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posted by n1 on Sunday June 18 2017, @11:08PM   Printer-friendly
from the telling-half-the-story dept.

Diane Ravitch, a top public education advocate, reports via AlterNet:

This month, the Public Broadcasting System is broadcasting a "documentary" that tells a one-sided story, the story that [Trump's Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos herself would tell, based on the work of free-market advocate Andrew Coulson. Author of "Market Education", Coulson narrates "School, Inc.", a three-hour program, which airs this month nationwide in three weekly broadcasts on PBS.

Uninformed viewers who see this slickly produced program will learn about the glories of unregulated schooling, for-profit schools, teachers selling their lessons to students on the Internet. They will learn about the "success" of the free market in schooling in Chile, Sweden, and New Orleans. They will hear about the miraculous charter schools across America, and how public school officials selfishly refuse to encourage the transfer of public funds to private institutions. They will see a glowing portrait of South Korea, where students compete to get the highest possible scores on a college entry test that will define the rest of their lives and where families gladly pay for after-school tutoring programs and online lessons to boost test scores. They will hear that the free market is more innovative than public schools.

What they will not see or hear is the other side of the story. They will not hear scholars discuss the high levels of social segregation in Chile, nor will they learn that the students protesting the free-market schools in the streets are not all "Communists", as Coulson suggests. They will not hear from scholars who blame Sweden's choice system for the collapse of its international test scores. They will not see any reference to Finland, which far outperforms any other European nation on international tests yet has neither vouchers nor charter schools. They may not notice the absence of any students in wheelchairs or any other evidence of students with disabilities in the highly regarded KIPP charter schools. They will not learn that the acclaimed American Indian Model Charter Schools in Oakland does not enroll any American Indians, but has a student body that is 60 percent Asian American in a city where that group is 12.8 percent of the student population. Nor will they see any evidence of greater innovation in voucher schools or charter schools than in properly funded public schools.

[...] This program is paid propaganda. It does not search for the truth. It does not present opposing points of view. It is an advertisement for the demolition of public education and for an unregulated free market in education. PBS might have aired a program that debates these issues, but "School Inc." does not.

It is puzzling that PBS would accept millions of dollars for this lavish and one-sided production from a group of foundations with a singular devotion to the privatization of public services. The decision to air this series is even stranger when you stop to consider that these kinds of anti-government political foundations are likely to advocate for the elimination of public funding for PBS. After all, in a free market of television, where there are so many choices available, why should the federal government pay for a television channel?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday June 18 2017, @02:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the Turkish-coffee dept.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has furiously condemned the US decision to issue arrest warrants to 12 members of his security detail because of their involvement in a bloody brawl with peaceful protesters in Washington DC last month.

In a dramatic escalation of tensions between two Nato allies, Erdoğan said on Thursday that his government would "fight politically and judicially" against the warrants that had been issued earlier in the day.

[...] The ministry said in a statement that the ambassador was told the decision to issue arrest warrants was "wrong, biased and lacks legal basis".

"That the brawl in front of the Turkish Ambassador's Residence was caused by the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures; that this incident would not have occurred if the US authorities had taken the usual measures they take in similar high level visits and therefore that Turkish citizens cannot be held responsible for the incident that took place," the statement said.

Erdoğan echoed these statements in televised remarks on Thursday night. "Why would I take my guards to the United States if not to protect myself?" he said.

[...] US senator John McCain called for Turkey's ambassador to the US to be removed from the country because of the fight and to charge those involved with the incident.

"After all, they violated American laws in the United States of America, so you cannot have that happen in the United States of America," McCain told MSNBC last month. "People have the right in our country to peacefully demonstrate and they were peacefully demonstrating."

The House committee on foreign affairs echoed the senators' call in a letter to secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. "Alarmingly, this behavior is indicative of the broad crackdowns on political activists, journalists and religious freedom in Turkey that have greatly harmed Turkish democracy in recent years," the letter said.

Source: The Guardian

In 2011 an incident happened at the UN, Ban-Ki Moon apologized to Turkey for a "misunderstanding" which left UN security officers injured.

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Friday June 16 2017, @07:24PM   Printer-friendly

President Trump has placed some restrictions on travel to Cuba, but has not entirely undone the changes that former President Obama made in his second term:

In an overhaul of one of his predecessor's signature legacies, President Donald Trump will redraw U.S. policy toward Cuba on Friday, tightening travel restrictions for Americans that had been loosened under President Barack Obama and banning U.S. business transactions with Cuba's vast military conglomerate.

Trump's changes are intended to sharply curtail cash flow to the Cuban government and pressure its communist leaders to let the island's fledgling private sector grow. Diplomatic relations reestablished by Obama, including reopened embassies in Washington and Havana, will remain. Travel and money sent by Cuban Americans will be unaffected, but Americans will be unable to spend money in state-run hotels or restaurants tied to the military, a significant prohibition.

