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Florida Sen. Mark Rubio endorses Romney – could be a big help as a VP pick

Beef taquitos

Recipe courtesy of FamilyFun.com

Like tacos, only neater to eat, taquitos have plenty of kid appeal. In Mexico, they’re often deep-fried, but baking them works well too. It’s easier and healthier, and the tortillas still turn golden brown and crispy around the edges. Served with salsa and sour cream, they make a quick and satisfying lunch or dinner.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing on the taquitos
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup salsa, plus more for dipping
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 10 (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack
  • Sour cream
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400º. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook them for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the beef and use a wooden spoon or a spatula to break it up while it cooks, until it is no longer red, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the salsa, the chili powder, and the salt and pepper. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

  2. Place the tortillas on a plate and cover them with damp paper towels. Microwave them until warm and pliable, about 45 seconds. Top each tortilla with 1/4 cup of the beef mixture, spreading it to an inch from the edges. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the beef.

  3. Roll up the tortillas and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet with the seam sides down. Brush the taquitos lightly with vegetable oil, then bake them until the filling is heated through and the tortillas are lightly browned, about 8 to 12 minutes. Serve them hot with sour cream and/or salsa. Serves 4 to 6.

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

Spring has sprung, and the season of light entertainment is here. To that end, please do enjoy…

1) Name the siblings who are both currently starring in her own network television series.

2) Everybody knows Arnold’s signature line from The Terminator, I’ll be back. What is his trademark phrase from the sequel?

3) The producers of The Sopranos raised eyebrows with their strange finale. What song played in the final moments as the Soprano family ate at a restaurant?

4) In the beginning of the movie, Pulp Fiction, Vincent (John Travolta) is explaining to Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) that in Europe, a Quarter Pounder is called a Royale with Cheese. Why?

5) The Academy-Award winning star of The Artist speaks two words in the movie. What are they?

6) What is the name of the Batman villain, Two Face?

7) What baseball team did Billy Beane manage when he implemented his Moneyball strategy?

8) What are the four main ingredients in a Waldorf salad?

9) In Starbucks, what size is a venti and why?

10) Celebrity super-couple Victoria and David Beckham gave birth to a baby girl last year. What is her Seinfeld-inspired name?

Answers:

1). Emily Deschanel is the title character in Bones, and sister Zooey is The New Girl.

2) Hasta la vista, baby

3) Don’t Stop Believin’

4) The metric system

5) “With pleasure.”

6) Harvey Dent

7) The Oakland A’s

8) Apples, celery, walnuts and mayonnaise

9) A large; it is 20 ounces (‘venti’ is the Italian word for 20)

10) Harper Seven

Is Obamacare a civil rights issue?

Is Obamacare a civil rights issue?

Kathleen Parker Washington Post
 
By now you’ve heard it plenty: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. “Obamacare,” is like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This creative bit of dot-connecting began with President Obama and has been perpetuated by countless talk-show hosts and their guests.

By implication, to oppose Obamacare is tantamount to opposing civil rights, which, roughly translated in this country, means being racist. This may not be what Obama intended, but if not, it was accidental brilliance.

On “Hardball” this week, as Chris Matthews was cross-examining a guest about the constitutionality of the insurance mandate — the main issue before the Supreme Court — he asked whether she thought the Civil Rights Act was constitutional. After all, that piece of legislation (correctly) forced businesses to sell goods and services to people they otherwise might have chosen to deny access.

This would be a dandy argument if the two issues were remotely related. Yes, they are similar inasmuch as the federal government imposed laws on individuals related to personal decision-making. And yes, those decisions revolved around commerce. But zebras and dogs are also similar — they both have four legs and a tail — and yet we know they are not the same animal.

The health-care mandate forces business and individuals to buy something against their will. The mandate facilitates access to health care the same way being pushed off a diving board facilitates swimming. It may prove effective — or not — but it shouldn’t be confused with civil rights.

One may firmly believe that any government program aimed at improving health care for more people is defensible. At least some Americans apparently do, but not that many. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 52 percent of Americans oppose the law. And 67 percent believe the Supreme Court should toss the law, or at least the mandatory portion.

This is hardly a national endorsement of Obama’s health plan. Nor, however, should it be construed as permission for Republicans to continue pretending that the U.S. health-care system doesn’t require any government attention, as they did until Democrats seized the issue.

The problem of access to affordable health care is nothing to shrug about. By all means, let’s work toward making an exceptionally good system better — but without the pandering shibboleth of health-care reform as a civil rights issue. One dealt with discrimination on the basis of race and was a clear violation of human rights and, therefore, the spirit of the Constitution.

