Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Unusual Suspect writes, "blogTO writes of a Canadian PhD student studying Social Political Thought who was intercepted by Kelowna Airport screeners when they spotted her necklace, which has a charm in the shape of a gun. (Article includes a photo of the actual necklace.) The charm is less than 2" in size, and has no moving parts."
"How do you know it wasn't a real gun?" asked Guy, a security agent with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, who also declined to provide his last name.
"Who knows if there is a gun that small that can shoot bullets? You don't know that. They followed the rules."
Hey, Guy? If I could make a miniature gun that was 1.7" long and contained no moving parts and could still fire bullets, I could also make it in shapes other than gun. If your security seriously contemplates defending against that level of technology (firing bullets out of a solid object less than 2" long), then you'd better confiscate all metal objects, period. Also, what are you doing about other conceivable -- but technically impossible -- threats, like telekinesis, voodoo, and directed sunspot radiation? Link
Journey To The Center Of Hillary Clinton's Mind: "Why Would I Drop Out Before Barack Obama Is Assassinated?"
Anybody watch Step It Up And Dance last night? HOT STUFF!
Anyway gang, I just read something remarkable. "Remarkable" as in, "It is remarkable that my eyeballs are still in my head after reading that."
In an interview with the editorial board of the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader today, Hillary Clinton brought up Bobby Kennedy's June, 1968 assassination as an argument against her dropping out of the Democratic primary.
"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it," she said, dismissing calls to drop out.
She has a point: June is a great month for political assassinations.
Why drop out of the race before all the assassins have had their say?
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By EMILY FREDRIX
MILWAUKEE - Love it, hate it or laugh at it — at least it's inexpensive.
Sales of Spam — that much maligned meat — are rising as consumers are turning more to lunch meats and other lower-cost foods to extend their already stretched food budgets.
What was once cheeky, silly and the subject of a musical (as Monty Python mocked the meat in a can), is now back on the table as people turn to the once-snubbed meat as costs rise, analysts say.
Food prices are increasing faster than they've risen since 1990, at 4 percent in the U.S. last year, according to the Agriculture Department. Many staples are rising even faster, with white bread up 13 percent last year, bacon up 7 percent and peanut butter up 9 percent.
There's no sign of a slowdown. Food inflation is running at an annualized rate of 6.1 percent as of April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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By MIKE STARK
WELLINGTON, Utah - Along Utah's Nine Mile Canyon lies what some call the longest art gallery in the world — thousands of prehistoric rock carvings and paintings of bighorn sheep and other wildlife, hunters wielding spears, and warriors engaged in hand-to-hand combat. But now, a dramatic increase in natural gas drilling is proposed on the plateau above the canyon, and preservationists fear trucks will kick up dust that will cover over the images.
"They're irreplaceable," said Steve Tanner, a member of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, which wants more done to funnel industrial traffic away from the canyon to protect the art on the sandstone walls. "When they're gone, they're gone."
The more than 10,000 petroglyphs have been a source of fascination and speculation since their discovery in the late 1800s. The art is believed to be the work of the Fremont people, who lived in present-day Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Nevada from 700 to 1300 A.D., and the ancestors of modern-day Ute Indians.
(The canyon — a mix of private and public land — is actually 78 miles long; it might have gotten its name because a cartographer for the 19th-century explorer John Wesley Powell used a nine-mile section in mapping the passage.)
The federal Bureau of Land Management has pronounced it "the greatest concentration of rock art sites" in the country.
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By Scott Thill
Chew on this word, jargon lovers. Envirogee.
It carries more 21st century buzz than its semi-official designation climate refugee, which is a displaced individual who has been forced to migrate because of environmental devastation. Maybe the buzzword will catch on faster and shed some much-needed light on what will become a serious problem, probably by the end of this or the next decade. That light is crucial, because so far envirogees haven't been fully recognized by those who certify the civil liberties of Earth's various populations, whether that is the United Nations or local and national governments whose people are increasingly on the move for a whole new set of devastating reasons.
