Saturday, January 31, 2009

Springfield City Council wants to mess with new marijuana law

We simply have got to change our Arise board meeting so it's not on the same night as Springfield City Council speak-out!

Councilor James Ferrara plans to introduce an ordinance to add an additional $300 fine (on top of the $100 fine in the new state ordinance approved last election day) to anyone seen smoking marijuana in public. See the Springfield Republican story here.

"It's not to circumvent the will of the voters. They have spoken. We're just going to try to address qualify-of-life issues in the city," Ferrera said.

Yes, we DID speak, and what we said was a $100 fine, not $400!!!!

I would suggest
  • That we draft a letter at the board meeting opposing tampering with the new law and send it to the newspaper and Springfield City Council
  • Call and email city councilors.

2009 Springfield City Councilors

James J. Ferrera, III
33 Palmyra Street, 01118
Home: 351-6657
Email: jferrera1@verizon.net

William T. Foley, President
221 Wildwood Avenue, 01118
Home: 783-2201

Patrick J. Markey
17 Oxford Street, 01108
Home: 746-5512
Email: pmarkey@ogklaw.com
Website: www.patmarkey.com

Rosemarie Mazza-Moriarty
95 Osborne Terrace, 01104
Home: 781-3908
Email: moefamily@netzero.com

Timothy J. Rooke
50 Overlook Drive, 01118
Home: 747-1825

Bruce W. Stebbins, Vice President
19 Mattoon Street, 01105
Home: 734-6216
email: BStebbins@nam.org

Jose Tosado
22 Birch Glen Drive, 01129
Home: 782-2678

Kateri Walsh
42 Magnolia Terrace, 01108
Home: 781-8042
Email: kwalsh@springfieldcityhall.com
Website: kateriwalsh.com

Bud L. Williams
71 Joanne Road, 01119
Home: 783-9592



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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

news from the Justice for Jason Campaign

The following are updates on the case as well as the grassroots movement. Please read this and stay updated by going to our website at www.justiceforjason.org Thank you for your continued support for Jason.

MOTION TO DISMISS

On Monday, December 29th, Jason Vassell's defense submitted a motion to dismiss Vassell's indictment, No. 08-56, "on the ground that the defendant has been selectively prosecuted because of his race, in violation of the rights guaranteed him by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Articles I and XII of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights." Click here to read the motion : http://www.justiceforjason.org/motion

A HEARING ON THIS MOTION WILL BE ON WEDNESDAY FEB. 18TH AT 2PM

(15 Gothic St, Northampton MA)

YEAR ANNIVERSARY

February 3rd 2009 marks ONE YEAR that Jason has been victim of a racist hate crime and a horrific racist prosecution. As the prosecution continues its violent attack on Jason's life, we are calling on people throughout the region to join us for a DAY OF SHAME.

MARCH WITH US ON TUESDAY FEB 3 FOR THE DAY SHAME (for details click here: http://www.justiceforjason.org/dayofshame) Meet us outside Mackimmie Dorm (Southwest) UMASS at 11:30AM

CAN'T MARCH? JOIN US IN A CALL-IN DAY TO THE DA'S OFFICE or do BOTH (for details click here: http://www.justiceforjason.org/feb-3-national-call-in-day )

HELP US GET PETITION SIGNATURES-if you've already signed it get 5-10+ of your friends to sign. Please help us get 10,000 signatures before Feb.3rd. Forward this link to as many people as possible http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/J4JDismissalofcharges/

WANT TO GET MORE INVOLVED?

Interested in working towards our national campaign? Have national contacts i.e. organizations, friends, family, or coworkers in other states? If you want to help continue raising awareness and mobilizing support for Jason please get in touch with us at mobilizingforjason@gmail.com College Valley students please email J4JValleycolleges@gmail.com

WEBSITE
Our website is constantly being updated and has recently been improved. Please visit it for more updates on the case and upcoming events: www.justiceforjason.org

Thank You again for your support.

In strength,
The Committee for Justice for Jason

ALSO!!!!

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21 ’09 6 P.M. Grace Episcopal Church Parish Hall, Amherst

A COMMUNITY AUCTION & community action for Justice for Jason...

Our goal: to help Jason Vassell and his family w/ his legal fees.

CAN YOU DONATE AN ITEM OR SERVICE?
Original art & crafts, gift certificates, food baskets et.al, getaways, jewelry, services: home, professional, babysitting, gardening, music, recreational, dinners - get the idea?

This auction is community sponsored & supported.
SUPPORT JASON & SUPPORT JUSTICE IN THE VALLEY!
CALL SOON !
Louise: 413-549-3630 louise.antony@gmail.com or
Emily:413-256-1760 lewis.emily@comcast.net


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Guantanamo AND here in the States...

The New York Times



January 28, 2009

Another Jail Death, and Mounting Questions

He lived 42 of his 48 years in the United States, and had the words “Raised American” tattooed on his shoulder. But Guido R. Newbrough was born German, and he died in November as an immigration detainee of a Virginia jail, his heart devastated by an overwhelming bacterial infection.

His family and fellow detainees say the infection went untreated, despite his mounting pleas for medical care in the 10 days before his death. Instead, after his calls for help grew insistent, detainees said, guards at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Va., threw him to the floor, dragged him away as he cried out in pain, and locked him in an isolation cell.

Mr. Newbrough, a construction worker who had served jail time for molesting a girlfriend’s young daughter, was found unresponsive in the cell several days later, on Nov. 27, and died at a hospital the next day without regaining consciousness. An autopsy report last week cited a virulent staph infection as an underlying cause of his death from endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves that is typically cured with antibiotics.

Accounts of Mr. Newbrough’s last days echo other cases of deaths in immigration custody, including one at the same jail in December 2006, which prompted a review by immigration officials that found the medical unit so lacking that they concluded, “Detainee health care is in jeopardy.”

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement never released those findings, even when asked about allegations of neglect in that death, of Abdoulai Sall, 50, a Guinea-born mechanic with no criminal record whose kidneys failed over several weeks. Instead, officials defended care in that case and other deaths as Congress and the news media questioned medical practices in the patchwork of county jails, private prisons and federal detention centers under contract to hold noncitizens while the government tries to deport them.

The 2006 report — and a set of talking points the agency produced for its press officers to use when discussing deaths in detention — were only recently obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act; the group provided copies to The New York Times, which first reported Mr. Sall’s death.

“This facility has failed on multiple levels to perform basic supervision and provide for the safety and welfare of ICE detainees,” the six-page report concluded shortly after he died. “The medical health care unit does not meet minimum ICE standards.”

The report said the jail had failed to respond adequately as Mr. Sall grew sicker, and that even when he was found unconscious on the floor, employees “stood around for approximately one minute” before trying to revive him. The jail’s superintendent, who said he never saw the report, adamantly denied those conclusions this week.

But Tom Jawetz, a lawyer with the civil liberties union’s National Prison Project, said the new death at the same jail underscored the lack of accountability in immigration detention nationwide.

“Piedmont is a facility that was understaffed and underresponsive to clear medical needs,” Mr. Jawetz said. “The reports of Mr. Newbrough’s death raise serious questions about whether those failures were ever remedied.”

Asked Monday what measures it had taken after Mr. Sall’s death, the immigration agency promised a response but did not provide one. Kelly A. Nantel, a spokeswoman, said earlier that an investigation of Mr. Newbrough’s death was under way.

The 780-bed Piedmont jail, run by governments of six Virginia counties, typically houses about 300 immigration detainees, and is now down to fewer than 150. But Ms. Nantel denied rumors that the agency was pulling them out, as it did last month at a detention center in Central Falls, R.I., where a Chinese computer engineer’s extensive cancer and fractured spine went undiagnosed until shortly before his death on Aug. 6.

In that case, investigators for the federal immigration agency found that the engineer, Hiu Lui Ng, had been denied proper medical treatment, and dragged from his cell to a van as he screamed in pain six days before his death.

The parallels with detainee accounts of Mr. Newbrough’s treatment are striking to Jeff Winder, an organizer for the grass-roots Virginia group People United, who was contacted by several inmates at Piedmont who also spoke to a reporter. The latest death has heightened the group’s opposition to plans by private developers and city officials to build another immigration detention center in Farmville, with 1,000 to 2,500 beds.

“ICE has no obligation to send detainees there after the next detainee dies,” Mr. Winder said. “Farmville could be left with the reputation as a place where detainees die of medical neglect.”

Ernest L. Toney, the jail superintendent, denied accounts that Mr. Newbrough had been mistreated, saying, “That is not our protocol here.” He referred all other questions about his death to the federal immigration agency.

But Dr. Homer D. Venters, an expert in detention health care who learned about the case from Mr. Newbrough’s family and reviewed the autopsy, said available evidence showed violations of detention standards that let the detainee’s treatable local infections rage out of control. Dr. Venters, a public health fellow at New York University, was critical of the medical care in immigration detention when he testified last year at a Congressional subcommittee hearing, and is on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement advisory group.

“First, Mr. Newbrough’s medical complaints were apparently ignored,” he wrote in a preliminary analysis of the case for Mr. Newbrough’s parents. “Second, Mr. Newbrough was placed in a disciplinary setting while ill and despite having voiced medical complaints. Third, Mr. Newbrough was not adequately (if at all) medically monitored” in the isolation cell.

During those last days, Dr. Venters added in an interview, even guards should have noticed that Mr. Newbrough was in critical condition as the bacteria colonizing his heart broke loose, creating abscesses in his brain, liver and kidneys. “When endocarditis is not treated, it kills people,” he said. With modern hospital care, the death rate is 25 percent or less.

“We were sitting here, powerless,” said Mr. Newbrough’s stepfather, Jack Newbrough, 70, a former Air Force sergeant who met Guido’s mother, Heidi, and Guido, then 2, when he was stationed in their native Germany. “I am just so disappointed in my country, this homeland security system they got set up.”

Mrs. Newbrough, 65, said her son, who had an estranged wife and three American-born children, had quit drinking after serving 11 months for molestation and, on probation, moved back to his childhood home in Manassas, Va., from a trailer park in Stafford. A 1999 article about life in the park, in the first issue of Tina Brown’s Talk magazine, featured him prominently — under the rubric “Dialing America.”

“Nobody knew he wasn’t American,” his mother said. “Even he didn’t know. He found out the day they picked him up here.”

His arrest last February, immigration records show, was a result of Operation Coldplay, which combs probation records to find past sex offenders whose immigration status makes them deportable. Mr. Newbrough had taken what is known as an Alford plea to charges of “indecent liberties with a minor,” and aggravated sexual battery in 2002 — denying his guilt, but acknowledging that prosecutors had evidence that could cause a jury to convict him of molesting his girlfriend’s 4-year-old.

Mr. Newbrough, who spoke no German, would have automatically become a citizen if his American-born stepfather had formally adopted him when he was a child, or if his mother had been naturalized while he was a minor, rather than just four years ago.

While Mr. Newbrough waited at Piedmont for nine months, an immigration lawyer argued that he had derived citizenship from his stepfather. An immigration judge disagreed. The appeal was pending in mid-November when Mr. Newbrough began to complain in phone calls of terrible back pain and stomach aches, his family said. When they urged him to tell the medical staff, they said, he replied: “ ‘I did. They just don’t care.’ ”

Several detainees interviewed by telephone last week said that in the two weeks before Thanksgiving, Mr. Newbrough’s back pain grew so bad that he began sobbing through the night, and some in the 90-man unit took turns making him hot compresses. By the Sunday before Thanksgiving, he was desperate, two detainees said, and banged at the door of the unit’s lunchroom, yelling for help. They said by the time guards responded, he was seated at a table.

“They told him to get up, and he said he couldn’t get up because he was in a lot of pain,” said Salvador Alberto Rivas, who identified himself as Mr. Newbrough’s bunk mate, awaiting deportation to El Salvador. “Because of the pain, he started crying, and he was trying to tell them he had put in requests for medical and didn’t get any. And then one of the guards threw him to the floor.”

“They drag him by his leg, in front of about 30 people,” said another detainee, who gave his name only as Jose for fear of retaliation, adding that many witnesses had since been transferred to other jails or deported.

“We didn’t know that he was dying,” added Jose, who wrote about the case in a letter published online by a Spanish weekly. “They took him to the hole. He was yelling for help in the hole, too.”

That information, he said, came from a detainee in the isolation section at the same time, but since deported, who was so upset by Mr. Newbrough’s death that he left his name and alien registration number — Rene Cordoba Palma, No. 088424581 — in case anyone wanted his testimony.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Crack Babies - the epidemic that wasn't

New York Times BALTIMORE — One sister is 14; the other is 9. They are a vibrant pair: the older girl is high-spirited but responsible, a solid student and a devoted helper at home; her sister loves to read and watch cooking shows, and she recently scored well above average on citywide standardized tests.

There would be nothing remarkable about these two happy, normal girls if it were not for their mother’s history. Yvette H., now 38, admits that she used cocaine (along with heroin and alcohol) while she was pregnant with each girl. “A drug addict,” she now says ruefully, “isn’t really concerned about the baby she’s carrying.”

When the use of crack cocaine became a nationwide epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, there were widespread fears that prenatal exposure to the drug would produce a generation of severely damaged children. Newspapers carried headlines like “Cocaine: A Vicious Assault on a Child,” “Crack’s Toll Among Babies: A Joyless View” and “Studies: Future Bleak for Crack Babies.”

But now researchers are systematically following children who were exposed to cocaine before birth, and their findings suggest that the encouraging stories of Ms. H.’s daughters are anything but unusual. So far, these scientists say, the long-term effects of such exposure on children’s brain development and behavior appear relatively small.

“Are there differences? Yes,” said Barry M. Lester, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University who directs the Maternal Lifestyle Study, a large federally financed study of children exposed to cocaine in the womb. “Are they reliable and persistent? Yes. Are they big? No.”

Cocaine is undoubtedly bad for the fetus. But experts say its effects are less severe than those of alcohol and are comparable to those of tobacco — two legal substances that are used much more often by pregnant women, despite health warnings.

Surveys by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2006 and 2007 found that 5.2 percent of pregnant women reported using any illicit drug, compared with 11.6 percent for alcohol and 16.4 percent for tobacco.

“The argument is not that it’s O.K. to use cocaine in pregnancy, any more than it’s O.K. to smoke cigarettes in pregnancy,” said Dr. Deborah A. Frank, a pediatrician at Boston University. “Neither drug is good for anybody.”

But cocaine use in pregnancy has been treated as a moral issue rather than a health problem, Dr. Frank said. Pregnant women who use illegal drugs commonly lose custody of their children, and during the 1990s many were prosecuted and jailed.

Cocaine slows fetal growth, and exposed infants tend to be born smaller than unexposed ones, with smaller heads. But as these children grow, brain and body size catch up.

At a scientific conference in November, Dr. Lester presented an analysis of a pool of studies of 14 groups of cocaine-exposed children — 4,419 in all, ranging in age from 4 to 13. The analysis failed to show a statistically significant effect on I.Q. or language development. In the largest of the studies, I.Q. scores of exposed children averaged about 4 points lower at age 7 than those of unexposed children.

In tests that measure specific brain functions, there is evidence that cocaine-exposed children are more likely than others to have difficulty with tasks that require visual attention and “executive function” — the brain’s ability to set priorities and pay selective attention, enabling the child to focus on the task at hand.

Cocaine exposure may also increase the frequency of defiant behavior and poor conduct, according to Dr. Lester’s analysis. There is also some evidence that boys may be more vulnerable than girls to behavior problems.

But experts say these findings are quite subtle and hard to generalize. “Just because it is statistically significant doesn’t mean that it is a huge public health impact,” said Dr. Harolyn M. Belcher, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician who is director of research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Family Center in Baltimore.

And Michael Lewis, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., said that in a doctor’s office or a classroom, “you cannot tell” which children were exposed to cocaine before birth.

He added that factors like poor parenting, poverty and stresses like exposure to violence were far more likely to damage a child’s intellectual and emotional development — and by the same token, growing up in a stable household, with parents who do not abuse alcohol or drugs, can do much to ease any harmful effects of prenatal drug exposure.

Possession of crack cocaine, the form of the drug that was widely sold in inner-city, predominantly black neighborhoods, has long been punished with tougher sentences than possession of powdered cocaine, although both forms are identically metabolized by the body and have the same pharmacological effects.

Dr. Frank, the pediatrician in Boston, says cocaine-exposed children are often teased or stigmatized if others are aware of their exposure. If they develop physical symptoms or behavioral problems, doctors or teachers are sometimes too quick to blame the drug exposure and miss the real cause, like illness or abuse.

“Society’s expectations of the children,” she said, “and reaction to the mothers are completely guided not by the toxicity, but by the social meaning” of the drug.

Research on the health effects of illegal drugs, especially on unborn children, is politically loaded. Researchers studying children exposed to cocaine say they struggle to interpret their findings for the public without exaggerating their significance — or minimizing it, either.

Dr. Lester, the leader of the Maternal Lifestyle Study, noted that the evidence for behavioral problems strengthened as the children in his study and others approached adolescence. Researchers in the study are collecting data on 14-year-olds, he said, adding: “Absolutely, we need to continue to follow these kids. For the M.L.S., the main thing we’re interested in is whether or not prenatal cocaine exposure predisposes you to early-onset drug use in adolescence” or other mental health problems.

Researchers have long theorized that prenatal exposure to a drug may make it more likely that the child will go on to use it. But so far, such a link has been scientifically reported only in the case of tobacco exposure.

Teasing out the effects of cocaine exposure is complicated by the fact that like Yvette H., almost all of the women in the studies who used cocaine while pregnant were also using other substances.

Moreover, most of the children in the studies are poor, and many have other risk factors known to affect cognitive development and behavior — inadequate health care, substandard schools, unstable family situations and exposure to high levels of lead. Dr. Lester said his group’s study was large enough to take such factors into account.

Ms. H., who agreed to be interviewed only on the condition that her last name and her children’s first names not be used, said she entered a drug and alcohol treatment program about six years ago, after losing custody of her children.

Another daughter, born after Ms. H. recovered from drug and alcohol abuse, is thriving now at 3. Her oldest, a 17-year-old boy, is the only one with developmental problems: he is autistic. But Ms. H. said she did not use cocaine, alcohol or other substances while pregnant with him.

After 15 months without using drugs or alcohol, Ms. H. regained custody and moved into Dayspring House, a residential program in Baltimore for women recovering from drug abuse, and their children.

There she received psychological counseling, parenting classes, job training and coaching on how to manage her finances. Her youngest attended Head Start, the older children went to local schools and were assigned household chores, and the family learned how to talk about their problems.

Now Ms. H. works at a local grocery, has paid off her debts, has her own house and is actively involved in her children’s schooling and health care. She said regaining her children’s trust took a long time. “It’s something you have to constantly keep working on,” she said.

Dr. Belcher, who is president of Dayspring’s board of directors, said such programs offered evidence-based interventions for the children of drug abusers that can help minimize the chances of harm from past exposure to cocaine or other drugs.

“I think we can say this is an at-risk group,” Dr. Belcher said. “But they have great potential to do well if we can mobilize resources around the family.”

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Williams wants police commission back

Councilor calls for police board

Saturday, January 24, 2009
By PETER GOONAN
pgoonan@repub.com
SPRINGFIELD - A city councilor says that he will sponsor a city ordinance to resurrect the Police Commission, having lost faith in a mayoral advisory board that currently reviews citizen complaints against the police.
"It needs to be corrected," said City Councilor Bud L. Williams this week, in proposing the ordinance. "We need to go back to the Police Commission so residents will have full trust in the system."
Williams's action comes after news that the nine-member Community Complaint Review Board recently evaluated a case involving a man shot by police during a traffic stop, without ever speaking to the injured person or his lawyer.
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"I am at the end of the road with this process after the latest situation," Williams said. "I am not saying people are innocent or guilty, but there should have been an airing out. The transparency isn't there. Things are done behind closed doors."
A five-member Police Commission was abolished in 2005, and its disciplinary powers were shifted to the newly created position of police commissioner.
Thomas T. Walsh, a spokesman for Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, said that Williams's proposed ordinance would be "null and void" because it would conflict with the ordinance creating the police commissioner, approved by the city's Finance Control Board.
Denise R. Jordan, the review board coordinator and Sarno's chief-of-staff, said that Williams supported the review board when it was created in September 2007 by former Mayor Charles V. Ryan. The board serves to review civilian complaints against the police and to serve as a link with the community.
The review board, as requested by the mayor, is evaluating if its scope, and authority should change, said Jordan.
Williams is among councilors who have been critical of the review board because of its closed-door meetings and strictly advisory nature.
Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett, ruled last September that the board is not bound by the state's Open Meeting Law, because it is strictly advisory to the mayor and police commissioner, and not a governmental body.
"All I want is transparency and an open process," Williams said. "I don't care what the district attorney and mayor say. It's just not right."
Walsh said the review board never spoke to the person shot, Louis Jiles, 18, or his lawyer, because it was not within the board's charter. It reviews "the determination made by the Internal Investigation Unit to make sure the findings were thorough and fair," he said.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Justice for Jason

February 3: NATIONAL CALL-IN DAY!

On February 3rd, 2009–the one year anniversary of the hate crime against Jason–organizations and citizens throughout the country will be calling into the Northampton District Attorney’s Office to demand Justice For Jason. Throughout the country folks are infuriated at the racist prosecution that has already taken a year of his life and is threatening to take away 30 more years! Join the effort by signing up to call the DA and DEMAND JUSTICE FOR JASON!

The phone number for the office of Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel is (413) 586-5150 . You are welcome to call anytime. We respectfully ask that your calls be respectful in tone.

In order to help us coordinate the National Call-In Day, we would appreciate if you and/or your organization made a commitment by signing the pledge here:

http://www.justiceforjason.org/pledge

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

First hand from Gaza

The Strongest Weapon of All
By
Kathy Kelly, Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence
January 19, 2009

Dr. Atallah Tarazi, a General Surgeon at Gaza City's Shifaa Hospital, invited us to meet him in his home, in Gaza City, just a few blocks away from the Shifaa Hospital.

Early this morning, he and his family returned to their home after having fled five days earlier when the bombing attacks on Gaza City had become so fierce that they feared for their lives. "Believe me, when I would drive from the hospital to the place where my family was staying, I prayed all the way," said Dr. Tarazi, "because the Israelis would shoot anyone on the roads at night."

Dr. Tarzi has been practicing medicine as a General Surgeon all of his adult life. Now, at age 61, he says he has never seen such terrible and ugly wounds as he saw during the past three weeks when he and a surgical team tried to help numerous patients with broken limbs, shrapnel wounds, and severe burns. Neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons, orthopedic and general surgeons worked together on patients, as a team, trying to save them, but there were many whose lives they couldn't save. He described patients with shrapnel wounds in their eyes, faces, chests, and abdomens, patients whose legs were amputated above the lower limbs. Most, he said, were civilians.

"These are strange ways of destroying the human body," said Dr. Tarazi. "Please, come tomorrow to the Burn Unit, and you will see patients suffering from the use of white phosphorous."

Dr. Tarazi said that he began to understand the extent of the trauma and danger by listening to the stories of wounded and injured patients.

"Some were sitting in their houses when a tank bomb hit them. They didn't know what happened to them," said Dr. Attalah. "Survivors would reach the hospital after many of their relatives had been killed."

Patients from Beit Lahia told him that in one home, an extended family of 25 people had been attacked while inside their home. When relatives came to help them, Israeli snipers shot eight of them. Many of the wounded were left to die. Ambulances and Red Cross relief workers weren't allowed to enter the area.

At one point, Israel announced a lull in the fighting, but then bombed the Palestine Square, near the municipal offices. Four people came to the hospital, severely injured. "We couldn't save them," said Dr. Tarazi. "Seven others were injured, and they survived."

"In Gaza City, all of the important buildings necessary for maintaining a city have been bombed," said Dr. Tarazi. "From ministries to civilian police stations, all have been destroyed. Some were Hamas buildings, but not all."
We had just walked through the area where the buildings housing ministries of justice, education, and culture were completely destroyed. Driving into Gaza City we saw mosques, factories, houses and schools reduced to rubble. We asked Dr. Tarazi to tell us why, in his opinion, the Israelis had attacked Gaza so fiercely.

He believes that the attacks are essentially irrational but that a main cause for the timing and the magnitude of these attacks is that certain Israeli candidates for upcoming elections want to assure the Israeli public that they are willing to use military force to insure security for Israelis. "Palestinians all the time pay the taxes in blood," said Dr. Tarazi.

"One of the worst aspects of this war," says Dr. Tarazi, "is the lack of respect for the UN. Three United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools were bombed. In Jabaliyah, more than 45 people were killed at a UN school; F16s bombed UNRWA supplies and stores."

"In Shifaa Hospital, we saw plumes of smoke for day and night. All Gaza, every day, was covered with smoke and chemicals. We don't know how it affects the health."

"Yes, 'rocklets' did go out," says Dr. Tarazi, referring to Hamas rockets fired into Israeli towns, "and we felt sympathy for any Israelis hurt by the rocklets. But, if someone hurts you with a pin, you don't cut off his head. You ask WHY the person tried to prick you with a pin. Consider that people here are trapped in a prison and there is a shortage of everything. No one can repair anything. People wanted borders opened so that goods could come and go. After six months of closed borders, people are frustrated. Now, one side declares a cease fire, they say nothing about opening the borders, nothing about withdrawal, and yet they want NATO to help tighten the siege."

"I hope President Obama will be much better than George Bush concerning these things," said Dr. Tarazi. "Human beings that have such a strong army should be civilized and not behave like a terrorist group. Fanatics can be expected to use terror, but a democratic state shouldn't use fallacious statements as an excuse for massive killing. A state which does this should be brought before an International Court of Justice."

"And yet," he said, "we must experiment with ways of love. We are trying, with Jewish people…by feelings and actions. We need to succeed. We need to live together. We are trying to be in good relations with all the partners, all the views."

"The strongest weapon all over the world is love," says Dr. Tarazi, adding that he has always believed this and has said this to his colleagues, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, throughout his career. He recalled declaring this same belief at the Eretz border crossing, shortly after the Israelis launched "Operation Cast Lead." He had been among the 200 Christians who were chosen (800 had applied) to cross the border and celebrate the Orthodox Christmas holiday with family members in the West Bank. When the attacks began, he ended his holiday and hurried to the border, knowing he must return to his work and his family. At the border crossing, he greeted soldiers, "Merry Christmas." Soldiers answered, "Do you have weapons?" "Yes," Dr. Tarazi replied, "I have the strongest weapon of all, the weapon of love."


Worse Than an Earthquake
by
Kathy Kelly
January 21, 2009--Gaza--Traffic on Sea Street, a major thoroughfare alongside Gaza's coastline, includes horses, donkeys pulling carts, cyclists, pedestrians, trucks and cars, mostly older models. Overhead, in stark contrast to the street below, Israel's ultra modern unmanned surveillance planes criss-cross the skies. F16s and helicopters can also be heard. Remnants of their deliveries, the casings of missiles, bombs and shells used during the past three weeks of Israeli attacks, are scattered on the ground.
Workers have cleared most of the roads. Now, they are removing massive piles of wreckage and debris, much as people do following an earthquake. "Yet, all the world helps after an earthquake," said a doctor at the Shifaa hospital in Gaza. "We feel very frustrated," he continued. "The West, Europe and the U.S., watched this killing go on for 22 days, as though they were watching a movie, watching the killing of women and children without doing anything to stop it. I was expecting to die at any moment. I held my babies and expected to die. There was no safe place in Gaza."
He and his colleagues are visibly exhausted, following weeks of work in the Intensive Care and Emergency Room departments at a hospital that received many more patients than they could help. "Patients died on the floor of the operating room because we had only six operating rooms," said Dr. Saeed Abuhassan, M.D, an ICU doctor who grew up in Chicago. "And really we don't know enough about the kinds of weapons that have been used against Gaza."
In 15 years of practice, Dr. Abuhassan says he never saw burns like those he saw here. The burns, blackish in color, reached deep into the muscles and bones. Even after treatment was begun, the blackish color returned.
Two of the patients were sent to Egypt because they were in such critical condition. They died in Egypt. But when autopsies were done, reports showed that the cause of death was poisoning from elements of white phosphorous that had entered their systems, causing cardiac arrests.
In Gaza City, The Burn Unit's harried director, a plastic surgeon and an expert in treating burns, told us that after encountering cases they'd never seen before, doctors at the center performed a biopsy on a patient they believed may have suffered chemical burns and sent the sample to a lab in Egypt. The results showed elements of white phosphorous in the tissue.
The doctor was interrupted by a phone call from a farmer who wanted to know whether it was safe to eat the oranges he was collecting from groves that had been uprooted and bombed during the Israeli invasion. The caller said the oranges had an offensive odor and that when the workers picked them up their hands became itchy.
Audrey Stewart had just spent the morning with Gazan farmers in Tufaa, a village near the border between Gaza and Israel. Israeli soldiers had first evacuated people, then dynamited the houses, then used bulldozers to clear the land, uprooting the orange tree groves. Many people, including children, were picking through the rubble, salvaging belongings and trying to collect oranges. At one point, people began shouting at Audrey, warning her that she was standing next to an unexploded rocket.
The doctor put his head in his hands, after listening to Audrey's report. "I told them to wash everything very carefully. But these are new situations. Really, I don't know how to respond," he said.
Yet he spoke passionately about what he knew regarding families that had been burned or crushed to death when their homes were bombed. "Were their babies a danger to anyone?" he asked us.
"They are lying to us about democracy and Western values," he continued, his voice shaking. "If we were sheep and goats, they would be more willing to help us."
Dr. Saeed Abuhassan was bidding farewell to the doctors he'd worked with in Gaza. He was returning to his work in the United Arab Emirates. But before leaving, he paused to give us a word of advice. "You know, the most important thing you can tell people in your country is that U.S. people paid for many of the weapons used to kill people in Gaza," said Dr. Saeed Abuhassan. "And this, also, is why it's worse than an earthquake."
Kathy Kelly (kath@vcnv.or) is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org http://www.vcnv.org/> ) She and Audrey Stewart have been in Gaza for the past six days.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Next Economic Justice Meeting

Our Economic Justice Committee meeting will be this Thursday, January 29, at 6 pm at the Arise office. All welcome! Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Needle Exchange in Springfield...?!

Legislation has been introduced to lift the Federal ban on needle exchange....and is backed by President Obama (read the article below)!! So, we now have Ward Representation in Springfield (well, for the November 2009 election), which should bring about support for needle exchange...and, possibly, support from the Federal Government to put forth the practical and successful harm reduction approach of syringe exchange to slow the rate of HIV infection among injection drug users. Could this be another victory in Springfield (...and beyond)?

Obama's HIV Fix: Syringe Exchange Is a Major Component

By Allan Clear, AlterNet
Posted on January 17, 2009, Printed on January 20, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/120548/

What if we had a mechanism that stopped the spread of HIV that experts had speculated would work even before the cause of AIDS had been identified and that subsequent scientific enquiry confirmed was effective? We do, that mechanism is syringe exchange.

What if we had national governments dating back to President Ronald Reagan that knew what worked and yet fought against it, lied to the public, bullied local governments and generally saw the spread of HIV as justified, purely because the population that was affected was drug users, and drug use is addressed in the United States by making it as dangerous as possible?

What if men, women and children had been needlessly infected with HIV purely to teach them the "evil of their ways?" And what if we knew that the majority of these people were African American or Latino? Sadly, this is an exact description of the political response to syringe exchange and to the HIV epidemic among injection-drug users in the United States.

A ban on syringe exchange has existed in the United States since 1988, when Congress prohibited funding to support syringe exchange. In order to overturn the ban, it had been incumbent on the surgeon general to determine that syringe exchange prevents the spread of HIV and does not increase drug use. Evidence to support these conditions has been met repeatedly.

In 1998, under President Bill Clinton, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala certified scientific evidence in support of syringe exchange as a valid public-health intervention, however Clinton did not act to have the ban lifted. The irony is that because of the ban, syringe-exchange research exists in abundance, and it is irrefutable that it is an effective means to stop the spread of HIV.

Not only is syringe exchange effective in halting the transmission of HIV, evidence from New York demonstrates that hepatitis C (HCV) transmission rates among injection-drug users can also be significantly lowered. The incidence of HCV infection among drug injectors has begun to drop from 80 percent to below 40 percent among newer injectors.

Harm-reduction services, such as syringe exchange, promote the prevention of HCV, as well as make medical treatment and social services more readily available to people who are living with HCV. The maintenance of the ban on syringe exchange callously excludes drug users from receiving essential prevention-and-intervention services and carries a symbolic dimension that delegitimizes syringe exchange and undermines public health advocacy efforts.

Regardless of how one might feel about drug users, syringe exchange is effective, is essential and there is momentum for change.

During the recent presidential campaign, each of the Democratic candidates endorsed removing the federal ban during their term in office. One of the candidates was elected president, and another was appointed secretary of state. President-elect Barack Obama's HIV platform says he will "support legislation that would lift the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange as a strategy to reduce HIV transmission among injection-drug users and their partners and children." On Jan. 6, 2009, Bronx Democratic Congressman Jose Serrano, along with 28 sponsors, introduced into Congress a bill -- HR 179, the Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act of 2009 -- to lift the ban.

The time to act is now. We need to call and to write our congressional members. We need to insist that the United States joins the rank of syringe-exchange-enlightened countries such as Australia, Holland, Canada, the U.K., Iran (yes, Iran), Moldova, and others. The damage that has been wreaked over the last 20 years cannot be undone, but a new direction can be forged. It is imperative that we participate in cultivating a new course of action and participate in the righting of wrongs.

Help lift the federal ban on the funding of syringe exchange.

Allan Clear is the executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/120548/
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Victory Gardens


Nice article about people growing and reclaiming.

Victory gardens sprout up again
People are borrowing an old wartime concept to lessen the need for mass-produced food, reduce pollution and build a sense of community.

By Mary MacVean > > > January 10, 2009
http://www.latimes. com/features/ home/la-hm- victory10- 2009jan10, 0,7167635. story Print Friendly and PDF

We're still collecting gloves, etc. for homeless people

People have graciously been bringing in gloves and we get them out as fast as they come in. Still looking for gloves, scarves, hats and socks. Help if you can! You can call us at 413-734-4948; our address is Arise for Social Justice, 467 State St., Springfield, MA 01105. Thanks!
Photo from Knitting Beyond the Hebrides
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Solid as a Rock

I think there are still some good, progressive white people who just don't get the significance of Barack Obama's presidency for African-Americans-- indeed, for all of us. I don't expect him to be perfect but nothing like this has ever happened before.



Link: YouTube Print Friendly and PDF

This land is your land



Link: YouTube Print Friendly and PDF

A NEW SPIRIT

A NEW SPIRIT

We have a new year and tomorrow we'll have a new President. As we move forward in these new days and times of the 21st century, it is important that we move and act in the right spirit. That spirit is the spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood and the common good. Moving forward in a spirit of humanity and not a spirit of hostility.

We can't act justly or wisely by attacking established interest indiscriminately and without careful thought. It's easy to point fingers and lay blame, or launch into rhetorical verse with catchy phrases and cheap attacks. It's easy to condemn wrongdoing and not provide concrete answers or sound ideas for improvements; but that doesn't bring change or confidence of reform.
Reform will come only with careful thinking and planning as to what's in the best interest of the people and what's the most effective way of expressing our desires to the people who have the power to make these changes.

In a self-governed, democratic country there is one interest that benefits everybody and that is the common interest and we will not achieve our goals with incendiary words and bitterness of heart. This will only make it impossible to think clearly, act calmly and move rationally toward that spirit of change.

Those who wish to stand-back, hold out or hold off and not participate in frank discussion in search of common goals can only blame them selves when they find themselves on the outside looking in.We the people must have the conviction and determination to see wrongs made right, the weak made strong, the hungry made whole and humanity sweep across all the nations of the world.

In this spirit we will find new hope, a breath of fresh air, a renewed spirit and the eternal optimism you feel when watching the first rays of a new rising Sun. This should be our spirit in the fight for reform, in the fight for justice and the struggle for equality. The future is not in partisan politics or business as usual, the future is for great ideas, common sense thinking and bold measures for the good of all humanity. The future will be in the hands of the people and guided by the spirit of the people. The future will be driven by the people and pushed by people who are statesmen and not bandits, dictators or demagogues. Statesmen that are not in love with the title of office, but in love with the duty of office and excited about the opportunity to serve the people.

I believe we are witnessing a rebirth of public opinion, a revival of the power of the people and the beginning of a new age in democracy. This new age will be brought on by people of all colors, all religions and all backgrounds working hand in hand together for a better world. With this rebirth we will show our new spirit, we will serve freedom, justice and equality. We will try to bring this world closer to harmony and humanity.

Our march to freedom and equality begins right here, right now and I implore you to join with us, stand shoulder to shoulder with ARISE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE. Lift yourself above the maze of positions and politics and in the spirit of true crusaders stand ready to dedicate yourself to the cause of liberating the citizens of your city, your state, your country and the world from the bondage and oppression of special interests, corporate greed and little minds with little vision. Stand with us and join with ARISE in ushering in this new day. Raise your voices for freedom, stand your ground for justice, never back down from moral positions on equality and democracy. Fight for whats right and let our leaders know they are accountable to the people!

Help us keep this country strong; give ARISE your support both physically, financially and spiritually. Come fight for freedom, come help keep our country free. We extend an open invitation to you to join ARISE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.
WE ARE ON THE MARCH!

Don James
President:
ARISE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Arise member fasting, protesting with with Code Pink in D.C.

Arise office manager and peace organizer extraordinaire Ellen Graves is Washington, D.C. right now with Code Pink, , participating in a ten day fast and walking the freezing streets so that the voices of peace can be heard.

Here is an email message from Ellen and also a story of a mother and daughter in Bahrain that shows how far a good message can carry.

Dear Friends,

It is now Saturday night, ending the 7th day of the fast. Except for the bitter cold everything is going very well.. .

DC is bitter, bitter with a cold cold wind. We are outside most of the day and no matter how many clothes I have on the cold still manage to come in.. We are staying in a Buddhist Center.. which is kept very chilly ( we don't have to put the juicces in the fridge at night cause the rooms are very cold).

We have had a very busy week and have had some great news and tv coverage, as we are seen in different locations around the city. ... We make a very impressive statement, as we walk single file in our orange jump suits and black hoods around DC...There are around 30 of us in procession...

We have stood many days in front of the White House and in front of The Capital in a line in silence.... Tuesday , we were standing across the street from the trans. office.. knowing that the press van was there as well as 2 black limos... so we know Obama was there.... but the police came just as he was coming out and made us move.. so we went down the street. .. and pretty soon he came driving by..( We made CNN and the Washington Post that day) .

We also went to both days of the Eric Holder Hearings,, It was very interesting.. If you saw any of the news coverage you most likely saw the orange jump suits...and the little signs saying No torture and Torture is a crime... It is going to be interesting to see if he is confirmed and if so if he does all the things he said he thought was correct.

Today we started out with mass in the house of the Catholic Workers at 7am and didn't get back until 7pm tonight, and some of the things today included the usual walks though the streets standing in front of the White House , joining with a group of young children in a big peace parade... Which we took to Union Station and waited for Obama arrival plus meeting and reflexions.. Another Busy Day!!

It is time for me to close.. Peace and Hugs to All.. Ellen



Women Launch Flower Power Drive
By TOM HANRATTY, Gulf Daily News

TWO Bahrain women have launched their own international 'flower power' campaign for a halt to the Israeli onslaught in Gaza. Christine Hasan and her daughter Moona Fairooz are urging women in Bahrain to send white flowers to US Ambassador Adam Ereli, with a message urging a halt to the killing.

They have also e-mailed peace groups around the world, including Iraq, the UK and Australia, urging women there to send flowers to their respective US embassies.

Ms Hasan, a veteran educationalist and peace campaigner, believes that small gestures can make a big difference, if they come from enough people.

"People are saying it will make no difference, but small things can always make a big difference," the Muharraq resident said yesterday. "This is an ongoing campaign and we are asking women to take part at any time they can.

"Even a weekly e-mail to the embassy will be much appreciated."

The move comes in the wake of a decision by US-based Code Pink, the international anti-war organisation, to send white flowers to the office of US President-elect, Barack Obama, in protest against the attack on Gaza.

Code Pink was started in November 2002 by a group of American women campaigning to stop the US invading of Iraq and has since grown into a global peace organisation.

Ms Hasan says the flowers may be real or synthetic and accompanied by the following message:

"60 years of aggression have not worked. We have to try to find another solution. Please do not be silent. The children of Gaza need your help."

Ms Hasan adapted the message being used by Code Pink, saying she felt it necessary to detail how long the aggression against the Palestinian people had been going on.

Messages may be faxed to the US Embassy on 17270547 or e-mailed to Elmawieh@state.gov

Women in Bahrain are also being asked to make a longer lasting statement by wearing a white flowers on their clothing, on their handbags, or in their hair, as a mark of solidarity.

Photos: Holly, Liz, Ron and Ellen at a 'Vote No on Question One" rally, Bahrain women organizing from the Gulf Daily News. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Welcome to Tent City

Came across this video about a tent city in Ontario, CA. It's a too common story. Check it out.



link: YouTube Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, January 16, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday

This Monday, January 19, we celebrate the Birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today as more people are sliding into economic Depression after eight years of Federal mismanagement and corruption, Dr. King's message is more timely than ever.

In his famous "I Have a Dream" Speech Dr. King said,

"It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

Complete Speech is at www.usconstitution.net/dream.html

Today we live in a nation that has become known world-wide for War, Torture, and hidden Ghost Prisons. Where working people are losing their incomes and homes. Where taxpayer fortunes bail out the culprits who ruined our economy in the first place, while the peoples who built everything stand on the outsides with empty hands. If Dr. King were alive today he would be leading the struggle for Economic Equality. Fortunately, however, this struggle continues. As Barbara Jordan once said, "What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise." Please pitch in for everyone's good.

Picture from RedDartFrog - DeviantArt

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Causes of homelessness

I found a good list online of the causes of homelessness...two I'd add...kids who age out of foster care, especially when their placements have not prepared them to live independently...and kids who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused at home and run away...which ones can you add?

  • Automobile related - Broken down car, no insurance, tickets, etc.
  • Decline in Public Assistance - Current TANF benefits and food stamps combined are below the poverty level in every state; in fact, the median TANF benefit for a family of three is approximately one-third of the poverty level. Thus, contrary to popular opinion, welfare does not provide relief from poverty.
  • Divorce - Divorce often leaves one of the spouses homeless. Most often it’s the father, but sometimes it’s the mother and children or everyone involved.
  • Domestic Violence - Battered women who live in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness.
  • Drug and Alcohol related problems - Rates of alcohol and drug abuse are disproportionately high among the homeless population.
  • Illness - For families and individuals struggling to pay the rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness, beginning with a lost job, depletion of savings to pay for care, and eventual eviction.
  • Job loss - No income to pay rent.
  • Lack of affordable housing- The lack of affordable housing has lead to high rent burdens (rents which absorb a high proportion of income), overcrowding, and substandard housing.
  • Lack of child support - In families where child support is ordered but not paid, the decrease in income can lead to an inability to pay rent, utilities, or both.
  • Low wages - Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers: in every state, more than the minimum wage is required to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent.
  • Mental Illness - Approximately 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffer from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.
  • Natural Disaster / Fire - Situations where due to chance a fire, tornado, flood or hurricane renders housing inhabitable.
  • Physical Disabilities - Disabled individuals may be unable to work or find appropriate employment. For those receiving SSI, they often struggle to obtain and maintain stable housing.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - This disorder is common with veterans and those that have been in violent situations. It can make it difficult to have a stable life.
  • Poverty - Being poor means being an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets.
  • Roommates - When one or more roommates falls through with their end of the bargain, they can be a reason for others becoming homeless.
  • Severe Depression - Can make it impossible for an individual to maintain a stable life.
  • Tragedy - It is surprising how many people just quit functioning because their families died or were killed...sometimes recently...other times 15 years ago...other times 30 years ago.
Photo from Daymark Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, January 12, 2009

Motion to Dismiss--THURS JAN 15th 2pm

January 15th
Pre-Trial Hearing at 2PM

On Monday, December 29th, Jason Vassell’s defense submitted a motion to dismiss Vassell’s indictment, No. 08-56, “on the ground that the defendant has been selectively prosecuted because of his race, in violation of the rights guaranteed him by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Articles I and XII of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.”

The motion and a 50+ page memorandum in support of the motion were one of the topics discussed at Vassell’s pretrial hearing on December 31st. At the hearing, the judge agreed that Jason’s case would go to trial in March, 2009.

January 15, 2009 will be the hearing on the Motion to Dismiss Charges, Subpoena for Bosse and Bowes’ School Records, and more. It was great that 70 people came out to support Jason at his last hearing during a snowstorm on New Year’s Eve. This time we will bring even more!

This is a critical period in the case. The judge could ultimately exonerate Jason at this point in time, or could dismiss the motion completely. Your support is needed more than ever, which is why we need to stand in solidarity behind Jason at his upcoming pre-trial hearing. The judge and the district attorney must see the support behind this motion for the dismissal of charges against Jason.

Please attend the hearing on JAN. 15TH AT 2 PM. Hearing will take place in the Hampshire Superior Court -15 Gothic St. Northampton MA 01003.

After the hearing there will be a press conference at First Churches to announce upcoming events in support of Jason Vassell and to discuss the events of the day.
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We need to make some calls

Hey, Arise folks, I posted this on my blog Michaelann Land today but these are calls we really need to make.

By tomorrow, I hope, I'll organize an email I got from Marion about the potentially catastrophic results of the Governor's intention to transfer responsibility for family shelters from DTA to the Department of Housing and Community Development. We'll have some more calls to make.

Given the size of the financial crisis in this state, we'll all have to work to stop the worst from happening.

~~ Michaelann



MCH Bill Priorities, 2009-2010 Session


Please Contact Your Legislator and Ask Him or Her to Support Three Bills That Will Help Low Income Individuals and Families to Maintain and Obtain Housing

In January 2009, the Legislature initiated its 2009-2010 bill session. The Coalition has worked closely with several legislators to file three critical pieces of legislation to assist low income families and individuals:

  • "An Act to Protect and Improve the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) Program" being filed in the House by Representatives Kathi-Anne Reinstein and Ruth Balser, and in the Senate by Senator Susan Tucker improves the safety net for destitute seniors, people with disabilities and homeless high school/vocational school students. This bill would:

1. Gradually raise the EAEDC grant until it matches the level of assistance provided to recipients of the state's Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children program ($428/ month for a household of one) through regular Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs).

2. Restore EAEDC payments to full-time students attending a high school, vocational school or GED program to help them complete their educations.

3. Facilitate the movement of EAEDC recipients onto Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program by providing legal assistance and support with applications and appeals.

Fact Sheet on Bill.

  • "An Act to Prevent Homelessness Among Recipients of Transitional Assistance" being filed in the House by Representative Denise Provost and in the Senate by Senators Pat Jehlen and Karen Spilka would establish a housing stability screening program at the Department of Transitional Assistance and would improve income benefits to TAFDC and EAEDC recipients experiencing homelessness. The bill would

1. Establish regular housing stability screenings with participants in DTA cash and nutritional assistance programs to assess if these families and individuals are at risk of homelessness.

2. Provide stabilization funds and services to link at-risk households to needed resources.

3. Increase income supports to TAFDC and EAEDC households experiencing homelessness, establishing escrow accounts with the money currently being deducted from their monthly grants.

Fact Sheet on Bill.

  • "An Act to Prevent Homelessness by Removing Barriers to Subsidized Housing" being filed by Representative Carl Sciortino will complement ongoing efforts by the Commonwealth to prevent homelessness and reduce reliance on emergency shelter by removing unwarranted barriers to those who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness to accessing permanently affordable, subsidized housing.

Fact Sheet

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Cynthia McKinney to speak in Northampton!

What: A day of community-honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Who: Cynthia McKinney (former U.S. Congress woman and recent Green Party Presidential Candidate) with special guests Lee Stringer (author), Dr. Enoch Page, Musician Tom Nielson, Julius Ford and featuring a multi-media presentation about U.S. Involvement in the Congo by Keith Harmon Snow.

Where: The First Churches of Northampton, 129 Main Street-right in the center of town.

When: January 19, 2009. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. from 7:00-9:30 PM.

Why: To benefit "Friends of the Congo" and "Video Vanguards/youth action coalition.

Tickets can be purchased at; Food For Thought in Amherst, The Blue House Cafe in Haydenville, The Old Creamery in Cummington, Arise for Social Justice in Springfield.

Suggested Donation
$10.00 Students/$20.00 Adults in advance
$15.00 students/$25.00 Adults day of the show
Under 13 free. Sliding scale (low-income) available on request.

For more infomration please call megan at 413-250-5352 or e-mail meganfaces@aol.com Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

from the Reminder..Former Marine explores conversations on war



Former Marine explores conversations on war
HOLYOKE Outside of a history class, how does one have a conversation about war? Is war like other topics such as religion or politics thought of as off limits in polite society?

For former Marine Capt. Tyler Boudreau, war is not just a conversation to be had but an "inferno" raging furiously inside his mind since his deployment to Iraq in 2004 and subsequent deactivation from the armed forces.

Since the publication of his debut book, "Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine," Boudreau has been traveling throughout the Pioneer Valley to speak about his experiences and how they led to his chosen retirement from the military after 12 years of service. His next appearance will be at Barnes & Noble on Jan. 10.

"The trouble with this particular topic war is that it is so volatile, so polarizing, that people, most people, tend to shy away from the conversation altogether to keep the conversation polite," he said, adding that he is "not always welcome" among people with varying views of the war.

Boudreau went on to say that there is no question about his military life that he will refuse to answer because Americans deserve to know the truth.

"The fear is, I think, that there are events that were so traumatizing for the veteran that he/she would rather not discuss them," he explained. "And of course there are times when this is true. But there's also a bit of a 'code of silence' thing going on here. This 'code' has no particular value, no particular function; it's a cultural code. It facilitates a sort of exclusivity for the warrior class. But I find that code utterly antithetical to the principles of democracy. The people the voters need to know what war is all about. Excepting possibly those with serious combat stress, I think soldiers have an obligation to openly discuss the nature of war. On the other hand, I'd say the people back home have an obligation to openly listen. As far as I can tell right now, neither is happening.

"Since leaving the Marines, Boudreau has dedicated his time to his family and to the open discussion of war. He explained that his affection for his men and their well being trumped any mission therefore challenging traditional military strategy and his need to end his career.

Boudreau said people often ask him, "What was the moment you knew you could no longer support the war in Iraq? Did you have an 'aha!' moment?" "I did not have an 'aha!' moment," he explained. "Officers are trained to watch for trends, not make snap judgments on a single events or factors. So that's what I did. I watched for trends. By the time the deployment was over, I'd noticed a number of trends that led me to the conclusion that we were not on the right path.

"Boudreau said writing his book has proved to be a therapeutic exercise for his psyche that began while reading "Dante's Inferno" during his deployment.

"As I traveled with Dante and Virgil down through the circles of Hell, I noticed curious similarities emerging between the conditions of Dante's underworld and the battlefield which I was traversing," he wrote. "The heat grew more intense as the summer approached, the danger more severe. There was death, and blood, and hypocrisy, and as much 'sin' in one place as I'd ever witnessed. But it was more than that I saw the struggle in humanity, and in the heart; I saw the political strife, the regret, and the rage, and the hardship, even the characters I saw them all in both the battlefield and the book.when I got home, I found the war was still raging, but it was not outside me anymore, not to touch, or to see, or to hear, or to smell. It was within me. I was no longer packing 'Inferno' in my sea-bag [to read during my deployment], but in my head.

" Boudreau explained that writing about the war was difficult, mostly because of people's varying political views."It's a socially fragile conversation," he said. "So to write about it, to get people to listen objectively, to get them to care and even possibly open their view.that is the greatest challenge of writing about war. I say to myself: 'How am I going to get people to relate to me? How am I going to get them to see that I have no agenda? How do I break this conversation from the confines of rhetoric and ideology?' It's tough to do.

"However, Boudreau fights through the war raging through his mind daily, having spewed it onto the pages of his book in the hopes that one day all people will be able to speak candidly of war."Ultimately it is my struggle," he wrote. "I am packing 'Inferno.' But slowly, slowly, day by day, year by year, I am unpacking it."For more information about Boudreau or upcoming appearances go to http://www.tylerboudreau.com/
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Homeless families rise 22% in a year


By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / January 6, 2009
The number of homeless families living in Boston has jumped for the fourth straight year, making children without a home the fastest-growing group, according to results from the mayor's annual census.
The Homeless Census showed that the number of families living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or even in motels jumped 22 percent in the past year, from 3,175 in 2007 to 3,870 in December. The number of children without a home soared 24 percent in 2008, from 1,850 to 2,288.
As past programs have targeted the elderly and people with drug addictions and mental illnesses, city officials said a new, concerted effort is needed to assist homeless families as their numbers climb during tough economic times.
"For families, it's really about insufficient income to afford a place to live," said Jim Greene, director of the city's Emergency Shelter Commission. "Family homelessness is caused by the divide between people's incomes and housing costs, and when the gap is too great the problem gets worse."
The Homeless Census, required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, is based on a count of the overall number of people living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, hospitals and medical facilities, hotels and motels, and on the streets on one given night.
On Dec. 15, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and about 350 volunteers including city and state officials went into Boston's neighborhoods, reaching out to people living in alleys and under bridges and referring them to shelters and programs.
City officials counted an overall total of 7,681 homeless people that night - which included individuals and family members - up from 6,930 last year, an 11 percent jump.
The census, however, also showed that while the number of families without homes has climbed, the count of homeless individuals only - those considered unaccompanied by anyone - has held steady over the last several years, a tribute to new strategies in reaching out to people living on the streets.
According to the census, the city counted 3,811 homeless individuals, compared with 3,705 last year, a 3 percent increase.
A positive sign of the survey was that the number of elderly people living on the street dropped from a high of 77 in 2004 to fewer than 30 last month.
"We have made some progress, but more needs to be done," Menino said in a statement, adding, "this census reflects the growing challenge that low-income families, especially young mothers, are facing during tough economic times."
Joe Finn, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, said the stable number of homeless individuals is a credit to Menino's strategy to find people homes before treatment is discussed.
Only then, he said, can officials work with someone to address the root problems that caused them to be homeless - mental illness, substance abuse, or economic woes.
Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of the Pine Street Inn, a Boston homeless shelter, said the increase in the number of families without homes is an ugly sign of the touch economic times.
"I think it's part of a trend across the country, where a combination of so many things going on with the economy are really hitting families in every way," she said.
Greene said that the homeless families often include a single parent who lost a job. In other cases, parents have jobs but still can't afford housing. Meantime, funding for housing vouchers has plunged, he said.
"We need more than just what the city can do," Greene said. "We need the state and federal government to look at the housing crisis for families. We need every level of government and the private and nonprofit sector aligning their resources to address this housing crisis."
Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe. com.

http://www.boston. com/news/ local/massachuse tts/articles/ 2009/01/06/ homeless_ families_ rise_22_in_ a_year/
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