Friday, October 17, 2008

Journalism 042


Headsets.com announced today that it is planning to offer free cellphone headsets to anybody who sends them a copy of their traffic citation for making calls while driving.

At least a half dozen states have laws prohibiting people from driving while talking on and holding their cellphone.

2,600 people are killed each year and as many as 330,000 are injured because of cellphone-related driving accidents according to studies done by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

"I just feel compelled to try and do something about this tragedy," said Mike Faith, CEO and President of Headsets.com.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Journalism 041

Green Party, you've come so far...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Journalism 040

It's always curious what beloved little tokens of unsolicited information get bestowed upon the mailbox throughout the week. I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

1. Non-governmental organization SOS Children's Villages wrote to remind me that World Orphan Week is coming up on October 5th.

"More than 541,000 children in the U.S. and more than 133 million children worldwide are without parental care. And every 2.2 seconds, a child loses a parent," according to the group, which always says that less than 1% of these children are adopted worldwide every year.

SOS cares for over 70,000 orphans throughout the world.

2. Majon International writes to tell me about a new school called Holotopia Academy started this past summer on the island Punta Campanella, near Positano, in the Amalfi Coast, Italy, which is the place described by Homer in his Odyssey when Ulysses meets the sirens.

"Holotopia Academy's function is to create a worldwide-recognized meeting point for some of the most important thinkers, providing the best conditions for the production of art masterpieces as well as new scientific and philosophical theories and works," according to its website.

3. The Humane Society of the United States writes to tell me about its new website that it set up to assist journalists in writing about animal abuse throughout the nation. The site includes statistics, trends, links to state laws and penalties, cruelty demographics and analysis.

"Animal cruelty is a serious crime that degrades humans as well as animals. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a problem in your community right now, or soon. After all, these kinds of vicious attacks are happening in nearly every corner of the country nearly every day."

"However, since there is no federal reporting system for these crimes, journalists rarely get the opportunity to analyze animal cruelty’s prevalence. Sometimes the crush of news deadlines also makes it difficult to put these events into perspective."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Journalism 039



Fun Facts:

A recent GAO report on the state of affairs of the Hurricane Katrina cleanup effort states that while "FEMA estimated in July 2008 that it had funded about 16,900 home demolitions, an estimated 6,100 homes remained to be demolished around the New Orleans area."

Three years later, and we're at the 73 percent benchmark...

And according to the McClatchy Washington D.C. bureau, the levees that encircle New Orleans, sheltering it from another such disaster, have been "substantially fortified", but will not be officially complete until 2011.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued the following today in a press release: "As a result of the Republicans’ failure to serve and protect the residents of the Gulf Coast, one of the top priorities of the New Direction Congress in 2007 was to enact a much-delayed Gulf Coast Recovery package. The Democratic-controlled Congress developed a $6.4 billion package to bolster the levees, restore coastlines, recruit teachers, open schools, provide health care, and assist small business. The President signed this critical bill in May 2007."

“While we have made progress in the last three years, we recognize that key needs remain in the Gulf Coast that must be addressed. House Democrats pledge to continue working with the region in a partnership to spur the economic recovery of the Gulf Coast region, fund innovative initiatives, and ensure that the basic needs of its residents are met."

Other fun facts:

Cindy Sheehan has formally endorsed the Green Party's presidential candidate, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), who is perhaps most notorious for punching a U.S. Capitol Police officer after he stopped her from bypassing the security line (which members of Congress are allowed to do) because he didn't recognize her.


And, the BBC tells us that our stimulus package has gone limp.

Also, they tell us how flies are so damn popular.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Journalism 038


In the International Crisis Group's July 10th report, Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, I came across the following paragraph:

"Expected in 2003 with the war's onset, the crisis began two years later but was greater than anticipated. While initially welcoming their Iraqi brethren, Syria and Jordan soon put tough restrictions on entry. They provided few basic services and inadequate opportunities for jobs, health care and children's education. There is a real risk that with little to lose and nothing to look forward to, refugees could become radicalized."