In short, immigration is about to enter a new phase, which resembles an old one with a 21st century twist. For thousands of years, humanity has fled across Earth's surface fearing instability and in search of sustainability. But that resource war has kicked into overdrive thanks to our current climate crisis -- a manufactured war with its own clock.
And the clock is ticking.
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Swiss bank paid McCain co-chair to push agenda on U.S. mortgage crisis
By Jonathan Larsen, producer, with Keith Olbermann
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy, federal records show. [See sidebar.]
"Countdown with Keith Olbermann" reported Tuesday night that lobbying disclosure forms, filed by the giant Swiss bank UBS, list McCain's campaign co-chair, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, as a lobbyist dealing specifically with legislation regarding the mortgage crisis as recently as Dec. 31, 2007.
Gramm joined the bank in 2002 and had registered as a lobbyist by 2004. UBS filed paperwork deregistering Gramm on April 18 of this year. Gramm continues to serve as a UBS vice chairman.
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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said that the House Judiciary Committee would be willing to arrest Karl Rove if the former White House official doesn't testify about his role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.
Wasserman Schultz, in an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, echoed the demand of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) that Rove would not be allowed to invoke executive privilege to avoid testifying. Rove could not invoke the privilege since he said he did not have conversations with the president about the attorneys' firing, Wasserman Schultz said.
Asked by MSNBC host Dan Abrams if the committee would go far as having Rove arrested, Wasserman said it would.
"Well, if that's what it takes," she said. "I mean we really cannot allow the co-equal branch of government, the legislative branch, to be trampled upon by the executive branch. The founding fathers established three branches of government. We are a co-equal branch, and this is an administration that essentially has ignored and disrespected the role of the legislative branch for far too long."
Rove said Sunday that the Judiciary Committee has refused to take up offers by his lawyer and the Bush administration that would allow the committee to find the information it's seeking without Rove's testimony.
Watch Wasserman Schultz's interview below.
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SurveyUSA each month tracks job approval data for the President, the Governor, and the two United States Senators from California. This month, two of the four find themselves with their lowest approval numbers in some time; the other two, while not in enviable positions, are watching their approval ratings swing upward.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today has a 37% approval and 60% disapproval rating. Subtracting disapproval from approval yields a Net Job Approval of Minus 23 — the lowest in our polling since May of 2006, when it reached Minus 25. Schwarzenegger's highest approval rating was a Plus 23, recorded one year ago; his lowest ever is a Minus 33, reached twice, in both September and October of 2005.
Senator Dianne Feinstein today has a 49% approval and 47% disapproval rating, for a Net Job Approval of Plus 2 — the lowest her approval rating has ever been in SurveyUSA tracking, which began three years ago. Feinstein's highest Net Job Approval was a Plus 26 in March 2006.
The junior United States Senator from California, Barbara Boxer, today is at Plus 6, with a 50% approval and 44% disapproval rating. Boxer has see-sawed over the past year, seeing Net Job Approvals as high as Plus 23 in May 2007, and as low as 0, in November 2007, when her approval and disapproval ratings were each at 46%.
President George W. Bush has had a consistently negative approval rating in California, from a high of Minus 15 in May 2005 to a low of Minus 49, reached in both December 2007 and again in February of this year. Today, Bush has an approval rating of 31% and a disapproval rating of 67%, for a Net Job Approval of Minus 36, his highest rating since a Minus 33 in June 2007.
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Ah, to be a speechwriter for John McCain. To know that whatever you write -- whatever policies or ideology or worldview you include, through either conviction or experimentation -- it'll be useful to your candidate in all its permutations. If not today, then tomorrow, or the next day.
Because at the age of 71, Sen. McCain still seems to be finding himself, the poor man. One day he's a rootin-tootin, neoconservative unilateralist -- "I will never surrender in Iraq, my friends; I will never surrender" -- and the next day (and sometimes even on the same day) he's a U.N.-lovin, liberal internationalist who would have made George C. Marshall proud.
