May 18, 2016

What Does the Future Hold for Relations Between America and Iran?

This post has been contributed.

The deal between America and Iran that sees the lifting of sanctions in return for a halt to Iran's nuclear program is a big step. The deal and its historical relevance should not be understated. But this deal doesn’t represent a full embrace between the two nations. There are many issues that are still not resolved, and there are problems that mean the countries are not going to be allies soon. In recent times, the hardliners in the Iranian regime have been dealt numerous blows. Moderate politicians and allies of the President, Hassan Rouhani, have found success in elections. There are problems heading down the line for the deal and the relations between American and Iran though. So, let’s explore what these problems are.

Some observers with deep knowledge of the Iranian situation would argue that President Obama got a bad deal with Iran. This is not a universal opinion, but there is a divide in the perception of the nuclear deal. Mark Dubowitz has argued that Obama has weakened America’s position, giving strength to the Iranians. This is something that many argue could come back to haunt the next American President. Donald Trump, for example, has been very critical of Obama’s deal. On the other hand, the deal could completely collapse if the next President took a hardline approach to dealings with Iran. There are many people on the Republican side of American politics who think the deal should simply be retracted. This would see sanctions reimposed, and tensions could then escalate.

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There are also many other issues, aside from the nuclear issue, that could cause rifts between Iran and America. These problems haven’t been solved by the nuclear deal, and both sides have made this fact very clear. One of these issues relates to Iran’s attitudes towards human rights. Their human rights record isn’t good, and this is something that American and the West opposes. On top of that, the Iranian regime is unwilling to get too close to America anyway. They don’t want to be sucked into America’s orbit of influence. And while America is still very close to Saudi Arabia - the country that is the sworn enemy of Iran - this could never happen. Having said that, relations are improving. And there is no doubt that opening the lines of dialogue will pull the relationship in slightly better direction.

Fear remains on both sides though. Earlier this year, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard launched test missiles. This is something that was condemned by the Americans. And it seemed to be a warning from Iran that it still had the ability to launch missiles that could reach Israel. Israel is one of America’s closest allies, as well as one of the biggest critics of the nuclear deal that was completed. Fear and suspicion are not going to dissipate overnight. And there have been instances of the Iranians taking American sailors at gunpoint in recent months. These instances will not sooth fears on either side. But the overall impact of recent changes remains to be seen.

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April 28, 2016

Common Family Problems And How You Can Swiftly Overcome Them

This post has been contributed

Our family is an important unit made up of some of our closest loved ones. So when we are going through a particularly difficult period in life, we often turn to them for support. But what happens when the family is struggling through a hard time together? Who is everyone going to turn to for support then? It may seem like a dark time. However, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Here are five family problems and how you can swiftly overcome them.


Addiction

If a family member is suffering from an addiction, it can weigh heavily on their other relatives. It doesn’t matter whether it is an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or food. Any addiction will cause stress and upset. If a close relative is struggling with addiction, it is very important that you support them to help them kick their habit. Read up on addictions, talk to them, and try to persuade them to seek professional help. Once they are free from their addiction, it is also important to prevent them from relapsing. Otherwise, you’ll be back at square one.

Separation

As parents, you should always set the best possible examples to your kids. But what if you and your partner no longer get on? The tension in a relationship can affect kids, which can lead to detrimental behavior. If you and your partner are feeling strained, it is best to talk about any issues and clear the air as soon as possible. This will create a better environment for your kids to live in. If you feel the relationship is beyond repair, it could be time to think about a divorce. Speak to a Divorce Lawyer to get the whole process over and done with as quickly as possible.

Bereavement

The death of a relative or close family friend can be devastating. It can affect the whole family, especially very young members or those who were particularly close to the deceased. While everyone is dealing with their own grief, it is best to seek support from those outside the family. Speak to friends and colleagues who did not know the deceased. They will be able to help you objectively. If things get too much, it could be worth visiting a local counselor or therapist.

Debt

Debt can rip a family apart. Relatives could blame the family member who caused the debt, and a lot of anger could build up within everyone. But that won’t make the situation any easier or help you to pay back the money. The best thing to do is to sit down with the whole family and come up with a financial plan and budget. This gives you a practical way to deal with the issue. It could also be worth changing your lifestyle so you can live a cheaper life. Even if you have to cut back on holidays, it will be worth it in the end.

Remember: going through these hard times can help you become a stronger family.

January 01, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2015

Year 2 of giving up fantasy football and sports radio during my commute to read/listen to more books instead. Finished 17/23 I started this year. Getting better at giving up quicker on books not meant for me in the present moment. Asterisks* note my top recommendations. DNF means Did Not Finish.
*Winning the Story Wars – Jonah Sachs
*The Bible Tells Me So – Peter Enns
*Built to Sell – John Warrillow
Bossypants – Tina Fey
The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne
Essentialism – Greg McKeown
Myth in Human History – Grant Voth
Zero to One – Peter Thiel
Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
Falling Upward – Richard Rohr
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
Interrupted – Jen Hatmaker
The Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard
Scrum – Jeff Sutherland
Jesus: A Theography – Leonard Sweet
The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
Simply Good News – N.T. Wright
The Smartest Kids in the World – Amanda Ripley (DNF)
Walden – Henry David Thoreau (DNF)
The Bassoon King – Rainn Wilson (DNF)
The Charisma Myth – Olivia Cabane (DNF)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami (DNF)
Slaughterhouse-five – Kurt Vonnegut (DNF)

November 26, 2015

By All Means, Talk about Politics and Religion on Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving I could partially understand the conversations at the adult table was a profound one. Because they were talking about “real” things. Curiously exploring how the world works, and questioning how it should. And I excitedly waited all year for my next chance to listen in – to perhaps even become a part of it. So when I hear people suggest not talking about politics, spirituality or anything below the surface today, I think it’s a huge mistake. The attempt to avoid combative and hurtful conversations with family today is a rightful one. But you don’t have to avoid the deep stuff.


You just have to not be a jerk.

June 18, 2015

Dynasty Teams Screw Kids Up

I think dynasty teams screw kids up. For instance, my neighbor’s small boys have lived their whole lives under Blackhawks dominance. For them, sports are still pure and perfect. You can fall deeply in love, and never get hurt. It was my experience with the Bulls dynasty in the 90s. And it’s a set up for absolute disaster when you learn these moments we’re in the midst of are ridiculously unlikely anomalies. That, in fact, the majority of your sports life is lived in absolute disappointment. That the emotional highs and adrenaline rushes of fandom are almost a complete waste of time in a strict utilitarian sense. That there are much more beautiful pursuits – ones where you are not merely tasked to the sideline, but asked to be an active participant in the game itself.


Less watching. More playing.

March 06, 2015

How Do I Know So Much and So Little About God?

I’ve spent the past 14 years obsessed with understanding theology. And out of the dozen or so random God questions that have popped out of my 3-year old’s mouth so far, I’ve had coherent answers to precisely zero.


It’s as if I spent so much time at the fringes – trying to grasp every detail of how man, God and earth are supposed to work together (and at least partially motivated by wanting to feel like the smartest person in the room) – I just assumed I had my foundation nailed, and I don’t.

February 06, 2015

America Preparing for a Female President?

Note: This is a guest post by Hannah Williams

The 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama was one of historic precedence; for the first time in the history of the United States Americans entrusted the governing of their nation to an African-American. Despite America’s reputation as a melting-pot of ethnicities, all 43 presidents prior to Obama’s election were white. It took over two centuries for Americans to elect a non-white leader of the free world.

All 43 Presidents fortunate enough to gain the responsibility of governing the United States did share a common characteristic with Obama despite their racial differences, they were all males. Roughly half the American population is female yet their representation in the White House has been non-existent and representation within government as a whole, although growing, barely scratches the surfaces of percentages relative to their population’s representation.

Fortunately for Americans, the United States probably won’t need to wait another couple centuries for a historically ground-breaking election. The 2016 election is shaping up to bring the election of the first female President. Some had hoped 2008 would be the year females gained ground on the other 43 male Presidents but Obama was able to push past former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primaries and eventually claimed the Presidency.

The 2016 election seems to be gearing up perfectly for Hillary Clinton to become the first female to lead the United States. But Clinton isn’t the only female Americans have placed their hope in. Fellow Democrat, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has also been heralded for her work within the party and is poised to become the fiercest competition for Clinton during the Democratic Primaries. Senator Warren has publicly denied her ambitions to run in the 2016 elections but many believe her mind can and will be changed.

Despite their competition within the same party, the odds are heavily in favor of a female emerging as the Democratic candidate in 2016, an unprecedented feat in itself. A survey of bookmakers partnered with Gambling.com revealed the actual odds of a female winning the 2016 Presidential Election are 6/5, far greater than any previously held elections. With what many believe will be the eventual emergence of a female Democratic candidate, whether Clinton or Warren, the odds will only increase.

The election of President Obama was a much-needed step forward towards a more inclusive American government but can’t be the only step taken. Females as well as other races deserve equal representation within the White House. The 2016 Presidential election will hopefully just be the next step Americans take towards equality for all.