Eyal Press

Eyal Press is a contributing writer at The Nation and the author of Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict that Divided America, just out in paperback from Picador.

Recent Articles

Can Block Clubs Block Despair?

Why do some poor communities fall apart while others cohere? Community organization can help -- up to a point.

There's a stark difference between two Buffalo, New York neighborhoods -- one with a strong community organization and one without. (Photos by Peter K. B. St. Jean)
One bright spring morning, Peter St. Jean set out on an unusual scholarly expedition. St. Jean is a sociologist at the University of Buffalo who studies the relationship between concentrated poverty and crime. He drives a maroon Nissan Pathfinder, which that morning he'd loaded up with video cameras, two mounted on tripods and pointed out the rear side windows and one more up front, fastened with Velcro to the center of the dashboard. "This way we'll see every angle," explained St. Jean, a 39-year-old man of Caribbean origin with a shaved head, thick, muscular arms, and the compact build of a wrestler. St. Jean wasn't at work on a documentary. He was doing field research, and had invited me to tag along as he gathered footage on an SSO run, or "systematic social observation," a method of capturing on hidden camera the physical characteristics and social activities in a neighborhood. He pulled out of the driveway of his ranch house in Williamsville, a suburb where he lives with his...

The Strange Case of Hany K

On October 26, some two dozen reporters crammed into a conference room on the 18th floor of a concrete high-rise in downtown Newark to await the arrival of Hany Kiareldeen, a 31-year-old Palestinian man who, shortly before midnight on the previous day, had been released from the nearby Hudson County jail. An immigrant's release from prison does not normally occasion a press conference. But this case was far from typical. Kiareldeen, for one thing, had been incarcerated for 19 months without ever being formally charged of any crime. He had been separated from his family and deemed a threat to national security—on the basis of evidence he was not allowed to see. Kiareldeen endured this ordeal because the FBI, for reasons that remain shrouded in secrecy, came to consider him a terrorist. Were Kiareldeen a U.S. citizen—like, say, Terry Nichols or Timothy McVeigh—the government would have had to prove this under normal standards of jurisprudence. Because he is an immigrant, however, and...

Lead Us Not into Temptation

S hortly after George W. Bush announced the creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives--launched on January 29 to facilitate a new era of partnership between the government and religious groups--the nation's airwaves were filled with assertions about the unique capacity of religious organizations to solve our most intractable social problems. "Study after study shows these faith-based initiatives work better, much better in most cases, than government ones," declared CNN's Tucker Carlson on The Spin Room that night. William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told The Washington Times , "Faith-based initiatives not only work better than their secular counterparts, they do so at a fraction of the cost." It's a claim many politicians have come to embrace. "We will look first to faith-based organizations," President Bush has promised, "because private and religious groups are effective. Because they have clear...

Smart Bomb?

W ere it not for the butterfly ballots in Palm Beach County and the Democratic Party's failure to insist on a statewide recount of the Florida vote, the crisis that has engulfed America since September 11 would be unfolding in a vastly different political landscape. Both houses of Congress would still be controlled by Republicans. Attorney General John Ashcroft would likely be in retirement. Tom Ridge, head of the new Office of Homeland Security, and Tommy Thompson, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, would be, respectively, the governors of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And, of course, the U.S. commander in chief would hail not from Texas but from Tennessee. For the narrow majority of voters in the 2000 election who selected Al Gore to be their president, everything about such a scenario would seem to be welcome. The nation's fate would, after all, be in the hands of an experienced Democrat with ample knowledge of foreign affairs. Gore's inner circle would...

Neglect for Sale:

O n April 14, 1998, two days after Easter, Janice Lacy called the Appleridge group home in Houston, Texas, to see how her sister Trenia had spent the holiday. "They told me she'd had a nice Easter and was asleep," says Janice, recalling her conversation with a caregiver at the home where Trenia and five other mentally retarded women lived. The next morning, around 10:00 a.m., Janice received a call at work informing her that Trenia had been rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. Twenty-four hours later, Trenia Wright was dead. Janice was never told the circumstances that led to her sister's sudden death. But after the body was brought to Dallas to be buried alongside Trenia's father, the family grew curious enough to contact a lawyer. Hospital records and an investigation by the Texas Department of Human Services soon revealed that Trenia's Easter Sunday was anything but nice. That evening a group of male visitors had come from a nearby home to share an Easter dinner with...

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