Saturday, April 20, 2013

Check out the Millionaires List on Forbes

Gunmaker Says New Law Forcing it to Leave Connecticut by Phil Gast

CNN) -- A manufacturer of military-style rifles says it is leaving Connecticut and is encouraging other companies to do the same after last week's signing of sweeping gun legislation.

PTR Industries of Bristol said the bill approved by the General Assembly was "fraught with ambiguous definitions, insufficient considerations for the trade, conflicting mandates and disastrous consequences for the fundamental rights of the people of Connecticut."

In a statement, the company said it hopes to pick a site by summer and move by the end of the year.

Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday signed what advocacy groups call the strongest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation.

The law bans some weapons as well as the sale or purchase of high-capacity magazines like those used in the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting in December that left 20 children and six adults dead. It also requires background checks for all gun purchases.

The Connecticut measure adds more than 100 guns to the state's list of banned assault weapons, limits the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and bans armor-piercing bullets.

While the new law allows current owners of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds to keep them, it requires those people to register the magazines with the state and forbids owners from loading them with more than 10 rounds outside their homes or while at a gun range.

"At any given time, we own 100,000 or more 20-round magazines," PTR Industries CEO Josh Fiorini told CNN affiliate WFSB. "How are we supposed to individually register all of those magazines?"

With the restrictions and loss of sales, Fiorini said, his company will be unable to make payroll.

John McNamara, vice president of sales, said PTR Industries has 42 employees. "Indirectly, we employ 15 to 20 local vendors at any given time who have up to 15 to 30 employees each," he told CNN on Wednesday.

All of the company's rifles are semiautomatic.

PTR Industries sells its products to national distributors, and they are resold to federally licensed retailers across the country, said McNamara.

McNamara said he did not have data on current sales in Connecticut, but he said the law makes the company's rifles illegal for sale or transfer within the state.

To Read More Click on the Following Link:


Modern Capitalism's Hall of Hypocrisy by Paul Buchheit

Capitalist greed is splitting our country in two. But rather than look objectively at their failures, many of those responsible have been hypocritical, portraying themselves as advocates of freedom and prosperity while the greater part of America slides toward poverty.

Some of the candidates:

1. The "Get a Job" Critic

This usually well-connected person criticizes the jobless for being lazy. But in a recent poll that asked if "the government in Washington should see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job," 68% of the general public agreed, while only 19% of the wealthy were in agreement.

Apparently they feel the free market will find those jobs. But as they staunchly adhere to their notion, large corporations are holding trillions in cash, transfering millions of jobs overseas, and paying low-level wages to those who have managed to stay employed.

2. The Illusionist

It all started with a "world is flat" reverie, by which every individual in the world is empowered to accomplish great things. Then on to "create your own job" hyperbole, and on a global scale to the capitalist's belief that "a billion people have been lifted from poverty through free-market competition."

The message being spread by the people at the top is that everyone benefits, and everyone has opportunities.

The reality is that only the top of the mountain is flat. Or more accurately, the plateau just below the top of the mountain is flat. Perhaps 10% (or somewhere between 5% and 20%) of the U.S. is doing reasonably well, especially with 93% of non-home wealth owned by the richest quintile of Americans. Everyone else has experienced a 35-year decline in income. But hypocrisy bares its contemptuous soul with its hurrahs for the ever-growing stock market.

Outside our borders, world inequality has decreased, but largely because of the rapid ascent of China, while INSIDE China inequality has grown at a pace rivaling the United States. There may be a half-billion young Chinese laborers who are technically above poverty level, but GDPs don't measure the quality of life or asset distribution of 70-hour-per-week factory workers.

3. The Self-Made Man

Wealthy individuals pride themselves on their successes from meager beginnings. Many of this self-congratulatory group grew up as educated white males in the richest nation ever in the most productive time in the history of the world. They rode the technology engine for thirty years, benefiting from federal funding that provided almost half of basic research funds into the 1980s, and half of research in the communications industry as late as 1990.

Now, of course, it's much different. Globalization and automation have eliminated many of the old opportunities. Half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. And while it's always been more of a struggle for the lowest-income people, it's even worse now, withmore than half of those individuals in the bottom income quintile remaining there 10 years later. Compared to other developed countries, the U.S. ranks near the bottom in economic mobility.

