Society's ChildS

2 + 2 = 4

USA: How Dumb Are We?

Newsweek gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship Test--38 percent failed. The country's future is imperiled by our ignorance.
© Josh McKible/NewsweekWhat Don't You Know? Take the Quiz.

They're the sort of scores that drive high-school history teachers to drink. When Newsweek recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America's official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn't name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn't correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn't even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

Don't get us wrong: civic ignorance is nothing new. For as long as they've existed, Americans have been misunderstanding checks and balances and misidentifying their senators. And they've been lamenting the philistinism of their peers ever since pollsters started publishing these dispiriting surveys back in Harry Truman's day. (He was a president, by the way.) According to a study by Michael X. Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, the yearly shifts in civic knowledge since World War II have averaged out to "slightly under 1 percent."

But the world has changed. And unfortunately, it's becoming more and more inhospitable to incurious know-nothings - like us.


Syria Protests Spread, Authorities Pull Back

© YoutubeThis footage purportedly show protests in the southwestern town of Daraa on 18th March 2011.
Unrest spread in southern Syria on Monday with hundreds of people demonstrating against the government in the town of Jassem, activists said, but authorities did not use force to quell the latest protest.

Security forces killed four civilians in demonstrations that erupted last week in the town of Deraa, in the most serious challenge to President Bashar al-Assad's rule since the 45-year-old succeeded his father 11 years ago.

"This is peaceful, peaceful. God, Syria, freedom," chanted the protesters in Jassem, an agricultural town 30 km (20 miles) west of Deraa.

The authorities appeared to adopt less heavy-handed tactics, choosing not to intervene against protests demanding freedom and an end to corruption and repression, but not the overthrow of Assad. The ruling Baath Party has banned opposition and enforced emergency laws since 1963.

In Deraa, hundreds of black-uniformed security forces wielding AK-47 assault rifles lined the streets but did not confront thousands of mourners who marched at the funeral of 23-year-old Raed al-Kerad, a protester killed in Deraa.


Necropsy being performed on celebrity polar bear

© AP Photo/Markus SchreiberStuffed Knuts, candles and flowers lay at the entrance of the Zoo to commemorate late polar bear Knut in Berlin on Sunday, March 20, 2011. Hundreds of fans of polar bear Knut flocked to lay flowers Sunday outside his zoo enclosure, mourning the sudden death of a bear who burst into the limelight as a cuddly, fluffy cub hand-fed by his keeper.
Berlin - Veterinary experts performed a necropsy Monday on Berlin zoo's celebrity polar bear Knut to try to determine why he died suddenly over the weekend.

The four-year-old polar bear died Saturday afternoon in front of visitors, turning around several times and then dropping to the ground, and falling into the water in his enclosure.

Polar bears usually live 15 to 20 years in the wild, and even longer in captivity, and the zoo is hoping the investigation may help clarify what happened.

Results were expected later Monday or on Tuesday, the zoo said.

In the meantime, people continued to flock to the zoo to sign their name in a condolence book in tribute to Knut.

"Every visit to the Zoo brought happiness, because he was such a warmhearted animal and he brought us all so much fun," visitor Eveline Plat told AP Television News.

2 + 2 = 4

Day Care Owner Is Returned; Fled Country After Fatal Fire

© Fulton County Sherriff's Office, via Associated PressJessica Tata was arrested in Nigeria and transferred to the U.S. to face manslaughter charges.
A woman who fled to Nigeria after a fire killed four children at her day care center in Houston was flown back to the United States on Monday, the authorities said.

Investigators say that the woman, Jessica Tata, 22, left Houston two days after fire officials determined that the Feb. 24 blaze at Jackie's Child Care had most likely been sparked by a pot on a stove that the authorities believe Ms. Tata left unattended while she went shopping.

Three other children were injured in the fire.

Ms. Tata, who faces 14 charges, including four manslaughter counts, surrendered to Interpol agents in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt on Saturday, the authorities said. Ms. Tata, an American citizen, has relatives in Port Harcourt, they said.

"You cannot thumb your nose at the justice system, whether it be domestically or abroad," Elizabeth Saenz, the United States marshal for the Southern District of Texas, said in a statement Monday. "Justice will be served. Jessica Tata has learned this, thanks to the global efforts of the many and unknown."

