Organ trafficking Mexican cartels are among Costa Ricas biggest criminal threats says

first_imgOut of the 28 victims of human trafficking reported through October 2013 in Costa Rica, 13 fell prey to illegal organ extraction and trafficking rings, according to a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police.Sex and organ trafficking were the two most common forms of human trafficking in Costa Rica this year, but the report also highlighted the violent side effects of increasing crack consumption here and the penetration of organized crime on the isthmus.The high number of organ trafficking cases relates to the ongoing investigation into an organ-trafficking ring run out of the public Calderón Guardia Hospital and other private clinics in San José. Doctors allegedly paid victims up to $20,000 for their kidneys, which is illegal in Costa Rica. UNODC representative Amado de Andrés said during the report’s presentation that cases of organ trafficking and other forms of human trafficking are increasing across Central America.Costa Rica operates as both a launch point and a destination for vulnerable migrants entering the country without permission, especially along its border with Nicaragua.Regionally, Costa Rica attracts labor from Nicaragua, the Caribbean and as far away as Bolivia and Venezuela, according to the report. The country is also a global transit point for Asian and African migrants, often traveling to the Untied States. De Andrés said that the migrant flows from Asia and Africa were of particular concern because they heralded drug trafficking routes, including heroin.The largest drug traffickers in Costa Rica tend to be Colombian and Mexican criminal organizations. OIJ spokesman Marco Monge told The Tico Times that the Sinaloa and Knights Templar Mexican cartels are believed to be active in Costa Rica. Drug consumption continues to increase in Costa Rica, due in part to increased drug trafficking in the region and the Tico middle class’ disposable income, the U.N. representative said.Marijuana remains the most popular illicit drug in Costa Rica, with consumption spiking 260 percent since 2006. Much of the country’s so-called “High Red” marijuana originates in Jamaica and enters the country through the Caribbean province of Limón. Costa Rican consumption of cocaine is also increasing, as is crack cocaine. The report highlighted a correlation between crack consumption and violence, noting that six of the to 10 cantons with the highest homicide rates also rank among the cantons with the highest number of crack seizures.  Drug consumption has increaesd in Costa Rica but so have drug seizures. Costa Rica has confiscated 17 tons of cocaine per year on average between 2005 and 2012, second only to Panama, according to the report.Public Security Vice Minister Celso Gamboa told The Tico Times that Central America must “harmonize” its drug enforcement policies to address the isthmus’ growing trade in illegal substances.Despite violence attributed to drug trafficking and consumption, Costa Rica’s homicide rate has fallen for the last three consecutive years since 2010. In 2012, the most recent complete year, homicides decreased to 394, bringing the homicide rate to 8.9 per 100,000 inhabitants.Partial data released by the OIJ for the first six months of 2013 showed a homicide rate of 5.4, on track to reach 8.7 by year’s end, according to calculations by The Tico Times.The report recommended law enforcement focus on local crime structures to interrupt the flow of illicit drugs through Costa Rica. Noting that the largest drug seizures have been carried out at sea, UNODC recommended increasing resources to the Coast Guard, along with improving training for police to address cases of human trafficking.  Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more



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Following Trump Guatemala begins process to move embassy to Jerusalem

first_imgGuatemala said Monday it is starting the process of moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, after President Jimmy Morales announced the day before that he would follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial lead on the holy city.Morales wrote a message to Guatemalans on his Facebook page Sunday, saying he had spoken with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that “one of the most important topics was the return of Guatemala’s embassy to Jerusalem.”“For this reason I am informing you that I have given instructions to the foreign ministry… to make this happen,” Morales wrote.On Monday, the foreign ministry said it was implementing the order.“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the presidential order and is starting the process of implementing this foreign policy decision,” it said in a statement.Guatemala’s leader made the embassy announcement on Christmas Eve, three days after two-thirds of UN member states – Costa Rica among them – denounced Trump’s decision to have the United States recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.Netanyahu on Monday hailed the decision, saying Guatemala would not be the only nation to follow Washington’s lead.“Other countries will recognize Jerusalem and announce the relocation of their embassies. A second country did it and I repeat it: there will be others. It’s just the start, and it’s important,” Netanyahu said in a statement.Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely told public radio that “we are in contact with at least 10 countries, some of them in Europe” over the possible transfer of their embassies to Jerusalem.‘Shameful and illegal’“So far we have only seen the beginning,” Hotovely said.But the Palestinian foreign ministry slammed Guatemala.“It’s a shameful and illegal act that goes totally against the wishes of church leaders in Jerusalem” and of a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution condemning the U.S. recognition, the ministry said in a statement.Guatemala’s decision also drew fire from Bolivian President Evo Morales.“In a complete act of mockery of the international community, the government of Guatemala ignores the resolution of the UN [General] Assembly and decides to move its embassy to Jerusalem,” he wrote on his Twitter account. A picture taken on December 25, 2017, shows Guatemalan flag hanging outside the building housing the offices of the Central American Embassy, in the Israeli city of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. / AFP Photo/Jack GuezIn all, 128 nations voted to maintain the international consensus that Jerusalem’s status can only be decided through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.Only eight countries stood with the United States in voting against the resolution in the UN General Assembly, among them Guatemala and Honduras.Guatemala and Honduras are both reliant on U.S. funding to improve security in their gang-ridden territories.Violence, corruption and poverty have made the two countries, along with El Salvador, the main source of illegal migration to the United States, which is providing the countries with $750 million to provide better conditions at home.Morales, like Trump, was a television entertainer with no real political experience before becoming president of Guatemala in 2016.Guatemala ‘pro-Israeli’On Friday, Morales foreshadowed the decision he was to make regarding Jerusalem as he defended his government’s vote at the UN backing the United States.“Guatemala is historically pro-Israeli,” he told a news conference in Guatemala City. “In 70 years of relations, Israel has been our ally… We have a Christian way of thinking that, as well as the politics of it, has us believing that Israel is our ally and we must support it.”Morales’s position has become fragile in recent months because of allegations of corruption against him being investigated by a special UN-backed body working with Guatemalan prosecutors.U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had said her country would “take names” of the states opposing its position, and Trump threatened to cut funding to countries “that take our money and then vote against us.”Several significant U.S. allies abstained from the UN vote, among them Australia, Canada, Mexico and Poland.Others, such as Britain, France, Germany and South Korea, were among the nations denouncing any unilateral decision to view Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.Along with Guatemala and Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo were on the U.S. side of the vote.Following the U.S. decision on Jerusalem, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he would “no longer accept” any peace plan proposed by the United States, dealing a preemptive blow to an initiative expected by Washington next year. Facebook Comments Related posts:VIDEO: New Costa Rican documentary explains forced Central American migration U.S. ends protected status for 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants Venezuela dominates agenda ahead of Trump’s Latin American visit Toll rises in Guatemala volcano as more bodies recoveredlast_img read more



