Thursday, August 28, 2008

Maylasia shuts down political blog

San Diego school boards and government entities are becoming more and more secretive, much like repressive governments around the world.

Secrecy in government is the enemy of democracy, and Americans must work to keep the democracy we have.

Malaysia censors blog after poor poll results
By John Burton in Singapore
August 29 2008

Malaysia's leading political blog was being blocked yesterday in what was seen as a crackdown on internet websites credited with contributing to government losses in this year's general election.

The move came as former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was being sworn in as the new opposition leader following a by-election victory this week that returned him to parliament for the first time in a decade.

Mr Anwar vowed to mount a no-confidence vote against the government by midSeptember.

The Malaysia Today website was blocked by state-owned Telekom Malaysia, the country's leading internet service provider, on the orders of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, which said comments posted on it were "insensitive, bordering on incitement".

The MCMC action represents an apparent reversal of government promises not to censor the internet, except for pornographic websites. The policy was introduced in the 1990s to encourage foreign investment in the showcase Multimedia Super Corridor, near Kuala Lumpur...

[Blogger's note: Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, public entity lawyers in San Diego, are trying to shut down this blogger. See Citizen Media Law Project.]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Covering up is hard to do: China lied about a gymnast's age

Hacker uncovers 'proof' that Chinese gymnast is underage
From (London) Times Online
August 21, 2008
Jane Macartney in Beijing

A determined computer expert has delved into cached pages on the Internet to unearth Chinese official documents showing a gymnast who took gold, edging Britain’s Beth Tweddle into fourth place, may indeed be underage.

Controversy over whether He Kexin, gold medallist in the uneven bars, is under the minimum age of 16 has surrounded her participation in the Beijing Olympics. The latest challenge over the age of the tiny Olympian comes from the discovery through a cyberspace maze of Chinese official documents listing her date of birth.

She certainly does not look as if she has reached the minimum competing age of 16. However China says her passport, issued in February, gives her birthday on January 1, 1992, and the International Olympic Committee has said proof from her passport is good enough...

The latest unofficial investigation was carried out by 'Stryde', a computer security expert for the New York-based Intrepidus Group, whose site Stryde Hax revealed a detailed forensic search for Ms He’s age.

The blogger first simply tried Google, only to find that an official listing by the Chinese sports administration that had given her age could no longer be accessed. Next he tried the Google cache, only to find that Ms He’s name had been removed.

So then he tried the cache of Chinese search engine Baidu. There, he found that Baidu lists two spreadsheets in Ms He's name, both giving her date of birth as January 1, 1994 – making her 14 years and 220 days old and too young to compete at these Olympics.

The lists were compiled by the General Administration of Sport of China...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

God made gorillas a lot like us

Mourning Gorilla Holds On to Baby's Body
August 20, 2008

A gorilla at a zoo in the German city of Muenster is refusing to let go of her dead baby's body several days after it died of unknown causes.

Mama Gorilla Grieves for BabyFrank Augstein, APA gorilla at a German zoo is having trouble accepting the death of her baby. Officials at the Allwetter Zoo in Muenster said Wednesday that 11-year-old Gana has been carrying her baby's body around for several days...the 3-month-old male baby died on Saturday but its 11-year-old mother continues to carry its body around. Zuehlke says such behavior is not uncommon to gorillas.

Zuehlke says the mother "is mourning and must say goodbye." The mother gorilla is named Gana.

Who gets spanked the most in school?

Study Finds Minority Kids Paddled More
Aug. 20, 2008

Paddlings, swats, licks. A quarter of a million schoolchildren got them last year -- and blacks, American Indians and kids with disabilities got a disproportionate share of the punishment, according to a study by a human rights group.

Even little kids can be paddled. Heather Porter, who lives in Crockett, Texas, was startled to hear her little boy, then 3, say he'd been spanked at school. Porter was never told, despite a policy at the public preschool that parents be notified.

"We were pretty ticked off, to say the least. The reason he got paddled was because he was untying his shoes and playing with the air conditioner thermostat," Porter said. "He was being a 3-year-old."

For the study, which was being released Wednesday, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union used Education Department data to show that, while paddling has been declining, racial disparity persists. Researchers also interviewed students, parents and school personnel in Texas and Mississippi, states that account for 40 percent of the 223,190 kids who were paddled at least once in the 2006-2007 school year.

