Old Mail : Letters and Envelope

Change of Name? 

Editor:

Trump Tower is an elegant high-rise building in Las Vegas. But in light of Donald Trump’s resounding defeat in the 2020 presidential election, not to mention his second Senate impeachment trial that will soon occur, the residents of Trump Tower may wish to rename their building.

How about going from Trump Tower to Bernie’s Bougies? Just a thought.

David Tulanian

 

 

Black screens may cause long-term trauma

 

Editor:

Who thought I’d miss the drive down the 110? I miss seeing the skyline on my drive in. I miss my students walking in as I pull in the parking lot. 

In distance learning, some educators see the smiling, although pixelated, faces of bright young learners. I, however, stare into the void and see black screens with names and profile pictures. I don’t know what’s on the other side of that black screen. Maybe there’s a student who just didn’t feel like getting dressed this morning, or perhaps a student worried they are one streaming video away from disconnecting. Another afraid to turn on their camera because their classmates might notice they share a bed with multiple younger siblings. A fourth afraid to unmute as they try to tune out the parental yelling match in the background. I don’t know what’s happening in the homes on the other side of the screen, but I know we need policies that support the students who are learning there.

We are all new to this, and we may miss the traditional indicators of student engagement like raised hands and nodding heads. I know green checkmarks, blue thumbs-up and yellow clapping emojis are no consolation for smiles, laughter and exuberant responses. But I settle for emoticons because forcing students to turn on their cameras during distance learning could be more damaging to them than staring at black screens will be for me. Camera-on mandates unintentionally penalize the most vulnerable students for circumstances which are beyond their control. Schools and districts should adopt camera-optional policies to prevent further marginalizing at need students.

Camera-use policies vary by teacher, school and district. Some encourage students to have their cameras on whenever possible. Others mandate cameras on and penalize students for turning off video during synchronous instruction. My school opted to make camera usage optional.

Our policy originated from practical need. Audio-only conferencing uses less bandwidth (volume of information that can be sent over a connection). In a video conference, the device attempts to process the video output for the student, multiple video inputs from other students, and the teacher. Turning off student cameras decreases the amount of information the device has to processs, and the amount of information being transmitted over the internet. In short, a black-screen classroom uses less bandwidth which helps more students stay connected.

Distance learning created an emergency need for many families to have home internet and connective technology. The district rushed to provide hotspots for families in need. Telecommunication companies and nonprofits scrambled to provide low- and no-cost connectivity, but bandwidth in low-income neighborhoods is limited. The internet is not infinite, and there is currently not enough to go around especially during peak hours. The information superhighway moves faster for those who can afford to pay a toll to travel in lanes with less traffic. An entire neighborhood using residential internet connections during peak hours is like rush hour, leading to slower connections and less bandwidth for everyone, but especially those who can’t afford the top rate plans.

The policy also had unforeseen socioemotional benefits. Prior to the shutdown, I had a young girl break out in hives when asked to present with her group. Asking her to sit camera on is like asking her to stand in front of the class every day. A 2020 study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine shows the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in high levels of stress and mental health morbidity among high school students, especially girls. For many students, current conditions have amplified social anxiety. Now, we asked them to sit for a close-up in the most intimate part of their home when it would be just as easy to ask them to unmute and share their thoughts without sharing their faces.

Some believe the black screen allows students to indulge in distractions and not pay attention. But why assume the worst of our students? Some students listen to Zoom while working cash registers because they have to help provide for their families. They could easily choose to focus on employment instead of education. Mandated camera usage makes choosing education that much harder. In these cases, we can leverage the chat to get student participation without mandating constant camera use. Others have become default caretakers and educators. I teach while monitoring and assisting my children’s distance-learning classes; I can only imagine the difficulty of attempting to learn while monitoring and assisting parents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Our students have little to no control over their living situations. Some students live in two- or three-bedroom apartments shared by two or three families. Some live in studio apartments and sleep in bunk beds next to their parents; two bedrooms are luxuries for some. They cannot control who comes in and out of frame, or the way people in the background dress and behave. There is rarely privacy, so some students attend class from closets and bathrooms.

At a press conference in Florida, a teacher encouraged the superintendent to admonish parents for their behavior and dress in the background of student learning. What happened to privacy in one’s home? The educational system and pandemic have forced schools to intrude into homes. We have turned homes into schools and demanded everyone behave accordingly. We should explore the alternatives of optional video perhaps having assigned days where they will be asked to go video on. Distance learning is difficult for us all, but in some municipalities, parents have no choice: There are no hybrid or in-person models offered.

As we enter the second semester, we need empathy and support for our students. Rather than assume our students have the worst intentions, we need to support the students with the best intentions in the worst circumstances. The black screen in the void of students off camera may be depressing and disconcerting, but the potential for embarrassment and long-term trauma is far greater for students.

Megan Lee

 

 

Conspiracies for My Valentine: Anvils over their heads

By Ellen Snortland

Warning: This column contains a mix of truth, satire and fiction. Do not consume if you are experiencing shortness of breath, are pregnant or suspect you might be pregnant, or are irony and absurdity challenged.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Raise a glass to the most overwrought, phony-baloney commercialized “holiday” ever invented. The day is a setup for hearts, all right: broken hearts and heartache. Other than that, it’s peachy.

Speaking of phonies, Drumpf has been delivering valentines to the Kremlin regularly. Da, it’s true! Investigative journalist and author Craig Unger spills the borscht on the whole sordid scene in his new book, “American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump.” This is a follow-up to Unger’s 2018 book “House of Trump, House of Putin.”

Thanks to interviews with many people on the inside, including former KGB Maj. Yuri Shvets — or “Shvetty” as his New York friends like to call him after Alec Baldwin’s infamous sketch on SNL — we learn that Drumpf has been shvetting for 40 years! It would not be hyperbole to call Drumpf Putin’s sweetheart.

Head-scratching, I ponder, “What kind of anvil does Drumpf have hanging over the heads of some of his lackeys? What strings are attached? Why would they sell their souls to this Kremlin Kreep?” There’s ample, highly credible evidence that Putin has a sickle and hammer hanging over Drumpf. But what has Ted Cruz, Susan Collins, Devin Nunez, Kevin McCarthy and too many other sycophants to name in a short column dancing to marionette strings?

Teacher, I’m raising my hand! I know the answer — they’re controlled by Z, of ZAnon!

Z, their leader, uses QAnon as a colossal diversion, manipulating the “base” to believe in Q while those in power are actually following Z. Next time you’re around any Republican die-hard Drumpfers in the House or Senate, ask them to show you their armpits. They’ll refuse because it will give them away by showing they are part of the ZAnon cult, which itself is an offshoot of NXIVM (pronounced “Nexium”). If you don’t know what NXIVM is, consider yourself lucky.

Convicted sex trafficker and NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere is currently serving 120 years in prison for, among other things, having a harem of sex slaves. These women were highly intelligent, privileged, and easy on the eyes — oh, did I mention they were all white? Raniere required they hold each other down to be branded with his initials, placed dangerously close to their private parts. What people do not know, until this exposé here in my column, is that Drumpf was the NXIVM leader in charge of Keith Raniere! Drumpf’s improvement on the crotch tattoo was to have selected Republicans hold each other down to receive their DLV armpit tattoos, the acronym for Donny Loves Vladimir.

ZAnon also requires that its believers adhere to the practice of projecting whatever they are doing onto the people they attack. When you hear the wretched congressional rep from Georgia, Rep. Loony Tunes Taylor, and she’s talking about Jewish Space Lasers, that means she’s actually aiming laser beams at various (in her words) “weak-minded” Republicans — those still showing a smidgen of being in touch with reality. She targets their prefrontal cortex to fry their reasoning abilities and send their moral compasses a-spinnin’. After her treatment, they won’t know right from wrong, fact from fiction, up from down, or Q from Z!

“YowZa” is the Z cult’s secret code word, which stands for You Owe Whiteness to ZAnon. They pit bump, but only if no one is looking.

QAnon was all a ruse. The conspiracy theory that Bill Gates, Dr. Fauci and the World Health Organization are spearheading COVID-19 vaccinations so they can implant trackers in all of us is way off. Thanks to Z, we’re already being tracked and have been for decades via the barcodes on those teeny-tiny stickers found on all our fruits and veggies. You can always turn down a vaccine, but you have to eat, right? Nice try, Z, but we’re on to you now!

Forget Gates and WHO: The actual cabal is Keith Raniere, Dr. Ben Carson and Oral Roberts University. They teamed up to implant chips in us through the food supply and everyday purchases. You know how Dr. Carson always had that “deer in the headlights” look whenever you saw him on TV during the Drumpf administration? That was due to him working day and night, examining the results of the brain chips to rope people into having sex with him, Drumpf, and the entire Board of Oral Roberts U. How do you think the late Rev. Roberts got his first name, huh? Ever thought about that?

I know these are all shocking revelations and not what you wanted for a valentine. But, as I said at the outset, Valentine’s Day has never been all it’s cracked up to be. So, pull up your big kid panties and listen to Z — she knows what’s best. YowZa!

 

Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Who knew? Contact her at Ellen@beautybitesbeast.com