Saturday, October 30, 2010

215,000 rally for "Decaf Party"

October 30, 2010
Jon Stewart Rally: The Signs

..."I'm for the separation of church and hate."
{Sign at rally]...

"But we live now in hard times, not end times. ... Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine."...

Sanity Reigns in Jon Stewart's America
New York Magazine

...Stewart gave up on an earlier plan to have the crowd count off one by one, and so reliable estimates of the crowd's size were hard to come by. CBS commissioned a firm that put the number at 215,000; the same company had estimated a mere 87,000 for the Glenn Beck event in August. (Beck insisted that "Restoring Honor" had at least half a million.)...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Half Of American High School Children Bullied During Last 12 Months

Half Of American High School Children Bullied During Last 12 Months
by Christian Nordqvist
Medical News Today
27 Oct 2010

Bullying and being bullied have become a part of life for a considerable proportion of American high school children, according to the largest study ever which examined attitudes and conduct in the USA. The study, created by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, reports that 47% of high school kids said that they were bullied to the point of becoming "seriously upset" over the last 12 months, while 50% admitted to bullying somebody. 43,321 schoolchildren responded to the survey. According to the Institute, their findings have a margin of error of no more than one percent.

Michael Josephson, the Institute's founder said:

If the saying, 'sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me' was ever true, it certainly is not so today. Insults, name calling, relentless teasing, and malicious gossip often inflict deep and enduring pain," he added. "It's not only the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization that's troublesome.

The Internet has intensified the injury. What's posted on the Internet is permanent, and it spreads like a virus - there is no refuge. The difference between the impact of bullying today versus 20 years ago is the difference between getting into a fist fight and using a gun.

Highlighted in the report are the following details regarding high school pupils in the USA:

* 33% believe that their school has a serious violence problem
* 24% report not feeling very safe at their school
* 52% say that anger led them to strike somebody
* 10% admit to taking a weapon to school at least once during the previous year
* 16% say they were drunk while at school

Josephson said:

The combination of bullying, a penchant toward violence when one is angry, the availability of weapons, and the possibility of intoxication at school increases significantly the likelihood of retaliatory violence.

There are three basic types of bullying - physical, verbal and emotional. It often involves subtle methods of coercion, such as psychological manipulation. There are various definitions of bullying. In some US states bullying is illegal, while the UK has no current definition of it.

Dan Olweus, a Norwegian researcher defined bullying as:

(when a person is) exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons. (negative action is) when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.

Bullying may include:

* verbal abuse
* written abuse
* physical abuse
* exclusion from activities
* exclusion from social situations
* coercion
* extortion

The act of bullying can be caused by several factors, such as a reaction to being bullied, jealousy, a way of seeming tough, or a means of gaining attention and/or popularity. According to the USA National Center for Education Statistics, bullying can be broken down into:

* Direct bullying - which involves physical aggressions, for example poking, slapping, punching, kicking, shoving, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching, pinching, tripping, etc.
* Indirect bullying (social aggression) - which involves threatening somebody into isolation by spreading gossip, bullying those who attempt to socialize with the victim, criticizing his/her clothes, race, disability, etc. Indirect bullying may also include the silent treatment (UK: putting somebody on Coventry), spreading lies, rumors, (false) gossip, giggling and laughing at the target person, mocking, and using words known to remind the victim of past events.

The effects of bullying on the victim can be serious, devastating, and sometimes fatal. The victim may suffer from extreme loneliness, anxiety, low-self esteem, and depression. There may be a higher susceptibility to illnesses. UK authorities estimate that between 15 and 25 British children commit suicide each year because of bullying.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rand Paul Supporter Steps on Woman's Head (Video)

October 26, 2010
Rand Paul Supporter Steps on Woman's Head (Video)
Posted by Brian Montopoli
CBS News

Before the start of last night's Kentucky Senate debate, a supporter of Republican Rand Paul stepped on the head of a woman who tried to approach the candidate. You can see raw video of the incident at left.

The woman, Lauren Valle, is affiliated with the liberal group As the Louisville Courier Journal reports, she said later she was trying to give Paul a satiric award from "RepubliCorp," which was meant to sarcastically thank Paul for merging political speech and the interests of big business. She was trying to get her picture taken with him while presenting the award.

