Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is it really important for university students to attend classes?

Attendance Issues Plagues Indian Universities too By Kevin Stoda, an American who has taught at universities in Asia, the Americas, and Germany. In test-driven educational settings, like in Japan and Korea, attendance in university classrooms has historically been de-emphasized or neglected historically. Only recently have some Asian countries begun to see the light as to lost-time-on-task for language and theoretical acquisition. In the Middle East and in Europe, especially in Germany, lack of attendance of university classes by students has been an issue for decades (if not centuries). Now, I have learnt it is also an issue in India. See link: Attendance issues flare up again at Delhi University In the 1980s, I studied in Germany and discovered that there was a very big problem with attendance and seriousness in classroom studies. I have since taught in Oman, the UAE, and Kuwait–where very big attendance problems adversely affect foreign language acquisition–even at universities that have the primary teaching language as English ( a foreign language for most). The central European attitude was that the good student studied a lot on their own and in teams. This is somewhat the case in the Middle East but has proven unsuccessful as an approach to learning in every Gulf State I have taught at. The whole lack of time-on-task spent practicing the target language has killed achievement levels at many Gulf State universities. In many American universities and private universities in Mexico, attendance is taken much more seriously. This has led to greater improvements by students in a shorter prior of time. This emphasis on study and practice-time mandated in the USA classrooms may be one reason why USA universities are appealing to foreign students from across the globe. The emphasis on attendance is high in Indian schools but not at the tertiary level. Perhaps, the Indian students who are missing more than 30% of their classes need to reflect on why so many of their peers go to the USA to study, i.e. the culture of studying is more serious (and costly). What is your slant? Is it really important for university students to attend classes?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thought for the Day from the Middle East: Surra 109.6 Despite specifically strong Koranic texts demanding tolerance of Muslums towards other faiths, some so-called Islamic leaders and states ignore the Koran and call for the destruction of churches, temples,and peoples of other faiths. Get back to the source, please. :::::::: Is each person be free to believe as he or she wishes? (109:6) “Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.” CONTEXT: 109: The Disbelievers 109:1 Say: O disbelievers! 109:2 I worship not that which ye worship; 109:3 Nor worship ye that which I worship. 109:4 And I shall not worship that which ye worship. 109:5 Nor will ye worship that which I worship. 109:6 Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion. NOTE: A sura (also spelled surah, surat; Arabic: سورة‎ sūrah) (pl. Arabic: سور‎ suwar) is a division of the Quran, although it can be approximately referred to as a chapter. The term chapter is sometimes avoided, as the suras are of unequal length; the shortest sura (Al-Kawthar) has only three ayat (verses) while the longest (Al-Baqara) contains 286 ayat. An ayat means “verse” in the Koranic text. This thought for the day was looked up & noted in the wake of the abusive misinterpretation of the Quran by a so-called Grand Mufta in Saudi Arabia last month. Perhaps the Grand Mufti should resign and apologize or be replaced. what do you think?

Sunday, April 22, 2012


This is the most important conversation, America. Get talking and get demanding and get marching.--KAS Part 2: Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on Growing Up Poor, Occupy Wall Street and Trayvon Martin Cas In part two of the DEMOCRACY NOW interview, Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West discuss growing up in working-class households. “I saw so much poverty growing up,” says Smiley, who lived with 13 family members in a three-bedroom trailer and learned that even when he was not optimistic, he could be hopeful. “Hope needs help,” Smiley notes. West recalls how he worked with the Black Panthers to organize a general strike while growing up in Sacramento, California, in order to push for African-American studies programs in local high schools. Looking at current events, Smiley and West cite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that “war is the enemy of the poor” and compare the amount of money spent in Iraq and the 2012 presidential campaign to funding for programs that assist the one in two Americans who are now poor. They also discuss the Trayvon Martin case and react to Ted Nugent’s potentially threatening comments about President Obama at the recent National Rifle Association meeting. Click here to see Part 1 of this interview. AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, as we continue with our conversation with PBS broadcaster, NPR broadcaster, Tavis Smiley, and Princeton University professor and preacher, Cornel West. They have written their first book together, though they have written many books separately, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. You know, this is your first book together, and I was wondering if you could each talk about your own lives, because you talk about each other’s lives in the beginning of the book. But Tavis, talk about where you grew up and the circumstances, your family. TAVIS SMILEY: Let me just say, given that I regard Dr. West as the leading public intellectual in our nation, that I regard him as a Du Bois of our time. For all the good work we’ve done together for 25 years, nothing has delighted me more than to have my name on the cover of a book next to his name, because I so love and respect and revere Cornel West and his contributions to this great nation and the world, for that matter. So, to get a chance to sit and write a book with him, where we bring our shared experiences and individual experiences to bear on a topic like poverty, was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. And our upbringings are very different. We are brothers connected at the heart. We grew up in very different environments. He can speak about his own. But I grew up as one of 10 kids. I’m the eldest of 10 kids, grew up in a three-bedroom trailer, my seven brothers and me in one bedroom, my two sisters and my maternal grandmother, Big Mama, in the second bedroom, and my mother and father, Joyce and Emory Smiley, in the third bedroom—13 people in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom trailer. That’s how I was raised, in a trailer park with all white people. We were the only black family for miles around in this white trailer park. The good— AMY GOODMAN: Where? TAVIS SMILEY: In Indiana, North Central Indiana. The good news about that is I learned at an early age that we can get along, if I could take Rodney King’s question and answer it: yes, we can get along. America is a nation where black and white and red and brown and yellow can come together for the sake of making America a greater democracy. So I’ve always believed in the best of America. In that sense, I resonate with Martin’s dream, rooted in the American Dream. I resonate with Dr. King in that regard. On the other hand, though, I saw so much poverty growing up, because I lived that story growing up. And I’ve been fortunate, and I’ve been blessed. And the short answer is, I know that, even when we can’t be optimistic—and Doc makes this point all the time—even when we can’t be optimistic, we can always be hopeful. And I’m a witness, I’m an example, that you can build an entire life on hope. As I’ve gotten older, though, I realize, though, that hope needs help. And those of us who have the platform and have the opportunity to speak for those who don’t have a voice, Doc and I believe and argue in the book, that is, the telling of truth that allows suffering to speak, so that the suffering is never heard, much less addressed, if those of us who have platforms, like Democracy Now!, don’t raise our voices to speak out on their behalf. That’s why I celebrate what you do and celebrate the opportunity to do this book with Dr. West. JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Cornel West, the amazing thing about this is that poverty is no stranger to either of you. Talk about your upbringing. CORNEL WEST: Well, I didn’t grow up in the same kind of poverty this brother did, though. He was broke as the Ten Commandments financially. We had some flow of resources, you know what I mean? It was more working class, lower middle class. But most importantly, we were spiritually rich. We were morally rich. Irene and Clifton, my parents, my brother Cliff, my sisters Cynthia and Cheryl. I’m the father of Zeytun and Cliff and grandfather of Kalen. I’ve lived an extremely blessed life, even though I come out of that—both stable working class, lower middle class. When I met this brother, we decided—what, 25 years ago? AMY GOODMAN: You grew up in Sacramento. CORNEL WEST: Sacramento, California, yeah. It was 25 years ago, I say, “We are going to live and die to keep alive the legacy of Martin King and Fannie Lou and [inaudible]— AMY GOODMAN: You were fighting from when you were in school. You were what? President of your class, but fighting to include African-American studies? CORNEL WEST: Yeah, we had a general strike, absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: What year was it? CORNEL WEST: That was 1969. We shut the whole— AMY GOODMAN: And why did you strike? CORNEL WEST: —city down to make sure they had black studies in every high school, who wanted it. We weren’t authoritarian to coerce everybody, you know. But already, you know, we had been set on fire by not just Martin King, but I was working closely with the Black Panther Party, as a Christian, of course. We had wonderful tensions, but I was working the breakfast program, working with them every day trying to ensure they had black studies. And so, when Tavis and I come together, he’s from Kokomo, Indiana—Sacramento, California—boom! King legacy 2012, in our own feeble way. I mean, you know, we’re just doing what we could do before we die. JUAN GONZALEZ: And we’ve been covering extensively on Democracy Now!, when you talk about fighting for black studies in the schools, the battle in Arizona in Tucson over the state legislature passing a law— CORNEL WEST: Oh, yeah, absolutely. JUAN GONZALEZ: —that essentially bans Latino studies in the city of Tucson in the public schools there. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: And the books that are the heart of the curriculum. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, and they banned the books that are the curriculum. CORNEL WEST: But as you point out in your magisterial text, old brother, in some ways, that’s a compliment, because when the powers that be want to suppress the truth, we know truth crushed to earth shall rise again. The truth is dangerous. JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. CORNEL WEST: The truth is—pushes people against the wall. AMY GOODMAN: You both, in your book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, refer to Dr. King. I wanted to play a clip of Dr. King. You talk about his campaign against poverty. This was the speech he gave not far from here, Riverside Church, April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans. That is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. King, April 4th, 1967. Tavis Smiley, it’s not the speech we usually hear when referring to Dr. King. TAVIS SMILEY: It is the most courageous speech that Martin King ever gave in his life. And for giving that speech, he was demonized. We talk about this in our work. King, in the last poll taken in his life about his acceptance in popularity in the country, 55 percent of black had turned against black people because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Seventy-two percent of Americans across the board had turned against Dr. King because of his opposition to the war. JUAN GONZALEZ: New York Times and the Washington Post editorialized against him. CORNEL WEST: Oh, man. TAVIS SMILEY: They killed him. CORNEL WEST: Basically him a communist, basically called him a communist. TAVIS SMILEY: They absolutely did. They did. That speech is, again, the most courageous speech he ever gave. And there’s one line in that speech—many lines, but one that always resonates with Dr. West and myself, and we talk about it in this book, we quote him in this text: “War is the enemy of the poor.” That’s Martin King. “War is the enemy of the poor.” And the two of you, given the fine work you do here on this Peace Report every day, you understand that. All the resources, the trillion-plus dollars we’ve spent in these military excursions—you can’t even call them “excursions” now, because we’re now—this is the longest war in the history of this country; it’s not an excursion anymore. CORNEL WEST: Invasion, occupation. TAVIS SMILEY: Exactly, without, obviously, an exit strategy. But think of all the money spent there that could have been spent on programs here for the poor, number one. Number two, now that we’re no longer in Iraq, as we once were, at least, how will that money be spent domestically that was being spent in Iraq? And since I’m talking about money, and we’re talking about this campaign for the White House, if Mitt Romney is going to raise, as the papers suggest, about $600 million this time around, Barack Obama last time raised $750 million and will raise more now that he’s an incumbent—I’m no math major—you put those two together, you’re talking a billion-plus dollars. Think of how much money—what that money could be used for vis-à-vis programs in this country. But there’s so much money in our politics, both parties beholden to big business and to corporate America, and that’s not even mentioning all the money now being activated by these super PACs. But just think about all that money to run a campaign for the White House and what that money could be used for. It’s sickening to me, quite frankly. JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the amazing thing to me also is, in the midst of this crisis, all of these governments, both the federal government and the state governments, talking about cutting back expenditures, all aiming at the pension funds, the pension funds of city workers, of teachers, of other folks, a way to actually accelerate the move toward poverty, not to pull it back. CORNEL WEST: That’s right, because then we’ve got to think we know that the austerity cuts just reinforce recession, reinforce depression, make it more difficult to generate demand on the part of working people, having resources to spend even. So this is even within the capitalist framework, it reinforces the race to the bottom, without any serious consideration of not just taxes on the wealthy, but attempts to restructure the economy in such a way that something called “public interest” has real small substance. AMY GOODMAN: And then, what about the crackdown on dissent in this country? CORNEL WEST: Oh, yes. AMY GOODMAN: I mean, we see the report just came out of UC Davis, the—very critical of the administration for the in-the-face pepper-spraying of these students who were protesting tuition hikes. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: You see the encampments of Occupy wiped out around the country. You see police forces in this country—you talk about the war abroad and the billions that go into that—police forces in this country that are getting millions of dollars. They’ve got drones. They’ve got tanks. And then you— JUAN GONZALEZ: The surveillance of the Muslim community, right? By the New York Police Department. CORNEL WEST: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: That’s right, the Associated Press just winning the Pulitzer Prize for exposing the monitoring of the Muslim community. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. You know, I’m very blessed to stand with Brother Christopher Hedges and Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg and others against the U.S. government in terms of this National Defense Authorization Act. We were just in court here, 500 Pearl Street, a few weeks ago, and we’ll come back. Meaning what? Section 1021, 1022: U.S. government has the right to detain persons without trial, without due process, without judicial process, if you are in some way associated with associate forces of terrorist groups or have some connection with terrorist groups. Which means, in the ’80s, I’m going straight to jail, because nobody is going to stop me from being in contact with Nelson Mandela, and he’s on the terrorist list for 20-some years. That’s sponsored by the U.S. government. So that is part of the criminalizing of dissent. And we always know, in the middle of these kinds of cultural and political and outright military wars, truth is always the first casualty. AMY GOODMAN: We have been covering a case that happened on November 19th. This whole country knows about Trayvon Martin, not because in Florida they decided to prosecute the shooter, George Zimmerman, but because, first, people rose up all over the country. TAVIS SMILEY: That’s right. CORNEL WEST: That’s right. AMY GOODMAN: And although the special prosecutor, when she said, you know, “This is not because of outcry; this is because we’ve looked at the facts” — that’s clearly the case, they looked at the facts, but what got it into the hands and the purview of a special prosecutor, what it takes in this country—Juan and I have been looking at this case of a man named Kenneth Chamberlain in White Plains, New York, not far from here, lived in a public housing project, 68 years old. He was a corrections guard, before that a Marine. He was also a heart patient, and he wore a medical alert pendant. He rolled over on it, apparently, or something triggered it at 5:00 in the morning on November 19th. It alerted the life alert company. They couldn’t reach him on the little box in the dining room that, you know, speaks to the person who’s in the room, so they called police, said, “Not a criminal issue. It’s a medical emergency. Get over there.” They got over there. They started slamming on the door, and then they really started slamming. Yes, Chamberlain got up. He said, “I’m OK. I’m OK.” Life alert company called the police, said, “Hey, cancel the call. He’s OK. We are talking to him.” He’s telling the police, “I’m OK. I’m OK.” He’s saying “Semper fi, Semper fi, I’m OK.” They take the door off its hinges. They take a taser gun, and you see the video of the taser gun that the DA now has, and it shows him in his boxer shorts, according to his lawyers and his son. And they tase him. But that was not enough. They then shot him dead, this heart patient. Within an hour, this happened. And this is a case that’s now before a grand jury in White Plains. It hasn’t got as much— JUAN GONZALEZ: It happened in November. AMY GOODMAN: Right, and it finally got to the grand jury many months later. It’s not clear what will happen. Juan, reporting for the New York Daily News, found the name of the police officer who shot him dead, Anthony Carelli. JUAN GONZALEZ: Who also happened to have already a federal case against him for beating up two Muslim brothers in another arrest case, and he’s about to go to trial on that case. CORNEL WEST: Wow. JUAN GONZALEZ: And meanwhile, he’s the one who shot— AMY GOODMAN: And this was very embarrassing to the police, when Juan found the name of the police officer, because it just so happens, on April 23rd, they have sued him. He was calling them “rag head.” We have pictures of their faces beaten. This is the same officer who shoots him dead. And you hear on the tape—by the way, LifeAid was recording everything in the room, because that’s what they do, because they’ve got a patient on their hands. JUAN GONZALEZ: But again, it was only the public uproar—once the family was able to see the tapes, the public uproar that developed afterwards, that even, you know, got to the point now where a grand jury is sitting hearing the evidence, but no guarantee of what’s going to happen. CORNEL WEST: But also, it’s the crucial role of the courageous investigation that the three of you represent. We’ve got three of the most progressive journalists willing to tell the truth, and then allows the information to come to light, then the public outrage. Then the status quo has to respond in some way. And you hope then that rule of law will not be arbitrary, but actually be fair. AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Trayvon Martin and what this case signifies? TAVIS SMILEY: The case you’re referencing now, though, let me just say that—and I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few months, of course—I’m always looking for that proverbial, you know, silver lining inside the dark cloud. And I hope that the Trayvon Martin case, the case that you’ve just referenced now, Occupy movement, reminds the American people that we do have agency, that we do have access and the opportunity to raise our voices, to exercise our right to vote, to take to the streets. And we’re in a moment, as Doc says all the time—and we, again, talk about this in the book—that this really is a moment of fightback. We are in a moment of fightback in this country. And that’s why we said earlier in this conversation that we are on the precipice of losing our democracy. When you start seeing people’s civil liberties sacrificed in the way they are, being sacrificed, to your point earlier, Amy, when you see this kind of dissent, when you see poverty run amok, and half of us are in or near poverty—this democracy is very fragile. It’s very fragile. Doc says all the time, we’ve grown older, and we have grown wiser, but we’ve not grown up, after all the years of being in this democracy. And so, I hope that this moment at least underscores and reminds us that we do have a role to play here, that we do have to raise our voices, again, that we do some agency here. My read of history suggests to me that there’s no empire in the history of the world that at some point did not falter or fail. And for whatever reason, call it American exceptionalism, we don’t even want to think about the fact that we, as a nation, as a democracy, could be right at the edge, could be on the precipice of something very dangerous. But all these examples that we’re talking about right now and the wonderful work that you do here on The War and Peace Report, on Democracy Now!, underscores that our democracy is very, very fragile. And the Trayvon Martin case is just another example. Twenty years after the Rodney King riots in L.A.—I live in L.A., as you know. We’re on that anniversary now. Twenty years ago, our city burned, because we couldn’t get justice with those officers in the Rodney King beating. And we learned from that, apparently. We learned nothing from O.J. And God knows what and if we’ll learn anything from Trayvon Martin. But this democracy is in trouble. And those of us of conscience have got to start—got to start speaking up. AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, Ted Nugent, Romney supporter, NRA activist—this weekend, the Secret Service is investigating him for making potentially threatening comments about President Obama at this recent NRA meeting. TED NUGENT: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. You’re—why are you laughing? You think that’s funny? That’s not funny at all! I’m serious as a heart attack. Isn’t the enemy that ruined America, it’s good people who bent over and let the enemy in. If the coyotes in your living room [expletive] on your couch, it’s not the coyotes’ fault; it’s your fault for not shooting him. So, it’s an important time. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Am I—any questions? AMY GOODMAN: That is NRA activist, Mitt Romney supporter, Ted Nugent. Professor Cornel West? CORNEL WEST: Well, I mean, you know, he’s just—he’s a right-wing crusader, full of a lot of hate, full of a lot of venom, a lot of vitriol. I think even back to Trayvon Martin. We look at the parents, Sister Sybrina, Brother Tracy, dignity. In the face of hatred, love and justice. Nugent, full of a lot of hate. It’s cowardly. It’s spiritually immature. It’s morally backward. It reflects his own insecurity. And yet, that’s very much part what we’re up against. AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us. Professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley— CORNEL WEST: Thank you. We salute both of you, salute both of you. AMY GOODMAN: —have written a book together for the first time, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Thanks so much. TAVIS SMILEY: Thank you. AMY GOODMAN: I know you are busily going on your tour, so thanks so much for stopping by. TAVIS SMILEY: Our pleasure. GUESTS Tavis Smiley, TV and radio broadcaster. He hosts the TV show Tavis Smiley on PBS and two radio shows, The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West, which he hosts with Cornel West. Together they have written the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Cornel West, professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University. He is author of numerous books and co-host of the radio show Smiley & West with Tavis Smiley. Together they have written the new book,The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.

The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. THIS DIRECTLY HAS HURT AMERICAN DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOMS, TOO!

Even though the presidential candidates are leaving poverty off the agenda in 2012, Americans cannot. This conversation (below) from Democracy Now is a must for you to peruse–and to be more informed as a REAL AMERICAN.–KAS Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto” The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. We’re joined by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.” Smiley, an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster, says President Obama has failed to properly tackle poverty. “There seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that,” Smiley says. “I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been primary issue, number one.” West, a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, says that after the historic U.S. struggles against monarchy, slavery and institutionalized racism, “the issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination.” Click here to see part two of this interview. GUESTS: Tavis Smiley, TV and radio broadcaster. He hosts the TV show Tavis Smiley on PBS and two radio shows: The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West, which he hosts with Cornel West. Together they have written the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Cornel West, professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University. He is author of numerous books and co-host of the radio show, Smiley & West, with Tavis Smiley. Together they have written the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to an issue seldom talked about on the presidential campaign trail by President Obama or any of his Republican rivals. The issue is poverty. A recent article in the Chicago Reader described poverty as “the forgotten issue in the presidential campaign.” Census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty or could be classified as low-income. Thirty-eight percent of African-American children and 35 percent of Latino children live in poverty. In February, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney openly declared he is, quote, “not concerned about the very poor.” AMY GOODMAN: We’re now joined by two guests, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who are attempting to start a national dialog on poverty. Last year they took part in a 10-state poverty tour, and they’ve just published a book on the issue called The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Cornel West is a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, author of many books. Tavis Smiley is an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster. He hosts the PBS TV show Tavis Smiley and two radio shows, The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West, which he hosts with Cornel West. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! CORNEL WEST: Thank you. A blessing to be here. TAVIS SMILEY: Delighted to be here. Thank you both for having us. AMY GOODMAN: Well, you are on a whirlwind tour. The title, Tavis, The Rich and the Rest of Us. TAVIS SMILEY: That’s what America looks like right about now. There is this gap between the haves and the have-nots, a growing gap, in fact. When 1 percent of the people control 42 percent—own and control 42 percent of the wealth, that’s a problem. When one out of two Americans is either in or near poverty—you take the perennially poor or the persistent poor, on top of them the new poor—we argue in this book the new poor are the former middle class—and the near poor, folk who are a paycheck away, that’s 150 million Americans wrestling with poverty. Mitt Romney, who Juan referenced earlier, wants to call this the “politics of envy.” But we think it’s about fundamental fairness, and that’s what we’re trying to talk about in the book. AMY GOODMAN: I mean, that’s an astounding figure. I just want to stop and not let it go by. TAVIS SMILEY: I say the same thing. AMY GOODMAN: One in two Americans? TAVIS SMILEY: Exactly. One out of two of us, 150 million people, is either in or near poverty. So, you’ve got half of your democracy fighting to get out or to stay out of poverty. And what we argue in this book is that poverty threatens our democracy and that poverty is a matter of national security, that poverty is no longer color-coded. Americans of all races, all colors, all creeds. As you mentioned, Amy, on our poverty tour last summer, 11 states, 18 cities, we saw all kinds of Americans wrestling with this issue. And finally, we saw on this tour poverty that was so extreme, Juan, that it’s clear to us that a slight uptick in our economy, the kind of which we’re experiencing now, a slight uptick, is not going to do much of anything to really alleviate or to address the kind of poverty that we saw. This poverty is not a character flaw anymore. It’s a societal crisis. JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Cornel West, it was half a century ago that President—another president, Lyndon Johnson, declared a war on poverty. And you, in the book, talk about how that war has progressed, supposedly, or has not progressed. CORNEL WEST: Well, we know, as a result of the social movements, led by Martin Luther King Jr., but connected Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan and others, that we went from nearly 24 percent of Americans living in poverty to 11 percent—Michael Harrington, Frances Fox Piven, others playing a crucial role. Social movements make a difference. But also, greed at the top has social consequences. This is issues of economic injustice, issues of class inequality, 1 percent of the population having 42 percent of the wealth. 2010, the top 1 percent got 93 percent of the income. And we’re not talking about wealth at this point. Income. Now that’s morally obscene. You have 22 percent of our children of all colors, each one precious, living in poverty. That’s an ethical abomination. AMY GOODMAN: Now, we’re not just going to talk about presidential politics; we also want to talk about Occupy. But on the campaign trail, I want to ask about presidential front-runner Mitt Romney. In February—well, at least front-runner for the Republicans. In February, he told CNN’s Soleded O’Brien he’s not concerned with the poorest Americans. MITT ROMNEY: I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: You just said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that? MITT ROMNEY: Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Got it. OK. MITT ROMNEY: The challenge right now—we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and—and there’s no question, it’s not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans. My campaign—I mean, you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans. AMY GOODMAN: All right, there you have it. That was Mitt Romney. Tavis Smiley? TAVIS SMILEY: It was—I recall seeing that when it aired. It was so hard to just intake that comment, because it shows a certain callousness, a cavalier attitude toward the poor. And we argue in this book that the poor in this country are not a priority, in part because of that kind of arrogance and the criminalization and the demonization of the poor. To just say that “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” just uttering that phrase, “I am not concerned about the very poor,” ought to arrest every single one of us, number one. Number two, he says, “if there is a social safety net.” Well, first of all, there ought to be. There ought to be no question of “if there is.” We ought to have a social safety net for those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in poverty. Nobody in this country wants to be poor. And for so many millions of Americans who now find themselves poor, it was not their choice. They didn’t choose to ship their job abroad. They didn’t choose to have their 401(k) raped and pillaged by their employers. They didn’t choose to have a catastrophic illness which bankrupt them. So, Americans are not poor, again, because of character flaws, so many of them. And thirdly and finally, when Mitt Romney suggested he’s concerned about the middle-income America, well, as we said a moment ago, the new poor are the former middle class. So when, in presidential politics, Amy, when Romney and Obama, presumably, will be on the campaign trail this summer talking about the economy and wanting to speak specifically to the angst of the middle class, they have to recalibrate that conversation, because if the new poor, again, are the former middle class, then who are you talking to? We cannot abide another campaign for the White House where the issue of poverty is not addressed, Juan. Very quickly, in the last race for the White House, between Obama and McCain, three presidential debates—we point this out in the text—three presidential debates, the word “poor” or “poverty” does not come up one time. Obama doesn’t utter it. McCain doesn’t reference it. The moderators don’t even ask about it. Fast-forward four years, half of us are in or near poverty. Our democracy is threatened as a result. We can’t have another campaign this year where poverty doesn’t get on the agenda. JUAN GONZALEZ: But interestingly, in the book you mention this Matt Taibbi article where he was—where he was attending a Tea Party gathering and where they were attacking government subsidies, and he noted how many of them had Medicare wheelchairs and how many of the Tea Party people were actually dependent on government but not even recognizing it. CORNEL WEST: That’s right. I mean, that’s what you get in right-wing populism, that on the one hand you have a certain suspicion of elites, but on the other hand, when those elites are still providing programs that support you, you embrace them. But I think there’s a sense in which the words of all of these politicians, of both parties, are superstructural and epiphenomenal. What I mean by that is, we’ve got to keep track of their policies, their deeds, their actions. There’s a sense in which he didn’t need to say that. All you need to do is look at his policies, and you see they have very little concern about poor people, you see. When Barack Obama engages in populist rhetoric — “I love poor people” — where is your policies? “I love investment bankers,” we see your policies. So it’s a real question here of looking at the base, the real, on-the-ground policies, deeds and actions. And that’s true with not just poor people here; look at the innocent civilians, with the drones dropping bombs now, expanded, don’t have to identify, CIA calling for that today. Very clear. “We fight for freedom. We’re concerned about innocent people.” No, you’re killing innocent people in the name of fighting terrorism. That’s a moral issue for somebody like me. TAVIS SMILEY: If I can add a— CORNEL WEST: That’s a— TAVIS SMILEY: If I can add—I’m sorry, if I can add right quick to that, when Doc says that both parties, quite frankly, have been bankrupt in this conversation, starting, first of all, with the language. Our language, our glossary of terminology around this conversation, is so bankrupt. What does it mean to be “working poor”? If you work, you ought not to be poor. Minimum wage? No, how about a living wage? What is a “jobless recovery”? It ain’t a recovery if it’s jobless to the average American. But to Doc’s point about the fact that, beyond the language, both parties have been ideologically lacking in terms of imagination and vision and creativity for putting poor people back to work, just yesterday, the House Republicans in the Agriculture Committee voted, as you know, to tighten restrictions even further on food stamps. Now we already know that there’s a dramatic increase in—Mr. Gingrich’s nasty, vitriolic comment notwithstanding, calling the President the “food stamp president,” we know that more Americans are applying for food stamps than ever before. Feeding America, who we work with, will tell you that more Americans are trying to find food. There is clearly a food insecurity problem, Juan, in this country. And at that very moment, here we now get this austerity conversation underway in Washington, and they start tightening the belt—not on defense, but on food stamps. There’s a problem with that. AMY GOODMAN: O’Reilly on Tuesday, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly—and I know you’ve been on his show—slammed President Obama’s policies on poverty. BILL O’REILLY: In a free society, people have a right to be a moron, and no government can stop irresponsible parenting. So, what is the solution? President Obama believes that the federal government should give money to the poor, hand it right to them, in a variety of ways. Problem with that is that many of the poor will use the money irresponsibly. The high rate of alcohol and drug addiction and other social problems assure a massive amount of waste in the entitlement arena. Americans are the most generous people on earth, but the truth is that income redistribution doesn’t work. For what this Feds spend now on entitlements, every single poor person in America could be handed almost $21,000 a year. AMY GOODMAN: That was Bill O’Reilly, Fox News. Professor Cornel West? CORNEL WEST: Well, we’ve got a section in this book where we talk about the myths and lies told about poor people in poverty. One is that poor people have character flaws and make bad decisions. I know a lot of oligarchs and plutocrats who have character flaws, make bad decisions, and still get bailed out, still have access to healthcare, still have socialism for them, as it were. So, Brother O’Reilly, he just falls right into the right-wing trap in that regard. And he talks about income redistribution. What we’ve seen is the most massive income distribution from poor and working people to the well-to-do. So he’s not against income distribution. It’s just when it’s top-down he’s against it. When it’s bottom-up, he’s all for it, in essence. In fact, he sees it as a natural process of the free market and so forth. So we have to shatter the myths that he’s putting forward. And Brother Tavis and I have been blessed to go at that dear brother directly, face to face and soul to soul. TAVIS SMILEY: On that very issue, as a matter of fact, and he keeps raising that issue about substance abuse. That’s an insult to everyday Americans who have been laid off, been downsized, have lost their homes, have lost their savings, are now just trying to hold on to their dignity. We believe, as Dr. King did, that there is dignity in labor, that there is dignity in working. These are Americans now just trying to hold onto their dignity. With all due respect to Mr. O’Reilly, for him to suggest once again, as he’s been doing consistently, that these are persons who are engaged in substance abuse, I mean, it’s just insulting. Most Americans who are poor right now are not poor because they’re drug users, because they’re alcoholics. They are poor because they don’t have jobs, because of these greedy corporations in the country who are making more money at home, sending more jobs abroad. I was so heartened to see this pushback the other day here in New York by these shareholders about these—about this CEO, CEO pay. AMY GOODMAN: Citigroup. TAVIS SMILEY: I think, to your point, Amy—yeah, Citigroup. To your point, Amy, I think that the Occupy movement is resonating. And this is another example. And I’m glad that the New York Times, at least in their coverage, highlighted and shouted out, as it were, Occupy for their message starting to take hold now, where shareholders and pension plans and other entities invested in these companies are saying, “Hey, enough is enough.” JUAN GONZALEZ: But the complicity, though, as you alluded to earlier, of so many of the commercial media reporters, in terms of not focusing or not raising the issue of the poverty divide in the country in these debates or in investigative articles that look at the various aspects of it, how does—Occupy Wall Street, you feel, has had a major impact on at least awakening the press, it seems to me, in terms of some of these issues? TAVIS SMILEY: I think so. I mean, there’s no doubt about the fact—and Doc and I discuss this all the time—that we are seeing at least more conversation about poverty than we have in a long time. But one of the reasons for that—we talk about in this book—one of the reasons for that, Juan, though, is because poverty, again, is no longer black and brown. There are so many of our fellow citizens who happen not to be black and brown who now find themselves poor, and so these voices are being raised. To your point about Occupy, you know, while it is a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic entity, the overwhelming number of persons who started this and who sustain this happen to be young white Americans. And so, now that we see, again, that poverty is engulfing millions of us, all of us, from California to the Carolinas—again, we saw this on our poverty tour—because so many Americans of all races are being impacted by this, now we see the media starting to take this conversation more seriously. The ultimate question is, can we move from conversation to action? And that’s why, in this book, we talk about a portrait of poverty, how we got here. We talk about the poverty of opportunity, but then, beyond that, a poverty of affirmation, a poverty of compassion, a poverty of truth, a poverty of vision, a poverty of imagination. We shatter these lies told about poverty and the poor. Then we close this book with the real manifesto, which is these 12 points that we think—12 issues that must be addressed immediately and seriously, if we’re going to reduce and eradicate poverty in this country. CORNEL WEST: I mean, to put it in the history of America, that we began after we mistreated our precious indigenous brothers and sisters, subordinated them, genocidal attack. But we had to deal with monarchy, British imperialism. Overthrew the monarchy. Next came slavery. Had to break the back of slavery. Jim Crow and James Crow, slavery by another name. Had to break the back of slavery. The issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination. And we’ve got to coalesce in our critique of oligarchs and oligarchy and plutocracy, without hating oligarchs and plutocrats. JUAN GONZALEZ: So what happened to the “audacity of hope”? CORNEL WEST: Of Barack Obama? JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. And— CORNEL WEST: Well, it’s a wonderful language. He got it from Jeremiah Wright, our dear brother Jeremiah Wright. Jeremiah Wright comes out of a black prophetic tradition that talks about hope, not cheap American optimism. So he borrows the language of Martin King, he borrows the language of Jeremiah Wright and a whole host of others, Fannie Lou Hamer and others—blood, sweat and tears, critiques of oligarchy and critiques of patriarchy and critiques of anti-Semitism, anti-Arab, anti-terror, anti-Latino racism and so forth. So we get these mainstream politicians, these neoliberals, who preserve oligarchic rule, use the language of progressives, and think that somehow they will not be disclosed for what they are: neoliberals still tied to the status quo. AMY GOODMAN: What about President Obama, Tavis Smiley, and where he has gone in this administration, and your criticism of him as he runs for re-election? TAVIS SMILEY: Well, the argument we advance in the book is not that he has done nothing. We don’t advance an argument that he has had a sort of antipathy toward the poor. We simply argue that he hasn’t done enough. And we suggested earlier in this conversation that there seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that. We argue in the book, and I think many Americans agree, that the first priority should have been jobs, jobs, jobs. I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been the primary issue, number one, particularly and especially if the Supreme Court ends up gutting this law by declaring unconstitutional the mandate. The mandate goes, the whole thing collapses, basically, and then we’re back to square one again. So all that time, all that energy and all that effort ends up being for naught. And Americans still, now, don’t have jobs and don’t have access to healthcare in the short run or the long run. And we know that healthcare bankrupts so many Americans trying to just stay alive. They end up with these catastrophic illnesses that end up costing them their homes, their savings and everything else. So we know the role that healthcare plays in this process. The bottom line is that he hasn’t done enough on the issue of poverty. Of that list of 12 things that we say has to be done to reduce and eradicate poverty, one of those things, Amy, one of the 12, is the calling of a White House conference on the eradication of poverty. This is not rocket science. In the vernacular of our conversation today, this really is low-hanging fruit. To your point, Juan, the last time we had a real conversation about poverty from the White House down was during the Johnson years. And there have been Republicans and Democrats, of course, who have occupied the Oval Office since then, but no real commitment to the poor. So what we’re calling for is the next president of these United States to do the same thing that Barack Obama did when he got elected the first time, Amy, when he, first and foremost, signed Lilly Ledbetter, as he should have, to protect women in the workplace. The next president, as his first official act, ought to be the signing of an executive order establishing and calling for a White House conference on the eradication of poverty. Bring all the experts together, and let us create a national plan that all of us are going to engage to reduce and eradicate poverty in this country over a time certain period, 10, 15, 25 years. Now, here’s the bottom line. These plans already exist. Jeffrey Sachs here at Columbia in New York has one. Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund, has one. Catholic Charities has one. Jim Wallis’s Sojourners has one. There are all kinds of institutions and think tanks who have created these plans to reduce poverty in this country, but nobody at the White House level, nobody at the federal government level, has said, “Let’s all get in a room and create a national plan that we’re going to rally around to reduce poverty in this country.” They’ve done it in other countries. Chile comes to mind. Between ’87 and 2009, they went from about 48 percent poverty to 11 percent poverty. And Doc makes the point, and we do in the book, that after the Johnson war on poverty, we reduced poverty in this country. Again, this is not a skill problem; it’s a will problem. We need a national plan to get serious about this issue. AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds. Cornel West, Occupy—I saw you down at Occupy Wall Street, and you traveled around the country. The significance of this movement? CORNEL WEST: Oh, it’s the historic movement, democratic awakening taking place among everyday people straightening their backs up. And it’s a beautiful thing to witness. And it is coming back stronger than ever. And I’m blessed to be there. I’ve got my cemetery clothes on and my jail clothes on and my street clothes on. Even as we write our books, and even as we listen to Richard Wolff talk about Democracy at Work, new important book, Paul Krugman, [End] This Depression Now, new important book, connection of mind, body and soul. AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us. We’re going to do part two, and we’re going to post it on our website at Check it out. The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.

