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Maybe T-Bone Knows What Happened to Zuckerberg’s $100 Million Gift to Newark’s Schools?

Via the New Yorker:

Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg had a plan to reform Newark’s schools. They got an education.

Late one night in December, 2009, a black Chevy Tahoe in a caravan of cops and residents moved slowly through some of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Newark. In the back sat the Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, and the Republican governor-elect of New Jersey, Chris Christie. They had become friendly almost a decade earlier, during Christie’s years as United States Attorney in Newark, and Booker had invited him to join one of his periodic patrols of the city’s busiest drug corridors.

The ostensible purpose of the tour was to show Christie one of Booker’s methods of combatting crime. But Booker had another agenda that night. Christie, during his campaign, had made an issue of urban schools. “We’re paying caviar prices for failure,” he’d said, referring to the billion-dollar annual budget of the Newark public schools, three-quarters of which came from the state. “We have to grab this system by the roots and yank it out and start over. It’s outrageous.”

Booker had been a champion of vouchers and charter schools for Newark since he was elected to the city council, in 1998, and now he wanted to overhaul the school district. He would need Christie’s help. The Newark schools had been run by the state since 1995, when a judge ended local control, citing corruption and neglect. A state investigation had concluded, “Evidence shows that the longer children remain in the Newark public schools, the less likely they are to succeed academically.” Fifteen years later, the state had its own record of mismanagement, and student achievement had barely budged. . .

I can't wait for Oprah to have Zuckerberg, Christie, and Booker on her show again to hear what they have to say. -

Health News: Measles Vaccine Cures Woman’s Incurable Cancer

Via KARE 11:

Mayo Clinic researchers announced a landmark study where a massive dose of the measles vaccine, enough to inoculate ten million people, wiped out a Minnesota woman’s incurable blood cancer.

The Mayo Clinic conducted the clinical trial last year using virotherapy. The method discovered the measles virus wiped out multiple myeloma cancer calls. Researchers engineered the measles virus (MV-NIS) in a single intravenous dose, making it selectively toxic to cancer cells.

Stacy Erholtz, 49, of Pequot Lakes, was one of two patients in the study who received the dose last year, and after ten years with multiple myeloma has been clear of the disease for over six months.

“My mindset was I didn’t have any other options available, so why wouldn’t I do it? I had to have failed all conventional treatment to do that trial. That actually happened last March,” said Erholtz. “It was the easiest treatment by far with very few side effects. I hope it’s the future of treating cancer infusion.”

Dr. Steven Russell, a Mayo Clinic hematologist, spearheaded the study and said the concept was previously tested in mice, but never in humans until now. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

War on Christianity: Pregnant Woman Sentenced to Death in Sudan

Via USA Today:

A court sentenced a pregnant, Christian Sudanese woman to death by hanging Thursday after she refused to renounce her faith, a decision Amnesty International called “abhorrent.”

Meriam Ibrahim, 27, was convicted on charges of “apostasy” — the crime of abandoning or renouncing a religion. The court also ordered Ibrahim — who married a Christian man in 2011 and is eight months pregnant — to receive 100 lashes for “adultery” because her marriage is considered void under Shari’a law. The couple has a child, a 20-month-old boy, who is currently in detention with her.

“The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent,” Manar Idriss, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, said in a statement. “Adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law.”. . .

I can't wait for John Kerry to explain how global warming is a catalyst for this, too. - Greg Pollowitz

Oops: Obamacare in California Costs $1.2 Billion More Than Expected

Via Los Angeles Times:

Enrollment in California’s healthcare program for the poor has soared as the state implements President Obama’s federal overhaul, pleasing advocates who have sought expanded coverage but also presenting new costs for the state.

Nearly one-third of California’s total population — roughly 11.5 million people — will be enrolled in Medi-Cal next year, according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.

Enrollment is expected to exceed previous estimates by 1.4 million, and administration officials said it would cost the state $1.2 billion more than originally thought.

