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July 31, 2014

U.S. Gives Israel More Grenades and Mortar Rounds for Gaza Offensive

Filed under: Middle East — millerlf @ 9:38 am

U.S. Gives Israel More Grenades and Mortar Rounds for Gaza Offensive
By Reuters Filed: 7/30/14

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has allowed Israel, waging an offensive in the Gaza Strip, to tap a local U.S. arms stockpile in the past week to resupply it with grenades and mortar rounds, a U.S. defense official said on Thursday.

The munitions were located inside Israel as part of a program managed by the U.S. military and called War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel (WRSA-I), which stores munitions locally for U.S. use that Israel can also access in emergency situations.
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Israel, however, did not cite an emergency when it made its latest request about 10 days ago, the defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Newsweek Magazine is Back In Print

The United States allowed Israel to access the strategic stockpile anyway to resupply itself with 40mm grenades and 120mm mortar rounds to deplete older stocks that would eventually need to be refreshed.

“They didn’t ask for it from there but we gave it to them so we could rotate our stocks,” the official said.

Additional Israeli requests for U.S.-manufactured ammunition were also being processed in the United States, the official said. The official did not offer further details on quantities or costs of ammunition already supplied or requested.

Israel’s embassy in Washington declined comment about the resupply request, including whether it asked for the ammunition because of its operations in Gaza.

Separately, U.S. lawmakers were working in Congress to provide millions of dollars in additional funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile shield.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee added $225 million for Iron Dome to a spending bill intended mainly to provide money to handle an influx of thousands of Central American children across the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 1,346 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel began its offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket fire and destroying the tunnel network of the Islamist group Hamas.

On the Israeli side, 56 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

End the Blockade to Achieve Peace

Filed under: children,Middle East — millerlf @ 7:58 am

July 29 Washington Post
By Keith Ellison, a Democrat, represents Minnesota’s 5th District in the House of Representatives.

It seems as though each day brings new horrors and heartbreaks in the Holy Land. More than 1,000 dead. Gazan children blown up on the beach. A U.N. shelter hit. Two-thirds of Israelis living in fear from indiscriminate rocket fire launched by Hamas. But as the calls for a cease-fire gain momentum, it is important to understand that many Gazans who have no association with Hamas view the return to the way things were as unacceptable.

These people aren’t rocket shooters or combatants. For the past several years they have lived in dreadful isolation. The status quo for ordinary Gazans is a continuation of no jobs and no freedom. This is not an attractive future. Gazans want and deserve the dignity of economic opportunity and freedom to move. This can be accomplished only with an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which must be considered within the framework of a cease-fire. Israelis likewise deserve to live free of rocket fire and terror attacks. In order for Israelis to live safely and securely in their homes, Hamas must give up its rockets and other weapons.

I have traveled to Gaza three times since 2009 and have visited hospitals and schools there. As I have talked with ordinary Gazans, I have not encountered anyone representing Hamas. During one visit, I had the opportunity to meet Scott Anderson, deputy director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Anderson, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army, said it best when I spoke to him again this week: “Unless there is material change to the status quo, you’re just resetting the clock for another cycle of violence.” Continuing to block goods and services to and from Gaza keeps the keys to opportunity away from the people who just want to live, work and travel.

The vast majority of Gazans do not support firing rockets into Israel or killing Israelis. In fact, the majority of people in Gaza are women and children. During my first visit to the region, this fact was clear: There were kids everywhere. This week, I also spoke with Yousef Moussa, chief area operations officer at the UNRWA office in Rafah. He puts this observation in context, noting, “50 percent of Gazans are under the age of 18. Seventy percent of Gazans are women and children. 80 percent of Gazans live below the poverty line. Relatively few Gazans are associated with Hamas.”

So how can the international community support those Gazans who don’t support indiscriminate rocket fire? We could take steps to allow for the safe flow of goods and services into Gaza and the export of goods and services to neighboring countries. We could advocate for Gazans to have freedom of movement. Now, if you’re a Gazan traveling in the West Bank, the Israeli military can forcibly return you to Gaza. Being able to import goods such as food, fuel and medicine would mean that Gazans would not be forced to buy necessities from a tunnel economy controlled by extremists. International actors should be involved in the process to address Israel’s security concerns about lifting the blockade.

The blockade prevents development in Gaza. Egypt and Israel argue that the blockade is designed to cut off resources from terrorists, but really it has brought those who want a better life to their knees while the bad actors still have their rockets. Before the blockade, the United Nations provided food to 80,000 in Gaza; today it provides food to 830,000 .

Israel and Egypt also view the blockade as a success because it pushed Hamas into a financial crisis. This is short-term thinking. It ignores the fact that the economic devastation from the blockade weakens the public and private sectors in Gaza and strengthens extremists and smuggling enterprises. Repression and deprivation fuel terrorism; economic development and inclusion can fuel long-term peace.

A viable path beyond the current crisis would empower Gazans and weaken extremists who benefit from their suffering. The international community, especially nations in the region, should help Gazans rebuild their demolished homes and businesses. But who will invest if war will predictably break out every two years?

There is no military solution to this conflict. The status quo brings only continued pain, suffering and war. Promoting economic development and social interaction in Gaza is in the long-term security interest of Israel and the rest of the region. The relative calm that existed during Secretary of State John Kerry’s extended diplomatic talks between Israel and the Palestinians during 2013-14 shows that engaging in dialogue is the first step toward stopping the violence.

Ultimately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved with a final status agreement, and ending the violence and the blockade is a first step toward a permanent solution.

July 30, 2014

Children of Gaza

Filed under: children — millerlf @ 11:30 am

             

July 27, 2014

Borderland Deaths of Migrants Quietly Reach Crisis Numbers

Filed under: Immigration — millerlf @ 9:08 pm
Sunday, 27 July 2014 09:23 By Bethania Palma Markus, Truthout
Undocumented migrants pass a boy between two cars on a moving northbound freight train known as "The Beast," because of rampant accidents and violent crime, as it passes through Tenosique, Mexico, July 2, 2014. (Photo: Meridith Kohut / The New York Times)Undocumented migrants pass a boy between two cars on a moving northbound freight train known as “The Beast,” because of rampant accidents and violent crime, as it passes through Tenosique, Mexico, July 2, 2014. (Photo: Meridith Kohut / The New York Times)

The sun-bleached bones of a human skeleton lay in disarray: the skull rolled on its crown, an S-curved spinal column about two feet away. Leg bones were in a haphazard pile. There were personal items too – a wallet, pair of walking shoes and a dirt-caked T-shirt.

They belonged to a man, most likely a migrant who had faced off with the Sonoran Desert in an attempt to come north. While most attention on immigration has been directed recently at the human drama unfolding around a surge of children fleeing from Central American countries, the immigrant death toll on the US-Mexico border has quietly exploded, even as undocumented migration overall has plummeted.

The bones were found by Aguilas del Desierto (Eagles of the Desert), an all-volunteer search-and-rescue organization, in the blistering Arizona desert heat of the Organ Pipe Cactus national park just south of Ajo, a sparsely populated region of Pima County that neighbors the Mexican border. As many were hunkering over barbecues or lighting off fireworks, these men rolled out of California on a 300-mile trek across Interstate 8. I rode shotgun in long-time volunteer and Marine Corps veteran Vicente Rodriguez’s old red Forerunner.

