Browsing articles from "September, 2017"

Federal Plan To Keep Files Of Immigrant Social Media Activity Causes Alarm

Sep 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Federal Plan To Keep Files Of Immigrant Social Media Activity Causes Alarm

The Twitter app appears on an iPhone screen.

The Twitter app appears on an iPhone screen.

The Department of Homeland Security put a notice in the wonky Federal Register that caught widespread attention this week: It plans to keep files on the social media activity of immigrants.

That touched off concern among immigrant rights groups that this was a new level of surveillance and an intrusion in their lives.

But Homeland Security officials say this is nothing new. In fact, the agency says, it has been collecting social media information on immigrants for years.

“DHS, in its law-enforcement and immigration-process capacity, has and continues to monitor publicly-available social media to protect the homeland,” Joanne Talbot, a spokeswoman for the department, said in a statement.

Talbot pointed to a policy adopted in 2012.

In the notice published this month in the Federal Register, DHS says the kinds of records it stores include “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the branch of DHS that handles immigration applications, has files on foreigners applying for travel visas and for citizenship. That includes lawful permanent residents, or green card holders.

DHS says it is not collecting new social media data on naturalized U.S. citizens, though that information may still be in their file from when they applied for citizenship.

The Federal Register notice is “an effort to be transparent,” Talbot said, about information on social media accounts that USCIS is already collecting from immigrants.

“This amendment does not represent a new policy,” Talbot said.

Still, immigrants across the country are alarmed about what the government plans to do with the information they post on social media.

“The public has known for some time about DHS using social media monitoring as a form of surveillance of immigrants,” says Adam Schwartz at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group based in San Francisco.

This Federal Register notice doesn’t suggest any new ways of collecting social media information, Schwartz says.

But he says it does suggest that DHS plans to share immigration files — even files on people who have become lawful permanent residents or naturalized citizens — across agencies inside DHS.

And Schwartz finds that alarming. The department includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration.

“Many immigrants will be chilled and deterred from participating in speech and social media because they fear that the government is going to misunderstand what they’re saying,” Schwartz said.

“You have a tremendous invasion of privacy, and you have no showing that the program has done a thing to advance the safety the people in our country.”

DHS has been under more pressure to collect social media information about immigrants and other foreign visitors to the U.S. since the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. One of the attackers, Tashfeen Malik, had advocated for violent jihad on social media, although her comments were only visible to a small group of friends.

The Inspector General of DHS published a report in February about the department’s efforts to screen social media.

The report found those screening programs “lack criteria for measuring performance to ensure they meet their objectives,” making it impossible to gauge how well they’re working.

Heavy Rotation: Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing

Sep 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Heavy Rotation: Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing

Portland indie artist Haley Heynderickx is featured in this month’s Heavy Rotation.

Vincent Bancheri/Hearth Music


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Portland indie artist Haley Heynderickx is featured in this month’s Heavy Rotation.

Vincent Bancheri/Hearth Music

Every month, NPR Music asks our friends from public radio stations across the country for the songs they simply can’t get enough of — new tracks by local artists, upbeat remixes of slower songs, recent discoveries from international bands and beyond.

This month’s list includes a danceable song by Latin alternative group LADAMA, a remixed jazz number from Braxton Cook, and a new tune by Modern Baseball frontman Jake Ewald.

Haley Heynderickx, ‘Oom Sha La La’

From I Need To Start A Garden

When the Tiny Desk Contest Concert series rolled through Portland earlier this year, NPR Music asked the opbmusic staff if we had recommendations for the opening act. We didn’t hesitate. Haley Heynderickx was our first choice with a bullet. The Oregon native made a stunning debut in the Portland music scene last year with the release of her Fish Eyes EP. That collection of sparsely arranged electric folk songs hinted at tons of promise. Now, she’s poised to cash in on that potential with the release of her full-length debut, out in early 2018. And the album’s first single, “Oom Sha La La,” finds her taking some welcomed risks with a fuller sound, quirky lyrics that include a gardening-related freakout and, as the name suggests, a healthy dose of doo-wop-inspired backing vocals.

Jerad Walker, opbmusic

Slaughter Beach, Dog, ‘Gold and Green’

From Birdie

Even though Jake Ewald has spent the past five years headlining vast clubs and theaters with his anthemic pop-punk band Modern Baseball, he’s always seemed more at home in the humble bars and basements of the world. This month MoBo plays its farewell concerts, and Ewald begins anew, letting longtime side project Slaughter Beach, Dog take center stage on Birdie. Breezy acoustic strums and tender bottleneck slide guide “Gold and Green,” as his Weakerthans-esque deadpan provides snapshots of the introvert at home. The couplet “empty milk gallon graveyard, recycling rockstar,” captures the emotional clutter, but the song’s hook is full of hope for what comes after the big gig: “Gonna make this garden grow, inch by inch and row by row.”

