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March 26, 2009 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-03-26

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4A - Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

I e l igan ily


Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
If print goes extinct
Journalistic integrity will decline as newspapers go online
Thanks to a failing economy and a slumping market for
print journalism, the city of Ann Arbor will soon lose one
of its oldest public patrons. The Ann Arbor News, which
has served the city as its primary daily newspaper since 1835, plans
to shut its doors in July. While the paper will still publish stories
online, its print version will only exist on Thursday and Sundays
in a format that is still unclear. This comes with serious ramifica-
tions for the state of news coverage in Ann Arbor. Print newspapers
like The Ann Arbor News serve a vital purpose that can't always be
fulfilled on online, and readers both in Ann Arbor and across the
country must realize that the decline of print journalism is bad for
responsible reporting.

s r


'Fair trade'tragedy

With the growth of the Internet, the
number of advertisers still looking to
invest in print resources is declining. The
Internet is perceived as more convenient to
readers with its constant updates and easy
access. Due to this trend, The Ann Arbor
News, like many other newspapers in the
industry, will publish primarily online.
While it's fortunate that the newspaper
isn't facing complete extinction, it's likely
that much of the staff will be left unem-
ployed and that on the whole, the Ann
Arbor community will be less exposed to
local news coverage.
When at its best, the Ann Arbor News
served a strong public purpose by inves-
tigating and reporting on local news that
affected its residents. While the quality
declined as the newspaper struggled to
stay afloat during the past few years, it's
reasonable to think that few media orga-
nizations will be able to completely fill the
News's shoes anytime soon. That's a shame
for this city.
This reality is even more disheartening
because of the state of newspapers across
the country. The shrinking of the num-
ber of available newspapers leaves those
that do survive with a responsibility to
fill the coverage gaps. This forces them to
become less specialized and obligates them

to report on a greater number of issues,
diluting content. This, in combination with
decreasing competition in the daily news-
paper market, threatens the overall quality
and value of the existing papers. Part of the
benefit of having many newspapers is that
they must compete to offer their readers
the most reliable, detailed and vigilant cov-
erage. Diminished competition results in
the same thing that happens in other mar-
kets- alower-quality product.
Arguably, those who still care about the
city will seek out news from the Internet,
and it's good that newspapers can still sur-
vive in this medium. But the self-filtering
quality of online news coverage is problem-
atic. When readers search for news in mas-
sive databases, it's likely they will choose to
read only the news that already confirms
their own beliefs. This results in a populace
that is less informed and, ultimately, more
bitterly polarized.
As newspapers like The Ann Arbor News
rapidly approach their final days, readers
must be aware that print journalism serves
a necessary purpose in society that can't
always be replaced by simply moving online.
Vigilant, objective and responsible coverage
necessitates competition among print news-
papers. As the saying goes, don't believe
everything you read on the Internet.

ot too long ago, I was walk-
ing across the Diag and saw
a group of students speak-
ing out (very loud-
ly) against child
labor. I respect the
desire to prevent
minors from hav-
ing to work, but to:,
call for an outright
end to child labor is
I agree that
in a few specific IBRAHIM
cases, there are KAKWAN
problems with the
practice. In central
Congo, for example, children work
in diamond mines for under a dollar
a day. They are surrounded by guns
and unstable mud walls, and many
are killed. But on the whole, child
labor provides an avenue for mil-
lions around the world to survive. It
may not be progressive or ideal, but
it keeps them alive and can be much
better than the alternatives. Plus, it
makes things cheaper for Americans.
Sometimes, it's better to make soc-
cer balls than to be on the streets or
forced into prostitution. In the mid
'90s, a UNICEF study found that an
international boycott of Nepali rugs
that aimed to stem child labor result-
ed in the loss of several thousand fac-
tory jobs held by children. Many of
these children, mostly girls, wound
up as prostitutes.
In the late 1980's, the Bangladeshi
textile industry (which today employs
thousands of children) was still
under development, and many chil-
dren were on the streets as beggars,
prostitutes or hard laborers. With the
expansion of the textile industry and
the emergence of sweatshops, many
of these children were taken off the
streets. If there is any doubt that
child labor was responsible for this
positive change, then an Oxfam study
illustrates the consequences of facto-
ry closures: in one case, up to 30,000
children lost their jobs, many became
prostitutes and some even starved.

