Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Keystone XL

"Rerouting the pipeline "represents a very substantial step forward," said Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen. "[But] from our standpoint, where we represent all landowners, we've sort of traded one set of landowners for another."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Failing American Schools?

A few things I noted from the web.

Prof. RAVITCH: Actually, it wasn't popular at all. It had a very small box office. It was immensely popular amongst very, very wealthy Wall Street hedge fund managers and the elites of this country. The elites tried to whip it up. NBC gave it a week of programming. Oprah gave it two shows. The president invited the children in the film to the White House. But all this PR - which, by the way, was underwritten by the Gates Foundation - was not enough to make it popular at the box office.
 The public schools that do terribly are the schools where there is high poverty.

 And we have to address not just the schools, which are - I am totally opposed to the status quo. The status quo was the one that was created 10 years ago by the No Child Left Behind legislation, and this has turned schools into testing factories. And teachers know this is wrong; educators know it's wrong.

Prof. RAVITCH:  First of all, the tests are not designed to be measures of teacher quality. They are measures of whether students have learned. Sometimes, that's the fault of the teacher, and sometimes it's the fault of the student, and sometimes, it's the - you can say it's because the student is homeless, the student is hungry, the student has bad eyesight. I mean, there are all kinds of issues that get involved in how students perform on standardized tests.
It's also the case that the standardized tests are really very bad measures. And I know that Secretary Duncan's put out a lot of - like $350 million to say we need better tests. But in the meanwhile, we're using the same, crummy test, and we're using them to close schools. There are schools being closed across America based on test scores.
What we should be doing is helping those schools and making them better because public schools are not - they're not shopping malls. They're not shoe stores. They're public facilities. And many of them have long and wonderful histories, and we should do everything possible to make our public schools the best they can be.
There's - we have 20 percent and more of our children living in poverty, which is, frankly, in the modern world, is a disgrace. The film "Waiting for Superman" compared the U.S. to Finland, which is a great comparison. Finland does no standardized testing at all of its students. They just rely on having the best possible teachers and pay them well, and give them respect. But they don't have poverty. The kids in Finland are -less than 3 percent of them are in poverty.
Prof. RAVITCH: We really don't have a lot of bad teachers. I think that everybody forgets that it's not the job of the union to hire teachers or to evaluate teachers or to remove teachers. It's their job to make sure that teachers have due-process rights - that when somebody says they're a bad teacher, that they're entitled to have a hearing. That only seems fair. And if they're bad teachers, then the people who want to get rid of them have to produce the documentation.
Lots of people have been fired. And this is true in right-to-work states. They've been fired because somebody doesn't like them. The person who's the principal just doesn't just like them. If we had wonderful, experienced people as principals, we would not have any bad teachers at all because they would be counseled out.
In fact, I would suggest that what your listener needs to know is that 50 percent of the people who enter teaching leave within five years. We have actually something like a revolving door in teaching because teachers don't get the respect; they don't get the pay; and they don't get the working conditions that make it feel like a good profession.
What's preventing innovation are two things: One is the No Child Left Behind legislation, which says you will be judged by test scores and if your scores don't go up every year, you may have your school penalized and eventually, your school may be closed; all the teachers may be fired; the principal may be fired. And this is causing school districts and teachers to cut the amount of time available for the arts and science and history and geography - everything except standardized testing and reading and math. What we - what I believe firmly is that any school that does this is cutting away good education.
KELLY: So how should we measure teacher performance?
Prof. RAVITCH: You know what? Can I tell you, a good school is a school that has a balanced curriculum, where the teachers are dedicated, where there's strong leadership, where there's an experienced person who's - an experienced teacher who's the principal, who can go into the classroom and give the teachers help if they need it, and make sure that all of the teachers are good teachers, and that they have the support and mentoring that they need to get better.
And all the children have access to the arts and history and science, and everything that we would want in a great school. And the measurement is totally unimportant. I think the measurement is what's driving education into the gutter these days.
High-stakes testing warps everything. It warps - it even warps the test, because we now have districts that are so focused on the testing that they're not teaching children anything other than how to take tests. And we're also seeing cheating.

Chater chain in california, admitted that they were giving kids the answers to the test, and they just renewed their charter-despite the fat that they had been systematically cheating.


American students from well-funded schools who come from middle-class families outscore students in nearly all other countries on international tests. 

Our average scores are not spectacular because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (over 20%; in contrast, high-scoring Finland has less than 4%).

