Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Verse of the Day

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:33 NLT

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Verse of the Day

Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:14 NLT

"God Blocked It" - Kurt Carr

"His Eye Is On The Sparrow" Tanya Blount & Lauryn Hill

London Olympics by the numbers

The Olympic Games have grown dramatically since 1908 when they were first held in London.

Then just a little more than 2,000 athletes -- nearly all of them men -- competed for 110 gold medals.

But this summer, more than five times that many athletes, 10,500, are expected to compete for 302 gold medals.

All gold medals, however, are not alike.

The ones that will be awarded over the next two weeks contain just 6 grams of gold. They're mostly silver.

A century ago, the gold medals were entirely gold.

As the 2012 Games get under way, here are some other interesting facts and figures to consider:


Two -- The number of times London has hosted the Summer Olympics previously. They were in 1908 and 1948. London was scheduled to host the 1944 Summer Olympics, but they were canceled due to World War II.

37 -- The number of women who competed in the 1908 London Games

4,862 -- The number of women expected to compete in 2012, according to official Olympic data culled by The Guardian.

9 million -- The number of tickets sold for the 2012 Olympics.

80,000 -- The number of seats in London's Olympic Stadium.

$775 million -- Estimated cost of London's 2012 Olympic Stadium (£500 million). It is built from only a 10th of the total steel used to build Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium in 2008.

$15 billion -- Estimated amount of money spent by Great Britain to stage the entire Olympics.


2,300 -- The number of medals that will be handed out during the London Olympics.

1.34% -- The percentage of gold in an Olympic gold medal today.

1912 -- The last year that Olympic gold medals were 100% gold.

0 -- The number of gold medals awarded at the first modern Olympics in 1896. The winners actually received a silver medal instead.


27,974 -- The number of Olympic medalists from 1896 to 2010. This includes the Winter Olympics.

43 -- The number of events at the first modern Olympics in 1896. Fourteen countries participated in the competition in Athens, Greece.

302 -- The number of events at the 2012 London Olympics in 26 different sports.

Four -- The number of countries that have competed in every Summer Olympics since 1896. Those would be Greece, Australia, Great Britain and Switzerland.

18 -- The number of medals won by the most-decorated Olympic athlete, Russian gymnast Larysa Latynina. Latynina competed in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Summer Olympics. Nine of her medals were gold, five were silver and four were bronze.

16 -- The number of Olympic medals won by the most-decorated American athlete, swimmer Michael Phelps. Phelps has won 14 gold medals, eight of which came in the 2008 Games.

Three -- The number of summer sports in which the United States has never won an Olympic medal. They are badminton, table tennis and handball.

13 -- The age of Marjorie Gestring when she won a gold medal in diving in 1936. The American is the youngest gold-medal winner in Olympic history.

62 -- The age of Sweden's Oscar Swahn when he won a gold medal in shooting in 1912. He is the oldest gold-medal winner in Olympic history.

Source: CNN

Friday, July 27, 2012

Verse of the Day

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

Ephesians 2:8 NLT

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jamie Grace - "Hold Me" featuring TobyMac (Official Music Video)

Rob Thomas joins ‘The Voice’ as a mentor

The Voice” has just harnessed more star power.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rob Thomas has just joined the singing competition as a mentor.

The Matchbox Twenty frontman will reportedly assist Cee Lo Green’s team when the show returns this fall for its third season.

“I’m really excited to work with Cee Lo and love the idea that I may be in the room with a future superstar that the world has yet to discover,” Thomas told Us Weekly about his new role.

As a mentor, Thomas will meet with contestants and give them tips before their performances — just as Mary J. Blige will do for Adam Levine’s team, and Michael Buble will do for Blake Shelton’s.

That just leaves Christina Aguilera’s team, which NBC has not commented on yet, so it’ll be interesting to see which celebrity signs on next.

“The Voice” returns to the air on September 10.

Source: CNN's Marquee Blog

Verse of the Day

Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:18 NLT

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna


Kosher salt
Olive Oil
3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
4 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ lbs. portobello mushrooms
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off the heat.

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the caps 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

Source: Ina Garten

Verse of the Day

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment

1 Peter 2:2 NLT

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

'The Jeffersons' Actor Sherman Hemsley Dies at Age 74

Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson on television in "The Jeffersons," a 1970s sitcom that was one of the first to focus on a black family, has died at age 74 in El Paso, Texas, his representative said.

"Sherman Hemsley has been pronounced dead El Paso Sheriff's Department has confirmed," the actor's agent Todd Frank said in a statement.

The cause and time of death was not immediately clear, and a sheriff's representative could not be reached for comment.

Hemsley's character of George Jefferson was the affluent and sometimes scheming owner of a dry cleaning business who lived in a New York luxury apartment with his wife, Louise. They had a son named Lionel.

"The Jeffersons," a spinoff of creator Norman Lear's more politically-oriented show "All In the Family." In that show, the Jeffersons were introduced as the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker.

"The Jeffersons" ran from 1975 to 1985, and after that show the Philadelphia-born Hemsley went on to guest star in everything from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to a role in the series "Family Guy."

Source: The New York Times

Navy: Man Started Fire on Nuclear Sub To Leave Work Early

A New Hampshire man faces life in prison for allegedly setting a fire that caused more than $400 million in damage to a nuclear submarine—all because he apparently wanted to leave work early.

On Monday, the Navy brought two charges of arson against Casey James Fury, a civilian shipyard worker, for two blazes on the USS Miami attack submarine while it was in dry dock at Maine’s Portsmouth Naval Shipyard earlier this year, the Associated Press reports. Fury, who is said to have confessed to investigators while taking a lie-detector test in June, has not yet entered a plea.

Navy investigators say that the 24-year-old painter and sandblaster told them that he started the May 23 fire in one of the sub’s bunk rooms when he had a panic attack and wanted to leave work early. He reported that at the time he was on medication for anxiety, depression, allergies, and insomnia.

Seven firefighters sustained minor injuries while fighting the blaze, which took more than 12 hours to extinguish, according to Reuters. Three weeks later, Fury apparently set a smaller fire in the dry dock facility outside the Miami, after having a heated text exchange with an ex-girlfriend.

Fury faces a $250,000 fine, life imprisonment, and may be ordered to pay restitution, if convicted. Despite the extensive damage, the Navy plans to repair the $900 million vessel and reintroduce it to the fleet, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Source: Slate Magazine

Want Free Wi-Fi In New York? Get Near A Pay Phone

Mark Thomas is using a pay phone, but he isn't paying. And physically, he's not even that close to the phone.

He's sitting on a bench on the street in Astoria, Queens, checking email on his netbook. It's grabbing an Internet signal from a military-grade antenna on top of a pay phone down the block.

"It's not the speediest but you can't complain about free, right?" Thomas says.

It's part of a pilot project converting New York City's pay phones into Wi-Fi hot spots, launched by the city, pay phone operators and, in this case, an advertising company called Van Wagner. When Thomas logs on, a new entry appears on the computer of Van Wagner executive Pete Izzo.

"I can actually click on and look at the actual calls — I call them calls, they're not really calls — the logins as they actually happen," Izzo says.

On a recent afternoon, only two people have logged on at Thomas' phone. But Izzo says these numbers could grow into something that could stop pay phones' long death spiral: They've gone from about 2 million across the country in 2000 to less than a quarter of that today.

"We see gems in other people's junk," Izzo says.

He sees in pay phones a kind of buried treasure — literally. "Basically the conduits under the street — bandwidth and electric — bring magic to the street corner," Izzo says.

Magic that could go beyond just Wi-Fi. "Security devices, snifters for the air, cameras ... Could they be banking centers someday?" Izzo says. "Sure they could."

The city is taking suggestions and encouraging experimentation to make pay phones more useful, but this isn't the first time. The first Wi-Fi hot spots at pay phones in New York City were launched in 2003.

"People have tried it over the years, but so far I'm not aware of any that have been turned out to be financially successful," says Randy Nichols, president of the American Public Communications Council, a trade association for pay phone operators.

Nichols thinks the main challenge for these would-be pay phones of the future is actually paying for them.

Tom Keane, the chief executive officer of Jaroth-PTS, one of the nation's largest pay phone owners, says the solution could be advertising. That's already the case in New York City.

"That hasn't been a pay phone business for a very long time. That's been a media display ad business hidden in a phone booth," Keane says.

A pay phone in New York typically grosses less than $100 a month from actual calls. They can generate nearly 10 times that much just from the poster-sized ads on the booths' sides.

If Wi-Fi hot spots or Internet touch screens catch on, Keane thinks they could become advertiser-funded, too. And that could make more than just Internet access free, according to Izzo.

"The cost of actually providing a phone call is so low we hope to be able to give that away also someday soon," he says.

The pay phone of the future might not be a pay phone at all.

Source: National Public Radio

7 Things I Want in My Marriage That My Parents Have After 48 Years

Last week I shared something on my Facebook page that amazed and inspired me. Something I hope all married couples get to experience. What is this that has me so amazed and inspired?  My parents’ 48th wedding anniversary!  Their marriage has accomplished what we all desire in marriage, by beating the odds and statistics of failed marriages.

