Alli's Blog

Holocaust Doubters and Survivors

May 11, 2009
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An ad ran in the Daily Cougar asking students to find one person who died at Auschwitz, Germany’s largest concentration and death camp. The ad implied that the Holocaust never happened, but it was a Jewish conspiracy that paved the way for the creation of Israel.

Chaja Verveer knows first hand that Germans were eradicating Jews in several countries. She was born in Holland in 1941 and went into hiding in 1942. She lectured about her life in hiding and being a Holocaust child survivor.

“Holland was neutral during the first war, and had every intention of being neutral if another war broke out, but when Germany attacked and threatened  to destroy Amsterdamthe Dutch backed off and the Jewish population fell into German hands,” Verveer said.

Verveer was captured and taken to Westerbrook transit camp when she was 2-years-old. A 14-year-old boy had given her and several other Jews up when he was captured by the Germans.

“Germans would go house to house to search for Jews, and if that didn’t work, they offered money for information on hidden Jews,” Verveer said.

Because of the ordeal, Verveer didn’t know her family when they reunited after 2 years in the concentration camps. Her brothers were sent to one place, her mom another and her father had died because Germans linked him with the resistance.

“It was impossible to have a happy childhood. We think that we are done with war when it is all over, but we haven’t even begun to solve the psychological problems.”

Verveer said that racism is a substitute for thinking.

“I started speaking when I heard people say that the Holocaust didn’t happen. That it was just a Jewish conspiracy. I don’t know any religion that would sacrifice 6 million people to start a state.”

“People don’t want to talk about what happened. People who collaborated with Germany didn’t want to talk about what they had done because they didn’t want to get punished. People who were with the resistance did a lot of things that were not nice nor pretty so they didn’t want to talk. Jewish victims couldn’t talk about what they went through because everyone told them to be quite.”

Because she was small during her trial, it took Verveer about 15 years of research to find out what had happened to her.

“I don’t have any memories of being in the camp, and I am glad because none of them were good,” Verveer said.


Bolivar Peninsula

May 11, 2009
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My first memory is at a beach house on Bolivar Peninsula.The house was yellow with white trim and set right on the beach.

Beach and Bolivar were a major part of my life. Any time we had anything to celebrate, we would spend the week end at the beach in Galveston. We have gone to Galveston for so many years that we forget that Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula.

Recently, my parents and I were talking about were to have my graduation party, and Dad had brought up the idea of a beach house. We are used to going to the coast, we forget that Bolivar isn’t there anymore. At least, not what we knew as Bolivar.

My parents and I had traveled to Bolivar Peninsula last December. We drove through Winnie and went over Rollover Pass. When we reached Crystal Beach we didn’t know where we were. A place that holds so many memories, more than 20 years for me and more than 40 years for my parents, was radically transformed. The sand dunes were gone, we could see the coast in places that we shouldn’t have. Bolivar had lost a good three feet of elevation.

Almost a year after Hurricane Ike, there are debates on what should happen to Bolivar Peninsula.

Residents want to rebuild the peninsula and reconstruct Rollover Pass to allow tourist in, others want to open the area up for casinos. One resident, Richard Black from Pearland, wants to revamp the peninsula for fishing.

In an article he wrote to the Galveston County Daily he argued that if Bolivar spent $6 million it could open an economical base as an angler destination. He suggested to build piers out to the bay, dredge Rollover Pass and open areas of beaches between Galveston and Sabine Pass.

Opening the area to fishing will bring economical development to Bolivar Peninsula as well as preserve the beaches and ecology.

Black introduced the most effective use of an area that was wiped clean by Hurricane Ike.

The peninsula will never be what it was before the hurricane, but sometimes sentiments must be put aside so a new generation will enjoy Bolivar.

1 Ray of Light

April 30, 2009
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My fondest memory of Raymond Robinson was a discussion we had about the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness.

“I can’t understand why the Israelites were so stiff-necked. They had manna from Heaven and water from a rock, but they still couldn’t trust God,” Brother Ray said.

