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Coalition Distributing Asbury Aqua At Springsteen Concert Tomorrow
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Coalition Distributing Asbury Aqua At Springsteen Concert Tomorrow

Bruce Springsteen may be hot here in New Jersey, but tomorrow's expected 90-degree temperatures in Asbury Park may be hotter. To help folks visiting the boardwalk tomorrow beat the heat, New Jersey's Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition will give away free Asbury Aqua bottled water to Bruce fans. Springsteen is scheduled to perform at the historic Asbury Park Convention Center for NBC's Today's Show. "New Jersey drivers need relief from oppressive state regulations that stifle auto insurance choice and competition," said Coalition chairman John Friedman. "By giving away free bottled water tomorrow, we'll provide Bruce fans some relief from the heat." Seeking to prevent an unprecedented statewide auto insurance capacity crisis precipitated by the deterioration of the auto insurance industry's financial health in New Jersey, the Coalition is urging Trenton lawmakers to reform New Jersey's auto insurance laws and regulations to create a stable and competitive market. The Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition, a New Jersey-based group open to businesses, associations and consumers, cites the state's regulation of auto insurance as the culprit behind limited competition by discouraging insurance companies from doing business in New Jersey. "You'd think some auto insurance companies were born to run out of New Jersey," said Freidman. "More than twenty insurers have fled the state in the past ten years due to excessive regulation." The latest figures show New Jersey has 47 percent fewer companies selling auto insurance than Illinois and more than a third fewer than neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. "We need a regulatory system that promotes competition, encourages companies to sell auto insurance in New Jersey, and creates a stable market that offers more choices for consumers," said John Friedman, chairman of the Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition. The group is calling for reforms that will attract more auto insurers to New Jersey, spurring competition and increasing consumer choice. These reforms include permitting companies to use industry-accepted standard underwriting methods already used in nearly every state and adjusting the low ceiling on company profits to permit a reasonable rate of return. "It's only natural to expect that consumers will shop around for the best deal if they have more choices. Competition and choice benefit consumers and when companies compete, consumers win," said Friedman. The Coalition welcomes the participation of businesses, associations and consumers who seek to work together to bring about meaningful and responsible auto insurance reform. Members include the National Association of Independent Insurers, Insurance Council of New Jersey, American Insurance Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, New Jersey Association of REALTORS(R), Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, NJ SEED (Society for Environmental, Economic Development), Somerset County Chamber of Commerce and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

07/29/2002
Lang Gets Retort on Schools
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Lang Gets Retort on Schools

BY J. Andrew Curliss

The dispute hasn't landed in court yet, but the oral arguments have begun. At the Cary Chamber of Commerce's annual planning conference in Pinehurst recently, Cary Mayor Glen Lang said he had asked the town attorney to investigate whether Cary had grounds to sue the school board over a new policy designed to keep magnet schools from draining students from traditional schools. Under the policy, students assigned to Swift Creek and five other elementary schools can no longer transfer to magnet schools. Cary's Lochmere subdivision and other neighborhoods no longer have the same school choices. Lang complained, saying the policy is discriminatory and could hurt property values. At a school board planning retreat -- which was held, coincidentally, in Cary on Tuesday -- Wake County Schools Superintendent Bill McNeal said he had heard Lang's threats, and he had a retort: "What would the property values be around Swift Creek if we allowed the school to stagnate?" Awaiting word: The week passed without a new police chief appointed in Durham, though the overwhelming support in many camps of the Bull City is still for interim chief Steve Chalmers. The decision is with City Manager Marcia Conner, who said she hopes to choose a chief within a few days. A possible clue: She said in an interview that she hadn't made an announcement yet because Chalmers is out of town. Asked whether that meant he'd get the job, she said, "No. No. I just don't want to make a decision without talking to all of the candidates. No." Meanwhile, word from Louisville, Ky., is that the Jefferson County police chief, William Carcara, has told some people there that it's between him and Chalmers. The other candidate, recently retired Kansas City deputy chief Gregory Watkins, was a favorite with interview panels in Durham. Conner would say only that she has a tough call to make. A trouper: Durham City Council member Howard Clement kept a full schedule this week while grieving for his wife, Dolores, who died Sunday. Clement said he had gone to all the regular meetings -- even introduced a guest at the Rotary meeting Monday -- because it kept his mind busy. "It's therapy," he said. "And Dolores would want me to have kept going." Clement also displayed a sense of humor about it, telling reporters: "Y'all would write about me missing meetings if I didn't keep coming. Not now. But come November, you'd say Clement was missing meetings." ### Political Trail - Donnie Harrison, a Republican running for Wake County Sheriff, will have a fund-raiser from 4 to 8 p.m. today at 3636 Auburn Knightdale Road. The cost is $ 10 per person or $ 25 per family. - Al Nunn, a Republican running in state House District 34, will have a fund-raising reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Brownstone Hotel, 1707 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. - The Wake County Citizens For A Sound Economy will have their annual hot dog supper Thursday from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at Pullen Park picnic shelter No. 4. Special guest speaker will be Jerry Agar, talk show host of WPTF 680 AM. The event is free. To RSVP, please contact Rheta Burton at 807-0100.

