Sunday, February 24, 2019

Climate Of Uncertainty, Con't

The Trump regime is now in the process of choosing climate denier scientists for a "new assessment" of climate science, because apparently the one the entire rest of the world agreed on is flawed or something and we really need new rong biased climate science.

The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter its conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet, according to three administration officials.

The National Security Council initiative would include scientists who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem, according to these individuals, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The group would not be subject to the same level of public disclosure as a formal advisory committee.

The move would represent the Trump administration’s most forceful effort to date to challenge the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are helping drive global warming and that the world could face dire consequences unless countries curb their carbon output over the next few decades.

The idea of a new working group, which top administration officials discussed Friday in the White House Situation Room, represents a modified version of an earlier plan to establish a federal advisory panel on climate and national security. That plan — championed by William Happer, NSC’s senior director and a physicist who has challenged the idea that carbon dioxide could damage the planet — would have created an independent federal advisory committee.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act imposes several ground rules for such panels, including that they meet in public, are subject to public records requests and include a representative membership.

While the plan is not finalized, NSC officials said they would take steps to assemble a group of researchers within the government. The group will not be tasked with scrutinizing recent intelligence community assessments of climate change, according to officials familiar with the plan.

The National Security Council declined requests to comment on the matter.

Josh Marshall wonders why the Trump regime is bothering to do this.

The world and basically everyone in the United States, regardless of which side of the equation they’re on, realizes that the US government is officially indifferent to climate change and against the range of policy actions virtually every other government in the world, at least in principle if not always in practice, supports. It’s hard to see how this changes that or even strengthens that position. It seems more like just a rightwing hobbyhorse, an act on principle, a sort of global owning the libs.

Good question.

Bottom line, John Bolton and the NSC is now in charge of Trump regime climate denial, and refuting it will become a "national security" issue.  It will become the official position of the United States that climate change doesn't exist, more importantly I expect that we'll see US corporations be told in no uncertain terms that climate mitigation efforts will become a threat to US security.

If you thought the Trump regime was hostile to climare science before, wait until climate change denial becomes the official government policy of the US and its people, in education, and in science.

That's the point.

Whether we like it or not.

The Drums Of War, Con't

The Trump regime's move for "regime change" in Venezuela is moving into high gear as humanitarian aid convoys being sent to the border are being opposed by Nicholas Maduro's forces.  Maduro knows the aid convoys contain US military troops with missions to destabilize his government, so either he lets them in and rolls the dice, or blocks them with force for the world to put on TV.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's "days are numbered" after deadly clashes over humanitarian aid.

"Picking exact days is difficult. I'm confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro's days are numbered," Mr Pompeo told CNN.

Two people died in Saturday's clashes between civilians and troops loyal to Mr Maduro, who blocks aid deliveries.

Self-declared interim President Juan Guaidó said Mr Maduro must resign.

Mr Guaidó also called on other nations to consider "all measures" to oust Mr Maduro after opposition-led efforts to bring in aid descended in the clashes.

Mr Guaidó marshalled volunteers to collect and transport the aid from Brazil and Colombia - but this set off fierce border clashes with soldiers, who opened fire using a mixture of live ammunition and rubber bullets.

US President Donald Trump says he has not ruled out an armed response.

On Sunday, the European Union joined the condemnation.

"We reject the use of irregular armed groups to intimidate civilians and lawmakers who have mobilised to distribute aid," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini

We're not too far, months, maybe weeks, from that Trump regime armed response in Venezuela, and Trump knows an ongoing US war in South America will shield him from the Mueller report.  Republicans will simply say "We're at war right now, we don't have time for this" and we'll remain there as long as it takes.

It's ridiculous that we're having this conversation again, but here we are.

Sunday Long Read: A Study In Teaching

Our Sunday Long Read is a series of three articles on where the future of public school education is going in red state Trump's America, and it's going straight to hell.  First, things are so bad in red states trying to starve black kids of education that Mississippi is putting uncertified teachers in classrooms just to have adult bodies in classrooms.

Not long after Cortez Moss accepted the job as principal of Quitman County Middle School in 2016, he realized that his first months would be devoted nearly entirely to teacher recruitment. He was studying an Excel hiring tracker at home one March afternoon when the reality sunk in: Only four of the school’s 24 teachers would be returning in the fall.

The 26-year-old had to find 20 replacement teachers — as well as a custodian, two secretaries and a guidance counselor — all by the time school reopened in early August.

“I was like, I think I just took the wrong job,” he recalled.

In a state that has been battling teacher shortages for decades, Moss’ struggle is commonplace, especially in the Mississippi Delta.

In over 20 years, the problem has escalated, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Education. The teacher shortage is actually six times worse than it was in 1997, shortly before the Legislature addressed the issue with the passage of the Critical Teacher Shortage Act.

