Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Amid a widening economic crisis, youth unemployment is sky-high and anger is rising. Dale Fuchs reports from Madrid
An appellate ruling that correction officials have acted with “deliberate indifference” by denying female hormone therapy to a transgendered child rapist is giving new hope to a convicted killer suing for a state-funded sex-change operation.
A lawyer for inmate Michelle Lynne Kosilek filed a plea Thursday in his decade-old case before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf, saying a May 20 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston for inmate Sandy Jo Battista supports Kosilek’s similar claims of cruel and unusual punishment by the Department of Correction.
The ruling states DOC can no longer use inmate safety concerns, such as sexual assault, as an excuse for withholding hormone therapy from Battista, who is anatomically male, but identifies and lives as a woman.
“The department’s action is undercut by a composite of delays, poor explanations, missteps, changes in position and rigidities — common enough in bureaucratic regimes, but here taken to an extreme,” an appellate panel that included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter wrote in its decision.
“Medical treatment often poses risks and invites trade-offs,” the court found.
Battista, 49, born David Megarry Jr., has been civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person since 2003.
He was convicted in 1983 of kidnapping a 10-year-old girl from Medway, raping her and stealing the money she’d earned selling fudge.
Kosilek, 62, who was born Robert Kosilek, is serving life for the 1990 strangulation of his wife Cheryl Kosilek in Mansfield.
Kosilek developed breasts from hormone therapy.
He is suing DOC both for permanent hair removal and sex reassignment on the taxpayers’ tab.
Kosilek’s attorney, Joseph L. Sulman, said, “Michelle is doing the same as always, the best she can while anticipating a favorable ruling from the court. The Battista decision shows how what she is going through is not unique.”
DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin declined comment.
What won't they use your tax dollars for?
Fukushima: Just How Dangerous Is Radiation?
The Effects of Low-dose Radiation
Monday, May 30, 2011
Sesame Street, Friends and Happy Days are being used to promote secret left wing messages, according to a new book.
Conservative columnist and author Ben Shapiro accused television executives and writers of pushing a liberal agenda in several high profile American television entertainment shows.
His book "Primetime Propaganda" will show how the "most powerful medium of mass communication in human history became a vehicle for spreading the radical agenda of the left side of the political spectrum," according to the publishers HarperCollins.
Shapiro interviewed dozens of leading industry figures, some of whom admitted to including a left wing bias in their shows. The results showed "unrepentant abuses of the Hollywood entertainment industry" and how movers and shakers in the television world tried to "shape America in their own leftist image".
One of the founders of Sesame Street told him that the show had sought to address how conflict could be resolved peacefully after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Insiders also told him that the Korean War medical comedy MASH promoted pacifism and Happy Days had an anti-Vietnam War subtext.Sesame Street has previously been accused of being left wing. In 2009 an episode mocked Fox News. The segment showed the character of Oscar as a reporter for the Grouch News Network and had a viewer telling him: "From now on I am watching 'Pox' News. Now there is a trashy news show."
The Public Broadcasting Service ombudsman later said he "didn't know what was in the head of the producers" and that they should not tell people what to think "through the kids".
BY KARA SPAK
At Malcolm X College, where she enrolled to earn an associate’s degree in accounting, she did not meet basic math requirements. Before she could take accounting classes, she needed to take — and pay for — a non-credit remedial math course.
“I’d be in the math class I need to graduate now” if not for the remedial class, said Wilson, 21. As many as one-third of students entering higher education need to take some sort of remedial or developmental course, a class in the basics of reading, English or math covering material they should have learned in high school, according to a recent report by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group. While most four-year private and public universities offer remediation, the bulk of remedial work is done by community colleges, whose doors are open to anyone with a high school diploma or GED.
“It’s like a track meet where you have [students] run another lap to get to the start line instead of moving toward the finish line,” said Bob Wise, Alliance president.
By a number of indicators, hundreds of thousands of high school students are graduating unprepared for the rigors of college. Nationally, in 2010, only 24 percent of ACT-tested high school graduates were deemed college ready in all four subjects tested — English, math, reading and science. In Illinois, only 23 percent met those benchmarks.
