Kashmir Schools Being Closed 60% Of The Time: Causing A ‘lost’ Generation?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA NEWS 18.COM)

One of the biggest schools of Jammu and Kashmir became a venue to a fierce 16-hour gun-battle between security forces and militants early on Sunday. The encounter inside DPS Srinagar ended when security forces eliminated two terrorists.

In some time from now, security forces will finish a room-by-room search of the school and will announce the school safe. And a few days later its students, a lot of who presumably are right now curiously following the violence unfolding in their classrooms, will be asked to resume classes.

It will be tough, but DPS Srinagar’s students won’t be the only ones who would’ve felt violence unfold palpably close to them, who would’ve stayed away from each other and the school for long periods, and intermittently attended a few school classes.

Over the last one year, schools and colleges in the Valley have remained shut for six out of every 10 working days, leading to near-loss of entire academic year. Since July 8, 2016, educational institutions have stayed open on only 80 out of 197 working days, according to a report by IndiaSpend.

In April, for the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

And during this period, starting from the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, well over 150 people have died, about 20,000 have been injured and hundreds have lost their eye-sight.

“A couple of years ago, it was okay for me and my friends to come back from school in evening. Now, we are home by early afternoon, that is, if we go to school at all,” rues Bashir, a Class 10 student from Pulwama. People in Kashmir are no stranger to the vicious cycle of conflict and violence, and children, like Bashir, are the worst-hit.

Union Home Ministry’s data shows that in 2016 as many as 2,690 incidents of stone-pelting took place. And with every such incident, the state administration’s first response has been to shut down educational institutes as a precautionary measure.

Changing Face of Classrooms

Although schools and colleges have often been used as protest venues by students, it was for the first time that they’ve turned into active battlegrounds.

In April this year, local police barged into a degree college in Pulwama and fired tear-gas shells and pellets at protesting students inside. Over 60 students were injured, most of them girls. In retaliation, for the first time in the Valley, thousands of students across schools and colleges erupted in anger. For the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

Classes were suspended for weeks as educationists kept urging students to go back to schools.

As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

Once schools reopened, the discussions in classrooms went beyond topics of the solar system or equations of mathematics. Children were seen huddled, discussing turbulent environment around them, either with a sense of fear or rage, said Nayeema, a teacher based in Pulwama.

“What else do you expect? Students here can’t afford to be innocent. They are deeply political as they the worst-hit. There is no way they can concentrate on academics. The Valley is deep into conflict and the first thing that happens whenever the situation snowballs is a crackdown on schools and colleges,” said Nayeema.

A feeling of being discriminated, Nayeema said, rules the minds of students.

“Forces march inside school and college campuses at their will. Will a normal student be fine with that?” asked Mir, a budding writer and Class 12 student based in Baramulla. Mir recounts the day he was sitting on the window sill of his classroom, along with a friend, when a tear-gas shell was allegedly thrown into the school playground. “We were evacuated by teachers. Many students fell unconscious due to breathlessness,” she added.

“I have lost friends. It’s not like we have seen total peace, but earlier we at least has schools to divert our attention,” said Mir.

Learning Without Schools

Bashir and Mir are among students who are struggling not to lose their grasp on academics. As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

“We all try and sit together to study. There are few seniors around my home. So, I take my books and see if they can help. Rest of it is self-study,” said Bashir. His parents said even on days when schools are open, they are scared of sending their son to school.

Nayeema said internet came as a boon for students in the Valley as those who missed school could catch up through online tutorials. But that too remains shut most of the times.

Uncertain Future

Educationists fear that if schools and colleges continue to remain shut, an army of uneducated and unemployable youths will be created, further pushing Kashmir into violence and protests. Angry and directionless youths might also make for easy target of terrorist groups.

“The youth in the Valley is staring at a bleak future. There are no two ways about it. Schools and colleges are shut for most of the times. There are bans on the internet. On top of it all, even if there were community study circles, parents are scared to let their children step out of the houses,” said Mushtaq Ul Haq Sikander, a writer and researcher.

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones.

Vijay Dhar, founder of Delhi Public School, Srinagar, highlighted how the school functioned in the face of constant curbs and shutdowns. “We kept our schools open on Sundays. We conducted pre-board exams in the indoor stadium. Results of the students have been stupendous. So, it’s clearly not like the students don’t want to study. If given a chance, they want to excel,” he said.

Additionally, the school had, during the period of curbs on internet, sent out video lessons on various gadgets to the homes of its students. While Dhar could pull it off successfully, scores of other students who had no access to such lessons at home suffered.

A Fight for Rights

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones. The idea of being looked at with suspicious eyes is a trigger in itself.

“What good will the forces and the administration get by shutting our schools, and then looking at us with suspicious eyes and doing physical search whenever they feel like?” asked Mir.

But, what about those who are found indulging in stone pelting incidents? “They have no option,” said Mir. “We are finding ways to channelise our anger and the environment around us making it worse,” he added.

Dhar said, “Many of them are angry at the sight of forces all around them. But there are also many more youngsters who are furious because they don’t know a thing about their future. Their education is suffering and there are no concrete jobs. Their mindset is that of looking after themselves, and not caring about anyone else.”

“The youths need to be educated. They need to be empowered. The way things are going, Kashmir will have a big percentage of semi-literate generation,” said Mushtaq.

Dalai Lama speaks at UCSD commencement amid Chinese student objection

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY COLLEGE NEWS)

Dalai Lama speaks at UCSD commencement amid Chinese student objection

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dalai lama ucsd

The Dalai Lama speaks to the crowd at the start of a press conference at the University of California-San Diego, June 16, 2017. The Dalai Lama gave a speech titled “Embracing the Beauty of Diversity in Our World.” He is in San Diego to deliver a commencement speech to the university graduates on June 17, 2017. (Photo: Bill Wechter, AFP/Getty Images)

This year, the trend of college students protesting against speakers they find to be offensive or oppressive has led to the cancellation of speeches by such figures as alt-right writer Milo Yiannopoulos and pundit Ann Coulter. But even when universities select figures renowned for their dedication to peace, their choices are not exempt from scrutiny.

The 14th Dalai Lama — a 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the spiritual leader of Tibet — is the latest speaker to drive controversy and protest on a college campus. He was invited by the University of California-San Diego to deliver the keynote at this year’s commencement. But not all students have celebrated his visit.

With the announcement of the Dalai Lama’s speech came opposition by many Chinese students, who say he stands for divisiveness with the goal of achieving Tibetan separatism from China. (Many Tibetans view China as an oppressor keeping them from expressing their culture and religion.)

There are about 4,600 international students from China at UCSD, with China sending the most students of any foreign country.

One campus organization, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), has been outspoken about its opposition to the Dalai Lama’s presence on campus. In statements made to its WeChat page, the CSSA said it would “resist the university’s unreasonable behavior.”

When UCSD stood behind its decision to host the Dalai Lama, a group of Chinese students met with university administrators to discuss their concerns and were assured by Chancellor Pradeep Khosla that the speech would not be political in nature, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Indeed, the Dalai Lama’s two talks at UCSD — in a public forum Friday, then at commencement exercises Saturday — focused on themes of diversity and compassion.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

“Embracing the Beauty of Diversity in Our World” @DalaiLama

 

But Chinese student Ruixuan Wang even wrote an op-ed in student paper the Guardian saying that the Dalai Lama’s very presence at graduation would “ruin our joy,” noting that many Chinese students’ families would also be present for graduation and affected by the speaker.

But the university held fast to the position that the Dalai Lama is a figure who represents peace and “global responsibility and service to humanity.”

“These are the ideals we aim to convey and instill in our students and graduates at UC San Diego,” university spokesperson Christine Clark wrote in an email to USA TODAY College. “Our focus and mission, including climate science and public good, and the messages by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama are aligned.”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at UCSD speaking on the importance of embracing diversity.

 

It’s not the first time the Dalai Lama has been protested by college students. In 2008 Chinese students at the University of Washington protested his visit to Seattle, expressing beliefs that the Dalai Lama himself was behind violence in Tibet.

This time around, Chinese students have used some of the same rhetoric as the Chinese government to oppose the Dalai Lama. The CSSA has ties with the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles to promote “news and messages from the government to our members.”

Not all Chinese students identify with the opposition, however. Jesse Zhou, a Chinese senior graduating from UCSD on Saturday, says he thinks the decision to host the Dalai Lama is a good one, but understands the concerns of some students.

“It’s a bit of a slap to the face to the international students who paid four to five years of tuition money,” Zhou wrote in a message to USA TODAY College.

On May 30, the CSSA held a demonstration on Library Walk — an area at the center of campus and a free-speech zone — with signs explaining their opposition to the speaker.

dalai lama ucsd protest

A demonstration by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association on May 30, 2017, at Library Walk on UCSD’s campus. (Photo: Jesse Zhao)

Ricky Flahive, the UCSD senior chosen to give the student speech at graduation, told USA TODAY College before graduation that this demonstration was one of the only visible forms of opposition from the organization. “Generally, most of the people know about it, but I haven’t seen it be very active,” Flahive says of the movement against the Dalai Lama’s speech. “I’ve heard excitement more than I’ve heard concern so far.”

And, Flahive says, the university prepared for the possibility of protest at commencement by adding a free-speech zone in the parking lot near the location of the graduation. As the student chosen to give a speech on the same stage following the keynote, Flahive said he was excited that the university was able to bring the Dalai Lama to UCSD. As far as the possibility of protest at commencement, Flahive says it doesn’t bother him.

“I don’t really mind, personally,” Flahive says. “As a political science major, I’m totally in support of peaceful demonstration.”

.@DalaiLama: “Whether believer or non-believer, we must all focus on deeper value of human kindness and compassion.”

 

Members of the Tibetan community gathered to meet the Dalai Lama during his public address on Friday morning and at the Saturday morning commencement. Tenzing Dolma, who just graduated from UC Berkeley, is a Tibetan refugee who came to the U.S. with her family when she was two years old. She joined a group of Tibetan students driving to San Diego for the occasion.

“We want to ensure that when he comes on campus that he sees us, and not them and he doesn’t get disheartened by seeing people protesting his commencement speech,” Dolma says. “Our issue is not with Chinese students, our issue is not with Chinese people. It’s with the government, it’s with the institution.”

Dolma says much of the information being put forth by students protesting is coming straight from the Chinese government and acts as propaganda, but says she is not opposed to the students protesting because they have a right to do so. And given that the Chinese government promotes a narrative of the Dalai Lama as being divisive, Dolma feels the decision to bring him as a commencement speaker is a symbol of acceptance.

“Tibetans all over the world rejoiced and were happy that there was finally this opportunity, this platform to show the world that there is another side,” Dolma says. “You’re seeing someone up there addressing an audience of young scholars, and it’s amazing to see that someone that can be, according to the Chinese students, a ‘polarizing figure’ has the opportunity and is granted the freedom of speech to speak when inside China, inside Tibet that’s not a reality.”

Jeanine Santucci is a student at Georgetown University and a USA TODAY College correspondent.

China: Explosion At Kindergarten, 8 Dead 65 Injured 9 In Serious Condition

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

At least eight people were killed and 65 were injured, including children, in a blast Thursday near a kindergarten in eastern China, according to Chinese state media.

Two people died at the scene and six died at the hospital, the Xinhua news agency reported. Nine are in serious condition, according to CCTV.
No kindergarten students or teachers are among the dead, the Fengxian government said on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. Classes were underway when the incident happened, the government said.
The blast occurred in front of the gate of the Chuangxin Kindergarten at about 4:50 p.m., according to Fengxian police.
“The police and related departments rushed to the scene as soon as it was reported and conducted rescue and investigation work on the site,” police said on Weibo. “Currently, the investigation work is still underway.”
Authorities have not said what caused the explosion, but police were treating it as a criminal case and have targeted a suspect, according to Xinhua. The Fengxian communication department did not answer a phone call from CNN.
Graphic images purporting to show the chaotic aftermath of the blast have circulated on Twitter and Chinese social media.
A child with a bloodied face, stumbling back and forth in only her underwear, could be seen surrounded by children splayed out on the ground. Screams were heard in the background.
CNN has not been able to independently verify that the video is from this incident, but it’s been recirculated by various Chinese state media outlets.
Fengxian is in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, about 370 miles (595 kilometers) northwest of Shanghai.
It’s home to 1.2 million people, according to the government’s website.

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak came one day after Comey was fired.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not refute the Times story but said it was Comey’s “grandstanding and politicizing” of the Russia investigation that put pressure on the administration’s ability to engage Moscow.
“The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people,” Spicer said in a statement to CNN. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
He added, “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
Trump’s dismissal of Comey was met with bipartisan derision. The move, which came after Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and, according to memos written by the former FBI director, requested he kill an investigation into Trump’s top national security adviser, was seen as a clear violation of protocol and had some Democrats calling for impeachment.
The President maintains he was surprised by the response to Comey’s firing.
“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
The news broke shortly after Trump took off for his critically important five-country, eight-day foreign trip, the first of his presidency.
Even before Friday’s report, news about Comey and the newly named special counsel for the Russia investigation has threatened to overshadow Trump’s trip.
Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was controversial before news of talk about Comey ever came out. No United States media were invited in for the meeting, but a photographer from TASS, the Russian state media organization, was in the room for at least part of the gathering. The meeting was also personal request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month.

What a new report reveals about white economic hardship and Trump’s big win

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

What a new report reveals about white economic hardship and Trump’s big win

May 10 at 6:30 PM

Roughly a third of white working-class Americans said that they have cut back on food or meals in the past year to save money. A similar share it would be difficult — if not impossible — for them to cover an emergency expense of $400. And among those who live in the same town where they grew up, only 17 percent say the quality of life there has improved.

Those are a few of the results of a detailed new survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic magazine. The report reveals the economic and material hardships afflicting the white working class, one of the report’s authors says, lending insight into why so many people in this group were willing to gamble on Donald Trump, a candidate with no governing experience.

As many of these voters felt they had little to lose, they were undeterred by the President’s failure to spell out — with any degree of detail — how he would deliver on promises that experts repeatedly cautioned were unrealistic, said PRRI’s Dan Cox, one of the authors of the report.

“Many folks — they can’t wait for a white paper, or a 12-point plan. They need help immediately,” Cox said. There was, he said, “a recognition that there was some danger with it too, but that it was, sort of, worth the risk.”

Indeed, when it comes to policy details, the white working class supports many economic proposals associated with Democrats, not Republicans. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed supported increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and 58 percent said the rich should pay more in taxes. (Those figures are similar to the results for the general population.)

Global trade was one specific issue on which Trump may have appealed to many of his voters by deviating from GOP orthodoxy, and by distancing himself from Hillary Clinton, who during the campaign turned against a prominent free trade agreement that she had previously supported. Among the white working class, 60 percent said that free trade agreements were mostly harmful.

Following Trump’s surprise victory, many observers continue to debate whether economic distress or anxiety about race, immigration and cultural change motivated his supporters. The survey suggests that all of these were important to Trump’s success, but also that a sense of cultural displacement has been an especially powerful of the president’s appeal among the white working class, Cox said.

Those who agreed that they sometimes felt like a stranger in their own country, or that U.S. culture had to be protected from foreign influences, were much more likely to support Trump, the survey found. “The cultural touchstones were really salient in the election,” Cox said.

At the same time, he added, it is difficult to distinguish among the many motivations of Trump’s supporters, Cox said.

“You can’t completely divorce it from the economic experience of these folks — the fears of economic insecurity,” he said. “That’s certainly in the mix.”

On the whole, about as many white-working class people say they are worse off financially today than they were as children as say they are better off, according to the survey.

The analysis defines as those without a four-year college degree and who are paid by the hour or by the job, a definition that excludes many white-collar employees in salaried positions regardless of their education. Retirees were included based on the work they did before they retired, and students were excluded unless they explicitly described themselves as working or lower class in the survey.

The stress of making ends meet from day to day contributes to elevated rates of depression and addiction in white working-class families, Cox said: “It’s really tragic and heartbreaking that that kind of insecurity and stability causes all sorts of problems downstream.”

Among the white working class, 38 percent said that they or someone in their household had suffered from depression, compared to 26 percent of white college graduates. Eight percent of white working-class respondents said the same about drug addiction, while the figure for white college graduates was just 3 percent. Alcoholism also appears to be somewhat more prevalent in white working-class households than among white college graduates (12 percent vs. 9 percent).

The white working class seems to be giving up on the kinds of institutions that have traditionally provided a measure of stability and economic opportunity to American life, particularly colleges and universities. Among white Americans with college degrees, 63 percent said getting a degree was “a smart investment in the future,” but among the white working class, that figure was just 44 percent. In this group, a majority (54 percent) described it as a risky decision “that may not pay off in the end.”

This group’s skepticism about higher education parallels their detachment from other prominent institutions, including churches. Aside from weddings and funerals, just 58 percent of the white working class goes to church even once a year, the survey shows. Among white college graduates, that figure is 66 percent.

The white working class is less involved in their communities outside of religion as well. Thirty-six percent said they never participated in secular organizations such as book clubs, sports teams, neighborhood associations or parent-teacher associations. Just 16 percent of white college graduates said they never took part in these groups.

“It’s, sort of, been part of the American Dream, that you work hard, you get an education, you can get ahead,” Cox said. “The fact that white working-class Americans are less likely to believe that I think really shows the dire situation that they believe themselves to be in.”

Fewer than half of the white working class believes that people who work hard can still get ahead, the survey found, while 61 percent say America’s best days are in the past.

That pessimism contrasts with white college graduates — just 43 percent of whom say the country’s best days are behind it — and with people of color. Although black and Hispanic Americans are often worse off economically than those in the white working class, they have found reasons to be optimistic about the future, Cox explained. For instance, 56 percent of black respondents in the survey and 68 percent of Hispanic participants viewed a college degree as a way to get ahead.

If their bet on Trump doesn’t pay off, Cox warned, the president might find the white working class abandoning him. Asked how well they felt Trump understood their communities’ problems, a majority of the white working class — 51 percent — answered “not too well” or “not well at all.” Those figures suggest Trump might not have long to deliver.

“It’s unclear how loyal this group will be to him,” Cox said.

How Reading Aloud to Therapy Dogs Can Help Struggling Kids

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘KQED’ AND ‘MIND/SHIFT’)

How Reading Aloud to Therapy Dogs Can Help Struggling Kids

Norman West Therapy Dogs at Pioneer Library System
Norman West Therapy Dogs at Pioneer Library System (Flickr/Pioneer Library System)

By Juli Fraga

Two years ago, principal Diane Lau-Yee grew concerned when she saw how family tragedies were impacting her students at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

“Some of the students were acting out their feelings of confusion and anger by starting fights with their peers, while other children shut down and stopped participating in class,” says Lau-Yee.

When children are struggling at home, it’s often harder for them to concentrate in school. And if kids experience trauma — such as the death of a family member, divorce or witnessing family or community violence — research shows that kids will have more difficulty tolerating frustration, controlling their impulses and managing their aggression.

Lau-Yee wanted to equip her students with emotional tools that could help them manage these overwhelming feelings. So, she decided to enlist the help of a furry friend named Stanley, a therapeutic dog who is beloved by many children in the community. She hoped that Stanley could teach the kids about empathy, as well as nourish a deeper love of literacy among the students, too.

While many people are familiar with therapeutic pets and how they can help lift up people’s spirits, bringing them into the classroom might sound far-fetched. How can a therapy pet possibly teach children the life lessons of kindness and empathy? Can a pet really alter the way that students feel about learning?

Educational therapist Rebecca Barker Bridges believed that a dog could help students feel more confident about learning, and so she adopted Stanley, a golden retriever.

Stanley
Stanley (Courtesy of Golden Gate Publishing)

“I learned about therapy dogs from a colleague, and I knew that Stanley could help these children,” says Bridges.

She also says that research on pet therapy shows that animals connect people to each other and that this bond strengthens their ability to work together.

“Pets are very nonjudgmental, and their calming presence distills stressful situations,” Bridges says. “For children who feel insecure about their capacity to do things like reading, therapy pets bolster their self-confidence, which reduces their anxiety.”

“Students feel self-conscious about reading because they’re afraid of being judged by students and teachers if they don’t do a ‘good job.’ But Stanley dismantles this fear for them. He makes learning joyful,” says Bridges.

Lau-Yee had learned about Stanley through a colleague, and she invited Bridges and the dog to visit her pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students during a school assembly.

Meet Stanley“I introduced Stanley to the students, and I read them a book that I wrote about his work as a therapy dog,” says Bridges, whose book is titled “Meet Stanley: The Reading Dog.” The book tells the story of Stanley’s job as a reading dog and how he’s trained to listen to children read. The book also shares that Stanley is an expert listener who is always encouraging, supportive and patient with all children who interact with him.

After the presentation, the students were invited to meet Stanley. Bridges says that Stanley’s presence sparked the children’s curiosity and that they asked him a lot of questions.

“Stanley, what do you like to eat?” asked one student.

“What’s it like to be a therapy dog, do you get paid for your work?” asked another.

“Stanley, do you get a summer vacation from your job?”

A THERAPEUTIC LESSON

Bridges says that therapy pets allow children to focus on the animal instead of feeling self-conscious themselves. She says that this is a therapeutic distraction technique that relieves children of their worries, which helps their performance when reading.

“Children love interacting with Stanley, and this connection also teaches them about kindness and empathy,” she says.

Lau-Yee used Stanley’s visit as a way to create a social and emotional lesson for the students.

“After Stanley’s visit, I told the students that Stanley is a helper who never judges others but offers them a lot of support merely by listening,” she said. “I also explained how people need different forms of support to help them do things like reading, sort through their feelings and solve problems. I encouraged the students to help each other out, too.”

Lau-Yee says that the teachers also used Stanley’s visit to teach the students that there are many unconventional ways to learn things and that his visit also helped foster a love of literacy among the children.

FINDING A READING BUDDY

While Lau-Yee’s students were fortunate to meet Stanley in person, she says that he doesn’t need to make a physical appearance for students to benefit from his services.

“Educators can read Stanley’s book and talk about the ways that we can incorporate service into our learning with trusted friends, such as big buddies, peers and older siblings.”

Bridges, who also visits libraries, says that educators can also reach out to their local SPCA to inquire if they have therapy dogs available. She also says that teachers can use a class pet as a “Stanley substitute.”

Several programs nationwide offer training and canines to help kids with reading, such as Intermountain Therapy Animals’ Reading Education Assistance Dogs program. There are also some organizations like Therapy Dogs International that have community programs called Tail Waggin’ Tutors. They provide therapy dogs that can help children learn how to read, too.

Some schools have a no-pet policy, and in those cases, Bridges recommends using a stuffed animal instead.

“You can apply the same principles to a stuffed animal. The most important thing is to give the child some space so that they can read to their pet (even if it isn’t a real one) in privacy, which helps them to feel safe,” she says.

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

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Role-Making

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Role-Making

When the Saudi King receives the Egyptian president, the Arab role in the region will prevail over talks between the two leaders. This goes without saying, as Saudi Arabia and Egypt constitute the pillars of any effective Arab role. Any strategic gathering between the two countries would be regarded as a dynamic drive for common Arab work. Such joint collaboration is very much similar to the German-French joint cooperation in Europe, despite the different circumstances and characteristics. The relationship between Berlin and Paris does not require total conformity but is based on a common vision of basic challenges in the fields of security, politics, and economy.

The list of challenges on the Saudi-Egyptian negotiations table is clearly known: terrorism, represented by the forces of darkness, mainly ISIS; instability, which was caused by the big uprising launched by Iran’s revolution policies, apart from a president smiling and another flexing his muscles, and the deadlock resulting from Israel’s continuous settlements.

Other factors, which have belittled the Arab role in the region, cannot be ignored, such as fruitless policies that have fueled poverty, desperation, failure and backsliding.

The two leaders had to take into consideration a significant and decisive development when assessing challenges ahead. Before reaching its 100-day threshold, Donald Trump’s Administration has introduced a major change in the United States’ international image and rhetoric. It succeeded in restoring its prestige after it regained the ability to make decisions and placed the tremendous US force at the disposal of diplomacy to stop those who distort the balance of powers and violate borders and the requirements of world peace and security.

Statements made by the members of the new Administration have shown that the current US perception of the big chaos in the Middle East is completely different from that of Barack Obama’s Administration, in particular with regards to the Iranian upheaval in the region.

On the other hand, visits conducted by Saudi and Egyptian officials to Washington have reflected the two countries’ belief that Trump is the “president who will put the United States back on the right track”. The US president has also reestablished all alliances between the US and its traditional allies, as stated by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his interview with The Washington Post.

We are witnessing, therefore, a US Administration, which blames Iran for destabilizing the region and does not hide its intention to work closely with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Arab moderate countries to fight terrorism and suppress regional fires. It is clear that Trump’s Administration has listened with interest to the opinion of its Arab visitors on Syria, Yemen, settlements and other issues.

There is no doubt that the Middle East is currently an arena for raging conflicts, which will shape the region for many decades. Those wishing to sit around the negotiations table must prepare their working papers. Roles are built and made. They require continuous maintenance in light of internal and world developments.

A country’s demographic and military weight does no longer define its role. In the new world, roles have new prerequisites: the well-being of national economy, growth development, social cohesion, and youth engagement in shaping the future. Other prerequisites include institutions that are managed with integrity, competence and accountability.

One can say that Saudi Arabia is getting ready for the central role projected to it. Over the past two years, it has become obvious that the Kingdom has set a vision for what it wants to become in the future, in particular with regards to its economy, in light of changes in the world’s economies. It has proven that it can establish relationships on the basis of mutual interests and partnerships. The Kingdom has a program aimed at engaging the youth in the march towards growth and community-based rehabilitation to face new challenges. Royal decrees issued on the eve of the summit were very evident in this regard.

Egypt, for its part, is trying to get ready for the coming phase. Its war against terrorism, which targets its stability, unity, and role, did not lead it to neglect the difficult economic situation. The country is taking painful measures to reduce poverty and unemployment rates and revive its economy. Egypt’s economic battle is not separate from the fight against ideologies threatening its cities. Soldiers are needed to combat terrorism, growth is necessary to ease desperation, universities are indispensable to engage students in the wave of successive technological revolutions, and institutions are required to guarantee the rule of law and the protection of all citizens without any form of discrimination.

Role-making begins with education, openness to the world, planning and monitored execution.

Arab countries will not regain their natural presence in the region unless they take back their active role. They cannot take back that role unless they decide to move out of the long-standing stalemate and overcome regrets and melancholy. Roles are made with effort and knowledge. Future is built with numbers, not with illusions. Establishing Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s roles on solid and modern bases and forging firm cooperation mechanisms represent the means to restore balance in the region and shrink the power of non-Arab states to its normal size.

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MPP WEBSITE)

West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State

Apr 19, 2017 , , , , , , , ,, ,


Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

Apr 19, 2017 , , , , , , , ,, ,


Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

The University Of California Berkeley: Will Not Tolerate ‘Free Speech’ If You Don’t Agree With Their Views?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Ann Coulter in February. After the cancellation was announced on Wednesday, Ms. Coulter posted a Twitter message that “no school accepting public funds can ban free speech.” CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California, Berkeley, on Wednesday canceled a scheduled speech by the conservative author Ann Coulter, in the latest blow to the institution’s legacy and reputation as a promoter and bastion of free speech.

University administrators said in a statement that they could not allow Ms. Coulter to speak because of active security threats. In a letter to the Berkeley College Republicans, which was sponsoring the speech, two university vice chancellors said the university had been “unable to find a safe and suitable venue for your planned April 27 event featuring Ann Coulter.”

The letter, written by Scott Biddy, the vice chancellor, and Stephen Sutton, the vice chancellor for student affairs, said it was “not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully — or that the safety of Ms. Coulter, the event sponsors, audience and bystanders could be adequately protected.”

After the cancellation was announced on Wednesday, Ms. Coulter posted on Twitter that “no school accepting public funds can ban free speech.”

With its reputation as one of the country’s most liberal universities, the campus and surrounding areas have become a target for small, militant and shadowy right-wing groups who in recent months have clashed with equally militant and shadowy anarchist groups based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

On Saturday, at the latest of these violent encounters, the police arrested more than 20 people. One video that went viral on social media showed a man identified as a member of a white supremacist group sucker-punching a woman who identified herself as an anarchist. These fight-club-type episodes, which have occurred both on campus and in the city of Berkeley, have escalated since the election of President Trump.

In February, a speech by the incendiary right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, also sponsored by the College Republicans, was canceled after masked protesters smashed windows, set fires and pelted the police with rocks.

Photo

Trump supporters clashed with protesters at a free speech rally in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday.CreditElijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, said the college regretted that it had become a magnet for militant groups. “It’s become an O.K. Corral of sorts for activists across the political spectrum,” Mr. Mogulof said.

The university, he said, was committed to having a diversity of voices on campus and was working with the police to reschedule Ms. Coulter’s appearance. “We are going to do whatever we can to make that happen at a time and a place when police can provide safety and security,” he said.

At a time of heightened polarization, Berkeley is not the only university struggling to balance free speech and security concerns. The police clashed with protesters on Tuesday outside an auditorium at Auburn University where the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer was speaking. The university had canceled the event on the grounds that it could turn violent, but a federal judge in Mongtomery, Ala., ruled that the speech should proceed because there was no evidence that Mr. Spencer advocated violence.

The episodes have become fodder for conservative critics. In February, after the cancellation of the event with Mr. Yiannopoulos, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Both Ms. Coulter and the Young America’s Foundation, which books her college speeches, said they expected the event to proceed as planned. Spencer Brown, a spokesman for the Young America’s Foundation, which promotes conservative ideals, said in an email that Ms. Coulter’s lecture would proceed next week “whether Berkeley likes it or not.”

The violent clashes in Berkeley have presented a dilemma for the police, who say intervening has its own risks. Anarchist groups have for years appeared at protests in neighboring Oakland, punctuating peaceful demonstrations by smashing shop windows and attacking public buildings.

The Oakland police came under heavy criticism in 2011 after a protester, a former Army Ranger, was severely injured during a demonstration. The protester, Kayvan Sabeghi, said the police beat him with batons. He sued, and the City of Oakland agreed to pay $645,000 as part of a settlement.

The Berkeley campus gained national attention in 1964 as the center of a movement to expand political expression, which became known as the Free Speech Movement.

Jewish Passover: 4 Steps To Breaking Bad Habits

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHADBAD.ORG)

Passover’s 4 Steps to Breaking Bad Habits

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During the Passover Seder we recount in detail the plight of the Israelites as slaves in ancient Egypt, and we celebrate their eventual salvation. However, the Seder is not just about commemorating past events.

The Talmudic sage Rabban Gamaliel II called upon us to include a personal element in the rituals of the Seder. “In every generation, a person must see themselves as if they personally left Egypt,”1 he instructed, leaving it to us to figure out how to make this ancient tale of redemption relevant to us today.

One suggestion was offered by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, the third Rebbe of Chabad, also known as the Tzemach Tzedek. He viewed the rabbinic instruction to drink four cups of wine (or grape juice for those who avoid alcohol) during the Seder as a framework for achieving personal freedom.2

Each cup was instituted to reflect another expression G‑d used to promise the Jews that they would be rescued from Egypt and become a nation with the power to determine their own destiny.3 If we follow this path, the Tzemach Tzedek writes, it can lead us on a personal journey towards freedom from any negative practices that hold us back.

Here is my personal understanding of those four 4 steps to breaking bad habits, based on G‑d’s 4 promises:

1. Stop

G‑d’s first expression of redemption to the Israelites was, “I will take you out” of Egypt. Before you get clean, you must get out of the mud. The first step to breaking free from a habit is to simply stop doing it. Medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides says, “A sinner should abandon his sins,” and suggests that you control your thoughts before they trigger a repeat offence.4 Immediately stop, even if you have already gone at it again.

2. Adopt

After the Israelites left Egypt, they were ill at ease with their new identity. G‑d promised: “I will save you,” and supplied them with protective clouds of glory and manna from the sky. The second step on the path to breaking free is to immerse yourself in an alternative, positive reality. When dropping an old habit, adopt a new one to take its place and fill the void. Happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin says that it is much easier to form new habits after a change in life. Adopt your new activity steadily and continuously so it becomes the new you.

3. Rationalize

G‑d gave the Israelites the holy Torah on Mount Sinai as a roadmap to living a meaningful life. The expression, “I will deliver you,” alludes to the study of Torah, which spiritually and intellectually transforms you. The third step on this journey is to establish the ethical reasoning of your decision and an understanding of the new person you are trying to become. As the Israelites said after receiving the Torah, naaseh v’nishma (“we will do and we will understand”). After you “do” by adopting a positive activity, the next step on the journey to change is learning and understanding.

4. Internalize

As the Israelites wandered through the desert, G‑d promised them that He would bring them to the Promised Land. Knowing that they would have a place to call their own allowed them to establish an emotional connection with their new selves. This positive emotional bond is reflected in the expression, “I will take you as a nation.” The fourth step on this path is to not only rationalize and understand the person you want to become, but to also fully internalize the change within you, because emotion plays a big part in influencing the decisions we make.

“Through the story we are redeemed from Egypt,”5 the Tzemach Tzedek once commented. You have the power to make the Passover narrative your own success story.

FOOTNOTES

1.

Pesachim 116b.

2.

Ohr HaTorah, Shemot, vol. 1, p. 185.

4.

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuvah, 2:2.

5.

Rebbe Rayatz, eve of 20 Kislev 5692; Sefer Hamaamarim 5710, p. 197.

Rabbi Yehuda L. Ceitlin is the outreach director of Chabad Tucson, and associate rabbi of Cong. Young Israel of Tucson. He coordinates the annual Yarchei Kallah summit of Chabad scholars, and was on the editorial staff at Chabad.org.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org’s copyright policy.

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