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President Obama Announces Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge

Posted by: Audiegrl


The White House and the Department of Education have announced a new Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge and are inviting public schools across the country to compete to have President Obama speak at their graduation. At the beginning of the school year, the President encouraged students across the country to take responsibility for their education, study hard and graduate from high school. The Race to the Top High School Commencement challenge encourages schools to show how they are making great strides on personal responsibility, academic excellence and college readiness.

Applications must be completed by students and submitted by a high school’s Principal using the Commencement Challenge Application Form no later than Monday, March 15th at 11:59 pm EST. Each school may submit only one application and high schools must be public to apply. Following the application deadline, six finalists will be selected by the White House and Department of Education. These schools will then be featured on the White House website and the public will have an opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet the President’s goal. The President will select a national winner from these three finalists and visit the winning high school to deliver the commencement address to the class of 2010.

The application’s four essay questions focus on demonstrating how the school is helping prepare students to meet the President’s 2020 goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Applications will be judged based on the school’s performance and dedication to providing students an excellent education that will prepare them to graduate ready for college and career choices. Each question must be answered in full to qualify and data that substantiates each answer is strongly encouraged.

In addition to the required essay responses, applicants are invited to submit the following optional supplemental materials:

  • A video — no more than 2 minutes in length — showing the school’s culture and character and highlighting how it is a model of educational success for other high schools around the country.
  • Supplemental data on key indicators such as attendance, student achievement, graduation rates and where available, college enrollment rates. This data may be presented in the form of tables, graphs or spreadsheets and should be used to help the school make the most compelling arguments possible.

Please use the Commencement Challenge Application Form to apply.

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TRMS Explores Literacy Tests in Our Nations Voting History

Posted by: Audiegrl

Rachel Maddow ShowMSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reviews the history of how “literacy tests” were used to prevent Black people from voting in America and why Tom Tancredo’s opening speech to the Tea Party convention calling for the return of those tests is so abhorrent. Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree shares his insights on racism in the United States.

This clip caught my attention, because as Rachel pointed out, this is not ancient history, the Voting Rights bill was passed in 1965, when I was three years old. The topic also reminded me of a story my parents told me. But a little background first. Although, they came to Northern Illinois in 1942, the first election they were ‘allowed’ to vote in, was for President John F. Kennedy. Seriously… They were not in the Southern states that Rachel mentioned, but in the North. I’m not sure all the literacy tests they were given, except for one. My mother was given the task to name all of Shakespere’s sonnets. She didn’t pass that test, so she was not allowed to vote.

When they voted for President Kennedy, they went as a group from the American Legion, because my father served honorably in World War II. My Great-Uncle also went with him that day, he served honorably in World War I. Amazingly although both were veterans, this was the first vote for both of them, and they sure were proud. 🙂

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Why Do People Often Vote Against Their Own Interests?

Posted by: Buellboy

Americans voicing their anger at the healthcare proposals at a town hall meeting


The Republicans’ shock victory in the election for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts meant the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This makes it even harder for the Obama administration to get healthcare reform passed in the US.

Political scientist Dr David Runciman looks at why is there often such deep opposition to reforms that appear to be of obvious benefit to voters.

Last year, in a series of “town-hall meetings” across the country, Americans got the chance to debate President Obama’s proposed healthcare reforms.

What happened was an explosion of rage and barely suppressed violence.

Polling evidence suggests that the numbers who think the reforms go too far are nearly matched by those who think they do not go far enough.

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform – the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state – are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.

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In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement

Posted by: Audiegrl

A concert celebrating Black History month

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Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah

So On February 10th, President Obama and First Lady Michelle will host In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement. The concert will be held in the State Dining Room, and is timed to celebrate Black History Month.

So far participants include Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, John Mellencamp, Smokey Robinson, Seal, the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Howard University Choir and others. It will be hosted by Morgan Freeman and Queen Latifah, and will feature songs associated with the civil rights movement as well as readings from famous civil rights speeches.

