NCR Today

Black (and blue) Berry


There is a new calm on the city streets, a gentle tone in casual conversation, a smile from drivers of even the most clogged highways. Something has radically changed in our urban centers this week: Blackberrys are on the blink.

This outage has been reported as a kind-of-apocalypse, affecting business and affairs of state. But, for me, it is a piece of heaven, a get-out-of-jail-free card on a board game named "Work: You Can't Escape It."

Watch people walking as they ignore the insidious device glued to their belt loops. No one stops suddenly to answer the buzz, no one leans over dangerously to type out urgent messages in a busy crosswalk. And yet, astoundingly, the world turns. The sun rises, shops open, people run errands, the sun sets and the day closes.

Why Brown's decision is good for the US


Gov. Jerry Brown of California on Oct. 8 signed into law what is called the California Dream Act. This state version (of the proposed Dream Act that has been unsuccessful in the federal legislature) allows undocumented students who have successfully attended high school, been accepted into a California college and are attempting to legalize their status to be eligible for state financial aid.

This legislation -- shepherded by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, Democrat from Los Angeles -- affects a few thousand young men and women, mostly Latinos, who as babies or young children were brought into the U.S. by their undocumented parents.

These children have grown up without legal status. Yet for all practical purposes they are Americans except for that piece of paper. They have gone to our schools and they culturally, including the dominance of English, are Americans. To deny them the financial means to a good college education is not only unfair to these young people -- who through no fault of their own are not legalized -- but it, as Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has said, is impractical.

Cheers and Jeers for Wall Street Protesters


Bloomberg -- the business and finance news service owned and named after N.Y. City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- has a round up of commentary and a slide show of photos of reactions to the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Not all reaction to the Occupy Wall Street movement has been predictable. Jim Chanos, a hedge-fund chief, and Bill Gross, the highest profile bond-fund manager in America, expressed sympathy for the protesters. And the chief executive of Citigroup Inc. said he'd be "happy to talk with them."

The comments come from business leaders, filmmakers, artists and TV personalities. The only politician commenting is Mayor Bloomberg.

On this day: Battle of Hastings


On this day, in 1066, Duke William of Normandy defeated King Harold of England at the Battle of Hastings.

Click here for a video about "the most decisive, and certainly the most famous, battle ever fought on English soil. William's triumph, and his subsequent coronation as King William I (1066-87), marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England, the creation of new ties with Western Europe, and the imposition of a new and more cohesive ruling class."

Click here for a video about the Bayeux Tapestry.

Morning Briefing


'Hope&Joy' in South Africa: New things, old things and things that are the same


The new business center of Johannesburg is in Sandton, north of the city. New office high-rises dot the horizon and the convention center and underground shopping center at Nelson Mandela Square is world-class and impressive.

One night last week, after speaking to a group of academics at St. Augustine College, we had to cross the city to get home. We were stopped by police at a check point so they could verify the driver's license. Often, I am told, the police ask for money when they stop people. It's illegal but it happens anyway. There are cameras on the roads and highways to check for road or speed violations (just like home) as well as unregistered vehicles. I am not sure how offenders are tracked down.

There are several major shopping malls here. I had to replace the adapter cord for my laptop one morning and our driver (we employ two local young men who have now been with us for years) took me to a nearby mall, where I found what I needed with no trouble.

Coptic Christians in Egypt


About 30 Coptic Christians in Egypt were killed in clashes that involved both the Egyptian military and radical Muslims Oct. 9. This week on Interfaith Voices, I interviewed Thomas Farr, the Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, about the plight of the Copts, who comprise about 10 percent of the Egyptian population.

According to Farr, this dispute is about far more than the Copts themselves. It involves the very future of religious freedom and democracy in Egypt.

Farr points out that the Copts, an ancient group that traces its lineage back to the apostolic age, are part of the large community of Eastern Orthodox churches, although a few Copts are Catholic.

In recent years, they have been seeking to repair or rebuild old churches, something requires political permission in Egypt. That was the focus of their peaceful demonstration when they were attacked by the Egyptian military, which used heavy vehicles to run some of them over.

The creeping loss of our liberties


Over a week ago, the CIA, under orders by President Obama assassinated Anwar Awlaki, a leader of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen. While this would have been newsworthy on its own, the fact is that we have been killing other terrorists in northwestern Pakistan, for example, with the same drone attacks that killed Awlaki. However, what made Awlaki's assassination even bigger news was that he was a U.S. citizen who, for part of his life, was raised in this country.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I am currently teaching a freshman seminar at my campus, UC Santa Barbara, on Contemporary Political Issues in Historical Perspective. I raised the question to my students as to whether they felt that the killing of a U.S. citizen despite the fact that he was accused of being a terrorist was justified legally or whether Awlaki's rights as a U.S. citizen were violated and that he was denied due process of law.

After 140 years, African-American priest leads Josephites


From The Republic:

It took 140 years for a religious community devoted to serving African-American Catholics to name a black priest as its leader.

He is the Rev. William Norvel, 76, a native of Mississippi, who was contemplating retirement before being chosen the 13th superior general of the Josephite Priests and Brothers. "It is about time," Deacon Al Turner, director of the Office of Black Catholics for the Washington Archdiocese, told Hamil R. Harris of The Washington Post.


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In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017