"My religion defines who I am. And I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life," said Vice President Joe Biden in 2012. "I accept my church's position on abortion as ... doctrine. Life begins at conception. ... I just refuse to impose that on others."
] For four decades, Biden backed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of the tax dollars of Joe's fellow Catholics to pay for what they view as the killing of the innocent unborn.
Last week, Joe flipped. He now backs the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.
Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America welcomed home the prodigal son: "We're pleased that Joe Biden has joined the rest of the 2020 Democratic field in coalescing around the Party's core values -- support for abortion rights."
But when did the right to an abortion -- a crime in many states before 1973 -- become a "core value" of the Democratic Party?
And what are these "values" of which politicians incessantly talk?
Are they immutable? Or do they change with the changing times?
Last month, Disney CEO Bob Iger said his company may cease filming in Georgia if its new anti-abortion law takes effect: "If (the bill) becomes law, I don't see how it's practical for us to continue to shoot there."
The Georgia law outlaws almost all abortions, once a heartbeat is detected, some six to eight weeks into pregnancy. It reflects the Christian conservative values of millions of Georgians.
To Iger and Hollywood, however, Georgia's law radically restricts the "reproductive rights" of women, and is a moral outrage.
What we have here is a clash of values.
What one side believes is preserving the God-given right to life for the unborn, the other regards as an assault on the rights of women.
The clash raises questions that go beyond our culture war to what America should stand for in the world.
"American interests and American values are inseparable," Pete Buttigieg told Rachel Maddow. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Claremont Institute: "We have had too little courage to confront regimes squarely opposed to our interests and our values."
Are Pompeo and Mayor Pete talking about the same values?
The mayor is proudly gay and in a same-sex marriage. Yet the right to same-sex marriage did not even exist in this country until the Supreme Court discovered it a few years ago.
In a 2011 speech to the U.N., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Gay rights are human rights," and she approved of U.S. embassies flying the rainbow flag during Pride Month.
This year, Mike Pompeo told the U.S. embassy in Brazil not to fly the rainbow flag. He explained his concept of his moral duty to the Christian Broadcasting Network, "The task I have is informed by my understanding of my faith, my belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior."
The Christian values Pompeo espouses on abortion and gay rights are in conflict with what progressives now call human rights.
And the world mirrors the American divide.
There are gay pride parades in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but none in Riyadh and Mecca. In Brunei, homosexuality can get you killed.
To many Americans, diversity -- racial, ethnic, cultural, religious -- is our greatest strength.
Yet Poland and Hungary are proudly ethnonationalist. South Korea and Japan fiercely resist the racial and ethnic diversity immigration would bring. Catalans and Scots in this century, like Quebecois in the last, seek to secede from nations to which they have belonged for centuries.
Are ethnonationalist nations less righteous than diverse nations likes ours? And if diversity is an American value, is it really a universal value?
Consider the treasured rights of our First Amendment -- freedom of speech, religion and the press.
Saudi Arabia does not permit Christian preachers. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, converts to Christianity face savage reprisals. In Buddhist Myanmar, Muslims are ethnically cleansed.
These nations reject an equality of all faiths, believing instead in the primacy of their own majority faith. They reject our wall of separation between religion and state. Our values and their values conflict.
What makes ours right and theirs wrong? Why should our views and values prevail in what are, after all, their countries?
Under our Constitution, many practices are protected -- abortion, blasphemy, pornography, flag-burning, trashing religious beliefs -- that other nations regard as symptoms of a disintegrating society.
When Hillary Clinton said half of all Trump supporters could be put into a "basket of deplorables" for being "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic," she was conceding that many Trump's supporters detest many progressive values.
True, but in the era of Trump, why should her liberal values be the values America champions abroad?
With secularism's triumph, we Americans have no common religion, no common faith, no common font of moral truth. We disagree on what is right and wrong, moral and immoral.
Without an agreed-upon higher authority, values become matters of opinion. And ours are in conflict and irreconcilable.
But how, then, do we remain one nation and one people?
Patrick J. Buchanan
Provisions allowing Guard members to transfer some or all of their Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children are set to change in less than 30 days, limiting the time frame Soldiers and Airmen can transfer those benefits.
“You have to have a minimum of six years (in service) in order to be eligible to transfer benefits, and after 16 years, you’re no longer eligible,” said Don Sutton, Army National Guard GI Bill program manager, describing the changes set to go into effect July 12.
Sutton said the six-years-of-service rule isn’t new. “You’ve always had to have a minimum of six years of service in order to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” he said, adding the big change is the cutoff at 16 years of service.
“You’ll have a 10-year-window in which to transfer benefits,” he said, stressing that Guard members won’t lose the benefits after 16 years of service, just the ability to transfer them to their spouse, children or other dependents.
“The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the transfer of benefits are two entirely different and separate programs,” Sutton said. “Even though Soldiers may be ineligible to transfer benefits, they still have the Post-9/11 for their own use.”
For those interested in transferring their benefits, an additional four-year service obligation is still required.
“The (transfer of benefits) is a retention incentive,” Sutton said. “It’s designed to keep people in the service.”
Being able to transfer benefits to a dependent may have been perceived by some service members as an entitlement, said Sutton, adding that was one of the reasons for the time frame change.
“In law, transferring those benefits has always been designed as a retention incentive,” he said.
The exact number of Guard members who may be impacted by the change wasn’t available, said Sutton, adding that among those who could be affected are those who didn’t qualify for Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits until later in their career.
