Monthly Archives: October 2015

In 19 states, it’s okay to hit kids with a wooden board


Why use corporal punishment? Jeno Ortiz, CC BY-NC-ND

Why use corporal punishment? Jeno Ortiz, CC BY-NC-ND

Terry sat in his middle school principal’s office knowing that in a few short minutes, he would be feeling the pain and humiliation of being paddled.

No parent, administrator or teacher should find this scenario acceptable. Yet, every school day, an estimated 838 students like Terry receive corporal punishment in American schools. Nineteen states still allow corporal punishment, despite research that clearly indicates such public humiliation is ineffective for changing student behavior and can, in fact, have long-term negative effects.

For a decade I have studied approaches that are effective for promoting appropriate student behavior. And as a teacher for a dozen years, I experienced personal reward as well as pride in my students, as they learned and used appropriate behaviors. I have not come across a single valid study that showed any positive effect of corporal punishment.

A form of child abuse

Corporal punishment is a method of responding to student misbehavior wherein an adult uses a wooden board to strike a child on the buttocks in order to inflict pain.

The harm done by corporal punishment is well-recognized by many school administrations across the US. Professional organizations across disciplines including the American Psychological Association, National Education Association, American Bar Association and National Association of School Nurses have called for ending corporal punishment.

In fact, the American Bar Association condemns the practice in the following words:

Institutional corporal punishment of children should be considered a form of child abuse that is contrary to current knowledge of human behavior and sound educational practices.

Yet, the use of corporal punishment continues.

In a recent study, my colleagues and I asked 27 principals from Florida Title I schools about their thoughts on using corporal punishment. Title I schools are those that may receive state funding due to “high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.”

Through our other research, we found that schools with students from poor families use corporal punishment more often than schools in more affluent areas. So, we interviewed these principals individually for over an hour.

Many school principals believe in corporal punishment as a way of disciplining kids. USAG Vicenza, CC BY-NC

Many school principals believe in corporal punishment as a way of disciplining kids. USAG Vicenza, CC BY-NC

Sadly, despite all evidence to the contrary, many principals do believe that corporal punishment is effective for some students. Also, principals cite pressure from parents as a primary reason for using corporal punishment. Despite the science, the idea that corporal punishment is effective, “Because that’s how I was raised,” pervades the discussion.

However, given the research, perhaps a better view is, “I am ok despite corporal punishment and not because of corporal punishment.

More suspensions in schools with corporal punishment

The acceptance of corporal punishment can create an environment in which schools approach student misbehavior in a reactive and punitive manner.

In Florida, for example, schools in districts that allow corporal punishment enforce more suspensions and expulsions than schools districts that do not allow it.

Harsh punitive approaches to student behavior problems can result in student alienation from school. A host of problematic student behaviorsare related to such alienation, including disruptiveness, absenteeism, low achievement and social withdrawal.

Research shows that students who have a sense of being connected to school and teachers have lower rates of depression, social rejection and violence, as well as greater academic achievement.

The way forward

So, what can be done?

First, we need to provide information about the effects of corporal punishment to parents, teachers and administrators in a manner that is effective. The conversation must be redirected toward the science that shows corporal punishment has negative effects, in the same way that we use science to deter youth from smoking cigarettes. The harm that cigarettes have had on previous generations is acknowledged and shape our approach to youth today.

One would never consider promoting smoking to our children because we smoked as teenagers.

Second, the same needs to be done with legislators in all 19 states. They need to learn about the very real harm that use of corporal punishment can have on youth.

Third, we must acknowledge the importance of banning corporal punishment within a larger reform movement focusing on schools’ approach to student behavior. Nationally, male and African-American students are disproportionately punished, suspended and expelled. This trend is particularly pronounced in schools in the southern states that allow corporal punishment. A comprehensive plan requires consideration of these important facts.

As parents, teachers, administrators and concerned adults, we all want to see our children thrive in school and in society. It is time for us to acknowledge that corporal punishment is not an effective tool for our schools. As we do that, we also need to be careful that we do not replace corporal punishment with yet another form of reactive and ineffective approach.

