Rev. Jesse Jackson was a major figure of the Civil Rights Movement and Baptist minister who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. On Thursday morning, Jackson sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss the civil rights issues he feels students in the United States are most affected by today.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Rev. Jesse Jackson, a major figure of the Civil Rights Movement and Baptist minister who ran for president in 1984 and 1988, sat down with The Daily Texan this morning to discuss the civil rights issues he feels students in the United States are most affected by today. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

DT: What do you think are the most important civil rights issues the United States is facing today?

Jackson: We’ve gone from horizontal segregation by race to vertical disparity by race and class ... [as demonstrated by] the radical rise in student loan cost. In the ‘50s, when the Russians sent Sputnik up, we thought they might have an advantage on us in science. We passed the National Defense [Education] Act and paid for kids to go to school. In five years, we caught the Russians and surpassed them because we lowered ourselves to scientific development. ...We should, in fact, have a plan now for student loan debt forgiveness, and reach out to that talent pool. That is one of the challenges of our time — radically reducing student loan debt. The other, of course, is that we need an amendment to the Constitution for the fundamental right to vote. We have a fundamental right to bear arms. Only states right to vote. So we have 50 states separate and unequal election processes. Beneath the fundamental right to vote, we need the constitutional right to vote, and, right now, we do not have that.

DT: On the subject of higher education, which you have talked a lot about before in the past, to what extent do you think the cost of higher education is a civil rights issue?

Jackson: Money should not determine who gets higher education. It should be based upon will and skill, and not based upon money. Many students [who] would be good teachers, or doctors, or lawyers, or scientists or researchers cannot afford to go to school. We cannot afford to discard great minds. We can afford to educate our children, and we must. And, right now, we’re making education costs prohibitive. Jails for profit and schools for profit do not reign true, but a bright future.

DT: Do you think there’s a racial element to that issue?

Jackson: Well, the evidence is fairly obvious that, of two million-plus Americans in prison, half are African-American. A survey [that] came out on the topic of education last week showed that black students at the kindergarten level are suspended more than white students. Blacks hit with more time for the same crime. Three Strikes and You’re Out was aimed at young black youth. ... So the evidence is there’s a strong racial component that blacks are targeted and steered.

DT: You mentioned a debt forgiveness program earlier, do you feel that’s the best way to solve the issue of the costs of higher education?

Jackson: It’s a major step in the right direction. Too many students are graduating with a diploma, but they bring in no job or they graduate with a diploma and they have to go back home and live with their parents as opposed to being free to go out and buy a house, buy a car, get married, have a family, the cannot afford to do so. So they go back home, which stifles the economy. President Barack and his wife Michelle said in a book he wrote when he ran for president, could not handle their student loan debt. It’s unbearable. Poor people ought to be able to go to school. And yet no one knows that the genius we need to cure cancer, the genius we need may be in the mind of a poor student.

DT: UT is involved in a major affirmative action court case. What do you think is the solution to that issue?

Jackson: Well, we have to accept that an advantage of 246 years of slavery, it was illegal for blacks to get on the track and whites could run as fast as they could run. We finally enable for them to get on the track freely and plan or path to repair the damage done by the time lost compounded by another 100 years of legal segregation. That’s why Johnson says in his speech at Howard University that it’s irrational to think that someone after 346 years can get on the track that they have been locked out of and be equal with those who have been running for three and a half centuries. So there has to be some affirmative action to offset negative action for women and people of color. ... Affirmative action is not a zero-sum game. Inclusion has led to growth. When there’s growth, everybody wins. The more blacks and Latinos and women educated expands the economy. It does not replace A with B. Because the walls have come down in the South, for example, and there’s no longer the fear that once existed. All these new airports – that’s the federal government. The Interstate Highways – that’s the federal government. The research and investment in this University – that’s the federal government. And so to see people like Perry run against the federal government de-benefits so many people. It’s demagoguery.

DT: [Regarding] the costs of higher education, how do you feel students can justify studying certain subjects, such as education, fine arts and the humanities, when high student debt and low pay make it financially impractical?

Jackson: Students should be protesting the rising cost of higher education en masse. There should be more focus on protesting the cost of higher education than going to football games. ... How many students are at the University of Texas?

DT: About fifty-thousand.

Jackson: If those students held a mass protest for student debt forgiveness, your legislature would come into a special session. If that took place at the University of Texas and Texas A&M and Texas Southern and across the state, you have the power. Our power is in marching and civil disobedience — you have the power through your vote — to march on campuses en masse demanding student loan debt forgiveness. And, of course, we’ve gone from in the fifties when education was free to now being cost prohibitive. We’re not going to remain a great nation if education is cost prohibitive because it means we’ll have to import students from other countries — which is what we’re doing, by the way.

DT: As somebody who was a part of these major social movements in the past, how would you advise students who support this cause to mobilize in such large numbers?

Jackson: First of all, students must be advised ... you must not self-degrade. You must not diminish your own power, your moral power, the rightness of your cause. Students fighting for the right to go to school but can’t afford the cost in money is a righteous cause. Students marching en masse for student loan debt reduction to administrative office is a righteous cause. That cause can go viral. Students pursuing their academics seriously, pursuing the highest and best grades they can get, likewise. Because, again, you want an airline pilot who is skilled in aeronautics, a medical doctor who knows his or her skill, but so many of our students who have the right credentials just do not have the money.

DT: Some here in Texas have argued that the solution is to have a more affordable but less substantial higher education system that focuses on quickly turning out graduates with technical skills. Rick Perry has talked about $10,000 degrees.

Jackson: Well, that’s another class strata. There are some people who should learn those technical skills because we always need trade skills. Plumbers and masons and carpenters and glaziers and builders and constructionists — we’ll always need the infrastructure workers. They’re highly valued skills because they’re necessary. Hard to find an unemployed plumber. On the other hand, the humanities and the arts also matter. Getting these high degrees also matter. So why have a cheap degree and an expensive degree? That’s just another class separation.

DT: You’ve come out very strongly against Voter ID laws, one of the most strict of which is here in Texas, so how would you go about trying to reverse the actions those laws have taken?

Jackson: The same people who didn’t want the Voting Rights Act in the first place saw mixed results, and they’ve never stopped trying to take it back. In this state, you can register with a gun ID but not a student ID. That’s an ideological loaded statement, choosing guns as an ID. In North Carolina, they’re already taking precincts off of campuses. In Ohio, they’re reducing the number of days you can vote. ...The Voting Rights Act enabled a new coalition of Americans to emerge out of the shadows. Blacks couldn’t vote, most couldn’t serve on juries, 18-year-olds couldn’t vote, though serving in Vietnam. You couldn’t vote on college campuses — you either had to go home and vote absentee. You couldn’t vote bilingually. That generation has changed the course of American politics. So everything they can do to make that more difficult, for seniors who might not have a voter ID, for students or for easy access — the countermovement to the Voting Rights Act is on the way. And it’s so sad to see the governors, as in the days of old, and the secretaries of state leading that movement, being the same people who are quick to fight wars for democracy in Ukraine or someplace. If they had voter ID in Ukraine, they’d be protesting just as loudly as the Democrats.

— Jacob Kerr and Pete Stroud

United Methodist Church youth director Mary Ann Kaiser must wait until at least October before a decision is made on whether she can become a minister because she is openly gay.

Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

After years of work to receive ordination, Mary Ann Kaiser will have to wait months or even years for religious authorities to decide if she can become a minister as an openly gay woman. 

Kaiser, a youth director and justice associate at University United Methodist Church on Guadalupe and 24th streets, was removed in June from enrollment in her church’s ordination process by religious authorities overseeing the church because of her sexuality. James Dorff, a Bishop of the Southwest Texas Conference that oversees Kaiser’s church, rejected an appeal by Kaiser’s pastor this month.

Dorff said it was not in his authority to challenge a decision by the Board of Ordained Ministry, the body that removed Kaiser from enrollment. He was given 30 days to review the matter. 

“I was disappointed,” Kaiser said. “I would have rather had a ruling against me than a non-ruling, as it would have at least held some conviction.” 

Dorff cited the United Methodist Church’s book of rules in his ruling, which states “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” cannot be ordained.

“I understand that he’s trying to be a pastor and a leader to the whole community, which holds a variety of opinions,” Kaiser said. “But it’s hard to hear nothing of substance as a response to this important and very timely issue of justice.”

Kaiser’s case, which was approved by the District Committee of Ordained Ministry for ordination in April after seven years of preparation, will now head to the October meeting of the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council.

