Saturday, May 12, 2012


President Obama has established a goal that, by 2020, the United States will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Meeting this goal is vital to our long-term economic security and to preparing young people and adults to be active citizens.
Reaching the President's goal will require comprehensive education reforms from cradle to career, beginning with children at birth, supporting them through high school graduation and postsecondary education, and helping them to succeed as lifelong learners who can adapt to the constant changes in the demands of the global economy. Our youngest children must be in early learning environments that prepare them for success in kindergarten. We must continue to close the achievement gaps and ensure that all K-12 students are on track to graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Once students enroll in college, we must provide them with financial aid and other support to help them complete their degrees.


The Dashboard presents indicators in 4 areas that are critical to improving educational results and achieving the President's 2020 college attainment goal.


This is the first version of the Dashboard.   In subsequent versions, the Department plans to enhance the usability, measures, and data. We welcome you to provide feedback for improving the Dashboard by emailing us at

The indicators are focused on key outcomes.
Data are drawn from the public school sector.
One of the indicators is a finance indicator that provides information on the difference in funding between the highest- and lowest-poverty districts within states.
The Dashboard includes national and state data and shows trends in the data.

Below are some additional items to consider when reviewing the data:
  • Chart IconChart: Chart pages present a graphic comparison of the two most recent periods
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We have done our best to create an accurate picture of baseline performance and progress toward better outcomes for students, but acknowledge that the Dashboard and its data have limitations. The description of each indicator on the "More Info IconMore Info" pages contains information about specific data sources and limitations.

Outrage, calls for action over anti-Muslim materials in military training

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, right, talks to reporters alongside Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon in April. Commenting on a military training class containing anti-Islam sentiments, Dempsey on Thursday called the course "totally objectionable."

Emerging details of inflammatory anti-Islam materials used in U.S. military training have prompted a chorus of outrage from civil rights and American Muslim groups, and growing demands for the dismissal of military leaders associated with the course, and for other actions to address the issue.

The materials, first detailed by, used in an elective course at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., promoted "total war" against Muslims in order to stave off terrorism. The course, "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism," raised the option of "taking war to a civilian population," in disregard of the Geneva Convention of 1949, and possibly destruction of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites.

"This is Abu Ghraib by power point and lectern," said Mikey Weinstein, president of the nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), referring to the scandal that erupted in 2004 after the surfacing of torrid pictures of U.S. troops abusing prisoners in Iraq. "It’s even worse than Abu Ghraib. What they are talking about is essentially genocide," of Muslims.

The military announced a review of its training materials and canceled the "Perspectives" course in late April. The action came after an FBI review resulted in the elimination of reams of materials that were found to be discriminatory against Muslims, treating the whole population with suspicion.

The details coming to light from the the 8-week course at an elite military institution — taught to officers since 2004 — have shocked even those who have long complained about discrimination against Muslims.

Instructor Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, the main focus of the criticism, taught that the Geneva Conventions that set standards of armed conflict are "no longer relevant."

Click here for a slideshow from the course published by Wired magazine.

"This would leave open the option once again of taking war to a civilian population wherever necessary (the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki being applicable...)."

Dooley’s materials mock the notion of "moderate Muslims." He taught that the growing number of mosques and Islamic centers in the United States would generate more adherents to use "violent jihad" in pursuit of Islamic domination.

The course materials admit that the actions and views included will not be seen as "politically correct."

Indeed, the courses contradict U.S. government positions — as represented internally and to U.S. allies in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere — that while the country is fighting Islamic extremists, it is not at war with the religion or its adherents as a whole.

On Thursday, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey called the course "totally objectionable" and "against our values."

Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon that Lt. Col. Dooley was no longer teaching, but has kept his job at the college, a top post-graduate professional military institution that serves students from around the world.

Among the organizations calling for Dooley’s dismissal from the college is the Council on American Islamic Relations.

"It is imperative that those who taught our future military leaders to wage war not just on our terrorist enemy, but on the faith of Islam itself be held accountable," wrote CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad in a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. "These shocking revelations are completely out of line with the longstanding values of one of our nation’s most respected institutions."

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee is urging the Pentagon to recall and retrain military personnel who have been subjected to the anti-Islam material.

"It’s very troubling,” Abed Ayoub, ADC legal director, told "You’re sending American soldiers overseas with these trainings and these biases ... I think there definitely should be a study as to what impact these trainings have had on their actions."

Weinstein, from MRFF, asserts that Dooley and others in his chain of command who knew about the course materials or should have known about the material should face court-martial.
"MRFF calls for the immediate dismissal of Lt. Col. Dooley, as well as an immediate condemnation, deeply probing investigation, and swift trial by courts-martial of those responsible for allowing content advocating genocide to be used to indoctrinate future leaders within the U.S. armed forces," he told

MRFF has filed request under the Freedom of Information Act seeking to surface all communication and documentation about the Perspectives course. Weinstein, a former Air Force judge advocate general, or JAG, and lawyer in the Reagan White House, believes the course is merely a symptom of a larger problem. In recent years he has campaigned against the military’s invitation of speakers that are known for virulent anti-Islam views.

