Photosynthetic hacks can boost crop yield, conserve water

Plants are factories that manufacture yield from light and carbon dioxide — but parts of this complex process, called photosynthesis, are hindered by a lack of raw materials and machinery. To optimize production, scientists have resolved two major photosynthetic bottlenecks to boost plant productivity by 27 percent in real-world field conditions, according to a new study. This photosynthetic hack has also been shown to conserve water.

Stronger rains in warmer climate could lessen heat damage to crops, says study

Intensified rainstorms predicted for many parts of the United States as a result of warming climate may have a modest silver lining: they could more efficiently water some major crops, and this would at least partially offset the far larger projected yield declines caused by the rising heat itself. The conclusion, which goes against some accepted wisdom, is contained in a new study published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

EU Council President Should Push for Beirut Blast Probe

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People clean up after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. 
©AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

European Union Council President, Charles Michel, announced he will be traveling to Beirut to “convey the EU’s solidarity with the people of Lebanon” following the devastating blast at a port warehouse this week. He plans to meet with the Lebanese President, the Speaker of the Parliament, and the Prime Minister.

Solidarity with the people of Lebanon is important, but what is urgently needed is assistance to those most affected by the horrific explosion that killed at least 157 people, injured more than 5000, and caused immense damage to hospitals, homes, businesses, and infrastructure. There should also be an international and independent investigation into the blast to hold those responsible to account and to ensure victims are compensated. Ultimately, there needs to be genuine political reform.

While in Beirut, Michel should not only meet with government officials, but more importantly with civil society, including youth movements, medical workers, teachers, and humanitarian organizations. These groups have been working tirelessly in the aftermath of the blast to clear the rubble and provide life-saving assistance to the many victims, all while the Lebanese state watches on the sidelines.

Michel should follow in President Macron’s footsteps and send a clear message that the EU will channel the 33 million Euros pledged by the European Commission, as well as any other EU crisis relief support, through local and international nongovernmental organizations and circumvent the Lebanese government. Due to systemic corruption, the government has squandered billions of dollars in international aid over the years. Michel should also make clear that the EU expects real political reforms to root out corruption and address the grievances of Lebanon’s population, and delivering on such reforms will directly impact future financial support for the government.

Finally, Michel should use his meetings with President Aoun and Prime Minister Diab to insist Lebanon invite international experts to conduct an independent investigation into the blast. President Aoun has rejected calls for an international probe, but given the Lebanese authorities’ historic failure to investigate themselves, Michel should make clear only an international investigation can yield the answers and justice that the Lebanese deserve and are calling for.

The impact of the horrific Beirut blast will be borne by the country’s residents for years to come – they deserve the truth and real reforms. The EU should use its influence to help ensure residents have access to basic rights, including housing, healthcare, and education, and that all the individuals responsible for this horrific blast are held to account. 





Poland: Crackdown On LGBT Activists

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The Mermaid of Warsaw statue is seen holding the LGBT rainbow flag and wearing a pink mask with the anarcha-queer symbol in Warsaw, Poland July 29, 2020 in this image taken from social media.
© Marta Bogdanowicz/@spacerowiczka via REUTERS

(Brussels) – Polish authorities should stop trying to silence activists who support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people’s rights, and instead promote and protect the right to equality, Human Rights Watch said today. In recent weeks, the police have arrested LGBT rights activists for peaceful protest actions on the basis of an overly broad blasphemy law, violating freedom of expression and signaling the further deterioration of the rule of law in Poland.

On August 7, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Warsaw offices of the Campaign Against Homophobia, an LGBT rights group, to protest an order to arrest an activist named Margo accused of causing damage in June to a truck promoting false anti-LGBT propaganda. After about an hour of the demonstration, which was livestreamed on Facebook, police who had arrived to execute the order departed without Margo.

“Polish authorities should immediately stop targeting activists who exert their basic free expression rights,” said Kyle Knight, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Scapegoating and targeting a vulnerable minority is becoming a routine and nasty part of the government’s playbook, with dangerous repercussions for human rights.”

A recent wave of arrests followed a campaign of placing rainbow flags on prominent public monuments. On the evening of August 3, 2020, Warsaw police grabbed Margo, who was with the Stop Bzdurom (stop nonsense) campaign collective, off the street, handcuffed her, and put her in an unmarked car. The next morning the police detained two other Stop Bzdurom activists with Margo for 48 hours, then released all three of them. The following day the police confirmed via Twitter that they were investigating the three activists for “insulting religious feelings and insulting Warsaw monuments.”