 Our first step should be to protect children from the damaging effects of poverty: better nutrition (Susan Ohanian suggests the motto "No Child Left Unfed"), excellent health care for all children, and universal access to reading material. The best teaching in the world is useless when students are hungry, sick, and have little or nothing to read.
Stephen Krashen

 Just a few countries, not so in reading and science, strong evidence for effect of poverty, other factors, percentage or absolute numbers?

A look at the full report, available at the Education Next website, suggests that these researchers looked hard to find evidence of a STEM crisis, and kept looking until they found a statistic that seemed to show it.

The math gap is caused by just a few very high-scoring countries– Taiwan with 28%, Hong Kong with 24% and Korea with 23% of students at the advanced level. Without these countries, US children with at least one parent with a college education do pretty well. 

Our highest scoring state, Massachusetts, has 17% of its students at the advanced level, making it 5th in the world, not counting the three exceptionally high scorers.

Taiwan, first in math, is near the bottom of all countries in percent of students scoring in the top group in reading, and loses to all states in the US except Mississippi, and this is based on ALL American students in a state, not just those with a college-educated parent. Massachusetts would rank fourth in the world, nearly tying for third. And other states would rank highly too, again, counting ALL students.

Fifteen US states (again, all students) have a higher percentage of top science students than Korea (third in math) does.

The authors did not discuss studies that considered social class and poverty levels, and concluded that American children attending low poverty schools score very well. Bracey (2009) concluded that on the PIRLS reading test, American children attending low poverty schools (25% or less) outscored the top scoring country, Sweden. Bracey also pointed out that "if the students in schools with 24-49.9% poverty constituted a nation, it would rank fourth among the 35 participating nations" (p. 155). Payne and Biddle (1999) reported that when we consider only middle-class children who attend well-funded schools, our math scores are near the top of the world.

Tienken (2010) cites studies showing that a myriad of additional factors operate that artificially depress American students' scores on international tests, including the fact that the US tests nearly all students. 

Some other countries are selective – on TIMSS, this includes Russia (only native speakers of Russian), Israel (only native speakers of Hebrew), Switzerland (only highest performing regions, 16/26 cantons), Spain (excluded Cataluna), and Italy (excluded high-poverty regions). I don't know if this is true of PISA.
Finally, absolute numbers are more relevant than percentages. 

Tienken points out that the US had 25% of world's top science achievers on PISA, 2009. China had one percent.


American students are doing well in science and math. American children in low-poverty schools outscore students in nearly all other countries on international science/math tests. Overall scores are unspectacular because over 20% of our children live in poverty, the highest percentage among all industrialized countries.
The US produces more top science students than other countries: On the 2006 PISA math and science tests, 60,000 American students scored in the top category, compared to 34,000 Japanese students. 

American students are already taking lots of math and science, more than the economy needs: For example, in 2007, 30% of college-bound high-school seniors had taken calculus, but only 5% of new openings require a math/science background.

There is no shortage of science/technology experts in the US: There are three qualified applications for each science/tech opening. 

Also, the US contributed 63% of the top 1% most-cited science/tech publications in 2004 and according to the World Economic Forum the US ranks second out of 133 countries in "quality of scientific research institutions."
Stephen Krashen

And my teachers union president has gone even to the governor and suggested that
if charter schools are truly innovative, they should be a draft and not a cream of the crop

If teachers unions were to be
blamed for failing schools, then we would assume that schools in less unionized states
would outperform schools in more densely unionized states. So you'd assume that places
like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, who have relatively few unionized teachers would
do much, much better. But that's not the case. The states with the most densely
unionized teachers, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland; they do the best. And the
countries with the most densely unionized populations: Finland, Japan, they do the best.
So what do we learn from that? What we know is that there are problems like Mr.
Rosenkranz said. There are problems we have to solve. One of which is poverty. States
like Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi; they have and had been plagued by tremendous
poverty. We have to compete with poverty. That's what public education is and that is
what the search we have for, that's what our search is, to find what works. So you felt, I
hope tonight we can move from scapegoating to solutions, to problem solving. And I
would argue to all of you that having a strong union, someone in an entity that will look
at what it's done right and what it's done wrong, and solve things and change things, is the
way to go. So what works? What can we learn from places like Maryland,
Massachusetts, New York State, Finland, and Japan? This is what we can learn. This is
what works. What works in places where we don't as Terry Moe will probably argue,
where we don't have niche markets, where we can't marketize our schools, where we

