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‘I’ Report on Macron’s Vow to Fight Islamist Separatism in France

Here’s another piece from the I about extremism, from last Saturday’s edition for 3rd October 2020. Written by their columnist Michael Rose, it discusses the announcement by French president Macron that he intends to fight against the separatism and extremist Islam in Muslim communities on the other side of la Manche. The article runs

President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France.

France has struggled with Islamist militancy for years but the government is increasingly worried by broader radicalisation within Muslim communities. Officials cite the refusal of some Muslim men to shake women’s hands, swimming pools that impose alternate time slots for men and women, girls as young as four being told to wear full-face veils, and proliferation of Islamic schools.

More than 250 people have been killed on French soil over the past five years in attacks by Islamist militants or individuals inspired by Jihadist groups. “What we need to fight is Islamist separatism,” Mr Macron said during a visit to the impoverished Paris suburb of Les Mureaux. “The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the Republic.”

France follows a strict form of secularism which is designed to separate religion and public life. The principle was enshrined in law in 1906.

Many French Muslims have long complained of discrimination and marginalisation that have contributed to poverty and social alienation.

Foreign imams will no longer be able to train clerics in France and there will be tighter controls on the financing of mosques.

“There is a crisis of Islam everywhere, which is being corrupted by radical forms,” Mr Macron said. But he added France had a responsibility . “We have created our own separatism,” he said, citing the ghettoization of minority neighbourhoods.” (p.30).

We were taught a little about the French suburbs, the banlieus, or at least those in Paris, in Geography ‘A’ Level when I was at school nearly 40 years ago. I don’t know about now, but they were then hit by poverty and marginalisation. They were built simply to house people and so consist of nothing, or at least precious little, except tower blocks. It was assumed that the residents would go into the centre of Paris for their shopping and amusement, and so there are no, or very few, shops or local amenities. As for poverty and marginalisation, Ali A. Allawi describes the deprivation, poverty and underprivileged conditions of European Muslims in his book, The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation.

There’s also been much prejudice against Arabs and Muslims in France. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown described the very cold reception her mixed race family got there when they went for a holiday a few years ago in the Independent. I thought things had improved somewhat, as a few years later she wrote another piece about a recent holiday there in which she and her family were welcomed and treated with courtesy. There was also a series of anti-racist protests a few years ago, the name of which translates as ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’. This consisted of White young people showing their solidarity by standing up to racism and discrimination against their Black and Muslim friends.

But there has also been trouble with Muslim extremism and Islamist violence. Over a decade ago there were protests across France when the government ruled that under the doctrine of laicism, the official policy of French secularism, Muslim girls were banned from wearing the hijab in schools. This broke out despite leading French imams declaring that the ban didn’t contradict Islam and could be observed by pious Muslims. The insistence that girls as young as four should wear full-face veils is definitely extreme and not required by Islamic law. From what I remember from when I studied Islam at college as part of the Religious Studies course, girls up to seven years old can wear whatever they like. The dress requirements gradually come after they reach that age, and I think that they are only required to wear the full veil at puberty.

There have been fears about Islamic separatism in other European countries. In the 1990s there was controversy in the main Germany trade union organisation. This claimed that while the affiliated Muslim organisations or its Muslim members claimed to support integration, in reality they had a separatist attitude towards their non-Muslim brothers and sisters.

I also wonder if the accusation of separatism may not be literally true, in that some Muslims extremists may be pursuing a conscious policy of apartheid. I’ve written in previous posts how, when I was studying Islam, I came across passages in books published by British Muslim presses that demanded autonomous Muslim communities. And way back in January 2000, right at the dawning of the new millennium, the Financial Times included a brief piece featuring Anjem Chaudhry, who never met an Islamist terrorist he didn’t like. Chaudhry was then running an outfit called Sharia4Belgium, which wanted Belgian Muslims to have their own autonomous enclave with Arabic as it official language, governed by sharia law. Chaudhry’s now in jail for his support for al-Qaeda and ISIS. I don’t know if such demands are still being made by sections of British and European Islam following the 9/11 attacks and the government’s attempts to curb Muslim radicalism and promote integration. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was, somewhere, though the vicious Muslim firebrands like Kalim Siddiqui, who declared that British society was a monstrous killing machine and that killing Muslims comes very easily to non-Muslim Brits, seem to have gone quiet. The imam, who received Salmon Rushdie back into the faith, also recommended that Britain should train its own imams. When he was writing their was a shortage of Muslim clergy in Britain, and he was afraid that religious extremists from places like Pakistan were being allowed in thanks to this.

