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Friday, August 19, 2011

This Week on Information Underground

This week on Information Underground a special encore presentation of Gay in Aggieland.

Listen to Information Underground on 89.1FM KEOS on Sundays from 5-6pm after Tavis Smiley, for all the alternative news, politics, and commentary that you don’t hear in the mainstream media. To listen to Information Underground online and to listen to past episodes visit Information Underground on LiveStream. Tune in every week to hear headlines, interviews, and political and social thought to the Left of College Station.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Political and Social Thought to the Left of College Station

"Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention." - Molly Ivins

They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and sometimes that is true. It is definitely true when in reference to the egos of Texas politicians. Now, the Texas politician with the biggest ego (and the biggest hair) has decided that his ego is just too big for Texas. Republican Governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy for President of the United States, and will try to persuade voters that what America really needs is another president from Texas.

How exactly will Perry do that? Well, just look at the miracle that is the Texas economy! He will tout Texas as business friendly (Read: corporate friendly), low regulation (Read: highly polluted), and low taxes (Read: limited welfare services). Republican primary voters will likely buy into Perry’s version of Texas, and the media and pundits on Fox News will varnish over Perry’s record as Governor.

So, what is Rick Perry's Texas really like?

American Outsourcing: According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, from June 2009 to June 2011 the state added 262,000 jobs, or half the country’s 524,000 payroll gains. However, those jobs are not being created in Texas, but the equivalent of in country outsourcing. As the New York Times has reported, Perry has been traveling the country pouching jobs from other states – and not developing homegrown jobs in Texas.

Stimulus Miracle: “In Texas, we actually know it is a good idea to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Rick Perry rejected $555 million in unemployment insurance from the federal government, only to accepted $14 billion in other federal stimulus dollars. The San Antonio Business Journal reported that economic stimulus initiative created about 2.2 million to 2.8 million jobs nationwide in the first three months of 2010, and Texas reported 205,000 jobs which was the second largest number of job increases in the nation.

Corporate Welfare: The businesses and jobs that have relocated to Texas have not just been motivated by low regulation and low taxation. Time magazine reported that since 2003 Texas has spent $732 million in tax credits and subsidies to companies that relocated to the Lone Star State.

Working Poor: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas tied with Mississippi for states having the highest percentage of hourly paid workers earning the minimum wage or less in 2010; 550,000 Texans, 9.5% of hourly paid workers, made the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less last year. San Antonio Express News reported that median wage of all hourly paid Texans was $11.20 last year compared to $12.50 nationally. In Texas, the median hourly wage for men was $12.13; for women, $10.24. Nationally, the median was $13.76 for men and $11.83 for women.

Innocent Execution: Along with executing the mentally challenged, Texas also executes innocent people. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 after being convicted of arson and the murder of his three children. Even after evidence emerged showing that arson had not caused the fire, Perry refused to grant a stay of execution. Five years after Willingham was executed, a report from a Texas Forensic Science Commission investigator found that the fire could not have been arson. As the commission prepared to hear testimony from the investigator in October 2009, Perry quickly fired and replaced three of its members, forcing an indefinite delay in the hearing.

Disabled Execution: In 2001, Rick Perry vetoed a bill passed by the Texas legislature banning the execution of the mentally retarded, saying that the state's judicial system already contained adequate protections for such defendants. The Huffington Post has reported that supporters of the bill disagreed, pointing to evidence indicating that at least a half-dozen prisoners with mental deficiencies had been executed since 1990.

Untested Students: "We have more kids take the SAT than any other state in the nation. I mean a high percentage of our kids take the SAT." The non-partisan PolitiFact called that statement by Rick Perry false. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Texas ranks 45th out of 50 states in combined SAT scores, and only 51% of Texas high school graduates take the SAT. Only New York, Georgia, South Carolina and Maine have lower combined SAT scores.

Failing Schools: Half of Texas school districts and 1 out of 4 campuses failed to reach federal academic targets established by the No Child Left Behind Act. The Austin American-Statesman reported that statewide 605 districts and 2,233 traditional and charter schools failed to make the grade.

