Thursday, October 23, 2014
BREAKING: Judicial Watch Obtains List of Fast and Furious Documents Held Under Obama's Executive Privilege
Late last night the Department of Justice complied with a court order and turned over a list to government watchdog Judicial Watch , known as a Vaughn Index, of Fast and Furious documents being held from Congress and the American people under President Obama's assertion of executive privilege. Not surprisingly, DOJ failed to fully comply with the requirements of providing a Vaughn Index.
Regardless, the list of documents shows Obama asserted executive privilege to protect Attorney General Eric Holder's wife and to protect information showing Holder helped to craft talking points during the fallout of the scandal. What a preliminary review of Vaughn Index by Judicial Watch shows:
Keep in mind the White House has denied any involvement with Operation Fast and Furious when it was active between 2009 and 2010. The documents described in this list indicate otherwise. Further, former White House National Security Advisor Kevin O'Reillywas in contact with former ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell about the details of the operation. Previous reporting shows at least three White House officials were aware of or involved in the operation despite denials after Congressional inquiries about the scandal.
The emails Judicial Watch describes as showing Holder being directly involved "in crafting talking points, the timing of public disclosures, and handling Congressional inquiries in the Fast and Furious matter" only further solidify his role in the cover-up of the operation. As for Holder's wife Sharon Malone being involved, this is the first time her name has come up throughout the course of the Fast and Furious scandal. His mother hasn't been mentioned before, either.
“This document provides key information about the cover-up of Fast and Furious by Attorney General Eric Holder and other high-level officials of the Obama administration. Obama’s executive privilege claims over these records are a fraud and an abuse of his office. There is no precedent for President Obama’s Nixonian assertion of executive privilege over these ordinary government agency records. Americans will be astonished that Obama asserted executive privilege over Eric Holder’s emails to his wife about Fast and Furious," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Once again, Judicial Watch has proven itself more effective than Congress and the establishment media in providing basic oversight of this out-of-control Administration. This Fast and Furious document provides dozens of leads for further congressional, media, and even criminal investigations.”
After more than a year of stonewalling and a lawsuit from Judicial Watch, DOJ attorneys asked for an extension until November 3, the day before the midterm elections, to turn of the list explaining more than 15,000 documents. That request was denied.
President Obama asserted executive privilege over various Fast and Furious documents just moments before Holder was held in contempt of Congress by the House Oversight Committee in June 2012. That same month, Republicans and Democrats in the House voted Holder as the first sitting cabinet member in civil and criminal contempt of Congress. After six years at the Department of Justice, Holder submitted his resignation to President Obama in September, but will stay in his position until a new Attorney General is confirmed after the midterm elections.
Head hurts and Common Core have become synonymous. RedState editor in chief, talk radio host and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson took to Twitter to give Common Core the business.
Friday, October 17, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
Researchers are divided over what processes should be considered fundamental.
YES, URGENTLY — Kevin Laland and colleagues
NO, ALL IS WELL — Gregory A. Wray, Hopi E. Hoekstra and colleagues
Without an extended evolutionary framework, the theory neglects key processes, say Kevin Laland and colleagues.
Charles Darwin conceived of evolution by natural selection without knowing that genes exist. Now mainstream evolutionary theory has come to focus almost exclusively on genetic inheritance and processes that change gene frequencies.
Yet new data pouring out of adjacent fields are starting to undermine this narrow stance. An alternative vision of evolution is beginning to crystallize, in which the processes by which organisms grow and develop are recognized as causes of evolution.
Some of us first met to discuss these advances six years ago. In the time since, as members of an interdisciplinary team, we have worked intensively to develop a broader framework, termed the extended evolutionary synthesis1 (EES), and to flesh out its structure, assumptions and predictions. In essence, this synthesis maintains that important drivers of evolution, ones that cannot be reduced to genes, must be woven into the very fabric of evolutionary theory.
We believe that the EES will shed new light on how evolution works. We hold that organisms are constructed in development, not simply ‘programmed’ to develop by genes. Living things do not evolve to fit into pre-existing environments, but co-construct and coevolve with their environments, in the process changing the structure of ecosystems.
The number of biologists calling for change in how evolution is conceptualized is growing rapidly. Strong support comes from allied disciplines, particularly developmental biology, but also genomics, epigenetics, ecology and social science1, 2. We contend that evolutionary biology needs revision if it is to benefit fully from these other disciplines. The data supporting our position gets stronger every day.
Yet the mere mention of the EES often evokes an emotional, even hostile, reaction among evolutionary biologists. Too often, vital discussions descend into acrimony, with accusations of muddle or misrepresentation. Perhaps haunted by the spectre of intelligent design, evolutionary biologists wish to show a united front to those hostile to science. Some might fear that they will receive less funding and recognition if outsiders — such as physiologists or developmental biologists — flood into their field.
However, another factor is more important: many conventional evolutionary biologists study the processes that we claim are neglected, but they comprehend them very differently (see ‘No, all is well’). This is no storm in an academic tearoom, it is a struggle for the very soul of the discipline.
Here we articulate the logic of the EES in the hope of taking some heat out of this debate and encouraging open discussion of the fundamental causes of evolutionary change (seeSupplementary Information).
The core of current evolutionary theory was forged in the 1930s and 1940s. It combined natural selection, genetics and other fields into a consensus about how evolution occurs. This ‘modern synthesis’ allowed the evolutionary process to be described mathematically as frequencies of genetic variants in a population change over time — as, for instance, in the spread of genetic resistance to the myxoma virus in rabbits.
In the decades since, evolutionary biology has incorporated developments consistent with the tenets of the modern synthesis. One such is ‘neutral theory’, which emphasizes random events in evolution. However, standard evolutionary theory (SET) largely retains the same assumptions as the original modern synthesis, which continues to channel how people think about evolution.
Orange: Peter Chadwick/SPL; Blue: Lawrence Lawry/SPL
The story that SET tells is simple: new variation arises through random genetic mutation; inheritance occurs through DNA; and natural selection is the sole cause of adaptation, the process by which organisms become well-suited to their environments. In this view, the complexity of biological development — the changes that occur as an organism grows and ages — are of secondary, even minor, importance.
In our view, this ‘gene-centric’ focus fails to capture the full gamut of processes that direct evolution. Missing pieces include how physical development influences the generation of variation (developmental bias); how the environment directly shapes organisms’ traits (plasticity); how organisms modify environments (niche construction); and how organisms transmit more than genes across generations (extra-genetic inheritance). For SET, these phenomena are just outcomes of evolution. For the EES, they are also causes.
Valuable insight into the causes of adaptation and the appearance of new traits comes from the field of evolutionary developmental biology (‘evo-devo’). Some of its experimental findings are proving tricky to assimilate into SET. Particularly thorny is the observation that much variation is not random because developmental processes generate certain forms more readily than others3. For example, among one group of centipedes, each of the more than 1,000 species has an odd number of leg-bearing segments, because of the mechanisms of segment development3.
In our view, this concept — developmental bias — helps to explain how organisms adapt to their environments and diversify into many different species. For example, cichlid fishes in Lake Malawi are more closely related to other cichlids in Lake Malawi than to those in Lake Tanganyika, but species in both lakes have strikingly similar body shapes4. In each case, some fish have large fleshy lips, others protruding foreheads, and still others short, robust lower jaws.
SET explains such parallels as convergent evolution: similar environmental conditions select for random genetic variation with equivalent results. This account requires extraordinary coincidence to explain the multiple parallel forms that evolved independently in each lake. A more succinct hypothesis is that developmental bias and natural selection work together4, 5. Rather than selection being free to traverse across any physical possibility, it is guided along specific routes opened up by the processes of development5, 6.
“There is more to inheritance than genes.”
Another kind of developmental bias occurs when individuals respond to their environment by changing their form — a phenomenon called plasticity. For instance, leaf shape changes with soil water and chemistry. SET views this plasticity as merely fine-tuning, or even noise. The EES sees it as a plausible first step in adaptive evolution. The key finding here is that plasticity not only allows organisms to cope in new environmental conditions but to generate traits that are well-suited to them. If selection preserves genetic variants that respond effectively when conditions change, then adaptation largely occurs by accumulation of genetic variations that stabilize a trait after its first appearance5, 6. In other words, often it is the trait that comes first; genes that cement it follow, sometimes several generations later5.
Studies of fish, birds, amphibians and insects suggest that adaptations that were, initially, environmentally induced may promote colonization of new environments and facilitate speciation5, 6. Some of the best-studied examples of this are in fishes, such as sticklebacks and Arctic char. Differences in the diets and conditions of fish living at the bottom and in open water have induced distinct body forms, which seem to be evolving reproductive isolation, a stage in forming new species. The number of species in a lineage does not depend solely on how random genetic variation is winnowed through different environmental sieves. It also hangs on developmental properties that contribute to the lineage’s ‘evolvability’.
In essence, SET treats the environment as a ‘background condition’, which may trigger or modify selection, but is not itself part of the evolutionary process. It does not differentiate between how termites become adapted to mounds that they construct and, say, how organisms adapt to volcanic eruptions. We view these cases as fundamentally different7.
Volcanic eruptions are idiosyncratic events, independent of organisms’ actions. By contrast, termites construct and regulate their homes in a repeatable, directional manner that is shaped by past selection and that instigates future selection. Similarly, mammals, birds and insects defend, maintain and improve their nests — adaptive responses to nest building that have evolved again and again7. This ‘niche construction’, like developmental bias, means that organisms co-direct their own evolution by systematically changing environments and thereby biasing selection7.
Inheritance beyond genes
SET has long regarded inheritance mechanisms outside genes as special cases; human culture being the prime example. The EES explicitly recognizes that parent–offspring similarities result in part from parents reconstructing their own developmental environments for their offspring. ‘Extra-genetic inheritance’ includes the transmission of epigenetic marks (chemical changes that alter DNA expression but not the underlying sequence) that influence fertility, longevity and disease resistance across taxa8. In addition, extra-genetic inheritance includes socially transmitted behaviour in animals, such as nut cracking in chimpanzees or the migratory patterns of reef fishes8, 9. It also encompasses those structures and altered conditions that organisms leave to their descendants through their niche construction — from beavers’ dams to worm-processed soils7, 10. Research over the past decade has established such inheritance to be so widespread that it should be part of general theory.
Mathematical models of evolutionary dynamics that incorporate extra-genetic inheritance make different predictions from those that do not7–9. Inclusive models help to explain a wide range of puzzling phenomena, such as the rapid colonization of North America by the house finch, the adaptive potential of invasive plants with low genetic diversity, and how reproductive isolation is established.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Published on Oct 5, 2014
A meeting held in Florence, KY on September 25, 2014 regarding efforts to stop Common Core. Heidi Huber, the guest speaker, discusses several aspects of Common Core and why and how it should be repealed.
Friday, October 3, 2014
Right around this time of the fall semester, after I’d returned the first batch of papers, I’d hear the complaint from my college freshmen: “But I got all A’s in high school English!” My colleagues heard it too, but our response was, “But you’re in college now.”
Because of the latest developments under Common Core, we can now expect the student to challenge the professor and say, “But that’s not what I learned in high school!”
And he will have the full weight of the college administration, the state college authorities, and the federal government on his side to rule over the professor.
This is because a number of colleges, university systems, and education organizations have joined the Orwellian named group, Higher Ed for Higher Standards, who describe themselves as “a growing coalition of college and university leaders from across the country who believe that college-and-career-ready standards, including the Common Core State Standards, are critical to improving student success in K-12 and beyond.
“Education leaders,” as far as I can determine by reading missives from the Department of Education, are those who follow bureaucratic dictates.
