Scrutiny, family woes pile pressure on pregnant Meghan
By GREGORY KATZ
Thursday, February 14
LONDON (AP) — When Meghan Markle became engaged to Prince Harry, the American TV star seemed to charm everyone she met. She and Harry toured Britain to adoring crowds, and she pledged to hit the ground running once she officially joined the royal circle.
Britain’s rambunctious, royal-obsessed press praised her as something different, a fresh take on an old “firm” in need of a bit of dazzle.
Nine months after her wedding extravaganza and now formally known as the Duchess of Sussex, the 37-year-old is pregnant — and finding that life in the royal fishbowl carries not just glamour and great charitable opportunities but liabilities as well.
Meghan is engaged in a painful, public rift with her father — played out in the nation’s tabloids, of course — and dealing with speculation that she is feuding with Prince William’s wife, Kate.
Her half-sister Samantha has been sniping at her in public, and the once-fawning press has criticized for everything from being hard on her household staff to spending too much time cradling her “baby bump.”
“I should think she’s finding it pretty difficult,” said Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine. “It’s such a minefield, being a member of the royal family. Perhaps she should have eased herself into it a little more.”
She said Meghan has, like Princess Diana before her, probably been shocked at just how intrusive the press can be. “I don’t think they realized quite how nasty it would become,” she said of the continuing spat between Meghan and her father and half-sister.
Seward said Meghan will never be able to quell tabloid rumors about rifts in the royal household — stories that rely on unnamed “sources” will continue to bedevil her.
Meghan has maintained her equilibrium in public, keeping up a hectic schedule that includes travel and charitable appearances even as the birth of her first child nears.
She has been unfailingly elegant and gracious in public, and retailers say her fashion influence — dubbed the “Markle sparkle” — remains intact, shown by the spike in interest in Stow products after Meghan was seen carrying one of its leather travel organizers.
Talk of a royal feud between the spouses of Prince William and Prince Harry was fueled late last year by Harry and Meghan’s announced plan to move out of central London, where they live on the grounds of Kensington Palace along with William and Kate, in favor of Frogmore Cottage, in a rural setting near Windsor Castle.
Some in the press jumped to the conclusion that Meghan was not only unable to get along with Kate but had also prompted a split between William and Harry.
No one outside the royal inner circle knows for sure if there is ill will between Meghan and Kate. But there is no denying the ugly break between Meghan and her father, who has shared an anguished letter from Meghan with the Mail on Sunday tabloid.
“If you love me, as you tell the press you do, please stop,” Meghan implores her father, who has frequently spoken to the tabloid press about Meghan and the royal family. “Please allow us to live our lives in peace. Please stop lying, please stop creating so much pain, please stop exploiting my relationship with my husband.”
Royal expert Hugo Vickers says the strained relations between Meghan and her father may have reached the point of no return.
“It’s all become ridiculous, a tabloid scam,” he said. The best thing would be some sort of reconciliation with him, but it may have gone too far.”
Meghan and Harry’s press office has not commented on the letter, portions of which were reprinted in The Mail on Sunday in what was said to be Meghan’s distinctive, elegant handwriting.
The publication of the August letter — claimed as a “world exclusive” by the tabloid — is the latest salvo in the tabloids’ fascination with the elder Markle, who divides his time between southern California and northern Mexico.
Markle, 74, did not come to Meghan’s wedding in May, citing a last-minute heart ailment, so Harry’s father Prince Charles walked her down the aisle. He has complained that he can’t reach his own daughter now that she is part of the royal family.
Markle’s complaints, and a string of press stories criticizing Meghan, prompted a group of Meghan’s friends and former co-stars on the “Suits” TV show to tell People magazine that Meghan was being subjected to unhealthy scrutiny as she carries her first child.
Actor George Clooney, who did attend the royal wedding in May, made the same point this week, comparing the tabloid scrutiny of Meghan to the press harassment that contributed to the death of Harry’s mother Princess Diana in a 1997 car crash.
“It’s history repeating itself,” the star warned, saying it was frustrating to see a pregnant woman “pursued and vilified” by the press.
Prince Philip won’t be charged in UK car crash
Thursday, February 14
LONDON (AP) — Prince Philip won’t face charges in connection with a car collision that left two women injured, British prosecutors said Thursday.
The decision came just days after Buckingham Palace said the 97-year-old royal would stop driving. The husband of Queen Elizabeth II was driving a Land Rover near the royal family’s Sandringham estate in eastern England when he smashed into another car on Jan. 17.
Philip needed help to get out of the vehicle, but he wasn’t injured. Two women in the other car were injured, but not seriously. A 9-month-old child in the car was unhurt.
Both Philip and the other driver were given breath tests and passed.
“We took into account all of the circumstances in this case, including the level of culpability, the age of the driver and the surrender of the driving license,” said Chris Long of the Crown Prosecution Service. “We have decided that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute.”
