Net Briefs – May 2011

Charter Schools Failing

The website sent information that, since 2008, an Ohio-based company, White Hat Management, has collected around $230 million to run charter schools in that state. The company has grown into a national chain with about 20,000 students across the country. But now ten of its own schools and the state of Ohio are suing, complaining that many White Hat students are failing and that the company has refused to account for how it has spent the money.

     Contrary to the idea of charters as small, locally run schools, approximately a third of them rely on management companies to perform many school services, such as hiring and firing staff, developing curricula, and disciplining students.

     Charles R. Saxbe, the attorney representing White Hat in the lawsuit, said the company has complied with its legal and contractual requirements and that public funds become private once they enter White Hat’s accounts. “If I’m Coca-Cola and you’re a Coca-Cola distributor or a Coca-Cola purchaser,” said Saxbe, “that doesn’t entitle you to know the Coke formula or find any financial information you’d be interested in learning from the Coca-Cola company. And that’s kind of what they’re demanding.”


Student Occupation

From [email protected] comes word of an April 13 protest at California State University, East Bay. Students and faculty marched to the administration building and occupied it in protest. Organized by Students for a Quality Education (SQE) and the California Faculty Association, the civil disobedience protested budget cuts, fee increases for students, and cutbacks in staff and benefits while administrators’ salaries increased. The building occupation demanded the resignation of CSU Chancellor Chuck Reed. A list of other demands was discussed and adopted during the occupation, including democratizing the state university’s board of trustees, budget transparency, fair treatment for unions and workers, and a recommitment to the California Master Plan for Higher Education.


Social Security Looting

Sherwood Ross ([email protected]) forwarded news of “U.S. Government Looting Social Security To Wage Wars.” In an article titled “Stealing from Social Security to Pay for Wars and Bailouts,” published in the April issue of the Rock Creek Free Press of Washington, DC, Paul Craig Roberts (of all people), former Assistant Treasury Secretary under President Reagan, said that Republicans are calling Social Security and Medicare “entitlements”—making them sound like welfare—when, in fact, workers over their lifetimes have contributed 15 percent of all their earnings to the payroll tax that funds these benefits and have every right to them. And far from Social Security being in the red, between 1984 and 2009, Roberts writes, “the American people contributed $2 trillion more to Social Security and Medicare in payroll taxes than was paid out in benefits” but “the government stole” that sum to fund wars and pork-barrel projects.

     The Iraq War alone cost 20 percent of the size of last year’s entire U.S. economy. Roberts says, “The U.S. government spent a huge sum of money committing war crimes, while millions of Americans were thrown out of their jobs and foreclosed out of their homes.”


Tech Merger

The website sent word of AT&T’s plan to take over T-Mobile, setting the stage for Washington’s high-tech policy battle of 2011. AT&T Inc. said it will buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $39 billion, becoming the largest cellphone company in the U.S. If AT&T succeeds, it will form a communications colossus to rival Ma Bell. Two companies, AT&T and Verizon, would control close to 80 percent of the mobile marketplace in America, a percentage that could exceed 90 percent, if, as many anticipate, Verizon buys Sprint.


Kill Team

The website sent news of a U.S. Army “kill team” in Afghanistan posing with photos of murdered civilians. The pictures show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a “rogue” U.S. Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year. The U.S. military responded with an apology. Still, NATO fears that reactions in Afghanistan could be violent. The suspects are accused of having killed civilians for no reason and then trying to make it look as though the killings had been acts of self-defense.


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