Here are some local stories from the last few weeks that we were unable to cover in the Indy as well a mix of interesting news and commentary that is worth checking out.
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Amherst Area News
Funding Woes Hamper Road Repairs In Some Amherst Areas by Scott Merzbach (7/26/23). Residents who live in the Cushman section of Amherst have delivered a petition to town officials appealing to have deteriorating Flat Hills and Market Hill roads resurfaced, a prospect that is likely to be delayed because of a $2 million price tag and the fact that they are not major corridors for commuters.At a recent community Cuppa Joe community meeting focused on projects under the Department of Public Works’ jurisdiction, Town Manager Paul Bockelman and Superintendent Guilford Mooring said there are no assurances that Flat Hills and Market Hill will be done soon, in part due to continued funding challenges and other roads being prioritized for the project bids going out this summer. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Late Organizer Al Giordano Remembered For Fiery Spirit, Devotion To Cause by Bella Levavi (7/23/23). From fighting against nuclear power plants to fighting for elected officials, Al Giordano was known for his love of stirring things up. While his work went to much larger arenas, with Giordano ultimately being known internationally for his journalism and organizing efforts, his beginnings and much of his training can be traced back to western Massachusetts, where he was given the stage from 1978 to the early 1990s to make change. Giordano, 64, died of lung cancer on July 10, at his home in Mexico. “He was not one to think about how terrible it was. He thought that it only meant you organize harder. You work harder. That was the lesson he taught with his life and it began in Franklin County,” said Tom Lesser, Northampton-based lawyer and friend who represented Giordano in several of his cases. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Amherst, UMass Police Hold Annual Adventure Academy by Mercy Lingle (7/23/23). Ginnahlys Garcia-Roman is feeling stronger and more self-confident this week, just a few days after wrapping up a weeklong academy that gave her and other middle school students an intensive look at all facets of policing and team-building activities.Garcia-Roman is one of 20 youths who participated in the Summer Youth Adventure Academy — a program offered by the Amherst and UMass police departments each summer. Though she may be a little shorter than her older brother, Jonathan Aviles-Roman, who also attended the academy, Ginnahlys said one of her highlights for the week involved “learning how to defend myself.” Jonathan agreed, and both were very engaged when they were learning from Amherst Police Sgt. Ricky Arocho about how to block an attack.In addition to self-defense, Garcia-Roman and Aviles-Roman spoke about the different policing duties that they learned at the academy. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Dangerous Roadways: Pedestrians Killed, Injured On Valley Roads Continues To Climb, Mirroring Statewide Trend by Alexander McDougall (7/21/23). The number of motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists has climbed across the commonwealth over the past three years, and the Pioneer Valley is no exception. Across Hampshire and Franklin counties, there have been 213 crashes involving pedestrians from 2020-2022, six of which resulted in death, according to data from Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Crashes have risen slowly from 2020, when there were 55 total pedestrian and bicycle-related crashes, to 69 such crashes in 2022. Through the first seven months of 2023, there have been 26 crashes in the two counties as of July 19, the figures show. Five of the six deaths in the two counties over the three-year span occurred in 2022, with the most recent in Greenfield last December when a 72-year-old died. The other three deaths took place in Amherst, Northampton and Easthampton, the latter of which killed two people in one crash. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Amherst’s Peace Development Fund Backs 20 Social Justice Groups With Grants by Scott Merzbach (7/19/23). More than 20 social justice organizations across the United States, as well as in Haiti and Mexico, are receiving grants to support their activities from an Amherst nonprofit public foundation. The Peace Development Fund recently announced $80,000 in grants from its Seeding the Movement Fund. Each of 22 organizations received varying amounts, with some grants being renewals demonstrating the foundation’s commitment to investing in ongoing work Decisions on the awards are made by a volunteer board of directors that reflects marginalized communities drawing on their community experience. (Amherst Bulletin)
Why I Gave Up On New College In Florida And Enrolled At Hampshire College by Blaise Paine (7/13/23). I felt there was no place for me in higher education. I would always be the square peg trying to force itself into a round hole. But then, on Sept. 20, 2022, I first set foot on the New College of Florida’s campus in Sarasota. I was met by two student admissions ambassadors. They spoke to me like I was a person, instead of a marketing demographic. They talked about the school as they led me around campus, filled with excitement and deep love for the school. They weren’t trying to sell me a degree, dorm room or intercollegiate sports. They were trying to tell me they had a place for me.They had a place for me. (Tampa Bay Times)
POTPOURRI OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND CLIMATE NEWS
Largest School District In Texas Eliminates Libraries, Converts Them To Discipline Centers by Kylie Cheung (7/28/23). The largest public school district in the state of Texas is converting libraries in 28 schools into disciplinary centers and eliminating school librarian positions, local news outlets reported on Thursday. The alarming change comes as part of a sweeping reform program led by the Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) new superintendent Mike Miles, who oversees 85 schools. Of the remaining 57 schools with libraries, the district said each will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, indicating more libraries could be closed. (Jezebel)
How An Illinois City Council Passed Unprecedented Human Rights Protections by Frances Madeson (7/27/23). To protect residents and visitors from the effects of right-wing repression so prevalent in the southern Illinois region, the Carbondale City Council has laid two new cornerstones in its legal infrastructure. On July 11, in front of a packed chamber, the council and mayor received a standing ovation after enacting a bodily autonomy ordinance stating the City will respect and protect the fundamental right of individuals to make autonomous decisions about medical care. It prohibits city employees, officers and departments from cooperating with states seeking extradition or even just providing information about out-of-state visitors seeking lawful medical treatments in Illinois. To preempt further attacks, the council also adopted a companion ordinance which creates a legal receptacle in the city’s code for expanded protections — a new human rights title. Title 22 will house the adopted bodily autonomy ordinance and whatever additional rights the council adopts over time. (Truthout)
How Florida Undermined The Benefits of Newly Free Black People by Michael Mechanic (7/27/23). Upon learning that Florida’s new K-12 curriculum standards require teaching middle-schoolers that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” I tweeted, facetiously, “Hey, this slavery thing sounds swell! A great learning experience—with free room and board.” The “personal benefit” provision was one of two stunningly tone-deaf requirements related to the teaching of Black history. The other, as noted by my colleague Arianna Coghill last week, was that “instruction for high school students about several race massacres, including the 1921 bombing of Black Wall Street and the 1920 Ocoee Massacre, must include acts of violence perpetrated by African-Americans.” (Mother Jones)
Florida’s Black History Standards Are Even Worse Than Reported by Michael Harriot (7/27/23). When TheGrio examined the FDOE’s full “African American History Strand,” we discovered that the “trade-school-for-enslaved people” narrative wasn’t even the most egregious part of Florida’s new academic curriculum standards. The state guidelines include multiple examples of historical fiction, including some that perpetuate misconceptions, conservative ideology and long-held white falsehoods about Black history. Many of the requirements simply reflect ahistorical conservative talking points that often are regurgitated whenever someone brings up inequality. The individual discrepancies are too numerous to list. To shine a light on the most glaring probably-not-intentional errors, theGrio decided to list the top ten parts of Florida’s miseducation of the white man. (TheGrio)
July Is The Hottest Month On Record. Hotter Months Appear To Be In Store by Raymond Zhong (7/27/23). Weeks of scorching summer heat in North America, Europe, Asia and elsewhere are putting July on track to be Earth’s warmest month on record, the European Union climate monitor said on Thursday, the latest milestone in what is emerging as an extraordinary year for global temperatures. Last month, the planet experienced its hottest June since records began in 1850. July 6 was its hottest day. And the odds are rising that 2023 will end up displacing 2016 as the hottest year. At the moment, the eight warmest years on the books are the past eight.“The extreme weather which has affected many millions of people in July is unfortunately the harsh reality of climate change and a foretaste of the future,” Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said in a statement. “The need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is more urgent than ever before.” (New York Times)
The Grim Climate Lessons From Canadian Wildfires by David Wallace Wells (7/26/23). You may have forgotten about the Canadian wildfires, once the smoke cleared from your American lungs and the orange disappeared from American skies. But the fires have not forgotten to burn.In Quebec, more land was torched in June than in the previous 20 years combined, with a single out-of-control complex there growing to 2.5 million acres — in a section of the province where, in recent years, the average total has been a tenth of that. Across Canada, the total was more than 25 million acres, or about two and a half times as much land as burned in any of the worst American seasons of the past 50 years, with most of Canada’s fire season still ahead, putting the country on track to produce more carbon emissions from the burning of boreal forest than all of its other human and industrial activities combined. (New York Times)
What Nebraska’s Jailing Of Teen Who Used Abortion Pills Might Mean In Post Roe America by Sanya Mansoor (7/26/23). Nebraska’s criminal sentencing of a woman who used abortion pills to end her pregnancy has highlighted how prosecutors can use digital data and charge friends and family members in criminal cases related to abortion, taking on new resonance after the fall of Roe v. Wade. Celeste Burgess, 19, was a minor when she was pregnant and had an abortion. Earlier this year, she pleaded guilty to illegally concealing or abandoning a dead body. Last week, a Nebraska judge sentenced Burgess to 90 days in jail. Her mother was also charged; prosecutors accused Jessica Burgess, 42, of buying abortion pills online. She faces up to five years in prison and pleaded guilty to providing an illegal abortion, false reporting, and tampering with human skeletal remains. (Time)
How Do We Act Morally In The Face Of Climate Change – An Interview With Chuck Collins by Luke Savage (7/13/23). Chuck Collins, author of numerous books, including 2021’s The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions, has long been known for his detailed and factual studies of economic inequality. But Collins’s latest effort is a work of fiction. Altar to an Erupting Sun asks us to consider what is morally justified in the face of looming ecological disaster. In its opening pages, protagonist Rae Kelliher — a dying activist in the final weeks of her life — decides to violate her own long-standing commitment to nonviolence to kill a fossil fuel CEO, to the disapproval of those around her. The rest of Collins’ book consists in a journey through Rae’s life, exploring her formation as an activist, her relationships and influences, and the roots of her final, controversial act.