Editorials for and against the rollback.

Previously: Deal Will Allow Up to 110 U.S. Flights to Cuba Daily
President Obama Visits Cuba
USA Ends "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" Policy for Cuban Migrants

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Wednesday June 14 2017, @11:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the just-like-old-times dept.

The Republican-led Senate voted decisively to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a wide-ranging sanctions package that targets key sectors of Russia's economy and individuals who carried out cyber attacks.

Senators on Wednesday passed the bipartisan sanctions legislation 97-2, underscoring broad support among Republicans and Democrats for rebuking Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the presidential campaign. Lawmakers who backed the measure also cited Russia's aggression in Syria and Ukraine.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Wednesday June 14 2017, @04:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-baseball-jokes dept.

A gunman opened fire at U.S. Congressmen and others who were gathered at a practice this morning for the Congressional Baseball Game. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and at least four others were reportedly injured. The gunman, who has been identified by unnamed sources as James T. Hodgkinson III, was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries:

A gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire Wednesday at a park in Alexandria, Va., as Republican members of Congress held a morning baseball practice, wounding at least five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.).

The suspected gunman is James T. Hodgkinson III, 66, from Illinois, according to multiple law enforcement sources. President Trump announced that the gunman, who was wounded in a shootout with officers, has died at an area hospital.

The wounded also included two Capitol Police officers and a congressional aide, according to one law enforcement official and witness accounts.

Congressman Scalise was shot in the hip and is in stable condition.

Hodgkinson's motive may have already been identified by the media:

A Facebook page belonging to a person with the same name includes pictures of Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and rhetoric against President Trump, including a post that reads: "Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co."

Charles Orear, 50, a restaurant manager from St. Louis, said in an interview Wednesday that he became friendly with Hodgkinson during their work together in Iowa on Sanders's campaign. Orear said Hodgkinson was a passionate progressive and showed no signs of violence or malice toward others.

Also at LA Times, Reuters, The Atlantic, The Hill, and CNN.

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Monday June 12 2017, @09:49AM   Printer-friendly
from the join-the-club dept.

According to Fox News:

Puerto Rico's governor announced that the U.S. territory has overwhelmingly chosen statehood in a nonbinding referendum Sunday held amid a deep economic crisis that has sparked an exodus of islanders to the U.S. mainland.

Nearly half a million votes were cast for statehood, more than 7,600 for free association/independence and nearly 6,700 for independence, according to preliminary results. The participation rate was just 23 percent with roughly 2.26 million registered voters, leading opponents to question the validity of a vote that several parties had boycotted.

Also covered by AP.

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Sunday June 11 2017, @08:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the owning-up dept.

I blew it.

You rightly hold SoylentNews to a high standard and I let you down when I merged three different political stories into a single story.

Rushing to get out the door to get to work, seeing the story queue running out, having seen the interest in the UK elections in our IRC channel, having heard much on the radio concerning former FBI Director Comey's testimony, seeing a story appear on a likely nomination for that vacated FBI post, and aware of the guideline on only one Politics story per day — I made a hurried decision to merge all three stories together.

The community rightly pointed out the shortcomings in that decision. Rest assured I won't make THAT decision again!

In retrospect, it would have been much better if I released two separate stories — one with the UK Election vote, and another with a merge of the FBI-related stories with, say, a 12-hour spacing between them.

It is a privilege to volunteer for this site, one that I do not take lightly. I let down the community — you deserve better. Trust that I have taken this lesson to heart and will strive to do better going forwards.


[n1: There will be a UK election story coming in the next day or so, when more details are available. The majority of the coverage so far is speculation and reports of agreements have been retracted.]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday June 09 2017, @12:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the merging-the-swamps dept.

We had three different political stories submitted. In the interest of trying to keep political discussions from spilling over into other stories, I have merged them all into this one story. If you are not interested in politics, you are free to ignore this story — another story will be along presently. --martyb

Tories Turned Over in UK General Election


Theresa May will visit Buckingham Palace at 12:30 BST to seek permission to form a new UK government, despite losing her Commons majority.

She is seeking to stay in office on the understanding that the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland will support her minority administration.

With one seat left to declare, the Tories are eight seats short of the 326 figure needed to command a majority.

The Guardian
Telegraph (beware awful ads, but it's a Tory broadsheet)

In other news:
* The UK stock market is up but the pound is down
* European leaders react with a mix of incredulity, conciliatory statements; Brexit plans in tatters
* Record number of female MPs returned; overall high turnout

Fired FBI Director James Comey Lays out the Case That President Trump Obstructed Justice

Former FBI director James B. Comey on Thursday essentially laid out an obstruction of justice case against President Trump and suggested senior leaders in the bureau might have actually contemplated the matter before Trump removed him as director.

