Budget cuts could hurt sexual assault prevention

At a time when the Air Force’s top harassment prevention officer has been relieved of duty for groping a woman, the reported 37 percent spike in military sexual assault is sadly less of a surprise. It’s a deeply rooted problem that will take a lot of effort to fix.

Obviously, that starts with improved and professionalized counseling and harassment prevention. Yet the sequester crisis makes this impossible. According to the Department of Defense’s personnel undersecretary, sequester furloughs will have a “catastrophic” impact on DOD civilians, including those who work in sexual assault prevention. Army Secretary John McHugh testified the cuts would frustrate the hiring of 829 new sexual assault response coordinators and slow down lab work for victims of sexual assault. This was always a bad idea, but now it’s inexcusable.

Obviously, military budgets aren’t exempt from cuts, but we must focus on inessential and over-the-top procurements like the trillion-dollar F-35 program, the most expensive in our nation’s history. We don’t need this budget buster — retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager himself calls it a “waste,” and the plane has a rap sheet of groundings and failures longer than a pair of jet contrails. Certainly it should be cut before critical services to protect our servicewomen and men from assault.


Basic necessities a constitutional right?
From Joe Bialek
With all the debate recently for amending the U.S. Constitution in favor of certain issues and/or those constituencies, perhaps a more appropriate amendment should guarantee each citizen of the United States the right to food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

The Old Testament of the Bible often makes references to the promised land flowing with milk and honey. All one has to do in this country is take a trip to the grocery story and bear witness to the fact that, if anywhere was close to exhibiting the characteristics of “the promised land,” this country is it. Yet somehow, we are still unable to meet the four basic needs every citizen has.

Poverty is defined as the condition of being poor or lacking the necessary means of support to live or meet needs. Some would argue that food stamps, thrift stores, public housing and Medicaid already meet these needs, but in the words of former President John F. Kennedy, “this country is divided between those who have never had it so good and those who know we can do better.” I think we can do better. Resolved, it shall be the right of every United States citizen (in order to further guarantee the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) to receive food, clothing, shelter and medical care that is adequate to meet their basic needs.

Now, the U.S. farm bill currently being considered by Congress is a multibillion-dollar farm subsidy bill renewed every five years.

The bill first became law in 1933 as a means of preventing farmers from taking a loss on their annual production of crops: corn, wheat, cotton, rice and soybeans. The government paid farmers the difference between what they sold and what it cost to produce. At the time, it was a brilliant means of “priming the pump” so that farmers could be temporarily shielded from the effects of the Great Depression on their industry.

Today’s farm bill is a clear example of a government program being continued way beyond its original intention. Essentially, the government now pays farmers to under-produce crops in order to charge higher prices. Adding to the controversy is that it gives two-thirds of the subsidy to the top 10 percent of farmers. As with most government programs, bureaucratic self-perpetuation has allowed for this subsidy to become corrupted.

Not surprisingly, the government has it backwards. Why not let the farmers produce as much crops as possible, sell what they can on the world market and give their surplus to the poor? Whatever they don’t sell, the government should pay them for and distribute it among those in poverty. In a world facing a food crisis, we should never halt the production of food under any circumstances.

Protect our natural spaces from oil drilling
From Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club Alaska program director

The Coast Guard investigation into the grounding of Shell’s Kulluk drill ship, and The Hill’s recent story “Grounded Shell oil rig left Alaska harbor to avoid paying taxes, says official” (May 28), underscores yet again the risks inherent in entrusting our public lands and waters to Big Oil. Healthy, protected natural areas are increasingly essential for communities to survive the effects of climate disruption. Nowhere is this more clear than in the Arctic, where communities face a double whammy of drilling and a warming climate. We should not be opening our public lands and waters to drilling, handing them over to companies who put drilling safety below the bottom line.

Places like the Arctic’s Polar Bear Seas belong to the American people and should be managed for the enjoyment and fulfillment of everyone. These wild places provide clean air and water for American families, protection from floods and fire, home for wildlife and adventures that help support the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy.

Anchorage, Alaska