Monday, May 17, 2010

We know how to fix public education but lack the courage to do so

By Jim Fabiano

Ever since the late 1800's people have known that our public education system needed reform. Harvard president Charles Eliot was part of a movement to establish high standards for secondary schools. These standards grew out of a concern that our schools were failing. Even after Mr. Eliot's work the Douglas Commission in 1905, reported that, "80% of our public school pupils drop out of the schools before attending high school and 97 % of all public schools drop out before graduating from high school.

Since the late 19th century, we have attempted to reform our schools. Every attempt seemed to have failed because graduation rates still failed our children and our society. We argue about low student achievement, achievement gaps and the impotence of our public school system. Paul Thomas said it best, "The message we do not hear, but should hear instead, is this: The picture we see in our schools is a mirror of the society we have created and now tolerate."

Dr. Thomas continues by stating, "Student failure in schools is a stark reflection of how our society fails children. Between 70 and 80 per cent of student achievement is directly linked to the homes and communities of schools - yet we spend rhetoric, time and money on school reform while ignoring this reality." He goes on to state that President Obama is continuing down the fruitless road of high standards and accountability. This is a mirror of what we tried and failed in the past.

Finally Dr. Thomas states, "NCLB cannot and should not be salvaged, because it is trapped in tired assumptions about educating children." He basically states that the test mania of our past can't be the central engine to reform our schools. It simply does not work.

But what does work? 'Time' magazine, back in October of 1998, asked, "What does it take to make an excellent student? The encouragement of parents and the respect and friendship of teachers and peers make the difference. In other words, the parent has to get involved with the education of their children. Everyone in education knows this as a fact. The question I have is why we aren't we establishing a system that has all parents to take part in public education.

The Full Story

A War on Dissent?

By Rick Manning
Are we witnessing the opening salvos in a war against political dissent and the First Amendment?
Read carefully what the President said last Sunday at Hampton University, “the era of iPads and Xboxes had turned information into a diversion that was imposing new strains on democracy. You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter."
Is Obama really telling American students pay less attention to what his Administration is up to?
Realize that this is the same Administration that has tried to use the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet through its so-called Net Neutrality proposal that was recently found unconstitutional by the courts.
This is the same Administration that sent its spokespeople out on the various networks to publicly excoriate FOX News for not following the approved Obama party line.
This is the same Administration that regularly attempts to demonize media hosts and regularly attacks Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and a host of others.
This is also the same Administration that incredibly has failed to hold an official White House news conference since last July, and had the audacity to offer the White House press corps a taped interview of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan rather than letting reporters actually interview her.
This is the same President who has advocated shuttering First Amendment political speech rights that were afforded corporations in the Citizens United Supreme Court decision — in his State of the Union Address with the very justices who rendered the decision in attendance. This is really the heart of stopping political dissent, can a corporation pay for and distribute a political book, pamphlet, or movie.
Get full story here.

The homeschooling trend

By Rebekah Rast

Today, about 2 million students are homeschooled.

In 2003, that number was 1.1 million. The home school population continues to grow at a rate of 5 to 12 percent each year, according to a report by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., President of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI).

Many factors are involved when the decision to home school a child is made. Academic concerns and religious motivation are the top reasons for homeschooling, says Nathan Mehrens, currently a Counsel for Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and previously a legal and legislative assistant for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Another key reason for parents choosing homeschooling is concern over unspecified current problems within some public schools.

Parents feel that by homeschooling their child, the child can accomplish more academically than if he/she was in a public school system. And they are right. Homeschooled students typically score 15 to 30 percent higher on standardized academic achievement tests than their public schooled counterparts.

However convincing and solid the reasoning is for homeschooling, there are always those against it. One big opposing party is public schools themselves.

Get full story here.

Managing American Decline?

By Bill Wilson

Speaking on CBS' 60 Minutes last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked if America was in decline, to which she replied, "No, we're not, but it's a question that has to be answered." Why?

Besides the U.S. being the world's greatest debtor, the reality Secretary Clinton is faced with abroad is not one of relative strength to previous administrations: "You've got countries who are explicitly saying to me in private, well, look, we always looked to you because you had this great economy, and now look. You're in the ditch and you drag other people into the ditch."

Clinton said that addressing the nation's debt is "one of the critical challenges before us. Our nation has to be strong fiscally at home in order for us to be strong abroad." So, how does the Obama Administration match up?

One can look at just the past few weeks and some overall Administration policies for a glimpse into whether Obama is attempting to bring America out of the ditch, or is just digging deeper:

Get Full Story Here.

