A Haitian Situation: Wyclef Jean Receives Death Threats On Eve of Electoral Commission Decision

The destruction of Haiti after the enormous earthquake need not even be mentioned a lot of times due to the fact that most people already are aware of the magnitude of destruction to the small, impoverished nation.  

Hip-hop artist and producer Wyclef Jean, a Haitian born star who currently resides in the U.S., announced his intent to run for president of Haiti a few weeks ago.  This created a lot of buzz due to the fact that Jean has been in the news since the quake, helping with the relief efforts and mobilizing support in the states to help his home country during this catastrophic event.

According to Huffington Post, some aren't taking the news of him running for president so well.  

 Haiti - Hip hop artist Wyclef Jean said he was in hiding Tuesday after receiving death threats as he and more than 30 other potential candidates for Haiti's presidency waited to find out if they would be allowed to run in the November election.

The musician disclosed the threats in a series of e-mails to The Associated Press, revealing few details. Jean said he was told to get out of Haiti and that he was in hiding in a secret location in the Caribbean country.

It has not even been established that Wyclef Jean is even eligible for the office yet.  The results have yet to be made public by the Haitian electoral commission, known as the CEP

Haiti's Constitution requires candidates to have lived in the country for the five consecutive years before the election. Jean knew his U.S. upbringing could be a roadblock to his candidacy, but has said his appointment as a roving ambassador by President Rene Preval in 2007 exempts him from the residency requirement.

Huffington Post, pulled from AP

Normally, I'm not too fond of celebrities seeking political office.  Most of the time the entire concept of their decision to run is misguided and they are in it more for the fame and prestige boosters, rather than to actually help benefit those they represent. 

I'm not sure about Wyclef, but he could be a potential strength for Haiti in this time of need.  It will be interesting to watch the rest of this process unfold.

Federal Criminal Probe of WV Mine Disaster, in Wake of Another Mine Tragedy in KY

Earlier this week, it was saddening and unfortunate to hear of two deaths in a Kentucky coal mine operation.  Two men were found dead in the Dotki Mine, in Hopkins Co, Kentucky. The mine is associated with Alliance Resources and is, yet again, a non-union operating mine.  Tragedy struck when the roof of a portion of the mine collapsed. 

The mine was reported to have had a large fire that caused a lot of damage back in 2004.  

Some may not recall that the Dotiki Mine was the scene of a major fire on Feb. 11, 2004. The blaze caused no injuries, but it took several days to extinguish the fire and several weeks to restore the mine. The effort also demanded considerable resources from MSHA.

source:  MSHA Staffer Kathy Snyder

The rise in mining related deaths in the recent month has prompted President Obama and his administration to take a deeper look at the MSHA organization and increasing mine safety in the U.S.

The Bush Administration did a poor job in improving MSHA and mine safety throughout the country.  Elain Chao, coincidentally Sen. Mitch McConnell's wife, was Secretary of Labor under Bush.

Once Elaine Chao, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell's wife, became Secretary of Labor, which oversees the MSHA, she, according to Jack Spadaro, an MSHA engineer investigating the spill, put on the brakes. Two years later, Massey was assessed a slap-on-the-wrist $5,600 fine. The same year, Massey's PAC donated $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was chaired by McConnell. And Massey's CEO Don Blankenship has personally donated millions to the campaigns of judges and politicians.

Courtesy of Arianna Huffington

Conflict of interest much?  I Shall let you draw your own conclusions.

Here is President Obama's statement after the Kentucky mine tragedy

I am deeply saddened by the loss of two miners in Kentucky, and my thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones they left behind. As I said after the tragedy in West Virginia, I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply the cost of mining. It is the responsibility of all of us, from mine operators to the federal government, to prevent such tragedies from happening again. That is why my administration is taking steps to demand accountability for safety violations and strengthen mine safety so that all of our miners are protected.

Thanks to the Charleston Gazette, and everyone at Coal Tattoo, for the ongoing news and coverage of anything mine related in Appalachia.

Another source of information from Coal Tattoo is in regard to Massey Energy.  A federal criminal probe is currently underway after the Upper Big Branch mine disaster earlier in April that killed 29 miners in Raleigh County West Virginia.  

A federal law enforcement official says the FBI has interviewed nearly two dozen current and former employees of Massey Energy in a criminal probe of the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 men.The official says in the interviews over recent days the FBI has been looking for any evidence that the company engaged in criminal negligence.

Several other sources, besides this report from AP, are also commenting on the investigation including Reuters and NPR.  NPR aired news that there is an investigation going on involving bribery of federal MSHA officials, but according to sources at Coal Tattoo this is wrong/has not been confirmed. 

More updates to come I'm sure.

On high school rankings and AP tests

I don't write much about education policy, but here's one for the high school and college students in the MyDD community (and their parents).

Newsweek just published its annual list of the top 1,500 public high schools in the U.S. I wrote up a piece for Bleeding Heartland about the six Iowa high schools on Newsweek's list. There are a few problems with the rankings, based solely on one figure: "the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2008 divided by the number of graduating seniors."

Of course, many other factors go into making a high school "good," such as a welcoming environment for students from diverse backgrounds, opportunities to participate in a wide range of extracurriculars, meeting the needs of lower-performing students. Also, some excellent Iowa high schools didn't make the list, perhaps because they cover lower-income neighborhoods as well as prosperous areas.

But there's another problem with Newsweek's ranking: it assumes that the more AP tests high school students take, the better. One Bleeding Heartland user has learned the hard way about the pitfalls of piling up AP credits in high school.

Rachael Giertz posted her recent letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register, along with further comments about her experience, in this diary at Bleeding Heartland. Giertz did what she was supposed to do in high school--she took lots of AP classes and sat for lots of exams (which are more expensive than I realized--something like $90 per test now). Consequently, she was able to graduate from college in three years. However, when she applied to graduate schools, she found that she was not eligible because she had skipped some college-level courses (like first year chemistry) thanks to AP.

I believe it's valuable for high school students to take AP classes as an introduction to college-level work. If money is not an issue, students may as well take the AP tests to see how well they've learned the material. However, after reading Giertz's diary I am going to warn any college students thinking about graduate studies not to skip college courses that may be prerequisites for grad school applications.  

High school AP teachers and guidance counselors should warn students about the risks of using AP credits to graduate from college early.

There's more...

AP: Right Track Overtakes Wrong Track

Just last month we were seeing signs of increased optimism both in terms of the economy and the direction of the country but I doubt even the most optimistic estimates had President Obama turning around the nation's mood to a net positive right track level in his first hundred days.

...the percentage of Americans saying the country is headed in the right direction rose to 48 percent, up from 40 percent in February. Forty-four percent say the nation is on the wrong track.

Not since January 2004, shortly after the capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has an AP survey found more "right direction" than "wrong direction" respondents. The burst of optimism didn't last long in 2004.

And it doesn't happen much.

Other than that blip five years ago, pessimism has trumped optimism in media polls since shortly after the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003.

The "right track" number topped "wrong direction" for a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to non-AP media polls, and for several months late in the Clinton administration.

Just prior to the election, the right track number was polling at 17%.

Not surprisingly, most of the turnaround we're seeing is due to enthusiasm for Obama among Democrats.

Of those who say the country is on the right track in the AP-GfK poll, 73 percent are Democrats, 17 percent are independents and 10 percent are Republicans.

Which inevitably leads to a "polarizing" narrative, and the AP doesn't let us down. Here they are on Obama's approval rating.

The AP-GfK poll suggests that 64 percent of the public approves of Obama's job performance, down just slightly from 67 percent in February. President George W. Bush's approval ratings hovered in the high 50s after his first 100 days in office.

But Obama has become a polarizing figure, with just 24 percent of Republicans approving of his performance -- down from 33 percent in February. Obama campaigned on a promise to end the party-first mind-set that breeds gridlock in Washington.

Ahh, yes, the obligatory "the polarization of Obama's popularity is proof that he's a failure" AP line. Whatever. Honestly, the fact that Obama remains extremely popular despite very little support from Republicans and in spite of his best conciliatory efforts is fine with me; all it does is make it even clearer that there is no upside to ceding any ground to them.

There's more...

"Republicans Are In A Different World" part deux

In Democracy Corps's poll, the gap between where the country is on President Obama, the two parties and Rush Limbaugh versus where Republicans are is stark and points to not only the diminishing numbers and influence of Republicans nationally but also, really, how out of touch the core of the Republican Party base is with mainstream American opinion. The new AP poll reflects similar results:

Obama's approval rating breaks heavily along political party lines, with 89% of Democrats approving the job he has done, while only 25% of Republicans approve of his work as president. Among independents, 58% approve how Obama has handled his job as president. [...]

Overall, nearly half of Americans (46%) hold an unfavorable view of Rush Limbaugh, while one-third (30%) have a favorable view of him. The remaining Americans (21%) have no opinion of him.

Opinions of Limbaugh split heavily by political party, with 59% of Republicans holding a favorable view of him compared to only 14% of Democrats who view Limbaugh favorably.

Greg Sargent weighs in:

I continue to be surprised by the widening chasm polls are finding between how Republicans view our political universe -- our political leadership, the proper role of government in our lives, and the state of our country -- and how Independents and Democrats view these things. [...]

Independents approve of Obama at more than twice the rate Republicans do. Meanwhile, 62% of Dems say the country is on the right track, while only 20% of Republicans -- less than a third -- feel that way.

I agree with Sargent that this is an important story but I don't find it terribly surprising. Between the growing Independent/Democratic alignment on display electorally last year and the self-styled party of No the GOP has become under the "leadership" of Cantor and Limbaugh, it was only a matter of time before polling would demonstrate what has always been true but has been disguised for a longtime by Republican electoral victories and a weak Democratic Party: that the values of the Republican Party are extreme and out of touch with mainstream American values. I know I'm sounding like a broken record on this today but what can I say, it's something I've been crowing about for a long time and it's nice to be proven right.

There's more...

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