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web posted October 22, 2001
Oliver Stone draws fire for 'revolt' theory
Conspiracy theorist/filmmaker Oliver Stone believes that the mediocrity of Hollywood movies, and the fact that the industry is controlled by a handful of huge corporations, may have been a driving factor for Osama bin Laden and his minions.
Speaking at an Oct. 7 panel called "Making Movies That Matter: The Role of Cinema in the National Debate," which was sponsored by the New York Film Festival, the director of Natural Born Killers said, "That's what the new world order is," referring to media conglomerates.
"They control culture. They control ideas. And I think the revolt of Sept. 11th was about 'F--- you! F--- your order,'" Stone is quoted as saying by the New Yorker.
Incensed fellow panelist Christopher Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair and The Nation, responded, "Excuse me? Revolt? It was state-sponsored mass murder, using civilians as missiles." Later, Hitchens said, "To say that this attack in any way resembles the French Revolution means you are a moral idiot, as well as an intellectual idiot. The man has completely lost it."
According to the New Yorker, Stone also asked, "Does anybody make a connection between the 2000 [presidential] election and the events of September 11th?" then added cryptically, "Look for the thirteenth month!"
Added the man who gave us Nixon and JFK, "I'd like to do a bullet of a movie about terrorism and how it works. It could be a fascinating thriller that would really entertain people."
He elaborated, saying "My movie would show the new heroes of security, the people who really get the job done, who know where the secrets are."
However, Tom Pollock, former CEO of Universal Pictures, said it was going to be "ten times harder" to get the studios to make such films. "It's because it will be harder to figure out how to make money from them, and it will become harder for independent films with political content to get distribution," Pollock was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter.
Children schooled at home have better social skills
Children who are educated at home have better social skills and achieve higher grades on standardized tests than students in private or public schools, according to a new report.
Contrary to the popular belief that children educated at home are disadvantaged because of a lack of peers, the study by the Fraser Institute shows they are happier, better adjusted and more sociable that those at institutional schools. The average child educated at home participates in a range of activities with other children outside the family and 98% are involved in two or more extracurricular activities such as field trips and music lessons per week, the report says.
Home-schooled children also regularly outperform other students on standardized tests.
Children taught at home in Canada score, on average, at the 80th percentile in reading, at the 76th percentile in languages and at the 79th percentile in mathematics, the report shows. Private and public students perform, on average, in the 50th percentile on mandatory tests in the same subjects.
In the United States, students educated at home also achieve the highest grades on standardized tests and outperform other students on college entrance exams, including the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), according to the study.
Parents of home-schooled children in both countries are generally higher educated when compared to the national average.
They tend to be in two-parent families and have a higher-than-average number of children than the overall population.
Patrick Basham, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a conservative public policy group in Washington, and author of the report, said he was surprised to see such positive results linked to home schooling.
"People think these children are neurotic, unsocialized and can't function in normal society. But the opposite is true. I think the fact children educated at home do better than private school students would also surprise people. It is not something that is widely debated or studied," he said.
Home-schooled children are still a tiny minority in Canada, although an increasing number of parents are opting for this style of education. In 1979, 2,000 children were educated at home. By 1996, 17,500 students -- 0.4% of total enrollment -- were home schooled. The most recent figures show the number has risen to 80,000 children.
Parents educate their children at home for a variety of reasons, including the desire to impart a particular set of beliefs and values, an interest in higher academic performance and a lack of discipline in public schools, says the report.
"Although parents home school their children for myriad reasons, the principal stimulus is dissatisfaction with public education," said Claudia Hepburn, director of education policy at the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based conservative think-tank.
Home schooling is legal throughout Canada, but most provinces require parents comply with provincial education legislation, which means they must provide satisfactory instruction. Alberta is the only province that funds home-based education.
None of the provinces requires that parents have teaching qualifications. However, having one parent who is a certified teacher has no significant effect on the achievement of students educated at home, the research shows.
Gary Duthler, executive director of the Federation of Independent Schools in Canada, the association for non-public schools, said children educated at home likely do better and are more sociable because of the smaller student-teacher ratio and the fact students of all ages learn together.
"In institutional schools, there is social pressure for 10-year-old children to behave like other 10-year-olds and they tend to not play with any older children at school.
"In a home setting, that same pressure is not there, so it helps the children mature."
He said they probably also do well because they have access to education resources and teaching expertise over the Internet but their parents are controlling their education.
Small government is better, says Bush
On October 15, George Bush saluted the government's military and civilian employees for their response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, but he warned of the need to resist an unchecked expansion of the government during wartime.
"In times of war, the American people look to the government more than they do in times of peace," Bush said in a speech in Constitution Hall to the federal government's Senior Executive Service. "They count on government to help protect them, and we will. They count on the government to defeat those who are trying to destroy us, and we will."
But standing in the same hall in which his father, the former president, hailed government workers 12 years earlier as "some of the most unsung heroes in America," the younger Bush made clear he believes government is best which governs least. "We must resist pressure to unwisely expand government," he said. "We need to affirm a few important principles: that government should be limited, but effective; should do a few things and do them well. It should welcome market-based competition wherever possible."
