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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Common Core emerges as potent election issue for fed-up parents

By Ben Evansky - Published March 29, 2014 -

Parents across the country may hold the key to this year's mid-term elections as they vent their anger over the implementation of a controversial education achievement measure called the Common Core State Standards Initiative.


Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the initiative in a bid, they say, to improve education standards in Math and English, and give new life to what many view as a sagging education system. Indiana recently voted to back out of Common Core.

But many parents see the initiative as a bid by the federal government to take over the education system. They are also angry over the "data mining" of students' personal information, and say the stepped-up standards are not age-appropriate and are leading to anxiety and depression in their children.

Analysts warn the parental opposition could spill over into the November elections.

"Those populist candidates are running against the Common Core, and they are going to say Washington is interfering with children's schooling ..."

- Tom Loveless, Brookings Institute

"You really have a populist reaction, and that's true on the left and the right," says Tom Loveless, a senior fellow with the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.

He predicts candidates opposing politicians from the establishment - or "at least trying to paint them as establishment candidates" - will take up the parental concerns.

"Those populist candidates are running against the Common Core, and they are going to say Washington is interfering with children's schooling and that teachers, parents and principals at the local level are better equipped to decide on what kids learn," he said.

Concurring is education expert Joy Pullmann.

"Common Core opposition is so completely grassroots, and support is so astroturf, " says the education research fellow for The Heartland Institute, a think tank headquartered in Chicago that promotes individual liberty and free enterprise.

"It is already becoming a primary and general election issue in everything from local school board races to gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races," she added.

According to Pullmann, the issue is "huge among mothers."


Monday, March 31, 2014

7 Secrets for a High-Yield Vegetable Garden


Here’s how to get the most out of your garden.

Imagine harvesting nearly half a ton of tasty, beautiful, organically grown vegetables from a 15-by-20-foot plot, 100 pounds of tomatoes from just 100 square feet (a 4-by-25-foot bed), or 20 pounds of carrots from just 24 square feet.

Yields like these are easier to achieve than you may think. The secret to superproductive gardening is taking the time now to plan strategies that will work for your garden. Here are seven high-yield strategies gleaned from gardeners who have learned to make the most of their garden space.

1. Build up your soil.

Expert gardeners agree that building up the soil is the single most important factor in pumping up yields. A deep, organically rich soil encourages the growth of healthy, extensive roots that are able to reach more nutrients and water. The result: extra-lush, extra-productive growth above ground.

The fastest way to get that deep layer of fertile soil is to make raised beds. Raised beds yield up to four times more than the same amount of space planted in rows. That’s due not only to their loose, fertile soil but also to efficient spacing—by using less space for paths, you have more room to grow plants.

Raised beds save you time, too. One researcher tracked the time it took to plant and maintain a 30-by-30-foot garden planted in beds, and found that he needed to spend just 27 hours in the garden from mid-May to mid-October. Yet he was able to harvest 1,900 pounds of fresh vegetables—that’s a year’s supply of food for three people from about 3 total days of work!

How do raised beds save so much time? Plants grow close enough together to shade out competing weeds, so you spend less time weeding. The close spacing also makes watering and harvesting more efficient.


2. Round out your beds.

The shape of your beds can make a difference, too. Raised beds are more space-efficient if the tops are gently rounded to form an arc, rather than flat. A rounded bed that is 5 feet wide across its base, for instance, will give you a 6-foot-wide arc above it—creating a planting surface that’s a foot wider than that of a flat bed. That foot might not seem like much, but multiply it by the length of your bed and you’ll see that it can make a big difference in total planting area.

In a 20-foot-long bed, for example, rounding the top increases your total planting area from 100 to 120 square feet. That’s a 20 percent gain in planting space in a bed that takes up the same amount of ground space! Lettuce, spinach, and other greens are perfect crops for planting on the edges of a rounded bed.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Boneta Bill Part III by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh

By Tom White - Virginia Right

boneta1-276x311The small farmers in Virginia rejoiced when Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 268, dubbed the “Boneta Bill,” passed both houses and the Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe signed it. The bill gave farmers legal protection from overreaching and overzealous county bureaucrats who impose unreasonable requirements and unnecessary fees on small farmers.

