On Losing Legal Legend Derrick Bell

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nadia Ahmed

derrickbellOn October 5th, the law lost a monumental American, NYU Visiting Professor Derrick A. Bell. He was 80 years old when carcinoid cancer seized him. While news of his death may have been lost in the headlines because of the demise of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs the same day, Bell’s life deserves commemoration especially among Muslim Americans.

Bell was to social justice and constitutional law what Jobs was to Silicon Valley’s high tech industry and computer innovation. Bell was a rebel before the American Bar Association (ABA) ever began honoring recipients with the distinction of “Legal Rebel.” He was well-known for being the first African-American law professor with full tenure at Harvard Law School, but resigned in protest because of the lack of hiring of women of color. The New York Times reported that at a rally while a student at Harvard Law Barack Obama compared Professor Bell to the civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

At the beginning of his career, Thurgood Marshall recruited Bell to join the NAACP Legal Defense Fund after he left his position with U.S. Department of Justice because of his refusal to end his ties with the NAACP.  In 1966, Bell was named deputy director of civil rights at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Afterwards, he would start teaching law. 

I had the great fortune of being able to meet Derrick Bell in 2001 as a result of a series of emails back and forth between us. I was supposed to be studying for the LSAT in the summer of 2001, instead I started reading Bell’s books which I saw sitting on the same shelf of the Seminole County Public Library’s Casselberry branch as the LSAT materials: Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protestor and Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism. For someone who is naturally reticent, I resort to writing as a preferred mode of communication. Bell had also taken the time to contribute to my 9/11 anthology, Unveiling the Real Terrorist Mind. He helped me feel comfortable in my own skin.

Looking back to 9/11, Muslims were scared and some even afraid to even leave their homes. Muslim leaders were issuing fatwas for women to remove their headscarves in public out of fear for their safety. I was more astounded and confused by the North American Muslim community’s reaction. This was not the first time our community had come under attack and it surely would not have been the last. For me, 9/11 was a time more than any other to reassert our identities as Muslims.

In Professor Bell, I found someone who had walked the walk. He was also one of the most spiritual persons I had ever known, who had a deep commitment to religious value, an anomaly in higher education, especially within the law.

Initially, when I heard of his death, I was saddened, but at the same time I felt reawakened and reenergized. I remembered one of those occasions when I had to the chance to sit in on his class. On the blistering cold afternoon of February 4, 2002, I trotted up to the NYU Law school building and was told that I could not enter the building because my name was not on the list of approved visitors for that day. From my days in journalism, I knew how to slip by security. I walked slowly toward the side exit door and when the guard was distracted by other visitors, I darted up the stairs to find the Secret Service central because unknown to me President Bill Clinton was giving a talk at NYU Law that afternoon. The speech had just concluded so I stood on the side of the hallway as President Clinton walked by and greeted students. When I finally got to Professor Bell’s class, I heard some of the students joking that they had “gotten their tuition’s worth” because they “got to meet President Clinton.” I laughed inside that I, too, had been able to meet the President without the exorbitant cost of paying NYU Law tuition.

When I was accepted to the University of Florida Levin College of Law a few months later and somewhat hesitant to attend, Professor Bell encouraged me by saying that the battlegrounds for social justice and civil rights are in the South, but warned me that the racism only worsens the further I progress in my life in the law. My law school days and the year or so after I was admitted to the Florida Bar were pure and utter whatever.

In 2007, Professor Bell had mailed me a copy of his book, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth.  And it is that book that serves as my blueprint for surmounting obstacles and advancing where life leads.

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Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Banquet Fundraiser

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Southern California chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) held its annual “Healing Hands” banquet/fundraiser this past weekend at the Hilton Anaheim in Anaheim, Ca. Internationally known and acclaimed Canadian-Palestinian attorney, Diana Buttu, was the keynote speaker.

During her address Ms Buttu exposed the fallacy of the so-called Peace Process. The 1993 Oslo Peace accords were a ploy by Israel which gave the Palestinians nothing and permitted Israel to triple its illegal settlements in the West Bank and in Arab East Jerusalem.

While the Palestinians suffer under the continued yoke of occupation, Israel, using the illusion of a peace process, has tricked 34 other nations into establishing diplomatic and economic relations leading to considerable economic benefit to Israel.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), the successor to the pre-Oslo Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has become Israel’s surrogate, subcontracting for Israel in imposing the occupation and doing Israel’s all around dirty work. This has often been called “outsourcing the occupation.”

Ms Buttu said that there were advantages and disadvantages to submitting an application for statehood to the United Nations. For example, of course it would bring renewed attention on an international scale to the suffering of the Palestinian people. But she asked her audience to consider as a considerable disadvantage the wording of President Mahmoud Abbas’ application in which he used the tern “Jewish State”. Is this de facto recognition?

Ms Buttu suggested the following remedies: We need to demand better representation; we need to demand democratic representation so that our leaders are not tools of the occupation and represent the will of the people. Useless negotiations should be replaced with world wide boycott and divestment of Israel.

Ms Buttu is a Fellow at Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. She currently resides in Palestine and served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team. In 2004 she was part of a legal team that successfully challenged Israel’s Apartheid Wall before the International Court of Justice. She holds degrees from the University of Toronto, Queens University, Stanford University and Northwestern.

Ms Buttu has appeared on television news shows and is valued for her knowledge, experience and sense of fair play.

Nurse Asma Taha of Loma Linda University Hospital received the Huda Sosebee award for her humanitarian work. She has made numerous trips to the Middle East with the PCRF and has supported the PCRF in the United States.

Huda Sosebee, the late wife of PCRF CEO Steve Sosebee, was the lead social worker for the PCRF and one of its leading humanitarians during her all too brief life. She was known as the “heart” of the organization.

The Southern California chapter’s  leader, Lily Karam, spoke movingly of the children who have been helped and of the need to continue PCRF’s work.

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund is an internationally known and acclaimed children’s charity, specializing in the Middle East. PCRF is perhaps best known for its medical missions which send teams of doctors and associated medical personnel to countries in the Middle East to treat needy children there. The teams also train Middle Eastern doctors on site.

If a child cannot be adequately treated in his or her home site, the child is transported, at no cost to the parents, to a country where optimum medical care is available.

PCRF announced at last year’s banquet that it would enter the field of pediatric oncology. Plans are progressing in that arena.

PCRF also runs summer camps; has a Woman’s Empowerment Project; has distributed eyeglasses and wheelchairs to children, and does emergency relief.

The accomplishments and projects of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, of which the foregoing is but a brief part, can be found at their web site: <www.pcrf.net.>  The web site also has provisions for making donations.

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Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Event

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) has announced the attendance of two very special guests at this years  banquet/fundraiser. The two sisters, Fatema and Hala, ages 10 and 11,  were seriously burned in a house fire in Gaza, Palestine. They are but two of the many children that the PCRF has helped in the long  journey from illness and disability along the long road to health with the  concurrent ability to lead a normal life. Ahmad Saloul who is 9 years old and is  also from Gaza will join them. He is awaiting surgery at Shriners Hospital in  Los Angeles.

The event will be held September 24th at the Anaheim  Hilton in Anaheim, Ca. Tickets are $100 each with table sponsorships available.  To purchase a ticket(s), please call: 562-432-0005 or fax at:  562-684-0828.

The girls will travel to Texas to be treated for  their injuries, but only after a trip to Disneyland. They will incur no expenses  nor will their families as these expenses will be covered by the PCRF. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund is also proud  to announce the featured speaker for the evening, Diana Buttu, a  Canadian-Palestinian attorney who has gained international acclaim and respect  for her legal work.

Ms Buttu’s accomplishments are many: herewith a few. She is a  fellow of the Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. She  currently resides in Palestine and served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian  negotiating team. She was the only woman at the Palestine-Israeli negotiations.  In 2004 she was part of a team that successfully challenged Israel’s Wall before  the International Court of Justice. Ms Bhutto later served as the communications  Director to President Abbas and frequently comments on Israeli-Palestinian  political matters for media outlets including MSNBC,CNN, Al Jazeera, and the  BBC. Ms Buttu holds degrees from the University of Toronto, Queens University,  Stanford University and Northwestern.

She will address the PCRF on the subject of Palestinian  statehood. The issue is currently at the top of the news, and her  address will coincide with the issue of statehood to be brought up before the  United Nations this month.

The PCRF is an  internationally acclaimed and honored children’s charity, specializing in the  Middle East. To find out more, access their web site at: _www.pcrf.net_ (http://www.pcrf.net/)

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Is the U.S. Experiencing its First Brain Drain?

April 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy New America Media, Vivek Wadhwa

brain_drain Editor’s Note: When high-skilled immigrants and foreign students completing their degrees in the United States both consider returning to their home countries, it might be a sign that the United States is experiencing its first brain drain in history. NAM contributing writer Vivek Wadhwa has been tracking the effects of globalization on labor markets as a professor at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. Immigration Matters regularly features the views of immigration experts and advocates.

The USA has long served as a magnet for the world’s talented scientists, engineers and mathematicians. But, this trend may now be reversing and the United States may be experiencing the first brain drain in its history.

Between 1990 and 2007, the proportion of immigrants in the US labor force increased from 9.3 percent to 15.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 45 percent of the growth of the workforce over this period consisted of immigrants.

They came for the traditional reasons – education, professional opportunities, a chance at a better life. With them, many of these immigrants brought high levels of education and advanced skills. As a result, immigrants have contributed disproportionately to the most dynamic part of the U.S. economy — the high-tech sector. In Silicon Valley, over 50 percent of the startups over the last decade have had an immigrant as a chief executive or lead technologist. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google, eBay, Intel and Yahoo, to name a few.

Now many are going back. While the economic downturn has caused a rise in xenophobia and the enactment of populist legislation to restrict the hiring of foreign nationals by some financial institutions, the economies of India and China have been rising. Some of the most highly skilled workers in American corporations are returning to the lands where they were born and foreign students who would normally be the next generation of U.S. science and engineering workers are buying one-way tickets home.

There are no hard numbers available, but anecdotal evidence suggests a sizeable reverse migration of skilled talent is in progress. Our team of academics at Duke, UC Berkeley and Harvard interviewed hundreds of company executives, surveyed more than 1,000 foreign students and more than 1,000 returnees, and made multiple trips to India and China to understand the trend.

What we learned should alarm policy-makers who are concerned about long-term U.S. competitiveness.

The average age of the skilled workers we located was in the low 30s, and more than 85 percent had advanced degrees — precisely the type of people that the United States needs to fuel economic recovery. Among the strongest factors cited by these ex-immigrants as a reason for coming to the United States were professional and educational development opportunities. Ironically, this was the same reason they returned home. And, they had advanced their careers in the process.

Respondents reported that they have moved up the organizational chart by returning home. Only 10 percent of the Indian returnees held senior management positions in the United States, but 44 percent found jobs at this level in India. Chinese returnees went from 9 percent in senior management in the United States to 36 percent in China. Opportunities for professional advancement were considered to be better at home than in the United States by 61 percent of Indians and 70 percent of Chinese. These groups also felt that opportunities to start a business were significantly better in their home countries.

Surprisingly, visa status was not the most important factor determining their decision to return home — even U.S. citizens and permanent residents were returning home. Three out of four indicated that considerations regarding their visa or residency permit status did not contribute to their decision to return to their home country. In fact, 27 percent of Indian respondents and 34 percent of Chinese held permanent resident status or were U.S. citizens. In addition to job opportunities, the returnees we surveyed were lured by social factors such as closeness to friends and ability to care for aging parents.

The rationale for returnees moving home was echoed by responses of surveyed foreign nationals currently enrolled in U.S. universities. These groups have traditionally represented a disproportionate percentage per capita of advanced degree students. During the 2004–2005 academic year, roughly 60 percent of engineering doctoral students and 40 percent of master’s degree students were foreign nationals, and foreign nationals made up a significant share of the U.S. graduate student population in all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) disciplines.

In the past, the overwhelming majority of these students worked in the United States after graduation. The five-year stay rate for Chinese holding Ph.D.s has been 92 percent and for Indians 85 percent. Most end up staying permanently. Yet, the overall consensus among students we surveyed was that the United States was no longer the destination of choice for their professional careers.

Most students in our sample wanted to stay in the United States, but only for short periods. Among respondents, 58 percent of Indian, 54 percent of Chinese, and 40 percent of European students said that they would stay in the United States for at least a few years after graduation, if given the chance. However, only 6 percent of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese, and 15 percent of European students said they wanted to stay permanently. The largest group of respondents— 55 percent of Indian, 40 percent of Chinese, and 30 percent of European students— wants to return home within five years.

Visa concerns were more evident among students. More than three-fourths of these students expressed concern about obtaining work visas, and close to that number worry that they will not be able to find U.S. jobs in their field. Few said they found anything but a warm reception here from the American people. But their concern over work visas could only have been exacerbated by the ongoing attempts to curtail work possibilities for foreign nationals in the United States.

Further, the students’ assessment of their individual opportunities mirrored their view for the future of the U.S. economy. The survey found that only 7 percent of Chinese students, 9 percent of European students, and 25 percent of Indian students believe that the best days of the U.S. economy lie ahead. Conversely, 74 percent of Chinese students and 86 percent of Indian students believe that the best days for their home countries’ economies lie ahead.

The anti-immigrant groups will no doubt celebrate the departure of foreigners. But the impact of a reverse brain drain could potentially be profound and long lasting for the United States. The country is effectively exporting its economic stimulus.

Vivek Wadhwa co-authored his survey of returnees (http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/united-states-losing-immigrants-who-spur-innovation-and-economic-growth.aspx) and foreign students (http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/foreign-national-students-in-united-states-plan-to-return-to-native-countries.aspx) with the Kauffman Foundation.

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Iftikhar Chaudhry Welcomed in US

November 26, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Judge I Chaudhry NEW YORK, Nov 17: Deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry received a standing ovation from a huge crowd of Pakistani-Americans in Brooklyn (New York) on Sunday evening.

Justice Iftikhar who has come to the United States to receive awards from New York Bar Association and Harvard Law School did not address the crowd.

Former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Aitzaz Ahsan said in his speech that in order to make Pakistan truly independent and honourable nation restoration of the deposed chief justice was a pre-requisite.

“He is a symbol of independent judiciary which all Pakistanis want,” he said.

The meeting was organised by Pakistani-American lawyers led by Ramzan Rana.

The organisers repeatedly appealed to the audience not to raise political slogans. However, slogans were raised against President Asif Zardari’s position on the restoration of judges.

At one stage, some people repeatedly called for Mr Ahsan’s resignation from the PPP.

After ignoring them for some time, Mr Ahsan shot back, “I will not resign from PPP. I’m the Pakistan People’s Party!”

He said Justice Iftikhar had maintained judicial restraint and never responded to criticism from some politicians or to opinions expressed in television talk shows.

He said Justice Iftikhar’s restoration was all the more important because if it was not done there would never be an independent judiciary in the country.

Mr Ahsan said Pakistan’s top political leaders, Asif Ali Zardari, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Asfandyar Wali and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, had made written and oral commitments with the nation to restore all deposed judges, but so far that promise had not been fulfilled.

Earlier Justice Chaudhry was received at JFK by a large crowd of Pakistani American Attorneys, Political activists and members of civil society.

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