No statehood for Puerto Rico with critics in office
By KEN THOMAS
Monday, September 24
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday declared himself an “absolute no” on statehood for Puerto Rico as long as critics such as San Juan’s mayor remain in office, the latest broadside in his feud with members of the U.S. territory’s leadership.
Trump lobbed fresh broadsides at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a critic of his administration’s response to hurricanes on the island last year, during a radio interview with Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera that aired Monday.
“With the mayor of San Juan as bad as she is and as incompetent as she is, Puerto Rico shouldn’t be talking about statehood until they get some people that really know what they’re doing,” Trump said in an interview with Rivera’s show on Cleveland’s WTAM radio.
Trump said that when “you have good leadership,” statehood for Puerto Rico could be “something they talk about. With people like that involved in Puerto Rico, I would be an absolute no.”
Gov. Ricardo Rossello, an advocate of statehood for the island, said Trump’s remarks had trivialized the statehood process because of political differences.
“The president said he is not in favor of statehood for the people of Puerto Rico based on a personal feud with a local mayor. This is an insensitive, disrespectful comment to over 3 million Americans who live in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico,” Rossello said.
He also questioned how the president of the United States could be at the U.N. General Assembly promoting democracy around the world while “in his own home there is the oldest and most populated colonial system in the world.”
The San Juan mayor dismissed Trump’s comments about statehood in an Associated Press interview, calling it just another effort to avoid responsibility for his administration’s “negligence” in its widely criticized response to last year’s Hurricane Maria. “He looks for any excuse to divert attention,” she said.
Cruz called it a “great honor” to be singled out by Trump. “It highlights that he knows that while he was playing golf at Mar-a-Lago, I was up to my waist in water and human waste,” during the storm.
Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress, tweeted: “Equality 4 Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be held up by one bad mayor who’s leaving office in 2020 & do not represent the people who voted twice for statehood.”
Trump’s position on statehood for the island puts him at odds with the Republican Party’s 2016 platform during its national convention, in which it declared support for Puerto Rican statehood.
The president’s remarks followed his claims earlier this month that the official death toll from last year’s devastating storm in Puerto Rico was inflated. Public health experts have estimated that nearly 3,000 people died in 2017 because of the effects of Hurricane Maria.
But Trump falsely accused Democrats of inflating the Puerto Rican death toll to make him “look as bad as possible.”
Trump’s pronouncements have roiled politics in Florida, which has crucial races for governor and U.S. Senate. The state was already home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans before Hurricane Maria slammed into the island a year ago. Tens of thousands of residents fled Puerto Rico in the aftermath, with many of them relocating to Florida.
The issue of statehood for Puerto Rico — or some form of semi-autonomous relationship — has divided island residents in recent years. The debate over the island’s “status” is the central feature of its politics and divides its major political parties.
The federal government has said previously it would accept a change in the status of Puerto Rico if the people of the island clearly supported the decision. But for decades, Puerto Ricans have been divided between those who favor statehood and those who want to maintain the commonwealth, perhaps with some changes. A small minority continue to favor independence.
The last referendum, in 2017, strongly supported statehood but opponents questioned the validity of the vote because of low turnout.
Any changes would need to be approved by Congress. Statehood legislation, with support from Republicans and Democrats, was introduced in June but appears unlikely to gain momentum as politicians remain hesitant to take up such a thorny issue.
Associated Press writer Maricarmen Rivera in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed.
On Twitter follow Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC
Opinion: Can Puerto Rico Become the Model for Energy Independence?
By John Berger
Even before Hurricane Maria triggered a massive blackout that left millions of Puerto Ricans without electricity, the island’s dysfunctional electricity network was a poster child for inefficiency, waste and exorbitant costs.
Now Puerto Rico has the opportunity to become a model for the future of energy systems that can be clean, resilient and affordable.
The torturous effort involved in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid brings into sharp relief a struggle that is playing out across the United States as the growing popularity of renewable energy, and advances in technology, collide with an outdated electricity framework.
Homeowners are increasingly interested in having more control over their energy usage and production. Many are updating their homes to make them more energy efficient by installing smart thermostats, adopting solar power or adding battery storage to maintain power even during a grid failure. These changes — especially the powerful combination of solar plus battery storage — are upending the outdated energy system by liberating homeowners from their dependency on the old and antiquated grid.
Despite evolving consumer preferences, utility companies are resisting this wave of progress that threatens a business model that has served them well. Consumers are demanding more flexibility and clean energy. But utilities want to maintain the status quo. Like a previous battle over AT&T’s monopoly control of telecommunications in the early 1980s, this clash may ultimately be settled in court or in Congress.
The tension between customer control and utility control is playing out with real-life consequences every day in Puerto Rico as homeowners with rooftop solar power try to rejoin the poorly mended electricity grid. After several months without electricity, many homeowners with solar are questioning why they need the unreliable grid at all.
I know this because my company has installed nearly 9,000 residential rooftop solar systems in Puerto Rico, making us the second largest provider of residential energy, behind the island’s public utility, known as PREPA.
PREPA has little economic incentive to allow homeowners to self-generate electricity independent from the grid. It wants residents to be totally reliant on the utility for electricity to keep customers captive and protect their profits.