"This is simply a small cancer cell that is rapidly metastasizing," he said. "This is representative of a larger more sinister force which is fundamentalist Christianity."

Institute of Education Science

Welcome to IES, the nation's engine for education research, evaluation, assessment, development and statistics. Read more about who we are and what we do to inform improvement in our nation's school system at.....

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With a budget of over $200 million and a staff of nearly 200 people, IES has helped raise the bar for all education research and evaluation by conducting peer-reviewed scientific studies, demanding high standards, and supporting and training researchers across the country. We fund top educational researchers nationwide to conduct studies that seek answers on what works for students from preschools to postsecondary, including interventions for special education students. We collect and analyze statistics on the condition of education, conduct long-term longitudinal studies and surveys, support international assessments, and carry out the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card. We conduct evaluations of large-scale educational projects and federal education programs –which soon will include examining reforms driven by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. We help states work toward data-driven school improvement by providing grants for the development and use of longitudinal data systems. Finally, we inform the public and reach out to practitioners with a variety of dissemination strategies and technical assistance programs, including: the What Works Clearinghouse; the ERIC education database; ten Regional Educational Laboratories; national Research and Development Centers; and through conferences, publications and products.

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National Center for Education Statistics

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  2. HR and SFA Early Release Data Now Available
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Obama’s gay marriage stance: Do you believe he changed his mind?


Did Barack Obama "evolve" on gay marriage or has he always been for it?

Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages

 I don't...

President Obama is no more hypocritical than the next politician—especially if the next one is Mitt Romney—but he certainly is a hypocrite. So while I’m thrilled to celebrate his support for gay marriage, as little as it means legally, I’m irked by his all-too-eloquent conversion story.
In his interview with ABC News, the president recounted a change of heart on gay marriage. He said his thinking had evolved “over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors.” He talked of having observed members of his own staff “in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.” He referenced conversations with his wife, who agrees with him. And of course he invoked the troops: “those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage.”
Do you believe that—through exposure to these people—the president has actually changed his mind on gay marriage? I don’t. He has always supported it.
Everything about his history—his progressive politics, his civil rights activism, his own heritage—strongly indicates that he would favor gay marriage. Oh, and then there is the fact that he said he supported gay marriage, unequivocally. In 1996, as a state senate candidate, Obama wrote and signed a survey declaring: “I favor legalizing same sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” When he ran for president, Obama denied support for gay marriage while endorsing civil unions, and circulated an obviously bushwah story disavowing the 1996 survey, claiming someone else had filled it out. (No matter that Obama signed it.) Liberal Democrats accepted his cover story—and his obvious hypocrisy—because they knew that supporting gay marriage would have been politically fatal to his 2008 prospects. Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.
There is no elegant way to own up to past hypocrisy. But perhaps we shouldn’t spend too much time congratulating the president on his “evolution.” When he decided to pursue higher office, he made the wrong decision on gay marriage for political convenience. Now, he is making the right decision on gay marriage, and also for political convenience. He has known that gay marriage was right for at least 16 years—a lot longer than most Americans, including me. Let’s not praise him too much for finally speaking out about it today.

New Tennessee law aims to curb teaching 'gateway sexual activity'

Tennessee teachers can no longer condone so-called "gateway sexual activity" such as touching genitals under a new law that critics say is too vague and could hamper discussion about safe sexual behavior.

Gov. Bill Haslam's office Friday confirmed to Reuters that Haslam had signed the bill, which stirred up controversy nationwide and even was lampooned by comedian Stephen Colbert.
"Kissing and hugging are the last stop before reaching Groin Central Station, so it's important to ban all the things that lead to the things that lead to sex," he said on the "Colbert Report" television show.

But proponents say the new law helps define the existing abstinence-only sex-education policy.

Under the law, Tennessee teachers could be disciplined and speakers from outside groups like Planned Parenthood could face fines of up to $500 for promoting or condoning "gateway sexual activities."

Erik Schelzig / AP file
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the "gateway sexual activity" bill.

Parents could sue outside sexual education instructors, according to the Tennessean newspaper, while school district employees would be exempt from prosecution.

David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, which pushed the bill, told Reuters the law does not ban kissing or holding hands from discussion in sex education classes. But he said it addresses the touching of certain "gateway body parts," including genitals, buttocks, breasts and the inner thigh.

On Thursday, State Rep. Jon Lundberg told NBC station WCYB-TV that a focus on abstinence is needed because Tennessee has the seventh-highest teen birth rate in the nation and the 11th-highest HIV infection rate in the nation.

"The shift is that the main core needs to be an abstinence-based approach. Not, 'hey, I know everybody's having sex, so when you have sex do this, do this, [and] do this.’ That's not it,'" Lundberg told the station.

The bill sailed through the legislative session, passing the Senate 28-1 and the House 68-23.
Opponents, which include Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee and the state teachers' union, say that before they can begin fighting the new law, they have to be able to figure it out. They worry that discussion of sexual behavior could be interpreted as condoning it.

"The very ambiguous language in this bill certainly puts teachers in a very difficult situation" when it comes to knowing what to teach, said Jerry Winters, spokesman for the Tennessee Education Association.

Fowler said the new law was authored in part because of incidents in which teachers were instructing about alternate sexual practices as ways to have gratification without risking pregnancy.

He said one such incident involved a Nashville high school teacher who was encouraging girls to give boys oral sex in order to get a condom on them.

Fowler also pointed to a Planned Parenthood-organized program at a school in Knoxville, where students were directed to a web site "that actually lists as possible methods of birth control things like oral sex and anal sex play that I think most Tennesseans would find inappropriate."

Lyndsey Godwin, manager of education and training for Planned Parenthood, told Reuters the idea that her group was encouraging such behavior was "utterly false." She said that while Planned Parenthood educators may answer a student's question by agreeing that anal and oral sex don't lead to pregnancy, they also emphasize the disease risks.

Godwin said Planned Parenthood supports the state's abstinence-centered policy, but the reality is not everyone can be abstinent. She said that being able to address issues of condom use and contraception and answer questions about sexual behaviors to educate students are essential to her group's role.

Winters of the Tennessee Education Association said that already existing sex-education policy was "quite adequate."

"It does focus on abstinence, but in this modern world to say that ‘just say no' is the answer to teenage pregnancy is putting your head in the sand," Winters said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Thousands left homeless by shantytown fire in Philippines

Dondi Tawatao / Getty Images Contributor
Residents try to salvage recyclable materials from what used to be houses in the aftermath of a massive fire that engulfed hundreds of makeshift homes in a shanty town community in the Tondo district of Manila, Philippines, May 12.
Some 5,400 people were left homeless by a fire that swept through an island shantytown in Manila, Philippines, on Friday. Many returned to the scene Saturday to try to recover belongings.
During the fire, at least 100 people were plucked from the waters thick with ash and debris, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
Amazingly no deaths were reported, though at least five people were injured.

Rouelle Umali / Zuma Press
A resident searches underwater for any reusable materials from the remains of his home.

Jay Directo / AFP - Getty Images
Residents search for usable items at the site of a fire in a shanty town in Manila.

Dondi Tawatao / Getty Images Contributor
Residents try to salvage recyclable materials on what used to be houses in the aftermath of a massive fire.

5 Myths About Gay People Debunked

Date: 25 March 2011 Time: 08:41 AM ET

people holding hands

Gay myths

 Credit: © Dawn Hudson |
Gay people have been accused of being unfit parents, more likely to be pedophiles, unable to sustain lasting relationships, and worse. But research shows these and other myths just aren't based in fact.

Credit: Dreamstime

Being gay is a choice

While some claim that being gay is a choice, or that homosexuality can be cured, evidence is mounting that same-sex attraction is at least partly genetic and biologically based.
To test whether genes play a role, researchers have compared identical twins (in which all genes are shared) to fraternal twins (in which about 50 percent of genes are shared). A 2001 review of such twin studies reported that almost all found identical twins were significantly more likely to share a sexual orientation – that is, to be either both gay, or both straight – than fraternal twins, who are less genetically close. Such findings indicate that genes do factor into a person's orientation.
Other studies have found that biological effects, such as hormone exposure in the womb, can also play a role in shaping sexual orientation. And findings of physiological differences, such as different inner ear shapes between homosexual and heterosexual women, contribute to this idea.
"The results support the theory that differences in the central nervous system exist between homosexual and heterosexual individuals and that the differences are possibly related to early factors in brain development," said Sandra Witelson of McMaster University in Ontario, an author on the 1998 inner ear finding published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

two moms with their children
Credit: © Alanpoulson |

Gay parents aren't as good as a father and a mother

Many of those who oppose gay marriage and gay adoption charge that same-sex parents aren't good for kids, and that a child needs both a father and a mother to grow up to be a healthy adult. Research, however, shows that children of gay parents tend to fare just fine.
For example, one recent study looked at nearly 90 teens, half living with female same-sex couples and the others with heterosexual couples, showing that both groups fared similarly in school. Teen boys in same-sex households had grade point averages of about 2.9, compared with 2.65 for their counterparts in heterosexual homes. Teen girls showed similar results, with a 2.8 for same-sex households and 2.9 for girls in heterosexual families.
Another study found that kids with two moms or two dads were no more likely than their counterparts in "traditional" homes to engage in delinquent activities, such as damaging others' property, shoplifting and getting into fights.
"The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents," said Timothy Biblarz, a sociologist at the University of Southern California. "This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well."
Both studies were described in a literature review paper published in February 2010 in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

man with a boy
Credit: © Normadesmond |

Most pedophiles are gay

An especially pernicious myth is that most adults who sexually abuse children are gay. A number of researchers have looked at this question to determine if homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles than heterosexuals, and the data indicate that's not the case.
For example, in a 1989 study led by Kurt Freund of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Canada, scientists showed pictures of children to adult gay and straight males, and measured sexual arousal. Homosexual men reacted no more strongly to pictures of male children than heterosexual men reacted to pictures of female children.
A 1994 study, led by Carole Jenny of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, surveyed 269 cases of children who were sexually molested by adults. In 82 percent of cases, the alleged offender was a heterosexual partner of a close relative of the child, the researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics. In only two out of 269 cases, the offender was identified as being gay or lesbian.
"The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children," wrote Gregory M. Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, on his website. Herek, who was not involved in the 1989 or 1994 studies, compiled a review of research on the topic.

