Leopards in the Temple
“Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the
sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can
 be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.” 
Franz Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is the true ruling power
of our country. . . . We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of . . . . In almost every act of our daily
lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking,
we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who
pull the wires which control the public mind
. . .” Edward C. Bernays, Propaganda,
1928, regarded by many as the “father” of modern advertising.

[ Read about the”new” Normal in a recent book by Andrew Levine.]

Possible Topics for Communication Studies

For approval, you must email me to confirm as well as to reserve your chosen topic.
(Note: You help build goodwill with your instructor by providing a copy of your introduction for EVERY graded communication assignment you deliver in this course pasted in the body of the email – please, no attachments.)

Building Goodwill is one major objective required for introducing any communication you will deliver. Topics that concern recent policy changes in laws, regulations, recent medical advances, new medical treatments, new diets, or results of major nutrition studies will prove useful strategic choices. Choosing a topic that will help or benefit members of your audience and help their families stay healthy or improve their well being helps demonstrate your good will toward your audience. Such choices also permit use of a most effective type of action step where you will solicit a measurable response to your communication.  Our course only introduces you to one means for developing effective and efficient communications. This process relies on revising your communications in response to an acceptance or rejection of your proposal by your target audience on your proposed action step. Refining your message by responding to feedback while revising will be critical.

When you revise your draft document of any communication (e.g., changing a variable: choosing a different strategy, choosing different data, testimonials, graphs, or action step, etc.) you can measure the response to the revised draft and compare it with the response to previous drafts. This introduction to effective communications emphasizes the structure used in successful capital fund-raising proposals such as those presented as required by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). TED is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” However, this format endures as the most common way business proposals are presented whether they involve a brief audit report or a capital spending proposal in an organization.

At TED, speakers seeking investor money are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can devise, in order to get action from venture capitalists. [ Translation: Give me some of your money.] Your action step (a choice or offer that may be freely accepted or rejected by those in your audience) may offer a free sample of a product or service, an e-mail response form, a coupon or voucher, or a petition at the end of your communication — anything that can quantitatively determine the persuasiveness of your presentation. Acceptance signifies persuasion; a rejection signifies that you failed to persuade. Your final speech must be the culmination of a series of details and supporting data that compel us to choose between accepting or rejecting your conclusion as a call to action. Audience members must respond to your action step and you can quantify these responses like a score (“12 people agreed with your proposal but 10 did not.”). Every element of your presentation must push the audience toward accepting the inevitable action step that you want them to accept. Always be closing is the business mantra eloquently presented in GlenGarry Glen Ross” a film by David Mamet with the best sales speech of all time. “Live, eat, breath your craft and you'll dominate the space. You have to be this intense to make any business work. The Average call me obsessed, The successful call me for advice.Note: Link has adult content. Not for the faint hearted, intellectual courage required.

The action step closing allows you to practice and refine your presentation based on responses to your presentation that can be both qualified and quantified: Qualified: you can assess the impact of arguments and evidence you use by observing your audience. Quantified: counting how many audience members accept or reject your presentation gives you a rational basis for revising and improving your presentation. Course length allows only limited trial runs hence our emphasis is on the structure of an effective presentation that relies on feedback from the audience as the basis for revising.

Throughout your career you will find yourself presenting to different audiences. You want to do this as often as possible. Repetition will desensitize you to the negative effects of adrenaline, perhaps evoke enthusiasm, and allow you to focus on your message. Effective communication skills and effective presentation skills helps ensure that your future boss (who most likely will dislike speaking in public) will regard you as an asset. Pink slips (termination notices) go to the “wallflowers” who never speak up or volunteer ideas or information.

On the job presentations should follow the procedure offered here; you will produce a script you deliver to your rehearsal group with the confidence acquired from thorough research, writing and rehearsal. We only have time to go through the speech writing process once. You will have only one group (our class) to present your findings as well as your persuasive argument. However, in your career you will find that the more important the speech, the more times you will want to rehearse with different types of support such as data to different groups as much as is feasible.

The second time you present your proposal to a different group that matches the demographic profile of your desired target audience as much as possible (for example, 18-24 year old, urban, diverse backgrounds, male and female college students), you would change ONLY one variable from your previous presentation (perhaps, in your judgment, choosing another, more effective chart or picture). In order to test (or prove) your intuition behind your revising (“that chart seemed too detailed for easy comprehension, maybe KISS is the way,”) you would then rehearse before this different (but generally similar) group of people and again quantify the response to your action step.

If you get “better numbers” (the casual term for a most desirable business goal) then you probably made your proposal more effective; if the positive responses to your action step are fewer than previous presentations, then you need to reconsider your revision.

A good revision is one that gets the results you desire. “Rinse and repeat” as often as time or money or both allow. Now you will also have a reasoned basis for being confident: “My speech proved acceptable for test groups; I’m ready for the big event.” A relevant variable that always changes will be your fluency in delivering your presentation. Just as we can never step into the same river twice, we never can give the same presentation precisely the same way as previously presented.

Rehearsing sufficiently what you have already determined to be your stated position will allow your words to flow, bestowing on you the benefits of adrenaline. Flow has been described as what most people refer to as being “in the zone” or “in the groove”. One concise definition describes flow as the state of mind in which “people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people do it even at great cost, for the sheer state of doing it.”[More]

The most effective topics allow you to incorporate all of the elements of an effective introduction most efficiently. Your preferred topic choice should prefer topicality (that is, issues currently in the news, thus you can assume it should gain attention and interest) to express your self-interest (as your research should benefit you, your friends, your family, your society) and goodwill (your topic choice should offer your audience something new, different, and useful). This strategy helps ensure thoroughness on your part and helps establish credibility (you should communicate information that helps your audience live more efficiently, ethically, effectively or all of these).

 These elements converge in your introduction ; therefore, choose your topic wisely. Some topics are so controversial, such as those relating to gun control or birth control, that even labeling an issue (e.g., the right to bear arms or the right to life) is to libel it (often termed Label-Libel).  Such topics are not useful for our purposes as they can distract us from our goal: a clear understanding of the basics for effective speaking in public.

While some information listed below may not prove suitable for a topic for your speeches, the range of sources (from left to right) will help you develop a critical perspective on how and why critical information has become trivialized, misinterpreted, censored or ignored.  In some cases, this critical perspective requires intellectual courage, i.e., the willingness to face and fairly assess ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints to which we have not given a serious hearing, regardless of our strong negative reactions to them. This courage arises from the recognition that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified (in whole or in part), and that conclusions or beliefs espoused by those around us are sometimes false or misleading.

To determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically accept what we have learned. Intellectual courage comes into play here, because inevitably we come to see some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, as well as some distortion or falsity in many ideas strongly held even in our own social group. It takes courage to be true to our own reasoning in such circumstances. Examining cherished beliefs is difficult, and the penalties for non-conformity are often severe. This is why our initial class readings include the “Allegory of the Cave” by Plato. This excerpt from his major work, The Republic, has influenced countless people. The operative key term to bear in mind is the cliché, “shooting the messenger.” You should assume some resistance to any new proposal, partially because many believe new ideas invalidate their previous behavior. Rather than admit error, “bitter enders” will deny realty. Your chief difficulty in public speaking is aptly put by Mark Twain:
It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled.” The documentary 'Psywar' (2010) explores corporate and government use of propaganda and public relations to manipulate American people.
Using the links cited below you can begin your own exploration of a world of information accessible through the Internet, information of which most of the US population is oblivious.  It will also give you respect for the power of the internet to do the job that the so-called prefers to neglect. Thus TPTB (“the powers that be”) attempt to pass laws and regulations that suggest many in power want to shut the Internet down as an open forum. Open discussion of who should own, manage, or regulate the internet leads to questioning assumptions that the media prefer to ignore. These challenges to an asserted right to rule exposes the venal incompetence that crudely mistakes efficiency for ethics. The PTB in the last hundred years have ruined the planet, our society, even our money (the 1913 US dollar is now worth 19 cents!) so naturally they tend to be defensive to the point of being offensive.

By the end of the course you will understand the importance of strategic planning in selecting a topic before starting your research as well as selecting an effective approach to that topic. For example, certain topics can be anticipated as ones generating considerable ill will and thus will prove unsuitable for our purposes. Also, many topics are too complex, of little interest to the audience, or lack sufficient evidence to be addressed in 12 minutes even by the best speakers. In any case, you must get prior permission from me for any topic you consider.

Selecting a useful topic early can help give you confidence in taking the lead on any issue you chose, as you will have sufficient time to research the topic thoroughly. Read the list of previous approved topics for a start. Also, consider a visit to one of NYC’s greenmarkets for ideas on suitable topics that communicate goodwill easily such as recommending  probiotics as well as other nutraceuticals discussed in health oriented web sites. These and other sources on health-oriented topics, such as listed on the ScienceDaily.com website, are also the kind of topics your instructor prefers to listen to, insofar as he is compelled to listen to, as well as grade your progress in our critical analysis of mass communications.

Please refer to the list below for examples of other suitable topics or suggest any topic that satisfies the criteria above such as Risks using Artificial Sweeteners. To assess your topic you could begin the critical thinking process here. Lately, research on blueberries and grape juice (including wine) also suggests the proprietary motives of much industry efforts to incorporate our food supply. “A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it. What has never been gone into impartially has never been properly gone into. Hence skepticism is the first step toward truth. It must be applied generally, because it is the touchstone.” Denis Diderot

One purpose of this course is to provide conceptual tools that enable you to think critically, so that you will have confidence in the quality of your research. You will then project that confidence in asserting your position as you speak to your audience. Your first critical step entails understanding the reasons why various factions have combined successfully to manage, even control, our understanding of the world. In pop culture, the advice from a character in the film, The Matrix, is to take the Red pill, not the blue one, but the principle originates in the claim of Socrates in the Apology (Plato's famous account of the trial and death of Socrates) that the “unexamined life is not worth living.”

The links below are intended to provoke critical thinking and elicit eloquent responses from you either in affirmation or rejection of any positions asserted. Many suitable topics below have been suggested and promoted by your fellow students in previous classes. Some topics and their action steps chosen can require your audience to sign a petition, donate money or commit their time after your final speech if they have been persuaded by you.

If you are already volunteering your time and money for your own favorite cause, this fact will motivate others as you should properly be regarded as credible, that is you are “walking your talk.” Caveat Lector! [Reader beware.] Many unknown factions control our social and political conversation by staying hidden and paying others to promote their agendas. For example, secretive organizations have spent over $200m to ensure that little action is taken to prevent man made climate change. The National Republican Congressional Committee created at least 15 websites that appeared to be official campaign sites for Democratic candidates, with a message below a big blue “donate” button that mentioned — almost in passing — that the donation would actually go to defeating the candidate. And Monsanto is committed to making billions in profits by spending millions to persuade you that – GMO foods are good for you, but perhaps too good for Monsanto employees – a recurrent “urban myth” or not.

Never forget that your credibility is at stake when you recommend a worthy cause. Engaging in socially responsible activism even produces mental and physical health benefits (it feels good to do good, funny that) according to a recent study promoting volunteerism. Therefore, be certain that your loyalty and devotion are well placed: avoid over-optimism. To explore potential worthy causes in New York, use the Better Business Bureau service . Also worthwhile are sites with surprising data about well-known charities and their excessive overhead costs such as discussed here and at the Charity Navigator, America's leading independent charity evaluator. These sites promote a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the accountability and transparency of America's largest charities.  [More on this here]

Key studies are offered below but some are possibly dated or inaccurate, so regard the list of topics for research as merely the beginning of your research. Your first step in evaluating any source will be to verify or refute claims made regarding evidence you discover. This assumes you will exercise due diligence (a key term) in your research and this must be reflected in your discussion of visual aids to be used: graphs, charts, images, etc. Your first speech regarding your topic tests your credibility as well as due diligence. You will read a prepared introduction that will be graded separately for adherence to the minimum requirements for a well-prepared introduction. You will then show your mastery of any relevant facts, values, and policies that will make your final two speeches effective in the most efficient manner. Your classmates will help you evaluate your evidence to be presented in the final two speeches that focus on the Monroe Action Step.]

They will also help with useful feedback to correct slide errors, suggest better images, or more useful statistics and charts. You will respond to this group communication exercise by accepting feedback that will be shown in the changes made in the final two presentations. After assessing group feedback you will proceed to the speech to inform.

All communications should result in a measurable call to action (e.g., accept or reject my sales offer; submit an email for later contact on a significant upcoming event; sign or refuse to sign a submitted petition, etc.).  You propose as part of your conclusion your final, persuasive speech on some type of a call to action as described, however modest it may seem.

Some topics and their action steps can require your audience to sign a petition or accept an offer after your final speech if you have persuaded them sufficiently. For example, highly topical issues, such as the ill-fated proposed tax on sugar beverages in New York city promoted by former Mayor Bloomberg or the fracking controversy could be opposed by positive countermeasures such as a Michelle Obama fitness program or alternative energy solutions to fracking. The appropriate action step here would involve a petition to the New York City Council or Governor Cuomo, depending on how your initiative is framed and your petition is worded.

On the other hand, another controversial topic that should appeal to any city resident is Governor Cuomo’s potentially selling out of our interests for those of the fossil fuel industryThis resource is a useful guide to writing a petition. Petitions may also be directed to corporations and represent a positive approach to encouraging change than the negative focus of an outright boycott – but both tactics work as demonstrated on the Organic Consumers Association site with its comprehensive GMO product boycott list.

For any “numbernauts” intending to go into finance or accounting, topics of interest to you will prove challenging to present to those audience members unwilling to understand anything about the “dismal science” of economics even as their lives depend upon such knowledge. Even seemingly provocative and perennial questions such as, “Why no two snowflakes are alike?” will quickly induce a MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) response.

For a topical example, many students choosing to explain “fiat money” and the efficacy of how fiat money is managed in our economy have been frustrated as fellow students tend to be rather skeptical. Choosing a contentious topic such as the Cult of Statistical Significance (How Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives) or more topically, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't  by Nate Silver, (extra credit if you know why Nate Silver remains topical!) will help you earn points with your instructor as you demonstrate you can explain difficult concepts clearly to our non-professional audience.

Similarly, The Abraham J. Briloff Prizes in Ethics at Baruch College are awarded every spring during Ethics Week.  Generally, topics pertaining to ethics in business practice are encouraged. A Professor Emeritus of Baruch CUNY, Briloff was one of the more notable activists for transparency and ethical accounting in business, finance and banking. For many years Briloff wrote a column for Barron's that continually analyzed breaches of ethics and audit professionalism among CPA firms. His most famous book is titled Unaccountable Accounting.

The profession, in turn, was not kind to Dr. Briloff, but some of what Briloff advocated has been forced on the industry in the wake of the Enron scandal (google Sarbanes-Oxley) only to be ignored once again as evident in the banking scandals of 2008 and even today, as many predict yet another stock market bubble-burst. In 2010, Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi looked two years back in time. Taibbi described the intersection of economic and political factions and how their policies benefited those few who were most readily identified as at-fault in breaking our economy at the expense of the many. Many millions watched with fear as their individual retirement accounts were suddenly worth millions less and those retired people were forced to sell at a loss to meet monthly or fixed expenses. Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History by Matt Taibbi presents a challenging topic that demonstrates the perils of ignoring credible, ethical “messengers returning to the cave” (as Plato would describe it) such as Professor Briloff.

According to critic David Ehrenstein, the term “Creative Accounting” was first used in the 1968 film, The Producers, written and produced by Mel Brooks. Many finance and accounting professionals possibly regarded “The Producers” as a “best practice” case study rather than a satire based on what Brooks believed to be the most absurd premise imaginable. [Life imitating art once again? ]  A worthy topic to choose would entail persuading fellow classmates why they should read books such as those by Matt Taibbi or Professor Briloff) while informing them why these names should be household words. Outside esoteric sciences such as plasma physics, experts in any given discipline should be compelled to explain relevant concepts used to non-experts or risk their credibility. Instead, our criticisms are dismissed by presumptive experts who claim expertise but also claim to be mystified by market “anomalies.” This was a point an exasperated Professor Briloff often pleaded when asking market “expets” how the Fed’s policies and “oversight” made any sense, or how their policies related to transparent business practice. Failure to make sense is a reasonable basis for questioning credibility of a source.  This issue persists in being topical as the next bubble may be soon upon us!

If you cannot find a suitable speaking topic, consider the following, often dated, sources for you to confirm or refute based on more recent research that you will need to conduct. Alternatively, propose your own provocative topic. As a matter of policy, I would never confirm the accuracy of, nor dispute the inaccuracy of, any information given to us by the media such as represented in the materials below. So too for the internet, “All web sites are equal,” but some are much more accurate and useful than others. Also, web sites, blogspots, trolling comments, misinformation, etc., appear and disappear constantly on the internet.

Critical thinkers hold to a minimal basic principle of journalism: Find at least two unrelated sources of information if that information is critical to your argument, but remember even that is not infallible, only a minimum standard for due diligence. Wikipedia is only recommended as a first step, a useful orientation to a topic, but you must vet (or double check) any entry that contains data or other information critical to your speech.

A similarly alarming development in information management is occurring on the Internet as web resources are monetized, censored, or both by denying or requiring paid access to information that was long considered to be public domain. In addition, your intellectual heritage of information — data, articles, and images—is being confiscated daily in the name of free enterprise. “Information wants to be free” is the clarion call of internet users who appreciate this access to the world and they are in conflict with those who want to meter everything so a few can profit with little effort.

However, even highly nutritious food sources such as corn and broccoli are being privatized through patent monopolies as well, and risks are obscured as they become part of the marketing and promotional campaigns, as well as “proprietary” secrets of the corporation, that in business logic can only lead to cornering a market for any given commodity, and anything can be deemed a commodity as the slave trade demonstrates even today. 

For topics in advances in health and medicine, note well that there are a number of alternative healing therapies that work but cost so little (compared to conventional treatment), that organized medicine, the Food & Drug Administration, and their sponsors in the Pharmaceutical Industry (The Big Three) would rather the public not know about them. How big is this problem: The top ten drug makers generated profits greater than the other 490 members of the Fortune 500. Potential red herrings in judging new pharmaceutical products are encouraged by the lack of due diligence by the FDA which fails to evaluate product safety with a complacent media willing to hide problems with SSRI’s while distorting issues related to gun control. Look at the health care cost centers emphasized and ignored by the media: media help create the tobacco abuse epidemic but ignores the crisis and its role in causing it. The reasons are obvious: Alternative, non-toxic therapies represent a potential loss of billions of dollars to the allopathic (drug) medicine and drug companies. Caveat Lector.

Topics for research related to the fossil fuel industry poses similar challenges according to the Columbia Journalism Review. For example, the “fracking” controversy is difficult to research because companies such as Halliburton do not have to reveal the “secret ingredients” in the chemical concoction that they inject into our water tables. Coca-Cola also keeps its trade secrets but you can simply avoid drinking Coca-Cola — not so with our water supply from the Catskills. People in many other areas such as India are losing legacies of traditional water source ownership as these water supplies for millions are being acquired so Coca-Cola can sell sugar drinks to fatten pre-diabetic customers.

Irrational proprietary claims, even on your own genetic information, also helps obscure the “virtual” censorship that makes accurate, honest research a challenge for you as a student or an investor seeking one day to put your savings into a volatile, untrustworthy stock market. Due diligence in research will prove a vital skill for achieving “old age” as the PTB (Powers That Be) appear determined to eliminate Social Security insurance for Millennials. They know you will probably not live long enough to collect anyway. The mass media assertion that Bush was also mislead by the fear of WMD’s or that Occupy Wall Street participants did not have a clear purpose or agenda becomes popular wisdom despite clear, authoritative statements about epic incompetence or the clearly understandable position of Occupy Wall Street participants: our country is becoming a kleptocracy, that is a land ruled by thieves.

One of the more blatant distortions of facts that the media allowed us to believe was the assertion that Al Gore “claimed” that he invented the internet. Gore claimed no such thing, of course, but misinformation rings like a tin bell — shrill but distinct. What gets obscured in such media distortions is that the internet network (like the railroad system during the Civil War) was paid for by taxpayers and then “privatized” so a few insiders (part of the .01%) could profit while U.S. citizens are “PRIVATELY taxed” for something we already developed and paid for. Under Trump, you should not be surprised that our Interstate Highway system, proposed and funded by a Republican President, Eisenhower, will be “privatized” and the assets sold off to cronies. People in the mafia call this “busting out” in the Martin Scorcese film, Goodfellas, you can watch a segment depicting how a mob-controlled restaurant owner goes from profitable to bankrupt with a smoldering ruin, much like an Atlantic City casino owner who seemingly went bankrupt running a casino!

There will be no “unringing” of an alarm raised for 30% of Americans who still believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Similarly, valid social causes such as ocean pollution can be refuted by well-intentioned efforts in illustrating deferred external costs such as the  “Pacific garbage patch” misrepresentation. Images DO communicate so always attempt to visually represent as much of your argument as possible. Caveat: like sustained eye contact, the power of images can be used unethically to persuade people.

Even trivial matters prove worthy of manipulation: the Obama children wearing flags get scrutinized and libeled as showing disrespect for the flag even as people fail to recall previous flag wearers: [Notice that the question marks signify missing stock photos in public domain news events.]. A google search for numerous relevant images suggests that many more pages and images seem to be disappearing from the Internet. When you discover something provocative on the internet (images, data, or articles), download them and pass them on to someone else — because they might not be there when you go back.  This page from google sources disappeared from the internet as its thesis (with moderate education more people than not tend to recognize liberal ideas as more beneficial to their interests) suggested that many conservatives espouse policies that logically are not in the best interests of middle-class American voters but rather, in the financial and religious interests of their conservative sponsors. Often sources will acknowledge obvious matters of fact, but there is no guarantee that such facts will appear in the media, such as the efficacy of single-payer public health insurance. Proponents of privatization promise to fix budget woes by saving the government money.

On the other hand, numerous examples in a variety of sectors show that projected savings do not always materialize, and once profiteers are established it is hard to “unring” the bell. The ten “freest” economies in 2013 according to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative front organization, range from mandating individuals to save a certain amount of money for health care to funding almost the entire health care system, including hospitals, being owned and operated by the government. A deleted page often will reappear on another site — but not always. Consequently, please report any dead links you encounter below; these dead links may also be evidence of the point made above. [Note the original link was to a Youtube video that has already been deleted or as some would comment: Q.E.D. (also written QED) an initialism of the Latin phrase quod erat demonstrandum, meaning “which is what had to be shown” or “thus it has been demonstrated.” The phrase is traditionally placed in its abbreviated form at the end of a mathematical proof or philosophical argument when the original proposition has been exactly restated as the conclusion of the demonstration. The abbreviation thus signals the completion of the proof. See Wiki]

With that caveat, or warning, in mind, the links cited in “http://worldtraining.net/quarry.html” do provide search terms and dates as well as a manageable point of entry for your research on your topic. Begin research on whatever you deem to be an interesting issue as soon as possible. At the end of this topics page are selected books and monographs that you may also consider as a topic. Significant books on relevant issues that compel critical thinking will be preferred.

Choosing such topics means you will be persuading classmates to read the book selected and, of course, you must read that book first for your own credibility (more on this follows below). Your purpose would be to “pitch” the selected work and, for example, as a final, measurable action step, you can find out how many orders for the books from Amazon.com you would be able to solicit.  A relevant and recent example would be Fighting for Air, the sobering report by Eric Klinenberg on how the American news media has become increasingly concentrated. 

Book comments are from the reviewers at Amazon; go there for more information. (Note, however, that you do not need to use Amazon. I have no current business relationship with them.) The links to the Amazon site are simply for your convenience, but consider other non-Kindle alternatives, especially public domain sources with thousands of free downloaded texts such as Project Gutenberg. Some titles have proven quite challenging, especially for first and second year students, but you get points for attempting to persuade us to accept a controversial position on a difficult topic. Similarly, you can watch a relevant, timely documentary (such as BoogieMan, Chasing Ice or Inside Job) and attempt to persuade your classmates to view it online or in theaters. In any case, remember that your choice of topic must be approved by me first for various reasons.

If any article or claim in any document cited below seems dubious, questionable or remarkable, please raise this issue. For credibility, you must have some documentation to support your claim. Gainsaying, that is, contradicting a presumed fact without providing any evidence (for example, in the debates we heard Trump gainsaying Clinton “you lie” and a compliant corrupt media not supporting the validity of facts that Clinton stated).

The articles cited on http://worldtraining.net/quarry.html are reproduced in accordance with
Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and are for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Be mindful of the commonly-held truism for Russians during the Soviet-era regarding their two leading Soviet state-controlled newspapers, titled “Pravda”(meaning Truth) and “Izvestia” (meaning News): “Useful information can be found somewhere between Truth (Pravda) and News (Izvestia), but news will never appear IN Truth (Pravda) and truth never appears IN The News (Izvestia).” Reagan's skepticism toward Soviet Union news manipulation was summed up in the Russian proverb
that Reagan quoted: “doveryai, no proveryai” — “trust, but verify.”

One benefit of soviet politics was that critical thinkers reading information published in Russian quickly learned to be critical of anything published, especially by the authorities protecting their own interests. One benefit to Russian culture was that thoughtful readers preferred to read quality literature rather than mass-produced Kremlin nonsense or, perhaps even worse, Hollywood Poshlost [Poshlost is the Russian term for banality, with a characteristic national flavoring of metaphysics and high morality, and a peculiar conjunction of the sexual and the spiritual. This one word encompasses triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, and a lack of spirituality. ]. The critical reader of works in English still has access to quality literary works but the slide seems to be gaining momentum. [See the trailer and the Mike Judge film, Idiocracy, here. ]

Your informed proving (that is, testing) of news sources below (trust, but verify with at least one other source) should be applied to all information you encounter, especially if produced by the main-stream media (hereafter MSM ). Remember that some degree of caution is needed when purchasing any thing in any market (Note the key term: caveat emptor: let the buyer beware). A similar caveat is required for research conducted on the internet, our newest marketplace of ideas: caveat lector (let the reader beware). Remember this term.

You must read Topics introduction up to this point as required for the quiz.

Examples suggesting topics suitable for presenting your final three speeches are here: http://worldtraining.net/quarry.html