Lithuania vigilante case exposes social divides

first_imgAssociated PressKAUNAS, Lithuania (AP) – A desperate father launches a bloody vendetta against an alleged pedophile network of judges and politicians that he says preyed on his 5-year-old daughter. After two murders, Drasius Kedys hides in the countryside until he is found dead under mysterious circumstances.It’s not the plot of a Stieg Larsson crime novel but the outline of a sad and sordid case that has split Lithuania into two camps. One side believes Kedys fabricated the allegations as part of a custody dispute with the girl’s mother; the other sees a wider conspiracy of corrupt child molesters running the country. Experts say the dispute, which has become a national obsession, reflects deeper currents of discontent in a post-Soviet society plagued by emigration and the world’s highest suicide rate. The fact that so many Lithuanians are prepared to side with a presumed killer despite such inconclusive evidence reflects an overwhelming lack of trust in public institutions. A Eurobarometer survey in November 2010 showed that faith in the courts was the lowest in Lithuania among 27 European Union member states.“People have found a way to express their dissatisfaction with their lives and their country. This is the main driving force of the movement,” said Andrius Kaluginas, a psychologist who has criticized the “violets.”Lithuania’s exuberance at joining the EU and NATO in 2004 was soon replaced by disillusionment as the previously booming economy nearly collapsed during the global financial crisis.Lithuania remains one of the EU’s poorest members and has not overcome the social problems that have dogged it before and after the Soviet breakup in 1991. Alcoholism is rampant, and the suicide rate is the highest in the world, according to the most recent data from the World Health Organization.Many Lithuanians feel nostalgic for the economic security of Soviet times. Life was grim behind the Iron Curtain but at least the state provided a stable living and welfare benefits. The freedoms of capitalism have also brought wrenching uncertainties and widened the gap between haves and have-nots. Two years after Kedys’ body was found, the case still inflames passions in Lithuania, and last month even reached the U.S., where an angry mob of Lithuanian-American Kedys supporters swarmed the Lithuanian president’s motorcade ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago.“If I were able to say where the truth is and who is right, I would have done so long ago,” President Dalia Grybauskaite told a group of Lithuanian-Americans in Lemont, the Chicago suburb where she ran into the protest. “Unfortunately, the whole story is very complicated and corrupted by investigators from the beginning.”The drama unfolded in Kaunas, a city of 500,000 in south-central Lithuania notorious for poor infrastructure, lopsided wooden homes, and not least of all, corrupt officials wedded to local crime syndicates.Kedys, a bodybuilder businessman, was a man determined to retain custody of his daughter.Not only did he accuse the girl’s mother of pimping her to a pedophile ring, but he video-recorded the girl giving detailed descriptions of sexual acts he claims she was asked to perform by three grown men, then sent the video to over a hundred politicians and law enforcement officials. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Sponsored Stories Reaching deeper back in history, the people of this tiny nation recall the greatness of medieval times, when Lithuania, together with Poland, lorded over a swath of eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black seas _ a golden age that the country will never resurrect.And the country is shrinking _ at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians have moved other EU countries, primarily Ireland, Britain, and Norway, in search of a better life. Over the past decade, Lithuania’s population, now 3 million, has declined 1 percent annually for a total loss of more than 300,000 people, according to last year’s census.With such problems at home, Lithuanians have shown little interest in the wider economic crisis in Europe, which is seen mainly as an issue affecting wealthier nations in the West.The Kedys saga is likely to continue until general elections in October, as many politicians are keen to keep tensions high. Kedys’ supporters have even registered a party that will vie for seats in Parliament: The Way of Courage.Critics say the mob justice mentality prevailing in the case is a sign that Lithuania has not fully embraced the values underpinning the EU.“A person who likely killed two people was made a martyr, and the mob has created its own code of law,” said Dalia Kuodyte, a liberal member of Parliament. “Lithuania must prove it is still a judicial and democratic state that respects the law and human rights.” Comments   Share   More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Top Stories Police finally broke through the wall of protesters on May 17 _ arresting nearly 40 of them _ allowing Stankunaite and her lawyer to whisk the girl into an awaiting police van.Later the same day hundreds of enraged Kedys supporters turned up to demonstrate outside the President Grybauskaite’s residence in Vilnius.“Lithuania is being demolished with the help of authorities as they use force against an innocent child and destroy the republic’s moral foundations,” said protester Darius Kuolys, a former adviser to ex-President Valdas Adamkus.Days later, Grybauskaite got another feel of public wrath _ only this time in Chicago, where she was attending the NATO summit. In Lemont, as she headed to a Lithuanian community event, a crowd of hostile Lithuanian-Americans blocked her car, shouting “disgrace” and waving banners saying Lithuania was “blind to children’s tears.” Secret Service officers had to jump out of their vehicles and push aside protesters to let the motorcade pass.What actually happened to the girl is a mystery.The main evidence cited by “the violets” is the 3-year-old video testimony Kedys made of the girl, who is now 8. A psychiatric evaluation found it unlikely that she had made it all up, but skeptics say it’s possible that Kedys had coached her. Doctors who examined her found no physical injuries, and prosecutors dropped the investigation for lack of proof. When his appeal fell on deaf years, Kedys took the law in his own hands.In October 2009, he allegedly shot and killed two people he had accused of abetting the alleged pedophile ring _ one of whom was the mother’s sister. He then disappeared, only to be found dead six months later, in April 2010. Police said he died after binge drinking and choking on his own vomit _ a finding that many Lithuanians don’t believe.The tragedy didn’t end there. Two months later, one of three men whom Kedys accused of molesting his daughter, died after ostensibly falling from his dune buggy and drowning in a creek _ one that was only 8 inches (20 centimeters) deep.Lithuania appears evenly split between those who see Kedys as a vigilante hero, and those who believe he snapped while trying to win the custody dispute against the girl’s mother.The division cuts like a knife through Lithuanian society, souring dinner party conversations and ruining friendships.The most fervent group of Kedys supporters _ dubbed “the violets” after the color of a T-shirt Kedys wore in a now iconic photo of him and his daughter _ have continued his struggle on the streets. For six months they surrounded the house where Kedys’ relatives were keeping the girl, determined to prevent police from enforcing a court order that gave custody to the mother, Laimute Stankunaite, who claims Kedys fabricated the pedophilia claims to discredit her. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family How do cataracts affect your vision? (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

