Human activity threatens vertebrate evolutionary history

A new study maps for the first time the evolutionary history of the world’s terrestrial vertebrates: amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles. It explores how areas with large concentrations of evolutionarily distinct species are being impacted by our ever-increasing ‘human footprint.’

‘Poisoned arrow’ defeats antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Poison is lethal all on its own — as are arrows — and together, they can take down the strongest opponents. Researchers have found an antibiotic that simultaneously punctures bacterial walls and destroys folate within their cells — killing like a poisoned arrow — while proving immune to antibiotic resistance.

Peatland drainage in Southeast Asia adds to climate change

In less than three decades, most of Southeast Asia’s peatlands have been wholly or partially deforested, drained, and dried out. This has released carbon that accumulated over thousands of years from dead plant matter, and has led to rampant wildfires that spew air pollution and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Research empowers efforts to plan smarter, more resilient cities

Over the past 200 years, the population of the United States has grown more than 40-fold to an estimated 328 million, with 81% of the population living in an urban area. Cities, as we know them, are constantly changing and up until now, the absence of long-term data has limited our understanding of how our cities have become what they are today.

Libya: Landmines Left After Armed Group Withdraws

(Washington, DC) – An armed group and affiliates fighting for control of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, appear to have used antipersonnel landmines and booby traps there in late May 2020, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Any use of internationally banned landmines is unconscionable,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Nobel Peace Co-Laureate. “Those fighting in Tripoli should halt using landmines and start clearing them to avoid further harm to life and limb.”

Fighters affiliated with the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) commanded by Khalifa Hiftar, including foreign forces, appear to have laid mines as they withdrew from southern districts of the city. For months, LAAF and affiliated forces have been fighting the internationally recognized Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

During the 2011 revolution against Muammar Gaddafi, General Hiftar pledged that armed forces under his command would never use landmines because the indiscriminate weapons cannot distinguish between fighters and civilians. General Hiftar should publicly renew this pledge and instruct fighters under his command and foreign fighters supporting the LAAF to stop using landmines and destroy any stocks in their possession, Human Rights Watch said.

On May 25, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed concern at reports that residents of Tripoli’s Ain Zara and Salahuddin neighborhoods have been killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices placed “in/near” their homes. A relative stated that Zakaria al-Jamal died in an explosion on May 22, while checking his family’s home in Salahuddin. A graphic video posted on Twitter on May 25 shows a man named Muhammad Daleh who was killed and whose brother was lying heavily injured on the ground after reportedly trying to dismantle explosive devices in Tripoli.

GNA-aligned forces shared photographs on Twitter on May 29 showing four types of antipersonnel landmines manufactured in the Soviet Union or Russia and claiming they were “laid by the Wagner mercenaries,” a Kremlin-linked private military company that supports the LAAF in the Ain Zara, Al-Khilla, Salahuddin, Sidra, and Wadi al-Rabi districts of Tripoli. Other photographs shared on social media show mines equipped with tripwires and mines used as triggers to detonate larger improvised explosive devices. Video footage shows various explosive charges used to booby trap homes, including antivehicle mines, paired with various types of fuzes and a mix of electronic timers, circuit boards, and modified cell phones.

These devices were assembled and used in a manner intended to be detonated by the presence, proximity, or contact of a person, Human Rights Watch said. They are able to incapacitate, injure, or kill one or more people. Such victim-activated explosive devices are prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty, regardless of whether the antipersonnel mine was assembled in a factory or improvised from locally available materials.

Libya’s governance has been divided between the two entities engaged in an armed conflict since April 2019: the GNA and the rival Interim Government affiliated with the LAAF in eastern Libya. Despite an arms embargo, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and Russia have provided the LAAF with military support. Foreign fighters from Chad, Sudan, and Syria as well as fighters from a Russia-supported private company also support the armed group. The GNA’s main military backer is Turkey, with additional support from foreign fighters from Chad, Sudan, and Syria.

Libya is not one of the 164 nations that have committed to a comprehensive prohibition of antipersonnel mines, clearance, and victim assistance. The previous government of Muammar Gaddafi expressed interest in the Mine Ban Treaty but made no effort to join it. After Human Rights Watch documented landmine use by Gaddafi forces in 2011, Hiftar and other commanders of armed groups committed to never use landmines and to provide mine clearance, risk education about the dangers of the mines, and victim assistance.

The Gaddafi government acquired and stockpiled millions of landmines that were subsequently seized by anti-government fighters and civilians after storage facilities were abandoned or left unsecured in 2011. The antipersonnel mines discovered in Tripoli in May are of Soviet and Russian origin and include POM-2, PMN-2, and olive drab-colored MON-50 mines that were not previously recorded in Libya, suggesting these landmines may have transferred into the country in recent years.

Libya is affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war dating back to World War II. Since then, landmines and explosive remnants of war in Libya have caused at least 3,252 casualties, according to Landmine Monitor.

“This latest landmine use is adding to Libya’s already considerable burden of uncleared mines, abandoned ordnance, unexploded ordnance, and danger for Libyans for years to come,” Goose said.

Malawi: Ensure Free, Fair, Safe Elections

Opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera addresses supporters after a court annulled the May 2019 presidential vote that declared Peter Mutharika a winner, in Lilongwe, Malawi, February 4, 2020.

