Category: Activities (page 1 of 9)

Activities are gatherings that occur on a regular schedule, usually weekly, to enjoy a specific pastime.

June 14, 2017
Book Discussion:
All the Kings Men
Robert Penn Warren

All the King’s Men portrays the dramatic political rise and governorship of Willie Stark, a cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s. The novel is narrated by Jack Burden, a political reporter who comes to work as Governor Stark’s right-hand man. The trajectory of Stark’s career is interwoven with Jack Burden’s life story and philosophical reflections: “the story of Willie Stark and the story of Jack Burden are, in one sense, one story.”

May 10, 2017
Book Discussion:
Hero of the Empire
Candice Millard

From New York Times bestselling author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt, a thrilling narrative of Winston Churchill’s extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament. He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield. Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him. Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner. Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape–but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him. The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned. Churchill would later remark that this period, “could I have seen my future, was to lay the foundations of my later life.” Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters—including Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchener, and Mohandas Gandhi—with whom he would later share the world stage. But Hero of the Empire is more than an adventure story, for the lessons Churchill took from the Boer War would profoundly affect 20th century history. From the Hardcover edition

April 2, 2017
Book Discussion:
A Hero of France
Alan Furst

Alan Furst goeherofrances to war: Occupied Paris for the first time since Red Gold (1999 pub), Furst has set this novel during the war itself, instead of on the eve of the war. Members of the French Resistance network young and old, aristocrats and schoolteachers, defiant heroes and ordinary people all engaged in clandestine actions in the cause of freedom. From the secret hotels and Nazi-infested nightclubs of Paris to the villages of Rouen and Orleans. An action-packed story of romance, intrigue, spies, bravery, and air battles.

Discussion leader: Bert von Stuelpnagle

The Iran Wars : Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East
Jay Solomon

This is the deeply reported, riveting account of a war waged on many levels–military, financial, covert–that most don’t realize America has been engaged in for years. For over a decade, against the backdrop of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East, the United States and Iran have been engaged in a conflict as significant as it is hidden from view. Using a combination of economic sanctions, assassinations, global diplomacy and intelligence work, the United States has struggled to stabilize and contain what it sees as the most alarming foreign policy threat we face, while at the same time Iran has used the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and their own formidable intelligence networks and proxies to undermine the United States’ foothold in the Middle East. Through missed opportunities, miscommunication, and mistrust the two nations periodically moved toward and backed away from moments of understanding and compromise. Even as Iran built up their nuclear technologies, they were eventually brought to the negotiation table under crushing sanctions. Jay Solomon provides an unprecedented glimpse into the power struggle that the United States and Iran are locked into and the machinations that led to a historic agreement

Recommended by Frank Johnson

February 16, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Fake News

Mainstream journalists today are being subjected to disintermediation. Anyone with access to the Internet can post most anything posing as “news” on Facebook, Google, YouTube, and a variety of other websites. Journalism as practiced in the 1960s is a distant memory, as when Walter Cronkite of CBS declared that the Vietnam war could not be won and President Lyndon Johnson lamented, “If I have lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

The proliferation of cable channels, talk radio, news websites, and other sources of “news”, most would agree, has plusses and minuses. We no longer have our news delivered by “The Voice of God”, whether it’s Walter Cronkite or Henry Luce’s Time Magazine and we can easily access a wider range of opinion and policy proposals.

But many of us would admit that we tend to access news sources that will reinforce our own biases, and to ignore those outlets that would challenge our opinions. Possibly this has eroded the power of politicians at the “center” and made political compromise in Congress more difficult.

Fake News is reflective of the trend of fragmentation of sources, but different

What fewer would debate is that our country is not well served by “fake news” that undermines the power of an informed citizenry. Educated voters can hold our political leaders to account for policies and actions but world history is replete with the danger if public opinion is based on lies.

There are a number of reasons for the rise of “fake news”, but one especially strong incentive is that you can make a lot of money by creating it. The process is pretty simple and straightforward. Set up a website, create headlines — the more provocative the better — and get advertisers to pay based on the number of visitors to the site.

The New York Times profiled a recent college graduate who makes between $10,000 and $30,000 a month from creating fake news.
His masterpiece: playing on the fear of Trump supporters that there would be a rigged election. His headline: “Breaking: Tens of thousands of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse.”
None of this was true. The story was illustrated with a stock photo of plastic crates labeled “Ballot Box”, which was actually a photo from an election in Britain. See image above.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/us/fake-news-hillary-clinton-cameron-harris.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

“Fake News” content creators are found around the world. Eastern Europe is a particularly fertile ground for such individuals, who need only a computer. Earning $1,000 or $3,000 a month can put the individual at the upper end of the income range in some of these countries.
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/world/europe/fake-news-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-georgia.html?_r=0

Fake news technology can now change facial expressions and audio to put false statements into the mouths of anyone a target of fake news and make falsehoods seem believable.
http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/fake-news-technology

NY Times: 10 Times Trump Spread Fake News
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/business/media/trump-fake-news.html?emc=eta1

Also:
http://thefederalist.com/2017/02/06/16-fake-news-stories-reporters-have-run-since-trump-won/

Researchers asked survey respondents whether they had heard various pieces of news on the two presidential candidates. These fell into three categories:
1) News that was true
2) News that had been posted that was fake
3) News that researchers created that was fake “fake news”. In other words, it had never been circulated.