US Iran fired on Singaporean cargo ship in Gulf

first_imgWASHINGTON (AP) — An Iranian naval patrol boat fired on a Singapore-flagged commercial ship in the Persian Gulf on Thursday in an apparent attempt to disable it over a financial dispute over damage to an Iranian oil platform, a U.S. official said.The Iranians initially fired warning shots Thursday after the MT Alpine Eternity refused to move into Iranian waters. The incident took place a bit south of the island of Abu Musa just inside the Gulf, according to the U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss details by name. The official said the U.S. military was not involved in the incident. Top Stories The vital role family plays in society After the warning shots were fired the ship began heading toward territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, and the Iranians then opened up with machine gun fire, according to the U.S. official. The official said early reports indicated no one aboard the ship was injured.In response to a call for help from the Alpine Eternity, the UAE coast guard responded and the Iranian patrol vessels left the area.Officials at Transpetrol, the Singapore-flagged ship’s manager, who were reached by telephone by The Associated Press, said they had no immediate information. The company lists offices in Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and Bermuda.“We’re certainly concerned about anything that interferes with freedom of navigation in international waters and the free flow of commerce,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said, noting that no Americans or US ships were involved.The U.S. official said the Alpine Eternity is involved in a financial dispute with Tehran. The Alpine Eternity on March 22 accidentally struck an Iranian oil platform, damaging it. The ship, which also was damaged in the accident, went into port for repairs, and during that period the Iranians informed the shipping company that it must pay for damage to the oil platform. With the dispute apparently unsettled, the Iranians confronted the Alpine Eternity near Abu Musa island, the U.S. official said. The dispute escalated from there. The U.S. official said the U.S. Navy communicated with the Alpine Eternity after the Iranians fired at it, but by the time the circumstances became clear the incident was over, and no U.S. ships were dispatched to the scene. The U.S. maintains a constant aircraft carrier presence in the Gulf area.This was at least the second recent significant incident involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy and a commercial vessel in the Gulf.In late April a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship seized by Iran as it traveled through the Strait of Hormuz was detained for more than a week and was finally released last Thursday. Iran claimed the Danish shipping company that chartered the MV Maersk Tigris owed money to an Iranian firm. Officials have not said whether any money was paid to settle the claim.___Associated Press reporters Adam Schreck in Dubai, UAE, and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this reportCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementlast_img read more

TTF Kolkata the three day travel bonanza concludes successfully

first_imgHouseful show at Netaji Indoor Stadium & Khudiram Anushilan KendraWest Bengal Tourism’s maiden display of new branding ‘Experience Bengal’Nepal Tourism Board’s significant presence after the massive earthquakeNew Zealand and Jordan Tourism make debut in KolkataJ&K and Uttarakhand look up to West Bengal for tourist in the ‘Bengali Season’TTF Award for Contribution in Tourism launchedTourism industry upbeat after the new thrust to the sector by the GovernmentThe TTF (Travel & Tourism Fair) Kolkata opened on July 31, as a houseful show. Over 375 participants have set up colourful pavilions and stalls at Netaji Indoor Stadium and the adjacent Khudiram Anushilan Kendra, for the three-day event on the weekend.TTF Kolkata is India’s oldest and largest travel trade show, which is now organised annually in 10 other cities annually.Participants from 13 countries and 25 Indian States & Union Territories are selling at the TTF. These include state tourism boards, national tourist offices, hoteliers, airlines, tour operators and travel agents, online travel companies, railways, cruises and other travel marketers.First half of the show (i.e. Friday all day and Saturday till 2 pm) was reserved for the travel trade, after which it was open to all on the Saturday afternoon and Sunday the entire day.Commenting on the occasion, West Bengal Tourism Minister Bratya Basu said, “I hope this TTF Kolkata will carry potential in terms of business growth in tourism sector in our state and in the Eastern part of India, showcasing domestic and international tourism as major engine for economic growth, creation of employment and promotion of peace and harmony across nations and states.”“Keeping with the positive sentiments in the tourism industry, TTF Kolkata has grown by 25%, compared to last year. This is significant considering the large size of the show, spread in Netaji and Khudiram,” said Sanjiv Agarwal, Chairman & CEO, Fairfest Media, the organiser of TTF. “The TTF series with more than 10 shows annually across India provides an important tourism marketing impetus, to make investments in tourism more viable,” he added.Fairfest Media, organiser of the TTF & OTM shows have strengthened their unparalleled lead as India’s No. 1 travel trade show organiser, with about half the market share. It organises every year TTF branded shows started in Kolkata (in 1989), in Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Guwahati (July-November) followed by Chennai, Bengaluru and New Delhi (January-February), in addition to the grand finale OTM Mumbai in February.There were colourful displays of various places one can visit, with a hint of their various attractions.Attractive pavilions were put up by Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and of course the Host State West Bengal to cater to the local tourists.China, Bangladesh and Nepal participated in a big way as the Partner Countries.Thailand, New Zealand and Jordan were present as Feature Countries.TTF Kolkata also had participation from Assam, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu.Among other countries Bhutan, Malaysia, Maldives, Singapore, Turkey and Uzbekistan were also represented.India Tourism also participated with a large pavilion in TTF Kolkata as always.Important exhibitors included MakeMytrip, Adlabs Imagica, OYO Rooms, IRCTC, Make Plans Holidays, The Peerless Inn, The Pride Hotel, Nicco Park & Resorts, Bodoland Tourism, Mountain Trails, Travel Shoppe Turkey, Thomas Cook and many more.To enhance and showcase their respective offerings, aside from attractive and elegant stalls, participating states and countries at TTF Kolkata presented daily cultural events and marketing presentations to trade visitors and the media.Jammu & Kashmir Tourism and Uttarakhand Tourism organised special road shows on the side-lines of TTF Kolkata to woo Bengali tourists. Their main thrust is now West Bengal.Nepal Tourism Board not only made a significant appearance after the earthquake, but also addressed travel trade and media for tourism revival.New Zealand and Jordan were the two new countries making debut in TTF Kolkata giving chance to explore new exotic destinations.During the three days of TTF Kolkata, there was special networking sessions by top travel associations where their members discussed their own issues to find solutions contributing to the big picture.And West Bengal Tourism’s new promotional branding Experience Bengal was also seen for the first time in action at TTF Kolkata.Jammu & Kashmir Tourism also organised Kashmir Food Festival at TTF Kolkata to give visitors a taste of their culinary delights.The TTF series has important value additions like pre-registration for trade visitors, more travel trade engagements, focus on B2B, etc. The specially branded section, Outbound Village @ TTF helps expand the outbound presence.TTF is supported by Incredible India, OTOAI, ATOAI, ADTOI, IATO and IAAI.TTF’s organiser Fairfest is a member of PATA, TAAI, IEIA and IAEE.Travel News Digest is the official trade publication of TTF.From here, TTF will travel to West India (September – October) covering Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Goa and will visit North East (Guwahati) in November.Taking further the objective of developing and growing new markets, TTF Goa has been launched in October 2015, with strong support from the Host State, Goa. The venue will be the recently built Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium inside the campus of Goa University, Talegaon.The TTF Award for Contribution in Tourism has been instituted by Fairfest Media to recognise leading travel producers and buyers. 25 Awardees received the recognition and walked the show on the inaugural day. In addition, an equal number of sellers participating in the show were awarded, on the concluding day.last_img read more

Whopping 84 per cent have no trust in political parties

Cypriots appear to be satisfied with their lives but do not trust political parties, according to the national analysis of the EU’s autumn Eurobarometer.According to the results, which were presented on Monday in Nicosia by head of the European Commission representation in Cyprus, Ierotheos Papadopoulos, 85 per cent of Cypriots said they were satisfied with their lives compared with an EU average of 83 per cent, but they had little trust in their politicians.The overwhelming majority, 84 per cent, said they do not trust political parties and 67 per cent do not trust parliament, up from 56 per cent six months previously in spring 2018.The government faired marginally better, although worse than before, with 63 per cent saying it had the public’s trust.Cypriots said they mostly trusted the army, 61 per cent, and the police, 52 per cent.Compared with six months previously, the survey showed a slight rise in confidence in the European Union, which reached 41 per cent.However, 52 per cent of Cypriots – against the EU average of 48 per cent — still say that they do not trust the EU.Papadopoulos said that the positive image of the Cypriot public regarding the EU has increased compared with the beginning of 2018, adding that Cypriots “are more positive, they show greater confidence in the EU, they are more optimistic about the future of Europe.”While the Eurobarometer showed 53 per cent of Cypriots were optimistic about the future of the EU, it is still lower than the European average of 58 per cent.According to the survey, the issues that are of particular concern to the Turkish Cypriots are the rise in prices, taxation, unemployment and the economic situation in general.Confidence in the European Union among the Turkish Cypriot community is 52 per cent, which is higher than the EU average of 42 per cent.More than 70 per cent of participants in the survey believe that the interests of their country are not taken into account in the EU, the second highest in the EU after Greece.However, 59 per cent of Cypriots say they do not believe their country could face the future challenges outside the EU.You May LikeLivestlyChip And Joanna’s $18M Mansion Is Perfect, But It’s The Backyard Everyone Is Talking AboutLivestlyUndoPopularEverythingColorado Mom Adopted Two Children, Months Later She Learned Who They Really ArePopularEverythingUndoYahoo SearchYou’ve Never Seen Luxury Like This On A Cruise Ship. Search Luxury Mediterranean CruisesYahoo SearchUndo Pensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoCruise passenger airlifted to Paphos hospitalUndoRemand for pair in alleged property fraud (Updated)Undoby Taboolaby Taboola read more

Governor signs Poleski measure to name bridge after police officer

first_img11Mar Governor signs Poleski measure to name bridge after police officer Gov. Rick Snyder and Rep. Earl Poleski hold the new law designating the “Officer James Bonneau Memorial Bridge.” Marc and Nancy Bonneau, James’ parents; and Rachael Maloney, James’ fiancé; also are pictured.The governor this afternoon signed legislation to designate the new bridge on West Avenue in Jackson County as the “Officer James Bonneau Memorial Bridge” in honor of the Jackson police officer killed in the line of duty.Those attending the ceremony included Officer Bonneau’s parents, Marc and Amy Bonneau; James’ fiancé, Rachael Maloney; Jackson County Sheriff Steve Rand; Jackson Police Chief Matt Heins; Jackson Mayor Jason Smith and other family members and law enforcement officers.Public Act 31 of 2014, authored by state Rep. Earl Poleski, designates the bridge between Ganson Street and Wildwood Avenue in the officer’s honor.  Officer Bonneau was shot and killed in Jackson while responding to a call in March 2010.  In the exchange of gunfire, a Blackman Township public safety officer was wounded, and the suspect killed.“Officer Bonneau’s courageous bravery and immense sacrifice to the people of Jackson County will now be remembered for generations to come,” said Poleski, R-Jackson.  “It was a tremendous privilege to introduce this legislation and to have the Bonneau family at the Capitol to witness the bill-signing.”Bonneau was awarded the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery, which honors exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty by federal, state, and local law enforcement officers.No state funding will be used for new signs. Categories: Newslast_img read more

Rep Yaroch goes on listening tour and visits to local boards and

first_img18Jul Rep. Yaroch goes on “listening tour” and visits to local boards and councils State Rep. Jeff Yaroch of Richmond will host a listening tour and visits to local boards/councils in the community throughout the month of August and encourages residents to bring their thoughts or concerns about state government. Rep. Yaroch will be coming 30 minutes before the scheduled board/council meetings, attending the meeting, then staying after the meeting for anyone who wants to speak further.“One of the most important parts of my job is to get out in the community and listen to the voters that elected me to serve them,” Yaroch said. “It is important for me to hear your concerns and issues with state government so that I can best represent you in Lansing.”Rep. Yaroch’s office hours will be held on the following dates:Tuesday, August 1 from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Memphis City Hall, 35095 Potter St. in Memphis;Monday, August 7 from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. at the Lenox Township Hall, 63775 Gratiot Ave. in Lenox Township;Tuesday, August 8 from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Village of New Haven Administrative Office, 57775 Main St. in New Haven;Wednesday, August 9 from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Armada Township Hall, 23121 E. Main St. in Armada;Tuesday, August 15 from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Ray Township Municipal Offices, 64255 Wolcott Road in Ray;Monday, August 21 from 5:30 to 6:00 pm at the Richmond City Hall, 36725 Division Road in Richmond;Wednesday, August 23 from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at the Marvin Blank Senior Center, 51210 Alma Drive in Macomb Township;Wednesday, August 23 from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library – North Branch, 16800 24 Mile Road in Macomb Township; andMonday, August 28 from 6:30 to 7:00 pm at the Village of Armada municipal offices, 74274 Burk St. in Armada.No appointment is necessary. Residents who are unable to meet during the scheduled office hours are encouraged to contact Rep. Yaroch’s legislative office by phone at (517) 373-0820 or by email at JeffYaroch@house.mi.gov. Categories: Yaroch Newslast_img read more

Rep LaFave votes for students to get more college loan information

first_img State Rep. Beau LaFave voted this week to require state colleges to provide annual updates to students on their federal student loan status to better manage their debt.“Our Upper Peninsula college students do not need the added challenge of starting their careers under a mountain of debt,” said LaFave, of Iron Mountain. “A simple yearly update can paint an ideal picture of where students stand and better prepare for the costs of education.”The legislation approved by the House requires estimates of monthly repayment amounts based on current projections, access to student loan counseling services available through each college and information on employment opportunities available in a student’s chosen course of study.LaFave, a 2015 graduate of Michigan State University, understands the effect of debt on Michigan students as the average deficit has grown by $10,000 over the past 10 years. More than 60 percent of graduates have debt.On a national level, total student loan debt has ballooned to $1.4 trillion.“Those numbers are staggering and all too real to me, so legislation such as this is long overdue,” LaFave said. “If we’re going to build Michigan’s future in a fiscally responsible way, we need to make sure our college students understand what they face with the cost of education and give them the opportunity to know their options.”##### 01Dec Rep. LaFave votes for students to get more college loan information Categories: LaFave News,Newslast_img read more

Rep Graves votes to give extra funding for road repair efforts

first_img21Feb Rep. Graves votes to give extra funding for road repair efforts Categories: Graves News Roads in Genesee and Oakland counties would benefit from legislation unanimously approved today by Rep. Joe Graves and the Michigan House of Representatives.The $175 million bill provides additional money for road preservation and construction across Michigan as early this summer.“This is what happens when you budget and save responsibly,” said Graves, of Argentine Township. “With last year’s budget cycle savings, we are able to set forth sufficient funding toward our road repair efforts. This winter has had its fair share of freezes and thaws and the roads reflect that. Our hard-working tax payers deserve better roads now.”In addition to state projects, the bill includes money for county, city and village roads throughout Michigan. Estimated local allocations include Genesee County ($2,309,960), Oakland County ($7,015,327), Fenton ($83,572), Gaines ($4,609), Goodrich ($12,875), Holly ($38,819), Lennon ($4,305) and Linden ($26,429) among others.The money is left over from a previous state government budget cycle and is already available, meaning no budget cuts or additional fees or taxes are required for the investment. The money included in the bill approved today comes in addition to previous changes that provide more funding for road and bridge projects across the state.House Bill 4321 now advances to the Senate for further consideration.last_img read more

Rep Reilly joined by Brandon first responders at Sept 11 Memorial Service

first_img Categories: Reilly News 07Sep Rep. Reilly joined by Brandon first responders at Sept. 11 Memorial Service PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. John Reilly (left), of Oakland, Thursday was joined by Brandon Fire Chief David Kwapis (center) and Capt. Dan Flood as his guests for the Michigan House’s annual Sept. 11 Memorial Service at the Capitol. The ceremony remembers first responders and members of the military from Michigan who died in the line of duty in the past year.last_img read more