I went to church with Brother Ray for five years. Every time I arrived, I always went over to his chair and gave him a big hug. It was the second row on the far right, he always sat there.

Brother Ray was the closest person to a grandfather that I had. My grandfather died when I was nine. Brother Ray would always smile when I walked in and asked me how I was doing.

I remember interviewing him for a story I was doing on his wife’s retirement from the R. B. Tullis Library in the spring of 2000, he had told me that he was glad to be able to spend more time with his wife.

It made me mad when the Observer cut that quote out.

When the church had spilt and we both went our separate ways seven years ago, I still kept up with Brother Ray, which was easy to do. My father went to get his hair cut by Brother Ray once every few months. He had gotten his hair cut by Brother Ray for the last ten years.

His shop was severely damaged during Hurricane Ike and he had to move to another shop, Dad had moved with him.

Brother Ray meant a lot to me, he meant a lot to a lot of people.

I went to his viewing last Thursday, I was very confused when I saw him. He didn’t look like Brother Ray. Brother Ray had beautiful salt and pepper hair, this man didn’t have any hair. Brother Ray was a large man, this man looked to be about half the size of Brother Ray.

My face must have shown my shock.

“You won’t recognize him, Darling. He’s not the same,” Ms. June said. “Oh, but you should have seen him on Sunday. He was radiant, I mean he just glew.”

Ray had bone marrow cancer and had to be on radiation therapy 24 hours a day to beat it.

“The  cancer didn’t take him, Honey. The cancer didn’t beat him,” Ms. June said.

You wish so much when you know that someone is gone forever. You wish you spent more time with him; you wish you had gotten to know him better.

But you never think about these things until it is too late.

Ghost of Girlfriends Past

April 30, 2009
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Moviegoers don’t have to wait until Christmas to see Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

They can catch Ghosts of Girlfriends Past for a new spin on the century-old novel. Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Michael Douglas star in the adaptation.

McConaughey was convincing in his role as smooth player Connor Mead. His suave looks and sweet southern twang made Mead irresistible to women.

Garner’s character, Jenny Perotti, was a strong woman, but was a passive at times. She was victim to the unrelenting charm of Mead, her ex-boyfriend.

Perotti sees Mead for the first time since their split at his brother Paul’s wedding. She suffers a day of heartbreak, compounded by her friends’ unintentionally audible commentary about her inability to move on.

Douglas plays Mead’s Jacob Marley-esque dead uncle Wayne. Uncle Wayne taught Mead the art of womanizing, but isn’t as repentant as Marley is in Dickens’ book. He hit on three ghosts in the movie’s last scene, proving that even death couldn’t change him.

 “The power in the relationship lies with the one who cares least,” Uncle Wayne tells Mead. 

Mead, a photographer, thinks casual sex is better than a lasting relationship. He even appears the day before Paul’s wedding to talk him out of getting married.

Mead’s negative attitude towards marriage and love come back to haunt him, as did Scrooge’s views about generosity and Christmas.

“Marriage is an archaic and oppressive institution that should be abolished, and love is comfort food for the weak and uneducated,” Mead said when his brother asked him to give the toast.

Just as Dickens’ novel is full of turning points in Scrooge’s life — when he lost his sister, he became bitter and regarded money as the only important object in his life —  Ghosts of Girlfriends Past has its landmarks that shape the narrative.

Mead loves childhood sweetheart Perotti, but she hurt him when he was younger, he didn’t want to be that vulnerable again.

As adults, when commitment time came for Mead, he leaves Perotti because he was scarred by the pain of their past.

Parts of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past made audience members laugh out loud, like when Mead demolishes his brother’s four-tier wedding cake with a champagne cork.

Other parts made them cry, like when Mead left Perotti after spending the night with her, returns and watches her cry.

True to Dickens, Mead changes how he feels about life, marriage and love.

This is a romantic comedy that you go watch with the girls after having a glass of wine.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past opens today and is rated PG-13.

Socialized or not: Obama’s new health plan

April 23, 2009
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Texas has the second largest population of non insured citizens in the U.S., and Obama’s health plan will insure thousands of Texas children.

But many opponents of the health plan fear the plan will push the nation closer to socialism. The universal health insurance is sure to raise taxes, put a strain on medical facilities and hinder medical research, opponents say.

“The public health care system will mimic the health care that the U.S. army receives,”  UH economist Richard Bean said. “The patients will be just numbers and quality will go down.”

Health care is not getting the radical make over that the Republican party lead people to believe.

“The only portion of the Obama plan that is universal is the children’s insurance,” UH economist Elaine Liu said.

Under Obama’s plan if people like their Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas or United Healthcare they can keep the private insurance and just pay lower premiums.

If someone can’t afford the private health insurance, then he or she can opt for the government insurance that will come at a lower premium. Or people can choose not to have health insurance.

Rising health care cost make not having a health plan risky. A patient will spend about $40,000 a year to treat Type 2 diabetes according to the National Institute of Health.

There are three main reasons medical treatment is so expensive: technology changes, insurance companies and law suits.

Technology can bring down cost in many industries. Most people carry a cellphone, have Internet access and satellite television because the technology made it more affordable.

Technology raises prices in the medical industry. The high input cost of better technology such as better imaging or more efficient X-Rays make practicing medicine more costly to the doctor, and make treatment more costly to the patient.

Also insurance companies can wait six months to pay a claim. Doctors only get the co-payment for the services rendered until the insurance company pays. That might be $10 for a $150 service.

Employers don’t expect their employees to work for six months with out pay, but the insurance companies expect doctors to wait six months while they review the claim. Then doctors off set the cost by raising prices and this affects cash paying patients.

Then there are the frivolous law suits that people file in the name of mal-practice. Now, there are people who have been hurt by treatment from a doctor, and they have the right to sue. Doctors also have insurance to protect them if they mess up, but they only want to be sued zero amount of times.

This is why doctors pratice defensive medicine. They run a lot of test to make sure they have the right diagnosis, when they only needed to run one or two. This increases lab time and time spent analyzing the results. The more time a doctor spends on a case, the more cost increases.

Our lives have improved with the advancements made to health care, and those advancements can continue only if there are pay-offs to the companies financing them. If we stop any insentives than we run the risk of stopping all progress.

Posted in Economy

The Man Who Came to Dinner

March 26, 2009
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The Man Who Came to Dinner is about a celebrity that wears out his welcome at a middle classed house during the Great Depression. Sheridan Whiteside, a famous radio personality, is stranded at the Stanley house after slipping on an iced-over side walk. Whiteside completely takes over the house, tells the children to follow their dreams, recruits the kitchen staff for his help, and turns the house hold up side down with all the exotic gifts that he receivesfrom other adoring celebrities.

Whiteside, played by James Black, enters on to the stage as a bickering, boisterous baby. Some one who is accustomed to getting his way and isn’t accustomed to staying in one place for more than a few days. With just himself to think of, Whiteside plots and executes a plan to get his assistant Maggie Cutler, played by Josie de Guzman, to forget that she has fallen in love with young journalist and playwright, Bert Jefferson, played by Todd Waite.

All the excitement comes to a climax when he gets actress Lorraine Sheldon, played by Elizabeth Heflin, to seduce Jefferson away.

Because the play was written in 1939 by George D. Kaufman and Moss Hart some of the references and name dropping might have been lost to a younger audience, but every one knew who Walt Disney and Mahatma Ghandi were.

The play did have full character development, Whiteside had to let Maggi go find her own happiness, and the Stanley children finally had the courage to break away from what their father wanted, and were able to do what would make them happy.

The play was inspired by an actual event that happened to Kaufman. Alexander Woollcott, a critic for The New Yorker, showed up at Kaufman’s house one night unannounced, because Kaufman already had guest for the night, he asked his friend Hart if Woollcott could stay at his house down the street.

Woollcott terrorized the house hold staff and ran off a producer, Max Gordan, during his stay.

When Hart had told Kaufman what had happened, Hart had said “wouldn’t it be awful if he had broken his leg and was on my hands for the entire summer?” and The Man Who Came to Dinner was born.

College Students and Contact Lenses

March 26, 2009
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There are many things that would frighten a contact lens specialist: Visine, trial orders, and expired contact lens solution to name a few. Scary, absolutely scary.

But the most terrifying event would have to be students who over wear or misuse their lenses. Some UH students don’t know what type of lens they are wearing, and no, knowing that it is soft is not enough. Others don’t know what solution they are using, and this could be important. In 2006, Bausch and Lomb had to pull Renu with Moisture Loc off the shelves due to contamination. If a solution goes on recall, students need to make sure they are safe from any harm.

There are many advancements that make contact lenses comfortable over the years, but many optometrist wonder if we have gone too far.

“There are many reasons to be concerned,” Dr. Rhonda Anderson said. “You can get infiltrates (this is debris that can get in between the contact lens and your eye), Neovascularization (where blood vessels grow into the cornea to supply it with oxygen), giant papillaryconjunctivitis (blisters on the eye lid) that can do serious damage to the cornea.”

Dr. Rhonda Anderson is a UH College of Optometry graduate and has been an eye doctor for 20 years. She has seen what can happen to contact lens patients who don’t take care of their eyes.

“When I ask if students have been sleeping in their lenses, they usually tell me ‘no’, but when I look at their eyes under a slit lamp I can see signs of (corneal swelling) and I have to change the type of lens that they are wearing to get the (swelling) to go down.”

Dr. Anderson says that there are steps that students can take to protect their vision.

“Only sleep in contact lenses that are approved for overnight wear; Air Optix Night and Day and Pure Vision are a few that patients can sleep in for a full 30 days.”

“Wash your hands before taking out your contact lenses. It sounds rudimentary, but you will be surprised at how many infections can be avoided by this simple habit.”

“Always use fresh solution. I like how my contact lens specialist says it: ‘don’t try to save money by stretching the bottle of solution, because you will get an infection, it will be bad, and you will pay the copay every time you come in.’ The bottle should last one month, if it is lasting longer than you are not using it enough.”

“Lastly, remember that contact lenses are a medical device and treat a medical diagnosis. You need a current prescription, and in Texas contact lens prescriptions expire after a year. Be sure to schedule yearly checkup with your eye doctor.”

Washington Post and Jack J. Valenti

March 26, 2009
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In January, The Washington Post printed a story about investigations that Edgar J. Hover did on several people of interest, including UH’s own Jack Valenti.

The Washington Post didn’t go into much detail about the investigation. They mentioned  Valenti and a few others were investigated by the FBI for homosexual behaviors. The GOP’s investigation of Valenti was also revisited briefly. Hoover’s investigation, as well as that of the GOP was fruitless.

The Post failed to put the story in any type of context, or attempt to search out why such an investigation was worth the FBI’s time. They just reported what had happened and left it at ‘he was investigated’ and ‘here are a few other names’ oh and by the way ‘the GOP had a similar investigation on Valenti.’

Valenti had graduated from UH and started an advertising and political agency Weekley and Valenti. Valenti wrote Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech when Kennedy was assassinated. Valenti also became part of Johnson’s special assistants.

They didn’t go into reasons why Hoover needed information on LBJ’s ’special assistant.’ It would have taken further digging into Hoover’s past and his relationships with sitting presidents. Hoover had files on many influential people such as Martin Luther King, Elvis Presley and any one who was considered Communist. Hoover had information about Kennedy’s womanizing and embarrassing details about Johnson.

Hoover’s own men were terrified of him, he fired or reassigned several agents for trite reasons, an out of place uniform collar for example. Hoover got rid of FBI agents who he considered pinheads. Agents thought Hoover was a tyrant.

LBJ, along with JFK, wanted to fire Hoover. He was using his power as Chief of the newly formed FBI to blackmail high ranking politicians, including the two presidents.

Hoover was a young man when he was appointed to the Bureau of Investigation by Calvin Coolidge. After a few years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was formed.

Hoover was a paradox.   Investigating men for homosexual behaviors while engaging in questionable behaviors of his own. Whether he was homosexual himself is still in question. Many authorities claim his relationship with Clyde Tolson was ‘brotherly,’ while others say they were a homosexual couple. Although, there are reports that he was involved romantically with actress Dorothy Lamour.Still, Tolson and Hoover being as close as they were did raise some speculation.

The Washington Post failed to take the story as far as it needed to go. There were no other articles devoting time to the Valenti investigation.
If the story wasn’t important enough to thoroughly report, then why run it at all?

It wasn’t my fault, really

March 12, 2009
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Opinion writing assignment: Go to the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday to meet with the editorial board. Simple enough, right? Maybe not so much. Here is my chronicle adventure of the Houston Chronicle.

My adventure starts at work when my boss decided that he wanted statistical information about research. I realized that it was 1:30 p.m. and I had to get to the class before the convoy left for the Chronicle.

I got there at 2:10 and found the class gone. So off I went to the Chronicle on my own and had gotten terribly lost. I found myself on St. Joseph’s Parkway and decided to pull over and call someone.

Now, I had no cell phone numbers for any members in the class, nor did I have a number to reach Assistant Professor Berryhill. So, I did the best possible thing I could, I called the Houston Chronicle.

“Houston Chronicle, may I help you?” came the reply.

“Yes, I am part of the class that is meeting with the editorial board today, and I am lost. Can you tell me where you are?” I ask.

“Yes, we are on the corner of Milam and Travis,” came the answer.

“Can you tell me how to get there from St. Joseph’s Parkway?” I ask again.

“No, I don’t know where that is, sorry.” And she hangs up.

Okay, looks like I am on my own. I am about 15 minutes late if I get there now, but I don’t know where ‘there’ is. I drive down several streets to find Milam or Travis. I see the skyline district, I go into the museum district and even go past the theater district. I am everywhere but where I am supposed to be.

Now, I understand that there are many different ways to go from one part of the town to the other, but when I worked for Family Vision Center I had to know how to get a patient from where they were to where they needed to be.

The help desk needs to be a true help desk. I understand direction very well and can read signs, so if she just how to get me from St. Joseph’s Parkway to where I needed to be I could have made the meeting.

Violence and journalism

February 12, 2009
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A picture, a cell phone and a dead body. The recent death at the University of Houston has caused students, faculty and staff to question their safety.

A man lying in the Metro bus stop surrounded by crime scene tape and investigators dominated the front page of the Daily Cougar on Feb. 9.

When something unexpected or violent happens, the media feels compelled to inform citizens of what is going on in their world. But sometimes, people think that newspapers, broadcasts and magazines go too far.

After the attacks on Sept. 11, the news networks showed images of planes crashing into buildings and people dying or dead for two weeks. The world stopped and rightly so, but that much exposure to traumatic images can cause depression, nervous breakdowns or feelings of anxiety.

The issue at hand is what is too far. There were many complaints that a school newspaper shouldn’t have pictures of violence, but the story was news. If the paper was a high school newspaper, then there would be cause for concern. But a college paper that is written by people who plan to become professional journalist need the experience of crime reporting.

Community leaders and the public needs to realize that we need to do more than publish what Student Council did last week. Writers for the Daily Cougar plan to become investigative reporters, crime beat reporters and hard news reporters.

The Virginia Tech massacre in April of 2007 had an impact that the university’s weekly paper ran a whole series of articles for the first anniversary.

We need information, we need to know what is going on, but we don’t need trauma. The American Psychiatric Association says that the viewing of violence or traumatic events will cause anxiety and in some cases disensitizing members of the population.

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About author

Graduating from the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston this May. I am a journalism major and have been writing for more than ten years. I am interested in economics and foreign affairs. I am currently a science writer for the Division of Research at the University of Houston.