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PLANO LEGAL INSTITUTE STEPS INTO MOMENT OF SILENCE FRAY
by Trey Garrison    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 05:15 PM

The Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, which is being sued over its mandatory “moment of silence” by two district area parents, has received an offer of legal assistance from a Plano legal foundation.

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Legal Institute, told DallasBlog today that he has been in contact with attorneys for the suburban school district and offered his resources in the suit.

David and Shannon Croft of Carrollton filed suit in federal district court charging that Texas' mandated moment of silence in public schools, established in 2003, is unconstitutional. The Crofts say in the complaint that one of their children was told by an elementary school teacher to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."

“These laws are part of the compromise everyone has worked out,” Sasser said. “Everyone agreed that we’re not going to have prayer but a moment of silence and let kids do as they wish. For someone to attack a moment of silence is really outrageous. These kids have a right to pray at school and we want the kids to have that option.”

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MORE POLLS TO CHEER DEMOCRATS
by Scott Bennett    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 04:55 PM

Several new polls today that largely give Democrats reason for optimism in this year’s elections.

First, CBS News Poll shows that Americans are largely losing confidence in President Bush on fighting a war on terrorism. The poll shows that 45% have confidence in Bush but 47% have confidence in Congressional Democrats. The same poll shows that only 17% of Americans believe it is OK for a foreign ally of the US to manage ports while 42% say “never.” While this issue may fade before election the margins are so lopsided the issue has clearly helped move popular opinion against the President and his party on the security issue that has provided their past victory margins.

The CBS Poll also found that when respondents were asked to name what the considered to be the nation’s number one problem 20% volunteered “Iraq.” Amazingly, in the middle of a booming economy with a job creation engine in high gear 13% named either “jobs” or the “Economy.” Heath care rated a 4% response. The only good news for the administration was that “energy or fuel costs” drew only a 4% response indicating energy costs may not be a particularly resonant issue.

Today’s CNN poll offered more bad news for Republicans. First, 51% of Americans now believe President Bush intentionally “mislead” the people about Iraq while 46% don’t think so. When asked who they believe had a “plan to end the Iraq war” neither of the parties have the confidence of the people. By a margin of 32% to 67% respondents said the GOP had no plan but had even less confidence in Democrats where the margin was 25% to 68%

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LEGISLATURE FIX COULD PREVENT DISD FUNDING LOSS
by Brian Bodine    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 04:06 PM

According to Senator Florence Shapiro, Dallas may not have to give up wealth to revenue poor districts once the Legislature fixes the Texas school finance system by June 1st. The Dallas Morning News reported that Shapiro and other legislators are looking to reduce Robin Hood districts across the state and that Dallas ISD will probably be removed from its status as a property rich district.

It is uncertain at this point, however, whether the Legislature will find a temporary fix to the school finance system, or a more permanent one.

If Dallas ISD is not removed from the list of property rich districts, it would have to give up $ 21.9 million to property poor districts. Dallas ISD would also lose about 21 million in state aid.

District officials are preparing for the possibility that they will lose funding this year and have to give up excess wealth under Robin Hood. Certain initiatives to increase spending on employee health insurance, pre-kindergarten programs, and teacher stipends are at risk.

Click here for DMN story 

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WHAT YOUR TAX DOLLARS ARE PAYING FOR AT UNT
by Tom Pauken    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 02:23 PM

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A story in the March 15th edition of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram entitled "UNT professor, students believe contact with dead can aid healing" describes how a tenured professor at the University of North Texas Jan Holden holds seances and tries to conjure up the dead with her "graduate students" at UNT. Ms. Holden is the coordinator of the counseling program at the University of North Texas College of Education. Thus, she teaches future educators who counsel students in our public school system. According to the article, the UNT professor and her graduate students "believe that ghosts don’t haunt, they heal".

When asked by the reporter whether this was an appropriate area of research by a Texas university, Professor Holden responded as follows: "There is just no basis to say this is not a legitimate area of research. Thousands of people have had after-death communications, and probably what’s most hurtful is a culture that doesn’t prepare people for these experiences. I have no reason not to believe it’s real." Holden has been a professor at UNT since 1988.

UNT Professor Jan Holden facilitates these "induced after death communications" or IADCs. Ms. Holden is quoted as saying that the UNT group uses a technique called "eye movement desensitization and reprocessing" as a "steppingstone into an IADC".

The Telegram story says Ms. Holden and her graduate students traveled to Chicago last year to study under Allan Botkin, a "pioneer" and "contact-the dead guru".

The UNT professor will hold her next "induced after-death communication workshop" in April at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church.

It is incredible that someone with these bizarre beliefs is a tenured professor at one of our leading state universities and is teaching young people (who will be future counselors in our public schools) such nonsense. All of this is being done at taxpayer expense at a time of the declining quality of education in our public school system. Surely, the administrators at the University of North Texas should have better sense than to have education professors at their University promote such dubious propositions to the students they teach – paid for by the taxpayers of Texas.

To read the entire Ft. Worth Star Telegram story, link here. (Registration required)

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EMPLOYEE, PROGRAM CUTS COULD BE AFFECTED BY DISD ELECTION RESULTS
by Brian Bodine    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 10:57 AM

The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees elections are coming up. Usually, school board elections draw a relatively low voter turnout, however, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an impact on the community.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa wants to cut some jobs and programs for financial reasons. Whether or not he can do that will depend on who gets elected on May 13th.

Click here for story

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DALLAS CITIZENS COUNCIL PRIORITIES
by Carolyn Barta    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 10:42 AM

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Dallas Citizen's Council President Tom Dunning
Even Dallas' most esteemed business leaders want more money put into education. Dallas Citizens Council President Tom Dunning, in a newsletter message to members, says no local issue is more important than finding a solution to public school finance. The Citizens Council has consistently supported  significant property tax relief and equitable distribution of the financial burden for education across all businesses as well as property owners. Furthermore, the DCC has asked the legislators to provide increased funding to address critical unmet needs in public education.

The Citizens Council's other top priorities for the year include weighing in on the city bond package and continuing to work on the Trinity River Project.  Dunning calls for investment in more parks and open spacing for developing commnunities, particularly downtown residential development. "Not only must we be involved in helping to estalish the size and scope of the bond package, but we also must be ready to publicly support it," he writes.

As for the Trinity River Project, the DCC wants more federal funds, and will continue to work with Washington representatives to get those funds, as well as funding for the project in the city bond program.  Since 1931, the Citizens Council has been a vehicle for business leaders to promote a favorable busineess climate and quality of life for Dallas citizens.

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SMALLER DEPARTMENTS IN DFW SENDING CREWS TO PANHANDLE FOR FIRES
by Trey Garrison    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 09:45 AM

Frisco Fire Department is sending a crew to the panhandle to help fight the wildfires blazing in North Central Texas. Irving, Prosper and other suburban departments are sending men and equipment.

But bigger departments in North Texas haven't been requested to help and are keeping ready because of similar conditions in this area, Lt. Kent Wortley of the Fort Worth Fire Department said. Likewise, Dallas Fire-Rescuse has not been asked, according to DFD Lt. Joel Lavender, spokesman for the department.

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PARK CITIES ATTORNEY, CON MAN ACCUSED OF PAROLE FRAUD
by Trey Garrison    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 09:35 AM

Todd Bensman and Ginger Allen over at CBS 11 TV have a great, lurid little story this morning about a Park Cities attorney and a convicted Houston con man who they say have been bilking the families of state inmates of thousands of dollars offering them false hope and promises of securing early release or parole.

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TEXAS SENATOR STICKS UP FOR OIL BUSINESS
by Trey Garrison    Wed, Mar 15, 2006, 02:04 AM

The election year grilling of oil company executives by posturing politicians of both stripes saw Texas Sen. John Cornyn seemingly the only voice not wanting to exoriate the oil business for operating in the black.

The nation's top oil executives including Exxon Mobile Chairman Rex Tillerson faced a near drumhead tribunal in front of the Senate judiciary panel in Washington Tuesday. Most held their own as senator after senator threw out tongue lashings over what they call "obscene profits and prices," and questions about mergers in the industry.

Cornyn noted that the oil industry's profit margin was just 5.8 percent - it's the scale of the industry that makes the profits look big. He snarkily noted that making a profit "is not yet a crime in America."

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TEXAS ON FIRE; GOV. PERRY SENDS MORE RESOURCES
by DallasBlog.com    Tue, Mar 14, 2006, 08:10 PM

Gov. Rick Perry has dispatched more resources to fight Panhandle wildfires.  To date the fires have have burned nearly 750,000 acres and claimed 11 lives.

“Right now we are focused on containing the blazes, with heavy dozer crews on the ground and heavy air tankers dropping fire retardant,” Perry said. “We are also pre-positioning assets in preparation for the next 48 hours by bringing manpower and equipment from less threatened areas to high threat areas. We are using the largest air tankers available in the nation in this effort, and I have activated available air assets from the Texas Army National Guard – two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and two UH-60 helicopters – to fight these wildfires.”

State aircraft have flown 133 missions and dropped more than 135,000 gallons of fire retardant since the current outbreak began.  Currently  crews from Oklahoma and New Mexico are working in Texas.  Crews from Georgia and  South Dakota are will join the effort later today.

Monday night the bodies of four fire victims were found in a vehicle in Roberts County. The fires have also claimed the lives of three persons in Hutchinson County and four in Gray County.

Since Dec. 26, more than 10,365 separate wildfires in Texas have burned nearly 3.7 million acres and destroyed 397 homes.

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