Sunday, January 31, 2016
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Show Up: The AM Swim VideoHighly competitive swimming helps with school attendance. Don't punish nor eliminate the positive aspects of sports. Rather, promote, facilitate and replicate.
Our swim team t-shirt slogan: “Winning Formula: Show up + Score more points.” Showing up matters. This United Way funded PR blitz with PPS stresses school attendance. Swimmers understand that message and live it.
On many mornings in the past years, 25+ students arrived at the school for 6 AM swim practices. In recent years, the Obama Swim Team has held 6 AM practices every school day (if no 2-hour delay). The 6 am practices often span into the fall and spring too.
At 7:15 am, as swim practice ends, swimmers are at the school. They are present, clean and ready to fuel their bodies and brains. Kids attending AM practice are not tardy for school.
Kids in quality, competitive programs understand that 6 am practices are essential. Champions understand the sacrifices and hard work are worthy. AM swim practices don't happen every where, as not all the teams are doing all they can.
One school day distinction between swimmers and other athletes are AM practices. Many college teams in other sports hold AM practices for their athletes. It would be great to have open gym and weight lifting times at 6 am for students, before school, more often at PPS. Perhaps with the Olympic Sports Division and efforts of PPS H2O, the early bird practices can be with more students, not only swimmers.
Recap: Final Public Hearing for Pittsburgh Public Schools in its Hiring Quest for a New Superintendent.
From Mark Rauterkus, Mark@Rauterkus.com, varsity swim coach at Obama Academy and leader of the PPS Summer Dreamers Swim & Water Polo Camp with the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation
On Thursday night, January 28, 2016, right after our home swim meet at Pittsburgh Obama against South Fayette, I dashed over to U-Prep for the public hearing concerning the search for the new PPS superintendent of schools. We lost the swim meets, but game them a good scare. One new school record was set by Obama sophomore, Sead N, leading off the 400 free relay in a 49.
I was speaker 13 and took some notes as the others before me gave the school board their thoughts. It was wild to hear what the others would say as nearly everyone else had statements that resonated with my message too. What they want, and what I want, are identical in terms of values and vision.
Pittsburgh Public Schools needs to make an overhaul to its sports and after-school programs.
Two years ago, the wake of Doctor Linda Lane's state of the district speech when she said she wanted to cut a number of sports from the budget, I released a position paper. Thankfully, those cuts never occurred. Now that there are some new board members, it is prudent to re-introduce this document again to get them aware of these situations.
When Mark Roosevelt became superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, a few of us shared concerns with him. Mr. Roosevelt, a former tennis player, understood the value of sports. To his credit, he was in agreement but said sports reform and athletics were not a priority – yet. He had bigger problems: principal accountability, teacher evaluations and contracts, merit pay, and of course, right-sizing. Nothing changed for years. Then, finally, Mark Roosevelt sent me an email around New Years Day and he promised me that sports reform was coming off the back burner. Wow!
A study was done on Title IX, a consultant was hired with grant money. A committee was established and meetings were held. Real issues were talked about. Mark Roosevelt came to a meeting with about 35 people, VIPs in PPS in terms of coaching, sports, security, transportation, administration, principals, and said, “I'm sorry.” Roosevelt apologized for the terrible treatment and lack of support his administration had given throughout the years to sports and athletics. He had seen the light and now understood what was happening with PPS and how many of the pitfalls could be rectified through a more robust attention to these areas. Improvements in school spirit, attendance, grades, student health, graduation rates, discipline and scholarships are evident. I was so excited to hear of the new change in direction and within the month, Mark Roosevelt resigned and took a new job at a college in Ohio.
Linda Lane was hired by the board without interviewing anyone else so as to sustain the changes Mark Roosevelt was championing in PPS. But sadly, she failed and fumbled the whole sports reform movement. She was clueless. She pulled the plug and wouldn't do anything else in this regard except cut and starve.
When Dr. Lane gave her State of the District speech at CAPA in the fall of 2013, she talked about saving $600,000 from a budget by cutting some sports and all intramural programs and upgrading computers less frequently. That's some line item: Sports and technology upgrades for $600,000 savings. That move seemed to be a surprise to everyone, even within PPS, who had worked on sports reform. I pushed back with a position paper, “Fewer sports alternatives,” and the cuts to the budget never materialized, thankfully, due in great part by board members who knew better. Two years later in the fall of 2015, the PA auditor general and city controller told the newspapers of a PPS surplus of more than $120-million. Go figure.
The first suggestion in the position paper reads: PPS Superintendent, Doctor Linda Lane, should re-establish our Athletic Reform Task Force. Suggestion #1b: This position paper can fill the early agenda for task force meetings. Suggestion #1c: The next task force should include a research component. Examine student data along with Pittsburgh Promise data.
Some other of my favorite suggestions to PPS administrators include the establishment of PPS H2O for city-wide aquatics, an All-City Sports Camp from May to September and the formation of a private-public partnership, an Olympic Sports Division, to manage the scholastic sports of Swimming, X-Country, Track-and-Field, Tennis and intramural programs. After a three month wait, I finally did have one 30-minute meeting with Dara Ware Allen, PPS Administrator in charge of all student services (including athletics). She hadn't even read the position paper. No follow up since.
Linda Lane's Administration lacks leadership in terms of sports, after-school and community building – that's my top concern with PPS.
With the superintendent search, and new board members, it is time to double down. I want to re-visit the 2014 position paper and to insure the new PPS Board Members see it. But I am releasing a new document, a new vision. We can build upon our Summer Dreamers experiences with Swim & Water Polo and turn them into Year-Round Achievers. Let's train 250 new lifeguards in the next five years. You know, PPS has 14 indoor swim pools and there was a time a few years ago when every pool was closed all summer long. We ran the numbers, we have the opportunity to train 6,000 students a year in a five-week Swim & Water Polo Camp. We can teach every kid in PPS how to swim. And, we already have these facilities. They are too often closed. And, these plans are affordable. The pools are there. The water awaits. The plans call for no extra time for custodians. Done well, I expect sensational health benefits and community school interactions.
In the final public hearing concerning input for the new superintendent search, I was the 13th speaker. Every other speaker that came to the microphone to share insights had common ground with my central message as well.
Speaker #1 said: Services and support are not in place in PPS.
Speaker #2, a young woman, remembered that the only thing she was jazzed about at Allderdice through 9th, 10th, and 11th grade was her involvement in marching band. That experience kept her going through high school.
Speaker #3 works as a professional in out-of-school time activities as a community-based provider. She wants PPS to embrace partnerships and have that as a skill-set. The new superintendent needs to have a “track record” (pun to me) and display “small wins” in after-school programming. Well, I want big wins.
Speaker #4, an 8th grade student in Higher Achievement, spoke of the need for a fresh environment. In past years I coached water polo with students in Higher Achievement. Of course, that's fresh!
Speaker #5, a 7th grade student, wants communication skills and respect in communities.
Speaker #6, Hill District Economic Council spoke of being healthy. Wishing for transforming students, leadership, innovation. Athletic do that.
Speaker #7, a Pitt Education Professor and a parent spoke about deep and sustaining partnerships. Pittsburgh has an incredibly rich network. Civic and community engagement are needed and golly, she said that PPS often seems as if it does not want input. Spot on!
Speaker #8, Sala Udin, wants to see someone articulate a strategy. That's exactly what the position paper did. That's exactly what the Sports Reform Task Force did. That's what was ignored by PPS. Sala wants a “turn around” and I do too. We'll even teach flip turns! Yes, Sala, Pittsburgh is a segregated city with a large number of poor people. That's why we are excited to do water polo in the Hill District's Ammon Swim Pool again in the summer of 2016 and champion swimming and water polo, activities that don't cost much beyond having swim suits.
Speaker #9 wants community schools and job training for parents. I've been working with the Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center, but that's not the social skills job training that is really desired. But the new document speaks of community fitness for the parents and guardians of the students we coach. I want adults to start to train when their kids are youngsters so that a few years later as the kids are in high school we can kayak together in our rivers.
Speaker #10, the President of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers hit a home run and made mention of the word “athletics.” She wants none of this as an “after-thought. Rather, authentic working together is desired. Bravo.
Speaker #11, a U-Prep teacher, Chris, made mention that Pittsburgh has been a sports town with some graduates in the NFL and NBA. Who is going to stand up and take the heat, he asks? I think we teach that in athletics too.
Speaker #12, Fred Logan of Homewood, wants the PSCC (Parent School Community Councils) to return with gusto. And our sports boosters, sports leagues and sports advocate efforts should be a part of those PSCC gatherings, perhaps bringing purpose for some to show up and get more involved.
I spoke at #13.
Speaker #14 ranted about knowledge being power. Learn everything and many things. “We should do better than that so our kids can survive in the world.” Learning to swim is a survival skill.
Speaker #15, a Linden teacher and advocate with gifted referrals wants a universal screening so that all the kids who qualify as gifted get an invite to the Pittsburgh Gifted Center. Of course, all the kids should have some of the same opportunities. We could tie a universal gifted screening approach to a mission to have universal swimming lessons.
Speaker #16, Obama Academy senior, spoke of Teen Block and speaking up with student voices. The most popular messages among the kids have been about school starting too early and PPS teaching the whole person. I just released a new video about the AM Swim Practices we have at 6 am. And, I'm a big fan of holistic coaching.
Speaker #17, a U-Prep junior, a young Mr. Sanders, wants to be an entrepreneur. His personal finance class doesn't have a stable teacher and there are many faculty who seem to change often. The lunches do not seem to be nutritional and he and his classmates do not seem to be energized after eating. With athletes, great nutrition is vital. With growing kids, nutrition matters. I also expect that with more athletes, we'll diminish violence. Learning to play well with others is a central theme we should embrace often.
Speaker #18, a parent wants to develop amazing adults and wants inclusion with the disability community. Unemployment is at 70% in that sector, and teaching needs to be visual, auditory and kinetic.
Speaker #19, Ron Lawrence, 100-Black Men and an A+ Schools board member is one I want to get to meet. Closing the achievement gap is important. That achievement gap happens at the swim pool too.
Speaker #20, Education Rights Network advocate wants to end that pipeline to prison. I agree, the PPS administrative cabinet should have a commitment to include an administrator to work full time on efforts to better support those with disabilities. Another after-thought it seems.
Speaker #21, Kenneth, a long-time community activist and friend wants student government and school newspapers to be a first contact with visitors to the school. The newspapers teach ethics and are a place to get focus in a crisis. What's going on should be written about and he feels Mark Roosevelt was a terrible person, especially as he sold off the printing presses in all the schools.
Speaker #22, Tim Stevens, spoke and sang of his days in the U-Prep school, site of the meeting, as it was then called Herron Hill. He spoke at a past meeting and he highlighted the slogan above the stage, “We are all learning.” Enough said.
Speaker #23, Chris Moore, the new U-Prep principal, a former teacher at Schenley, is back in PPS and he feels the new superintendent should be one who is “called” to the job. That is a great trait. He also says that the new superintendent should have the discipline to put students first as he or she makes decisions. I got to chat for a minute after the meeting with the new principal. He'll help to get the word out to the students about the opportunities to play water polo in the neighborhood on Fridays at the Thelma Lovette YMCA.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Monday, January 25, 2016
From: John Hemington <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Netanyahu Demands More Billions From America, Insults U.S. Envoy, Steals More Land
Truthdig | Jan 24, 2016
Juan Cole This post originally ran on Truthdig contributor Juan Cole's website.
At the Davos World Economic Forum, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insisted that the deal between the UN Security Council and Iran limiting its enrichment program to purely civilian uses had made Israel less secure, and that it must therefore be granted tens of billions of extra military aid from the United States.
