Category Archives: American society

No, Not Everything Is Racist But Donald Trump is.

No, Not Everything Is Racist

But Donald Trump is.

I don’t like to accuse people of racism. That word is used far too often, unjustly, to smear good men and women. It has been thrown at House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. John McCain, former Gov. Mitt Romney, and other decent conservatives. It has been attributed to anyone who defends law enforcement or opposes a government program. When everyone on the right is a white nationalist or white supremacist, these terms lose their meaning.

But Donald Trump is a racist. He meets what Ryan himself once called the “textbook definition” of racism. Trump singles out particular ethnic, racial, and religious groups for suspicion. He holds all members of these groups responsible for the misdeeds of other members. He casts aspersions on individuals based on creed and background. And he explicitly advocates discrimination. If these behaviors don’t define bigotry, nothing does.

Let’s give Trump the benefit of the doubt in every case where his conduct could be explained, even implausibly, by something other than prejudice. Housing discrimination by his father’s company? Young Donald wasn’t directly involved. The Central Park Five? He thought they were guilty. Questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace? Trump just wanted to be thorough. His failure to denounce David Duke? Trump couldn’t hear the question. Calling the removal of Confederate statues an attack on “our culture”? He meant we should own our history. Calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”? He’s being ironic. Hounding NFL players who kneel? He feels strongly about the national anthem.

Set aside all of that, and you’re still left with four patterns that can’t be explained away.

The first is Trump’s habit of associating certain ethnic or religious groups with violence. In 2013, he targeted blacks, writing on Twitter that “the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and hispanics.” He also retweeted fake black-on-white crime data. In 2015, he kicked off his presidential campaign with a tirade against Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Later that year, Trump claimed to have seen thousands of people cheering the 9/11 attacks in northern New Jersey, “where you have large Arab populations.” In each case, Trump imagined or misrepresented the threat. He never does this to whites.

Within these groups, Trump blames the innocent for failing to control the guilty. He has held Barack Obama responsible for black crime, explicitly because Obama is black. “President Obama has absolutely no control (or respect) over the African American community” Trump wrote in 2014 during the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. A year later, Trump jeered, “Our great African American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!” In 2016, after the Orlando massacre, Trump falsely charged that “the Muslim community does not report” its extremists. He concluded that Muslims should be punished collectively for such incidents: “The Muslims are the ones that have to report them. And if they don’t report them, then there have to be consequences to them.” Trump refuses to apply this policy of collective responsibility to whites. After Charlottesville, he argued just the opposite: that “very fine people” shouldn’t be faulted for rallying with Nazis.

Trump has persistently cast aspersions on particular people based on race, ethnicity, or religion. He suggested to evangelicals that they couldn’t trust Ted Cruz because Cruz’s family came from Cuba. He suggested to Protestants that they couldn’t trust Ben Carson because Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist. He retweeted an allegation that Jeb Bush “has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife,” who is Mexican American. At rallies and in TV interviews, Trump charged that Gonzalo Curiel, the Indiana-born federal judge presiding over the Trump University fraud case, was incorrigibly biased against him because “we’re building a wall. He’s a Mexican.”

The clearest standard of bigotry is advocating differential treatment based on race, sex, ethnicity, or religion. Trump has done that repeatedly. In 2013, he dismissed the military’s integration of women as a stupid mistake, arguing that it had led to sexual assaults. In 2015, he demanded a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” In 2016, he warned that Muslim migrants were too dangerous because once they were allowed into the United States, they might proselytize for Islam, and there was “no way” to “prevent the second generation from radicalizing.” In his attacks on Curiel, Trump reasoned that no judge “of Mexican heritage” could fairly preside over his fraud case, because such ancestry entailed “an inherent conflict of interest.”

This behavior has continued in office. During an Oval Office meeting last summer, according to the New York Times, Trump complained that Haitians coming to the United States “all have AIDS.” He also warned that people from Nigeria, if they were allowed into our country, would never “go back to their huts.” Six weeks ago, Trump retweeted messages from a hate group, which by their plain language (“Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!” “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”) sought to incite anger against all Muslims.

The White House denied the Times report about Haitians and Nigerians. But now there’s confirmation, from a Democratic senator, a Republican senator, and others who attended or were briefed, that Trump made similar remarks in an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers on Thursday. During a back-and-forth about migrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa, Trump fumed: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He specifically asked, “Why do we need more Haitians?” He demanded that Congress “take them out” of a list of immigrant populations temporarily allowed to stay in the United States. Instead, he said the United States should accept more people from countries such as Norway.

Trump disputes his exact language in the meeting. But on Friday morning, in a series of tweets, he affirmed his reasoning. “USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly,” he wrote. “I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level.”

What Trump is proposing, as sketched in his own tweets, is not a merit-based system. A merit-based system would accept or reject applicants based their own merits. Trump is saying that applicants should be accepted or rejected based on country of origin. He’s saying that the individual should be judged by the group. If you’re Haitian, you’re out.

That’s bigotry. It’s not some left-wing activist’s definition of bigotry. It’s the textbook definition. And while quotas by nationality are common in immigration policy, it’s hard to explain why Trump thinks and talks this way on so many other issues, not just about foreigners but about Americans. He has been doing it for years to every group with whom he doesn’t identify: blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, Arab Americans, Korean Americans, and women.

A president who keeps saying bigoted things and pushing bigoted ideas, despite repeated warnings, is a bigot. A party that continues to excuse him is a bigoted party. And a country that accepts him is a bigoted country. Don’t be that party. Don’t be that country.

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Americans are more likely to be attacked by far-right terrorists than Islamists

Americans are more likely to be attacked by far-right terrorists than Islamists

Trump says silent because “radical Islamic terrorists” aren’t part of his voting base – and “white supremacist terrorists” are.

Remember how Donald Trump used to accuse the Democrats of political correctness on the subject of terrorism? “These are radical Islamic terrorists and she won’t even mention the word and nor will President Obama,” declaimed the then Republican presidential candidate in his second debate against Hillary Clinton in October 2016.

But what about Trump’s own political correctness? Over the course of his 14 months in office, the president has pointedly refused to use the term “white supremacist terrorist”. He has turned a blind eye to a wave of shootings, stabbings and bombings carried out not by radicalised Muslims but by radicalised white men. He has ignored the fact – documented in a range of studies – that Americans are much more likely to be the victims of a “white supremacist terrorist” than a “radical Islamic terrorist”. (According to the Investigative Fund, an independent journalism organisation, “far-right plots and attacks outnumber Islamist incidents by almost two to one.”)

And the reason for Trump’s PC position? It’s straightforward – if scary. “Radical Islamic terrorists” aren’t part of his base. “White supremacist terrorists” are.

Don’t take my word for it. “Donald Trump is setting us free,” wrote a jubilant Andrew Anglin, founder of a neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, last summer. “It’s fair to say that if the Trump team is not listening to us directly (I assume they are), they are thinking along very similar lines.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups and extremists, agrees. “If 2016 was the year of white supremacists being electrified by the rise of Donald Trump, his inauguration in January sent them into a frenzy,” it noted. “They believed they finally had a sympathiser in the White House and an administration that would enact policies to match their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and racist ideas.” The SPLC pointed out that “hate crimes in the six largest US cities were up 20 per cent from 2016”.

According to the Extremist Crime Database, the far right carried out nine fatal attacks in the US in 2017. In February of that year, Adam Purinton shot two Indian men, one of whom was killed, at a restaurant in Kansas, reportedly yelling “get out of my country” and “terrorist” before opening fire.

In March 2017, James H Jackson, an avid reader of the Daily Stormer, fatally stabbed an elderly African-American man in New York, after travelling from Baltimore to kill as many black men as possible and “make a statement”, according to the authorities.

In May, Jeremy Joseph Christian, an admirer of both Trump and the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was charged with stabbing two men to death on a train in Portland, Oregon, after they tried to prevent him from harassing two female passengers who appeared to be Muslim.

In August, James Fields Jr, a proud neo-Nazi, was charged with killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer after allegedly driving his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, which had gathered to protest against a white supremacist rally. (“You also had some very fine people on both sides,” Trump would later remark .)

In December, a 17-year-old boy who had mowed a swastika into the grass of a community field was charged with murdering his girlfriend’s parents after they objected to their teenage daughter’s relationship with the youth because of his neo-Nazi views.

Yet hardly any of these fatal attacks by radicalised white men dominated the news headlines in the US in the same way that shootings or bombings by radicalised Muslims tend to. Aside from the killing of Heyer in Charlottesville, how many of these incidents had you even heard of? Researchers at Georgia State University found that terrorist attacks “by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 449 per cent more coverage than other attacks”. Muslims were responsible for 12.4 per cent of the terror attacks in the US between 2011 and 2015 yet received 41.4 per cent of the news coverage. Is it any wonder that when most Americans think of terrorists they picture brown, not white, skins?

“Terrorism is one of the only areas where white people do most of the work and get none of the credit,” joked the comedian Ken Cheng in a viral tweet. But this is no joking matter for the Trump administration. Upon coming to office last year, White House officials briefed Reuters that they wanted to “revamp and rename a US government programme designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism… and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists.”

By June, the administration had announced it would be revoking federal funding for Life After Hate, a non-profit dedicated to deradicalising right-wing extremists, and a project by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that was supposed to counter both violent Islamists and white supremacists.

Yet in May last year, an intelligence bulletin prepared by the FBI and the department for homeland security was obtained by Foreign Policy magazine, which warned that “white supremacists had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years”. It concluded that white supremacists “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year”.

And so they have. Just as George W Bush ignored intelligence about a growing threat from al-Qaeda in his first year in office, Trump spent 2017 ignoring warnings about the “persistent threat of lethal violence” from white supremacists.

“To solve a problem you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least, say the name,” declared Trump in his October 2016 debate with Clinton. Maybe, just for once, the president should take his own advice.

China Fashion & Beauty The Perfect Selfie: China vs America Avatar

What’s on Weibo What’s on Weibo China Fashion & Beauty The Perfect Selfie: China vs America Avatar Published 3 years ago January 27, 2016 By Manya Koetse

People are taking selfies all over the world. The way they take them, however, differs per culture. In China, taking the perfect selfie is not about full face make-up and sexy looks, but about snow white skin and big eyes, Claire Kane writes. Selfies are an integral part of the world of social media. With smartphones and selfie sticks, it is easier than ever before for people to take a ‘self-portrait’ and share it with the world through social media platforms such as Instagram, Weibo, Wechat, Facebook or Twitter.

Self-representation through digital technology is not just a way of presenting ourselves to others, it is also a way for us to record moments in our lives to remember for the future. In Seeing Ourselves Through Technology, Jill Walker Rettberg explores the phenomenon of selfies; why people take them and how they are perceived.

Website Style.Mic recently published an article by Clare Kane (@clare_kane) about what the difference in selfies between America and China can tell us about beauty standards. According to the article, although there are many overlaps in selfie esthetics, there are some basic differences between beauty ideals in America and China that are discernible in how women take selfies. Chinese ‘selfie culture’ is influenced by South Korea and Japan, that have similar beauty standards.

One of the main differences, according to the article, is that Chinese women prefer to be pale. Whereas the majority of women in the US prefer a bronzed skin, this is not the case in China. In Chinese language ‘Miss Perfect’ translates as ‘baifumei‘ (???), literally meaning white-skinned, rich and beautiful. For the perfect selfie, the skin is therefore made to look as white as possible, either through make-up, lighting, or through a photo app that enhances one’s skin.

 

American celebrity Kim Kardashian (left), and Chinese celebrity ‘Angelababy’ (right).

Except for pale skin, big eyes are also a prerequisite for the ‘perfect selfie’. China’s beauty industry benefits from these beauty ideals, and does not only offer a myriad of products that help women whiten their skin; it also sells a selection of products that are supposed to make the eyes look bigger. Influenced by Western and Japanese beauty ideals, a small face and pointed chin have also become part of Chinese beauty ideals. Well-known Weibo blogger Vincent Lau has become famous for his selfies with an extremely pointed face and big eyes. vincentlauwow

Another difference, according to the article, is that women in the US like selfies that portray themselves as sexy and curvy. In China, it is not about sex but about looking ‘cute’. Being ‘cute’ often means looking as innocent as possible. kateperryfanbingbing American celebrity Katy Perry selfie versus Chinese celebrity Fan Bingbing selfie.

Chinese beauty standards are most easily attained through the use of photo app Pitu (??P? ), that comes with many possibilities. Like the Meitu app (??), which is also popular, Pitu is a camera and retouch app that offers a myriad of different filters to take the prettiest selfie. It allows users to make themselves whiter, make the face smaller and enlarge eyes.

Selfies in China and America do not always follow the general beauty esthetics. Last year’s Weibo trend of taking selfies showing of armpit hair also made it in America, where even Madonna showed off some natural hair. armpit The message: women should not feel pressured to comply with society’s beauty standards. What is most important is that they feel comfortable with themselves. –

 

This is original content by What’s on Weibo that requires investment. You are free to link to this article. Please identify this website or author when you base content on this source or quote from it. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com to buy additional rights. Copyright (C) https://www.whatsonweibo.com. Read more at: https://www.whatsonweibo.com/the-perfect-selfie-china-vs-america/

Americans really pay a bribe for a good education? In Britain, we’ve got far subtler ways

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Emily Thornberry

“Dude, dude, what do you think, I’m a moron?” Thus, one of the parents accused of involvement in the US college bribery racket. He’d been warned – by a wiretapped conspirator – not to reveal that he paid $50,000 for his daughter’s fraudulent test results, part of a system the fixer calls “the side door”.

Appropriately soothed – “I’m not saying you’re a moron” – the accused father is recorded, by the FBI, assuring the scam’s organiser that he’ll deliver, if required, the agreed fiction. “I’m going to say that I’ve been inspired how you’re helping underprivileged kids get into college. Totally got it.”

Although many of the best bits of an FBI affidavit – presenting the case against the accused parents – have been widely circulated, this sublime page-turner deserves to be enjoyed in full, if not put up for literary awards pending film adaptation (Laura Dern has been suggested for Felicity Huffman), and made compulsory reading in all admission departments. It’s not just that extracts can’t convey the fathomless entitlement and mendacity exhibited by affluent, ostensibly respectable parents. They can’t begin to do justice to the affidavit’s entertainment value as savage social comedy, something productions of Molière often attempt, but rarely achieve.

Even the dramatis personae, in the investigation the FBI named “Operation Varsity Blues”, reads like an updated Tartuffe: “Todd Blake is an entrepreneur and investor. Diane Blake is an executive at a retail merchandising firm.” Here, too, cultivated, fluent people, many of whom also sound deluded, greedy and hypocritical, appear to be playing with their children’s lives for no reason beyond self-gratification. But the dialogue, when not jaw-dropping, races along (“And it works?” asks a defendant. “Every time.”), the plots and motives are horribly plausible, and the jeopardy is evidently real to the alleged conspirators, even if the all-encompassing irony of their alleged scheme is not. “She actually won’t really be part of the water polo team, right?”

And from a fellow future defendant, on the risks, if this status-enhancing, child-perfecting scam were to be discovered: “You know, the, the embarrassment to everyone in the communities. Oh my God, it would just be – yeah. Ugh.”

Are FBI affidavits regularly as good as the tale of Operation Varsity Blues? If so, the death of the novel should be easier to bear. Although this document has one overriding purpose – to show that accused parents and witnesses colluded in fraudulent applications – special thanks are due to special agent Laura Smith, the author, who never writes a dull page. Maybe the individual cases were fully as compelling as this edited evidence suggests. Or maybe agent Smith’s organisation of her material really does indicate considerable, dry artistry? Either way, you cherish the detail when an accused parent replies, following an allegedly fraudulently extracted college offer: “This is wonderful news! [high-five emoji].”

Actress Felicity Huffman

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Actress Felicity Huffman has been indicted in the university admissions scandal. Photograph: David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

Ditto Smith’s generous quotation from a statement provided for a girl who has been reinvented, apparently for scam purposes, as a “US Club Soccer All American”: “On the soccer or lacrosse etc I am the one who looks like a boy amongst girls with my hair tied up, arms sleeveless, and blood and bruises from head to toe.”

Not, of course, that’s there’s anything illegal, here or in the US, about reproducing personal statements from professional suppliers or collaborating with a teacher and/or parent – the latter, though risibly unfair, is routine. Another Varsity Blues alleged tactic, that of buying a diagnosis requiring extra exam time, may have no exact UK parallel but, according to a 2017 BBC report, one in five children in independent schools received extra time for GCSE and A-levels. David Kynaston and David Green, in a powerful critique of independent schools, recently pointed out various advantages, made possible by high fees: “Far greater resources are available for diagnosing special needs, challenging exam results and guiding university applications.”

If, mercifully, UK universities are low on dependable side doors, the shamelessness of some of the US defendants, as they appear to pursue their imagined birthright (Ivy League bragging rights) can still sound uncomfortably familiar. Many British parents, equally fearful of mediocrity, are similarly unabashed on local tricks and stratagems – not only private education, but house moves, music lessons (for reserved school places), intensive coaching, internships, resits, religious conversions, fake addresses, and, the Times now reports, FOI requests to Oxbridge, from disappointed parents – that will end up, added to financial and cultural capital, delivering much the same outcome as the US scandal. Legal or otherwise, the result is enhanced educational opportunities for the privileged and untalented, fewer for the talented but disadvantaged.

The pervasive cunning is hardly surprising given the official esteem for “sharp-elbowed” parental operators, who, David Laws once argued, set a fine example. It follows, as demonstrated by UK politicians on all sides, that extreme resourcefulness in, say, keeping places from less fortunate residents, is readily passed off as understandable dedication as opposed to insatiable self-interest. Don’t we all want [smiling face with halo emoji] the best for our kids?

Following some unspecified epiphany, David Cameron, of previously wavering faith, secured places at an oversubscribed church school, some distance from No 10, requiring proof of “Sunday worship in a church at least twice a month for 36 months before the closing applications date”. Equally instructively, my own, affluent MP, Emily Thornberry, had, earlier, hoovered up three of the few precious places at an outstanding, part-selective school in Hertfordshire, 13 miles from home, which tradition annually reserves for her Islington constituents. On Twitter, she has reminded critics: “All my children educated in the state sector.” There is no suggestion that either MP has broken any laws.

There must be, beyond legality, some ethically significant factor that makes non-paying wangling infinitely superior to the ugly, US variety. But you probably have to buy a place at Harvard to find out what it is.

Catherine Bennett is an Observer columnist

  • Guardian Pick

    You’ve completely missed the point.
    It isn’t elitism which is being shown to be fake, it is meritocracy. If the elite were indeed the best and brightest drawn from and measured from all sectors of society none of us would have an issue with it. If opportunity were for all and not a few, none of us would have an issue with it. It is the proof that meritocracy is a lie and that it is actually promoted by the elite to maintain their control over soc…

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The perfectly legal – but immoral – ways rich kids get into top colleges

The perfectly legal – but immoral – ways rich kids get into top colleges

When it comes to admissions to elite schools, money can all but guarantee access to those who can afford it

 

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son in law and senior aide, was admitted to Harvard after his father made a $2.5m donation to the school, despite a ‘less than stellar’ high school academic record.
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son in law and senior aide, was admitted to Harvard after his father made a $2.5m donation to the school, despite a ‘less than stellar’ high school academic record. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

The concept of parody can be understood most simply as the comic art of taking something familiar to such excess that it becomes farce.

In that sense, this week’s college admissions fraud scandal, which has ensnared dozens of wealthy and famous Americans, is an act of pure, if unintentional, parody. Because while the process was exaggerated to a comical extent, the reality is that when it comes to admissions to elite schools, money can all but guarantee access to those who can afford it.

“The bribing of coaches by wealthy individuals is really just a more blatant example of what goes on all the time,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive thinktank.

And while most wealthy Americans don’t pay fake charities for Photoshopped images of their children playing sports they have never tried, or bribe athletic coaches, as the dozens caught in the “Varsity Blues” investigation are accused of doing, legal pay for play in admissions is as routine as it is unfair, said Kahlenberg, who has spent years studying the issue of unequal opportunity in education.

“This was worse in the sense that individual coaches were lining their pockets, but broadly speaking, the same type of bribe goes on between wealthy individuals and institutions every day of the week,” Kahlenberg said.

That can hardly be surprising in a landscape where, at five different Ivy League schools, more students came from the top 1% of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60%.

Take Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide, who was admitted to Harvard – generally considered the nation’s most prestigious university – after his father made a $2.5m donation to the school, despite the younger Kushner’s “less than stellar” high school academic record.

Daniel Golden exposed Kushner’s path to Harvard in 2006 in his work The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges. In the book, Golden found that among a committee culled from Harvard’s 400 biggest givers, including some who were childless or too young to have college-bound children, fully half the big donors had a child enrolled at the school. Kushner, the scion of a real estate empire worth billions, has denied that his acceptance had anything to do with the donation.

Golden noted that in some cases the quid pro quo wasn’t always even consummated before a student was accepted at a school. Prestigious universities often privilege wealthy students on the assumption that once they’re in the university family, they will be more likely to give – a phenomenon he calls “development” admissions.

Kahlenberg says the economics of these decisions are really quite simple. “Colleges say: ‘We’ve got these really valuable slots, and we’re going to leverage it either through squeezing our alumni for donations or trying to get wealthy individuals who have no previous connection with the university to donate.’”

Another common practice is legacy admissions, whereby applicants with family ties to a university are given preferential treatment. A 2011 study of admissions decisions at 30 highly selective colleges and universities found that legacy status accounted for a more than threefold increase in acceptance.

Kahlenberg, who calls legacy admissions a form of “legalized bribery”, adds that universities especially extend those considerations to alumni who donate.

Absent any attempt to curry favor with a university with the promise of financial incentives, wealthy students already enjoy virtually every advantage in the admissions game – for example, the influence of athletics.

A 2002 study found that the advantage conferred by playing a sport actually exceeded that provided by legacy status or minority background, as it pertains to affirmative action programs. That’s probably why William Singer, the central figure behind the admissions scam, focused so much of his effort on fraudulent athletic profiles for students.

And despite impressions one might gather from the small percentage of college athletics who are shown on TV, sports are overwhelmingly an extracurricular of the rich.

“The time, effort and money involved in becoming a high level athlete actually requires a lot of resources,” said Kirsten Hextrum, an associate professor of education at the University of Oklahoma.

That’s especially true for sports like rowing crew, golf, water polo and fencing that have high financial barriers to entry as a teenager, and are disproportionately popular at Ivy League schools.

And then there’s the professional college preparation industry, where “for prices up to $1.5m, parents can buy a five-year, full-service package of college admissions consulting”, as the New York Times reported Wednesday.

“How do you treat this situation where some people can afford to have private tutors to prepare for standardized tests, private tutors to get people’s grades up, or they can afford to take a test three or four times and they can afford $5,000 to $10,000 prep courses?” said Richard Lempert, a professor of law and sociology emeritus at the University of Michigan. “It’s not corrupt – but it means that the ones who have the most position themselves to get even more.”

Lempert and Kahlenberg have both devoted large chunks of their careers to studying affirmative action and both expressed hope that the scandal and ensuing focus on the admissions process might spark a movement towards systemwide reforms.

“If you were fair, you would try to construct an admission system which recognized that certain kids had enormous advantages,” Kahlenberg. “Therefore, we should consider their academic record, their extracurriculars, even the strength of their teacher recommendations – in the context of disadvantage.”

Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin appear in court over admissions scam

Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin appear in court over admissions scam

Pair among others charged in scheme in which, authorities say, parents paid consultant to fake children’s college test scores

 

Felicity Huffman arrives at court in Boston on Wednesday.
Felicity Huffman arrives at court in Boston on Wednesday. Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP

Actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman appeared in court in Boston on Wednesday afternoon to face charges that they participated in a wide-ranging college admissions cheating scam that has rocked the US.

The actors, along with Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli and dozens of others, were charged last month in a scheme in which authorities say parents paid an admissions consultant to bribe college coaches and rig test scores to get their children into elite universities.

Camera crews crowded the courthouse in anticipation of the arrival of the stars and 11 other wealthy parents accused of engaging in the schemes.

The two actors and Giannulli said little during the brief hearing in a packed federal courtroom and were not asked to enter a plea. They remain free on bail.

Neither Huffman nor Loughlin and Giannulli have publicly commented on the allegations. Huffman initially appeared in court in Los Angeles after the allegations emerged last month.

Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the sitcom Full House in the 1980s and 90s, and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to have their two daughters labeled as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, even though neither participated in the sport.

Giannulli, whose Mossimo clothing had long been a Target brand, is also scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Lori Loughlin is accompanied to federal court in Boston, Massachusetts on 3 April.

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Lori Loughlin is accompanied to federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, on 3 April. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The Hallmark Channel – where Loughlin starred in popular holiday movies and the series When Calls the Heart – cut ties with Loughlin a day after her arrest.

Loughlin and Giannulli’s daughter, the social media star Olivia Jade Giannulli, has also been dropped from advertising deals with the cosmetics retailer Sephora and hair products company Tresemmé.

Huffman, the Emmy-winning star of ABC’s Desperate Housewives, is accused of paying $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation to cheat on her daughter’s college entrance exam.

Among the other parents expected in the Boston court on Wednesday is Gordon Caplan, former co-chairman of the international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, based in New York.

Caplan is accused of paying $75,000 to get a test supervisor to correct the answers on his daughter’s ACT exam after she took it. Caplan’s firm said after his arrest that he has been placed on a leave of absence.

The consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators. The former Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith has also pleaded guilty.

Several coaches have pleaded not guilty, including tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who is accused of getting $2.7m in bribes to designate at least 12 applicants as recruits to Georgetown.

Prosecutors have been holding plea talks with 33 parents charged in the scheme. On Wednesday, packaged food entrepreneur Peter Sartorio became the first to reveal he plans to plead guilty.

Two others, California businessman Devin Sloane and marketing executive Jane Buckingham, were excused from attending Wednesday’s proceedings after disclosing they were in talks with prosecutors as well.

University charges students for protesting against border patrol

University charges students for protesting against border patrol

University of Arizona demonstrators accused of disrupting officers’ campus appearance and could face jail time

 

Denisse Moreno Melchor, 20, and Mariel Alexandra Bustamante, 22, were issued misdemeanor citations.
Denisse Moreno Melchor, 20, and Mariel Alexandra Bustamante, 22, were issued misdemeanor citations. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

The University of Arizona is facing criticism for its to decision to criminally charge two students for protesting an appearance of US border patrol officers at a campus event.

Denisse Moreno Melchor, 20, and Mariel Alexandra Bustamante, 22, allegedly disrupted an appearance of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) representatives at the university on 19 March. Both students were issued misdemeanor citations for “interference with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution” and Melchor was also cited for “threats and intimidation”, a university spokesman said on Tuesday. The charges could carry up to six months of jail time.

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The decision by university police to bring criminal charges over a non-violent demonstration has sparked a backlash from lawmakers, free speech advocates and immigrant rights’ groups.

“They’re making an example out of these students, and they are trying to ensure nobody will follow in their footsteps,” Arizona state senator Martín Quezada told the Guardian. “The students should have the ability to express their opinions about what the government is doing,” he added.

The border patrol agents had come to campus for a presentation at a student club event. A group of protesters chanted outside the meeting, calling the agents “murderers” and shouting “murder patrol”, the Arizona Republic reported.

Melchor and Bustamante were charged on Monday. The students did not immediately respond to requests or comment. They were cited at the university police department and released, the spokesman, Chris Sigurdson, told the Guardian. He said the students were not accused of any violence.

Robert C Robbins, the university president, opened his letter on the incident by saying he wanted to “reaffirm” the university’s “relationship” with CBP and said that the institution “has policies and protocols for behavior and expression”.

“The student club and the CBP officers invited by the students should have been able to hold their meeting without disruption. Student protest is protected by our support for free speech, but disruption is not,” he added.

He further wrote: “As a community of scholars, we need to be more thoughtful and deliberative in how we approach these issues.”

But it’s unclear how the student protests of the border patrol officers would have violated free speech protections.

State senator Quezada said he was disappointed to see the charges, and that the university was “doing a lot of harm to these young individuals who have bright futures ahead of them”.

In recent years, there have been increasingly heated debates about free speech and protest activity on college campuses in America. Universities have repeatedly come under fire for allowing far-right figures to speak on campus and then aggressively targeting counterprotesters.

Protests against border patrol have also escalated across the country surrounding Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, including the family separation crisis, the detention of children, deaths of migrants in custody and alleged sexual assaults by agents.

The student government association at the University of Arizona said that the presence of uniformed agents was troubling for many students. Their appearance on campus “especially without warning was, is, and will always be immensely harmful to our … undocumented community”. The group’s statement noted that there are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) students on campus, referring to immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have protected status, despite Donald Trump’s efforts to end the Daca program.

The group said that on the same day agents were on campus, a Tucson family was arrested and detained by border patrol, just miles away from the university.

Arizona has seen aggressive prosecution of activists who support immigrants. Humanitarian volunteers who help migrants have faced criminal charges, including for leaving water in the desert for people crossing the border.

A University of Arizona Daca group praised the protesters in a statement, saying: “Their action is to be applauded and admired because they put their community before themselves and acted to protect us.”

 

Whatever Happened to the News?

Whatever Happened to the News?

MediaValues

This article originally appeared in Issue# 50

When hard news goes soft, entertainment takes over.

News has always mixed the serious and the entertaining. The tension between journalism and commercialism goes back long before television, but it is felt with special intensity in television news today.

In the early 1960s the networks, hugely profitable but worried about their images and about regulatory pressures, expanded their news operations and largely freed them from the pressures of commercial television. The “church” of news was to be separated from the “state” of entertainment.

In the 1970s and ’80s, however, the barrier between news and entertainment has been increasingly eroded. Not all the changes of these years have been for the worse. But taken together, they raise serious questions about the future of journalism in an entertainment-dominated medium. A recent edition of the news tabloid A Current Affair, for example, ended with the tease “Coming up – sex, murder and videotape, that’s next!” It may be that this is indeed the future of television news.

It was the local stations that first discovered, late in the 1960s, that news could make money– lots of money. By the end of the ’70s, news was frequently producing 60 percent of a station’s profits. With numbers like that, news was much “too important” to leave to journalists, and a heavily entertainment-oriented form of programming began to evolve. Often it was contrasted directly with the network news. ‘Feel like you’re getting a bad deal from poker-faced TV news reporters?” asked San Francisco’s KGO in one ad, “Then let the Channel 7 Gang deal you in. They’re not afraid to be friendly.”

“When you mix fiction and news, you diminish the distinction between truth and fiction, and you wear down the audience’s own discriminating power to judge.”
–Bill Moyers

Competitive pressures began to impinge on network news in a serious way in the late l970s. In 1976 ABC began a successful drive to make its news division competitive with CBS and NBC. Its successful move into news was followed by the growth of cable, which began to erode the networks’ audience share. As outlined more fully elsewhere in this issue, this new source of competition, combined with other economic conditions, put a significant squeeze on network profits that has since come home to the news divisions in the form of an unprecedented concern with the bottom line.

Free-Market Journalism

In Washington, meanwhile, the FCC was dismantling most of the regulatory framework that had been imposed on the television industry since its beginnings, especially the obligation vague, to be sure– to provide some minimum of serious public affairs programming. Proponents of deregulation assumed that the free market would bring forth an age of diversity in television programming. In fact, there is a lot more news on television now than ever before. In a sense, there is also greater diversity. The last few years have seen a proliferation of new forms of “reality-based programming.” If we set aside live programming and the Sunday interview shows, there were basically only two forms of public affairs television in the 1960s: the evening news and the documentary.

In the ’70s new forms appeared: the news magazine, represented first by 60 Minutes, and local news in its modern, fast-paced “happy talk” form. Each breached the barrier between news and entertainment in important ways. The decade also saw the consolidation of morning news as a strongly entertainment-oriented form of programming. NBC’s Today show had pioneered such a form in the 1950s. In the ’70s, ABC joined the field with Good Morning America, produced by the entertainment division, and CBS abandoned hard news in the morning to try and imitate Today.

The 1980s gave us two significant additions to public affairs programming, Nightline and CNN. The latter, it might be added, is itself a complex mix of the serious and the trivial. CNN has taken up slack from the established networks in live public affairs programming, covering, for example, much of the Iran-Contra hearings ABC, CBS and NBC declined to carry and providing electrifying live coverage of the massacre at Tiananmen Square. But day in and day out, CNN news offerings resemble local news more than anything else, mixing short reports on political affairs with large doses of weather and human interest.

The ’80s also saw a proliferation of 60 Minutes imitators, often with a particularly fast-paced, glitzy style. And they have seen the demise of one important form of public affairs programming: the documentary. More than any other public affairs programming, the documentary unit CBS Reports, established in that period in the early ’60s when the networks were moving to head off regulatory pressures, stood apart from commercial constraints. The works produced– Harvest of Shame, for instance, or The Selling of the Pentagon– were hour-long statements about serious issues. Often a year or more in production and featuring a clear point of view, they provided a unique perspective on many problems, policies and controversial issues. Thanks to corporate scruples and bottom-line consciousness, their day in commercial television is definitely over.

The Birth of Reality News

Most of today’s growth, meanwhile, has been at the “low end” in a proliferation of shows that practice what might be called “para-journalism.” The most important new form is the “tabloid” news magazine, including such shows as A Current Affair, Inside Edition, Hard Copy and The Reporters.

In a way, these shows represent something very new. They are not news shows that borrow conventions from entertainment television, but the other way around: entertainment programs that borrow the aura of news. The forms and the “look” are news– the opening sequences frequently feature typewriter keys and newsroom-like sets with monitors in the background. The content, however, has little of the substance of journalism; above all, little about public affairs.

In another sense, these shows are nothing new at all. What they have done is to take the approach pioneered by the hybrid forms of the 1970s and push it to extremes. Local news is typically concerned with crime, accidents and disasters, children lost and found and new animals born at zoos; morning news with celebrities, health and “life styles.” What all these stories have in common is that they are about everyday life– and about its disruptions and exaltations (crime, illness, the hero, the celebrity, the rescue). They are about private, not public, life. The “softer” news shows have always traded heavily in this kind of material. But they have mixed it with a measure of genuine journalism. Their origins in the older tradition of public affairs reporting have also imposed some limits on what they will stoop to in the way of sensationalism.

In the long run, there is reason for concern not only about the quality of the evening news, but even its survival.

With the new “tabloids” these scruples are mostly out the window. Their appeal is to the emotions, with no apologies; their interest in public affairs is not quite nil but very close (issues with sufficient emotional content, like crime and AIDS, can still bring it out). They have had great success with this model, and the rest of television news is sure to be sorely tempted to compete with them.

New Agenda

The main vehicle for serious public affairs coverage, meanwhile, remains the network evening news, which is widely seen as having betrayed the values of the so-called Golden Age of Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley. This view is not entirely accurate: like many “golden” ages, television’s early years have been very much romanticized.

In many ways the evening news is better now than it was in the ’80s and early ’70s. There is nothing wrong with learning to use the medium effectively. The truth is that much of television news 15 or 20 years ago was both dull and difficult to understand. There is nothing wrong, either, with shifting the news agenda toward the kinds of stories more meaningful to the average audience member. If television does more stories about health or child care, up to a point that’s a change for the better.

But the drive for ratings has produced many troubling practices, from the furious pace of modem news to a tendency for journalists to scramble like politicians onto the bandwagon of the latest wave of popular sentiment. In the mid-1980s the fashionable emotion was patriotism. Today it is often the evils of drugs. Poker-faced objectivity gives way to breathless moralism, as long as the issue is safe. The danger is both that passion will be inflated at the expense of understanding and that the public agenda will be distorted, with emotional issues blown up larger than life and less dramatic but equally serious ones diminished.

In the long run, there is reason for concern not only about the quality of the evening news, but even its survival. The networks expanded news programs to 30 minutes to begin with, and affiliate stations carried them, not because it was profitable but because they were a regulated industry and wanted the prestige of belonging to the Fourth Estate.

But the regulatory pressure is gone now, and the temptation for local stations to drop the network news is increased by the fact that technology has made it possible for local stations to cover many of the national and international events the networks have covered, albeit usually in a sporadic and superficial way. Technology can transfer pictures from Panama or Eastern Europe quickly and cheaply, while understanding of their context is harder to come by.

Even now the amount of time American television devotes to the affairs of public life is tiny. Most industrialized countries, for instance, have at least a full half-hour of national news in prime time; the United States has 22-23 minutes (the length of an evening news broadcast when commercials are eliminated) in “early fringe” time, with even the slots at 6 or 6:30 p.m. increasingly going to game shows and tabloids.

Some form of serious television journalism will surely survive. But it could well be reduced to serving a specialized audience, while most of the public watches nothing but the softest form of “infotainment.” With most of the public getting its news from television already and newspaper readership declining, the danger of creating a public that knows and cares little about public life is very real.

Author Bio:

Daniel C. Hallin is associate professor of communication at the University of California, San Diego. He is author of The Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam, and many other articles on news and public life.

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