Day: March 23, 2011

Student documentary filmmakers at LBJ focus on issues facing immigrant, Muslim community in Texas

  Graduate students at the LBJ school shot and edited their own mini-documentaries as part of class led by Dr. Paul Stekler, a UT professor and award-winning filmmaker. These 10-minute films focused on a variety of issues including American assumptions about Muslim women; the Dream Act and the individuals it would affect; and how one immigrant's entrepreneurial success has revolutionized small Indian village and an entire American industry. By artfully weaving personal experiences with larger political and social problems, these films are a refreshing set of reflections on the current realities of life in America. Undocumented This powerful film follows the Ramirez family, a typical Latino family living in Austin, Texas. Both parents are undocumented, yet they pay income and property taxes, and provide for their family. The home they own is located in a middle-class, south Austin neighborhood, only a short distance from the public schools their two daughters attend. Living in the US for over 15 years, Esther and David Ramirez are dedicated parents who wish only the best for their children and for their adopted country. However, they are forced to live in the shadows in a state where anti-immigrant legislation is always up for debate. Respect Your Guests This is the story of Houston hotelier Nitin Bhakta, an immigrant from a small Indian village, has helped foster a dramatic increase in Indian hotel ownership over the past...

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Leadership in America

  The January 8 shooting in Arizona was a tragedy. A democratic society cannot condone political violence, and all sides of the political spectrum quickly condemned the attack. Yet, instead of uniting people, this event had a polarizing effect on a nation struggling to reach a political consensus on a just about every issue. The left blamed this attack on right's fiery rhetoric, and the right deflected such attacks by making them seem like an assault on the First Amendment. On the other hand, the right distanced itself from some who have made the most vitriolic pronouncements and blamed the usual "liberal agenda" for a degrading society. A less personal, but also tragic event is now unfolding in Wisconsin. In a democracy a legitimately elected government has the (people's) authority to conduct government operations. This includes passing budgets and laws. The people of Wisconsin, elected 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats to their senate. The Republican majority is not due to a coup or an oppressive security force which dictated the election outcome. The Democrats lost because their story was not as convincing and their way of dealing with it: Walk away and stop a democratically and fairly elected government from functioning. We can blame the rhetoric of either side for causing this, but the bottom line is the same: Both sides are behaving like upset children at the playground....

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Attitudes at the Knife’s Edge

  For the last week and a half, I have been in Ethiopia, conducting research on climate change and adaptation. Rambling around Addis Ababa and the Central Rift Valley has been an exercise in patience and flexibility, but also enormously informative and enjoyable. Ethiopia is a country that has been particularly hard-hit by climate-related disasters, as the majority of its citizens are pastoralists or farmers. Pastoralists suffer losses of flocks or livestock from disease or lack of pasture, farmers lose crops to the lack of rains or the floods, less and less land is productive. Measles and other diseases threaten the population, internally displaced populations are on the rise, and refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea continue to enter and stress the resources of the country. Ethiopia's poverty and chronic underdevelopment has attracted an astonishing number of foreign aid donors and development partners. Everywhere you look in Addis Ababa are buildings with NGO names and the symbols of international aid agencies or bilateral aid missions. Half of the cars on the road have a U.N. insignia, the USAID logo, a European country's flag, or some combination of the words development, aid, assistance, international, and hope. The Ethiopian citizens with whom I have spoken are naturally prone to be far more aware of the structure of foreign aid institutions than most educated Americans appear to be. Two weeks ago, I...

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