More than ever, where futures begin

April 27, 2020

There are 30,000 college students in Northeast Ohio who know just how well Cuyahoga Community College responds to a crisis. They are still learning, everyday, as our nation works its way through the aftermath of this phase of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We were supposed to have 13,000 online students when Tri-C resumed classes from its spring break on Monday, March 16. But Covid-19 forced the college to move 100 percent of our learning from “seats” to “sign ons” via our classroom management systems and supportive communications software. It was a daunting challenge.

Challenge accepted.

tri-c-logo-rgbAs we prepared, we were blessed to have knowledgeable leaders who literally have been through challenging times before. Our president, Dr. Alex Johnson, was chancellor at Delgado Community College in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana in 2005. About 70 percent of the college’s buildings suffered substantial damage from the hurricane.

Our administrators and faculty benefitted from a combined faculty-staff Crisis Response Plan which we crafted in 2009 — 11 years ago — as part pf preparations for the H1N1 flu. My high school speech and debate students know the mantra of P-P-P-P-P-P: Proper Practice and Preparation Promotes Perfect Performance. Having a plan, and having administrators and faculty who carried it out, was also a tremendous benefit.

Almost overnight, Tri-C went from offering 2,500 to 5,000 online classes. Our online population more than doubled to a total of 30,000 students. We greatly and quickly expanded our technological infrastructure to meet this sudden demand.

It’s not been easy. Cuyahoga Community College’s Online Learning and Technology (OLAT) team has put endless hours of preparation for this transition. Joint faculty-administration crisis teams have assisted the transformation process. We continue with weekly online meetings to improve the effectiveness of our learning, to ensure that students and faculty receive the tools and help they need to thrive, and to continuously improve how we deliver learning online.

Our faculty are now developing and posting 800 to 1,000 new videos explaining lessons each week in MediaSite alone, one of our several software packages deployed for learning. We have about 700 exams (many are final exams) going through ProctorU. We have held more than 110 faculty learning forums attended by more than 750 faculty members. Another 450 faculty members have received help from or attended virtual lessons which our Centers for Learning Excellent (CLE) Team has developed.

college consensusBy many measures, we’re doing extraordinarily well at this. The organization College Consensus has ranked Tri-C as No. 25 in the nation on its list of top online programs, compared with more than 1,000 two-year schools across the U.S. User-friendliness of learning platforms and online degree offerings are some of the criteria used for the rankings.

College Consensus noted that Tri-C’s flexible program allows students “to continue working and living their busy lives” while taking classes. It also highlighted access to academic counseling and educational resources.

And there’s more. Cuyahoga Community College’s workforce division develop several short-term online training programs in the fields of information technology, health care and manufacturing. These brand new online learning programs can help NE Ohio residents build new skills while they are sheltering at home through this pandemic. Once businesses reopen and we all build to that “new normal” which is coming, these people will return to the workforce with new a new skillset, ready to thrive in the years ahead.

YOUR TURN

If you are a college student living in Northeast Ohio, you might be facing uncertainty about your higher education. Perhaps your university or college isn’t offering the courses online you need to earn your degree. Perhaps you don’t want to think about being really far from home as our nation continues grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic.

A great alternative is ready and waiting for you at Cuyahoga Community College. We’re just a few clicks away, and we’re well worth exploring as a way to ensure that your learning continues in the safety and security of your own home. Hundreds of our courses transfer to meet degree requirements at all four-year public colleges and universities in Ohio. They have already been certified as such at the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Where to begin: www.tri-c.edu/get-started/visiting-students.html

Questions about how to  register: WestStudentHelp@tri-c.edu

The general college website: www.tri-c.edu  (Click on Take A Class to see a course listing)

Additionallly, You can e-mail me at john.kerezy@tri-c.edu and I’ll be glad to share with you a one-page list of virtual contacts the college has prepared for all its current and prospective students.

And if you want to watch a “non professional” video which covers the benefits of taking online courses at Cuyahoga Community College this summer, click here:

Nope.

I don’t know how classes will be offered in the Fall 2020 semester at college or universities in Ohio or across the U.S. No one knows that yet.

I do know this: Cuyahoga Community College is where futures begin, and we will continue to be that in any modality, whether the learning is online, in a seat in a building, or some combination in the future.

(Blog author John Kerezy is Associate Professor, media and journalism Studies, at Cuyahoga Community College)

SOME SOURCES

https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2020/04/the-strengths-weve-built-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak-will-accelerate-our-recovery-alex-johnson.html?fbclid=IwAR2U4hPTaJT9CmkhUNe-D7FY1nytrGWKOL79yuUGq9VcmzyPgEvtcWJoFxo

https://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Community-College-Continues/63796

https://www.tri-c.edu/news-and-events/news/online-learning-program-at-tri-c-ranked-among-nations-best.html?fbclid=IwAR3vzf_OkVV_KvVxWMTBFESl86UHpt80Y6E-r1iWwSG06-y8RrG-o5ofWWU

 


Staying safe, ensuring journalists cover the facts

April 5, 2020

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM AN INTERNET ATTACK

Tens of millions of Americans are now working remotely from their homes. Upwards of 100 million more American school children and young adults are studying in K-12 or college programs from their homes as well. With no restaurants, theaters or shows to attend, we’re watching streaming videos or playing video games in record numbers. We’re also using cell phones, tablets, and laptop computers at unprecedented levels.

Julia Alexander, who writes for The Verge, cited proof of this in a column on March 27. With the advent of social distancing:

  • Binge watch in March is up 65 percent compared to the prior month on HBO
  • Movie watching on HBO is up 70 percent
  • Netflix has seen a surge in streams
  • Disney Plus reports a massive subscription sign-up
  • Twitch has seen a 31 percent growth in viewership
  • YouTube Gaming has seen a 15 percent increase

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are being stretched thin due to the burgeoning growth. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says mobile WiFi calling is up 100 percent, and mobile data is up 40 percent. In some countries, providers have cut back from HD to standard definition videos. YouTube announced in March that for one month it would automatically degrade videos down to standard definition around the world. Amazon is also taking steps to reduce bit rate streams in countries across the globe.

All of this is happening away from offices, schools and colleges/universities – places which provide firewalls and other forms of security to protect their users. As a result, Americans are more vulnerable than ever to cyberattacks. In this environment, it is up to us to be the first line of defense against cybercriminals, scammers, and phishing attackers.

“Cybercriminals and other hackers are always to looking for any opportunity to gain an advantage.  Be on guard against hackers who are using the confusion around working changes caused by COVID-19,” wrote David Mastny, Director of IT Security at Cuyahoga Community College, in an e-mail to college employees on April 3. “Many hackers favor social engineering attacks like phishing that use email to get you to open an attachment, click a link, or take some other action.”

Mastny and many other IT professionals advocate taking a HOVER TO DISCOVER approach any time you see a questionable message. You do this by “hovering” the mouse cursor over a link BEFORE clicking to see where it leads without actually going to the site.  If it looks weird or the site is not related to the sender, it is probably malicious.  Hovering looks like this:hover to discover

After hovering, if the site the message is sending you to looks wrong, you should report it as a phishing attack to your employer or school.

If you are using a mobile device, with software such as the free MICROSOFT OUTLOOK app, you can LONG PRESS on the link by pressing for several seconds and will see the same information as hovering. Long

Press looks like this:

LONG PRESS

Mastny and all IT security professionals are rushing to provide new education and training to their employees. If you receive an update on IT security from your workplace, pay attention to it. The information might prevent you from a cyberattack.

ONE MORE TIP – If your employer or school offers a virtual private network (called VPN, VMI or VDI most frequently) use it. Applications running in a VPN have the functionality, security and management of the private network. That way you have some additional defense against phishers and scammers.

OVERWHELMED

Snopes, Facebook, Twitter, and others are all “taking hits” in the fight to defeat Coronavirus.

Snopes began in 1994 as an online website to debunk urban legends, long before the advent of social media. Accompanying the outbreak of the global Coronavirus pandemic has been an epidemic almost as bad – Disinformation (DI) and organized campaigns aimed at misinforming the public about origins of Covid-19, treatments, and even the disease’s basic symptoms.

The DI campaigns are overwhelming the fact checkers, and also leaving the social media platforms hard-pressed to take corrective action. How bad is it? The World Health Organization stepped up its regular briefings and communications efforts about Covid-19 and cited reports about the Coronavirus as becoming a news “infodemic” on February 3. In the two months since then, hundreds of different conspiracy theories and outright DI campaigns are spreading virally via the Internet.

Here is a quick review of the four categories of fakes in the online world:

  1. HOAX – People who simply enjoy fooling others with fake reports. Numerous celebrities have all “died falling off a cliff while hiking in New Zealand” in years past. A prankster in Georgia takes credit for these stories. He simply enjoys showing the world how gullible the news media is.
  2. SATIRE – The Onion and The Babylon Bee are two of the biggest practitioners of satirical stories on the web. This is the internet version the “Weekend News Update” first introduced on the television show “Saturday Night Live” in the 1970s. One hundred percent of the stories on these sites are made up and designed to elicit a laugh (and to get you to visit their web sites so they can sell more advertising.)
  3. PROFITEERS – This is more serious, at least for those putting time and effort into the process. Profiteers can take on two forms, one more insidious than the other
    • Clicks – the actors or companies involved are making money simply by getting you to view their false content. There were thousands of fake news stories planted by “official” sounding websites in the 2016 election campaign, for example. Some of them came from young men called “content farmers” from the nation of Macedonia, who learned that they could make a lot of money from advertising revenue generated from hits on their fake stories. They had no interest in the outcome of the election, but only how to make money on gullible people reading their stories.
    • Sales – the actors or companies involved is trying to sell “cures” or products, usually scams, on the Internet. Hundreds of “cures” for Covid-19 are available on various websites, all aimed at getting into your wallet or (even worse) learning your credit card number.
  4. MALICIOUS CONTENT – The worst kind of fakes are intentionally and repeatedly putting out false information as part of a planned effort to subvert the truth, reduce faith in democracy and the democratic process, and/or to advance their own agendas. Russia, China, and Iran are all the leading national practitioners of these DI campaigns. Here’s just one example: Last year the New York Times chronicled Russia’s DI campaign to discredit and scare the public over the adoption of 5G WiFi systems. Tragically, its working (see below).

Fake news and DI has spread even faster than the Coronavirus. Snopes has just 10 employees. It has seen 36 million unique visitors to its website in the last 30 days, a 50 percent rise in traffic. It has debunked hundreds of false stories and is checking dozens more every day. The Coronavirus is “the deadliest information crisis we might every possibly have,” says Vinny Green, Snopes’ chief operating officer. Snopes is now adding five more employees to avoid becoming overwhelmed by its visitors.

Social media platforms are also increasing their security personnel, relying more on algorithms to block or take down “inappropriate” content, and — upon investigation — removing malicious content from their services. Facebook Twitter, and other platforms are all reporting rises in the number of accounts they are removing. If you are curious, at the bottom of this column you can see links to websites where Twitter and Facebook report their removal of inauthentic content from their platforms.

What’s truly tragic is that, in some countries and in some circumstances, the DI campaigners are winning. For example, three times in recent weeks citizens in Great Britain have set 5G WiFi cell towers ON FIRE because of unfounded fears that there is a connection between 5G service and Coronavirus! Another story in The Verge (linked below) has the details.

There has been a Russian-led DI campaign for some time now aimed at convincing people in democratic nations that 5G service is harmful. In the U.K., one local radio station even gave a (alleged) “nurse” a 20-minute interview during which she cited phony evidence about the harms of 5G WiFi.

That would never happen in the U.S.  Or has it already happened?  Citing a 2017 U.S. Director of National Intelligence Report, the Times says that videos posted from the Russia news-propaganda site Russia Today have 1 million views per day.

5g coronavirus

 

JOURNALISTS: FIRST DRAFT STEPS UP

At the beginning of March, I was fortunate to attend a Live Simulation seminar at Ohio University, presented by the organization First Draft. For the past five years, First Draft has been on the front lines of communication and education of journalists about the dangers of DI and DI campaigns.

In response to the explosion of DI over the Coronavirus, First Draft has developed a menu of resources for reporters, editors, news directors, and other journalists. It includes:

  • Newsgathering and verification tools
  • Ethics and responsible reporting guidance
  • A database of debunks of mis- and disinformation
  • Data and information sources
  • A searchable reading list
  • FAQs that journalists may have
  • Links to sign up for video calls on reporting coronavirus

Of special note is the database, which collates output from more than 70 organizations and is sourced from both Google’s Fact Check Explorer and Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network (IFCN). The IFCN was launched in 2015 as a collaboration of global fact checking all over the world. It has collectively published more than 800 fact checks about coronavirus in the first seven weeks of the outbreak and is continuing to publish regular updates on coronavirus misinformation.

First Draft has developed a terrific acrostic and a visual to remind journalists and all of us about disinformation – don’t be SHEEP.  In this acrostic, the word stands for Source, History, Evidence, Emotions and Pictures. See the visual below.

sheep

Kudos to First Draft, and thank you to its many supporters and to the media outlets who rely upon its resources during this crisis. DON’T BE A SHEEP.

Kerezy is associate professor of Media and Journalism Studies at Cuyahoga Community College and is also a member of USPR, a global network of pubic relations and marketing communications professionals. Details at www.USPRnetwork.com, a global network of public relations and communications professionals.

Permission is granted to reuse all or any portion of this content. Connect with the author at john.kerezy@tri-c.edu or via Facebook or Twitter.

MORE LINKS TO SOURCES

https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/4/21207927/5g-towers-burning-uk-coronavirus-conspiracy-theory-link

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/science/5g-phone-safety-health-russia.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/health/coronavirus-misinformation-social-media.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-snopes-misinformation-fact-checking-overwhelmed-deadly-consequences-2020-3

https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

https://about.fb.com/news/2020/03/combating-covid-19-misinformation/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/twitter-to-remove-harmful-fake-news-about-coronavirus

 


Mark Zimmerman: Back on the air soon

January 21, 2020
mark zimmerman

MARK ZIMMERMAN (Photo by Lee Rugen)

I’ve been blessed to have a lot of long-standing friends. Mark Zimmerman one of them.

Mark returns to the airwaves in Northeast Ohio 24 days from today, on February 14, on a new radio station in the area, WJKA 91.9 FM. A student in my Fall 2019 News Writing class, Hannah Mayer, and I had an opportunity to interview Mark a few months ago to learn about what’s been up with Mark, and some details about his return to radio.

Here’s a link to Part One of our story:  https://eyeoncleveland.com/2020/01/21/zimmerman-on-the-air-again/

Hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 


Let’s be Americans today

January 3, 2020

PLEASE

Let’s be Americans today.

Let’s not weigh every single decision which the Pentagon and the President make in terms of whether it “helps” or “hurts” or “distracts from” a Senate removal of office trial of President Trump. Or hurts or helps Trump’s re-election campaign.

How many horrible terror attacks have happened on U.S. soil since 9-11-2001?

That answer – zero – is a credit to the combined great work of Presidents Bush (43) Obama and Clinton, and to our Directors of National Intelligence, Department of Homeland Security and its tens of thousands of present and past employees, and to the CIA and the FBI.

Wouldn’t we like to see that number stay at zero?

James Sciutto CNN’s chief national security correspondent, stated in a broadcast this morning that the terror leader we killed in a drone attack yesterday, Iran Gen. Qassim Suleimani, was responsible for planning and ordering the deaths of 603 American soldiers in the Middle East.

He’s also plotted and carried out dozens of terror attacks in several Middle East countries. He was caught attempting to assassinate the Saudi Arabia ambassador to the U.S. in Washington DC.

Gen. Suleimani has been on the U.S. “Top Terrorist” list for more than 15 years.

So as you ponder this action, and you see or read media reaction to it, suppose you were in casual conversation with the sons, daughters, wives, husbands, mother and fathers of one or more of those 603 Americans who Suleimani killed?

What would you be saying to them?

How does that compare to what you might be posting on social media?

Again, let’s be Americans today, and support what our intelligence agencies, our military, and our president are all doing to keep us safe and secure in the REAL war – the Global War on Terror which Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other terror groups have launched against us.


Grant E. Johnson, 1927-2019

November 30, 2019

Father. Grandfather. Faithful. Friend. Steadfast. Loyal. Strong. Pure. Love.

20191130_061111Those are some of the words that come to mind as Kathy and I celebrate the life of Grant Johnson. Grant and his wife Shirley came to live with Kathy and me in early October 2014, when Shirley’s health became too fragile for them to continue being on their own. Shirley passed away on November 28, 2016. Grant died on November 27, three years later, after a brief illness. He told Kathy he was ready to be with Jesus in the final hours of his life at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center on Wednesday.

shirley-2

Grant and Shirley’s wedding, June 1952

Grant was 62 when we met in 1989, and in 30 years since then we cherished many wonderful family times together. We attended more than a dozen Kerr Bash family gatherings. Kathy and I traveled together with Grant, his wife Shirley (and sometimes our son Tyler) to Florida, and to Texas, and to Alaska. We saw glaciers, touched the trans-Alaska Pipeline, and played dominoes in an RV home along the Chena River in Fairbanks one summer. We attended Cleveland baseball games with Grant and his mother, Edna Johnson, an avid Indians fan, until she passed away, and we took Grant to a few games after then as well.

grant and ty two

Grant with grandson Tyler at D-Day Conneaut, August 2019

Grant worshiped with his wife and family for many decades at First United Methodist Church in Ashtabula. When he and Shirley moved in with us in 2014, they regularly attended Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC), and Grant was at CVC every Sunday until his final illness. He also loved our new home in Cuyahoga Falls. He’d solve the sudoku and word puzzles in the Akron Beacon Journal every day, and enjoyed walking to the postal boxes and getting the mail in our development. Eddy’s Deli became a favorite restaurant for him.

“I’m an electrical man,” he would say when talking about his career, as if those who worked with him or under him at Reliance Electric from 1956 until his retirement in 1982 wouldn’t know! His research and designs on electrical motors are used to this day to help power golf carts and other electrical transport devices. He also helped develop gigantic electrical motors used for industrial applications. He was the first person in Ashtabula to build and operate his own personal computer in the 1970’s.

shirley-5

Grant (front left) with wife Shirley, children and their spouses, and granddaughter Lexi at Grant and Shirley’s 60th wedding anniversary in 2012.

Grant served as an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University, Ashtabula Campus, teaching electrical and computer technology for six years. He was a long-time Mason, advancing to the commandry degrees. He was quite active as well at First United Methodist Church, serving on Finance and Trustees Committees.

As they grew up, grandchildren loved visiting their Grandpa Grant. He kept a small plastic can packed with toys in his den, and they knew then they visited they could pick out a toy or two to take home with them. He would introduce them to computer games, and he would also set up a “street fair” with outdoor games for them in his driveway.

grant ty and me

Grant with grandson Tyler (middle) and me, Fathers’ Day 2018

More than a few grand children spent a week with Grant and Shirley in Ashtabula during the summer months. Some of them would assist in hosting Venture, the summer Vacation Bible School at First United Methodist Church.

He was also a veteran of World War II, entering the Army in Spring 1945 from Titusville High School, where he served in the Civil Air Patrol. He was honorably discharged one year after the war ended. In the final year of his life, Grant talked much more about his military service. He attended a D-Day commemoration in June, and also went to D-Day Conneaut in August 2019 to be part of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and remembrance and reenactment events there. It was a highlight he talked about for the rest of his days.

Tom Brokaw described those who came of age in World War II as “the greatest generation” in terms of their contributions to our society and to the world. Grant Johnson personified those contributions in the way he lived, the way he raised his family, and in the many positive ways he supported faith, family and friends in Ashtabula over six decades.Husband. Father of three. Grandfather of nine. Great-grandfather of three. And still, these words are inadequate to describe Grant’s life. His reach. His impact.

He’s be missed, but never forgotten.

VISITATION: Those wishing to pay last respects to Grant Johnson can do so at Ashtabula First United Methodist Church,  4506 Elm Street, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 14. A memorial service for Grant will be held at the same location beginning at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon.  Grant and his late wife Shirley helped serve countless luncheons at this church from the 1950’s into the 2000’s. Fleming & Billman Funeral Home is handling final arrangements, and Grant’s death notice will appear on their website soon. The link is: https://www.fleming-billman.com/listings

Memorial contributions should be made to Ashtabula First United Methodist Church, 4506 Elm Street, Ashtabula, OH 44004.


Ecstasy wins over agony

October 13, 2019

OCT. 13, MILE MARKER 5 ON THE OHIO & ERIE CANAL TOWPATH TRAIL — This is about the same spot on the race where it all went horribly for me in October 2015. I had completed the first half of a half-marathon course that day in 56 minutes, and mentally I was running excellently. But I had ignored the signs of sciatica which had given me some mild pain 4-5 times in workouts prior to the race.

john half croppedNo guessing at what happened next. As I did the 180-degree turn in Brecksville, I felt a strong shooting sensation all along the back of my right leg and up into my back. The more I ran, the worse the agony. I slowed down. I walked. I ran again. Nothing changed the intensity of the pain.

Before this, I’d run at least 30 different road races of varying distances. This would be the first time I wouldn’t finish a race. I limped to a first aid station and then watched hundreds of runners continue past my perch on the back of a golf cart. I was out.

FAST FORWARD: A lot happened in the intervening time. My mother-in-law Shirley Johnson, who was living with us, died. My younger sister Denise died of cancer. I gained weight. I stopped taking great care of myself, and soon my GERD disease returned, causing me growing stomach distress. My gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. Natin Davessar, recommended I consider a surgical procedure called Nissen Fundoplication. After consulting with surgeon, I went “under the knife” and had this minimally-invasive surgery in January 2019. It was a success.

After that, it was up to me. Working closely with the terrific staff in Sports & Exercise Studies at Cuyahoga Community College, I resumed workouts with an emphasis on running. I did two 5-K races, including the first-ever Triceratops Run at Tri-C East. Then I shifted to longer runs and training runs. By July, I was averaging more 30-35 miles a week in training. It was hard work. But today I weigh 50 pounds less than I did the day in early January when I checked into Parma Hospital for pre-admission tests.

There aren’t words to describe how outstanding Sports & Exercise Studies was in helping strengthen me. The class I took with personal trainer Gina Matteucci taught me a lot and gave me confidence to keep going over the summer. Professors Holly Clement and Christine Phillips offered counsel and advice. When I had a mild hamstring pull, both provided recommendations which got me back to the training regime safer and sooner. Four days a week, runs of varying lengths (4 to 10 miles) got added to morning prayer, Bible study, and other parts of my daily routine. By late July, I’d decided to try running a half-marathon once again.

I had two local race options: The Akron Marathon/Half Marathon on September 28 or the Towpath on October 13. I opted for the Towpath because I’d run it before and because the gravel and dirt trail would be a little kinder to my knees and feet than the blacktop and hills of Akron.

But of course, best-laid plans go awry. Canalway Partners, organizers of the Towpath Trail race series, moved their event further north — to a part of the trail which is all blacktop. Of course the Towpath has a lot of shade, but that would actually work against runners this time.

RACE DAY — The thermometer on my car kept showing a plunging temperature as I made my way north and west towards Valley View. It was a low as 37 degrees at one point on the journey. I was second-guessing my attire, wishing that perhaps I’d added gloves. Fortunately the temperature improved to 43 degrees at around race time, and then the rising sun warmed the course and the 950 or so runners on it. There were three different distance categories, with the half-marathon being the second longest.

I arrived a little later than I’d wished, and it was a one-mile walk from the parking lot at Cinemark Cinema in Valley View to the starting line. The “ringing cowbell” gun for the start sounded as I was still heading to the starting line, and suddenly I was like a salmon swimming in the opposite direction of all the other fish. I arrived at the start, did a couple of stretches, and galloped off.

bridgeJust before the two-mile mark into the race, runners encounters a pair of pedestrian bridges over busy roadways. The course description says, “These bridges rise to 30 feet above the roadway at each point and include a 7% grade.” Take a look at the photo. It might measure as a 7 percent grade, but it felt much greater, especially on the return.

Fortunately, there were no problems this time. With Kathy’s help, I had successfully carbo loaded the night before. (BTW — The endless pasta bowl at Olive Garden works quite well.) I have a pre-run routine which includes a protein breakfast of omelet with ham and turkey two hours before race time, a cup of coffee an hour before the race, and a lot of stretching and warming up exercises. I maintained a fairly steady 9-minute mile pace for the entire race.

Results? Among the 300 male half-marathon runners, I placed 118 with a time of 1:57:56 (chip). I was sixth in my age/sex class, and — most importantly — finished without any significant aches and pains. All the advice, preparation, and training paid off.

Here’s a link to the Towpath Half results. https://www.hermescleveland.com/roadracing/results/2019/TOWPATHOCTHALF.htm

20191013_195240There’ll be another half marathon or two in my near future. It’s excellent exercise, and it will help me continue to win the battle against GERD.

*      *       *       *       *      *       *       *       *
From time to time, I like to share work which my Media Writing or News Writing students do in their class assignments on this blog. HANNAH MAYER is a student in my News Writing class who shows a lot of promise.

It is harder than ever to teach news writing, because so little news writing is present in the media these days. Brief blurbs on social media read on cell phones substitute (poorly) for real news. Hannah did a fairly solid job of writing about the impact of a change in Ohio law this year, and what it might mean at one area high school. Give it a read!

Will Medina Allow Show Choir Become a Gym Credit?

MEDINA — Show Choir is now being recognized as a physical education credit in Ohio. The Ohio General Assembly passed the bill this year, but is leaving it up to each Ohio district to make the final decision.

In order to receive exemption from the required physical education (P.E.) credit, students must perform for two full seasons. Ohio State Representative Tracy Richardson (R-86) sponsored the bill because she believed show choir students showed a large amount of physical activity through their dance and rhythm. Even though the bill became law in Ohio, the final choice is up to each district. The Medina City School District thus far has shown no signs of putting this into place for its students.

Tyler Skidmore, show choir director at Medina High School, said that the addition is beneficial for high schoolers. “I know that show choir can help make getting into shape fun and encourage good fitness and training habits,” Skidmore said. He believes that show choir should count towards P.E. credit if marching band and sports do.

Skidmore adds that Medina show choir students are physically active for about three hours a week. This can dramatically increase during the summer months where students are physically active for up to six hours a day. He’s unaware of why Medina hasn’t allowed this P.E. exemption, but hopes it works out for his students in the 2020-21 academic year.

Medina HS’s show choir, Encore Entertainment Company, is a competitive choir that travels all around Ohio and neighboring states to compete. Encore is an auditioned group that contains about 46 high school students grades 9-12. For many years, Encore members have questioned why their extracurricular didn’t count toward P.E. credit. The passing of this bill has only stirred the conversation and questions within the school’s show choir.

This bill has had some push-back from show choir students themselves, believing participation alone shouldn’t be a blanket rationale for P.E. credit. Julia Scott, a senior at Revere High School and an active show choir member in ETC, is one of those students. Scott is pushing for an evaluation of each choir to be the ultimate deciding factor on whether it should count for credit in Physical Education.

“Different show choirs have different levels of choreography, and thus varying levels of physical activity,” Scott said. She believes that each choir should be evaluated by its competitive ranking or judged for physical activity by a P.E. teacher in order to qualify for high school credit.

Overall, Scott says she supports show choir becoming an exemption for P.E. class for the same reason that Medina HS’s Encore director Skidmore does. If activities such as sports, online gym, and band count, than so should show choir.

According to the website www.showchoir.com, Ohio has over 200 show choirs. Many schools are already allowing this competitive activity to count toward physical education. There is no clear answer yet on whether Medina Schools will offer it for P.E. credit. Board Vice President Valerie Pavlik did not respond to interview requests for this story.

Hannah Mayer is a Medina resident. She wrote this as part of an assignment for MJS 2010 News Writing at Cuyahoga Community College

 

 


DISINFORMATION – Tearing us apart

April 19, 2019

“Russia, if you’re listening…”

Then-candidate Donald Trump uttered these words at a Florida campaign rally in July 2016 as a preface to an attack on how the Obama Justice Dept. had handled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal. With those words, he also inadvertently widened an open door which subjected his own political campaign to an FBI investigation.

If you haven’t done so thus far, the release of the Mueller reports makes this an excellent opportunity to familiarize yourself with the terms “Crossfire Hurricane” and “Mid Year Exam.” These are the FBI code names for investigations the Bureau undertook in 2016 against Trump and then-candidate Hillary Clinton. You might also want to peruse the Washington Post article linked below. Four excellent Post reporters, Robert Costa, Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, wrote in May 2018 that a Cambridge University retired professor (now known as Stefan Halper) acted in the role of agent provocateur in initiating meetings with Carter Page, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos.

trump memes.pngAt these meetings, Halper stated that he knew of Russia’s involvement in different aspects of the presidential election, and was asking those with ties to the Trump campaign if they were also aware. One example: In September 2016, Halper asked Papadopoulos if he knew that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

These conversations over summer 2016 are critical, because Halper was seeking verification from some in the Trump camp about information which LATER appeared in a dossier that another British citizen with close ties to the Bureau, Christopher Steele, presented to the FBI. Somehow Halper had knowledge of the dossier’s contents many months prior to its becoming publicly known in January 2017. (Incidentally, none of these approached were aware of the details which Halper had fed them.)

From where did Halper obtain his information? For whom did he work? Who paid Steele for his dossier? What are their backgrounds prior to 2016?

These are key questions, as the answers help the public better understand the motivations behind the FBI probe into the Trump campaign. My look into this (admittedly not extensive) takes me to this conclusion: By November 2016, those at the highest levels of our government began a disinformation campaign (DI for short) to convince key members of the media and others that there was collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia. This campaign grew in intensity and pace, even as evidence proved the DI was untrue.

This sounds alarm bells for us all. Implicit behind the Mueller Report is this: It now appears that the FBI and others in the Obama Administration intelligence community orchestrated an effort to spy on a candidate for president, accuse the sitting president of crimes, and launch a 22-month long Special Prosecutor probe into something it knew did not happen.

John Solomon, executive vice president for thehill.com, devoted extensive investigative time in 2018 to unearthing text messages exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok, former Chief of the Counterespionage Section and Lisa Page, legal counsel.

Here is one of Strzok’s texts to Page about evidence of Russia collusion with the Trump campaign in May 2017: “You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.” (Emphasis added.)

Later in his column, Solomon astutely points out the ramifications of these facts:

How concerned you are by this conduct is almost certainly affected by your love or hatred for Trump. But put yourself for a second in the hot seat of an investigation by the same FBI cast of characters: You are under investigation for a crime the agents don’t think occurred, but the investigation still advances because the desired outcome is to get you fired from your job. Is that an FBI you can live with?”

DI is the real enemy

With “Russia, are you listening…” Trump unwittingly provided high-level officials in the Justice Department, who (as evidenced in multiple Congressional hearings) were operating under political motivations, the opportunity to conduct surveillance (or spying, you choose your preferred word) on his campaign for the presidency.

What’s more tragic are the ramifications for our democracy when we allow campaigns of disinformation to dominate the national agenda.

What’s a DI campaign, you might ask?

The New York Times’ Adam Ellick, Adam Westbrook, and Jonah Kessel have crafted an excellent primer on disinformation and fake news, one which focuses on decades of Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union, running DI campaigns worldwide against the United States. Anyone who’s concerned about fake news or other forms of dishonesty being used against the general public to influence public and thought-leader opinion should take some time and watch their excellent work, a video series titled Operation Infektion. A link to it is here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/opinion/russia-meddling-disinformation-fake-news-elections.html

The three-part video series runs about 50 minutes. If you care at all about whether our democracy should debate and discuss key issues based upon a common set of facts, invest the time.

One of the former Soviet Union spies in Operation Infektion provides this definition of DI:  “To change the perception of reality … so no one is able to come to sensible conclusions.”

Another source in the video calls it deliberately distorted information, secretly leaked into communication process to deceive and manipulate us.

The Operation Infektion video series chronicles what it names “The Seven Commandments of Fake News” but let’s simplify this a bit. There are three elements common to all DI campaigns. The first is to base the “main point” of the campaign behind some truth, no matter how small it might be.

For Donald Trump, his “call out” about Clinton’s e-mails in 2016 created a kernel of thought that – just maybe – Trump had a campaign connection to Russia. What’s truly ironic about “Russia, if you’re listening…” is that, in fact, the Mueller report states that Russia did obtain e-mails and other information about Hillary Clinton and employed it in 2016.

The second key step: Create a false narrative. Operation Infektion points out how Soviet agents did this over and over again during the Cold War. A main example in the video series is the false allegation that the U.S. military “created” the AIDS virus to kill African Americans and gays (these are the terms used in the video). They track this falsehood from its origins to its airing on a “CBS Evening News” story several years later. The New York Times reporters document numerous other examples of false narratives, including that the CIA was involved in assassinating President Kennedy.

The third – and most important step – widely disseminate and publicize the false narrative that’s been created. The more traction the false story receives, the better.

how to spot

This is courtesy Sage Publishing. See details below in the blog.

During the Cold War, common techniques would be to get the false story to appear in third-world media with lower professional standards than U.S. journalists. But once the story runs anywhere, the DI campaigners were dedicated to getting other media outlets to repeat it. The US military/AIDS virus story first appeared in a newspaper in India, and later in publications in Europe. Next, two East Germany biologists “authenticate” the story with “scientific proof” of the falsehood. Finally, the story appears on a CBS Evening News broadcast.

As Step Three unfolds, the public is confused and divided. That is the antithesis of democracy. Having intelligent and reasoned discourse is possible only if we agree upon a basic set of facts. DI campaigns intent to completely dissolve that possibility. It’s why they are so dangerous.

What is especially distressful is the powerful, even intoxicating combination of Step Three and social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms serve to exponentially spread a DI campaign’s reach.

Here is an example: In downtown Houston in May 2016, groups called the “Heart of Texas” and “Save Islamic Knowledge” hold opposing rallies, right across Travis Street from each other. A reporter covering the rallies noted that organizers of each side didn’t even show up at the event. Upon investigation, it turned out that both organizations sprang from the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian perpetrators are among those whom Robert Mueller indicted as part of his investigation. Their “campaigns” were spread using social media.

One of the Operation Infektion journalists, Adam Ellick, himself a victim of a DI campaign in Pakistan, says this: “What I never imagined is that we’d be seeing this kind of  toxic disinformation here at home in the (United) States.”

This – DI’s growing influence – is the real tragedy behind the Mueller investigation. It is especially disconcerting to realize that much of the so-called “witch hunt” really stems from the DI playbook which Ellick, Westbrook, and Kessel explain in great depth in their Operation Infektion video series.

Even more disconcerting: Russia’s activities to influence the 2016 presidential election began in early 2014. Why didn’t the Obama Administration take steps to prevent it from happening?

Why is it that – instead – elements of our government apparently began their own DI campaign in late 2016 against (then) President-elect Trump?

Just as disconcerting is this: Will 2020 be worse than 2016?

It’s not “Game Over” — what we can do

Contrary to President Trump’s Game of Thrones-like meme, posted on Twitter on April 18, nothing is really over. Political battles over the Mueller report will continue unabated. Divisions will deepen. The body politic will remain ill, primarily stemming from social media viral infections which unknowing people will spread. Tens of thousands of Texans “shared” posts — never knowing their source — from the Russian trolls whom (of course) were neither “Heart of Texas” or “Save Islamic Knowledge” in 2015 and 2016.

One thing we can all do — and it’s simple really — is to stop spreading fake news. My friends at Sage Publishing gave me permission to share a graphic they produced months ago. Look it over. Understand it. Utilize it as your guide so you don’t unknowingly contribute to the problem.

If you see phony stories posted on social media, take the time to report them. All major social media sites now respond very quickly to users who “flag” stories as being fictitious.

Finally, recognize what this writer ascertained a couple of years ago: It will take a concerted effort from the government, media, social media, and others to minimize the harmful effects of DI on our democracy. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and other nations are all taking active steps 24/7 to counter Russian DI efforts aimed at them. Let’s hope that sooner, rather than later, our leaders also choose to take strong action against disinformation.

Kerezy is associate professor of media & journalism studies at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, and is also affiliated with Unified Strategies Public Relations (USPR). These are his views alone, and do not reflect the opinion of Cuyahoga Community College or any other groups with which Kerezy is affiliated.

REFERENCES

Robert Costa, Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, Washington Post, (2018)  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-fbi-source-for-russia-investigation-met-with-three-trump-advisers-during-campaign/2018/05/18/9778d9f0-5aea-11e8-b656-a5f8c2a9295d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.343078897cb3

Smith, Lee (media columnist at The Tablet) (2018)      https://thefederalist.com/2018/05/25/code-name-crossfire-hurricane-evidence-fbis-russia-cover-story/

Solomon, John (2018) https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/397902-opinion-one-fbi-text-message-in-russia-probe-should-alarm-every-american

Glenn, Mike (2018)  https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/A-Houston-protest-organized-by-Russian-trolls-12625481.php

Chen, Adrian (2016) https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-propaganda-about-russian-propaganda

Attkisson, Sharyl, “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote” (2017)

Pacepa, Miha and Rychlak, Ronald, “Disinformation:  Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism” (2013)


Some odds and ends

April 13, 2019

As we approach Holy Week, Easter, and beyond, some miscellaneous items have been running through my mind. Just wanted to share them with anyone who might be reading. In no particular order, they are:

  1. GOOD STEWARDSHIP — For those who are around my age (early ’60s) how are we doing with the talents, time and treasure we’ve been given? Are we helping others and giving back, or are we still, perhaps, a little too absorbed with self “stuff” (adding to the bank account or retirement account, not volunteering, etc.)?

One way in which I’ve strived to be a good steward for many decades is with respect to the environment. Back in 1981, an old friend David Douglass and I co-wrote a grant proposal to obtain funds from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources. The proposal was accepted, and Cleveland gained its first-ever glass, aluminum, and newspaper recycling program as a result. That program began in 1982, and was based behind the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. store on West 110 Street and Lorain Avenue.

Today I still strive to be environmentally aware. My wife Kathy and I recently purchased a Toyota Prius Prime vehicle. It is a small, four-passenger car. What makes it unique is its combination gas-electric power system, a PHEV, for “Plug In Electric Vehicle.”  With some training (meaning this old dog had to learn new tricks), one can run such a vehicle a lot on just the battery.

Big deal? Well, on battery alone, this car has zero tailpipe emissions. When it’s fully charged, I can go 28-32 miles (depending on conditions) just on the battery.  Because it also has a gasoline engine (and a “tank” range of about 500 miles) one can drive this vehicle for short or long distances without every worrying about running out of electricity.

Not everyone has my situation. I’m fortunate in that I can charge my vehicle at a high-capacity charging station at Cuyahoga Community College’s Advanced Automotive Technology Center. But I’ll take 430+miles per gallon whenever possible. That saves on fuel costs, but — more importantly — saves on the environment as well.

Take a look at the little number just below and a little to the right of the big “0 MPH” on this photograph of my odometer, taken earlier this month:

20190407_112252

431.4 miles per gallon! Photo taken April 7, 2019

If this interests you, I’d suggest you do an internet such using the letters “PHEV” and see what you find. You will probably uncover a lot of vehicles (with an average price in the low $30,000 range) which can save you at least $1,000 a year on gasoline and save on the environment as well.

2.  PRAYER — The older I get, the more I acknowledge the many blessings God has bestowed on me in my lifetime. One of those blessings is getting to know the staff and managers at Moody Radio Cleveland, WCRF 103.3 FM and “everywhere” via the internet. It’s on my “listen to” list every day, and has been for decades.

Also, nearly 15 years running, I’ve been fortunate to belong to the Pause For Prayer team at Moody. I recorded five, two-minute prayers which will run on the radio next week, Holy Week, from April 15-19.  If you’re interested, you can see information about Pause for Prayer and a link to Moody Radio Cleveland’s “live stream” below as well.

Many thanks to Paul Carter at Moody Radio Cleveland, who records the Pause for Prayer segments and “cleans up” my speaking as well!

Link to “Tune In” for Moody Radio Cleveland:  https://tunein.com/radio/Moody-Radio-Cleveland-1033-s3342/

3. HELPING OTHERS — One way I’ve been fortunate over the past 11 years has been to coach high school speech and debate. I began by founding the program at Brecksville-Broadview Hts in 2008, and in 2013-14 I moved to Revere High School. It was a pleasant surprise to us recently at Revere when, on viewing the National Speech and Debate Association’s rankings of “strength” of programs, Revere is No. 13 in Ohio.

Assisting teens to learn how to think critically, communicate and lead effectively, and live humanely in evermore-challenging times is far more important to me than “Ws” in a debate round or “1” rankings in a speech round.

I gave a brief “The Revere Way Ahead” talk about our annual banquet on April 3. A few parents have asked me about some of the pictures and memes in that speech. There is a link to those below. So help yourself if you wish to “see” what about 80 parents and students saw and heard earlier in the month.

Revere way ahead 2019 banquet

I have informed the Revere Schools that I plan to step way as head adviser for the program in 2019-2020. I hope to be involved in a “hand off” capacity in the coming year, and then take a back seat when a new adviser comes in to head up the Revere program.  If you have a speech or debate background and this interests you, you can apply by e-mailing Revere HS principal Phil King at pking@revereschools.org and letting him know.

 


Journalism: critical Disinformation: obvious

March 26, 2019

PARMA, Mar. 26 — What’s the proper role of journalism in a democracy in 2019? How critical is accuracy in an era when speed is valued over truth, where we all receive “news” from a feed into our cell phones, and hundreds of millions of news “stories” get retweeted or reposted on social media sites every day?

That’s the question every scholar, every advocate for civic discourse, every professional organization dedicated to journalism, and every leading public official should be asking today. To say that journalism is failing our democracy would be the year’s greatest understatement.

hume.png

Brit Hume, Fox News, formerly ABC News

Brit Hume has been a journalist for more than 50 years. He began with UPI and newspapers (including the Baltimore Sun) in the 1960s, researched and wrote for Jack Anderson, was subjected to illegal CIA surveillance under Richard Nixon, reported for 23 years for ABC News — including several as chief White House correspondent — and became Fox News’ first “Special Report” evening anchor in 1998. Last night (March 25) Hume described media coverage of the Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor investigation into President Donald Trump as the “worst journalistic debacle my lifetime.”

Here’s a link to that broadcast segment:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/03/25/brit_hume_no_soul_searching_for_media_they_have_moved_on_to_following_democratic_party_script.html

Hume is adding on to what many, both on the “right” and “left” sides of the political spectrum, are saying. It’s a message journalists should heed, if they’re willing to look, listen, and honestly evaluate their own practices and standards. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept calls out the media for its “recklessly reckless behavior over the past three years.” Greenwald cites Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi, who in a blog post wrote this:

Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”

Links to both stories are just below:
https://theintercept.com/2019/03/25/watch-a-contentious-constructive-debate-on-the-media-and-political-humiliation-from-the-mueller-report/

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

matt t.png

Matt Tiabbi, Rolling Stone

The journalism profession has brought about incalculable harm to itself as a result of its tilt against all things Trump from 2015 until today. Perhaps the only strategy which might save the profession would be a reconstitution of a national commission to re-examine the role of journalism in a democracy, something akin to the Hutchins Commission of the mid-1940s.

There are steps which journalism organizations and newsrooms across the U.S. could take – today – which could help restore some public faith and confidence in their news gathering operations. But let’s save that for the future.

There is a secondary, yet obvious, issue which our nation and its journalists must address. Some people –or a combination of people and organizations– let loose upon the American public and its government a deliberate and intentional campaign to DISINFORM us about Donald Trump and the “C” word, collusion, with respect to the 2016 Presidential election.

Taibbi and John Solomon, an investigative reporter and executive vice president for video for thehill.com, have both reported extensively on pieces and parts of the disinformation process. 

Taibbi called out President Obama’s Justice Dept. for “stove-piping,” an all-too-common Washington DC practice of a government official “feeding” a story to a reporter, then using the resulting story as “confirmation” that something is true. Taibbi pointed out how writer Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 Yahoo News story became a reference in a Justice Dept. application for a FISA surveillance warrant. (Two years after the fact, Isikoff admitted that his own story was largely untrue, according to Taibbi.)

Solomon’s columns in www.thehill.com have documented a pattern of misleading and misinformation going back to the summer of 2016. He points out how the now-infamous Steele Dossier, which FBI officials up to and including former FBI Director James Comey, used as gospel, came about. BOTH the FBI and the Democratic National Committee were paying former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, but the resulting “work product,” Steele’s Dossier, contained a large amount of fictitious material. (Later in the process, the FBI removed Steele from its payroll.)

solomon.png

John Solomon, thehill.com

As both Taibbi and Solomon reported, it was the Steele Dossier and the stove-piping practices which combined to concoct a popular belief in the Washington establishment in January 2017 that, somehow, Donald Trump has been “compromised” by Russia.

From there we all understand the story.

Solomon, however, stayed true to journalism at it roots. He has kept digging for the truth. Last September he reported that in May 2017, the FBI knew it could NOT provide evidence of any collusion between Russia or Russian agents and the Trump campaign or the Trump organization. See the link below for specific details.

https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/406881-lisa-page-bombshell-fbi-couldnt-prove-trump-russia-collusion-before-mueller

What it all means: Persons and/or groups developed a “narrative” or a story about Russia collusion with/for Trump and fostered that story upon the American people. Solomon wrote:

Text messages show contacts between key FBI and DOJ players and The Washington Post, The Associated Press and The New York Times during the ramp-up to Mueller’s probe.

And that means the news media — perhaps longing to find a new Watergate, to revive sagging fortunes — were far too willing to be manipulated by players in a case that began as a political opposition research project funded by Clinton’s campaign and led by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who despised Trump.

Finally, Page’s statement signals that the nation’s premier intelligence court may not have been given a complete picture of the evidence — or lack thereof — as it approved an extraordinary surveillance intrusion into an American presidential nominee’s campaign just weeks before Election Day.

Disinformation – a deliberate attempt to present one story instead of the truth to the American public – was well underway long BEFORE Robert Mueller became appointed as a special prosecutor in May 2017. How did that happen? Who was behind it? Were laws broken in the process?

If journalists were seeking to redeem themselves, they would be hot on the trail to seek answers to those questions.    Don’t hold your breath.

Nazi Germany Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels supposedly said, “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

We now live in an age where Disinformation Campaigns are commonplace. The Mueller special prosecutor investigation proves this is the real truth.


Border Security, Terrorism, Congress & AUMF

January 27, 2019

CLEVELAND,  JAN. 27, 2019 – As Commander in Chief of our armed forces, President Trump could sign an Executive Order today mandating greater security on our 1,954-mile border with Mexico. Congress has already approved the enabling legislation. It’s called AUMF, or Authorization of the Use of Military Force, two bills which passed Congress in 2001 and 2002.

Here is the 61-word rationale, in the first of the two bills, which became laws just days after the terror attacks against the U.S. on 9-11 (ALL CAPS added):

That the President is authorized to use ALL NECESSARY AND APPROPRIATE FORCE against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to PREVENT ANY FUTURE ACTS OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Under this law, three different presidents, Bush, Obama and Trump, have conducted wide-ranging military operations all over the globe to battle terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel have been deployed in combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Aerial drone strikes have killed terrorists in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali, Pakistan and other countries. In 2014, President Obama’s White House issued a statement explaining AUMF was the basis for using military power against ISIS. In 2018, the Trump White House stated that, “The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) authorizes the United States to use force against al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces and against ISIS.”

motpqaumf1aIf the Commander in Chief, as defined under our Constitution. can send military might halfway around the world to fight terror, the same can be done on own border to thwart the same enemies.


First: Terror forces are exploiting the US-Mexico border

Is terror on our border with Mexico? Are Al-Qaeda, ISIS and their allies using Mexico as a base for possible terror operations against the US? The evidence – and the track record even before President Donald Trump began this current campaign – certainly says yes.

Christian Science Monitor staff writer Warren Richey documented a dozen salient examples in “Are terrorists crossing the US-Mexico border? Excerpts from the case file.” Richey  focused on terrorists by names and act . One terrorist came into the US from Mexico and raised significant money here for the terrorism  group  Hezbollah before he was caught and deported. Another, Adnan El Shukrijumah, was atop the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list for more than a decade. In 2004, US consulate officials in Ciudad Juarez received a tip stating that he was one of “suspect Arab extremists who have been smuggled through Mexico to the United States/Mexico border. “

El Shukrijumah was a serious terror threat, personally selected by 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to plan and carry out terror attacks against the U.S. and elsewhere. He had lived in Brooklyn and South Florida, but disappeared after the 9-11 attacks.

El Shukrijumah was the masterminded behind the thwarted terror plot involving suicide bombers on the NY Subway System in 2009. Eventually he found his way to Pakistan. In 2014, a raid by the Pakistani military in a tribal area near the Pakistan-Afghan border killed El Shukrijumah.

Another terrorist Richey named, Ahmed Dhakane, ran a human smuggling operation based in Brazil that specialized in moving migrants from Somalia and other parts of East Africa into the US via Mexico. Richey writes that many of Dhakane’s clients were supporters or members of Al Shabab or associated Somali terror groups – and at least three of them made it into the US, according to federal court documents. One of Dhakane’s clients, nicknamed “Al Qaeda,” made it to California. The Christian Science Monitor published Richey’s article  on January 15, 2017, more than two years ago and before Trump’s inauguration.  

Additionally, for years there have been unsubstantiated reports of terrorism camps operating in Mexico territory. US government policy has been taking active steps to counter the threats.

And for a long time:  This problem has existed for decades.  One 2006 National Counterterrorism Center intelligence report stated: “Terrorists could try to merge into SIA smuggling pipelines to enter the U.S. clandestinely. … Al Qaeda and other groups sneak across borders in other parts of the world and may try to do so in the US, despite risks of apprehension or residing in the US without proper documentation.”

SIA is an acrostic for “Special Interest Aliens.” According to report from the Center for Immigration Studies, titled “Terrorist Infiltration Threat at the Southwest border” hundreds of people on terrorism watch lists are CAUGHT each year trying to get into the US from Mexico. Here’s an excerpt:

Bits and pieces of the puzzle have surfaced anyway. Occasional information leaks, government reports, and Freedom of Information Act requests over time suggest that hundreds of SIAs, perhaps ranging to the low thousands (depending on changing country of interest lists), have been annually apprehended at the southern border since 9/11.31 One set of SIA apprehension data reflecting September 2001 through 2007 showed that nearly 6,000 SIAs from 42 countries had been apprehended at the border.32  

In reading and research for this post, I’m convinced that in years past there has been a concerted effort by the US government to underestimate the seriousness of the terrorism threat from our southern border. It might have been due to a desire to prevent panic, or to spur Mexico to take greater action, or some combination of these and other factors. But the Center for Immigration Studies report (replete with data and charts) has ample documentation of the severity of this problem.

Here’s one example we never knew: In June 2016 Department of Homeland Security Jef Johnson Secretary wrote a three-page memo to top law enforcement officials about the threat. The subject heading was:  “Cross-Border Movement of Special Interest Aliens.

Second: Mexico can’t control narco-terrorism

In the current trial of Mexico drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, testimony revealed that former Mexico president Pena Nieto asked for $250 million, and then ended up taking a $100 million bribe. If true, it’s just the latest in a mountain of evidence which indicates that the government of Mexico cannot bring the drug lords to justice, and cannot control crime- and terror-related activities within its own borders.

According to the Congressional Research Service report, titled “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations” (July 2018) Mexico saw 29,000 murders in 2017. In the current election cycle, crime bosses and drug lords killed 114 candidates and politicians in Mexico, an overt effort to intimidate and stop office holders from opposing them.

Just as alarming is a paragraph in the Congressional Research Service report. It reads:

In addition, several analysts have raised concerns about severe human rights violations involving Mexican military and police forces, which, at times, have reportedly colluded with Mexico’s criminal groups. Notably, the Mexican armed forces injured or killed some 3,900 individuals in their domestic operations, between 2007 and 2014, with the victims labeled as “civilian aggressors.” However, the high death rate (about 500 were injuries and the rest killings) indicates the lethality of the encounters with Mexican military and official reports did not sort out in published statistics how many of the military’s victims were armed or were mere bystanders. (Significantly, these statistics did not continue to be made public after 2014)

To be more succinct, Mexico’s law enforcement and military are at times in collusion with the drug lords and crime groups, much to the detriment of the country’s own population. So despite large sums of U.S economic aid ($152.6 million in 2018 alone, with more than $100 for counter-narcotics and police support) Mexico is unable to control the narco-terrorism and other crime cartels operating in its country.

Third: Congress and Constitution

If these two factors were not enough, President Trump could also point to the obvious – Congress’ inability to take action on a serious threat to U.S. security. The just passed 35-day partial government shutdown is just the latest in a lengthy list of examples how Congress has failed to act in areas of national security. Despite the Transportation Security Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard being negatively impacted, Congress was unable to pass legislation to keep these essential government services operating.

Two months ago, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came to Cleveland to be the guest speaker at the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation’s Scholarship Luncheon.  Gates penned a terrific memoir about his tenure as Secretary of Defense, under Presidents Bush and Obama, titled “Duty.”  It contains a terrific explanation of how the US has gone about fighting the Global War on Terror. With respect to Congress, Gates says this:

While American politics has always been a shrill, partisan and ugly business going back to the Founding Fathers, we have rarely been so polarized and so unable to execute even the basic functions of government, much less tackle the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. I believe that this is due to the incessant scorched-earth battling between Congress and the president .. but even more so to the weakening of the moderate center of both parties in Congress. … Now moderation is equated with lacking principles, and compromise with “selling out.”

It’s hard to assess what’s worse here: The ramification behind Gates’ words, or the fact that he penned them in 2014, as matter have only gotten worse in Washington since then.

Finally, our Constitution and past practice have made it abundantly clear that as Commander in Chief of the armed services, our President has greater authority.  Article II, Section 2 of our Constitution invests military power solely with the President.  Constitutional scholars agree that one of the most important Commander In Chief duties of the nation’s chief executive is to protect the US: States, territories, and its people, from attack.

President Jefferson didn’t ask Congress before sending Navy frigates, sailors, and Marines to the “shores of Tripoli” to deal with the Barbary Pirates in 1801. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves in territories in rebellion against the U.S. through the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln (an attorney by profession) researched the Constitution and knew he did not have civilian authority to make such a proclamation. But as Commander In Chief, according to Article II, Section 2, Lincoln could free the slaves. Therefore, he proceeded in that manner.

Conclusion

The U.S. has spent more than $2.8 TRILLION just on the Global War on Terror, according to Fortune magazine. Another estimate is that we have spent more than $7.6 TRILLION on both homeland security (defending ourselves at home) and in global military operations

And we have paid for this war with the sacrifice of precious blood for the cause of freedom. More than 7,000 military personnel have died fighting against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere since 9-11.

If President Trump cited AUMF, used his Commander in Chief authority, and signed an Executive Order authorizing $10 billion for border security, it would most certainly – at the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court – be upheld. The evidence clearly and overwhelmingly supports such a strategy.

As Congress and the courts have given consent to many or all the actions taken thus far under AUMF, then certainly an expenditure of $10 billion or less to would also pass Constitutional muster.

Kerezy does not teach political science or law. He is an associate professor of journalism/mass communications at Cuyahoga Community College. He also studied AUMF in his role as speech/debate coach at Revere (OH) High School in the winter of 2018.

 

SOURCES

AUMF:   https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ40/PLAW-107publ40.pdf

Justification:  https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/what-the-aumf-is-and-why-you-should-care-2018/
Legal authority to engage military against ISIS:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1301198/is-war-powers-theory-background-statement.pdf   Also, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/politics/isis-syria-american-troops.html
ISIS & other terrorists in Mexico
https://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2017/01/jihadists-train-plan-u-s-attack-mexican-border-state-nuevo-leon/

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2017/0115/Are-terrorists-crossing-the-US-Mexico-border-Excerpts-from-the-case-file
State of affairs in Mexico

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-mexico-el-chapo/el-chapo-paid-former-mexican-president-100-million-bribe-trial-witness-idUSKCN1P92OS

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41576.pdf

 

Congress and Constitution

Gates, Robert “Duty” (2014) page 582

https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/commander-chief-president

 

Conclusion:
http://fortune.com/2018/09/11/war-terror-spending-debt/

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-cost-of-war-3356924
Miscellaneous:

https://cis.org/Report/Terrorist-Infiltration-Threat-Southwest-Border

https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2379&context=articles

(Author’s note: Significant is a paragraph here from Professor Monica Hakimi at the University of Michigan Law School.  Hakimi is opining about possible US intervention in Syria in an article titled, “Defensive Force against Non-State Actors: The State of Play” in the 2015 issue of International Law Studies. She wrote:  “Nevertheless, a few basic guidelines can be distilled from the practice: the majority of States has affirmatively endorsed defensive operations against non-State actors in States that actively harbor or support those actors, or lack control over the areas from which they operate.”)