The President will make opening remarks and the concert will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov starting at 5:15 p.m. ET. The concert will be televised on Feb. 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET on PBS stations. In addition, NPR will produce a one-hour special from the event to air on its stations throughout February.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman

As part of this special event, Mrs. Obama will host “Music that Inspired the Movement,” a workshop that several of the event’s performers will lead for 120 high school students from across the country on Wednesday, February 10th from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET. The students will come to learn about the continuing relevance of music from the Civil Rights Movement to today’s generation and its original impact in the 1960s. This event will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov and students all over the country will be invited to watch and engage in the workshop.

First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the White House Music Series last year with a Jazz Studio, and since then has hosted a celebration of Country Music, a Fiesta Latina and a celebration of Classical Music. Many of these events included evening performances as well as daytime educational workshops designed to educate and inspire talented young people to use their gifts to develop a future for themselves in the arts community whether as a hobby or as a profession.

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Filmmaker Who Broke ACORN Story Arrested For Attempted Bugging Of Landrieu’s Office

Posted by: Audiegrl

James O'Keefe

James O'Keefe


A conservative activist who posed as a pimp to target the community-organizing group ACORN and the son of a federal prosecutor were among four people arrested by the FBI and accused of trying to interfere with phones at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office.

Activist James O’Keefe, 25, was already in Landrieu’s New Orleans office Monday when Robert Flanagan and Joseph Basel, both 24, showed up claiming to be telephone repairmen, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office said Tuesday. Letten says O’Keefe recorded the two with his cell phone.

In the reception area, Flanagan, the son of acting U.S. Attorney Bill Flanagan in Shreveport, and Basel asked for access to the main phone at the reception desk.

After handling the phone, Letten’s office said, they asked for access to a phone closet so they could work on the main phone system. The men were directed to another office in the building, where they are accused of again misrepresenting themselves as telephone repairmen.

They were arrested later by the U.S. Marshal’s Service. Details of the arrest were not available. A fourth man, Stan Dai, 24, was also arrested, but Letten’s office said only that he assisted the others in planning, coordinating and preparing the operation.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Federal officials did not say why the men wanted to interfere with Landrieu’s phones or whether they were successful. Landrieu, a moderate Democrat, declined comment Tuesday. She has been in the news recently because she negotiated an increase in Medicaid funds for her state before announcing her support for Senate health care legislation.

Bill Flanagan’s office confirmed his son was among those arrested, but declined further comment.

An FBI criminal complaint charging the men was unsealed Tuesday, and a magistrate set bond at $10,000 each after they made their initial court appearances wearing red prison jumpsuits.

Much more on the breaking story @ TPM

UPDATE: What Is The Pelican Institute?

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Hat tip Media Matters

With O’Keefe arrest, Breitbart develops new-found appreciation for “facts”

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First Lady Michelle Obama Surprises White House Tour Visitors

Posted by: Audiegrl

One year ago on January 20th, after President Obama was inaugurated, he and the First Lady decided to surprise visitors who were on White House tours to reinforce the message of the White House being the People’s House. Mrs. Obama is marking the first year by continuing this tradition – taking some time to greet visitors of the People’s House. Even first dog Bo gets in on the act. 🙂
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The Death of U.S. Political Democracy For The People

Posted by: LibbyShaw

Will the Senator from Wal-Mart please yield to the Senator from Halliburton? The Congressman from Black Water has 5 minutes remaining before the Congresswoman from United Health may speak.

Mark your calendars, folks. January 21, 2010 is the day the radical and activist Supreme Court of the United States delivered the U.S. Democracy into the hands of the corporate sector and special interests groups. According to an article in the New York Times corporations, lobbyists and unions can now legally purchase their candidates of choice.

“We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you – whichever one you want,’ ” a lobbyist can tell lawmakers, said Lawrence M. Noble, a lawyer at Skadden Arps in Washington and former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.

The decision yesterday will usher in unimaginable numbers of Swift Boat attack ads. Corporate fat cats can now threaten and bully politicians to do their bidding or else.

“It will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “Candidates lose control of their message. Some of these guys lose control of their whole personalities.”

“Parties will sort of shrink in the relative importance of things,” he added, “and outside groups will take over more of the functions – advertising support, get out the vote – that parties do now.”

Front row: Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Antonin G. Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. Back row: Associate Justices Samuel A. Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Some have called the SOTUS decision a power grab that is intellectually dishonest.

In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power-grab part. I agree with them. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts had not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.

