Saturday, November 20, 2010

House GOP blocks bill to extend jobless benefits

Republicans in the House Thursday blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed beyond the holiday season.

An extension of jobless benefits enacted this summer expires Dec. 1, and unless they are renewed, two million people will lose benefits averaging $310 a week nationwide by the end of December.

The failed measure would have extended jobless benefits through the end of February at a cost of adding $12.5 billion to the nation's debt. Republicans opposing the legislation said the measure should be paid for by cutting unspent money from last year's economic stimulus bill.

The White House criticized Congress for failing to renew unemployment benefits with the holiday break approaching.

Democrats brought the measure to the floor under fast-track rules that required a two-thirds vote to pass, so the measure fell despite winning a 258-154 majority. Republicans blasted the move since it denied them an opportunity to try to offset its cost.

Why the fast track if they had a majority?

Nearly 40% say marriage is becoming obsolete


Marriage is increasingly optional and could be on its way to obsolescence,according to a survey of more than 2,600 Americans that examines changing attitudes about relationships today.

Among the 2,691 adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center last month, 39% say marriage is becoming obsolete, up from 28% who responded to the same question posed in 1978 by Time magazine, which participated in the survey.

Census data reflect a declining percentage of married adults: 54% in 2010, down from 57% in 2000 and 72% in 1960.

At the same time, the median age at first marriage increased in 2010 to its highest ever — 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women, according to Census. That's up from 26.8 and 25.1 in 2000. Among those ages 25-34, the percentage of those who are married fell below unmarrieds for the first time in more than a century.

Marriage is still the norm for college grads (64%) but less so for those with no college (48%). Blacks are much less likely to be married (32%) than whites (56%), the report finds.

Cohabitation has nearly doubled since 1990. Pew found 44% of adults (and more than half ages 30-49) have cohabited. Among these, 64% say they considered it a step toward marriage.


Florida records best-ever high-school-graduation rates

Florida posted its highest-ever high school graduation rate this year.

The state graduation rate hit 79 percent in 2010, buoyed by strong improvements among black and Hispanic students, the Florida Department of Education announced today.

That rate includes students who earn regular diplomas and the "special" diplomas earned by teenagers with disabilities, but it excludes GEDs from the calculations.

It does, however, allow schools to calculate their rates after removing students who leave high school to pursue adult education programs — a move that boosts school graduation numbers.

Education Commissioner Eric Smith said earlier this year that the practice meant Florida wasn't "accounting for these kids at all" in its calculations.

The federal government plans to require counting such students – there were more than 17,300 in 2009 – under a new system it is proposing all states follow.

In the meantime, Florida is using the rate devised by the governors association. By that measure, the state's graduation rate has climbed from 68.9 percent in 2006 to 79 percent this year.

The graduation rates for black and Hispanic students lagged in all those years behind those of their white classmates, but the rate for both groups has improved by about 13 percentage points in the past five years.

Florida unemployment comp tax going up again

Unemployment compensation taxes are set to nearly triple next year for almost half of Florida's employers who pay the minimum rate, but they won't change for those paying the maximum, state revenue officials said Wednesday.

The jobless rate instead has increased, hitting 11.9 percent in October - 0.7 point higher than the same month last year. The state has borrowed $1.74 billion so far and hasn't been able to repay any of it.

Employers' taxes are individually set, based on a formula that includes their recent history. More layoffs mean higher taxes.

Those with the best records will have the biggest percentage increase next year with the minimum annual tax going up from $25.20 to $72.10 per employee. The maximum, though, is staying at $378 per employee.

Department of Revenue officials say the tax is paid by 465,812 employers. They expect 78,441 to pay the maximum rate and 219,935 the minimum next year. The rest would pay amounts somewhere between those rates.

Florida began borrowing money from the federal government to pay jobless workers' claims last year after the state unemployment compensation fund dropped to zero from $1.2 billion in 2008.

Crist signs bill funding Fla. energy rebates

Gov. Charlie Crist has signed a bill that allocates $31.3 million in federal stimulus money for rebates on the purchase of energy saving devices.

Crist signed the legislation (HB 15-A) on Wednesday, just one day after Florida lawmakers passed it during a special session.

It funds rebates on solar energy and high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems.

The state has a backlog of 13,000 unpaid applications for solar rebates with an estimated value of $52 million. As a result, applicants will get a bit less than what they were promised.

