Over 500,000 Iraqi refugees in need of emergency aid, officials say | Al Bawaba

June, 2014 (File/AFP)

One million people have been displaced by ISIS violence in Iraq since June, 2014 (File/AFP)

The refugees living in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region are still in dire need of emergency help despite humanitarian aid efforts by the UN.

International Organizations in Kurdistan Region’s Dindar Zebari said that the UN aid for Iraqi refugees was far from enough.

“There is still a serious shortage of necessities including food and water and other supplies, such as clothes and food for children. And even if this problem is solved, they still need shelter, such as tents, or some other public accommodation,” Zebari said.

“We need more help than the United Nations can offer since, in fact, only a few nations have provided humanitarian aid and that is far from enough. We are in desperate need of more help,” he said.

There are currently about 500,000 displaced people in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region.

On August 19, the UN refugee agency announced its plans to…

Read More Over 500,000 Iraqi refugees in need of emergency aid, officials say | Al Bawaba.

James Foley remembered as ‘brave and tireless’ – CNN.com

Copyright CNN

Copyright CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Obama credits James Foley with “courageous reporting”
  • Foley had been reporting from war-torn countries for four years when he disappeared
  • He spent time as a teacher in the Teach for America program in 1996 in Phoenix
  • One friend described Foley as a “funny, warm, Big Lebowski-loving guy”

New York (CNN) — When war reporter James Foley wasn’t writing for GlobalPost or recording video for AFP or appearing on the PBS “NewsHour,” he occasionally shared stories on his own blog, aptly titled “A World of Troubles.”

For a subtitle, he chose the famous Carl von Clausewitz sentence “War is fought by human beings.”

And that is exactly what Foley sought to show with his reporting: humanity amid the horror of war.

Foley was abducted while on a reporting trip in northern Syria in November 2012. He was never heard from again.

A video published Tuesday by the extremist group ISIS showed Foley being beheaded. It is not known when or where the video was recorded.

For Foley’s family and friends, the recording was the answer they hoped they’d never hear to their questions about his disappearance.

“We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people,” his mother, Diane, said Tuesday night.

She called him “an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person.”

In a televised statement Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama credited Foley with “courageously reporting” from Syria and “bearing witness to the lives of people a world away.”

“Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world,” Obama said.

Shortly before he spoke, the president talked by phone with Foley’s parents. At a subsequent news conference on their front lawn, the parents were asked why Foley decided to travel to dangerous locales. “Why do firemen go back into a blazing home? It was his job,” John Foley answered.

Opinion: What should the U.S. do?

Courageous, generous

Foley was the oldest child of Diane and John Foley of Rochester, New Hampshire. He had four siblings.

Foley — Jim to his friends — had been reporting from war-torn countries for the better part of four years when he disappeared in Syria.

On Tuesday, fellow journalists remembered him for his courage and his generosity.

One of his friends, Alex Sherman of Bloomberg News, wrote on Twitter that he was a “funny, warm, Big Lebowski-loving guy.”

Another friend, Max Fisher of Vox, praised his “dedication to…

Read More James Foley remembered as ‘brave and tireless’ – CNN.com.

Authentic Photo of James Foley Before He Was Savagely Beheaded By ISIS Militant

U.S. General Says Raiding Syria Is Key to Halting ISIS – NYTimes.com

Copyright New York Times

A look at the next military steps the United States is considering in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Video Credit By Quynhanh Do on Publish Date August 21, 2014. Image CreditHasan Jamali/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the Sunni militants in Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” said the chairman, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, in his most expansive public remarks on the crisis since American airstrikes began in Iraq. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no.”

But General Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who both spoke at a Pentagon news conference, gave no indication that President Obama was about to approve airstrikes in Syria.

General Dempsey also was circumspect in describing the sort of broad effort that would be required to roll back ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Copyright New York Times

Background on ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Video Credit By Christian Roman on Publish Date June 30, 2014. Image CreditReuters

Even so, General Dempsey’s comments were notable because he is the president’s top military adviser and had been among the most outspoken in describing the risks of ordering airstrikes in Syria when the civil war there began.

In the current battle with ISIS inside Iraq, Mr. Obama’s military strategy has been aimed at containing the militant organization rather than defeating it, according to Defense Department officials and military experts. Pressed on whether the United States would conduct airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria, Mr. Hagel said that “we’re looking at all options.”

Any use of air power involves risk, including the possibility that innocent civilians may be hurt or killed, or that a piloted aircraft might be shot down. Airstrikes in Syria would also draw the White House more deeply into a conflict from which it has sought to maintain some distance. But there is also risk in not acting, because it is very difficult to defeat a militant group that is allowed to maintain a sanctuary.

In planning its campaign against ISIS, American military officers have been contending with a highly mobile force that can move across the Iraq-Syria border with impunity.

To the consternation of American officials, ISIS has been using captured American equipment, including Humvees and at least one heavily armored troop transport vehicle. American intelligence officials have reported that the group has seized 20 Russian T-55 tanks in Syria, armor that ISIS could try to employ in western Iraq.

