Tags: Obama | Suppresses | Alaska | Oil | Inmates Sue for Wiccan Chaplain | Immigration Reform Aids Red States | Obamas Education Policy

Obama Suppresses Alaska Oil; Inmates Sue for Wiccan Chaplain; Immigration Reform Aids Red States

By    |   Sunday, 10 March 2013 07:27 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Immigration Reform Could Help Red States
2. Obama's Education Policy Called 'Lopsided'
3. Rome's Chief Rabbi: Pope Benedict Respected Us
4. 28% of Alaska Reserve's Recoverable Oil Declared Off-Limits
5. Inmates Demand Wiccan Chaplain
6. More Than 5 Percent of Teachers Absent Each Day

1. Immigration Reform Could Help Red States

The push for immigration reform by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and some other Republicans seeking to win more minority votes could produce another, unexpected benefit for the GOP.

"In recent years, the debate over immigration has been portrayed in large part as a battle between immigrant-tolerant blue states and regions and their less welcoming red counterparts," NewGeography.com observes.

"Yet increasingly, it appears that red states in the interior and the South may actually have more to gain from liberalized immigration than many blue-state bastions."

NewGeography Executive Editor Joel Kotkin points to an analysis by demographer Wendell Cox showing that the fastest growth in the number of foreign-born newcomers has occurred in areas not usually seen as immigration destinations. The fastest growth between 2000 and 2011 was in Nashville, Tenn., where the number of newcomers more than doubled.

The second greatest growth of a metro area's foreign-born population occurred in Birmingham, Ala., followed by Indianapolis, Ind.; Louisville, Ky.; and Charlotte, N.C.

Next came Richmond, Va.; Raleigh, N.C.; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Columbus, Ohio.

All these states either voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, or have state governments under Republican control. And a rise in foreign-born residents will increase those states' populations and eventually boost their importance in the Electoral College.

Blue-state metropolis Los Angeles, meanwhile, recorded the smallest percentage growth in foreign-born residents of any major U.S. city.

Red-state cities in the Midwest and South are attractive to newcomers in large part because of their job markets and housing affordability, according to Kotkin, author of "The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050," whose NewGeography article first appeared in Forbes.

"They go to where economic opportunities are often the greatest, which means thriving places like Nashville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Columbus, or No. 11 Austin," he points out.

"Housing prices and business climate also seem to be a factor here — all these areas have lower home prices relative to income than many traditional immigrant hubs."

Over the past decade, the increase in foreign-born residents accounted for 44 percent of America's overall population growth.

Editor's Note:

2. Obama's Education Policy Called 'Lopsided'

President Barack Obama has consistently promoted universal preschool while discouraging private school voucher programs — an approach that has been called "lopsided."

In his recent State of the Union address, Obama urged Congress to make "high-quality preschool available to every single child in America," claiming that "study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road."

But in fact, studies have shown "the exact opposite — that publicly funded preschool programs make no lasting difference in a child's life," according to a report from the Reason Foundation.

The report cites the example of Head Start, a five-decade-old early learning program aimed at low-income toddlers. About 1 million children are enrolled in the program each year, at a cost of about $8,000 per child.

But a majority of studies have shown that while Head Start participants show initial gains, these gains disappear when they enter regular school.

Those studies' findings are confirmed by a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services, "the most ambitious and expensive evaluation of the program that the administration did its best to bury by releasing it on the Friday before Christmas," Reason observes.

The study followed children up to the third grade instead of measuring school readiness for first grade, as many earlier studies had done.

Among the findings, the report states: "Looking across the full study period, from the beginning of Head Start through third grade, the evidence is clear that access to Head Start improved children's preschool outcomes across developmental domains, but had few impacts on children in kindergarten through third grade…

"In summary, there were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of third grade there were very few impacts found in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices."

In its article headlined "Obama's Lopsided Education Policy," Reason contrasts Obama's promotion of preschool with his opposition to voucher programs.

"At every opportunity he has tried to kill the Washington, D.C., voucher program that serves about 1,600 poor minority kids," write authors Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at Reason, and Lisa Snell, director of education policy.

"Every year the president has tried to withhold its measly $20 million funding, half of what the government would spend on these kids if they stayed in public schools."

But nine out of 10 major voucher studies found that vouchers improved reading and math performance by voucher students.

And 18 of 19 studies showed that competition from voucher schools actually improved educational success in public schools as well.

"Vouchers are cheap and effective whereas publicly funded preschool is expensive and ineffective," Reason concludes.

"That's what the evidence shows. And if President Obama wanted to be true to it rather than indulge his ideological fancy, he would push universal vouchers to improve student performance — not universal preschool."

Editor's Note:

3. Rome's Chief Rabbi: Pope Benedict Respected Us

Rome's Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni has high praise for Pope Benedict XVI, saying the pontiff showed great respect for Jews.

In an interview with Fiamma Nirenstein in Italy after Benedict announced his resignation, Di Segni — who is also a professor specializing in diagnostic radiology — called the Pope "an honest interlocutor" who was "clear when speaking to Jews. We received respect from him.

"Mutual respect is actually what is needed. Benedict XVI presented it to us, and even more."

Di Segni praised the "withdrawn character of this Pope, the fact that he was less than a media icon, as well as his intellectual integrity."

He also said that "at a time when radical Islam is thriving, the Church is amicable."

As for what he would like to see in the next Pope, the rabbi said he hopes "the new Pope won't be hostile. [We welcome] a non-hostile Pope that favors an in-progress alliance with us."