Guaranteeing access to purchase is far different than forcing purchase.

That some can’t afford insurance or are denied coverage through unemployment surely can be addressed in other, more creative ways. Americans love the portability aspect of Obamacare, but this could have been accomplished without restructuring a huge swath of the economy based largely on projections and assumptions.

As a selfish human being, I want everyone to buy insurance. I also want nearly everyone to drop 20 pounds, exercise 45 minutes a day, abstain from drugs and cigarettes, drink no more than five ounces of red wine daily, get eight hours of sleep, eat a diet of mostly grains and vegetables, and avoid all sugars. This would do more to improve health and reduce the need for medical care than anything else on the planet. Shouldn’t we start there? Doesn’t it violate my civil rights to have to subsidize the consequences of other people’s irresponsible choices and lack of discipline?

Ah, but no, government can’t dictate what people consume or how much they exercise. Wanna bet? Stick around.

Critics of Obama’s plan are not just ornery partisans. Legitimate concerns include: The law is too big, it creates another gargantuan bureaucracy that will have the flexibility and compassion of Siri, and it contains too many uncertainties and too many fill-in-the-blanks beyond the reach of elected officials.

Democrats pushed through the legislation without popular support on the bet that Americans would like it once they got used to it. We may or may not find out, depending on what the justices decide. But this much we do know: Civil rights activists who were beaten, bloodied and killed in the struggle to have a voice were nothing like the bureaucrats and politicians who insist that the ACA is a comparable victory. The Civil Rights Act was a monument to freedom and human dignity. Health-care reform is . . . something else.

Well-intentioned though it may be — and serviceable though it could become with proper tweaking — the ACA is not about human freedom. It is, in fact, quite the opposite.

kathleenparker@washpost.com

Congress is going to the dogs

From Yahoo news Spinners and Winners – 3/20/12

During the heated presidential campaign, dogs seem to have taken center stage.  Mitt Romney can’t seem to live down the controversy over the rooftop ride that his dog Seamus took during a family vacation. And you just never know where the ever-popular Bo Obama is going to pop up.

But as Harry Truman  famously  said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

With Congressional approval ratings currently sitting at historic lows — there are many lawmakers who can relate.

Perhaps that is why so many members of Congress are taking their dogs with them to work these days. Sunlen Miller covers the Senate for ABC News and walks the halls of Congress every day. She decided to take a snout-count and she found about two dozen lawmakers who bring their dogs to work.

In many ways, pooches serve as the perfect Congressional aides. They attend secret meetings, but reveal no details. They slog through hours of dull hearings, falling asleep without raising anyone’s eyebrow. They are welcome everywhere in the federal building — except for the dining areas and the legislative floors themselves.

Dogs have been a part of Capitol Hill life for more than 100 years and at the sides of some of its most powerful figures.  Senate Leader Bob Dole took his dog, Leader, with him everywhere.  The late Sen. Robert Byrd’s dog, Baby, was more popularly known as ‘Trouble.’  All three of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dogs accompanied him to work. The first family’s dog, Bo, was a gift from Kennedy and was bred by the same breeders as Kennedy’s beloved pets.

Amidst today’s partisan Congressional tension, the dogs on Capitol Hill can serve as a negotiating tactic, brought in to help seal the deal.

Sen. Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts explains how his dog, Koda serves his duty: “There have been times when people have a very serious issue and they are ready to rip my head off and I walk in — you know, with Koda — and they say ‘oh we can’t yell at him because Koda will get mad’.”

And of course, the business of politics, and dog ownership, can get messy.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin explains he does his own dirty work. “We have an accident or two sometimes so I have to clean it up,” he concedes. “No, that’s not what interns are for.”

Who is patronizing us now?

Who is patronizing us now?

The Democrats are loading the campaign cannons with another cannonball aimed at blowing up the issue of women’s rights in this Election year.  This time it’s the Violence against Women Act.  We are happy that Missouri’s Sen. Roy Blunt recognizes that Republicans will have to come up with some kind of alternate if they don’t like the Democrats’ version of this bill. The bill supports battered women’s programs which are hard to argue against. The bigger concern for me is the obvious way that the Democrats are baiting the Republicans with women’s issues in an Election year. I am not going to say that all Republican men get women’s issues because it’s clear that many of them don’t. But, we can say with certainty that moderate Republican women do get women’s issues. In fact, most of the ones I meet or talk to are in favor of birth control, choice and stem cell research.

