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By Sarah Costello
March 16, 2010

In the rush and chaos of everyday college life, sometimes a juicy burger and a heaping helping of french fries is just the pick-me-up needed to finish that paper or complete a project.

The feeling is familiar to me. For the past three years I have slowly begun to consume fast food on a regular basis. I am skilled at denying the calorie counts and convincing myself that after a long day I deserve a frappuccino or double cheeseburger.

In January 2010, my blissful eating habits came to a screeching halt when I mounted the scale for the first time in three years and came face-to-face with reality. According to the body mass index calculations, I was 20 pounds overweight. There were multiple indications that my weight would continue to increase if something was not done to combat the problem.

Weight loss can be a daunting challenge, especially for a college student. Financial constraints and time restrictions often prevent individuals from switching to healthier menus and exercising regularly.

Fad diets and advertised short cuts may seem the ideal route to losing weight fast, but diets are often short lived and rarely succeed in the long run. HealthCastle.com explains diets often fail because they deprive the body of necessary food groups (carbohydrates and fats for instance) and leave dieters hungry — a situation that will inevitably result in a “willpower blowout.”

I realized the only way to lose weight and keep it off indefinitely is to adapt a new healthy living mentality. According to Inch-AWeigh.com, four out of five American women said they are dissatisfied with their looks. And almost half of all American women are on diets. In a culture obsessed with outward appearances and instant gratification, it is no wonder so many women struggle with low self-esteem.

Though there have been several initiatives in the last year to combat obesity and instill healthier meals in public school systems, people often miss the heart of the issue. The problem is not that a high percentage of Americans look fat but that a growing number of Americans are heading toward high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure and early death.

Pursuing weight loss is a noble goal, but it is a waste of time for people planning to subject their bodies to strict diets until they reach a healthy weight only to revert back to old habits that never really had a chance to die. I’ve tried the South Beach Diet and the vegetarian route. I never succeeded. Each time hunger inevitably proved stronger than my willpower and I’d come crawling back to the McDonald’s line.

Overcoming my habits has been one of the hardest initiatives I have ever attempted. Instead of ruling out carbohydrates, fats or calories, I decided to forgo disastrous cravings and satisfy hunger with low-calorie snacks and meals.

I became a member of SparkPeople.com, a free Web site that provides an abundance of healthy living information and enables users to document food consumption and record exercise plans. I stopped eating fast food, gave up sodas and desserts and introduced my palate to the plethora of savory vegetables that are much better options than french fries or chicken fingers.

Ten pounds later I am halfway to my goal and am surprised at the new habits that have formed. While the first couple of weeks were difficult, I can now say the sacrifices have been worth it. I have found a weight loss plan that leaves me satisfied and has shown sensational results.

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Sarah Beth Costello
January 16, 2010

On Christmas day, 2009,  the world came close to observing an airborne tragedy when Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to detonate a

The Nigerian bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up Northwest Flight 253.

bomb while aboard a Northwest airliner en route to Detroit. The Nigerian claimed to have been trained in Yemen under the instruction of al Qaida. Had he succeeded in igniting the explosives he had harbored in his underwear; he would have obliterated the lives of himself and those on the aircraft in seconds.

Following the near attack, airports worldwide amped their security, delaying passengers and creating general chaos for people traveling during one of the busiest months of the year. Airport security doubled, and metropolitan airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare and Amsterdam’s Schiphol, made plans to install both human and computer screened full body scanners, which many claimed could have prevented the Nigerian from boarding Northwest flight 253.

The scanners are high-tech x-ray machines, capable of exposing areas beneath a passenger’s clothing and produce a detailed image of every scanned individual. The use of these scanners has ignited controversy from many who claim the x-ray images violate privacy. The high cost of these machines is also a concern. According to a Dec. 29 Reuter’s article, the scanners are 10 times more expensive than traditional metal detectors, which run for about $15,000.

Despite the push for body scanners, emerging evidence suggests the existence of intelligence that could have prevented the Abdulmutallab incident, had the U.S. intelligence community heeded the previous warnings.

“Two officials said the government had intelligence from Yemen before Friday that leaders of a branch of Al Qaeda were talking about ‘a Nigerian’ being prepared for a terrorist attack,” wrote Peter Baker and Carl Hulse of the New York Times in a Dec. 29 article.

In November, the Nigerian’s father contacted officials at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, voicing concerns for his son’s radicalism. Though a file existed with Abdulmutallab’s name, officials said they did not possess the evidence necessary for placing the Nigerian on the “no-fly” list.

Despite many signals, the Homeland Security threat level was not raised. The Nigerian flew from Lagos to Amsterdam. Though the Nigerian police force is riddled with corruption and counter terrorism methods are unstable at best, Abdulmutallab should never have been allowed to board Northwest Flight 253 when he arrived in Amsterdam, but he did and came disconcertingly close  to succeeding with heinous plot.

Adding to the frustration of many Americans was the claim made by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s that “the system worked,” despite the clear breach of security. The statement had many  anxious Americans questioning the Obama administration, and the actions taken toward countering terrorism.

