But in nearby Yonkers, New York, public school superintendant Angelo Petrone sent out a memo early in December instructing teachers to remove all Christmas and Hanukkah-related decorations from their classrooms. After teachers abruptly removed their children's artwork from school bulletin boards, parents—none of whom had earlier complained about the decorations—responded with unbridled outrage. In reversing his decision, Petrone declared that he had only meant for teachers to "have sensitivity to the diversity in the district," and to use "common sense."
An Inclusive Litany
Actually, probably no other people on earth go to such extremes as Americans to conceal the true features of women, particularly when they go out in public. This concealment is a multibillion-dollar industry, and it deals not in cloth, but in cosmetics.
Cosmetics is but another word for a burqa.
Murray concluded the session by challenging the students to consider alternatives to war.
"We've got to ask, why is this man [Osama bin Laden] so popular around the world?," said Murray, who faces re-election in 2004. "Why are people so supportive of him in many countries ... that are riddled with poverty?
"He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.
"How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"
[Ed.: This stupid comment came in the midst of a major controversy over another stupid comment made by Senator Trent Lott (R, MS), who expressed apparent sympathy for Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential run on the staunchly segregationist Dixiecrat ticket. As a result, Lott had to step down as Senate Majority Leader.
Amid widespread ignorance of Murray's comments throughout the mainstream media, the Washington Post ran an editorial in her defense on Christmas day—the morning when people are most attentive to their newspapers—entitled: "Inept but Entitled to Her Say." The Post criticized "the massive overreaction to perfectly useful ideas that have been badly stated or misinterpreted." While admitting Murray's version of the facts was "very wrong," the editorial pleaded that "it ought to be possible to discuss America's image in the Islamic world, and the kinds of mistakes the United States has made there." Murray subsequently turned down Washington state Republicans eager to debate her ideas.]
Nearly 12 percent of K-12 students in American public schools are assigned to the special education system, only about 10 percent of whom suffer from severe disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, blindness, or deafness. The rest have received a variety of less substantial diagnoses such as speech and language delays, emotional disorders, mild mental retardation, and specific learning disability (SLD). SLD diagnoses are the most common, rising 34 percent since 1991 and accounting for over half the students covered under the federal Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which dispenses $60 billion annually to schools districts with disabled students. Indeed, SLD diagnoses have increased as other special education categories have declined.
A learning disability is defined at the federal level simply as a "severe discrepancy" between student's achievement level (as typically measured on standardized reading tests) and intelligence (as measured on IQ tests), leading to the possibility that instructional failures become defined as disabilities. States also have their own widely divergent definitions, under which researchers have found 80 percent of all American schoolchildren could qualify. A 2001 report by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development concluded that it was impossible to clearly distinguish between a learning disorder in reading and low achievement. Another report in 2002 from the President's Commission on Special Education concluded that 80 percent of students diagnosed with SLD are assigned to special education "simply because they haven't learned how to read." And a 2001 joint report by the Fordham Foundation and the Progressive Policy Institute concludes that nearly 2 million students would not be classified as disabled had their schools provided rigorous, early reading instruction, which the authors say "begs the question of what constitutes a disability." Worse still, the longer students stay in special education, the less likely they are to learn to read.
Yet as Wade Horn and Douglas Tynan observe in The Public Interest, parents have a short-term incentive to get their poor-performing children classified as disabled. Special education students often get personal tutors and note-takers, extra or unlimited time on tests, and freedom from many disciplinary rules. It thus comes as no surprise that 27 percent of students who received special help on their SATs came from families with incomes over $100,000, even though they only comprise 13 of those taking the SAT.
The incentive to identify students as disabled is also strong in schools with large numbers of low-income students, but for a different reason. The Title I program already funds remedial reading and math instruction for children from poor families, presumably at an educational disadvantage because of their economic background. But when school administrators consider Title I along with the IDEA program, Horn and Tynan write, "low-income, low-achieving students can be twofers when it comes to maximizing procurement of federal and state funds." The money tends to be spent on the same set of remedial programs, regardless of whether the students using them are considered poor or disabled.
Special education students cost an average of $13,000 each year compared with the national per-pupil average of $6,200, but the designation also brings in more outside funding. Still, the federal IDEA program only covers about 12 percent of the $41.3 billion states and localities spend on special education, which Horn and Tynan say is "perhaps the largest unfunded federal mandate for education ever placed on state and local government." House and Senate reauthorization plans both call for full funding of the IDEA program, covering 40 percent of state and local costs. The House Republican plan would increase funding by $1 billion a year over 10 years, while the Senate plan calls for a $2.5 billion annual increase over six years.
[Ed.: I recently took my daughter to the local children's library and was struck by the contrast: a bunch of seemingly normal kids playing games, drawing, running, talking, and reading, while the parents' primary topic of conversation was their kid's various learning disabilities.]
The show quoted one town resident who successfully sued the makers of diet drug Redux as saying that jury members might be motivated to expect to receive a portion of the award. Also, local newspaper owner Wyatt Emmerich, who is also named in the suit, commented that local jurors are relatively poor and powerless, and may feel no compunction to stick it to Yankee companies.
The lawsuit demands $6 billion in combined damages.
After a shopper realized that she couldn't buy Israeli gelt (chocolate coins) for Hanukkah, her husband distributed e-mail about the year-old policy, resulting in many phone complaints to the store. The Cooperative's public relations committee issued a statement removing any mention of Palestinians, while assuring shoppers that only two departments—package and bulk—had voted to boycott Israeli products and that they were not motivated by anti-Semitism. "The decision made by these departments does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Rainbow Grocery," the statement read. "Our workforce is an extremely varied group. We have a variety of opinions, and we don't always agree."
A subsequent statement posted on the store's website removed any reference to department-level boycotts, insisting there is "no boycott at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative against Israeli products. At no time did a boycott of Israeli products come up for a vote by the Membership." The statement expressed intolerance for "any workers... who support hatred, racism or any form of religious oppression in or outside of our workplace," while endorsing the Middle East peace process. "It is dialogue that ultimately will provide the avenue for resolution of the difficult and complex issues in the Middle East," the statement read. "Your feedback and commentary are important to us. We hope that the outpouring of intense communication in the past week can be a step in the process of peace, not a step towards the escalation of conflict."
People of rival tribes, sects, even warring countries, rival politics marching side by side.... The beautiful diversity and unity of Mecca is an Islamic phenomenon. It was Meccans, not Americans, who had embraced [Malcolm X], Muslim pilgrims who first judged him by the content of his character.... The profound unity I experienced here was something even more universal than religion. It was a shared deference to the place and the idea of the place. Pilgrims came from all over the world to experience Mecca, like immigrants coming to America in pursuit of a lifelong dream, to feel as an equal. From wherever they came they should not be dissuaded, treated differently, ridiculed, abused. To do so would be to profane the place itself. How familiar. How naive. How American.
The proclamation read, in part: "Our food supply should be safe and wholesome, rather than laced with pathogens, fat, cholesterol, hormones and carcinogens leading to heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic afflictions that each year cripple and kill millions." The proclamation also said that meat farms destroy public lands and waterways, deplete water, soil and energy resources, and that animals raised for food are often mishandled and mistreated.