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Ebola Vaccine Push Ramps Up


Ebola Vaccine Push Ramps Up

By Thomas M. Burton

The world had little interest in Ebola in 1997, when cell biologist Nancy J. Sullivan took up her work. Today, Dr. Sullivan would likely be at the center of any potential answer to the world’s severest Ebola outbreak.

A senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center, Dr. Sullivan has worked for years on a vaccine that has been proven to block Ebola in research monkeys. NIH is now racing to telescope what would have been a five- to 10-year testing plan into a few months. The vaccine is scheduled to undergo full human testing by early 2015 and could be in use potentially in time to help stem the disease in stricken West Africa.

here is no assurance this vaccine will work. It has competition from at least one other vaccine, which is running a month or more behind, being tested by the Public Health Agency of Canada and NewLink Genetics Corp. Either one might stop Ebola, or neither.

Experimental Ebola drugs are in the works to help treat existing cases. But these are generally in short supply, whereas GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which would be the manufacturer, thinks it could have one million doses of Dr. Sullivan’s vaccine available next year. That means, if all goes well, it could act as a firewall around a raging epidemic.

Flawed Ebola protocols left U.S. nurses vulnerable, health official says

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the original Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructions for dealing with the virus were taken from the World Health Organization's protocol for Africa, where conditions are much different from those in U.S. hospitals. (Associated Press)

Flawed Ebola protocols left U.S. nurses vulnerable, health official says

- The Washington Times

An Obama administration health official said Sunday that U.S. protocols on Ebola failed because they originally were intended for African field hospitals, while the White House came under another round of attacks for its refusal to restrict travel from nations suffering epidemic outbreaks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the original Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructions for dealing with the virus were taken from the World Health Organization’s protocol for Africa, where conditions are much different from those in U.S. hospitals.

Denmark’s radical plan to deal with radicals: Roll out the welcome mat

Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet

Some progressives praise officials for providing counseling and jobs to militants returning home from fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Catholic Bishops Vote Against Shift in Tone


Catholic Bishops Vote Against Shift in Tone

By Deborah Ball

Catholic bishops voted to water down a report earlier this week that advocated a significant shift in the church’s approach to gays and divorced Catholics.

Catholic bishops voted Saturday to water down a report earlier this week that advocated a significant shift in the church’s approach to gays and divorced Catholics, reflecting a deep split within the church’s leadership.

In a vote Saturday evening, an assembly of nearly 200 bishops, who have been discussing issues concerning the family at a special meeting known as a synod, took their final vote on a working document released Monday. That document, released halfway through the two-week synod, proposed a far more open approach to gays and suggested a path back to the church for divorced Catholics who have remarried to receive communion.

The document had created waves for highlighting the “precious support” that committed gay couples lend to one another, using language that was far more open and welcoming than the Catholic Church has employed in the past when referring to homosexuals.

At the same time, the report suggested that remarried Catholics could receive communion after a period of penance. Currently, the church denies communion to Catholics who have remarried, unless their first marriage is annulled.

A final vote on the document showed broad support for the original sections regarding gays and remarried Catholics, but it fell short of the two-third majority needed to retain them in their original in the synod’s final report.

As a result of the vote, both portions were revised. The section originally applauding the “precious support” sometimes found in same-sex unions was dropped, replaced by language simply saying that gays must be “welcomed with respect and delicacy.” On the topic of remarried Catholics, the final document largely expresses the need for further study on a solution.

To spank or not to spank: Corporal punishment in the US

To spank or not to spank: Corporal punishment in the US

By Stephanie Hanes

  A pro football player uses a switch on his child, and an American cultural divide between races, regions, and religions is exposed.

From the macro data, it seems that corporal punishment is becoming less popular in the United States. Evaluating numerous national surveys taken over the past decades, Murray Straus, an expert on corporal punishment at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, found that the number of parents who say spanking is sometimes necessary dropped from more than 90 percent in 1968 to about 65 or 70 percent in 1994, and then has remained fairly steady through today. Researchers have found that the number of parents who use corporal punishment has also decreased.

What Taylor Swift Mania Says About Teens

What Taylor Swift Mania Says About Teens

By Goal Auzeen Saedi, Ph.D.

What the popularity of music sensation Taylor Swift tells us about modern day tweens and teens.

Of Virtue and Vice, and a Vatican Priest

The Vatican cooperated with the Italian judiciary in the case of Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, turning over documents about his financial activities.

Francesco Pecoraro/Associated Press

The Vatican cooperated with the Italian judiciary in the case of Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, turning over documents about his financial activities.  Accused of money laundering, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano said he was holding money for charity. But some see him as a symbol of a financial system gone awry.

On a clear, warm day, a motorcycle zoomed through a quiet, narrow passageway in the old section of Salerno on Italy’s southwestern coast. The rider slowed in front of an elegant house with a baroque stone gate just long enough to shout “Thief! Thief!” before racing off.