Rep Albert welcomes local pastor to lead House invocation

first_imgPHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowell welcomed Father James B. Wyse to the state Capitol to lead Thursday’s invocation for the Michigan House of Representatives. Father Wyse is pastor of St. Charles & St. Joseph – St. Mary in the Belding and Greenville area. House tradition calls for a representative or clergy member to begin each day’s session with a prayer. Speaker Lee Chatfield joined them at the rostrum. 10Jan Rep. Albert welcomes local pastor to lead House invocation Categories: Albert Newslast_img read more

Rep VanWoerkom votes to make state government transparent

first_img19Mar Rep. VanWoerkom votes to make state government transparent Categories: News,VanWoerkom News Plan extends open record requirements to governor, LegislatureState Rep. Greg VanWoerkom today voted to approve a bipartisan plan to make state government more accountable to the people of Michigan.VanWoerkom, of Norton Shores, said the House unanimously approved the multi-bill proposal.“This vote is about being accountable to your constituents,” VanWoerkom said. “Sunlight is a great disinfectant, and this legislation is a step toward a more ethical state government.”Michigan is one of just two states that still exempts its governor and the Legislature from open records laws. The bipartisan solution approved today would end these exemptions and increase transparency in state government.The proposal will subject the governor and lieutenant governor to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and hold state representatives and senators to the same high standard by creating the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA).While LORA mirrors FOIA in many ways, there are exemptions for constituent inquiries to ensure that personal information is protected and kept private. Other types of communications – including those lawmakers have with state departments and lobbyists – would not be exempt.House Bills 4007-13 and 4015-16 now advance to the Senate for consideration.last_img read more

Assistance to Ferguson Small Businesses Flows Like Molasses—Or Not at All

first_imgShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares December 4, 2014; USA TodayEver wonder whether all the announcements of this program or that program reach the people in need? The results so far from Ferguson ought to raise serious questions.On December 3rd, KSDK-TV’s Jeremy Jojola wrote in USA Today, “Three months after the federal government announced emergency funding for businesses affected by civic unrest following the Michael Brown shooting, only one business has qualified for a ‘disaster’ loan.” That’s one approved SBA loan out of 20 applicants. Of the 19 rejected, ten got shot down because of bad credit and nine were delayed due to Small Business Administration requests for additional paperwork. The one that was approved got all of $4,500.When the federal government offered the SBA access loans, we would guess that few people anticipated the gap between the reality of the businesses’ needs and the minimal response they might get from the SBA. Now, with the additional damages that occurred in the wake of unrest after the grand jury decision, no one should be surprised. For example, after the civil unrest that greeted the non-indictment on November 24th, Zisser Tire and Auto, a family-run business, sustained $200,000 in damages. However, at least for the business damages suffered after the shooting in August, the Missouri department reported only 30 claims filed between August 10th and September 3rd for claims adding up to only $250,000. It isn’t clear, but our guess is that the Missouri government’s accounting of insurance claims is a major underestimate, as it appears that many businesses were carrying much less insurance than their inventories were worth and the numbers may not include lost business income from the days or weeks the businesses were closed.The SBA money is loan money, and for small, marginal businesses, absorbing loans may be difficult under any circumstances. Apparently, there’s no FEMA money because FEMA assistance doesn’t cover civil unrests, and other funding may not be accessible due to Ferguson’s small size (21,000 population—too small, for example, to be a Community Development Block Grant entitlement community). That has led some Ferguson businesses to turn to crowdfunding, where they have raised some $450,000, including $268,000 from 8,260 donors on GoFundMe for Natalie’s Cakes and More.KSDK published this map of businesses damaged by fires after the Ferguson non-indictment announcement: We have no way of determining whether this map shows all the damage that businesses might have suffered in the civil disturbances (for example, materials and goods lost through looting), nor can we assert that this map also includes businesses damaged back in August. What is clear is that long-suffering Ferguson will continue to suffer as local businesses, including locally-owned businesses, find themselves hard-pressed to qualify for Small Business Administration loans, cut out of FEMA assistance, distant from access to CDBG assistance, and compelled to turn to crowdfunding to find ways of rebuild.—Rick Cohen  ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shareslast_img read more

