GAO: 73% of 8th Graders Don’t Know Much About Geography

Seventy-three percent of American eighth graders tested below the proficiency level in geography last year, according to a report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Analyzing nationally representative test data from the U.S. Department of Education, GAO found that only 27 percent of eighth graders nationwide scored at either the proficient (24%) or advanced (3%) level on standardized geography tests in 2014.

Nearly half (48%) exhibited only partial mastery of the subject, and a quarter (25%) scored below basic competency on the geography tests.

The 2014 results showed virtually no improvement since 1994, when 4 percent of eighth graders tested at the advanced level, 24 percent at the proficient level, 43 percent at the basic level, and 29 percent were below basic competency, the GAO reported, even as Americans become increasingly dependent on location-based technologies such as GPS (global positioning system).

“Geography is generally taught as part of social studies, but data show that more than half of eighth grade teachers reported spending a small portion (10 percent or less) of their social studies instruction time on geography,” the report to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Humans Services, Education, and Related Agencies stated.

Source: GAO: 73% of 8th Graders Don’t Know Much About Geography

Online Dating Fuels New Danger for Gays in India

MUMBAI—A gay Indian maritime engineer says he was lured into a trap during a visit to Mumbai last year.

When the 33-year-old was with a man he met through an online dating service, two others burst into his hotel room. One whipped and punched him. They took his laptop, a gold chain, camera and his ATM card, which they used to empty his bank account, he says.

The men also made a threat: If he went to the police, the robbers said, they would press criminal charges against him for having sex with a man and tell his colleagues and family that he is gay.

“I was dead scared,” said Rohit, who asked that his surname not be used because he feared the consequences of being publicly identified as homosexual.

Since India’s Supreme Court recriminalized gay sex more than a year ago, homosexuals have increasingly become targets of robbery and extortion, gay men and activists say. The trend has been fueled by the rise of Internet dating, which has become an easy way for urban, middle-class gay men to meet, but also exposed them to online predators.

Such cases underline the deep disconnect between more liberal and cosmopolitan parts of urban India and conservative norms that condemn homosexuality and leave gay people vulnerable to discrimination and blackmail.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is one of more than a dozen Asian countries that outlaw what in India’s case is defined as sex “against the order of nature.”

In December 2013, India’s Supreme Court found the law, which dates to the British colonial era, wasn’t unconstitutional and could be changed or repealed only by Parliament, effectively overturning a 2009 lower-court ruling that made consensual gay sex legal.

Source: Online Dating Fuels New Danger for Gays in India – WSJ

Kenya protesters warn Obama not to bring up gay rights in visit

It came a day after Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, who is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused of crimes against humanity, told worshippers at a church service that homosexuality was “against the plan” of God.

“We have heard that in the US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things,” Ruto said, according to the Daily Nation newspaper.

“I want to say as a Christian leader that we will defend our country Kenya, we will stand for our faith and our country.”

– Afraid Obama ‘will preach equality’ –

Ruto made similar comments in May when US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kenya.

Homophobia is prevalent in many African countries and gay sex remains illegal in several nations, including Kenya where it was outlawed under British colonial legislation.

The march Monday was organised by the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, a coalition of several churches.

Obama’s visit later this month will be his fourth to Africa since becoming US president, but his first to Kenya since taking office in 2009. He will also travel to Ethiopia.

Pro-gay rights activists warned of rising intolerance in Kenya, including attacks on homosexuals and alleged cases of lesbians being raped to “cure” them.

“The anti gay movement is spreading to Kenya… cases of discrimination and violence are increasing because of the very homophobic speeches,” said lawyer Erik Gitari, from the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“Obama has been associated with equality and liberation, being the first black US president. They are afraid that he will preach equality here,” said Gitari.

In conservative Christian and Muslim countries in Africa, homophobia is a vote-winner.

In Uganda, legislators sought the death penalty for homosexuality and although the anti-gay law was watered down and then overturned, ruling party MPs remain eager to see it passed.

Nigeria and Gambia have passed tough new anti-gay laws in recent years, with Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, calling homosexuals “ungodly, Satanic… vermins [sic]” in a speech last year.

In Kenya, too, a cross-party parliamentary group is seeking stricter application of existing anti-gay legislation.

Source: Kenya protesters warn Obama not to bring up gay rights in visit

Kim Jong-un claims to have ‘cured Aids’ with ‘miracle drug’

Kim Jong-un claims to have succeeded where the greatest minds in science have failed… by producing a single drug which can prevent and cure Aids, Ebola, Sars and Mers.

North Korea is currently suffering from one of the worst droughts in its history while still pursuing a nuclear programme.

The official Korean Central News Agency said the portly despot’s scientists developed miracle drug Kumdang-2 from ginseng and other ingredients – without saying which.

North Korea claimed the same drug cured deadly bird flu outbreaks in 2006 and 2013.

Source: Kim Jong-un claims to have ‘cured Aids’ with ‘miracle drug’

‘No room’ for gays in Kenya, says deputy president

Kenya’s deputy president has said there is “no room” for homosexuality in Kenyan society, a widely-shared view in African countries that puts their leaders at odds with Western aid donors who back gay rights.

William Ruto made the remarks at a church service on Sunday, the day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for talks. The United States has been at the forefront of calls for gay rights in Africa and criticizes anti-gay laws on the continent.

“The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God.  We have no room for gays and those others,” Ruto told a Nairobi church congregation in the national Swahili language, according to an online video posted by Kenyan broadcaster KTN.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Kerry was not familiar with Ruto’s remarks but said it was the U.S. position that “all people are created equal.”

Source: ‘No room’ for gays in Kenya, says deputy president – Yahoo News Canada

Americans bomb Pew test of basic political knowledge

Only one-in-three Americans knows how many women serve on the Supreme Court, but 91 percent can identify Martin Luther King Jr., 47 years after his assassination.

That’s according to the latest Pew Research Center News IQ survey released Tuesday, which tests how well the American public knows the world in words, maps and pictures.

Almost all millennials surveyed — 96 percent — could pick out King from a list of names that included Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson and Thurgood Marshall. Older generations could mostly identify the slain civil-rights leader, as 89 percent of Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation did.

But millennials apparently aren’t so great at identifying the current party makeup of the Senate. Only 47 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 were able to do so, compared to 52 percent overall. Those who described themselves as more politically engaged were more likely to know the upper chamber’s composition. (For the record, Republicans hold 54 seats; Democrats 44 seats; and Independents two seats.)

More people were able to identify the country that Kim Jong-un rules (82 percent) than were able to identify Malala Yousafzai as the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner (63 percent). And only 51 percent could recognize Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren from a series of four photos with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Source: Americans bomb Pew test of basic political knowledge – Nick Gass – POLITICO

Michigan woman accidentally killed herself while adjusting bra holster, police say

A Michigan woman who died after accidentally shooting herself in the head in the beginning of the year was adjusting her bra holster when the gun went off, police said.

St. Joseph Public Safety Department Director Mark Clapp told the Kalamazoo Gazette 55-year-olod Christina Bond was “having trouble adjusting her bra holster and could not get it to fit the way she wanted it to.”

Clapp also said Bond was looking down before accidentally firing the weapon.

Officers found Bond Jan. 1 with a gunshot wound to the eye. She was taken to Lakeland Hospital and then airlifted to Bronson Methodist Hospital the next day. Bond later died.

Thanks to Brian F. for the tip!

Source: Michigan woman accidentally killed herself while adjusting bra holster, police say | Fox News

El Salvador Won’t Pardon Women In Prison for Abortions or Miscarriages

In January, a woman in El Salvador who’d been imprisoned for having a miscarriage was finally pardoned, having spent seven years behind bars. The woman, known as “Guadalupe,” had been charged with having an abortion, an offense which was later changed to homicide. But while Guadalupe will be officially released today, 15 other women in her situation remain in jail.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto, a group dedicated to decriminalizing abortion in El Salvador, have been working together to secure the release of 17 women who are serving 3o to 40 years sentences for having obstetric emergencies that resulted in miscarriages. Only Guadalupe has won a pardon. Another woman finished her prison sentence and was released. The Agrupación Ciudadana announced today that they have learned that the legislature will refused to review pardon applications for any of the other 15 women.

Source: El Salvador Won’t Pardon Women In Prison for Abortions or Miscarriages

Anti-Charlie rally in Pakistan draws 5,000

pakistan protest

Around 5,000 people rallied against French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore on Sunday, and the founder of a group banned for militant links urged protesters to boycott French products.

Hafiz Saeed, who founded Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organization banned for launching attacks in neighboring India, told protesters: “We will launch a movement against the insulting caricatures of our beloved prophet.”

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a picture of the Prophet Muhammad weeping on its cover last week after two gunmen stormed its offices and killed 12 people. The gunmen said their attack was revenge for previous cartoons the magazine had published mocking Islam.

Saeed urged traders to stop importing French products and for Pakistani leaders to try to get an international law against blasphemy passed.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.

On Friday, protesters trying to storm the French consulate in the southern city of Karachi shot and injured a photographer working for French news agency AFP.

Saeed called for more rallies next Friday. He says he has no links to militancy these days and only runs a charity, which is banned by the U.S. government for suspected militant links. The U.S. government has offered $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s conviction.

via Anti-Charlie rally in Pakistan draws 5,000 – Yahoo News.

Saudi cleric condemns snowmen as anti-Islamic

snowman

A prominent Saudi Arabian cleric has whipped up controversy by issuing a religious ruling forbidding the building of snowmen, described them as anti-Islamic.

Asked on a religious website if it was permissible for fathers to build snowmen for their children after a snowstorm in the country’s north, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid replied: “It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun.”

Quoting from Muslim scholars, Sheikh Munajjid argued that to build a snowman was to create an image of a human being, an action considered sinful under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.

“God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on,” he wrote in his ruling.

Thanks to Brian F. for the tip!

Source: Saudi cleric condemns snowmen as anti-Islamic | Reuters