“If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more,” a wise judge once wrote. That was Chief Justice John G. Roberts — back when — and dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens rightly turned that line against him.

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Republicans naturally and predictably love this recent ruling. But of course they would. Republicans embrace and fully support authoritarian forms of government. And the sad truth of the matter is the GOP has always worked for the corporate sector.

It is devastatingly unfortunate that Republican voters have never been able to understand the hard, cold and mean reality of those they elect into office. Politicians take an oath to serve the people in their districts but many merely give their constituents nothing but empty rhetoric. If one were to closely examine one’s Republican lawmakers’ voting records one would find who their elected officials really work for.

My guess is the teabaggers will wraps it head around the reality of the SCOTUS decision like we progressives have, for the only one imperative we do share in common is a collective outrage over the corporate takeover of the U.S. government and its legislative process by special interest groups and corporations.

But unfortunately teabaggers, unlike progressives, are far too easily led astray by the likes of Dick Armey, one of the numerous behind the scenes leaders of the teabagger movement. Armey’s main mission is to promote the interests of the health care industry. He and his organization, Freedom Works, uses teabaggers as its tools.

Republicans and teabaggers alike have been led to believe that the government is the root of everything evil while progressives know that government is the only force that can and will protect us from the evils of self-serving greed mongers of the corporate sector.

We are where we are today b/c the corporate sector has been enabled to run rough shod over the American people. We are broke. There are no jobs. We lost homes. We lost retirement savings. Meanwhile on Wall St. the fat cats who can now purchase politicians get richer by the minute.

Elections have consequences. The nice guy or girl candidate with whom to have a beer could very well be an anti-political democracy devil in disguise who has every intention of throwing the middle and working classes to the lions.

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Oh, and Prince Alwaleed, grandson of the King of Saudi Arabia and the largest individual shareholder in Citigroup and second biggest shareholder in News Corp (Murdock’s FOX “News”) doesn’t like Obama’s tax on the banks.

Who would have thought?

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Young People Grade Obama’s First Year

Posted by: Audiegrl

Nancy Lublin/DoSomething.org~Despite disappointment on some key issues, majority of young people would still vote for President Obama.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration, so DoSomething.org asked young people whether they think President Obama “made the grade” during his first year in office. Their responses garnered some interesting results.

According to the survey results, young adults do not feel that President Obama has adequately delivered on key campaign promises like ending the war in Afghanistan and addressing gay rights policy issues. However, on issues more directly relevant to teens, Obama garners significantly more support. Almost 62% of teens surveyed support Obama’s plans for making college more accessible, and 63.4% approve his decision to focus on more comprehensive sex ed programs. Similarly, 58.9% support a plan to allow young people to remain on their parents’ health coverage through the age of 26.

Despite this hesitation with his early policy decisions, the majority of young adults surveyed say that they would still vote for President Obama tomorrow, even though 65.1% revealed that they did not think Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. The first lady, on the other hand, had the widest margin of support from those surveyed, with 74.3% believing that Michelle Obama is adequately fulfilling her job as a national role model.

Young adults were split in support over Obama’s bank bailout decisions with 41% against, 36.7% in support of, and 22.3% unsure. They were similarly unsure of how Obama has handled global warming and environmental concerns, with 47% against, 23% in support of, and 30% unsure.

The survey goes on to highlight those issues that young adults feel should be the top three priorities for President Obama in 2010. The Economy (70.1%) came in as the biggest priority, with the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan (51.7%) and Education (47.8%) also playing a huge role.

The complete report can be viewed at www.DoSomething.org.

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Cancer Treatment and Health Care Reform

Blogged by: BarbaraOBrien1

One argument you may hear against health care reform concerns cancer survival rates. The United States has higher cancer survivor rates than countries with national health care systems, we’re told. Doesn’t this mean we should keep what we’ve got and not change it?

Certainly cancer survival rates are a critical issue for people suffering from the deadly lung mesothelioma cancer. So let’s look at this claim and see if there is any substance to it.

First, it’s important to understand that “cancer survival rate” doesn’t mean the rate of people who are cured of a cancer. The cancer survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time, usually five years after diagnosis.