The council is made up of members elected from churches nationwide and could uphold Dorff’s decision or require him to conduct further review.

Kaiser said the decision indicated a lack of transparency and accountability about the operations of the Board of Ordained Ministry, and that it was frustrating that Dorff would avoid a ruling on the basis of a technicality without taking a stance on gay clergy. 

The board did not interview Kaiser before making their decision, a usual requirement before they choose to deny ordination.

“This is a serious lingering question for me,” Kaiser said. “There seems to be a level of unbridled authority functioning that should concern Methodists of all varieties.”

Joy Butler, chair of the Southwest Texas Conference’s Reconciling Team, called Dorff’s decision unfair.

“I believe that being biblically obedient means that orientation and gender identity should not be a barrier to following a call to be a leader in Church,” Butler said. “Jesus taught us to love all, and many of his followers included those who were denied a voice and excluded from society.”  

Butler, who started a letter-writing campaign directed at Dorff during the 30-day period with the support of the Reconciling Ministries Network, said many United Methodists who are not socially progressive recognize the unfairness in the board’s decision to deny Kaiser an interview, which is outlined as part of the ordination review in the denomination’s rule book.

“United Methodists are wondering why the Board is stepping out of line from protocol and refusing to fully review her ordination path,” Butler said.

Butler said she hopes the Judicial Council ruling will provide some clarity.

Kaiser said she is moved by the outpouring support for her and a more inclusive church, but also said she has lately become disillusioned by the church’s policies.

“I wonder how long my denomination will continue to pretend our policies of discrimination don’t contribute to a culture which greatly harms LGBTQ folks, and all in the name of God,” Kaiser said. “Of course the Bishop cannot change this policy, but I do wish leaders would start making a public witness against this in the South as they have been doing in the North.”

Kaiser will have to wait until 2016 for a new decision if a ruling is not made in October, when the United Methodist General Conference meets to discuss church policy.

ATHENS, Greece — Protesters forced their way into a government building in Greece’s latest anti-austerity protests Wednesday, reaching just outside a minister’s office before being expelled and clashing with riot police outside.

Police detained more than 30 protesters, most union heads, sparking clashes with about 200 demonstrators gathered outside the Labor Ministry in central Athens. Police used pepper spray, batons and tear gas to repel them.

The government said the demonstrators caused damage inside the building and threatened the minister — an accusation the protesters adamantly denied.

UNITED NATIONS — A North Korean minister says the Korean peninsula has become the world’s most dangerous hotspot where a spark could set off a nuclear war.

Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon lashed out at the United States in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly Monday, blaming Washington’s “hostile” policy toward North Korea for a “vicious cycle of confrontation and aggravation” that has brought the peninsula close to a nuclear conflict.

Pak also accused the U.S. of seeking to occupy the entire Korean peninsula by force and “use it as a stepping stone for realizing its strategy of dominating the whole of Asia.”

He said the United States has finalized scenarios for a new Korean War and is waiting to implement them but has been deterred by North Korea.

A protester dressed up as Rupert Murdoch poses for photographs as he demonstrate outside the Leveson inquiry at the High Court in London on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

LONDON — News Corp. executive James Murdoch’s behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign spilled out into the public domain Tuesday, casting a harsh light on the British government’s Olympics czar.

Murdoch was speaking before the media ethics inquiry set up in the wake of the country’s phone hacking scandal, which has shaken the U.K.’s establishment with revelations of journalistic misdeeds, police corruption, and corporate malpractice.

Some of Murdoch’s testimony revisited his own role in the scandal, but far more explosive were revelations about how senior British ministers went out of their way to smooth the path for one of his biggest-ever business deals.

Particularly damning was correspondence showing how Olympics czar Jeremy Hunt secretly backed Murdoch’s multibillion dollar bid for full control of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC. As the minister charged with deciding whether to refer the takeover deal to Britain’s competition authority, Hunt was meant to have been neutral.

“I am approaching the decision with total impartiality and following strict due process,” Hunt told lawmakers in January 2011. But a cache of text messages and emails published by Leveson’s inquiry Tuesday suggested that Hunt was fighting on Murdoch’s side the whole time.

“He said we would get there at the end, and he shared our objectives,” was how an email from News Corp. lobbyist Frederic Michel described Hunt’s attitude.

Other emails appeared to capture Hunt’s office providing Murdoch with sensitive intelligence on his political opponents and offering advice on how best to present his bid. At one point Adam Smith, Hunt’s special adviser, sends a text message to Michel boasting that “I [have] been causing a lot of chaos and moaning from people here on your behalf.”

One message even quoted Hunt’s statement a day before it was due to be delivered to the House of Commons — a breach of parliamentary protocol which Michel described as “absolutely illegal.”

Later Tuesday, Hunt issued a statement saying that some of the evidence “reported meetings and conversations that simply didn’t happen.” He said he has asked to move forward his appearance at the Leveson inquiry so he can present his side of the story.

“I am very confident that when I present my evidence the public will see that I conducted this process with scrupulous fairness,” Hunt said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, inquiry lawyer Robert Jay repeatedly needled Murdoch on the propriety of these back-channel communications.

“Do you think it’s appropriate, Mr. Murdoch, that here you are getting confidential information as to what’s going on at a high level of government?” Jay asked.

Murdoch hesitated before giving an awkward laugh.

“What I was concerned with here was the substance of what was being communicated, not the channel by which it was communicated,” he said.

Murdoch was eventually forced to drop the proposed deal following the eruption of Britain’s phone hacking scandal in July, but the emails could be still be damaging.

As secretary for culture, Olympics, media and sport, Hunt is the most senior government official dedicated to the 2012 Games. If it were proven that he had given Murdoch special favors, his lead role on the games — where a level playing field is guaranteed for all — might be in jeopardy.

Prime Minister David Cameron expressed confidence in the 45-year-old minister, but within minutes of Murdoch’s testimony, opposition politicians were calling on Hunt to step down.

“All politicians, including Labour, became too close to the Murdochs, but this is in a completely different league,” Labour leader Ed Miliband told journalists. “We have Jeremy Hunt engaging in detailed discussions with a party, News Corporation, that is bidding to take over BSkyB and he is supposed to be the impartial judge.”

The nature of the Murdoch family’s links with senior politicians is one of the key questions raised by the phone hacking scandal. Critics of News Corp. argue that Conservative Party politicians — including Hunt — waved through the BSkyB deal in return for favorable press coverage. Murdoch, showing little emotion, repeatedly denied the charge Tuesday.

“I would never have made that kind of a crass calculation. It just wouldn’t occur to me,” he said.

Murdoch’s testimony gave a feel for his company’s considerable clout, detailing 20-odd dinners, lunches, breakfasts and other meetings with Cameron and other leaders — including former prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

Earlier in the hearing Murdoch was forced to defend his record at the head of his father’s scandal-plagued British newspaper arm, saying that subordinates prevented him from making a clean sweep at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Murdoch repeated allegations that the tabloid’s then-editor Colin Myler and the company’s former in-house lawyer, Tom Crone, misled him about the scale of illegal behavior at the newspaper.

Leveson asked Murdoch: “Can you think of a reason why Mr. Myler or Mr. Crone should keep this information from you? Was your relationship with them such that they may think: ‘Well we needn’t bother him with that’ or ‘We better keep it from it because he’ll ask to cut out the cancer’?”

“That must be it,” Murdoch said. “I would say: ‘Cut out the cancer,’ and there was some desire to not do that.”

Murdoch’s father Rupert, News Corp.’s executive chairman, is scheduled to testify before Leveson on Wednesday morning.

Media analyst Paul Connew predicted more pain for British politicians. “James Murdoch’s appearance is only the warm up act,” he said.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Murdoch inquiry affects top UK officials

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, left, walks next to Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, right, upon his arrival to meet the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, at the Ministry of Defense in Cairo, Egypt on Saturday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Stoking tensions with Washington, an Egyptian Cabinet minister has accused the United States of directly funding nonprofit groups to create chaos in the country following last year’s ouster of longtime leader and U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, according to comments published in state-owned newspapers on Tuesday.

International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga made the remarks in a testimony she gave in October to judges investigating allegations the groups used foreign funds to foment unrest.

Aboul Naga, a leftover from the Mubarak regime who has served in three interim governments formed since his ouster, has been leading the crackdown on the foreign groups. Authorities last week referred a total of 43 employees of nonprofit groups, including at least 16 Americans, to trial before a criminal court.

The Americans include Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. All 43 are banned from travel. No date has been set for their trial.

The crisis has soured relations between Egypt and the United States, which has threatened to cut off aid to Egypt — a total of $1.5 billion a year in military and economic assistance — if the issue was not resolved. The release of Aboul Naga’s testimony four months after she gave it suggests that Egypt may not be willing, at least for now, to ease tensions with the U.S.

Aboul Naga said international and regional powers did not want Egypt to prosper following Mubarak’s ouster, so they resorted to the creation of chaos.

“But the United States and Israel could not directly create and sustain a state of chaos, so they used direct funding, especially American, as the means to reach those goals,” she was quoted as saying.

She also claimed that some of the money came from the U.S. economic assistance to Egypt — which currently runs at $250 million a year.

Aboul Naga claimed Washington directly and illegally funded the nonprofit groups in what amounted to an interference in Egypt’s internal affairs, a challenge to its sovereignty and harms national security.

“Evidence shows the existence of a clear and determined wish to abort any chance for Egypt to rise as a modern and democratic state with a strong economy since that will pose the biggest threat to American and Israeli interests, not only in Egypt, but in the whole region,” she was quoted as saying.

The allegations facing the nonprofit groups are tied to the turmoil roiling Egypt for the past year.

The generals who took over from Mubarak when a popular uprising forced him to step down a year ago have routinely accused the pro-democracy groups behind their predecessor’s overthrow of following a “foreign agenda” and of seeking to plunge Egypt into chaos or even topple the state itself.

The Egyptian military has been the recipient of $1.3 billion in annual aid. America’s top soldier, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, held talks with the ruling generals last weekend in Cairo, but appeared to have made little or no progress on resolving the issue.

“We discussed that (situation) very professionally,” Dempsey said during his flight back from Cairo. “I expressed the fact that it caused us concern, not only about the particular NGOs and individuals currently unable to leave the country, but rather more broadly.”

“But we’ve got some work to do” on resolving tensions over the issue of the nonprofit groups, Dempsey added, “and so do they.”

Under the aid program, Egypt’s military has been able to modernize and replace its antiquated Soviet-era arsenal with modern weapons, including fighter-jets, tanks and armored personnel carriers. Dempsey, underlining the close ties between the Egyptian and American militaries, said 200 to 300 Egyptian officers are in the United States at any given time attending military schools.

The close ties raise questions about why the generals, led by Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, want to risk such a lucrative and beneficial relationship over the issue of the nonprofit groups.

However, they have near absolute powers in Egypt and Aboul Naga could have only led the crackdown on the nonprofit groups with their endorsement.

This has prompted many in Egypt to speculate that the military may be willing to risk losing the U.S. aid to weaken the pro-democracy groups harshly critical of the military’s handling of the post-Mubarak transition and its poor human rights record.

By discrediting the groups, the generals also hope to build an image of themselves as the nation’s only true patriots, cashing in on the deeply rooted suspicion of the West felt by many Egyptians.

But the tension in U.S.-Egyptian relations was belied by photographs published in Cairo’s newspapers Sunday, the day after Dempsey met Tantawi. One showed the two sharing a hearty laugh, while another had Egyptian Chief of Staff Sami Anan giving Dempsey a warm welcome at the Defense Ministry.

Printed on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 as: Tensions rise betwen US, Egypt's rulers

BERLIN — Germany will fully investigate how a group of neo-Nazis managed to operate under the radar of authorities for years, allegedly killing 10 people and robbing a string of banks, the justice minister promised Thursday.

Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger acknowledged wide criticism — focused on the domestic intelligence agency — of authorities for apparently letting the gang slip through their hands for years. The case came to light earlier this month when two founding members apparently committed suicide after police closed in on them following a bank robbery.

“We are all asking how it could be that the security authorities allowed it to be possible for a known group of neo-Nazis to go underground at the end of the ‘90s and apparently over 13 years murder people in various German cities, carry out bombing attacks, and lethally attack police officers,” she said.

The group called itself the National Socialist Underground — a clear reference to the full name of the Nazis, a contraction of “National Socialists.” It is suspected of murdering eight people of Turkish origin, one person with Greek roots and a policewoman.

The crimes have caused an outcry and soul-searching across the country, especially among immigrant groups who maintain that authorities were too quick to dismiss the murders as regular street crime rather than extremism.