© REUTERS/Eldson Chagara

(Johannesburg)  Malawi authorities should ensure a free and fair, as well as safe, vote during upcoming presidential rerun elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. On May 8, 2020, the country’s Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional Court’s February order nullifying President Peter Mutharika’s narrow victory in the May 2019 elections, citing serious irregularities, and ordered new elections within 150 days.

The rerun election, scheduled for July 2 pending parliamentary approval, sets Mutharika, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), against Lazarus Chakwera, a candidate supported by an opposition coalition, including the Malawi Congress Party and the United Transformation Movement. Since May, there has been a spike in politically motivated violence against opposition politicians, human rights activists, and journalists, with no arrests of those allegedly responsible, the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) reported.

“Malawi authorities should immediately develop processes that will ensure free, fair, and safe elections,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “They should enforce a range of measures to safeguard citizens against violence, and appropriately prosecute those responsible.”

The campaigns for the presidential rerun vote are taking place within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 284 confirmed coronavirus cases in Malawi as of June 1. The government said that the virus will not interfere with the election.

On the night of May 4, unidentified people threw a Molotov cocktail into the office of the United Transformation Movement, led by Vice President Saulos Chilima, in the capital, Lilongwe, causing the deaths of three people and severely injuring three others.

Last week, videos went viral on social media showing groups of men dressed in Democratic Progressive Party regalia threatening violence and declaring Mangochi, a township in eastern Malawi, a “no-go area” for opposition parties.

On May 24, the Catholic Bishops in Malawi issued a collective pastoral letter outlining eight issues of concern in the country, including “increased acts of political violence,” which they condemned “in the strongest terms possible.”

On May 29, the campaign convoy of Vice-President Chilima, who had fallen out with President Mutharika and is Chakwera’s running mate, was stoned in Phalombe, Mutharika’s home area in the country’s south. Zodiak, a private Malawian broadcaster, reported that several journalists traveling in a press bus with Chilima’s convoy were injured.

The HRDC reported that during the last week in May, 12 suspected ruling party supporters physically assaulted the HRDC leader, Timothy Mtambo, in Blantrye, Malawi’s second largest city. His official security detail apprehended the attackers and handed them over to the police, who allegedly promptly released them without charge.

An HRDC leader for Rumphi district in northern Malawi, Walita Mkandawire, told Human Rights Watch that on June 1, a cabinet minister threatened him on his mobile phone with violence and death if he did not stop his activism.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa, Malawi Chapter (MISA Malawi), reported that on May 30, a group of people assaulted Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalists with metal bars at Mponela in Dowa, central Malawi. The next day, MISA Malawi issued a statement expressing concern that “journalists are increasingly becoming victims of political violence as the country prepares for the fresh presidential elections.” The institute said that political party leaders and the Malawi Police Service should make a commitment to end political violence.

Under the African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, all African governments are committed to the responsibility to “safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression, and campaigning as well as access to the media on the part of all stakeholders, during electoral processes.”

Malawi, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is also obligated under article 25 to ensure that: “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity … [t]o vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.” This obligation requires governments to take positive steps to provide the services and infrastructure to ensure citizens can safely and effectively exercise their voting rights.

“Malawi authorities should fulfill their obligation to guarantee the rights of all eligible Malawians to vote in free and fair elections,” Mavhinga said. “Political violence needs to end to ensure a conducive environment for a credible vote.”

Sudan: Justice for June 3 Crackdown Delayed

Smoke rises behind barricades laid by protesters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

© 2019 Mohammed Najib via AP

 

(Nairobi) – Sudan’s transitional government has yet to deliver justice to victims and families a year after more than 120 people were killed and hundreds injured and abused in a violent attack on protesters in Khartoum, Human Rights Watch said today.

The government’s investigation committee is to deliver its findings to the attorney general in coming weeks. The authorities should guarantee they will be made public and that prosecutors will have resources to follow them up, including bringing charges against those responsible at the highest levels.

“One year on, victims of the bloody crackdown have heard many promises but are yet to see any form of accountability,” said Jehanne Henry, East Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The investigating committee’s final report should be made public to ensure full transparency. And the attorney general’s office should prosecute those responsible, even if they are members of the ruling sovereign council.”

After popular protests forced the longtime president, Omar al-Bashir, to step down on April 11, 2019, a transitional military council took power. But protesters continued to gather, amid tense negotiations between military and civilian groups, in a sit-in in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum, demanding a transfer of power to civilian rule.

Government security forces made several attempts to disband parts of the sit-in. In the early hours of June 3, the security forces surrounded and violently dispersed the protest, firing live ammunition directly at protesters, killing and wounding scores, and subjecting many more to harsh beatings, rapes, sexual assaults, humiliation, and other abuse. The security forces also attacked medical personnel, hospitals, and clinics.

Based on research in August 2019, Human Rights Watch found that at least 120 people had been killed and more than 900 injured between June 3 and 18. Sudanese officials now estimate that at least 64 women were raped, and others sexually assaulted. Human Rights Watch concluded that the crimes and abuses against during the crackdown could qualify as crimes against humanity because they were part of a longstanding government practice of using excessive, including lethal, force against unarmed protesters.

In August, the parties agreed to a transitional government headed by a sovereign council of military and civilian leaders. The military members are to lead the council for the first 22 months, followed by the civilians, with elections scheduled for 2022. The agreement called for an independent investigation into the June 3 violence. In September, the authorities established an investigation committee and made clear that the attorney general would be able to use the evidence and findings for criminal prosecutions.

However, the committee has attracted wide criticism for its slow pace and perceived lack of transparency and independence. Its lack of expertise in sexual and gender-based violence has led to claims that it is inaccessible for victims of gender-based violence, and it lacks resources to offer witness protection or preserve evidence in line with international standards.

“After one year, justice is still delayed and pending,” Saadia Saif al-Deen, spokesperson for the victims’ families association, told Human Rights Watch. “We do not want the blood of our martyrs to be lost in vain. We want justice for them to be the pillar of our new country, where such abuses should not happen again.”

Multiple sources and accounts identify the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – which have a well-documented record of abuses and attacks on civilians in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile – as leading the lethal attacks on protesters on June 3 and the following days. The RSF is led by Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, “Hemedti,” who is now the deputy chair of the country’s ruling sovereign council.

Hemedti has blamed rogue soldiers for the attack. He told the media last July that the person responsible for the “chaos” was under arrest. A previous investigation by the former attorney general, widely rejected by protesters, said attacking forces exceeded their duties by dispersing the sit-in and charged eight officers and a commander with crimes against humanity. However, no information has surfaced about their cases or whereabouts.

The head of the government-appointed investigation committee, Nabil Adeeb, told media that the committee would submit a report to the attorney general after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. The long-awaited report and the follow-up actions of the attorney general should be made transparent and public, and the attorney general should consider whether the crimes committed could amount to crimes against humanity and whether commanders responsible at the time could be held criminally liable, Human Rights Watch said.

The attorney general, within his powers under the Attorney General Act of 2017, should review the findings of the investigation committee, guided by international and regional best practices on investigating and prosecuting serious crimes. If needed, he should instruct prosecutors to carry out any further necessary steps, such as collecting additional evidence and interrogating and charging more suspects.

Sudan’s transition remains fragile, with little or no progress establishing the envisioned commissions for law reform, transitional justice, or human rights, or appointing the legislative council or state governors, Human Rights Watch said. The countrys dire economic situation and the delays and risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic risk further derailing the transition timelines. The attorney general’s office has announced investigations into crimes during al-Bashir’s tenure, but has focused publicly on economic crimes, for which al-Bashir was sentenced to two years in a rehabilitation facility. The office has not prosecuted any cases of human rights abuses during the former regime.

Human Rights Watch has proposed that Sudanese authorities consider establishing an independent entity to try these serious crimes. Victims’ families and Amnesty International have proposed specialized investigation units and specialized civilian courts. Such units and courts could potentially deal with other past abuses, in addition to those committed on June 3. Donors should engage with the Sudanese government on the best system for accountability and provide needed financial and technical support, Human Rights Watch said.

“Justice remains a litmus test for the success of Sudan’s revolution,” Henry said. “Failure to deliver risks betraying protesters’ sacrifices and demands. The transitional government should prioritize meaningful and transparent accountability at the highest levels.”

San Diego COVID-19 Community Response 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, Food Access, Human Services, Family Support, Living Expenses
Deadline:
Ongoing

“The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund is rapidly deploying resources to nonprofit organizations that are supporting low-income workers, families and vulnerable communities most affected by the coronavirus crisis. Through food security, financial assistance, emergency supplies and more, your donation will help the people and organizations in our community most affected by coronavirus. The Foundation receives donations and makes emergency grants and interest-free loans to nonprofits that are working on the frontlines. These workers provide our region’s most vulnerable communities with assistance, such as…

  • Food security
  • Other essential living expenses
  • Emergent needs
  • Rent and utility payment support.”

Funder: The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund
Eligibility:
Nonprofits in the San Diego area.
Amount:
Unspecified
Contact:
Link.


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

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

The post San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


George Floyd’s Death Is Creating the American Spring

George Floyd: Man carrying sign reading let me live stands among men in military outfits

Luke Crawford

Protestor standing with National Guard at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta on June 3.

In the midst of me gathering information and doing interviews for this column this past week, a horrific event took place in our country. On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who many believe is responsible for Floyd’s death, was caught on videotape restraining Floyd this way.

When the video, coming weeks after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, went viral, people all over the world were outraged. For many, this was the last straw, and protests that often turned into riots and looting ensued. This event, which appears to be racially motivated, has protesters in all 50 states calling for Chauvin to receive the maximum charge and punishment by law.

George Floyd: Deandra Mouzon (headshot), Georgia-based journalist, smiling woman with black hair, earrings, orange top

Deandra Mouzon

Chauvin, who was initially fired after the incident, was finally arrested and charged with second-degree murder, but for many Americans this is not enough. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, people are coming out with their face masks and signs to stand in solidarity with Floyd’s grieving family. In a country where racial discrimination that often leads to violence is commonplace, thousands and thousands of protestors across the country are taking a stand to say that in 2020 it will not be tolerated. 

It has been over 60 years since the civil rights movement began to advocate for racial justice and equality in this country, yet in 2020 we are seeing not only racial disparities and disenfranchisement for black people, but also outright racism to the point of murder, still. 

As a black woman who has experienced racism firsthand, I can tell you it is scary to know that there are still people in this world who believe that black people are less than human because we have darker skin than they do. My former college professor, Danny Shaw, is calling these protests the American Spring, and I have to agree.

One factor that has been on my mind is the impact these mass gatherings are having on the spread of COVID-19. People are coming out in the thousands, not only in America, but around the world, despite the advice of experts who still say it is important to continue social distancing. To me, it is a double-edged sword: People are fighting for human rights at the risk of spreading a virus that has been known to take lives itself. 

Another factor I thought about is how the riots and looting are going to affect the already suffering economy. Since the country has been on lockdown due to the threat of COVID-19, the American economy and job markets have been negatively impacted. While we watch things unravel I think it is important to look out for the effects that these demonstrations and coordinated sit-outs have on the economy at large.

The government is currently taking steps to quell the protests and riots. Along with tear gas and rubber bullets, some states have deployed the National Guard to make sure the protests remain peaceful. In my opinion, this country will not see peace until all four officers involved in the case are brought to justice.

For Americans who responded after watching the video of a man screaming, “I can’t breathe” while a police officer continued to use excessive force, black lives do matter. You may or may not agree with the way protestors have responded, but I think it has to be said that the villainizing of black people by law enforcement in this country has to end. 

This tragic event should not have been the beginning of the conversation, but it has become the catalyst for a necessary change in the way black people are viewed in our communities. I hope that as a country we can finally move toward equality and fairness for people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. 

If you would like to contribute to this column and share your story about life during quarantine with a disabled youth, email me at [email protected].

Deandra Mouzon is a Georgia-based journalist who received a B.A. in journalism from CUNY’s York College. Currently she is working on a publication about youth with disabilities.

The post George Floyd’s Death Is Creating the American Spring appeared first on Youth Today.


George Floyd’s Death Is Creating the American Spring

George Floyd: Man carrying sign reading let me live stands among men in military outfits

Luke Crawford

Protestor standing with National Guard at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta on June 3.

In the midst of me gathering information and doing interviews for this column this past week, a horrific event took place in our country. On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who many believe is responsible for Floyd’s death, was caught on videotape restraining Floyd this way.

When the video, coming weeks after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, went viral, people all over the world were outraged. For many, this was the last straw, and protests that often turned into riots and looting ensued. This event, which appears to be racially motivated, has protesters in all 50 states calling for Chauvin to receive the maximum charge and punishment by law.

George Floyd: Deandra Mouzon (headshot), Georgia-based journalist, smiling woman with black hair, earrings, orange top

Deandra Mouzon

Chauvin, who was initially fired after the incident, was finally arrested and charged with second-degree murder, but for many Americans this is not enough. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, people are coming out with their face masks and signs to stand in solidarity with Floyd’s grieving family. In a country where racial discrimination that often leads to violence is commonplace, thousands and thousands of protestors across the country are taking a stand to say that in 2020 it will not be tolerated. 

It has been over 60 years since the civil rights movement began to advocate for racial justice and equality in this country, yet in 2020 we are seeing not only racial disparities and disenfranchisement for black people, but also outright racism to the point of murder, still. 

As a black woman who has experienced racism firsthand, I can tell you it is scary to know that there are still people in this world who believe that black people are less than human because we have darker skin than they do. My former college professor, Danny Shaw, is calling these protests the American Spring, and I have to agree.

One factor that has been on my mind is the impact these mass gatherings are having on the spread of COVID-19. People are coming out in the thousands, not only in America, but around the world, despite the advice of experts who still say it is important to continue social distancing. To me, it is a double-edged sword: People are fighting for human rights at the risk of spreading a virus that has been known to take lives itself. 

Another factor I thought about is how the riots and looting are going to affect the already suffering economy. Since the country has been on lockdown due to the threat of COVID-19, the American economy and job markets have been negatively impacted. While we watch things unravel I think it is important to look out for the effects that these demonstrations and coordinated sit-outs have on the economy at large.

The government is currently taking steps to quell the protests and riots. Along with tear gas and rubber bullets, some states have deployed the National Guard to make sure the protests remain peaceful. In my opinion, this country will not see peace until all four officers involved in the case are brought to justice.

For Americans who responded after watching the video of a man screaming, “I can’t breathe” while a police officer continued to use excessive force, black lives do matter. You may or may not agree with the way protestors have responded, but I think it has to be said that the villainizing of black people by law enforcement in this country has to end. 

This tragic event should not have been the beginning of the conversation, but it has become the catalyst for a necessary change in the way black people are viewed in our communities. I hope that as a country we can finally move toward equality and fairness for people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. 

If you would like to contribute to this column and share your story about life during quarantine with a disabled youth, email me at [email protected].

Deandra Mouzon is a Georgia-based journalist who received a B.A. in journalism from CUNY’s York College. Currently she is working on a publication about youth with disabilities.

The post George Floyd’s Death Is Creating the American Spring appeared first on Youth Today.


Disadvantaged Community Development and Housing Program 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: Community Development, Housing Access, Child/Youth Welfare, Arts/Culture
Deadline:
June 26, 2020

“At Bank of America, we’re guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better. We’re delivering on this through our responsible growth strategy with a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership. As part of this work, we develop strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations addressing issues fundamental to economic mobility and social progress in low- and moderate-income communities. In response to poverty and issues affecting social justice and racial and gender inequality, we focus on stabilizing individuals and families by ensuring their basic needs are met; addressing challenges, such as food and housing insecurity; and connecting individuals to pathways to succeed by building skills for 21st century jobs through education and workforce training.

Expanding Access to Housing Opportunities
Access to affordable housing remains a significant challenge in all our communities. For many, it is becoming further out of reach with more than 18 million households paying more than 50% of their income for housing. That’s why we support nonprofit organizations as they work to preserve, and increase access to a mix of affordable housing options and connect low- and moderate- income individuals and families with the tools and resources to achieve their financial goals.

Examples:

  • Housing efforts addressing the needs of vulnerable populations (e.g. low- and moderate- income, homeless, elderly, formerly incarcerated) as they construct or preserve affordable single-, multi-family, transitional and supportive housing
  • Creating pathways to stable housing or homeownership through financial stability efforts such as homebuyer education, budgeting, savings, credit and credit repair, including foreclosure prevention and loss mitigation
  • Sustainable development efforts creating healthy living environments through the pursuit of energy efficiency upgrades, retrofits, solar and other green building efforts

Building Vibrant Communities
Vibrant communities are places where individuals can thrive and succeed and have the opportunity to live and work with safe, decent housing, transportation to jobs, strong business corridors and thriving arts and culture districts. All of these are essential to an individual’s overall economic mobility. For this reason, we support local and regional revitalization efforts that take a holistic approach to building thriving communities and creating economic opportunity and livable neighborhoods. This includes support of economic drivers such as arts and cultural institutions that contribute to the overall vitality of the community.

Examples:

  • Economic development efforts that promote small business growth and healthy commercial corridors
  • Revitalization and place based initiatives that engage community stakeholders in the environmental health and economic growth of their communities (e.g. Choice Neighborhoods; Opportunity Zones; transit-oriented development; and connecting individuals to jobs, services, schools, and economic opportunity.)
  • Funding to support neighborhood preservation efforts which strengthen overall community health, safety and welfare.
  • Supporting the construction of vital community facilities (e.g., affordable health and treatment centers) delivering critical services to the community’s most vulnerable residents
  • Strengthening the resiliency of communities through the initiatives that support local plans to prepare, withstand and recover from extreme weather events and the long-term impacts of climate change
  • Supporting community arts and cultural institutions that provide economic opportunity and contribute to the vitality and livability of communities
  • Supporting community greening efforts that create healthy neighborhoods and environmental sustainability through the preservation, creation or restoration of open space, parks and community gardens.”

Funder: The Bank of America Charitable Foundation
Eligibility:
Unspecified
Amount:
Unspecified
Contact:
Link.


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The post Disadvantaged Community Development and Housing Program Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


Families, Communities, Systems Need to Collaborate to Really Help Whole Child

collaboration: Team having a casual meeting together in the lounge area of an office

Jono Erasmus/Shutterstock

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An ancient parable describes a group of people who come across something unknown to them — an elephant. Fascinated, each person begins investigating the elephant, choosing one aspect that captures their attention. Without talking to each other, each of them believes they know what an elephant is, when in reality they are only describing the part they see, such as a tusk or tail. 

Caseworkers in child welfare are set up to fall into this pattern. They are told to figure cases out without taking time to consult with the people who understand all the different parts of a child’s “elephant.” Every child has a base of support, whether that support looks like extended family, a therapist or a neighbor. Those players will largely step in to support the child when asked — but they won’t step in if they aren’t invited. To look at the bigger picture of child welfare, we need to create structures that support collaboration in families, communities and systems. 

collaboration: Sierra Wollen (headshot), consultant with Partners for Our Children, smiling woman with long blonde hair, flowered top

Sierra Wollen

Some child welfare leaders have found ways to collaborate despite the siloed structure of the child welfare system. The solution they offer is a simple one: Bring all the people who have an impact on a child’s life into the same room and have them talk to one another.  

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but child welfare courts rarely include the whole village in the conversation. Standard court processes are adversarial, since family disputes are mitigated by judges, can be punitive to birth parents and historically have promoted competition among the invested people rather than teamwork and cooperation. 

By contrast, many tribal communities understand and skillfully embody the espoused value of centering children and including community in their family court practices. Peacemaking, for example, is a consensus-based technique that native communities have practiced for generations. Peacemaking circles include direct and extended family members, community members and leaders, as well as one or more facilitators who lead an open discussion about how to best resolve family conflicts in the best interest of the child. 

According to Cheryl Fairbanks (Tlingit/Tsimpshian), executive director of the Native American Budget and Policy Institute, peacemaking is a consensus process that includes ground rules where all parties explicitly agree to “keep the child at the heart of the circle.” Facilitators invite participants to share memories about their childhood or the child at the beginning of sessions in order to set a “sacred space” in which participants are willing to be vulnerable and share openly in the best interest of the child. 

Christy Chapman, a member of the Pueblo of Zuni, facilitates peacemaking circles as an attorney for the Native American Budget and Policy Institute. One circle she led involved two Native American sisters who became estranged after one lost custody of her child due to alcohol addiction, leaving her sister and husband to care for their niece. 

Chapman says through peacemaking and “shar[ing] their stories, you got to the root cause of why the sister was drinking.” They discovered her alcoholism was a coping mechanism for dealing with the death of their mother. Peacemaking allowed the aunt’s husband to share his own struggle with and process of overcoming alcoholism and how he wouldn’t have gotten through it without his wife’s support. 

