Saturday, October 24, 2015

Playmobil toy pirate ship with slave figurine sparks outrage Melissa Chan

Some assembly — and a lot of explanation — required.
A Playmobil toy pirate ship equipped with what appears to be a shackled slave figurine has sparked outrage after a California woman stumbled upon instructions telling her to slap a chain around its neck.
"I am mortified," Aimee Norman wrote on Facebook. "Who would think in the year 2015? Slavery is not a game."
Norman said she bought the set for her 5-year-old nephew's birthday — and chose it specifically when she saw it came with a "black character."
But along with boat floats, two cannons and a removable upper deck, the family found the dark-skinned plastic doll came with a small silver cuff.
An arrow in the instruction manual directs users to put the piece around its neck.
"It's definitely racist," the boy's mother Ida Lockett told CBS Sacramento. "It told my son to put a slave cuff around the black character's neck, and then to play with the toy."
"You cannot have this specific accessory and call it anything else," she added. "The fact that you can Google it, look it up, say what it is — it's a slave collar."
The pirate ship set sells for $89.99 and takes about 45 minutes to assemble, according to Playmobil's website.
The Germany-based toy company told the Daily News that the figurine in question is "clearly a crew member on the pirate ship and not a captive."
It was designed to portray life on a 17th-century pirate ship, Playmobil said in a statement.
"The figure was meant to represent a pirate who was a former slave in a historical context," the statement said. "It was not our intention to offend anyone in anyway."

A smartphone's BFF: Teens and tweens Michal Lev-Ram

Forget checking email on your cell phone - that's soo 2004. Today's teens are doing much more with their mobile devices. Speed texting with their eyes closed is only the beginning, and the technology can barely keep up with their rising demand for new features.
That's exactly why adolescent consumers are a desirable demographic for phone makers and carriers hungry for data revenues - $5 a month charges for unlimited messaging and $1 song downloads, to name just a few examples - as the cost of a call per minute continues to decline.
In just two years, the number of teenage cellular subscribers has grown by nearly 26 percent (that's a full 10 percentage points above the growth rate of 45- to 54-year-old customers for the same time period). And there's ample evidence that teens want advanced capabilities on their phone. The same can be said for tweens - the 8- to 12-year-old crowd.
So why not make a smartphone geared toward teens and tweens? After all, they're the ones who are driving some of the most advanced mobile trends.
"This is a group that has never known the world without mobile phones, and they've come to expect a lot from their devices," says Mark Donovan, a senior analyst with Seattle-based research firm M:Metrics. "For just about every category of mobile media activity, if you look at the 13- to 17-year-old bracket they're doing more things with their phones than the average phone user."
According to a recent survey by M:Metrics, 47 percent of teenagers take photos with their mobile device - that's twice the industry average. Young adults also access social networks, share pics and videos and browse the mobile Web a lot more than their older, less tech-savvy counterparts.
But despite teens' hyperactive mobile activities, smartphones like Research in Motion's BlackBerry (dubbed "CrackBerry" by some addicted users) and Palm's Treo have been largely geared for the business user - older corporate customers perpetually tethered to their email.
It's true that smartphones are expensive to develop and build, and that the underage crowd isn't exactly the one with the most spending power. But recent mobile devices like the slimmed-down Motorola Q and the Blackjack by Samsung have already pulled smartphone prices down - they're selling for as little as $100 (with a 2-year contract, of course).
The new generation of phones are also sleeker and more multimedia-focused than their predecessors. "They don't want to walk around with a phone that makes them look like a dork," says Donovan. "Style and capabilities should go hand in hand."
It turns out kids don't want phones that look like they're made for kids. Case in point: Earlier this year, AT&T discontinued a child-centric, simplistic five-button phone it started selling in 2005 due to what analysts say were lackluster sales.
The maker of the AT&T phone, a Lincolnshire, Illinois-based company called Firefly Mobile, has since gone back to the drawing table to create a more souped-up phone for tweens. Dubbed the FlyPhone, the upgraded device will have a lot more than "call mom" and "call dad" buttons - it will include a camera, MP3 player, games and picture-sharing capabilities.
"Kids aren't afraid of technology," says Don Deubler, founder of Firefly. "The new phone allows them to do more things they want to do."
The FlyPhone will be available through Firefly's Web site and retail channels like Target (Charts, Fortune 500) stores by late September. According to Deubler, the device will retail for $125 without a contract.
To read more, click on the following link:

