Cohousing is a potentially key way to combat loneliness but it’s difficult to get off the ground – Ottawa Citizen

Mary Huang is 54 years old, unmarried with no children and a career that has taken her all over the globe.

When she returned to Ottawa to help care for her aging parents, she started to think about what she wanted for herself as she grew older. Ever the researcher, Huang, who builds complex planning and forecasting systems for large companies, set out to discover a way to build my own village and soon found one a cohousing community.

I lived in New York for six months. I definitely saw where people didnt know their neighbours and its pretty sad, said Huang, one of about a dozen people who form the nucleus of Concorde, an intentional community in the planning stages.

Concordes members are seeking not just to share a roof over their heads, but also whatever they choose to share of their lives. You hear the world potluck often in the cohousing world.

Cohousing is considered to be a model of living that can help avert loneliness and social isolation as more Canadians face aging without a partner or children, or with families that live far away. According to Statistics Canada, the number of people living alone has more than doubled between 1981 and 2016, from 1.7 million to four million.

York University anthropologist Margaret Critchlow has described cohousing as a grassroots model of neighbourly mutual support that can help reduce social isolation and promote positive, active aging.

Cohousing encourages independence through awareness that we are all interdependent, Critchlow wrote in a 2013 article in the journal Social Science Directory. In a senior cohousing community, giving and receiving co-care is entirely voluntary. Members may choose to support each other through such activities as doing errands, driving, cooking, or going for a walk with a neighbour. Being good neighbours helps people age well in a community and they have fun doing it!

It was this idea of voluntary support that resonated with Huang. I am pretty self-sufficient and can be an introvert at times. At other times I strike up conversations with random strangers and had some very interesting conversations, she said. The idea that this type of interaction can be had just outside my door if I wanted really appealed to me.

Margery Street, 69, worked for more than 40 years a pharmacist. She has a 32-year-old son with a disability. In the last half decade of her working life, Streets job took her to retirement homes to talk to residents about their medications. The experience was an eye-opener, she said.

One woman said she missed her garden. She was so depressed. So what do they do? They give her anti-depressants. I thought to myself, Theres no bloody way Im going to live in one of those, said Street, who is also a Concorde member.

Im an only child. My son is an only child. I currently rent an apartment. Im concerned about social isolation.

Mary Huang is one of the founding members of Ottawas Concorde, a multi-generational cohousing community still in the planning phases.Ashley Fraser / Postmedia

Could cohousing be one of the answers to helping people age well together? Many think so.

Lynne Markell, 74, is one of the nine core members of Convivium, a proposed cohousing community for older adults.

Im single. I live alone. I dont have any children. I wouldnt call myself lonely, but I realize I could live healthier and better with other people around me, she said. We believe in the value of community support. Giving help and getting help back.

People in cohousing communities have the independence of their own private units, which they usually own and can buy and sell, although some communities have low-cost rental units for those who cant afford to buy in. Residents share communal space that acts as a focal point for gatherings, usually a large kitchen and dining room. There may be a suite for guests or a caregiver, which opens up the possibility of sharing an in-house caregiver.

Most cohousing is set up under the same legal framework either as condos or co-ops, so the legalities and responsibilities are established.

Critchlow has suggested that building a social portfolio might be as important as building a financial portfolio. Cohousing could be a made-in-Canada model for ageing, not just in place, but in community, she wrote.

But so far, both Concorde and Convivium are still in the ideas stage. Neither has land or a design to show prospective members. And this is where cohousing appears to be stuck in many cities in Canada.

Ontarios only completed cohousing community is Ottawas Terra Firma, which opened in 1997 after 12 families bought and renovated two three-door townhouses on Drummond Street near Saint Paul University. The members later added an infill building between the townhouses which includes a seventh residential unit and common space for hosting events ranging from community meals to dance parties and art classes. The yard behind the units is shared by all and contains a trampoline, treehouse, swing and sitting areas.

In a way, we re not doing anything different than what people with condos do. We just have a different intent, said Steven Fick, who has been a member in Terra Firma since the beginning.

Fick was in his 40s when he bought into Terra Firma. He wasnt thinking about social networks and their connection to healthy aging at that point, but has since realized how much his community may help him age well.

One of the strongest predictors of longevity is social connection, he said.

But the real estate market in central Ottawa has changed in the past 22 years. Like most other cohousing groups across the country, Concorde and Convivium have stumbled on the hard reality of acquiring land, a developer and bridge financing to take the idea from concept to reality, all the while keeping the momentum going and the group cohesive.

Convivium started about four years ago as an effort to get a seniors cohousing community at Greystone Village on former Oblate lands between Main Street and the Rideau River. When that didnt work out, the group started the search for its own land. But raw land in a central location is expensive, and the group would have to self-finance the project through the planning and design process until the members were ready to swap the equity they had in their homes and move into their new units. Its all a matter of timing, said Convivium member Markell.

The group now wants to buy a small apartment building or perhaps a couple of adjacent buildings to retrofit them. Its faster than starting with the land, and at least people can look at the buildings and imagine what a retrofit would look like, she said.

In Perth, a cohousing community called Tay Commons began more than four years ago when a group of friends held a potluck and agreed they didnt want to end up in long-term care. What they wanted was a sense of community, caring for each other and living in a modest and environmentally-friendly way.

In theory, you can live together more cheaply, said Tay Commons member Doug Burt, 74. A lot of cohousing people are independent thinkers. They want control over their own destinies. And privacy.

The group decided it didnt need a large property and acquired an option on a small plot of land that was once part of a municipal works yard a few blocks from Perths historic downtown. They envisioned a three-story apartment block with units ranging from about 850 square feet to about 1,000 square feet and hired an architect.

But Tay Commons is far off from being bricks and mortar. It takes a lot of moving parts to establish a cohousing community and keep it going. One member of the group had a partner who was not sold on the idea. Another was supportive, but didnt see herself moving in, said Louise McDiarmid, 76, who is one of Tay Commons founding members.

The costs ballooned. The original quote to build came in at $3.3 million, which included about $150,000 for the land. But because the space was tight, it had to be designed to allow access for emergency vehicles. The next quote came in at $4.4 million, plus an estimated $300 a month for each unit to cover condo fees.

That put the nail in the coffin, said McDiarmids husband, Don, 82.

Because of the costs of buying land, designing the community and perhaps hiring a consultant to shepherd it through the process, cohousing is usually an option only for the solidly middle-class. We might be the last generation to be able to do this, notes Don McDiarmid.

Historically, most attempts to build co-housing dont work. At the end, they founder on cost, said Burt. The first thing you want to do it build a relationship. You want to make sure it will last. If you cant knit the community together, then it collapses.

Cohousing originated in Denmark in 1964, when architect Jan Gudmand-Hoyer and a group of friends came up with a plan for 12 houses with a common house and swimming pool. They bought land, but the project never got built. Still, the idea attracted attention and two communities were completed in Denmark by 1973. Cohousing has taken root in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, the U.S. and B.C. But its been slow to get off the ground in Ontario.

Typically, cohousing units are modest in size. Huang said 550 square feet would suit her just fine. The Fick family unit in Terra Firma is only about 1,200 square feet. The Ficks have raised three children in it. Their two daughters still live within a block of the community.

Its another way to live lightly, said Steven Fick. I dont need to own things, I just need to have access to things.

Louise McDiarmid started thinking about aging after she read Betty Friedans 1993 book Fountain of Age, which looked at the longevity boom and what it would mean for society.

I wanted to have control of my own aging. Betty Friedan spoke of it as a new stage of life with its own challenges and joys. Youre not responsible for children anymore, so youre willing to take on new risks, she said. I feel strongly about the need for community, I feel we need to belong to a group of people who value you for who you are. It was an opportunity to belong to something larger than yourself.

While many see cohousing as a seniors concept, it can work any way the members want. The age range among Tay Commons members is about 20 years. Convivium is for older adults. Concorde aims to be multi-generational.

Concorde member Valerie Thacker Smith, 38, first experienced co-housing when she visited a friend near Ann Arbor, Michigan. The residents shared a massive kitchen and tool room. They took dance courses and barbecued together. Later, Thacker Smith lived in Haiti, where it is common for families to live in enclaves that cluster around a courtyard with an outdoor kitchen.

People are so much better off. Its not just the emotional benefits. It has financial benefits, she said. Co-housing gives people of all ages a chance to be part of a community and contribute.

The Concorde members believe it will take at least 25 people to get the project off the ground, just because so many people are unable to commit. They also know that they face a red-hot market for raw land. The group had considered buying a small apartment building and renovating, but these kinds of buildings rarely come up for sale, and when they do theyre snapped up quickly.

Its a Catch-22. People dont want to commit until they know where it would be built, said Thacker Smith.

Members of Concorde, front from left: Valerie Thacker Smith, Margery Street, Mary Huang, Diana Armour, Jane Keeler, and back row from left: Caroline Balderston Parry, Elliot Sherman, Jennifer Craven, and Jake Morrison of Concorde cohousing Saturday November 30, 2019. Ashley Fraser/PostmediaAshley Fraser / Postmedia

Concorde member Margery Street has visited cohousing in B.C., where the Canadian Cohousing Network lists nine communities as completed and another four as under construction. Part of the reason for the success on the west coast is that theres a financial institution willing to advance money until projects are completed, said Street.

No one has really stepped up in Ontario, said Huang. You need a bank or financial institution that understands the concept.

Legally, cohousing takes a lot of attention to detail, especially the what-ifs as members age. What if a member develops dementia? What if someone remarries and the new spouse doesnt subscribe to the philosophy? What about adult children who return to the nest? Some communities have legal wording that gives the surviving members the first right of refusal if a unit is sold so the philosophy can remain intact.

MacDiarmid sees herself losing freedom as she ages. Already she doesnt drive at night. The members of Tay Commons dont plan to be personal support workers for each other, but they would like to share resources, such as driving for groceries. They have pledged to remain a community, even without a common roof over their heads. Some already live within walking distance of each other, and others may join them as houses in the neighbourhood come up for sale.

How do you maintain the philosophy of cohousing without a house? The challenge for aging seniors is how to develop community without an actual building, said Burt. There is a desire, even if we dont have a house, to be as close as possible.

Steven Fick in front of his home in Terra Frima. He bought into the cohousing community in 1997 and still lives there.Tony Caldwell / Postmedia

The original members of Terra Firma are getting older. But so far, none have left, said Fick.

We will deal with that when it happens. People want to age here. That might mean needing help with care or meals. Its a creative process, he said. I think part of the attraction is that Terra Firma is like an extended family.

Steven Fick and his neighbour Suzanne talk in their back yard in Ottawa Tuesday Dec 3, 2019. Steven is part of Terra Firma, a cohousing community on Drummond Street in Ottawa.Tony Caldwell / Postmedia

Other intentional communities may have a shared religion, a charismatic leader or a utopian philosophy, said Fick. Cohousing is more down-to-earth and practical. Its just people trying to figure out how to live closer. For me, its not about utopia. Its about making it as good as it can be under the circumstances.

