|Sunday, 16 December 2007 14:19|
Jurors deadlocked in Liberty City 7 Trial
Up to press time Jurors were still deadlocked in the trial of seven men accused of plotting to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and government buildings, including FBI offices, in Miami and other cities across the U.S.
Last Monday the panel of jurors advised U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard in a Miami court that they were unable to come to a decision, but the judge ordered the panel to continue deliberating.
Judge Lenard denied a defense motion for a mistrial. Instead, she called the panel into court and read a jury instruction designed to bring the case to a resolution.
The jury of six men and six women has been debating the group's guilt or innocence for a number of days without arriving at a decision. Last Thursday, they sent the judge a note that no decision was arrived at, but they were instructed to continue their deliberations, then on Monday a similar note was sent.
According to reports Lenard won't publicly release the contents of the notes or allow them to be read in court. She, however, told the jury it was their "duty to agree upon a verdict" -- if they could.
If jurors can't reach a verdict, the U.S. Justice Department would have to decide whether to try the case again, drop the charges or negotiate plea agreements with some or all the men.
Prosecutors said the seven men were videotaped pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda, while not knowing that the man leading the pledge was an FBI informant. Defense attorneys argued that the men, who were not by any wealthy, were just going along with the assumed al-Qaeda contact in the hope of getting money, and had neither the intent nor the know-how to plan a terrorist attack. This is a view shared by the majority of the Caribbean community, who believe the men were being set up, and that they had no terrorist intent whatsoever.
Report says state too dependent on FCAT
A report generated by the University of Nebraska’s Buros Center for Testing has found that Florida relies too much on a standardized test for judging the performance of public schools, students and teachers. The Center, in its report summarized for the State Board Of Education in Tampa on Tuesday, has recommended that the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), an already unpopular test with both Florida parents and students, should be combined with other measures.
The report stated that while the Buros Center believed the FCAT should be employed as a critical academic indicator, it should not be the only one used to evaluate schools in Florida. Instead, the report recommends using average test scores as well as FCAT proficiency rates that show the percentages of students at, above and below grade level in a certain subject. The averages "reflect the performance of all students to a greater extent," the reports stated.
The report also recommends against any attempt to rescore the 2006 FCAT, noting the Department of Education and its contractors tried but failed to find ways to equate it to the previous year's FCAT.
Florida’s Education Commissioner Eric Smith said the department has previously adhered to recommendations in an earlier Buros Center report designed to prevent similar problems in future FCATs. As a result, the department created an advisory committee consisting of teachers, school superintendents, business people and even FCAT opponents and hired Buros in response to the inflated FCAT grades in 2006.
Problems arose after former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush attributed an 8 percentage point improvement in the 2006 FCAT scores over the previous year to improvement in students’ learning; but this conclusion became suspect when in 2007 the scores made a complete turn around dropping to 6 percentage points. This led state officials to conclude that almost 17,000 students, who had been given passing grades in 2006, should have failed, been held back in third grade and offered special tutoring.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Workers to pay for health insurance
For years, employees of the government of Palm Beach County benefited from a free healthcare policy, much to the envy of the employees other counties. However, on Tuesday, Palm Beach County commissioners voted to place a $10 monthly medical premium on unionized workers.
It is believed that the action by the Commission could be
indicative of several stringent measures that could affect county employees in
the ensuing year, and square the Commission off against labor groups.
Labor leaders say they're already cutting back their expectations, agreeing to smaller raises, higher healthcare costs and fewer perks.
Commissioner McCarty said the Commission made a philosophical decision that all county employees are going to need to pay something for their healthcare.
Beside the $10 premiums that single employees will now have to pay in the county's health maintenance organization (HMO) plan, save for co-pays, employees with a dependent or a family plan will have to cope with 15 percent premium increases.
employees’ union president, Rick Poulette, said the Commission’s decision is an
indication of what the county thinks of their employees. Some two dozen of
these employees attended the commission hearing at which the $10 charge in
premiums was decided. One union member told the commission that the measure
would affect workers who were already struggling to make ends meet.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 16 December 2007 14:19|