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Archive for April 20th, 2007

Seed Newsvine

The President has a strange way of keeping score if he really believes that the surge is working. A significant increase in bombings, including bombs within the highly secure Green Zone, and increased death tolls over the past few weeks seems to be a step in reverse. Unless I miss the mark, progress would mean a decrease in the sectarian violence, a reduction in death toll and an overall calm in all of Iraq. While I don’t have access to all of George II’s intelligence (oh yes–pun intended) I do know what I read in the newspapers and what I read doesn’t look so good.Withdrawal of troops is a sticky business, far more so than the initial commitment of those troops in the first instance. But to walk away from a war that should never have been fought in the first instance, for reasons that have benefited only the very rich no-bid companies that accompany our troops, seems to my mind a no brainer. Provide support for all troops that remain in theater to support the withdrawal and let Iraqis sort out their own political mess. George II’s motives, however, seem to be more about protecting his already tarnished reputation than in finding a way to settle this conflict, the one of his own doing.

clipped from www.reuters.com
EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (Reuters) – President George W. Bush on Friday rebuffed a top Democrat’s charge the Iraq war was lost and asserted progress despite some of the worst carnage since Bush ordered more troops to the region.
Speaking before a world affairs forum in Michigan, Bush said the two-month-old security crackdown under which he is adding 28,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq was “meeting expectations” and the ongoing violence reflected an expected reaction by insurgents.
“There are still horrific attacks in Iraq such as the bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday, but the direction of the fight is beginning to shift,” Bush said.
Insurgent bombs killed nearly 200 people in Baghdad on Wednesday, the same day Bush met Reid and other lawmakers at the White House in a clash over the Democrats’ plans to attach troops withdrawal timetables to a war-funding bill.

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Seed Newsvine

Just a couple of things here. First, it is difficult to blame teachers for teaching in compliance with the law. NCLB stresses basic skills and not problem solving, Furthermore, NCLB places an inordinate stress level on teachers, so much so that they have little time to attend to things teachers traditionally attended to such as emotional support.Secondly, bashing teachers is unproductive. The profession is hard enough without someone standing over one’s head with a cudgel ready to strike a final blow.

If we are serious about quality education then we need to rethink educational policy so that standards are used to guide conversations about curriculum and curricular decisions, that these conversations are supported by policy and law, that they engage teachers in both horizontal and vertical planning, and that teachers be valued as professional members of the educational team. Otherwise, we are just in for more of the same.

clipped from www.edweek.org
The quality of instruction in elementary classrooms has little to do with whether teachers have the credentials that meet their states’ definitions of “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act, a federally sponsored study suggests.
Detailed observations of 5th graders in 20 states show that students in classrooms overseen by teachers labeled as highly qualified spent most of their time in whole-group or individual “seatwork,” focused on basic skills rather than problem-solving activities, and may or may not have received emotional and instructional support from their teachers.
“This pattern of instruction appears inconsistent with aims to add depth to students’ understanding, particularly in mathematics and science,” write the authors of the study, led by Robert C. Pianta, an education professor at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. “

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Seed Newsvine

clipped from www.reuters.com
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Workers evacuated a building at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and police surrounded it on Friday after reports that a man with a gun was spotted and shots were fired, authorities said.
NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said it was not known if anyone was hurt and Kelly Humphries, another spokesperson, said it was not yet known if there had indeed been gunshots.
The incident added to jitters across America after a student gunman killed 32 people Virginia Tech university, the in the worst shooting rampage in the nation’s modern history.

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When I was on the faculty at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, I was taken aback when I signed my apartment lease. I was required to sign a rider to the standard lease that was effectively a promise to not discharge firearms within the limits of the apartment complex in which I rented my apartment. I was further stunned when I went to visit my internist for the first time. When I entered the professional building in which his office was housed a large sign in both English and Spanish warned me about carrying a weapon into the building. I thought, have I jumped into the rabbit hole?The American love affair with the gun and political points gained by supporting freedom to own guns leads to the probability that more and more of these kinds of incidents will occur in the United States unless we do something about it.

Keep up the foolhardy freedom for anyone to own a gun, to have poorly enforced background check legislation, and to not ban weapons whose only purpose is to cause death on a large scale and expect more headlines just like this one. But from me there will be no sympathetic cries nor will there be gnashing of my teeth. I will continue to feel ANGER, FRUSTRATION, HOSTILITY AND HELPLESSNESS and I will direct these emotions at the NRA and the gun lobby. I will work for politicians that support tough, enforceable gun control legislation at both state and national levels. I will continue to speak loudly and often about the absolute need for gun control legislation in the United States. I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.

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Seed Newsvine

clipped from www.reuters.com
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church has effectively buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went.
Pope Benedict, himself a top theologian who before his election in 2005 expressed doubts about limbo, authorized the publication of the document, called “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised”.
“The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation,” it said.
The verdict that limbo could now rest in peace had been expected for years. The document was seen as most likely the final word since limbo was never part of Church doctrine, even though it was taught to Catholics well into the 20th century.

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Writing from the point of view of an atheist, I find yet one more reason to reject any concept of the god(s) of the west. I find the apex of arrogance when men speak for god, in this case, the Pope speaking for his gods. If one of the founding theist principles is that god(s) is unknowable, then how, pray tell, can one speak so dogmatically about what this god(s) think or predict how this god(s) actually acts. Theological reasons are not arguments based in rationality. They are, however, ways to justify mythology, foment hatred and division among people and to continue to blind human beings to their own curiosity about the wonders of the universe. Theology is founded upon stone age/bronze age mythology spruced up to resemble rational thought. But, when closely read, there are just too many holes in the bucket to even attempt a fix. I simply wonder why so many people continue to be duped by the claims of those who speak for their deity.

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Seed Newsvine

clipped from www.livescience.com
Since the human-chimp split about 6 million years ago, chimpanzee genes can be said to have evolved more than human genes, a new study suggests.
The results, detailed online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contradict the conventional wisdom that humans are the result of a high degree of genetic selection, evidenced by our relatively large brains, cognitive abilities and bi-pedalism.
Jianzhi Zhang of the University of Michigan and his colleagues analyzed strings of DNA from nearly 14,000 protein-coding genes shared by chimps and humans. They looked for differences gene by gene and whether they caused changes in the generated proteins.
Bakewell, Zhang and a colleague found that substantially more genes in chimps evolved in ways that were beneficial than was the case with human genes.

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How do I know? The Bible tells me so!

So then, explain how chimps could possibly be more evolved than human beings! Finding more genes beneficial to the species in chimps than in humans is really interesting.

Many of us didn’t need the scientific finding to provide evidence that human beings were less evolved than other species. We have many examples of human beings acting as no other animal behaves on this earth. I don’t recall reading about a chimp invasion of Iraq, of chimps blowing themselves up with suicide bombs, of chimps causing the death of 32 other chimps by gunfire at Chimp University, I don’t recall that chimps even read the bible. Seems to me that they must be more evolved than us.

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