Letters to Muna Dear Muna,

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - Take care David San An­to­nio, Texas Muna@kuwait­times.net By Ron Ber­ler

Trump in the Class­room.

It was the Fri­day be­fore Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day. Kathryn Frey had de­cided to read Carmen Agra Deedy’s chil­dren’s book, “The Yel­low Star: The Leg­end of King Chris­tian X of Den­mark,” to her fourth-grade, US, Green­wich, Conn, class. It tells a tale of how the king and his coun­try­men pro­tected the na­tion’s Jews from Nazi per­se­cu­tion dur­ing World War II.

Frey teaches at New Le­banon School, one of the town’s three el­e­men­tary schools that re­ceive fed­eral funds to aid dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents. Some know Green­wich as a tony New York sub­urb. But one cor­ner of it is not. In her class of 18, there are 14 Lati­nos, two African Amer­i­cans and two whites. Seven­teen are ei­ther im­mi­grants or the chil­dren of im­mi­grants.

Frey was sick that day, so I was re­cruited to read to her stu­dents. The chil­dren, 9 and 10, gath­ered in front of me on the rug. They had barely heard of Nazi Germany or the war, and couldn’t say when the events in ques­tion took place. But they did have a firm sense of right and wrong. They blanched when I told them of what the Nazis had done and how they had dis­crim­i­nated.

I opened the book and be­gan to read, paus­ing af­ter each page to show the chil­dren the il­lus­tra­tions that help il­lu­mi­nate the story. Deedy’s pic­ture book is myth in­spired by fact. In her telling, the king en­cour­aged all his peo­ple to wear on their outer cloth­ing the yel­low star meant by the Nazis to iden­tify and iso­late Jews, so the in­vaders wouldn’t know who was Jewish and who was not. His­tory teaches that the king pro­tected Den­mark’s Jews by other means. But the stu­dents got the point: Jews, non-Jews, all were Danes.

Since Pres­i­dent Don­ald J Trump is­sued his ini­tial ex­ec­u­tive or­der, tem­po­rar­ily bar­ring US en­try to visa hold­ers from seven pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim na­tions, and ban­ning refugees from all na­tions and those from Syria in­def­i­nitely, I’ve thought quite a bit about Deedy’s book, and why Frey chose it for her stu­dents. I sought her out in her class­room.

Frey has taught for 30 years, the last four at New Le­banon. She in­vited me to sit at a small, round child­size work­table near the cen­ter of the room. We were alone; her stu­dents were in gym class. The wall in front of us was lined with bas­kets of books that made up the room’s li­brary. Above them was a par­tial time­line of US his­tory, from the first Bri­tish ex­pe­di­tion to Roanoke Is­land, NC, in 1584, funded by Sir Wal­ter Raleigh, to the civil-rights era, in 1960.

Frey said that the class had just be­gun a unit on his­tor­i­cal fic­tion - a genre with which few of the stu­dents were fa­mil­iar. She had se­lected “The Yel­low Star” for its sim­ple theme and its school­child ac­ces­si­bil­ity. “This is the first time that most of them have been ex­posed to his­tor­i­cal time pe­ri­ods,” she said. “At this age, they know fa­mous peo­ple, but they don’t have a sense of what hap­pened. They know Martin Luther King, and when I re­turned the day af­ter his hol­i­day, we talked about how a per­son’s ac­tions and words can cause change. They made the con­nec­tion be­tween Dr King and King Chris­tian.”

Change and ac­tion and the power of words have taken on par­tic­u­lar mean­ing for her stu­dents.

“The day af­ter the [pres­i­den­tial] elec­tion, sev­eral chil­dren told me they were very worried about what might hap­pen to them,” Frey said. “They talked about it that morn­ing among them­selves when they came into class. They were worried about their fam­i­lies. One boy came to me in tears and said he was leav­ing the coun­try, that his fam­ily was go­ing back to Por­tu­gal. He went around the room, say­ing good­bye to his friends. Later that day I called his dad. The boy was mis­taken; the fam­ily was stay­ing.” But the dam­age was done.

It took 15 min­utes to read “The Yel­low Star” to the class. Upon fin­ish­ing, I looked up at the stu­dents. From their ex­pres­sions, I feared I had up­set some of them all over again. When I asked their thoughts on those who had threat­ened Den­mark’s Jews, their re­sponse was heart­felt, un­com­pli­cated. “That’s wrong,” blurted one boy, to gen­eral agree­ment. “It’s not fair,” sec­onded another.

The stu­dents never men­tioned the pres­i­dent or his ex­ec­u­tive or­der. But they de­cided they liked King Chris­tian X very much.

Ron Ber­ler is the au­thor of Rais­ing the Curve: Teach­ers, Stu­dents - A True Por­trayal of Class­room Life. This piece first ap­peared in the Mi­ami Her­ald.

Dear Muna,

As a long-time for­mer res­i­dent of Kuwait, I still read the Kuwait Times web­site daily to see what is hap­pen­ing in my old home. I cur­rently live in Texas. As a for­mer oil com­pany en­gi­neer I am very in­ter­ested in the price of oil and gas. Muna Al-Fuzai’s col­umn on “Oil and Gas” was in­ter­est­ing but missed an im­por­tant point. As im­por­tant as oil and gas are to the world econ­omy, they are still a com­mod­ity and are sub­ject to the eco­nomic Laws of Sup­ply and De­mand.

As the price of a prod­uct rises, more sup­pli­ers will en­ter the mar­ket forc­ing a down­ward pres­sure on prices. Also as the price rises de­mand will drop also forc­ing another down­ward pres­sure on price. The re­verse is also true. An in­crease in sup­ply forces a down­ward spi­ral on price but an in­creas­ing de­mand. Even­tu­ally price drops un­til sup­ply and de­mand reach equi­lib­rium at which point the prices, sup­plies and de­mands sta­bi­lize. Any time a non-mar­ket force re­stricts price, the sup­ply drops and black mar­ket prices sky­rocket. Look at Venezuela to­day. In oil’s case, OPEC raised prices and other sup­pli­ers en­tered the mar­ket.

The high prices in the 2000s al­lowed a tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion to take place. The $100+/bbl made it prof­itable for the Amer­i­can drilling com­pa­nies to de­velop hy­draulic frac­tur­ing of shale oil. As I said, more sup­pli­ers en­tered the mar­ket, but this time the sup­pli­ers were un­con­ven­tional and shale oil which col­lapsed the oil price. Over time the shale oil drillers learned how to make a profit at $40-50 per bar­rel. OPEC now faces the sit­u­a­tion where the shale oil com­pa­nies can rapidly in­crease pro­duc­tion to match price rises caused by OPEC pro­duc­tion cut­backs.

I cher­ish the time I spent in Kuwait (and Qatar be­fore that). I’m afraid that the Kuwait eco­nomic plans are bro­ken and all oil pro­duc­ers and com­pa­nies are fac­ing a new world that will re­quire some dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions and times. Shale oil is not go­ing away.

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