Through this, the aunt realized she had not supported her struggling sister as she supported her husband and that nobody can get through addiction without support. Chapman was initially skeptical about the process. However, after the circle discussion, “the two sisters who in the beginning were ready to hurt each other and pull each other’s hair were hugging and crying, and I wanted to cry because it was a complete success.” 

2 other methods

While peacemaking may not be culturally relevant to some children in the child welfare system, team decision-making (TDM) is a related framework that serves to diffuse an “agency versus family” dynamic. Team decision-making allows key stakeholders in a child’s life to participate in problem solving processes. Peacemaking and TDM both create structures to facilitate family and community collaboration and ensure the whole child is centered in discussions.

The same principle of creating collaboration structures holds true for the child welfare system as a whole. Our current system is siloed, with each system player focused on one single piece of the elephant. Since structures aren’t in place to force key system players to talk to one another, they generally don’t. Cross-system collaboration is a feasible way to expand families’ resource pools, promote resilience and healing, and build social capital. 

Putting collaborative structures in place is also cost effective. As an example of the types of cost savings agencies can expect, the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that the mere presence of a caregiver at team decision making meetings reduces the likelihood that a caseworker will recommend a placement change to congregate care by 40%. Congregate care is expensive — nationwide, the average cost for congregate care placements is $125 per day, compared to just $18 per day for most standard foster care. TDM meetings also significantly reduce the average length of time children spend in the system, saving child welfare agencies precious resources. 

Despite these benefits, effective cross-agency collaboration is not the norm. Ezra Spitzer, executive director of NMCAN, an organization that partners with foster youth to advocate for child welfare policy change, explains: “There’s not a good history of collaborating in child welfare. There’s no built muscle to do it. You have to put in place some structures and infrastructure to make sure it happens, and that’s hard work.” 

NMCAN has filled this gap by bringing child welfare stakeholders into the same room to talk through cases and, in the process of those conversations, identify areas where systems are not setting kids up for success. 

“We convene a group called Community Connections that brings providers together, creating and fostering coordination of services through an authentic youth lens,” Spitzer said. “Often we have the systems conversations at the top, but this group consists of front line staff from child welfare, GED providers, people from the city, people from youth shelters, and youth themselves. They do it through a case lens but they also sometimes shift broader systems conversations.” 

By simply carving out the time for stakeholders to talk to one another, case decisions and policies are more responsive to the actual needs of children.

In light of constrained child welfare budgets and the current COVID-19 pandemic, family, community and cross-system collaboration is more important than ever. Perhaps a silver lining of these unprecedented times is a shift into systematizing cross-agency collaboration. Spitzer notes the New Mexico child welfare system is moving toward a more collaborative approach to cope with the effects of COVID-19. 

“COVID-19 has forced the department to get creative and allocate their resources differently, potentially de-siloing CYFD and juvenile justice,” he said. “I definitely support the de-siloing; it’s time for the department to look at transition-aged young people, period.” 

In a time of scarcity and severe need, we can create structures that allow families, communities and systems to come together and see the entire elephant and the whole child. Peacemaking, team decision making and cross-systems collaboration offer a way through, together. 

Sierra Wollen, MSW, is a research and policy consultant with Partners for Our Children, University of Washington School of Social Work.

Yasmeen Elkordy, B.A., Angelique Day, Ph.D., MSW, and Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, MPA, Partners for Our Children, University of Washington School of Social Work contributed to this column.

The post Families, Communities, Systems Need to Collaborate to Really Help Whole Child appeared first on Youth Today.


Human activities found to be contributing to an increase in extreme rainfall events in North America

A pair of researchers with Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change in Canada has found evidence that shows human activities have been contributing to an increase in extreme rainfall events in North America. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Megan Kirchmeier-Young and Xuebin Zhang describe their study, which involved an analysis of climate data and use of computer models to demonstrate the impact of global warming on extreme rainfall events across North America.

Caregivers Overwhelmed by Increased Demands Under Pandemic

A schoolgirl taking online classes with her mother at home in Nonthaburi, Thailand, May 2020.

© 2020 Vachira Vachira/NurPhoto via AP

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the time many people, particularly women, spend caring for others. In an ongoing global Human Rights Watch survey, most respondents said the pandemic affected how much time they spend doing unpaid housework and/or caring for others.

Respondents to our nonrepresentative survey, on average, said they went from more than four hours a day spent on caregiving to over seven hours, an increase reflected in other research. While this affects people across genders, globally women do two and a half times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men.

“We have to look for ways to keep them occupied so they don’t ruin the whole house,” said a young woman in Nigeria about the children in her home. “We’ve come up with a kind of timetable … However most times this timetable doesn’t work and they’re restless.” “Housework has increased exponentially,” said a mother in the United States, estimating she has gone from three hours a day of caregiving to eight hours.

Many parents – especially mothers – have lost paid employment as a result. “I have had to reduce my working hours to half – with the respective pay cut – to be able to tend to my kids,” said a mother in Peru.

Others are struggling. “While I am very fortunate to be employed and working, the hours are much longer and well into the night,” a teacher and parent wrote. “I cannot keep up with housekeeping.”

A woman in the UK said she is working, but “I still have to care for both of my parents who have not left the house since March 8th.”

“Can only work after children have gone to bed,” said a solo mother of two.

As governments continue to respond to Covid-19, caregivers should be at the center of planning. As workplaces re-open, people with increased caregiving responsibilities will not be able to return to work until those responsibilities lighten – through schools and childcare re-opening, and access to social care assistance. People, including teachers and paid caregivers, also need to feel safe – many respondents feared sending children back to school before a vaccine is available.

Any government responses failing to take caregivers into account will harm those – mostly women – caring for others and already struggling, and often failing, to stay in the paid workforce. Governments should develop gender-responsive recovery plans that ensure adequate caregiving support for people re-entering paid work and offer special assistance to people driven out of paid work by caregiving responsibilities. They should also address long-term inequities, such as lack of affordable childcare and the gender pay gap, that contribute to women being hit hardest by caregiving during the pandemic.

US: Address Structural Racism Underlying Protests

Demonstrators gather at the Minnesota governor’s mansion Monday, June 1, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. 

© (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

(Washington, DC) – United States authorities should take bold steps to address the structural racism driving mass protests across the country, Human Rights Watch said today.

The national, state, and local governments should enact and enforce meaningful police accountability measures, drastically reduce unnecessary arrests, and end the use of police to address societal problems related to poverty and health, which disproportionately target black and brown people. Instead, they should invest in real support for communities in need and programs designed to counter long-term structural racism in multiple areas, such as health and education.

“The anger and frustration driving mass protests across the US is about more than the criminal actions of the police officers who killed George Floyd,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, US program director at Human Rights Watch. “It is about a law enforcement system that does not value all people equally and sacrifices the lives and well-being of black people as a result.”

A video shows Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, killing George Floyd by pinning him to the ground and pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020 for more than eight minutes. Four days later, prosecutors charged Chauvin with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter and had him arrested, but they have not charged the other officers involved. The district attorney should immediately file charges against the other three officers involved in Floyd’s death, Human Rights Watch said.

Floyd’s death is the latest in a long history of killings of black people by police in the US with little or no accountability. In recent years, these include Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Delrawn Small, Terence Crutcher, Breonna Taylor, and many others. They also include killings of black men that prosecutors refused to properly investigate, like that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man killed in February by two white men as Arbery was jogging in Georgia.

While killings captured on video like Floyd’s get extensive media coverage, police across the US use force and engage in abuse that do not cause death but are harmful and pervasive, especially toward black people, Human Rights Watch said. Studies show that police use force on black people at vastly higher rates than on white people, including tasers, dog bites, batons, punches, and kicks. Human Rights Watch investigations of the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department found that officers deployed tasers against black people at a rate almost 3 times as great as against white people and that black people were subjected to police violence 2.7 times as frequently.

Racial disparities in policing mirror entrenched racial disparities in many systems, including housing, education, and health care. Policymakers should address these underlying disparities with programs in all these areas that are specifically designed to counter the long-term effects of structural racism, Human Rights Watch said.

“It should not take the killing of a black man by police recorded on video to generate broad concerns about the mistreatment of black and brown people every day,” Austin-Hillery said. “The worst cases are just the tip of the iceberg of a system in which the racism is structural, not just cruel actions by bad cops.”

Abusive policing also includes unnecessary and harassing detentions and searches, often driven by racial bias. Numerous studies have revealed significant racial disparities in rates of police stops and searches. A recent survey found that 95 percent of US police departments arrested black people at higher rates than white people, some as much as 10 times as frequently.

Police detain and arrest people for conduct related to homelessness and poverty, like loitering and trespassing; for conduct that should not be criminalized at all, like the possession of drugs for personal use, or sex work; and for violations that should result in citations rather than custodial arrest.

As just one example, the police did not have to arrest Floyd for allegedly using a counterfeit US$20 bill. If the evidence called for it, the officers could have issued a summons.

Throughout the US, officials task police with responding to situations involving problematic substance use, homelessness, mental health issues, and poverty, rather than funding appropriate services to address these social problems outside a policing context. Governments should vastly reduce their reliance on police for these duties and instead invest in housing, affordable and accessible health care, economic development, and education – initiatives that directly address the problems – instead of criminalizing people in need.

The failure to prioritize and fund such direct solutions while prioritizing law enforcement and criminalizing poverty and society’s problems has for decades increased inequalities in US societies and harmed black, brown, and poor communities.

Concerned and frustrated people of all races have taken to the streets throughout the US to decry police violence and the inequalities that underlie it. Police have frequently met these protests with the unlawful use of force, resulting in escalation of conflict and physical injury.

Law and policy-makers in recent days have offered solutions such as more oversight, including new investigations of police abuse, and an end to qualified immunity – a legal doctrine that protects nearly all officers sued for abusive conduct from civil liability for that conduct. These important and overdue steps should be adopted, but it will take years for people in overpoliced communities to feel their impacts, if they ever do.

The proposals also do not address the fundamental problem, that state and local authorities employ too many police officers, who make unnecessary arrests in a misguided effort to solve societal problems with policing that should not be solved using a punitive, law enforcement approach, Human Rights Watch said.

Police also need to end the unlawful and unnecessary use of force against protesters. Posts on social media show police using vehicles to push back scores of people who appear to have been peacefully protesting behind barricades, knocking many over; pushing protesters to the ground; using tear gas indiscriminately and seemingly without cause; as well as firing pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades.

One social media post shows police patrolling a seemingly quiet residential neighborhood in military gear with an armored vehicle. Following a command to “light ’em up,” an officer fires a projectile, directly hitting at least one resident on her own porch. On June 1, President Donald Trump deployed national guard troops, who used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to clear peaceful protesters in front of the White House so that he could have a photo-op in front of the church across nearby Lafayette Square.

The US Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a party, protect the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly. The covenant applies to the federal, state, and local governments. Law enforcement personnel are obligated to protect and uphold those fundamental rights.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, law enforcement officials should as far as possible apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force. Any use of force by law enforcement must be proportionate and should only be used if other measures to address a genuine threat have proved ineffective or have no likelihood of achieving the intended result. When using force, law enforcement should exercise restraint and act proportionately, taking into account both the seriousness of the offense and the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“It is unacceptable to meet protests against police violence and for racial equality with more police violence,” Austin-Hillery said. “Unless the US at all levels of government addresses the problems that have compelled people to take to the streets, we will see continued unrest.”

 

Turkey: Free Rights Defender Following European Court Ruling

(Strasbourg) – The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers should issue a decision at its June 4, 2020 meeting directing Turkey to release human rights defender Osman Kavala and drop all charges against him, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project said today.

The three groups have submitted a detailed submission to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which oversees enforcement of European Court of Human Rights judgments. The groups outlined how Turkey continues to violate Kavala’s rights by flouting a landmark judgment, that became final on May 11 requiring his immediate release.

“The European Court ruled that Kavala’s detention is unlawful, and their binding judgment requires Turkey to release him immediately,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director at Human Rights Watch. “The Committee of Ministers, at its June 4 meeting, should press Turkey to comply and issue a clear message that no Council of Europe member state should be silencing human rights defenders.”

The judgment is particularly significant because it is the first final ruling against Turkey in which the court determined that in interfering with an individual’s rights Turkey acted in bad faith and out of political motivations, violating Art. 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court said that by detaining Kavala since November 2017 and prosecuting him, the Turkish authorities had “pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him as human rights defender.”

The European Court judgment in Kavala v. Turkey (Application no. 28749/18) found violations of Art. 5(1) (right to liberty and security), Art. 5(4) (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention), and the rarely used Art. 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights), taken together with Art. 5(1). It required Turkey to release Kavala and said that any continuation of his detention would prolong the violations and breach the obligation to abide by the judgment in accordance with Art. 46(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A court ordered Kavala’s detention on November 1, 2017 on bogus allegations that he used the 2013 Istanbul Gezi Park protests as a pretext for an attempted coup, and that he was involved in the July 15, 2016 attempted military coup. On February 18, 2020, Kavala and his eight co-defendants were acquitted on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force and violence” in the Gezi Park trial.

But Kavala was not released, and a court detained him again immediately on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitution by force and violence” because of an ongoing 2016 coup-related investigation against him. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had publicly criticized his acquittal just before he was detained again. Weeks later a court ordered his detention a second time on another charge (“espionage”) but relying on the same evidence and investigation file.

“The sequence of court orders prolonging his detention and the lack of objective deliberation as to the lawfulness of any deprivation of liberty indicates that decisions have been guided by political considerations and there has been a concerted official effort to prevent Kavala’s release,” said Róisín Pillay, director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme of the International Commission of Jurists. “Since the European Court’s judgment, Turkey has continued to violate Kavala’s human rights.”

The targeted harassment in Turkey of rights defenders is part of a wider trend of arbitrary detentions and abusive prosecutions of journalists, elected politicians, lawyers, and other perceived government critics.

This trend has been well documented in many reports by the Council of Europe, the European Union, and human rights organizations.

“The campaign of persecution against Osman Kavala and the failure to release him and drop all charges have perpetuated a chilling environment for all human rights defenders in Turkey,” said Ayşe Bingöl Demir, co-director of the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project.

The three organizations made detailed recommendations to the Committee of Ministers, urging it to:

  • Call on the government of Turkey to ensure the immediate release of Osman Kavala as required by the European Court’s judgment, stressing that the judgment clearly applies to his ongoing detention and persecution;
  • Place the Kavala v. Turkey judgment under “enhanced procedures” and treat it as a leading case under Art. 18 of the European Convention;

  • Recognize that Kavala’s continuing detention violates Art. 46 of the Convention, concerning the binding nature of final judgments of the European Court, and that a failure to release Kavala may trigger an Art. 46(4) procedure (infringement proceedings);
  • Emphasize to the Government of Turkey that Kavala’s release is of added urgency in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which increases the risk to his health in detention; and
  • Ask the Government of Turkey to drop all charges under which Kavala has been investigated and detained to silence him, in conformity with the Court’s findings that his rights have been violated and that his exercise of rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association was wrongfully used as evidence to incriminate him.

The groups also identified the general measures that Turkey needs to take to carry out the judgment to end politically motivated detention and prosecution of human rights defenders and other perceived government critics. These measures focus on Turkey’s structural rule of law problems. They include executive control over Turkey’s judiciary and prosecutorial authorities, and the evidence of a clear pattern of direct political interference in court decisions through frequent public speeches by Turkey’s president and proxies. A pattern of criminalizing the exercise of Convention-protected rights defines many of the cases against human rights defenders and other perceived government critics.