In 2008, an estimated 44 percent of students under 25 at a public two-year college and 27 percent of all students under 25 at public four-year schools were taking at least one remedial course, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics.
A survey by an education non-profit group showed that four out of five students taking remedial classes graduated from high school with a GPA above 3.0.
“This is the reality,” said Dolores Perin, a senior research associate with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University in New York. “Many students are graduating from high school with low skills.”
Illinois doesn’t track its remedial students as closely as other states — the state currently cannot provide a look at how many incoming freshmen, straight out of high school, need developmental classes, for instance. The Illinois Community College board does say nearly 116,000 students — 21 percent of all community college students not enrolled in English as a Second Language, a vocational program or general studies — signed up for at least one remedial class in the 2010 fiscal year.
Chantal Cannon, 20, signed up for two remedial classes when she enrolled in City Colleges after graduating from John Marshall Metropolitan High School in 2009. She needed to take remedial math and English classes, something that surprised her after coming out of high school with Bs and Cs.
“I loved math — that was my favorite subject in high school,” she said. “This held me back a lot.”
Beyond the statistics are the college classrooms across America filled with students retaking high school classes. Few know this better than City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman.
“One of the things I heard loud and clear from everyone was students are coming here unprepared for college,” she said of when she started her job in 2010. “I had no idea I was going to find 90 percent of [degree-seeking] students that come here need some form of remediation. We know it’s an issue, and we know it’s an issue that will need a resolution.”
Remediation will never completely disappear. Community colleges have long been home to nontraditional students, out of school for a decade or more who need the basics refreshed. Increasingly, though, remedial classes are filled with recent high school graduates with B or C averages who were unaware that for them, college wasn’t going to start right away.
“A lot of them don’t even know that they’re going to get tested,” said Alvin Bisarya, vice chancellor of strategy and institutional intelligence at the City Colleges. “They have the high school diploma, they come in and, rightfully so, because nobody told them, they thought they were just going to go into college credit.”
Victoria Onifade, 20, a 2009 graduate of Uplift Community High School in Uptown, said she didn’t know about placement testing at City Colleges until she enrolled.
“I didn’t take it seriously,” she said. “I’m mean, you’re getting good grades in high school.”
She didn’t pass the English portion and used part of her Pell Grant to pay for the remedial class.
“It’s a waste of time,” she said.
A waste of money
It’s also a waste of money for both students and taxpayers, Wise said. The Alliance report estimated that during the 2007-2008 school year, remediation nationally cost $5.6 billion, $2 billion of that in lost wages because remedial students are more likely not to graduate. In Illinois, the group put the remediation cost at $155 million for 2007-2008.
Public higher education budgets are tight, and remediation competes with dollars for research and classes moving students toward a degree.
“As a taxpayer you’re really taking a double hit,” said Bisarya. “You pay once when the student is in public [high] school and you pay for it again when they come here.”
Bisarya said for many schools, remediation is a “dirty word.” At City Colleges, it’s also an expensive one, which is why officials there publicly suggested ending the school’s open admission policy last August. While admissions will stay open, City Colleges started a pilot program for 200 Chicago Public Schools graduates this summer to hone their reading, writing and math skills so they can start college classes in the fall.
Remediation costs City Colleges $29.4 million, or $1,668 per student, each year. For the Fall 2009 semester, of the more than 2,800 CPS high school graduates heading straight into City Colleges, 71 percent needed remedial reading, 81 percent needed remedial English and 94 percent needed remedial math. Forty percent of this group took two remedial courses, an additional 21 percent took three remedial courses and 10 percent took four courses.
For the students who test into the City Colleges’ lowest level of remediation, the vast majority are not likely to transfer to and complete college-level entry courses. Only 17 percent of these math students and 26 percent of these English students successfully finished a college class in that subject, according to statistics from City Colleges.
“We know from nationwide studies, and we’re doing our own studies, that you lose motivation, you lose momentum in remediation,” Bisarya said. “They don’t feel so great about not being in college-level courses.”
While City Colleges leaders have been vocal about the issue, it’s not just a city problem, or a community college problem. All but the most selective four-year universities in the state offer remedial or developmental courses, according to statistics from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Community colleges in the suburbs are also dealing with high percentages of incoming freshmen who lack the basic skills to keep up in a college class.
“It’s a pretty universal problem,” said Debra Bragg, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign who works at the school’s Office of Community College Research and Leadership. “It’s a problem for all types of high schools”
It’s not just schools who are paying. Students in remedial classes are less likely to graduate, burning through government-funded aid like Pell Grants meant to help students obtain a degree. And that same financial aid can’t be used for some of the most basic remedial classes.
“They’re like ghost credits,” said Remona Barrett, 20, a Truman College student who hopes to transfer to a university for a social work degree but had to complete multiple levels of remedial math first. “Those credits aren’t transferable. They don’t count for anything.”
Standards not aligned
High school teachers and administrators are either unaware of what is expected in college, or unable to align their curricula with college prep because the material on standardized tests does not match material colleges are looking for students to know. Colleges also use a variety of placement tests, which adds to the confusion over what students need to know.
“It starts in first grade,” said Perin from Columbia. “Students aren’t learning strong reading and writing skills and math and the problems get worse and worse. As kids get older it just gets harder and harder to do well in school.”
There is a national push to better align K-12 education with college materials. In Illinois, seven community colleges are working with 70 local high schools on how to transition students successfully through its College and Career Readiness program.
“The alignment between high schools and colleges is not very good,” Perin said. “High schools are not very familiar with what a student is going to need.”
In 2006, Elgin Community College was one of the first schools in the state to set up a monthly meeting of local high school teachers with community college staff. Then, about 24 percent of incoming freshman straight from high school were completely college ready. This year, that number was nearly 32 percent.
Mary Sotiroff, an Elgin High School math and science teacher, joined the group after hearing complaints from parents about their children not being college-ready. Sotiroff said high school teachers are judged based on their students’ ACT and PSAE scores, tests that don’t necessarily cover the material colleges are looking for.
“We realized we didn’t understand each other’s worlds very well,” she said. “I think [community colleges] had a much slimmer list of requirements than we did, which I found refreshing. Then you could spend more time on the things that really mattered.”
For Julie Schaid, Elgin Community College’s associate dean for college readiness and school partnerships, the collaboration is good for all students, regardless of where they end up after high school.
“The partnership is not about students coming to community college as it is about students being college and career ready,” she said. “We want the students to be ready so they have choices.”
Bragg, from the U. of I., is evaluating the state’s College and Career Readiness Act and said that discussions between educators at various levels have produced “very important conversations around closing the gap.” Actually closing the gap, however, will take time.
“It’s not a quick-fix kind of issue,” Bragg said. “These are systems that have grown apart rather than grown together over the years.”
Despite the freak gales that battered parts of the country last week, climate experts are warning that many of Britain’s wind farms may soon run out of puff.
According to government figures, 13 of the past 16 months have been calmer than normal - while 2010 was the “stillest” year of the past decade.
Meteorologists believe that changes to the Atlantic jet stream could alter the pattern of winds over the next 40 years and leave much of the nation’s growing army of power-generating turbines becalmed.
The Coalition has drawn up plans to open more wind farms in an effort to meet Britain’s European Union target of providing 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.More than 3,600 turbines are expected to be installed in offshore wind farms over the next nine years.
But statistics suggest that the winds that sweep across the British Isles may be weakening. Last year, wind speeds over the UK averaged 7.8 knots (8.9mph), a fall of 20 per cent on 2008, and well below the mean for this century, which stands at 9.1 knots (10.5mph).
Usually Britain has warm, wet and windy winters, thanks to Caribbean air carried here by the Atlantic jet stream, a fast-flowing current of air.
But the last two winters have featured exceptionally low temperatures and were remarkably still when they should have been the windiest seasons of all, as high pressure diverted the jet stream from its normal position.
