Altruism Today

How activists have already scored victories against Trump's policies

March 7th, 2017  |  Source: The Guardian

Through marches and dogged pursuit of elected officials, people across the US have helped to block some of the administration’s most anti-progressive policies

Despite Donald Trump’s claim that his administration is running like a “fine-tuned machine”, activists have already managed to score victories against some of the most anti-progressive policies of the president and his Republican allies.

Through rallies, marches and dogged pursuit of elected officials, people across the country have helped to block some of Trump’s initiatives, and draw attention to government missteps.

Here are some of activists’ most dramatic wins so far:

Puzder withdraws from labor secretary consideration

Andrew Puzder, the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, was Trump’s first choice to run the Department of Labor, but he withdrew himself from the running in February after complaints from Democrats and labor groups.

Hundreds of activists protested at Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s restaurants – owned by CKE Restaurants – on 12 January. They sought to draw attention to Puzder’s vocal opposition to minimum wage increases and his controversial business record.

In Washington Democrats held press conferences denouncing Puzder’s record. Under his leadership CKE restaurants ran sexualized advertising campaigns, and Puzder himself wrote in 2011 that “we believe in putting hot models in our commercials because ugly ones don’t sell burgers”.

Republicans back off effort to sell 3.3m acres of public land

In early February, Congressman Jason Chaffetz withdrew a bill that would have ordered the incoming secretary of the interior to sell off 3.3m acres of national land, after hundreds of protesters and 20 outdoor industry groups criticised the law.

People gathered at statehouses in New Mexico and Montana to demonstrate against House bill 621, which would have seen land in 10 states available for sale.

#GrabYourWallet sees companies dump Trump

The campaign was launched in October 2016, in response to Donald Trump’s infamous boasts that his fame allowed him to sexually assault women; specifically, to “grab them by the pussy”.

GrabYourWallet lists dozens of companies which have ties to the president – either by selling his or his family’s products, or by endorsing him during the election campaign.

Since the campaign started a number of companies have dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, including Shoes.com, Shopstyle and most recently Nordstrom. In addition to delivering a financial hit to Ivanka Trump, the campaign succeeded in upsetting the president, who tweeted that his daughter had been “treated so unfairly” by Nordstrom.

Temporarily blocking the immigration executive order

Trump’s 27 January executive order suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries sparked protests across the country. Thousands of people gathered at airports in New York City, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Ohio, Orlando and elsewhere as travellers were detained.

At the same time groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center filed lawsuits against the executive order.

On 3 February a federal judge ordered a temporary halt on the ban, restoring travel for refugees and people from the excluded countries, and on 9 February the ninth circuit court of appeals upheld that ruling. Trump on Monday issued a new executive order, which contained a number of revisions.

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 Crowds gather at US airports to protest Trump’s immigration ban

Overwhelming attendance at town halls

The congressional recess is traditionally a time for elected officials to hold town halls for their constituents. People took advantage of this to turn out in droves to events, questioning both Republicans and Democrats about their commitment to Obamacare, to the environment and more.

The actions were successful in two ways. Many congressmen and women decided not to host events, enabling activists to draw attention to their lack of interaction with voters. Even Republicans, including New Jersey governor Chris Christie, criticized their colleagues for not facing their constituents.

Separately, elected officials said that the attendance and tough questioning at town halls and other events was having an effect. Representative Mo Brooks, from Alabama’s fifth congressional district, was among those to note the impact.

“In my opinion, the massive obstructionist nature of the protests, particularly the disruption of town hall meetings, is having an effect on a good number of our more liberal, big government, weak-kneed, squishy-spined Republican senators and House members,” Brooks said. He predicted that the constituent opposition might even stop Republicans from repealing Obamacare.

#DeleteUber leads to people deleting Uber

More than 200,000 people reportedly deleted their Uber accounts after the company did not participate in a taxi drivers’ strike at JFK airport. The strike had been called in response to Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.

As well as continuing to run cars to and from the airport, Uber tweeted that it had “turned off” surge pricing during the strike, seemingly taking advantage of the taxi drivers’ action.

Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, had joined Trump’s economic advisory council in December 2016, but decided to step down following the furore.

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Abdul Sattar Edhi: Why Google honours him today

February 28th, 2017  |  Source: Al Jazeera.com

Edhi, who founded the world's largest volunteer ambulance network, would have been 89 on Tuesday.

Abdul Sattar Edhi founded the world's  largest volunteer ambulance network in Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation.

