Thursday, May 11, 2006

AVIAN FLU: WHO’S AT FAULT?

AVIAN FLU: WHO’S AT FAULT?

By Marcus Bianco

It’s dark. It’s deafening loud. The smell of ammonia is enough to make one pass out. Cramped. Not even enough room to extend one’s arm. Confinement and overcrowding inhibits one from acting on their basic natural instincts.

This is not a dream; this is what it is like for the short lives of factory farmed laying hens. Few environments such as this exist. Few like it exist in the natural world.

The rapid spread of the current deadly avian flu strain H5N1 has been a result of current factory farming methods.

During the late fall of 2005 and winter of 2006, the media began airing stories about an avian flu pandemic. The main concern was that he virus was mutating and now humans were susceptible to the deadly virus.

According to Matt Stone, a college graduate with a degree in Environmental Science, factory farms are hotbeds with a favorable environment for highly contagious diseases to spread.

“In my opinion, the bird flu, being a virus, will be at an increased chance to mutate into a form easily passed between humans due to the methods of factory farming. The quality of life for these animals is as such that the virus will have an easy time multiplying rapidly within the large population of birds,” says Stone.

Stories developed that people were infected with the H5N1 strain and had died.

At this point there are only two ways in which a human can contract the virus. It must either come into direct contact with the excretions, or secretions, of an infected bird or eat uncooked flesh of an infected bird.

There are two theories for the spread of the virus.

The first theory claims that migrating birds are the sole reason for the spread. Migrating birds in all likelihood spread the virus across the continents, but if the environment in and surrounding factory farms were not so unhealthy, it would be even less likely for the disease to spread to migratory birds.

The other theory for the spread of the virus is poultry transportation. “The movement of poultry and poultry products have been found to be the most common cause of the spread of the virus across the world.”

The spread of the virus coincides more with the transportation routes rather than seasonal migratory paths.

When the media first began to air news reports regarding the avian flu, they showed images of cramped sickly looking birds. The majority of the American viewing public would be shocked to discover that the conditions like the ones they saw on television existed far closer to home and that the chickens they eat at their daily mealtime look far worse before they are slaughtered than the birds in the news reports.

The mentality of using animals for whatever way we see fit has existed for thousands of years. The human species has evolved to a point to where we no longer have to adhere to this way of thinking.

Some sort of distinction has developed that wild animals such as tigers, panda bears, and domestic pets are somehow different from cows, chickens, pigs, and sheep where as certain species need to be cherished and protected, while the others do not. Livestock has been turned into nothing more than mechanized machines and units to be packaged. With this mentality it’s no wonder that we would experience a backlash such as a global pandemic not only in animals, but also in humans.

One of the most publicly recognized organizations at the forefront of fighting for the rights of other sentient beings is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or better known as PETA. For years PETA has spoken out against current factory farming practices, warning the public of not only the health risks they pose to the farmer’s health, but also the risk to the rest of the public who consume the flesh and byproducts of those animals.

According to Matt Prescott, Manager of Factory Farming Campaigns at PETA, the way that the factory farm system is currently set up allows for the spread of more diseases.

“Eating meat doesn't just support cruelty to animals; it supports a system of agriculture that is a breeding ground for diseases like bird flu,” says Prescott.


One might wonder how these conditions could have come to exist. Certainly one reason is money. Economic pressures force farmers to adopt practices they may not agree with, but are forced to implement in order to remain competitive.

According to Vernon Murray, Ass. Professor of Business at Marist College, business is much like a game.

“This game is what those in the business world may refer to as the Economic Game Theory,” says Murray.

This is essentially if one person adopts an innovation that is lucrative, then in order to compete one must adopt this innovation or create one that is even more lucrative.

“Companies won’t do good,” Murray later added.

These practices may keep farmers afloat for the time being, but they may experience repercussions later down the line.

Dr. Laura Ebert, Ass. Professor of Economics at Marist College, explained it is a natural occurrence in business that adopting cheaper practices at the moment may end up costing more later down the line.

“It may make sense for agribusiness to cram birds into cages because at the present it will turn over a higher profit. What they are seeing now is that these cheaper practices are costing them now as the flu rips through their farms,” said Ebert.

Another very interesting point Dr. Ebert made was that the government allocates roughly “$30 billion in subsidies for farmers.”

Because of the government aid these farmers receive, they are then able to undercut competitors in overseas markets, which in turn become impoverished as a result. It’s no wonder that foreign poultry production is increased as the U.S. economic involvement in the region increase.

For example, “China's production of chicken tripled during the 1990s.”

It is certainly possible that farmers in Asia, where bird flu is infecting the most birds and people, feel pressured to adopt more intense practices in order to compete with producers importing a cheaper product.

One thing is for certain about the coverage of the bird flu and that is the media and the governments who are supplying them with information are eliciting fear of getting the flu and not providing the public with solutions to better their health or improve farming practices.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, a licensed osteopathic physician and publisher of the website Mercola.com, writes that the government has taken action in preparation for the avian flu scare, which he believes to be a hoax and that top White House officials are set up to profit from it.

According to an article written on Mercola’s website, he writes that the United States government purchased 20 million doses of the drug Tamiflu, which is an antiviral flu drug developed by Gilead Sciences, for $2 billion.

According to the Gilead Sciences Inc.’s corporate website, current Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, in 1997 was named Chairman of the organization.

