On This Day; Ancient Tools; Big Business Buys Justice; Face Recognition; Shortage of Physics Teachers; States Depend on Federal Funds


On This Day in History [September 7th]

On that day in 1977 President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian Chief of Government Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty also called the Carter-Torrijos Treaty that transferred control of the canal from the U.S. to Panama on  December 31, 1999.   To find more fabulous facts visit the Library of Congress Today in History at  https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/september-07.   And now you know. Click on the subscribe button on the top right and get RSS feeds right to your inbox every day for more pithy tidbits.

Our Ancestors More Technology Proficient Than Previously Thought

Archeologists working in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany recently unearthed a mammoth tusk piece of ivory that early people used to make rope more than 40,000 years ago. Professor Nicholas Conard of the University of Tubingen found the tool in 2015.   Due to the unusually good preservation of the implement, researchers were able to demonstrate that early inhabitants used the tool to make rope from plant fibers growing near the find site. To read more about this find, visit  http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/rope-making-tool-germany-04047.html.

Big Business Buys Justice

I have long believed that the US has the best legal system money can buy. Now, an article on the website American Progress details how large corporations over the last 15 years have focused on electing judges that have a pro- business bias. The US Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $10 million since the year 2000 to elect sympathetic supreme court judges in five or more states. The article relies on data compiled by Professor John Echeverria at the Vermont Law School that describes how a little-known Oklahoma organization with close ties to Koch Industries has organized a nationwide program to promote the election of pro-business judges to hear anti-business cases on environmental issues as well as cases involving labor tort litigation. To learn more about our clearly sighted justice system, click on  https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/civil-liberties/report/2016/09/01/143420/big-business-is-still-dominating-state-supreme-courts/. '…with liberty and justice for all' apparently no longer applies in much of our court system.

FBI and Big Brother Are Becoming One and the Same

The Free Press Blog recently reported that the FBI now operates a facial recognition database containing more than 411 million faces without adequate oversight to insure individual privacy rights. The digital program called Facial Analysis and Evaluation [FACE] is a larger iteration of the Next Generation Identification System [NGI system]. The GAO, Government Accountability Office   recently admonished the FBI over the lack of controls over the system. For those who believe that only the guilty need to worry about this, I refer them to the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution which prohibits unreasonable searches and invasions of privacy. To find out more about our trend toward a police state, surf over to  http://www.freepress.net/blog/2016/07/28/fbi-operating-mammoth-facial-recognition-database-without-any-real-oversight  

Another Example of Teacher Shortages

STEM education, a major component of current education policy, relies on providing all students with access to science and technology courses taught by qualified teachers. A post in Education Week reports that only 2 in 5 high schools offer physics. It seems that most physics majors who could teach elect to take jobs in other fields that pay much more than does teaching.   In states such as Alaska and Oklahoma, fewer than 30 percent of schools offer physics.   Florida and Utah are not far behind with less than 40 percent of schools offering physics. On the bright side, Maine, Iowa, and New Hampshire offer physics in 85 percent of schools. To learn more about the impending teacher shortage crisis, click on  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/08/24/2-in-5-high-schools-dont-offer.html?qs=physics+teachers. A subscription to the newspaper allows readers to access   more than 3 articles a month for free.

A related post by the Association of American Educators reports that because of school budget shortfalls and traditionally low teacher salaries, teachers are taking on second jobs in record numbers. To learn more, click on  https://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/blog/589-teachers-taking-second-jobs-at-record-levels. For those who believe that salaries are not low because teachers have the summer off and still get paid, in New York State, all teachers' salaries must be paid for services rendered between September and June of each school year. To receive summer checks, teachers voluntarily deduct money from the monthly checks to cover living expenses during the summer hiatus.

If the Federal Government Shuts Down, States are in Trouble

Now that Congress has returned from summer vacation, funding the government for the next fiscal year presents a new challenge for lawmakers. Not only do federal programs suffer if Congress refuses to pass federal funding, state governments also feel the shorts. The Pew Trust recently posted an article that indicates the percentage of state budgets that comes from Washington. For example, more than 40% of the Louisiana state budget comes from the feds.   In total, about one third of all state budget funds come from Washington in the form of grants to education, highways and so on. To read more about this, click on  http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2016/08/funding-from-federal-grants-varies-as-a-share-of-state-budgets. And so it goes.