While unveiling his newest budget proposal on Tuesday morning, Brown said expanded healthcare coverage represented “a huge social commitment on the part of the taxpayers of California.”

“I’m proud we did it,” he said. “But we also have to take into account this thing is growing.”

Although the federal government picks up the tab for any patients who became eligible for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act, the state is still responsible for half the price for people who were previously eligible but hadn’t yet signed up. . . 

Unexpected. - Greg Pollowitz

White House: There’s Nothing Wrong with Biden’s Son and Ukraine

Via Reuters:

The White House on Tuesday brushed aside questions about whether the involvement of Vice President Joe Biden’s son in a Ukrainian natural gas company raised ethical issues at a time when the administration is promoting energy diversity in the country.

R. Hunter Biden, a lawyer and a partner in an investment firm, was named this week to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, a private company that has drilled for natural gas in Ukraine since 2002.

In a statement on Burisma’s website, Hunter Biden said he would help the company with “transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion,” and other issues.

Ukraine depends on Russia for most of its natural gas, and has accused Moscow of hiking natural gas prices as punishment for moving closer to the European Union.

In April, the vice president traveled to Kiev and discussed how the United States could help provide technical expertise for expanding domestic production of natural gas.

Asked by a reporter whether Hunter Biden’s appointment to the company presented a conflict, White House spokesman Jay Carney said it did not.

“Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president,” Carney said. . .

No problem? The really believe that, which is the scary part. - Greg Pollowitz

De Blasio’s NYC: Alec Baldwin Arrested for Bicycle Infraction

Via CNN:

Actor Alec Baldwin was arrested Tuesday and issued two summonses — one for disorderly conduct — after riding a bicycle the wrong way on a New York street, police said.

The “30 Rock” star allegedly became angry and started yelling at police after they asked him for identification to give him a summons, police said. The other summons was for riding a bike against the flow of traffic. Baldwin is to appear in court July 24.

“Police stated that he got belligerent and started arguing with them and using profanity,” Deputy Chief Kim Y. Royster said.

Baldwin was not carrying identification and police took him into custody, police said. . .

Hilarious. Maybe next time Baldwin will get Tasered? Dare to dream. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Texas Tries to Get Makers of Sriracha Sauce to Leave California

Via USA Today:

As the makers of Sriracha battle to stay open in California, legislators from Texas wooed the makers of the chili sauce to move to the Lone Star State.

Texas state Rep. Jason Villalba led the delegation meeting Monday with David Tran, head of Huy Fong Foods, which makes the famous red sauce with the trademark rooster logo, in Irwindale, Calif. The delegation toured the factory where Sriracha is produced.

“We’re not here to offer any specific incentives, but just to let it be known there are incentives,” said state Sen. Carlos Uresti after their visit, according to the Associated Press. He and Villalba cited the fact that Texas does not have a personal income tax as an example.

“I’m a huge fan of the product,” Villalba told USA TODAY Network. “When I saw there was a possibility I would not be able to put Sriracha on my eggs, believe me, we got into action.”

For months, Huy Fong has been battling the Irwindale City Council over complaints that fumes from its Sriracha plant are causing neighbors to get sick. . .

"Here today, gone to Texas" should be California's new state motto. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Boko Haram Offers To Free Schoolgirls if Prisoners Released

Via NBC News:

The leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram said in a video Monday that he would free more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls in exchange for the release of militant prisoners.

In a recording obtained by Agence France-Presse, Abubakar Shekau claimed the girls had been converted to Islam.

Dozens of girls were shown wearing full veils and praying in the video, whose contents could not immediately be independently verified by NBC News.

If genuine, the video would be the first confirmation that many of the missing students remain alive.

“These girls have become Muslims,” Shekau said in the 17-minute recording. “We will never release them until after you release our brethren.”

In one part of the recording, the girls recite “Al-Fatiha” — the first chapter of the Quran — in Arabic. “Al-Fatiha,” which comprises seven verses, is one of the first prayers taught to those learning Islam.