Underfunded Schools: Due to draconian cuts in education, to address a $27 billion budget shortfall, thousands of Texas teachers will be losing their jobs this year. The Texas Tribune reports that Perry signed a school finance plan that cut $4 billion from districts statewide. To date 12,000 teachers have already lost their jobs, and up to 100,000 of the state's 330,000 teachers might lose their positions.

Climate Changer: Texas is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the country, and emits more green house gases than the combined emissions of California and Pennsylvania, which are the states with the 2nd and 3rd highest carbon emissions outputs. The Daily Beast reported that in 2005 if Texas was a country it would be the eighth-largest emitter of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide worldwide.

Read more about Rick Perry's Texas at Left of College Station.


Local News
College Station May See Lower Property Taxes

According to an article in the Bryan-College Station Eagle, College Station city staff on this week proposed lowering property taxes next year to their lowest rate since 2001. The new rate would be 43.8 cents per $100 valuation of property, a decrease of 1 cent from last year's taxes. In other words, a home appraised at $100,000 would owe the city about $438. Even with a lower rate, College Station would still collect slightly more revenue than it did last year because values in the city rose 5.2 percent over the last year. About half of that increase was due to new construction, while the other half came from growth in the value of existing property, staff members said. The rate proposed by city staff was calculated so that residents as a whole will pay the same amount of taxes as they did last year on existing property. The added revenue will come from new construction.

Local Politics
Voters to Decide on College Station Election Changes

The College Station City Council this week chose to leave it up to the voters to decide whether to lengthen council term lengths to four years or move municipal elections to November. The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports that choice will be placed on this year's November ballot, along with amendments to the state constitution and a special election to choose a replacement for retired State Rep. Fred Brown. Either way, a change will be necessary because of a law passed by the Texas Legislature designed to make it easier for military members and overseas voters to cast ballots in statewide primary runoffs. Texas holds it primaries in March. Runoffs were previously in April, but the new law moved the date to May to give absentee voters 45 days to turn in their ballots. The new May runoff date intersects with College Station's May municipal elections, and Brazos County doesn't have the resources to run two elections at the same time. That forces the city to adjust in one of two possible ways: Change the date of its elections to November or adjust term lengths so that municipal elections are only held in odd-numbered years when there is no primary. Each choice drew concern from members of the council and voters. Thirteen people spoke at the meeting: nine said they supported moving the election date to November and four said they wanted to keep it in May.

Texas News
Houston Crime Lab Finds 3,000-plus Untested Rape Kits

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Police Department has conceded about 4,000 rape kits — all untested — are stored in a property room freezer, but a recent inventory shows there are potentially thousands more containing never-examined evidence from sexual assault cases. According to department officials and figures compiled for a grant awarded to HPD from the National Institute of Justice this year, more than 3,000 kits stored in air-conditioned sections of the property room may not have been tested in addition to the 4,220 untested kits in a property room freezer. The estimate of additional kits is based on a random sampling. Not only can untested sexual assault evidence cause delays in justice for rape victims, it also can lead to the conviction of innocent people. Last month, the Houston Chronicle reported on a 1995 rape case that was solved after DNA evidence in the case, never previously analyzed, was tested. The suspect in the case, Roland Ali Westbrooks, was serving a prison sentence for a similar rape committed two years later.

