Monday, July 31, 2017

New Florida Law Lets Residents Challenge School Textbooks : NPR

A new Florida state law allows parents, and any residents, to challenge the use of textbooks and instructional materials they find objectionable via an independent hearing.

Gulfiya Mukhamatdinova/Getty Images

Keith Flaugh is a retired IBM executive living in Naples, Fla., and a man with a mission. He describes it as "getting the school boards to recognize ... the garbage that's in our textbooks."

Flaugh helped found Florida Citizens' Alliance, a conservative group that fought unsuccessfully to stop Florida from signing on to Common Core educational standards.

More recently, the group has turned its attention to the books being used in Florida's schools. A new state law, developed and pushed through by Flaugh's group, allows parents, and any residents, to challenge the use of textbooks and instructional materials they find objectionable via an independent hearing.

Flaugh finds many objections with the books used by Florida students. Two years ago, members of the alliance did what he calls a "deep dive" into 60 textbooks.

"We found them to be full of political indoctrination, religious indoctrination, revisionist history and distorting our founding values and principles, even a significant quantity of pornography," he says.

The pornography, Flaugh says, was in literature and novels such as Angela's AshesA Clockwork Orange and books by author Toni Morrison, which were in school libraries or on summer reading lists.

Flaugh says he's just as concerned about how textbooks describe U.S. history and our form of government. "I spent over 20 hours with a book called 'United States Government,'" he says.

He found more than 80 places where he believes the textbook was wrong or showed bias, beginning with the cover. Its subtitle is "Our Democracy."

"We're not a democracy, we're a constitutional republic," Flaugh says.

He believes many textbooks downplay the importance of individual liberties and promote a reliance on federal authority, and what he calls "a nanny state mentality."

Members of Florida Citizens' Alliance have other concerns, including how some textbooks discuss Islam. Others take issue with science textbooks and how they deal with two topics in particular: evolution and climate change.

Flaugh says the law, which was signed by the governor on June 26, is intended to make sure scientific theories are presented in a balanced way.

"There will be people out there that argue that creationism versus Darwinism are facts. They're both theories," he says.

Science educators say that's a familiar argument and one that fundamentally misunderstands the nature of a scientific theory.

"In everyday conversation, a theory is a hunch or guess," says Glenn Branch, with the National Center for Science Education. "That's not how scientists use it. For scientists, a theory is a systematic explanation for a range of natural phenomena."

Cell theory, gravitational theory, and evolutionary theory are all evidence-based, well-tested explanations of aspects of the natural world.

Another member of Florida Citizens' Alliance, David Bolduc, is most concerned about protecting the U.S. Constitution. But he also sees bias in how textbooks deal with science, including climate change.

"It seems to me it's very slanted in one direction," Bolduc says. "That man is at fault, and that it's definitely happening and that it's real. You know the Al Gore lines." Bolduc also believes parents should be able to challenge how textbooks deal with evolution.

In Florida and nationally, it's those last two topics — climate change and evolution — that have sparked the greatest interest. Branch says the bill clearly was formed with those issues in mind.

"In affidavits submitted to the legislature in support of the bill, they said, 'we complained that they were teaching evolution. We complained that they were teaching climate change and they wouldn't listen to us. So that's why we need this new law,'" he says.

Under the law, school districts will still have the final say. Even so, some worry the law will have a chilling effect.

Brandon Haught, a high school environmental science teacher and a member of Florida Citizens for Science, says "a science teacher might feel like, 'argh, I've got all this heat coming down on all of us teachers. Maybe we should just not teach it as strongly, maybe just briefly cover it and move on.'"

Florida's Department of Education is developing guidelines for school districts on how to comply with the law. The state school board association says one thing is clear — more challenges to the textbooks adopted by Florida schools are likely.


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Sunday, July 30, 2017

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Fact Check Fauxtography
The Place Where Two Oceans Meet
Photographs purportedly capture the spot where two oceans merge in the Gulf of Alaska.

