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Monday Must Reads (Views and Listens)

September 12th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


TOO IMPORTANT TO FAIL

The terrible fact is that a staggering 48-percent of all African American males will drop out of high school. Tavis Smiley explores what amounts to a national tragedy and looks at what to do about it.

The PBS show debuts Tuesday night in LA, but check listings for your cable provider to find out what time and which PBS station will have it.


LA TIMES SAYS STATE SHOULD BE FORCED TO DEFEND PROP 8 AGAINST CHALLENGES

The Times editorial board makes an interesting and worthwhile argument. I still don’t happen to agree with them, but their points in Monday’s editorial are good ones and essential to consider as you make up your own mind.


HOW 9/11 COMPLETELY CHANGED SURVEILLANCE IN THE U.S.

This story is from Sunday’s Wired Magazine by Ryan Singel, and is a definite must read. Here’s a clip:

Former AT&T engineer Mark Klein handed a sheaf of papers in January 2006 to lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, providing smoking-gun evidence that the National Security Agency, with the cooperation of AT&T, was illegally sucking up American citizens’ internet usage and funneling it into a database.

The documents became the heart of civil liberties lawsuits against the government and AT&T. But Congress, including then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), voted in July 2008 to override the rights of American citizens to petition for a redress of grievances.

Congress passed a law that absolved AT&T of any legal liability for cooperating with the warrantless spying. The bill, signed quickly into law by President George W. Bush, also largely legalized the government’s secret domestic-wiretapping program.

Obama pledged to revisit and roll back those increased powers if he became president. But, he did not.

Mark Klein faded into history without a single congressional committee asking him to testify. And with that, the government won the battle to turn the net into a permanent spying apparatus immune to oversight from the nation’s courts.

Klein’s story encapsulates the state of civil liberties 10 years after the shattering attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. After a decade, the country is left with a legacy of secret and unilateral executive-branch actions, a surveillance infrastructure whose scope and inner workings remain secret with little oversight, a compliant judiciary system that obsequiously bows to claims of secrecy by the executive branch, and a populace that has no idea how its government uses its power or who is watching out for abuses.

Read the rest.


TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A SECOND CHANCE – A FORMER GANG MEMBER GETS TO STAY IN THE U.S.

Hector Tobar’s LA Times story is one you shouldn’t miss. Here’s a clip from the story’s opening:

Before this week, the last time I’d seen Obed Silva was in an immigration court in downtown L.A. On that day, he rolled his wheelchair to the witness box and explained to a judge why he shouldn’t be deported.

That was in 2009. Born in Mexico but raised in Orange County, Silva is a 32-year-old former gang member paralyzed from a gunshot injury who reinvented himself as a scholar. It was the errors of his youth — as a teenager he shot and wounded a man at an O.C. party — that led to the deportation proceeding.

Professors at his alma mater, Cal State L.A., testified in immigration court on his behalf. After I told his story in this column, even a conservative talk-show host said he deserved to stay in the U.S. And in December, the government agreed to stop the deportation proceedings against him.

After nearly four years of court dates and adjournments, Silva’s final appearance before a judge lasted only a few minutes, he recalled. “Next thing I knew, the judge said, ‘You’re free to go.’”

This week Silva and I met again, at his mother’s home in Buena Park. I’d come to see what he was doing with his second chance.

He’s teaching writing at Cypress College and tackling his own painful story in a book. Much of his manuscript is about another man born in Mexico, a heavy drinker who was deported many years ago, and who isn’t missed on this side of the border:

Obed’s father, the late Juan Silva.

Juan Silva was, as Obed writes, “an alcoholic, a drug-addict and a wife beater.” Juan Silva, aged 48 at his death, was one of those fraught men who live hard and leave a lifetime of wreckage in their wake.