07/27/2002
Missed Vote Miffs Anti-Tax Activists
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Missed Vote Miffs Anti-Tax Activists

BY David Rice

When a legislator disappears for a controversial vote, it's called "taking a walk." And after Rep. Tracy Walker, a Republican from Wilkesboro, failed to show up Thursday for a vote on a $322 million tax package, some folks in Raleigh suspect that Walker is aptly named. "I haven't talked to him, but I'd sure like to know why he didn't vote on that particular bill," said Jon-athan Hill, the director of the state chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group for whom Walker signed an anti-tax pledge. "One way or the other, the voters deserve for him to be there to vote on it." The House gave tentative approval Thursday to a plan that would let counties impose a half-cent sales tax next January, at the same time that a state half-cent sales tax disappears. To raise money for the state, the plan would put off two tax breaks - one for married couples and one for taxpayers with children - that legislators approved last year. It would also raise $101 million for the state by closing several so-called corporate-tax "loopholes" and raise $38 million by not adopting federal rules for depreciation of business investments. The measure passed, 84-26. But Walker was one of just two members recorded as present but not voting. The other, Rep. Pete Oldham, D-Forsyth, was attending a funeral in Winston-Salem on Thursday and said yesterday that he forgot to ask to be excused from the day's session. Oldham said he would have voted for the tax plan, which members debated for two hours on the House floor. "No doubt about it," he said. Eight other members - including Rep. Bill Hiatt, R-Surry - were granted excused absences for Thursday's session. Walker was recorded as voting on every bill on the House calendar except the tax bill. "I was sitting there for two hours and hadn't moved ... and I got up and went to the bathroom and got me a Coke and missed the vote," Walker said. "I had no intention of missing the vote whatsoever.... I would have voted for it." Walker said that he was anguished last week over an earlier version of the sales-tax plan that would have raised sales taxes across the state to 7 percent for a year. Walker, who spent 18 years as a Wilkes County commissioner, told commissioners from Alexander County, which he also represents, that he would vote for the earlier plan. But he was also pressured by fellow Republicans to vote against it, and he remembered that he had signed the pledge not to raise taxes. So he voted against the earlier plan. "I changed my mind," he said last week. "I hate that I made remarks and then changed my mind.... It was almost like lying to them." Hill, of Citizens for a Sound Economy, said yesterday that he wants to know why Walker missed the vote this week. "I sure didn't take a walk, and I don't intend to skirt anything. They can believe it or not.... I intended to make up for my vote before," Walker said, referring to the vote against the earlier plan. "I hate I missed a vote, but you know, I can't change that now." A final House vote on the tax package is scheduled for Monday night. Among Republicans present for the vote Thursday, 27 voted for the tax package and 26 voted against it. House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, said that the Republican caucus didn't bind its members to a particular position. "A lot of our members wanted to help local governments. They were glad to see a compromise reached between local governments and the Democrats," Daughtry said. "And some of our members were against raising taxes." Though the latest plan doesn't raise sales taxes, Citizens for a Sound Economy considers it a tax increase, Hill said, because it would raise corporate taxes and put off $51 million in tax relief - an increased tax credit for children and elimination of the so-called "marriage penalty" for couples. "It's a tax increase any way you cut it," he said. As for putting off tax breaks that legislators approved last year for families, "It was definitely a promise that they made," Hill said. "Those were the people who need it the most." Walker faces a primary contest with Roger Smithey, a former Wilkes County commissioner and former chairman of the Wilkes GOP. Smithey said yesterday that Walker should have been there for the tax vote. "You should be there regardless," Smithey said. "I'm not going to shirk my duty. I'm not going to walk on anything. "If you're there, you should be present unless you're sick or have an excuse to be absent," he said. "You shouldn't walk."

07/27/2002
U.S. Consumer and Business Groups Applaud WTO Decision Against Duties On Canadian Softwood Lumber Imports Essential for …
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U.S. Consumer and Business Groups Applaud WTO Decision Against Duties On Canadian Softwood Lumber Imports Essential for …

Consumer and business group representatives applauded today's preliminary ruling by a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel that countervailing duties imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department on Canadian softwood lumber imports should be overturned. A final WTO decision on the countervailing duties is expected next month and could be subject to three months of appeals. "This is a significant victory for consumers and affordable housing in the U.S.," said Susan Petniunas, a spokesperson for the American Consumers for Affordable Homes, an alliance of 18 large national associations and companies. "The U.S. lumber companies once again have lost their argument that Canadian lumber is subsidized. We urge the Bush administration to accept this decision and to end its appeals and challenges in the WTO or in NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). The duties are totally unfair to consumers, and painful for home buyers." Canada has filed similar appeals against the duties with NAFTA, which is not expected to rule until next February. If allowed to stand, the countervailing duties, along with anti-dumping duties subject to a separate appeal, would average 27.2 percent and could add more than $1,000 to the cost of a new home, and price as many as 300,000 families out of the housing market. "While $1,000 may not sound like much to some people, for many families trying to buy a home for the first time, it can make a decisive difference between being able to qualify for a mortgage, or not," Petniunas said. "The time has come for the Administration to recognize that these duties hurt our need for affordable housing, and for jobs within lumber consuming industries." Because there are not enough trees available to produce lumber for home building in the U.S., Canadian lumber imports are absolutely vital for the construction of affordable new homes and to make improvements on existing homes in America. The U.S. relies on Canada and other sources for approximately 37 percent of the lumber it needs. Led by International Paper, Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple Inland and southern landowners, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports filed petitions with the U.S. Commerce Department more than a year ago alleging that domestic lumber producers had been harmed by Canadian softwood lumber imports and asking for countervailing and antidumping duties. The International Trade Commission approved the Commerce Department's action, and duties were imposed at the end of May. More than 110 members of the U.S. House and Senate have signed resolutions or written letters to President Bush over the past year opposing duties and indicating their support for free trade in lumber between the U.S. and Canada. "Since 1983, some of the large U.S. producers and landowners have periodically charged Canada with subsidizing its lumber industry, and they have consistently lost when Canada has appealed preliminary decisions," Petniunas said. "We believe they will continue to fail on this round of reviews."

07/26/2002
Brief Biographies of GOP Insurance Candidates
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Brief Biographies of GOP Insurance Candidates

Republican candidates for insurance commissioner: NAME: David J. Powell. AGE: 56. HOMETOWN: El Dorado. EDUCATION: Undergraduate degree in education, University of Nebraska, 1968. EXPERIENCE: Taught high school math and economics for 10 years; has operated insurance agency and financial consulting and planning service for 25 years in El Dorado. PERSONAL: Married, with grown son and daughter; has coached El Dorado High School divers for 25 years. NAME: Sandy Praeger. AGE: 57. HOMETOWN: Lawrence. EDUCATION: Undergraduate degree in education, University of Kansas, 1966. EXPERIENCE: Health care consultant; served on Lawrence City Commission, 1985-89; mayor of Lawrence, 1986-87; member, Kansas House, 1991-92; member, Kansas Senate since 1992; chairwoman, Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee since 2001. PERSONAL: Married, two children. NAME: Bryan Riley. AGE: 37. HOMETOWN: Wichita. EDUCATION: Undergraduate degree in economics, Kansas State University, 1987; graduate degree in economics, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1989. EXPERIENCE: Worked for conservative research group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Washington, 1989-96, starting as a policy analyst and rising to director of budget policy; executive director, Kansas Public Policy Institute, 1996-98; Republican nominee for insurance commissioner, 1998; operates long-term care insurance business in Wichita. PERSONAL: Single.

07/26/2002
President Bush Nominating Reagan's Former Budget Chief and FTC Chairman to Postal Service Board
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President Bush Nominating Reagan's Former Budget Chief and FTC Chairman to Postal Service Board

President Bush is nominating James Miller, a former Reagan-era budget director and Federal Trade Commission head, to the board of governors of the U.S. Postal Service. The nine-year term on the body, similar to a board of directors of a corporation, would expire near the end of 2010. The Senate must confirm Miller to the post. Miller was the head of the Office of Management and Budget under former President Reagan, from 1985 to 1988. From late 1981 to 1985, he chaired the FTC after a brief stint as associate budget director. He now is affiliated with Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group that advocates lower taxes and less government.

07/26/2002
Texas Textbook Debate Has National Implications
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Texas Textbook Debate Has National Implications

NBC (7/25, story 5, Brokaw) reports, "In the midst of summer vacation when kids are taking a break from textbooks, a battle over those books is at a boiling point now in Texas. At issue, whether the books slant the truth. And the outcome could affect what your kids end up reading come homework time." NBC (Tibbles) adds, "What you're watching is a debate over what high school students in Texas should be reading in school." For "years, conservative groups have complained many books contain a liberal slant." Chris Patterson of Texas Public Policy Foundation was shown saying, "There is still the political correctness and the whitewashing and the bleaching of our history that needs to be addressed." NBC adds, "What kinds of things do they want changed? According to the foundation, one high school history book says - 'The Kennedy brothers played key roles in the civil rights movement.' The criticism - 'This is excessive, as they spent as much time frustrating it as helping.' Another example? 'Tourists and fur traders shot buffalo for sport.' The criticism - 'Once equipped with repeating weapons, plains Indians overhunted and engaged in hunting for the sport of it as well.' So, why is this important in the $4.5 billion textbook industry? Because Texas is the second largest buyer in the country. So whatever books the Texas school board approves, will likely wind up being used in classrooms from Alaska to Arkansas. But critics of these groups charge them with hijacking the text in the textbooks." Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network was shown saying, "What the right wing would like to do when it comes to history textbooks is essentially stop the clock at 1950." NBC adds, "Dr. Dan Chiras had his advanced science textbook rejected because it stated, among other things, that 'over 100 million Americans are breathing unhealthy air.' The Texas public policy foundation called that an exaggeration, misleading and 'shocking vitriol against Western civilization.'" Chiras was shown saying, "Even though the opposing viewpoints were often presented as well, they disagreed with those, and then went on a witch hunt to find -- basically burn this book at the stake." NBC adds, "The Foundation also succeeded in having this line removed from another altogether. 'Most experts on global warming feel that immediate action should be taken to curb global warming.' But these groups say all they want is for kids to get the best education possible." Peggy Venable of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy was shown saying, "Isn't it ludicrous that when parents and citizens get involved, review textbooks and testify on concerns they have, that a group wants to call it censorship?" NBC adds, "A heated debate that raises the question -- how much influence should politics have in the education of millions of American children?"

07/26/2002
Critics Charge Right Wing Influencing the Textbooks Used in Schools
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Critics Charge Right Wing Influencing the Textbooks Used in Schools

BY Kevin Tibbles

JENNIFER LEWIS-HALL, anchor: There's a new debate over what high school students should be reading in class. Parents and other citizens in Texas have been targeting various textbooks, accusing them of containing messages with a liberal slant. And as NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports, any changes in that state's books would likely affect students across the country. Unidentified Woman: My request would be that no book be approved unless it clearly defines 'republic.' KEVIN TIBBLES reporting: What you're watching is a debate over what high school students in Texas should be reading in school. For years, conservative groups have complained many books contain a liberal slant. Ms. CHRIS PATTERSON (Texas Public Policy Foundation): There still is the political correctness and the whitewashing and the bleaching of--of our history that--that needs to be addressed. TIBBLES: What kinds of things do they want changed? According to the foundation, one high school history book says, 'The Kennedy brothers played key roles in the civil rights movement.' The criticism? 'This is excessive, that they spent as much time frustrating it as helping.' So why is this important in the $4 1/2 billion textbook industry? Because Texas is the second-largest buyer in the country. So whatever books the Texas School Board approves will likely wind up being used in classrooms from Alaska to Arkansas. But critics of these groups charge them with hijacking the text in the textbooks. Ms. SAMANTHA SMOOT (Texas Freedom Network): What the right wing would like to do when it comes to history textbooks is essentially stop the clock at 1950. TIBBLES: Dr. Dan Chiras had his advanced science textbook rejected because it stated, among other things, that 'over 100 million Americans are breathing unhealthy air.' The Texas Public Policy Foundation called that an exaggeration, misleading and 'shocking vitriol against Western civilization.' Dr. DANIEL CHIRAS ("Environmental Science" Author): Even though opposing viewpoints were often presented as well, they disagreed with those, and then went on a witch hunt to find--to--you know, to--basically, to--to burn this book at the stake. TIBBLES: But these groups say all they want is for kids to get the best education possible. Ms. PEGGY VENABLE (Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy): Isn't it ludicrous that when parents and citizens get involved, review textbooks and testify on concerns they have, that a group wants to call it censorship? TIBBLES: A heated debate that raises the question: How much influence should politics have in the education of millions of American children? Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Dallas.

07/26/2002
Sculptures In Photo Open a Textbook Cover-Up Case
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Sculptures In Photo Open a Textbook Cover-Up Case

BY Terrence Stutz

AUSTIN - The male sculptures atop the New York Stock Exchange building facade have never looked so - clothed. The publisher of a new economics textbook for Texas schools has decided that nude male sculptures are inappropriate for high school students - even the ones that adorn the nerve center of U.S. business and commerce. On the cover of Holt, Rinehart and Winston's new high school economics book is a photograph of the front of the New York Stock Exchange, including the sculptured relief that rests on top of the building's marble columns. Some of the actual male figures in the relief are naked - but not in the photograph, which depicts the sculptures covered with skirts. Inside the book, a smaller picture shows the male images as they really are - au naturel. A spokesman for Holt, Rinehart and Winston played down the book cover, noting that the sculptures in question are less than an inch high in the photograph. "It wasn't a big issue with us. We considered this a minor change," said Rick Blake, vice president of communications and government affairs for Harcourt Education, which owns Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Mr. Blake said the book's editors wanted the well-recognized entrance to the stock exchange building on the cover because it is such a "strong image," particularly for students studying the U.S. economy. At the same time, he said, they felt that "nude figures on the cover of a high school textbook was not such a good idea. There would always be the temptation for kids to damage the cover." The company has received no complaints about the book cover. "As things now stand, we have no plans to change it," Mr. Blake said. A group that has accused social conservatives of censoring textbooks said the altered photograph should come as no surprise. "The flap over the statues may be humorous, but the power that would-be censors hold over Texas textbooks is dead serious," said Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network. "For decades now, a handful of activists from the far right have had a stranglehold over textbook approval in Texas. Because they can credibly threaten to raise a stink and have a book rejected, some publishers are turning to self-censorship to appease these groups." Taking issue with the freedom network was Peggy Venable of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, a conservative organization whose members have reviewed textbooks under consideration this year. "I don't know of anyone who has even mentioned this book," Ms. Venable said. "But it is true that textbook publishers are paying more attention to citizens and parents because we are their customers. "When teachers and a small elite group like the Freedom Network squeal about our efforts, it just means they have lost control of the situation," she said. The high school economics textbook is one of several proposed social studies books up for adoption in Texas this year. The State Board of Education will make a final decision in November.

07/26/2002
Battle Over Whether Right-Wing Groups In Texas Have Too Much Influence Over Textbooks Used In the Schools In That State
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Battle Over Whether Right-Wing Groups In Texas Have Too Much Influence Over Textbooks Used In the Schools In That State

BY John Burnett

MADELEINE BRAND, host: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand. It's textbook time in Texas. The state has begun its highly politicized process of selecting public school books. Texas, California and Florida buy more textbooks than any other states, and therefore have a big influence on the books used by students nationwide. For the past 30 years, social conservatives have had an increasing influence, prompting critics to charge that publishers are self-censoring. NPR's John Burnett reports. JOHN BURNETT reporting: The cover of a proposed high school economics textbook under consideration by the Texas State Board of Education bears the photograph of the famous pediment above the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange. But in the marble tableau, two of the male sculptures, agriculture and science to be exact, have loincloths drawn over their usually exposed genitalia. The publisher, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, says it doctored the picture because the nudity was, quote, "inappropriate." But veteran observers of textbook showdowns in Texas say this is the latest example of how far publishers will go to get a book past the easily shocked eyes of conservative textbook reviewers. The censored economics book was one of 150 stacked in the corner of a hearing room in Austin last week. The State Board of Education seeks public comment on new textbooks before it selects a pool of books to pass along to the state's 1,100 individual school districts. Unidentified Speaker: I think we're about ready to begin. Let me go over a couple of ground rules for the participants. BURNETT: Battles over textbook content are legendary in Texas, but the stakes are even higher this year. The state is expected to spend a third of a billion dollars on new school books next year, and the subject is social studies, which, unlike algebra or Latin, is ripe for interpretation. Ms. CHRIS PATTERSON (Director of Education Research, Texas Public Policy Foundation): There really is a politically correct body of history, of social studies, that you find in every single textbook. BRAND: Chris Patterson is director of education research for a conservative think tank in San Antonio called the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Ms. PATTERSON: There's always a noble native, there's always a bad white European. And it's always the European who created slavery. BRAND: To get an idea of how organized the right is, this year, Patterson's group will spend at least $100,000 for a team of 16 teachers and academics to comb through the textbooks. So far, their comments fill 1,700 pages. And that's just one group. Eight other conservative organizations, such as the Eagle Forum and Citizens for a Sound Economy, have formed a coalition to vet the books. At the hearing, volunteer editors for these groups stepped up to the mike all day to pound the publishers. Unidentified Woman #1: On page 56, under the heading 'Christianity and the Teachings of Jesus,' the Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ is not mentioned as a core tenet of Christianity. Unidentified Woman #2: Another problem that I found with The Western Experience by Glencoe, McGraw-Hill, is they talk about Karl Marx as the most influential social and political thinker in the history of man. Unidentified Woman #3: We are a republic, founded on biblical principles. Unidentified Man: And there's even a picture of Osama bin Laden in the Glencoe text. The Koran and all of its teaching is violent, it's expansionistic and I think it's a crime and a shame to mislead our students. BURNETT: Much of what the self-appointed textbook editors do is catch errors of fact. Two examples this year: That Thomas Jefferson wrote the US Constitution--it was actually a collaborative effort--and that John Marshall was the first chief justice of the US Supreme Court. It was John Jay. But the reviewers also look for perceived ideological bias, which they contend is written into the textbooks. Two recent examples: Last year, the Education Board rejected an environmental science textbook on the urging of conservative groups who contended the book exaggerated the problems of global warming. They called the book 'anti-free enterprise' and 'anti-Christian.' And this year, a publisher has already withdrawn a US history book, in part because the board chairwoman, Grace Shore, a Republican, objected to the statement that 'In the late 19th century, there were perhaps 50,000 prostitutes west of the Mississippi.' Ms. GRACE SHORE: And I don't think that was something that needed to be emphasized so much, because you do have to pick and choose what goes in a book. BURNETT: The textbook review movement did not spring up overnight. It grew out of the work of a couple in Longview, Texas, Mel and Norma Gabler. After tussling with textbook publishers for 40 years, they've learned to laugh off their critics. Ms. NORMA GABLER: I don't know what a right-wing extremist is. I haven't figured that out. Mr. MEL GABLER: Well, every one of our Founding Fathers, almost without exception, would be considered a right-wing extremist today. BURNETT: Mel is a former oil company work who's 87 years old. His 79-year-old wife Norma was a housewife before she taught herself to be a textbook activist. They live in a modest house filled with seashells collected from around the world and lots of textbooks. They're devout Southern Baptists, who believe their faith has called them to battle the dark forces and sloppy editors that corrupt the books read by Texas schoolchildren. Mr. GABLER: Nearly everything where they give problems, the solution is not individuals or free enterprise. The solution is almost always big government. In other words, government becomes god in people's mind, that are pretty well indoctrinated with socialism. BURNETT: But can history be truly objective, divorced from the values of its author? Does truth belong to one political ideology or the other? And does truth change from state to state? This is Penny Langford, speaking for Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Ms. PENNY LANGFORD (Spokeswoman for Ron Paul): I heard just a few minutes ago that maybe we were replacing liberal bias with conservative bias. This is a conservative state. And is it conservative or is it truth? BURNETT: In 1995, concerned by how a few conservative groups dominated the Education Board, the Texas Senate, including moderate Republicans, passed a law restricting the power of the board over textbook content. But little has changed since then. In fact, conservative proofreaders have begun communicating their concerns directly to publishers outside the public hearing process. Samantha Smoot is director of the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group in Austin. Ms. SAMANTHA SMOOT (Director, Texas Freedom Network): The issue that goes beyond this year's approvals is really about self-censorship. It's about the religious right in Texas becoming so powerful in their threats to have books banned at the State Board of Education that the publishers are willing to accept their changes and their censorship before the books are ever presented in this public forum. BURNETT: As the longest-serving member on the State Education Board, Mary Helen Berlanga says for 19 years she has watched as publishers increasingly acquiesce to conservative critics. Berlanga is one of five Democrats on the 15-member elected board dominated by Republicans. Ms. MARY HELEN BERLANGA (Texas State Education Board): And quite frankly, I don't blame publishers. They're going to do whatever it takes to get their books adopted. Who do you have to make happy? That's who I'm going to make happy. But in the process, we are destroying the selection process... BURNETT: Publishing company officials at the hearing refused to comment for this report. Their local lobbyist, Joe Bill Watkins, said while it's true that publishers would like to sell the Texas editions in as many states as possible, publishers are not willing to make any change just to please Texas conservatives. Mr. JOE BILL WATKINS (Publishing Company Lobbyist): But do they do anything? No. There have been publishers who have said no and walked away from the table before. But you can imagine that is something a publisher does reluctantly because they have basically made 80 percent to 90 percent of their entire investment by this point in time. BURNETT: The chairwoman of the State Education Board, Grace Shore, rejects the notion that the textbook selection process in Texas has become the captive of one interest group. Ms. SHORE: I'm proud of our system. I think it works. And I think it would be censorship if we did not have this process. Our process brings everything out in the open. BURNETT: Perhaps, board members suggest with a smile, one group is using democracy better than the other. Mainstream citizens have the right to speak out, too. For instance, last week, a large number of Latinos criticized the Texas history books for omitting important contributions of Hispanic Texans. 'Don't get mad,' said one board member. 'Get organized.' John Burnett, NPR News, Austin. BRAND: It's 11 minutes before the hour.

07/26/2002

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