By DAVID L. KIRP, New York Times, 12/27/14
STARTING in the mid-1990s, education advocates began making a simple argument: National education standards will level the playing field, assuring that all high school graduates are prepared for first-year college classes or rigorous career training.
While there are reasons to doubt that claim — it’s hard to see how Utah, which spends less than one-third as much per student as New York, can offer a comparable education — the movement took off in 2008, when the nation’s governors and education commissioners drove a huge effort to devise “world-class standards,” now known as the Common Core.
Although the Obama administration didn’t craft the standards, it weighed in heavily, using some of the $4.35 billion from the Race to the Top program to encourage states to adopt not only the Common Core (in itself, a good thing) but also frequent, high-stakes testing (which is deeply unpopular). The mishandled rollout turned a conversation about pedagogy into an ideological and partisan debate over high-stakes testing. The misconception that standards and testing are identical has become widespread….
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By Jimmy Carter, The Washington Post, 27 December 14
s we contemplate how to strike back at North Korea because it is believed to be behind the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network, the foremost proposal is tightening sanctions. In my visits to targeted countries, I have seen how this strategy can be cruel to innocent people who know nothing about international disputes and are already suffering under dictatorial leaders.
The imposition of economic embargoes on unsavory regimes is most often ineffective and can be counterproductive. In Cuba, where the news media are controlled by the government, many people are convinced that their economic plight is caused by the United States and that they are being defended by the actions of their Communist leaders, who are therefore strengthened in power. I have visited the homes of both Castro brothers and some of the regime’s other top officials, and it is obvious that their living conditions have not suffered because of the embargo. Many Cuban families are deprived of good incomes, certain foods, cellphones, Internet access and basic freedoms, but at least they have access to a good education and health care, and they live in a tropical environment where the soil is productive and where some fortunate families may have trees that bear bananas and other fruit. In addition, Cubans receive about $2 billion annually in remittances from friends and relatives in the United States.
The situation is more tragic in North Korea, where none of these advantages exist. The U.S. embargo, imposed 64 years ago at the start of the Korean War, has been more strictly enforced, with every effort made to restrict or damage North Korea’s economy. During my visits to Pyongyang, I have had extensive discussions with government officials and forceful female leaders who emphasized the plight of people who were starving. …
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from “Mike Gravel to Senator Mark Udall: Make Full Torture Probe Public Like I Did with Pentagon Papers,” interview with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, 12/26/14
…SEN. MARK UDALL: The CIA has lied to its overseers in the public, destroyed and tried to hold back evidence, spied on the Senate, made false charges against our staff, and lied about torture and the results of torture. And no one has been held to account. … There are right now people serving in high-level positions at the agency who approved, directed or committed acts related to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. It’s bad enough not to prosecute these officials, but to reward or promote them and risk the integrity of the U.S. government to protect them is incomprehensible. The president needs to purge his administration of high-level officials who were instrumental to the development and running of this program….
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By David Atkins, AlterNet, 12/23/14
An angry young man fell through society’s cracks and was able to get a gun.
No sooner had the fatal shooting of two NYPD officers reached the newswires than the predictable partisan backlash began: conservatives who had been on their heels as a movement grew against police brutality suddenly found their foooting from which to unleash a torrent of invective blaming liberals for the killings. Sensible people have pointed out that it is possible to mourn the brutal killings of police officers alongside the pointless deaths of unarmed civilians.
But overlooked in this narrative is the depressing reality that this latest multiple murder has much more to do with America’s continued inability to solve its epidemic of gun violence, particularly by the mentally ill, than it does with the ongoing debate about policing tactics. It’s not just that (minor incidents of looting notwithstanding) protests against excessive force by police have been expressly non-violent and that a movement whose slogan is “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” can hardly be blamed for causing someone to shoot innocent public servants. …
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