Netanyahu made the claim on the US taxpayer in the wake of his harsh words for the US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro.
Shapiro had addressed a conference earlier this week in which he said that the Obama administration now questions the commitment of Netanyahu's government to peace with the Palestinians. Shapiro said that Israel wasn't acting credibly to curb the violence of Israeli squatters on the Palestinian West Bank against Palestinians, and that it should open more land to the Palestinians: "Too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seems to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law, one for Israelis, and another for Palestinians. . . Hovering over all these questions is the larger one about Israel's political strategy vis-a-vis its conflict with the Palestinians." He also criticized Palestinian violence.
Netanyahu slapped down Shapiro, calling his observations "unacceptable and incorrect", he added, "Israel enforces the law for Israelis and Palestinians."
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked demanded that Shapiro take back his words.
A former aid to Netanyahu went on Israeli television on Tuesday and put Shapiro down as a yahudon or "little Jew boy," a deeply offensive epithet used by some far rightwing Israelis to characterize diaspora Jews they view as insufficiently Jewish or insufficiently supportive of Israel.
Then yesterday [Jan. 21] the Netanyahu government made Shapiro's point for him by announcing that it will steal 350 acres of Palestinian land near Jericho in the Jordan Valley.
So, to summarize: Netanyahu tried to humiliate the president of the United States by addressing Congress and urging it to overturn Obama's Iran negotiations. Then when he was defeated he turned around and demanded extra billions in military aid. He and his friends insulted Ambassador Shapiro for daring criticize their vast land thefts and Jewish-only colonial policies in Palestinian territory. Then they barefacedly announced that they are in fact going to steal another 350 acres from Palestinian owners.
Not sure if their shoplifting that land requires that we give them yet more billions.
A Jewish woman and a Palestinian woman protesting together in 1973, 1992, and 2001.
Report: NSA recorded members of Congress with Israeli leaders
Dec 30, 2015 12:28 PM EST
The National Security Agency's (NSA) continued surveillance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli leaders may also have swept up private conversations involving members of Congress, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night.
Although President Obama had promised to curb eavesdropping on world leaders who are U.S. allies after Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing the extent of the surveillance, there were a few leaders the White House wished to continue monitoring, including Netanyahu.
The original reason for the stepped up surveillance of Netanyahu, according to the WSJ, was the fear that he would "strike Iran without warning." By 2013, that fear had dissipated. The administration then became concerned about the Iran nuclear deal that was being negotiated. U.S. officials believed that the Israelis were spying on the negotiations and would try to scuttle the deal, the report said.
Further, the Journal reports that intercepted conversations between Israeli leaders confirmed Israel's knowledge of the talks, as well as its intent to undermine any nuclear deal with Iran by leaking its details. When Netanyahu and his top aides came to Washington to talk with Jewish-American groups and members of Congress to lobby against the deal, the NSA was there to pick up the conversations.
Senior officials told the WSJ that those conversations collected by the NSA raised fears "that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress." The White House wanted the information anyway, however, because it "believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu's campaign."
So in order to avoid leaving a trail, the White House left it to the NSA to figure out what to share, and the NSA obliged, deleting names of members and any personal attacks on the administration.
National Security Council Spokesman Ned Price wouldn't comment on the intelligence activities written about in the Wall Street Journal's story, but he said in a statement, "[W]e do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike."
He added that the U.S. commitment to Israel's security is "sacrosanct" and "backed by concrete actions that demonstrate the depth of U.S. support for Israel."
The office of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said only that it was looking into the matter.
Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said the committee would also be looking into the report.
"The Committee has requested additional information from the [Intelligence Community] to determine which, if any, of these allegations are true, and whether the IC followed all applicable laws, rules, and procedures," Nunes said in a statement Wednesday.