“We do have a small population of Soldiers who are over 16 years (of service) before they did their first deployment,” he said.
Some Guard members who may have earned the benefits early on, but didn’t have dependents until later in their careers, may also be affected.
“They joined at 18 and now they’re 15, 16 years in and they get married or have kids later on in life,” said Sutton, who urged Guard members who plan on transferring their benefits to do so as soon as they are eligible.
“If you wait, you’re potentially going to miss out,” he said.
Some Guard members may have been waiting to transfer the benefits until their children reach college age. “There sometimes are some misconceptions that they have to wait until their kids are college-age or that they’re high school seniors in order to do the transfer,” Sutton said, adding there is no age requirement to transfer Post-9/ 11 benefits to dependent children.
“As soon as a child is born and registered in (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System), you can transfer,” he said.
After that transfer has been completed, Guard members can still make changes to how those benefits are divided between dependents or which dependent receives those benefits.
“Once the transfer is executed, and you’ve agreed to that service obligation, you can add dependents in, and you can move months around between dependents,” Sutton said. “It’s just that initial transfer has to be done before you hit 16 years of service.”
However, there is one group of Guard members who will not be affected by any of the changes: those who have received the Purple Heart since Sept. 11, 2001.
“The only rule around transferring benefits that applies (to those individuals) is you have to still be in the service to transfer them.”
Regardless of status, Sutton reiterated that Guard members are better off transferring those benefits sooner rather than later.
“Transfer as soon as you’re eligible,” he said. “Don’t miss the boat because you’ve been eligible for 10 years and you just didn’t do it.”
Canada intends to ban “harmful” single-use plastics as early as 2021 and hold companies responsible for plastic waste, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.
“Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution, and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste. We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy. We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come,” said Trudeau.
Less than 10 percent of the plastic used in Canada gets recycled. Without a change in course, Canadians will throw away an estimated C$11 billion worth of plastic materials each year by 2030.
Calling plastic pollution “a global challenge that requires immediate action,” Trudeau pointed out that plastic waste ends up in landfills and incinerators, litters parks and beaches, pollutes rivers, lakes, and oceans, and entangles and kills turtles, fish and marine mammals.
The Canadian government has not released a list of the plastic products that will be banned as “harmful,” but in his announcement, Trudeau mentioned plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks.
About one-third of the plastics used in Canada are for single-use or short-lived products and packaging. Up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily in Canada.
Globally, one garbage truckload of plastic waste enters the oceans every minute, and that amount is increasing. Every year, 640,000 tons of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear enters the oceans, where it can persist in the environment for up to 600 years.
Every year, one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals worldwide are injured or die when they mistake plastic for foodor become entangled.
“We’ve reached a defining moment, and this is a problem we simply can’t afford to ignore. With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world’s freshwater, Canada has a unique responsibility, and an opportunity, to lead in reducing plastic pollution, Trudeau said.
Trudeau said that the new measures will be grounded in scientific evidence and will align, where appropriate, with similar actions being taken in the European Union and other countries.
On May 21, the Council of the European Union adopted the ambitious measures proposed by the European Commission to tackle marine litter coming from the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.
On May 10, 180 United Nations member countries reached a deal to restrict shipments of hard-to-recycle plastic waste to developing countries.
Exporting countries, including the United States, now will have to obtain consent from countries receiving contaminated, mixed or unrecyclable plastic waste. Currently, the U.S. and other countries can send lower-quality plastic waste to private entities in developing countries without getting approval from their governments.
Prime Minister Trudeau said that by improving how Canada manages plastic waste and investing in innovative solutions, the country can reduce 1.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution, generate billions of dollars in revenue, and create approximately 42,000 jobs.
The new measures will also support the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s development of an action plan to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste.
In November 2018, Canada’s environment ministers agreed to work collectively toward a common goal of zero plastic waste. They approved in principle a Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste, which outlines a vision to keep all plastics in the economy and out of the environment.
The strategy outlines areas where changes are needed across the plastic lifecycle, from design to collection, clean-up and value recovery, and underscores the economic and business opportunities resulting from long-lasting and durable plastics.
“We’ve all seen the disturbing images of fish, sea turtles, whales, and other wildlife being injured or dying because of plastic garbage in our oceans. Canadians expect us to act. That’s why our government intends to ban harmful single-use plastic products where science warrants it, and why we’re working with partners across Canada and around the world to reduce plastic pollution,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
“Taking these steps will help create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs and make our economy even stronger—while protecting fish, whales, and other wildlife, and preserving the places we love,” she said.
The Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste is expected to be a driver for innovation and to create opportunities that will increase competitiveness in new business models, product design solutions, and waste prevention and recovery technologies.
Over the last 25 years, nearly 800,000 volunteers have removed over 1.3 million kilograms of trash from across Canada’s shorelines through Ocean Wise and World Wildlife Fund’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup program, supported by the Government of Canada. The most common litter items found on shorelines are single-use or short-lived products, many made of plastics.
“The health of our oceans is vital to the economic, cultural, and social well-being of Canada’s coastal communities,” said Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson. “We know plastic pollution harms Canada’s oceans, wildlife, communities and our economy. It’s a problem we simply can’t afford to ignore. We are working with industry to prevent and remove ghost fishing gear, to protect marine animals and the marine environment now and for future generations.”
Environment News Service (ENS) 2019. All rights reserved.