whackanarwhal

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newsmongering 07/21

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> Alas, my favorite Dane is gone. I am bereft. On the upside, looking forward to the next batch of exchange students arriving in a few weeks!

> Iran is claiming to have shot down an unmanned US spy plane over a nuclear site. So that’s something you totally want to hear.

> Speaking both Iran and things you don’t particularly want to see in the news, former CIA officer Robert Baer has announced that he believes Israel will bomb Iran in the fall, dragging the middle east into yet another war. Beware the source: Baer has had a storied career has an analyst (George Clooney played him in Syriana), has written for TIME and Newsweek; the comments were made on a “provocative” Los Angeles show called Background Briefing, and I’m seeing the story most on Al Jazeera, which has no love for Israel.

Still…something to watch.

> Activists are alleging that 50 civilians have been killed in Syria since the weekend. In the wake of visits to besieged cities by French and American ambassadors (Eric Chevalier and Robert Ford, respectively), the Syrian government has forbidden foreign diplomats from leaving Damascus. A spokeswoman from the US State Department has responded that the edict indicates the Syrian government has something to hide and said that diplomats must be allowed to travel freely within the country to document the crackdown. This article places the total civilian death toll at 1,600.

> Egypt has announced that it won’t allow independent international poll monitors to oversee its upcoming parliamentary elections. Well, that’s going to go over like a pregnant pole vaulter. Any elected government will not automatically be suspect. Egypt, this is not going to help your credibility one iota.

Hafez Abou Saada, a member of the National Council for Human Rights, said promises of free and fair elections from the military are not enough, and noted that barring international monitors mirrors the line adopted by Mubarak’s government.

“International monitors are part of any modern elections,” he said. “Many countries are watching what is happening in Egypt. This is not a very positive signal.”

> Ghana’s Western Region minister, Paul Evans Aidoo MP, has ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the western part of Ghana.

Aidooo has tasked Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations and security forces to round up the country’s gay population and has called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspect of being homosexuals.

“All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society,” he said.

The move by the Minister follows months of campaigning by the Christian Council of Ghana which last week called on Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals.

Muslims and Christians in the Western Region have been staging protests ever since a local media report claimed there were around 8000 homosexuals and lesbians in the district.

Three guesses as to what “all efforts” entails.

And isn’t it just heartwarming that Christians and Muslims have been able to unite to counter this terrible threat posed by people who love each other?

> Cote d’Ivoire’s president Alassane Ouattara has signed into effect a six-month war crimes inquiry to investigate allegations of post-election violence.

A presidential election in November last year plunged the West African nation into violence when Laurent
Gbagbo, the former president currently under house arrest, refused to accept his loss.

Gbagbo instead used loyal soldiers, gangs of armed youths and mercenaries to crush dissent.

The power struggle between him and Ouattara rekindled a civil war that the election was supposed to resolve, killing at least 3,000 people.

More than a million people were displaced while tens of thousands fled to neighbouring Liberia and Ghana.

The conflict ended when Gbagbo was captured by French-backed pro-Ouattara forces in April.

> In Malawi, at least 11 people have been killed in clashes between pro-reform activists and police.

> Alas, the nudist movement in Germany is dwindling, mostly due to changing cultural composition and a certain increase in general circumference – one of the little-noted downsides of economic prosperity (and high-fructose corn syrup).

> Also in Germany, former Nazi official Rudolph Hess has been exhumed, cremated, and scattered over the sea in hopes of deterring neo-Nazis from continuing to use his grave as a pilgrimage site.

> With the arrest of Goran Hadzic, Serbia is expected to become an official candidate for accession to the EU by the end of this year. Funny how they weren’t able to locate either Hadzic or Mladic until something was riding on their capture.

> In case you’re curious about how Finland tends to wipe the court with other nations in international educational assessments, apparently it’s mostly due to teacher prestige and a notable lack of standardized testing. For those of you going into education, this will be both enlightening and incredibly depressing.

First of all, yes, race and class matter. You want to know what a test score in a district is, you find out how poor people are. There’s no question that race and class, and the economic disparity in this country, go a very long way to understanding our achievement gap.

But having said that, I’ve been in some of this country’s best schools in some of the wealthiest districts, and even some private schools, and I’ve seen stunningly mediocre teaching there with teachers teaching to the test. And the tests are primarily factual recall, memorization tests where students may pass, but will learn none of the skills that are necessary in the global knowledge economy.

This is what Finland has done that’s different — they’ve defined what is excellent teaching, not just reasonable teaching, and they have a standard for that. Second, they’ve defined what is most important to learn, and it’s not a memorization-based curriculum, but a thinking-based curriculum. So even in our wealthiest districts we’re not approaching that global standard of success and excellence.

> Speaking of success and excellence, JK Rowling has a TED  Talk called “The Fringe Benefits of Failure.” I haven’t watch it yet, but you totally should.

> Following in the same vein, Stephen Colbert (the guy, not the character) has released an It Gets Better video. We’re going to ignore the part where he’s late to the part and embrace the part where he’s here at all.

> As Zach has astutely noted, I “like gay things,” so here, have an article about a gay couple from Nebraska who won a the Journal Star’s Ultimate Wedding Contest.

> The space shuttle Atlantis touched down safely in Florida early this morning, heralding the end of the NASA’s thirty-year space program.

Over the course of the programme, five NASA space shuttles – Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and Endeavour – have comprised a fleet designed as the world’s first reusable space vehicles.

The first shuttle flight to space lifted off April 12, 1981.

Challenger and Columbia were destroyed in accidents that killed their crews – a total of 14 astronauts – leaving only three in the space-flying fleet and Enterprise, a prototype that never flew in space.

The remaining quartet will become museum pieces in the coming months.

Critics have assailed the US space agency for lacking a focus with the space shuttle gone and no next-generation human spaceflight programme to replace it.

The astronaut corps now numbers 60, compared to the 128 employed in 2000, and thousands of people are being laid off from Kennedy Space Center.

> A kid in Texas believes he’s killed a chupacabra, also known as a Mexican goat-sucker. I am not making this up. The kid’s name is Carter Pope, so I initially misread the headline to read that the Pope had killed a chupacabra, which would have been a vastly more interesting article, in my opinion.

> Captain America: The First Avenger is allegedly a pretty all right movie, all things considered.

If you start taking “Captain America” seriously on any level, it becomes way too troubling way too fast — let’s fight the Nazis’ experiments in eugenics with our own, all-American version! — and this movie wisely avoids any of that. This is a fast-moving, atmospheric action-adventure, with clearly delineated heroes and villains and comic supporting characters, and almost all of it is set between 1942 and 1945, when most of us can agree that historical ambiguity wasn’t much in evidence.

If I see it, I figure it’ll be the $4 matinee. The big bucks have been earmarked for Cowboys and Aliens in 3D. Look, I never claimed to have impeccable taste.

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Written by whackanarwhal

July 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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