Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some Zimbabweans See Only More Pain as Prices Fall

By: MacDonald Dzirutwe

After the government of Zimbabwe decided to get rid of the local dollar whose value had been destroyed by inflation, goods have finally begun to reappear in stores and prices are falling. But some Zimbabweans are finding it even harder to make a living because they now have to survive solely off their allowance. People can no longer sell on the black market either, but some are being resourceful and selling the old, worthless Zimbabwe dollars to tourists for as much as $20. The government is seeking $5 billion for long-term recovery, which relies on the satisfaction of Western donors that Zimbabwe is on the road to stability. Unemployment in Zimbabwe is over 90 percent, and three million people have already left the country in search of other jobs.

No Stimulus for the Homeless

By: James Shearer

The new regulations for homeless families being put into affect by the Patrick Administration are going to cut the budget for families by $4 million this year and $10 million next year. Meanwhile, the federal government is providing $17 million this year and $24 million next year for families with dependent children, but the state had decided not to use this money for the homeless. One beneficial revision to the regulations is that they now allow families to be considered for public housing who had previously left their housing if the families provide a plausible reason. The regulations have also been revised to allow minors to stay in shelters with their families, whereas before they could not.

Shanty Town USA

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By: Adam Forrest

As the financial crisis worsens and people continue losing their homes, shanty towns are springing up across the country. One of the largest tent communities, currently housing 1,200 homeless individuals, is located a few miles from California's state capitol building, on a piece of Sacramento wasteland. Although sleeping here is prohibited, people who have lost jobs and homes have nowhere else to go. Mayor Kevin Johnson is determined to shut down the tent city within the next couple weeks and move the residents into shelters. Another possibility is to set up a legal encampment that would include clean water, and sanitation services.

A Way Out of Rock Bottom: Pat Fina recounts years on the streets and finally leaving them

By: Adam Sennott

Pat Fina, who has worked at the Community Learning Center in Cambridge for the past 11 years, recounts the seven years she spent in shelters while battling illness. She spent most of her homeless years in St. Patrick's Shelter because it doesn't allow any drugs of alcohol. Although she wasn't guaranteed a bed every night and Pat sometimes had trouble finding a place to stay, once a year she would treat herself to a dinner at Legal Seafoods for her birthday. Fina grew up in Ohio and eventually went to graduate school at Tufts, but after being raped at a theater party, she left school without a degree and with 10,000 dollars in debt. Fina worked off her debt by doing administrative work for schools and hospitals around Boston, but she soon became too sick to work. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and it took two years before she fully recovered. Once she regained her health, Fina was hired by the shelter as a janitor, and soon after she discovered the want ads for a tutor at the CLCC.

America's Youngest Outcasts: Homeless Children of America

By: Amanda Fakhreddine

The "State Report Card on Child Homelessness" was recently released by the National Center for Family Homelessness and describes the conditions of the 17,505 homeless children in Massachusetts. The Report Card focuses on four areas: extent of homelessness, child well-being, structural risk factors, and state-by-state policy and planning efforts. The report only includes children who are a part of families or with a parent, not the unaccompanied youth. Most homeless students around the country score about 16 percent lower on math and reading tests, but homeless children in Massachusetts scored about 20 percent higher than their peers in both areas. Most homeless students are in grades K-8, and those in high school often don't finish, putting them at a huge disadvantage.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

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Protesters marched from the Common to Copley Square in response to corporations laying off low-wage workers to cut costs.

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Union members protest layoffs of janitors and service workers in Greater Boston.

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Photos by Alexis Hauk

Minutemen: Neighborhood-Watch Over Our Border?

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By: Amanda Fakhreddine

The Minutemen are a military-like group formed in 2005 that help patrol the U.S.-Mexican border. The Minutemen outfit themselves in camouflage and night vision goggles and patrol the desert around the fence that divides the two countries. The Minutemen practice on shooting ranges and force themselves to learn to endure various harsh climates. They meet at a certain spot each night and then split up to look for anyone sneaking across the border. Lieutenant Anthony Salazar of the San Diego County Sheriffs Department of Alpine Station emphasized that the Minutemen are not part of the military, they are civilians who simply draw on military tactics. Former President George W. Bush tried to discourage the "vigilantes" but they truly believe they are protecting America and can't be dissuaded. Groups have been formed in opposition to the Minutemen, saying they are trying to prevent the unnecessary deaths of those who attempt to cross the border.

DSS: Helping Children Lost in the System

By: Kore Van Baldwin

The Department of Social Services does it's best to place kids who have been pulled out of violent or unstable living situations into foster or adoptive families. However there are so many kids in the system that many continue down an unhealthy path and end up on the streets or abusing drugs anyway. The DSS is well meaning but not as helpful as they could be. What kids need is to be re-taught how to be social, how to fit in, how to move forward and how to motivate yourself. Many of the kids are psychologically and socially scarred, and above all they need to be taught to hope again, that they do have a future ahead of them. 

Downturn, Debt Dulls Diamond Sector Sparkle

By: Philip Blenkinsop

The diamond industry is experiencing a recession due to less demand, falling prices and lender reticence. Since a few diamonds are worth an large amount of money, the industry operates on debt, and the debt is crucial to funding $50-60 billion of trade in the stones. But the debt is becoming more than the industry can bear as trade levels are at one-tenth of their usual levels. Diamond industry leaders are discussing possible joint marketing efforts to ease the problem. The market of the super-rich has completely dried out, while jewelry sales in the U.S., which accounts for 45 percent of the market, have fallen by 20 percent. 

Food Contamination, part II: How You Can Shop Locally and Rest Peacefully

By: Robert Sandak

It is important to buy locally grown food to get the best quality, put money back into the regional economy and support farmers. All Whole Foods stores carry locally grown food; they even have signs that inform the consumer as to where it's from and if it's commercial or organic. Whole Foods also invites local farmers to their stores to do demonstrations. The Harvest Cooperative Market (in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain) also carries local produce. The Porter Square and Sidney Street Star Supermarkets have the largest selection of local produce. From June through October, local produce and fruit is also available at the 30 Middlesex Farmer's Markets across the state. 

Thai Community Organizer Kovit Boonjear on Squatter Communities, Housing Rights and Community Empowerment.

By: Katherine Foo

Kovit Boonjear is a native of Thailand who works to organize squatter and scavenger communities that deal with housing rights and self-sustainable income. He works to help the poor by emphasizing participatory education. Boonjear said that homelessness in Thailand is caused by the fact that the government solely supports the industrial sector, completely ignoring the agricultural sector. So people are selling their land and moving into the city to find jobs. Once in the city people find that land is extremely expensive, so they squat on the public land owned by the Railroad Authority of Thailand (RAT). Since the land is government owned, it is only available for rent, which is expensive. It is helpful for the people to come together and form groups, but there are no shelters available for the squatters who can't afford rent. The Assembly of the Poor helps to organize the squatters into groups. Boonjear is currently on a trip in North America to talk about his experiences and share them with others. 

Cambridge Census Reveals Sharp Increase in Homeless Families, Individuals

By: Julia Waterhous

The recently released tenth annual 2009 Cambridge Homeless Census Report, a joint report between Cambridge and Somerville, showed a 33 percent increase in the number of homeless in Cambridge since a year ago last January. The number of homeless families increased significantly while the  number of homeless individuals dropped 7 percent. In January, seven teams led by CASPAR's First Step program went throughout Cambridge and Somerville in the early morning to find as many unsheltered homeless as they could. Fred Berman, planner with the Cambridge Department of Human Service Programs acknowledged that the numbers were unsettling but said they could be misleading too. The number of homeless families in Cambridge may have appeared to increase because the state has been housing homeless families at the Cambridge Gateway Inn; so there are more homeless families in Cambridge.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Food Contamination: Everything You Should Know

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By: Robert Sondak

In the three years from 2006 to 2009 there have been three major food- borne illnesses that have taken a toll on the U.S. food system. In 2006, California bagged spinach tested positive for E-Coli; in 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a food advisory on salmonella contamination in tomatoes; in March 2009 the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Nutrition and Food Safety issued a recall of all Peanut Butter Corporation of America peanut butter products due to salmonella. E-Coli, as found in the California spinach in 2006, is a highly toxic bacteria strain that can cause severe food poisoning or death. The E-Coli was found to be a result of growing the spinach in the same region where cattle was farmed. The 2008 finding of salmonella in tomatoes was found to be the result of cross contamination with peppers from Mexico. The FDA website and Whole Foods website have more information on the peanut butter recall and past recalls.

Mauritians Also Competing for Land in Africa

By: Inter Press Service

Mauritius, a net food importing country, has had to start growing its crops in other African states where there is more land and labor. Some are turning to Mozambique where it is easier to find people for hire. Mauritius traditionally grows vegetables, its top products being potato, onion and garlic. Mozambique also provides a climate where food can be grown year-round. What stands in the way of Mozambique accepting the Mauritians are political instability and poor sanitary conditions, but the two countries have ancestral relations that make them more open to each other.

