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Teacher Shortage Leaves Districts Furiously Trying to Fill Vacancies

The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.

Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years.

Here in Guilford County, N.C., turnover had become so severe in some high-poverty schools that principals were hiring new teachers for nearly every class, every term. To staff its neediest schools before classes start Tuesday, recruiters have been advertising nationwide, organizing teacher fairs and offering one of the nation’s most generous recruitment bonuses, $10,000 to instructors who sign up to teach Algebra I.

“We had schools where we didn’t have a single certified math teacher,” said Terry Grier, the schools superintendent. “We needed an incentive because we couldn’t convince teachers to go to these schools without one.”

Prosecution of Liberia’s Taylor Languishes

When Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, was arrested 17 months ago onwar crimes charges and ordered to face international judges, it was heralded as a milestone for justice in Africa.

His trial, the first war crimes trial for an African president, was due to start in April.

But having barely begun, the case has already lost its momentum. Last Monday, hearings were postponed for the fourth time this year, and the court is now set to reconvene in January.

The latest disruption was the result of Taylor’s dismissal of his court-appointed lawyer, Karim Khan. His new lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, told the court that his team needed at least four months to study the 40,000 pages of evidence already before the court. And he said that Taylor’s personal archives, about 50,000 pages, had only just surfaced and needed to be examined.

The delays have caused much finger pointing about who at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone is most to blame.

The responsibility is variously pinned on the judges for trying to schedule the complex case with undue haste, on the court administration for being inept and short of funds, or on Taylor — who has denied all criminal charges — for stalling.

‘South Park’ Creators Win Ad-Sharing in Digital Deal

In March, the season premiere of “South Park” began by barging into typically risque territory, with a squirm-inducing bit about the taboo of using a racial epithet.

To Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators and executive producers of “South Park,” Comedy Central’s most lucrative franchise, the clip ought to have been blazing its authorized way around the Internet, picking up ad revenue with every set of eyeballs. Instead, the clip was easy to find, but it wasn’t making any money for its owners.

“If I’m overseas and have to get an episode right away,” Stone lamented, “you literally have to go to an illegal download site.”

Because of the slow entry into the digital realm of Viacom, Comedy Central’s parent, and an almost crippling deal point in Stone’s and Parker’s contract, the mordantly funny series has barely had a presence as an avalanche of user-generated entertainment hit the Web. Meanwhile, sites like YouTube met the demand for free “South Park” clips without paying for the privilege.

Now, however, Stone and Parker and their bosses at Comedy Central, a unit of Viacom’s MTV Networks, are attempting to leapfrog to the vanguard of Hollywood’s transition into the Web. In a joint venture that involves millions in upfront cash and a 50-50 split of ad revenues, the network and the two creative partners have agreed to create a hub to spread “South Park”-related material across the Net, mobile platforms, and video games.

Humane Society Has Its Sights On Amazon.Com

Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback, is expected to plead guilty Monday to federal dog-fighting charges and face up to five years in prison, but the Humane Society of the United States has a bigger target: Amazon.com.

The online bookstore sells subscriptions to two cockfighting magazines, The Feathered Warrior and The Gamecock, even though cockfighting has been declared illegal in all states. (Until Louisiana’s ban takes effect next summer, the activity remains legal in parts of the state.)

After trying in vain to persuade Amazon to stop selling the publications, the Humane Society filed a civil lawsuit in District of Columbia Superior Court asserting that the Web company violates animal cruelty laws and that the magazines, which run advertisements for blades that attach to birds’ legs, are effectively catalogs for illegal goods.

But Amazon says the suit amounts to censorship. “These materials are legal to sell, and we do not believe we should act as a censor because their message is objectionable to some people,” said Patty Smith, a spokeswoman for Amazon, adding that her company sells subscriptions to more than 90,000 magazines. “With our incredible selection of titles, we’re bound to sell something that someone will find objectionable.”