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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Local Activists to Hold Weekly Vigils Against Gun Violence

Posted By on Sat, Jul 6, 2013 at 9:00 AM

OFA members rally against gun violence
  • Ally Smith
  • OFA members rally against gun violence

Over 30,000 Americans die each year at the barrel of a gun. For a small but committed group of local activists, that's a statistic that demands action.

The activists, who are affiliated with the national group Organizing for Action (OFA), have committed to holding weekly candlelight vigils throughout the summer until congress acts to stop gun violence. The first vigil took place at the Rondout Gazebo in Kingston on Thursday, June 13, the six-month anniversary of the Newtown school shootings. A second was held on June 20 in Hyde Park.

OFA, which was born out of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, aims to mobilize people around progressive issues such as immigration reform, fighting climate change and job creation. They argue that "commonsense measures" on gun control are supported by the vast majority of Americans, held back only by a stubborn congressional minority.

Yet congress members opposed to gun control have so far been successful in at least temporarily defeating policies favored by gun control advocates, such as a ban on assault weapons. In an attempt to get around the gridlock, OFA is narrowing its focus to pressure the Hudson Valley's local congressmen Chris Gibson and Sean Patrick Maloney into supporting the expansion and strengthening of background checks.

Fueled by recent mass shootings in Tuscon, Aurora, and Newtown, advocates of gun control have become increasingly vocal, flipping the script on outspoken pro-gun groups like the NRA. According to OFA members, their newly found voice arises from the belief that now is the time to act.

As one activist put it, "There are moments in history when we all need to step up, and this is one of those moments."

Visit Hudson Valley Organizing for Action's Google Site for more information on how to get involved.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Living La Vida Local

Posted By on Sat, Jun 22, 2013 at 9:00 AM

BalleConference.jpg
  • Bealocalist.org

Love was in the air at this year’s annual BALLE conference, which was held in Buffalo June 12-14 (and which Luminary Publishing was proud to co-sponsor).

BALLE stands for Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a mouthful of a phrase that would probably have been jettisoned long ago were it not for the considerable name recognition its acronym has grown to command. With eighty local and regional networks, BALLE is a booming organization in support of a booming movement, localism, which is built around the notion that we’ll all be better off if we wean ourselves from the global economic teat and instead support local businesses, local agriculture, and other local institutions. If you have any doubts about localism’s trajectory, consider how many restaurants currently promote their local sourcing of ingredients compared to just a few years ago. BALLE has had more than a little to do with this transformation: It’s been a firestarter.

At this year’s gathering of about 600 attendees, a striking number of presentations talked about the importance of opening the heart. MIT professor Otto Scharmer spoke of the need to pass thoughts through the heart and reflective centers. Spiritual change agent Nipun Mehta combined the legacies of Gandhi and Buckminster Fuller in an intriguing exploration of “designing for generosity”—how do you get people to lead from the heart instead of acting out of pure self-interest or in hope of a fair exchange? Nikki Henderson, the charismatic executive director of People’s Grocery in West Oakland, CA, gave a rousing speech that was devoted, among other things, to the need for celebration. BALLE executive director Michelle Long’s plenary address was as memorable for its bold “PDE” (“Public Display of Emotion”) as for its content.

Why so much emphasis on the soft stuff? One can only speculate, but I get the sense that the BALLE powers-that-be decided the time had come to better integrate head and heart. This direction makes sense, given that the move has a sound strategic basis—“integral” decisions tend to be more insightful and sound—and a spiritual one as well—generosity, celebration, and contemplative self-reflection are all big karma-earners.

Somehow the BALLE speakers managed to address these topics without tumbling into New Age preciousness. (My Fatuousness Meter stayed at zero throughout the gathering.) Still, something was missing. Years ago, Albert Einstein famously (and by now, given all the repetition it’s got, banally) wrote that “You can’t solve a problem at the level at which it was created.” To make good decisions, he was saying, we need to climb up the ladder of awareness and engage the world at a higher level of consciousness. This way of being in the world includes everything the BALLE speakers discussed—integrating head and heart, practicing generosity, celebrating celebration—but it’s also more than that. It’s about totally shifting our psychological set point, about carving new neural pathways that make us fundamentally wiser and more compassionate.

The basic premise here is, if we’re gonna save the planet, we need a generation of leaders that’s climbed the ladder of consciousness so as to be fundamentally more emotionally and spiritually evolved than the generation that got us into this mess. At the BALLE conference, I wish I’d heard more discussion (meta-discussion, really) about the importance of levels of consciousness, although in fairness I couldn’t be everywhere and may simply have missed it.

Be that as it may, Scharmer, Mehta, Henderson and Long left the gathered localists with important reminders to chew on. Like, eschew the strictly technocratic. Keep your heart open even when it wants to close. Stay present.

And, last but not least: celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!

Carl Frankel has been writing about sustainability, socially responsible business and localism for over 20 years. His most recent book, The Art of Social Enterprise: Business as if People Mattered, was published in Spring 2013 and co-authored with social enterprise lawyer Allen Bromberger.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Q&A with US War Crimes Ambassador David Scheffer

Posted By on Sat, Apr 6, 2013 at 9:00 AM

David J. Scheffer, © 2001 Snowbound, All Rights Reserved.
  • David J. Scheffer, © 2001 Snowbound, All Rights Reserved.

David Scheffer, the first-ever war crimes ambassador for the US, will speak about "The Challenges of International Justice" on Monday, April 8, at Vassar College's Sanders Classroom Building, Spitzer Auditorium. Currently serving as the UN Secretary-General's Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, Scheffer's past work in the Balkans and Rwanda contributed to the creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002. In anticipation of the talk, which will explore his recent war crimes work in Cambodia and his 2012 memoir All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals, Chronogram presents a Q&A with Scheffer on the topic of international justice.

Chronogram: What is the biggest challenge to international justice currently?

David Scheffer: The biggest challenge to international justice currently is political will, particularly the will of governments to enforce international arrest warrants against indicted fugitives roaming free on their territory and to provide the necessary financing to ensure the full operations of the international and hybrid war crimes tribunals. These are sometimes very tough decisions for governments to make because it can mean putting international justice goals ahead of national priorities, but if justice is the objective then political will is essential to meet it.

CM: There seems to be a problem with ending conflicts effectively and expeditiously and bringing justice afterwards. What can be done to improve this process?

DS: Ending conflicts is a highly complex diplomatic and often military endeavor. It is not the task of international justice literally to end conflicts and we should not burden war crimes tribunals with that responsibility. Achieving justice in the aftermath of conflict is a necessary goal in the modern era and that is why we have witnessed the creation of so many war crimes tribunals, some of them created in the middle of the conflicts and continuing long thereafter. The creation of the permanent International Criminal Court, which began to operate in 2002, was a major step to improving the process by ensuring the existence of a highly professional war crimes tribunal even at the beginning of conflicts so that all are on notice of their potential liability for commission of atrocity crimes. But again, it is folly to thrust the burden of ending conflicts or even deterring them on the backs of the tribunals. Their job is to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of atrocity crimes and bring them to justice, and that is an enormous challenge in and of itself.

CM: What has been learned through the war crimes trials in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Cambodia? What can be done better by the international community moving forward?

DS: This is a huge question that thousands of books and law review articles seek to address, so I won't even try to begin here. All I can say is that the end of leadership impunity for atrocity crimes draws nearer thanks to the work of the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia and the permanent International Criminal Court. We have learned that the cooperation of governments remains essential for the successful work of the tribunals, that sufficient funding must be available to cover the cost of international justice, that the public must exercise patience in waiting for the investigation, prosecution, and judgment phases of each defendant's case because it does take much longer under international criminal law to achieve ultimate justice, and that the outreach of each tribunal with the public (including victims and perpetrators) is essential for the educational and healing process to begin. The international community needs to do better at funding the tribunals, supporting their investigative work and arrest strategies with full cooperation, and using diplomatic pressure to press reluctant governments to act in the interests of justice rather than their narrow national interests alone.

CM: Which aspect do you think has proven more important after conficts: peace and reconciliation commissions that offer immunity in return for full disclosure of past crimes, or trials of officials previously involved in atrocities?

DS: This is not necessarily a choice anymore. It was 20 years ago when the a peace and reconciliation commission approach was employed in South Africa. But during the last two decades the creation of the permanent International Criminal Court, with 121 states parties (including South Africa), and the long usage of other war crimes tribunals have changed the landscape. The international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes cannot be bargained way anymore; political, military, and even business leaders stand accountable for their actions under international law now, and nations have accepted that reality in their ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Nonetheless, there remains the opportunity to explore peace and reconciliation commissions for mid-level and low-level perpetrators of atrocity crimes, namely those individuals who would not be subject to investigation and prosecution anyway by the war crimes tribunals. Even there, though, nations are increasingly building into their criminal codes the enforcement of criminal law for the commission of atrocity crimes. It may remain the possibility that full disclosure of past crimes might enable mid-level and low-life perpetrators to avoid enforcement of such domestic criminal law, but that depends on the particular country at stake and its criminal code.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

$100 Million to Hudson Valley in NYS Economic Development Awards

Posted By on Sun, Dec 23, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Screen_shot_2012-12-23_at_11.41.36_AM.png

On December 19, Governor Cuomo announced that $738 million had been awarded through Round Two of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. Created in 2011, the initiative is part of the Cuomo's strategy to redesign the state's approach to economic development from a top-down model to a community-based, performance-driven approach.

As part of the second round of the Regional Council process, Governor Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, and a Strategic Implementation Assessment Team composed of state agency commissioners with Brookings Institution and senior staff, traveled acrossthe state to view progress on projects that have received state funding, as well as assess projects included in the region's 2012 application.

The Mid-Hudson region received close to $100 million for a variety of projects, from cultural activities to infrastructure development, including the following:

$3 million to establish the New York State Cloud Computing and Analytics Center at Marist College that will facilitate operations for technology based firms by providing workforce training and reducing overhead.

$1 million for Touro College to use the now vacant Horton Hospital in Middletown to house a school of osteopathic medicine. The new school would help bolster the number of medical professionals in the Mid-Hudson region.

$775,000 to create a Hudson Valley Food Hub that will provide processing and marketing opportunities to farmers and other food producers, leveraging the region's outstanding agricultural resources. Strengthening the area's food distribution infrastructure will help retain and stimulate an economic sector that also supports tourism and the region's natural resources.

$500,000 to develop the Matrix Distribution Park in Newburgh, including the construction of a 550,000-square-foot manufacturing/distribution facility at the intersection of I-84 & I-87 with the goal of attracting a Fortune 500 company.

$2 million to develop the site of the closed Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dutchess County, including upgrading a Metro-North train station, a commercial/retail area, 9-hole golf course, community center, and 200 units of housing.

$1.2 million for the construction of a mile-long Hudson Landing Promenade along the Hudson River straddling the City of Kingston/Town of Ulster municipal boundary on an old industrial site.

The full list of awardees is available on the Regional Economic Development Council website.

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Hudson Valley Events

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Photography Workshop with China Jorrin @ Opus 40

Photography Workshop with China Jorrin

Sat., Aug. 17, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. — Bring your iPhone and, if you want, a fancy camera. We will...
Sunset Yoga on the Roof Garden @ The Inn and Spa at Beacon

Sunset Yoga on the Roof Garden

Mondays-Saturdays, 6:30-7:45 p.m. Continues through Sept. 27 — Purchase a ticket for your desired date to reserve your spot. 6:30pm...

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