The object of derision, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, was behind the thick walls of his house and did not hear the rider. But the insult would not have surprised him. He has heard quite a few. He’s been called a “consummate delinquent” and a “pleasure-loving prelate.” Even Pope Francis cracked a joke about him, saying that “for sure he did not enter prison because he acted like Blessed Imelda,” before calling events in which the monsignor was involved “a scandal that hurts me.”

Before his arrest in June 2013, the monsignor was a top accountant at the Vatican office that, at that time, managed the Holy See’s real estate and investments. He is currently on trial, accused of money laundering — most notably, of trying to smuggle $26 million from Switzerland to Italy in a private plane, with the help of an Italian secret service agent.

An Italian judge calculated Monsignor Scarano’s wealth at more than $8.2 million, though the Vatican paid the priest just $41,000 a year. Italian authorities seized the 17-room, $1.7 million house in Salerno, where he is now under house arrest, along with many bank accounts; two of them, at the Vatican Bank, were seized by Vatican authorities.

The monsignor’s arrest made front-page news in Italy. “Scandal at the Vatican Bank,” screamed La Repubblica, a Rome-based newspaper. Within a few days, the Vatican Bank’s second and third in command resigned in disgrace. More than a dozen bankers, regulators, prosecutors, lawyers and Vatican insiders were interviewed for this article, and a majority of them consider Monsignor Scarano a small fish in the pond of the Vatican financial system, the accusations against him a mere symptom of much larger problems that Pope Francis is now energetically trying to correct.

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Jameis Winston expected to enter NFL Draft, but won't drop out of FSU

Jameis Winston led Florida State to a dramatic win vs. Notre Dame Saturday night.

Jameis Winston expected to enter NFL Draft, but won't drop out of FSU

Jason La Canfora / CBS Sports NFL Insider

Some have suggested that Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston might drop out of school as a way to avoid the institution's investigation into prior sexual assault charges brought against him, as well as an inquiry into whether he violated NCAA rules for being compensated for autographs, but several sources close to him said that is in no way a consideration.

Winston intends to fight vigilantly to maintain his innocence in both instances, however, given the current state of his relationship with the upper reaches of FSU, it has become a certainty he will declare for the NFL Draft. Winston led the Seminoles to a wild win vs. Notre Dame Saturday night to preserve their national title hopes.

These same sources said a few weeks back that Winston was torn as to his future, pointing to how much he loved playing football and baseball in college, and at that time they suggested that only if the team was still undefeated deep into the season and Winston having a superb season would he leave. Now, however, in the face of the multiple investigations into him, and what has become an adversarial relationship with school officials (excluding coach Jimbo Fisher and key members of the athletic department) it is virtually certain Winston is declaring no matter what happens in the second half of the season.

Fisher has faced pressure from above to further suspended Winston (he missed a game earlier this season after shouting an obscenity on campus), but has steadfastly resisted, sources said, with Winston adamant he did not accept money in exchange for autographs. No charges were pressed regarding the allegations made against him by a fellow student and Winston has denied any wrongdoing regarding that as well.

“There is no upside in waiting to go the NFL now, after all of this,” one source said.

Despite all that's swirling around him, Winston could still well end up being a top 10 pick.

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Why our government doesn’t look like the people it’s supposed to represent.

Voting by Numbers

Why our government doesn’t look like the people it’s supposed to represent. 

By Jelani Cobb

October is to political prognosticators what February is to florists and April is to accountants; namely, the time when a profession that’s peripheral to our daily concerns momentarily becomes the center of our attention. This season’s forecasting for the midterm elections is largely occupied with the partisan balance of the Senate. (The Times’ Upshot column has it seventy-one per cent likely that the Republicans will gain control. FiveThirtyEight puts the G.O.P.’s odds at sixty-one per cent.) The uncertainty hinges on about ten races that are too close to call, despite the finely calibrated statistical divination of experts. There is, however, one outcome that requires no sophisticated simulations to predict: the Senate will not look like the country. There are currently eighty male senators. Women, who make up fifty-one per cent of the population, hold just twenty per cent of Senate seats. The Senate, notoriously, is not proportional in its representation, but the highest number of seats that women can hope to hold next year will still be fewer than thirty. Currently, three states have two female senators, but thirty-three states are represented by two men.

This kind of imbalance is not limited to the upper chamber of the legislative branch. According to “Who Leads Us,” a report issued earlier this month by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, an offshoot of the Women Donors Network, which works to increase the number of female and minority elected officials, the makeup of American politics is still overwhelmingly dissimilar to the demographics of the country. Discussions of the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, have focussed on the asymmetry between demographics and political leadership there, but, as the report makes clear, this is an issue of degree, not of kind. Ferguson’s city council doesn’t reflect its electorate, but it does resemble American politics. Whites, who constitute sixty-three per cent of the population, occupy ninety per cent of federal, state, and county-wide elected offices. Men compose forty-nine per cent of the populace but seventy-one per cent of officeholders. New York City is one of the most racially diverse cities in the nation, but whites, who make up thirty-three per cent of the population, hold fifty-one per cent of the seats on the city council. The State Legislature ranks forty-second in gender parity, behind far less liberal states—among them Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi—and forty-fourth in proportionate representation of minorities.

