Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Friedman Wisdom

Meet the Makers


TENGCHONG, China — I never thought I’d have to come to China for a breath of fresh air.

But that is exactly what I got last week by traveling to the China-Myanmar border area to visit Chinese village schools with the leaders of Teach for All, the network of 32 countries that have adopted the Teach for America model of recruiting highly motivated college graduates to work in their country’s most underprivileged schools. What was so refreshing about spending four days with leaders of Teach for Lebanon, Teach for China, Teach for India and all the others was the fact that, since 9/11, I’ve spent so much time writing about people who are breaking things and so little time covering people who are making things. This was a week with the makers.

Indeed, I could not help but remark to Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America and C.E.O. of Teach for All, that Teach for All is “the anti-Al Qaeda.” It is a loose global network of locally run teams of teachers, who share best practices and target young people in support of a single goal. But while Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to inspire and enable young people to be breakers, Teach for All tries to inspire and enable them to be makers. Yes, plenty of terrorists are also well educated, but their ability to resonate and enlist followers diminishes the more people around them have the tools to realize their full potential.

Groups like Teach for China, which hosted the Teach for All network at village schools here, are too new to determine whether they can make a difference in helping their lowest-performing schools succeed. But if raw idealism and willingness to take up the hardest challenges count for anything, you have to be hopeful. Traveling here last week was like spending four days with 32 Malala Yousafzais from 32 different nations.

Lu Li, 23, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in May, returned home to teach math as a Teach for China fellow here. It was not easy, she said: “My parents could not understand the choice I made” after getting a degree. “They have never been exposed to this sort of community service. They are kind people, but they don’t think it is necessary to go to rural China to do education for two years, and, especially as a girl, my father expects me to marry. ... My father is still struggling to understand my choice. I want to work hard and show him that my choice is right.”

Sandeep Rai, 28, is an Indian-American who did Teach for America in Washington, D.C., and then became a leader of Teach for India. “In India, we’ve had 750 fellows sign up [to teach] this year, and when we started in 2009, people said you will not get anyone to sign up. It is a testament to the power of building things. I think people are waiting to be inspired. National governments have not figured out how to tap into the idealism of young people. I thought that after two years I would be in and out, and eight years later I’m still here.”

Mohammed Fakhroo, 28, of Teach for Qatar said he started his organization because average students in Qatar are three years behind their peers in industrialized nations. With so much oil and gas money in their country, many Qataris believe they don’t need education to be prosperous. “Teachers in the Arab world come from the bottom third of their classes,” he explained. “If you weren’t smart, you became a teacher. ...  Our theory of change is that by getting the smartest in our society — who would [normally] go into the oil and gas sector — to become teachers, they will be the new role models and be advocates for changing the norms” because Qatar will eventually need “a knowledge-based society.”

Franco Mosso, 27, the founder of Teach for Peru, Ense├▒aPer├║, told me: “What I see in my own country is a lack of belief” in the potential of the less advantaged people. His group, he explained, is built on the principle of “always pushing the bar higher in believing in people, that they all have potential.”

Alden DiIanni-Morton, 24, a Dartmouth graduate, is working as a program manager for Teach for China. She grew up in Chinatown in Boston. “I could have stayed in the U.S.,” she said, “but I think there is a huge interest in making educational equity a global question.” Issues like the environment, poverty and educational equity need to be thought of as global problems, “because everyone everywhere” will be impacted by them “if they’re not addressed.”

No one has to tell that to Khalil Youssef, one of the founders of Teach for Lebanon: “It is no coincidence that the most deprived and marginalized regions in Lebanon — and the world — are prone to adopt rejectionist, politically dogmatized, violent politics,” he says. “Good education and building high-quality human capital are the sine qua nons for good integration in society and access to a respectable life.”

Which is why, concludes Kopp, investing in smart schools and kids pays so many more dividends than smart bombs. Education, she notes, is the only constructive force that’s universal and powerful enough to make a difference in reversing the biggest global threats.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why We Don't Vote!