To Read More Click on the Following Link:


Texas Teacher Invokes the ‘I’m Too Prejudiced Against Blacks To Touch One’ Defense

By AATTP contributing author, the Progressive Populist

A Texas first-grade teacher facing a felony charge of indecency with a child used the “I’m too racist to do such a thing” defense to investigators who questioned her over the incident.

Irene Esther Stokes, a white 61-year-old teacher at Northwest Preparatory Academy Charter School, in Humble, TX told investigators that she did not touch the first grade student, and that she “doesn’t like to touch the black students because she [is] prejudiced,” according to the criminal complaint from Harris County district attorney’s office.

The alleged incident took place in March, when Stokes asked everyone in her classroom to leave the room except for the African American victim. Stokes then proceeded to touch the student inappropriately on her “private part” on the outside of her clothes. When the girl told her to stop, Stokes allegedly sent her out of the classroom, where she remained the rest of the day, as the class took a test and went to lunch without her, according to Sara Marie Kinney, Harris County DA’s office spokesperson.

Humble police became involved when the student told her mother what happened. As part of the investigation, Stokes was submitted to a polygraph test, which she failed, after she denied what happened.

She also told investigators that “she does not like the complainant and has very little to no interaction with this complainant,” according to the report.  Stokes also denied ever being alone with the complainant or not allowing her to eat lunch.

Stokes posted a $10,000 bond and is due in court in May, and has been fired from her teaching position, likely for admitting her prejudice.

Governor Perry and Texan Republicans Hypocritically Demand Federal Aid after Plant Explosion

Governor Perry and Texan Republicans Hypocritically Demand Federal Aid After Plant Explosion

By AATTP contributor Omar from Occupy Democrats

Just as America thought Texan Republicans had reached the peak of their hypocrisy, Wednesday night came around and took them to a new all-time high. The city of West, Texas was rocked by a devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant. The explosion was so powerful, it leveled the surrounding area and led to over 200 injuries. Soon after, Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a statement declaring a disaster area and imploring President Obama to follow his lead and declare it a federal disaster emergency.

At face value, there is absolutely nothing wrong with state governors requesting federal assistance during times of disaster and unprecedented need. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out the glaring hypocrisy of a governor that rails against the federal government, proudly labels himself a secessionist, then turns around and begs for federal assistance during times of hardship.

Gov. Perry has made a career out of rallying against any and all kinds of federal spending, including funding for education, infrastructure, bailouts, and economic stimulus. He is revered by the right as a small government advocate, always defending the autonomy of individual states and the magic hand of the free market. Why is he requesting federal assistance for a local matter regarding a private company?

Of course, the Texan Republican hypocrisy does not stop there. It is not only Gov. Perry that partakes, but the entire Republican controlled Texan Congress. Texan congressmen in both the United States House and Senate voted against federal disaster relief for victims of hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. Senator Ted Cruz is on record calling federal Sandy relief aid “pork”. It goes without saying, but this is just another example of hypocritical red state Republicans opposing all types of federal spending on anybody but themselves.

It is also worth mentioning that, not only do red states contribute less in tax revenue for the federal government than blue states, they also receive considerably more money in government aid for welfare services such as food stamps and unemployment benefits.

This Republican political “bait and switch” won’t come to an end until the American people wise up and make some noise about the glaring hypocrisy concerning federal disaster aid. If you live in Texas, please call or email your local representative and let them know how you feel about their cynical double standard. If you live elsewhere, get the message out by sharing this and other related posts on social media.

Monday, April 8, 2013

School Discipline Gap Explodes

Joy Resmovits: School 'Discipline Gap' Explodes As 1 In 4 Black Students Suspended, Report Finds
April 8, 2013 20:39:56
For years, education advocates have highlighted the dire importance of closing the achievement gap of academic performance between students of different ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Now, another group of advocates is drawing attention to the discipline gap of unequal punishments to different groups of students.
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles Civil Rights Project, released two reports on Monday that show the increasing gap between suspension rates of black and white students. One million -- or one in nine -- middle school and high school students were suspended in 2009-2010, including 24 percent of black students and 7.1 percent of white students.
Most of the suspensions came not in response to violent behavior, but for minor infractions such as dress code violations or lateness. The research also found that suspensions increase the likelihood kids will drop out of school and commit crimes.
School districts that suspend students are hurting themselves, said Damon Hewitt, the director of education practice for the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund. "You can't close achievement gaps if you have a discipline gap at the same time," he said.
Suspensions as a discipline tool have skyrocketed over the last few decades, said Dan Losen, a UCLA professor who authored the report. In the 1970s, he said Monday, 12 percent of all African American students were suspended out of school at least once, as were 6 percent of white students. In 2009-2010, the African American statistic had doubled to 24 percent, while the number of white students suspended increased by one percentage point.
The report found that one in three black middle school males were suspended once or more during the school year. The numbers were worse for racial minorities with disabilities: 36 percent of black students with disabilities in secondary school were suspended at least once.
"Certain students, especially poor students and African American students, are more likely to receive harsher penalties," said Russell Skiba, an Indiana University professor who worked on one of the reports.
The study also looked at patterns within schools and districts, identifying 2,624 "hotspot" secondary schools that suspended at least one quarter of students, and 519 high schools that suspended at least half of students. Of all the districts investigated, Chicago had the largest number of "hotspot" schools, with 82. It was followed by Memphis, Tenn.; Clark County, Nev.; Los Angeles; and Houston.
The startling findings come as schools across the country grapple with safety concerns following outbreaks of school violence, such as the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting in December. School violence, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Friday, can undermine the nation's broader educational goals. "All we're talking about is don't live for today, delay gratification and work for college," he said. "But if you are trying to survive day after day after day, we're talking a foreign language, we're not even in the same ballgame."
In response to such violence, 27 states have started taking up legislation to allow -- or in Indiana's case, require -- armed guards in schools. But the advocates behind the UCLA reports found that more cops don't always increase safety, and may contribute to a culture of fear.
The Obama administration's gun control proposal includes a plan to create 1,000 counselors or "school resource officers," guards that can carry guns. "We need a lot fewer children being shot and killed and we need a lot fewer children growing up in a climate of fear," Duncan said.
Reducing suspensions, Losen said, is a better way to curb school violence than simply adding cops. "When you're reducing suspensions you're improving student engagement … you're improving the safety of these learning environments," he said. Freeing up school counselors to focus on safety instead of minor infractions such as cell phone policing may also be beneficial, he added. "Before we invest our scarce resources in more police, I think it's imperative that we give resources to the areas we know will produce a sense of safety," he said.
One of the reports, written by Johns Hopkins University professor Bob Balfanz, found that suspensions have high long-term costs. "Suspensions are very costly, a key engine through which we engineer inequality at a steep economic price," Balfanz said. He found that a single suspension in ninth grade doubles the odds of dropping out. He also found that for one-fifth of ninth graders, the suspension was the only indicator that they were off track in school. "But many of these students got into trouble in 10th and 11th grade, stopped coming to school," Balfanz said. "You can really see that suspension was a trigger."
The report recommends punishments that don't exclude students or dissuade them from engaging in school, such as restorative justice. But Michael Petrilli, the executive vice president of the right-leaning think tank the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, warns of the potential pitfalls. "Finding alternatives to suspending students is a worthwhile objective, but we can't pretend that there aren't tradeoffs involved," he said. "The first priority should be on creating a safe and orderly environment for the vast majority of students who want to learn and obey the rules. But we should never sacrifice a safe and orderly climate for feel-good efforts for the handful of disruptive students."
The numbers in the reports may provide ammunition to advocates trying to encourage school districts to modify their discipline practices. Manuel Criollo works with the Strategy Center to curb harsh discipline for minor infractions in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He said that while LA's overall suspension numbers have decreased, they have not for African American students. He's trying to pass a School Climate Bill of Rights that would eliminate the use of "willful defiance" as a reason for suspending students. "We need to talk about the literal forms of racism that function in our society," he said. "This report gives us the chance to talk about how the racialized nature of punishment is unequally distributed."

7 Top Health Risks for Men Over 40 by Paula Spencer Scott

 Leading causes of death for men over 40 are well known -- and their risks can be curbed. Here's how to lessen the health risks for middle-aged men.

During midlife and beyond, men's leading causes of death include familiar standbys: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, suicide, and Alzheimer's disease.

To lessen your odds of dying from these killers, curb the critical habits that lead to them:

Risk: Being single

Numerous surveys have shown that married men, especially men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, are healthier and have lower death rates than those who never married or who are divorced or widowed. Never-married men are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, for example. After 50, divorced men's health deteriorates rapidly compared to married men's, found a RAND Center for the Study of Aging report.

What's the magic in the ring? The social connectedness of marriage may lower stress levels and depression, which lead to chronic illness. (Women tend to have more social ties outside of marriage.)

Oops: Unmarried men generally have poorer health habits, too -- they drink more, eat worse, get less medical care, and engage in more risky behaviors (think drugs and promiscuous sex). Exception: It's better to be single than in a strained relationship, probably because of the stress toll, say researchers in Student BMJ.

Silver lining: It's never too late. Men who marry after 25 tend to live longer than those who wed young. And the longer a fellow stays married, the greater the boost to his well-being.

Risk: Electronic overload

Psychologists are debating whether "Internet addiction disorder" is a legitimate diagnosis, and how much is too much, given how ubiquitous screens are in our lives. But one thing's certain: The more time that's spent looking at wide-screen TVs, smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, laptops, and other electronics, the less time that's spent on more healthful pursuits, like moving your body, communing with nature, and interacting with human beings.

Social isolation raises the risk of depression and dementia. And a sedentary lifestyle -- a.k.a. "sitting disease" -- has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premature death. A 2012 Australian study of more than 220,000 adults ages 45 and up linked sitting for 11 or more hours a day with a 40 percent increased risk of death over the next three years.

To read more, click on the following link:


Chicago to Close 54 Schools to address $1B Deficit by Jason Keyser

Chicago public school officials said they plan to close 54 schools because many are half-empty and the move will help solve a $1 billion shortfall. But many parents and teachers say the plan will disproportionately affect minority children.

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools officials ended months of speculation when they released the list of 54 schools the city plans to close, but the pushback against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his schools chief is likely just starting to ramp up.
As word of the schools on the long-awaited closings list trickled out Thursday, parents, teachers and community members — some furious, some in tears — vowed to fight the closings. One group took a bus of people to protest in front of the homes of school board members, and some parents spoke of a lawsuit. The Chicago Teachers Union already had scheduled a mass protest march through downtown for next week.
"We are the City of Big Shoulders and so we intend to put up a fight," union President Karen Lewis said. "We don't know if we can win, but if you don't fight, you will never win at all."

Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett say the closures are necessary because too many Chicago Public School buildings are half-empty, with 403,000 students in a system that has seats for more than 500,000. But opponents say the closures will further erode troubled neighborhoods and endanger students who may have to cross gang boundaries to attend school. The schools slated for closure are all elementary schools and are overwhelmingly black and in low-income neighborhoods.

About 30,000 students will be affected by the plan, with about half that number moving into new schools.

CPS officials say money being spent to keep underused schools open could be better used to educate students elsewhere as the district deals with a $1 billion budget deficit. The district says it will invest money to improve schools that are welcoming new students. The funds will be used to add better technology, air conditioning, tutoring services, increased security and other services. CPS says it also will ensure every school has a library and that students no longer are learning in dilapidated buildings.

To read more, click on the following link:


Tough Laws, Reduced Ranks, What's Next for Unions by Sharon Cohen

Protests over right-to-work laws in Michigan and Indiana, clashes over collective bargaining in Wisconsin and Ohio and a sharp drop in union elections across the U.S. have raised questions about the future of organized labor.

