In Lean Times, Schools Squeeze Out Librarians

Stephan:  If you are like me your school librarian was as important as any of your teachers in your education. Mrs. Bishop gently guided me to books that changed my life. Through her I met Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Alan Poe, and Joseph Conrad. From her I learned to love reading. Young people today are increasingly going to miss out in such motherly mentoring women. We spend more on education per pupil than any country on the planet, yet we have miserable outcomes. And now, when our budgets are stressed the conservative approach is to further gut the educational system so that wealth can be moved upward to the 2 per cent elite and the virtual corporate states.

Budget belt-tightening threatens to send school librarians the way of the card catalog.

Students at all six high schools at the Martin Luther King Jr. campus in Manhattan must share the resources of one library.

The schools superintendent in Lancaster, Pa., said he had to eliminate 15 of the district’s 20 librarians to save full-day kindergarten classes.

In the Salem-Keizer school district in Oregon, all 48 elementary and middle school librarians would lose their jobs under a budget proposal that faces a vote next week.

In Illinois’s School District 90, which spans several rural and suburban communities in the southern part of the state, parent volunteers have been running the libraries in the district’s seven schools since September, in what the schools superintendent, Todd Koehl, described as ‘a last-ditch effort

Read the Full Article

No Comments

Evolution Machine: Genetic Engineering on Fast Forward

Stephan:  The Homo Superiorus trend is picking up steam. This trend has enormous implications for us as a species, and is happening almost without discussion in the public conversation. Thanks for Damien Broderick, PhD.

It is a strange combination of clumsiness and beauty. Sitting on a cheap-looking worktop is a motley ensemble of flasks, trays and tubes squeezed onto a home-made frame. Arrays of empty pipette tips wait expectantly. Bunches of black and grey wires adorn its corners. On the top, robotic arms slide purposefully back and forth along metal tracks, dropping liquids from one compartment to another in an intricately choreographed dance. Inside, bacteria are shunted through slim plastic tubes, and alternately coddled, chilled and electrocuted. The whole assembly is about a metre and a half across, and controlled by an ordinary computer.

Say hello to the evolution machine. It can achieve in days what takes genetic engineers years. So far it is just a prototype, but if its proponents are to be believed, future versions could revolutionise biology, allowing us to evolve new organisms or rewrite whole genomes with ease. It might even transform humanity itself.

These days everything from your food and clothes to the medicines you take may well come from genetically modified plants or bacteria. The first generation of engineered organisms has been a huge hit with farmers and manufacturers – if not consumers. And this is just the start. So […]

Read the Full Article

No Comments

Wisconsin GOP Defunds Planned Parenthood, Denying Preventative Health Care to at Least 12,000 Women

Stephan:  More on the conservative's war on women, particularly poor women.

Yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed a budget that cuts funding for Planned Parenthood, after pushing the measure through the state Legislature without a single Democratic vote. Planned Parenthood denounced the decision to choke off state and federal funding to nine health centers in small communities that will deny preventative health care to 12,000 women who don’t have health insurance:

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin says it has 27 health centers across the state, which provide birth control, cancer screenings, annual exams, and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment to 73,000 patients every year.

Wisconsin is the fourth state to target Planned Parenthood because of conservative-led objections to the group’s abortion services - even though they are funded separately and make up a small fraction of the services Planned Parenthood provides.

Planned Parenthood points out that the budget also threatens Wisconsin’s BadgerCare family planning program, ‘which currently helps more than 53,000 women and men get preventive health care at providers throughout the state.

Read the Full Article

No Comments

Shock Doctrine: ‘Emergency Finance Managers’ and the Right-Wing’s Power Grab

Stephan:  While the media blathers on about things that have no lasting importance, major changes are being made by conservatives to the fundamental forms of democracy at the state level.

The onslaught of radical policies from the wave of Tea Party-supported right-wing state politicians swept in in the 2010 elections has been nearly overwhelming. Nearly every state that saw a Republican takeover of the statehouse or legislature has faced attacks on collective bargaining, immigration, reproductive freedoms, or health care. New power grabs have popped up constantly, and copycat bills have sprung up in their wake as if an official playbook has been passed around the country.

But one of the nastiest moves has been the institution, by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, of an ’emergency manager

Read the Full Article

No Comments

Gun Laws Are ‘Government-Sponsored Racism,

Stephan:  The account of these events is too polemic. I am using it because it describes what happened. The fact that such a person, in such a position, felt compelled to speak out in this way is what is notable.

Chicago’s new police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, made remarks that angered gun rights advocates earlier this month, when he referred to federal gun laws as ‘government-sponsored racism.

Read the Full Article

No Comments