Obama signs Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act

by GottaLaff

Daniel Pearl went to my high school. We didn’t know each other, and that we have that in common is not really relevant. However, it does bring the horrors of what happened closer to home somehow. It makes it even more real and appalling than ever, as if that were even possible.

Now President Obama has signed legislation named for Pearl (the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act) that expands the government’s role in monitoring freedom of the press worldwide:

Among other things, the State Department will now be required to “identify countries in which there were violations of press freedom; determine whether the government authorities of those countries participate in … or condone the violations; and report the actions such governments have taken to preserve the safety and independence of the media,” according to a statement from Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, one of the bill’s primary sponsors.

President Obama said that the law “puts us clearly on the side of journalistic freedom.”

Pearl’s death “reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and reminded us there are those who would go to any length to silence journalists around the world,” Obama said. There are “enormously courageous journalists and bloggers … (on) the front lines against tyranny and oppression.”

A nod to bloggers? Much appreciated. Now let’s hope that the legislation makes a difference. Daniel Pearl sure did.

Mike Brown Reportedly Fired By Cleveland; Mike Woodson Let Go By Atlanta As Well

today as two of the most successful coaches in the NBA were both axed by the respective teams. Both Mike Brown and Mike Woodson had stellar regular seasons but once again the playoffs prove to be an entirely different animal as Atlanta and Cleveland underachieved in the NBA’s second season…despite losing to better teams. (Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has denied Brown’s firing) Brown was 272-138 (Coach of the Year last season) during his five years with the Cavs and Cleveland won 66 and 61 the last two seasons. Woodson was 206-286 in six years but improved steadily each season after winning just 13 games in 2004. The Hawks never moved past the Eastern Conference Semis and were swept by Orlando last week in embarrassing fashion. The 106 point difference is the most ever during a playoff sweep. Cleveland lost to 3 and possibly 4 Hall of Famers in what could spell LeBron’s last Cleveland go round, while Atlanta was defeated by a battle tested team defined by the most dominating big man force in Dwight Howard. Both coaches most likely won’t be out of jobs for too long. Expect Philly to take a good look at Woodson.

60 Minutes: Despite damaged blowout preventer, BP cut corners immediately before explosion

Last night 60 Minutes broadcast a stunning report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster featuring an eyewitness account from crewmember Mike Williams and analysis from Dr. Bob Bea, a UC Berkeley engineering professor asked by the White House to help figure out what went wrong.

According to Williams, several weeks before the explosion, the blowout preventer was damaged but despite the damage, BP ordered the rig operator to ignore critical a safety measure when sealing the well. BP wanted the rig operator to seal the well without using drilling mud, a heavy liquid used to keep oil and gas from burbling up as cementers completed the seal.

According to Professor Bea, the accident would not have occurred had the drilling mud been used. Instead, BP cut corners in an attempt to save money, and now we're left with this enormous economic and ecological disaster.

You can watch part 1 of the report here, but the key section is here in part 2, starting about 2 minutes into the clip:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

It gets worse: 60 Minutes reports a BP insider says he is concerned about another risky rig, the Atlantis platform. According to the insider -- whose account is confirmed by internal BP e-mails -- nearly 90% of the safety documents needed to run the platform safely hadn't been reviewed by BP. At best, BP is flying blind on the Atlantis, so this could all happen again.

One important implication of this report: BP's $75 million liability cap for economic damages does not apply if the company is guilty of willful negligence, and if last night's 60 Minutes report on the disaster is accurate, BP will certainly be on the hook for everything.

Join the discussion in Keith Pickering's recommended diary, "60 Minutes: Critical equipment damaged weeks before blowout".

Man Group GLG Merger

Man Group Purchasing GLG Partners for $1.6 Billion

Man Group is paying a 55% premium on Friday's closing price to buyout GLG shareholders. The hedge fund firm is trying to diversify its business so that it does not rely too much on its flagship AHL fund. Man Group's share price took a hit from investors and analysts wondering whether the firm paid too high a price for the acquisition.

Man said it expected the acquisition to add to earnings in 2012. GLG’s founders, Noam Gottesman and Pierre Lagrange, and the co-chief executive, Emmanuel Roman, agreed to a lock-up for their shares for three years. They also agreed to swap their GLG shares for Man stock at $3.50 a share, well below the cash offer to other GLG shareholders.
“We have known Man for many years and can be certain that our two businesses are highly complimentary, both focused on delivering long-term performance but each with differing client bases and uncorrelated investment strategies,” Mr. Gottesman said in a statement.
Man said in March that profit before tax probably fell in the year until the end of March after the performance of AHL disappointed and funds under management declined in the fourth quarter.

By Richard Wilson |

Video: High Court Rules on Juvenile, Sex-offender Cases

Judges throw out state laws that allowed offenders as young as 13 to be held until they die, even in non-murder cases

HTC Wildfire entry-level Android debuts

by Chris Davies

HTC have unveiled their latest Android smartphone, the HTC Wildfire, and it’s an entry-level model that looks to replace the little-loved HTC Tattoo. Packing a 3.2-inch QVGA capacitive touchscreen, European 3G/UMTS support, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash and HTC Sense, the Wildfire looks like a cross between a Desire and a Google Nexus One.

As for Sense, that has a couple of new features including displaying a contact’s latest Facebook status update along with their photo whenever you call them or they call you. There’s also a new app called Application Sharing, which allows you to quickly let friends know about software you’re enjoying on your phone: after picking the title from a list, you can share it via SMS, email, Twitter or whatever other social networking tools you have on your phone.

According to HTC’s Eric Lin, the Wildfire “makes good on the promise of the Tattoo… [it's] much better executed.” That not only makes for a better phone for the end-user, but one that’s cheaper for HTC to produce (meaning a cheaper MRSP) but that uses better quality components. The Wildfire has the same 528MHz CPU as the HTC Hero, but with HTC having stripped out the 3D animations from Sense it keeps things moving reasonably quickly. There’s also a microSD card slot under the battery cover and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge. The battery is a 1,300mAh pack, though HTC aren’t quoting estimated runtimes as yet.

The HTC Desire will be available in Q3 2010, in black, white, red and brown; no word on pricing at this stage, though HTC tell us they’re aiming for the entry-level “my first smartphone” market.

Tomorrow You and I Will "Take Back New Jersey!"

The Fight to Take Back New Jersey Starts With Standing Up To Senator Sweeney and Taking Control of Our State Supreme Court!

Tomorrow, when you and I “storm the gates” at Senator Sweeney’s office, the battle to take back New Jersey will be front and center in West Deptford.


By declining to re-nominate liberal Justice John Wallace Governor Christie has taken a critical first step in putting our activist Supreme Court back on the side of taxpayers.

Now, you and I must do all we can to support his nominee.

Senator Sweeney and his liberal allies in Trenton will not let go of power without a fight. By refusing to grant Anne Patterson the hearing our State Constitution requires, they are making it clear that they have contempt for the rule of law and will use any underhanded tactic to make sure the state Supreme Court continues to facilitate their radical, left-wing agenda.

It is now up to you and me to stand up to them!

If you and I do not take a stand, New Jersey will remain the worst state in the nation for taxes. Our tax dollars will continue to be redistributed from our suburban towns and rural areas to the 31 Abbott Districts. Our tax dollars will continue to be used to subsidize the COAH low income housing scheme. And property owners will continue to live in fear that their homes or businesses could be seized through eminent domain abuse.

Nothing less than the future of our state is at stake.

You and I cannot sit back and allow Senator Sweeney and his liberal allies in Trenton to thwart Governor Christie’s effort to remake our activist Supreme Court. We cannot let them ignore our State Constitution and refuse to give the governor’s nominee a hearing.

Tomorrow, you and I need to send Senator Sweeney and the Trenton elites a strong message that we have had enough.

We encourage you to bring signs to the rally. Rain or shine, the rally will go on!

And if you cannot join us in West Deptford, call Senator Sweeney’s office or write him a letter telling him how you feel.

Click here for Senator Sweeney’s contact information.

Taxpayers’ Budget Hearings This Week in Clinton and Cranford!

AFP’s next Taxpayers’ Budget hearings will be in Clinton, NJ on Wednesday, May 19th at 7:00pm and Cranford, NJ on Thursday, May 20th at 7:00pm.
For more information and to see a full schedule of our upcoming Taxpayers’ Budget hearings, click here. To download and read the AFP Taxpayers’ Budget, click here.

On to Victory,
Steve Lonegan
State Director

Family: 7-year-old shot by police was asleep

DETROIT — Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was asleep on the living room sofa in her family's apartment when Detroit police searching for a homicide suspect burst in and an officer's gun went off, fatally striking the girl in the neck, family members say.
Her father, 25-year-old Charles Jones, told The Detroit News he had just gone to bed early Sunday after covering his daughter with her favorite Disney princess blanket when he heard a flash grenade followed by a gunshot. When he rushed into the living room, he said, police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter's blood.

