Monday, February 28, 2011

Kids who skip school are tracked by GPS

ublished: Feb. 17, 2011
Updated: 6:56 p.m.

Kids who skip school are tracked by GPS

Story Highlights
Anaheim Union district tracks students chronically absent from school using technology.

ANAHEIM – Frustrated by students habitually skipping class, police and school officials in Anaheim are turning to GPS tracking to ensure they come to class.
The Anaheim Union High School District is the first in California to test Global Positioning System technology as part of a six-week pilot program that began last week, officials said.
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Juan Cruz shakes hand with Miller Sylvan after signing an agreement to carry a GPS for six weeks.

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Seventh- and eighth-graders with four unexcused absences or more this school year are assigned to carry a handheld GPS device, about the size of a cell phone.
(To read why the devices are not strapped onto the children, and learn other facts about the program, click here for a Q. and A. with an expert.)
Each morning on schooldays, they get an automated phone call reminding them that they need to get to school on time.
Then, five times a day, they are required to enter a code that tracks their locations – as they leave for school, when they arrive at school, at lunchtime, when they leave school and at 8 p.m.
The students are also assigned an adult coach who calls them at least three times a week to see how they are doing and help them find effective ways to make sure they get to class on time.
Students and their parents volunteer for the monitoring as a way to avoid continuation school or prosecution with a potential stay in juvenile hall.
"The idea is for this not to feel like a punishment, but an intervention to help them develop better habits and get to school," said Miller Sylvan, regional director for AIM Truancy Solutions.
The GPS devices cost $300-$400 each. Overall, the six-week program costs about $8 per day for each student, or $18,000.
The program is paid for by a state grant. Students who routinely skip school are prime candidates to join gangs, police say.
Because schools lose about $35 per day for each absent student, the program can pay for itself and more if students return to class consistently, Miller said.
It has been well received in places like San Antonio and Baltimore. Where the GPS technology has been implemented, average attendance among the chronically truant jumped from 77 percent up to 95 percent during the six-week program.
That attendance rate dips slightly once students no longer carry the tracking device, Miller said, but many learn new habits that help them. The coaches continue talking to them for a year.
Local school administrators say they are thrilled by the concept.
"This is their last chance at an intervention," said Kristen Levitin, principal at Dale Junior High in west Anaheim. "Anything that can help these kids get to class is a good thing."
In all, about 75 students from Dale and South junior high schools are taking part in the pilot program. District officials will decide later whether to expand it to high schools and other junior highs.
Earlier this week, parents and students came to the Anaheim Family Justice Center to get the devices and talk to police and counselors.
Not all parents were supportive.
"I feel like they come at us too hard, and making kids carry around something that tracks them seems extreme," said Raphael Garcia, whose 6th grader has six unexcused absences.
Chronically truant students in grades 4-6, and their parents, also were required to attend and, while they won't be required to carry a GPS device, they were warned about what they could face if they continue to skip school.
"This makes us seem like common criminals," Garcia said.
Police Investigator Armando Pardo reminded parents that letting kids skip school without a valid reason is, in fact, a crime.
If the District Attorney chooses to prosecute, truant students could be sentenced to juvenile hall and parents could face up to a $2,000 fine, Pardo said.
Hoping to keep their child at Dale Junior High, the Cruz family brought their son, Juan, to get a GPS.
He's has five excused and five unexcused absences already this year; his recent report card showed his highest grade is a C and he's failing several classes.
Miller, who showed Juan Cruz, 13, how to operate the device and tried to encourage him, asked why he wasn't going to school.
"Sometimes I'm sick and, other times, I just don't feel like going," he said.
"This will be good," Miller told Cruz. "You looking forward to it?"
"No," Juan Cruz said, shaking his head. "I'm going to keep it in my pocket, though, so I don't lose it."
Parents will be responsible for paying for lost devices. But Miller said that rarely happens. They are tracking devices and typically can be found immediately.
Juan Cruz's mom, Cristina, said she supports the program and hopes it helps her son get to school – and stay there.
"I understand that he's been missing class. He's one of six children, and we can't always keep an eye on him," she said in Spanish. "I think this is a good idea that will help him."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lady Gaga dyed her bangs black

Lady Gaga took her Twitter to post a new photo of herself along with the following message: “Dyed my bangs black. Its my new monsterlook. Let the mitosis of the future begin. Off to meet Judas.”

Jessica Rose - Me, my sissy & cousins Aurienne & Gemma :)

Jessica Rose jessicaleerose Me, my sissy & cousins Aurienne & Gemma :)