Philip wrote a letter of apology to one of the injured women days after the collision, explaining that the sun was in his eyes when he pulled onto a main road near the estate, 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of London.
“I can only imagine that I failed to see the car coming, and I am very contrite about the consequences,” he wrote to Emma Fairweather, who suffered a broken wrist in the crash.
Authorities said that everyone involved in the collision had been given an explanation in writing about the decision.
There is no upper age limit for drivers in Britain, although drivers over 70 are required to renew their licenses every three years and tell authorities about any medical conditions.
French minister: Britain must hurry up and decide on Brexit
Friday, February 15
PARIS (AP) — France’s Europe minister is urging Britain to “hurry up” and decide whether it’s leaving the European Union with or without a deal.
Nathalie Loiseau said on RTL radio Friday that “it’s time for our British friends to decide whether they want to leave amicably or brutally.”
She said the EU worked hard to reach a Brexit agreement with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, and “it’s a little hard to understand that they can’t sell their own proposition.”
May suffered another embarrassing parliamentary defeat Thursday over her Brexit strategy, further raising fears that the country could crash out of the EU without a deal, a development that would see tariffs imposed on trade.
Loiseau said Britain should “hurry up” and decide for all businesses and citizens affected by Brexit.
Virginia dioceses list 58 clergy with sex abuse allegations
By DENISE LAVOIE
Wednesday, February 13
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s two Roman Catholic dioceses on Wednesday published lists of 58 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, joining other dioceses around the country in answering calls to make public the names of abusive clergy.
The diocese of Richmond said each of the 42 priests on its list had a “credible and substantiated” allegation of sexual abuse against a child. The names of 16 priests appeared on a list released by the diocese of Arlington.
Both dioceses said the lists were published after independent reviews of all clergy personnel files. The bishops of both Richmond and Arlington said none of the clergy whose names appear are currently in active ministry. Both bishops apologized to victims in letters that accompanied the lists.
“To those who experienced abuse from clergy, I am truly, deeply sorry,” Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout wrote. “I regret that you have to bear the burden of the damage you suffered at the hands of those you trusted. I am also sorry that you must carry the memory of that experience with you.”
Knestout said publishing the list “can help bring about healing” and “heighten the awareness of this tragic situation.”
The move comes as dioceses in more than two dozen states around the country have taken similar action since a grand jury report released in August alleged that more than 300 priests abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades in Pennsylvania.
On Wednesday, New Jersey’s five Roman Catholic dioceses listed more than 180 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors over a span of several decades.
Thirteen of the 42 priests on the Richmond list are now deceased. Six have been criminally convicted. That list covers allegations dating from the 1950s to the most recent substantiated allegation in 1993, said Deborah Cox, a spokeswoman for the diocese. The list doesn’t include details about the allegations or what parishes the priests were serving in at the time.
Cox said Knestout does not know of any priests or deacons currently serving in ministry or in any other capacity with a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against them. Cox said that if victims come forward with allegations against any clergy in active ministry, Knestout “will respond in accordance with our commitment to addressing allegations of sexual abuse.”
One of the priests listed by the Richmond diocese is the Rev. John P. Blankenship, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1982 while the boy and his mother went to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Prince George County to do housekeeping chores. Blankenship was given supervised probation and avoided a prison sentence. He was removed from ministry in 2002 and dismissed from the priesthood in 2007.
Eight of the priests on the Arlington list are deceased.
“The publishing of this list will bring a range of emotions for all of us. Embarrassment, frustration, anger and hurt are all natural emotions to experience in a time such as this. I share those emotions,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Arlington diocese wrote.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in October that his office and state police were investigating possible clergy sexual abuse of children and whether any church officials may have covered up or “abetted any such crimes.”
Herring set up a hotline and an online reporting form for any victims to report abuse.
A spokesman for Herring did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
After the clergy sex abuse crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, U.S. bishops adopted a series of reforms, including stricter requirements for reporting allegations to law enforcement. Since then, abuse allegations have been reported in dioceses around the country.
Just what are ‘zero tolerance’ policies – and are they still common in America’s schools?
February 14, 2019
Author: F. Chris Curran, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Disclosure statement: F. Chris Curran receives funding from the National Institute of Justice for ongoing research on school safety.
Partners: University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
When parents and educators discuss school discipline, one of the things that comes up most are “zero tolerance” policies. This term is often misused and misunderstood, according to new research I published recently.
Zero tolerance policies are also thought to be widespread. But, my work and a recent report show they are actually less common than frequently thought.
Zero tolerance policies are likely to get more attention now that education secretary Betsy DeVos has repealed Obama-era guidance that sought to reduce suspensions, particularly among children of color. Some claimed that the guidance may have made things worse – and even contributed to school shootings – by discouraging schools from reporting problem behavior.