Republican women could easily be swayed into thinking the economy is better now and that the Republican agenda to focus on the deficit, reform entitlement programs and create jobs is no longer a pressing need, which it is. Three term Senator Olympia Snowe’s departure was a setback for moderate Republican women. And many moderate Republican women may be left wondering if they can vote Republican with all this talk about the merits of contraception and cutting education programs.  But, Ann Romney said it best when she said the economy is still the main concern for Republican women, who refuse to be patronized not only by their own party but especially by the other side.

This is a great article from today’s New York Times:

Women Figure Anew in Senate’s Latest Battle

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“We’re mad, and we’re tired of it,” said Senator Maria Cantwell.

By

WASHINGTON — With emotions still raw from the fight over President Obama’s contraception mandate, Senate Democrats are beginning a push to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the once broadly bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives.

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The fight over the law, which would expand financing for and broaden the reach of domestic violence programs, will be joined Thursday when Senate Democratic women plan to march to the Senate floor to demand quick action on its extension. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has suggested he will push for a vote by the end of March.

Democrats, confident they have the political upper hand with women, insist that Republican opposition falls into a larger picture of insensitivity toward women that has progressed from abortion fights to contraception to preventive health care coverage — and now to domestic violence.

“I am furious,” said Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. “We’re mad, and we’re tired of it.”

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.

Republicans say the measure, under the cloak of battered women, unnecessarily expands immigration avenues by creating new definitions for immigrant victims to claim battery. More important, they say, it fails to put in safeguards to ensure that domestic violence grants are being well spent. It also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples, they say.

Critics of the legislation acknowledged that the name alone presents a challenge if they intend to oppose it over some of its specific provisions.

“Obviously, you want to be for the title,” Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership, said of the Violence Against Women Act. “If Republicans can’t be for it, we need to have a very convincing alternative.”

The latest Senate version of the bill has five Republican co-sponsors, including Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, a co-author, but it failed to get a single Republican vote in the Judiciary Committee last month.

As suggested by Mr. Sessions, Republicans detect a whiff of politics in the Democrats’ timing. The party just went through a bruising fight over efforts to replace the Obama administration’s contraception-coverage mandate with legislation allowing some employers to opt out of coverage for medical procedures they object to on religious or moral grounds.

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Romney looking forward to April with big gains expected in big states

A mixed or moderate view of the “Economic Recovery.”

A Muddled Economic Picture Muddles the Political One, Too

  / New York Times

 Newt Gingrich’s campaign has tried to capitalize on the rising gas prices across the country.

Job growth has picked up nicely in the last few months, raising the prospect that the American economy is finally in the early stages of a recovery that will gather strength over time.

But with gas prices rising, the government cutting workers and consumers still deep in debt, some forecasters predict that economic growth — and with it, job growth — will slow in coming months.

Politically, the difference between the two situations is vast. In one, Mr. Obama will be able to campaign on a claim, as he has recently begun to do, that the country is back on track.

In another, he will be left to explain that recoveries from financial crises take years, and to argue that Republicans want to return to the Bush-era policies that created the crisis — as he tried to argue, unsuccessfully, in the 2010 midterm election. His approval rating has slipped again recently, with higher gas prices appearing to play a role.

As a result, the economic numbers over the next couple of months, including an unemployment report on April 6, will have bigger political implications than the typical batch of data. The Federal Reserve acknowledged the uncertainty in its scheduled statement on Tuesday, suggesting the economy had improved somewhat but still predicting only “moderate economic growth.”

Economists say the economy’s near-term direction depends relatively little on Mr. Obama’s economic policies. The standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, the European debt crisis and other events will likely affect the economy more.

But many American voters are still likely to make their decision based on the economy. Historically, nothing — not campaign advertisements, social issues or even wars — has influenced voters more heavily than the direction of the economy in an election year.

“If you could know one thing and you had to predict which party was going to win the next presidential election,” Lynn Vavreck, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “you couldn’t do better than knowing the change in economic growth.”

Particularly important, Ms. Vavreck said, were the first six months of an election year, when many voters form impressions that stick.

Ultimately, the 2012 election may be close enough that other issues, like immigration or Afghanistan, will play a major role. But the last two years make clear just how important the economy’s direction will be to Mr. Obama’s fortunes.

His approval ratings drifted down in early 2010, as job growth weakened and “recovery summer” — a White House phrase that Mr. Obama’s aides would now prefer to forget — failed to materialize. His ratings rose as growth picked in late 2010 only to fall again when job growth weakened in early 2011 as the Arab Spring pushed up energy prices and the standoff between the president and Congress over the debt limit damaged investor confidence.