The $1,5000 heating-air conditioning rebates are for applications received by Nov. 30 on systems bought or contracted for between Aug. 30 and Sept. 14.

Obama Pushes DREAM Act Immigration Reform for Lame-Duck Congress

President Obama today joined top Congressional Democrats in urging Congress to pass a small piece of immigration legislation known as the DREAM Act before it adjourns for the year. The measure would give hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants a conditional path to legal residency.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has repeatedly promised a vote on the measure during the lame-duck session. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also expressed support for bringing a bill to the floor, although not until after Thanksgiving.

“This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service,” the White House said in a statement following the president’s closed-door meeting with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this afternoon.

The DREAM Act would apply to immigrants younger than 36 years old who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children under the supervision of their parents and have maintained "good moral character," among other requirements.

Senate Republicans Ban Earmarks; Will Democrats Follow?

Senate Republicans today took their war against government spending to a new level, voting behind closed-doors to approve a moratorium on all congressional earmarks for two years.

The resolution, which is non-binding, is identical to the one approved by House Republicans in the current Congress and forbids Republicans from engaging in the practice of funnelling federal tax dollars to pet projects in their home states.

House Democrats have restricted earmarks for private contractors but not outlawed them entirely.

Congress approved 9,499 earmarked projects in fiscal year 2010 that totaled $15.9 billion, according to the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Earmarks account for less than 1 percent of overall federal spending.

Retiring postmaster gets another big payday amid financial crisis

Outgoing U.S. Postmaster General John E. Potter earned nearly $800,000 last year - an increase of more than $60,000 over the previous year - as the U.S. Postal Service faces the worst financial crisis in its history.

Mr. Potter's salary is capped by statute at $273,926, but like other top Postal Service executives, he's also eligible to receive additional money through special incentive compensation to be paid out in later years. The incentive compensation netted Mr. Potter $228,000 for fiscal 2010. He didn't take any incentive money last year and received $135,041 in 2008.

Mr. Potter retires effective Dec. 3 after 32 years with the Postal Service and nearly a decade as postmaster general. His salary and incentive bonus payment, coupled with $219,000 in pension and other earnings, brought his overall compensation package to $798,000, records show.

When the Mind Wanders, Happiness Also Strays

Using an iPhone app called trackyourhappiness, psychologists at Harvard contacted people around the world at random intervals to ask how they were feeling, what they were doing and what they were thinking.

The least surprising finding, based on a quarter-million responses from more than 2,200 people, was that the happiest people in the world were the ones in the midst of enjoying sex. Or at least they were enjoying it until the iPhone interrupted.

When asked to rate their feelings on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being “very good,” the people having sex gave an average rating of 90. That was a good 15 points higher than the next-best activity, exercising, which was followed closely by conversation, listening to music, taking a walk, eating, praying and meditating, cooking, shopping, taking care of one’s children and reading. Near the bottom of the list were personal grooming, commuting and working.

When asked their thoughts, the people in flagrante were models of concentration: only 10 percent of the time did their thoughts stray from their endeavors. But when people were doing anything else, their minds wandered at least 30 percent of the time, and as much as 65 percent of the time (recorded during moments of personal grooming, clearly a less than scintillating enterprise).

On average throughout all the quarter-million responses, minds were wandering 47 percent of the time.

Main Street Improvements have Businsses Waiting for More Traffic

Businesses along Main Street in Springfield are seeing more vehicles, but the new road hasn't increased foot traffic into their stores.

Earlier this year, the city of Jacksonville wrapped up a $14 million dollar street-widening project that also involved replacing aging infrastructure.

Vetoes overridden by Fla. lawmakers at a glance

Here's a quick look at the vetoes of bills and a budget item overridden Tuesday by the Florida Legislature, Gov. Charlie Crist's reasons for vetoing them and the votes in each chamber:

HEALTH CARE - A $9.7 million appropriation for the University of Florida's Shands Teaching Hospital that will be used to pay for the treatment of underfunded Medicaid and charity patients and draw down federal matching money. Crist objected to singling out one hospital for special treatment. House 120-0, Senate 39-0.

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY SALES - HB 545 will repeal a requirement for sellers to disclose the windstorm mitigation rating of homes to buyers in coastal areas, which had been scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2011. Crist said the repeal is anti-consumer. House 120-0, Senate 35-0.

