Sunday, February 26, 2006

NYTimes prints internal Wal-Mart emails provided by anti-store group

ORIGINAL LINK (payment required):

On Feb. 17, the New York Times carried a story which quoted extensively from internal emails from Wal-Mart's CEO to its 1.3 million employees.The group Wal-Mart watch, said it obtained the emails from a disgruntled Wal-Mart manager, according to the New York Times account.

For example, asked about Wal-Mart's stock price, which has fallen 11 percent in the last five years. CEO Lee Scott said: ''You cannot have Target or Walgreens beating you day after day after day.'' Mr. Scott wrote that one reason Wal-Mart's same-store sales were growing more slowly than Target's was that Wal-Mart's customers earn less and have been squeezed worse by soaring fuel prices.

''Wal-Mart's focus has been on lower income and lower-middle income consumers,'' he wrote. ''In the last four years or so, with the price of fuel being what it is, that customer has had the most difficult time. The upper-end customer got a tremendous number of tax breaks about four years ago. They have been doing very well in this economy.''

He said having to pay $50 to gas up a car did not change anything for rich customers, but did for those who didn't earn a lot. ''It changes whether or not you go to the movie, whether or not you buy new sheets, whether or not you go out to eat.''

Here is a Feb. 17 email from Andew grossman, Wal-Mart Watch executive director, to supporters:

Andrew Grossman <> wrote:
Subject: Wal-Mart Watch Reveals Secret CEO Postings
From: "Andrew Grossman" <>

"This morning’s NY Times business section front page has a story titled, “On Private Web Site, Wal-Mart Chief Talks Tough” about an internal
Wal-Mart website that CEO Lee Scott uses for Q and A with his managers – Lee’s Garage.

"And this is the lead from this morning’s Bloomberg AM Market Update:

"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fell after the New York Times reported the chief executive saying that providing some medical benefits would be harmful. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, fell 15 cents to $46.48. CEO H. Lee Scott told company managers on a confidential, internal Web site that providing medical retirement benefits would leave the world's largest retailer at a competitive disadvantage, the New York Times reported, citing a copy of the posting provided by a group lobbying for better work conditions. [Bloomberg News]

"You can read excerpts from Lee’s Garage at our website:

"Unfortunately, this shows that Wal-Mart just isn’t yet ready to assume the leadership responsibility that Americans expect from the world’s largest corporation. Wal-Mart can and should act as a catalyst for change in the American health care system. To do so, they must 1) guarantee that no employee will have to resort to taxpayer-funded health care for themselves, their spouses and their children and 2) meet the standard already set by the vast majority of medium and large American businesses. Only 48% of Wal-Mart employees have company-provided coverage, while 68% of employees at American companies with over 200 employees receive coverage at work. Wal-Mart is unique."

Andrew Grossman
Executive Director
Five Stones
1730 M Street, NW
Suite 601
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 557-7440
(202) 557-7499 Fax

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mount Greylock School Committee Meeting agenda -- Feb. 27

Mount Greylock Regional School Committee

Monday, February 27, 2006
7:00 p.m.
Bruce R. Carlson Library
Mount Greylock Regional School District

I. Call to Order
II. Approval of Warrants
III. Approval of Minutes
A. Minutes of January 17, 2006
B. Minutes of February 7, 2006

IV. Agenda Requests from Attendees
V. Agenda Requests from the Student Advisory Council
VI. Public Comments
VII. Questions and Suggestions
VIII. Financial Report
IX. Reports
X. Discussion Items
A. Initial Draft of the FY '07 Budget

XI. Action Items
XII. Other Business
A. The Committee will have for its use at the meeting
several key documents for just informational purposes at this budget
session. The documents will have an impact as the budget process
continues and time for adequate discussion will be provided. Documents
will include:
* Draft Program of Studies

* NEASC Report and Summaries

* School Improvement Plan 06-07

XIII. Administrative Reports
XIV. School Committee Comments & Observations
A. "Parking Lot" list with updates (Enclosure 1)

XV. Date, Time and Place of Next Scheduled Meeting
A. Tuesday, March 7, 2006 - 7:00 p.m. - Lanesborough
Town Hall, South Main Street, Lanesborough, Massachusetts

XVI. Executive Session

XVII. Adjournment

*Designation of an item as a Report or Discussion Item does not
preclude the School Committee from taking action thereon.

Michele Conroy
District Office

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mt. Greylock Supt. Bill Travis speaks at public breakfast March 1

Bernadette Archibald at the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce writes that the public is welcome to attend a breakfast talk on Wed., March 1 by Mount Greylock Regional High School Supt. William Travis. A second guest speaker at the 7:30 a.m. breakfast at The Orchards, 222 Adams Road, will be Andy Hogeland, chairman of the school's building committee -- to discuss and present the progress of the planning for the building needs of the school. Breakfast starts at 7:30 p.m. and the talks begin at 8 a.m. Call the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce to reserve a seat. Price for Chamber members is $14.00 and $16.00 for non-members. Call (413) 458-9077 or email your reservation to:

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Deval Patrick Interview on WAMC Friday at 1 p.m.

Michael Wilcox, the Berkshire County coordinator for the Deval Patrick for governor campaign, writes that WAMC FM 90.3 MHz, will feature an interview with Patrick on Friday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. on the "Conversations With . . . " program. He writes: "See for links to other information, including web audio streaming for those who are not in the broadcast area. Wilcox is at 413-528-5863 (

Transcript farm-series features transfer of Caretaker Farm

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: Thurs., Feb. 16, 2006

Caretaker Farm owners Samuel W. Smith and Elizabeth V. Smith pose with farm manager Donald Zasada, center. The Williamstown farm sells shares that entitle shareholders to weekly produce during the summer months.
Photo by Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript

Sharing the harvest

By Shaw Israel Izikson, North Adams Transcript

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Over its 36-year history, Caretaker Farm on Hancock Road has become known for innovative farming methods.

The farm has been owned by Samuel W. and Elizabeth V. Smith since 1969, and was one of the first organic farms in Berkshire County. It uses 7-1/2 acres to grow 40 types of vegetables and herbs and has 20 acres of pastureland for cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens.

The Smiths purchased the old dairy farm in 1969 from a couple who were retiring.

"They gave up the herd, and the farm was going back to brush," said Sam Smith. "When the farm was formed back in the 18th century, there were several different forms of livestock, and in the early 19th century, there was a lot of sheep farming. The biggest change is that today the farm is more diversified with a small amount of livestock and the produce."

In 1991, it became one of the first community supported farms: consumers can buy farm shares that entitles them to weekly harvests of fresh-picked organic fruits and vegetables. The farm also participates in Berkshire Grown, a local organization that supports farming through programs that link farms with the community.

According to caretaker Donald Zasada, the community-supported agricultural model is what sets Caretaker Farm apart from other local farms.

"You have a guaranteed income at the start of the season with people paying for shares, and with that you have a guaranteed income coming in with which you can pay your bills," he said. "It takes a great deal of risk out of farming."

The farm currently has 225 family shareholders, with each full share costing $550 a year. With the share, members can come to the farm once a week to pick vegetables and other crops.

"They pick what they want and put it into a big canvas bag," Zasada said. "If they're serious vegetarians, they can pay a little extra to get a second bag."

Smith claims the farm does not fall into categories of profit or nonprofit. "(Shareholders) are supporting the farm, which is supporting the community," he said. "Their support of the farm gives the farmer a fixed amount of income, which allows them a decent, good and adequate living."

The farm is currently in a period of transition, with Zasada slowly taking over the managerial duties. "Sam and Elizabeth are reaching the age where they're ready to let go, and they have been working on a transition for the past few years," he said. "They will continue to live on the farm, they just won't be the managers of the business."

