Sunday, May 6, 2012

No History Is Illegal: Teach-Ins Target Arizona’s Mexican American Studies Ban, As National Organizations Demand Return of Banished Books

From the high plains of Wyoming to the urban centers of Atlanta, Chicago and New York City, hundreds of schools launched a historic teach-in movement today to incorporate lesson plans from the banished Mexican American Studies program in Tucson in their own classrooms.

Organized by the Teacher Activist Groups and joined by Rethinking Schools and other educational networks, the month-long “No History is Illegal” initiative comes on the heels of an unusually strong statement by over two dozen of the nation’s largest publishing, literary and education organizations that calls on the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and Arizona state education officials to recognize First Amendment rights and “return all books to classrooms and remove all restrictions on ideas that can be addressed in class.”

Thousands of detained books remain behind lock and key in the school district’s warehouse like broken chairs and desks and school bus parts, despite the fact that the TUSD library catalog shows that there are less than 2-3 copies of several of the removed Mexican American Studies textbooks in the entire school district, which serves more than 55,000 students.

In outrage at the detained books, nearly 15,000 people have also signed a petition started by former Mexican American Studies teacher Norma Gonzalez, which calls on the Tucson school district to “immediately remove these books from their ‘district storage facility’ and make them available in each school’s library. Knowledge cannot be boxed off and carried away from students who want to learn!”

Signed by representatives of the Association of American Publishers, American Association of University Professors, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English, and the PEN American Center, among other national groups, the censorship statement yesterday also calls out the troubling doublespeak by Tucson Unified School District administrators like Superintendent John Pedicone, who declared the drastic confiscation of textbooks and curriculum materials in front of children and subsequent detainment in locked storage units is not a ban.

School officials have insisted that the books haven’t been banned because they are still available in school libraries. It is irrelevant that the books are available in the library — or at the local bookstore. School officials have removed materials from the curriculum, effectively banning them from certain classes, solely because of their content and the messages they contain. The effort to “prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, [or] religion” is the essence of censorship, whether the impact results in removal of all the books in a classroom, seven books, or only one.

The American Library Association issued a similar denouncement of Tucson’s extraordinary book banishment and forced removals last week. A larger list of other unacceptable titles, including numerous Native American authors, from the banished Mexican American Studies literature and history curricula can be found here.

Along with curriculum lists, videos and suggested lesson plans, the “No History is Illegal” website includes links to other actions around the country. On Saturday, for example, educators and civil rights activists in Atlanta, Georgia are holding a special “teach-in on Tucson” at Georgia State University.

“The national outpouring of support has been amazing and this website, this movement of solidarity, is proof of this,” said former Mexican American Studies literature teacher Curtis Acosta. “It is humbling to think of the hard work that our friends across the country have produced to keep our story and program alive in the minds and hearts of so many people. I believe the tide is turning due to the deplorable enforcement of the law by our district. Now it is clear what the agenda was truly about — banning books, censoring teachers, rolling back the decades of civil rights and equality all to appease the desires of egocentric politicians. The love and respect from fellow educators and citizens will lift the hearts of our students during these dark days. Now they will know that they are not alone.”

February 1st, of course, also kicks off Black History Month, which pioneering historian Carter Woodson launched in West Virginia more than 80 years ago to address “distortions” and “deletions” in the historical record. Only days away from Arizona’s centennial celebrations on February 14th, residents in the beleaguered state, and particularly in Tucson, have once again been reminded of Woodson’s admonition to guard against the “danger of being exterminated” through historicide or the removal of certain histories from the national experience.

In her State of the Union last month, California-transplanted Gov. Jan Brewer failed to even mention a single Native American, Mexican American or African American in her round-up of pioneers in the state’s history.

In 1895, in fact, African American innovator Henry Flipper made history in Nogales, Arizona, when he became the first black editor of a non-black-owned newspaper in the nation. In the following spring, Flipper published a historical booklet, Did a Negro Discover Arizona and New Mexico, that provided some of the first translations of Spanish documents on the role of Moroccan slave and scout Esteban, who most historians consider to be the first non-native to enter present-day Arizona in 1539, at the head of a Spanish expedition.

“As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us,” the “No History is Illegal” website notes, “‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ What is happening in Arizona is not only a threat to Mexican American Studies, it is a threat to our right to teach the experiences of all people of color, LGBT people, poor and working people, the undocumented, people with disabilities and all those who are least powerful in this country. Our history is not illegal.”

Saturday, May 5, 2012

This Graffiti Artist Took Stock For Painting Facebook's First HQ -- Now It's Worth $200 Million

Graffiti artist David Choe painted the inside of Facebook's first headquarters back in 2005, and Mark Zuckerberg made him an offer: he could be paid a few thousand dollars in cash, or take the same amount in Facebook stock.
As the New York Times reports, he took the stock, even though he thought Facebook's product was basically pointless.
That turned out to be the right call. Assuming he didn't sell any stock, and that Facebook debuts at a $100 billion valuation, his payment will now be worth about $200 million, sources tell the Times.

Friday, May 4, 2012

New Guinea ferry sinks, 219 of 350 aboard saved

Rescuers have plucked 219 survivors from the sea off Papua New Guinea's east coast after a ferry sank Thursday with as many as 350 people on board, officials said.

An airplane from Australia, three helicopters and eight ships were scouring the search area after the MV Rabaul Queen went down while travelling from Kimbe on the island of New Britain to coastal town of Lae on the main island, Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called the incident a "major tragedy" and said her country was providing assistance to its near neighbour.

"Given the likely very high loss of life here, I think when this news comes to the attention of Australians around the country they will be thinking about the people of PNG as they respond to this tragedy," she added.

Changing minute by minute
The Australian maritime agency initially detected the ferry's distress beacon and alerted the PNG Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Center, which is co-ordinating the rescue effort. The Australian statement said 219 survivors had been recovered by five ships by late Thursday.

It said 350 people were believed to be on board, but Papua New Guinea's National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) rescue co-ordinator Captain Nurur Rahman said the true figure was likely lower.

"I cannot confirm or deny the 350 missing number. It is hearsay," Rahman said. "I have not seen the manifest as yet, but it is likely around 300."

Rahman said he was being fed information from an NMSA agent on board one of the ships.

"The dynamics of this thing are changing all the time, minute by minute," he said.

Ship operator Star Ships could not be immediately contacted for comment.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guyana residents on alert for flooding

Unusually high rainfall for the first month of the year has resulted in the East Demerara Water Conservancy reaching threatening levels.

As a result, residents of the Mahaica and Mahaicony Creek were placed on alert and advised to take the necessary precautions for flooding as government announced plans yesterday to release water from the swollen East Demerara Water Conservancy into the Creek.

The opening of the Maduni Sluice to release the water during low tide starting yesterday will relieve the swelling EDWC dams.

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said: “This is the latest of the actions we have taken to maintain the conservancy at a safe level. In most of the places where we measure the amount of rainfall, the amount of rainfall for January 2012 has surpassed by several fold the long term average for January,” he said.

However, once the waters are under control once again the Maduni Sluice will be closed and the Dermerara River outlets relied on exclusively once again.

Read more:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Groundhog Decade: Were Stuck in a Bad Movie, Where It’s Always the Hottest Decade on Record

Somewhere on a Hollywood movie set for Groundhog Day, Part 2: Bill Murray wakes up to find he’s just lived through the hottest decade on record, just as he did in the 1990s, just as he did in the 1980s. And he keeps waking up in the hottest decade on record, until he gains the kind of maturity and wisdom that can only come from doing the same damn thing over and over and over again with no change in the result. Ah, if only life were like a movie.
Somewhere in PA: Punxsutawney Phil saw the shadow of unrestricted fossil-fuel pollution from Homo “sapiens” sapiens today. That means global warming for another six thousand weeks — and then some (see NOAA: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).
If we keep listening to the siren song of delay, delay, delay from the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd and their enablers, then eventually people aren’t going to go through this elaborate charade of wondering whether some large rodent in Pennsylvania can predict the weather — the forecast will always be the same, “bloody hot”:
  • M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F
  • Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path
  • Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year — and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!
  • IEA: World on Pace for 11°F Warming, “Even School Children Know This Will Have Catastrophic Implications for All of Us”
And, as noted, those scientific projections are simply business-as-usual warming.
Figure 7.
“Projections of global warming relative to pre-industrial for the A1FI emissions scenario” — the one we’re currently on. “Dark shading shows the mean ±1 s.d. [standard deviation] for the tunings to 19 AR4 GCMs [IPCC Fourth Assessment General Circulation Models] and the light shading shows the change in the uncertainty range when … climate-carbon-cycle feedbacks … are included.”
Under the plausible worst-case scenario of high emissions, high carbon-cycle feedbacks, marmota monax and homo “sapiens” experience much worse by mid-century (see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon”):
If we get anywhere near that outcome, I seriously doubt anybody is going to care about what Punxsutawney Phil thinks about whether it’s going to be an early spring or not.
[And yes, I thought the original Groundhog Day was a great movie, but then, it had a happy ending....]

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Syria clashes kill 13 civilians, 6 troops

NICOSIA — At least 13 civilians and six members of the security forces were killed in clashes across Syria on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The rights group said nine civilians were killed as security forces stormed Homs in central Syria, including a young girl hit by gunfire from a checkpoint in the Karm al-Zeitun district of the flashpoint city. 
           Four civilians were killed in the Qussur district, another was hit by machinegun fire in Baba Amro and a sniper shot dead a man in the city’s Wadi Iran quarter, it said. 
           A young man was shot dead in the Homs province town of Qusseir, according to the London-based rights group. 
          It also reported that unidentified assailants killed a doctor in Shammas, also in Homs, while the state news agency said Dr Mustapha Safar was shot dead by a “terrorist group.” 
           Elsewhere, rebel soldiers “attacked a minibus carrying six security officers on their way to make arrests in Hirak, killing all of the passengers,” said the Observatory, in statements received in Nicosia. 
          Government forces responded by deploying two tanks which opened fire and killed three civilians in the Daraa province town of southern Syria, it said. 
         Elsewhere in Daraa, cradle of the 10-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a civilian was killed by indiscriminate fire in the town of Saida, the watchdog added. 
          Armed clashes also erupted between the army and mutinous soldiers in Hirak, further south in Khirbet Ghazaleh and Saida, as well as in Nassib, a village on the border with Jordan. 
         Meanwhile, SANA reported a “terrorist group” attacked a gas pipeline in Homs province, near the border with Lebanon. 
          “An armed terrorist group has targeted a pipeline between Homs and Banias, near the town of Tal Kalakh, in a sabotage operation,” SANA reported without elaborating. 
          Syrian cities have been subjected to energy shortages for several weeks, which the authorities blame on “armed terrorist groups” but the opposition says the regime carries them out to punish protest hubs. 
          Since mid-March, Assad’s regime has faced an unprecedented protest movement. The United Nations estimated at the start of January that more than 5,400 people had been killed in the ensuing crackdown on dissent.