Foreign Film - Emma Is In Trouble - Rated XXX

Rated XXX

Emma Is In Trouble

Worst teen student driver sexually bribes for passing grade, lol, JFC

Stripper without a pimp comes knocking

Mirror Wall Banging

How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong

February 22, 2011, 8:30 pm

How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong

Mark BittmanMark Bittman on food and all things related.
There’s a feeling of inevitability in writing about McDonald’s latest offering, their “bowl full of wholesome” — also known as oatmeal. The leading fast-food multinational, with sales over $16.5 billion a year (just under the G.D.P. of Afghanistan), represents a great deal of what is wrong with American food today. From a marketing perspective, they can do almost nothing wrong; from a nutritional perspective, they can do almost nothing right, as the oatmeal fiasco demonstrates.
One “positive” often raised about McDonald’s is that it sells calories cheap. But since many of these calories are in forms detrimental rather than beneficial to our health and to the environment, they’re actually quite expensive — the costs aren’t seen at the cash register but in the form of high health care bills and environmental degradation.
Oatmeal is on the other end of the food spectrum. Real oatmeal contains no ingredients; rather, it is an ingredient. As such, it’s a promising lifesaver: oats are easy to grow in almost any non-extreme climate and, minimally processed, they’re profoundly nourishing, inexpensive and ridiculously easy to cook. They can even be eaten raw, but more on that in a moment.
Like so many other venerable foods, oatmeal has been roundly abused by food marketers for more than 40 years. Take, for example, Quaker Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal, which contains no strawberries, no cream, 12 times the sugars of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and only half of the fiber. At least it’s inexpensive, less than 50 cents a packet on average. (A serving of cooked rolled oats will set you back half that at most, plus the cost of condiments; of course, it’ll be much better in every respect.)

The oatmeal and McDonald’s story broke late last year, when Mickey D’s, in its ongoing effort to tell us that it’s offering “a selection of balanced choices” (and to keep in step with arch-rival Starbucks) began to sell the cereal. Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).
A more accurate description than “100 percent natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”
Since we know there are barely any rules governing promotion of foods, one might wonder how this compares to real oatmeal, besides being 10 times as expensive. Some will say that it tastes better, but that’s because they’re addicted to sickly sweet foods, which is what this bowlful of wholesome is.
Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you’re too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work. If you prefer so-called instant, flavored oatmeal, see this link, which will describe how to make your own).
If you don’t want to bother with the stove at all, you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat. Eat while you’re walking around getting dressed. And then talk to me about convenience.
The aspect one cannot argue is nutrition: Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)
The bottom-line question is, “Why?” Why would McDonald’s, which appears every now and then to try to persuade us that it is adding “healthier” foods to its menu, take a venerable ingredient like oatmeal and turn it into expensive junk food? Why create a hideous concoction of 21 ingredients, many of them chemical and/or unnecessary? Why not try, for once, to keep it honest?
I asked them this, via e-mail: “Why could you not make oatmeal with nothing more than real oats and plain water, and offer customers a sweetener or two (honey, the only food on earth that doesn’t spoil, would seem a natural fit for this purpose), a packet of mixed dried fruit, and half-and-half or — even better — skim milk?”
Their answer, via e-mail and through a spokesperson (FMO is “fruit and maple oatmeal”): “Customers can order FMO with or without the light cream, brown sugar and the fruit. Our menu is entirely customizable by request with our ‘Made for You’ platform that has been in place since the late 90s.”
Oh, please. Here’s the thing: McDonald’s wants to get people in the store. Once a day, once a week, once a month, the more the better, of course, but routinely. And if you buy oatmeal, they’re O.K. with that. But they know that, once inside, you’ll probably opt for a sausage biscuit anyway.
And you won’t be much worse off.

Smartphone app that helps doctors detect cancer

Smartphone app that helps doctors detect cancer

Jacob Aron, technology reporter


(Image: C. Min/H. Lee/R. Weissleder)
The jury is still out on whether cellphones cause cancer, but now a new smartphone-controlled device could help doctors diagnose the disease. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have developed a system that can detect tumours by analysing a few thousands cells, sparing patients from the larger biopsies currently used.

The palm-sized device sits on the patient's bedside table, operated through a simple smartphone app. At the core is a micro nuclear magnetic resonance (microNMR) chip, a scaled-down version of the technology found in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. It works by using magnetic nanoparticles to measure protein levels, looking for specific markers that indicate the presence of cancer. Doctors can see the readout from the chip on their phone's screen.

The researchers used the device in a trial of 50 patients - by combining the readings of four protein markers they were able to correctly detect cancer in 96 per cent of cases. A second trial of 20 patients achieved 100 per cent accuracy, while current methods for detecting cancer are only 84 per cent accurate. The smartphone-equipped device is also much faster than current methods, providing results in under an hour compared to the usual three day wait.

Don't expect to see doctors swap their clipboards for smartphones just yet, though: the researchers say that the device isn't quite ready for clinical use. One problem is that the relevant protein markers aren't always present in cancer cells, which could lead to misdiagnoses. The proteins are also short-lived, meaning that cells should be analysed soon after they are extracted.

Multi-Vehicle Accident Leaves Dozens Of Dead Goats In The Roadway; Blocks Northbound I-5

Multi-Vehicle Accident Leaves Dozens Of Dead Goats In The Roadway; Blocks Northbound I-5

Dozens of goats are dead and traffic is backed up for miles after multiple vehicles crashed into a herd of goats on northbound Interstate 5 at Twin Cities Road.
The accident happened just after 7p.m. It appears no people have been injured, but dead and live goats are scattered throughout the road.
NB lanes are blocked, CHP does not have a time estimate for the road clearing.
FOX40 has a crew on the scene, more details to follow on FOX40 News at 10pm.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Lands Autocracy Won’t Quit

February 26, 2011

The Lands Autocracy Won’t Quit

MOSCOW — Let the Middle East and North Africa be buffeted by populist discontent over repressive governments. Here in Lenin’s former territory, across the expanse of the old Soviet Union, rulers with iron fists still have the upper hand.
Their endurance serves as a sobering counterpoint for anyone presuming that the overthrow of a tyrannical regime by a broad-based movement is inevitably followed by vibrant democracy.
The long-serving president of the former Soviet republic of Belarus, for example, won another term in December with 80 percent of the vote, then took great offense when the results were called shamefully implausible by his opponents. (They have not been heard from since.)
Over in Kazakhstan, the even longer-serving president has had himself coroneted with the formal title of “national leader.”
The strongest of the post-Soviet strongmen, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, is actually a comparative newcomer, having reigned unchallenged for a mere decade now.
Nearly two decades ago, the collapse of Soviet Communism offered the promise that power would soon be wielded differently in this region: The newly independent former Soviet republics, sprung from the shackles of totalitarianism, would embrace free elections, multiple political parties and a vigorously independent media.
But those hopes now seem premature, or perhaps naïve. In the 1990’s, the Soviet breakup sowed chaos — most notably in Russia — and a corps of autocrats arose in response, pledging stability and economic growth. The brand of democracy that is advanced in the West emerged discredited in many of these countries.
And so even as upheavals in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world have garnered attention across the former Soviet Union, the region’s leaders express confidence that they are not under threat.
“In the past, such a scenario was harbored for us, and now attempts to implement it are even more likely,” Mr. Putin’s protégé, President Dmitri A. Medvedev, warned last week. “But such a scenario is not going to happen.”
The wilting of the democracy movement was reflected in the arrest of several Russian opposition leaders at a small rally in Moscow on Dec. 31 — one of the regular protests scheduled to highlight the 31st article of Russia’s Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.
There was no public outcry over the arrests, and people went about with their lives. Tunisia, it was not.
The same opposition politicians, now out of jail, returned on Jan. 31, hoping that an inspiring new example — Egypt — would prove galvanizing, and Triumphal Square in Moscow would have the feel of Tahrir Square in Cairo.
“We are all watching what is happening in Egypt,” Boris Y. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, told the crowd.
“They have had 30 years of the dictator Mubarak, who is a thief and corrupt,” he said. “How is he really any different than our guy?”
People shouted, “Russia without Putin!” But once again, society did not join in. It did not appear that more than 1,000 people attended.
What’s more, many were not particularly young. That helps to explain why such uprisings seem to have had a harder time taking root. Populations in Russia and many other former Soviet republics are aging, in contrast to those in the Middle East. Here, there are fewer people to carry out youthful acts of rebellion, whether on the streets or on Facebook and Twitter.
The older generation grew up under Soviet rule, which was so tightly controlled that today’s autocracies feel like an improvement. They also enjoy more economic freedom today.
Even in the six former Soviet republics that have Muslim majorities, the events in the Middle East have not had significant repercussions.
If anything, the violence has strengthened the hand of the autocrats in the short term because it has caused oil prices to spike, benefiting the economies of petro-states like Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
The current crop of post-Soviet leaders has also skillfully played upon fears of instability and misery in the wake of the 1990’s, knowing that when times are tough, people often prefer authoritarian order to cacophonous democracy.
A talk show on the Echo of Moscow radio station, which is something akin to the NPR of Russia, chewed over the question of why protesters had flooded the streets of Middle Eastern capitals and not Moscow. “Our people endure, and will patiently endure, suffering,” said Georgi Mirsky, a well-known political analyst. “Because Soviet Man is still alive — that’s the thing! The mentality of the people (or at least a considerable number of them) has not changed enough for them to develop a taste for freedom.”
There are, of course, exceptions. The Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — have joined the European Union and embraced Western mores. But they were always outliers within the Soviet Union, and only became part of it when Stalin seized them during World War II.
Even the so-called color revolutions over the last decade in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia, which were widely viewed as a repudiation of authoritarianism, have since fallen flat.
In Ukraine, a new president was elected last year after a backlash against the Orange Revolution, and he is pursuing a Putin-style crackdown on the opposition.
A revolt in Kyrgyzstan last year ousted a ruler who had ousted a predecessor. As a result, politicians in Kyrgyzstan’s neighbors in Central Asia now maintain that they need heavily centralized rule to avoid Kyrgyzstan’s fate.
“We have to feed our people, then we can create conditions where our people can become involved in politics,” said Nurlan Uteshev, a Kazakh from his country’s ruling party.
Mr. Putin, Russia’s prime minister and former (and perhaps future) president, regularly cites the example of neighboring Ukraine. “We must not in any way allow the Ukrainization of political life in Russia,” Mr. Putin once warned.
For a time, Georgia seemed at the forefront of a democratic wave. But in 2007, President Mikheil Saakashvili, a close American ally, violently suppressed his opposition. Now, his rivals characterize him as no better than Mr. Putin.
Mr. Saakashvili’s supporters defend him by contending that he will not try to stay in power when his term expires in 2013. They say he has made enormous strides in modernizing Georgia, adding that it is unrealistic to expect a country long immersed in the Soviet system to be transformed overnight.
That is a common refrain. Janez Lenarcic, a diplomat who heads democracy promotion for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has the taxing job of trying to persuade these countries to loosen the reins.
“The notion of stability plays an important role here,” Mr. Lenarcic said. “They say, ‘We need more time, we need to get there at our own pace.’ We respond that long-term stability will come only with strong democratic institutions, not with personalities, because personalities are not around forever.”
He said he remained optimistic, despite the stagnation. And perhaps views are evolving. A recent poll of Russians asked if they preferred order (even at the expense of their rights) or democracy (even if it gives rise to destructive elements). Order won, 56 percent to 23 percent.
That may not sound encouraging, but a decade ago the spread was 81 percent to 9 percent.