Comey did not explicitly draw any legal conclusions. Whether justice was obstructed, he said, was a question for recently appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. But he said Trump’s request to terminate the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn left him “stunned,” and senior FBI officials considered it to be of “investigative interest.”

Of particular concern, Comey said, was that Trump asked other officials to leave him alone with his FBI director in the Oval Office before saying of Flynn: “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

“Why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office?” Comey said. “That, to me as an investigator, is a very significant fact.”

President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Christopher A. Wray to be Director of FBI

June 7, 2017 at 7:05 PM ET by The White House

Today, President Donald J. Trump announced he will nominate Christopher Asher Wray as the new Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Wray graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1989, then continued on to receive his law degree from Yale Law School in 1992. He started his legal career as a clerk to Judge J. Michael Luttig of the United States Court of Appeals.

In 1997, Wray began his extensive public service career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. In May 2001, Wray became the Associate Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice and within five months he was appointed the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. He was a vital member of the DOJ’s operations during and following the 9/11 attacks.

Wray was appointed to serve as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the U.S. DOJ’s Criminal Division by President George W. Bush and was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. He led federal criminal law investigations in areas, including: securities fraud, healthcare fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and trade sanctions violations, bank secrecy and money laundering offenses, public corruption, and intellectual property piracy and cybercrime. While he was head of the Criminal Division from 2003 to 2005, Wray worked tirelessly to counteract the wave of corporate fraud scandals and to restore trust in the U.S. financial system. At the end of his term, Wray was given the Edmund J. Randolph Award, which is the DOJ’s most prestigious award for leadership and public service.

Since leaving the DOJ in 2005, Wray has worked as a litigation partner at King & Spalding. He chairs the King & Spalding Special Matters and Government Investigations Practice Group, which specializes in white-collar crimes and regulatory enforcement. He has represented Fortune 100 companies and ranked as a leading litigator by Chambers USA, Best Lawyers in America, and Legal 500. Wray has performed successful oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

His wealth of experience in government enforcement and jurisprudence makes Christopher A. Wray an outstanding choice as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3

posted by n1 on Friday June 09 2017, @12:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the kill-'em-all dept.

Gerrymandering has a long and unpopular history in the United States. It is the main reason that the country ranked 55th of 158 nations — last among Western democracies — in a 2017 index of voting fairness run by the Electoral Integrity Project

[...] Lawsuits fighting partisan gerrymandering are pending around the country, and a census planned for 2020 is expected to trigger nationwide redistricting. If the mathematicians succeed in laying out their case, it could influence how those maps are drawn.

[...] States such as Arizona and Iowa, which have independent or bipartisan commissions that oversee the creation of voting districts, fared much better. In a separate analysis, Daniel McGlone, a geographic-information-system data analyst at the technology firm Azavea in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ranked each state’s voting districts for compactness as a measure of gerrymandering, and found that Maryland had the most-gerrymandered districts. North Carolina came second. Nevada, Nebraska and Indiana were the least gerrymandered.

[...] In the summer of 2016, a bipartisan panel of retired judges met to see whether they could create a more representative set of voting districts for North Carolina. Their maps gave Mattingly a chance to test his index. The judges’ districts, he found, were less gerrymandered than in 75% of the computer-generated models — a sign of a well-drawn, representative map. By comparison, every one of the 24,000 computer-drawn districts was less gerrymandered than either the 2012 or 2016 voting districts drawn by state legislators

[...] Political scientist Nicholas Stephanopoulos at the University of Chicago, Illinois, takes a much simpler approach to measuring gerrymandering. He has developed what he calls an “efficiency gap”, which measures a state’s wasted votes: all those cast for a losing candidate in each district, and all those for the victor in excess of the proportion needed to win. If one party has lots of landslide victories and crushing losses compared with its rivals, this can be a sign of gerrymandering.

Note: Please try to keep the discussion on the topic of gerrymandering.

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Thursday June 08 2017, @08:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the other-people's-money dept.

The Republican-controlled house and senates of Kansas voted to increase taxes and to override the governor's veto of a bill to increase taxes.

The current governor pushed through tax cuts, intended to grow Kansas' economy, but during the tax cuts, Kansas' growth was lower than the country's overall growth.

The increase follows years in which the state was unable to balance its budget, and the funding for education was found to be unconstitutionally low.

In my view, state budgets are likely to take a hit from Trump's stealth tax increase: by reducing funding for programs and forcing the states to step in, the states will have to find extra money to fill the gaps.

Original Submission