Meteorologists have found that the position of the jet stream has been influenced by the lower levels of activity on the Sun. This decline in sun-spot activity is expected to continue for the next 40 years, with potentially serious consequences for the viability of wind farms.
Professor Mike Lockwood, from Reading University, said: “Changes in the jet stream will change the pattern of winds that we get in the UK. That, of course, is a problem for wind power.
“You have to site your wind farms in the right place and if you site your wind farm in the wrong place then that will be a problem.”
Dr David Brayshaw, also from Reading’s Department of Meteorology, added: “If wind speed lowers, we can expect to generate less electricity from turbines - that's a no-brainer.”
The gales that swept Scotland last week, with gusts of over 80mph, were the worst in the month of May for almost 50 years. The power to almost 30,000 homes was temporarily cut and two people died.
Prof Lockwood said the recent spell of exceptionally dry weather in the south and wet conditions in the northern half of the UK was influenced by the position of the jet stream.
“The jet stream is sitting over the north of England so we are getting very dry weather to the south of the jet stream,” he said.
The Atlantic jet stream brings warm, wet weather to the UK and Europe from the south-west. If it is “blocked” as a result of changes in solar activity, cold air flows across Britain from the east.
One such period of prolonged blocking of the jet stream is thought to have occurred between 1645 and 1715, when Britain experienced a mini ice age, yet also spells of hot, dry summer weather.
Prof Lockwood said solar activity was especially low during this period, adding that current levels of sun-spot activity were continuing to decline. “We reached a high point of solar activity in 1985,” he said.
“Since then, it has been declining. We are now halfway back to the levels seen during the Maunder Minimum. The probability is that that decline will continue for the next 40 years.”
Sunday, May 29, 2011
- In the 1950s, the Jewish Scottish community numbered 18,000 but has now shrunk to around 10,000.
- In 1999 the Jewish community established the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC), as a democratic representative body to speak on the Jewish community's behalf.
- The SCoJeC has successfully worked with the Scottish government on matters of mutual concern.
- Historically there has been little antisemitism in Scotland, but the increase in antisemitic activity has been "associated with events in the Middle East. Specifically, the Scottish trade union movement has pursued a policy of boycotting Israel despite a dialogue with the Jewish community aimed at understanding both sides of the conflict."
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Justices of the Washington State Supreme Court on Tuesday openly questioned whether it was proper for a city and a photo enforcement to thwart the initiative process on the issue of traffic cameras. The question has become increasingly relevant as activists in the cities of Longview and Monroe on Monday turned in signatures they believe will be sufficient to call for a vote on banning red light cameras and speed cameras. Less than a week ago, a Chelan County Superior Court judge ruled that activists in the city of Wenatchee were forbidden from attempting to bring the question of cameras to the voters (view ruling).
Justice James M. Johnson suggested the particular vote that took place last year in Mukilteo was protected by the state’s version of the First Amendment. Johnson even suggested that the initiative proponent’s was not going far enough in his legal arguments.
“I was surprised that you did not cite Article 1 Section 4 of the state constitution, reading as follows: ‘The right of petition and of the people peaceably to assemble… shall never be abridged,’” said Johnson. “The constitution says the right of petition shall never be abridged.”
Mukilteo city officials ultimately conceded that the petition could not be blocked (especially after the high court weighed in), but they refused to concede that the question of red cameras was a matter subject to the referendum process. So city attorney Angela Belbeck claimed there was no choice but to make the vote advisory only. Justice Gerry L. Alexander insisted that was a “debatable” point.
“I’m concerned the city can undercut the initiative process,” Alexander said. “When citizens come in with signatures for an initiative and the city just says, ‘we’ll just call this an advisory ballot.’”
Alexander went on to complain that “we don’t really have the adversarial process” in the case because an American Traffic Solutions front group sued the city of Mukilteo, and both sides are in favor of red light cameras. Other justices seemed concerned that the city pretended in the ballot language and in the voter guide that the vote was on an actual initiative. No material made mention that the vote was merely advisory in nature.