Homeowners who have gone solar on the U.S. mainland face similar challenges. Although some utilities are more accommodating than others, the expanding use of residential rooftop solar energy and the breathtaking speed at which solar plus storage capabilities have emerged are an obvious threat to traditional electric utilities. It’s in their interest to try to minimize competition, and so they do, many looking to restrict consumer choice to just one provider: the monopoly utility.
In response to this anti-competitive behavior, consumers and homeowners are starting to challenge the need for the grid. Consumer demand and the advent of ground-breaking technologies are ripping apart the old-line, industrial age system. It’s time for monopoly electricity providers to take note.
In an ideal world, Congress would take action to replace the current monopoly system with a decentralized system that empowers consumers. We should let the market work and allow consumers to pick the winners and losers, not stack the deck in favor of monopoly utilities. That’s exactly what happened when the breakup of AT&T ended a century-old telephone monopoly, and we are all better for it.
Puerto Rico can help lead the way toward this more consumer-friendly, environmentally responsible and affordable energy future. The Puerto Rican government should insist that PREPA give homeowners the ability to install solar and battery storage without going through the utility’s undefined and onerous processes.
As Puerto Rico emerges from the darkness, its uneven recovery is shining a light on a challenge that will shape the future of electricity across the United States.
ABOUT THE WRITER
William J. (John) Berger is founder and CEO of Sunnova Energy Corporation, a residential solar and storage service provider. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Is it OK to spank a misbehaving child once in a while?
January 25, 2016
Ronald W. Pies
Professor of Psychiatry, Lecturer on Bioethics & Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Tufts University
Ronald W. Pies does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Tufts University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Spanking, or, as it’s formally known, “corporal punishment,” has been much in the news of late.
Out on the presidential campaign trail there was Senator Ted Cruz’s revelation that If my daughter Catherine, the five-year-old, says something she knows to be false, she gets a spanking.
And recently, in Canada, following a call by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to prohibit spanking, the Liberal government has promised to abolish a parent’s right to physically discipline children. Along similar legal lines, in June 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the state was justified in denying foster parenting privileges to a couple who practiced corporal punishment and supported spanking or paddling children. The couple in the case had argued, unsuccessfully, that physical discipline was an integral aspect of their Christian faith.
According to a recent Washington Post article, America is slowly growing less supportive of spanking children. But a majority of Americans still support it.
So, is it okay to spank a misbehaving child, every once in a while?
By way of personal disclosure, my wife and I don’t have children, and I try not to sit in lofty judgment of couples whose kids present very difficult behavioral problems. But as a psychiatrist, I can’t ignore the overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment, including spanking (which is usually defined as hitting a child with an open hand without causing physical injury), takes a serious toll on the mental health of children.
Why parents spank children
In a review of corporal punishment in the United States, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toledo Michelle Knox noted a striking irony in the American attitude toward corporal punishment.
In the United States, it is against the law to hit prisoners, criminals or other adults. Ironically, the only humans it is still legal to hit are the most vulnerable members of our society – those we are charged to protect – children.
Knox, like many mental health professionals, cites a strong correlation between corporal punishment and child abuse, noting that “…spanking is often the first step in the cycle of child abuse.”
What may begin as the parent’s well-intentioned wish to discipline a child often ends with the parent’s mounting anger and worsening blows.
It isn’t that the parent is “evil” by nature or is a “child abuser.” Often, the parent has been stressed to breaking point, and is not aware of alternative methods of discipline – for example, the use of “time-outs,” removal of privileges and positive reinforcement of the child’s appropriate behaviors.
Impact of spanking on children
The psychological toll on children subjected to corporal punishment is well-documented.
In 2011, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNA) issued a statement noting that,
Corporal punishment (CP) is an important risk factor for children developing a pattern of impulsive and antisocial behavior…[and] children who experience frequent CP… are more likely to engage in violent behaviors in adulthood.
Similarly, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in a 2012 statement, concluded that,
…although corporal punishment may have a high rate of immediate behavior modification, it is ineffective over time, and is associated with increased aggression and decreased moral internalization of appropriate behavior.
In short, spanking a child may seem helpful in the short term, but is ineffective and probably harmful in the long term. The child who is often spanked learns that physical force is an acceptable method of problem solving.
Parents vs. researchers
But wait: aren’t there exceptions to these general findings? Aren’t there times when a light rap on the backside can do a misbehaving child some good – or at least, not cause any significant harm?
Many parents think so, but most specialists would say there is little evidence to support such claims. That said, Dr Marjorie Gunnoe, a professor of psychology at Calvin College, and her colleague, Carrie Lea Mariner published a study in 1997 that concluded that, “for most children, claims that spanking teaches aggression seem unfounded.”
Gunnoe and Mariner argued that the effects of spanking may depend on the “meaning” children ascribe to it. For example, spanking perceived by the child as parental aggression (as opposed to nonaggressive limit setting) may be associated with subsequent aggressive behavior by the child.
And, to be sure, some parents have argued that it is the misbehavior of children that leads to spanking – not the reverse.