“I came to this country to run away from him,” Obed’s mother, Marcela Mendoza, told me. Juan Silva was, by Mendoza’s account, obsessed with the family that had escaped him. Soon after they left, he followed them northward……


THE MORAL IMPERATIVE OF PRISONS: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A RESEARCHER COMPARES U.S. PRISONS WITH LOCK-UPS ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD? ANSWER: THE NEWS IS NOT GOOD

“The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky


In the spring and summer of 2010, law professor and researcher Lucian Dervan
, traveled to prisons in the United States, The Netherlands, and Israel to “compare the way each country detains its most violent and culpable residents.” The results of this research, he wrote afterward, “indicate something quite striking about what makes prisons around the world successful.” His results also indicated an alarming view of the way the United States treats its prisoners and what results from that dehumanizing treatment.

Here is a long clip from Dervan’s conclusions. (You can download the entire paper here.)

What makes one prison a violent and uncontrollable badland, while another is a calm, relatively safe, and productive facility for both staff and inmates? From my travels to three continents in search of an answer to this question, one aspect of each prison seems to contribute significantly to its success or failure. Where prisoners believed they were treated like human beings and were provided with reasonable living conditions and opportunities to utilize their time in meaningful ways, the prison environment was relatively healthy and rates of violence were low. In comparison, [in U.S. prisons] where prisoners were subjected to abhorrent living conditions and no efforts were made to treat them with a modicum of respect or provide them with even a scintilla of meaningful stimulation during the day, the prison environment was poisoned and violence ran rampant.

One final story from my travels will summarize the distinction between treating inmates like human beings and treating prisoners as mere objects for confinement.

[W]hen I traveled to Israel three prisoners were asked if they would volunteer to meet with me and, for their services, they were personally thanked by a prison official. During my visit to the state maximum-security prison, however, the treatment of the prisoners was quite different. At one point, a prisoner was sitting inside his cell reading a book. A
guard, who was showing me this particular wing of the facility, decided to demonstrate how he could control the lights inside this prisoner’s cell from outside. Without acknowledging the prisoner was even present, the guard then began switching the light on and off several times. When he was finished with his demonstration, still not having even acknowledged the presence of the prisoner inside the cell, he simply continued to walk down the corridor. It is striking to observe that the guards at this state facility treated prisoners with considerably less respect than the officers tasked with supervising convicted terrorists in Israel.

In conclusion, it is important to clarify why we care what type of environment exists inside a prison. It is certainly not clear that how prisoners are treated has any positive impact on recidivism rates. In fact, of the four prison systems examined in this Article, the one with the highest rate of recidivism is The Netherlands.Nevertheless, the environment inside prisons is vitally important. First, prisons in which inmates feel a sense of community appear to be less violent than those that serve as little more than warehouses for the one out of every hundred Americans currently behind bars. Second, prisons with high rates of violence are expensive facilities to administer because they require large staffs and incur incidental costs associated with medical treatment, overtime, and sick days. As such, prison systems can perform their functions in a more economically efficient manner by creating environments where prisoners are provided with incentives to cooperate and reject violence. Finally, treating prisoners as human beings and creating positive prison environments is simply the morally correct manner in which to administer a penitentiary.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky stated, “The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.” Even without the significant added benefits of reducing violence and lessening the administrative costs of running our prison systems, treating prisoners with dignity is the moral duty of any government. That abiding by this duty creates a safer environment for both staff and inmates and provides for the possibility of creating better prisons with less money should merely be considered a significant and
wonderful ancillary benefit.


FATHER MYCHAL JUDGE – “WE COME TO BURY HIS HEART BUT NOT HIS LOVE, NEVER HIS LOVE”

Like most news outlets, NPR had a string of good 9/11 stories. This, about the death of NY City Fire Department chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, is a particularly sweet one.

Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan friar and a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. He was also a true New York character. Born in Brooklyn, Mychal Judge seemed to know everyone in the city, from the homeless to the mayor.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Father Mychal arrived at the World Trade Center shortly after the first plane hit. And as firefighters and other rescue personnel ran into the North Tower, he went with them.

Bill Cosgrove, a police lieutenant, was also there. When the South Tower collapsed, it sent debris flying into the neighboring building. When the dust cleared, Mychal Judge was dead. Soon after, Cosgrove found him. Then, Cosgrove and a group of firefighters emerged from the rubble, carrying Father Mychal’s body….

Listen to the rest here.


AND JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT….FOX SPORTS AND THE STUNNINGLY RACIST USE OF USC STUDENT

As you may or may not know by now, Fox Sports ran a video about the inclusion of two more college teams—Utah and Colorado— in the PAC 10, which will now be the PAC 12. In order to publicize the change on Fox’s college sports show, the show’s “reporter” Bob Oschack interviewed students at USC about their reaction to the new of the change, and asked them to “give a good old fashioned American welcome” the two new schools. Oschack, however, did not interview just any USC students. He picked only Asian students and only Asian students with strong accents. The result was racial caricature that was utterly flabbergasting in its creepiness.

The story was first reported by the Colorado Daily Camera and in short order calls and emails began to stream into the network, Fox Sports at first issued a tepid apology that was little more than an “Ooops. Our bad.” Then, a few hours later, as the fury over the vile video grew, there were evidently some hurried meetings in FoxLand because the apology from the Fox Sports head got a little bit stronger—but not much.

We sincerely apologize to President [C. L. Max] Nikias and the entire USC community for the production and posting of the video. The context was clearly inappropriate and the video was removed as soon as we became aware of it. We will review our editorial process to determine where the breakdown occurred, and we will take steps to ensure something like this never happens again.

The fury continued, thus on Wed, Fox cancelled its college sports show, The College Experiment which had produced the horrid segment, yanked videos from the network site and Hulu, and apologized all over again. (Of course Fox couldn’t stop a million video flowers from blooming on YouTube and the like. For example, here at KCET in it is posted along with a commentary by blogger/teacher Ophelia Chong, which—by the way— is very much worth reading.

Although the news on the incident died down over the weekend, all is far from forgiven. After all, said one Asian commentator, Fox is the network that called Obama’s birthday party “a “hip-hop BBQ” that “didn’t create jobs”—and other fun racist moments. In other words, they created the environment in which it was only a matter of time that the racist crap on the news segments would bleed into areas like sports coverage.


Posted in art and culture, crime and punishment, criminal justice, Gangs, immigration, Middle East, Must Reads, National issues, prison, prison policy, race, racial justice | No Comments »

Iraq and Afghanistan Vets of America to Honor Tim Hetherington at Heroes Gala

April 27th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America were already planning to honor photojournalist Tim Hetherington and author Sebastian Junger
at the IAVA’s yearly gala dinner—their Heroes Dinner—that will take place tonight at 7 pm at on the Twentieth Century Fox studio lot. The two are being honored for their work in general, but specifically for their film, Restrepo, which follows one platoon of soldiers stationed in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, a location generally considered to the the most dangerous of the Afghan war.

Both veterans and those in active military service embraced Restrepo with an unusual amount of affection. It was a film that really got it, they said, that really showed with no b.s. what it was like to be in combat in the 21st century. The official Twitter feed of the U.S. Army Reserve tweeted in support of Restrepo after it was nominated for an Oscar, as did IAVA’s founder and executive director, Paul Rieckhoff, who had come to regard Hetherington as a personal friend.

Then, on April 20—just a week ago—Rieckhoff got the call that Tim Hetherington had been killed in the Libyan town of Misrata.

Although most veterans have known more than their share of death, still the news about Hetherington was a blow.

Reickhoff posted the following statement online late that same day:

The IAVA family is deeply saddened by the loss today of our dear friend Tim Hetherington. Tim was not only a renowned filmmaker and photojournalist, but also a tremendous leader, advocate and partner to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans everywhere. He was one of the few journalists willing to risk his own life to tell our toughest stories. Tim understood the harshest realities facing troops on the front lines because he stood there right alongside us in the fight. Our community has lost a brilliant journalist and a true brother. From his Oscar-nominated film Restrepo to his involvement with military and veterans charities, Tim lived his life with unparalleled passion, energy and commitment. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tim’s family and friends. His legacy will live on through his historic contributions to our community and to the world at large. He never forgot us. And we’ll never forget him.

Now, in addition to the recognition of the two filmmakers, the glittery gala will will include a memorial retrospective of Hetherington’s work and life.

It should be a good night, but a bittersweet one.

Posted in American artists, media, Middle East, War | No Comments »

Wednesday Fresh Picks

September 22nd, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



CNN’S MICHAEL WARE SUFFERS FROM PTSD AND IS HAUNTED BY A POSSIBLE WAR CRIME HE WAS NEVER ABLE TO REPORT

CNN’s Michael Ware is one of the most courageous, insightful and brilliant war reporters working. Now an article in the Brisbane Times plus a new documentary on Australian TV let us in on the cost of his work—and recount the incident that was “too hot to broadcast.”


DESPITE THE FISCAL SETBACKS, SIGNS OF LIFE AND HOPE ARE EVERYWHERE AT HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES REPORTS NEON TOMMY’S CALLIE SCHWEITZER

Callie Schweitzer, the editor-in-chief of Annenberg’s Neon Tommy, made her first visit to Homeboy Industries on the day that the office was reeling and grief stricken because friend and employee Irvin Panameno had been fatally shot the morning before.

Interestingly, Schweitzer saw the staff’s reaction to the tragedy as indicative of the program’s strength. After researching and interviewing further, she came back with an excellent report detailing the various signs of fiscal recovery in evidence at Homeboy, as it continues to deal with the cash flow problems that reached their nadir on that heartbreaking day last May, when Father Greg Boyle was forced to lay off 330 employees.



YES THERE WAS A SETBACK TUESDAY WITH DADT, BUT GAY RIGHTS MOVES FORWARD SAYS THE NY TIMES

Well, let’s hope they’re right. Here’s the link to the news analysis by the NYT’s John Schwartz.

The NYT also has this editorial on the disheartening defeat of the repeal of an irrational and unjust practice that discriminates against so many fine and courageous people who serve in our military.


HOLLYWOOD WANTS STATE PARKS OPEN (OTHERWISE THE PRODUCERS AND DIRECTORS LOSE THEIR BACK LOTS)

Or so the LA Times’ Richard Verrier reports and it’s a hard observation to dispute. But, hey, if H’Wood wants to be FOP—friend of parks—for its own selfish reasons, y’all com’on down! We’re tickled to have you. LA’s kids who need and deserve park access get the benefit—as will the rest of us.


STEVE LOPEZ TRIES OUT USE-OF-DEADLY-FORCE

The LA Times Steve Lopez decides to walk in a cop’s metaphorical shoes by taking a video-simulator training session on deadly force at the LAPD academy at in Elysian Park.

His only regret at the end of the day was that he didn’t get to then help frog march Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo out of his house in handcuffs” and/or smash in the door of Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez with a battering ram.
(An entirely understandable regret. I’d've liked to have been there to do a little bashing myself.)

Posted in media, Middle East, War | No Comments »

Obama, Truth-Telling & Gaza

January 26th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

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As you’ll note, this time all the Sunday/Monday Must Reads (and a must see) are on the same topic:

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As 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon pointed out in a segment on Sunday night, the situation in Gaza and the West Bank is so high up on Barack Obama’s To Do list that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

A day or two later, Obama reaffirmed his sense of urgency by appointing former senator George Mitchell, respected for his work in brokering peace in Northern Ireland, as the new administration’s special Middle East envoy.

But if Obama is to have even a ghost of a chance of brokering a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians—he will have to start from the facts as they really are, which has not exactly been the habit for the last two administrations when it came to the Middle East.

To that end, Barack would do well to begin by reading the article in this week’s London Review of books by Henry Siegman.

Siegman is the former head of the American Jewish Congress and the Synagogue Council of America, as well as the the current director of the US Middle East Project in New York. His piece is authoritative, well-sourced and harsh—and this week’s number 1 must read for anyone with an interest in the region.

Here’s how it opens:

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organization, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defense but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division…

As a follow-up, read Sunday’s Scott Macleod’s essay for Time Magazine in which he talks about why Obama is the last American president who might be able to help broker a two state solution. If he doesn’t manage it, the window will be gone.

And then watch the aforementioned 60 Minutes segment in which Bob Simon talks about how, for many on both sides of the conflict, the two-state solution may be already impossible.

Posted in international issues, International politics, Middle East, Obama | 8 Comments »

The Non-Harmonizing Voices of the Gaza Demonstrations

January 7th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

candlelight-vigil.jpg


As most of you are aware, there was another demonstration
about the situation in Gaza yesterday. This one was held in front of the Israeli Consulate and was organized by ANSWER, with a competing demonstration across the street.

Three more demonstrations are scheduled in LA in the next few days. Yet it is clear that not all of the demonstration organizers share the same point of view.

On Saturday there will be another ANSWER organized event. This one is being billed as a “National Day of Emergency Mass Action.”

Sunday, LA Jews for Peace are organizing another event at noon at the Federal Building.

And then today at 5 p.m. the American Friends Service Committee has organized a silent candlelight vigil at the Israeli Consulate in which American Jews for Peace and Code Pink are also participating.

On first bounce one might wonder why these various factions don’t combine their efforts rather than having multiple separate actions. Yet, when one skims the literature promoting each of the events—most particularly the ANSWER event and the AFSC event—-the differences become clear.

For instance, the literature for ANSWER’s demonstration is impassioned, but also a little shrieky—using rhetoric that seems designed to rouse mostly the true believers but likely nobody else.

In contrast, at the American Friends Service Committee website the tone is somber and shrieking is firmly discouraged.

For instance, although participants are encouraged to bring their own homemade signs to the vigil, there is the cautionary note: “as long as the emphasis is on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, calls for a cease-fire, and ending the siege.”
Even Code Pink, which is not generally known for its low key attitude, was restrained and serious in its press release about the AFSC event.

In other words, ANSWER and company intends to righteously protest in outrage, while AFSC (along with American Jews for Peace and Code Pink) seeks to persuade.

While outrage can be tempting, in a situation this complex and emotion-fraught it is hardly effective. That’s why, speaking personally, I much prefer the approach of the guys (and women) in group two.

Posted in Middle East | 1 Comment »

SUNDAY/MONDAY MUST READS

January 5th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

gaza-bombing.jpg

A variety of must reads below:


WHEN WALL STREET’S RISK MANAGEMENT STRATEGY BECAME THE BIGGEST RISK OF ALL

Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine ran a very smart feature article by Joe Nocera about those gee-whiz risk management theorems we heard so much about during the early days of the financial meltdown. Here’s how it opens:

THERE AREN’T MANY widely told anecdotes about the current financial crisis, at least not yet, but there’s one that made the rounds in 2007, back when the big investment banks were first starting to write down billions of dollars in mortgage-backed derivatives and other so-called toxic securities. This was well before Bear Stearns collapsed, before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the federal government, before Lehman fell and Merrill Lynch was sold and A.I.G. saved, before the $700 billion bailout bill was rushed into law. Before, that is, it became obvious that the risks taken by the largest banks and investment firms in the United States — and, indeed, in much of the Western world — were so excessive and foolhardy that they threatened to bring down the financial system itself. On the contrary: this was back when the major investment firms were still assuring investors that all was well, these little speed bumps notwithstanding — assurances based, in part, on their fantastically complex mathematical models for measuring the risk in their various portfolios.

There are many such models, but by far the most widely used is called VaR — Value at Risk. Built around statistical ideas and probability theories that have been around for centuries, VaR was developed and popularized in the early 1990s by a handful of scientists and mathematicians — “quants,” they’re called in the business — who went to work for JPMorgan

Read the rest: [The art's particularly good too.]

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FORGET THE CASUALTIES IN GAZA, IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT IRAN

Sunday’s LA Times and New York Times both featured opinion pieces that rationalize the staggeringly disproportionate bombings of Gaza by advancing the theory that Israel really isn’t fighting the Palestinians or even Hamas, that the real target is Iran.

First here’s a clip from the LA Times Op Ed by Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren:

The images from the fighting in Gaza are harrowing but ultimately deceptive. They portray a mighty invading army, one equipped with F-16 jets that have bombed a civilian population defended by a few thousand fighters armed with primitive rockets. But widen the lens and the true nature of this conflict emerges. Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, is a proxy for the real enemy Israel is confronting: Iran. And Israel’s current operation against Hamas represents a unique chance to deal a strategic blow to Iranian expansionism.

(I’m sure it’s comforting for the loved ones of the dead to know that those killed are merely proxies, and “deceptive” ones, at that.)

Then over at the NY Times, Bill Kristol doesn’t bother with civilian deaths—”deceptive” or otherwise—as he babbles with breathtaking lack of anything resembling human concern about how Israel will succeed in Gaza:

An Israeli success in Gaza would be a victory in the war on terror — and in the broader struggle for the future of the Middle East. Hamas is only one manifestation of the rise, over the past few decades, of a terror-friendly and almost death-cult-like form of Islamic extremism. The combination of such terror movements with a terror-sponsoring and nuclear-weapons-seeking Iranian state (aided by its sidekick Syria) has produced a new kind of threat to Israel.

But not just to Israel. To everyone in the Middle East — very much including Muslims — who aren’t interested in living under the sway of extremist regimes. And to any nation, like the United States, that is a target of Islamic terror.

It always makes the collateral damage so much less…you know….damage-y if one can simply monsterize the enemy as other with terms like “almost death-cult-like” and “terror-friendly.”

PS: By comparison, the editorial from today’s Haaretz takes a much saner tone and urges the Israeli government to listen to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recommendation of a “lull” in the fighting. The Haaretz editors point out that more days of attack “…and hundreds more dead on the Palestinian side will not enhance Israeli deterrence; it will only undermine the political and moral basis of the operation.”

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A FIRST CLASS MUSIC EDUCATION COSTS….NOTHING

This last is not really a must read. Instead, the LA Times article by Charles Koppelman falls more into the category of a much welcomed and pleasant read, coming as it does on the same day that we read that our lousy fiscal climate may drive the California Universities to accept fewer than usual deserving in-state students because the UCs need the bucks provided by the higher ticket out-of-state tuition that non-California students are required to pay.

Koppelman’s article profiles the Colburn Conservatory of Music, a world class music performance school located across from Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles, which takes students based simply on talent and merit and charges…..nada, nothing, zip, zero for tuition. The late businessman Richard Colburn made the tuition-free school possible, with ongoing support from the Colburn Foundation.

Anyway, it’s a nice piece. Read the rest here.

Posted in Economy, Education, Middle East | 45 Comments »

The Bombing of Gaza

December 30th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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I generally stay off this issue,
but as the bombing in Gaza continues to worsen and the Los Angeles Times insists on printing blatantly one-sided accounts, like this one, to supposedly inform us, it is time to offer a few counterweights.

(Note to LA Times reporter Michael Muskal: When writing a “primer” about the “key factors behind” any given conflict, like, say, the violence being rained down on Gaza, it is generally considered comme il faut to actually present the “factors” affecting both sides of the conflict, not to merely offer a justification for the side with which you agree, which is activism masquerading as journalism.)

To put a bit more of a human face on the situation, here is an essay written on the second day of the bombing by Dr. Akram Habeeb, Assistant Professor of American Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza.

As a Fulbright scholar and professor of American literature at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), I have always preferred to keep silent about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I always felt that it was my mission to preach love and peaceful coexistence. However, Israel’s massive offensive against the Gaza Strip has spurred me to speak out.

Last night, during the second night of Israel’s unprecedented attack on Gaza, I was awakened by the deafening sound of intensive bombardment. When I learned that Israel had bombed my university with American-made F-16s, I realized that its “target bank” had gone bankrupt. Of course Israeli politicians and generals would claim that IUG is a Hamas stronghold and that it preaches terrorism.

As an independent professor, not affiliated with any political party, I can say that IUG is an academic institution which embraces a wide spectrum of political affinities. I see it as prestigious university which encourages liberalism and free thought. This personal point view might seem to be biased; therefore, I would invite anyone who would doubt about my assertions to browse IUG’s website and research its history. They would learn about its membership in various international academic institutions, the active role its professors play in scholarly research as well as prizes and research grants they have received.