Angele grew up farming peanuts in Cameroon. But when she fled to the United States to escape political upheaval, she left everything behind—including her family’s fertile croplands. With help from the IRC’s New Roots program in New York City, she is growing peanuts again—and radishes, carrots and Swiss chard—and helping other women in her community do the same. As planting season approaches, will you share Angele’s story with someone who loves to see things grow? You've taken the pledge to spread the word about the challenges that women face and the simple solutions, like a community garden, that can help them plant a healthy future. Now, it's time to take the next step. Thank you for giving a voice to Angele and women like her who have escaped conflict and are rebuilding their lives in the United States.

A Black Indian March for Peace, 1861-1862 (Important but forgotten Kansas and Oklahoma History)

A Black Indian March for Peace, 1861-1862 by William Loren Katz As the country celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, one major event has passed unnoticed, though it stands as a massive demonstration of people power harnessed in the cause of peace and justice. It involved thousands of men, women and children of color in a painful and vast exodus to flee the Indian Territory which had fallen into Confederate military control. It began when Creek leaders signed a treaty with the Confederacy that would commit Native Americans to the bloody US conflict. A furious Opothle Yahola, a wealthy Creek, gathered an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people on his huge ranch in the Indian Territory in late 1861. They agreed they must avoid the impending carnage even if it meant uprooting their families and seeking freedom in a northern state. First they hoped the new President would to promise help. Apothle Yahola wrote to Lincoln asking for federal protection saying “now the wolf has come. Men who are strangers tread our soil. Our children are frightened & mothers cannot sleep for fear.” Getting this letter to the Union forces proved almost impossible. Getting Union help in an Indian Territory surrounded by Confederate forces was impossible. Apothle Yahola had more luck when he sent messages into slave communities saying that people who joined him would be considered “free.” Enslaved families and others flocked to his banner — half of the Seminole Nation, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creeks, Choctaw, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Delaware and Commanche. Anticipating a Confederate attack, on November 5, 1861, Opothle Yahola led his “Peace Party” northwest to avoid Douglas Cooper, US Indian agent, who now served as commander of Indian Confederate troops. In two weeks, as the Peace forces circled around recruiting followers, a Confederate army of Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, and white Texas cavalry attacked them at Round Mountain but were driven off. In a second battle, at Chusto Talasah (Caving Banks), on December 19, Peace forces again repulsed another Confederate attack. Then they slipped across the Arkansas River into Cherokee Territory continuing to recruit families. But on December 26, at Chustenahlah (High Shoals) northeast of present-day Tulsa, a third battle that included desperate hand to hand fighting saw superior Confederate forces that included Cherokees overwhelm the Peace Party. The defeated families fled, abandoning wagons, bedding, and clothing. They lost about 900 cattle, 250 ponies, and 190 sheep and took off on foot through a blizzard and one of the worst winters on record toward Union lines in Kansas. Desperate men tried to cover the retreat of their women and children with their few weapons. Said one Seminole leader “At that battle we lost everything we possessed, everything to take care of our women and children with, and all that we had. . . . We left them in cold blood by the wayside.” After a disorderly march, thousands of survivors reached Kansas in January 1862. But along the way many had died and had to be left on the frozen ground to be devoured by wolves. In Kansas Opothle Yahola and his families had to camp without blankets on still frozen ground. He died in a year, knowing he had led a bold exodus for freedom through the winter snows to safety, and after the Emancipation Proclamation changed the war’s direction. In April, as the first buds of spring came through the soil, some 7,600 in his camp were receiving US Army supplies and the young men of color talked of enlisting for the Union. For some men peace no longer seemed the goal. Surviving men of the Peace party, particularly people of African descent, volunteered to form one of first official regiments of soldiers of color in the Civil War. Because most Indians did not speak English, the bilingual African Americans served as interpreters and provided a cultural bridge between the white officers and the Indian soldiers. General Jim Lane, a flamboyant Kansas senator, led these men into battle and they established a unique record. Fighting their way to Kansas, they had participated in the first three battles in the Indian Territory, and their African American and Black Indian men were the first to fight the Confederacy. With the official organization and mustering of the First Indian Regiment in May 1862, the African American members became the first officially mustered into the Union Army. During forays into the Indian Territory in the summer of 1862 they became the first African Americans to take part in official Union combat operations. At the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, on December 7, 1862, they were the first African Americans to participate in a major Civil War battle– and 30 of their members defeated 130 mounted Confederate guerrillas. These brave soldiers went on to fight on the battlefields of Missouri, Arkansas and the Indian Territory, and to free enslaved people. Five years earlier Senator Jim Lane said people of African descent were a connecting link between the orangutan and the human. As General, Lane changed his tune. He proudly announced, “they are the finest specimens of mankind I have ever gazed upon.” William Loren Katz, the author of forty books on US history, adapted this article from his updated and expanded Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage [2012] His website is William Loren Katz FROM:;3ee5fc3f.1204c

ADHD and Me (Pt. 1)

By Kevin Stoda I was not one of those American boys who was properly diagnosed with ADD. You see I grew up in the 60s and 70s when little was known of it—and long before the substantial Post-WWII changes in the American diet had led to changes in children’s physical and mental make-ups (which in turn lead to many more obvious cases of ADD). Naturally, genetics has likely had more influence on ADHD development in the USA population than any other known contributor. This is likely because the kind of peoples who arrived here from around the world over the centuries were more impulsive and had demonstrated hyperactivity or imbalances in their own selves with their prior society—which lead them to be more likely to move to a new setting and start over. Now, 3 to 5 percent of children in school in the USA are identified as ADD or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Teachers back-then did not even consider a child like me to be too much out of the ordinary—in terms of having classroom distractions and hyperactivity back in those days—i.e. as long as we didn’t get into a lot of fights and act out in front of others too often. In all of my school report cards, I recall only that my fifth grade English and Science instructor noted that my “being distracted” was affecting my performance and participation in class. (Interestingly, the 5th grade was when I actually got the best grades of my entire elementary school years. Therefore, part of my distraction in English class likely involved me reading social study books or novels in class.) “ADHD always begins in childhood. For some people [like most of those in my generation], though, ADHD is not diagnosed until adulthood. That means adults who are newly diagnosed have actually had ADHD for years, and have had to endure symptoms as they’ve matured. In addition, research shows that between 30% and 70% of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms of the disorder when they become adults.” According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, “ADHD has been called attention-deficit disorder (ADD) in the past. But, ADHD is now the preferred term because it describes both primary aspects of the condition: inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. While many children who have ADHD tend more toward one category than the other, most children have some combination of inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. ADHD symptoms become more apparent during activities that require focused mental effort.” I really never noticed that I was hyperactive until I became an adult. It was during the last year at college that I noted that I could no longer sit down with people and chat for long periods of time. By the time of my graduation, I was so out of sorts that I nearly failed my communication class and had trouble putting together my dissertation. Others had already noted my distractedness and apparent inattention years earlier but I was seldom one to get into fights or to take to alcoholism or take to using drugs as is common among those who have never been treated for their ADD or ADHD. (In short, a lot of self-medication has been an option for ADHD sufferers for generations.) Instead, I traveled and went to new places as often as I could. Eventually, I traveled to 102 different countries by the time I was 45 years of ages. Looking back on my travels, one episode stands out, whereby a medical professional took notice of my somewhat disguised hyperactivity. That was in Munich, Germany in the summer of 1991. I was teaching German by this time and had been invited to a two-week workshop for German instructors from around the world at the Goethe Institute. On my last free evening, I went out for a stroll near one of the ancient royal parks and gardens planted around the city. On this evening, there was a black man in his early 40s playing a guitar. He was playing a lot of tunes I liked. So, I came nearer. There were some children dancing around the man as I approached his bench. I clapped along and stomped my feet nervously up-and-down with the rhythm. I discovered from the man’s accent that he was originally from Jamaica, but he worked in England as a pediatrician. He was in Munich visiting his daughter and grandchildren that week. That day was one of the longest days of early summer and the man played and chatted with me over the next hour. He was not a street musician as I thought—but simply a music-loving-Jamaican-M.D. The man and I talked about children and how they loved to dance. He finally observed that my own feet had been happily tapping away—almost uncontrollably as I listened or sang along. The pediatrician observed, “Only in little children have I observed such happy dancing feet before.” In short, my almost spastic happy feet were showing a hyperactivity and joy of life that only young children’s feet generally exhibit. (to be continued)

U.S. Waters Polluted by 10 Million Tons of Dog Poop

Yuck!! by Jennifer Mueller The 78 million dogs living in the United States create 10 million tons of feces annually, polluting waterways and posing a threat to public health, according to a pet waste removal service asking Americans to pledge to scoop the poop this Earth Day. Dog Waste Threatens Public Health USAToday reports that 40% of dog owners do not pick up their dog’s waste at all and all that waste pollutes waterways. Because scientists are able to track the origin of the fecal bacteria to the species that excreted it, we even know how much. One study showed as much as 90% of the fecal coliform in urban stormwater was of non-human origin, mostly dog. In just a couple of days, 100 dogs can deposit enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it, to swimming and fishing. Officials in Seattle consider waste from the city’s million dogs to be a major pollution source of Puget Sound. Dogs have also been shown to be a major source of water contamination in Clearwater, FL; Arlington, VA; and Boise, ID. So What’s a Responsible Dog Owner to Do? If you live in Cambridge, MA, you can drop your dog’s leavings into methane digesters to power the lights in some parks. If you live in Jefferson County, CO, you can join the poop patrol to remind your neighbors that there is no dog poo fairy (seriously). For the rest of us, the Natural Resources Defense Council has the following recommendations: First, you definitely should not let your dog’s droppings lay near water ways, curbs, or even in your yard. What you should do is . . . Wrap it in a plastic bag (biodegradable, corn-derived, or regular) and put it in the trash (though not all municipalities allow this). Flush it. Dog waste can be managed by most sewage treatment systems and some septic tanks. (Do not flush cat waste because the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can survive sewage treatment plants.) Install an underground pet waste digester. Basically a septic tank just for your pet. Bury it in your yard. Keep pet waste away from vegetable gardens, the water table, and streams and buried at least 5 inches deep. Always cover fresh waste with with dirt. Hire a poop collection service. Services will patrol your yard for poop on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. (Doody Calls, a national dog waste control franchise based in Charlottesville, VA, created an infographic containing the image used in this post.) What a service does with the waste will vary, but you won’t have to handle it yourself. Read more:

Bahraini Protester Found Dead On Roof of Building

Bahraini Protester Found Dead On Roof of Building by Kristina Chew The body of a protester found dead on the day before the Bahraini Grand Prix has been confirmed to be that of Sala Abbas Habib, a 37-year-old activist. A statement from Bahraini authorities cited in the Guardian says that Habib had been wounded in his left side and that his death is being treated as a homicide. Mohammed Eissa, Habib’s brother-in-law, said that his family was not allowed to see his body, says Al Jazeera. Habib’s body was discovered as practice and qualifying sessions for the Formula One race were taking place. On Friday, Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, had said that canceling the race — as occurred a year ago after widespread anti-government protests and cost the Bahraini government some $800 million– would “just empowers extremists.” He asserted that holding the Grand Prix would “build bridges across communities.” Jean Todt, the president of the motor racing governing body, the FIA, said that “On rational facts, it was decided there was no reason to change our mind” from holding the race. The opposition group al-Wefaq says that Habib’s body, covered in blood and wearing a teargas mask, was found on the roof of a building after he and other protesters had been beaten by police following a demonstration in the Shia village of Shakhura late on Friday night. Reports are suggesting that Habib was shot. Chief of Public Security Major-General Tariq Al Hasan said that his body had been found in “suspicious circumstances” and that more details would be released as an investigation proceeds. But Khalil Marzooq, one of 18 al-Wefaq MPs who stepped down over the suppression of last year’s protests, said he was doubtful about the police investigating the death of Habib, who some are claiming was a political prisoner in the 1990s. According to the BBC, al-Wefaq also said that security forces had used tools and weapons to beat protesters in Shakhura. Thousands protested on Saturday, with police firing tear gas and protesters throwing Molotov cocktails in some areas. Activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was briefly detained when she attempted to see her father, jailed activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been on a hunger strike since February 6. On Saturday, she described his condition to the BBC as critical and said that “We’re afraid that we might never hear of him again, and that we might not see him again.” Activist Najeel Rajab led a protest on Saturday to call for her father’s release. At least a hundred people have been arrested in the past week according to activists; police have said that they have arrested “some people.” from:

Group Evaluations that Support and Clarify Professional Practices and Soft Skills for Students

Kevin Anthony Stoda Salalah College of Technology Salalah, Oman ABSTRACT Because there have sometimes been discrepancies between the training offered at the tertiary levels and the present (& future) needs of the labour market, many students, teachers and educational institutions are interested in both teaching soft-skills and applying various business & industrial (professional) practices in the classroom (Watts, 1998; Hissey, 2000; Noll & Wilkin, 2002; ODEP, 2010). Interestingly, (1) by introducing a variety of professional practices, including soft skills, and (2) by providing opportunities to reflect on those behaviours used in simulations and group activities, students often quickly understand what behaviours are expected and needed to succeed both academically and in the world of work. One important way to ensure this progress is through the development of appropriate group-work evaluation rubrics—i.e. rubrics which support the goal of helping students integrate themselves as individuals in a successful group, office, or team. These evaluation practices support students and society well in terms of both improving individual achievement in the academic- and professional worlds. INTRODUCTION Much has been written about the needs of Omani students to individually self-evaluate their own individual performances in the classroom. The hope has been that an important classroom- and lifelong-learning skills will be achieved. (Klenowski, 1995; Sullivan et. al. 1998; Rolheiser & Ross, 2012). For example, in our college’s foundation program, both level 1 and level 2 students evaluate their work each week in what we call a “study skills class”. However, until now, these same students on our campus have not been evaluated regularly in terms of their achievements in group work activities --nor have these students been asked to reflecting much about their performances in groups in informal ways. With this paper, I encourage all schools in Oman to employ feedback and evaluations which enable and encourage students to work as an asset on a variety of teams (with a variety of peers from different tribes or cultures) in a variety of contexts. This will empower our student graduates with extremely marketable soft skills when they leave our programs in the future. This paper posits that group work activities, i.e. which are regularly followed by supportive evaluation rubrics and student-teacher reflection, can help students and teachers focus on important soft skills, such as a variety of (a) communicative skills, (b) problem-solving skills, (c) team-work skills, (d) information management, (e) professionalism, and (f) various leadership practices. It is clear that such rubrics can and do support progress (continuous) assessments. That is, their employment in classrooms and for projects outside of the class will improve time-on-tasks efforts for both groups and individuals. Moreover, these practices will enable students to improve their efforts and overall-success in (and out of) the classroom in a variety of repeated activities over time. In the following sections of this paper, (1) I will share my own background in undertaking group activities and evaluations as an educator or language trainer, and (2) I will present and discuss a variety of evaluation options for groups, which highlight or reinforce particular groups of soft-skills needed for more-and-more successful group (and individual) efforts in the classroom and in the workplace. Why Self-Evaluate? According to the Nebraska Department of Training (NDT), “[i]n order to become lifelong learners, students need to learn the importance of self-evaluation. They can do this by filling out self-evaluation forms, journalizing, taking tests, writing revisions of work, asking questions, and through discussions. When students evaluate themselves, they are assessing what they know, do not know, and what they would like to know. They begin to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. They become more familiar with their own beliefs, and possibly their misconceptions. After they self-evaluate they will be able to set goals that they feel they can attain with the new knowledge they have about themselves.” When I first entered the teaching profession, I was primarily interested in working in the social sciences with high schools students. I desired to empower students to be more active socially in their societies, i.e. in terms of improving their workplaces, NGOs, and government organizations. However, over the subsequent two-and-half decades, I have come to primarily work teaching foreign languages in a dozen different countries. During these years, I have often tried to integrate my social science training into my curricular developments in foreign language education. I have done so because I found early-on that social science topics and social-studies-inspired activities, such as conducting surveys and debating, were motivating for many students. This was true for native speakers and for and social studies for many L2 learners. As part of the continuing assessment movement of the early 1990s, I chose to adapt (See Rubric 1 below) for my second language students in Japan a rubric for group work evaluations which had originally been created by social science teachers in California to promote social-, group-, and individual classroom behaviours. The three key criteria for evaluation are (a) cooperation ability, (b) communication ability, (c) ability to thoroughly complete task(s). The particular rubric, Group Discussions & Problem Solving, is designed for groups of 3 to 6 students but works best with groups of 5 students. Rubric 1: Group Discussions & Problem Solving Note: 1 is low score, 5 is high score Cooperation 5 All members of the group participate in an outstanding manner throughout the activity. 4 Most of the members of the group participate most of the time in the discussion and in achieving a solution. 3 At least half of the members of the group participate most of the time in the discussion and work towards achieving solutions for the activity. 2 Only one (or occasionally two) student[s] in the group is on task and ready to discuss most of the time. 1 The group and individuals in group are not on task most of the time. Communication 5 All members of the group communicate clearly & perform their assigned roles—speaking & discussing topic while making individual contributions to the group in finding solutions for task--in an outstanding manner throughout the activity. 4 Most of the members of the group perform their assigned roles while communicating clearly contributing to solutions for completing the task. 3 At least half of the member of the group participate most of the time in the discussion and participate adequately in finding solutions for the task. 2 Only one (or sometimes two) students in the group is discussing or speaking most of the time—and trying to complete the task in a timely fashion. 1 None of the individuals in the group are on task or contributing to discussion and to problem solving most of the time. Completion of Task 5 All members of the group played their assigned roles throughout the activity in completing the task in the required amount of time and with outstanding effort. 4 Most of the members of the group participate most of the time in completing the task on time in a more-than-adequate fashion. Most participants played their part most of the time. 3 At least half of the member of the group played their assigned roles in working to achieving solutions for the activity in an adequate fashion. 2 Only one student in the group is on task and has enabled the group to complete the task. 1 The group and individuals in group are not on task most of the time and did not do an adequate job at what they did undertake. Later, I learned that this approach to group work discussions and group training is quite similar to the practices of coaching trainees and employees that are used all-around the globe to train new employees and working professionals alike. “Coaching can be defined as a continuous process of providing students with feedback to enhance, maintain or improve their performance. The coach observes performance, shares knowledge and expertise, and provides encouragement to assist students in reaching continuously higher levels of performance. Coaching enables students to develop their thinking and actions in response to differing situations. The coaching approach encourages learning, growth and teamwork all at the same time. (NDT)” In line with the principles of coaching, I quickly began adapting the rubric to a variety of daily group activities—as well as for long-term projects, group presentations or writings. For the daily activity-evaluations of a group (continuous assessment), I began to adapt the criteria and give scores that included fractions. For example, one group might receive on the first day a “3” in each category: a “3” for cooperation, a “3” for communication, and a “3” for completion of task. Whereas, on the following days, I might note scores of “3.3”, “3.2” and a “3.5”. This signalled to the students that they were improving and encouraged them to continue to obtain more total group participation and encourage more achievement from all members—while recognizing that some improvement is taking place. (Eventually, I could make long term evaluations for weekly efforts for some groups.) In any case, I did not expect students to immediately understand how evaluate themselves and their groups. So, usually, on the first few days of class each semester, I would try to get new groups of students (from whatever nationality or tribe) to evaluate their own small group activity that we were undertaking--for example: a group discussion,. After the individuals and groups had finished their oral (and written) portions of the discussion, I would hand out the classroom (level-adapted-) rubric and then ask each group to determine which scores the individuals would give themselves. I would then share the scores I had decided to give the group that day. After repeating this procedures for a few days, most students had gained a common understanding of the individual and group behaviours that I and most of them expected for high-levels of performance on any group evaluation. NOTE: Most importantly, for almost all activities or projects I assign on a daily basis (a) a leader and (b) a group secretary—often on a rotating basis among members of a group over time-- so that I can receive a written report about what the group has achieved (and how well the leader felt the group was doing). Combined with my own daily evaluation rubrics for each group, these ‘secretary”-written notes enable me to give progress reports (or continual assessments) to individual students and groups throughout the term. This continuous feedback motivates as many students as possible to be involved in the project from start to finish. Moreover, notes from the secretary which clearly explain what different students said or contributed is a great reference for later—end of semester reports and evaluations in work- and holistic appraisals of performance.. Naturally, using a variety of rubrics for groups is important. On the one hand, this is because not all students and not all evaluators see the behaviours of a particular group in the same way that I do—and this is a good thing. This is because we want students to obtain soft skills that are applicable in a myriad of situations, places, times, and contexts. Remember, “[s]ome people go through life with apparent ease while their peers with access to similar resources struggle. Life skills such as critical and creative thinking, decision-making, communication and interpersonal relations make a big difference to the success a person achieves. Of all these skills, those that equip a person to fit into a social structure are known as soft skills. (Stewart)” The importance of soft-skills is being conveyed to the students through the continual usage of group evaluations and group self-evaluations. Category 4 3 2 1 Contributions Provides useful ideas when doing group work. A real leader who contributes a lot of effort. Usually provides ideas in group work. A strong member who tries hard. Sometimes provides ideas in group work. A satisfactory group member who does what is required. Rarely provides ideas to the group. May even refuse to participate. Quality of Work Provides excellent quality of work Provides high quality work Provides work that needs to be rechecked by group members. Provides work that usually needs to be redone or rechecked by others. Time management Uses time well and has things completed on time. Deadlines and responsibilities are followed. Uses time well but may have procrastinated on an item but deadlines were still met. Tends to procrastinate but still meets deadlines. Rarely gets things done by deadlines and had to change responsibilities in the group to ensure time management. Attitude Never is publicly critical of anyone’s ideas, opinions or work. Always has a positive attitude about the task. Rarely is publicly critical and usually has a positive attitude Occasionally is publicly critical and usually has a positive attitude. Often is critical publicly and often has a negative attitude toward the task Focus to task Continuously stays focused to the task. Very self-motivated. Focuses to the task most of the time. Can be depended on to complete a task. Focuses to the task some of the time. Others need to encourage, prod and remind this person to stay on task Rarely focuses on the task. Lets others do the work. (Rubric for Group Evaluations) Rubistar is a great website to go to for teachers to be able to either create or find your own rubrics. CONCLUSION Best practices teach us that if group evaluations are taken seriously and are truly supportive of either maintaining or enhancing language and soft skills, students will acquire many important soft skills and professional skills through their group work activates (and from their evaluations of their group efforts). This is true whether students are beginners, intermediate or advanced speakers of the language they are communicating in. Felder and Brent (2010) write, “Once you have a checklist or rubric, grading student work becomes much more efficient than the usual procedure in which detailed feedback is provided on each student product, and more reliable because the breakdown of points by criteria makes it more likely that products of the same quality will get the same grade.” While it is true that rubrics and checklists are used in Omani tertiary education, one problem I have noted in here is that often rubrics are not simplified and nor translated so that students can benefit from them in an efficient manner, especially when their all-around language skills may be low. They are often also not repeatedly used enough so that both instructor and student can observe improvements over time. It should not be difficult for bilingual staff to enable the creation of great rubrics and checklists for groups and individual students. (One example of an individual checklist can be found in the Appendix 2 of this work.) As noted above, rubrics support good group work practices and other student soft-skills. Some departments at universities and technical colleges in Oman employ good to very helpful rubrics and checklists, but many departments and foundations programs do not regularly use appropriate checklists and rubrics across the variety of curricula which Omani students participate in. In conclusion, just as students are taught early-on that writing or creating a good paragraph involves various elements: (1) good topic sentence, (2) great supporting details, and a (3) strong conclusion, our students need to be shown an image or target of what is required to do well in the work place--and working with others outside of the college world in general. This is true--regardless as to whether an Omani works with team mates (or workmates) from the same tribe or culture. This is why I encourage the creation and implementation of helpful group-work and teamwork rubrics and checklists which support such soft-skills and positive group work behaviours. REFERENCES Center for Applied Linguistics 2008, (Part II: Activity Packets) Needs Assessment and Learner Self-Evaluation, Felder, Richard M. & Brent Rebecca (2010) , Random thoughts… hard assessment of soft skills, Chemical Engineering Education, 44(1), 63-64 Hissey, T.W. (2000) Education and careers 2000. Enhanced skills for engineers. In: Proceedings of the IEEE, 1367-1370. Klenowski, Val (1995), Student self-evaluation processes in student-centered teaching and learning contexts in Australia and England. Assessment in Education, 2(2),145-163. McIntosh, Kathy Adams, How to develop soft-skills, NDT (2012), Self-evaluation, NDT (2012), Coaching for success in the classroom, Noll, Cheryl L.& Wilkin, Marilyn (2002), Critical skills of IT professionals: a model for curriculum development, Journal of Information Technology Education, 1(2), 143-154. ODEP (2010), Teaching soft skills through workplace simulations in classroom settings, 1-9. Rolheiser, Carol & Ross, John A. (2012), Student self-evaluation: what research says and what practices shows, Rubistar, Rubric for Group Evaluations, Sloan, Megan. (1996). I Love This Piece Because…., Instructor 105 (7) & 30-32. Sullivan, Maura, Hitchcock, Maurice & Dunnington, Gary (1998) Peer and self assessment during problem based tutorials, The American Journal of Surgery, 177(3), 266-269. Stewart, David, What are soft-skills and life-skills?, Watts, A.G. (1998) Reshaping career development for the 21st century, Center for Guidance Studies, APPENDIX 1 This example of a peer rating rubric of group work is adapted from Felder & Brent (2010). TABLE 1 Excerpt from a Peer Rating Rubric for Team Projects Your Name Other Student #1 Other Student #2 Other Student #3 Other Student #4 Team: Names: Contributing to the teams 5 5 5 5 5 -Does more or higher quality work than expected. -Makes important contributions that improve the team’s work. -Helps teammates who are having difficulty completing their work. 4 4 4 4 4 Demonstrates some of the behaviors described in Level 5 & 3 3 3 3 3 3 -Completes a fair share of the team’s work with acceptable quality. -Keeps commitments and completes assignments on time. -Helps teammates who are having difficulty when it is easy or important. 2 2 2 2 2 Demonstrates some of the behaviors described in Level 3 and 1 1 1 1 1 1 -Does not do a fair share of the team’s work. Delivers sloppy or incomplete work. -Misses deadlines. Is late, unprepared, or absent for teem meetings. -Does not assist teammates. Quits if the work becomes difficult. Interacting with Teammates: 5 5 5 5 5 -…. APPENDIX 2 This example of a peer rating rubric of a grading checklist is adapted from Felder & Brent (2010). TABLE 2 Grading Checklist for a Written Report Student ________________________________ Project Phase ___________________________ Date:___________________ Evaluator:____________________________ Max. Score Comments TECHNICAL CONTENT (60%) Abstract clearly identifies purpose and summarizes principle content 10 Introduction demonstrates thorough knowledge of relevant background and prior work 15 Analysis and discussion demonstrate good subject mastery 30 Summary and conclusions appropriate and complete 5 ORGANIZATION (10%) Distinct introduction, body, conclusions 5 Content clearly and logically organized, good transitions 5 PRESENTATION (20%) Correct spelling, grammar, and syntax 10 Clear and easy to read 10 QUALITY OF LAYOUT AND GRAPHICS (10%) 10 TOTAL SCORE 100

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One of the more extreme government abuses of the post-9/11 era targets U.S. citizens re-entering their own country:Receiving far too little commment

U.S. filmmaker repeatedly detained at border

By Glenn Greenwald

DHS routinely singles out individuals who are suspected of no crimes, detains them and questions them at the airport, often for hours, when they return to the U.S. after an international trip, and then copies and even seizes their electronic devices (laptops, cameras, cellphones) and other papers (notebooks, journals, credit card receipts), forever storing their contents in government files.

This article cross-posted from Salon


One of the more extreme government abuses of the post-9/11 era targets U.S. citizens re-entering their own country, and it has received far too little attention. With no oversight or legal framework whatsoever, the Department of Homeland Security routinely singles out individuals who are suspected of no crimes, detains them and questions them at the airport, often for hours, when they return to the U.S. after an international trip, and then copies and even seizes their electronic devices (laptops, cameras, cellphones) and other papers (notebooks, journals, credit card receipts), forever storing their contents in government files. No search warrant is needed for any of this. No oversight exists. And there are no apparent constraints on what the U.S. Government can do with regard to whom it decides to target or why.

In an age of international travel -- where large numbers of citizens, especially those involved in sensitive journalism and activism, frequently travel outside the country -- this power renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment entirely illusory. By virtue of that amendment, if the government wants to search and seize the papers and effects of someone on U.S. soil, it must (with some exceptions) first convince a court that there is probable cause to believe that the objects to be searched relate to criminal activity and a search warrant must be obtained. But now, none of those obstacles -- ones at the very heart of the design of the Constitution -- hinders the U.S. government: now, they can just wait until you leave the country, and then, at will, search, seize and copy all of your electronic files on your return. That includes your emails, the websites you've visited, the online conversations you've had, the identities of those with whom you've communicated, your cell phone contacts, your credit card receipts, film you've taken, drafts of documents you're writing, and anything else that you store electronically: which, these days, when it comes to privacy, means basically everything of worth.

This government abuse has received some recent attention in the context of WikiLeaks. Over the past couple of years, any American remotely associated with that group -- or even those who have advocated on behalf of Bradley Manning -- have been detained at the airport and had their laptops, cellphones and cameras seized: sometimes for months, sometimes forever. But this practice usually targets people having nothing to do with WikiLeaks.

A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6,600 people -- roughly half of whom were American citizens -- were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant. Typifying the target of these invasive searches is Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen and an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student who was traveling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in 2011 when he was stopped at the border, questioned by DHS agents, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charges; those DHS agents seized his laptop and returned it 11 days later when, the ACLU explains, "there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched." That's just one case of thousands, all without any oversight, transparency, legal checks, or any demonstration of wrongdoing.

* * * * *

But the case of Laura Poitras, an Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and intrepid journalist, is perhaps the most extreme. In 2004 and 2005, Poitras spent many months in Iraq filming a documentary that, as The New York Times put it in its review, "exposed the emotional toll of occupation on Iraqis and American soldiers alike." The film, "My Country, My Country," focused on a Sunni physician and 2005 candidate for the Iraqi Congress as he did things like protest the imprisonment of a 9-year-old boy by the U.S. military. At the time Poitras made this film, Iraqi Sunnis formed the core of the anti-American insurgency and she spent substantial time filming and reporting on the epicenter of that resistance. Poitras' film was released in 2006 and nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

In 2010, she produced and directed "The Oath," which chronicled the lives of two Yemenis caught up in America's War on Terror: Salim Hamdan, the accused driver of Osama bin Laden whose years-long imprisonment at Guantanamo led to the 2006 Supreme Court case, bearing his name, that declared military commissions to be a violation of domestic and international law; and Hamdan's brother-in-law, a former bin Laden bodyguard. The film provides incredible insight into the mindset of these two Yemenis. The NYT feature on "The Oath" stated that, along with "My Country, My Country," Poitras has produced "two of the most searching documentaries of the post-9/11 era, on-the-ground chronicles that are sensitive to both the political and the human consequences of American foreign policy." At the 2010 Sundance film festival, "The Oath" won the award for Best Cinematography.

Poitras' intent all along with these two documentaries was to produce a trilogy of War on Terror films, and she is currently at work on the third installment. As Poitras described it to me, this next film will examine the way in which The War on Terror has been imported onto U.S. soil, with a focus on the U.S. Government's increasing powers of domestic surveillance, its expanding covert domestic NSA activities (including construction of a massive new NSA facility in Bluffdale, Utah), its attacks on whistleblowers, and the movement to foster government transparency and to safeguard Internet anonymity. In sum, Poitras produces some of the best, bravest and most important film-making and journalism of the past decade, often exposing truths that are adverse to U.S. government policy, concerning the most sensitive and consequential matters (a 2004 film she produced for PBS on gentrification of an Ohio town won the Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy).

But Poitras' work has been hampered, and continues to be hampered, by the constant harassment, invasive searches, and intimidation tactics to which she is routinely subjected whenever she re-enters her own country. Since the 2006 release of "My Country, My Country," Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length about where she went and with whom she met or spoke. They have exhibited a particular interest in finding out for whom she works.

She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter's notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent -- after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip -- that he "finds it very suspicious that you're not willing to help your country by answering our questions." They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).

Continue reading this article at Salon

Submitters Bio:

For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, How Would A Patriot Act?, a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released May, 2006.

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The Real Health Care Debate

The Real Health Care Debate

By Chris Hedges

It's not necessary to force Americans to buy private health insurance to achieve universal coverage. There is a proven alternative that Congress didn't seriously consider, and that is a single payer national health insurance system. Congress could have taken seriously evidence presented by single payer medical doctors that a single payer system is the only way to both control costs and cover everyone.


The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages.

It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill -- some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone -- for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.

But you would never know this by listening to the Democratic Party and the advocacy groups that purport to support universal health care but seem more intent on re-electing Obama. It is the very sad legacy of the liberal class that it proves in election cycle after election cycle that it espouses moral and political positions it will not pay a price to defend. And since we have no fight in us, since we will not punish politicians like Obama who betray our core beliefs, the corporate juggernaut rolls forward with its inexorable pace to cement into place our global neofeudalism.

Protesting outside the Supreme Court recently as it heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act were both conservatives from Americans for Prosperity who denounced the president as a socialist and demonstrators from Democratic front groups such as the SEIU and the Families USA health care consumer group who chanted "Protect the law!" Lost between these two factions were a few stalwarts who hold quite different views, including public health care advocates Dr. Margaret Flowers, Dr. Carol Paris and attorneys Oliver Hall, Kevin Zeese and Russell Mokhiber. They displayed a banner that read: "Single Payer Now! Strike Down the Obama Mandate!" They, at least, have not relinquished the demand for single payer health care for all Americans. And I throw my lot in with these renegades, dismissed, no doubt, as cranks or dreamers or impractical by those who flee into the embrace of empty political theater and junk politics. These single payer advocates, joined by 50 doctors, filed a brief to the court that challenges, in the name of universal health care, the individual mandate.

"We have the solution, we have the resources and we have the money to provide lifelong, comprehensive, high-quality health care to every person," Dr. Flowers said when we spoke a few days ago in Washington, D.C. Many Americans have not accepted the single payer approach "because people get confused by the politics," she said. "People accept the Democratic argument that this [Obamacare] is all we can have or this is something we can build on."

"If you are trying to meet the goal of universal health coverage and the only way to meet that goal is to force people to purchase private insurance, then you might consider that it is constitutional," Flowers said. "Our argument is that the individual mandate does not meet the goal of universality. When you attempt to use the individual mandate and expansion of Medicaid for coverage, only about half of the uninsured gain coverage. This is what we have seen in Massachusetts. We do, however, have systems in the United States that could meet the goal of universality. That would be either a Veterans Administration type system, which is a socialized system run by the government, or a Medicare type system, a single payer, publicly financed health care system. If the U.S. Congress had considered an evidence-based approach to health reform instead of writing a bill that funnels more wealth to insurance companies that deny and restrict care, it would have been a no-brainer to adopt a single payer health system much like our own Medicare. We are already spending enough on health care in this country to provide high-quality, universal, comprehensive, lifelong health care. All the data point to a single payer system as the only way to accomplish this and control health care costs."
Obamacare will, according to figures compiled by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), leave at least 23 million people without insurance, a figure that translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths a year among people who cannot afford care. Costs will continue to climb. There are no caps on premiums, including for people with "pre-existing conditions." The elderly can be charged three times the rates provided to the young. Companies with predominantly female workforces can be charged higher gender-based rates.

Most of us will soon be paying about 10 percent of our annual incomes to buy commercial health insurance, although this coverage will pay for only about 70 percent of our medical expenses. And those of us who become seriously ill, lose our incomes and cannot pay the skyrocketing premiums are likely to be denied coverage. The dizzying array of loopholes in the law -- written in by insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists -- means, in essence, that the healthy will receive insurance while the sick and chronically ill will be priced out of the market.

Medical bills already lead to 62 percent of personal bankruptcies, and nearly 80 percent of those declaring personal bankruptcy because of medical costs had insurance. The U.S. spends twice as much per capita on health care as other industrialized nations, $8,160. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume 31 percent of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single, nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, the PNHP estimates, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.

But as long as corporations determine policy, as long as they can use their money to determine who gets elected and what legislation gets passed, we remain hostages. It matters little in our corporate state that nearly two-thirds of the public wants single payer and that it is backed by 59 percent of doctors. Public debates on the Obama health care reform, controlled by corporate dollars, ruthlessly silence those who support single payer. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Max Baucus, a politician who gets more than 80 percent of his campaign contributions from outside his home state of Montana, locked out of the Affordable Care Act hearing a number of public health care advocates including Dr. Flowers and Dr. Paris; the two physicians and six other activists were arrested and taken away. Baucus had invited 41 people to testify. None backed single payer. Those who testified included contributors who had given a total of more than $3 million to committee members for their political campaigns.

"It is not necessary to force Americans to buy private health insurance to achieve universal coverage," said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. "There is a proven alternative that Congress didn't seriously consider, and that alternative is a single payer national health insurance system. Congress could have taken seriously evidence presented by these single payer medical doctors that a single payer system is the only way to both control costs and cover everyone."

Submitters Bio:

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. The Los Angeles Press Club honored Hedges' original columns in Truthdig by naming the author the Online Journalist of the Year in 2009, and granted him the Best Online Column award in 2010 for his Truthdig essay "One Day We'll All Be Terrorists."

Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University. He currently teaches inmates at a correctional facility in New Jersey.

Hedges began his career reporting the war in El Salvador. Following six years in Latin America, he took time off to study Arabic and then went to Jerusalem and later Cairo. He spent seven years in the Middle East, most of them as the bureau chief there for The New York Times. He left the Middle East in 1995 for Sarajevo to cover the war in Bosnia and later reported the war in Kosovo. Afterward, he joined the Times' investigative team and was based in Paris to cover al-Qaida. He left the Times after being issued a formal reprimand for denouncing the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.

He has written nine books, including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle" (2009), "I Don't Believe in Atheists" (2008) and the best-selling "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" (2008). His book "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. His latest book is "Death of the Liberal Class" (2010)

Hedges holds a B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. Hedges speaks Arabic, French and Spanish and knows ancient Greek and Latin. In addition to writing a weekly original column for Truthdig, he has written for Harper's Magazine, The New Statesman, The New York Review of Books, Adbusters, Granta, Foreign Affairs and other publications.