ROBOTICS AND AMIR ABO-SHAEER, THE “GENIUS” TEACHER
The LA Times Steve Chawkins writes about a gifted and innovative high school teacher who last year got a MacArthur Genius Grant, and is leading his school’s robotics team into the finals of the national competition—among other accomplishments.
Here’s a representative clip. But read the rest:
At a time when the profession is under attack, Abo-Shaeer has emerged as a national example of great teaching.
Last year, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation $500,000 “genius” grant, the first high school teacher to win one. He and his robotics team — known as Team 1717 and the D’Penguineers — are the subjects of a recently released book, “The New Cool.” A film is in the works.
And while Abo-Shaeer likens navigating the educational system to wading through peanut butter, he has managed to launch an in-school engineering academy and to raise $6 million for it.
Not bad for a hometown guy who could have made a lot more and worked a lot less if he hadn’t decided to become a teacher at his old public high school.
Abo-Shaeer grew up in Goleta, the son of an Iraqi theoretical physicist who had worked and studied on four continents.
As a young man, Muhsin Abo-Shaeer had so excelled at math and science that the Iraqi government prepared him for a science career the way Russia grooms gymnasts for the Olympics. But when he settled in Santa Barbara, where he’d earned his doctorate, and couldn’t find a physics job, he started mowing lawns for a living….
GAYS TRANSFORMING THE LAW
When the bigtime law firm of King & Spalding said this week it would no longer represent Congress in trying to prop up the Defense of Marriage Act, the suggestion was that the firm had been bullied into their withdrawal by political correctness and gay lobbyists.
But, as law professor Dayle Carpenter suggests in an op ed for Friday’s New York Times, the full picture is more complicated and more interesting.
Here’s how Carpenter’s essay opens:
THE prestigious law firm King & Spalding has not fully explained its decision this week to stop assisting Congress in defending the law that forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. But its reversal suggests the extent to which gay men and lesbians have persuaded much of the legal profession to accept the basic proposition that sexual orientation is irrelevant to a person’s worth and that the law should reflect this judgment. The decision cannot be dismissed simply as a matter of political correctness or bullying by gays.
Gay-rights supporters have transformed the law and the legal profession, opening the doors of law firms, law schools and courts to people who were once casually and cruelly shut out because of their sexual orientation.
But it was a process that took a half-century to unfold. In 1961, a Harvard-trained astronomer, Frank Kameny, stood alone against the federal government. Fired from his federal job simply for being gay, he wanted to petition the Supreme Court. But at a time when all 50 states still criminalized sodomy, even the American Civil Liberties Union declared it had no interest in challenging laws “aimed at the suppression or elimination of homosexuals.” Mr. Kameny wrote his own appellate brief; without comment, the court turned him away.
Over the next quarter-century, lifted by gales of change in sexual morality and in the status of women, gay-rights advocates mobilized at every level of the legal profession.
Read the rest.
“DOG WARS” DOG FIGHTING VIDEO IS NOT GONE FOR GOOD, BUT THE DAMAGE CONTROL AND SPINNING HAS BEGUN
The extremely creepy sounding “Dog Wars” video game that allows you to train canines for the kind of dog fighting that got Michael Vick some prison time (it’s a felony offense in all 50 states), has not been pulled from the market, but just withdrawn briefly for some changes. News of its return runs contrary to the hopes, and urging of animal rights groups plus an unlikely coalition of opposition including the LAPD union, the Police Protective League, whose board called the game “sickening and irresponsible.
Additional details at Yahoo News. Here’s a clip:
In an email to The LA Times, signed by email@example.com, an official for Kage Games said proceeds from the game would benefit animal rescue organizations and the Japanese tsunami relief effort.
Pitboss did not give his real name, citing threats of violence by animal rights activists.
“We are in fact animal lovers ourselves,” the email reads. “This is our groundbreaking way to raise money/awareness to aid REAL dogs in need, execute freedom of expression, and serve as a demonstration to the competing platform that will not allow us as developers to release software without prejudgment.”
IN A WILDLY SENSIBLE MOVE, JERRY BROWN CANCELS PLANS TO BUILD A NEW $356 MILLION DEATH ROW HOUSING IN SAN QUENTIN
Good grief! Finally, someone has come to their senses on this matter! Thank you, Jerry.
This is from the governor’s official statement:
“At a time when children, the disabled and seniors face painful cuts to essential programs, the State of California cannot justify a massive expenditure of public dollars for the worst criminals in our state,” said Brown. “California will have to find another way to address the housing needs of condemned inmates. It would be unconscionable to earmark $356 million for a new and improved death row while making severe cuts to education and programs that serve the most vulnerable among us.”
The SF Chron has more details:
The new, bigger Death Row had a projected construction cost of $356 million, an amount that had grown from an original estimate of $220 million in 2003. The costs were criticized in several reports by state officials, and the state auditor estimated the state would spend $1.2 billion on additional staffing to operate the new Death Row over the next 20 years.
The new Death Row would have been able to house up to 1,152 condemned inmates. There are less than 700 people in state prison who have been sentenced to death. The current Death Row is made up of three different buildings at San Quentin, the oldest of which was built in 1927.
Paul Verke, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said prison officials wanted a new Death Row because of the state of the aging buildings, but he said the department supports the governor’s decision, even though it is not clear what the new plan is for housing condemned inmates.
AND NOW OVER TO THAT WEDDING, I GUESS… (YAWN)
(Okay, I do kinda like the hats.)