LANDFILLS - HB 569 will let local governments put yard trash in garbage dumps, thus eliminating the need for separate pickups. Crist contended this is a step backward for recycling. House 114-5, Senate 39-0.

ADMINISTRATIVE RULES - HB 1565 will require the Legislature's approval of administrative rules passed by executive branch agencies if they are expected to have an economic effect of at least $1 million over five years. Crist argued this infringes on executive branch authority and would create more red tape by delaying rules. House 99-21, Senate 32-7.

AGRICULTURE - HB 981 will let farmers keep an agricultural tax break on land that's up for sale and raise a tax on citrus from 1 cent to 3 cents per box to provide $3.5 million a year for research. Crist said the tax break would benefit land speculators at the expense of taxpayers. House 120-0, Senate 35-2.

PETROLEUM SITE CLEANUP - HB 1385 clarifies that local governments cannot deny building permits based solely on the presence of petroleum contamination for tank upgrades at an existing retail facility and shifts funding to lower-priority tank clean-up in some cases. Crist contended this would lower environmental standards. House 118-1, Senate 39-0.

STATE PROPERTY - HB 1516 will require the Department of Environmental Protection to maintain an inventory of state buildings and other real estate. Crist said this is outside the agency's mission. House 115-1, Senate 38-1.

ROAD PROJECTS - SB 1842 will expand public notice when road projects are planned. Crist said this will result in unnecessary delays of projects that improve safety. House 117-0, Senate 39-0.

2010 Election Results

This is a great resource to see the current makeup of Congress.

Investors Put Money on Lawsuits to Get Payouts

Large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings.

The loans are propelling large and prominent cases. Lenders including Counsel Financial, a Buffalo company financed by Citigroup, provided $35 million for the lawsuits brought by ground zero workers that were settled tentatively in June for $712.5 million. The lenders earned about $11 million.

Most investments are in the smaller cases that fill court dockets. Ardec Funding, a New York lender backed by a hedge fund, lent $45,000 in June to a Manhattan lawyer hired by the parents of a baby brain-damaged at birth. The lawyer hired two doctors, a physical therapist and an economist to testify at a July trial. The jury ordered the delivering doctor and hospital to pay the baby $510,000. Ardec is collecting interest at an annual rate of 24 percent, or $900 a month, until the award is paid.

Total investments in lawsuits at any given time now exceed $1 billion, several industry participants estimated. Although no figures are available on the number of lawsuits supported by lenders, public records from one state, New York, show that over the last decade, more than 250 law firms borrowed on pending cases, often repeatedly.

The rise of lending to plaintiffs and their lawyers is a result of the high cost of litigation. Pursuing a civil action in federal court costs an average of $15,000, the Federal Judicial Center reported last year. Cases involving scientific evidence, like medical malpractice claims, often cost more than $100,000. Some people cannot afford to pursue claims; others are overwhelmed by corporate defendants with deeper pockets.


Court Rules Gun Use in Drug Crimes Means Added 5 Years

People convicted of possessing a gun while selling drugs are subject to five-year mandatory minimum sentences on top of most of other sentences, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The question in the case was what Congress meant when it revised a 1968 federal gun control law in 1998 by, among other things, adding a new preface saying the five-year minimum for having or using guns while selling drugs applied “except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is otherwise provided.”

EPA: Water regulation costs overblown

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday morning it will cost Florida between $135 million and $206 million to meet new rules requiring less nutrient pollution of waterways.


Duval School Principal Pay Getting a Bump

A pay plan for principals adopted four years ago in Duval County now has a source of funding: stimulus dollars.

The old pay schedule was based on years of service, but a revised formula would factor in grade level (elementary, middle or secondary), enrollment and the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch. Pay also would be based on years of experience with the district paying $600 for every year up to $12,000.

A high school principal would get $10,000, with elementary and middle school leaders getting $3,000. Each principal would be paid $2 for each student.

A dollar amount also has been attached to the percentage of students on free or reduced lunches. That varies from $125 to $250 for each percent.

The base pay for principals before the formula is $74,311.

"Certainly to be competitive," said district spokesperson Jill Johnson when asked about the rationale for revised principal compensation package.

Duval County principals, even under the revised formula, still lag behind in pay when compared to other large Florida districts, said Johnson.

The district said the revised pay schedule will cost an additional $1.2 million.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nazis Were Given ‘Safe Haven’ in U.S., Report Says

A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.

