U.S. News

How Do Haredi Schools Get All That E-rate Money? Part 2 of a 3 part series

Service providers haul in millions in tech funds for schools and libraries, but some don’t even have websites.

Authors to appear on the Ramapo Times/Rockland Star Community News Hour on WRCR AM1300 Friday February 22nd from noon - 1:00pm

by Julie Wiener and Hella Winston--The Jewish Week

This is second in a three-part series. The first article is here.

From the outside, Computer Corner does not look like a technology business handling million-dollar technology contracts.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, a graffiti-marred metal gate covers the window, and the doorway, in need of a paint job, has no sign.

The only indication that a computer store lies inside this four-story red-brick building with rusty fire escapes on a modest residential block of Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg is a discarded Dell computer carton lying next to the garbage cans.

Nonetheless, the company recently sought $1.2 million from E-rate, a federal program subsidizing technology costs for schools and libraries, to equip its neighbor, Bais Ruchel D’Satmar, with “internal connections” and provide “internal connections maintenance.”

Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), the nonprofit that runs E-rate and other programs for the Federal Communications Commission, appears to have denied that particular request. However, it did pay Computer Corner more than $500,000 in 2011 for services provided to the Satmar girls’ school, a school that 12 years earlier was implicated for colluding with the local community school district. The 1999 scheme involved placing dozens of chasidic women on the public schools’ payroll in no-show teaching jobs in order to funnel more than $6 million to the school and its parent organization, United Talmudical Academy.

Read the Entire Article in The Jewish Week

Internet-Averse Haredi Schools Reaping Millions In Federal Tech Funds

By Julie Wiener and Hella Winston--The Jewish Week.com

Editor's Note: This article is the first of three parts.

At Yeshivat Avir Yakov, an all-boys school in the chasidic enclave of New Square in New York’s Rockland County, students spend the vast majority of their long school days studying religious texts in spartan classrooms furnished only with battered wooden benches and desks. Unlike their counterparts in public or private schools outside the chasidic community, the boys at Avir Yakov do not have access to the Internet or computers in their school because chasidic leaders view the Internet as a corrupting force capable of undermining their way of life.

Indeed, recent graduates report never having seen — let alone used — a computer in their classrooms, and video of the inside of the Avir Yakov building shot within the past two weeks and obtained by The Jewish Week seems to support their accounts: not one of the yeshiva’s classrooms, public areas or designated resource rooms seen on the video contains a computer, or even a telephone.

So it comes as a surprise that the approximately 3,000-student school has, since 1998, been allotted more than $3.3 million in government funds earmarked for Internet and other telecommunications technology.

In 2011 alone, the yeshiva collected $817,065 through E-rate, a 15-year-old federal program that subsidizes telecommunications services and infrastructure for schools and libraries, giving larger discounts to those serving low-income populations.

Read the entire article in The Jewish Week

Graphing the Great Gun Debate

by Christie Thompson--ProPublica

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama again called for Congress to take quick action on gun control. “These proposals deserve a vote,” he said. “Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”

In the two months since Sandy Hook, debate has surged over how to address America’s epidemic of gun violence. In late January, the Senate Judiciary Committee began ongoing hearings on proposals to tighten restrictions on gun sales.

 

We’ve dug into the NRA’s efforts to block gun control policycompared spending on both sides of the issue, and laid out five gun laws you probably never heard of. But with so much media coverage, it can be hard to keep facts straight. To help, we've compiled some of the best graphics on guns, from where they’re purchased to the laws governing how they’re used.

Tracing the national flow of guns, Washington Post, October 2010

A 2010 graphic from The Washington Post shows how "states with strong gun laws import [guns] from states with weaker laws." The map uses 2009 data of firearms recovered by police.

 

Where 50,000 Guns Recovered in Chicago Came From, New York Times, January 2013

There have been nearly 50 homicides in Chicago already this year, despite some of the strictest gun ordinances in the country. So where are the guns coming from? This New York Times map traces the origins of 50,000 guns recovered by police from 2001 to March 2012.

 

Gun laws in the US, state by state, The Guardian US, December 2012

Any conversation on regulation is complicated by the huge variation in gun laws from state to state. This Guardian US interactive lays out regulations by state, from concealed handgun laws to background checks.

Where Congress Stands on Guns, ProPublica, January 2013

Do you know where your representative stands on gun control? This chart details NRA and ratings and contributions, Brady scores and votes on the 1994 assault weapons ban.

Gun Rights Campaign Contributions, Slate, January 2013

Find out how much gun rights advocates donated to members of Congress in the last election cycle.

How the NRA exerts influence over Congress, Washington Post, January 2013

The Washington Post visualizes which members of Congress "get the most--and least--support" from the NRA.

This is Your Representative on Guns, The Daily Beast, February 2013

Input your address and get an overview of your representative’s positions on gun control as well as NRA contributions for each. The Daily Beast is also aggregating gun-related tweets by politicians at @YourRepsOnGuns.

Long Weekend of Gun Deaths, NBC News, January 2013

A tick tock of gun deaths over the MLK holiday weekend details incidents by type, including accidental shootings, murders, police shootings, self defense and suicide.

Gun Homicide Rates, The Washington Post, December 2012

A detailed look at firearm homicides across the United States and around the world.

The U.S. Shooting Epidemic, The Daily Beast, July 2012

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence estimates a multiple-victim shooting happens once every 5.9 days in the U.S. That totals at least 431 such shootings since 2005. The Daily Beast mapped the Brady Campaign’s data to see where such violence

America Under the Gun, Mother Jones, December 2012

Over 140 people were killed or injured in seven mass shootings in the U.S. last year. As part of a special report, Mother Jones compiled a series of graphics on the victims of mass shootings, and the spread of looser gun laws across the country.

U.S. Gun Crime, The Guardian, December 2012

Gun laws vary across the country, but how much difference is there in gun crime? The Guardian has a state-by-state comparison, charting stats including firearm murders as a percent of all murders, and the number of gun robberies per 100,000 people.

How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown?, Slate, January 2013

So far, Slate has recorded at least 1,795 victims of gun violence since the morning of December 14th, the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. Slate is also crowdsourcing gun death reports on Twitter with @GunDeaths. As they point out, “the data is necessarily incomplete,” but they attempt to give a name

At Least 20 CIA Prisoners Still Missing

In one of President Barack Obama first acts in the White House, he ordered the closure of the CIA’s so-called “black-site” prisons, where terror suspects had been held and, sometimes, tortured.  The CIA says it is “out of the detention business,” as John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the agency, recently put it.

But the CIA’s prisons left some unfinished business.  In 2009, ProPublica’s Dafna Linzerlisted more than thirty people who had been held in CIA prisons and were still missing.

 

Some of those prisoners have since resurfaced, but at least twenty are still unaccounted for.

Last week the Open Society Foundations’ Justice Initiative released a report pulling together the most current information available on the fates of the prisoners. A few emerged from foreign prisons after the turmoil of the Arab Spring. One has died. (The report relied exclusively on media accounts and information previously gathered by human rights groups. The Open Society Foundations also donate to ProPublica.)

The report counts 136 prisoners who were either held in a CIA black site or subject to so-called extraordinary rendition, in which detainees were secretly shipped to other countries for interrogation.

Many of the prisoners were tortured, either under the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” program or by other countries after their transfer. The report also lists 54 countries that assisted in some way with detention and rendition. The U.S. has not disclosed the countries it worked with, and few have acknowledged their participation.

The CIA declined our request to comment.

Here are the fates of a few of the prisoners we listed as missing back in 2009:

  1. Ayoub al-Libi, also known as Mustafa Jawda al-Mahdi, is a Libyan who was allegedly interrogated and detained by US personnel in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2004. The next year he was returned to Libya, where he was sentenced to death as member of LIFG, an Islamist anti-Gaddafi group (designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.) He was released when uprisings began against Gaddafi in February 2011. Human Rights Watch interviewed him in 2012.
  2. Hassan Rabai, also known as Mohamed Ahmad Mohamed Al Shoroieya, is a Libyan who was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and later transferred to Afghanistan – where he alleges that he was waterboarded by U.S. personnel. Bush administration officials have repeatedly said that only three terror suspects were ever subjected to waterboarding; Rabai would be the fourth.  He was eventually transferred to prison in Libya, where he remained until February 2011. Human Rights Watch interviewed himlast year.
  3. Khaled al-Sharif, also known as Abu Hazam, was picked up with fellow Libyan and LIFG member Hassan Rabai and also held in Afghanistan. He remained in Libyan prison until March 2010, according to interviews he gave to Human Rights Watch.
  4. Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman is an Egyptian who was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and  considered a “senior Al-Qaeda operative.” He was transferred to prison in Egypt and was released in late 2010. He gave an interview in 2011 in which he admitted to running training camps in Afghanistan prior to 2001 but saying he had renounced violence.
  5. Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri, was tied to the bombings in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005. Picked up by the CIA in 2005, he was transferred to prison in his native Syria. According to Syrian media, he was released by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad in February 2012.
  6. Ali Abdul-Hamid al-Fakhiri, also known as Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, was a Libyan detained shortly after the 9/11 attacks. He was reportedly held in CIA as well as Egyptian custody over the next several years. According to a Senate Intelligence Committee report, he provided information about links between Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda – information he later said he had fabricated. He was transferred to Libyan prison in 2005 or 2006, and was found dead in his cell in May 2009.

The whereabouts (and in some cases identities) of many more remain unknown or uncertain.

In 2007, then-CIA director Michael Hayden said that “fewer than 100 people had been detained at CIA’s facilities.” But only 16 have been officially identified by the U.S. government. President George W. Bush acknowledged the CIA’s detention program in September 2006 and announced the transfer of 14 “high-value” detainees to Guantanamo Bay prison. Two other high-value detainees were subsequently acknowledged.

Much else about the CIA program is still unknown. President Barack Obama closed the black-site prisons on entering office, but preserved the ability to render and to hold people for the “short-term.”

Obama banned torture, but announced that no one would be prosecuted for previously sanctioned harsh interrogations. A Justice Department investigation into deaths of detainees in CIA custody ended without charges.

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently completed a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention program. At Brenan’s confirmation hearings, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.),said the report shows the interrogation program was run by people “ignorant of the topic, executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to detail, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest.” Rockefeller is one of the few to have read the report, which remains classified.

State of the Union brings out more of the 'same old, same old'

Washington (CNN) -- Both sides agree that a thriving middle class is key to American prosperity, and that tax reform is part of the solution to chronic federal deficits. They both call for finally addressing the issue of undocumented immigrants.

Otherwise, President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address of his second term and the Republican response by rising GOP star Sen. Marco Rubio showed how deeply entrenched each side remains in long-held positions. It all portends continued political dysfunction in Washington.

Obama begins a series of campaign-style appearances on Wednesday with an event in Asheville, North Carolina, to promote the economic themes of his roughly hour-long speech that prodded Republicans to compromise on the major challenges facing the nation.

In his fourth State of the Union address and seventh speech to a joint sitting of Congress, Obama challenged legislators on Tuesday night to join him in taking on "our generation's task" to ignite the growth of a "rising, thriving middle class."

 

"It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love," Obama said, sounding familiar themes from his re-election campaign last year.

He emphasized economic growth and job creation, and insisted that his proposals would not increase the nation's deficit, though the White House offered no price tag on his initiatives.

Obama also made an emotional plea for Congress to hold votes on controversial proposals for tougher gun laws after the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings in December that killed 20 schoolchildren.

At the same time, Obama called for legislators to work together for the good of the country, saying Americans "expect us to put the nation's interests before party."

Five things we learned from the State of the Union

"They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can," he said. "For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together, and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all."

 

In delivering the Republican message afterward, Rubio signaled little acceptance of what Obama proposed. He repeated longstanding GOP criticism of what he described as job-killing, growth-stunting bigger government.

"Presidents in both parties -- from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan -- have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle-class prosperity," said Rubio, a tea party favorite considered a rising star in the Republican Party. "But President Obama? He believes it's the cause of our problems."

According to Rubio, the president's solution "to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more."

The night of competing messages showed that despite Obama's election victory in November, hopes for a more pragmatic political climate appeared unrealistic.

Continue reading this article on CNN

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