China's Jobless Migrants Loath to Return to Countryside

By: Simon Rabinovitch

The economic downturn has affected the number of jobs available in China, and those that flock to the cities in hopes of finding riches are being disappointed. The government is offering funds and training to the unemployed migrants in the country to start their own businesses in the hopes of keeping throngs of jobless migrants from wandering about the cities. Around 20 million rural migrants have lost work and don't know where to turn. The provincial government has attempted to help by providing information on where jobs might be found while simultaneously encouraging migrants to start their own business. 80 percent opt to look for employment in the cities.

State Budget Cuts, National Stimulus Poorly Timed

By: Abby Elizabeth Conway

The Patrick administration has proposed changes to the state's emergency shelter program as a result of a $3.4 million deficit in the budget due to an increase in families seeking shelter. The changes include more restrictions on the families that would have access to shelter's, imposing regulations and narrowing the eligibility of families. Two years ago the Patrick administration promised to end homelessness in Massachusetts, and now when more people than ever are seeking shelter, the administration is making cuts. President Obama's recently signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help the state and provide almost $46 million over the next two years to programs that help with homelessness.

A Question of First Amendment Rights

By: Amanda Fakhreddine

On February 25th a court hearing was held regarding a motion for a protective order to keep Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner from speaking with the media about bribe accusations held against him. In various television interviews Turner had spoken openly about the accusations, a fact that prosecutor John McNeil argued made it difficult for jurors to remain unbiased and unexposed. McNeil argued that the motion was not for a gag order and that Turner could still speak independently of the case; the order would simply keep further information from Turner out of the public realm before trial. Barry Wilson, Turner's defense attorney argued that this went against Turner's First Amendment rights.

Homeless Man Recounts Unwarranted Brush with Harvard Police

By: Julia Waterhous

On February 27th, around 9pm Kenneth Thomas had an encounter with the Harvard Police outside the Harvard Square shelter while waiting for a meal there. The policemen pulled up in front of the shelter and asked for Thomas by name. He identified himself, and the police told him they had a default warrant for his arrest. The police proceeded to wrestle Thomas to the ground and put him in the squad car to take down to the station where they discovered that there was no warrant for his arrest.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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Two Lovers Review

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By: Jenny Halper

I’d like to take a moment to thank James Gray for Two Lovers, a romance that features not one but two complex female characters and ends bravely with indecision. From the first shot when Joaquin Phoenix plunges into the waters of Brighton Beach to Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of lover #2, a madly-in-love attorney’s assistant who admits she’s not one for reading and shouts across her fire escape like the irrepressible teenager she hasn’t quite grown out of, everything about this film is brave.
Gray’s previous films include Little Odessa and We Own the Night, the former a dark depiction of a history of crime. Although Lovers isn’t nearly as gritty, it has the same sense of authenticity; over the course of two hours you feel like you’re spending time with these people rather than watching a movie about them.
The movie opens with Phoenix’s Leonard moving back in with his parents after breaking up with his fiancĂ©. Now he’s sleeping in the bed he’s had since high school while working at a Laundromat his father runs and he seems poised to inherit. When business associates come over for dinner, they bring their daughter Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), who is so beautiful and sweet one senses he’d fall for her immediately if both sets of parents weren’t so keen on the match. But they are, and date number two is a lunch with their fathers that he ditches to follow new next door neighbor Michelle (Paltrow) to her job in the city. Michelle gives him her cell number so that “we can text.”
As Leonard tentatively courts Sandra, he quickly becomes close friends with Michelle, but she’s involved in a poisonous affair with a lawyer at her firm. The lawyer, married with children, has stationed her in Brighton Beach – he’s paying for the apartment – because his mother lives nearby and he can visit her without alarming his wife. Completely oblivious to Leonard’s attraction to her (and to much else) Michelle asks him to tag along on dates and ascertain the older man’s intentions.
It’s a testament to Paltrow’s performance that Michelle – who should be very, very irritating – is sympathetic; watching her unknowingly invade Leonard’s heart and his fledgling relationship with Sandra is a bit like watching a toddler spill ink all over silk: she means well, she just doesn’t know any better. It’s also easy to see why Leonard, who Phoenix plays as a charmer who masks everything, is so taken with her – she’s honest and free-spirited, or at least seems that way, whereas Sandra’s overbearing family is part of the bargain.
I should mention that the supporting cast, which includes Isabella Rossellini as Leonard’s mother, is top notch, and that the Brighton Beach setting evokes an old fashioned community that is simultaneously oppressive and comforting. Ultimately, though, what makes Two Lovers so effective is that Gray refuses to choose sides, and asks the audience to instead, which is almost impossible: if Sandra’s an anchor, Michelle is a hot air balloon.