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CLAIM
Photographs show the place where two oceans meet in the Gulf of Alaska.

RATING
MISCAPTIONED
ORIGIN
Photographs purportedly showing "the place where two oceans meet" in the Gulf of Alaska have circulated online for several years. Although the images are real, there are several misconceptions about what they actually depict.

The first photograph of this phenomenon to go viral was taken by Ken Bruland, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California-Santa Cruz, during a research cruise in 2007:


This photograph is frequently shared with the claim that it depicts a place where "two oceans meet," but that is not the case. Bruland explained that the picture actually captures what occurs when sediment-laden water from glacial rivers empties out into the ocean:

"Glacier rivers in the summertime are like buzzsaws eroding away the mountains there," Bruland said. "In the process, they lift up all this material — they call it glacial flour — that can be carried out."

Once these glacial rivers pour out into the larger body of water, theyre picked up by ocean currents, moving east to west, and begin to circulate there. This is one of the primary methods that iron — found in the clay and sediment of the glacial runoff — is transported to iron-deprived regions in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.
Photographer Kent Smith captured another amazing image of the "place where two oceans meet" during a similar cruise in 2010:

The Place Where Two Oceans Meet

Photographs purportedly capture the spot where two oceans merge in the Gulf of Alaska.

 
Report Advertisement

CLAIM

Photographs show the place where two oceans meet in the Gulf of Alaska. 

RATING

 MISCAPTIONED

ORIGIN

Photographs purportedly showing "the place where two oceans meet" in the Gulf of Alaska have circulated online for several years. Although the images are real, there are several misconceptions about what they actually depict. 

The first photograph of this phenomenon to go viral was taken by Ken Bruland, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California-Santa Cruz, during a research cruise in 2007: 

This photograph is frequently shared with the claim that it depicts a place where "two oceans meet," but that is not the case. Bruland explained that the picture actually captures what occurs when sediment-laden water from glacial rivers empties out into the ocean:

"Glacier rivers in the summertime are like buzzsaws eroding away the mountains there," Bruland said. "In the process, they lift up all this material — they call it glacial flour — that can be carried out."

Once these glacial rivers pour out into the larger body of water, theyre picked up by ocean currents, moving east to west, and begin to circulate there. This is one of the primary methods that iron — found in the clay and sediment of the glacial runoff — is transported to iron-deprived regions in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.

Photographer Kent Smith captured another amazing image of the "place where two oceans meet" during a similar cruise in 2010:

Sent from my iPhone by Nick Iqbal Quidwai Newbury Park CA

'Coalition bombed schools & hospitals,' Raqqa refugees tell killed journalist in last report for RT


'Coalition bombed schools & hospitals,' Raqqa refugees tell killed journalist in last report for RT

Smoke rises from Raqqa city © Rodi Said
In his last news story for RT Arabic, journalist Khaled Alkhateb talked to refugees from Raqqa who spoke about the death and destruction caused by coalition strikes. The 25-year-old was killed Sunday in a shelling offensive by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.

"The coalition bombed schools and civilians. That's why our children do not go to schools now. Many civilians were hurt, as it [coalition] hit both schools and hospitals," Abu Amdjad told Alkhateb, who worked with RT Arabic last week.

The man was among many other civilians who had been forced to flee Raqqa. In their home town, not a single government building was left unscathed from the coalition airstrikes, people told the reporter, saying that the US-led coalition bombed every building, claiming that IS terrorists were hiding there.

Alkhateb reported from the Syrian city of Hama.

A fourth grader told the journalist that the coalition forces bombed his school and "deprived us of the opportunity to study."

"There were refugees from Aleppo and other areas inside the school during the raids. Many of them died as a result of these airstrikes," the boy said.

People from small villages in the Raqqa region also shared their suffering with Alkhateb, claiming the coalition strikes had destroyed their homes, water supplies and "burnt down hundreds of hectares of land." Locals lost all their crops, they lamented.