This is Zasada's first year managing the farm, although he previously managed another community-supported farm, Baker Ridge in Lincoln, owned by The Food Project, a nonprofit food development organization. He said his wife, Bridget Spann, and their 2-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, are in love with farm life. "Gabrielle) is in love with the baby chicks we have, as well as the four baby pigs we have," he said.

Zasada said the biggest challenge he faces are the ever-changing weather, which can support or hamper the growth of produce. "It's an incredible balance to deal with the weather," he said. "During any given year, some vegetables do well, and some do not. However, you're always going to have a positive season, because some crops will always do well."

Smith said the key to a successful farm is having the community involved with it. "It's a cutthroat business, and farmers need to gain better control over their markets, and that means cooperating with the local community, as well as the community appreciating the positive contributions the farms make," he said. "Farms in the Berkshires are facing problems like urban sprawl and second homes that are rising land prices. On the positive side, there are people out here who are interested in renewing a spirit of community due to the absence of it, and local food is critical to that."

He said another way the farm has become part of the community is through the programs and community events that are held on the farm, including workshops on farming, a summer solstice event and agricultural training programs for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Williams College students.

The farm also accepts four apprentices each year, who stay there seven months, and who usually are from programs at the New England Small Farm Institute. "They are usually in their mid-20s and they have a college education, and they are dedicated to farming," Smith said. "We're more than just a place to get food," he said. "Students have learned about agricultural and ecology, and it's a real mutuality. That part of it is very positive and hopeful for the future."

The bakery on the property was started in 1980 by the Smith's oldest daughter, Barclay, when she was still in college. "Even though she's moved out to western Colorado with her husband, we still have the bakery for members of the farm," he said.

Smith said the farm is going into a community land trust, which he said will ensure it will remain as a working farm and will preserve the land. "There are so many farms out there with a fragile future, the reason why this farm has thrived is because of community support," he said. "This is
the community's farm, and we wouldn't be here without the community's support. When people think about farming, some people think it's just about food, that an apple is just an apple. Well, there's a story there. It's my life to grow that apple."

Shaw Israel Izikson can be reached at .

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Worldwide Jewish news service features Mount Greylock bullying

JTA, billed as the "global news service of the Jewish people," featured a story Feb. 2, on alleged bullying incidents at Mount Greylock Regional High School.

Free-lance writer Penny Schwartz visited the school, and filed this report on JTA's website:

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Feb. 1 (JTA) -- A picturesque New England college town is finding it isn.t immune to racial intolerance and anti-Semitic slurs. For the past month, local media reports have disclosed charges of bullying at Mt. Greylock Regional School District in western Massachusetts directed against Billy George, a 12-year-old boy who is a seventh-grader at the district.s middle school.

His parents, Kathi and Fred George, say he has been the victim of 11 assaults since the beginning of the school year, some of which include racist and anti-Semitic slurs and threats.

Mt. Greylock, nestled into the snow-covered Berkshire mountains, serves students in grades seven through 12 from Williamstown, home to prestigious Williams College. There were 218 seventh- and eighth-graders last school year, according to the state's Department of Education, which also reports higher-than-average scores on statewide mandated tests.

The Georges' story raises vexing questions about what constitutes prejudice, anti-Semitism and hate crimes -- and how to overcome the stigma of confronting these issues in a small community. Among the disturbing and ironic twists to the Georges. story is the fact that the George family, longtime residents of Williamstown, is not Jewish. But Fred George, Billy's father, is a third-generation Lebanese American whose family has lived in Williamstown for 53 years.

Fred and Kathi George, who is white, now believe Billy was "picked on". because of Billy's dark skin color. The Georges have three daughters; the two oldest are adopted, a fact they note because they are white-skinned and never experienced any discrimination in the schools. Their biological daughter, a senior at Mt. Greylock High School, is also darker-skinned.

"At first, I didn't even think of the racial comments," Kathi George recalls during a recent conversation at the family's kitchen table which, since Nov. 14, is also serving as Billy's classroom, as he is now being home-schooled by his parents and a private tutor."Then when we started looking to these instances, and there were more and more of them, it always seemed there was a nasty name that went along with the attack. It was like somebody slapped me in the face," George says. "This is not because they think he's small, it.' because they think he's different. That was the most unbelievable realization for me."

"People expect that these kinds of incidents won't happen in schools and universities," explains Mark Potok, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, publishers of Teaching Tolerance, a widely used magazine for educators which addresses intolerance and bigotry.

But middle and high schools, as well as colleges reflect society as a whole. There are about 1 million "bias" incidents on these American campuses each year, Potok says. "There's no question that it's best to bring it out in the open," Potok comments, though it's easy to understand why schools are averse to drawing attention to themselves in these circumstances, he adds. "But the reality is that it's invariably better to confront or be proactive."

Several people interviewed for this story, including Rabbi Howard Cohen, whose Congregation Beth El in nearby Bennington, Vt., includes families whose kids attend the Mt. Greylock school, cite the sharp educational and economic stratification in the area as one explanation for persistent incidents of racial and religious intolerance, he says.

In recent weeks, the school department is responding to the Georges' allegations in a variety of ways, according to William Travis, Mt. Greylock's school superintendent, including expanding anti-bullying and tolerance-related programs into the elementary schools, a key to establishing a common framework for students as they enter middle school.

Peer mediators at the high school are involved in the World of Difference program developed by the New England office of the Anti-Defamation League, and ADL is working with the school.s adviser to establish a bond between the high school and middle school students, according to Sue Lonergan of the New England ADL regional office.

In a statement to the police on Nov. 15, Billy George wrote that among other incidents, two boys began kicking him repeatedly a day before while he was sitting down in a school corridor, tying his shoes. Earlier in the day, Billy George alleges that one of those boys came up behind him and asked if he was an "[expletive] Jew."

Travis asserts he has seen no anti-Semitism or racist patterns of behavior at the school, but acknowledges that comments such as those alleged by Billy George are unacceptable.

In a conversation at the Jewish Federation of Berkshire County, director Arlene Schiff says she wrote to the chairman of the school committee at Mt. Greylock, offering to help establish a program to combat prejudice, similar to one she and Travis created in Pittsfield, when Travis was superintendent in that city. The chairman thanked her in a phone call, but declined her offer, Schiff says.

The committee chairman could not be reached for comment on the incident.

This case, which has resulted in criminal charges being brought against three juveniles, has also attracted the attention of the state's office of the attorney general, which contacted the Georges directly, and the district attorney of Berkshire County, David Capeless, who met with the school's staff on Jan. 26 to help set up policies to combat bullying.

Billy George says it was hard to work up the courage to tell his parents about the incidents, which he doesn't want to talk about any more. He enjoys math and seeing his friends, he says, who continue to come by his house to hang out. He also says he just wants it to be safe for him to go back to school.

Kathi George agrees. "Our hope is that Billy can go back to school and be comfortable there."


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Monday, February 13, 2006

Images Cinema exceeds first appeal appeal by $4,000

Submitted by Sandra Thomas, Images Cinema, 413-458-1039
Date: February 13, 2006

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Images Cinema's First Annual Appeal campaign was a success, raising over $18,000. The appeal was presented as a challenge to the community to match an initial donation of $7,000 made to the cinema by a group of friends, for a total of $14,000.

Money for the appeal was collected in the cinema, and through the mail. The bulk of the funds raised came from respondents to an appeal letter the cinema mailed out earlier this winter. Peter Mehlin, a volunteer at the cinema stated his reasons for making a donation: "It was largely selfish on my part. I want Images be around in the future, so I can continue to see movies there."

This year's appeal is the first in what will be a yearly endeavor. Images Cinema is a non-profit arts organization and, like other cultural non-profits, requires financial support beyond membership dollars alone. "The response from the community was heartwarming,” says Sandra Thomas, Executive Director of Images Cinema. “Film has been screened in this building for 90 years and while more and more small cinemas around the country are struggling or closing their doors, it is clear that we live in a community that values not only our history, but our future."

"We are delighted,' says Susan Gold, a member of the Images Board of Directors. "Although the goal of this annual campaign was a modest one, the positive response from individuals and supporters in this community has once again proven the commitment they have to this cinema. Without such generous donors, we wouldn't be as successful as we are now and will be in the future. We need and appreciate their support."

One of the few year-round single-screen member-supported cinemas in the country, Images Cinema has been a non-profit organization for seven years. It continues to expand programming to meet the educational and cultural needs of the community, while maintaining its dedication to quality independent film. Images Cinema is supported in part, by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. Current happenings are listed at

Richmond school staging "Thousand Cranes" on March 31/April 1

Submitted by Amy Brentano, director, 413-698-2294

Richmond Consolidated School in Richmond, MA is producing Kathryn Schultz Miller's play, "A Thousand Cranes" on March 31st at 7PM andApril 1st at 3PM and 7PM. The performances are at the school and tickets will be available at the door and cost $.5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children and seniors.

The play, a multiple award winner, is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki. She lived in Japan during WWII and became ill from her exposure to the atomic bomb. In the script, her best friend tells her of an ancient emperor spirit who will grant her wish of health and peace in the world if she folds one thousand origami cranes. With determination she begins to fold, but dies before her task is completed.

Her classmates, inspired by her courage and dreams, finish the cranes and have a monument built in her honor. The statue stands in Hiroshima Peace Park today. The play is filled with music, movement, and beautiful imagery. It is a forum for the students to present their hopes and dreams for their future. The ensemble format of the play and Japanese flavor expose the children to new visions of theatre and culture.

Local businesses are participating in a fund-raiser toward the play's expenses by sponsoring cranes in blocks of ten for $20 each. The cranes will boast the name of the business and a one-line message of peace and goodwill. After the production, the school will donate the garland of one thousand cranes to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

French Film series at Images Cinema starts Monday

From: Janet Curran

Beyond the Femme Fatale: Leading Women in New French & Francophone Film

WILLIAMSTOWN -- For five consecutive Mondays, February 13 through March
13, 2006, Images Cinema will screen five French language films on the theme
of “Leading Women in New French & Francophone Film”: 8 WOMEN, VIVA
be at 7pm, and are free and open to the public. Images Cinema is located at
50 Spring Street in Williamstown, MA.

Following the success of last year’s French African film series “Border
Crossings: Visions of Movement in Francophone African Film,” series
organizer Kashia Pieprzak, this year joined by Brian Martin, chose to focus
on women’s identity in recent French and French-language film. As Brian
Martin stated, “There are so many exciting recent Francophone films by and
about women that focus on the extraordinary contributions of women in cinema
and continuing cultural and political challenges facing women in the
Francophone world. These films engage with feminine agency in numerous
ways--in reflections on the historical cinematic role of woman as seductress
and in the creation of new images of political and social power.”

The series will kick-off on Monday, February 13th at 6pm, with an inaugural
address made by Alice Jardine, a prominent feminist scholar, professor of
French, and co-founder of the program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at
Harvard University. This will be followed directly by the first film of the
series 8 WOMEN. Each film will be introduced by faculty of the Williams
College Department of Romance Languages.

This series is a collaboration with Williams College made possible with the
generous support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the
French Ministry of Culture (CNC), the Kagle Gift, the Dively Committee, the
Department of Romance Languages, the Program in Women's and Gender Studies,
the Program in Comparative Literature, the Multi Cultural Center, and the
Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Williams College.

Monday, February 13: 8 FEMMES (8 Women)
1 hour 53 minutes * In French with English subtitles
A murder-mystery musical, François Ozon’s send-up of ‘50s melodramas
features star turns by three generations of France’s finest actresses,
including Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, and Ludivine Sagnier. Comic,
irreverent and nasty, the film’s twisted story, soap acting, camp costumes
and decadent decor suggest a hybrid of Vincente Minnelli, Douglas Sirk and
John Waters. Gathered for the holidays in a secluded, snow-bound mansion, a
seemingly straight-laced bourgeois family discovers the man of the house
murdered in his bed. The phone line has been cut and the only car sabotaged:
clearly the murderer is among them. But who is it? Amid the mayhem
characters break into song, revealing in French variety numbers feelings
hidden behind the artificial decor of the happy family.

Monday, February 20: VIVA LALDJÉRIE
1 hour 53 minutes * In French and Arabic with English subtitles
VIVA LALDJÉRIE explores the lives of three women in Algiers as they manage
to get by despite their daily difficulties. Goucem works at a local photo
shop and lives with her mother Sandjak in a low-rent residential hotel. She
is torn between tradition and modernity, between her mother’s desire for her
to find a husband and her aspiration to live like a modern young woman.
Sandjak, formerly an exotic dancer, hides from fundamentalists who are set
on killing her. Fifi, a prostitute who lives next door to Sandjak and
Goucem, is usually very busy entertaining men in her room, including
influential ones who should not be there. VIVA LALDJÉRIE highlights the
tensions between modern and traditional society in a country emerging from
civil war and dominated by men.

Monday, February 27: UNE HIRONDELLE A FAIT LE PRINTEMPS (The Girl From
1 hour 43 minutes * In French with English subtitles
A successful computer science teacher, Sandrine decides it’s time to leave
her unfulfilling job in overcrowded Paris and take a chance on her life-long
dream: farming. She buys a farm in the rugged and isolated mountains of the
Rhône-Alps, but the seller, a prickly old codger mistrustful of everyone and
dismissive of Sandrine’s ability to manage a farm, insists on living in his
house for another 18 months before moving. Having grown up on a farm
himself, the director doesn’t ignore the hardships--from helping goats in
labor to repairing fences in a winter storm--but he also shows a respect for
farm work traditional and newfangled, and a profound appreciation of natural

Monday, March 6: MOOLADÉ
2 hours 14 minutes * In Jula and French with English subtitles
Director Ousmane Sembene continues to provoke his audience and reiterates
the strong feminist consciousness that marks previous work. This time, he
takes on the explosive issue of female circumcision, a practice still common
in Africa. Four young girls face genital mutilation, and flee to the house
of Collé Ardo Gallo Sy, a strong-willed woman who once managed to shield her
teenage daughter from circumcision. Collé invokes the time-honored custom of
“mooladé” (sanctuary) to protect the fugitives, creating a conflict in the
community and forcing every villager to take sides. Mooladé is the second of
a trilogy of films about heroism in daily life and, to use Sembene’s own
words, about the ‘underground struggle’ of people, which is often overlooked
by their governments and the rest of world.

Monday, March 13: BON VOYAGE
1 hour 54 minutes * In French with English subtitles
Set in June 1940 when Germany invaded France, cabinet members, journalists,
physicists, prisoners, and spies of all persuasions gather at the posh Hotel
Splendide in Bordeaux to escape the Nazi occupation of Paris. In this
sophisticated farce, murderous intrigues, scientific secrets and love
affairs flourish, while elaborate personal schemes and political plots
intersect. With wit and humor, director Jean-Paul Rappeneau explores a
pivotal and serious period from his youth – the turmoil that besieged France
at the beginning of World War II.

One of the few year-round single-screen cinemas left in the country, Images
Cinema has been a non-profit organization for seven years. It continues to
expand programming to meet the educational and cultural needs of the
community, while maintaining its dedication to quality independent film.
Images Cinema is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a
state agency. Current happenings are listed at