A better understanding of zero tolerance is important, then, as schools nationwide once again grapple with the proper approach to discipline. Below, I explain some basic facts about zero tolerance policies and how prevalent they are in America’s schools.
Just what is a zero tolerance policy?
Zero tolerance policies require specific and generally serious responses – such as suspension or expulsion – for certain types of student misconduct. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights defines a zero tolerance policy as one that “results in mandatory expulsion of any student who commits one or more specified offenses.”
As early as the late 1980s, a handful of states had already adopted such laws for offenses like drugs or assaults. The 1994 passage of the federal Gun-Free Schools Act resulted in the expansion of mandatory expulsion policies for firearm offenses to all states. Wider use of zero tolerance approaches by schools for other offenses, such as tobacco and alcohol, soon followed.
In recent years, however, the term “zero tolerance” has frequently been used by advocates and the media to describe a wider range of disciplinary approaches. For example, the Advancement Project, an advocacy organization, has used the term “zero tolerance” as “shorthand for all punitive school discipline policies and practices.”
These kinds of broad definitions might rally people to join the cause of school discipline reform. However, they also muddy the water when it comes to understanding the scope of actual zero tolerance policies and efforts to reform specific practices of schools.
For example, research I have conducted with education policy expert Maida Finch of Salisbury University shows that exclusionary forms of discipline, like suspension, are an option for infractions at many schools but usually are not required. Instead, exclusionary forms of discipline are often part of a tiered system in which other interventions are tried first. A tiered system might be viewed as “zero tolerance” based on a broad definition like that used by the Advancement Project. However, it is a far stretch from being zero tolerance in actual practice.
How common are zero tolerance policies?
In a recent study, I found that, as of 2013, only seven states and 12 percent of school districts had discipline policies that used the term “zero tolerance.” While almost all states and about two-thirds of districts had a policy that required expulsion for certain infractions, these state laws and district policies overwhelmingly applied to serious infractions, like bringing a gun to school.
A recent report by the Education Commission of the States shows that only 15 states require suspension or expulsion for physical harm or assault. And only 11 do for drug use or possession. Only two states’ statutes require suspension or expulsion for less serious infractions, like defiance or disruptive behavior.
This focus on serious infractions in laws and policies contrasts with many media portrayals of zero tolerance. Based on my research, media portrayals of zero tolerance are more likely to focus on minor offenses. For example, the term “zero tolerance” has been used by the media to refer to situations where students were suspended for minor offenses, such as failing to wear a student ID badge, but only after multiple violations of the rule.
The lack of broad presence of zero tolerance policies is, in part, a result of states adopting more laws that scale back exclusionary discipline and fewer laws that call for exclusionary approaches.
Many school districts have also limited the use of suspensions. For example, Philadelphia banned the use of suspensions for minor infractions. Other districts, such as New York City and Austin, Texas, have adopted changes that make it more difficult to suspend students in the earliest grades.
Are zero tolerance policies the enemy?
During the 1990s, proponents of zero tolerance discipline saw it as a solution for school violence. They also saw it as a way to ensure unbiased discipline by removing discretion from school staff. For example, in 1995 Albert Shanker, then-president of the American Federation of Teachers, stated: “The way to make sure that this is done fairly and is not done in a prejudiced way is to say, look, we don’t care if you’re white or Hispanic or African-American or whether you’re a recent immigrant or this or that, for this infraction, this is what happens.”
To the contrary, however, studies have found that zero tolerance policies can increase suspensions and exacerbate racial disparities in discipline. They may also yield little benefit in terms of improved school climate.
Addressing zero tolerance policies is important. However, in my view, it’s important to look beyond zero tolerance. In general, almost half of suspensions occur for less serious infractions, like defiance or disruption. Students are being suspended for these infractions even when there isn’t a zero tolerance requirement in place.
Perhaps if everyone were more clear about what is and what isn’t zero tolerance, it would lead to more productive discussions about how to reform school discipline and improve outcomes for students.
THE MUSIC THAT’S IN ALL OF US
By Robert C. Koehler
And suddenly the music burst through the borders.
This was in May of 1999, in a city in the Netherlands called Alkmaar. Laura Hassler, an American woman who had been living in the Netherlands for many years by then — who was a choir director and, in essence, the “town musician,” the organizer of public music events — had put together a concert for the town’s annual honoring of the dead of World War II.
But the bloody war in Kosovo was then raging: Thousands had died; nearly a million refugees were streaming across Europe. Its horror dominated the daily news and Laura couldn’t ignore it. She couldn’t simply focus on the war dead of half a century ago, not when the hell of war was alive in the present moment, pulling at her soul.
She decided, “We’ll perform music from the people suffering from war now — folk songs from Eastern Europe,” she told me. Her impulse was to reach out, to connect, somehow, with those suffering right now, on the other side of Europe. And something happened the night of the concert. When it ended, there was a moment of profound silence … and then, as the audience stood, applause so thunderous that the rafters shook. It went on for 20 minutes.
One of the musicians, a political refugee from Turkey, said to her afterwards: “This concert was special. We should put it on a train, send it to Kosovo and stop the war!”
And so it began, a Zen moment, a crazy idea. Within a few weeks, a peace group had donated office space and Musicians Without Borders — an international organization with the stated mission “to use the power of music to bridge divides, connect communities, and heal the wounds of war” — was born.
“Within a few months, we had enough money to rent buses and go to camps in the Netherlands for refugees from Kosovo,” Laura told me recently. Something profoundly necessary had manifested. “It had to happen.”
At the refugee camps, the musicians made music with children and performed again the beautiful folk songs from the region. They also brought donated violins, accordions, guitars. Refugees who were musicians were likely to have fled without their instruments. These donated instruments gave them their music back.
“This was run by passion,” Laura said. “We didn’t know exactly where we were going, but we knew what we were doing.” Within a few months the new organization was traveling to Sarajevo, in Bosnia, bringing instruments, connecting with local musicians, and making music with children in refugee camps. Building on these experiences, Musicians Without Borders worked toward a long-term project in Srebrenica, with children from both sides of a cruel divide, which had separated Serbs (in the city) and Muslims (in refugee camps). This was a divide created by war and enforced by politics and bureaucracy. But music was a way to start to bridge it.
“This is what we believed,” Laura said. “that musicians don’t identify primarily by nationality or religion, but as musicians. We’ll find musicians in all war -torn regions who feel this way, as we do.”
In Srebrenica, scene of a 1995 massacre in which thousands were killed, MWB’s Music Bus became the organization’s first long-term project and an example of how music could help to rebuild a society shattered by war. With the Music Bus, Musicians Without Borders had established itself internationally. A short while later the organization was invited to Palestine to present its work. It also came to the attention of UNICEF and currently it works with local musicians in six countries — Kosovo, Palestine, Rwanda, Uganda, Northern Ireland and El Salvador — all of them torn apart by war and cultural division and suffering long-term consequences.
“In the beginning, people laughed at us,” she said. “We had no basis, no funding. But we had a vision. We struggled to make it for years. But every time we were about to go under, we survived.
“Every person has music in them!”
And the core and heart of Musicians Without Borders lays itself bare. This is the passion that drives it, that drives Laura, who grew up as a child of activist parents in a cooperative community, where “we were always making music. It was part of my life. I was always setting up singing groups and leading them.”
Every person has music in them, crying to be released. And, Laura believes, music is a healing force that can and must be used to move humanity past the damage it has been doing to itself ever since war and conquest became the global norm.
“There are different ways of experiencing music, as we all know,” she has written, “but also very different ideas about what music is. In European related cultures the dominant idea of music has, over history, become ‘something’ outside the person, to be taught and learned, practiced, perfected, held to a standard of quality and achievement.
“… a relatively few people are ‘artists,’ of whom a very few are ‘top artists’; but most of us are not — we’re listeners. And many listeners would tell you that they cannot make music.
“There is another way of perceiving music which many cultures, including earlier European cultures, share: that music is in the middle of all life, a basic element of being human, one that plays a continuous role in the life of the community and of every person in it. Inherent in this understanding of music is that, just like the capacity for language, music is part of our DNA and ‘doing’ music is part of human existence. It is what we do as we work, play, love, celebrate, suffer, mourn. You might say that we are music: from the rhythm of our heartbeat, our breath or our walking or dancing step, to the perception of tone everywhere in our lives, to the melody of our voices: music is in our bodies and in our spirits… . Music is a universally shared human trait, and all people have it in them.”
This is the future — a part of the enormous change pushing humanity beyond itself, beyond what it thinks it knows. Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest, described this enormous becoming in a TED Talk: “It’s so new we can’t recognize it. We’re so familiar with armies and governments, wars, churches and religions. There’s no precedent for what we’re doing….
“In the 20th Century: big ideologies stalked the earth, clad in armor. They fought for the control of our minds, of our land, and it wasn’t pretty.
“This movement is humanity’s immune response, to resist and heal political disease, economic infection and ecological corruption caused by ideologies. It is about possibilities and solutions. Humankind knows what to do.”
This movement … maybe it has a million pieces. We’re putting humanity back together in a new way, in a way that values Planet Earth and the soul of humanity. When Musicians Without Borders started becoming known, Laura said, she began receiving emails from musicians from all over the world, saying in essence: “Can I work with you? This is why I became a musician.”
Somehow I’m not surprised. The music’s in all of us. So is the desire to connect, to create peace, to save the world.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.