So close and yet, no champagne just yet
Hey, look! You’ve made it this far through 2016! Only today and tomorrow left. All you have to do is stay safe for a few more hours. There are still snow flurries across central Indiana this morning so roads have some slick spots. If you live in the Northeast, you probably need a shovel.
Two more murders in Indy overnight, and if you travel from Indiana to Kentucky, it’s going to cost about $4 per trip to pay for those bridges. Don’t worry, they’ll bill you. More people are opting to stay home tomorrow night and parents are excited that school starts back in less than five days. Is life supposed to be this hectic? We have 5 things you should know to help sort out the important stuff.
Dear Russia: You Suck
After teasing it for the past week, President Obama finally released sanctions against Russia for its part in disrupting the US election by hacking political organizations1. 35 Russian diplomats have been given 72 hours to make their way back to their motherland. At the same time, he imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies allegedly involved in the hacking.
This marks the first time since the end of the Cold War that such actions have been taken against Russia. Naturally, Russia vows to retaliate in kind with CNN reporting that the Anglo-American School of Moscow has been ordered closed2. However, it seems unlikely that will be the only action Russia might take in the matter.
Over the past week, Congressmen such as Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have called for a tough stance against the Russian hacking scheme. This seems to be about as stern a move as President Obama can make without directly involving Congress, which he’s not inclined to do at this point in his administration. The problem with the President acting unilaterally is that the sanctions may not stick. President-elect Trump seemed rather dismissive of the sanctions yesterday, saying that it was “time to move on.”
On The Count Of Three, Stop Shooting
Despite some early reports of independent skirmishes, the Syrian cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey appears to be holding3. If everyone can keep their fingers off the triggers, the next step would be peace talks next month in Kazakhstan. Allegedly, the cease-fire was signed by the heads of seven major rebel groups, though none of the groups themselves actually admit to having done so.
The cease-fire has to be considered extremely tentative and one misstep by any of the parties involved could cause the whole thing to crumble. Were there only two parties involved, the situation might be more tenable, but with so many splintered rebel groups it is difficult to know when or if everyone has gotten the message, and even more uncertain whether anyone agrees to abide by the terms. For now, every thirty minutes the cease-fire holds is a victory.
What stings is that the US has been completely excluded from these talks. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, is seen as taking the lead in negotiating the cease-fire, a position President Obama would have certainly liked to have taken but could not. President Obama has admitted that his administration dropped the ball on Syria and as a result, we’ve been kicked out of the game. Exactly how this might play for future negotiations in the Middle East remains to be seen, but we’re no longer in the driver’s seat there.
A Tough Year For Law Enforcement
If you think you’re having a rough year, try being a cop. As of Wednesday, the Associated Press reports that 135 officers have lost their lives in the line of duty this year. That’s up 56% over 20154. Sure, some of the deaths were from traffic accidents, but the number of police shootings has increased dramatically for a number of different reasons.
One event factoring heavily in these statistics is the July 7 sniper attack in Dallas that killed five officers and wounded nine others. More individualized attacks across the country have brought police morale to an all-time low with several officers opting for retirement rather than continuing to take the risks associated with the job. This means more young, rookie cops on the street who don’t have the experience and patience of their older counterparts.
At the same time, police are finding their methods and actions more frequently criticized. Just a couple of days ago, a video tape was released that shows a Ft. Worth, Texas officer shooting a man in the back, contradicting earlier testimony5. Incidents such as this not only erodes public trust but increases the danger for police officers everywhere. The two new murders in Indianapolis last night are proof we need a strong police force, but we need to find a way to achieve that while keeping both the police and the public safe.
Moving Closer To A Living Wage
Making a living wage gets a lot closer to reality for workers in 19 states come Sunday morning6. Employees in Washington and Massachusetts get the biggest jump to $11 an hour. Raises also come to California, New York, Arizona, Maine, Colorado, Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan and Vermont.
The push behind this raise in the minimum wage is a reflection of how our society has changed. Minimum wage jobs, typically implying unskilled labor, were originally reserved for teenagers who lived at home and had few, if any, financial obligations. It was a way to save money for college or buy a car. When the minimum wage was established in 1938, it was never intended to be enough to support a family.
Yet, as society has evolved, it isn’t teens taking those $7.50-an-hour jobs, but unemployed adults, victims of layoffs as far back as 2002, unable to find jobs that fit their skill set, trying desperately to piece together enough part-time work to keep a roof over their heads. While some argue that increasing the minimum wage is unfair and a strain to small business, there has never been an increase in the minimum wage that didn’t end up boosting the economy7. We can only hope that this trend continues to other states as well. Lord knows Congress isn’t going to do anything to help the poor.
And finally …
Just when you thought 2016 was almost over, someone goes and throws a wrench in the works. As it turns out, this year is longer than a normal year—by a whole second. The culprit is something known as a leap second8. The official keepers of time, an organization known as the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, warned us of such this past summer, but no one was really listening at that point. Now, as the year ends, it comes time to add that extra second, throwing off everyone’s countdowns and making the year just a little bit longer.
Why do we need to add a leap second? Because the earth’s rotation isn’t quite as precise as the atomic clocks that govern how we measure time. The earth’s rotation fluctuates, the atomic clocks don’t. So, every couple of years or so, it is necessary to add a second in order to prevent a misalignment that, unchecked, would eventually have clocks reading 7:00 PM when the sun was directly overhead.
This little second thing can cause some problems. In previous years, it has thrown off airline reservation systems and GPS satellites. The midsummer announcement of this year’s addition was made early in hopes of avoiding such confusion. Yet, what might be most important is that we guard ourselves in that extra second so that no one else dies. We’ve already had enough of that with the time we are normally allotted. Let’s try and stay alive for just one second more.
Speaking of time, we’ve used up all of ours for today. Once again, thank you for reading and/or watching. Please, do stay safe as you travel to and fro. We will have news tomorrow in some form or fashion, but not Sunday. We both can use the break. Enjoy your day.
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