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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Tip of the Iceberg: Education Scandals This Summer

From Socialist Studies:
School resumes on Tuesday - and we should (unfortunately) have plenty more stories in the upcoming months about the rapid deterioration of the public education system.

But even though school was out for the summer, there were still plenty of scandals to blog about.

Check out the best (or worst, however you see it) stories of this summer.

David Harris: Media Lies and Bias in the Conflict Zone

What’s heading our way, in this terrorist-bloodied world? We depend on international media to help us find out.

So it’s time to look at some dirty secrets, foreign correspondent edition.

Trench coats and panamas have given way to sat phones and moral ambiguity. An ideal starting point in understanding this media ambiguity – and its occasional, sinister undertones and implications for us – is the Israel-Hamas war.

The penny should have dropped well before today’s Gaza crisis. No later than April 11, 2003, in fact.
That day, CNN admitted in the New York Times that it hid and manipulated reality, though the wording was more delicately self-regarding. Prior to the 2003 defeat of Saddam Hussein, CNN couldn’t reveal fully the monstrous excesses and threatening nature of his Iraq, because, said chief news executive Eason Jordan, the network’s Iraqi staff risked retaliation.

Problem: Jordan didn’t explain why, having been prevented from reporting honestly there, CNN nonetheless insisted on keeping its financially rewarding Baghdad post operating before and during the 2003 war. Some critics concluded that an appetite for big, wartime money-making ratings outstripped CNN’s taste for truth, with some ambitious journalists playing along.

Have media done similar things in Gaza?...

Iran's 'moderate' president dodges question on held Washington Post reporter

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declined to specifically discuss the case of a detained Washington Post journalist during a nationally televised news conference Saturday.
During the conference, a journalist asked a question about Iran's global outreach after the parliament's impeachment of the country's science minister, increased raids targeting satellite dishes and the detention of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.
Rezaian, 38, and his wife Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Abu Dhabi-based daily newspaper The National, have been held for more than a month. They were detained with two photojournalists who were later released.
When asked about Rezaian's detention, Rouhani said: "In our country, there is not a united viewpoint. There are different viewpoints. Institutes and organs have tasks that they carry some actions in their framework."
It wasn't clear which part of the question Rouhani was responding to.

Rex Murphy: As Olivia Chow flounders, Rob Ford’s fans show us that the common man still matters

...Torontonians go to the municipal polls on October 27. And with two months to go, things are changing mightily in this great contest. Not only just this week has Mr. Ford escaped another lashing from the city’s ethics police, but even happier still, the latest polls have him emerging from a dry spell (as it were), when he was back of the pack of serious contenders — blue-chip candidate John Tory; and Jack Layton’s widow, Olivia Chow — hopelessly mired in scandals and buffoonery. The numbers show Ford at 31%, nipping at John Tory’s loafers (he at 33%).

It has been amazing to watch Chow slip to third place. Rob Ford, the great helmsman of punk politics, has now crashed out in front of the woman who (the Toronto Star long assured us) was supposed to waltz away with the race, fresh from her stint as MP in the House of Commons. Ms. Chow has plummeted markedly — from her start at 38% to a despairing 23%.

How can this be? Should not Ford be one with John Cleese’s Norwegian Blue at this point?...

This sketch is not about Rob Ford:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Student math scores don't add up

Remember when former premier Dalton McGuinty said he’d be happy to be known as the “education premier”?
Apparently, that didn’t include math.
For the fifth year in a row, testing by Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) shows that while reading, writing and literacy scores are improving for most students — with one notable exception — math scores are on the decline among elementary students in Grade 3 and 6.
In Grade 3, 67% of students met the provincial standard (an A or B) in math in 2014, a four-percentage-point drop from 71% in 2010.

"It’s time Mr. Obama started emphasizing what the United States can do instead of what it cannot"

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S acknowledgment that “we don’t have a strategy yet” in Syria understandably attracted the most attention after his perplexing meeting with reporters Thursday. But his restatement of the obvious was not the most dismaying aspect of his remarks. The president’s goal, to the extent he had one, seemed to be to tamp down all the assessments of gathering dangers that his own team had been issuing over the previous days.
This argument with his own administration is alarming on three levels.

Review vindicates Edmonton teacher who refused to enforce no-zero policy for students who didn’t complete coursework

...his suspension appeared to be based on the principal seeing any naysaying as “insubordination which was not to be tolerated.”
The tribunal’s judgment finds bringing in the no-zero policy had several problems.
The ruling points out the obvious to everybody but the numbskulls calling the shots.
With no penalty for missing work, there was “little incentive for a student to actually complete the assignment.”

Oops! Oxford Research Group "expert" denies Holocaust happened during live BBC radio interview

Dr Husam Zomlot is a specialist on Middle East affairs. Evidently he's also insane or a total idiot.

h/t BC Blue

Friday, August 29, 2014

Manticora Tiger Beetle VS King Baboon Tarantula

Legendary Canadian Comedian Phil Hartman Gets Star on Walk of Fame

The late, great, hilarious Canadian comedian Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live and Talk Radio, plus many movies and live comedy shows, was born in Brantford, Ontario.

