Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Controversial professor defends book

A Harvard professor whose recent book has been called “anti-Semitic” urged Friday for a more open dialogue about U.S. policies toward Israel.
Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, co-author of the controversial book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," defended his work before a group of about 150 students at American University.
“My book is not anti-Semitic and I never say that the Israeli lobby is synonymous with American Jews,” Walt said.
The book, published in 2007, received mostly negative reviews from American media outlets. It was better received in England and continental Europe, according to Walt.
The book argues that a loose and informal coalition of interest groups has dictated American foreign policy towards supporting Israel through lobbying efforts. America's unquestioning support for the state of Israel and its "special relationship" with the country is contrary to U.S. interests and is bad foreign policy, according to Walt, "Washington's close relationship with Jerusalem makes it harder, not easier, to defeat terrorists who are now targeting the United States, and it simultaneously undermines America's standing with important allies around the world," he says in the book. It also makes the case that the United States discourages open debate on the issue and marginalizes anti-Israel politicians or pundits as anti-Semitic.
"The final tactic often used to shape discourse is simply to smear anyone who questions the special relationship, who questions Israeli policy, or questions what the [pro-Israel] lobby is doing, as anti-Semitic," Walt told approximately students and professors gathered in the SIS lounge.
In reaction, one University of Chicago professor called the book "piss poor, monocasual social science." Johns Hopkins University Professor Eliot Cohen called it “a wretched piece of scholarship,” and anti-Semitic.
Ayal Chen-Zion, president of AU Students for Israel, said Walt mischaracterizes the United States' relationship with Israel but he agreed that a more comprehensive debate on the issues would be beneficial.
"It is important for everybody at all the universities to understand what is going on," he said. "I think an intellectual broadening of the debate would be great."
AU Students for Israel is a student club at AU that raises awareness on campus about both Israeli politics and Israeli society. The club supports a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, according to Chen-Zion.
Ryan DuBois, a sophomore in SIS and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, said he also agreed that the debate on Israel is not wide enough.
"If you're critical of Israel you're going to come under some harsh attacks," he said. "It's a given to a lot of people that if you are anti-Israel you are anti-Semitic but it's a political institution and if you are anti-Israel you are not necessarily anti-Semitic."
There are members of Students for Justice in Palestine who do not acknowledge Israel as a state, according to DuBois.
"A lot of people in the club don't think that Israel has the right to exist," he said. "They have the view that there should be a Palestinian state in the region."
Despite having conflicting views, members Students for Justice in Palestine and AU Students for Israel recently hosted an ultimate Frisbee match and they have taken other steps to forge a spirit of unity.
Lauren Barr, president of One Voice at AU, an international grassroots organization that works to promote peace between Israel and Palestine, said she has had great experience working with clubs on both sides of the spectrum.
"One Voice has worked with AU Students for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine and we have had wonderful experiences with both groups," Barr said. "We find that we relate to them quite well and that a lot of them relate to each other."
But there are still entrenched differences between the groups, she said.
"There are still strong ideological differences and policy preferences between the groups," Barr said. "On one hand there is a lot of consensus but there is also reason for the divisions."

BRoll of hotel

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Beer for my journalist

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shorty shoots for her goals

Born into a Norththeast Washington, D.C., Phyllis Woods has led a life of trials but also great triumph – one few of the American University students she serves at the campus Chick-fil-A would have any idea about.

“It’s been tough but I’m going to keep going,” Woods said on a recent Tuesday afternoon while taking a break from cooking chicken sandwiches in AU’s Chick-fil-A

Woods, no taller than 5’2”, wears a baggy chef’s uniform covered in chicken grease, and at 11 p.m., she is five hours into her shift, which won’t end until midnight. She’ll then head home to Baltimore, an hour’s drive.

Woods’ life plan did not include being a short order cook in a fast-food restaurant on a college campus.

Raised primarily by her grandmother, Woods said that she learned everything from her and her close neighbors in D.C.

“My Grandmother was basically like my mother…I learned a lot from her, I learned a lot on my own,” Woods said. “The only thing I would have changed was if my mother had been around,” she continued.

Nicknamed ”Shorty” since her successful high school basketball days, Woods blazed a trail of athletic success in basketball and softball. After junior high school, Anacostia and Durham High Schools fought to get her on their teams. She first went to Anacostia, then transferred a year later to Durham.

“The coach at Anacostia worked me real hard and I learned a lot, but he had me high when I needed to be low and he just wouldn’t listen,” she said. “Me and him didn’t get along real well at all.”

At Durham, Shorty found her stride. Over three years she amassed eight trophies — two of them MVP honors — in softball, basketball and track. She took a basketball scholarship to St. Paul’s College, a small community college in Lawrenceville, Virginia.

But soon afterwards — athletic disaster. Shorty tore ligaments in her knee after falling down awkwardly in practice. The college revoked her scholarship, forcing her to leave before finishing her associates degree.

Always one with grand dreams, her knee injury was her first major setback.

“I had always wanted to play basketball professionally, but you know, with the injury I just didn’t have the money to try and ride it out.”

Shorty quickly moved onto her next goal — opening her own restaurant.
Enrolling at ATI, a technical college in Virginia, she received an associate’s degree in the culinary arts. Since then, she has been trying to save money to pursue that vision.

Once out of school, Woods began looking for odd jobs. A temp agency assigned her to work at AU, and after a week spent cooking in the Tavern, the university offered her a job. She jumped at the chance.

“When the temp agency sent me here I never thought that I would be working here three years from now,” she said.

She has worked in several on-campus eating establishments, including the Tavern, the Terrace Dining Room and now Chick-fil-A, which is the one she likes best.

“I get to work in the back by myself and just cook by myself, that’s the way I like it,” Shorty said.

To capitalize on her skills as a chef, Woods started a small, unofficial catering business called Shorty’s Catering, which provides lunches to newspaper offices in Baltimore and downtown Washington, D.C. The money isn’t great, but every little bit puts Shorty closer towards her goal of opening a unique restaurant.

“All the money I get from the dinners that I’m selling I’m putting to the side to open up something small that I can work out of,” Woods said.

“I was thinking about doing something different, you know jazzing it up, like having an open-mic night or something. I don’t want it to be like any other place,” she said.
“It would be standard American stuff, wings, burgers but real good,” Shorty said.

Funding, she said, could also come from grants and loans.

“I’ve been trying to get all the things I’ll need to open a place up,” she said.

Until then, Shorty will continue cooking chicken sandwiches for college kids. But, in the meantime, she’ll also be working on her dream.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shorty shoots for her goals

Born into a southeast Washington, D.C., neighborhood during the beginning of what would come to be known as the U.S. crack epidemic in 1980, Phyllis Woods has led a life of trials but also great triumph – one few of the American University students she serves at the campus Chick-fil-A would have any idea about.

“It’s been tough but I’m going to keep going,” Woods said on a recent Tuesday afternoon while taking a break from cooking chicken sandwiches in AU’s Chick-fil-A

Woods, no taller than 5’2”, wears a baggy chef’s uniform covered in chicken grease, and at 11 p.m., she is five hours into her shift, which won’t end until midnight. She’ll then head home to Baltimore, an hour’s drive.

Woods’ life plan did not include being a short order cook in a fast-food restaurant on a college campus.

Nicknamed ”Shorty” since her successful high school basketball days, Woods blazed a trail of athletic success in basketball and softball. After junior high school, Anacostia and Durham High Schools fought to get her on their teams. She first went to Anacostia, then transferred a year later to Durham.

“The coach at Anacostia worked me real hard and I learned a lot, but he had me high when I needed to be low and he just wouldn’t listen,” she said. “Me and him didn’t get along real well at all.”

At Durham, Shorty found her stride. Over three years she amassed eight trophies — two of them MVP honors — in softball, basketball and track. She took a basketball scholarship to St. Paul’s College, a small community college in Lawrencville, Virginia.

But soon afterwards — athletic disaster. Shorty tore ligaments in her knee after falling down awkwardly in practice. The college revoked her scholarship, forcing her to leave before finishing her associates degree.

Always one with grand dreams, her knee injury was her first major setback.

“I had always wanted to play basketball professionally, but you know, with the injury I just didn’t have the money to try and ride it out.”

Shorty quickly moved onto her next goal — opening her own restaurant.
Enrolling at ATI, a technical college in Virginia, she received an associate’s degree in the culinary arts. Since then, she has been trying to save money to pursue that vision.

Once out of school, Woods began looking for odd jobs. A temp agency assigned her to work at AU, and after a week spent cooking in the Tavern, the university offered her a job. She jumped at the chance.

“When the temp agency sent me here I never thought that I would be working here three years from now,” she said.

She has worked in several on-campus eating establishments, including the Tavern, the Terrace Dining Room and now Chick-fil-A, which is the one she likes best.

“I get to work in the back by myself and just cook by myself, that’s the way I like it,” Shorty said.

To capitalize on her skills as a chef, Woods started a small, unofficial catering business called Shorty’s Catering, which provides lunches to newspaper offices in Baltimore and downtown Washington, D.C. The money isn’t great, but every little bit puts Shorty closer towards her goal of opening a unique restaurant.

“I was thinking about doing something different, you know jazzing it up, like having an open-mic night or something. I don’t want it to be like any other place,” she said.
“It would be standard American stuff, wings, burgers but real good,” Shorty said.

Funding, she said, could also come from grants and loans.

“I’ve been trying to get all the things I’ll need to open a place up,” she said.

Until then, Shorty will continue cooking chicken sandwiches for college kids. But, in the meantime, she’ll also be working on her dream.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Students capitalize on inauguration crowds

University of Maryland University College student Jameel Spriggs woke up at 9 a.m. Tuesday, hours after most people had already arrived at the National Mall to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama as president. But unlike the hundreds of thousands who hoped to catch a glimpse of history, Jameel was there to work.
In anticipation of his long day outside in temperatures that, according to weather reports, could feel a frigid 17 degrees, Jameel layered his clothing and stuffed his pockets with hand-warmers provided by his employer, Red Bow Photos. Red Bow Photos’ business is posting photographers at large events and tourist attractions to take a well-framed, high-quality picture that is available online for purchase.
“I’m just trying to make a little money,” said Spriggs.

Jameel wasn’t the only student hoping to make money off the massive influx of people — and money — into Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of the first African-American president. Entrepreneurs of all ages were hoping to supplement their regular incomes by capitalizing on the four days in which the city’s population tripled.

Some, like Matthew Williams, 20, of Virginia, sold crudely made t-shirts, braving the bustling Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop. Williams, dressed in denim jeans with holes in the knees and a stained sweatshirt, designed his shirts to say “Obama,” “hope” and “change” on the green background of a Marijuana leaf.

“These [the shirts] are something I thought would sell, so I made them up and came out here,” he said. Pickup next quote here.
“I don’t do this very often,” the dreadlocked Williams said, “but occasionally, if the crowds are big enough, I can make some money.”

Others had come from as far away as Harlem in New York City to sell their wares. Bought at wholesalers for cheap, these vendors mark up the price and turn a hefty profit. “Barack said he was going to stimulate small businesses and how much smaller can you get than selling t-shirts?” said a man who only identified himself as a “New York entrepreneur.” “[I] am trying to get a stimulus package from this inauguration, a bailout. Things are very difficult right now."

But some resisted the lure of quick money for fear of legal ramifications. Matt Kohen, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs at American University, had hoped to make a few hundred dollars by selling buttons through an unlicensed vendor advertising on the Web site Craiglist.com. The vendor would supply Kohen with an unlimited supply of buttons and other memorabilia, and in return for his salesmanship, he could keep 15 percent of profits – as much as $200-$300.

But after the vendor warned Kohen to steer clear of police, he opted out of the scheme.

“It was rather illegitimate,” said Kohen. “They didn’t provide us with a vendor’s license and told us to avoid the police…That combined with the hassle of the weather and getting up early just made it not worth it.”

For some, the crowds were exactly what they were hoping for.

Spriggs, a three-month veteran at the perfectly legal Red Bow Photos, was satisfied with his profits.

“It was worth it.” It was great to see the event,” he said before smiling broadly and adding, “I made good money, too.”