It was a blessing to grow up under a marriage that would eventually last 48+ years.  As I thought about it, and was encouraged to share, I began to see some of the things that will help encourage me in my marriage, as well as other couples.

Just like my marriage and yours, my parents’ marriage was not without trials.  Over the years they experienced many challenges (besides raising kids like me that didn’t always listen, or do what they were supposed to do).  Through it all, there are many things in their marriage to be desired, and many things that younger couples can work toward.

This inspired my list of 7 Things I Want in My Marriage That My Parents Had.

Stability.  My parents live in the same house today, that I grew up in.  We moved into that house when I was 6 years old.  To my knowledge there was never any threat of us not living in that house together.  As a teenager, when I stayed out past my curfew, I knew I could and would go home to my family in that house.  When my siblings and I came home on break from college, we all knew where we’d stay.  Even today when my wife, and our 3 kids go to our hometown we never get a hotel room, because we know there is a place for us.  That stability creates a great foundation.

Traditions.  My wife and I are working to create family traditions in our family.  Things that we do on a regular basis that create memories and a family bond that lasts.  Our family tradition growing up was driving to New York every August right before the school year started.  We faithfully did that until I was the last child at home, and then it was done occasionally.  Yet, after I left home my parents began to do it by themselves annually until the drive got to be too much for them.  All of our marriages could benefit from creating traditions.

Growth.  I posted a “throwback” picture of my parents on the day of their anniversary.  I look at that picture and look at some of their recent pictures, and can only imagine how different they were.  I am sure my dad was a completely different man in that picture than the man he is today.  I am sure he and my mom have grown tremendously.  My wife and I are in that process right now.  Growth individually and growth in marriage are a great thing.

Common interests.  My parents have known each other since they were kids.  They share some similar interests, but I’m sure they have differing interests as well.  Yet, they do many of these things together.  My dad, much like me, is crazy about sports.  He is also crazy about politics, unlike me.  I’m not sure if my mom has always been interested in those topics.  But if I call right now both of them are probably watching one of two things: sports or politics!  Maybe that developed over time, but having common interests is something to desire in our marriages today.

Memories.  Take a trip down to my parents basement and you’d think you are in a mini-museum.  Filled with pictures, artifacts, trinkets, music, and more, you will definitely be taking a trip down memory lane.  I am just now truly appreciating all of the things they have down there.  Many of the things that they have bring back feelings and thoughts of those experiences.  They didn’t even have the technology available to us today to capture every memory, but they caught a lot.  I pray that we are able to capture as many memories, not just of our kids, but of our marriage as well.  They are priceless to us, our kids, and will be for our grandkids as well.

Longevity.  As I said above, they have beat the odds.  Their marriage has stood the test of time, and it has overcome many challenges.  There is something special about being in relation with someone for that many years.  It speaks for itself.  It shows that at some point, or points, both people have sacrificed something for the other and have loved and respected one another.  All of us should strive for that, and reject any thought, words, or advice to end our marriages prematurely.  If it is broke, fix it, don’t throw it away.

“BFF”.  Although they may be hard pressed to admit it, they are both each other’s best friend forever!  :)  Yes, they disagree.  Yes, they fuss.  Yes, they watch TV in different rooms sometimes! LOL  But I believe at the end of the day, there is no one else they’d like to continue this marriage journey with.  For younger couples this may be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is a lesson that they should learn. When you and your spouse are BFFs, your marriage becomes even more wonderful. Whether we are at that point or not, we should strive to get there and remain there.

Every one of our marriages has it’s challenges.  Just as well, every one of our marriages can stand the test of time, and be enjoyable, fruitful, and worth everything!  I encourage you to sit down with your spouse and go over this list. Work on getting these 7 things in your marriage today, so when 48 years comes around you will have something great, that is beneficial to all those who have witnessed it.

Source: Jackie Bledsoe, Black and Married With Kids

Chicken Georgia


4 tablespoon (½ stick) butter
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoon minced shallots
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 ounce grated mozzarella cheese


Melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and shallots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 10 minutes. Remove vegetables with slotted spoon. Add chicken to pan and cook 10 minutes on each side, or until tender. Transfer chicken to platter and sprinkle with grated cheese. Top with mushroom mixture. Let stand 5 minutes before serving or just until the cheese has melted.

Verse of the Day

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

Colossians 1:10 NLT

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bullied bus monitor: Fundraising campaign closes at $700,000

Max Sidorov was so moved by the story of a bullied New York school bus monitor that he started an online campaign to raise money to send Karen Klein on vacation.

His goal was $5,000.

But the campaign had far exceeded that amount when it ended Friday night, raising more than $700,000.

A spokeswoman for the fundraising site Indiegogo said more than 30,000 people from all over the world contributed, with donations coming in from at least 84 countries and all 50 states. The site listed the raised amount as $703,873 Saturday morning.

Mr. Sidorov, a 25-year-old Canadian, came up with the idea for the monthlong campaign for the 68-year-old suburban Rochester grandmother. He said he was moved by a 10-minute video posted online showing Ms. Klein enduring profanity, insults and threats from middle school students on a school bus.

The school system in the town of Greece has suspended four seventh-grade students for a year. At least three of the boys issued written apologies to Klein.

Sidorov said he was as surprised as anyone with the final result of his posting, which also recorded nearly 28,000 comments.

"I think that people just love rallying around a great cause, especially helping someone in need or who has been abused or can't stand up for themselves," Sidorov said by phone from Toronto on Friday. "It just shows there are so many great people in the world. It warms my heart to see that."

He said he will soon launch a new drive with a goal of $7 million to combat bullying with counseling, a television series and a nonprofit social media website.

"Hopefully we can do a lot greater and bigger things stemming from what happened to Karen," he said.

"We keep in touch almost every day," he said. "We're good friends now."

Klein didn't return telephone messages left at her home Friday.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Voter ID laws are inherently reasonable, not racist or Republican

Asking someone to show their "papers" may be an old movie cliché, but while such a request might have struck most Americans as sinister a couple of generations ago, they now understand that you can’t get on a plane or conduct some of the simplest transactions without showing a government-issued card with your photo on it. Yet in spite of that fact, there is now a growing chorus of complaints that requests for such identification at polling booths is a throwback to the days of Jim Crow segregation and discrimination in the South.

Analogies between voter ID legislation and Jim Crow poll taxes are absurd. While segregationist laws sought to create fraudulent results, voter integrity laws have the opposite goal. The specious attempt to cloak voter ID opponents in the mantle of Rosa Parks and to paint the requirement as racist is not only without foundation since it applies to all citizens, it betrays a curious willingness to countenance the possibility of fraud.

Opponents need to resort to inflammatory arguments because voter ID laws are inherently reasonable. The overwhelming majority of potential voters have government-issued identification. And those states that have passed these laws have created mechanisms for those who don’t have drivers’ licenses to obtain a free ID. This bears no resemblance to a poll tax or any other segregationist tactic.

While any interaction with a state bureaucracy may well be unpleasant, it is not likely to be much more of a bother than registering to vote in the first place. Unless the desired outcome here is that anyone ought to be able to show up at the polls without proof of identity, their place of residence, or even citizenship, at some point election officials have a right to ask who they are.

It is true that minorities are in some areas disproportionately represented among those who have no such ID. That is troubling. But as liberal New York Times blogger Nate Silver recently pointed out in a piece that sought to probe the effect of voter ID on the outcome of the election, “Many people who do not have identification are not registered to vote – or if they are registered, they are unlikely to turn out.”

The existence of pockets of citizens who lack ID is a more compelling argument for active voter registration drives than it is for damning all attempts to curb fraud. Once you realize that everyone is being asked to perform the same minimal task before voting, the race argument falls apart since minorities are no less capable of being able to fill out a form and getting a free ID than anyone else.

It is disheartening to see liberals waving the bloody flag of Jim Crow without cause. But their claim that there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States is transparently disingenuous.

To argue, as they do, that cheating in American elections is practically unheard of, contradicts everything we know not only about politicians but human nature. Voter fraud is, to paraphrase Stokley Carmichael, as American as cherry pie and has been practiced with gusto in rural regions as well as urban areas for as long as there have been elections in this country.

Joking references to voting early and often or voting the graveyards is not confined to the bad old days of machine politics. Given the stakes, the only thing stopping parties from stealing elections are laws to prevent such hijinks. The debacle in Florida with the 2000 presidential election is not only proof that our systems are not foolproof but that both Republicans and Democrats don’t trust each other to play fair.

The best example of why voter ID laws are necessary can be found in Pennsylvania, where Republicans are accused of trying to suppress the African-American vote by enacting legislation requiring proof of identity when voting. A statement by the GOP leader of the state House of Representatives, in which he claimed the voter ID law would guarantee that the state will go to Mitt Romney in November, is often cited as evidence of the law’s discriminatory or political intent. But the statement is often referenced without citing the context of the political reality in the state.

As Gov. Tom Corbett repeatedly cited that context during the debate over the voter ID law, stating that a number of election precincts in Philadelphia that are reliably Democratic have produced results which showed that more than 100 percent of registered voters cast ballots in some years in districts where turnout is normally low. It is true that these areas are also largely African-American, but that does not make such results more explicable or less suspicious.

Does anyone really believe Philadelphia is the only place in America where there is a reasonable suspicion of fraud? The Supreme Court doesn’t. In 2008, it upheld an Indiana law requiring voter ID saying that it posed no undue burden on voters. And in his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that “not only is the risk of voter fraud real but...it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

As New York Democrats recently learned, race is no barrier to questionable election tactics. Rep. Charles Rangel, the veteran member of the Congressional Black Caucus who has been censured by Congress on ethics charges, was widely accused by opponents and media of gaming the system to win re-nomination against Hispanic opponent Adriano Espaillat.

Ensuring the integrity of our electoral process ought not to be a partisan issue. While states can do a better job promoting voter registration or the process by which non-drivers get IDs, the Jim Crow canard is a bogus argument that demeans the cause of civil rights. All citizens must be allowed to vote, but it is eminently reasonable as well as constitutional and feasible for all qualified voters to be able to prove their identity.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Penn State wins vacated from '98-11, fined $60M

The NCAA slammed Penn State with an unprecedented series of penalties Monday, including a $60 million fine and the loss of all coach Joe Paterno's victories from 1998-2011, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Other sanctions include a four-year ban on bowl games, the loss of 20 scholarships per year over four years and five years' probation. The NCAA also said that any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the staggering sanctions at a news conference in Indianapolis. Though the NCAA stopped short of imposing the "death penalty" — shutting down the Nittany Lions' program completely — the punishment is still crippling for a team that is trying to start over with a new coach and a new outlook.

Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, was found guilty in June of sexually abusing young boys, sometimes on campus. An investigation commissioned by the school and released July 12 found that Paterno, who died in January, and several other top officials at Penn State stayed quiet for years about accusations against Sandusky.

Emmert fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual circuitous series of investigations and hearings. The NCAA said the $60 million is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program. The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.

"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," Emmert said.

Emmert had earlier said he had "never seen anything as egregious" as the horrific crimes of Sandusky and the cover-up by Paterno and others at the university, including former Penn State President Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley.

The investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh said that Penn State officials kept what they knew from police and other authorities for years, enabling the abuse to go on.

There had been calls across the nation for Penn State to receive the "death penalty," and Emmert had not ruled out that possibility as late as last week — though Penn State did not fit the criteria for it. That punishment is for teams that commit a major violation while already being sanctioned.

10 Tips for Family Activities on a Budget

Times are hard financially for many. After paying for gas, groceries, mortgages and other essentials, there isn’t much left to play with. A lot of families are struggling with the ability to stay within their budget and still have the financial means to take their family out for fun activities. Luckily, we came up with some tips for parents who are on a tight budget but still want to find inexpensive ways to have fun with your kids.

1. Check your local newspaper: Here you can find out about local festivals, fairs and other upcoming community events.

2. Visit the library: Check your local library to see if they offer a free story time or a reading program.

3. Go bowling or roller skating: Both of these places offer discounts for family night. Roller skating is a fun way to get in a little exercise and bowling is fun for everyone. You can find a list of bowling alleys and register your kids for free bowling or you can find a skating rink near you.

4. Sign your kids up for free workshops: Various places like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Michael’s offer free workshops where kids can participate in different projects.

5. Check out your local zoo, aquarium or museum: Most of these places offer family discounts and offer seasonal passes if you live nearby and want to visit often. Some places also let you choose the option to set up a payment plan for seasonal passes. Visit the Association of Zoos and Aquariums or Museums in the USA for more information.

6. Plan a picnic for a day in the park: Packing a lunch is fast and inexpensive and your family will love the chance to run around and enjoy the fresh air. Also, you should bring old food like bread and crackers to feed the birds.

7. Head to the drive-in movies: An alternative to going to the movie theater with reasonable prices. The cost of the drive-in is inexpensive in comparison to the theater plus you can pack your own snacks. Check this link for a full list of drive-in theaters.

8. Take a bus trip: Go out with your family and be a tourist for a day. Visit historic locations and go sight-seeing.

9. Visit your local theater: If your child is interested in the arts (i.e. dance, drama) take them to see a live performance. Check out sites like Goldstar.com for family friendly attractions around town.

10. Go volunteer: Donating your time to help others is a great way to give back and an opportunity for your child to learn about others. You can take your family to volunteer at your local animal shelter or soup kitchen. Joining community service clubs like  Kiwanis International is a good idea as well.

Source: Black and Married with Kids

Say hello to your new ‘Idol’ judge …

Mariah Carey is just full of announcements lately.

The 43-year-old singer and mom of twins recently revealed on Twitter that she has a new song, called “Triumphant,” set to arrive in early August, and she’s also confirmed that she’ll be a new judge on “American Idol.”

“It’s gonna be so much fun working on @AmericanIdol,” Carey posted Monday afternoon. “As a singer-songwriter, I’m excited to help find and nurture new talent.”

In a statement confirming Carey’s new gig, Fox’s President of Alternative Entertainment, Mike Darnell, called Carey “the real deal,” while “Idol” executive producer and creator Simon Fuller added how “proud” they are “to have one of the world’s greatest-ever female singers join our show. Mariah defines the word ‘Idol’ and will inspire every singer that has the honor of performing in front of her.”

Carey’s new role as an “Idol” judge has been widely speculated for weeks, to the point that her husband Nick Cannon even joked that the Fox series may not be able to afford her. “That’s a lot of money,” Cannon kidded with TMZ. “If they gave J. Lo $20 million, they might have to double that!” We’re sure the rumors on Carey’s payday will start flying any minute now.

Carey will join Randy Jackson, the one “Idol” judge remaining (for now, at least), at the judges’ table in January 2013. Earlier this month, both Lopez and Steven Tyler announced they were departing the show.

Source: CNN's Marquee Blog

Sally Ride, Trailblazing Astronaut, Dies at 61

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died on Monday at her home in San Diego. She was 61.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her company, Sally Ride Science, announced on its Web site. Dr. Ride, a physicist, flew on the shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, and on a second mission in 1984. She was also, at 32, the youngest American in space. Dr. Ride later became the only person to sit on both panels investigating the catastrophic shuttle accidents that killed all astronauts on board - the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the Columbia crash in 2003.

Dr. Ride was finishing studies at Stanford - degrees in physics and astrophysics (and also English) - and looking for a job when she saw a newspaper advertisement that said NASA was accepting astronaut applications. She looked at the qualifications and said, "I'm one of those people," she told The New York Times in 1982.

She applied, and made the cut.

"The women's movement had already paved the way, I think, for my coming," she said.

By the time she began studying laser physics at Stanford, women had already broken through into the physics department, once a boys' club. And when she applied to the space program, NASA had already made a commitment to admit women.

But there were still rough spots. Before the first shuttle flight, Dr. Ride - chosen in part because she was known for keeping her cool under stress - politely endured reporters' asking whether spaceflight would affect her reproductive organs, whether she planned to have children, whether she would wear a bra or makeup in space, whether she cried on the job, how she would handle menstruation in space. The CBS News reporter Diane Sawyer asked her to demonstrate a newly installed privacy curtain around the shuttle's toilet. On "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson joked that the shuttle flight would be delayed because Dr. Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes.

At a NASA news conference, Dr. Ride said: "It's too bad this is such a big deal. It's too bad our society isn't further along."

The Soviets had already sent two women into space. One was welcomed aboard a space station by a male cosmonaut who told her the kitchen and an apron were all ready for her.

In her early days at NASA, Dr. Ride trained in parachute jumping, water survival and acclimatization to weightlessness and the huge G-forces of a rocket launch. She learned to fly a jet plane. She also switched from physics to engineering and helped to develop a robotic arm for the space shuttle. The Challenger commander, Robert Crippen, chose her for the 1983 mission in part because of her expertise with the device. She was part of a crew of five that spent about six days in space, during which she used the arm to deploy and retrieve a satellite.

At Cape Canaveral, many in the crowd of 250,000 that watched the launch wore T-shirts that said, "Ride, Sally Ride."

The next day, Gloria Steinem, then editor of the magazine Ms., said, "Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers and scientists."

When the shuttle landed, Dr. Ride told reporters, "I'm sure it was the most fun that I'll ever have in my life."

Her next mission, in 1984, lasted about eight days. She was on the roster for another shuttle flight, but then, on Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger blew up, 73 seconds after taking off.

As part of the accident-investigation panel appointed by President Ronald Reagan, she asked tough questions. The group learned from testimony and other evidence that there had been signs of trouble on earlier Challenger flights, but that they had been dismissed as not critical. Dr. Ride told a colleague it was difficult not to be angered by the findings.

One witness was Roger Boisjoly, an engineer who had worked for the company that made the shuttle's rocket boosters and who had been shunned by colleagues for revealing that he had warned his bosses and NASA of potentially fatal flaws in the boosters' seals. Afterward, Dr. Ride - widely considered to be reserved and reticent - hugged him. She was the only panelist to offer him support, and Mr. Boisjoly, who died in February, said her gesture had helped sustain him during a troubled time.

In 2003, after sitting on a shuttle-disaster panel for the second time, Dr. Ride said in an interview with The Times that part of the problem at NASA was that people had forgotten some of the lessons learned from the Challenger accident. But she also said: "I flew the shuttle twice. It got me home twice. I like the shuttle."

In 1987, Dr. Ride led a study team that wrote a report advising NASA on the future direction of the space program. The team recommended an outpost on the Moon, though not a "race to Mars." But Mars should still be the "ultimate objective," the group said. In the report, Dr. Ride wrote that a lunar outpost would combine "adventure, science, technology and perhaps the seeds of enterprise." She also noted darkly that the Untied States had "lost leadership" to the Soviet Union in a number of aspects of space exploration.

The same year, Dr. Ride retired from NASA and became a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. In 1989, she became a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego.

She also developed a passion for trying to interest young people, especially girls, in science, math and technology. She wrote six science books for children, including one that explained how to make a sandwich in space. (She advised eating it fast, before it floated away.)

In 2001 she started a company, Sally Ride Science, to "make science and engineering cool again," as she put it, by providing science-oriented school programs, materials and teacher training. Dr. Ride was known for guarding her privacy. She rejected most offers for product endorsements, memoirs and movies, and her reticence lasted to the end. At her request, NASA kept her illness secret.

In 1983 Susan Okie, a longtime friend and a journalist, wrote an article in The Washington Post in which she described Dr. Ride as elusive and enigmatic, protective of her emotions.

"During college and graduate school," Dr. Okie wrote, "I had to interrogate her to find out what was happening in her personal life."

Dr. Okie quoted Dr. Ride's younger sister, the Rev. Karen Scott, a Presbyterian minister, as saying, " 'Closeness' is not a word that is often used to describe relationships in our family." Dr. Ride always needed to be in control, her mother told Dr. Okie.

In a statement, President Obama said Dr. Ride was "a national hero and a powerful role model."

"She inspired  generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools," he said. "Sally's life showed us  that there are no limits to what we can achieve."

Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, part of Los Angeles. Her father was a political science professor at Santa Monica College, and her mother worked as a volunteer counselor at women's correctional facility. Both parents were elders in the Presbyterian Church.

From an early age, Dr. Ride gravitated toward math and science. She was strong-willed and athletic, and became so obsessed with playing football in the street that her parents pushed her into tennis lessons because it was a safer sport. She was soon playing in tournaments.

Dr. Ride attended Westlake High School, a girls' prep school in Beverly Hills. Dr. Okie was her schoolmate, and wrote that she and Dr. Ride, both on scholarship, felt out of place among the actors' daughters and "Bel Air belles" at the school. Dr. Ride did not have to work hard for good grades, called herself an underachiever and refused to feign interest if she was bored in class. But it was at Westlake that Dr. Ride found a mentor and friend in Elizabeth Mommaerts, a science teacher whom she described as "logic personified." A great enthusiast for research, Ms. Mommaerts invited her favorite students - Dr. Ride among them - to her home to sample French food and wine and to hear stories about her life in Europe.

(Later, in graduate school, Dr. Ride was devastated to learn that Dr. Mommaerts had committed suicide. When she was chosen to be an astronaut, the one person she wanted most to call was Dr. Mommaerts, she told Dr. Okie. "And I can't," she said.)

After graduating from high school in 1968, Dr. Ride attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania but quit after three semesters. She was homesick for California and was considering a career in tennis. She practiced for several hours a day, and also began taking physics courses at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1970, she enrolled at Stanford as a junior. She played tennis for Stanford, became the team's No. 1 women's singles player and was nationally ranked. She taught at summer tennis camps, and at one of them she met Billie Jean King, who urged her to quit college and become a professional tennis player. She did not take that advice.

Years later, when a child asked her what made her decide to be a scientist instead of a tennis player, she laughed and said, "A bad forehand."

She received bachelor's degrees in physics and English in 1973 (her specialty was Shakespeare), a master's degree in physics in 1975 and a Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1978, all from Stanford. Her graduate work involved X-ray astronomy and free-electron lasers.

In 2003, Dr. Ride told The Times that stereotypes still persisted about girls and science and math - for example the idea that girls had less ability or interest in those subjects, or would be unpopular if they excelled in them. She thought peer pressure, especially in middle school, began driving girls away from the sciences, so she continued to set up science programs all over the country meant to appeal to girls - science festivals, science camps, science clubs - to help them find mentors, role models and one another.

"It's no secret that I've been reluctant to use my name for things," she said. "I haven't written my memoirs or let the television movie be made about my life. But this is something I'm very willing to put my name behind."

Dr. Ride married a fellow astronaut, Steven Hawley, in 1982. They decorated their master bedroom with a large photograph of astronauts on the moon. They divorced in 1987. Dr. Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy; her mother, Joyce; and her sister, Ms. Scott, who is known as Bear. (Ms. O'Shaughnessy is chief operating officer of Ms. Ride's company.)

Dr. Ride told interviewers that what drove her was not the desire to become famous or to make history as the first woman in space. All she wanted to do was fly, she said, to soar into space, float around weightless inside the shuttle, look out at the heavens and back at Earth. In photographs of her afloat in the spaceship, she was grinning, as if she had at long last reached the place she was meant to be.

Source: New York Times

Verse of the Day

My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course.

Proverbs 23:19 NLT

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chick-fil-A: Gay marriage debate and fast-food chicken? Yup.

From calls for a boycott to pledges of support, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s recent comments supporting traditional marriage have prompted strong reactions from groups on both sides of the issue.

Cathy’s remarks earlier this week to a Baptist website, in which he affirmed the Atlanta-based company’s belief in “the biblical definition of the family unit,” went viral Wednesday. Supporters and opponents of gay unions immediately weighed in.

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy told the Baptist Press.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 2,100 people had signed a pledge at Causes.com to boycott Chick-fil-A. The petition was sponsored by the Trevor Project, a national organization focused on suicide prevention efforts for LGBT youth.

“As customers, we can no longer stomach your intolerance and disrespect for countless LGBT citizens,” the pledge reads. “Until your company’s values reflect the freedoms and dignities that all American citizens are due, we will no longer eat at Chick-fil-A!”

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told the Boston Herald he would work to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city. “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population,” Menino said.

Several conservative organizations released statements of support for Cathy. The National Organization for Marriage, for example, called the son of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy “a corporate hero for marriage.”

The company appeared to be trying to move beyond the issue, saying on its Facebook page that it would “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,” according to the statement posted Thursday.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Verse of the Day

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 NLT

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Verse of the Day

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:13 NLT

Friday, July 20, 2012

Southern Collards with Cornmeal Dumplings



1 to 1 1/2 pounds smoked turkey wings or necks
2 quarts chicken broth or water
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Paula Deen Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon The Lady and Sons House Seasoning, recipe follows
One 1-pound bunch collards, center ribs removed, leaves cut into 1/2-inch strips
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter


1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


For the collards:

In a large pot, combine the turkey wings, broth, hot sauce (add more if you desire) and House Seasoning; simmer for 20 minutes. Add the collards and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, about 20 minutes more. Stir in the butter. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the turkey wings and discard. Transfer the collards to individual serving bowls, cover them with foil and keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid for the dumplings and reserve the rest of the cooking liquid in the pot.

For the dumplings:

Combine the cornmeal, flour, onions, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the 1/2 cup reserved collard liquid into the dry ingredients until just combined to form a thick batter.

Bring the collard broth back up to a boil and drop the dumpling batter into it, 1 teaspoon at a time. Simmer until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Cook's Note: Do not use a spoon to stir. Gently shake the pot back and forth. Using a spoon will tear the dumplings apart.

Transfer the dumplings to the bowls of collards. Spoon some of the broth over the collards and dumplings and serve hot.

The Lady and Sons House Seasoning:

1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix the salt, pepper and garlic together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Source: Paula Deen

End the madness, Penn State, and give us Paterno's statue

Give us the statue, Penn State. Take it down, and do it now.

What about this don't you understand? Seven months ago the school fired Joe Paterno for not doing enough -- barely doing anything, really -- during the previous decade to stop longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky from molesting kids. Eight days ago Penn State released its own commissioned report on the Sandusky scandal, a report that focused on blame for the cover-up and concluded it lay heavily with Joe Paterno.

And still the statue stands. At Penn State. Outside the football stadium where Jerry Sandusky worked for 30 years, where he built up his name, his reputation, to the point that he was a celebrity around State College. Sandusky used Penn State football to win over parents, get access to their kids, take them to campus or his basement and do unspeakable things.

And still the statue stands.

Give us the statue, Penn State. It would be a symbolic gesture at this point, nothing more, but symbolism is all we have. We can't go back in time and wipe Sandusky from the face of the earth, though if we had a time machine ...

We can't fix the victims he ruined, because some wounds are just too deep. We can't throw Paterno in jail for abetting a pedophile, because he's dead. We can watch the perjury trial for Paterno's spineless cronies, former athletics director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, and hope their trial goes so badly that they get the maximum sentence, but whatever it is won't be nearly enough -- and anyway, they were just doing what Paterno wanted. So was former school president Graham Spanier.

So give us the statue, Penn State. Take it down because at this point, all you can do for the world is to acknowledge that something went terribly wrong within your football program. And every second that the statue stands with its acid-churning words -- "Joe Paterno ... humanitarian" -- is another second that we think, no we know, you still don't get it.

So understand something, Penn State. This is not another Joe Paterno rant. We've been there, we've done that, and who knows? Maybe we'll do it again someday. But don't confuse this story about Joe Paterno, statue, with any of those earlier stories about Joe Paterno, man. The man has been taken down, his reputation dismantled by his own ambition and cowardice.

The statue remains, even if everybody knows how this story is going to end. It will end with the statue coming down, just like the Joe Paterno story was going to end with his dismissal -- everyone knew it -- once the grand jury indicted Sandusky and the world learned that the man Paterno once groomed to be his successor had been grooming young boys, a secret known only to a handful of people in the world, that handful including the victims, yes, but also including Joe Paterno. When that story broke on Nov. 5, we knew Paterno would be fired. He had to be. Penn State fought it for four days before finally giving in.

Now, the statue. It will come down, although the longer Penn State waits, the more this looks like the school is worried about triggering a student riot. We all know what happened the night Paterno was fired -- the students went nuts.

Light poles were knocked down and TV trucks were turned over as profanity-chanting students -- not all of them, but thousands of them -- embarrassed themselves and their school. Surely that's a consideration now, what with some students taking the statue so seriously, even now, that they're camping out alongside it to keep it safe.

If the statue hasn't remained up to assuage the student body, what else could it be? It can't be the insulation of State College, insulation that spawned this evil scandal. Can it? That insulation still exists, but only on the micro-level. It exists inside the Paterno house, with his children defending their father, attacking the Freeh Report and vowing to conduct their own investigation to get to the bottom of this whole matter, as if the Paterno family could possibly find out information that eluded the former head of the FBI.

The Paterno family is tone-deaf, saying things nobody wants to hear, but they're insulated from reality just as their father was for decades. They're surrounded by idolizers and apologists, and also they're family. Blood is thicker than water or common sense or even, apparently, a father's cover for a pedophile.

But that's no excuse for Penn State. There is no more insulation there. It has been ripped away, exposing the school as a frail phony. The world is angry and getting angrier with every day the statue stands, and the school knows it. Someone even rented a plane to pull a banner that suggests domestic terrorism will ensue if it isn't removed. "Take the statue down," the banner warned, "or we will."

See, it's no longer a statue of a football coach. It's a monument to everything Paterno ever did, and while he won a lot of games and graduated a lot of players, he also chose not to protect a lot of victims when he covered for a pedophile.

Give us the statue, Penn State. Is Joe Paterno all you see in that cold, unfeeling pile of bronze?

We see Jerry Sandusky. Standing outside Beaver Stadium. With a smile on his face.

Source: Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com

Want to get rich? Creating a financial cushion is the first step

We’ve written before about ways the rich get richer. Chief among them: not being forced to waste money by paying interest to credit card companies and other lenders.

A recent survey from Bankrate reveals why so many people have trouble doing this – they have zero money set aside for emergencies. Of the 1,000 people interviewed for the recent survey, 28 percent of respondents (18 percent of retirees) admitted they had no emergency savings and 21 percent said “some, but less than three months’ expenses.”

What happens when you have no financial cushion and a big, unexpected bill comes up? You borrow to meet the expense and, as a result, become poorer. Say you blow the engine in your car, for example, and need $5,000 for an immediate fix. If you’ve got the money, you pay it and go on down the road. If you don’t, you might use a credit card and borrow it at 15 percent interest. Make minimum payments on that debt, and you’ll end up paying more than $12,000 for the repair – $5,000 for the shop that did the work, and $7,000 for the one that fronted the cash.

This does more than make you $7,000 poorer. There’s also opportunity cost to consider, because the $7,000 you paid in interest could have been working for you instead of against you. For example, if you’d kept that $7,000 and were able to earn 10 percent on it by investing in stocks, it would have grown to $18,000 in 10 years – that’ s another $11,000 you could have been richer.

This is precisely how those with money get more and those without get less.

That’s the argument for having an emergency fund. But how do you build one when you’re barely making ends meet?

First, realize you’re not alone. According to CareerBuilder, 42 percent of workers live paycheck to paycheck – including lots of people making six figures. The solution for all these people isn’t to hit the lotto, where your odds are more than 100 times worse than the odds of being struck by lightning. The answer is to save smart, day by day, following these steps…

Step 1: Set a specific goal

If your goal is, “Save a lot of money” you’ll likely fail. Successful planning requires specifics that help you prioritize long-term goals (an emergency fund) over short-term ones (eating out every week).

For example: “Save $5,000 by this date next year.” Having a specific amount and date leaves no wiggle room – you have to come up with $415 extra bucks a month to make it happen.

In short, the more specific your date and destination, the more likely you are to reach it. Tools like Mint.com’s goal tracker can help you stay on top of things and make it easier to analyze your spending for more savings.

Step 2: Pay yourself first

Here’s another common tactic that doesn’t work: “Keep what’s left at the end of the month.” Why? Because there’s rarely anything left. Try this instead: Treat your goal like your most important bill. Think of it as money you owe yourself, due on a certain date.

Want to make it even easier? Automate a regular transfer from checking to savings.

Step 3: Find extra money

Saving now is more important than saving big. Even if it’s just $25 a month, do it now and don’t stop.

Start saving by adjusting your spending plan – Money Talks News is all about finding ways to save without sacrificing quality of life. Whatever the budget item – groceries, fuel costs, home energy, cable – we’ve probably written about how to spend less doing it. (If we haven’t, drop us a line and let us know.) Here are just a few of the hundreds of saving ideas we have…

Buy generic when it makes no difference (aspirin, sugar, salt, flour, bleach) and save 30 percent.

Use smartphone apps like GasBuddy to find the lowest local price on gas.
Check and change your AC’s filters and clean its coils monthly – it can reduce your power bill by 10 percent.

Going on a “dollar diet” is tough – nobody wants to starve themselves. But tips like these don’t negatively impact your life – they simply allow you to live the same life for less money. Just be sure to add to your savings when you subtract from your spending.

Step 4: Keep growing

Once you get an emergency fund built, you can start saving in places where you can make a lot more – like the stock market, real estate or your own business.

For instance, say you save $150 a month. Do that for 20 years without investing it and you have $36,000. A nice sum, but look at what you end up with at these interest rates…

At 2 percent – $44,219
At 5 percent - $61,655
At 10 percent – $113,905
At 15 percent – $224,586

Higher returns don’t happen without risk, and they don’t happen overnight. The only way you can invest in things like stocks or real estate is to have money you won’t need for at least five years. That’s why step one is to build a cash cushion so you can take more a little more risk and more time to potentially earn a higher return.

That’s how the rich get richer – and you will too.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Verse of the Day

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

Luke 6:38 NLT

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Obama Wants $1 Billion for "Master Teachers Corps"

The White House on Wednesday unveiled a proposal to create a national elite teachers corps that would celebrate the achievements of the nation’s top educators in science, technology, engineering, and math, Bloomberg reports.

The 50 top teachers in each field selected for the Master Teacher Corps would receive a stipend of $20,000 added on to their salaries and must commit for multiple years. The Obama administration plans to expand the corps to 10,000 over the next four years, with the ultimate goal that the elite group of teachers will pass their knowledge and skills on to their colleagues to help bolster the quality of teaching nationwide.

On the campaign trail, President Obama has pledged to protect and expand funding for education programs, particularly in science and math, and charges that Mitt Romney’s tax and spending plan would mean inevitable cuts in the field, the Associated Press notes.

Already, the administration has earmarked $100,000 for the program out of an existing fund to incentivize quality teaching, and plans to include $1 billion for funding the initiative in the 2013 annual budget request to Congress.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan hopes that the initiative will receive bipartisan support, saying it has "nothing to do with politics"—but House Republicans may not be so easily convinced. Republican Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workplace Committee, pointed out to the AP that there are already more than 80 quality teacher programs supported by the federal government.

Source: Slate

My Thoughts...

I'm a husband and dad who needs help from Jesus every second of every day. #MyPersonalTruth

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

As predicted, humongous iceberg breaks away from Greenland glacier

A massive iceberg larger than Manhattan has broken away from the floating end of a Greenland glacier this week, an event scientists predicted last autumn.

The giant ice island is 46 square miles (120 square kilometers), and separated from the terminus of the Petermann Glacier, one of Greenland's largest.

The Petermann Glacier last birthed — or "calved" — a massive iceberg two years ago, in August 2010. The iceberg that broke off and floated away was nearly four times the size of Manhattan, and one of the largest ever recorded in Greenland.

Although the new iceberg isn't as colossal as its 2010 predecessor, its birth has moved the front end of the massive glacier farther inland than it has been in 150 years, Andreas Muenchow, an associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware, said in a statement.

Jason Box, a scientist with Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center, has also been monitoring the Petermann Glacier, and in September 2011, he told OurAmazingPlanet that a growing crack likely would sever the glacier once warmer weather took hold during the summer months.

"We can see the crack widening in the past year through satellite pictures, so it seems imminent," Box said at the time.

Muenchow said that the newest ice island broke away on Monday morning (July 16).

Although iceberg birth is a natural, cyclical process, when the process speeds up, there are consequences.

The floating ends of glaciers, known as ice shelves, act as doorstops. When these ice shelves suddenly splinter and weaken or even collapse entirely, as has been observed in Antarctica, the glaciers that feed them speed up, dumping more ice into the ocean and raising global sea levels.

"The Greenland ice sheet as a whole is shrinking, melting and reducing in size as the result of globally changing air and ocean temperatures and associated changes in circulation patterns in both the ocean and atmosphere," Muenchow said.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

'Bookless libraries' – has it really come to this?

The paperless office, the currency-devoid bank, the jobless recovery. The latest in a string of euphemistically-named contradictions? The bookless library.

It began with the academic libraries. Kansas State University’s engineering school went bookless 12 years ago. The University of Texas at San Antonio ditched print for e-books and e-journals in 2010. Stanford University’s engineering school pruned 85 percent of its books last year. Drexel University opened a new library just last month with nary a bound volume – just rows and rows of computers. And Cornell recently announced a similar initiative.

For better or worse, the trend is now spreading to public libraries. Facing a budget crunch, the Balboa Branch library in Newport Beach, California, is mulling a plan to strip its original library of most of if not all its 35,000 books – and from the sounds of it, a few librarians, too. If patrons wanted a book, they could approach a voice-activated kiosk, speak to an off-site librarian to order books, then wait by the library’s fireplace for the books to be dropped off in an on-site locker.

Even the grand New York Public Library, that “beautiful Beaux-Arts structure of marble and stone occupying two blocks’ worth of Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan,” is planning for, if not a bookless future, a future with far fewer books. The NYPL’s upcoming transformation “anticipates the parallel and integrated worlds of electronic digital systems and traditional books” in a flexible space that can change with the times, architect Norman Foster told Time.

As ludicrous as a bookless library sounds, the development shouldn’t come as a surprise. Steadily growing sales of tablets, e-readers, and e-books make a case for a more digital-centric library, as do the reports by many academic and local libraries that a majority of patrons use libraries primarily for studying or accessing the Internet.  All that has led to the Association of Research Libraries’ findings that American libraries are spending more of their money on electronic resources and less on books. Take that a few steps further and you have yourself a bookless library.

The move has been dubbed “a wave of the future,” “a myth,” and “a literary apocalypse.”

As for us, we’re less than enthused by an idea that appears barely considered, ill-conceived, and just plain foolish. From our perspective, there are a number of problems with a bookless library.

As academic librarian Barbara Fister points out in Inside Higher Ed’s “The Myth of the Bookless Library,” libraries have to pay hefty yearly subscription fees to gain access to collections of e-books and e-journals. In essence, the library is renting these materials; it never owns them and if it stops paying “rent,” it loses the entire collection. “Instead of winning freedom by going digital the library commits itself to often extortiate annual fees to maintain its virtual collection,” writes blogger Alastair Creelman. “The books you used to buy were not cheap but once they were on the shelf you knew what you had. Not so with much e-literature.”

Perhaps more importantly for millions of Americans, the vanishing bookstore and shrinking library deprives us of a critical ingredient in the exploration and discovery of books: the ability to wander, browse, and stumble upon new treasures at random. In an age when bookstores are few and far between – this blogger recently moved to a new city in which she learned the closest bookstore is a 20-minute drive away and, when asked if there was anything closer, a local librarian pointed her to Target – we increasingly rely on our local library to fill our need for literary escape.

"The library is a societal tent pole,” best-selling author Michael Connelly told Time. “There are a lot of ideas under it. Knock out the pole and the tent comes down.” Wandering the aisles of his campus library led Connelly straight to a writing career, he told Time. “Can something like that happen in a bookless library? I'm not so sure.”

Perhaps we might consider the example of our cousins across the pond. When news broke that 350 libraries in England were set to close as a result of budget cuts last month, a group of British authors led “save the libraries” rallies at dozens of cities. A library-less future, author Philip Pullman warned, “will gradually make us a less informed, less intelligent, less aware, less useful, less imaginative, less kindly people than we might have been.”

We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to march.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Bring back the American Dream? It’s not that hard.

Restoring opportunity in the United States is not terribly complicated. It will require an activist government and individual responsibility. That means a strong focus on job creation right now, combined with efforts to reduce debt, improve education, and strengthen families over the longer-run.

Success on these fronts is undermined not by a lack of knowledge about what to do, but by partisan arguments that ignore the kind of common-sense consensus that might otherwise prevail.

An update of my earlier work on economic mobility in the US, coauthored with Julia Isaacs and Ron Haskins and recently released by the Pew Charitable Trusts, confirms that there is less economic mobility in America than many believe, especially at the top and bottom of the distribution of income and wealth.

A child’s chances of ending up in the middle class or above that level are more than twice as high for those born into an affluent family (the top 20 percent) as for those born in a poor family (the bottom 20 percent).

President Obama has given this issue prominent attention, especially in the speech he gave in Osawatomie, Kan., on Dec. 6 last year. He emphasized the importance of working hard and playing by the rules but stressed that those who do so should have a “fair shot” at the American Dream.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney’s position is not terribly different, although, in deference to his more conservative base, he stresses the need for greater personal responsibility and playing by the rules as the best route to success in life.

In a speech at Liberty University on May 12, again citing Brookings research, he noted that the chance of achieving the American Dream is greatly enhanced if a person does just three things: finishes high school (at least), works full-time, and waits to have children until marriage. Those who do all three things have a 74 percent chance of joining the middle class.

These views are not all that different, and few people would disagree with the need for people to both play by the rules and live in a society that provides a fair shot at climbing the opportunity ladder.

What might this mean in practice? First, more support in the form of infrastructure spending and low taxes (at least for businesses and the middle class) to reduce unemployment in the short-term. Combine that with a grand bargain on the federal deficit for the longer term.

Second, continuing reforms of the education system involving expanded preschool, higher standards, greater accountability, better teachers, and more lifelong learning through community colleges and online learning.

Third, greater media attention and more government and philanthropic support for nongovernmental institutions that are trying to reduce an explosion of unplanned pregnancies and births to single women in their twenties. That surge has now made unwed childbearing the norm for women under 30, more than half of whom give birth out of wedlock.

This agenda, to be sure, barely scratches the surface of possible actions. But because it combines the values of liberals and conservatives alike and calls for both personal responsibility and responsible government policies, it has the potential to restore the kind of opportunity that Americans have long taken for granted as their birthright.

Presidential candidates and members of Congress, are you listening?

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


Vegetable cooking spray
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped garlic and herb-marinated sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat


Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, if using, eggs, milk, feta, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.

Carefully pack the meat mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Put on a serving platter and serve.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis

Ordination on the go? There’s an app for that!

Ever wondered what it would be like to become ordained as a priest, rabbi or imam?

If you have an iPhone, you could be just a few screen swipes away from finding out.

That’s because Tony Jones, theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has developed an application, or “app,” that allows iPhone users to experience mock ordinations in more than two dozen faiths.  Solomon’s Porch is a Christian ministry that began as a local church and today calls itself a “holistic, Christian, missionary, community.”

The app, called Ordain Thyself, doesn’t confer any legitimate religious credentials to its users, but it does allow iPhone owners to see what they would look like wearing the religious garb of different clerics, and read a brief and humorous overview of various world religions.

Jones, himself an ordained minister, decided to create the app partly to combat what he sees as an inability of faith leaders to laugh about themselves and their religions.

“Religion is serious business to be sure,” Jones told CNN’s Belief Blog. “But it could use a little stand up comedy to lighten us up.”

Jones, who is also the author of “The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement,” says on the whole reaction to the app has been positive, but the technology is not without its critics.

One woman, a Lutheran minister, accused Jones of belittling the ordination process, which often requires years of hard work and religious study.

Jones, who attended a seminary for three years leading up to his own ordination, dismisses such criticisms.

He points out that while ordination can be an onerous process in many faiths, others allow practitioners to become ordained online with minimal effort and a small fee.

“Ordination, in a lot of ways, is in the eye of the beholders,” Jones adds.

Jones and his team also respond to their critics on the app’s website, telling users whose religious sensibilities are offended to “find an app that can deliver you a better sense of humor.”

The app is advertised as an entertainment product, but Jones hopes users will learn more about the world’s religions when they play around with it, a goal Johnnie Moore finds dubious.

“That’s a little stretch,” Moore, a vice president of Liberty University, told the Belief Blog, adding that the app contributes in many ways to the stereotyping of belief systems.

“I kind of wish that all of this effort had been put into something a little more educational,” Moore added, saying that Americans could really benefit from efforts to better understand world religions.

Yet despite his criticisms, Moore, who is an outspoken advocate of using technology and social media to reach out to people of faith, sees the app as “interesting for its purpose,” so long as it continues to advertise itself as an entertainment product.

“The contribution of this app and others like it is that they start a conversation, and that’s always valuable,” he says.

Ordain thyself allows users to explore 28 positions of leadership in many of the world’s largest religions, as well as several less common ones.

The app even explores several pop-culture faiths, such as the Klingon religion from “Star Trek,” the “Dudeist” faith inspired by the film “The Big Lebowski” and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which was created by atheist Bobby Henderson in 2005.

Source: CNN's, Belief Blog

Kids well-being report: improved health, but many live in poverty

Here’s a new snapshot of the state of child well-being in the United States, brought to you by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics:

Infant mortality rates are down. So are premature births and teen births. Fewer young children than in the past live in a household where someone smokes regularly, and fewer adolescents were the victims of serious violent crime. And math scores even increased for fourth and eighth graders.

Looks pretty good, right? 

But here’s the bad news: More children are living in poverty. In 2010, according to “America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012,” 22 percent of children ages 0-17, or 16.4 million kids, live in poverty. For kids living in female-headed households, the number shoots up to 47 percent. And looking at different ethnic groups, the numbers get even more grim: In 2010, about one in five black, non-Hispanic children lived in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty threshold, a value of $11,057 for a family of four.  The report says that this estimate is the highest since 1994.

And there is not only economic trouble.  According to the report, more children (67 percent in 2010 versus 59 percent in 2009) live in counties where the levels of one or more air pollutants are above allowable levels.

These numbers are not new.  The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics coordinates with 22 different federal agencies to combine and integrate existing data to provide an easy look at a number of child well-being indicators, such as economic circumstances, behavior, and physical environment and safety.

But by bringing the various statistics together, they present a unique, yearly, snapshot of the 73.9 million children in the US. (That number is from 2011.)

There’s a lot to celebrate in the report. But it’s also clear the country’s economic woes are hurting kids. Badly. And that should be a concern to all of us.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Verse of the Day

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Monday, July 16, 2012

Please, step off the bus!

Has your three-year-old ever pooped on himself? How about while riding public transit and been deemed a biohazard? Wait...wait. It gets better. Has your three-year-old ever pooped on himself while riding public transit and been deemed a biohazard resulting in a load of public-transit passengers being told they were going to have to get off the bus they were riding on and wait twenty minutes for a "safe" bus to arrive and carry them on to their destination? No? Then I am afraid you will never share the feelings of both joy and utter humiliation that I felt today.

Oddly enough, the joy came when we had finally arrived at the stop nearest our home and were able to get off the bus in 90+ degree heat and walk the rest of the way home leaving behind all those poor individuals with the judgemental glares whom we had inadvertently delayed by nearly a half hour.

The humiliation came whilst waiting for the inbound Tates Creek bus, which had just switched from the outbound Nicholasville Road bus to finish its layover at Wal-Mart and continue on its route. It was at that moment, that my three-year-old stood up, declared that he had to use the bathroom and couldn't wait any longer, as poop began to roll down his leg. To be fair, he had said that he needed to use the bathroom. But I figured that it couldn't be that urgent because he had just went maybe 30-60 minutes prior.

Boy was I ever wrong. I informed the bus driver, thinking he would be able to give me some paper towel and some sort of cleaning spray to clean up my child's mess. What happened instead was the story that I have laid out for you above with the added bonus of cleaning my child up in a gas station bathroom, sans wipes and a clean surface to sit him on.

Oh well! Tomorrow is another day. I serve an awesome GOD. My children are happy and healthy. I have a beautiful wife who loves me and is the backbone of our family. And I am surrounded by friends and family who love and care about me.

So...if your three-year-old ever poops on himself while riding public transit and is deemed a biohazard resulting in a load of public-transit passengers being told they are going to have to get off the bus they are riding on and wait for a "safe" bus to arrive and carry them on to their destination, remember this:


P.S. THANK GOD we had one of the most courteous and understanding LexTran drivers that my wife and I have ever encountered this afternoon.

Southwestern Chicken Salad


2 (6 inch) flour tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch strips
Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 cups ready-to-serve salad greens
1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped tomatoes, divided
1 medium green pepper, diced
1/2 cup cubed peeled jicama or sliced water chestnuts
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
2/3 cup fat-free ranch salad dressing
4 teaspoons barbecue sauce


Place tortilla strips on a baking sheet; spritz both sides of strips with butter-flavored cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 4-5 minutes or until crisp. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium heat until no longer pink; set aside.

Combine the salad greens, corn, beans, 1 cup tomatoes, green pepper, jicama and onions; arrange on a serving platter. Place chicken in center of salad; sprinkle with cheese and remaining tomatoes. Arrange tortilla strips around chicken. In a small bowl, combine the ranch dressing and barbecue sauce; serve with salad.

Source: AllRecipes.com

Practice facility still a dream for Gophers

Minnesota’s Tubby Smith has made a push for a new practice facility since his arrival in 2007.

Former athletic director Joel Maturi promised to build one.

Five years have passed.

And the university has failed to attract the private donors who are capable of funding the project.

It’s a baffling predicament for the Big Ten university.

A school that can construct a $300 million football stadium can’t find the money to build a practice facility at a fraction of the cost? A school that’s located in a major metropolitan area filled with Fortune 500 companies can’t get any corporate sponsor to open its checkbook? No rich alumni seeking hefty tax breaks?

Some of the program’s supporters have pushed for a greater overhaul that would include the renovation of Williams Arena or the construction of a new building. But that project would cost much more than a practice facility.

Great ideas. But without the money to move forward, that’s all they are. That’s all they’ve been in recent years.

A new regime, however, has vowed to make progress.

Minnesota’s new athletic director, Norwood Teague, says he’s focused on making a new practice facility a reality for the program.

“That project will be a top priority,” Teague, former athletic director at VCU, told the Pioneer Press. “I think it's a necessity for your program and your program's future. We can't afford not to have one for both [the men's and women's] programs.”

The Gophers’ administration recognizes the need.

Iowa and Nebraska, however, moved past that point years ago. They’ve raised the money and put shovels into the ground.

And in the end, those moves could shift the league as some of the teams that have struggled in recent years continue to build.

Five Big Ten squads signed top-25 recruiting classes in 2012, according to ESPN.com’s rankings.

Four of the teams have attracted high-level talent with ease in recent years. Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana should be top-10 squads when the preseason polls are released. Purdue is rebuilding without Robbie Hummel but its nationally ranked recruiting class will speed up the process.

Iowa’s standing at No. 25, however, was surprising, given its recent challenges.

It’s justifiable. Adam Woodbury (No. 39) and Mike Gesell (No. 75) are ESPNU100 prospects who could help the Hawkeyes -- a team that hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2006 -- turn the corner in the Big Ten.

Iowa’s brass certainly believes. It just rewarded Fran McCaffery with a seven-year deal that will pay the head coach a minimum of $1.66 million per season.

The Hawkeyes have invested $47 million in their basketball program since 2007, according to Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. That number includes the renovation of Carver-Hawkeye Arena -- one of my favorites -- and a new basketball practice facility.

The Hawkeyes’ commitment to the sport should help the program rise in the Big Ten. Again.

And they’re not alone. As my colleague Jason King pointed out last week, Nebraska is banking on big dollars to boost its basketball program, too. That squad will compete in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena next season. A new practice facility for the Huskers was completed last year.

Price tag: $200 million, according to Tim Miles.

The “if you build it, they will come” theory is already paying off for Iowa. And it will help the Huskers in the future, too.

Minnesota, however, continues to hope and wait, while its peers make moves.

Source: ESPN, College Basketball Nation Blog

Call Me Maybe When Your School Loan Is Paid In Full

The increasing debt load of college graduates has affected young people's lives in untold ways, from career choices to living arrangements. Now add another impact on a key part of young adult life: dating and marriage.

Rachel Bingham, an art teacher in Portland, Maine, learned this a few years back, when a guy broke it off after four months of a budding relationship. Among other reasons, he cited her $80,000 in student loan debt.

"He said it scared him," she recalls, "that it really made him anxious. And he just did not want to take on my responsibility."

That made Bingham angry because she had never asked for his help. She says she has been very responsible, diligently making her loan payments.

"I was really floored at the time, because I just didn't consider that as a reason for someone to not be with someone else," she says. "I felt it was very shallow."

Bingham is now engaged to a man who's not scared off by her debt, but it turns out her ex-boyfriend was far from alone. The issue recently came up in a letter to an advice column at Nerve.com, a pop culture dating website. This time it was a woman wary of a serious relationship because her boyfriend has $150,000 in debt, mostly student loans.

"He was explaining his money stress to me," the woman wrote, "and I started crying because I saw the future I want falling away."

She wrote that she felt "embarrassed" about being so "selfish," and signed her letter, "Am I Being Awful?"

Caitlin Caven, who writes the site's Miss Information column, assured the woman that she's right to take a hard look at things. She suggested that a responsible approach to repayment is more important than the boyfriend's actual — admittedly staggering — amount of debt. Caven says readers also weighed in.

"There were a lot of people saying, 'Dump him, get out,' " she says. "And then there was a lot of backlash, saying, 'Hey, that's unfair. You guys are clearly not thinking about how student debt works in this country. So many people are in debt like that, that you can't just get rid of a good relationship because of it.' "

Caven advised the woman to keep her finances separate and consider a prenuptial agreement.

'An Impediment To Moving Forward'

When NPR asked about this issue on its Facebook page, many couples said they've avoided legal marriage so one partner wouldn't be liable for the other one's debt. In fact, responsibility for student loans does not transfer to a spouse. But, practically speaking?

"Well, once you're married, you're basically responsible for it at some level," says Bill Driscoll, a financial planner in Massachusetts. He sees the impact of student loan debt on his 30-something clients.

"It's causing uncertainty and tension," he says, "because it's an impediment to them moving forward on a lot of fronts."

Those include having a child or saving for college, saving for retirement and the biggie: buying a house.

"If they go to buy a home," says Driscoll, "and they've got $65,000 in student debt, that's going to undermine a lot of the possibilities for getting financing."

Driscoll says half of his clients don't see eye to eye when it comes to spending versus saving, so he advises hashing out a compromise plan. Mostly, he counsels couples to talk about financial problems early. But that can be hard to do.

Feeling A Stigma

"I just usually wait until it comes up and kind of clench my teeth," says
Craig Pfeister, a 29-year-old craftsman who makes guitars in Denver. He has north of $100,000 in student loans, and has grown used to the reaction that gets from dates.

"Generally, it starts with an awkward look, like, 'What have I gotten myself into?' " he says. Pfeister has come to realize that he's more comfortable dating women who also have lots of student debt.

"We can kind of laugh about it," he says, "like we're both owned by Sallie Mae. If they already have in their mind they'll have this debt for their entire life, when they hear about mine, it's just, 'Oh, you, too?' "

And if Pfeister ends up marrying more debt? Sure, it would add to his financial stress. But, he says, at least the stigma would not be just on him.

Source: NPR

Kentucky lawmakers divert millions from student aid, even as poor students turned away

Jayme Hopewell has been a student at Bluegrass Community and Technical College since 2010, trying to get an arts and science associate degree at the same time she works and raises her son on her own.

In late February, she filled out her annual application for a grant from Kentucky's College Assistance Program, or CAP, which helps low-income Kentuckians pay for college. She was out of luck.

The state began accepting applications for the program Jan. 1. By Feb. 7, the fund's $60 million had been doled out. It's not yet clear how many students were turned down, but 80,724 were denied in 2011.

"It was hard for me because I depend on financial aid," Hopewell said. "I do think people who intend to go to school should be able to get some help."

She later won a scholarship that allowed her to return to school, but thousands of other Kentucky  students aren't that fortunate.

The same thing happens every year, for several reasons:

■ The General Assembly routinely raids funds from the Kentucky Lottery that are supposed to be used for student financial aid. Kentuckians approved the lottery in 1989 on the understanding that 100 percent of its proceeds would go to education. Instead, legislators suspend the law that directs lottery money to education and use it for other programs — to the tune of $90 million since 2006.

In addition, funding for financial aid is based on estimates of lottery proceeds rather than actual lottery sales. Since 2006, the lottery has produced $78 million more than was estimated, but the extra money went into the state's General Fund budget instead of paying for financial aid.

■ The merit-based Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, or KEES, earned by every high school student with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, receives funding priority over need-based grants.

■ With a sickly economy, experts say more and more Kentuckians are realizing they need college degrees. That means more students are competing for the same pot of financial aid, all while tuition rates continue to climb.

The students penalized most by the lack of need-based aid are often those at community colleges. Although institutions tell students to apply early for need-based aid, experts say community college students often lose out because they might not decide to go to school until the last minute based on factors such as employment and family.

"Community college students tend to apply later because things happen in their lives," said Runan Pendergrast, financial aid director for BCTC. "They might lose a job and suddenly need to be retrained in some area."

Without enough aid, many students are forced to get loans. In 2010-11, the average Kentucky student graduated with a student-loan debt of $19,000. In all, 58 percent of students had college debt, which is growing at a rate four times faster than the state's gross domestic product, according to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, or KHEAA.

Despite the staggering numbers, there's no one making a strong push to provide more need-based aid to Kentucky students, said Joe McCormick, who stepped down as director of KHEAA in 2006.

"During the time I worked at KHEAA, I wasn't able to identify a champion of need-based aid anywhere in the public or the legislature," McCormick said. "And I don't see that now. I don't see any initiatives being put forth to increase need-based aid, given the fact that state support is continuing to dwindle and colleges have no choice but to increase their tuition.

"The ones who really lose out are the poor kids of Kentucky."

Widening gap

KHEAA operates most of the state's college aid programs, including the merit-based KEES scholarship and the need-based CAP grant and Kentucky Tuition Grant, or KTG, which is given to students who attend private colleges.

In 2011, CAP spent $60 million on 37,836 students, and KTG distributed $32 million to 12,400 students.

The trend of having more applicants than money has increased as federal standards have changed, making more students eligible. According to KHEAA, 80,724 eligible students were turned down for CAP funds in 2011, up from 22,870 in 2006. An additional 9,700 were turned down for KTG funds in 2011.

Meanwhile, about 69,000 students received $95 million in KEES awards in 2011.

KEES money is earned throughout a student's high school career and is commensurate with a student's grades. The most a student may earn — with a GPA of 4.0 every year and an ACT score of 28 or higher — is about $2,500 a year.

The scholarship has become a popular entitlement program, and while awards haven't gone up much since 1989, lawmakers have been reluctant to trim any funding.

"The merit-based scholarship is fully funded and the need-based is not," said Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, who chairs the budget subcommittee on postsecondary education. "It would be very difficult to cut the (KEES) fund because of the commitment made — it's almost like a contract. But it's very important for Kentuckians to understand the funding priorities for our scholarship programs."

'Middle-class entitlement'

According to state law, need-based aid is supposed to get 55 percent of lottery revenue. But in 2011, only 46 percent of lottery revenue used by the General Assembly for education went to need-based aid programs.

"They've taken it from need-based because it would be such a pain to cut back everybody's (KEES) award," said Rep. Carl Rollins, a Midway Democrat who is chairman of the House Education Committee and works for a partner of KHEAA, the Kentucky Student Loan Corp.

Rollins said KEES is "a middle-class entitlement, and we don't want to face the music if the funds are not there. I try to tell legislators every chance I get that need-based scholarships are not fully funded."

Ted Franzeim, senior vice president at KHEAA, said KEES gets a bad rap in the financial aid debate. It has been an "aspirational" program for students who might never have thought about going to college, he said.

"Kentucky has made very real gains in recent years of increasing its college participation rates, and I believe KEES has been a significant reason for that," he said.

About 44 percent of KEES recipients qualify for federal Pell grants for low-income students.

Still, there is a well-researched correlation between family income and academic achievement.

The Legislative Research Commission recently reported that almost 100 percent of the highest income students received KEES awards in 2009, versus 55 percent of those from families making less than $20,000 a year.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Kentucky's universities are in an arms race to get the most academically prestigious students to boost their national rankings. That means they direct most of their own financial aid to attract the smartest students, rather than worrying about students who need the most financial help. For example, at the University of Kentucky, only 8 percent of institutional aid goes to students solely based on financial need.

"Of course, that doesn't take into account that many of the students awarded merit-based scholarships have financial need as well," said UK spokesman Jay Blanton.

'Shame on us'

It probably would take about $119 million a year in additional money to fully fund the state's need-based financial aid programs, KHEAA officials have estimated, but that's not expected to happen any time soon.

In 2009, the Governor's Work Group on Higher Education, a group convened by Gov. Steve Beshear to improve higher education, recommended that lawmakers stop the practice of diverting lottery revenue to help balance the state's General Fund budget.

Lawmakers didn't listen. In 2010 and 2011, they moved $20.7 million of lottery proceeds into the General Fund.

"They've done it for as long as the statutes have been on the books," said former state Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, who retired this summer. "That money should be going into financial aid. Shame on us."

Franzeim said there's no doubt that policy-makers soon will be facing a crisis on how to educate more students without leaving them with too much debt.

"The good news is that we have many more Kentuckians who want to pursue higher education than in the past, and the bad news is the state's financial challenges," he said. "Given our state's demographics in terms of per-capita income and poverty rates, the challenge for policy-makers is to decide how we ensure our most vulnerable citizens have access to higher education."

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader