Archive for July 28, 2012

While teachers unions across the country routinely may challenge school voucher programs in court, the teachers union in Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) has developed a new tactic – bully the schools that accept the vouchers.

The American Federation for Children – the nation’s voice for school choice which is dedicated to empowering families with the ability to take charge of K-12 education choices for their children – today condemned the actions of the LAE.

In a prepared statement, the federation alleges the LAE is bullying small, private schools.

The Louisiana Board of Education shares the federation’s disgust and urges the bullied schools to “ignore the LAE’s absurd actions.”

Private schools in Louisiana received letters this week from Brian Blackwell of the Blackwell & Associates law firm, which represents the state teachers union.

The letter threatened lawsuits for participating in the school choice program signed into Louisiana law this spring.

That law, part of a comprehensive education improvement project called Louisiana Believes, allows low-income parents the chance to pull their kids out of schools that are rated “C,” “D” or “F” and send them via vouchers to schools maintaining an “A” or “B” rating.

The threatening letter sent to private schools across the state gives each school until this weekend to opt out of accepting funding for low income students, or be sued by the teachers union.

“The LAE union threatens to initiate litigation against individual schools if they do not pledge – in writing … to cease participation in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program,” says the American Federation for Children.

“The letter comes despite a judge’s ruling two weeks ago that dismissed a union attempt to get an injunction stopping the program,” officials said.

The LAE union issued a statement saying that the organization had an attorney send the letter to voucher schools asking them to hold off on using money until the legal challenge is complete.

In a press release LAE President Joyce Haynes said that the letter was in no way an attempt at intimidation.

The LAE statement says, “The letter was our way of ensuring that Louisiana students don’t have to pay for the unconstitutional maneuvers made by Gov. Jindal and Superintendent White.”

Read more here.

It’s not easy to leave Islam in a Muslim country.

It can put one’s freedom and very life at risk.

But thousands are doing it, according to a new book by Jerry Trousdale, director of international ministries for City Team International. In fact, he writes in “Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love With Jesus,” some 200,000 Muslims have converted to Christianity in just the last six years. And they include sheiks, imams, Muslim leaders and ordinary devotees of the faith.

“There is tremendous dissatisfaction and discouragement among the very people who know the Quran the best and who are themselves desperate for assurance in their own religion,” says Trousdale.

City Team has locations in California, Pennsylvania and Oregon and partnerships in 42 countries around the world. Since 1998, the organization has cared for people around the world by training, equipping, mentoring and coaching local leaders to care for those in need in their communities. This includes training 600,000 new Christians who have started over 18,000 new churches in the past seven years.

“We’re starting a whole new thinking about the nature of church,” says Trousdale. “The model of the church that is emerging is so very different from traditional church. Disciple-making movements are reaching entire nations around the world. It’s incredibly exciting to be a part of seeing people’s lives radically changed by the gospel.”

He believes what has been learned from this experience can make anyone more effective at sharing the gospel – wherever they are.

“This book, these people, and the miraculous stories are for real!” exclaims Chip Ingram, senior pastor of Ventura Christian Church. “There is a paradigm shifting movement of God that anyone and everyone committed to making disciples must read and apply.”

Trousdale says he has seen entire mosques converting to Christianity. He tells of two disciple-makers who refused to give up on one town that had martyred five Christians.

Within seven years, there were seven churches in the town.

The book also documents accounts of Muslims discovering Jesus in dreams and visions.

Read more here.

All of a sudden, biting into a fried chicken sandwich has become a political statement.

Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain known for putting faith ahead of profits by closing on Sundays, is standing firm in its opposition to gay marriage after touching off a furor earlier this month.

Gay rights groups have called for a boycott, the Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals, and politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.

Across the Bible Belt, where most of the 1,600 restaurants are situated, Christian conservatives have thrown their support behind the Atlanta-based company, promising to buy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries next week on “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

The latest skirmish in the nation’s culture wars began when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, `We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’”

That fired up gay rights advocates, including a group that waged a campaign against the company in recent years by publicizing $3 million in contributions that the Cathy family foundation has made to conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council.

“This solidifies Chick-fil-A as being closely aligned with some of the most vicious anti-gay voices in the country,” said Carlos Maza of Equality Matters.

A Chicago alderman vowed to block a Chick-fil-A proposed in his district, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported him, saying, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote in a letter to Cathy: “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

Read more here.

A celebration of free healthcare, the trade union struggle, the battle for women’s rights and a fleeting lesbian kiss: the Olympics opening ceremony Friday did not shy away from weighty social issues.

