Cassandra The World in 2013


Cassandra’s farewell

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CASSANDRA’s mythical namesake was never wrong in her prophecies—her curse, courtesy of the scorned Apollo, was not to be believed. This particular Cassandra, on this final day of predictions for 2013, cannot pretend to her infallibility. Indeed, I have to confess to the occasional (a weasel word, since I dread to count) error, not least in predicting that the English cricket team would be humiliated in the test series against India but would prosper in the one-day version of the game. As things turned out, and to my great pleasure, the opposite was true.

But, as Yogi Berra famously observed, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Moreover, bear in mind the sage observation of that great English philosopher, George Harrison (who also made a living as one of the Beatles):

It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.

Well, with all due respect to the late George, I think there will be a future, assuming of course that an asteroid snappily named 2012 DA14 and scheduled to come very close to Earth on February 15th does not confound the scientists by actually hitting us (it is, after all, the size of an Olympic swimming pool). 

So let me leave you with a few reasonably safe, though not necessarily pleasing, predictions for the coming months: the “Arab Spring” (more accurately the “Arab awakening”) will continue its slow, often bloody advance towards greater freedoms; sectarian strife will scar much of the Muslim world, especially Syria but also Pakistan; America will make precious little progress towards effective gun-control, but will manage some form of immigration reform; the euro will survive even as the whole of the European Union flirts with recession; there will be no new war over the Falklands/Malvinas; and Asia in general, and China in particular, will continue to drag the world economy out of its post-Lehman doldrums (assuming that China and Japan do not stupidly go to war over some god-forsaken rocks in the Pacific). 

Note that, in the interests of good taste, I do not dare make predictions on the mortality of the Castro brothers, or Hugo Chávez. Nor do I venture a bet on an American or Israeli attack on Iran (though if forced, I would bet against it), or on the discovery of some cancer-beating or AIDS-preventing therapy. 

Instead, let me invite you to offer your own predictions of what Donald Rumsfeld famously called “known unknowns and unknown unknowns“. And meanwhile, as The World in 2013 gives way in November to The World in 2014, Cassandra will borrow from Arnold Schwarzenegger (now back on our screens after his foray into politics):

I’ll be back.

5 moments when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren’t so friendly


JANUARY 28, 2013, AT 1:30 PM  

 Last night’s joint 60 Minutes interview of President Obama and Hillary Clinton was extraordinary.
As First Read notes, President Obama made clear he wanted to thank Clinton for being his secretary of state but was especially grateful that she accepted and kept the Democratic Party united during his first term.
But what really made last night’s friendliness remarkable is how unfriendly the two politicians were just a few short years ago.

 1. “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”

See the other examples by going to this link:

http://theweek.com/article/index/239338/5-moments-when-barack-obama-and-hillary-clinton-werent-so-friendly

 

If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of progress? Take a moment to smile:


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‎1) Why do supermarkets make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front?

2) Why do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke?

3) Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counters?

4) Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in our driveways and put our useless junk in the garage?

EVER WONDER?

5) Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?

6) Why can’t women put on mascara with their mouth closed?

7) Why don’t you ever see the headline ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?

8) Why is ‘abbreviated’ such a long word?

9) Why is it that doctors and attorneys call what they do ‘practice’?

10) Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavoring, and dish washing liquid made with real lemons?

11) Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

12) Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

13) Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?

14) Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

15) Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

16) You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff??

17) Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?

18) Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

19) If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

*Now that you’ve smiled at least once, it’s your turn to spread the stupidity and send this to someone you want to bring a smile to (maybe even a chuckle)… In other words, send it to everyone. We all need to smile every once in a while.

OH you didn’t smile – well how about this one:

1. Law of Mechanical Repair – After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you’ll have to pee.

2. Law of Gravity – Any tool, nut, bolt, screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible place in the universe.

3. Law of Probability – The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

4. Law of Random Numbers – If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal; someone always answers.

6. Variation Law- If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now

8.. Law of Close Encounters – The probability of meeting someone you know INCREASES dramatically when you are with someone you don’t want to be seen with.

9. Law of the Result – When you try to prove to someone that a machine won’t work, IT WILL!!!

10. Law of Biomechanics – The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to it’s location.

12. The Coffee Law – As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

13. Murphy’s Law of Lockers – If there are only 2 people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

15. Law of Logical Argument – Anything is possible IF you don’t know what you are talking about.

16. Brown’s Law of Physical Appearance – If the clothes fit, they’re ugly.

17. Oliver’s Law of Public Speaking — A CLOSED MOUTH GATHERS NO FEET!!!

18. Wilson’s Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy – As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it, OR the store will stop selling it!!

19. Doctors’ Law – If you don’t feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you’ll feel better.. But don’t make an appointment, and you’ll stay sick.

Life is not the way it’s supposed to be – it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.
Have a happy day!

IT’S TIME FOR SENATOR REID TO GO


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IT’S TIME FOR SENATOR REID TO GOHis complicity, again, with Senator McConnell, to continue to permit the republicans in the senate to thwart President Obama’s agenda via the use of the filibuster, as well as his position on gun control legislation does it for me.  Please write or e-mail your federal Senator and ask him/her to take steps to remove Senator Reid from his role as Majority Leader of the senate.

If you agree, and if you oppose four more years of the senates obstruction of President Obama’s progressive agenda, please send this information to your friends on Facebook.  You can find your senator’s e-mail address at this site:  http://www.senate.gov/.

The article on Huffington Post explaining Senator Reid’s capitulation to the republicans can be found at this site: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.

Larry

Boehner: Obama’s goal is to ‘annihilate’ the Republican Party


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House Speaker Rep. John Boehner of Ohio (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he believes the primary goal of President Obama’s second term is to “annihilate the Republican Party.”

“Given what we heard yesterday about the president’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner said in a speech Tuesday to The Ripon Society. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party.

“And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”

Boehner’s remarks referred to Obama’s inaugural address. Republicans were hopeful the president would use that speech to lay the groundwork for a partnership over the next four years, but he instead made it a rallying cry for an active federal government — including on such politically charged issues as climate change, gun control, gay marriage and immigration.

The Republican leader ripped the president for not taking the country’s deficits seriously, and said the failure of the “fiscal cliff” talks last year reflected the president’s refusal to face facts on the budget.

“In our meetings before Christmas, the president was so tired of me talking about when we were going to deal with an entitlement crisis that he looked at me and said: ‘Boehner, we don’t have a spending problem. We have a healthcare problem.’ It gives you some idea of the challenge that we’re facing,” Boehner said.

“For a guy who’s run up the deficit 60 percent — 60 percent of the deficit has occurred under his watch — when you see this, and then you hear him say: ‘I am not going to negotiate on the debt limit. I am not going to deal with the debt limit. That’s Congress’s problem!’ … Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible.”

Boehner’s speech was not open to the press, but The Ripon Society, a Republican think tank, released a transcript and video on Wednesday with the knowledge of the Speaker’s office.

While Boehner has said that immigration reform should be a priority, his remarks on Tuesday are a clear signal to Obama that his ambitious agenda on climate change and gun control, among other proposals, will face heavy resistance in the Republican-led House.

Boehner urged his conservative colleagues to be prudent in picking their political battles, something that wasn’t a trademark of Republicans in the 112th Congress.

“We’re going to have to make some big decisions about how we as a party take on this challenge. Where’s the ground that we fight on? Where’s the ground that we retreat on? Where are the smart fights? Where are the dumb fights that we have to stay away from? We’ve got a lot of big decisions to make.”

House Republicans backed away from a showdown with Obama over the debt-ceiling on Wednesday, passing legislation that suspends the cap on government borrowing through May 18.

That’s part of a new strategy from House Republicans to embrace a minority posture in the face of Obama’s reelection. Rather than trying to force measures through the Democratic-led Senate, House GOP leaders are looking to achieve modest victories while serving as a check on Obama’s agenda.

Boehner’s speech to The Ripon Society followed the House Republican retreat last week, and was another attempt to unify his conference ahead of budget battles with the White House.

The Speaker said Republicans should steel their resolve for the fights to come.

“We’ve got the debt limit facing us and the sequester hits on March 1st. If all that isn’t enough, the government runs out of money on March 27th. No one really knows what will happen. But I’m not quite sure I want to look over the edge of the cliff when it comes to the debt limit,” Boehner said.

“All I know is I’m up for the fight.”

This story was last updated at 3:42 p.m.

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/278881-boehner-obamas-goal-is-to-annihilate-the-gop

 


 

Stay focused School reform New research on how to close the achievement gap


Jan 19th 2013

When pawns gain control

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. By Paul ToughHoughton Mifflin Harcourt; 256 pages; $27. Random House; £12.99. Buy from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

THE young teenagers who graduated from a special South Bronx middle school in 1999 became nationally famous. All black and Hispanic and largely from low-income families, the students had been recruited four years earlier to participate in an experimental programme called KIPP (ie, the Knowledge Is Power Program), designed to close the achievement gap between privileged and poor students. The experience seemed to pay off: in a citywide test, these students earned the highest scores of any school in the Bronx, and the fifth-highest in all of New York City. Most won admission to top high schools, often with full scholarships. They all seemed destined for college, and for successful, precedent-bucking, demographic-defying lives.

But six years after their high-school graduation, only about a fifth of KIPP’s first class had completed a four-year college degree. Most ended up dropping out, reaffirming America’s growing class divide on college campuses. KIPP’s founders were distraught, particularly because a college degree has never been more valuable, enabling Americans to earn some 80% more than people with only a high-school diploma. So how had KIPP failed to prepare these students for college? What did they do wrong?

Paul Tough, a journalist and former editor at the New York Times Magazine, aims to answer these thorny questions in “How Children Succeed”, an ambitious and elegantly written new book, now out in Britain. The problem, he writes, is that academic success is believed to be a product of cognitive skills—the kind of intelligence that gets measured in IQ tests. This view has spawned a vibrant market for brain-building baby toys, and an education-reform movement that sweats over test scores. But new research from a spate of economists, psychologists, neuroscientists and educators has found that the skills that see a student through college and beyond have less to do with smarts than with more ordinary personality traits, like an ability to stay focused and control impulses. The KIPP students who graduated from college were not the academic stars but the workhorses, the ones who plugged away at problems and resolved to do better.

So non-cognitive skills like persistence and curiosity are highly predictive of future success. But where do these traits come from? And how can they be developed? In search of answers, Mr Tough first looks at the problem on a neurological level. Apparently medical reasons explain why children who grow up in abusive or dysfunctional environments generally find it harder to concentrate, sit still and rebound from disappointments. The part of the brain most affected by early stress is the prefrontal cortex, which is critical for regulating thoughts and mediating behaviour. When this region is damaged—a common condition for children living amid the pressures of poverty—it is tougher to suppress unproductive instincts.

The science seems daunting, but it also points the way forward. Studies show that early nurturing from parents or caregivers helps combat the biochemical effects of stress. And educators can push better habits and self control. The “prefrontal cortex is more responsive to intervention than other parts of the brain,” writes Mr Tough. It stays malleable well into early adulthood. Character can be taught.

But schools have experience creating classes that raise test scores. Figuring out the best way to help youths develop “grit”—a passionate dedication to a goal—is trickier. Psychological interventions require more sophistication than teaching maths, and one of the big problems facing underperforming schools in America is a shortage of good teachers. But Mr Tough highlights some promising efforts to take these lessons about non-cognitive skills on board. A fascinating chapter considers the work of a young chess instructor in Brooklyn who turns unmotivated low-income students into chess champions by teaching them new ways to solve problems and recover from failures. In Chicago a programme called OneGoal, launched in 2009, is preparing struggling high-school students for college by stressing the link between hard work and destiny. And KIPP schools are now experimenting with something called a character report card, designed to show students that such traits can improve with time.

Replicating such initiatives on a grand scale will be hard, not least because they all seem to be run by uniquely talented and dedicated teachers and reformers. But at a time when ever more American children are living in poverty, better schools remain the most powerful anti-poverty tool available. After decades of failed efforts to improve the lives of poor students, Mr Tough has written a fine and provocative book about the kind of work that seems to be making a difference.

http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21569680-new-research-how-close-achievement-gap-stay-focused