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Exposed: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools | NationofChange

http://www.nationofchange.org/exposed-how-murdoch-bill-gates-and-big-corporations-are-data-mining-our-schools-1367331290#comments

Exposed: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools | NationofChange

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Last week, students across New York finished a set of tests taken over a two week period designed to measure their proficiency at reading and math against new federal college readiness standards known as Common Core. Some parents opted their children out of the exams in protest against what they described as the school system’s over-emphasis on testing and its use of data as the principle indicator of their children’s achievement.

Starting next year, those scores, along with students’ personal information – race, economic background, report cards, discipline records and personal addresses – will be stored in a database designed by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

That’s right, Rupert Murdoch can read your child’s report card anytime he likes and he knows where your kid is sleeping. The database will be managed by inBloom inc, a non-profit outfit that, like Wireless Generation, is under the domain of billionaire Bill Gates – who, together with the Carnegie Corporation and other philanthropic organizations, set up the company via his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

inBloom is receiving $50 million for their services from the New York Education Department through a contract awarded last fall. Data analyzing firms, educational software designers and other third-party venders, both for and not-for-profit, will be granted access to student information.

New York is not alone in turning to student data tracking system to measure performance. Some 200,000 U.S. teachers use Wireless Generation software as part of a national trend in which education administrators are increasingly turning to data analysis to grasp why America’s pupils are flunking when compared to the rest of the world.

“I am a deep believer in the power of data to drive our decisions,” said U.S. Education Secretary [Arne Duncan]http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/robust-data-gives-us-roadmap-reform) shortly after his appointment to the post in 2008. “Data gives us the roadmap to reform. It tells us where we are, where we need to go, and who is most at risk.”

But the consolidation of individual student information has been raising eyebrows — and sparking a backlash. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is suing Duncan’s Education Department for amending privacy regulations in 2011 that allow student data to be accessed for non-educational objectives without informing parents — a violation, EPIC contends, of the Family Educational Rights Privacy and Privacy Act.

According to inBloom’s privacy policy, the company is not responsible for security breaches; though it will “use reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure student records are kept private,” inBloom “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

Last week, New York parents sent a letter to the Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public schools, decrying the “plan to share highly confidential, personally identifiable student data” with inBloom. They expressed fear that the company intends to share their children’s information “with for-profit vendors without parental notification or consent.”

After parents in Louisiana raised similar concerns, plans to hand over student data to inBloom were put on hold two weeks ago. Contrary to statements from Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, the state has not cancelled its contract with the company, according to a spokesperson for inBloom.

The spokesperson also said it is up to inBloom’s clients, not inBloom, to determine what data the company possesses and who is granted access. In Louisiana, that could include student social security numbers, which double as student ID digits in most districts.

Besides New York and Louisiana, inBloom has contracts with seven other states. All are part of the Shared Learning Collaborative, a pilot program set up by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to help implement Common Core standards through the tracking of student data. The Council of Chiefs, also a non-profit, is composed of the heads of America’s state school systems who work together with corporations to collectively design education policy, in mold of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

CCSSO’s corporate partners include Microsoft, Apple, Wireless Generation, IBM and Discovery Education – a spin-off of the television channel that gave us Amish Mafia. Then there are the big publishing houses: McGraw-Hill, Scholastic, and Pearson that design the standardized tests that produce the data which feeds inBloom, Wireless and others. Together, these tech, media and publishing corporations work with policymakers to integrate their products into curricula.

“I used to think there would be an uproar if I made this stuff public,” said one programmer who designs student tracking systems, and who wished to remain anonymous in order to protect his job. “Then, I discovered that it’s all already public. They’re devising extra-governmental systems to handle student learning right before our eyes. The state is using its monopoly on education to benefit certain corporations.”

Pearson, however, might have pushed its buddy-buddy relationship with education administrators a little too far. The publisher, which recently received a $32 million contract to design Common Core test prep materials for New York, is currently under investigation from the state Attorney General’s office for using its nonprofit wing, the Pearson Foundation, to finance trips abroad taken by NYSED officials.

Yet, for the most part, by cloaking its aims in the guise of philanthropy the private sector has successfully nuzzled its way into the sphere of public education. And there are big bucks to be had.

“When it comes to K through 12 education,” Rupert Murdoch put it upon acquiring Wireless Generation in 2010, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.” To help ensure that News Corp. gets its share of the education pie (translation: “to extend the reach of great teaching”), the media baron tagged an industry insider to do his bidding, taking on former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as an adviser.

“Government and for-profit education businesses are becoming ever more inextricably inter-connected,” commented Michael McGill, superintendent for schools in Scarsdale, New York, upon learning of the state’s plan to house his students info with the Murdoch/Gates start-ups. “This is a development that merits public concern and close public scrutiny.”

What some critics find most troubling is not simply that corporate interests are collecting student personal information, but how that information is being used. As the anonymous programmer put it, “I don’t think a lot these products are going to work. Teachers aren’t going to like them, but that doesn’t matter. These are essentially accountability systems.”

Some school districts have released statistical teacher evaluations as a way of holding teachers’ feet to the fire and to justify layoffs. In Los Angeles, one teacher committed suicide after the city paper published his score. In New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere, data standardized tests results have been used to shutter schools and replace them with charters, often sponsored by hedge funds.

There are other ways, of course, to improve schools, says the programmer. Rather than shutting them down, giving teachers the slip and hiring corporate data tracking firms, policy makers could invest in improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding schools. Also, “they could just hire more teachers.” He insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation from his employer, because such comments could cripple the programmer’s entire profession, if heeded.

Increasingly, parents are refusing to feed the statistical machine. Over the last two weeks, several hundred in New York opted their children out of Common Core tests. In Chicago last week, parents also refused to allow their children to be tested. These boycotts were inspired by a school-wide refusal by teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, to administer standardized exams to students.

“Arne Duncan has called education in America today ‘the civil rights issue of our time’,” said Jesse Hagopian, a Garfield teacher who helped initiate the school-wide test refusal last fall. “And I agree with him. Only I think his methodology is flawed. Because I know what the actual Civil Rights Movement was built on.”

Just as a bus boycott helped launch the Civil Right’s Movement, Hagopian hopes that a test boycott will help launch a grassroots education reform movement.

“Parents, students and teachers need to band together,” he says, “and boycott tests that are designed to rank and sort our children and label them failures rather than provide them educational equity. These tests can’t measure leadership, civic courage, creativity, the things we’re going to need to solve the problems in the world today like endless war, mass incarceration and climate change.”

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MEET MONSANTO’S NUMBER ONE LOBBYIST: BARACK OBAMA | Jon Rappoport’s Blog

http://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/meet-monsantos-number-one-lobbyist-barack-obama/

MEET MONSANTO’S NUMBER ONE LOBBYIST: BARACK OBAMA

Meet Monsanto’s number one lobbyist: Barack Obama

by Jon Rappoport

September 24, 2012

www.nomorefakenews.com

During his 2008 campaign for president, Barack Obama transmitted signals that he understood the GMO issue. Several key anti-GMO activists were impressed. They thought Obama, once in the White House, would listen to their concerns and act on them.

These activists weren’t just reading tea leaves. On the campaign trail, Obama said: “Let folks know when their food is genetically modified, because Americans have a right to know what they’re buying.”

Making the distinction between GMO and non-GMO was certainly an indication that Obama, unlike the FDA and USDA, saw there was an important line to draw in the sand.

Beyond that, Obama was promising a new era of transparency in government. He was adamant in promising that, if elected, his administration wouldn’t do business in “the old way.” He would be “responsive to people’s needs.”

Then came the reality.

After the election, and during Obama’s term as president, people who had been working to label GMO food and warn the public of its huge dangers were shocked to the core. They saw Obama had been pulling a bait and switch.

The new president filled key posts with Monsanto people, in federal agencies that wield tremendous force in food issues, the USDA and the FDA:

At the USDA, as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center.

As deputy commissioner of the FDA, the new food-safety-issues czar, the infamous Michael Taylor, former vice-president for public policy for Monsanto. Taylor had been instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

As commissioner of the USDA, Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack. Vilsack had set up a national group, the Governors’ Biotechnology Partnership, and had been given a Governor of the Year Award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto.

As the new Agriculture Trade Representative, who would push GMOs for export, Islam Siddiqui, a former Monsanto lobbyist.

As the new counsel for the USDA, Ramona Romero, who had been corporate counsel for another biotech giant, DuPont.

As the new head of the USAID, Rajiv Shah, who had preciously worked in key positions for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of GMO agriculture research.

We should also remember that Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, once worked for the Rose law firm. That firm was counsel to Monsanto.

Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court. Kagan, as federal solicitor general, had previously argued for Monsanto in the Monsanto v. Geertson seed case before the Supreme Court.

The deck was stacked. Obama hadn’t simply made honest mistakes. Obama hadn’t just failed to exercise proper oversight in selecting appointees. He wasn’t just experiencing a failure of short-term memory. He was staking out territory on behalf of Monsanto and other GMO corporate giants.

