Tuesday, December 18, 2012

MURDERS MOST FOUL: AND THE SCHOOL SHOOTERS IN OUR MIDST

Earlier this year, science and psychology journalist Rebecca Coffey released MURDERS MOST FOUL: The School Shooters in Our Midst, a book that explores the wave of slaughter-style killings at America's schools and universities. In light of the shocking events in Newtown, Connecticut, award winning author Raul Ramos-Sanchez asked Rebecca to shed some light on this most recent tragedy.

Q. According to your book, the recent school shooting in Connecticut is part of a long history of similar incidents in the United States. How far back do these tragedies go? 
A. Like Friday’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut, America’s very first school slaughter targeted the young and those who taught them. In 1927, school board member Andrew Kehoe detonated the local elementary school, killing 37 children and seven adults. Since then, school massacres have always been a part of our culture—though since then they have been perpetrated exclusively with guns.

Q. Is there any pattern that can be traced between these terrible events? 
A. Unfortunately, aside from “mostly guys and almost always with guns,” no. School murderers come from all ages, races, economic backgrounds, and temperaments. A few common threads:
•  While few of the culprits were diagnosed with mental illnesses at the time of their massacres, for many their actions brought them into such close scrutiny that their illnesses were belatedly addressed.


•  A good handful had horribly traumatic pasts.
•  Most of the perpetrators really liked guns—lots of heavy duty ones. They were also good at smuggling them into places where they didn’t belong.
•  Most killers worked alone.
•  Except to dispense with relatives who might be “embarrassed” or get in the way of the planned rampage, most of the killers had not killed before the day of their rampage.
•  Most of the perpetrators were Caucasian.
•  Some attacks took place in urban schools, but most were launched in the suburban and rural communities to which families move to avoid violence.
•  Not a single massacre showed signs of having been carried out impulsively. Quite the contrary. Diaries and videos left by the Columbine High killers showed that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned for over a year. And certainly Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech spent time assembling his arsenal and creating the materials he mailed to NBC. Time will reveal whether the Newtown massacre was carefully planned.
•  Each massacre provoked a rush of media coverage.
•  Each massacre resulted in a frantic national discussion about how to
prevent the next one.

Q. Are there any precautions parents can take to help keep their children safer? 
A. I think parents' best opportunity is to work with schools to help them follow the FBI guidelines, which actually seem quite sound. The FBI notes that almost all school shooters—even the very young ones—"leak" about their plans during the planning period. Sometimes they tell not just one person but many. The FBI says that children must be encouraged to report threats they hear on the playground to parents or trusted teachers.
  In my opinion, this would require that schools get rid of zero tolerance policies. How can anyone expect a child to report a friend’s “leakage” if the friend may turn out to have been joking but, even so, will automatically be expelled?

Q. How should parents explain these terrifying incidents to young children without creating irrational fears?
A. I have asked many therapists precisely that question. I hear time and again that what is most traumatizing for children who hear about school massacres is the feeling that they are helpless in the face of gargantuan forces. The remedy, then, is to help children feel like they have at least some power. I've watched therapists working with children ask them how they think they can help protect each other. For very young children the plans they devise won’t necessarily be practical. But devising them may make them feel less helpless, and that is important.

Q. Is there anything you believe can be done to keep our children safer in schools? 
A. There are lots of security firms with expensive answers to that question, but there's very little school budget money to hire security officers or implement new procedures or technologies. And a school that feels like a fortress is not necessarily where a 5-year old, for example, will feel like learning.
  That said, in my opinion we need to throw more financial resources at the problem of school massacre. The FBI has published excellent guidelines about how to assess threats and communicate with law enforcement and mental health agencies, but the schools have no money to implement the guidelines. Counselors, administrators, and teachers remain untrained. Systems are not in place for reaching out to community resources for help with potential murderers.
And the elephant in the room is still gun control. We all know that parents should keep guns out of reach of children. I think that the events of Friday December 14 have once again made clear that automatic weapons should be kept out of reach of everyone. Period.
***
Rebecca Coffey is an award-winning print and radio journalist and documentary filmmaker. She is the author of the book MURDERS MOST FOUL: The School Shooters in Our MidstShe currently contributes to Scientific American and Discover magazines, and is a broadcasting commentator for Vermont Public Radio. Learn more about Rebecca Coffey and her work at her website:www.RebeccaCoffey.com.

Postscript

A tragedy that involves the deaths of 20 school children begs an explanation, a pat answer that will prevent this from happening again. That's not surprising. As a culture, we are spoon fed that notion by politicians eager to win our votes and an entertainment industry that thrives on providing a satisfying emotional climax in the length of a TV show or feature film. Reality is not that simple. They are called "senseless tragedies" for a reason. All the same, these terrible events deserve analysis and introspection. I want to thank Rebecca for sharing her insights at the cost of some sleep. I’m especially honored she took the time to answer my questions after 10PM on a day that had already been filled for her with requests for interviews. She appeared on four radio programs yesterday.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Puerto Rico's Bid for Statehood: A Millennial's View, Part Two


The Latino Edge interviewed Victor M. Inglés Ferri from Guayama, Puerto Rico. He is a student at the Caribbean University, Ponce campus. We were seeking a Millennial student's view on the island's ambition to become the 51st state of America. While some Americans are outraged at such a goal, most feel it is the right time to welcome Puerto Rico into the fold.

This article is the conclusion of this two-part series.
 


TLE: Pro-statehood activists point to Hawaii as an example of a territory that successfully became a state. However, Hawaii's rich culture has all but disappeared. Do you think Puerto Rico will suffer the same fate? Why ?

VIF: I don’t fear this would happen to Puerto Rico. Because statehood is a political change, not a cultural one.

TLE:  What do you consider yourself, Puerto Rican, American or both? 

VIF: Both. Equally. I am an American citizen. If you are born in Puerto Rico you are an American. I am proud to be a Puerto Rican and proud to be an American.

TLE: How do you view yourself as a Puerto Rican? Also, will your self identity change once Puerto Rico is accepted into the American union?

VIF: I am proud to be Puerto Rican. I love our history, culture, traditions, etc. If Puerto Rico becomes a state,  the history, culture and traditions wont disappear. We will still be Puerto Ricans and we will still have our identity. Nothing can change that. Statehood is a political change not a cultural one. 

TLE:  Would Spanish would remain the official language of Puerto Rico? How would life be different if English were the only official language? Would you agree to a change such as that? 

VIF: The language issue is not a big deal. Its ironic that some politicians say that because Puerto Rico has two official language ENGLISH AND SPANISH while he United States has NONE!  So how can they force us to have something they do not? Besides, many states became a state when most of the people did not speak English. Like New Mexico and Louisiana. 

When my parents grew up , in a class room of 30 students , only around 10 people were bilingual , but times have changed. I graduated from high school in 2010, we were 34 students. I would say like 31 of us understood English very well. And about 25 of us were bilingual. 

It would not change the culture cause most of us already know English. In high school I had one Spanish class, and two English classes. It wasn't a bilingual school. It wont affect daily life, it wont affect our culture and I don't see it as a significant challenge to getting statehood because it wasn't a significant challenge to other states.

TLE; Thank you, Victor for giving our readers a Millennial generation view of Puerto Rico's bid for statehood. Many of our readers are not well versed in politics in Puerto Rico and its effect on the American landscape. 

The Latino Edge te desea mucho exito!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Puerto Rico's Bid for Statehood: A Millennial's View, Part One


The Latino Edge interviewed Victor M. Inglés Ferri from Guayama, Puerto Rico. He is a student at the Caribbean University, Ponce campus. We were seeking a Millennial student's view on the island's ambition to become the 51st state of America. While some Americans are outraged at such a goal, most feel it is the right time to welcome Puerto Rico into the fold.


TLE: Tell us why you strongly believe Puerto Rico should be allowed statehood?        

VIF: Puerto Rico is the most populated and oldest colony in the world. Since 1898, we have been a US territory and American citizens since 1917. Our soldiers have fought in every war America has been involved. However, we have been denied some of the most basic rights guaranteed to the states by the Constitution.

Puerto Rico has paid the price for American freedom and rights in blood. Those same rights we don’t have. It's time for the people in the mainland to acknowledge that officially, and give us the rights we have fought so hard for. The US Constitution mentions equality, and by the people, for the people. Puerto Ricans are their American brothers and sisters and its about time they start treating us like it. 

Besides being drafted the most, out of every state and U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans have the highest U.S. military enrollment rate out of any U.S. jurisdiction in the present. That means that we defend our country the most, compared to any other state. Still we do not have the Congress representation we deserve and can not vote for our President. Puertorican soldiers died for America. Yet, the United States treats us like second class citizens. We don't want statehood just so we can vote in the presidential elections, We want equality! We want equal treatment with the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as mainland Americans.  And those rights happen to include presidential voting rights. 

Right now, there are less than 4 million Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico and more than 4 million Puerto Ricans live in the United States. When you have a political status that scares away half of your population, it is time to reject that political status.  - Kenneth McClintock/Secretary of State, Puerto Rico

Although the Puerto Rican government has its own tax laws, its residents are also required to pay most U.S. federal taxes, with the major exception being the federal personal income tax. However, only under certain circumstances. Residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security just like everyone else does in the US, and are eligible for benefits upon retirement. Nevertheless, they are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income, and the island actually receives a small fraction of the Medicaid funding it would receive if it were a U.S. state. Medicare providers receive less-than-full state-like reimbursements for services rendered to beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, even though the latter paid fully into the system. We have contribute to our nation. Not only that, but the US makes more profit from us than we do from them.

In a poll conducted for Upper Michigans Source website, 85% of Americans who voted, support statehood for Puerto Rico. The other 15%  denies their own fellow Americans the *same* rights they sometimes take for granted in the first place.

We want the same rights, benefits and responsibilities that our families living in the states have. The real question is, why shouldn’t Puerto Rico be a state?


TLE: You mentioned that you are against independence and free association. Why?

VIF: We have been a US colony for so long that our own identity has changed in a way that has accommodated that of the mainland. Also, receiving the many financial aides provided by the US along with the minimum wage increases,  without the proper economical infrastructure to support it on its own has left the island totally dependent of the States. Independence and free association will simply not work for an island that has abandoned its original ways of self support like agriculture and labor intensive industry. On its own, Puerto Rico won’t be competitive enough to survive the fierce competition presented by those countries with more resources and much lower labor costs.

TLE:  How have these political issues affected your life in specific ways?

VIF: The actual political status served the island well in the past. With the economical help provided by the US, we have achieved much stronger political and economical stability than other countries in the region. Now, this status formula has become obsolete. It can’t do anything towards achieving greater goals like first class citizenship and those benefits and responsibilities that accompany it.    


TLE: Do you think that Congress will actually act on the status of Puerto Rico?     

VIF: The United States Congress has many reasons for not acting on the status issue of the island, most of them of economical nature. However, the Congress will be forced, indirectly, by international pressure and the continuous increase of the Latino influence in the mainland. A possible Democratic Party advantage may be an additional factor to act on the status. President Obama promised he would support statehood for Puerto Rico if there was a majority vote in favor. Currently, Congress is acting on it. The answer is yes.   

TLE: Did you vote on the November 6th referendum? What was your vote?    

VIF: Yes. I voted NO to the current status and YES for statehood.


TLE: There has been some criticism towards the PNP (Republican Party in Puerto Rico) regarding this referendum. People say that it was just a ploy to get voters to the ballots so that pro-statehood activists would vote for former governor Luis Fortuño. What what is your opinion about the referendum from that perception? Do you agree that these plebiscites are a persuasive way to understand the majority opinion of Puerto Ricans regarding their political status?

VIF: Some statehood supporters did not vote for Fortuño. The general elections and the referendum were two entirely separate issues. Statehood won and  Fortuño did not.  Perhaps it was a political strategy? The fact remains that statehood won. The plebiscite was clear. "Do you want Puerto Rico to keep their current status yes or no? If not, which status would you prefer? Statehood, Free Association or Independence?" Everyone voted for the political status they prefer. It was clear and representative of the majority. 

Please return tomorrow for the conclusion of this two-part series. - The Latino Edge. 



Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wise Leadership Series: Discernment

Good business leaders have one thing in common; they can discern between sheep and goats. They know from the onset there is a fine line betwixt the two. To ignore the difference means certain financial ruin and destruction of career. 

The Difference:

According to Dr. Jennifer Baker of the Forrest Institute of Professional Psychology, in America, 50% percent of first, 67% of second and 74% of third American marriages end in divorce. Who can we trust?

Who is the good person? Who are the good friends; the ones who stick with you no matter what? Who has our best interests in mind? Who are the sheep? Who are the goats? 

The Beginning and End warns us that most people react differently with the poor than with the rich. 

My friend who owns a very large farm in Upstate New York. On her farm lived milk cows, sheep, goats, chickens and very large swine. By observation, I learned a strategic life lesson. Whether you feed the sheep much or little, their temperament remains constant. Remove the feeding troth from the goat, and it will try to gore you.

Goats will scorn the poor (or whom they perceive as poor), lavishing them with disdain, contempt and misprize. They will dote on the rich (or who they perceive as rich) with excessive attention and affection. Have you ever read about the poor person who  won the lotto and became an overnight millionaire? Suddenly, the winner has an overabundance of family and friends coming out of the four corners of the world. 

Nevertheless, sheep treat the rich and poor equally.  

Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general and author of The Art of War teaches that "all war is based in deception." St. John wrote, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits..." My friends, perception is everything. 

The Test:


  • Watch:  How does s/he treat a waiter, the checkout line clerk or a homeless person? 
  • Listen:  How do they speak about an ex or a collegue? 
  • Pretend: The rich do it all the time; they pretend poverty and watch reactions. That's how they separate the sheep from the goats.
Some might feel these methods are less than honest. Science calls it Implied Logic (inductive reasoning and assumption), Newton's Law of Motion (action and reaction) and Maxwell's Theory of Electromagnetism (cause and effect). In other words, this is immutable Law of Attraction in action; as unmovable as the Law of Gravity and the Biblical law of Sowing and Reaping.  

Let the bodies hit the floor.