Orange County homelessness: Growing pains in creating emergency shelters and the search for long term solutions

Orange County’s homeless population has risen to 7,000 from from 4,500 two years ago.Anti-camping ordinances in the county mean they can get fined for sleeping in their cars on the street. But a federal court decision, which the Supreme Court let stand just this morning, says those anti-camping laws cannot be enforced if there aren’t enough shelters for people to use instead.

So county officials have been scrambling to turn old bus stations, motels, warehouses and other spaces into shelters. They’re basically constructing an Orange County shelter system from scratch.

Is music effective rehab for California inmates?

Rock musician Cody Marks is onstage at a gymnasium at San Diego’s Richard J. Donovan prison, a few miles from the Mexico border. About 50 people are in the audience. They’re mostly wearing prison-issued blue shirts with the words CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) on the back.

Marks tunes her guitar. “I know that a lot of you might think it’s weird that I play prisons. But I’m the biggest Johnny Cash fan that ever lived. I believe I was put here to continue his journey. I believe he’d be proud of all of us here.” Listen to full story here:

Meet Lupe Félix, who crosses the US-Mexico border twice a day for high school

For Lupe Félix, senior year was supposed to be all about prom, hanging out with friends and graduation. She envisioned that her mom would be at her graduation, celebrating the milestone. But then her mom got stuck on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Her mother, was experiencing visa issues and went to Mexico to resolve her legal status. Instead, she wasn’t allowed back home to the United States. Félix, a U.S. citizen, moved to Tijuana to be with her parents and spent senior year commuting across the border to high school in San Diego. Listen here:

Opinion: I sent my daughter to study in America. Your gun culture killed her

NOV. 15, KARACHI, Pakistan —

LA Times

When we sent our daughter Sabika to study in the United States from Pakistan, we were not fully aware of the gun culture there. That’s not something the exchange program warned us about. We thought she would be safe.

Instead, a few days before she was scheduled to return from her year abroad in Houston, Texas, she was one of 10 people shot and killed by a classmate in the Santa Fe High School shooting in May of 2018. We were devastated.

It’s not as if we don’t have violence in Pakistan. In 2014 we had a horrific school shooting in Peshawar. A total of 141 students and faculty were massacred in what was, for me, the darkest moment in my country’s history. But all of the shooters were foreign terrorists, and since then, heightened security and restricted access to guns has helped ensure that nothing like that has happened again.

What I don’t understand with U.S. school shootings like the one at Santa Fe — or the one at Saugus High School on Thursday — is who the enemy is. Students are shooting their neighbors, their classmates, their coworkers. What leads to that?

At the time of the Santa Fe shooting, we were getting ready for Sabika’s return, which coincided with the end of Ramadan. We were busy preparing all her favorite foods in anticipation of a joyful arrival. Instead, the holiday was a time of mourning and grief.

A lot of people came to visit our home and pay their respects, and I didn’t really have the time and space to think through the impact of this horrible experience. After people left, when the grief was too great, I continued to tell myself that my daughter was still in the U.S., still on her exchange program.

On my better days, I felt like maybe Allah had given us the year of her studying abroad, away from home, so we could learn to live without her.

Earlier this year, my husband and I visited Houston with our three remaining children to see the school she had loved and meet her host families. It was a difficult trip. During a layover in Istanbul on our way to Texas, one of our children begged us to abandon our plans and go back to Karachi.

Not only has development of the drug Herceptin saved the lives of an untold number of women with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, but it also opened new avenues of research that have led to multiple other targeted therapies that…

In Houston, we visited the mosque where our daughter’s funeral took place. And we visited Santa Fe High School, where she was killed. It was summertime, so the halls were mostly empty and quiet. But the entire time we were there, I wanted to escape. My younger daughter, Sania, was brave enough to peek into the art room where her big sister died. She later talked about how everything at the school seemed sad: the atmosphere, the trees, the air, everything.

We visited a counseling center where some of the surviving victims of Sabika’s school shooting have gone for help. There we met the only female student to survive in the room where Sabika died. She recounted those terrifying moments, and how she had tried to get Sabika to run out of the room with her, but said my daughter chose to hide under a desk. As this student remembered that horrible day, she cried. A year after the massacre, she was still incredibly traumatized. I hugged her. It was nice to meet someone who had been friends with my daughter.

I also met another mother who lost a child in the shooting. This woman told me she had to move from her house because she couldn’t bear to see her daughter’s old bedroom or to drive the same roads that she used to with her child. This woman took my hand and cried and cried.

On our flight from Houston, Sania sat next to an older passenger and started talking to her. She shared the story of Sabika’s death, and this woman told her that she lost her 44-year-old son to gun violence, leaving her three grandchildren with no father. My daughter and this complete stranger began crying together. She told Sania that more measures need to be taken to limit access to guns. I can’t understand why more Americans don’t see that need.

I don’t know what we expected from our trip, but the colorful image of life in the U.S. that Sabika always painted for us on the phone was not the world we experienced. Without her there, all we saw was black and white.

I blame myself for not knowing more about gun violence in the U.S. before I allowed Sabika to study there. But I also blame your gun culture.

Farah Aziz lives with her family in Karachi, Pakistan. This op-ed was adapted from interviews with Aziz and her daughter Sania conducted by Jesse Hardman.