—John Vettese, WXPN‘s The Key

LADAMA, ‘Porro Maracatu’

From LADAMA

The four musicians, educators and collaborators who comprise LADAMA prove that our native cultures are best enjoyed at intersections where traditions merge, rhythms meld and something fresh materializes. In the case of “Porro Maracutu,” from the group’s self-titled album released in September, the cultural blend is energizing and undeniably danceable. You don’t have to understand the lyrics to feel the inclusiveness of the rhythms that propel the song, but it won’t surprise you that crude translations boast “a different sound for your body and your mind” and reference a “Carnival of the whole world.”

Intricate and complex, yet unadorned and unwavering, “Porro Maracutu” begins bombastically, the energy heightened even further by percussion breaks before the last chorus and in the outro. Your ears will keep the beat going long after the song concludes, but this tune rewards multiple listens. That explains why it’s inspired more than one spontaneous dance outbreak in the Mountain Stage offices.

—Vasilia Scouras and Adam Harris, WVPB‘s Mountain Stage

Braxton Cook, ‘Somewhere in Between (Swarvy Remix)’

From Somewhere in Between (Swarvy Remix)

It took all summer for a two-step jazz-dance track to cross my feed — it came in the form of a remix of a track Braxton Cook put out in April on Fresh Selects, an independent, Portland-based label catering to alternative RB. Cook, 26, is a recent Juilliard grad based in New York City who’s worked with trumpeter Christian Scott and Solange. What makes this remix bump and slap is the treatment by Swarvy, an L.A.-based producer also on the Fresh Selects roster associated with Mndsgn and Kiefer. Swarvy’s touch on this is subtle G-Funk with synths and sprinkles. His first pass on the track used Cook’s original vocal line delivered at a slower tempo, but after it sounded too chopped-up, Cook re-recorded it with the uptempo groove in mind and added some horns in the intro. The result is a dance, a reaction to the more somber original “Somewhere in Between,” more of an epilogue than a remix. Dance is where Cook arrives after he’s “cracked the code.”

—Alex Ariff, WBGO‘s Jazz Night in America

Mount Kimbie, ‘Blue Train Lines (feat. King Krule)’

From Love What Survives

We’re running to meet him. It takes us about 20 seconds and when we do find him, he’s pacing and mid-monologue.

“…here’s another thing / that flew up in my mind / like the razor blade in her wrist / locked in the closet of Deep. Space. 9.”

It’s hard to track in his thick, frantic Cockney accent, but he’s just witnessed the heroin overdose of someone important. Tortured, he begins to scream. This has been a bad day for Archie.

The lyrics on “Blue Train Lines” make Mount Kimbie‘s music more urgent than usual. That’s largely due to the out-of-character delivery by King Krule (Archie Ivan Marshall). His usual, contemplatively paced poetry is nowhere to be found. The intensity of the track never falters as he aggressively cries each detail about this woman, lying unresponsive. We’re listening to someone confront guilt and grief all at once in real time. It’s difficult and I can’t stop.

—Nick Brunner, Capital Public Radio‘s Hey, Listen!

Football And Donald Trump: It’s A Long Story

Sep 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Football And Donald Trump: It’s A Long Story

Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie poses with New Jersey Generals head coach Walt Michaels, left, and General’s owner, Donald Trump, at a news conference in New York, Feb. 5, 1985.

Marty Lederhandler/AP


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Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie poses with New Jersey Generals head coach Walt Michaels, left, and General’s owner, Donald Trump, at a news conference in New York, Feb. 5, 1985.

Marty Lederhandler/AP

“I hope he remains loyal. And if he doesn’t, let me know, and I’ll attack him.”

Those are the words of (now) President Trump, but they’re not from any current controversy. They’re from 2009, from an interview in the ESPN documentary Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL?, which aired that same year. Trump is talking about Charley Steiner, the longtime ESPN sportscaster who’s now the play-by-play radio announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Steiner was, in the 1980s, the announcer for the New Jersey Generals, the football team Trump had bought that was part of the upstart USFL, a professional football league that lasted three seasons playing in the spring instead of, like the NFL, in the fall.

The words come shortly after the filmmaker, Mike Tollin, tells Trump that Steiner said of his purchase of the Generals in 1983, in the league’s second year, “[Trump] figured that he could buy his way onto the back page of the New York Post, he could move to Page Six, the gossip page, and then ultimately, the front page. Donald Trump was no longer a Donald, but the Donald.”

As you know, the part about making it to the front page eventually came true, though Steiner probably wouldn’t have predicted how.

Small Potatoes, which is available to rent on streaming services, provides some interesting additional context — along with his flirtation with buying the Buffalo Bills shortly before his 2016 presidential campaign began — for Trump’s recent condemnation of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Trump has gone so far as to proclaim via Twitter that owners should prohibit these protests and should fire anyone who engages in them. It’s worth remembering his history with the NFL is long. (So, in fact, is his history with ESPN, which made this documentary he greatly disliked, and with whom he also got into it recently over ESPN commentator Jemele Hill calling him a white supremacist.)

Tollin’s thesis in Small Potatoes — which later earned him a public feud over the film with Trump that did take place on Page Six — is that the USFL was killed by Trump’s stubborn insistence on the doomed idea of moving USFL football to the fall to compete directly with the NFL. Players interviewed for the film, including stars like Jim Kelly and Steve Young, say they had a feeling the push to the fall was a bad idea. The USFL was small but growing. Why throw yourself against the incredibly powerful NFL? But Trump didn’t want to coexist as a smaller league and wait to see what happened. He went after a bigger prize.

Trump became the public face of a lawsuit against the NFL by the USFL in 1986, arguing that the NFL constituted a monopoly that, among other things, prevented the USFL from getting fall television contracts. Ultimately, the jury believed that the monopoly existed, but not that the USFL had been damaged by it in the way it claimed. It awarded the USFL $3. One possible explanation for the lack of damages? The NFL had argued that the USFL had planned not to actually play separately in the fall, but to force the NFL to merge with it and adopt at least some of its teams. That could mean the USFL wasn’t really harmed by not getting TV contracts it never intended to get.

The verdict was for $3 plus interest, actually — a check for $3.76 that Tollin has on hand and gives to Trump during the prickly 2009 interview. The tiny verdict — the arguably empty victory — quickly led to the USFL folding altogether.

Because political lenses can be so disorienting, it can be worthwhile to look back at documents from before politics really dominated a person’s image. Here, Tollin makes an argument in 2009 that Trump was impatient and overeager for a confrontation with the NFL. And no less a figure of the 1980s than Burt Reynolds, who was also involved with the league, says in an interview that Trump’s “dream was to be in the National Football League. And they didn’t want him.”

That’s not the way Trump sees the story or his interest in the league, and he’s steadfast in his arguments to Tollin that he was right, that spring football was never going to be a success. What would have happened if the league had stayed in the spring and tried to grow gradually is speculation, for both men.

At the end of the 2009 interview with Tollin, while taking off his microphone, Trump asks Tollin whether he agrees or disagrees with Trump’s thinking about what the league should have done. Tollin suggests that he thinks the league could have carried on for a while playing in the spring, had it continued as it was. “It would have been small potatoes,” Trump says, patting Tollin on the shoulder. “Have a good time.”

The documentary “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?” can be found as an episode within Volume 1 of ESPN’s series 30 For 30, which is available to rent on platforms including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

Trump’s Tax Plan Has Echoes Of The Kansas Tax Cut Experiment

Sep 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Trump’s Tax Plan Has Echoes Of The Kansas Tax Cut Experiment

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talks to the media during a news conference in July.

Charlie Riedel/AP


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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talks to the media during a news conference in July.

Charlie Riedel/AP

Members of Congress might want to familiarize themselves with the story of Kansas’ failed tax-cutting experiment as they begin deliberations on President Donald Trump’s tax-reform plan.

It could serve as a cautionary tale because some elements of the president’s updated proposal mirror pieces of the tax-cut plan that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback pushed through the state legislature in 2012, promising it would deliver a “shot of adrenaline” to the Kansas economy.

It didn’t. Instead, revenues crashed, forcing Brownback and lawmakers to resort to spending cuts, borrowing and accounting tricks to maintain a balanced budget.

Kansas Tax Cut Experiment Comes To An End As Lawmakers Vote To Raise Taxes

So, Kansans reading headlines about the Trump tax cuts might be excused for having a déjà vu moment.

“Are you kidding me,” says University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis. “I think it is pretty clear that the Kansas experiment was a failure.”

William Gale of the centrist Brookings Institution called the Kansas tax cuts “a lab test for how supply side tax cuts may work at the federal level.”

Not well, he concluded in a July blog post.

“The Brownback plan aimed to boost the Kansas economy, but instead led to sluggish growth, lower than expected revenues and brutal cuts to government programs,” Gale wrote.

‘Red-state experiment’

In his self-described “red-state experiment,” Brownback, who’s been nominated for a State Department post with the Trump Administration, slashed individual income tax rates and lowered to zero the tax on so-called pass-through business income, which usually comes from small businesses and partnerships.

In Kansas, business owners responded by restructuring their companies as limited liability corporations to avoid paying income taxes.

State revenues plummeted by hundreds of millions of dollars and continued to miss projections for several years

Like Brownback, Trump and GOP congressional leaders say lowering income and business taxes will spur investment and economic growth. Their plan would reduce the nation’s top income tax rate to 35 percent from 39.6 percent and lower the corporate tax to 20 percent from the current 35 percent.

Unlike the Kansas experiment, the president’s proposal wouldn’t exempt pass-through income but it would lower the rate that high-earning professionals in business partnerships pay to 25 percent.

“The promise [in Kansas] was that the tax cuts would generate so much economic growth that you wouldn’t really feel the revenue loss,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said. “The same sorts of promises are now being made at the federal level.”

Kansans felt it.

Spending cuts, borrowing

With state revenues in free fall, Brownback rejected calls to roll back parts of his signature tax cuts. Instead, he slashed university budgets, cancelled highway projects and convinced reluctant lawmakers to go along with a plan to borrow $1 billion to shore up the state’s public pension fund.

Angry voters responded in 2016 by ousting dozens of conservative Republicans who supported the tax cuts and replacing them with Democrats and moderate Republicans who promised to “fix the mess” in Topeka.

Led by a coalition of those newly elected lawmakers, the 2017 legislature ended the Brownback experiment by passing a $1.2 billion tax increase over his veto.

State Rep. Melissa Rooker, a moderate Republican who helped lead the rollback effort, took little satisfaction in the victory.

“It’s hard to celebrate because Kansas in such shambles,” Rooker said to the Wichita Eagle. “The magnitude of the problems that we have to correct is so great.”

The failure of the state’s tax-cutting experiment hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for Trump’s tax-reform proposal among Kansas’ all-Republican congressional delegation. All five of the state’s U.S. House members and both of its U.S. Senators have expressed support the president’s plan.

Statements posted to their websites this week make little mention of the array of proposed cuts for wealthy taxpayers. Instead, they tout the plan as a long-waited effort to simplify the tax code and deliver relief to middle-income Americans.

“Many Kansas families are living paycheck to paycheck and need tax relief,” said GOP Sen. Pat Roberts.

Congressman Roger Marshall, a first-term Republican whose district covers two-thirds of the state, said he “could not be more excited” to support the plan.

“This fairer, simpler system will be a huge relief for the working and middle class,” Marshall said, citing the proposal to double the standard deduction as an example.

Mommy Mentors Help Fight The Stigma Of Postpartum Mood Disorder

Sep 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Mommy Mentors Help Fight The Stigma Of Postpartum Mood Disorder

Mothers helping other mothers through the challenges of postpartum depression and anxiety makes Florida’s mentoring program unique.

Veronica Grech/Getty Images


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Mothers helping other mothers through the challenges of postpartum depression and anxiety makes Florida’s mentoring program unique.

Veronica Grech/Getty Images

Becoming a mother is often portrayed as a magical and glorious life event. But many women don’t feel joyful after giving birth.

In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, almost 15 percent of moms suffer from a postpartum mood disorder like anxiety or depression, making maternal mental health concerns the most common complication of childbirth in the U.S. And even though these mental illnesses affect millions of women each year, new research shows 20 percent of mothers don’t disclose their symptoms to healthcare providers.

“Many women feel hesitant discussing their emotional difficulties, especially when they’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety,” says Sarah Checcone, founder and director of The Postpartum Society of Florida. The Sarasota-based non-profit organization is testing out a new way to support struggling mothers and their families by offering a mother-to-mother mentorship program known as SISTER (Self-Image Support Team and Emotional Resource).

Volunteers are mothers who’ve recovered from a maternal mental illness, as well as those impacted by a friend or family member’s postpartum challenges. Sister moms seek to build community, creating a safe space. And that just might help women to open up about their difficulties.

“Many women falsely believe that admitting they’re anxious or depressed is the same as admitting weakness. They may even fear that speaking about their feelings may make them more real. We need to do a better job explaining to patients that anxiety and depression have nothing to do with being a ‘bad mom,’ ” says Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a psychiatrist in New York City, specializing in maternal mental health and reproductive psychiatry.

Postpartum depression is not always easy to spot. Symptoms can arise anytime in the first year of motherhood. According to Postpartum Support International, signs of the disorder vary but may include feelings of irritability, sadness, constant worry, and sleep and appetite changes.

Mary Lopez, 30, a mother of two in Sarasota, didn’t know how to deal with these kinds of feelings after her child was born. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to about how lost I felt as a first-time mother. I felt too ashamed to open up,” she says.
Lopez struggled with nursing. She attended a breastfeeding support group at a local hospital. Luckily the group leader recognized she was anxious and introduced her to Checcone and the SISTER program.

“My OB didn’t screen me for postpartum depression, but even if she had, I was too afraid to speak up. Without the support of my sister mom, I don’t think I would have received help,” she says.

As survivors of postpartum mood disorders, sister moms are in a unique position to mentor new moms. They share their personal stories and reassure these new mothers that they’re not alone and not to blame for their illnesses. They connect with their mentees via telephone or text weekly and meet face-to-face at least once a month. When needed, sister moms also help women find additional psychological resources, like psychotherapy, psychiatry, and support groups.