For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, the survivor rate of prostate cancer in the United States is 98 percent. This means that 98 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive five years later. However, this statistic does not tell us whether the men who have survived for five years still have cancer or what number of them may die from it eventually.

Misunderstanding of the term “survivor rate” sometimes is exploited to make misleading claims. For example, in 2007 a pharmaceutical company promoting a drug used to treat colon cancer released statistics showing superior survival rates for its drug over other treatments. Some journalists who used this data in their reporting assumed it meant that the people who survived were cured of cancer, and they wrote that the drug “saved lives.” The drug did extend the lives of of patients, on average by a few months. However, the mortality rate for people who used this drug — meaning the rate of patients who died of the disease — was not improved.

But bloggers and editorial writers who oppose health care reform seized these stories about “saving lives,” noting that this wondrous drug was available in the United States for at least a year before it was in use in Great Britain. Further, Britain has lower cancer survival rates than the U.S. This proved, they said, the superiority of U.S. health care over “socialist” countries.

This is one way propagandists use data to argue that health care in the United States is superior to countries with government-funded health care systems. They selectively compare the most favorable data from the United States with data from the nations least successful at treating cancer. A favorite “comparison” country is Great Britain, whose underfunded National Health Service is struggling.

It is true that the United States compares very well in the area of cancer survival rates, but other countries with national health care systems have similar results.

For example, in 2008 the British medical journal Lancet Oncology published a widely hailed study comparing cancer survival rates in 31 countries. Called the CONCORD study, the researchers found that United States has the highest survival rates for breast and prostate cancer. However, Japan has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in men, and France has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in women. Canada and Australia also ranked relatively high for most cancers. The differences in the survival data for these “best” countries is very small, and is possibly caused by discrepancies in reporting of data and not the treatment result itself.

And it should be noted that Japan, France, Canada and Australia all have government-funded national health care systems. So, there is no reason to assume that changing the way health care is funded in the U.S. would reduce the quality of cancer care.

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Police: Lone Shooter Kills 8 in Central Virginia

posted by: GeoT

Suspect in 8 Va. slayings surrenders after hunt
APPOMATTOX, Va. (AP) — A gunman suspected of killing eight people before disappearing into dense Virginia woods and firing on a police helicopter surrendered at sunrise Wednesday, ending an overnight hunt by dozens of law enforcement officers.

Christopher Speight, 39, approached officers at the scene of the shootings at about 7:10 a.m. and turned himself in, said Sgt. Thomas Molnar of the Virginia State Police.

This image provided by the Virginia State Police shows shooting suspect Christopher Speight, 39, who is being sought in connections with the fatal shootings of eight people in Appomattox, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Virginia State Police)

Associated Press/Larry O’Dell

~Police with dogs and heat-sensing equipment hunted for a man they say shot eight people to death Tuesday and then nearly took down a police helicopter that was trying to flush him out of the woods near this central Virginia town.

State police said officers had the suspect, Christopher Speight, 39, circled in the woods late Tuesday near the home where seven of the bodies were found and they believed he was still alive. An eighth victim was found barely alive on the side of the road — which led to police being called — and died on the way to the hospital.

All the victims were adults and both men and women were killed, state police Sgt. Thomas Molnar said. Three of the bodies were found inside the home, and four just outside it, Molnar said.

Police refused to speculate on a motive and would not say what type of weapon was used. Molnar also gave no background on the suspect. Speight’s last known address was along the block where the shootings occurred, but Molnar did not know if the suspect was still living there. He also would not say if all the victims were shot at the home.

Virginia State Police gather while searching for a man that is possibly connected with multiple fatalities outside of a house on Snapps Mill Road in Appomattox County, Va.

The drama paralyzed the rural area as police swarmed forests trying to catch the suspect who fired at a state police helicopter, forcing it to land with a ruptured fuel tank, police said. No police were injured after one or more rounds struck the helicopter.

A National Guard helicopter with thermal imaging equipment were being used to search the woods.

They are searching the area and will continue until the suspect is apprehended,” Molnar said.

The violence began shortly after noon when the injured man was found on a rural stretch of road. A deputy who went to investigate fled after he heard gunshots, police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said.

When the deputy arrived on the scene, that’s when he heard several shots,” Molnar said.

Police did not release the victims’ names or the suspect’s possible relationship to them.

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