Porter could have filled out a form telling the school not to paddle her son, if only she had realized he might be paddled.

Yet many parents find that such forms are ignored, the study said.

Widespread paddling can make it unlikely that forms will be checked. A teacher interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Tiffany Bartlett, said that when she taught in the Mississippi Delta, the policy was to lock the classroom doors when the bell rang, leaving stragglers to be paddled by an administrator patrolling the hallways. Bartlett now is a school teacher in Austin, Texas.

And even if schools make a mistake, they are unlikely to face lawsuits. In places where corporal punishment is allowed, teachers and principals generally have legal immunity from assault laws, the study said.

"One of the things we've seen over and over again is that parents have difficulty getting redress, if a child is paddled and severely injured, or paddled in violation of parents' wishes," said Alice Farmer, the study's author...

African American students are more than twice as likely to be paddled. The disparity persists even in places with large black populations, the study found. Similarly, Native Americans were more than twice as likely to be paddled, the study found.

The study also found:

-- In states where paddling is most common, black girls were paddled more than twice as often as white girls.
-- Boys are three times as likely to be paddled as girls.
-- Special education kids were more likely to be paddled...

Is USD afraid students might agree with Rosemary Radford Ruether? Sorry, students, that's not allowed.

USD revokes invitation to feminist theologian
By Sherry Saavedra
August 20, 2008

A University of San Diego decision rescinding a prestigious position to a Catholic feminist theologian has thrust it smack in the middle of a national debate over academic freedom versus adherence to church teachings.

Two national women's religious groups have sponsored a petition with more than 2,000 signatures demanding that she be allowed to assume the post.

USD is standing by its decision.

“Her public position and the symbol of this chair are in direct conflict,” said USD spokeswoman Pamela Gray Payton. “This chair is a powerful, visible symbol of Roman Catholic theology, and in Roman Catholic theology abortion is disallowed.”

The flap underscores a long-standing issue for American Catholic colleges: the debate over academic freedom versus fealty to Catholic doctrine...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Yang Peiyi's teeth weren't straight enough for the 2008 China Olympics opening ceremonies

The Communist leaders of China are a rigid, unimaginative bunch--but we knew that, right?

Recently a politburo member ordered Yang Peiyi, above, to be replaced at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics by a girl who had a "more perfect" appearance. The other girl lip-synched to Peiyi's voice on tape.

Strict conformity is apparently required in China, and that applies to teeth as well as to behavior.

Now that they've become capitalists, the Communist leaders of China have no excuse for forbidding democracy. They don't have an ideological leg to stand on. Still, something tells me that democracy won't come to China for a very long time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

McCain's energy policy: stay away when there's a vote on solar and wind energy

Eight Strikes and You’re Out
Published: August 12, 2008

"John McCain recently ...[told] a motorcycle convention that Congress needed to come back from vacation immediately and do something about America’s energy crisis. “Tell them to come back and get to work!” McCain bellowed.

"Sorry, but I can’t let that one go by. McCain knows why.

"It was only five days earlier, on July 30, that the Senate was voting for the eighth time in the past year on a broad, vitally important bill — S. 3335 — that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.

"Both the wind and solar industries depend on these credits — which expire in December — to scale their businesses and become competitive with coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike offshore drilling, these credits could have an immediate impact on America’s energy profile.

Senator McCain did not show up for the crucial vote on July 30, and the renewable energy bill was defeated for the eighth time. In fact, John McCain has... missed all eight votes over the last year — which effectively counts as a no vote each time. Once, he was even in the Senate and wouldn’t leave his office to vote..."

Evolution is happening in your local forest and fishpond

From the New York Times:

"Evolution should be taught — indeed, it should be central to beginning biology classes — for at least three reasons.

"First, it provides a powerful framework for investigating the world we live in. Without evolution, biology is merely a collection of disconnected facts, a set of descriptions. The astonishing variety of nature, from the tree shrew that guzzles vast quantities of alcohol every night to the lichens that grow in the Antarctic wastes, cannot be probed and understood...