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First American Strikes Deal to Acquire Interthinx

first_imgFirst American Strikes Deal to Acquire Interthinx Share in Data, Technology “”First American Financial Corporation””:http://www.firstam.com/, a company specializing in title insurance, settlement services, and risk solutions for participants in real estate transactions, announced the signing of an agreement to acquire “”Interthinx, Inc.””:http://www.interthinx.com/, a provider of loan quality analytics, decision support tools, and loan review services.[IMAGE]First American struck the deal with Verisk Analytics, Inc., agreeing to pay $155 million. The transaction is expected to close by March 31, pending closing conditions.[COLUMN_BREAK]First American CEO Dennis Gilmore said the purchase comes in response to customers’ desire “”for a tighter integration between loan origination activities, loan quality verification processes, and title and settlement services.””””The added capabilities of Interthinx will allow us to leverage our central role in real estate transactions to offer our customers further assurances in areas that present risk, including fraud; identity and income validation; collateral adequacy; and compliance,”” Gilmore said. “”This puts First American in a unique position to provide the industry’s most robust loan-quality assurance solutions–from application to closing.””The acquisition also represents a “”significant step”” in the company’s effort to capitalize on its unique data assets to enhance its offerings, he added.For Interthinx’s part, president Jeff Moyer said the firm is “”delighted by the opportunity to combine our expertise with that of First American, a company known for its integrity, innovation and solid commitment to the real estate community.””center_img Acquisitions Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Company News Interthinx Investors Lenders & Servicers Service Providers 2014-02-10 Tory Barringer February 10, 2014 568 Views last_img read more



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The Board of Directors of Choice Hotels Internatio

first_imgThe Board of Directors of Choice Hotels International has appointed Patrick Pacious as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective 1 January, 2018. Pacious currently serves as President and Chief Operating Officer, and will succeed Chief Executive Officer Stephen Joyce. Joyce will continue in his role as CEO through the end of the year, after which he will assume the role of Vice Chairman of the Board. Pacious is expected to join the Board of Directors in September.The appointment of Pacious is part of the company’s long-term succession plan focused on maintaining leadership continuity, while driving new ideas that result in continued positive business growth now and into the future. Over the past several years, Joyce has collaborated with the Board of Directors to identify and prepare his successor. The Board and Joyce identified Pacious as the right person to lead Choice into the future.Pacious joined Choice in 2005 and has created significant value for shareholders and franchisees. Under Pacious’ direction, Choice built industry-leading global technology platforms that resulted in improved profitability and efficiencies for the company’s franchised hotel owners. He has led strategies and innovative growth initiatives around brand, marketing, development, franchise services, revenue management and performance analytics. IMAGE: Patrick Pascious appointmentsChoice Hotelslast_img read more



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Go back to the enewsletter Six Senses Con Dao has

first_imgGo back to the e-newsletterSix Senses Con Dao has rolled out its wellness calendar for 2016, accented by invited holistic experts. The program supports the extensive offering of signature spa treatments and the three yogic programs: discover Yoga; Yogic detox; Yogic sleep.“We’ve chosen to work with practitioners who best understand our guests’ travel and health opportunities, whether they be emotional or physical,” says Spa Manager Fadi Haddad. “Some of the practitioners, like Marty (Martin Fildes) are returning due to exceptional guest testimonial. Others, such as Nimisha Rattan, are new to Six Senses Con Dao, but are tried and tested in the Six Senses Spas portfolio. What each of them bring to our guests – and hosts alike – is a deep connection to wellness and holistic healing that is pervasive across every touch point of interaction.”Other practitioners include Konrad Langewand, whose specialties are deep tissue massages and therapeutic back treatments, Sandra Laznik, who for more than seven years she has been working in top fitness and wellness studios as a personal and group course trainer, and Isabella dos Santos, a technically skilled wellness professional with over 25 years of experience ranging from the traditional techniques of deep tissue and Swedish massage, through aqua wellness therapy, Yoga and NIA to the cutting-edge techniques of the energy work of Eric Pearl.Go back to the e-newsletterlast_img read more



