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Why do we do it? Why do we lovingly craft this column week in and week out, year after year, typing our fingers to the cuticle for subsistence wages? We do it for the kids.

And when someone finally recognizes our efforts, well, it feels pretty darn good. The Orange County School District paid us the ultimate compliment recently when it asked us … US! … to take part in Teach-In 2006 Nov. 15. Either they are impressed by our honesty, integrity and dogged determination to make the world a better place, or nobody else was answering the phone when they called. Doesn't matter. For a glorious hour or so we were in charge of educating your children. Go home and sleep on that one.

One regular contributor had the cojones to stand in front of ninth-graders at Evans High School. A dog-and-pony show ensued, but the students quickly got down to asking some poignant questions that said a lot about young people's understanding of media. They skipped the "what celebrities have you interviewed" question and went straight to something more meaty: Why, they asked, does the media always portray minorities in a bad light? Most of the students watch the local news and read the Sentinel, and feel frustrated that there is no positive coverage of their school or neighborhoods. Good question.

Our answer: Screw the mainstream press; create your own media outlets — blogs, 'zines, podcasts, whatever. Become a media maker and you change the message. They liked the idea, and their teacher, Jacqueline Whyte, wants to help them start a newspaper. Soon, the most accurate news coming out of Pine Hills could be reported by high-school students.


Who: Food Not Bombs, SDS and the Global Justice Group

When: Nov. 20 in front of the Consulate of Mexico, 100 W. Washington St.

Scene: About 20 people showed up outside of the consulate for a global day of solidarity with the teachers and people of Oaxaca, Mexico. According to a journalist covering the four-month strike, a number of human rights abuses are being carried out at the hands of the Mexican government. One American journalist, Brad Will, was killed last month while covering the strike. The cause does not resonate loudly here in Orlando, hence the small turnout. But a few faithful SDS, Food Not Bombs and Global Justice Group folks held banners and banged drums. It was an all-gringo protest; no Mexicans joined.

OUR RATING: 6 (out of 10)

Another one of our regulars spent the morning at the F-weary, FCAT-focused Jones High School, where the mood was surprisingly peppy. Honor Society showoffs greeted honorary teachers and helped them with their bags. A pre-Teach-In presentation radiated positivity. "We won't be an F school next year!" sermonized principal Bridget Williams.

Our correspondent was assigned Honors English III, which proved receptive to the professional wanderings of an underpaid Weekly scribe. Teacher John Bramblett had already taken the unexpected precaution of utilizing a Weekly feature debating whether or not Orlando "sucked" to illustrate a point/counterpoint lesson. Frankly, these 11th-graders were split on the question. One took the "life is what you make it" high road, while another offered the well-chewed "there's nothing to do, like there is in New York" homily.

"Well, are you planning on staying in Orlando?" our correspondent grilled.


"Then how do you expect it to stop sucking?" we shot back rhetorically. Maybe we missed our calling.

A few of our pupils expressed genuine interest in the writing field (one noted that the Weekly is "so much better" than the Sentinel; smart kid, that one) and all asked better questions than you might think 11th-graders would. Inevitably, one asked the most important question of all.

"So, what famous people have you met?"

"I've met Britney Spears," replied our correspondent.

"Now that's what I'm talkin' about!"

As a kind of public service announcement we note that Dec. 3 is the deadline to apply for the 2008 federal Diversity Visa Lottery. If you are looking for a shortcut to citizenry, pay attention.

Each year 55,000 permanent residency visas are set aside for people from countries that meet the U.S. Department of State's criteria. It's an impossibly small number, especially since 5,000 visas are reserved for Nicaraguans under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA).

Here's where the weeding-out begins. Applicants must apply online and upload digital photos of their entire family. Several nationalities represented heavily in Orlando — Haitians, Dominicans, Jamaicans and Vietnamese — are not eligible, though alternative routes to U.S. citizenship still exist for them.

Local immigration attorney Gail Seeram has been helping clients complete their applications online for years. Seeram says if you've overstayed a guest visa, don't fill out the application.

"I tell people, if your visa is already expired, then it doesn't make sense for you to apply knowing that the only end result possible is deportation," Seeram says.

Lottery winners are notified by mail by mid-2007. For a full list of eligible countries and to download an application for the 2008 Diversity Visa Lottery, visit www.dvlottery.state.gov.

This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman and Jonathan Cunningham.


It’s the silly season, and by that we mean November sweeps, wherein local news channels try to jack up ratings by keeping you glued to the tube. Let’s follow the fun!

Nov. 14, WFTV-TV Channel 9: It’s hard to fathom, but apparently unsavory mechanics will sometimes offer you services you don’t really need! Props to Action 9 for uncovering this heretofore-unknown scandal.

They consulted Jay Zembower, a “repair expert,” to examine the recommendations mechanics at three local shops gave their undercover agents when they went in for an oil change. At one shop, a technician recommended an $80 fuel-system cleaning. At the next, a mechanic tacked on an engine flush, fuel cleaning, differential fluid and a windshield treatment totaling $220. All of it — save the oil change — was unnecessary, according to Zembrower. At the last shop, the mechanic recommended an oil change. Finally, an honest mechanic.

It’s worth noting, as Channel 9 did, that all of the shops gave estimates before doing the work. In other words, you have the option of just saying no, like we all do. But that wouldn’t have made for a sexy, sweepstastic story, would it?

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