Phil's brother John is a buddy of mine and he sent me this video of the ceremony unveiling Phil's star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. In addition to John, Phil's fellow SNL cast members Kevin Nealon and Jon Lovitz spoke at the ceremony:

Marxist TDSB Trustee Howard Kaplan says "Jesus is a homophobe!"

As anyone who has read the Bible knows, there isn't a word ascribed in it to Jesus in which he condemns gay people or homosexuality. 

via TDSB Sam Sotiropolous: " This video was sent to me by a concerned citizen. The video was taken during the Pride 2014 event in Toronto, Ontario. Toronto District School Board Trustee for Ward 5 - York Centre, Howard Kaplan (in the khaki Tilley hat), is clearly visible in the video. Trustee Kaplan walks from right to left in the screen and repeats the slur twice: "Jesus is a homophobe. "

Krauthammer's Take: 'I Thought the President Could No Longer Surprise Me. I Was Wrong'

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A media hit job misfires

Berkshire, Burger King Deal Draws Criticism Over Taxes

My pal Brian chowing down on a BK burger

Burger King Worldwide Inc. BKW +3.16% defended its acquisition of Tim Hortons Inc.THI.T +0.79% as the hamburger chain came under criticism for its effort, backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, to move the quintessential American brand to Canada.
Burger King on Tuesday announced its roughly $11 billion agreement to buy Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain. The deal is a so-called inversion, as it will move Miami-based Burger King's headquarters to lower-tax Canada. It is also structured to shield Burger King holders from capital-gains taxes.
Though many such takeovers have been struck lately in part to minimize taxes—and have been criticized by legislators and the White House for depleting the government's coffers—executives of Burger King and its owner, Brazilian private-equity firm 3G Capital Management, said the deal is aimed instead at capturing growth opportunities.
The deal, which has been in the works for months, put Mr. Buffett in an awkward position, as the 83-year-old billionaire has been a public advocate of higher taxes on the wealthy. In a 2011 essay, he laid out the case for why the wealthy should pay more in taxes, leading to the so-called Buffett Rule, a tax-fairness principle that has been embraced by the Obama administration.
More at The Wall Street Journal

Can you imagine what the reaction would be if another candidate sent out a racist-sounding, divisive appeal like Olivia Chow's?

There's plenty in Olivia Chow's latest attempt to get money from supporters that reeks of nonsense.

But what is most ridiculous, racist and divisive is the line "I want to see someone leading our city who looks like the majority "

From Olivia Chow's most recent fundraising appeal:

Olivia is someone I felt I knew even before I ever met her. For me she represents the over 50% of our city as the new “majority”.

When I was President of the Black Business and Professional Association, I saw Olivia meet and talk to so many people representing our entire city. I know that Olivia is someone who gets things done!

Our city is an amazingly diverse place and our city council should reflect that fact!

I want to see someone leading our city who looks like the majority; who knows the ropes; who cares about and actually knows how the system works and who can work with all sides of the spectrum.

It is no longer about the right and the left, but who can bring all ideas to the table and get action.

Olivia makes sense on the transit file; she understands children’s issues; she understands the budget and most importantly she will make us proud again to be residents of Toronto.

Articulate. Literate. Caring. Savvy. Smart. And definitely not Bland.

My kind of woman to take the helm in our inclusive city of the future.

Join me in showing support for Olivia and pledge your vote today at oliviachow.ca/pledge

Thank you,
Sandra Whiting
Storyteller, event programmer, cultural and community developer

Rob Ford surges into virtual statistical tie with Tory as Chow campaign collapses

Rob Ford is enjoying a surge in support according to a new opinion poll, narrowing the gap between him and John Tory in Toronto’s mayoral race as the third leading candidate, Olivia Chow, continues to fade.

The new poll by Forum Research suggests Mr. Ford is enjoying levels of support not seen since March of this year.

See also this analysis by Ed Keenan in The Toronto Star. Ed and I don't see everything the same way politically, but he's exceptionally smart, has some tremendous insights, and is a great guy. It makes a good read, even though it's based less in reality than by Ed's wishful thinking that Chow, who has always been unequipped to run an effective mayoral campaign, could make a comeback. 

Also, from a very miserable Toronto Star, "Why Rob Ford will win again"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Alberta: The Nerdy Frontier

By the way, I'm a Star Trek nerd too, so I'm all in favor of this:

The Star Trek capital of Canada behind 'Vulcan Ale' is at it again, this time boldly taking their passion to where no crowd-funding campaign has gone before.

"The Indiegogo campaign currently running to help Vulcan build the U.S.S Enterprise is a marketing campaign to advertise the Canadian Badlands region of Alberta and feature Vulcan," vulcantourism.com reads.​

If Britain were a U.S. state, it would be the second-poorest, behind Alabama and before Mississippi

Some of you may recognize this English alley

If Britain were to join the United States, it would be the second-poorest state, behind Alabama and ahead of Mississippi.
h/t Doug D.

