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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 76,330

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The Women of Sierra Leone Have New Land-Ownership Rights

The Women of Sierra Leone Have New Land-Ownership Rights
For years, women in Sierra Leone have been stripped or deprived of property that is rightfully theirs. Recent changes in the law are creating a seismic shift that could create greater equality in the country.

By Heiner Hoffmann und Carmen Abd Ali (photos) in Sierra Leone
24.05.2023, 14.46 Uhr

(Der Spiegel) The situation escalates in the office of the lead district officer in Magburaka, located in the sparsely populated region of central Sierra Leone. A man, who had only a moment ago been sitting relaxed in his chair, suddenly jumps up and runs to the other end of the room, where several men are quarreling. They get closer and closer to each other, voices raised. A fight seems inevitable.

Then Susan Conteh begins yelling, her voice rising over those of others. "Enough!" She repeats the exhortation once, and then again. The district officer, a man with a soft voice and gentle gaze, seems overwhelmed. He had just left the room to make a phone call, and now this. Conteh shouts one last time and silence is restored. She begins handing out fines: five euros for the man on the left, another five euros for a man on the right. No one dares protest, not even the district officer, although it's actually his responsibility to issue monetary penalties.

The proceedings are remarkable in several respects: First, Conteh isn't here as a representative of the district government, but as an employee of Legal Aid Board, a government organization that advocates for the rights of disadvantaged populations in Sierra Leone and organizes legal assistance. Second, Conteh is a woman. Until recently, women were excluded from almost all decisions relating to property issues. Not only did they not hold positions on the relevant committees, they frequently weren't even invited to important meetings.

Here, though, in this crisis meeting between two feuding branches of a family at the district officer's headquarters, the men listen to Conteh and fall into line. The feud, as is so often the case in Sierra Leone and many other African countries, is over a plot of land. Those who own land have power, and economic security. Even the devastating civil war from 1991 to 2002 was, at its core, over land control and the resources associated with it.

More than 80 percent of land in Sierra Leone is family owned, which almost always means it is controlled by a male family member. In most cases, the first-born son inherits the property and the daughters go empty-handed. If the husband dies or divorces his wife, the man's family usually seizes the property with the woman often winding up on the street. "Women have been systematically excluded from the key resource of land over the past decades," says Equality Minister Manti Tarawallie.


"But now everything is different," Conteh says. Over the last year, Sierra Leone has passed several new laws designed to revolutionize the country's land-owning traditions. One of those, for example, is the Customary Land Rights Act, which clearly states that women must not be discriminated against in any way, that they must be involved in all decisions concerning land issues and that they have the same rights as men. Or the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Bill, a law that requires a quota of 30 percent for women on all important boards. The government also wants to set up regional land commissions that will be proportionately staffed by women. .................(more)


Brevard families leaving Florida: Why they say Sunshine State no longer feels like home

(Florida Today) Eli Logan lived the first 46 years of her life in her native Florida. She probably, she said, would have "stayed 46 more."

But between the state's politics pushing hard to the right and a slew of new laws affecting Florida's LGBTQ+ community, schools and more, she's joined the ranks of those leaving Florida for places they find safer for themselves and their families.

Logan, her husband and their three daughters recently left Brevard for an area of Georgia that's a splash of political blue northeast of Atlanta. It's a place this nurse practitioner sees as a "better, healthier place" to raise the couple's children, the oldest of whom identifies as gay.

She's not alone. When Logan announced her family's move on Facebook, well wishes were punctuated with messages like "We can’t stay either. It’s not safe and it’s not headed in a healthy direction." Over the past few weeks, other goodbyes have popped up across social media, like that of Stacey and Sanjay Patel, staples of the Brevard County Democratic Party for several years. And Wendy Johnson, who explained in an impassioned Facebook post why she, her husband and their daughter would soon be moving to New York. ........................(more)


The War in Ukraine Has Come Home to Russia

(Slate) The drone attack on Moscow early Tuesday morning showed that the war is real and near, not just for Ukrainians but also for Russians—a message that can’t be good for Vladimir Putin.

At least eight drones flew over Russia’s capital in the wee hours, almost certainly launched by Ukraine (or perhaps by Russian rebels sympathetic to Ukraine’s cause). The Kremlin claims that air-defense crews shot down or electronically jammed all the drones and that the damage done to a few apartment buildings was caused by metal shards of the disabled airframes as they fell from the sky.

Even if this claim is true, it doesn’t matter. The attack demonstrates that Russia’s skies are porous, that Russian civilians are vulnerable. This new reality disrupts the image that Putin has tried to fashion in Russia’s state-owned mass media—an image that paints the war as something terrible but distant.

Just last week, as pro-Ukrainian militias tore across the southwestern border and fought for two days on Russian territory, Putin pretended nothing had happened. As the New York Times reported, Putin “handed out medals, met the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, hosted friendly foreign leaders, and made televised small talk with a Russian judge about how Ukraine was not a real country. … In public, he says next to nothing about the course of the war and betrays little concern about Russia’s setbacks.”

Drone flights over Moscow—coming a few weeks after two drone strikes on the Kremlin itself—make it harder for Putin to sustain this fiction. The attacks may have done little physical damage, but explosions were heard, and windows were rattled (a few were shattered). The psychological—and potentially political—damage can’t be dismissed. ..............(more)


"Betrayal": MAGA Republicans rage over McCarthy deal -- and threaten his speakership

(Salon) Far-right House Republicans on Tuesday fumed over House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's, R-Calif., debt ceiling deal with President Joe Biden — and some are even threatening a motion to oust him as speaker.

House GOP leaders and the Biden administration reached a deal to suspend the debt ceiling until 2025 and cut spending while boosting the defense budget. The deal would impose work requirements for food stamps on adults between 50 and 54 by 2025 and claw back billions approved by Congress for the IRS and COVID relief.

The deal drew support from many in the Republican Party but members of the House Freedom Caucus, who impeded McCarthy's ascension as speaker before he caved to many of their demands, are threatening to introduce a motion to put his speakership to another vote, which requires a motion from just one member to go to a vote under McCarthy's speakership deal.

Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., called the deal "completely unacceptable."

"Trillions and trillions of dollars in debt, for crumbs. For a pittance," he said at a Freedom Caucus news conference. .........(more)


Illinois set to become first state to end book bans

(Guardian UK) Governor JB Pritzker is expected to sign a bill that would make Illinois the first state to legislate to end book bans – by punishing publicly-funded institutions that attempt to censor in that way.

A bill is on Pritzker’s desk after passing the state legislature that would block essential state funding for public libraries and public schools in Illinois that ban books.

Only libraries in the state that adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which states that reading materials should not be removed or restricted because of partisan or personal disapproval, or develop a written statement prohibiting the practice of banning books within a library system will continue to get its state funding. .............(more)


Ron DeSantis wants to "make America Florida": That's a dire threat

Ron DeSantis wants to "make America Florida": That's a dire threat
The Trump-DeSantis race is a boon for the mainstream media. For the rest of us, it's an unmitigated disaster

Senior Writer
PUBLISHED MAY 30, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

(Salon) Ron DeSantis has turned Florida into a laboratory for fascist cruelty and authoritarian oppression. Last week, DeSantis finally announced that he hopes to take this experiment nationwide by seeking the presidency.

"American decline is not inevitable," he said. "It is a choice. And we should choose a new direction, a path that will lead to American revitalization. We must restore sanity to our nation."

DeSantis' long-expected announcement was made during a special interview on Twitter with the site's owner, Elon Musk. To say that it didn't go all that well would be a dramatic understatement: The "Twitter Spaces" broadcast repeatedly crashed and had numerous other technical problems.

To many media observers, this appeared emblematic of a candidate and campaign that are already floundering. DeSantis has fallen far behind Donald Trump, widely seen as the presumptive Republican nominee, in the polls.


The mainstream news media will default once again to its obsolete approaches to covering politics in the Trump era: Horse-race coverage of who's up and who's down, an obsession with minute variations of public opinion polls, scenes at diners and county fairs, soft-focus personality profiles, town halls and debates, pundits ready to pounce on "gaffes" and "self-inflicted wounds," gossip and rumors, and all the other bad practices associated with "both-sides-ism," "objectivity" and "balance" that have collectively normalized the entire Republican fascist movement.

As media critic Jay Rosen and other experts have repeatedly pointed out, in a time of democracy crisis the news media's primary responsibility is to speak truth to power by explaining, in clear and direct terms, how a given policy or a decision by a political actor will affect the daily lives of real people. So what will it mean if Ron DeSantis gets his way and is able to "Make America Florida"? ...................(more)


"It's crazy in there": Knives out on Trump's legal team over worries one of them could be a "snitch"

(Salon) Former President Donald Trump's lawyers are "starting to turn on each other" over growing concerns that one of them could be a "snitch," according to The Daily Beast.

Five sources with direct knowledge of the situation told the outlet that clashing personalities and the threat that they could face legal jeopardy themselves has "sown deep divisions that have only worsened in recent months." Attorney Tim Parlatore left the team earlier this month after throwing another member of Trump's team, Boris Ephsteyn, under the bus — but sources told the outlet his departure may only be the beginning.

"There's a lot of lawyers and a lot of jealousy," a member of Trump's legal team told The Daily Beast, adding that the number of lawyers representing a single client accused of so many crimes is unprecedented.

As special counsel Jack Smith's team targets multiple Trump attorneys in his investigations, Trump's lawyers "seem to be questioning whether their colleagues may actually turn into snitches," the report added.

Smith's team successfully pierced attorney-client privilege claims invoked by Trump attorney Evan Corcoran after arguing that the former president may have used his services to further a crime. Prosecutors interviewed Corcoran before a grand jury about topics he previously refused to discuss and obtained his notes about discussions with the former president. ...............(more)


Killer Whales Are Starting To Sink Boats

Theme parks such as Sea World have fostered a perception of killer whales as gentle, friendly creatures through impressive, trained performances. However, these captive portrayals starkly contrast with their true nature as apex predators, demonstrating territorial aggression and formidable hunting skills in the wild, which can be a significant threat to marine life and, potentially, humans. In fact, Science Alert is reporting that orcas living off Europe’s Iberian coast were behind the recent capsizing of a yacht, making it the third vessel this subpopulation of whales has sunk since May 2020.

Although there is currently no record of an orca killing a human in the wild, it doesn’t make incidents like the one mentioned above any less frighting. Killer whales aren’t usually known for damaging or sinking boats, and this unexpected behavior undoubtedly highlights the unpredictable nature of these awe-inspiring but formidable animals. Of course, it’s essential to acknowledge and respect the power and territorial behaviors of orcas, but their increasing aggression towards boats run by humans indicates that we need to learn more about this issue and come up with suitable ways to respond.

To gain some insights, Science Alert reached out to Dr. Luke Rendell, a marine biologist at the University of St Andrews, who specializes in the learning, behavior, and communication among marine mammals, including killer whales. When asked why orcas appear to be intentionally attacking vessels off the Iberian coast, Rendell responded, “Any answer that I (or anyone else, really) give to this question is speculation – we just don’t know enough about killer whale motivations to be certain.” He concurred that these unusual incidents present a biological mystery that calls for unraveling, particularly given the absence of any apparent evolutionary advantages or adaptative characteristics linked to this behavior.

Dr. Rendell further clarified that the action of killer whales targeting boats doesn’t directly contribute to their survival or provide any advantages such as access to food or mating prospects – elements he referred to as “fitness-enhancing rewards”. While some might categorize this conduct as an evolutionary adaptation, he suggested that, for killer whales, boat attacks seem to fall outside what we would typically identify as such adaptive behavior. He further suggested that if we were to explore a possible adaptive reason, the inherent curiosity of killer whales, which frequently drives notable innovations concerning food sources, might play a part. .......................(more)


Saving democracy from the ground up: David Pepper on how to fight the GOP and win

Saving democracy from the ground up: David Pepper on how to fight the GOP and win
Former Ohio Democratic chair says progressives are fighting the wrong battles the wrong way — but there's hope

PUBLISHED MAY 28, 2023 12:00PM (EDT)

(Salon) In January 2022, I wrote about David Pepper's book "Laboratories of Autocracy: A Wake-Up Call From Behind the Lines," writing that it stood out in the literature on democratic erosion "as arguably the most important for three reasons: It brings the subject down to earth, connects democratic erosion to corruption and the decline in America's quality of life, and provides a wealth of ideas about how to fight back to protect democracy."

Pepper's new book, "Saving Democracy: A User's Manual for Every American" builds on that foundation, providing not just a user's manual, but a diagnostic framework to help users orient themselves to the task at hand. It's a bottom-up guide for saving democracy from below. Whatever else you may read about saving democracy — history, political science, cognitive science, etc. — this book is essential in terms of translating a necessary diversity of understanding into coherent, unified (not uniform) action.

"It's a pretty tough critique about current pro-democracy efforts" as overly narrow and passive," Pepper told me when he sent my a pre-publication copy. But it draws inspiration from a lot of people who are already changing that, similar in some ways to "The Persuaders" by Anand Giridharadas, but with a sharper focus on the nitty-gritty of what, why and how, as befits a long-time organizer whose great-great-great-great-grandmother was a conductor of the Underground Railroad. The larger point, Pepper said, "is to show people there's so much more they can do to lift democracy than they're ever told."


You write that there are "two battles taking place" in American democracy being fought on very different terms. So how does "Team D," the team that supports democracy, see things? What are its assumptions, what are its goals and how does it try to reach them?

The side that I call Team D, that generally has an instinct for the small-d democratic process, its battle is based on two assumptions. One, it generally assumes that democracy is intact and generally assumes that it represents a mainstream view, so it's confident that it can win over the American public on its views. Because of those two things, this side is comfortable fighting a battle through elections. It believes, "Hey, if we go win elections — and we can win them — we'll get what we want as policy in America."

The problem is, that side then determined that since it's about elections, let's go win the most important federal elections — that'll get us everything we need. That'll get us federal policy, the presidency and everything else, which quickly leads this side to being focused, not entirely but mostly, on swing states and swing districts in federal elections, presidential elections. And as I explain, the problem with all that is the first assumption is not correct.


You say that seeing things this way "makes painfully clear the strategic adjustments those fighting for democracy must make in order to succeed." You list seven of them. First you argue that "the battle for democracy is a long battle."

Just to cite a specific example, this is how Stacey Abrams succeeded in Georgia. She understood this was a long battle. She didn't quit after the first federal election went red. She knew it was a long, long battle, which I hope leads to optimism. Because it shows you can succeed even when, on the surface, under the old federal lens, you don't think you are. So for some people, including myself, that long lens brings more hope that you can keep making a difference even in tough years. ...........(more)


Drunk woman speeds down beach, nearly hits several families, ends up in the water: Deputies

A Florida woman was arrested over Memorial Day weekend after witnesses reported her driving erratically, nearly hitting several families, their children, and pets at Smyrna Dunes Park.

The driver, 26-year-old Sarah Ramsammy, ended up plowing into the water after Volusia deputies believe she was speeding down the beach at 50 miles per hour, authorities said. Witnesses claimed she was inches away from hitting a child.

Body camera footage shows Ramsammy’s blue SUV submerged along the beach’s shoreline — waves crashing feet above the trunk.

In the footage, deputies ask witnesses who was driving. One woman responded, “They’re over there. We’re just some of the people they almost hit.”

Deputies approached Ramsammy and her passenger who were standing in the sand and asked what happened. ..........(more)


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