News Bites: December 2021

Firearm purchases, Feminist retelling of stories, Trauma-informed response

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Gender-based Violence (The Conversation)

“The #MeToo movement may have shifted the balance of credibility on sexual abuse and harassment at work more toward victims and away from alleged perpetrators. But the same cannot be said regarding men’s violence and abuse at home: In fact, women’s reports of domestic violence are still widely rejected, especially in one critical setting: the family court.

When women, children or both report abuse by a father in a case concerning child custody or visitation, courts often refuse to believe them. Judges even sometimes “shoot the messenger” by removing custody from the mother and awarding it to the allegedly abusive father.”


Gun Violence

The Conversation

“Most school shooters obtain the firearm from home. And the number of guns within reach of high school-age teenagers has increased during the pandemic — highlighting the importance of locking firearms and keeping them unloaded in the home.

While firearm purchases have been increasing for decades, they have accelerated during the pandemic. In the three months from March through May 2021, an estimated 2.1 million firearms were purchased — a 64.3 percent increase in the expected volume.”

The Guardian

Gun violence deaths rose a staggering 30% from 2019 to 2020 nationwide, the sharpest rise in 60 years. In California, where homicides – mostly by guns – were up 30 percent last year, six teens told the Guardian about their experiences in the past year and a half. They spoke about hearing about fatal shootings through the grapevine and on the news during the pandemic months, and watching their peers become caught in the cycle of violence. Gun violence has rocked their communities for years, the teenagers say, but the pandemic years have been particularly scary and isolating. At least 258 people under the age of 20 were killed in California in 2020, 208 of them with a gun, according to a Guardian analysis of 2020 homicide data.



Girls’ Education in Afghanistan (Vox)

“When the Taliban seized power in August, most schools were closed because of COVID-19. Under heavy international pressure, the Taliban soon reopened schools for girls in grades 1-6, along with boys’ schools at all levels. But they have not allowed girls in grades 7-12 to return, saying they must first ensure classes are held in an “Islamic manner.” The Taliban also barred most women from government jobs, their largest place of employment.

In Herat province, however, teachers quickly began to organize. Teachers union officials met with the Taliban governor and head of the education department. They didn’t raise issue of girls schools at first, focusing on building a relationship. When teachers did ask for a reopening, Taliban officials balked, saying they could not allow it without an order from the government in Kabul.

The teachers kept pressing. About 40 female principals met with senior Taliban education officials in September to address their main concerns.”


Feminist Re-Tellings of Classic Stories (Guardian)

The estate of George Orwell has approved a feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which reimagines the story from the perspective of Winston Smith’s lover Julia. “Julia” will be published after Granta releases Newman’s new novel “The Men” — in which every single person with a Y chromosome vanishes from the world — next June. It is the latest in a series of feminist retellings of classic stories, from Natalie Haynes’s reimagining of the Trojan war “A Thousand Ships,” and Pat Barker’s “The Silence of the Girls,” a version of the Iliad from the perspective of Briseis, to Maggie O’Farrell’s “Hamnet,” which centers on the life of Shakespeare’s wife, and Jeet Thayil’s “Names of the Women,” which tells the stories of 15 women whose lives overlapped with Jesus.


Reproductive Rights (The Conversation)

“The Supreme Court justices signaled a potential major shift on abortion law on Dec. 1, 2021. Hearing arguments in a case that could fundamentally alter abortion rights and regulations throughout the nation, the six conservative justices who hold the majority in the highest court seemed divided: Would they overturn the core right to abortion entirely or would they allow abortion to be limited by the states to the early stages of pregnancy?

In either approach, the court seemed to be moving toward the position that some decisions may be left to individual states rather than established by the Supreme Court. And although Supreme Court decisions cannot always be predicted by oral arguments alone, either outcome would represent a historic move away from the landmark precedent of Roe v. Wade, which has set out Americans’ constitutional right to abortion for almost 50 years.”


Trauma-Informed Response & Police Reform

Denver

Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, sending mental health pros on certain calls instead of police officers, is expanding with new funding. It is operated jointly by the Department of Public Safety, where it was originally managed as a pilot program, and the city’s Department of Public Health and Environment. The goal is to have four vans with six teams providing coverage seven days a week. City officials believe the added money will allow more culturally appropriate services for certain areas of the city. The program has been lauded for its ability to keep people from ending up arrested or in jail. It launched in Denver in 2020. The city is also establishing a 15-person STAR Community Advisory Committee to get feedback about how it can improve.

The program has responded to 1,610 incidents since launching, a majority of which were for trespassing and welfare check calls. At least 476 people the program contacted were people experiencing homelessness who were living in encampments. Out of this group, at least 111 people were connected to services with agencies like the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the Gathering Place, while another 98 people were connected with a Mental Health Center of Denver case manager for a follow-up. Some 33 percent of calls led to people getting transported to overnight shelters or other agencies helping people experiencing homelessness.

The program will cost an estimated $3.4 million to $3.8 million a year to operate. For now, the program is paid for by $1.4 million from the city’s 2021 budget, an additional $1 million from the city’s contingency fund approved this summer, and $1.4 million from Caring For Denver, a foundation that gets money from sales taxes to pay for mental health and substance use programs in the city.

Houston

In Texas, the Harris County District Attorney’s office has partnered with seven universities and the Texas Forensic Nurse Examiners to provide trauma-informed care to survivors of sexual assault at colleges and universities. The DA’s office reallocated $165,829 in forfeiture money to fund the initiative, which will connect survivors of sexual assault with forensic interviewers, instead of assigning the work to police officers who don’t have specialized trauma training. According to Harris County DA Kim Ogg, “Those of us in law enforcement put up pretty tough walls and can be kind of gruff, according to many, many victims. I think it’s very important that we have professionals who look and sound and relate with victims more.”


Monopolies (Vox)

“It is important to understand how tech platforms can exploit their power to hurt small businesses and raise prices for consumers,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, told Recode. “This report highlights how Amazon’s tactics can lead to that result and why Congress must act to set clear rules of the road for the digital giants that dominate our online economy.”

The new ILSR report found that Amazon’s seller fees accounted for an average of 19 percent of sellers’ earnings in 2014. That’s almost doubled to 34 percent in 2021. And while seller fees accounted for 14 percent of Amazon’s entire revenue in 2014, that figure is up to 25 percent in 2021. Amazon will pull in $121 billion from seller fees alone, ILSR estimates.

Whether you shop on Amazon or not, you are paying higher prices because of its monopoly power.”


Biofuels (The Conversation)

“The Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group for the biofuels industry, estimates that the RFS has generated over 300,000 jobs in recent years. Two-thirds of these jobs are in the top ethanol-producing states: Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and South Dakota. 

When Congress expanded the biofuel mandate in 2007, a key factor that induced legislators from states outside the Midwest to support it was the belief that a coming generation of cellulosic ethanol would produce even greater environmental, energy and economic benefits. Biofuel proponents claimed that cellulosic fuels were close to becoming commercially viable. Almost 15 years later, in spite of the mandate and billions of dollars in federal support, cellulosic ethanol has flopped.”


Philanthropy (The Conversation)