It would be naïve to think that Rumsfeld would not stem to profit from this transaction even if he was only a shareholder.

Paul Joseph Watson, of PrisonPlanet.com, believes that fear of death from a virus stemming from the bird flu is something that those in power may use to get the public to go along with things they otherwise may not have.

“Bird flu is one more tool in the arsenal of Globalist Malthusian social Darwinists who believe it is their destiny to act as guardians to mother earth against the 'plague' of humanity and that brutal methods of population control are the only way to realize a new world order,” said Watson in an article he wrote on April 7th.

The one thing that the media isn’t really covering is a solution to this problem. Vaccines and drugs would not be necessary if people would open up their eyes and look around at what is going on.

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” - Albert Einstein


[1] US Sinister droppings; Bird flu. (2006, Febuary 18). The Economist, p. 51.

[2] Seychelles Nation. (2006, April 24). The bird flu virus, the environment perspective. Retrieved April 24, 2006, from http://www.nation.sc/index1024.php?art=5970

[3] Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis. (2006). Retrieved April 23, 2006, from http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=194

[4] Rumsfeld To Profit From Avian Flu Hoax. (2005, October 19). Retrieved May 1, 2006, from http://mercola.com/blog/2005/oct/19/rumsfeld_to_profit_from_avian_flu_hoax

[5] Press Release: Donald H. Rumsfeld Named Chairman of Gilead Sciences. (1997, January 3). Gilead. Retrieved May 4, 2006, from http://www.gilead.com/wt/sec/pr_933190157/

[6] Watson, P. J. (2006, April 7). Bird Flu And Social Darwinism: A quick refresher course. Retrieved April 25, 2006, from http://www.infowars.com/articles/science/bird_flu_and_social_darwinism.htm

THE ABORTION DEBATE

THE ABORTION DEBATE

By: Amy Diamond

Abortion: a woman’s choice.
Abortion is murder.
Don’t believe in abortion? Don’t have one!
Abortion stops a beating heart.
Life begins at conception.
My life, my body, my choice.

These are just some of the common abortion slogans that bombard Americans on a daily basis. These messages are on billboards, on picket signs, and glued to the bumpers of cars.

Abortion has become one of the most passionate issues in the United States today. This matter has divided the country along religious and political lines.

There is a dichotomy present in the United States where one is either pro-life or pro-choice. A battle ensues between these two belief systems. This battle threatens women’s rights.

Abortion has been legal in this country since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Ever since its inception, Roe v. Wade has caused controversy and political upheaval. Many predict that the recent conservative overhaul of the Supreme Court will cause a reversal of this landmark decision.

The latest additions of Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court have caused rumors of a possible reversal of Roe v. Wade. Alito and Roberts are both conservative. Their membership has caused the Supreme Court to have more of a conservative makeup.

If Roe v. Wade is reversed, the Supreme Court will return the matter to the discretion of each individual state. Conservative states will make abortion illegal for their residents and liberal states will reinstate its legality.

According to a Christian News and Media Agency article entitled “If Roe is reversed, abortion would still be legal in more than 40 states, group says,” a national ban on abortion wouldn’t occur if Roe v. Wade is reversed. Approximately 43 states would keep abortion legal.

According to this article, Peter Samuelson, the president of Americans United for Life, said that abortion will remain legal if Roe v. Wade is reversed.

“There is almost no chance they will create a national right to life,” Samuelson said.

Janet MacIsaac, 53, an office Manager in Hyde Park, N.Y., said if Roe v. Wade is reversed illegal abortions would still occur.

“It is my absolute opinion that we cannot revert back to the 1970s where barbaric abortions were performed on women who had no other choice in life but to do so,” MacIsaac said.

Shannon Roper, assistant professor of Communication at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., also said that abortions will still happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“I do not think abortions will cease to exist; at its worst, we will see a return to the illegal, back door abortion, where more women will get hurt and even die in the process,” Roper said. “Whether one believes that a fetus is a baby at conception or not until later on in the pregnancy, I do not think that putting women at risk who are already here are the answer.”

There are several arguments involved in the abortion debate. There is the feminist perspective which insists that abortion is a woman’s right and that women should have complete control over their reproductive capabilities. There is also the religious standpoint which insists that the fetus is a person at conception and abortion is immoral.

Gerald B. Lehmann, 69, who is known as “Brother Jerry,” is a self-employed carpenter from Kingston, N.Y., and a staunch believer in the pro-life ideology. He said that abortion is murder.

“No question abortion is murder, it is the killing of an innocent human being who had no trial, no lawyer, no appeal, “ Lehmann said. “It is a simple incontrovertible scientific fact that life begins at conception.”

Lehmann is an abortion protestor. He said that he is a witness to the truth, not a protestor.

“We are not protesting, we are witnesses to the truth, trying to educate people who have heard nothing but lies, from the so-called ‘sex education’ programs in school,” he said. “There are children alive today because their mothers saw me, met me, were influenced by me in some way to make the decision not to abort their babies.”

Mar Peter-Raoul, assistant professor of Religious Studies at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said even though life begins at conception, abortion should remain a legal right.

“Though I believe life begins at conception, the abortion question is complex,” Peter-Raoul said. “I don’t want to see women butchered in back rooms, so I would prefer legal abortion.”

The arguments over when life begins and when personhood is established are major parts of the abortion debate.

Pro-choice individuals aren’t pro-abortion; they are advocates of choice. They believe a woman should have the freedom to choose whether or not to have an abortion. The pro-choice ideology also advocates for women’s control over their own bodies.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a feminist, and famous 19th century women’s rights activist, said that a woman should have complete control over her own body.

“A woman’s body belongs to herself alone,” Stanton said. “It is her body; it does not belong to the Church, it does not belong to the United States of America or any other government…Enforced motherhood is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty.”

Roe v. Wade was established to provide safe and legal abortions for women who chose to have them. One is reminded of the pro-choice slogan: “If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one,” when the origin of abortion rights is mentioned.

The abortion debate can be related to the separation of church and state doctrine. The separation of church and state is a political paradigm which establishes the division between religion and government. This doctrine states that legal issues should be kept separate and autonomous from religion.

The abortion debate is a perfect example of the separation of church and state principle. Religious institutions are the primary opposing force in the abortion dispute. Religious, pro-life individuals and organizations are trying to take the right of choice away from females in this country.

One is left to wonder if the law should yield to religious convictions and whether the right to choose can be taken away after it had been available for 33 years.

Kathy Savitz, 42, a mother of three young children in Greenwich, Conn., said that pregnancy should be left up to the discretion of women.

“I just don’t feel like a group of mostly men in Washington should have the right to decide what a woman does with her pregnancy,” Savitz said. “A child is a gift from God but not everyone wants or is able to take care of a baby.”

The many women who cannot take care of a child are left with a tremendous decision. They can abort the baby, give it up for adoption, or keep the baby and struggle to care for it. Today this decision is left up to women, but how long will women be able to choose?

South Dakota has been attracting attention and controversy to its recent political maneuver that made abortion illegal within its boundaries. On March 6, 2006 Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill that made abortion illegal except when it’s needed to save a woman’s life. No exceptions are made for rape or incest in this bill. This abortion ban will be effective July 1, 2006.

A woman in South Dakota who wants an abortion after July 1, 2006 will have to either travel out of state or settle for an illegal abortion.

South Dakota is purposefully testing the legality of abortion in the United States. Lawmakers in this state are pushing the limits on state laws regarding abortion.

One is left to wonder about the future of abortion in the United States and if other states will follow South Dakota’s lead.

According to an article from BP news entitled “Supreme Court not ready to reverse Roe, Scalia says,” Justice Antonin Scalia says he doesn’t think Roe v. Wade will be reversed any time soon.

“It is not likely to be overturned with the current court, because there are still five justices on our court who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade,” Scalia said. “So, if I had to guess, I would say, not yet – maybe not ever – but certainly not yet.”

*All photo credits google.com, lycos.com

DO YOU KNOW WHO CONTROLS YOUR MEDIA?

DO YOU KNOW WHO CONTROLS YOUR MEDIA?

By Sean Shortell

In America, few things are held more sacred than the freedom of speech. That is why as a society we have gone to great lengths to ensure that every citizen, minority, faction or activist has equal access to that right. Like our government and our society, the media in America have evolved throughout our history, consistently changing with as a result of politics, technology and the demands of the citizens it serves.

In recent years, however, there has been a disturbing trend of media consolidation, the vertical and horizontal integration of news, media and entertainment companies into larger, multi-national corporations. Depending on whom you ask, you could be told that anywhere between 5 to two dozen companies control all the world’s media production and broadcasting.

Ben H. Bagdikian, author of The New Media Monopoly, has written extensively on the dangers associated with media consolidation and corporate ownership. “A collection of a very small number of companies dominates everything,” Bagdikian said. Mr. Bagdikian feels that news broadcasts that are corporately owned will often take on the political views of their owner.

Under this situation, Mr. Bagdikian says that, “Rupert Murdoch at Fox has a public license to air his own views without expressing other people’s views. When you watch Fox, all you’re getting is the Murdochian view.”

When Mr. Bagdikian published the first edition of The New Media Monopoly in 1983, he cited roughly fifty companies that controlled the world’s media. In the latest edition, published in 2004, he cites 5. Most of the consolidation was a result of the 1996 Telecommunication Act, which was the first overhaul of telecommunications policy in over sixty years.

In response to technological changes and the role of media in society, Congress and the FCC decided to relax media ownership regulations. This deregulation opened the door for media consolidation, which had previously been restricted by FCC regulations barring one company to owning multiple broadcast mediums in one market.

The merger that occurred throughout the late ‘90s consolidated media ownership into the hands of a limited number of corporations. While this alarmed many media critics and a few academics, the majority of us paid little attention to what was happening.

Tom Sabella has worked as a writer, producer and editor in the radio division of CBS News since 1983. Since the mergers of the late ‘90s, he says that corporate influence is “about the same since Viacom took over.” While critics like Mr. Bagdikian fear that corporate owners might influence what goes on the air, Mr. Sabella says “no one has ever come into the newsroom and altered a story.”

Regardless of disagreements over the number and influence of these media conglomerates, there is a cause for alarm, as independent media outlets have been falling victim to bankruptcy and buyouts due to multi-billion dollar mergers of larger media outlets. American media has been dramatically changed by these mergers and buyouts, especially in the medium of radio.

“The 1996 Telecom Act freed up local radio to be bought by national radio conglomerates,” says Russell Newman, a research director at Free Press, a national organization that monitors telecom policy. “Clear Channel went from owning around forty radio stations to over one thousand.”