As you can see in the video, Valle had her blond wig pulled off and was wrestled to the ground, apparently by a support of Paul. As she lies on the ground, a man holding a Paul sign steps on Valle's head and shoulders. As this happens, a third man can be heard saying, "no, no, no, no - come on."

Valle, who reported the incident to the police, appeared to be OK afterward, though she said she was left with "a bit of a headache." She said she "just wanted to get out here with a sign, but I got my head stepped on."...

Monday, October 25, 2010

SDUSD General Counsel Mark Bresee is out; Keenan and Associates

Insurance companies and brokers play a big role in schools. One insurance broker, Keenan and Associates, seems to have triggered recent problems in San Diego Unified School District. (See second story below.)

Schools' Top Attorney Is Out
Voice of San Diego
by Emily Alpert
October 25, 2010

School district attorney Mark Bresee is leaving San Diego Unified to join an education law firm. The school district announced his departure after a dispute over closed meeting rules that led one school board member to publicly criticize his judgment as an attorney and suggest Bresee should step down.

The school district said Breese told Superintendent Bill Kowba that he had decided to leave a week ago, and told the school board Thursday. The press release also stated:

"Mark has provided excellent counsel to the Board and excellent leadership for our legal services office. Through his efforts we realized significant savings in our overall legal expenses," said Richard Barrera, Board President. "Mark is as fine a public servant as I have ever encountered."

Bresee was recently criticized by school board member John de Beck for excluding him from a closed school board meeting over concerns that he had a conflict of interest. An outside attorney later determined that de Beck should not have been excluded from the meeting, de Beck and another school board member said.

Though the school board was informed by email on Thursday that Bresee was leaving, de Beck, who has been traveling in Turkey, issued an email announcement Friday saying he believed Bresee should consider stepping down.

Bresee said he had already decided to leave before de Beck sent his email. He is joining the firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo as a partner.

Dual Roles Put School Board Member in Bind
October 21, 2010
by Emily Alpert

School board member John de Beck was outraged.

Weeks ago, he was frozen out of a closed school board meeting. Nobody had told him the meeting was happening at all. And then the school district attorney said he'd been kept out of the loop because he had a potential conflict of interest.

The school board was talking about the co-op that provides its employees medical benefits, the Southern California Schools Voluntary Employees Benefits Association. For almost four years, de Beck has sat on the health trust board. At the same time, he has voted on and discussed issues relating to the health trust as a San Diego Unified school board member.

De Beck said the idea that he has a conflict is ridiculous. He gets no money for serving. The health trust board is supposed to include a school board member.

His role hasn't been publicly questioned before. But in the last few weeks, de Beck has been criticized for his dual roles. Other school board members and the school district attorney have questioned whether de Beck can be loyal to both boards at once. If something is good for the school district and not for the trust — or vice versa — they worry de Beck could be torn.

"I'm not sure how objective you could be," said school board member John Lee Evans.

The issue exploded after the school district started exploring whether it should split from the trust altogether. De Beck has been firmly opposed to leaving the trust.

He said excluding him from the meeting was illegal. And he argued that because the trust is a nonprofit cooperative, not a private company, it poses no conflict for him to serve on its board.

"I serve as a volunteer," de Beck said. "How can I have a conflict of interest?"

The health trust works with medical insurance carriers to provide benefits for employees in school districts across San Diego County and the state. By pooling the resources of dozens of school districts, it argues, it is able to get better deals than if districts go it alone. De Beck has touted those as reasons to stay with the trust.

Because it is a partnership between labor unions and school district management, its board includes labor leaders and school district superintendents. De Beck is one of two elected officials on the board, representing the County School Boards Association.

Although the group is a nonprofit, there is a lot of money involved. San Diego Unified is budgeted to pay the trust almost $157 million this year for health benefits and overhead. The trust spent more than $5.3 million on management and general expenses last year, according to its tax returns.

Scott Barnett, who is running against de Beck for school board, argues that sitting on the health trust board is no different than if de Beck sat on the board of a textbook publishing company.

"This is a major vendor of the school district," Barnett said. He believes de Beck should have recused himself from any talks about the health trust. "If it isn't illegal, it should be."