The factories were closed in response
to international discontent with their
use of child labor.
What needs to be understood is
that the alternative to work is not
school or a "normal" childhood. If
activists force the closure of factories
employing children, then the chil-
dren will suffer. If there is no work,
there is no food. The children know
this, so they will take whatever work
manifests itself.
There are also less savory forms of
child labor, but even those can pro-
vide salvation in desperate situations.
It's possible that parents may place
their children into indentured ser-
vitude. Often, this results in exploi-
tation of the children, but in many
places it functions as a last resort. A
typical arrangement will involve a
(low) lump sum payment to the fam-
ily in return for a 2-3 year period of
work from the child. If a family is
faced by hardship - a debt, backed
rent or parents who are temporarily
incapacitated - such an agreement
can keep the entire family off the
streets, including the child.
This is part of the reason why indi-
viduals who choose to boycott firms
or products that involve the use of
child labor may unintentionally be
harming the children. A multination-
al company is probably among the
best possible employers for a child.
The wages tend to be more regular
and are generally higher than the
local alternatives. Plus, there is no
danger of indentured servitude. Even
the adults.benefit: when a big factory
opens, the local demand for labor
increases, and so can wages. In most
cases, sweatshop wages even exceed
the local average.
And don't be fooled by companies
that promote "fair trade." At the end
of the day, if a company has a slogan
thatemphasizes its"no-sweat"stance,
then it's simply attempting a different
approach to product differentiation.
Buying from such a company doesn't
actually help the individuals who
are in sweatshops - it just makes the

buyers feel better about themselves,
allows them to "make a statement"
and drains their pockets. It also
diverts business from employers who
keep children off the streets.
How child labor
actually saves
kids' lives.


On a larger scale, the movement
against anti-child labor can become
entangled with protectionism. It is all
too easy for an industry to seek pro-
tection by lobbying to limit imports
under the veil of promoting chil-
dren's rights. Better yet, it is not only
politically correct, but can improve a
company's image in the eyes ofawell-
intentioned public. Of course, there is
no real benefit to those abroad - on
the contrary, any import restrictions
will only result in the children losing
their jobs and livelihoods.
If you drink Coca-Cola, know
that the sugar may have come from
a plantation in El Salvador, employ-
ing a contingent of child laborers. But
be happy: you have done your part to
prevent those kids from joining vio-
lent gangs like MS-13 or 18th Street.
My family is from that country, and
let me tell you, it does make a differ-
ence. I remember watching an old
lady have her head bashed open in a
grocery store, presumably by a gang
When children as young as seven
are being recruited by these same
people to traffic drugs or engage in
gang warfare, labor provides a safe
alternative. It's a win-win: the chil-
dren are safe and paid, the multina-
tionals make money and it can even
prevent crime.
- Ibrahim Kakwan can be
reached at ijameel@umich.edu.

Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Elise Baun, Harun Buljina, Ben Caleca,
Satyajeet Deshmukh, Brian Flaherty, Emmarie Huetteman, Emma Jeszke,
Sutha K Kanagasingam, Shannon Kellman, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee,
Matthew Shutler, Neil Tambe, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder
Educating from the bottom

Avoiding anti-Semitism

President Barack Obama has certainly taken
his Bob-the-Builder philosophy to heart. "Can
we fix it? Yes we can!" Unfortunately, while he
seems to be trying to attack each problem indi-
vidually, I'm not convinced that his education
policy will make the cut. Obama's most recent
speech discussing education policy took place
on Mar. 10. His speech was great, as we can usu-
ally expect, and he engaged his audience. In it,
he outlined five different "pillars" that he would
like to see implemented in his education policy.
As a tutor for America Reads, I am all too
aware of the increasing education gap in Ameri-
ca's schools. Not only are American schools fall-
ing behind the rest of the world, but inner-city
and other under-privileged schools are falling
behind the rest of America. One of the bestways
to improve this inconsistency is to help students
improve the foundation of their education. You
can't teach children algebra without first teach-
ing them addition.
Thankfully, Obama's first pillar focuses on
investing tax money in lower elementary and
preschool programs. This is an excellent area
on which to concentrate, since our elementary
schools and younger children are often neglect-
ed. This is partially because of the increasing
financial crisis for higher education. As Obama
stated, we save $10 for every dollar invested
in childhood education programs. This extra
money could, in the long run, be put toward
higher education.
But saving money and helping younger chil-
dren is only one-fifth of the plan Obama wants
to implement. The other four-fifths attend to
other education problems like the financial cri-
sis for higher education. Obama wants to make
sure that every kid has the chance to attend
college, partially by providing better financial
aid. The problem with this plan is that it leaves
children at a distinct disadvantage. There is
no point in sending everyone to college if they
never learned the fundamental skills in elemen-
tary school.
The rest of the plan, as outlined by Obama,
also sounded a little reminiscent of former Pres-
ident George W. Bush's policies. Obama decided
to set up a system of accountability and fix No
Child Left Behind, which is arguably one of the
worst plans ever implemented by the govern-
ment. What Obama doesn't seem to realize is
that we already have a system of accountability
that places unbending and misrepresentative
academic requirements on schools, teachers

and, most importantly, elementary school stu-
dents. I would be more bolstered by Obama's
plan if he could outline how he plans to change
the assessments used to determine who is doing
well and who is doing poorly.
Once Obama has changed these regulations,
he needs to also recognize that when schools
- usually inner-city and under-privileged -
cannot make the grade, the worst thing to do is
simply cut funding. The current plan has arbi-
trary rules that cause schools that most need
funding to lose it.
This plan aims to change the current system
by putting the states in charge of education. But,
again, one major problem with the current sys-
tem is that states all have different standards. Of
course, Obama mentioned state accountability
with the same breath he also used to talk about
inconsistent regulations that need to be changed
at a federal level. It is not currently clear at what
level the regulations will be implemented, but it
should be a federal system of accountability.
Unfortunately, Obama will only give his new
Early Learning Challenge Grant to states that
have demonstrated a concrete plan to fix the
quality of their programs. But what does this
mean for Michigan - a state so failing in its
economy that it can't fix its budget, let alone
establish programs for early learning? If Obama
can talk about inconsistent state regulations,
he should also be able to set up a federal plan to
help the states and schools who are falling into
the cracks.
And most importantly, a working system
of accountability can only be realized once all
schools have the tools and ability to meet the
standards. Teachers can't keep teaching to tests
and hoping that students will be able to perform
the same in all areas of the country. This system
is cyclical and perpetuates what the Obama calls
a "race to the bottom."
Once we have improved the state of lower
education, we can finally focus on allowing
everyone to have an opportunity to get higher
education. As a college student, I would love
to see the cost of tuition go down. But Obama
is not necessarily talking about lowering that
cost - he just wants to make sure everyone has
a chance to pay the bill. That will only happen
when all students are taught effectively at the
elementary level. You wouldn't build a house by
starting with the roof.
Elise Baun is an LSA senior.