Credit: null

Gay relationships don't last

Another stereotype is that gay relationships aren't as real or long-lasting as heterosexual ones.
Research has found that to be untrue. Long-term studies of gay couples indicate that their relationships are just as stable as straight pairings.
"There is considerable evidence that both lesbians and gay men want to be in strong, committed relationships [and] are successful in creating these partnerships, despite difficulties created by social prejudice, stigma, and the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships in most parts of the U.S.," said UCLA psychologist Anne Peplau, co-author of a book chapter on the subject published in the 2007 Annual Review of Psychology.
For example, John Gottman, a University of Washington emeritus professor of psychology, and his colleagues collected data from homosexual couples across 12 years, and found that about 20 percent had broken up over that time. That rate projected over a 40-year period is slightly lower than the divorce rate for first marriages among heterosexual couples over the same time span, according to the study published in 2003 in the Journal of Homosexuality.
"The overall implication of this research is that we have to shake off all of the stereotypes of homosexual relationships and have more respect for them as committed relationships," Gottman said.
In fact, the same study found that gay couples tend to be better at resolving conflicts and encouraging positive emotions.

giraffe pairCredit: Stock.xchng

Animals are all straight

Despite a popular perception that male-female pairings are the only "natural" way, the animal kingdom is actually full of examples of same-sex couples. Penguins, dolphins, bison, swans, giraffes and chimpanzees are just a few of the many species that sometimes pair up with same-sex partners.
Researchers are still mulling over the evolutionary reason, if any, for gay animal sex, since it doesn't produce offspring. Some ideas are that it helps strengthen social bonds or encourages some individuals to focus their resources on nurturing their nieces and nephews, thus boosting their own genes indirectly.
Or, it may simply be fun. "Not every sexual act has a reproductive function," said Janet Mann, a biologist at Georgetown University.

Al-Jazeera: Second anti-Islam military curriculum surfaces

As the Pentagon reviews all military classes following the disclosure of one that advocated "total war" against Muslims, the news website Al-Jazeera reported Saturday that it had received materials from a similar course and that both were put together by the same group, a nonprofit that offers classes and workshops to military and government officials.

Al-Jazeera said it received course slides from an unnamed military officer who said "this bigoted conspiracy cabal is both disgusting and so deeply un-American."
The slides leave the impression that Hamas extremists have infiltrated the U.S. government, media and education via U.S. Islamic groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Al-Jazeera said.
The documents indicated the two courses were prepared by the consulting firm Strategic Engagement Group, Inc., Al-Jazeera said. The website for Strategic Engagement does include statements similar to those in the materials cited by Al-Jazeera, found.
The firm's website states its president, E.J. Kimball, was formerly a foreign policy counsel to Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., and created the bipartisan Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus.
Myrick earlier wrote to Pentagon chief Leon Panetta voicing her concern that "the political nature of these (class) reviews might inadvertently weaken" military training, Al-Jazeera noted.
Stephen Coughlin, VP of strategic communication initiatives, is described as "the leading expert in the United States on Islamic Doctrine" and a U.S. Army Reserve major with military intelligence expertise.
Story: Outrage over anti-Muslim materials in military training
The group says it formed in 2010 "for the purpose of exposing and defeating efforts to subvert the United States Constitution and subjugate the American People."
Strategic Engagement did not immediately respond to's request for comment on the Al-Jazeera report.
The slides indicate the course was approved by two retired three- star generals and former CIA Director James Woolsey, Al-Jazeera added.

Biblical Marriage Definition?

I do not know from which Bible all knowing preachers preach from, but here is an interesting little tidbit I found that should shock the shit out of some people.

Given the controversy regarding gay marriage and the calls to retain the biblical definition of marriage, would you support the following:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

Marriage, as defined by the Bible

From the Penn State Colegian:
When a homosexual or atheist makes an attack on Christianity or any other
religion, the response is they are 'progressive.' I will listen to any
homosexual's argument that they put forward, but I don't have to support this. I
tolerate their views, even if I don't agree.
Contrarily, Christians are put down by these groups with no rhyme or reason intact. That is intolerance in the true sense of the word.

I do not support gay marriage and here is why: Marriage is not a
'civil' thing, it is something that is given to a man and a woman from a church,
because marriage is defined in the Bible. Therefore it supersedes what your view
of marriage may be.

Without a church, as far as I'm concerned, it is a civil union. I have
no problem with gays getting civil unions and having the same rights as a
married couple in the eyes of the state.
I do have a problem with a religious word being applied to people who are not following the word of God as Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all clear on their definition of marriage as the unison between a man and woman.

It really concerns me that the Christian right has done such a good job as presenting themselves as the only viable form of Christianity, and that others seem to believe them. This guy is talking about "atheists and homosexuals" attacking Christianity, which raises a few questions. First of all, what constitutes an attack on Christianity? Attacking the politics of the Christian right and attacking belief in Jesus Christ are very different things. One attacks bullshit intolerance, which is fine, and the other attacks personal belief, which is not. Another question raised by this idea is why can't homosexuality and Christianity coincide? I know LiturgyGeek, who'll be marrying gays any second now, is pretty confident that a person can be both gay and Christian. Why does the Christian right get to define for everyone what Christianity is? You know, people really amaze me sometimes...

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that this letter to the editor talks about marriage as a purely religious institution (which it most certainly is not), and presents his definition of religious marriage as the only option (which it most certainly is not). Since his definition of religious marriage is so firmly rooted in scriptural precedence, I thought we'd take a look at how the Bible defines marriage.

Genesis 4:19 says:
Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.

Genesis 28:6-9 says:
Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, "Do not marry a Canaanite woman," and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite
women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath,
the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to
the wives he already had.

Genesis 29:16-30 says:
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."
Laban said, "It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me." So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her."
So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you
have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?"
Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work."
And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant.
Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

Exodus 6:20 says:
Amram married his father's sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years.

Exodus 22:16 says:
If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her,
he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife.

Deuteronomy 22:13-20 says:
If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders
her and gives her a bad name, saying, "I married this woman, but when I
approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity," then the girl's father
and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the
gate. The girl's father will say to the elders, "I gave my daughter in marriage
to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, 'I did not
find your daughter to be a virgin.' But here is the proof of my daughter's
virginity." Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the
town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a
hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl's father, because this man
has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he
must not divorce her as long as he lives.

If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be
found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men
of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel
by being promiscuous while still in her father's house.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 says:
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds
something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives
it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she
becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and
writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his
house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed
to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the
eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you
as an inheritance.

Joshua 15:16 says:
And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who
attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher."

So, according to the Bible: polygamy is cool, selling your daughters into marriage is cool, marrying your aunt is cool, women who have been raped get the awesome prize of marrying their rapists, women who get married and can't prove their virginity get to be stoned to death, men can't marry again after divorcing their wives unless their wives successfully re-marry, and offering your daughter in marriage as a prize for murder is totally kosh.
So, the question becomes, how much of this Biblical definition of marriage is acceptable by the standards of modern Christianity? Many on the right argue that allowing gay marriage is just a hop, skip and a jump away from allowing polygamy, so clearly they're not down with that. Incest is not so hot in anybody's eyes, and I also find it unlikely that the majority of Christian fathers would want their daughters marrying men who raped them. Christians also don't stone people to death (mostly), even if they weren't virgins when they married. That rule about men not marrying again unless their ex-wives find a new husband and stick with him is just ridiculous, and I doubt anyone who has been divorced - whether Christian or not - ever even thinks about following it. It's also been a while since I've heard about anyone offering their daughter's hand in marriage as a prize for anything, let alone murder. Even fundamentalist Christians do not subscribe to these ancient, irrelevant marriage laws. Women now are free to choose who they marry; and the virginity thing is the exception, not the rule. Almost nobody is killed for fucking that one up (in the west, anyway).

What this means, of course, is that Christians have been re-defining marriage for a long time now. What, then, is so fucking hard about extending that re-definition to include homosexuality, which is barely mentioned in the Bible (but for some reason, is vilified by the right as the worst sin ever)? Once again, my friends, we have a big steaming pile of hypocrisy coming from the Christian right. Fuck that shit. WTFWJD?

Gold! Haiti eyes potential $20 billion bonanza

Companies drilling; neighboring Dominican Republic also plans to get a cut

Image: Haitian children watch gold drilling

Dieu Nalio Chery  /  AP
Children watch workers drill for gold, copper and silver in Trou Du Nord, Haiti, on April 10.
updated 5/12/2012 11:26:29 AM ET

Its capital is blighted with earthquake rubble. Its countryside is shorn of trees, chopped down for fuel. And yet, Haiti's land may hold the key to relieving centuries of poverty, disaster and disease: There is gold hidden in its hills — and silver and copper, too. 

A flurry of exploratory drilling in the past year has found precious metals worth potentially $20 billion deep below the tropical ridges in the country's northeastern mountains. Now, a mining company is drilling around the clock to determine how to get those metals out. The map below shows location with orange pin.

In neighboring Dominican Republic, workers are poised to start mining the other side of this seam later this year in one of the world's largest gold deposits: 23 million ounces worth about $40 billion.

The Haitian government's annual budget is $1 billion, more than half provided by foreign assistance. The largest single source of foreign investment, $2 billion, came from Haitians working abroad last year. A windfall of locally produced wealth could pay for roads, schools, clean water and sewage systems for the nation's 10 million people, most of whom live on as little as $1.25 a day.

"If the mining companies are honest and if Haiti has a good government, then here is a way for this country to move forward," said Bureau of Mines Director Dieuseul Anglade.
In a parking lot outside Anglade's marble-floored office, more than 100 families have been living in tents since the earthquake. "The gold in the mountains belongs to the people of Haiti," he said, gesturing out his window. "And they need it."

Haiti's geological vulnerability is also its promise. Massive tectonic plates squeeze the island with horrifying consequences, but deep cracks between them form convenient veins for gold, silver and copper pushed up from the hot innards of the planet. Prospectors from California to Chile know earthquake faults often have, quite literally, a golden lining.

Until now, few Haitians have known about this buried treasure. Mining camps are unmarked, and the work is being done miles up dirt roads near remote villages, on the opposite side of the country from the capital. But U.S. and Canadian investors have spent more than $30 million in recent years on everything from exploratory drilling to camps for workers, new roads, offices and laboratory studies of samples. Actual mining could be under way in five years.

"When I first heard whispers of this I said, 'Gold mines? There could be gold mines in Haiti?'" said Michel Lamarre, a Haitian engineer whose firm, SOMINE, is leading the exploration. "I truly believe this is our answer to taking care of ourselves instead of constantly living on donations."

On a rugged, steep Haitian ridge far above the Atlantic, brilliant boulders coated with blue-green oxidized copper jut from the hills, while colorful pebbles litter the soil, strong indicators that precious metals lie below.

"Just look down," said geologist John Watkins. "Where there's smoke, there's fire."
Nearby, 8-year-old Whiskey Pierre and his barefoot buddies stared at a team of sweat-drenched men driving a narrow, shrieking diamond bit 900 feet into the ground.
"That is a drill!" shouted Whiskey, bouncing on his toes. "The man drill to get gold!"

Image: Worker helping build road

Dieu Nalio Chery  /  AP
Genove Valcimon, 70, poses for a picture as he works on a road to an exploratory gold site in Trou Du Nord, Haiti, on April 10.
The workers periodically pulled up samples and knocked them into boxes. The first 40 feet yielded loose rocks and gravel. About 160 feet down, cylinders of rock came back peppered with gold. At 1,000 feet down, rocks were heavily streaked with copper.

Geologists extrapolating from depth and strike reports estimate at least 1 million ounces of gold at two sites. In April, prospectors found the first significant silver ever reported in Haiti: between 20 million and 30 million ounces. And in the end, it may be copper that is the most lucrative: geologists suspect that more than 1 million tons lay in just one of many areas under exploration.

The prices of precious metals have been volatile in recent years, with copper selling for about $8,000 per ton, silver at $30 an ounce, and gold at $1,600 per ounce.

"Ultimately, I think mining is going to dwarf anything else in Haiti," says Michael Fulp, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based geologist who visited the drill sites. "Usually you've got about a one-in-1,000 chance of making a mine from the exploratory stage, but those odds are much better in Haiti because of the lack of any previous modern-day exploration and very, very promising samples."

Gold was last gathered in Haiti in the 1500s, after Christopher Columbus ran the Santa Maria onto a Haitian reef. Spaniards enslaved the Arawak Indians to dig for gold, killing them off with harsh conditions and infectious diseases. When the Spaniards learned of even more lucrative deposits in Mexico, they moved on.

In the 1970s, United Nations geologists documented significant pockets of gold and copper, but foreigners weren't willing to risk their cash in a country where corruption and instability has long discouraged outside investment.

Ironically, it was only after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that investors saw real opportunity. Fifteen days after a seismic jolt brought down much of Port-au- Prince, a Canadian exploration firm acquired all of the shares of the only Haitian firm holding full permits for a promising chunk of land in the northeast.

"Investors want to get in at the bottom," said Dan Hachey, president of Majescor Resources, the Canadian company, "and I figured after that earthquake, Haiti was as low as it could get."
Hachey was also betting that the $10 billion in foreign assistance promised for earthquake recovery would force change and accountability.

"The eyes of the world will not allow the government to fool around," he said.

Three firms are considering mining in Haiti, but so far only SOMINE has full concessions to take the metals out of the mountains. Those permits, for 31 square miles, were negotiated in 1996 under President Rene Preval and require the firm to hire Haitians whenever possible.

In exchange for minimal permit fees, SOMINE committed to spend $2.25 million in the first two years. In addition, it will pay $1.8 million after a feasibility study, according to the contract.

Bottom line: Haitians should get $1 out of every $2 of profits, compared with about $1 out of $3 that most countries get from mining firms.

Discoveries of rich resources, whether diamonds, oil or gold, often prompt great economic booms but come with great risk of environmental, health and social problems.

 Chile, one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America, is the world's largest copper exporter, deriving a third of its income from the metal. Peru, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, has privatized most of its mines in recent years, and now gets about 20 percent of its total revenues from the industry.

Though the contractual terms are generous for Haiti, there is plenty to be cautious about. Haiti's government is repeatedly rated as one of the most corrupt in the world. The mines would ostensibly be regulated by government officials responsible for enforcing environmental, mining and corporate laws, but at this point those officials don't exist and there are neither plans nor budgets to hire them.

Further, open pit mines, common around the world, are crater-like holes made up of a series of massive terraced steps that drop thousands of feet into the ground. When the resources are exhausted, usually after about 25 years, the pits can be refilled or converted into reservoirs.

 In many cases, the mines leave serious problems — environmental contamination, displaced communities and mountaintops torn asunder.

From Papua New Guinea to the Philippines to Brazil, mining accidents have allowed tons of waste to be spilled into rivers and lakes, creating environmental disasters.

"In low-income countries, the dangers are substantial," said UCLA political science professor Michael Ross. "The great irony of mineral wealth is that those countries that most desperately need infusions of mineral revenue — low-income countries with weak governments — are also least likely to manage these resources wisely, for the benefit of the country.

Already, the hundreds of jobs, the new roads and the community investment in a country where two out of three people have no formal employment is much appreciated.

Stone cutter Joseph Bernard, 47, says that before he got a job slicing rock samples, his family was going hungry. They had one cow. Their peanut and bean fields had gone to dust after months without rain.

Today, his wife has launched a business selling seeds, and his son and two daughters have started school.

"I found a job, but many didn't," he said, wiping a trickle of sweat from his deeply lined cheeks after a recent shift. "If more companies come, more people will work."

In a sleepy exploration camp at sunset, Hachey and his competitor, Daven Mashburn of Newmont Mining Corp., met to talk business over bottles of Haiti's Prestige beer, bumping fists in the low-germ "cholera handshake" that has replaced the traditional palm grip after last year's deadly epidemic.

The men talked labor — Newmont got 10,000 applications for 100 jobs when one project started up last month. They talked logistics core samples are sliced in half, bagged, and flown to Santiago, Chile, where it takes 21 days to find out how much gold, silver or copper they contain. They talked hurricanes, cholera, political unrest and, yes, the earthquake — Mashburn spent four hours buried under piles of rock in Port-au- Prince, eventually pulled out with fractures from head to toe.

But mostly they talked about gold.

"Of all the places we work in the world," said Mashburn, whose company has operations in eight countries on five continents, "it would be really most satisfying to have success here. Haiti has great mineral wealth, and they surely could use it."

GOP plan cuts social programs to protect Pentagon

Moving to protect the Pentagon, Republicans controlling the House are pressing cuts to food stamps, health care and pensions for federal workers as an alternative to an automatic 10 percent cut to the military come January.
The automatic spending cuts, totaling $98 billion next year in a new estimate, are punishment for the failure of last year's deficit-reduction "supercommittee" to strike a deal. Lawmakers in both parties want to avoid the automatic cuts, but Democrats are strongly opposed to the GOP approach, which slices more than $300 billion from domestic programs over the coming decade while preventing the Pentagon from absorbing a $55 billion blow to its budget next year.
The automatic cuts, known as a sequester, would strike domestic programs as well, including a 2 percentage point cut from Medicare payments to health care providers and $16 billion from farm subsidies over a decade. The GOP measure would leave those cuts in place.
The butter for guns swap faces a veto threat from the White House and rejection by the Democratic Senate, which say the GOP measure unfairly hits the middle-class and the poor. Democrats are making it plain they expect any effort to turn off the automatic spending cuts to include additional taxes. The resulting deadlock is highly unlikely to be resolved before Election Day.
The measure contains cuts supplied by six different House committees and includes changes to the food stamp program that would remove almost 2 million recipients through tighter enforcement of eligibility rules and would cut back a 2009 benefit increase, costing a family of four $57 a month. Federal workers would have to contribute 5 percentage points more of their pay toward pension plans that are more generous than most private sector workers receive.
Fully 25 percent of the cuts come from programs that benefit the poor, while cuts to President Barack Obama's health care plan affect those with modest incomes. A cut to the Social Services Block Grants, which Republicans say duplicates other programs, would hit programs like Meals on Wheels for the elderly, child care and child abuse prevention. Another provision opposed by most Democrats would deny illegal immigrants tax refunds from the $1,000-per-child tax credit.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., stepped off the sidelines Wednesday with a forceful speech promising to leave the sequester in place until Republicans show more flexibility on cutting the budget deficit through a mix of new revenues and spending cuts.
Reid said. 

"Republicans refused to be reasonable. They refused to raise even a penny of new revenue or ask millionaires to contribute their fair share to help reduce our deficit and our debt," "It is their intransigence — their refusal to compromise — that leaves us facing the threat of the sequester, and its difficult but balanced cuts."

The White House veto threat arrived just a few hours later.
"The bill relies entirely on spending cuts that impose a particular burden on the middle class and the most vulnerable among us, while doing nothing to raise revenue from the most affluent," a White House statement said.
But two top Republicans, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon of California and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, countered Wednesday with an editorial on that warned of the "crippling effect" the sequester would have on the military, including troop cuts and gains made against terrorism.
"In addition to this threat to our national security, the sequester would also impose deep cuts to programs like the National Institutes of Health and border security, squeezing critical priorities," the lawmakers wrote. "The House is taking action to avoid these dire results by replacing the sequester with common-sense spending reductions."
The Congressional Budget Office issued a new analysis on the GOP measure as well, declaring the measure would cut the deficit by as much as $243 billion over the coming decade. But deficits for next year would actually increase by about $20 billion, depending on when the measure could be enacted.

Guns for Butter: House Votes to Stop Pentagon Cuts

Turning their budget knife to domestic programs to protect the Pentagon, House Republicans on Thursday approved legislation cutting food stamps, benefits for federal workers and social services programs like day care for children and Meals on Wheels for the elderly.
President Barack Obama's Wall St. reform law would be rewritten under the legislation, passed on a 218-199 vote, while his controversial overhaul of the U.S. health care system would also be cut. The legislation would deny illegal immigrants child tax credits they can currently claim, while new curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits are credited with driving down Medicare and Medicaid costs.

The bill, passed after a passionate, sometimes hyperbolic debate, would spare the military from a $55 billion, 10 percent automatic budget cut next year that's punishment for the failure of last year's deficit-reduction "supercommittee" to strike a deal. It also would protect domestic agencies from an 8 percent cut to their day-to-day operating budgets next year, but would leave in place a 2 percent cut to Medicare providers.

John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio takes questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 10, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The legislation is a dead letter in the Senate, however, where Democratic leaders insist on keeping the automatic cuts in place as leverage to try to force Republicans to agree to a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts to address the nation's deficit woes.
Defense hawks warn the automatic cuts would mean a 200,000 troop cut, military base closings and a significantly smaller Navy and Air Force. The Pentagon brass has warned repeatedly the automatic cuts would have a debilitating effect on readiness.
"It's not shooting ourselves in our foot," Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said. "It's shooting ourselves in the head."
There's common agreement that the automatic cuts need to be reversed, but Democrats and Republicans remain at war over the best way to do that.
"Today we are having a debate over whether to eliminate wasteful, duplicative spending and unnecessary, flawed federal programs" or to let automatic cuts "disarm our military, disrupt their operational capabilities and shrink America's fighting force," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. "Do we really want to have the men and women of our military pay the price for Washington's fiscal irresponsibility?"
Democrats countered that the GOP plan, which swaps more than $300 billion in cuts over the coming decade to preserve $78 billion in spending next year, unfairly targets the poor while preserving tax breaks enjoyed by the wealthy and corporations.
"They are protecting the massive Pentagon budget with all its waste ... and finding even deeper cuts in programs that benefit the people of this country," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "This bill before us would create a government where there is no conscience, where the wealthy and well-connected are protected and enriched — and the middle class, the poor and the vulnerable are essentially forgotten."
The replacement cuts include blocking illegal immigrants from claiming refundable tax credits of up to $1,000 a child, cutting almost 2 million people off food stamps and denying school lunches to 280,000 children.
Sixteen Republicans opposed the measure, mostly more moderate members such as Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Steve LaTourette of Ohio. No Democrats voted for it.
Despite its austerity, the measure could actually increase the deficit in the near term by about $24 billion since its spending cuts would take effect over time while the automatic cuts are more immediate.

The butter-for-guns swap faces a veto threat from the White House, which says it "relies entirely on spending cuts that impose a particular burden on the middle class and the most vulnerable among us, while doing nothing to raise revenue from the most affluent."

Democrats are making it plain they expect any effort to turn off automatic spending cuts to include additional taxes. The resulting deadlock is highly unlikely to be resolved before Election Day.
The measure includes changes to the food stamp program through tighter enforcement of eligibility rules and would cut back a 2009 benefit increase, costing a family of four $57 a month. Federal workers would have to contribute 5 percent more of their pay toward pension plans that are more generous than most private sector workers receive.
Fully 25 percent of the cuts come from programs that benefit the poor, while cuts to Obama's health care overhaul also affect those with modest incomes, prevention funding and efforts by states to set up insurance exchanges.
A cut to the Social Services Block Grants, which Republicans say duplicates other programs, would hit programs like Meals on Wheels for the elderly, child care and child abuse prevention. Another provision opposed by most Democrats would deny illegal immigrants tax refunds from the $1,000-per-child tax credit — even though most of the children in question are U.S. citizens.
Republicans said much of the food stamp savings would come from tightening eligibility and that the savings equal just 4 percent of the program's budget. And they said it's wrong for illegal immigrants to claim refundable child tax credits when they are ineligible for other federal benefits, like the earned income tax credit for the working poor.
The Congressional Budget Office issued a new analysis of the GOP measure as well, declaring that it would cut the deficit by perhaps $238 billion over the coming decade. But deficits for next year would increase by $24 billion or so — and would increase $11 billion more if Democrats succeed in reversing GOP efforts to cut agency budgets below last summer's budget and debt pact.
The measure would take away the government's authority to liquidate "too big to fail" financial institutions to avoid a Wall Street crisis, claiming $22.5 billion in paper savings that most budget experts say are illusory. It also would block states from trimming their Medicaid rolls and eliminate a new program to help homeowners who are "underwater" on their mortgages with loan modifications.
Separately, the House passed, 247-163, a $51 billion measure funding the Commerce and Justice departments. The measure doesn't have the sharp cuts that some future spending measures will have, which helped it win support from 23 Democrats.