The state’s attempt to address the crisis so far has fallen short, leaving local leaders like Moss struggling to solve a problem that some say is out of their control. Cuts to education funding, low teacher pay, and a dwindling supply of teachers interested in working in the rural, predominantly low-income and African-American Delta all contribute to the dilemma.

Indeed, a recent study in the 2017 Mississippi Economic Review found that districts with the worst teacher shortages have a weak local property tax base, a high percentage of black students and are disproportionately located in the Delta.

And in counties with multiple districts, the shortages tend to be far worse in the districts with the highest populations of black students.

For example, in North Panola School District, where 97 percent of the students are African-American, 9 percent of the teachers lacked proper certification in the 2017-18 school year. Meanwhile, in neighboring South Panola School District, where 55 percent of students are African-American, only 2 percent of the teachers weren’t certified.

Without teachers, more and more schools in Mississippi are turning to unproven computer learning programs too. 

On most afternoons, Jeremiah Smith, founder of an after-school and summer program called the Rosedale Freedom Project, can be found sitting side-by-side with his students as they peer at laptops, trying to get through their assignments. Posters with uplifting quotes by Henry David Thoreau, Maya Angelou and Mahatma Gandhi decorate the room, but sometimes those positive messages aren’t enough: Smith can spot the exact moment when his students begin to despair.

The teenagers attend high schools and middle schools in the lowest-scoring school district in the state of Mississippi, West Bolivar Consolidated.

Smith can also pinpoint one of the main reasons for his students’ frustration: “The problem is the program.”

The program he’s referring to is an online learning platform, Edgenuity. An increasing number of school districts, including West Bolivar, have turned to Edgenuity and programs like it as they face a critical shortage of certified teachers. During the 2016-17 school year, 71 schools in the state used online learning platforms, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. The following school year, the number grew to 106 schools. Last fall, 91 schools across the state had students signed up to take courses online, a number that could rise if schools add classes this spring.

In the West Bolivar Consolidated school district, 22 percent of teachers weren’t properly certified last year, about 27 out of 124 total. West Bolivar High School had only four certified teachers.

That’s why West Bolivar adopted Edgenuity, said district superintendent Beverly Culley, who began the job last year.

She knew recruiting would be difficult in the ways that it’s typically difficult in the Delta: Her schools are located in isolated rural communities with high levels of poverty, and the pay is low. When she realized that only two of West Bolivar High’s four certified teachers were certified in core subject areas, she said she was shocked.

“I was very concerned about that. It was too late to recruit teachers. We’re tried to find retired teachers to come in. We couldn’t,” she said. The district eventually found one retiree to teach science, in January.

And finally, one of the big problems is teacher certification itself: requiring a four-year degree for a job that pays $30,000.

Cleveland native Toni McWilliams didn’t feel like she was putting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration to good use working as an administrative secretary for a middle school in her hometown. The job, which paid around $19,000, barely brought in enough money to support her two young daughters. So McWilliams decided to try teaching. “My mom had always encouraged me to teach,” she said.

But there was one big obstacle standing in the way: the Praxis exams. Consisting of four to five different tests, Praxis exams measure would-be teachers’ content knowledge in subjects that include math and reading.

When McWilliams first took the Praxis in March of 2015, she easily passed the reading portion but failed the math and writing sections. On her next try, she passed writing, but still failed math.

Over the next three years, McWilliams failed the math portion of the Praxis eight times — often by just two or three points. Her eyes welled with tears as she recalled the struggle.

Then, in May 2017, a friend told her about a new Delta-based nonprofit, Regional Initiatives for Sustainable Education (RISE), which offered tutoring for the Praxis. It proved to be an academic lifeline. McWilliams said she felt convinced that God was answering her prayers.

Mississippi is dealing with a dire teaching shortage. In seven Delta districts last year, at least 19 percent of teachers were uncertified to teach and in some cases the rate of teachers lacking certification was as high as 34 percent. In several districts, the percentage of uncertified teachers has doubled since 2013-14. The struggles McWilliams faced to become a certified teacher help illustrate why the problem is so severe.

To become certified in Mississippi, teachers must meet three requirements: Earn a bachelor’s degree; complete a traditional or alternate teacher training program; and pass the Praxis. The specific Praxis tests required vary. Teacher candidates with a score of 21 or higher on the ACT (the average in Mississippi is 18) can opt out of taking the Praxis Core, which includes the reading, writing and math tests. After passing the core tests, most educators then take one or more of the Praxis II exams, which are focused on various subject specialties (so a would-be high school history teacher would take a Praxis II history test, for example). 

The core problem is the teacher shortage, and more and more red states are looking at teachers as the enemy, with Republican lawmakers in states across the country going "We could save millions if we got rid of teachers."

And so they are.  Mississippi is the direct result of this.


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