The members of Convivium are regrouping and plan to have a refined vision within the next few months, said Markell. Were guinea pigs and were choosing it. With some luck, I think well be able to show whats possible.

Concorde is still looking for more members and land. We need more members to help do the work since its not a simple and easy process, said Huang.

I know how much richer my life is, said Fick of his life in Terra Firma. I have a life that is worth living and I see my life as significant to other people. A lot of other people have my back. That gives me a lot of inner peace.

This article was written with the support of a journalism fellowship from The Gerontological Society of America, Journalists Network on Generations and the Silver Century Foundation.


Cohousing is a potentially key way to combat loneliness but it's difficult to get off the ground - Ottawa Citizen

27 new communities added to Hakhels Jewish Intentional Communities – The Jerusalem Post

The Hakhel organization, dedicated to fostering Jewish millennials around the world, has just added 27 new communities to its network, from US to Europe and Australia.Hakhel founder and general director Aharon Ariel Lavi says that Jewish millennials are becoming increasingly less involved in traditional Jewish structures such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and federations. Therefore, he says, Jewish intentional communities are ever more necessary in order to engage young Jews in their 20s and 30s within an organized framework.Lavi told The Jerusalem Post that the purpose of the program is to strengthen Jewish life in the diaspora... especially for those who are not part of an established Jewish community. He explained: We believe that the second most important component of Jewish identity, after the family, is the community , and without community, Jewish survival chances are very low... Jewish Intentional Communities are more intimate, tangible and emotional, and so we think this is something there is a real need for and that can work.Founded in 2014, Hakhel works in cooperation with the Hazon organization and the Israel Diaspora Affairs Ministry. It provides professional support for the development of such communities, including funding and advisory services for maintenance and growth. Hakhel currently has a budget of $7.2 million, half of which is provided by the ministry, and the other half from various foundations and donors.The communities Hakhel supports are largely self-organizing; they coalesce together around a particular enterprise or undertaking, such as arts, culture, environmentalism, spirituality, Jewish learning and so on. The European communities that have recently received backing include Kehilla Hashira in the UK, the Hungarian Minyan in Berlin, the Paris Sustainable Community in France, the JewSalsa Brussels program in Belgium and the Oslo Jewish Family Group in Norway.New communities come from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, the US and Australia and have undergone a rigorous vetting process, including both written statements and interviews with Hakhels staff and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry. These communities will receive support from Hakhel over the next three years in order to develop their community based on their unique needs, which may include increasing participation, fundraising, branding, programming, education and more. They will continue to work with Hakhels staff to develop sustainable models, helping to ensure the continuation of the connection to Jewish identity and services for their members.There are a total of 120 supported communities in 36 countries on 6 continents around the globe, including places as far away as Kyrgyzstan and South Korea, and across Australia, South America, the US and Europe. Lavi explained that, Our goal in working with such a diverse group of communities is to ensure that any Jew seeking a connection to our faith has a place to do so. If we are innovative in our approach, it can have a meaningful impact for generations.

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27 new communities added to Hakhels Jewish Intentional Communities - The Jerusalem Post

Empowering the Communities Most Vulnerable to Disaster – State of the Planet

At Columbias National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Jaishree Beedasy studies how to help vulnerable communities recover after a disaster.

In her prior life,Jaishree Beedasywas teaching chemical engineering courses. Then she decided to pursue her main interest, which is studying the impact of disasters on the health of vulnerable communities. While disasters dont discriminate against people when they strike, the fact remains that during the aftermath of disasters, the most vulnerable groups of society bear the brunt of the burdens.As research project director at Columbia UniversitysNational Center for Disaster Preparedness, Beedasy studies those impacts and how to facilitate disaster recovery.

Children, particularly, are the most vulnerable, and Beedasy says that other factors like socioeconomic and immigration status, race, housing stability, and disabilities come into play during the lengthy process of recuperating from a disaster. In an interview with State of the Planet, she talks about her research focus areas and her observations from the field.

Can you start by telling us more about your research work on the long-term recovery from Hurricane Sandy?

Wefoundthat household income had a major influence on whether individuals could go back to living their normal lives after Hurricane Sandy. In fact, those who had applied for assistance through the Build It Back program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had lower odds of recovering from such a massive natural calamity as compared to those who did not apply in the first place.

In New Jersey, one of our findings showed that children, particularly those who were living in houses that had minor damages postHurricane Sandy, were four times more likely to suffer from emotional and psychological issues and twice as likely to have sleep disorders as compared to children whose houses were not damaged at all. Interestingly, when we studied their mental health impacts further, we found these children were experiencinghigher levelsof emotional and mental distress as compared to children who were living in homes with major structural damage.

What did you learn from studying the aftermath of theBP Gulf oil spilloff the coast of Louisiana, and how are the communities recovering from it nine years later?

We recently completed the last stage of our research that focused on the socioeconomic and health impacts and related changes in the same individuals over the last few years. Our study began in 2014 in Louisiana.

Even nine years after the disaster, the problems that continue to linger for coastal communities in Louisiana are related mostly to economic hardships. Many individuals lost their jobs or main source of income, as many of them belong to fishing communities. Their children still have some effects on their health. Children are particularly vulnerable to the pollution and the economic consequences of the oil spill. Exposure to tar, dispersants and oil being burnt and dispersed in the air may cause respiratory and dermatological ailments.Symptoms may include shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest, burning sensation in the nose. Also, other issues like being depressed, sad, nervous and having sleeping problems.

We found positive relationships between Gulf oil spill exposure and adverse health effects in children. While the health symptoms are not as bad as they used to be nine years ago, they still continue to linger. It is really sad to see how children may have been the most vulnerable to the health impacts of environmental degradation that took place after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

While we were in the field, the one thing that was encouraging was the fact that these fishing communities, and even those who work in the oil industry, became closer by volunteering to do a lot of activities together. This included beach clean-up activities and connecting other locals to government officials who could help in providing the resources required.

We also share the results of our research with the local community, peer researchers, and policy makers to promote more effective public health policies.

What more do you think should be done to improve access to resources for vulnerable communities following a disaster?

It is important to give the affected community, in particular the children, the opportunity to participate in disaster preparedness programs, because that is what they want to do. And they do it well. With our youth empowerment program,SHOREline project, which stands for Skills, Hope, Opportunities, Recovery, and Engagement, they showed us how they were ready to take on any project and make it a success.

Beedasy (front, right) with a group of SHOREliners. The SHOREline program empowers youth to help them recover from disaster. Photo courtesy Jaishree Beedasy

The youth of the Gulf Coast in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have survived the most disasters in the last decade as compared to any other part of the country. They need the opportunity to develop skills that go beyond the regions traditional fields of fishing and oil work. Our SHOREline project was carried out in five high schools across those three states and we taught them how to develop their leadership and communication skills. This included initiatives like equipping them with the skills required to cook during power outages and how to handle emotional distress in times of disaster, among others.

What new project have you been working on lately?

Currently, Im working on social medias role in disasters. I am specifically looking at how communications between individuals online affected them during the Gulf oil spill. Also, what kind of online communications were taking place before and after the oil spill and whether there was intentional or unintentional false information being circulated, and how such information was being countered.

Im particularly interested in understanding how people and organizations on social media interacted to share information and resources, contributed to mitigating the impacts of the oil spill, and how social media can be leveraged for future disasters.

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Empowering the Communities Most Vulnerable to Disaster - State of the Planet

Strive to become closer to God in 2020 | Opinion – Kokomo Tribune

By this time next week, well have hung up our wardrobe of 2019 and begun wearing our new suit of clothes labeled for 2020.

There are at least two ways to deal with what is coming your way in the New Year. We can approach every day doing whatever appears to work. Lets call this chasing audibles. While theres nothing wrong with going with the flow, we should strive to build a sure foundation on tried and true, positive, spiritual principals.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)

We know what we believe, so we must trust the Lord in everything we do, just as the hymn, I Trust in God Wherever I May Be by William C. Martin says.

I trust in God wherever I may be, Upon the land or on the rolling sea, For, come what may, from day to day, My heav'nly Father watches over me. I trust in God, I know He cares for me, On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea; Tho' billows roll, He keeps my soul, My heavn'ly Father watches over me.

Its important to know that no matter how many are against us, whenever God is on our side, the fight is fixed to our advantage. God is more than the world against you.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lords glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:17-18).

The focus of spiritual formation is the Holy Spirit, who guides the ongoing journey.

The response is submission, a combination of orthodoxy, orthopraxy and orthopathy. The process includes the right thinking, orthodoxy, right behaviors, orthopraxy, and right feelings, orthopathy, of individuals and communities.

Spiritual formation is our intentional desire to be in a true and deep relationship with God and our fellow person. This demands our pursuing, embracing, and applying the principals of spiritual formation.

Jesus invites us to conduct serious spiritual formation. Jesus knows that the closer we are to him, the more effective and powerful we are in life. Jesus beckons us to allow Him into our lives.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Morningstar Pastor Greg Reed said that spiritual formation is pursuing and treasuring the Father's agenda where we live, learn, work, and play.

As the New Year is here let us always desire a deeper walk with God and humankind.

Happy New Year!

Peace with justice, be blessed real, real good, attend worship, and families matter.

Dr. Carson serves as Consultant to the North District and Sacred Soaring South District of the Indiana Annual Conference of the A.M.E. Church for Fund Development and Spiritual Formation. He is Founder of Refreshing A Ministry For Pastors, Ministers, and Laity Needing Restoration, Refreshing, and Healing. A Personal & Professional Development Ministry.

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Strive to become closer to God in 2020 | Opinion - Kokomo Tribune

First Five: We’re divided in new ways over 1st Amendment Posted Dec 28, 2019 – Salina Post

Gene Policinski


At years end, First Amendment issues are as controversial and multi-faceted as anything in our fractured, divided society.

The least-recognized of the amendments five freedoms assembly and petition are facing perhaps the most-immediate challenges,though freedoms of press, speech and religion dont escape unscathed.

Most immediately, a Black Lives Matter activist faces a lawsuit from a Baton Rouge, La., police officer who blamed the activist for injuries he suffered at a 2016 protest over the police killing of a black man. The suit doesnt claim the activist threw or even encouraged the throwing of a rock; rather, it seeks damages because the man led others to block a highway where the violent incident occurred.

A recentWashington Poststory notes that Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) plans to introduce legislation to hold protesters arrested during unpermitted demonstrations liable for police overtime and other fees around such demonstrations.

In more than a dozen states in recent years, from Oregon to Florida, lawmakers have faced proposals to increase penalties for obstructing streets and highways and to limit the financial liability of drivers whose cars injure protesters. In Arizona, a failed 2017 proposal rooted in that states racketeering laws would have permitted the arrest and seizure of homes and other assets of those whom simply plan a protest in which some act of violence occurs.

In a similar financial penalty vein, several major news operations face defamation lawsuits seeking massive damages over their coverage of news events claims certain to roil public debate once again about the role, credibility and performance of the nations free press. Critics also say such lawsuits even if unlikely to succeed are effectively attempts to chill reporting and intimidate corporate owners.

Prominent among those filing the lawsuits is Rep. Devin Nunes, (R-Calif.), whowants $435 million dollars from CNNfor a report he says falsely linked him to events in the ongoing Ukraine-Biden investigation controversy. He also is seeking $150 million fromTheFresno Beeover a report involving a workplace scandal at a winery in which Nuneshas a stake, $75 million from Hearst over anEsquirearticle regarding a family farm in Iowa, with the claim the magazine has an axe to grind against him and a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter for what he says is its intentional effort to downplay conservative content as well as two parody accounts that mock him.

In the introduction to the most recent lawsuit, Nunes says CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable.

Moving to another area of contention, campus free speech issues continue to vex collegiate communities, from complaints that conservative speech and views of faculty and staff are stifled, to a move by President Trump that he says will fight against anti-Semitism but that critics say is really intended to punish student or faculty advocacy for the BDS Movement boycotts, divestiture or sanctions aimed at ending international support for Israel.

Much like the campus controversies, interpretations of religious liberty regarding public policy continued to swirl through the year. As the Supreme Courts 2019-20 term began in October, at least eight cases touching on faith issues the most in recent years were scheduled to be heard. A number involved LGBTQ rights regarding employment or health benefits. While some cases do not directly involve religious organizations, the courts decisions would affect arguments over whether religious beliefs can negate claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.

An expansion of First Amendment protection for commercial speech (which at one time did not exist in law) continues, as courts at least give serious consideration to a variety of business arguments. In several instances, corporate lawyers are arguing that to force companies to make certain disclosures about product content or sources is an unacceptable requirement that violates the First Amendment by forcing companies to speak.

Other cases involve claims of free speech protection for hospitals facing a Trump administration rule requiring disclosure of secret rates. Industry groups filed a lawsuit earlier this month, also claiming it is compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment.

New technology continues inexorably to challenge long-standing law. In a mix of free speech and public safety concerns, a Texas man was sentenced in February to eight years in prison for using a 3-D printer to construct a plastic handgun and ammunition in violation of a prior court order against owning of a firearm. Advocates for the so-called 3-D gun argue the computer instructions in such 3-D printing projects are speech and not subject to federal or state firearms regulations. Government officials say existing criminal law on issues such as possession and manufacturing should allow them to regulate or ban making or owning such weapons.

Government officials and social media critics continue to hammer operations such as Facebook and Twitter which are not government entities, but private concerns not governed by the First Amendment with regulatory threats over political advertising, hate speech and evidence of foreign election interference.

Threatened action ranges from using anti-trust legislation to break up the largest social media companies, to removal of what is known as Section 230 protection for companies (from the Communications Decency Act of 1996) that now permits them to avoid legal responsibility for content they simply carry, rather than material they create or significantly edit.

Opponents of watering down or removing Section 230 protection say either action would, in effect, end the web as we know it by shutting down the flow of information to the mere trickle of items or articles that could be independently verified by internet providers, or to bland factual accounts devoid of opinion or interpretation.

The year 2019 may well go down in First Amendment history as a turning point, in which those working to limit or control information avoided direct confrontations over First Amendment rights and turned to tactics designed to make it much more difficult, much too costly or even financially ruinous to exercise those rights.

Gene Policinski is president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Institute. He can be reached at[emailprotected], or follow him on Twitter at@genefac.

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First Five: We're divided in new ways over 1st Amendment Posted Dec 28, 2019 - Salina Post

J. Duklavs’s business partner for the brewing business is not on the sanction lists – Baltic Times

Businessman Igor Shekhelev, who is currently a co-owner of the Piebalga brewery in Latvia and has been investing significant sums in the development of the yacht port in Ventspils for several years, resolutely refutes the rumours that he has personally got into the sanction lists.

Recently, business communities around the world are increasingly forced to reckon with the new phenomenon of economic reality various interstate sanctions and restrictions.

Information about persons under similar sanctions and restrictions of the USA is published for public inspection on the official website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/sdn-list/pages /default.aspx, that is, it is public, easily accessible and well-known.

This means that today anyone can independently and without any effort check and make sure that the name of Igor Shekhelev is not on any sanction lists.

This also means that any allegations that Igor Shekhelev is under sanctions are an intentional dissemination of knowingly false information that discredits his business reputation.

Defamation of this kind can be a consequence of media negligence, as well as a form of an unfair competition.

At present, we are considering a possibility of suing for compensation of possible moral, material and business reputation damage to the media resources, which disseminate knowingly false information about Igor Shekhelev.

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J. Duklavs's business partner for the brewing business is not on the sanction lists - Baltic Times

With shovels in the ground, start of Cote Village hailed as a milestone for Mattapan – Dorchester Reporter

The upcoming transformation of a long-abandoned car dealership on Cummins Highway into 76 units of affordable housing just steps from a new commuter rail station on the Fairmount Line in Mattapan was greeted with the adage that many hands make light work during a groundbreaking ceremony at the site last Wednesday.

The project Cote Village was hailed as a milestone by Mayor Martin Walsh, who initiated the effort in 2014 when he directed the citys Department of Neighborhood Development to seek private partners to redevelop the property. Walsh was joined at the groundbreaking by other city and state leaders, including Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

Today were breaking ground on projects that mean so much to the Mattapan community and for the entire city of Boston. Were creating affordable homes at a variety of income levels, something that we strive to do every day. Were adding commercial space that will bring economic opportunities to the neighborhood, when you think about a complete development, thats what this is, said the mayor. The city of Boston is proud to support these new developments as part of our commitment to keeping housing affordable and keeping neighborhoods strong.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) originally approved the project in 2016, putting its cost at $31.2 million. After a number of community comment sessions, final approvals were given last July.

The development is a collaboration of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Inc. (POUA) and the Caribbean Integration Community Development (CICD) group. The non-profit agencies worked in a unique partnership, with design services added by Davis Square Architects.

The units will be available to residents at a range of incomes, including 12 units for residents with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income (AMI) people earning less than $27,900 for a household of three). Of these units, 8 will be set aside for formerly homeless individuals and families.

Two units will be reserved for residents with incomes at or below 50 percent of AMI; 42 units for residents with incomes at or below 60 percent of AMI; 12 units for residents with incomes at or below 80 percent AMI; and 8 units for residents with incomes at or below 100 percent of AMI.

Cardinal Sen OMalley was on hand and offered a prayer after saying a few words about the moral significance of affordable housing.Being the wealthiest country in the world with half a million homeless people, no one can deny the great challenge that is before us providing decent housing for our people, this is one more effort along those lines. This is an ongoing challenge in building a more just society, so Im very grateful for all of you who do so much.

Mayor Martin Walsh, left, spoke with residents who gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of Cote Village in Mattapan on Wed., Dec. 18. Isabel Leon photo/Mayors OfficeWe have a full house today and that really speaks to the commitment for this site, said Donald Alexis, President of CICD. I want to thank the many members of the community who worked for this community asset. Our goal was to create housing that reflects the needs of the working-class residents in Mattapan and I believe weve accomplished that here.

Along the way it has been tough. Weve had many community meetings. In Haitian-Creole we have a saying, Men Anpil, Chay Pa Lou, meaning many hands make light work. A lot of people here were involved, and we did it, added Alexis.

Rep. Dan Cullinane called the groundbreaking an incredible celebration for so many people. This building has been decaying and sitting empty for over 30 years. Its been a public safety risk, its been an eye-sore, and today we couldnt be happier to say that this has been an intentional investment in affordable housing right here in Mattapan.

He added: On days like this when were breaking ground or cutting a ribbon, it can seem like it was simple to get this done. But as so many of the people sitting here know, thats never the case. We know as a delegation, under Mayor Walshs leadership and under this administrations leadership, Rep. [Russell] Holmes, Sen. [Nick] Collins, and former Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, who deserves tremendous recognition for making this a reality, that this doesnt happen by accident, said Cullinane.

The city and state helped to finance the development through a combination of tax credits and loans, as well as a $750,000 award from the Neighborhood Housing Trust and $4.8 million from the Inclusionary Development Policy fund.

The creation of new affordable and workforce housing options is a moral imperative and critical to maintaining the city of Boston and the Commonwealth as a vibrant community and a place to live, said William Grogan, president of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs at the Archdiocese of Boston, co-developer of the project.

We are especially grateful to the Commonwealth, the city, our funders and supporters who have made the development of Cote Village possible, especially to our partners at the Caribbean Integration CDC, he said. The groundbreaking represents an important step in our collective efforts to address the housing need in communities like Mattapan.

Original post:

With shovels in the ground, start of Cote Village hailed as a milestone for Mattapan - Dorchester Reporter

Muncie Action Plan Task Force 1: Linking Learning, Health, and Prosperity – munciejournal.com

By: Heather Williams

Muncie, INThe Muncie Action Plan spent 2019 working to address the issues identified by the community during the MAP3 planning process. MAPs five task forces have focused their efforts on Linking Learning, Health, and Prosperity (TF1), Fostering Collaboration (TF2), Strengthening Muncies Pride and Image (TF3), Creating Attractive and Desirable Places (TF4), and Managing Community Resources (TF5). As we close out this year, we would like to share our successes as we approach our Annual Community Meeting on January 28th at Muncie Central High School. This is the first of five reports from our task force leaders.

Task Force 1 is concentrating its efforts on a Cradle to Career Initiative.

The Cradle to Career Initiative continues to move forward and gain traction in the community. Collaborative Action Network (CAN) teams are forming and leaders are emerging for each of the steps along the Cradle to Career Continuum. BY5 has agreed to lead the effort with a strong collaboration among many other partners in Kindergarten Readiness. This is a natural fit for BY5 with their mission focused on early childhood awareness and education.

United Way volunteered to lead the third Grade Reading CAN. United Way has a goal for all third graders to be reading at grade level by 2024 with the ultimate goal of addressing generational poverty. The Innovation Connector has taken on the leadership role for Middle Grade Math. The Innovation Connector, with its entrepreneurial approach, focuses on problem solving and STEM based strategies through their TechWise Academy coding program. The Innovation Connector will facilitate a collaborative approach with schools and other organizations that are focused on improving performance in Middle Grade Math.

Muncie Community Schools is leading groups focused on High School Graduation. The focus would be to increase the graduation rates of Muncie Central High School. Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce and Delaware Advancement Corporation has signed on to lead the Career/Employment CAN. They are focused on attracting and connecting talent to employers in the county. We are hopeful that in 2020, natural leaders will be identified in the post-secondary enrollment and completion CANs to complete the Cradle to Career Continuum.

Another vital piece of the Cradle to Career Initiative is the importance of mentors or significant individuals in the lives of young people. Behind every successful person is a team of individuals who has helped guide them along the way. An approach that has worked successfully in other communities over the years is Derek Petersons Web of Support concept which states that all people need at least five trusted adults in their lives. Without a web of support in place, it would be extremely hard for an individual to reach their full potential.

Muncie Action Plan (MAP) has partnered with United Way, the George and Frances Ball Foundation, Muncie Community Schools, Ball State University, and Sustainable Muncie to address the need for supportive relationships for all people in the community. Based on community input, MAP identified the publics desire to expand and develop local mentoring programs. Dereks Web of Support will offer a community-wide approach for connecting people to one another in intentional, and meaningful ways.

After months of planning, an initial face-to-face conversation about Web of Support took place on October 23rd with approximately 15 community leaders. Derek was then able to visit Muncie on October 31st. He held a two-hour presentation as an introduction to Web of Support with approximately 40 community leaders in attendance. MAP is continuing conversations with Derek, and he will be visiting Muncie from January 28th-31st to lead four days of training with two very diverse groups of 50 adults and 50 teens. He will also be giving a public presentation as part of the MAP Annual Report Meeting to be held at Muncie Central High School on the 28th, as well as a community-wide presentation on January 30th at Muncie Central High School.

We want to encourage everyone in the community to attend one or both of these evening sessions to better connect with this key community initiative.

Heather Williams isAssociate Director, Office of Community EngagementProgram Manager, Building Better Neighborhoods atBall State University.www.muncieneighborhoods.org


Muncie Action Plan Task Force 1: Linking Learning, Health, and Prosperity - munciejournal.com

Theyve turned their backs on us: California’s homeless crisis grows in numbers and violence – The Guardian

As homelessness surged to crisis levels in California in 2019, so did the violent attacks on people living in tents and on sidewalks and the political and law enforcement efforts to keep homeless encampments off the streets.

Physical assaults and criminalization efforts combined have made 2019 a particularly grim and terrifying year for many Californians struggling to survive without a roof over their head.

They are trying to shove us underneath the carpet, and its just not fair, said Shanna Couper Orona, 46, who is currently living out of an RV in San Francisco. San Francisco is supposed to be progressive, a place where you love everyone, take care of everyone But theyve turned their backs on us just because were unhoused. They are leaving us with nothing.

In a state with the worlds fifth largest economy, an IPO tech boom and some of the richest people on earth, Californias severe affordable housing shortage has become what advocates describe as a moral failing and public health emergency.

Los Angeles experienced a 16% increase in homelessness this year, with a total of 36,000 people now homeless across the city, including 27,000 without shelter. San Franciscos homeless count surged 17% to more than 8,000 people. There was a 42% increase in San Jose, a 47% increase in Oakland, a 52% increase in Sacramento county and increases in the Central Valley agricultural region and wealthy suburbs of Orange county.

There were patterns across cities: huge numbers of people experiencing homelessness for the first time, evictions and unaffordable rents leading people to the streets, families and seniors increasingly homeless, and higher rates of the homeless not getting shelter.

Homeless people are everywhere now, and they are becoming more and more desperate, said Stephen Cue Jn-Marie, an LA pastor who was formerly homeless and now works with people living on Skid Row, known for its massive encampments. All of these people are human beings. We need to respond to this as if its an earthquake.

The growing visibility has led to an increase in complaints, news coverage focused on housed people who reside near encampments, and intense media attention on the rare cases of violence perpetuated by people living on the streets.

Communities have largely declined to treat the crisis like a natural disaster that demands humanitarian aid. In many places, what followed instead was a backlash, and in some cases overt attacks.

There were at least eight incidents in LA where people threw flammable liquids or makeshift explosives at homeless people or their tents this year, according to authorities and the Los Angeles Times.

A 62-year-old beloved musicians tent was set on fire in Skid Row in August, killing him in what police say was an intentional killing. That month, two men also allegedly threw a firework at an encampment, causing a blaze that grew into a major brush fire just outside of the city. One of the men arrested was the son of a local chamber of commerce president. Police said this fire was intentional. In a separate attack, a molotov cocktail destroyed tents and donations.

In San Francisco, a man was caught on video appearing to dump a bucket of water on a homeless woman and her belongings on the sidewalk in June. Witnesses said it seemed to be a deliberate attack.

Three months later, San Franciscans who said they were upset with homeless people in their neighborhood paid to install two-dozen knee-high boulders along a sidewalk in an effort to stop them from living on the streets.

In neighboring Oakland, a resident recently put up an unauthorized concrete barrier in the middle of the street to deter homeless people from parking RVs. A real estate developer taunted homeless people by shouting free money at them and offering to pay them to leave their encampment in Oakland.

Residents repeatedly organized against proposed homeless shelters in their neighborhoods, most notably in a wealthy San Francisco area where locals crowdfunded $70,000 to hire an attorney to fight a shelter project.

A lot of it is brought out by this fear of the other as if their homeless neighbors are not neighbors at all, or not even people for that matter, said TJ Johnston, who is currently staying in shelters in San Francisco and is an editor with Street Sheet, a local homelessness publication. Hearing wealthy residents complain this year was like watching angry online comment sections come to life, he said: Its very dehumanizing to be looked upon as a nuisance.

As the crisis has worsened, local governments have spent billions to create new housing and provide services, but the scale of the response has been inadequate. Cities have increasingly looked to law enforcement and legal maneuvers to tackle the problem.

Those political efforts to further criminalize the homeless in turn have sparked intense anger and fear among the homeless population and their advocates.

LA leaders fought to ban people from sleeping on streets and sidewalks throughout the city. In Lancaster, a desert city north of LA, the mayor has pushed a proposal to ban groups that provide food to homeless people and suggested people should buy firearms to protect themselves from violent people on the streets.

This month, in a case closely watched by many west coast cities, the US supreme court dealt a victory to homeless advocates by allowing an existing ruling to stand that states governments cannot ban people from living on the street if they dont offer enough shelter beds.

Officials in Oakland have proposed a new policy to cite homeless people in parks while some have suggested setting up a shelter in a defunct jail. Law enforcement leaders in Bakersfield in the Central Valley pushed a plan to throw homeless people in jail for misdemeanor offenses. A state taskforce has also suggested a similar system of forcibly placing homeless people into shelters.

These efforts ignore the overwhelming evidence that criminalization and locking people up are costly and harmful responses that fail to fix the crisis, said Eve Garrow, homelessness policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Theres a dangerous and disturbing movement in California to address homelessness not by expanding access to safe, affordable and permanent housing but by jailing people, she said. Its a terrifying prospect of a world in which we segregate, incarcerate and restrict the civil liberties of people just because they have disabilities and they are too poor to afford a home in our skyrocketing private rental market.

Fears and unfounded stereotypes about people experiencing homelessness seem to be driving these policy pushes to jail those in need, she said.

The Trump administration has created further anxiety by repeatedly suggesting he might pursue some kind of police crackdown in California to clear the streets of encampments.

The president has used the crisis to attack Democratic leaders in the state, and has complained about homeless people in LA and San Francisco taking up space on the best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige.

Its a huge concern are they just going to take people to jail? said Kat Doherty, an LA woman who became homeless this year and is living at a shelter at Skid Row. Trumps talk has terrified her and others, she said. Its horrendous. It sounds like a death camp situation.

With the president promoting criminalization, it could inspire some anti-Trump Democrats in California to push back, said Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director for the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco. Theres some hopefulness that it will force the local municipalities to shift in opposition to Trump and talk about how criminalization doesnt work.

But some are not optimistic about 2020, especially since the crisis is on track to continue escalating, with people falling into homelessness at rates that far outpace governments ability to find housing for those on the street.

Conditions are going to get worse and the responses are going to get worse, said Jn-Marie.

If the political attacks continue next year, some said they hoped to see more communities fighting to stand up for the homeless.

I want people to give a fuck and help. Dont just ignore it, Orona said. Just because were unhoused doesnt mean were not San Francisco residents. We still have a heartbeat. We still buy food. We still exist.

Originally posted here:

Theyve turned their backs on us: California's homeless crisis grows in numbers and violence - The Guardian

Los Angeles Roars for Azadi! Reflections on an Indian Solidarity Action in Southern California – CounterPunch

For two full hours yesterday afternoon, Los Angeles Grand Park reverberated with the simultaneously furious and joyous roars of Azadi! (Freedom!) and Inquilab Zindabad! (Love Live the Revolution!). Indians, South Asians, and Americans from various backgrounds came together to demonstrate their opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and Indias deepening authoritarian nightmare as a whole. Since the calamitous signing of the CAA into law on December 13, similar rallies have been held all across North America and many other corners of the globe, from Chicago to Sydney to Abu Dhabi.

As a political organizer and budding activist-scholar, I often despair at the lack of Stateside awareness, concern, and action with respect to India and South Asia, even within leftist circles. As such, I was heartened by the LA rallys sizable and diverse turnout, its warm but defiant spirit, and its broadly anti-fascist consensus.

Attendees read key passages from the Indian Constitution that the Modi regime has flagrantly, gleefully contravened with its recent measures, such as Article 14, which guarantees the right to equality before the law. They condemned not only the CAB and the NRC but the sadistic brutality and internet blackout inflicted upon Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University students and the residents of Uttar Pradesh, as well the ongoing crackdown in Kashmir that has left eight million people to scream, suffer, and die in darkness. They raised placards displaying some pretty ingenious slogans and graphics (fellow South Asian kids who grew up eating Amul dairy products will particularly appreciate Utterly Butterly Barbaric, placed over an image of Modi as the Amul girl holding the CAB and NRC). They recited poems, led chants, and even sang songs in English and Hindi. They passed around cashew nuts and Parle-G biscuits to keep everyone going.

I came away more convinced than ever that India and South Asia can only pull back from the precipice at which they currently find themselves through concerted mass action. Not by the whims and dictates of self-serving politicians, businesspeople, spiritual gurus, and civil society professionals, but through the sheer, audacious, organized willpower of everyday people. By militantly securing and cultivating autonomy, dignity, equity, justice, and resilience at every level of society, in every corner of the country and the region, and in solidarity with every single individual, community, and movement in the cross-hairs of the ruthless and shameless neoliberal capitalist Hindu chauvinist Indian state.

Merely demanding our freedom is insufficient: we have to seize it from the blood-soaked hands of our oppressors and refuse to let it go. Asking a proto-fascist government and its collaborators, apologists, and assassins to respect our rights is nothing short of suicidal. We are the only ones who can protect each other, which behooves us to stand with the most vulnerable among our ranks: Muslims, Dalits, Bahujans, Christians, Kashmiris, adivasis, peasants, migrants, women, and LGBTQ+ people. Agitating for political, religious, and cultural freedom is also meaningless to the extent that we fail to grapple with the economic and ecological underpinnings of the Hindu nationalist project and its positioning within the global neoliberal capitalist order. After all, fascism, as Lenin famously asserted, is capitalism in decay.

We can no longer satisfy our consciences with half-measures. Grudging, tenuous, and even entirely illusory top-down concessions that ultimately insult and degrade the emancipatory spirit of our mobilizations simply wont suffice any more. The national, regional, and transnational political, social, economic, and ecological, threats we face are frighteningly existential, and we will not get a second chance to overcome them. Our righteous rage must thus be more than a flash in the pan. Rather, it must be the fire that reduces the entire extractivist, majoritarian, and totalitarian saffron state apparatus to ash, fertilizing the soil for truly egalitarian, cooperative, and redistributive self-determination. This is to say that our organizing cannot be a temporary diversion, a mere flirtation with direct action that is quickly subsumed by our more humdrum, cynical, and ultimately self-defeating impulses. Rather, it has to become a defining force in our lives, an essential part of our individual being that ripples outward to build coalitions, reconstitute communities, and advance movements. School is not important, and work is not important, as Black Panther icon Fred Hampton famously said. Nothings more important than stopping fascism, because fascism will stop us all.

Who, if not us? When, if not now? Where, if not here?

And by here, I dont just mean India, and Im not only talking about Indians, because we shouldnt have to fight alone. Now more than ever, we need politically engaged people of goodwill in the United States the foul stench of Hindu nationalism festering under their very noses. We need them we need you to recognize that Hindutva has wrapped its tentacles around many political figureheads, educational institutions, and cultural associations and programs in the United States. Furthermore, it influences and even seeks connections with burgeoning white supremacist activity and relentless capitalist accumulation in this part of the world, on top of drawing inspiration and purchasing resources from Israels settler colonial project and military-industrial complex. Stateside anti-authoritarians and anti-fascists have the opportunity and thus the responsibility to tear down the saffron flag that is firmly planted on American soil. Please dont ignore, sideline, or abandon us in our time of need. Im begging you.

At the same time, Indians and South Asians studying, working, and living in the United States must join Americas most urgent popular struggles if expect our American counterparts to care about our woes and dreams. The model minority status that South Asians and South Asian Americans are accorded is a bone thrown to us by the American state. It aims to make us accomplices to its white supremacist capitalist patriarchy by pitting us against Black, migrant, and other marginalized populations and even the more marginalized members of our own communities. We must thus reject it entirely and reclaim the promise of intergroup, internationalist solidarity foregrounded by the likes of the Black Panther Party, the Third World Liberation Front, and the (real) Rainbow Coalition.

We have to condemn the Los Angeles and New York Police Departments for lynching people of color at the same time as we decry the Delhi Police and the Central Reserve Police Force for their state-endorsed malice. We have to burn down the concentration camps and prison plantations of California, Arizona, and Texas at the same time as we burn down the concentration camps of Assam. We have to chop off the many heads of Jeff Bezos capitalist hydra as the same time as we bring the vampiric Ambani, Birla, and Tata corporate dynasties to a long-overdue end. Beyond the US, we have to join the ongoing battles against injustice, inequity, and tyranny unfolding in Bolivia, Iraq, France, Haiti, and so many other parts of the world at the same time as we stand with our courageous comrades who have taken back streets, squares, and campuses in Mumbai, Chennai, and Srinagar.

India was born through rebellion, and it must be reborn the same way and not as a sham (neo)liberal social democracy, begging for yet another inevitable descent into authoritarian hell. It must be reborn through intentional, well-planned collaboration between the regions myriad populations and popular movements. It must obliterate the last remnants of feudalism, enable workers to enjoy the fruits of their own labor, and finally finally allow its many persons and peoples to take their fates into their own hands.

The war will continue, as Bhagat Singh famously declared, for the state of war does exist and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites. We are once again fighting a war for our souls and the soul of the land that binds us together in all of our complexity and contradiction.

To invoke Assata Shakurs immortal chant, with the most widely, deeply liberatory intent, It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Power and love to everyone who came out yesterday and to everyone who has been fighting all the good fights back home. Let the ruling classes tremble before us before the awesome, irrepressible power of the people for we have a society and a world to win.

Azadi! Azadi! Azadi!

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Los Angeles Roars for Azadi! Reflections on an Indian Solidarity Action in Southern California - CounterPunch

What’s coming in the next decade in technology accessibility – Fast Company

As more and more of our lives are spent in the digital world, its important that that world is accessible to everyone. Technology has allowed for huge strides in disability accessibility, from improved voice-to-text functions to apps that connect someone with a virtual assistant, but experts say theres still a lot of work to be doneespecially when it comes to simply using the internet. Americans with disabilities are three times as likely as those without a disability to say they never go online, according to the Pew Research Center.

Advancements have been (and continue to be) made for those who are visually, hearing, or physically impaired, but Gregg Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Maryland, says we havent yet tackled the most challenging area: differing cognitive abilities. As were about to enter a new decade, he hopes this is a gap technology can help fill.

For somebody who is blind, you can turn visual communication into something auditory, and for someone who is deaf, vice versa. But you cant take information and transform it from cognitive to some other dimension, Vanderheiden says. The biggest thing weve found in the last period of time is that many more people are having trouble accessing information than we had suspected.

This even includes people without cognitive disabilities, he addspeople who functioned in society just fine before technology infiltrated everything. Weve started adding complexity to things, he says. You used to walk over to the thermostat and turn it . . . now its a digital interface. Being technology savvy is a separate skill set from other kinds of intelligence, and this act of technifying everything can be alienating to parts of the population who suddenly find they need to be behind a computer to do their jobs, their work in school, or even complete their menial tasks like paying bills and buying food.

Vanderheiden is working on two solutions to this problemone which will be available soon and another longer term solution that requires getting a lot of people on board. Like lots of disability focused technologies before them, these solutions would also make things easier for those who dont have a disability, just less technology-abled or looking for a convenience.

The first is Morphic, an assistive technology spearheaded by the Trace R&D Center. Morphic is an operating system extension that would personalize a computer to an individuals needs, whether that means changing the font size, language, contrast, or making certain features easier to find. In pilot testing now and slated for an early 2020 release, Morphic would allow anyone to sit at a computerwhether in their home, a library, an office, or a school laband have its settings be tailored to their abilities, like putting on a pair of glasses with their prescription. When they log out, the settings will revert, so the next person doesnt have to manually change everything.

The longer-term solution would change the way our tech world approaches accessibility. Right now, each individual company has to make sure their systems are accessible. While some companies (like Apple and Microsoft) have been putting a lot of effort into making those changes, they still may not have the right resources or enough time to figure out the best accessibility solutions. Rather than having these companies try to create an interface thats usable by everyoneespecially as future technologies look more and more different from todaysVanderheiden proposes that developers create interfaces for mainstream users, and then a separate entity would build tools to interpret those interfaces for disabled communities.

This would be an extension of the assistive technology model, but these tools could work with any interface. An example Vanderheiden cites is the idea of a public Info-Bot that could understand a mainstream interface and then create user-specific versions for a variety of accessibilities. You might think companies would oppose this if they want to control their own designs, but Vanderheiden says its actually the opposite: The companies want to have control over the main interface design, and all the rules about accessibility put all these constraints on what they can do, he says.

One problem with putting the onus for accessibility solely on a company is that there will probably be some oversight, intentional or not. Autonomous cars could be breakthrough for the visually impaired, but if developers make clear speech a requirement in that interface, that limits the accessibility for another whole section of the population. Even ordering a pizza is restrictive: a blind man sued Dominos after he was unable to order food from the companys website or app, even though he had screen-reading software. Attorneys for the pizza chain tried to argue ADA requirements dont extend to online platforms, but when so much of our lives are conducted online, how is the digital world not a public space? The courts sided with the man, and accessibility advocates considered it a win, noting that if businesses dont maintain accessible websites, theyre essentially shutting people with disabilities out of the economy. Its a ruling that will reshape how companies make decisions about their websites and technology for years to come.

A separate tool that adapts technology for each individual could be the answer to making sure everyone has a fair chance of participation, and proves thatwhether companies like Dominos agree or nottheres a societal understanding that the internet is for everyone. If anything, the idea shows that our approach to accessibility needs to be rethought. Technology is ever changing, Vanderheiden says, and so how we approach it needs to also change.

The rest is here:

What's coming in the next decade in technology accessibility - Fast Company

PG&E’s History of Blackouts Troubling – DTN The Progressive Farmer

The problems galled local officials, who vented deep frustration that a utility they often work closely with kept failing them.

After all, they are the ones dealing with a shutoff's consequences. They must dispatch ambulances, run jails and water plants, direct traffic through darkened intersections, set up community shelters and much more.

"It's almost as if it's intentional disregard of all the warnings we gave them," said Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon, whose district north of San Francisco has experienced nearly every shutoff.


Sixteen million people --- more than the population of nearly any U.S. state --- depend on PG&E for power. The shutoffs were an inconvenience for some and extremely costly for others. For society's most frail, they brought questions of life and death.

Those who rely on medical devices in their homes were particularly vulnerable.

"PG&E did nothing to help us who depend on electricity to run our life support," recounted Grace Lin, a polio survivor who needs a ventilator to breathe and uses an electric wheelchair. "It's not like we could simply grind our teeth and tough it out by holding our breath."

Lin said she was confused by the notifications PG&E sent ahead of the first shutoff that affected her San Francisco Bay Area home on Oct. 9. The company website they referred to for updates was frozen. Lin considered herself lucky that she had the means to evacuate 20 miles away, to a quadriplegic friend's house that had electricity.

PG&E could identify "medical baseline" customers such as Lin based on billing records. Local officials working to identify everyone who might need help repeatedly asked PG&E to share its list, so no one was overlooked.

Regulators said PG&E promised it would release medical baseline addresses during a shutoff. Yet when each of the first four hit, PG&E insisted that locals sign a legal agreement not to disclose the addresses, causing delay and uncertainty that regulators said could risk lives.

On the eve of the first massive power outage, Malashenko of the utilities commission was urgently emailing company officials in frustration.

"This issue has been discussed many times over the last several months" yet "has once again become an issue with PG&E," she wrote on Oct. 8.

Malashenko said state officials also pushed PG&E to improve in other areas. Starting in April, they met at least weekly with PG&E, pointing out needed improvements and stressing that aspects of the utility's preparation was inadequate.

PG&E argued that the commission's own privacy rules meant it couldn't share the addresses without a non-disclosure agreement, spokesman Jeff Smith explained. Resolving the problem took an order that the commission's executive director sent three hours before the first massive blackouts began.

Other groups of vulnerable Californians endured shutoffs without the help they needed.

