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Scene above:  Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
 

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JANUARY 16-17,  2023

CHILLING:  We always remind our readers that, no matter how dramatic are the stories in our own country, it is events abroad that can kill us.  Russia is on the move.  From Bloomberg: 

(Bloomberg) -- Russia will create new commands near Europe as it expands its military to 1.5 million people amid deepening tensions with the US and its allies over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

New structures in the regions around Moscow, St. Petersburg and Karelia on the border with Finland will be created under the program, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told commanders Tuesday, saying the major changes will start this year and continue through 2026. In addition, he said, “self-sufficient” units will be set up on the Ukrainian territories that Russia has illegally annexed.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the military expansion came in response to the “proxy war” he claimed the US and its allies are waging against Russia in Ukraine, Interfax reported. Kyiv and its allies are fighting to fend off Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last month approved Shoigu’s plan to boost the size of his military from the current target level of 1.15 million but the Kremlin hasn’t said how fast that will take place. 

Shoigu said the expansion will be spread across all branches of Russia’s military and will be coordinated with the delivery of new weapons to equip them, the Defense Ministry said in a statement, according to Interfax.

Russia will create three new motorized-infantry divisions and two airborne divisions, combining a number of brigades, Shoigu said in comments posted on the ministry’s Telegram channel. He also called for special attention to the recruitment of contract soldiers to fill out the ranks of the expanded military.

Since ordering the invasion nearly a year ago, Putin has laid plans to reverse years of reductions in the ranks of Russia’s military. The Kremlin hasn’t said how it will recruit all the new troops, but has proposed raising the draft age, which may increase the number of men eligible for conscription.

Russia has repeatedly said it plans to boost deployments in the northwest in response to a pending expansion of NATO, where Finland and Sweden are in the process of joining, with their applications ratified by 28 of 30 alliance members. The Nordic countries’ entry into the military bloc would double its land border with Russia.

COMMENT:  And what is our response to this?  I'm not sure we have one.  We can't even be sure what our Ukraine policy is.  On the one hand, we've committed ourselves to supplying Ukraine with many of the weapons needed to fight off the Russian invasion.  On the other hand, Americans are uneasy with how long this war will take and how much will be needed.  The president provides no real leadership and has not seen fit to explain Ukraine to the American people.  If political support for aid to Ukraine founders just before the 2024 election, what would we do?  Our own prestige and position as leader of the free world are involved.

January 17, 2023     Permalink

 

OUR CONTINUALLY SINKING SCHOOLS:  Education has become a major topic at Urgent Agenda, because there's so much to report, and little of it good.  From RealClearInvestigations: 

Reports of student misbehavior have risen sharply in public schools, as districts also report widespread “stunted” social development among students.

Yet special education resources may not be able to cope with the subsequent rise in students with special needs.

The annual “School Pulse Panel,” a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES), revealed some troubling trends:

• More than 80% of public schools reported “stunted behavioral and socioemotional development” among students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Schools also saw a 56% increase in “classroom disruptions from student misconduct” and a 49% increase in “rowdiness outside of the classroom.”

• Seven in 10 public schools reported increases in students seeking mental health services since the start of the pandemic.

Many of the problems reported in the survey were preexisting, even if exacerbated by pandemic policies. For example, the demand for social and mental health services was already trending upward well before COVID-19.

Data reveal struggling students are increasingly turning to special education professionals following a return to in-person classes.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports more than seven million children in America receive special education services, roughly 15% of kids in grades K-12. This caseload predates the pandemic and represents a level of need that is already straining district budgets.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, each special needs student must have an Individual Education Plan (IEP). IEP teams are comprised of therapists and psychologists, as well as teachers and administrators.

However, as schools struggle to find these professionals and more students request special education services, the pre-existing deficit between students and resources increases, leaving more would-be special education students without federally mandated care and placing schools and districts in legal jeopardy.

IES data reveals roughly 60% of public schools already lack enough professional staff to meet their school’s need for mental health and behavioral intervention services.

If resources are tapped, students for whom special education services are essential will be harmed by the resulting diminishment of services.

This strain on special education raises the question of whether the use of limited special education resources is appropriate for students whose difficulties don’t necessarily impair their learning long term, but rather are more indicative of an episodic struggle.

However, parents in states that offer school choice programs may qualify for scholarships that can be used for special education tutoring or even enrollment in a private school.

COMMENT:  RealClearInvestigations should be commended for this kind of journalism.  Quality reporting on the details of how school systems perform, and how students behave, is pretty rare.  There's an old political saying that "children don't vote," and are therefore ignored, and it's true in many respects.  Education today has been so politicized that schools have become part of the political mix of news stories.  Impact on kids is secondary.

If Republicans are smart, they'd make education issues, especially school choice, central pieces of their 2024 campaign.  If they're smart.

January 16, 2023      Permalink 

 

 

 

JANUARY 14-15,  2023

THE SURPRISE ISSUE:  Who would have thought, after the minimal results of the last election, that the Republican Party would be handed such a gift?  So Joe Biden, who mightily denounced Donald Trump for the latter's handling of classified documents, now is revealed as someone who stored the secrets of the United States next to his Corvette.  Not even in the trunk.  Next to it.  Maybe the storage box came from the Container Store.

Biden seeks to assure us that nothing is wrong.  The Corvette was in a locked garage.  And probably guarded by one of those plastic Christmas reindeer you get from Walmart.

Oh, by the way, how does a guy buy a Corvette on a government salary?  Never mind.

The issue of Bidengate is growing.  With the Repubicans in control of the House, they have the power to launch investigations.  They are using it.  This could seriously hamper any plans Biden has to run in 2024.  Democrats are probably looking around for a replacement,  but mention Kamala Harris and they go back to Biden, dead or alive.  From Fox:

As President Joe Biden is rumored to soon announce a 2024 bid for re-election, the developing investigation into several batches of classified documents found in his possession could cause turmoil for a potential campaign.

This week, news broke of three sets of classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center and in two separate locations at the president's home in Wilmington, Delaware. On Saturday, White House Special Counsel Richard Sauber revealed that five additional pages of classified materials were found at Biden's home on Thursday when attorneys with security clearances went to the location.

Though many Democratic and Republican strategists believe the classified documents scandal won't play a major role in Biden's 2024 aspirations, some political insiders told Fox News Digital that it's still not an ideal situation for a president seeking re-election — particularly as it opens Biden up to GOP attacks.

"It's never good when there's a special prosecutor appointed. It's definitely not a place I'd want to be in as we try to put the pieces together of a re-election campaign," said a Democratic strategist and veteran of presidential campaigns, who who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.

Kevin Walling, a Democratic strategist, said he does not think the documents will affect Biden's decision to run for re-election.

"I think the President from what I've seen and heard has made up his mind to run, and clearly he knew that this was likely to be an issue when the documents were turned over last fall, he was down with his family in the Caribbean. And all indications are that he's running for office, and that he plans to run hard and win," Walling said. "So I don't think this is going to actually affect his thinking on 2024 whatsoever."

On "Outnumbered" Friday, Fox News' Tomi Lahren speculated that the Democratic Party might use the situation to separate themselves from Biden and use the opportunity to recruit a new Democrat nominee for the 2024 election.

Brad Woodhouse, Democratic strategist, told Fox News Digital the "misplaced" classified documents would be an issue in 2024.

COMMENT:   No one really cares about the documents themselves, and what they contained, or the threat to national security.  This is all about politics.  Therefore, the GOP will try its best to make the story last until the 2024 election.  The press, though, will try to help Biden, and play down the story. 

I have no doubt that the GOP will try to link the document mess to Biden's relationship with China.  And that may be the key to whether Biden gets seriously hurt. The Republicans will paint Biden as a security risk, which, of course, he is.

January 15, 2023       Permalink


BEHAVIOR BULLETIN:  I wanted to be sure you all saw this early so you won't make fools of yourself or wind up in prison if you're traveling through the UK.  Don't say we didn't warn you.  From Fox:

According to a report, students at two schools in the United Kingdom have been banned from having any physical contact, including hugging and holding hands.

Officials at the Hylands School in Chelmsford, Essex, in England, instructed parents that students were not allowed to participate in "any aggressive contact" which includes "hugging," or "holding hands," according to BBC.

Catherine McMillan, the school's assistant headteacher, said in the letter that the school "will not tolerate any physical contact within our community."

"This includes any aggressive physical contact, hugging, holding hands, slapping someone, etc.," the letter continued, noting the rule is to ensure safety. "This is in order to keep your child safe. If your child is touching somebody else, whether they are consenting or not, anything could happen."

The letter explained that physical contact "could lead to an injury, make someone feel very uncomfortable, or someone being touched inappropriately."

McMillan said the guidelines prevent "romantic relationships," which are banned at the school. She noted, however, the school wishes children would "make really positive friendships."

"If your child is asked to take their 'hands off' another student, they will receive a loss of privileges," she added, according to local news station Essex Live.

Maggie Callaghan, the executive headteacher for Hylands School, told BBC the school prioritized "wellbeing at all times" and that the "policies are designed to support our culture of mutual respect and inclusion, and our most recent policy has received positive feedback from parents and pupils alike."

Administrators at Southchurch High School in Southend-on-Sea, a coastal city in England, similarly instructed parents that students were not to make contact, according to a letter provided by BBC and seen by Fox News.

"Students are not allowed to touch each other whilst on site," the letter read.
Exceptions included performing arts classes, where students likely have to make contact during dances, sporting contests and physical education courses.

"This will help to create a calm and orderly atmosphere and ensure that there is no confusion about play fighting or anything more serious," the letter continued.

COMMENT:  Let's be sure we understand this, especially you handshakers out there.  I've always thought a handshake is high-risk.  It's about time we dropped it, and its code language.  I'm just embarrassed that the Brits got there first.  What's wrong with us?  Why are we always the barbarians?

Oh, another thing.  Cancel baseball.  You know, it's that tagging thing.  You show me a man who tags another man and I'll show you a pervert. 

It's great to be militant.

January 14, 2023       Permalink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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