The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades.

It describes the government’s posthumous pursuit of Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death at Auschwitz, part of whose scalp was kept in a Justice Department official’s drawer; the vigilante killing of a former Waffen SS soldier in New Jersey; and the government’s mistaken identification of the Treblinka concentration camp guard known as Ivan the Terrible.

The report catalogs both the successes and failures of the band of lawyers, historians and investigators at the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which was created in 1979 to deport Nazis.

Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of American complicity and deception in such operations.

The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.

The report also documents divisions within the government over the effort and the legal pitfalls in relying on testimony from Holocaust survivors that was decades old. The report also concluded that the number of Nazis who made it into the United States was almost certainly much smaller than 10,000, the figure widely cited by government officials.

More than 300 Nazi persecutors have been deported, stripped of citizenship or blocked from entering the United States since the creation of the O.S.I., which was merged with another unit this year.

U.S. Postal Service posts loss, 4th straight year

The U.S. Postal Service reported a net loss of $8.5 billion for the most recent fiscal year as mail volume continued to decline, forcing the agency to find ways to overhaul its business.

The Postal Service has been trying to dramatically reform its business practices for years as increasing popularity of email, competition from FedEx, United Parcel Service and other delivery services, and the recent economic downturn hurt volumes.

This is the fourth straight year the agency has posted net losses despite cost-cutting measures and staff reductions.

The agency's revenue woes are not new. The Postal Service reported a $3.8 billion net loss for the previous fiscal year, 2009, despite about $6 billion in savings.

Mail volume fell 12.7 percent in that year, more than double any decline the agency had seen previously.

Although standard mail volumes began to recover in late fiscal 2010, the Postal Service reported first-class mail, its most profitable product, fell 6.6 percent for the year.

Total mail volume fell 3.5 percent to 170.6 billion pieces during the fiscal 2010, which ended September 30, the agency reported.

Cost-saving measures eliminated 75 million work hours and reduced operating expenses about 0.6 percent from 2009. But that was not enough to compensate for a $1 billion decrease in revenue to $67.1 billion in 2010.

An audit of the agency's finances is expected to question the Postal Service's ability to make all of its future payments, including a $5.5 billion payment to prefund retiree health benefits due on the last day of the current fiscal year, 2011, according to the Postal Service's statement.

Jacksonville gets $9M for children’s mental health

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has awarded Jacksonville a $9 million grant to establish a system for mental health care for children in Duval County.

The funds will enable the community to better meet the needs of children and their families through coordinated care, expand the capacity for early identification and treatment, and improve access to appropriate mental health services for children.

The initiative will focus initially on children in foster care and the juvenile justice system, homeless children and young, high-risk children in certain neighborhoods.

The grant will be matched locally by the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, the Early Learning Coalition of Duval Inc. and Family Support Services.

US Survey: 1 in 10 Kids Has ADHD, Awareness Cited

A government survey says 1 in 10 U.S. children has ADHD, a sizable increase from a few years earlier that researchers think might be explained by growing awareness and better screening.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, makes it hard for kids to pay attention and control impulsive behavior. It's often treated with drugs, behavioral therapy, or both.

The new study found that about two-thirds of the children who have ADHD are on medication.

The estimate comes from a survey released Wednesday that found an increase in ADHD of about 22 percent from 2003 to the most recent survey in 2007-08. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interviewed parents of children ages 4 through 17 in both studies.

In the latest survey, 9.5 percent said a doctor or health care provider had told them their child had ADHD. The earlier study found that fewer than 8 percent of kids had been diagnosed with it.

Researchers calculate about 5.4 million kids have been diagnosed with ADHD, which suggests that about 1 million more children have the disorder than a few years earlier.

One expert found it hard to believe that so many kids might have ADHD. "It sounds a little high," said Howard Abikoff, a psychologist who is director of the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at New York University's Child Study Center.

Other studies have suggested more like 5 percent of kids have ADHD, and there are no known biological reasons for it to be on a recent increase, he added.

Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected

An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented — a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another.

But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.


More federal workers' pay tops $150,000

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Federal salaries have grown robustly in recent years, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Office of Personnel Management data. Key findings:

Government-wide raises. Top-paid staff have increased in every department and agency. The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office and 994 in June.

•Long-time workers thrive. The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years. Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% compared with a 9% inflation rate.