The Social Uses of Olympian White Elephants Montreals Stadium Repurposed

first_imgShare15Tweet22Share33Email70 SharesBy Tolivero (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia CommonsAugust 3, 2017; New York TimesOver 4,300 asylum seekers have crossed into Canada from the United States since the beginning of the year, fearing they will never become legal due to President Trump’s efforts to cut back on travel to the country and increase deportations of migrants already there. In response, Canadian authorities have established a temporary housing space for them in Montreal’s Olympic stadium.The public hall of the 56,000-seat stadium has been transformed into a shelter with 150 cots and room for hundreds more. Concession stands have turned into food preparation stations, and the stadium has a number of amenities, including showers and Internet service.Although it has been used for various types of events over the years, the stadium has not had a main tenant since the Montreal Expos baseball team left for Washington, D.C., in 2004, where they became the Washington Nationals. What may seem like an ignominious development for a once-illustrious building, however, could actually offer a new, more constructive life for the “white elephant”—part of a creative “adaptive reuse” trend sweeping the world, including the United States and Europe.“In the evolution of historic cities, we see play out over and over the lessons of adaptive reuse, at once economic (as through the capitalization of existing assets) and environmental (for example, the conservation of embodied energy and building materials),” writes the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS). “Rehabilitating older building stock is more cost efficient than new construction and utilizes existing infrastructure while providing safe shelter.” Consider:Reuse of public buildingsAn abandoned 6,000-square-foot textile factory in Thessaloniki, Greece, has been turned into a housing and medical facility for refugees. The Elpída Home Project, done in partnership with the Radcliffe Foundation, opened July 24th and houses around 160 refugees, with room for 700 when operating at full capacity. Refugees co-manage the facility alongside volunteers. Individual housing units have been constructed on the large, open factory floors, along with common spaces equipped with electricity, running water and kitchens.A government agency in the Netherlands has opened empty prisons to accommodate the influx of migrants seeking asylum. With the country’s crime rate and prison population on a years-long steady decline, dozens of correctional facilities have closed. When more than 50,000 entered the Netherlands last year alone, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers saw a solution.In the United States, which to date has resisted accepting what some consider its fair share of refugees, a similar solution is being used to provide affordable housing and services for homeless people and lower-income residents. One of the most popular types of repurposed buildings are schools. As the Chicago Tribune reports, “Finding new uses for closed schools has become a national priority as cities across the country, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, shutter hundreds of the buildings—a trend that’s expected to continue.” Nonprofits are finding many efficient ways to put those vacant buildings to work. In Kansas City, for example, a community radio station broadcasts from the second floor of one school purchased by a nonprofit. Local sports teams practice on the grounds and community groups use the first-floor space in exchange for helping out with chores. In Chicago, a school that became a community center rents space to local churches and to a nonprofit that serves food to the homeless.New residents for vacant homesHomes are, of course, another type of vacant building. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 560,000 people experienced homelessness on any given night in the United States as of January 2015. And yet they’re outnumbered by vacant homes—an estimated 18.5 million across the country. A growing number of activists are calling for these empty houses to be occupied with the humans living on America’s streets.Europe is no different. “All across Europe, cities are facing vacant property crises due to massive population decline. In 2014, there were an estimated 11 million vacant homes across Europe—more than 3.4 million in Spain, over 2 million in both France and Italy, 1.8 million in Germany, and more than 700,000 in the UK,” states the US/ICOMOS report. At the same time, there are 4.1 million homeless living across the European continent.Of course, whether the properties in question be underused stadiums or abandoned homes, there are valid concerns about using substandard, unhealthy buildings without appropriate rehabilitation (which requires scarce funds) and the downsides of concentrating challenged populations in one area.“While it is hard to imagine that living in tents or other makeshift spaces is a better option for refugees [or the homeless], ghettoization is certainly a legitimate concern. Only time will tell if this kind of arrangement, focused on large clustering versus integration, is a good option given the sense of urgency and the overwhelming number of individuals needing homes,” writes US/ICOMOS. Moreover, vacant buildings carry their own costs. They are easy targets for thieves and other criminal activity, for instance.However, many experiments have shown that with creative use of funds and broad community engagement, adaptive reuse can provide a solution to declining “legacy” populations and the world’s growing humanitarian crises. While each city has a unique set of circumstances, steps, like an inventory of all of these buildings and their readiness for occupancy, could be taken now to get ahead of the curve.—Pam BaileyShare15Tweet22Share33Email70 Shareslast_img read more

San Francisco Launches HighProfile Public Bank Task Force

first_imgShare34Tweet15ShareEmail49 SharesFebruary 19, 2018; Next City“State and local governments hold around $458 billion in deposits, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, while state and local pensions hold $3.7 trillion in investments,” notes Oscar Perry Abello in Next City. Right now, these deposits are typically at the Big Four banks of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citi. But that may shift if public bank advocates prevail.This month, in San Francisco, the city’s Board of Supervisors launched a municipal bank feasibility task force, headed by the City Treasurer, to study launching a public bank. Included on the task force are representatives from community banking, a credit union, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the California State Treasurer’s Office, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and the California Reinvestment Coalition.The public bank idea, as NPQ has outlined, is for cities and states to own their own banks. This may sound outlandish, but the state of North Dakota has operated its own bank since 1919. Today, that bank has $4.9 billion in deposits and $7.3 billion in assets, while making $4.8 billion in loans. The bank functions as a “banker’s bank,” helping capitalize community-based banks, rather than relying on individual accounts. As a result, “North Dakota has more banks and credit unions per capita than any other state.” The Bank of North Dakota also earns a profit for the state, earning $136 million last year, its thirteenth consecutive year of record profits, the bank says. Abello reports that the bank annually contributes $30–50 million to the state’s general fund.For San Francisco, Abello writes the city took in last year an “average of $508 million a month in revenues and put out $467 million a month in expenses. But in between, the banks that handle all that cash sometimes used public dollars in ways that, in the opinions of [San Francisco City and County Supervisor Malia] Cohen and others, contradict the reasons why that money is coming and going in the first place.”“The existing banking and financial structures we’re operating in don’t always mirror our city’s values,” Cohen says. “For example, we had many people opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many of the banks we bank with support the funding of this pipeline.”Spurred by the fake accounts and related scandals at Wells Fargo, a number of cities—including Portland (Oregon), Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, and New York City, to name a few—have pulled their deposits. Certainly, this move makes sense, but moving money from Wells to, say, Bank of America has limited impact.San Francisco is not the only place to pursue a public bank. Other cities on this path include Oakland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. Abello adds that state efforts are moving forward in New Jersey, where newly inaugurated Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on creating a public bank.In San Francisco, Cohen envisions that a public bank could help the city invest more in housing, as well as “financing small businesses run by minorities, women, veterans—those who don’t have access to the same level of capital.”The California Reinvestment Coalition, which has traditionally focused on ensuring that banks reinvest in low-income neighborhoods, is also supporting the public bank effort. Executive director Paulina Gonzalez says that, “There’s a real interest in cities and states to think about what they can do to ensure that there’s a banking model in place that is as able to reinvest tax dollars back into communities.Abello points out that, “Based on population size—approximately 758,000 in North Dakota and 865,000 in San Francisco—a San Francisco public bank could eventually be as large and financially profitable as North Dakota’s, if not more so, given the city’s overall wealthier population and higher property values.”Certainly, the public bank idea is gaining steam. But challenges remain. Chief among these is governance. Ellen Hodgson Brown, founder and chair of the Public Banking Institute, emphasizes that a public bank does not mean politicians approving loans. The North Dakota model makes sense, says Hodgson Brown, because the public bank supports local banks and those “local banks deal directly with the customers.” Of course, the concept of arms-length governance is not new. As Abello points out, “Local and state housing finance agencies everywhere already issue tax-exempt bonds to finance affordable housing projects.”Rebecca Foster, who heads the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund, also expressed support for the public bank concept. “If governments like the city or even the state could figure out more effectively how to link the investments of some of their deposits, even a very small portion…to local activities they support, that could be incredibly powerful,” Foster says.Last November, Abello reports, the city’s Budget & Legislative Analyst’s Office published an analysis of community responsive banking. The study affirmed the city’s legal authority to charter a public bank. The study also found that a public bank could save the city money, such as the $864,000 a year San Francisco pays in fees just for short-term cash management accounts. The study has now also led to the creation of the city’s task force, which just held its first meeting. The task force is scheduled to meet six times between now and August, before issuing recommendations. Legislation, Cohen says, should be expected in the fall.—Steve DubbShare34Tweet15ShareEmail49 Shareslast_img read more

As the World Heats Up It Becomes More Violent for Women

first_imgShare67Tweet2ShareEmail69 SharesMovimiento Amplio de Mujeres de Puerto RicoDecember 19, 2018; GristSince covering Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, I’ve noticed the underlying current of violence against women increasing under the weight of recovery. Almost biweekly now, my social media shows a news article from the island about women who are found dead, with the common refrain, “otra más” (yet another). It appears, as Grist’s Greta Moran writes, that “as the world heats up, it’s also becoming more violent,” particularly for women.We know by now those who are already economically vulnerable feel the impact of climate change most. When one overlaps that with the fact that women who face poverty are also already more vulnerable to intimate partner violence, and that shelters are often also hit by the climate change, it takes on the form of an epidemic. So, it’s not a good thing that the Violence Against Women Act, which funds “critical services for survivors, including legal assistance, rape crisis centers, domestic violence centers, and transitional housing,” is set to expire this Friday.The Act is not perfect; 85 percent of the funding goes to the criminal justice system. Samantha Majic, associate professor of political science at John Jay College says, “Women are not subject to intimate partner violence just because men are bad, but also because they don’t have economic options that make it easier to leave the situation.”Jennifer First, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, has developed a framework that includes cross-training for intimate partner violence and environmental disasters that allows a response “with the most vulnerable people in mind.”Readers may recall our story earlier this year contrasting an equity approach to rebuilding Puerto Rico to a non-equity one. The Puerto Rico Community Foundation (Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico), which had the equity approach, started the recovery funding with domestic violence shelters. Its president, Nelson Colón, said, “As a foundation, you need to first recognize that there is a deep-rooted problem of domestic violence in Puerto Rico. That is an inequity of power issue.”As environmental disasters become something for which we are increasingly forced to prepare and strategize, it is important to address the various equity dimensions and to face the ways our systems of inequality undergird and exacerbate them. Understanding our communities, as Colón does his, is a first step. Moving beyond criminalization to economic and gender justice is essential. The VAWA’s near-expiration is a chance for a do-over.—Cyndi SuarezShare67Tweet2ShareEmail69 Shareslast_img read more

Public Safety Assessments Uncovering the Values They Serve

first_imgShare19Tweet3ShareEmail22 SharesFrom the Albuquerque Journal.February 17, 2019; US News & World ReportDecisions made in courtrooms, particularly about sentencing, are difficult and weighty; they have the potential to change the course of someone’s life, often dramatically. So, it makes sense that people making those decisions—usually judges—would want the assistance of a tool that promised to maximize accuracy. But what if the tool itself is merely a product of the very system it seems to correct?Enter the PSA, or Public Safety Assessment. The PSA was developed by Arnold Ventures, formerly known as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and aims to provide “reliable and neutral” information to judges about their defendants in pretrial bail hearings. The PSA measures risk of three behaviors:Likelihood to commit another crimeLikelihood to miss a court appearanceLikelihood to commit another violent crimeThese factors are supposed to help judges determine whether to give the defendant a “signature bond.” Signature bonds allow people to be released without a cash bail if a judge determines they are at low risk for the three factors above. About half a million Americans sit in jail each day without having been convicted of a crime; they are accused, unable to afford bail, and await trial.Of course, like any decision, these judges’ determinations are subject to bias and human whims. One study found that Israeli judges were likely to give more lenient sentences after lunch. The PSA is supposed to correct for this by providing behavioral predictions based on data.But as NPQ has pointed out before, algorithms are products of human minds and are not free from the biases of their creators. All algorithms do is detect and replicate patterns; patterns, especially in criminal justice, are created by people’s choices. NPQ’s Cyndi Suarez wrote to explain that using algorithms doesn’t remove bias from a decision, it merely exchanges the explicit judgment of a person for an implicit decision to rely on the values that informed the chosen algorithm.Unfortunately, the values that inform the criminal justice system disproportionately punish people of color and of lower income. A study from ProPublica in 2016 found that pretrial risk assessments grossly exacerbated racial inequalities in bail and sentencing. The PSA says it does not take race into account when calculating risk, but it doesn’t necessarily correct for signifiers of race. (Arnold Ventures also funds ProPublica.) Nick Thieme of the Institute for Innovation Law at the University of California, Hastings, wrote, “Since people of color are more likely to be stopped by police, more likely to be convicted by juries, and more likely to receive long sentences from human judges, the shared features identified are often race or proxies for race.”The PSA is a relatively new tool, so no conclusive data shows how it specifically affects pretrial outcomes. The Pretrial Justice Institute found that in Yakima County, Washington, pretrial assessments caused release rates for people of color to rise at double the rate they did for white people. But in New York, citizens and advocates did not fully trust the algorithms being used, so they implemented a task force to “examine whether the algorithms the city uses to make decisions result in racially biased policies.”There seems to be some consensus that community oversight over pretrial risk assessment tools, by members of advocacy nonprofits and affected communities, could help correct for bias. Over 110 organizations signed a letter protesting the use of pretrial risk assessments, saying it would be better to simply focus on ending cash bail. However, the letter urged that if the PSA and other tools were to be used, community input and transparency must be part of the process. Signatories include the ACLU, Black Lives Matter Philadelphia, the Arab American Institute, the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU Law, and the National Council of Churches.While the idea of replacing cash bail with any system that might lead to fewer incarcerations is appealing, relying on algorithms without community monitoring when the jury is still out on their overall merit is not advisable.—Erin RubinShare19Tweet3ShareEmail22 Shareslast_img read more

Polands Vectra ended March with over 400000 digi

first_imgPoland’s Vectra ended March with over 400,000 digital TV customers. The cable operator also saw gains in its internet and telephony sub bases.At the end of the first quarter of 2012, Vectra was home to a total of 812,904 subscribers, up from 775,100 at the end of June 2011. Of those, 405,000 took digital TV services, an increase of almost 100,000 since the end of 2010.Vectra offers up to 162 channels, including 28 HD channels.The number of broadband subscribers increased to 370,813 from 310,904 at the end of January. Telephony customers numbered 120,461.last_img read more

Some 12 million urban and five million rural house

first_imgSome 12 million urban and five million rural households in Russia were able to receive DVB-T2-based digital-terrestrial TV at the beginning of this year, according to a study by J’Son & Partners Consulting.J’Son & Partners estimated that some 11% of households were actually watching DTT at the end of the second quarter, with growth being strong in urban centres of more than 100,000 people.According to the researchers, large numbers of households with pay TV were turning to DTT to connect second TVs in the household. Other than this segment, DTT would have most appeal to households that currently receive analogue over-the-air TV and low-cost social packages from service providers, according to J’Son & Partners.last_img read more

Satellite operator SES has successfully launched i

first_imgSatellite operator SES has successfully launched its SES-6 satellite and signed Brazilian telco Oi as a new anchor customer. Oi becomes the largest user of the new satellite through the long-term capacity agreement to provide DTH services in Brazil.Oi chief operating officer James Meaney said the extra satellite capacity would allow the firm “to take its pay-TV services to the next level of development,” meeting demand for a bigger range of channels, including HD feeds.“This very important capacity agreement for a large part of the Ku-band transponders of SES-6 enables Oi to launch a new DTH platform for the Brazilian market,” said Romain Bausch, president and CEO of SES.“By early replacing the NSS-806 satellite and by adding new C-band capacity, the investment into the SES-6 satellite reflects our strong focus on the Latin American market and the development of an important video neighborhood at the 40.5 degrees West orbital position,” he added.SES launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, yesterday and was successfully released into geostationary transfer orbit. SES-6 replaces SES’s NSS-806 satellite at the prime orbital position of 40.5 degrees west, providing continuity of service and expansion capacity in the C-band for video neighbourhoods in Latin America and the Caribbean.It offers comprehensive coverage of North America, Latin America, Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, SES said. SES-6 was built by EADS Astrium in Toulouse, France, and is equipped with 43 C-band and 48 Ku-band transponders.last_img read more

The BBCs director of television Danny Cohen has s

first_imgThe BBC’s director of television Danny Cohen has scrapped the BBC Four controller that Richard Klein occupied before exiting for ITV.Speculation Cohen would axe the role has been mounting since Klein’s departure and the BBC today confirmed BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow would take control of arts and culture-skewed Four.A new role of BBC Four channel editor has also been created, the occupant of which will report into Hadlow. This role will “ensure that the channel continues to grow its own distinctive tone, character and output, as well as providing day-to-day management of the channel and its commissioning”, according to Cohen, the former BBC One controller that was upped to his current positionearlier this year.Four’s future has been under intense scrutiny, having been among the worst hit by the BBC’s long term cost-saving initiative Delivery Quality First.Former boss Klein left to become director of factual at BBC rival ITV in May, triggering new speculation Cohen would seek to reshape its management structure.“I’m keen for BBC Two and BBC Four to collaborate more across their programmes, scheduling, marketing and digital innovation. Janice has made real progress in these areas and I want to build on these foundations,” added Cohen.The news comes after Charlotte Moore was hand the BBC One controller role following Cohen’s promotion to oversee all BBC channels and production.last_img read more