This hit me on two sides because it takes a very human issue (people fleeing their home country) that has escalated to almost inhuman proportions (about 5 million Iraqi's have fled their homes to date) and then it almost permanently crosses the line to speaking on the issue purely in terms of numbers, which is a very real danger, because it is when suffering people are seen only in terms of their number that people allow themselves to stop caring.

But this so called radicalization that is mentioned in the ICG report does not occur to numbers, rather it happens within individuals for unique reasons. In dealing with crises of such proportion, it is vital to remember this.

So, what's the U.S. doing?


Courtesy of Congressional Quarterly, a la my roommate Mr. Mattingly:

Plan Advances for Iraqi Refugee Coordinator
By Phil Mattingly, CQ Staff

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would create a White House coordinator to oversee U.S. efforts to aid Iraqi refugees.

The committee approved the bill (HR6328) by voice vote. Sponsored by panel Chairman Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., it would create an ambassador-level position to coordinate the resettlement of Iraqi refugees.

An estimated 2 million refugees have been driven out of Iraq and another 2.7 million have been internally displaced since the United States invaded the country in 2003.

The U.S. government has been criticized for being slow to resettle Iraqis, particularly those who worked as drivers, translators and support workers for U.S. personnel. The State and Homeland Security departments have refugee coordinators, but advocates for the legislation say a higher-level effort is needed.

The latest war supplemental spending law (PL 110-252) included $696 million for refugee programs, much of which will go to Iraq and its neighbors. In fiscal 2007, 1,608 Iraqis settled in the United States, and the State Department plans to resettle 12,000 more Iraqis in fiscal 2008. A total of 45,200 Iraqis sought asylum in the United States in 2007.

A substitute amendment to the bill, adopted by voice vote, inserted text to require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide programs to address the psychosocial and medical needs of refugees resettled in the United States. It also would require the coordinator to consult with the Jordanian government to provide assistance to that country in dealing with Iraqi refugees.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Journalism 037


From Shah of Shahs, by Ryszard Kapuscinski, 1982


"A Shiite is, first of all, a rabid oppositionist. At first the Shiites were a small group of friends and backers of Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed and husband of the Prophet's beloved daughter Fatima. When Mohammed died without a male hier and without clearly designating his successor, the Muslims began struggling over the Prophet's inheritance, over who would be caliph, or leaders of the believers in Allah and thus the most important person in the Islamic world. Ali's party (Shi'a means 'party') supports its leader for the position, maintaining that Ali is the sole representative of the Prophet's family, the father of Mohammed's two grandsons Hassan and Hussein. The Sunni Muslim majority, however, ignores the voices of the Shiites for twenty-four years and chooses Abu Bakr, Umar, and Utman as the next three caliphs. Ali finally becomes caliph, but his caliphate ends after five years, when an assassin splits his skull with a poisoned saber. Of Ali's two sons, Hassan will be poisoned and Hussein will fall in battle. The death of Ali's family deprives the Shiites of the chance to win power, which passes to the Sunni Omayyad, Abassid, and Ottoman dynasties. The caliphate, which Mohammed had conceived as a simple and modest institution, becomes a hereditary monarchy. In this situation the plebeian, pious, poverty-stricken Shiites, appalled by the nouveau-riche style of the victorious caliphs, go over to the opposition.

All this happens in the middle of the seventh century, but it has remained a living and passionately dwelt-on history to this day. When a devout Shiite talks about his faith he will constantly return to those remote histories and relate tearfully the massacre at Karbala in which Hussein has his head cut off. A skeptical, ironic European will think, God, what can any of that mean today? But is he expresses such thoughts aloud, he provokes anger and hatred of the Shiite.

The Shiites have indeed had a tragic fate, and the sense of tragedy, of the historical wrongs and misfortunes that accompany them, is encoded deep within their consciousness. The world contains communities for whom nothing has gone right for centuries--everything has slipped through their hands, and every ray of hope has faded as soon as it began to shine--these people seem to bear some sort of fatal brand. So it is with the Shiites. For this reason, perhaps they have an air or dead seriousness, of fervent unsettling adherence to their arguments and principles, and also (this is only an impression, of course) of sadness.

As soon as the Shiites (who constitute barely a tenth of all Muslims, the rest being Sunnis) go into opposition, the persecution begins. To this day they live the memory of the centuries of pogroms against them, and so they close themselves off in ghettos, use signals only they understand and devise conspiratorial forms of behavior. But the blows keep falling on their heads.

Gradually they start to look for safer places where they will have a better chance of survival. In those times of difficult and slow communication, in which distance and space constitute an efficient isolator, a separating wall, the Shiites try to move as far as possible from the center of power (which lies first in Damascus and later in Baghdad). They scatter throughout the world, across mountains and deserts, and descend step by step underground. So the Shiite diaspora, which has lasted till today, comes into being. The epic of the Shiites is full of acts of incredible adjuration, courage, and spiritual strength. A part of the wandering community heads east. Crossing the Tigris and the Euphrates, it passes through the mountains of Zagros and reaches the Iranian desert plateau.

At this time, Iran, exhausted and laid waste by centuries of war with Byzantium, has been conquered by Arabs who are spreading the new faith, Islam. This process is going on slowly, amid continual fighting. Until now the Iranians have had an official religion, Zoroastrianism, related to the ruling Sassanid dynasty. Now comes the attempt to impose upon them another official religion, associated with a new and, what's more, a foreign regime--Sunni Islam. It seems like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

But exactly at this moment the poor, exhausted, wretched Shiites, still bearing the visible traces of the Gehenna they have lived through, appear. The Iranians discover that these Shiites are Muslims and, additionally (as they claim), the only legitimate Muslims, the only preservers of a pure faith for which they are ready to give their lives. Well, fine, say the Iranians--but what about your Arab brothers who have conquered us? Brothers? cry the outraged Shiites. Those Arabs are Sunnis, usurpers and our persecutors. They murdered Ali and seized power. No, we don't acknowledge them. We are in opposition! Having made this proclamation, the Shiites ask if they might rest after their long journey and request a jug of cold water.

This pronouncement by the barefoot newcomers sets the Iranians thinking along important lines. You can be a Muslim without being an establishment Muslim. What's more, you can be an opposition Muslim! And that makes you an even better Muslim! They feel empathy for these poor, wronged Shiites. At this moment the Iranians themselves are poor and feel wronged. They have been ruined by war, and an invader controls their country. So they quickly find a common language with these exiles who are looking for shelter and counting on their hospitality. The Iranians begin to listen to the Shiite preachers and finally accept their faith."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Journalism 036

I had the pleasure to witness Mr. Roger Mudd speak at the Friendship Heights Village Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Mudd was walking around his recently published book, The Place To Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.

Mudd started reporting in Richmond, Virginia at the now defunct Richmond News Leader, but soon moved up to Washington D.C. and began working in television and radio. At 33, CBS snatched him up and didn't let him go until almost 20 years later.

Mudd has won more than a half dozen awards for his reporting and is considered to be one of the old school elite in broadcast news history. A look around the dandelion-capped room, and it's clear that his legacy lives on. I was the youngest person in attendance, by FAR, but as a journalist I believe we must know from whence we come to see where we are to go.

As journalism begins to find its footing on the shaky rocks of modernization, Mudd said he was optimistic that websites like Slate and the Huffington Post were being "well-edited and professional."

And while "there is a lot of junk" on the Internet as far as news and bloggery, he said, "the future is very bright and I think a sense of responsibility will grow."

Mudd said he can't really believe how television journalism has changed over the years.

"I can't focus on anybody anymore, there's a different person everyday," he said. "And there's no longer the call for hard news, it's all feature stuff...The reason they want so much feature time is because by the time 6:30pm comes, everybody already knows what has happened."

