November 23, 2008

Washington State schools suffering big from economy

As recently as this past summer, the University of Washington was celebrating the closing of a major fundraising campaign that would allow it to double enrollment on the branch campuses, the Seattle Times reported.

As a result of the economy, the school has suffered a major hit within the last two weeks and is hurting.

UW and other education institutions are brainstorming how to plug a yawning budget gap. Officials at several higher-education schools are talking about raising tuition by 10 to 15 percent next year — possibly $1,000 per student.

This would force lawmakers to raise the current limit on schools of 7 percent in tuition increases annually.

Another option the UW is considering is differential tuitions, in which juniors and seniors would pay more for school than the underclassmen. At Western Washington University, budget experts are in the process of calculating how much they could save by having some full-time staff work 80 percent instead.

This would increase class sizes, as well as the amount of teaching assistants rather than faculty members leading the courses.

"In the end, 20 percent is far too big of a number to comprehend for higher education without having the state abandon its mission," said Paul Jenny, the UW's vice provost for planning and budgeting.

This year's spending was supposed to be locked, but colleges are going back and lowering the amount for spending.

"The budget situation is extraordinarily serious," wrote WWU President Bruce Shepard to faculty and students Wednesday.

For several schools in Washington state, the cuts portray the last piece in the puzzle of declining income and increased demand. UW's endowment decreased by 14 percent in the year ending September, to $1.9 billion. UW spends around $95 million of that money annually on professorships, scholarships and other programs.

November 16, 2008

Obama may need to say goodbye to beloved blackberry

The NY Times reported that President-elect Obama may need to give up one of the most important tools of communication in his life, his blackberry.

For years now, Obama has been relying on his blackberry for e-mail and keeping in touch.

On top of concerns about e-mail security, Obama faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. No decisions have been whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that is highly unlikely.

With all of the many privileges and perks of being the United State president, the chief executive of the United States is deprived by law of some of the other chief executives could not possibly work without. With that said, Obama plans on trying to bring the office into the 21st century; aides said he'd like to have a laptop computer on his desk in the Oval Office, making him the first American president to do so.

“His BlackBerry was constantly crackling with e-mails,? said David Axelrod, the campaign’s chief strategist. “People were generous with their advice — much of it conflicting.?

Obama is not the first president to find himself in this predicament.

Three days before his first inauguration, George W. Bush sent a message to 42 friends and relatives that explained his situation.

“Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace,? Bush wrote from his old address, “This saddens me. I have enjoyed conversing with each of you.?

November 9, 2008

Peaceful protests in California over Anti-Prop. 8

Over 20,000 protesters filled the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Modesto on Saturday in mainly peaceful protests over passage of Proposition 8, the statewide ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage, the LA Times reported.

The various scene Saturday portrayed the racial and religious animosity that have become increasingly prevalent since Tuesday's vote raised question of the legality of 18,000 marriages of gay and lesbian couples and foreclosed the option for any more.

Police estimated that 12,500 enthusiastic protesters began at 6 p.m. at Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards in Silver Lake near the old site of the former Black Cat bar, which the city recently determined as a historic-cultural monument for its '60s role as home of the local gay rights movement.

Police guided the protesters along the streets for over three hours without significant confrontations. No arrests were made.

At the various rallies throughout the state, participants showed their frustration and anger over the ballot item that amends the state Constitution to declare that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized" in California.

Demonstraters held signs that read messages such as "Teach tolerance, not hate."

The Silver Lake rally started with motivational speeches from the bed of a pickup truck.

One of those speakers was Robin Tyler, who with her partner was denied a marriage license in 2004 and challenged it to the California Supreme Court.

The couple married after the court cleared the way for gay marriages, but the legal status of such marriages is now under scruitiny.

"The No on 8 people didn't want us to use the word 'bigots.' But that's what they are, bigots, bigots, bigots," Tyler said. "We will never be made invisible again. Never again will we let them define who we are."

November 2, 2008

St. Olaf professor admits to stealing McCain signs

A St. Olaf professor admitted on a national blog to stealing Republican presidential campaign signs in southern Minnesota.

Philip Busse admitted to the burglaries on Huffington Post, a liberal news Web site and blog in a post Thursday. Busse is a visiting professor in the theater department at the Northfield college.

Busse called the article, "Confessions of a Lawn Sign Stealer,"and admits in the article to stealing seven McCain/Palin lawn signs near Hwy. 19 near St. Olaf.

Busse wrote an e-mail to the Northfield News, expressing remorse, saying it was "immature and impetuous." Bussee says he is disappointed most readers have focused on the thefts and not the larger points of his writing.

Stealing political yard signs is treated as a misdemeanor, but complainants rarely decide to pursue charges according to the Northfield Police Department.

October 25, 2008

Gov. Palin not clear to public about religious views

The NY Times reported that in an interview this week with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Gov. Sarah Palin was asked to “clear up exactly what you believe in? about her religious faith, including her association with Pentecostalism.

Palin responded vaguely, but extensively, about how she counts on God for strength, guidance and wisdom. “My faith has always been pretty personal,? she said. She did not talk in depth about her church affiliation or her beliefs.

Palin’s faith has been in many media reports after two videos taken in her former church surfaced on YouTube and became immediately popular. The first showed a visiting preacher from Kenya praying fervently over Palin in a gravelly voice and asking God to favor her campaign for governor and protect her from “every form of witchcraft.?

The second video was of Palin at an event in June praising the African preacher’s prayer as “awesome? and “very, very powerful.? She is also shown nodding as her former pastor from Wasilla prays above her and says that Alaska is “one of the refuge states in the Last Days,? a piece of prophecy popular in some prayer groups that sees that as the “end times? approach, people will run to Alaska for its open space and natural resources.

Palin declined an interview with the NY Times, and the McCain campaign did not respond to specific questions about her faith. It is difficult to confirm Palin's beliefs as she has not specifically answered questions regarding them.

Palin has had long associations, however, with religious leaders who practice an especially assertive and urgent brand of Pentecostalism known as “spiritual warfare.?

Its followers believe that demonic forces can colonize specific geographic areas and people, and that “spiritual warriors? must “battle? them to assert God’s control, using prayer and evangelism. The movement’s obsession on demons, its aggressiveness and its leaders’ claims to exalted spiritual authority have bothered some Pentecostal Christians.

Palin gave a graduation speech for a class of young spiritual warriors in June at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the church she grew up in.

October 19, 2008

Obama breaks records in September fundraising

Barack Obama's campaign raised $150 million in September, the Huffington Post reported, putting the campaign at a significant financial advantage over Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.

The numbers were announced Sunday, one day before the campaign in required to file a detailed report of its monthly finances with the Federal Election Commission.

This money has put Obama above any video or TV adertising figures in the history of presidential elections. The money is fueling a huge campaign operation in an expanding field of competitive states.

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said in an e-mail to supporters Sunday morning, that the campaign had added 632,000 new donors in September, for a total of 3.1 million contributors to the campaign. The average donation was about $86.

Obama is able to raise this kind of because because he opted out of the public financing system for the fall campaign. McCain chose to participate in the system, which limits him to $84 million for the September-October stretch before the election. Obama is limitless.

Before setting primary fundraising records, Obama said he would accept the public financing system if McCain did. Many right-wing voters have begun to second guess McCain's decision to accept the financing system.

As much as Obama raised, he needed a big fundraising month to make his decision to bypass the public finance system worth while. Financially, he has been competing against McCain, but also against the GOP, which raised $66 million in September.

October 12, 2008

Golden Gate bridge to get suicide-prevention net

The board that controls the Golden Gate Bridge has voted to place a net under the bridge to catch attempted suicide jumpers, the Star Tribune reported.

The plan is not final, as an environmental review still needs to take place, including a look at how a net might affect pelicans and cormorants, frequent visitors of the bridge. Also, a financial plan will need to be created, since they are estimating the net at $40 million to $50 million.

Dr. Mel Blaustein, the president of the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California, supports the idea of the net, calling the bridge a "suicide magnet".

"This is a red-letter day in the history of San Francisco," he said. "Sometimes all they need is a certain amount of time to stop and reflect and change their mind."

About 20 people a year kill themselves at the bridge, where the road hovers more than 200 feet above San Francisco Bay and the railing is only 4 feet high. Last year, however, 38 people killed themselves jumping off this bridge, and this year there have already been 19.

The net, made of wire rope coated with plastic, would hang about 20 feet below the walkways on either side of the bridge and extend 20 feet out.

Denis Mulligan, chief engineer for the bridge, said similar style nets had much success in Europe.

October 5, 2008

Sarah Palin steps up fight against Obama

Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, lead a strong rally in California Saturday, mainly targeting Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Palin said at the rally that Obama "sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country."

In Palin's speech, she put strong effort trying to link Obama to William Ayers, a former 1960s radical who co-founded the Weather Underground.

"This is not a guy who sees America as you and I see America," she said to a crowd of 10,000 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Obama's campaign has continuously said that he was a child during the Weather Underground era, and has strongly disapproved the group's radical activities. The Weather Underground took credit for Vietnam War-era protests that included nonfatal explosions targeting the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Gabriel Sanchez, spokesman for Obama's California campaign, called Palin's claims "outrageous and a lie".

"It's lies and distortions first, not 'Country First,' " he said of the GOP campaign. "These comments are offensive, but they aren't surprising."

Palin did not schedule time to speak with reporters in Carson, and has no plans to speak with the media while in the Bay Area.

In a reference to a recent interview with Katie Couric, Palin said, "Oh, come on, let's start talking to the American people about the issues that you guys want to know about."

September 28, 2008

Iowa discussions of 4-day school week

Iowa school officials are showing an increasing interest in having 4-day school weeks, as other states have already done to cut costs, the Des Moines Register reported.

Van Buren County is hoping to get this underway for their schools as soon as next year. The county would need a waiver from the mandatory state schools calendar.

The smaller school districts of Iowa are showing a particularly growing interest in this proposition because of the shrinking enrollment and high-fuel costs.

In the US, 17 states already have districts with 4-day school weeks. On average, most of these school have increased the school day from six and a half hours to eight hours a day.

Not everyone is on board with the idea.

“I just think it would be too much for kids to stay focused long enough,? said Liz Henning, a mother of two in Lehigh, which is in the Southeast Webster-Grand school district. “I think five days is better.?

Schools in Arizona and Colorado with 4-day school weeks have reported fewer absences with the longer days. Arizona school officials have not seen an increase, nor a decrease in student achievement.

No formal studies have been conducted on the long-term or short-term effects of students attending 4-day school weeks.

The first schools to go through with 4-day school weeks were in New Mexico, because of an energy crisis in the 1970s that made utility and fuel costs have a dramatic increase.

September 22, 2008

Minnesota suburb ranked #3 place to retire

Eden Prairie has been named today as the third healthiest place to retire in the US, the Star Tribune reported.

Falling behind Bella Vista, Ark., and Boulder, Colo., the annual ranking was published in today's edition of U.S. News and World Report.

The magazine listed the top 10 cities best for providing places to exercise, promoting strong social support and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits.

Other factors were included such as cost of living as well as climate and recreational activities.

Eden Prairie has three large fitness centers, 100 miles of trails, and many programs promoting health and fitness.

The suburb was admired for its abundance of park land, jogging paths, a community center which recently expanded, as well as numerous exercise classes and opportunities for seniors.

Obama raised $66 million in August

The New York Times reported that Senator Barack Obama had his highest fundraising month to date in August, raising $66 million.

Both presidential candidates took a brief break from negative campaigning during the major damaging passing of Hurricane Ike. Senators McCain and Obama have resumed their political attacks, with Obama referring to McCain this weekend as "out of touch". Shortly after, McCain supporters accused Democrats on Sunday as "ageist" in reference to attacks against 72-year-old McCain.

McCain will receive a $84 million cash infusion from a government presidential-election fund, putting him at a higher advantage over Obama in terms of fund-raising efforts.

More striking than the amount of money Obama raised in August, is the half-million first-time donors who contributed. Many of these donors gave far less than the $2,300 limit per person in any general election.

Obama's campaign saw significant spikes in donated funds immediately after he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, as well as when Gov. Sarah Palin was announced as McCain's running mate.

Senator Obama's campaign announced it raised $10 in 24 hours this month, after Gov. Palin addressed the Republican National Convetion, the Associated Press reported.

“These are very positive numbers for Obama, and they nearly guarantee him an overall spending edge in the fall,? said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virgina.

Obama spoke to a large rally in in Manchester, N.H. on Saturday saying, “John McCain doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know what’s going on in your lives. He is out of touch with the American people.?