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Editorial: Short takes on bad teaching, bad executing and bad elder care

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Russia and Ukraine 'de-Nazification'

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are at the center of more controversy over their insistence that Ukraine is led by neo-Nazis.

Teach your children well, but not like this

A New York teacher was suspended after assigning Black and white students to pick cotton and wear handcuffs in lessons about slavery and crime. At the Rochester School of the Arts, social studies teacher Patrick Rausch referred to himself as “massah,” according to parents of children in his seventh-grade class. The kids were told to pick seeds from balls of cotton they were given, but at a certain point Rausch excused the white students while telling Black students to continue picking, The New York Times reported.

Parents said such exercises had been going on the entire school year. Another exercise involved having the kids put on handcuffs as part of a magic trick. Rausch told them to try to escape from the cuffs, and when some students couldn’t escape, he berated them.

Parents and students posted angry characterizations of the class online, including a quote from student Jahmiere O’Neal’s version of the cotton reenactment: “He said, ‘Better clean it right, boy.’”

According to one unconfirmed allegation regarding the use of trick handcuffs, when one mixed-race student couldn’t get out of the handcuffs, Rausch was said to have responded: “It’s OK, your ancestors couldn’t do it either.”

In Milwaukee, Craig and Kelly Robinson are suing their school district after their children, ages 9 and 11, were expelled in alleged retribution for the parents’ complaints about racially insensitive classes. They cited one class years ago about the Underground Railroad in which students dressed up as slaves while teachers, playing slave masters, chased and captured them. Craig Robinson is former first lady Michelle Obama’s brother.

Lavrov reinvents Holocaust history

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov alleged on Italian television that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler “had Jewish blood.” Lavrov made the claim after he was asked why Russia claimed as a justification for its invasion that it needed to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, especially considering that the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is himself Jewish. Lavrov went on to say, “When they say, ‘What sort of de-Nazification is this if we are Jews,’ well, I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett denounced Lavrov, saying the assertion was an “unforgivable” falsehood that debased the horrors of the Holocaust. “Such lies are intended to accuse the Jews themselves of the most horrific crimes in history that were committed against them,” Bennett said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded that it is “incumbent on the world to speak out against such vile, dangerous rhetoric.”

Reprieve over faulty execution drug

Tennessee’s Republican governor stopped the use of an execution drug because the compound was deemed to be potentially toxic. The decision led to the postponement of a scheduled execution, buying convicted killer Oscar Smith more time. He was an hour away from execution before Gov. Bill Lee stepped in. A federal public defender praised Lee’s decision.

The strange thing about it is that all execution drugs are toxic to humans. That’s the whole point. But in this case, the state had a shortage of its regular execution drug and was forced to hire someone to compound a cocktail of drugs to accomplish the goal of ending a life. The compound wound up producing endotoxins from bacteria that could interfere with the life-ending drugs.

Dr. Jonathan Groner, a professor of surgery at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, commented to The New York Times: “With lethal injection, everything’s ironic. You’re worried about something that might kill someone in a drug that’s meant to kill someone.”

Down but definitely not out

On the subject of life endings, an elderly man at a nursing home in China was zipped up in a body bag and sent to the morgue, presumed to be among the surge of people killed by a new variant of the coronavirus that is sweeping the city of Shanghai. Millions of people are in lockdown there. When morgue workers unzipped the body bag, it turned out that the elderly man was alive.

In a video of the discovery, a nearby onlooker is heard saying, “The nursing home is such a mess. They sent a living person on a hearse and said they were dead. The undertaker staff said they were still moving. … It is irresponsible, really irresponsible,” CNN reported. Five people were sanctioned, and the doctor who had pronounced the man dead has had his medical license revoked.

St. Louis needs more of these

St. Louis native John Doerr has donated $1.1 billion to Stanford University to create a new center for climate studies. His philanthropy is noteworthy in any regard, but devoting it to improve understanding of how Earth’s climate is changing is even better. Doerr left St. Louis years ago but has maintained ties to the area. When he moved to San Francisco in the mid-1970s, he was jobless. He’s now the 146th richest man in the world.

Stanford’s climate research center has received another $590 million from other donors linked to the tech industry, which will help the university hire 60 faculty members and hire experts looking into climate science and sustainable development.

Doerr got a job as a salesman for what was, back then, a relatively unknown company — chip maker Intel. He obtained several patents for memory devices, then got involved in venture capital and investments for startups like Google, Amazon, Sun Microsystems, Compaq, Netscape, DoorDash and Slack, The Mercury News of San Jose, California, reported.

Oh, we forgot: He went to Chaminade.

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