AFP declined to release a word-for-word translation of the girls’ comments because they were being held as hostages. . .

I think Nigeria has to make the deal. - Greg Pollowitz

Hashtag Foreign Policy in the U.K., Too

Via BBC Africa:

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised Britain “will do what we can” to help find more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.

He made the comments as he held a sign bearing the “#Bring Back Our Girls” slogan on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

Mr Cameron is the latest high-profile supporter of the social media campaign after US First Lady Michelle Obama was pictured with a similar poster.

The Islamist militant group Boko Haram has claimed the abductions.

During the programme, fellow guest Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, handed Mr Cameron the sign and asked if he would like to join the campaign.

Taking it from her, he replied: “Happily.”

Mr Cameron later tweeted: “Proud to support #BringBackOurGirls.”. . .

As Nigeria is a former British colony, maybe a little more than a hashtag would be appropriate. - Greg Pollowitz

Nigerian Govt. Names 53 of the Enslaved Girls Putting Them at Risk of Stigmatization

Via AP:

The government of a Nigerian state identified 53 girls who escaped a mass kidnapping by Islamic militants, potentially subjecting the girls to stigma in this conservative society.

Some 276 girls remain missing, and U.S. officials and agents are arriving in Nigeria to help the Nigerian government, which has been widely criticized for not doing enough to find the girls.

Reuben Abati, a spokesman for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said in a statement late Thursday that the president had met with the U.S. ambassador to discuss “the modalities for the actualization” of the U.S. offer of help. . .

This is a goverment of morons. - Greg Pollowitz

Chinese Owned Company Based in Michigan Selling Helicopters to Venezuela’s Military

Via UPI:

Venezuela’s Ministry of Defense has ordered 420B training helicopters from Michigan-headquartered Enstrom Helicopter Corporation.

The contract is for 16 helicopters for use by the country’s air force and navy and will be delivered within the next 18 months.

Also included in the deal are spare parts and tools, pilot and mechanic training and in-country technical assistance during the life of the contract.

No details as to the financial value of the award, however, were disclosed.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to provide training helicopters for Venezuela,” said Tracy Biegler, Enstrom chief executive officer. “This is their first helicopter purchase from a U.S. Original Equipment Manufacturer in more than 10 years. We are pleased that the 480B was selected for this training mission.”

Diplomatic and economic relations between Venezuela and the United States have been frayed over the policies of late-President Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. . .

More on Enstrom's owners here. And over to you, President Obama. Are we really going to let this sale go through?

- Greg Pollowitz

Nigerian Military Had Advanced Warning of Boko Haram Attack?

Via BBC Africa:

Nigeria’s military had advance warning of the attack on a school at which some 270 girls were kidnapped but failed to act, a rights group says.

Several credible sources have told Amnesty International that the military in the state capital, Maiduguri, had more than fours hours’ warning.

Fifty-three of the girls have escaped, leaving more than 200 still captive.

Teams of experts from the US and UK have arrived in Nigeria to help locate and rescue the abductees.

This is an early report and I'll update with new information when/if it becomes available. I'm taking it with the proverbial grain of salt for now. -

300+ Dead in Latest Boko Haram Attack; Some ‘Burned Alive’

Via CNN:

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, whose country’s effort to subdue Boko Haram has been largely ineffective, declared in a speech Thursday that the terror group’s abductions of schoolgirls would be its undoing.

“I believe the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end for terror in Nigeria,” he said at the opening of the World Economic Forum meeting in Abuja.

The abductions and an attack this week that left more than 300 people dead have focused worldwide attention on Nigeria’s fight with terrorists.

The world still doesn’t know what happened to the 276 girls kidnapped almost a month ago, except that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said he plans to sell them. 

Now, the militants may be going after those trying to find the girls. On Thursday, Nigerian police said one officer was wounded in the neck during a gunfight with suspected Boko Haram militants on the road between Maiduguri and Chibok, where the schoolgirls were abducted April 14.

