Archive for August, 2009

Couldn’t Put “Patriots” Down Yesterday

I bought “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse” by James Wesley Rawles yesterday, started reading it aloud to SwampMan on the way home, and didn’t stir out of my chair until I had finished it, ignoring the plaintive cries of SwampMan about “What’s for dinner?” “Am I even getting dinner?”

*sigh* Close to work, or far enough away from a city to avoid being overrun? Defensibility versus sustainability? How much food to store? Who to choose to fort up with? Whether to and where to cache emergency supplies? All those things will be seriously discussed by people that read the book. It is a discussion that has been ongoing in our household throughout the summer.

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Unemployment Over, Back on My Head

I answered the phone as I was going out the door today, something I have GOT to quit doing! It was a job offer from hell which I was strongly inclined to turn down. SwampMan strongly opined that he wanted my ass at work and insured.

Sigh. I had so looked forward to collecting unemployment but noooooooo. The job itself will barely pay enough to buy groceries and feed but, as SwampMan pointed out, it was better than NOT having a job to pay for groceries and feed. Sometimes I want to kick SwampMan.

I had looked forward to being the emergency backup childcare plan for daughter and, in an actual emergency, I still will be.

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Chile Confirms Swine Flu in Turkeys

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile said Friday that tests show swine flu has jumped to birds, opening a new chapter in the global epidemic.

A top United Nations animal health expert said the infected turkeys have suffered only mild effects, easing concern about a potentially dangerous development. Chile’s turkey meat remains safe to eat, the expert said.

Chile’s health ministry said it ordered a quarantine Friday for two turkey farms outside the port city of Valparaiso after genetic tests confirmed sick birds were afflicted with the same virus that has caused a pandemic among humans.

So far, the virus — a mixture of human, pig and bird genes — has proven to be very contagious but no more deadly than common seasonal flu. However, virus experts fear a more dangerous and easily transmitted strain could emerge if it combines again with avian flu, which is far more deadly but tougher to pass along.

I think they should be saying when, not if.

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Ribault, Raines, and Jackson High Schools Could Be Closed if No Improvements Made, Along with Lakeshore K-8

From Jacksonville.com:

Together, they have earned 18 F grades based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores since the standardized exam was first given 11 years ago.

North Shore K-8 saw its only B five years ago.

Andrew Jackson High has never seen a B.

And Ribault and Raines High schools have never seen anything higher than a D.

The four Duval County schools are on the state’s critical “intervene” list, which requires them to improve or face changes that could, within four years, include closing.

The task is clear, the stakes are high and the urgency is palpable. But instead of a sense of dread about what could happen, there is excitement about the possibilities.

“It’s we’re either in or we’re out,” said Jackson earth space science teacher Danny Pasicolan, a first-year teacher who is also a 2000 Jackson graduate.

Pasicolan said teachers, many who were at the school when he attended, are 100 percent committed. And they refuse to see their school close.

“We’re not going to let them take this from us,” he said.

Teachers in other schools have similar feelings.

“There isn’t a teacher in this facility that doesn’t know the sense of urgency,” said North Shore math coach Janet Bosnick. “I can’t imagine how we couldn’t improve.”

The schools must improve their FCAT scores to at least a C within four years to get off the intervene list. Plus, at least one student subgroup (such as black, white or economically disadvantaged) must show proficiency in reading under federal adequate yearly progress mandates. And the same subgroup or another one must show proficiency in math.

If schools don’t show improvement this year, the district must choose one of four options — more personnel and leadership changes, switching to a charter school, being taken over by a management company, or closing.

If the necessary improvements aren’t met in subsequent years, the district chooses a different option until they are exhausted within four years.

Duval County Public Schools, working with the Florida Department of Education, has already made changes at all four schools. Three have new principals, and all transferred some teachers based on their students’ gains and are putting the finishing touches on new programs.

Changes enacted

At Raines, all students participating in extracurricular activities will have to attend twice-a-month Saturday study sessions for the ACT and SAT. Ribault and Andrew Jackson already had Saturday classes; Jackson is expanding the number of its sessions and requiring students to take an after-school study session before they can participate in any extracurricular activity.

North Shore’s teachers will work in the after-school Team Up program and focus their attention on helping students with core subjects, new principal Tarsha Mitchell said.

Many teachers took training during the summer, came back to school early and are planning tutoring sessions for their students.

At all of the schools, teachers of core subjects will work with each other and with smaller groups of students. And they’ll rely more heavily on tracking data to determine how students are doing in classes. They’re trying to build relationship so students feel comfortable reaching out for help, and also so teachers can more quickly identify the students who need help, said Iranetta Wright, principal at Jackson for a second year.

The support and encouragement are particularly visible around Raines and Ribault, the schools that have struggled longest among the four.

The NAACP is sponsoring a community forum for the two schools to help engage parents on Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at Greater Macedonia Baptist Church on Edgewood Avenue. Elnora Atkins, chair of the local NAACP’s education committee, said the increased energy and attention around the two schools are because of the high stakes.

“We don’t want the high schools in our community to be closed,” Atkins said.

Read the rest for more information about what the schools are trying in an attempt to turn around but….is the problem in the schools or in the attitudes toward education in the community? Will closing the schools down and shipping the students to other schools in other neighborhoods help the children?

Personally, I think the education system went off track when it started pushing college for everyone, whether or not they are equipped with the intellect and/or personality that would be suited for a college degree. Racking up tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of educational loans or public financing for a degree that ultimately turns out to be worthless in the job market isn’t in the best interests of anybody, IMO.

If students could see a high school diploma having actual value in the workplace, and if high schools taught skills for use in the workplace so that high school graduates could go into the job force for actual jobs that pay more than what high school dropouts make, then we might see a difference in attitude.

Actual jobs. Now that’s another problem.

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Macon County, Alabama Schools Close Early Due to Swine Flu

Published: August 20, 2009

In response to an apparent swell of H1N1 also known as Swine Flu, all Macon County Schools closed at 1 p.m. today and will re-open Monday, according to Macon County School Board President Alfonso G. Robinson.

“I know we have a number of confirmed Swine Flu cases in our school system,“ Robinson said. “Exactly how many, I’m not sure of at this time, but we’re taking this step to hopefully get a heads up on the situation.

The Macon Public County School system is comprised of the Alternative Learning Center, Booker T. Washington High School, D.C. Wolfe School, George Washington Carver Elementary School, Lewis Adams School: Head start Program, Notasulga High School, Tuskegee institute and Tuskegee Public School.

If you have children and haven’t made alternative arrangements for their care when they are out sick, now would be a good time to start!

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Hundreds in Osceola County to Lose Jobs?

From Orlando Sentinel:

KISSIMMEE – Osceola County is about to lay off several hundred people, arguably the most of any county in Central Florida, a television station’s Web site reported Thursday.

Libraries are going to be open fewer hours and one fire station may close permanently, according to WFTV-Channel 9. As many as 300 people will lose their jobs and that could happen as soon as next week.

Osceola County commissioners want $15.5 million slashed from the budget, but don’t want to increase taxes. The county manager said the only way to do that is to cut jobs.

Some of the jobs on the cutting block are in the public safety sector.

“Obviously that’s our primary service to the public and that’s the last thing we want to look at, but I cannot make reductions of this size without affecting public safety. That’s clear,” Osceola County Manager Michael Freilinger said.

The county manager does not need board approval to make staffing reductions.

I expect a lot more of that will be coming to all Florida counties.

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More Evidence of Government Incompetence: Dealers Screwed Again by Government in “Cash for Clunkers”

From the Houston Chronicle:

Since Cash for Clunkers started in late July, Monument Chevrolet has sold 42 vehicles to people who took advantage of the incentive program, the Pasadena dealership’s owner Carroll Smith said.

Under the program, a dealership takes up to $4,500 off the price of a new vehicle, and the federal government reimburses it for that amount.

There is just one problem for Smith. He hasn’t yet been paid by the federal government for any of those transactions.

The Cash for Clunkers incentive program has sent consumers flocking to showrooms and buying cars, providing a much-needed boost for dealers. But the government’s pace in paying back dealers has them under financial strain, Smith and other dealers say.

Meanwhile, the National Automobile Dealers Association announced late Wednesday that it had met with the U.S. Department Transportation to discuss the “possible suspension” of the program out of concern that little of the $3 billion set aside for it is left, given the program’s popularity.

NADA is advising its members that “dealers who accept additional clunker deals face a growing risk that they may not be reimbursed” once the $3 billion is gone.

In other developing news, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Wednesday that the Obama administration will provide more details later this week on how much longer the program will last and assured dealers that they would be reimbursed.

Cash for Clunkers puts Carroll Smith in a “cash deficit position” every time he sells a car and takes $3,500 to $4,500 off a vehicle’s price, he said. The average new car profit for dealers is somewhere around $1,000 or less, Smith said.

‘A huge issue’
“It’s a huge issue right now,” said Dale Early, owner of Deerbrook Forest Chrysler Jeep. “A guy who does a number of transactions in a short time — it’s a huge financial burden,” he said: “The government was not prepared to handle the volume.”

Early said he also has not been reimbursed by the government for cash for his clunker transactions.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico:

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Some New Mexico auto dealers have backed out of the cash-for-clunkers program and more may do so as the federal government takes its time providing cash reimbursements.

Dealers across the state are owed more than $3.6 million, according to a dealers’ group which says that so far Uncle Sam has only written three checks totaling about $14,000.

Well, THAT doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve read that the government excuse is that they’ve been “overwhelmed” by all that work and have to hire new people to write the checks. They’ve only written and sent out three checks in a month? How freakin’ lazy is that? This should be easy peasy. Paperwork is in order, check should be cut. I understand that they (government office) are sending paperwork back saying that the paperwork isn’t in order, but not saying what is wrong with it so that the dealer can correct the (imaginary) problem. If the government employees can’t handle it because it’s too much like actual work or they’re too damned incompetent, outsource it to a (private) company that can.

Any small business sole proprietor could have made a sizeable dent in this backlog working all by themselves. This is beyond incompetent. Perhaps Obama will put another czar in there to study the problem.

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Kings Bay Submarine Rescues Bahamian Fishermen

From Jacksonville.com:

ST. MARYS – Five Bahamian fishermen clinging to a capsized boat four days in the Atlantic Ocean were rescued by an unlikely source – a Trident submarine.

The USS Rhode Island, home ported at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, was on the surface in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 11 when Navy officials said a crewman saw what he believed was a distressed vessel and reported it to his commanding officer.

Cmdr. Kevin Mooney ordered his crew to turn the boat around to investigate, according to officials at Kings Bay. As the Rhode Island got closer, the crew saw four men and a 14-year-old boy on the capsized fishing vessel.

The fishermen were brought onto the hull of the Rhode Island, where they were treated for dehydration.

One of the fishermen had a significant injury to his right leg that received preliminary treatment by a hospital corpsman until the men could be taken ashore a short time later by a Navy auxiliary craft for further medical treatment.

Navy officials said they cannot reveal where the men were rescued or taken to for security reasons.

Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for Submarine Group 10, said it’s unusual for a Trident submarine to help distressed mariners at sea. Normally, the boats operate below the surface with little radio contact with the outside world. When the submarines surface, they are usually escorted by armed security ships to prevent other vessels from approaching.

In this instance, however, Mooney felt obligated to help the fishermen rather than call for another vessel to rescue them because it was clear they needed immediate assistance, Rebarich said. She also said international maritime law obligated the crew to rescue the fishermen.

Rebarich said the fishermen joked that no one would believe they were rescued by a submarine.

But they now have proof of their rescue. Mooney gave each of the men a commemorative Rhode Island command coin as a memento.

“There is only one choice when it comes to rendering assistance to vessels in distress,” said Mooney in a statement provided by the Navy.

“I am glad that we were in the right place at the right time to help these fellow mariners. I couldn’t be more proud of the professionalism and performance by my crew.”

Well done!

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Camden County, Georgia Schools Experiencing Swine Flu Outbreak

From Jacksonville.com:

ST. MARYS – An outbreak of what health officials suspect is the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, is hitting Camden County schools.

Elaine Smiley, health systems coordinator for the school district, said about 10 percent of the estimated 1,000 Camden Middle School enrollment was absent Tuesday from the outbreak.

School nurses have also seen an increase in children who have flu-like symptoms, including fevers of more than 100 degrees, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing, she said. Other symptoms include runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Smiley said she didn’t have estimates available on how many students have missed classes since the outbreak.

School officials sent notes home with students Monday asking parents to keep their children home if they experience flu-like symptoms until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. Health officials estimate the disease runs its course in most children within five days.

The note also reminds parents to encourage their children to wash their hands often and cover coughs and sneezes as a way to prevent the spread of germs and illness. Health officials also recommend children be immunized when seasonal flu shots become available in the fall.