Babylon's Future Written in Its Ruins

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By: Khalid al-Ansary

After enduring harsh treatment at the hands of U.S. troops and Saddam Hussein among others, officials are hoping that the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon can be revived and made ready for tourism with the help from experts at the World Monuments Fund and the U.S. embassy. The Future of Babylon project are looking to restore the site, home of the Hanging Gardens, but the project has much to do after the damage done by looters and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to overthrow Hussein. Officials say preservation is crucial as Babylon gave birth to much of current civilization's agriculture, writing, codified law and the wheel. Tourism may also help Iraq's economy. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad is contributing $700,000 the the sites restoration.

Project Care and Concern at Pilgrim Church

By: Robert Sondak

From 10 am to 4 pm five days a week, Project Care and Concern at the Pilgrim Church on Columbia Road is open to residents and provides reasonably priced new and used clothing and household items. The PCC and Nutrition Education Outreach Project also collaborate to circulate recipe flyers to the bilingual Uphams Corner community. Dorchester residents referred by the Project Bread Hunger Hotline recieve the flyers every month. The recipes highlight good nutrition and are often centered around holiday themes.

Homeless Senior Banned from Cambridge Center Seeks Answers

By: Julia Waterhous

Terrence Rothman was banned from the Cambridge Senior Center two years ago after attempting to circulate a petition to bring back a social worker who had recently been fired. He was initially asked to leave the center and later police were called and he was told that if he didn't leave he would be thrown in jail. Rothman has since been seeking answers as to why he was banned and action against the Senior Center as they renewed his ban multiple times and he has not been able to return to the Center for the past two years. Rothman has filed a complaint against the CSC and the City of Cambridge for discrimination based on his diagnosis of paranoia.

Joblessness Rises in Congo as Global Crisis Hits Mining

By: Miriam Mannak

The global economic crisis has caused the collapse of the local mining industry in the Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. The region relies heavily on mining and since September 2008 when global demand for natural resources plummeted and prices fell to all-time lows, 300,000 people have lost jobs and another 60,000 may soon lose their jobs too. The Congolese franc, the local currency, has also lost half its value, seeing an increasing number of children and beggars on the streets. MONUC, the local UN mission has been wary of security issues surrounding the crisis, and the region has recently seen an increase in violent crime. The mining crisis is beginning to affect other businesses in Katanga as well.

Networking the Nonprofit Industry in a Recession

By: Amanda Fakhreddine

On February 11th, Rosie's Place sponsored an event hosted by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network that featured five panelists from various local nonprofit organizations who spoke about the issues currently facing nonprofits. With the economic recession, nonprofits are facing cuts in programs and the services they are able to provide. Panelists highlighted the need for volunteers and anyone willing to help. The nonprofit organizations discussed all dealt with homelessness, and panelists also gave advice to those in attendance hoping to network, and to anyone wishing to get into the nonprofit industry. Entry- level positions are available but a certain personality allows some to be more successful than others.

Brewing for Blankets: Local Students to Raise Funds, Awareness for Homeless

By: Julia Waterhous

On March 4th at the Boston Common near the Park Street T stop, a group of students from Suffolk University, led by professor Debra Harkins with help from James Shearere and Ron Tibbets, will hand out coffee, information on homelessness and copies of Spare Change to raise awareness. They will also be asking for donations and after the event will use the donations to buy blankets to donate to local shelters.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coraline Review

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By Jenny Halper
Spare Change News

Movies have culled drama from ungrateful daughters and out-of-it mothers for as long as they've probed the divide between fantasy and reality. So if the premise of Neil Gaiman's Coraline isn't terribly new - it's about as different from The Wizard of Oz and Pans Labyrinth as the name Coraline is from Caroline – the film is nonetheless a visually inventive and wonderfully quirky adventure that manages to entertain while imparting a pretty dark message: be careful what you wish for, what looks better isn't always, and dreams can turn into nightmares.

I'm probably being too philosophical. This is, after all, a kids' movie – or a movie that brings back vivid memories of being a kid, like waking up to boring reality after a great dream, and being forced to eat food you'd rather scrub the floor with. The heroine, voiced with pluck by Dakota Fanning, has moved with her parents to an apartment building that looks like a pink version of something from a Tim Burton movie, and usually doesn't house families with kids. Not that her parents seem to want kids: mom (Teri Hatcher) types on a computer and snaps at her, dad (John Hodgeman) types on a computer and ignores her, they buy her drab school uniforms and send her off to play with the too-chatty boy next door, who is named Whyborn ("why, were you born?" Coraline groans). Whyborn gives her a doll that looks just like her, except it has buttons where its eyes should be.