There is something distasteful about the idea of measuring politics in terms of percentages. It carries the whiff of a quota system and suggests that one’s interests can be adequately represented only by a kind of political color coördination. Yet nearly a century after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, and forty-nine years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, it remains true that the groups that travelled the most difficult route to enfranchisement are the most underrepresented at every level of government. This situation is at least mildly confounding. A Gallup poll conducted in July found that sixty-three per cent of respondents believed that we would be better off with more women in elected office. (The partisan divide on the question was noteworthy: seventy-five per cent of Democrats agreed with the sentiment; forty-six per cent of Republicans did.)

The fact that underrepresented groups can vote, and do so in substantial numbers (black women had the highest voter turnout of any segment in the country in 2008 and 2012), begs a question: Why aren’t there more such candidates?
Black Vote Seen as Last Hope for Democrats to Hold Senate

Black Vote Seen as Last Hope for Democrats to Hold Senate

The confidential memo from a former pollster for President Obama contained a blunt warning for Democrats. Written this month with an eye toward Election Day, it predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not do more to get black voters to the polls.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, the pollster, wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

Mr. Belcher’s assessment points to an urgent imperative for Democrats: To keep Republicans from taking control of the Senate, as many are predicting, they need black voters in at least four key states. Yet the one politician guaranteed to generate enthusiasm among African Americans is the same man many Democratic candidates want to avoid: Mr. Obama.

Now, Democrats are deploying other prominent black elected officials and other surrogates, buttressed by sophisticated voter targeting efforts, to stoke black turnout. At the White House, the president is waging an under-the-radar campaign, recording video advertisements, radio interviews and telephone calls specifically targeting his loyal African-American base.

“Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” said Representative Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, referring to African-American and Latino voters. “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.”

Harvard Liberals Hate New Campus Sex Laws

Harvard Liberals Hate New Campus Sex Laws

New regulations regarding how to handle sexual assault at Harvard have attracted an interesting cast of opponents, and echo the national debate about sex on campus.

The increasingly contentious debate about the proper response to sexual assault on college campuses took a new turn on Oct. 15, when The Boston Globe ran an op-ed signed by twenty-eight current and retired Harvard Law School professors expressing “strong objections” to the school’s new Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures. The sharply worded statement not only slammed the university administration for forcing the policy on all of Harvard’s schools without adequate discussion but also charged that the new procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct “lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process [and] are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.” It even went so far as to urge Harvard to defy federal guidelines on addressing such complaints and “stand up for principle in the face of funding threats.” This is the latest, and biggest, volley in a mounting revolt against the overreach of government-led initiatives to curb campus rape—coming from unusual suspects.

Thus, the Harvard signatories include not only noted criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who has long been viewed as right of center in the culture wars, but preeminent African-American law professor and Barack Obama’s mentor Charles Ogletree and several renowned female jurists such as veteran civil rights attorney Nancy Gertner, constitutional scholar Martha Field, and feminist legal theorist Janet Halley. This protest is not easy to dismiss as a right-wing anti-woman backlash.

The Harvard 28 join other liberal and feminist dissenters from the campus anti-rape crusade. Among them is George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, a public interest attorney who has not only battled the tobacco and food industries but championed women’s rights in major sex discrimination cases, notably the push to force the Citadel military academy to admit women in the late 1980s. (His website boasts that he has been called a “radical feminist.”) In the past several months, Banzhaf has focused much of his attention on what he believes is a massive attack on the rights of students accused of sexual misconduct. The title of one of his press releases speaks for itself: “Illegals at Border Have More Rights Than College Students Accused of Rape.”

Meanwhile, a new California law that requires schools to use an “affirmative consent” standard in cases of alleged sexual misconduct has inspired a groundswell of similar state and local initiatives. (Harvard, so far, has rejected such a policy as too vague.) But it has also drawn objections from people like feminist attorney and author Wendy Kaminer, New York columnist Jonathan Chait, and Nation blogger Michelle Goldberg. The liberal backlash against so-called “Yes Means Yes” laws may have gotten an inadvertent boost from an article penned in its defense by Vox co-founder Ezra Klein. Klein appeared to agree that the legislation was likely to result in unfair punishments—though he later claimed this was a misunderstanding—but argued that it was good precisely because it had the potential to strike “fear and confusion” into men, since the problem of rape was so terrible and pervasive that only “ugly” remedies against it could be effective. It’s hard to think of an argument more blatantly illiberal.

