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Friday, August 30, 2013

  • Juan González: Growing Charter School Chain Suspends Special Needs Kids in Bid to Raise Test Scores

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    Democracy Now! co-host Juan González discusses his reports for the New York Daily News about how one of the New York City’s fastest-growing chains of charter schools, Success Academy, has far higher suspension rates than other public elementary schools. "More than two dozen parents have come to me complaining about their children — who are special needs, special education children, or children with behavior problems," González reports, "that they feel are being pushed out or forced out by the charter school in an effort to to improve the test scores." Success Academy uses its high test scores to attract funding, and just secured a $5 million grant it will use to expand from 20 to 100 schools. González obtained a copy of secretly recorded meetings in which school administrators pressed one parent to transfer her special education kindergarten student back into the public school system.

  • U.S. Prepares to Strike Syria Over Alleged Chemical Weapons as British Vote Not to Back Int’l Action

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    Pentagon officials say the U.S. Navy has moved five destroyers equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea to prepare for a possible strike on Syria. This comes as the British Parliament voted Thursday not to back international action against Syria following the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons last week. This comes as a team of U.N. inspectors, who spent the week traveling to rebel-controlled areas in search of proof of a poison gas attack, is set to give its preliminary findings to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday. As the United States continues to try to build an international coalition, we speak with Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University and co-founder of Jadaliyya.com. "The United States in Iraq has actually used nerve agents, mustard gas and/or white phosphorus in Fallujah and beyond, left depleted uranium all over the country in Iraq, ruined and destroyed the lives of generations as a result, and now claims that it needs to do this to protect Syrian civilians — which is exactly the opposite of what will happen in any invasion or any strike on Syria, which is not possible to happen in the surgical manner that is being discussed right now," Haddad says. "You have a regional environment that is also in many ways opposed to this, including of course the allies of Syria in the region, and we have a possibility of this becoming something much more than what many envision."

  • NFL Reaches Settlement with Former Players Who Suffer from Brain Injuries, Alzheimer’s, Depression

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    The National Football League has reached a settlement with former players who accused it of profiting from the sport’s violence, while hiding the risks of concussions and repeated hits to the head. On Thursday, the NFL agreed to a $765 million payout to all past NFL players and the spouses of those who have already died. The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by than 4,500 former players, some of whom suffer from brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. This comes as the 2013 season football season kicks off for the NFL, colleges and high schools across the country. "I hope that the tremendous amount of publicity that’s been generated by this lawsuit will cause coaches and parents to think in a much more healthy way about how to take care of these kids and how to protect them and how to recognize the symptoms of concussions when they occur," says Bill Littlefield, host of NPR’s "Only a Game," who has followed the issue of concussions in sports for the past decade.

  • Feds Say They Won’t Try to Reverse State Laws That Legalize Medical and Recreational Marijuana Use

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    After 75 years of federal laws prohibiting marijuana use, the Justice Department has announced it will not prevent states from legalizing the use, production, distribution and sale of recreational marijuana. The changes were prompted by marijuana legalization votes last year in Colorado and Washington state, and were announced in a memo from U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who also cited "limited prosecutorial resources" as the reason for the decision. He stressed that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and made clear the Justice Department still expects states to regulate marijuana sales to minors, interstate trafficking, and accidents involving drivers under the influence of the drug. "There is so much cultural momentum with respect to marijuana, there is a significant shift in place that the politicians are now starting to catch up to it," says Martin Lee, longtime investigative reporter and author of several books, including "Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana — Medical, Recreational and Scientific." He also notes that "the guidance issue made by the Department of Justice yesterday is kind of littered with caveats and red flags."