The bills, sponsored by state Senator Richard Stuart (R-Montross) and state Delegate Bobby Orrock (R-Thornburg), protect “agricultural operations from local regulation” and limit the government’s ability to require “special-use permits” for farm activities. Among many things, “Martha’s bill prevents counties from imposing a $100 fee to grow tomatoes.”

Martha Boneta, the farmer at the center of this protracted battle in Virginia said, “No Virginian should be forced to lose everything when they fight city hall.” Her farm is embroiled in a costly legal battle with Fauquier County supervisors over the use of her own farmland.

Boneta explained, “Corn mazes and pumpkin carvings were considered ‘events’ that required site plans and a mile-long list of red tape that can be suffocating.”

“There is an illusion that farmers are allowed to sell all their products because there are farmers markets and one-day bake sales. … These are exemptions granted at the whim of government. I have 33 acres with cows. If I had the ability to sell all my farm products (including raw milk) directly to the public, I could make $56,000 a year. But not under existing regulations.” (Bernadette Barber, founder of Virginia Food Freedom)

Martha Boneta found herself at the center of the battle for farm freedom and property rights when she held abirthday party for eight 10-year-old girls at her Liberty Farm. Fauquier County deemed this party illegal because it lacked a permit. “Why would I need a permit for pumpkin carving?” Boneta said.

Boneta was issued a special license in 2011 which allowed her to run a “retail farm shop” in which she sold handspun yarns, fresh vegetables, eggs, herbs, honey, and craft items such as birdhouses. Fauquier County Board of Supervisors changed in 2011 the “farm sales classification” to require a special permit for activities that were previously included in the permit that Boneta had already been issued. Faced with fines of $5,000 per violation under charges that she held a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls without a permit and a “site plan,” advertised one wine tasting, sold postcards with pictures of her rescued farm animals, sold wool fiber products from her sheep and alpacas, and sold organic tea from herbs grown in her garden, even though she had a business license, Martha paid $500 to appeal these unjust administrative charges. “The county zoning administrator told her at the hearing that “Martha was out of line,” for appealing these charges.”

Mark Fitzgibbons wrote that “Fauquier County also passed a winery ordinance that blatantly violates property rights and civil liberties.  It gives Fauquier zoning administrator Kimberley Johnson discretion to create penalties and to prohibit private personal gatherings.”

Fitzgibbons said that “A local but powerful group called the Piedmont Environment Council (

wholeheartedly backed that illegal, anti-liberty winery ordinance.  The PEC seems to have an unusual if not disturbing amount of influence over Fauquier County officials.

Barber described the Boneta Bill victory as “opening the barn door for the blossoming farm-to-table movement.” However, bureaucrats and NGOs do not give up easily. Undaunted, no sooner had the ink dried on the signatures on the bill, the environmentalists came calling for a farm inspection of Martha’s Liberty Farm.

Property owners and farmers are fined, bullied, threatened based not just on zoning ordinances, but also via environmental conservation easements with onerous requirements, and farm inspections.

Martha Boneta’s farm is the only farm in the state of Virginia that has four required inspections per year. Inspectors used to come several times a month until Boneta complained. She gets a seven day notice.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Food Freedom Legislation Introduced!

by Tim Shoemaker on MARCH 27, 2014

Today, Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-4) introduced two new bills, the “Milk Freedom Act of 2014,” H.R. 4307, and the “Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014,” H.R. 4308, with a bipartisan coalition of 20 lawmakers. In his press release announcing the new legislation, Rep. Massie indicated these were the first in a planned series of Food Freedom legislation aimed at improving consumer choice and protecting local farmers.

“As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers.  Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk,” said Rep. Massie. “The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety.”

Raw milk is fresh milk that has not been pasteurized, and may contain beneficial nutrients that have not been eliminated by the pasteurization process.  Although Congress has never passed legislation banning raw milk, the federal Food and Drug Administration has used their regulatory authority to prosecute farmers for selling raw milk.

The “Milk Freedom Act of 2014” would provide relief to local farmers, small producers, and others who have been harassed, fined, and in some cases even prosecuted for the “crime” of distributing unpasteurized milk.  This bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products.

Likewise, the “Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014” would prevent the federal government from interfering with trade of unpasteurized, natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.

No provision of either bill would preempt or otherwise interfere with any state law.

Massie concluded, “Today, many people are paying more attention to the food they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed.  Raw milk, which has been with us for thousands of years, is making a comeback among these discerning consumers.  Personal choices as basic as ‘what we feed our families’ should not be limited by the federal government.”

During his time in Congress, C4L Chairman Ron Paul was a champion of food freedom and sponsored legislation similar to H.R. 4307.  Understanding the Food Freedom issue is vital to understanding personal liberty. It shouldn’t be any of the government’s business what we put into our own bodies, or choose to eat or drink.

Campaign for Liberty is proud to announce our support of both measures and encourage you to contact your representative and urge them to cosponsor H.R. 4307 and H.R. 4308.


Love without limit -- Today's Devotion from Mike MacIntosh


By Mike MacIntosh

From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
But Jesus said to her, "Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." And she answered and said to Him, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children's crumbs."  Then He said to her, "For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter." And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.

Mark 7:24-30

In one short passage from the book of Mark, we see Jesus breaking all stereotypes and going to people that need to be loved.  Jesus is in a hostile and foreign country just north of Israel (modern day Lebanon), a nation whose Greek people were considered "unclean."  But it is no accident that this passage is placed right here in Mark.  I mean, think about this; the previous incident shows Jesus wiping out all distinction between clean and unclean food, and now Jesus shows us that there is no distinction between clean and unclean people (the Jews and the Greeks).  You see, in Jesus Christ we are all one people of God; all able to love Him, live for Him, and serve Him.  And He loves us just the same.  John tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever (even a Greek, Syro-Phoenician woman) believes in Him would have eternal life!

Maybe you are a person that didn't have a dad or a mom, or your relationship with them was strained.  Or maybe you've been struggling because you've never really received love from people.  Well, you are just the prime candidate for the Lord to show you.  He loves you!  He loves the lovable and the unlovable.  Do you see it here?  There are no geographical borders to God's love.  There are no religious things that you have to do in order to get God's love.  Jesus Christ shattered all of that.  Your relationship with the Lord, and His love for you, isn't about a religious activity; it's a relationship with Him. Jesus traveled miles to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10), and He's doing the same today.  He is reaching out to you in love and compassion.  It doesn't matter where you've been, where you're from, or what your social or economic status is.  God loves you and is setting you free from your bondage.  For whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An undefiled heart -- Today's Devotion from Mike MacIntosh

by Mike MacIntosh

When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
Mark 7:17-23

Steeped in legalism and tradition, the Pharisees (and the disciples) had a difficult time understanding God's love and grace.  You see, it's not what you eat or drink, or what rules and regulations you follow that make you a Christian.  Likewise, it's not the absence of any of these things that make you a better Christian.  We can get so hung up on rules and regulations, on making sure others around us don't do this or that, that we lose all perspective of Jesus' words here: It's not the physical stuff in life that defiles us; it's our hearts.  Your actions are merely a by-product of your heart.

The Pharisees were so caught up in their rules and regulations (a.k.a. playing church) that they totally ignored the things that really defiled their lives.  I mean, look at the list Jesus gives of evil things that defile us: evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, murder, stealing, coveting, wickedness, deceit, slandering anot! her's character, pride, and foolishness.  These are the things that we should be concerned about -- issues that begin in our hearts.  This list was written over 2,000 years ago and it's more relevant than ever!  If our hearts are in the wrong place, our actions will follow.  Our hearts need to be focused on Jesus!

Maybe you're prone to watching soap operas or questionable prime-time shows where inevitably you see people undressing and making out.  What do these shows do?  They plant lustful thoughts in your mind.  One way you can tone down the lustful thoughts is to get rid of the lustful books and magazines, and turn off the lewd television shows you once thought were so great.  Instead of letting evil thoughts control you, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).  When thoughts come up that are lustful, sensual, and wicked, you need to say out loud, "Stop! Lord, I turn these thoughts to you."  God will take those thoughts and He will bring them under control.

Don't let the enemy destroy your life, your marriage, or your relationship with your family.  Don't allow these things to defile you, all the while thinking that you're "a good person" because you don't smok! e or drink or eat unhealthy foods.  Don't get me wrong; it's important to take care of yourself and to be a good steward of the body that God has given you.  But don't let that be your sole focus when there are so many things (as Jesus lists here) that you need to control.  Have a heart that seeks after the things of the Lord.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled" (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).