The children who died at Ms. Tata's in-home day care center were Elias Castillo, 16 months; Elizabeth Kajoh, 19 months; Kendyll Stradford, 20 months; and Shomari Leon Dickerson, age 3.

Bad Guys

Russia says Western strikes kill Libyan civilians

Russia called on Britain, France and the United States on Sunday to stop air strikes against what it said were non-military targets in Libya, saying the attacks had caused civilian casualties.

"In that respect we call on countries involved to stop the non-selective use of force," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

Lukashevich said 48 civilians were reported to have been killed and 150 wounded in the air strikes, figures that matched those given early on Sunday by Libyan state TV. He said strikes had destroyed a medical facility, roads and bridges.

The Western countries say they hit only military targets, including air defences and tanks that were threatening the eastern city of Benghazi.

Bad Guys

Putin likens U.N. Libya resolution to crusade calls

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Monday likened the U.N. Security Council resolution supporting military action in Libya to medieval calls for crusades.

Putin, in the first major remarks from a Russian leader since a coalition of Western countries began air strikes in Libya, said that Muammar Gaddafi's government fell short of democracy but added that did not justify military intervention.

"The resolution is defective and flawed," Putin told workers at a Russian ballistic missile factory. "It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades."

Putin said that interference in other countries' internal affairs has become a trend in U.S. foreign policy and that the events in Libya indicated that Russia should strengthen its own defense capabilities.


Libya attacks criticised by Arab League, China, Russia and India

The air strikes launched by Western allies against Libya have been condemned by the head of a regional group for Arab states as well as China, Russia and India.

They said that the "indiscriminate" bombing raids went further than the no-fly zone agreed by the United Nations as a way of preventing Col Gaddafi's attacks on rebel forces, and risked harming civilians.

The criticisms by the head of the Arab League, in particular, risk undermining the legitimacy of the military action taken by France, Britain, Canada and the US, since the organisation had previously demanded the imposition of a no-fly zone.

No Entry

China paper blasts Western air attacks in Libya, compares them to Iraq, Afghanistan

China's most important political newspaper ratcheted up the country's criticism of Western airstrikes against Libya on Monday, comparing them to the U.S.-led invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Communist Party's flagship newspaper, The People's Daily, said in a commentary that the United States and its allies are violating international rules and that in places like Iraq "the unspeakable suffering of its people are a mirror and a warning."

"The military attacks on Libya are, following on from the Afghan and Iraq wars, the third time that some countries have launched armed action against sovereign countries," it said.

China continued to urge other nations to seek a peaceful resolution to the clash in the Middle East between Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and rebel forces.

Bad Guys

Bombing Libyan territory could mean large-scale conflict: Russia

Vitaly Churkin speaks
© APRussian permanent representative Vitaly Churkin speaks during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at UN headquarters on Thursday, March 17, 2011. Russia was one of five Security Council members to abstain during the vote on a no-fly zone in Libya.

Russia has warned that foreign military intervention in Libya could trigger an all-out war with the West.

"Any bombing of Libyan territory could provoke a large-scale conflict between the so-called West and the so-called Arab world," a Russian Parliament leader said commenting on French and British plans to carry out aerial attacks in Libya.

Russia will not take part in a military operation in Libya, a top Russian defence official said on Friday.

"No, this is ruled out," Chief of the Russian General Staff Nikolai Makarov told the Interfax news agency.


US, Louisiana: Waterford 3 nuclear plant is not immune to ground-fault concerns, some geologists say

Recent advances in geological study have uncovered an array of deep-seated regional faults, long thought to be dormant, that have shown surface movement throughout southeast Louisiana. And in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, some local geologists and environmental activists are warning that the levees along the Waterford 3 nuclear plant in St. Charles Parish should be evaluated for potential fault hazards.

"It's not that you would have an earthquake at the time of a flood, but it creates a natural hazard that you should either avoid or take special precautions in your design for, and I think the troublesome thing is that Taft when it was built, that wasn't a concentrated risk," said Woody Gagliano, a geologist with Coastal Environments Inc., a Baton Rouge environmental consulting firm, who has studied the effects of geological faults on levee failures.

Three months after Hurricane Katrina roared through New Orleans in 2005, Gagliano testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee that geological faults were known to underlie the levees at "many, if not most" of the breaches that occurred in hurricane levees and floodwalls in southeast Louisiana.