Texas Politics
Fee Meant For Poor Used to Aid Republican Cause

The participants at the prayer vigil organized by Gov. Rick Perry were treated to arctic blasts of the stuff Saturday, with Reliant Stadium's 12,000 tons of air-conditioning keeping temperatures nippy. But as historic temperatures scorch Texas for the third straight month with triple-digit misery, $650 million collected from Texas electricity consumers to assist poor elderly and disabled citizens with their utility bills sits idly in a state bank account. Instead of serving its intended humanitarian purpose, the state's $650 million System Benefit Fund now serves a political one — permitting Perry and other Republican leaders to keep their "no new taxes" pledge. In February, the Perry-appointed Public Utility Commission voted to reduce aid distributed from the fund, allowing its corpus to grow ever bigger. The fund, a big positive entry in the state comptroller's ledger of the state's fiscal condition, is now an essential tool in "balancing" the state's budget. The SBF was the brainchild of Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, created when the Legislature deregulated electric utility companies in 1999. Turner, hoping to protect Texas' most vulnerable consumers, proposed tacking a small monthly fee onto everyone's utility bills to provide aid to the needy. Over the years, the PUC has adopted rules limiting the number of citizens eligible for assistance, but about 500,000 Texans receive aid for their summer bills. When lawmakers faced a budget crisis this year, the PUC reduced the percentage of assistance offered each consumer, from 17 percent of a monthly bill to 10 percent.

National Politics
US Chamber Of Commerce Battles Anti-Bribery Statute

More than three decades after the United States Congress passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act -- striking a major blow against international corruption by criminalizing bribes to foreign officials -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is trying to carve out some major exceptions in the law to prevent prosecutors from enforcing it too aggressively. The move by the increasingly activist Chamber has led critics to fear there may be no checks left on the corporate lobby's ambition -- or its influence. Not only is the Chamber taking on something as seemingly unassailable as an anti-bribery law, but it's doing so just as the movement the FCPA launched is finally taking hold across the globe, corruption fighters say. And without much organized opposition -- at least so far -- the Chamber's army of lobbyists is making serious headway in Congress, even among Democrats. he Chamber's list of demands boils down to this: It wants four loopholes that companies could use to escape criminal liability -- and it wants the government to make a clearer demarcation between foreign officials they are not allowed to bribe and those they are.

War & Peace
US Drone Strike Kills 23 In Training Camp

A US drone strike has killed at least 23 suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region along the Afghanistan border, officials said. Pakistani officials on Wednesday said the unmanned aircraft fired two missiles, destroying a vehicle and a compound 3km east of Miranshah, the headquarters of the Haqqani network and a known hotbed of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. Officials said 14 of the dead were Afghan fighters belonging to the Haqqani group, a Taliban-linked faction fighting the US in Afghanistan. Six were Pakistani fighters supporting the group, which Washington regards as one of its deadliest foes in the region, the officials told the Associated Press. The group, founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani and now run by his son, Sirajuddin, has been blamed for some of the deadliest anti-US attacks in Afghanistan, including a suicide attack at a US base in the eastern province of
Khost in 2009 that killed seven CIA operatives. Pakistani officials said the missiles struck what was reportedly a Haqqani training camp at 2:15 am, 21:15 GMT Tuesday, close to Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Some Pakistani officials put the death toll at 18 but acknowledged that more bodies were being dug out of the rubble. The officials told the AP a pick-up vehicle parked outside the compound was also destroyed.

Texas Charters Score Lower Than Traditional Schools In Federal Ratings

Texas public schools’ accountability ratings were released over the last two weeks — the federal ratings last week, statewide numbers on July 29 — and while are changes in store at both levels, one trend within the test data remained steady: charter schools were more likely than traditional public schools to be rated “unacceptable” by the state or miss federal Annual Yearly Progress. The American Federation of Teachers’ Texas chapter highlighted the difference on its blog shortly after the state data was released. With the caveat that the group remains “appropriately skeptical” of what test data really signify, they went ahead and pointed out that 14.5 percent of the state’s charter campuses were rated “academically unacceptable,” compared to 6.2 percent of traditional public schools. The disparity was even more dramatic between school districts (5.0 percent unacceptable) and charter chains operating more than one campus (18.6 percent). Sure enough, those numbers were easy enough to spot in a summary by the Texas Education Agency, and the 2010 ratings showed a similar trend. By the federal measure, according to a summary of those ratings, 29.9 percent of charter campuses missed AYP this year, compared to 26 percent of non-charter public schools.

