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March 14th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Should Japan earthquake stop future construction of nuclear power plants?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Inspectors from all over the world are trying to figure out how dangerous the Japan nuclear situation actually is. It can't be good: hydrogen explosions, fuel rods exposed, reactors overheating, radioactive vapor being released into the atmosphere.

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency said today the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plants is unlikely to become another Chernobyl. Really? Why is my BS detector on red alert? And what happens if a series of major aftershocks rock that region?

France's nuclear watchdog today said the situation at Fukushima is worse than Three Mile Island, the 1979 meltdown at a plant in central Pennsylvania. That was the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history so far.

No one was injured at Three Mile Island and no one died, but the situation was considered so serious that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ramped up safety standards after the accident and stopped the construction of new reactors for about 30 years.

But we've got growing demand for energy in this country… and nuclear power has been poised to make a sort of comeback. In the past few years a handful of power companies have applied for permits to build new reactors.

Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California introduced a bill earlier this month that would call for the construction of 200 new nuclear reactors by the year 2040. President Obama has touted nuclear power, saying it may be part of the solution to the energy and global warming issues facing the U.S.

It all sounded good until last Friday in Japan. Now you can bet approval for new nuclear construction will be hard to come by whether the world is running out of oil or not.

Here’s my question to you: Should the Japan earthquake stop any future construction of nuclear power plants?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Japan earthquake • Nuclear power
March 14th, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Is it becoming too late for the rest of the world to help rebels in Libya?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Paris today, meeting with other foreign ministers from the G8 to discuss Libya strategy. She's also meeting with Libyan rebel leaders, the first time the United States has made contact with Moammar Gadhafi's opposition since violence erupted last month.

A Libyan anti-government protester takes part in an anti-Gadhafi demonstration.

A Libyan anti-government protester takes part in an anti-Gadhafi demonstration.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Paris today, meeting with other foreign ministers from the G8 to discuss Libya strategy. She's also meeting with Libyan rebel leaders, the first time the United States has made contact with Moammar Gadhafi's opposition since violence erupted last month.

But no course of action has been decided yet. Over the weekend, the Arab League called for a no-fly zone. France had done so last week. The White House has applauded the move. It was the topic of conversation at the United Nations today. Lots of talk, no action.

Meanwhile, Libya's civil war continues even as international attention to the rebels' cause has been diverted to the natural disaster in Japan. Various reports say the opposition forces are losing their grip on Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, and al Brega.

For the first time since the revolt began, the rebels did not allow reporters to accompany them out of fear news coverage could provide intelligence to government forces.

It's a sign of growing frustration on the part of the opposition. The rest of the world watches and talks and does nothing. Now Gadhafi's forces are gaining the upper hand.

Here’s my question to you: Is it becoming too late for the rest of the world to help the rebels in Libya?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Libya • Middle East
March 10th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

How are rising gas prices affecting your way of life?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In case you hadn't noticed, it may soon be cheaper to buy whiskey than gasoline. Thursday morning the national average price for a gallon of gas stood at $3.53. That's an increase of 39 cents over the last three weeks alone, according to the Energy Department.

And it's not going to get better any time soon. The government predicts the average family will spend $700 more for gasoline in 2011 than in 2010, a 28% increase from last year. That's no small chunk of change when the median household income in this country is about $49,000 a year.

So how high will it go? According a new Gallup Poll, 37% of Americans think prices will hit $3.75 – $4 a gallon in their area. More than a quarter of Americans think gas prices will exceed $5 a gallon. Only 8% of Americans think gas will be less than $3.75.

But before we collectively hyperventilate over this news consider this: In Europe most people pay the equivalent of $7.50 to $8 a gallon. In Greece, gasoline costs about $8.45 a gallon.

The cheapest gas is in OPEC nations like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Egypt because it's heavily subsidized by the governments there.

Here’s my question to you: How are rising gas prices affecting your way of life?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Gas Prices
March 10th, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Should banks be able to set spending limits on debit cards?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

One of the largest consumer banks is thinking about putting its customers on a budget. According to a new report from CNNMoney.com, JPMorgan Chase is considering capping purchases you make with a Chase debit card at $50 or $100.

That's because new laws are going into effect this summer as part of Wall Street reform legislation that will limit how much a financial institution can make off your debit purchases.

Right now banks charge merchants something called an interchange fee every time you use your debit card. Those fees bring in about $16 billion for the banks each year and about $0.44 for each purchase you make. If the new limits take effect in July as scheduled, the banks would make just $0.12 per transaction. So being the crafty creatures that they are, they have decided if they limit your purchase amount, it will force you to do more transactions, and presto – they don't wind up losing a dime. Not exactly reform from the consumer's point of view.

Banks say the higher fees are necessary to cover the costs associated with debit cards. So they are playing around with some options:

Bank of America and Chase both say they are testing out adding monthly fees to checking accounts – up to $15 a month in some states if you're a Chase customer. Chase is also floating the idea of $3 monthly fees for just owning a debit card; and they may also consider that cap on individual debit card purchases.

Representatives from HSBC and Wells Fargo declined to comment on plans to add fees to their debit accounts. A Citi spokesman says the bank does not have any plans for additional consumer fees at this time.

Of course, the bank and credit card lobbyists are fighting this tooth and nail – and a new bill being introduced this week in the Senate by Democrat Jon Tester of Montana will try to delay those fee limits being put on banks. However it sorts itself out, be assured of this: The banks will get theirs.

Here’s my question to you: Should banks be able to set spending limits on debit cards?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Economy
March 9th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Stronger voice on Libya: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The United States is in a very tough spot when it comes to Libya, and President Obama has taken some heat for not being more vocal on the crisis.

The White House has said repeatedly it's weighing its options, and that nothing is off the table. But the president has said little more. And we've been "weighing" for a while now.

The president is walking a tightrope: If the U.S. acts unilaterally - no matter how noble the cause of helping those in Libya fighting for their freedom - we will be seen as interfering in yet another Muslim nation's business. That perception is what got us 9/11.

So, President Obama isn't saying much publicly. He's had strong words for Gadhafi, demanding he step down; but he's stopped short of calling for any other specifics. Gadhafi's still there.

In the meantime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has emerged as the mouthpiece for the administration. She traveled to Geneva last week to meet with top diplomats and discuss military and humanitarian options.

Clinton told Sky News yesterday that the U.S. wants to see the international community support a no-fly zone. She also said it was important that the United Nations decide what to do about the conflict in Libya, not the United States.

Some of the president's top aides were scheduled to meet today to discuss the situation in Libya, including Secretary of State Clinton, Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. But the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief, was not scheduled to attend.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to Libya, who has the stronger voice: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

March 9th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

What does it mean if social welfare benefits make up 1/3 of wages, salaries in U.S.?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Americans have become alarmingly dependent on handouts from Uncle Sam, according to a new report.

Government social welfare programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance made up 35% of all public and private wages and salaries last year. That's more than one-third of all the money Americans earned.

These findings are contained in a study of government data done by TrimTabs Investment Research. In 2000, 21% of all wages and salaries in the United States came from social welfare programs. In 1960, it was just 10%.

One of the economists at TrimTabs says we're in for some difficult times ahead unless this country can get back to at least the 26% ratio it had before the recession started. And she says there are only two ways to do that: Either increase private sector wages and salaries by 35% or cut social welfare benefits by nearly a quarter. Neither of those things is likely to happen.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the so-called entitlement programs, make up more than 60% of federal spending each year. As the baby boomers get older, retire and need more medical care, the costs for those programs will only go up.

While the squabbling over budget cuts continues on Capitol Hill, you can be sure no one is touching these programs. The $60 billion measure passed by the House last month didn't touch one dime of those three programs.

As the evidence continues to mount that our country is hurtling toward an economic disaster, our government refuses to respond in any meaningful way.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if social welfare benefits make up more than 1/3 of all wages and salaries paid in the U.S.?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

March 8th, 2011
05:38 PM ET

When it comes to Libya, what's the right thing for the U.S. to do?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

When it comes to Libya, the United States is in a very tough spot. Not as tough a spot as the Libyan people are in by any means…but difficult nonetheless.

