my opinion, violent video games, or any other violent media for that matter, DO NOT cause normal, perfectly sane individuals to go out and commit these heinous shootings and other violent acts; however, I will not go as far as to say that these violent video games don't have negative effects on individuals previously predisposed to violent tendencies. Violent video games do not turn sane people into mass killers; any individual who, after playing violent video games, is inspired to go out and kill innocent people was not sane in the first place. 

Photo Credit: 

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes that the benefits of using drone strikes to kill possible Al Qaeda operatives significantly outweighs the negatives. While there have been innocent lives lost as a result of drone strikes targeting potential terrorists, Gates argued that these numbers are "extremely small." However, Gates believes that there needs to be some sort of a checks and balances system in order to restrain the President's ability to use drone strikes whenever he deems fit. The New American Foundation estimates that in Pakistan, in the year 2012, the nonmilitant casualty rate of drone strikes was approximately 10%. Although there are a significant amount of people that believe these drone strikes are benefical and perfectly legal, including President Obama and recently nominated CIA Director John Brennan, many lawmakers and human rights organizations have questioned their legality. Many of these individuals have questioned the oversight procedures surrounding these drone strikes, particularly when they are being used against American citizens overseas. Such was the case when New Mexico-born Anwar Al Awlaki, who was believed to have played an operational role in Al Qaeda near the Arabian Peninsula, was killed by an United States drone in 2011. Opponents of these drone strikes on American's overseas cite the 5th Amendment, which states that "No person shall denied life, liberty or pursuit of happiness," as their reasoning behind their opposition of them. During hearings last week, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein said that she would consider legislation limiting/ monitoring these drone strikes in an attempt "to ensure that drone strikes are carried out in a manner consistent with our values." However, such legislation has yet to be drafted. 
Photo Credited to http://www.myvisitingcard.com/2011/anwar-al-awlaki-targeted-by-drone-but-remained-safe.html

Last Friday,former Marine Joshua Boston wrote an open letter to U.S. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, saying that he would refuse to register his weapons even if a proposed law banning assault rifles was passed. Boston explained how he was frustrated by "the fact that I'm supposed to be punished for doing nothing more than owning a rifle that looks scary because its stock isn't made out of wood." Senator Feinstein has recently stated that she plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming months that would place a ban on all assault weapons. The proposed bill is one that looks very similar to the 1994 ban that expired in 2004. The ban that was active until 2004 did not flat-out ban assault rifles; rather, the ban restricted the assault rifles features and limited their magazine capacities. Boston, who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq twice between 2004 and 2011, says that he, despite no longer being in the military, still owns guns and believes the government has no business knowing what guns he owns. He claims that weapons registration would lead to weapons confiscation. Despite the large number of mass shootings we have had this year (Aurora, Oregon mall, Newtown), Boston says the laws we currently have in place are more than sufficient. He also stated that an increase in gun control laws would only limit one's ability to defend themselves. Boston further explained his reasoning for why there should not be any new gun control legislation passed in this quote: "I own the guns I own because I acknowledge mankind's shortcomings instead of
pretending like they don't exist. There are evil men in this world and there just may be a time when I need to do
the unthinkable to protect me or my family."

During his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama supported the reinstatement of a federal law banning assault weapons; however, he has largely avoided the issue of gun control during his first term. The White House said this previous weekend that he supports the reinstatement of this law. Presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that "It does remain a commitment of his" to support/enact legislation banning assault rifles. Although the president didn't directly address the issue in his televised statement about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, he did say that something had to be done: "We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics." The Newtown police reported that they recovered three different guns from the crime scene: a semiautomatic .223-caliber rifle made by Bushmaster, a Glock and a Sig Sauer (both handguns). There are many politicians who are seeking a strong federal response from President Obama, including Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York: ""We cannot simply accept this as a routine product of modern American life. If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don't know when is." In 1994, Congress approved a ban on assault weapons; however, the prohibition, which expired in 2004, did not eliminate them but rather restricted many of their features and attachments. Some of these restrictions included limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds and regulating pistol grips, bayonet attachments, as well as flash suppressors. For many years, surveys have indicated that gun rights generally are divided among the American people; however, after the tragic Colorado massacre this year in Aurora, Colorado, surveys indicated that 76% of those surveyed believed "there should be some restrictions on owing guns." In my opinion, I believe that the right to own guns should continued to be protected by the 2nd Amendment, and I do support the often hackneyed statement that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people;" however, I do agree with the president and others who say that there should be a ban on assault weapons. I don't see any reason why an average American would need a weapon capable of doing the damage that these weapons can do. Although a pistol is still capable of killing many people, it has nowhere near the capability of absolutely annihilating people and causing such an enormous amount of carnage as an assault rifle does. 

