Newsletter: The rich get richer as lawmakers’ personal wealth goes up again, and more …

Wealth inequality in the United States is pervasive — so much so that it’s apparent even in Congress.

The House and Senate have their own form of inequality within their ranks. Of the 534 current members, the 53 richest owned nearly 80 percent of the estimated wealth held by all federal lawmakers in 2014, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis shows. That concentration resembles the inequality that exists in the United States more broadly, where 76 percent of the country’s wealth is held by the top 10 percent of households.

Granted, no tears should be shed for those elected few. The median wealth for a member of Congress, about $1.1 million in 2014, still far outpaces that of the typical American family, worth about $56,355 in 2013 (a 2014 figure is not available). And no member of Congress can be said to live in poverty: Congressional salaries alone remain at $174,000 at the least, placing members firmly in the top 10 percent of American wage earners, with an enviable pension for those who stay in office for at least five years.

Click here to read the full article

Pro-Tillis dark money group funded entirely by Crossroads GPS
One of the largest and most prolific politically active nonprofits in the country was virtually the sole backer of Carolina Rising, the group that spent $4.7 million on ads supporting now-Sen. Thom Tillis’ successful run to unseat incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014. That was nearly 100 percent of Carolina Rising’s spending, as OpenSecrets Blog wrote last month. Crossroads GPS not … read more

Continue reading Newsletter: The rich get richer as lawmakers’ personal wealth goes up again, and more …

Do not fall prey to anti-Muslim hysteria

From: Senator Debbie Stabenow <>
Date: Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 4:31 PM
Subject: Re: Do not fall prey to anti-Muslim hysteria

Dear Jeffrey,

Thank you for contacting me about providing refugee assistance. I share your views, and I applaud the Administration’s decision to accept more Syrian refugees.

I know this is deeply personal for many Michigan families, and I have heard from people worried about the safety of their children, parents, siblings, and friends in the region. I am a consistent supporter of funding for the State Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, and I recently introduced the Domestic Refugee Resettlement Reform and Modernization Act (S.1615), that would help states like Michigan with high concentrations of refugees get the resources they need to help refugees adjust to life in the U.S. My bill is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I will keep working to get it passed.

You can count on my continued support for refugee assistance efforts. Thank you again for contacting me, and please keep me informed about issues of concern to you and your family.

Debbie Stabenow
The United States Senate • Washington, DC 20510

REFUGEES: Dispelling half-truths, straight-up bs

1) “The attackers in Paris were refugees from Syria.”

The attackers were French and Belgian nationals, none of them were born in Syria or Iraq or any Daesh (The Arabic abbreviate name for ISIS, which they reportedly hate being called) occupied countries. One of the attackers was found with a Syrian passport which authorities have determined to be a fake, according to a report by the BBC.

2) “The vetting process for refugees is too easy.”

The process for vetting refugees is quite thorough, and takes around 18-24 months to complete. For Syrians, the application process can take longer due to security concerns. A terrorist would have a much easier time applying for a tourist or business Visa. Even still, Visa requirements are waived for up to a 90 day stay in the U.S., if originating from a country such as France or Belgium, from where the attackers had passports.

Before a refugee even faces U.S. vetting, he or she must first clear an eligibility hurdle. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — or occasionally a U.S. embassy or another NGO (non-governmental organization) — determines which refugees (about 1 percent) should be resettled through its own process, which can take four to 10 months.

Once a case is referred from the UNHCR to the United States, a refugee undergoes a security clearance check that could take several rounds, an in-person interview, approval by the Department of Homeland Security, medical screening, a match with a sponsor agency, “cultural orientation” classes, and one final security clearance. This all happens before a refugee ever steps foot onto American soil.

There is a concern for how much background information can be collected on an applicant, since it is very difficult to get background records from war torn Syria. This could potentially create a security concern, however as noted, there are much easier and quicker ways for a terrorist to enter the country and do harm.

3) “The Syrian refugees are mostly military age males.”

The Syrian refugees, according to the UNHCR, are 50.5% female. Children 11 years and younger account for 38.5%. Conservative sites have been quoting misleading numbers about the percentage of males, putting them usually around 72%. However this accounts for refugees from 9 other countries as well, and only for Mediterranean Sea crossings, half of which are Syrian. “Single men of combat age” represent only 2% of those admitted to the U.S.

