Saturday, March 5, 2011

Trains passing in the night, Europe going American?

Like 'The Prince and the Pauper', Europe and the USA seem to have reversed roles the past few years.

European countries are grappling with high government debt by cutting budgets.... the USA is grappling with massive gov't debt by , er, well, by NOT cutting budgets, and going into much deeper debt ??

America publishes official gov't documents in many languages and is proud to be a multilingual society , while Europe now is requiring all citizens be fluent in the language of the land (unilingual).

Europe is confronting multiculturalism and Germany's Merkel and several other countries' political leaders have declared it a failed experiment. The USA meanwhile continues to promote multiculturalism as the ideal society and to promulgate that all cultures are equally good.

Europe is erecting barriers both literally and figuratively against waves of immigrants while America continues it's policy of open, porous borders.

As we pass each other going opposite directions on these train tracks, can one ask, Who's heading away from the train-wreck in the future and who is blithely heading toward it?

March 5, 2011

Italy Makes Immigrants Speak Italian

Filed at 7:22 a.m. EST

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Svetlana Cojochru feels insulted.

The Moldovan has lived here seven years as a nanny to Italian kids and caregiver to the elderly, but in order to stay she's had to prove her language skills by writing a postcard to an imaginary friend and answering a fictional job ad.

"I feel like a guest," said Cojochru. She had just emerged from Beato Angelico middle school where she took a language test to comply with a new law requiring basic Italian proficiency for permanent residency permits following five years of legal residence.

Italy is the latest Western European country turning the screws on an expanding immigrant population by demanding language skills in exchange for work permits, or in some cases, citizenship. While enacted last year in the name of integration, these requirements also reflect anxiety that foreigners might dilute fiercely-prized national identity or even, especially in Britain's case, pose terror risks.

Some immigrant advocates worry that as harsh economic times make it harder for natives to keep jobs, such measures will become more a vehicle for intolerance than integration. Others say it's only natural that newcomers learn the language of their host nation, seeing it as a condition to ensure they can contribute to society.

So far, Italy is only giving a gentle turn to the screw. Cojochru and other test-takers described the exam as easy. No oral skills were tested.

In Austria, terms are tougher. There, where native speakers have been sometimes known to scold immigrant parents for not speaking proper German to their children, foreigners from outside the European Union need to prove they speak basic German within five years of receiving their first residency permit. Failure to do so can bring fines and jeopardize their right to stay.

The government argues that foreigners who master German can better integrate and help foster understanding across cultures. But, like in Italy, critics say it's a just a pretext for erecting barriers.

"The German language is increasingly being used as a marginalization tool," said Alev Korun, a Turkish-born member of the opposition Greens party who immigrated to Austria when she was 19.

Austria's Cabinet approved new rules requiring most immigrants to have elementary German skills before they even enter the country. They're part of a plan to create a new "red-white-red card" — the colors of the Austrian flag — for a work permit for qualified non-EU citizens aimed at filling gaps left by an aging work force. The legislation now goes to parliament for consideration.

Critics say requiring people to speak basic German before they set foot in Austria would be an unreasonable barrier for people from poor, rural areas who can't afford or access German classes.

"I think this is a very clear form of discrimination of certain type of immigrants," said Barbara Liegl, head of the Austrian anti-racism organization ZARA. "I see massive disadvantages for specific groups."

Terrorism pushed Britain to start strictly enforcing a requirement for English-language competency for prospective citizens. Three of the 2005 London suicide bombers were native Britons of Pakistani descent while the fourth was born in Jamaica.

Since 2005, would-be citizens and permanent residency holders have been asked to prove their command of "Britishness" by answering multiple choice questions, in English, on British history, culture and law, from explaining the meaning behind the fireworks-filled Guy Fawkes Night, to knowing which British courts use a jury system.

Britain's government has pledged to dramatically cut immigration, and the language requirement is effectively a tool to put a cap on the number of newcomers, said Sarah Mulley, an immigration expert at the Institute of Public Policy Research, a London think tank.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who aims to cut immigration to below 100,000 by 2015, said language tests will help weed out those who don't plan to contribute to British life. She has singled out spouses seeking marriage visas to join English-speaking partners as a particular concern.

"There is a concern about long-established communities in the U.K. who are not well integrated, for examples, some of the Pakistani (and) Bangladeshi communities, and that's largely linked to language limitation," Mulley added.

But Mohammed Reza, a Pakistani on a student visa who is studying for Britain's citizenship test, saw language as a path to integration.

"If I'm wearing traditional clothing on my way to the mosque, everyone on the tube (subway) looks at me funny and gives me wide berth," Reza said. "It's hard to beat the stereotype, but speaking English is probably the most important thing for fitting in. That's why I read as much as I can and try to learn the lingo here."

In Italy's case, there has been a much weaker tradition of immigration and no major Islamic terror attacks. Still, a strong spike in newcomers in recent years — along with the very newness of the immigration phenomenon — has fueled a xenophobia surge and boosted the popularity of the anti-immigrant Northern League, Premier Silvio Berlusconi's main coalition partner.

In 1990, immigrants numbered some 1.14 million out of Italy's then 56.7 million people, or about 2 percent, according to the state statistics bureau, ISTAT. At the start of this year, foreigners living in Italy amounted to 4.56 million of a total population of 60.6 million, or 7.5 percent, with immigrants' offspring accounting for an ever larger percentage of births in Italy.

Amid the trend, Northern League leader Umberto Bossi's influence in government has grown ever stronger, his rhetoric often laced with a racist tinge. Bossi once referred to immigrants as "bingo bongos" and has suggested that migrant smugglers' boats off Italy's shores be fired upon with cannons.

Last year, a Northern League lawmaker proposed extending the language requirement to all non-EU citizens who want to open a store or other business in Italy, but the move died in Parliament.

Bossi "represents the extreme" in stands on immigration, said Manuele Bacci, 38, one of a fourth generation of butchers running a shop in Florence's cavernous San Lorenzo covered market. The other extreme, he said, is absolutely no restrictions.

"We need to take a step toward them and they need to take a step toward us," was Bacci's formula for integration.

But many immigrants say they'll be rejected no matter how hard they try to fit in.

Cojochru, the Moldovan nanny and caregiver, hoped obtaining permanent residence would help her bring her two teen children to Italy; they live with her sister in Moldova, where wages are among the lowest in Europe. She was skeptical that the language requirement would encourage integration.

Italians always "see me as a foreigner," an outsider, despite her years in the country and despite her flawless command of the local language, she said.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tax my neighbors please !

.... because I can't bring myself to give to causes I vociferously support and believe in.

The NYTimes publishes in the wealthiest and most liberal area in the country.

Liberals support higher taxes for government programs that help people down on their luck.

While taxes are forced and mandated for everyone unless you can find the right loophole, charitable contributions are voluntary and open to anyone with a liberal view.

$6million from all it's readers after 3 months of daily articles highlighting the plight of individuals down on their luck !?

This isn't enough to run a small social service agency for more than a couple months.

When it comes to pocketbook action, it appears that liberals want others to pay for their programs, via the government,through forced taxes.

February 19, 2011

A Season of Giving Motivates Donors in Greater Numbers

The 99th New York Times Neediest Cases Fund campaign began Nov. 7 and ended Jan. 30. Daily articles in the newspaper and online offered a window into the lives of New Yorkers coping with poverty and spotlighted how the fund helped ease some of their struggles.

Thanks to money given to the fund, Mary Spencer, who at 102 had outlived her savings, was able to replace worn-out clothing. Patricia Walsh, formerly homeless and barely getting by collecting cans and bottles, bought a bed and a dresser — the first time in her life she had a new bed, she said. Mirna B. López, a Guatemalan refugee who cleans houses for a living, fell behind on her rent after a kidney transplant, but was able to avoid eviction.

As the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression dragged on, increasing the need for help, there was concern that donations would dry up. But readers responded in greater numbers than the year before. A total of 10,457 donors gave $6,061,024 in the course of the campaign, according to the fund’s accountants. Last year, 10,428 donors contributed $6,280,243.

“We are extremely pleased and honored that our readers have remained so generous,” said Desiree Dancy, the vice president of the New York Times Company Foundation, which administers the fund. “While the dollar amount we received in donations this year was down, the number of online donations increased.”

This year’s total contributions were about 3 percent short of last year’s. Online, 4,689 donations came in, a 13 percent increase from last year’s.

“The percentage of online gifts has climbed to 23 percent of the total, which is remarkable given that many donors have contributed for years by writing a check,” said Cristine Cronin, president of, which manages online donations for the fund. “Donors clearly feel increasingly confident with the security and ease of Internet giving.”

Readers were particularly moved by an article about Thakane Masondo, an 18-year-old who was living in a homeless shelter while attending high school. Many wrote in, offering not only money but a room in their homes and help applying to college. A filmmaker expressed interest in making a documentary about her.

Alice Kenny, spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, one of the seven agencies supported by the Neediest Cases Fund, said that thanks to the outpouring of support, Ms. Masondo had found a home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx with a family that rents out rooms in its home to international college students; the family offered her a free room.

Two investment banks, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, continued a tradition of conducting company drives organized by first- and second-year associates. On Feb. 3, the people who led the fund-raising efforts — Matthew Perlman and Caroline McKim Woodworth of Citigroup, and Nat Wells, Matthew T. Healey and Azer Songnaba of Goldman Sachs — presented a total of $286,289 to Ms. Dancy.

The amount was an 81 percent increase from last year’s and the largest sum raised by the banks in any year since the start of their involvement with the Neediest Cases Fund, in 1991. Ms. Dancy thanked the bank representatives and their colleagues for their efforts.

“There was a feeling that everyone was contributing, and that everyone should,” Ms. Woodworth said.

Donations ranged from a few dollars to thousands. An executive at Citigroup matched every dollar raised over $50,000 — excluding his own $25,000 donation. At Goldman Sachs, the company matched employee contributions.

“The articles are the most compelling way to get people to donate,” Mr. Healey said.

Mr. Perlman agreed, saying, “The articles show that you can make a big difference at the margin, with a little bit of money.”

During the campaign, some donors explained what inspired them, including brief notes with their checks or online forms.

Florence Glazer wrote: “Enclosed is a check for $77, $1 for every year of my age. My dad started this with $1, and I am continuing the tradition.”

On, Susan Glenn, inspired by Luke 12:48, wrote, “To those whom much is given, much is required.”

Larry Mark found an envelope on the street, he said: “I picked it up in curiosity, and it contained a couple hundred dollars in new bills. I contacted two local police precincts, but no one reported the missing money.”

So Mr. Mark gave it to the Neediest Cases Fund.

This year, Alquena Reed was a donor, but in the past, she had been a recipient of Neediest Cases aid. She wrote: “Things were really bad for me. I was told about the charity. They said they could help me. They did.”

Every dollar sent to the fund during the 2010-11 campaign will be divided among seven of New York’s largest charities to provide continued emergency assistance. Profiles of some of those people helped will appear in the 100th campaign.