Snow Falls on San Francisco After a 35-Year Wait

February 26, 2011

Snow Falls on San Francisco After a 35-Year Wait

SAN FRANCISCO — As a Pacific storm coincided with a blast of cold Canadian air over their fair city, residents here saw snow late Friday, a long-absent visitor for a city accustomed to fog, sweater-weather and other nearly bone-chilling accoutrements.
Predictions had called for the possibility of the first significant snowfall in San Francisco since February 1976, when all of an inch fell, according to the National Weather Service. And just before midnight, several high-lying city neighborhoods, including Twin Peaks, at some 900 feet, reported light snowfall.
The scattering of flakes capped a weeklong flurry of activity among civic leaders and commuters — as well as dreams of flying down some of the city’s famous inclines.
“I can’t wait. It’ll be crazy,” said Marisa Belaski-Farias, 23, a graphic design student from Hawaii who has never seen snow in person. “I have a cardboard box at home. Hopefully there will be enough snow to sled.”
All Friday, it looked like that outing might have to wait. The storm brought soaking rain and howling gales in the early hours, but in classic San Francisco fashion — weather here can vary hour to hour and block to block — the morning rain gave way to clear skies and, in some quarters, profound disappointment.
“It’s a beautiful sunny day in San Francisco,” one Twitter user, LNSmithee, wrote in midafternoon. “Under normal circumstances, that would be great. But earlier this wk, we were promised snow.” (An unhappy emoticon was attached.)
But just before midnight, those snow showers fell, inteterrupting local televsison broadcasts for up-to-the-minute reports. Meteorologists were reporting the city might — just might — get a dusting on Saturday as well, as a Canadian cold front lingered over the city and spotty showers moved in from the ocean. But according to Chris Stumpf, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Monterey, Calif., “It’s going to be a little bit harder to get it to sea level.”
The very possibility that San Francisco could see snowfall led to all manner of mock dismay by online wiseacres, including, a Web site that offered a blunt assessment of the outcome at that time: “No.”
Just before midnight, that assessment was updated: “Yes!”
There were more serious responses. Mayor Edwin M. Lee warned of unseasonable cold and asked city homeless shelters to increase capacity and outreach to the indigent. Crews planned to monitor roads for flooding, while the Department of Public Works planned to offer free sandbags.
Snow is more common outside the city, with small amounts accumulating at scenic mountain peaks. It is rare in San Francisco because moisture hitting Northern California is generally warmed by the Pacific before making landfall.
In this case, however, the rain was being met by a cold blast coming in overland from the north.
Still, for some, the hype turned their feelings to mush even before the storm came and went without leaving any snow.
“I’m already over the snow in San Francisco,” wrote Michael Owens, a Twitter user. “And it hasn’t even happened yet.”
Malia Wollan contributed reporting.

What is the UC system worth?


What is the UC system worth?

We face the prospect of cutting into the muscle and bone of a university that has taken half a century of care and investment to bring to magnificence.

By Peter Baldwin
February 23, 2011

In both of the two most respected global rankings of universities, the University of California system supplies at least 10% of the top 50 institutions worldwide. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities put out by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (usually referred to as the Shanghai index), seven of the UC's 10 campuses rank in the top 50. In Britain's Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the UC system has five campuses in the top 50 with a sixth four notches lower. This is an extraordinary achievement for a publicly financed system of higher education, particularly for one that was founded just a century ago.

If we add in the three private California universities (Caltech, USC and Stanford) also in the Shanghai top 50, California is arguably the heaviest-hitting state in any league of higher education. To find something comparable, you would have to aggregate the combined performance of the entire Northeastern United States. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York together have produced precisely as many Shanghai top 50 institutions as California. And they have done so with the head start of an extra century or more of development, with the resources of a combined population base close to twice California's and, of course, with vast amounts of private-pocket financing.

The combined endowments of the 10 top-50 institutions on the East Coast top $80 billion. The West Coast's 10 top-ranked universities have a combined endowment of just over $21 billion, or about one-fourth of what their East Coast counterparts have amassed. Moreover, Stanford alone accounts for more than half of the endowment money held by the West Coast's top universities.

In other words, in terms of bang for the buck, the efficiency of California's university performance is staggering. Only a few state institutions in the Northeastern United States make it into the Shanghai top 50. All the others are plushly upholstered private institutions.

The only competition to California's performance comes from Maryland or perhaps plucky Illinois. Maryland boasts two top-50 Shanghai institutions. Beleaguered by even more hard-pressed state finances than our own, Illinois fields three top-50 institutions in both rankings. If California fields one premier university for every 3.7 million inhabitants, Maryland outcompetes us (one for each 2.85 million), while Illinois gives us a run for the money (one per 4.2 million). Among the states of the Northeast listed above, there is one first-class university for every 5.6 million people.

Looking abroad for our peers, the closest competition comes from Britain, but it is a fairly distant second. The British have but five ranking institutions, produced from a population that is well over 50% larger than California's. Were California an independent country, the only nation that would outrank it in the number of its premier universities would be the rest of the United States.

In California, our universities are a point of pride. But perhaps we do not recognize just how remarkable they actually are. California's private institutions are doubtless praiseworthy too. But without the extraordinary accomplishments of the UC system, they would not be part of what is an unprecedented achievement. Today we face the prospect of cutting into the muscle and bone of this venerable institution and hobbling a remarkable creature that has taken half a century of care, investment and tending to bring to magnificence. It is worth taking a moment to ask ourselves how much the imperatives of the current budget shortfall justify cutting back one of the true splendors of Californian civilization.