Russell Brand May Have Started a Revolution Last Night

The revolution itself may not be televised, but on last night's edition of the BBC's Newsnight, viewers may have witnessed the start of one.
Actor-slash-comedian-slash-Messiah Russell Brand, in his capacity as guest editor of the New Statesman's just-published revolution-themed issue, was invited to explain to Jeremy Paxman why anyone should listen to a man who has never voted in his life.
"I don't get my authority from this preexisting paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people," Russell responded. "I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity."
And with that, the first shots of Russell's revolutionary interview were fired.
Over the course of the following ten-or-so minutes, Brand and Paxo volleyed back and forth over subjects ranging from political apathy, to corporate greed, to gorgeous beards.
Throughout the interview, Brand repeatedly dodged Paxman's efforts to trivialize his message — at one point Paxman literally called Brand a "very trivial man" — until finally, even the entrenched newsman appeared to relent against the rushing tide of Brand's valid arguments.
After Brand reminded Paxman that he cried after learning that his grandma too had been "fucked over" by aristocrats, the Newsnight host was stunned into silence.
"If we can engage that feeling and change things, why wouldn't we?" Brand crescendoed. "Why is that naive? Why is that not my right because I'm an 'actor'? I've taken the right. I don't need the right from you. I don't need the right from anybody. I'm taking it."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Unions Like Merit Pay

ASCME Sings Praises of Merit Pay
By Jim Vail

It seems so pathetic how the unions in this country seem to be all running around to appease the master in whichever way.

First you have Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers singing the praises of Common Core, with Randi calling it "revolutionary!."   Imagine that, a corporate written invasion into public education, and one of the largest teachers unions here loves it.  Thank God for many republicans who hate it and rightly call it an invasive federal policy into the local control of schools.

Then you have all the trade unions lining up to fund one of the latest, most vicious pro-corporate, pro-privatization, anti-worker politicians named Rahm Emanuel, whose millions he raised bought his latest position as mayor of the city.  I guess you could reason that construction unions want jobs, which Emanuel is kind of promising by building DePaul basketball stadiums.

But Unite Here?  The ones who bitterly fought Penny Pritzker and the Congress Hotel maids who wanted decent working conditions.  They said nothing when Penny was named commerce secretary for Obama (pay off for the money she raised for his election campaign), and now are putting money into Emanuel's coffers.

The latest union salvo is below where ASCFME is singing the praises of merit pay at the Chicago City Colleges in the name of "retention pay."  It looks good there for the part-time college non-credit teachers getting bonus pay, something the Chicago Teachers Union walked out of classes last year to eliminate in our contract.  Merit pay is bonus money for teachers who get high test scores.  It's cut throat competition, not really helpful when it comes to working "collaboratively" which is what the they want the teachers and students to do.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - King Charles the second loved to pose riddles! A story goes that the king invited members of the Royal society to explain to him why a dead fish weighs more than the same fish alive.The scientists answered with all kinds of novel and sophisticated explanations. Then an amused king told them they were all mistaken! A dead fish weighs the exact same as an identically live fish. He had lied to them in a witty way and took them to task for not challenging his deception! 

Perhaps the president or the minister of education would dearly love to send up the Russian academy of sciences in such away. However,Charles the Second was endowed with subtle wit which officials are largely devoid of! Whereas Charles the second could get away with charming scientists, officials attempt to deceive them in a crude,vulgar and crass way.The Russian scientists are not as gullible as the English scientists .The minister of education displays as much tact as a sledge-hammer.This is clearly demonstrated  by some of his past remarks.

He once stated - 'If my words offend someone from the scientific community then I sincerely regret it .The purpose of organised scientific work of the Russian academy of science doesn't appear modern, doesn't appear effective and doesn't come up to World standards.The responsibility for this lies with the management of the Academy of Science'.

