What Do You Think?


Our Tax Money, Our Environment, Our health, and Chicken Poop

I just got the straight poop on Perdue’s big chicken burner.  In December, construction starts on a $100 million dollar 10 Megawatt electricity plant burning poultry litter in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore.  Perdue Agribusiness Inc. in partnership with energy giant Fibrowatt LLC will, under current law, sell the energy to the state of Maryland, thus making the factory profitable. 


Would Jeffrey Sterling Be in Prison If He Were White?

scales of justiceLast week, CIA whistle-blower Jeffrey Sterling went to prison. If he were white, he probably wouldn’t be there.

Sterling was one of the CIA’s few African-American case officers, and he became the first to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against the agency. That happened shortly before the CIA fired him in late 2001. The official in Langley who did the firing face-to-face was John Brennan, now the CIA’s director and a close adviser to President Obama.

Five months ago, in court, prosecutors kept claiming that Sterling’s pursuit of the racial-bias lawsuit showed a key “motive” for providing classified information to journalist James Risen. The government’s case at the highly problematic trial was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. Lacking anything more, the prosecution hammered on ostensible motives, telling the jury that Sterling’s “anger,” “bitterness” and “selfishness” had caused him to reveal CIA secrets.

But the history of Sterling’s conflicts with the CIA has involved a pattern of top-down retaliation. Sterling became a problem for high-ranking officials, who surely did not like the bad publicity that his unprecedented lawsuit generated. And Sterling caused further hostility in high places when, in the spring of 2003, he went through channels to tell Senate Intelligence Committee staffers of his concerns about the CIA’s reckless Operation Merlin, which had given Iran some flawed design information for a nuclear weapons component.

Among the U.S. government’s advantages at the trial last winter was the fact that the jury did not include a single African-American. And it was drawn from a jury pool imbued with the CIA-friendly company town atmosphere of Northern Virginia.

Sterling’s long struggle against institutionalized racism is far from over. It continues as he pursues a legal appeal. He’s in a prison near Denver, nearly 900 miles from his home in the St. Louis area, making it very difficult for his wife Holly to visit.

Last week, as Sterling headed to Colorado, journalist Kevin Gosztola wrote an illuminating piece that indicated the federal Bureau of Prisons has engaged in retaliation by placing Sterling in a prison so far from home. Gosztola concluded: “There really is no accountability for BOP officials who inappropriately designate inmates for prisons far away from their families.”

With the government eager to isolate Jeffrey Sterling, it’s important for him to hear from people who wish him well. Before going to prison, Sterling could see many warmly supportive comments online, posted by contributors to the Sterling Family Fund and signers of the petition that urged the Justice Department to drop all charges against him. Now he can get postal mail at: Jeffrey Sterling, 38338-044, FCI Englewood, Federal Correctional Institution, 9595 West Quincy Ave., Littleton, CO 80123.

(Sterling can receive only letters and cards. “All incoming correspondence is reviewed,” the Sterling Family Fund notes. “It is important that all content is of an uplifting nature as any disparaging comments about the government, the trial or any peoples involved will have negative consequences for Jeffrey.”)

While it’s vital that Sterling hear from well-wishers, it’s also crucial that the public hear from him. “The Invisible Man: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling,” released the day after he was sentenced in mid-May, made it possible for the public to hear his voice. The short documentary (which I produced for ExposeFacts) was directed by Oscar nominee Judith Ehrlich.

More recently, journalist Peter Maass did a fine job with an extensive article, “How Jeffrey Sterling Took on the CIA -- and Lost Everything.”

It should be unacceptable that racism helped the government to put Jeffrey Sterling in prison.


Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org, which has encouraged donations to the Sterling Family Fund. Disclosure: After the guilty verdict five months ago, Solomon used his frequent-flyer miles to get plane tickets for Holly and Jeffrey Sterling so they would be able to go home to St. Louis.


School Transitions Simplified


Possibility 6For Maryland parents considering moving a child to a different school next year, right now is the time to start seriously preparing for it.  Making a well-informed decision about a school selection is important to the health and welfare of a child.

At PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families, we serve hundreds of youth who struggle with academic, emotional or behavioral issues every year through our Special Education Day Schools—one of which is located in Laurel—and community programs, so we understand the process of searching for a new school program.

With a variety of area schools serving the needs of youth with special needs, parents should be informed consumers.  This starts with knowing how to negotiate with the public school system if a parent is expecting to receive a referral to another public school program, charter or a nonpublic placement for their child. Other tips for navigating the process include:


Be Educated. There are free resources such as the Parent Training and Information Center-- www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center-- where you can find assistance in navigating the process. Understand the law through resources such as www.wrightslaw.com.  Also, familiarize yourself with the area organizations that many nonpublic special education schools belong to, including Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (www.mansef.org) here in Maryland or nationally National Association of Private Special Education Centers (www.napsec.org).


Network. Talk with other families, ask the school for references, read blogs, and visit parent groups. Remember, a school may be great for one child but not another. Don’t base decisions just on another parent’s opinion.


Be Timely. Begin the search early. Many schools have open houses and private tours.  Keep track of your thoughts by maintaining a journal; visiting several schools may blur your recollection.


Know Your Child’s Needs.  Is your child’s testing up to date? Do you feel the diagnosis and recommendations are appropriate? If your child is approaching transition age (as early as 14), begin to familiarize yourself with adult services and the process for obtaining services.


Ask the Right Questions.  Does the school address your child’s specific needs? Do they have a specific curriculum or specific interventions?  Is the staff trained in the approaches? Does the physical facility meet your expectations?  Is the school convenient or is there transportation? What are the credentials of staff? How does the school communicate with parents?


Set Reasonable Expectations. Don’t choose a school because of one or two extra -curricular activities that appeal to you or because another parent loves it. Choose a school that is best suited to your child.

Helping a child find the right school fit can make a significant difference in their future.  Do your research and give yourself enough time to make a wise decision that works for your family and child.


Don't grade justice on a warped curve


27STERLINGWEB-master675Yes, I saw the glum faces of prosecutors in the courtroom a few days ago, when the judge sentenced CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling to three and a half years in prison -- far from the 19 to 24 years they’d suggested would be appropriate.


The Real Baltimore Failure


BALT8Once again, another minority suspect is dead and portions of another American city have burned. These would seem like important issues. Yet when I checked my usual news sources the day after, what is it do I find that that our leaders and media executives want me to think about? Answer: The “issue” of whether it’s appropriate to call people who riot, loot and burn “thugs.”
This word has become, I am assured, the new “n” word. The Rev. Jamal Bryant told CNN, “These are not thugs, these are upset and frustrated children.”


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