Resilience research shows peer-based programs like these can bolster a woman’s mental health. A recent review, published in the journal Child Development, suggests distressed mothers may benefit from ongoing nurturing, especially from those in similar situations. The researchers also found that support from peers and tending to a mother’s well-being increases positive parenting behaviors, especially when these supports are integrated into a woman’s daily life.

“Often, we believe supporting parents means giving advice about what to do for your child. But most mothers don’t need parenting 101, they desire authentic connections — ongoing gentleness and support — from others going through similar challenges,” says Suniya Luthar, a psychology professor at Arizona State University and one of the study researchers. Yet these close relationships are often difficult to find.

While parenthood can serve as social glue, just bringing mothers together doesn’t always lead to intimacy and trust. And because these friendships are less intimate and sometimes temporary, women may feel hesitant to discuss their emotional health with new “mom friends.” That silence perpetuates the notion that these problems are rare.

A recent study published in the journal Maternal and Child Health found social support affects a mother’s likelihood of reaching out for professional help. The study includes data from more than 200 mostly white, middle-class mothers who had given birth in the past three years. Participants completed an online survey that asked if they had experienced symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression and if they had disclosed their struggles to a physician, doula, or nurse.

Half of the women surveyed believed they met criteria for a postpartum mood concern. Women with greater support were more likely to disclose their symptoms to a medical provider. However, more than 30 percent of mothers in the study said they lacked a confidant, making it harder for them to talk about their problems.

“I was surprised how many women did not report their symptoms. This is concerning because it highlights many moms are not receiving the professional help they need,” says Betty-Shannon Prevatt, the study’s lead author and a psychologist and Ph.D. student in applied social and community psychology at North Carolina State University.

To reach more women, Checcone is expanding the mentorship program by training five mother-mentors in Tampa. The goal is to grow the SISTER program across the state to more than 100 volunteers by 2020.

In addition to training sister-mom mentors, Checcone also educates partners and husbands about postpartum mood concerns, reminding them that the illness is no one’s fault. She tells them that encouragement, loving care, and helping mom find resources, such as peer and professional support, helps tremendously.

For Lopez, the resources at the Postpartum Society of Florida have been a lifeline.
“My mentor helped me realize I am not alone. Her kindness allowed me to open up about my agony. These mother mentors are a village of support, guiding me through some of the darkest times of my life.”

The SISTER program is unique because it offers mother-to-mother support.

For struggling mothers seeking this kind of support outside of Florida, Postpartum Support International facilitates mom-to-mom contact with a private Facebook group and provides a toll-free telephone “warm” line staffed by trained volunteers for mothers and families looking for resources in their local areas.

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga.

Fear Of Bridge Collapse Triggers Stampede In India

Sep 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Fear Of Bridge Collapse Triggers Stampede In India

More than 20 people were killed during Friday morning’s rush in Mumbai, India. A stampede broke out on a crowded pedestrian bridge that connects two railway stations.

The Associated Press reports falling concrete hit the bridge’s railing, and that led some in the crowd to believe the bridge was about to collapse.

The Times of India reports that eyewitnesses said a man slipped on the crowded foot bridge and as other passengers tried to help him, others also slipped leading to many more slipping which led to a stampede.

Because it was raining heavily, more people than normal were on the bridge seeking shelter from the storm under the canopy.

Authorities in Mumbai say at least 22 people were killed in the crush and at least 20 were seriously injured.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted condolences to all those who lost loved ones in the stampede.

The BBC’s Yogita Limaye in Mumbai says the incident has once again put the spotlight on Mumbai’s transport infrastructure, which is often criticized for being old and insufficient, given the millions of people who use it every day.

Senior railway officials are at the scene and an inquiry into the incident has begun.

Deadly stampedes are fairly common during Indian religious festivals. In 2013, more than a hundred people were killed in a stampede in central India.

Thousands of Hindu pilgrims were crossing a bridge leading to a temple in Madhya Pradesh state when they panicked at rumors the bridge would collapse, triggering a stampede.

If Your Teacher Looks Likes You, You May Do Better In School

Sep 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on If Your Teacher Looks Likes You, You May Do Better In School

Having a teacher that looks like you may help you succeed in school.

Having a teacher that looks like you may help you succeed in school.

Think back to grade school for a moment and envision that one teacher who could captivate you more than any other. Did that teacher look a bit like you? One recent study says: probably.

There’s mounting evidence that when black students have black teachers, those students are more likely to graduate high school. That new study takes this idea even further, providing insight into the way students actually think and feel about the teachers who look like them and those who don’t.

Here’s how it worked:

  • Researchers surveyed more than 80,000 public school students, grades four through eight, across six different states.
  • These students were asked to evaluate how well their teachers led their classrooms.
  • The researchers paid special attention to the way students — black, white and Hispanic — in the same classes rated the same teachers.

The study found that when students had teachers of the same race as them, they reported feeling more cared for, more interested in their schoolwork and more confident in their teachers’ abilities to communicate with them. These students also reported putting forth more effort in school and having higher college aspirations.

When students had teachers who didn’t look like them, the study found, they reported lower levels of these feelings and attitudes. These trends were most visible in black students, especially black girls.

These findings support the idea that students do better in school when they can view their teachers as role models, says Brian Kisida, who coauthored the paper. And if that teacher looks like you, you might perceive them as precisely that, a role model.

One problem: a growing number of students don’t have teachers who look like them. The majority of students in public school are students of color, while most teachers identify as white. And this so-called teacher-diversity gap likely contributes to racial disparities in academic performance.

“The national achievement gap is unidirectional,” says Anna Egalite, another coauthor. Students who are white fare far better than students who aren’t, and that might have something to do with the relative homogeneity of teachers. According to recent statistics, just 18 percent of teachers were people of color.

But a more diverse population of teachers alone won’t help students of color, says Gloria Ladson-Billings, a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To change attitudes and behaviors about school, she says, “We need teachers who view their students of color as whole people.”

And that’s key because diversifying the teaching force might take a while. But one thing policymakers can do to shrink the achievement gap, Egalite and Kisida say, is pay attention to the things students of color say they appreciate about having teachers who look like them. Only then, they say, can practitioners train teachers to communicate with diverse bodies of students.

For Catalonia’s Separatists, Language Is The Key To Identity

Sep 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on For Catalonia’s Separatists, Language Is The Key To Identity

A banner hangs in the courtyard of a University of Barcelona building that reads, “The future is ours,” in Catalan. Students are “occupying” the building ahead of an independence vote.

Lauren Frayer/For NPR


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A banner hangs in the courtyard of a University of Barcelona building that reads, “The future is ours,” in Catalan. Students are “occupying” the building ahead of an independence vote.

Lauren Frayer/For NPR

Inside a Barcelona film studio, a technician cues up a scene from the movie Prisoners, showing Jake Gyllenhaal’s latest car chase.

Then a local actor — albeit one who’s slightly older, balder and plumper than Gyllenhaal — delivers the Hollywood actor’s lines in Catalan.

In Spain’s northeast region of Catalonia, that’s the official language, along with Spanish. Movies, television programs — even Netflix series — are all dubbed into Catalan. Dubbing is especially popular in children’s programming for youngsters who don’t yet know how to read subtitles.

“We have clients like 20th Century Fox, HBO. A lot of films, European and American, and lots of Japanese cartoons,” says Miguel Torres, the technical director at the VSI Sonigraf Studio, one of eight Catalan dubbing studios in the region. “The point of this is bilingual development of the whole society. Managing both languages is a regular thing for us. Everybody does it.”

In Spain, Catalans Are Divided Over Independence Vote As Referendum Approaches

Catalan is a Romance language with more than 4 million native speakers, most of whom speak Spanish too. More than double that number understand Catalan, or speak it as a second language. It’s used in street signs, restaurant menus and, crucially, in public schools across Catalonia.

The language was prohibited during the nearly 40-year dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who died in 1975. That changed when Spain transitioned to democracy in the late 1970s and Catalonia was given control of its own education system.

“The first thing they did was immersion. This means you teach everything in Catalan, including math and biology,” says Enric Ucelay-Da Cal, a Barcelona-based historian and expert on the Catalan independence movement. “It’s all done in Catalan. That is still the case now.”

It was a reaction to Franco’s repression. But it made Catalan identity, which is also cultural and historical, more about language — in contrast to other ethnic groups in Spain, like the Basques, Ucelay says.

“Basque nationalism is ethnicity,” he says. “But this, it’s basically a language movement. We are Catalans because we speak Catalan.”

One of the first post-Franco separatist groups in Catalonia in the 1980s was called La Crida a la Solidaritat per la Lengua — Catalan for “the rallying cry of solidarity for our language.” It was the language, members believed, that entitled them to be separate.

Many of today’s Catalans are actually the children of migrant workers from Andalucía, in southern Spain. Catalonia is Spain’s economic engine, comprising about 20 percent of Spanish GDP and more than a quarter of the country’s exports. The tourist hub of Barcelona is the Catalan capital.

Today, anyone under age 40 in Catalonia has been educated exclusively in Catalan. It’s a demographic that disproportionately lost jobs during Spain’s recent economic crisis and resented having their taxes subsidize poorer parts of Spain.

Now, they largely support independence.

Students wear Catalan independence flags and hand out ballots in front of the University of Barcelona. Hundreds have been camping out at the university nightly ahead of Sunday’s independence vote.

Lauren Frayer/For NPR


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Lauren Frayer/For NPR

Students wear Catalan independence flags and hand out ballots in front of the University of Barcelona. Hundreds have been camping out at the university nightly ahead of Sunday’s independence vote.

Lauren Frayer/For NPR

At the University of Barcelona this week, students have occupied a main building ahead of Sunday’s independence referendum vote. Spain has said the referendum is illegal. The students are angry about Spanish police raids to confiscate ballots and Spain’s efforts to incorporate more Spanish language into Catalan society. In 2013, the Spanish central government passed a national education law forcing Catalan schools to provide more hours of instruction in Spanish if parents petition for it.

Some see it as an existential threat.

“I think in Catalan and I dream in Catalan,” says Marta Rosique, 21. “And then there is a government that tries to do as much as possible so that Catalan doesn’t exist anymore! There is something that tells me to fight for my own identity, for my own language.”

In conversation, she uses those two words interchangeably — “identity” and “language.” This weekend, she hopes to express them at the ballot box — and vote for Catalonia’s separation from Spain.

When The Parents Are White, The Child Is Black And The Churches Are Segregated

Sep 28, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on When The Parents Are White, The Child Is Black And The Churches Are Segregated

You got questions? We've got answers.

You got questions? We've got answers.

Anyone who looks a little — or a lot — different from their parents is used to being asked nosy questions: Whose kid are you? Where did you come from? Where do you belong?

Those questions can be even more pervasive when you don’t look like anyone in your community.

So is there anything parents can do to protect their kiddos (and themselves) from those grating interactions? This week, we’re exploring these questions on Ask Code Switch — and in the podcast.

Noelle,* from Roanoke, Va., asks:

My husband and I are white and we have one biological child (a baby) who shares many of our physical features. We also have a 4-year-old daughter, whom we adopted, who is black. I am trying to surround our daughter with a multiracial community so she is less this one black person in a sea of white. That is a struggle in a city that is still pretty segregated, but my particular question is this: Where should we go to church? We visited churches for a year when we moved to town, trying to find one that was racially and ethnically diverse, among a couple of other parameters we had. In the end, we settled on a congregation that is almost exclusively white, but it’s very uncomfortable to me to be raising my daughter in a church where we can identify ourselves as, “We’re that couple with the black daughter.” Should we go to a predominantly black church, even though it’s not in our comfort zone as far as worship style? Would that be pretending to be something we’re not as a family? Would we even be welcome there, or would we be intruding on a precious time for people of color to be in a safe space? Are there ways leaders of our church could make our congregation more welcoming to people of color? Half the time I’m tempted to just start my own congregation, because I can’t seem to find one that looks like my family, much less like the diverse world we live in.

Here’s our answer:

Hi Noelle,

When we first read your question, a couple of people on the team thought of that famous quotation from Martin Luther King Jr.: “It is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour, in Christian America.”

It sounds like 50 years later, you’re seeing a pretty similar landscape. Even in large, diverse cities, congregations are often racially homogeneous. Short of driving three hours to Raleigh, it might be tough for you to find a diverse church.

So, what do you do?

It sounds from your letter like you’re probably living in a pretty white part of town, which means that your school district will be majority white. If many of the people in your extended family and social circles are white as well, there may be only one choice. You need to go to a black church.

Growing Up 'White,' Transracial Adoptee Learned To Be Black

Let’s explain. The first reason is your daughter. Studies have shown that children are able to pick up on racial difference as early as 15 months old, and by the time they’re between 3 and 5, they’re already starting to develop racial biases. Your daughter might not have the vocabulary to talk to you yet about what she’s experiencing, but if you’re uncomfortable being “the couple with the black daughter,” research suggests your daughter is uncomfortable being “the black daughter.”

And, no matter what you say to her about race, she’s going to be soaking up messages from what she sees, where she goes and who she’s around. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you — the way that black people are portrayed in popular media (when they’re portrayed at all) is not always the most affirming.

I spoke to Beth Hall, the executive director of PACT, an organization that serves interracial adoptive families. Hall also wrote a book, Inside Transracial Adoption, and she’s the white adoptive mother of a black son and a Latina daughter.

She says it’s extremely important for interracial adoptive families to foster intimate relationships with people who look like their kids. “And intimacy is, who do you eat dinner with? Who do you love? And who do you worship with?” she says.

Children are concrete thinkers, Hall adds, so if they’re surrounded by white people most of the time, they’re likely to reason that white people are the ones most worthy of love and trust:

“So as [your daughter] grows up, who’s she going to want to be like? Who’s she going to want to be?” When you grow up and who you want to be is not who you can be, Hall says, “then how is she going to grow up not embodying some internalized dislike, if not hate?”

Noelle, the second reason I think you should attend a black church is the rest of your family. You’re right, you might not always feel welcome in a black church. People will notice your presence, and there’s no guarantee that everyone will like it. (A couple of folks have suggested introducing yourself to the church leadership ahead of time and explaining your presence — it could go a long way toward ingratiating you to the community.)

But being somewhere where you’re noticed, looked at, maybe even judged sometimes may help you empathize with what your daughter will experience throughout her life. Remember, you get to go home to a community, and generally live, in a world where your racial identity is the norm. She doesn’t.

P.S. If you haven’t already, my teammate Gene Demby says check out NBC’s “This Is Us.”

Interracial adoptees and parents: We want to hear from you! What advice would you give Noelle? Hit us up at CodeSwitch@npr.org.

And as always, if you have a racial conundrum of your own, fill out this form and tell us the deets!

*We’re using first names only to allow folks to speak freely about sensitive issues.

Who Is A College Teacher, Anyway? Audit Of Online University Raises Questions

Sep 28, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Who Is A College Teacher, Anyway? Audit Of Online University Raises Questions

Virtual Classroom

Virtual Classroom

Who, exactly, is a university teacher? What defines teaching? And how should the profession evolve in an age of rising tuition, worldwide connectivity, and fast-changing job markets?

Surprisingly, a recent federal audit of Western Governors University raises these questions.

The school was founded 20 years ago by a consortium of states; it’s a nonprofit, online-only institution that has racked up accolades, becoming a national role model for its innovative and low-cost focus on working adults.

But the inspector general of the Department of Education claims that their approach cuts too many corners. Rather than innovative, they say, WGU is more like a correspondence school of yore.

The audit calls on WGU to return $713 million of federal student aid. If Education Secretary Betsy DeVos acts on the finding, it would likely put the university out of business, and cast a shadow over at least 80 other institutions that have adopted similar models.

WGU has 83,000 students, mostly adults, preparing for the workforce as teachers, nurses, in technology or business; it’s forged partnerships with public university systems in several states. Students can work at their own pace, within guidelines, to demonstrate that they have mastered industry skills, known as “competencies,” through tests, papers, and presentations.

The main issue raised in the audit is whether enough of the school’s courses require “regular and substantive interaction between students and their instructors.” If the classes don’t, they function more like correspondence courses. This language is intended to guard against fraud and diploma mills.

WGU’s president, Scott D. Pulsipher, acknowledges that the university has a faculty model that is “different” than most. There are three main roles, he says:

  • Program faculty include outside experts from academia and business, who decide what should be taught at a high level. Program faculty also design curricula, working backward from necessary skills, called competencies, to create content and design assessments.
  • Course faculty have specific expertise in a given topic. They may give feedback on student work, run discussion groups, or work directly with students who are falling behind.
  • Finally, each student has a single assigned program mentor for his or her entire time at WGU. Mentors have advanced degrees in the student’s discipline: health sciences, IT, business, or education. They help students understand the content, and connect what they are learning in different courses; they also assist with project planning and assessment scheduling. Emotional support is part of the job description. Pulsipher says program mentors reach out to their students by email, phone, and text at least once a week, much more if students are struggling.

The inspector general’s audit determined that this third category, mentors, are not really faculty, but more like counselors or advisers. In looking at course faculty, the audit found that they don’t tend to hold weekly meetings; most lecture-like content is delivered through videos, not in real time. So student contact is not “regular” enough with the course faculty, and not “substantive” enough with the program mentors, the audit concluded.

“Just because they have an opinion,” says Pulsipher, “that doesn’t mean their opinion’s right.” In his view, the inspector general’s concept of an instructor is too narrow and outdated.

“The audit is akin to taking horse-and-buggy era laws and applying them to the automobile,” argues Phil Hill, an independent expert on educational technology who has consulted for institutions including WGU. “It’s really rooted in a traditional classroom model of seat time.”

Under this interpretation of the law, Hill says, if a statistics instructor gives a 45-minute live lecture three times a week to 300 students, that’s “regular and substantive contact.”

If students view that same lecture in video form, and that same instructor, with the same credentials, is available as needed to help students one-on-one or in small groups, that wouldn’t count. That’s despite research showing that the second model can help students understand concepts more thoroughly and often progress more quickly.

The inspector general doesn’t have enforcement authority, so the department is free to ignore the audit’s recommendations. A department spokeswoman told Inside Higher Ed, “it is important to note that the innovative student-first model used by this school and others like it, has garnered bipartisan support over the last decade.”

Pulsipher seems confident that their model will keep standing up to scrutiny. As he points out, indicators like graduation rates, student loan repayment rates, student and employer satisfaction are on par with, or better than, institutions serving similar populations.

“The inspector general’s report is a wake-up call that the law needs to be better aligned with the innovation in this space,” says Jamie Merisotis, director of the Lumina Foundation, which has been working to expand competency-based education. He says WGU is one of the first, the biggest, and the best in the business, as well as one of the most transparent.

“We are overdue for a rewrite,” of the Higher Education Act, he says, acknowledging that there have been efforts to improve flexibility while adding new requirements for accountability.

In the meantime, he says, the Department of Education could issue updated guidance to institutions so they could avoid running afoul of the law.

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