Another Raqqa resident said the coalition used white phosphorus in several districts. In June, Amnesty International warned the US-led coalition against the use of white phosphorus near civilians which is against international law.

"It is obvious that all the sides who are responsible for deploying aviation, including the international coalition, all those who give orders, should very well think of the consequences of their actions. For the civilians not to be killed or forced to flee, and all the civilian infrastructure not to be destroyed,"Alkhateb said in his last report for RT Arabic.

On Sunday, the journalist was killed in a rocket attack by IS militants in Homs province. He died while filming a report on the Syrian Army's operations against IS terrorists. His cameraman, Muutaz Yaqoub, was injured in the shelling. Several Syrian soldiers were also killed and injured in the attack.

The same day, at least six civilians were reportedly killed and 10 others injured in the US-led international coalition bombing of the city of Abu Kamal in the Syrian governorate of Deir ez-Zor, Syria's SANA news agency reported. Women and children are reportedly among the dead, SANA said citing local sources, also claiming that the airstrikes caused serious damage to civilian infrastructure.

Last week, while demanding that the American-led coalition strikes stop, Damascus told the UN that it wants the US and its allies to pay for the destruction of Syrian infrastructure and to bear legal responsibility for"illegitimately" bombing civilian targets.

The ongoing US-led anti-terrorist airstrikes "continue to claim the lives of hundreds of innocent Syrian civilians,"the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations said in letters addressed to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council.


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35 psychiatrists just met at Yale to warn Donald Trump has a 'dangerous mental illness'


Speaking at the conference at Yale's School of Medicine on Thursday, one of the mental health professionals, Dr John Gartner, a practising psychotherapist who advised psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School until 2015, said: "We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump's dangerous mental illness."

Dr Gartner, who is also a founding member of Duty to Warn, an organisation of several dozen mental health professionals who think Mr Trump is mentally unfit to be president, said the President's statement about having the largest crowd at an inauguration was just one of many that served as warnings of a larger problem.

Donald Trump responds to Paris shooting: 'It looks like another terrorist attack'
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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Anthony Scaramucci’s Wife Kicks Him to the Curb Like

Anthony Scaramucci's Wife Kicks Him to the Curb Like They Did Reince Priebus

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Yes, there's that old adage about karma, but we think Brand Nubian said it best: "What goes around comes back around again."

And so it goes with Anthony Scaramucci, aka Scar, aka The Mooch, aka Scarmucci Mane. Scarmucci, the new White House communications director who gleefully and crudely took part in the embarrassing undoing of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, has himself been unceremoniously dumped by his wife.

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The New York Post reports that it was the Mooch's "naked political ambition," (i.e., shameless Trump dick riding) that did his marriage in. 

"Deidre has left him and has filed for divorce. She liked the nice Wall Street life and their home on Long Island, not the insane world of D.C.," said the source. "She is tired of his naked ambition, which is so enormous that it left her at her wits' end. She has left him even though they have two children together," said a source.

Ball used to go by the Twitter handle @MrsAScaramucci but, according to reports, she deleted her account after her husband was appointed as White House communications director.

Scaramucci, 52, and Ball, 38, began dating in 2011 and are believed to have married in 2014. They reportedly have had some fights over his allegiance to Trump and I guess this new gig trumped it.


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Scaramucci calls Priebus 'paranoid schizophrenic' in expletive-filled rant to reporter

Check out this article from USA TODAY:

Scaramucci calls Priebus 'paranoid schizophrenic' in expletive-filled rant to reporter

https://usat.ly/2w4RNyW
Sorry about the colorful language nick q

In a phone call Wednesday night to Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker's chief Washington correspondent, Scaramucci employed a string of expletives to rant against White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, calling him a "paranoid schizophrenic." He also insulted Trump strategist Steve Bannon and threatened to fire the entire White House communications team. Lizza said Scaramucci never asked for the conversation to be off the record. 