Climate Change
Polar Climate Change May Lead to Ecological Change

Ice and frozen ground at the North and South Poles are affected by climate change induced warming, but the consequences of thawing at each pole differ due to the geography and geology, according to Penn State hydrologist Michael Gooseff. According to Gooseff, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, the Polar Regions, particularly the Arctic, are warming faster than the rest of the world, and as a consequence, polar ecosystems respond directly to changes in the earth systems at the poles. These changes, though different at each pole, could be significant in their effects on not only the local environment, but also globally. While the central part of the Arctic is composed of ice over water, northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Greenland all have landmasses within the Arctic Circle. The associated land and water ecosystems are affected by melting ice and thawing soils, but in Antarctica, where much of the ice overlays a continent, the warming alters streams, lakes and the tiny plants and animals that live there.

Immigrant Rights
Restrictive Immigration Legislation Passed in 40 States in 2011

Nearly 250 new immigration laws and resolutions were enacted in 40 states during the first half of 2011 indicating a growing frustration with the federal government's handling of the issue, according to a new report. The laws range from hiring restrictions to voter identification and allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, according to the report released Tuesday by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The numbers show a slight decrease in activity from last year, but every state and Puerto Rico proposed legislation dealing on the issue in the first six months of 2011. By comparison, only 38 immigration laws were enacted by states in 2005.

Reproductive Rights
Austin Hospital District Cuts Abortion Access for Low-Income Women

Facing the threat of losing its state funding under a new law, the board of Austin’s Central Health voted this week night to stop providing abortions to low-income women, the Austin American-Statesman reported. According to a resolution that passed unanimously, the board “continues to believe that all women in Travis County, regardless of income, should and will continue to have access to pregnancy termination services, it now must respond to Senate Bill 7 in light of the other objectives that the organization seeks to accomplish.” The hospital district had budgeted $450,000 raised from county property taxes — not state funding — for abortions for low-income women, but faced losing all its state funding next year if it continued contracting with Planned Parenthood for the procedure, as it has since 2005. Among the findings in the report released during the council's annual meeting in San Antonio: 14 states included funding for immigration initiatives in their budgets; Governors vetoed 12 pieces of legislation, including bills related to social services and immigration; ten states enacted legislation requiring businesses or contractors to use the government E-Verify program to ensure the legal status of workers.

Race & Racism
Percentage of People of Color in Newsrooms Falls

American newspapers showed a very slim increase in newsroom employees last year, finally halting a three-year exodus of journalists. The percentage of minorities in newsrooms totaled 12.79 percent, a decline of .47 percentage points from a year ago, according to the American Society of News Editors, which has conducted a census of professional full-time journalists since 1978. This is the third consecutive year that the percentage of African-American, Asian, Latino, and Native American journalists has declined in U.S. newsrooms. The number of professional journalists rose from an estimated 41,500 in 2009 to 41,600 in 2010, according to ASNE’s most recently completed census of online and traditional newspapers. American daily newspapers lost 13,500 newsroom jobs from 2007 to 2010. In the most recent ASNE census, minority journalists declined from 5,500 to 5,300.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

This Week on Information Underground

This week on Information Underground our studio guest is Julia O’Hern, a Texas A&M University graduate student working towards her Ph.D. in oceanography. Our topics of conversation will include her worldwide travels pursuit of her research including her travels to the Galapagos Islands, the Caribbean, and Antarctica.

Listen to Information Underground on 89.1FM KEOS on Sundays from 5-6pm after Tavis Smiley, for all the alternative news, politics, and commentary that you don’t hear in the mainstream media. To listen to Information Underground online and to listen to past episodes visit Information Underground on LiveStream. Tune in every week to hear headlines, interviews, and political and social thought to the Left of College Station.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Political and Social Thought to the Left of College Station

Questions for Congressman Bill Flores

This week Congressman Bill Flores, who represents Bryan-College Station in the Texas Congressional District 17, is holding a town hall to allow constituents to ask questions of our freshman representative in the House of Representatives. I have a few questions that I would like Congressman Flores to answer.