Regarding the academy as ill-managed,ineffective and largely incompetent,the government is seeking to remedy the problem with establishing a newly appointed board of Government officials and token scientists who will assume the reins of power and take control of the wealthy assets of the academy.The Government claims that the Academy is too bureaucratic and set in its ways.But that is not how the Russian Academy of sciences sees things! They believe that entrusting authority to incompetent and unqualified officials would make things far worse.It would lead to more bureaucracy,not less not to mention increased corruption.They point to the government's disastrous reform of the Ministry of Defence which ended up mired in corruption scandals.

This is not the first time the Academy of Sciences has collided with governments.The Empress Anna attempted to subordinate scientists to her courtiers,Stalin killed some of the best scientists in the country and Khrushchev threatened to close it down.By some miracle the Russian Academy of Sciences,founded in 1724,has survived !

The new reforms challenge the very identity of the Academy. It will be merged with the academies of medicine and agricultural sciences. Membership will be devalued to let in candidates who might not deserve entry.


Few people would disagree that the Russian Academy of Sciences is in a dire state.The effectiveness of its work has been steadily declining over the years and it has been chronically deprived of much required funding. As many as 40 to 50% of its members are reputed to be above retirement age and they have been publishing less and less over the years.Many of the best scientists have left the country as they feel there is often 'no real scientific community' where one can work to the fullest capacity. A Russian scientist Artem Oganov stated 'All those people who could have obtained or could have acquired Nobel prizes have left.I feel that Russia has lost in the order of 80 to 90% of her best scientists ,if not 100 %,but all the same,it represents a steep fall.'

Scientists such as Andrei Geim,Linde  and Maxim Kontseich have left.The Russian Academy of Science is already partly commercialised although this process would be intensified by government reforms. Artem Oganov stated, 'If scientists don't publicise their work ,it means most of them are not absorbed in science but something else.For example,renting out their buildings to Auto-salons'.

While on my way back from an international science conference, a young man handed me a leaflet inviting me to attend a demonstration on the 13th of October, where the case for defending the Academy of Science would be made. I accepted the invitation and went to Revolutionary Ploshchad, in the city centre near the Kremlin,where the protesters were gathering.The leaflet which I had been given was full of all kinds of oddly curious slogans such as 'Reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences represents a blow against Russia..We demand that the reform of Russia is put under citizens' control, and 'Stop the Westernisation of Russian science' and 'Recognize the strategic growth of Russian science.'Without Science Russia has no future and don't surrender to the privatization of science'.

The leaflet was issued by the trade union of the workers at the Russian Academy of sciences'.The problem is that to stop the westernisation of Russian science betrays a lack of knowledge of the Academy's own history. The Russian Academy of Science was founded in 1724 as part of Peter the Great 's drive to westernise Russia! In fact,it was largely the brainchild of a German scientist, not Russian! The Academy started off as a community of invited German scientists because there was practically no real science in Russia.The present academy consists of 434 research institutes which undertake research and members once enjoyed perks such as free apartments and dachas.They were once a privileged and prestigious elite where scientists could earn a reasonable if not lucrative salary.

Around the square there was a group of people holding Red flags and handing out leaflets and papers.It resembled more of an old Soviet Communist party rally.However,appearances are deceptive. In reality ,all kinds of young students,elderly scientists and tourists were wandering around. Unfortunately, only a few hundred people turned up and the news of the rally was overshadowed by a program against migrants following a murder of a Russian by an alleged 'migrant'.

I asked one demonstrator what the demonstration was about. He answered 'It is about the Russian government's reforms which are aimed at destroying science.The government is only interested in making money.'Speaker after speaker who addressed the rally repeated the same message  that the Russian government is trying to destroy science and that this was an attempt to loot the Russian Academy of science's property'.

One fiery speaker,C. Kurginyan, thundered, 'The call of science comes when all the Academy of science is utterly dismantled. There is the call of education, which warns that children will be half-educated or quarterly educated or not even educated at all .' A call was made to defend 'Soviet science', 'Patriotic science' and 'The peoples' science'. The Government were perceived as being Luddites who were out to destroy science. The speaker appealed to laymen not to remain indifferent to science as it serves the public interest and represents the foundation of civilisation.

It seems inaccurate to view the government attempts at reform as an attempt to destroy science. It would be more accurate to describe it as an attempt to challenge the hegemony of some scientists and to impose its narrow view of science on the Academy of Science which they believe should serve the interests of an elite of officials and wealthy businessmen who have their eyes on the assets of the academy.

Science is to be plundered and assaulted, rather than destroyed. Nevertheless, the Academy of Sciences has to radically formulate an alternative vision of science which truly offers an attractive alternative and vision to the narrow-hand-fisted bureaucratic vision of the Government. The trade unions and wider community need to get their act together in organising much more structured and coherent opposition. For this is regressive reform, not innovative or open-minded. Much more people need to heed the call if the Academy of Russian Sciences seeks survival.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Who is a Reporter?

Sen. Dick Durbin: It’s time to say who’s a real reporter


Is each of Twitter’s 141 million users in the United States a journalist? How about the 164 million Facebook users? What about bloggers, people posting on Instagram, or users of online message boards like Reddit?
In 1972 — long before anyone had conceived of tweets or Facebook updates — the Supreme Court, in Branzburg v. Hayes, considered whether journalists have a special privilege under the First Amendment to withhold the identity of their sources. Paul Branzburg, a reporter in Louisville, Ky., had written a series of articles about drug use in Kentucky that included anonymous quotes from drug users and a photograph of a pair of hands holding hashish. A grand jury ordered Branzburg to reveal the names of his sources. He refused and was held in contempt.

In Branzburg’s case, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no absolute privilege for journalists to refuse to reveal sources to a grand jury. The ruling did, however, seem to recognize a qualified privilege for journalists. Today, some federal courts recognize a qualified privilege for journalists, while others do not.

The vagueness of this decision has led 49 states, including Illinois, to recognize a journalist privilege by statute or common law. These laws state that a protected journalist cannot be compelled to disclose sources or documents unless a judge determines there is an extraordinary circumstance or compelling public interest.
But who should be considered to be a journalist?

For a few years now, a bill to protect journalists from revealing their sources and documents has been making its way through Congress. With no current federal statute recognizing a privilege for journalists, the so-called “media shield” law attempts to establish one.

Everyone, regardless of the mode of expression, has a constitutionally protected right to free speech. But when it comes to freedom of the press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive.

The media informs the public and holds government accountable. Journalists should have reasonable legal protections to do their important work. But not every blogger, tweeter or Facebook user is a “journalist.” While social media allows tens of millions of people to share information publicly, it does not entitle them to special legal protections to ignore requests for documents or information from grand juries, judges or other law enforcement personnel.

A journalist gathers information for a media outlet that disseminates the information through a broadly defined “medium” — including newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, magazine, news website, television, radio or motion picture — for public use. This broad definition covers every form of legitimate journalism.

To those who feel politicians shouldn’t define who a journalist is, I’d remind them that they likely live in one of the 49 states, like Illinois, where elected officials have already made that decision.

The leaks of classified information about the NSA’s surveillance operations and an ongoing Justice Department investigation into who disclosed secret documents to the Associated Press have brought this issue back to the forefront and raised important questions about the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and how our nation defines journalism.

It’s long past time for Congress to create a federal law that defines and protects journalists.

Dick Durbin, a Democrat, is the senior senator from Illinois.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia)   - The weather was dreadful! A stormy, rainy and wind flipping weather which turned your umbrellas inside out! This did not deter those attending a storytelling session at an almost remote and half -hidden Omnibus bookshop tucked away behind a Cinema on Kutuzovskiy prospect.  In fact, the weather was ideal for such an occasion! The impact of the event was overwhelming!

The consensus amongst goers was that 'It was one of the best we have had'.  The goers gathered to share stories on the theme 'Who are the strangest people you have met?' but ended up digressing into stories about the war and ghosts. Alena and Juleva told intriguing wartime stories.

Anna Kogteva, who is the brainchild behind a novel experiment where goers come to interactively tell stories around a circle thus encouraging  maximum participation told me, 'Once a person tells a story, he has to pass on an object to the next person who can either tell a story or simply pass it on to another person who wants to'. So people are actively inspired to become experienced story-tellers.  Anna, who is an English teacher, states 'Stories are an excellent way of teaching English as a foreign language and make lessons less tedious'.

