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Archive for February 17th, 2019

When Teens Threaten Violence, A Community Responds With Compassion

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Rhitu Chatterjee reports at NPR:

Psychologist John Van Dreal has spent almost 30 years working with troubled kids. Still, it’s always unsettling to get the kind of phone call he received one morning eight years ago as he was on his way to a meeting.

“I got a call from the assistant principal at North [Salem] High, reporting that a student had made some threats on the Internet,” remembers Van Dreal, the director of safety and risk management for Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Salem, Ore.

Threats of violence in a Facebook post

“There were a number of statements about hitting people with pipes, breaking knees, bashing heads with pipes and looking for help in doing so,” Van Dreal says.

And there was more.

“F*** North Salem High School,” the student had written. “Seriously, it’s asking for a f***ing shooting or something.”

Van Dreal says students who saw the post were frightened. They told their parents, who called the school administration. Faculty and staff were worried, too, he notes. This particular student had been in trouble before, but this time it felt different.

“They were definitely concerned and afraid,” Van Dreal says.

The signs were serious enough, Van Dreal knew, that he needed to convene his entire threat assessment team — including representatives of the school administration, mental health professionals and police.

He turned his car around and immediately headed to the high school.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year, many schools received federal funding through the Stop School Violence Act to establish a threat assessment program to help prevent school shootings and other kinds of violence.

Van Dreal’s school district has been using its own version of the approach since 2000 with good success in identifying kids in crisis and getting them off the path to violence.

How to assess the risk

Threat assessment is essentially how the Secret Service responds to threats made to government officials and property, and it is increasingly being used by schools around the U.S.

In the first hours, the multidisciplinary team gathers information from interviews with the student, the student’s friends, parents and teachers to evaluate the risk: Does the student have a plan to attack? Does the student have weapons? Is there a specific target?

If an action or statement of intended harm is deemed serious, a school must act quickly to prevent violence and keep everyone safe. If the student making the threat has firearms, then the team works with law enforcement officials and the student’s parents to try to limit gun access.

Once the concern about immediate danger has eased, the team digs deeper into the student’s background and psychological history: What is driving the student? What is the anger about? What is the situation at home and at school? Are there any underlying mental health issues?

Studies have shown that students contemplating violence are often in some kind of crisis, and the best way to move them off that path is to provide support and supervision to solve the problem.

Just blowing off steam?

When he was called in to investigate the case in 2011, Van Dreal and his team got to work immediately.

The student was a 17-year-old named Mishka, who “was known to be pretty aggressive and combative,” says Van Dreal. (NPR is not using Mishka’s full name to protect his privacy.)

Clem Spenner was the police officer on Van Dreal’s team that day. “My biggest concern at that point [was] safety,” says Spenner. “Is there any indication that this person is going to act before we can do some intervention?”

The Facebook post did contain some key elements the team looks for when assessing a threat’s likelihood of being carried out. “We look into weapons acquisition, scheduling, soliciting help, plans [and] ongoing vendettas,” explains Van Dreal. “Some of that fit for Mishka.”

Meanwhile, Mishka had been pulled from class, handcuffed, searched and interrogated by the police. “The police asked me, ‘OK, what’s going on?’ ” the now-25-year-old Mishka recalls. “Was I actually intending to do something? And I’m like, ‘Nope, just blowing off steam.’ ”

Mishka says he had been furious that day because two of his friends had been beaten up by jocks not long before, in the boys locker room.

“And my buddies got suspended for that,” he says.

He thought this was unjust because his buddies didn’t start the fight, he says. And that’s what he told the police officers. “I was just mad, and that’s where the Facebook post came from.”

The threat assessment team concluded there was no risk of a school shooting in this case. The 17-year-old had no specific plan for an attack, had never used a gun and didn’t have access to one. The police confirmed that with his parents.

But they also realized this was more than just a kid ticked off about one fight. Mishka was still enraged and had a history of battling others. “He had made threats of bringing a pipe to school and hurting people with that,” says Spenner. “That’s a far easier thing to accomplish. I mean you can find a piece of pipe anywhere.”

The school was worried about Mishka’s rage, he says. “And he really was an angry young man.”

Digging deeper

For the team evaluating Mishka’s threat potential, it didn’t matter whether the injustices he described were real or not, explains Van Dreal. To calm him down, Van Dreal knew he had to get to the root cause of Mishka’s anger and understand how the teenager saw the situation. “He’s the one justifying the violence and I have to get behind that and see why,” says Van Dreal.

As the team interviewed Mishka, his friends, family and teachers over the next couple of days, a fuller picture emerged.

Clues in past traumas

Mishka’s struggles had begun years earlier, the team learned. A boy had come up to him in middle school and tried to pick a fight, Mishka says.

“As I was turning around and saying, ‘Dude, I don’t want to fight,’ he takes a swing and hits me directly in my eye,” Mishka says. “Everything went black for a moment. And I got mad. That was the first time I actually punched a person.”

The physical damage done to his eye that day is undisputed. Mishka’s vision began failing, and it affected his schoolwork.

“It literally felt like I was swimming in dirty water, a dirty pool,” he says. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more and it’s interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 February 2019 at 8:57 am

Federal Watchdog Issues Scathing Report On Ed Department’s Handling Of Student Loans

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Cory Turner reports at NPR:

A critical new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General finds the department’s student loan unit failed to adequately supervise the companies it pays to manage the nation’s trillion-dollar portfolio of federal student loans. The report also rebukes the department’s office of Federal Student Aid for rarely penalizing companies that failed to follow the rules.

Instead of safeguarding borrowers’ interests, the report says, FSA’s inconsistent oversight allowed these companies, known as loan servicers, to potentially hurt borrowers and pocket government dollars that should have been refunded because servicers weren’t meeting federal requirements.

“By not holding servicers accountable,” the report says, “FSA could give its servicers the impression that it is not concerned with servicer noncompliance with Federal loan servicing requirements, including protecting borrowers’ rights.”

“It’s hard to look at this as anything other than completely damning,” says Seth Frotman, a consumer advocate and former government, student loan watchdog who is now executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center. “This is the most damaging in a long line of investigations, audits, and reports that show the Department of Education is asleep at the switch when it is responsible for over a trillion dollars of student loan debt.”

The Education Department’s independent watchdog reviewed FSA oversight records from January 2015 through September 2017, a period that includes both the Obama and Trump administrations. Among the inspector general’s findings: While FSA did document servicers’ many failures to follow the rules, it did not study these isolated failures to identify broader patterns of noncompliance that could have hurt many more students.

The inspector general’s office writes that, without looking more broadly, the department ignored the possibility of patterns of failure by servicers that could result in “increased interest or repayment costs incurred by borrowers, the missed opportunity for more borrowers to take advantage of certain repayment programs, negative effects on borrowers’ credit ratings, and an increased likelihood of delinquency or even default.”

Colleen Campbell studies the loan servicing industry at the Center for American Progress and says this audit “brings to light issues that we have thought existed for a long time but that we couldn’t say for sure were happening across the entire system. And, as time has gone on, we’ve been increasingly certain that Federal Student Aid wasn’t properly overseeing servicers. And this really confirms that that’s the case.”

The audit documents several common failures by the servicers, among them, not telling borrowers about all of their repayment options, or miscalculating what borrowers should have to pay through an income-driven repayment plan. According to the review, two loan servicing companies, Navient and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, better known as FedLoan, repeatedly placed borrowers into costly forbearance without offering them other, more beneficial options.

Representatives from Navient and PHEAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more. Betsy DeVos would be called a failure as Education Secretary, except that she is succeeding in her own aims: protecting and extending for-profit education, undermining student rights and protections, and ignoring education quality.

Later in the article:

The Education Department’s internal review arrives in the middle of a standoff between the department, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, and many state leaders. Stories of loan servicers failing to act in borrowers’ best interest are easy to find. In the past year, NPR investigations have documented sweeping failures in the management of both the federal TEACH Grant program and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

But as state lawmakers and attorneys general have tried to step up their own oversight of servicers, the Education Department is opposing them, arguing in court that only it has the authority to police these loan companies.

In a memo entered into the Federal Register nearly a year ago, the department defended its role as sole watchdog: “The Secretary emphasizes that the Department continues to oversee loan servicers to ensure that borrowers receive exemplary customer service and are protected from substandard practices.”

Written by LeisureGuy

17 February 2019 at 8:50 am

Argentinian wild pink prawns with leeks, peppers, and red chard

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Had this for dinner last night and it was very tasty.

I had 1 lb (454g) frozen wild Argentinian pink prawns, so I filled a very large bowl with water, dissolved about 1/2 cup kosher salt in it, and dumped in the frozen prawns to thaw. It takes a while, since the brine is immediately chilled, but the time is okay because brining the prawns ensures that they will be tasty and moist when cooked. (This is my routine practice with frozen shrimp or, really, any shrimp, since almost any you buy was previously frozen.)

While those were thawing in the brine, I prepared the vegetables:

2 leeks, 1 large, 1 medium: halved vertically, thinly sliced across
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper: chopped
1 big bunch red chard: stems chopped, then leaves as well
[some chopped celery would have been good, but I didn’t think of it]

I used my 4-qt All-Clad CopperCore sauté pan: wide-diameter, vertical sides. Heat the pan, add 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and then the leeks.

Sauté, stirring, and add a couple of good pinches of salt and several grindings of black pepper.

When the leeks start to soften, add the bell pepper and the chopped stems of the red chard and sauté a little longer.

Add juice of 1 lemon and the chard leaves, stir, and cover. Let that cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7-10 minutes.

Drain prawns, perhaps dry them a little with a paper towel, and add them, stirring them into the vegetables. Then cover and cook another 7-10 minutes.

Serve with good white wine.


Written by LeisureGuy

17 February 2019 at 8:07 am

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults: Systematic Evidence Review from the Obesity Expert Panel

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A very interesting and thoroughly researched document of studies regarding diet and obesity. Even though it doesn’t consider LCHF all that good (see starting at page 59), my experience with a diet low in net-carbs and relatively high in fat has been good—see this post.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 February 2019 at 7:04 am

Posted in Food, Health, Low carb, Science

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