According to one American intelligence estimate, ISIS could not be easily defeated by killing its top leadership. Given its…

Read More U.S. General Says Raiding Syria Is Key to Halting ISIS – NYTimes.com.

This Is The Look of Terror

This article was written by a good friend of mine, fellow human rights activist, and citizen journalist named Bobby and I wanted to share it with you

Look at this young girls face closely. It is the look of terror, fear, shock and trauma. It is the look of those being persecuted for their beliefs, for being who they are. This poor girl was amongst some of the lucky few who were rescued from the besieged Mount Sinjar. Her face can easily be that of a Syrian child, an Israeli child, a Palestinian child, a Ukrainian child, or the face of a child from any number of conflicts going on throughout this world. It is the children who pay the dearest price. They have seen things that no child should ever see, they have seen things that most adults will never see in their life.

I spoke with a couple of friends today regarding the anxiety these children will face for the rest of their life. This face you see is one showing signs of PTSD, and she is way to young for that. I watched as she was rescued, how she could barely breathe, unable to speak. It was heart wrenching to watch, but at the same time it was a relief that she would make it out of that place alive. But what life will she have? We often see someone and wonder what will become of them after such an event. We never see them again, but they live a life that we cannot even begin to fathom. We are happy that she is rescued, but we go on with our lives and forget her. As one of my friends said, “We[Americans] don’t care because they[the terrorized] are over there.” And I was speaking to a person who very much cares, who was being brutally honest about the majority of us.

This article is about the little ones of these conflicts around the world. How can it be possible that the people who perpetrate this terror against children don’t realize what they are doing? I think they know very well, which makes it more of a crime against humanity than it already it is. Whether it is Assad, or whether it is ISIS, or whether it is Netanyahu, or Hamas, of the Real IRA, the LRA, or Putin, don’t tell me the adults doing this aren’t aware of the damage they have done. These victims have had their innocence stolen form them, they have had their childhood taken away from them. They will never sleep right again, they will never feel at ease again. When a car backfires they will cringe in fear thinking it a gunshot. They will miss much of their education, that too robbed from them. Some will need therapy or medication for the rest of their lives.

I want to know this girls name, I want the world to know this girls name, to follow her from afar to lend our moral support and prayers when she needs them, and she will. To see her grow up and smile again, to get married. To raise a family that doesn’t have to go through what she has. I want to know she is going to be okay.

The idea for this article, the girls image, was inspired by Ivan Watson, a CNN journalist, who filed a video report on the rescue of this child and the ongoing relief effort on Mount Sinjar. Pray for, or think of those in need of rescue, for those who are braving the danger to rescue them. Most of all, hope that they get the help they need. And by they, I mean all of those around the world that is child’s face represents.

Obama Doctrine: Speak Often, and More Carrot Than Stick

Barack Obama

Public Domain Image

Editor’s Note:  I typically tend to avoid overtly political and partisan articles on the World Human Rights blog, as I have said many times human rights should not be partisan issues and are far more important than political views.  However I at times feel the need to discuss such issues and take a stand on such debates.  I think this is a critical time in foreign policy issues and I think such issues need to be more widely discussed.  I refuse to stay silent with a world seemingly increasingly more fractured, violent, and suffering with hardships.  Now is the time for bold action and renewed attempts at diplomacy.  We mustn’t give up as a nation and as individuals no matter how difficult things get; as the world needs us now more than any other time since WWII.

There have been several foreign policy experts, amateurs, and bloggers who have tried to analyze and categorize Obama’s foreign policy philosophy.  They have both praised him and condemned him.  Some have congratulated him for the turning away from the Bush Doctrine of preemption and militarism and others have ruthlessly condemned him for doing so.  The thing all the opinion writers have in common is they are bias towards seeing Obama’s handling of foreign policy through their own philosophies and opinions on foreign policy.  It is very difficult to see things in a completely objective way when dealing with issues so serious and often dealing with literally life and death decisions.

From my own experience and observation I have seen few things that ignite as much passion both great and terrible as foreign policy issues.  It makes perfect sense being it touches on the most basic of our instincts of survival, fear, anger, power, and selfishness.  It also touches on our most evolved of human emotions and knowledge; our values, morals, and ethics.  We may be the most evolved in our questioning the rightness and wrongness of our thoughts, words, and actions when speaking of all living things on earth, but we are motivated by our instincts more than most of us realize.  Many times what causes us to finally make a decision is based on gut instinct and intuition.  In other words our ability to reason and have complex ethical and moral reasoning may be very evolved but we’re still creatures of habit and instinct just the same.

The thing that separates hawks from doves is I believe primarily our values and ethical belief systems.  I believe at its heart in spite of the appearance at times, political considerations are almost always secondary.  As an example lets take George W. Bush; he may have been a politician as much as any other, but it was his moral beliefs, ethical viewpoints, views on justice, and personality that drove his foreign policy decisions.  Bush tended to see everything in either black or white, there was not a lot of gray in his moral beliefs and ethical viewpoints.  You, as he famously or infamously said depending on your world-view, were either with us or against us.  You were either among the “good Nations” of the earth or you were part of the “axis of evil”.  You were either a good man or an evil man.  You were either a hawk or a dove.  A liberal or conservative.  A patriot or a traitor.  Loyalty was very paramount in support of him and his policies.  He took to heart the old parable of evil can only continue to exist in the world when good people do nothing.  He firmly believed America had a moral duty to bring evil regimes down and to “bring democracy” to people.  It was not just an ethical philosophy to him but he saw himself as ordained by God to lead the Nation during that time.

With President Obama in spite of what conservative critics say Obama’s foreign policy is also rooted in his moral and ethical views.  Not his deep “leftist” ideology as some of his critics suggest.  Obama’s faith, also in spite of his conservative critics, also deeply motivates him.  Unlike Bush I don’t believe Obama sees himself as ordained by God to lead the Country during this time.  He instead sees himself as chosen by the people by popular vote.  He does however I believe feel blessed and sustained by God.  Once again in spite of conservative critics, Obama compared to most politicians is typically a humble man.  Obama sees every person as a child of the same creator.  He believes in good and evil but he sees it in a realistic way.  He sees degrees of good and evil and people as being flawed and imperfect human beings.  He has the wisdom to learn from all people even his enemies, and he pushes himself to look for the good each person has to offer.  He believes very much so in the parables of being your brother’s keeper, loving your neighbor, and caring for the widowed and orphaned (the less fortunate).  These aren’t just ideal concepts to Obama but actual deep convictions of his.  He often has put into practice these beliefs in policies he has supported during his administration.  He believes it is humanities moral duty to seek peace and help one another.

For someone like myself who is no longer a person of faith I do not see this as threatening as a non-believer.  I see many of the principles he supports in foreign policy as being very much in line with my own secular, ethical, and moral views.  I have and continue to be critical of the over-reliance on drone strikes, assassination orders rather than capture and prosecution of terrorist, his increasing the powers within the NSA and other security and federal police agencies over American’s and other’s lives, his continuing the war in Afghanistan (all though I do support a residual of strictly peace keeping troops, training and intelligence analysis officials, and continued aid to the Country), and his failure to do more to end the Syrian crises.  I see all that as contrary to my values.  I do not feel the least bit uncomfortable in the President’s belief in the creator however and him being comforted in the beliefs that arise from that.  In the end we share a common humanity and have common views on humanity; although I feel some of the President’s actions and policies have been inhumane.  Though I support his policies overall much more than I oppose them.

Now while his values may be the basis for his views, when you get into specifics of actual foreign policy questions, it becomes more complicated to understanding Obama’s perspective.  President Obama typically seeks the most peaceful and light footprint  approach as possible to handling foreign policy issues.  I think Obama is very much aware of the cost in blood and treasure wars like Vietnam and Iraq can require.  I think he is painfully aware of the cost to the Country losing so many of its young people bogged down in a seemingly endless war with no hope of a resolution or any lasting gains.  I also think he is aware of the historical lesson of other civilizations of what happens when empires spread themselves thin and get involved in too many foreign entanglements at once.  This happened with Rome and its over-expansion of its empire, mismanagement, internal divisions/strife, and fighting battles on too many fronts; spreading itself thin allowing Rome’s enemies to gain the upper hand.  A smaller example of this has happened with the United States attempt to continue to maintain its overwhelming dominance in international affairs, political deadlock, economic problems, citizen dissatisfaction and increasing anger over things, the engaging in the longest U.S. war ever in Afghanistan and the risk of losing all our gains in Iraq.

President Obama is much more diplomatically oriented than militarily oriented.  I see this as a welcome and needed change.  I refer to the President as the Diplomat-in-chief rather than the President’s traditional role as Commander-in-chief.  Some are looking for a commander, but I am perfectly happy with a diplomat.  I see diplomacy as being absolutely critical in all the world’s hardships and crises today.  The fact is Obama has proven himself willing to use force when necessary, but almost always seeks a diplomatic path first.  Some may fault him for staying the course on the search for the diplomatic path too long and being too hesitant to use force.  The fact remains however this careful and deliberate tendency has prevented us becoming too entangled in foreign affairs, kept us largely out of many conflicts, and allowed positive things to take place that would not have been possible if the President acted in a more aggressive way.  One example of the latter is the ridding Syria of chemical weapons which was a major accomplishment; this could not likely have happened had we went full force militarily into Syria as we did Iraq.  The downside to this sometimes overly cautious and hesitant approach is things have been allowed to spiral further outside our ability to deal with them.  Had we acted more proactively, not preemptively mind you, I believe some of the events today could have been prevented or minimized the harmed they caused.  This may be a tough truth for the Obama administration to swallow, but I think if they are honest they can not deny this to be the case.