Roughly once a month, they leave their families and personal lives to take these trips and plunge into some of the country’s most inhospitable landscapes. They hail from different walks of life – a roofer, a photographer, a medical supply importer, a gardening business owner, a water technician. But their common goal is finding at least some of the hundreds who die every year traversing the borderlands.

According to US Border Patrol statistics, 477 people died crossing in 2012, and 445 died crossing in 2013. The numbers have steadily shot up since 1998, when 263 died, according to the agency’s statistics. A total of almost 7,000 people have died between 1998 and 2013. But the true number is likely higher, considering many are never found.

Throttling along the hot pavement with no air conditioner to speak of, Vicente was blunt about the search prospects.

“Most of the time we are looking for a dead person – cadavers,” he said. “By the time [the migrant group] makes it out of the desert, several days have passed. Lack of water and heat is usually what kills them.”

As we drove with hot air roaring through open windows and volunteers Danny Morales and Ricardo Equivias passing time cracking jokes in the backseat, the border fence came into view and snaked along to my right. Vicente started pointing out seemingly innocuous geographical features that form a killer gauntlet for migrants. Enough people drowned in drinking water canals that lawmakers were forced to string ropes across. The nearly-vertical, sunburned peaks of rock rubble in the Imperial Valley that look like salt mine tailings in a dystopian global warming future literally bake people alive.

“This is like an oven,” Vicente said. “The rocks heat up, and they hold the heat and just get hotter.”

A couple years ago, the group found two men stranded on those rock peaks. One of them died minutes after rescuers got there, in the arms of his friend. The other survived.

The seven volunteers finally converged after 10 pm in the little town of Gila Bend, Arizona, huddled in front of a tiny Mexican restaurant and consulted a map. At dawn, they headed out to the desert. A few schooled me, an obvious novice to this kind of expedition, on various plants that presented hazards like the cholla cactus, which looks soft but has hook-like thorns. Though we all wore blindingly bright neon shirts, they pointed out how easy it is to lose sight of each other.

They donned commando-like gear and forged forward abreast of each other, combing through thorny brush, scaling a network of washes and facing dangers unknown – from wild animals to stumbling into cartel footmen. They also stood at the ready with water, radios and first aid supplies in case they found a lost migrant in need of help.

Far off the beaten trails, they came across signs of furtive human presence and perhaps of distress, like shed socks, jackets, a little girl’s backpack, blankets and water jugs.

Soon the banter coming through the radios – previously upbeat – turned intense. They had found human remains near the area the man they were looking for was last seen. I followed Vicente’s lead to the site and suddenly, out under the open sky, was standing over bleached white bones, what little was left of a man whose name I did not know and maybe never will know, and whose agony I can’t imagine.

As per their protocol, the volunteers notified authorities. If they find someone who is alive and in need of emergency help, they render what first aid they can and call for emergency responders, though it may result in the person getting sent back in the end.

“It’s better to be deported than dead,” Vicente said.

Later, Ricardo said few people have seen what we saw that day, or know that crossing the border has become a gamble with death.

“What is happening out here is a crime,” he said. “In that place, I don’t think God even goes, that cruel desert. You saw those bones.”

Border Militarization and Its Deadly Effect

People used to cross in more populated urban areas like San Diego, El Paso and Nogales. But operations Gatekeeper, Hold the Line and Safeguard – characterized by blockading the US-Mexico border at those locations with things like fences, motion sensors and more Border Patrol agents – are funneling migrants out to the desert. Before, deaths were infrequent and often involved things like accidents or crime. Now, people die from exposure.

“It’s a humanitarian crisis, and it’s been a humanitarian crisis since 1994,” said Enrique Morones, executive director of immigrant advocacy group Border Angels, referring to the year the border fences started going up. “Before that wall was being built, one or two people would die every month. After the wall was built, you started having one or two per day.”

Pima County alone has already seen 76 border crossing deaths so far this year, medical examiner Greg Hess said.

As undocumented border crossings have plummeted, indicated by 1.5 million Border Patrol apprehensions in 1999 versus only 356,873 in 2012, enforcement has skyrocketed. During the same period, 4,208 Border Patrol agents in 1993 bloated in just nine years to 21,394, according to a report released last year by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Arlington, Virginia.

“In other words, between FY 1999 and FY 2012, immigrant deaths increased by more than 80 percent at the same time apprehensions, a measure of illegal entry, declined by 77 percent,” according to the report.

Border Patrol has a search-and-rescue operation that when notified often aids in searches for people who are believed to be alive, volunteers said. They also have towering, illuminated rescue beacons along the border that can be activated if a migrant needs help. Officials from US Customs and Border Protection didn’t return phone calls and emails seeking comment for this story.

Migrants normally travel in groups, Vicente said. Each pays a coyote, which is basically a human smuggler, to guide them. But with harsh conditions, many don’t make it to their destination and are left behind to die. The man they were looking for was last seen by the group he was traveling with last year after losing consciousness about 12 miles north of the border.

The body had been in the desert for four months to a year, Hess said. He expects identification to be difficult. The man’s wallet was empty, and matching dental records in foreign countries is unpredictable. An ID will likely have to be made through DNA. If they are able to confirm an identification, the remains will be returned to the man’s family.

“We’ve received the highest number of undocumented border crosser remains since about 2000, up until currently. We still see the highest number,” Hess said of Pima County. “People will cross into the US clandestinely in response to enforcement patterns and that’s the way it’s worked for a long time.”

Starting in the 1990s, the US government started using a policy known as “prevention as deterrence” to stop migrants from crossing, which resulted in border fences being built and a massive spending program of $18 billion in the 2012 fiscal year, more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to studies.

But building fences and tightening security won’t keep people from crossing, said Robin Reineke, anthropologist and founder of the Colibrí Center in Tucson, which helps families locate remains of missing migrant relatives. Instead, as they do now, they will simply continue taking greater risks.

“Migration has been a strategy of survival for as long as humans have existed – we’ve always moved on when the local climate or conditions were not sustainable for our bodies and our families,” she said. “When your family’s wellbeing is at stake and you don’t have any hope of safety or a secure job at home, then I think any of us would do whatever it takes.”

There are 900 unidentified remains believed to be those of migrants in Pima County alone, Reineke said. The Colibrí Center has 1,500 cases of missing persons where their families reported they were last seen crossing the border.

There are 650 miles of fencing and 1,500 surveillance and communication towers at the border, according to US Customs and Border Protection. The recent influx of refugee children from Central America has also given lawmakers an excuse to talk about spending even more on what is already a fortress-like scenario.

“The places where migrants are crossing, the remote geographies where they are dying, it’s actually very hard to discover the remains,” Reineke said. “That’s a big contribution to the true number of deaths being likely quite higher than the numbers we have.”

Vicente hinted at another reason the official count may be a lowball estimate. People contact his group and other volunteer humanitarian organizations to locate missing people because they fear approaching US government agencies will lead to their arrest and deportation.

“They won’t let themselves be interviewed by the Border Patrol or the sheriffs,” he said.

Reineke called the situation violent, very troubling and very sad.

“They’re dying in the desert, from lack of food, water and shelter, and their bodies are decomposing so rapidly that their families only often have a small pile of bones, if they are able to identify them at all,” she said. “In most cases, someone who would die in the summer in Arizona would be unrecognizable the next day.”

Trapped and Exploitable

The legacy of human movement between the United States and its southern neighbors, particularly Mexico, has been a long and wrenching one for migrants.

While migrant labor has always been a significant and important part of the US economy, particularly in the Southwest, laws regulating it have fluctuated for political reasons, said Aviva Chomsky, professor of history and coordinator of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Salem State University. The idea that migration is “illegal” is relatively new and has a lot to do with racial bias.

“Before the Fourteenth Amendment, there were no restrictions on immigration at all, because no one could be citizens except whites,” Chomsky said. But after the Civil War, “citizenship by birth changed all that. That’s when racially restrictive immigration laws started.”

Historically, migration from Mexico was circular, she said. People would come north to work, and then they would return home.

“What changed that was the militarization of the border that started in the late 20th century,” Chomsky said. “The more the border is militarized, the more the undocumented population grows. Instead of coming and going, people come and stay because it’s too dangerous to keep gambling with the repeated border crossings.”

Operation Gatekeeper, launched under the Clinton administration in 1994, allocated millions of dollars to build fences starting with San Diego-Tijuana, and ramp up Border Patrol agents. The border fence has expanded and now blocks various locations across the 2,000-mile border.

“When they secured that border to make it more difficult to cross, there was a whole lot of people on this side of the border that could not go back,” said Bill Flores, a retired high-ranking officer with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s not like they wanted to stay here, but they were stuck. Before it was more transient; now it’s more permanent.”

Chomsky connects the dots between civil rights attorney Michelle Alexander’s idea, illustrated in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, of a caste system created via legal status. Alexander argues that once de jure, outright racist policies against African-Americans were outlawed following the civil rights movement of the 1960s, a backlash ensued to circuitously reinstate inequities that defined the Jim Crow era. Racially profiling and disproportionately incarcerating blacks at higher rates than whites has resulted in the stripping away of the very civil liberties supposedly gained in the civil rights movement like the right to vote, hold a job, sit on juries and receive public benefits.

“Interestingly the rights they’re deprived of are quite similar to the rights people who are undocumented are deprived of,” Chomsky observed. “They physically exist but legally they are excluded. By defining one group of people as inherently racially, legally different, you then justify all manner of atrocities against them.”

While it had once been commonplace and legal to discriminate against Mexican, Central and South American people simply because of their countries of origin, the civil rights era saw an end to that, as it saw an end to outright discrimination against black Americans. Under the bracero program that existed between 1942 and 1964, Mexican laborers were allowed to work in the United States, but it was like a system of indentured servitude where workers had no control over the terms of their labor, very few rights and poor working conditions, Chomsky said.

Once the bracero program was eliminated amid the atmosphere of the civil rights movement, the United States was forced to dump openly race-biased immigration laws that gave preferential treatment to certain northern European immigrants. What resulted was the Hart-Celler Act, which placed a uniform visa quota on all countries.

Though Hart-Celler looked equal on paper, it was still racially biased, Chomsky pointed out. Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, China and India have very large populations. Mexican workers had historically crossed the border in the tens of thousands yearly. So giving tiny European countries like Luxemburg, Switzerland, Belgium or Andorra the same visa limit as Asian countries and Mexico still favors European immigration, she said.

“The 1965 immigration law is an example of how trying to look equal on paper doesn’t really treat people equally,” she said. “It’s not openly racially biased, but it is.”

While Alexander links the backlash against the Civil Rights Act to practices like racial profiling, the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have resulted in mass incarceration that’s turned the clock back on racial justice by labeling people “felons,” Chomsky said immigration laws have resulted in discrimination against migrants by labeling them “illegal.”

“It was a very deliberate creation of this status to replace a previous status using a terminology and a rationale that is supposedly less racially charged,” she said.

Despite rabid anti-immigrant sentiment and the ratcheting up of measures aimed at expelling or blocking entry to migrants from south of the US border, Chomsky pointed out the trapped population with no avenue toward legal status makes for big profits both as cheap, readily-abused labor and as inmates in private prisons, while becoming easy scapegoats for political opportunists who often fear-monger myths that immigrant workers take jobs from Americans.

In contrast, only 44,000 visas for “skilled and unskilled” workers were issued by the federal government for immigrant labor from all countries in 2013, according to Department of Homeland Security data.

“When we think about the actual demand for immigrant workers and what immigration laws permit, and contrast that with the type of sensationalized thinking and reporting about immigration, there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance across the board,” said Tom K. Wong, assistant professor in political science who specializes in immigration at the University of California at San Diego. “Despite what the reality is, the narrative is constant. And the reality is, we don’t actually give permanent residence to a lot of workers. That’s reflected in the numbers.”

Criminalization of immigration with an angle at “enforcement-only” practices without meaningful evolution of immigration policy directly links to the high death rate at the border, according to the National Foundation for American Policy study, which found:

The loss of life will almost certainly continue unless more paths are open to work legally in the United States. The only plausible way to eliminate immigrant deaths at the border, as well as reduce illegal immigration in the long term, is to institute a new program of temporary visas or portable work permits for foreign workers. Strong evidence exists that the current “enforcement-only” policy has strengthened criminal gangs, providing a profitable line of business for Mexican criminal enterprises. If Mexican and Central American workers could come to America on a legal visa or work permit they would have no need to employ the services of a coyote or criminal enterprise.

Profiteering From Lack of Legal Status

A survey of news reports from around the country indicates many have found capitalizing on the illegal status placed on immigrants to be profitable.

ProPublica investigated the growth in temp workers who are largely Spanish-speaking immigrants with few workplace protections, revealing how mega-corporations like Walmart, Philips Norelco and BMW benefit from such exploitable labor.

According to ProPublica’s reporting:

Latinos make up about 20 percent of all temp workers. In many temp towns, agencies have flocked to neighborhoods full of undocumented immigrants, finding labor that is kept cheap in part by these workers’ legal vulnerability: They cannot complain without risking deportation.

ProPublica also uncovered examples of how these migrant workers are placed in harm’s way and often pay the ultimate price, including instances where a worker was buried and suffocated to death by sugar while trying to unclog machinery, and a worker who was slowly crushed to death by machinery making hummus. In both cases, employers showed disregard for workers by not bothering with safety guidelines. The brother and co-worker of a deceased worker told ProPublica:

They waited for something bad to happen . . . They just use people like us – take advantage of us. They just throw you in there and it’s like, what happens, happens.

The New York Times also found that immigrants in detention centers function as virtual slave labor, being paid as little as $1 a day to keep their detention centers operating while the private prison companies that own the facilities cash out. Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, which own the majority of immigrant detention centers, made $301 million and $115 million in net earnings, respectively, according to The New York Times.

Per the Times’ May report:

As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor – usually for $1 a day or less – at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities.

There are no signs that the precipitous drop-off in undocumented migration will yield a symmetrical reduction in detention of immigrants. In April, GEO Group announced a $45 million, 640-bed expansion to hold immigrants at a prison in Adelanto, California. The expansion is expected to generate $21 million in additional, annualized revenues for the company, according to an April 2014 press release.