"A lot of them don't have support, a lot of them don't have family," Betty Briggs, 84, said of her elderly neighbors in the well-touristed Napa Valley town of Calistoga. "It makes it very difficult, and it puts them in danger."

Briggs can get around without help, but her husband requires 24-hour care due to dementia. He lives nearby at Cedars Care Home, where seven residents in their 80s and 90s experienced three shutoffs before mid-October.

The outages created anxiety for people reliant on routine, as well as practical problems.

Beds and wheelchair lifts require electricity. So does the heat and air conditioning. When the freezer got too warm, staff tossed 30 days of backup food.

Owner Irais Lopez still hasn't restocked fully.

"Now, we only buy small quantities," Lopez said, "because we don't know what will happen."


At PG&E's high-rise headquarters in downtown San Francisco, the emergency operations center springs to life with each shutoff.

Employees in different colored vests that distinguish their expertise cluster around banks of computer monitors showing real-time updates. Maps track wind speed and direction, as well as which circuits are down. Conversation hums in the background.

This is where decisions are made and answers can be found --- and local officials said they felt they had little access to either.

Fed up with communication gaps, one hard-hit county requested a presence at PG&E headquarters during the September shutoff. Regulators required that the utility hold seats in its emergency operations center for local representatives, but a lawyer for Sonoma County instead spent her day in a conference room several locked doors away.

"There was just a lack of understanding on behalf of PG&E of why local government needs timely information," said Petra Bruggisser, a deputy county counsel.

PG&E already had a shaky reputation in its Northern and central California territory.

The company spent three years in bankruptcy starting in 2001, after California's attempt to deregulate its power market went awry.

Maintenance failures led to a natural gas pipeline blast near San Francisco in 2010 that killed eight people. PG&E was found criminally liable and paid a $1.6 billion fine.

In late 2017, its equipment was suspected of starting the Tubbs Fire that killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,600 buildings.

The utility revealed in spring 2018 that it would start using power shutoffs when fire danger was high and extreme winds blew.

PG&E then began to explain what to expect, sending millions of emails to update its customer contact files, running advertising in multiple languages and holding hundreds of meetings with community leaders, public safety agencies and residents.

The California Public Utilities Commission started writing guidelines for how utilities should roll out "de-energization." The guidelines were published as a 176-page document in June.

By that point, PG&E had again filed for bankruptcy protection, crushed by liabilities for fires in 2017 and 2018, including the Camp Fire that nearly wiped out the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

The utility now has a market value of about $6 billion --- a drop of $30 billion in just over two years --- and is working with the state and a federal judge to emerge from bankruptcy by June 30.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he expects PG&E's entire 14-member board of directors, including Johnson, its CEO, to step down before the state will approve the utility's plan to regain its financial footing.

"PG&E's recent management of the public safety power shutoffs did not restore public confidence," the Democratic governor warned the company in a Dec. 13 letter. "Instead, PG&E caused extreme uncertainty and harm for Californians who rely on power for their health care and their livelihood."

PG&E said Johnson was not available for an interview. The utility's point man on the shutoffs told AP that he believes Johnson, while testifying before lawmakers last month, was referring to its ability to kill and safely restore power to an extremely complex electrical grid.

Sumeet Singh, a vice president who oversees PG&E's community wildfire safety program, listed a litany of ways the utility is investing in fixes that he said will lessen the need for future shutoffs. Those include trimming more vegetation near power lines and burying some lines in areas most at risk of igniting.

Singh also acknowledged that the utility had some struggles during the early shutoffs but that it strove to improve and disputed any characterization that it did not succeed in some ways. He cited how quickly the utility restored power as one improvement, along with the timeliness and accuracy of customer notifications.

"Did we hit the mark on every single improvement? No. Do we have more work to do? Yes," Singh said.

Power shutoffs are likely to be a feature of life in California for years to come. PG&E must invest billions in infrastructure upgrades, and communities are spreading into lands once populated by trees and brush.

Regulators promise to be watching closely.

"If we have an outcome that doesn't meet the public expectation and what we need to run as a state," said Malashenko of the utilities commission, "that means that we need to rethink our approach and try something different and drive to a better outcome."

In November, the commission launched an investigation into whether it should sanction PG&E for violating shutoff protocols.

PG&E said it will need to improve how it reacts after it shuts off the power.

"I think we thought the big event was turning off the power," Johnson told lawmakers. "And I think we focused on that as the main event instead of the impact of that, right, on the people it affected."


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PG&E's History of Blackouts Troubling - DTN The Progressive Farmer

Home Truths: Co-housing in the East Bay offers an alternative to traditional living – Berkeleyside

With some cohousing, co-living inhabitants share chores and a kitchen; for others they live more independently and share expenses. Photo: Courtesy Red Oak Realty

Home Truths, a quarterly report on the state of the Berkeley real estate market, is brought to you byRed Oak Realty.

Most of us in the East Bay live exclusively with our nuclear families, but not all.

Some East Bay residents choose to live in intentional communities that transcend the traditional nuclear family makeup of home exclusively with partners, parents or children.

The East Bays grand Victorians (and other homes of course) have always hosted communities of roommates, some more organized than others. In this post, we highlight the latter shared housing that formalizes the living relationship between unrelated members to a greater degree.

While most East Bay real estate consumers live more traditionally, some East Bay residents (and some of our clients) choose to live in intentional communities.

These different living situations vary from independent, personal arrangements between just two people or families to those at higher scales with a framework provided by a corporation or person to organize living for many families in one place. While not always the case, living in intentional communities can be a more affordable way to live in the East Bay.

Collaboration lives at the heart of these arrangements, which, of course, can vary greatly. In some cases, co-living inhabitants share chores and kitchen space, in others they live more independently and share expenses for upkeep of shared property and expenses.

Intentional communities come in two flavors: cohousing, where individual homes are clustered together in a tight-knit community with more privacy, and co-living, where between 12 to 30 people can share a large house, including all common areas. Co-housing communities tend to offer more permanent living situations than co-living, which can have higher turnover rates.

Residents find these communities in a variety of ways, including by visiting Cohousing California or by participating in the East Bay Cohousing Meetup group, which covers student coops, collective and co-living households, urban and rural eco-villages, faith-based or service-oriented, moshads, Kibbutzes and income-sharing communes.

Typically, co-housing developments have between 15 and 40 homes.

Below, are just a few East Bay co-housing communities.

Located three blocks from the Bay Trail, The Ranch at Dogtown in West Oaklands Dogtown neighborhood features a variety of nine buildings, from houses and apartments to cottages and lofts.

On 8,000 square feet of reclaimed land and surrounded by a tall gate, the community, established in 1990, features a central garden, a chicken coop and bees. The community has approximately 30 members who share the communal garden and taking care of the land.

Diversity, in all senses of the word, plays a big role in what makes the East Bay so great. The areas diverse geography, races, cultures, mindsets and living situations make us all richer. Stay tuned for future celebrations of our home markets diversity.

Established in 1994, Berkeley Cohousing has 15 units (cottages and duplexes) in 10 buildings on a former farm in West Berkeley. The 0.8-acre community has an arrangement with the city that keeps price appreciation of the communitys homes under market value; they currently go for approximately 50% below market rate, but buyers have to meet certain low-income requirements and pass a community interview.

The community has approximately 34 adult and nine child members, and, like many cohousing communities, features a common house where joint meals and gatherings take place.

Members in each housing unit pay between $300 and $400 each month in community dues, which covers the cost of group meals (which occur from two to five times each week) and other upkeep needs; members participate in cleaning and cooking duties. Members make decisions based on consensus, which can be supplemented by a vote if necessary.

Founded in 1999 when a community of five families bought three adjacent duplexes, Temescal Creek Cohousing, in Oaklands popular Temescal neighborhood, has 11 units on 0.75 acres with approximately 20 adult members.

The community calls itself a cohousing retrofit, as the founders took traditional homes and converted them into their intentional community. The community shares between two and five meals each week and makes decisions by consensus with a fall-back option of winning an 80% majority.

The community also has a common house, which the community members financed by taking out individual home equity lines of credit.

Home Truthsis written and sponsored byRed Oak Realty, the largest independent real estate broker in the East Bay, serving the community since 1976. Readmore in this series. If you are interested in learning more about the local real estate market orare considering buying or selling a home, contact Red Oak athello@redoakrealty.com, 510-250 8780.


Home Truths: Co-housing in the East Bay offers an alternative to traditional living - Berkeleyside

18 voters accused of voting in two different states in 2018 – WHIO

Published: Friday, December 13, 2019 @ 2:31 AMUpdated: Friday, December 13, 2019 @ 2:30 AMBy: The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio's elections chief referred 18 voters for investigation this week who allegedly voted twice in last year's general election.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the voters referred to prosecutors Wednesday were identified through the Electronic Registration Information Center, a data-sharing partnership among several states.

The review found 10 Ohioans who first voted in another state before voting in Ohio and another eight who voted first in Ohio before voting again elsewhere, LaRose's office said.

Cases were from eight Ohio counties: Cuyahoga, Franklin, Geauga, Hamilton, Lorain, Medina, Summit and Wayne. Each county had either one or two cases where allegations are being reviewed.

Last week, LaRose referred more than 350 apparent non-citizens to prosecutors for investigation. A coalition of voting-rights groups pushed back against the effort, saying the probes rarely turn up serious offenses or intentional fraud but intimate and scare immigrant communities.

LaRose said one of the big reasons that voter fraud is so rare is because states are "stepping up to enforce the law whenever it is broken.

Originally posted here:

18 voters accused of voting in two different states in 2018 - WHIO

‘Badger State Opportunity Fund’ Tries To Spur Investment In 120 Wisconsin Neighborhoods – WUWM

A fund created in Racine, called the Badger State Opportunity Fund, will try to ignite investments in Wisconsin's 120 Opportunity Zones.

Created by the 2017 federal tax cut law, opportunity zones were "designed to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities," the IRS says, "by providing tax benefits to investors who invest eligible capital into these communities. Taxpayers may defer tax on eligible capital gains by making an appropriate investment in a Qualified Opportunity Fund and meeting other requirements."

City leaders in Racine say they've created the first statewide Opportunity Fund that offers investors diversified options for their money. Now, the leaders are recruiting upper-middle class and wealthy people, with a goal of raising $15-25 million.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason says for people who have sold stock or seen another sizable gain this year, there are advantages in putting money into an Opportunity Zone, compared to an area that's thriving.

He explains, "You could invest substantial resources here, and avoid tax liability on the gains that are made in that area. That has real value to it, particularly when you compound it over time. So, it allows us to say to the investors: 'Reinvest in the cities, reinvest in these 120 zones that are across the state of Wisconsin.' "

Mason joked that he's partial to the three Opportunity Zones in Racine. But he says at a meeting in July, the Urban Alliance, a coalition of Wisconsin's 30 largest municipalities, discussed ways to collaborate and said the federally-designated zones had not been attracting significant investment.

So, there was interest in a broader investment pool that could drawa wider group of people, and spread money across the state.

Racine's chief innovation officer, William Martin, has been closely involved in setting up the new fund. When Martin worked for former Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration, he helped the state finalize the Opportunity Zone recommendations approved by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2018.

At a Thursday news conference at Racine City Hall, Martin took on one of the national criticisms of Opportunity Zones.

"You're going to see articles periodically from around the country that speak to inequity and how Opportunity Zones have been benefiting people with means, but maybe not as much people living in the neighborhood."

But Martin says with the new fund, "we're being very intentional, based on Mayor Mason's directive, that we ensure these projects be inclusive."

Martin touted aredevelopment project in Racine that promises people who live in an Opportunity Zone can help build the new project, and then work there, once the project is operating.

The Milwaukee-based Legacy Redevelopment Corporation has been working with Racine officials. The company's chief lending officer, Terese Cayo, says the fund won't be just for new real estate developments.

"This money is available for small businesses. It's going to be available for start-ups, which is huge. We also are looking for deals that could be acquisition-rehab projects for communities, and adaptive re-use of properties, as well," she says.

First, though, the Badger State Opportunity Fund has to bring in enough investors. Racine says census data indicate there may be as many as 90,000 Wisconsin households that qualify as "accredited," meaning people with high net worth.

To reach more of them, the fund has launched a marketing campaign to contact 14,000 accountants, who often help clients reduce their tax liability.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

Do you have a question about innovation in Wisconsin that you'd like WUWM's Chuck Quirmbach to explore? Submit it below.


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'Badger State Opportunity Fund' Tries To Spur Investment In 120 Wisconsin Neighborhoods - WUWM

The Community Defenders helping to save a Gondwana rainforest from bushfire – ABC News

Updated December 10, 2019 00:57:22

Cawder Ross has never fought a bushfire in his life but for the past four weeks, he has been trying to contain fires in a rainforest that he didn't think would burn.

At first, he was just defending homes on Siddha Farm, the cooperative he shares with 20 other households.

But then Mr Ross became one of a group of volunteers known as Community Defenders.

Siddha Farm is one of many land cooperatives, or intentional communities, nestled into the valley below Mt Nardi and Nightcap National Park on the New South Wales north coast.

On the 11th of November, with fire conditions predicted to worsen, Senior Deputy Captain of the Nimbin Rural Fire Brigade Charlie Cohen was concerned there were houses in these communities that could not be saved.

"We'll save some of them, but not all of them, some of them are just too hard," Mr Cohen said.

"I've been asking people for months and years to clear around their houses, and days like [Monday] and [Tuesday] are why."

Mr Ross decided to stay and defend his home, taking advice from the local brigade on clearing a containment line with bulldozers, rakes and leaf blowers, where homes on the community met the forest.

"Many sleepless nights and busy days clearing around houses", Mr Ross said.

"By the time the fire actually got here I was physically and mentally already exhausted."

The fire was contained just above the houses on the community's land, and then something happened that no one could have predicted.

A small army of volunteers turned up at the main gates of all the communities in the valley, including Siddha farm, wanting to help stop the Mt Nardi fire.

"Volunteers from neighbouring communities and all over the northern rivers just turning up in utes with rakes, leaf blowers and backpack sprays and excuse the term, but manpower," Mr Ross said.

The volunteers came not just to save houses but to also save the rainforest of Nightcap National Park.

This fire season has seen something that had been unthinkable wilderness rainforests burning in savage forest fires.

Nightcap National Park is now one of them.

It was listed as part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area after a four-year protest in the 1970s where environmentalists blocked the path of bulldozers from logging one of the last remaining stands of subtropical rainforest in Australia.

Botanist and farmer Nan Nicholson was one of the original protesters.

Her property at Terania Creek was in the path of the Mt Nardi fire.

"To come here now just utterly breaks my heart, we never thought it would burn," she told 7.30.

"It's normally really wet here in Terania Creek.

"These forests are going to continue to burn if we have hotter drier, extreme heatwaves.

"All these forests that we thought we could possibly control fire in, suddenly we can't."

Ms Nicholson is worried about the climate change feedback loop that could be created if these forests keep burning.

"We know these rainforests are priceless and often they can't be replaced," she said.

"The sceptics, they say that climate has always changed, we know it's always changed, but this is extreme change that is off the charts.

"It's well known that these moist forests help produce rain.

"This is all going to alter as our rainforests diminish with drying and increased burning, then we'll have more heat and drying conditions, which will be a vicious cycle."

Marcus Mantscheff, the Captain of the Nimbin Rural Fire Brigade, watched the volunteers arriving with some trepidation.

An untrained volunteer workforce on a fire ground was potentially a safety nightmare for the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

"It just took on a life of its own and the offers of help started coming in so many ways," he told 7.30.

"There's a real safety risk to that, there's no room for heroes."

But rather than turn them away, the communities, with the help of their local brigades, got organised.

The Tuntable Falls Community Cooperative took the lead, developing a check-in and check-out system for all the Community Defenders, making sure they had a specific task and were safe, properly clothed and rested.

The local CWA cooked and delivered food for both the RFS and the Defenders.

The system was shared with the other communities across the valley.

Cawdor Ross became one of the Community Defenders.

"We were cutting big containment lines to stop the fire spreading," Mr Ross said.

"A lot of spot fire control, a lot of cutting down dead trees and raking up the composting debris so it was just bare dirt, nothing to burn.

"I certainly learnt the value of leaf blowers."

It was a risky experiment that paid off.

While the RFS volunteers fought the fire on the frontline, the Community Defenders did the work behind the scenes.

In the past, the RFS would have tried to do both.

"The communities sought good and strategic advice from us and they worked with us", Captain Mantscheff said.

"Huge control lines were being consolidated and constructed.

"Their marvellous feats of endurance to drive them and construct six-lane highways that would make it very difficult for the fire to get across.

"It made our firefighting job so much safer.

"It bought time and no one lost a home there because of the work that was being done.

"Man oh man, they stepped up in such a way that we, all of us in uniform, were just completely blown away and continue to be because they're still out there now."

The Mt Nardi fire is still classified as being controlled, with persistent flare-ups and breaches of the containment line.

The Community Defenders are still on high alert, rostered on for day and night patrols on the Mt Nardi containment lines.

They are also still working in teams with the local rural fire brigades to put the fire out in problem areas.

Despite this work and the predictions of worsening fire seasons, the Nimbin Brigade's Captain Mantscheff is not convinced the Community Defender model would work across the rest of the country.

"I'm very impressed by the way this community managed itself in this crisis," he said.

"But these communities are already intentional communities, there's already that fabric that exists there.

"I'm not too sure how that might work in a different area where there are private leaseholds and people don't know their neighbours as well.

"I'm not advocating what's going on, but I'm really glad that what happened here happened in the way that it did."

Nicole Raward, one of the people looking after the Defenders on Siddha Farm, believes there are lessons for other communities in what they have achieved.

"It possibly isn't something that can be a model that can be used in very high fire danger places, but the idea of preparing together is," she said.

"Getting together with your neighbours and making plans about your street.

"I don't think we are unique."

For local rural fire brigade driver Nick Adams, the Community Defenders have become vital members of his Brigade's firefighting effort.

"Without the volunteers' work we would not have contained this fire and they are working their guts out," he told 7.30.

"I'm so proud of them and it's very emotional, it's very emotional.

"We expect to have 20 new members at the end of this event and I am so happy about that.

"I'm so proud to be part of this community."


First posted December 09, 2019 20:27:29

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The Community Defenders helping to save a Gondwana rainforest from bushfire - ABC News

Election 2019: The latest attack on travelling communities – Red Pepper

On page 19 of its 2019 manifesto, the Conservative Party promises:

We will tackle unauthorised traveller camps. We will give the police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities. We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence, and we will also give councils greater powers within the planning system.

These words build on Home Secretary Priti Patels November 5 launch of a consultation on new police powers, following an initial consultation in AprilJune 2018. The timing of Patels announcement, its focus on settled communities and its inclusion in the manifesto reveal that the government are using prejudice against travelling communities to win votes.

The proposals could make trespass a crime resulting in prison, a fine or vehicles being confiscated. They promise to criminalise stopping on roads or beside them; to lower from six to two the number of vehicles sited on an unauthorised encampment before police action, and to increase the time trespassers are prohibited from an area from three to twelve months.

Such repressive measures risk inciting further hate towards travelling communities and disregard the issues behind unauthorised encampments, namely the governments failure to dedicate land to sites and stopping places. The Home Office proposals also ignore a key finding by Friends, Family and Travellers, a charity that works with Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, that the majority of police who responded to the governments initial consultation oppose increased eviction powers.

Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are subject to the UKs last acceptable form of racism and consequently experience extreme levels of exclusion, facing unsuitable housing, displacement and substandard service in health, education and the criminal justice system.

Their marginalisation results from a long history of UK government legislation targeting people seen to contradict the customs and norms of people who settle. The 16th century saw repressive laws threaten nomadic peoples with exile or death. In the 17th and 18th centuries, policy turned towards regulation.

From the 19th century onwards, seemingly benevolent approaches to nomadic peoples masked institutional desires to promote order. The growth of fascism across 20th century Europe resulted in the Roma holocaust, in which up to 500,000 people were murdered.

In the post-war period, spatial zoning initiatives instigated The Caravan Sites Act (1968) through which local councils allocated sites for travelling people, recognising their right to space. Thatchers neoliberal programme however departed from these more accepting politcies: the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) introduced following a series of moral panics over New Age Travellers and illegal raves withdrew councils duty to provide sites and capital grants, and granted police greater eviction powers.

Following New Labours assimilatory policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s, a decade of institutionally prejudiced policies and cuts have harmed travelling communities. A reduction in stopping places and authorised sites has left many with no choice but to use unauthorised encampments, which can cause clashes with local residents. The alternative for community members bricks-and-mortar housing poses an existential threat to their identity.

Labours Race and Faith manifesto promises to develop a comprehensive Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community equality strategy to tackle persistent inequalities, in particular within housing, education and criminal justice. It also promises that a Labour government would end racism and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, whatever their ethnicity, culture or background, whether settled or mobile, and protect the right to pursue a nomadic way of life.

The positive strategies a left-wing government could implement are still to be explored. Friends, Family and Travellers argue that focusing on service provision, as opposed to law enforcement, is vital for example, by restoring the legal duty on local authorities to offer official sites to travelling communities. But, ideas about special fixity need to be addressed.

Dualta Roughneed, author of The Right to Roam: Travellers and Human Rights in the Modern Nation-State (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) suggests that a flexible system of temporary sites, together with legislation to tackle the rigid perspectives of settler people, can help create an inclusive society.

London Gypsies and Travellers, a London-based charity, is meanwhile calling for a non-confrontational, negotiated stopping response to roadside camps, providing illustrations of how such an approach could work in practice.

In the face of increased right-wing ideology and rising racism, there has never been a more critical time to work towards a political project dedicated to commonality, pluralism and respect for travelling people.

The Tories direct attack on communities must be rejected, including by submitting a response to the consultation announced by Patel, which is open to the public until March 2020.If left uncontested, these dangerous proposals will intensify exclusions of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, incite prejudice and suppress their notions of identity and freedom.

Bethany Holmes is a writer and editor, focused on cultural theory and history in relation to urban space, activism and social justice.

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Election 2019: The latest attack on travelling communities - Red Pepper

What to Wear When Youre 28 and Running for Office – The Cut

In Her Shoes

A column about what real women wear when they need to get things done.

Photo: Gabriela Herman

Shahana Hanif is a 28-year-old activist and organizer who used to run a blog about her chronic illness. Now, shes running for New York City Council in the 39th District. She was spurred to become a candidate after helping a woman in her community a fellow Bangladeshi Muslim leave an abusive situation.

Women in politics frequently use fashion to communicate something larger than themselves. Think of Nancy Pelosis red burn coat, the Democratic women in matching suffragette white at last years State of the Union address, or, on the flip side, the deliberately icy blondes of Fox News and the Trump White House. Hanif knows this. As a young woman of color, shes intentional about what she wears because of comments she gets from veteran New York politicians, because she is a lupus survivor, and because each outfit is a chance to expand the definition of what professional dress looks like in progressive politics. We spoke with her about what she wears canvassing, shalwar kameez, and how she campaigns while managing a chronic illness.

On her everyday shoes: Im always on the go, moving within and across Brooklyn and communities throughout New York, always organizing. I might start a day riding my bike, since Im an active advocate for safe streets and designated bike lanes. Then, I might slip on my work loafers to meet with constituents to provide advocacy and support on pressing issues like domestic violence. I end the day at events or fundraisers in support of local community-based organizations, and for those Ill change into block-heel pumps. Most days, the shoe change isnt seamless, and Im moving about in one pair all day.

On dressing to honor her roots: I often wear a midi dress paired with pants that can be dressed up with an embroidered, paisley-print shawl. During the warmer months, Im likely to dress in colorful, printed cotton shalwar kameez, which is the original dress over pants and has roots in my Bangladeshi heritage.

Im a first-generation Bangladeshi woman, born and raised in Kensington, Brooklyn, the largest Bangladeshi Muslim community in Brooklyn. As kids, my sisters and I played on our block in flowy, bright shalwar kameez and Payless sneakers. Wed get made fun of for dressing like this, but now these very cuts, textiles, and concepts have proliferated in Western fashion. Wearing shalwar kameez is an act of reclamation.

When I was growing up, I often felt shame around wearing shalwar kameez or other traditional Bangladeshi or Islamic clothing in non-Bangladeshi or Muslim gatherings. This shame is rooted in white supremacy and the standards of professional-wear. While working to expand the electorate to include women like me in legislative and political leadership, I find it critical to challenge the politics around fashion and professionalism. I dont shy away from wearing a shari (sari) to public events.

Botkier Stella Block-Heel Pumps

Everlane Day Heel in Cognac Suede

Stuart Weitzman Laney Suede Pumps

On her personal style: Its never been easy to dress. I was a chubby kid. Lupus severely impacted my body and weight. Im between sizes 1014. And the truth is, its hard to feel comfortable in my skin or when entering rooms with all eyes on me, because Ive been taught larger bodies are not good bodies. But Im living in a time with fat fashionistas and influencers wearing whatever they choose to, confidently and fearlessly. Big love to Ushshi, Nabela Noor, Megan Jayne Crabbe, Fabliha Anbar, and Leah Vernon.

It is critical for me to dress for the body that has survived going under the knife for two full hip- and left-shoulder-replacement surgeries. Ive survived many months in the hospital, painful periods, medications, achy joints. Surviving and organizing in my community is an honor, and entering rooms tall and extra large, powerfully femme, and looking past the patriarchal bullshit is my aesthetic.

On her greatest challenge: Running for office with lupus is hard. I knew this, and its what paused my decision to run in the first place. Our electorate isnt a space for politicos with disabilities, degenerative diseases, or mental-health issues. But its also true that health care is one of the top issues impacting women, people of color, and immigrants. I have worked day in, day out to help immigrants in the district access health care and better understand their health insurance. Some days, I experience severe imposter syndrome. I remind myself Im capable and prepared. My ancestors are proud.

On fashion in politics: I love a powerful, monochromatic look, especially with a balloon-sleeve top. If you look at what Im wearing on my website, I drew inspiration from shalwar kameez, many of which are monochromatic-outfit sets. You cant see my shoes in that photo, but theyre also a shade of blue with a golden block heel.

When Ive been on the trail, men in New York City politics have said things to me like, Youre in a tough spot. You cant win in this district, or Im running maybe down the line, you can too, or I was an idealist like you in my 20s. You should pace yourself. Young women in politics are scrutinized for everything, from how we dress to whether were capable of running a city. Im confident that I can do both well.

Universal Standard Iris High-Neck Swiss-Dot Chiffon Top

Rachel Rachel Roy Felicity Sweater

Shahana wears Stuart Weitzman boots.

If you buy something through our link, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

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What to Wear When Youre 28 and Running for Office - The Cut

AISD Board worries about feelings of invasion as schools consolidate – KXAN.com

AUSTIN (KXAN) Austin Independent School Board members met Monday to discuss the next step in the districts plan to shutter four schools and what that transition will look like.

Over the next several days, a member of the districts transition team will be at each school the district plans to close: Metz, Pease, Sims and Brooke elementary schools.

When youre taking a whole community and putting them into another community, theres just as much research out there that that receiving community is affected academically as well as socially, emotionally, and so I would really prefer to see really specific lines in [the transition report] about how the receiving community is going to receive assistance, as well, Amber Elenz, a board trustee said.

Elenz represents the district where Pease Elementary is located.

Its one of the biggest concerns that Pease has expressed about doing this is they dont want to invade another school community, Elenz said. I think that the really heavy lifting in bringing those communities together has got to be very intentional.

She said these closures will not only affect four schools, but nine. Taking into consideration the schools where students from the closing schools will be transferred to this upcoming school year.

District leaders are also working on organizing planning teams for each one of these campuses. Each of these teams is different because the needs are different at each school.

However, some parents feel like theyve been left in the dark due to a lack of communication.

The concern I heard from some parents at Brooke (Elementary School) was that in the week or the days after the Board decision, there was a lot of confusion about what was going to happen and of course a lot of grief and so I was curious as to why there wasnt more outreach from staff to Brooke to communicate that A) were going to develop a really detailed plan, asked Ann Teich, District 4 Trustee. I know that counselors were on site, but when youre dealing with the amount of grief and anger that was on that campus, some of the counseling activities had no effect. So I think that parents would have felt a little bit better if they had this amount of detail available to them ASAP.

The districts associate superintendent, Gilbert Hicks acknowledges those issues and said theyre working on it.

We have been working with the Brooke principal to develop the plan and so its now ready to share with the community but we havent done that yet the details of it. The overall plan but not the details, Hicks said.

Another issue, many have wondered what will happen with the closing schools history. Several parents have told KXAN they attended Metz, and so did their parents and grandparents. Many are hoping the schools history will be preserved. The transition team says that history will be preserved but did not give details on what that might look like.

A parent meeting is scheduled at Pease to gather their input. At present, two tours at Zavala have taken place with each tour consisting of 30 parents each.


AISD Board worries about feelings of invasion as schools consolidate - KXAN.com

Monday’s Daily Brief: increasing inequality, human rights and climate, civil war crimes, Ethiopia reforms – UN News

Inequality risks splitting society apart on scale not seen since industrial revolution

A new generation of inequalities risks splitting communities around the world on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution. Thats the message from the 2019 Human Development Report, produced by the UN Development Programme, UNDP.

The report suggests that, although people worldwide have seen some progress in securing access to education, healthcare and technology, disparities are high, or increasing, between the so-called haves and have-nots.

Taking the example of two 20-year-olds the first from a developed country and the second from a poor one - UNDP said that while the first individual was likely to be a healthy, highly-skilled graduate, the second was much less likely to be alive.

Achim Steiner, head of the UN agency that produced the report, highlighted the wave of demonstrations sweeping across countries as a sign that something in our globalized society is not working.

Full story here

Protection for besieged communities has been given a boost after International Criminal Court (ICC) States Parties agreed to prosecute intentional starvation in civil wars as a war crime.

The move, brought by Switzerland, amends the courts statute, which already includes starvation as a war crime, but only for international conflicts.

The initiative received the unanimous support of 122 member states to the court in The Hague at last weeks annual meeting.

In a statement, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said that the majority of the over 800 million people who suffer from hunger every day, live in conflict zones.

The fact that the International Criminal Court will now be able to prosecute such acts as a war crime will help to prevent this crime and bring justice to victims, the Swiss ministry maintained.

Meanwhile, the impact of climate change on human rights was raised by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, ahead of Human Rights Day, which takes place on Tuesday.

In a message to mark the day on 10 December 1948 when UN Member States adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Ms. Bachelet asked whether world leaders today still stand by the UNs opening statement, that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Highlighting how 2019 had seen tremendous activism by millions of young people over the climate emergency, the High Commissioner insisted that hostile nationalism and short-term financial gain would tear our world apart.World leaders everywhere should do more to fight discrimination, Ms. Bachelet said, and reply to peoples concerns with more effective, and more principled strategies.

Ethiopia is embarking on a reform process that is both encouraging and fragile, David Kaye, an independent human rights expert, declared on Monday, following a week-long visit to the country.

In his preliminary statement on Ethiopia, Mr. Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said that the situation in the country has changed dramatically, since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who will receive the Nobel Peace Prize on 10 December initiated change by ending the state of emergency, freeing journalists and human rights defenders, and opening up civil society, just 18 months ago.

However, Mr. Kaye noted that these efforts are only the start of a process that will take years of legal and policy commitment, and persistent dedication to public participation and human rights oversight.

Hate speech in the media, he warned, remains a major cause of concern, and poses a threat to the stability of the process. In October, for example, 86 people were reportedly killed in unrest attributed partially, he said, due to an environment of hate speech and disinformation, including on social networks.

With elections due in May 2020, Mr. Kaye urged the Government to renew its efforts to promote and protect freedom of expression, take strong measures to combat any forms of harassment, attacks or violence against journalists, protesters and anyone exercising her right to expression, and strengthen a national dialogue and tolerance across the country.

Read the statement here

Listen to or download our audio News in Brief for 9December on SoundCloud:

Continued here:

Monday's Daily Brief: increasing inequality, human rights and climate, civil war crimes, Ethiopia reforms - UN News