Paranoid Politics in America Strike Deep

By Lewis Beale

Fifty Years ago, “The Paranoid Style of American Politics” changed how we think about modern conservatism. The American polity has been dealing with it ever since.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Fox News contributor and Tea Party favorite, thinks America will be in such a state of anarchy by 2016 that the Presidential election might actually be cancelled.

Phyllis Schlafly, the long-time right-wing activist, believes President Obama is deliberately introducing Ebola into America, to make it more like Africa.

And Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) claims at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught at the Mexican border (A charge refuted by the Department of Homeland Security).

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” wrote historian Richard Hofstadter in his groundbreaking essay, “The Paranoid Style In American Politics.” “In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers. … It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.”

Warren in Minnesota: ‘The game is rigged’

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks to a crowd during a rally to urge the reelection of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) on the campus of the University of Colorado, in Boulder. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Warren in Minnesota: ‘The game is rigged’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) brought her populist message Saturday to this small college town to rev up the final weeks of Sen. Al Franken's reelection campaign, but also to claim the mantle of the modern liberal movement's political godfather.

Speaking before more than 400 people at Carleton College, Warren repeatedly invoked the spirit of the late Paul Wellstone, the fiery liberal senator who died 12 years ago this month in a plane crash during his reelection campaign. Wellstone remains a revered figure in Minnesota politics, and his brand of populism -- out of step in the Clintonian Democratic Party of the 1990s -- is now mainstream among leading liberal activists. Warren has become the most prominent public face of that movement, and the Wellstone disciples in this town 40 miles south of Minneapolis gave their approval Saturday.

"The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it," Warren said to loud cheers.

"She's a rock star," Franken told reporters afterward. 

Sweden searches for suspected Russian submarine off Stockholm

Swedish search

Sweden searches for suspected Russian submarine off Stockholm

Peter Walker

Helicopters, minesweepers and 200 service personnel mobilised in search after tipoff about ‘foreign underwater activity’

Swedish ships, helicopters and troops are scouring the waters off Stockholm for what was officially described as “foreign underwater activity”, amid reports that a Russian submarine might have had mechanical problems while on a secret mission in the archipelago.

In scenes reminiscent of the cold war, when neutral Sweden regularly swept the island-strewn Baltic Sea coastline around the capital for Soviet spy submarines, more than 200 service personnel were mobilised along with helicopters, minesweepers and an anti-submarine corvette fitted with stealth-type anti-radar masking.

The operation began late on Friday following what Sweden’s ministry said was a reliable tipoff about “foreign underwater activity” in the archipelago. The officer leading the operation declined to give more details, saying only that there had been no armed contact.

“We still consider the information we received as very trustworthy,” Captain Jonas Wikström told reporters. “I, as head of operations, have therefore decided to increase the number of units in the area.”

The Svenska Dagbladet newspaper said it was believed the intruder was a Russian submarine or mini-submarine that may have been damaged. It said the operation was launched on Friday after a visual sighting of a “human-made object” in the waters. The day before, Swedish intelligence operators intercepted a radio conversation in Russian on a frequency usually reserved for emergencies, the paper said.

Another signal was intercepted on Friday night, but this time the content was encrypted. However, the report said, Swedish intelligence was able to pinpoint the locations of the participants. One was in the waters off Stockholm, while the other could be traced to Kaliningrad, the port that is the home of Russia’s Baltic Sea fleet.

GOP schooled on education politics

GOP schooled on education politics


Students and their teacher are pictured. | AP Photo

Republicans thought this would be the year to make education their winning issue. The plan was simple: Talk up the GOP’s support for school choice — including vouchers to help parents pay for private school — and win the hearts of moms everywhere.

It hasn’t worked out like that.

Instead, in Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Republicans are on the defensive about education. It isn’t usually a top-tier concern for voters, but Democrats see issues such as college affordability and K-12 funding as their best chance to motivate the on-again, off-again voters who often sit out midterms.

“The plethora of education messages hitting races at every level is unprecedented,” said Karen White, political director for the National Education Association, which plans to spend as much as $60 million this cycle. “I really do believe it’s the perfect storm around every officeholder in the country.”

Poll: Likely Voters Favor GOP-Led Congress

Poll: Likely Voters Favor GOP-Led Congress

By Reid J. Epstein

 Voters likely to cast ballots in the midterm elections favor a Republican-led Congress over a Democratic one, 49% to 44%, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg survey finds.

Registered voters, a larger group than likely voters, also said they’d prefer the election to produce a Republican-led Congress, a first since the poll began asking five weeks ago. The GOP held a lead of 45% to 43% on the question among registered voters.

The survey is yet more evidence that Democratic voters are tuning out the midterms. Democrats carried a 10-point lead among low-interest voters, who the party is trying to reach and motivate with vigorous turnout operations across the country. Republicans carried a 10-point lead in the new survey among voters who said they were highly interested in the election.

Want to Ace That Test? Get the Right Kind of Sleep

Jillian Dos Santos studies at her home in Columbia, Mo. In 2013, she <a mce_thref="">successfully advocated for a later start times at her high school</a>.

Want to Ace That Test? Get the Right Kind of Sleep

By Benedict Carey

Sleep. Parents crave it, but children and especially teenagers, need it. When educators and policymakers debate the relationship between sleep schedules and school performance and — given the constraints of buses, sports and everything else that seem so much more important — what they should do about it, they miss an intimate biological fact: Sleep is learning, of a very specific kind. Scientists now argue that a primary purpose of sleep is learning consolidation, separating the signal from the noise and flagging what is most valuable.

School schedules change slowly, if at all, and the burden of helping teenagers get the sleep they need is squarely on parents. Can we help our children learn to exploit sleep as a learning tool (while getting enough of it)?

Absolutely. There is research suggesting that different kinds of sleep can aid different kinds of learning, and by teaching “sleep study skills,” we can let our teenagers enjoy the sense that they’re gaming the system.

Sleep isn’t merely rest or downtime; the brain comes out to play when head meets pillow. A full night’s sleep includes a large dose of several distinct brain states, including REM sleep – when the brain flares with activity and dreams – and the netherworld of deep sleep, when it whispers to itself in a language that is barely audible. Each of these states developed to handle one kind of job, so getting sleep isn’t just something you “should do” or need. It’s far more: It’s your best friend when you want to get really good at something you’ve been working on.

So you want to remember your Spanish vocabulary (or “How I Met Your Mother” trivia or Red Sox batting averages)?

Easy. Hit the hay at your regular time; don’t stay up late checking Instagram. Studies have found that the first half of the night contains the richest dose of so-called deep sleep — the knocked-out-cold variety — and this is when the brain consolidates facts and figures and new words. This is retention territory, and without it (if we stay up too late), we’re foggier the next day on those basic facts. I explained this to my daughter, Flora, who was up until 2 a.m. or later on many school nights, starting in high school. She ignored it, or seemed to. Learning Arabic is what turned her around, I think. She wants to be good at it, and having to learn not only a new vocabulary but also a completely different writing system is, in the beginning, all retention.

Why Did the Los Angeles Superintendent Resign?

Why Did the Los Angeles Superintendent Resign?

Brenda Iasevoli

In his efforts to improve his district, John Deasy took risks and made impressive gains. He also made mistakes and earned some enemies along the way.

Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent John Deasy resigned on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation over whether he’d be ousted by the school board or leave the post of his own accord.

“Needless to say this has been hard work, in fact exhausting, work.” The beleaguered superintendent wrote in his resignation letter. “I have neglected my family, my health, and my parents’ heath. We all carry the ball for a while, and then give it to others to continue. I have had this amazing opportunity and privilege. I am proud and honored, but it is time for a transition.”

After three-and-a-half years, much of it mired in controversy over technology missteps like the rollout of a $1.3 billion iPad program and a court case that struck down teacher tenure laws in California, the schools chief and the board have agreed to part ways.

Deasy will stay with the nation’s second largest school district on a paid “special assignment” through the end of the year, while his predecessor as schools chief, Ramon Cortines, will fill the position until a new superintendent can be tapped. Cortines served a brief stint as Los Angeles Unified superintendent in 2000 and held the position again from 2009 to 2011, when Deasy took over.

Deasy’s tenure has been contentious because of what his critics say was his unwillingness to compromise on hot-button issues, including teacher evaluation and employment. But he also presided over improved test scores and graduation rates even as the district was mired in debt. Suspension rates have dropped dramatically and dropout rates are on the decline.

School board member Steve Zimmer believes at least some of those improvements will continue if the new superintendent is equally committed and can also find ways to bring along some of Deasy’s opponents. “I don’t think the ending of the Deasy era is a happy moment,” says Zimmer. “How do we keep our urgency and refocus our energy on the collaboration needed to bring the change this district needs?”

Under Deasy’s leadership, the projected graduation rate for the 2013–2014 school year is 77 percent, an increase of 12 percentage points over the previous school year, and almost 30 points higher than the rate for 2008.  While dropout rates have declined more slowly, with a three-percentage-point drop from the previous year, the suspension rate has seen a drop from 8 percent in 2008 to today’s 1.5 percent, largely a result of Los Angeles Unified’s ban on suspensions for “willful defiance,” back in May 2013.


Zimmer credits Deasy with leading the way on restructuring school discipline policies. “He is someone who relentlessly combs data through an equity lens,” says Zimmer. “He uncovered the willful defiance issue and no one could turn away from it. The effort will have lasting impact for educational equity in Los Angeles.”

But on other controversial issues, he was often a lone crusader who failed to win critical support from the school board.

Take the Vergara v. California trial, which in June overturned state’s laws governing teacher tenure, seniority, and dismissal. Deasy was the prosecution’s star witness. According to Zimmer, who supports some of the changes in teacher protection, Deasy never even discussed the case with the school board. Zimmer was particularly disturbed that Deasy seemed to enjoy taking down laws that were put in place to protect the 28,000 teachers he leads.

“You take something that needs a scalpel and careful instrumentation and instead you take out the sledgehammer,” says Zimmer. “Deasy wasn’t careful enough to avoid the perception that he enjoyed using the sledgehammer.  He fought for things he really believed in, which is fine, but he wasn’t careful about how it would be perceived by the people who have to teach our kids everyday.”

WH: Klain’s work handing out stimulus money good experience for Ebola czar

White House: Ron Klain’s work handing out stimulus money good experience for Ebola czar

Byron York

President Obama’s choice of veteran Democratic politico Ron Klain to serve as Ebola czar stunned many Republicans. Their first objection is that Klain has no experience in public health or infectious diseases. But in a larger sense, GOP critics see Klain, a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, more as a political operative than a potential leader of the fight against Ebola.

What qualifies Klain for the job, the formal title of which is Ebola Response Coordinator? First, the White House makes no claim of any expertise in health matters. Instead, officials point to Klain’s impressive Washington resume — the jobs with Gore and Biden, plus chief of staff for Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno and top positions with Senate Democrats.

But those are job titles. What specifically has Klain done in those positions that would prepare him for the Ebola assignment? White House officials cite Klain’s work in Biden’s office, overseeing the dispensing of billions of federal dollars through the American Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus, as evidence that Klain can handle a problem like Ebola.

“He helped oversee implementation of the Recovery Act, a major interagency and intergovernmental project,” wrote White House spokesman Eric Schultz in response to an emailed question. “Under Klain’s watch, that team: 1) Met and exceeded the plan for deploying the stimulus on time, in a complex interagency scenario involving almost every agency of the federal government; 2) Operationalized an unprecedented commitment to transparency — quarterly reports on, overseen by Independent Recovery Transparency and Accountability Board; and 3) Defied expectations for the very low level of fraud — widely acclaimed at the time.”

Obama admin. to allow thousands of Haitians into U.S. without visas

President Obama attends a news conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 2013. (Associated Press) ** FILE **

Obama admin. to allow thousands of Haitians into U.S. without visas

- The Washington Times

The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee took the Obama administration to task Friday for its “irresponsible” plan to allow as many as 100,000 Haitians to immigrate to the U.S. without a visa.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said the administration’s Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program — which will allow thousands of Haitians awaiting a U.S. visa to enter the country and legally apply for work permits — is “an irresponsible overreach of the executive branch’s authority.”

Dutch Biker Gang Joins Fight Against Islamic State

Dutch Biker Gang Joins Fight Against Islamic State

Members of the Dutch motorcycle gang "No Surrender" have joined Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq to fight against Islamic State.

Longing for a Person That Can’t Love You Back

Longing for a Person That Can’t Love You Back

By Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D.

Are you losing yourself in a friendship/sexual relationship in which you give of yourself without getting much if anything in return?

If you are in love with a person with whom you have a friendship/sexual relationship, who is kind, compassionate and a "good friend", but is unable to reciprocate your adoration, it can be extraordinarily painful to navigate that relationship in a way that is not consuming for you. It’s hard not to feel as if you are losing yourself. In order to be "in" it and keep it alive, you continually infuse life into the relationship, if you can call it that, by having to compromise your well-deserved longings for more. You try to convince yourself that you are okay with less in return, just to keep the connection. You may pretend it is not so, but this experience levels you and shatters you over and over. You become more confused about what you deserve and can have in this or any potential romantic relationship for that matter. It also heightens the desire, the incentive, the overwhelming "need" to win over this person once and for all so that your self-esteem will be "restored."

The Nightmarish Politics of Ebola, Part 2

An ambulance carrying Amber Joy Vinson, the second health-care worker to be diagnosed with Ebola in Texas, arrives at Emory University Hospital on October 15th.

The Nightmarish Politics of Ebola, Part 2

By John Cassidy

 In a country with a population of more than three hundred million, just two people who haven’t travelled to West Africa have contracted Ebola, and they both treated Duncan when he was dying in an isolation ward. It is well established that most victims of the disease only become contagious when they develop noticeable symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. So far as we know, the people who were with Duncan in a Dallas apartment after he arrived from Liberia and started to get sick appear to be fine. When President Obama said on Wednesday, “It is not like the flu. It is not airborne.… The likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low,” he was only restating what virtually every health expert has been saying for months.

At this stage, though, such reassurances are wearing a bit thin. To many ordinary Americans, two Dallas nurses going down with Ebola is a serious outbreak of the disease, and they fear that it won’t remain confined to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Even granted that the current dangers of Ebola have been greatly overblown, this isn’t a wholly irrational posture. After all, in the early stages of any outbreak of an infectious disease, the chances of getting sick are vanishingly small.

It’s all very well for the Centers for Disease Control to call for calm. But with the news that Vinson contacted the C.D.C. before setting out for Dallas, public confidence in the agency and its leader, Tom Frieden, has taken another hit.
He’s used to taking it on the chin. That’s what makes Jay Leno relatable.

Jay Leno's comedy career began when he was in college. (Post)

He’s used to taking it on the chin. That’s what makes Jay Leno relatable.

Geoff Edgers

This year’s Mark Twain Prize honoree appeals to Middle America with his PG-rated humor. After “The Tonight Show,” there was no question about whether he would return to stand-up.

Over his career, Leno has certainly reached a wide audience, particularly the mainstream market known as Middle America. This skill made Leno the commercial king of late night. It also turned him into a punching bag. Letterman, crushed when passed over in favor of Leno when Johnny Carson retired in 1992, takes swipes at him from his perch at CBS. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel has blasted Leno as a sellout “who hasn’t been a good stand-up in 20 years.” That came in 2010, after Leno, who had stepped down from “The Tonight Show,” returned after the celebrated flameout of his successor, Conan O’Brien. In that drama, Leno, the corporate lackey, was recast as bully.

Jerry Seinfeld, a longtime Leno friend, still bristles at the attacks.

“There’s no story,” says Seinfeld. “Conan’s ratings on ‘The Tonight Show’ are not a secret. It’s like Hurricane Sandy. We can chart exactly what happened here.”

For Bill Maher, the O’Brien debacle provides prime evidence that Leno is anything but a showbiz weasel. In fact, he could probably use a handler.

“The reason Jay Leno lost his job twice when he was number one is because he had nobody whispering into the ears of those idiots at NBC,” said Maher. “Whereas Conan had somebody saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get rid of that old guy.’ ”

Jay Leno doesn’t act like a star. He travels alone, carrying his own garment bag with his suit. In his typical uniform — denim shirt and jeans — he walks into the closest restaurant in Lancaster, orders a rack of ribs and fills a plastic cup with soda from a self-serve dispenser.

He is approachable and warm to all, partly because that’s just his nature.

Presenters at Leno gigs don’t get riders demanding chilled San Pellegrino or bouncers guarding the green room. One time, Leno says, he was so low-key with a booker, he showed up to find no microphone. “You said you didn’t need anything,” Leno remembers being told, adding that he did the show unamplified.

“Show business is not that hard,” Leno says backstage in Lancaster. “People make it difficult. I don’t want to be a pain in the ass.”

Bitter last days of The Greatest

Bitter last days of The Greatest

By David Jones for the Daily Mail

His tongue as fast as his fists but today Ali can barely walk - ground down by Parkinson's and beset by a venomous family feud.

Back in his imperious heyday, Muhammad Ali was acutely aware that he was carving his place in history. 

A fearless champion of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War protest, as well as the boxing ring, he was one of those rare sportsmen who have shaped the course of world events.

Determined to ensure he would be remembered as he saw himself and not as others saw him, Ali — who was never short of self-admiration — therefore embarked on an extraordinary project designed to burnish his image for posterity.

When he was away from home — which was very often — he would wire the phone in his hotel room to a whirring, spool-reel tape-machine, dial up one of his nine (acknowledged) children and record their rambling, intimate conversations.

Knowing this so-called ‘audio-diary’ would become a key primary source for future chroniclers of his story, he was particularly keen to present himself as a devout family man, which couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Even Ali’s most loyal defenders wouldn’t pretend that his personal life has been anything other than a protracted train-wreck. 

Three bitter divorces, a series of affairs, two illegitimate daughters, and a procession of other children who claim him as their father stand testimony to that.

Until now, few outside Ali’s inner circle were aware the many hours of tape-recordings existed.

The athlete (pictured in 1974 when he was the heavyweight champion of the world) will be grateful the new film does not remind his admirers of the tragic figure he has become  
Russian tennis boss banned for calling Venus, Serena ‘the Williams brothers’

Venus (l.) and Serena Williams are called 'the Williams brothers' by the head of the Russian Tennis Federation who also referred to the American stars as 'scary.'

Russian tennis boss banned for calling Venus, Serena ‘the Williams brothers’


The president of the Russian Tennis Federation has been banned from the women's tour for a year and fined $25,000 for calling Venus and Serena Williams "the Williams brothers."

Shamil Tarpischev made the comments on a Russian television chat show earlier this month.

Urgant went on to say: "I have tremendous respect for them (the Williams) but once one of the sisters passed next to me and I found myself in her shadow for about 40 seconds."

The Russian tennis boss said the sisters were "scary" to look at.

How High Is Your Horizon?

How High Is Your Horizon?

By Lawrence T. White, Ph.D. and Steven Jackson

A team of researchers crammed themselves into a classroom in Japan. They passed out art supplies to the students and said, “Draw a landscape with a horizon.” On the other side of the world, the same scene played out in a Canadian classroom. Later, the researchers closely examined one detail—the placement of the horizon line. Why?

The placement of the horizon in a piece of art tells us a lot about the culture in which that art was made. If the horizon is high on the page, the field of information is deep, and there’s ample room for contextual details in the frame. This kind of visual layout reflects a holistic cognitive style, which is more common in East Asian cultures. If the horizon is low on the page, there’s less background space in the frame, and more of the page is taken up by one or two objects in the foreground. This kind of visual layout reflects the analytic style that is more common among Westerners.

Wonder Woman: Why Role Models Matter to Young Girls

Wonder Woman: Why Role Models Matter to Young Girls

By Jean Kim, M.D.

Positive media role models can make a big impact on young girls. Wonder Woman taught me confidence and strength and that black hair is beautiful

Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama Is Said to Seethe

Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama Is Said to Seethe

Beneath the calming reassurance that President Obama has repeatedly offered during the Ebola crisis, there is a deepening frustration, even anger, with how the government has handled key elements of the response.

Those frustrations spilled over when Mr. Obama convened his top aides in the Cabinet room after canceling his schedule on Wednesday. Medical officials were providing information that later turned out to be wrong. Guidance to local health teams was not adequate. It was unclear which Ebola patients belonged in which threat categories.

“It’s not tight,” a visibly angry Mr. Obama said of the response, according to people briefed on the meeting. He told aides they needed to get ahead of events and demanded a more hands-on approach, particularly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “He was not satisfied with the response,” a senior official said.

The difference between the public and private messages illustrates the dilemma Mr. Obama faces on Ebola — and a range of other national security issues — as he tries to galvanize the response to a public health scare while not adding to the sense of panic fueled by 24-hour cable TV and the nonstop Twitter chatter.

“Part of the challenge is to be assertive, to be in command, and yet not feed a kind of panic that could easily evolve here,” said David Axelrod, a close adviser to the president in his first term. “It’s not enough to doggedly and persistently push for answers in meetings. You have to be seen doggedly and persistently pushing for answers.”

For two turbulent weeks, White House officials have sought to balance those imperatives: insisting the dangers to the American public were being overstated in the news media, while also moving quickly to increase the president’s demonstration of action.


Oxfam: World must do more to stop Ebola becoming ‘disaster of our time’

Ebola crisis, Monrovia, Liberia - 14 Oct 2014

Oxfam: World must do more to stop Ebola becoming ‘disaster of our time’

David Batty

Charity says international community has two months to curb deadly virus but laments crippling shortfall in military support.

Countries must step up efforts to tackle the spread of Ebola in west Africa by providing more troops, funding and medical staff to prevent it from becoming the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”, Oxfam has warned.

The charity said the world had less than two months to curb the deadly virus, which has killed 4,500 people, but noted a crippling shortfall in military personnel to provide logistical support across the countries worst affected – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Its stark warning came as Britain and the US said the international community will be responsible for a substantial loss of life in west Africa and a greater threat across the world unless the financial and medical response to Ebola was greatly increased. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said a failure to respond could turn Ebola into “a scourge like HIV or polio”.

Oxfam said that while Britain was leading the way in Europe’s response to the epidemic, countries which have failed to commit troops – including Italy and Spain – were “in danger of costing lives”.

Drinking Coffee, for Your Health

Drinking Coffee, for Your Health

Research suggests that a person's consumption of the beverage is determined in part by his or her DNA—and that its benefits could extend beyond a caffeine buzz.

By Andrew Giambrone

A study released last Tuesday by an international consortium of caffeine scholars may help explain why some of these customers visited more often than others. Spearheaded by Marilyn Cornelis, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, the team investigated the link between genetics and coffee consumption. By analyzing DNA as well as data on 120,000 adults of European and African-American heritage, the researchers identified eight genetic variants that predispose individuals to seek out and drink caffeine.

“Our results show that people are naturally consuming the amount of coffee that allows them to maintain their optimal level of caffeine” to get that good caffeine feeling without becoming jittery, Cornelis told me. “If we need more, we’re reaching for it.”

Biology may or may not be destiny, but what’s clear is that recent research has suggested a myriad health benefits to the prosaic (and sometimes romanticized) pastime of drinking coffee. In 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that showed coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of death. By using data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-AARP Diet and Health Study, which involved more than 400,000 participants and 52,000 deaths, the researchers found that those who drank coffee were less likely to report having diabetes, or to perish from “most major causes of death in both men and women, including heart disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.” Overall, people who drank at least two cups of coffee a day had a 12.5 percent lower chance of dying during the 14 years in which the study was conducted than those who didn’t. Still, the same study found that coffee-drinkers were more likely to smoke, and that drinking coffee did not have a significant effect on cancer incidence. Likewise, a study published in 2013 by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health linked coffee consumption to a 50 percent reduction in suicide risk among both men and women.

“We need to understand why so many people like and drink coffee, and if we use that understanding to investigate coffee drinking in better detail, we might begin to understand the major illnesses that affect mankind”

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