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Mon, 05 Jun 2023
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Society's Child


School privatization schemes hurt poor children

Gordon Lafer
© unknown
Gordon Lafer
Gordon Lafer, a political economist and University of Oregon professor who has advised Congress, state legislatures, and the New York City mayor's office, landed at the airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, late last night bringing with him a briefing paper on school privatization and how it hurts poor kids.

Lafer's report, "Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin," released today by the Economic Policy Institute, documents the effects of both for-profit and non-profit charter schools that are taking over struggling public schools in Milwaukee.

"I hope people connect the dots," Lafer said by phone from the Milwaukee airport.

Lafer's research, commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute to evaluate the school-privatization push in Milwaukee, is a sweeping indictment of the growing private charter school industry -- and other schemes backed by rightwing groups and big business -- that siphon public funds out of public schools and enrich corporate investors at the expense of quality education for poor children.

Arrow Up

Missing data: Unexplained deaths increase in Denmark

The number of people dying in Denmark without a doctor's explanation as to why is on the up, recent statistics have shown.

Of the 52,000 who died in 2012, the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) death registry received no death certificate from doctors for 2,500 of them. This figure is almost three times higher than it was in 2002 and eight times what it was when the registry was established in 1994.

Vendsyssel Hospital senior consultant and pathologist Ulrik Baandrup said that fewer deceased persons are autopsied than in the past, explaining that because of this many doctors have less autopsy experience and therefore can be left with less knowledge about the causes of death.

Baandrup said that even when someone dies of natural causes, the reason should be "pinpointed" so preventative measures can be developed.

Apple Green

Epidemic of hunger: New report says 49 million Americans are dealing with 'food insecurity'

If the economy really is "getting better", then why are nearly 50 million Americans dealing with food insecurity? In 1854, Henry David Thoreau observed that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". The same could be said of our time. In America today, most people are quietly scratching and clawing their way from month to month. Nine of the top ten occupations in the U.S. pay an average wage of less than $35,000 a year, but those that actually are working are better off than the millions upon millions of Americans that can't find jobs.

The level of employment in this nation has remained fairly level since the end of the last recession, and median household income has gone down for five years in a row. Meanwhile, our bills just keep going up and the cost of food is starting to rise at a very frightening pace. Family budgets are being squeezed tighter and tighter, and more families are falling out of the middle class every single day. In fact, a new report by Feeding America (which operates the largest network of food banks in the country) says that 49 million Americans are "food insecure" at this point. Approximately 16 million of them are children. It is a silent epidemic of hunger that those living in the wealthy areas of the country don't hear much about. But it is very real.

Arrow Down

Killer pig virus wipes out more than 10 percent of U.S hogs, causing spike in pork prices

John Goihl, a hog nutritionist in Shakopee, Minnesota, knows a farmer in his state who lost 7,500 piglets just after they were born. In Sampson County, North Carolina, 12,000 of Henry Moore's piglets died in three weeks. Some 30,000 piglets perished at John Prestage's Oklahoma operation in the fall of 2013.

The killer stalking U.S. hog farms is known as PEDv, a malady that in less than a year has wiped out more than 10 percent of the nation's pig population and helped send retail pork prices to record highs. The highly contagious Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus is puzzling scientists searching for its origins and its cure and leaving farmers devastated in ways that go beyond financial losses.

"It's a real morale killer in a barn. People have to shovel pigs out instead of nursing them along," Goihl said.

Stock Up

Food prices in Russia grow 40 times faster than in Europe

In Russia, prices on food products grow 40 times faster than in Europe, experts said.

Russia's Federal Statistics Agency, Rosstat, announced price growth details in the first quarter of 2014. According to him, food products become more expensive in Russia 40 times faster than in Europe. Experts explain such a significant difference with the ruble devaluation, as it is mainly imported products that become more expensive.

Currently, imported foodstuffs make up a lion's share of the range of Russian food stores. The main "culprits" of this trend are fruit and vegetable crops that Russia imports during cold seasons. Food prices also grow because of imported coffee, tea, dairy products, meat and fish.

Black Cat

U.S. spy-satellite agency failed to report criminal employees: Child sex abuse and other criminal activities revealed

intelligence satellite
© Reuters / Luke MacGregor
The agency that controls US intelligence satellites failed to inform law enforcement when some employees and contractors admitted during lie detector tests to child abuse crimes, according to the intelligence inspector general.

The US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which operates surveillance satellites for the US intelligence community, was also found in other cases to have delayed reporting to authorities admissions of criminal activity uncovered during security clearance polygraph tests. Two inspector general reports released Tuesday found these delays possibly imperiled evidence in investigations or even endangered children.

In one case, an NRO legal counsel advised employees against reporting admissions by a government contractor of child molestation, viewing child pornography, and sexting with a minor, according to the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General.

"Doubt we have enough to interest the FBI," the NRO's then-assistant general counsel told another agency official in an email, adding, "the alleged victim is fourteen years old and fully capable of calling the police herself."

The NRO employee reported the confession anyway, revealing that the girl was still in contact with the contractor who had admitted to the crimes. The US Department of Justice was not informed of the confession for nearly five weeks, according to McClatchy news service.

Overall, 30 individuals of the 30,000 who took the NRO polygraph tests from 2009 to 2012 confessed to child abuse or possessing child pornography, the inspector general found. The inspector general's office referred for investigation seven confessions related to child pornography or child abuse that the NRO failed to report.

Meanwhile, in some reported cases, delays as long as several months meant "individuals could continue the criminal activity or tamper with or destroy evidence in the interim," said the inspector general's office.

Cell Phone

Parents spend 11 hours a day with electronic devices - less face to face communication with children

parent with phone
It's not just our kids getting too much screen time these days. Parents are also guilty of spending too much time on their electronic devices.

Researchers at the Boston Medical Center observed 55 different groups of parents and young children eating at fast food restaurants. The study found the majority pulled out their mobile devices right away, and, in turn, their kids tended to act up more.

"It's just normal childhood behavior," said parenting coach Toni Schutta. "If I can't get your attention in a positive way, I'm going seek it in a negative way."

Suzanne Ferguson, of Minneapolis, said she and her husband used to be smartphone addicts, checking their emails around their kids.

"We were the couple that would go out to eat at dinner and both be on our own phones before we had kids," she said. "We're very much attached to our phones."

Schutta says parents spend, on average, 11 hours a day using electronic devices. All that time takes away from face to face communication, which helps kids learn behavior.


Texas county to feed feral hogs to the hungry at local food banks

feral hogs
© ABC News
Texas County to Feed Feral Hogs to the Homeless
Authorities in Texas have signed off on plans to control the growing feral hog population that includes trapping and cooking the critters to feed to the hungry at local food banks.

The pigs will be trapped at George Bush Park and Congressman Bill Archer Park in Harris County, Texas, where they are threatening native wildlife and vegetation, according to Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack who came up with the plan and called it a "gift from God," according to ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston.

"There may be as many as 8,000 to 10,000 feral hogs in each of the reservoirs," said Mike McMahon with the Harris County Commissioner's Office, which today approved the purchase of four four-acre metal pens to trap the hogs.

After being captured, the pigs will be taken to a processing plant, J&J Packing Co, where they'll be inspected by a Department of Agriculture officer before being slaughtered. The meat will be sent to the Houston Food Bank.

Heart - Black

Cop's wife kills bicyclist, then sues him for 'emotional distress'

Brandon Majewski
© Image from facebook.com
A Canadian woman who hit three teenage boys - killing one and seriously injuring another - is now suing the deceased child, his family, and the two other teenagers she struck for more than $1 million.

In October 2012, 17-year-old Brandon Majewski was out with his friends Richard McLean and Jake Roberts, both 16, when they decided to hop on their bikes and go out for a hot dog. On their way, Sharlene Simon, 42, struck all three of the boys with her SUV. Majewski was severely injured, and died just two hours later.

Majewski's father, Derek Majewski, acknowledged to the Toronto Sun that the boys shouldn't have been out so late - it was past 1 a.m. at the time of the collision - but said they are "good kids" and should not have been hit by the vehicle. Now that the woman behind the vehicle is suing his dead son for emotional issues, anxiety, and trauma, he was not shy about expressing his anger.

"I feel like someone kicked me in the stomach - I'm over the edge," the dead boy's father, Derek Majewski, said to the Toronto Sun. "Sometimes, it makes my blood boil."

The family's attorney, Brian Cameron, expressed similar shock over receiving news of the lawsuit.

"In my 14 years of doing this, I've unfortunately represented far too many people who have lost children being hit by motorists, (and) I've never seen this," Cameron told Toronto's CTV News Channel. "I've never even heard of this ... I was shocked when I got the claim."


More than 4% of death row inmates in the US may be innocent

Death Row
© Greg Smith/Corbis
Mistake? Defendants on death row have access to more legal resources and scrutiny than other criminal defendants, giving researchers a window into the false conviction rate of the population.

One in 25 criminal defendants who has been handed a death sentence in the United States has likely been erroneously convicted. That number - 4.1% to be exact - comes from a new analysis of more than 3 decades of data on death sentences and death row exonerations across the United States.

"This was a very carefully done and carefully considered approach," says statistician Bruce Levin of Columbia University, who was not involved in the new study. "The analysis was quite sophisticated, and the authors were transparent about both their assumptions and methods."

Putting a number on the rate of false convictions among criminal defendants in the United States is complicated by the fact that many false convictions are never identified and there's no central, national database that tracks most types of criminal cases.

A number of lawyers and judges, however, have publically claimed that the false conviction rate for all crimes is almost negligible - including a written comment by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a 2006 concurring opinion, citing a rate of 0.027%. But such assumptions usually take the total number of all exonerations in the country and divide it by total number of felony convictions - an incorrect calculation because most false convictions, especially for more minor felonies, are never revealed.

To calculate a more accurate false conviction rate, Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor and a former criminal defense lawyer, decided to focus on one small subset of criminal cases: those that result in death sentences.