Friday, May 25, 2012

New Orleans To Be Largest U.S City Without A Daily Newspaper

School Students To Be Tracked By RFID Chips Implanted Into ID's

Northside Independent School District plans to track students next year on two of its campuses using technology implanted in their student identification cards in a trial that could eventually include all 112 of its schools and all of its nearly 100,000 students.

District officials said the Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) tags would improve safety by allowing them to locate students — and count them more accurately at the beginning of the school day to help offset cuts in state funding, which is partly based on attendance.

Northside, the largest school district in Bexar County, plans to modify the ID cards next year for all students attending John Jay High School, Anson Jones Middle School and all special education students who ride district buses. That will add up to about 6,290 students.

The school board unanimously approved the program late Tuesday but, in a rarity for Northside trustees, they hotly debated it first, with some questioning it on privacy grounds.

State officials and national school safety experts said the technology was introduced in the past decade but has not been widely adopted. Northside's deputy superintendent of administration, Brian Woods, who will take over as superintendent in July, defended the use of RFID chips at Tuesday's meeting, comparing it to security cameras. He stressed that the program is only a pilot and not permanent.

“We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said.

“Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that.”

Chip readers on campuses and on school buses can detect a student's location but can't track them once they leave school property. Only authorized administrative officials will have access to the information, Gonzalez said.

“This way we can see if a student is at the nurse's office or elsewhere on campus, when they normally are counted for attendance in first period,” he said.

Gonzalez said the district plans to send letters to parents whose students are getting the the RFID-tagged ID cards. He said officials understand that students could leave the card somewhere, throwing off the system. They cost $15 each, and if lost, a student will have to pay for a new one.

Parents interviewed outside Jay and Jones as they picked up their children Thursday were either supportive, skeptical or offended.

Veronica Valdorrinos said she would be OK if the school tracks her daughter, a senior at Jay, as she always fears for her safety. Ricardo and Juanita Roman, who have two daughters there, said they didn't like that Jay was targeted.

Gonzalez said the district picked schools with lower attendance rates and staff willing to pilot the tags.

Some parents said they understood the benefits but had reservations over privacy.

“I would hope teachers can help motivate students to be in their seats instead of the district having to do this,” said Margaret Luna, whose eighth-grade granddaughter at Jones will go to Jay next year. “But I guess this is what happens when you don't have enough money.”

The district plans to spend $525,065 to implement the pilot program and $136,005 per year to run it, but it will more than pay for itself, predicted Steve Bassett, Northside's assistant superintendent for budget and finance. If successful, Northside would get $1.7 million next year from both higher attendance and Medicaid reimbursements for busing special education students, he said.

But the payoff could be a lot bigger if the program goes districtwide, Bassett said.

He said the program was one way the growing district could respond to the Legislature's cuts in state education funding. Northside trimmed its budget last year by $61.4 million.

Two school districts in the Houston area — Spring and Santa Fe ISDs — have used the technology for several years and have reported gains of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for improved attendance. Spring ISD spokeswoman Karen Garrison said the district, one-third the size of Northside, hasn't had any parent backlash.

In Tuesday's board debate, trustee M'Lissa M. Chumbley said she worried that parents might feel the technology violated their children's privacy rights. She didn't want administrators tracking teachers' every move if they end up outfitted with the tags, she added.

“I think this is overstepping our bounds and is inappropriate,” Chumbley said. “I'm honestly uncomfortable about this.”

Daughter Of Communist Cuban Dictator Raul Casto Says She Would Vote For Obama

One News Now---The daughter of Cuban dictator Raul Castro has told an audience in San Francisco that she would vote for Barack Obama if she lived in this country.

The Obama administration granted Mariela Castro a special visa to attend a San Francisco meeting where she promoted homosexual rights.

"If we don't change our patriarchal and homophobic culture ... we cannot advance as a new society, and that's what we want -- the power of emancipation through socialism," she said. "We will establish relationships on the basis of social justice and social equality .... It seems like a Utopia, but we can change it."

During her 90-minute appearance in San Francisco, she hailed Barack Obama’s support for homosexual "marriage" and the loosening of U.S.-Cuba travel restrictions, saying: “I would vote for President Obama.”

A number of Cuban-American politicians have criticized the State Department -- which provided special agents as Castro's security detail in San Francisco -- for issuing Castro an entry visa. They noted that U.S. rules prohibit Communist Party members and other high-ranking Cuban government officials from entry without special dispensation.
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More Americans Becoming Pr-Lifers

ONE NEWS NOW---A new Gallup poll shows more and more Americans identifying as pro-life.

Exactly 50 percent express pro-life beliefs, while the number claiming to be pro-abortion has dropped to 41 percent -- a record since Gallup began sampling public opinion on the issue in 1995.

"It's the first time I believe since Roe v. Wade that we've seen that kind of spread -- and it's something that we can be deeply grateful for," says Rob Schwarzwalder of the Family Research Council.
 Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List, says Americans now understand the definition of pro-choice.

"It means pro-abortion -- taking the life of an innocent, unborn child," she states. "And ... despite what the pundits said when Roe v. Wade was the Supreme Court decision that was the law of the land, Americans are uncomfortable with abortion."

Schwarzwalder offers his theories as to why more people are pro-life.

"I think as people understand more and more about what takes place within the womb, particularly younger people, they understand that what we're dealing with is not just a collection of cells and tissue and so forth," he offers. "And I also think the ultrasounds that we now have are so sharp and crisp that you cannot deny [that] that's a person."

According to Musgrave, pro-life is now the new normal.

"Just wait until we keep educating people about Planned Parenthood being the largest abortion-provider in the country, [being] a profit-driven, abortion-centered business -- and just tell Americans what that wonderful word 'choice' really means," says the pro-life spokeswoman. "You'll see more people becoming pro-life."
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U.S Soldier Says The Reason He Planned Bombing On Fort Hood Was His Islamic Beliefs

WACO, Texas (AP) — A Muslim U.S. soldier accused of planning to bomb Fort Hood troops says he wasn't seeking vengeance but justice for people in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a recording played at his federal trial Wednesday.

Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo is heard telling his mother during a recorded jail visit that "their suffering is my suffering."

Abdo, 22, is accused of planning to detonate a bomb inside a Killeen restaurant frequented by troops from the nearby Texas Army post and then shoot any survivors.

He faces up to life in federal prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and five other charges. He was AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., when he was arrested last July at a motel in Killeen, a city about 150 miles southwest of Dallas.

Abdo is heard telling his mother that "it's all true" and "the reason is religion. There is no other reason." He says what he did was selfless because he was trying to avenge the United States' wrongful treatment of people he considers his family, and that he used every resource he had "to make things as right as possible."

"I'll be all right," he is heard saying. "I made this decision."

A pressure cooker containing smokeless powder and other material — evidence of an explosive device in the making — was found in Abdo's motel room, Sgt. 1st Class Brad Grimes told jurors Wednesday. Other components to make a bomb were found in his room and backpack — and were listed in a magazine article about making bombs that also was found in his belongings, said Grimes, who is with Fort Hood's Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.

Jurors in U.S. District Court in Waco were shown the article, which tells "my Muslim brother" that anyone could make a bomb with items that are not dangerous alone — such as clocks and batteries — and would not arouse suspicion when someone buys them.

Killeen police Sgt. Eric Bradley testified that officers began investigating July 26 after a gun store employee reported that a young man acted suspiciously when he bought 6 pounds of smokeless gunpowder, shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semiautomatic pistol, while seeming to know little about the items. Bradley told jurors that he learned where the young man was staying from a cab company who gave him a ride, but didn't see the man when he went to the motel that night.

However, police did not do surveillance on the motel overnight and did not return until the next afternoon, Bradley acknowledged during cross-examination. Bradley said that's when they saw someone matching the man's description walk through the lobby toward a waiting cab — and they jumped up to detain him.

Although investigators had seen no evidence the man had done anything illegal, officers had reason to detain him because of the items he bought at the gun and Army surplus stores, and because he was carrying a full backpack, Bradley testified.

Officers finally learned Abdo's name and details of his plans when he was questioned in the back of a patrol car, according to a recording played in court Wednesday.

In the muffled recording, Abdo can be heard telling Bradley that he was planning to pull off an attack in the Fort Hood area "because I don't appreciate what my unit did in Afghanistan."
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