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Tag: betsy devos

Billionaire Ex-Blackwater Boss Exploiting Chaos And Misery In Kabul

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With Afghanistan having fallen to the Taliban and countless Afghans desperately trying to leave the country, former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has found a way to profit from the crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The paper's Dion Nissenbaum reports, "Mr. Prince, whose Blackwater guards were convicted of killing civilians in 2014 while providing security for Americans during the Iraq War, said he was charging each passenger $6500 to get them safely into the airport and on a plane, and it would cost extra to get people who have been trapped in their homes to the airport. It remained unclear whether Mr. Prince had the wherewithal to carry out his plans."

Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, former secretary of education in the Trump Administration. When Donald Trump was president, Prince had an idea for getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan: replacing them with a private security force. But that idea fell through.

Warren Binford, a University of Colorado law professor who has been helping with evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, told the Journal, "It's total chaos. What's happening is that we're seeing a massive underground railroad operation where, instead of running for decades, it's literally running for a matter of hours, or days."

The United States' 20-year war in Afghanistan started in 2001 following al-Qaeda's 9/11 terrorist attacks and has existed under four U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now, Joe Biden. Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo worked out an agreement with the Taliban for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and Biden followed through on the Trump/Pompeo agreement — although at a slower pace.

Mother Jones' Inae Oh, reporting on Prince's Afghanistan activities, reports, "Prince's plans to capitalize on tragedy come amid a broader effort by aid organizations to rescue as many people as possible as the U.S. struggles to process visas and evacuate both Americans still in the country and the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked from the U.S. government over the past 20 years of war…. Prince kept busy in recent years by overseeing operations to spy on so-called Trump enemies in government while misleading Congress in the Russia investigation. Now he's back, scrambling to make one last buck from the crisis in Afghanistan."

DeVos Blames ‘Coordinated Effort’ For Parental Fear Of Reopened Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday claimed that the precipitous drop in support among parents for in-person schooling during the pandemic is the result of a "coordinated effort" to convince parents not to send their kids back to school.

The results of a Gallup poll released on Aug. 3 showed support for in-person schooling down to 36 percent, a drop of 20 percentage points from the previous month. The same poll showed an increase of 21 percentage points for remote learning.

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Schools Rushing To Reopen Despite 97,000 Kids Testing Positive

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

‘Like Guinea Pigs’: Parents Reject Trump’s Rush To Reopen Schools

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

In the battle of Donald Trump vs. the coronavirus, the virus has ultimately prevailed at every turn. Trump bowed to that reality this week, suddenly re-upping White House coronavirus task force briefings and abruptly canceling his precious in-person GOP convention scheduled for next month in Jacksonville, Florida.

Trump's repeated failures to outwit science followed by his patent admissions of those failures have now cast his aggressive push for reopening the nation's schools in the purest of Machiavellian terms. In short: Trump's track record on placing the health of the American people above his own political fortunes stinks, and that has not been lost on the country's parents, teachers, and school communities.

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Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Nearly two-thirds of American parents oppose reopening schools soon, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But the Trump administration continues to push for an immediate resumption of in-person instruction.

The tracking poll, released Thursday, found that 60 percent of parents say they prefer schools open later "to ensure the risk of getting coronavirus is as low as possible." Just 34 percent said it was better for them to open sooner "so parents can work and students won't miss out on learning and other services schools provide."

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The Shortsighted Rush To Reopen Schools

Let me get a show of hands: How many of you do not want schools back in session for in-person classes as soon as it's safe? How many of you think exclusive remote learning is by far the best way to educate kids? How many of you would rather keep teachers and students home for a long time to come?

Hmm. I'm not seeing any hands. That's odd, because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, among others, seems to think that the only thing standing in the way of getting America's schools back to normal operations is that some people prefer to keep them closed.

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Experts Warn Trump’s Push To Reopen Schools Will Be Perilous

Education groups and advocates are slamming Donald Trump and his administration for demanding that schools reopen this fall, saying that "conflicting guidance" and a lack of government funding will put students and educators at risk from the coronavirus if they do.

In a joint statement published on Tuesday, six groups representing the interests of educators and parents, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, noted: "Without a comprehensive plan that includes federal resources to provide for the safety of our students and educators with funding for Personal Protective Equipment, socially distanced instruction, and addressing racial inequity, we could be putting students, their families, and educators in danger."

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