    On Monday, the United States Defense Department identified the United States Navy Seal who was killed during a successful raid that freed a hostage doctor in Afghanistan. Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque died Saturday morning as a result of his effort to save and free Dr. Dilip Joseph, who, according to NATO commaders, was believed to be in impending danger from his captors in the midst of when the raid took place. A U.S. official has been quoted as saying that Checque was a member of the Navy's Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as Navy Seal Team Six. Navy Seal Team Six, as many may remember, is the same unit that was responsible for the raid that killed Al Qaeda head Osama Bin Laden. Armed men, who were believed to be smugglers, kidnapped the doctor and two other staff members of the international aid group Morning Star on Wednesday. The doctor and the two staff members were returning from a rural medical clinic in the eastern Kabul province when they were attacked and abducted. According to the Morning Star, hostage negotiations began "almost immediately" with the abductors and continued on and off into Saturday night, when two of the three captives were released. Tribal leader Malik Samad and district chief Muhammad Haqbeen said that the Afghan doctor's family paid $12,000 to the smugglers (the International Security Assistant Force believed these men were Taliban insurgents, not smugglers). However, the Morning Star denied paying any "ransom, money or other consideration" to win the release of its employees. The raid to free Dr. Dilip Joseph didn't occur until 11 hours after the two staffers were freed. President Obama and the Morning Star both extended their condolences to the slain Nicolas D. Checque's family. Despite these attacks and abductions, the Morning Star "reiterated its commitment to continue its work" in Afghanistan.



    Today, Monday December 3rd, Russia and China both urged North Korea not to go ahead with their second planned rocket launch of 2012. Russia is opposed to its launch due to the fact that they believe it would violate restrictions imposed by the U.N. Security Council.  North Korea's state news agency on Saturday announced that they would launch another space satellite sometime between December 10 and December 22.  North Korea, who previously launched a failed rocket attempt this past April, said that this rocket would travel in a very similar path. Due to the earlier missile and other nuclear-related tests they have conducted in the past, the U.N. has imposed legislature banning North Korea from attempting any more rocket launches. Many people believe that North Korea is testing their long range missile technology in an attempt at developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Although Russia vehemently opposed North Korea''s planned rocket launch, China, on the other hand, was not so direct in its criticism; instead, China simply urged "all sides" not to do anything that could "worsen the problems." Many other countries have been trying to stop North Korea's arms program because they believe they are testing their technology to potentially build a missile capable of launching a nuclear warhead to the United States; however, there are many people who say that North Korea is nowhere near the technology needed to produce weapons that are capable of an attack on the United States or other countries.

I personally think that these test launches by North Korea are getting old.  I think that they need to listen to Russia, and the rest of the world, and call off the launch, but as history shows, they just have to show their militaristic fortitude.   It doesn't surprise me in the least that North Korea is planning another test launch, especially after the debacle of the first one.  It also scares me because they really aren't very stable in the sense that they don't listen to other countries very often.  Politically, the rest of the world should deliver an ultimatum, if they already haven't, and be truly prepared to act upon it to hold North Korea accountable.  As far as their intent on testing the long range missile technology to figure out if they can deliver a nuclear warhead goes, I think it has been pretty clear for several years what they intend to do, and it shouldn't matter how far along they are in development.  They get closer and closer each time someone says that they don't have the technology to produce weapons.  If China can build a functioning stealth fighter plane, then odds are that North Korea can eventually figure out how to build a missile.  
I like Russia's reaction.  They are stern and open about their thoughts on the situation. Also, China's reaction doesn't surprise me much.  They usually take a passive, sometimes neutral, approach when it comes to issues like this.  Overall, I agree with Russia's stance and the way that they are hard on their opinion, and that North Korea should not be allowed to launch.