Randi Weingarten:
Well, given that the United Federation of Teachers under my watch, started two charter
schools in Eastern York, it’s totally and completely untrue. What we want to do is we
want charters to be held to the same accountability standards including the ones that we
started, as any other school and what the evidence has been in New York, like the
evidence around the country, is that charter schools instead of, as Diane Ravitch said,
should take more of the most at-risk kids are actually taking fewer special needs kids and
fewer kids with limited English proficiency. So we’ve open to, we think charters could
be a great incubator for instructional practice and could be a great incubator for labor
relations practice. But Terry, I don’t want New York to be as much as an evidentiary
zone as Washington D.C. seems to be, which means let’s look at the Credo story which
were done with a pro-charter advocate. What they said was, where 17 percent of the
charters are better than public schools, 34 percent are worse, and the rest are the same.
The idea is to actually find what works, make it sustainable and make it replicable.
That’s what we’re trying to do and that’s what I’m trying to do.

Randi Weingarten:
What we wanted to do, what we wanted to do was actually the New York City and State
Union were in favor of lifting the cap and in favor of creating a level playing field to
make sure that all kids could equally get into all schools. And if you recall, New York
State became one of the finalists for Race to the Top so obviously whatever happened in
the state legislature didn’t disqualify us from Race to the Top. The bottom line is, we
need schools -- all schools: charter, public, private to be places where parents want to
send their kids and where educators want to work. That’s the bottom line. How do we
help all kids, not just some kids, but all kids.

Friday, August 5, 2011


- a long-range modernization plan for agriculture, education, science, and agra business

- seeds and fertilizer, de-mining programs, reconstruction of canals reconstruction of prewar 

- 22 agricultural research stations

--the clearing of cluster bombs, dropped by the millions by the Soviets.

Last year, 84,900 mines and 2.5 million unexploded bombs and ordinance were cleared.

-International Committee of the Red Cross orthopedic center in Kabul,
cares for about 250 people a day — providing new limbs, wheelchairs and physical therapy for the disabled. There are an estimated 50,000 amputees in Afghanistan, mostly mine victims.

"Patients sit on benches in the buildings, trying on new limbs or resting from physical therapy. One man wraps both hands around the stump where his leg used to be, crutches by his side. He lost both legs to a mine when he was 12.
Others practice walking with their new prosthetics by placing them on footprints painted on the floor. Some are trying them on for the first time. Others, such as 78-year-old Nawab Khan, are getting replacements.
“I lost my leg a long time ago,” said Khan, whose legs blew up 10 years ago while he was working on his farm. 

-repatriation and rehab
5.6  million people ( of 6 million) returned from Soviet war , offered money for new start. In  2010 the United States has spent $43.5 million to help refugees who have returned to Afghanistan make a fresh start.

"If we accept the premise that education is the key to achieving positive, long lasting change in Afghanistan, then it is impossible to overstate how encouraging it is that this year[2009] nearly eight and a half million children will attend school in Afghanistan, with girls accounting for nearly 40% of enrollment." 

"During the 1970s, the women enjoyed a level of professional freedom and autonomy that was relatively liberal for a conservative Muslim society. " a significant percentage of the women in Kabul worked for a living-tens of thousands of them serving in medicine, law, journalism, engineering.

Taliban ended that.

..every woman was forbidden to go outside their homes, unless with a male relative, clad in a dark burka. 

Women who were ill could only be treated by female doctors, women doctors were confined to their homes, denied permission to go out, severing half the pop access to health care.

100,000 school girls and 8000 university students were forced to leave school. 

8000 teachers lost their jobs

Today, a record 2.5 million girls are enrolled in grades first through 12th, according to UNICEF, the United Nations' children's fund. That's up from 839,000 in 2002.

Some credit the increase in enrollment not just with the removal of the Taliban but a change in attitudes among Afghans.

"When I travel to the villages, even the Kuchi people (Afghan nomads) who never sent their girls to school, they ask me to build a school for their girls," says Omar.

Economic recovery

pre-Saur Revolution GDP 3.7 billion 1977

2.7 in 2000

4 billion 1n 2004

5 in 2005

10.6  in 2008  (

CNN reports on Afghanistan's local media

Screenshots from Masood Farivar's interview on CNNMasood Farivar, manager of Salam Watandar (Hello, Countryman), Internews Network’s Afghan radio program production house, appeared on CNN International to speak about the progress and quality of the country’s young independent media.
"There is reason for optimism in the media. It is the media that have made important democratic concepts like human rights [and] rule of law part of the national vocabulary," Farivar told CNN’s Max Foster, on Connect The World.
Farivar, who spent years as a journalist in the United States, returned to Afghanistan to help rebuild his country after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. "I always wanted to go back to Afghanistan and wanted to give something back to the country, and journalism was something I knew. When I went back I found very young, enthusiastic journalists dedicated to the profession.
"At Salam Watandar, we practice what I call journalism of hope. We talk about the news agenda every day, and we ask 'Are there stories that would give people hope amidst all this war and fighting and hopelessness?' and we try to focus on some of those stories. That is not to say that we mask over the realities of war. The realities of war are tough, but there also some positive developments happening and it’s important that those stories are aired. I feel that we as journalists have a moral responsibility to air those stories, to give people hope."
Through live satellite broadcast from Kabul, Salam Watandar reaches 37 radio stations in 26 provinces of Afghanistan.


infrastructure, improvements economy

2005 $28 million dollar pedestrian and vehicle bridge

About 150,000 people subscribe to cell phone service each month in Afghanistan and there's "no end in sight" to the growth, the country's communications minister said Tuesday.


"Agriculture is very, very important. Agriculture there is very different from the U.S. In the U.S., agricultural production is about one percent of the economy," he says. "In Afghanistan, it's about one-third. In the U.S., agricultural production employs about two percent of the population. In Afghanistan, it's about 80 percent." 

"The Afghan government has put significant focus on rebuilding Afghanistan's agriculture, which has during the war been totally destroyed. From 1978 until 2001, every year 3 percent of agricultural production has gone down," says Rahimi. "And because of the drought, half of livestock has perished. So now we are rebuilding. We have some success in both rebuilding Afghanistan's agriculture and rebuilding livestock back." 

To continue that success, Rahimi has a long-range modernization plan for his department.

He is relying on a team of young Afghan agricultural officials he has hired. As efforts to redevelop the country continue, many of Afghanistan's best and brightest are recruited by high-paying international organizations. But Rahimi says he manages to hold on to his people with more than good salaries.

"Also providing them incentives, training. Capacity, building all these people, providing them opportunities. Also job satisfaction," he says. "So I'm using not only the salary as one factor, but also at the same time creating an environment where people feel they are part of a transformation, the overall ownership of the ministry. That is where all of us work as a very strong team."

Transforming Afghanistan's agriculture is also complicated work, which Rahimi acknowledges will require the help of the international community. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a $38 million grant to assist his ministry with organization and training. But Rahimi says his team will take the lead in this cooperative venture.

"Follow our footsteps, because we know Afghanistan best," he says. "And provide us technical assistance that you are good at."

agriculture 12% usable in best of times.   Soviet deforestation and increased desertification and neglect had a devastating toll.

-redistribution of seeds and fertilizer, de mining programs, reconstruction of canals reconstruction of prewar 22 agricultural research stations

Fruits and nuts prewar was 50%

native seed varieties wiped out and brought in from abroad

-the clearing of cluster bombs, dropped by the millions by the Soviets.

Afghanistan has cleared two-thirds of the country of deadly mines over the past two decades, and had hoped to get rid of the rest by 2013. But experts fear Afghanistan can no longer meet its goals because of an increase in fighting and a drop in international funding. 

The mines in Afghanistan are a legacy from decades of Soviet occupation and subsequent civil wars. Tens of thousands of mines and unexploded bombs still pepper the rugged country. Last year, 84,900 mines and 2.5 million unexploded bombs and ordinance were cleared.

He and others also bring up the problem of not enough funding. The economic turndown means less money for all charities. There are also concerns that the renewed fighting will draw attention and funds away from mine clearing.
The United Nations says it needs $500 million over the next five years to reach its goal and has received 70 percent of the $108 million it needs this year.
“In 2001 and 2002 we were thinking that everything is over, but now again it’s happening again,” said Najmuddin, 43, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross orthopedic center in Kabul, who goes by one name only. Najmuddin himself lost both his legs to a mine 18 years ago. Today, he walks with a small limp on two prosthetic replacements.
The center, located near Kabul University, cares for about 250 people a day — providing new limbs, wheelchairs and physical therapy for the disabled. There are an estimated 50,000 amputees in Afghanistan, mostly mine victims.
Patients sit on benches in the buildings, trying on new limbs or resting from physical therapy. One man wraps both hands around the stump where his leg used to be, crutches by his side. He lost both legs to a mine when he was 12.
Others practice walking with their new prosthetics by placing them on footprints painted on the floor. Some are trying them on for the first time. Others, such as 78-year-old Nawab Khan, are getting replacements.
“I lost my leg a long time ago,” said Khan, whose legs blew up 10 years ago while he was working on his farm. “But I feel sorry for these young people that they also have to go through this.”


repatriation and rehab
5 million people ( of 6 mill) returned, offered money

"  More than five million refugees have returned home to Afghanistan since 2002, but over 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees remain in neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran. The United States has provided generous levels of assistance to those refugees returning to Afghanistan, and to those remaining in Pakistan and elsewhere. In the last year, the United States, including the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development, has provided nearly $155 million to Afghans displaced by conflict or natural disasters. Of that amount, the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration provided $75 million this year to Afghan refugees in the region, both those who have returned home, and those still in countries of refuge. "

In 2010, the United States has spent $43.5 million to help refugees who have returned to Afghanistan make a fresh start.