The first question I have is – Where are the jobs? When Flores and the rest of the Congressional Republicans gained control of the Congress in the 2010 midterm elections they did so on a claimed mandate of repairing the economy. But since the new Republican Speaker John Boehner gaveled the 112th Congress into session Republicans have done anything but address America’s job crisis. Instead they have focused on a laundry list of radical right wing legislation. Everything from further restricting a woman’s right to choose to defunding National Public Radio, Republicans have done nothing to help the poor and working people who were hit the hardest by the Great Recession. But, instead Republicans have continued to advocate for tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans while cutting aid to the poor and unemployment insurance for the jobless.

The second question I have is – If you are so concerned with the deficit and the debt that why don’t you support the repeal of the Bush era tax cuts? A Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis found that the single greatest contributor to America’s current budget deficits are the Bush Administration tax cuts that predominantly benefited the wealthiest of Americans. These tax cuts cost the federal government billions of dollars in uncollected revenue, and did not stimulate the economy or create the kind of job growth that they were promised to do. Even a free market fundamentalist like former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan has advocated for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. If Republicans are serious about deficit reduction then they should support the repeal of the Bush tax cuts.

The third question I have is – Why do you continue to support and defend federal subsidies and tax breaks for big oil companies? Companies like Exxon Mobile and Chevon are the most profitable companies in the world, and in fact they are the most profitable companies in the history of the world. Big oil companies make billions in profit each year, but year they still pay little to no federal taxes, and in fact still receive tax subsidies from the federal government. Why do Republicans oppose the federal government supporting poor and working Americans but support the federal government supporting big oil companies? If Republicans always preach against welfare then why do they continue to support corporate welfare? If Republicans were ideologically consistent about the roll of government then they would oppose federal tax subsidies to big oil companies.

There are many more questions I have for Congressman Bill Flores, but the most important question I have is for you my listening audience. What are you going to do to let your voice be heard, and to advocate for government policies that do not only benefit the wealthiest Americans by that support the poor and working people of America? Let your voice be heard this week at Congressman Flores town hall. This Wednesday, August 10th at 6:00pm at the Bryan Campus of Blinn College; the meeting will take place in the Student Center (E Building) in Room E-105. What question will you ask?

For more political and social thought to the Left of College Station visit:


Local News
College Station Closer to Restricting Water Usage

According to an article in the Bryan-College Station Eagle, College Station is inching closer to mandatory water restrictions. And though Bryan isn't, both cities are urging conservation amid record-setting heat and drought conditions. Three consecutive days of water usage exceeding 90 percent of capacity -- or 24.3 million gallons of 27 million -- could trigger mandatory water restrictions. College Station hit that threshold this week, according to the city's water resource coordinator. The city has never imposed mandatory water restrictions. Indoor use only accounts for about a quarter of usage, so cutting back on irrigation and lawns would yield the greatest result.

Local Politics
College Station City Council May Eliminate Return on Investment Fee

College Station city leadership is working toward eliminating the politically controversial "return on investment" fee it tacks onto residents' utility bills each month. The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports that the change, which is being initiated by city staff but must be approved by the City Council before it is implemented, would be phased in over two years and eventually cut $3 million in revenue from the city's general fund. The fee has been a hot-button issue in recent elections, with some of the more conservative council members and candidates calling it a "hidden tax." City staff said they are looking into eliminating it because of those concerns, but also to allow College Station Utilities to keep a large share of its revenue in a time when its expenses are rising.

Texas A&M News
Texas A&M's University Dining Hungry for Improvement

According to an article in the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Texas A&M's University Dining -- the $28 million enterprise that feeds Aggies -- has experienced operating losses each of the past six years, and major improvements are needed in its stability and strategic direction, according to an internal audit. The unit in that time has had three executive directors and three organizational names, and been moved from the administration division to the finance division, and back to administration. Fund equity -- cash and assets minus liabilities -- has declined 37 percent, or $7.5 million, since fiscal year 2005. Operating losses and payments made on outstanding bonds caused the amount of cash it holds to decline by 70 percent, or $10.3 million. Management agreed with the audit's recommendations, according to the 11-page report.