Smiley said parents have not been calling schools in large numbers, but Camden County Health Department officials say they have received many calls from residents with questions.

“It’s not a typical flu season,” said Debbie Melton, Camden County’s nurse manager for the Health Department. “It seems widespread. We’ve getting a lot of calls.”

Parents are told to keep their children home if they show symptoms and call their family physicians if they have questions.

Schools have been in session up there since August 5, so that first big outbreak of flu didn’t take long at all.

Swine Flu Could Cause 30% Absentee Rate in Schools

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Good Illustration of Government Health Care: Do You Want To Be Triaged By the Government?

From Matt’s Meditations:

I had a relative in England who died less than three months ago. I will relate her story. She was never in the best of health, but contracted tuberculosis a few years ago in her late 50’s. Since treatments are weighted in the National Health Service, it was determined that her care would not have a high priority. Her children were grown and did not need a mother’s care. TB treatment is expensive, and there is a limit in the UK of GBP 45,000 per patient per year excepting extraordinary cases. Someone somewhere sat down at a desk and factored in all of these variables. This treatment was delayed as are many kinds of treatment in the UK. Then 3 years ago, in a weakened state, she contracted cancer. Once again, the actuarial tables were consulted, and she received only limited care. At that point it was only a matter of time. She survived much longer than anyone would have expected. Other illnesses attacked her body. And then, one day, she finally passed on.

There were steps in this process. There were procedures and guidelines. And decisions made to limit treatment. In the United States, she would have had immediate and aggressive treatment for tuberculosis by government order. She probably would have stood a much better chance of surviving much longer with a reasonable quality of life.

The fact is that today, our government is highly constricted in its financial options. We have already indebted ourselves to a point where we can no longer finance that debt. Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which is controlled by the abovementioned leadership, will go bankrupt in 8 years. Social Security is predicted to do the same in the 2030’s. The CBO also has calculated that any of the bills now under consideration would cost as much as $1 trillion. So we have the two largest safety net programs yet undertaken by our government bankrupted by irresponsible government borrowing and poor management, and Congress own accountants predicting runaway costs. The president cited the Post Office as a comparison in speech to his undefined health care proposal in Portsmouth, NH last week. How can he and our leaders fail to see the analogies? How can they fail to see the potential for collapse and the terrible pain it might cause? This should be one of the most serious discussions of our time and there is no discussion.

The warning signs are all around us. We are faced with a health care system that needs reform. So many issues have been identified in the public debate that serious, measurable reform may now be possible. Ideas are coming from all sides. And yet we are faced with a pigheaded, partisan leadership that is basically preparing to tell the rest of us to go to hell and ram through another highly defective piece of legislation without scrutiny and without debate. The financial system bailouts and Stimulus Bill and Cap & Trade bill all point clearly towards where this will end up.

The Administration and its supporters have vilified the concerns of many about end of live panels, and yet this is a fact of life in the UK already. Somewhere far removed, bureaucrats make life and death decisions based on the numbers. With all of its faults, our current system values life much more highly. One of the chief theoreticians they seem to be listening to, Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, the White House Chief of Staff’s brother, has openly discussed the “life value” of infants and the elderly, noting that a child is not really self aware until the age of two. This is a very, very dangerous discussion.

This is what government health care will be. You will be triaged as to your future value as a taxpayer supporting the government bureaucracy. If you have an infant with health problems, he or she may have continuing health problems and be a source of continuing costs. People that are not accountable to and invisible from the family will decide that the infant will be denied care that would allow it to live. The health insurance that you used to have, that would have treated the infant, will no longer be available.

If you are an older person who is near retirement age, then you are a cost to the government even though you have paid and paid and paid into the system and never used any benefits in the past. Good luck with surviving cancer or getting heart surgery. Your private insurance policy will no longer be there.

Truly the banality of evil. Of course those people making life and death decisions for treatment are just doing their jobs just like the guards at the concentration camps.

The Democrats that are planning to ram public health care down the throats of a public that recognizes it for what it is and do not want it are also just doing their jobs as they see it, just like the guards at the concentration camps. Nancy Pelosi is accusing anybody that opposes her program of forced lack of medical choice as a Nazi. Perhaps she just needs to take those swastikas out of her lingerie drawer and wear them publicly.

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