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Cepeda: Florida students reclaim passion of Stoneman Douglas

CHICAGO

It would, no doubt, repulse Marjory Stoneman Douglas to know that an unthinkable shooting at a high school bearing her moniker has sullied her good name.

But we can’t let that horror recast such a remarkable woman’s legacy—she was far too accomplished to sacrifice her name to the worst possible bad news.

Marjory Stoneman was born in 1890 to an entrepreneur father and a concert-violinist mother. A child of affluence, she attended Wellesley College, where she majored in English, became involved in the women’s suffrage movement and graduated in 1912.

Let’s put this into context: In 1910, of all the bachelor’s degrees earned by the tiny percentage of the population who was even able to attend college, only 23 percent were earned by women.

After graduating (and marrying, thus adding on the “Douglas”), Stoneman Douglas, at the ripe old age of 25, started writing for The Herald, the newspaper which would eventually become the Miami Herald, where her father had become the publisher.

From there she went on to serve in the American Red Cross in France, Belgium, Italy and the Balkans during World War I.

Upon her return, Stoneman Douglas got rid of the husband (though she kept his name) and began editing at The Herald.

There she progressed from assistant editor to writing editorials and eventually editing a literary column called “The Galley.’’

Another bit of context: Given journalism’s current terrible state of gender equity in the leadership of newsrooms and opinion sections, this would be impressive even today.

From there, Stoneman Douglas amassed countless prizes, awards and other honors for her short-story writing, novels, a play, nonfiction books and articles in support of her passion for conservation of the Florida Everglades and other natural habitats.

In a 1952 review of her book “Road to the Sun,” the New York Times critic Frank G. Slaughter said, “Marjory Stoneman Douglas knows South Florida and the Everglades intimately. ... Her genius, however, goes much deeper than the ability to evoke a particular setting. Her description of a region that is neither earth nor water will give the reader a sense of having visited the ‘Glades in person.”

She did far more than describe it well—Stoneman Douglas helped pass a state constitutional amendment to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up the Everglades. She also eventually helped secure multimillion-dollar state and federal grants to restore and expand the Everglades. These efforts earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993.

When Stoneman Douglas died in 1998 at the age of 108, a longtime leader of the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club told The New York Times: “The Everglades wouldn’t be there for us to try to continue to save if not for her work through the years.’’

Though Stoneman Douglas would be appalled at the violence that was visited upon her namesake school, she’d surely be proud of the way that students have organized and vowed to never let such a senseless act happen again.

It’s likely she’d also be impressed by the passionate advocacy of young leaders who traveled to Florida’s state capital to rally for gun control legislation. This includes the galvanizing spokespeople like Emma Gonzalez, the Parkland student whose emotional “BS call” captured the hearts of social media activists.

I’m taking the next quote far, far out of context, because a future in which children slaughtered other children in an institute of learning would have been inconceivable to Stoneman Douglas.

But I think this line from her delightful, slightly crotchety and very “straight talk” autobiography, “Voice of the River,” will energize those facing the long, uphill battle to prevent future school shootings against the pushback of those who say it’s too early to politicize a tragedy: “Some people don’t realize there are inevitable wars that just have to be fought. Pacifism isn’t always noble, and it isn’t always intelligent,” she wrote. “You have to stand up for some things in this world.”

It’s very easy to imagine that our country will lose interest in the topic of school shootings until the next one occurs, because this has been the pattern.

But maybe the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will channel their patron saint’s energy and tenacity, and reclaim her name and her legacy as a force for making big, important things happen.


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When will NCAA be done exploiting athletes?

The NCAA makes billions. The conferences and the colleges make billions. The coaches make millions. The agents make millions.

The players producing all this money? They get squat, and their eligibility is in danger if they—or their mother—gets so much as a meal at Longhorn Steakhouse.

So who really comes out looking bad in the Yahoo report Friday giving a glimpse into money flowing under the table to college basketball players throughout the country? The players who received relatively tiny rewards? Or the NCAA and the college sports industrial complex, which has ridden those players for decades?

None of the Yahoo report is particularly surprising. Yet it seemed to surprise NCAA President Mark Emmert:

“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America,” Emmert said. “Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.”

Or, as commentator Jay Bilas put it, how dare anyone exploit our players before we, the NCAA, are done doing so?

To be sure, the dozens of players named in the leaked FBI documents knew the NCAA rules banning their accepting “impermissible benefits” and all or most of them knew they were breaking them. Even so, the documents primarily spotlight the flaws in the system and in the NCAA’s rules more than the players’ wrongdoing.

The report shook the college sports world Friday and its timing couldn’t be worse, with the lucrative men’s basketball tournament tipping off in just a few weeks. But if this jars the NCAA and other leaders into taking a hard look at their fundamentally flawed system, then it’s a welcome development.

The NCAA has been running a lucrative scheme for decades now. Teenage superstars act as free labor and generate, these days, billions of dollars for everyone but themselves. True, they are offered college scholarships. But the athletic-academic scandal at UNC revealed what a joke that can be, and how the NCAA is content to look the other way when college athletes are mistreated.

Because it’s not about the player. It’s about what he can do for the college, for the conference, for the NCAA’s bottom line. That exploitation is done above the table for all to see. It’s only when it’s done by an agent, under the table, that the NCAA thinks the exploitation is a problem.

The current FBI investigation that led to Friday’s revelations should prompt an overdue, clear-eyed assessment of all that is broken in college basketball—and football. The NCAA needs to reassess all its rules and scrap those that hurt student-athletes. The details will be complicated, but athletes responsible for generating massive revenue need to be compensated in some way, beyond their scholarships. Instead they are targets of a federal probe while the real beneficiaries—the NCAA and its member schools—sit back and count their dough.

—The Charlotte Observer


Columns
Harrop: Are we losing Mexico? And Canada?

The United States under President Trump has been retreating from leadership roles in Asia and Europe. Closer to home, his hot rhetoric about trade with Mexico and Canada is propelling our neighbors to start pulling away.

Two truths here: One is that the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement—a three-country deal—have flowed in all directions. The other is that Mexico doesn’t need us as much as it did. And the same may be said of Canada.

“We will not be pushed into accepting any old deal,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said recently, “and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal.”

That the U.S. hasn’t ditched NAFTA as candidate Trump threatened is the smallest of concessions. Simply calling trade deals “a rape of our country” is enough to get the chess pieces moving, and not to America’s advantage.

Mexico and Canada have been looking elsewhere for economic relationships, and they’re finding them. Both have signed on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the huge trade pact that Trump pulled the U.S. out of (for no explainable reason other than TPP has something to do with trade). Though Trump says he’s trying to protect us against China, he failed to recognize that TPP was actually created to help us compete against China, which is not a member.

Canada is now in talks to join the Pacific Alliance—a trade bloc including Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The United States remains a mere observer.

The world economy has changed since the 1990s, and no amount of presidential bluster changes the reality that America has less leverage than it used to. Mexico and Canada don’t have to swallow the unreasonable demands—some say “poison pills”—that the Trump administration has introduced into the NAFTA talks.

“They are overplaying their hand,” former Mexican trade negotiator Antonio Ortiz-Mena said. “Mexico does have other options. They may not be ideal, but they’re options that weren’t available 25 years ago.”

Most traditional economists don’t obsess over trade deficits, but people who do should know this: The United States ran a $12.5 billion trade surplus with Canada in goods and services in 2016.

Mexico is the second-largest foreign market for U.S. goods. (Canada is the first.) It is the largest market for U.S. corn.

But Trump’s continual bashing of NAFTA has forced Mexicans to play defense. Knowing the game could end in higher tariffs for U.S. farm products, they are engaging with more reliable suppliers.

Thus, Mexico last year imported 10 times more corn from Brazil than the year before. It’s expected to buy still more Brazilian corn in 2018.

Clearly, damage has already been done to U.S. interests. Even if this or a future administration turns friendlier toward trade, new supply networks will have been established, and American producers will have to win back the business.

Canada has also been looking elsewhere. It completed a Canada-European Union trade deal over a year ago. Canadian farmers see America’s retreat from TPP as an advantage and are expanding exports to Asia.

We cannot measure how Trump’s hostile and sometimes racist comments about Mexicans will change Mexico’s willingness to make trade concessions. His threats to deport immigrants brought to this country illegally as children cannot possibly be helping.

Also not boding well for future trade talks, Trump is promoting Peter Navarro, a protectionist who sees trade deficits as inherently evil.

If NAFTA fell apart, the winner would not be the U.S., Mexico or Canada. It would be China. Russia, meanwhile, would quietly smile at the further erosion of U.S. influence—and in Americans’ own backyard, too.