Julie Hollar, a media relations consultant for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, or FAIR, a media watchdog group shares Mr. Newman’s view of the Clear Channel Corporation. “Clear Channel’s overwhelming dominance today is a direct result of the 1996 Telecom Act,” says Ms. Hollar. “The act really devastated local radio by allowing huge corporations like Clear Channel to control most of the nation’s radio market, dramatically cutting local programming.”

As consumers of radio, the general public is now at the mercy of Clear Channel programming and advertising. Due to the mergers, Clear Channel can now charge exorbitant advertising fees since they now reach such a large audience. In essence, Clear Channel is getting richer while our local programming is suffering.

It’s not just radio mergers that have activists up in arms. Mr. Newman sees some of the most troubling mergers to be between entertainment and telecom companies. “The idea of Disney and Comcast getting together is very scary,” says Newman. “Verizon and MCI merging as well as SBC and AT&T were also very troubling.”

Mr. Newman sees telecom mergers as the biggest threat due to their power of the internet, which he feels should remain free from ownership and regulation. “Last summer,” says Mr. Newman, “the FCC and Supreme Court decided that whoever controls the wires can decide what goes through them.”

The future battle between corporate and independent media will likely be over the internet. While activists such as Newman and Bagdikian certainly haven’t conceded their fight against television and radio conglomerates, they’re now turning they’re attention to the FCC’s internet policy and a new movement known as Save the Internet.

“If the internet ceases to be a free and open medium,” says Bagdikian, “it will be a loss to the whole of society.” Mr. Bagdikian sees both the internet and the airwaves as publicly owned and any extra-regulatory measures violate our freedom of speech.

Since Congressional subcommittees held hearings last month on the issue of telecom companies’ control of the internet, the Save the Internet movement has brought together conservatives and liberals alike to protest internet regulation and ownership.

Despite activist movements like Free Press, FAIR and Save the Internet, the general public has a very limited understanding of the nature and power of the media monopolies. Robert W. McChesney, author of The Problem with the Media claims that Americans spend an average of 12 hours a day in front of some sort of media. Whether it be television, radio, the internet, magazines, newspapers, books, music or movies, America’s appetite for media and entertainment is fattening the profits of the giant media conglomerates.

How then, can Americans be so unaware that the movies that they watch, the books they read and their news outlets are all owned by a limited number of companies whose primary motive is profit? Ms. Hollar agrees that many Americans are unaware of media conglomerates, but that is precisely what the media owners want. “Clearly it’s not in the interests of media owners to encourage the consumers of their media products to think critically about those issues,” says Hollar.

Mr. Newman and Ms. Hollar both agree that public activism is the best way to combat corporate media ownership. “Talk to people,” says Hollar. “Support independent media that speaks out about these issues.”


“Getting people to talk is the most important thing,” added Newman. “If you want to agitate for change, call your Congressperson and let them know that y
ou’re aware of what’s going on.”

Sources:

Bagdikian, Ben H. The New Media Monopoly. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

McChesney, Robert W. The Problem of the Media. New York: Monthly Review Press (2004)

McChesney, Robert W. “Journalism, Democracy and Class Struggle,” The Monthly

Review 52 (2000): 1-15.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

HOMELESS IN AMERICA: EDUCATING, UNDERSTANDING AND VOLUNTEERING

HOMELESS IN AMERICA: EDUCATING, UNDERSTANDING AND VOLUNTEERING

By Caroline Ross

Homelessness affects hundreds of thousands of individuals and families in the United States Due to lack of education about this epidemic, the vast majority of the U.S. population has failed to take action to help reduce this number and improve the quality of life for all American citizens. Fortunately, private, non-profit and some government agencies are attempting to combat the problem through housing, donations, creation of jobs and mental and physical rehabilitation. By becoming educated and involved in finding remedy to the problem of homelessness, American’s will be able to change the society they live in for the less-fortunate and themselves. everyday.

Each and every night close to 600,000 men, women and children must face the idea of spending another night in the cold, without shelter or a roof over their head.

To most Americans, this scenario sounds reminiscent of one in a developing country, known only through television news or an infomercial begging for donations. In reality this situation occurs a lot closer to home – in cities and towns around the United States.

In New York City, as in much of the country, homelessness is at an all time high. In NYC as many as 30,000 people seek shelter every night due to homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to mobilize and integrate all sectors of society (nonprofit, public and private) to end homelessness.

Samantha Batko, a representative from NAEH, stressed that the organization represented a unified effort from all sectors to address the causes of homelessness.

“Homelessness is a crisis that affects between 2.3 and 3.5 million adults and children in the U.S. each year. That’s about one out of every hundred Americans,” said Batko.

In August 2005, the Census Bureau released its annual data in relation to income in the United States. While the income average continues to increase, it seems that America’s poor are falling further and further behind the national average. The data showed an increase in poverty in the past year, which even fails to take the homeless population into consideration.

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, stated in a press release that the homeless population would only add to the negative data.

“If you include homeless persons, these numbers will only get worse,” said Foscarinis.

The causes of homelessness span a wide variety of problems that plague American society today.