We are mostly hated in that part of the world. And rushing to the aid of the Libyan rebels trying to overthrow Gadhafi would be played up on the Arab street as the United States again interfering in a Muslim nation's internal affairs.

On the other hand, it's in our national DNA to want to come to the aid of people who are struggling to gain their freedom. Plus there is all that oil, of course, but that's a much more cynical view.

People are laying down their lives trying to get out from under the yoke of arguably one of the world's most brutal dictators. We have the military wherewithal to make their struggle a lot easier, but so far we haven't done that.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to Libya, what’s the right thing for the U.S. to do?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Libya • Moammar Gadhafi
March 8th, 2011
05:29 PM ET

Should Congress vote again to raise nation's debt ceiling?

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The National Debt Clock in New York City. (PHOTO CREDIT: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As Congress continues to all but ignore the debt crisis in this country, the threat of a government shutdown is now less than two weeks away. Lawmakers are looking to make spending cuts for this fiscal year's budget both Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

It won't happen.

With a $14 trillion debt and a projected deficit of $1.6 trillion for this year alone, Congress is arguing over whether to cut $10 billion or $60 billion from the budget. They are completely divorced from reality in Washington.

Here's the reality:

Sometime between April 15 and May 31, our national debt is going to exceed the debt ceiling – the U.S. borrowing limit – which now stands at $14.29 trillion.

The debt ceiling has been raised 40 times in the last 30 years. Under President George W. Bush, Congress approved measures to increase the debt limit seven times.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke both want the debt limit raised. If it's not raised, they say the United States could default on loans and other financial obligations, which could lead to an economic meltdown.

President Obama and Democratic leaders support raising the debt ceiling. Of course. But Republicans say they'll vote down any measure to increase the debt limit unless some sort of cap on federal spending is included.

Here’s my question to you: Should Congress vote again to raise the nation's debt ceiling?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.


Filed under: Congress • Congressional Spending • National debt
March 7th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Is the federal government broken beyond repair?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Today is the 158th day the federal government has operated without a budget. The clock is ticking on the two week extension Congress approved last week which kept the government from effectively shutting its doors for business this morning.

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

Here's sort of where we stand: Republicans want to cut spending by at least $61 billion which was what the House of Representatives agreed on a few weeks ago in their bill. But the Democratic majority in the Senate only wants to cut $10.5 billion.

Hello, we're looking at a projected deficit of $1.65 trillion for this year alone.

Not to suggest that our Congress people lack guts, but last Friday Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn introduced a bill that would cut about $400 million a year from the budget by stripping all federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. They want to kill Big Bird and Elmo.

Not a word about touching entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare; but children's programming apparently is on the table.

In this week's Time magazine cover story, Fareed Zakaria wonders if America's best days are behind us. He points to how the U.S. now compares with other wealthy countries when it comes to student test scores, graduation rates, life expectancy, crime, and of course national debt. We're falling behind on all fronts. Zakaria says: "The larger discussion in Washington is about everything except what's important." Like killing funding for Sesame Street.

Here’s my question to you: Is the federal government broken beyond repair?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Government
March 7th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

What can Sarah Palin teach India about American politics?

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Political buttons featuring Sarah Palin were sold at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in DC last month. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

You can't see India from Sarah Palin's house, so the former governor of Alaska who quit halfway through her first term is going to go there and get a firsthand look. Palin will be on her way to New Delhi next week.

She's been invited to deliver the keynote address at a two-day leadership event called the India Today Conclave. It's an annual conference that attracts business and political leaders from around the world. Attendees this year will include Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the possible replacements for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Last year's keynote speaker was former President Bill Clinton.

The title of Palin's speech is My Vision of America, and Politico.com reports it comes as no surprise the group invited Palin. India is fascinated with American politics because so many Indians have immigrated to the United States and found success here. Many still have relatives in India. The Indian press regularly follows the careers of Indian-American politicians like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and newly elected Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Both are Republicans. Palin's support for Haley has been credited with giving her campaign a boost. But the media in India also follow closely what's going on in Washington as well as outside the Beltway. Maybe Palin can learn from them while she's there.

Here’s my question to you: What can Sarah Palin teach India about American politics?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Sarah Palin
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