The pattern has repeated itself in recent months. As economic growth picked up late last year and helped cause a surge in job growth, Mr. Obama’s approval ratings rose to a level that suggested he would be the favorite this fall.

Over the past three months, monthly job growth has averaged 245,000, a rate that has generally led the incumbent party to win re-election. In only three races since World War II — in 1952 (when the popular Dwight D. Eisenhower was running), in 1968 (when the Vietnam War hobbled the Democrats) and in 1976 (when Watergate hobbled the Republicans) — has the outcome been different from what the economy’s direction would have suggested.

In recent weeks, though, with slower economic growth and higher gas prices, Mr. Obama’s rating has slipped. So far, job growth has not slowed, which has caused some analysts to say that the latest drop in approval ratings may be something of a blip.

Either way, the big uncertainty is whether job growth slows substantially in coming months.

More bullish forecasters point out that Americans are starting to behave in ways that suggest they are finally leaving the financial crisis behind. The government reported Tuesday that retail sales rose at a solid pace in February and the months leading up to it. Companies — which have historically high profit margins — are adding workers at the fastest pace in more than five years, as many begin to make up for deep cuts during the recession.

And gas prices, for all of their psychological impact, do not have a major effect on many families’ budgets. In January, gasoline accounted for only 3.6 percent of total consumer spending.

Dean Maki, the chief United States economist at Barclays Capital, argues that the economy’s strengths are more than enough to continue reducing the jobless rate. With many baby boomers hitting their retirement age, Mr. Maki notes, the economy does not need to add as many jobs as in the past to keep up with normal labor-force growth.

Other forecasters argue, however, that job growth has probably hit its high-water mark for 2012. The federal government is cutting workers, and state and local employment is roughly flat. The dollar has risen, cutting into export growth. Households remain deeply indebted, which will restrain spending.

“I’m inclined to the more bearish camp,” said Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight. For the rest of the year, Mr. Gault’s firm forecasts monthly job growth of around 175,000.

One significant factor may be weather. The warm winter has allowed households to spend less on heating, while also causing people to travel more and go to the mall more. That economic lift will soon disappear.

If a solid recovery has finally taken hold and job growth remains above 200,000 a month, many polling analysts and political scientists view Mr. Obama as a favorite. If oil prices rise much further, or something else causes job growth to fall close to 100,000, he becomes the underdog.

In the middle — if job growth slows a bit, to something like 175,000 a month — the 2012 election has the makings of one of the closer races in recent history.

A GOP war on women?

Introducing her husband on Super Tuesday night, Ann Romney said that women this election season are interested in jobs, the economy and the debt.

Republicans might wish nothing more than to stuff birth control pills back into the bottle, but Democrats aren’t about to let them. The narrative already has a title: “The Republican War on Women.” Cue theme from “Psycho.”

One can hardly blame Democrats for taking advantage of a perfect storm of stupefying proportions. The only thing Republicans failed to do was put a bow on this mess. Consider the headline-grabbing events that came together almost at once:

Virginia’s pre-abortion sonogram law that could have required women to undergo a transvaginal probe; the debate over religious liberty vs. contraception mandate, prompted by health-care reform; Rush Limbaugh’s commentary about a female law student in which he called her a slut and a prostitute and, in a final flourish, suggested she provide him sex tapes so he could watch her in the activities precipitating the need for birth control.

Individually, these anecdotes would have been problematic, but combined their effect on female voters is that of a Tyrannosaurus rex approaching a Gallimimus herd. (Picture the stampede scene in “Jurassic Park.”)

War has been declared, and there’s hardly any way to change the impression among a growing percentage of women that the GOP is the party of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. It’s a smart move for Democrats to keep replaying the message, but is it fair — and is it true?

What say we relax the rhetoric and see what sanity lies beneath?

Not to tempt the gods of non sequitur, but contrary to what the White House insists, Rush Limbaugh is not the leader of the GOP. Even so, he does have a large audience and it is disconcerting that so many seem to share his obvious hostility toward women. Several of his cohorts in discourtesy are snorting and grunting in my inbox even now.

One who wrote in defense of Limbaugh informed me of my place in God’s hierarchy, slightly above goats, and gave me a tutorial about why women have been saddled with the monthly inconvenience and painful childbirth — for tempting men to do evil and failing to recognize their roles as “helpmeets” for men.