From a sprawling United Auto Workers hall outside Detroit, John Zimmick has seen factories close and grown men cry when their jobs disappear. Through all the economic uncertainties of life in auto country, there has been one constant: the union.
In its nearly 80-year history, Zimmick's UAW Local 174 has been tested by bitter strikes, foreign competition and tenacious opponents. Now comes a new reason for anxiety.
On Thursday, Michigan's right-to-work law takes effect, a stunning shift in this symbolic capital of organized labor. The historic change is just the latest sign of turmoil in the union movement that has seen its nationwide membership shrink to its lowest levels since at least the 1930s — a paltry 6.6 percent in the private sector.
With 14.4 million members, unions still can be a potent political force at the ballot box. But protests in recent years over the passage of right-to-work laws in Michigan and Indiana, clashes over collective bargaining in Wisconsin and Ohio and a sharp drop in union elections across the US have raised larger questions: Where do unions go from here? How they do mend their battered image? Can they recruit new members? And is organized labor even a movement any longer?
Zimmick looks for answers in a union hall steeped in history. It's filled with photos, meeting minutes and other memorabilia belonging to Local 174's first president, Walter Reuther — even a phone used by the legendary leader who transformed the UAW into an economic and political powerhouse. Modern-day realities are far different: With layoffs and some 30 plants closing in the last five years, the local's ranks have dropped by more than a third, to about 5,000.
There could be even more losses with right-to-work, signed into law last December by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Though employees won't have to make mandatory payments to unions that represent them in collective bargaining agreements, Zimmick isn't expecting the measure to have a major impact. "It's going to weaken us," he says, "but it's not going to kill us."
Still, Zimmick worries not just about his local — but the fate of all unions.
"It weighs on me every single night before I go to bed," he says. "Unions don't have the leverage and power that we used to. It doesn't mean we won't regain it. The unions, in my opinion, will come roaring back. ... But the image is terrible right now. The media spins us as hurting business and the non-union workers — there's animosity and jealousy toward us."
Unions still have influence in blue-state strongholds, but the days are long gone when labor leaders were household names and generous contracts were virtually assured. Even in friendly terrain, there are both die-hard supporters and workers who've abandoned the movement.
To read more, click on the following link:

Indiana School Vouchers Upheld in Ruling that Could Set Precedent by Chris Boyette

(CNN) -- In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state's voucher program, which gives poor and middle class families public funds to help pay for private school tuition, including religious schools.

Indiana has the broadest school voucher program available to a range of incomes, critics say, and could set a precedent as other states seek ways to expand such programs.

Supporters say it gives families without financial means more options on where to educate their children.

However, opponents of the Indiana program had sued to block it, describing it as unconstitutional and saying it takes money from public schools.

Teresa Meredith, the vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and one of the plaintiffs, said she was "very disappointed in the ruling."


Unanimous ruling

As many as 9,000 students statewide are part of the voucher program and more than 80% use the funds to go to religious schools, according to Meredith.

But in its unanimous 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court said that was not an issue.

It said it did not matter that funds had been directed to religious schools as long as the state was not directly funding the education. The tuition, the court said, was being funded by the parents who chose to pay it with their vouchers.

"Whether the Indiana program is wise educational or public policy is not a consideration," Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote. The public funds "do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children."

Expanding the program

Unlike other states, Indiana's program is considered especially extensive because the vouchers are not limited to low-income students in failing schools.

A family of four with an annual household income of $64,000 is eligible for vouchers worth up to $4,500 per child, according to the program.

Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence has pushed to expand the program.

"I welcome the unanimous decision by the Indiana Supreme Court to uphold our school choice program," Pence said. "I've long believed that parents should be able to choose where their children go to school regardless of their income."

The state Senate education committee will hear a House bill Wednesday that calls for expanding the voucher program to include children with special needs and those in military families if their household income is as high as $85,000 for a family of four.

Meredith calls the timing "interesting," saying she feels the schools are getting hit twice. She believes the Supreme Court ruling will sway lawmakers who were undecided on the issue before Tuesday's ruling.

She is concerned about the future of the public school system and says other districts nationwide that have voucher programs should watch where the dollars are going and sound the alarm quickly when they see the negative fiscal impact as a result of students transferring to private schools.

A nationwide debate

Private school tuition vouchers are a hot political issue nationwide.

They began in Milwaukee in 1990, according to the National Education Association, and were followed by two other voucher plans in Ohio and Florida.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a challenge to the voucher program in Ohio using logic similar to Tuesday's ruling in Indiana. Courts in Wisconsin and Arizona have also upheld voucher-type laws, according to the American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher group.

A voucher case is in appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court and another one is awaiting ruling at the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Glenda Ritz is the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is not a fan of the voucher system, but in her role in the school system, she was named as one of the defendants.

"As state superintendent, I will follow the court's ruling and faithfully administer Indiana's voucher program," she said. "However, I personally believe that public dollars should go to public schools, and I encourage Hoosiers to send that message to their representatives in the statehouse."


Former Atlanta Schools Superintendent Reports to Jail by Cnn staff

(CNN) -- The former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools was among the educators who surrendered to authorities Tuesday after being indicted by a grand jury in a cheating scandal that rocked the district and drew national attention.

