Monday, December 10, 2012

Artist's painting removed from Atlanta airport

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 9:13 AM

The painting Voter Suppression was displayed in the airports T Gallery as part of a group exhibition
  • Vinnie Sherfield
  • The painting "Voter Suppression" was displayed in the airport's T Gallery as part of a group exhibition
An artist whose work was displayed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is crying censorship after his work was removed by the air hub's officials.

Vinnie Sherfield submitted two paintings as part of a group exhibition sponsored by the National Arts Program in the airport's T Gallery. Both works were approved by airport officials, he says. One week later, however, he says he was told that one of the works would have to be taken down and replaced with a different painting.

The piece, titled "Voter Suppression," depicts a prison-cell scene in which a shackled, blindfolded man tries to cast a ballot that's clutched between his teeth in a voting box out of his reach. Above him hangs the blade of a guillotine. Rays of light shine on the man from a small barred window. A large American flag is painted on the opposite wall and bleeds on to the floor. The work, Sherfield tells CL, is a "visual representation documenting the Cost of Freedom and those who paid the price for it."

The Douglasville-based artist says he's worked with "countless numbers of young adults who were oblivious to the struggles and sacrifices that have been made throughout history for the right to vote - and how important it is to continue to exercise that right." He says voter suppression is real.

Sherfield says "numerous airport employees and [Transportation Security Administration] workers" told him when he took down the painting that they were "outraged and even saddened" that the artwork was being removed.

"I was very disappointed to know that the world's largest airport that sees thousands and thousands of people on a daily basis would remove a painting from an art exhibit because one or two people made a negative comment about it," he tells CL. "I find it ironic that a painting about voter suppression is being suppressed in a country where one of our fundamental rights is freedom of speech. If freedom of speech exists in America, it certainly does not exist at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport."

An airport spokesman this morning offered the following comment: "The Airport Art Program staff, who have complete discretion regarding works displayed in the National Arts Program Employee Art Exhibit, made the decision to replace Sherfield's painting with another of his works after complaints from passengers that the first piece was disturbing. The staff discussed the decision with Sherfield, who agreed to give them an alternative piece."

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Grady Hospital officials reveal nine-month data breach with its EMS patient records

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 5:52 PM

Grady Memorial Hospital announced this afternoon that an estimated 900 EMS ambulance service patients may have had personal information stolen this year.

The data breach occurred after an employee of Advanced Data Processing, Inc., a company which handles the hospital's ambulance billing system, illegally stole thousands of patients' data nationwide from numerous hospitals, including Grady. According to hospital spokeswoman Denise Simpson, some personal records were compromised between mid-January and mid-October.

"Some Grady EMS ambulance service patients are being notified that selected personal information may have been stolen," she said in a statement.

Personal medical records were not exposed in security violation, but patient records including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth were disclosed over the course of that nine month period. To help patients, the billing company has offered victims one year's worth of free credit monitoring and has taken action against its former employee.

"With [ADPI's] help, the authorities identified the employee who admitted to the crime," a company spokeswoman says. "The employee was immediately terminated."

ADPI is also continuing to work with law enforcement officials, who are still trying to figure out if their former employee used this data in an illegal manner. No charges have been filed at this time.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Charges of 'institutional racism,' possible grade changing fuels North Atlanta High School drama (Update)

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 5:24 PM

Over the past month, Erroll Davis has taken plenty of flak over what's happened at North Atlanta High School. The Atlanta Public Schools interim superintendent, who swiftly replaced the Buckhead school's leadership without any initial explanation, has been scolded by parents and students throughout the community. The APS board even postponed deciding whether his contract should be extended until December.

But as more and more details emerge, it's beginning to seem like a good idea to look into the school.

The Buckhead Reporter recently obtained an anonymous letter suggesting that the high school's rigorous International Baccalaureate program "promoted institutional racism." Specifically: that black students received lower grades than white counterparts for equal work and that some of the teachers in the high school's college prep office — called the "College Zone" — were racists.

The letter's newsworthy because Mark Mygrant, the former NAHS interim principal, publicly suggested he was fired because of allegations that he hired two racist employees. However, when asked if those rumors played into the firing of Mygrant and other school officials, an APS spokesman told CBS Atlanta that Davis made the moves so that "the new principal, Dr. Howard Taylor, [could] choose his own team."

Mygrant, who has denied wrongdoing and promised that he wouldn't ride off quietly into the sunset, has since hired our favorite Buckhead attorney Glenn Delk to uncover the truth about his dismissal as well as the racism claims.

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

APS board postpones decision over Interim Superintendent Erroll Davis' contract

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Superintendent Erroll Davis

Atlanta Public Schools met yesterday to discuss interim superintendent Erroll Davis' contract. After a private three-hour meeting, the board opted to push back their decision on whether or not he should become APS' permanent superintendent.

This postponement comes on the heels of Davis' swift replacement of North Atlanta High School's leadership earlier this month. His moves outraged community members, and ultimately led to a contentious meeting held at the high school two weeks ago, in which Davis publicly explained his decisions to approximately 900 teachers, parents, and students.

Continue reading »

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Atlanta has a problem with public corruption, yet another study says

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 11:16 AM

Last March, a report indicated that Georgia ranked last among states defending against public corruption. Now, there's even more statistical evidence supporting that trend.

The AJC, who has analyzed federal crime statistics from over the past decade, recently confirmed the city's longstanding penchant for public corruption.

According to their findings, convictions have increased so much in the metro area's federal judicial district that it currently ranks among the nation's most dishonest. In looking at these convictions compared to the country's 93 federal districts, they found that:

- The number of convictions in the Northern District of Georgia, which includes metro Atlanta, rose sharply from just 6 in 2006 to 32 in both 2010 and 2011.
- The district ranked 51st in the country in corruption convictions in 2006. But in 2010 and 2011 it ranked 6th out of 93 districts.
- For the 10-year period from 2002 to 2011, the Northern District of Georgia saw 181 public corruption convictions, 22nd among the 93 districts. It trailed such famed corruption capitals as New Jersey (429 convictions), Chicago (370) and South Florida (284).

Law enforcement officials told the AJC that this doesn't necessarily mean that corruption has increased, but rather it may possibly shed light on their improved abilities to catch offending public officials. That's certainly a nice way of spinning the story.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

APS superintendent meets with North Atlanta High School community to discuss leadership change

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis upset quite a few people over the weekend — far more than he probably imagined — in making quick and sudden changes to North Atlanta High School's leadership.

Since the initial announcement, outraged parents and students had demanded an explanation, prompting Davis to meet with an estimated 900 community members.

"I am not here to bash this school. This school has great potential,” Davis said, talking about the changes for the first time. “From 2007 to 2011, this school did not make AYP. Now, it is an NI-4 school, which means under some level of state monitoring and reporting."

"[The] graduation rate.. is at 62 percent, seventh from the bottom at APS," he continued. "This is not what I want for APS. This is not where we need to be. It means we are failing four out of every 10 of our children."

According to the AJC’s Maureen Downey, who live blogged the entire meeting, Davis answered approximately 60 questions from parents and students for nearly two hours. Many inquired about the unforeseen leadership shift — to which the superintendent pointed to the school’s "middle of the pack" performance.

"I don’t want that to be the standard for North Atlanta High School," Davis said. "With the kind of commitment, with the resources that are available in this community, this school should be at the head of the pack.”

“We are moving into a $100 million dollar facility next year,” he added. “I want our performance as a system and as a school to be on that level as well.”

Continue reading »

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Emory College's administration misses the point with latest statement

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Emorys communication remains one-sided, despite attempts for it to be otherwise.
  • Max Blau
  • Emory College's communication remains one-sided, despite attempts for it to be otherwise.
It's quite evident that many of you disagreed with the stance I took in my column last week, which looked at some of the potential benefits within Emory College's discretionary cuts. While we may disagree on some of the issues pertaining to these shuttered programs, there's no question that the administration's communication continues to be reprehensible.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bank of America faces continued discriminatory allegations, this time in Atlanta

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Bank of America is feeling the heat once again for engaging in discriminatory practices against minorities — reportedly now in the Atlanta area.

Local non-profit organization Metro Fair Housing Services, alongside the National Fair Housing Alliance, has filed a complaint against Bank of America after the corporation allegedly failed to maintain their distressed properties in several minority neighborhoods across the country. The groups claims that because of the bank's inaction — which has affected parts of Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Oakland, Washington D.C., and numerous other communities — they should be held responsible for their part in sustaining what they believe to be a form of racial segregation.

Metro Fair Housing Services Executive Director Gail Williams released a statement about the claim this week, saying:

The way Bank of America has treated its homes in Atlanta’s communities of color has led to depressed housing values and loss of wealth for the residents and the city. That's money that could have been used to support public services like roads and police or for families to use toward their children’s education. Bank of America has done a huge disservice to Atlanta and it's time for some accountability.

According to both organizations, Bank of America's real-estate-owned (REO) properties in black communities has had far more maintenance and marketing issues than compared with their properties in white neighborhoods. In response, the corporation issued their own statement yesterday:

While we share NFHA’s concern about neighborhoods, we strongly deny their allegations and stand behind our property maintenance and marketing practices. Bank of America is committed to stabilizing and revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the economic downturn, foreclosures and property abandonment. We actively address the needs of such communities through existing programs, partnerships with non profits and governments and continued investment in innovative programs.

This isn't the first time that the corporation has found itself in trouble over controversial practices. In Dec. 2011, the U.S. Justice Department ordered Bank of America to pay $335 million on behalf of Countrywide Mortgage — a mortgage lender that the bank purchased in 2008. The settlement came on the heels of an investigation over the company's racially biased practices.

"These allegations represent alarming conduct by one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country during the height of the housing market boom," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said during a press conference regarding Bank of America's settlement last December.

This week's NFHA discrimination complaint is the third against a financial corporation this year. The two others — against Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp — are both still pending.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Despite providing accurate data, Emory University maintains college ranking

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Emory University Administration Building
  • Mav/Wikimedia Commons
  • Emory University Administration Building
U.S. News & World Report announced their 2013 Best Colleges rankings today, naming Emory University as the 20th best undergraduate institution for the second year in a row. In doing so, the magazine confirmed that, for the first time in more than a decade, Emory did, in fact, submit accurate student data.

Last month, the university admitted that they falsified their performance statistics between 2001 and 2011, which many publications relied on for their college rankings. Upon acknowledging that they misreported data, which ranged from overstating student test scores and class rankings as well as excluding some information on lower-ranking students, the school went on to conduct an "internal investigation of the discrepancies."

In a press release this morning, Provost Earl Lewis commented about the latest rankings:

An education at Emory University is the sum total of many distinguished components that are difficult to aggregate and rank in one numerical grade.

Whatever 'marks' we might be assigned by others, Emory by any measure is one of the world's leading centers of discovery and learning.

Emory University's mishap has tied them to the growing institutional trend of performance misrepresentation, recently including Claremont McKenna College, Iona College, Villanova University, and the University of Illinois. While some anticipated a drop in the rankings once the school provided accurate figures, today's report shows that they probably didn't need to fudge the numbers in the first place.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Emory University fudged student data to wow groups that rank schools

Posted By on Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Annnnnd more scandal. Emory University today said it intentionally misreported students' performance data for more than 10 years to federal researchers and groups that help provide stats for those annual lists of top-notch schools. Laura Diamond sums up the misdeeds quite well:

- Used admitted students' SAT/ACT data instead of enrolled students since at least 2000. This overstated Emory's test scores.

- May have excluded the scores of the bottom 10 percent of students when reporting SAT/ACT scores, GPAs, and other information. This practice was not followed after 2004.

- Overstated class rankings.

Two former university officials were "aware" of the misreporting. According to the school, "[t]he individuals involved are no longer employed by Emory." University officials have rolled out several changes that they think will prevent data misreporting from happening again.

To its credit, the university's being very upfront about the scandal. They've even produced a handy, we-are-very-angry-with-ourselves-at-the-moment guide to the whole debacle.

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