Director’s Blog :

NY State Senate passes prosecutorial misconduct bill 

This is huge news coming out of Albany. A big congratulations to Bill Bastuk and all those on the ITCHY team (It Could Happen to You):

State Senate passes prosecutorial misconduct bill 

By Bill Mahoney 

06/14/2018 03:14 PM EDT

ALBANY — After a lengthy and substantive debate that divided both parties Thursday, the Senate passed a bill to create a commission on prosecutorial misconduct, setting it up to potentially be one of the most significant bills to be passed by the Legislature at the end of this year’s session. 

The measure had become the top priority of Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) in his final weeks before retirement. It would create a panel modeled after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that would be tasked with investigating complaints made against prosecutors. 

“When a bad prosecutor does something that results in somebody losing their liberty, there has got to be a remedy,” DeFrancisco said. 

“There’s many cases where individuals are convicted of crimes as heinous as murder and spend 10, 20 years in jail, then found later because of DNA evidence that they weren’t the guilty party,” he added. “So then they go to the state of New York, the Court of Claims, and bring a lawsuit. And the state and our taxpayers have to pay millions of dollars for that misconduct — usually, it’s withholding exculpatory information, information that would help the defense.” 

The opposition to the bill was led by state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York.

“Prosecutors all the time have to make heart-wrenching decisions about what to do in car crashes where people die,” he said. “What will every family do when a decision is made that manslaughter shouldn’t be charged? They’re going to bring a prosecutor in front of this panel and say, ‘This is misconduct, I want this defendant charged for what they did to my family.’ So when you’re a prosecutor now, evaluating what to do, whether to do justice, which is the only directive, you are going to say, ‘Well, I’ve got this panel … so now we’re going to start charging a couple of vehicular manslaughters to keep us safe.'” 

He also argued that the panel, which would be appointed by state government officials, might keep prosecutors from investigating these same officials. 

“No prosecutor is going to want to bring a political corruption case when they know that a senator or assemblyperson or someone from the executive chamber is going to get hauled in front of a court, and then [take them] in front of a panel of somebody they appointed,” Kaminsky said. 

Nine Republicans voted against the measure, which passed 44-12, though they held their tongues. 

While some members were silent, the debate was more substantive than most are in Albany, and the partisan bickering that has defined the chamber in recent weeks never really surfaced. 

“This has been fantastic,” said Majority Leader John Flanagan in a rare moment in which he spoke on legislation from the floor. “It makes me proud to be in this room and actually deliberate.” 

“It’s probably one of the better debates I’ve seen on the floor in this house in the 16 years I’ve been here,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).

The bill has yet to pass the Assembly, but Assemblyman Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn), the sponsor in that house, expects that to happen soon. 

“I expect it to be taken up shortly,” Perry said. “I don’t think today, but definitely one day next week.” 

To view online:
https://subscriber.politicopro.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/06/14/state-senate-passes-prosecutorial-misconduct-bill-468586

Art Journaling at WESPAC to Combat “Outrage Fatigue”

Based on Gayle Dunkelberger’s successful sketching and water colors at WESPAC, the board would like to continue this type of programming at our social justice center to compliment community forums and planning meetings.  Susan Sheppard spent her career with the Greenburgh Central School District as a teacher and has also taught art to teachers at Mercy College.  This class will take place once a week for a 90 minute session starting in July.  If you are interested, please RSVP to [email protected] by Monday, June 18th and I will then send out a doodle poll to all interested participants so that we can schedule the day and time of the week for this art series based on people’s availability.  $20 per class.  All contributions to support WESPAC and no one will be turned away for lack of funds:

From Susan: An art journal is a “visual diary.”  In addition to (or maybe in place of ) words, the journal keeper uses visual images to portray his/her thoughts and feelings.  During these very stressful times an art journal can serve as a little haven in a world of madness.

My vision of this class is having the participants create an art journal over a series of workshops with or without the guidance of prompts combined with a variety of art techniques.   For example, for the first class I would like to prepare the first few pages for future work and creating a self-portrait using collage.  The prompt would be “The Me Nobody Knows.”  The class would occur over several weeks depending on interest.   Each participant would have to provide a “journal”  (water color pad, composition book, or a hard cover book) , magazines and images that appeal to them, and writing tools of their choice.  I would provide other tools and materials. 

Some techniques are collage, printing, stenciling, drawing, painting, Zentangle, etc.  The prompts can be whole class , personal to the participants, or pulled from a jar.

Dear Nada,

Here are a few photos.  It is hard to see the “moving parts” from photos.  The first one is a cover, the others are pages.  There are pockets, niches, and pull outs to hold secret thoughts.

Is Westchester Ready for Police Accountability

Is Westchester Ready for Police Accountability?

Saturday, June 30th at 5pm (refreshments starting at 4:30pm)
The Rev. Shelton Doles Community Center Theater
250 South Sixth Avenue
Mount Vernon, NY 10550

Join Bridge to Africa 360, African Family Unity Forum and the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform for a community conversation about the value of civilian oversight of law enforcement as well as an update on the status of the Mount Vernon Civilian Review Board and the Right to Know Act that is gaining momentum around New York State.

Panelists include:

  • Mount Vernon City Council member Delia Farquharson
  • Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Shawn Harris (invited)
  • Panel moderator is Mount Vernon CCRB Steering Cte member Geoff Munroe

This event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Mount Vernon Recreation Department.

Honoring the Summer Solstice through Intercultural Community Ceremony

At this year’s Summer Solstice, Nathalie “BioDame” Reynoso will lead us in ceremony as we open the space to check in on our milestones. How have our baby-steps added up? What have we mulled over? We’ll press pause and resume for health, happiness, equilibrium, and equity’s sake.

Join us for a healing evening at “Honoring the Summer Solstice through Intercultural Community Ceremony.” The space will facilitate us in honoring our paths and realigning ourselves with what is and is not serving us during this time in which we have the most daylight

..so if you can, allow yourself this time to simply be and charge yourself up with that Community Solstice Sun 
(. ❛ ᴗ ❛.)

•Mantra and Manifest Actualization•

•Sun Shrine•

•Mindful Movement•

•Group Meditation•

Free and Open to the Public

Tuesday June 19, 2018  Led by Local Ceremonialist

6:30pm  Nathalie “BioDame” Reynoso

WESPAC Foundation  of the Westchester-based

77 Tarrytown Rd,  Suite 2W grassroots organization

White Plains, NY 10607  Ceremony Cerebellum

On-site Parking Available  cer[email protected]

*Bring items you’d like to add to the shrine  ~ love ~

Mourning Palestinian Lives Lost in the Great March of Return

Sunday, May 20th at 7:30pm at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church 
82 Prospect Street, White Plains, NY 10606

Pastor Dr. Gawain de Leeuw is kindly opening up the doors of his church for those of us who would like to take the time to grieve collectively for the dozens of Palestinian lives lost in the Great March of Return.  He will lead us in evening prayers and ancient hymns in his tradition, and we will light candles, read the names and ages of the Palestinians who have lost their lives and share what we know of their lived experience and families.  For those who are observing fasting this month of Ramadan, we invite folks to bring a dish to share afterwards for a community iftar (breaking of the fast).  Please RSVP to Nada at [email protected] if you plan to attend.

City of White Plains Honors WESPAC for 44 Years of Progressive Social Change

Social Forum this Sunday!

Youth Action Training

Are you a high school student in Westchester who cares about the problems in society and is into social justice, advocacy and activism?  Are you leader?  Want to become one? 

Do you just want to make the world a little better?

 

Then join us at the upcoming Westchester County Youth Councils’ 2018 Youth Action Training!

When:  Saturday, April 14th, 2018, 9-5pm

Where: White Plains library in White Plains, Rooms A, B and the Gallery 

 

Who: Any high school student in Westchester– we welcome kids from all communities, backgrounds, political affiliations, etc.  

Why:  To be a part of learning/teaching about a variety of issues affecting youth (and what we can do about them) at this unique, youth-led conference.  Get 8 hours of community service while meeting kids from all over Westchester.  Attend workshops on student movements, getting involved in local government, public speaking, immigration myths and facts, extremist groups, toxic masculinity!
Fun icebreakers! 

Totally free, as always. Meals provided.  Transportation from Yonkers, Mt Vernon, Peekskill/Ossining– or just ask!  If you want to be here, we want you here!

You can apply online HERE! 

Email or call Marisa at (917) 428-0250 for more info.  Texting is fine! 

Water Shortages could affect 5 Billion People by 2050

  1. Water shortages could affect 5bn people by 2050, UN report warns

Conflict and civilisational threats likely unless action is taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs

The comprehensive annual study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

The World Water Development Report – released in drought-hit Brasília – says positive change is possible, particularly in the key agricultural sector, but only if there is a move towards nature-based solutions that rely more on soil and trees than steel and concrete.

“For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In doing so, it has often brushed aside traditional and indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches,” says Gilbert Houngbo, the chair of UN Water, in the preface of the 100-page assessment. “In the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways of manage competing demands on our freshwater resources.”

Humans use about 4,600 cubic km of water every year, of which 70% goes to agriculture, 20% to industry and 10% to households, says the report, which was launched at the start of the triennial World Water Forum. Global demand has increased sixfold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at the rate of 1% each year.

This is already creating strains that will grow by 2050, when the world population is forecast to reach between 9.4 billion and 10.2 billion (up from 7.7 billion today), with two in every three people living in cities.

Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries. Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier.

Drought and soil degradation are already the biggest risk of natural disaster, say the authors, and this trend is likely to worsen. “Droughts are arguably the greatest single threat from climate change,” it notes. The challenge has been most apparent this year in Cape Town, where residents face severe restrictions as the result of a once-in-384-year drought. In Brasília, the host of the forum, close to 2m people have their taps turned off once in every five days due to a unusually protracted dry period.

By 2050, the report predicts, between 4.8 billion and 5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today, while the number of people at risk of floods will increase to 1.6 billion, from 1.2 billion.

In drought belts encompassing Mexico, western South America, southern Europe, China, Australia and South Africa, rainfall is likely to decline. The shortage cannot be offset by groundwater supplies, a third of which are already in distress. Nor is the construction of more dams and reservoirs likely to be a solution, because such options are limited by silting, runoff and the fact that most cost-effective and viable sites in developed countries have been identified.

Water quality is also deteriorating. Since the 1990s, pollution has worsened in almost every river in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and it is expected to deteriorate further in the coming two decades, mainly due to agriculture runoffs of fertiliser and other agrochemicals that load freshwater supplies with nutrients that lead to the growth of pathogens and choking algae blooms. Industry and cities are also a significant problem. About 80% of industrial and municipal wastewater is discharged without treatment.

Crucially, the report emphasises a shift away from watershed management towards a wider geographic approach that takes in land use in distant areas, particularly forests. Although farmers have long seen trees as a drain on water supplies, the authors recognise more recent studies that show vegetation helps to recycle and distribute water. This was apparent in the São Paulo drought of 2014-15, which the city’s water authorities and scientists have linked to Amazon deforestation.

The key for change will be agriculture, the biggest source of water consumption and pollution. The report calls for “conservation agriculture”, which would make greater use of rainwater rather than irrigation and regularise crop rotation to maintain soil cover. This would also be crucial to reverse erosion and degradation, which currently affects a third of the planet’s land, a different UN study found last year.

Perhaps the most positive message of the report is that the potential savings of such practices exceed the projected increase in global demand for water, which would ease the dangers of conflict and provide better livelihoods for family farmers and poverty reduction.

Nature-based solutions can be personal – such as dry toilets – or broad landscape-level shifts in agricultural practices. The report contains several positive case studies that show how environments and supplies can improve as a result of policy changes. In Rajasthan, more than 1,000 drought-stricken villages were supported by small-scale water harvesting structures, while a shift back towards traditional soil preservation practices in the Zarqa basin in Jordan are credited with a recovery of water quality in local springs.

The authors stress the goal is not to replace all grey infrastructure, because there are situations where there is no other choice, for example in building reservoirs to supply cities with water. But they urge greater take-up of green solutions, which are often more cost-effective as well as sustainable. They also encourage more use of “green bonds” (a form of financing that aims to reward long-term sustainable investments) and more payments for ecosystem services (cash for communities that conserve forests, rivers and wetlands that have a wider benefit to the the environment and society).

Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of Unesco, which commissioned the report, noted two-thirds of the world’s forests and wetlands have been lost since the turn of the 20th century – a trend that needs to be addressed.

“We all know that water scarcity can lead to civil unrest, mass migration and even to conflict within and between countries,” she said. “Ensuring the sustainable use of the planet’s resources is vital for ensuring long-term peace and prosperity.”

The World Water Forum is the biggest single gathering of policymakers, businesses and NGOs involved in water management. It is being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time, and is expected to draw 40,000 participants.

Among them are indigenous and other grassroots activists who believe the event is too close to government, agriculture and business. They are staging an alternative forum in Brasília that puts greater emphasis on community management of water as a free public resource.”

40 Percent of Countries with Largest Shale Energy Resources Face Water Stress 
Dozens of countries are deciding whether or not to develop their shale gas and tight oil resources, as shale gas could boost recoverable natural gas resources by 47 percent, cut greenhouse gas emissions compared to coal, create new revenue and jobs, and raise national energy supplies. However, extracting natural gas and tight oil from shale poses water risk. We analyzed water stress levels in the 20 countries with the largest shale gas and tight oil resources, and found that 40 percent face high water stress or arid conditions.

Protecting Water Security, Promoting Energy Security 
This infographic, based on the related report’s data, depicts the following key findings:

  • 38 percent of the world’s shale resources face high to extremely high water stress or arid conditions.

  • 386 million people live on land above shale plays—increased competition for water and public concern over hydraulic fracturing is more likely in densely populated areas.

  • In China, 61 percent of shale resources face high water stress or arid conditions.

  • In Argentina, 72 percent of shale resources face low to medium water stress.

  • In the United Kingdom, 34 percent of shale plays face high water stress or arid conditions.

About Tomiko Morimoto, one of WESPAC’s three honorees this year

We will be featuring information about each of WESPAC’s honorees in the coming days for folks who are taking out congratulatory ads:

Taken from Voice of America (link posted below)

Hiroshima Survivor Recalls Day Atomic Bomb Was Dropped

On August 5, 1945, in Washington and August 6, in Japan, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was the first of 2 U.S. nuclear attacks on Japan that hastened the end of World War II and set the stage for the post-war nuclear arms race.

In 1945, Tomiko Morimoto was a 13-year-old schoolgirl. She recalls feeling no particular fear when she and her classmates heard the lone American B-29 bomber droning through the cloudless skies above Hiroshima. Her city had never been bombed, and she assumed the plane was simply on a reconnaissance mission, like the others she had seen.

Then she saw the flash. “You know how you see the bright sun that’s going down on a very hot day? Bright red — orange red. That’s what it was like,” she recalls. “After we heard a big noise like a ‘BOONG!’ ‘BOONG!’ Like that. That was the sound.”

After the sound, she recalls, “everything started falling down; all the buildings started flying around all over the place. Then something wet started coming down, like rain. I guess that’s what they call black rain. In my child’s mind, I thought it was oil. I thought the Americans were going to burn us to death. And we kept running. And fire was coming out right behind us, you know.”

Adults at the school led Tomiko and her classmates across the Motoyasu River to a plateau on the outskirts of Hiroshima, and told them to wait for family members to come get them. All night long, they watched their city burning below. The next morning, no parents had come, and the children were released to find their way home on their own. For Ms. Morimoto, that meant trying to find a bridge into the city that had not been destroyed.

She remembers seeing “dead people all over. All over! Particularly, I can remember… I saw a Japanese soldier that was still mounted right on his horse — just dead! Also that a streetcar had stopped just at that moment [of the bomb] and the people still standing, dead.”

Finally, Ms. Morimoto says she found a bridge she and her classmates could cross safely – a railroad bridge. She recalls looking down through the spaces between the railroad ties. Normally, one would see the river flowing there underneath. But she says, instead she saw “a sea of dead people. There was not one space for the water, just people lying there and dead.”

Survivors she encountered begged for water. “Mainly, I just wanted to find my people. Finally — finally! — I reached home and of course my home was gone and I couldn’t find anybody.”

The only person who recognized Ms. Morimoto was a family hired man, who told her her grandparents had taken refuge with some neighbors in a certain nearby cave.

“And I found my grandmother and grandfather among them. Of course my grandfather was terribly hurt,” she says. “He had glass lodged all over his back, bleeding. My grandmother, she wasn’t hurt but she couldn’t stand up from shock. My mother, I didn’t find her for a week or so, and she was burned underneath a building. I hoped she died instantly.”

Tomiko Morimoto now lives in rural, upstate New York. She says surviving the bombing of Hiroshima has made her appreciate even the smallest things. “I go out the first thing in the morning and look at the sky and the sun and I am very appreciative of everything I have right now. You don’t always have that,” she says. “I carry that [sad] emotion, yes, and when I talk about it, it comes back. And I just take my hand and I erase the picture from in my mind. And that’s how I cope with it.”

But she also lives with fear. “I’m always afraid as more countries have the atomic bomb. I fear the end of the world,” she says. “I would say never let there be another bombing like that. We all have to work towards peace. That’s the only way I can summarize it.”

To read the full article, please go to: https://www.voanews.com/a/a-13-2005-08-05-voa38-67539217/285768.html

Top