Altruism Today

The Politics of Closing the World’s Largest Refugee Camp

July 22nd, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

In May, NPQ reported on the Kenyan government’s decision to close the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. Managed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Dadaab Refugee Complex is the largest refugee camp in the world and home to over 340,000 refugees, 95 percent of who are from Somalia.Covering an area of 50 kilometers, Dadaab was originally a group of three camps established in 1991 to house 90,000 people, mostly Somalis fleeing civil war. The camp’s enormous population makes it the third largest “city” in Kenya, after Nairobi and Mombasa.

The Kenyan government’s plan to close Dadaab was cited, in part, as a response to the security threat posed by the Somali militant group al-Shabaab. The government has accused the group of using the camp to launch terrorist attacks, including the 2013 Westgate Mall attack where at least 67 died and the April 2015 attack at Garissa University College that killed 148 students and staff. (Newsweek reports that the “UN has noted that ‘clear information’ is not available on the presence of terrorist elements inside Dadaab.”)

Kenya’s decision to close the camp was met with grave concern by numerous international humanitarian organizations, who, in a joint statement, urged the Kenyan government to reconsider its decision, while acknowledging its contributions over the years: “Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) providing assistance to refugees in Kenya acknowledge the hospitality and responsibility that the Government of Kenya has borne over decades.” As of April 2016, Kenya hosted around 600,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia, South Sudan, and Burundi.

Dadaab’s closing is yet another example of the huge challenges facing refugees and host countries worldwide. In a report released on June 20, UNHCR stated that over 65 million people in the world are currently refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs)—more than the entire population of the United Kingdom and surpassing even the amount of refugees caused by World War II.

The Kenyan government has assured Western governments, UNHCR, and international NGOs that repatriation to Somalia would be “voluntary, safe and dignified,” but is nonetheless facing widespread criticism over the closing of Dadaab, as the international community worries that sending Somali refugees home would both endanger their lives and empower al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups.

Before his departure in 2015, Somalia’s top UN official at the time, Nicholas Kay, declared the nation a “recovering fragile country” rather than a “failed state.” However, after decades of civil war, famine, collapsed government, and now, widespread Islamic terrorism and insurgencies, Somalia will take years to rebuild. Sending these refugees back to their still violent and unstable homeland is without a doubt fraught with risk and danger.

Should the international community condemn the Kenyan government for choosing security over their international obligations? Is this a case of scapegoating refugees, a legitimate national security concern, a holdover from the fact that next year Kenya holds national elections—or some combination of all three?

The problem is that U.S. and European governments pressure poor countries to take in refugees when they themselves are unwilling to do the same. An Oxfam report published this week states that the “six wealthiest nations host less than nine percent of the world’s refugees while poorer countries shoulder most of the responsibility.” This echoes the UNHCR report, which notes, “Developing regions hosted 86 percent of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate,” the highest figure in more than two decades. Of the world’s six richest countries, Germany is the host of 736,000 refugees. Kenya, as noted above, is currently hosting 600,000. According to the UN’s 2014 figures, Germany hadthe fourth largest GDP of all countries in the world; Kenya was 73rd.

In January of this year, NPQ reported that the Danish parliament was trying to make itself as unattractive as possible to refugees by passing a bill that allowed for the seizure of refugee assets upon their arrival in the country. For the international community to criticize Kenya for closing Dadaab 25 years after it was opened is an example of the hypocrisy and inequity that colors even the question of who bears the responsibility for taking care of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

In the government’s official statement on the closing of Dadaab, Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Nkaissery, mentions that European countries, with regard to refugees, have made their countries’ economic and national security interests paramount:

Kenya appreciates the national security interests that are informing how other countries are dealing with the challenge of refugee inflows. We are also seeking to anchor our humanitarian character, which is recognized all over the world, in considerations that put the security of our country first. We will not be the first to do so; this is the standard practice worldwide. For example in Europe, rich, prosperous, and democratic countries are turning away refugees from Syria, one of the worst war zones since World War Two.

At the end of his statement, Nkaissery puts it simply: “Refugees are a responsibility of the international community.” He is right. Perhaps the 145 countries who are party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention have forgotten what they signed.

Selling the Museum Experience... to Millennials

July 21st, 2016  |  Source: Philanthropy Daily

How can you innovate upon a museum? By definition, museums are places of stability and sober constancy—the best are designed to let their exhibits announce themselves, and people are not as much attracted to a particular museum as they are to its holdings.