Ohio Supreme Court sides with for-profit company over charter schools By Valerie Strauss

Consider this scenario: A for-profit company operating a charter school uses public funds — that means American taxpayer dollars — to buy computers, copiers, desks and other things for students and staff. The charter school decides to get a different management company. Who should get the computers, copiers and other machines purchased with public dollars? The schools or the for-profit company?
It if seems like a no-brainer to you, it wasn’t for the Ohio state Supreme Court. In a mixed-decision, it ruled on Tuesday in a lawsuit by 10 now-closed charter schools that the for-profit company that once operated them, White Hat Management, owns equipment it purchased for the schools with public funds. How did the court reach this decision?
White Hat is one of the largest for-profit charter school operators in Ohio and runs dozen of charter schools that have consistently received low grades from the state, which has a $1 billion charter sector that is as troubled as any in the country.
A June 2015 story in the Akron Beacon Journal about the newspaper’s review of 4,263 audits released last year by the state said that Ohio charter schools appear to have misspent public money “nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.” It says that “since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival the worst in the nation” — and the misspending could be much higher.
Efforts by Ohio’s lawmakers to require better oversight of charters have been unsuccessful.  On the same day as the ruling, members of the Ohio school board questioned Richard Ross, the state’s superintendent of instruction, about a charter school data scandal involving the state Education Department, according to NewsNet5.  Ross said he did not know that David Hansen, the department official responsible for school choice and charter schools, was giving help to charter schools to make them look better in state evaluations. Hansen resigned in July.

If all of this doesn’t underscore the need for change in the sector, it’s hard to see what would.
State Impact in Ohio, a project of NPR stations, calls the Akron-based White Hat “a charter school giant.” It says White Hat is owned by former manufacturing company chief executive David Brennan:
Brennan has played a major role in shaping Ohio education policy. He and his family members have donated millions to state legislators and governors over the past decade. And White Hat lobbyists have played significant roles in shaping Ohio’s charter school policies. White Hat handles the day-to-day operations of the Ohio charter schools it manages, doing everything from hiring teachers to ordering school supplies.
White Hat was sued by the governing boards of 10 of the dozens of schools it had managed. Each of the schools signed virtually the same contracts with White Hat in 2005. The schools received a total of more than $90 million in public money from 2007 to 2010, though only two performed at levels the state considered satisfactory during those years. According to the court decision:
Of the ten original schools, as of the 2010-2011 school year, two Hope Academies had been shut down by the Department of Education due to academic failure and three were on “academic watch”; one of the Life Skills Centers was on academic watch and second was on “academic emergency” (one step away from shut-down). This poor performance caused the schools to raise several issues, including how White Hat spent the money it received to operate the schools. Financial information revealed that White Hat spent money to purchase buildings ultimately owned by or renovated for the benefit of its own affiliates. According to the schools, although White Hat used part of the continuing fee to purchase personal property for use in the schools, it improperly titled that property in its own name.
The schools filed suit in 2010 after White Hat refused to provide further information on how it had used the public funds. The decision said:
The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief, an accounting, and damages for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. As part of their allegations, the schools disputed White Hat’s claim of entitlement to all property White Hat purchased using public funds.
The schools said that White Hat had received nearly all of the public funding they had been given to operate and that the schools should have a right to what was purchased with the money.

To read more, click on the following link:

Activate GodMode in Windows 10 by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

In Windows 10, settings and controls are divided between the new Settings menu and the traditional Control Panel. Some settings -- including touchscreen-specific settings and Windows Update -- are found only in the Settings menu, while others, such as the Device Manager, are still mostly accessed through the Control Panel.
Yeah. It's a little confusing.
If you're sick of switching between the Settings menu and the Control Panel, searching for your lost settings, there is a way to access all settings and controls in one place: GodMode.

