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Friday, 13 March 2015

Tennessee Parents File Lawsuit Against Department of Education to Save Their Public Virtual School

Tennessee parents today filed a lawsuit to protect their children's public virtual school, Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), which has been illegally ordered to close at the end of the school year by the Tennessee Department of Education. A copy of the parent lawsuit, assigned docket number 15-307-I, which is being supported by PublicSchoolOptions.org (PSO), can be found at www.PublicSchoolOptions.org/Tennessee.

The lawsuit contends the Tennessee Department of Education exceeded its authority in ordering the school's closure. It asks the court to intervene and declare that the Commissioner cannot order any virtual schools closed until after the 2015-2016 school year, as intended by the law, and that the Commissioner cannot require that virtual schools reach higher achievement levels than what the law set forth. This is especially important to Plaintiffs when their school, TNVA, has significantly improved its academic outcomes from 2013 to 2014 and showed the most improvement of over 125 schools that received a Level 1 rating in each of the last three years.

"PSO is proud to support the brave families who came forward to file this lawsuit and all parents of virtual public students in Tennessee who have found a school in TNVA that is literally changing the lives of their children for the better," said Beth Purcell, president of PSO, a national alliance of parents that supports and defends parents' rights to access the best public school options for their children. "The law is clear that the Tennessee Department of Education exceeded its authority in ordering the school closed. It's truly sad that bureaucrats want to close a school that parents and children are fighting so hard to keep open. TNVA's children are public school students, too, and deserve equal treatment under the law. We support Gov. Haslam, and we remain hopeful that he will help these families by forcing the department to rescind its order to close the school."

The filing comes after an analysis by PSO found the Union County public virtual school showed the best improvement of over 125 schools that received a Level 1 rating in each of the last three years. After Union County opened the school in 2011, and worked to transition students to an online learning model, the department's own data reveals TNVA began significantly improving its student outcomes from 2013 to 2014. In fact, last year TNVA realized improvements seven times greater than similarly rated schools, despite facing several unique challenges, including serving a higher percentage of special education and low-income students than the state average.

Based on an analysis of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) of more than 125 schools with a Level 1 rating in each of the last three years:
36 schools declined from 2012 to 2014;
92 of the schools improved, by an average of 5.19 points, from 2012 to 2014; and
TNVA showed the largest improvement of 36.31 points – seven times higher than the average.

Despite the fact that TNVA is one of the fastest improving public schools in the state, it's the only school that was ordered by the state to close. This is the result of the Department of Education's arbitrary and capricious accountability structure, one that was enacted only after the school's first year and used in a punitive manner, rather than to improve schools as intended by the legislature. Unlike TNVA, all remaining Level 1 schools in Tennessee most likely received support and funds from the state due to their ratings and inclusion in the state's normal, well-established accountability system.

TNVA is a public school run by Union County Public Schools and ultimately reports to the elected Union County school board. Fifteen percent of TNVA students receive special education services, and 74 percent of its families qualify for free/reduced lunches, according to Union County.

For many families, TNVA, the state's only full-time, K-8 statewide online public school, is the lone school that fits the needs of their children. Last month, hundreds of students and educators descended on the state Capitol to express their support for protecting the right of parents to choose the school that works best for their children.

There are 1,300 unique students and 1,300 unique stories as to how and why TNVA is working to meet student and family needs – students who are excelling or who are far behind; students with significant and, in some cases, debilitating or even life-threatening illnesses; students who have been threatened or bullied; students with special needs, including many students with autism, who find it difficult to achieve in a traditional classroom.

PublicSchoolOptions.org is a national alliance of over 60,000 parents that supports and defends parents' rights to access the best public school options for their children. The coalition supports the creation of public school options, including charter schools, online schools, magnet schools, open enrollment policies and other innovative education programs. Additionally, we advocate for equal access without restrictions to the school that best suits the individual student's learning needs, whether it is public, non-public or home-based.

For more information on families and the Tennessee chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org please visit: http://www.publicschooloptions.org/tennessee/.

SOURCE PublicSchoolOptions.org

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians Sue Former Tribal Officials, Senior Employees Over Decade-Long Scheme to Defraud Tribe of Tens of Millions of Dollars

The Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians today filed a lawsuit in federal court charging its former treasurer and three former senior officials with defrauding the Tribe of tens of millions of dollars that otherwise would have been used to improve the lives of Tribal members. The complaint alleges that these four individuals used vote-rigging, bribery, and extortion to take control of the Tribe and its principal non-casino business entity during this far-reaching, decade-long scheme.

Also named in the lawsuit are individuals, including several family members of the four defendants, and businesses that participated in the conspiracy and/or aided and abetted the illegal activity.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the Tribe's complaint states 25 claims for relief against the defendants, including claims under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), and various other federal and state laws, including those covering fraud, conversion, and cybercrime.