But now a group of creative millennials is toying with the traditional museum business model by putting a fresh twist on the whole experience.

Museum Hack describes itself as delivering “museum tours for people who don’t like museums.” Originally a small group of quirky tour guides based in New York City, the group now boasts hundreds of annual programs from DC to San Francisco.

The art-history majors and urban twenty-somethings offering the tours spend months studying a particular exhibit or museum ahead of time ensuring a presentation teeming with facts and unusual bits of detail.

What Museum Hack is really selling, though, is what so few young people manage to get on their own: Afun and informative afternoon at some of America’s top galleries.

“Some people in big museums still believe that the museum experience is meant for you to sit down in front of the object and let its majesty wash over you,” explains the group’s founder Nick Gray.

But Gray and his colleagues don’t believe in the hands-off approach, opting instead to immerse their customers in a bespoke and interactive viewing experience that self-consciously abandons all pretense to burdensome decorum and stuffiness.

Groups are encouraged to play little games—like match-making characters from different paintings—while stopping along the way for yoga breaks (in order to stave off “gallery fatigue”). Selfies are encouraged, and salacious tidbits about Caravaggio’s personal life are sprinkled into discussions of the Italian master’s work.

The perky guides are the main selling point. Exuberant, down-to-earth, and sassy in the way that millennials like to be with one another, this chatty and knowledgeable cohort constitutes Museum Hack’s primary product. A San Francisco blogger described being able to identify her Hacker tour guide by his distinctive tote-bag, which bore the company’s motto: “Museums are f***ing awesome.”

But it’s not all fun and games. Museum Hack has also found ways to transform their unique style into marketable expertise. Through a slate of consulting and team building services intended to help museums create new content, build up existing programs, and expand their reach across traditional and digital platforms, Museum Hack is honing the museum-going experience and helping enable often sclerotic institutions to better keep up with consumer demand.

“[Museums] haven’t been, historically, posited as the most ‘hip’ spaces,” says Sandra Jackson-Dumont, the director of education services at the Met, in a statement that itself proves the need for museum administrators to avail themselves of the Hackers’ more colloquial style. But Jackson-Dumont is right, of course, and her observation should be kept in mind by the sniffing curators who find the Hackers’ irreverent style gauche or degrading.

For instance, Gray describes how when he takes his guests through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing, which features the gorgeous gold Saint-Gaudens Diana, it’s a good opportunity to compare the Greek goddess to a latter-day embodiment of feminine beauty like Kim Kardashian. Such an exercise may strike some as shallow, but Gray defends it as creating “points of accessibility” so as to let patrons encounter the object for themselves.

There is nothing sacred about the four walls of a museum. They are public places meant to attract and interest. The pieces on exhibit, in turn, must be seen in order to prove moving or inspiring. Beauty needs an audience. And the Hackers are the first to admit that their overriding priority is to get young people interested in art.

Despite their profanity-laden gallery spiels and flashy style, then, the Hackers are not cultural vandals—they are doing yeoman’s work introducing a whole new generation to the wonders of high culture.

For a generation more interested in buying experiences than products, these sort of innovations will continue to prove necessary.

Why You Should Believe in the Digital Afterlife

July 19th, 2016  |  Source: The Atlantic

A professor of neuroscience says it will one day be possible to live on in a computer after death.

Imagine scanning your Grandma’s brain in sufficient detail to build a mental duplicate. When she passes away, the duplicate is turned on and lives in a simulated video-game universe, a digital Elysium complete with Bingo, TV soaps, and knitting needles to keep the simulacrum happy. You could talk to her by phone just like always. She could join Christmas dinner by Skype. E-Granny would think of herself as the same person that she always was, with the same memories and personality—the same consciousness—transferred to a well regulated nursing home and able to offer her wisdom to her offspring forever after.

And why stop with Granny? You could have the same afterlife for yourself in any simulated environment you like. But even if that kind of technology is possible, and even if that digital entity thought of itself as existing in continuity with your previous self, would you really be the same person?

As a neuroscientist, my interest lies mainly in a more practical question: is it even technically possible to duplicate yourself in a computer program? The short answer is: probably, but not for a while.

