Monthly Archives: November 2007

Teach Us About Ourselves, Ask Canadian Students

About seven out of ten students in the Toronto School District of Canada are not of white European background, they come from all parts of the world to schools which ignore who they are as people. In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done by a school district, the Toronto school board asked every student in grades 7-12 to complete an intensive survey regarding their feelings and views of going to school. The anonymous nature of the survey enables young people to feel free to express their views. Many reported never learning anything about their own place of origin or about the nations of Asia from which many come. The survey revealed many interesting pieces of data such as that only 56% ate breakfast or that 35% say home distractions impact their ability to do homework. Despite some concerns about school safety the overwhelming majority said they got along well with peers and did not really encounter physical threats to their being.

The school board is following up the survey with open forums for students which allow them to express their ideas in a public meeting. The Toronto School district should be complimented on their willingness to engage students in dialogue and to make known their ability to listen to students. It is more common for adults to “talk to” young people rather than actually engaging in active listening.

Great Britain Unveils New Rape Trial Procedures

Vera Baird, Solicitor General of Great Britain, announced new procedures that will be used in rape trials. Expert witnesses will be allowed to review with juries the psychological impact of rape on a victim as well as point out it is normal for rape victims to delay reporting such crimes. Juries will also learn that in many cases, the rape victim does know the assailant. Baird is considering altering the law regarding the extent to which a victim who took alcohol or drugs is capable of giving an informed “consent” regarding sexual relations. At present, fewer than 6% of reported rape cases in England result in a conviction which is considerably down from the 33% figure of convictions in 1977.

There is scant doubt sexual promiscuity is more openly discussed and presented in the media than in prior times in history. This inundation of information and graphic imagery plays into the act of rape, and there is need for greater protection for women who are caught in a society in which too many males believe they have rights to impose sex upon women. Ms. Baird is making an important first step in dealing with this issue.

Saga Of Repayment Story For Wounded Soldiers Continues!

The sad story of what happened to private Jordan Fox continues to unravel despite Pentagon efforts to bury their mistake. The Department of Defense today stated unequivocally that military personnel wounded in action would not have to repay any portion of their enlistment bonus and claimed the letter to Private Fox was a clerical error. However, Senator Schumer of New York claims similar letters were sent to other wounded soldiers indicating this was a policy, not a clerical mistake. Furthermore, Jordan Fox pointed out a week after receiving the first letter another one came threatening that interest would be charged if he didn’t repay the money. Senator Schumer is going to push for a Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act to prevent such further “mistakes.”

If an unbiased observer reviewed what has happened to protection of veterans and fighting men and women since Democrats gained control of Congress he/she would discover that dramatic efforts have been made to safeguard military rights. The Democrats pushed through a 3.5% raise in pay despite opposition from Bush who claimed it was excessive, spouses of wounded soldiers are now protected against being fired if they must take time off to care for their spouse, and funding has been raised for Post Traumatic Stress treatment. Yet, right wing groups like Fox News continue claiming Democrats are not “supporting our fighting men and women.”

If anyone reading this story wants further information about rights of wounded military personnel they can contact: 1-800 984-8523.

Study Claims Filipinos 2nd Happiest Asian Population

A report issued on Wednesday asserts the people of the Philippines are the 2nd happiest group in Asia while people from India ranked number one. the study tries to measure how satisfied people are at present and how optimistic they are about the future. The Philippines domestic product grew by 7.3% and inflation was about 2%. Of course, only middle class people were polled which means 30% of the population is speaking for the remaining 65%. For some reason, people in this poll were optimistic about health care although Filipinos have among the lowest levels of self purchased medical insurance. Those polled are looking forward to a healthy retirement even though their nation does not provide good retirement pay. Is there something wrong with this picture?

This type of poll may well make the headlines, but it means little to the majority of Filipinos who live in a society that does little for those at the bottom and is wracked with constant corruption at the political level. If one measured political effectiveness and honesty, it is doubtful the Philippines would rank anywhere near the top. Of course, the poll completely ignored the rebellion currently being waged in the southern part of the nation by Muslim dissidents.

Hugo Chavez Seeks To End Venezuelan Democracy

As President Hugo Chavez continues his effort to create a new socialist Bolivarian society even some of his radical supporters are wondering is he concerned about the people of his nation or does this have to do with his personal needs for power. Several months ago, the Tupamaros were a leftist group supporting his efforts, but many have now turned on their former beloved leader. They refused to support the upcoming referendum which would allow Chavez to govern indefinitely. The new constitution ends term limits, allows the president to control parliament and the judiciary, to declare a state of emergency when he so desires and even extends his control over the banking system. Former Chavez ally, Raul Baduel, who served as Defense Minister, states bluntly, “Chavez is staging a coup against democracy.” The Podemos Party which supported Chavez has ended that alliance and its leader Ismael Garcia says “Chavez is gambling away the future of the nation.”

Chavez initially did attempt some important reforms such as empowering poor people to make local decisions about what is happening in their lives. He diverted money to raise people out of poverty. But, his hunger for power leads invariably towards dictatorship, in actuality, if not in name. A sad commentary on a nation that deserves better and on a man who could have done much more to aid the people of his society.

Admiral Mullen–Frustration And Hope

Admiral Mike Mullen who commands US forces in Iraq expressed hope the recent surge has proved successful in reducing the pace of terrorism, but there has not been a matching effort on the part of Iraqi political leaders to create a viable government that includes all sectors of society. President Bush noted, “The more successful we are the more American troops can return home,” but many experts believe the more successful are American military efforts, the more pressure is being exerted on Iraqi political leaders to step up and act in a decisive manner. Admiral Mullen commented that despite military success the future is “difficult to predict” because of so many variables. He is particularly “frustrated with the pace of political reconciliation at the central, senior level.”

In a sense, good news increases the possibility of poor results. As American troops clamp down on terrorists, the pressure on the Iraqi government to do something becomes even more intense. Unfortunately, the Iraqi leaders equivocate when they should act with determination to create a government including all sectors of Iraqi society.

Riots Sweep Paris Over Death Of Teenagers

A fury of anger among inhabitants of housing developments enveloped Paris as people protested the death of two teenagers whose moped crashed into a police car. President Sarkozy termed the outbreak an example of “urban guerrilla warfare” which witnessed young men firing shotguns at the police while others torched dozens of automobiles. An estimated 77 policemen were injured, including five who were listed in critical condition. People in the neighborhood charge police left the scene of the accident and did not provide assistance to the boys who crashed into their vehicle. Omar Sehhouli, brother of one of the dead boys, characterized the outbreak as stemming from the “failure to assist a person in danger” since he believes his brother was left to die by police who drove away. He also claimed people were not engaging in violence, but it was an “expression of rage.”

This is not the first example in which young men, mainly Muslim, rioted over alleged actions by police that led to the death of boys. Mr. Sehhouli is correct on one point, the riots are an expression of rage, an anger caused by continued failure of French society to deal with issues of poverty and discrimination against those of the Muslim faith. Does the presence of discrimination validate resort to violence? Of course not, since France is a democracy and people must become politically active if they wish to redress wrongs. Perhaps, it is time for President Sarkozy to initiate programs to provide work training as well as employment, to provide decent housing conditions, and ensure that schools validate the dignity of children of the Muslim faith.

Jacob Zuma And President Mbeki Fight Over Power

Jacob Zuma, African National Congress leader, who was acquitted of rape and corruption charges, appears in line to become the next president of South Africa. Despite being dogged by graft allegations, he has capitalized on the blunders of President Thabo Mbeki in order to gain overwhelming support of ANC members. Zuma is using the autocratic leadership style of Mbeki to gain widespread support as well as emphasizing a commitment to help the poor of his nation. Many people believe, although Mbeki has helped to generate a vibrant economy by working closely with business interests, he has paid less attention to those in the bottom rung of society. Zuma has gained the support of most trade union leaders, and in an amazing turnaround, the ANC Women’s League announced it would back Zuma. This group severely attacked his behavior when Zuma was charged with rape and then justified having sex with an HIV positive woman on grounds that he showered afterwards.

President Mbeki is still fighting to maintain control over the African National Congress and will not readily surrender his power. Whoever controls the ANC is assured of election to the presidency and Zuma at this point appears to be clearly in the lead. Mbeki can not run again for the presidency, but he wants control over the ANC in order to determine who will succeed him in the presidency.

Sure Bet– Who Wins Russian Duma Election!

All polls suggest that President Putin’s United Russia party will win an overwhelming victory in this week’s election for the Duma, but he president apparently wants to make double certain victory is guaranteed. Election officials have been ordered to make sure that United Russia collects double the number of votes it is expected to win in the State Duma elections on Sunday. The Central Elections Commission strongly denied the allegation, but accounts from other people familiar with the issue– including opposition politicians and state-paid workers, spoke of mounting pressure to round up votes for United Russia. One official who heads a key regional election committee told the Moscow Times that United Russia was aiming at doubling the number of votes the latest opinion polls indicate it will win. The official noted in previous elections, they would falsify figures even while foreign observers were present. The Moscow Times claims there are reports teachers, doctors, and bureaucrats have been ordered to each round up 10 voters and make certain they vote for United Russia. At Oryoi State University, professors told students to vote for United Russia or face dismissal.

At times, Vladmir Putin reminds one of Richard Nixon who in 1972 was all but assured of winning the presidential election, but insisted on the Watergate break in due to his paranoia that somehow Democrats were planning to do something to snatch victory from his grasp. Putin is running scared for some reason that is only known to his paranoid mind. The only thing he can definitely be certain of attaining besides winning this election is that he has destroyed democracy in Russia.

Finally- Iran Court Orders Investigation Into Canadian’s Death

Iran’s Supreme Court finally gave its OK for an investigation of the death of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian journalist, who was killed while taking pictures outside of the Evin prison in 2003. Iranian officials initially said Ms. Kazemi died of a stroke, but a committee appointed by the reformist President Mohammad Khatami found she died of a fractured skill and brain damage. The conservative judiciary rejected the committee’s findings and concluded she died of an accidental fall. Initially, a secret agent who interrogated Ms. Kazemi was charged with murder, but a conservative court naturally acquitted him of the charge. At no point was Ms. Kazemi charged with any crime, but most probably, some police became upset at the pictures she was taking of a notorious prison which houses many political prisoners.Ms. Kazemi’s parents believe a prison official, Mohammad Bakhshi was the one who killed her. The case eventually was appealed to the Iran Supreme Court which now wants a further investigation into the affair.

There undoubtedly is paranoia running rampant through the Iranian police structure who desperately seek to discover American spies in their midst. They probably assaulted Ms. Kazemi because she took pictures they believe were showing political prisoners being mistreated, but there is scant evidence she had the capability to take such photos.