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Supposedly a group of women and about 20 soldiers dragged her to safety from this public sexual assault of unspecified detail (some reports have called it “gang rape,” but I’ve seen no claim of that). This was six days ago.

The story is an international sensation. Yet we’ve heard absolutely no information except that contained in CBS’s press release (via Associated Press):

Separated from her crew in the crush of the violent pack, she suffered what CBS called “a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.” She was saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers, the network said.

All these witnesses, all these heroes — not a single word out of any of them? Maybe they’re twittering and blogging in Egyptian and it just hasn’t hit the English-speaking world yet?

I’ve been scouring the Internet for days, and nothing. Does anyone have any links to help out?

The manosphere is full of the expected crap about how she deserved it (you know, because she’s a woman hanging around Muslims, a woman with a job, a woman with blond hair, a woman) but nothing else. My concerns are forensic. If my suspicious are at all founded, then and only then will I consider it fair to expound about how I think Lara Logan sucks as a reporter in ways completely unrelated to this. If my suspicions are unfounded, then please, please direct me to the relevant information.

And, no, I don’t consider the fact that she’s reportedly been in the hospital for four days proof she was sexually assaulted. She could have injuries from other sources (lots of reporters got clobbered over there). And if a person as famous and wealthy as Lara Logan wants to stay in the hospital for four days, I doubt doctors are going to kick her out.

Here’s an interesting tidbit further down in the AP story:

However, in the final days, and especially after the battles with pro-Mubarak gangs who attacked the protesters in Tahrir, women noticed sexual assault had returned to the square. On the day Mubarak fell, women reported being groped by the rowdy crowds. One witness saw a woman slap a man after he touched her. The man was then passed down a line of people who all slapped him and reprimanded him.

So it’s not as if people just stood by and accepted this. But maybe Logan just wasn’t as lucky.

Category: Elsewhere

Did you know that if you smoke pot, child protective services can take away your kids? And if you don’t provide them with many months of clean, regular random drug tests, and possibly also complete a substance abuse program, parenting class, and individual therapy, they can even adopt them out permanently.

With California’s legal marijuana initiative on the ballot in November (Prop. 19), I figure it’s a good time to discuss the related issues of 1) what happens to parents who get caught using cannabis, and 2) how you can reduce your chance of getting your kids taken if you’re one of them.

I deal with this on a weekly basis. People are usually surprised and really angry to find out what the child welfare laws can do to them for using or possessing drugs, even without any criminal charges or convictions. And it’s not just dirtbags. Sometimes it happens to normal, likeable, responsible people you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with.

I have to explain to many unhappy parents that a “DA reject” of their possession or dealing charge has no effect on their resulting case in children’s court. Their kids are staying in foster care. Or maybe they never even got arrested. Someone who didn’t like them — like their ex — just called in a referral to the child abuse hotline. Maybe it wasn’t even for pot, maybe it was for coke or meth, and they marched indignantly down to the testing site unaware that they screen for every drug, not just whatever they were accused of. Or, more commonly, the children were removed from the other parent due to something else, and this parent’s use got talked about when they interviewed the other parent. Or maybe not, but maybe when they ran your criminal record — which they always do as part of their investigation — they found a pot ticket from a couple of years ago. Or not a conviction, but just an arrest for possession. Or no arrests, but several calls to the cops from or about your address claiming drug-related activity. (Bet you didn’t know there are records kept of cop calls.)

Any little thing, they’ll use to get you to drug test, long before you get appointed a lawyer who’d tell you not to do it. And once they’ve got a test, with any level of marijuana in it, they’ve got you. And they’ve got your kids, probably for three months at least whether you take it to trial or settle. Don’t think of this like a criminal court case. These courts allow hearsay, the standard of proof is not “beyond reasonable doubt” but rather the same as in civil court, and there’s no way to exclude evidence on a Constitutional basis. Worst of all: You can’t bail your kids out of foster care while you fight your legal battle. This is why the better trial or appellate prospect I think a parent is, the less likely he or she is to want to be my guinea pig. Most parents with a shot at winning a protracted fight don’t want it.

Yet there is no law specifically prohibiting a parent from possessing or using illegal drugs. If you just read the actual law the department uses, you’d mistakenly think it set forth a high standard for taking away someone’s kids. Here it is, Welfare and Institutions Code section 300(b):

(b) The child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that
the child will suffer
, serious physical harm or illness, as a result
of the failure or inability of his or her parent or guardian to
adequately supervise or protect the child, or the willful or
negligent failure of the child’s parent or guardian to adequately
supervise or protect the child from the conduct of the custodian with
whom the child has been left, or by the willful or negligent failure
of the parent or guardian to provide the child with adequate food,
clothing, shelter, or medical treatment, or by the inability of the
parent or guardian to provide regular care for the child due to
parent’s or guardian’s mental illness, developmental disability, or
substance abuse.

[Emphasis added.] (more…)

Category: Courthouse

When was the last time you went anywhere without a commonly accepted form of identification on your person? On purpose?

It’s one of the things I see at court on a frequent basis, but never see in society at large: People without identification. Something comes up where they need ID, and they don’t have it.

I don’t mean they pat their pockets and look shocked, either. They didn’t forget it in their other pants. They never have it. It’s just how they live. If they lose it, or the cops confiscate it, or it gets stolen — which seems to happen a lot — they don’t hurry to get a new one. If they do have one, they didn’t bring it. Why not? “I dunno, just didn’t. Didn’t know I needed to.”

Or — this is one I really don’t understand — someone else is holding it for them. These are adults, mind you. We’re not swimming, we’re not hiking, we’re not dancing in a club in a tight little dress with no pockets. We’re hanging around a court hallway all day.

Or they left it in the car. On purpose. When was the last time you left your wallet in your car on purpose? At the beach, maybe? Not at court, where there are armed officers in the hallways and guarding the doors.

And they’re not lying about not having it. How do I know? Because this comes up not just when, for example, they need ID to drug test, but also when the ID is necessary to get them something they want, such as release of their kids. Anytime someone needs ID, it will be more likely than not that they don’t have it on them.

Poor people don’t drive, either. Or at least don’t have valid driver’s licenses. But that makes sense, because it’s pretty expensive to maintain a car, insurance, registration, and pay tickets promptly. It’s the tickets that really kill them. Still, even if your license is encumbered, it’s a valid ID. Or you can get a state ID that looks just like a driver’s license, except you can’t drive. And people do this. They often have one, somewhere. They just don’t have it on them.

Category: Elsewhere, Road

We’ve been talking a lot lately about ridiculous blank slate policies that drag down bright kids and steer slower kids in the wrong direction. But this is the worst I’ve heard yet. A middle school in San Diego, that sounds like it’s full of poor Hispanic kids, eliminated most of its tracking.

The headline was The End of ‘The Stupid Class.’

Correia put almost all students into the same classes this year, ending the controversial practice of splitting children into classes based on ability, also known as tracking.

“We wanted to debunk the whole thing and try something new,” said Principal Patricia Ladd. Her hope was that doing so could raise the bar for all kids at Correia. “So we detracked.”

That’s all the explanation we get. We are comforted with one gifted Hispanic student’s statement that she’s become more tolerant since they lumped her in with the average and slow kids.

“I was upset because I felt slowed down,” said Elizabeth Modesto, an eighth grader. “But now I like it. I’ve gotten better at working with others.”

She was surprised to see that some of her new classmates were great writers, that the boy she knew as a class clown could wow her with a cogent point. And Modesto said she kept learning, too.

This isn’t a fact-laden article. It seems the writer is bending over backward to be optimistic, and/or taking the school official’s word for how things are going:

“But so far the Correia experiment has shown promising results. School district tests show more students scoring well. Fights have dwindled and misbehavior is less common in class. And because gifted classes tend to have fewer children of color and poor kids, the move also helped to integrate the school by color and class.”

More students scoring well. We aren’t given any specifics. Later in the story, we find out scores for the gifted students have dropped in math. Anyhow, I wouldn’t expect a single year of any bad strategy to have a huge measurable effect.

Of course, there’s not one word about how splitting up the bright kids and making them minorities in every class might socially affect them. That would mean admitting slow kids tend to hassle bright kids and act worse in general. And we don’t hear from any kids without Hispanic surnames, even though we’re told that there were a lot more white kids in the top track. Based upon my experience as a white kid in a mostly Hispanic and Filipino school, I would predict the problem Hispanic kids will bother the gifted white kids before the gifted Hispanic kids. So as long as there are some white nerdy kids around, Elizabeth Modesto will probably slip under the radar.

I wonder how the reporter chose the student sources. Some schools allow reporters full access, but others restrict their contact. For example, sometimes they will allow you to interview only hand-picked student sources on school property. Small media outlets have to pick their battles carefully, so it’s often easier just to give in on small stories like this. Or, the reporter might even have given the principal control over who got interviewed by asking her to provide the sources.

To teach all kids at once, teachers let students show their knowledge through more flexible and open-ended assignments that allow children to make them as tough as they want, instead of asking all kids to do the same fixed task. For example, one history class asked students to pose and answer their own questions in writing about “big ideas” — one hallmark of gifted classes now used across Correia.

One student posed the question, “Was the war with Mexico good or bad?” and answered simply that it was good because the United States got more land but bad because people died. Another asked what factors caused the Texan rebellion and answered, “The Americans started disrespecting the Mexicans’ ways of life. On the other hand, the Mexican government enforced certain laws too harshly.”

Wow, so a kid can choose to make his assignment harder for himself as he works alongside his slower peers. How generous. What exactly would be the incentive for a student to do that?

The reporter interviewed a couple teachers, who not so surprisingly declined to speak negatively of either their bosses or of having to teach the slow students. Also not surprisingly, teachers who had all slow students before consider the mixed classes an improvement.

“I’ve never had a class like this,” said Lisa Young, who was used to teaching struggling students in a separate class. “The kids see someone else having success and they think, ‘I want that.'”

Bianca Penuelas is one of them. Slackers won’t make it in her classes this year, she says, so she’s trying harder, thinking bigger, proud to be working and chatting with the “smart kids” she once saw from afar.

“I feel smarter,” she said, her braces glinting in a smile. “I felt like I made it up to their level.”


Here’s an on-point article from John Derbyshire at The National Review Online (via Half Sigma). And we discussed a study about tracking here, and L.A. Unified’s new approach to gifted education.

Category: School

It’s hard to believe that L.A. Unified wasn’t already testing all students for giftedness, but it wasn’t. And it looks as if that resulted in certain poor and heavily minority schools having virtually no students identified as “gifted.”

The L.A. Times reports that the district’s new superintendent is requiring every second grade student be tested, starting this year. This is huge. It sounds as if he actually believes in the concept of intellectual giftedness, and cares about programs that support it.

Across the district, white students — 8.4% of L.A. Unified’s enrollment — make up about 23% of those designated as gifted. And Asians — 3.6% of the district — make up 16.4% of the district’s gifted students.

Most students come to be tested through one of two routes: A parent requests it or the school takes the initiative. And one or both haven’t been happening at many schools like 99th Street, which is 75% Latino and 25% black.

Part of the reason, said L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, is “insidious racism.” But another crucial factor in Los Angeles, he said, is that programs for gifted students have long been associated with integration efforts. Getting the “gifted” label made middle-class whites and Asians eligible for special programs designed as incentives for them to remain in public school.

Cortines, who came to the district in 2008, wants to identify as gifted at least 6% of students at every school. Administrators began targeting some schools, an effort that quickly saw results. The number of black students identified as gifted increased more than 9% over a six-month period.

Maybe “insidious racism” is a factor, but I suspect the administration at the schools in question is not mostly white or Asian. I suspect the main reason gifted minorities get overlooked is that they are in poor, low-achieving schools, and most educators in those schools don’t want to bother identifying gifted students and giving them special attention. There’s no incentive for them to do so. On the other hand, if they don’t get enough low-achieving students up to the minimum testing standards, they run the risk of having the feds take over the school.

School districts get no extra dollars for identifying higher numbers of gifted students. Instead, the state allots funding for the gifted based on district enrollment. For L.A. Unified, that allotment has been shrinking, to about $4.6 million this year. Most of that has gone to IQ testing, administrative costs and training for teachers. About $25 per gifted student has gone to schools, officials said.

The ongoing budget crisis actually created a disincentive for finding gifted students. As partial compensation for cutting school funding, the state allowed districts to use the gifted-student money for any purpose.

Another reason is that many educators think there’s something unsavory about identifying the intellectually gifted. They think it’s elitist, maybe even racist. That’s because as we in this blogosphere know, kids from poor families and kids from certain minority groups get lower scores on intelligence tests and aptitude tests, as a group. So to be fair and sensitive, we’re supposed to say those tests don’t matter — at least we say that when we’re dealing with those groups. Clearly the educational establishment acts differently toward the middle-class schools full of white and Asian kids.

Meanwhile, society continues to make important decisions based upon those tests, such as whom to admit to college. And some of the intelligent individuals from those groups will get shafted, because they were always lumped in with everyone else from the group.

Plus let’s face it: Some people just find the gifted annoying. They don’t want more of them around. It’s a lot more acceptable to say, “Intelligence tests are racist and elitist,” than to say, “I just can’t stand eggheads.”


Here’s a post by “Audacious Epigone on the estimated IQ of teachers. It’s not high — about 107 for K-8. So at least according to this, the average teacher would not be considered intellectually “gifted.”

I read a study recently, to which I can’t find a link now, that the lower-scoring members of the teaching professions are the ones most likely to teach at the poor schools. So if the teachers themselves aren’t gifted, how eager are they going to be to identify a subset of their students as being smarter than they themselves are?

Category: Elsewhere, School

A story in the Los Angeles Times reports that more than a quarter of U.S. households use banks little or not at all. They use pawnbrokers, payday loans, and those automatic check-cashing places instead. Of the 25.6 percent, 7.7 percent have no bank accounts at all, and the rest are “underbanked.”

Why do I care? Because it’s a big deal that one in four households – not just individuals, but entire households — in the U.S. are that flaky. I file this in the same category as the information that nearly half the nation’s infants receive Women and Infant Children benefits (in California it’s more than 60 percent, so my kids are in the minority), and that one fifth of the people in Los Angeles County are on welfare and/or food stamps (this does not count unemployment or Social Security), and one out of 100 people in the U.S. are apparently in jail or prison at any given time. It’s too many. And they’re not spread out evenly — they’re concentrated in places where the privileged minority from which is drawn people who write surveys and write Times stories doesn’t have to deal with them. So they can afford to make kindhearted assumptions.

The information comes from an FDIC survey. It doesn’t appear the survey, or the article, considered three of the best reasons for keeping one’s money out of banks:

1) Your bank account can be levied upon by creditors. For example, if the district attorney’s office is after you for reimbursement for the welfare payments your child receives, they can get an order taking it out of your bank account without warning.

2) Banks don’t give people accounts who rip off banks. So if, for instance, you’ve had overdrafts you haven’t made good on, or have forged checks, you’re barred from having an account, and not necessarily just with the bank you cheated. I’m not sure how the banks find out — maybe they run criminal records, maybe there’s just a “bad” list they put people on.

3) Law enforcement can track you down through your banking.

No, the story reads as if traditional banking is an injustice perpetrated by the banks upon the naive and unlucky:

“Stubborn infrastructure” at financial institutions, as well as the cost and range of their services, are to blame for the high rate of unbanked and underbanked consumers, said Red Gillen, senior analyst at Celent, a Boston financial research and consulting firm.

I don’t know what he means by the “range of their services” being a problem. But how much does it cost to have a checking account, like $15 a month? That’s less than an employed person responsibly running a household would lose to fees from automated check-cashing centers and money orders.

Note that the story doesn’t say how many of those completely unbanked folks live on public assistance. I’ll bet it’s a majority. They get a check once a month, and maybe also have an Electronic Benefits Transfer card they use for their groceries and Subway sandwiches. Less hassle to pay the check-cashing fee once a month, and have the rest available in cash so no one can track how they use it.

And I’ll also bet the vast majority have children under 18. So, the numbers mislead us into thinking the problem is smaller than it is, because the percentage is disproportionately represented in parenthood. Look how huge, for example, that WIC statistic gets when it gives us the percentage of infant recipients, versus the percentage of total households. How many law-abiding, self-supporting people have kids anymore?

Category: Market