Private companies aren’t the only ones cashing in on immigrant detention. In 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported that the practice had been a moneymaker for local jurisdictions in the past, reporting that at the height of the economic crash in 2008:

Washington paid nearly $55.2 million to house detainees at 13 local jails in California in fiscal year 2008, up from $52.6 million the previous year. The US is on track to spend $57 million this year . . . For some cash-strapped cities, the federal money has become a critical source of revenue, covering budget shortfalls and saving positions.

Private prisons and public agencies alike have cashed in on immigrant detention doubtlessly with the help of a controversial detention quota imposed by members of Congress in 2009 that requires US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold 34,000 people in detention every day, as The Washington Post reported last year.

Justifying the quota, Rep. John Abney Culberson, a Texas Republican and member of the House Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee, told the Post: “We know ICE can fill more than 34,000 beds, so why would they use less?”

The quota has resulted in an astronomical increase in the number of immigrants detained, more than doubling between 1999 and 2009 to 369,483, according to a report by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data research and gathering organization at Syracuse University. Two years later, the number of immigrants in detention rose to 429,000 in 2011, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. A whopping 88 percent of these detainees were from Mexico (67 percent) or Central America (21 percent), according to a 2011 Department of Homeland Security report.

Driving forces behind migration include the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into law in 1994, the same year the border fence went up, and has sunk many in Mexico into poverty by throwing the country’s markets and economy open to US business. Subsidized American products like corn and pork began flowing into Mexico and driving prices down to the point where local, smaller-scale enterprises couldn’t compete. The rapid, destabilizing downward shift of the Mexican economy sent people north, as demand for cheap services and labor continues in the United States.

US foreign intervention and the toppling of democratically elected governments in Central and Latin America have resulted in turbulence, and its “war on drugs” has been criticized as a major contributor to cartel violence in Mexico.

In a 2010 talk, Chomsky pointed out that people have been migrating freely over the face of the planet since the dawn of humanity, and the idea of controlling human migration is only about 200 years old.

“It’s salutary to remember this when we think about what would happen if we stopped trying to control immigration,” she said in 2010. “For tens of thousands of years the human race had no controls on immigration and somehow we muddled along, things worked themselves out without immigration controls. It’s not impossible to imagine that we could create a new system that did not rely on trying to control people’s freedom of movement.”

Reineke, from the Colibrí Center in Tucson, said it’s time to rethink how US policies have created pressures that force people to come north when they otherwise wouldn’t.

“We really can’t continue looking at the border as the place where the problem originates; that’s a very dangerous way to think about immigration in an increasingly global economy,” Reineke said. “We have increasingly open borders to commerce, markets, goods and the ability of companies to work across borders. But then we have increasingly closed borders to the free movement of people, especially those who are workers, who are not part of the consumer class.”

That combination of openly allowing consumer goods and investment to flow through borders unhindered while clamping down on the resulting movement of people has proven deadly, Reineke added.

It’s time for reevaluation but also soul-searching, she said.

“I do believe Americans are compassionate people, but I also believe fear and xenophobia about immigrants has allowed us to dehumanize them and be desensitized to the loss of life on the southern border,” she said. “On the more extreme side, if we’re reacting with such hate, fear and disdain to children who are escaping violence and showing up on the southern border, we have a lot of work to do in terms of our relationship with our Latin American neighbors on this continent. We need to think through this problem in terms of saving lives. It’s an issue of conscience and morality for this country and Mexico as well.”

Vicente, the Marine Corps veteran, summed it up in his typical succinct, direct way.

“There are lots of trade treaties,” he said. “What we need is a human treaty.”

Exhausted, we left the borderlands behind with the sun beating us head-on as it set in the west, the direction we were heading. Each went our separate ways back to homes spread throughout Southern California.

The sadness of what I saw didn’t sink in until about 24 hours later, after the distraction and chaos of meeting and traveling with new people who were on a mission wore off. I was moved by their heroism, grit, persistence and humility. In the end, it’s Robin Reineke’s words that sting.

“As I’m going about my life in Tucson, there are people going through some of the most intense human suffering and survival happening on the global scale today, literally an hour from my house. I want more Americans to think through what that means for us.”

July 14, 2014

New York Times: Reading Wars Debated Once Again

Filed under: Reading — millerlf @ 1:10 pm

Following is an op-ed in from the New York Times followed by response letters.
The Fallacy of ‘Balanced Literacy’
By ALEXANDER NAZARYAN JULY 6, 2014
THERE was the student who wanted to read Tolstoy, but abandoned “War and Peace” after a bewildering day with the Russian aristocracy. There were the students who had just come from Albania, to whom a Harry Potter novel was as inscrutable as Aramaic. There were the students who needed special attention, which I could barely offer. And then there were the ones who read quietly and would have welcomed a discussion about “The Chocolate War.” I couldn’t offer that, either.

 
So went “independent reading” in my seventh-grade classroom in Flatbush, Brooklyn, during the 2005-06 school year, a mostly futile exercise mandated by administrators. On bad days, independent reading devolved into chaos. That was partly a result of my first-year incompetence, but even on good days, it proved a confounding amalgam of free period and frustrating abyss.

 
This morass was never my students’ fault. A majority of them were poor, or immigrants, or both. The metropolis of marvelous libraries and bookstores was to them another country. To expect them to wade into a grade-appropriate text like “To Kill a Mockingbird” was unrealistic, even insulting.

 
Writing instruction didn’t go much better. My seventh graders were urged to write memoirs, under the same guise of individualism that engendered independent reading. But while recollections of beach trips or departed felines are surely worthwhile, they don’t quite have the pedagogical value of a deep dive into sentence structure or a plain old vocab quiz.

 
Now the approach that so frustrated me and my students is once again about to become the norm in New York City, as the new schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has announced plans to reinstate a “balanced literacy” approach in English classrooms. The concept’s most vociferous champion is probably Lucy Calkins, a Columbia University scholar. In her 1985 book, “The Art of Teaching Writing,” she complained that most English teachers “don’t know what it is to read favorite passages aloud to a friend or to swap ideas about an author.” She sought a reimagination of the English teacher’s role: “Teaching writing must become more like coaching a sport and less like presenting information,” a joyful exploration unhindered by despotic traffic cops.

 
Ms. Calkins’s approach was tried by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, but abandoned when studies showed that students learned better with more instruction. My own limited experience leads me to the same conclusion. But Ms. Fariña seems to be charting a course away from the data-driven Bloomberg years, perhaps as part of her stated plan to return “joy” to the city’s classrooms.

 
I take umbrage at the notion that muscular teaching is joyless. There was little joy in the seventh-grade classroom I ran under “balanced literacy,” and less purpose. My students craved instruction far more than freedom. Expecting children to independently discover the rules of written language is like expecting them to independently discover the rules of differential calculus.

 
Balanced literacy is an especially irresponsible approach, given that New York State has adopted the federal Common Core standards, which skew toward a narrowly prescribed list of texts, many of them nonfiction. Ms. Calkins is a detractor of Common Core; Ms. Fariña isn’t, thus far, but her support of balanced literacy sends a mixed signal.

 
I am somewhat prejudiced on this issue, for my acclimation to the English language had nothing balanced about it. Yanked out of the Soviet Union at 10, I landed in suburban Connecticut in the English-as-a-second-language classroom of Mrs. Cohen. She taught me the language in the most conventionally rigorous manner, acutely aware that I couldn’t do much until I knew the difference between a subject and a verb. Mrs. Cohen was unbalanced in the best possible way.

 
Two decades later, I became a teacher because it seemed a social good to transmit the valuable stuff I’d learned from Mrs. Cohen and other teachers to young people who were as clueless as I had been. After leaving the middle school in Flatbush, I went to a selective high school in Bushwick, where I taught Sophocles while rhapsodizing about semicolons and gleefully announcing vocab quizzes. My students were seeing the beams that support the language; they went on to write poems, papers, newspaper articles and personal essays that earned a number of them admission to the nation’s best colleges. If any of it was soul-crushing, I missed the cues.

 
The fatal flaw of balanced literacy is that it is least able to help students who most need it. It plays well in brownstone Brooklyn, where children have enrichment coming out of their noses, and may be more “ready” for balanced literacy than children without such advantages.

 
My concern is for the nearly 40 percent of New York City schoolchildren who won’t graduate from high school, the majority of whom are black and brown and indigent. Their educations should never be a joyless grind. But asking them to become subjects in an experiment in progressive education is an injustice they don’t deserve.

 
Alexander Nazaryan is a senior writer at Newsweek. He was the founding English teacher at the Brooklyn Latin School.

 

 

The Opinion Pages | Letters
How to Teach Reading and Writing
JULY 13, 2014
To the Editor:
Re “The Fallacy of ‘Balanced Literacy’ ” (Op-Ed, July 7):
Too often, educational debates become simple, reductive arguments against the imagined orthodoxy of the other side. We see this once again in Alexander Nazaryan’s critique of “balanced literacy” and his call for “muscular teaching.”
He sees balanced literacy as a complete abdication of any direct instruction. It isn’t. Classrooms will always need a balance between independence and direct instruction, and few “experts” claim otherwise. There is no simple recipe for success.
And Mr. Nazaryan’s assertion that “independent reading” doesn’t work because it failed in his classroom when he was a first-year teacher is tantamount to claiming that bicycles don’t work because you fall the first time you try to ride. In my years in the classroom, I was constantly shifting the amount of independence and direct instruction, as every teacher should.
Instead of silly arguments over which flavor of curriculum is best, our children would be much better served if we focused on a commitment to attract and train high-quality teachers whose judgment we can trust.
JEREMY GLAZER
Stanford, Calif., July 7, 2014
The writer is a doctoral student at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.

 
To the Editor:
I wholeheartedly agree with Alexander Nazaryan’s conclusions regarding the introduction of balanced literacy into the New York State English curriculum. As a middle school English teacher in New York City, I find that few pedagogical constructs anger me more than the notion that reading and writing should not be taught through direct instruction.
It is ridiculous to believe that English is learned through some sort of experimental, progressive approach in which students “discover” how to read and write critically. As Mr. Nazaryan points out, we don’t teach calculus that way.
All students crave structure, no matter the subject being taught. In my classroom, I teach writing through direct instruction. The students learn about thesis statements, topic sentences, evidence and analysis in order to write deeply and clearly.
Mr. Nazaryan is right; balanced literacy is a fallacious cop-out. Students learn to read and write by being taught directly how to read and write. Only then will they discover the power and joy of the English language.
JONATHAN PELEGANO
Astoria, Queens, July 7, 2014

 
To the Editor:
Balanced literacy as an instructional model is not inherently problematic. All it means is that as a teacher you provide your students with an instructional diet that balances all aspects of literacy, including foundational skills and higher order thinking and problem solving. This is no easy feat, and it takes good teacher training, reflective practice and experience to do this well, especially in a high-poverty school with a broad range of learners.
So for the writer to condemn the model because he wasn’t able to make it happen within his scant year of classroom experience is misleading to all those unfamiliar with balanced literacy. More than anything else, this Op-Ed essay underscores the critical need for smart, well-trained, committed and reflective teachers and principals.
STEPHANIE TATEL
Charlottesville, Va., July 8, 2014
The writer is a reading specialist.

 
To the Editor:
Kudos to Alexander Nazaryan for his eloquent defense of “conventionally rigorous” teaching techniques.
The decision by the New York City schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, to reinstate balanced literacy despite the unfavorable results of studies done during the Bloomberg administration reflects, in my opinion, a general aversion to empirical evidence within the educational establishment in favor of ideology and faddish group think.
I very much appreciate the excellent K-12 teaching I received in Brooklyn public schools during the 1940s and ’50s, when a “conventionally rigorous” approach was the norm.
My more recent experience as a volunteer tutor in Wisconsin elementary schools during the past 12 years mirrors that of Mr. Nazaryan in Brooklyn in 2005-06. Again, an approach appropriate for the Midwestern equivalent of “brownstone Brooklyn” kids was employed in classrooms where half the kids were poor or minorities or both. The results of this approach are what the local press has described as a notoriously high racial achievement gap.
CARL SILVERMAN
Madison, Wis., July 7, 2014

 
To the Editor:
While Alexander Nazaryan makes some valid points, the problem with his thesis is that he equates independent reading with chaos. When my students did independent reading it was guided.
For each book they chose I devised a set of questions, chapter by chapter, they were required to answer. They read at their own pace, and if they didn’t like the book, they could turn it in for another. But they read, and they wrote, and they understood.
Granted, this is hard work for the teacher, for it requires him or her to read every book on the list, but no one ever said teaching was supposed to be easy. The result, for my students, was that, according to their own feedback, they read more books than they ever had before.
HANNAH S. HESS
New York, July 7, 2014

 

July 12, 2014

Wisconsin Gazette Endorses Marina Dimitrijevic for 19th Assembly District

Filed under: Elections — millerlf @ 2:51 pm

Amid stront field, Marina Dimitrijevic, is best choice to represent Milwaukee’s 19th Assembly District
July 10 Wisconsin Gazette.com

On June 6, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced to a cheering crowd at PrideFest that he was keeping the courthouse open that evening for same-sex couples to get married. Abele didn’t want lesbian and gay couples who’d been waiting for years to have to wait any longer after a federal judge overturned Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban earlier that day.
Among the first to arrive at the courthouse to lend a helping hand was Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. She stationed herself at the doors leading to the clerk’s office to hand out numbers for couples seeking a position in the growing line and to answer questions about required documentation and so on.
It was not surprising to find Dimitrijevic at the forefront of the activity that night. LGBT equality is one of the issues she’s championed in the decade since she became the youngest woman elected to public office in Milwaukee. Her long list of accomplishments includes spearheading the effort to extend domestic partner benefits for county workers.
Now Dimitrijevic is a candidate in the Aug. 12 Democratic primary to choose a successor for state Rep. Jon Richards in the 19th Assembly District. Richards is stepping down to run for attorney general.
The district includes the East Side, downtown, the Third Ward, Bay View and parts of Riverwest, making it not only one of the state’s most heavily progressive districts but also one that has among the highest concentrations of LGBT constituents.
Dimitrijevic faces three other challengers in the primary — each of them promising in his or her own way. All three have compelling narratives to support their candidacies, and all three hold the progressive, pro-equality values supported by a majority of the district’s residents.
But Dimitrijevic is by far the most experienced candidate in the race, and experience counts more than ever for progressives in Madison. The tea party majority rules the Assembly with an iron fist, and progressives need representatives who know the system well enough to recognize and exploit opportunities to work it.
Moreover, Dimitrijevic has a proven track record of advocating for the issues of most concern to progressives, including environmental sustainability, public transportation, public education and rights for workers and immigrants (Dimitrijevic is fluent in Spanish). She’s the strongest candidate to replace Richards. We endorse her and expect a great future for her as a progressive leader.
Dimitrijevic’s other endorsements come from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, Clean Wisconsin Action and more. To learn more about Dimitrijevic, go to http://www.votemarina.com.
The other candidates in the race also have drawn prominent endorsements and have promising futures. They’re worth getting to know (in alphabetical order):
Dan Adams, 31, a former Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney, is the candidate backed by Abele. Adams is unique in that he expresses a willingness to work with Republicans to ensure that Milwaukee gets its fair share of revenue and attention from Madison. He stresses pragmatism over knee-jerk partisanship.
Adams believes Milwaukee has great potential for developing a knowledge-based economy, and he says he’d work on bringing capital together with the city’s educational institutions to make that happen.
Philosophically, Adams casts himself politically in Abele’s mold: “We have the same outlook on public service — it’s not about the servant. It’s really about carrying the water for the community and not just the very vocal or the very powerful,” Adams says.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Adams signs have become increasingly visible in the district.
For more, go to adamsforassembly.com.
Jonathan Brostoff, 30, is also running a strong campaign. He took leave from his current position as district director for Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson in order to run for the Assembly. In that position, as well as through involvement in managing other campaigns, Brostoff likely knows Wisconsin politics better than any other candidate except Dimitrijevic.
Together with Larson, Brostoff co-founded DemTEAM, which has trained more than 110 progressive Milwaukeeans interested in elected office. Among DemTeam’s success stories are current state Reps. Daniel Reimer, Nikiya Harris and Mandela Barnes.
Brostoff has run a robust campaign that has focused increasingly on education. Like the other candidates in this race, Brostoff says he’ll fight to get better resources for Milwaukee’s public school system. He sees the growing voucher movement as part of the problem.
“I strongly believe that we need to not only not expand vouchers but sunset them here and now,” Brostoff says. “The experiment has played out and it failed. The heart of it is to siphon off public resources into private hands.”
Brostoff, who has a gay older brother, is an ardent equality supporter. The first of many volunteer positions he’s held was with Pathfinders, which provides services to homeless youth. Brostoff began volunteering with the agency at age 14. Among Pathfinders’ clients are relatively large numbers of gay and lesbian youth who are kicked out of their homes by disapproving parents.
Brostoff also has volunteered for many other nonprofits. He says running for office is taking his commitment to his community to the next level. He cites retiring state Rep. Sandy Pasch as the type of leader he hopes to become, and she has endorsed him.
For more, go to votebrostoff.com.
Sara Geenen, 32, has run the most low-key campaign of the four contenders, primarily because she’s the mother of a 4-year-old and a toddler, as well as a labor union attorney. But she says being a working mother gives her a unique perspective to take with her to Madison.
“It’s important to have people from every walk of life representing the state, because the state has people from every walk of life,” she says.
Strongly pro-union, Geenan grew up in a union family “with headstrong beliefs in progressive values,” she says. Her endorsements include chapters of the United Steel Workers, the Teamsters and the International Association of Machinists.
Growing income inequality spurred Geenan to run for office, she says, and her campaign has focused on “jobs, education and investing in community.” Geenan sees herself as an advocate for the working poor, people who are unable to move out of poverty because all the rules are stacked against them. As examples, she offers the case of a woman three months’ pregnant who’s already distressed about finding day care for her child or the family forced to live in substandard housing because of their credit score, even though they can afford better housing.
Like the others in the race, Geenan is a deeply committed supporter of equality, quality public schools and the creation of family-supporting jobs.
“I think it’s important that you start to work incrementally to make change,” Geenan says. “It’s important to keep advocating.”
For more, visit sarageenan.com.
Primary day is Aug. 12.

http://www.wisconsingazette.com/editorial/amid-strong-field-marina-dimitrijevic-is-best-choice-to-represent-milwaukees-19th-assembly-district.html

July 10, 2014

The Truth About the Crisis at the Border (La Frontera)

Filed under: Immigration — millerlf @ 1:29 pm

8 REASONS U.S. TRADE AND IMMIGRATION POLICIES–NOT “LAX IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT”–HAVE CAUSED MIGRATION FROM CENTRAL AMERICA
By David Bacon In These Times, web edition, July 8, 2014

In front of Oakland’s Federal Building young people from immigrant youth groups protest against the detention and deportation of young migrants and families on the U.S. border, and especially against President Obama’s decision to increase border enforcement and deport them more quickly.
The mass migration of children from Central America has been at the center of a political firestorm over the past few weeks. The mainstream media has run dozens of stories blaming families, especially mothers, for sending or bringing their children north from Central America. The president himself lectured them, as though they were simply bad parents. “Do not send your children to the borders,” Obama said last week. “If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

Meanwhile, the story is being manipulated by the Tea Party and conservative Republicans to attack Obama’s executive action deferring the deportation of young people, along with any possibility he might expand it╤the demand of many immigrant rights advocates. More broadly, the Right wants to shut down any immigration reform that includes legalization, and instead is gunning for harsher enforcement measures. Even Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, has sought to frame migration as a national security threat, calling it a “crime-terror convergence,” and describing it as “an incredibly efficient network along which anything – hundreds of tons of drugs, people, terrorists, potentially weapons of mass destruction or children – can travel, so long as they can pay the fare.”

This push for greater enforcement ignores the real reasons families take the desperate measure of leaving home and trying to cross the border. Media coverage focuses on gang violence in Central America, as though it was spontaneous and unrelated to a history of U.S.-promoted wars and a policy of mass deportations.

U.S. foreign and immigration policy is responsible for much of the pressure causing this flow of people from Central America. These eight facts, ignored by the mainstream press and the president, document that culpability, and point out the need for change.

1. There is no “lax enforcement” on the U.S./Mexico border. There are over 20,000 members of the Border Patrol, the largest number in history. We have walls and a system of detention centers that didn’t exist just 15 years ago. Now more than 350,000 people spend some time in an immigrant detention center every year. The U.S. spends more on immigration enforcement than all other enforcement activities of the federal government combined, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The growing numbers of people in detention╤young people as well as families and adults╤ is being used as a pretext by the anti-immigrant lobby in Washington, including the Tea Party and the Border Patrol itself, for demanding increases in the budget for enforcement. The Obama administration has given way before this pressure.

2. The migration of children and families didn╒t just start recently. It has been going on for a long time, although the numbers are increasing. The tide of migration from Central America goes back to wars that the U.S. promoted in the 1980s, in which we armed the forces, governments or contras, who were most opposed to progressive social change. Two million Salvadorans alone came to the U.S. during the late 1970s and 80s, to say nothing of Guatemalans and Nicaraguans. Whole families migrated, but so did parts of families, leaving loved ones behind with the hope that some day they’d be reunited.

3. The recent increase in the numbers of migrants is not just a response to gang violence, although this is virtually the only reason given in U.S. media coverage. Growing migration is as much or more a consequence of the increasing economic crisis for rural people in Central America and Mexico, as well as the failure of those economies to produce jobs. People are leaving because they can’t survive where they are.

4. The failure of Central America’s economies is mostly due to the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements and their accompanying economic changes, including privatization of businesses, the displacement of communities by foreign mining projects and cuts in the social budget. The treaties allowed huge U.S. corporations to dump corn and other agricultural products in Mexico and Central America, forcing rural families off their lands when they could not compete.

5. When governments or people have resisted NAFTA and CAFTA, the United States has threatened reprisals. Right-wing Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) put forward a measure in 2004 to cut off the flow of remittances (money sent back to Salvadoran families from family members working in the U.S.) if people voted for a leftwing party, the FMLN, in El Salvador’s national elections. Otto Reich, a violently anti-communist Cuban who was Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said the U.S. government was “concerned about the impact that an FMLN victory could have on the commercial, economic, and migration-related relations of the U.S. with El Salvador.” Salvadoran papers were full of the threat, especially those on the right, and the FMLN lost. In 2009 a tiny wealthy elite in Honduras overthrew President Manuel Zelaya because he raised the minimum wage, gave subsidies to small farmers, cut interest rates and instituted free education. The Obama administration gave a de facto approval to the coup regime that followed. If social and political change had taken place in Honduras, we would see far fewer Hondurans trying to come to the U.S.

6. Gang violence in Central America has a U.S. origin. Over the past two decades, young people from Central America have arrived in L.A. and big U.S. cities, where many were recruited into gangs, a story eloquently told by photographer Donna De Cesare in the recent book Unsettled/Desasociego. The Maratrucha Salvadoreña gang, which today’s newspaper stories hold responsible for the violence driving people from El Salvador, was organized in Los Angeles, not in Central America. U.S. law enforcement and immigration authorities responded to the rise of gang activity here with a huge program of deportations. Most of the kids in gangs in Central America were originally deportees from the U.S. The U.S. has been deporting 400,000 people per year, more than any other period since the Cold War.

7. And in Central America, U.S. policy has led to the growth of gang violence. In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, U.S. law enforcement assistance pressured local law enforcement to adopt a “mano dura” or hardline approach to gang members, leading to the incarceration of many young people deported from the U.S. almost as soon as they arrived. Prisons became schools for gang recruitment. El Salvador, with a leftwing FMLN government, at least has a commitment to a policy of jobs and economic development to take young people off the street, and to providing an alternative to migration. Even there, conservative police and military forces continue to support heavy enforcement. In Guatemala and Honduras, the U.S. is supporting very rightwing governments who only use a heavy enforcement approach. While punishing deportees and condemning migration, these two governments actually use the migration of people to the U.S. as a source of remittances to keep their economies afloat.

8. Kids looking for families here are looking for those who were already displaced by war and economic crisis. The separation of families is a cause of much of the current migration of young people. Young people fleeing the violence are reacting to the consequences of policies for which the U.S. government is largely responsible, in the only way open to them.

Two and three years ago we were hearing from the Pew Hispanic Trust and other sources that migration had “leveled off.” No one is bothering to claim that anymore. Migration hasn’t stopped because the forces causing it are more powerful than ever.

More enforcement will not deal with the causes of the migration from Central America. In fact, the deportation of more people back to their countries of origin will increase joblessness and economic desperation. This is the largest factor causing people to leave. Violence, which feeds on that desperation, will increase as well.

President Obama has proposed increasing the enforcement budget by $3.7 billion. He has called for suspending a law passed in 2008, which requires minors to be transferred out of detention to centers where they can locate family members to care for them. He instead proposes to deport them more rapidly. Both ideas will cause more pain, violate basic rights and moral principles, and fail completely to stop migration.

NY Times writer Carl Hulse writes that the law transferring minors out of detention centers “is at the root of the potentially calamitous flow of unaccompanied minors to the nation╒s southern border.” This report and others like it not only ignore history and paint a false picture of the reasons for migration, but provide the rationale for increased enforcement.

New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez picked up the cue, declaring “we must attack this problem from a foreign policy perspective, a humanitarian perspective, a criminal perspective, immigration perspective, and a national security perspective.” He called for increasing funding for the U.S. military’s Southern Command and the State Department’s Central American Regional Security Initiative. Giving millions of dollars to some of the most violent and rightwing militaries in the western hemisphere, however, is a step back towards the military intervention policy that set the wave of forced migration into motion to begin with.

Instead, we need to help families reunite, treat immigrants with respect, and change the policies the U.S. has implemented in Central America, Mexico and elsewhere that have led to massive, forced migration. The two most effective measures would be ending the administration’s mass detention and deportation program, and ending the free trade economic and interventionist military policies that are causing such desperation in the countries these children and families are fleeing.

 
Young people in Oakland protest the detention of children and families from Central America.
________________________________________

Articles win Awards of Excellence

“Standoff in the Strawberry Fields,” which was run by Al Jazeera last fall, and “US-Style School Reform Goes South”, which ran in The Nation in last spring, won 2014 Awards of Excellence in Freelance Journalism given by the Guild Freelancers of the Pacific Media Workers Guild in San Francisco. David Bacon was also given the Raul Ramirez Journalist of the Year Award.
David Bacon radio review of the movie, Cesar Chavez

Interviews with David Bacon about his new book, The Right to Stay Home:

Book TV: A presentation of the ideas in The Right to Stay Home at the CUNY Graduate Center

http://booktv.org/Watch/14961/The+Right+to+Stay+Home+How+US+Policy+Drives+Mexican+Migration.aspx

KPFK – Uprisings with Sonali Kohatkar

http://uprisingradio.org/home/2013/09/27/the-right-to-stay-home-how-us-policy-drives-mexican-migration/

KPFA – Upfront with Brian Edwards Tiekert

Photoessay: My Studio is the Street

http://artofthecommune.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/my-studio-is-the-street-photoessay-by-david-bacon/

Photoessay: Mexico City marches against NAFTA and to protect its oil and electricity

http://desinformemonos.org/2014/02/veinte-anos-de-tlc-veinte-anos-de-resistencia/

Nativo Lopez dialogues with David Bacon on Radio Hermandad

http://radiohermandad.blogspot.com

The Real News: Immigration Reform Requires Dismantling NAFTA and Respecting Migrants’ Rights/ Immigrant Communities Resist Deportations

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10938

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10933

________________________________________

Books by David Bacon

The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration (Beacon Press, 2013)

http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2328

Illegal People — How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2002

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4575

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9989.html

For more articles and images, see http://dbacon.igc.org

 

 

July 9, 2014

Letter on Vouchers in Steven Point Journal

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:49 pm
bilde

 State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, along with other Republican lawmakers and pro-voucher lobbyists, recently attacked those who seek basic data from private voucher schools. The state’s Department of Public Instruction made the data request, which originated from the U.S. Department of Justice as it investigates a complaint filed on behalf of families who have experienced discrimination in Wisconsin’s private voucher schools.

As Shakespeare would say, “The lady doth protest too much.”

If Republican lawmakers are this upset now, imagine their indignation the next time lawmakers try to draft a bill that will make voucher schools accountable to taxpayers.

This spring’s Republican-backed effort self-destructed because the bill was more about expanding the voucher program and closing public schools than it was about holding anyone accountable. Voucher schools were asked to respond to the DPI’s request by June 30; however, the DPI cannot require their compliance because private schools are, well, private.

The reaction by Republican lawmakers to the DPI request should worry every taxpayer in Wisconsin. Instead of politicians and lobbyists endlessly reciting rhetoric on the virtues of vouchers, let’s let the facts speak for themselves.

Jeri McGinley,

Stevens Point

July 4, 2014

Emergency! Please Send an Email Protesting Injustice to Children

Filed under: American Injustice,Immigration — millerlf @ 2:35 pm

Emergency!! Minutemen and other right-wing groups are mobilizing to stop more busses of children in Murrieta, California.
Please send an emergency protest email to Murrieta, California at:
mymurrieta@murrieta.org

 
Tell the citizens of Murrieta to stop blocking busses filled with children and women who have risked their lives to try and make a better life.

  • Tell them to stop disrespecting immigrants and to stop calling the children “diseased.”
  • Tell them to oppose suffering and inequality everywhere it exists.
  • Tell the citizens of Murrieta to welcome these children with open arms and to stand up for justice!

To see the NBC report of events in Murrieta go to:

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/immigration-border-crisis/murrieta-braces-more-immigration-protests-n147956

 

 

June 24, 2014

President of the California School Board Association: Its time to revisit charter school legislation

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:24 am

President of the California School Board Association (CSBA) Josephine Lucey
June 1, 2014

I’ve been extremely fortunate in my role as CSBA President to preside
in a year in which we are not talking about cuts in public education
funding, but rather about funding distribution methodology,
accountability and curriculum changes that are aimed at closing the
achievement gap. We’ve been talking about, and pushing for, continued
investment in the Local Control Funding Formula, development of the
associated Local Control and Accountability Plans, and implementation
of Common Core State Standards, which, if done well—with time and money
allocated and spent, and deliberate attention given to staff
development—have the potential to infuse our educational system with
academic rigor and provide our students with the critical thinking
skills they’ll need in this information- and technology-based economy.
It’s the right conversation to be having—and it’s about time.

So, as we enter the second half of this legislative year, I’d like to
focus on a topic that has been less prominent, but which I believe
should move to the forefront of our attention: charter schools and the
current statewide and national trends surrounding them.

It is time for educational and political leaders to revisit charter
school legislation and charter school law. As a state, and as a nation,
we have strayed far from the original intent of charter schools.
Originally designed to experiment with new ideas and approaches in
search of better academic outcomes for students, charter schools are
frequently being founded and directed by corporations and corporate
interests—which are not about improving academic outcomes for
students, but about maximizing profits for the benefit of management’s
or shareholders’ personal wealth.

I’m reading the research, I’m talking with school board members in
other states at National School Boards Association meetings, and I’m
more and more concerned by this privatization of public education. Yes,
corporate America is moving with increasing speed into the charter
school arena. According to an April 2014 Economic Policy Institute
Report (Lafer, Gordon; Briefing Paper #375), “the last few years have
witnessed a pattern of corporate consolidation [of charter schools]. By
2011, less than 17 percent of charter school students were in schools
run by companies that operated three or fewer schools. The majority
were overseen by corporations operating 10 or more schools.” And although
many charter corporations claim to be, or are required to be,
nonprofits, in fact, they are not. The nonprofit charter itself is
often nothing more than a shell corporation integrally aligned with other
for-profit business entities.

Here’s one example: the Rocketship chain of schools—“a low-budget
operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than
more veteran and expensive faculty . . . and replaces teachers with
online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of
the day” (Lafer, 2014). While Rocketship itself is a nonprofit, it is
closely aligned with two for-profit software companies, DreamBox and
Zeal. These schools, which use the blended learning model, put students
in computer labs for a quarter of the day, at minimum, every day and
the software used in the labs is purchased from DreamBox and Zeal. This
aggressive push for expansion of Rocketship schools is critical to
their business model. More schools equals more students, which equals more
software sold and more profits.

It goes further. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and John Doerr, a
partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins
Caufield & Byers, are both on the Board of Directors of Rocketship. And
they are two of the primary investors in DreamBox. John Danner,
Rocketship’s co-founder, is Zeal’s primary investor. This type of
conflict-of-interest is illegal in public schools.

Additionally, Rocketship has a partnership with the for-profit real
estate holding company, LaunchPad. LaunchPad purchases school property,
then rents it to Rocketship. Their business model specifically states
“LaunchPad will charge relatively high facilities fees” and “the
profit margin will be used to finance new facilities” (Lafer, 2014).
Your tax dollars are being used by real estate trusts to purchase
property that is privately held and owned.

When a public school district wants to build or renovate a school, the
local community has a say. The community votes on whether to pass a
bond. The community pays for its local school, and the school remains a
community asset. Not so with corporate charters—the community has no
vote. And the local tax dollars are not purchasing a local asset; they
are helping shareholders purchase a private asset.

So why do we have charter schools? They have gained traction because
the public and many politicians believe, wrongly, that charters are the
magic bullet to academic excellence and that choice automatically leads
to better academic outcomes. But the data does not support this
perception. The National Charter School Study 2013, by The Center for
Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, shows
that charter schools on average do no better than public schools
serving the same student demographics. Even the subgroups on whom charters
appeared to have the most impact showed very modest differences from
their public school peers. And the latest Public Policy Institute study
of the Rocketship chain shows that student achievement in Rocketship
schools has declined steadily year over year. In 2012-13, all seven
Rocketship schools failed to make adequate yearly progress, with four
of seven schools found to be in “need of program improvement.”

Circling back to the original intent of charter schools, there are, of
course, examples across our state of charters that, when freed from the
oversight and regulation that each of you and your districts are bound
to, are focused on providing better academic outcomes for students.
Typically, these are stand-alone charters that were founded by the very
districts in which they reside. They are usually successful because of
strong working relationships with and support from the local districts,
and they generally rely on the local districts for management
infrastructure. For example, when I visited Kings County this year, I
toured Lemoore Middle College Charter High School. It has a strong
working relationship with its sponsoring district as well as excellent
academic outcomes for its students. The school is located on the
community college campus, which enables students to take community
college classes while in high school. This arrangement works well for
all involved.

But we need to be careful, for corporate interests are governing an
increasing number of charter schools and the quality of our children’s
education is at stake. So what do we do? Here are three actions that
you and I and CSBA can take to refocus the discussion:

* We need to stop calling charter schools public schools. They are
privately managed publicly funded schools. They are an experiment in
moving tax dollars from the public sector to the private sector.
* Talk to your legislators and push back on the notion that charter
schools are the magic bullet. Talk about the successes in your
district.
Remember, your constituents are their constituents, and you have
influence with your local voters.
* Be thoughtful and diligent in your decision making when a charter
petition comes before you. Don’t assume that a charter school is
synonymous with higher academic achievement. Do your research and base
your decisions on data, not ideology. This due diligence is especially
important for county board members reviewing charter petitions denied
by a local district.

It’s time for all in the education community to review the intent of
charter school legislation and to take a hard look at what exists in
the field today. Our public school system is one of our greatest assets.
It is the foundation of our American democracy and the door to
opportunity for all who live in our country. As educators and school
board members elected by our local communities to represent them, we
have an obligation to push hard for meaningful conversation that aims
to put charter schools’ focus back where it belongs—on achieving better
academic outcomes for students.

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