Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Day Gary Vaynerchuk Rocked My Internet Marketing World

a 32 year old self-trained wine expert who is revolutionizing the wine industry. His webcast, "The Thunder Show" on www.winelibrarytv.com, attracts over 60,000 viewers each day and his email queue typically holds 1,000 messages from obsessed fans, self-named "Vayniacs." His roots in wine tasting come honestly -- his Russian immigrant parents owned a liquor store when he was growing up. Bored at the cash register, Gary began reading "The Wine Spectator and books about wine and baseball cards collection. With a wealth of knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit, Gary spent every weekend of his college years at his parents' store, rebranding the family business as Wine Library and establishing himself as a respected expert. Inspired by sites such as youtube.com and facebook.com, Gary leveraged technology to reach an untapped audience. His daily 20 minutes webcasts caught the attention of a demographic new to wine and eager to learn. Within a short time, beer sales were outpaced by wine and Gary was spotting wine at Giants Stadium tailgate gatherings and Super Bowl parties. While his youthful following broke down barriers in the wine industry, the business world (and Web 2.0) admired Gary for creating a new generation of branding, focusing on the internet.

Strategic Profits Live Day 3-5
There is no doubt that Gary Vaynerchuck rocked the Strategic Profits Internet Marketing Conference. I would like to share with you my learnings that rocked my world:

1. He encourages all Internet Marketers to give ALL their content for FREE instead of ethically tricking people to share a FREE report expecting sales on the backend with higher priced products. Give value to readers, give information for FREE but market the hell out of it!

2. Content is King, Marketing and PR is the Queen and we all know who runs the household. This concept alone paid for my entire trip to the Strategic Profits event. For the next 3 years, the internet game will be a combination of your web 2.0 social media knowledge and skills in Internet Marketing. I have spent all of my time learning from the best and only from the best. I do hope I can share with all Filipinos out there.

3. Be a BIG part of the conversation. This is tough and requires hard work that not all internet marketers would embrace. You need to leave comments on all the blogs of people, answer every email, and empower readers to interact with your brand. Gary responds to each and every email that he receives ( about 1,000 messages/ day) !

4. Legacy > Currency. Live and strive to work on your legacy NOW. Don't wait to grow old and waste your time with things that are not important in life. I love Gary for this quote and this is also how I want to live my life. I want to dedicate my life in leaving a legacy in the Philippines.

5. Follow your heart. Love Everyone. This is my motto from now on and I encourage all of you to follow what your heart's desire. God planted seeds of holy discontent in your heart and I know you can hear it. It is up to you if you want to follow your heart. Make that decision today!

Strategic Profits Live Day 3-11
It was cool to see him record a live show of Wine Library TV!! Cool :) This was the end of the New Beginnings conference and thanks to Rich for inviting Gary to close the conference.

Strategic Profits Live Day 3-15
After the conference, most of the internet marketers still wanted to ask a lot of questions to Gary. I learned so much from the conversations and this shaped the way how I would run Our Awesome Planet campaign.

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Detained And Harassed At Walmart For Not Showing A Receipt

Reader J was detained and harassed by some Walmart employees on his way out of the store the other day. J had already put his receipt inside his wallet after purchasing a $25 shower rack when a Walmart employee demanded to see his receipt. J declined and continued exiting the store. That's when things got weird. First, he was grabbed by a Walmart employee, then another customer started pushing him back inside the store.
Yesterday (2-28-08) late afternoon I bought a $25 shower rack at the Wal-mart in [redacted] New Hampshire, and then tucked the receipt safely inside my wallet so I wouldn't lose it in case I had to return the item. The cashier did not bag the shower rack, so after I was done at the register I picked up my item and headed for the door. As I was approaching the door, the receipt checker Bob said, "Do you have your receipt?" To which I responded, "Yes, it's in my wallet" and I kept walking towards the door. Behind me, I could hear him yell "Sir! Sir! I need to see your receipt!", but being an avid Consumerist reader, I knew I didn't need to stop, so I kept walking. Bob ran up in front of me and stood between the slider doors, blocking my exit and budging me back inside. Appalled that the Wal-mart employee had just touched me, I said "excuse me", but Bob refused to budge, demanding again to see my receipt. I attempted to walk around him, but he kept stepping in front of me, and I would bounce off of him. Now, I was bigger than Bob, but I didn't wish to get physical and blow the situation out of proportion.
At this point however, a random male customer came to Bob's assistance blocking the exit and pushing me back inside. The customer, who was bigger than me, told me to show Bob my receipt. When I refused, the customer responded with "Maybe I'm a cop". So now I have Wal-mart employee Bob and a customer impersonating a police officer physically blocking my exit and budging me back inside when I try to press by them. I was scared. I repeatedly asked the two of them if I was free to go, to which Bob said, "No, you need to show me your receipt." At this point a female employee shows up (I think her name was Cindy) and joins in telling me that I need to show my receipt. The police officer-impersonating customer disappears at this point, but Bob is still physically rebuffing my attempts to exit.

