March 3, 2014
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December 16, 2013
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More than 90 world leaders were present at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, which had its fair share of faux pas. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, and the Obama, Cameron, Schmidt were booed after being caught taking a ‘selfie’ at the service. Then there was the fake sign-language interpreter!
Yes, Thamsanqa Jantjie, the Mandela memorial interpreter was fake. He was not using any recognizable sign language. Writing on Limping Chicken, a deaf news blog, Professor Graham Turner, Chair of Translation & Interpreting Studies at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh pointed out that:
He didn’t use South African Sign Language. In fact, he didn’t use any language. What he produced there was 100% authentic gibberish.Lost
And then allegations surfaced that the ‘interpreter’ who stood a few meters away from world’s leaders faced a murder charge in 2003.
The South African government has apologised for any offense caused by the sign-language interpreter.
In South Africa, the signing man told the world, you don’t actually have to know what you are doing in order to get a job. You don’t have to have any ability whatsoever, as long as it looks, to most, as though you can go through the motions — whether you are a teacher, a police officer, a bureaucrat, a government official or (as some have suggested) a state president.
There are those who see through you and complain, but they are ignored. Ours is not a culture of accountability. So one gig leads to the next. You’ve done it before so you get to do it again, because everyone in a position of power agrees that the emperor’s new threads are stylish. You stand there and tell us that the appearance of something becomes more important than the substance of it.
Many people wonder what he was saying. Several interpreters have emerged online to interpret him. YouTube user This is Genius posted humorous video below to show what the fake interpreter actually said:
Professor Graham listed 10 lessons from the fake interpreter saga.
1. Using a sign language fluently is not something one can do just by waving one’s hands around. Sign languages are grammatically-structured, rule-governed systems like all other natural human languages. You can’t produce meaningful signing off the cuff and – equally importantly – you can’t understand it spontaneously just by looking.
2. If you can’t sign, but require interpreting, you need reliable processes to help you identify effective provision. Interpreting isn’t a game: it should be run on a professional basis. This time, we saw a spectacular insult to the world’s Deaf people: but no-one died. Worldwide, every day, the result of inadequate interpreting leads to poor schooling, imprisonment, unemployment and health disparities. This must stop.
3. Without proper training, screening and regulation, people can and will take advantage. Even in countries like the UK, where sign language interpreting has become increasingly professionalised since the 1980s, smooth operators (who can talk the talk but not sign the sign) are legion. If you can’t sign, they may appear wholly plausible and be wholly bogus. Don’t guess and you won’t be fooled.
On Twitter, shocked users used the hashtag #fakeinterpreter to share their reactions to the revelation:
* Global Voices, December 15, 2013
December 6, 2013
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South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.
Mr Mandela led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison for his political activities.
He had been receiving intensive medical care at home for a lung infection after spending three months in hospital.
Announcing the news on South African national TV, President Jacob Zuma said Mr Mandela was at peace.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” Mr Zuma said.
“Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela – who is known affectionately by his clan name, Madiba – had died shortly before 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT). He said he would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast.
Crowds have gathered outside the house where Mr Mandela died, some flying South African flags and wearing the shirts of the governing African National Congress, which Mr Mandela once led.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa.
His fellow campaigner against apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he was “not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised.”
BBC correspondents say Mr Mandela’s body will be moved to a mortuary in the capital, Pretoria, and the funeral is likely to take place next Saturday.
‘Bid him farewell’
Mr Zuma said in his statement that “what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.
“Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell.”
Tributes have come in from around the world. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration”.
“Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways.”
US President Barack Obama said Mr Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man.
“He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages,” he said, adding that Mr Mandela “took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice”.
Mr Obama, the first black president of the United States, said he was one of the millions who drew inspiration from Mr Mandela’s life. He has ordered that the White House flag be flown at half-mast.
FW de Klerk, who as South Africa’s last white president ordered Mr Mandela’s release, called him a “unifier” and said he had “a remarkable lack of bitterness”.
He told the BBC Mr Mandela’s greatest legacy “is that we are basically at peace with each other notwithstanding our great diversity, that we will be taking hands once again now around his death and around our common sadness and mourning”.
The Elders – a group of global leaders set up by Mr Mandela to pursue peace and human rights – said they “join millions of people around the world who were inspired by his courage and touched by his compassion”.
The group’s chair, Kofi Annan, said the world had lost “a clear moral compass”.
“While I mourn the loss of one of Africa’s most distinguished leaders, Madiba’s legacy beckons us to follow his example to strive for human rights, reconciliation and justice for all.”
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said “a great light has gone out in the world”.
Earlier this year, Mr Mandela spent nearly three months in hospital with a recurring lung infection.
He was moved to his home in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg in September, where he continued to receive intensive care.
Born in 1918, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943, as a law student.
He and other ANC leaders campaigned against apartheid. Initially he campaigned peacefully but in the 1960s the ANC began to advocate violence, and Mr Mandela was made the commander of its armed wing.
He was arrested for sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, serving most of his sentence on Robben Island.
It was forbidden to quote him or publish his photo, but he and other ANC leaders were able to smuggle out messages of guidance to the anti-apartheid movement.
He was released in 1990 as South Africa began to move away from strict racial segregation – a process completed by the first multi-racial elections in 1994.
Mr Mandela, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993 jointly with Mr de Klerk, was elected South Africa’s first black president. He served a single term, stepping down in 1999.
After leaving office, he became South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup.
He was also involved in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere.
* Text by BBC, December 5, 2013
December 6, 2013
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Fast-food workers and labor organizers marched, waved signs and chanted in cities across the country on Thursday in a push for higher wages.
Organizers say employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But by late afternoon, it was unclear what the actual turnout was or how many of the participants were workers. At targeted restaurants, the disruptions seemed minimal or temporary.
The protests are part of an effort that began about a year ago and is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions to bankroll local worker groups and organize publicity for the demonstrations. Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.
At a time when there’s growing national and international attention on economic disparities, advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. That comes to about $15,000 a year for full-time work.
On Thursday, crowds gathered outside restaurants in cities including Boston, Lakewood, Calif., Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., where protesters walked into a Burger King but didn’t stop customers from getting their food.
In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for a pre-dawn rally in front of a McDonald’s. A few employees said they weren’t working but a manager and other employees kept the restaurant open.
Julius Waters, a 29-year-old McDonald’s maintenance worker who was among the protesters, said it’s hard making ends meet on his wage of $7.40 an hour.
“I need a better wage for myself, because, right now, I’m relying on aid, and $7.40 is not able to help me maintain taking care of my son. I’m a single parent,” Waters said.
In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald’s at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn’t look up from eating and reading amid their chants of “We can’t survive on $7.25!”
Community leaders took turns giving speeches for about 15 minutes until police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store. The crowd continued to demonstrate outside for about 45 minutes.
Later in the day, about 50 protesters rallied outside a Wendy’s in Brooklyn. Channon Wetstone, a 44-year-old attorney ended up going to a nearby Burger King because of the protests.
She said that fast-food employees work very hard. When asked if she’d be willing to pay more for food so they could earn more, she said it would depend on what she was ordering.
“I would say 50 cents, 75 cents more,” Wetstone said.
The push for higher pay in fast food faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on being able to offer low-cost meals and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked.
Fast-food workers have also historically been seen as difficult to unionize, given the industry’s high turnover rates. But the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has helped put their wages in the spotlight.
Berlin Rosen, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, is coordinating communications efforts and connecting organizers with media outlets. The firm says its clients are the coalitions in each city, such as Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15. Those groups were established with the help of the SEIU, which is also listed on Berlin Rosen’s website as a client.
The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, said most protesters were union workers and that “relatively few” restaurant employees have participated in past actions. It called the demonstrations a “campaign engineered by national labor groups.”
McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said in statements that their restaurants create work opportunities and provide training and the ability to advance. Burger King reissued its statement on past protests, saying its restaurants have provided an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans.
In the meantime, the protests are getting some high-powered support from the White House. In an economic policy speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama mentioned fast-food and retail workers “who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty” in his call for raising the federal minimum wage.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on the wage hike by the end of the year. But the measure is not expected to gain traction in the House, where Republican leaders oppose it.
Supporters of wage hikes have been more successful at the state and local level. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island raised their minimum wages this year. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved an increase in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.
AP | By By CANDICE CHOI and SAM HANANELPosted: 12/05/2013
AP Writer Mike Householder contributed from Detroit, AP videographer Johnny Clark contributed from Atlanta and AP Video Journalist Ted Shaffrey contributed from New York, AP Writer Mitch Weiss from Charlotte, N.C.
December 3, 2013
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Consumer Reports magazine today released its fourth annual “Naughty and Nice” list to highlight business practices it believes are helpful and not so helpful to consumers.
Consumer Reports’ staff compiled the list with suggestions from the company’s Facebook fans. “In each case, we verified the policy and/or practice either by direct contact or reading through the details on the company’s website,” the magazine says on its website. Although we cite companies by name, other businesses may engage in similar practices—for better or worse. And praise or blame for a specific policy doesn’t mean we give a thumbs-down or thumbs-up or for everything else that company does or the way it treats customers.”
BJ’s Wholesale Club was in Consumer Reports’ “naughty” list for not accepting “perishable” items in its online return policy, but the company told ABCnews.com that its website does not sell perishable items. Kelly McFalls, a spokeswoman for BJ’s, said the company brick and mortar stores accept refunds of perishable products, like food items.
Here are 9 companies that made the Naughty list:
The magazine dings the world’s 11th-largest retailer by sales for recently raising the requirement for free Super Saver shipping on eligible items to $35, from $25.
In a statement, the company said, “Amazon.com has not changed the minimum order amount for free shipping in more than a decade. During that time, we have expanded free shipping selection by millions of items across all 40 product categories. Fast, free shipping is not a holiday promotion at Amazon. We work hard to offer the best price available anywhere, every day, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all year. Nothing is more important to us than earning and maintaining customer trust.”
Best Buy made the naughty list because it requires a photo ID for store returns, even if you have a receipt, and maintains the right to store your information to track future returns and exchanges. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
The electronics store doesn’t allow returns on large televisions. In particular, the company says onits website: “Refunds cannot be given on televisions 24″ and larger.” The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Kmart made the naughty list for marketing that its stores will be open for 41 hours straight, starting at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Sears Holding Corp., which is Kmart’s parent company, says seasonal associates and volunteer workers will be staffing stores.
The company says it has been open on Thanksgiving Day for 22 years and that it extended hours based on feedback from Shop Your Way members.
“We understand many associates want to spend time with their families during the holiday,” the company says. “With this in mind Kmart stores do their very best to staff with seasonal associates and those who are needed to work holidays. All associates who work on Thanksgiving are compensated with holiday pay.”
|Lord & Taylor|
Though Lord & Taylor recently advertised a one-day sale with 25 percent savings, it only mentioned in the fine print that 70 brands and categories were excluded. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
QVC was added to the naughty list because of its complicated pricing system.
“QVC prices goods 20 different ways,” Consumer Reports writes. “For example, there’s the ‘QVC Price,’ also known as the everyday great price, ‘Today’s Special Value,’ a steep one-day markdown, the ‘Event Price,’ another temporary deal, and ‘While Supplies Last Price,’ identifying big savings on items in relatively short supply.”
In a statement, the company said: “QVC consistently ranks as one of the top retailers for customer service and we take great pride in being completely transparent about our pricing. Our customers are expert shoppers and expect great value on everything they purchase at QVC. They shop with the assurance that there will never be a surprise about a purchase price or total delivered cost.”
|Raymour & Flanigan|
“Deferred-interest credit cards let customers pay for purchases interest-free for a set period,” Consumer Reports writes. “But there’s a heavy burden on borrowers who fail to pay down the entire amount by the end of the promotional period: the prevailing interest rate gets applied retroactively to the entire original balance, not just the remaining amount you owe. Raymour & Flanigan isn’t the only chain that offers deferred-interest plans. Many big players, including Apple, Walmart, and Best Buy, for instance, do, too.”
But the furniture chain and Best Buy feature the option on their home page. Failure to pay off the balance in time could result in an APR of 28 percent. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
|Toys ‘R’ Us|
Toys ‘R’ Us was added to the naughty list for suspending its price-match policy on Black Friday, and not matching online deals during the week of Black Friday (starting Nov. 25) or on Cyber Monday. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
United Airlines doesn’t allow pre-boarding for families with young kids. The airline policy states, “Families with infants or with children who are under the age of 4 may board the aircraft when their group number is called.” The company did not respond to a request for comment.
* Text by Susanna Kim (ABC), Nov. 25, 2013
December 1, 2013
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Americans aren’t so sure about rich people.
For every revered Steve Jobs, there’s a reviled Bernie Madoff; for every folksy Warren Buffett, there’s a tone-deaf Mitt Romney. The pursuit of happiness is patriotic, but the pursuit of riches can come off as greedy. This ambivalence toward the wealthy is embedded in American democracy, and no one knows how to yank it out.
Even Alexis de Tocqueville agreed — a good thing, too, because discussing democracy in America without quoting “Democracy in America” is forbidden. “Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune . . . than in any other country in the world, or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance,” Tocqueville wrote of his travels in the United States. But then, the dagger: “I do not mean that there is any lack of wealthy individuals in the United States. I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken stronger hold.”
So Americans dislike inequality but crave wealth — and this paradox propels our mixed feelings about the rich. Oppressors or job creators? Ambitious go-getters or rapacious 1 percenters?
Robert F. Dalzell, a historian at Williams College, believes he has an answer. America has a long-standing deal with the rich, he explains, one that allows the country to “forge an accommodation between wealth and democracy.” It’s simple: Yes, rich people, you can exploit workers and natural resources and lord your wealth over everyone if you like, and we’ll resent you for it. But if, along the way, you give a chunk of your fortune to charity, all will be forgiven, old sport. History won’t judge you as a capitalist; it will hail you as a philanthropist.
This uneasy bargain is the premise of Dalzell’s “The Good Rich and What They Cost Us,” which chronicles the deal from before the revolution through the recent financial crisis. Of course, just because the deal has lasted this long doesn’t mean that it will endure. Or that it is a particularly good one. Or that the rich aren’t constantly trying to rewrite the terms.
Early on, the wealthy waited until their deaths to strike the deal. Dalzell writes of Robert Keayne, a prominent 17th-century Boston merchant who sought to cleanse his price-gouging reputation by devoting his posthumous riches to college scholarships, improvements in his city’s water supply and defense, and construction of a town hall where important men like him could discuss weighty things. His will became a unilateral contract with town leaders; if anyone tried to sue his estate for past misdeeds, Keayne stipulated, all his giving would “utterly cease and become void.” Boston took the deal.
John D. Rockefeller saw no reason to wait. His Standard Oil empire — whose ruthless business tactics Ida Tarbell exposed and whose interlocking parts the Supreme Court split up — became the basis for the greatest philanthropic enterprise the world had ever seen. From major financial commitments to Spellman College and the University of Chicago, to support for medical research that developed the yellow-fever vaccine, to the financing of the Cloisters museum in Upper Manhattan and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, to list just a few initiatives, Rockefeller and his descendants set the model for modern, large-scale philanthropy. And they did so in a way that preserved the family’s influence and wealth over multiple generations.
“There was something Medici-like about the whole effort,” Dalzell writes, “for within the soul of that great Renaissance family there lay an urge to combine what many might have thought uncombinable — vast wealth and dedicated public service.”
But he also sees a more prosaic motivation: Billionaires want to polish their reputations for posterity. Wealth does not dull their sensitivity to what we think of them; it heightens it. Dalzell thinks it is no coincidence, for example, that the Giving Pledge — a public commitment by the world’s richest individuals, led by Buffett and Bill Gates, to donate most of their fortunes — coincided with the Great Recession’s backlash against the wealthy.
So, the rich just want to be loved. Is that so wrong? If more than 100 of the planet’s wealthiest families and individuals are promising to give away unfathomable amounts of money, why quibble?
Well, there’s at least one reason: The deal gets worse as the price paid for the rich’s charity — the inequality between the affluent and the rest — keeps rising. From 1979 to 2007, the real, after-tax income of the top 1 percent of the U.S. population grew by 275 percent, compared with 18 percent for the bottom fifth, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Social mobility has become more stunted in the United States than in Europe. And Americans see themselves falling further behind: A Washington Post-ABC News polllast year found that 57 percent of registered voters believed that the gap between the rich and rest was larger than it had been historically; only 5 percent thought it was smaller.
The deal will get even worse if efforts to push laws and policies that benefit wealthier Americans succeed. In “Rich People’s Movements,” Isaac William Martin, a sociologist at the University of California at San Diego, says today’s tea party is just the latest manifestation of another American tradition: the mobilization of wealthy and middle-class citizens in an effort to cut their taxes and contributions to the state.
Before the tea party, Martin tells us, there were tax clubs — groups of bankers throughout the South that agitated for tax cuts and helped bring about the Revenue Act of 1926, which “cut the tax rates on the richest Americans more deeply than any other tax law in history.” Before we hadGrover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform, we had J.A. Arnold and the American Taxpayers’ League, and Vivien Kellems and the Liberty Belles, a 1950s women’s movement that campaigned to repeal the income tax. And before Arthur Laffer and supply-side economics, there was Andrew Mellon, the banker, philanthropist and Treasury secretary whose 1924 book,“Taxation: The People’s Business,” argued that cutting income tax rates would create more revenue through greater economic growth.
Rich people’s movements respond to perceived threats, such as the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to cap incomes during World War II (because “all excess income should go to win the war,” FDR explained) or, now, the policies of the Obama administration. But these movements sell their efforts not as benefiting the rich alone — that would be too transparent, too tacky. Instead, they claim to protect freedom, promote growth, safeguard the Constitution or fend off an ever-more-intrusive government. Martin calls this “strategic policy crafting,” and it brings more allies to the fight.
In fact, it is not just the wealthy, but often the middle class or the slightly-richer-than-average who have campaigned for lower taxes on affluent Americans. “People need not be dupes in order to protest on behalf of others who are richer than they are,” Martin argues. “The activists and supporters of rich people’s movements were defending their own real interests, as they saw them. A tax increase on the richest 1 percent may be perceived by many upper-middle-income property owners as the first step in a broader assault on property rights.” In other words, there’s nothing the matter with Kansas.
Shortly before the Republican National Convention gathered last year to nominate a man who could have become one of the richest presidents in U.S. history, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey on American attitudes toward the wealthy. The chronic ambivalence was there: Forty-three percent of respondents said rich people are more likely than the average American to be intelligent, and 42 percent believed that the rich worked harder than everyone else. The good rich! But 55 percent said wealthy people were more likely to be greedy, and 34 percent thought they were less likely to be honest. The bad rich.
Can “giving pledges” and foundation grants sustain America’s deal with the wealthy in a time of increasing inequality and falling social mobility? In his conclusion, Dalzell worries that the belief in the generosity of the good rich leads us to “tolerate, even celebrate, the violation of some of our most cherished ideals” of fairness and egalitarianism.
Perhaps the dilemma of extreme wealth and disparities in a democracy is that noblesse oblige becomes necessary. These two books show that the wealthy give much with one hand but seek to contribute far less with the other. That makes the giving they choose to do all the more critical but all the less accountable.
And that doesn’t sound like such a good deal.
By Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, November 27, 2013