Instead of, say, one or two celebrity or professional story tellers addressing an audience, anyone can just  leap into to tell a story. The aim of the project is to encourage an almost dying art; the oral poetic tradition of keeping old Folk         stories alive. The audience tends to be mainly a dozen people in their early twenties, students and book-readers. Two or three of the audience tend to draw or paint pictures, while the stories are being told. (This is another aim;   combining drawing and story-telling!)

Such an event appeals to budding story-tellers honing their skills, avid folk-story collectors or those who simply enjoy a good yarn!

Of course, not everything can go smoothly. On such a very talkative theme such as 'strange people' there is an almost incurable temptation for a person to incessantly ramble on or for an academic set in his ways to offer an inappropriate lecture. On this occasion, the tellers displayed an agile and remarkable self-control.

To offer you an idea of the kind of stories which are told, it is worth citing some stories told by Juleva Kuzheleva. Perhaps she told the most poignant, as well as compelling story. She told her audience 'I certainly believe in the existence of spirits such as the Domovoi (an ancestral household spirit and guardian who looks after the household) and Leshii (wood sprites). There are also ghosts who tend to haunt old buildings with a history of misfortune. You can feel the presence of ghosts and cats can readily detect them and get excited '.  She told a story of how she could not sleep because a strange man kept making a din in her kitchen by pounding a plate on the table. When she went in to the kitchen he vanished. She went back to bed. Again, the racket erupted. This time she took the hint, went to the kitchen and finished washing up the dishes which had been crammed into a sink. The Domovoi stopped annoying her!

Another story Juleva told was from her grandmother. She said:  'Those events took place on a stormy Autumn evening which we are experiencing tonight. The story happened during the Great Patriotic war when my grandmother's husband, like most young men, were called to the front. It was late evening when she heard a loud pounding on the door. It sounded just like knocking which only men could make. When she went to the door she was astonished to see her husband! She had never expected this. When she saw him she noticed his appearance had completely changed. This was not the husband she had previously known. His hair had turned grey, his complexion deadly pale and gaunt. He had aged! Yet his identity could still be discerned. They embraced and then she asked him 'Why have   you come back?' 'I just had to come back to see you again. I felt a great urge.' They talked a little. She asked 'Won't you stay longer and have a rest on the bed?' but he replied, 'I don't have time. I must leave quickly. I have brought you a sack of potatoes. I know the village is short of a lot of food.' Then they said farewell. Afterwards, when my grandmother went to open the bag she was taken aback to find they were all stones! Later, her husband was reported as 'missing in action'. She never saw him again'.

Storytelling stories seem likely to be told at either bookshops ,dachas and at the University in the coming weeks! It is attracting more and more interest.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Byron Sigcho has put together a new presentation on his UNO research
His talk is tentatively called: 

                                               UNO: Corruption, Profit and Politics. 
                                                  Who will stand for our children?

Here are the dates/times/venues so far.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013: Rogers Park Branch Library

Saturday, October 26, 2013Lozano Branch Library, Pilsen

Saturday, November 30, 2013West Belmont Branch 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ald. Moore on Charters

Interesting Exchange between Ald. Moore and Activist on Charter Schools


If life were only as simple as you make it seem. Your "solid research" is contradicted by a host of other studies that point to the opposite conclusion--that charters, as a whole, have actually out performed their traditional counterparts. I don't pretend to be an expert on this issue, but I do know this. Some charters do an amazing job at educating kids, some do a horrible job and many fall in between. Some neighborhood schools are great, some are horrible and many fall in between. 

