الأحد، 8 يوليو 2012

South Carolina Students May Receive Credit For Religious 'Released Time' Courses, Court Rules

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In a "tremendous victory for religious education," a South Carolina court has ruled that students may receive credit for taking religious courses that meet secular standards, USA Today reports.
A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has approved a 2006 South Carolina law permitting schools to give credit for "Release Time" courses, ending years of courtroom battle between Spartanburg Dictrict 7 and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
In 2009, the FFRF filed the suit against Spartanburg Distict 7 on behalf of Spartanburg High School student Melissa Moss and her parents, Robert Moss and Ellen Tillett.
"It's almost outrageous that someone could get academic credit for religious indoctrination during Released Time instruction," said Anne Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of FFRF, in USA Today . "I don't think that most people in South Carolina would think that makes sense."
The court ruled that students may receive credit for Released Time courses -- which allow students to receive religious instruction even if they are enrolled in public schools -- just as students may receive credit for courses previously taken at other schools.
Spartanburg High School did not actively encourage students to take Bible courses, according to court documents.
The FFRF will appeal the decision, according to a release.
Around the country, similar tensions are brewing over the proper place of religion in schools.
In a recent settlement, Narrows Public High School in Virginia decided to take down a framed display of the Ten Commandments from its hallways and replace it with a textbook page depicting the Commandments under the heading "Roots of Democracy."
The settlement ended years of courtroom drama that started after theACLU filed a lawsuit against the school, arguing that displaying the Ten Commandments in a public school violated the separation of church and state.
The school board voted to replace the display with the less explicit textbook page. The page references other sources of democratic inspiration, such as the Magna Carta and ancient Athens.
In late May, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant advocated for nondenominational school prayer, provoking criticism that he was blurring the lines between church and state.
"I don't think it hurt us at all," the Republican Methodist governor told about 300 high school students at the American Legion Boys State last Tuesday. "I think it built our character, and I think it is what we should continue to do."
Bryant assured listeners that he would not pursue legal action to instate prayer in schools, but expressed hope that one day school prayer would be common, according to the Associated Press.
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Step Up to Our Teachable Moments

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We are all teachers, whether we want to be or not. You are a teacher when you help your child take their first step. You are a teacher as a grandparent when you teach the grand kids how to make cookies. You are a teacher at work when you take a younger co-worker under your wing and mentor them to make sure they do the task correctly. So if we are all inner teachers, why do we not show more respect for the teachers who make teaching our children their career?
According to the Institute of Educational Sciences, close to four million Americans make their living teaching our kids. Our children, who are enrolled in schools starting at kindergarten and going through high school, are 16.3 percent of the total population. America has 13,600 public school districts made up of 98,800 public schools. Public schools will spend $525 billion, with an average expenditure per student of $10,591. This year 3.2 million students graduated from high school. The percentage of high school drop outs declined over the last 10 years from 11.8 percent to 8.1 percent indicating that our teachers are truly getting better at engaging our kids.
Our education system is making progress in bringing the teachers closer to the students. In 1955the number of pupils per teacher was 27.4; in 1960 it was 26.4; in 1965 it was 25.1: then in dropped to 17.9 in 1970 and today it is 15.6. So with this progress, you would think we would have the best elementary through high schools in the world. But we do not.
According to USA Today, 15-year-old students in the U.S. perform about average in reading and science and below average in math against the rest of the world. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. is ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. The top performing countries were Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Shanghai in China, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. Canada, which like the USA has a decentralized education system, has their 15-year-olds perform more than one school year ahead in math than in the United States and more than a half year ahead in reading and science. The U.S. spends more per student, on average, than any other country except Luxembourg.
Stanford University translated these scores into economic terms, and the impact of improving math, reading and science scores in the United States would be far-reaching. By increasing the average score by 25 points over the next 20 years, there would be a gain of $41 trillion in the US economy over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010. Better yet, bringing the United States up to the average performance of Finland, the best performing educational system, would result in gains of $103 trillion. We as a society can argue all day long about class size, number of teachers and quality of teachers, but if we step back and think about the radical impact smarter and better trained kids today has on our future tomorrow, why are we even arguing about the money we spend on education. For our society, obviously it is the best investment we can make. Unfortunately we are always asking our government what it can do for me today, rather than taking the longer term view knowing that an investment in our kid's future today will pay off for us in the next generation.
If we could fix our education system from kindergarten through high school, think what that would do to our improvement in college scores. The U.S. slipped over the last decade from 2nd in college graduation to 13th. According to The Washington Post, the U.S. has also slipped from 12th to 16th place in the share of adults (ages 25-34) holding college degrees. Thirty seven million Americans have gone to college but never graduated. The shame in all of this is the best U.S. universities are still the best in the world. U.S. colleges claimed four of the top five spots on the Higher Education World University Rankings, and 14 of the top 25. So it looks like we have the university systems in place to train this next generation... if we could just get them out of high school a little better prepared.
Every teacher I know is hard working and passionate about their job. They seem to have a higher calling than the average American. According to The Journalpublic school teachers in the United States spent more than $1.33 billion out of their own pocket on school supplies and instructional materials. This averaged out to $356 for each teacher spending their own money to help our kids. Ninety two percent of teachers spent their own money. Whether we have kids in school or not, it is our generational obligation to help our teachers raise the bar with these children. One person acting along with our fellow Americans chipping in can help lift this next generation. We can start by helping these teachers pay for the supplies that make a difference.
Go to Adopt a Classroom to help out your favorite classroom. Go to Reading is Fundamental to help supply more books to teachers. Or go to the DollarDays July promotion on Facebook that is now taking nominations for 18 teachers to share in $5,000 of merchandise to help their classrooms.
We all have memories of one or more teachers that made a difference in our lives. I am sure we all have memories of teachable moments shared with the younger generations as well as our peers. Working together to educate our children is not a new idea. Back in the 1990s we learned from Hillary Clinton's bestselling book It Takes a Village that all of us need to work together with our teachers to mold the younger 16.3 percent of the population. We teach so the next generation is better than us. That has been the evolution of man since the beginning of time. Our teachers need your help, especially when this economy is so uncertain. No teacher should have to spend their own money to help our kids. They should spend their time focused on how to get our students up to what our northern neighbors in Canada are doing; and then set their sights on Finland. Trillions of dollars are at stake.
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Will Teachers Become Obsolete?

