Tuesday, December 14, 2010

USA News Port: Nato In Afghanistan

This US Army In Afghanistan

USA Today: Unions protect bad teachers

Little Rhode Island is taking a big step in improving its public schools--by allowing failing schools to clean house and fire its teachers. Which leads USA Today to explore the issue of teachers unions in an editorial.

At this time of high unemployment, one group of professionals has no shortage of job security: bad teachers. Few public school principals in the country are able to dismiss an incompetent teacher without a protracted, expensive struggle, and therefore firings rarely happen. Yet researchers agree that hiring good teachers, and ditching bad ones, is the best way to improve education.

Nationwide, 2% or fewer teachers are ever fired or fail to have their contracts renewed because of poor performance. Among tenured teachers — those who get job security, typically after two or three years of satisfactory performance — there are often no dismissals at all, according to the U.S. Education Department.

In Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont — states in which fewer than half of fourth-graders are proficient at reading or math — the average school district did not remove a single tenured teacher in 2007-08. It's no wonder: Dismissing one teacher can cost upwards of $100,000, and the legal struggle can drag on for years.

A prime example of the irrationality is in New York City, where teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence can spend years in "rubber rooms" — doing nothing, collecting their full salaries and accruing benefits while their cases crawl through the arbitration process.

As Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty suggested last week, USA Today thinks the time has arrived to eliminate tenure for teachers.

Egypt Plans To Construct First Nuclear Plant By 2019

Egypt's minister of electricity says the country plans to construct its first nuclear power plant and have it fully operational by 2019.

The state-owned MENA news agency quotes Hassan Youniss as saying that Egypt also plans to construct three more nuclear plants by 2025. Youniss said Egypt will release international bidding for the plant's construction at the end of the year. The facility is probable to cost between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion.

President Hosni Mubarak first announced plans to build a number of nuclear power plants in 2007, stimulating a program that was publicly shelved in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl accident at a Soviet nuclear plant in what is now Ukraine.

Law Student Crowned Great Britain 2010

A law student proved she had both brains and beauty when she was crowned Miss Great Britain 2010. Gorgeous Amy Carrier, 20, from Liverpool, was given the name at the finals which broke 65 years of tradition as the crown was not passed on by her predecessor.

Amy Carrier, 20, was awarded the honor at a ceremony at the Grand Pier in Weston-Super-Mare. She says she wants to use the title to assist raise money and support charities and hopes to be a good ambassador and role model for all young women.

First runner-up was given to Lisa Lazarus, 23 and second runner up to Gina Basham, 22, who holds Miss Birmingham City.

60 women from across the UK competed for the crown in front of a board of celebrity judged including Gary Cockerill; Chris de Burgh's daughter and former Miss World, Rosie Davison.

The winner of Miss GB's is given a modeling agreement to be the face of Powershot organic energy drink, a part in a movie, £5,000 cash and a photo shoot and 5-star stay on the Amalfi coast.

France Produces Two Beauty Queens

It was for the first time ever, France produced two main beauty queens from rival contests.

On Saturday, 19-year-old business school student Laury Thilleman of Brittany was chosen Miss France 2011 by viewers of television channel TF1 in the traditional competition. But the very next day, that contest’s long-time organizer, Geneviève de Fontenay was busy hosting her own spin-off: the "Miss Nationale-Geneviève de Fontenay 2011" pageant, in which Barbara Morel of Provence, also 19 years old and a student, was crowned by a jury.

Fontenay had been president of the Miss France committee since 1954, but newly sold the competition to French production company Endemol. “France deserves two winners”, Fontenay declared to the French press. “The French will decide the one they prefer. My winners have always adhered to the values I promote - dignity under all circumstances, respect of oneself and of others”.

Though she primarily remained involved in the contest’s organization, disagreements with Endemol led Fontenay to leave the contest entirely. According to widespread rumours, Fontenay felt that the company did not respect her standards for the contestants. She was said to be mainly unhappy with revelations that certain former participants had previously posed nude.

When she said that she intended to set up a rival competition, Endemol took the 78 year-old icon to court. The court ruled in Fontenay’s favour.

World's Largest Airship To Be Hosted By NASA

If you like big and green, NASA's Ames Research Center will shortly have something for you: the world's largest and greenest airship.

The space agency announced that the Mountain View, Calif., research center's Moffett Field will soon play host to a mammoth 265-foot-long and 65-foot-diameter airship from Kellyton, Ala.'s E-Green Technologies. The Bullet Class 580 will be developed and tested at Ames in 24,000 square feet of Ames' well-known Hangar 2.