Nevertheless, there is a strong consensus in the mental health community that any form of corporal punishment can cause harm.
Dr Catherine A Taylor (of Tulane University) and colleagues concluded in a 2010 review that
…even minor forms of corporal punishment, such as spanking, increase risk for increased child aggressive behavior.
Furthermore, clinical studies have shown that reducing parents’ use of corporal punishment can reduce children’s subsequent aggression.
Parents who believe they have no alternative except to spank their misbehaving children do not need finger-wagging lectures from clinicians.
But they do need professional support and education, aimed at reducing their level of stress and increasing their use of alternatives to corporal punishment.
Kindergartners get little time to play. Why does it matter?
April 27, 2016
Christopher P. Brown
Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood Education, University of Texas at Austin
Christopher P. Brown does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Being a kindergartner today is very different from being a kindergartner 20 years ago. In fact it is more like first grade.
Researchers have demonstrated that five-year-olds are spending more time engaged in teacher-led academic learning activities than play-based learning opportunities that facilitate child-initiated investigations and foster social development among peers.
As a former kindergarten teacher, a father of three girls who’ve recently gone through kindergarten, and as researcher and teacher-educator in early childhood education, I have had kindergarten as a part of my adult life for almost 20 years.
As a parent, I have seen how student-led projects, sensory tables (that include sand or water) and dramatic play areas have been replaced with teacher-led instructional time, writing centers and sight words lists that children need to memorize. And as a researcher, I found, along with my colleague Yi Chin Lan, that early childhood teachers expect children to have academic knowledge, social skills and the ability to control themselves when they enter kindergarten.
So, why does this matter?
All work, and almost no play
First, let’s look at what kindergarten looks like today.
As part of my ongoing research, I have been conducting interviews with a range of kindergarten stakeholders – children, teachers, parents – about what they think kindergarten is and what it should be. During the interviews, I share a 23-minute film that I made last spring about a typical day in a public school kindergarten classroom.
The classroom I filmed had 22 kindergartners and one teacher. They were together for almost the entire school day. During that time, they engaged in about 15 different academic activities, which included decoding word drills, practicing sight words, reading to themselves and then to a buddy, counting up to 100 by 1’s, 5’s and 10’s, practicing simple addition, counting money, completing science activities about living things and writing in journals on multiple occasions. Recess did not occur until last hour of the day, and that too for about 15 minutes.
For children between the ages of five and six, this is tremendous amount of work. Teachers too are under pressure to cover the material.
When I asked the teacher, who I interviewed for the short film, why she covered so much material in a few hours, she stated,
There’s pressure on me and the kids to perform at a higher level academically.
So even though the teacher admitted that the workload on kindergartners was an awful lot, she also said she was unable to do anything about changing it.
She was required to assess her students continuously, not only for her own instruction, but also for multiple assessments such as quarterly report cards, school-based reading assessments, district-based literacy and math assessments, as well as state-mandated literacy assessments.
In turn, when I asked the kindergartners what they were learning, their replies reflected two things: one, they were learning to follow rules; two, learning was for the sake of getting to the next grade and eventually to find a job. Almost all of them said to me that they wanted more time to play. One boy said:
I wish we had more recess.
These findings mirror the findings of researchers Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham and Anna Rorem that kindergarten now focuses on literacy and math instruction. They also echo the statements of other kindergarten teachers that kids are being prepared for high-stakes tests as early as kindergarten.
Here’s how play helps children
Research has consistently shown classrooms that offer children the opportunities to engage in play-based and child-centered learning activities help children grow academically, socially and emotionally. Furthermore, recess in particular helps children restore their attention for learning in the classroom.
Focus on rules can diminish children’s willingness to take academic risks and curiosity as well as impede their self-confidence and motivation as learners – all of which can negatively impact their performance in school and in later life.
Giving children a chance to play and engage in hands-on learning activities helps them internalize new information as well as compare and contrast what they’re learning with what they already know. It also provides them with the chance to interact with their peers in a more natural setting and to solve problems on their own. Lastly, it allows kindergartners to make sense of their emotional experiences in and out of school.
So children asking for more time to play are not trying to get out of work. They know they have to work in school. Rather, they’re asking for a chance to recharge as well as be themselves.
As another kindergarten boy in my study told me,
We learn about stuff we need to learn, because if we don’t learn stuff, then we don’t know anything.
Learning by exploring
So what can we do to help kindergartners?
I am not advocating for the elimination of academics in kindergarten. All of the stakeholders I’ve talked with up to this point, even the children, know and recognize that kindergartners need to learn academic skills so that they can succeed in school.
However, it is the free exploration that is missing. As a kindergarten teacher I filmed noted:
Free and exploratory learning has been replaced with sit, focus, learn, get it done and maybe you can have time to play later.
Policymakers, schools systems and schools need to recognize that the standards and tests they mandate have altered the kindergarten classroom in significant ways. Families need to be more proactive as well. They can help their children’s teachers by being their advocates for a more balanced approach to instruction.
Kindergartners deserve learning experiences in school that nurtures their development as well as their desire to learn and interact with others. Doing so will assist them in seeing school as a place that will help them and their friends be better people.