Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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Romney: Obama is leading the country ‘sideways or worse’

By Holly Bailey | The Ticket – 

Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of leading by "discredited" and "failed policies of the past" and said it's time for "new ideas, new answers and a new direction" for the country.
Speaking at a community college in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Romney said Americans are "tired of living on the edge" when it comes to jobs and the economy and insisted Obama's attempts to turn the country around have been a "catastrophe."
"He is asking us ... to look only to the years ahead, to consider how much better his policies will make things down the road," Romney said. "But in our hearts we know."
In a not-so-subtle dig at Obama's re-election slogan, "Forward," the presumptive Republican nominee said Obama is actually taking the country backward.
"We know that America is going in the wrong direction. Not forward, but sideways or worse," Romney declared.
The former Massachusetts governor mocked "Julia," a recent Obama campaign outreach effort that featured how the president's policies would affect a fictional woman over the course of her life.
"What does it say about a president's policies when he has to use a cartoon character rather than real people to justify his record?" Romney asked.
Speaking in Michigan, a state that has been hard hit by the recession, Romney made no significant mention of the auto bailout measures passed by Obama that he opposed. But in an interview Monday with Cleveland's WEWS-TV, the ex-governor offered a new spin on his approach to the auto bailouts, arguing that Obama had essentially taken his advice.
"I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy, and finally when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet," Romney told WEWS. "So, I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back."
In a conference call ahead of Romney's Lansing speech, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt lambasted the GOP candidate's remarks, calling them "a new low."
"This is a candidate who will literally say anything," LaBolt said.
But Romney did not repeat his comments in Michigan. Instead, he used the speech to trumpet other policy issues that he frequently addresses on the stump.
Among other things, Romney pledged to repeal Obama's health care reform law and replace it with something that would work "more like a consumer market," allowing individuals to buy their own insurance. And he pledged to "usher in a revival of American manufacturing," in part by embracing a "new and different direction on energy."
But as Romney works to improve his image with voters, the presumptive nominee also delivered a vigorous defense of his tenure at the venture capital firm Bain Capital, arguing it would be an asset to the White House.
"I spent my business career at the leading edge of change. For my first 10 years, I helped advise enterprises across the country as the economic world changed," Romney said. "Some companies were able to adapt to change, and others were not. Our task was always the same—to see the impact of change and to see the future in ways that others had not."
Romney said he had helped "start new businesses or invested in businesses that needed to improve" and looked for opportunities to open new companies even as their old incarnations were "shutting down."
"Finding solutions and opportunities in an environment of change and turbulence is what I learned in my career," Romney said. "And it is something I can bring to the presidency." Read More...

Puerto Rico aims to become fully bilingual by 2022

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The governor of Puerto Rico is trying to do what more than a century of American citizenship has failed to accomplish: make Puerto Ricans fluent in English.
Gov. Luis Fortuno, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican vice-presidential candidate, has proposed an ambitious, and what critics call far-fetched, plan to require all public schools to teach all courses in English instead of Spanish.
The U.S. territory has had a long and contentious relationship with the English language, and many Puerto Ricans are skeptical about embracing it, fearing they will lose a key part of their identity and find themselves a step closer to statehood, a status that only about half of islanders have backed in recent polls.
The governor wants Puerto Rico to become the 51st U.S. state. But he says his plan is about economic necessity, not politics.
"Bilingualism opens doors and provides opportunity to our children so they can shine and become successful in a labor market that is increasingly competitive and globalized," he said.
Only 12 of the island's 1,472 schools offer an all-English curriculum of the sort envisioned by Fortuno, while 35 other schools offer some courses in English, such as math and physical education, said Education Secretary Edwin Moreno.
"The main idea is to have a Puerto Rican who can communicate in Spanish as well as English," said Moreno, who acknowledged that he himself has an imperfect command of English.
Moreno is overseeing an initial $15 million project to install a bilingual curriculum in 31 schools starting in August and to reinforce the English-Spanish curriculum already in place in the 35 other schools. Plans for adding the rest are still hazy, but the governor says he wants all public school students to be bilingual within 10 years.
Under the governor's plan, schools would continue to offer Spanish grammar and literature classes.
Aida Diaz, president of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association, said that while she supports bilingual education, the notion of teaching all courses in English is extreme.
"This is wrong," she said. "This leads us to substitute our own language for a secondary one. It should not be that way."
All public schools are currently required to teach English from kindergarten through high school, and 9,000 teachers are devoted to that. But about 96 percent of the island's 3.9 million people speak Spanish at home, and some 2.8 million Puerto Ricans do not consider themselves fluent in English, according to the U.S. Census.
That puts Puerto Rican children — and fellow U.S. citizens on the American mainland, as well — behind many Europeans in second-language skills.
According to a 2006 European Community study, 56 percent of Europeans say they can hold a conversation in more than one language. About 90 percent in the Netherlands and Germany say they can do so. Only about a quarter of mainland Americans can do it, some studies indicate.
Former Education Secretary Gloria Baquero said the biggest problem in Puerto Rico is the lack of good English teachers.
"Their accent as well as their command of the language is not the best," she said. "They know the grammar, but the spoken language is not their strong point. So we have a lot of English teachers who end up speaking Spanish in class because the children don't understand them."
One solution is to prepare teachers through immersion or exchange programs in the U.S., something that has been done intermittently, she said.
Baquero said she and other educators support Fortuno's plan but warn it will be hard to implement: "Many people resent the imposition of language and associate any attempt to improve their English with political motives."
Fortuno's proposal comes just months before voters face a two-part referendum in November to help decide the island's political status.
The first part of the referendum will ask if voters want a change in status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth. The second part will ask voters to choose from three options: statehood, independence or something in between called sovereign free association.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested that English be the official language for all U.S. states but has said there should be no language precondition on Puerto Rican statehood.
English actually dominated Puerto Rican public education during the first half of the 20th century. From 1900 to 1948, all high school subjects were taught in English, until the island's first democratically elected governor, Luis Munoz Marin, ended the practice.
"The learning of English was associated with a very real thrust by the U.S. government to Americanize Puerto Rico," said Carlos Chardon, an anthropologist and former education secretary. "A great majority of persons associated English with statehood."
In 1991, Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon went further by declaring Spanish the island's sole official language. The law was repealed a couple of years later by Gov. Pedro Rosello, whose first official act was to make both English and Spanish the official languages, a law that stands to this day, even if only a few places have street signs in English.
Puerto Ricans, however, remain reluctant to learn English, said Jaime Morales, a public school teacher in the northern town of Toa Baja who is fluent in English.
"They are not interested," he said. "Because honestly, it's hard to learn the language."
Morales said he supports the idea of a bilingual curriculum but doubts it will become a reality unless teachers are properly trained, parents get involved and the education system improves.
"The main problem here is that you have a community that does not have good command of Spanish," he said. "If they are deficient in Spanish, how do you pretend they are going to become fluent in a second language?"

Boy on a Bike Becomes Moscow's Tiananmen Image

MOSCOW - As a bloody skirmish between police and opposition activists in central Moscow was drawing to a close on Sunday a small boy on a tiny bicycle pedaled through the crowd and approached a line of hulking riot police.
He sat there for a moment, balancing on his training wheels, staring at the menacing troops who were decked out in blue camouflage uniforms and full riot gear, nightsticks at the ready.
A group of protesters who had been heckling the cops began jeering, "Here's the guy that will storm the Kremlin. Be ready boys! Here he comes!"

  Julia Ioffe, the Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker and Foreign Policy magazine, happened to be standing right behind him. She whipped out her iPhone and snapped a picture which she tweeted out to her over 6,000 followers with the caption "Russia's Tianamen (sic) image."
The photo quickly ricocheted around the internet.
It was a David and Goliath moment, perhaps a metaphor for the unarmed protesters who clashed with police that day and whose movement is taking on President Vladimir Putin's formidable political system.
Tens of thousands of protesters had marched against Putin that afternoon, the day before his inauguration. They were met by row after row of police, thousands of them, who were there to make sure they stayed within the bounds of their rally permit.
When a large group tried to cross a police line towards the Kremlin, police pushed them back and tensions flared. Rocks and bottles were thrown and police responded with what many say was disproportionate force,  deploying tear gas and striking people with their batons. They surged into the crowd to grab individuals and drag them by their arms, legs, and even their hair back to police vans. Many protesters were bloodied. By the end of the day more than 450 people had been arrested.
Ioffe had been there all day to cover the protest. She was in the thick of the melee and says she was  struck in the leg by a rock. When police had finally cleared the square, only a handful of protesters remained behind, including the group heckling the riot police.
"Shame on you," they shouted. "What are you going to tell your grandparents who fought against the fascists? Don't you have mothers?"
Ioffe says she was walking with another journalist, Olaf Koens, who works for RTL Television in the Netherlands. They were tired and wanted to go find some dinner when they stopped to watch.
Koens spotted the boy first.
"Olaf smacked me in the arm and said look at that," she recalled later when ABC News asked about the photo. "Then I see this little bicycle weave through the crowd and stop in front of the troops. He stood there for a few minutes. I'm not sure why."
Koens says he wanted to take the picture himself, but his iPhone battery had run out an hour earlier.
"This little boy just showed up. His parents were somewhere in the crowd, there was no immediate danger, and the kid just kind of peddled (sic) up to the police, probably out of curiosity," he wrote in an email to ABC News.
Ioffe laughed at the thought that one of her pictures has gone viral and is being called iconic.
"I didn't think it would be any good. I'm a terrible photographer, especially with an iPhone," she said, adding that her family usually won't even let her take pictures on vacation.
Maybe now they will.