Unlike wealthy individuals that fund charities in their names, Edhi dedicated his life to the poor from the age of 20, when he himself was penniless in Karachi.

The reach of Edhi's foundation grew internationally, and in 2005 the organisation raised $100,000 in aid relief for the victims of  Hurricane Katrina.

Edhi was born before partition in Bantva, Gujarat, India on February 28, 1928.

He died last year in Karachi of renal failure.  He was offered treatment abroad,  but insisted on being treated in a government hospital at home.

The Edhi Foundation's slogan is: "Live and help live".

Today would have been his 89th birthday.

In his honour, Google changed its logo in the United States; Iceland; Portugal; Australia; New Zealand; Japan; Estonia; the UK; Denmark; Ireland and Pakistan to a doodle, or illustration, of Edhi.

Google hailed Edhi's "super-efficient" ambulance service.

"In celebration of Abdul Sattar Edhi, let's all lend a hand to someone in need today," it said.

The technology giant's team has created more than 2,000 doodles for homepages around the world. Among those recently celebrated are  Pramoedya Ananta Toer,  Fred Korematsu and Edmonia Lewis.

"The doodle selection process aims to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google's personality and love for innovation," the company says.

'No religion higher than humanity'

With more than 1,800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is Pakistan's  largest welfare organisation.  In 1997, the foundation entered the Guinness World Records as the "largest volunteer ambulance organisation".


Resistance to Targeting of Immigrants Becomes a Self-Organized System

February 24th, 2017  |  Source: NPQ

 

Amid a wave of ICE detentions across the country, reports of new draft guidelines that would significantly increase the detention and deportations of immigrants lacking legal status, and a promise from President Trump that he will release a new executive order to “comprehensively protect our country” against undocumented immigrants, refugees, and travelers, localities, schools, and other entities are progressing with their own efforts at protecting refugees to the greatest extent possible. In many cases, these initiatives require high levels of coordination between local government, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofits. Even in the major suits filed that have worked to stay the original Muslim ban, there has been a combination of plaintiffs, including governments, nonprofits (both national and local) and business interests involved.

But many efforts are more local. In Palo Alto, for instance, a three-hour study session held Wednesday of last week brought together law enforcement, legal advocates, and immigrant advocacy and support groups for a discussion of how to strengthen protections for their local residents who are immigrants. Around two-thirds of all the city’s residents are Latino or Pacific Islander, according to the nonprofit group Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. This session looked to reexamine the strength and comprehensiveness of three resolutions that the city approved between 2007 and 2012.

The first, in 2007, directs all city departments, including police, to refrain from acting as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “agents” in any program or operation targeting individuals solely based on their immigration status. It also calls for ICE to stop displaying the word “police” on their uniforms, which has confused residents and caused fear of actual local police officers.

The 2010 and 2012 resolutions called upon the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to direct its departments against cooperating with the Secure Communities Program and to refrain from using county funds to help federal immigration officials. The 2012 resolution also asked the county probation department to refrain from reporting juveniles to ICE or honoring juvenile ICE detainer requests.

The agencies reiterated their commitments to those resolutions and acknowledged the limitations of the protections provided. The integration of the services provided by local nonprofits was reviewed and an additional legal fund was discussed. Council members also wanted to know how the executive order on withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities might affect East Palo Alto, which has never formally declared itself a sanctuary city but clearly has many aspects of one.

Councilman Carlos Romero emphasized that even if federal funding were threatened, he would not back away from doing the right thing. Still, he said, “we [should] go into it with our eyes open.”

At least two other sanctuary jurisdictions, San Francisco and Santa Clara, have sued the federal government this month, claiming that the order violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it coerces state and local governments into assisting with federal immigration enforcement.

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández writes for NACLA that legal representation is critically important to establishing extra protections in sanctuary jurisdictions, taking real protections beyond rhetoric:

Before the number of people caught up in the immigration detention and deportation pipeline grows, cities could immediately agree to create an immigrant legal defense fund. Currently there is no federal right to government-funded attorneys in immigration proceedings. This is an enormous moral failing embedded into existing immigration law.

But cities can correct this moral shortcoming without opening themselves up to any legal trouble. Cities and states already employ attorneys to represent their residents. In the criminal context, government-funded legal counsel is the norm. It’s time for elected officials to expand access to counsel to immigration cases. Cities could partner with state public defenders’ offices or use their own municipal public defender corps, where those exist, to add lawyers who are ready to go into immigration courts alongside city residents.

He cites the examples of Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and New York City, where special funds have been developed to ensure counsel for those threatened with detention and deportation. These, he says, do not need to be composed only of public money but could perhaps include donor dollars as well.

Behind all of the legal efforts, however, there are other practical supports in place or being developed by local residents anxious not just resist but to welcome newcomers in ways that are practical and involve building new institutions together. In Garden City, Kansas, volunteers have established a new clinic to provide health care to local refugees. The clinic operates out of an apartment in an area where many refugees live.

“Sometimes there are barriers that prevent a refugee individual from really getting the healthcare that they need,” said John Birky, the CEO of the nonprofit clinic, New Hope Together.

The physicians staffing the effort are volunteers who understand that health delivery in this circumstance requires more than medical care. “A lot of people don’t know how insurance works,” said Gareth Bridge, one of the clinic’s physicians. “They don’t know why we do preventative medicine. These are foreign concepts in many countries.”

Ifrah Ahmed, who will be acting as a volunteer language mentor at New Hope Together, says the clinic reflects a strengthened relationship between refugees and the rest of Garden City, which developed in the wake of a bombing plot targeting refugees there last year. “Instead of taking us apart and making people flee from Garden City,” she said, “it made us more united. It made us stronger, and it made us more family now.”

All this is taking place even as protests continue across the country and Trump’s justifications for getting tough on immigration and refugees wear ever thinner. Over the weekend, in an impassioned talk about the link between crime and refugees, he referred to a purported attack he said had happened in Sweden on Friday. Later, the president clarified his statement, which was he said was based on an interview with a filmmaker he had seen on Fox News. No attack, of course, had occurred. Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former prime minister, tweeted “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

This is, of course, not the first time that key Trump staff have alluded to terrorist attacks that did not occur. Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green Massacre” references and Sean Spicer’s to Atlanta when he presumably meant Orlando suggest a larger cultural issue in the administration—a vagueness and disregard for the truth in the fright mongering that would indeed be funny if it weren’t so frightening itself. Finally, the link the president has made between violent crime rates and immigration is both backward and entirely unsupported. These weaknesses must be used to highlight the faulty as much as anything else of course, but they cannot be counted upon necessarily

In the face of this, the multiple nodes of activism—service and resettlement-oriented, sanctuary organizing, legal defense and litigation, and protest—are all critical. At the very least, it’s apparent that coordination is moving nicely into position where it is needed, responses are being shared across localities and fields and types of organizations, and the whole has acted with the intelligence and skill inherent in the parts. No doubt these alliances will at times be difficult, but the stakes are very high.


Starbucks Plans to Hire 10,000 Refugees After Trump Action

January 30th, 2017  |  Source: Bloomberg

Starbucks Corp. Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz, who wrote he had a “heavy heart” over U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration order, said the company plans to hire 10,000 refugees over five years around the world.

Trump issued an order on Jan. 27 suspending the admission of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days and banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. The directive has been criticized by U.S. allies Canada and Germany.

Starbucks is in direct contact with employees affected by the immigration ban and will do “everything possible to support and help them to navigate through this confusing period,” Schultz said in a letter to employees posted on the coffee chain’s website. Schultz also said that he and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson, who is due to take over the CEO role this year, will begin communicating with workers more frequently.

“I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack, and want to use a faster, more immediate form of communication to engage with you on matters that concern us all as partners,” Schultz wrote.

Schultz said he strongly supported the “Dreamers” program, designed to help immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children.

Boycott Threat

In posting the letter, Schultz delivered one of corporate America’s fiercest rebukes against Trump’s immigration order. The message also brought a backlash from some Americans. The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending in the U.S. on Monday morning. But Schultz wasn’t alone in criticizing Trump’s move. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, an immigrant from India, called the policy “painful,” and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said it’s “not a policy we support.”


Sanctuary Cities and Trump

January 27th, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

Cracks are appearing in President Trump’s executive order to take funding away from U.S. cities that don’t follow immigration law, as questions arise about exactly how funds are spent.

https://www.reuters.tv/v/4Mp/2017/01/27/cracks-in-trump-s-crackdown-on-sanctuary-cities


Trying to Make Sense of the Trump Administration

January 27th, 2017  |  Source: NPQ

Source: BBC News

Over the past few days, we’ve all watched a number of situations where accounts of what’s occurring inside the Beltway conflict. The resignation of four highly placed state department officials reported yesterday has been characterized by major media sources as 1) a firing, 2) a resignation in advance of Tillerson’s assuming the lead and in protest of the tone being set, or 3) just normal turnover. So the fact that for a while it was somewhat unclear who cancelled the meeting next week between Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is no surprise.

It seems that the media is, as with some other issues, trying valiantly to get a straight story out of the administration as one set of assertions quickly supplants another. In the case of Mexico, it’s something of a who-broke-up-with-whom scenario, but with about $600 billion a year’s worth of stakes. (That is the annual value of trade between the two countries.) Whoever cancelled did so after Trump continued to declare that not only would a $12–15 billion border wall be built, but that the Mexican government would pay for it. Trump told Republican lawmakers who were on retreat in Philadelphia yesterday that the meeting cancelation was by mutual agreement, but he had already declared the meeting would be “fruitless” unless Mexico treated the U.S. “with respect” by paying for the border wall. Peña Nieto had a slightly different story, saying that he only cancelled the visit after Trump pretty much forced his hand with a full-on campaign of public posturing. “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” the U.S. president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

Peña Nieto, for his part, says, “I’ve said time and again: Mexico won’t pay for any wall.” Indeed, he cannot agree to such a proposal; many Mexicans were outraged when Candidate Trump described Mexican migrants as murderers and rapists (though he said that some, he assumed, were good people) and disapproved of a previous meeting between Peña Nieto and Trump. They see the wall proposal as divisive, unnecessary, inhumane, expensive, and ineffective. By most accounts, they disapprove of any political kowtowing to Trump on their behalf, so, in the context of Trump’s public goading, it would have been next to politically impossible for Peña Nieto to travel to D.C. to meet with Trump.

Meanwhile, Sean Spicer made it known that one of the president’s proposed plans to pay for the “big, beautiful” wall was a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods. Vanity Fair pointed out the apparent consequence of this: Americans, not Mexicans, would end up paying. After that, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters that a border tax is just one of a “buffet of options” to pay for the wall. (Mexico, by the way, Is the U.S.’s third-largest trade partner.)


Street Scribes

January 23rd, 2017  |  Source: PS Magazine

The story of the literary magazine whose authors are all homeless.

In January 2011 I presented myself as a volunteer at the Monday Lunch, the weekly free meal for the homeless hosted by the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston. I was on a spiritual quest — which sounds ridiculous, but there it is. I’d been lurking nervously in churches (“Hang in there!” one priest said to me as I sloped past him toward the exit), reading Catholic mystics, waiting for something to click. And I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was fractious at home, miserable with my work. But as I stepped into that grumbling, ruminant, school-food-smelling basement and registered the various enormous and off-kilter personalities ranged around me, I had a profound sensation of arrival. All right, I thought: You’re here.

I’d been a volunteer among homeless people before — in London shelters, and at the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington, D.C. — but always in an essentially passive, youthful, hanging-out-and-occasionally-mopping-something-up capacity. Now I was in my 40s, with a bit of experiential weight on me. It was time to instigate. But how? With what?

That October, the Reverend Cristina Rathbone — pastor and focal presence of the Monday Lunch community — led a dozen of us on a pilgrimage, walking 60 miles out of Boston, sleeping on church floors, to a retreat center in West Newbury. On the road we looked motley, medieval, straggling along with fluttering flags and unconventional headgear: We were met with wild shouts of encouragement from passing cars, and very occasionally by some abuse hanging in the slipstream. “We’re on a spiritual pilgrimage!” one of our company, Steve, would cheerfully volunteer to starers or curious passersby. We made it anyway. And it was in one of the cottages at the retreat center, at 3 a.m., that the idea came to me. I woke up suddenly with a gift, a brainstorm in the dark: I would start a magazine for homeless writers, and it would be called The Pilgrim.

Read on here: https://psmag.com/radical-efforts-to-end-homelessness-street-scribes-6db42c96ab43#.2r78zspmy


Obama Picks Up the Pace on Commutations in His Final Days in Office

January 17th, 2017  |  Source: PS Magazine

President Obama has accelerated clemency to low-level drug offenders.

Near the start of his second term, President Barack Obama had granted clemency at a lower rate than any president in recent history. He had pardoned 39 people and denied 1,333 requests. He had used his power to commute a prisoner’s sentence just once.

But as Obama enters the final days of his administration, he has dramatically picked up the pace. He’s now issued commutations to 1,176 people since entering office — more than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan put together. In December, Obama commuted the sentences of 231 people in a single day.

Much of Obama’s increased activity can be attributed to an initiative begun in 2014 to shorten sentences of non-violent offenders who would likely have received less time for their crimes under current law and who had already served at least 10 years of their prison sentences. Low-level drug offenders have received most of the commutations, part of a broader push by the administration to reform sentencing guidelines.

“Historically, clemency has been used to heal national wounds after a war,” said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who started the first federal commutations law clinic. “There was a big batch of grants during and after the Civil War, after World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War — and, in a way, Obama is doing it after the War on Drugs.”

While Obama’s commutation numbers have accelerated, they do not, as the White House has put in press releases, exceed those of the last 11 presidents combined, Osler pointed out. Gerald Ford put together a clemency board in 1974 specifically looking to pardon Vietnam War draft dodgers. In just a year, the board reviewed 31,500 petitions and recommended clemency for 13,603.


A Brief History of Vaccine Conspiracy Theories

January 13th, 2017  |  Source: PS Magazine

Vaccine skepticism is as old as the idea of inoculation itself, but the recent politicization of vaccination is putting us all at risk.

On Tuesday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. announced that Donald Trump had tapped him to lead a special commission on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” Kennedy, an environmental attorney by day, is a proponent of a long-discredited conspiracy linking vaccines to autism. For public health officials, pro-vaccine advocates, and anyone trying not to get whooping cough, the news was major cause for concern.

Kennedy, an environmental attorney by day, is a proponent of a long-discredited conspiracy linking vaccines to autism. The Trump transition team temporarily quelled those fears by announcing that, though Trump is considering forming such a commission, no decisions regarding it’s leadership had been made. But an anti-vaxxer still has the ear of the president-elect, a man who has himself been sympathetic to conspiracy theories regarding autism and vaccines in the past.

While anti-vaxxing has been largely absent from presidential politics, opposition to vaccines been around for at least as long as vaccinations themselves. When Boston physician Zabdiel Boylston began rubbing slices from smallpox sores into open wounds to try to protect the healthy from outbreaks in the early 1700s, his (then unproven) inoculation method was met with immediate resistance.

Over time, evidence accumulated that vaccination was an effective method to prevent disease. In the United States, local and state authorities began implementing mandatory vaccination policies in the early 1800s; Boston was the first to do so in 1809. Today, vaccinations are considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reducing deaths from preventable diseases like polio, smallpox, and measles by nearly 100 percent. Yet opposition has never been fully eradicated.

Full article here: https://psmag.com/a-brief-history-of-vaccine-conspiracy-theories-a4b9baee2cca#.gwgcytox8

It concludes with:  Just as the media helped to create anti-vaccination groups like the NVIC, news organizations can contribute to the politicization of health issues, and influence how people behave. A 2015 paper in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science found that the politicization of the HPV vaccine, spurred by media coverage that gave a voice to politicians on both sides of the debate, reduced public support for the vaccine requirements, state immunization programs at large, and confidence in both doctors and government.

 

If vaccines continue to become more tightly linked to political identity than public health, it could further reduce vaccination rates. And that would endanger us all.


Why Grandpa Is Homeless

January 9th, 2017  |  Source: PS Magazine

A sagging economy, a complex job market, and a lack of social programs have led to an increase in the number of elderly people living—and dying—on the streets.

Herbert Manown is a self-described “jack-of-all-trades but master of none.” A Harley Davidson-riding Vietnam War Navy veteran, he has worked in construction, at the post office, and with the United States Census Bureau. At 62, he’s still fit and healthy, with a strong handshake and grandfatherly eyes framed by black glasses and thick, bushy brows.

Life was stable for Herb until 2013, when he “got lazy” and neglected to renew his truck-driver license. He didn’t realize the severity of his error until he applied for a new license but could not pass the written test. Although Herb quickly landed a job as a security guard at a fast-food restaurant, even working overtime didn’t provide enough for him to make ends meet. He fell behind on rent and was evicted.

Herb has four children in the Bay Area, but he was reluctant to ask if he could move in with any of them. As he put it, “We have very different lifestyles.” And while he also has siblings in the area, they had a major falling out, so he refuses to turn to them for help. He wound up settling in at the East Oakland Community Project, a shelter located near his old apartment. He volunteered in the kitchen and was even voted president of the shelter, a position that entails acting as a go-between for residents and management. But after a few months, he felt pressure to move on. “Herb, you have to go,” he recalls them saying. So he bought a used car and moved into it.

Read on here: https://psmag.com/radical-efforts-to-end-homelessness-old-sick-and-on-the-street-80ea458ea7ee#.5f7rkdaei




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