His problem, of course, is that he's gone from whacking moles in Iraq to whacking moles here at home. Every time he thinks he's discovered what he's all about -- what he needs to be all about, that is -- George Bush's popularity skids another few points and McCain realizes that even more philosophical distance is advisable.
So he loosens the neocon restraints, but only to be reminded that no matter how bizarrely insignificant Bush's base becomes, he desperately needs every one of its votes.
Hence ideologically bouncing he goes across this once-great Republic, being everything to everyone, while judiciously keeping any specificity at arm's length. Yesterday -- if it's a Tuesday, he's an old-school internationalist? -- was a classic case in point.
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If you're one of those emotional drivers who likes to scream at the asshole who steals your parking space, you might want to find a safer way to express yourself than pulling the ol' bloody 9-iron out of your trunk.
For $50, the Drivemoticon Car Messaging Sign lets you put your feelings on display with the push of a single button. In addition to "the middle finger," the window-mounted sign lets you say everything from "sadness" to "flirting" with a series of faces. Other models display text messages like "thanks" and "sorry" and a wide variety of more complicated expressions.
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The rise in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities is influencing climate patterns and vegetation across the United States and will significantly disrupt water supplies, agriculture, forestry and ecosystems for decades, a new federal report says.
The changes are unfolding in ways that are likely to produce an uneven national map of harms and benefits, according to the report, released Tuesday and posted online at climatescience.gov.
The authors of the report and some independent experts said the main value of its projections was the level of detail and the high confidence in some conclusions. That confidence comes in part from the report's emphasis on the next 25 to 50 years, when shifts in emissions are unlikely to make much of a difference in climate trends.
The report also reflects a recent, significant shift by the Bush administration on climate science. During Mr. Bush's first term, administration officials worked to play down a national assessment of climate effects conducted mainly during the Clinton administration, but released in 2000.
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The Observer's literary editor Robert McCrum stood down this month after more than 10 years in the job. And what a tumultuous 10 years. When he started it was a world of 'cigarettes, coffee and strong drink'. But that has all changed - new writers, big money, the internet, lucrative prizes and literary festivals have all helped revolutionise the books world. Here he charts the changes in 10 short chapters - and wonders if an 'iPod moment' is imminent
Timeline: 1997 to 2008, a decade in books
Author Zadie Smith photographed at home in Britain last year. Photograph: Francesco Guidicini/Rex Features
The story is told of GK Chesterton delivering proofs, late, to his editor. The office was deserted, with just one person, from the accounts department, to take delivery of the great man's work. When Chesterton produced from his bag not only his corrected pages but a bottle of port and a glass, the terrified clerk confessed he was teetotal. 'Good heavens,' Chesterton squeaked in dismay. 'Give me back my proofs!'
When I joined The Observer in 1996, the world of books was in limbo between hot metal and cool word processing, but it would have been recognisable to many of our past contributors, from George Orwell and Cyril Connolly, to Anthony Burgess and Clive James. Everything smelled of the lamp. It was a world of ink and paper; of cigarettes, coffee and strong drink. Our distinguished critic George Steiner used to submit his copy in annotated typescript.
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The Twin Cities-based laugh factory offers smart hope in dumb times
By Matt Snyders
It's 8:30 p.m. at the Triple Rock Social Club and Doug Stanhope is on in 30 minutes.
For the third April in a row, the iconoclastic pied piper and self-proclaimed "deadbeat hero" is playing the West Bank rock venue. Given his two-season stint opposite Joe Rogan on Comedy Central's The Man Show—not to mention his hosting a 2004 Girls Gone Wild video ("Show us where babies feed!")—you might be forgiven for assuming the 41-year-old is a bland, dunce-pandering hack...and not one of the most critically acclaimed and provocative comedians in the country.
On this unseasonably frosty night, fans running the gamut from bookish alt-geeks to boisterous rabble-rousers file into the stage room as Jello Biafra wails from the jukebox about lynching the landlord. Outside, the hanging mist and dropping temperature portend sleet; it's the kind of night conducive to cruel laughter.
Dan Schlissel, the lumbering founder of Stand Up! Records, shuffles back and forth between backstage and the main room. His slacker appearance—dark unkempt beard and scraggly mane, a navy blue flannel shirt worn over a black iPod shirt—contrasts sharply with his brisk, purposeful movements.
"We're actually gonna record this tonight," he says, turning his attention to the cockpit of soundboards and wires near the back of the room. "We'll see what kind of material we get."
This is all unbeknownst to Stanhope.
"If he knew, it might fuck up his performance," Schlissel explains.
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Nepal's legislature voted overwhelmingly to abolish the country's 239-year-old Hindu monarchy and establish a republic. The newly elected Constituent Assembly is led by former Maoist rebels who dominated elections last month. The assembly gave King Gyanendra 15 days to vacate his main Katmandu palace, which will be turned into a national museum. Nepal was the last remaining Hindu kingdom. (AP in International Herald Tribune)
What the commentators said
"The collapse of a royal dynasty is a rare event," said Britain's The Daily Telegraph in an editorial. And while this newspaper is pro-monarchy, it's "hard to feel much sympathy for the House of Shah," which was so inept that it lost "power through the ballot box" to Maoist guerrillas known for "terror and extortion." Maybe the rebels will do a better job.
The Maoists' war caused "untold physical and psychological damage," said the journal Nepal Monitor in an editorial. But though the Maoists' means were "undemocratic," they deserve the credit for pushing Nepal into becoming a republic. Now the real work begins, starting with economic development. "Abstract ideas of 'federalism' and 'republicanism' will mean nothing" to Nepalis if they can't eat.
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Last Wednesday more than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx refused to take another standardized test. The students boycotted the test not out of laziness or fears of failing, but because they are sick of being dragged out of their classrooms to be treated as lab rats in the No Child Left Behind rotten matrix.
These tests don't affect their grades, nor are they always actual tests. You see, sometimes the students are issued "practice tests" that have no real meaning. The companies are merely experimenting on the children with their shiny, new tests and if they fill in the right bubbles, the test companies ship off their crates to white schools in the suburbs.
The Bronx kids are sharp, determined pupils so they didn't just sit around, bitching and moaning. Instead, they created a petition complete with specific grievances. The students declared themselves to be aggravated with the "constant, excessive and stressful testing" that causes them to "lose valuable instructional time with our teachers."
Some might say criticizing the broken No Child Left Behind act is a tired, cheap shot. I disagree for the simple fact that teachers are still guilty of teaching to tests instead of teaching to engage. They teach with narrow, shallow focus because the No Child Left Behind act demands that sort of curriculum. The act completely robs teachers of their ambitions, desires, and instincts. Teachers are left with no other option than teaching students to regurgitate the appropriate answers for the appropriately numbered questions, which is the opposite of critical thinking and complex problem-solving.
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Members of the Democratic National Convention's rules committee, which meets Saturday, said Wednesday that the party will likely seat half of the convention delegates from Florida and Michigan. The Democratic National Committee stripped the states of their delegates as punishment for moving their primaries earlier than party rules allowed. Hillary Clinton, who won the votes in Michigan, where rival Barack Obama was not on the ballot, and Florida, has been pushing to seat as many delegates as possible from the states. (CNN)
What the commentators said
"Poor Howard Dean," said The Boston Globe in an editorial. The head of the Democratic Party has to strike a compromise that is bound to anger everyone. The "cleanest option" would be sticking to the punishment, "but excluding two key swing states is turning out to be untenable politically." So "docking" both states half of their delegates—which is what the Republicans did—is "the least-bad option."
Try telling that to Clinton, said Christopher Beam in Slate. She's still "fighting tooth and nail" for "full seating, but that scenario remains extremely unlikely." Obama, on the other hand, is "willing to compromise," because he "can afford to. Even the best-case scenarios don't have Clinton closing Obama's 195-delegate lead." That might explain why Clinton is talking more these days about the popular vote, which is tighter than the delegate race.
And why shouldn't she? said Rich Lowry in National Review Online. In 2000, "Democrats brayed 'count every vote' in Florida and discounted George Bush's eventual victory in the Electoral College because he lost the national popular vote to Al Gore." Back then, Democrats were "contemptuous of rules and technicalities," and said the only thing that mattered was the "popular will." How Clinton must "yearn" for a return to those days.
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Students at a South Bronx middle school have pulled off a stunning boycott against standardized testing.
More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx - virtually the entire eighth grade - refused to take last Wednesday's three-hour practice exam for next month's statewide social studies test.
Instead, the students handed in blank exams.
"We've had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year," Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. "They don't even count toward our grades. The school system's just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams."
According to the petition, they are sick and tired of the "constant, excessive and stressful testing" that causes them to "lose valuable instructional time with our teachers."
School administrators blamed the boycott on a 30-year-old probationary social studies teacher, Douglas Avella.
The afternoon of the protest, the principal ordered Avella out of the classroom, reassigned him to an empty room in the school and ordered him to have no further contact with students.
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High-school seniors are more stressed out than ever—just like the rest of us.
By Anne Applebaum
Ah, the rituals of American spring: the unpacking of the flip-flops, the exchanging of leaf-blowers for lawn mowers, the first traffic jams on the highway to the beach—and the annual spate of reports on the stressful lives of high-school seniors. Last year, in the months between winter college-application deadlines and spring college-acceptance letters, the New York Times infamously ran what amounted to a multipart series on the subject, printing columns and letters with titles like "Young, Gifted, and Not Getting into Harvard," as well as meditations such as the one on the Massachusetts high school that requires its overworked students to do yoga.
But this year is no different. Only days ago, the Times again ran a piece on the Westchester high school that now requires its overworked students to eat lunch, while the Washington Post described, with a certain amount of awe, a Maryland couple who track their five children's complex school and sports schedules on a color-coded spreadsheet. This sort of thing is not unique to New York and Washington, of course, you can find the same kinds of articles in USA Today, Time, or Newsweek. I know this for a fact, because a lot of these stories invariably turn up in the "Most Popular Article" lists, where, just as invariably, I click on them.
There is nothing strange about these stories. Since the university admissions process really is unbelievably fraught, readers of newspapers, many of whom might have college-bound children, naturally find them engrossing. But there is also a weird way in which these stories, and the very real national conversation that inspires them, reflect a kind of schizophrenia in American ideas about education, one that I didn't fully appreciate until I moved abroad.
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A man can be expert in nothing, but he must be practiced in many things. Skills. You don't have to master them all at once. You simply have to collect and develop a certain number of skills as the years tick by. People count on you to come through. That's why you need these, to start.
By Tom Chiarella
A Man Should Be Able To:
1. Give advice that matters in one sentence. I got run out of a job I liked once, and while it was happening, a guy stopped me in the hall. Smart guy, but prone to saying too much. I braced myself. I didn't want to hear it. I needed a white knight, and I knew it wasn't him. He just sighed and said: When nobody has your back, you gotta move your back. Then he walked away. Best advice I ever got. One sentence.
2. Tell if someone is lying. Everyone has his theory. Pick one, test it. Choose the tells that work for you. I like these: Liars change the subject quickly. Liars look up and to their right when they speak. Liars use fewer contractions. Liars will sometimes stare straight at you and employ a dead face. Liars never touch their chest or heart except self-consciously. Liars place objects between themselves and you during a conversation.
3. Take a photo. Fill the frame.
4. Score a baseball game. Scoring a game is an exercise in ciphering, creating a shorthand of your very own. In this way, it's a private language as much as a record of the game. The only given is the numbering of the positions and the use of the diamond to express each batter's progress around the bases. I black out the diamond when a run scores. I mark an RBI with a tally mark in the upper-right-hand corner. Each time you score a game, you pick up on new elements to track: pitch count, balls and strikes, foul balls. It doesn't matter that this information is available on the Internet in real time. Scoring a game is about bearing witness, expanding your own ability to observe.
5. Name a book that matters. The Catcher in the Rye does not matter. Not really. You gotta read.
6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. One guy at your table knows where Cobain was born and who his high school English teacher was. Another guy can argue the elegant extended trope of Liquid Swords with GZA himself. This is how it should be. Music does not demand agreement. Rilo Kiley. Nina Simone. Whitesnake. Fugazi. Otis Redding. Whatever. Choose. Nobody likes a know-it-all, because 1) you can't know it all and 2) music offers distinct and private lessons. So pick one. Except Rilo Kiley. I heard they broke up.
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Sections of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls are seen on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem May 14, 2008. Sections of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls that call for nations to "beat their swords into ploughshares" will be put on display in Jerusalem this week to be seen by the public for the first time in more than 40 years. About five metres (15 feet) of the Isaiah Scroll, one of the world's oldest texts from about 120 BC, will be taken out of its dark, temperature-controlled chamber at the Israel Museum for an exhibit honouring Israel's 60th anniversary.
Photo by Baz Ratner
By Li Onesto
Monday, May 12, 2:28 pm. A huge earthquake, registering 8.0 on the Richter scale, struck Sichuan Province in southwest China. The violent shaking lasted more than a minute, leaving towns and small cities flattened. On Sunday, May 25, a powerful aftershock struck, causing thousands more buildings to collapse.
The death toll now stands at over 62,000 people. 160,000 have been injured. Five million left homeless. More than 200,000 homes completely collapsed and four million were damaged.
The quake hit in the middle of the day when schools were in session—children were napping, sitting at their desks, and playing in schoolyards. Some reports say 30-40 percent of the dead were schoolchildren. In the town of Mianzhu alone, seven schools, including two nursery schools, collapsed—burying more than 1,700 students.
What happens when such a natural disaster occurs is profoundly affected by how a society is organized. And many things about the nature of China have been revealed by this catastrophe. Most people around the world watching this heartbreaking tragedy think China is a socialist country, run by a communist government. But in fact, since the reactionary coup led by Deng Xiaoping after Mao Tsetung's death in 1976, China has been a capitalist country, dependent on and subordinate to global imperialism. And some stark things about the exploitative and oppressive nature of capitalist China have been revealed in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake.
"Tofu" Schools Became Death Traps
Close to 7,000 schools, a disproportionately high number of buildings, were destroyed. In some towns, an entire generation has virtually been wiped out.
Town after town, grief has turned to anger as parents accuse the government of shoddy construction to save money. Pu Changxue, whose son died, crushed in a classroom, said: "This was a tofu dregs project and the government should assume responsibility. We all know that earthquakes are natural disasters. But what happened to our children also has human causes, and they're even more frightening."
In Juyuan, a middle school collapsed. As many as 900 children were buried in the rubble, while nearby buildings remained standing. One resident said: "Look at the building materials they used. The cement wasn't mixed with water in the right proportion. There are not enough steel beams. The sand isn't clean."
There are supposed to be seismic regulations and requirements for different types of buildings. But lack of money for education has meant old buildings have not been replaced. And many times, even when new schools are built, shoddy material is used and building codes are ignored in order to save money.
The bodies of kids pulled from the rubble have revealed an ugly truth about class society in China: That schools for kids from the bottom layers of society are very different than schools for students from well-off families. Children from the upper strata get a better education. They also get safer schools. And when the earthquake hit, this became a question of life or death.
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