Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama's Education Groups Funded Controversial Organizations in the 90s, Tax Returns Show

[Note: Originally published at The article was taken down along with the election 2008 website.]

By Maxim Lott

The Annenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund of Chicago funded numerous controversial groups while Barack Obama served on their boards between 1995 and 2002, an analysis of their tax returns shows.

In 2001, when Obama was a part-time director of The Woods Fund of Chicago, it gave $75,000 to ACORN, the voter registration group now under investigation for voter fraud in 12 states.

The Woods Fund also gave $6,000 to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, which Obama attended. The reason for the donation to the church is unclear -- it is simply listed as "for special purposes" in the group's IRS tax form.

It gave a further $60,000 to the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University, which was founded and run by Bernardine Dohrn, the wife of domestic terrorist William Ayers and, with her husband, a former member of the 1960s radical group the Weather Underground.

Other controversial donations that year included $50,000 to the Small Schools Network -- which was founded by Ayers and run by Michael Klonsky, a friend of Ayers' and the former chairman of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), an offshoot of the 1960s radical group Students for a Democratic Society -- and $40,000 to the Arab American Action Network, which critics have accused of being anti-Semitic.

The Woods Fund did not respond to questions about the funding. When Obama co-chaired the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which calls itself "a public-private partnership improving education for 1.5 million urban and rural public school students," it gave to some of the same groups -- partnering with ACORN to manage funding for schools and giving over $1 million to the Small Schools Network.

It also gave nearly $1 million to a group called the South Shore African Village Collaborative, whose goals, according to Annenberg's archived Web site, are "to develop more collegian relationships between teachers and principals. Professional development topics include school leadership, team building, parent and community involvement, developing thematic units, instructional strategies, strategic planning, and distance learning and teleconferencing."

But the group mentions other goals in its grant application to the Annenberg Challenge:

"Our children need to understand the historical context of our struggles for liberation from those forces that seek to destroy us," one page of the application reads.

Stanley Kurtz, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, found the collaborative's original application when going through Annenberg's archives.

Asked to comment, Yvonne Williams-Kinnison, executive director of the collaborative's parent group, the Coalition for Improved Education in South Shore said, "I don't want to put more fuel on the fire. You can call us back after the election.... I don't want to compromise the position."

Late Afrocentrist scholars Jacob Carruthers and Asa Hilliard were both invited to give SSAVC teachers a training session, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge noted in a report, adding that the "consciousness raising session ... received rave reviews, and has prepared the way for the curriculum readiness survey session."

But Carruthers has been a controversial figure because of inflammatory statements he made in writing.

"The submission to Western civilization and its most outstanding offspring, American civilization, is, in reality, surrender to white supremacy," Carruthers wrote in his 1999 book, "Intellectual Warfare."

"Some of us have chosen to reject the culture of our oppressors and recover our disrupted ancestral culture."

In the book, he compared the process of blacks assimilating into American culture with rape.

"We may not be able to get our virginity back after the rape, but we do not have to marry the rapist," Carruthers said.

Hilliard has come under fire for advocating what many consider an extreme Afrocentric curriculum.

He selected the articles for the "African-American Baseline Essays" published in 1987 and first used in the Portland, Ore., school district. The essays have been criticized for claiming, among other things, that ancient Egyptians were the first to discover manned flight and the theory of evolution.

An Obama spokesman called investigation of these ties "pathetic."

"This is another pathetic attempt by FOX News to distract voters from the economic challenges facing this nation by patching together tenuous links to smear Barack Obama," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told

"The Annenberg Challenge was a bipartisan organization dedicated to improving the performance of students and teachers in Chicago Public Schools that was funded by a Republican philanthropist who was friends with President Reagan and launched by Republican Gov. Jim Edgar."

But Kurtz says those founders of the Annenberg Challenge would not have known the details about to whom their Chicago office -- one of 18 around the country -- was giving money.

"If you read Ayers' proposal to Annenberg, it doesn't sound radical. But if you actually read Ayers' education writings, they are very radical indeed," Kurtz said. "Ayers, like so many other savvy professors, knows enough not to state his actual views frankly when applying for money. But you can find the truth in his writings."

The controversial donations make up only a small portion of the overall amount doled out by the Annenberg and Woods funds. The Woods Fund gave over $3.5 million to 115 different groups in 2001, and the Annenberg Challenge dispensed nearly $11 million to 63 groups at its height in 1999.

Most of the groups are mainstream and well respected, ranging from the Jazz Institute of Chicago to the Successful Schools Project.

But Kurtz says that this should not obscure what he describes as controversial donations.

"If John McCain had given to white supremacist groups and people said, Hey, the majority of funding didn't go to supremacist groups' -- that wouldn't even cut the ice," Kurtz said.

"I feel certain [Obama] knew about these radical groups," Kurtz said. "We know that he read the applications because he made statements about the quality of proposals."

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Friday, October 24, 2008

FBI Removes 'Honor Killing' From Murder Suspect's 'Wanted' Poster

The FBI removed all mention of the controversial term “honor killing” from the wanted poster of a double-murder suspect after ran a story announcing the use of the term.

Yasser Abdel Said, wanted for the murder of his two daughters, has eluded authorities for almost a year. The bodies of the young women — Sarah Said, 17, and Amina Said, 18 — were discovered in the back of a taxicab in Irving, Texas, on New Year's Day.

Continue reading at

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First Time FBI Calls Case an 'Honor Killing'

Almost a year after two teenage girls were found dead — allegedly executed by their father — in the back seat of a taxicab in Texas, the FBI is saying for the first time that the case may have been an "honor killing."

Sarah Said, 17, and her sister Amina, 18, were killed on New Year's Day, but for nine months authorities deflected questions about whether their father — the prime suspect and the subject of a nationwide manhunt — may have targeted them because of a perceived slight upon his honor.

Continue reading at

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Friday, October 3, 2008

'Potatoe Boy' Weighs In on Dan Quayle's Election Gaffe

[Note: Originally published at The article was taken down along with the election 2008 website.]

By Maxim Lott

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden may have made a few mistakes during Thursday night's vice presidential debate, but it remains to be seen whether their mistakes will stick in voters' minds like one infamous vice presidential gaffe from the 1992 election.

Few political gaffes are as memorable as Vice President Dan Quayle's misspelling.

Quayle told a grade-school boy in New Jersey that he had misspelled the word "potato" during a photo-op spelling bee. With the cameras rolling, Quayle directed the boy to add an "e" to the end of the word.

"Potatoe" became a defining moment in the election, and it turned Quayle into political laughingstock.

But it also was a life-altering event for 12-year-old William Figueroa, who that day earned the nickname "Potatoe Boy."

Now a 28-year-old father, Figueroa says he doesn't talk with people much about what happened. He says he rarely brings it up.

"It always comes out somehow. I really can't escape it, to be honest." he told from the store he manages in New Jersey.

During the staged spelling bee, Figueroa was asked to come to the blackboard and spell a word that was included in flash cards that had been presented to Quayle. Figueroa spelled the word right, but Quayle corrected him.

"You're close," the vice president told Figueroa, "but you left a little something off. There's an 'e' on the end."

Figueroa added an "e" and sat back down.

Quayle was lambasted for the incident. He claimed he had misspelled the word because he was referring to incorrect cards prepared by his staff. But the damage was done.

When George H.W. Bush named him to be his running mate in 1988, Quayle was only 41 and was criticized as being young and inexperienced. Bush and Quayle won that election. But in 1992, they lost re-election when voters picked Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Figueroa doesn't see Quayle's gaffe as indicative of the former vice president's intelligence.

"Me, personally, I think it was an innocent mistake. It was blown out of proportion by the media," he said. "They already had an image of who he was, and what I did was just another stepping stone adding to that."

Figueroa said that after the gaffe, he was inundated by media requests. He was invited onto David Letterman's TV show and was asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the 1992 Democratic Convention.

He told Letterman he knew Quayle was wrong, "but since he's the vice president, I went back to the blackboard and put an 'e' on the end. ... Afterward, I went to the dictionary, and there was potato like I spelled it."

But out of the spotlight, Figueroa was having big troubles of his own.

"There were a lot of opportunities that I missed because of problems with home life when I was younger," he said. "My father was a drug addict -- still is. I was just a young man, so in order to get anywhere, be driven to an interview or anything, I had to give him monetary compensation. All the money I made (from interviews and ads) was basically stolen for drugs."

Figueroa said he occasionally talks with his father, but he said they are "not on good terms" and generally leave each other alone. Attempts to reach his father were unsuccessful.

Figueroa said he works long hours with his job as a manager at a Verizon store in New Jersey. He has three daughters, and a stepson with his fiancee, Coco.

"They are all on the school honor roll -- except for the baby," he said, laughing. "They are good at spelling."

Watching the vice presidential debate wasn't an option -- work keeps him busy -- and he also hasn't had time to look into the candidates' platforms.

"Before the election, I plan to sit down and take a full day to do research before I decide who I think would make best president," he said.

But he's looking for a good leader, not a good speller.

"I don't believe in the Democrat and Republican labels," he said. "I just care about who would be the best person to run the country."