But, he said, news agencies are finding that features don't sell either and they're facing money crunches similar to the newspaper industry.

One show that is not facing financial hardship is the News Hour with (formerly the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour) on PBS where Mudd was an essayist and political correspondent from 1987 to 1992.

"On a scale of one to ten, vanity is very high in commercial networks, with Jim (Lehrer), it's about at a three," Mudd said.

Mudd was asked why Congress seemed so divided over the past several decades.

"A lot of it is due to the necessity to run (for election) again at all costs," he said, and elaborated that often the desire to publicize their disagreements is sexier than selling their ability to compromise.

Mudd was not a huge fan of journalism school but admitted their worth.

"I think they're very helpful, but don't think they're necessary," he said. "You can learn in one year at a paper, about as much as in journalism school."

On a high note, he ended with a sentiment I completely share.

"I don't know where we'd be without Public Radio," he said. "It embraces every kind of story you'd ever hope for. It's a treasure."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More than one month after I said I'd be done with said thesis, and I'm still not blogging. My apologies.

Please accept this posting as a token...of me.

Firstly, the thesis got itself an extension because advisers felt it was promising enough to broaden and refine towards a hopeful publishing. I will definitely keep all posted on the milestones of this progress.

And now...onwards.

Last week I had the good fortune to meet and interview Ms. Mariane Pearl, who in the course of our 12 minute interview managed to rekindle the inklings for why I first became so interested in journalism: to write to better the world and to reveal the goodness in this arena of media that is jaded by the belief that it doesn't sell if it doesn't bleed.

Ms. Pearl is a woman of incomparable strength and honesty.

"My husband having died as a journalist, I couldn’t just live as a journalist without having a purpose that was very clear to me. Breaking the news is not a purpose to me, and I make a very clear separation between the entertainment business and journalism."

"For me I had to define what would be worth it and I felt the one thing that I witnessed in the world is the need for hope. Nobody voices it, but it’s such a vital element that we need, we need it as much as we need oxygen."

Due to the nature of the Internet, I will not confess how this affected my career aspirations, but will suffice in saying that my current professional privileged position is part of a much larger puzzle, the pieces of which are to be many and angled in conspicuous ways.

And on that note, two websites that need to be read by more, more frequently:

ProPublica

Wikileaks

Also, if you haven't yet, you need to read or watch to Bill Moyers' keynote address at this year's National Conference for Media Reform. It exemplifies all that is good in journalism and all that needs to be heeded as the future beckons us forward.

I will leave you with this for now and shall return on a regular basis with more goodness for eyes that feast.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Personal 011



Got word that my thesis is due May 15th...til then, I wish you well.....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Poetry 011

Cently Saints

Too tired
To give proper advice
On how to properly cocoon myself
From the world’s ills,
Like star-gazing
A way
Through our own
Sewage treatment plants,
Potted in the soul
Of the soil of our parents’ turmoil,
As though the shell
Of a piece of popped corn
Was wedged betwixt teeth
Teeth that gnaw on self-evolution
Until they irritate the last piece of determination,
As if to say that by swallowing
Frequently enough,
The overbearing rivers of commitment
Could be restored to their proper levels of course,
Of course that would probably render obsolete
The skills of
Irrigation technicians, the habits put in place to ensure
Our emotions aren’t over-flooded too often,
Or at the very least, it would
Relinquish them to the once-upon-a-time realm
Of real, live, human, cubicle customer service agents,
Void in the void
Of our potential to outsource ourselves…
Can you imagine…
Hiring someone to evolve your own soul…
So that you can carry about with your day and not have to worry about such things.

Copyright Jordy Yager 2007

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Journalism 035

I saw the 35-member Tamagawa University Taiko Drumming Ensemble perform last week and it was amazing.

The word Taiko literally means “drum” in Japanese. Situated around these gigantuous drums, these miniature Bruce Lee’s pound their entire existence into these hides giving off a mountainous boom that echoed down the Kennedy Center.

While the ensemble was made up of girls and boys both, the girls did not drum, but rather danced what appeared to be a very traditional number, booked as invoking memories and feelings of Springtime (and yes, there was some rump-shaking, literally).



You can watch some of the video here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Personal 010


So, I couldn't decide whether to put this one under "Personal" or "Journalism", but eventually opted for the former...I'll let you be the judge.

Waiting for the Orange line train at the Smithsonian stop last night around 11:30pm, I sit down and begin to read an article on Virginia folks getting caught up in horrible pay-lender programs, when all of the sudden the pay phone next to me begins to ring. Yes, you remember pay phones, they used to populate the horizon like Reebok Pumps in Williamsburg...but sad to say the last phone booth in D.C. was taken down recently.

After two rings, I decided to pick it up.

"Yello?"

On the other end was a man's voice, probably around early 20's in age. He said:

"Hello, we're conducting a survey and are wondering if you could tell us how many obese people you see now in your Metro station."

I won't front. I looked around. Thought about answering seriously. Then, being the forever witty/corny person that I am, said:

"Slim to none."

"Well, you may not know what we mean. Do you see anyone who looks like they're having trouble walking?"

Pause. Then, he continued:

"They may be holding a cake."

"What kind of cake?" I ask.

"Usually a chocolate or maybe a wedding cake."

"Hmmmmm, what about a pound cake or an angel food cake?"

"No, not usually, usually chocolate," he said.

"Hmmm, well there's a guy carrying an angel food cake."

"Are there any others around him perhaps?"

At this point my train had arrived, so I said:

"Oh shit, he just fell, I gotta go!"

Click.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Journalism 034


Cone Orgy On Capitol Hill

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Journalism 033


Where: On the red line train this afternoon. Crowded, not too much, just enough to leave some people standing by the doors.

What: We stop at the Smithsonian stop. A seat opens up. Black guy, probably late teens, sits down. A few people get on the train, one of whom is a middle-aged white woman. The black teen waves at her very earnestly to get her attention. Once he has it, he asks, "Do you wanna sit?", pointing to his seat. She smiles and says, "Oh, no thank you." He insists, getting up, "Here," he says. "It's all yours." "Thank you so much, that's very kind of you," she says as she sits down next to a middle-aged black man, who turns to her, looks at her for a minute, then says, "Why you say you ain't wanna sit? You know you did." "I guess it's just a woman thing," she replied somewhat bashfully.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Journalism 032


BP saddled up to rival gas goliath Conoco Phillips to share the drivers seat on their next great adventure.

On Monday the two giants announced their plan to build a natural gas pipeline stretching all the way from Alaska to the lower 48 states -- a project they claim to be the largest in North American history with a distance of more than 2,000 miles and a bill of close to $30 billion.

“The BP-ConocoPhillips pipeline will bring vast amounts of both natural gas and economic opportunity to the lower 48, and that’s why I wish we could open it today instead of having to wait nine years for the construction," said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Currently U.S. natural gas production remains relatively close to nil, while consumption is expected to grow over the course of this year by at least one percent.

“The United States has subsisted on the same gas supply levels for the last decade, and you can see it in the steadily rising cost of heating our homes," Barton said. "That might be even more expensive without the unfortunate 19 percent reduction by industrial gas users, reflected in closed plants and lost jobs. This new pipeline will counter both those unhappy trends by adding four billion cubic feet of gas per day to our supply, which is enough to fill six to eight percent of America’s daily requirement.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Journalism 031

I went to go hear Jonathan Kozol speak recently at Georgetown University. The excuse was his new book.

But the reason was that his job will never be done.

It was a young packed crowd and mostly women at that. Why is it that women dominate the teaching market?

But halt, lest I digress on the subject of gender, before I digress amongst the topic of race first.

The 71-year old Kozol opened the evening by paying homage to a man he said has "influenced me more than any other teacher." A man who taught him to wear bright blue shoes with the one suit he owns. Mr. Rogers.

Kozol has been known to be the ultimate composer and tapper-into-er of liberal guilt, and most commonly, white liberal guilt: the notion that because of whatever degree of privilege you are afforded in this life (educational, financial, racial, etc.), there is a degree of guilt that finds itself in your back pocket for the times when you sit too long on the indignities and injustices served to too many in our society.

It's an interesting concept, because on the one hand you could totally argue that change is born out of this sense of liberal guilt. But on the other hand you could argue that these are faulty nether-regions for change to spring from, because they're operating from the basis of entitlement and not from the vantage point of empowerment. But then, where do reasonably well-off white teachers fall into this spectrum when they find themselves teaching 20+ class sizes of brown to black harbingers of our future? Does it not smirk of liberal guilt (even if that is not the lived reality for the teacher themselves) but also of empowerment?

Kozol argues that America's public schools most recently began to flirt with peril when a corporate model was initiated as the platform for how to view students. An 8-year old black girl all of a sudden became a product that will, if taught accordingly by her public school teacher, ultimately become a producing and consuming member of society. In Kozol's words, a student's value began to "lie in economic turnout rather than who they were as a person."

He spoke of a school in Columbus, Ohio, a kindergarten, which, no joke, had as its mission statement:

"To turn out products to sharpen America's edge in the global marketplace."

A kindergarten!

And pretty soon, school principals were being referred to as school CEO's. No bullshit.

According to Kozol, almost 50% of new teachers, cease and dismiss with their new careers three years in. Their reason? Well, let's just say that it's almost never the kids or the parents of the kids.

"One of my appointed roles in life is to provide remedial services to elected officials," Kozol said.

One of the most poignant moments of the night came when Kozol described the process of discovering the most precious thing a teacher can discover in their student: a motivating factor.

Now, schools have curriculum cops, he said, who go from classroom to classroom unannounced, checking to see if the teacher is at the appropriate place in the day's curriculum for the corresponding hour. That's right, they have to adhere to such a strict time line that a teacher can only dream of letting a student digress for five minutes about his trip fishing down at a peer in Brooklyn with his Uncle over the weekend.

"Kids are professionals at subverting lesson plans," Kozol said.

It's at the very end of the telling of such a story that the teacher may be able to glimpse that little nugget of semblance that remains hidden so often underneath the masks children tend to establish during those years.

"Sometimes at the end of all those 'and's and 'but's' teacher's can find the hidden treasure, the secret motivation of a child's soul," Kozol said.

SO much of Kozol's painted world uses colors from the white and black neighborhoods of the colorwheel only.

But during the question and answer session, a young black woman who grew up on the Upper West side of Manhattan and had gone to a nice expensive school, stood up after much anticipation and asked the very exquisite question, that perhaps only she, a black well-to-do woman, could effectively ask:

"Don't you think that it's more of a socio-economic factor than it is a factor of race?"

For whatever reason, Kozol stumbled and rambled around his answer to this question like a drunk who drops his change and swerves and hovers above it trying to pick it up, which is to say, I think he did actually have an answer to her question, somewhere in him, but for whatever reason, he didn't let it come out.

But damn, what a fine question. And so, I leave you with that.

And a parting note from Mr. Kozol:

"I am optimistic though, because if I wasn't I would die of despair," Kozol said.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Personal 007


Yay!

I have readers!

I'll take all two of em and smother them, and love them, and hug them with lots of crafty journalism and poetry and me-ness.

Onwards, forwards, continue the renaissance.

P.S. I now smoke a pipe...no bullshit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Personal 006

I don't even know if anyone reads this here blog anymore.

But in the event that some lone person out there does. It's on again. Sorry. I momentarily got overwhelmed with my new found employment amongst a slew of other things.

Excuses aside.
Chances still need to be taken.