Macron’s comments also came at the same time that the Spectator published a piece claiming that the Swedish authorities had announced that immigrant communities in some of their cities were dominated by criminal gangs and had turned whole areas into a no-go zones. There was a war going on between a number of immigrant criminal gangs, in which firearms and even rocket launchers had been used. The Swedish chief of police had supposedly appeared on television to state very clearly that the immigrants responsible for the violence were not proper asylum seekers, but had come to the country simply to make money through selling drugs. This was apparently confirmed by the Swedish prime minister, Lofven, who said that his country would not be taking any of the former residents of the destroyed immigrant camp in France. Or so it has been claimed by right-wing, ant-immigration websites.

A few years ago the Islamophobic, ‘counterjihad’ websites Gates of Vienna and Vlad Tepes wrote pieces praising a book by the former mayor of one of the German towns. He claimed that his town had effectively been overrun by Muslims, who maltreated and forced out ethnic Germans. The book was widely attacked and criticised. They also claimed that Malmo in Sweden, or at least parts of it, had been taken over by Muslim immigrants and become violent, crime-ridden no-go zones for non-Muslims. I don’t know how true these reports are as they come from the racist right, websites which did have connections to the EDL. Certainly Fox News’ claim that British cities like Birmingham had been taken over by Muslims and were now no-go zones for White and non-Muslim Brits provoked widespread criticism and hilarity when they made it a few years ago.

It seems to me that nevertheless, even if these claims are exaggerated, there is nevertheless a real fear of Islamic separatism throughout Europe and that Macron is reacting to it in France.

One contributory factor, I have no doubt, is neoliberalism and the destruction of the welfare state. The French scholar, Alfred Kepel, advances this argument in his book on the resurgence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish fundamentalism, The Revenge of God. When Thatcher started her attacks on the welfare state in the 1980s, she hoped that it would lead to a resurgence of charity. This didn’t happen. But Muslims are obliged to support the poor through the zakat, the alms-tax paid to the local mosque. I think this concern to give to the local poor amongst Muslims isn’t confined just to their own community in Britain. There were Muslim restaurants giving free meals to the homeless at Christmas, and my parents bumped into a young Muslim woman, who was also buying stuff she could give to the food bank, in our local supermarket. But the support provided by the mosques in the absence of state aid does mean that communities may become more isolated and inward-looking.

If we really want to stop Islamic separatism, as well as White racism, not only should Britain and Europe take measures promoting racial integration, but neoliberalism urgently needs to be ditched. It’s dividing communities as it pushes people into real, grinding poverty. But there’s no chance of that, at least in this country, as the very rich are making too much money at the expense of the rest of us, regardless of our colour and religion.

Report Demands Reform of Major Public Inquiries

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 11:28pm in

This is another interesting piece from Tuesday’s issue of the I for 25th August 2020. Written by Jane Clinton, it discusses the publication of a report by the Justice reform group demanding extensive reforms of major public inquiries. The piece, ‘Major public inquiries ‘need radical reform’ runs

The way the justice system responds to incidents ranging from the Manchester Arena bombings to the Grenfell Tower fire needs a major overhaul, according to a report.

Official investigations to discover what happened and how to stop it recurring are too slow, insufficiently concerned about victims and their families and too often limit the likelihood of preventing similar events in the future.

The report, When Things Go Wrong, by the influential Justice reform group warned public trust in how the justice system responds to deaths has been “eroded” and says a “consistent, open, timely, coherent and readily understandable” response is required to restore public confidence.

The report, chaired by former High Court judge Sir Robert Owen, who conducted the inquest and public inquiry into Russian poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko makes recommendations for improvements. It highlights “costly delay and duplication” of a system that has “insufficient concern for the needs of those affected by disasters” with the bereaved and survivors “often left confused, betrayed and re-traumatised”.

It calls for a central inquiry team to run such investigations. “Previous experience has not been routinely captured,” it said.

It also calls for greater collaboration between investigating agencies to prevent those affected from having repeatedly to recount traumatic events. Sir Robert said that a system cannot provide justice if its processes “exacerbate the grief and trauma” of participants.