Texas News
State Holds on to Money Meant to Help With Electric Bills

During one of worst heat waves in state history, Texas is holding on to millions of dollars intended to help hundreds of thousands of elderly and low-income residents pay their electric bills. The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday the state has collected $130 million this fiscal year to help financially strapped Texas residents pay for the cost of electricity used for cooling, but has provided only $28 million so far to those who need it. The reason: State lawmakers have locked away the money to deal with the budget shortfall. The state is now spending only half as much as it did to help the poor and elderly get through the summer a decade ago.Texas isn't alone. Nationwide, states hit hard by the lingering recession and budget shortfalls have cut the size of programs aimed at helping people pay their electric bills, or have eliminated them entirely. In Oklahoma, for example, the state's program ran out of money in after only three days. Indiana has stopped taking any new applicants, while Illinois decided to get rid of its program all together to save money needed to pay for heating assistance in the winter ahead.

War & Peace
Iraq Death Toll for July Second Highest in 2011

According to a report by Agency France Press, deadly violence in Iraq declined slightly in July from the previous month but still marked the second-highest death toll for the year, data published on this week showed. The latest figures come days after a US watchdog warned that Iraq was a more dangerous country than a year ago ahead of a "summer of uncertainty" in which politicians in Baghdad have to decide whether to retain an American military presence beyond a year-end withdrawal deadline for US forces. Figures compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defence showed that a total of 259 Iraqis -- 159 civilians, 56 policemen and 44 soldiers -- died as a result of attacks last month. The overall toll represented a slight drop from June's figure of 271 killed, but remained the second-highest monthly death toll. A total of 259 people were also killed in January. The figures were, however, dramatically lower than for the same month last year, when 535 people were reported killed. July marks the sixth consecutive such month with a lower death toll than a year ago.

Foreign Policy
US Report Finds Security Deteriorating in Iraq

Over the past year, security in Iraq has deteriorated and electricity shortages and corruption have continued unabated, according to a report released Saturday by a special inspector appointed by Congress to oversee Iraq’s reconstruction. The report, released five months before the United States is scheduled to withdraw 47,000 troops from Iraq, paints a bleaker picture of the country’s stability than assessments by diplomatic officials. The New York Times reports that Diyala Province, a region east of Baghdad that is one of the most violent battlegrounds for sectarian violence, remained unstable. There have been several significant attacks in Diyala in recent months. And last week, at least nine civilians were wounded in two separate attacks in the province, local security officials said.

US Adds 117,000 Jobs In July As Jobless Rate Falls

According to a report by the Huffington Post, a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst drop since the financial crisis, fresh data showed a slightly less pessimistic view of the American economy. In July, 117,000 jobs were added in the economy, and the unemployment rate dropped to 9.1 percent from 9.2 percent. But the drop in the unemployment rate should not be celebrated as a signal of strong growth: It came almost entirely from Americans dropping out of the labor force. As more Americans simply give up looking for work, the employment-to-population ratio fell to 63.9 percent in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest snapshot of the U.S. labor market, a new low. While July's report inched up job gains from the past two months in revised numbers, May and June job growth still failed to keep up with population gains, stoking fears of a double dip recession for some observers.

