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Impeach Bush

Pentagon, Boeing ink $16 billion Corporate Welfare Deal
By Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
From the International Desk
Published 5/23/2003 5:12 PM

WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- The Pentagon has awarded Boeing Co. a controversial $16 billion contract to lease at least 100 enhanced 767 aircraft to serve as military refueling planes for six years, beginning in 2006. For another $4 billion, the Pentagon will have the option of buying the aircraft at the end of the leasing contract, a Pentagon official said Friday.

If the Air Force bought the aircraft outright, the aircraft would cost much less -- around $14 billion, rather than $20 billion. However, the Air Force would have to put up around $8 billion at the beginning of the contract to get the aircraft as quickly as they would under the leasing program, according to Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Pete Aldridge.

The leasing program has powerful detractors, including the former director of the Office of Management and Budget Mitch Daniels, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. A year ago, Daniels reported that leasing new 767s would cost 10 times more than simply upgrading the aging fleet of KC-135 tankers now in use by the Air Force.

"Every analysis has shown that it would be considerably less expensive to either modernize our existing tanker fleet or purchase new tankers," McCain said Friday. "The only reason to lease new tankers is that they are more, not less expensive, and, thus, a greater windfall to the Boeing Co."

McCain added that any objective analysis of the deal would conclude that "the sole purpose served by this lease is to maximize the profits of Boeing, with the consequent under-funding of other defense priorities."

Aldridge argued Friday that some of the 535 KC-135s in the inventory are 40 years old and will need replacing quickly. The leasing agreement is the only way to get those aircraft in the near term without going over the Air Force's budget.

He indicated the Pentagon would not face further opposition from OMB.

"The White House and the secretary of defense have reached an agreement on this," he said.

Daniels left his post at OMB earlier this year.

While the Air Force itself admits only six KC-135s will need to be retired before 2040, Aldridge said it was important to sign the deal now because Boeing is producing the aircraft for other customers. If it had to restart a cold production line, the costs would be higher.

In a statement, Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, said the tanker leasing program would provide "critical air refueling capability to the Air Force sooner than possible under normal procurement procedures ... and to (ensure) fair value to the taxpayer."

The original leasing deal contemplated by the Air Force had it paying $146.5 million per aircraft. The new agreement puts each aircraft at $131 million, plus a $7 million leasing fee, according to the Pentagon.

Aldridge said the deal is a good one for the military. Under the agreement, manufacturer Boeing is limited to a 15 percent profit, and the government will never be required to pay more than the $138 million agreed for each plane. If the cost of the aircraft is lower than that, the government will benefit with savings rather than Boeing. If Boeing ever sells the KC-767 for less than $131 million, the government will be reimbursed the difference.

Critics of the arrangement charge the deal is simply a government bail out arrangement for Boeing, which was hard hit by the drop off in commercial aircraft orders after Sept. 11, 2001, and the airlines' financial troubles prior to that day. The company laid off 30,000 workers on Sept. 18, 2001.

Shares of Boeing gained 89 cents, or 3.06 percent, to close Friday at $29.99 on heavy volume of 5.7 million shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International

Commentary:
Corporate welfare continues unabated. Never expect republicans to clean up their act and spend your money responsibly. There's a reason why we have massive deficits when we have republican presidents. It's because they use your money to help their friends.


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DeLay Helped GOP Track Missing Tex. Lawmakers
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 23, 2003; Page A04

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) acknowledged yesterday that his office called both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Justice Department to help track down 51 Texas House members who fled the state to derail a GOP congressional redistricting plan.

The Texas Democrats left Austin on May 11 to prevent the state House from establishing a quorum and taking up the GOP plan, which would have created several new Republican-leaning U.S. House districts. Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick (R), trying to force the Democrats back to Austin, asked DeLay for help in locating the plane of former state House speaker Pete Laney (D), which some lawmakers used to reach Ardmore, Okla.

A DeLay aide gave the Laney airplane's tail number to the FAA, which subsequently reported where the plane had taken off and landed -- which is public information -- DeLay's office said yesterday. Craddick also asked DeLay to contact the Justice Department to see how the Republicans could force the lawmakers' return, DeLay staffers said.

Some Democrats have suggested DeLay improperly involved federal agencies in a partisan spat limited to one state. DeLay told reporters yesterday that he called the Justice Department to ask "about the appropriate role of the federal government in finding Texas legislators who have warrants out for their arrests."

Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.) questioned whether DeLay had hoped to spur Justice officials to help Craddick's effort. "That's not an innocent call," he said.

DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy said the majority leader was clarifying with Justice officials what Craddick could legally do to secure the Democrats' return. "The speaker of the Texas House asked him to find out what their available options were to find lawmakers who had warrants out for their arrest," Roy said.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
After weeks of saying he had nothing to do the the abuse of power in Texas, Delay finally admits the truth. We can't forget that these guys told Homeland Security, which is a law enforcement agency a lie. They said a plane was missing. Giving false information to law enforcement is a crime and republicans from Delay to Texas are as guilty as sin. So much for the rule of law.


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Texas Deleted Documents About Search for Democrats
New York Times
By KATE ZERNIKE
May 21, 2003

OUSTON, May 21 — The fight over the flight of Democratic legislators intensified yesterday as the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted it had destroyed documents that were collected last week as state troopers searched for the missing lawmakers.
What started out as a local partisan dispute about redistricting escalated into accusations of a cover-up and abuse of federal power.

Indeed, federal authorities are investigating how the Department of Homeland Security became involved in the search for the lawmakers.

Today's uproar began after The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that a commander at the Department of Public Safety issued an e-mail notice instructing that all "notes, correspondence, photos, etc." concerning the search "be destroyed immediately."

"It just doesn't smell right," said State Representative Garnet F. Coleman of Houston, a leader of the move by 51 Democrats to go to Oklahoma to deny House Republicans a quorum for a vote on redistricting.

"Clearly, there's some people trying to remove information, or delete information, that is damaging to their reputation," Mr. Coleman said. "We question the motive on the destruction. And what we really want to know is, who told the Department of Public Safety to do it?"

Democrats in Texas and in the state's delegation in Washington have asked for an investigation into why the federal Department of Homeland Security was called in on the case.

The security department has begun its own inquiry and said it got involved only because it had been told that a plane carrying the lawmakers was missing or had crashed.
The Democrats in Washington demanded their investigation on May 14. That was the same morning a commander at the Department of Public Safety sent the e-mail notice.

A copy of the notice shows that it was forwarded to the lieutenant identified by the office of the Texas House speaker as the public safety officer who had called the Homeland Security Department about the plane. The aircraft belonged to Representative James E. Laney, a Democrat who had been the House speaker until Republicans gained control after last year's elections.

Democrats today seized on that addressing, saying it suggested that the police lieutenant, Will Crais, was being instructed to erase his communications because they were the subject of an investigation.
The Department of Public Safety said in a statement today that it was under a federal obligation to erase the documents.

"We can maintain intelligence information only if there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity and the information is relevant to that criminal activity," it said. "This was not a criminal matter, so we could not legally maintain that information."
The Department of Homeland Security did not order its investigation until Friday, two days after the e-mail directive was sent.
The Texas redistricting plan could have shifted several Democratic Congressional seats to Republican control. Republicans in Washington were eager for its passage, so much so that Democrats in Texas said the plan had been drawn up by Representative Tom DeLay, who is the majority leader of the House and a former Texas legislator.

Only 4 of the Texas House's 62 Democrats showed up on May 12 for the redistricting vote. Representative Tom Craddick, the Republican who is speaker, asked the Department of Public Safety to search for the missing legislators and set up a command center in a conference room near his Capitol office.
Fifty-one of the Democrats were at the motel in Ardmore, Okla. They blocked the vote with puckish delight, watching "The Fugitive" and "Catch Me If You Can" on the bus trip to Ardmore. They stayed away until Thursday, when the redistricting bill died on procedural grounds.
Upon their return, the lawmakers accused Texas state troopers of harassing their spouses, even of tracking one down at a neonatal clinic where her twins were born prematurely. They insisted that Mr. Craddick had directed the search efforts from his command center.
Mr. Craddick denied putting inappropriate pressure on public safety officials. He may have passed along tips, he said, and walked through the command center, but only because it was between his office and an apartment he keeps in the Capitol.

Late today, he issued a statement that ended by saying, "I'm afraid that those who are pursuing a conspiracy are drilling a dry well."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Commentary:
Destroying documents like this is very Nixonian isn't it?


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EPA chief Christie Whitman to Resign
MSNBC
By Miguel Llanos
May 22, 2003

May 22 —  A day after announcing she was resigning, Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman told NBC News on Thursday that while she didn't disagree with controversial environmental reversals by President Bush she did disagree with "the way we did it.' The White House has not indicated who the president might nominate for the job, but initial speculation focused on two people: a brother-in-law of White House chief-of-staff Andrew Card, and a former aide to Vice President Cheney.

WHITMAN TOLD NBC's "Today' show that she was leaving simply because she wanted to spend more time with her husband and that she had no real philosophical differences with the president.

Instead, she said, "It was things like ... when we got out of Kyoto' — the U.N.-backed climate change treaty — soon after Bush took office in 2001. "I didn't disagree with the president, it was the way we did it.'

"We should have laid out the fact that we weren't walking away from a commitment to addressing climate change,' she added. "Instead we just sort of said, ‘We're not doing Kyoto,'' angering European allies.

"That was always the issue that we were fighting back' in Europe, she said.

Whitman, who became EPA chief after two terms as New Jersey's governor, said she was also caught off guard by the president's decision to reverse a campaign pledge for mandatory cuts in carbon dioxide. Many scientists fear that manmade emissions of the gas are significantly contributing to a warming of the Earth.

"It caught me by surprise, that one,' she said, emphasizing however that she understood the president had to look at the bigger energy picture and how mandatory cuts would have hurt coal production, thereby forcing the country to import more oil.

There too, she said, "we didn't lay out well enough what the thinking was.'

"You need to say, ‘This is why I have changed my mind. It's not just because I woke up one day and said carbon is not a good idea'.'

"The two (policies) combined,' she added, "have hurt him unfairly... there's a very good case to be made for both.'

ENVIRONMENTALISTS REACT

In her resignation letter, Whitman says she'll step down on June 27 and highlights what she considers the administration's chief accomplishments in protecting the environment. "Our work has been guided by the strong belief that environmental protection and economic prosperity can and must go hand-in-hand,' she wrote.

However, many of those policies have been attacked by environmentalists as rollbacks in protecting the nation's air, water and land.

Environmentalists took advantage of Whitman's resignation to take another stab at the Bush administration.

"No EPA administrator has ever been so consistently and publicly humiliated by the White House,' Phil Clapp, head of the National Environmental Trust, said in a statement.

"Even though Gov. Whitman achieved two important victories — cleaning up the PCBs in the Hudson River and starting a process to reduce diesel emissions — the White House listened more often to industry lobbyists than to its EPA administrator,' Clapp said.

WHO NEXT?

Speculation about who Whitman's replacement might be began almost immediately.

A nominee seen as hostile by environmental groups could alienate swing voters when the president runs for re-election in 2004. Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, could become bitter if they feel a nominee is soft.

Two names floated so far as possible successors are:

David Struhs, head of Florida's environmental protection department and a brother-in-law Andrew Card. Struhs' philosophy — "more environmental protection with less process' — reflects the president's thinking.

"Government can increase protection of Florida's air, water and land, while reducing the time, cost and paperwork of environmental management and regulation,' Struhs says on the Florida agency's Web site.

Struhs was head of Massachusetts' environmental agency from 1995 to 1999.

Josephine Cooper, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney when he was a Wyoming congressman.

The trade group has long been at odds with environmentalists and Democrats who want tighter mileage requirements on cars as a way to reduce smog as well as dependence on foreign oil.

The alliance says consumers have already voted by choosing to buy large, less fuel-efficient cars even when smaller, higher-mileage cars are available.

From 1992 to 1999, Cooper was a vice president with the American Forest & Paper Association. She earlier worked at the EPA in external affairs and as a liaison with Congress.

Whitman's resignation follows that of White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who said Monday that he would step down in July.

Fleischer noted that, with the president gearing up for a re-election campaign, now is the time to either recommit or step down.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© MSNBC 2003

Commentary:
It's obvious by now that almost everyone is bailing on this president. Does anyone what to work for someone who lies to the American people so often and breaks so many promises and laws? Whitman is one of many who leave sooner than later. It's a wise carrier saving move.


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Bush's approval rating drops
MSNBC
May 21, 2003

May 21 —  President Bush's approval rating, which spiked during the war in Iraq, has dropped back to prewar levels and below, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found that the economy was by far most Americans' biggest concern.
 THE PRESIDENT still enjoys broad-based support, with 62 percent of those surveyed last Wednesday through Friday saying they approved of his performance.

That was a drop, however, when compared to Bush's support in the same poll a month ago, when 71 percent backed the president as the U.S. invasion of Iraq dominated news coverage. And it was below levels as high as 67 percent in surveys conducted before the war.

Approval of Bush's handling of the economy could not command even a majority. Forty-eight percent backed the president, compared with 44 percent who disapproved, a margin only slightly above the survey's margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The economic stimulus package that Bush has made the centerpiece of his domestic policy agenda has had little or no effect on the public's view of his handling of the economy.

The stimulus package originally called for more than $750 billion in various tax cuts over the next decade. House and Senate negotiators are trying to complete work on a compromise version this week that would reduce the tax cuts to about $350 billion.

BIG NO TO TAX CUTS   

The survey, however, found little support for tax cuts among Americans, 57 percent of whom said the economy was their No. 1 concern. That compared to 36 percent who cited the fight against terrorism as their main worry.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 64 percent, said there were better ways to boost the economy than tax cuts. Twenty-nine percent thought tax cuts were the answer.

More than half, 55 percent, said they would prefer the government spend more money on providing health care coverage, compared to 36 percent who said they wanted taxes reduced for themselves and for corporations.

The survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates of Washington, questioned 1,000 adults across the country, 52 percent of whom were men.  

© 2003 MSNBC

Commentary:
Note how Bush issues a terrorist alert as soon as his numbers drop. We're back to orange alert, which always means Bush's numbers have fallen.


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States Cut Test Standards to Avoid Sanctions
New York Times
By SAM DILLON
May 22, 2003

AUSTIN, Tex. — Security was tight when Texas State Board of Education members were given results last fall from a field trial of a new statewide achievement test. Guards stood outside their locked meeting room, and board members were asked to sign a secrecy pledge, reflecting the sensitivity of the situation.

"The results were grim," said Chase Untermeyer, a member. "Few students did well. Many students got almost no answers right."

Fearing that thousands of students would fail the new test and be held back a grade, and that hundreds of schools could face penalties under the federal No Child Left Behind law, the board voted to reduce the number of questions that students must answer correctly to pass it, to 20 out of 36, from 24, for third-grade reading.

Texas has not been alone in lowering its testing standards in recent months. Educators in other states have been making similar decisions as they seek to avoid the penalties that the federal law imposes on schools whose students fare poorly on standardized tests. Since President Bush signed the law in January 2002, all 50 states have presented plans for compliance. But some experts say there is only a veneer of acquiescence. Quietly, they say, states are doing their best to avoid costly sanctions.

Michigan's standards had been among the nation's highest, which caused problems last year when 1,513 schools there were labeled under the law as needing improvement, more than in any other state. So Michigan officials lowered the percentage of students who must pass statewide tests to certify a school as making adequate progress — to 42 percent, from 75 percent of high school students on English tests, for example. That reduced the number of schools so labeled to 216.

Colorado employed another tactic that will result in fewer schools being labeled as needing improvement. It overhauled the grading system used on its tests, lumping students previously characterized on the basis of test scores as "partially proficient" with those called "proficient."

"Some states are lowering the passing scores, they're redefining schools in need of improvement and they're deferring the hard task of achievement-boosting into the distant future," said Chester E. Finn Jr., a former assistant secretary of education who supports the law's goal of raising standards. "That's a really cynical approach."

Under the law, states that fail to comply risk losing federal education money. Schools deemed failing several years in a row must offer tutoring to low-achieving students and, eventually, can be forced into complete reorganization. But the law leaves it up to the states to establish their own standards of success.

Some experts also fault the law for requiring states to bring 100 percent of students up to proficiency in reading and math by 2014, a level they say has never been achieved in any state or country.

"The severe sanctions may hinder educational excellence," said Robert L. Linn, a professor at the University of Colorado who is the immediate past president of the American Educational Research Association, "because they implicitly encourage states to water down their content and performance standards in order to reduce the risk of sanctions."

Federal officials disagree. Dan Langan, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said the department had closely monitored all states' preparations for compliance with the law and was satisfied that the law would not bring lower standards. "The law includes safeguards to hold states accountable," Mr. Langan said. "They have flexibility to set proficiency levels, but there are enough checks in place to make sure they cannot game the system.

"So we reject the argument that states won't set and keep high standards," he said.

The 600-page law, Mr. Bush's basic education initiative, was passed with bipartisan backing four months after Sept. 11, 2001. Many prominent Democrats, however, have since withdrawn their support, including Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who recently described it as "a phony gimmick."

"We were all suckered into it," Mr. Gephardt said. "It's a fraud."

Four United States senators are backing a bill that would allow states to obtain waivers from the law's requirements, and legislators in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Hawaii are considering proposals for those states to opt out of it. That would put at risk millions of dollars in federal financing, but could allow the states to avoid the costs of compliance.

In a report this month, the General Accounting Office estimated that states would have to spend $1.9 billion to $5.3 billion to develop and administer the new tests the law requires. State and federal officials disagree as to whether Congress has appropriated enough money to help the states meet those costs.

Richard F. Elmore, an education professor at Harvard, writing in the spring issue of the newsletter Education Next, called the law "the single largest, and the single most damaging, expansion of federal power over the nation's education system in history."

Mr. Langan, the Education Department spokesman, again disagreed. "This law appropriately identifies education as a national priority, and we believe it values and respects local control and autonomy," he said.

A feature of the law that even many critics praise is its promotion of learning by minority and other students whose achievement has lagged. It requires states to publish those groups' test scores separately, and imposes sanctions on schools if the scores of any group fail to meet annual targets two years in a row.

But many educators question whether schools can meet the requirement to raise all students' scores to 100 percent proficiency by 2014, and some states' plans appear intended to buy time.

Ohio, for instance, vowed to raise the percentage of students who pass statewide tests to 60 percent from 40 percent in six years, an average annual gain of 3.3 percentage points. But starting in 2010, it pledged to raise the percentage to 100 percent from 60 percent in just four years, an average annual gain of 10 percentage points, which some educators said would require a near miracle.

Mr. Finn compared Ohio's approach to a balloon mortgage in which a home buyer pays low interest in early years, but later faces soaring, unpayable rates.

Mitchell Chester, an assistant superintendent in the Ohio Education Department, defended the state's timetable, saying in an interview that Ohio needed the next few years both to raise the achievement of minority and other low-performing children to the other students' starting point of 40 percent proficiency, and to "re-engineer" instruction with a more ambitious curriculum and more teacher training. Very rapid progress in achievement will be possible thereafter, Mr. Chester said.

Dr. Linn outlined another interpretation in a recent speech to educational researchers. Ohio and other states face a huge challenge "to get through the first years without placing an overwhelming number of schools in the improvement category," he said. "Buying time allows for the possibility that the law will be modified to make progress targets more realistically achievable. The Ohio plan is, in my view, a creative way of doing that."

Texas's plans for compliance with the law are of special interest because Mr. Bush drew heavily on his record of raising test scores there to sell the federal law to Congress.

But experts have criticized the test used throughout Mr. Bush's governorship as too easy; far easier, for instance, than New York's Regents exam. Partly in response, Texas developed a new, more rigorous test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. It fell to the Texas State Board last fall to decide how many questions students would have to answer correctly to pass it.

The stakes were high because starting this year, third graders must pass the test to advance to fourth grade and also because if thousands of students failed it, many schools might not meet the federal law's requirement of adequate yearly progress, Criss Cloudt, an associate commissioner at the Texas Education Agency, said in an interview.

"We were trying to avoid that in the same year in which we ratchet up our targets for No Child Left Behind, we would at the same time greatly increase what we expected of students on the test," Ms. Cloudt said, "because that combination was likely to cause a dramatic increase in schools not meeting adequate yearly progress."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Commentary:
Is this story the biggest joke you've ever read? In order to meet tough new standards and keep your schools open, CHEAT! So much for standards.


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23% of Florida third graders flunked
New York Times.com
By MICHAEL WINERIP
May 21, 2003

SORRY I'm late," said Charlie Perez. "I had to get my son from school. He got sick." Mr. Perez paused. "Not really sick. The school called this morning. They said he was vomiting."

When Mr. Perez arrived at Arbor Ridge Elementary, he saw that his son, Giancarlo, a third grader, had no fever or any other signs of illness, and the father's heart sank. Mr. Perez understood that the little boy was vomiting from nerves and shame. "He thinks he's a failure," the father said.

Since the start of the school year, Mr. Perez had been hoping somehow that his son (who gets A+ in spelling, but C- in reading) would pass the state's third-grade reading test and be promoted to fourth grade. The father had been impressed with how hard the school had worked, providing extra reading and language help. The family hired a tutor, and Mr. Perez, a real estate broker, spent long hours reading with the boy.

"I told Giancarlo, `Give it your best shot. Whether you pass or not, guess what? Your dad and mom still love you very much and will be with you all the way.' "

Then, last week, 9-year-olds from all over Florida got back the state test results determining who would be held back and who promoted. "I said, `Son, there's three scores on this paper,' " Mr. Perez recalled. " `One's who pass, one's who don't pass and a third' — and this next part I made up — `One's who don't try.' I said: `Son, I have good news. The paper says you did try. You're not under the `Didn't Try' category.' He said, `Dad, did I pass?' "

"All this last year," Mr. Perez continued, "with me, with the tutor, I see him putting in 250 percent and here's Dad promising all this hard work is going to pay off. So now, how do I explain that paper?"

Mornings have been misery since the arrival of that paper. "My son keeps saying, `I don't want to go to school, Daddy.' "

Giancarlo is not alone. For the first time, Florida third graders must pass a reading test or be held back, and earlier this month Gov. Jeb Bush announced that 23 percent — 43,000 — had flunked.

Fortunately, Governor Bush keeps reminding them that the new policy is for their own good, even if a record number are being retained. "That breaks my heart," he said. "But if we don't deal with it now, going forward there are going to be a whole lot of shattered dreams."

Fortunately, Republicans who control the Legislature and made passing the test mandatory for promotion, have been happy to ignore the educational research. So what if hundreds of studies in the last two decades have concluded that holding children back has no long-term academic benefit, that within two years retained students once again lag behind classmates and that retained students are more likely to drop out of high school.

So what if Florida's own Department of Education issued a report in the early 1990's warning against retention: "Research on the subject is clear. Grade level retention does not work. Further, it would be difficult to find another educational practice on which the research findings are so unequivocally negative."

So what if politicians insist on ignoring history. At a public hearing last year, State Senator Anna P. Cowin called the research "gobbledygook," and State Senator Donald C. Sullivan called those who questioned the new policy "the bad guys." In this manner, Florida has set a national precedent, giving the adults who know these third graders best — their teachers and principals — absolutely no say in who will be kept back.

The situation at Lake Silver Elementary here seems pretty typical. The school is half white, half black. Of Lake Silver's 101 third graders, 23 failed. Stephen Leggett, the principal, said that long before the test results, all 23 had been identified as lagging in reading. All were getting extra help, with some seeing three specialists a week, he said. "That test told us nothing we didn't know," Mr. Leggett said.

Mr. Leggett, who has been principal for 21 years, and his five third-grade teachers believe none of the 23 should be held back. For reading, Lake Silver students are grouped by ability, with the slowest readers placed in the smallest group that gets the most individualized attention. Third graders are pushed to read the most challenging books they can; some read sixth-grade books, while others read second-grade books.

Mr. Leggett said next year, whether those 23 sit in a fourth-grade classroom or third-grade classroom, they would do the same reading work — the highest level they could. And they would get the same reading help in either case.

The only difference? In a third-grade class "they'll have the bad feelings of being held back," he said.

And who are we stigmatizing? Children who already get more than their share of "bad feelings": Poor children (20 of 23 who failed at Lake Silver are eligible for free lunches). Transient children (6 of 23 have been at Lake Silver less than a year). Black children (18 of 23).

What would really help with reading, Mr. Leggett said, is more public preschool for the poor, but because of state budget cuts, two-thirds of those preschool classes were eliminated here this year.

Thanks to the new state policy, it looks like Marc and Mary French will have one of their twin girls at Deerwood Elementary in third grade next year, the other in fifth. When their daughter Cheyanne was a first grader, she was diagnosed with an attention disorder, prescribed medicine and kept back. Since then, her progress has been steady. This year she made honor roll twice.

"She's worked so hard," Mr. French said. "An awesome effort. She's actually a better student now than her twin."

Cheyanne did well on practice state tests. "I don't know if she froze up when it counted," Mr. French said, "or didn't take her medicine that day. We can't explain it."

Whom to ask? The test? And what does the test know about the emotional burdens on an 11-year-old third grader with a fifth-grade twin?

Summer vacation starts here at the end of this week. Mr. Perez has decided to keep Giancarlo home on Friday. "I don't want him hearing, `Ha ha, you're not going to fourth grade,' " Mr. Perez said. "These people who run the state, they have no idea."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Commentary:
So 23% of Florida third graders have flunked and 10% of high school seniors. When do we start hold office holders accountable again?

These republicans promised to fix education and they've been in power for a long time in most states, so why do people keep re-electing them? Because the politician is a failure, just like their kids? Keep them accountable, fire every republican during the next election.


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Congress passes $984 billion borrowing boost, largest ever
SF Gate.com/AP
May 23, 2003

Congress is sending President Bush a record $984 billion boost in the government's authority to borrow money.

The Republican-led Senate's approval in a largely party-line, 53-44 vote Friday completed Congress' work on a measure that will let lawmakers avoid the politically sensitive issue until sometime next year, when another increase in borrowing authority will be necessary.

Congress had breached the current $6.4 trillion limit on borrowing early this year, and the government has averted an unprecedented default only by having the Treasury Department shift money from various funds it oversees.

The vote had strong partisan overtones, with Democrats trying to link the need for vast new government borrowing to the record annual deficits that have emerged under Bush. Approval came just hours after lawmakers approved $330 billion in tax cuts through 2013.

"That we have to borrow even more money to pay for (Republicans') failed economic agenda ... is proof positive that their latest tax package is on the wrong economic track," Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., said.

GOP senators defeated a pile of Democratic amendments, knowing that passage of any would have forced the House, which had passed the bill in an automatic procedure last month, to reconsider the bill and prolong the chance for Democrats to draw attention to the issue.

Democratic amendments included one that would have limited the debt increase to the same size as the tax bill, and forced Congress to consider new borrowing sometime this fall.

"It's nothing but political gamesmanship," Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., said of the Democratic efforts.

This year's deficit is expected to exceed $300 billion for the first time, and shortfalls are projected into the future for as far as analysts can see.

The government ran four consecutive surpluses at the end of the Clinton administration. Republicans blame the faltering economy and the costs of confronting terrorism for the break in that pattern.

Sen. John Ensign of Nevada was the only Republican to oppose the debt limit extension. Sens. John Breaux of Louisiana and Zell Miller of Georgia were the only Democrats to support it, as did Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt.

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass.; Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John Edwards, D-N.C., missed the vote.

The bill is H.J. Res. 51.

©2003 Associated Press

Commentary:
Can we say hypocrite. Republicans are now massing the largest deficits in US history. As they borrow tons of money and give it to the super rich, the create debt. Every penny of debt has to be financed with more taxes. Every penny of debt has to be paid back.

If you're still thinking Bush is giving you a tax cuts you need to start rethinking this subject and factoring in the most important part. DEBT!. Debt and deficits are future taxes and Bush is the king of tax increases. He's not making you pay for his spending now, but someone else will have to . Will it be the next responsible president or the next generation?. Every person who voted for these tax cuts isn't fit to serve in our government.


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Democrats Push to Retain Nuclear Ban
Associated Press/Kansas City.com
KEN GUGGENHEIM
Posted on Mon, May. 19, 2003

WASHINGTON - The development of low-yield nuclear weapons could precipitate a new arms race, Senate Democrats said Monday, working to keep the Bush administration from lifting a decade-old ban.

Low-yield weapons were one of the few contentious issues as the Senate began debate on a bill authorizing $400.5 billion in 2004 defense programs, about 4.7 percent more than the current spending and roughly what the Pentagon had requested.

The bill would meet or exceed spending requests by the Bush administration for many sophisticated defense programs, such as unmanned planes and missile defense. But it excludes most of a Pentagon proposal that would give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld greater control over civilian employees and high-ranking military personnel and reduce congressional oversight.

The changes to civilian personnel rules are included in the House version of the bill to be considered this week. Republicans said they may try include some similar changes in the Senate version so it will be easier for House-Senate negotiators to reconcile the two bills.

Both the House and Senate bills would end the ban on research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons. These are warheads of less than five kilotons, or about a third of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. The weapons could cause less damage than existing nuclear weapons and may be useful in destroying biological and chemical weapons.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he would offer an amendment to preserve the ban. Lifting it would "break down the firewall that we have always maintained between nuclear weapons and other weapons, and that has succeeded so well for so long in preventing nuclear war."

He said ending the ban "would encourage other nations to develop nuclear deterrents of their own. The entire world will be at greater risk that these weapons will be used, and used against us," he said.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Armed Services' Committee's top Democrat, said the United States shouldn't lift its ban while "we're telling others not to go down the road to nuclear weapons."

"Instead of being a leader in the effort to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we are recklessly driving down the same road," he said.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the committee's chairman, and other opponents of the ban say it hasn't stopped other nations from developing nuclear weapons. Lifting it would boost U.S. security, they say.

Another nuclear issue dividing Democrats and Republicans is the authorization of $15 million to continue studying a nuclear earth penetrator. The weapon would burrow into the earth and detonate, making it potentially useful against deep underground bunkers.

Also, many Democrats oppose parts of the bill partly exempting the military from the Endangered Species Act. Defense officials say environmental laws have impeded military training exercises.

Senate leaders hope to complete the bill by midweek.