Peter Baldwin is professor of history at UCLA. His most recent book is "The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike."

Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty show support for Wisconsin governor

Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty show support for Wisconsin governor

Both seen as potential presidential candidates in 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty say they back Gov. Scott Walker in his standoff with unions over collective bargaining.

Potential GOP presidential candidates announced on Thursday that they supported the Republican governor in Wisconsin in his standoff with unionized public employees, while the White House repeated its position that needed financial belt-tightening should not be an excuse to eliminate fundamental union rights.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has called on public employees to spend more for health insurance and pension benefits and has argued that collective bargaining rights should be limited. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have protested the plans and all 14 Democratic senators have fled the state so that their chamber cannot act on the proposals.

In a posting on his website, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced that his Free and Strong America PAC will send a maximum $5,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

“Liberal big government interests are fighting efforts to rein in out-of-control public employee pay and benefits in Wisconsin. It is critical that we stand with the Wisconsin GOP as it stands up for the rights of the taxpayer,” Romney said.

Romney, considered one of the leading aspirants for the GOP nod in 2012, was joined by another possible contender, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who in a website posting on Thursday praised Walker, while attacking President Obama.

 “Gov. Scott Walker is making tough choices needed to avoid financial ruin,” Pawlenty said. “The nation's governors don't need a lecture from a president who has never balanced a budget. All levels of government need to bring public employee compensation in line with the private sector.”

None of the potential GOP presidential candidates has formally announced a campaign for 2012.

Obama initially criticized Walker’s plans, saying they seem “like more of an assault on unions.” Facing tough bargaining ahead on his own budget, Obama also said he understood the need for some cuts.

At his afternoon briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he was unaware of any plans for Obama to join picketers in Wisconsin, then reiterated the president’s position.There is a need “for public sector employees to tighten their belts,”  Carney said, but the president continues to be concerned that the need for cuts not be used “as an excuse to go after fundamental bargaining rights.”

Carney called on the parties to bargain in Wisconsin. Obama “believes very strongly people need to come to the table and share the sacrifice,” he said.

The battle in Wisconsin has been a political issue for the last two weeks. There were early claims by Organizing for America, Obama’s former group that is now part of the Democratic National Committee,  that it was helping the demonstrators. But after the GOP complained, the White House said that the group had played a minimal role in what was a grass-roots movement in the Midwest.

House GOP backs off slightly in new offer on spending cuts

House GOP backs off slightly in new offer on spending cuts

The short-term spending measure, which excludes some Republican top priorities, aims to avert a government shutdown.

By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau
5:50 PM PST, February 25, 2011
Reporting from Washington
House Republican leaders unveiled a short-term, stopgap spending measure Friday that retreats from some of their top political priorities, such as defunding President Obama's healthcare law, in the hope of averting a government shutdown by next weekend.

Even though the new proposal still would cut $4 billion over two weeks, it was quickly seized upon by Democratic leaders in the Senate, who control that chamber's majority, as a step toward a potential compromise.

Both sides have been working behind the scenes as Congress tries to resolve a budget impasse before the current spending plan expires next Friday. Even as they negotiate, however, they have blamed each other for the possibility of a federal government shutdown.

A House vote on the latest proposal could come as early as Tuesday.

"Let me be clear: A government shutdown is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans," said Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the new proposal indicates that Republicans have backed away from what Democrats characterize as the party's "my way or the highway" approach.

"We are encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures, like cuts to border security, cancer research and food safety inspectors, and instead moving closer to Democrats' position that we should cut government spending in a smart, responsible way," said Reid spokesman Jon Summers.

The proposal unveiled Friday differs from the House GOP's spending measure, adopted last week with more than $60 billion in cuts, and relies on a different approach.

The new, short-term measure would cut $4 billion over the next two weeks by terminating programs Obama identified for elimination in next year's budget and by killing earmarks, special expenditures that members of Congress request for their home districts.

Among the eight programs that would be eliminated are those providing for highway spending, a literacy program, election assistance grants, broadband loan subsidies and funds for the Smithsonian Arts and Industries landmark on the National Mall.

But it excludes top Republican priorities, such defunding the healthcare law, preempting Environmental Protection Agency regulations of greenhouse gases and cutting funds for Planned Parenthood.

Republican leaders now must try to ensure that their rank-and-file members and conservative supporters will back the proposal.

The GOP ranks include new members who won election last year with "tea party" support and who were instrumental in forcing a more severe cost-cutting proposal than the party leadership originally envisioned.

To lay the groundwork for next week's vote, Republican leaders convened a conference call with members Thursday to present the contours of the newest stopgap measure.

Many tea party activists and other conservatives have openly advocated a government shutdown. But GOP leaders now are confident their ranks understand the importance of approving a temporary plan to avert a shutdown, even if the proposal fails to include top Republican priorities.

They also expect that their members will allow votes on the new proposal even without the open debate and amendment process that GOP leaders have promised.

The House Republican leaders worked with counterparts in the Senate to craft the potential compromise.

"There is now a clear path to finishing this short-term measure before the March 4 deadline," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

The proposal does not end the debate. Democrats in the Senate intend next week to unveil their own stopgap measure that would freeze spending at current levels for 30 days, and the two sides must overcome deep divisions to adopt a spending plan that will last until October.

