Monthly Archives: July 2008

Hope For Peace In Zimbabwe

A signature, some handshakes, and four days of talks have raised hopes for an end to the Zimbadwean political crisis that was created by President Mugabe when he refused to accept the decision of his people they wanted someone else to lead the nation. The economy is in ruins, members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change(MDC) are still reeling after the attacks on them from Mugabe’s thugs, but there is a fragile hope some type of resolution of the conflict is still possible. Mugabe and his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, shook hands, but the question still remans as to whether Mugabe is willing to cede some power to the MDC.

There is no question, despite the bravado of challenging the world, President Mugabe is weaker than at any other point in his political career. His nation is under tremendous pressure from the outside world and from fellow African leaders for peace in Zimbabwe. But, as always, the issue comes down to the personality of the little tyrant who has never been willing to share power with anyone. Can he move away from the abyss of disaster and for once in his life act presidential?

Mixed Reviews For Obama Among Arab Leaders

There was a mixed reaction among Arab leaders and the media to the recent Middle Eastern visit of Senator Barack Obama. He did meet with President Abbas and pledged to assume an active role in working for peace in the region, and he did please many Arab leaders by telling the Jerusalem Post that “aggressive settlement” construction most probably violated agreements made by Israel. Obama emphasized that Israel has to be more flexible and ready to compromise on certain issues like West Bank settlements. His view was in sharp contrast with that of Senator McCain who did not meet with Arab officials and played to the Jewish vote in American by ignoring Arab concerns.

Ambassador Hesham Youssef, of the Arab League, told the Cairo Daily News, “it gave us a opportunity to get to know him first hand, and leads us to hope that, unlike the current administration, Obama as president would dedicate more time to resolving the arab-Israel conflict and not just focus on Iraq.” However, Youssef Barghouti, of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was concerned Obama did not visit any Arab villages and spent more time with Israelis than with Arab officials.

There was genuine concern among many Arabs that Obama said Jerusalem would remain “the undivided capital of Israel” although he later modified that statement by saying Israel and Palestinians would have to resolve that issue. Most Arabs accepted Obama would be more favorable to Israel since he is engaged in a presidential race. Al Jazeera analyst, Marwan Bishara bluntly said: “His middle name might e Hussein, his father might be Muslim, but he is a staunch supporter of Israel that is his message.”

Disabled Youngsters Used For Passport Marriages

There are reports that scores of youngsters in Great Britain who have learning disabilities are being forced into marriages in order to help a spouse gain a passport into the UK. The majority of cases reported involve families from Pakstan, Bangladesh and India. Spouses are not always told about the disability and only discover the truth when they first meet, usually that is at the wedding. The Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage unit deal with 400 such cases last year and more than 80 of these involved people with learning disabilities.

Most probably there are two factors involved in such marriage arrangements, one is the opportunity for a male to obtain a passport allowing entry into the United Kingdom. The other is a way for the family to ensure the child with a disability will be looked after when the parents are dead. Many Sanghera, a social worker with voice UK, a charity which helps people with learning disabilities says, “in 15 years I have worked with more than 100 people with learning disabilities forced into marriage, from South Africa, African and Middle Eastern communities.”

Does Homework Make Any Sense?

A study by the General Teaching Council for England reports parents across the social/economic spectrum are asking teachers to run sessions that will help them to understand the curriculum and what is being taught their children. They also want schools to provide them with “homework examples” so they can better assist their children. The report noted that due to dual career parents, the old model of mom sitting at the kitchen table and helping a child do homework is no longer feasible. Educators constantly urge parents to be their while children are doing homework as a means of getting involved in their lives.

Lost in the cry for enabling parents assist their children is a far more fundamental question– is doing homework of any worth in learning? I have taught for 51 years at all levels of education from grade 7-12 and then at the college level. In my experience there is not the slightest piece of evidence asking students to do additional examples or copy material out of textbooks is of any worth other than wasting time and making students bored with learning. Parents should be asking if homework assignments ask students to “use” what they have learned in meaningful ways rather than do “more” of what they have been doing in class. For example, if my children are learning causes of the American Revolution, the homework assignment should be asking them to investigate causes of family disputes since concepts such as economic causes or power causes are just as evident within a family as between nations. That type of “using what is learned” approach enables students to become learners not memorizers.

In all honesty, after 51 years of teaching over 15,000 teachers it is clear less than 1% have students engage in homework that stimulates critical or creative thinking.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT,

Each week, we offer the observations of a 77 year old American on his nation and the world. Nothing in these comments is to be construed as factual.

Nobody Asked Me But,

America made a terrible mistake by abandoning the trolley car. France is currently developing a new generation of trolleys that are providing comfortable rides in several cities.