Bush also announced that he was sending to Capitol Hill two legislative packages that he said were aimed at helping senior officials to manage more efficiently. The more controversial package, which Bush has dubbed the "Freedom to Manage Act," would allow the White House to have a floor vote in as little as 31 legislative days on measures to eliminate laws that federal managers see as hindering government operations.
The legislation could face a difficult path in Congress, administration officials said, anticipating lawmakers' objections that it usurps congressional power. A senior House Republican aide said the bill "has absolutely no chance of passing."
The other bill includes recruitment and retention bonuses to ease hiring, early retirement incentives, a form of merit pay called pay-banding and the lifting of a salary cap for senior government employees. It would also make it easier for the government to dispose of obsolete facilities.
The proposals will face some union objection. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 of the nation's 1.8 million civilian federal workers, criticized lifting the salary cap and other measures as "increased perks for senior executives." NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said it sends the wrong message to "front-line employees working overtime to safeguard our nation."
U.S. Court upholds ownership of a gun as Constitutional right
A federal appeals court ruled October 16 that the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to have a gun, the first time in recent history that such a high-level legal authority has explicitly endorsed such a view.
The decision's immediate impact will be felt in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, which are within the jurisdiction of the court that issued the opinion, but the ruling is likely to embolden opponents of gun control to press their cause in federal courts around the country.
"We'll obviously look for other cases to make the same point, using this case as a precedent," said Jim Baker, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.
The court's decision also amounted to an endorsement of the legal position taken by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in a letter to the NRA in May. At that time, gun control advocates criticized Ashcroft for adopting an interpretation that they said was at odds with legal precedent.
The day of the ruling, however, the Justice Department had no official comment on the case, saying its lawyers are still studying it. One official seemed to emphasize that the court ruling will not cause any short-term change in the department's policy.
"This is not inconsistent with the department's obligation to defend the constitutionality of statutes dealing with gun control," the official said.
At least one prominent gun control group argued that the decision was a victory for its cause because, even though the court recognized a general right to own a gun, it also ruled that the federal government could still deny that right in the cases of people who are violent or mentally unstable.
"It does not get the NRA any farther in terms of challenging federal criminal laws that prohibit gun possession by people Congress wants to prohibit," said Mathew Nosanchuk, litigation director for the Violence Policy Center.
He noted that only two judges in the three-judge panel explicitly said there is an individual right to carry a gun. A third judge said that he disagreed with the court's discussion of the Second Amendment and that the discussion has no value as a precedent because it was not necessary to decide the issue before the court.
The case, U.S. v. Emerson, involved a 1994 federal law that prohibits people who are under restraining orders because of domestic violence from owning a gun. A Texas man, Timothy Joe Emerson, said a federal prosecutor's effort to indict him for breaking the law violated his Second Amendment right to possess a gun.
A federal district judge in Texas agreed and ordered the indictment dismissed. In yesterday's 77-page ruling, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the district court was wrong to dismiss the indictment because of Emerson's violent and unstable behavior.
But in a long and detailed discussion of the history of the Bill of Rights, the court said that, while Emerson may have forfeited his right to own a gun, other Americans still have the right because history shows that the framers of the Second Amendment intended to guarantee the right of law-abiding individuals to have a gun, just as the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech of individuals.
"We hold . . . that it protects the rights of individuals, including those not . . . actually a member of any militia or engaged in active military service or training, to privately possess and bear their own firearms . . . that are suitable as personal, individual weapons," the judges wrote.
This ruling explicitly rejected the view, advocated by gun control groups, that the Second Amendment was intended only to guarantee state militias' access to weaponry.
Gun control groups had argued that the Supreme Court's 1939 decision in U.S. v. Miller, upholding a federal prosecution for possession of a sawed-off shotgun, meant that the government has the right to control possession of all types of weapons. But the judges yesterday held that the Miller case was concerned only with a narrow category of weapons made specifically for illegitimate purposes such as crime.
Condit urged not to run
County Democratic leaders who have long remained silent on the political future of Rep. Gary Condit are now urging him to retire.
Democratic committee leaders in two counties in Condit's congressional district say they no longer support him and want him to step aside.
Condit, a congressman since 1989, has opened a campaign office and has begun gathering signatures needed to launch a campaign, but has not announced whether he plans to run next year. The filing deadline is Dec. 7.
Robert Haden, chairman of the Merced County Democratic Central Committee, said he wrote to Condit after learning he was collecting signatures.
"I assumed that he realized his ability to be re-elected and to continue his political career had ended or at least was seriously jeopardized," Haden said. "Never in my wildest imagination did I think those plans were going to be running for re-election."
Marcelino Martinez, chairman of San Joaquin County Democrats, also said his committee hopes Condit withdraws.
Condit's popularity has plunged after Chandra Levy, a 24-year-old federal intern, disappeared in Washington, D.C., and her relationship with the 53-year-old, married congressman was disclosed.
While police say Condit is not a suspect in Levy's disappearance, they have been critical of what they have described as his halting cooperation with their investigation.
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