Coraline, which was written by Gaiman (from his children's book of the same name) and directed by the inventive Henry Selick, benefits from amazing animation and detailed puppetry –the characters are remarkably expressive. The story is smartly told from Coraline's honest, gutsy, sometimes bratty perspective. She really is an explorer on a quest for a water hole, the grotesque actresses downstairs really are the size of cruise ships, her parents really are just that awful - until she wants something, and then they're not.
After a few amusing encounters with her new neighbors, Coraline finds a small door that, at night, opens to tunnel that leads to a house that looks just like her house, only brighter. Her dad looks like her dad, only he composes songs about her. Her mom looks just like her mom, only she cooks Coraline's favorite foods and plants exquisite gardens and sews Whyborn's mouth shut. A gravy train rolls down the dinner table, literally. The actresses, now thin, fling her around a trapeze. It's sort of like sorority rush, except everyone has buttons instead of eyes and after a few treats Coraline's newfound, “better” mother wants to sew buttons over Coraline’s eyes, too.
Disregard the metaphors you could make with this. Coraline has a dilemma, but she’s smart enough to know that lots of cake and flying actresses aren’t enough of a trade when her eyesight is concerned (or, as we’ll later find out, her soul). Without giving away the final act of the film – a quest that could be too scary for very young children – I will say that while the premise of the film isn’t new, the execution is surprisingly original, and parents will be as entertained as their offspring – who hopefully won’t be asking for new clothes or better food anytime soon.

2009 Cambridge/ Somerville Homeless Census: Putting It All Together

By: Robert Sondak

Cambridge and Somerville joined the rest of the nation on January 28th to complete their homeless census of the year. At 12:30 a.m. 40 crew member, equipped with maps, radios and led by team leaders, went out to do a count of the homeless in the city. They were told to be non- obtrusive and to approach sleeping persons in order to identify them as a man or woman but to not disturb them. The census took a count of the unsheltered homeless in the area and is a yearly requirement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Man's Best Friend: Life on the Streets With Pets

By: Julia Waterhous

When Angelo Vespa became homeless all he cared about was the welfare of his cat Simon. He sought assistance from the MSPCA and was directed to Carmine Discenso, director of Phinney's Friends, an organization that provides services to those living below the poverty line with HIV/AIDS. Although Vespa did not meet the usual criteria for service from Phinney's Friends, Discenso took pity on him and decided to help him anyways. Simon is now in foster care and Vespa has found a room with an organization in Cambridge.

Demand for Shelter Beds Highest in Years

By: Amanda Fakhredinne

Harvard Square Shelter, a student run shelter in the basement of the University Lutheran Church that has been in operation since 1983, has had to adopt certain policies to keep up with the demand for shelter beds. There are 24 beds and the recent failing economy and cold weather have found every bed constantly occupied. The Harvard Shelter has implemented a policy where guests can stay for 14 nights but then must leave for seven to accommodate others. The Shelter does try to help everyone and will give someone an emergency bed for a night if they really need it. They also provide meals and will help people try to find other shelters if they are full.

Homes for Less: Vancouver Homeless Housing Project Finally Finds a Home

By: Amy Juschka

Last year, students at Emily Carr in Vancouver took on their first to-scale assignment. They built a series of 64 square foot homes, costing $1, 500 apiece, to help with the homeless crisis in Vancouver. The students went and talked to the homeless in order to get an idea of what was needed in the homes. The homeless emphasized their need for an address so they could apply for jobs, as well as a place to rest and keep their belongings safe. The students took this into account, providing shelving that could double as furniture. The public took longer than hoped to respond to the effort. The students and their director talked with the city governments of Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, but nowhere was willing to use the houses as homeless shelters until recently. The Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Society plans to adopt the shelters and place them behind their current facilities so that occupants can have access to amenities.

A Homeless Population in Gaza

By: Saed Bannoura

Israel recently announced that the attack on Gaza will continue with the seeking out and destroying of tunnels on the border between Gaza and Egypt. This has happened in the past and usually ends with Palestinian homes being bombed or otherwise destroyed. The trend is known as razing and Israel uses the excuse that the homes are too close to the border as justification for destroying the homes. Israel claims that there are tunnels built under the houses that are used for smuggling arms into the Gaza Strip. In Rafah, a city on the southern part of the Gaza Strip, 2,000 homes were destroyed and 2,000 families were left homeless. No tunnels were discovered. Israel also destroys homes as punishment for families of Palestinians who attack Israelis. Many of the 1.5 million Palestinians living on the 40 square kilometer Gaza Strip are refugees from when Israel was created in 1948 on their land, displacing them into the tiny Gaza Strip. Since 2006, the Strip has been closed to all imports and exports and the economy is destroyed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Cost of the World's Cheapest Gasoline

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By Humberto Marquez
The world's cheapest gasoline is available in Venezuela due to the subsidy program that benefits car owners while keeping investing money from the oil industry. Since 1998, gasoline has cost between three and four cents per liter. A bottle of water costs 25 times that amount. The subsidy is estimated to be $12.5 billion based on the difference between domestic and export prices. Essentially, over $3000 a year in gasoline is being given away to every consumer leaving oil company's without money they could use to help with fuel distribution. Only the middle and upper class can afford private vehicles, which consumer 80 percent of the fuel, leaving the lower class, which makes up 80 percent of the population with 20 percent of the fuel for public transportation. Smuggling of gasoline has become an issue as well since the prices in the countries surrounding Venezuela are significantly higher. The cheap prices have contributed to more cars on the road, and a subsequent increase of traffic jams and decrease of road maintenance.

Nightmare for Civilians Uprooted by Conflict

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
Disease, unclean drinking water and lack of electricity are just some of the plights affecting those displaced into camps by the military operation launched by the Pakistani army against Taliban militants. UNICEF and the World Food Program have been working to better the conditions in the camps but relief is still distant. The worst affected are children who have been suffering from scabies, diarrhea, unexplained fever and malaria.

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The Secret of the Grain
Jenny Halper

A half hour into Abdel Kechiche’s Cesar winning family drama, The Secret of the Grain, my father leaned over and asked, “What is this movie about?” After all, we were still watching a family cooking, eating, and fighting. And cooking, and eating, and fighting. Writer/Director Kechiche’s domestic rhythms are very familiar and therefore easy, initially, to reject.

But I’d recommend hanging in through all two and a half (plus) hours of the film, which tells the story of Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares), a 60-year-old patriarch trying to segway into a career as a restaurateur with the help of his ex-wife’s fish cous cous. And that’s basically the basis for the story. Although his pipe dream sounds fairly simple – he owns a boat and can simply serve customers on it - government administrators don’t think he has the stamina to run his own business. Determined to prove himself, he plans a huge dinner party and invites the high-level head-shakers who remain skeptical that his floating, couscous-serving restaurant could turn a profit. His family wants to help, but so do his new girlfriend and her daughter.

Meanwhile, the huge extended family squabbles —a two-year-old grandchild won’t use the potty, a husband cheats routinely on his wife, a daughter tries to convince her mother to forget shame – but Kechiche’s wonderful eye and ear for detail make the typical seem anything but. The family, Arabs living in Southern France, works hard to maintain their distinct culture, but the movie implies rather than stresses culture clash.

At the movie’s center is Boufares, who, in his feature film debut, resembles a still, serious Steve Martin with wonderfully expressive eyes. The film is at its most effective when focusing in on his tense silence – he’s usually the calm center of a family dysfunctional in the ways all families are, but their dysfunction could risk him his career. Watching the potential crumble of his dreams is like watching the demise of your own, and the almost unbearable tension Kechiche ultimately creates is the antithesis of his atmospheric but slow start.

Boston's Intellectual Elite Examine the Isreal-Gaza Conflict

By Julia Waterhous
The Palestine Cultural Center for Peace brought together a panel of three speakers last Wednesday, January 21st to address Israel's recent ceasefire in violent attacks on Gaza. Noam Chomsky, professor, linguist and political activist, Assaf Kfoury, professor at Boston University and Ahmed Shawki, editor of the International Socialist Review all shared their opinions on Israel. Chomsky spoke of the legitimacy and reasons for the U.S. Israeli invasion and how the U.S.'s reasons for occupancy are questionable. Kfoury pointed out that through the tragedy people have come together in protest, and Shawki, an Egyptian, described what it means to be Arabic in the U.S. and emphasised that the tragedies must be confronted and talked about.

What Next for Guantanamo?

By Adam Forrest
With hundreds still detained in Guantanamo, the new administration and civil rights groups are looking for ways to deal with the prisoners. Civil rights activists agree that the system of military commissions that allows detainees to be tried outside of international and domestic standards must be put to an end. The remaining prisoners can be tried on federal or military courts. Around 150 prisoners who have already been cleared to leave are refugees and returning to their home countries would put them in danger. Portugal and Albania have accepted a few refugees but no other country has so far. Which leaves one category of detainee left to deal with: those considered too dangerous to release but who lack the evidence against them to be charged. Overall, with the new administration the U.S. is looking to turn around its civil justice system.

The Harvest Food Pantry

By Robert Sondak
The Harvest Food Pantry not only distributes food but offers cooking demonstrations as well. Located at the Cambridgeport Baptist church on Magazine Street, HFP opens its doors two Saturdays a month from 10 am to noon. Families from around Cambridge can come to shop for fresh and canned vegetables, fruit, meats, pasta, bread, pastries, milk and juice. Since January 2007, the Nutrition Outreach Project has sponsored four cooking projects, the last of which was held in October. The demonstration in October showed how to prepare green beans and a kidney bean chili and highlighted the nutritional values of each.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Following Obama, Black Iraquis Run for Office

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By: Mohammed Abbas

The Free Iraqi Movement will be the first to put black candidates on the Iraqi ticket for the provincial elections on January 31st. The election will be the first held under Iraqi law since the US overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003. There will be eight black candidates in the running. Obama's election in the US gave many black Iraqis hope for an end to the discrimination they often face.

History of slavery and the issue of ancestry often leave black Iraqis in a position of degradation, and very few have decent jobs. "Abd" is the Arabic word for slave and is still often used, although not always with the intention of being insulting.

The Free Iraqi Movement wishes to ban the word "abd" as it perpetuates the idea of the black as a slave. The movement also is looking to have blacks labeled as aminority which would grant them benefits.

Light skinned Iraqis fail to see the discrimination taking place and believe that blacks are on equal ground.

Time to View Affordable Housing as an Economic Stimulus

By: Paul Boden

Despite promising to instigate the largest public works construction project "since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950's" President Barack Obama has yet to address the issue of homelessness. The plan is speculated to cost between 400 and 700 billion dollars and Obama has so far mentioned working on "schools, sewer systems, mass transit, electical grids, dams and other public utilities as well as green jobs dedicated to creating alternative fuels, windmills and solar panels; building energy efficient appliances or installing fuel-efficient heating or cooling systems." But these words as well as Obama's website fail to give more than a nod to homelessness. Affordable housing should be integrated into the plan and would help to ensure everyone had a roof over their heads.

Nutrition Education Outreach Project

By Robert Sondak

The Nutrition Education Outreach Project began ten years ago with a regional hunger assessment study. The study rated the quality of nutrition programs for children in school based on how well they improved overall health. The project gathered a list of clients from the study and began distributing recipes that utilize all the food groups and provide proper nutrition. Eventually the program grew to include nutrition workshops, cooking classes, and by 2007 were doing demonstrations and taste tests at farmers markets. The program has expanded to five other cities and 15 communities.

Preventing Homelessness

By James Shearer

After Boston's homeless census showed an 11 percent increase throughout the city, the state decided to give Housing First more money to help with homelessness.

But where Housing First deals with homelessness as it is, the answer may be more in preventing homelessness to begin with.

Homelessness is more than lacking money. To prevent homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse must be addressed. Most importantly, we must abandon our cliched ideas about who falls into the patterns of substance abuse or who ends up out on the streets. It can happen to anyone.

Domestic violence should also be confronted and it should be recognized that many escape domestic violence by heading to the streets.

Boston's Longest Night Vigil

Snow and freezing rain pelted Saint Paul's Cathedral the night of December 21st, but the little brown paper bags with their electric candles still glowed brightly.

Many people gathered on the night of the winter solstice to remember the homeless men and women who had passed away in the previous year.

Reverend Kathy McAdams, executive director of Ecclesia Ministries Common Cathedral, had personally known three people who passed away. She said that many homeless find it difficult to transition into housing because it feels lonely after shelter life, and many lose meaning in their lives once they no longer have to search for food or shelter.

Many in attendance had known someone who passed away from homelessness, and everyone paid their respects.

New Meaning In Life for Young Colombian Shantytown Dwellers

For the past four decades, Colombia has been, and still is, a war torn nation where violence and hardship are simply a way of life.

Numerous youth gangs roam the streets, exacting revenge on those who killed their friends and family.

Tempers are quick to flare and many take out their anger through hurting or killing others.

One organization has made the lives of Colombian youth better. Legion del Afecto is a project for youth meant to give them alternate activities such as dance, gardening, sports, art, and music to keep them out of danger and give them an emotional outlet.

Participants receive pay for community service and "socialization." The project also works to rebuild confidence and hope where there may be little left.

Piracy Threatens Aid Effort in Somalia

The number of Somalians who seek food aid from the U.N. has risen by 75 percent since 2007 to 3.25 million, equivalent to 40 percent of the population. The warring Ethiopian army and Islamist militants have upset the agriculture and put many out of their homes.

To add to the turbulence, pirates have been intercepting the relief vessels carrying food that the U.N. has been sending.

The European Union responded by sending military escorts to protect the relief vessels. So far no ship has been attacked while under escort.

When escorts are not available, small ships are used to bring in food because they are targeted less by the pirates. The pirates usually look for the larger ships which they can hold for up to $1 million in ransom.

The smaller ships can only bring so much food, and the decline in the use of large vessels has impacted the amount of food that reaches Somalia.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Arnie King's Sentence

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At the age of 18, Arnie King was convicted of murder and given a life sentence which he has been serving for the past 35 years.

Through his years in jail, King has co-founded and directed various organizations that help youth, parents and educators deal with life in prison and build a life that keeps them out of jail. He has also brought together 20-30 fellow prisoners to write poetry about their experiences and share them with the public. Not to mention the three college degrees he has received while incarcerated.

By a unanimous vote in 2007, the Massachusettes Board of Pardons decided to free King. However Governor Patrick made the final call. This past week, he decided not to let King walk.

Many, including King's brother Kazi Toure, were infuriated, calling the decision that of a white supremacist. Pastor Jason Lydon of the Community Church agreed that King should have been freed.

The US has more people in jail than any other country, and 70 percent of those are colored, while 70 percent of those outside of jail are white.

Year's End Reflection and Hopes

Despite a difficult 2008 spent on the streets, Edward J. Portella Sr. is hopeful for the coming year.
Ideally, 2009 would bring an end to his homeless life along with a flat screen TV and a balanced checkbook, but if nothing else Portella simply wishes for patience and peace of mind.

The struggles encountered in the past year have strengthened and focused him. Many mornings seemed bleak at first but in the end Portella found that life is now more clear and bright than ever.

Healthquest: Vendor Loses 140 Pounds, Gains Vast Nutrition Knowledge

Thirty years ago, Robert Sondak moved to Boston from New York 140 pounds overweight. He decided something had to be done about the spare pounds for health reasons and became a vegetarian.

He first entered into the macrobiotic vegetarian diet which use rice and grains as a base and incorporate vegetables and legumes too. He also started yoga, but Sondak still developed some food- related health issues.

He switched to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet which incorporates dairy and eggs while still eliminating meat. This brought about the health and happiness he sought.

Through his journey Sondak discovered the Boston Area Gleaners and Food For Free, two organnizations that help to end hunger.

Dr. William Julius Wilson on Poverty, Race and the New Administration

Dr. William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, director of Joblessness and Urban Poverty Research Program agreed to be interviewed by Spare Change News.

He commented on how Boston's degree of poverty seems to be less than in his previous place of residence, Chicago. He said this may be because Boston seems less affected by the influx of blacks from the south in the 1960's, and by the inner city white population moving to suburbs in the 1970's.

He also spoke to the issue of segregation, and how cities with higher housing demand have less segregation because when housing is more difficult to come by people don't leave their homes as readily.

Dr. Wilson also knows President Barack Obama and says his top priority should be to concentrate on the economy and creating more jobs. He also said we need more health care and a higher minimum wage to help end homelessness.

Homeless on Beason Hill Continue to Struggle

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Beacon Hill is known for its wealth and prestige as one of Boston's more glamorous neighborhoods. But it is here that a huge population of homeless reside as well. Many frequent the nearby Boston Common, sleeping on benches and eating at churches and shelters in the area. George Caponigro, a graduate of the University of Virginia, and previous restaurant owner, husband and father lived in the Common for three years. It has been 15 years since he's been on the streets, but he says he'll never forget it. Last year's census in Boston showed a 4 percent rise in the number of homeless and the average age of the homeless is 8 years old. Family homelessness is one aspect rarely talked about, even though it is currently growing faster than any other homeless population. Boston's family homelessness increased by 17 percent from last year. St. Francis House, ticketed as the largest multi-service day shelter in New England, serves over 800 homeless per day. The homeless there embody all types of people, including some who are so well put together that one would hardly guess they were struggling. Boston also has the largest health care center for the homeless in the country.