Unsurprisingly, the show devised by Oscar-winning British director Danny Boyle drew accusations from the British political right that it had strayed into “leftie” issues.

Aidan Burley, a lawmaker from Prime Minister David Cameron’s ruling Conservative party, tweeted: “The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen — more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?”

He followed that with: “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap.”

Several people tweeted their support for his comments.

Alastair Campbell, former British Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s communications chief, retorted on Twitter: “Brilliant that we got a socialist to do the opening ceremony.”

Cameron’s Downing Street office distanced itself from Burley’s comments, tweeting a message from the premier reading: “The opening ceremony has been a great showcase for this country. It’s more proof Britain can deliver.”

Burley was removed from his job as aide to the transport minister last month after attending a Nazi-themed stag party in a French ski resort.

Ahead of the show, Boyle — whose film “Slumdog Millionaire” won eight Oscars in 2009 — denied he was pushing a political agenda.

“The sensibility of the show is very personal,” he said.

Read more here.

Preparing for a zombie apocalypse does pay off, but it’s hard work. Although battling the hordes of eBay bidders and gathering everything piecemeal could be one preferred method, an Illinois-based company has created an easier way.

Optics Planet created a one-stop solution for zombie battlers everywhere called Z.E.R.O.

Z.E.R.O., short for Zombie Extermination, Research and Operations, is a kit that contains everything someone would need to keep alive in the end times. Initially priced at $31,375, the kit has been discounted to $23,999 with delivery available to the customer’s home or armed complex.

The kit contains a number of items for standard survival, including a first aid kit, an entire box of batteries, solar panel, and several packs to carry gear.

Optics Planet also includes science equipment such as syringes, a few beakers, and a microscope. The company, however, warns that customers should “search for a cure or you’ll search for a grave.”

Perhaps the most interesting equipment that Z.E.R.O. contains are the pieces with offensive capability. There’s a custom holographic sight with a biohazard reticle, a custom-made zombie fighting knife, and tactical gloves with ridged knuckles.

Optic Planet insists that “punching zombies is the most fun you can have.” But if punching is not your style, Optics Planet includes an OPMOD Battle Mug.

“You can go from thirst-quenching to death-dealing in less than .45 seconds,” the company says in its packaging. “We tested that.”

Despite the discounted rate and the zombie mania that’s sweeping the nation, Optics Planet has not sold very many Z.E.R.O. kits.

Read more here.

A Freedom of Information Act request last week showed that the Department of Justice dropped a sexual abuse civil rights investigation the day after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, citing “conflict of interest.”

In 2009, Herman Thomas, a black Democratic judge who had been elected numerous times in an Alabama county with predominantly white and Republican population, saw what had been a promising career come to an abrupt halt after he was indicted on charges of sodomy, kidnapping, sex abuse, extortion, assault and ethics violations. According to the indictment, Thomas was accused of sexually abusing male inmates in exchange for leniency.

According to information received in the FOIA request by Lagniappe, a bi-weekly Mobile, Ala.-based alternative newspaper, an order was sent on Jan. 21, 2009, to drop the investigation citing an undisclosed “conflict of interest.” Ten of 11 pages were withheld in the returned FOIA request.

Though evidence against Thomas was strong, including one of the alleged victims’ semen being found on his office’s carpet, the Mobile County District Attorney’s office did not secure a full guilty verdict. The jury acquitted Thomas on major counts, and was gridlocked on others.

Despite the gridlocked charges, the trial judge directed a verdict on all counts in favor of Thomas.

But that finding did not mean Thomas had been fully cleared of the federal charges he could be facing on civil rights counts — at least that’s what the public thought at the time.

But as it turned out, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama had dropped their investigation, even before the local trial had taken place.

Former Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, a Democrat whose office was behind the original indictment of Thomas, had looked for federal authorities to handle some of the heavy lifting, specifically the civil rights violations. He said federal authorities “promised me several things over the course of a year,” but they were never delivered throughout the whole ordeal.

“The U.S. Department of Justice in Washington took over and they too promised me things and then they, for unknown reasons, stopped what they were doing,” Tyson told Lagniappe. “In my view, it was a U.S. Department of Justice case from the beginning. They had prosecuted, in north Alabama, a district attorney for exactly the same kinds of activities and concluded it within a year before this one. I do not understand to this day why they recused themselves or why they refused to go forward on what I thought were cases they should handle. I had a clear expectation three times before they recused themselves that something would happen on a federal level and I had expectations as many as two times they were going to do something on a national level.”

Read more here.

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ”Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ”The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: ”If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!