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SPAIN MAY GRANT APES RIGHTS
by Brian Bodine    Sun, Apr 30, 2006, 05:08 PM

The Spanish Parliament is considering a bill that will grant simians rights.

Expatica.com, an online Spain-based news source, reports that Spain’s ruling Socialist Party has launched an initiative that would grant rights to great apes. The bill would prohibit the use of great apes –mainly chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutangs, and gorillas- from being caged, used in marketing, or improperly used in research experiments. The bill is backed by the Seattle arm of the Great Ape Project, which is also proposing a “U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Great Apes” that would grant to the great apes "the right to life, the freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty and protection from torture".

Leaders from Spain’s conservative Popular Party have called the bill frivolous and the Catholic Church has questioned why such rights should be granted to apes and not to the unborn.

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THE WEEKEND WRAPUP by The Fish
by Mike Fisher    Sun, Apr 30, 2006, 03:23 PM

The Weekend Wrapup, as we zig-zag from American Airlines Center to Valley Ranch to back downtown again. .... Click into the "School of Fish'':

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TRUSTEE CANDIDATE EMPHASIZES CHILDREN, COMMUNITY AND COMMITMENT by Brian Bodine
by Brian Bodine    Sun, Apr 30, 2006, 01:46 PM

According to one candidate running for the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, a commitment to the children is crucial to helping and changing the community.

DallasBlog recently interviewed Carla Ranger, who is the District Director for Educational Partnerships at the Dallas County Community College District. Ranger, who is running for the District 6 seat, is well-known for the city-wide African-American read-in that she founded in 2000.

“My main reason for running is that I care about the children and the community,” said Ranger. “I believe in service and I believe in serving the community. I’m committed to doing that. I’ve looked for opportunities that have always had that.”

According to Ranger, the successful future of the community is dependent on the successful future of children. Ranger said that some of her main concerns were the dropout rate and the reading level.

“We lose the equivalent of one high school every year,” said Ranger. “I think that we have to work on and focus on dropout prevention.” Ranger emphasized that lowering the dropout rate by focusing on children at a young age was crucial. “Really we should start in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, instilling in children the need and desire to perform excellently in school,” said Ranger. “Children won’t achieve if they’re not in school.”

Ranger explained that she was particularly concerned with the reading level of African-American males. “I’m very concerned with what’s happening to the African-American males,” said Ranger. “There are studies today and there are studies ten years ago that show the same thing. In reading, African American males are 10 points behind African- American females. We’ve got to do something about that.”

Ranger also cited a study of 20-year old African-American males that dropped out. According to Ranger, 62 percent don’t have a job, are looking for jobs, or are incarcerated. “We’ve got to do something about that if we value our community and value our children and care about how their future is affected by whether or not they are staying in school,” added Ranger. “We are all affected by that. Each one of us taking a little bit of a commitment will be helpful.”

Ranger also emphasized the need to develop educational partnerships with the community. She said that educational partnerships would be a great way to build trust with the community and that the school board should consistently speak to various entities in the community, including parents, businesses, churches, and neighborhood organizations.

“I believe that the more we can develop and nurture those coalitions and those collaborations, the more all stakeholders will take responsibility for what’s happening in our public school systems,” said Ranger.

On the issue of principal incentives based on student performance, Ranger said that she supported having some type of a principal appraisal system. She suggested that she would not be in favor of pay-for-performance based on what she knew about it at this time.

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INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA PLAGUED BY POLITICAL DIRTY TRICKS
by Brian Bodine    Sat, Apr 29, 2006, 06:25 PM

Wikipedia.com, a free online encyclopedia, has become plagued by an increasing number of alterations intended to deface and malign the biographical entries of politicians and political candidates. Breitbart.com reports that a number of campaign workers and Capitol Hill staffers have been able to make the changes because the Wikipedia allows people to add and edit entries on the site. Some of the changes have been intended to portray political opponents negatively; others have been intended to portray politicians positively.

According to Breitbart.com, some of the alterations include:

-The altering of Senator Robert Byrd’s age from 88 to 180.

-The disappearance of Tom Delay’s name from the entries of officials with ties to the Texas politician.

-The editing of an entry for former Kennedy administration aide John Seigenthaler Sr. The entry was altered to state that Seigenthaler was involved in the assassination of JFK and Robert Kennedy.

-Numerous alterations of the entry for President George W. Bush.

Since the Seigenthaler alteration, Wikipedia has adopted stricter controls which limit access to frequently altered entries.

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ARCHBISHOP CALLS ON FAITHFUL TO BOYCOTT THE DA VINCI CODE
by Brian Bodine    Sat, Apr 29, 2006, 06:18 PM

The Vatican is continuing its offensive against “The Da Vinci Code”, with the latest denunciation of the book coming from a top official in the Vatican’s doctrinal office.

Reuters reports that Archbishop Angelo Amato has called on Christians to boycott the film that is based on the best-seller written by Dan Brown. Amato said that the book is “stridently anti-Christian .. full of calumnies, offences and historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the Church." Addressing a conference of Catholics, Amato said that the book has been so successful because of "the extreme cultural poverty on the part of a good number of the Christian faithful".

Amato said that “The Da Vinci Code”, which is based on the belief that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children, was based on lies and full of “gratuitous defamation”.

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DALLAS LAW FIRM ON VERGE OF OVERTURNING 10-YEAR-OLD IMMIGRANT MURDER CONVICTIONS
by doug bedell    Sat, Apr 29, 2006, 06:16 PM

(Full disclosure: I work for Haynes and Boone in media relations, so many will consider this self-serving. However, as a 30-year journalist who covered some high-profile justice-gone-awry cases for the Dallas Times Herald, DMN and Louisville C-J, I consider this one of the worst railroadings of two innocent men ever foisted on the court system. All the documents and press coverage are available at http://www.InnocentInTexas.com. Read them and weep for two guys who have lost ten years of their life to shoddy Texas Justice.)

The Houston Chronicle's Mark Babineck details how the state is finally owning up to severe problems with the conviction of two Mexican immigrants for a 1996 Panhandle murder.

State backs new trial for inmate in 1996 murder

Attorneys point to incompetence and lies, saying 1 of 2 convicted didn't see a fair process

By MARK BABINECK
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

One of two Mexican men convicted in the 1996 murder of a West Texas convenience store clerk deserves a new trial because of a lying Texas Ranger, a prosecutor who ignored the lie and the failure of defense attorneys to properly investigate, state attorneys said Thursday.

In a "findings of fact" jointly filed by the Texas Attorney General's Office, the Lubbock County District Attorney and pro bono appeals attorneys at the Haynes and Boone law firm, all agreed that Alberto Sifuentes did not get a fair trial.

"That the state of Texas and the Lubbock County District Attorney's Office would recommend findings to the court that would result in a new trial is enormous," appellate attorney Barry McNeil said.

Sifuentes and Jesus Ramirez were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in the robbery-slaying of Littlefield clerk Evangelina Cruz that netted $297.


-=drb
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SENATE AND HOUSE DIFFER OVER DEDICATING TAXES
by Will Lutz    Sat, Apr 29, 2006, 11:48 AM

The Senate Committee substitute to House Bill 2 has one key significant change from its House counterpart -- it dedicates some new money to education. The substitute unveiled by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) dedicates all money from the revised franchise taxes to education until the school maintenance and operation tax rate hits $1.00 per $100 of valuation. Between $1.00 and 75 cents, two-thirds of the revenue is dedicated to tax relief and one-third to education, Williams told reporters. Once the rate hits 75 cents, any additional revenue from the tax changes not needed to maintain that rate goes to education.

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ROSE AMENDMENT SMELLS BAD TO INSURANCE COMPANIES
by Will Lutz    Sat, Apr 29, 2006, 11:46 AM

Once again, Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) and insurance companies are having a little disagreement. In 2005, Rose and Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) tacked an amendment onto HB 3 that would have required insurance carriers to pay both the franchise tax and the insurance premium tax. This year, after the gallery emptied, Rose proposed an amendment to HB 4 -- the "liar's affidavit" bill that creates a presumptive value for tax purposes on the sale of used cars based on the Kelley Blue Book value. The Rose amendment would state that when a car is totalled, the auto insurer must pay the policyholder the Blue Book value on the car. The amendment was inserted on the House floor with little or no controversy. The Senate, however, is a different story. HB 4's Senate sponsor, Sen. Kyle Janek (R-Housotn) has removed the Rose amendment from the commmittee substitute. Janek told Senators that the Rose amendment may come back on the floor, and that Rose representatives of the insurance industry are negotiating on the issue in good faith.

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CRADDICK: AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE REACHED ON REFORMS
by Will Lutz    Sat, Apr 29, 2006, 11:43 AM

House Speaker Tom Craddick's spokesperson, Alexis DeLee, says that Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have met weekly to try and reach consensus on school finance. DeLee said that Craddick and Dewhurst have agreed to do a $2000 per year across-the-board pay raise for teachers with an additional average $1000 per teacher in incentives. The incentives will be phased-in. The first $100 million in incentives will take effect in 2007 and will be a state program targeted at high-poverty campuses that close the achievement gap. In 2008, an additional $200 million will be provided, some of which goes through a state program and others through a locally developed incentive programs. The deal also includes accountability and transparency measures as well as $500 per student to improve Texas high schools, assuming funds are available.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told reporters that he and Craddick have had "very, very constructive meetings" and that he and Craddick are "very, very close on every item." Dewhurst told reporters there are two open items -- he would like to increase the size of the teacher pay raise and he said Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) is working on ways to provide relief from recapture.

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SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES TAX BILL, DEMOCRATS VOTE NO
by Will Lutz    Sat, Apr 29, 2006, 11:41 AM

The Senate Finance Committee today passed out HB 3, the revised franchise tax bill, 9-4. The dissenting votes were: Sens. Zaffirini, Hinojosa, West and Whitmire.  The committee did not entertain amendments on the bill. What this means is that the bill cannot be amended on the Senate floor. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told reporters that SB 6 has been filed, which could be used as a vehicle for senators to consider amendments to HB 3.

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