"I'll never be the same. That's my only daughter," Jones told WXYZ-TV.
Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said officers set off the flash grenade as they entered the apartment with their guns drawn about 12:40 a.m. Sunday with a warrant to look for a suspect in the Friday slaying of a 17-year-old boy. The lead officer's gun went off after he encountered a 46-year-old woman inside the front room of the home and "some level of physical contact" ensued. Police do not believe the gun was fired intentionally.

"This is any parent's worst nightmare. It also is any police officer's worst nightmare," Godbee said.
Family members identified the woman as the child's grandmother and Charles Jones' mother, Mertilla Jones, who has said she was not involved in a struggle with the officer. Police later said the officer may have just collided with the woman.
The officer was put on paid administrative leave and police are investigating, Godbee said.
"This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude to Aiyana's parents, family and all those who loved her," Godbee said. "It is a tragedy we also feel very deeply throughout the ranks of the Detroit Police Department".
Charles Jones said he had to wait for hours to find out what happened to his daughter.

"Her blood was everywhere and I was trying to stay calm, but nobody would talk to me. None of them even tried to console me," Jones told The Detroit News.
The officers had a search warrant and were looking for a 34-year-old man suspected in the shooting death of Jarean Blake. Officers arrested the suspect during a search of the building, Godbee said.

Godbee would not comment on newspaper reports that neighbors told police there were children in the house and showed them toys in the front yard. The girl's father said three other children besides Aiyana were in the home when the raid happened.
Charles Jones said he was trying not to be angry but wanted the story to be told. He said Aiyana was a lively child who loved to sing and had recently developed an interest in Hannah Montana and the Justin Bieber song "Baby."
"She was just figuring out what she liked, what she wanted to do with her life," her father said. "I want this story to be heard. This was a wrongful death".
Associated Press

Miss Michigan Wins Miss USA Pageant, Arab Americans Excited

Somehow, this is a big deal, but, it does provide a bit of cheesecake for a Monday morning

Arab Americans across metro Detroit cheered as Rima Fakih of Dearborn was crowned Miss USA tonight in Las Vegas.

“This is unbelievable,” said Rami Haddad, 26 of Livonia, one of Fakih’s biggest supporters. “It’s a dream come true. I can’t express my feelings.”

Fakih, of Lebanese descent, is believed to be the first Arab American and Muslim to become Miss USA.

“This is historic,” Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said. “This shows the greatness of America, how everyone can have a chance to make it.”

Riiiiiiiiight. It couldn’t have anything to do with this, could it?

Now, see, those are the kinds of images that gets a Muslim women a fatwa, and not the good kind. Also, things like lashes and perhaps a good old fashion stoning. But, then, perhaps, there could be mitigating circumstances, courtesy of the Jewish Internet Defense Force, which laid down a whole bunch of links to Debbie Schlussel.

It’s a dark day for America when a Hezbollah-supporting Miss USA contestant, Rima Fakih with many top Hezbollah terrorist relatives, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist and marriage/immigration fraud perpetrator who financed her bid wins the Miss USA Contest, but it makes sense, considering Farouk Systems, owned by Palestinian Farouk Shami, who attacked “whites,” Bragged About Dad’s Massacre of Jews, is a 9/11 Truther, and anti-Israel was a sponsor of the pageant.

Way to go, Miss USA pageant. Way to go.

So, perhaps in this case, no fatwa will be forthcoming. I still doubt she was picked because she was a Muslim, though. See above photos.

By William Teach

GM posts first-quarter profit

General Motors Headquarters is seen along the Detroit river in Detroit, Michigan in this November 3, 2009 file photo

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.UL) posted a first-quarter profit on Monday and said it is making progress toward a turnaround expected to put it on track toward its first full-year profit since 2004.

GM, which received $50 billion of U.S. government financing for its restructuring in bankruptcy, has been aiming to launch an initial public offering that would allow the U.S. government to reduce its majority stake in the automaker later this year.

Revenue for the top U.S. automaker rose to $31.48 billion from $22.43 billion in the pre-bankruptcy GM a year before. Net income -- after preferred stock dividends of $203 million to the U.S. and Canadian governments and GM's major union -- was $865 million, compared with a loss of $5.98 billion a year before.

The top U.S. automaker posted a $4.3 billion loss in 2009 for the period between July, when it emerged from a bankruptcy steered by the Obama administration, until the end of the year.

The results underscore the progress GM has made in slashing costs by reducing debt, cutting jobs, closing factories and dropping unprofitable brands like Hummer, Saab and Saturn.

But analysts have said GM still faces steep challenges in repairing the reputation of its brands in its home market and reversing a long-running slide in market share.