n a campus with roughly 6,000
Jewish students, identifying as
a Jew isn't something I usually
worry about. Anti-
Semitism is largely
a topic for lecture
halls rather than a
fact of everyday life.
But in the past few
months, particular-
ly during the recent
violence in the Gaza
Strip, I have expe-
rienced a torrent of MATTHEW
bitter arguments GREEN
about my support of
Israel. -
To be sure, dis-
agreeing with the Jewish state is not
the same as hating Jews. There is a
nuanced distinction between anti-Zi-
onism and anti-Semitism, and indeed,
many Jews take issue with Zionism.
But the lines are blurry. Particularly
in attempts to embolden otherwise
legitimate arguments against Israel,
students occasionally support their
opinions with unintentional anti-Jew-
ish sentiment.
"The U.S. only supports Israel," I
have been told, "because American
Jews control Washington." Ignorant
remarks likethis one are especially dis-
appointing as they serve to dilute very
real concerns about Israeli politics.
Those concerns are moreover under-
mined because condemning Israel as a
nation of bigoted jingoists has become
the latest posh opinion of leftist pseu-
Even when the Israel debate steers
clear from cultural epithets and chic
cluelessness, the dialogue generally
follows the same script. Opponents
insist that Israeli statehood goes
against the natural order of the region,
arguing that Israel denies basic rights
to Palestinians while accepting too
much money from the U.S., among
other concerns. Israel supporters then
assert that it's a thriving democracy
in the Middle East, a loyal ally of the

United States and that it has the right
to defend itself from countless enemies
in the region. The debate is an exhaust-
ed war of words and leaves little room
for consensus.
Clearly, Israel needs to be more
responsive to the humanitarian needs
of Palestinians rendered powerless by
poverty. Israel's actions in Gaza this
winter had understandable intentions
but also exemplified an Israeli callous-
ness that shocked many in the West. As
the rightist administration of Benja-
min Netanyahu likely comes to power
in Israel, it must be open-minded to all
possibilities on the path toward peace.
It has to prove the world wrong.
If you don't like Israeli politics, keep
in mind that there's a way to criticize
it without calling for its destruction
or resorting to anti-Semitic slurs. See
the above paragraph for an example.
Emotions and an overall disregard for
pragmatism have gotten the best of
people in the throes of this philosophi-
cal debate, and it's time to stop raising
the same talking points.
I'm not worried that Israel-bashing
will morph into a new wave of anti-
Semitism. But I'm sad to see discussion
focused solely around conflict when
there is so much else to talk about and
so much to love about Israel. Blinded
by one element of Israeli politics, the
world neglects to see the seemingly
impossible accomplishments achieved
by the Jewish state in only 61 years of
existence. From a barren desert, the
first Israelis built a modern nation that
enjoys a Western standard of living.
While the American economy may
be lucky to grow at all this year, the
Israeli economy continues to grow at a
rate of roughly 4 percent, according to
the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Much of this growth is a result of enor-
mous Israeli investment in technology
that has given the world the cell phone,
AOL Instant Messenger and the ingest-
ible video camera used in colonosco-
has been significantly advanced by the

ingenuity of Israeli hospitals and tech-
nology. But the Israeli story does not
end there.
Criticism of Israeli
politics shouldn't
turn to hatred.


Before becoming the second nation
in modern history to elect a female
head of government, Israel addressed
equal rights for women in the early
1950s, a decade before the United
States had the same dialogue. In addi-
tion, Israel is the only nation on the
planet that entered the new millen-
nium with a net gain of trees, thanks
to efforts bythe Jewish National Fund.
In fact, the overall dedication Israel
has shown toward environmentalism
- from water conservation to reducing
air pollution - is unparalleled, particu-
larly amongyoungnations.
Yet more importantly, Israel is the
cultural and spiritual homeland of a
people spat upon by the world since
its genesis. All biblical or religious rea-
soning aside, the Jews deserve a home.
Jews have clung to books and bagels in
the world's cities and villages for most
of their existence. A definite homeland
has beenthe missingpuzzle pieceinthe
collective Jewish psyche for too long. 6
Nevertheless, that doesn't give Israelis
the right to deny anything to Palestin-
ians. Rather, Jewish past should give
Israelis an understanding of what it
means to be evicted from history.
So disagree with the Israeli gov-
ernment, by all means. Just don't get
carried away with blind, categorical
assertions - because when you do,
your opinions are only extra shrapnel
in the conflict.
- Matthew Green can be reached
at greenmat@umich.edu.

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