Nelson Mandela is celebrating his 90th birthday. It must be painful for this gallant fighter for freedom to witness his own nation’s leaders abandoning the people of Zimbabwe to a cruel dictator.

Monday is free coffee at the McDonalds where I live. Who says McDonalds is not concerned with people. Just check out the high wages they pay to their employees. Anyway, they do give free coffee to old farts like me.

I wonder if people who report on the weather on TV have the slightest knowledge about weather other than what they read on the tele-prompter.

Obama is in Afghanistan.Bush is in the White House, John McCain is at the Yankee stadium. I prefer altering these people and locations.

The real poverty in this country is in rural America where people are trapped miles away from where they work and forced to use gas guzzling old cars.

Rudy Giuliani’s son is suing Duke University for throwing him off the golf team. If I was Andrew Giuliani, I would go to downtown Raleigh and take care of any weegee men who are wiping the dirt off car windows for a few nickels. He can, like his father, then portray himself as a good old American boy hero.

Every time I observe four people talking one is always quiet and nods a head. Why?

After reading MySpace tirades against Israel for every crime known to humanity, one wonders who they would blame if that nation disappeared. The Catholic Church? The Masons?

I wonder if stocks will rise on my day of death, after all they went down on the day of my birth in 1930.

I refuse turning on air conditioning in my car or house. My genes date back to Biblical origin. No fans blew to help my ancestors when they build pyramids or wandered the desert so why should I begin now.

I always sink to my knees when speaking to a child. to hover is to be discourteous.

America should switch to the four day work week to deal with gas prices.

Russia mistreated my father and my grandfather but I have a passionate love of the Russian people.

Police were handing out tickets this weekend. It is getting close to the end of the month and the quota must be met for speeding tickets.

Thee ought to be a law if you make a right turn on a red light, you must immediately encounter a green light.

A man walked by me laughing. I wish I lived in a society where it was OK to stop such a person and inquire as to the cause of their laughter. I could learn some good jokes.

I learned to drive in my twenties. That is the reason I still struggle to back into a parking spot.

There is an upscale mall in St. Louis named Plaza Frontenac. They check your clothes when you enter to see if you have the proper attire to wander their sacred halls and purchase their over-priced materials.

My book was overdue at the Washington University library. I confessed my sin to the girl and she forgave my trespasses and said she would waive the twenty cent fine. I felt so relieved.

I always take from the dish by the cash register which has pennies. In fact, I plan my purchase so I could make use of free pennies. I am a sick remnant of the Depression.

A “red light” day for me is when I never cease encountering red lights.

My greatest vice in life is suffering fools poorly.

I can never figure out why young boys turn their caps backward. They are making a statement, but its import escapes me.

Toronto set a new record for rain. St. Louis just set a new record for rain. But, some “scientists” insist there is no global warming. The only alternative explanation that makes sense is God has bladder problems.

My love affair with umbrellas rarely lasts beyond three rains. By that point my umbrella ceases to work.

I uphold the principle that one goes to the restroom before or after a movie, but never during a movie.

Two people really love one another when they exchange morsels of food.

Some day a genius will invent a car seat that allows you to slide out rather than stand up to get out.

Short pants on a girl in the summer are definitely not a sensual statement.

I often wonder if my cro-Magnon ancestors had standards regarding beauty. I wonder what they were.

Editorial: A New American Isolationism?

I was listening to a group of senior citizens discuss world events the other day when several of them made remarks about they could understand why Barack Obama went to Iraq and Afghanistan but why was he going to Europe. A few hours after hearing their discussion I read on the Internet that latest polls indicate Americans are upset at Obama spending time abroad when he should be at home dealing with American problems. I suspect we are witnessing the emergence of a new American isolationism which seeks to make our national leaders focus on domestic rather than foreign policy issues.

It is not surprising after seven years of war and death of young Americans that our citizens have grown weary of assuming responsibilities for what happens abroad. They are living with $4.50 gas prices, homes difficult to sell, and rising health care costs. We can expect this campaign will focus more on issues that impact the average American’s pocket book rather than on grand strategy for dealing with world problems. Ironically, Obama’s ratings went down when he went overseas. People wanted to hear from him how their lives will change– now, not later.

The Bush crusading spirit has left the American psyche. As far as most Americans are concerned what happens in Europe or the Middle East has to be handled by people in those regions. A candidate who runs on a platform of dealing with terrorism abroad and talks about dispatching thousands of Americans to fight overseas is dooming himself to defeat. Americans are frightened, but not about terrorists in Afghanistan or Pakistan. They are dealing with declining bank accounts, homes that have lost thousands in value, and fear of becoming ill and lacking health insurance.

World Headlines In The Press

Each week we offer a review of headlines that appeared in the world’s press and offer our own commentary.