Tobi Oyedeji DEAD

Tobi Oyedeji is dead. Tobi Oyedeji’s death has been confirmed by Coach Mark Turgeon Sunday.

Tobi Oyedeji was a power forward from Houston Bellaire and a Texas A&M basketball signee. He was recently named to the High School Academic All-American Game and named American’s squad Player of the Game.

Tobi had said the following after that game:

“It was a very good experience and just an honor to be selected to play. The game was a lot of fun and It was nice that there was an all-star game for guys who are willing to put in the time on the court, and in the classroom. There were some good players and the guys were great to be around. Not only did we hit the courts, but we had sessions on things off of the basketball court such as leadership and other things.”

Shortly before noon, Coach Mark Turgeon said via Twitter:

“Please pray for Tobi Oyedeji, He was in a car accident last night and is battling some significant injuries. He needs our prayers.”
Oyedeji was a MVP of District 20-5A in the Houston area, an

All-Greater Houston team member and member of the the TABC All-State Class 5A squad.

Turgeon had said of Tobi earlier this year:

“What a great honor for Tobi to be selected for this all-star game and then to have the type of performance he did was just outstanding. He is a terrific young man and I know our basketball fans, and everyone on the Texas A&M campus, will love to get to know this young man. He is and will continue to be a great representative of Texas A&M.”

Kentucky Senate: Rand Paul in Good Shape as Primary Nears

Fueled by the “number of Republicans who are unhappy with the direction of the party, insurgent Rand Paul appears headed to an easy victory over Secretary of State Trey Grayson in Tuesday’s Kentucky primary contest for the GOP senate nomination, according to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted May 15-16,” Politics Daily reports.

Paul leads Grayson by 52 percent to 34 percent with three other candidates splitting 7 percent and 7 percent undecided.


"Rand Paul’s remarkable success is one of the biggest stories of the 2010 election cycle so far," said PPP’s Dean Debnam "It’s a clear sign of unhappiness within the Republican Party and should have establishment candidate facing primaries nationwide a little nervous about their prospects."

(credit image – associated press)

Dwight Howard Interviews Dwight Howard

Halftime of yesterday’s Celtics-Magic game featured a meaningful sitdown between “Clark Kent” Dwight Howard and “Superman” Dwight Howard. Not since Steve Phillips argued points with himself on Baseball Tonight has a segment screamed instant fail from the word go. D-Ho, who appears to have an alarming amount of free time during the postseason, finished 3 for 10 from the field to go along with 7 turnovers.

'Iron Man' tops 'Robin Hood' at weekend box office

Come on, what did you expect? A guy with a bow-and-arrow going up the high-tech gadgets of Iron Man. It was no contest this weekend at the box office as "Iron Man 2" had its way with "Robin Hood"

Starring Robert Downey, "Iron Man 2″ took in an estimated $53 million to hold the No. 1 spot in its second weekend. The sequel has earned an estimated $212 million so far at the domestic box office.

The action-adventure remake of "Robin Hood," reuniting director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe for the first time since "Gladiator," took in an estimated $37 million to finish a distant second.

The chick-flick "Letters to Juliet," starring Amanda Seyfried, came in third with an estimated $13.8 million.

Final weekend box office numbers will be released Monday afternoon.

Post details: Iran accepts nuclear-fuel swap deal

Brazilian-brokered deal obliges Iran to ship 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium to Turkey. The announcement followed a day of meetings between Iranian and Brazilian officials [AFP]

Iran has signed an agreement brokered by Brazil to ship low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel for its power plant, according to official media.

The deal agreed on Monday would oblige Iran to send Turkey 1.2 tonnes of uranium under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), beginning next month.

In exchange, Iran would receive - within a year's time - 120kg of highly-enriched nuclear fuel rods through a still to be negotiated agreement with the so-called Vienna Group.

The Vienna Group refers to the four parties of the United States, Russia, France and the IAEA.

Iran would then - as per the terms of the agreement - use the nuclear fuel rods for its Tehran medical research reactor.

The move aims to ease Western concerns over Iran's nuclear programme, and stave off a possible new round of sanctions by the United Nations.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, signed the deal on Monday following a breakfast with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister.

After the deal's announcement, Ahmadinejad called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as Germany, to relaunch dialogue over Iran's nuclear programe.

"It is time for the 5+1 countries to enter talks with Iran based on honesty, justice and mutual respect," he said.

Video: Iran's nuclear ambition one step closer?

Video: Iran's nuclear ambition one step closer?

Video: BP: Tube Sucking Oil Away From Gulf Well

BP Plc (BP.L) said on Monday it has deployed methods to contain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that it will try to fully stop the flow later this week.