The Nigerian hid a syringe detonator, explosives and powder in his underwear and was able to pass through security undetected.

Several days after the failed attack, Obama made a speech acknowledging that the incident could have been prevented had “critical information been shared.”

No amount of blame or what-ifs can change the past, and even expensive equipment will not always thwart the missions of our enemies. In the past few months, Americans have witnessed actions of violence from the brutal Fort Hood massacre to the Nigerian bombing incident. The question remains: what are we going to do about it?

Increasing security and spending millions of dollars might work in the short term, but the answer lies in intelligence and identification of our enemies. Obama has recently taken steps to improve intelligence operations and correct “systematic failures” that contributed to the Dec. 25 attack attempt. But “fixing” security methods will not obliterate the problem. In fact, sole dependence on intelligence and high tech gizmos could ignite a fire of trouble we cannot even imagine.

These are not just radicals or random trouble seekers; these attacks are conducted by terrorists. It is time to start calling the kettle black. Forget about political correctness and a fear of “jumping to conclusions.” Future protection of America will require Obama to step outside his comfort zone and take a stand against the enemy. Our safety depends on it.

By Sarah Beth Costello

President Barack Obama is a manipulator, skilled in the art of beguiling vast audiences with his debonair and charm,

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President Barack Obama greets crowds in Berlin on July 24 during a speech on German partneship and America's need to strengthen relations. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

while discounting opposition by producing excuses.

When concerned citizens question his motives and the remaining trustworthy media outlets debunk his initiatives, the Obama administration rarely offers counter-arguments. Instead, they blame antagonists for hindering growth or obstructing plans for a better America. Their surest and most popular ploy: accusing opposition of racism or extremism.

Racial issues have received excessive media attention in the past eight months. With senate apologies for decades of slavery, a Supreme Court justice with a history of exhibiting racial preferences, an Ivy-league professor accusing police of discrimination and a president who continues to pull out the race card, it is no wonder racism in not altogether eradicated. Society cannot let it go.

Obama’s presidency has fueled a fire that refuses to die. While pockets of radicals exist, extremism is not an epidemic. We have made great leaps in overcoming prejudices and should acknowledge success rather than continually discuss the few factious franchises.

The Obama administration recently claimed that “right-winged extremists” were organizing in angry mobs in attempts to ensure Obama’s failure. These are the same protesters Nancy Pelosi claimed were carrying swastikas to town hall meetings and Sen. Harry Reid accused of “sabotaging” health care reform.

Obama, the poster boy for the mantra of “yes we can” made history as the first African American president, but eight full months into his presidency, this is his only noteworthy accomplishment.

Since his inauguration, unemployment has risen to a devastating 16 percent, according to Atlanta Federal Reserve Chief Dennis Lockhart, who included those who are no longer looking for work, a figure removed from Obama’s figures. His administration also predicts budget deficits will rise to $9 trillion during the next decade.

The past month was the deadliest for U.S. troops in the eight-year War on Terror. The president passed a nearly $800 billion stimulus package that is reaping few benefits and attempting to push a life-changing, widely unread, healthcare bill through the Senate.

There is a clear double standard of tolerance. Though many demanded his impeachment and assassination, Bush did not waste effort regaining popularity. Unlike Obama, Bush realized a good leader would never please everyone.

The media rarely question the actions of the president, refraining from probing and second-guessing the largest power entity in the U.S.

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Image courtesy of Soda Head.

Media bias was evident during the election, when the majority of mainstream media did not investigate Obama’s questionable relationships with the radical Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayer. Other examples include support from major networks (CNN and ABC News) of Obama’s nomination for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, his quick push towards health care reform and his massive spending sprees.

Obama’s race is a minute detail that does not deserve the attention it has received. The problems afflicting America are much bigger than the president admits, but he must eventually come to terms with the fact that the majority of Americans could care less about his race.

Obama’s obvious attempts to quell an existing crowd of discontent with accusatory and threatening condemnation have not gained him any brownie points. Americans are watching, and many are not thrilled with his disregard for legitimate concerns. Stooping for good excuses is not getting Obama anywhere. If he wants to regain public satisfaction he must provide sound defenses and terminate a vocabulary riddled with excuses.

Image courtesy of: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/15457

Image courtesy of World Magazine

By Sarah Beth Costello
June 11, 2009

America, once known as “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” has gained a reputation as a nation that accepts anyone and everyone regardless of the potential threats and danger posed to American lives.

In an age of tolerance and political correctness, Americans have lost their ability to discern. This lack of discernment is increasingly becoming obvious in the actions of our president, Barack Obama, who insists on promoting tolerance and acceptance in the face of evil.

Political correctness is going to kill us,” said Glenn Beck, a conservative radio and television host for Fox News. We have ventured from one extreme to the next as a nation that struggled for decades with racial inequality to one that is so blind to the underlying dangers of our acceptance of radicals.

Obama has made several attempts to “fix” the problems between Israel and Palestine and make peace with the Muslim world. Rather than strengthening our military and securing our borders, Obama is using words to eliminate the hatred that thousands (if not millions) of Islamists harbor for Americans and Jews.