According to The Institute for the Study of Homelessness at the Weingart Center, the causes of homelessness most commonly cited by researchers, government agencies and advocates are derived from the social, economic and political facets of society. Social aspects said to contribute to homelessness include mental illness and chronic health problems that worsen or are left untreated due to lack of affordable health care. The economy contributes in terms of lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment and low-paying jobs. Politics and the government also contribute to the epidemic with changes or cuts in public assistance, releasing prisoners back into the general population without proper resources to survive and changes in the labor market.

Michael Cole, Director of Program Services at Hudson River Housing, Inc., brought attention to not only poverty as a source and contributor to homelessness, but also a wide variety of other issues that come in to play.

“Poverty is the least common denominator, you can talk about chemical dependency, mental instability and lack of child care, but what really drives the helplessness is lack of resources, we are seeing a more and more disabled society, not only in terms of mental and chemical instability but general common chronic illness paired with a lack of insurance and health care,” said Cole.

“It is a problem that goes far beyond the panhandlers that one sees on the streets of America’s cities. It is a problem that affects youth, families, disabled persons, U.S. war veterans, individuals with mental illness, and individuals with substance abuse problems,” said Batko.

Another less obvious contributing factor to homelessness is domestic violence. Sometimes overlooked as a major epidemic, domestic violence is the second highest reason for homelessness among women. Approximately half of homeless women and children are in that situation because of domestic violence – when women are forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness.

A vast majority of the factors that contribute to homelessness stem from both the government and the way the economy is run. The U.S. government regulates everything from minimum wage to welfare to subsidized housing, which are all factors in the problem of homelessness due to the way that they are handled. The government passes or amends laws that affect the homeless population, however sometimes in a negative way.

A recent press release issued through the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) highlighted a new amendment that would make it increasingly difficult for the homeless and less economically stable to register to vote.

According to the NLCHP, “the bill could exacerbate disenfranchisement among poor and homeless persons and possibly result in fewer services for them. Homeless and low-income persons face significant barriers to voter registration and are less likely to be registered to vote than middle- and upper- income persons.”

Tulin Ozdeger, a Civil Rights Staff Attorney at the NLCHP, is in favor of the power that individual agencies have to improve this situation in addition to offering help with housing.

“Groups providing and developing affordable housing are in a unique situation to help formerly homeless people to register to vote,” said Ozdeger.

The U.S. government, although it does not often work in favor of the homeless population, is at least aware of the spending conditions within the U.S. Governments that go to a plethora of agencies everything from military to education, along with some funds to battle the homeless epidemic. Government grants do provide a small fraction of the money that is used to aid in the fight against homelessness, but with homelessness and poverty being such a problem the lines of government involvement often become blurred due to the vast majority of government agencies that could be used to aid in the reduction of poverty in America.

Linda Malave, Project Director at Hudson River Housing, stressed that the government is a contributing factor to homelessness.

“The lack of affordable housing, the lack of living wage jobs and the system of “de-institutionalization” are all contributing factors to homelessness. The U.S. government should look to facilitate changes in these areas first,” said Malave.

One of the contributing factors to the lack of funds from the government stems from the question of what exactly homelessness is. Any government faction could have a differing definition of homelessness that they abide by due to their standards or requirements. Because there is not one single definition, homelessness is dealt with in different ways by different governmental departments.

Laws and acts categorize homelessness differently than other government departments and boards. A person who is homeless in terms of the requirements or description of one act might not be covered under the qualifications of another.

Section 11302 of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act uses one of the broader definitions to encompass a good deal of people under the homeless umbrella, due to their current lack of housing.

‘A homeless person is an individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate night time residence or a person who resides in a shelter, welfare hotel, transitional program or a place not ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations such as streets, cars, movie theaters, abandoned buildings, etc.’

Despite the fact that acts have been passed to regulate the definition, other agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rely on their own qualifications when determining factors of homelessness.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sites a homeless person as ‘a person who has no place to go, no resources to obtain housing, and is either being evicted with in a week, discharged with in a week from an institution, such as a hospital, or is fleeing domestic violence.’

Homelessness in the United States, due to the many factors that work against it, including the economy; lack of government unity in helping to curtail and improve the situation; and the overall lack of education and knowledge within the general population; continues to remain at a level that should have many people concerned.

The DOE Fund, Inc. located in New York City was founded by George McDonald when the city’s homeless crisis was reaching its peak in the late 1980’s. Elizabeth Lion, Public Relations Coordinator of The DOE Fund, Inc. urges individuals to tackle the homeless epidemic rather than blaming the problem on the government.

“The government can not and should not be expected to solve all of our social ills. The DOE Fund receives support from the federal, state and local government, but we also rely on contract revenue that we receive for the work we perform, and support from individuals who see a vast improvement in their neighborhoods and in the lives of formerly homeless mend performing that work,” said Lion.

The average American does not realize the severity of the situation. While those of middle and upper level economic standing watch the economy continue to thrive in the general scheme of the world, the homeless population is overlooked. The key to changing our societal views and fixing the problem should come primarily from education. If the people of the United States were aware of the severity of the situation, more people would be inclined to take action, both through donations and hands-on volunteer work.

“The general population must overcome the belief that homeless people are incapable of working, or that they are just too crazy or lazy to work. Once we begin understanding that homeless people are just like everyone else, in need of an opportunity to change their circumstances, we will make more progress,” said Lion.

Education is the key to the improvement of the situation: the more people that know about the problem, the more that will be willing to help. The general population, once educated, should have a vested interest in improving the society they live in whether the government chooses to provide aid or not.

“The number one answer is education about homelessness. Individuals can become more aware of the problem by getting involved at almost any level. By that I mean, one can certainly volunteer to serve a meal in a shelter to first understand what a homeless person goes through during a typical day,” said Malave.

Currently, due to the lack of education and awareness among the general population, non-profit and private organizations and agencies are at the forefront of combating homelessness. In New York and around the country private organizations through the help of donations and grants have set out to improve the living situations of those less fortunate on both small and large scale. Agencies in the northeast region of the U.S. in both urban and suburban areas have started within the past few decades.

Poughkeepsie, New York City and other cities around the country are reaping the benefits of organizations that rely on donations, man power and the good will of people to be able to help those in need. The DOE Fund, Inc. located in New York City is an example of an organization started during the height of homelessness almost two decades ago.

Founder and President George McDonald, was unable to ignore the growing problem of homelessness in the city at this time and took the approach that with a little help, the less fortunate of the city could help themselves.

According to the DOE Fund website, a mission statement was created to convey the feelings of the organization and its commitment to the community.

“The DOE Fund’s mission statement is to develop and implement cost-efficient, holistic programs that comprehensively meet the needs of a diverse homeless population. All DOE Fund programs ultimately strive to end homelessness for the individuals they serve.”

“The DOE Fund believes that paid work and personal responsibility are keys to solving homelessness. We are the only transitional job training program that pays above minimum wage and asks our participants to pay room and board, thus preparing them for the requirements of the real world,” said Lion.

From McDonald’s own experiences in the city, the DOE Fund derived a principle that the homeless are motivated to work, and they should be given the support and opportunity to do so if they are to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient.

“We believe in treating men like men and providing dignified environments where they can become motivated to change their lives. We believe, quite simply, that ‘Work Works,’” said Lion.

The NAEH, a national non-profit organization, has taken an alternative approach to battling homelessness as well. This organization is looking towards the future to build a stronger society that will help reduce the homeless epidemic.

“That is why we have developed the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. The Ten Year Plan, which serves as the Alliance’s guiding force, identifies our nation’s current weakness in addressing the crisis of homelessness and lays out the steps necessary for out country to achieve a permanent end to the crisis within ten years,” said Batko.

In the Hudson Valley Region, one agency also chose to take an alternative approach to managing and improving the homeless situation, and thus has grown significantly since its inception in 1982. Hudson River Housing (HRH), located in the City of Poughkeepsie, started as a single homeless shelter and has since increased its size and number of people it is able to help.

The HRH, started by County Executive Lucille Pattison with the help of a group of local residents, was started to address and aid the homeless population in the Hudson River Valley, specifically the Poughkeepsie region.

Like the DOE Fund in New York City, Hudson River Housing was developed on the premise that not only should short term, nightly shelter be provided for those in need, but also a long term and stable housing environment should be created as well. HRH broke away from the idea of a quick fix by diving into the idea of subsidizing rentals and creating new housing in and around the City of Poughkeepsie.

Michael Cole, Director of Program Services at Hudson River Housing, Inc., described the growth that the organization has gone through over the past 20 years.

“We’ve done what we can, in the course of providing emergency shelter, we’ve grown as an agency - community revitalization, rehab housing, transitional housing like Hillcrest House, LaGrange House,” said Cole.

For the past decade and a half, HRH has set out to improve not only the quality of life of those less fortunate, but also the quality of the city itself. This agency adopted the idea of rebuilding and rehabilitating houses, row houses and apartments around Poughkeepsie that they could use for their organization as well as slowly improving the appearance of the city streets.

“With Hudson River Housing, although we have grown to be a mid-sized agency, we started as a grassroots organization, but we have remained very mission-driven,” said Cole.

HRH has completed a number of revitalization projects within the City of Poughkeepsie, and also has a number of projects in the works, including ones in Hyde Park and Red Hook. Starting in 1984 with the Gannett House, a 19-unit homeless shelter for families and individuals, HRH has quickly grown into the largest agency to aid the homeless in the Hudson Valley Region.

Batko, from the NAEH, stressed the importance of educating the general population especially in areas where structural changes are trying to be made.

“There can often be a lot of community resistance to the development of such housing in their neighborhoods, and having residents, who are concerned, informed and engaged when it comes to the needs of their less fortunate neighbors, can really make a difference in local efforts to prevent and end homelessness,” said Batko.

Over the years HRH merged with the Dutchess County Coalition for the Homeless and developed a Neighborhood Preservation Company. Hudson River Housing has collaborated with a number of developers and other organizations to improve the housing in the area. Beginning in 1995 the agency teamed up with the Regan Development Corporation to build homes around Poughkeepsie, which was essentially the start to the revitalization.

Almost every year since then HRH has been involved with some form of housing rehabilitation to improve the quality of life in Poughkeepsie. A project on Garden Street began in 1996 with the help of Ken Kearney, a local developer; know for his commitment to low-income housing and housing opportunities for the less fortunate.

Over the past decade, HRH has been committed to
rehabilitating houses on Mansion Street, Garden Street,
Catharine Street and Mill Street.

(Pic 5 Caption) This Catharine Street building is a future site of renovation for the agency. The brick building will be made into 1-bedroom apartments.

The agencies newest project, also located in the heart of Poughkeepsie is the construction project on Conklin Street which will provide housing for 6 families upon its completion.

(Pic 9 and 10 Caption) The new Conklin Street construction is well underway and will provide housing for 6 families.

Representatives from HRH, The DOE Fund and the NAEH, could not stress enough the importance of volunteerism and getting involved. Volunteer opportunities to help those less fortunate are available around the country, especially in places affected by homelessness.

Volunteering, donating your time, money or supplies and even educating others are all key aspects in reducing and ending the homeless epidemic in the United States.

“Money is what organizations need most, although most people want to contribute in concrete ways, which is needed as well – anything from serving meals to donations like sheets and diapers to volunteering with under privileged children,” said Cole.

Lion believes that individuals should take it upon themselves to get involved and help the situation in addition to helping out already established agencies.

“Individuals should fund innovative approaches to homelessness, especially when those approaches provide a community service, like The DOE Fund’s community improvement project,” said Lion.

There are opportunities available through a multitude of organizations in the Hudson Valley Region especially through Hudson River Housing. If you are interested in direct service volunteer opportunities the NAEH recommends contacting a homeless service provider in the area.

Two directories that may be helpful are:

http://www.hud.gov/homeless/hmlsagen.cfm and http://www.nationalhomeless.org/local/local.html.

Sources:

- Hudson River Housing - www.hudsonriverhousing.org

- National Alliance to End Homelessness – www.endhomelessness.org

- National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty – www.nlchp.org

- The DOE Fund Inc. – http://doe.org

- The Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty – www.weingart.org/institute

DISCIPLINE AND AWARENESS NEEDED TO PREVENT FUTURE SCHOOL VIOLENCE

DISCIPLINE AND AWARENESS NEEDED TO PREVENT FUTURE SCHOOL VIOLENCE

By Michelle Rosbozom


Megan Nolan believes that her high school principal saved her life.

The 1990s was filled with a rash outbreak of school violence. No one knew which school would hold the next set of victims; every town in which a shooting occurred shared the same misery-ridden thought: ‘We never thought it would happen here.’

While all violence that transpires at schools is tragic, the April 20, 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO

is, perhaps, the most notorious occurrence to date. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, s
hot and killed 12 students, one teacher, and themselves, and wounded 23 others. This was not done on a whim, however; instead the plan was carried out after months, perhaps years, of careful planning.

Almost a year and one month after Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, pulled a fire alarm to entice their innocent classmates out of JonesboroMiddle School in Jonesboro, AK, American students were shocked to add more names to the list of victims of school-related violence. Feelings of fear and devastation replaced the typical frivolity and innocence that once filled the halls of America’s schools.

Nolan, 23, an associate at KPMG, was a junior at Colonia High School (C.H.S.) in Colonia, NJ when the tragedy at Columbine occurred.

“After the Columbine shootings,” recalls Nolan, “things went absolutely crazy in my high school.”

The chaos during the week that followed the attack included three bomb threats made by different students. Evacuation of the entire school ensued with each incidence. By the third event, the nerves of the student population were on edge. Nolan vividly remembers how frightened she was.

“I was in gym class playing puff polo…and I literally was so scared that I brought the stick with me outside and my teacher didn’t even say a word to me about it because I think he was just as scared as the rest of us,” said Nol
an.

Fear and violence were not strangers to C.H.S., however. Nolan remembers many fights breaking out during her first two years at the school.


“I never felt safe walking in the halls.”

Changes were made during her junior year, when Joseph Koury became the new principal. According to Nolan, Koury’
s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy brought police into the school--officials who were better able to break up fights, as well as deal with disruptive youths in general.

Nolan says she will never forget what happened at C.H.S. during the week after Columbine: “It was like a scene out of Morgan Freeman’s movie ‘Lean on Me’.”

Nolan remembers that students even began calling Principal Koury “Joe Clark,” (akin to the lead character in the movie). Koury took the responsibility of keeping the school safe into his own
hands. He put locks on the schools doors, banned backpacks from the school except for the early morning and late afternoon when the flow of traffic in and out of the school was the highest, and lessened the time between classes from four minutes to three.

Carrying a walkie-talkie and a bullhorn while he patrolled the halls, Koury tried to ensure that his school would not be the next site for violence. Following 36 years
in the district, however, Koury retired in 2002. Sadly, he passed in December, 2005. Students like Nolan, however, do not forget his memory.

“I am so grateful for Mr. Koury’s harsh discipline,” Nolan said, “because at those times, you had no clue what could be coming towards you. He made sure that he was as proactive as possible to prevent anything from happening to us.”

Kristen DeMeo, 20, also recalls the changes that resulted from the Columbine tragedy while she attended Sachem High School in Lake Ronkonkoma, NY.

“After Columbine, our school was very into the trench coats and the
‘hit lists’."

Administrators at Sachem created stricter rules and regulations, the college student remembers, including a ban on students wearing long black coats and shirts with “nasty phrases” on them.

When DeMeo was in ninth grade, a male and female student create
d a hit list that included names of both teachers and fellow students. Plans included ways that they would go about killing; a timeline; and the order they planned on attacking their victims. According to DeMeo, the students were questioned by the principal and suspended “for a long period of time.”

Following the incident at Sachem High, DeMeo said that more security guards were hired; students now had to sign in and out of the school; and the upperclassman privilege of leaving the campus during their lunch periods was no longer an option.


DeMeo reflected that since she graduated with more than 1,000 students, there was bound to be some problems.


“I think violence could always be an issue,” DeMeo said. “I think that security is definitely a good option to keep students under control, especially with larger schools, but we never really had that much violence while I was in school…At least no more than any other.”


Americans now often wonder: What turns students into killers? Is there any way to prevent the violence?


In an effort to answer some of America’s questions, the Secret Service conducted a study of 41 school shooters in 37 incidents from 1974 to 2000 (Dedman, 2000).

While there is no foolproof profile for a school shooter, there were some common threads that were discovered by the investigation: Most were between the ages of 14 and 15; male; Caucasian; ‘above average’ IQ score; felt isolated socially but had a few friends; threatened of the violence they were planning beforehand; had a history of mental illness; had a history of cruelty to animals and an interest in gangs; came from two-parent homes; were enrolled students at the school; and had ample access to weapons. (http://knowgangs.com)

One such killer, Jamie Rouse, 17, killed a teacher and student, and wounded another teacher, on November 15, 1995 at Richland High School in Lynville, TN.

“The biggest problem I had was I didn’t think anyone could help me,” Rouse said. “That stopped me from actually reaching out” (48 Hour Investigates, 2004).

The feelings of helplessness and despair that Rouse expressed are another common thread between school shooters. So what can America do to help the troubled youths before they result to violence?

Dr. James Alan Fox, Ph.D. is a professor of Criminal Justice at Northeastern UniversityBoston, MA. He has done numerous studies on violence and killers, and has created a list of “easy but bad” ideas as well as “difficult but effective” solutions for reducing school violence.

Dr. Fox believes that quick fixes are ineffective, and “may even cause more problems than they solve.”

This type of solution, according to Dr. Fox, includes public service announcements, the installation of metal detectors in schools, banning knapsacks from schools, adding more police presence, barring the doors of schools, arming faculty, requiring school uniforms, and bringing back school prayer.

Another idea that Dr. Fox disagrees with is a strictly enforced “zero tolerance” policy for threats and weapons. While this may seem a bit contradictory to some people, the implementation of the policy has actually created a new category of problems: Young students who unknowingly ‘threaten’ one another without any intention of following through are suspended from their elementary schools as a precaution.

Instead, Dr. Fox believes there is a better policy to follow: “Zero ignorance and a rational level of tolerance make far greater sense in practice.”

So what would Dr. Fox recommend to create a safer environment in school districts across America? An inherent change in the school day itself. He believes that the school day should be lengthened, or at the very least add additional after-school programs.

“The prime time for teenage crime consists of the hours between 2pm and 7pm—after school is out and before working parents get home,” Dr. Fox noted. “The supervision provided by an expanded school day would greatly curtail juvenile violence.”

Along the same lines, Dr. Fox advocates bringing back the extra-curricular activities in schools so that students who aren’t academically-minded may find an outlet to be successful, and therefore not feel so much like an outcast. He also believes in decreasing the size of schools, increasing school staff, and teaching conflict resolution skills much earlier in a student’s academic career. This, he believes, will help to prevent the violence before it even begins.

While Dr. Fox offers alternatives for school administrators to utilize in order to make schools safer, what can parents do to help prevent violent outbursts in their own children? Melissa Kelly, a secondary education teacher for close to a decade, offers some sound advice.

“[Parents] can pay attention to subtle and overt changes in their children. Many times there are warning signs well in advance of violence.”

Some of these warning signs include a child’s obsession with violent games; depression/mood swings; talking about death/violence; cruelty toward animals; and a sudden lack of interest in things that normally would appeal to them.

Kelly believes it is also important for students to take an active interest when it comes to keeping their schools safe. They must report any knowledge of weapons or potential threats to a teacher or administrator, and “refuse to succumb to negative peer pressure, especially when violence is involved.”

Megan Nolan and her friends did just that. By following the lead of Principal Koury, the violence in C.H.S. did not escalate to the proportions of the Columbine tragedy. Because Koury took a stand and did not allow himself to be bullied, Nolan firmly believes that he was their savior.

“I will always remember Mr. Koury,” Nolan reflected. “There’s no way of knowing what would’ve happened if he hadn’t done what he did to save our lives.”

***

The author would like to acknowledge the use of the following resources:

Colonia High School Website: www.woodbridge.k12.nj.us

Dedman, B. (2000, October 15). Deadly lesson: School shooters tell why. Chicago Sun

Times, p. 14.

48 Hour Investigates. (2004, April 14). The mind of a school shooter. Retrieved March

13, 2006, from CBS News website:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/04/12/48hours/main611470.shtml

Fox, J.A. (n.d.) School violence: Easy solutions that won’t work and difficult ones that will. Retrieved

April 30, 2006, from J.A. Fox website: http://www.jfox.neu.edu/schoolgoodbadideas.htm

Kelly, M. (n.d.) School violence: How prevalent is it? Retrieved May 1, 2006, from About.com website:

http://712educators.about.com/cs/schoolviolence/a/schoolviolence.htm

Know Gangs School Safety Resource Website:

http://www.knowgangs.com/school_resources/menu_001.htm

Malwitz, R. (2005, December 24). Principal recalled as strict but fair. Retrieved April 28,

2006, from Home News Tribune Website: http://www.thnt.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051224/NEWS01/512240362/1001

Sachem High School North Website: http://www.sachem.edu/schools/north/