Soviet depopulation whole clans and tribes fled to pak.     soviet scorched earth

rebuild 140,000 homes and 8,000 wells  UNHCR

(   afghans rebuild homes with pride)

Some 3,000 Afghan refugees to leave Islamabad slum for new home

News Stories, 8 December 2009

© UNHCR/A.Shahzad
One of the Afghan refugees talks to visitors by his tent at the new site in Islamabad.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, December 8 (UNHCR)  The UN refugee agency has begun helping some 3,000 Afghan refugees move from a slum in the Pakistani capital to an undeveloped plot of land in a green belt on the edge of the city.
The relocation operation began last Saturday, when an initial group of 240 Afghan refugees were moved from their mud brick homes in southern Islamabad to a 472,000-square-feet plot of land about 10 minutes drive away.
The move, which is due to be completed by the end of this week, came after Islamabad's Capital Development Authority (CDA) responsible for city planning, maintenance and expansion agreed to move the Afghan refugees from their slum, which is slated for redevelopment as a residential area in a growing city.
UNHCR will initially provide winter tents and has been helping to instal basic services, including water and sanitation. The CDA will level the ground at the new site so that the Afghans can build houses with shelter materials provided by UNHCR. The refugees will not have title to their homes.
The CDA initially served an eviction notice on the Afghans, but agreed to find them land elsewhere after discussions with UNHCR. "The decision to provide an alternative location to the Afghan refugees shows that Pakistan . . . cares about them," said Mengesha Kebede, UNHCR's representative in Pakistan, who praised the host country for its generosity over the years to millions of refugees.
Many of the beneficiaries of the scheme are daily wage labourers, such as 29-year-old Gul Khan. Like others interviewed, he welcomed the move, noting that the refugees were worried when they originally received orders to vacate their mud houses in the slum, where he had lived since the age of 10.
"But the new decision to offer us a piece of land where we are being helped to build a new shelter is a welcome step," said Khan, who works in an Islamabad fruit market. "It is very difficult to sustain a living these days," he noted.
Ghulam Nabi and his large family also moved to the new site over the weekend. "Our place [in the slum] was very crowded; imagine 15 family members living in a single tent," he said, referring to the makeshift shelter of plastic sheets and old cloths that he moved out of. "It was terrible," he said.
Pakistan is home to some 1.7 million registered Afghans and slightly more than half of them live outside refugee camps, mostly in urban centres.
By Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Pakistan



"no sector suffered as much from the deprivations of the communists and the Taliban as education"

After Saur revolution Teachers and students were subject to interrogation, torture, and imprisonment, many left.   the one third population that left the country of war, were deprived of education.

205 5 million children attended school medical school in kabul from the united arab emirates
a university in kabul funded by US

some progress in health

Afghanistan: Two new hospitals under construction in Paktya province

New Hospital Opens in Herat

Kabul, Afghanistan, 8 April 2006 – President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, French First Lady Mme. Bernadette Chirac and His Highness the Aga Khan, Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), today inaugurated the French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC), an international-class, paediatric hospital founded by the French charitable organisations La ChaĆ®ne de l’Espoir and Enfants Afghans.

-2005 5.3 million children got polio and vitamin  A shots   Half the children immunized for whooping cough and measles

-5 million medicated for intestinal worms by 2005 couple hundred health care centers renovated or built
9000 healthcare workers trained.

-35,000 women employed by gov


1985 commission on human rights (p183), Soviets  deliberately bombed villages, massacred civilians, executed captured fighters,   gov, jailed 50,000 political opponents ,torture routine and mines disguised at toys laid around the country (Ewans 2002, 227

The communist Saur Revolution  of April 1978

-subjected thousands of innocents to torture, executions without trial

thousands disappeared of the Pul-e-Charkhi prison

Fear of gov kept most families from inquiring about their fate

a vast network of secret police and informers kept tabs on citizens.  Children grilled by teachers about parent's opinions

Leaving the country was a criminal act. punished by murder

The battle tactics approached genocide.   7 million displaced.   hundreds of thousands killed