Footage of the Largest Gang Raid in NYPD History Reveals the Agency’s Military-Style Tactics |From The Nation magazine

At 4:51 am, on April 27 in the North Bronx, Paula Clarke and her two daughters were awoken by the sounds of explosions and shuffling feet. “I just thought that [it was] terrorism, nothing else,” she said, thinking back to the night.

Though it may make sense to give prosecutors broad powers in order to bust mafias that corrupt legitimate organizations—like labor unions—the use of those means to nab petty criminals and residents of public housing, where associations and affiliations are easily blurred and mistaken, is quite another story. With residents facing decades behind bars, the application of RICO has families up in arms.

In one example, some of the indicted are being accused of conspiring to murder a 92-year-old woman who was killed by a stray bullet, even though someone in the “gang” already pleaded guilty in state court and is doing time for the murder. Not only are those in the “gang” being held responsible, the murderer is now being retried for the murder under the federal conspiracy charges. The dual sovereignty doctrine holds that double jeopardy isn’t violated because both state and federal governments have the right to prosecute crimes committed in their respective jurisdictions—even if one or the other has already convicted you. In addition, some defendants are being tied to the alleged gang by crimes they have already served time for, according to mothers who have read the sealed discovery materials and spoken with some of the indicted. This, too, is standard practice in RICO indictments, says Howell. Double jeopardy isn’t violated because the charges differ—this time you are being charged with conspiring to commit the crime. And all of your “associates” are also held responsible.

The broadening of RICO to apply to street gangs has drawn scorn, and accusations of severe racial bias. Local and federal authorities are quick to equate crime committed in minority neighborhoods to organized gang activity, while crime in white neighborhoods is addressed individually. One study of publicly available RICO gang indictments shows that 86 percent involve gangs primarily affiliated to blacks, Latinos, or Asians. In contrast, the KKK is not treated like a gang or indicted on federal conspiracy charges.


Read the full story here: Footage of the Largest Gang Raid in NYPD History Reveals the Agency’s Military-Style Tactics | The Nation

Chris Hedges’ Truthdig Column: “America the Illiterate”

Chris Hedges is on vacation and will return to writing his weekly Truthdig column on Sept. 5. While he is on break, we are republishing some of his past columns. This one originally ran on Nov. 10, 2008.

We live in two Americas.

One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system.

This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth.

It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection.

This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.

There are over 42 million American adults, 20 percent of whom hold high school diplomas, who cannot read, as well as the 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level.

Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate. And their numbers are growing by an estimated 2 million a year.

But even those who are supposedly literate retreat in huge numbers into this image-based existence.

A third of high school graduates, along with 42 percent of college graduates, never read a book after they finish school.

Eighty percent of the families in the United States last year did not buy a book.

READ MORE HERE – then share, discuss, learn: Chris Hedges: America the Illiterate – Chris Hedges – Truthdig


Do We Give Students Too Much Choice? – from Education Week


Do We Give Students Too Much Choice?

August 23, 2016

There is an increased focus on student choice in K-12 education today. This focus has created more student-centered classrooms that use problem-based learning and differentiation of instruction to give students agency in what and how they learn. As a high school teacher, I understand why teachers feel the necessity to cater to all of their students’ strengths by providing opportunities for student choice. But, as schools try to incorporate student-centered initiatives into the classroom, there is often a lack of critical consideration for the potentially negative effects increased choice may have on student learning.

Read more of this commentary here:

How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play – from The Atlantic magazine

An American teacher in Helsinki questioned the national practice of giving 15 minute breaks each hour—until he saw the difference it made in his classroom.

Like a zombie, Sami—one of my fifth graders—lumbered over to me and hissed, “I think I’m going to explode! I’m not used to this schedule.” And I believed him. An angry red rash was starting to form on his forehead.

Yikes, I thought. What a way to begin my first year of teaching in Finland. It was only the third day of school and I was already pushing a student to the breaking point. When I took him aside, I quickly discovered why he was so upset.

Throughout this first week of school, I had gotten creative with my fifth grade timetable. Normally, students and teachers in Finland take a 15-minute break after every 45 minutes of instruction. During a typical break, students head outside to play and socialize with friends while teachers disappear to the lounge to chat over coffee.

I didn’t see the point of these frequent pit stops. As a teacher in the United States, I’d spent several consecutive hours with my students in the classroom. And I was trying to replicate this model in Finland. The Finnish way seemed soft and I was convinced that kids learned better with longer stretches of instructional time. So I decided to hold my students back from their regularly scheduled break and teach two 45-minute lessons in a row, followed by a double break of 30 minutes. Now I knew why the red dots had appeared on Sami’s forehead.

Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure if the American approach had ever worked very well. My students in the States had always seemed to drag their feet after about 45 minutes in the classroom. But they’d never thought of revolting like this shrimpy Finnish fifth grader, who was digging in his heels on the third day of school. At that moment, I decided to embrace the Finnish model of taking breaks.

Once I incorporated these short recesses into our timetable, I no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom. Throughout the school year, my Finnish students would—without fail—enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps after a 15-minute break. And most importantly, they were more focused during lessons.

At first, I was convinced that I had made a groundbreaking discovery: frequent breaks kept students fresh throughout the day. But then I remembered that Finns have known this for years; they’ve been providing breaks to their students since the 1960s. 

What’s most important is not where kids take breaks but how much freedom we give them from their structured work.

Please follow thus link to read, share, discuss and learn!

As state budget cuts loom, we must review what we value | Albuquerque Journal

First, a comment. This op-ed focuses on my brother’s adopted home state of New Mexico, but it could just as easily be about Michigan. Priorities are priorities and values are values. It is true as the writer notes, as citizens we must be certain our elected officials understand what we value and prioritize tax revenues and craft budgets accordingly.-JLS

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Absent a massive and highly unlikely increase in the global price of oil and natural gas, New Mexico state government must come up with $700 million or more in spending cuts very soon.

Budgeted spending in fiscal year 2017, which began July 1, is expected to exceed revenue by $458 million. The state had to empty its reserve fund to pay its 2016 bills, money the government wants to replace so it can cover future deficits, including a projected $211 million deficit in the 2018 fiscal year. A special legislative session is expected to convene soon to balance the current budget and replenish the reserve fund.

Since Gov. Susana Martinez is adamantly opposed to tax increases and new taxes and since our constitution forbids the state from running a budget deficit, legislators will have to cut spending in this fiscal year.

At times like these, I’m reminded of the Gospel of Matthew, where it is written, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A government budget is an expression of the values elected officials believe the citizenry shares. In a perfect world, there would be the time, energy and political maturity to review what our state values and then carefully cut those things that we the people do not value.

…Read the full essay at this link. Please. Then share, discuss and learn.

Our Kids Don’t Need F@*#ing Pedal Desks, They Need Recess

“It’s not just the physical break kids need — it’s a mental one, too. They need a few minutes of not being under a teacher’s microscope. They need to interact with each other organically and without instruction. They rarely get the time away from parents at home to do it anymore, and they’re not getting it at school, either. Pedaling on a desk while working is not going to provide that respite.”
Read the full story here: