Far Away, So Close

Two new documentaries reveal the uncanny similarities between the problems plaguing schools Kenya and the United...

Two new documentaries reveal the uncanny similarities between the problems plaguing schools Kenya and the United States.

A new Sundance was promised in 2010, as festival founder Robert Redford banned gifting-suite regular Paris Hilton from Park City, and longtime festival director Geoffrey Gilmore was replaced by an equally longtime festival staffer, John Cooper. Some updates worked-like a new showcase of low-budget films called "Next"-while others did not. Hilton, resilient as ever, still showed.Sundance docs often appear in thematic twos-like this year's Restrepo and The Pat Tillman Story, both of which examined the war in Afghanistan. But the parallels between two films about education were staggering. Waiting for Superman, Davis Guggenheim's follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth, is a blistering, energizing, nothing-short-of-inspiring attack on the state of public schools in America. It is especially critical of teachers unions, which Guggenheim shows as blocking efforts to improve teacher quality through merit pay or changes in the tenure system. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten isn't shown in a black hat astride a broom, but the intimation is hard to miss.Jennifer Arnold's A Small Act, meanwhile, is a quieter story about the Hilde Back Foundation, a Kenyan group that sponsors poor students for secondary schooling. The foundation was created by Hilde Back's first beneficiary, Chris Mburu. Now a pensioner living in Vasteras, Sweden, Back paid $15 a month, decades ago, to cover Mburu's school fees. Mburu is now a human rights lawyer for the United Nations.Both films highlight the high-stakes competition that families endure to get their kids a better education. Guggenheim's kids are put through the psychological warfare of charter-school lotteries, while the fate of the Kenyan children is decided by the foundation. Competition in both cases is fierce.Most startling is what is revealed when you see the films in concert. The similarities between the kids' experiences in Manhattan and the Kenyan village of Mitahato-their anxiety, their tears, their futures held captive by forces beyond their control-is impossible to overlook. The resources available to the American students are unquestionably superior to what we see in A Small Act. Still, parents and children in both systems evince such an overwhelming sense that potential is being lost-whether to a squandering of available resources or to a lack of them in the first place. Curiously, A Small Act is the more hopeful film: The keen sense of disbelief haunting Waiting for Superman-that this is happening here-denies it. Hope, Guggenheim seems to say, risks being a poor substitute for the action.Paramount Vantage acquired Waiting for Superman at the festival; A Small Act will air on HBO this summer.Guest blogger Diane Vadino is writing a book about driving from London to Mongolia. She can be found at twitter/bunnyshop.Image from Waiting for Superman.
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

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After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

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"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

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Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

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Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

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