I think Sir Robert Owen and his group are right about the public having low confidence in official inquiries. It seems to me that we’ve seen them repeatedly used, especially by Boris Johnson and the Tories, as a way of whitewashing or trying escape the blame for their catastrophic decisions. The Grenfell fire, and the way its victims have been treated, with many still homeless years after the government promised that they’d be rehoused, is a case in point.

But I have absolutely no doubt that these reforms won’t be implemented by Boris. He’s used public inquiries himself as a way of deflecting blame and attention away from his government. It’s not just with major disasters, but also lesser issues like the allegations about islamophobia. There are revelations that the Tories are riddled with it, and the Equalities Commission was prepared to launch an inquiry. Until Boris said that he was going to launch one himself. So the Equalities Commission backed down. So far, there has been no Tory inquiry into islamophobia in the party, and I doubt there ever will be. But as Mike has pointed out, this incident also shows that the Equalities Commission is politically biased and unfit for purpose. It spent years trying to uncover the largely spurious anti-Semitism in the Labour party. But when it comes to casting the same critical glance over the Tories because of the very real, poisonous hatred of Muslims there, it does nothing.

And then there’s Boris’ promise at the time of the Black Lives Matter protests to do something about the Black community’s condition in Britain. This was going to be another inquiry. Just like Tweezer promised one.

The government has made too many broken promises, and arranged too many public inquiries to allow officials and senior MPs and government leaders to escape blame. The Justice reform group are right – the system’s reform is urgently needed. But Boris and co. will continue abusing it for as long as they can get away with it. And with a mendacious, complicit press and media, that’s going to be a long time.


Guides for Life After a Life Sentence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 2:35am in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Lifers find a way

For prison “lifers” who finally make parole after decades of incarceration, navigating life on the outside can be daunting. A program in California is linking up these new releases with their formerly incarcerated peers, who provide guidance as they build their new lives. 

The Peer Reentry Navigator Network (PRNN) was launched five years ago in response to the huge number of lifers being released from California prisons following a shift in parole regulations. Many of the participants, now in their fifties or sixties, come out with chronic health conditions, not to mention little experience with modern technology — some have never used the internet or even an ATM. Their peers, who have learned to successfully navigate post-prison life, show them the ropes through group meetings, one-on-one counseling, life skills, job leads, even relationship advice.

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The program builds on the simple fact that most people age out of criminal behavior — one researcher at Montclair State University found that inmates who are released late in life have a recidivism rate of just 1.14 percent. “Lifers build communities with each other in prison, so the group is a way of extending the runway,” says one social worker who helped develop the program. “So having people they can talk to, check in with, and give and get ‘pull ups’ instead of ‘push downs’ is important.” 

Read more at the Christian Science Monitor

Space invaders

Occupants of homeless shelters often reside in large communal rooms. But since the pandemic began, many of those individuals have been moved into hotel rooms to prevent the spread of the virus. Now, those individuals are showing dramatic, often unexpected improvements in many areas of their lives, particularly the ones who struggle with mental health issues. 

Residents of Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Service Center are living at the Morrison Hotel. Credit: Wikipedia

“What we’ve realized is that the physical environment contributed to the stress and difficulties that people were under, and we had a lot of crisis events,” said the director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, a Seattle shelter. In this shelter, where 230 people were living in congregate housing before the pandemic struck, tempers would flare and misunderstandings would sometimes escalate into physical conflicts. Since the residents were moved into a local hotel, however, such interactions have diminished, and many residents report that their mental health has improved. The data reflect this: During a five week period in the summer of 2019, shelter workers had to call police or medical services 128 times. During the same period this year, they called 25 times. 

“In a congregate setting, my patients hardly ever feel safe. They have to be concerned with their things being stolen, have no privacy, and that leads to trouble sleeping and feeling like they’re always on edge,” said a physician at another Seattle shelter that moved its residents into a hotel. “Once they moved, you just noticed how people could relax and have the bandwidth to start healing.”

Read more at Shelterforce

Classroom with a view

Kids in Kashmir are keeping their education on track against a breathtaking backdrop. In the India-administered region, few kids have access to laptops or tablets, and internet service is often too spotty for remote learning. So when Covid-19 forced Kashmir’s schools to close, teachers in Doodpathri, a town in Budgam district, set up outdoor classrooms in a spot normally teeming with tourists.

kashmirThe India-administered Kashmir region.

Now, in grassy meadows six feet apart from each other, children are getting an education with the snow-capped Himalayas towering above them. “Their eager participation has made the entire concept click and created similar demand elsewhere,” said one teacher. A parent adds: “It’s far better that our kids attend such schools than grow weary in homes where they often end up frustrating themselves.”

Read more at the BBC

The post Guides for Life After a Life Sentence appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

New York Is Using Data to Stop Homelessness Before It Starts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/08/2020 - 11:33pm in

In 2014, Jamilah Seye, a 54-year-old mother of two teenagers, lost her job as a shelter supervisor because of health issues. She became permanently disabled and could not go back to work, and over the years her financial situation worsened. Seye lived in Urban Strategies housing, and her family was supported by the Family Eviction Prevention Subsidy, a state program that provides rental support for up to five years. But in 2016, when her disability subsidy kicked in, she made too much to receive public assistance, and lost the eviction prevention subsidy. She eventually fell behind on the rent. Without an income, she couldn’t keep her apartment. On the verge of losing her home, at the beginning of 2020 she went to Homebase, New York City’s homelessness prevention program, and asked for help.

Seye is far from the only person in New York City who has had difficulties paying rent. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in the United States, about a half-million people go homeless every night. Even though homelessness across the country has been decreasing since 2010, the trend has been the opposite in New York. From 2007 to 2018, the state has witnessed a staggering 47 percent increase in homelessness.

An innovative program in the city is seeking to get ahead of the problem, however. Founded in 2004, Homebase is a neighborhood-based grassroots program that merges knowledge of the community’s services with state funds to help those in danger of becoming homeless before they lose a home or other living arrangements. The group, which has 26 locations in New York’s five boroughs and is funded partly by New York state, provides any kind of assistance people need to keep their homes: cash for rent; cash advances for utilities; lawyers to solve disputes with landlords and fight evictions; and coaching and training for jobs and job-hunt assistance. By 2019, Homebase had a budget of $53 million and helped about 29,600 households annually.

When Seye arrived at a Homebase office in 2020, she was immediately assigned a case manager. Homebase worked with Seye for two months and helped her obtain more help with her rent through the subsidy program. After five years of serial crises, Seye and her two teenagers were able to stay in their home, thanks to Homebase’s support.

“They were very instrumental,” Seye said. “They helped me at a time when I was really down financially.”

homelessRather than trying to help everyone, Homebase focuses on those people who are known to be at risk of losing their homes. Credit: MTA

The city of New York shelters about 60,000 people per night. Federal government data show that New York alone accounts for more than one-fifth of all sheltered houseless people in the United States. And once someone loses a house in a city such as New York, where rent is already unsustainable for many people, it can be extremely tough to get out of a shelter and find another place to live.

Many studies have shown that it is difficult to transition from homelessness to being housed, and that not having a home exacerbates existing mental and physical illnesses. But where solving homelessness presents many obstacles, many places have found prevention to be a better solution. Cities such as Salt Lake City, and the countries of Wales and Canada have successfully implemented homelessness prevention programs. Still, the scale of the problem is different in New York City; while Salt Lake City or even Canada were dealing with a leaky tap, number-wise, New York had to build a dam to stop the flood.

In 2004, Linda Gibbs, at the time the commissioner for the city’s Department for Homeless Services, founded the Homebase program. The city could not open shelters fast enough to meet the rising demand, so this new idea arose. The city already had an elaborate data collection of profiles of homeless shelter applicants, so it used this data to start looking for those within the applicant pool who were at high risk of becoming homeless in the first place — and then try to help them keep their homes.

Seye described the help from Homebase as comforting and reassuring. She emphasized the importance of this approach towards people who lack confidence and find themselves in such a delicate situation.

“They offer so much encouragement. I began to rebuild my confidence that I would not be on the street,” Seye said.

And amid the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 700,000 newly unemployed New Yorkers still need to pay for housing, even with a statewide moratorium on evictions (which is set to expire September 4).

“Homebase is extremely needed, especially right now,” Seye said. “People are not employed anymore. And they’re going to be in a position of wondering if they’re going to be in the street with their children.”

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Mirtha Santana, vice president of empowerment at RiseBoro, the Homebase location that helped Seye, has been working with Homebase since 2007 when it was a pilot program. She said that the research behind the Homebase program revolutionized the way the organization approached homelessness by new statistical tools to a problem that formerly had only been addressed by a case worker’s subjective judgment.

Between 2004 and 2008, Marybeth Shinn, professor of human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, studied 11,105 New York Homebase applicant families. “The city at that time was giving services to some people who were at quite a low risk, and was missing some people who were at a much higher risk,” Shinn said. Her work aimed at predicting, using a series of variables including disability and shelter history, which families were most vulnerable to becoming homeless. The study showed that using a targeting model to supplement the judgment of case workers would identify 26 percent more families at risk, and decrease the number of families overlooked by two-thirds.

The Homebase high-risk prevention program seems to work if, rather than trying to help everyone, it focuses on those people who are known to be at risk of losing their homes. “We developed a statistical model that helps determine which people were at highest risk of coming into the shelter,” Shinn said. Ever since, Homebase has used Shinn’s model to help people in need before they become homeless.

The program has made a measurable difference. A 2014 study in the Journal of Housing Economics compared neighborhoods where there was a homeless Homebase program to similar areas where there was no program. The authors, from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and Columbia University, found that the work of Homebase, in the long run, would reduce the number of people entering shelter by five to 11 percent, saving the city $20 million to $44 million in expenditures each year.

But that’s not a huge impact. “It works, but it’s not incredibly powerful,” said Brendan O’Flaherty, a professor of urban economics at Columbia and one of the study’s co-authors. “It’s nice to have a sump pump if your basement gets flooded, but if the Mississippi River or the Atlantic Ocean goes into your house… That’s what happens.”

That doesn’t take away from the critical need for services, even those that can’t solve the entire problem.

“New York City has most likely the most sophisticated homelessness prevention program in the country,” said Daniel Farrell, vice president of HELP USA, another Homebase location in the Bronx. The program has served as a model for many other prevention programs around the country. RiseBoro’s Mirtha Santana said that the organization has consulted with Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., on their prevention programs.

“The program is unique, and I think that one of the aspects because Homebase is so successful, it’s because it operates within the community,” she said. “We know the devastating effects of homelessness on children,” she said.

Without Homebase, thousands more families would be living in shelters, Santana added.

“But we do not solve all problems. If we truly want to have housing for everyone, we need more than this program provides. Homelessness is very intertwined with urban poverty, and for that we need more government policies,” Santana said.

This story originally appeared in Yes! Magazine. It is part of the SoJo Exchange of COVID-19 stories from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

The post New York Is Using Data to Stop Homelessness Before It Starts appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Unrest in the USA: A Perfect Storm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 6:46am in

image/jpeg iconunrest_usa.jpg

The spread of COVID-19 to the United States earlier this year both triggered and exacerbated the economic crisis which has been building up for decades. Around 50 million workers in America have been thrown out of work since the start of the lockdown, the great majority of whom have no alternative source of income for the necessities of life.

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Tech Giants Eye Lucrative Rent Market as End to Eviction Moratorium Could Leave Millions Homeless

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 2:19am in

In a ‘normal’, pre-pandemic economy, a number roughly equal to the population of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania – or about 3.7 million people – are evicted every year in the United States, according to Matthew Desmond, principal investigator of Princeton University’s “Eviction Lab” project, which tracks evictions throughout the country and produces the first nationwide eviction database.

But, come Friday, July 24, those numbers could rise precipitously should the moratorium on evictions, included in the CARES Act be allowed to expire. The legislation afforded renters with a 120 days’ grace period from “fees, penalties, or charges in relation to nonpayment of rent” and barred landlords from filing eviction notices of any kind during that period.

The situation facing low-income communities is exceedingly harsh when considering the endemic economic disparity that characterizes cash-poor communities with scant access to any sort of financial resources or affordable credit. Studies on wealth inequality have shown time and again how excessive rent burdens can leave families on the brink of homelessness over relatively minor, unexpected emergencies like a simple car repair or a doctor’s visit.

A “semi-permanent renter class” has developed among poor African Americans, in particular. 1 in 11 people who fall into this demographic face eviction every year. For the rest of the United States, the rate is 1 in 20. African American communities and other communities of color are the most vulnerable to the approaching deadline, which not only opens the door for the resumption of eviction filings but also brings potentially large bills of fees and penalties, which the CARES Act allowed to accrue for 120 days.


A broad crisis

So far, few lawmakers have come out against the end of the moratorium despite the uncertainty and great potential for popular unrest this is likely to cause. Some cities like Houston have already lifted the eviction freeze leading many in the legal profession to expect a “tsunami” of eviction filings. The prospect of homelessness looms large over working families living on incomes under $40K a year; 40 percent of which lost a source of employment in March, according to Shamus Roller of the National Housing Law Project.

Milwaukee and Cleveland are two of the cities most at risk, with a 40 percent jump in eviction rates from their typical level at this time of year. The American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Evictions revealed that a staggering 28 million homes are at risk of coming under eviction orders due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily Benfer, who chairs the ABA committee is also the co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard put out by the Eviction Lab.

In an editorial published Wednesday by NBC News, Benfer called for a “long-term solution to housing precarity and its disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx families” and warned that without “robust government intervention” the “avalanche of evictions” will take a heavy toll on entire communities. She predicts renters will suffer increasing levels of distress as unemployment benefits are cut off and reopened courts begin hearing thousands of pending evictions.

Benfer decried the Trump administration’s attempts to eliminate fair housing rules, that were set up to push back against “longstanding discriminatory housing practices,” echoing her partner at Eviction Lab, Matt Desmond, who contrasted the plight of African American and Latino renters with white American families who are “buffered” from the looming eviction crisis by virtue of most of them owning their own home.

In her concluding paragraph, Benfer asserted that we must “define our post-pandemic reality” and suggested that the government subsidize the housing market in toto while a new paradigm takes shape.


Public and Private Motives

Anti-eviction demonstrations are starting to sprout up around the country with organizations like the Cancel the Rent movement and Kansas City Tenants stage protests against the imminent expiration of the moratorium. Some state governments, like Andrew Cuomo’s office, are taking the initiative to implement rental assistance programs.

The federal government is joining the chorus through U.S. Representative, Ilhan Omar’s “Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020,” a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Rashida Talib and 27 others, which calls for the effective annulment of rents and mortgages due for the (undefined) period of the Covid-19 pandemic and proposes the creation of a Landlord Relief Fund for property owners to recoup their losses.

Parallel to this and largely under the radar, however, the private tech sector is moving into position to swoop in and take advantage of the impending housing crisis. Just as news of a mysterious virus was breaking late last year, Facebook invested $1 billion for the construction of 20,000 new affordable housing units in California, following Google’s lead which had made the exact same commitment a few months earlier. Apple more than doubled Google’s and Facebook’s investment, combined, when it put down $2.5 billion for the same cause.

On the occasion of Facebook’s investment, California governor Gavin Newsom declared that the “State government cannot solve housing affordability alone” and praised the public-private partnership for advancing the fight against “economic inequality and restoring social mobility.”

Correction | A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 3.7 million people are evicted in the United States every month, the correct figure is 3.7 million people evicted every year.  We regret this error.

Feature photo | People from a support organization for immigrant and working class communities unfold banners, including one advocating rent cancellation, on a subway platform in the Queens borough of New York during a vigil memorializing people who died from coronavirus. The pandemic has shut housing courts and prompted authorities around the U.S. to initiate policies protecting renters from eviction, May 21, 2020. Bebeto Matthews | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Tech Giants Eye Lucrative Rent Market as End to Eviction Moratorium Could Leave Millions Homeless appeared first on MintPress News.

From 1997: Financial Times Article on Free Market Creating Global Poverty

This is another piece I found combing through my scrapbooks. It’s by the Financial Times’ columnist, Joe Rogaly. Titled ‘Market Victims Who Are Free to Be Poor’, and with the subtitle ‘One set of figures shows the capitalist road leading to paradise; a better set shows it leading to misery for many’ it compares and contrasts two reports on global poverty, one by the UN and another by a group of free market think tanks led by the Fraser Institute. And Rogaly comes down firmly on the side of the UN. The article, published in the Weekend edition for 14/15 June 1997, runs

When pictures of skeletal children or abandoned babies appear on the TV news do you (a) lean forward to catch the commentary (b) change channels (c) switch off and head for the kitchen? Some of us have seen about as many images of third-world distress as we can bear. Our assumption is that we know the cure for deprivation: unshackle the free market and the globalised capitalist wealth-producing machine will do the rest.

No it won’t. The 1997 Human Development report, published this week by Oxford University Press for the United Nations, demolishes the idea that the bounty created by the genius of market economics will trickle down. You have to spend tax -payers’ money to help the worst-off, or they will be dead before they are rescued.

Not everyone accepts this. It is contrary to the spirit of the 1997 Economic Freedom of the World report. Right-thinking and therefore expressive of familiar sentiments, it was published last month by the Fraser Institute, Vancouver, in association with 46 other pro-market think-tanks dotted around the planet.

This clutch of capitalist theologians, which includes London’s Institute of Economic Affairs, has invented an index of economic freedom. Its 17 components include growth and inflation rates, government spending, top marginal tax rates, restraints on trade, and so on. These are expressed in hard numbers and therefore “objective”. Hong Kong tops a list of 115 countries thus appraised. The US comes 4th, Britain 7th and France 36th.

You can guess what follows. A few clicks on the mouse-button tell you that between 1985 and 1996 the economies near the top of the economic freedom index grew fastes, while those at the bottom – the “least free” fifth – got poorer. That unhappy quintile includes Russia, Ukraine, and the well-known African disaster areas. The lesson is obvious. Impede the market, and you pay, perhaps with your life. The unobstructed capitalist road is the highway to  paradise.

Wrong again. The UN’s Human Development Index is closer to the truth. it does not measure progress by the rules of conventional economics alone. To be sure, it factors in real gross domestic product per head, as do the freedom-theorists. But GDP is only one of three ingredients. The other two are life expectancy and educational attainment. The resulting list puts countries in a different order from the free marketeers’ league table.

On the latter, remember, Hong Kong comes first. On the development index it falls to 22nd. France, which believes in government expenditure, moves up from 36th on the economic freedom ladder to second place on human development. The United Kingdom falls from 7th to 15th. It’s not just the wealth you generate. It’s how you spend it.

The Human Development report introduces another index this year – for “human poverty”. It counts the people who are expected to die before turning 40, the number of illiterates, those without health services and clean water, and underweight toddlers. Once again you get changes in the rank order, particularly among developing countries.

Cuba, China, Kenya and Peru have all done relatively well at alleviating human poverty. Egypt, Guatemala and Pakistan score less on poverty relief than on human development. It is not only how you spend it, but who you spend it on.

The obvious message is aspirational. If the rich countries would put their hands in their pockets, poverty could be eliminated. We know this will not happen, in spite of the determination to give a lead expressed by Britain’s new Labour administration. Government to government aid is no longer fashionable. The money does not always reach its destination, as the worst case story, that of Zaire, teaches us. The US poured in the dollars, and they went straight into former president Mobutu’s Swiss bank accounts.

Tied assistance is better. Big donors usually demand that markets by set free. This is not quite enough to meet the needs of Human Development or the alleviation of poverty. Happily, contracts tying aid to certain actions are getting more sophisticated – although so are the means by which recipients contravene them. Anyhow, aid is but a part of what is needed.

The true value of the Human Development report lies in its implicit challenge to narrow-focused concentration on the market mechanism. Compiled by a team of economists and others directed by Richard Joly, it has evolved within the broad discipline of economics. It would be better still if someone could come up with an acceptable index of political freedom, to measure both economic and human development and democratic practices. That would require judgments that could not be quantified. How would you have treated 99 per cent votes in communist countries?

The outlook is not all so dolorous. Poverty is declining overall, largely thanks to the improvement in China, which has moved up the economic freedom tables and reduced destitution. Not many countries can make that boast. There are still 800m people who do not have enough to eat. We have some clever indices, but so far no great help to the misery on our TV screens. Only a change in the way we think can achieve that.

That was published nearly a quarter of a century ago. I don’t doubt that with time and the progress of neoliberalist, free market economics, things have become much, much worse. The book Falling off the Edge, which I’ve reviewed on this blog, is a full-scale attack on such globalisation, showing how it not only has created worse poverty and exploitation, but has also led to political instability and global terrorism. And as more British children go hungry, as more people fall into poverty due to the Tories’ privatisations and destruction of the welfare state, I wonder how long it will be before conditions very like those of the Developing World appear here.

This was published when the Financial Times’ weekend edition was still worth reading. It had good reviews and insightful columnists. It declined in quality around the turn of the millennium when it became much more lightweight. It has also switched its political allegiance from liberal to Conservative in an unsuccessful attempt to gain readers.

This article shows that neoliberal free market economics, of the type pushed by the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs, has always been a fraud, and known to be a fraud.

But our mendacious, vicious press and political establishment are still pushing it, at a massive cost in human lives and wellbeing. Even in Britain.

How the Pandemic Hit Americans

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 3:23am in

As the coronavirus continues to rage, this country is ill-prepared to handle a surge in homelessness, let alone help those already homeless. Continue reading

The post How the Pandemic Hit Americans appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Seattle’s Tiny Houses Keep the Virus Out

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/06/2020 - 6:27am in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Small but mighty

To slow the spread of the coronavirus, cities have been housing the homeless in hotels, a well-intentioned solution, albeit expensive and temporary — flaws that tiny houses could fix.

Shelterforce takes a look at a string of villages in Washington State where some 400 tiny houses have been built for homeless people over recent years. The miniature model has attracted attention since the pandemic began. The homes are eight by twelve feet and spaced five feet apart, ensuring residents are socially distanced from their neighbors. The houses seem to be effective at stopping the spread of Covid-19 — when hundreds of the tenants were tested on May 12, not a single result came back positive.

In March, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan fast-tracked funding to build 50 more tiny houses there, calling them “probably the most successful shelter we have to get people into long-term housing.” That’s because, unlike free hotel rooms, which will become unavailable once tourists return, tiny houses provide shelter until the resident is truly ready to move on. They’re also cheaper: housing someone in one of them costs an average of $38 per day, as opposed to $56 per day in a shelter or over $100 per day in a hotel. And, of course, they can be used in perpetuity, as a permanent part of Washington’s homelessness solution long after the pandemic has passed.

Read more at Shelterforce

Teaching for fluency

Teton County, Wyoming, a place of stunning beauty and world-renowned skiing, is also excelling in an unexpected realm: helping students who are non-native English speakers thrive.

Graduation rates for English language learners (ELL) in the district’s schools have been higher than statewide rates nearly every year for the past decade. In addition, for eight of those years, the district’s “achievement gap” — the difference in graduation rates between ELL students and the rest of the student body — was smaller than the state average.

jackson holeJackson Hole, Wyoming. Credit: Alan English / Flickr

What’s their secret? Starting early is one big part of it. ELL support begins at kindergarten, which is earlier than in many other Wyoming school districts. This support includes extra reading and writing lessons, and targeted language instruction. By the time these kids get to high school, said one principal, “We are a recipient of what is happening at the middle and elementary levels.”

These early interventions do cost money, but Teton County funds the program with property taxes — no small potatoes, thanks to tony Jackson Hole — and allows the district to distribute those funds where they’re needed most so that a school’s resources aren’t tied to any given town’s local tax base.

Read more at the Jackson Hole News & Guide

Helping out the Joneses

Is the coronavirus crisis bringing neighbors closer together? The Guardian finds evidence that it might be. A recent poll in the U.K. found that two-thirds of respondents had answered a call to help a neighbor in the previous week, a number that has grown in comparison to similar pre-lockdown surveys. And Britain’s Office of National Statistics, which has been tracking the social impact of the virus, found that 71 percent of Britons were confident that their community would help them if they needed it, and that 67 percent had checked in on a neighbor in the past week.

Plenty of people the paper spoke to backed up these findings with anecdotal evidence, including one newly minted septuagenarian. On her recent birthday, her neighbors hung bunting in her garden and sang “Happy Birthday” to her from the street. “I just feel that I am part of a village in a way that I never was,” she said, “and I hope – I hope – that it doesn’t stop.”

Read more at the Guardian

The post Seattle’s Tiny Houses Keep the Virus Out appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

We Are All in This Together. But Some of Us Are More in It Than Others

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 4:36pm in

Even liberal Democrats are unwilling to provide real relief to distressed homeowners and renters. All they want to offer is a temporary moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. In that respect, they are exactly the same as the Republicans. After all, they have a common class interest.