GodMode is a dedicated folder that lets you see all control panels in one place -- here, you'll be able to do everything from adding clocks for different time zones to defragmenting your drives. And it's a snap to set up.

To enable GodMode, right-click on the desktop and click New > Folder.

Copy and paste the following* into the folder name:

The folder icon will change to a control panel icon. Double-click on the new icon to see your universal settings panel.
*You can put any text before the period in the folder name. So, for example, you can name it SarahMode instead of GodMode, and you'll get this:

Launch multiple programs with one shortcut in Windows 10 by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

There are some programs that you always run together. For me, it's Google Chrome and Microsoft Word (hey, I'm a writer), for you it might be Skype and Steam. Maybe there are a few programs that you open every time you start up your computer.

What if you could open multiple programs with just one (double) click? Well, you can, by creating a batch file, or a desktop shortcut that opens two or three or more specified programs at once. This tip works in older versions of Windows as well.

Step 1: Open the Start menu and go to All apps to find the first program you want to open in your batch. Right-click on the program and click Open file location
Step 2: A File Explorer window will open to the program's location. Right-click on the program in the File Explorer window and click Properties
Step 3: In the Properties window, click the Shortcut tab. Find Target: field, select the text in the textbox, and copy it. Open up a new Notepad noteand paste this text in that window.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1 through 3 for the second (and third, and fourth) program(s) you want to open in this shortcut.
Step 5: Once you have collected the target info for all of the programs you want to open in one shortcut, arrange the text
Basically, you'll need to add @echo off to the top of the note, put cd in front of each file path, and chop off the last part of the file path (program.exe) and put it on the next line with start in front of it. At the end of the note, you'll need to add exit after a line break.
Step 6: Save your file as a BAT file to the desktop. To do this, go to File > Save As, navigate to the desktop, and type the name of your shortcut followed by .bat (for example, Chrome and Steam.bat) in the File name field. In the Save as type field, click the dropdown menu and select All files. Then click Save
You'll see a new shortcut appear on your desktop with a little gear icon. Double-click on this shortcut and you should see a Command Prompt window pop up and disappear, followed by the programs you wanted to open.

Education Department Recommends Less Testing Lauren Camera

States and school districts should evaluate the number of tests they administer to students and eliminate any deemed ineffective or duplicative, the Department of Education recommended in new assessment guidance released Saturday.
The department is also recommending that states cap the percentage of time students spend taking required state assessments at 2 percent. Parents should receive a formal notice, the department said, if a school exceeds the cap.
The guidance suggests that tests should cover the full range of each state’s standards, a recommendation that comes on the heels of a study from the Center for American Progress that found the instructional materials states use often aren’t entirely aligned to their standards.
In addition, the department is asking states to ensure a level playing field for students with disabilities and those still learning English.
The guidance emphasizes that while some tests are for accountability purposes, the vast majority of assessments should be tools in a broader strategy to improve teachers and learning.
“No single assessment should ever be the sole factor in making an educational decision about a student, an educator, or a school,” the guidance reads.

Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been consistent in emphasizing this point, despite pushing states to adopt teacher evaluation and compensation systems based in part on student test scores.
“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” Duncan said in a statement. “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”
The department underscored that the president’s fiscal 2016 budget requested $403 million for state assessments, which it noted states will be able to use to review their existing test. By January, the department will provide additional guidance on what federal funds states and districts can tap to audit their current testing regimen.

“Good assessments are a part of the learning experience, and a critical tool to make sure that all students, including our most disadvantaged students, are learning,” said John King, No. 2 at the Education Department who has been selected to replace Duncan. “But duplicative, unnecessary or poor-quality, low-level tests subtract from learning time and undermine instruction. There are too many tests that do not provide useful information.”

To read more, click on the following link: