California

WATCH: Perspectives on the Pandemic #6

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 5:30am in

When Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Antin Massihi held a press conference on April 22nd about the results of testing they conducted at their urgent care facilities around Bakersfield, California, the video, uploaded by a local ABC news affiliate, went viral. After reaching five million views, YouTube took it down on the grounds that it …

On Howling in Mill Valley and Walt Whitman’s “Barbaric Yawp”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 5:24am in

Whitman would be proud of the people of Mill Valley, California, and their new nightly ritual of communal howling at each other out of their windows during the pandemic. Continue reading

The post On Howling in Mill Valley and Walt Whitman’s “Barbaric Yawp” appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

The Great Chinese Bat Flu Panic of 2020

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/03/2020 - 5:00pm in

CJ Hopkins Pray for me, my friends, because I have the flu. No, not the Chinese Bat Flu, or Pangolin Flu, or Covid-19, or Coronavirus, or whatever it’s called now … just the regular, annoying Winter flu that goes around Berlin every year during flu season. It’s a particularly annoying flu this year. You get …

Flat Earth Builder of Homemade Rocket Dies in Crash

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/02/2020 - 10:28pm in

And now for something a bit different. Yesterday, 25th February 2020, the I reported the sad death of Mike Hughes. Hughes was the Flat Earther, who built his own steam-driven rocket to fly above the planet to see if it really was round. He succeeded, but as he only got a mile or so up, he couldn’t actually see the curvature of the Earth, and so remained unconvinced.

According to the paper, Hughes and two other teams were competing to launch their homemade spaceships for the show Homemade Astronauts on the American Science channel. It was when this was being filmed that the crash happened. The report, ‘Flat Earther and DIY astronaut dies after homemade rocket crashes in the desert’ by Rory Sullivan, runs

A daredevil pilot, who believed the Earth was flat has been killed after his homemade rocket crashed shortly after take-off in California.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, who hoped to prove the Earth was flat by going into space, died on Saturday near Barstow, California, after attempting to launch his steam-powered rocket for a new television  series called Homemade Astronauts on the US Science Channel.

In a statement, the Science Channel said: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey.”

A video of the launch, posted by a witness on Twitter, shows a parachute trailing behind the rocket immediately after take-off.

The rocket then hurtles down to earth before crashing into the desert.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said its officers responded to a fatal rocket crash on Saturday afternoon, but did not name the deceased.

With the help of his engineering partner Waldo Stakes, Hughes, 64, wanted to reach 5,000 feet (152.4m) in his rocket, according to the website Space.com.

The site added that the pair were one of three teams who were trying to reacdh the Karman line, which, at 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, is that by some to mark the start of space.

In a trailer filmed by the Science Channel ahead of the launch, Hughes had said: “People ask me why I do stuff like this. Basically, it’s just to convince people they can do extraordinary things with their lives.”

Hughes, with the help of his assistants, built the rocket in his garden, at a cost of around $18,000 (£14,000).

Picture accompanying the article of Hughes with his rocket.

I realise that to many people, Hughes is probably a crank, who killed himself doing something that should best be left to the big national space agencies, but to me, he’s a true-blue American hero. It’s through people like Hughes that aviation and rocketry advanced in their very early years.

Way back in the 1990s the X-Prize was launched to stimulate and encourage the private development of spaceflight. The organisation behind it observed how innovation in early airplane flight and development had been driven by private individuals competing for prizes. And this had lead to superb feats, such as the crossing of the Atlantic by men like Charles Lindbergh, ‘Wrong-Way’ Corrigan and others. They believed that the way out of the doldrums spaceflight was currently in would only come if the stranglehold of big government organisations like NASA on the area was broken by private individuals and companies competing for a similar prize. They therefore set a prize of $100,000 to be awarded to the first privately-made and launched rocket, that would ascend to space and then return. The result was a series of private aerospace companies, producing great, innovative and not always successful designs to accomplish this.

At the same time, there is, or was, a flourishing milieu of hobby rocketeers. They build and launch model rockets, sometimes in massive meets right out in the American desert. And not all of these spacecraft are small. One group set off a missile, and got very excited because their onboard video camera brought back pictures of black sky. They reached the edge of space!

I could see things going further, and so wrote an article published in Spaceflight, the popular magazine of the British Interplanetary Society, ‘This Sporting Life’, arguing that as spaceflight developed and continued to gain popularity, eventually people would turn to crewed sports rocketry. Just as people now fly microlight aircraft to enjoy some of the experienced they’d get from flying full-size aircraft, so I foresaw a leisure industry developing where people would take short pleasure hops in hobby rockets to experience some of the pleasure of being astronauts. A few years later, I published in a paper in the Society’s technical journal, the JBIS, working out the equations for such a craft.

I suggested using solid rocket motors, as they’re simpler and don’t have have the complex plumbing of liquid fuel rockets. I also selected as the propellant GALCIT – C. This is quite low energy, a bit more powerful than gunpowder but not much. Nevertheless, it would have enough power to carry a rocket carrying a single person a mile or so up. This I considered to be the best distance for a pleasure hop, rather than full-scale voyage into the stratosphere and beyond.

Mr Hughes and the other teams competing in the show aren’t quite the leisure industry I imagined, but they’re almost there. They’re amateurs, doing it for their own pleasure as well as being part of a television show.

I therefore commiserate with the Hughes’ family, friends and the other participants of the programme in his death. But believe his example will hopefully inspire many others to take up science, engineering and rocketry.

He has truly shown that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Lee Camp: They’re Going to Try to Steal California From Sanders (Again)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/02/2020 - 6:16am in

After watching Iowa devolve into chaos like a car crash in slow motion, I regret to inform you that California will be stolen from Bernie Sanders.

It’s happening now, and anyone with a vague understanding of what took place in 2016 should know how the grand theft will go down. But the good news is there’s still a chance to have a legitimate vote in the land of sunshine and broken dreams, which is why the Democratic National Committee probably doesn’t want you to read this column. So if DNC Chair Tom Perez comes around and dumps hot tea in your lap in the next few minutes, you’ll know why. (He has a lot of free time.)

California is one of the biggest prizes, with 495 delegates up for grabs. And it’s even more important this year because its primaries have been moved up to Super Tuesday, March 3. Right now, Bernie Sanders, aka  “Old Man Rational,” has jumped to the top of the California polls. So if you were the ruling elite of California and you wanted to rig your primary against people like Bernie Sanders, what would you do (Short of breaking the legs of anyone who gives change to a homeless man)?

Well, I guess one thing would be to make it really hard for a person to vote if he isn’t a full-on bread-and-butter Joe Biden-loving Democrat who owns a T-shirt featuring Barack Obama riding on a dinosaur. Candidates like Bernie attract a lot of voters who are outside the two corrupt Wall Street parties, i.e. independents. And independents are no small group. In fact 45% of Americans consider themselves Independents, while only 27% call themselves Democrats and 27% Republicans.

So if you’re an independent in California, when you registered to vote, some of you probably checked the box that said “American Independent Party.” There’s only one problem: The American Independent Party is a borderline neo-Nazi group. It’s the name of a party that opposes gay marriage, hates immigrants and apparently hates women, because the last line of its manifesto (of course it has a manifesto) actually states, “In consequence whereof, we call upon all men who value their God-given liberty to join us in pursuit of these political convictions!” (Emphasis added … but you could feel it.)

Can I also add that I strongly believe one can’t just follow racist, sexist crap with the antiquated phrase “in consequence whereof” and think that makes it OK? Rarely do you hear a story like, “The other day someone said to me, ‘In consequence whereof, I consider you a bucket of dicks.” And I responded, ‘Why thank you, my good man. Henceforth and forsooth, go screw yourself.’”

So, do you think a lot of independents in California accidentally sign up for the bigotry party? Yes they do. “A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that a majority of [the American Independent Party’s] members have registered with the party in error. Nearly three out of four people did not realize they had joined the party. …”

Therefore, Californians should be forewarned that if they want to vote for someone outside the centrists — say, Bernie Sanders — they need to change their party affiliation to either Democrat or No Party Preference. But it gets even worse.

In order to stop the “No Party Preference” people from voting, the state (read: the corporate Democratic machine) does not give them a ballot with the presidential choices on it … which is RIDICULOUS! Do they honestly think millions of people skipped work to stand in line at a polling place playing Pokemon on their phones for three hours in order to vote for the City Council’s assistant treasurer?! No! They showed up to tell Joe Biden to check into a retirement home. And there is indeed a way they can vote in the presidential primary, but it’s complicated.

To sum up — millions of California independents are accidentally signed up for a racist, homophobic party. Millions more are handed a ballot without presidential candidates. In consequence whereof — millions of people will not get to cast a vote in the primary. But, as investigative journalist Greg Palast has revealed, it gets even worse! He wrote, “… if an NPP voter asks the poll worker, ‘How do I get to vote in the Democratic party primary?’ the poll workers are instructed to say that, ‘NPP voters can’t get Democratic ballots.’”

The poll workers are not lying … kinda. NPP voters can’t get Democratic ballots, but they can get Democratic crossover ballots, which do include the presidential race. So as Palast explains, “…if you don’t say the magic words, ‘I want a Democratic crossover ballot,’ you are automatically given a ballot without the presidential race.”

You have to say the goddamn golden phrase to get to vote?! Poll workers are nearly instructed to lie to Independents unless the voter has the passcode. It is bananas that it’s this hard to obtain the correct ballot in California! (I’ve had an easier time procuring meth in a Mormon household.)

Because of these intentional hurdles designed to stop Independents from voting, millions of Californians will be handed something called a “provisional ballot.”

Let’s see, how do I explain a provisional ballot? You know when a little toddler has a ball and they go to throw it, and they cock their arm back and then the ball rolls out of their hand behind them, and they end up throwing nothing but air? But they think they threw the ball, so you can see them watching for where the ball is going to land? That’s a provisional ballot. It’s a lot of buildup, but you didn’t do shit. Because no one will ever count it.

In truth, a certain percentage of provisional ballots are indeed counted, but by the time they are, it’s too late. The results have been reported, and the provisional ballots are really just an afterthought. For this reason, Palast calls them “placebo ballots” — they’re designed to make you think you voted. So don’t accept a provisional ballot. Demand your right to vote in the presidential primary. Demand a crossover ballot.

Election integrity activists in California also recommend people vote early, which can be done right now, in person, at your county Department of Elections. That way you’ll have plenty of time to deal with what they call in the election integrity biz — fuckery.

Ironically, our government fights to make sure as few people as possible vote in our elections. Since the mainstream media has been captured by corporate America, only alternative media now reveals how the wealthy and the powerful game the systems.

So tell your sun-bleached Cali friends to demand a real ballot with the presidential candidates on it. I’m not going tell you or them who to vote for, but in consequence whereof the American Independent (Homophobe) Party is fighting for your rights, such as the right to speak like it’s the mid-1800s. (As long as you’re a white male landowner of military age. Immigrants and women need not apply.)

Feature photo | A supporter holds up a sign for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a rally in Venice, Calif., Dec. 21, 2019. Kelvin Kuo | AP

If you think this column is important, please share it. Lee Camp’s new book, “Bullet Points & Punch Lines,” is available at LeeCampBook.com.

This column is based on a monologue Lee Camp wrote and performed on his TV show, “Redacted Tonight.”

This article was published with special permission from the author. It originally appeared at Truthdig.

The post Lee Camp: They’re Going to Try to Steal California From Sanders (Again) appeared first on MintPress News.

History Wars: How Politics Shape Textbooks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/01/2020 - 1:06am in

What are students learning about American history in these hyper-polarized times? That’s what New York Times reporter Dana Goldstein wanted to know. And so she set off on an epic reading adventure: 43 middle and high school American history textbooks, 4,800 in all. Have You Heard talks to Dana about how our divided nation shows up on the pages of these books on subjects such as immigration, the economy and suburbanization. Also, Jack revisits the great debate in the 1990’s over history standards. Full transcript of the episode is available here.

And in this episode’s segment of In the Weeds, available to our Patreon subscribers, Jack and Jennifer discuss the emergence of the National Parents Union, a new group with an old cause and some powerful friends. Listen in by becoming a patron!

Can California’s Colleges Be Saved?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/01/2020 - 3:28am in

Jaelyn Deas and her four best friends shared everything, including late-night study sessions in the library at San Jose State University and a never-ending preoccupation with how they’d pay for their tuition there.

The one thing they didn’t do together? Graduate.

While she was juggling a major in international business, a minor in Japanese and a job to help keep up with her expenses, Deas fell behind, and her friends put on their caps and gowns and walked across the stage in May without her.

It was they who were defying the odds. Fewer than 20 percent of her classmates who entered San Jose State in 2014 finished in four years — less than half the national average.

That didn’t make Deas feel any better. She considered quitting, or transferring to a community college. Then she was summoned to the financial aid office, where she learned that the university, part of the California State University System, was giving her a grant of up to $1,500 to help her get across the finish line.

“I walked out of the office crying. I had no idea something like this existed, and it took a burden off my shoulders,” said Deas, who is on track now to earn her bachelor’s degree before the year is out.

It’s one example of the many ways that California is taking on seemingly intractable problems that are plaguing higher education nationwide.

UC San Diego. Credit: Olga Shpyrko / Flickr

These include the longer-than-expected amount of time it takes students to graduate; high dropout rates; financial aid that doesn’t cover living expenses; courses that cost more than students will earn from what they learn; credits that won’t transfer; pricey textbooks; and “remedial” education requirements that force students to retake subjects they should have learned in high school, often frustrating them enough to quit.

California, with a higher education budget for 2019-2020 of $18.5 billion, is bucking a national trend — most other states are continuing to reduce, not increase, their higher education budgets. All but four states are spending less on higher education, per student, than they did in 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-learning think tank. Those spending more? Hawaii, North Dakota, Wyoming — and California.

Fueling the reforms and the funding behind them are a projected shortage of workers with the necessary degrees to fill the jobs of the future, a public backlash in response to budget cuts made during the recession and a concern that the state had been abandoning its long tradition of high-quality, low-cost education.

Californians remember “when younger generations could truly expect to live a better life than their parents and grandparents. And that dream has been fading,” said David Chiu, a member of the State Assembly from San Francisco who is active in education issues.

“That’s why so many of us have been focused on how do we bring this back,” Chiu said. “Because we had that history, because we knew what a well-functioning higher education system could do, we aspire to that again.”

Glory days gone by

Over the course of a century, California built the country’s top-ranked public research university and its largest and most affordable community college system. Today there are 10 University of California campuses, 23 Cal State (or CSU) campuses and 115 community colleges.

A California resident in 1960 could earn a bachelor’s degree at the world-class University of California, or UC, for just $60 per semester in “incidental fees” — about $500 in today’s currency. That same year, the state adopted a master plan for higher education: The UC would serve the top eighth of graduating high school seniors while the top third would be eligible to attend a CSU campus, and the community colleges would be open to all.

The goal, writes historian John Aubrey Douglass, was “broad access combined with the development of high quality, mission differentiated, and affordable higher education institutions.”

Thomas Edison (top right) at the California State Normal School in 1915. The school would later become part of UCLA. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

But in the coming decades, politicians of both parties would respond to economic downturns by cutting higher education funding, causing tuition to rise. The trend peaked during the recession that began in 2008, when UC hiked undergraduate tuition by nearly a third in a single year.

At the same time, California’s student population was changing in ways that foreshadowed national trends, becoming more ethnically diverse, with growing numbers coming from low-income families in which they are the first to go to college. No racial or ethnic group constitutes a majority here; 39 percent of residents are Hispanic, 38 percent are white, 14 percent are Asian and 6 percent are black. More than a quarter are immigrants.

The price of undergraduate tuition and fees, when adjusted for inflation, has increased sixfold in the last 40 years at the University of California and is 15 times higher at California State campuses, according to the independent California Budget and Policy Center.

The upshot? Like many states, California is behind in its progress toward a goal of increasing the proportion of adults with a college or university credential, according to the Lumina Foundation, which tracks this. Today, fewer than half of its adults have one, short of the target of 60 percent by 2030 set the Campaign for College Opportunity, an advocacy group. (Lumina is among the many funders of The Hechinger Report, which co-produced this story.)

“That number gets a lot of play across the street,” said Jake Jackson, a Sacramento-based research fellow at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC, gesturing toward the state Capitol.

New era, new mindset

In essence, California’s state university system is trying to adapt the tools that served it well in the past for the very different needs of today’s changing student body. This means recalculating based on new economic realities, demographic shifts and a rapidly evolving jobs landscape. Here are a few ways it’s keeping pace with the present.

Accept more transfer students

One way to attract more students who weren’t put on the “university track” early is to increase the number of transfer students, especially from community colleges.

To achieve this, then-Gov. Jerry Brown threatened in 2017 to withhold a $50 million allocation to the UC system unless it increased its share of transfer students. He also said he would strip private colleges and universities of their eligibility for the $2 billion Cal Grant program unless they did a better job admitting transfers.

The pressure worked. Brown wanted some public universities with low numbers of transfers to take one transfer student for every two freshmen, a goal they’ve largely met. In addition, the private, nonprofit member institutions of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities have agreed to collectively enroll 3,000 transfer students annually by next year.

Make sure students get the classes they need, and aren’t trapped by the ones they don’t

Some of that extra money has gone toward adding sections of courses that were filling up too fast. Not getting into the classes he needs is a big fear for student James Soberano, a San Jose State freshman majoring in computer engineering who was pecking away at his laptop in the student center.

“I definitely want to be out of here in four years,” Soberano said. “If not, I’ll be taking summer classes to be sure I am.”

The campus at San Diego State University. Credit: Stuart Seeger / Flickr

Another effective way of speeding students toward degrees is by eliminating noncredit remedial courses, which require them to repeat subjects such as algebra and English. More than four in 10 college students across the country end up in remedial — also called “developmental” — classes. That costs students $1.3 billion a year, according to the Center for American Progress, and many simply give up.

In California, 80 percent of community college students were being sent to remedial courses in English or math, and only 16 percent of them earned a certificate or associate degree within six years, according to the PPIC.

In response, in 2017, California’s community colleges began putting less-well-prepared students into credit-bearing introductory courses with extra tutoring. The CSU system, too, started doing this last year, and now also funnels students with low high school grades or standardized test scores into special preparation programs in the summer before their freshman years.

Though some faculty members have objected to the changes, early studies suggest they’ve led to big improvements: 63 percent of community college students who went directly into transfer-level English composition courses with tutoring successfully completed them, compared to 32 percent who went to remediation.

Provide the basics so students can focus on studying

Bright murals decorate the walls of UC Berkeley’s Basic Needs Center, framing the entrance to a food pantry laden with organic mac and cheese, fresh produce and bread from a nearby bakery.

Students who have trouble affording food and rent come here to do their grocery shopping, sign up for public benefits or meet with counselors. A community kitchen is under construction, and volunteers use a bicycle with a custom trailer to pedal around nearby neighborhoods collecting excess produce from residents’ gardens.

The center is the result of student activism spotlighting the nontuition costs of college in a state where the price of housing has reached staggering heights. The goal: to ease students’ stress about food and shelter so they can focus on their studies.

Researchers have documented widespread food and housing insecurity among students across the country, and the purchasing power of the federal Pell Grant, which can help cover living costs, is at a historic low. California students spend an average of $2,020 a month on food, housing, books, supplies and transportation, a survey released in September by the California Student Aid Commission found.

Put the wind at their backs as they approach the finish line

The state invested $75 million last year to try to raise low CSU graduation rates and plans to spend another $75 million this year. The rates have already slowly started to improve, with 27.7 percent of CSU students now finishing in four years, up from 19 percent in 2015. (The most recent available national average is 42 percent, the U.S. Department of Education says.)

For some students, a relatively small cash infusion is all they need to make sure their final months aren’t tripped up by unaffordable expenses. The “Spartan Completion Grant” that Deas got is part of a program that began last year for seniors who are within two semesters of earning their degrees and meet other requirements. They can receive up to $1,500 per semester. The university says that 70 percent of recipients have graduated.

Cut costs without cutting corners

California has thrown a lot of other ideas at making college more affordable.

The California State system and some UC campuses have substituted cheaper digital books and open-source materials for textbooks, for example, which the CSAC found cost California students $1,080 a year.

The CSAC itself last year began to address the complex process of applying for financial aid, which research shows makes prospective students less likely to enroll in college in the first place, by creating a more user-friendly website and making it easier to compare the costs of different schools.

In a pilot program by the California Policy Lab, redesigning and simplifying letters sent to 130,000 high school students about Cal Grants made them nine percent more likely to register for the online Cal Grant system by June of their senior years. “That’s a lot of new students able to attend college and improve their career options,” said the lab’s executive director, Evan White.

Many campuses are opening food pantries like the one at UC Berkeley, holding outreach fairs to sign up students for the state’s version of the federal food stamp program or starting emergency housing programs — all backed by that more than $50 million in this year’s state budget to help deal with student hunger and homelessness.

Respect your elders

The state is trying to help older students, too, a challenge also facing the rest of the country. More than 35 million Americans over age 25 have some college credits but never got degrees, the Census Bureau says;  29 percent of undergraduate and 76 percent of graduate students are 25 or older, the U.S. Department of Education reports. But many juggle families and jobs, and aren’t eligible for state financial aid.

This year, Gov. Newsom successfully pushed to provide students at public universities and colleges who are parents of dependent children with as much as $6,000 a year for books, childcare and other nontuition expenses on top of tuition aid. An estimated 29,000 parents qualify, the governor’s office says. In September, the state debuted an online community college designed especially for people 25 to 34 who are already working but don’t have a college degree or certificate.

A Golden State warrior

Few other states are trying as many reforms at once as California, or can do so at such scale; its financial aid program is the nation’s biggest, and its community colleges alone have a collective enrollment of 2.1 million. Still, the Golden State is becoming a valuable laboratory for solutions that could address some of the problems of America’s higher education system.

California still has to figure out how to cope with the challenges that come with that scale. Each year, tens of thousands of qualified applicants are turned away from UC and CSU campuses due to lack of space.

But California’s size will also continue to make it a laboratory for innovation, Kevin Cook, associate director of the PPIC Higher Education Center, said.

“There’s a lot of interest from large funders,” he said. “Because of the size of the state, if you can make something work here, it will probably work anywhere else.”

This story about California higher education was produced by CalMatters, a nonprofit news venture covering California policy and politics, and The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s higher education newsletter and the CalMatters newsletter WhatMatters

The post Can California’s Colleges Be Saved? appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.