The second reason for teaching evolution is that the subject is immediately relevant here and now. The impact we are having on the planet is causing other organisms to evolve — and fast. And I’m not talking just about the obvious examples: widespread resistance to pesticides among insects; the evolution of drug resistance in the agents of disease, from malaria to tuberculosis; the possibility that, say, the virus that causes bird flu will evolve into a form that spreads easily from person to person. The impact we are having is much broader.

For instance, we are causing animals to evolve just by hunting them. The North Atlantic cod fishery has caused the evolution of cod that mature smaller and younger than they did 40 years ago. Fishing for grayling in Norwegian lakes has caused a similar pattern in these fish. Human trophy hunting for bighorn rams has caused the population to evolve into one of smaller-horn rams. (All of which, incidentally, is in line with evolutionary predictions.)

Conversely, hunting animals to extinction may cause evolution in their former prey species. Experiments on guppies have shown that, without predators, these fish evolve more brightly colored scales, mature later, bunch together in shoals less and lose their ability to suddenly swim away from something. Such changes can happen in fewer than five generations. If you then reintroduce some predators, the population typically goes extinct...

The third reason to teach evolution ... concerns the development of an attitude toward evidence. In his book, “The Republican War on Science,” the journalist Chris Mooney argues persuasively that a contempt for scientific evidence — or indeed, evidence of any kind — has permeated the Bush administration’s policies, from climate change to sex education, from drilling for oil to the war in Iraq. A dismissal of evolution is an integral part of this general attitude.

Moreover, since the science classroom is where a contempt for evidence is often first encountered, it is also arguably where it first begins to be cultivated...

Maybe we really aren't as decent as our parents were

Here's a story to make us ashamed: "The Descent of Man."

The New York Times offers a comparison by Maurice Isserman of the recent tragedy on K2 in Pakistan in which 11 climbers died with an earlier expedition on K2 fifty-five years ago.

The August 9, 2008 story says, "...Describing the chaotic events that ensued when a pinnacle of ice collapsed and swept away fixed ropes that climbers from several expeditions high on the mountain had counted on to aid their descent from the summit, Mr. van Rooijen lamented: "Everybody was fighting for himself, and I still do not understand why everybody were leaving each other."..."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

100 years since Springfield, Illinois erupted

A white mob rioted for days in Springfield, the town where Lincoln was born.

On anniversary of race riot, Lincoln's hometown acknowledges events it ignored for generations
08-09-2008 1:02 PM
Associated Press

Two days of terror. Black men tortured and hanged. A baby dead of exposure. Four white rioters shot by black defenders.

It wasn't America's first riot, and certainly not the last.

But this one was in the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, the president who helped end slavery.

Today, Lincoln's city _ where Barack Obama launched his campaign to become the first black president _ is finally commemorating the events that erupted 100 years ago this month.

At the time, even respectable citizens came out to gawk at the smoldering rubble and a body hanging from a tree.

"His feet dangling and within reach ... the men and boys played with the corpse by swinging it back and forth against the building to hear the dull thud," a local newspaper reported.

Outraged activists helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in response to this "race war in the north."...

The riots led to 107 indictments and 85 arrests.

But witnesses, either sympathetic to the rioters or intimidated by them, were hard to find.

One mob leader killed herself rather than stand trial.

One man was sentenced to 30 days in jail for stealing a sword from a black veteran, and a teenager was sent to a reformatory for a few months.

The city power structure quickly played down the riot.

"This was not a race war at all," one newspaper claimed. In decades to come, the obituaries for key participants _ including the sheriff whose protection of his prisoners helped trigger the violence _ would contain no mention of the riot.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Broader, Bolder Approach to Education

In a recent blog, Eduwonkette writes about the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education described by Sunny Ladd, Pedro Noguera, and Tom Payzant, and introduces Dr. Suet-Ling Pong's reasearch regarding the effect of family situations and social programs on student learning:

"...In the U.S., children growing up in single-parent families are comparatively worse off in their math and science achievement, relative to similar children in two-parent families, than is true in other countries, and some European countries have much smaller achievement gaps between single-parent and two-parent families than do others.

"A country’s family policy environment is what makes the difference. Family policy takes many forms, including maternity and parental leave, child-care programming and subsidies, public after-school programs, and housing subsidies, to name a few. Countries which Pong and her colleagues describe as having strong family and welfare policies have smaller achievement gaps in math and science between children in single-parent and two-parent families than are found in other countries..."