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In the early 1980s, I was having breakfast with some of my new in-laws. One of them, Uncle Joe DaSilva, was a watch-maker. He had a little shop in a strip mall in Hempstead and he was contemplating his future. At one point he held up a $5 Casio watch and said, "Why would anyone bother to get a watch fixed?" He estimated there were maybe a few hundred such people left on Long Island -- those with an appreciation for finely crafted time pieces -- maybe a few thousand. A few weeks later he started stocking his little shop with inexpensive watches for sale so that he could stay in business.

At around the same time, my father was at the height of his career as a motion picture music editor and supervisor, recording and dubbing and cutting the music for large-scale musical films such asHairThe Blues Brothers, and Amadeus. He was a master of the moviola, precise with his splice, but by the early 1990s those skills became, suddenly, useless as film went digital and he was suddenly having to learn anew how to do his job from people half his age. Soon he was relegated to laying temp tracks for TV movies.
I remember thinking I was immune from that kind of obsolescence because I'm a teacher and children will always need teaching and a machine cannot do most of what we do. I still believe that, though I wonder now if I'm not living in a false sense of security. I wonder if there aren't more ways than I am calculating in which we might all be made obsolete.
When I walk past a classroom full of bored students, and see some of those students seeking an escape on personal electronics, I wonder if at least some of these children would be learning more in front of a properly programmed machine.
When I see teachers not making an effort to understand very much about their students, especially the reluctant learners, I cannot help thinking that they are squandering the very thing that might, for good reason, make a living human teacher irreplaceable.
When I see teachers resisting change, refusing to recognize the changes around us, including our students, when I see teachers refusing to believe there is a place for technology in education and refusing to figure out how better to integrate it, then I fear we are asking to become obsolete.
When I was a community college student in the mid-1980s I had an English teacher who marked one of my papers down because I put only one typed space after each period. He insisted that two spaces were required. Aside from his pettiness, he was wrong. I was, by then, a published writer and informed him that editors and publishers no longer followed that rule, that one space was now the accepted practice. The teacher would not concede and seemed, after that, to vindictively and arbitrarily find fault with everything I turned in. I have never forgotten this man. He taught me more about teaching than almost anyone else.
It is my responsibility to stay current in my subject area and to always find new ways of mixing the rhetoric and literature of the moment with the vast expanse of the past. It is my responsibility to understand the newest technology and how it might be applied to teaching children.
Some children, at various times in their lives, may actually learn better from a well-programmed computer than from a person. We ought to recognize that and use whatever resources are available to help every child we can. On the other hand, we all -- teachers and anyone else who cares about children -- vehemently oppose the false idea that all children can learn better from computers and other technology. Those devices are tools for educators; they do not replace human teachers and I sure as hell hope they never do.
Even if the virtual classroom (which, at the moment, is still a pretty false idea) were to become the virtual reality classroom -- in which students, all wired up in their living rooms, meet in some manufactured reality on a computer server somewhere and each student has an ideal educational experience tailored specifically to his or her needs and completely interactive and with a dynamic and caring and attentive virtual teacher... what a horrifying possibility. Students might learn more content and skills, they might avoid the boredom and bullying and peer pressures of school, but would it be worth the alienation, the lack of true human experience?
Perhaps we are heading in that direction -- and if we are then it might be up to teacher, hamstrung as we are by shameful working conditions, to hold these Orwellian alternatives at bay by showing that we can do what machines can never do: care about children, empathize with them, and always find new ways (ways that those virtual reality programmers would never conceive of) to reach them and inspire them.
Maybe it's up to us to face the digital age and make sure humanity itself doesn't become obsolete.
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Storm Warning: Why Higher Ed Needs New Leadership Now

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A perfect storm roils the horizon of higher education. Three towering and swiftly moving storms -- affordability, student loan debt, and seismically shifting demographics -- are about to collide. The power of their convergence and the resulting collateral damage will challenge the very survival of colleges that refuse to evolve. The perfect storm will shake our industry to the core if we are not equally swift to throw off an outdated paradigm. A new generation of college presidents must step up to confront the turbulent landscape that will be the "new normal."
Former President John F. Kennedy once said, "It is time for a new generation of leadership... For there is a new world to be won." These new visionary leaders can be the young top guns, but this challenge is not the sole purview of the young. Next generation leaders may emerge also from the ranks of the "industry veterans," but will include only those who are willing to embrace change, adapt through complexity, and re-examine, re-invent, and re-engineer themselves -- and higher education itself -- to meet the needs of the new age. Those who do not act boldly will remain among the old guard, which will not prove a safe haven. The new leaders must espouse a paradigm shift to steer the way through the perfect storm. Failure to do so will result in some institutions going out of business or withering in a marginalized existence.
Consider this: analysis of College Board and U.S. Census data projects that the net price of a private college education will consume 38 percent of the median household income of an American family. Since the year 2000, the price of a college education has increased 33 percent and 25 percent respectively for private and public colleges (College Board) while the median household income in 2010 (constant dollars for that same period) has decreased by 6 percent (U.S. Census). Furthermore, Postsecondary Education Opportunity data points out that students from families in the bottom 20 percent of household income had about an 8 percent bachelor's degree attainment rate in 1989. In 2009, that rate remained virtually unchanged. At the same time, the same data shows the bachelor's degree attainment rate of students from families in the top 20 percent of household income grew from 55 percent in 1989 to 82 percent in 2009.
Essentially, we have an environment in which the college attainment rate for the "haves" has grown significantly while that of the "have nots" has remained low and unchanged for two decades. Moreover, the amount of debt students incur to earn a college degree is disproportionately burdensome to lower-income families who can least afford to borrow and who have a lower probability of attaining a degree. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt exceeds credit card debt.
Demographics are also changing. Analysis of U.S Department of Education Data suggests that, by 2030, the majority of college students will be nonwhite. In other words, we will have a majority minority college student population in America. Yet, it is people of color who are at the bottom the economic ladder in the United States and most likely not to attain a college degree. This paradox of those least likely to afford and to complete college being the very ones burdened with debt, makes this a truly unsustainable economic model.
If college leaders do not heed these trends, anticipate the future, and decisively face this perfect storm, then colleges are destined for turbulent years and another lost decade. Companies like IBM and GE have evolved multiple times over the last 50 years as the corporate landscape has changed. Yet higher education stubbornly refuses to evolve in the 21st century global economy. We must change our industry to meet the challenges of educating young people to successfully engage in a fluid, global society.
The new generation of leaders must step forward from their institutional confines and transform the industry using new tools and approaches, such as disruptive innovation and selective experimentation, to ensure we cost-effectively graduate students prepared to compete in a global society. Colleges cannot teach students as if we are in an agrarian economy -- we must embrace new technologies, online learning, and other modalities to contain costs, build access, and create economies of scale.
New guard leadership cannot cling to relics of the past. It must step up, shift the paradigm in higher education, and revolutionize the industry. If the old guard does not want to make way for change, then in the words of Malcolm X, we must bring change "by any means necessary." As the late civil rights leader said, "... real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action." Entrepreneurs and families, the underemployed and the unemployed, global corporations and populations around the globe are calling out with the power of conviction. How will American higher education answer?
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'Dark Knight Rises' Production Notes: Batman Fans Get 50 Pages Of Anticipation

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Dark Knight Rises Production
"Dark Knight Rises" production notes: 8 things you need to know
The internet went into a tizzy late Thursday when it was revealed that Warner Bros. was offering the "Dark Knight Rises" production notes for free download on the film's website. (Production notes are often handed out to press during pre-release screenings; they contain some plot synopsis, interviews and -- obviously -- notes about the production.)
THR.com "declined to publish the content"to preserve the spoiler-free integrity of Christopher Nolan's Batman finale; Deadline.com did publish the content -- albeit by bizarrely downloading the free notes and then republishing them with a Deadline.com watermark -- but was also careful to avoid any spoilers. Here at HuffPost Entertainment, we'll avoid spoilers as well. In this paragraph. Avert your eyes, however, if you don't want to read any "Dark Knight Rises" production information before the film's release on July 20.
Still here? Ahead, the eight most interesting things revealed in the "Dark Knight Rises" production notes.
1. "The Dark Knight Rises" should be seen in IMAX.
“Having shot almost half the picture with large-format IMAX film cameras, it is very important to me that we show 'The
Dark Knight Rises' in the IMAX film format wherever possible," Nolan said. He's not kidding: Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister worked with IMAX to create new lenses for the massive cameras, which allowed the production to shoot in low light, an important adjustment since much of "Dark Knight Rises" takes place in Bane's sewer-based lair and the newly finished Batcave.
2. Oh yeah: The Batcave is back.
Bruce Wayne has rebuilt Wayne Manor -- and the Batcave -- "brick-by-brick," just as he promised at the end of "Batman Begins."
3. Gotham City is important in this film, which is why the production shot in New York.
Said Nolan: “Gotham has always drawn a lot from New York. It’s a heightened version of it, but that was always the inspiration, hence the name Gotham. So I felt that we should get more of New York into this film, specifically because ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is very much about Gotham…more than the previous two films have been.” Cue an ominous thunderclap.
4. Anne Hathaway didn't ride the Bat-Pod.
Hathaway, who plays Catwoman in the film, did "almost all of her stunts herself," per the notes, but she isn't riding the cool Bat-Pod, Batman's trusty super motorcycle. That job went to Jolene Van Vugt, a professional stunt driver. “When they asked me if I thought I could ride it, I said, ‘You give me the opportunity, and I guarantee I can do it,’ she said. "The biggest hurdle was getting used to the body position because of the way you have to lean forward. It was just a matter of finding my balance and building up my comfort level, but within a few hours I was racing around, having fun."
5. The shadows belong to Bane.
At least according to this quote from the "Dark Knight Rises" villain, played by Tom Hardy: "The shadows betray you because they belong to me."
6. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake, a Gotham City police officer, is Bruce Wayne before Batman.
“Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne have become somewhat jaded, so we wanted to contrast that with a younger, more idealistic individual who, in a way, represents where they’ve come from," Nolan said. "Joe really captured the strength and courage of a man who refuses to back down, regardless of the odds."
7. Because "The Dark Knight Rises" takes place eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight," Batman is out of shape.
According to the notes, Batman has to embark on a "physical arc" in "The Dark Knight Rises." Fingers crossed for a training montage set to "Gonna Fly Now"! (Just us?)
8. The crazy "Dark Knight Rises" prologue, which featured Bane attempting a mid-air kidnapping?
Nolan basically did that with minimal special effects. And you wonder why he's the best action director in the business!
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Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination

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In many places in Latin America the only future a young girl imagines is becoming a mother.
In developed countries motherhood is more commonly experienced as a choice, but in the favelas of Brazil the identity of motherhood is status--a "destination" sought by teenage girls who view the opportunity to have a baby as a validation of their esteem even though they are unprepared to raise a child.
Favelas can be violent places to live. The rules are often different in places affected by abject poverty. And for young girls, pregnancy is often viewed as 'protective' in ways that outsiders may not understand. As it was explained to me, having a baby by a leader in the community associates that girl with a powerful man. That identity can protect her as her child will be recognized as belonging to the leader. This is the destination sought by many young girls.
Changing this idea in the minds of teenagers is not without its challenges.
Associação Saúde Criança was founded in 1991 in Rio and has developed a holistic approach that addresses the needs of these poor families by providing help in the areas of education, health, income, housing, and citizenship. One of the major projects within the organization is "Aconchego Teen." This project started in 2005 and focuses on critical issues faced by poor teenagers and their parents.
volunteers group
Based on over 20 years of experience, we saw that there was a considerable amount of tension and conflict between teens, particularly girls, and their parents, mostly on the issue of pregnancy and motherhood. "Aconchego Teen," which means coziness, a place for warmth and security, is designed as a public square in which teenage girls receive education regarding motherhood and pregnancy. The objective was to change the embedded view in poor teenagers that suggests motherhood is a destination instead of a personal choice. Motherhood was bound to happen; it was just a matter of time. Here at ASC I work with teenagers offering counseling and self-esteem building activities to make them realize that motherhood is a choice. We provide a neutral space where both parents and teenagers can freely express their views.
The Aconchego Project, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, spans an average of two years for each adolescent. According to Brazil's Health Ministry on the decade between 2000 and 2010 there was a decrease of 34.6% in teenage pregnancy in Brazil. The project emphasizes other interests and perspectives so that the rate of teen pregnancy decreases. The Associação Saude Criança impact team includes psychologists, educators, social workers and nutritionists. They are considered the differential that helps contribute to this decrease. In the communities and the social class of these teenagers, teenage pregnancy is very common. When they join the project a group that shows other possibilities is crucial for them, so they can identify other perspectives for their lives.
In short motherhood becomes a choice instead of a destination!
So far, over 200 teenagers have participated in Aconchego Teen and the feedback from both parents and teenagers is strongly positive. Not only has the project helped teens understand the difficulties of motherhood but it has also paved the way for a better communication and understanding with their parents. We encourage teens to stay in school and prepare themselves for the labor market. That way, they will experience motherhood when they are ready to embrace the joys of having a child.
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Nick Miranda, Buffalo Man, Finds $1,500 In Savings Bonds, Tracks Down Owners

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When Nick Miranda began clearing the clutter in the basement of his new home, he likely expected to clean cobwebs and dust, not come across a stack of savings bonds.
But when the 29-year-old pulled up the cover of an old ironing board Monday, that’s exactly what he found –- 15 $100 U.S. savings bonds purchased in 1984, theBuffalo News reports.
The Buffalo, N.Y., resident immediately set out to find the bonds' rightful owners by Googling the names listed on the envelope: Lucille Rinaldo and Michael Ortalano. After making about 50 phone calls, he learned that the pair, mother and son, had died, but he was able to return the bonds to another surviving son, Thomas Ortalano.
"He's a very, very honorable young man," Ortalano, 57, told the Buffalo News. "I won't ever forget him. Not because of the monetary value, just for the honesty of it, just for doing the right thing. Anyone else could have torn them up and thrown them out."
Miranda is just one a few recent "honest" finders who decided not to keep the goods they discovered.
When four Michigan teens stumbled upon a wallet containing $700 in June, they called the police and it was returned to its 18-year-old owner, the Great Falls Tribunereports.
"We decided if we'd lost our wallet, we would want somebody to return it," Kaylee Olson, 14, told the news outlet.