When Obama addressed Muslims in Cairo, Egypt, last week, his message

Obama speaking in Cairo, Egypt. Image courtesy of: http://tinyurl.com/nnskkg

Obama stressed eradicating racial barriers and embracing peace during his speech to Muslims in Cairo, Egypt. Image courtesy of: http://tinyurl.com/nnskkg

was not aimed at peaceful, law-abiding Muslims. His message targeted the Islamists, the radicals, the ones who hate America and desire to see her in ruins. And though he did acknowledge that one message would not bring about change in our “relationship,” he did say that the pathway towards peace was being open with the emotions in our hearts.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace,” said Obama.

Obama, for all of his presumably good intentions, cannot empower anybody to throw off hatred and malicious intent by simply giving a motivational speech. The Left has a tendency to blame America for the problems of others. But the fact is, there are many who hate America and have been indoctrinated and brainwashed to self-martyr and murder for the cause of Jihad. They are responsible for their own actions and America should not be in any way obliged to utter an apology for the crimes and atrocities committed.

Tolerance won’t change this. Tea parties with dictators will not sway the heinous plans of our enemies. Words cannot convince enraged and hate-filled Islamists that we can coexist and be friends.

Obama, though dubbed the “anointed one,” cannot alter centuries-old hatred by apologizing for America’s power or preaching of empowerment. Weakening our military, disarming our weapons, closing down a prison for terrorists has not made us heroes in the eyes of the enemy – we have become a laughing stock. America is a perfect target.

“…America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition,” said Obama to his audience in Cairo. “Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

What do we have in common with our enemies other than the fact that we all have enemies? It is a black mark on America to equate ourselves with evildoers. I am being intolerant of our enemies; shame on me. Many may say this is “much to-do about nothing.”

But when injustice occurs, when innocents suffer, when nations are threatened, when tragedies and catastrophes are imminent, the appropriate action is not a light-hearted speech falling on deaf ears. What do our enemies care about living in peace?

It is the responsibility of our president to protect and defend the American people, even if that means discarding tolerance and replacing it with discernment. The world will never be rid of people who desire to destroy. Obama can’t fix it, nobody can. But he can do everything in his power to thwart their plans. Will he be that man?

Obama’s Speech in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009:

Sarah Beth Costello
March 17, 2009

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Photo courtesy of http://www.gemzies.com.

It is ironic that President Barack Obama is willing to meet and negotiate with known terrorists who desire to blow America off the face of the earth, but refuses to join Rush Limbaugh’s conservative talk show for a political debate.

Limbaugh is America’s leading talk show host, who uses his constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech as a means of taking a public stand on current issues.

Though Limbaugh has every right to publicly voice his opinions, he is now marked as America’s public enemy No. 1 by many Democrats.

As a public figure and president of the United States, Obama should be accustomed to criticism from the media. But Limbaugh has put Obama on the defense to the extent that Obama told Republicans to stop listening to the commentator.

“You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,”
Obama said.

Freedom of expression distinguished America from every other society and nation. We are great because we possess the ability to achieve greatness without parameters enforced by the government.

Limbaugh has every right to speak out against the Obama administration and to support conservative politicians who refuse to conform to present ideologies.

The fact that Limbaugh is perceived as a threat exposes the weakness and doubts that already exist in the Democratic Party. Limbaugh is not just spouting words in an effort to create havoc.

Much of what he says is supported by history, factual evidence and contextual examples to prove Obama’s plans will not work. He has a widely-heard voice throughout America and his words are ringing with truth across the nation. He’s not a threat to Obama’s life or his presidency. But Limbaugh is a presumed threat to liberalism and therefore a public enemy.

It is no secret Limbaugh hopes Obama’s policies will fail. Though the left has made this statement into a huge issue, Limbaugh believes the failure of Obama’s policies will mean a failed attempt at socialism.

If Obama’s actions become unconstitutional, if more government actually hurts America, if this increased spending causes another depression, if shutting down Guantanamo Bay decreases safety and security, if pulling out of Iraq results in chaos and more death, if supporting Palestine and meeting with an Iranian dictator results in the end of Israel, then we have every right to refuse support of our president and hope for failure.

“Barack Obama, the Democratic Party has one responsibility, and that’s to respect the oath they gave to protect, defend

limbaughrush_w

and follow the U.S. Constitution,” Limbaugh said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.

Obama has no intention of abiding by the centuries-old constitution drafted by our forefathers. Obama is already transforming America into a government-dependent nation.

As Limbaugh said, it is not Obama’s responsibility to spend excessively, cut off ties with our allies, make friends with our enemies and hurt businesses by weakening capitalism.

Limbaugh is perceived as a spouting maniac, whose words stir discontent and anger among those in opposition. But Limbaugh’s only offense is public speaking.

Our president is remaking America in his own image. He’s responsible for the decisions that will affect all Americans. He’s the one that should be questioned unceasingly, not Limbaugh.