GOP guvs ease away from anti-union battles

GOP guvs ease away from anti-union battles

Taking a lesson from pitched battles in Wisconsin, some fear backlash could derail agendas.
Last update: February 24, 2011 - 9:24 PM
WASHINGTON - With a wary eye on Wisconsin, Republican leaders in several states are toning down the tough talk against public employee unions and, in some cases, abandoning anti-union measures altogether.
Indiana's governor urged GOP lawmakers to give up on a "right to work" bill for fear the backlash could derail the rest of his agenda. In Ohio, senators plan to soften a bill that would have banned all collective bargaining by state workers. And in Michigan, the Republican governor says he'd rather negotiate with public employees than pick a fight.
That's hardly enough to set labor leaders celebrating. They still face measures in dozens of states that seek to curb union rights. But union officials say they believe the sustained protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states are having an effect.
"It's still too early to tell, but I think the reaction that we're seeing from governors in other states really shows the power of workers standing together," said Naomi Walker, director of state government relations at the AFL-CIO.
The fight over labor rights that has spread across the country reached a boiling point in Wisconsin after Gov. Scott Walker proposed a bill that would end virtually all collective bargaining rights for state workers. The legislation would force state and local public workers to contribute more toward their pensions and health care as well as strip them of the right to negotiate benefits and working conditions.
Swelling state budget deficits nationwide, along with the effects of the recession on private-sector jobs, pay and benefits, have provided a potent platform for conservatives who argue that taxpayers can no longer afford the compensation, pensions and retiree health care that unions have gained in years past. Headlines about state workers retiring at age 55 with six-figure pensions and health care for life don't help public employees' image.
Unions and national Democratic leaders have accused Republicans of overreaching in a politically motivated ploy to weaken unions, a core Democratic ally. And they have done their part to fight back, with unions sinking $30 million into a campaign to fight GOP efforts, and Democratic activists helping to mobilize demonstrators.
'They are taking a wise course'
"I think a number of other governors have decided that they do not want the kind of frustration that we see in Wisconsin," said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate. "I think they are taking a wise course in trying to solve problems rather than trying to lead a political crusade."
In Indiana, top Republican legislators have declared dead a "right to work" bill that would prohibit union representation fees from being a condition of employment at most private companies. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is considering a presidential run, had been saying since December that he wanted to avoid a showdown with labor that could distract lawmakers from moving on proposals such as revamping public schools and the state budget.
Republican Senate leaders in Ohio agreed to modify a bill that would have banned all collective bargaining by state employees. Ohio Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus denied the protests had any effect, saying the decision came after listening to hours of testimony. Democratic leaders consider the change -- allowing workers to negotiate on wages but ban strikes -- "window dressing."
'Shouldn't be a heckler's vote'
Meanwhile, governors in Michigan and Florida appear to be taking a more conciliatory approach to unions, hoping to avoid the brawl in Wisconsin. "That's not our path," said Michigan's Rick Snyder. "I and my administration fully intend to work with our employees and union partners in a collective fashion."
Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said, "These guys in other states are equally conservative [as in Wisconsin], but they don't want to create an unnecessary conflict which may prove politically embarrassing."
But that doesn't mean Republican governors are backing down from other measures that could weaken union clout. Public employees in Florida, for example, are a focus of the GOP-controlled Legislature through proposals that would direct new hires to a defined contribution retirement plan, reduce health benefits and prohibit union dues deductions from paychecks.
In Tennessee, Senate Republicans are moving forward on a bill to strip teachers of collective bargaining rights. And Republicans in Missouri are advancing a "right to work" bill that bars union membership or fees from being a condition of employment.

James Sherk of the conservative Heritage Foundation said those governors who have made it a priority to rein in unions appear resolved to fight. "There shouldn't be a heckler's veto," he said. "You shouldn't allow the voice of a few tens of thousands of protesters to drown out the millions of voters who expressed a desire for a change of course and more conservative policies."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sticks to his guns