I argue with the female employee for a while, getting nowhere, but for some reason Bob FINALLY stops pushing me back when I try to walk past him, and at this point I consider my illegal detainment to have ended. As I am outside the store and about to walk away, the female employee says something to the extent of "Fine, we'll just write down your license plate number and tell the police you were shoplifting!"

Now, due to the nature of my work, I cannot get in trouble with the police, and any arrest, regardless of my guilt, could cost me my job. So at this point, I responded to her with "Are you kidding!!?? You're going to lie to the police?" She shrugged, and walked back inside. I followed her, demanding to know what her name was, and although she didn't tell me, I think her nametag said "Cindy".

Currently standing back inside Wal-mart near the exit, I whipped out my cell phone and called 1-800-Walmart, and reported what just happened to someone at corporate. At this point there was a lot of onlookers because of the commotion, and I was extremely embarrassed. Anyways, I pulled out my receipt in order to read the person at corporate the store number, and I could see the look of surprise on the other employees' faces. The corporate phone jockey took my name, number, and said someone would get back to me. After I hung up, I switched my phone to camera mode, looked at Bob who was still standing a few feet away from me, said "Smile, Bob", and snapped his picture (attached).

At this point, General Manager David arrived on the scene, and told me that I can't take pictures of his employees, that it's a violation of their privacy (Hah!). I explained to David what just went down, and how it was not acceptable for his employees to lay their hands on me and to threaten me with making a false police report. I was actually surprised with the following discussion I had with David, who was nothing but professional and sympathetic. He understood how completely wrong his employees were, claimed that he'd review the security cameras (yeah right), and that his employees definitely needed some "retraining". I thanked David for understanding, shook his hand, and went home.

I'm still waiting for the call from corporate. Wal-mart needs to understand just how much is at stake when their employees illegally detain customers. Their employees are literally putting their lives on the line. What happens when a customer is carrying for self-defense and fears for his life when a Wal-mart employee illegally detains him? Is it really worth it, Wal-mart?

I'm considering making a police report about the situation, but I'm not sure I want Bob arrested. Sure, I think that what he did was criminal, but he was just a below-average-intelligence, under-paid, and under-trained employee trying to do his job. Should I make the report?

Yikes! All that for a shower rack? Why didn't the employee put one of those "sold" stickers on the stupid thing so that they wouldn't have to launch a criminal investigation as you walked to your car? We don't pretend to know the mind of Walmart, but we're pretty sure their policy isn't to attack their customers and file false police reports about them over a $25 shower rack.

Bob probably will not be arrested if you file a police report about the incident. If you were thinking of filing a lawsuit against Walmart for their behavior, you'd need to file one to use as evidence, but you didn't mention that in your letter.

A formal complaint to Walmart is appropriate. If you file a police report, include it with your complaint. These employees obviously had no idea that what they were doing was wrong and are in need of some guidance. We're surprised to hear a story like this from New Hampshire. Aren't you guys supposed to be all "Live Free or Die?" Did the Walmart employees not get that memo?

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U.S. launches missile strike in Somalia

By Sahra Abdi Ahmed

KISMAYU, Somalia (Reuters) - Two missiles hit a house in southern Somalia on Monday, in an attack the United States said was directed at "a known al Qaeda terrorist".

It was the fourth U.S. strike in 14 months on Somalia, where Washington believes Islamists are giving shelter to wanted al Qaeda figures.

"This attack was against a known al Qaeda terrorist," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington.

"As we have repeatedly said, we will continue to pursue terrorist activities and their operations wherever we may find them," he said, declining to provide details of the operation.

Residents of Dobley, a remote Somali town 220 km (140 miles) from the southern port city of Kismayu on the Kenyan border, said they believed the missiles were targeting senior Islamist leaders meeting nearby.

Dobley district commissioner Ali Hussein Nur said six people were killed. A local politician, who had visited the scene and who asked not to be named, said only three were wounded.

A militant Islamist organization, the Mujahideen Youth Group, said in a posting on a Web site often used by al Qaeda and its supporters that the U.S. attack had "failed to hit leaders" of the group.

A senior U.S. official said it was too early to know what damage had been inflicted, or whether there were any casualties.

The Somali politician said Sheikh Hassan Turki, a local militant cleric, and other leaders of a militant Islamist group from Mogadishu were meeting. The Islamists have been waging an insurgency against Somali government forces.


"The town is very tense. People have started fleeing because they fear there might be more attacks," he said.

A man in Kismayu, who said the house that was hit belonged to him, told Reuters his daughter was among the wounded and four of his cows had also been killed in the attack.

"We do not know whether the missiles were fired by the American AC-130 plane which is still flying over the city. All we know is they dropped from the sky," Mohamed Nurie Salad said.

He said he was returning to Dobley to assess the damage, which he had been told about over the telephone.

On January 8, 2007, a U.S. AC-130 gunship struck Islamists in southern Somalia in Washington's first overt military action there since pulling out of a U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission in 1994 after the "Black Hawk Down" incident.

That attack, and another with the same kind of aeroplane shortly thereafter, struck Islamists fleeing from Ethiopian and Somali troops who cornered them in southern Somalia during a two-week war to rout the militant movement.

On June 21, a U.S. Navy ship fired missiles at Islamist fighters and foreign jihadists hiding in the mountains in the northern Puntland region.

The United States accuses Somali Islamist insurgents of harboring al Qaeda fugitives responsible for planning and executing the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

In Mogadishu, several civilians were killed by soldiers patrolling the Somali capital's main market on Monday.

"Four men were killed by stray bullets," Ali Mohamed, head of the Bakara market traders' committee, told Reuters. Witness Abdi Nur said he only saw two civilians dead.

In the southern town of Bur Hakaba, at least five people including the local police chief died in clashes between suspected Islamists and government forces, a resident said.

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High-speed rail is finally coming to America. However it's Argentina and not the United States that will be the first Amercian country to build a high-speed rail system and join the modern age of transportation.

The popularity of high-speed passenger rails is picking up in cities throughout the world. Latin America, Europe, and China have big plans to construct or expand such rail systems in the near future.

From the International Railway Journal:

Argentina has shocked the world by deciding to build the first high-speed railway in the Americas. Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV) in Italy looks set to be the world’s first open-access high-speed rail operator. China has unveiled its first 300km/h train and started to award contracts for its huge Beijing-Shanghai high-speed project.

These events look set to have a profound impact on the future development of high-speed rail and give it a major boost. They could also pave the way for a major revival in intercity rail travel in parts of the world that haven’t seen long-distance passenger trains for decades.

In Argentina, newly elected President Christina Kirchner, wife of former President Nestor Kirchner, is rallying behind high-speed rail systems as an alternative, efficient mode of transport, and, unlike most politicians, she’s putting her money where her mouth is. Kirchner signed a $1.35 billion contract with a consortium led by Alstom, a French company, to construct a 440 mile (710 km) high-speed rail system that would connect the country's major cities. According to TreeHugger, the train will eventually cut travel time between Buenos Aires and Cordoba from fourteen hours to three hours.

Apart from the planned rail project, Kirchner intends to build a 28km electrified railway tunnel through the Andes to Chile, which would link the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the continent. The rail project has already been approved, though the tunnel risks being beaten out by a highway project in Buenos Aires.

Brazil is also planning a network of inter-city rail systems between Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.

High speed rails have also taken hold on the other side of the world, with China leading the East.

From the International Railway Journal:

In Asia, China has been putting a tremendous and increasing effort into developing its long-distance passenger services. A series of so-called speed-ups have cut journey times substantially. Construction of a huge high-speed network is underway, and as I write this work is about to start on the massive Beijing-Shanghai project.

China has also unveiled its first home-produced 300km/h train - 250km/h trains in the CRH series are already in service. Increasing technical expertise in all spheres of high-speed rail will make China a force to be reckoned with in the rapidly expanding high-speed rail market.

Others, like Russia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia are making preliminary plans to implement high-speed rail systems.

Despite its big-budget and high-tech innovations, North America is woefully behind the rest of the world when it comes to introducing high-speed trains
—and, really, transit systems, in general. In the West, it seems we love our carbon-belching cars too much to invest in fast, affordable, and efficient modes of transit—instead freeways. If North America were to follow suit and make mass transit more convenient, commuters might be more likely to hop onboard with the rest of the world.

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Mexico Abruptly Restricts Car Imports

Mexico Abruptly Bans Imports of Most Used Autos, Causing Panic Among South Texas Dealers

HIDALGO, Texas (AP) -- Some are dented, scratched and rusty. Others rattle and belch under faded paint jobs. But the "'98" soaped onto their windshields and a surprise change in Mexican import rules have turned a single year's worth of used cars into pick of the used-car lot.

Beginning Monday, only cars made for the 1998 model year -- none older and none newer -- can be legally imported into Mexico. Car dealers were given notice only a month ago.

Until now, used cars 10 to 15 years old were scooped up at auction by South Texas used car dealers and rapidly sold to Mexicans hungry for affordable transportation and "la novedad" -- or novelty -- of unfamiliar makes and models.

Cars newer than that were banned from imports as unwelcome competition for Mexican car dealers, and anything more than 15 years old was seen as a potential environmental and safety hazard.

But now, under pressure from Mexico's new car dealers who say "vehiculos chatarra," or jalopies, undercut their sales, the Mexican government is allowing only 10-year-old used cars to be legally imported into Mexico.

All of a sudden, 1998 Luminas, Astro vans and Ranger pickups are sought-after trophies.

The Mexican Association of Automobile Distributors, which pushed for the change, said it was needed to "stop the accelerated conversion of our country into the world's biggest automotive garbage dump."

The Mexican Consulate in McAllen said the change was made "to restrict the entry of vehicles that compete with the Mexican car industry."

A mile north of the Rio Grande, 80 percent of the customers at Walester Auto Sales are Mexican. But this past week, only one out of the 24 cars on the dirt lot boasted the magic "1998."

That vehicle was a white Chevrolet Blazer with a "Redneck" sticker on the windshield and a vanity plate of a silhouetted couple embracing in front of a tropical sunset. It was priced at $3,200.

With the sudden change in demand, such 1998 models are appreciating for the first time since they rolled off the lot, their prices rising by $500 to $800, while dealers cut prices on slightly older models in a frantic effort to move them out before Monday's deadline.

"At this point we have a lot of merchandise that was going to Mexico that now will stay," said Elena Garcia, who owns Walester with her husband, Armando Garcia, who was in Florida scouring auto auctions for more vehicles.

At Gutierrez Brothers, a few Mexican car dealers milled about, shaking their heads at the limited selection.

"The worse thing we can do is buy something that we don't know if it can go across (the border)," Juan Gutierrez said. "If a 1997 worth $3,000 can't cross, it's not even worth $1,500."

He had to unload about 1,000 cars last month at sharply reduced prices just to avoid getting stuck with them in March.

Gutierrez said his buyers at auto auctions across the country tell him that when a 1998 rolls into the garage, 20 buyers line up where there used to be a handful.

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What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?

High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids don't start school until age 7.

Yet by one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules. Finnish youth, like their U.S. counterparts, also waste hours online. They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade they're way ahead in math, science and reading -- on track to keeping Finns among the world's most productive workers.

Finland's students are the brightest in the world, according to an international test. Teachers say extra playtime is one reason for the students' success. WSJ's Ellen Gamerman reports.

The Finns won attention with their performances in triennial tests sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group funded by 30 countries that monitors social and economic trends. In the most recent test, which focused on science, Finland's students placed first in science and near the top in math and reading, according to results released late last year. An unofficial tally of Finland's combined scores puts it in first place overall, says Andreas Schleicher, who directs the OECD's test, known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The U.S. placed in the middle of the pack in math and science; its reading scores were tossed because of a glitch. About 400,000 students around the world answered multiple-choice questions and essays on the test that measured critical thinking and the application of knowledge. A typical subject: Discuss the artistic value of graffiti.

The academic prowess of Finland's students has lured educators from more than 50 countries in recent years to learn the country's secret, including an official from the U.S. Department of Education. What they find is simple but not easy: well-trained teachers and responsible children. Early on, kids do a lot without adults hovering. And teachers create lessons to fit their students. "We don't have oil or other riches. Knowledge is the thing Finnish people have," says Hannele Frantsi, a school principal.

Visitors and teacher trainees can peek at how it's done from a viewing balcony perched over a classroom at the Norssi School in Jyväskylä, a city in central Finland. What they see is a relaxed, back-to-basics approach. The school, which is a model campus, has no sports teams, marching bands or prom.

Fanny Salo in class

Trailing 15-year-old Fanny Salo at Norssi gives a glimpse of the no-frills curriculum. Fanny is a bubbly ninth-grader who loves "Gossip Girl" books, the TV show "Desperate Housewives" and digging through the clothing racks at H&M stores with her friends.

Fanny earns straight A's, and with no gifted classes she sometimes doodles in her journal while waiting for others to catch up. She often helps lagging classmates. "It's fun to have time to relax a little in the middle of class," Fanny says. Finnish educators believe they get better overall results by concentrating on weaker students rather than by pushing gifted students ahead of everyone else. The idea is that bright students can help average ones without harming their own progress.

At lunch, Fanny and her friends leave campus to buy salmiakki, a salty licorice. They return for physics, where class starts when everyone quiets down. Teachers and students address each other by first names. About the only classroom rules are no cellphones, no iPods and no hats.

Fanny's more rebellious classmates dye their blond hair black or sport pink dreadlocks. Others wear tank tops and stilettos to look tough in the chilly climate. Tanning lotions are popular in one clique. Teens sift by style, including "fruittari," or preppies; "hoppari," or hip-hop, or the confounding "fruittari-hoppari," which fuses both. Ask an obvious question and you may hear "KVG," short for "Check it on Google, you idiot." Heavy-metal fans listen to Nightwish, a Finnish band, and teens socialize online at irc-galleria.net.

The Norssi School is run like a teaching hospital, with about 800 teacher trainees each year. Graduate students work with kids while instructors evaluate from the sidelines. Teachers must hold master's degrees, and the profession is highly competitive: More than 40 people may apply for a single job. Their salaries are similar to those of U.S. teachers, but they generally have more freedom.

Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs," says Mr. Schleicher, of the Paris-based OECD, which began the international student test in 2000.

One explanation for the Finns' success is their love of reading. Parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes a picture book. Some libraries are attached to shopping malls, and a book bus travels to more remote neighborhoods like a Good Humor truck.

Ymmersta school principal Hannele Frantsi

Finland shares its language with no other country, and even the most popular English-language books are translated here long after they are first published. Many children struggled to read the last Harry Potter book in English because they feared they would hear about the ending before it arrived in Finnish. Movies and TV shows have Finnish subtitles instead of dubbing. One college student says she became a fast reader as a child because she was hooked on the 1990s show "Beverly Hills, 90210."

In November, a U.S. delegation visited, hoping to learn how Scandinavian educators used technology. Officials from the Education Department, the National Education Association and the American Association of School Librarians saw Finnish teachers with chalkboards instead of whiteboards, and lessons shown on overhead projectors instead of PowerPoint. Keith Krueger was less impressed by the technology than by the good teaching he saw. "You kind of wonder how could our country get to that?" says Mr. Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, an association of school technology officers that organized the trip.

Finnish high-school senior Elina Lamponen saw the differences firsthand. She spent a year at Colon High School in Colon, Mich., where strict rules didn't translate into tougher lessons or dedicated students, Ms. Lamponen says. She would ask students whether they did their homework. They would reply: " 'Nah. So what'd you do last night?'" she recalls. History tests were often multiple choice. The rare essay question, she says, allowed very little space in which to write. In-class projects were largely "glue this to the poster for an hour," she says. Her Finnish high school forced Ms. Lamponen, a spiky-haired 19-year-old, to repeat the year when she returned.

At the Norssi School in Jyväskylä, school principal Helena Muilu

Lloyd Kirby, superintendent of Colon Community Schools in southern Michigan, says foreign students are told to ask for extra work if they find classes too easy. He says he is trying to make his schools more rigorous by asking parents to demand more from their children.

Despite the apparent simplicity of Finnish education, it would be tough to replicate in the U.S. With a largely homogeneous population, teachers have few students who don't speak Finnish. In the U.S., about 8% of students are learning English, according to the Education Department. There are fewer disparities in education and income levels among Finns. Finland separates students for the last three years of high school based on grades; 53% go to high school and the rest enter vocational school. (All 15-year-old students took the PISA test.) Finland has a high-school dropout rate of about 4% -- or 10% at vocational schools -- compared with roughly 25% in the U.S., according to their respective education departments.

Another difference is financial. Each school year, the U.S. spends an average of $8,700 per student, while the Finns spend $7,500. Finland's high-tax government provides roughly equal per-pupil funding, unlike the disparities between Beverly Hills public schools, for example, and schools in poorer districts. The gap between Finland's best- and worst-performing schools was the smallest of any country in the PISA testing. The U.S. ranks about average.

Finnish students have little angstata -- or teen angst -- about getting into the best university, and no worries about paying for it. College is free. There is competition for college based on academic specialties -- medical school, for instance. But even the best universities don't have the elite status of a Harvard.

Students at the Ymmersta School near Helsinki

Taking away the competition of getting into the "right schools" allows Finnish children to enjoy a less-pressured childhood. While many U.S. parents worry about enrolling their toddlers in academically oriented preschools, the Finns don't begin school until age 7, a year later than most U.S. first-graders.

Once school starts, the Finns are more self-reliant. While some U.S. parents fuss over accompanying their children to and from school, and arrange every play date and outing, young Finns do much more on their own. At the Ymmersta School in a nearby Helsinki suburb, some first-grade students trudge to school through a stand of evergreens in near darkness. At lunch, they pick out their own meals, which all schools give free, and carry the trays to lunch tables. There is no Internet filter in the school library. They can walk in their socks during class, but at home even the very young are expected to lace up their own skates or put on their own skis.

The Finns enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, but they, too, worry about falling behind in the shifting global economy. They rely on electronics and telecommunications companies, such as Finnish cellphone giant Nokia, along with forest-products and mining industries for jobs. Some educators say Finland needs to fast-track its brightest students the way the U.S. does, with gifted programs aimed at producing more go-getters. Parents also are getting pushier about special attention for their children, says Tapio Erma, principal of the suburban Olari School. "We are more and more aware of American-style parents," he says.

Mr. Erma's school is a showcase campus. Last summer, at a conference in Peru, he spoke about adopting Finnish teaching methods. During a recent afternoon in one of his school's advanced math courses, a high-school boy fell asleep at his desk. The teacher didn't disturb him, instead calling on others. While napping in class isn't condoned, Mr. Erma says, "We just have to accept the fact that they're kids and they're learning how to live."

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