Read on here:

Cleveland and the RNC—No Mattresses Allowed, But You Can Bring Your Gun

July 18th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; CNN

Here are the city of Cleveland’s “protest zone” rules for the 1.7 square miles around the GOP Convention next week, where thousands of people will be expressing their conflicting views. They don’t allow selfie sticks or lightbulbs. Leave all sabers at home, please, along with any nunchucks, shovels, or Christmas tree ornaments. If you were planning on staying for the duration, no hammocks or mattresses, either. But feel perfectly free to carry a gun—or two or three—in plain sight. No water guns or air rifles are permitted, either: Your gun must actually use bullets in order to bring it to the venue.

In short, the state’s open-carry firearms law apparently supersedes any cautionary rules made by the city. A number of organizations intend to take advantage. Some organizations intend to “support the police” (without having been asked to do so) and others say that they will use their firearms purely for self-defense.

The presence of armed “open carry” advocates in Cleveland should not affect the convention itself. When a proposal was floated several months ago to allow firearms at the Republican National Convention, the Secret Service asserted its control over security, including its right to control individual action in proximity to the people they are assigned to protect and who will be attending the convention. According to NPR, this means that the “Secret Service will not permit anyone but law enforcement to carry weapons inside the Quicken Loans Arena where the convention will take place.”

It’s a different story in the surrounding area. Cleveland’s largest police union believes this open-carry scenario near a contentious convention to be misguided. Stephen Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen Association yesterday, called for a temporary ban on Ohio’s open-carry gun laws:

We are sending a letter to Governor Kasich requesting assistance from him…He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something—I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point. They can fight about it after the RNC, or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.

However, Emmalee Kalmbach, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a later statement that the governor could not suspend open-carry at the convention.

Law enforcement is a noble, essential calling and we all grieve that we’ve again seen attacks on officers. Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested. The bonds between our communities and police must be reset and rebuilt—as we’re doing in Ohio—so our communities and officers can both be safe. Everyone has an important role to play in that renewal.

At a news conference yesterday morning, Police Chief Calvin D. Williams said that Cleveland’s police would not impede the Second Amendment rights of the protesters, but neither would they be allowed to menace anyone with those weapons—or be perceived as being menacing.

“We keep an eye on them,” Williams told the Washington Post. “If we think they’re an issue, we kind of stay with them. If we don’t think they’re an issue, they go about their business.”

Given the heightened tensions around gun violence in the country, this whole thing looks particularly bizarre. Still, it did not come out of nowhere, and even in response to pleas by law enforcement, it cannot simply be wished away in a pinch.

Fraudulent Veterans Charity Shutdown in Maryland

July 14th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; Southern Maryland Online

In February of this year, the Washington Post reported on a cease-and-desist orderissued to a fly-by-night operation soliciting funds for veterans services in Maryland. The group’s fundraising was largely done on the street, outside of grocery stores. At that time, Maryland’s secretary of state and attorney general’s offices alleged that the Southern Maryland Veterans Association, which is not listed on GuideStar, would not or could not account for its donations and it was ordered it to stop raising money.

Reportedly in response to a number of complaints, the secretary of state’s Charities and Legal Services Division, aided by the Office of the Attorney General, began an investigation that discovered the organization was not providing veterans with housing assistance as it claimed in its own marketing materials, nor was it registered with the secretary of state.

In the course of the investigation, a former manager of the group, Norman Randolph McDonald, was arrested in January on suspicion of stealing donations meant for veterans. Dan Brashear, who leads the organization, said he thought McDonald had filed the necessary paperwork for the charity to operate, but Brashear’s own credibility may be in question. As the paper reports:

Brashear said he wanted to help veterans when he got out of prison in 2012 after serving 22 years for killing his then-girlfriend. His first charity venture in Western Maryland ran into financial problems, and an assistant accused him of misusing funds, Brashear said.

On July 1st, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith announced a final decision in the case against both the group and Brashear, finding multiple violations of the Maryland Solicitations Act, including misleading potential donors to a charitable organization, using false and misleading advertising in connection with a solicitation, and failing to register with the secretary of state before soliciting.

“I applaud the Secretary of State’s final decision in this case,” said Attorney General Frosh. “This case highlights why strong enforcement is needed to safeguard the generosity of Maryland donors and legitimate veterans charities.”

“A charity that cannot show it operates within the law will not be permitted to solicit charitable donations,” said Secretary of State Wobensmith. “This decision is a victory for those who were misled and mistreated by this organization.”

Possible FBI Probe into Clinton Foundation

July 13th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; The Hill

Hillary Clinton’s detractors suspect she used her position as Secretary of State to help generate speaking engagements for Bill Clinton and contributions to the Clinton Foundation. When FBI Director James B. Comey castigated Hillary Clinton at the House Oversight Committee hearing last week for being “extremely careless” about her use of private email as secretary of state, he refused to comment “on the existence or nonexistence of any other ongoing investigations.”

Comey also refused to answer a follow-up question from Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) about whether the Clinton Foundation was “tied into” the Clinton investigation. The comments stoked speculation about a possible ongoing probe connected to the charitable organization, even after the Justice Department on Wednesday abandoned the possibility of charges against Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, for mishandling classified information.

In January 2016, citing “three intelligence sources not authorized to speak on the record,” Fox News reported that the FBI investigation began a new probe into whether “the possible ‘intersection’ of Clinton Foundation work and State Department business may have violated public corruption laws.”

NPQ has reported many times in its nonprofit newswire, including here and mostrecently here, about the controversies and ambiguities consistently crafted by the Clinton Foundation. At worst, Mrs. Clinton violated the conflict-of-interest agreement she made with the Obama administration when she became secretary of state, potentially opening the door to influence peddling and related malfeasance, if not criminal activity. At best, the Clinton Foundation complemented U.S. values of “partnership building” and served as a positive channel of American influence around the world.

Voters will need to know if the FBI is investigating whether the presumptive Democratic nominee for president violated any laws in supporting the Clinton Foundation and where the probe stands, if there is one underway.

Meanwhile, an hour-long film adaptation of Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Its U.S. premiere is scheduled for July 24th in Philadelphia ahead of the Democratic National Convention. The book investigates donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities and other issues such as paid speeches and in general the Clintons’ wealth building since leaving the White House in 2001. In response to the book’s accusations, the Clinton Foundation admitted that it made mistakes in disclosing some of its contributions. The foundation pledged new financial reporting guidelines and that it would limit foreign donations.

As reported by The Guardian:

Though Clinton’s people have so far remained silent on the pending launch of the film, there is no shortage of evidence about the partisan backgrounds of the filmmakers. Schweizer was a speechwriter for former president George W. Bush and coach to Sarah Palin on foreign affairs during her vice-presidential run, while the producer, Stephen Bannon, is a prominent creator of such rightwing favorites as the film Ronald Reagan and His Ranch and chairman of the Clinton-baiting Breitbart News.

Few public figures have sustained careers for as long and with as high a decibel level of accusation and suspicion as Hillary and Bill Clinton. Though the Benghazi investigation and the email scandal that grew out of were not fatal to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, she must still contend with the accretion of scandals and cauterized truths endured by the Clinton family since Bill Clinton’s first run for office in 1974. In national polls taken before last week’s rebuke, roughly two-thirds of Americans said that Mrs. Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. A decades-old cottage industry exists to attack the Clintons; The Atlantic even recently prepared a “Clinton Scandal Primer.”

Clinton Cash was published more than a year ago. There is no “smoking gun” in the book or film. There is still no evidence that we know of proving that Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state made any deals or altered U.S. government policy specifically to benefit her husband or the Clinton Foundation. While the absolution Mrs. Clinton seeks will likely never come, only government investigations, such as the possible FBI probe into her relationship with the Clinton Foundation, can stop Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Civil Society Under Pressure as China Hosts First Philanthropy Conference

July 12th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source, China Topix

The Alibaba Foundation, established in 2011 by Alibaba Group, hosted the Xin Philanthropy Conference this past weekend, a first-of-its-kind event in China. The Alibaba Foundation earmarks 0.3 percent of annual revenue to fund environmental initiatives and social responsibility in China. The company foundation includes a voluntary three-hour donation of time per year for employees interested in serving a charity.

The Xin Philanthropy Conference brought together prominent Chinese philanthropists, global leaders in philanthropy, and major multinational organizations and NGOs to meet, share best practices, and inspire China’s wealthy elite to consider becoming engaged philanthropically. The conference headliner was Jack Ma, founder and executive chair of Alibaba Group and China’s most celebrated philanthropist. Mr. Ma donated $2.4 billion worth of Alibaba share options to his charitable trust. Mr. Ma’s areas of philanthropic interest include healthcare, education, and the environment in China.

Ma revealed that the idea came after Alibaba held a staff swimming competition at Hangzhou’s Qiantang River to celebrate the opening of Alibaba’s new headquarters in 2009. Employees came ashore with plastic bags and garbage they picked up along the course. Shocked and dismayed over the state of the river, Alibaba took a step for a change.

The conference also served as an opportunity for Mr. Ma to defend himself amid the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe into Alibaba’s accounting practices in the United States. Suspicions about Alibaba’s rapid growth have been a subject of controversy.

“If you want to sue us, sue us,” Ma said. “It’s an opportunity for us to let them understand what we’re doing.”

Other speakers included Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary General; Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the UK; Salman Khan, Founder and CEO of Khan AcademyYao Ming, retired NBA athlete and founder of the Yao Ming Foundation; andJet Liactor and founder of the One Foundation. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates made video presentations.

The conference included panel discussions on education, disaster relief, environmental protection, healthcare, and philanthropy in the Internet era. The conference was live-streamed; photos are here.

Given Beijing’s looming restrictions on the development of civil society in China, it will take much more than this conference to mobilize China’s other 430 billionaires to demonstrate an interest in helping to meet the world’s needs.

In 2013, Eileen Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust, spoke at a conference in China for NGO leaders. Heisman concluded her description of the experience in NPQwith this positive assessment:

Philanthropy has been a hallmark of American culture since its inception, one that Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the 1800s. It is an honor that China looks to the U.S. as a model for “good giving.” I, for one, will not be surprised when the day comes that we look to China’s nonprofit organizations’ achievements and wonder, “How’d they do that?”

A year earlier, NPQ wrote about China’s first-ever charity fair in Shenzhen, “a south China municipality that aspires to become a ‘city of philanthropy’ and a ‘city of volunteers.’” The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MOCA) and the local government hosted the fair.

While advances continue, such as China’s new law against domestic abuse, in the past year, China’s president, Xi Jinping, has reined in opposition to the Communist party, and that offensive includes restricting civil society. Chinese nonprofit groups say the new laws are as severe as those in the days following the 1989 military offensive againstTiananmen protesters. Not coincidentally, the Tiananmen Square protest memorial museum in Hong Kong was just shut down.

Religious persecution in China includes this story about a couple buried alive trying to prevent their church from being demolished. Foreign NGOs operating inside China are not spared. The Chinese Human Rights Defenders group, run by overseas activists, described and criticized the new laws in this statement.

Here is a recent story about a Swedish NGO chief working in China to promote access to legal services who was detained for 23-days before being deported:

On the 10th day of Peter Dahlin’s captivity in a secret Beijing jail, Chinese state security officers sprang one of their big surprises—something he found even more astonishing than hearing a colleague being beaten in a room above his cell. They showed him a document…prepared by the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit group based in Washington that is largely funded by the United States Congress.

Nevertheless, some 1,000 attendees attended the inaugural Conference, brimming with excitement and expectation.

According to Alibaba Vice President Brian Wong, who helped plan the event, the conference emphasized the use of technology at the grassroots level to drive change. “Combining the entrepreneurial spirit with innovative approaches to doing social good by leveraging technology is key to making an impact today.” Alibaba Group held its inaugural Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship in China last year.

China has 1.3 million millionaires and is expected to add another 1 million by 2020. A May 2016 United Nations Development Program report entitled Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy in China found that “total charitable giving in China is just 4 percent of the level in the U.S. or Europe. In many respects, China is still a place where philanthropists are finding it hard to operate due to a combination of public distrust in the sector because of some recent scandals, and an unclear legal and policy framework.”

Which face of China will triumph? Mr. Ma’s eager conference-goers, mostly young entrepreneurs representing China’s next generation of leaders aglow with the prospect of discovery and accomplishment, or police state enforcers grimly reading their mail should they attempt to embrace the promise of philanthropy?

Judge Holds WA in Contempt over Use of Jails as Mental Health “Waiting Rooms”

July 8th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; Seattle Times

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman held the State of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services in contempt on Thursday after finding that it had violated her order to provide speedy services to people with mental illness. The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of those forced to languish in jails and prisons as they wait for services.

Pechman’s original order found that forcing people in need of mental health services to wait weeks or months in jail before receiving competency evaluations or treatment was systematically violating their constitutional rights. The practice of jailing people with mental health issues has become a serious human rights issue, as our nonprofit newswriters have written about here NEWSWIRES-08JUL2016-REVISED-TCA.docxand here, all across the United States, with some suffering through the even more horrific experience of extended periods of solitary confinement. Yesterday’s contempt finding was based on the numbers of mentally ill people still confined in jails. Judge Pechman noted that in May, only 20 percent of defendants ordered to receive in-hospital competency evaluations were admitted within seven days and only 32 percent of those ordered to receive competency treatment were admitted within a week. One defendant waited in jail for treatment for 97 days after he was found incompetent to stand trial.

“The people of Washington deserve to have their mental health needs and the needs of their spouses, parents, children and friends attended to with the same urgency and dignity our society expects hospitals to respond with when presented with a broken bone or a cancerous tumor,” Pechman said, ordering sanctions of $500 to $1,000 per day for each person who must wait more than a week for treatment or evaluation.

La Rond Baker of Washington’s ACLU said, “The court has made it crystal clear that the state can no longer drag its heels and ignore the court’s directives. The state must act now to ensure that it no longer tramples the rights of pretrial detainees ordered to receive competency services.”

Emily Cooper of Disability Rights Washington said the state was being recalcitrant. “Instead of listening to the court monitor or its own experts, DSHS has continued to waste money and time on unproven solutions.”

Judge Pechman seems to agree with that assessment, saying that the agency has “failed to take appropriate responsibility for failings caused by DSHS’s own actions and inactions,” she said. The agency failed to meet “each and every wait-time benchmark” set in the injunction and repeatedly ignored or minimized its failures.

Seattle lawyer Chris Carney, who represents some of the mentally ill defendants, said the ruling “says that enough is enough. […] Enough excuses, enough failure of leadership, enough needless suffering. It’s time for serious commitment from the state, time to do what it takes to meet its obligation to vulnerable people in desperate need. We hope this ruling is a wake-up call.”

Airbnb Partners With New York City Nonprofit To Fight Homelessness

July 6th, 2016  |  Source: Forbes

Airbnb is taking a stab at reducing homelessness in the Big Apple. The online home and room rental company has donated $100,000 to WIN, a New York City-based organization devoted to providing shelter and support services to homeless women and their children. Led by former New York City councilwoman Christine Quinn, WIN, formerly called Women In Need, is the biggest organization working to reduce homelessness in the city, which has more than 12,000 homeless families. It currently houses over 5,400 women and children and works to create opportunities beyond housing like professional development.

In addition to its donation, Airbnb – cofounded by Brian CheskyNathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia – will participate in a variety of WIN’s programs and recruit volunteers from its host and guest pool. Airbnb volunteers will focus on introducing women to the professional world and increasing literacy amongst their kids.

WIN has a vigorous preparation program for its Airbnb volunteers who will be put through an orientation and then will work with counselors and experts on workshops that teach women skills; including resume building and interviewing for jobs. Ms. Johnson, a client of WIN since 2011, is one of the women who have benefitted from similar workshops. She has always imagined having a career – not simply a job, and thanks to WIN, she said at a recent WIN event, she now knows “about budgeting, about credit, and how to interview for a job.” She also says she knows how to handle her older son better as a result of the training.

WIN CEO Quinn says her organization “erases the myth about homeless New Yorkers, and replaces them with the truth – that these moms are working hard every day to make sure their children have a better future.” Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy in New York, Josh Meltzer, told FORBES that the company is proud to have partnered with WIN and that it supports “WIN’s work helping those most in need, and deeply understands that permanent housing is a vital link to strong communities.”

Airbnb has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2008, and now operates in 191 countries. As it has grown, it has come under attack from city authorities around the world, including in Barcelona, San Francisco and New York City, due to some of its rental listings that may have violated local housing regulations. In mid-June, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would fine Airbnb hosts up to $7,500 if they advertise renting certain homes and apartments for less than 30 days. Airbnb’s efforts to help the homeless in New York City are one way the company may be able to build good will in a state where it has raised the ire of lawmakers.

How to Be Canadian on the Fourth of July

June 29th, 2016  |  Source: PS Magazine

How I learned to embrace Independence Day, America, and bunting. So much bunting.

I’m about as Canadian as they come. I love hockey and beer, I’ve tapped a maple tree and eaten the syrup off of a snowball, I learned to ice skate when I was five and my idea of fun is going for a two-hour hike in the middle of winter. And, like every good Canadian, a huge part of my identity was formed around the fact that I’m not an American.

I learned pretty fast that being a newcomer in the United States can be an isolating and confusing experience. Even as a white, English-speaking person from a neighboring country, I receive regular reminders that I don’t belong: when an election passes and I can’t vote; when I attend a job interview and get asked, awkwardly, if I can legally work in this country; when friends make fun of my Canadian-isms or the minor traces of an accent left in my voice; when I get shut out of a conversation about life in the U.S. because I’m told I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be an American; when strangers insist that I got married just for a green card. And I don’t even have it that bad. I’m not a “visible” outsider, and I have documents that legally allow me to live here — I can wave them in the face of anyone who tells me I should “go home.” The outsider experience is a gazillion times worse for non-English speakers, non-white migrants and anyone who arrives here without documentation. Still, for 364 days of the year, I’m reminded I don’t belong.

On the Fourth of July, though, everything changes.

I found myself fidgeting, crossing and uncrossing my legs, covering my arms and abdomen. I realized I was hiding my Fourth of July outfit, once again feeling like a fraud. The moment I got home I changed into something less patriotic.

When I moved to the U.S. in 2010, I was suspicious of my new home. But there was no easing into life here: I arrived on July 2nd — just two days before Independence Day. Peak America. And though I was still very much a newbie outsider, I quickly learned that, no matter who you are the rest of the year, everyone’s an American on the Fourth of July.

On my first day living in Los Angeles, I was heading toward the exit at CVS when a cashier called out to me: “Happy Fourth, honey!” I had no idea what that meant (I actually misheard it as “Happy Four”) but I turned around and smiled at her, waving as I left. As the weekend sailed on, I attended a backyard barbecue and a rooftop dance party. I also figured out what “Happy Fourth” was all about, and the warmth of the sentiment filled me with a sense of belonging. Though I couldn’t quite get myself to say it out loud — I felt like too much of a fraud — it sounded friendly to my new-immigrant ears. I spent my first Fourth sitting on my balcony, looking out toward the ocean and wondering how I ended up in this strange and beautiful city.

My second year living in L.A., I badly wanted to embrace the spirit of the holiday and feel like I belonged, so I put on a pair of red shorts and a blue and white striped shirt. I rode my bike to my friend’s house and smiled at the families I saw along the way sporting American flag-printed hats and T-shirts, mini flags waving from their car windows. Later, as I visited with my friend, I found myself fidgeting, crossing and uncrossing my legs, covering my arms and abdomen. I realized I was hiding my Fourth of July outfit, once again feeling like a fraud. The moment I got home I changed into something less patriotic.

That night I went to see a fireworks display at Culver City High School on the west side of L.A. I’d been to plenty of Canada Day fireworks shows, but I was not prepared for the degree of patriotism on display at this event. The show kicked off with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and ran for 30 minutes, every single second packed with star-spangled-banner-loving American anthems. The show closed with the lighting of a 20-foot-wide American flag made up of fireworks, “God Bless America” ringing out over the loudspeakers. I confess that I shed more than a few tears.

While the rest of the year I feel my Canadian-nessmy outsider-nessacutely, on Independence Day, I belong here. All those stories about what it means to be an Americanfighting for justice, loving your neighbors, standing unitedthey feel true on the Fourth.

While the rest of the year I feel my Canadian-ness — my outsider-ness — acutely, on Independence Day, I belong here. All those stories about what it means to be an American — fighting for justice, loving your neighbors, standing united — feel true on the Fourth. And even though it’s not very Canadian of me to say so, I love this country. We’ve got a long way to go, but this country is full of smart people who are fighting for a better, more just nation.

I love the Fourth of July because it’s the one day of the year when no one asks me where I’m from or how I “got here,” the one day that people will just smile and pass out American flags and tell me to have a nice weekend. I anxiously await the day that every immigrant can feel this way, every single day of the year.

These days I embrace the Fourth more wholeheartedly than any other holiday on the calendar. I’ve been to barbecues in the park and cried patriotic tears at Culver High on more than one occasion. I’ve soaked up the thrill and terror of do-it-yourself fireworks on the streets of Hawthorne, a city just outside of L.A. where they’re legal. And, last year, I spent a lazy afternoon hanging out in a hammock, drinking American beer, playing giant Jenga and dancing all night — thinking nothing could be more perfect that this backyard party in the Valley. I think I can safely say I’ve embraced Peak America.

This year, on July 2nd, I plan to celebrate my sixth year living in L.A. — I’ve been told I’m officially a local now. As for Independence Day, I’ll be the one wearing flag-printed sunglasses and wishing everyone a Happy Fourth, honey.

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