Op-Ed: Trump wants Guatemalans like me to stay home. Here’s why so many don’t

Los Angeles Times

I recently went to a parents’ meeting at my children’s elementary school in the rural town of Aguacatán, Guatemala, a few hours from the Mexico border. As usual, I was one of the only men there.

This disparity has nothing to do with machismo or Latin gender roles; it’s that there just aren’t many men in Aguacatán. They’re all in places like North Carolina, Florida and the state of Washington. It has been this way for years; what’s new now is that there are getting to be fewer women and children, too. They are also heading north.

Most of those leaving don’t want to do it, but they no longer see how they can survive here. Why? Government corruption, income disparity, narco violence and foreign exploitation all play a role. So does climate change, which is taking a toll on our ability to raise the crops that have traditionally sustained rural Guatemalans.

Although I have gone legally on tourist visas to visit family in the north — a brother, two aunts and three uncles, some of them in the U.S. legally, some not — I haven’t even considered staying on without papers because I want to stay on the right side of the law.

Now, however, for the first time my wife and I are considering trying to get to the United States, too. We wake up early most mornings and watch our three young kids sleeping, wondering what future awaits them here. It increasingly feels like there isn’t one.

The U.S. government is telling families like mine to stay, and make a better Guatemala. I’ve tried to do that. I started a business. I work to connect Guatemalans with the internet. I have a small farm. My wife has a small business sewing traditional Mayan clothing. Her customer base consists almost entirely of families living in the U.S. They’re the only ones with enough disposable income to pay for this sort of thing. We are doing everything we can, and it’s not enough.

A few years ago I started a small mobile phone kiosk in my village. It was briefly profitable. But then tons of other similar shops began popping up, sharply undercutting my prices. They could do this because many of them weren’t legitimate businesses at all; merely fronts for money laundering by human and drug traffickers.

There’s corruption like this in any country, but in Guatemala, there’s little risk for lawbreakers. Officials have embraced corruption as simply part of life here and do almost nothing to stop it. The tolerance extends to the highest levels of government. Our outgoing President Jimmy Morales moved to shut down a United Nations-backed anti-corruption commission after it investigated his son and brother, as well as the financing of his campaign.One core problem here is massive inequity. Less than 1% of the Guatemalan population has more wealth than all the rest of us put together. There is no way to counter that kind of disparity, so people leave, and head to the U.S., where the system isn’t entirely rigged.

Even a college degree doesn’t help in Guatemala without political connections or the money to bribe someone to get a job.

The Mayan families in my part of Guatemala traditionally keep small farms. Most farmers earn only a few dollars a day, and even that’s a struggle because of the changing climate. We look at the sky, waiting for rain, but the rainy seasons have shifted, or don’t come at all. My grandparents grew corn, the sacred Mayan crop, but over the years we’ve diversified our fields to try to make some additional income.

With farms failing, people in rural areas rely on remittances from the U.S. to put food on the table. Money from relatives working in the States is the one thing that has enabled families like mine to stay in Guatemala. The remittances pay for roads and infrastructure in towns the Guatemalan government ignores. We head to the U.S. in part to save the places we came from.

What’s most frustrating is that the U.S. government has been undermining one of the actual solutions to all this. About four years ago I saw hope for a better future when Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina was forced to resign after being investigated by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala — the very commission Morales has moved to shut down.

When Donald Trump took office, his administration sided with Morales on the commission, remaining silent as he moved to dismantle the one independent entity that was trying to make Guatemala a functioning country of laws again.

Now Morales is trying to do Trump a favor in return, by striking a deal to designate Guatemala as a “safe third country,” meaning that other Central American migrants who pass through Guatemala to get to the United States will be required to stay here while their asylum claims are resolved. But how can Guatemala ensure safety and security for tens of thousands of Central American migrants from other countries when there is no accountability from the government to its own struggling citizens? There are no jobs, no food, no future here. Adding struggling Hondurans and El Salvadorans to the mix will cause only more misery.

Yes, we’re getting a new president soon, Alejandro Giammattei, but he’s more of the same. He has the same problematic ties to military and elites that Morales has. Giammattei hasn’t promised to support CICIG, so corruption will simply continue in Guatemala.

When I walk the streets of Aguacatán these days, it’s a lonely place, a ghost town. Yes, there are more modern houses and businesses now because of remittances from the U.S., but there are fewer and fewer people to enjoy them.

The U.S. helped shape what Guatemala is today, both through involving itself in the country’s internal politics over decades, and through corporate banana farming here. The U.S.-based United Fruit Co.controlled much of Guatemala’s economy and politics for decades beginning in the early 1900s. This involvement helped exacerbate the corruption, income disparity and violence that have created our current instability and led to my friends and neighbors going to your country.

It’s not as simple as telling us all to stay and fix our own country, when you played a role in breaking it. When you can’t see a future for your family, is leaving really a choice?

William López lives and works in Aguacatán, Guatemala. This op-ed was adapted from interviews with López conducted by Jesse Hardman, who also served as translator.

Op-Ed: In Venezuela, life has gone from bad to worse. And the world has quit noticing

In recent weeks, the people calling in to my morning radio show in the Venezuelan town of Trujillo have asked questions I just can’t answer: “When will the power be back?” “Where can we get clean water?” “How long will we have to deal with this situation?”

Things have been hard for years here, and Venezuelans have gotten used to power disruptions, food shortages and other systemic problems. But lately it’s been much, much worse.