The youngsters, who admitted to feeling tempted to keep the loot, didn't go unrewarded, though. The grateful owner, who works at an ice cream shop, gave them each free ice cream.

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Fast Food Workers Of Reddit Tell You What Not To Eat

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On the heels of a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with a McDonald's employee, an AskReddit conversation thread popped up yesterday that we couldn't tear ourselves away from.
"Fast food workers of Reddit, what is the one menu option at your employment that you would recommend people never eat? (Because of cooking safety, cleanliness, unhealthy, etc)," asked user 4ScienceandReason. This thread, which generated over 6,000 comments in 24 hours, brought some amazingly gross things to light -- some expected and some unexpected -- as well as some good-to-know tricks for the fast-food customer.
Some things you should probably stay away from:
Chicken Nuggets: Some of the grossest stories on this thread talked about the dubious material nuggets are generally made of. As noted by 4ScienceandReason,pictures and videos like these have already scared a lot of us off of chicken nuggets forever. Just in case that wasn't enough, this comment by Dfunkatron might seal the deal for you, "When I worked at McDonald's, I accidentally left a whole bag of about 100 chicken nuggets out on a counter for way too long. They melted. Into a pool of liquid. I never understood why. But they were completely indiscernible as being the nuggets i once knew."
Wendy's Chili: While not as traditionally disgusting as some other fast food traditions, we found Cozmo23's description of the chili recipe at Wendy's to be pretty stomach-churning -- "The meat comes from hamburger patties that sat on the grill too long to serve to customers. They take them and put them in a bin and then throw them in the fridge. When the chili is made they take it out, boil it, chop it up and dump them in the chili."
Vegetarians Beware: While a lot of comments admitted to using the same grill/spatula/knife on vegetarian and meat items alike, this comment from user attack_goblin made us gasp a little extra: "I used to work at a restaurant where we deep-fried the Gardenburger patties in the same oil we deep-fried the bacon."
Grilled Chicken: If there was any common theme in this thread, it was this: just probably don't order grilled chicken in any fast food establishment ever. OneMcDonald's employee confessed to slathering grilled chicken breasts with liquid margarine to keep it from sticking. An ex-Subway employee described the defrosting process they used, which involved soaking the chicken in hot water for hours, then squeezing the "chicken water" out at the end of the day.
Five Guys Appears to Be Safe: For now, no one has refuted user Cameron432's claim that they freeze nothing and make most everything fresh. Also, stick to the regular-sized fries, "One thing I will say is that ordering a large fry is always a bad idea. The difference between a large fry and a regular fry is surprisingly small (especially when it's busy)."
One comforting aspect of this discussion was the friendly disagreement. The most disgusting facts were usually counter-balanced by at least one other employee of each chain remarking that they'd always done it differently and that it really does depend on the management of each particular location. So if you have traditionally good luck in life, you can still order chicken nuggets, we suppose.
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Teen Smoking: First-Time Alcohol And Drug Use Use Among Teenagers Flourishes In Summer

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A recent survey finds that with more idle time and less adult supervision, significantly more teens try alcohol, smoking and drugs for the first time in the summer than at any other time of year,
Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 are more likely to try drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, or using hallucinogens for the first time during the months of June and July than at any other time during the year, according to research conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
During the other 10 months of the year, between 3,000 and 4,000 teenagers begin smoking each day. In June and July, that number spikes to an estimated 5,000 teens per day. The study also found that more than 11,000 teens drink alcohol for the first time in June and July, compared to 5,000-8,000 trying it for the first time each month during the rest of the year.
In a press release on Tuesday, SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde explained:
“More free time and less adult supervision can make the summertime an exciting time for many young people, but it can also increase the likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse. That is why it is critically important to take every opportunity we can throughout the year to talk to our young people about the real risks of substance abuse and effective measures for avoiding it, so they will be informed and capable of making the right decisions on their own.”
The data comes at a time when a greater number of teens may find themselves jobless and with extra free time -- according to US Bureau of Labor statistics, fewer than three in 10 teens have jobs this summer. SAMHSA has created prevention programs specifically tailored to the season to curb the amount of drinking and drug use among teens during the warmer months.
Marijuana use, in particular, may be an increasing concern to parents and law enforcement officials. Last month, a government survey found that for the first time ever, more U.S. teens are smoking marijuana than cigarettes.
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Act Upon a Feeling

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Recently, walking through the streets of the upper east side of Manhattan, I spotted the One Million Acts of Kindness bus parked near the sidewalk. Bob, the creator of One Million Acts of Kindness, had a dream to instill a goal, a sort of mindset, onto every person. His hope is for everyone to perform one million acts of kindness in their life and to keep up a mindset of kindness and compassion every day. Bob is a father of three kids in college and is simply concerned for the world in which his kids live and in which all kids will live. His goal is to create a safer, more caring world for generations to come. With this in mind, Bob bought a bus, had a bunch of family and friends help paint it, and began a 10-year journey with his dog and constant companion. With this message, Bob ultimately hopes to have kids believe that they can have an impact and that they themselves are part of the "Kindness Generation," as he puts it.
What Bob did, any of us can do. He took a simple, personal concern and hope, got involved and spread the message. So find a cause or your own concern or hope that's relevant to you, because if it's not relevant to you personally, chances are you'll be less passionate about it. Surround yourself with people or groups of people with whom you share mutual feelings and passions and get involved. Rally other friends who want to share your message to help you. It truly is that simple. If you have a goal in mind, however simple it may be, narrow your goal and take your actions.
It is understandable when people don't act upon their emotions, whether it's a feeling of injustice, a desire or a hope. People get to convincing themselves that the world is too big, that there are too many issues and that they are just one person. Well, it is true that the world is big, that there are many issues and that people are just people. But to say that one cannot have a significant impact on the world or on a community is a fallacy. One person, or two, or three, or four, can create changes and can make a difference. The scope of that difference, I believe, is what many people don't consider but involuntarily overlook. It is possible, but unlikely, that the difference you make will affect the world or the nation. Just because your impact may reach fewer people doesn't mean it is any less significant. In fact, to you personally, the impact may mean more if those you are helping are closer to you. You may affect a category of people (i.e. girls, seniors, children), a community, or just one person, but it still makes a difference nevertheless.
My focus on service has been to my community of New York City and to people like me. Here are a few examples. I volunteer weekly at Lenox Hill Hospital, which in turn helps sick patients in New York. When I can, I help refurbish the city in areas that need help by working with organizations dedicated to helping New York, like New York Cares, and by involving myself and my school in days dedicated to improving the city. This helps by reversing damaging effects of any disasters or tragedies that occurred in New York, like 9/11. If anything of the sort happens or has happened in your community, it's likely that there are at least a couple of opportunities calling out for volunteers. It's also likely that there is some push in your school toward community service. Join that group, force, club or board to get involved. In a school service effort, it's really easy to find something that your school promotes and to take action together. On the service board at my school, an all-girls' school, one of the topics we take action on is girls. Recently, we've been working closely with Girl UP, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation, to inform the rest of our school on girls' issues all over the world, to help promote girls' education and empowerment and to form our own Girl UP club. In addition, a few of us have started a farther-reaching Girl UP club, the New York Regional Coalition, to expand our reach and involve the larger community of New York. So it's also pretty easy to take action with one community and expand your actions.
Additionally, try targeting your age group to take a stand and get involved. Personally, I have started work with generationOn, a unique organization that inspires, equips and mobilizes youth to take action that changes the world and themselves through service. generationOn is a part of the global youth service movement igniting the power of all kids to make their mark on the world, and has tons of opportunities and resources one can use to get involved. I am working with them to initiate a new council of youth dedicated to service and leadership.
To conclude, taking action isn't as hard as you might have thought. Have a mission/goal/hope/concern/passion/feeling about an issue, a problem, a place, etc., that is relevant to you. Find other places, organizations or people who share this with you. Reach out to them (a "Contact Us" button at the bottom of a webpage is a good place to start!). Then, simply take it from there and figure out what it is you would like to accomplish, and get to accomplishing just that! Never use the excuse that something is just impossible. Take every task on thinking you'll succeed, and chances are, you will.
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Travel Makes the Soul Soar

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"In the midst of our lives, we must find the magic that makes our souls soar." - Anonymous
I stumbled across this quote several days ago as I rifled through a large section of journals at Barnes & Noble. After looking at over 30 journals (typical America), I found myself smiling as I placed this one in my hands. However cheesy, isn't this the principle of life? Essentially, we spend our days seeking out our place and purpose in the world, the missing piece of the puzzle. And when we come across it, that moment when we can without a doubt say, "This is what I'm supposed to be doing," you feel like you're on top of the world. This moment may be reaching the finish line of your 400m race, hearing your camera shutter close and knowing you've just captured beauty, painting the last stroke onto your very own masterpiece, reaching the top of a mountain on your week-long hike, or maybe it's handing a four-year-old their favorite balloon animal (clowns have hearts, too!). Perhaps you know what this moment is, or maybe you're still looking. For me, this moment takes place every time I step on a plane.

Just hearing the word "travel" gives me butterflies. For me, my magic is sitting next to a stranger on a plane and talking about our destinations, breathing in the air of a foreign country for the first time, walking through a market place and hearing a plethora of languages, none of which are my own, biting in to my new favorite Italian pasta dish, and forming a friendship with the man from India looking at the same postcard rack as me. For me, traveling makes my soul soar.

Speaking of me, I forgot to introduce myself! I'm Juliana Zajicek, a 17-year-old living in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. I spend my days shopping at thrift stores, rock climbing, reading and simply enjoying whatever life throws at me (not literally -- I've never been a big baseball fan). The highlight of my year is my summer, as I jet set across the globe with People to People Student Ambassadors. Three years ago, I got involved with this astounding program, and I have been traveling ever since. During my first two trips, I found myself in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Greece, Italy and France. With "P2P," you become more than a tourist, taking on the role of an ambassador representing the United States. They provide a unique way to travel and experience different cultures across the globe, with one of their primary goals being to promote cross-cultural connections.

This summer, I will once again be packing my bags, and leaving on a jet plane. For (drum role, please)... Japan! However, this trip has a very special purpose. As I'm sure most of you know, 2011 brought a difficult year for Japan, bringing more natural disasters than I think anyone has seen at one time. My P2P delegation and I plan to play an important part in helping rebuild and restore the damage left a little over a year ago, impacting the lives of those we come in contact with.

In less than a week, I will be able to blend my passion for making a difference and the magic of traveling.
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Go Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap!

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When you're a kid, parents usually separate the good words from the bad -- acceptable language from language that might make your extended relatives cringe. As you grow in age and become exposed to the real world, your opinion of these words may change. You may consider the context they are communicated in or maybe they just become a homogenous part of your vocabulary used in necessary situations.
However, have you ever considered using these words in an actual paper that would be graded by a teacher? Of course not! Many students revert to that age-old phrase, "It's a bad word," and never let the thought enter their mind. But I ask, why not? They are words, aren't they? Now I'm not saying that we should drop "F" bombs every other line of a paper, but I am saying that we should use language strategically and tastefully. Some of the most influential literary pieces have a couple swears in them. Debra Dickerson used profanity in her essay, "Who Shot Johnny" and these "bad" words didn't obstruct her message in the slightest bit. There's a fine line between using language to be crude and using language to convey passion, which is something Dickerson accomplished elegantly.
As a student and writer, I think that it is important to write with purpose and conviction. There is nothing wrong with taking chances and pushing the limits in new ways as long as you can keep your head on straight -- in fact, I believe that is the true beauty of a literary piece.
Write with passion. If it takes a couple swears to prove your feelings on an issue, I say go ahead -- just make sure they are used for the correct purpose. What is the sense in producing these "cookie cutter" watered-down versions of whatever it is we are trying to say just because it reads well? Everyone is human and it's time that our writing mirrors that.
Take a note or two from Dickerson. Every piece starts with a blank white page and whatever you fill it with should allow the audience a slight window into you as a person. Why not go for it? Be bold. Be brave. Be a writer.
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Do Scottish Teenagers Really Care About Independence?

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Teens and politics rarely go together. I mean, there are those in school that clearly have a passion for politics and they rear their ambitious and argumentative traits in the debating society and that's great -- I am partial to a good debate myself and enjoy watching others. But what of Scottish Independence and Scottish teenagers? Do we really have any understanding of what it really means for Scotland? Or indeed what it really means at all?
I will say straight up that it's no secret in our house the way my mum swings -- she's in favour of a United Kingdom. I could rant on about her regular lectures on the subject but that's not the issue here. The issue is what my friends think about it and what I think about it: Do we even care? Are we important enough to matter in Scotland's future?
So I set about a self-education project on the subject matter and I have to tell you, it's highly confusing. Basically, you have our First Minister Alex Salmond waving the saltire flag everywhere, promoting Scotland, which in a sense is good if it puts Scotland on a bigger platform. So I'm all for that, but as I understand it, he wants the nation to vote -- a referendum as it's called. Seems straightforward enough -- here's a question and the nation should answer, right? Wrong. There is big debate about what should be on the voting paper. Originally it was all about one question: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" But now there is a big argument taking place across the political spectrum about "devo-max." What sort of name is that? I have to tell you, I was completely thrown when I heard that expression. From scanning all the Scottish newspapers, it appears to mean that if we didn't want a completely independent Scotland, we would want a Scotland with more powers. This means that the Scottish government could have more powers that are separate from the UK government. Gosh, I am exhausted already at the complexity of it all! Surely that's not really independence, is it?
So the next conundrum I personally have is that apparently this vote or referendum is not taking place until late 2014. Why the wait? I just can't understand this part at all. If we are all supposed to be so excited about this Scottish adventure, why are we waiting another two years to make it happen?
The biggest issue I have was actually trying to understand what it means to teenagers -- really understand. I have to say I read over and over again the political pages and they are pretty hard-going, even for me, an avid reader of history. But what I did take from it was this: It seems Scotland wants to be Independent but still share the purse of the UK government. I guess it's like me asking my dad to do whatever I want and yet still let him pay the bills. He normally shouts, "Tallia, when you are living in my house and we're paying the bills, you will do what I say!" Pretty straightforward. So how can the Scottish government allow "dad" to continue to pay some major bills and want to be independent or get more power? As my dad says, "The power comes when you are truly independent, Tallia, living on your own and supporting yourself!"
I emailed and Facebooked loads of friends and asked them a series of questions to get their feedback. It went like this. The majority of them said their parents very rarely discuss politics with their teenage children and when they do, assumed their children would vote (when the time comes the same way as their parents). Secondly, most weren't the slightest bit interested in politics and when asked to name an impressive leader, the majority said Justin Bieber, Obama or Bono! Finally, when I asked if they wanted Scotland to be independent, most didn't understand what it really meant at all. One said: "Yeah, we loved Braveheart, it was great for Scotland"! I didn't want to point out that Mel Gibson really has nothing to do with this.
So when I discovered that the Scottish government was pushing for 16 and 17-year-olds to have the vote, I was horrified. The ideology of it is fine, but giving us all an exam to prepare for is the only way I can see teens being informed enough. Makes sense, right? You have to take a test to drive a car to understand the language of the roads, so why do we want teenagers to decide the complexities of government without the knowledge?
Finally the point that I failed to answer myself is, why? Sure, there is no one more patriotic than me. I am incredibly proud of my Scottish roots, the satlire flag, my accent (even although when I am in America people think I sound Irish), but I am even more proud of being British, especially when it comes to British fashion! One of the first things people say when I travel is how much they "love the Queen" and quite frankly it's not rocket science what Kate Middleton has done for British fashion. The Scots have played such an important part of the British empire, that much I know. Why would we want to go it alone now when it appears that Europe is crashing down around us?
I have a million more questions, and quite honestly I am exhausted by this project. So I think I will stick to music, fashion, literature and art until I can really make sense of it all. Teenagers are not meant to understand politics anyway, we have plenty time for that. But my message to the politicians is this: Just get on with it, keep it simple and take a look at what you have before you give it all up. As my dad always says, "Tallia, the grass is always greener on the other side, don't run before you can walk!"
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Space Dust Cloud Circling Young Star Vanishes, Baffling Astronomers

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Space Dust Cloud

Planetary formation may occur more quickly than previously thought.
A team of researchers observed a young star surrounded by a circumstellar disk of dusty material using data from 1983, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Planets often arise from these disks. The star, which the team estimates to be 10 million years old, is 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

The infrared emission patterns of the star's system, which can be used to measure how much dust the disk contains, were very similar in 1983 and 2008, but in 2009 the infrared emission had dropped precipitously, and in 2010 it was almost gone. The results were detailed in the July 5 issue of Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) Researchers contributed from University of California Los Angeles, U.C. San Diego, California State Polytechnic University, University of Georgia and The Australian National University.

The artist's conception of the solar system, filled with dust (before) and empty (after), illustrates the dramatic change between researchers' observations in 2008 and 2010.
Astronomers had never before witnessed such a rapid disappearance of interstellar dust, and it challenges prior models of planetary formation. The research team has some hypotheses about the cause of the rapid change but has not come to any conclusions yet.
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Mars Rover Landing Set For August 5, NASA's 'Curiosity' Team Says

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The biggest rover ever launched to another planet is just one month away from its target: the Red Planet, Mars.
NASA's huge Curiosity rover is hurtling toward a planned late-night landing on Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (early Aug. 6 EDT), and the anticipation on the science team is high. The reasons are clear: At 1 ton, Curiosity is the largest rover ever aimed at Mars. It will land in a completely new way, using a giant parachute and a rocket-powered sky crane. And it is carrying a sophisticated set of tools to find out if its Martian drop zone could once have been home for life.
But that's all in the future. First Curiosity has to reach Mars in one piece.
"I think people are kind of waiting," Richard Cook, the rover's deputy project manager, told SPACE.com. "It's a little bit like waiting for a final. You're patiently counting down the days." 
NASA launched the $2.5 billion rover in November 2011 in a bid to explore Mars as never before.  NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is overseeing the mission.
Curiosity is a six-wheeled robot the size of a Mini Cooper car. As the centerpiece of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, it has a nuclear power source to keep it running for a full Martian year (about 23 Earth months) and 10 primary science instruments to study the Red Planet's surface, atmosphere and past habitability. [Mars Rover Curiosity: 11 Amazing Facts]
"It's just more complicated in kind of every way" than past Mars landers, Cook says. That includes the rover Opportunity, which is still active on the Red Planet.
Nail-biting landing plan
Curiosity will drop into the huge Gale crater, a 96-mile wide (154-kilometer) indentation with a central mountain rising 3 miles (5 km) into the Martian sky.
If all goes well, the rover's entry capsule will plunge into the Martian atmosphere at 13,200 mph (21,243 kph), with a heat shield protecting it from the searing temperatures of entry. At 7 miles up (11 km), it will unfurl the largest parachute ever sent to another world (about 51 feet wide, or 16 meters) to start slowing down.
Then the descent stage should kick in, firing eight rocket engines to slow the spacecraft down even more. At a height of 66 feet (20 meters), the sky crane maneuver will lower Curiosity on cables. 
Only then, 12 seconds before touchdown, will the rover's wheels pop into place so it can be lowered the rest of the way to the Gale crater floor. Once sensors show Curiosity is firmly on Mars, the rocket sky crane will sever its connecting cables and fly off to crash a safe distance away.
The entire landing procedure is to take seven minutes. NASA calls it "seven minutes of terror."
Cook said Curiosity has been tested time and time again to make sure everything is as ready as it can be for landing. The team, he said, is "cautiously optimistic" of a smooth touchdown.
Final approach to Mars
That's not to say NASA's Mars Science Laboratory team can only sit and hope for success. Mission planners have been steadily preparing for Curiosity's novel landing and its first days on Mars.
Last week, mission managers ordered Curiosity's cruise stage to fire its thrusters in a maneuver designed to fine-tune the rover's approach to Gale crater. The maneuver shifts Curiosity's entry point into the Mars atmosphere by 125 miles (200 km) and has moved the scheduled entry up by 70 seconds.
"This puts us closer to our entry target, so if any further maneuvers are needed, I expect them to be small," said Tomas Martin-Mur, Curiosity's navigation team chief at JPL, in a June 26 statement.
Next week Curiosity's landing mission team will assemble at JPL for a weeklong simulation of the approach and landing. The simulation will last four days: the two days leading up to the mock Mars touchdown (which is set for late Thursday night) and the two that follow.
"It is our big dress rehearsal," Cook said. Most of the landing sequence for Curiosity is ultimately automated, so "the thing that we're really testing here is really the people."

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