Senior members of the 9/11 Commission have released their report card on recommendations that remain unfulfilled 10 years after the hijackings. Among the findings they say have not been fully addressed:
An executive-level Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board charged with safe-guarding the rights of Americans remains virtually non-existent.
There is still no comprehensive exit system in place for when foreign nationals leave the United States.
Nationwide standards and consistent security features for identification documents like drivers licenses have not been fully implemented.
“It is still not clear” that the newly created Director of National Intelligence has better integrated the intelligence community, which should foster the sharing of information between agencies about possible threats. “We are also concerned that there have been four DNIs in six years.”
Attempts to make it easier for public safety officials to communicate effectively with one another during disasters “continue to languish.”
The aviation screening system still falls short, and despite a decade of working on the problem, “explosives detection technology lacks reliability and lags in its capability to identify concealed weapons and explosives.”
“When kids feel connected and have a strong sense of belonging to the school community, they do better in school. They persist in school at higher rates and achieve at higher rates. … It’s pretty promising that engaging in social networking sites could help them to develop and deepen their bonds over time.”—Professor Christine Greenhow of the University of Maryland. Greenhow’s new research has found that students build important bonds when they connect with school friends on social networking sites. Read more.
It’s been six years now since Hurricane Katrina made landfall and caused one of the ugliest natural disasters Americans had ever witnessed. Here are some statistics that put the enormity of Katrina into perspective. The photo posted here, by the way, shows thousands of cots set up at Houston’s Reliant Center for victims who evacuated from New Orleans.
92,000 households put up in travel trailers and mobile homes across Louisiana
111 group sites built and maintained by FEMA where such homes were kept
23,177 Katrina and Rita recovery projects financed through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program
915,884 individuals and families aided statewide in Louisiana
54 temporary housing units remain in use by storm victims today
Under pressure from the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the plastics industry, schools officials in California edited a new environmental curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags, interviews and documents show.
The rewritten textbooks and teachers’ guides coincided with a public relations and lobbying effort by the chemistry council to fight proposed plastic bag bans throughout the country. But despite the positive message, activists say there is no debate: Plastic bags kill marine animals, leech toxic chemicals and take an estimated 1,000 years to decompose in landfills.
In 2009, a private consultant hired by California school officials added a new section to the 11th-grade teachers’ edition textbook called “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags.” The title and some of the textbook language were inserted almost verbatim from letters written by the chemistry council.
Although the curriculum includes the environmental hazards of plastic bags, the consultant also added a five-point question to a workbook asking students to list some advantages. According to the teachers’ edition, the correct answer is: “Plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport, and can be reused.” Read more.
The news this week that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is all but certain to enter the Republican presidential field has no doubt come as welcome news to some conservative Californians.
After all, it was a Californian – state Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Chico – who made headlines earlier this year by forming a committee designed to draft Perry into the race. And it was another Californian – La Jolla businessman Robert Schuman – who even more recently formed another committee in the hopes of wooing voters to Perry’s camp.
Looking at the historical record, this enthusiasm for the Texas governor should come as no surprise. Perry long has had his share of admirers in the Golden State, according to Texas campaign finance records.
Since he was elected governor in 2000, Perry – who is known as a prolific fundraiser – has brought in more than $457,000 from California donors – many of them political committees and interest groups with a stake in business causes.
A list of Perry’s California donors follows - read the full article
Chris Rodriguez was taking a piano lesson around 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2008, at a North Oakland music school. Across the street, an inebriated man robbed a gas station, firing three shots at an attendant.
None of the bullets hit their intended target.
Instead, one cut through the school’s wall and Chris’ spine, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, paralyzing the 10-year-old boy’s legs.
That shooting spurred the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis to examine stray bullet injuries and deaths.
The findings from a year’s worth of data, to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show Chris’ case was not an anomaly. Young children make up a disproportionate number of victims, and buildings do not reliably stop bullets.
There is no data set that tracks stray bullet injuries in the United States. So Dr. Garen Wintemute, the program director, and his research team relied on press reports of such shootings from March 2008 through February 2009.
Kids ages 14 and younger made up about 31 percent of the 317 people hit by stray bullets nationwide in cases the study identified (see chart below for full details). This age group accounts for only 20 percent of the general population, U.S. Census Bureau data shows.
A majority of the shootings were “incidental to violence,” but 81 percent of those wounded did not know who pulled the trigger. Read more.
Founder of Americans Elect used tax shelter scheme
The businessman behind an ambitious effort to field an alternative, nonpartisan presidential candidate has paid millions of dollars in delinquent taxes and penalties for his part in an alleged tax shelter scheme, records and interviews show.
Originally slapped with a $150 million tax bill by the IRS, investor Peter Ackerman resolved his tax disputes in June in an undisclosed settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. Ackerman is the founding chairman and president of Americans Elect, the fledgling political group he has seeded with at least $1.55 million.
Yesterday, Americans Elect began turning in 1.6 million signatures to become officially recognized as a political party on the California ballot in time for the 2012 presidential election. The organization plans to nominate a centrist, split-party ticket through an Internet vote in which any registered voter can participate.
The United States Tax Court ruled in 2005 that Ackerman was involved in a tax shelter, and the IRS determined that he owed $150 million. Another tax court ruling in 2009 found that he owed an additional $2.6 million and that his testimony in that case was not credible. Ackerman appealed both cases.
James Joseph, an attorney who handled Ackerman’s federal cases, said the disputes have “nothing to do with an unwillingness to pay his fair share.”
Climate change could release toxins trapped in arctic ice
Despite a global decrease in the production of certain toxic chemicals, we may be in for an onslaught.
That’s because rising global temperatures are causing the release of persistent organic pollutants, such as DDT and PCBs, which have been locked in arctic ice for more than half a century.
Although the chemicals were created to provide societal benefits, such as killing mosquitoes and protecting crops, it didn’t take long for scientists to see they were having devastating effects on the environment.
It’s been four months since tsunami waves generated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan ravaged the harbor in Northern California’s Crescent City, destroying pilings and sinking 16 boats after ripping them from their docks.
But the diminutive harbor is still a long way from functional, crippling to a local economy dependent on the fishing industry. Tsunami victims, meanwhile, are finding little help in disaster relief, much of it in the form of reimbursements and loans they can’t afford.
Excluding the inmates who reside in Pelican Bay State Prison, Crescent City is home to about 4,200 people. The town already took a significant hit when most of the lumber mills and fish processing facilities were shuttered in the last decade, forcing hundreds to leave in search of jobs. Once home to eight lumber mills and three fish processing plants, Crescent City is down to just one of each. Read more.
Photo, via NOAA’s National Ocean Service on Flickr, shows the aftermath of the March 11 tsunami in the inner boat basin in Crescent City.
More than one in three babies in the U.S. is now delivered by cesarean section
This is according to a study released today by the hospital quality tracking group HealthGrades.
Thirty-four percent of single-baby births in 2009 were done surgically, the highest percentage ever.
The study – based on data from 19 states, including California – reflects the growing popularity of C-sections, whose use increased by more than 50 percent from 1996 to 2007. The study also rates individual hospital performance based on maternal care and gynecologic surgery.
From PRI’s The World: The CIA ran a fake vaccine program in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad to try to get a DNA sample from the family of Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, media reports say. The Guardian newspaper says CIA agents recruited a Pakistani doctor there to organize the vaccination drive. The paper says the doctor has since been arrested.
“These penalties are ultimately paid for by Goldman’s shareholders — not by the executives or the salespeople or the traders that actually individually played a role in what happened. [The leaders of Goldman] are still there and they’re all still getting very large bonuses.”—New York Times business reporter Louise Story explains why so few people on Wall Street have faced criminal investigations since the financial meltdown in 2008. (via nprfreshair)
The mother of a deceased 13-year-old middle school student has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Tehachapi Unified School District in California after federal authorities concluded school officials didn’t adequately respond to the gay teen’s complaints of attacks and harassment.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Kern County, accuses school district Superintendent Richard Swanson, Jacobsen Middle School Principal Susan Ortega and several teachers of violating Seth Walsh’s federal civil rights.
In September, Walsh, an eighth-grader at Jacobsen, hanged himself moments after being taunted and attacked by classmates. The suit argues that Walsh’s death resulted from continual public taunting and assaults from classmates that were ignored by school officials.
“I just didn’t have my hand on the trigger.”—Arizona state Sen. Lori Klein reassuring an Arizona Republic reporter as she pointed the laser sighting of her loaded .380 Ruger, without a safety, during an interview outside the Senate chamber. Read full story at the Arizona Republic.