•Physicians rewarded. Medical doctors at veterans hospitals, prisons and elsewhere earn an average of $179,500, up from $111,000 in 2005.

Federal workers earning $150,000 or more make up 3.9% of the workforce, up from 0.4% in 2005.

Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Members of Congress earn $174,000, up from $141,300 in 2000, an increase below the rate of inflation.

Fast-food restaurants target U.S. kids, study shows

Harris and colleagues spent a year studying 12 big fast-food chains, analyzed the calories, fat, sugar and sodium in menu items and kids' meal combinations, and studied what children and teens ordered.

The report, available at www.fastfoodmarketing.org, finds the industry spent more than $4.2 billion in 2009 on marketing and advertising on television, the Internet, social media sites and mobile applications.

"Today, preschoolers see 21 percent more fast food ads on TV than they saw in 2003, and somewhat older children see 34 percent more."

McDonald's Corp has 13 websites, attracting 365,000 unique child visitors under 12 every month. One, ronald.com, specifically targets preschoolers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two-thirds of American adults and 15 percent of children are overweight or obese. In some states, the childhood obesity rate is above 30 percent.

Investigator Finds No Evidence That BP Took Shortcuts to Save Money

The lead investigator for the presidential panel delving into the BP oil spill said on Monday that he had found no evidence that anyone involved in drilling the doomed well had taken safety shortcuts to save money.

Fred H. Bartlit Jr., a prominent trial lawyer hired to lead the panel’s inquiry, disputed the findings of other investigators, including plaintiffs’ lawyers and members of Congress, who have charged that BP and its main partners, Transocean and Halliburton, had cut corners to speed completion of the well, which cost $1.5 million a day to drill.

“To date we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” Mr. Bartlit said on Monday as he opened a detailed presentation on the causes of the April 20 disaster on a drilling rig off the Louisiana coast, which killed 11 workers and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in American history. “They want to be efficient, they don’t want to waste money, but they also don’t want to get their buddies killed.”

He indicated that a number of the contributing causes of the explosion might remain a mystery, because the evidence sank with the drilling rig or because the causes arose from decisions made by men who were killed or badly injured in the blowout.

Just hours before the explosion, employees of BP and Transocean, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, accepted the results of a pressure test that should have raised serious alarms, Mr. Bartlit and his aides found. Instead of acting on the information, they took no steps to keep the explosive oil and gas mixture out of the well, a decision that Mr. Bartlit and his team concluded contributed to the accident.

Duval to take part in youth alcohol prevention program

In Jacksonville, two-thirds of high school students have already tried alcohol and nearly one in five middle-schoolers say they had their first drinks before age 11, according to a 2009 survey.

Those numbers are unnerving for substance abuse prevention advocates in the community, but hope is on the way in the form of a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration aimed at reducing alcohol use among youth.

“Part of what we’ve learned is that we can’t give kids the scare method,” said Susan Pitman, executive director of Safe and Healthy Duval Coalition. “It just doesn’t work. But it does work when we’re using education, positive reinforcement and enforcing laws and ordinances already on the books.”

Duval County will share in a five-year, $11.5 million prevention grant with Broward, Dade, Hillsborough, Orange and Pinellas counties, with the goal of reducing alcohol use among the state’s youth by 4 percentage points.

Abel Harding: Council seats come with perks

It’s a part-time gig with a starting salary of $44,100 plus benefits. It also used to come with free Jaguars tickets, parking and food.

All were among the perks afforded to Jacksonville City Council members over the last several years. And although those particular pluses fell victim to budget cuts this year, some members have made do with other gifts.

You can learn a lot about council members by reviewing their gift disclosures, which they are required to file quarterly on anything received with a value greater than $100.

Newly-engaged Clay Yarborough hasn’t come by his frugal reputation solely through his insistence on city budget cuts — he’s also lived it. Since taking office in 2007, he’s reported one gift — 12-day passes to the Greater Jacksonville Fair in 2007 valued at $384. And according to the disclosure, he didn’t even use the tickets.

Reggie Brown also garnered an economical reputation. Since Brown won a November 2008 special election to fill the seat of Mia Jones, he’s only reported $369 in gifts — only two of which are valued at more than $100.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Johnny Gaffney. A wide receiver who lettered alongside Cris Collinsworth in 1980 - one year after that unforgettable Florida Gator squad that finished with an 0-10-1 record in 1979 - Gaffney has quite enjoyed access to sporting events, reporting 12 gifts related to local football and basketball games. Since August 2007, he’s reported $7,553 in gifts, nearly all of which were sports-related and all but two of which were courtesy of the City of Jacksonville.