“Pagan women like yourself,” he patiently averred, “have no regard for the natural order of God’s plan and shamelessly promulgate the ‘we are goddesses’ bile that has infected the entire country and pretty much stopped it in its tracks from incurring God’s blessing.” I’m leaving out the best parts.

You don’t have to read many such letters to think that maybe Democrats have a point. Yet it is false to imagine that any objection to abortion is necessarily anti-woman. It may feel that way to women seeking abortions. And it may look that way when those pushing anti-abortion measures are men whose experience in such matters is biologically irrelevant. As feminist Flo Kennedy said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

But Republicans are waging war on women only if you believe that the morality of abortion should never be questioned or if you believe the federal government can order people to pay for something that violates their conscience. These issues are not so simple, nor are Republicans simpletons for trying to protect the unborn or challenging what they view as government overreach.

Unfortunately, the conservative governing principles that traditionally attracted level heads to the right side of the aisle have been incrementally subsumed by social issues — a bull’s-eye for Democrats and a black eye for Republicans. Inasmuch as women are the ones who most urgently require access to family planning, any opposition can be conflated to be anti-woman. Hence, Ann Romney’s well-placed remarks.

She is right, of course, but the problem she was implicitly trying to address is not short-term. The GOP long ago made its bed with social conservatives, a large percentage of them Southern evangelicals, and now must sleep with them. After marriage, of course. In Laurens County, S.C., where the local GOP recently tried to create a purity tribunal to screen and monitor aspiring Republican candidates, this is more than a punch line.

Although the state party ruled the county initiative inconsistent with state law, the Laurens mind-set burbles just beneath the surface of the once-Grand Old Party. And that is a problem only Democrats could love.

 

Kony 2012

My kids were the ones who first told me about the 65,000 children who had been kidnapped and forced to kill their own families by a malicious warlord in Africa. And I didn’t believe them. Until I saw this. Click here to view the video. http://youtu.be/Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Kony 2012 filmmaker Jason Russell speaks out: ‘We can all agree we can stop [Kony] this year’

By Laura Rozen | The Envoy

The filmmaker behind the “Kony 2012” documentary, the mega-viral hit that  exploded on the Web this week, told NBC’s Today show Friday that he makes no apologies for trying to put a human face on a complex and decades-old conflict.

“We can all agree we can stop him this year,” Invisible Children filmmaker Jason Russell told the Today Show’s Ann Curry, referring to guerrilla leader Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). “We’re not going to wait.”

Russell defended the film from criticism that it hypes and oversimplifies the guerrilla conflict, which has subsided considerably from its height in 2003-2004. Accused of atrocities and the abduction of thousands of children to fight in his guerrilla group over the past 20 years, Kony’s LRA is estimated to have fewer than 200 soldiers now, and most reside outside Uganda.

“If that happened in San Diego, Calif., if that happened in New York City—200 children abducted and forced to kill their parents … it would be all over the news,” the filmmaker said.

Russell also encouraged the millions of viewers who have watched the video to donate $30 to his advocacy group, Invisible Children, and wear a wrist bracelet. Some observers have charged that Invisible Children and its “Stop Kony” campaign are essentially promoting “slacktivism”—low-effort, feel-good activism among millions of college students and young people mesmerized by the video that does very little to help anyone on the ground in Central Africa.

“The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege,” Nigerian-born writer Teju Cole, author of “Open City,” said about the Invisible Children project on Twitter Thursday. “Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that.”

American young people turned on to the “Stop Kony” campaign are eager to have a moral cause, Russell said: “These are children and young people 25 and younger are saying, ‘Mom, Dad, we want you to pay attention to this right now.”’

The San Diego-based filmmaker attributed the explosive interest in the film to its putting a human face on a complex, decades-old war story. The 30-minute documentary had been seen by more than 52 million viewers on YouTube and 14 million on Vimeo since it was posted Monday, according to MSNBC.

“I think it’s because it’s a human story,” Russell said. “We’re all human beings, and for some reason we forgot about our humanity because of politics and because all these things we’re talking about have paralyzed us.”

Veteran Beltway African experts were still marveling at the group’s ability to generate so much interest in a distant Central African conflict that dates back to the 1980s and has been almost entirely under the American public radar. Some said they welcomed the explosive interest and debate the group’s film has stirred.

“Instead of continuing to debate the strengths and weakness of the Kony 2012 video …” Sarah Margon, an Africa expert at the Center for American Progress wrote at the Think Progress blog Friday, “let’s figure out how to turn this momentum into a constructive opportunity that can result in smart policies that will have a positive, real-time impact in the affected areas of central Africa.”