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Rep Leutheuser and Sen Shirkey host Bronson Vikings state champions at Capitol

first_img Categories: Leutheuser News,Leutheuser Photos,News,Photos State Rep. Eric Leutheuser and Sen. Mike Shirkey welcomed the Bronson High School State Champion Volleyball team to the Capitol Thursday. The legislators were thrilled to welcome the students back to the capitol to celebrate their fourth consecutive state title.The team completed their season with a 58-6 record which included a Big 8 Conference Crown, a District Title, a Regional Championship and ultimately their fourth straight Division Three State Title.  Rep. Leutheuser presented a tribute to the team signed by himself and Sen. Shirkey. PHOTO INFORMATION: The Bronson High School Volleyball team joins Rep. Leutheuser on the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives.center_img 13Dec Rep. Leutheuser and Sen. Shirkey host Bronson Vikings state champions at Capitollast_img read more



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Rep Cole continues fight to reduce car insurance rates in Michigan

first_img State Rep. Triston Cole today continued his battle to bring lower car insurance prices to Michigan families, working with House colleagues voting to approve a plan reforming Michigan’s broken no-fault system.The plan guarantees lower rates for all drivers in Michigan, who now pay the highest average car insurance premiums in the nation – twice as high as drivers in neighboring states like Ohio. The bill offers personal injury coverage options, fights fraud and abuse and addresses medical costs.“The current system is failing Michigan families, leaving many struggling to afford the sky-high rates we’re forced to pay for car insurance,” Cole, of Mancelona, said after casting his pivotal vote in favor of the legislation. “I made a commitment to constituents before I was elected, and I’m pleased to follow through with a plan that helps people of all ages – seniors, families and young people – along with every business that utilizes company vehicles registered in our state. This solution will move Michigan forward.”Michigan is the only state to mandate unlimited lifetime health care coverage through car insurance. The plan approved today allows people currently using the coverage to keep it, and those who want it in the future to continue buying it – while providing more affordable options.The plan:Guarantees lower rates on the personal injury protection (PIP) portion of policies. It would result in a 10-percent reduction of PIP costs for drivers who buy unlimited coverage, a 30-percent drop for drivers choosing $500,000, a 60-percent reduction for drivers purchasing $250,000, and an 80-percent drop at the $50,000 coverage level;Allows seniors with retiree health coverage such as Medicare, and those with health insurance policies that cover car accident-related injuries, to opt out of PIP coverage;Establishes fee schedules to end the practice of medical facilities charging far more to treat car crash victims than other patients;Cracks down on fraud and abuse by creating a fraud task force;Provides more financial oversight of and transparency within the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association;Sets reasonable limits on compensation for attendant care contracts; andHelps the state ensure insurance companies charge fair rates, while addressing attorney fee settlements and significantly reducing litigation.As majority floor leader, Cole has played a crucial role over the last 16 weeks helping gather the votes needed to pass the legislation through the House.“This is a historic accomplishment,” Cole said. “Something that has eluded the Michigan Legislature for 30 years is finally becoming a reality. I am proud to be a part of this as a member of the 100th Legislature.”The sweeping legislation now advances to the Senate for consideration.### 09May Rep. Cole continues fight to reduce car insurance rates in Michigan Categories: Cole Newslast_img read more



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The Problem with Forprofits Running Nonprofit Charter Schools