And on Monday, Boko Haram militants attacked Gamboru Ngala, a remote state capital near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon that has been used as a staging ground for troops in the search for the girls. Some of the at least 310 victims were burned alive. . .

Is there a hashtag yet for those burned alive? - Greg Pollowitz

It Begins: China’s Military Now Training Monkeys

Via Washington Post:

They’re fierce. They’re furry. And they’re ready to protect the motherland.

The People’s Liberation Army revealed Monday that it has trained a small unit of macaque monkeys to protect a northern air force base from birds.

The monkeys’ handlers call their newest recruits the Chinese military’s “secret weapon,” and  state-run media highlighted the primates’ impressive skills in photos that were by turns cute, menacing and odd.

For years, migrating birds have wreaked havoc at the air base, threatening catastrophic failure in aircraft by getting sucked into their engines.

The military has tried scarecrows, bird netting, firecrackers and even live ammunition to decimate their nests… to no avail. Soldiers — showing valor in the face of such risks as slipping and falling — had climbed up trees in the past to destroy the nests, said a captain quoted on a news Web site run by China’s military, only to see those strategic spots retaken by birds the next day.

Enter the monkeys. 

The macaques are trained to respond to precise whistle commands from their handlers, according to the Chinese military, leaping into action, clambering up trees to destroy nests and scare away birds, according to an account on China’s Air Force News Web site on Sunday. The particular air force base employing the monkeys was left unidentified, described simply as being in the Beijing military zone. Base commanders in the account said the monkeys have destroyed more than 180 nests, at a pace of six to eight nests per monkey per day. . .

Yes, it's only a war on birds. For now. But imagine 10,000 monkeys airdopped on an enemy city? Chaos, I tel you. Chaos. - Greg Pollowitz

What Ayaan Hirsi Ali Would Have Said at Brandeis on Islam and Women

Via Wall Street Journal:

One year ago, the city and suburbs of Boston were still in mourning. Families who only weeks earlier had children and siblings to hug were left with only photographs and memories. Still others were hovering over bedsides, watching as young men, women, and children endured painful surgeries and permanent disfiguration. All because two brothers, radicalized by jihadist websites, decided to place homemade bombs in backpacks near the finish line of one of the most prominent events in American sports, the Boston Marathon.

All of you in the Class of 2014 will never forget that day and the days that followed. You will never forget when you heard the news, where you were, or what you were doing. And when you return here, 10, 15 or 25 years from now, you will be reminded of it. The bombs exploded just 10 miles from this campus.

I read an article recently that said many adults don’t remember much from before the age of 8. That means some of your earliest childhood memories may well be of that September morning simply known as “9/11.”

You deserve better memories than 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. And you are not the only ones. In Syria, at least 120,000 people have been killed, not simply in battle, but in wholesale massacres, in a civil war that is increasingly waged across a sectarian divide. Violence is escalating in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Libya, in Egypt. And far more than was the case when you were born, organized violence in the world today is disproportionately concentrated in the Muslim world.

Another striking feature of the countries I have just named, and of the Middle East generally, is that violence against women is also increasing. In Saudi Arabia, there has been a noticeable rise in the practice of female genital mutilation. In Egypt, 99% of women report being sexually harassed and up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day. . .

Great decision, Brandeis. The biggest news story right now is how Islamic militants are selling girls as sex slaves, and you don't think she should speak at the university? Maybe you can reinvite her? - Greg Pollowitz

The Next Bundy? BLM Backs Down Over Recapture Canyon, Utah Protest

Via Denver Post:

Recapture Canyon is a calm place of cottonwood shade, sinuous streams, beaver ponds and bird song. Ancient cliffside dwellings and ground dotted with potsherds lend it an aura of quiet mystery.

But this canyon — so close to Blanding, Utah, that locals there consider it their wild backyard — is also the site of a long-standing but escalating anti-federal government, Cliven Bundyesque furor.