“I find it very puzzling that this was presented as an initiative,” Justice Charles K. Wiggins said. “Why didn’t it go on the ballot as an initiative? There was an initiative petition presented to the city council which could either enact the law or put it on the ballot. They didn’t do either one.”
Meanwhile, in the city of Longview activists Mike Wallin and Josh Sutinen turned in 3628 signatures (30 percent more than necessary) on an initiative petition to give voters the chance to decide whether to outlaw red light cameras and speed cameras. In Monroe, Ty Balascio and the group Seeds of handed in 1175 signatures on the first-ever initiative petition filed in the city. The groups initially thought it would take six months to gather the required support, but each reached the goal in just four. Signature collection is still active in Bellingham and Redmond.
Wayne Crews recently posted an editorial on cost-benefit analysis and regulations. It’s worth a read.
In the 1970s the Carter administration prohibited speedometers from indicating speeds over 85 miles per hour. The idea was around before Carter, but his people implemented it.
Regulations require some justification. The justification was, people might not drive fast if they didn’t know how fast they were going. After some hand-waving and pulling numbers out of orifices it’s possible to fabricate a number of accidents and deaths per year prevented and call that the benefit of the regulation.
As part of Reagan’s regulatory reform the speedometer rule was scrapped. Rescinding a regulation requires some justification. The justification was that there was no real evidence that limiting indicated speed would reduce or had reduced driving speed.
An ineffective regulation is harmful because it imposes costs with no benefits.
Under the laws governing agency rulemaking, both Carter and Reagan were right. NHTSA, the agency responsible for car safety rules, does not have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. It must show that there is some reason to believe a regulation would be good.
It was not impossible that the speedometer rule might have an effect, and it was also not impossible that it would not. When in doubt, do you regulate or leave the market alone? The greatest power of the presidency in domestic policy is the ability to tip the balance of bureaucratic decision-making.
Personally, I think the rule was silly. I don’t exceed 85 for the thrill of watching the needle land on 90. I don’t believe my car will explode or crash because I ran out of numbers. Anecdotal evidence suggests the limit was mostly an excuse for drivers to honestly tell cops they didn’t know how fast they were going.
An agency left to review itself will conclude it is doing a good job. In more recent years NHTSA has gone on to make up numbers on speed, alcohol, seat belts, and airbags.
To create an appearance of serious thought it pays for outside reports and quietly makes sure those reports justify the government agenda. The Parker report on speed limits was initially suppressed by NHTSA because it did not support low speed limits.
Where the costs and benefits are easily calculable and and comparable, it may be sufficient to have a separate agency audit the numbers. When the costs or benefits are hard to determine, the decision is a political question and the agency’s role should be limited to making recommendations.
To get what the government wants they appeal to the public's fears and ignorance. It's always for your own good even if the scenario is made up. Remember when mass death was predicted by the nannies if the speed limit was raised from 55 to 65?
…And congratulations to me, for I have won the BIG office pool.
Here at the BIGS, we all picked squares to back up our prediction of who would be the first member of the MSM to compare the upcoming Sarah Palin documentary”The Undefeated” to Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous pro-Nazi propaganda film. “Triumph of the Will.”
Personally, my gut told me this person would have to be uncommonly angry and cruel; someone willing to stoop to a level of partisan inhumanity where few fear to tread, someone so despicably desperate to destroy another they would use a political figure’s own children as weapons of attack.
Well, according to my Google Alert… Ladies and gents, Mr. Andrew Sullivan:
“If someone gives it a chance and watches it, watches the film, I think they will be surprised at the caricature that’s been drawn and the contrast to reality. I just think every aspect of it is so powerful, you cannot walk away from this film looking at Sarah Palin the same way. You just can’t,” – Meg Stapleton, on the upcoming propaganda movie, “Triumph Of The Will” “The Undefeated.”
The strike-through is Mr. Sullivan’s and a cool nine bucks and an expired Denny’s coupon (thanks for nothing, Dan Riehl) is all mine.