Margo was also arrested in July in connection with a public action on June 27, when a group of activists defaced a truck that was covered with and projecting from loudspeakers a series of anti-LGBT slurs. On July 14, police forcefully entered the apartment where Margo was staying with friends, took her away barefoot, called her anti-gay slurs, and questioned her overnight at the police station. The next day, the prosecutor requested three months pretrial detention for Margo on charges of participating in a riot, property damage, and physical assault, all of which carry multi-year prison sentences. The district court in Warsaw-Mokotów denied that request and released Margo. Prosecutors filed an appeal, and on August 7, according to activist reports, another court issued an order for two months pretrial detention for Margo on those charges.

Under Article 196 of Poland’s criminal code, a person who “offends the religious feelings of others by publicly insulting a religious object or place of worship” may face up to two years in prison. The government has defended the authorities’ actions against the activists, saying, “… certain boundaries [of tolerance] were crossed.” In May 2019, police invoked Article 196 when arresting an artist, Elżbieta Podlesna, over a picture she created of a religious icon with a rainbow halo.

Overly vague blasphemy laws such as Poland’s violate the guarantee of free speech under international human rights law, Human Rights Watch said. International rights bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee, have underscored that only laws that protect against incitement to violence, discrimination, and hatred can justify criminal sanctions. Both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights protect speech, including acts of protest, that may offend others. That protection is all the more important when the speech relates to advocacy for fundamental human rights, including rights to nondiscrimination and equality.

In recent years, Poland has been engulfed by anti-LGBT vitriol. The rhetoric has been largely fueled by the ruling Law and Justice Party, which has a history of scapegoating LGBT people and sexual and reproductive health activists for political ends, under the rubric of attacks on “gender ideology.” Senior party members have historically misrepresented efforts to advance gender equality and end discrimination as attacks on “traditional” family values, and used such arguments to undermine women’s and LGBT rights groups.

Andrzej Duda, a Law and Justice politician, was re-elected president in late June following a campaign that actively deployed anti-LGBT rhetoric as an election strategy, including calling “LGBT ideology” more dangerous than communism. Currently the Justice Ministry is funding work aimed at “counteracting crimes related to the violation of freedom of conscience committed under the influence of LGBT ideology.”

In July, the European Commission announced that it would withhold development funding for six Polish municipalities in reaction to their insistence of retaining the label of an “LGBT-Free Zone.” Authorities in one third of Poland’s cities have identified their localities as “LGBT Ideology Free Zones” although courts attempted in 2019 to curtail the pernicious anti-rights campaign. On August 6, an administrative court in Lublin annulled the anti-LGBT resolution of the Serniki Commune.

The European Union should set up a mechanism to ensure that the European Commission’s funding to member states cannot be misused by any country that persistently breaches fundamental rights norms that are core to EU membership. The European Commission and other EU member states should also broaden the scope of their scrutiny of Poland under Article 7 – which provides for sanctioning member states that breach core EU values – to address Poland’s breaches of the principles of nondiscrimination and tolerance.

“By targeting its own people and denying their basic rights, the government is flouting the principles of tolerance and nondiscrimination Poland committed to when it joined the EU,” Knight said. “Perpetuating the falsehood that LGBT rights threaten Polish society doesn’t protect anyone – it only feeds dangerous intolerance for which all of Poland pays the price.”


Zimbabwe: SADC, AU Should Denounce Crackdown

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Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga (center) and her colleague Julie Barnes hold placards as they are arrested during an anti-corruption protest march in Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 31, 2020.  

(Johannesburg) – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union should urgently and publicly speak out against the Zimbabwe government’s crackdown on peaceful anti-corruption protests on July 31, 2020.

Zimbabwe authorities have arrested at least 60 people, including the novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and the opposition MDC Alliance spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, in connection with the protests. Sixteen people were injured and required medical attention. Dangarembga was released on bail the next day.

“SADC and the African Union should call out Zimbabwe’s government for its repression and rampant abuses throughout the country,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s important for these regional institutions to send strong signals to the Mnangagwa administration that flagrant violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights treaties are unacceptable.” 

The Zimbabwe authorities have increasingly arbitrarily arrested critics of the government, Human Rights Watch said. On July 20, the police arrested and detained Hopewell Chin’ono, an awarding-winning journalist, and Jacob Ngarivhume, leader of the political group Transform Zimbabwe. Both were denied bail and remain in custody, accused of inciting public violence. Chin’ono and Ngarivhume had helped expose high-level corruption in Zimbabwe and called for nationwide anti-corruption protests on July 31. 

On the eve of the anti-corruption protests on July 30, security forces raided the house of Mduduzi Mathuthu, a prominent journalist and editor of the online newspaper Zimlive, in Bulawayo. Failing to find him, they arrested his three nephews, Tawanda Muchehiwa, 22, Advent Mathuthu, 25, and Amandlenkosi Mathuthu, 19. The security agents also detained Mathuthu’s sister, Nomagugu Mathuthu, to compel him to turn himself in, but released her hours later. Advent Mathuthu was charged with incitement of public violence after allegedly being found with flyers saying “Mnangagwa & His Cabinet Must Resign,” but was freed by a court. 

The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) issued a statement, emailed to Human Rights Watch, that security agents “dropped off” Mathuthu’s nephew Muchehiwa at his home on August 1 at about 10 p.m. The group said that he had been tortured by alleged security agents, resulting in serious injuries. According to medical documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch, Muchehiwa was assaulted with a wooden log and sprayed with an unknown substance all over his body. He suffered extensive bruises, an acute kidney injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

On July 31, soldiers and the police arrested and briefly detained a lawyer, Obey Shava, and his three clients, activists Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, and Netsai Marovato, as they drove to Harare Central Police Station to report in as required under their bail agreement. Police had stopped the three activists on May 13 at a checkpoint in Harare and allegedly abducted, tortured, and sexually assaulted them.

Shava, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told Human Rights Watch that “I complied with all the instructions they [security forces] gave, that notwithstanding, I was ordered to lie down on the ground. My client, Chimbiri, was assaulted and molested in my presence. I felt helpless.” Chimbiri said that a soldier tore off her top and brassiere and fondled her. Chimbiri was later charged with disorderly conduct in a public place, even though the security forces had assaulted her. 

On August 4, President Emmerson Mnangagwa publicly denounced critics in a speech, describing them as “dark forces,” “a few rogue Zimbabweans,” and “terrorist opposition groupings.” He said: “Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win. The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and weaken our systems shall be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil.” He said nothing about the constitutional rights of Zimbabweans to peacefully protest or the government’s domestic and international human rights obligations. 

Following the crackdown on protesters, the chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Solomon Dersso, said in a Twitter post on August 3, “As we follow [the] situation in Zimbabwe, critical to reiterate the African Commission on Human Rights’ view that actions of states even in fighting Covid-19 should comply with principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality, thus no basis for arbitrary deprivation of liberty or life, inhumane treatment or torture.”

The Zimbabwe crackdown on activists has inspired an online campaign, with the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter, which has resulted in more than 700,000 tweets in two days, but neither SADC nor the African Union has spoken out about the situation. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chairperson of the African Union, should press President Mnangagwa to end the wave of repression and promote respect for human rights. 

“President Ramaphosa should muster support from within the African Union to hold Zimbabwe’s leadership to their human rights obligations,” Mavhinga said. “African regional actors should not remain silent in the face of escalating repression in Zimbabwe.”

New Mexico Shouldn’t Double Down On Failed System of Child Abuse Reporting

OPINION 2020.08.11 Wexler New Mexico Shouldnt Double Down

child abuse: Nosy neighbor spying with binocularsLUCIEN FRAUD/SHUTTERSTOCK

Even as we finally come to grips with the racial bias that permeates so many aspects of American life, some people in New Mexico, as in much of the country, promote a narrative about child abuse and COVID-19 that is, at its core, riven with racial and class bias.

What are we really saying when we spread fear about how, supposedly, the moment mostly white middle-class professional “eyes” are taken off children who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately nonwhite, their parents will unleash savagery upon them? We’re saying that poor people and nonwhite people are too uncivilized to raise their own children without white professionals constantly spying on them.

It was bad enough when this fearmongering was promoted at the start of the pandemic. But now, major national news organizations, Bloomberg Citylab, The Marshall Project and the Associated Press have all found little evidence for such claims.

 Citylab reports that:

“Some parents living in neighborhoods with historically high rates of child welfare investigations say the dramatic dip in maltreatment reports [due to COVID-19] feels more like the pollution lifting — a much-needed respite from the intense and relentless surveillance of low-income moms, and especially those who are Black and Latinx. …”

That’s not as surprising as it may seem. Decades of horror stories have conditioned us to believe there is a child abuser under every bed. But of every 100 calls to child abuse hotlines nationwide, 91 are screened out as too absurd for investigation or, after investigation, found to be false. Another six cases involve neglect, which often means poverty. Multiple studies have found, for example, that 30% of America’s foster children could be home right now if their parents just had decent housing. The remaining cases are needles in a haystack. We’re not going to find the needles by constantly expanding the haystack. 

Domestic spies

On the contrary, as Children, Youth and Families Department spokesperson Charlie Moore-Pabst points out, now workers may well be doing a better job finding children in real danger because they have more time to investigate each case. 

child abuse: Richard Wexler (headshot), executive director of National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, smiling balding man with white-gray hair in black top.

Richard Wexler

So the last thing New Mexico’s vulnerable children need is constant exhortations to spy on neighbors and “training” for teachers to do the same. Recent research shows that our system of massive child abuse reporting overloads child welfare with false reports while discouraging families from seeking help for fear they’ll be reported to agencies such as CYFD. The child abuse surveillance state makes all children less safe.

If you were trying to cope with poverty and COVID-19, would you accept a food basket from someone who’s been instructed to spy on your family when he drops it off? Would you risk having a neighbor do a virtual visit with your children if you know they’re being urged to use the visit to look for so-called signs of child abuse?

At its worst, all this leads to more children needlessly consigned to the chaos of foster care. Precisely because most cases are nothing like the horror stories, study after study finds that in typical cases children left in their own homes typically do better even than comparably maltreated children placed in foster care. 

New Mexico already has an unfortunate history of over-reporting. As soon as New Mexico’s statewide hotline opened in 2011 it was deluged with false reports and CYFD begged people to stop. But they didn’t. Today, according to Searchlight New Mexico:

“We don’t want our agency to be used as a mean guard dog” to bully parents, said [State Central Intake] manager Paul Williams. “But I see it all day long.”

The hotline is plagued with false reports from school personnel seeking leverage in disputes with parents — yet now CYFD is “training” schools to “keep tabs on behavioral changes, the background environment and participation levels” in online schooling. But surely few things are more likely to change a child’s behavior than coping with a pandemic. And low “participation levels” often just mean a family is poor and has more difficulty getting online.

New Mexico also has an unfortunate present when it comes to racial bias and child welfare. ProPublica reports that one Albuquerque hospital “implemented a secretive policy in recent months to conduct special coronavirus screenings for pregnant women, based on whether they appeared to be Native American,” leading to needless separation of newborns from their mothers within the hospital.

America is now being challenged to rethink old assumptions about policing. In poor communities, child welfare agencies are seen not as benign helpers, but as what they really are: a police force. If we learn the right lessons from COVID-19 we can discard old, racist assumptions, lift the “pollution” of needless, stressful surveillance and replace it with a genuine safety net for vulnerable children.

Richard Wexler is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

The post New Mexico Shouldn’t Double Down On Failed System of Child Abuse Reporting appeared first on Youth Today.

Covid-19’s Devastating Impact on Older People in Australia

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people living in nursing facilities around the world, including in Australia. On August 10, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will hold a hearing on “lessons learnt” on Covid-19 in aged care.

These lessons couldn’t come soon enough.

In the state of Victoria, there are currently a reported 1,186 active Covid-19 cases in aged care facilities, and according to the federal government, 125 out of 147 deaths there are related to residential aged care facilities. Many outbreaks in aged care facilities were “preventable,” according to experts. Reported staffing shortages at many aged care facilities, and reported undelivered staff trainings in applying personal protective equipment have hampered an effective response.

October 15, 2019

“Fading Away”

More than half of the people living in aged care facilities in Australia have dementia. Human Rights Watch has investigated abuses in aged care facilities in Australia and published a report in October 2019 that found that instead of providing support to older people with dementia, facilities use drugs to control their behavior.

The pandemic has shone a light on issues that were already acute in aged care facilities, especially insufficient staffing and inadequate community-based models of care. To address these issues, the government should immediately act to ensure there are enough trained staff in aged care facilities. The government should develop more community-based services for older people with dementia to ensure support for older people to live independently in their communities, including at home.

Last week, Human Rights Watch made a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on some of the earlier issues around the pandemic and aged care facilities, including the impact of visitor bans during Covid-19 on older people with dementia. The people we talked to were worried and exhausted, having gone through months without contact with their loved ones. Their stories are heartbreaking, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

Particularly during a pandemic, older people living in facilities really need accountability and a concrete plan that provides support for them to live where and with whom they choose.

Afghanistan Prisoner Dilemma Sidelines Justice

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Afghan security police officers stand guard in front of the Pul-e Charkhi prison’s gate in Kabul, Afghanistan. (File photo: Friday, Dec. 17, 2004)

© AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq- File

A bitter dispute over roughly 400 prisoners the Taliban say should be released before the start of inter-Afghan peace negotiations has highlighted fundamental problems in the Afghan justice system and amplified fears that the peace process will not challenge longstanding impunity.

Since 2002, successive Afghan governments have ignored calls for accountability for serious abuses and instead promoted individuals implicated in war crimes, adopted a blanket amnesty law, and tried to forestall an International Criminal Court investigation. Although Afghanistan incorporated war crimes and crimes against humanity into its 2017 penal code, it has carried out few investigations of war crimes.

This failure has created a major problem for potential prisoner releases. Officials trying to ascertain whether imprisoned Taliban members have committed war crimes won’t get any guidance from the vague charges under which many are held.

Although some may be implicated in serious war crimes, including in the suicide bombings that have killed and injured thousands of civilians, the Afghan government has also imprisoned many under overly broad terrorism laws that provide for indefinite preventive detention. Secret trials and torture to coerce confessions may make it impossible to determine which prisoners actually committed serious crimes.

President Ashraf Ghani’s government is now staging a Loya Jirga, a public assembly, to determine what should be done with these prisoners – and provide himself some political cover for their release. The United States government, driven by the US election timetable, is pushing hard to finish the prisoner exchange and get the negotiations started. But as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has noted, the priorities should be the rights of victims for justice, and due process rights of those in detention.

Groups representing victims of war crimes and other abuses should participate in the Loya Jirga and intra-Afghan talks. The European Union and other concerned countries should support their participation so that prisoner releases are not just a confidence-building measure but part of a process that provides genuine accountability.

International humanitarian law encourages broad amnesties at the end of hostilities – except for those responsible for war crimes. But neither blanket releases for alleged war criminals nor prolonged imprisonment on dubious charges will bring Afghanistan closer to justice.

Pakistan: End Anti-Corruption Agency’s Abuses

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Logo of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), as seen on the main entrance of their office in Karachi, Pakistan, September 14, 2017. 
© 2017 REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

(New York) – Pakistani authorities should follow up a recent Supreme Court decision and cease using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to detain critics of the government, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should investigate and prosecute NAB officials responsible for unlawful arrests and other abuses.

On July 20, 2020, Pakistan’s Supreme Court, in an 87-page decision, ruled that the National Accountability Bureau had violated the rights to fair trial and due process in the arrest of two opposition politicians, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique, whom the NAB detained for 15 months without reasonable grounds. The court granted the men bail and criticized the NAB for showing “utter disregard to the law, fair play, equity and propriety,” ruling that the “case was a classic example of trampling of fundamental rights [and] unlawful deprivation of freedom.”

“The Pakistani Supreme Court judgment is just the latest indictment of the NAB’s unlawful behavior,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Pakistani authorities should stop using a dictatorship-era body, possessing draconian and arbitrary powers, to intimidate and harass opponents.”

Pakistan’s parliament should carry out urgent reforms to make the anti-corruption body independent, Human Rights Watch said.

In its decision, the Supreme Court also expressed concern about the use of the NAB as an instrument to target government opponents. The court cited a February report by the European Commission that criticized the NAB for bias, noting that “very few cases of the ruling party ministers and politicians have been pursued since the 2018 elections, which is considered to be a reflection of NAB’s partiality.”

The Supreme Court Bar Association and the Pakistan Bar Council, the top elected bodies of lawyers in the country, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision and criticized the NAB as “a tool for arm-twisting of political opponents.” In February, both bodies said they “strongly condemn” the summons issued to an opposition leader, Bilawal Bhutto, calling it an “act of political victimization.” In March, the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court ruled that the NAB had made arbitrary use of its arrest powers.

The National Accountability Bureau was created under an ordinance promulgated by the military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 1999. The ordinance gave the NAB unchecked powers of arrest, investigation, and prosecution. The authorities may detain people arrested under the accountability ordinance for up to 90 days without charge. In its decision the Supreme Court commented on the NAB’s arbitrary use of powers of arrest, noting that an arrest “has to be justified.… The power of arrest should not be deployed as a tool of oppression and harassment.”

The National Accountability Bureau arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, editor-in-chief of the Jang group, the largest media group in Pakistan, in Lahore on March 12 on charges relating to a 34-year-old property transaction. He has remained in the agency’s custody ever since.

In another example of harassment, the NAB court summoned the former president and opposition leader Asif Ali Zardari to appear in person to record a statement, denying his request to record a statement through a video link because of his ill-health and Covid-19. Zardari previously spent 11 years in prison – more than half in NAB custody – without a conviction.

In December 2018, Mian Javed Ahmed, a professor at University of Sargodha, died in NAB’s custody. Dr. Mujahid Kamran, the former vice-chancellor of the Punjab University, who was arrested by the NAB on allegations of illegal appointments at the university, described NAB detention centers as “torture cells.”

“Pakistani authorities should uphold the government’s human rights obligations,” Adams said. “Pakistan’s parliament should amend or repeal the NAB ordinance to ensure that the principles of fair trial, due process, and transparency are not compromised on the pretext of accountability.”

4-H Launches Campaign to Close Opportunity Gap

NEWS 2020.08.10 Simonton 4 H equity 1
4-H: Screenshot of 6 people in online conversation.


A virtual forum held by the National 4-H Council on Wednesday brought together 4-H youth and adult leaders along with outside panelists to discuss challenges facing youth. The event kicked off a 4-H campaign to address the opportunity gap.

4-H’s new campaign calls for a nationwide focus on positive youth development to address the opportunity gap among young people. 

It plans to develop a group of 20 youth and adult teams within the Cooperative Extension System to focus on specific projects and create 90-day action plans. They will meet virtually in September and pick specific issues to work on.

“I challenge my peers,” said Tay Moore, a recent graduate of Ringgold High School in Ringgold, Louisiana, and 4-H president in the state. He issued a call to action to mobilize young people and adults to take on projects tackling inequality in an online forum Wednesday. He appeared with Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council.

“It’s going to take adults partnering with young people,” Sirangelo said. 

The idea is to build on the 4-H model of creating learning experiences that help young people develop their capacities, work with peers and adults, and influence their community.

A white paper released Wednesday by the National 4-H Council said the organization is responding to a historic moment in which economic inequality is growing and racial inequality is magnified.

4-H, of course, is stepping in where young people protesting racial inequality have already led — especially since George Floyd’s death sparked outrage around the nation.

But it’s in a special position to issue its call. Historically, it operated across rural America but has now advanced into cities and suburbs. Today, as one of the largest youth development organizations in the nation, it reaches 2.6 million rural youth as well as 1.6 million in suburbs and 1.8 million in cities through its clubs, camps, after-school and in-school enrichment programs. Two-thirds of participants are European American, with about 14% Hispanic and 12% African American.

“4-H is in every ZIP Code and county in America,” Siranglo said in an interview. In some areas, it may be the only existing youth development organization, she said.

Arguments about race and inclusiveness

Like so many organizations and institutions in the United States, 4-H has its own history of racial discrimination

And racial tensions exist within the organization, according to the Des Moines Register, which last year investigated a number of complaints against Iowa 4-H. The first state-level Latino leader of Iowa 4-H, John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, sued last year, saying he was harassed and then fired because he advocated for greater racial equality and gender identity protection. John Lawrence, vice president of Iowa State University Extension, which runs Iowa 4H, told the newspaper that challenges around racial issues come up in the organization.

In addition, a national 4-H policy welcoming LGBT youth to 4-H — which was rescinded under pressure from the Trump administration — sparked strong opposition among conservatives and evangelical groups in the state.

4-H: Blonde woman in green top speaks on screen

Young people have a lot to deal with today, said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council.

The current moment is a critical one, the white paper said: The coronavirus pandemic has widened the gap in opportunity and threatens a whole generation. 

Fifty-five million young people are negatively impacted and 12 million don’t have reliable broadband internet resources, the organization said in a statement.

Impact of the pandemic

Young people have experienced such disruption since the epidemic began, said Karen Pittman, president and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment, who took part in the online 4-H event Wednesday as a panelist. School life, family life and community life have changed dramatically, she said.

“All of those simultaneously got flipped,” Pittman said.

It’s vital to build opportunities for young people to work with peers and community and gain a variety of competencies, she said. Then they need opportunities to apply their skills in real-life situations where there is meaning and consequence, she said.

Young people active in 4-H also spoke at the event.

“We are not going to stand by and ignore racial injustice,” said Janya Green, a 4-H member and high school student from Sylvester, Georgia.

Talon Callahan, a 4-H digital ambassador from Ferry County, Washington, said youth activism won’t go away after the coronavirus epidemic ends.

Sophia Rodriguez, a 4-H teen leader in Georgia, said youth have been emboldened, channeling stress and rage into positive ways to address issues. Adults need to dismantle their personal and professional biases, she said.

Nathan Grine, a 4-H youth leader in Ohio, said: “We’re going to have to hold each other accountable to change this [and move it] from just a conversation to action.”

Moving to action

Young people will consider what equity means to them and identify an issue in their community, Sirangelo said. Issues could range from food insecurity to LGBT engagement to the integration of immigrants in their community, she said.

‘That’s where we start — from the young person’s point of view,” she said.

At the September gathering, they will get training on how to plan their project, link to others in the community who can champion the project and make change. They will also network with 4-H groups in other counties, she said. 

“That’s how it spreads in a state,” she said.

“[In addition] we will be convening a town hall of teens later this fall … to amplify their voices about what opportunity looks like and how to impact others in their community,” Sirangelo said.

Political divisiveness

4-H will be working with many partner organizations. No one youth development organization can bridge the opportunity gap in the United States, she said.

A potential obstacle for the campaign is that — particularly in the current polarized political climate — ideas about racism and inequality are flash points.

Sirangelo acknowledged that the wide reach of 4-H means that it includes people of widely different political opinions.

“Our footprint reflects the diversity of the United States,” she said. “But 4-H has a singular mission: positive youth development. We focus on our mission of investing in our youth. We don’t allow ourselves to be dragged into one side or the other.”

Youth development organizations function on the principles that youth are not problems to be solved and they are not clients of the organization’s services, Sirangelo said.

“They are co-creators of our programs,” she said. “We are going to keep our mission focused on them … that will be our compass.”

The post 4-H Launches Campaign to Close Opportunity Gap appeared first on Youth Today.

Time to Invest In Our Communities, Proven Solutions to Gun Violence

OPINION 2020.08.10 Goodwin Time to Invest2

gun violence: hand held up to stop speeding bulletARKA38/SHUTTERSTOCK

Three months ago, the entire nation was rocked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In the weeks since his murder, a movement has taken shape to demand not only an end to policing, but a refocusing on community-led public safety that saves lives by stopping the use of officers with a firearm in our neighborhoods. 

This national reckoning is based on decades of righteous and rightful anger from Black organizers and community members on the front lines of combating violence. Communities across the country have taken steps to scale back ever-growing police budgets, to strip departments of military-grade equipment that terrorize our streets and to invest in public safety and mental health without putting communities at further risk. 

But while our nation finally tackles systemic racism, economic inequality and discriminatory policing, we’re also experiencing a surge in gun violence — disproportionately impacting communities of color. Shootings in New York are up 53% from the same time last year; in Chicago they’re up 46%, in Atlanta, 23%. This summer of violence has taken the lives of dozens of children across the country, including Amaria Jones, a 13-year-old who was killed in her living room by a stray bullet while showing her mom a TikTok video. 

The coronavirus pandemic and the countless deaths of Black people have exposed and exacerbated the systemic racial inequities and lack of access to opportunities for Black, Brown and Indigenous people — the same people who bear the brunt of the gun violence pandemic. But while these issues have persisted over the generations, it’s time for policymakers to use a new playbook to tackle them.

Local communities and organizers on the front lines of the gun violence and police violence epidemics have long advocated for a more courageous and righteous strategy — one that doesn’t resort to policing, criminalizing and incarcerating people of color. It’s time that lawmakers heed the advice of those closest to the pain; it’s time for us to invest in our communities and the proven solutions to violence, rather than the antiquated strategies that put more police and more guns on our streets.

Listen to members of community

That’s why last week, the Community Justice Action Fund, as well as collaborators from organizations such as the Austin Task Force on Gun Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, released A Policymaker’s Playbook: To Reduce Gun Violence Without Policing Communities, the first of six “playbooks” that will provide a roadmap for elected officials at every level to address these issues. 

gun violence: Amber Goodwin (headshot), executive director of Community Justice Action Fund, smiling woman with long brown hair, brown velvet jacket, brown top

Community Justice Action Fund

Amber Goodwin

We’re joining with activists, policymakers and allies from across the country to demand a new approach to safety and prosperity in our communities. Whether it’s Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Merci Mack or countless other Black Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of police, we know that increased police presence and bloated police budgets don’t solve these problems, in fact they make them worse. 

Community problems need community solutions. That’s why we’re calling for lawmakers to implement a gun violence reduction strategy that starts and ends with community members. Policymakers should assess the risk in their communities, hire trained community outreach workers, support violence prevention and intervention programs, and invest in programs that boost opportunity and economic growth for people on the front lines. 

These are tried and tested solutions to reduce violence that should be the foundation for every community. In New York City for example, a Crisis Management System that incorporated these evidence-based strategies resulted in a 40% reduction in shootings across program areas. Rather than relying on the failed “tough on crime” strategies of the past, these programs promote healing, prevent trauma and lay the groundwork for economic growth. 

The crises of gun violence and police violence have impacted communities across the country for decades, but the issues are not unrelated. Black men in America make up 6% of the population, but more than half of all gun homicides each year. At the same time, Black men are more than twice as likely as white men to be killed by police. 

While the nation comes to grips with the racist enforcement of policing and the checkered history of systemic racial inequality, it would be unthinkable for communities to continue to make the same mistakes that got us where we are today. Gun violence, including the daily violence that impacts communities of color, is not an intractable problem. Organizers and community leaders closest to these issues have pushed for new solutions for years, only to be silenced. 

It’s time for our elected officials to step up, show some courage and heed the advice of those who know the old solutions won’t cut it. 

Amber Goodwin is the founding director of the Community Justice Action Fund (CJAF) and the Community Justice Reform Coalition. CJAF is the nation’s leading gun violence prevention organization working on policy, education, leadership development, and building resources centered on communities of color. 

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Advancing Health Equity During COVID Crisis Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: COVID-19, Health Equity, Social Equality, Structural Racism, Healthcare
Sept. 11, 2020

“The Center for Sharing Public Health Services is offering small grants to support work on cross-jurisdictional sharing (CJS) arrangements designed to advance health equity by addressing social determinants of health (e.g., affordable housing, jobs with fair pay, quality education, affordable healthy food and public safety), the public health response to COVID-19, structural racism or other related issues. In addition to funding, Center staff will provide technical assistance tailored to each grantee’s needs. Grantees are expected to share the progress of their efforts during the project period, share results and lessons learned at the end of the project period and share longer-term activities and results 12 months after the project period ends.

The proposal must:

  • Be designed to advance health equity by addressing social determinants of health, the public health response to COVID-19, structural racism or other related issues; and
  • Involve multiple jurisdictions, or efforts to facilitate CJS throughout a region or state.”

Funder: The Center for Sharing Public Health Services
“(1) A state or local government public health agency or a military public health department; or (2) An American Indian/Alaska Native tribe or tribal entity recognized by the U.S. federal government or by a state; or (3) A nonprofit organization that is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code.”
Amount: Up to $10,000

>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s COVID-19 GRANT LISTINGS

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Early Child Care for Low-Income Migrant and Seasonal Children Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Early Care, Child Care, Early Education, Immigrant Children, Migrant Families
Sept. 21, 2020

“The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announces the availability of approximately $5 million to be competitively awarded for the purpose of expanding access to high-quality, comprehensive services to low-income, migrant and seasonal infants and toddlers and their families through Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships, or through the expansion of Early Head Start services. ACF solicits applications from public entities, including states, or private non-profit organizations, including community-based or faith-based organizations, or for-profit agencies that meet eligibility for applying as stated in section 42 U.S.C. § 9840A of the Head Start Act.”

Funder: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
“Eligible applicants are any public or private non-profit agencies, including community-based and faith-based organizations, or for-profit agencies pursuant to Section 645A(d) of the Head Start Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9840A(d). Entities operating Head Start programs are eligible to operate Early Head Start programs. Faith-based and community organizations that meet the eligibility requirements are eligible to receive awards under this funding opportunity announcement.”
$500,000 – $4,500,000

>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

The post Early Child Care for Low-Income Migrant and Seasonal Children Grants appeared first on Youth Today.