Before a campaign event in Cisco, Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz said he wasn't surprised that the administration was trying to intercept Netanyahu's communications, or even that conversations including members of Congress may have been swept up by the NSA, "because this administration views Congress, Republicans and sometimes even Democratic members of Congress as their enemy.... At times, it seems like they view the American people as their enemy."
The allegations "are total nonsense," a spokesman for the Embassy of Israel in Washington told the WSJ.
Before Netanyahu came to address Congress, the NSA had intercepted Israeli messages that said Netanyahu wanted the "the latest U.S. positions in the Iran talks," the Journal wrote, signaling to to the administration that Netanyahu intended to use his address to reveal sensitive details about the negotiations. Secretary of State John Kerry then said as much to reporters on the eve of the speech.
Kerry justified his accusation by pointing to Israeli media reports, but those reports were a convenient source, given that "Intelligence officials said the media reports allowed the U.S. to put Mr. Netanyahu on notice without revealing they already knew his thinking. The prime minister mentioned no secrets during his speech to Congress," wrote the Journal.
CBS News' Mark Knoller and Walt Cronkite contributed to this report.
Israel paid GOP senator $1m to sabotage Iran accord: Reports
Thu Jan 7, 2016 3:24AM
A Republican lawmaker at the US Senate was bribed one million dollars by Israel to try sabotaging negotiations between Tehran and the world powers, including the United States.
The name of Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) emerged on news outlets on Wednesday after a report revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had bribed the choosy lawmakers of the Republican Party so as to kill the accord.
Cotton received $960,250 from the Emergency Committee for Israel, a right-wing political advocacy organization based in the United States, for his senatorial campaign.
As the negotiations were continuing in March 2015, the freshman senator spearheaded an open letter, signed by 47 Republican lawmakers, to warn Iran that a GOP president would not remain committed to any agreement with Tehran.
"I'm pretty sure Bill Kristol (the owner of the Emergency Committee for Israel) did write this letter," American geopolitical commentator Dean Henderson told Press TV at the time.
Kristol has been notorious for backing Israel and as a leading proponent of US military intervention in Muslim countries, including the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to further the Zionist interests.
Last July, Cotton likened the nuclear agreement to crucifixion of Jesus Christ and US top negotiator Secretary of State John Kerry to Pontius Pilate who let it happen.
"I will stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel and work with my colleagues in Congress to stop this deal," Cotton said during a visit to Israel later.
Despite such attempts, Iran and the world powers, which also included the UK, Germany, Russia, China, and France, reached a nuclear accord in June 2014, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Wiretaps uncovered by the Wall Street Journal recently revealed that the Israeli premier had asked the Republicans what they wanted in exchange for opposition against the JCPOA.
"Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the US-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts," read a WSJ report.
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Thursday, January 21, 2016
From: Summit Against Racism #18 <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 3:08 PM
Subject: Energy Rising! Snow or Shine!
Monday, January 18, 2016
From: "John Hemington" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Jan 18, 2016 2:07 PM
Subject: The Big Short analysis
To: "John Hemington" <email@example.com>
Ever since I saw The Big Short last week I've been telling everyone I know to go and see it as it does a pretty good job of explaining what happened during the run-up to the Great Financial Crisis in 2007-2008. It is, however, far from perfect. The primary defect is that it glamorizes those who took advantage of the massive criminal fraud which ginned up the mortgage bubble to bet against it as being some kind of heroes. And they most certainly were not. It also fails to really identify the real culprits behind the fraud as well as many of the victims. Having said that it is still, I believe, an important movie because it does make some of the scams which almost led to the collapse of the world economy at least somewhat visible to average viewers who have generally been misguided or simply perplexed by what happened and why.
Attached are two articles – one of a particularly bad and misleading review of the movie clearly intending to divert attention away from regulatory and financial culprits; and one critical of the book and movie themselves. I encourage you, if you haven't already done it, to both see the movie and read these two articles. In the end you will have a much clearer understanding of just what happened and why this kind of financial crime should never be tolerated in a democratic society.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016
Friday, January 08, 2016