>Over the years as alderman I've discovered that I can't change the 
>world. I can't even change the Chicago Public School system. But I 
>can have an impact on my ward. I can do things that improve the 
>lives of the 56,000 people I represent. Working to keep CMSA in my 
>neighborhood when they outgrew their original St. Jerome's location 
>six years ago is one of my proudest accomplishments. As a result, 
>thousands of families in my neighborhood (the 600 that have children 
>enrolled in the school now and the thousands more that have had 
>children go through the school in the past ten years) were given an 
>educational choice for their children. And from both anecdotal and 
>objective evidence, the vast majority of families are happy with the 
>choice they made. 

>CMSA strongly promotes their students going on to college. Well over 
>80% do just that, an amazing statistic for a school whose population 
>is 96% low income. Hundreds, if not thousands, of children went on 
>to college after graduating from CMSA. Many were the first kids in 
>their families to do so. And CMSA devotes a full-time staff person 
>to following up with those kids to help encourage them to stay in 
>college once they get there. What other Chicago public school does 

>I'm trying my best to avoid the ideological debate going on between 
>the left and the right over private vs. public education. Lew, 
>you're welcome to engage in that debate as much as you'd like, but 
>I'm more concerned about what works for the people I represent. If a 
>school in my neighborhood offers the parents in the 49th Ward a 
>quality education and a better future for their kids, you can bet 
>I'm going to stand up and fight for it. 

>Lew, you mention the union battle that took place at CMSA a few 
>years back. The school ran into a rough patch, and as often happens 
>when management doesn't communicate well or address legitimate 
>grievances of its employees, a union stepped in to offer those 
>employees a better way. As you know, I publicly called upon the CMSA 
>administration to accept the "card check" and allow the union to 
>represent the teachers without a formal secret ballot vote. The 
>school took a different approach and called for a secret ballot. 
>They went to court, as was their right, and ultimately prevailed 
>when the court ruled that a secret ballot was required for the union 

>During the court battle, the CMSA administration righted their ship, 
>changed principals, and addressed the legitimate concerns of the 
>teachers and staff. As a result, support from the teachers for the 
>union greatly diminished to the point where the union organizers 
>didn't even call for a vote. I have heard nothing to suggest that 
>the CMSA administration did anything underhanded during that battle 
>other than to litigate and ultimately prevail in court, and, much 
>more importantly, fix things that had gone awry in the 
>administration of the school. 

>The school is now back on course with a solid principal. Test scores 
>are going back up again and I have heard nothing to suggest the 
>teachers are unhappy or otherwise dissatisfied with the new 
>leadership at the school. 

>Finally, Lew, you can question my assertion that I never hear 
>complaints about CMSA and charters in general from the low income 
>parents in my community. OK, don't take my word for it. But what you 
>can't contradict is the fact that 600 kids are currently enrolled at 
>CMSA and thousands more have attended the school in the past and 
>that the overwhelming majority of those kids come from low income 
>families. Are you absolutely certain that you know what's better for 
>those kids than the parents that send them to that school? 
Ald. Joe Moore


>Lew Rosenbaum from Rogers Park East Just now 

Dear Ald. Moore,
>Paragraph one: I've given some examples of researchers. I can give 
>more. There is no good research I have seen tha confirms your 
>beliefs and would appreciate your citing (as Mr. Schiessl asks as 
>well). What I have seen is highly suspect material funded by charter 
>school partisans like Michele Rhee, Bill Gates, the Eli Broad 
>foundation and more. Even our own commercial club of Chicago, for 
>whose politics I have not a high regard, pointed out that Chicago's 
>experience with charters and with turnarounds does not bear out any 
>cause to celebrate charter achievements. 

>Paragraph two and on: I agree you can't change the world. No one of 
>us can. But the debate about public vs. private is central to our 
>own communities. You have said that charters can co-exist with 
>public schools, but the experience here, in this ward, as well as 
>throughout the city and country emphasize the opposite. 50 schools 
>were closed this year. The reason? "Underutilization" was what the 
>school board said. How does a school that was teeming with students 
>last year become underutilized this year. One part of that comes 
>from building charters right next to public schools and turning 
>public funds over to them. The 50,000 kids in charters in Chicago 
>this year would have been in the public schools most likely. Of 
>course there are other factors, but that is one major one. Their not 
>being in public schools limits what the public schools can offer. 
>That's been said by others in this thread, I won't repeat it more 
>than that. So to be proud of bringing to the neighborhood a 
>corporate private school (you may not realize this but the Concept 
>Schools are the largest chain of charters in the country) but you 
>will also have to acknowledge therefore the effect that it has on 
>public education. 

>If the charter schools in our neighborhood are doing a better job of 
>educating our kids than the public schools, then we need to rethink 
>our commitment to public education, not undercut it even more. I'm 
>guessing that you must have read something of the work of Jonathan 
>Kozol, if you consider yourself a progressive alderman. Kozol does 
>not write about ideal public education vs. nasty private education. 
>He has written for half a century about how our society has created 
>segregated, unequal, terrible education in the urban north. The 
>solution, he argues, is not to divide education into education for 
>the haves and education for the have-nots. But that is what we have 
>done, and when schools have to have a toilet paper drive because 
>they haven't enough money to pay for toilet paper, that shows 
>something about society's value of our children. I read your piece 
>about the apple lady at Sullivan, and good for her and for Sullivan. 
>But what about the budget shortfall that Sullivan faces, perhaps in 
>part because UNO expanded to 9th grade this year? 

>Concerning the union battle at CMSA, yes, I am aware of the effort 
>you made there, a bit late but welcome nevertheless. But lets be 
>clear. I've seen you at labor rallies and so I have to assume you 
>know something about labor history. You must know that CMSA was 
>using the court battle as a delaying tactic. They had first claimed 
>to be a public school, in order to curry public favor. This is a 
>tactic used by many charters. And under those circumstances the 
>union organized within CMSA as a public school. However, when the 
>union won their election, CMSA refused to recognize the results and, 
>when directed to do so, changed their tactics and claimed instead 
>they were a private school and hence not subject to the rules under 
>which they had been organized in the past. This is standard practice 
>to avoid unionization. After years of effort, the union had to begin 
>all over again. I can't imagine how you, as a progressive who fought 
>against Walmart, could possibly condone that as righting their ship 
>and addressing the legitimate concerns of the teachers. Perhaps you 
>should call up the ACTS office (that's the charter union in case you 
>don't remember) and investigate if there are teacher complaints at 
>CMSA. That might help you to find out if there really is no 
>dissatisfaction here. 

>Lastly, I'm not questioning that you don't hear complaints from CMSA 
>parents. I'm also not questioning that our neighbors want better 
>education. I am also not questioning that, given the bad choices our 
>public servants have provided our community (note: e.g., closed 
>mental health services and underresourced educational facilities) 
>ANY choice looks better than what we have. But perhaps you should 
>listen more, do more investigation. Then you would hear other voices 
>from your low income constituency that are not satisfied with what 
>they have but want to see public education preserved and changed for 
>the better. You as an alderman have a responsibility to these 
>parents as well, to those of us whose kids are still in the public 
>schools. You may not remember what you said at the opening of the 
>UNO school in our neighborhood, but you praised the parents who had 
>chosen to enroll in the UNO school, parents who really were 
>interested in a better education for their children. That tells me 
>what you think of the rest of us and of public education. We don't 
>want a good education for our children, and therefore public 
>education, in your belief, is good enough for us. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Baseball Bat Beating

Horrific Attack Brings Back Memories
By Jim Vail

There is always that one crime that gets people talking about the end of humanity.  There was the Columbine shooting, the Newtown children massacre and the guy who just ended his life after enslaving several women whom he repeatedly raped over a ten year period.

One story that rocked the Chicago headlines a couple of years ago in the city of crime was when a Puerto Rican by the name of Heriberto Viramontes took an aluminum bat and savagely beat two young women, just to rob them.

Natasha McShane, an exchange student from Northern Ireland, was so savagely beaten that she can no longer walk or talk, and needs constant care.  How life can turn from the promise of a wonderful future, to this, is among the many dark mysteries of life.

The jury selection is beginning this week. 