These educational leaders are usurping the independent role of college faculty. According to the Hechinger Report, a number of these colleges have required faculty members to attend workshops this summer to revise their introductory courses to “synch up” with Common Core standards.
Proponents have insisted that Common Core would simply provide consistent standards (determined by Common Core tests, so far in math and English Language Arts) that would ensure that students across the country were “college-and-career-ready.” Now that the deal has been done, with Common Core law in over 40 states, outlets, like the Hechinger Report, are admitting that Common Core is a “massive overhaul of U.S. primary and secondary education.” It is also turning out to be an overhaul of higher education, or as it is now commonly called, K-16.
That includes the decision-making ability of colleges to place students in certain classes, including non-credit-bearing remedial classes.
Jacqueline King, director of Higher Education Collaboration at SBAC, one of the two consortia designing and administering Common Core exams, brags that once students have been determined to be “college ready” through their Common Core tests, they will be guaranteed placement in credit-bearing courses. Up until this point, the bar has been set by higher education in terms of what entering freshmen must know. High schools boasted about the number of graduates going to college, and which colleges.
This massive shift in the relationship between K-12 and higher education sent a shock through the system of this Ph.D. in English, who for twenty years, until very recently, taught classes as a part-time instructor.
Common Core will spell the doom of higher education in the true sense of the term, in what motivated those like me to scurry between campuses to teach as many as five labor-intensive introductory courses for ridiculously low wages instead of gaining decent and steady remuneration by teaching high school, as some of my fellow graduate students did in the 1990s.
Of course, I would have preferred a tenure-track position. But that was not to be. Like many of my fellow conservatives I took what I could get as a part-time instructor.
It’s difficult to explain to those more pragmatically minded what compels us to do this.
Much of it has to do with the pursuit of learning for its own sake and having the freedom to determine how we teach. I was entrusted with grading papers and making assignments. Even when I was assigned a textbook, I could choose the plays, essays, and poems I wanted to teach, and I could add supplemental material. Other than the occasional classroom visit from the department chair or a review of a batch of papers, I was on my own. Were I a full-time faculty member I would have had a role in proposing and approving new courses, hiring and promoting faculty, and determining admissions standards.
Even though some of my students did not know the basics of grammar, I felt free to try to inspire them to higher levels. I was setting the bar for them. We would read Shakespeare and Donne. Students would write college-level essays and research papers, I insisted.
As I prepared for class by reading and making lecture notes, I would think how lucky to have to reread Hamlet, a Flannery O’Connor short story, or Washington’s “Farewell Address,” discover new revelations to share in class, and perhaps in a piece of my own writing. One thing was for sure: I had no bureaucrat breathing down my neck, telling me to cross every t, ensure every “outcome,” and make sure that the students had met standards written by people who had more experience in education theory and acquiring grants than real education.
This was in contrast to the regimented routine of high school, where “standards” were set by the state (and now federal government), where one had to fill out reams of paperwork to keep up with increasing regulations, where one had to read the dreadfully dull literature put out by committees on discipline, achievement goals, and cooked-up pedagogical theories. And there is the fact that one is dealing with children who need basic instruction, including in behavior. Those who teach K-12 have an essentially different set of motivations and goals. It’s important work, but it’s not higher education.
But now those who teach college will have to “synch up” to Common Core. A more accurate term would be “synch down”; for example, one of the strategies taught to professors this summer was to include interdisciplinary reading and writing. This really means incorporating “informational texts” like many that have replaced literature in high school English classes under Common Core. Good-bye, Shakespeare. Hello, HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) specs and polemics on the minimum wage.
For freshman composition, once a subject intended to ensure that students could write academic papers, we can expect the short writing assignments, video presentations, and group demonstrations of “listening and speaking skills” of Common Core. The focus on “close reading” and “scaffolding” will mean that college students will read short passages in groups, instead of longer reading assignments on their own.
It will be like teaching grade 13, and it will be the final stake in higher education.
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