Information on the bill, S. 1050, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov

@copy The Associated Press

Commentary:
Bush says WMD are so bad that if a country even tries to build them or we suspect they're trying to build them, we'll go to war. But, it's ok for us to do it. Can we say hypocrite?


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Spectre of deflation looms over Germany
Reuters.com
By Clifford Coonan
Mon May 19, 2003 07:50 AM ET

BERLIN, May 19 (Reuters) - The spectre of deflation loomed large over Germany on Monday as growth dwindles in Europe's largest economy and the International Monetary Fund issued a blunt warning that Germany could soon see falling prices.

However, the government and top advisers denied Germany was at risk of entering a dreaded deflationary spiral where prices are falling, saying the European Central Bank would cut interest rates first to help Germany out of the economic mire.

Producer prices fell 0.2 percent on the month in April as energy prices declined, data on Monday showed. This follows an already-announced 0.3 percent fall in April consumer prices and adds to fears Germany is on thin ice as regards deflation.

The drop in prices at the factory gates, a key indicator for future consumer price inflation, came after a warning on Sunday from the IMF that Germany was heading for deflation.

German prices periodically slip into negative territory month-on-month, data show, but rarely for a sustained period.

Deflation, defined as a sustained decline in an aggregate measure of prices, discourages buying and stalls growth.

It has plagued Japan for years. Japan plays a similar role in Asia that Germany does in Europe and commentators often draw parallels between the two troubled economic powerhouses.

The IMF said in a study compiled by IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff: "There has been a clear increase in the vulnerability to deflation for a number of industrial and emerging market economies."

Low post-war inflation, the bursting of an equity price bubble, rising bank sector stresses and falliing credit growth are to blame, the IMF concluded.

A finance ministry spokesman said Germany was not threatened with deflation despite the IMF warnings.

"We do not see this risk. Such a development would involve a sustained, broad reduction in prices. I can't detect this."

A top government economic adviser said he saw no major deflation risk in Germany this year or next and he expected the European Central Bank to cut rates, making borrowing cheaper, boosting growth, and helping to offset the risk of deflation.

"I expect a rate cut of 50 basis points in June or July...this would also react against the threat of deflation," said Wolfgang Wiegard, chairman of the "five wise men" independent panel of government advisers.

The ECB, while insisting the risk of deflation in Germany is small, has made clear that it wants to avoid deflation as much as inflation by fine-tuning its monetary strategy.

At its last meeting on May 8, the ECB said it would stick to its definition of price stability as consumer inflation in the 12-nation euro area below two percent over the medium term.

But it added an important twist -- prices could be close to, rather than below that level, which ECB President Wim Duisenberg said underlined "the ECB's commitment to provide a safety margin to guard against the risk of deflation."

THREAT OF INFLATION GONE

The Group of Seven leading economic powers, who met in the French town of Deauville at the weekend, agreed the threat to economic stability from inflation was now largely behind them.

There are also fears of deflation in the U.S. after news on Friday that the core consumer price index in April rose by its slowest year-on-year rate in 37 years.

The U.S. Federal Reserve last week made a sharp departure in its fight against inflation during the last 30 years, saying it was worried about an "unwelcome substantial fall in inflation."

ECB officials have hedged their bets of late, telling finance ministers from the euro zone the bank now had room to cut rates if oil prices stayed low -- and contributed to low inflation -- and the euro's lofty value was sustained.

A falling dollar exports deflationary pressures toward the euro zone. Combined with a sluggish European economy, the ECB is in an even bigger pickle because European exports are pinched and firms can't raise prices to boost profit margins.

Deflation would compound troubles for German banks, struggling to reform during the most punishing earnings downturn since the Second World War. Germany's top banks posted billions of euros in losses in the first three months of 2003 alone.

But the onset of deflation in itself would not likely become the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, said Dieter Hein, banking expert at independent research firm Fairesearch.

"The situation is problematic. You can see that from the earnings. But I cannot fundamentally imagine that a major bank would be threatened with bankruptcy as a result," he said.

"Deflation is in my view negative because it means shrinking demand, and this means falling credit demand and this is negative sign for banks," he said. (Additional reporting by Thomas Atkins in Frankfurt, Fiona Shaikh, Philip Blenkinsop and Sven-Markus Egenter in Berlin)

© Reuters.com

Commentary:
Japan has already been hit with deflation, Germany most likely is next. Some in the Fed think the US will be next. The chances are still minor that we'll have full blown deflation but if we do, start thinking about switching your investment strategy to the service sector, food, entertainment and children clothing stores.


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