Health trust board members get iPads on loan to view meeting materials. Barnett argues they amount to a gift. As de Beck vies for re-election, he has also gotten $750 in campaign contributions from George McGregor, who administers the health trust.

The school board recently hired attorneys to analyze whether de Beck has a legal conflict of interest. School board members said they couldn't share the attorneys' conclusions because they met with them in closed session this week.

Ethics experts said the arrangement could pose ethical problems when disputes divide the district and the trust. For instance, San Diego Unified paid $2.6 million to the trust last year to settle a payment dispute.

De Beck was absent the day the school board approved the settlement. He said he stepped out of health trust meetings about the issue. But on the health trust board, de Beck ultimately made the motion to approve the settlement with the school district. And he readily says that he talked to the school board about the dispute in closed session before the settlement was struck.

He has also voted on health trust issues on the school board, albeit less sensitive ones, such as adding another health plan for retirees and automating billing.

That raises a red flag for Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. He said de Beck shouldn't vote on the health trust or participate actively in discussions about it because its interests could conflict with those of the school board.

The questions about de Beck's roles erupted after a private insurance company, Keenan & Associates, courted San Diego Unified this year. School board members say Keenan argued the district would save money if it separated from the health trust and bought benefits through them. The school board decided to let Keenan get information to evaluate whether it would save money.

Labor unions were wary. San Diego Unified had just signed union agreements for the next three years that included the health trust. Labor leaders were suspicious the district would try to duck those agreements.

De Beck alleged that the school district had improperly given Keenan sensitive information about employees' health. Keenan denies that; San Diego Unified says it is investigating whether or not that happened and issued an agreement to protect employees if it did.

De Beck also accused school board member Shelia Jackson, who raised the idea of separating from the trust, of trying to help Keenan and bypass the unions to do it. In an email to Keenan employees, Keenan consultant Jim Madaffer, a former city councilman, dubbed Jackson their "steadfast and staunch ally." He also said he'd told Jackson they should give the business directly to Keenan without bidding it out.

Jackson said she was just trying to explore their options and had not guaranteed Keenan business.

Nonetheless, the school board was upset by the emails and decided to stop sharing information with Keenan. That stopped Keenan from analyzing whether splitting away from the health trust would save money — but it didn't stop the debate over whether de Beck could keep juggling two boards.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Did Christine O'Donnell's high school fail to teach her about the First Amendment?

19 October 2010
Christine O'Donnell's church and state gaffe makes voters laugh

The US constitution has its quirks but it is crystal clear on one issue: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," begins the first amendment, adopted in 1791. But more than 200 years later, its meaning appears to be lost on Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party favourite running for a US Senate seat.

At a debate today for the Delaware Senate seat once occupied by Vice President Joe Biden, O'Donnell appeared to be nonplussed by the wording of the first amendment, repeatedly returning to the subject and sounding incredulous after her Democratic opponent Chris Coons attempted to explain it to her.

When Coons told her the text of the constitution prohibited government from establishing any religion, O'Donnell replied in apparent bewilderment: "You're telling me that's in the first amendment?"

Minutes earlier, the audience at Widener Law School in Delaware had laughed in derision when O'Donnell asked: "Where in the constitution is the separation of church and state?"

Not only is the first amendment perhaps the most famous part of the constitution but the "establishment clause", as it is known, is the subject of legal precedent stretching back into the 19th century. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson, one of the constitution's authors, declared the clause's aim to build "a wall of separation between church and state"...

Joe Miller: Communist East Germany a Model for Border Security

October 19, 2010
Joe Miller: Communist East Germany a Model for Border Security
by Stephanie Condon
CBS News

The United States should borrow ideas from Communist East Germany to keep its borders secure, Alaska's Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller suggested at a town hall Sunday night.

"The first thing that has to be done is secure the border," Miller said when asked about illegal immigration into the United States, Alaskan blogger Steve Aufrecht first reported.

Miller continued, "East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow. Now, obviously, other things were involved. We have the capacity to, as a great nation, secure the border. If East Germany could, we could."

The Tea Party-backed candidate, who is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, explained that he once served at the Fulda Gap, a point on the former East-West German border. East Germany's border troops were given orders to shoot anyone trying to flee East Germany.

