A few tidbits from the week that was.
Russia pulled out all the stops for the 66th commemoration of V-E Day, or victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. Missiles, tanks, mobile artillery, thousands of soldiers and female police cadets – all paraded through the streets of Moscow under review by Dmitri Medvedev, Vladimir Putin, and Anna Chapman, sometime spy and guest of honor. Bombers, helicopters, and jet fighters flew overhead. An artillery barrage was fired to cap the celebration.
According to the New York Times, Medvedev “reached out” to Russia’s former allies – the US, Britain, France, Poland – in his Victory Day speech. The allusion is not without substance; last year (2010), US troops – members of the 170th Infantry Brigade, which was reestablished in 2009 – marched in the Russian Victory Day parade for the first time ever. It was an odd moment, not least because the parade commemorates victory over a nation that is now a US ally and member of NATO, but has been warming up to Russia recently, and distancing itself from its European allies.
In another melancholy (not to say ironic) echo of the past, a Russian Pacific Fleet task force, heading home from its anti-piracy mission off Somalia, stopped in Vietnam for the Victory Day celebration.
Many things change. But not Russia.
Teachers, kids demand California tax-hike extension
Students took to the streets of Los Angeles Friday, along with teachers in LA and other major cities, to complain that their futures are in jeopardy. The kids shouldn’t be pawns in this political game; let’s just stipulate that right up front. It’s not their fault that they’ve been turned into a whine-on-cue mob. But their parents have some explaining to do.
The cold fact is that no one’s educational or adult vocational future is in jeopardy from the budget cuts California will have to make if the tax hikes expire as scheduled on 30 June. California has had to make cuts to the K-12 education budget in each of the last two years, but the average expenditure per student is still somewhere between $7000 and $8800 a year, depending on whose estimate you go with.
That is lower than the national average, but the numbers don’t mean any more here than they do elsewhere. In 2009, per-student expenditures statewide were over $9800. In the high-performing schools of suburban Temecula, per-student expenditures were $7600; in the struggling schools of Los Angeles, per-student expenditures were over $13,700 ($2000 more than the national average). Apparently the kids in Temecula are already on the verge of an educational catastrophe, so if they’re stripped of another $764 per student in the coming year, will that really make a difference?
$764 is the amount of decline expected per student, if the tax hikes expire on schedule. I remain mystified as to why all budget cuts to K-12 education in California go directly to classroom teachers – a mystification bolstered by the study done at Pepperdine (link in previous paragraph), which found that only 41% of the LA Unified School District’s $13,700 per student went to teacher salaries. Oakland Unified, where the per-student figure was over $12,900 in 2009, spent only 35% on teachers. In the educational cesspool of Temecula, they spent 62% of the per-student budget on teachers – meaning Temecula spent more on teachers than Oakland did, in spite of having a per-student budget $5000 smaller.
In other “cuts-threatened-to-services-the-public-actually-wants” news, LA firefighters protested budget cuts Friday at City Hall.
Things you can never have too many of
A Sussex (UK) man decided to make an amphibious vehicle by combining a riding mower and a boat. Video – and a proper government license – ensued.
Creeping through dog doo-doo for a cause
In the “things only a ‘guy’ would do” category: Lloyd Scott of Essex, UK took 26 days to finish the London Marathon, mainly because he competed creeping along inside a 9-foot contraption designed to make him look like Brian the Snail, a British kid-TV character. According to the report:
The 49-year-old from Essex suffered nosebleeds, vomiting and cramp as he crawled across broken glass, nails and dog mess.
At one point he was rushed to hospital to have the blood vessels in his nose cauterised.
He was also sick inside the 9ft-long outfit because he was not able to digest food properly.
Mr. Scott was raising money for the charity Action for Kids.