And now let us look at what key Obama appointees have wrought for their true bosses. Let’s see what GMO crops have walked through the open door of the Obama presidency.

Monsanto GMO alfalfa.

Monsanto GMO sugar beets.

Monsanto GMO Bt soybean.

Coming soon: Monsanto’s GMO sweet corn.

Syngenta GMO corn for ethanol.

Syngenta GMO stacked corn.

Pioneer GMO soybean.

Syngenta GMO Bt cotton.

Bayer GMO cotton.

ATryn, an anti-clotting agent from the milk of transgenic goats.

A GMO papaya strain.

And perhaps, soon, genetically engineered salmon and apples.

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How did Barack Obama become Monsanto’s man in Washington? | Jon Rappoport’s Blog

http://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/how-did-barack-obama-become-monsantos-man-in-washington/

How did Barack Obama become Monsanto’s man in Washington?

How did Barack Obama become Monsanto’s man in Washington?

By Jon Rappoport

April 29, 2013

www.nomorefakenews.com

And when are anti-GMO activist groups going to stop saying they’re “shocked and disappointed” by the president?

Shocked and disappointed is polite-speak and politically correct reaction. It’s baloney.

Don’t you get it? Obama has never been on your side. He never deserved your trust.

Disappointment implies he was your buddy and then unaccountably walked away.

The man is a politician. He’s a liar. Different pols have different styles of lying. Some pretend they’re your friend before they screw you over and leave you in the dust.

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GMO multi-toxin crops continue to backfire as more insects become resistant to crop chemicals – BlackListedNews.com

http://blacklistednews.com/

GMO multi-toxin crops continue to backfire as more insects become resistant to crop chemicals

Promises made by the biotechnology industry about the alleged robustness of its genetically modified (GM) crops are proving to be false, as research out of the University of Arizona (UA) uncovers a growing resistance by pests to even the most advanced crop chemical technologies in use today. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study explains how multi-toxin GM crops are quickly losing their ability to fend off pests, which could lead to a complete GMO failure in the very near future if alternate interventions are not enacted.

The study evaluated specific GM crops like corn and cotton that have been infused with a genetic mutation involving the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), as well as several other toxins that grow inside the plant to target pests. This so-called “pyramid” strategy, which involves using multiple GM toxins to target the same pests, is said to have been designed for the purpose of thwarting pesticide and insecticide resistance by targeting pests with two or three different toxins all at once rather than just one at time.

But according to the UA report, insects and other pests are outsmarting this approach. After evaluating a series of laboratory experiments they conducted, as well as various computer simulations and other published data on the subject, the team learned that multi-toxin GM crops do not necessarily kill pests redundantly — that is, if a pest is resistant to one toxic GM trait, it does not necessarily respond automatically to the other toxic GM traits. In fact, the pest response to multi-toxin GMOs is so complex and unpredictable that it is already shaping up to be a complete failure.

“[T]he team’s analysis of published data from eight species of pests reveals that some degree of cross-resistance between Cry1 and Cry2 toxins occurred in nineteen of twenty-one experiments,” explains Homeland Security News Wire about the study’s findings. Cry1 and Cry2 are two types of GM toxins used in conjunction with each other in some multi-toxin GM crops. “Contradicting the concept of redundant killing, cross-resistance resistance means that selection with one toxin increases resistance to the other toxin.”

GMO technology will never overcome pests and weeds, and will only make the problem worse over time

What this means, of course, is that the practice of combining multiple toxins into a single GM crop has actually made pest resistance worse rather than better. This is particularly true in light of the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), taking its cues from the biotechnology industry, has been lax in requiring that pest “refuges” be established in crop fields to mitigate the spread of pest resistance.

“Our simulations tell us that with 10 percent of acreage set aside for refuges, resistance evolves quite fast, but if you put 30 or 40 percent aside, you can substantially delay it,” says Yves Carriere, a professor of entomology at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and lead author of the study. “Our main message is to be more cautious, especially with a pest like the cotton bollworm,” he adds, referring to a common crop pest that has already developed resistance to both Cry1 and Cry2.

Earlier research out of UA that was published in the Journal of Economic Ecology warned that western corn rootworm beetles are also growing resistance to multi-toxin GMOs. Like the new paper, this previous study urged that larger acreages of pest refuges be installed to help slow the problem, although this intervention admittedly will not solve the problem forever.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com

http://uanews.org

http://www.reuters.com