Could the reason Ontario students have trouble applying math to real-life be because schools teach to the test instead of for knowledge?

Items like this are among the reasons I'm running for Toronto District School Board Trustee in Toronto's Ward 10 (Trinity-Spadina):

Ontario students are continuing to struggle with math according to the latest standardized test results released by the province Wednesday.

Math scores for grade six students from the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office showed that students have difficulty applying their knowledge especially when it comes to problem solving.

Speaking at a public library in downtown Toronto today, Education Minister Liz Sandals said students are actually doing well at solving math questions, but struggle with applying their knowledge to real-life problems.

Walking fish raised on land mimic ancient evolutionary transition

Four hundred million years ago, some fish hoisted themselves out of the water and started a long evolutionary trek to personhood. But how did they learn to walk? A study published in this week’s Nature uses modern-day walking fish to mimic that transition.
In the experiment, researchers raised bichirs, which are fish with functional lungs and strong fins. In a pinch, these qualities allow them to walk on land. But this is something new: For eight months, a group of the primitive fish were raised entirely on land so that researchers could compare their development to specimens that grew up in normal, mostly aquatic conditions.
"I was most surprised early in the study when the Polypros [bichir] actually survived in the terrestrial habitat. That was amazing," said Emily Standen, the lead author and an evolutionary biomechanist at the University of Ottawa. "Then when we tested their behavioral and anatomical differences, we were really excited."

The most important article on anti-Israel media bias you’ll read anytime soon

Professor William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection:

I hate when people refer to a column as “important,” because the reality is that few columns are important in the real world.

But I consider the column at The Tablet written by former AP Middle East reporter Matti Friedman to be important.

Readers have been emailing and tweeting the link at me at a somewhat furious pace.

Friedman lays bare both the explicit and implicit biases of media coverage of Israel and how that bias is part of a larger narrative seeking Israel’s destruction.

Here are some excerpts from An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth, but of course, go and read the whole thing and share it widely:
The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues….
A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters…..

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WTF?!?!! This isn't good! Court OKs Barring High IQs for Cops

A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s decision that the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test.
“This kind of puts an official face on discrimination in America against people of a certain class,” Jordan said today from his Waterford home. “I maintain you have no more control over your basic intelligence than your eye color or your gender or anything else.”
He said he does not plan to take any further legal action.

h/t Kathy S

Israel, Palestinians Reach Open-Ended Gaza Cease-fire Deal

Israeli and Hamas negotiators announced Tuesday they have agreed to an open-ended cease-fire to halt seven weeks of deadly combat in Gaza.
The truce was to begin at 7 p.m. local time, though fighting continued up to that point, the Associated Press reported. Just before its start, mortar fired into southern Israel killed at leat one Israeli.
A Hamas senior official earlier said the deal also calls for easing the  Gaza blockade, opening key crossings to allow shipments of humanitarian aid and building materials for repair and reconstruction.

Man entered Trudeau home in error, no charges to be laid

A man who police say went into the wrong home in error won’t be charged with the break-and-enter at Justin Trudeau’s Rockcliffe Park home earlier this month.
Police said Tuesday the man, a 19-year-old Ottawa resident, came forward to police when he saw the surveillance video released publicly after the break-in on Aug. 16.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Guess who's running for Public School Board Trustee in Toronto's Ward 10?

Controversial and dashingly handsome blogger to seek Ward 10 TDSB Trustee position.

The wonderful Richard Attenborough is dead at age 90

Richard Attenborough, a distinguished stage and film actor in Britain who reinvented himself to become the internationally admired director of the epic “Gandhi” and other films, died on Sunday. He was 90.
His death was confirmed by his son, Michael, according to the BBC.
Until the early 1960s, Mr. Attenborough was a familiar actor in Britain but little known in the United States. In London he was the original detective in Agatha Christie’s play “The Mousetrap.” On the British screen, he made an early mark as the sociopath Pinkie Brown in an adaptation of Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock”(1947).
But it was not until he appeared with his friend Steve McQueen and a sterling ensemble cast in the 1963 war film “The Great Escape,” his first Hollywood feature, that he found a trans-Atlantic audience. His role, as a British officer masterminding an escape plan from a German prisoner-of-war camp, was integral to one of the most revered and enjoyable of all World War II films.
That performance established him in Hollywood and paved the way for a series of highly visible roles.

I guess the previous Wendy's deal means were not really closer to my dream of having donut burgers available on every major street in Canada

In what could be a whopper of a deal for Tim Hortons, Burger King is in talks to buy the iconic Canadian company.

A joint statement by the companies says they hope to form a new corporation that would be based in Canada — although they would continue to operate as standalone brands.
New-York based investment fund 3G Capital owns a little over two-thirds of Burger King and is effectively proposing to build a Canadian holding company that would own both chains but operate them independently.
Right now, Burger King is based in Miami; Tim Hortons headquarters are in Oakville, Ont. But the coffee chain only recently returned to its origins as a purely Canadian company. For years, it was owned by U.S. burger chain Wendy's before being spun out in an IPO in 2006.