Power outages now last anywhere from 10 hours to five days, and affect critical facilities. The other day somebody from a nearby hospital reached out to me on social media so I could let listeners know that the power at their facility was down. “Thank God nobody was attached to a life-saving machine or in surgery when the power went out,” the message said.

My radio station, Trujillo 102.5 FM, has been a lifeline to local residents. When the power goes out, we’ve been one of two broadcasters able to stay on the air with backup generators. The other is a state-sponsored station.

We don’t promote ourselves as anti-government media, but we do make an effort to go beyond government messaging and propaganda. We bring in experts to share their knowledge, and we talk to ordinary citizens about what they’re seeing and experiencing as they navigate inflation, unemployment, lack of healthcare, and other problems. We don’t simply accept pat government explanations, which always seem to blame anyone but the government.

When you’re struggling to put food on the table, to shower in the morning, and to find work, it’s hard to keep pushing.

In other words, we’re objective, but these days, that’s enough to get a news outlet labeled as an “opositor” (opponent). So far, we’ve remained mostly on the air, but in other parts of the country, radio stations have been shut down by the Maduro regime and had their equipment confiscated.

The worst problem we’ve had is that somebody recently destroyed our backup generators by throwing Molotov cocktails at them. Emergency responders found glass and burned fabric at the scene, and said there was no way it was a mechanical malfunction. Now, whenever there is a blackout, our station is off the air, meaning the government station is the lone voice people can listen to in Trujillo. I was only able to do my morning show once this past week.

Here’s what my days have been like lately. I get up to see if there’s any power in town. If there isn’t, not only does it mean I can’t work; it also means my family doesn’t have water to drink or shower with. It means our refrigerator doesn’t work, so any perishable food has to get cooked right away. Trujillo has started smelling like a never-ending community barbecue, as butchers are forced to get rid of their stock, and neighbors have to grill all the meat they have before it goes bad.

We all spend a lot of time in lines. I wait for hours at ATMs just so I can take out the maximum withdrawal of 3,000 bolivares, the equivalent of less than one U.S. dollar. On top of all our other shortages, there’s also a shortage of cash in my country. Last week I waited three hours to get gas for my car, because fuel stations were without power too. I can’t drive too far because I have to preserve the fuel I have. More and more, people get around by walking, because gas is hard to get and public transit isn’t getting repaired. Every day feels like a national holiday because everything is so quiet.

If there is power, and I can do my job, I’ve been told by my bosses to be more measured in how I cover what’s happening in Venezuela. They’re terrified of being shut down by the government and having their equipment confiscated. That would spell the end of our station. Already, my co-host and I have to find the advertisers for our shows — businesses like jewelry stores, restaurants and an air-conditioner repair shop. But these supporters are experiencing tough times, too, and some of them have told us that, because we’re off the air so often, they can’t pay us anymore.

This past January when opposition leader Juan Guaido challenged President Nicolas Maduro, everybody thought this was the beginning of something new. We’ve been living with this situation for decades now, and change seemed like it was around the corner. We hoped that within a few days, or a week, our nightmare would be over.

Now it’s April, and the protests have gotten smaller, and the protesters’ resolve has waned. Venezuelans are tired. When you’re struggling to put food on the table, to shower in the morning, and to find work, it’s hard to keep pushing.

A few months ago, the world was paying attention to our plight. Now that it’s not clear when or if change will come, nobody’s watching Venezuela anymore. I worry that the world doesn’t see how much worse things are getting.

As for me and my family, we’ve talked a lot lately about leaving. My wife’s an architect, and because the economy is in ruins, she hasn’t worked in a year. Nobody has money to build anything. We’re ready to go, but Venezuela won’t let us leave. We applied for a passport for my 14-month-old daughter soon after she was born. We’re still waiting for it to be processed. Like millions of our fellow Venezuelans, we are stuck, waiting, literally and figuratively, for the lights to come back on.

José Antonio Ocanto is a journalist and host of a daily public affairs radio show in Trujillo, Venezuela. This op-ed was adapted from interviews with Ocanto by Jesse Hardman, who also served as translator.

Peru’s Decades Long Battle with Fake News

When reporters arrived at the home of former Peruvian President Alan García on Wednesday, they thought they were witnessing a van taking him to jail on corruption charges. But that vehicle was actually headed to the hospital. García shot himself before he could be taken into custody; he later died in hospital.

Those facts then entered the vortex that is Peru’s media landscape — and Peru has a complicated news culture that trafficked in fake news long before the term was popularized by Donald Trump. See full story here

Op-Ed: I traveled across 10 countries for asylum in the U.S. I wound up living the ‘Mexican Dream’ instead

Red Hook after the storm Video

Ulyses Bermudez just had his first bath in a week and a half. “It was so fantastic, it took me two hours and 22 minutes to warm up that water. But when I went in there, I was at heaven, I was at peace. I mean, I scrubbed myself down, I felt so fresh, I felt like I was born again. It felt so good.”

Bermudez lives at 80 Dwight street, one of the 25 public housing buildings that make up the Red Hook West homes. Hurricane Sandy caused high tides to spread out over the Red Hook neighborhood, which sits right off the ocean in South Brooklyn. It flooded the basement of Bermudez’s building, disabling everything but the gas. Bermudez recently got his water back on, but it’s cold. He, and most of the other 100 or so neighbors who refused to leave the building for storm shelters, have not been able to do basic things, like shower, for going on two weeks.

A new generation of activists, born next to an oil refinery

Ask any native of Wilmington, California, for directions, and you’ll get a quick glimpse of what daily reality is like here. “I live on the side of town where Phillips 66 is, or where the Tesoro refinery is. Or where the container yards are; the side of town with the ports,” says resident Sylvia Arredondo, rattling off the various ways a local might tell you how to get to his or her house.

This 10-square-mile South Los Angeles community, population 50,000, has the dubious distinction of having some of the worst air quality in a city that already has the country’s worst ozone levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to its proximity to three oil refineries and hundreds of active oil wells, it’s penned in by three freeways and the Port of Los Angeles — the nation’s largest. Thousands of diesel rigs rumble through the residential neighborhoods. Read entire story here

What it’s like to do KCRW’s 24-hour Radio Race for the first time

I started a radio workshop with teen reporters in East L.A. recently as a community engagement partnership with KCRW. The kids recently competed in a radio production contest where they recorded and voiced their first ever radio story! Here’s how it went down:

A few weeks ago five reporters from the Boyle Heights Beat in East L.A. participated in KCRWs annual Radio Race, where teams of audio producers have 24 hours to turn a theme into a four minute radio feature.

After only a month of radio training, the Boyle Heights Beat producers set out with their digital recorders to document an alternative energy festival in their community. Here is the result of their radio efforts. 

We asked them over Slack what it was like to do the Radio Race for the first time.

The World: US Embassy Design

Security is a top concern these days at US embassies.

It’s most pronounced at the embassy complex under construction in Baghdad.

The compound is designed to be so self-contained that embassy personnel need never venture beyond it.

Some have dubbed it “Fortress America.”

But some observers say that’s not the face US embassies should be showing to the rest of the world. Correspondent Jesse Hardman **** has more. Listen here:

Asylum Caravan

The trip across Mexico is notoriously dangerous for Central American migrants seeking asylum. Extortion, violence, immigration raids are common. If they make it to the U.S. border, they can spend weeks, months and even years in detention.

Reporter Jesse Hardman recently met up with a caravan of Central Americans who are trying a strength-in-numbers approach to fleeing the troubles back home.

With Both Communities Concerned, Latino Muslims Learn About Their Rights

There are some places where the two communities involved in President Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigrants, as well as the one securing the U.S.-Mexico border, overlap.

One of these areas is Southern California. Immigrants in Los Angeles are relying on mosques, community groups and their own families to navigate the complicated new immigration climate.

Louisianans finding local solutions 6 months after epic floods.

There was a lot of talk of what it would cost to make people WHOLE again after last summer’s devastating floods. And while bureaucrats have searched for a way to quantify a complete recovery for Louisiana residents, Jesse Hardman reports on how many flood affected families are simply going about finding their own ways forward.

Listen to story here

Preacher’s Kid

Radio producer Jesse Hardman has a tenuous connection with William Graham, a man who once lived as a fugitive from federal authorities for over 20 years. They both are preacher’s kids, sons of episcopal priests. In fact, Jesse’s father, Robert Hardman, was a student of Holt Graham at seminary. Jesse became interested in Graham’s case, and the two men began a correspondence, and then a series of telephone conversations from prison. William Graham, now known as Morgan, recalled his 15-year odyssey of political extremism, robbery, murder, hijacking, and evading capture. Eventually Jesse starts to realize how alike the two preacher’s kids actually are.

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Cajun Mardi Gras

ACADIANA, La. — It is just after dawn on Mardi Gras, but I’m not at some Bourbon Street bar, facedown on the floor trying to rally for some morning parades. No, I’m off a country road more than 100 miles from New Orleans, shivering in near freezing weather, wearing a patchwork yellow and orange costume I pieced together, kneeling in the mud as a bunch of strangers dressed in red and black pour alcohol on me and threaten me with a whip.

In order to set foot on this farm somewhere in southern Louisiana, I had to swear not to reveal the location, the names of the event organizers or anything else that might lead you to this Cajun version of X marks the spot. The Faquetaique Courir de Mardi Gras is a version of a centuries-old begging procession that began in rural France as a precursor to Lent. This part of Louisiana, also known as Acadiana, was settled by a French Catholic diaspora expelled from northeastern Canada by the British in the 1600s. Eventually they migrated, with their French traditions, to the American South.

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This American Life – Act Three, Lost in Translation

Screen shot 2011-08-11 at 12.09.19 PM

Stories of what can and cannot be translated. A short, non-athletic, bespectacled East Asian studies major who couldn’t make his high school basketball team finds himself in the NBA as the personal translator for the first-ever Chinese pro basketball superstar, Yao Ming. Plus, a Palestinian man teaches Hebrew classes in the Gaza strip to Palestinians eager to learn news from the other side of the checkpoint.

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A New Orleans Day

Early last November, in New Orleans’s Upper 9th Ward, a woman in her 50s wandered through the morning sunshine in an oversized t-shirt and pyjama bottoms. She stumbled across Bunny Friend Park, past an empty flask of Hennessey, yellow police tape and a bloodstained playground — the remains of a crime scene from the previous night when an impromptu party ended in a shootout. There were 17 victims; miraculously none died. The woman wouldn’t give her real name, only a moniker — TeeWee — because she said if the shooters knew she talked to the media, they’d think “that lady’s a snitch.” She said she was afraid of the repercussions: “I got 11 kids, and I want to live to see em.” She’d been looking for a grandchild when she wandered over to the event the night before. She saw a DJ and people dancing — and then suddenly “they were shooting everywhere.” She heard multiple gunshots, including one she thought was from an AK47. One of the victims fell on top of her.

Read Full Article Here

The Battle To Keep Ho Chi Minh City Above Water

Vietnam has one of the fastest rates of urbanization of any country in the world. Almost half of its nearly 90 million residents are expected to be living in cities by 2030. Many internal migrants are heading to Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s economic center, looking for jobs and money. But that metropolis is seeing some growing pains as it expands its infrastructure along the Mekong Delta region. Geography and climate change are combining to challenge the viability of Ho Chi Minh City, just as its fortunes are rising.

Danh Duc hobbles around his apartment in Ho Chi Minh City’s suburban 7th District looking for a photograph. He’s just back from having an operation at a nearby hospital. The 63 year old Duc reports for local Tuoi Tre newspaper. Duc points to the image he shot of his hospital room.

“The floor, what was shining on the floor?” Duc asks.

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Young, Married, and Incarcerated

It’s called “ceiling time” at Eastern Correctional facility in New York’s Hudson Valley—those minutes between heading back to one’s cell and falling asleep. “Ceiling time is when you lay down and you’re reflecting on things, looking up at the ceiling,” says 28 year-old inmate José Pérez, “thinking about the day, what I did right, what I did wrong.” Pérez has already had a lot of time to think: He was given a 20 years to life sentence for second-degree murder when he was only 16 years old.

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In Louisiana, kids learn about balancing the books and paying bills-Marketplace

Tyrell Raby is a little nervous as he waits in line at a Baton Rouge bank.

“If you have a low credit score the bank won’t trust you that much,” he said.

Raby’s 13, and he’s actually at a fake bank, set up at a mall in Baton Rouge, with around 50 eighth-grade classmates from McKinley Middle School. He’s participating in a financial literacy course for middle schoolers.

Last May, Louisiana made financial literacy a mandatory topic in state public schools. The goal is to create a more money savvy generation in a place with some of the highest poverty rates in the country, and according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the highest rate of unbanked residents.

Planting Questions in New Orleans

Three years ago I moved to New Orleans because of a question. I was sitting having a beer with a local news director who had just been tasked with creating a new news department, but didn’t have funding for any staff. “How do you cover a city without any reporters?” she asked. It was an interesting question to say the least, so I moved south from New York to find out what the answer might be.

I’ve spent the last three years developing the Listening Post, a project that creates an expansive conversation around New Orleans about what’s happening in the city, and how that news impacts citizens. The project focuses on marginalized communities that are often spoken for by the media, without an opportunity to represent themselves. I began building participation in the project by sharing an information needs assessment, a survey that asks people how they get and pass information, what they’d like to know more about, and how best to reach them on a regular basis.

Read complete story here

Financial Strain of Flood Recovery

Back in August, just after the historic floods, Louisiana officials expressed concern that proposed federal and state disaster recovery funds might not be enough. With deadlines for flood assistance programs passed, or looming, affected residents are learning the math of getting back on their feet.

Listen here

Listening is a Revolutionary Act: Part 1

In 2002, about six years into my reporting career, I was hired to teach journalism to high school students as part of a public radio diversity initiative. For two years I went a couple of Fridays a month to Queen of Peace, a Catholic girls school on the outer reaches of Chicago’s Western side that was a mixture of students from working class black, hispanic, and white neighborhoods. My project was inserted into their regular Biology class, and my job was to get them to document environmental issues in their neighborhoods. I sent them off with microphones, and questions, expecting to hear about things like water pollution, greenspace, and bird migration. What came back at me was an insightful window into their communities and a much broader interpretation of environment than I think the project creators had intended. Gang violence, noise pollution (from nearby Midway airport), step-parents, and public transit all came back at me under the “environment” umbrella.

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The World: New Jersey’s “Little Lima” responds to Peru earthquake

It’s been two weeks since a powerful earthquake devastated parts of Peru. The quake killed more than 500 people.

It also left tens of thousands of Peruvians without shelter, food, and other necessities.

Help is trickling down now to some of the most affected areas in Peru.

But many Peruvians complain that the government relief operation is too slow.

Jesse Hardman reports on one group of Peruvian immigrants who’ve mounted their own relief effort.

A Lower Ninth Ward Story

John Taylor started his walks a few months after the storm, when he first came back to the Lower Ninth Ward.

In the beginning, it was just to see what happened to his neighbors. Who had stayed and who returned, and who didn’t and why. It helped him track the property damage, houses pulled off their foundations by floodwaters, then deposited blocks away.

Ten years later, Taylor is still walking. Each Sunday, just after dawn, he gets up to secure the perimeters of his island. His uniform is a pair of faded jeans, a polo shirt, a camouflage baseball cap with a deer on it, and most importantly, a beautiful walking stick fashioned from a twisted local willow branch, a piece of post-Katrina driftwood.

Full Story

Abandoned but not uninhabited: The blighted homes of New Orleans

“Don’t throw up now,” Mike King says as he begins to remove his right foot from a plastic bag. What “started off with a little spot,” King says, is now a full-blown infection that has caused his foot to grow to twice its normal size. Most of his heel bone is visible, emerging out of his skin. The stench of rotting flesh is overwhelming. “That’s bone I’m walking on. I’m walking on nothing but bone, you know. Every time I put my foot down, it hurts.”

A New Orleans native, King, 57, is squatting in what’s left of a building he has called home for 20 years, long before the post-Katrina floods gutted the shotgun structure. He moved back in after a stint at the Superdome, where he stayed after the storm. His home is one of New Orleans’ estimated 43,000 abandoned buildings — the worst such statistic of any U.S. city other than Detroit. A drive through the Big Easy will show many of these properties are hardly vacant.

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After the Storm

Anniversaries of disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, are important, because they help gauge what’s been learned and what progress has been made. They allow people an opportunity to grieve. But just as often, anniversary coverage overlooks the most important detail that inevitably comes up in a humanitarian situation—peoples’ resilience.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, I had been living in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighbourhood for two months. Long enough to know where to drink a beer, and where to go for a pick-up game of soccer on the weekend. Not long enough to have any kind of relationship with my new community, which since 1939 has been home to the Red Hook Houses — with more than 6,500 residents, Brooklyn’s largest public housing development.


The Dark Side of the Force in Duluth, Minnesota

Whenever Joseph Moya travels around Duluth, Minnesota, the journey unsettles him. Back in Arizona, where Moya, grew up, he felt he was sometimes in the majority because he is Navajo. But in Duluth where a local foster family took him in four years ago, when he was 16, he feels trapped and exposed when he leaves select parts of town. “It’s like Star Wars, it has a dark side and a light side. Depends on what side you want to see it from,” he says as he fills out a job application for Applebees.

Moya describes Duluth’s lighter side as an upbeat place that draws tourism attracted by the city’s naturally beautiful perch above the lake. But he’s more used to the darker side. Since he moved to town he says he’s felt watched constantly by local police, business owners, and citizens when he enters the light side. “Stop following us in stores and stuff, dude. Stop calling us racist names. I didn’t come up to you and say, what’s up white trash…why would I do that, it’s disrespectful and hurtful.”

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Louisiana Falls Off The Map

BAYOU PETIT CAILLOU, La.—Just before sunset on a humid weekday, Vic and Bebe McElroy, a couple in their 60s, are cruising through one of the bayous south of New Orleans in their skiff, Fish Dancer. Rickety, oil-stained boats, full of burlap sacks stuffed with oysters, are docking at the Coco Marina in Cocodrie as Fish Dancer passes. Bayou Petit Caillou, the waterway the McElroys use almost more than paved roads, flows gently into an open bay and then the Gulf.

Bebe tells Vic to slow the boat so she can recount a story. “We were runnin’ in front of the islands one day, fishin’, and it was beautiful—it was gorgeous,” she recalls. It looked like the boat was in open water. Then she noticed something odd. “I said, ‘Honey, look at those birds—they’re walking on water.’ ” Realizing the birds must be standing in very shallow water, she told Vic to make sure they didn’t get stuck. But it was too late: The skiff’s hull was lodged in what not long ago had been land but was now mud just below the surface, out of sight.

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Diverting The Mississippi River To Save The Louisiana Coast

In a lush green bayou a little southeast of New Orleans, John Lopez and Howard Callahan are cruising the waterways in an airboat under the hot Louisiana sun on a recent day.

It’s an area known as Breton Basin, and Callahan is a local land manager who often helps researchers such as Lopez explore environmental changes in coastal wetlands. The pair head to a concrete and steel structure that separates the bayou from the nearby Mississippi River.

This is the Caernarvon river diversion. Built in 1991, it works like a faucet: When it’s open, freshwater and sediment from the Mississippi River — usually hemmed in by the levee system — flow back into what was a dying swamp. Diversions such as this one are meant to free the river to do its original job as it nears the Gulf of Mexico: spread out sediment, create land and provide freshwater to local habitats.

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Elevating Homes To Survive Coastal Erosion

In the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana’s shoreline, residents who live near waterways have a new mantra – high and dry. Many are embracing home elevation. Jesse Hardman, of member station WWNO, reports.

JESSE HARDMAN, BYLINE: Kim Reeves is going through her checklist on a home renovation job in Louisiana’s Palquemines Parish, which hugs the Mississippi River along its last few miles before the Gulf of Mexico.

KIM REEVES: I’m going with a stucco color that is going to mimic the stucco color on the front of his house that he has now.

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BP Oil Spill Anniversary Highlights Changes In Industry Safety Standards

Five years ago today, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers. Over the course of three months, more than 3 million barrels of oil gushed into the water, killing the wildlife and fouling hundreds of miles of beaches from Florida to Texas. BP owned the rig and has paid out billions of dollars in penalties. And as we’re going to hear now, safety standards in the offshore oil industry have been scrutinized, too. Jesse Hardman of member station WWNO reports.

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New Orleans Urges Sales Tax Hike Support To Fund French Quarter Police


New Orleans has always been a high-crime city. Many people of had enough, and they’re getting creative. There’s a new crime-fighting app. And tomorrow, there will be a vote on a proposed tax to pay for police patrols in the French Quarter. Reporter Jesse Hardman sent us this story.


JESSE HARDMAN, BYLINE: On a warm, autumn night, a crown of a hundred people congregates at a park in New Orleans’ St. Roch neighborhood. There’s a barbecue and a high school marching band – pretty standard fare for this lively city. But the mayor, police superintendent and other top officials shuffle their leather shoes across the baseball outfield. City councilmember Jason Williams steps up to a PA system.

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Escaping from Burma but Falling into Slavery

Based on Thai government statistics, there are an estimated 2 to 3 million Burmese working in Thailand. Many of the original wave of migrants came during political turmoil in the late 1980s, but the vast majority arrived in the last decade, for economic reasons. Corruption, international sanctions, and government mismanagement have strangled the Burmese economy.  Most importantly, to young Burmese like Khun Mint, the country ranks near the bottom 10% in terms of per capita GDP. So people leave, by the thousands, often with the help of what some migrant labor rights advocates worry is a growing human trafficking network.

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Spain Makes a Comeback in NYC

When Jose Manuel “Manolo” Gomara arrived in New York City for the first time in 2010, he had been away from his home country of Spain for a year, working at a restaurant in Cancun, Mexico. But he wasn’t done with his travels, and the image of this metropolis, one he gleaned from watching television as a kid, had always loomed in his mind.

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A Public Radio Station Tunes In to a City’s Innermost Thoughts

Violence visits New Orleans with sobering regularity. The local paper keeps a grim roll call of the city’s annual murder count—95 and climbing this year—and the figure can be numbing. But that doesn’t mean coverage about it needs to be.

Take, for instance, a recent episode of the Listening Post, a weekly segment on WWNO, the local public radio station. Prompted by an August drive-by shooting that killed two and injured five, the piece features an array of voices addressing a charged question: “What’s your experience with violence in New Orleans?”

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Red Beans & Ricely Yours

Around 11 p.m. on a Monday night at B.J.’s Lounge, an old wooden shack of a dive bar in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, 40-year-old musician Jimmy Horn warms up his vocal cords. “We got beans and cornbread” he sings, as he strums his guitar, “100 percent good, I tell you what.”

Like any good bluesman, he’s just telling it like it is. There are, in fact, beans and corn bread (with jalapeños) about four feet from where he’s playing. Earlier in the day, he and his band, King James and the Special Men, slow-cooked five pounds of red beans and rice, simmering it for six hours. Just like every Monday night at B.J.’s, their weekly gig, they’ve made enough for everybody, which tonight is about 50 people.

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How a D.C. High School Football Team Beat All Odds

At halftime of Saturday’s DC  inaugural “state” high school football game, coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim gave his Friendship Collegiate Academy players a kind of mid-term grade for the first half. “C, probably a C- type of feeling I got inside of me right now,” he says. “It’s up to you guys to get this @#*% to an A.”

It didn’t matter that the Friendship was winning 22-6. Abdul-Rahim wanted perfection, especially since it took nearly a decade just to get invited to this game.

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A Tale Of Two Coastal Towns Part 2: Plaquemines Parish

For the first 50 years of his life Donald Stokes lived happily in Braithwaite, a town of a few hundred residents in Plaquemines Parish. In 2006 he and his wife decided to leave.

Stokes says it was such a painful departure that it took him two years to actually complete the move. “Slowly but surely I put stuff on a trailer, came back, put stuff on a trailer, came back. It wasn’t easy. It felt like I was uprooting my life.”

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A Tale Of Two Coastal Towns Part 1: Staten Island

Low-lying coastal areas are the front lines for sea level rise, and increasingly frequent and destructive storms at sea. Hurricane Sandy proved it’s not just the South or the Gulf Coast at risk. Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs, saw heavy flooding after Hurricane Sandy, which hit two years ago this month.

The way Eddie Perez tells it, the night of October 29, 2012 played out like one of those movies about the apocalypse. “About 7:55 I was watching the news and they said at 8 o’clock it was coming.”

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River Diversions And The Fate Of Louisiana’s Coast

A big part of Louisiana’s coastal Master Plan centers around something called “diversions.” Fresh water from the Mississippi River is diverted so that the water, and the silt it carries, can rebuild the sinking coast. But this technique, a centerpiece of Louisiana’s coastal Master Plan, is contentious.

Those who have been lucky enough to travel to the Wax Lake Delta are prone to gush about it. “You’re going a place that is one of the few bright spots on the coast of Louisiana,” says Ben Weber, who leads trips to the Wax Lake area as an outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation.

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State Representative In New Orleans East Sounds Call Over Coastal Erosion

The face of coastal erosion in Louisiana is often defined by the most visibly threatened communities. Towns that are literally trying to determine how long they have before they might have to move. And while there’s few people calling on New Orleans residents to start making Plan B’s, some local leaders are trying to get their constituents to be more aware.

For the past decade Austin Badon has officially represented New Orleans East’s District 100 in the state legislature. But he’s unofficially been a local tour guide for a lot longer. “I’ve spent almost all of my life in New Orleans East,” says Badon, as he steers his Red Humvee from his office parking lot onto Bullard Avenue.

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The Listening Post: A community engagement media project in New Orleans

The Listening Post is a community media project that aims to start a conversation about local news in New Orleans. Every week on our radio segment we talk about issues ranging from healthcare to WhoDat, tattoos to transportation.

Listeners can both contribute thoughts and commentary about important issues in their neighborhoods, and also receive important local news and information.

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Become Apart of Local News in New Orleans

If you came across a microphone just planted in the middle of your neighborhood, what would you say into it? What if the microphone was tucked into a hanging cardboard tree and had a series of questions taped next to it, begging to be answered?

An innovative project in New Orleans is testing out this unusual way to make news into a two-sided conversation, with a little bit of help from public art and not-so-secret recording devices.

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Growing Up Undocumented: Al Jazeera America

With New York City mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio waiting to speak and an audience of a few thousand in Brooklyn’s Cadman plaza waving signs and flags, dancing, and chanting “Si se puede,” 23-year-old Pakistani immigrant Hina Naveed, a student from Staten Island, didn’t miss her moment. She captured the identity and energy of the crowd in one quick phrase: “Being undocumented sucks!”

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Rez Radio: Indian Tribes Gain Sovereignty Over the Airwaves: The Atlantic

It’s appropriately below freezing at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night in Northern Minnesota. The only lights still on in tiny Callaway, population 200, belong to the liquor store, which features slot machines and toaster oven pizza, and the gas station, which also has slots, and fried chicken, too.

Inside a local community center, a young man in his 20s slouches in a chair. His frame is wrapped in a black hoodie sweatshirt and black baggy jeans, and he’s staring blankly at his cell phone. He says about a week ago he lost his girlfriend, the mother of his young son, to a heroin overdose.

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A Green Scene Is Brewing On Milwaukee’s Fresh Coast

WWNO’s Coastal Desk has been on tour, looking at water management in other cities. Austin and Philadelphia were the first stops. Now we’ll hear about the final city: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A delegation of New Orleans city officials and non-profit leaders recently headed to Wisconsin. They learned how Milwaukee, built as an industrial hub, has become one of the greenest big cities in the country.

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New Orleans Delegation Looks At The Limits Of Austin’s Water Management System

Last week a delegation from the Crescent City traveled to Austin, Texas. The idea: to check out how Austin manages its water. Drought-stricken Texas has too little water; New Orleans often has too much. But they have a surprising amount to learn from each other.

Outside their city government office building, five employees of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department show off a series of small rain gardens they’ve built. The plots sit along the curb of a major intersection. They’re meant to absorb as much storm-water as possible, to help prevent overflow and flooding to the city’s drainage system.

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Faces of Brooklyn’s Public Housing Residents After Sandy

Jose Cruz does not have a lot to distract him from the misery of living in a cold building at the moment. His employer, a local Red Hook restaurant called Fort Defiance, was washed out in the storm as well. He’s not sure if and when he’ll be back on the job.

Bermudez lives at 80 Dwight Street, one of the 30 public housing buildings that make up the Red Hook West homes. Hurricane Sandy caused high tides to spread out over the Red Hook neighborhood, which sits right off the ocean in South Brooklyn. It flooded the basement of Bermudez’s building, disabling everything but the gas.

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Dad Refuses To Pass Down Inheritance Of Illness

There are three black and white photographs of my dad that tell the story of the last few years. My brother, Andy, took them, and they are both beautiful and brutal.  The first one is of my dad on an August day in 2008. He’s standing in a lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Because of his tremors, he’s down to 130 pounds from his normal weight of 170.

“He looks like he’s out of a concentration camp, he does,” my dad says about the person in the photo. “Nothing I ate, nothing I did, helped me put on weight, because it all went out through my tremors.”  He says it was the worst moment in his 15-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

At a refugee camp in Tunisia, it’s showtime

Back in March I met a young writer named Abdirizak. Well, to be fair, his career was just getting going, but he listed writing as his “favorite,” and he seemed pretty dedicated.

And by dedicated, I mean despite the fact that he had just fled for his life from Libya, where he was working as a day laborer, and before that fled his home country of Somalia as it descended into chaos, he still managed to write every day in a little paper notebook.

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Internews Assesses Information Needs on the Tunisia/Libya Border

Tens of thousands of people who have fled the violence in Libya to Tunisia are relying on informal word-of-mouth communication channels to gather information, according to an Internews assessment of information needs in the Choucha camp, the main transit site on the Tunisian border with Libya. Radio and television are not widely accessible, and though many stranded migrant workers have cell phones and are able to charge them at the camp, they lack direct information about their situation on the ground.

Internews, working with humanitarian agencies such as UNHCR, IOM and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on the ground, has made a series of recommendations on how to facilitate camp communications to spread accurate information within the camps.

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Rice and Baguettes: Dispatches from a Tunisian Refugee Camp

There is a line that stretches for miles in the desert. A line thousands of people long. A line for food, a line for work, a line for humanity, a line for home. But where and what is home? Being born in a single place no longer satisfies a lifetime. People leave as soon as they are tall enough and strong enough to work. That’s why tens of thousands of Bangladeshis are sitting here, with me, in the middle of the Tunisian desert, looking for rice because they can’t stand the baguettes the locals keep bringing them to eat.

And that’s why it’s silly to send them back to the place of their birth, Bangladesh, because that place means nothing to them now — there is no home for them there. Within a few months they will leave again for India, or wherever they can find a job. They were born there, but Bangladesh has provided nothing for them since they became 13-year-old adults, so they left, and they moved to Libya to work for the Chinese, the Koreans, the Europeans.

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