New Zealand, New Zealand Herald: “Sheep Dogs Being Poisoned”
Detective Wolf has been appointed to shepherd the investigation.

Australia, Brisbane Times: “Bushwalker Finds Body”
It was lying next to some WMD.

Sweden, The Local: “Swedish Scientists Perfect Heart Disease Test”
We can now guarantee when you will die.

Qatar, Gulf Times: “Band Reaches Top”
They banged their way upward.

Kuwait, Arab Times: “Iraqi Prime Minister Agrees With Obama Timetable”
“Iraqi Prime Minister Does Not Agree With Obama Timetable”
Now, you know why we have problems winning anything in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia, Saudi Gazette: “Old Woman Dies Driving”
If she was driving in New York traffic it was from old age.

Norway, Aftenposten: “Summer Set For Comeback”
It expects to arrive shortly before Christmas.

Australia, The Age: “Made In China
Untouched by foreign hands.

Kuwait, Kuwait Times: “Not Easy Being A Jew In Beirut”
Yeh, try being one in Saudi Arabia!

Australia, Sydney Morning Herald: “Guilty of Claiming To Be A Doctor”
What’s the problem, he was treating people who claimed to be patients.

Bangladesh, Daily Star: “Party Leader Violates Code Of Conduct”
He was caught telling the truth.

Australia, Smith.com: “Pope’s Secret Mass”
It was given in Hebrew.

Kuwait, Kuwait Times: “Recycling Workshop For Children”
They are being recycled into human beings.

Bhutan, Bhutan Times; “Man Arrested For Allegedly Murdering Wife”
It is believed she is allegedly dead.

Qatar, Gulf Times: “College Dean Found Drinking In Office”
If you had to read student term papers, drinking would be the only way to survive.

Russia, Moscow Times: “Parrots Killed For Beer”
If you go around blabbing where the beer is hidden, then face the consequences.

Did Obama Gain In Europe And Lose In America?

There is some evidence that Senator Barack Obama may have damaged his candidacy by making a tour of Europe as the latest Gallup poll revealed his lead over Senator McCain has narrowed. Andrew Seder, a reporter for a Wiles Barre newspaper, said, “for the past two days on talk radio here, pretty much every caller wanted to know why Baracvk Obama was in europe and the Middle East rather than talking to people back home about issues here.” The Gallup poll showed the race had narrowed to a 45% for Obama and 43% for McCain.

The mood of the American people has turned inward rather than being concerned about issues abroad. After seven years of misadventure under the leadership of George Bush while the economy declines, many Americans want candidates to focus on their immediate needs rather than describing grand strategies for solving problems in the world. As gasoline hits over $4 a gallon, the average American is frightened about his/her daily life and simply wants to turn off world issues and focus on their own daily lives.

Most probably, the average American will turn away from Senator McCain because he offers no alternative to the Bush fiasco which has not only created chaos in the world, but has resulted in a lethargic American economy.

Rumors Of President Musharraf Assuming Power

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, leader of the opposition in the Pakistan Parliament warned the nation that President Musharraf might invoke Article 58(2b) to dismiss parliament if law and order and the economic situation did not begin to show signs of improvement. He charged the governing Pakistan People’s Party had not been able to tackle serious economic problems the country was facing which might require action on the part of President Musharraf to assume unilateral power in the nation. It appears Elahi is warning the PPP that President Musharraf could claim he was acting in the “interests of the Pakistan people” by dismissing parliament and assuming dictatorial power.

Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani told the press his government recognized the growing economic problems besetting the nation and was attempting to take decisive actions to deal with poverty. He said the two major issues confronting Pakistan are economic stagnation and law and order. His government is currently using negotiations with the Talban in tribal areas to reduce violence but if that strategy fails, it would assume a different track which most probably entails more extensive military action. The prime minister made clear that President Musharraf did not have power to dissolve parliament.

Palestinian Authority Considers Statehood

The Palestinian Authority is considering cutting off its diplomatic contacts with Israel and unilaterally declaring its statehood, the Arabic language a-Sharq al-Awsef reported on Friday. A Palestinian official told the newspaper, “in light of the crisis we have encountered in talks with Israel, the Authority is testing a number of options.” A determining factor in what President Abbas will do is determined by the trilateral talks that will be held in Washington D.C. next week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insists there can be peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority within the coming months.

A major hindrance to attaining peace is the continued policy of Israel to build settlements in the West Bank which are in clear violation of agreements. The decision of the Israel government last week to build a new settlement was a deliberate provocation that can only result in anger on the part of the Palestinian Authority.

A hopeful sign was the statement by Barack Obama in his interview with the Jerusalem Post in which he made critical remarks concerning West Bank settlements. The United States must oppose such policies which can only impair opportunities for peace in the Middle East.