About the Author:
Associate Professor of School of Special Education, School Psychology, & Early Childhood Studies, University of Florida.
Disclosure Statement:
Joseph Gagnon receives funding from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Published 10-20-15 by The Conversation under a Creative Commons Attribution Nonderivitives license.


‘Duped’: Tony Blair Supported Bush’s Iraq War Long Before Vote or Invasion

Memo shows Blair ‘was happy to launder George Bush’s policy on Iraq and sub-contract British foreign policy to another country’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-19-2015

Tony Blair and George W. Bush at the White house, 2004. Photo: public domain

Tony Blair and George W. Bush at the White house, 2004. Photo: public domain

One year before the United States-led coalition invaded Iraq, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the administration of President George W. Bush that he would support military action in that country, according to a memo publicized Sunday by the Daily Mail.

The revelation “flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s public claims at the time that he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis,” the Mail points out. “He told voters: ‘We’re not proposing military action’—in direct contrast to what the secret email now reveals.”

The document, written in March 2002 by ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell to Bush, was contained in a batch of secret emails held on the private server of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  Continue reading


MSF: Forcible US Intrusion Into Hospital May Have Destroyed War Crimes Evidence

“Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear for the MSF team,” says medical charity.

Written by Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-16-15.

A devastated room adjacent to the emergency entrance in the western wing of the Outpatient Department building. (Photo: Andrew Quilty/Foreign Policy)

A devastated room adjacent to the emergency entrance in the western wing of the Outpatient Department building. (Photo: Andrew Quilty/Foreign Policy)

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that the U.S. military’s forcible intrusion into its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Thursday potentially destroyed evidence of its war crime and underscores the need for a truly independent investigation into the U.S. bombing that killed 22 people.

“[MSF] confirms that an armored vehicle forced its way through the closed main gate of our hospital in Kunduz yesterday, Oct. 15, at 1:30 p.m. local time,” the organization said Friday. “Their unannounced and forced entry damaged the gate to the property, destroying potential evidence in the process and causing stress and fear for the MSF team.”

“An MSF team had arrived earlier in the day to visit the hospital. Only after the armored vehicle forced its way into our compound was MSF informed that this intrusion was in fact a delegation from the U.S./NATO/Afghan investigation team,” the group continued. “This happened despite an agreement made between MSF and the joint investigation team that MSF would be given notice before each step of the procedure involving the organization’s personnel and assets.”

The U.S. bombing of the MSF hospital on October 3 killed 10 patients,12 staff members, and wounded 37 people. The Pentagon acknowledged earlier this month that its Special Forces were responsible for the deadly attack, but only after changing the official story at least four times, including initial denials of culpability and claims of justification.

Citing an unnamed former intelligence official, the Associated Press reported Thursday that “special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on an Afghan hospital days before it was destroyed by a U.S. military attack because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity.”

The newly-revealed details could indicate “that the hospital was intentionally targeted,” Meinie Nicolai, president of the operational directorate of MSF, told AP. “This would amount to a premeditated massacre.”

Nicolai added that MSF staff “reported a calm night and that there were no armed combatants, nor active fighting in or from the compound prior to the airstrikes.”

Some have expressed skepticism of the AP report, penned by journalist Ken Dilanian, due to the article’s reliance on an anonymous source to spread allegations that the hospital was being used by the Taliban or its associates.

The medical charity has repeatedly declared that the bombing of the hospital—a protected space under humanitarian law—amounts to a war crime and only an independent probe can be trusted to reveal the truth about the attack. While the U.S., NATO, and Afghan authorities have launched their own investigations, MSF argues “it is impossible to expect parties involved in the conflict to carry out independent and impartial investigations of military actions in which they are themselves implicated.”

On Thursday, MSF launched a petition “to call on President Obama and the United States to consent to an independent investigation.” MSF press officer Tim Shenk told Common Dreams that the initiative garnered 50,000 signatures in the first 24 hours.

While U.S. President Barack Obama formally apologized to MSF for the deadly attack, the U.S. government has yet to consent to an impartial, international investigation.

Obama did, however, announce Thursday that he is defying earlier pledges and extending the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan—which entered its 15th year last week—by leaving up to 5,500 soldiers in the country until at least 2017.

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Attacks in Ankara: Same reality, different worlds

Whenever I hear academics preaching the discourse of “there is no ‘West’ and no ‘East'”, I know that there is the ultimate confidence and ‘superiority’ of a western passport behind it.

By Firat M. Haciahmetoglu. Published 10-16-2015 at openDemocracy

Kocatepe mosque, Ankara. Wikimedia/Bjorn Christian Torrensen. Creative Commons.

Kocatepe mosque, Ankara. Wikimedia/Bjorn Christian Torrensen. Creative Commons.

On the ninth of October, I had a long discussion with a renowned European professor about Europe and non-Europeans, about the West and the East in a nice, neat café, somewhere in the Western Europe.

On the tenth of October, two blasts took place at a peace rally in my hometown, Ankara. Almost one hundred people were killed.

On the ninth of October, my European professor told me that there is nothing that I can pinpoint as Europe and non-Europe. There is, that is to say, nothing that one can address as the West and the East. Their histories were, so said she, too intimately intertwined that one would not be able to discern one or the other.

On the tenth of October, I was calling my family and friends if they were okay, if they were alive. Continue reading


Drone Papers: Leaked Military Documents Expose US ‘Assassination Complex’

Based on cache of secret slides leaked by national security whistleblower, stunning exposé by The Intercept reveals inner workings—and failures—of the U.S. military’s clandestine efforts in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia

Written by Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-15-15.

The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. (Image: The Intercept)

The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. (Image: The Intercept)

A stunning new exposé by The Intercept, which includes the publication of classified documents leaked by an intelligence source, provides an unprecedented look at the U.S. military’s secretive global assassination program.

The series of articles, titled The Drone Papers, follows months of investigation and uses rare primary source documents and slides to reveal to the public, for the first time, the flaws and consequences of the U.S. military’s 14-year aerial campaign being conducted in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan—one that has consistently used faulty information, killed an untold number of civilians, and stymied intelligence-gathering through its “kill/capture” program that too often relies on killing rather than capturing.

“The series is intended to serve as a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America’s assassination program,” writes the investigation’s lead reporter, Jeremy Scahill. “This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been shrouded in excessive secrecy. The public has a right to see these documents not only to engage in an informed debate about the future of U.S. wars, both overt and covert, but also to understand the circumstances under which the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.”

The source of the documents, who asked to remain anonymous due to the U.S. government’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, said the public has a right to know about a program that is so “fundamentally” and “morally” flawed.

“It’s stunning the number of instances when I’ve come across intelligence that was faulty, when sources of information used to finish targets were misattributed to people,” he told The Intercept. “And it isn’t until several months or years later that you realize that the entire time you thought you were going after this target, it was his mother’s phone the whole time. Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association – it’s a phenomenal gamble.”

As outlined by The Intercept, the key revelations of the reporting are:

  • Assassinations have depended on unreliable intelligence. More than half the intelligence used to track potential kills in Yemen and Somalia was based on electronic communications data from phones, computers, and targeted intercepts (know as signals intelligence) which, the government admits, it has “poor” and “limited” capability to collect. By the military’s own admission, it was lacking in reliable information from human sources.
  • The documents contradict Administration claims that its operations against high-value terrorists are limited and precise. Contrary to claims that these campaigns narrowly target specific individuals, the documents show that air strikes under the Obama administration have killed significant numbers of unnamed bystanders. Documents detailing a 14-month kill/capture campaign in Afghanistan, for example, show that while the U.S. military killed 35 of its direct targets with air strikes, 219 other individuals also died in the attacks.
  • In Afghanistan, the military has designated unknown men it kills as “Enemies Killed in Action.” According to The Intercept’s source, the military has a practice of labeling individuals killed in air strikes this way unless evidence emerges to prove otherwise.
  • Assassinations hurt intelligence gathering. The Pentagon study finds that killing suspected terrorists, even if they are legitimate targets, “significantly reduce[s]” the information available and further hampers intelligence gathering.
  • New details about the ‘kill chain’ reveal a bureaucratic structure headed by President Obama, by which U.S. government officials select and authorize targets for assassination outside traditional legal and justice systems, and with little transparency. The system included creating a portrait of a potential target in a condensed format known as a ‘Baseball Card,’ which was passed to the White House for approval, while individual drone strikes were often authorized by other officials.
  •  Inconsistencies with publicly available White House statements about targeted killings. Administration policy standards issued in 2013 state that lethal force will be launched only against targets that pose a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” however documents from the same time reveal much more vague criteria, including that a person only need present “a threat to U.S. interest or personnel.”
  • New details of high-profile drone kills, including the 2012 killing in Somalia of Bilal al-Berjawi, which raise questions about whether the British government revoked his citizenship to facilitate the strike.
  • Information about a largely covert effort to extend the U.S. military’s footprint across the African continent, including through a network of mostly small and low-profile airfields in Djibouti and other African countries.

The investigation comes as the Obama administration announced plans on Thursday to delay withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Administration officials told CNN that troops may conduct “counterterrorism operations” against Islamic State (ISIS) militants there.

But as the documents reveal, assurances from the Obama administration that drone strikes are precise and used only in cases of “imminent” threats are themselves based on intentionally vague definitions of “imminence.”

“Privately, the architects of the U.S. drone program have acknowledged its shortcomings,” said Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief of The Intercept. “But they have made sure that this campaign, launched by Bush and vastly expanded under Obama, has been shrouded in secrecy. The public has a right to know how the US government has decided who to kill.”

As the source himself said, “We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”

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Drone War Exposed: The Intercept Journalists Talk Obama’s “Kill List,” Whistleblowers, and Endless War

“The Drone Papers” Reveals How Faulty Intel & Secret “Kill Chain” Mark Suspects, Civilians for Death

Drone Papers ‘No Surprise to Yemenis,’ Says Man Who Lost Family


An International Conscience

By Robert C. Koehler. Published 10-15-2015 by Common Dreams

American Special Forces in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 1, 2014. (Photo: US Army/Sergeant Bertha A. Flores)

American Special Forces in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 1, 2014. (Photo: US Army/Sergeant Bertha A. Flores)

“The Pentagon said on Saturday that it would make ‘condolence payments’ to the survivors of the American airstrike earlier this month on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan, as well as to the next of kin of those who died in the attack.”

Such a small piece of news, reported a few days ago by the New York Times. I’m not sure if anything could make me feel more ashamed of being an American.

Turns out the basic payout for a dead civilian in one of our war zones is . . . brace yourself . . . $2,500. That’s the sum we’ve been quietly doling out for quite a few years now. Conscience money. It’s remarkably cheap, considering that the bombs that took them out may have cost, oh, half a million dollars each. Continue reading


Mother of Saudi Teen Sentenced to Crucifixion Urges Obama: ‘Rescue My Son’

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was sentenced to death at the age of 17 after taking part in a rally for equal Shia rights in Saudi Arabia

Written by Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-14-15.

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was sentenced to death by crucifixion when he was just 17 years old. (Image: Reprieve)

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was sentenced to death by crucifixion when he was just 17 years old. (Image: Reprieve)

The mother of teenage pro-democracy protester Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, sentenced to crucifixion by Saudi Arabia, pleaded with President Barack Obama to use his power to pressure the close U.S. ally to spare her son.

In her first interview with foreign media outlets, Nusra al-Ahmed told the Guardian that Obama “can interfere and rescue my son.”

“To rescue someone from harm, there is nothing greater than that,” she continued. “My son and I are simple people and we don’t carry any significance in this world but despite that, if he [Obama] carried out this act, I feel it would raise his esteem in the eyes of the world. He would be rescuing us from a great tragedy.”

Al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 when he was just 17 years old following his attendance of a rally for Shia rights in the eastern city of Qatif, according to his mother. After being denied access to a lawyer, al-Nimr was sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion in May 2014 on charges that include taking part in demonstrations against the government and possessing a gun—the latter of which his family strongly denies. “The court seems to have based its decision solely on ‘confessions’ which Ali al-Nimr has said were extracted under torture and other ill-treatment,” noted Amnesty International.

Al-Ahmed confirmed to the Guardian that her son had been tortured and brutalized. “When I visited my son for the first time I didn’t recognize him,” she said. “I didn’t know whether this really was my son Ali or not. I could clearly see a wound on his forehead. Another wound in his nose. They disfigured it. Even his body, he was too thin.”

Al-Nimr is not alone. Dawoud al-Marhoon was also sentenced to die at the age of 17 under similar circumstances, and both executions are imminent. Between August 2014 and June 2015, at least 175 people were executed by the Saudi state after unfair trials, in a country where adultery is punishable by death and neither children nor the mentally handicapped are spared from execution.

Al-Nimr’s case has shined a global spotlight on Saudi human rights abuses—within its own borders and around the world, including in Yemen where the state stands accused of numerous war crimes in its ongoing military onslaught. The pending execution has also called attention to the complicity of global superpowers that maintain close relations—and sell weapons to—the Gulf state, particularly the U.S. and UK.

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at human rights organization Reprieve, charged Wednesday that “the response of the U.S.—the Saudis’ closest ally—to these outrages has been woefully inadequate.”

“The beheading of these two boys, who were arrested and tortured for merely attending protests, would be a grotesque miscarriage of justice,” Foa continued. “President Obama must listen to the call from Ali’s desperate family, and step in now to urge the Saudis to change course.”

When questioned by a reporter last month, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner expressed “concerns” but declined to condemn al-Nimr’s sentence. He went on to “welcome” Saudi Arabia’s recent appointment to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel.

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Welcoming refugees: our future is common

The EU’s external borders are rapidly becoming untenable. Rather than resist, Europe should embrace its future as a continent of great diversity.

By Jerome Roos. Published 10-13-2015 at ROAR Magazine


The “refugee crisis” of recent months has split Europe in two. But unlike the liberal press would have us believe, the main dividing line runs not between those states (like Germany) that have taken a more humane approach to the crisis by accepting more refugees, and those (like Hungary) that have shut their borders and cracked down violently on anyone attempting to cross them.

Rather, the real schism is the one between states and institutions that jealously guard their borders, clinging on to an exclusionary territorial logic that is rapidly becoming untenable, and the ordinary people on the ground – refugees, activists and locals alike – who are self-organizing solidarity beyond borders and creating a radically different kind of Europe from below. Continue reading


‘Mourning and Rebellion’: Unions, Opposition Strike and March in Wake of Deadly Bombing in Turkey

‘We are in mourning, we are in protest, we are on strike.’

By Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-12-2015

Photo via Iconosquare

Photo via Iconosquare

As anger and suspicion towards the Turkish government mounts in the wake of a deadly bomb attack over the weekend, the country’s largest labor union and the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) launched a nationwide strike on Monday to “protest the fascist massacre and to commemorate the death of our friends.”

From the University Medical Hospital in Istanbul to the main square in Adana, located in the country’s south—workers, students, and pro-Kurdish campaigners staged mass protests and pickets across the country, in the first of a two-day general strike. Employees of the municipality of Maltepe walked joined in the work stoppage, holding signs that read, “We are in mourning, we are in protest, we are on strike.” Continue reading


Police terror in Brazil

How many deaths of black youth are necessary before they are considered ‘genocide’ or political assassinations?

By Jaime A Alves. Published 10-10-2015 at openDemocracy.

Photo via Tumblr

Photo via Tumblr

Imagine a place where eight Michael Browns are killed every day. Imagine a place where extortion, rape, torture, and killings are routine. This is Brazil. Police terror in Brazil has become so banal that it has lost the media’s interest. Some of us may recall the global media’s coverage of massacres such as Candelaria (1993), Carandiru (1992), Eldorado dos Carajas (1996), and Crimes de Maio (2006). Now, more than ever, slaughter has become the police’s modus operandi. One would expect that with the social achievements promoted by the Workers’ Party in the last decade (40 million people came out of poverty in Brazil), police terror would disappear or at least be far less frequent. Quite the opposite has occurred. In Brazil, there is one thing that unites both left and right-wing governments: their incapacity to fight against police terror. At times, governments in both camps have been complicit with the police state. Continue reading