Archive for May 10th, 2008

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The Washington Post

Our British Airways flight arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport at about 8 p.m., but just as we arrived at passport control, it was as though we had entered another world. It would be a three-hour wait before the immigration officers checked our passports and took our pictures and fingerprints for the second time.

Those who had been selected for security checks endured a level of disdain that is impossible to describe: men and women, some of them in their 80s, and several children, humiliated. The Saudi students who had arrived at 2 p.m. were still there; the last of them left about eight hours later in what was a shameful and saddening scene. An elderly Egyptian man asked me, “What is a man my age supposed to do?” He laughed and added, “And then they ask, ‘Why do they hate us?’ ”

This is not the first time that I have seen this happen; in fact, it happens every time I visit the United States. This time, after the security officer asked about my profession, he looked apologetic and said, “You don’t have a problem. However, because of your nationality and age, some procedures must be undertaken. Unfortunately, it is not only your nationality alone but other nationalities as well.”

Last year, a security man asked me scornfully, “Why did you travel to Pakistan?” I told him the nature of my job and explained the reason for my travel. He smiled mockingly and said, “Go back to your seat, and I will find out everything from the computer.” That time, I waited three hours after a seven-hour flight; later I was told that the lengthy wait had been a case of mistaken identity.

The United States is not the only country to have been a victim of terrorism. Every country has security concerns. But security concerns should not mean collective punishment, just as showing caution and following regulations should not mean insulting and degrading others. I have traveled to many countries, developed and underdeveloped, safe and dangerous, but I have not seen people debased in airports the way they are in America. Some of the security officials at U.S. airports are awful, and security procedures are sometimes carried out in an uncivilized manner.

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The Washington Post

LOS ANGELES Amid all the national debate over immigration, at least one firm consensus has emerged: Newcomers to the United States should learn English because it remains the lingua franca of our civic life. All three remaining presidential contenders say that the ability to speak English should be a requirement of U.S. citizenship. And last year, the immigrant governor of California told a convention of Latino journalists that immigrants should watch only English-language TV so they can understand the language and news of their home state. “You’ve got to turn off the Spanish television set,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger advised the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Schwarzenegger is wrong, and so is this new consensus. The error is particularly obvious in cities with the largest immigrant populations, especially Los Angeles, the town the governor calls home. Schwarzenegger could discover ample evidence of this all by himself — simply by turning on his television.

On most nights here, the most timely, serious and civic-minded local news is not available on the Internet, the radio or any of the half-dozen English-language stations that broadcast nightly shows that purport to be newscasts. At 11 p.m. each night here, the best newscasts in the market appear on two Spanish-language channels, Univision’s flagship KMEX and Telemundo affiliate KVEA.

This might come as a surprise to English-speaking Americans, who hear about the Spanish-language TV news only when its on-air personalities engage in soap-opera-style antics, such as the KVEA anchor-reporter who became the mistress of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But I’ve been watching these two Spanish newscasts and their English competitors on the local ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates, and the content doesn’t lie. If immigrants took Schwarzenegger’s advice and flipped off Spanish stations in favor of English-language news, they wouldn’t have nearly as good an idea of what was happening in their adopted city, state and country.

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LA Times

A fight between rival groups of black and Latino students at Locke High School quickly escalated into a campus-wide melee Friday, with as many as 600 students brawling until police restored calm with billy clubs.

The troubled campus in South Los Angeles was locked down after the fight broke out at 12:55 p.m., as students returned from lunch to their fifth-period classes. Overwhelmed school officials called Los Angeles police for help, but students and faculty said it took about half an hour before dozens of officers, many in riot gear, restored order.

“The kids were crazy, running from place to place, jumping on other kids,” said Reggie Smith, the school’s band director, who said he ran to pull his students from the melee. “Some of my kids were crying because they were walking to class with friends and they got jumped.”

Los Angeles Unified School District police said that there are only two officers assigned to Locke but that the school police force brought in about 60 officers after receiving word of the brawl. The Los Angeles Police Department also dispatched more than a dozen patrol cars and about 50 officers.

Susan Cox, an LAUSD spokeswoman, said police arrested four people — three students for fighting and one non-student for illegal possession of a knife. Four students were treated in the school nurse’s office for minor injuries.

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