On Saturday, protesters plan to drive their ATVs past a “closed to motorized use” sign and into the 11-mile-long canyon to show their disdain for the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to keep that area off-limits to vehicles.

The BLM — after a huddle with the FBI, the Utah attorney general’s office, the Utah Department of Public Safety and San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge — has decided once again to “stand back” and avoid a confrontation as it did several weeks ago on the Bundy ranch in Nevada, Eldredge said.

“It was decided that, at the end of the day, it is not worth it to spill any blood,” Eldredge said of the decision. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: ‘Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women.’

Via CNN:

Fears for the fate of more than 200 Nigerian girls turned even more nightmarish Monday when the leader of the Islamist group that kidnapped them announced plans to sell them.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.

“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sin.” In his nearly hourlong, rambling video, Shekau repeatedly called for Western education to end.

“Girls, you should go and get married,” he said. . .

Time to stop using "kidnapped" for the more accurate "enslaved." - Greg Pollowitz

Stand With Sandra Fluke. . .For No Pay or Health Insurance?


Sandra Fluke’s career has been about standing up for the public interest and fighting for social justice.  She is determined to continue this work in the California State Senate, and you can help!  We’re excited to launch the 2014 Organizing Fellows program and have the opportunity to train the next generation of organizers who share her passion for fighting the good fight.

The Stand With Sandra organizing fellowship will begin in April and run through the first week of June 2014.  Based in Los Angeles, fellows should expect to gain hands-on campaign experience while working in a fast-paced environment on one of the most exciting races in Southern California.  As a fellow, you will:

            – Strengthen your leadership abilities

            – Develop relationships with supporters in communities across the district

            – Learn skills in community organizing, grassroots outreach, and issue advocacy

This program is designed to give you real world organizing experience that will have a concrete impact on this election and beyond. No prior campaign experience is necessary.  Fellows must be able to commit to a half day of training on Sunday May 4th and at least 10 hours per week.  Sign up today – applications close on May 2nd. 

We strongly encourage applicants to apply for class credit and school stipend programs, and will work with you to ensure you have what you need in that process. To apply, just fill out the questions below.

Maybe it's a paid position with benefits, but there's no mention of that. I'll happily correct the title when Sandra bravely announces that her "fellows" will receive not just the minimum wage, but a living wage, along with health benefits. And free birth control. There should be lots and lots of free birth control availble in the office. Goldfish-bowls filled with birth control. - Greg Pollowitz

Chicagoland: 19 Shot During Weekend Violence

Via Chicago Tribune:

A gang-related drive-by shooting in the River North neighborhood left a man dead and three others wounded early Sunday morning, the four among at least 19 people shot and two killed since 11 a.m. Saturday.

The most recent shooting involved a 29-year-old man shot and killed about 7:15 a.m. Sunday in the 900 block of East 81st Street in the East Chatham neighborhood on the South Side, according to Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Jose Estrada. The man suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head, Estrada said. According to the Cook County medical examiner’s office, it has not yet been notified of the death.

No other details were available on the shooting, Estrada said, but Area South detectives are investigating. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Report: 2500 Missing After Landslide in Afghanistan

Via New York Times:

Huge landslides caused by heavy rainfall buried hundreds of houses in a remote area of northeastern Afghanistan on Friday. As many as 2,500 people were said to be missing in the disaster, one of the worst to hit the war-torn country in at least a decade.

Weeks of steady rain softened the hillside above the village of Abi Barak in the Argo district of Badakshan Province, near the borders with China and Tajikistan. Officials said one part of the hill gave way around 11 a.m., burying about 300 houses — by some estimates nearly half the village — in a mass of sodden mud. Neighbors who rushed to help were buried when a second part of the hill slid a short time later.

“I believe it is beyond human capability to even remove all of the dead bodies,” said Shah Waliullah Adeeb, the governor of Badakhshan. “It will take months for machinery to complete the search for bodies.”. . .

- Greg Pollowitz


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