Some lawmakers show meticulous attention to detail, like Brown and Bill Bishop. They choose to report all gifts, regardless of whether they exceed the $100 threshold.

And some pass their perks along, like Ray Holt. He reported Jacksonville Suns tickets valued at $1,200, but the tickets weren’t exactly for his own use — all went to Boy Scout Troop 278.

In all, 13 members of the Jacksonville City Council are eligible to run for re-election in 2011 and 12 have filed to do so. Those who win re-election are one step closer to the ultimate perk: qualifying to be part of the state’s pension program.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

History of Eugenics

Overview

"Eugenics and Other Evils" (1922)

"Florida Eugenics"

"The Eugenics Movement"

"The Science of Human Improvement by Better Breeding" (1910)

"Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era"

"The New Eugenics in Cinema"

History of the National Origins Act of 1921




"A Historical Look at U.S. Immigration Policy"

"The 1921 Emergency Quota Law"

Background

Overview

More Overview

"The Immigration Restriction Debate"

"Congressional Debate on Immigration Restriction"

"Eugenics Laws Restricting Immigration"

History of W.E.B. Du Bois





Biography

Overview

More Overview - PBS

More Biography

On Booker T. Washington

"The Souls of Black Folk"

"The Talented Tenth"

"Morals and Manners Among Negro Americans"

Even More Overview

History of the Harlem Renaissance























"Harlem Renaissance Multimedia Resource"

Overview

Timeline

More Overview

"Harlem History"

"The Flowering of Creativity"

"Jazz Age Culture"

"Pivotal Period in the Development of Afro-American Culture"

"Spunk"

"Against Black Art"

"If We Must Die"

Even More Overview

YouTube Video

"Art of the Harlem Renaissance"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blacks Struggle With 72 Percent Unwed Mothers Rate

Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics. This number is inseparable from the work of Carroll, an obstetrician who has dedicated her 40-year career to helping black women.

"The girls don't think they have to get married. I tell them children deserve a mama and a daddy. They really do," Carroll says from behind the desk of her office, which has cushioned pink-and-green armchairs, bars on the windows, and a wooden "LOVE" carving between two African figurines. Diamonds circle Carroll's ring finger.

The black community's 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent.

This issue entered the public consciousness in 1965, when a now famous government report by future senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a "tangle of pathology" among blacks that fed a 24 percent black "illegitimacy" rate. The white rate then was 4 percent.

Rightward, March: The Midterm Exit Polls

The result was the largest reshuffling of the House of Representatives in 50 years.

For the first time since 1982, when exit polls began measuring support for Congressional candidates, Republicans received a majority of women’s votes. Two years ago, House Democratic candidates won women by 14 points.

Catholics, independents and voters age 60 and older also sided with Republicans by margins not seen since 1982.

Independent voters, a key to President Obama’s election two years ago, turned sharply to the G.O.P. Republicans also won more support than usual from reliably Democratic constituencies: less affluent and less educated voters, urbanites and voters from the nation’s East and West. A notable exception was black voters, who continued to support Democrats in strong numbers.

The generational divide exposed in the 2008 election was more pronounced. Voters under 30 were the only age group to support Democrats but made up just 11 percent of the electorate, typical for a midterm election. By contrast, voters aged 60 and older represented 34 percent of voters, their highest proportion in exit polls since 1982.

Experts said that about 42 percent of voters had cast ballots, which is typical for a midterm election.

Fed buys $900B in bonds to spur growth

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday made good on its promise to try to spur faster economic growth through a controversial program to purchase about $900 billion in Treasury bonds — nearly half the amount issued to finance this year's federal deficit.

The program aims to force further reductions in the interest rates on mortgages and other long-term loans that are tied to Treasury bonds, though those already are at record lows, to try to spark a healthier economic expansion and reduce unemployment.



Which Tea Party Candidates Won?

One widely discussed effect of public disenchantment this year was the rise of the Tea Party political movement. In preliminary exit poll results, 41 percent of voters described themselves as supporters of this movement; 21 percent supported it strongly. Thirty-one percent said they opposed the movement; the rest, 24 percent, were "neutral" about it.