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sticks to his guns

As the battle drags on, he has become a national hero and villain, sparking questions about whether Walker is a principled man keeping his word to tackle a $3.6 billion state budget deficit, or an ideologue determined to advance a union-busting agenda.
Last update: February 25, 2011 - 11:51 PM
MADISON, WIS. - The loud drumming and protests in the Capitol rotunda were blaring in their second week, and lawmakers had stayed up through the night speaking on the Assembly floor. Still, a weary Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan couldn't help but temper his criticism of Gov. Scott Walker.
"To this day, I think he's still a very nice guy," said Pocan, before adding, "I think he was more open before to ideas and now it appears that he's drinking the governor Kool-Aid.''
As the battle here drags on, Wisconsin's new governor has become a national hero and villain for his efforts to cut state employee benefits and curb their union negotiating power. The audacious and divisive tack has sparked questions about whether Walker is a principled man keeping his word to tackle a $3.6 billion state budget deficit, or an ideologue determined to advance a union-busting agenda.
Debate over the measure ramped up last week when 14 Democratic senators left the state to prevent a vote. Union leaders have agreed to cuts that would address his budget demands, but Walker won't negotiate on keeping intact their ability to bargain.
Colleagues say he's not cooperating because he doesn't have to.
"He's a nice person," said state Rep. Elizabeth Coggs, a Democrat who served on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors when Walker was the elected county executive there. "The things that maybe he's doing now is because he's got all this power. He's got both houses. ...This is just only the beginning."
Delavan 'PK'
Walker, 43, has finely honed people skills, according to those who know him. The son of a Baptist preacher, he still refers to himself as "PK''-- preacher's kid -- and grew up in the small town of Delavan, with life a little like a "fishbowl."
He was an Eagle Scout, played high school sports and was in the band. His career at Marquette University was abbreviated. He compiled a 2.5 GPA and left short of getting his undergraduate degree to take a job in marketing with the Red Cross.
"In the end, I figured I was in school to get a good job," Walker told the Wisconsin State Journal last October about his college days. "So once I had one, family became more important than getting a degree."
He met his wife, Tonette, and the two started a family in Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb. In 1993, at 26, Walker won a state Assembly seat. Tonette knew early about her husband's political aspirations. "Did I have reservations? My parents were Democrats and they were union workers," she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In the Assembly, it quickly became evident that Walker had higher ambitions.
"I could tell, and I told people, ... 'this guy's gonna be a rising star,'" said Republican Rep. Dean Kaufert, who traveled the country with Walker in the 1990s on a project to look at prisons. Walker was articulate and thorough, Kaufert said. "You saw something that the guy had a plan."
When the Milwaukee County executive stepped down amid a pension scandal in 2002, Walker made the unusual move of running for the seat. He battled with the Board of Supervisors and pushed to privatize some county services. He laid off workers. He proposed budgets with no tax increases.
In a foreshadowing, union protesters marched at the county level in response to Walker's actions. Coggs argues that Walker left it up to the board to resolve some issues.
"We would have to do the heavy lifting," Coggs said, adding that the board prevented some of the layoffs Walker threatened. "We'd have to put it back together again."
In eight years on the board, Walker gave back more than $370,000 of his salary to the county. Board Chairman Lee Holloway, who argued with Walker often, said they managed to keep a respectful working relationship.
"Whether you agree with him or not, he is for real. He's stubborn as all hell. He's not gonna let anybody bully him," Holloway said.
'Brown bag' plan
While campaigning for governor, Walker boasted of his frugality. Commercials featured him driving his 1998 Saturn. He used the ham-and-cheese sandwiches he packed for lunch every day as the basis for a "brown bag" plan to limit government.
How much he telegraphed his willingness to put the state through its current situation is unclear.
Asked about what he would first cut from the state budget if he were elected, Walker told the Sheboygan Press: "The biggest things we need to do are get public employee wages and benefits under control. To me, we can no longer have a society where public employees are the haves, and the taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots."
Some Democrats say they didn't see the attack on collective bargaining coming.
Publicly, Walker hasn't wavered. Privately, in what turned out to be a prank phone call, Walker didn't object when the prankster described his opponents as "Democrat bastards.''
"If they think I'm caving, they've been asleep for the last eight years," Walker later told the caller.

Walker also discussed strategies with the man he thought was David Koch, who with his brother, Charles, owns Koch Industries Inc., one of the largest privately owned U.S. companies. When the caller suggested planting "troublemakers" among the protesters, Walker paused, then responded: "We thought about that."
At the end, Walker said: "We're doing the just and right thing for the right reasons."
Both sides agree Walker's pushing an agenda that he thinks is right.
As protesters' shouts echoed from the rotunda, Rep. Al Ott, a Republican serving his 13th term, said he thinks Walker is buoyed by his religious faith.
"I have no questions about his character," Ott said. "I know people are reading different things into his posture and his approach. But I think it truly is the time and the circumstance which we're dealing with."
Pocan believes he sees a change in Walker from the young legislator he knew. "He comes across like someone who you'd love to have as your neighbor because he'd probably, every now and then, shovel for you," Pocan said. "This rigidity kind of runs counter to my past actions with him. ... He's trying to deliver for the national movement rather than addressing concerns we have in Wisconsin."

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school board in Providence, R.I., voted to send termination notices to all of the city’s 1,926 teachers

Mayor Tries to Reassure Providence Teachers as Furor Grows Over Firing Notices

BOSTON — A day after the school board in Providence, R.I., voted to send termination notices to all of the city’s 1,926 teachers, Mayor Angel Taveras sought to calm the uproar by saying that an “overwhelming majority” would not, in fact, lose their jobs.
Mr. Taveras, a Democrat who took office last month, described the extraordinary step as a pre-emptive move to guarantee flexibility in addressing the budget deficit.
Rhode Island law requires teachers to be notified of possible layoffs or terminations by March 1, which is why the school board did not wait for next year’s budget picture to become clearer.
The city will have to close some of its 40 schools by September, Mr. Taveras said, and only those teachers would lose their jobs.
“Given that we don’t know the schools yet that we’re going to target,” he said in an interview, “the most appropriate thing is to require notices to all the teachers.”
Teachers have accused Mr. Taveras of trying to bypass seniority rules by sending termination notices instead of layoff warnings. With layoffs, teachers are typically asked back based on seniority. Terminations give the district more control over which teachers will be rehired.
Mr. Taveras and his spokeswoman, Melissa Withers, denied that accusation. They said layoffs were more costly because they required measures like keeping the affected teachers in a long-term substitute pool.
“When you lay someone off you still have some financial responsibility for them,” Ms. Withers said. “Contractually, there are all kinds of things that define a layoff that could limit our ability to manage the budget.”
The notices going out to teachers warn not that they will be fired, Ms. Withers said, but that they might be.
Steven Smith, the president of the Providence Teachers Union, did not return calls on Friday. But Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, described the school board’s move as an unprecedented power play.
“What’s going on here,” she said, “is somebody has an idea about wanting to arbitrarily and capriciously choose who they want teaching in schools next year.”
Ms. Weingarten said the termination notices were also a way of to pressure the city’s teachers’ union as it prepares for contract negotiations. Its current contract ends in June.
Last year, every teacher at the high school in Central Falls, R.I., just north of Providence, was fired based on poor student performance. But most were rehired within months under a deal between the teachers’ union and the schools superintendent.
Mr. Taveras said Providence would announce which schools were closing within “weeks, not months,” and that the age of the buildings would be a factor in determining that list. The Providence school system is facing a $40 million deficit in its $315 million budget, but he said the situation was not as dire as in Detroit, which plans to close up to 70 of its roughly 140 school buildings and put as many as 60 students in each classroom.
“I don’t plan on being Detroit,” Mr. Taveras said. “It won’t happen here. We care too much about education, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure our kids are in class sizes that are appropriate and led by great teachers.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Judge Orders Shutdown of TV Streaming Service

Judge Orders Shutdown of TV Streaming Service


In a victory for television broadcasters, a federal judge in New York has ordered streaming outfit ivi, Inc., to stop airing the signals of TV networks over the Internet without consent.
Last September, ivi sued various major broadcasters in Washington District Court, seeking a declaration that by paying periodic statutory licensing fees to the Register of Copyrights, it was not infringing the copyrights of television stations. (The case was later dismissed after the judge in Washington found it to be an improper anticipatory filing.) The broadcasters responded by filing their own lawsuit in New York District Court, claiming that those statutory fees were only meant to apply to traditional cable TV operators and not to a web streaming outfit looking to retransmit a live television feed.
In recent months, ivi has presented itself as part of a new breed of "Online Video Distributors" and has asserted itself during the FCC and the Justice Department review of the Comcast takeover of NBCU as being the sort of competition that would keep traditional broadcasters and distributors honest.
But in a legal victory for TV broadcasters, Judge Naomi Buchwald has rejected those arguments, finding that broadcasters have demonstrated a likelihood of winning the case against ivi.
In her decision granting a restraining order, Judge Buchwald rules that ivi can't be considered a cable system under Section 111 of the Copyright Act, and thus, can't get away with having access to copyrighted content merely by paying $100 per year. The judge finds ivi's legal justification to be skewed. "No technology...has been allowed to take advantage of Section 111 to retransmit copyrighted programming to a national audience while not complying with the rules and regulations of the FCC and without consent of the copyright holder," she writes.
In reaction to today's ruling, ivi has informed customers that it has temporarily shut down its service.
"This fight is for the people and their right to choice and control over their own entertainment -- and it will continue," said the company in a statement. "The oppressive big media networks must open their doors to innovators or they will inevitably fall. People want responsible choice, not the one-size-fits-all television offerings imposed by powerful media interests."
Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group which filed an amicus brief on behalf of ivi, has pledged upon reading the judge's words to take the fight to Washington.
“If competition to traditional cable service is to develop in the online distribution sector, then the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Copyright Office are going to have to move quickly to update their rules to conform to the realities of new technology and consumer choice," said John Bergmayer, staff attorney for Public Knowledge.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters says it is "gratified" to learn of today's development. According to a statement by NAB executive vp communications Dennis Wharton, "In granting the injunction, the court found that ivi should not 'be allowed to continue to steal plaintiffs' programming for personal gain until a resolution of this case on the merits'. We agree."
Eriq Gardner can be reached at

Oscar Red Carpet Roll-out - Photo

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Street Closures Expand as Crews Finish Last Minute Oscars Preps

Street closures in effect leading up to the Academy Awards
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Rudy Morales, left, helps glue sections of the red carpet together while other workers install a rain canopy in front of the Kodak Theatre ahead of the Academy Awards. (Los Angeles Times / February 26, 2011)
Rudy Morales, left, helps glue sections of the red carpet together
while other workers install a rain canopy in front of the
Kodak Theatre ahead of the Academy Awards.
(Los Angeles Times / February 26, 2011)
HOLLYWOOD (KTLA) -- Crews in Hollywood are spending much of this wet and stormy Saturday evening putting the final touches -- and deciding whether to keep the roof on the red carpet -- on the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.

Golden statues lining the entrance outside the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard are still covered and tarp still adheres to the red carpet to keep it pristine for Sunday's big event.

And the big question is -- will this wild weather be kind to Hollywood's elite?

Cold temperatures are expected to mar this year's festivities and, as of Saturday night, KTLA is being told that there are no plans to add heat lamps or other warming devices to the red carpet.

"There are a lot of changes to the red carpet this year," John Lewis, Awards Arrival Production Manager told KTLA. Lewis claims the change in creative direction will rid the red carpet of its iconic shrubbery, the bleachers are deeper for better viewing of the preshow production and celebrities must pass through an elaborate arch before stepping on the carpet.

And his advice to the stars? "Bundle up, baby!"

  • Hawthorn Avenue between Highland and Orange.
  • Streets and sidewalks in the areas of Highland, Orange, Franklin and Hawthorn avenues.
  • Metro red line trains will bypass the Hollywood and Highland station. They'll resume regular service at 6 a.m. on Monday.
  • Hollywood Boulevard is expected to reopen Tuesday.
For full information on the closures, visit