I think Obama is more than anything an idealistic pragmatist.  That may seem as an oxymoron, but what it really means is he is an idealist at heart and a pragmatist in practice.  I too think his winning the Nobel Peace Prize causes him to not want his legacy to be one of a wartime President and increasing international divisions; however fate being cruel that is exactly what happened.  President Obama I have noticed is always trying to speak to the concerns of all parties in situations and points of friction.  Some see this as being an inauthentic yes man and trying to be everyone’s friend, but I see it as showing someone who tries to see the situation or debate from another’s perspective.  I see it as someone who very carefully and analytically considers things before making his mind up for sure.  Sometimes this works against him when he doubts his gut and second guesses himself, takes too long to respond to an urgent matter, and gives his critics more political ammunition to use against him.  Overall though I believe this trait has led to much more rational and forward thinking decisions than his predecessor regarding foreign policy.  I see his pragmatism as veering too much off course of his ideals and values at times, but overall pragmatism has allowed him to carry through policies he could not do so otherwise.

President Obama is much more a believer in the carrot than the stick.  In other words he believes persuasion and ethical bribes is more effective of getting the results you’re seeking rather than the use of force to try to impose your will on others.  The original reference was referring to two ways to get a stubborn donkey to walk forward, the term appeared shortly after the civil war.  One is holding a carrot on a stick in front of a donkey to get him to walk towards the carrot thus bribing him with a reward for good behavior or hitting him with a stick to punish him for not continuing to move forward.  The former is obviously more humane and likely even more effective in the long run.  The donkey will not only move forward, he will trust you more in the future and be more willing to follow your lead.  The stick will only cause him to move forward because of fear and trying to avoid pain; he will never trust you though, be less willing to mind in the future, and it is inhumane to the donkey.  People are obviously much more emotionally complex than the donkey but it is a good metaphor for ways in dealing with diplomacy and foreign policy.  The stick has been far too emphasized in the past in foreign policy, I am glad someone finally is in office who makes much more use of the carrot.

This all said I still wish he would be more actively involved in the Syrian crises regarding refugees and displaced persons and helping provide a supportive role to moderates trying to protect the Syrian people from Assad’s regime and the extremist factions.  I still wish he would do more to help the minority groups within Iraq being persecuted, harmed, and killed.  I still wish he would double up his effort in the Israel/Palestine peace process.  I wish he would be much more forceful in his condemnation of war crimes and human rights abuses occurring the world.  I wish he would call out tyrants for their crimes against humanity, human rights abuses, and restricting liberty and democracy.  Lastly I wish he would reach out to the developing world more and keep more in friendly contact with our allies.  I realize all that is a tall order, but I believe all that is required to attempt to be a force for good and to restore our credibility in the world.  He has done some of all of that but I believe he needs to excerpt more effort in those things now more than ever before.

The fact remains even if FDR, JFK, or Reagan were President today, given the domestic and international conditions there is no way they would have had near the favorability they enjoyed during their Presidency.  FDR would not have a congress willing to sign-off on his New Deal, JFK’s legacy would be forever tarnished by 24 hour “got you” media, and Reagan couldn’t have even rallied his own party to support his proposals.  I believe history will judge Bush harshly but will be more forgiving of Obama and see him as a pragmatic idealist who tried to make the world better but was plagued by constant external burdens.  I have criticized President Obama a number of times on certain things and am disappointed he is not the socialist the Tea Party said he was; but the fact remains he has made a lot of accomplishments both domestically and internationally.  This all in spite of a very hostile time, current state of affairs, and world.

In the end I think many of his supporters will say something similar to: “You know Obama when he came to office we expected him to change things and he did just that.  He wasn’t all we had hoped for, but he did change some things for the better.  Though in fairness the Country was such a mess when he came to office we were looking for someone far greater than any one man could live up to.  He brought more equality to our nation, he brought some people on the margins of society into the wider social fabric, he helped create a healthier Nation, he spoke up for the refugees and immigrants in the world, for the impoverished and marginalized,  and in spite of his overseeing much conflict he was always trying to bring some peace to the world.  Sure he was not perfect, but looking back he was the right man for the time and accomplished much more than most people give him credit for.”

Wishing for more peace and stability in the world,

Alan Curtis Montgomery

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Remembering My School Days And What I Think Needs To Change In Schools Today

Alan

My Kindergarten School Photo, Spring of 1990, 6 Years Old

Today is the first day of back to school time for my nephew and nieces and many other kids in the Mesa Public Schools school district here in Arizona where I reside.  It got me thinking about my school days and how much is still the same and how much has changed.  Some of the changes I think had been a positive development, other things seemed not to have changed much at all, and other things I think have changed for the worst.  I am in no way involved with the schools nor am I a parent so I just know what I have learned from family and in the media.  I then am obviously not the best judge of such matters, but I thought I would share some of my thoughts.

First about my own school days I turned 5 in the late fall so I didn’t start kindergarten until I was nearly 6.  I heard on a documentary starting kindergarten later tends to give kids an advantage.  I am not sure if this contributed to the fact I did well in school from very early on.  I am sure it did not hurt either I went to preschool and my parents provided me a lot of educational type of things starting from a young age.  I liked to read from very early on and was an especially curious and questioning child about everything, much to my parents dismay.  My favorite question was why?  All this came together to make me someone who really liked to learn.  I loved school.  When I got older and the bullying got worse I loved school a lot less but I still loved to learn and the few friends I had.  I was an honor roll student throughout grade school and still continued to do fairly well in junior high and high school.  My one subject I started to struggle in was math beginning in algebra in the 7th grade.  I did best in English, history, and science most of all.

The bullying I went through, problems at home, and my mental health issues began to have a negative impact on my education however.  I know without a doubt without the bullying, problems at home, and mental health issues in the way I would have done much better and had much more enthusiasm in school.  I know without a doubt these same issues are effecting millions of kids in the school system and ultimately the effects can last a lifetime.  Not just in a psychological sense but the fact the loss of essential learning and success that will have a huge bearing if one is encouraged or discouraged from going on to higher education.  I sense that these things are big roadblocks for a lot of kids to doing well in school.  There is so much talents and potential being harmed because of bullying, problems at home, and mental health issues.  I see them as being one of the biggest hurdles the education system has yet to adequately find ways to address and find ways to mitigate the effects from.  I think it is essential schools and parents understand how much these issues can effect a child’s education and how life long the effects can be.  Those who get a good start in life tend to do good in life, those who get a rough start in life tend to have more problems throughout life.

Now conservatives and libertarians can argue how these should be issues that the parents solely are responsible to dealing with and bullying is just kids being kids.  However they would be wrong on both fronts.  Teachers and caregivers too have a responsibility to helping children overcome issues they are dealing with and opening up a line of communication with the parents.  They too can play a big role in helping children suffering with these issues and situations.  This idea that only the parents should play a role is unrealistic and harmful.  First and it is a major first a lot of kids with these issues and situations don’t have active and cooperative parents to deal with these issues on their own.  A lot of them simply don’t have the education and resources.  A lot of the parents simply don’t know where to turn.  Teachers and staff can and should play a role in addressing these issues and situations.  Now I am not calling for an adversarial and big brother type of overreach into family matters and attempting to dictate how things are to be.  I am just suggesting teachers and staff can work with parents to address these issues.  Until these issues are addressed the child will never be learning at his or her full potential and will continue to struggle.

As far as bullying as I have written about it before in very honest detail, it is not just kids being kids.  It is something that we in society should not make excuses for and we should not fail to hold children and teens accountable for engaging in bullying behavior and name calling.  It is not something we should accept as kids being kids or boys being boys.  No child has a right to be cruel towards, mock, or harm another child.  Whoever suggest a child has that right, I know with little doubt if it was their child suffering under bullying they would quickly change their tune.  Bullying today as I have written about my own experiences with it, can be very serious and detrimental to a child or teen suffering because of it.  It has even led to suicide and school shootings in the most severe cases.  It often greatly worsens mental health issues like depression and anxiety.  It can cause physical ailments because of the stress and anxiety it causes.  It can lead to developing eating disorders and major self-esteem issues.  It can greatly affect grades and have a detrimental effect on desire to go to school and be active in education.  There is no excuse for bullying and its time school address it seriously and fully.  It is time parents teach their kids bullying is not okay.  That it’s not right to bully others and it is not right when others bully them.

As far as mental health issues, they are very common and often go undiagnosed.  Far more children have mental health issues than are diagnosed with mental health issues.  While it is true some are too quick to throw around self diagnoses like ADHD and some kids are over-medicated this does not change the fact how large of an issue mental health issues are.  Often when a child or teen is treated for their mental health condition(s) they can learn so much better and succeed at a far higher rate.  I know with me once I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and began to get counseling and medication for my condition I was able to do better in school.  I was even able to cope with bullying better.  I felt better and had more desire to go to school and do my work.  By the eleventh grade my mental health issues still caused me to drop out of school but the fact I made it that long had a lot to do with the treatment I received.  There is literally millions of kids who have undiagnosed mental health issues and it is effecting their lives in a major way both at home and at school.

As far as some things that have changed, I have noticed the curriculum seems to be much more advanced.  Subjects seem to be at least two grades ahead from when I learned about them in school.  I also notice it seems to be much more mathematically focused then when I went to school.  I understand with the STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) being so essential to the future why schools are moving in a more technical and less humanities direction.  I understand the promise of those careers and how they promise higher paying and more practical careers.  I also understand the need and importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for human progress.  I however fear a time when we lose part of what it means to be human.  That we lose part of our culture, heritage, and history.  That we lose an appreciation of the written word, philosophy, history, art, theater, etc…  That we will be rearing a generation that is intelligent without a full heart and soul.  Mindless intellectual machines that are drones of their corporate overlords who don’t think for themselves, have communication skills, have full empathy for other human beings, have a sense of where they came from, have an appreciation for the humanities.  They will know so much but feel so little.  Oh what a wretched world this will be if we move in that direction.  A world with an abundance of knowledge and that is limited in feeling is not a world I would want.  I hope schools, districts, teachers, and politicians do not forget the value of humanities in the push for STEM based education.

Another thing I have noticed that is troubling to me is turning school into prisons and students into inmates.  When I was in school the crime rate was higher than it is today but we did not have our schools surrounded by bars.  Starting in the fifth grade my elementary school began to put up bars, more fencing, and locked gates.  Still compared to the same school today it was open.  Today it looks a little like a maximum security prison and it is an elementary school.  I mean really are our streets that dangerous and our kids that bad we have to turn our schools into a locked down security complex?  Sure there is school shootings and kidnappings, but those are rare.  Kids are far more likely to suffer from violence at home and on the streets than they are in school.  School is quite literally the safest place many kids have to turn to and that is without the security industrial complex schools are attempting to build around them.  Some parents might me comforted thinking their kids are locked up in secure facilities, but as far as I am concerned that is not only going overboard and unnecessarily costly it creates a hostile and adversarial environment.  Is the last thing you want your student hearing in the morning is the iron door slamming shut behind them?  Are schools trying to prepare them for a life behind bars?  Some schools go further and have buzzers at the gates, bullet proof glass, metal detectors, cameras everywhere, and even more big brother like gps devices tracking their every move.  Stop turning our schools into prisons and creating an adversarial, hostile, and fearful learning environment.  Sending your kid to school shouldn’t be synonymous with sending them to prison.

One other thing that bothers me about schools today a lot is political correctness, legalistic mindsets, and zero tolerance policies.  This is what happens when you allow lawyers and bureaucrats to overtake our schools.  Schools today have gone from sensible policies to policies based in paranoia and insanity.  I foresee soon school attempting to ban all holidays because they may offend someone, somewhere.  Sure, got to ban Christmas because the name Christ is in Christmas.  Got to ban Thanksgiving because the pilgrims took Native American land and killed many.  Got to ban Valentines Day because sending cards with love notes in them is so sexual harassment.  Got to ban Columbus Day because Christopher Columbus and his men did a lot of terrible things to the native population.  Got to ban St. Patrick’s Day because it is endorsing a Catholic Saint and promoting drinking.  We can’t have the teachers hugging their students as it is PDA (public display of affection) and someone might make a false allegation they were touched inappropriately.  We can’t have a student show any friendly display of affection to other students as that is so totally inappropriate.  We can’t have a students making his fingers into a gun and pretending to shoot something as that is violent and a threat.  We can’t have a teacher verbally call out a student acting badly because that might hurt his feelings.  We can’t have a kid having a bad day say a curse word because it is so offensive.  We can’t have the text books tell the truth about history because it isn’t so nice and whitewashed.  We can’t have anyone do, say, or even think anything that might offend someone else as school should be an offense free environment.  Give me a break!  The schools are suffocating kids today and infantilizing them.  Let them breathe and stop treating them like toddlers, they are big boys and girls and should be spoken to and treated like they are.  Schools are doing kids no favors by not preparing them for the real world and inhibiting their emotional development.  Stop treating kids like criminals and teachers as potential criminals.  Stop turning schools into legalistic bureaucracies.

The final thing I see as a negative is an over reliance on standardized testing and putting way to high of expectations on teachers to the point many are quitting teaching and fewer are wanting to become teachers.  A student should be judged on how they do throughout the year not how they do on a single test or series of test.  The idea a test given on one day or over the course of a week or two can more accurately judge how much a student has learned than their entire school year performance is simply wrong in my opinion.  Your not judged primarily in the course of your career how well you do on a test but how well you perform day in and day out.  Why should school be any different.  Also the fact testing has become so predominate of a measurement teachers are spending virtually their entire teaching time focused on teaching for the test.  This is not a positive development.

As far as expectations on teachers, this excessive blame on the teachers for a students poor performance is not only not fair it is doomed for failure.  The fact is students themselves bear a lot of the blame as does the home environment situation have a major impact on how well students do in school.  This is not even considering other things like problems with mental health issues and bullying effecting their school performance.  Also things like media distraction and other distractions taking their focus off of their school work.  It is time students themselves are held more responsible for their success or lack of it.  Teachers should be expected to be effective in teaching but they should not be solely blamed for students failing.  Teachers should be commended for their selflessness and hard work teaching children, not seen as the enemy as some extremist seem to see them.  I never thought I would live to see the day where teachers and teacher unions would be so under attack as they are today.  I find it both disgusting and shameful some have taken the debate of how to educate the youth of this Country to this level.  I see it as yet another example of Tea Party extremism and big brother so-called progressivism being a harmful influence in our society.  I think it is time for actual progressive solutions to solving the education challenges in our country and getting rid of this teachers are the enemy mentality.  It’s time to measure the intelligence and knowledge of a student based on their performance as a student throughout the year, not based on a test.

Now schools are doing some things that are good that I have heard about.  Many schools are starting to address bullying and working on ways to reduce its occurrence and having real consequences for those who engage in it.  I heard about some schools teaching about stress and things to do to reduce it.  Something I was really impressed by, some schools are doing a program teaching kids to be aware of what their feeling and what is going on around them, ways to reduce stress, and quiet down a busy mind and focus.  Many schools are becoming more aware of mental health issues and have more in the way of counseling and resources students can turn to.  Many schools are attempting to engage with parents more and getting them more involved in their child’s academics.  Many teachers are finding creative and more effective ways to teach kids.  Many schools are finally realizing not every student learns in the same way and are starting to more customize the curriculum for different type of learners.  Many schools are more focusing on technology and using technology to learn which is essential in being prepared for careers in the future.  Many schools are actually teaching students the skills they will need in actual careers that many of them will be going into.  Some high schools are even working with corporations to provide apprenticeships and work experience to go along with their education, giving them a head start in their career.  There is all kinds of innovative things being tried; some will succeed with major achievements, some things will have some success, some will have only a limited effect, and some things will simply fail miserably.  That is what innovation is all about though, you can’t make progress without it.

I end with a quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt our Nations 32nd President:

“The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach. We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!”

It’s time to rethink education,

Alan Curtis Montgomery

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Hamas If You Cared About The Palestinian People You Would Have Stopped Shooting Rockets

Pro Hamas Rally in Damascus, Syria

Pro Hamas Rally in Damascus, Syria – by Thephotostrand (WikiMedia Commons) – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Leaders of Hamas it is abundantly clear you care much more about your political ideology and getting even with Israel than the safety and security of the Palestinian people.  Your ideology means everything to you; you live it, you believe it, you dream it, you speak it, you teach it, you advocate it, you spread it across the globe.  The Palestinian people who you claim to represent always take a back seat to your ideology.  You will and have on many occasions killed people to enforce your ideology, you have committed atrocious human rights violations, you have committed violent and savage acts of terror against men, women, and children.  You have thugs and criminals within your organization who act as your henchmen to carry out brutal attacks and operations.  Your hatred for Israel is beyond sane and is pathological.  To hate someone that much is simply insane.  You molest children’s minds with your evil ideology and turn boys and young men into savage fighters for Hamas.  You have done many evil acts in your organization’s history.  There is no need to sugarcoat the facts and use euphemisms to hide the fact that your military wing is indeed a terrorist organization.  Your political wing is extremist and is centered on a perversion of Islam, hatred, and advocating for the complete elimination of Israel.

Lets just get one thing straight right now Israel is going nowhere.  We can debate all day long rather the Nation of Israel should have ever been created, but it was created by the world body and has been in existence for decades.  That fact can not be undone as much as your organization would like for it to be undone.  The United States will continue to be allies of Israel and your organization or others is not going to sever that alliance.  These are the hard facts.  You had better both seek, you and Israel, a way to live together as your both going to continue to live together.  Now you can cut each others throats or seek peace, but your stuck together and will remain so.  There is no going back to how things were before the creation of Israel and the way things used to be.

All that said I feel deep sympathy for the Palestinian people.  I support their cause for freedom.  I support their cause to be treated as human beings, for dignity, and human rights.  I support lifting the blockade, removing the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, more aid and development in Gaza and the West Bank.  I support removing the barriers Israel has erected all over Israel and Palestine.  I support more help for children and families.  I support more economic opportunities.  I am a friend of Palestine as I am a friend of Israel, because your both humanity and deserve to be treated humanely and with compassion.  I don’t want to get involved in “choosing a side” and feeling I have to hate the one and love the other.  I support an US alliance with Palestine as strongly as I do the one with Israel.  There is no reason the US can’t be allies to the people of both sides.  To hell with the governments as far as I am concerned, it is helping the people who we should be concerned with.

Regarding the current conflict I am beyond angry for how Israel has carried out this brutal war on the Gazan people and the people of Palestine.  It is not acceptable, it is a violation of international law, the laws of war, and basic human rights.  It is a crime in itself that the US is not doing much more to speak out against Israel for fear of angering the Zionist within Israel and the United States.  What Israel has done in this conflict has literally shocked me, as I never imagined Israel would fight a war this brutally.  I never imagined Israel would have killed so many innocents and young children.  I never imagined Israel would shell entire neighborhoods to the ground, attack school, shelters, Mosque, vital civilian utilities, and other places civilian in nature.  I never imagined it would murder three boys playing on a beach, kill entire families in bombing raids on neighborhoods, and so many women and children.  It has caused me to lose a lot of faith in the Israeli government and it will make trusting it more difficult in the future.  It has quite literally caused me to be more critical of Israel and rethink things.

The images and videos have been both heartbreaking and at times deeply unsettling that I have seen in the media and shown to me by activist living in Palestine and Palestinians living elsewhere.  Seeing the videos from Gazan citizen journalist of an entire family dead in the street and the three boys killed on the beach were simply horrid.  There was no blurring and blocking of the images as is the case typically in the media.  I seen more than I ever cared to see in my entire life in my activism in Syria, but it still is difficult to see these type of images every time.  To see human beings in that state killed in air attacks even caused me to question the use of air power in civilian areas in war.  That is simply a horrible way to kill human beings like that.   Seeing on the media all the crying mothers, the crying fathers, and crying children brought home the human cost of war very starkly.  I could not help but feel a lot of empathy for them and wished there was something I could do to help them as I feel so helpless to help them here in America.  I just am sick of the killing and violence in that part of the world in particular.  Why does your organization continue to promote it?

It seems to me your organization sometimes is looking forward towards attacks as you will have more images and videos to use in the propaganda war.  Your organization seems very little bothered by death and at times seems to worship death itself.  It makes me wonder when you see a dead child do you think the poor child? or how can we use this tragedy to benefit Hamas?  You don’t care about average Gazans; if you did you would not continue to fire rockets.  As you know without a doubt that will cause Israel to continue their brutal assault on Gaza.  Your not even aiming them, you seem to care less how many Israeli children you may kill by your rockets.  You seem unbothered by the death of a Jewish child, like they are not even human.  I heard a Gazan woman call for the death of Jewish women and children as revenge for killing her children.  Should you be surprised, that is the propaganda you preach continually.  Rather a child is Palestinian or Israeli, they are still a child, and don’t deserve to be harmed or killed by Israel or Hamas.  What if one of the rockets your firing hits a school of little children in Israel and kills a lot of them?  What if it hits a family who is opposed to the Israeli governments assault on Gaza? Some are.  Would they “deserve” death?  What if a rocket kills an old women crossing the street?  Would that be an honorable killing?  Do you even care who or what you hit?  You know what rockets do to people, you have seen it up close and personal.  How then could you so recklessly fire them towards Israel uncaring where they land?

These are human beings your firing at not animals as your ideology seems to suggest they are?  They bleed just like you, their heart beats just like yours, they cry tears just like the Palestinians.  The children of Israel are not at war with Gaza, but you seem not to consider your rockets and attacks kill them too.  The rockets do not discriminate and will kill whoever or whatever they land near.  How is killing even 10,000 Israelis going to bring back a single Palestinian child?  Why kill Jewish children because the Israeli army killed Palestinian children, the Jewish children did not kill the children?  Why punish them for what they had no control over?  Why punish the innocent to hurt the guilty?  This is not Islam.  This is not what the Prophet taught.  This is mans evil heart.  Israel has people from all faiths and ideologies, including Muslims living outside of the Palestinian territory within the heart of Israel.  You attack Israel you are then also attacking Israeli Muslims.  You are even attacking other Palestinians many who live within Israeli cities.  The bottom line, stop the killing.  It will not make right evil, nor bring back the dead, or ever undo any injustice.  It will just continue more heartache, injustice, and death.

I ask you to stop firing the rockets; as to fire them will just lead to the deaths of more Palestinians, including Palestinian children.  Israel will shoot most of them down anyway and most will land on the ground.  The chances of the rockets hitting the Israeli government is very low, but the chances of hitting civilians is significantly higher.  Do not think Israeli citizens deserve to die because most support the assault on Gaza.  They are being lied to by the Israeli media, they aren’t seeing the devastation of the Gazan people on their screens.  They are hearing Israel is just destroying tunnels, munitions, and armed fighters.  They aren’t the ones carrying out these assaults.  Even the soldiers are legally forced to be there as military service is required in Israel, they do what their commanders say who are directed by the Israeli government.  A lot of the IDF soldiers are naive and inexperienced fighters in real combat.  A lot of them are young men who never served in major combat before and have no idea how gruesome it is.  They just follow their commanders instructions and try not to make any mistake on operating their weaponry.  The fact is though, they do make mistakes and sometimes their commander gives them orders to fire at targets that they have no idea are civilian in nature with civilians inside, even though the commanders know.  The bottom line is the Israeli government has ordered this war and is running this war.

I ask that you stop placing munitions in civilian buildings.  I ask that you keep your fighters away from civilian populations.  I ask that you not place the Palestinian people in harm’s way.  I ask that you seek for the sake of the Palestinian people an end to hostilities in this conflict.  I ask that you be reasonable in negotiations for an agreement to end the conflict.

You could not even restrain yourself for 3 days to avoid aggression to keep the cease-fire.  After 90 minutes in fact after the cease-fire started.  You attack two soldiers and kidnap another.  What do you think that would have accomplished other than ending the cease-fire.  If you knew Israel was destroying tunnels why would you be foolish enough to hide in them?  I do not know the situation other than the media reports, and I am well aware Israel using any excuse to restart aggression into Gaza.  However even if you fired on the soldiers in self-defense, why would you have been foolish enough to be in the tunnels to begin with?  Why would you have abducted an Israeli soldier as you know that would just give Israel an excuse to resume aggression.  Was that an attempt to avoid destruction of the tunnel because Israel knew an Israeli soldier was now in it?  If so why give Israel a perfect example of its human shield argument?  Any who don’t know the facts on the ground can look at media reports for more information.  It is a developing story and one that is sure to change as more information comes in.  I had such hope yesterday when I heard the announcement but now leaders of Hamas you have dashed those hopes.  Now the blood will yet again run the streets as Israel restarts it brutal aggression on Gaza and its people, who you claim to care about.  You do not care that is the problem.  You care more about a win for Hamas than a win for Gaza.  You care more about Hamas fighters than the people of Gaza.  You care more about ideology than Palestinians.  It is simply sad.  Now the Gazan people will yet again suffer because of your actions and those of Israel.  One thing is for sure as long as Hamas remains in power there will never be peace for the Palestinian people.  Why?  The answer is simple you neither seek nor want peace.

Freedom, Peace, Hope For Palestine

Alan Curtis Montgomery

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