Still, just 23 percent said they voted to send a message in favor of the Tea Party movement, versus 18 percent against it; 55 percent called the movement "not a factor" in their vote.

Freddie Mac Reports Loss and Takes Draw From Treasury

Freddie Mac, the provider of residential mortgage financing, said on Wednesday that weakness in housing led to a third-quarter loss of $4.1 billion and another draw from the Treasury to maintain its positive net worth.

Freddie Mac’s loss included a $1.6 billion dividend payment on senior preferred stock purchased by the Treasury since the financial crisis and housing slump pushed the mortgage buyer into conservatorship in late 2008.

It has requested $100 million from Treasury under its preferred stock purchase agreement, which would increase the total draw to $64.2 billion.

460,000 more Florida voters cast ballots than in 2006

Nearly 460,000 more Floridians cast ballots during this year's gubernatorial race than in 2006.

That includes 341,849 more votes for the Democrat, 68,570 more for the Republican and a combined 49,170 more for non-major party candidates.

Class-size issue shy of required 60 percent

Voters on Tuesday rejected the Florida Legislature's attempt to loosen the state's class-size rules.

The measure that would scale back the strictest part of a constitutional amendment approved in 2002 had 55 percent of the vote with about 90 percent of precincts reporting. But it needed 60 percent to pass.

The Florida Legislature last spring voted to put Amendment 8 on the 2010 ballot. The Legislature's Republican leaders said the current rules were too rigid and expensive, and many administrators and school board members agreed.

Amendment 8 would have deleted the current caps that limit how many students can be in any "core" class — language arts, math, science and social studies. Instead, it would have allowed class sizes to be calculated as a school average.

The current law demands that there be no more than 18 students in the earliest grades, no more than 22 in fourth- to eighth-grade classes, and no more than 25 in high-school courses.

Those rules have been phased in since 2003, but school districts struggled this fall to meet the final caps because the Legislature did not provide the estimated $350 million needed to phase them in.

Rep. Corrine Brown: 'Extremely Disappointed' in Passage of Amendments 5 and 6

Representatives Corrine Brown (D-3rd) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25th) both actively campaigned against the two amendments, which both passed with more than 60 percent support.

Amendments 5 and 6 aim to eliminate gerrymandered districts -- districts drawn up to help minorities get candidates elected.

Brown and Diaz-Balart today issued the following joint statement:

"The implementation of Amendments 5 and 6 as prescribed in the ballot initiative would inevitably lead to a dilution of the voting rights of African-Americans and Hispanics in the state of Florida, as well as a significant loss in the number of representatives elected from minority communities: on the federal and state levels, and on local levels such as city councils, across the state of Florida. The reason is simple: because traditional redistricting principles, such as maintaining communities of interest or minority access districts, will become entirely irrelevant if Amendments 5 and 6 are implemented, primarily because of the Amendments' requirement of 'compact districts.' Certainly, minority communities do not live in compact, cookie-cutter like neighborhoods, and so district 'compactness' would defeat the ability of the state Legislature to draw access and majority-minority seats, since minority communities would become fragmented across the state."

Brown added her own dissent to the passage of the amendments, and said she isn't finished arguing against them.

"I was extremely disappointed in the passage of Amendments 5 and 6," said Congresswoman Brown. "Congressman Diaz-Balart and I introduced a lawsuit this morning, and will continue our fight against these misguided, deceptive amendments in the federal courts. I am absolutely convinced that if they are carried out as prescribed, our state will immediately revert to the time period prior to 1992, when Florida was devoid of African American or Hispanic representation."

Rick Scott, state's next governor, calls for Floridians to unite

Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott secured a razor-thin victory in his costly campaign for governor Wednesday, after Democrat Alex Sink ended an overnight drama that saw both candidates waiting for results to trickle in from South Florida.

" Florida is open for business," Scott said at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, where he took to the podium shortly after noon flanked by his wife and two daughters. "There were plenty of pundits and insiders who said this victory was impossible, but the people of Florida knew exactly what they wanted."

Scott, who used an overwhelming money advantage, a promise to create 700,000 jobs and a slogan of "Let's get to work" to edge Sink, said his rival "ran quite a race." And he declared it was now time for him and his lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Jennifer Carroll of Jacksonville, to put political divisions aside.