In the second category, 15.3% of respondents remembered seeing the fake news stories and 7.9% recalled seeing them and believing them. But roughly the same number of people remembered seeing and believing the news in the third category.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/upshot/researchers-created-fake-news-heres-what-they-found.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

The conclusion of the researchers: Some 8% of the adult population is willing to believe anything that sounds plausible and fits their preconceptions about the heros and villains in politics.

What to do about this?

Both Facebook and Google have recently adopted a policy to refuse to place ads on sites controlled by fake news publishers. But the purveyors and profit-makers from fake news are likely to be nimble and set up new websites when their discredited ones have been shut down.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/mark-zuckerberg-explains-how-facebook-plans-to-fight-fake-news-1479542069

Here is a wikipedia list of all the fake websites and their founders, etc. Notice they are deliberately close to legitimate news sites. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fake_news_websites Several are operated by the same person/organization.

The New York Times solicited ideas and came up with four proposals:
Facebook must acknowledge and change its financial incentives
Algorithms could help social media users spot fake news
3) Users must be more critical of online content
4) Social media companies need to hire human editors
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/11/22/how-to-stop-the-spread-of-fake-news

There are several sites that try to investigate and debunk fake rumor and news including factcheck.org, snopes.com, and politifact.com but in entering some of the “fake news” stories I found, these didn’t always come up as stories discredited.

Another proposal is to create a crowdsourced, open list of false news sites regularly updated and refined by consensus (like Wikipedia) and persuade Google, Facebook, YouTube and other social media to agree to abide by this list and block such site advertising. Employ self-policing as with Wikipedia.

Also I found the following 32 page guide to fake news sites. There is a directory of specific sites and warning flags that can be deduced from the URL. For example, if the site ends in .com.co it’s a website in Colombia, not a traditional dot com.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/10eA5-mCZLSS4MQY5QGb5ewC3VAL6pLkT53V_81ZyitM/preview

Issues for Discussion

Who is the arbiter of “fake news”? It’s the age-old conundrum of the rights of free speech vs. censorship. The line between satire and “lying for cash” may be difficult to draw.
Should there be penalties for those who knowingly create “fake news”? Is it the equivalent of “shouting fire in a crowded theater”?

Should prominent social media sites such as Facebook and Google be legally required to root out fake news sites, or even to face fines for failure of due diligence?

What is the obligation of politicians to be accountable for exercising due diligence on stories that they distribute? Donald Trump has been accused of re-tweeting fake news without checking the validity of a story.

What methods should be adopted to educate citizens about how to test the truthfulness of stories they may see on social media and the Internet?

Do mainstream journalists need to change their methods of communicating and sourcing stories in order to offer a more legitimate and accessible alternative to fake news?

Finally, Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams started a series today in which the dumb pointy-haired boss has re-tweeted a racist conspiracy theory. We’ll see where he takes that in the coming days and whether it could be an amusing addition to what we have pulled together. Too soon to tell. Here’s the first panel:
http://dilbert.com/strip/2017-01-25?utm_source=dilbert.com/newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=brand-loyalty&utm_content=strip-image

Other Reading

https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-the-debate-over-journalism-post-trump-gets-wrong/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/01/24/disgraced-newsman-rather-thumps-conway-for-alternative-facts.html

https://theintercept.com/2017/01/19/major-fake-news-operation-tracked-back-republican-operative/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/us/politics/president-trump-inauguration-crowd-white-house.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/opinion/preserving-the-sanctity-of-all-facts.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

Discussion leader: Charles Salmans

Resources:

April 20, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Charter Schools

Charter Schools: Pros & Cons

Discussion leader: David Mace

Resources:
Charter Schools In Perspective: A Guide to the Research
http://www.in-perspective.org/files/CharterSchoolsInPerspective_GuidetoResearch.pdf

A GROWING MOVEMENT: AMERICA’S LARGEST CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOL COMMUNITIES AND THEIR IMPACT ON STUDENT OUTCOMES

This provides good, current data on enrollment trends. I would not focus on the outcomes section of this report, as it is biased.
https://www.charterschoolcenter.org/sites/default/files/files/field_publication_attachment/enrollment-share-web1128.pdf

Are Charter Schools Making a Difference: A Study of Student Outcomes in Eight States.
This small piece summarizes RAND’s 2009 study of charter schools. It’s dated, but gives a good perspective.
http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9433.html

https://urbancharters.stanford.edu/

www.in-perspective.org

Charter Schools in Connecticut

Basic FAQ’s from the state.
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/charter/FAQs.pdf

Charter schools in CT:
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2681&q=335076

http://ctviewpoints.org/2017/02/13/opinion-james-mulholland-2/

Achievement First is a high performing charter high school in Hartford. AF Hartford High School students outperformed the state average on the SAT, as well as earned the highest average SAT scores among low-income students in the state. On the 2015 Connecticut state SBAC exam, students achievement scores surpassed those of neighboring West Hartford. Watch the video.
http://www.achievementfirst.org/schools/connecticut-schools/achievement-first-hartford-high-school/about/

March 16, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Sanctuary Cities and Immigration

Sanctuary Cities – Their impact on

– Immigration
– Local economies
– Legal system
– Law enforcement

Discussion leader: Bob Baker

Resources:

Sanctuary Cities in Vermont
http://digital.vpr.net/post/sanctuary-cities-vermont#stream/0

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/sanctuary-cities/

Campus Politics in the Age of Trump – The New York Times “sanctuary”
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/opinion/campus-politics-in-the-age-of-trump.html?
_r=0

http://www.thevermontstandard.com/2017/02/hartland-to-vote-on-sanctuary-town-item/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/11/26/federalism-the-constitution-and-sanctuary-cities/?utm_term=.0a406a814932

Here’s a recent editorial by the WSJ’s Jason Riley, I thought you might find interesting.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/seeking-their-own-refuge-sanctuary-cities-go-to-court-1487116166

March 8, 2017 –
Book Discussion:
Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
Joby Warrick

isisWINNER OF THE 2016 PULITZER PRIZE FOR GENERAL NONFICTION

“A Best Book of 2015”—The New York Times

In a thrilling dramatic narrative, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Joby Warrick traces how the strain of militant Islam behind ISIS first arose in a remote Jordanian prison and spread with the unwitting aid of two American presidents. Drawing on unique high-level access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Warrick weaves gripping, moment-by-moment operational details with the perspectives of diplomats and spies, generals and heads of state, many of whom foresaw a menace worse than al Qaeda and tried desperately to stop it. Black Flags is a brilliant and definitive history that reveals the long arc of today’s most dangerous extremist threat.

Recommended by Harris Hester
Discussion leader: David Mace

February 8, 2017 –
Book Discussion
The Innovators
How a Group Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Walter Isaacson

innovatorsFollowing his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens. What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail? In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page. This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative. For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators shows how.

Discussion leader: Gary Banks

January 19, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
The Electoral College

The Electoral College:

– Why was it created?
– How it works.
– Is it still relevant?

Discussion Leader: Jim Phillips

Current Affairs

If you enjoy researching and discussing current affairs then you should join the DMA Current Affairs Discussion Group.

The Current Affairs group meets on the third Thursday of each month (Sep-Jun) at 8AM in the Lillian Gate Room on the second floor of the DCA.

The structure is as follows: With input from the group, the Current Affairs Coordinator will maintain a list of potential discussion topics. At the end of each meeting, a topic and discussion leader is chosen for the next meeting. The discussion leader will (i) define and articulate the topic; (ii) assemble and circulate background materials; (iii) lead the discussion. All members are encouraged to share information they find informative and relevant. The topic will be posted on this website.

We are not debating so the focus is on being better informed. The discussion leader will maintain this focus and allow everyone the opportunity to summarize what they have learned from the articles and what struck them as meaningful.

We hope to see you there.

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Blood and Sand
Alex von Tunzelmann

bloodsandOver sixteen extraordinary days in October and November 1956, the twin crises of Suez and Hungary pushed the world to the brink of a nuclear conflict and what many at the time were calling World War III. Blood and Sand is a revelatory new history of these dramatic events, for the first time setting both crises in the context of the Arab–Israeli conflict, and the treacherous power politics of imperialism and oil.
Blood and Sand tells this story hour by hour, with a fascinating cast of characters including Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anthony Eden, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nikita Khrushchev, Christian Pineau, Imre Nagy and David Ben-Gurion. It is a tale of conspiracy and revolutions, spies and terrorists, kidnappings and assassination plots, the fall of the British Empire and the rise of American hegemony. Blood and Sand is essential to our understanding of the modern Middle East and resonates powerfully with the problems of oil control, religious fundamentalism and international unity that face the world today.

Recommended by Tom Reifenheiser

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