The new airship, which has a planned first flight date of early 2011, is probable to run on algae-based biofuel, and fly at speeds of up to 75 miles an hour at altitudes of up to 20,000 feet.

Ames and Moffett Field are becoming a hotbed for airships. Already, the capacity is the home of Airship Ventures, and its own giant zeppelin. And, of course, Moffett Field has a storied history of hosting airships, stretching back to 1933, when the U.S. Navy's Zeppelin ZRS-5 785-foot-long zeppelin resided there.

The E-Green Technologies Bullet Class 580 is expected to fly with "a joint NASA Langley Research Center and Old Dominion University payload, the Radar Oxygen Barometric Sensor Project, a remote sensing instrument for measuring barometric pressure at sea level-an important meteorological measurement in the calculation and forecasting of tropical 


Afghan war getting 'harder and longer'

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has said the war in Afghanistan is getting "harder and longer than in previous winters."

Guttenberg arrived in war-ravaged Afghanistan on Monday to visit Germany's military base in Mazar-i-Sharif, a city located in the northern province of Kunduz. 

The German official pointed out that he made the trip because it is important to get a clear picture of the realities on the ground. 

Guttenberg conceded that some progress has been made in recent months and said the pull-out of German troops from Afghanistan may start as early as 2012 despite the current debate in the country's parliament over extending Germany's mandate in the war-hit country. 

The German minister warned, however, that this objective is "only realistic if it is backed up in a sensible manner." 

Around 4,500 German soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan. 

Earlier, a NATO spokesman warned that foreign soldiers are likely to face more violence in the turbulent country next year. 

The US-led alliance has lost at least 692 troops only in 2010 -- making it the deadliest year for NATO since the start of the war nine years ago. 

There are currently more than 150,000 US-led foreign forces stationed in violence-wracked Afghanistan. 

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have lost their lives in US-led airstrikes and ground operations in various parts of the country over the past few months, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged over the seemingly endless number of deadly assaults. Source

UK academics hold joint cuts protest

British academics fear the government's plans for cuts will have a negative impact on the north of the county and are to unite to fight against the plan.

The staff and students at Tresham College in Kettering are to unite for a peaceful protest to call for the Education Maintenance Allowance for the poor. 

Principal Mark Silverman has called for MPs support. 

"I am concerned at the Department of Education's decision to stop paying Education Maintenance Allowances to 16 to 18-year-olds in July 2011. I have written to the college's local MPs to ask for their support in seeking reconsideration of the matter. The allowance is vital in enabling learners from low income families to stay in full time education." 

The Education Maintenance Allowance is between £10 and £30 and is paid to poor 16 to 18-year-olds to enable them to continue their education, afford travel costs, equipment and books. 

"My cousin travels from Corby to Moulton College and if the allowance was axed she would never be able to afford to get there. If the Government can raise retirement age then they should help people achieve the career they want in order for them to want to work to the age of 65. If people are unhappy in a job unemployment statistics will rise in the long run," Evening Telegraph reader Rachel Norman said. 

Tresham College has tens of thousands of students in Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough, 635,000 of whom received the allowance last year. 

"Staff and learners at Tresham are protesting against Government plans to axe the allowance for college students in England. This will have a massive impact on those families in our communities who most need support to undertake education,” a spokesman for Tresham College said. 

"The allowance helps to support a huge increase in the number of young people from less well off backgrounds going on to college. Students in areas where people are more likely to have no qualifications are most dependent on the weekly financial support. Thousands of students could now be forced to reconsider studying at college." 

The peaceful protest is to be staged from midday to 1 p.m. Source

Pentagon sued over army rape records

American civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon for refusing to release records of sex crimes occurring within the United States military.

The plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Service Women's Action Network, and Yale Law School students, are seeking access to the records through a district court in New Haven, Connecticut. 

The groups say official records of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military are needed to determine the extent of the problem and what has been done to address it. 

They have also underlined the fact that withholding the documents is against the Freedom of Information Act. 

The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are yet to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed against them on Monday. 

According to the case, tens of thousands of service members have reported some sort of sexual assault or trauma in the past decade. 

It underlines that about 80 percent of unwanted or threatening sexual acts are not reported. 

The lawsuit also says the government only prosecutes eight percent of sex offenders in the military. 

In the 2009 fiscal year, a Pentagon report showed an 11 percent increase in sexual assaults in the military over the previous year. 

The shocking survey also said that one in every three women report being sexually assaulted during their service in the US military. 

This means that women, who join the military to help fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, are more likely to be raped by a fellow American soldier than they are of getting killed by enemy fire. 

This is while sexual abuse is believed to be the primary cause of post traumatic stress disorder among female service members. 

Many say the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have raised the demand for additional military personnel, and that is why people with criminal backgrounds, who were turned away ten years ago, are now among the ranks of the US military. 

"Putting these types of individuals into situations … where they are confronted with an opportunity to do things of a criminal nature, it should not surprise anyone that a much higher percentage of these types of things are going to go on," former US Senate candidate, Mark Dankof, told Press TV on Monday. 

However, even though President Barack Obama's administration is quite aware of the problem of sexual assault in the US military, it has been very slow in addressing the issue, and has only asked US Congress to advance additional funds for more prevention programs.Source

US Congress threatens PA with aid cut

US Congress has stepped up pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume talks with Israel, warning against a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

"Pursuing a non-negotiated path to statehood is a fool's errand. Palestinians want a state, not a declaration. Their only way to achieve that is through direct negotiations with Israel," Howard Berman, chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Jerusalem Post on Monday. 

"If they try to circumvent negotiations, they'll lose the support of a lot of people like me, and it will jeopardize their foreign aid as well," the California Democrat warned. 

Senior Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen insisted on conditioning US aid on Ramallah's commitment to the recognition of Israel and an end to the firing of homemade projectiles into Israel. She argued that unilateral efforts "undermine the prospects that those obligations might finally be met." 

Berman and Ros-Lehtinen are leading supporters of Israel and known recipients of campaign funds and other perks from powerful Israeli-linked lobby groups in the US, led by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 

Most members of the foreign affairs committees of both houses in the US Congress are sponsored by AIPAC and do not shy away from admitting their ties to the lobby group and unconditional support to the Israeli regime. 

Members of the US House of Representatives are also circulating resolutions in opposition to any Palestinian move toward a unilateral declaration of statehood. 

Meanwhile, Ros-Lehtinen has co-sponsored a resolution "reaffirming congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state," a point expected to be reiterated by a new resolution Berman is set to introduce at the end of the week. 

The escalating pressure against a possible unilateral declaration comes amid mounting fears of growing support for the Palestinian cause, given Israel's obstinate refusal to heed international calls for a settlement freeze, which derailed the latest PA-Israel negotiations earlier in the year. 

On September 2, the US persuaded the Palestinian Authority to join the negotiating table with Israel in Washington. But the talks broke off three weeks later, when Israel's refusal to extend a partial moratorium after its September 26 expiry prompted PA negotiators to walk out. 

Fears in Israel and its traditional guardian, the United States, have surged amid threats by PA officials to demand that the UN recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, a state already recognized by some South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina. 

At the same time, the US has pledged to boost its efforts to assist Palestinian state-building as part of its new policy aimed at jumpstarting Israel-PA talks, asking Congress to approve $200 million in funding for the Palestinian Authority next year. Source

'UK's anti-Iran bids rooted in history'

In response to British envoy's recent remarks against Iran, an Iranian lawmaker insists that Britain has a long history of publicizing allegations of human rights abuses against the Islamic Republic.

After the Islamic Revolution, which put enemies' interests in jeopardy, Iran's foes have been hatching plots and waging psychological warfare against the Islamic Republic, Kazem Farahmand told IRNA on Tuesday. 

Farahmand went on to say that the British envoy's recent anti-Iran remarks, which challenged human rights standards and freedom of thought in the country, provide clear evidence of the nature of London's policy towards Tehran. 

On December 9, British Ambassador Simon Gass posted questionable remarks on the British Embassy's website regarding human rights in Iran. 

“Such lies and untrue statements by our enemies are normal, and our nation and government will not give in to these issues,” Farahmand stressed. 

The Iranian lawmaker recommended Gass to think about change and “reforms in his own country” rather than Iran, saying the Islamic Republic and its officials are committed to human rights and the rights of all individuals are definitely observed in the country. 

The British diplomat's remarks sparked massive criticism among Iranian authorities, who regarded the move as 'blatant interference' in Iran's internal affairs. 

Gass' anti-Iran statements coincide with the brutal suppression and arrest of British students by the country's police forces. The students, who are simply expressing their objection to tuition fee hikes, have been severely assaulted and arrested by the British police.Source
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