The Providence (R.I.) Journal, Jan. 10, 2013
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s inauguration for a third term, which was to have taken place Thursday in Caracas, where he would be sworn in before the National Assembly, has been postponed, a move with constitutionally dubious implications. He is reportedly on life support in a Cuban hospital with a lung infection, following an operation for cancer in December, his fourth in 18 months.
Little information has been released by the Venezuelan government, but many observers rate his prospects of survival as poor.
Of three possibilities — a healthy, dead or long-dying president — the third may be the worst, at least in the short term, for oil-rich Venezuela and the region, promising ongoing political crisis until he dies. The Venezuelan constitution stipulates a new election in 30 days after the demise of the president.
The former army colonel has been hailed, or reviled, as Fidel Castro’s heir, importing the Cuban revolution to the Latin American mainland. The ailing Castro has in fact ceded the Cuban presidency to his younger brother, Raul Castro, but Chávez has kept the regime afloat with very generous subsidies of oil and money. It has been a second wind for the Castros, whose regime’s demise was earlier predicted in the early 1990s, when their patron, the Soviet Union, collapsed.
The Venezuelan president has styled his socialist program, broadly supported by the country’s poor, as evidenced in his October re-election, a ‘‘Bolivarian’’ revolution. That is in honor of Simon Bolivar, who liberated Venezuela from Spain in the 1813 and campaigned over the next decade to end Spanish domination in the New World, liberating what are now Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
Certainly Chávez has had broad influence in the region, promoting governments with leftist agendas in several of those countries. His activities have been especially destabilizing in neighboring Colombia, which has fought, with apparent success, a long insurgency by Chávez-supported guerrillas.
Chávez has nationalized the OPEC-member country’s oil industry, whose biggest export market is the U.S. This and such other policies as currency controls have resulted in broad capital flight, food shortages and inflation of more than 18 percent. Declining oil revenues have been blamed on below-standard maintenance at oil facilities as a result of the nationalizations. A huge refinery explosion last August killed 41 people and spiked oil prices around the world.
Chávez has been a thorn in the side of the U.S., attributing to it, and to the CIA in particular, all manner of evils. He has also given comfort to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad, presidents of Iran and Syria, respectively, and other antagonists of the U.S. and the West. The regime is also suspected of abetting the otherwise unlikely infiltration of al-Qaida and other jihadist elements into Latin America, where they are active in smuggling and other criminal enterprises.
For these reasons, Chávez’s dire condition is of interest far beyond the borders of Venezuela, though infighting appears to have already broken out in the murky political atmosphere of Caracas between his designated successor, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver, and Diosdado Cabello, head of the National Assembly. His foe in last October’s election, Henrique Capriles, may be in a strong position in a new election, assuming it is held. All are in uncertain times as we await the post-Chávez era.
The Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer, Jan. 11, 2013
A new report released this week by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation confirms what most of us have suspected for quite some time: Test scores alone are not enough to measure a teacher’s true performance and effectiveness in the classroom.
In fact, the report says tests should not represent more than half the total teacher evaluation score.
The three-year project, Measures of Effective Teaching, identified great teaching by combining three types of measures. In the first year of the study, teaching practice was measured using a combination of student surveys, classroom observations, and student achievement gains. Then, in the second year, teachers were randomly assigned to different classrooms of students. The students’ outcomes were later measured using state tests and supplemental assessments.
The teachers whose students did better during the first year of the project also had students who performed better following random assignment. Moreover, the magnitude of the achievement gains they generated aligned with the predictions, according to the foundation.Continued...