Beverly Hall resigned from her position in 2011 after a state investigation into large, unexplained test score gains in some Atlanta schools. She has denied any role in the cheating scandal.

A Fulton County grand jury last week indicted 35 educators from the district, including principals, teachers and testing coordinators. They were ordered to turn themselves in by Tuesday, District Attorney Paul Howard said.

By 10:00 p.m., 27 of 35 educators had turned themselves in at the Fulton County Jail to face charges including racketeering, theft by taking and making false statements about their roles in an alleged plot to falsify students' standardized tests. Eight of them had been released on bond late Tuesday, the Fulton County Sheriff's office said.

In 2009, Hall was named the National Superintendent of the Year by the Schools Superintendents Association, which at the time said her "leadership has turned Atlanta into a model of urban school reform."

But the indictment paints another picture of Hall, one of a superintendent with "a single-minded purpose, and that is to cheat," Howard told reporters last week.

According to the indictment, Hall placed unreasonable goals on educators and "protected and rewarded those who achieved targets by cheating." It also alleges she fired principals who failed to achieve goals and "ignored suspicious" test score gains throughout the school system.

Her bond was reduced from $7.5 million to $200,000, the Fulton County Sheriff's office reported.

On Tuesday, bond was set at $1 million for Donald Bullock, a testing coordinator at Usher/Collier Heights Elementary School, Theresia Copeland, a testing coordinator at Benteen Elementary School, and Gregory Reid, a Parks Middle School assistant principal. Bond amounts were set by grand jurors.

Others who turned themselves in included testing coordinators, teachers and an instructional coach, said Fulton County Sheriff spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan.

Investigations into the remarkable improvements on standardized tests were first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. A state review determined that some cheating had occurred in more than half the district's elementary and middle schools. About 180 teachers were implicated initially. Cheating is believed to date back to early 2001, when standardized testing scores began to turn around in the 50,000-student school district, according to the indictment.

For at least four years, between 2005 and 2009, test answers were altered, fabricated and falsely certified, the indictment said.

"We've had cheating all up and down the line. It was absolutely amazing," said Michael Bowers, a former Georgia attorney general who investigated the cheating scandal.

Bowers said there were cheating parties, erasures in and out of classrooms, and teachers were told to make changes to tests. "Anything that you can imagine that could involve cheating, it was done."

During the investigation, he heard that educators cheated out of pride, to earn bonuses, to enhance their careers or to keep their jobs, he said. Some teachers, overcome with emotion, fainted during his interview with them, he said.

"Not only were the children deprived, a lot of teachers were forced into cheating, forced into criminal acts," Bowers said. "Now, granted, they did wrong, but a lot of them did this to protect jobs."

Educators and community members reacted Tuesday to the charges.

"The Atlanta school community is obviously very upset about this," said Stephen J. Alford, Atlanta Public Schools' executive director of communications. "I don't want to pass judgment on the people, but we've had a lot of parents who wanted to express their disappointment."

In a statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Georgia Federation of Teachers President Verdaillia Turner wrote: "We do not condone cheating under any circumstances. Academic achievement can never be separated from academic integrity, which is why the Georgia Federation of Teachers was the first whistle-blower to expose Atlanta testing irregularities.

"Tragically, the Atlanta cheating scandal harmed our children and it crystallizes the unintended consequences of our test-crazed policies."


Connecticut Panel Crafts Gun Law Overhaul by Brittany Brady and Jim Kavanagh

Connecticut panel crafts gun law overhaul

By Brittany Brady and Jim Kavanagh, CNN

updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 2, 2013


(CNN) -- A bipartisan legislative task force in Connecticut has agreed on a major overhaul of the state's gun laws in the aftermath of December's deadly attack on an elementary school, lawmakers announced Monday.

The draft legislation would add more than 100 types of guns to the state's list of banned assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds; ban armor-piercing bullets; require background checks for all weapon sales, including at gun shows; establish safety standards for school buildings; allow mental health training for teachers; and expand mental health research in the state.

"Nobody will be able to say that this bill is absolutely perfect, but no one will also be able to say that this bill fails the test when it comes to being the strongest in the country and the most comprehensive bill in the country," Connecticut Senate President Don Williams, a Democrat and a member of the task force, said Monday.

The General Assembly will take up the legislation when it returns to session Wednesday.

"There is nothing in this package that would have stopped someone like Adam Lanza," said Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, referring to the gunman who killed 26 children and adults December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut. "In his case, he stole the guns and went on a murderous rampage.

"Limiting magazine capacity or mandating registration will only affect law-abiding persons, not criminals bent on murder," Wilson added.

A Republican member of the task force, House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, tried to reassure gun owners.

"No gun owner will lose their gun, no gun owner will lose their magazine, they will not lose the use of said gun or magazine, so long as they follow our rules and register," he said. "Are there tighter restrictions on their use, etc.? Absolutely. We also were able to see as part of this legislation the repeal of early release for violent criminals."

The bill would expand the definition of an assault weapon by reducing to just one the number of specified "physical characteristics" that need to be present. Current law requires two.

The legislation would immediately ban any further sale, purchase or importation of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, but would allow current owners of larger-capacity magazines to keep them.

However, those magazines would have to be registered with the state by January 1, and even legally registered magazines could not be loaded with more than 10 rounds outside of the owner's home or a gun range, no matter what permits the gun owner may hold.

"It is ludicrous to expect people that have firearms capable of holding 15 rounds to only load 10 rounds inside of them," Wilson objected. "Do criminals really care about these laws?"

Families of the children slain in Newtown were disappointed the larger-capacity magazines were grandfathered in. They asked Monday for an across-the-board ban.

"On behalf of the loved ones who were violently taken from us, please reconsider your approach to large- capacity magazines as part of the comprehensive package of gun legislation," the families wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Gov. Dannel Malloy backed the families in a statement Monday.

"They've asked for an up or down vote on that provision," he said, "and, whether it's in the larger bill or as an amendment, the families, and every resident of our state, deserve a vote.

"I have been clear for weeks that a ban on the possession and sale of high-capacity magazines is an important part of our effort to prevent gun violence," he added. "Simply banning their sale moving forward would not be an effective solution."

In addition, the bill would create the nation's first statewide registry for people convicted of crimes involving the use or threat of dangerous weapons. The registry would not be public, but available to law enforcement only. Furthermore, it would require eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition, and would significantly increase penalties for illegal possession and firearms trafficking.

Other parts of the bill establish safety standards for school building projects and require each school in the state to develop a safety and security plan. It also requires safe school climate committees to investigate instances of bullying and other threatening behavior. Other provisions address security at colleges and universities.

The bill allows school districts to require "mental health first aid" training for school personnel and creates a task force to examine the state's mental health system. Additionally, it alters state insurance regulations to beef up mental health care coverage.

Williams, the Senate president, told CNN he expected strong support for the bill from both sides of the aisle because of the bipartisan task force that put it together.

"We have broken the gridlock on the most controversial issue," he said in announcing the agreement.

"Democrats and Republicans were able to come to an agreement on a strong, comprehensive bill," he added. "That is a message that should resound in 49 other states, and in Washington, D.C.. and the message is we can get it done here and they should get it done in their respective states and nationally in Congress."

The task force is made up of Williams and fellow Democrats House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz; along with Senate Republican Leader John McKinney and Cafero, the House Republican leader. It based the draft legislation on proposals created by 16-member bicameral working groups on the topics of gun violence, school security and mental health.

"It's important for us to act quickly, but it's more important for us to act intelligently," Sharkey said. "It's also critical that we send the message to Washington and to the rest of this country that this is the way to get this job done. To do it in an effective, meaningful, thoughtful way and to do it in a meaningful, bipartisan basis, because our children deserve no less."


NRA Backed Group Wants Gun Training for School Staff by Greg Wallace and Todd Sperry

NRA-backed group wants gun training for school staff

Washington (CNN) - A commission tasked by the nation's most influential gun lobby to assess school safety proposed a set of recommendations Tuesday that includes a plan to train and arm adults as a way to protect kids from shooters.

Former GOP congressman Asa Hutchinson, who headed the National Rifle Association-backed School Safety Shield, said the plan to train school personnel to carry firearms in schools made sense as a way to prevent shootings like the December massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

"Response time is critical," Hutchinson said at a press conference revealing the plan.

"If you have the firearms in the presence of someone in the school, it will reduce the response time and save lives," he said.

Hutchinson said the recommendation for school personnel to carry weapons includes the stipulation those adults undergo a 40-60 hour training program and are screened through a background check.

The entire report contains eight recommendations, including enhancing training programs for school resource officers and developing an online assessment portal for administrators to gauge their schools' security.

Hutchinson noted at the press conference Tuesday that many schools have visitor policies that aren't enforced and doors that aren't properly secured. Fixing those, he said, would be a step toward preventing further school violence.

He was joined by Mark Mattiolli, whose 6-year-old son James was among the 20 students killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Mattiolli, who Hutchinson described as a "special guest" at the recommendations' unveiling, urged lawmakers to look past their notions of the NRA when reading the group's plan.

"Politics need to be set aside here, and I hope this doesn't lead to name calling," Mattiolli said. "These are recommendations for solutions. And that's what we need. We need to look at that appendix and we need to do something."

The NRA first announced the National School Shield Program in December as its response to the Newtown school shooting a week earlier. It posted a bare-bones website and pledged to report back with a set of school safety proposals.

Hutchinson said Tuesday those proposals were directed at federal and state lawmakers, as well as the NRA itself, which will now decide which of the items to official adopt as recommendations.

Immediately following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told reporters, supporters and a few vocal protesters, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

"Why is the idea of a gun good when it's used to protect our president or our country or our police, but bad when it's used to protect our children in their schools? They're our kids," he said.

LaPierre, the longtime face of the organization, stood firm to that position and hasn't wavered despite immense criticism and pressure.

Some lawmakers in several states have considered proposals to arm and train teachers. While the Obama administration hasn't ruled out some form of armed protection on school property, Vice President Joe Biden made it clear the idea wasn't his top priority. In a conference call last week with supporters, Biden indicated he preferred background checks be performed on all gun sales and took issue with the idea of arming legislators.

"The last thing we need, and ask any teacher, is to arm teachers ... Turn schools into armed camps," he said.

"But what does make sense is if a school decides they want to have a school resource officer – that is a sworn shield, someone who is a sworn police officer, in or out of uniform, armed or unarmed, depending on what the school wants – in the school to be able to have contact with and build relationships with not only the staff but the students in that school," he said.

Funding such programs remains a key sticking point between the White House and the NRA, including how lawmakers would dole out the grant money to local schools.

Recent public polling shows the nation is divided on whether or not schools should increase the number of armed guards.

CNN's Gregory Wallace and Todd Sperry contributed to this report.



It's time to 'tax' the 'poor' Anthony Mirhaydari

The bottom line on the nation's fiscal crisis is this: We need more people employed and paying taxes. We need the poor -- and the job creators -- to get to work.


The goodness of work, driven by a healthy ambition, is what makes America tick.  It's an idea deeply embedded in our national psyche. Waves of pilgrims and immigrants didn't cross the oceans to sign up for welfare checks; they came for the opportunity to earn a better life through blood and toil.

When that inner fire is extinguished, economies suffer. Innovation stalls. Vitality fades. In a modern context, budget deficits widen as tax revenues dwindle, benefit spending explodes, and the masses clamor for redistributive policies to keep the fiscal charade going. Debt accumulates. Panics strike. In other words, the situation being faced over in Europe as a culture of leisure mixes with a bloated welfare system and a "soak the rich" mentality to disastrous effect.

The United States is on the same dangerous path. Industrious upward mobility is being replaced by idleness funded by foreign bondholders and a narrowing group of wealthy taxpayers. Too few are feeling the sting of Uncle Sam's spendthrift ways. And too many are replacing private-sector wages with government handouts.  The only way out is to stop the coddling and "tax" the "poor." Here's what I mean, and why.

Paying their fair share

I'm playing with the definitions here, while trying to make two big points.  The first is that America is on an unsustainable fiscal course. The debt/deficit problem is acute. Each day, the national debt hits a new high. It stands at nearly $16.8 trillion, or more than $53,100 for every man, woman and child in this country.

Yet only the opposition party in Washington has set a goal of balancing the budget. And even then, the Republican House budget proposal doesn't balance for 10 years. Democrats, both in Congress and in the White House, don't believe even that is a priority. The proposal from Senate Democrats never balances and would run a deficit worth 2.1% of gross domestic product in 2023.

There are no easy fixes.

To read more, click on the following link: