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November 28, 2000

Editorial

All Sports, All the Time

The TV cable system in Mobile has approximately forty channels dedicated to nothing but sports, in addition to the heavy sports programming on many of the other cable channel stations, especially during the weekend. For the brave souls willing to forsake their couches, area high schools play every week during their season, and it is a fairly short drive to area college games. The available electronic and in-the-flesh versions of sports are not enough for University of South Alabama administrators, however. They are circling like sharks with the scent of fresh blood, and they will not be dissuaded until football is added to the university's inter-collegiate sports program.

Recent news articles in the Mobile daily report that the new contract of the football coach at Auburn University pays him $1.25 million a year, a salary roughly equal to the starting salaries of thirty professors of English. So what? One can argue that the disparity in salaries represents the revenue productivity of the football program compared to the department of English, but that implies that the function of a university is to generate revenue and that the various components of the university should be evaluated on that basis -- hardly the ideal of education that we pretend to hold in this country.

Are other nations as besotted with watching sports as the U.S.? Sports are popular all around the world, of course, but is any other country so obsessed with watching sports as Americans are? Mr. Webster's short definition of "obsess" is "to preoccupy intensely or abnormally." When, and more important, WHY does a pass-time become an obsession? One hypothesis for Americans' obsession with sports is that spectators sports are popular simply because they are so easy. Filling one's thoughts, not to mention leisure time, with games -- games, after all, that small children can play -- prevents the sports "fan" from having to deal with other, more difficult, inconvenient, and possibly painful distractions such as work, family, politics, religion, culture, etc. Nature, as the saying goes, abhors a vacuum, and so during one's waking hours something must be in one's head, and for many people sports is the most comfortable alternative. (Another hypothesis is that sports are the only thing on television that is not totally predictable after the first two minutes. But that doesn't explain the mania for reading, in the sports sections of newspapers and in specialized magazines and papers, about games already played.)

What does this have to do with local universities? It's the same syndrome: People, even at a university, need something to occupy their brains, and virtually all of the options having to do with a university are not only painfully uncomfortable to the thinker, but even more to the thinkees, including university administrations. It's a tactic at least as old as the Romans, who are said to have protected their despotic administrations by providing circuses as diversions and distractions for citizens. Obsessive football mania is a very convenient substitute for thoughtful consideration of what putative leaders are and are not doing with the institutions they head. Caveat videor.


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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Hello, I am contacting all of the newspapers in the United States that I can find addresses for, in hope that we might find some help among your readers.

I am the high school band director in Clay County, West Virginia. Eighty to ninety percent of our students are on free and reduced lunch. The biggest employer in our county is the Clay County Board of Education. Funds to purchase supplies are extremely limited. We need your help, but not with monetary donations.

Pepsi and The Frito Lay company have teamed up to support music in our schools, by offering participating schools the opportunity to earn free instruments. We are asking for you to collect and send us the points found on the new holiday packages of Pepsi and Frito Lay products. The points range in value from 1 point to 10 points. I have a personal goal to collect 300,000 points; this will help us obtain instruments and supplies, that ordinarily we could not afford to purchase. If you think you could help, (or know someone who can, please forward this email to them) please email me at cchsband@hawksnet.net for answers to questions.

The mailing address is: Clay County High School Band, 1 Panther Dr., Clay, WV 25043

The mailing address can also be found on our website located at http://www.geocities.com/clayband/ClayBand.html.

Any points you can send to us will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged by our students.

Sincerely,
Lisa Adkins
Clay County High School Band Director


Dear Editor,

For 40 years our relationship with the island of Cuba has been determined by the descendant of the supporter of Bastista. As bad as Castro's rule has been, it is debatable in view of his contribution to the health and education of the majority of Cubans. What is not debatable is criminal corruption of Bastista regime, which preceded him. What I found on my visit to Cuba is that the people earn approximately 4 to 10 dollars per month, but they have free housing, free medical care and a food voucher for every two weeks. The children receive milk until the age of seven; afterwards their families have to purchase it. There are two sections of Havana: the old Havana is what remains of the center of the mega (art, culture and architecture). The new Havana has partnership with Italy, Spain, Holland and Germany in hotels and restaurant businesses to promote tourism in Cuba. Several cruises are now offering their service on the weekly basis from Europe and Mexico to Cuba. Despite the hardship, the Cuban people have learned to survive by establishing the black market. You can find almost everything if you have American dollars. I strongly believe that the embargo will be lifted in a couple of years. In the meantime, C.Q.I. Missions and I will continue supporting the people of Cuba with heath program and education program, youth baseball program, water ballet program, backpack program and seeds program. We need your support. If you or your organization would like to go to Cuba on a humanitarian trip, please contact C.Q.I Missions at cqimissions@zebra.net or call me at 342-0807. If you want to keep up with what are we doing, you can check out our web site at http://www.caribbean-relief-project.org/.

Jerry VanDyke
C.Q.I Missions


Dear Editor,

This email is about what a friend and I witnessed this Saturday (11/11/2000) afternoon at a public hearing organized by the NAACP to investigate civil rights violations and voting irregularities in Florida during this year's election. If you have any ideas on what can be done to help make people aware of this, please do what you can. If you have any doubts about this account, or have any questions, please contact me at outraged@care2.com.

This Formal Public hearing was headed by the President of the NAACP and several lawyers and prominent people in the community. It was held in a Baptist church in an inner city neighborhood in North Miami. This is not a verbatim account, because it is just taken from my friend's memory and mine, but it was clearly stated by the president of the NAACP that there WILL be public lawsuits filed. I urge you to find the actual transcript of this 5- hour long hearing. Every person who testified before the panel was asked about the racial makeup of the area they had experienced these events; all of these experiences, except for the ones from Palm Beach, took place in predominately African-American and/or Haitian neighborhoods.

One woman reported that when she went to her polling station, a school in Plantation Fl., on Election Day, she found that the building had been torn down three weeks before. No one had been notified, and although there were other people there who wanted to vote, there were no signs explaining what had happened or where else they could go to vote. No one knew where else to go. When she finally found another station, she was told she was not registered there, and therefore could not vote.

Many people spoke of "racial profiling," of police pulling over people who had brought other people in their cars (car pools). The drivers were actually asked if they had a permit to be transporting people. When they didn't have the permit, they were given tickets and turned away from voting!

People told of being sent from precinct to precinct only to find that their names were not on the rosters, even though they had the proper voter registration plus photo ID. They did not receive any assistance from the poll workers. Many other would-be voters testified that although they had made the effort to vote, they were prevented from doing so because of this run-around.

A white woman from Tampa, a radio personality, told of going to several polling areas to try to help people who were calling in to the radio station reporting unfair voting practices. She told of large groups of people being turned away because they didn't have both a picture ID AND a registration card. This is not legal; these people were refused the right to vote. In one area she estimated 30 police cars surrounded the voting area. Police officers were on the street confronting people on foot and in cars. This was a residential neighborhood. When she called the sheriff's office to find out why there were so many policemen in the area, someone from the office told her that there had been a robbery in the area. She relayed to the panel that she was once a police officer, and it does not take 30 police cars to cover a robbery. She talked about a 67 year old African-American man she spoke to who walked with a cane. She said he was extremely proud of voting, saying this was the first time he had done so. He was wearing a pin on his lapel that stated that he had just voted. She drove away and when she circled the area again, she saw this same 67-year-old man surrounded by at least three policemen. They were demanding to know what he was doing in the neighborhood. He had his hands up in the air as he tried to explain. She reported that the officers were close to his face, physically intimidating him, he kept pointing to his button saying, "I just voted! That's why I am here!" At one point one of the policeman saw her watching the incident and he told her to move on, that it was none of her business. She was tailed by a police car for over five miles after witnessing this.

Another woman told of her mother being turned away from the polls because of a typographical error (her middle initial was incorrect) on the sign-in sheet. She had a very unusual name and two forms of identification to show who she was but they turned her away. She was not allowed to vote.

One woman, an African-American attorney had been talking about the election process to her five-year-old son and took him with her that day. She arrived at six o'clock. She waited in a line of cars for 20 minutes to park and then got on a line to wait to vote. At 6:50 when she reached the front of the line, her name could not be found. She had been voting for 15 years in the same place and told them so. They would not let her vote. She asked if she could sign an affidavit. She was told there was nothing they could do; she was not allowed to vote. She told us that her son began to cry, and she felt angry and humiliated by this experience. She said the first thing her son asked her upon waking the next day was "Who won?"

There were many stories of people being turned away by being told they were too late, that they were supposed to vote on November 6 -- THE DAY BEFORE ELECTION DAY!

A woman who claimed to be the president of a local Haitian Woman's club received many calls from people saying that although they were promised, there were no ballots in Creole and no one would help them to vote. When she went down to one of the polling stations, she found that there was a Creole speaking volunteer; this volunteer told her that although she had been there from 7 to 3, she had been prevented from helping people all day. The women reporting the incident had a stack of legal forms issued by the supervisor of elections in her car that said first time voters, people who felt uncomfortable with the language, and other people needing assistance could get help if they needed it. She brought them to the staff at the voting site. Only then was she allowed to help the Haitian population.

A white woman attested that she noticed that black people standing at the tables were forced to give two forms of identification before they could vote; she was only asked for her voter's registration.

A poll worker testified that she was instructed to be particularly strict with voters' ID and registration because they anticipated a large turn out for this election. When people were sent to another line to resolve their issues, this process took anywhere between a half-hour to an hour and even then they were refused the right to vote.

A Haitian man, living in Palm Beach County, told of coming to this country in order to have a voice. He said he had been thrilled to be able to vote on Election Day. He got his ballot, read it carefully, took the pin and poked the "Chad" hole he believed was for Al Gore. After he walked out of his voting station, he checked his ballot to make sure he had punched the right hole. It was then that he realized that he had voted for Buchanan and so had his wife. He asked the voting staff for another ballot and was told "You only have one chance to vote, that was your chance, and you can't have another one." He went to other staff people who told him the same thing. Out of frustration he went back into the booth, punched again for Gore, feeling that this would be the only way he could cast his vote.

Several people testified that although they were on line before 7 o'clock, their voting stations turned everybody away when it turned 7 PM. This is illegal.

After hearing 5 hours of testimony consisting of harrowing tales of harassment, intimidation and insults, it became perfectly and sadly understandable to me why there are US citizens living among us who still do not feel empowered enough to vote.

If there are any doubts about the ballot in Palm Beach: My friend did not get her sample ballot until the day before the election. I never got one; another said that the sample ballot she received two days before the election looked nothing like the ballot she got when she went to vote! She had her sample ballot to prove it! All of the news stations here in Florida said that no one had contested the ballots before Election Day. How could they contest it if it is received late, not at all, or was not the same as the one in the booths? How can anyone expect people to stand tall and be counted without a clear and easy ballot, without needed support, and while stripped of their dignity and their rights?

I am a 27-year-old white woman who just recently moved to Miami Beach. When I went to the polls, I was greeted by the volunteers. They took a cursory look at my registration card, and had me sign in, but they didn't ask to see ID or give me a hard time about anything. I still felt anxious about voting. As my friend said, "I'm a white Anglo-Saxon looking woman (although she is Jewish), one of the least discriminated against groups in this country, and even I find voting to be an intimidating process. Can you imagine being faced with this kind of opposition?" For the record, she also said that "Based upon my observation, voting for a election of this magnitude should be an empowering not intimidating or disenfranchising experience for every individual regardless of race, religion, physical handicap, age, or any other assumed difference."

Please know that everyone who testified said they fought against the people that denied them their rights but were all pushed aside and stonewalled, no matter how much they tried. They also said that these situations effected hundreds of people, not just the dozens who came forward to testify. There were so many stories from this group it was overwhelming. Most of us take our rights for granted. Please pass this on and do whatever you can to support the cause of demanding that everyone in America is granted their civil rights.

I would not have known about or attended this meeting if it were not for the enthusiasm from my good friend, Leslie, and I would not have sent this to you if my mother had not insisted and taken it upon herself to write up what I had related to her. We as American citizens should be outraged by what is still happening in our country and galvanized to action, but it won't happen if it is not public knowledge. That's why I'm compelled to share it with everyone I know. I sincerely hope you will pass this on.

Rachel Sachs
Miami, FL


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