The complaint details a pattern of plunder of Tribal money by Ines Crosby, former Tribal Administrator; John Crosby, former Tribal Economic Development Director; Leslie Lohse, former Tribal Council Treasurer and Political Director; and Larry Lohse, former Tribal Environmental Director, to give themselves all the trappings of a lavish lifestyle, such as private jet travel, opulent homes, expensive jewelry and gold, sports cars, luxury vacations, and trips to high-profile sporting events. According to the complaint, not only did these defendants take more than $20 million in unauthorized compensation from the Tribe, they also used the Tribe's bank accounts, credit cards, and other resources as their own, simply writing checks on the Tribe's accounts to pay for millions of dollars in personal purchases.

The complaint further describes how these four defendants corrupted the Tribe's democratic system of governance and exploited the economic vulnerability of the vast majority of Tribal members to first gain, and then keep, their positions of control and access to the Tribe's money. This included, for example, falsely establishing a $1 million bond requirement for any person who sought to challenge Leslie Lohse for the position of the Tribe's treasurer, and threatening any who questioned the defendants' authority with suspension from the Tribe, and thus the loss of per capita payments which are a primary source of income for the majority of Tribal members.

This litigation came about following a comprehensive independent investigation and 70-plus page written report by the law firm WilmerHale—which is internationally known for its preeminent internal investigations practice, led by former federal prosecutors and leaders from the highest ranks of government, including a former FBI Director and a former U.S. Deputy Attorney General. WilmerHale's report concluded that there had been a widespread and systematic failure to comply with Tribal laws and a dissipation of Tribal assets, and recommended that the Tribe engage counsel to evaluate potential legal actions to recover misappropriated Tribal assets.

The Tribe removed the four defendants from their positions in April 2014, ending the 12-year operation of the alleged scheme. The complaint is based on almost a year's worth of investigation after which the Tribe is only now beginning to discover the full scale of the defendants' wrongdoing.

"Through this action, the Tribe is taking an important step in the process of taking back control of its governing institutions and financial resources," said counsel for the Tribe Stuart G. Gross of Gross Law, P.C. "The Tribe's members now have the democratic, transparent, and accountable Tribal government provided for in the Tribe's Constitution. This action is part of that good governance effort. It makes clear that no one is above the law, and theft of Tribal money by anyone, no matter how powerful, will be prosecuted."

In addition to certain family members and associates of the four defendants, the complaint names several other individuals and entities who allegedly gave substantial assistance to their scheme. This group includes Umpqua Bank and Umpqua Holdings Corp., which allegedly assisted in the theft of Tribal moneys on deposit, as well as Garth Moore Insurance & Financial Services, Associated Pension Consultants, Inc., Haness & Associates, LLC, and their principals, who are alleged to have facilitated conversion of millions of dollars through unauthorized retirement compensation schemes. Additionally, Patriot Gold & Silver Exchange and its owner, Norman R. Ryan, are alleged to have substantially assisted defendant John Crosby in converting approximately $160,000 of the Tribe's money through purchases of gold.

"Since April 2014, the duly elected members of the Tribal Council have been hard at work both cleaning up the mess the defendants left behind and searching for the money stolen from the Tribe," said counsel for the Tribe Andrew M. Purdy, of the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, Inc. "The defendants' actions are made all the worse in that these four did not keep a paper trail of their grossly extravagant spending. They knew that their actions were criminal, and they wanted no proof of their crimes."

"The Tribal Council takes very seriously the duties it owes Tribe members under the Tribe's Constitution," Purdy added. "The Council believes this lawsuit is in the best interests of all members of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians. These individuals must be held accountable for their illegal actions."

For more information visit http://gross-law.com/ news/14126005/Paskenta.

SOURCE Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians


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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Investigation: Horse slaughter and rampant violations continue despite EU ban on Mexican horse meat

Equine Welfare Alliance and Wild Horse Freedom Federation (EWA & WHFF) today released the second part of a two month investigation into the Mexican horse meat trade following a ban imposed on the meat by the European Union (EU). The ban that became effective January 15th, was imposed following Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) audits that found the meat unsafe for human consumption due to drug residues.

As if to emphasize the need for the EU ban, tests on Mexican horse meat found Ractophine on January 14th, then Isoxsuprine hydrochloride and Zilpaterol hydrochloride a few days later.

The two part investigation consisted of observation of the Eagle Pass border crossing in Texas where many horses are exported to slaughter in Mexico, and an exhaustive search of US, Mexican, EU and international trade records.

Before the ban, 87% of the horses slaughtered in four EU approved plants in Mexico (105,406 in 2014) came from the US, and 78% of the meat from those horses was exported to the EU. Given these numbers, the flow of US horses to slaughter in Mexico was expected to dwindle after the deadline.

The investigators at the export pens found and reported multiple violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulations [9CFR88]. Specifically, violations of the mandatory 6 hour offload rest period for the horses were noted. The investigators also observed one violation of a rejected blind horse, and they filmed a donkey being trampled in the back of a livestock trailer as it departed the pens.

The APHIS inspector, who is responsible for enforcing compliance with 9CFR88 was filmed arriving at the Eagle Pass pens in a vehicle registered to El Retiro Livestock, a registered owner-shipper, over whom the inspector should have been exercising compliance authority.

Analysis of the data collected indicated that the four European multi-national corporations that control the plants were able to juggle their shipments so that their plants in other countries, which were still EU approved, picked up the EU trade while the Mexican plants took over their former accounts.

While the exports of horse meat from Mexico to the EU were largely curtailed after the deadline, EWA investigators detected two shipments of horsemeat to the EU that were shipped after the January 15th deadline. The shipments were reported to pertinent EU authorities but no explanation was received to date.

While the report did not find an immediate reduction in horses going to Mexico, it did find the trade will likely be disrupted to some extent. Virtually all of the countries now supplying the lucrative EU market have also received unfavorable FVO audits, and face possible banning themselves.

Russia, a significant past customer for Mexican horse meat had itself banned the meat for a year ending in August of 2014 due to drug residues. Russia was expected to be a significant alternative market after its ban expired, but the devaluation of the Russian ruble appears to have derailed that alternative.

The most recently released data portion of the report contains a detailed history of all Mexican horse meat exports over past years, as well as an analysis of market shares. The report predicts a 30% to 50% decrease in US horses going to Mexico in the coming year.

Given the rampant violations found in the investigation, more frequent monitoring is planned for the future.

SOURCE Equine Welfare Alliance

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Friday, 6 March 2015

Carbon Tax Proposed for New York State



The Network for Sustainable Financial Markets (NSFM) last week proposed a New York State Carbon Tax and Refund policy, which would place a sales tax on fossil fuels produced or distributed in New York State. Revenues would be repaid to consumers and producers through income tax refunds. The proposed policy, which has proven successful in other locations, is to send a price signal to consumers and producers that pollution is costly, thereby changing consumer and producer behavior. NSFM is currently building a coalition among the political, business, and activist communities.

A carbon tax gradually imposed on crude oil and gasoline in New York State, at a rate equivalent to $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted, would generate revenue while addressing climate change. The tax would provide approximately over $3.3 billion a year in new net state tax receipts, to be remitted back to households and corporations via tax refunds. This carbon tax rate of $30 can be compared to the social cost of carbon, which falls at $57 per metric ton of CO2 at a 2.5% discount rate. The carbon tax policy would complement the existing Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has reduced power plant CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade system.

British Columbia in Canada set a precedent for a carbon tax in North America. The BC tax began at C$10 in per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted and has increased by C$5/ton annually to C$30/ton. The BC carbon tax is revenue neutral, so that carbon tax revenues are returned through tax cuts.

New York residents demonstrated their position against climate change in the People's Climate March in September 2014 in New York City, which drew in over 400,000 people. New York State Executive Order Number 24, laid out by New York Governor David Paterson in 2009, sets forth the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. This would amount to about 40 million metric tons. CO2 levels reached 187.57 million metric tons in 2010, but New York State will in fact not reach a level of CO2 emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 if the state does not take serious action.

Reorienting spending toward more labor-intensive industries outside of the fuel sectors would result in job creation and economic growth. The residential sector alone would generate $276.96 million net of the direct impact of the tax. While a carbon tax is predicted to generate revenue, switching spending from capital-intensive fossil fuel industries to labor-intensive consumer industries, failing to implement economic policies to reduce the impact of climate change will have serious economic consequences. During Hurricane Sandy, the New York City metro area lost 32,000 jobs in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Post- hurricane Sandy, Governor Andrew Cuomo was quoted in the New Yorker stating that, "Climate change is a reality… it is a reality that we are vulnerable."

SOURCE Network for Sustainable Financial Markets
RELATED LINKS
http://www.sustainablefinancialmarkets.net

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Hillary Clinton likely released classified documents to thwart Israeli preemptive military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, says Freedom Watch founder

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch and former federal prosecutor, cited a front page story of March 2, 2015, in The Washington Post by Anne Gearan titled, "Clinton, Netanyahu Have a Complicated History." "One reason for this complicated relationship could be the likely complicit release by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of classified information during a critical stage of the Iranian nuclear negotiations of Israeli war plans to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program," Klayman said.

"The likely reason for the release was to try to harm Israeli war plans. At the time, Israel was believed to have the will to launch a preemptive strike to eliminate the nuclear threat."

According to Klayman, documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show Secretary Clinton and her immediate staff likely leaked classified information to The New York Times reporter David Sanger, and coordinated those leaks with national security staff in the Obama White House. To date, Department of State has "stonewalled" the release of many documents, but Freedom Watch is currently before U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to force further release. Oral argument is scheduled early April (Case No. 14-5174).

Klayman issued this statement in light of the intense focus on deteriorating Israeli-American relations this week:

"President Obama and Hillary Clinton have done much to try to put a chink in the side of both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel so they could reach an under-the-table nuclear deal with Iran. This would include disclosing Israeli war plans and cyber-warfare sources and methods to prevent a preemptory strike. Both the President and former Secretary of State Clinton should be forced to legally come clean about his serious breach of national security. While whistleblowers like Edward Snowden are held out to dry and be prosecuted, higher-ups are left alone to release classified national security information when it suits their political purposes. This is one of the significant reasons why Israeli-American relations during the Obama administration have gone south."

To view the legal brief and documents released thus far, go to www.freedomwatchusa.org.

SOURCE Freedom Watch

RELATED LINKS
http://www.freedomwatchusa.org

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