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UC Davis still reeling after police pepper spray students

The campus community at the University of California at Davis is still reeling from the events of last Friday, when university police aggressively cracked down on a largely peaceful student protest.

The Occupy Davis movement comprised students and faculty members of the university who were protesting against precipitous tuition hikes and budget cuts. In a video that went viral on Friday evening, a police officer casually used pepper spray at close range at a group of students sitting motionless on the ground. Meanwhile, Occupy supporters who witnessed the incident began chanting loudly, “Shame on you, shame on you.”

Since video of Friday’s incident at UC Davis sparked international media attention, two police officers as well as Spicuzza have been placed on administrative leave. Katehi called the incident “horrific” and “unacceptable,” but the larger question on campus has been what role her leadership has played in allowing the incident to occur. A petition calling for her immediate resignation has received more than 64,000 signatures since Friday, but Katehi has said that she will not step down. On Saturday afternoon, Davis students staged a silent protest outside the building where Katehi was holding a press conference about Friday’s events.

“The police were called for nothing more than a very peaceful dismantling of the equipment,” Katehi said on Forum, a program on local public radio station KQED Monday morning.  “They were not supposed to use force.”

Katehi stressed on KQED’s Forum that while she would take appropriate action against members of the Davis police force, the community “needs to move forward.”

Friday’s police action at UC Davis is the second high-profile incident of police aggression against students on university campuses. Just two weeks ago, members of the Occupy Cal movement at UC Berkeley clashed with university police wielding batons, resulting in several injuries. On Sunday, UC President Mark Yudof issued a statement with strong criticisms against police action against students in both Davis and Berkeley, saying he was “appalled” and would call for a meeting for all the University of California chancellors to discuss police protocols on individual campuses.

For colleges within the University of California system, these recent protests over tuition hikes are largely a continuation of mass protests that began in 2009, when UC tuition rose by 32 percent and has continued to rise ever since. At the Huffington Post, UC Davis faculty member Bob Ostertag writes that annual UC tuition was $5,357 in 2005, but currently stands at $12,192 and is projected to be $22,068 by 2015.

‘Lost in Detention’ spotlights government’s controversial Secure Communities program

People rally in support of immigration reform and the DREAM Act in Lafayette Park outside the White House in Washington, on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. Photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The Obama administration reached an immigration milestone earlier this year: one million deportations.

That’s a dubious achievement for a president that championed the cause of comprehensive immigration reform during his 2008 campaign and obtained 70 percent of the Latino-American vote that year. On last night’s Frontline special, “Lost in Detention,” correspondent and Need to Know host Maria Hinojosa explored the way that immigration policy and detention facilities have toughened up against undocumented immigrants under the Obama administration’s watch.

“Lost in Detention” focused on two major targets: the highly controversial federal program Secure Communities, and the U.S.’s sprawling network of immigration detention facilities, which critics say are rife with abuse and mistreatment. Need to Know has reported on both of these topics in the past, but the controversy surrounding Secure Communities has become increasingly visible in recent months.
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Where did ‘cummerbund’ come from?

If you’ve got 10 minutes to kill and a burning desire to learn where the phrase, “a fly in the ointment” comes from, you might want to check out “The History of English in 10 Minutes.”

Produced by The Open University, a British organization dedicated to “modern distance learning,” “The History of English in 10 Minutes” is a series of minute-long animated movies that are fun, fast-paced and very British. After taking a little time out of my day to watch them, I can now tell you the origins of words and phrases such as “give and take” (Viking invaders), “alligator” (Shakespeare), “cummerbund” (India) and “IMHO” (Internet users who, in my humble opinon, were too lazy to type, “in my humble opinion”). From the Norman conquest to the King James Bible to modern-day globalization, “The History of English in 10 Minutes” packs thousands of years into bite-sized doses of history that reveal how wonderfully mixed-up and complex our language is and why it’s currently spoken (in one form or another) by more than a billion people on the planet.

Marriage as performance art

Maria the Korean Bride with Eddie at the Drive-In Say I Do Chapel in Nevada, June 17, 2002.

Performance artist Maria Yoon, like many single women of a certain age, felt a growing pressure to wed. But rather than settling for the traditional trajectory of courtship and marriage, Yoon took matrimony to the next level with a wedding-cum-performance art piece that made a pitstop in every state across the country. Having performed the role of bride opposite a revolving cast of “spouses” for more than eight years, Yoon recently concluded her project when she said “I do” for the 50th – and last – time in New York City’s Times Square last month.

I recently talked to Yoon about “Maria the Korean Bride,” and how the experience changed her views about marriage and its evolving role in contemporary American culture.
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Julian Assange: hacker, transparency advocate, horrible houseguest

Julian Assange doesn’t seem to have many friends left. The elusive founder of WikiLeaks is facing extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual assault and a criminal investigation by the U.S. government for disclosing classified information. Even some of his former associates seem to have disowned him.

Now Assange is being accused of crimes of a more personal nature: He stole someone’s pasta.

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It’s a beautiful day in the Senate hearing chamber

This week, House Republicans passed a measure to cut federal funding for NPR. As public media again faces tough times, there are of course eloquent defenses of why it’s so vital to keep around. But perhaps we need a voice from beyond the grave.

Watch as Mr. Fred Rogers weaves his calming spell over a curmudgeonly senator and saves public television in front of your very eyes.

A 400-year-old monarch visits himself at the Met

In December, the Metropolitan Museum of Art put a portrait of King Philip IV of Spain back on display after 37 years in storage. Restoration experts had determined that the painting was, in fact, the work of 17th-century Spanish artist Velazquez. Experts had for years questioned the painting’s authenticity, assuming it was done by one of Velazquez’s assistants.

The discovery was celebrated in the art community, and the Met decided to restore the painting and make it available for public viewing.

Little did they know the king himself would pay a visit.

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A film enters the fight against modern slavery

From Robert Bilheimer's "Not My LIfe."

Human trafficking, the illegal trade of human beings that includes forced prostitution and labor, affects between 12 to 27 million people globally.

Filmmaker Robert Bilheimer tackles this issue in his new film, “Not My Life,” narrated by Ashley Judd, about the families and children who are personally affected by this modern-day slavery.

This documentary is the second in a series that focuses on the director’s vision of “the way the world is,” following the critically reviewed “A Closer Walk,” which explores the global AIDS epidemic.

Susan Bissel, chief of the Child Protection Section for UNICEF, said, “‘Not My Life’ takes a close look at the underlying causality that so many other filmmakers have missed [and] it will change the way we see our lives, in some very fundamental ways.”

I recently caught up with Bilheimer to discuss his latest documentary and the global pandemic of slavery.

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Best interviews of 2010

A big part of my job is to conduct television interviews. It is probably the only subject I feel I have enough credibility to judge the good from the bad. So I’ve chosen three conversations that were inspiring and informative. You may have other ideas and we’d love to hear them. But, IMHO, here are my top three TV interviews of the year.

Perry on Oprah

In her last season as a talk show host, Oprah Winfrey is making each episode count. On October 20, she interviewed movie mogul Tyler Perry about his experiences as a sexually abused child. In the audience were 200 men who had been abused as children. According to one prevention group, “at least two out of every 10 girls and one out of every 10 boys are sexually abused by the end of their 13th year.” It was a powerful and painful hour about a horrible subject. Her website continues to offer information on where to get help. (Watch the video on
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