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Nelson Mandela: July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013

December 5th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

….During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

These were the final lines of the speech Nelson Mandela made on April 20, 1964, during the opening of his trial on charges of sabotage at the Supreme court of South Africa.

As we know, Mandela did not, as it turned out, have to die for the cause he spoke about that day. Instead, he gave 27 years of his physical freedom, and the rest of his days to the task of shining a light on those “cherished ideals”—-as an anti-apartheid hero, as South Africa’s first black president, as a peacemaker, a healer, a symbol of freedom, a moral compass.

The sum of light, compassion, and forgiveness available to the rest of us is far greater for Nelson Mandela’s choice.

Posted in International, international issues, Life in general | No Comments »

Wednesday Must Reads

March 9th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


The New York Times reports. Here’s how the story opens:

No one at the Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies works harder than Stacey Isaacson, a seventh-grade English and social studies teacher. She is out the door of her Queens home by 6:15 a.m., takes the E train into Manhattan and is standing out front when the school doors are unlocked, at 7. Nights, she leaves her classroom at 5:30.

“She’s very dedicated,” said Tejal Bahtt, a fellow teacher. “She works way harder than I work. Yesterday I punched in at 7:10 and her time card was already there.”

Last year, when Ms. Isaacson was on maternity leave, she came in one full day a week for the entire school year for no pay and taught a peer leadership class.

Her principal, Megan Adams, has given her terrific reviews during the two and a half years Ms. Isaacson has been a teacher. “I know that this year had its moments of challenge — you always handled it with grace and presence,” the principal wrote on May 4, 2009. “You are a wonderful teacher.”

Anyway, the story goes on and on listing even more of Ms. Isaacson’s amazing qualities.

And then….dum-da-dum-dum.

You would think the Department of Education would want to replicate Ms. Isaacson — who has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia — and sprinkle Ms. Isaacsons all over town. Instead, the department’s accountability experts have developed a complex formula to calculate how much academic progress a teacher’s students make in a year — the teacher’s value-added score — and that formula indicates that Ms. Isaacson is one of the city’s worst teachers.

According to the formula, Ms. Isaacson ranks in the 7th percentile among her teaching peers — meaning 93 per cent are better.

Read the rest.


I’m so glad someone is finally doing this story This is from the San Francisco Chronicle:

California prison guards and their supervisors have racked up 33.2 million hours of vacation, sick and other paid time off – an astounding accumulation that amounts to nearly half a year per worker.

It also adds up to a $1 billion liability for taxpayers of the deficit-plagued state.

Poor management at California’s prisons has for years allowed workers to stock up on generous amounts of paid time off – a benefit that employees must either use or cash out when they retire. But the numbers swelled when former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger imposed furloughs in 2009, forcing prison guards and their supervisors to take unpaid days off each month to help save state cash.

But somehow it worked out that guards came in on their furlough days and then got paid overtime.

Read the rest.


The AFP has the story:

A 20-year old woman police chief who fled her northern Mexican border town after receiving death threats could soon have her asylum claim heard by a US judge, an immigration official told AFP Tuesday.

An official with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) told AFP that Marisol Valles Garcia is in the United States after fleeing her post as the top law enforcement official in the Mexican town of Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero in northern Chihuahua state.

A college student and mother, Valles, who officials said already has filed her asylum petition, was fired over the weekend by local officials for abandoning her job.

Relatives have said that the young woman received death threats from a criminal group that wanted to force her to work for them….


And while we’re on the topic of trouble in Mexico, LA reporter Daniel Hernandez, now living in and reporting from Mexico, filed this alarming report on his site Intersections:

…[Ciudad Juarez is a government-sustained human rights disaster, a 21st Century-style slow-burn multi-actor city-cide. Don’t get the daily carnage tally by Molly Molloy at Frontera List? It tests the stomach. Juarez is drowning in death. But Juarez is just the tip of it all.

Read this piece in Spanish by Froylan Enciso in a recent issue of Gatopardo. Up in a town in the Sierra Madre, up from Mazatlán, a drug-trade-related ambush during Christmas 2009 leaves at least 40 people dead, maybe up to 100, Enciso writes during a visit home.

The incident never makes it into the press. It didn’t happen. I checked the federal government database on homicides this morning. For Mazatlán, only 97 homicides are reported in 2009. That doesn’t sound right …

They tell us lately “at least” 35,000 have been killed in Mexico’s drug-trade violence since the governments ignited it on themselves in 2006. That can’t be accurate. Just ask someone who knows better, ask Metinides. As Enciso illustrates, so many dead are not reported, so many kidnapped are never returned. We’ll never know….

Read the rest.


Representative Peter T. King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will begin Congressional hearings on Islamic radicalism on Thursday.

On Tuesday’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart had one or two things to say about King’s approach:

Just watch it.


The California Supreme Court is presently struggling over when one may define a pimp as a pimp.

Read the Sf Chron’s account.

Posted in Education, International, international issues, International politics, prison, prison policy, unions | No Comments »

Egypt: The Joy Spreads

February 12th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

Friday night at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Posted in International, international issues, International politics | 8 Comments »


February 11th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

“The moral force of nonviolence.” Barack Obama

Posted in International, international issues, International politics | 1 Comment »

Friday: Witnessing History at Tahrir

February 11th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

On Friday the crowds in Tahrir square were bigger than ever,
their mood angry and expectant.

On Thursday it seemed that Egypt was on the verge of a fundamental shift of axis —with the help of the country’s military council. But then Hosni Mubarak appeared like a malign moon on TV screens around Egypt. He was followed by the newly anointed Vice President Omar Suleiman who told the acres of protesters in the square to go home and, in a spectacular display of condescension and cluelessness, warned them of the dangers of listening to “foreign satellite broadcasts.”

Early Friday the feeling that history was about to arrive was strongly in the air again. This was fueled when, at mid-morning in Cairo, word come down to Tahrir Square that the military leaders had met earlier and the army would have an announcement shortly.

At noon the second announcement comes through. Egypt Supreme Military Council’s “Communique #2″ is read from the State TV building by a news anchor, unlike the first statement, which was read by a top army official himself. The crowd is deflated. They had hoped that the army would seize control.

Instead it feels to most in the crowd as if the army has sided with Mubarak’s since it has endorsed his plan to transfer power to Omar Suleiman.

The good news, if there is good news, is that the military high council promises to lift the country’s 30-year state of emergency when the “current situation has ended.” They also say that “honorable” protesters won’t be prosecuted.

Nadia El-Awady tweets from a club where protesters have gathered near to the presidential palace:

We told army officer in front of pres palace today was a day of shame for all of #egypt because of army position

On other other hand, earlier in the morning, an Egyptian army officer joined the demonstrators and said that 15 other middle-ranking officers had also joined the side of the people in the street, reports Al Jazeera.

And so the drama continues.

I have two stories that have to do with issues closer to home, but they will keep until next week. Today all eyes are on Tahrir Square.

In the meantime, here are a few links that relate to the events that have been unfolding in the past 24 hours.


This is from the Washington Post:

A former Israeli Cabinet minister who has long known Egypt’s embattled leader says Hosni Mubarak is looking for an honorable way out.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of Israel’s Labor Party says he spoke with Mubarak just hours before the Egyptian president’s speech late Thursday in which he transferred authorities to his deputy but refused to step down. This angered hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding he relinquish his three-decade grip on power.

Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio on Friday that Mubarak knew “this was the end of the road” and wanted only to “leave in an honorable fashion.”


This is a clip from Friday’s NY Times OpEd by possible Egyptian presidential candidate, Nobel Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei who lays out the next steps he believes are necessary too achieve what the Egyptian people want:

….The United States and its allies have spent the better part of the last decade, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and countless lives, fighting wars to establish democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that the youth of Cairo, armed with nothing but Facebook and the power of their convictions, have drawn millions into the street to demand a true Egyptian democracy, it would be absurd to continue to tacitly endorse the rule of a regime that has lost its own people’s trust.

Egypt will not wait forever on this caricature of a leader we witnessed on television yesterday evening, deaf to the voice of the people, hanging on obsessively to power that is no longer his to keep.

What needs to happen instead is a peaceful and orderly transition of power, to channel the revolutionary fervor into concrete steps for a new Egypt based on freedom and social justice. The new leaders will have to guarantee the rights of all Egyptians. They will need to dissolve the current Parliament, no longer remotely representative of the people. They will also need to abolish the Constitution, which has become an instrument of repression, and replace it with a provisional Constitution, a three-person presidential council and a transitional government of national unity.

The presidential council should include a representative of the military, embodying the sharing of power needed to ensure continuity and stability during this critical transition. The job of the presidential council and the interim government during this period should be to set in motion the process that will turn Egypt into a free and democratic society. This includes drafting a democratic Constitution to be put to a referendum, and preparing for free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections within one year…..


In this morning’s LA Times, Bob Drogin reports poignantly about the whipsawing moods of optimism and then crashing disappointment among Thursday’s crowds in Tahrir Square.

President Hosni Mubarak’s face glared down from a giant screen that rippled in the cold breeze above Tahrir Square. His gravelly voice boomed across a multitude of protesters standing silently, standing in shock, but most important, still standing.

When Mubarak stunned them by announcing that he would not quit, jeers filled the air.

When he said he was just like them, the countless thousands who have endured his 30-year rule and battled to bring democracy to Egypt, they laughed.

And long before Mubarak had finished speaking Thursday night, they answered in a roar that rolled across the square like a crashing wave until it drowned out the loudspeakers.

“Erhal! Erhal!” they chanted, thrusting clenched fists in the air. “Leave! Leave!”

They had come to witness history, the triumph of people power over a mighty Arab leader, the only president many of them had ever known.

They had celebrated through a long night of wild rumors: Mubarak had fled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Mubarak was in prison; Mubarak was being pushed out by the military.

The euphoria deflated like a popped balloon when Mubarak started speaking at 10:45 p.m….

Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Posted in International, international issues, International politics | No Comments »

“Innaharda, ehna kullina Misryeen.” Today, we are all Egyptians.

February 4th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

Nicholas Kristof, who continues to go to Tahrir Square, had another good column about the astonishing bravery he saw around him.

PS: Keep an eye on the name Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, who showed up on the square today and is one of those whose name is being tossed around as a possible presient.

PPS: The Committee to Protect Journalists is documenting more attacks and threats made against journalists, much of it reportedly coordinated by the Egyptian government in the form of the Interior Ministry.

An Egyptian journalist, shot earlier in the week, has died.

Posted in International, international issues, International politics | 5 Comments »

Cairo: Gov’t Forces Threatening, Beating & Detaining Journalists

February 3rd, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


Egypt no longer safe for journalists" writes GAWKER.

Diane Sawyer’s office compiled an ever-expanding list of reporters and photographers who were attacked, threatened and or detained in the last two days.

The New York Times wrote on Thursday:

No news organization seemed exempt from the rage, which escalated as the week wore on. Whether from Western or Arab media, television networks or wire services, newspapers or photo syndicates, journalists were chased through the streets and had their equipment stolen or smashed. Some were beaten so badly that they required hospital treatment.

ABC News reported that one of its crews was carjacked on Thursday and threatened with beheading. A Reuters journalist said a “gang of thugs” had stormed the news service’s office and started smashing windows. And four journalists from The Washington Post were detained by forces that they suspected were from the Interior Ministry. All four were released by early Friday. But two of them, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief and a photographer, had been ordered not to leave a local hotel.

“It appears that journalists are being targeted by the Egyptian authorities in a deliberate campaign of intimidation aimed at quashing honest, independent reporting of a transformational event,” said The Post’s foreign editor, Douglas Jehl.

Photographer, Andrew Burton, wrote about the attack on him:

I don’t know what happened to the men that protected me. I owe them my life, or something close to it. I don’t know what would have happened to me without them. This is my first time in a situation like this. I was incredibly lucky. Outside, numerous journalists, photographers and friends were beaten, had their cameras smashed, hurt badly. I got very lucky, very fucking lucky.

It’s now Thursday morning. No journalists I know are heading outside at the moment. TV is only showing footage from rooftops – no footage from on the ground. Reporters on the ground are giving live reports from their phones. I have no idea what is going to happen.

Posted in International, international issues, International politics | No Comments »

When Friday Dawns over Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Much Depends Upon the Army

February 3rd, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

“Side by side with the ugliest of humanity, you find the best.”

And so it was in Tahrir Square on Wednesday night, Thursday morning. The NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof gives one out of the many, many extraordinary and harrowing reports that have spilled out of Cairo in the last 24 historic hours while the rest of us continued to watch and hope.

Here’s a clip:

Pro-government thugs at Tahrir Square used clubs, machetes, swords and straight razors on Wednesday to try to crush Egypt’s democracy movement, but, for me, the most memorable moment of a sickening day was one of inspiration: watching two women stand up to a mob.

I was on Tahrir Square, watching armed young men pour in to scream in support of President Hosni Mubarak and to battle the pro-democracy protesters. Everybody, me included, tried to give them a wide berth, and the bodies of the injured being carried away added to the tension. Then along came two middle-age sisters, Amal and Minna, walking toward the square to join the pro-democracy movement. They had their heads covered in the conservative Muslim style, and they looked timid and frail as thugs surrounded them, jostled them, shouted at them.

Yet side by side with the ugliest of humanity, you find the best. The two sisters stood their ground. They explained calmly to the mob why they favored democratic reform and listened patiently to the screams of the pro-Mubarak mob. When the women refused to be cowed, the men lost interest and began to move on — and the two women continued to walk to the center of Tahrir Square…..

Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

Posted in International, international issues, International politics | No Comments »

Standing With Egypt

January 28th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

“We’ve waited for this revolution for years…Mona Eltahawy for The Guardian writes. “But here now finally are our children—Generation Facebook—kicking aside the burden of history, determined to show us just how easy it is to tell the dictator it’s time to go.”

photo by Mohammed Abed / AFP-Getty Images

Posted in International | 33 Comments »