"Jennifer and I are eager to start bringing people together to solve our problems," Scott said. In a reference to the $73 million of his personal fortune he spent on the campaign, he added, "My daughters are the reason I decided to run for governor. They might have lost a little inheritance. I knew I owed them to live the same chance to live the American dream that Ann and I have."

With virtually all the votes counted, Scott led by 68,277 – out of 5.3 million cast -- the closest race in Florida since 1876 and the first time in more than 100 years that a Florida governor was elected with less than 50 percent of the vote, state officials said.

FYI...there are about 14 million Floridians of voting age.

Democrats Outspend G.O.P. in TV Ads in House Races

The most recent numbers available, through Friday, showed that Democratic candidates and their allies spent $142 million on television advertising across all House races in the general election, compared with $119 million by Republican candidates and their backers. In the Senate, Republican candidates and their allies outspent Democrats, $159 million to $120 million.

Only 20% of cargo to U.S. checked for bombs

About 20% of the 9 billion pounds of air cargo that comes from overseas each year is physically checked for bombs, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which says the tracking system picks out all "high risk" air cargo.

Florida Highway Patrol Troopers Hear Odd Excuses for Speeding

Last year, 1,115,575 people got tickets for speeding in Florida; 60,000 of those were in Duval County.

N word vs the R word

I just thought this video (the r-word/n-word debate) was interesting (and funny).

U.S. announces $2.4 billion for high-speed rail

The federal government will send $2.4 billion to 54 high-speed rail projects in 23 states, the Transportation Department said on Thursday, following up on announcements made by members of Congress and governors earlier in the week.

"States understand that high-speed rail represents a unique opportunity to create jobs, revitalize our manufacturing base, spur economic development and provide people with an environmentally friendly transportation option," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement.

The federal government received 132 applications from 32 states totaling $8.8 billion, more than three times the amount appropriated, the department said.

California will receive the most money. The state has approved selling $10 billion bonds to build a rail line stretching north to south and already received $2.25 billion from the stimulus plan.

Below is a list of the states receiving money. Some projects run through more than one state, and a handful of states are involved in multiple projects.

California.......................... $901.574 million

Florida..................................$808 million

Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska................ $230 million

JFRD's Fire Safety Investment has Jacksonville Taxpayers Spending $5 Million on Marine One

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department has a one-of-a-kind firefighting boat that cost taxpayers more than $5 million at a time when city hall has doubled garbage fees and increased property taxes.

Marine One is a new addition to JFRD's arsenal. It is state-of-the-art and capable of pushing 16,000 gallons of water a minute from five different water cannons the length of a football field.

A Homeland Security grant that topped $4 million paid most of the bill. But the city also set aside $1.4 million, saved over the past three years, to match the federal dollars.

In its grant proposal, the fire department cited the presence of a NFL stadium near the river as one reason it needed the boat, along with growing port and cruise ship operations.

The boat is definitely an asset to the community, said JFRD Chief Larry Peterson, with its miles of water plus countless waterfront homes and businesses.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hisory of the Scopes Trial




















Overview

"The Scopes Monkey Trial"

"The Scopes Trial"

Timeline

Background

Primary and Secondary Sources

Transcript of the Trail

"The Legend of the Scopes Trial"

"A Fundamentalist Perspective"

More Overview

"75 Years After the Scopes Trial...the Debate Goes On"

"The Scopes Trial and the American Character"

"Lessons Learned from Monkeying with History"

Primary Sources from the Trial

Even More Overview

Youtube Video

History of the Fundamentalists







"Shall the Fundamentalists Win?"

"The Fundamentalist Movement"

"What's In A Name: The Meaning of Muslim Fundamentalist"

"Anti-Evolution Movement"

"Fundamentalism"

"Response to Sam Hill"

"Reason in the Balance and Why Fundamentalists are Beyond Reason"

History of Darwinism




Overview

"Herbert Spencer, Social Darwinism" (1857)

"In the Name of Darwin"

"Darwinism and Other Essays" (1879)

"Darwinism Must Die So that Evolution May Live" - NY Times

"Social Darwinism"

"Social Darwinism for the 21st Century"

"What Darwinism Explains"

History of Charles Lindbergh





Charles Lindbergh Website

Overview

Biography

"Who Was Charles Lindbergh?"

"Charles Lindbergh, Man of the Year" - Time

NY Times Articles

More Overview

Even More Overview

Speech by Lindbergh