first_imgShare26TweetShareEmail26 SharesDecember 9, 2014; ProPublicaIn December 2012, a state audit of Buffalo United Charter School, a charter school in upstate New York, was very critical of the organization’s relationship with the company hired to manage the school: National Heritage Academies. The audit states in no uncertain terms that the board of the nonprofit charter was giving too much control over to NHA, including almost all financial oversight, which would normally be the responsibility of the board and its treasurer.Now, two years later, it is unclear whether the board has taken the corrective action they were encouraged to implement. In a reply to a recent article in ProPublica, an NHA spokesperson said, “Our approach relieves our partner boards of all financial, operational, and academic risks—a significant burden that ultimately defeats many charter schools.”Part of the issue is that the relationship between Buffalo United and NHA amounts to what is known as a “sweeps” contract, in which almost all of the public funds given to the school are then paid to a for-profit organization that manages the school. This, then, means it is almost impossible to audit the real expenses, and by implication how much profit is being turned, as the funds are held and expended by a for-profit corporation that is not under the same burden of transparency as a nonprofit.Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, National Heritage Academies is a for-profit company that boasts of a very strong academic program, with teachers who “meet students at their ability level and encourage them to go beyond,” according to the homepage of the website. It was founded in 1995 by J.C. Huizenga, a businessman who, among other things, created the company Waste Management, Inc. He wanted to create a charter school, he said, after the birth of his son prompted him to think about educational options. He apparently chose to create a for-profit company because it allowed access to different bond markets. There are reports that a banking syndicate led by National City Corp. and Comerica have agreed to invest millions of dollars in the company. Comerica, based in Michigan, has a presence supporting public schools in Ann Arbor and Detroit.According to the Data.NYSEd.gov website, 92 percent of the school’s students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. This would indicate there is a high level of poverty among the students and their families.Buffalo United’s IRS Form 990 for the year 2013, as posted on GuideStar, suggests the school had expenses totaling $8,861,645. The tax filing also reports that $8,021,061 went to NHA for “Management Services” and an additional $858,720 went for “Rent,” which suggests that NHA owns the building the charter school is housed in, a common NHA practice. (The math doesn’t seem to work here, as the amount reported as paid to NHA exceeds the amount reported as total expenses.) That aside, the school reports receiving $8,850,707 in “Government Grants.” So, all or almost all the money given to the school to educate the students is given to NHA, one of the very issues pointed out by the state audit.How much profit NHA gains from its contracts to manage charter schools in eight states is unclear and virtually impossible to gauge, as the corporation does not disclose its finances. Using the number of students listed as enrolled at the school, these numbers would mean it costs about $13,750 to educate a student at the school. Buffalo public schools have been reported as having one of the highest per-student costs in the nation. However, once capital spending on buildings and special grants are discounted, the number drops to a little more than $12,000 per student—less than that of Buffalo United.In Michigan, the Detroit Free Press analyzed the rents NHA charges to the schools it manages and found charges of more than $1,000,000 per year to 17 schools. This broke down to square-foot charges higher than those of “prime real estate” in downtown areas of Michigan cities like Detroit, Royal Oak, and Birmingham, and significantly higher than would be expected for a school in a smaller community.NHA’s claims of high academic standards and reports that Buffalo United is doing well academically may also be somewhat inflated. Earlier this month, a local Buffalo newspaper reported on a trend of students transferring out of local charter schools to enroll in the public school system again. The school with the second-highest percentage of students who transferred out and the highest actual number of students who did so was Buffalo United. Of the school’s 659 students, 94, or 14 percent, left the school and went back to public schools. The article suggests that there is some hint that students are being asked (or told) to leave charter schools because they are not doing well academically and are lowering the school’s test scores. In addition, apparently 20 percent of the students re-enrolling in the public schools have special education needs.State statutes in New York, as with many other states, allow the board of directors of a nonprofit to vest the management of the corporation to a person or organization other than the board. Stories like this one in Buffalo are a good example of the challenges this represents. It may make life easier for the board, as the NHA spokesperson said, but it also allows a for-profit corporation to avoid the transparency and public oversight that are intended by laws requiring nonprofits to manage charter schools.As reported by NPQ recently, Buffalo is not alone pushing back against this. The issue of its relationship with a for-profit corporation came up for a North Carolina charter school; the local school board has issued a warning to the school and its contractor to reveal specific information currently not available for public scrutiny. We can only hope that other states follow suit.National Heritage Academies is not to be confused with the Heritage Academy in Mesa, Arizona, the subject of an article by NPQ’s Rick Cohen earlier this year.—Rob MeiksinsShare26TweetShareEmail26 Shareslast_img read more



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The Google Cultural Institute and Arts Accessibility Where Is It All Going

first_imgShare1TweetShareEmail1 Shares December 10, 2014; VentureBeatGoogle has been making strides with a variety of different arts and cultural organizations, bringing relatively inaccessible work to the public through digital means. The Google Cultural Institute archives and makes available to the online world images and documents relating to the history of film, artwork, preservation, and more. Soon, the Institute will expand to more than just an archive of history and art; it will serve as a platform for museums and galleries to create and manage their own mobile apps.The Institute will be an extension of Google Open Gallery, which has provided nonprofit cultural organizations with tools to create their own online gallery exhibits. Currently in the pilot phase, Google is working with eleven organizations from four different countries (France, Italy, Netherlands, and Nigeria) to modify and find best practices for the platform.Those who take advantage of this new program will be able to lean on familiar Google technology like YouTube and Google Maps Street View, whose functionality they can include in their apps. Unfortunately, only Android users can download and use these apps (via the Google Play store) but it’s still a step toward increased accessibility for museums and galleries that may not otherwise have the funds or the know-how to produce a mobile app and for the general public, who can now access artworks and exhibits digitally. Organizations must be vetted and apply at the Institute’s website before they can access the platform’s resources.Of course, in this day and age, we witness many organizations transferring services and opportunities into the digital realm. Organizations have been doing this for years; an example of a current large-scale digital cultural program is the Smithsonian’s Access American Stories app, which is a part of the Smithsonian’s Accessibility Program. Even a massive enterprise of knowledge, like the Library of Congress, makes a wide range of topics available online through its website’s Digital Collections and Services section, which spans many artistic and cultural forms.In 2013, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study that identified patterns of technology integration into the strategic planning and day-to-day operations of many arts organizations. The Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies report focused heavily on technologies such as websites, social media, and online sales. However, the report demonstrates that 24 percent of the respondents used mobile apps to disseminate information to the public, 17 percent used apps to facilitate work within their organization; 15 percent used apps for online sales or tickets, and 5 percent used apps for employee training purposes.Based on the Pew American Life statistics, it seems arts and cultural organizations have not yet reached the threshold for maximizing their use of mobile apps. It will be interesting to see how this trend grows within the next few years.—Jennifer SwanShare1TweetShareEmail1 Shareslast_img read more



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Art and Trauma The Soldier Art Workshop

first_imgShare4TweetShareEmail4 SharesFebruary 16, 2014; KFOX (El Paso, TX)Art may not be the first therapeutic tool that comes to mind when treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has proven to be effective and is being used in a number of places to help returning soldiers. In El Paso, a new collaborative project called the Soldier Art Workshop Program will be launched by the El Paso Art Association in March. The volunteer effort brings local artists together with area soldiers and their families and is designed to teach art to the soldiers as they “make the transition to normal military and family life after deployment.” Twelve workshops will be held at the El Paso Museum of Art and the Fort Bliss Family Center over the course of a year. They will focus on visual arts, including oil and watercolor painting, mixed-media encaustics, and digital photography.Arts organizations participating in the Soldier Art Workshop Program include the El Paso Museum of Art, Plein Air Painters of El Paso, the Pastel Society of El Paso, and Rio Bravo Watercolorists. Military sponsorship has been provided by Ft. Bliss MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation), the Warrior Transition Battalion, and the Ready & Resilience Center. Among the El Paso artist volunteers are Jan Wisbrun Dreher, Krystyna Robbins, Julie Caffee-Cruz, Nina Walker, Ben Avant, Pat Olchefski-Winston, Darrell McGahhey, Jimmie Bemont, Ron Fritsch, Melinda Etzold, and Rami Scully.These artists are in good company in using art with returning soldiers. A National Geographic cover story this month, “How Art Heals the Wounds of War” by Andrea Stone, reported on an art therapy program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which had soldiers making masks revealing an aspect of their experience. Melissa Walker, an art therapist who works with veterans at Walter Reed, said the program started in 2010 to help returning injured service men and women. “We needed to look for additional types of treatment,” Walker said. “At the time, I’m not so sure people understood the impact it would have, (but after) a very short time, it became clear [they] were taking to art therapy.”Jackie Biggs, a 2013 masters graduate from George Washington University’s Columbian College Art Therapy Program, was given a National Endowment for the Arts grant to “integrate art therapy into treatment for active-duty military patients at Fort Belvoir,” one of the first in the country to focus on the area of art therapy for trauma victims. That treatment has now become a standard component of the hospital’s patient/soldier protocol. Biggs believes it’s been effective because “this is a group that tends to internalize their trauma; they hope it will go away if they don’t talk about it.” But swallowing trauma like that can lead to depression, abuse, or suicide, whereas art therapy can “give them a voice when words aren’t there.”Another program that has received national recognition is Operation Oak Tree, run by the Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) in Chicago. Operation Oak Tree utilizes art therapy and the creative arts to help military families from the time of pre-mobilization and deployment through reintegration. It gained the attention of Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden when it was part of a presentation made in June where Dr. Biden was touring to promote an initiative she’s promoting with First Lady Michelle Obama to mobilize all sectors of society to give members of the armed forces and their families opportunities and support.The new El Paso program has the potential to serve as an affordable model in this vein because it encourages the local arts community to serve as a conduit for supporting soldiers and their families at a very difficult time.—Susan RaabShare4TweetShareEmail4 Shareslast_img read more



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NY Gov Orders Homeless People Forcibly Removed When Weather Turns Cold

first_imgShare18TweetShare4Email22 SharesJanuary 3, 2016; New York TimesYesterday, calling it a “state-level New Year’s resolution,” New York’s Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order requiring local governments across New York State to remove homeless people from the streets when temperatures go below freezing with wind chill factored in—even if it has to be done by force, otherwise known as involuntary placement.Cuomo says that the measure is aimed at protecting homeless people from “hypothermia and possible death,” saying, “It’s about love. It’s about compassion. It’s about helping one another and basic human decency.”New York City, with a rate of homelessness 86 percent higher than ten years ago, has a standing policy named Code Blue that increases outreach and eases intakes during very cold periods. The city can also use a state mental hygiene law to take people to a hospital for mental health evaluation if they seem to be in imminent danger. Estimates suggest that 3,000–4,000 stay on the street rather than going to shelters. Mayor Bill de Blasio is resisting the more aggressive ruling, which is similar to one Mayor Edward I. Koch tried but failed to pass in the ’80s.The city’s press secretary, Karen Hinton, said in a statement, that the order requires Cuomo to pass state law. The measure clearly raises major civil rights and practical concerns. Hinton added, “This executive order adds no legal or financial resources to New York City’s programs to assist the homeless, and merely requires all New York State localities follow many of the same requirements as New York City to shelter families and individuals in need in freezing temperatures.”“This is a state law,” Mr. Cuomo told CBS in urging that the law be implemented without regard for legal consequences. “This is the interpretation of the state law. If there is any challenge to the law, I will defend it.”This does not appear to be some mere philosophical difference, in case you were wondering, but part of a long simmering feud about how to address homelessness. In November, de Blasio announced an investment of $2.6 billion for 15,000 units of supportive housing for homeless populations. Cuomo and the state was nowhere to be seen in that particular effort, a fact noted by Capital New York, observing that the lack of cooperation breaks with a 25-year history of joint city-state supportive housing agreements—initiated, ironically, by Mario Cuomo, the governor’s father, with then-mayor David Dinkins.Mary Brosnahan, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless, made a statement, meant to bring Cuomo into the fold, when de Blasio went ahead without the state’s involvement.“Gov. Cuomo, every day that goes by is another step closer into the most bitter and dangerous days of the winter,” Brosnahan said. “So please, from the bottom of our hearts, we need you to step up.”Perhaps this cowboy stunt is the governor’s version of stepping up, but it is ugly in context. The most recent city-state supportive housing agreement reached in 2005 under Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg is nearing its conclusion, and advocacy groups have been warning that a major housing shortage for the homeless and mentally ill will open up within the next year or so if a new agreement is not reached quickly.—Ruth McCambridgeShare18TweetShare4Email22 Shareslast_img read more



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Supreme Court Gives Fed Travel Ban GoAhead Until Final Ruling Is Issued

first_imgShare7Tweet5Share1Email13 Shares“Cyril the Crossing Guard.” Photo credit: David D.December 4, 2017; Minneapolis Star TribuneOver the past year, NPQ has been following the progress of President Trump’s ostensible travel ban, which prevented the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US until internal policies relating to the information provided to customs by those countries undergoes extensive review. On Monday afternoon, the Supreme Court ruled that the White House will be allowed to enforce the ban until the final rulings on challenges to it are issued.The ban imposes restrictions on travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. We will pause here to point out the absurdity of blocking Syrian refugees out based on the absence of paperwork when so much of their country, including the government offices that issue such paperwork, has been destroyed. The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas said, “The Supreme Court’s actions today are a good reminder that we can’t simply rely on the courts to address the Trump administration’s efforts to marginalize Muslims and other minorities.”NPQ’s Carole Levine warned earlier this year that the Trump administration was rapidly appointing judges to vacant federal court positions, which are held for life. She explained, “The conservative leanings of the source organizations that are recommending these judges and their support for…laws that influence how nonprofits sustain themselves should make who these nominees are a priority for the nonprofit sector.” That has become evident as the liberal Ninth and Fourth Circuit rulings are stymied by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.Previously, injunctions related to the court challenges had allowed entry to people with “‘a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,’ quoting from a Supreme Court order issued in June concerning the second travel ban,” according to Adam Liptak at the New York Times. The “bona fide” distinction cause a wave of confusion, as people wondered what degree of family relationship would be deemed acceptable or how their employers would react. It opened the administration to waves of potential litigation on behalf of individual applicants.Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told the Washington Post, “It’s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims.” The ACLU represents the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), which is one of the groups to legally challenge the travel ban and whose case is pending in the Fourth Circuit. IRAP’s Litigation Director, Mariko Hirose, said in a statement,The Supreme Court’s decision will prevent many eligible people from reuniting with their families, resuming their studies, or taking up jobs. While this ruling will have devastating consequences for these individuals and the Muslim community at large, IRAP and our partners will not give up fighting until this discriminatory ban is blocked in its entirety.Is this lifting of injunctions an indication of a potential future ruling? With the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch in place of Merrick Garland, the Court leans to the right; only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor opposed lifting the injunction. SCOTUS has promised to include the travel ban in its 2017–2018 docket, so advocacy groups will need to follow the Court’s proceedings closely from here on.—Erin RubinShare7Tweet5Share1Email13 Shareslast_img read more



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Cecile Richards Steps Away from CEO Role at Planned Parenthood Vows Continued

first_imgShare19Tweet14ShareEmail33 SharesJanuary 24, 2018; Washington PostThe Washington Post reports that Cecile Richards, who has led Planned Parenthood for over a decade, will be stepping down this year as CEO of the powerful and resilient national nonprofit. In the last year alone, the Post notes that “Richards helped position the group at the front of the Democratic “resistance,” growing from 9.5 million to 11 million members” since the 2016 elections.It’s significant that she feels able to depart now, even as the battle wages on. Richards’s term was marked by growth, activism, and grace under fire. She calls her role leading Planned Parenthood “the honor of my lifetime.” Her love and respect for this organization may give us some indication of why she has been so successful in a role to which she brought a strategic mind, political savvy, organizational wisdom, an obvious sense of integrity, and a motivating respect for and engagement of millions of supporters.Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, “Cecile Richards has left an indelible mark on the fight for reproductive health and rights, and millions of people are better for it…Cecile built Planned Parenthood into an even stronger, more relevant provider of reproductive health care and a political force to be reckoned with.”Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) told Planned Parenthood,Cecile has shown what it means to be a true fighter for the rights of women. In the face of unprecedented attacks, she has never backed down from a fight and always stood strong for the patients and doctors at Planned Parenthood and women across America. She put inclusive access to reproductive health care at the forefront of the political conversation and has shown it is not only key to women’s well-being, but also to true equality.Richards will reportedly remain active in the organization’s key advocacy fights as Planned Parenthood heads into the long slog leading up to the November 2018 midterm elections. The election will mark two years since President Trump’s election. Trump’s election, combined with previous Republican Party gains in 2014, gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress, as well as control of a majority of state legislatures and governorships across the country. This political lineup led many women to fear that their access to reproductive health services would be curtailed.Richards stepped up and became an icon to those millions of women; thanks to her public appeals on behalf of her organization and her bold commitment to its values in the face of political opposition, led 80,000 to make “rage donations” just in the first week after the election, and Richards joined her organization as a household name.The Washington Post noted in 2016 that “In a lineup of past presidents of Planned Parenthood, which has a separate political action committee, Richards stands out—her background isn’t in women’s health care. It’s in organizing and politics. And she has deployed her skills in those fields to win major battles for abortion rights.” In fact, in 2008, she told the Take Back America conference, “We aim to be the largest kick-butt political organization.” That promise was kept.Her short statement reads:Leading Planned Parenthood over the last 12 years has been the honor of my lifetime. Together, we have made real progress in this country, expanding access to services and making reproductive rights a central priority of our nation’s health care system. I’m deeply proud of the progress we’ve made for the millions of people Planned Parenthood health centers serve across the country each year. Planned Parenthood has been a trusted resource in this country for more than a century, and I will be leaving the organization well-positioned to serve and fight for our patients for a century more. Every day we see the incredible power that grassroots voices can have — there has never been a better moment to be an activist. You can bet I’ll be marching right alongside them, continuing to travel around the country advocating for the basic rights and health care that all people deserve. I’ve been an activist my entire life—and that won’t stop any time soon.Planned Parenthood will no doubt feel the loss of this formidable woman at its helm, but Richards, 60, has not given up the fight. At “Power to the Polls,” an event commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March in Las Vegas, Richards told the crowd, “Women have beaten the odds to elect our own. Last year we dared to hope for a better, brighter, more equal and inclusive world. And this year we’re going to go out and build it.”—Carrie Collins-Fadell and Erin RubinShare19Tweet14ShareEmail33 Shareslast_img read more



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Education Philanthropys Unproductive Innovation and Ideology Mix

first_imgShare6Tweet4ShareEmail10 Shares“Innovation.” Credit: Beogh.May 30, 2018; New York Times and Washington PostInnovation challenges tradition. It can be unsettling and uncomfortable. It requires a willingness to try new things alongside the readiness to recognize that not all new ideas are better. The hope of innovation must be tempered with the knowledge of the harm failure can do. In organizations that have important work to do, work that others depend upon, it is even harder to experiment. When political ideology turns innovation from a process of exploration and learning into a crusade, the danger of that harm is even greater, and the benefits are lost.Need a case example? Consider the field of education. Ensuring high quality public education means keeping schools, teachers, and curricula current in an ever-changing and expanding world. A year of learning is irreplaceable; while effective innovation can increase that year’s value, a failed innovation is an irreparable loss. Seeking to provide safe space for educational innovation within the public education system, educators suggested school districts create charter schools as laboratories that would allow a wide range of educational innovations to be tried and evaluated before moving to wider adoption. Advocates said charters would help schools manage the difficult balance between risk and reward that innovation poses.This was school reform in the 1980s: cautious innovation within the framework of an established community structure. This was also a national moment when, according to Joanne Barkan, whose writing Valerie Strauss published in the Washington Post, the belief that “choice, competition, efficiency, and downsizing government” were the way to bring progress began to push its way into public education. Over three decades, ideology has overwhelmed innovation, and the benefits are being lost.When ideology can attract the resources needed to support its spread, the mix is powerful. In the current moment, growing mega-wealth, Barkan observes, crossed that line.Market-based reform never became a grassroots movement. It attracted elites: billionaire philanthropists, private mega foundations, finance and high-tech entrepreneurs, politicians at every level of government, business leaders, media figures, and think-tank associates. The players have been overwhelmingly white; their methods consistently top-down. Notably missing have been teachers, school administrators, parents, and students.With enough fuel, the reform fire has burned brightly and is hard to dim. NPQ recently found this when it looked at decades of investment in educational reform by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.Many organizations, faced with little proof that their goals were being reached and a high degree of external opposition, would shift focus here. The Gates Foundation saw this as a spur to refocus and manage the political environment more effectively. Using more than $44 million in new grants, the Foundation continued to support organizations that could serve as policy experts to state policymakers and others who could change the public’s perception of the preferred solution.Choice, charters, vouchers, and standardized testing became the formula for change despite a lack of proven results. The ideology of small government and the curative power of the market blinded reformers to any problems with their model. In The Hill, Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote, “Faced with a constant drumbeat of invective, ‘reformers’ have tended to circle their wagons, fueling a ‘with-us-or-against-us’ dynamic. That leaves little ground for friends to offer tough-minded public appraisal without being labeled an enemy of the movement.” Barkan describes Hess as “one of the few reformers who confront problems publicly.”Increasingly, growing a market and maximizing choice became ends in themselves; beliefs masked results. The hope that a vibrant educational market would help all children and accomplish the social benefits needed from public education blinded liberal and conservative supporters to a different reality. Despite evaluative research indicating no across-the-board benefit from the reform agenda, particularly for those children at greatest risk, the effort to rebuild all public education in this reform model has continued.Barkan notes the reality of the market is quite different: “In this marketized system, competition would, theoretically, eliminate low-performing schools because they wouldn’t attract enough customers to stay in business. In the real world, the poor buy necessities at a price they can afford even if the quality is inferior. This is why the free market has always failed to meet the real needs of low-income people; they get what they can pay for.” This is the human cost of innovation run amok.Another cost is that real innovative benefits of reformers’ efforts are at risk of being lost. The original model of charter schools was that they would provide a laboratory for safe experimentation. Positive outcomes could be harvested and then planted more widely within the greater public system, benefiting many more children. But, in the face of the ideological purism of many reformers, opponents also become absolute, and cannot see those benefits.In a recent New York Times op-ed, Conor P. Williams, a former first-grade teacher, wrote, “How should a charter network run by progressives committed to combating racism navigate the Trump administration’s vocal support of charters? How should it respond to criticism from progressives who accuse it of undermining public education? Charter schools are politically homeless.”He was lamenting the damage being done by the zealotry of small government, free market partisans. Their vehemence and refusal to recognize the serious imperfections of their efforts threaten successful charter schools and impedes other educators from learning from their efforts. Natalie Heath, who teaches English language development to a mostly immigrant population at Minnesota’s Hiawatha charter, told Williams, “I wish that people knew that the thing that’s most important to us is that students are achieving at high academic levels and they’re also empowered individuals.” To Williams, “that’s all that should matter. But when it comes to education politics in 2018, it seems to be the last thing anyone wants to talk about.”—Martin LevineShare6Tweet4ShareEmail10 Shareslast_img read more



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The EBU has produced a new set of video test seque

first_imgThe EBU has produced a new set of video test sequences designed to help members with the testing of ultra high-definition (UHDTV) service.Footage shot at the RAI Production Centre in Turin, Italy, last June has been made available in the UHD-1 format. Two of the sequences have been made available under a Creative Commons licence. The remainder are available free of charge to EBU Members, or to other parties on payment of an administration fee. The EBU said 3DTV and Higher Frame Rate sequences will be made available at a later date.“The availability of high quality, rights-free reference test sequences is a prerequisite for tests on the technologies that lie beyond HDTV. For most EBU members the current focus rightly remains on implementing their HDTV strategies. Meanwhile the EBU, under the guidance of the technical committee’s strategic programme on future TV formats, can help to ensure its members are well positioned when the next wave hits,” the EBU said.last_img read more



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Dreamboxs distribution partner Leontech is launch

first_imgDreambox’s distribution partner Leontech is launching three existing models of Dreambox set-top box with upgraded hardware. The linux-based DM500 HD, DM800 HD SE and the DM7020 HD will be equipped with new memory modules, which the firm said would increasing the performance of the devices.last_img



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Swedish cable operator Com Hem recorded 178 milli

first_imgSwedish cable operator Com Hem recorded 1.78 million connected homes at the end of the second quarter, up 30,000 from last year, and confirmed that its long-awaited TiVo launch will come this quarter.Com Hem said that it took a “crucial step” towards its TiVo rollout in Q2 after opening pre-registrations for the service and said that both TiVo and its new broadband portfolio, which will offer downstream speeds of up to 500 Mbit/s and upload speeds of up to 50 Mbit/s, will be available in the market during Q3.The firm said it was also developing new products and services, investing in new business areas and had signed framework agreements in Q2 with communications operators Open Universe, Zitius and IP Only, giving it the opportunity to act as a service provider in these operators’ networks.“We have a huge, untapped potential in all the tens of thousands of properties that are connected to Com Hem’s network. There are a multitude of closely held companies and sole proprietorships to which we can direct our competitive offerings of communication solutions. This is an exciting step in Com Hem’s development,” said Com Hem CEO Tomas Franzén.Com Hem’s unique subscribers during the period totalled 821,700, a slight decrease from 823,400 in the preceding quarter. Digital-television subscriptions also fell slightly quarter-over-quarter to 605,700. High-speed broadband subscriptions rose marginally to 543,400.Revenue for the quarter was SEK 1.108 billion (€127 million), compared to SEK1.148 billion in the same period last year. EBITDA was up coming in at SEK547 million, compared to SEK 541 million in the second quarter of 2012.last_img read more



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The global IP video network management market is f

first_imgThe global IP video network management market is forecast to reach US$442.4 million (€320.7 million) in 2017, up from US$217.8 million in 2012, according to new research by business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.The Global IP Video Network Management Market report says that by 2016, more than 70% of data traffic on mobile devices will be video, and claims that video consumption across non-traditional devices such as tablets, smartphones, PCs and connected PCs is a global phenomenon not restricted to a geographic area.“With cable TV service providers offering more applications and interactive content, the rising adoption of IP by broadcasters and video service providers, and the growing consolidation among operators, the global IP video network management market benefited greatly,” according to the study, which covers Europe, North, Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific.“As broadcasters all over the world upgrade to digital and high-definition workflows, the deployment of IP networking across the value chain is a certainty. This translates to higher adoption of video network management equipment, such as probes and video analysers, as well as data-mining systems – all of which are critical for analysing quality of service and equipment,” said Frost & Sullivan digital media research director Vidya S. Nath.last_img read more



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William Warga The US Society of Cable Telecommunic

first_imgWilliam WargaThe US Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) has named Liberty Global’s vice-president of technology Bill Warga to its board.The SCTE said that the appointment was “a significant step forward in the internationalisation of the organisation”.Warga, who is responsible for the research and evaluation of new, innovative technologies as they relate to Liberty Global’s business, strategic and operational activities in Europe and the Americas, will assume his new SCTE role when the 2014-15 board is seated in September.Warga replaces Time Warner Cable vice-president and chief technology officer Mike LaJoie, whose terms expires this year.“Bill Warga’s expertise and guidance will be invaluable as we increase the scope of SCTE to encompass new products and services, both in the United States and in the international marketplace,” said Terry Cordova, senior vice-president and CTO of Suddenlink Communications and chairman of the SCTE board of directors.“We’re grateful to him for committing the time and resources needed to advance our industry, and to my predecessor as chairman, Mike LaJoie, for his many contributions to SCTE.”The SCTE has been attempting to expand internationally over the last couple of years.last_img read more



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Joël Lacourte Private equity group Astorg Partner

first_imgJoël LacourtePrivate equity group Astorg Partners is acquiring a majority stake in pan-European pay TV provider M7 Group from investors led by Providence Equity Partners.Astorg, which specialises in European mid-market buyouts, will acquire a majority stake in M7’s Luxembourg-based holding company CDS Topco BV. Following the close of the transaction, Providence and Airbridge Investments BV will continue to be significant minority shareholders of M7.M7 operates DTH pay TV businesses in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia and recently agreed to acquire Eutelsat’s KabelKiosk operation in Germany. Providence’s stake in the company, which currently has about three million subscribers, dates from 2007.Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close in the third quarter, were not disclosed. Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas served as financial advisors to Providence and Emendo Capital advised Astorg“This transaction demonstrates the strength of M7’s business, which has undergone a significant transformation under Providence’s ownership. We look forward to working closely with the Astorg team as well as our current shareholders to continue on our growth trajectory in the years to come,” said Marco Visser, CEO of M7.“M7 will take Astorg Partners one step further in its Pan-European strategy. M7 combines all the qualities of a performing asset: excellent track record, professional management, high growth and strong customer franchises. We are delighted to join forces with the architects of this success,” said Joël Lacourte, managing partner at Astorg.last_img read more



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