Editor's Note:

4. 28% of Alaska Reserve's Recoverable Oil Declared Off-Limits

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has signed a directive placing 28 percent of the "estimated economically recoverable oil" in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve off-limits to oil exploration.

The Record of Decision signed by Salazar marks the first time a plan has been put into effect to regulate all of the Reserve.

The action "allows the development of 72 percent of the estimated economically recoverable oil in the nearly 23-million-acre Reserve, while protecting the vital subsistence resources of Alaska Natives and the habitat of world-class wildlife populations," the Interior Department said in a statement.

The plan protects "critical areas for sensitive bird populations" and for "the roughly 400,000 caribou" in parts of the Reserve, the statement asserts.

The statement does not disclose that 28 percent of the Reserve is now closed to development. Simple math does.

The Reserve was set aside by President Warren Harding in 1923 as an emergency oil supply for the U.S. Navy. It was transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1976 and is now known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Republicans were quick to criticize Salazar's move.

Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement: "Only in President Obama's backwards worldview of anti-energy policies does it make sense to prohibit energy production in a place specifically set aside for energy production at a time when gasoline prices are skyrocketing."

The village of Nuiqsut, a mostly Alaska Native community in the Reserve, had requested that more land south of nearby Teshekpuk Lake be made available for drilling leases, but the request was ignored by the Interior Department, CNS News reported.

Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska said: "No one disputes the importance of Teshekpuk Lake to waterfowl and caribou, but I think we should listen most closely to those who live there and depend on these critical subsistence resources as well as the economic opportunity resource development can bring."

Salazar, who oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill and promoted alternative energy sources throughout the nation, is stepping down this month.

Editor's Note:

5. Inmates Demand Wiccan Chaplain

Two female inmates in California have filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming the lack of a full-time Wiccan chaplain results in "infringements, violations, and burdens."

The suit was filed by Caren Hill, an inmate at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, and another convict who has been released since the suit was filed. They assert that the prison pays full-time and part-time chaplains for Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, and Protestant inmates, but not Wiccans, who practice modern pagan witchcraft.

They contend that there are more Wiccan inmates at the prison than Jewish or Muslim inmates.

The lack of a Wiccan chaplain deprives the Wiccans, the suit claims, of "access to clergy, religious services, religious rights, chapel, communal activities with other Wiccans, religious literature and artifacts, available funds for religious activities, time off work for religious holidays and services, and counseling in times of personal crisis."

The suit was dismissed in 2011 by a district court. But now the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has remanded the decision, forcing the lower court to re-examine the case.

The appeals court ruled that the "prison administration failed to employ any neutral criteria in evaluating whether a growing membership in minority religions warranted a reallocation of resources used in accommodating inmates' religious exercise needs."

Patrick McCallum, a Wiccan practitioner, said he feels the prison system does not want to hire Wiccan chaplains because of its perception of the religion, Christian News Network reported.

"People have a lot of misconception about Wiccans," he stated. "It has nothing to do with Satan."

California Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Roost argued on behalf of the prison system that the "Constitution permits prisons to employ chaplains to accommodate inmates' religions needs, and does not require prisons to hire chaplains representative of all inmates' religions."

The Ninth Circuit has the highest percentage of sitting judges appointed by Democratic presidents. Of the 28 sitting judges currently on the court, 19 were appointed by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama.

Editor's Note:

6. More Than 5 Percent of Teachers Absent Each Day

Each day more than one in 20 full-time teachers in America is not on the job, thanks in part to generous union contracts, and billions of dollars must be spent on substitute teachers to replace them.

The Department of Education reported that in one recent year 5.3 percent of U.S. teachers were absent on any given day. But an article from Education Next points to the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University, which claims that up to 10 percent of teachers are out on any given day.

Teachers take off an average of 9.4 days during a typical 180-day school year. But 36 percent of teachers take off more than 10 days a year, and in some districts the percentage is significantly higher, according to the Education Next article by June Kronholz, a former Wall Street Journal reporter.

In Camden, N.J., for example, the school district last year had to find substitutes for up to 40 percent of its teachers each day. And in Providence, R.I., teachers took off an average of 21 days each school year.

Kronholz points out that teachers often justify their frequent absences by contending that they are exposed to all kinds of germs from their students and to intense stress in tough schools.

"But other research contends that teachers' frequent absences are driven by generous leave provisions in their contracts, which typically include time off for illness and personal choice and, in many cases, family deaths, voting, religious observances, union business, conferences, cancer screening, even driver's license renewal," Kronholz writes.

In Columbus, Ohio, the union contract gives teachers 20 paid days off, in addition to school holidays and summer breaks. Teachers get 21 days in Boston, 25 days in Hartford, and up to 28 days in Newark, N.J., according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

By contrast, about one-quarter of all private-sector employees get no sick leave at all in addition to paid vacation.

Students often pay the price for frequent teacher absences, since many school districts have minimal requirements for substitutes. Of 113 large school districts in the NCTQ's database, less than one-fourth require substitutes to have any teaching credentials. Only 37 districts require a college degree.

In some districts, in fact some states, substitutes need only a high-school diploma or GED.

These substitutes often assume the role of babysitters rather than teachers, keeping order in the classroom or assigning busy work. NCTQ President Kate Walsh said "a teacher not in a classroom is a missed opportunity for learning."

Taxpayers pay the price as well: Substitute teachers receive an average of $80 a day, although larger urban districts can pay more than $200, and the cost of hiring substitutes is estimated at $4 billion a year.

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Sunday, 10 March 2013 07:27 PM
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