Sunday, December 28, 2014

Louisiana in the news, and more


Celebrity bird visits Louisiana



















A bird rarely seen in Louisiana was among 130 species heard or spotted on Grand Isle during the National Audubon Society's annual winter bird count.

A Lucy's warbler, which normally lives in the U.S. Southwest or in Mexico, was the exciting find of the day on Grand Isle, said Chris Brantley, who organized the count on Louisiana's only inhabited barrier island and one of nearly 30 planned around Louisiana between mid-December and Jan. 5.

A minor TV role makes one newsworthy forever

Dustin Diamond, who played Screech on the 1990s TV show ''Saved by the Bell,'' was charged Friday with stabbing a man during a bar fight on Christmas.

Diamond, 37, faces charges of felony second-degree recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon.

What is “Good Science?”

The Louisiana Science Education Act lets teachers bring in "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials" to promote "open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied included, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning." Supporters in the Legislature wouldn't admit that the Louisiana Science Education Act was religiously inspired. To the contrary. Sen. Ben Nevers, author of the legislation, said, "This bill has nothing to do with creationism. This is about letting teachers teach good science."

Gov. Bobby Jindal expressed agreement with that position, and the highly accomplished biology major from Brown University affixed his name to legislation that outraged so many scientists and science educators.

Local control beats Common Core every time, at least with GOP donors

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has joined Gov. Bobby Jindal in changing positions from support of Common Core educational standards to opposition.

In an email to supporters Monday, Vitter, who is running for governor in 2015, noted that just four months ago he expressed support for "strong standards like the Common Core standards Louisiana has adopted."

"After listening to literally thousands of parents, teachers, and others since then, I don't believe that we can achieve that Louisiana control, buy-in, and success I'm committed to if we stay in Common Core," Vitter said. "Instead, I think we should get out of Common Core... and establish an equally or more rigorous Louisiana system of standards and testing."

Vitter crosses the aisle

The connection was forged a couple of years ago, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, in a hearing of the House Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on the regulation of big Wall Street banks and other financial institutions.

At the other end of the committee's semicircular dais, where the minority Republicans sat, David Vitter took his turn to quiz the witness, a high-ranking official, on steps the federal government was taking to avoid a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown that triggered the Great Recession.

''I started listening to his questions,'' Brown said - and he liked what he heard from Vitter. So when the hearing ended, Brown recalled, ''I just walked over and said, 'We should work together on this.' '' So was born an unlikely partnership, between Brown, a liberal Democrat from Ohio, and Vitter, a conservative Republican from Louisiana. But when it comes to fighting the moneyed interests, that's not the only collaboration for Vitter that goes against type.

As Congress hurtled toward approval, just before adjourning earlier this month, of the $1.1 trillion ''cromnibus'' package to fund most federal agencies and prevent a government shutdown, Vitter teamed with left-wing icon Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, in a failed Senate effort to save a regulation limiting trading in financial derivatives - the kind of financial instruments implicated in triggering the recession.

''I think this is subsidizing and protecting - at taxpayer expense - risky business that should not be in a commercial bank,'' said Vitter.

Enhanced interrogation techniques as mismanagement  

While the Senate report on the CIA's interrogation program and the spy agency's official response clash on almost every aspect of the long-secret operation, both reports largely agree the agency mismanaged the now-shuttered program.

The reports differ sharply on various aspects of the program, from the brutality and effectiveness of its methods and the agency's secret dealings with the Bush White House, Congress and the media.

The 525-page summary from the Senate Intelligence Committee paints a chaotic landscape of bureaucratic dysfunction, showing an agency unprepared to take control of terrorist prisoners, unqualified field interrogators who overstepped their legal authority and CIA bosses ignorant about exactly how many detainees were warehoused in their overseas prisons. CIA oversight, the Senate committee found, ''was deeply flawed throughout the program's duration.''

The CIA agrees in its official response that ''the agency made serious missteps in the management and operation of the program.'' But it said the breakdowns came in the program's early days and that internal changes corrected much of the disarray before President George W. Bush ordered the ''black site'' prisons emptied in 2006.

 


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