Following the same town hall meeting, a reporter for the Alaska Dispatch was handcuffed and detained by private security guards working for Miller while trying to ask Miller a question.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Court Date Scheduled for Local Child Protection Advocate



Contact: Danielle Grijalva, Director
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
Phone: 760-583-9593
Email: Besafe@csfes.orgAttempt to 'Sue' Child Advocate's Mouth Shut

Court Date Scheduled for Local Child Protection Advocate

Oceanside resident, Danielle Grijalva, will be taken to court by a student exchange placement agency for her efforts to protect foreign exchange students in Minnesota.

Grijalva formed the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, a California-based 501 (c)(3) child protection organization five years ago. She has since been nominated twice for the City of Oceanside Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Award; received a Certificate of Recognition in 2008 by San Diego County Board of Supervisors for being selected to receive the Channel 10 News Leadership Award for her hard work and service to the San Diego region and is currently Ambassador of Child-Safe, Ltd., of the United Kingdom.

In June, 2009, a lawsuit was filed in San Diego County Superior Court, Council for Educational Travel USA v. Danielle Grijalva; Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students; Complaint for Damages; Slander Per Se; Libel; Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary and Permanent; Injunction; Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage.

In 2009, a Norwegian foreign exchange student's complaints over living conditions he endured with a host family in Minnesota prompted a state investigation by Minnesota Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann. Gelbmann called upon lawmakers to expand the state's authority to oversee foreign exchange programs.

Star Tribune's Aimee Blanchette's story, "When a foreign exchange year goes bad" dated May 17, 2009, which explained, "Another Norwood parent began making inquiries about Espen's predicament, and that's when the secretary of state's office got involved. When Gelbmann began contacting some of the 37 other Minnesota schools where CETUSA has placed students, he found more reports of problems encountered by students."

On July 16, 2009 during WCCO News Radio 830 interview by Don Shelby with Minnesota Deputy Secretary Jim Gelbman discussed the importance protecting these visiting teens.

Part of the interview:

GELBMANN: ... "Sure, Don. Probably the most common problem that happens with the CETUSA organization in multiple high schools throughout the state is that they would bring more students over to Minnesota than they had families to place them in. And, again, that is against the federal regulations, as well. Federal law requires the organization to have as signed contract with a host family one month before the student arrives in the States. And what would regularly happen is CETUSA would have three or four host families signed up for a specific school and five or six students would be brought over, and then CETUSA would frantically search for host families for the students. In one case that was documented actually WCCO TV a number of years ago, I think back in 2006 um, one CETUSA organization, uh, uh, coordinator had six students living in her basement, had six foreign exchange students living in her basement because she couldn't find host families for them --

SHELBY: And that is violation of law --

GELBMANN: And that is a violation of law right then and there."

To read entire interview:

CETUSA is allegedly blaming Danielle Grijalva, Director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) for the attention given to the vital importance keeping foreign exchange students protected and safe. "Foreign exchange students deserve a positive impression of our country." she said.

Director Grijalva, remains firm, "Abuse by those in positions of trust will not be tolerated."

"Do I believe this is an intimidation tactic? Absolutely." said Danielle Grijalva. She continued, "Let me emphasize that children's safety must be first and foremost in foreign exchanges and every other aspect of education. We want to ensure that visitors to our country enjoy a safe and enriching academic and cultural experience that builds bridges for future collaboration, be it social, educational or economic."

Court date scheduled Friday, October 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm, San Diego Superior Court, North County Division, Dept. N27, 325 S. Melrose Drive in Vista, CA.

Trial date scheduled December 10, 2010 at 8:30 am, San Diego Superior Court, North County Division, Dept. N27, 325 S. Melrose Drive in Vista, CA.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

WikiLeaks and 9/11: What if?

WikiLeaks and 9/11: What if?
Frustrated investigators might have chosen to leak information that their superiors bottled up, perhaps averting the terrorism attacks.
October 15, 2010
By Coleen Rowley and Bogdan Dzakovic
Los Angeles Times

If WikiLeaks had been around in 2001, could the events of 9/11 have been prevented? The idea is worth considering.

The organization has drawn both high praise and searing criticism for its mission of publishing leaked documents without revealing their source, but we suspect the world hasn't yet fully seen its potential. Let us explain.

There were a lot of us in the run-up to Sept. 11 who had seen warning signs that something devastating might be in the planning stages. But we worked for ossified bureaucracies incapable of acting quickly and decisively. Lately, the two of us have been wondering how things might have been different if there had been a quick, confidential way to get information out.
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One of us, Coleen Rowley, was a special agent/legal counsel at the FBI's Minneapolis division and worked closely with those who arrested would-be terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui on an immigration violation less than a month before the World Trade Center was destroyed.

Following up on a tip from flight school instructors who had become suspicious of the French Moroccan who claimed to want to fly a jet as an "ego boost," Special Agent Harry Samit and an INS colleague had detained Moussaoui. A foreign intelligence service promptly reported that he had connections with a foreign terrorist group, but FBI officials in Washington inexplicably turned down Samit's request for authority to search Moussaoui's laptop computer and personal effects.

Those same officials stonewalled Samit's supervisor, who pleaded with them in late August 2001 that he was "trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center." (Yes, he was that explicit.) Later, testifying at Moussaoui's trial, Samit testified that he believed the behavior of his FBI superiors in Washington constituted "criminal negligence."

The 9/11 Commission ultimately concluded that Moussaoui was most likely being primed as a Sept. 11 replacement pilot and that the hijackers probably would have postponed their strike if information about his arrest had been announced.

WikiLeaks might have provided a pressure valve for those agents who were terribly worried about what might happen and frustrated by their superiors' seeming indifference. They were indeed stuck in a perplexing, no-win ethical dilemma as time ticked away. Their bosses issued continual warnings against "talking to the media" and frowned on whistle-blowing, yet the agents felt a strong need to protect the public.

Friday, October 15, 2010

2010: The year of politicking insanely

2010: The year of politicking insanely
By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post
October 15, 2010

Okay, I want to make sure I understand. Two years ago, with the nation facing a host of complex and difficult problems, voters put a bunch of thoughtful, well-educated people in charge of the government. Now many of those same voters, unhappy and impatient, have decided that things will get better if some crazy, ignorant people are running the show? Seriously?...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

School district settles in webcam privacy case

See previous post on this story.

October 12, 2010
School district settles in webcam privacy case
by Edward Moyer

The Philadelphia school district that was sued for remotely and secretly taking pictures of students in their homes, using webcams on laptops issued to the students, has agreed to pay $610,000 to settle the lawsuits.

The Lower Merion School District's Board of School Directors said in a statement today that it will pay $175,000 to plaintiff Blake Robbins and $10,000 to plaintiff Jalil Hassan. An additional $425,000 will be paid out to cover the plaintiffs' legal fees.

"We recognize that in this case, a lengthy, costly trial would benefit no one," the statement said. "It would have been an unfair distraction for our students and staff, and it would have cost taxpayers additional dollars that are better devoted to education. We also wanted to be sensitive to the welfare of the student involved in the case, given the possible ramifications of what would have been a highly publicized trial."

Earlier this year, lawyers for high schooler Robbins and his family sued the district, saying the 15-year-old had been photographed without his knowledge. In a later motion, they said thousands of shots had been taken, including "pictures of Blake partially undressed and of Blake sleeping." They also said images of visited Web sites and of instant messaging exchanges had been recorded. Hassan also sued, and the incident sparked an investigation by local law enforcement agencies and the FBI.

The district admitted webcams had been activated but said the remote photo-taking function had been put in place as a way of tracking stolen laptops. A judge eventually ruled that there was no evidence that would justify criminal charges in the case.

In August, the district approved revised laptop policies that "strictly prohibit remote monitoring...of any kind, including activation of webcams, screenshots, audio, and video."

Monday, October 11, 2010

The man who traveled Italy and endured shipwrecks to provide background for Shakespeare's plays

In 1622 Henry Peacham published, in The Compleat Gentelman, a list of poets who made Elizabeth's reign a "golden age". Unaccountably, he omitted Shakespeare but placed the Earl of Oxford in first place in his list - perhaps he knew them to be the same person.

See The Biography of Edward de Vere.