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Friday, July 28, 2017

NY Times Jly 29 17 ​Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Toppled by Corruption Case


Photo
Supporters of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during rally to condemn his dismissal in Lahore, Pakistan, on Friday. CreditK.M. Chaudary/Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nawaz Sharif, the tycoon and party leader who helped define a turbulent era of Pakistani politics, stepped down as prime minister on Friday after the Supreme Court ruled that corruption allegations had disqualified him.

Coming with less than a year to go in his term, his ouster adds to a grim and long list of civilian governments cut short in Pakistan — including two of his own previous terms as prime minister. And it will further roil the country's tumultuous political balance, as his rivals vie to exploit his fall.

When Mr. Sharif returned to office in 2013, it was as a widely popular party leader with a deep grudge against the country's powerful military establishment. He moved quickly to try to establish civilian dominance over policy areas that had long been dominated by the generals, especially foreign policy.

But Mr. Sharif, 67, is exiting with none of those ambitions realized.

The Pakistani military has seldom been able to wield as potent a mix of policy control and popular acclaim as it does now. The fragile democratic system in this nuclear armed nation of almost 200 million people again appears to be on shaky ground. And Mr. Sharif's own political legacy stands further tarnished.

The governing political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, must now choose an interim prime minister to replace Mr. Sharif until the next general election, which is scheduled for mid-2018.

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Announced by the five-member Supreme Court, the verdict on Friday caps more than a year of high political drama, breathless court proceedings and a piercing investigation into the finances of the Sharif family.

Photo
Opponents of Mr. Sharif leaving the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Friday. CreditCaren Firouz/Reuters

The charges against Mr. Sharif and three of his children — two sons and a daughter — stemmed from disclosures last year in the Panama Papers leak. Those documents revealed that the children owned expensive residential property in London through offshore companies.

The justices, drawing on a constitutional article that allows the courts to disqualify a member of parliament who is found to be dishonest, said that they were acting because Mr. Sharif had tried to conceal his assets. And they ordered the opening of a criminal investigation into the Sharif family.

Watching the courtroom drama was the country's powerful military, which has traditionally decided the fate of civilian governments. There had been hushed speculation that the court, in coming to its decision, had the tacit, if not overt, backing of powerful generals.

Now, Imran Khan, the opposition politician who has been spearheading the campaign against Mr. Sharif since he took power in 2013, stands to gain the most politically from the prime minister's removal. Mr. Khan has doggedly and almost obsessively led the charge against Mr. Sharif and rallied a wide swath of the public against him through a mix of street agitation and court petitions.

The Supreme Court had asked the members of the Sharif family to provide a paper trail of the money they used to buy their London apartments. Investigators found that they were "living beyond their means."

Despite repeated court exhortations, Mr. Sharif's family and its lawyers failed to provide satisfactory documentation, the justices said. Several of the documents they produced were declared fake or insufficient.

IN AND OUT OF POWER IN PAKISTAN

Nawaz Sharif served as prime minister an unprecedented three times. All his terms were cut short. Here's how they played out.

  • First term

    In 1990, Mr. Sharif was ushered into power as head of the Pakistan Muslim League. As his business grew, suspicions of corruption surfaced. He was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1993. The Supreme Court eventually deemed his dismissal unconstitutional, but Mr. Sharif resigned under pressure from Pakistan's powerful military.
  • Second term

    Mr. Sharif was elected again in 1997. Two years later, a military coup ended his term after he fired the army chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and then, according to reports, kept the general's return flight to Pakistan from landing. Troops loyal to Gen. Musharraf seized the Karachi airport and overthrew the prime minister. Mr. Sharif was tried and found guilty of hijacking and terrorism and sentenced to life in prison.
  • Third term 

    After spending seven years in exile in a deal brokered by the Saudi royal family, Mr. Sharif returned to Pakistan in 2007. He was cleared of criminal charges and deemed eligible to run for office. Mr. Sharif was again elected prime minister in 2013, but he was met with opposition and faced large protests in 2014. He was tried on corruption charges after the 2016 Panama Papers revealed that his children owned expensive homes in London through a string of offshore companies.

A representative of the governing party said that although Mr. Sharif was stepping down, the party had "strong reservations" about the verdict and was contemplating "all legal and constitutional means" to challenge it.

Mr. Sharif has called the inquiry into his family's finances a conspiracy and has asserted that in his three terms as prime minister he had not been tarred by a major corruption scandal.

The ruling, while expected, leaves undecided the long-term fate of the man who has been a dominating force in Pakistani politics for the better part of three decades.

"I did not expect Nawaz Sharif to go scot-free," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent political analyst who is based in Lahore.

"If he has a long-term vision, he will sit back and guide his political party," Mr. Rizvi added. "He and his supporters will portray the court verdict as victimization and a grave conspiracy involving international powers."

Mr. Sharif's removal from office throws his political succession plans into disarray. His daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, 43, who was being groomed as his political heir, was also implicated in the case.

Photo
Security outside the Supreme Court and Parliament in Islamabad on the day of the ruling.CreditB.K. Bangash/Associated Press

Political insiders say there are several possible contenders to replace Mr. Sharif as prime minister in the immediate interim. Names being discussed as the immediate choice include Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, the speaker of the national assembly; Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the minister of petroleum; Khurram Dastgir Khan, the commerce minister; and Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the defense minister.

"Whoever they bring will be a weak prime minister, as Nawaz Sharif would want to have someone who is more or less in line with his thinking," Mr. Rizvi said.

Longer-term, though, speculation is focusing on Mr. Sharif's brother Shehbaz, 65, who is the chief minister of Punjab Province and a prominent and divisive political figure in his own right. He would first have to take his brother's Parliament seat in a spot election.

Political analysts say the verdict hands Mr. Khan an undeniable political and moral victory, though it was his pressure campaigns on the court to take up the Panama Papers case and then render a quick verdict that forced some of the action.

"Imran Khan will be strengthened, but it remains to be seen how he capitalizes in Punjab Province, which is critical to winning the general elections," Mr. Rizvi said. Punjab, the most populous and prosperous of the country's four provinces, has been a stronghold of Mr. Sharif for decades.

Mr. Sharif presided over a period of relative economic stability and was able to complete a few large infrastructure projects while reducing the crippling power outages that have long afflicted Pakistan.

Photo
Mr. Sharif in February. The charges against him stemmed from disclosures in the Panama Papers, including his family's residential property holdings in London. CreditCaren Firouz/Reuters

But the stubborn scandal over the London real estate holdings sullied the reputation of his family.

Mr. Sharif's political party nonetheless hopes that his achievements can bring it another electoral success next year even if Mr. Sharif cannot run for office.

"We will make a comeback," Khawaja Saad Rafique, a party leader, said Friday afternoon at news conference flanked by other senior figures. He said that Mr. Sharif's "crime was that he stood for civilian supremacy."

He urged party workers to remain peaceful and said that the party respects the country's institutions. "There will be no chaos,'' he said. "We will move forward with wisdom and not emotion."

During his most recent tenure, Mr. Sharif had an uneven relationship with the military. His overtures of more openness toward India, Pakistan's longtime foe, backfired as generals spurned his efforts.

More recently, relations with the military took a darker turn after news reports detailed how civilian officials confronted the military over what they called a failure to act against Islamist groups. Mr. Sharif had to fire his information minister and two top aides to placate the army.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said the Panama Papers ruling was "a real test of our system."

Some predicted a politically volatile time ahead.

"Until the elections, this will lead to a period of political instability," Amber Rahim Shamsi, a prominent journalist who hosts a show on Dawn TV, said of the verdict.

"The Sharif political dynasty has somehow managed to survive Pakistan's rough and bloody politics for over three and a half decades through wheeling and dealing," Ms. Shamsi said. "It is hard to imagine all the family falling like a pack of cards. Nawaz Sharif has a following and could cash in on political martyrdom to stage a comeback."

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Iqbal  Quidwai   

Newbury Park CA 91320-1821 USA  I.quidwai at gmail.com