Past Year Has Been the Driest Ever in Texas

With just 0.72 inch of rain statewide, this past July ranks as the third driest on record and the fifth consecutive month that ranked among the 10 driest in history, according to the Texas climatologist. The Houston Chronicle reports that from last August through July the state received 15.16 inches of rain, beating the previous record low of 16.46 inches set in 1925. It's not yet a match for the state's worst extended drought, which occurred during the 1950s. But this year's drought has been especially acute because so little precipitation fell before and during the primary growing season for crops, plants and warm-season grasses. The damage to Texas agriculture from the drought is estimated to be nearing $2 billion, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Climate Change
Himalaya Glaciers Shrinking and May Disappear Due to Climate Change

According to a report by Reuters News Service, Japanese researching found three Himalaya glaciers have been shrinking over the last 40 years due to global warming and two of them, located in humid regions and on lower altitudes in central and east Nepal, may disappear in time to come. Using global positioning system and simulation models, they found that the shrinkage of two of the glaciers -- Yala in central and AX010 in eastern Nepal -- had accelerated in the past 10 years compared with the 1970s and 1980s. The Himalayas is an enormous mountain range consisting of about 15,000 glaciers and some of the world's highest peaks, including the 8,848-meter-high Mount Everest and K2. Apart from climate change and humidity, elevation also appears to play a critical role in the lifespan of glaciers, which are large persistent bodies of ice.

Immigrant Rights
Border Asylum Judges Deny Most Petitions

The Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez has sought political asylum in the United States since June 2008, when he and his teenage son fled the small town of Ascensión, Chihuahua, in the pre-dawn hours and arrived at the Antelope Wells, N.M., border crossing. Threatened by the Mexican military for his reporting on its alleged human rights abuses, Gutiérrez says returning to his native land is a certain death sentence. Whether an asylum judge will agree, however, is far less clear. A new analysis of the decisions of United States immigration court judges finds that at least two of the five immigration judges in El Paso, where Gutiérrez’s case is being considered, have a far higher denial rate than the national average. The report, by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan center based at Syracuse University that tracks the enforcement activities of the federal government, analyzed the decisions of 265 immigration judges across the country who have ruled in at least 100 political asylum cases in the last five years. On average, over that period, immigration judges rejected 53.2 percent of asylum applications.

Reproductive Rights
Poll Suggests Support for Abortion Rights Growing in US

CBS News reports that support for abortion rights in the U.S. is growing, according to a new poll released by Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll. The poll showed that 36 percent of adults think women should have access to abortion in "all circumstances. That's up from 23 percent in 2009. The percentage of adults opposed to abortion under any circumstances fell from 21 percent in 2009 to 17 percent this year. The poll - an online survey of nearly 2,400 adults conducted in early July - comes at a time when some states, like North Carolina, have been taking steps to restrict access to abortion. This week the North Carolina Republican controlled General Assembly completed authorization to override Gov. Perdue's veto of a bill requiring women to receive counseling and have an ultrasound of the fetus in advance of an abortion.

Race & Racism
Civil Rights Report Shines Light on Education Disparities

U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights data show schools serving mostly African-American students are twice as likely to have inexperienced teachers as are schools serving mostly whites in the same district. That’s the conclusion of the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Office for Civil Rights 2009-2010 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The first of a two-part series, the survey includes responses from approximately 7,000 school districts and more than 72,000 schools. These data provide policymakers, educators and parents with critical information that will aid them in identifying inequities and targeting solutions to close the persistent educational achievement gap in America. For example, in 3,000 high schools serving 500,000 students, math classes don’t go higher than Algebra I, and 7,300 schools serving 2 million students had no access to calculus classes. Schools serving mostly African-American students are twice as likely to have inexperienced teachers as are schools serving mostly Whites in the same district. Only 2 percent of students with disabilities are taking at least one Advanced Placement class.

LiveStream: Information Underground - August 7, 2011

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Friday, August 5, 2011

This Week on Information Underground

This week on Information Underground our studio guest is Dr. Brian Linn, Professor of History at Texas A&M University. Our topic of conversation will be about Dr. Linn’s conclusion that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in a radical shift in the U.S. Armed Forces’ concept of war.

Listen to Information Underground on 89.1FM KEOS on Sundays from 5-6pm after Tavis Smiley, for all the alternative news, politics, and commentary that you don’t hear in the mainstream media. To listen to Information Underground online and to listen to past episodes visit Information Underground on LiveStream. Tune in every week to hear headlines, interviews, and political and social thought to the Left of College Station.

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