Why would Israel bomb a university?
Israel did not only target my university last night. It also bombed mosques, pharmacies and homes. In Jabaliya refugee camp Israeli bombs killed four little girls, sisters from the Balousha family. In Rafah they killed three brothers, aged 6, 12 and 14. They also killed a mother, along with her one-year-old child from the Kishko family in Gaza City ….

And then there is this from Italian journalist, Vittorio Arrigoni, who has been writing from Gaza:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Middle East | 35 Comments »

C-Sun’s Esha Momeni is Released on Bail….For the Moment – UPDATED

November 11th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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Esha Momeni, that 28-year-old Cal State Northridge graduate student
who was arrested in Teheran last month, has been in solitary confinement in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons since October 15. On Monday, however, Esha was released on $200,000 bail. Her father put up the bail—along with the deed to the family’s Tehran apartment.

The LA Times has a story on Esha’s release and the very scary charges she still faces:

Esha Momeni, 28, a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen who was visiting Iran to research a master’s thesis, may not leave the country and must still stand before a political tribunal to face charges of “acting against national security” and “propagating against the system,” said Reza Momeni, her father.

Both are serious charges that can carry lengthy prison sentences.

In a brief telephone interview, Momeni said his daughter had lost about 15 pounds but otherwise appeared to be in good health. He said he had to put up the deed to his family’s Tehran apartment as collateral to win his Los Angeles-born daughter’s release.

“I hope she will go back to L.A. soon,” he said. “But for now, the authorities told us she is forbidden to go out. Tomorrow, we will be in court, and they will tell us what the next step will be.”

(For the back story leading to Esha’s arrest, click here.)

Esha’s boyfriend has created a website dedicated to her release. It features, among other things, a list of nearly 90 university professors and scholars who have signed a statement protesting Esha’s arrest.

Esha was getting her master’s degree in communication and had been in Iran for two months to finish her thesis on the Iranian women’s movement. She had been spending the day interviewing a group called the One Million Signatures Campaign, when she was arrested.

The Turkish Weekly reported that Iranian women activists involved in One Million Signatures say that dozens of them have been detained since they began their 2006 campaign to collect 1 million signatures to protest various forms of discrimination against women in Iran.

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UPDATE: I was so sleepy last night when I put this up, I left off the followng important point:

As loathsome as the Iranians are in this, at least they didn’t arrest her the minute she landed in Iran, take her to a hidden location for questioning for 12 days, without allowing her family to be notified of her whereabouts, then fly her to another nation where she was beaten and kept in a coffin-sized cell for 10 months, before being released when her finally managed finally to find out what had occurred and her government applied pressure since there was no evidence indicating that she had done the things of which she was accused.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in crime and punishment, Free Speech, Middle East | 16 Comments »

Mahmoud Darwish: 1941-2008

August 9th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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And they asked him:
Why do you sing?
And he answered:
I sing because I sing…

And they searched his chest
But could only find his heart
And they searched his heart
But could only find his people
And they searched his voice
But could only find his grief
And they searched his grief
But could only find his prison
And they searched his prison
But could only see themselves in chains

On the day when my words
were earth…

I was a friend to stalks of wheat.

On the day when my words
were wrath
I was a friend to chains.

On the day when my words
were stones
I was a friend to streams.

On the day when my words
were a rebellion
I was a friend to earthquakes.

On the day when my words
were bitter apples
I was a friend to the optimist.

But when my words became
honey…
flies covered
my lips!…

The great Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, died Saturday in Houston, Texas. The loss is enormous. His voice is irreplaceable.

You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are men like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
Men like you!

…Our cups of coffee. Birds green trees
In the blue shade, the sun gambols from one wall
To another like a gazelle
The water in the clouds has the unlimited shape of what is left to us
Of the sky. And other things of suspended memories
Reveal that this morning is powerful and splendid,
And that we are the guests of eternity.

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AP Photo by Gil Cohen Magen

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