4) “The Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon were refugees”

The Tsarnaevs were children of asylees whose parents did not go through the refugee processing system. Asylees and Refugees have similar but separate legal distinctions according to the U.S. government. A Washington Post headline did once say that they were refugees, which according to the legal definition is incorrect and misleading. Refugees are selected by the UN, an embassy, or by an NGO, while asylees are people who have already arrived in the U.S. and want to apply for asylum status.

The Tsarnaevs came here as young men and were radicalized in the U.S.A., as opposed to being terrorists who came to the country disguised as refugees.

5) “We are taking in too many of them already”

There are 4 million refugees displaced from the Syrian conflict that are registered by the UNHCR. The president has vowed to take in 10,000 of them this year.

6) “Muslim countries don’t even take in any refugees, why should we? They should help their own people.”

Turkey (1.9 million), Lebanon (1.1 million), Jordan (629k), Saudi Arabia (100-500k), Iraq (247k), and the United Arab Emirates (242k) are the top countries with hosted Syrian refugee populations. The next closest Western country is Germany, with around 200,000 registered refugees. The U.S. has so far taken in 2,200.

The Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia are not perfect in their treatment however, since they have limited to no means of obtaining citizenship, permanent re-settlement, or work visas for refugees. Many seek refuge in Europe and the US as a result.

7) “Most terrorist attacks on U.S. soil have been committed by Muslims”

Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.


Prepared by  Jose De Lara – Portland, Oregon – November 18, 2015


Reposting from CURMUDGUCATION: More Evidence That Tests Measure SES

Thursday, November 19, 2015

More Evidence That Tests Measure SES

Want more proof, again, some more, of the connection between socio-economic status and standardized test results? Twitter follower Joseph Robertshaw pointed me at a pair of studies by Randy Hoover, PhD, at the Department of Teacher Education, Beeghly College of Education, Youngstown State University.

Hoover is now a professor emeritus, but the validity of standardized testing and the search for a valid and reliable accountability system. He now runs a website called the Teacher Advocate and it’s worth a look.

Hoover released two studies– one in 2000, and one in 2007— that looked at the validity of the Ohio Achievement Tests and the Ohio Graduate Test, and while there are no surprises here, you can add these to your file of scientific debunking of standardized testing. We’re just going to look at the 2007 study, which was in part intended to check on the results of the 2000 study.

The bottom line of the earlier study appears right up front in the first paragraph of the 2007 paper:

Continue reading Reposting from CURMUDGUCATION: More Evidence That Tests Measure SES

Repost from CURMUDGUCATION: The Free College Problem

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Free College Problem

Allison Schrager is an economist who writes about retirement and how to hedge risk in more unconventional situations. But in this article, she addresses the question of free college and whether or not it addresses the bigger problem.

Her arguments echo several being brought up as free college emerges as a Democratic platform item.

The first, largest issue is college completion.

Poor students are far less likely to finish college than their rich counterparts. And that includes poor kids who are smart and get high scores on, well, anything. Here’s a chart that lays it out:

Continue reading Repost from CURMUDGUCATION: The Free College Problem

No, State Governors Can’t Refuse To Accept Syrian Refugees

No, State Governors Can’t Refuse To Accept Syrian Refugees

NOV 16, 2015

More than half a dozen state governors have come out against President Obama’s plans torelocate several thousand Syrian refugees within the United States. Some have pledged to actively resist settlement of these refugees. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), for example, signed a letter to Obama that begins “as governor of Texas, I write to inform you that the State of Texas will not accept any refugees from Syria in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Paris.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order instructing all “departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana” to “utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana while this Order is in effect.”

The problem for Jindal, Abbott and the other governors opposed to admitting refugees, however, is that there is no lawful means that permits a state government to dictate immigration policy to the president in this way. As the Supreme Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as this one.

Continue reading No, State Governors Can’t Refuse To Accept Syrian Refugees

How does the U.S. refugee resettlement process work?

How does the U.S. refugee resettlement process work?

The Refugee Admissions Program is jointly administered by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in the Department of State, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within DHS conducts refugee interviews and determines individual eligibility for refugee status in the United States.

There are three principal categories for classifying refugees under the U.S. refugee program:

  • Priority One. Individuals with compelling persecution needs or those for whom no other durable solution exists. These individuals are referred to the United States by UNHCR, or they are identified by a U.S. embassy or a non-governmental organization (NGO).
  • Priority Two. Groups of “special concern” to the United States, which are selected by the Department of State with input from USCIS, UNHCR, and designated NGOs. Currently, the groups include certain persons from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Iran, Burma, and Bhutan.
  • Priority Three. The relatives of refugees (parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21) who are already settled in the United States may be admitted as refugees. The U.S.-based relative must file an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) and must be processed by DHS.

Before admission to the United States, each refugee must undergo an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process conducted by Regional Refugee Coordinators and overseas Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs). To qualify, individuals generally must not already be firmly resettled in any other country. Not everyone who falls into the three preceding categories is admitted to the United States.

  • The INA requires most prospective refugees to prove their individual case of “well-founded fear,” regardless of the person’s country, circumstance, or classification in a priority category.
  • Refugees are subject to the grounds of exclusion listed in Section 212(a) of the INA, including health-related grounds, moral/criminal grounds, and security grounds. They may also be excluded for polygamy, misrepresentation of facts on visa applications, smuggling, and previous deportations. Waivers exist for certain grounds of exclusion.

After a refugee has been conditionally accepted for resettlement, the RSC sends a request for assurance of placement to the United States, and the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) works with private voluntary agencies (VOLAG) to determine where the refugee will live. Refugees resettled in the United States do not need to have a U.S. “sponsor.”  If a refugee approved for admission does have a relative living in the United States, every effort will be made to place the refugee near his or her relative.

  • If a person is accepted as a refugee for admission to the United States, it is conditioned upon the individual passing a medical examination and all security checks.
    • According to a Human Rights First report, the processing times of the U.S. refugee resettlement program “can be quite prolonged, leaving some refugees stranded in dangerous locations or in difficult circumstances.” According to the Department of State the entire process can take an average of 18-24 months to complete. These issues have improved in recent years; in a 2014 report, the Obama Administration cited “interagency coordination and processing procedures” as one of the reasons for increased admissions.

Once this assurance of placement has been secured and medical examinations and security checks have been completed, RSCs work together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to schedule and arrange refugee travel to the United States.

  • Before departing, refugees sign a promissory note to repay the United States for their travel costs.  This travel loan is an interest-free loan that refugees begin to pay back six months after arriving in the country.
  • Upon receipt of the IOM travel notification, the VOLAG arranges for the reception of refugees at the airport and transportation to their housing at their final destination.

What happens once refugees arrive?

  • A VOLAG is responsible for assuring that most services are provided during the refugee’s first 90 days in the Unites States. They arrange for food, housing, clothing, employment counseling, medical care, and other necessities.
  • One year after admission, a refugee may apply for Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) status. If they adjusted to LPR status, they may petition for naturalization five years after their arrival in the United States.
  • In FY 2014, new refugee arrivals went to 46 states. Top recipient states were California (3,068), Michigan (2,753), Texas (2,462), Illinois (1,064), and Arizona (973).
  • Refugees are expected to have a job within six months of arrival. Refugee men who have recently arrived are employed at a higher rate than native born (67 percent to 60 percent respectively), and refugee women are employed at the same rate as native women.

Published On: Wed, Nov 18, 2015

Report about better textbooks is timely and insightful, but makes exaggerated claims

Sound Curriculum Report Overreaches

Key takeaway: Report about better textbooks is timely and insightful, but makes exaggerated claims 


William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,

Sarah Lubienski, (217)
BOULDER, CO (November 19, 2015) – A recent Center for American Progress report, The Hidden Value of Curriculum Reform, points to very real problems with textbook adoption, including poor alignment with standards and lack of attention to impact. A new review of that report offers praise but also cautions that the report overreaches in its conclusions and in its use of other studies.

Continue reading Report about better textbooks is timely and insightful, but makes exaggerated claims