Heriberto Viramontes looks like a movie star with dreamy green eyes.  How someone could do something like this - drugs, intoxication, insanity? - can only be partially explained by experts. Unfortunately, it cannot be stopped.

It lives on, and breeds. Heriberto has a son by the same name who was a student at Columbus Elementary School a few years back.  Joanna Vail was one of his teachers and she remembered him well.

She said his son was quiet, and looked very much like his father, although he was short.

He was, however, very capable of bursting out in a rage that he would not sit down, or do what the teacher would be asking him to do.

However, this only happened, "once in a blue moon."

From what his teacher remembered, Heriberto junior was not living with either his mother or father, but she thinks an older sister.

As we pray for a miracle, the continued recovery of the Irish victim McShane, we should also pray for the children who are exposed and grow up in conditions that can breed such savagery. 

Here's to making sure the young Heriberto does not follow in his father's footsteps, but becomes a beacon of light in a world surrounded by darkness.

Jury Selected For Trial In 2010 Bucktown Baseball Bat Beating

CHICAGO (CBS) – The jury was selected Tuesday in the trial of the man charged with beating two women with a baseball bat in Bucktown in 2010, leaving one of them with severe brain damage.
Natasha McShane, an exchange student from Northern Ireland, was in a coma for weeks. She is still unable to speak after the attack, although the Chicago Tribune reported she recently began taking steps with a walker, as long as people stood at her sides.
She and her friend, Stacy Juirch, were robbed and beaten unconscious on April 23, 2010, as they were walking back to Jurich’s home after going out dancing.
Stacy Jurich (left) and Natasha McShane were beaten with a bat in the Bucktown neighborhood in 2010.
Stacy Jurich (left) and Natasha McShane were beaten with a bat in the Bucktown neighborhood in 2010.
Jurich was lucky to escape the attack with less serious injuries, needing staples in her head. She suffered some cognitive deficiencies, but nothing as severe as McShane’s.
Their alleged attacker, Heriberto Viramontes, goes on trial this week for the attack, which drew international headlines. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California. His alleged accomplice, Marcy Cruz, will testify against him, after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a 22-year prison sentence, and immunity from a murder charge if McShane dies from her injuries.
Heriberto Viramontes,  and Marcy Cruz are charged with aggravated battery and armed robbery in the beating and robbery of two women in Bucktown.
Heriberto Viramontes, and Marcy Cruz are charged with aggravated battery and armed robbery in the beating and robbery of two women in Bucktown.

McShane’s family flew in from Northern Ireland this week to be at the trial, but McShane – 23 at the time of the attack – is still in Northern Ireland. Her family wanted to protect her from any painful memories of the beating.
McShanes’ family walked into the Leighton Criminal Courts Building early Tuesday, but walked out not long after. It was unclear why, but possibly because Tuesday will be dedicated to jury selection, with opening statements not likely until Wednesday at the earliest.

“Hopefully the jury sees what the effects were and feels the pain we all felt over what happened,” said Gorski.
CBS 2′s Derrick Blakely reports Viramontes appeared relaxed and was actively participating with his defense team at times, he smiled and winked at relatives in the courtroom.
Prosecutors have said Viramontes took an aluminum bat and repeatedly struck McShane and Jurich, in order to rob them. He faces 25 felony counts, including attempted murder and armed robbery.Cruz, 28, has admitted she was waiting inside a van when Viramontes attacked McShane and Jurich, then used one of the victims’ credit cards after he robbed them.
Jurich also could take the stand against Viramontes.
Prosecutors also plan to show jurors McShane’s passport and ID, and a state-issued ID card, which were found in the trash at the suspects’ homes.
They also plan to show the jury a video of McShane after the beating – including images of her trying to walk – to demonstrate the severity of her condition after the attack.
Several Irish journalists have traveled to Chicago to cover the trial, which was front page news on the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday.
“It’s important to support the family. It’s a foreign land, it’s a big city,” said John Gorski, president of the Irish American Heritage Center. “They came here for help. Natasha came here for an education, and a better life, and she didn’t leave that way.”
The IAHC planned to have a representative at the trial every day.